Blu-Ray Review: Housekeeping

Director: Bill Forsyth
Screenplay: Bill Forsyth
Based on a Novel by: Marilynne Robinson
Starring: Christine Lahti, Sara Walker, Andrea Burchill
Country: USA/Canada
Running Time: 116 min
Year: 1987
BBFC Certificate: PG


Bill Forsyth is a Scottish director who’s fairly well known (in the UK at least) for two of his early 80s releases, Gregory’s Girl and Local Hero. The rest of his career is little known to me though and, looking at his filmography on IMDb, his career seemed to thin out after the 80s and his last few releases in the 90s were commercial and critical flops. Right in the middle of this unusual career however, is a film called Housekeeping. I must admit I’d never heard of it before being sent a press release about this forthcoming Indicator Blu-Ray/DVD re-release. Scanning the reviews it seemed to be worth watching though and I do enjoy Gregory’s Girl (I’ve seen Local Hero too, but it’s been decades, so my memory is hazy), so I took a chance on it.

Housekeeping is based on a novel by Marilynne Robinson and follows the troubled lives of two sisters, Ruth (Sara Walker) and Lucille (Andrea Burchill) in 50s rural America. They never knew their father, their mother commits suicide when they’re young and they live with their grandmother for seven years until she dies too and they’re left with their formerly transient aunt, Sylvie (Christine Lahti) who they hadn’t met since they were babies. The girls are initially excited to be with her as she can help them discover more about their mother, but she’s an unusual woman, with no standard motherly instincts or discipline, and Lucille in particular grows tired of and embarrassed by her eccentricities. As such, the sisters, after being inseparable from childhood, gradually grow apart and Ruth is forced to choose between the freewheeling yet isolated existence of being with Sylvie or the stereotypical nuclear family and teenage experience Lucille craves.

Would you like to know more…?

Friday One Sheet: The Girl On The Train

A simple, but quite lovely, design for the upcoming adaptation of the novel, The Girl On The Train. I have not read the book, but clearly the designers are aimed at ‘you will not see what is coming’ with the zipper/train motif on a woman’s back, as she faces away from us. They used the stylized type from the cover of the source novel, fine, but why use a different font (and colour) everywhere else? Not entirely sure. It’s a quibble in an otherwise pretty striking, yet delightfully minimal poster.

Trailer: Venus In Fur

VenusInFurStill

Though I really enjoyed Roman Polanski’s Carnage some thought the movie to be a bit soft around the edges; not quite biting and funny enough to really make it work. As if in response, Polanski’s new movie takes a similar play-to-screen story, this time with only two characters, and really appears to have sharpened the edges to laser fine precision.

Based on David Ives’ play (and previously Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novel), Venus in Fur stars Emmanuelle Seigner (likely best known as the caring nurse from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) as an actress trying to convince the director of an upcoming production that she is the best performer for the role. She is re-teamed here with Diving Bell co-star Mathieu Amalric though this time, they seem more at odds with each other than caring.

The trailer looks rather promising; I love one room dramas with bite and this one looks like it will deliver nicely.

Venus In Fur opens, according to the distributor, in April though I can’t find an exact date of release.

Cinecast Episode 184 – Death Lottery

 
The 4 hour barrier is broken as The Documentary Blog’s Jay Cheel joins Kurt and Andrew on the longest Cinecast ever – you know it is even longer than the previous epic length TIFF show. What do we talk about? For starters, Kurt & Jay examine the Let The Right One In remake, Let Me In (*SPOILERS*), in painstaking detail, and how not to process American remakes of foreign language films. Next we move along for a solid hour on Never Let Me Go (*SPOILERS*) which keeps going on the vibe of comparing source material to eventual film adaptation and why you probably should not do that. More Carey Mulligan talk as Andrew skims and sums up Wall Street 2 with out spoilers. Then, a spoiler-free discussion on Catfish follows, although only Jay caught it, so it is more of a discussion on fake/faux-Documentaries, and ‘narrative-ethics’ which leads to more more talk on I’m Still Here, with a little Last Exorcism and The Blair Witch Project to round things out. Next we move along to the avant garde and barely-narrative Cannes Palme D’Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and a lot of other films we watched: An overview of the “Middletown” documentary series, a bit of Daybreakers-Redux, a bit of Season 6 of “LOST” (you guessed it, with *SPOILERS*), and more avant garde cinema with Last Year At Marienbad. We also debate the finer points of Steve Buscemi and the cast and crew of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” Finally (finally!) at around the 4 hour mark, our DVD picks round out a show that carried us well into the wee hours of the night recording. We hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed chatting. It may be long, but it is a solid and whip-smart show this time around, although we are biased on that front.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 
 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_184.mp3

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_184-alt.mp3


 
Full show notes are under the seats…
Would you like to know more…?

Thoughts on the LET THE RIGHT ONE IN Remake

You go on vacation and it is a relatively slow movie and news week, but my interest perked up upon glancing at the two released stills from Matt “Cloverfield” Reeves’ english language remake of Let The Right One in. First off, if you average out the Row Three contributors’ picks on 2008 films, Låt den rätte komma in was probably the most loved, so most people writing for the site have some sort of emotional stake in seeing it redone for a North American Audience. You know the part where they polish off the rough edges, take out the emotional depth and thematic resonance, and make it a thrill ride (for any or all of the above, see: The Vanishing, Bangkok Dangerous, Nine Queens, [REC], La Femme Nikita, etc. etc.)

But, oddly enough, I am rather interested in such an immediate do-over in spite of the high water mark set by the Swedish version of the film. There is the casting of the two leads, Chloe Moretz who kicked ass in, well, you know, and Kodi Smit-McPhee who give stellar performances in two dark films, The Road and Romulus My Father. Also, the producers are being rather clever in using the title of the first edition translation of the Novel, Let Me In, which at least tells me they took the time to do a bit of looking into how the book and film have been processed over here, and are not slapping it with the same title (causing some confusion due to the proximity of the releases) or giving it some focus-group moniker. Furthermore, I thought Cloverfield was a fairly solid both in the writing department and the directing department, and Reeves is doing both the remake (albeit Reeves did not write Cloverfield). Lastly, the novel has a number of twists and turns that were polished out of the original movie. The author of the novel, John Ajvide Lindqvist, wrote the screenplay and I’m sure he knows his own material, but having an outsiders interpretation, particularly at some of the more graphic elements in the novel, if the producers are willing to go there, would be enough to get me in the cinema.

Really, there is bound to be some disappointment with the remake, due to how familiar I am with the source material and the original movie, but at this point I am not flat out against an English Language production. After all, there have been some good remakes done out there, Gore Verbinski’s The Ring has that knock-out addition with the horse on the ferry, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed was entertaining and added a gritty Boston atmosphere to the story, and lest we forget that both The Thing, The Fly and Invasion of the Body Snatchers all got it right on the second whirl around.

DVD Review: The Wave

The Wave Movie Poster

Director: Dennis Gansel
Writers: Dennis Gansel, Todd Strasser (novel)
Producer: Christian Becker
Starring: Jürgen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Max Riemelt, Jennifer Ulrich, Christiane Paul
MPAA Rating: NA
Running time: 107 min.

In April of 1967, a high school history teacher in Palo Alto, California launched a week long experiment called “The Third Wave.” The experiment was an attempt to show students how Germany could have overlooked the signs of trouble and full heartedly accepted the Third Reich. In 1988, a YA novel titled “The Wave,” author Todd Strasser took the original experiment and expanded it into a story.

The Wave Movie StillFast forward to 2008 and the release of Dennis Gansel’s The Wave. Gansel adapts Strasser’s story to modern day Germany and project week. History teacher Rainer Wenger is saddled with the task of discussing autocracy and during the first class, the students argue that they find it impossible to believe that a dictatorship could arise in modern Germany. Enter Wenger’s idea: turn the one week project into an experiment of sorts. It starts small with the class wearing uniforms, creating an image to represent the group and eventually even creating a specific greeting but right off the bat things go badly. Some students are completely against the idea while others are so fervently involved that it’s clear things aren’t going to end well. As the week progresses, things get further and further out of hand until it all unravels in a dramatic closing act which, though it doesn’t exactly surprise, manages to punch you in the gut.

Would you like to know more…?

Review: The Road

the-road-Header
Doomsday Movie Marathon

When it was announced that Australian director John Hillcoat would be taking up the challenge of bringing the bleak and difficult novel, The Road, to the screen it seemed liked the absolute perfect match of director and material. After all, his gritty and fly-coated outback western The Proposition had that right mix of apocalyptic and tender that is the essence of Cormac McCarthy’s prose (the crisp non-nonsense sentences are as sparsely worded as any book that I have read, yet finds power and poetry in its repetition). And are not many post-apocalypse survival movies similar in tone and execution to the modern anti-western? Make no mistake, this is a handsome, consistent and harrowing adaptation of the work, but it is not quite a filmic masterpiece because I fear the novel as it is, is not translatable from the written page to the screen. There is something about letting the immediacy of each small sentence in the book sink in slowly, whereas Hillcoat and co. have only 2 short hours with with to pain their gray portrait of a world in ruin. It is a faithful adaptation of the book to be sure, many of the “Day After Tomorrow” images in the gawd-awful trailer cut by the Weinstein Company are (thankfully) not in the in the film, and any scars or signs of its length (and likely troubled) production history are not evident on screen. Rest assured that The Road is the quiet and intimate drama, and very likely to be the bleakest multiplex movie of 2009 (should the distributor finally stop shuffling it back in the calender again and again) as it should be; yet, nevertheless between book and screenplay, something of the soul was lost in translation.

Would you like to know more…?

From Sin Nombre to En Amor

JaneEyreBookCoverCary Fukunaga is on a roll; his feature debut Sin Nombre (our review) (a film I have yet to see) was extremely well received and he caught my attention with his recent Levi’s commercials. He seems the type of guy to try his hand at whatever comes his way and news that he’s working on an adaptation of a classic novel certainly suggests exactly that.

Variety reports that Fukunaga is in “advanced negotiations” to adapt one of the most notable (and adapted) works in the English language, Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” with a focus on the story’s gothic elements. We previously noted that Canadian starlet Ellen Page was attached to the project but she has moved on leaving the titular role open (wonder if she’s kicking herself for the missed opportunity?).

Aside from Fukunaga’s attachment, there seems to be a lot of buzz generating around the woman writing the adaptation. Moira Buffini is an acclaimed playwright who recently adapted Posy Simmonds’ graphic novel “Tamara Drewe” for director Stephen Frears. All fine and well but what really caught my attention about Buffini is the tidbit of information that her stage play “A Vampire Story” is being reworked for the big screen under the new title of Byzantium. A little reading uncovered an entry at /Film which provides more information on the project, one I’m very keen on following (for obvious reasons).

I’m not sure another interpretation of Eyre is really necessary but as long as the directors provide a new take on the material, I’m on board and Fukunaga’s work certainly suggests this won’t be your typical BBC spin-off. As for Buffini’s Byzantium…more vampires? Yes please.

VIFF 09 Review: Quiet Chaos

viff09bannerReviews

QuietChaosMovieStillLife is good for Pietro. He’s a successful TV executive, happily married and has a beautiful daughter but while on vacation, a day which starts off with great promise ends badly. While at the beach with his brother, he risks his life to save a drowning woman while at home, his wife has a nasty fall and dies leaving his daughter frightened and alone. In shock at the loss of his wife, Pietro is now left with the task of raising his daughter alone, a daughter who seems to be taking her mother’s death too well. Concerned that she’ll break at any moment, on the first day of school Pietro offers to wait by the door until school is out and when he calls the office to say he’s out for the day, we realize that he wasn’t exaggerating.

Would you like to know more…?

VIFF 09 Review: Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

viff09bannerReviews

PreciousMovieStill

Life is full of adversity and for some, the hurtles can be too much to bear. So is the case for Clareece ‘Precious’ Jones, the title character in Lee Daniels’ poorly titled Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, but rather than take the easy way out and walk away from life and all of the problems that plague it, Precious takes the higher road and decides to tacked the problems which are continuously stacked in her way.

Precious is 16 and pregnant with her second child. She can’t read or write, she’s verbally and physically abused by her mother and continuously raped by her father. It’s a sad life and one too depressing to be believed and though the immediate thought is that there are simply too many issues piled onto the character, it’s the overwhelming amount of issues that render the book and to an extent the film, so successful. Both mediums provides the story of a girl broken far beyond repair (or so one would imagine) and yet here she is, surviving. But everyone has a breaking point and though Precious’ comes much later than anyone could image, when she finally reaches it she takes the high road and changes her life for good.

Would you like to know more…?

Extended Thoughts (TIFF 09): The Road

John Hillcoat's The Road

When it was announced that Australian director John Hillcoat would be taking up the challenge of bringing the bleak and difficult novel, The Road, to the screen it seemed liked the absolute perfect match of director and material. After all, his gritty and fly-coated outback western The Proposition had that right mix of apocalyptic and tender that is the essence of Cormac McCarthy’s prose (the crisp non-nonsense sentences are as sparsely worded as any book that I have read, yet finds power and poetry in its repetition). And are not many post-apocalypse survival movies similar in tone and execution to the modern anti-western? Make no mistake, this is a handsome, consistent and harrowing adaptation of the work, but it is not quite a filmic masterpiece because I fear the novel as it is, is not translatable from the written page to the screen. There is something about letting the immediacy of each small sentence in the book sink in slowly, whereas Hillcoat and co. have only 2 short hours with with to pain their gray portrait of a world in ruin. It is a faithful adaptation of the book to be sure, many of the “Day After Tomorrow” images in the gawd-awful trailer cut by the Weinstein Company are (thankfully) not in the in the film, and any scars or signs of its length (and likely troubled) production history are not evident on screen. Rest assured that The Road is the quiet and intimate drama, and very likely to be the bleakest multiplex movie of 2009 (should the distributor finally stop shuffling it back in the calender again and again) as it should be; yet, nevertheless between book and screenplay, something of the soul was lost in translation.
Would you like to know more…?