THE BEST FILMS OF 2004
THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES Walter Salles
What’s this got to do with the movie I’m reviewing, “The Motorcycle Diaries.” Well, it’s about Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, an Argentinean who became Che Guevara, Che! With an exclamation point was enough. Ernesto is 23 years old. He and his friend Alberto Granado, a 29 year old biochemist, decide to make a motorcycle trip up the length of South America from Argentina Chili just for the fun of it, to have a good time, encounter women, that sort of thing. Ernesto needs a break from his medical studies Alberto who’s a pharmacist is plain adventurous. The ensuing journey transforms Ernesto, and little by little, with subtlety and insight we being to get an inkling of Che. Nothing overt, but we can feel a metamorphosis under way. The central set piece is their stay in a leper colony, and it is this experience more than any other that puts Ernesto on his life’s journey.
And in the hands of director Walter Salles this journey takes on epic proportions, not because anything earth shaking or stupendous happens, but because this 23 year old sees beyond the gorgeous scenery—and it is breathtaking—where poverty is the norm. Where indigenous people have been forced from the land they’ve lived on for centuries. (The black and white photography of these people staring at the camera is incredibly moving.)
This is not a pompous or heavy movie. On the contrary it’s often funny and gripping and a joy to experience.
Ernesto Guevara de la Serna is played by Gael García Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien), his lady-killer friend Alberto Granado played by Rodrigo de la Serna. And they are both wonderful, especially Bernal whose face reflects all that is deep inside him, so that we become convinced that this could indeed have been the awakening of Che Guevara.
the end of the movie we learn how Che Guevara was ambushed and killed in 1967.A few years before he invited his old friend Alberto Granado to come to
In Spanish with English subtitles. Rated R for strong language and sexual references.
It’s the story of a super hero family, father, mother, daughter and son, and
baby, each with a special power that is different from the others.
trouble is that the time for super-heroes has past.
Now they’re being sued for hurting someone’s back while saving his
life, or wrecking
someone’s car while saving the city. Yup,
their day has past. So they are
relocated and given new identities, like mobsters who’ve ratted on their
bosses, and they try to lead normal lives. This
part of the movie is very funny. Of
course this situation can’t last because the world still has lots of evil people in it and it needs super-heroes.
So they come out of retirement and save us.
What’s so beautiful about all this is that this family shares all the characteristics of regular families—they have the same parent-kid problems, the same marital difficulties, the same faults and strengths of ordinary people. Except for the fact that each one of them has that extra special power: Maybe it’s great strength, or elasticity, or speed or being able to disappear. The lesson I came away with—and it’s not at all preachy—is that you don’t have to be a super-hero because each of us has an individual gift and if we can learn to work with one another we too can save the world for the powers of evil.
This is a delightful, beautiful,
Rated PG for action violence.
That’s not to imply that Irwin Winkler’s “De-Lovely” shows a man beset by doubts about his homosexuality while living an outwardly happily married life. It’s not that simple. Kevin Kline’s Cole Porter accepts his sexual orientation and his love for his wife (played nicely by Ashley Judd); and here’s the troubling part—he knows he’s causing her great anguish yet he is incapable of not stopping his philandering.
Director Winkler has made the inspired move to use contemporary singers like Alanis Morissette, Elvis Costello, and Sheryl Crowe. It simply proves that Cole Porter is alive and well.
OF THE SPOTLESS MIND Michel
The first thing you need to know about “Eternal Sunshine”
is that it’s the creation of Charlie
Kaufmann who gave us “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation,”--that
should tell you something about what you’re in for here.
The story concerns a man and a woman (Jim Carrey and Kate
Winslet) who meet, have a relationship that doesn’t go too well, she finds a
doctor who has a technology that can selectively erase part of your memory—you
see, she wants to forget this loser guy. The
guy, Joel, finds out about this and of course he does the same thing—wipes
Clementine from his memory.
Except he has second thoughts, and so in the middle of his
“operation” he wants out—he realizes he doesn’t want to be without the
The second half of this movie is inside Carrey’s head.
We see Joel and Clem together-- not necessarily chronologically—as the
erasing process is taking place. It’s
a fascinating bit of filmmaking that will probably leave you a bit confused at
times. You’re asking:
“Is this real?” “Did this really take place?”
The special effects are in this case quite special.
So how do we forget? Or
remember, for that matter? Does an
event or a period in our past just disappear all at once?
Little by little? Chronologically?
Randomly? Can a part of our
past be tucked somewhere in our brain that nobody, not even us, can get at?
Can we, while remembering, change events, change our memory in
effect? These are the issues at the
heart of this movie.
Carrey and Winslet are excellent.
Their supporting cast very good: Tom
Wilkenson, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst.
How happy is the
blameless vestal's lot!
Rated R (for language, some drug and sexual content).
INTIMATE STRANGERS (CONFIDENCES TROP INTIMES)
The literal translation of the
French title “Confidences trop intimes” would be “Too Intimate Confidences”
which just wouldn’t work. Leconte
takes a seductive woman (the marvelous Sandrine Bonnaire) and puts her on a
couch to tell her story to a psychiatrist who’s not really a psychiatrist but
a lonely tax accountant (Fabrice Luchini). She discovers her mistake but continues to see the tax man.
That’s the story and it is
A quick word about the music. The original score by Pascal Estève is
reminiscent of the work Bernard Hermann did for Alfred Hitchcock, and that is no
coincidence. Bonnaire could well be
a Hitchcock woman with her air of mystery and vulnerability. Several times Estève’s music bridges the scenes, linking them together
to make connections we might not ordinarily make. A strong recommendation from me.
Rated R for strong sexual talk.
The most famous tennis scene in the movies takes place in
Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train”—by the way, this is yet another
reference in “Sky Captain” when Polly drops her camera and it falls into a
sewer grate and she has to reach in a get it as the robots draw near. Anyway the tennis match in “Strangers” is very exciting, but the
problem with it is that Farley Granger can’t swing a racket without looking
like a klutz. This is not the case
Isn’t it fun to go to a movie where the director—in
this case Richard Loncraine—makes all the right decisions: first get good actors who look the part, hire an editor who knows enough
about tennis to keep the action crisp and entertaining, get a photographer who
knows London. And by the way, I
Another thing I liked was the kissing. There’s one scene that takes place in Brighton, the English seaside resort, where Peter and Lizzie walk onto an old tennis court, the one where Peter’s father taught him to play. When I was a kid I hated love scene, all that kissing which stops the action dead. Well, the kiss between Peter and Lizzie is one of the best I’ve seen in a long while, tender with real feeling. I think it’s at this moment that they both realize they love one another. That doesn’t mean it will be easy sailing from then on. On the contrary. But it’s that kiss, that genuine communication that melds them to each other.
Dunst is so much better in this movie than in the Spider-Man flicks, and maybe it’s because she has an inner steeliness which she uses so well here. Sure she’s pretty but she’s also a tennis pro and when she’s on the court she can be a nasty piece of work. She does a beautiful job blending the two. Paul Bettany has been picking good roles. He was Stephan Maturin in “Master and Commander” and Russell Crowe’s roommate in “A Beautiful Mind.” His career is taking off.
I’d like to mention the wonderful actress Elinor Bron, who plays Peter’s mother. You may remember her as Miss Minchin in “A Little Princess.” She is one of England’s finest character actresses. She can play the grande dame or the nasty stepmother as few others.