Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Four movies to consider as the summer blockbuster season winds down
by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register
(From the Sept. 13, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)
Paul Greengrass, who gave us the dramatic 9/11 story of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, United 93, has now directed the third segment of the Bourne trilogy, The Bourne Ultimatum. Matt Damon plays the main character, Jason Bourne, a CIA killer who is suffering from loss of memory.
The Bourne Ultimatum, based on Robert Ludlum’s novel, is a violent film. Jason Bourne speaks few sentences throughout the film. But The Bourne Ultimatum is a fast- paced thriller that is filled with riveting chase scenes through a London train station to the streets of New York City. Sometimes it is difficult to be sure who are the good guys and the bad guys. Early on we begin to realize that Pamela Landy (Joan Alien), a high- level CIA administrator, is on the side of truth and justice.
The thrilling ending across the streets of the East side of New York City is memorable as the pieces fall together that enable Jason to finally figure out what has been happening to him.
The excitement caused by the hand-held cameras and the lightning-swift editing under a director’s taunt hand make this the summer’s top action movie.
The Motion Picture Association of America rate the film R – restricted (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rate the film L – Limited adult audience whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.
The new French film La Vie en Rose is the powerful biography of the great French singer Edith Piaf. The film has played in Sandpoint, Idaho but I don’t think it has played in Eastern Washington yet. One can hope it would be available through the new Magic Lantern Theater, which is opening up at 25 First Street in Spokane at the end of September.
For Catholics, the emphasis on St. Therese at key moments in Piaf’s life is very interesting and touching. Marion Cotillard, who is around 30, gives the performance of a lifetime as Edith. When Edith died in her late 40s she looked like she was in her 80s. So Cotillard has a challenge in playing the changing seasons of Piaf’s life, and she does it very well. Her acting is much stronger than the story that is told. We go from Edith’s childhood to her young adulthood, as well as her rise to fame and fortune laced with great sorrow and joy.
The songs are Piaf’s recordings. Cotillard does a fine job looking as if she is actually singing familiar classics.
Yes, the movie is in subtitles with the original French. But so much is visual the viewer gets used to translation of the words.
La Vie en Rose is melodrama. It goes back in forth in time as it tells the story of Edith’s life. But Cotillard shows us acting at its best. The audience with whom I saw the film clapped as the credits came up. La Vie en Rose is a memorable film.
The MPAA rates the film PG-13. The USCCB Office of Film and Broadcasting rates the film as AIII – for adults.
The Disney Channel’s wild success with High School Musical 2 proves there is a growing audience for old-style musicals. The musical has been out of style since its glory days of the 1940s and ‘50s, with rare exceptions like The Sound of Music.
But now comes along Hairspray, an old-fashioned musical with lots of life, a positive story involving race relations, and even a star from High School Musical, Zac Efron.
The incredible young actress Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad dominates the screen from beginning to end. She is the young teen addicted to a Dick Clark-like television show from Baltimore called The Corny Collins Show. She fights to eventually get on the show, even though she is not the regular thin young lady-type. Her mother is played kindly by John Travolta, with too much rubber on his face.
Tracy fights the TV station so that African-Americans be allowed to sing and dance with the whites on this 1960-ish afternoon television show. The show then has numerous typical musical numbers and lots of dancing with energy that won’t stop.
Christopher Walken gives a poignant performance as Tracy’s Dad. The love song between Tracy’s parents is well done. Michelle Pfeiffer as the former beauty queen/producer of the show is as over-the-top as possible, but somehow it works.
Hairspray shows that musicals are back, especially ones that appeal to young people. But if you ever even secretly enjoyed an occasional musical comedy, then Hairspray should be on your movie list.
Hairspray is rated PG and A-II – for teens and adults.
The new French farce My Best Friend, directed by Patrice Leconte and starring the great French actor Daniel Auteuil, is a delightful film filled with the sorrows and joys of independence and friendship.
Auteuil, a powerful dramatic actor who often plays police officials or professors caught in Hitchcockian dilemmas, is also a fine comic actor. In My Best Friend Auteuil as Francois, a wealthy antique buyer and seller, is convinced he has many friends through work and his earlier school years. The staff of his salon bets Francois that he has no friends and if he does, he better produce them in 10 days.
Francois meets an outgoing taxi driver played by Dany Boon who relates well with people, often talking about little-known facts. The taxi driver would like to be on a nationally televised quiz show involving little known facts, but he freezes up each time he auditions.
Through a series of events Francois asks the taxi driver to teach him how to be friendly and be able to make one friend. After numerous failures on Francois’ part, he decides that maybe the taxi driver will be his friend so that he can win the bet. Here the story gets complicated and wildly funny and sad.
Although this is a comic story, underneath it is a morality tale about the importance of friendship in our lives. You are never quite sure where this film is going to go. There are a couple of “deus ex machina” events. But My Best Friend is a thoughtful comic entertainment that touches deep within. If you have a bias against French movies, let it go. You will enjoy My Best Friend.
My Best Friend (Mon Meilleur Ami) is rated PG-13 and A-III – for adults.
(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations Officer and archivist for the Diocese of Spokane, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)