2002 Reviews

Here are my reviews of some of the films that appeared at the 31st edition of the Montreal International Festival of New Cinema and New Media.

11'09"01: September 11 (France - 2002)
Starring: Emmanuelle Laborit, Dzana Pinjo, Vladimir Vega, Ernest Borgnigne
Directors: Samira Makhmalbaf (Iran segment), Claude Lelouch (France segment), Youssef Chahine (Egypt segment), Danis Tanovic (Bosnia-Herzegovina segment), Idrissa Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso segment), Ken Loach (United Kingdom segment), Alejandro González Iñárritu (Mexico segment), Amos Gitai (Israel segment), Mira Nair (India segment), Sean Penn (USA segment), Shohei Imamura (Japan segment)
Plot: Eleven dramatic short stories based on the subject of the tragedy of September 11, 2001.
Review: 11 short films lasting 11 minutes, 9 seconds and 1 frame from 11 world-renown international directors on the same subject: the World Trade Center attack of September 11, 2001. Given complete freedom of expression and a limited time to do it in, each of these filmmakers has come up with an often thought-provoking, sometimes even startling creation, each with their trademark touch. From comedy, drama, intimate portraits, true-life stories to tales of the imaginary and fantastic, all of them show an underlying sadness to these tragic events. There are too many different takes to properly describe individually, or to review properly; each one has something special, important, and interesting to talk about and show us. Some comment on human folly, some on the humanistic or emotional aspects, while others take on the political implications, or by linking the pain with their own country's, each addressing these issues in their own way. As Inarritu states after a segment filled with noise on a dark screen, with only the occasional flash of people jumping off the towers, "does God's light guide us or blind us?". Stands-outs include the "African" segment (four school boys decide to capture a man they think is bin Laden for the reward money), the Iranian one (a teacher tries in vain to explain the tragedy to five-year old Afghanistan refugees), and the one by Sean Penn featuring a beautiful, poignant performance by Ernest Borgnine about a man so lost in his own loss that he fails to see what is happening outside. All of them, however, are impressive by their originality to the subject matter, their openness and such an wide selection of contrasting views from such a fine pool of talent. No matter if you agree with each segment or not (and there are bound to be some heated debates over the segments by Brit political activist Ken Loach and Egyptian director Chahine's critical comments on US foreign policy) this is a thought-provoking, important film to watch and experience. Indeed, if nothing else, it gives a fascinating glimpse into the way the rest of the world view the event that has touched many of us so deeply. The film ends with Imamura's fable of a World War II soldier gone mad, thinking he's a snake. A real serpent, however, has to tell us human beings that there is no such thing as a "Holy War".
Drama: 9/10

Ararat (2002)
Starring: David Alpay, Arsinée Khanjian, Christopher Plummer
Director: Atom Egoyan
Plot: A young director's assistant is affected by the making of a film about the Armenian genocide of 1915, slowly involving many others in his search for identity.
Review: The Armenian massacre at the hands of the Ottoman Turks is a part of history that has long been denied, but one that writer / director Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter) has long had a personal wish to tackle. The film-within-a-film, the making of a historical epic whose choice scenes take a good portion of the running time, is probably exactly what a hack Hollywood director would produce, a recreation of events surrounding the Armenian genocide as exploitative melodrama: graphic killings, stereotyped characters, over-the-top sequences - this is our only look into the events, an epic retelling that is easily criticized (as the main protagonist does) for taking "poetic license" and looking fake. But then, maybe that's what Egoyan is trying to say: how do you bring to film such an atrocity, one that has been purged from our collective conscience and make it real again? With Ararat, Egoyan is more than bringing the atrocity to light, he is making a general comment on why we feel the need to to tell any story, and the difficulties of providing "truth" when retelling such historical events. But despite the importance of the topic, this is but a backdrop and Egoyan, and the story, are at their best when tackling more personal issues; in these moments when the film explores its various relationships and its individuals' longings and fears it shines, creating characters that are fully-formed and interesting, each of them held back by a past not of their making. Here the script is as intricately plotted as anything Egoyan has done in the past (such as Exotica). Newcomer Alpay, as the young Armenian-Canadian, is convincing in his passion for remembering such a horrifying event, but in the end his story isn't so much about the Armenian genocide as it is on a search for identity, meaning and humanity. He is helped by a stellar cast, including his wife Khanjian and Canadian luminary Plummer as a hard-nosed retiring customs agent, as well as past Egoyan co-workers Bruce Greenwood and Elias Koteas playing actors in the film, and French legend Charles Aznavour as the Armenian-born director. Dealing with themes such as fact vs. fiction, art vs. reality, and the very identity of a people, Ararat is a complex, ambitious project, and one that Egoyan doesn't quite pull off, but that is nonetheless fascinating.
Drama: 6/10

Dolls (Japan - 2002)
Starring: Miho Kanno, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tatsuya Mihashi
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Plot: After leaving his fiancé to marry the company president's daughter, a young man escapes the altar and returns to care for his beloved after learning of her attempted suicide and eventual mental breakdown.
Review: At times poetic and pretty, at others quite cold and removed, Dolls is first and foremost an experiment in mood. Director Kitano presents a very different film from his typical violent gangster flicks (Violent Cop, Brother) or whimsical dramas (Kikujiro, Fireworks). Here he creates a film that harkens back to more conservative Japanese cinema with a production that is very traditional in both structure and execution, with long, drawn-out moments and little dialogue. Beginning with a dramatized scene from a "bunraku", a traditional Japanese puppet show, the film proceeds to take the tragic 17th-century love story and position it into present-day Japan, intertwining three tales of love and loss. The most important of these tales is that of the "Bound Beggars" which follows the silent couple through the seasons in some of the most picturesque areas of Japan; these moments feature some stunning, colorful cinematography that is, on its own, worth the effort. The two other stories are also touching, focusing on a disfigured pop star and her obsessively devoted fan, and on an aging gangster who meets the lover he abandoned decades before, still waiting at the bench where he left her. As for the actors, they are all pretty to look at if rather stoic as would befit the subject matter. What Kitano has tried to do isn't obvious, nor does it succeed completely (at least to these Westerner's eyes) in creating a live-action version of the bunraku. Yet there's an obvious feeling of sadness that pervades the narrative, and it does manage to capture a delicate melancholy throughout. A silent, long-winded but delicately portrayed affair, Dolls is an interesting departure for its director, but nowhere near as interesting as his better efforts.
Drama: 6/10

Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2002)
Starring: Zhang Wei-Qiang, Tara Birtwhistle, Dave Moroni
Director: Guy Maddin
Plot: Count Dracula arrives from his homeland and terrorizes the London high-class, paying special attention to a young woman whose three suitors vow to destroy the monster.
Review: Originally produced by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary has been altered by director Maddin for CBC television, but this is a made-for-TV movie that goes way beyond a simple TV adaptation. Maddin manages to fit in a lot of stuff in a short running time (at only 75 minutes) capturing the essence of the book while presenting his own take on the material. Shot in black and white on 16mm tape, incorporating tinted sequences, using devices borrowed from the silent era, and various other artifices to liven it up, he creates more than just an homage to the silent films of old, but enriches the tale with his own personal touches, such as absurd details and large doses of humor. Indeed, there is some irreverent tongue-in-cheek comedy on display here, and some of it devolves into camp, perhaps, but it's a fascinating production that is probably more true to the material than many modern adaptations of Stoker's novel. More in common, theme-wise and execution-wise, with F.W. Murnau's classic Nosferatu than Bram Stoker's Dracula, there's a sense of dread as well as repressed sensuality prevails here, with the vampire rarely seen until the final act. Maddin also goes further, exploring as well, albeit in grossly exaggerated form, the xenophobic and misogynistic aspects of the famed Dracula tale. As for the ballet aspects, they have been slightly toned down to allow for a better exploitation of the original narrative, but every scene is still presented in dance with the camera allowing a much better exploitation of the choreography, the characters seen cavorting and dancing to Mahler's music to great effect. The theatrically exaggerated movements and melodrama combine well with the ballet to add an amusing touch, and added atmosphere to the horror-style proceedings. Principal ballerina Birtwhistle, as the victimized Lucy, and guest artist Zhang as the suave Dracula, make a terrific, graceful pair. Apart from these two characters, the rest (including a vilified Van Helsing) are seen as quite despicable, making an interesting reversal. Add to this some fine editing and some Gothic-styled sets, and you've got an inspired affair. It sounds bizarre, and it is, but combining all these elements together actually works better than one would imagine. Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary is a surreal, wonderful, and inventive production, and though it does have its faults, it is definitely worth a look.
Entertainment: 7/10

Far from Heaven (2002)
Starring: Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert
Director: Todd Haynes
Plot: In the 1950's, the perfect suburban existence of a Connecticut housewife comes untangled when she catches her husband with another man and her increasing friendship with a black gardener turns the community against her.
Review: From the very first shot we know that Far From Heaven is going to be a weepy melodrama, but as the story unfolds it becomes a film that breaks through the white-wash of the supposed American innocence of the 1950's while providing some thoughts on some very present issues. The film's real power is making the 1950's look both familiar and alien, as we slowly see these characters succumb to the social pressures placed upon them and this shallow world of white-picket fences, loving husband and kids, and perfect wardrobe loses some of its appeal. This is all done as an intimate domestic melodrama, and though its beginnings might have more to do with humorous camp, the story seemingly a pastiche of previous features where the emotions and sentiments are typically overblown to enhance the drama, its conclusions are anything but amusing. The film, foremost, pays homage to the films of Douglas Sirk who's classic subversive looks at middle class-conformity (circa 1950s) in such films as Imitation of Life. It's Sirk's film All That Heaven Allows that writer-director Haynes (Velvet Goldmine) borrows most from, however, especially in terms of technical bravado and plot (there an older woman falls for a young gardener played by Rock Hudson). Sirk worked with an exaggerated palette of colors and distinctive visual style to focus audiences' attention to things that could not be said; Haynes reproduces this style and use of color here, with a careful cinematography and terrific art direction, in a production that takes great care to bring the "perfect" era to the screen, with an abundance of artificiality in both the Technicolor sets, the color-coded dresses and hairdos. However, he doesn't have the same limitations when it comes to the material: instead of working with subtext as Sirk was forced to do, the writer-director pushes the melodrama forward to get into the raw emotions, the passion, of the situations. In so doing he moves away from capturing typical feelings of nostalgia and not only brings to light the white-washing of that "golden, innocent" era of American history, he also manages to make a link to contemporary issues of race, class, sexuality and gender. As the gardener, the imposing Haysbert is easily the most sympathetic of the lot, a man born ahead of his time. Quaid is also a revelation, playing on his All-American persona to pull the rug from under us, and convincingly plays a man whose secret sexual preference makes him an outcast. Yet the fury and anger that is directed towards Moore's housewife for befriending a soft-spoken "Negro", even from her gay husband, is seen as being somehow far worse. This is what, finally, awakens her from her complacency, discovering the limits of her existence and the constraints of her social status; in the end, Moore plays a tragic figure, one who only realizes the limits of her choices, of her idyllic suburban existence, once they've been taken away. Haynes supposedly wrote the film for Moore, and she does a wonderful job of playing the role to suit the movie's reworking of 50's Hollywood productions. Far From Heaven has a lot going for it, and if it doesn't quite convince or bring anything new to the table, it is still an accomplished effort and well worth a viewing.
Drama: 7/10

Japón (Mexico - 2002) 
Starring: Alejandro Ferretis, Magdalena Flores, Martin Serrano
Director: Carlos Reygadas
Plot: A disillusioned, middle-aged artist looks for the serenity required to take his life in a remote mountain village but develops an unusual relationship with a lonely old woman while lodging in her barn.
Review: The title Japón, which means Japan in Spanish, has really nothing to do with the story but might well describe the ambiguity of the film. The film appears to care less for its plot than on being a rugged portrait of rural Mexico, one looking for a certain mood to make it a philosophical exploration on the human condition. Much of the narrative is slow-moving and some of the characters' motives are rather unfathomable. Every scene lingers on its subjects, sometimes way beyond what is necessary. Deliberately slow pace, this is a meditation on life and death, one that's at times frustrating, at others profound, requiring patience and tolerance from its audience. Some of the scenes don't always work well, with some graphic sexual depictions seemingly forced and unnecessary (a graphic masturbating sequence, a close-up of two horses copulating, etc). To be fair, however, this is a brave undertaking and a promising debut feature for director Reygadas. He tries, and often as not succeeds, in giving the film a tone of lyricism, fatality, and downright hypnotic quality to the images, finding a pitch-perfect, relaxed tone for putting to celluloid what life in rural Mexico is like. And that's the film's redeeming feature: With limited dialogue and long takes, the film captures the harshness of the countryside and the lives of the rural populace who makes their homes here. The use of digital video throughout gives the film a gritty, almost documentary feel, sort of like cinéma vérité, with its washed-out colors, bright sun-swept lands, and intimate look at its protagonists. If only it wasn't half so jittery... Add to this a cinematography that showcases the desolate landscapes, the solitude of the mountains, and the remoteness of the landscape and of the society the nameless man stumbles onto. The entire cast is made up of non-professional actors, most of them from the actual village where this was filmed. The leads Flores and Ferretis are real finds, their sun-dried faces and body language showing the hard edges and maturity of a long, tiring life. It's also amazing to see what bizarre things they are willing to do for the film. Japón is an interesting film, one that's distinctive, peculiar and a little perverse and one that's also not easy to recommend: some may find the going tedious, but for those pre-warned there's much to be had here that's worth the trip.
Drama: 7/10

The Pianist (2002)
Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Emilia Fox
Director: Roman Polanski
Plot: A famous Jewish pianist is caught up in historical events when Nazis invade Warsaw and, thanks to the help of a variety of people, survives the war by hiding around the ghettos even after his family is deported to the camps.
Review: A very different entry in Polanski's body of work, The Pianist is a surprisingly traditionally structured and restrained portrait by a director who is best known for his over-the-top, atmospheric, and bizarre productions (Macbeth, Chinatown). The film is a very personal effort for its director; based on the true-life memoirs of pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, the events partly reflected what the director experienced in his youth. As such, the film (shot completely on site in Poland) includes many intimate details in each scene that enhance the feeling of desperation and horror. There is no particular esthetic or visual style to distract from the events, just a meticulous, careful attention to its own kind of realism. Not to say it doesn't look splendid: The production values are high, with the myriad impressive sets showing the terrible urban devastation, and even the cinematography is surprisingly rich. The protagonist often seems to be as much an observer as a victim, as the movie makes us witness to the most important events of the Warsaw occupation, from the dehumanization of the Jewish populace, to the deportation, to the resistance uprising and eventual liberation. Each of these scenes is shown from his viewpoint, peeked through windows or doors slightly ajar, giving only a fleeting impression of the events surrounding him, enhancing his impression of powerlessness in the face of the conflict. Yet they are no less strong for being half-hidden. Stories of WW2, of the persecution of Jews and Poles, of the Holocaust are, when as well told as this one is, always fascinating. Though there may be anything new here in terms of the atrocities, humiliations and pain piled upon its victims that have not been portrayed elsewhere, it's still harrowing and captivating to watch. But let it be clear that this is not a story on the Holocaust, an event that is only alluded to in the film. Rather, this is a story about one man's survival, and an artist's passion for his music. At the same time, fake sentimentality doesn't really have a place here; Polanski doesn't force the issue because he doesn't need to: events are powerful enough to provide a strong emotional reaction without embellishment. The script also doesn't pass judgment on what happened, never stereotyping or simplifying its protagonists be they German or Pole. Despite the title, much of the film rejects any kind of music, giving a poignant portrait of an artist lost to life, until the climactic act where, towards the end of the war, his interpretation of Chopin's Nocturne will save his life - it's a powerful scene, and a powerful classical piece, which Polanski justifiably allows to play in its entirety. As for the cast, it is altogether excellent, but Brody, as the modest protagonist forced to err hidden and hungry within his own city, is at the very center of it all. The actor manages to convince us of a life of hardship with fragility and grace, even as his character succumbs to starvation and fear. There is a certain authenticity and optimism that shines through even the most devastating moments and, in the end, maybe that is what The Pianist is all about.
Drama: 8/10

Russian Ark (Russia - 2002)
Starring: Sergei Dontsov, Mariya Kuznetsova, Leonid Mozgovoy 
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov
Plot: An unnamed narrator, perhaps dreaming, finds himself traveling through the rooms of the Russian Hermitage museum and encountering various historical figures.
Review: Director Sokurov's (Moloch, Taurus) latest effort The Russian Ark is by all definitions an ambitious project: it's a tour of the museum with two eccentric guides, an Art film, and a trip through the corridors and immense chambers of the St. Petersburg State Hermitage Museum and the glorious golden age of Russian's aristocracy. Most impressive however, is the way it was shot: a review of 300 years of history and culture in single, bravura 96 minute take. The digital product, however, does produce an image that isn't as sharp as film stock and one where the (supposed) glorious colors are poorly defined. There are obvious narrative and cinematic restrictions in doing the whole thing in one unbroken segment. Those interested in a one-of-a-kind visit might enjoy it for its museum-film qualities, and its splendid, sumptuous recreations of period scenes. This is a quick summary of the people and events that shaped the Hermitage's destiny, a history lesson in Russian appreciation for the Arts, though a good knowledge of Russia's history is vital to best appreciate (and follow) the anecdotes and characters. The film changes time periods as quickly as it changes rooms; one moment we are crossing Catherine II and the other we are mingling with modern museum visitors, the camera lingering on the fabled artworks, only to be running with princess Anastasia down a lavish hall the next. The filmmaker also tries to blend in some political and historical commentaries of his own via the invisible observer / narrator, challenging notions of nationalism and philosophizing on the idea of freedom and the weight of history, but these fall mostly rather flat. But most of all this is an impressive display of costumes and architecture, extravagant decor and spell-binding re-enactments of grand events from chaotic balls to sober state functions, featuring hundreds (if not thousands) of extras who look, and act, the part. Unfortunately, despite the cleverness of the concept and undeniably technically efficient execution (which was probably a logistics nightmare), the whole affair can't help but be quite soporific. A lack of a linear story of any kind, and it's necessary loose-fitting plot structure surely doesn't help matters. But though it needs a certain patience to sit through, the opulence on screen manages to somewhat keep our attention and the grand finale is worth the wait: an impressively-staged ballroom scene filled with a vast swarm of ornately dressed gentry dancing in the throes of a vast orchestra. An elaborate affair, Russian Ark impresses more for its pageantry and technical ability than for its story qualities, but for those curious as to the Hermitage, this is a one-of-kind treat.
Drama / Travel: 5/10

Secretary (2002)
Starring: James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeremy Davies
Director: Steven Shainberg
Plot: A young, psychologically scarred secretary gets into a rather kinky, strange sexual relationship with her boss, a morose lawyer who's into dominance games.
Review: Far and away from the typical Meg Ryan / Julia Roberts romantic fare, the indie film Secretary is one of the more bizarre and un-PC love stories you'll ever likely to see coming out of the States. The film starts off as an exaggerated, old-fashioned power play of the secretary / boss relationship. But what could have been rather exploitative and utterly degrading (and for some may still be) instead comes off as empowering: by accepting the pain with the love, the pair tap into their own fears and psychological scars to actually help each other confront them. Even though the story-line and plot proceedings are obviously made with tongue firmly planted in cheek, the two leads make their suffering, the masochistic moments poignant and believable, and ultimately come off as two people who truly care for one another - they just have a particular way of showing it. Writer / director Shainberg carefully avoids passing judgment on their actions and lifestyle and though the film is aware of the bizarreness of the S&M relationship it puts to the screen, it also shows the emotional reasons for the behavior of these two consenting adults. We laugh at their actions just as we feel a certain compassion at the universal human desire to belong. The clever script never falls prey to the expected clichés and is often quite clever and funny in its observations, shamelessly playing with our pre-conceived notions of love and sexuality. This is less about subservient behavior and S&M as it is about a relationship beyond our social norms and though unconventional, this is not an abusive relationship; in fact, they both mature throughout their "courtship". Ultimately, the young woman's transformation is the story and Gyllenhaal is brilliant as the self-mutilating, effacing young woman who blossoms. Spader, as the emotionally removed but titillated lawyer makes a great foil. On a final note, the sexual context is rather tame considering the subject matter, relying more on the tension created by the mind games and innuendo, though there is (in particular) one scene of spanking which may shock or amuse viewers depending on their state of mind. For those willing to accept the premise, Secretary is an original take that's too clever to pass up.
Comedy / Drama: 7/10

The Son (Le Fils) (France - 2002)
Starring: Olivier Gourmet, Morgan Marrine, Isabella Soupart
Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Plot: After shockingly recognizing a face from the past, a divorced carpenter who teaches the profession at a trade school reluctantly takes on a new teen apprentice, stalking him after classes, torn as to how to act to his presence.
Review: The supremely minimalist feature that is The Son tells a powerful story of mourning and guilt, one in which feelings of vengeance duel with the necessity for forgiveness, and it's a remarkable achievement. Though the film may appear slow at first, with nothing much seemingly happening on screen to move the story along, the long, continuous takes (many devoid of dialogue) are all deliberate, leaving only the essentials. There's a definite hypnotic quality here, where the imagined possibilities, the pent up emotions, create a definite tension. The event that binds these two individuals together isn't immediately apparent and makes for some assuredly wild speculation on the part of the audience. But this short-lived mystery isn't the point: the reactions of the protagonist, and our reactions to the questions these events pose, is what's important. The narrative never leads us to an obvious place and the drama is all the more powerful in that it is unpredictable and feels terribly real. The directors (who won the Cannes award for their previous endeavor, Rosetta) bring their particular minimalist, claustrophobic approach to bear in their search for realism. Their subtlety and slow progression through the strengthening relationship between these two scarred individuals, is one honed not by clichés or melodrama but by realistic everyday conversations and events. The shaky digital camera is always on the move, allowing for a incredible sense of intimacy with its subject. Indeed, a good portion of the film is made up of close-ups on actor Gourmet's face, capturing his every movement, turning a clinical eye to his actions, his inner struggle, and his shame. Eventually, the shots open up as events progress, paralleling his own frame of mind. Gourmet is excellent as the somber, introverted carpenter scarred by a terrible secret whose wound is reopened with the arrival of the new student (he won the Best Actor award at Cannes this year for his role). As his apprentice, Marrine is disarming as an impassive, droopy-eyed and thoroughly beaten-down young teen. Ultimately, this is a morality tale, one that shows the hardships of living with a difficult past and the dignity that comes with forgiveness. Not everyone will be able to let pass the low-tech aspects of the film, while others may be put off by the slow-moving narrative, but for those willing to try The Son is a surprisingly effective, poignant piece of work.
Drama: 8/10

Talk to Her (Spain - 2002)
Starring: Javier Cámara, Darío Grandinetti, Rosario Flores
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Plot: While on a hospital vigil for his comatose toreador girlfriend, a journalist meets an eccentric male nurse taking care of a beautiful ballerina who has been in a coma for years.
Review: Talk to Her is an engaging drama full of humor and emotions but though acclaimed as a spiritual successor to Almodóvar's magnificent All About My Mother, never really rises to the level of its expectations. This is familiar territory for Spain's most famous auteur and though revisiting the themes of friendship, love, passion, and sex, this time the focus is on the male characters, with the two leading ladies literally comatose for most of the picture. After seeing a silent, B&W film (a wonderfully executed homage to both the sci-fi classic The Shrinking Man and silent-era fantasy) the male nurse starts to imagine that there is more to his relationship with his comatose patient, and his delusions push him to do a horrible act, leading to the film's tragic ending. Yet Almodóvar is used to pushing our buttons and instead of allowing us to vilify his characters, he manages, with his usual mix of sympathy, humor and pathos, to get audiences to see the sad, lonely man beneath. Of course the film is pure melodrama, but enhanced with his florid touch and maturing sensibilities, the story remains a touching tale on his favorite themes of identity and sexuality. However, the director has become more discreet, some may say more mature, in his filmmaking, presenting a story that is more calm and serene, far removed from the excess and energy of his first films such as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, or Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down. In so doing he has also put away his most popular attribute: that of startling us and shaking us up. Thankfully, his sense of humor, though far more relaxed than his usual, is still quite in evidence making this a rather light-hearted affair that outweighs the more sober parts of the story. A disappointing aspect is that the dialogue, situations and rounded characters are interesting, but never well-enough fleshed-out or quite believable to make their actions poignant or the film quite memorable. As always, the scenes flow effortlessly and the film is wonderfully shot, most especially the ritual dressing of the female toreador, taking on a religious intonation, and the powerful bull-fighting sequences. Add to this a fine well-directed cast and you've got an engaging, worthwhile effort. Though Talk to Her can't help but be compared to his much superior, previous works, it is still a fine, zesty melodrama from a very particular director.
Drama: 7/10

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