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Posts Tagged ‘Charlotte Gainsbourg’

Richard Gere

“NORMAN”  My rating: B

118 minutes | |MPAA rating: R

You don’t have to like Norman Oppenheimer, the fast-talking character played by Richard Gere in “Norman,” to appreciate his energy and drive.

Norman is a hustler and a schmoozer, an arm twister and a facile liar. When necessary he can be a party crasher and a stalker.

He appears to be a businessman (his card vaguely reads “Oppenheimer Strategies”) who specializes in putting together deals. More accurately, he puts together people far more capable than himself who can put together deals. With luck Norman gets a cut of the action.

One of the wonders of Gere’s performance (just when did he become such a terrific actor?) is that even while Norman remains a mystery, a cypher, he’s strangely compelling.

(The movie has a secondary title: “The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.” That right there tells you what we can look forward to.)

In the early scenes we see Norman pestering casual acquaintances and heavy hitters on the New York financial scene (among the players are Michael Sheen, Dan Stevens, Josh Charles and Harris Yulin). Outwardly Norman oozes confidence and professionalism. He’s impeccably dressed and groomed.

But beneath that show of casual affluence you get a whiff of angst from a minor player desperate to be part of the big game. Norman is usually broke; he pops Tic Tacs in lieu of meals. He can’t afford an office, conducting all his business over his cell phone.

Writer/director Joseph Cedar’s film turns on Norman’s courting of an Israeli deputy minister visiting the Big Apple for a conference. Eshel (an excellent Lior Ashkenazi) is a bureaucratic  nobody grateful that this apparent go-getter of an American wants to befriend him. Norman even treats him to the city’s most expensive pair of men’s shoes.

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Charlotte Gainsbourg in "Nymphomaniac"

Charlotte Gainsbourg in “Nymphomaniac”

“NYMPHOMANIAC” My rating: C (Opening April 25 at the Screenland Armour)

241 minutes | No MPAA rating

You can’t ignore a film by Lars von Trier. No matter how much you might want to.

The guy’s a genius, but a twisted one. He’s a first-class visual artist and a narrative anarchist who presents himself  as a cinematic provocateur. (I sometimes view him as a child playing with his own feces.) The beauty often on display in his films must be balanced against the inescapable fact that he’s awesomely misanthropic.

In his last movie, the spectacularly good “Melancholia,” von Trier destroyed our planet and everyone on it…but he did it with such artistic high style that we are seduced nonetheless.

His latest, “Nymphomaniac” (how’s that for a punch-in-the-mouth title?), is a much rockier affair. It’s the story of one woman’s tormented sexual history, complete with nudity, erect penises, and even a few fleeting shots of real sex acts. It’s almost as if von Trier is daring us to keep watching the screen.

Yet the film isn’t the least bit erotic (just another sign of von Trier’s perversity). One leaves this four-hour experience with the feeling that sex is hell.

Of course, in von Trier’s world most everything is hell.

(“Nymphomania” currently is available on Time-Warner on-demand. It’s presented as two 2-hour films, each of which must be purchased separately. Vol. I costs about $7; Vol. II costs nearly $10. In some cities it’s being shown theatrically, but none of Kansas City’s art theaters have it listed as an upcoming attraction.)

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Charlotte Gainsbourg in "The Tree"

“THE TREE”  My rating: B  (Opens Sept. 16 at the Tivoli)

minutes | MPAA rating: 

The Australian drama “The Tree,” writer/director Julie Bertucelli’s tale of a rural family slowly healing in the wake of a death features some knockout acting (especially from several child performers),  lovely cinematography and production design and a lingering mood of loss and spiritual yearning that’s hard to shake.

The O’Neill family is sent reeling when its husband/father Peter dies of a heart attack, leaving behind his wife Dawn (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and four children ranging in age from four to 16.

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