Directed by Franco ZeffirelliItaly, United States | 1967
At this point I’m convinced there’s nothing that can be done to save the play, which is probably one of Bill’s weakest even without the misogynistic problem. Zeffirelli, Burton, and Taylor have done all they can, and it’s certainly an admirable attempt, but it only further convinces me that this one Bard play that can’t be made into a masterpiece.
Directed by Roman PolanskiFrance, United Kingdom | 1992
Polanski’s consistent eye for formal daring serves him well through the transitions of the movie. He uses soft lighting and red hues for his first section, all sunlight and candles and cozy fires. Then, the mise-en-scène shifts: Oscar’s spacious apartment is initially inviting and elegant, but when he and Mimi retreat into this den to chase their lust, it comes to resemble a horrid brothel, dank with sex fumes and drying fluids. They cover the windows, casting everything in filthy brown. Every experiment into role-playing, domination and pain seems to suck more light from the place, until the only bright source of illumination is the computer monitor, mocking Oscar for his writer’s block. The grim shift suggests that Oscar starts to blame Mimi for his inability to write anything worth publishing, and every professional setback leads him to torture her further.
Directed by Lisa CholodenkoUnited States | 2010
It’s not so much a problem that the film wears its genre on its sleeve as that it wraps it up under the pretense of being a genuine, realistic depiction of an “alternative” family life. Much of it comes down to the screenplay, which is just too traditionally structured and predictable to bring that kind of true-to-life spontaneity that you get from the best indie films. It begins idealistically, develops clichéd conflicts, then resolves them through superficial sentimentality. Essentially, it falls into the trap that so many modern indie films do: it’s a mainstream, big studio work in all but budget, with all of the grit and grime of the best of its kind absorbed and assimilated into a neat and tidy system.
Directed by Derek CianfranceUnited States | 2010
Cianfrance’s view here is a decidedly contemporary one, sensitive to the transient pleasures and euphoric thrills of falling in love but also fixed in a very specific context where the idea of lifelong happiness in a relationship has become impoverished in the face of widespread divorce. Blue Valentine dissects this harsh reality by centering in on a young married couple who are at the brink of marital collapse, staring into the abyss of a single life, but still grasping onto traces of an idyllic past. Limited in its scope, it’s nonetheless a powerful, brutal, unsentimental film, but one not without a poignant realization of a kind of historical optimism, the ability to turn to memory as a way of coping with a dismal future.