Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Les Destinées sentimentales

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

Three hours long and a far cry from his ultramodern chronicles of disenchantment, Olivier Assayas’s Les Destinées sentimentales ranges from the winter of 1900 to springtime some thirty years later. In so doing, the film recalls a genre that was in vogue around the time its own story ends — during the Depression, when cine-sagas of families weathering the seasons and storms of history somehow reassured audiences that “we’ll get through this one too.”

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: U-571

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

Jonathan Mostow made his feature-directing debut a couple of seasons ago with Breakdown, a tense road-movie-cum-chase-thriller that pitted motorist and husband Kurt Russell against a sinister good-old-boy trucker (the late J.T. Walsh) who had somehow kidnapped Russell’s wife in broad daylight and the wide open spaces of the desert Southwest. The picture became a sleeper hit, and industry and fans alike marked Mostow as somebody to watch. U-571 won’t undo his career — it bids to be another palm-sweater, and technically delivers often enough to keep the popcorn crowd in their seats. But this movie seems to have no reason for existing except as an answer to the rhetorical question: “Do you think somebody nowadays could make an old-fashioned, straight-ahead submarine flick like the ones they did during World War II?” Mostow must have said, “Why not?” whereas many would have ended their riposte one word sooner.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson

2000 Eyes: Amores Perros

[Written for The Stranger]

A dinged-up Grand Marquis rockets through Mexico City traffic, straddling the white line; two young guys inside, very hyper, have a dog gushing blood in the back seat, and, a couple of car lengths behind, some character in a van sticking a pistol out the window and trying to punch a bullet at them. Amores Perros, the most exciting rival of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the recent foreign-film Oscar race, begins at a screaming dead run and maintains one kind of intensity or another over the next two and a half hours.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Yi Yi (aka A-One and a-Two)

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

Edward Yang’s work on this nearly-three-hour family drama from Taiwan won him the Best Director award from the Cannes 2000 jury. Quiet, patient, undemonstrative, Yi Yi is no tour de force à la Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, nor an emotional tone poem like Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love, but its large, astutely chosen cast is beautifully observed, and Yang’s visual intelligence — whether focused on a verdant park or the Fassbinder-like frame spaces where life is lived in a modern, suddenly Westernized city — is formidable.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Miss Julie

[Written for Amazon.com]

The fascination of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie, as play or film, resides in the quicksilver shifts of power and vulnerability, assurance and desperation, seducer and seducee, almost from line to line — in the text and, ideally, in the performances of two equally matched actors. One Midsummer’s Eve, in the scullery of a country manor, the aristocratic daughter of the house and the major-domo Jean conduct a kind of mating dance on a killing ground. Each is clearly attracted to the other; each, just as clearly, resents and despises the other. Jean wants revenge for a lifetime serving “betters” whom — so he believes — he outstrips in enterprise and imagination. Miss Julie craves more or less equally the thrill of bringing him off his high horse and rolling around in the mud with him.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson

2000 Eyes: Reindeer Games

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

The kindest thing to say about Reindeer Games is that we shall certainly see far worse movies this year. The picture, a would-be thriller, is a mechanical exercise from the get-go, one that positively defies suspension of disbelief with each succeeding twist of a plot no one would ever hatch in real life. Yet within its trashy parameters the lumbering robot-beast does manage to drag itself to the finish line—several times, in fact—and in retrospect one realizes that even its most dubious quick-change reversals were planted in the early reels. That’s more coherence than we can find in a lot of contemporary movies, and for such minimal consolation we must learn to be grateful.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson

2000 Eyes: What Planet Are You From?

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

You’ve seen the ad: “To save his planet, an alien must find a woman on Earth to have his baby. There’s just one problem.” The accompanying image features a man’s tunic-clad torso, with hands resting near each other below waist level and a bent tulip dangling from his fingers, head terminally down. It’s droll, allusive, absurd, and elegant at the same time — a promise of good comedic fun from cable-TV comedy legend Garry Shandling and ace director-satirist Mike Nichols.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Where the Money Is

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

The old guy transferred from the state pen doesn’t move much and says less. Nothing at all, actually. He’s had a stroke. That’s why he’s slumped in a wheelchair in another mossy state facility, a geriatric sanitarium, instead of occupying a cell. But his nurse, Carol (Linda Fiorentino), can’t accept that there’s nothing going on inside Henry’s sagging body and unresponsive brain. For one thing, he’s a legendary felon who led the law a merry chase for thirty years — hiring on to banks as a security adviser, for instance, then emptying their vaults. For another — and this is what really counts — he’s played by Paul Newman, fergodsake, and we just know that when he makes his move it’ll be a good one.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The Golden Bowl

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

James Ivory, as a writer in the Cannes-Matin notes, has become a genre unto himself, and you couldn’t ask for a more thoroughgoing manifestation of that genre than The Golden Bowl. Adapted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala from one of Henry James’s most intricate novels, mounted in exquisite European locations and handsomely photographed as ever by Tony Pierce-Roberts, this latest Merchant Ivory production will neither disappoint devotées nor persuade unbelievers to take an adjacent pew. In both cases, that’s because The Golden Bowl is more a Cliff’s Notes version of Henry James than the real thing (to coin a phrase).

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Vatel

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

The 53rd Cannes Film Festival opened with a gala extravaganza whose selection struck many as prodigiously ironic — especially if they caught the flick at a morning press show, when Tom Stoppard’s high-flying dialogue and Ennio Morricone’s once-upon-a-time-in-the-17th-century music had to fight the noise from the drills and hammers readying the Palais for the postfilm Louis XIV–style blowout that evening. Here was a jaw-droppingly lavish movie about the jaw-droppingly lavish steps taken to keep “the Sun King” adequately wined, dined, and entertained over a three-day visit, late in April of 1671, to a country château whose owner, the Prince de Condé, couldn’t even afford to pay the local merchants. Moreover, it was the English-language film rendering of one of French history’s most peculiar episodes, with France’s premier incarnator of French national heroes, former bad boy Gérard Depardieu, gamely trading mots anglais with the likes of Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, and Timothy Spall. And if you’ve got room for one more dislocation, consider that Roland Joffé, the director honored with this opening-night selection, whiled away the ’90s cooking such turkeys as City of Joy, The Scarlet Letter, and the never-released Goodbye Lover.

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