Now Available Although his grandmother survived the Holocaust and four of his relatives were saved from the Nazis by Oskar Schindler, four hundred members of writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz's family were killed during the second world war. To ...
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  1. Movie Review: Resistance (2020)
  2. Blu-ray Review: Kansas City (1996)
  3. Movie Review: Monsoon Wedding (2001)
  4. Short Takes: Gregory's Girl (1980)
  5. Post 2,500: Introducing "Watch With Jen" & Notes on a Milestone
  6. More Recent Articles

Movie Review: Resistance (2020)


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Although his grandmother survived the Holocaust and four of his relatives were saved from the Nazis by Oskar Schindler, four hundred members of writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz's family were killed during the second world war. To Jakubowicz, World War II movies are more than just a genre, they're also incredibly personal.

Repulsed by the rise of antisemitism in Venezuela with the election of Hugo Chavez, Jakubowicz journeyed to the United States in 2006 where he continued his work as a filmmaker. Soon however, he started seeing the same wave of hate — the kind that had always been there just under the surface — begin to make its way around the globe. Citing an increase in hate crimes as well as openly antisemitic speech from political figures whom he described as using Jews like a football, Jakubowicz knew the time was right to document the response to the atrocities of World War II by what would become the French Resistance in order to inspire us all . . . before history repeats itself again.


A handsomely crafted labor of love, Resistance is a World War II movie that chronicles the plight of members of the French Resistance who risked everything to transport hundreds of Jewish children orphaned by the war from Nazi controlled France to neutral Switzerland. The fact that the man at the film's center is none other than the struggling theater performer Marcel Mangel (Jesse Eisenberg) who would go on to become the world's most famous mime (and "master of silence") Marcel Marceau is beside the point.

Remarkably brought to life by Jesse Eisenberg — who, regrettably, is the main reason to watch the otherwise narratively by-the-numbers Resistance — the decision to paint Marcel as an artistically gifted yet everyday Joe both helps and hurts Jakubowicz's film. Based on years of research on the resistance, the Vichy government, France under Nazi control, and Marcel Marceau (all of which sounds far more fascinating than Jakubowicz's script overall) despite his best intentions, Resistance falls prey to the trappings and cliches of war flicks and biopics.

Often salvaged by its superb cast, including the always compelling Clémence Poésy who, much like Eisenberg, who never fails to dazzle, Édgar Ramírez's gentle presence elevates the film's emotional yet prosaic opening sequence where a child asks why the Nazis hate us just minutes before —  as if on cue — they show up at the door. Likewise, it's unnecessarily bookended by a flag-waving speech from General Patton (Ed Harris) at Nuremberg in an overused technique that we've seen in countless biopics over the years, including Walk the Line and Bohemian Rhapsody.


The formulaic film only livens up once Marcel puts his mime skills to use to ease the anxiety of a newly arrived group of war orphans. Like vibrant rays of sunshine peeking through after days of gray skies and rain, when Eisenberg goes into performance mode to the delight of everyone in sight and lets himself be imaginatively blown across the room like candles on a cake, we find ourselves immediately captivated. Sadly, however, the feeling is short-lived. Sharing his tools as an actor with the kids so that they can learn not only how to blend into the scenery and hide but also (more importantly) to survive during wartime, the film should be far more engrossing than it actually is.

Augmented by the score of Jakubowicz's frequent composer Angelo Milli and the crisp cinematography by M.I. Littin-Menz, who also lensed the moving Machuca, the film's rich technical specs keep us invested in the goings-on when the storyline falls flat. Co-edited, produced, as well as written and directed by Jakubowicz, although this is clearly a passion project for the Hands of Stone helmer, Resistance gives us the impression that the filmmaker was either much too close to this project or wore one too many hats on it overall.

Of special interest to film fans and history buffs as it introduces us to the little known backstory of the legendary Marcel Marceau (whose wartime lifesaving accomplishments will always outweigh any cinematic accolades), in the end, it's an average yet still intriguing work on par with a movie made for HBO. And while I can't fully recommend the film — fueled by great ideas and correctly driven by the need to show the world that compassion and love will always trump hate — Jakubowicz's message remains as timely in 2020 as it was in 1938.


Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.
 
    

Blu-ray Review: Kansas City (1996)


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From the stirring ballads of McCabe and Mrs. Miller to the country yearning of Nashville and soulful blues of Cookie's Fortune, music in the movies of Robert Altman comes in many forms. Complementing the high and low notes sung by his characters — in the vein of the overlapping dialogue that has become an Altman trademark — with his clever use of music to set the dramatic stage, the maverick filmmaker wields sound impressionistically, the way a painter swirls color around a canvas with a brush.

Regularly usurping his film scores, whether it's in the drawing room sing-alongs of Gosford Park or the vaudevillian numbers of A Prairie Home Companion and beyond, Altman uses the public performances of songs to not only create a mood but also transplant us into the heart of each work. Much more than just a single filmmaking tool he has at his disposal, frequently in his oeuvre, music becomes the most important one. Transcending the screen to have as much of an impact on him as it does on us, it informs his subtly ever-changing filmmaking M.O. And nowhere is this approach more evident post-Nashville than in his jazz fueled, forgotten '96 effort Kansas City.

Using jazz's signature improvisational riffs to build its narrative structure, the movie takes a look at vice, music, politics, and corruption over a twenty-four hour period when Missouri is set to hold a consequential 1934 election. While initially it plays like the latest in a long line of Altman's meandering ensemble dramedies, we quickly learn that, although they sound great jamming together, each character we meet in Kansas City doubles as an instrument and all will get their chance to solo.


Anchored by '90s Altman regular Jennifer Jason Leigh as a desperate woman who holds a politician's laudanum addicted wife hostage to secure the release of her hoodlum husband from a jazz club gangster, Kansas City is a crime film that — true to the director's work —is far less interested in plot than it is captivated by its characters.

Performing depression era slang in the hard and fast key of screwball (regardless of the scene's tone), Leigh tries her best to sell lines like "don't try to high-hat me," "park the body sister," "and put some snap into it" which, when taken cumulatively, land far less than they detract from the goings-on. A Jean Harlowesque Girl From Missouri who's just wild about her man, as intriguing as Leigh's spunky Blondie O’Hara seems to be, we never get a true sense of who she is as a person from one outburst to the next. And although Leigh's Blondie dominates the scenes she shares with her hostage Carolyn Stilton (Miranda Richardson) in the film's first half, she disappears into the chorus once Richardson's increasingly curious victim takes over the bass line later on.

While Kansas City’s women propel forward a majority of the film's plot, the rest of the action is found in the booze soaked, testosterone heavy, smoke and sax filled world of the Hey-Hey Club. A jazz joint located on 18th Street where some of the '90s most talented instrumentalists bring to life the legendary sounds of Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Lester Young, and Coleman Hawkins, for a music buff like Altman who grew up listening to blues in black clubs, City's performances feel like he's stepping back in time to show us the place he calls home.

A dynamic showcase for Harry Belafonte in a daringly against-type role as an underworld gangster who holds court at the Hey-Hey, the actor commands every scene he's in right from the jump. Like a bandleader introducing the musicians keeping the beat behind him, he uses the frame like a microphone and reaches through to tell us exactly what we need to know. From where he sits in the center of the screen, Belafonte reveals, "what's gonna happen at dawn tomorrow going to depend on what happen when the sun go down tonight. You can believe that shit," just as events kick into high gear for Blondie and Carolyn and the music that is Altman's Kansas City starts to play.


Going off on what the director refers to as "jazz riffs" throughout the film where its characters wander away from the plot like a clarinetist backing away from the melody in order to stand up and jam on their own, occasionally the dropped notes and tempo changes distract rather than enhance the musicality of its plot.

Touching on some of his favorite issues like race, class, and gender roles amid the intersection of politics and vice, Kansas City feels like a thematic cousin to his musically minded 1975 masterpiece Nashville. A flawed yet still fascinating opus that rarely comes up in a conversation about the filmmaker's most beloved works that span his fifty year career, Kansas City is additionally dwarfed by the popularity of his other ‘90s output, in the form of the brilliant films Short Cuts and (my personal favorite) The Player.

Seeing it for the first time in twenty-four years however, in this stunningly remastered, special features loaded new Blu-ray from Arrow, Altman's movie proves itself not only worthy of a second look but a second listen as well. Filled with scene-stealing soloists like Leigh, Richardson, Belafonte, and Steve Buscemi ready to grab their trumpets and blow, Kansas City is a vital reminder that nothing — absolutely nothing — sounds quite like an Altman led band playing in 4x4 time.


Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.
 
    

Movie Review: Monsoon Wedding (2001)


Now Available




In the dawn of the new millennium, after the Y2K scare and the dot com boom, Mira Nair searched for a project about her people — her family — a film that would take her home.

Set in Delhi, India and centered on a Punjabi family's mad preparations for their eldest daughter's upcoming nuptials, Nair found exactly what she was looking for in the script for Monsoon Wedding, which had been written in a one week burst of creativity by Columbia University MFA student Sabrina Dhawan.

Striking a fine balance between her background as a documentary filmmaker, which she used to great effect in her heavily neorealistic 1988 Oscar nominated debut feature Salaam Bombay! and her more sensual side on display in Mississippi Masala, Monsoon Wedding infuses an awareness about the socioeconomic plights its characters into even the sudsiest of subplots.

Gorgeously lensed by her Kama Sutra cinematographer Declan Quinn and shot on location in Delhi, Nair's film — comprised of sixty-eight actors helping bring to life five interconnected stories — is bursting with laughter, tears, music, dance, and color.


Using marigolds as a symbol of romantic longing by Vijay Raaz's lonely wedding planner P.K. Dubey in what is easily the film's most endearing subplot, Nair embraces the magic in realism as he falls in love with a domestic worker he later marries under a marigold umbrella in the rain.

Contrasting the beautiful simplicity of their ceremony with the more elaborate and expensive goings-on in an everything but the kitchen sink Punjabi affair, Nair opts not to show us the expensive wedding until the film's closing credits, perhaps to remind us that while weddings might go by in the blink of an eye, it's the drama surrounding them that we remember most.

Heartsick over ending her affair with a married man she still miserably loves, Aditi Varma (Vasundhara Das) struggles to go through with the marriage her loving parents have arranged to the sweet, American based Hemant Rai (Parvin Dabas). Concealing her feelings from her family as the wedding draws closer, she calls and visits her lover more desperately as if to play emotional chicken with him, but Aditi, we quickly learn, is far from the only member of the family hiding a secret.


Ranging in seriousness from her mother sneaking cigarettes to her cousin Ria's (Shefali Shah) struggle to reveal a painful truth about a horrific event, Monsoon Wedding navigates these emotional landmines expertly, managing to alternately delight us with a musical henna ceremony before it devastates us with a revelation that rings even truer today in the wake of Me Too.

Blooming with warmth, pathos, and humor to create some of the most indelible and emotionally affecting sequences of Nair's career, Monsoon Wedding fully immerses us in the spirit and culture of India. And while it is very much a celebration of the Punjabi people as Nair intended, similar to other titles of the era like Edward Yang's Yi Yi or Joel Zwick's My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the universally appealing film's wide array of characters are easy to identify with regardless of one's background.

Reminding us of our own home while inviting us into someone else's, much like the marigolds that fill so many of its frames, love for this crowd-pleasing triumph comes on strong.


Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.
 
    

Short Takes: Gregory's Girl (1980)



"It's hard work being in love, 'ey, especially when you don't know which girl."

A tale of unrequited love that might be masking something even greater, Scottish writer-director Bill Forsyth's sophomore film — which was made with a number of actors from the Glasgow Youth Theater — centers on a teenage boy who falls for the girl who takes his place as center forward on the school soccer team.

Focusing more on character, setting, and atmosphere than plot, Gregory's Girl, is reminiscent of one of those meandering Charlie Brown specials in the '70s where at first, you're not terribly engaged but every so often, something adorable happens out of the blue and you inexplicably find yourself wishing you could hug it.


From the fully formed fascinating supporting characters I longed to know more about — which is a damn hard feat for a writer to pull off — to wholly original moments like the one where the teens lie on the grass and dance, Gregory's Girl might take awhile to get going but its charm sneaks up on you just like a youthful romance.

Restored and transferred to Blu-ray by Film Movement Classics with care, though one might expect Forsyth's charming, guileless, tender work to play like a dated film from its era, the emotional terrain it navigates of the confusion, optimism, and frustration of first love remains as fresh as it is timeless.

Now Available


Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.
    

Post 2,500: Introducing "Watch With Jen" & Notes on a Milestone



Dear Readers,

After 14 years online, we've reached a milestone at Film Intuition today with this — our 2,500th Review Database post. I say "our" because I might be the sole operator of FilmIntuition.com but I don't do this work alone.

So many people have played a part in this humble site's success, including the outstanding PR reps I've worked with over the years, filmmakers who've sent me their screeners, friends I talk movies with around the clock, a trusty reader/editor I bounce third drafts off of, and wonderful readers who are the reason that Film Intuition continues to exist. I want to thank you for your support and readership, especially those of you who've been with me from the beginning when I was far more productive and posting hundreds of pieces per year.

Already challenged by a chronically bad spine and arthritis, which made traveling to fests and back-to-back screenings damn near impossible, shortly after I turned thirty, I was hit by an all-consuming autoimmune disease, and entered a number of years where writing regularly was just not in the cards. Still obsessed with film as always, I have a bookcase full of missed screeners, an encyclopedia sized pile of notes, plus boxes of reviews on index cards that I try to sort through every once in awhile to pull a piece from, edit, and post. Needless to say, coverage of some of the missed films I watched in the 2010s is coming, I promise, even if, knowing me, a majority of the movies I've written about were released decades before.

While these conditions are for life and I'll never replicate the output I had early on (although as a perfectionist, some of those first pieces make me cringe), my passion needs an outlet, and my love of writing eclipses everything else. Gradually getting back in the swing of things over the past few years, including doing some freelance work and collaborations — which I used to do extensively at the site's start — I've begun to take more creative risks in order to liven things up for you as well as myself. At first, it was slowly, but then, with a slight beat generation inspired take on The Loveless, a lengthy piece on Scarface, and deep dive review essays of films like Bad Influence, I Walk Alone, and The Merry Gentleman that inspired me to explore them in long form, I began to see what it is that you guys responded to the most from me and what I really enjoyed crafting as well.

Although you'll always see new stuff here, since I'm a bit burned out from standard review writing, I've cleared time off in 2020 to work on not only my first book of film essays and a script with a friend but also my very first mini podcast over on Patreon. Encouraged to start a Patreon by readers via e-mail and friends on Twitter who dig my frequent film shout-outs and Watch With Jen tweet-alongs, I knew I didn't want to pay-gate pieces that anyone passionate about film should be able to read, so I started to think of Patreon as my very own lemonade stand.

Serving up five recommendations of movies to stream instead of sugary fruit juice - which, let's face it, would be impossible to e-mail - I've spun off those #WatchWithJen tweets into a new mini-podcast that I just launched. The first episode is available for everyone to listen to here. This is all experimental, of course, as I'm completely new to podcasting and the format is still up in the air. And although some super kind people adjusted their monthly rate on their own (which you so don't need to do at all), I'm happily using lemonade stand pricing as my base with a $1 tier to start things off. Most likely keeping the next few episodes unlocked while I get things going, in the future, I might upload new installments (as well as bonus Patreon-only episodes) to subscribers only for the first week before opening it up to share my passion for film with all who love it as well.

I'm very excited to explore a new way to broadcast my nerdiness to the world. Recorded on my phone — like you're at the other end of the line — I really hope you'll bear with me as I find my way into podcasting, and enjoy Watch With Jen as much as you do my tweets and reviews. As always, if you have any feedback, please jump over to Twitter, leave a comment or message over on my Patreon, or e-mail me to let me know. To answer a question that I get asked a lot, I may have disabled the comment section here a long time ago (after spending less time writing than I did refereeing fights between strangers), but I truly, truly love hearing from you all.

There's no way of knowing how many movies I've actually written about since 2006 because I've covered so many box sets here and talk about film endlessly on Twitter and Letterboxd as well. Still, I want to thank you once again for being here for the first 2,500 posts and look forward to you playing a part in the book, the podcast, the Patreon, and the next 14 years of Film Intuition to come.

Thank you,
Jen




Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.
    

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