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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Song and dance, comedy and drama

The world is a show and the show must go on. In movies the idea has been around at least since the musicals of the 1930s and it endures, especially as nostalgia. All the better when the show is set in the Paris of the imagination, a city of light and cobblestones, roving accordionists and sidewalk cafes, with the Eiffel Tower looming in the backdrop. Such is the appeal of the French film Paris 36, a musical-drama-comedy filmed through the scrim of old-time photography in the bygone...
04.17.2009 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
By David Luhrssen
When he was part of New York’s “downtown scene” in the ‘70s, Philip Glass was the target of vituperative put-downs by critics and the older generation of modernist composers, who scripted their music according to the dictates of intellectual theories. Fortunately, the spirit of those composers has migrated to academic cultural studies programs, where they can do little harm. Glass won the ar...
04.10.2009 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
By David Luhrssen
A Russian film set in a time of living memory, Cargo 200 takes place in 1984, when the entire USSR resembled the shabby squalor of the worst districts of Detroit. Director Alexy Balabanov titled his film from the Soviet code name for the coffins of dead solders shipped home from Afghanistan, a war the Soviet Union could never win. Cargo 200 will be released April 28 on DVD. If Cargo 200 h...
03.25.2009 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
By David Luhrssen
One thing lifting Tracks above the level of many self-produced indie movies is the acting. Milwaukee director-writer Josh Rosenberg and his crew, including cinematographer Scott Foley, recruited their cast well and guided them ably. Several names in the credits will be familiar to local theatergoers, including Lee Ernst and James Tasse. But even the newcomers and unknowns rose to the occasion....
03.19.2009 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
By David Luhrssen
Superheroes and the universe they inhabit, where every gesture is bigger than a billboard and good argues with evil in cartoon balloons, are funny. And in a society that realizes this, superheroes can be dysfunctional oddballs as easily as saviors. The insight isn�t novel, but Super Capers is a modesty-amusing riff on the theme. It opens in theaters this weekend. Although writer-director ...
03.12.2009 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
By David Luhrssen
Seeing the world through a child�s eyes is a dangerous proposition in literature or film. The temptation to sentimentalize is strong; the urge to load adult concerns onto the child protagonist is almost inescapable. One of the better kid�s eye movies of recent years, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008), was also among the most controversial. Some critics couldn�t accept the concept of the naiv...
02.18.2009 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
By David Luhrssen
Film production was encouraged in Mussolini�s Italy, and although few Fascist era movies are well known nowadays, the careers of important postwar directors such as Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni began in those years. Italy had its own Hollywood, Cinecitta, a sprawling Roman fantasy factory with all the accouterments of its American counterparts. The Cinecitta setting provide...
02.08.2009 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
By David Luhrssen
Spike Lee was fighting World War II long before Miracle at St. Anna, out now on DVD. His campaign began with a salvo at Clint Eastwood for excluding black faces from Flags of Our Fathers, accusing him of perpetuating the assumption that blacks contributed little to America�s victory. It was not the movie Eastwood wanted to make and the sniping between the two directors probably served to harden ...
12.13.2008 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
By David Luhrssen
Danny Boyle�s Slumdog Millionaire is becoming this year�s indie success, earning accolades and steady box office business. The British director (Trainspotting, 28 Days) has matured. Cheekiness is hard to spot in this brutal yet hopeful story about a poor boy from Mumbai, Jamal, who makes good amid the bright lights of India�s biggest TV quiz show, �Who Wants to be a Millionaire?� He also finds...
11.14.2008 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
By David Luhrssen
Quantum of Solace is the future of cinema, a movie whose splashiest scenes are tailored to the dimension of big screens. It opens with the camera zooming like a cruise missile, skimming the surface of the sea as it hurtles toward the Italian coast. There, on a winding road in his Aston Martin, James Bond outmaneuvers his high-speed pursuers in trucks and cars; the cameras put viewers in the mids...

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