‘The Illusionist’ 2006

In 1900s Vienna, mesmeric entertainer Eisenheim’s magical abilities are wowing the crowds, with an act that ranges from mere tricks to an apparent capacity to raise the dead. However, he has also long been in love with Duchess Sophie von Teschen, which puts him in dangerous competition with the violent, scheming Crown Prince Leopold, who jumps at the opportunity to have the magician arrested grounds of necromancy.

The Illusionist is a 2006 American romantic mystery film written and directed by Neil Burger and starring Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, and Jessica Biel. It is based loosely on Steven Millhauser’s short story “Eisenheim the Illusionist”. The film tells the story of Eisenheim, a magician in turn-of-the-century Vienna, who reunites with his childhood love, a woman far above his social standing. The film also depicts a fictionalized version of the Mayerling incident.

The film premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and opened the 2006 Seattle International Film Festival; it was distributed in limited release to theaters on August 18, 2006, and expanded nationwide on September 1. The film was a commercial and critical success.

Critical Reception

As of June 29, 2008 the film had earned worldwide box office receipts of $87,892,388, including $39,868,642 in the United States, exceeding its reported $16.5 million budget. In the first five months after it was released on DVD in January 2007, the film earned $35.99 million in rental revenue.

The Illusionist received mostly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval score of 74% based on 194 reviews, with an average rating of 6.94/10. The consensus reads, “The Illusionist is an engrossing, well-crafted story of mystery, magic and intrigue that is certain to enchant, if not hypnotize, audiences.” On Metacritic, the film has a score of 68 out of 100 based on 37 reviews, indicating “generally favorable reviews.”

Jonathan Rosenbaum’s review in The Chicago Reader praised Paul Giamatti’s performance of “a character who feels sympathy for the magician but owes allegiance to Leopold and is therefore divided and compromised … Giamatti’s performance is subtle, expressive, and richly nuanced.” Stephen Holden, in his review for The New York Times, praised Edward Norton’s role, which, according to him, “perfectly fits his disturbing inscrutability”. Variety wrote that Jessica Biel “is entirely stunning enough to fight to the death over”. Roger Ebert rated 3.5/4 and wrote that, “The movie sets up a fascinating parable about art, religion and politics, and the misty boundaries between them”.

Director of Photography Dick Pope earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, losing at the 79th Academy Awards to Guillermo Navarro, cinematographer for Pan’s Labyrinth

‘The Red Shoes’ 1948

In this classic drama, Vicky Page (Moira Shearer) is an aspiring ballerina torn between her dedication to dance and her desire to love. While her imperious instructor, Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), urges to her to forget anything but ballet, Vicky begins to fall for the charming young composer Julian Craster (Marius Goring). Eventually Vicky, under great emotional stress, must choose to pursue either her art or her romance, a decision that carries serious consequences.

The Red Shoes is a 1948 British drama film written, directed, and produced by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and starring, in the same order as the movie’s opening credits, Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring and Moira Shearer. It follows the beautiful Victoria Page, played by Moira Shearer, the ballerina who joins the world renowned Ballet Lermontov, owned and operated by Boris Lermontov, played by Anton Walbrook, who ultimately tests her dedication to the ballet, when she must choose between her career and a romance with composer Julian Craster, played by Marius Goring. It marked the feature film debut of Shearer, an established ballerina, and also features Robert Helpmann, Léonide Massine, and Ludmilla Tchérina, other renowned dancers from the ballet world. The plot is based on the 1845 eponymous fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen, and features a ballet within it by the same title, also adapted from the Andersen work.

The Red Shoes was filmmaking team Powell and Pressburger’s tenth collaboration and follow-up to 1947’s Black Narcissus. It had originally been conceived by Powell and producer Alexander Korda in the 1930s, from whom the duo purchased the rights in 1946. The majority of the cast were professional dancers. Filming of The Red Shoes took place in mid-1946, primarily in France and England.

Critical Reception

Upon release, The Red Shoes received critical acclaim, especially in the United States, where it received a total of five Academy Award nominations, including a win for Best Original Score and Best Art Direction. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, and was named one of the Top 10 Films of the Year by the National Board of Review. Despite this, some dance critics gave the film unfavorable reviews as they felt its fantastical, impressionistic centerpiece sequence depicted ballet in an unrealistic manner. The film proved a major financial success, and was the first British film in history to gross over $5 million.

Retrospectively, it is regarded as one of the best films of Powell and Pressburger’s partnership, and in 1999, it was voted the 9th greatest British film of all time by the British Film Institute. The film underwent an extensive digital restoration beginning in 2006 at the UCLA Film and Television Archive to correct significant damage to the original negatives. The restored version of the film screened at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, and was subsequently issued on Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection. In 2017, a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine saw it ranked the 5th best British film ever.

‘Amadeus’ 1984

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a remarkably talented young Viennese composer who unwittingly finds a fierce rival in the disciplined and determined Antonio Salieri. Resenting Mozart for both his hedonistic lifestyle and his undeniable talent, the highly religious Salieri is gradually consumed by his jealousy and becomes obsessed with Mozart’s downfall, leading to a devious scheme that has dire consequences for both men

Considered one of the greatest films of all time, Amadeus was nominated for 53 awards and received 40, including eight Academy Awards (as well as the Academy Award for Best Picture), four BAFTA Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and a Directors Guild of America award. As of 2020, it is the most recent film to have more than one nomination in the Academy Award for Best Actor category. In 1998, the American Film Institute ranked it 53rd on its 100 Years… 100 Movies list. In 2019, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Amadeus is a 1984 American period biographical drama film directed by Miloš Forman and adapted by Peter Shaffer from his 1979 stage play Amadeus. The story is set in Vienna, Austria during the latter half of the 18th century, and is a fictionalized story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from the time he left Salzburg, described by its writer as “fantasia on the theme of Mozart and Salieri”. Mozart’s music is heard extensively in the soundtrack of the film. The film follows a fictional rivalry between Mozart and Italian composer Antonio Salieri at the court of Emperor Joseph II. The film stars F. Murray Abraham as Salieri (who received the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance) and Tom Hulce as Mozart (who was also nominated for the same award as Abraham).

In his autobiography Beginning, Kenneth Branagh says that he was one of the finalists for the role of Mozart, but was dropped from consideration when Forman decided to make the film with an American cast.

Mark Hamill, who replaced Tim Curry as Mozart towards the end of the run of the stage play on Broadway, recalled in an interview that he read with many actresses auditioning for Mozart’s wife Constanze and after the reads, Forman decided to not cast him because of his association with the character of Luke Skywalker, believing that the audience would not believe him as the composer. Tom Hulce reportedly used John McEnroe’s mood swings as a source of inspiration for his portrayal of Mozart’s unpredictable genius.

Meg Tilly was cast as Mozart’s wife Constanze, but she tore a ligament in her leg the day before shooting started. She was replaced by Elizabeth Berridge. Simon Callow, who played Mozart in the original London stage production of Amadeus, was cast as Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist of The Magic Flute.

The film was shot on location in Prague and Kroměříž. Notably, Forman was able to shoot scenes in the Count Nostitz Theatre in Prague, where Don Giovanni and La clemenza di Tito debuted two centuries before. Several other scenes were shot at the Barrandov Studios.

Forman collaborated with American choreographer Twyla Tharp.

Critical Reception

Amadeus holds a score of 93% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 95 reviews, with an average rating of 8.92/10. The site’s consensus states: “A lavish, entertaining, powerful film about the life and influence, both positive and negative, of one of Western culture’s great artists.” Giving the film four-out-of-four stars, Roger Ebert acknowledged that it was one of the “riskiest gambles a filmmaker has taken in a long time,” but added “(here is the genius of the movie) there is nothing cheap or unworthy about the approach,” and ultimately concluded that it was a “magnificent film, full and tender and funny and charming”. Ebert later added the film to his Great Movies list. Peter Travers of People magazine said that “Hulce and Abraham share a dual triumph in a film that stands as a provocative and prodigious achievement.” Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic put it on his list of films worth seeing. In one negative review, Todd McCarthy of Variety said that despite “great material and themes to work with, and such top talent involved,” the “stature and power the work possessed onstage have been noticeably diminished” in the film adaptation. The film’s many historical inaccuracies have attracted criticism from music historians.

‘Three Colours: White’ 1994

Polish immigrant Karol Karol finds himself out of a marriage, a job and a country when his French wife, Dominique, divorces him after six months due to his impotence. Forced to leave the France after losing the business they jointly owned, Karol enlists fellow Polish expatriate to smuggle him back to their homeland. After successfully returning, Karol begins to build his new life, while never forgetting his old one.

Three Colours White, the second part of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s trilogy based on the colours of the French flag and upon the precepts of liberty, freedom and equality, is the easiest of the three films to negotiate but by no means the least in weight. It’s the kind of comedy only a hopeful pessimist could have made and, if that sounds like a contradiction in terms, you don’t know Kieslowski very well.

The film, like most of Kieslowski’s which deal with Poles and Poland, is less headily stylish than Blue or Red, made in France and Switzerland respectively. But it feels somehow truer, as if the director instinctively knows how his characters should react and can thus afford a more direct, less elliptical approach. And it contains not only a superbly self-effacing but apt performance from Zamachowski, first as the damaged exile and then as the conquering entrepreneur at home, but also a strikingly deft portrait of post-communist Poland, where the most baleful kind of capitalism reigns and it’s every dirty dog for himself

 

‘Sweet Charity’ 1969

Charity Hope Valentine always tries to look on the bright side of life, despite working in a rundown dance hall and contending with a seemingly endless run of bad dates. Determined to find love, Charity falls for suave actor Vittorio Vidal, but their romance is all too brief. However, when Charity finds herself stuck in an elevator with the reserved Oscar Lindquist, it turns out that she may have finally met her match.

Sweet Charity, full title of which is Sweet Charity: The Adventures of a Girl Who Wanted to Be Loved, is a 1969 American musical film directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, written by Neil Simon, and with music by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields.

It stars Shirley MacLaine and features John McMartin, Sammy Davis Jr., Ricardo Montalbán, Chita Rivera, Paula Kelly and Stubby Kaye. It is based on the 1966 stage musical of the same name – which Fosse had also directed and choreographed – which in turn is based on Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano and Tullio Pinelli’s screenplay for Fellini’s film Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria). However, where Fellini’s black-and-white film concerns the romantic ups-and-downs of an ever-hopeful prostitute, the musical makes the central character a dancer-for-hire at a Times Square dance-hall.

The film is notable for its costumes by Edith Head and its dance sequences, notably “Rich Man’s Frug”.

 

 

‘Three Colours: Blue’ 1993

A woman struggles to find a way to live her life after the death of her husband and child.

The first part of Kieslowski’s trilogy on France’s national motto: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. ‘Blue’ is the story of Julie who loses her husband, an acclaimed composer and her young daughter in a car accident. The film’s theme of liberty is manifested in Julie’s attempt to start life anew, free of personal commitments, belongings, grief or love. She intends to numb herself by withdrawing from the world and living completely independently, anonymously and in solitude in the Parisian metropolis. Despite her intentions, people from her former and present life intrude with their own needs. However, the reality created by the people who need and care about her, a surprising discovery and the music around which the film revolves heal Julie and draws her back to the land of the living.

Three Colours: Blue is a 1993 French drama film directed and co-written by Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski. Blue is the first of three films that comprise the Three Colours trilogy, themed on the French Revolutionary ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity; it is followed by White and Red. According to Kieślowski, the subject of the film is liberty, specifically emotional liberty, rather than its social or political meaning.

Set in Paris, the film is about a woman whose husband and child are killed in a car accident. Suddenly set free from her familial bonds, she attempts to cut herself off from everything and live in isolation from her former ties, but finds that she can’t free herself from human connections.

Blue is among Kieślowski’s most celebrated works.

Critical Reception

Three Colors: Blue received wide acclaim from critics, with review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reporting a 98% and an average rating of 8.5/10. It also holds an 85/100 on Metacritic.

 

‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ 2004

When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking castle.

A love story between an 18-year-old girl named Sophie, cursed by a witch into an old woman’s body, and a magician named Howl. Under the curse, Sophie sets out to seek her fortune, which takes her to Howl’s strange moving castle. In the castle, Sophie meets Howl’s fire demon, named Karishifâ. Seeing that she is under a curse, the demon makes a deal with Sophie–if she breaks the contract he is under with Howl, then Karushifâ will lift the curse that Sophie is under, and she will return to her 18-year-old shape.

Howl’s Moving Castle is a 2004 Japanese animated fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The film is loosely based on the novel of the same name by British author Diana Wynne Jones. The film was produced by Toshio Suzuki, animated by Studio Ghibli and distributed by Toho. The Japanese voice cast featured Chieko Baisho and Takuya Kimura, while the version dubbed in English starred Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall and Christian Bale.

The story is set in a fictional kingdom where both magic and early 20th century technology are prevalent, against the backdrop of a war with another kingdom. The film tells the story of a young hatter named Sophie after she is turned into an old woman by a witch’s curse. She encounters a wizard named Howl, and gets caught up in his resistance to fighting for the king.

Influenced by Miyazaki’s opposition to the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, the film contains strongly anti-war themes. Miyazaki stated that he “had a great deal of rage about [the Iraq war],” which led him to make a film which he felt would be poorly received in the US. It also explores the theme of old age, depicting age positively as something which grants the protagonist freedom. The film contains feminist elements as well, and carries messages about the value of compassion.

Critical Reception

Howl’s Moving Castle was praised by critics. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an 87% approval rating based on 175 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Exquisitely illustrated by master animator Miyazaki, Howl’s Moving Castle will delight children with its fantastical story and touch the hearts and minds of older viewers as well.” The film also holds an 80/100 average on Metacritic, based on 40 reviews, indicating “generally favorable reviews”.

USA Today critic Claudia Puig gave the film a positive review, praising it for its ability to blend “a childlike sense of wonder with sophisticated emotions and motives”. Helen McCarthy in 500 Essential Anime Movies said that the natural world was “beautifully represented”, with “some absolutely breathtaking mountains and lakeside landscapes”. She also praised the design of the Castle and added that Miyazaki added his own themes to the film: “man’s relationship to nature, the futility of war, and the joy of flight”. Joel Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal called the film “a moveable feast of delights”. Richard Corliss of TIME magazine wrote, “Palaces and shimmering lakes, warplanes and fire sprites all come to life at the breath of Miyazaki’s graphic genius.” Writing for The Boston Globe, Ty Burr said, “At its best, ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ offers a rich fantasy of adolescent escape, of romance in the old and epic sense. At its worst, it’s the most amazing 12-course meal you can’t bring yourself to finish.” A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote, “Admirers of [Hayao Miyazaki’s] work, which is wildly imaginative, emotionally intense and surpassingly gentle, will find much to appreciate in this film because it demonstrates, once again, his visual ingenuity and his sensitivity as a storyteller. For newcomers to his world, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is a fitting introduction to one of modern cinema’s great enchanters.”

‘Call Me by Your Name’ 2017

In 1980s Italy, a romance blossoms between a seventeen year-old student and the older man hired as his father’s research assistant.

In early-1980s northern Italy, amid the lush Mediterranean landscapes of a serene and golden summer, 17-year-old, Elio, visits the family’s summer villa to spend his vacation with his father and Greco-Roman culture professor, Mr Perlman, his translator mother, Annella, and the American doctoral student who works there as an intern, Oliver. But, little by little, over the course of six fleeting weeks, a timid friendship between Elio and Oliver will prepare the ground for an unexpected bond, as the unexplored emotions of first love start boiling over. Could this sun-kissed romance in Lombardy be the prelude to maturity?

Call Me by Your Name is a 2017 coming-of-age romantic drama film written by James Ivory and directed by Luca Guadagnino. It is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by André Aciman, and is the final installment in Guadagnino’s thematic “Desire” trilogy, after I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015). Set in northern Italy in 1983, Call Me by Your Name chronicles a romantic relationship between 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) and his professor father’s 24-year-old graduate-student assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer). The film also stars Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, and Victoire Du Bois

The film began development in 2007 when producers Peter Spears and Howard Rosenman optioned the screen rights to Aciman’s novel. James Ivory was initially set to co-direct the film but became the screenwriter and co-producer. Guadagnino joined the project as a location consultant and eventually became director and co-producer. The film was financed by several international companies, and principal photography mainly took place in Crema, Italy, in May and June 2016. Cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom shot the film on 35-mm film.

Call Me by Your Name was chosen for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics before its world premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2017. It began a limited release in the United States on November 24, 2017, and went to general release on January 19, 2018. The film received numerous accolades and praise for its performances, screenplay, direction, and music. At the 90th Academy Awards it won the category Best Adapted Screenplay and was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Chalamet), and Best Original Song (“Mystery of Love”). Ivory won awards for his screenplay at the 23rd Critics’ Choice Awards, the 70th Writers Guild of America Awards, and the 71st British Academy Film Awards. Chalamet was nominated for a British Academy Film Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Actor.

Critical Reception

At its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Call Me by Your Name received a standing ovation, followed by a ten-minute ovation at its New York Film Festival screening at the Alice Tully Hall, the longest recorded in the festival’s history. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 95% based on 278 reviews, with an average rating of 8.7/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Call Me by Your Name offers a melancholy, powerfully affecting portrait of first love, empathetically acted by Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer.” It was the best-reviewed limited release and second best-reviewed romance film of 2017 on the site. On Metacritic, the film has an average weighted score of 93 out of 100, based on 51 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”. It was the year’s fifth-best rated film on Metacritic.

Luca Guadagnino’s direction was praised by critics. Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, Boyd van Hoeij described Call Me by Your Name as an “extremely sensual, intimate and piercingly honest” adaptation of Aciman’s novel. He further called Chalamet’s performance “the true breakout of the film”. Peter Debruge of Variety said the film “advances the canon of gay cinema” by portraying “a story of first love that transcends the same-sex dynamic of its central couple.” He compared Guadagnino’s “sensual” direction to the films of Pedro Almodóvar and François Ozon, while putting the film “on par with the best of their work.” David Ehrlich of IndieWire also praised his direction, which helps the film in “match[ing] the artistry and empathy” of Carol (2015) and Moonlight (2016). Sam Adams of BBC stated that Stuhlbarg’s performance “puts a frame around the movie’s painting and opens up avenues we may not have thought to explore,” and called it “one of his finest” to date. He extolled the film as one of “many movies that have so successfully appealed to both the intellectual and the erotic since the heydays of Patrice Chéreau and André Téchiné.”

 

‘A Little Romance’ 1979

A French boy (Daniel) and an American girl (Lauren), who goes to school in Paris, meet and begin a little romance. They befriend Julius who enchants them with his storytelling. In an attempt to ensure the teens’ love forever, the three journey to Venice.

A Little Romance is a 1979 American Technicolor and Panavision romantic comedy film directed by George Roy Hill and starring Laurence Olivier, Thelonious Bernard, and Diane Lane in her film debut. The screenplay was written by Allan Burns and George Roy Hill, based on the novel E=mc2Mon Amour by Patrick Cauvin. The original music score was composed by Georges Delerue. The film follows a French boy and an American girl who meet in Paris and begin a romance that leads to a journey to Venice where they hope to seal their love forever with a kiss beneath the Bridge of Sighs at sunset.

The film won the 1979 Academy Award for Best Original Score for Georges Delerue and received an additional nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for Allan Burns. It also received two Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor for Laurence Olivier and Best Original Score for Delerue. As the film’s young leads, Thelonious Bernard and Diane Lane both received Young Artist Award nominations as Best Actor and Best Actress respectively, as well as earning the film a win as Best Motion Picture Featuring Youth. It was the first film released by Orion Pictures.

Critical Reception

Following its initial release in 1979, the film received mixed reviews, with some being quite negative. Though the reviews have gone on to become generally positive over time. In his review in The New York Times, Vincent Canby described the film as “so ponderous it seems almost mean spirited. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie about boorish American tourists and felt sorry for the tourists—which is one of Mr. Hill’s achievements here. I’m sure nothing mean-spirited was intended, but such is the film’s effect. This may be the main hazard when one sets out to make a film so relentlessly sweet-tempered that it winds up—like Pollyana—alienating everyone not similarly affected.”

In his review in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film only two stars, writing that the film “gives us two movie kids in a story so unlikely I assume it was intended as a fantasy. And it gives us dialog and situations so relentlessly cute we want to squirm.”

‘The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover’ 1989

The wife of an abusive criminal finds solace in the arms of a kind regular guest in her husband’s restaurant.

The wife of a barbaric crime boss engages in a secretive romance with a gentle bookseller between meals at her husband’s restaurant. Food, colour coding, sex, murder, torture and cannibalism are the exotic fare in this beautifully filmed but brutally uncompromising modern fable which has been interpreted as an allegory for Thatcherism.

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover is a 1989 British-French romantic black comedy crime drama film written and directed by Peter Greenaway, starring Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, and Alan Howard in the titular roles. The film’s graphic scatology, violence, and nude scenes, as well as its lavish cinematography and formalism, were noted at the time of its release.

Critical Reception

The film received largely positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a 90% score based on 39 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. The site’s consensus states: “This romantic crime drama may not be to everyone’s taste, but The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover is an audacious, powerful film.” Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars, noting that the film’s raw emotion and violent interpersonal conflict was a departure from Greenaway’s typically cerebral and intellectual films.