Les Enfants du Paradis- Children of Paradise (1945) by Marcel Carné: One of the GREAT works of cinema. Nineteenth century Paris’ theater community, its “Boulevard du Crime,” the famous and infamous, many based on real people. Filmed during WWII, it features most top tier actors of the time. Baptiste Debureau (Jean Louis Barrault introducing his iconic Pierrot mime), the actor Frédérick Lemaître (Pierre Brasseur) the thief Pierre François Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand), and the aristocrat Édouard de Montray (Louis Salou) – are in love with Garance (Arletty) The period comes alive. Characterizations are rich. An immensely satisfying example of poetic realism. Moving. Rent on Prime or buy. In subtitled French.
The Legend of 1900 (1998). 1900 (a person) was found abandoned in a box on an ocean liner, likely the son of poor immigrants from steerage. A coal-man finds the baby naming him Danny Boodman T. D. Lemon 1900 (a combination of his own name, an advertisement found on the box and the year he was born). The boy grows up never leaving the ship, first hiding, then showing prodigious innate piano talent playing in the band. He has no identity on land and finds the prospect of it too daunting to attempt. His fantastic life is retold by a befriended musician in flashbacks. Wonderfully imaginative, acted, shot. Tim Roth, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Melanie Thierry.
Cairo Time (2009) Magazine editor Juliette visits Cairo to spend time with husband Mark, a UN official. Detained, he sends a local friend to show her the city. The two explore together unexpectedly bonding deeply. Sense of culture and the city are omnipresent. A love story without clichés. Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig.
Illuminata (1998) directed and co-written by John Turturo based on Brandon Cole’s play Imperfect Love. Backstage relationship drama of a 19th century theater company in throes of producing the new work by a troubled resident writer. Terrific writing and character work. Extravagent sense of theater. Kathryn Borowitz (Turturro’s wife), Aida Turturro (his sister), Beverly D’Angelo, Christopher Walken, Donal McCann, Susan Sarandon, Ben Gazarra, Bill Irwin…and more.
A Heavenly Vintage (2009) loosely based on the highly recommended novel The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox. One of the most believable- fallible, sensual- angels you’ll ever encounter in film. Ambitious young winemaker Sobran Jodeau encounters a traveling angel on his land. Supported by guidance/deep friendship, he struggles with nature, utilizing innate skill to become successful, secretly meeting the creature at intervals. In love with his wife and committed to family, Sobran is nonetheless tempted by a charming baroness who understands the quest for vintage. Jeremie Renier, Vera Farmiga, Gaspard Ulliel. On Amazon Prime or on Blu-Ray.
The Best Offer (2013) Engrossing mystery/thriller (no violence, no car chases) about the high end world of art/auctions from the director of Cinema Paradiso. Virgil Oldman is a highly esteemed, obsessive/compulsive manager of a European auction house with a well hidden private collection. Asked to assess and sell an entire mansion full of art and furniture, he can’t resist despite its eccentric, agoraphobic young heiress remaining out of sight, literally living behind a wall. Their eventual meeting changes everything, wrenching him out of the familiar into free fall. (There’s a splendid automaton.) Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Sylvia Hoeks, Donald Sutherland. On Amazon Prime.
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