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Monday, 11 May 2009

Disappointments

I'll tell you! You wait for years to view a movie and then find that it is so much worse than you hoped. This is the case for the famous Italian film "Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow" (1963), directed by De Sica, and pairing Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni in three separate stories. For years it was only available to view dubbed, but I held off for a subtitled version now available. The film won the Oscar for best foreign film, beating the far superior Japanese movie "Woman in the Dunes", so I was hoping for a great experience, especially with all those credentials. It was frankly just a wee bit short of embarrassing in part. The first tale concerns Loren having to get pregnant annually to avoid being sent to jail for illegal cigarette trafficing, and her disgust when Mastroianni can no longer perform after seven kids. The second and shortest casts her as a rich and indulged wife who starts an affair with him until he manages to crash her Rolls Royce. The last has her as a high-class prostitute flirting with the student priest in the next apartment while Mastroianni plays a long-standing client, a harrassed businessman who just wants to have sex; this segment contains the "famous" (and quite innocent) striptease which some people recall fondly and which was replayed as a joke in "Pret a Porter".

Both players could be fine dramatic and comic actors in their day, especially Mastroianni, but there is little left here to show them to best advantage. There is a lot of screaming dialogue and sadly little to make the viewer even smile -- unless of course a semi-clothed Loren rings your bell.

My next disappointment was a preview showing of "Synecdoche, New York" (2008) which has not yet been released here, but about which I have been reading raves. It's the first film to be both written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, who was responsible for scripting a series of brilliant movies starting with "Being John Malkovich". This film like his earlier ones is crowded with quirky ideas and characters, but I felt that he did not have the directing skills to bring it all together.

Philip Semour Hoffman plays a minor theatre director, a latent hypochondriac overly aware of his own mortality, who has been awarded a generous Arts Grant and who wants to create something important. He therefore manufactures a growing collection of mini-worlds in large warehouses to re-create different aspects of his life and the lives of others, played by an endless stream of actors including Tom Noonan playing him; after some 19 years, an audience has yet to view the performances! The meaning of the title is the philosophic concept that the whole can equal a part or vice versa; get your head around that.

Various critics have remarked that this is a film that needs to be viewed more than once and I am inclined to agree with that assessment. There is too much going on to take it all in at the first viewing which is what created my own disappointment with this movie; I think a second view would make it a far more worthwhile experience, especially considering the splendid female cast which includes Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Hope Davis, Emily Watson, Diane Wiest, and Jennifer Jason Leigh (who appears to have grown an enormous bosom!). So maybe this will not be quite a disappointment in the long run.
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