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“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Bombs in a Flop House

I’ve always thought that whatever unfortunate production found itself mounted at the slightly out-of-the-way Cort Theater on Broadway EAST, a bit, on W.47th St. was always doomed to bomb. I’ve always thought of the Cort as a Flop House.

And when I saw to my dismay that
a)The NEW “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was playing at the Cort, and
b) that it wasn’t a musical, I knew I was in for a bumpy ride. Or rather a bump-less night. I don’t know how I stayed awake.

When the most exciting moment of the (ENDLESS) evening turned out to be the leading man, Cory Walker Smith taking all his clothes off and getting into a bathtub, completely needlessly. Totally gratuitously. But suddenly the talent-free Smith suddenly showed his REAL talents, and I now knew why he was cast in the part. He’s
got the slammin’,scuplted, muscular body and, er, talents, to make up for his lackluster acting skills.

His co-star and leading lady Emilia Clarke, then also needlessly disrobed, and joined him in the bath and the bubbles.

This was supposed to signify…well, whatever it was I didn’t care, by that point.

How bad was “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”? Well, it was soooo bad, that if you were someone who had never had a previous encounter with the works of the late Truman Capote, you’d think “Why the fuss?”

And this production is so dreary, on every level, I don’t think it will still be running by the time I finish typing this sentence.

Already adapted into a musical that never opened, starring Mary Tyler Moore no less in 1966, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is not a flop-proof classic.

Light as air and paper-thin as a novella to start with, the legendary film version starring Audrey Hepburn iconically summed up the social strivings of an era. Hepburn as Holly Golightly was utterly divine and floated on gossamer wings through 1960s Manhattan. She epitomized the struggling, moon-struck yearner in everyone, who comes to New York City. She was the essence of romance. Of dreams striving to be fulfilled. Of someone, who you cared about if her heart was broken, and…well…She made film history.

A generation identified with her. You never forgot her, and “Moon River”! “Moon River” was FROM THIS MOVIE! It won the Oscar for Best Song and Henry Mancini’s dreamy, charming, zany music won Best Score. Audrey Hepburn on that fire-escape strumming her guitar and breaking your heart with “Moon River.” Poignant, haunting, magnificent.

And they have the nerve! The outright GAUL! to have Emilia Clarke attempt a NEW tune-less tune, also strumming a guitar, also on a fire-escape, that was so dirge-like it reminded me of a funeral march. I wanted to escape, the theater, but alas, it was just the first act, and there was much more suffering, dullness and bad acting to be endured for nearly two more narly hours!

Emilia Clarke is a British TV star and I imagine quite photogenic in a close-up. She’s evidently wowed the world in “Game of Thrones” on HBO.(I’ve never seen it.) But whatever the camera reveals of her talents, the stage just emphasizes what she doesn’t have, which is any kind of presence whatsoever.

Could she have been any worse?

No class, no style, no ethereal social butterfly her Holly Golightly, her Holly was like the Maltese Falcon, a fake bird made of lead. The great costume designer Colleen Atwood is also defeated here. Her clothes for Holly at least TRIED to suggest an effervescence. But in fifty shades of grey, which was the predominant color of the dreary slide-projected set, she just faded into the background as some gawky girl tottering around in her mother’s high heels and finery. I was around New York in the ’60s, and believe me it was anything BUT grey!

Warhol’s divine drag star Holly Golightly, 40 years ago, in “Trash” had that demented, delusions of grandeur diva thing going on ALL THE TIME. I kept thinking of the great story about her in real life, when she successfully emptied out the French Ambassador’s wife’s bank account. Then went back again A SECOND TIME and this time the impersonation landed her “in the hooskow” as she put it to me on the Christmas episode of my TV show in 1992.
IOW, Ryker’s Island. I must re-run that show again soon.

This is what this “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was making me think of….And it also made me think of how much like Christopher Isherwood’s Sally Bowles, Capote’s Holly Golightly really was. Did Capote read Isherwood’s”I Am a Camera” of his Berlin stories, and just decide “Oh, I can do better than THAT?” But did he?

And yes, I kept waiting for the band to strike up and the music to begin, but alas, it never did. The actors just “spoke” Oy vay.

And of yes, George Wendt wandered around, in a miniscule part of a bartender, looking embarrassed, like he was looking for the exit.

And the cat! Oh yes! The cat! The cat was great! I really believed she was a cat! And the cat scampered off looking for the exit, just like George Wendt was doing.

And so was I. As soon as I possibly could.

“Downton Abbey” Ends and Begins to Shoot Season 4

Well, that was a BANG-up finale to perhaps the strongest season yet, Season 3, of “Downton Abbey,” a few weeks back now. It’s taken me this long to come to terms with its’ being over soooo quickly, and also so tragically…

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!

I knew Dan Stevens, who played the handsome, perfect Matthew Crawley, was leaving at the end of this season. There had been MUCHO publicity about it. How could this be? No Matthew! Oh Nooooo! You can’t DO that, Author Julian Fellowes! Noooo! How will we, nevermind Lady Mary, his pregnant wife, do without him?????

But Stevens’ three year contract was up, and I personally feel he’ll rue the day. I don’t think his fans will ever forgive him for leaving. And he’ll never live up to the career high of “Downton” and the classic, unforgettable heart-throb he created in Matthew Crawley.

So, we knew his character’s end was nigh. But it was the really harsh and violent CHOICE of how they choose to write him out, erase him completely, that was startling. Yes, Matthew Crawley is dead. Really dead. Dead as a Dickensian door-nail.

And the sight of the intense close-up of his handsome corpse with the blood running in a rivulet down his beautiful, dead blonde face was really something that stuck in my mind. I wish I could get it OUT of my mind! It’s haunting! That’s the word!That someone so young and so dashing and so rich, someone who had survived the trenches of WWI, only to die, like James Dean, too soon, too soon…WELL!

And as I watch that episode over and over and over again.
(What ELSE is there to watch on TV that’s THAT good? I mean, really!)

Well, that shot and the scenes of marital bliss leading up to it with his address to his newborn baby son, “My dear little chap.” Well, it began to get to me more and more the more I re-watched it. And of course, the tragedy of Lady Mary, the ever more and more magnificent Michelle Dockery’s fate, as a newly widowed single mother, is even more magnified the more that I see it. The happiest of images of her in that sun-filled room and her little baby grabbing at her finger…*sob*

But not to worry, dear fellow, Downtonians. They are already shooting Season 4. And we know Shirley MacLaine will be back for a least one more go ’round with the legend herself Dame Maggie Smith…The way the show keeps moving forward in time, the Dowager Countess must be now circling 100!

Another departure I saw coming in Ep.7 was the exit of Downton’s own Wicked Witch of the West, O’Brien. Author Fellowes had pretty much written himself and O’Brien’s character, into a corner with the utter blackness of O’Brian’s hideous, irredeemable soul, so she had to go.

And at the end that episode, we see her cozying up to Lady Susan, who is not at all happy with HER Lady’s maid, and is about to be posted to Bombay with her husband Cousin Shrimpy. Et voila! There goes O’Brien off to deepest, darkest India.

And I imagine Siobhan Finneran, the excellent Irish actress who has had the difficult job of making us love to hate O’Brien, for three seasons now, may have just had enough of this unrelenting, no-where-to-go-but-down character.

That brief scene in the happy, new love nest of the ideal working class couple Anna and Bates, where Bates whispers the words “Her Ladyship’s Soap” into O’Brian’s shocked ear. Well! It sends a chill down O’Brian’s spine that I felt, too, and sends her packing from the Bates’ house without her even having had her tea!

“Get Back in the Knife Box, Miss Sharp!” Indeed.

What will Season 4 bring? Well, STAYED TUNED! I know I will be!

“Downton Abbey” Ep.4 ~ A Masterpiece of Shock and Awe

Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!

If you haven’t seen Ep.4 of Season 3 of “Downton Abbey”, the season that is blowing minds right now, don’t read any further.

It’s a masterpiece, I feel, of dramatic series television. I’m in shock at what happened and in awe of the stupendous, brilliant performances of the entire cast, in this, what had to be their most challenging episode. Fresh off their SAG award win on Sunday for Best Drama Series, Downton Abbey in this horrifying episode more than lived up to its’ accolades.

What happens in Episode 4 that is so shattering, so shocking, I feel like I can only talk about it in a whisper as if I were one of Downton Abbey’s loyal but distraught servants…

Lady Sybil Crawley dies in childbirth.

Yes. They’ve killed off one of the hit series major characters, the youngest and most beautiful of the three Crawley sisters, who are at the center of Downton’s great story.

SUCH a shock. I couldn’t believe I was seeing it happen, but it was.

Lady Sybil was giving birth at home, Downton, of course, even though she’s the one who had run off with the studly chauffeur, Irish rebel Tom Branson(the excellent Allen Leech)and there are TWO doctors attending her. One the local doc,Played by David Robb, who’s been on the show since the beginning, and one, a knight, played by Tim Piggott who Lord Grantham has brought in from London.

They fight, as Sybil is struggling in birth bangs and their heated dialogue is a summation of sorts of the thoughts about birth-ing in the days before modern medicine. The family doctor diagnoses eclampsia(sp?) and possibly fatal situation that requires Sybil to be taken immediately to a hospital and a Caesarian section be performed and Sir Whatever is saying “It’s all right. It’s perfectly normal.”

And unfortunately the family doctor is right. And the beautiful 24-year-old comely heroine passes away in scene after horrifying scene where the actress Jessica Brown Findlay gives the best performance she’s ever given thus far.

I kept thinking of my red-headed Scottish great-grandmother, whom I never knew, of course, who also died in childbirth, leaving her surviving daughter, my beloved grandmother traumatized forever.Women often died in childbirth in those days and writer Fellowes obviously wanted to depict this tragic situation, and he did so in a profoundly compelling way. The horror of Sybil’s death seems worse than the horrors we saw in Season 2 of World War I.

In Downton’s stellar cast of twenty+plus leads, I always felt she was the weakest link, acting-wise. She was merely pretty and not up to the nuance of “Downton”s complex, brilliant script by Jullian Fellowes, just barely skating through on her sensational dark good looks and voluptuous figure.

I hope they didn’t kill her off for bad acting. But possibly they did. In any case, she, young, beautiful, rebellious, is dead, and looking realistically like hell in the process. Poor thing.Death did not become her.

But this really shocked me. To kill off a leading character in a sensationally successful hit series is just never done. And one didn’t expect this to happen to arguably the most beautiful young woman on the show. One didn’t see this coming. And the impact on the remaining two Crawley sisters, the superb Lady Mary(Michelle Dockery) and the marvelous Lady Edith(Laura Carmichael), their parents Lord and Lady Grantham(Hugh Bonneville and Maureen McGovern) is shattering. And of course, affords Dame Maggie Smith as the grieving grandmother a chance to show off her legendary dramatic chops as her heart breaks with the rest of her family’s at the grim injustice of this tragedy. As we see her walk away from the strong-arm of the butler, leaning on her cane for strength, she seems barely able to make it to the doorway.

And of course the emotion and drama run high throughout this entire episode the most powerful of the entire series. So far. Most moving of all I found was the surviving husband’s, Irish Tom Branson’s, helpless grief. His baby girl survives, but he has lost his beautiful, young wife, whom he desperately loved.

I was devastated. Truly. As if someone I had known had died. I feel like I’ve been mourning poor Lady Sybil
all week. I’ve watched Ep.4 three times already as it kept coming up on different PBS stations.

For those of you who MUST know, after its initial airing on Sunday night at 9pm EST on Ch.13 here in New York and rebroadcast on WLIW at 8pm on Monday night and then again at 1AM Monday night.

It’s probably coming on again right now somewhere, and of course, you can watch it IMMEDIATELY online at pbs.org.

The last image is of the sobbing father, Tom, holding his new-born baby daughter in his arms, staring out an upstairs window of the vast estate, almost as if he and his little child are prisoners there now.

I wasn’t expecting this. There are three more episodes to go, and they’ve GOT to top this one. It was a killer. I can’t imagine how.But I can’t wait to tune in again.

Oscar Mindreading ~The Houston Film Critics Were Reading My Subconscious!

Just thoughts! Random, unspoken thoughts and SUDDENLY there they were in print!

Thankx as always to Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone at Awardsdaily for this list. http://www.awardsdaily.com

The HOUSTON FILM CRITICS TOP PICKS ~

Best Picture
Argo

Best Director
Ben Affleck (Argo)

Best Screenplay
Tony Kushner (Lincoln)

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)

Best Actress
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Supporting Actor
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

Best Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)

Not All Subways Back, My Library Didn’t Have Heat, but the Oscar Race does!

After a week of recovery that is starting to remind me of The Reconstruction half of “Gone With The Wind”, I’m happy to report that the some of the subways are working just fine. But some are not running at all. And nobody seems to know which trains are on and which are off.

Unless you go down there yourself and find out the hard way. Which I did.

The “L” was not running this afternoon, and I had to take a cross-town bus, which was running fine and not crowded to get across 14th from West to East.  The 3rd Avenue bus just zipped uptown, again, not crowded, though it was the Hour of Rush(not Limbaugh). And the N train was running just fine, but still only going to 34th Street.

And the R train is not running at all. Yet.

Still confusion reigns and you have to leave an hour or at least 30 additional minutes to get where you’re going, just in case, you run into one of these inevitable SNAFUS.

14th Street as the bus sailed Crosstown looked absolutely normal, I’m happy to report. If 14th EVER looks normal. Lots of young people literally bopping and bouncing about their business in a jaunty step that said “Wheeee! I’m Freee! I can get out of the house and also,  get back, too!”

And it’s gotten COLDER. The temperature’s now in the 30s! In hasn’t been this cold in New York since two years previous. Last year there was no winter at all. And I missed it. Now that it’s THIS cold, I just want it to go away!

And there’s supposed to be another storm coming on Wednesday!!!

Meanwhile, Anne Thompson is “digging into Anthony Breznican’s EW Oscar Predictions” at www.indiewire.com

I guess St. Anne got a copy of the not-on-the-stands-yet Entertainment Weekly Holiday Edition. And I agree with Anne almost completely I have to say. Breznican, who replaced Oscar God Dave Karger, who was well-nigh infallilble has moved on to Fandango (to do what? Write? I didn’t know Fandango was a magazine or site. I thought they just sold tickets.)

Anne is right, I think, in saying that he, Breznican, the newbie, is going “too indie” and she’s right. In this year, with the Academy facing more and much, much better studios movies than they’ve had in DECADES, the indies are going to get all but shunted to the side.

That means YOU “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Jeffrey Wells in HIS weekly podcast was witness to a roomful of Academy types NOT in love with Joaquim Phoenix AT ALL in a screening/party he went to in the Hollywood Hills. Sounds glamorous. But Jeff in his podcast this week, DID dig deep into the Supporting Actress category and fortunately mentioned the great Ann Dowd of “Compliance”(though she’s the lead) and also, surprisingly Breznican had her, too. In Entertainment Weekly, which everyone reads, esp. their Oscar Nomination prediction issue(Everything is SOOOOO early this year.) so that was important for Dowd’s chances. She COULD be the Demian Bichir of this year. The Academy just has to keep being REMINDED, since it seems IFC the distributor is not spending a dime on this one.

I knew Linda Hunt, who WON Best Supporting Actress back in the ’70s for playing an Asian MAN in a movie that I can’t remember the name of. And SHE, Ms. Hunt Didn’t do ANYTHING in terms of campaigning or ads, but in those days you didn’t have to.

And there’s two camps on upcoming “Hitchcock”. Love it. Or hate it. Variety didn’t love it and I think Jeff didn’t either. Ditto Sasha Stone AND Anne Thompson. Oscar Goddess Stone was facing a dilemma about whether she was going to write about it or not. “The Two Faces of Alfred” I’m sure a genius like Hitchcock MORE than just two faces. That’s not the name of Sasha’s article. That’s a metaphor.

Et voila!

I SUDDENLY I get invited to see it here in NYC tomorrow! So it’s a double-header! “Silver Linings Playbook” and then “Hitchcock.” I hope I can stand it. But fortunately they are both short movies. So things are picking up.

I think Joaquim Phoenix is just OUT of the jammed Actor category, which is what Jeffrey Wells saw displayed before him in Hollywood last night. There’s two or three too many Best Actor performances. And SOMEbody’s gonna get left out.

And I think it’s JP.

So I see Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson’s performances TOMORROW! Talk About an Old Time Double Featurel!

“The Master” is a Big Gay Movie! An accurate portrayal of the Closeted 1950s.

So FINALLY seeing “The Master” yesterday, I was astonished to find that my take-away from it was it’s A Big Gay Movie! Although clearly, it’s not being advertised as such. If only it were, I perhaps could’ve really loved it. But I found myself LIKING it more than I thought I would.

It really was to my great surprise a tortured, a VERY tortured gay love story, with two men who are so totally in the closet that they do not know what they’re experiencing as they both feel this inexplicable need and attraction for each other.

According to the Gurus o’ Gold, Daniel Day-Lewis in the still unseen “Lincoln” is right up there on the top of the list of Best Actors, separated by only one vote from Joaquim Phoenix’s tortured portrayal as Freddie Quell in “The Master.” And in Supporting, though again, he’s a LEAD, and shouldn’t be there, and he’s the title role for goodness sakes! Is Phillip Seymour Hoffman ‘s masterful portrayal of “The Master.” And he’s LEAGUES out in front of everyone else in that category. Maybe he’ll win his second Oscar for his role as Lancaster Dodd, the brutish, dapper, magnetic leader/creator/philosopher of “The Cause” a Scientology-ish cult.

The film is the story however of how Dodd, the Master, can NOT keep himself away from, or let go of the violent, abusive, lost drunken ex-sailor Freddie Quell. He becomes obsessed with him. He takes him with him everywhere, and his wife Amy Adams, does not like it. Unfortunately, her role is really nothing but pregnant wall-paper. She MIGHT get nominated if the film catches on with Academy voters, but there’s not much for her to do except, display her constant pregnancy and glare and glower at Freddie.

The fact that his wife is perpetually pregnant, and there is one scene in their bathroom, where she graphically masturbates her husband(Hoffman has his back to us, thankfully.) is meant to show that yes, the Master IS heterosexual, but NOTHING else explains this film and its’ existence except the explanation that The Master is in the closet and is in love with poor Freddie, who is also in the closet. In fact, the whole FILM is in the closet!

The Master”  starts out with a wrestling scene on a beach where a bunch of sailors in tight, brief  40’s navy-issue swim suits, their muscles glistening in the sun, are going mano a mano all around Quell. There is also a large breasted sand dune sculpture of a naked woman that Freddie masturbates, and gets himself a hand full of, of course, mud. Then HE jerks off, facing the ocean. Frustrated libido is everywhere. The film at the end returns to this shot of Freddie on the beach gazing at the gigantic sand woman’s breasts and nipples as he lies next to her on the beach.

Freddie has a girl friend named Doris who he deserts at the beginning of the movie. He’s a constantly in trouble ne’er-do-well, to put it mildly, and an alcoholic who is driven to drinking medicines from everyone’s bathrooms’ medicine cabinets to get high. His potions are so lethal, he accidentally poisons a man at one point a Mexican field hand, who drinks one of his concoctions of paint thinner and whatever else Freddie has devised to put into.And Freddie is then on the run from the law.

One night in a drunken stupor he wanders onto a boat where Lancaster Dodd is having a party that is about to set sail, celebrating his daughter’s wedding. They are to sail “through the Canal to New York” and Freddie stays on board and sails with them.

The Master likes Freddie so much at the outset because Freddie has put together the right combination of paint thinner and peach juice that DOESN’T kill The Master.

And this film is much more about Scientology than I thought it would be. WWII and the post-war 1950s are its’ backdrop and The Master’s control of all his followers in this cult that is called “The Cause” is really rather frightening and chilling. But as the film goes on and on and on(yes, it’s WAAAAY to long) it seemed to me that Hoffman’s portrayal of Dodd got more and more effeminate. And the big gay pay-off scene is of the Master and Quell rolling over and over each other, smiling and laughing, giggling even, as they embrace on the grounds of The Cause’s current posh residence. Over and over and over they roll on top of each other. And they both seem to be having the time of their lives doing so.

It’s the only scene in the film where you see the two men(or any of the characters in this bleak, chilly film) actually expressing human warmth towards each other and having FUN.

There, yes, is a scene, where Freddie, who is prone to alcoholic hallucinations, sees all of Dodd’s female followers dancing around the Master nude. But tellingly,none of the men are.

Clearly, Freddie can’t find happiness with a woman and his only positive, ongoing relationship is with Dodd. Freddie is such a lost soul, you can see why he’s drawn to the charismatic Dodd, but why is Dodd so drawn to Freddie? He loves him. He wants to save him. He wants him with him for the rest of his life. It homo-erotic to say the least.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Master expresses every nuance that is required of him.

And that includes Dodd’s sick, controlling side, too. Which is frightening when it explodes. He HAS to be in the power position over all these people, and to me, he was sublimating his homosexual impulses into this scary, and sometimes violent, controlling persona.

But when Dodd calls Freddie transatlantic from London and says “I need you!” it was a quintessential  gay moment, closeted, of course, to be sure. Freddie is watching a Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon in an empty balcony of a movie theater when this moment happens. But it is telling nonetheless. It was the ’50s! THIS is how closeted gay men expressed themselves, the only outlet they had. Everything was coded, or sublimated. At that time, it was a love that couldn’t even be mention to those that felt these emotions.

So Freddie expresses it in violence and drunkenness and the Master expresses through his obsessive need of  control over others. It’s a disturbing film, but it may bring Phillip Seymour Hoffman his second Oscar.

Joaquim Phoenix’s Freddie Quell has to duke it out with Daniel Day Lewis’ Abraham Lincoln in “Lincoln.” Only a vote separates them on the Gurus o’ Gold chart. When we can see “Lincoln” in its’ entirety, we will know who really is on top for Best Actor.

“The Master” is a divisive film, because it doesn’t wear its’ homosexuality on its’ sleeve, so you don’t know what is REALLY going on between these two men, but it is there, though unstated, nonetheless. And that was the pre-Stonewall America to a T.

NYFF 2012 ~ Strong Films Feature Strong Actresses, “Amour”, “Beyond the Hills”

This year’s New York Film Festival is  just about at the half-way through point, for press. The press screenings started just about immediataely that I got back from Toronto. And begin two weeks or so before the public begins to see the films, which began Friday night with “The Life of Pi.”

The 50th annivarsary edition of the NYFF has cerainly been featuring strong films about strong women, with VERY strong actresses doing award-worthy work.

The strongest by far is “Amour” the Palme d’Or winner at this years’ Cannes film festival, and this almost unbearably-painful-to-watch film by Michael Haneke(pronounced like Hun-a-kuh, like the Festival of Lights) stars French luminaries from the past Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintigant.

Emmanuelle Riva’s performance as Anne, an 80-something former music teacher who lives with her octogenarian husband, the equally magnificent Trintigant, in a beautifully quaint Paris apartment. And the lovely, charming Anne begins to be the victim of a series of strokes that leave her, first paralyzed on the right side, then paralyzed even further.

The demands on M. Riva are gargantuan in terms of enacting all the dibiltating stages of her decline, and she magnificently meets  every one of them with bravery and great force. You really are appauled at the toll old age is taking on her as she is ravaged by one malady after the other after the other. And Trintignant has the less showy role of the caretaker, the devoted husband who is appauled and dismayed by the excruciating decline and pain of his wife’s deteriotating conditiion.

Haneke is one of my favorite filmmakers and his previous work “Cache”, “Funny Games” and “The White Ribbon” are all extremely challenging and perplexing in different ways. “Amour” which should have been named “Le Mort” is tough, but “Amour” is the toughest, as it unflinchingly chronicles the end-of-life traumas that all human beings are going to have to face sooner or later. Some thing as grim as this material has never been shown onscreen. It’s disturbing, horrifying and unforgettable, all at the same time.

Austria has chosen it as their official entry for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film even though the actors speak French and it is set in France. Haneke, the director, is Austrian. France has chose the light-hearted comedy “The Intouchables” a Weinstein Co. production. So it will be comedy v. tragedy in this category at the Oscars in February. I’m sure both films may be nominated and Ms. Riva, too, may get a Best Actress nomination, her performance an the dying Anne is so awe-inspiring.

There’s also, like Haneke’s “Cache” and “The White Ribbon” especially, a kind of mystery that needs to be solved at the end. And I can only alert you to the fact that everything you need to know is in the OPENING scene of the movie. Just pay close attention.

Equally devastating, but somehow, lighter, if that’s even possible, is Roumanian director Christian Mungiu’s “Beyond the Hills.” This film was also awarded at Cannes, with a dual Best Actress prize, for the two young women,Cosima Strahaan and Cristina Flutur, who play the leads. Childhood best friends since the orphanage they grew up in, Stratan’s character joins an Orthodox nunnery that separates her from Flutur.

Alina(Flutur) is obsessively attached to Voichita(Strahan) and right off the bat, in the very first scene of the film, she crushingly hugs her friend, collapsing in tears in a train station, in such a way that Voichita, the nun, is dreadfully embarassed.

Alina, long story short, is revealed to have an overwhelming lesbian love for Voichita, and will stop at nothing in the convents’ attempts to separate the two, after Alina comes for an extended visit and then stays and stays. Her obsession becomes violent and the nuns and their priest attempt to exorcise the demons they believe Alina is possessed by. It’s horrifying. And it it not set in the past though the   convent and its’ inhabitants and rituals seem medieval.

And this is based on the non-fiction novels of Tatiana Niculescu Bran, which in turn were based on a true story.

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