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The Conformist (#110 of 8)

Film Comment Selects 2014: Me and You Review

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Film Comment Selects 2014: <em>Me and You</em> Review
Film Comment Selects 2014: <em>Me and You</em> Review

A complicated kinship, built out of divorce, offers a surprising safe haven for two narcissistic half-sibilings in Me and You, Bernardo Bertolucci’s first film in nearly a decade. As teenaged Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori) unexpectedly becomes temporary roommates with his slightly older half-sister, Olivia (Tea Falco), during a week-long hideout in the storage basement of his mother’s apartment building, the fissions of their respective home lives—they have the same father—becomes more apparent, as do the curvatures of their sexual and psychological identities. Bertolluci, far from the romanticized juvenescence of The Dreamers, soberly details Lorenzo’s perversity, verbal antagonizing, and isolationism, and Olivia’s cold-turkey attempt to quit heroin, with his customarily vibrant, seasoned style that hums with both the regret of age and the uncertainty of youth.

Summer of ‘88: Tucker: The Man and His Dream

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Summer of ‘88: <em>Tucker: The Man and His Dream</em>
Summer of ‘88: <em>Tucker: The Man and His Dream</em>

As you’ve no doubt noticed from the last few entries in this series, the waning days of 1988’s summer didn’t feel quite like the blockbuster season we now see extending all the way up to September. Opening on August 12, 1988, Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream was the kind of prestige project you’d more likely associate with awards season. For Coppola, it is among his most personal films, not only because it spent the longest time in gestation, but because it’s the closest the filmmaker has ever come to a confessional about the professional betrayals he’d contended with in his career, and the virtues and flaws of mounting a creative collaboration.

As Coppola recounts in the DVD commentary, he had been fascinated with Tucker ever since childhood, when his father had invested in the iconoclast’s auto company. Coppola had conceived of a Tucker musical biopic while still in film school at UCLA. His initial vision was as ambitious as Tucker’s was for his automobile. In the years after the Godfather films, Coppola had attained sufficient clout, enough to invite Gene Kelly to choreograph, and to offer the lead role to actors like Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, and even Burt Reynolds. Coppola wanted composer Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story) to score, with Singin’ in the Rain’s Betty Comden and Adolph Green writing the lyrics, and the collaboration produced at least one song. But this iteration of Tucker was ultimately scrapped after the failure of Coppola’s experimental One from the Heart (1982).

15 Famous Big Weddings

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15 Famous Big Weddings
15 Famous Big Weddings

This weekend, multiplexes will be hit with what’s surely aiming to be the Valentine’s Day of wedding flicks. Directed by Justin Zackham, The Big Wedding packs Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl, Robin Williams, and more into a cast that’s led my Amanda Seyfried and Ben Barnes as the bride and groom. The titular celebration calls to mind a whole lot of substantial cinema nuptials, which stretch from good to great, and occur within chick flicks and masterpieces. We’ve rounded up 15 movie weddings that—aw, hell—take the cake.

Sinful Cinema The Driver’s Seat

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Sinful Cinema: The Driver’s Seat
Sinful Cinema: The Driver’s Seat

It’s generally agreed that films fall into one of three categories: The Good, The Bad, and the So-Bad-It’s-Good. Still, there remain a few highly select examples of a fourth category: the What-in-Hell-Was-That? Michael Sarne’s star-laden evisceration of Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge is certainly one of these, as are such disparate disasters as The Lonely Lady (Pia Zadora’s last-ditch attempt at being taken seriously), the sub-Ed-Wood exercise in low-budget incomprehensibility Mesa of Lost Women (1953), and—when and if it finally gets released—Faye Dunaway’s vanity (and how!) rendition of Terence McNally’s Maria Callas play Master Class. Yet none of these acts of cinematic desperation are quite as outré as The Driver’s Seat.

Directed by Giuseppe Patroni-Griffi, this Italian-made English-language drama, adapted from Muriel Spark’s novella about a mentally unbalanced woman searching for someone to stab her to death, stars Elizabeth Taylor and features (as Neil Patrick Harris would say, “wait for it…”) Andy Warhol. Nothing in the good, bad or so-bad-it’s-good canon compares to it. And if you were among the semi-happy few who managed to see it back in 1974, when it was released (or, some might say, “escaped”) to select grindhouses before vanishing into the maw of home video, then you know what I’m talking about. For while Elizabeth Taylor certainly made her share of stinkers in a long and productive career (Cynthia, The Sandpiper, Young Toscanini), it’s hard to imagine another item so fit to leave moviegoers scratching their heads, wondering precisely why it was made.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Ballot Craig Simpson’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Craig Simpson’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Craig Simpson’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Editor’s Note: In light of Sight & Sound’s film poll, which, every decade, queries critics and directors the world over before arriving at a communal Top 10 list, we polled our own writers, who didn’t partake in the project, but have bold, discerning, and provocative lists to share.

I’ll sidestep the usual throat-clearing about the thought process behind my all-time 10-best-movies list (the agonizing, the second-guessing, the hair-splitting between “bests” and “favorites,” the last-minute changes—yes, it was quite a ride), and cut to the chase. My picks deceptively cover six decades of film history, albeit hopscotching over three of them. Nine of my 10 choices hail from the 1960s and 1970s, making the one remaining look like a token acknowledgment of the silent era when it’s anything but. Nevertheless, six of my films were released between 1967 and 1970, which suggests what I’ve often suspected: that that era of cinema is my favorite. I hasten to add, however, that none of my selections are Easy Riders; and my timeframe stops short of any Raging Bulls. In alphabetical order, my Top 10 movies are:

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Tony Dayoub’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tony Dayoub’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tony Dayoub’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Editor’s Note: In light of Sight & Sound’s film poll, which, every decade, queries critics and directors the world over before arriving at a communal Top 10 list, we polled our own writers, who didn’t partake in the project, but have bold, discerning, and provocative lists to share.

When The House Next Door invited its writers to submit their Top 10 films of all time, I was faced with the usual conundrum: What does “Top 10” signify – best or favorite? After much consideration, I’m happy to say that the list I came up with could easily represent either. These are definitely personal favorites, but, in my not-so-humble opinion, they are also unassailable in their perfection, and could easily fall at the top of any all-time best list arrived at by consensus.

Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Long Run

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Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Long Run
Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Long Run

If the Cannes Film Festival is the cinephile’s version of the Olympics, the media critics covering the event are its long-distance runners. Traversing two weeks of nonstop screenings, panels, conferences, and other festivities can be intimidating by any standard, and don’t forget there’s writing to be done. This is my first year on the Croisette, so I made sure to speak with a few veterans who’ve already survived the madness. One golden rule emerged from their collective wisdom: pace yourself. Easier said than done, I’d imagine. Even though my preplanned screening schedule includes 53 features, interviews, and a red carpet or two, this dude plans to abide. Or at least try not to go crazy with excitement and stress.

As I sit here on a cramped plane to Nice by way of Zurich by way of Philadelphia by way of Los Angles (don’t ask), the mere thought of attending Cannes, much less covering the spectacle for a respected media outlet, makes my head spin. Twelve months ago, I was teaching film studies and screenwriting and fruitlessly screaming into the vast film blogosphere trying to be heard, anticipating Cannes reports by writers I admired from the cold vantage point of a computer screen. Well, what a difference a year makes. Thanks to the endless support of Slant’s co-founder and film editor, Ed Gonzalez, I’m one of the lucky few who get to battle first-world problems like “pace yourself” and “make sure to sleep.” Consider me humbled.

Review: The Conformist

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Review: <em>The Conformist</em>
Review: <em>The Conformist</em>

[The Conformist opens today for a one-week run at Film Forum.]

Generally understood to be an unshakably influential film and a keystone of the canon, The Conformist represents Bernardo Bertolucci’s first fully successful coordinated attack on the retinas. Vittorio Storaro had been a camera operator on Before The Revolution, but in 1970 he first worked for Bertolucci as DP, here and on the preceding The Spider’s Stratagem. The film presents one stunning image after another; it takes about 45 minutes to even start noticing much else on first viewing.

That The Conformist isn’t Bertolucci’s most sexually perverse film of the ’70s merely means that Last Tango In Paris and Luna exist. (And like the same year’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, the film contemplates the effects of fascism on Italian life at least partially via Dominique Sanda’s breasts.) In boldly operatic and unapologetically allegorical terms, The Conformist presents the story of Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a sexually indecisive and morally persuadable man who tries to get himself to focus by being a good fascist. Marrying a “mediocre bourgeois” (Stefania Sandrelli) is as important as volunteering to inform for the secret police.