Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Last Station.

Written and directed by Michael Hoffman, the same Michael Hoffman that directed the disappointing Restless Natives (1985), The Last Station (2009) explores the final months of Leo Tolstoy’s life. Christopher Plummer plays the great writer who was awarded pop-star status by the journalists and photographers that followed his every move. The film reveals how his loyalty was divided between his disciple and friend Vladimer Chertkov (Paul Giamatti) and Sophia Tolstoy his wife, played by Helen Mirren, who portrays the elegantly beautiful aristocratic Countess impeccably. Although she loves her husband intently she does have a problem with both his idealistic life style and his political views which in turn leads to conflict between the pair. Trapped in the middle of this turbulent relationship is Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy), Tolstoy new private secretary, and the young teacher Masha (Kerry Condon) both of whom grow to love one another despite attempting to follow the strict Tolstoyan teachings which amongst other things encourages celibacy. This adaptation of Jay Parinis novel makes a delightful film; wonderfully shot with both Plummer and Mirren deserving their Oscar nominations.

Catherine Breillat's Brief Crossing (2001) is a modern day version of the rather staid British movie Brief Encounter, certainly more erotic and sexually explicit than David Leans 1945 film! What starts as a chance meeting between a 30 something English women Alice (Sarah Pratt) and a 16 year-old French boy (Gilles Guillan) quickly develops into much more on an overnight ferry ride. As the conversation progresses, it is clear that although they have virtually nothing in common sexual tension builds between the two. As normal with Breillat she portrays her female characters as the driving force in any sexual relationship and dispels the idea that the male of the specious is the only one interested in sex.

Rita Hayworth was given top billing over Frank Sinatra in George Sidney’s 1957 Hollywood musical Pal Joey one of Sinatra’s few films, since From Here to Eternity, where he did not! Sinatra plays a nightclub entertainer called Joey Evens who will do just about anything to own his own nightclub. Hayworth plays a rich widow Vera Simpson whom Joey sees’s as a way of financing his dreams. But there’s a problem in the form of nightclub dancer, Linda English (Kim Novak) whom Joey falls in love with. Our prospective nightclub owner must decide if his head or his heart rules? Originally Columbia had bought the rights to the Broadway musical following the studios success with Cover Girl in 1944; it originally was to star Rita along with Gene Kelly. Finally when it was produced seventeen years later it earned four Academy Award nominations and two Golden Globe nominations. The musical score by Rodgers and Hart, arranged by Nelson Riddle, has lasted the test of time, with the lovely Ms Hayworth’s performance of Bothered and Bewildered being worth a look.


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