New on DVD - 11/18/08
MISTER LONELY (***½)
Mister Lonely is a film that exists squarely in its own peculiar reality, where the Queen of England sleeps with the Pope, eggs can sing, and nuns can fly. It is a world at once uplifting and sad, supporting and lonely, charming and frightening - but always deeply enchanting. It is a dark film, but one that even in its sadness finds a way of being oddly life affirming. For all of its surreal beauty, Mister Lonely is a feast of thematic symbolism just begging to be lost in. The question is whether or not you will ever want to find your way out again. Either way, it is a journey well worth taking.
Salvadori maintains a light touch throughout the film, keeping it from straying into clichéd "love overcomes all" territory, and there are enough farcical elements to keep the audience on its toes. The entire film has the feel of an American studio comedy from the 40s - classy, funny, with crisp dialogue and plenty of champagne, but with an unmistakably French sense of humor. The French's sense of comic timing and clever sight gags are impeccable, and the film's opening sequence with Jean walking hotel guests' dogs demonstrates this deft flare for sharp, subtle laughs.
UP THE YANGTZE (***½)
Up the Yangtze is, first and foremost, a requiem for a China that is slowly being washed away, both in reality and metaphorically. The Three Gorges Dam was a pet project of Mao Tse Dong, and represents progress for the sake of progress. While some on the river praise it for its technical mastery (it is the largest dam in the world) and the glory it brings on the country, in reality it is destroying lives - the ultimate symbol of empty, useless progress. The people are powerless to stop it as it washes away their memories of a mythic past.
FTFR DVD Pick of the Week
"WALL-E" is essentially a silent comedy, reminiscent of the works of Charles Chaplin and Jacques Tati, playing out like a mash-up of "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "City Lights." There is precious little dialogue in the film, and Stanton makes the most of what little there is. Stanton is an extraordinary visual storyteller, and "WALL-E's" animation is nothing short of breathtaking. He paints on a grand canvas, making this not only Pixar's most epic film in terms of scope, but also one of its most intimate.