Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dark Horse


By Moira Sullivan
Selma Blair and Jordan Gelber in Dark Horse













 Dark Horse by Todd Solondz premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year and is now in San Francisco. The film is enjoying a new romp at the theatres and it’s worth a visit to check out Solondz' latest creation. This is one of his upbeat movies compared with his previous somber tales about dysfunctional families even though this film is riddled with characters that are indeed dysfunctional. First there is Abe, brilliantly played by Jordan Gelber, a 30 + man who is the dark horse of the family, who lives at home with his parents played by Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken and who works in his father's business. Abe is a very unhappy man who was unable to strike out on his own and remained at home unlike his successful brother Richard, played by Justin Bartha, a doctor, who he felt wronged by growing up because he was just the opposite of him –successful and his father's favorite.  Abe’s life takes a turn for the better when he meets Miranda, played by Selma Blair, at a wedding. Her character is a little like the one she plays in Hellboy, the depressed woman who is unable to control bursting out in flame when she experiences dark emotions, or any kind of emotion. Miranda is depressed most of the time and on one of their first dates Abe speaks to Miranda who is lying face down on her bed. Todd Solondz is clever in creating believable characters but also personalities that  create identification and pathos for us. His sense of timing is extraordinary even with characters  such as the clerk at a huge toy  store who wont take back a toy that Abe has bought because “he opened it”. Abe is at the point of a volcanic eruption and the slightest interaction that he perceives that is the least negative sets him off. He is generous with his mother and also Miranda who allow him to be himself, but when Miranda presents her ex boyfriend to him, Mahmoud, he flies into a rage because he probably infected Miranda with Hepatitis B. In fact it is Abe that as a scapegoat reveals all the emotions of his characters by reacting to and playing out their dysfunctionalism.  The film weaves in and out of dream states to show the underlying motives of the people that Abe is surrounded by and tries to relate to. Eventually his family life gets to him even if it took many years to cause a melt down. Dark Horse makes you appreciate those family members who are pushed aside for  the sake of convention.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan
© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 07/18/12
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Farewell My Queen

By Moira Sullivan

In time for national independence day in France commemorating July 14, 1789 after the storming of the Bastille prison, is a new film about the events leading to the execution of Marie Antoinette directed by veteran filmmaker Benoît Jacquot.  

This story is about the relationship of Marie Antoinette with her reader in the final three days of the Versailles court. Diane Kruger plays Antoinette and the reader Sidonie Laborde is played by Léa Seydoux. The film begins with Sidonie being called by the queen to read  plays for her. On the way, Sidonie passes the haughty Duchess de Polignac, played by Virginie Leydoyen.  The regal airs of the Duchess surpass those of the queen, who is amazingly tender and affectionate to her servant and attends to her mosquito bites with rose water. At the same time Sidonie is a quietly effective observer of her queen and can be seen eavesdropping or scrutinizing the increasing tension at court prior to and following the storming of the Bastille.

It is not an easy story to witness the final days of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI before the barbaric execution of the royalty for their excesses in levying taxes amidst luxurious living in a growing class war between the peasant and aristocracy. Filmed at Versailles, it is true that Diane Kruger as Antoinette gives one of her best performances ever. She is soft, and emotional, firm and regal. Léa Seydoux is also excellent as the queen’s lady in waiting who knows what she wants out of life, and is one of the queen’s most loyal companions. True to her character Virginie Leydoyen plays the woman who abandons the queen and who dies of a broken heart because of it. The film is shot mostly indoors or on the palace grounds of Versailles and most of the story concerns the inner workings of the court, the intrigues, the gossip and the rigid differences between the royals and their servants.

Farewell my Queen is based on the novel by Chantal Thomas who co wrote the script with Gilles Taurand and director Benoît Jacquot.  The French helmer succeeds in creating an intense and foreboding tale of increasing suspense and his merits lay in his ability to draw out the emotions of his key players in a narrative that flows and intoxicates. We all know the fateful last minute attempts to spare Louis and his wife from the wrath of the French revolutionaries who were led to revolt by writers such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu, and the execution of the king and queen prior to the reign of Napoleon. The internal operations of the court from the point of view of Marie Antoinette and her relationship to her reader make for an intriguing tale told with excellent craftsmanship and performances.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan




© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 07/11/12
Movie Magazine International

Mississippi I Am

By Moira Sullivan

When Constance Millen asked to bring her same sex partner to her high school prom in Mississippi in 2010 she was told no. She contacted the "Safe Schools Coalition" in her state and brought up a discrimination complaint.  The high school was ordered to explain their policy and allow Millen to bring her date. Rather than do that, the high school cancelled the prom.

The incident brought Mississippi to national attention, a state that Lance Bass, former member of 'N' Synch was tired of seeing regarded as backwards. Bass came out in 2006 and received flack in his home state despite his popularity nationwide. He decided to produce Mississippi I Am, after hearing about Constance Millen, - a high quality documentary directed by Katherine Linton, and Harriet Hirshorn. They set out to interview the young gay people of Mississippi who became activists in order to change the attitudes of discrimination of gays in their state. According to the documentary there is a church on every corner of Mississippi. The church does not approve of gays and lesbians and tries to convert them in order to be changed. One of the interviewees was a pastor in a church who willingly admitted on camera his prejudices against gays.

Most Mississippians love their state and their country. The first thought that comes to mind when you see the blatant prejudice against gays in this state is why don’t they leave. You realize by the time the film ends how change has come about and how inspirational that is. Thanks to the efforts of these young activists interviewed in the documentary, a new era of civil rights has been ushered into Mississippi. These young people created "Second Chance", the opportunity to attend a same sex partner prom. Lance Bass at 32 attended. If Mississippi can change through the efforts of young activists this can happen anywhere. The cinematography by Vincent Venturella is excellent and the film is well edited. It is Lance Bass’s wish that the films be seen my mainstream America in order to change public opinion. Mississippi I Am is just the kind of film that will be able to address the homophobia that is an important civil rights issue today.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 07/11/12
Movie Magazine International