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recent films in the chicago area (including great budapest hotel and son of god)

I’ve seen quite a few films lately, and I spoke about all of them recently on Cathleen Bartels’ radio show on WZRD. The movies are ranked in terms of quality and given one to four star ratings.

The Grand Budapist Hotel *****- This film and many of Wes Anderson’s previous features (see “Moonrise Kingdom” and “The Mighty Tenenbaums”) embody whimsy better than almost any other art works. Ralph Fiennes creates a wonderful screen character, a perfume loving, effeminate, perfume loving hotel manager who steals the painting that was formerly owned by an octogenarian lover (my theory is that he wants to be one of the blonde, elderly women he sleeps with.) He tries to elude her evil son along with his Indian born sidekick, Zero, and he is imprisoned which leads to the most hysterical prison escape scene since Woody Allen’s “Take the Money and Run.” This film has a message similar to the moral relayed by many existentialist literature works that if you accept the notion that everything is slightly ridiculous anything is possible, and you'll have more freedom. The terrific supporting cast includes Ed Norton, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Adrian Brody, Willem Dafoe. Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray. This film made me glad to be alive, and it has more plot plus emotional resonance than Anderson’s last couple of films (with the exception of “Moonrise Kingdom.”) A must see film

The Wind Rises ***1/2- Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful historically based animated film concerns a boy who sees a great airplane designer named Caproni in his dreams which causes him to go into the same profession. This film deserves all of its nominations (included Golden Globes and the Academy Awards and it was also the highest grossing film in Japan this year. The inspiration for this film, Horikoshi once said "All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful, “ and Miyazaki also succeeded in doing this in this film. The movie was based on a work by Tatsuo Hori, who was a famous Japanese poet and novelist.

Young and Beautiful ***1/2-Francois Ozon (of “Swimming Pool” fame ) created this gripping portrait of a seemingly normal middle class French teen who turns to prostitution for some reason. I’m sure part of it is that she wants easy money, but she also seems disappointed or dissatisfied with her male school mates who make her feel a void. The most effective scenes occur when the prostitute meets up with the widow of one of her former clients (played by Charlotte Rampling who is just as impressive as ever.) This movie played at the European Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Center. In French with English sub-titles.

Another One Opens ***1/2 English Lovers, a Vienna based company improvised this whole compulsively watchable drama about four friends that gather for an intervention. It also deals with the plight of a young woman who must choose between her man and a future job as a hotel manager. This movie played at the European Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Center.

Our Women ***- Four women encounter difference romantic complications in this sexy and slightly bizarre dramedy. My favorite of the four episodes involves a woman who is reluctantly pushed into a swinger lifestyle by her husband. In Hungarian with English sub-titles. This movie played at the European Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Center.

Son of God **-This artless, flavorless, traditionalist film tells the story of Christ in a bland manner, and the film is almost completely devoid of compelling performances (although Roma Downey is not bad in her portrayal of Mary). It also lacks inventive cienematography. Some of the casting choices and visualizations bothered me. The dread lock wearing John the Baptist looks like he should be fronting Counting Crows (I half expected him to start singing “Mrs. Jones.”), and Jesus looks like he stepped right out of a hoilday postcard while the hook nosed pharissees look like Jewish stereotypes. Mercifully, the film makers cut out the Obama inspired Satan (but he was in the TV series that most of the film was culled from). The only reason that the film is halfway watchable is that the Christ story is so intrinsically interesting I suppose someone searching for a literal version of the Christ story might find this film rewarding , but all of the dozen or so Christ movies that I saw were better than this (even “The Passion of the Christ”) were better than this. See the “The Gospel According to Matthew” which is playing at the Gene Siskel Center on April 12 and 16 ) or” Jesus of Nazareth” instead. I also did not appreciate standing outside in thirteen degree weather for half an hour before the advance screening.

See more of Vittorio Carl’s reviews at

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