Sam North reviews Edoardo Ponti's first film
A sensitive, captivating little movie that deserves a wider audience.
Seek it out.
Writer/Director Edoardo Ponti ,
stars Klaus Maria Brandauer,
Gerard Depardieu, Sophia Loren,
Malcolm McDowell, Peter Postlewaite,
Mira Sorvino, Deborah Kara Unger,
Music Zbigniew Preisner,
Director of Photography Gregory Middleton
It comes then as no
surprise that in Mr Edoardo Pontis first film as director (starring
his mother Sophia Loren, no less) we have an avid student of Kieslowski
here. Entitled Between Strangers its a tall order making
a Polish film as your first and running in the steps of a
master at that. All the nuances of Kieslowski and Priesners films
together are here. Interconnecting strangers who seem to be living parallel
lives and just miss each other, haunting music themes and eerie appearances
of a child that seems to presage pain or impending doom. Its a recipe
book cinema and to add an extra ingredient, it is shot in Canada in Toronto,
actually using a Canadian location for once and naming it. Toronto really
does exist although most people probably think it is New York or Boston
or LA from all its other appearances in American films.
the early nineties one of the most talented European film directors
died somewhere near the zenith of his fame, his last film nominated
for an Oscar and winning kudos at the box office. The film was
Three Colours Red, which handily followed Three Colours Blue and
White and in my own opinion his best film, The Double Life of
Veronique. That man was Kristof Kieslowski and he is still much
missed. Recently an attempt has been made to finish work started
by him and the film 'Heaven' starring: Cate Blanchett,
Giovanni Ribisi by Director Tom Tykwer is due this October in
Canada. The heartbeat of a Kieslowski film is always the music
of Zbigniew Priesner and you know that if his music is backing
a film then it will be at the very least interesting.
The curious thing is, the film works well and is enjoyable. There are
jarring moments. Peter Postlewaites Joe a former runner, now
crippled, husband to the aged Sophia Loren whom he treats with contempt.
I am not sure why she stays with him or why he cant see the obvious
talent she has when she begins to draw her dreams. His indifference is
too harsh to make us believe that Sophia would stay with him for thirty
years; unless it is, as he suggests, self-inflicted punishment for her
guilt. Sophia herself is a talented soul trapped inside a prison of a
life. A bad marriage, an awful job, and dreams that awaken something she
has kept secret all her life. Its a difficult role and she is aided
in it by Gerard Depardieu who unaccountably is the gardener in the local
park. Clearly Toronto has more interesting park keepers than out west
and but it is always a pleasure to see him, even in such a small role.
Malcolm Macdowell makes a rare appearance as a murderer let out of jail
after 22 years to be confronted by yobs on the street and his famous muscian
daughter,played by the talented Deborah Unger, who wants to kill him
taking belated revenge for the death of her mother at his hands.
Mira Sorvino is the third strand in this story (so we are getting Red,
White and Blue all in one film after all). She is a Time magazine photo-journalist
coming to terms with the horror of what she has scene in battle scarred
Angola and a profession that profits from it. All three women are haunted
by regret, recriminations and are at a turning point in their lives.
Ponti juggles the three strands with skill, the performances from everyone
are solid and the magic realism, empathy and spiritual themes are delicately
handled without hammering the point home. Standout sequences are when
Mira Sorvinos character studies her contact prints from her recent
Angola trip, realising that she could have saved a childs life.
Sophia Loren enjoying her role as the oppressed, repressed woman is slowly
transformed by the realisation that her long abandoned child lives and
has a name. Her dreams are made real.
Its a curious thing that draws you to a film. Priesners name
attracted me whilst staring at the poster and knowing nothing about the
film whatsoever made me go in. The very same thing happened to me when
viewing my first Kieslowski film. Although I have to get used to seeing
a Kieslowski film in English, set in Canada, Mr Pontis aspirations
are good ones and I for one will be interested to see what he comes up
Between Strangers is a sensitive, captivating little movie that deserves
a wider audience. Seek it out.
Heaven with the screenplay by Kieslowski
is due in Vancouver this Fall.
© Sam North Ocotber 7th 2002
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