‘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

 

‘Intouchables’ 2011

After he becomes a quadriplegic from a paragliding accident, an aristocrat hires a young man from the projects to be his caregiver.

In Paris, the aristocratic and intellectual Philippe is a quadriplegic millionaire who is interviewing candidates for the position of his carer, with his red-haired secretary Magalie. Out of the blue, Driss cuts the line of candidates and brings a document from the Social Security and asks Phillipe to sign it to prove that he is seeking a job position so he can receive his unemployment benefit. Philippe challenges Driss, offering him a trial period of one month to gain experience helping him. Then Driss can decide whether he would like to stay with him or not. Driss accepts the challenge and moves to the mansion, changing the boring life of Phillipe and his employees.

The Intouchables is a 2011 French buddy comedy-drama film directed by Olivier Nakache & Éric Toledano. It stars François Cluzet and Omar Sy. Nine weeks after its release in France on 2 November 2011, it became the second biggest box office hit in France, just behind the 2008 film Welcome to the Sticks. The film was voted the cultural event of 2011 in France with 52% of votes in a poll by Fnac. The film has received several award nominations. In France, the film won the César Award for Best Actor for Omar Sy, and garnered seven further nominations for the César Awards, including the César Award for Best Film, which it lost to the Best Picturewinner The Artist.

The plot of the film is inspired by the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his French-Algerian caregiver Abdel Sellou, discovered by the directors in À la vie, à la mort, a documentary film.

Critical Reception

The film holds a 74% approval rating at the film review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, which includes 89 positive reviews out of 120, and an average score of 6.7 out of 10. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 57 out of 100, based on 31 ratings of professional critics.

The film won the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix award given to the best film at the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Award for Best Actor to both Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy in 2011. At the César Awards 2012, the film received eight nominations. Omar Sy received the César Award for Best Actor on 24 February 2012 for the role of Driss (defeating Jean Dujardin, nominated for The Artist) and being the first French African actor to receive this honor.

In September 2012, it was announced that The Intouchables had been selected as the French entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar for the 85th Academy Awards. In December 2012, it made the January shortlist, but was ultimately not selected for inclusion among the final nominees.

 

 

‘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.

 

’12 Years a Slave’ 2013

In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

Based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty personified by a malevolent slave owner, as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life.

12 Years a Slave is a 2013 period drama film and an adaptation of the 1853 slave narrative memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free African-American man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. by two conmen in 1841 and sold into slavery. Northup was put to work on plantations in the state of Louisiana for 12 years before being released. The first scholarly edition of Northup’s memoir, co-edited in 1968 by Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon, carefully retraced and validated the account and concluded it to be accurate. Other characters in the film were also real people, including Edwin and Mary Epps, and Patsey.

The film was directed by Steve McQueen. The screenplay was written by John Ridley. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup. Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, and Alfre Woodard are all featured in supporting roles. Principal photography took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, from June 27 to August 13, 2012. The locations used were four historic antebellum plantations: Felicity, Bocage, Destrehan, and Magnolia. Of the four, Magnolia is nearest to the actual plantation where Northup was held.

Critical Reception

12 Years a Slave was praised for its acting (particularly Ejiofor, Fassbender, Nyong’o and Paulson), Steve McQueen’s direction, John Ridley’s screenplay, its production values, and its faithfulness to Solomon Northup’s account. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 95% of critics gave the film a positive rating, based on 327 reviews with an average score of 8.9/10, with the site’s consensus stating, “It’s far from comfortable viewing, but 12 Years a Slaves unflinchingly brutal look at American slavery is also brilliant — and quite possibly essential — cinema.” Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted average score of 96 out of 100 based on 56 reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be “universal acclaim”. It is currently one of the site’s highest-rated films, as well as the best-reviewed film of 2013. CinemaScore reported that audiences gave the film an “A” grade.

‘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.”

 

‘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.

‘Cinema Paradiso’ 1988

A filmmaker recalls his childhood when falling in love with the pictures at the cinema of his home village and forms a deep friendship with the cinema’s projectionist.

A boy who grew up in a native Sicilian Village returns home as a famous director after receiving news about the death of an old friend. Told in a flashback, Salvatore reminiscences about his childhood and his relationship with Alfredo, a projectionist at Cinema Paradiso. Under the fatherly influence of Alfredo, Salvatore fell in love with film making, with the duo spending many hours discussing about films and Alfredo painstakingly teaching Salvatore the skills that became a stepping stone for the young boy into the world of film making. The film brings the audience through the changes in cinema and the dying trade of traditional film making, editing and screening. It also explores a young boy’s dream of leaving his little town to foray into the world outside.

Cinema Paradiso is a 1988 Italian drama film written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. The film stars Jacques Perrin, Philippe Noiret, Leopoldo Trieste, Marco Leonardi, Agnese Nano and Salvatore Cascio, and was produced by Franco Cristaldi and Giovanna Romagnoli, while the music score was composed by Ennio Morricone along with his son, Andrea. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 62nd Academy Awards.

CRITICAL RECEPTION

Cinema Paradiso was a critical and box-office success and is regarded by many as a classic. It is particularly renowned for the ‘kissing scenes’ montage at the film’s end. Winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1989, the film is often credited with reviving Italy’s film industry, which later produced Mediterraneo and Life Is Beautiful. Film critic Roger Ebert gave it three and a half stars out of four and four stars out of four for the extended version, declaring “Still, I’m happy to have seen it–not as an alternate version, but as the ultimate exercise in viewing deleted scenes.”

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 90% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 70 reviews, with an average score of 8/10. The film also holds a score of 80 based on 20 reviews on Metacritic. The film was ranked #27 in Empire magazine’s “The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema” in 2010. The famed “kissing scene” montage at the end of the film was used in an episode of “Stealing First Base”, an episode of The Simpsons that aired on March 21, 2010, during its twenty-first season. The scene used Morricone’s “Love Theme” and included animated clips of famous movie kisses, including scenes used in Cinema Paradiso as well as contemporary films not shown in the original film.