All posts by Adam Schartoff

Theatrical Review: Summer Hours

Summer Hours
Director: Olivier Assayas
Screenwriter: Olivier Assayas
Producers: Marin Karmitz, Nathanaël Karmitz, Charles Gillibert
Cinematography: Eric Gautier A.F.C.
Editor: Luc Barnier
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jérémie Renier, Edith Scod
IFC Films
102 Minutes, not rated
Summer Hours, Olivier Assayas’ latest film, opens with children running free through gardens and woods around a typically beautiful French summer home. Filled with antiques and objets d’art, the house belongs to the Berthier family, whose matriarch is the 75 year old but still stunning Hélène (Edith Scob). Hélène owns the art collection that was handed down to her by a deceased uncle, a famous artist himself, with whom she may have had an intimate relationship years earlier. Now, at the end of her life, Edith is beginning to make the practical preparations of passing along the collection and the house to her three grown children, Adrienne (Juliette Binoche with blond tresses), Frédéric (Charles Berling) and Jérémie (Jeremie Renier). Only Frédéric, himself the single father of a tempestuous daughter, is the only one of the siblings who wants to keep the beautiful house and leave it to the next generation. Both Adrienne and Jérémie have jobs and lives that keep them both physically and emotionally distant from France. It is emotional distance that is at the heart of Assayas’ beautiful story.
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Theatrical Review: Hunger

Hunger
Director: Steve McQueen
Screenwriters: Enda Walsh and Steve McQueen
Producer: Laura Hastings-Smith and Robin Gutch
Cinematography: 
Sean Bobbitt BSC
Editor: Joe Walker
Music: David Holmes with Leo Abrahams
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham, Brian Milligan, Liam McMahon 
UK-Ireland, 2008, 96 minutes
The double meaning in this astonishing film’s title refers to both the hunger for food as well as for freedom. The prisoners in this factually-based and brutally realistic film are starved for both.
In 1981, during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the UK government was imprisoning IRA members but refusing to give them political prisoner status. As a result a group detained at the HM Prison Maze (aka Long Kesh), led by Bobby Sands, went on “blanket protest” which basically meant refusing prison uniforms. This led to them being exposed to almost unimaginably horrendous conditions and as well as to a series of violent repercussions.
The film, the first directed by British multi-media artist Steve McQueen, opens with a middle aged man beginning his day. Much of his initial behavior seems mundane; getting dressed and being served toast & tea by his wife. But then we see him soaking his bloodied and swollen knuckles in the bathroom sink; and, just before he drives off to work, he kneels down to look under his car for a bomb. This man turns out to be prison guard, Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham). The film’s narrative is confusing at first; we assume that the story will be about this wounded individual. We also assume that he is carrying around fear, guilt and grief since he works in such a brutal environment. Surely he must feel ambivalent about his job.
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Theatrical Review: Milk

On the heels of Prop 8, comes Gus Van Zant’s Milk and without mincing words, it’s a tour de force. The truth is, as big as this movie’s subject matter is – the assassination of San Francisco’s first out gay politician, Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) – and as much opportunity as there is to pound in its message, the reason the movie works so well is because it is thoughtful in its telling and its performances are so subdued. A movie along these lines is, frankly, ripe for melodrama but Van Zant goes deeper and puts character before agenda. Early in the movie, Milk literally stands on a soapbox but never for a moment do we get any of the Oliver Stone bombast. Milk intentionally uses his personable nature and humor to reach or rather, create his constituency. It is no doubt something of a defense mechanism. Harvey Milk led a closeted life until he was about 40 years old, which happens to be just when the movie starts. A moment later we see that Milk has been killed and the movie is told in flashbacks as Harvey sits at his kitchen table and commits his story into a tape recorder. His calm narration gives the movie its stabilizing tone.
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NYFF 08- Review: Happy Go Lucky

Happy-Go-Lucky
Director: Mike Leigh
Screenwriter: Mike Leigh

Producer: Simon Channing-Williams
Cinematography: 
Dick Pope

Editor: Jim Clark
Music: Gary Yershon

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Alexis Zegerman, Samuel Roukin 
U.K., 2008, 118 minutes
Mike Leigh is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers and I recently had the pleasure of making his acquaintance. I mentioned in a brief conversation just prior to a press conference for the 2008 New York Film Festival screening of Happy-Go-Lucky, that I had been obsessively watching his BBC “television plays” from the 1970s (Abigail’s Party, Nuts in May). While he expressed his appreciation, he also expressed some rancor. He was very frustrated with the quality of those tele-plays we have over here, complaining that they were unauthorized and of terrible quality. Attempting to be as upbeat as possible, I exhorted how the impact of the dramas shown through and, really, who cared about the quality. He thanked me tersely, and I could tell that he was somewhat less impressed. When moments later I asked if I could take a quick photo of him and his star, Sally Hawkins, they politely looked my way and I could hear him mutter to her, “he writes for a web site.”
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Theatrical Review: Amexicano

The following is a review of Matthew Bonifacio’s Amexicano which played at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival and recently played a run at New York’s Quad Cinemas. Check here for upcoming screening information as it becomes available.
Director: Matthew Bonifacio
Screenwriter: Carmine Famiglietti
Producers: Matthew Bonifacio, Carmine Famiglietti
Cinematography: 
William M. Miller
Editor: Morty Ashkinos, Ilya Magazanin
Music: Kerry Muzzey
Cast: Carmine Famiglietti, Raúl Castillo, Jennifer Peña, Michael Aronov, Manny Perez
U.S., 2007, 84 minutes
Amexicano tells two stories, the first a light hearted ethnic comedy about the growing friendship between an Italian American and a Mexican immigrant both struggling with their co-dependency for each other and the stronger need for a paycheck. The second story is a much darker one about just how precarious the life of an illegal immigrant can be. While this often charming indie film presents a vivid and convincing portrait of both sides of the coin, its turn in narrative might feel abrupt to some. If that’s the worst that can be said about director Matthew Bonifacio’s film which premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival last year, then he should feel proud of the outcome.
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