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Posts Tagged ‘Toby Jones’

Dev Patel

Dev Patel as math genius Srinivasa Ramanujan

“THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY” My rating: B-

108 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Despite the title, “The Man Who Knew Infinity” is not a science fiction yarn…although its real-life hero was probably regarded by his contemporaries as an extraterrestrial or a visitor from the future.

Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) is, nearly a century after his death, still regarded as one of the most important mathematicians of all time. He appears to have been a natural — he never received any formal training.

Writer/director Matt Brown’s biopic follows Ramanujan (Dev Patel) from an impoverished childhood and early marriage in India to the heights of mathematical study at Trinity College, Cambridge. The bulk of the film takes place in pre-World War I England where the young savant becomes a protege of math great G.H. Hardy — although after a few weeks one could ask who exactly  is teaching whom.

Granted, few moviegoers regard math as a scintillating subject for dramatic exploration. Indeed, while “The Man Who Knew Infinity” (the title refers to Ramanujan’s ability to visualize numbers so large they put the rest of us into meltdown) cannot escape talk about primes, theta functions, divergent series and whatnot, the film’s dramatic core rests on more recognizable issues.

Like racism.  For all his genius, Ramanujan was regarded by many on the Cambridge faculty as a mere “wog.” The prevailing view was that as such he must have stolen his results from brighter (i.e.,  whiter) minds. Even Hardy begins their relationship with a rather patronizing attitude. At times the Indian guest faces physical violence.

Not to mention the isolation of being one of the few Indians on campus. A strict vegetarian, Ramanujan discovered to his dismay that in England even vegetables are cooked in lard; the combination of a poor diet and a miserable English winter probably contributed to his early death.

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Salma Hayek and sea serpent

Salma Hayek and sea serpent

“TALE OF TALES”  My rating: C

133 minutes | No MPAA rating

From a technical perspective, “Tale of Tales” is one gorgeous films, a visual masterpiece of art design and cinematography.

It’s also dramatically stillborn. Sort of like the least engaging Terry Gilliam movie ever.

Directed by Matteo Garrone (who made a big splash a few years back with his lacerating Neapolitan crime drama “Gomorrah”) and adapted from the 17th century fairy tales of Giambattista Basile (the creator of “Cinderella”), this big production interweaves three of Basile’s stories. There’s an emphasis on sex and violence. The kiddies are not invited.

In one story the King and Queen of Longtrellis (John C. Reilly, Salma Hayek) are so desperate to produce an heir that they take advice from a mysterious sorcerer. The King must kill a sea monster (he dies in the quest), the Queen must eat the great beast’s heart.

It works. Her Highness has a high-speed pregnancy that lasts all of 24 hours and produces a son.  Weirdly, the cook who prepares the heart also gives birth overnight to a baby boy who is a dead ringer for the young Prince. (As adolescents the Prince and the Pauper — both albinos, by the way — are played by real-life twins Christian and Jonah Lees).

The boys have a spiritual connection which the Queen tries to break by sending the Pauper off to a foreign land. But the Prince runs away to find him.

Meanwhile the incredibly horny King of nearby Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel) has fallen for one of two sisters (Hayley Carmichael, Shirley Henderson) he has espied from afar. He doesn’t realize that the object of his lust is an old crone, and the sisters wisely conduct all the negotiations for the loss of sister Dora’s virginity through a closed door.

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