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Fred Kaplan Posted: Sep 18, 2014 0 comments
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I saw A Hard Day’s Night in a theater in 1964, when it first came out and I was 10 years old. I saw it three times, and it was pure joy. I felt the same sensation watching this fantastic Blu-ray transfer. Was it at least in part nostalgia? Probably, though it’s worth noting that the movie—which came out in August, six months after The Beatles’ appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show—is what won over our parents to the Fab Four: so smart, witty, and talented after all (traits that we kids had long appreciated). And my own kids, born two decades later, love the movie and the group too.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Aug 14, 2012 0 comments
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There are few more enduring classics of American theater than Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, an over-the-top, sweaty steam bath of a play that straddles Greek tragedy and Gothic camp yet still commands attention, even astonishes, 65 years after its creation. The show ran on Broadway for two years; the film adaptation was shot two years after that; both were directed by Elia Kazan and starred Marlon Brando. This was only Brando’s second film. He was 27 years old. And despite all the subsequent parodies of his sultry pout and his mumblecore rage (“Stella! Stel-l-l-laaa!”), he was a blazing-hot actor. It’s a natural heat that he radiates, and he modulates it seamlessly, from simmer to boil and all shades in between. Brando’s amazing to watch: The acting is all there on the surface, yet he’s so immersed in his character, it seems completely uncontrived. You see the moves and attitude that countless actors later copied, but none of them ever matched this. (That said, his performance in Kazan’s On the Waterfront three years later was even better, subtler.)
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Feb 05, 2014 0 comments
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Before Midnight is the unplanned Part 3 of what may turn out to be a lifetime series—one episode every nine years, so far—following the romance of Jesse and Céline. Before Sunrise (1995) had them, at 23, meeting on a train in Europe, getting off together in Vienna, walking and talking all day and night, and making love at dawn. Before Sunset (2004) found Jesse, author of a best-selling novel about that brief affair, running into Céline at a reading in Paris, resuming their walking and talking through the winding streets, and ending in her apartment on an ambiguous note: Will he catch his plane back to Chicago, returning to his wife and child, or stay with Céline, for whom he’s been pining all these years?
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Feb 19, 2013 1 comments
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Chico & Rita is a wonderful movie, a valentine—poignant, sweet, but never sentimental—to Cuban jazz, bebop, and the street scenes of 1940s and ’50s Havana and New York. It’s a sophisticated animation, drawn in an evocative sketch-edged style similar to that of Waltz With Bashir. (It’s based on a graphic novel, a few pages of which are reproduced in the Blu-ray box’s booklet.)
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Fred Kaplan Posted: May 14, 2015 0 comments
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Don’t Look Now is a weirdly captivating creep-show of a movie: dark, vaguely Gothic, crudely energetic, occasionally ridiculous—in short, it resembles a lot of other films directed by Nicolas Roeg in the ’70s (Performance, Walkabout, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bad Timing). This one’s about an artistic couple, living (inexplicably) in a huge house on a huge estate, whose daughter drowns in a nearby pond; the couple takes solace in Venice, where he has a job restoring an old church; she meets two old sisters, one of whom—the blind one—sees the spirit of the daughter, and many other hobgoblins, too; meanwhile, it turns out that the husband has a bit of a sixth sense as well; trouble, chaos, and the cruel hand of fate ensue.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jul 16, 2015 1 comments
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Are you curious? Really? OK then. Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey is a lousy movie, every bit the stinker that you probably expect: dull dialogue, vapid characters, no chemistry either from or between the actors. Here’s what you really want to know: Is the movie hot? Is it at least a little bit funny? And (since you are reading Sound & Vision) how does the Blu-ray Disc look and sound? Here’s the skinny, in that order. The actors who play Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele (the most improbably famous S&M couple on the planet) are very attractive; Dakota Johnson, as Ana, is hot; but their sex is pretty tame soft porn, even by Cinemax standards. (Showtime’s Masters of Sex is way sexier.)
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 24, 2013 0 comments
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Hannah and Her Sisters is Woody Allen’s most novelistic film: a tale of crisscrossing plotlines, strewn by multiple narrators, each a fully drawn character locked in or out of love with one of the others, and seeking answers to human needs and darker mysteries. It’s also Allen’s most redemptive film. In the end, the strands are resolved, the needs met, the mysteries not solved but set aside for the sake of enjoying life’s pleasures. In this sense, it’s reminiscent of Fanny and Alexander, the similarly titled (and also atypically euphoric) film made four years earlier by Allen’s morose hero Ingmar Bergman. Both films begin and end with lavish holiday dinners, and both chart voyages of infidelity, doubt, and despair, before settling into a celebration of the good life: family, friends, and haute elegance.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Mar 26, 2013 0 comments
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Wong Kar-wai, the greatest living Hong Kong filmmaker, is a weaver of smoldering dreams, and In the Mood for Love is his masterpiece. He may be the most intense practitioner of pure cinema. Very little happens in this film, but his brash colors (like something out of a Matisse painting), arch compositions (long shots at slightly off angles, slow tracking shots signifying the passage of time and the ache of waiting), and use of music (a languorous, longing string motif) sow a hypnotic tension and a charged passion (though its beautiful lead actors, Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, barely touch each other and show not a smidgen of bare skin).
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Mar 04, 2015 1 comments
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A charmer of a film, deeper, even grittier than its Capra-corn romantic populism might suggest, It Happened One Night swept the 1934 Oscars—winning Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Screenplay, and Director—and if it hadn’t edged out The Thin Man in doing so, I’d say, Bravo, well deserved. The story is a classic class-crossing fable: A spoiled rich girl runs away from her father to join the king she wants to marry; a hardscrabble newspaperman finds her, blackmails her into letting him come along to write a story; they take to the road, by bus, foot, thumb, and jalopy, squabbling, scolding, and, of course, falling in love with each other.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 15, 2015 0 comments
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La Dolce Vita was Federico Fellini’s breakout hit: a critical and commercial sensation, even in America, where foreign films till then were strictly art house fare. It’s the winding tale of a litterateur-turned-gossip columnist wandering the streets, bars, and parties of newly decadent modern Rome, seeking love, meaning, and value but finally realizing their futility and wallowing in the miasma. The film coined archetypes of the era: a character named Paparazzo, a tabloid photographer who chases after sensational shots, spawned the word paparazzi; another, Steiner, a refined man of culture who commits a gruesome crime, became the prototype of the modern ineffectual intellectual.

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