Monday, November 30, 2009

Pushing "Precious"

Say what you want about the film (although I'm in the positive category, with some reservations), the artwork for Precious so far has been gorgeous, like this new FYC ad:

Source: Awards Daily

Friday, November 27, 2009

Trailer: "The Expendables"

This...looks amazing! I was a sucker for Rambo...I am totally in the bag for this!

Gleiberman Defends "New Moon" - I Respectfully Disagree

In my earlier, formative days of being a film buff, my only immediate source of film news or reviews was Entertainment Weekly. I eagerly awaited each issue, got excited every time a new Fall Movie Preview or Oscar Preview issue was released, and pretty much lapped up every piece of information from it I could get.

As I grew older and my horizons expanded, I left behind EW and now rarely, if ever, read it at all. One thing that always stuck out to me though, was that I preferred film critic Lisa Schwartzbaum to Owen Gleiberman. And after reading his rather smug and completely off-base defense of The Twilight Saga: New Moon, I remembered why.

In the article, he says:
The ascendance of the Twilight saga represents an essential paradigm shift in youth-gender control of the pop marketplace. For the better part of two decades, teenage boys, and overgrown teenage boys, have essentially held sway over Hollywood, dictating, to a gargantuan degree, the varieties of movies that get made. Explosive truck-smashing action and grisly machete-wielding horror, inflated superhero fantasy and knockabout road-trip comedy: It has been, at heart, a boys’ pig-out, a playpen of testosterone at the megaplex. Sure, we have “chick flicks,” but that (demeaning) term implies that they’re an exception, a side course in the great popcorn smorgasboard.

No more. With
New Moon, the Twilight series is now officially as sweeping a juggernaut on the big screen as it ever was between book covers. And that gives the core audience it represents — teenage girls — a new power and prevalence. Inevitably, such evolutions in clout are accompanied by a resentful counter-reaction. For if power is gained, then somewhere else (hello, young men!) it must be lost.
So all the Twilight hate is because of some twisted Freudian desire for male dominance? Not because it's, you know, a piece of trash. Some thick necked frat boys may laugh it off because it's a "chick flick." But Transformers 2 (which, make no mistake, is still the box-office juggernaut of 2009) is just as dumb. But you can hardly say that all, or even most, of Twilight haters feel that their fragile male egos are being challenged. I'm male and I hate Twilight. I also hate "explosive truck-smashing action and grisly machete-wielding horror, inflated superhero fantasy and knockabout road-trip comedy" as he puts it. So where does that leave me? I have nothing against movies targeted at females doing boffo box office. I was there on opening day for Sex and the City, and loved every minute of it. I got annoyed at all those fanboys pulling for The Dark Knight to topple Titanic as the all time box office king of the world, because, frankly, I think Titanic is a far superior film, and has remained one of my personal favorites since I saw it in theaters way back when I was just 11 years old. His argument here just doesn't hold water.

Later, he makes an even more outrageous claim:
I went into New Moon having not read the book, and so I didn’t really experience the movie as an adaptation, or watch it as any sort of Twilight die-hard. Leaving aside a few leaping boy-to-wolf transformations (which could, at this point, have come out of any routine horror film), what I saw, in essence, was a moody romantic melodrama from the 1950s, a movie that told its story, more than anything else, with faces. For two hours, they loomed up there — Stewart, with her pale crystalline severity, her ability to communicate desire and distress at the same moment; Robert Pattinson, with his sweet-but-not-too-safe, hurtin’-eyed, chalky-skinned delinquent chivalry; and Taylor Lautner, with those naturally wolfy features, as the group’s Troy Donahue, a friendly, quick-grinned stud-muffin who’s just buff enough to divert the heroine without threatening to capsize her devotion to her true love.
Say what? I know he knows better than that, after naming Far From Heaven his #1 film of 2002 for its haunting evocation of the 1950s melodramas of Douglas Sirk. New Moon is about as far from Sirk's masterful All That Heaven Allows as you can get. There are no delicate emotions here, no deep, unspoken desires, just some whiny self-loathing. The actors aren't emoting, they're mumbling through their lines and occasionally twitching an eyebrow. But mostly they just look nauseous. Let's not forget, however, that most of those quickie, drive-in 1950s melodramas were terrible.

But here's the kicker:
...the reason I believe that the big-screen success of the Twilight saga bodes well for the future of Hollywood movies is that the teenage girls who are lining up to see New Moon are asserting, in an almost innocent way, their allegiance to a much older form of pop moviemaking: the narcotic potency of mood, story, and romantic suggestion over the constant visual wham-pow! of action, effects, and packaged sensation.
Mood? New Moon is about story and mood? What story? Nothing happens! The books are filled with endless passages of breathless fawning over Edward's glittering body. New Moon drags on and on and on chronicling a shallow, pointless romance between two characters without chemistry who are given no reason as to why they should be together other than "she smells good" and "he's hot." Did I mention that he is an emotionally abusive jerk? Thankfully he's absent for most of the film, so most of the film is filled with moping and self-pity, at least until it occasionally remembers it had some random sublpot about a vampire woman wanting to kill Bella...but that's not very often.

There is a difference between mood and moping. If there is any mood to be had here it's thanks to Alexandre Desplat's lovely score. Otherwise it's just awkward. The only thing that happens in the movie resembling a solid story or a plot happens in the last 20 minutes or so, and by then it's far too late and the supporting characters far too underdeveloped. You want mood? See Claire Denis' mesmerizing 35 Shots of Rum, or Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Three Monkeys, or Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, or even Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are, a film that is everything Gleiberman claims New Moon is, but isn't. This is not mood. It's emo whining with a captial E.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On "The Twilight Saga: New Moon"

From The Dispatch:
I seriously do not understand how something so drab and lifeless can be so hugely successful. It's two hours and 10 minutes of rambling, pointless drivel, where nothing of any real interest happens. The sad thing is that people are eating this stuff up in droves. I'm not sure what that says about a culture where this is considered great entertainment. Regardless, I don't want any part of it.
Click here to read my full review.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Review: "Broken Embraces"

In the world of film, a new film by director Pedro Almodovar is always cause for celebration. Already a living legend, Almodovar's films were even the subject of a touring retrospective called Viva Pedro in 2006, in honor of his then latest film, Volver.

His collaboration with Penelope Cruz has been developing over the years, with Cruz appearing in 4 of his films since 2007 - Live Flesh, All About My Mother, Volver, and now his latest effort, Broken Embraces. Almodovar has always been one to work with the same core group of actors - Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Blanca Portillo, Lola Dueñas, and Chus Lampreave just to name a few. There is always a comforting familiarty in seeing these faces in his films, even when the films take dark or disturbing turns. Their mere presence is an immediate signal that we have entered Almodovar's world, and are in the hands of a consummate storyteller.

But his relationship with Cruz has become something akin to that of a bard and his muse. While I stand by my assertion that Almodovar's finest film is All About My Mother, the increasing presence of Cruz seems to have inspired Almodovar's creative juices, culminating in Volver, which garnered Cruz her first Oscar nomination, and seemed to sum up everything Almodovar has tried to do in his career so far.

Lena looking in the mirror. Photo by Emilio Pereda & Paola Adizzoni. Ó Emilio Pereda & Paola Ardizzoni/El Deseo, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

For Broken Embraces, however, the heat seems to have cooled. If Volver was the peak of the Almodovar/Cruz collaboration, then Broken Embraces is the beginning of the descent down the other side of the mountain. That is not to say that it is a bad film. Quite the contrary, it is a perfectly respectabl, solid effort. But coming from a master like Almodovar, one can't help but feel a little underwhelmed.

Broken Embraces is essentially a modern film noir, but insead of black & white, it is painted with Almodovar's trademark bright palate of luminous warm colors. The film centers around Harry Caine (Almodovar veteran Lluís Homar), a blind screenwriter who, after a tragic traffic accident that claimed the life of his lover, Lena (Cruz), changes his name from Mateo Blanco, and leaves his life as a successful film director to try to start again, and leave the pain of his experience behind. But the past, as it has a tendency to do, catches up with him, when the son of Lena's villainous husband shows up on his doorstep with an idea for a script that sounds hauntingly familiar. This plunges Caine into a sea of memories, as he relates the story of his affair to the ailing son of his production manager one evening, and how his life was turned upside down by jealously and intrigue during the making of his final film.

Diego and Judit. Photo by Emilio Pereda & Paola Adizzoni. Ó Emilio Pereda & Paola Ardizzoni/El Deseo, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

For the most part, Broken Embraces is a very subdued effort by Almodovar, dwelling more on nuances and textures than his more colorful works. In that regard it is not unlike the director's own Live Flesh, which tones down some of his more lavish instincts in lieu of a much darker, quieter tone. It is also a film that is really about the relationship of the director to his film, and the importance of editing in a film's success. After he was blinded, Lena's jealous husband threw Mateo's unfinished film together haphazardly in an effort to destroy his professional reputation. It is a knowing dig at studio suits who wrest control of films from their directors to edit them their own way, destroying the director's creative vision and creating something wholly different. That is probably the film's strongest message, one that is obviously deeply personal for Almodovar.

The rest of the film, however, ultimately fails to make a deep impression. It fades surprisingly quickly, a small diversion to the film's ultimate theme of editorial control. It never rises above the feeling that this is a relatively minor entry in the director's impressive canon, as if the creative juices inspired by his collaboration with Cruz has begun to run out. The film never sears itself into the memory the way so many Almodovar films do - I'm thinking of the broad absurdist comedy of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the unnerving sexual sadomasochism of Matador, the pornographic despair of Law of Desire, the haunting desire of Talk to Her, the eerie rendition of "Moon River" in Bad Education and its unforgettable association with pedophilia in the Catholic church. There is nothing in Broken Embraces that takes hold of the audience in such a way. And while its self referencing love of cinema is a feast for any cinephile, I can't help but feel that the film ultimately just runs out of gas. From anyone else, this would be a solid, respectable effort, which it ultimately is. But when held against such an illustrious career, Broken Embraces comes up short.

GRADE - ★★½ (out of four)

BROKEN EMBRACES; Directed by Pedro Almodovar; Stars Penelope Cruz, Lluís Homar, Blanca Portillo, José Luis Gómez, Rubén Ochandiano; Rated R for sexual content, language and some drug materia; In Spanish with English subtitles; Opens tomorrow, 11/20, in select theaters.

Please let this happen in "New Moon"

Source: Hollywood-Elsewhere

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

15 Documentary Features Continue in 2009 Oscar Race

AMPAS has announced the 15 documentaries that will compete for five nomination slots for this year's Academy Awards. They are:
  • “The Beaches of Agnes”
  • “Burma VJ”
  • “The Cove”
  • “Every Little Step”
  • “Facing Ali”
  • “Food, Inc.”
  • “Garbage Dreams”
  • “Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders”
  • “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”
  • “Mugabe and the White African”
  • “Sergio”
  • “Soundtrack for a Revolution”
  • “Under Our Skin”
  • “Valentino The Last Emperor”
  • “Which Way Home”
Food, Inc., The Cove, and Burma VJ are all shoo-ins. But where is the year's finest doc, Unmistaken Child? Or Capitalism: A Love Story? Or Anvil: The Story of Anvil? Or Tyson? This is a screwy list, with some major omissions. But I have come to expect nothing less of AMPAS. It's not really worth complaining about anymore.

On "2012"

From The Dispatch:
It's all just so mind-numbly inane. For a film about the end of the world, "2012" is surprisingly dull. While destruction on this huge scale may be new, we've seen everything else before. It wears out its welcome at a ridiculous two hours and 40 minutes, throwing out every cliché in the disaster movie handbook. But in the end, it's all for naught, because "2012" is every bit the epic disaster that its subject matter suggests.
Click here to read my full review.

Team Bela

I want to make a t-shirt out of this and wear it to see New Moon.

How many fan girls do you think will assume I just misspelled Bella?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review: "The Messenger"

Films dealing with the Iraq war have not exactly had a solid track record with critics or audiences. While The Hurt Locker was the first Iraq combat film to make headway with either group earlier this year, garnering quite a bit of Oscar heat in the process, those films that dealt with the aftermath of the war, the soldiers on the home front, have been largely neglected.

I'm thinking mainly of Paul Haggis' In the Valley of Elah, which I think was severely underrated. But no film really has taken a hard, unbiased look at soldiers dealing with the aftermath of the war than Oren Moverman's impressive feature debut, The Messenger.

The premise alone is rife with dramatic potential, but also potential for manipulative exploitation. But Moverman walks a fine line, never pushing the subject too far or manipulating the audience with unnecessary sentimentality The story, and its subject, speaks for itself.

Ben Foster stars as Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery, a decorated war hero just weeks away from ending his tour of duty and being discharged. After being injured trying to rescue some of his comrades in Iraq, with a persistant eye condition that prevents him from returning, he is assigned to the Army's Casualty Notification service, in charge of informing the next of kin that their loved one has been killed in action. His commanding officer is the tough-as-nails Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), a man still bitter about not having seen any combat during Desert Storm, but completely devoted to his duty with the CNS. It's a job time has hardened him to, and the youthful idealism of Montgomery, more interested in the human factor than the stiff regulations, clashes with Stone's more old school mentality.

Montgomery finds it increasingly hard to watch the heartbreaking reactions of devastasted parents and spouses of fallen soldiers. His instincts to lend a comforting hand grow stronger with each encounter. It all comes to a head when he meets Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morton), while notifying her that her husband has been killed. He finds himself drawn to her, to her stoic sadness, her determined spirit in the face of grief. And against all protocols and regulations, begins spending time with her and her young son on a regular basis.

What outwardly seems to be completely inappropriate is actually a very tender and unusual relationship. One that extends beyond romance or anything unseemly, and into something very beautiful and nurturing. The entire film has a kind of delicate balance, between honor, duty, and humanity. It exists in a kind of in between place where grief and hope coexist. The scenes of the officers delivering notification are painful to watch, but they make up The Messenger's deeply affecting heart. No other film in recent memory has portrayed with such clear-eyed honesty the effects of the war on those who are left behind, as well as the men who were there. And it does so with astonishing grace and a refreshing lack of agenda. It would be hard to call it either pro-war or anti-war. Its themes are far bigger, and less black and white, than that.

This is also Ben Foster's finest hour. He has been establishing himself as a character actor to watch in films such as 3:10 to Yuma, but here he displays an astonishing emotional range and control. All the actors do. Harrelson has honestly never been better, and Morton makes the most of a rather small and limited part. The screenplay by Moverman and Alessandro Camon is searing and honest, hitting all the right notes with a stoic grace. Not only is it an impressive debut for Moverman, but one of the most powerful and humane war dramas to spring from this current conflict. While The Hurt Locker may be getting all the attention this year, The Messenger is an excellent film that should not get lost in the crowd.

GRADE - ★★★½ (out of four)

THE MESSENGER; Directed by Oren Moverman; Stars Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, Samantha Morton, Jena Malone, Steve Buscemi; Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity. Now playing in select theaters.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"The Heart of the World"

I was talking with my former film professor today, who I had for World Cinema I & II, Film Theory and Criticism, and my Advanced Film class on Jean-Luc Godard, and we started talking about what we thought the best films of the decade were.

His pick for the #1 film of the 2000s was Guy Maddin's 2000 short, The Heart of the World. It can be seen in its entirety on YouTube. Check it out, it's pretty incredible:

A Brief Summary of "2012"

After suffering through Roland Emmerich's latest disaster porno, 2012, I realized its plot could be easily summed up in just a few actions.

The characters get in a car and speed away from an oncoming disaster. Then they jump in a plane and narrowly escape said disaster. Then there is a tearful farewell. Then they get out of the plane, get in another car, and speed away from another disaster, after which they hop back in the plane and narrowly escape certain death. Then there is another tearful farewell. Once more, they get out of the plane, get in another plane, get in a car inside the plane, and escape certain doom by driving the car out of the plane. Then there is yet another tearful farewell.

Repeat for 2 hours and 40 minutes. Then everyone dies. Except, of course, for our heroes, who once again have miraculously escaped certain doom.

The end.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Movie Reviews with Roman

For several years, my friend Roman Presnell has been writing brief but hilarious movie reviews on the Facebook application, Flixter. And I think they're just too funny to not have a wider audience. Their scathing, tongue-in-cheek wit often hits on some pretty incisive truths on film. But let's cut the bullcrap...they're damn funny. Here is the first entry in what I hope will become an ongoing feature - Movie Reviews with Roman:

TOY STORY - ★★★★★

This movie fucking rules and if you don't like it you're probably some stupid dipshit that never had any Transformers and when you'd borrow your friend's slinky you'd get it all tangled even though you were specifically told not to get it tangled, Will, so you're not going to get to play with any more of my stuff and I'm not coming over Saturday anymore.
ALIENS - ★★★★★

If you don't know the difference between Alien and Aliens you probably don't know who Rocky fights in Rocky 3 and in Rocky 4 and also you're a shithead.
FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER - ½ star

Here's some bullshit. The Silver Surfer is fucking lame, just like the Fantastic Four. I mean, get real with this horseshit. If I wanted to watch a movie about 4 lame fucks I'd rent Road Trip.
LADY IN THE WATER - ★★★★★

A lot of people hate this movie. Well, a lot of people voted for George Bush twice. And a lot of people voted at all. My point is that you're a bunch of idiots. This movie is cool and it actually broke through my "man wall" and brought me to tears. Paul Giamatti rules. Everybody's all like "oh my god, Shyamalan, why weren't there like ghosts and spacemen in it?" or else they say "wow, this movie is so dumb and silly, it's not believable at all." Well, if you want something believable, go look in the mirror and accept how shitty your life is and kill yourself instead of berating this kickass movie.
CHILDREN OF MEN - ★★★★★

Holy sweet shit this is one of the best movies ever. It promotes my favorite things: drinking and procreation. Watch this movie with a ladyfriend and use one of my patented pickup lines:

1. Let's not ever let the world end up like this *hand up the skirt*

2. I'm longer than this shot (it's okay to exaggerate here)
3. Let's have some sex now before I lose it.
4. Even if you were comatose like Michael Caine's wife in this movie, I'd still fuck you (frequently).
ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE - ★★★★★

Here's a gigantic pile of self important bullshit about some bunch of fucking stupid horseshit. Doom.
THREE MEN AND A BABY - ★★★★★

Now here's a movie. This is one of the best movies ever, because it shows you how 3 dudes can be put in the most extremely homoerotic situation ever yet still come out of it while not only being straight but getting solid gold pussy the whole time. Plus Spock directed it.
THE BENCHWARMERS - ★★★★★

This movie is like having your dick sucked by a chainsaw.
RATATOUILLE - ★★★

A true treat for the entire family. The Academy Award winning director of The Incredibles brings a heartwarming tale of a rat in the city trying to find himself. With terrific visuals and a wonderfully talented ensemble cast of voice actors, this movie is sure to bring you good cheer and give you a bit of inspiration.

There. See how pretentious you pricks sound when you review movies on Facebook?
INDEPENDENCE DAY - ★★★★★

HERE WE GO!!! Man, if you're not proud to be an American after you watch this, you are worthless. If you don't like this movie I hope aliens eat your uterus. You claim you don't have a uterus? Well, if you don't like this movie, I GUARANTEE you have uterus.
SAW VI - ½ star

"HOLY SHIT I WONDER WHAT WILL HAPPEN THIS TIME!?"

If this is you suicide is probably all you have left.
There are a few years worth to go through, so keep checking back for more. I'll be sure to bring you more soon. There are plenty more where this came from.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Review: "The End of Poverty?"

2009 may go down in history as the year that people stood up and really began to question the righteousness and effectiveness of our economic system. For years it has been one of the ultimate taboos to even be thought of as questioning capitalism. To do so was to be labeled a communist or worse. At one point in time it was career suicide.

But now, we have had no less than three major documentaries taking a hard look at global economics, and their detrimental effect on those who have nothing. It started with Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story, The Yes Men Fix the World, and now Philippe Diaz's The End of Poverty. Each film takes a unique look at the adverse effect of unchecked capitalism. Moore's film focuses mainly on American capitalism and corporate greed. The Yes Men follows a group of corporate pranksters who take on corporate America for their injustices. The End of Poverty, on the other hand, takes a much larger and sweeping look at global economics, and the historical effects of colonialism on poverty in the third world today.

It's no small subject, to be sure. And The End of Poverty tries to cover a lot of ground in a small amount of time. It traces the source of global poverty back to one date, 1492, and the arrival of Columbus in the New World, which began a process of colonization and marginalization of indiginous peoples by Europeans. This colonization, the film surmises, is directly responsible for global poverty as we know it today, as Europe divided up and controlled the local economies, leaving them in a state of disarray and dependency that continues to this day.

It's a shocking and eye opening doc that puts a searing face on the issue of global poverty. The problem is that it may be a little too far reaching for its own good. There is a lot of information thrown at us in a very short amount of time. We are given numerous statistics and percentages of how the third world has been kept in poverty by powerful governments in the Northern Hemisphere, how the World Bank has successfully kept these countries in debt and beholden to the wealthy nations. It even traces American intervention in other countries, replacing leaders who do not fall in line with the economic wishes of their creditors with those who are seemingly more friendly. In one such instance, a young assassin was sent to take out the then leader of Iraq. The assassin, a young Saddam Hussein, failed in his mission, but saw his family given control of the country by the Americans, starting a down a path that would eventually lead to the Iraq war.

As I said, it's a sweeping and far reaching film for such a short running time. But when presented with facts such as the ability to cut global poverty in half with $20 billion, or 4% of the U.S. military budget, it's hard to deny that The End of Poverty is a film that demands to be noticed. The biggest problem is that it never offers any solutions. Its advertising touts a quote about it being "a kind of 'Inconvenient Truth' of global economics." But the major difference there is than "An Inconvenient Truth" provided answers to its problems. Watching The End of Poverty is a maddening experience, the kind of that could propel the viewer to action, but we are left with a feeling of hopelessness rather than hope. How can we break the vicious cycle that has led us to this point? What can we, the audience, do to help?

The film throws fact after fact and statistic after statistic at us, but no real way for us to do anything about it. It's frustrating, wanting to help but knowing that the pattern is so entrenched that it's nearly impossible. The End of Poverty does a good job of laying out the historical roots of the problem, even if it could have used some streamlining and feels a bit overstuffed. But in the end it leaves the audience with a desire to make a difference and no outlet to do so.

GRADE - ★★½ (out of four)

THE END OF POVERTY?; Directed by Philippe Diaz; Narrated by Martin Sheen; Not rated; Opens tomorrow, 11/13, in NYC, and 11/25 in LA.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Review: "Bright Star"

Few films in recent memory have captured emotional nuances of first love quite as well as Jane Campion's Bright Star. Every gesture, every glance, every moment exudes the aching tenderness of young lovers feeling the pang of love for the first time.

It's a rare and impressive feat. Campion does not have the benefit Celine Dion or a soaring, romantic score to transport us into the hearts of 19th century poet John Keats and his paramour, Fanny Brawne. Nor does she need one. In fact, the mournful score by Mark Bradshaw is sparsely minimal. Campion finds her emotion in the silences, the stolen glances, the brushing fingertips, all the moments that most films seem to neglect in their quest for instant gratification.

That's where Bright Star exists, in the in between moments, the whispers and the silences. It is a film of feelings and passions unspoken, trapped beneath the stiff veneer of 19th century mores and fashions.

Period romances of this type often have trouble getting past the sumptuousness of their design. They become so preoccupied with gorgeous costumes and sets that they become lost beneath a mountain of lace and silk brocade. Campion, for the most part, expertly avoids that trap. The language is heightened, but not distractingly so. These are not dusty relics from a history book. Campion has created living, breathing people, with hopes and desires just like us. The film is indeed breathtakingly beautiful, especially Greig Fraser's haunting cinamatography, but it is never just about that. Every frame of Bright Star could be a painting, but this is not some starchy museum piece. Campion's beautiful language, inspired often by Keats' own poetry, is a kind of poetry in itself, in that way that people no longer talk but the world would be a better place if they did.

The romance between Keats and Brawne, while not exactly forbidden, is still hindered by Keats' poverty. He cannot afford to marry her, and in 19th century England, that is the ultimate deal breaker. It is a romance doomed to go nowhere, his pursuit of poetry destined to lead him into debt without any real source of income. It's a story of love overcoming all odds of course. But more than that, its an exploration of feelings, probing the depths of young love in ways that, quite frankly, have not been explored before.

For the most part it is successful. I was more enraptured by the small moments in the film, by how much was said by just silence, the act of listening to a lover's heartbeat, and any number of similar gestures. But by the end, the film begins to lose steam. As John and Fanny are kept apart, and John's illness begins to take over, the film begins to wander. Which, for me at least, hedged the film's emotional impact. There are moments of great and sublime beauty at work here, the scene with the butterfly farm may be one of the most heartbreaking uses of symbolism I have seen all year. The idea of the butterfly, lovely and fragile, living its life to the fullest in three days, before being swept away as quickly as it began.

It's a haunting image. And Campion perfectly captures that fleeting quality of young love, emotionally intense and deeply felt. Even when it wanes, its beauty is nearly unmatched. To quote the film's tagline - "First love burns the brightest," and Bright Star, more so than any film in recent memory, gets that feeling just right.

GRADE - ★★★ (out of four)

BRIGHT STAR; Directed by Jane Campion; Stars Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, Paul Schneider, Kerry Fox, Thomas Sangster, Edie Martin; Rated PG for thematic elements, some sensuality, brief language and incidental smoking.