Mao’s Last Dancer
Directed by Bruce Berensford
Starring Chi Cao, Bruce Greenwood, Amanda Schull, Joan Chen and more
Rated PG for a brief violent image, some sensuality, language and incidental smoking
There’s an art involved in adapting a book into a movie. Stray too much from the source material and you run the risk of alienating the audience who already knows the story. At the same time, if you stick too closely to the book’s conventions you may not attract enough of an audience who wouldn’t normally be interested in the original work.
And if the book is based on true events, and is an autobiography to boot? All bets are off.
The plot of Mao’s Last Dancer is based on the autobiography by Chinese-born ballet dancer Li Cunxin, who following in the footsteps of such artists as Rudolph Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, defected to the U.S. in 1981. However, the story of the movie begins in medias res, with a 20-year old Li stepping foot onto American soil at the beginning of a student exchange program which places him deep in the heart of Texas, with the Houston Ballet. Continue reading “Trisha’s Take: Mao’s Last Dancer review”
Directed by Radu Mihăileanu
Starring Aleksei Guskov, Mélanie Laurent, Dmitri Nazarov, Miou-Miou and more
On Midsummer Eve, I was walking through a park in Brooklyn with some friends on our way to get some artisanal ice cream. As we neared the park’s exit, the unmistakable sound of a piano wafted towards us in the summer air.
There at the crux of two paths stood an upright piano, and a bushy-haired hipster was coaxing out a very familiar classical tune. No, not Für Elise or the Moonlight Sonata, but Chopin’s Nocturne in E flat (or Op.9 No.2 for the musical geeks). A crowd had formed, and everyone applauded with verve as the final notes died away, the pianist acknowledging the applause briefly before melting back into the crowd. A friend who was visiting from L.A. said later that it had been the fourth time that day he had encountered spontaneous music that day coming from people who weren’t busking.
It’s that idea of making music for the pure joy of making music or the beauty of it that permeates every frame within Le Concert, and I’m afraid that if you don’t understand that, you’re definitely not going to understand or like this movie. Continue reading “Trisha’s Take: Le Concert review”
Directed by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Starring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill
Rated R for language and some sexual material
Back when I had a Netflix account, I went on an indie movie-watching spree, and that’s where I encountered the concept behind “actor’s workshop” films for the first time.
For the people who aren’t acting or film geeks, I’ll explain. An actor’s workshop film is one where a bunch of actor who are taking classes together take what they’ve learned and make a movie out of it. The coolest thing, though, is that some of the best actors are always taking classes and workshops to hone their craft even further. Another thing I learned about was the mumblecore movement, wherein production is very low-budget, conversations are improvised, and the focus is on characterization over complicated plots.
Multi-hyphenate brothers Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass, who helped form the latter, seem to have taken the best of what’s cool about an actor’s workshop film, given it a mumblecore feel, and turned it loose into the world.
The plot to Cyrus is pretty simple. John C. Reilly stars as John, a divorcé who never really got out of the depressive funk that drove his now-ex-wife (Catherine Keener) away seven years ago. Strangely enough, they’re still friends—and may possibly also work together—and after she tells him that she’s getting married again, she tries to get him out of his rut by forcing him to go to a party. There he meets Molly (Marisa Tomei) who sees something charming in his sad sack and “drunk on Red Bull and vodka” exterior and follows him back to his place.
However, she doesn’t stick around in the morning, but instead leaves him a note. Intrigued but not scared off, John invites her over for a proper first date which is as romantic as it is charming… only to catch her sneaking out of his room at night. Her vague explanation doesn’t satisfy him, so John follows her back to her house where he meets the source of her secrecy: her antagonistic live-at-home 21-year old son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill). Continue reading “Trisha’s Take: Cyrus review”
Open on Sunday
Performed by Paula Carino (vocals, rhythm guitar), Ross Bonadonna (lead guitar, backing vocals), Andy Mattina (bass), Tom Pope (drums)
I’ve spoken at length about how I don’t have the most expansive of musical educations. Sure, I can natter on at length about early female classical composers, but that’s mostly a product of a 300-level Music course I took over decade ago because it satisfied a prerequisite and a university honors slot at the same time.
However, ever since I learned that I inherited my ability to carry a note from my mom and my ability to feel a rhythm from my dad, I’ve loved listening to music and finding those songs which I could sing and dance along with.
And I have the Internet to thank for my most recent find. Continue reading “Trisha’s Take: Open on Sunday review”
Micmacs à tire-larigot (aka Non-stop madness)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Starring Dany Boon, André Dussollier, Nicolas Marié, Julie Ferrier, and more
Rated R for some sexuality and brief violence
When I was in the eighth grade, I was given the chance to either take a first year of Spanish at my school or to take a first year in French at the high school across the street from where I lived and where I’d eventually attend.
Impractical youngster that I was in Southern California, I chose French and for five years I was one of the more fluent speakers in my class, going as far as to win the silver medal my senior year of high school at French camp. Those classes were where I first saw or heard of classic French films like Jean de Florette, Le retour de Martin Guerre, and Au revoir les enfants (which apparently was an inspiration for Reservoir Dogs), and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Yes, even Les compères.
Alas, my ear for the language has diminished, but that still doesn’t mean that I’m not about to turn down the chance to see a movie by perhaps one of France’s great directors of the modern era. Continue reading “Trisha’s Take: Micmacs à tire-larigot review”