Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Movie reviews: Moliere and Stardust

Moliere is a comedy-drama, and a fine example of a genre of book and film I quite enjoy: a tale in the life of a famous historical figure, set in a period of his life about which nothing is known; no “suspension of disbelief” is required. This story “explains” why Moliere was out of the public eye for a time when he already had a reputation as an actor, but was not yet known as a playwright.
Moliere is portrayed as an intense and witty young man, a superb comedic actor who despises his own success because he loves and respects only “serious” theater; this makes him manic and capricious, played with almost a touch of Jack Sparrow. (or as Ginger corrected me, “Jacque Piaf”) This is not the random dissonance of Sparrow, however, but the result of his devotion to his craft.

I cannot come up with a single complaint about this film. The story, though at times fantastic, is well written and well paced; combined with the best ensemble cast I’ve seen in a foreign film it can make you laugh and cry within a span of minutes. As one might expect of a period piece shot in the actual locations, set in a time of elaborate dress and decoration, the visuals are wonderful. Yes, it is a French-language film, but the subtitles were translated colloquially, not word for word, so you get the flavor as well as the content. So even if you don’t speak French, you should see this film before it disappears from your local art theater- but if you do speak French, run out and see it right now!

Stardust is another comedy, a fantasy. There’s nothing serious about this film, nor does it take itself seriously; it’s pure mind candy. but it’s good candy. It’s the kind of film where you just know the cast had a hoot shooting it. For example, from the first second Robert De Niro appears on screen, you know he’s playing a parody of a De Niro character... but as the parody gets more and more over the top, you begin to wonder if he paid the studio to be allowed to play this character. Supposedly a minor character, he should have been arrested for Grand Theft Movie. Michelle Pfeiffer is fantastic as the witch Lamia.

Yes, the plot turning points are all telegraphed; yes, there are holes in the story. Who cares? We’re not talking Shakespeare here, (unless you mean De Niro’s character), we’re talking a couple hours of pure entertainment. Go see it.

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