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Thursday, February 26, 2009

CINEMA CHATTER: Defiance. Revolutionary Road, Revolutionary Road

Defiance, Revolutionary Road, The Rape of Europa

The best movies are the ones that make you feel like you are in the movie living it instead of sitting somewhere only watching. Director Edward Zwick has created a World War Two action adventure that pulls you right the forest of Belarus, A small country between Poland and Russia in Defiance.

The Nazi’s are moving east to Russia looting, killing and arresting Jews for deportation to the labor camps. You are introduced to the Bielski brothers who come home to find their parents and their sister slain by Reich followers and vow revenge. These Jewish freedom fighters Tuvia (Daniel Craig) and Zus (Liev Schrieber) didn’t seek their revenge in the usual way.

They started camping in the forest to be safe and slowly different refugees drifted into their camp. Every time they go foraging for food the scouts would return with 3 or 5 more displaced Jews. Eventually they realize they needed to build a community deep in the forest where they could be safe.

With over a thousand refugees these brothers take old men, women and children deep into the forest and set up a community putting everyone to work building, cooking sewing all the necessary skills to keep all these people housed and fed. This community forms its own militia and do their share of resistance fighting too; Cinematographer Eduardo Serra does his job so well you can feel the chill of the temperature and almost taste the snow.

Screen writers Edward Zwick and Clayton Frohman have taken this little known true story of resistance and survival in a time of massive death and destructions. Composer James Newton Howard’s Oscar nominated score is the perfect punctuation to this larger than life story of courage and leadership. Of all the Nazi stories available this season I think Defiance is the most cinematically exciting in all aspects.

If you prefer your wars in the home Revolutionary Road is for you. Director Sam Mendes often delves into complicated family issues. Previously in The Road to Perdition and American Beauty he cut through behavioral veneers and gets right to the issues of humanity.

Revolutionary Road is a bleak and startling look at midcentury life, warts and all. Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio portray Frank and April Wheeler who fall in love, marry and move to the suburbs of New York and have children. Once they are firmly ensconced into their comfortable lives these two people how trapped they are by their choices and how unfulfilled their lives are. The acting between these two is so intimate you feel like a voyeur watching some scenes.

Screen writer Justin Haythe Gives us a story teeming with passion while being both concise and austere. Kudos to the production designer, costume designer and art directors who nailed the era in all details large and small. It was easy on the eyes (Thank You Roger Deakins) while being emotionally gut wrenching. A hard movie to watch but a beautifully crafted film with amazing acting by the whole cast.

My documentary pick is The Rape of Europa. This remarkably informative documentary of how the Nazi war machine systematically fleeced European museums and citizens of great art. The sheer number of pieces stolen was staggering.

The documentary also tells what length the curators of the Louvre in Paris and The Hermitage in St. Petersburg went to so they could protect the art. They even moved the enormous statue Winged Victory from the Louvre. When the Russians arrived in Germany they took as much back to the homeland as they could.

This fantastic film continues by explaining how art historians and curators rescued what they could and tried to reunite the art with the families and museums that lost them. Ownership by some pieces is still being sorted out.

If you are interested in European art or prefer documentaries this one entertains and informs also. Congratulations to Directors Richard Berge and Bonni Cohen for producing such a comprehensive time line to the greatest art theft in history.

If you prefer home viewing to theatre going there a some Oscar nominated films available for home viewing. Right now The Visitor, The Duchess, Dark Knight Wall-E, Man on Wire, In Bruges, Iron Man, Tropic Thunder and Vicki Christina Barcelona are all available. On Feb 20th Frozen River with Melissa Leo’s nominated performance that is really special will be available and finally on Feb 17th The Changeling with Angela Jolie will be available for home viewing. Enjoy the plethora of fine movies available now it is quite a treasure chest of experiences.