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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

CINEMA CHATTER: Man on Wire, Benjamin Button, The Duchess

A good movie is comprised of many elements. First is the story, then acting, next editing, if a period piece the set decoration and costume are important. Controlling all these is the director’s vision and decisions.

Director David Fincher whose vision gave us Seven & Fight Club have gone in a whole new direction in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Starring Brad Pitt in the title role, his curious case is he is born old and ages backward, toward youth, childhood and eventually becomes an infant. The story begins on Armistice Day World War 1 1918 in New Orleans and moves through the 20th century and beyond when Hurricane Katrina is about to slam the birthplace of Jazz. Oddly enough these events are both the beginning of this fascinating and well done movie.

The extraordinary Cate Blanchett is the love of his life and since she ages the usual way they manage to meet in the middle. This movie does run long (2hours and 45 minutes), and my experience is people either run hot or cold on the experience. I however found this a thought provoking film examining ageing, love, and parental responsibility. Screen writers Eric Roth and Robin Swicord have done a wonderful job weaving a story going in two directions at once with humor, suspense and lots of loving emotion.

The Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival is going to be happening from March 6th until March 8th .They will be screening 44 films at five different venues. These films have a wide range of diverse subjects. For more information contact or call 707-829-4797

My documentary pick this month Man on Wire reminds me of an old Electric Light Orchestra song “Hold on Tight to Your Dream.” This is exactly what Philippe Petit, French high wire artist did. While waiting for a dentist appointment in 1966 this man saw a drawing of the still to be built World Trade Towers. He promptly tore the page out of the magazine and left the dentist office taking his toothache and stolen article with him. Mr. Petit knew at that moment he HAD TO string a wire between these two towers and walk 1,350 feet above New York City! He planned and trained and waited until August 7, 1974 to achieve his dream. This fascinating documentary chronicles his quest from that day in 1966 until he lives the dream eight years later. This outrageous story is told with suspense The wonderfully French music soundtrack fits each situation to perfection.

My home viewing pick this month is The Duchess. A delightful frothy confection of a film about a long past era. The story is about Georgiana Spencer who was Princess Dianna’s 18th Century ancestor. Both were thrust into an arranged marriage while in their teens. Georgiana (played be Keira Knightly) was married to the Duke of Devonshire (played by Ralph Fiennes) at the age of seventeen. Both husbands had a roving eye and enjoyed a dalliance outside of the marriage, finally both women were icons of the fashion world.

In Georgiana’s case it was mile high hair festooned with feathers. This chapter in history is told with perfect pitch by cinematographer Gyula Pados who with the help of costume designer Michael O’Connor and set decorator Rebecca Alleway have created an environment so authentic you are pulled into the film as if you are witnessing the story in person. The strict social code of behavior and mandated political attitudes are on display and fascinatingly told with an eye towards the lack of power or influence of women then.

Mr. Fiennes performance as the Duke is nuanced, multi layered and quietly powerful. Director Saul Dibb has assembled all the factors in making a great film and presented it to us with such an ease and fluidity that you are barely aware of the complexity of knowledge being presented.