Posted in: by Kathleen Murphy, Contributors, Film Reviews

‘Jack & Diane’: Languid love story

Don’t be looking for any link to John Mellencamp’s anthem about angsty Heartland lovers here. This movie’s Jack and Diane are urban teens of the same sex, blitzed by true love the instant their eyes meet. That muffled implosion sets off nearly two hours of soulful staring and sporadic, barely audible small talk. Nursing bruised psyches, these kids are behaviorally as limp as rag dolls, but their “passion” manifests in hot horror-movie images. And, oh yes, every once in a while something like a werewolf crashes the party. Monster aside, this languid Romeo and Juliet love story lacks a pulse. Devoid of energy and direction, “Jack & Diane” settles for faux-naïf posturing and arty color design.

Juno Temple

Diane’s a wide-eyed British waif vacationing in New York with her aunt, prior to enrolling in a French school of fashion design. Crowned by a tangled blond mane, she’s the picture of whimsy in a self-designed, ultra-cute, quirky A-line dress accessorized by colorful knee-high stockings and clunky sneakers. She might be a retro-etching of Alice in Wonderland. It’s hard to tell Diane’s age, since her face seems to have frozen in an expression of childlike, or maybe lobotomized, melancholy. She acts like she was born yesterday.

A little girl lost in the city, Diane runs into Jack, a street-smart Huckleberry Finn. Long-limbed and boyish, her dark curly hair cropped short, Jack skateboards around town in a ragged man’s shirt and sleeveless T, grieving for a brother who died of a broken heart — and maybe looking to follow in his footsteps. As Diane, Juno Temple is so limpid, so boneless, she’s more sad-eyed Keene print than real live girl. But Riley Keough’s Jack at least has an engaging muscularity. Mobile and androgynously arresting, her face is capable of more than one expression. Her passion for Diane may be under wraps, like everything else in the movie, but it’s as binding as an umbilical cord.

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Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews

Playing for Time, Exploding Kazan and CinevardaDVD – DVDs of the Week

Playing For Time (Olive Films)

Television has offered epic portraits of the Holocaust, notably the excellent 1978 mini-series Holocaust. This 1980 TV movie, based on the memoir by Holocaust survivor Fania Fénelon and scripted for television by Arthur Miller, is a far more intimate drama and one of the most powerful TV events of its era.

Robin Bartlett, Vanessa Redgrave and Marisa Berenson

Vanessa Redgrave was a controversial choice to play the French nightclub singer in Auschwitz (this was a few years after her notorious pro-PLO speech at the Oscars) but her performance is a triumph of dignity and desperation, strength and weakness, resolve and guilt, as she sings for her survival as a member of a makeshift women’s orchestra made up of prisoners. The scene where Fania is brought in from the barracks to “audition” for the orchestra with a song from “Madame Butterfly” presents the simple but profound contradictions that run through the entire film. Weak and frail from the work details and starvation rations, Fania tentatively picks out the melody on a grand piano glaringly out of place in this anonymous building filled with reflexively obedient women. As her voice comes in clear and full of ache and emotion, their heads (all instinctively lowered, so as not to make eye contact with the German officer in the room) slowly rise, and their eyes open, awestruck and moved beyond their expectations by this beauty cutting through the horror of their circumstances for a brief moment.

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