Farewell, My Queen – 8

This French film brilliantly thrust us inside the Versailles court of Louis XVI: as the camera trailed through the candlelit corridors of power you could almost smell the perfumed wigs and taste the personal agendas. Needless to say, the suits and dresses, above all Marie-Antoinette’s, were sensationally beautiful; but by relying heavily on close-ups, director Benoit Jacquot avoided the distance one usually feels in costume dramas. And by focusing exclusively on a mere lady-in-waiting, the assistant reader to the queen, the film reduced one of history’s most important events, the French Revolution, to a story of people. Through Sidonie’s eyes, we

Habibi – 6.5

An earnest and sympathetic look at the plight of two Palestinian lovers, deprived of their relationship, and ultimately their lives, by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and stranglehold on Gaza. The male lead, unfortunately, was not appealing by Western standards, nor was his conduct particularly commendable. His female love, on the other hand, was attractive, smart and fiercely independent – all qualities we could identify with – but there was nothing terribly original about her plight or the obstacles she ran into. What was original in this bare-bones production (there was no background score, for example) was its unflinching presentation of the Israeli subjugation of the Palestinian people. (MFF)

Cabin in the Woods – 3

From time to time I venture outside my comfort zone, to check on a genre I normally avoid, when reviews indicate a work may have some unusual merit. Thus, I watched this “horror film,” one intended for the young adult mass market, not the independent adult. I can’t say it was a mistake, but, as was my experienc with the animated-film genre, I won’t be going back very soon. The characters were all quite watchable, but the alternate-universe posited by the story was so absurd as to be ungraspable. My emotions were never engaged; what I saw was an intellectual puzzle that made no sense on its terms or any other. Casting Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins in their roles was probably a mistake: it certainly made me take matters less seriously. And the question the film tried to raise at the end – is humanity worth saving? – was far too serious for this drivel.