Monthly Archives: May 2000

Set Me Free

Lea Pool’s sensitive coming-of-age feature (1999, 94 min.), set in and around Montreal in 1963, is apparently autobiographical in inspiration. The 13-year-old heroine (Karine Vanasse), who has her first period while visiting her grandmother in the opening sequence, is the illegitimate daughter of a struggling Jewish writer (Miki Manojlovic) and a Catholic who works as a seamstress to help support the family (Pascale Bussieres); her unlikely role model is the prostitute heroine played by Anna Karina in Godard’s Vivre sa vie, and her sexual stirrings gravitate toward both her older brother and a female classmate, who also attract each other. Nicely acted and inflected, this is a very fresh piece of work. (JR)… Read more »


Russell Crowe stars as a Roman general asked by the dying emperor, Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), to take over as ruler. The emperor’s wrathful son (Joaquin Phoenix) promptly orders the execution of the general and his family; surviving as a gladiator, the general fights his way back to Rome to take revenge and restore justice in the Colosseum. Though the digital effects lack the weight and conviction of their equivalents in old Cecil B. De Mille movies, Ridley Scott’s sword-and-sandal epic has some of the intensity of old Hollywood in terms of storytelling, spectacle, and violenceConnie Nielsen and Oliver Reed make especially strong contributions. But don’t expect anything as good as Spartacus or as enjoyably silly as Quo Vadis? The script, by producer David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson, is serviceable but not exactly inspired. 154 min. (JR)… Read more »