The following films will be shown at the Odeon Cinehall in piazza Strozzi. Dates are subject to change. For showtimes, see the website.
The true story of how Mary Mapes, CBS news journalist and producer of legendary anchor Dan Rather on 60 Minutes, uncovered an unpleasant truth about the military past of US president George W. Bush. The careers of both were destroyed and the integrity of television news in the US took a serious battering. “More than most docudramas about fairly recent events, it is so well written and acted that it conveys a convincing illusion of veracity” (New York Times). “The weirdness of Truth — and, I fear, its involuntary comic value — arises from a disparity between the sparse and finicky minutiae of the narrative and the somewhat bouffant style of the presentation” (New Yorker). “For a movie about the importance of objectivity, Truth feels like a biased and sanctimonious op-ed column” (Entertainment Weekly). “‘Condescending, self-righteous and sloppy, Truth is simply a bad film for which there are no excuses” (Toronto Globe & Mail).
The Huntsman: Winter’s War ***
A team will rise against the wicked. Prequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman without Snow White (Kristen Stewart reportedly dropped by the studio for her “traumatic and scandalous” on-set affair with director Rupert Sanders.) Live-action fairy stories evidently bring in the cash when scandal fails to generate much interest. The usual hokum of fantasy fiction prevails in this reshaping of the original tale without the psychological finesse of the Grimms’ version. More is less when it comes to imagination.
It was in 1962 that the two legendary directors met for a week of intense dialogue on filmmaking and its mastery. From the recordings, the famous book was put together and now the film of the book is here to regale cinema buffs, cinephiles and anyone remotely interested in the art of making movies. An array of famous practitioners are on hand to chip in with insightful comment. “This superb film, by Kent Jones, adds three more layers to the book’s alluvial wisdom: stunning clips from Hitchcock features, audio clips from the original conversations and fascinating comments by contemporary directors” (Wall Street Journal). ”Smart, thoughtful and elegantly done, Hitchcock/Truffaut is more than an authoritative look at the careers and interpersonal dynamics of directors Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut, a pair of unlikely soul mates; it’s also, as director Kent Jones intended, a love letter to film itself, to the value and lure of the cinematic experience” (Los Angeles Times). “A buoyant tribute, even if the pedigree of the project implies something more paradigm-shifting” (Slant Magazine).
Love Thy Nature ****
“Narrated by Liam Neeson, Love Thy Nature is a cinematic immersion into the beauty and intimacy of our relationship with the natural world. And while our environmental crisis threatens the survival of our species, a renewed connection with nature holds the key to a highly advanced new era” (Sylvie Rokab, the director). “As far as we know, only our planet gives birth to life”: Neeson is Homo Sapiens, reminding us of the disconnect between humankind and the rest of the planet and the damage we have done. The new science of biomimicry may go some way to healing the rift and inspiring a new way of looking at and changing the status quo. Around the world in 80 minutes of gorgeous visuals heralding a new era of human evolution. We have been commanded.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s National Theatre Hamlet sold out its entire run at the Barbican in a matter of hours. Was it worth the hype? For most reviewers of the London stage performances, it was the production, the direction and some of the acting that detracted from the unquestionably star turn of Cumberbatch. For many it was an anti-climax. Wrote one Guardian reviewer, “My initial impression is that Benedict Cumberbatch is a good, personable Hamlet with a strong line in self-deflating irony, but that he is trapped inside an intellectual ragbag of a production by Lyndsey Turner that is full of half-baked ideas. Denmark, Hamlet tells us, is a prison. So too is this production” (**). Another wrote, “There are infuriating moments here: why does Hamlet have to strut around like a toy soldier when feigning madness? Why has she [Turner] let some tinny acting through? Yet there is also tremendous drive from this young director. What a piece of work is a woman” (***). It “justifies the hysteria” wrote a reviewer for The Telegraph (««««). “With his great gift for portraying the brilliant misfit and racing, ironic intellect, Benedict Cumberbatch is natural casting for Hamlet. But I wonder if a bit of him now wishes that he’d tackled the part at some point before the global success of Sherlock rocketed him into the celebrity stratosphere … I think that it’s a rather mixed affair—stunningly designed by Es Devlin, with a fair bit of text and story-line shifted around by Turner, to sometimes eloquent, sometimes irritating effect” wrote a reviewer for [what?] (***) A compelling and passionate Hamlet, tragically mad, bad and dangerous to know, outstanding in a generally lacklustre production.
Easy Rider *****
As the Sony Pictures blurb so insouciantly puts it, “An alcoholic attorney hooks up with two part-time, drug-dealing motorcyclists in search of their ‘American Dream.’ Heading from California to New Orleans, they sample the highs and lows of America the beautiful in a stoned-out quest for life’s true meaning.” The 1960s movies that became cult films can have the feeling of quaintly insipid and vaguely nostalgic time capsules, but Jack Nicholson is more than a relic, and his presence alone goes a long way towards the myth-making this movie wistfully and agreeably perpetuates. Low-budget, drug-fuelled, ahead of its time, with almost entirely improvised dialogue and shot in seven weeks, it captures its moment perfectly. “Someday it was inevitable that a great film would come along, utilizing the motorcycle genre, the same way the great Westerns suddenly made everyone realize they were a legitimate American art form, Easy Rider is the picture” (Roger Ebert). “The film may be a relic now, but it is a fascinating souvenir—particularly in its narcissism and fatalism—of how the hippie movement thought of itself” (Chicago Reader).
The Jungle Book ****
April 28–May 1
Disney’s live-action remake of the 1967 animated film has a few familiar names voicing the Kipling characters in more or less pleasing fashion. Bare necessities aside, the voices are generally well-matched and the reboot should captivate even those natives of the screen age whose imaginations have been (over)stretched by the marvels of digital visual culture, while also satisfying those for whose childhoods Mowgli on the page and on the screen was pivotal. If you haven’t tried Kipling, you ought to. Forget about your worries and your strife.