Movie reviews – Jan 31 to Feb 14

James Douglas
January 31, 2013


Odeon: February 1 to 3 and 6 to 10


A stirring, ambitious but cinematically uneven adaptation of the world's favourite stage musical from the director of The King's Speech. Set in early nineteenth-century France, Victor Hugo's Les Misérables is a timeless story of broken dreams, unrequited love, passion, sacrifice, vengeance and redemption. Formerprisoner Jean Valjean is hunted for decades by the ruthless gaoler Javert after agreeing to care for factory worker Fantine's young daughter Cosette. Unusually for movie musicals, the actors sing their own voices recorded live on set-a feat in itself. ‘Besides being a feast for the eyes and ears, Les Misérables overflows with humor, heartbreak, rousing action and ravishing romance. Damn the imperfections, it's perfectly marvelous' (Rolling Stone). ‘This "Les Mis" does make you feel, intensely and sometimes thrillingly, by honoring the emotional core of its source material' (Wall Street Journal). ‘Sensitive souls in search of wrenching emotion can be guaranteed their Kleenex moments; you will get wet. But ... you will not be cinematically edified. This is a bad movie' (Time).



Odeon: Fenruary 11 to 13

Fulgor: January 31 to February 6


Steven Spielberg's acclaimed reverential and conventional drama follows his regular technique of microcosmic focus in order to display the wider picture by concentrating on the iconic 16th president's tumultuous final months in office. In a nation riven by civil war, Lincoln pursues a course of action designed to end the conflict, reunite the country and abolish slavery once and for all. Daniel Day Lewis is Lincoln. ‘Lincoln is a rough and noble democratic masterpiece-an omen, perhaps, that movies for the people shall not perish from the earth' (New York Times). ‘Instead of a grand tableau vivant that lays out the great man and his great deeds like so many too-perfect pieces of waxed fruit, Spielberg brings the leader and viewers down to ground level' (Washington Post). ‘Lincoln is also a colossal bore. It is so pedantic, slow-moving, sanitized and sentimental that I kept pinching myself to stay awake - which, like the film itself, didn't always work' (New York Observer).



Odeon: February 4 and 5


Quentin Tarantino's movie is about a slave whose brutal history with his former owners brings him together with a righteous bounty hunter. Only Django can lead him to his bounty, but this can only happen unpredictably and violently. Spaghetti splatter via Sergio Corbucci and Sergio Leone as only Tarantino can mash. ‘It's as unwholesome, deplorable and delicious as a forbidden cigarette' (The Guardian). ‘loody hilarious (and hilariously bloody) ... (Variety). ‘It is a tribute to the spaghetti Western, cooked al dente, then cooked a while more, and finally sauced to death' (New Yorker). ‘Wildly extravagant, ferociously violent, ludicrously lurid and outrageously entertaining, yet also, remarkably, very much about the pernicious lunacy of racism and, yes, slavery's singular horrors' (Wall Street Journal). It manages to be risibly cartoonish and acutely perspicacious at the same time. Unmissable.



Fulgor: February 7 to 13


This Spanish film made in English is a fictionalised but very real story of a family caught up in the 2004 tsunami. ‘Wrenchingly acted, deftly manipulated and terrifyingly well made' (Variety). ‘The Impossible is technologically a marvel-the tsunami experience is harrowingly believable-but also emotionally rich. I hesitate to use this term, since it is so often equated with hokey, but The Impossible is life-affirming' (Time). ‘It's agony, in a rewarding way, to squirm and cringe and groan through an ordeal so realistically re-created' (Entertainment Weekly). ‘Part of the appeal of this affecting and powerful drama is that it puts the viewer right in the moment at every stage, using authentic locations and tsunami survivors to hammer home the reality of this tragedy' (The Guardian). ‘A sham realist's disaster movie, tackily insulting the deaths of 300,000 people by reducing the horrors of the Indian Ocean tsunami to a series of genre titillations' (Slant Magazine).



The British Institute's new film series is focused on the work of Franco Zeffirelli, film producer, film director, stage designer, production designer, costume designer and screenwriter.


CAVALLIERA RUSTICANA+PAGLIACCI (1982) (Filmed theatrical performance)

Plácido Domingo, Renato Bruson/Plácido Domingo, Teresa Stratas, Juan Pons Georges Prêtre,

Teatro alla Scala


February 6, 8pm


Zeffirelli's ‘Cav and Pag' double bill. ‘As usual, the noted director's opulent and grandly theatrical realism is marvelous to behold... '"Pagliacci" and its usual companion work ''Cavalleria Rusticana'' are perfectly suited to Mr. Zeffirelli's distinctive staging style... His conception of "Pagliacci" appears to be an unabashed tribute to another great film director, Federico Fellini. Clowns have long been one of Fellini's signature presences, going back to "La Strada" and the finale of "8 1/2." But, by setting the opera in the 1930's, Mr. Zeffirelli also manages to give, with the help of costume designer Anna Anni, a pronounced Fellini look. The townspeople of this "Pagliacci" could have stepped right out of "Amarcord." ... At his best, Mr. Zeffirelli is formidable' (New York Times). 'As conducted knowingly by Georges Pretre, the cast gives fervid, nearly overwrought, genuinely Zeffirelliesque performances of unrelenting intensity' (Los Angeles Times).


LA TRAVIATA  (1982) (feature film)

Plácido Domingo, Teresa Stratas, James Levine, Metropolitan Opera


February 13, 8pm


‘Zeffirelli's talents are well-matched to La Traviata... Teresa Stratas, as that most famous of TB cases, has a suitably angelic face, though her voice is a touch less seraphic in the higher registers; the masterful Placido Domingo brings an ingenuous charm to the role of Alfredo; Zeffirelli directs as he has always done, in a style high on gloss and bravura, with occasional nods to film realism via exteriors and voice-overs. The sumptuousness comes close to overkill, but fine musical moments help some magic to survive' (Time Out). Zeffirelli's attention to detail dazzles in the luxuriant settings, costumes and over all ambiance of the film... And, as in most of his other movies, Zeffirelli accents the moral implications and spiritual value of sacrificial love' (Spirituality & Practice). This screening will be preceded by a presentation by James Douglas, John Hoenig and Matteo Sansone: A celebration of the work of Franco Zeffirelli in film, theatre and opera on the occasion of his 90th birthday.



 For showtimes, see the websites above.



piazza Strozzi, 2 - tel. 055/295051



piazza Beccaria - tel. 055 2343666



via Maso Finiguerra - tel. 055/2381881


The British Institute

Lungarno Guicciardini 9 - tel. 055/267781



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