Daily Archives: August 8, 2003

Le Divorce

James Ivory collaborated with his usual screenwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, in adapting Diane Johnson’s witty novel about contemporary Americans in Paris, and the result is close to the original in spirit even if it differs in some specifics. Kate Hudson plays a footloose Santa Barbaran who arrives in Paris to visit her older sister (Naomi Watts), a poet whose painter husband (Melvil Poupaud) is leaving her, and winds up having an affair with a TV pundit and former diplomat roughly three times her age (Thierry Lhermitte). As in other Ivory-Jhabvala adaptations, ritzy consumerism is very much on display, but what makes this better than most is Johnson’s amused admiration for nearly all her characters, regardless of nationality. (One exception is a crazed American entertainment lawyer, played by Matthew Modine and handled awkwardly throughout.) Especially fine are Glenn Close as a stand-in for Mary McCarthy and Stephen Fry as an art appraiser from Christie’s. With Jean-Marc Barr and Leslie Caron. 115 min. (JR)… Read more »

Camp

Writer-director Todd Graff pays tribute to Stagedoor Manora musical-theater summer camp he attended in Loch Sheldrake, New Yorkby using it as the location for this virtual remake of Fame. It’s surefire material, with diverse romantic, sexual, and chemical intrigues punctuated by numbers from well-known musicals, and to his credit Graff addresses many issues of gender and sexual preference that were dodged by that hokey 1980 feature. But some of his story lines, which hinge on a straight guy (Daniel Letterle) flirting with everyone in sight, seem familiar or perfunctory, and a cameo by Stephen Sondheim, who turns up briefly to bestow his blessing on the semifictional Camp Ovation, fails to give this the socko credentials it clearly hungers for. Still, if you can get into the spirit of the proceedings, you’re likely to find some fun. 110 min. (JR)… Read more »

And Now . . . Ladies And Gentlemen

According to common usage, the French word stupide comes closer to silly than to dumb, which is how I might rationalize my affection for this harebrained, obvious, but euphoric tale (2002) from Claude Lelouch. Mainly set in and around Fez, Morocco, it traces the budding romance between an international jewel thief (Jeremy Irons) sailing around the world and a touring French jazz vocalist (Patricia Kaas), both of them subject to bouts of amnesia. Hitchcock is one of the acknowledged inspirations (specifically To Catch a Thief), and Michel Legrand wrote the score, both of which may explain my pleasure. Among the other settings are Paris and London, and the secondary cast includes Thierry Lhermitte, Alessandra Martines, Jean-Marie Bigard, and Claudia Cardinale. Much of the dialogue is in English and the rest (mainly French) is subtitled. 133 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Gatekeeper

John Carlos Frey, the writer-director-producer-star of this powerful 2002 independent feature, was born in San Diego, a half mile from the Mexican border, and his harrowing story about the enslavement of illegal immigrants has the feel of something observed firsthand. A sadistic Border Patrol agent, ashamed of his Mexican-American heritage and driven by his hatred of Mexicans, conspires with some equally xenophobic pals to join a group of illegals sneaking across the border and thus dramatize the patrol’s ineffectuality, but he undergoes a gradual conversion once he experiences what the Mexicans endure after their trek to the U.S. Thematically the film starts off like The Believer, Henry Bean’s 2001 drama about an anti-Semitic Jew, and winds up like Sullivan’s Travels without the comedy. Stylistically it recalls a Warners protest feature from the early 30s crossed with 70s exploitation: the dramaturgy may be crude in spots, but the content is shocking and, for the most part, frighteningly believable. With Michelle Agnew and Anne Betancourt. 103 min. Landmark’s Century Centre.… Read more »