When a movie has a simple message to deliver, it can do a lot worse than getting Owen Wilson to deliver it. Moreover, he was the best Woody Allen-character surrogate I can remember, channeling Woody’s physical moves and intonations without the harsh edge or credulity strain when beautiful women fall for him. That simple message and Screenwriting 101 plot were simply the armature for Woody’s paean to Paris and, more particularly, Paris in the ’20s. Every line in Gil Pender’s fantasy world was an inside joke, not all of which I got (Djuna Barnes??). And what was that fantasy world but Woody’s literary answer to Inception, clinched by the presence of Marion Cotillard, playing a far more suitable role and playing it brilliantly. Not a major movie by any measure, but for someone who still churns out a flick a year (at age 75), it was a happy evening at the cinema.
An impeccable documentary, if there is such a thing, telling the story of chess master Bobby Fischer from beginning to end. The interviews were just the right length: all contributed to the story’s momentum and came from people who seemed to know whereof they spoke. The climax of the Spassky match was folded neatly into the story arc in a way that didn’t diminish what followed. How amazing, when today hardly anyone can name a single chess master or heavyweight boxer, that there was a moment in recent history when the two most famous athletes, if not personalities, in the world were Muhammad Ali and Bobby Fischer. (And how great that the associate producer could get Nick Cage to play Bobby!)
The plot, I think, ultimately made no sense, and many steps along the way weren’t credible, but the journey itself was powerful and disturbing. The two women actors, especially the daughter played by Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin , were extraordinary, and the overall depiction of Arab-on-Arab violence was hauntingly, and depressingly, real for someone who lived with the story of Sabra and Shatila for many years. So, too, was the juxtaposition of the mdern high-rise and mud huts, of cell phones and tribal culture. In the end, will a moment of love break the cycle of anger and hatred? I don’t think so.
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