Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988). I’m not one for nostalgic paeans, but this one is a little different, with the hero’s mentor telling him “Don’t give in to nostalgia!” (A much longer director’s cut apparently changes this entirely, with the hero’s lost love telling him when they meet many years later, “There is no future. There is only the past.” Suffice to say, I think I’m glad I missed that version.) The early part of the movie, which tells the story of Toto when he is a small child, is easily the best. Salvatore Cascio deserved his awards as Toto, never too sicky-sweet, always inventive. And Philippe Noiret as his substitute father, Alfredo, has just the right touch. We get a real feel for how the movies can become an obsession. When Marco Leonardi takes over the part of Toto as a teenager who falls in love, the film changes focus. It’s not bad, Leonardi does a good job, and Agnese Nano is lovely in her brief role as the object of Toto’s desires (apparently her role is far from brief in the longer version). But it’s a fairly ordinary first-love story at that point, and while I never lost interest, I found myself wishing we were back in the earlier part of the film. In short, I gave in to nostalgia. Tornatore’s attitude towards nostalgia is confusing, and when Jacques Perrin steps in as the adult Toto, I’m no longer sure what the message is. Still, there’s a nice final scene where Toto watches clips of people kissing in movies (it makes sense once you’ve seen the film), and I can see why it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. #233 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 7/10.
That Obscure Object of Desire (Luis Buñuel, 1977). Buñuel’s last film is fairly gentle; even the mocking tone is muted. A wealthy Frenchman falls for a poor flamenco dancer … he pursues, she leads him on, but she never gives in to his sexual advances. The audience waits for the eroticism to resolve itself, in the process becoming just like the Frenchman. It may not be resolved, but there are some erotic moments. For the most part, this is a far more genial comedy than we might expect from Buñuel. There are oddities (even in his last film, Buñuel hadn’t lost his willingness to do things differently). The Frenchman is played by Fernando Rey, a Spaniard, with his voice dubbed by Michel Piccoli, a Frenchman (and, of course, there are English subtitles). The Andalusian dancer is played by Carole Bouquet, a Frenchwoman (and future Bond Girl), and by Angela Molina, a Spaniard (yes, two different people play the same character, seemingly at random). The result is fluff enlivened by artful technique. #536 on the TSPDT list. 7/10.
Star Trek (J.J. Abrams, 2009). Reviewed earlier in the week as part of the “By Request” series. 7/10.