Film in Springtime
Blind Shaft –You already know you don't want to go down into a nasty, steamy, claustrophobic coal mine; now you know you definitely don't want to go down into a Chinese one.
Osama – Unexpectedly counter-stereotypical behaviour of darn near every character, especially in a film whose very title raises hackles: an education in 82 minutes.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that, much as I appreciated Jim Carrey's restraint (not in his jammies under the table, however), Kate Winslet being positively mercurial, as clearly defined by Charlie Kaufman, and no matter how much I loved Elijah Wood (maybe because here he's a dead ringer for my youngest, Ben), the elephant persistently remains in the living room: Clementine is a painfully immature & selfish creature whom nobody would truly want to stay with for the length of a noisy party, much less a lifetime.
Goodbye, Lenin – Pickles & concrete.
Monsieur Ibrahim – I had no idea that Omar Sharif spoke such wonderful French! Run to see this! You'll fall in love with the little space between his teeth all over again.
Secret Window – Can't discuss. Too many secrets. Love Johnny Depp.
Spartan – My partner loves movies with a political bent. We were doubly dosed here, since we unquestionably trust Mamet enough at least to give him a try (whereas Tarantino for example dropped off the list long ago). Bless the director who decided just to tell the story, not play 52-card pickup in the editing room.
The Reckoning – Willem Dafoe has put himself through such grueling shoots, he reads a bunch of different older characters, but then he takes his shirt off—who knew he took such care of his instrument? Major yoga I'd guess. I particularly liked the textures of the circa 1380 landscape; impossible roads, rough habitations, as though the earth hadn't yet been taken over by man.
Crimson Gold – I should have known we were in for it. Iranian films drive me crazy! So here goes: real people, real situations ("ripped from the headlines"), and...real motor scooters! Shots & more shots of motor scooter rides than you ever thought you could bear. Gratuitous cold delivery pizza in tiny boxes and, considering the subject matter (murder, robbery, suicide, overdoses of cortisone) the most inappropriate use of a mega-belch in movie history.
Theatre in Bloom
Ghosts – It wouldn't be true to say that Berkeley Rep's current productionof Ibsen's classic translated by Rick Davis and Brian Johnston, directed by Jonathan Moscone, is forgettable. I'm still remembering it; the issue at hand is what I am recalling. Am I recalling Ibsen's work, or the director's? How far can one stretch from the author's vision before the elastic snaps? Was the express purpose in this particular exercise to perform some violence in order to turn these tortured characters inside out and show us their entrails? Make all the justifications, paint all the lurid murals, show all the skin you care to, crawl about on the floor. The production does not alter the essential makeup or temperament of these repressed figures, nor does it do what Ibsen could do: let the actors use the words to convince.
Dr. Faustus – At Magic Theater, extended through April 18, David Mamet's foray into Christopher Marlowe; bit of a shocker unless you're already assuming something anachronistic. Apparently, Mamet liked the idea proposed to him by an unnamed actor of mounting this play, however the result was that he wrote his own version. No f-words, no modernisms at all. Somewhere in my old crusty databanks from '80s TV I recognized David Rasche (Sledgehammer!) the moment I saw him, yet he slipped seamlessly into the twilight of some dim past before electronic images. No Ricky Jay, unfortunately—that would have been fun—but I guess he lent an expert hand on the magic side of things. His replacement magician Dominic Hoffman reminded me of Greg Morris from Mission Impossible. Trying to come up with a tidy commentary here is like watching the performance: my eyes & ears were engaged while my mind flitted about, struggling with the intrusion of modern day even while it acknowledged the timelessness of the Doctor's story and appreciated the gentler rhythms of the language.
My Old Lady – Marin Theater Company running through April 11, Israel Horowitz' three person drama passes the 5 minute test. Actually passes the 5 second test; the minute Anthony Fusco's voice is heard, you know it's going to be an interesting couple of hours. Now I have to say, as the daughter of a Frenchwoman, that my ear is more than tuned to the sound of a French voice, my eye to the gestures of a French personality—it's hard-wired. I gotta give Joy Carlin a big old three cheek kiss. She's got it down cold. Nancy's not up to her level. Maybe she just doesn't have the ear. Actually, it was this close to a mistake to cast her, I think. Even with the genuine mother-daughter connection, I just couldn't get past the gap between their abilities to play French. So let's just call Nancy the weak link, because otherwise, the text, the set, everything works dramatically to form an almost great piece of theater.
A Man of No Importance – Through April 11, New Conservatory Theater West Coast premiere musical, Book by Terrence McNally, Music by Stephen Flaherty Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and directed by George Quick. A sharp production with some very sweet voices, good tunes, understandable & music-friendly lyrics. Watch out for those scene stealers amongst the rabble: I loved the bits here and there, esp. one woman who does a classic one, taking the clip out of her severe hairdo & shaking it loose with wanton abandon. Nice to hear mostly tolerable Irish accents! With half a nudge this could be truly out of the ordinary. Maybe a group hug before the curtain or one or two folks could bow out gracefully pleading hangnails or something and let somebody else give it a try, though it's a bit late in the run.