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Samsara is stunning, The Words is thoughtful, Farewell My Queen is deluxe, Iron Sky and For a Good Time, Call...dumb

Exotic images from around the world combine for a universal message in Samsara

A full slate this week, ranging from intelligent to not that smart.

Here’s the list:

Samsara:  4 stars

The Words:  3

Farewell my Queen:  3 ½

The Island President:  4

First Position:  3

Iron Sky:  2

For a Good Time Call:  2

The Cold Light of Day:  2

SAMSARA: Twenty years Ron Fricke ago brought us a sensational film called Baraka which travelled the world to show us exotic scenes that when  grouped together indicated the interconnectedness of life  on this planet. He did it all with stunning images and no narration. Now, he’s done it again.

I mean that exactly. The editing and the 65 millimetre cinematography are smoother and bigger but the message is the same. I suspect some of the images are the same too. I seem to remember that multicolor sand mandala, meticulously constructed near the start and swished away at the end, from somewhere.

 

Yes, all is impermanent, as the film says. Yes, those chickens at that industrial farm do resemble workers in that giant factory or people on the Sao Paulo transit system. Or shaolin monks exercising in unison. On and on come the connections the film is making. The DMZ between the two Koreas. The wall  Isreal is building. Slums butting up against highrises. All easy contrasts and connections, but what do they really mean? Whatever you make of them. I don’t think the film is profound. But it is a beautiful slide show more often than not concerned with texture. There are undulating sand dunes, an old man’s face that fades to an intricately carved handle, a spaghetti junction highway interchange and many more scenes showing patterns and mass movement.  Intellectually mushy but a treat visually. (Scotiabank Theatre) 4 out of 5

THE WORDS: Intelligent melodrama. Nothing too deep, sprinkled with clichés but still engrossing. A good read. No.  Wait. This isn’t a dust jacket. The sentiments are accurate though for this tale of a novelist’s  plagiarism and to a lesser extent (and lesser success) about what drives a person to write and seek fame.  The basic plot, a writer publishes someone else’s work as his own, is familiar. I can think of three recent movies that used it. What’s new here is a three-level device to tell it. A gimmick perhaps, but it keeps you interested.  First up, Dennis Quaid, as a writer doing a public reading from his novel . Second, flashes to the story he’s telling, about a frustrated writer (Bradley Cooper) who finds a lost manuscript and becomes a literary sensation when he gets it published under his name. 

 

The elation is short-lived though.

 

An old man (Jeremy Irons) confronts  Bradley with the truth about the book, saying he wrote it years ago in Paris.  We see that story with Ben Barnes playing him as a young man beset by hard luck and over-ripe melodrama.  The film switches back and forth through the three levels , often at the urging of a literary groupie (Olivia Wilde) who flirts with Quaid and wants to know more.  Plot we get. What we need is more on ethics and motivation. A thoughtful but light and glossy movie. (Park, International Village and many suburban theatres) 3  out of 5 

FAREWELL MY QUEEN: The “Let them eat cake” allegation against Marie Antoinette is pretty well dismissed these days but here’s a new one. She had a lesbian attraction to at least one woman at her court. Actually that’s not new. Her enemies wrote pamphlets about it while she was still alive. Here it is again from Chantal Thomas who wrote both histories and this novel about the queen.  Here in this French film by Benoît Jacquot it’s repeated subtly and with polite discretion and we’re never sure whether it was ever more than a longing.  It’s a major driver in the story though.

Diane Kruger plays the Queen and Virginie Ledoyen is Gabrielle de Polignac. We see them through the eyes of a young woman, played by Léa Seydoux, who is the main focus here. Hired to read books to Marie, she takes us into a world of lavish costumes and décor and compliant servants tending to a self-absorbed Queen with fickle interests. At first it’s discovery. Then tension.  Rumors start about “something bad” that happened at the Bastille and a mob that may be on its way from Paris. The film skillfully develops the darkening mood and when the reader is offered one final duty, suspense.  I don’t know how much of it is true but as a movie it’s engrossing. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 3 ½ out of 5

More in New Movies

Widows of criminals doing it for themselves, the seed of modern politics and the perils of war reporting

Also an ingenious take on the migrant crisis, and a second appreciation this year of Ingmar Bergman that adds to what we already know from the first

Melissa’s forgeries, Rami’s dead-on Freddie Mercury and a cult classic re-imagined

Also: a bit of opera (real with Maria Callas and fictional in Bel Canto) and an ode to BC’s chief geographical feature in This Mountain Life
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