Period Piece

Editor’s note: Farewell, My Queen is opening in limited theaters this week, so please enjoy this re-run of our review from the Berlin Film Festival, originally posted on February 9, 2012. The realm of 18th century France is a dusty one. Period dramas, especially lofty costume dramas, are so numerous that you can barely toss a powdered wig without hitting one. With Farewell, My Queen (Les Adieux à la Reine), writer/director Benoît Jacquot tears off the wig, pulls down the drapes and sets fire to both. The wonderfully un-stuffy film stars and is told through the eyes of Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) who acts as a cipher for the manic last few days of Marie Antoinette’s (Diane Kruger) reign in the late 1700s. It’s Laborde’s story, meaning it’s the story of a voyeur who watches from doorjambs as the business of being extravagantly wealthy and powerful becomes not only meaningless, but fatal.

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Stop groaning at that headline and start moaning along with this clever, mildly silly trailer for Hysteria. Based on the historical invention of the vibrator, the film boasts Felicity Jones, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Rupert Everett, Jonathan Pryce and a bunch of women shaking their thighs in ecstasy. Seriously. There are a lot of shots of women coming in this thing. Beyond that, it has the usual flair that any period piece might aspire to. The costuming, the set work, the language. It’s all there along with some cheeky humor and what looks like a romantic foundation the focuses on taming a shrew. Plug in, and check it out for yourself:

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If I had to name a couple current actors that deserve to be huge stars but haven’t quite gotten to that level, Vera Farmiga and Mark Strong would both be up at the top of that list. They both have been getting a lot of jobs lately, and both of them always do strong work in every job they take, but they’re not quite there when it comes to star power. Farmiga has had high profile roles in movies like The Departed, Up in the Air, and Source Code, and Strong has impressed in big movies like Sherlock Holmes and Green Lantern while simultaneously appearing in quirkier films like Sunshine and Kick-Ass. They both have familiar faces and a lot of momentum behind their careers; but if you mention their names to random people on the street, generally they wouldn’t know who you’re talking about. Despite that, either one just needs one perfect role to break through and become a big name in the business. And that’s good news for the upcoming drama Closer to the Moon, because it just cast them in lead roles. Closer to the Moon is an upcoming drama from Romanian director Nae Caranfil set during Romania’s period of communist rule. Strong will play a police officer named Max Rosenthal who is implicated in a bank robbery and sentenced to death due to his Jewish heritage. Before he is to be killed, however, the government forces him to participate in a propaganda film where he and […]

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There’s a Raúl Ruiz movie coming out in less than a month? Why wasn’t I informed? What did I join the Raúl Ruiz Fan Club Mailing List for if not important announcements like that? In the same year that we got fresh Godard, filmmaking legend Ruiz is releasing Mysteries of Lisbon, his period piece based on Camilo Castelo Branco’s 19th century novel of the same name. It’s time to rejoice. The film tells the story of a young bastard child who wants to learn about his family and uncovers a lustful truth involving his mother, a jealous Count,  and a forbidden love. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Criterion Files

Some films represent to many the indefinable expression of a dream. Often times it’s nightmarish, as that’s what we can easily discern as being particularly dream-like because those are the dreams we tend to never forget. They haunt us, indefinitely, and some filmmakers are keen to capture that sense of uncomfortable fear of the odd, or non-understandable. Filmmakers like David Lynch and David Cronenberg seem to know it and are willing to explore and share it.

Then, there are some films that don’t necessarily look a dream, but feel like a familiar one that you don’t fully remember; because it’s too grounded to feel fantastic, but too gorgeously free so as to feel slightly detached from reality. It’s dramatic, but not “dramatic.” It’s not void of human emotional expression, but not entirely engagingly emotional. It’s both wonderful and disturbed. It’s affectingly confusing to your senses. Like a dream.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we talk with Troll Hunter writer/director Andre Ovredal, Prom screenwriter Katie Wech, and The Conspirator screenwriter James Solomon. Perhaps you’re starting to see a theme emerge. Plus, Dustin Rowles and Joanna Robinson from Pajiba enter the Movie News Pop Quiz ring, and both safely exit. Then, we talk about Doctor Who. Loosen up your tie and stay a while. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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Your weekly fix of great movies made before you were born that you should check out before you die. All this month, Old Ass Movies will be celebrating the 103rd anniversary of Bette Davis‘s birthday. The iconic film star acted in far too many movies to care to count, but it seems as though she’s been reduced to a pair of eyes in popular culture. She’s the subject of a 80s pop tune, not the star that she should be recognized for being, and that needs fixing. This is our last week of exploration, and even though we’re not ending on the last film in Davis’s career (or even her last iconic role), we’re ending on the last time a character matches the actress. She would go on to such triumphs as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and Hush…, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Return to Witch Mountain (seriously), but Bette Davis playing the mercurial, demanding Queen Elizabeth I at the height of her career is just too-fitting.

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When Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) was quite young, her parents died and she was left in the care of her aunt. The aunt took none too kindly to Jane’s outspokenness and her free spirit and promptly sent her to a finishing school where education was synonymous with corporal punishment. Years later, having survived her sentence at that school, she is employed as the governess for the daughter of the wealthy Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender). A love blossoms between them, but a terrible secret threatens to tear them apart. Melodrama ensues. I may very well invoke your judgment and scorn with the following admission: I don’t like period romance films. That being said, I happily volunteered to review Jane Eyre. No, this was not rooted in a sadistic desire to rip the film to shreds but rather the result of a very deceitful piece of marketing. If you haven’t seen the trailer, and you are as ignorant of the story of Jane Eyre as I was, it sells you on an atmospheric horror film set in the Victorian Age. They go so far as to appropriate the Goblin score from Suspiria and lay it over the three seemingly supernatural moments of the film. Turns out, now that I’ve seen the movie and had a few gaps filled in for me, there is a pseudo ghost story interwoven into the fabric of Jane Eyre, but this adaptation does nothing to cultivate it so the trailer is an out and out lie. But […]

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VE Day. 1945. The Allied Forces formally accept the surrender of Nazi Germany. For one night only, the teenage Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth are allowed out of Buckingham Palace to celebrate. Did that actually happen? I have no idea, but it’s the premise for the next project from director Michael Hoffman (The Last Station, One Fine Day, Soapdish). According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hoffman has cast Dakota Fanning as Margaret and is currently looking for his young Elizabeth (who people now know as the Queen of England (who just celebrated Ascension Day (so hopefully a young princess was allowed to go out and celebrate))). Historical fiction just hits me in the right spot, so I’m on board all the way. Hoffman continues to be an interesting director, and even though his work tends to be better if he writes the script as well, Girls’ Night Out was written by newcomer Trevor de Silva and was on the British version of the Black List (the list of great unproduced scripts) last year. Plus, Fanning has an undeniable talent. Now it’s just a matter of finding the best co-star for the job. Then, of course, there’s the question of how British fans will take the prospect of an American director toying around with their beloved royal family.

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Neil Marshall

Centurion weaves the epic tale of Rome’s 9th legion. This was a legion stationed in the northernmost portion of the empire; modern day England. Rome found some of its greatest adversaries in the Pict tribe that inhabited this region. Masters of guerrilla warfare, the Pictish tribes attacked Roman garrisons in the dead of night and caused innumerable casualties.

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Opening in the English countryside during the build-up to WWII, the film shows no sign of any expense having been spared in its pursuit of visual opulence.

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Though this film had me at “achingly romantic,” I cringe at the thought of someone rolling their eyes and overlooking this remarkable film at the fault of the advertisers who betrayed this film’s distinct uniqueness.

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Atonement is a beautiful disaster.

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When you write for a site that panders to the male 18-25 “geek” demographic, it makes it somewhat difficult to write about a film such as Atonement.

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