SIGNIS FILM REVIEWS CANNES 2010
MARTI, DUPA CRACIUN
NOSTRA VITA, La
PRINCESSE DE MONTPENSIER, La
SIMON WERNER E DISPARU... (LIGHTS OUT)
STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA, The
SZERID TEREMTES – A FRANKENSTEIN TERV (TENDER SON – THE FRANKENSTEIN PROJECT)
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER
MARTI, DUPA CRACIUN (TUESDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS) (Un Certain Regard)
(Romania, 2010, d. Radu Muntean)
Yes, another film about an affair and a marriage breaking up. But, no, it is not your usual drama on this theme.
Because the director has chosen a different style of film-making from the hurried plot snippets of so many contemporary dramas, with their TV-like action and reaction quick edits, the film is more real, more natural and more insightful. The film consists of a series of long takes for each sequence, often several minutes long. This means that the performances are extended, played out in a manner that is both akin to theatre as well as being as mundane as real life. It means that the screenplay has had to have much more care in the writing of dialogue that illustrates the experiences of the characters at some length as well as being more ‘naturalistic’, the way that people speak in life rather than in contrived dramatic form.
As expected, the plot is nothing not seen before: the banker who has fallen in love with a younger woman (actually, his young daughter’s dentist). He has been married for years to a competent woman who has become ‘at home’ in her role as wife and mother. Other characters include the husband’s friend and his parents. But, by and large, the action is confined to the central adult characters and the daughter, opening rather daringly with a post-lovemaking, naked sequence introducing the characters from the affair point of view, their jokes, playfulness, intimacy and carefree attitude towards any hurt they may be inflicting. The next sequence is a shopping sequence where we are introduced to the wife.
Particularly impressive is the single take where he reveals the truth to his wife and she moves from stunned, to hurt, to angry, to calculating. It is a fine addition to the number of substantial films coming from Romania in recent years.
Marriage counsellors might well welcome this film for clients to compare their own behaviour and its consequences.
MY JOY (Competition)
(Germany, 2010, d. Sergei Losnitza)
Two hours of joyless slices of fairly savage Russian life. The director, who has a documentary background, says that he intended a more sentimental initial story and his title, My Joy, was for that tale. When he cut that and turned grim, he kept the title, with the under-understatement that it was ironic.
He also speaks of his pallette, which may be the best way to interpret the succession of stories which don’t necessarily follow each other but are juxtaposed like colours on the pallette. Most of the stories are in the present, set in the area south of Moscow, stories of truck drivers, thieves (plenty of these), prostitutes, corrupt police, soldiers, people going mad. The two flashback stories to the end of Waorld War II have a stronger narrative thrust and are, to those of us who like stories, more dramatically satisfying though emotionally straining: a soldier robbed by a superior office, then a pacifist schoolteacher robbed and brutalised by the soldiers returning from the German front, to whom he had given hospitality.
The film opens with a corpse being buried under concrete – the foundations of contemporary rebuilding of Russia symbolised as murderous? In fact, corpses seem to bring to a close several of the stories, with five at the very end. Aesthetic joy, perhaps, but little emotional joy in My Joy.
LA NOSTRA VITA (Competition)
(Italy, 2010, d. Daniele Lucchetti)
An Italian slice of life from the socially conscious historical film of Italy in the 1960s and 1970s, My Brother is an Only Child. This time the film is socially conscious but not explicitly political.
A seemingly simple story of a builder, his love for his pregnant wife and their two boys, with plenty of loving scenes and extended family gatherings, becomes tragic and difficult with two quite diverse deaths. The husband has to cope with his children and opts for a financial focus to cover his grief. He is inexperienced and falls into difficulties with payments and finishing the apartment block he has undertaken to build.
This brings some darker aspects to life around sunlit Rome and Ostia.
Finance is never straightforward in Italy. There are always deals, corruption, illegal workers, migrant workers without papers, the demands of the building consortium, walkouts... We see them here. But, while the man is an ordinary type, he fights hard to succeed and is helped by his pimp neighbour and friend as well as his family solidarity.
An experience of Italian working class life, with some optimism despite grief and with a great emphasis on the worth of family and children.
OCTUBRE (Un Certain Regard)
(Peru, 2010, d. Diego and Daniel Vega)
A brief film and we are plunged straight into it without any background explanation. The film can be called a slice of life in the poorer suburbs of Lima. We stay mostly within this limited world, though there is a visit beyond the neighbourhood and one of those intense Marian processions for Our Lady of Miracles, with band, statues, belted devotees and incense.
We stay almost all the time with an unsmiling middle-aged man, Clemente, who lives alone, visits a local prostitute and lends money, fairly it seems, but always wanting a guarantee. The film is going in this direction when Clemente arrives home one night and fears that he has been robbed. Instead, a baby in a wicker basket has been left in his house. He begins to take care of it and employs a local Marian devotee to care for the baby and his household. She is intense, has her own sexual preoccupations and misinterprets Clemente.
And that’s about it. The value of the film is in the performances, the glimpses of life in Lima and the effect of being placed in the middle of this world and being challenged as to what we think and feel about what we encounter.
(Japan, 2010, d. Takeshi Kitano)
Despicable things done by despicable people in despicable ways – and filmed to highlight how ugly and despicable they are. This is a Yakuza story with characters who exhibit no redeeming human features and about whom, at the beginning, we couldn’t care less, whom at the middle we couldn’t care lesser about and at the end couldn’t care lessest.
Since Takeshi Kitano wrote, edited and directed and stars as the hitman who does the most violent torture and killing, it all lies at his door. He has made some interesting Yakuza films in the past (and some violent ones) and some fine films like Hana-bi and Zatoichi. But this is a brutal film about brutes.
(Korea, 2010, d. Lee Changdong)
A film of great beauty, poetry, yet a film anchored in the harsh realities of daily life as well as crime and punishment. Lee Changdong, with his screenplay and his direction, has been able to bring them together in a memorable film (as he did in Secret Sunshine and his SIGNIS award winning film, Oasis.
Most audiences will not know his leading actress, Yun Junghee, but, from the assuredness of her performance, we would guess, rightly, that she has been one of Korea’s most signficant and award-winning actresses, though absent from the screen since 1994. Hers is a completely creative and convincing performance.
At first, with her hat and flowery, stylish dresses, we might think she was a wealthy lady of leisure. It turns out she is a maid and looks after an old man who has had a stroke. She also cares for her grandson, who must be one of the most obnoxiously self-absorbed teenagers on screen, treating his grandmother as his maid. However, he has been involved with fellow-students in a sex crime that has led the victim to kill herself.
Meanwhile, the grandmother, unaware of this, has decided to attend a poetry course and this gives her new life, looking closely at nature and events, in order to write a poem. She attends poetry readings and this is a transforming experience for her.
In the meantime, the fathers of the other culprits decide to cover up (with the consent of the school and some teachers) and make a payment to the mother of the girl. The financial demands are too much for the grandmother but she finds a way to get the money, which then makes her ashamed. She is also deputed to visit the mother to hasten the settlement. She goes but converses with the woman happily and leaves without mentioning the settlement.
The film brings the two plot strands together in a poem, first spoken by Mija, then continued by Agnes, the girl. We see her at the bridge over the river and contemplate, as we have been asked to do during the film, the flowing water, of life and of death, linked with Agnes’ baptism (Mija goes into her requiem mass).
In these days of sexual crimes, it is interesting (and alarming) to see parents and institutions covering up, instead of going to the police, protecting the assailants, thinking money settlement is the only solution, without real regard for the grief of the parent let alone any acknowledgement of the pain of the abused girl. This aspect makes the film timely over and above its poetic contemplation.
THE PRINCESS OF MONTPENSIER (Competition)
(France, 2010, d. Bertrand Tavernier)
Bertrand Tavernier has made fine films for almost four decades but not, so far, a period costume drama. Here it is.
The setting is the 1560s with the wars between Huguenots and Catholics in France, truces and battles, leading up to the massacre of St Bartholomew’s Day in 1572. (The background of the film, Queen Margot.) The first words of dialogue in this film are, ‘In the name of Christ, fire’, as a Huguenot soldier attacks a Catholic home. Disgusted by what he has done, he gives up fighting, outlawed by both sides for deserting them. He is Francois de Chabanne who, through his friendship with his former student, Philippe, becomes the tutor to his wife, Marie. This is an arranged marriage and the young woman has loved Henri, duke of Guise, all her life.
While there are battle scenes and sword fights (and Tavernier is no slouch in staging warfare), this is more of a serious drama of political intrigue, of pressures on women in the 16th century, on love and people trapped in marital contracts, of religious bigotry and cruelty. It is always intelligent and interesting.
Melanie Thierry is impressive as Marie who has to grow from being a carefree girl to a serious woman whom destiny has not been kind to. Lambert Wilson has a fine role as Chabanne, a wise man whose life is not as he planned but who is able to be a mentor to those in his care.
A good opportunity to learn some French history and enjoy the experience.
ROBIN HOOD (Opening film – a kind gesture since it shows the English defeating the French)
(US/UK. 2010. d. Ridley Scott)
An adventure, a historical drama, a re-creation of the early Middle Ages. But, only the beginning of the legend of Robin Hood as we have come to know him in the various guises of Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Cornel Wilde, Richard Greene, Patrick Bergin and Kevin Costner (at least). Just as Batman Begins took us back to Bruce Wayne’s past and offered explanations of why he became Batman, so this could have been called Robin Hood Begins – which is what the final caption tells us.
For those expecting swash and buckle, there is plenty in the battle sequences, a siege of a castle in France, the confrontation with the French troops on the south coast of England. And there are some sword fights as well, especially between Robin and the more than dastardly villain, Godfrey.
However, this is history more than legend, and geared for more of an adult audience (after all both Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett are in their 40’s). It is an intelligent look at history as well as action – and, considering some of the themes, the social problems of the time, the divine right of kings and the Magna Carta which would be signed later, it is something of an intellectual look at history.
Director Ridley Scott knows how to bring past periods alive, whether it be the Roman Empire in Gladiator or the 12th century crusades in Kingdom of Heaven. Here he re-visits the aftermath of the Crusades as Richard the Lionheart and his very loyal soldiers fight and plunder their way back to an England that has been impoverished by the taxes for the crusades. Richard dies and his wayward younger brother, John, inherits the throne and immediately moves on the barons and their estates for more taxes. He is manipulated by his seemingly loyal friend, Godfrey, against the advice of his chancellor, William Marshall, whom he sacks only to find that Godfrey is intent on dividing England so that King Philip of France can invade.
This is the background for the story of Robin Longstride, a master archer in Richard’s troops, who takes the place of the dead Robin Loxley of Nottingham, returning the crown to London and Loxley’s sword to his father. Nottingham, a small village, has been overtaxed, and Robin stays (in the vein of The Return of Martin Guerre and Somersby) to be Loxley. His first deed to rob the rich to give to the poor is, with the aid of Friar Tuck, to steal the confiscated grain seeds and sow them for Marianne, Loxley’s widow.
As can be seen from these comments on the history, there is a lot more going on than bows and arrows and merry men in Sherwood Forest.
Russell Crowe can do earnest uprightness as well as leap on a horse and charge, sword flailing. Cate Blanchett can do vigorous work and grief but her moments of remembering that she had played Elizabeth I and taking to armour and horseback stretched credibility a little.
There is an excellent supporting cast with Mark Strong (who has shown how repellent a contemporary villain he could be in Kick Ass) is excellent as the traitor, Godfrey. Oscar Isaac (whom devout audiences may remember as a young and nice Joseph in The Nativity Story) does very well as King John. Eileen Atkins is the strong Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katherine Hepburn’s Oscar-winning role in The Lion in Winter). William Hurt is Marshall, Danny Huston is King Richard, Mark Addy is Tuck and Matthew Mc Fadyen is the local daft villain, the sheriff of Nottingham. Max von Sydow is Walter Loxley.
Perhaps not as emotionally engaging as Gladiator but an admirable historical experience.
PS. However, for peace lovers, there is a nagging concern that the battles in all their vigoroous detail, do make war an adrenalin-pumping experience and seem mightily heroic, even for unjust wars – though it is balanced by showing the hardships that war causes at home, let alone the grim body count.
REBECCA H. (RETURN TO THE DOGS) (Un Certain Regard)
(France, US, 2010, d. Lodge Kerrigan)
A brief experimental film that will have the audience puzzling. Lodge Kerrigan has made few films. His Keane was a signficant character study.
This time he is in Paris making a film about singer Grace Slick. His star is the French actress, Geraldine Pailhas. He edits, without warning, scenes of Geraldine Pailhas, interviews and takes of his film, along with the character of Rebecca H. who has mental problems but wants to go to the US to be a singer. Pascal Greggory plays himself as well as Rebecca’s brother.
There are songs from Jefferson Airplane. There are long tracking shots following behind Rebecca and Geraldine Pailhas. So, this film about film-making and performers is an experiment and an experience – for those who relish this kind of experiment.
ROUTE IRISH (Competition)
(UK, 2010, d. Ken Loach)
If you are wondering what the route Irish is and where it is exactly, the film tells us that it is one of the most dangerous roads in the world, the road between Bagdad airport and the city’s green zone ( already the title of Paul Greengrass’s film about the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq).
And, if you are wondering whether Ken Loach is making a political and social commentary film, the answer is yes... but he is also making a thriller in the classical mode of such films.
Loach’s focus here is on the companies who went into Iraq to help with the rebuilding and won themselves enormous contracts. Many of the individuals, and some companies, have been accused of abuse and violence against Iraquis (as one characters states here after a mate has been killed in Basra, he was so angry he had to go out and get himself a towelhead). These cowboy tactics have been widely criticised and some perpetrators have been brought to trial, but it is an area of reprehensible behaviour that needs more spotlighting, especially for justice towards Iraqui victims and their families.
While there are some sequences in Iraq (filmed in Jordan), most of the action takes place in Liverpool where the film opens with Fergus (Mark Womack) going to the funeral of his friend, Frankie, whom he had persuaded to go to work in Iraq for the money. Frankie has died in mysterious if not suspicious circumstances. The rest of the film shows Fergus’ determination (both relentless and angry and often mouthed in wearisome crass language) to find out what exactly happened and who was responsible. That is not too difficult to fathom but the drama of the film is in what it does to Fergus himself, the danger of becoming as monstrous in his pursuit of truth as the violent and indifferent men who killed Frankie. Loach and his constant film-writer for almost 15 years, Paul Laverty, take an almost pessimistic view.
The Loach justice concern is to the fore, but in a style different from his usual social dramas.
SIMON WERNER E DISPARU… (LIGHTS OUT) (Un Certain Regard)
(France, 2010, d. Fabrice Gobert)
Based on the experiences at school of the writer-director, this seems to be a murder mystery, a jigsaw puzzle. At the opening, a body is found in the woods. The action goes back ten days and we see events from the point of view of four of the students at the local high school. The action overlaps and we see quite different interpretations of what has happened.
The resolution may seem something of an anti-climax (but Simon was murdered). What the film is doing is creating characters of high school students, exploring their attitudes, behaviour, relationships and the consequences of speculation and gossip about one another and the teachers. To that extent it is something of a welcome change from the usual teen comedies and melodramatic behaviour.
THE STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA
(Portugal, 2010, d. Manoel de Oliveira)
If an audience did not know who the director is and his style of film-making for almost 80 years (there is no evidence apart from de Oliveira to suggest how a centenarian makes films; he was born in 1908), they might well give it a miss as a throwback to romantic film-making and a style that owes much to the visuals of the silent era. They might find it quite fey as a romantic fantasy.
But, we do know who made the film and his extraordinary film legacy, beginning his career soon after the advent of sound. He has maintained the effects of this style for years. But, de Oliveira is a classic artist in film and in poetic imagination. And, that is what this film is, a poetic look at a photographer who becomes obsessed with the dead young woman whose photograph he has been commissioned to take.
There is some irony in the fact that he is a refugee Sephardic Jew and the dead Angelica’s family, as seen in her nun sister, wary of Jews if not anti-Semitic.
This is a Portuguese world which is both modern and which represents the director’s past, a land of aristocracy and snobbery, catholic devotion and old world manners.
A poetic indulgence in romanticism and essential, of course, for the complete works of de Oliveira.
SZERID TEREMTES – A FRANKENSTEIN TERV (TENDER SON: THE FRANKSTEIN PROJECT) (Competition)
(Hungary, 2010, d. Kornel Mandruczo)
The key to this film is that it states that it has been ‘inspired by’ Mary Shelley. This sets up an expectation for those who like making connections between the plot of the film and the Frankenstein story. For those who take the plot as it comes, it may well be a quite different experience.
Viktor (played by Kornel Mandrusczo, the film’s director) is a successful theatre director but is now casting for a film in a dilapidated Budapest building which is to be knocked down. He conducts auditions (thus making new creatures of his cast and giving them new lives). An impassive young man does not audition well but the director gives him a chance with a young aspiriting actress, with disastrous consequences. Is he a monster?
The young man is sheltered in the building by his mother whom he had been seeking. He is attracted to another girl who lives there and wants to marry here. The director returns to help him escape and they drive to the Tirol and into the snow.
This variation on the Frankenstein theme (who is a monster and what makes a monster) has some brutal action but is also a contemplative piece with some strangely beautiful photography with snow falling and in the mountain sequences.
TAMARA DREWE (Screening out of Competition)
(UK, 2010, d. Stephen Frears)
For over 40 years, director Stephen Frears has been surprising audiences with the range of his films, from Gumshoe to My Beautiful Laundrette, from Dangerous Liaisons to The Queen. According to his comments, this time he surprised himself. While the credits say the film is based on a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds (which itself took its cue from Thomas Hardy’s also Dorset-set Far From the Madding Crowd), Frears keeps saying that he was making a film from a comic strip.
And so it is and despite this background, some of the characters are much more rounded out and developed than is possible in a comic strip.
Roger Allam and Tamsin Grieg (two noted British stage actors) are Nicholas and Beth who run a haven for writers, he writing his own novels and getting the money, she working the farm and being a kind hostess. The trouble is that Nicholas has a wandering eye and she always forgives him. When she asks him publicly about why he is unfaithful, he replies that she lets him.
Then Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arteton) returns home – with a nose job that has transformed her adolescent looks. She is insecure and begins a liaison with Ben, a group drummer (Dominic Cooper), and is not against other affairs until it all comes to a head. In the foreground is Andy (Luke Evans) who is redecorating her house (which was his family’s old house) and works the farm for Beth. In the background is American Glenn (Bill Camp) who is writing an academic book on Hardy but who is encouraged to write for a more down to earth audience by Beth.
And always there are two bored 15 year olds who cause mischief, talk sex as they read their magazines and have a thing for Ben, which leads to some stalking, house invasion and inappropriate emails and – tongue-in-cheek – the resolution comes about when Ben’s dog chases the cows in a Dorset stampede and a key character is trampled to death. But, as you might guess from what has gone on, he deserved it.
Rather slight but frequently funny and always quite amusing.
TOURNEE (ON TOUR) (Competition)
(France, 2010, d. Matthieu Amalric)
The tour starts in Le Havre and continues south along the French coast. Those on tour are five American women who have created a New Burlesque Show, stating that they want to target women and do without men. Actually, the excerpts from their show which we see on screen look very much like the old burlesque despite the hearty applause of the women in the audiences. Their names go way beyond Gypsey Rose Lee: Mimi Le Meaux, Kitten on the Keys, Dirty Martini...
But, they are dependent on one man, their producer, Joachim Zand – who is played by the versatile actor Matthieu Amalric (many, many French films and even Bond villain in Quantum of Solace) and who also directs the film.
The uncertainties of the tour are manifest in the meanderings of the plot. There are also a lot of emotional meanderings but, especially, for Joachim who has been in the US, has used the act to get back to France where, it seems, he is not welcome to many old associates. He also makes contact with his two sons.
This means two focuses of attention, on the women and their acts (which may be more envigorating on stage than they are screen) and Joachim’s many troubles. But, all in all, there is an optimism about human nature here, right up to Joachim’s final shout – and the show must go on.
THE TREE (Closing film)
(Australia, France, 2010, d. Julie Bertucelli)
From the director of the fine SIGNIS award winning film, Since Otar Left. And the tree that they found for the film looks quite magnificent.
This is a story of an ordinary family in Queensland, the father a truck driver (Aden Young) and the mother at home with four children (Charlotte Gainsbourg). The father dies at the opening of the film and the rest of the plot concerns how well, or not, they cope with the death, especially as the months pass. They all grieve in their own way. The most dramatic is 8 year old Simone (Morgana Davies) who finds the presence of her father in the Moreton Bay Fig tree outside the house and communes with him. She persuades her mother to do the same but becomes unhappy, thinking the others have forgotten their father, and she becomes resentful when her mother takes a job at a store in town and the owner comes out to do jobs at their house and lends them his trailer for a Christmas holiday at the beach (Marton Csokas).
While the Queensland scenery looks wonderful, the film is more ordinary, likeable (though Simone can be rather irritating as she makes emotional demands on her mother ‘this instant’) than highly dramatic.
Nature turns against them rather spectacularly at the end, but they go forward with some greater happiness to begin again.
Adapted from a novel by Judy Pascoe, Our Father who art in the Tree.
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (Screening out of Competition)
(US, 2010, d. Oliver Stone)
A welcome sequel.
23 years earlier, Michael Douglas’ Oscar-winning role as insider trader, Gordon Gecko, with his now immortalised motto, Greed is good, became on of the screen’s most famous icons. However, as the 1980s were drawing to a close, Stone’s film was in some ways prophetic and was released at the time of the Wall Street collapse of October 1987. It was strong stuff and a timely critique. This time, Stone does not have to be prophetic. The world shared in the financial collapse of 2008 and the American government had to bail out the banks, and banks were being bailed out – much to the public’s dismay and their being scandalised by the extravagant bonus culture that rewarded bosses who failed (let alone acted illegally).
This film, with its behind the scenes look at American banking, the go-getting personalities and their ruthlessness adapted for consumption by a wide cinema-going public is certainly not going to endear the bankers to anyone. And since the film was in production, Lehman Brothers bank collapsed and even Goldman Sachs is being investigated. Greed wasn’t good, but, as the newly released from jail and promoting his new book, a newly smoothly ageing Gordon Gecko reminds us, everybody indulged in that greed where they could. In the final credits, on an American banknote is the wry joking motto, ‘In greed we trust’.
So, Oliver Stone and his writers are socking it to them and to us – but, because the times are bad, there are many notes of warm humanity and more humble values which may strike some viewers as a bit sentimental for this kind of film.
Michael Douglas (looking ever more like his father as he ages) relishes the chance to be Gordon Gecko again, and the screenplay does not fail him. His Fordham lecture is well worth listening to, as is his advice (both straightforward and devious) to his intended son-in-law, Jake (Shia La Boeuf, who has moved from juvenile star (Holes) to teenage drama (Disturbia) to action hero (The Transformers) to good adult fare. But, despite the charm and the alleged repentance, can a Gecko change whatever it is that is natural to it? Yes, then no, then maybe!
Frank Langella gives credibility to the first part of the film, a banker of the old school who is dismayed by the upstarts and the machine controlled global finances. He is Jake’s mentor. Then, enter the principal villain for this sequel, a younger, unscrupulous speculator, Bretton James (Josh Brolin who was Oliver Stone’s George W). He is under the wing of a veteran who remembers the crash of 1929, a welcome role for 93 year old Eli Wallach. Things financial go from bad to worse as the Federal Reserve is brought in and even the Bush administration had to bail out the banks which seemed to justify that antichrist of American opinion, ‘socialism’ – which some did accuse George W Bush of in fact.
There is also a human story in Wall Street 2. Carey Mulligan (An Education) plays Gecko’s alienated daughter, Winnie, engaged to Jake who tries to reconcile her with her father. She is a director of a non-profit website, Frozen Truth, (Bretton James says he doesn’t understand ‘non-profit’) which reminds us of how influential sites are and how they can be a power for good (investigative expose articles) or source for unfounded rumours which become a reality that demand to be investigated and argued against.
There are some interesting sub-plots involving Susan Sarandon as Jake’s real estate agent mother, a glimpse of Sylvia Miles as another agent and Austin Pendleton as a physicist working on green-friendly research.
Make allowances for the human and nicer aspects of the film and enjoy the Wall Street side of it. It will make you rather self-satisfiedly indignant at those unscrupulous speculators – but the question remains what can be done, what is being done – and where are we headed?
YOU WILL SEE A TALL DARK STRANGER (Screening out of Competition)
(UK, 2010, d. Woody Allen)
The title is what fortune tellers often tell future-hungry clients who are prepared to believe anything. Most of the characters in this Woody Allen confection, filmed in London (a Woody Allen world of writers, artists, publishers and galleries), have created their own fantasies. One does go to a fortune teller. The others tend to poo-poo superstition but are so locked in their hopes and ambitions that they often refuse to see the truth before them. And for anyone wanting an open ending, for most of the characters, here it is. A number of interesting consequences will come home to roost after the final credits!
Many will complain that this is Woody Allen re-cycling stories and issues. Don’t we all!! But, this one is more interesting insofar as it has no real Allen substitute character talking like him (though many will observe Anthony Hopkins as the ageing man who takes up with a younger woman). It is amusing rather than funny, but that has been characteristic of Allen films in recent years.
There is a very strong international cast with performances worth watching. At the beginning and end is the unexpected character of the ageing Helena, who is really the central character. She is played cannily by British actress Gemma Jones, a mixture of angry rejected wife and eagerly superstitious devotee who is in the hands of Cristal (Shirley Valentine’s own Pauline Collins). Naomi Watts plays her generally level-headed daughter whose marriage is collapsing and who misreads the attentions of her boss (Antonio Banderas). Josh Brolin (after W, Milk and Wall Street 2) is her would-be successful novelist husband. But he has his eye on music student (Freida Pinto, Slumdog Millionaire) in a window across the street.
Anthony Hopkins plays the husband of 40 years who refuses to face age and his wife’s ageing and takes up with an escort (Lucy Punch who makes her an unselfconsciously dopey gold-digger).
There are plenty of secrets and lies, Woody Allen style.