Sunday, July 11, 2021

Capsule Reviews - July 11, 2021

The Elephant Man (1980)

David Lynch directed this black and white period film inspired by a true story. John Merrick (John Hurt) is a badly deformed man living in Victorian-era England. As the movie opens, Merrick is being exploited as a sideshow freak. A surgeon (Anthony Hopkins) takes pity on him, rescues Merrick from the circus, and introduces him to the world of high society. But did John Merrick simply abandon one manipulative existence for another? The Elephant Man is gritty and disturbing, yet also quite beautiful (Merrick visits the theater at one point, and is changed by the experience). The performances are extraordinary, especially John Hurt’s, who disappears behind layers of makeup, fully embodying this tragic individual. The Elephant Man was produced by Mel Brooks’ Brooksfilms, and it is amazing.
Rating: 9 out of 10

For Sama (2019)

Co-directed by Waad Al-Kateab, who personally shot most of the footage, For Sama centers on a hospital in war-torn Syria. Along with its unflinching look at the day-to-day violence that rocks the country, this documentary was intended as a video diary of sorts, undertaken to show Al-Kateab’s infant daughter, Sama, why she and her husband Hamza (the girl’s father) remained in Syria, putting their entire family in harm’s way. For Sama features plenty of gruesome imagery (we see first-hand the brutality inflicted on the citizens of Aleppo, many of whom are children), but the movie is even more gripping as a personal drama; Al-Kateab, a journalist, and her husband, a doctor, were also members of the resistance that fought for Syria’s independence, meaning they’d be immediately put to death if captured. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, For Sama is a devastating motion picture; it is really powerful stuff.
Rating: 9 out of 10

Pain And Glory (2019)

Pedro Almodovar is one of those filmmakers whose work always catches me off-guard. It happened in 2002 with Talk to Her and now it’s happened again with Pain and Glory, which in many ways is Almodovar’s most personal film. Antonio Banderas plays an aging director who has lost his muse, but finds himself drawn back into public life, with some startling consequences. This film is beautifully crafted, with excellent performances throughout, and I found myself thinking about it for days. It’s damn near a masterpiece.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10

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