Film Roundup XI

The Seventh Seal – 100%

A knight returns to Sweden from the Crusades after many years and finds Death waiting for him on the beach. A tortured agnostic, the knight buys himself some time to continue his search for evidence of God by challenging Death to a game of chess. They play sporadically as the knight makes his way home, debating existential issues with his squire and picking up a variety of odd traveling companions.

The Seventh Seal was the first Ingmar Bergman film I ever saw, as well as the first legitimate foreign-language film. I was totally floored by it and watched it 3 or 4 times within a few days. I have seen it several times since, and it never fails to leave me deep in thought. Some might find it a bit too transparently allegorical, but it is by turns moving and terrifying, and the layers of meaning run very, very deep. I suppose it’s odd that, after all this time, I still have only seen 3 of Bergman’s films, but there it is. I’m working on it.

Good Bye Lenin! – 89%

An East German woman’s weak heart puts her in a coma at the sight of her son Alexander’s arrest at a protest rally. Several months later, the wall comes down in Berlin and life changes drastically. When the woman wakes up from her coma, her doctor warns Alex that her heart will not be able to stand the shock of the news. He is forced to desperately attempt a re-creation in miniature of a way of life that has rapidly become a thing of the past. The movie has been criticized for romanticizing the socialist regime, but that really misses the point. Good Bye Lenin! may be a bit glib in its treatment of the issues it addresses, but it is, after all, a comedy. There is a message, but ultimately it just has fun with its great concept.

Thoroughly Modern Millie – 79%

This cheeky musical from the tail-end of the golden age of the genre stars Julie Andrews (Millie) and Mary Tyler Moore (Dorothy) as two single women in the big city in 1922. Millie is a strong-willed, independent flapper with ambitions of marrying her boss. Dorothy is a naive ingénue who is befriended by Millie before getting herself kidnapped by the Oriental slavers who run the girls’ hotel. It is extremely shallow, but still rather amusing. The songs are peppy but forgettable, though any viewer familiar with 1920s culture will find many sly winks and nudges tossed their way before the movie dissolves into its slapstick-heavy climax.

White Oleander – 97%

When Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer), murders her boyfriend, she is sent away to prison and her daughter, Astrid (Alison Lohman), is shuffled off to spend her childhood in the California foster-care system. Moving from the home trailer-trash fundamentalist Starr (Robin Wright Penn) to lonely, depressive actress Claire (Renee Zellweger) and beyond, Astrid struggles to emerge from under the long shadow her mother casts over her life, even from behind bars. This is a powerful film based (rather faithfully) on an equally-powerful novel, and featuring a strong line-up of fantastic performances. It tells a compelling story that also puts a memorable human face on a larger social issue. Lesser filmmakers could easily have reduced the material to a Lifetime movie-of-the-week trope, but the result is far superior in this instance. This is definitely worth seeing.

Hitch – 57%

Perhaps this trite blip of a cliche-ridden rom-com, about a man (played by Will Smith) who acts as a “date doctor” for his clueless fellows until he encounters relationship difficulties of his own, deserves a bit less disdain than I am generally inclined to aim in its direction. I think I might be a little bitter at now having to differentiate between the nickname of one of the greatest directors of all time (whom I refer to regularly) and the title of an insignificant, sub-par retread of banalities about romantic relationships (which I try to avoid discussing whenever possible). In any case, while you may not be as annoyed by a sit-through of this movie as I was, it certainly isn’t worth two hours of your time.

~ by Jared on June 6, 2008.

One Response to “Film Roundup XI”

  1. Good-Bye Lenin is a superb film. I think many people will miss much of the symbolism and parody if they have not experienced life in a communist society. It is the kind of underground humor one would expect to hear in a communist society.


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