Daily Archives: October 20, 1989

Queen of Hearts

Jon Amiel, a British director best known in this country for the miniseries The Singing Detective, directs a wonderful Italian family chronicle with a lot of style, lyricism, humor, and emotion. Tony Grisoni’s script deftly juggles a number of full-blown characters over 20-odd years while successfully employing a few touches of magical realism that Amiel makes the most of. Everything of consequence that happens stems from an incident in Italy that occurs without dialogue in the first few minutes: Danilo (Joseph Long) literally steals his lover Rosa (Anita Zagaria) away from an arranged marriage, and the angry groom Barbariccia (Vittorio Amandola) swears to take revenge. The couple go off to London with Rosa’s mother (Eileen Way) in tow, where they eventually have a lot of kids (their youngest son, played by Ian Hawkes, is the story’s narrator) and open a coffee shop in Soho; eventually Barbariccia comes to London as well, and gradually sets about achieving his revenge. Beautifully shot and richly detailed, this portrait of Italian life is leagues ahead of an effort like Moonstruck, and clearly marks Amiel as a talent to reckon with. (Fine Arts)… Read more »

Fat Man and Little Boy

The surprising thing about Roland Joffe’s movie about the building of the first atomic bomb is that, for all its unevenness as filmmaking–with a fragmented story line, unconvincing period dialogue, and a soupy Ennio Morricone score that would be more appropriate in a Sergio Leone epic–it still comes across as an unusually intelligent and provocative treatment of its subject. Concentrating on the power relationship between General Leslie R. Groves (Paul Newman in a carefully crafted performance) and J. Robert Oppenheimer (newcomer Dwight Schultz), with plenty of time left for Oppenheimer’s feisty wife Kitty (Bonnie Bedelia), the romance between a young scientist (John Cusack) and a nurse (Laura Dern), and various other subplots, the movie starts off as scattered, and never fully recovers from the splintered interests of Joffe and Bruce Robinson’s ambitious script. (The corny handling of Oppenheimer’s relationship to his Communist mistress, played by Natasha Richardson, is especially unfortunate.) But the film steadily grows in complexity and power, assisted by Vilmos Zsigmond’s superb cinematography, and by the end it actually winds up saying something persuasive and troubling about the network of forces that ultimately produced the bomb–a vast improvement on such earlier commercial treatments of the subject as The Beginning or the End (1947), which gave us Brian Donlevy as Groves and Hume Cronyn as Oppenheimer, without a trace of irony about either character.… Read more »