Charlie Kaufman may be both the most original screenwriting talent to emerge in the past ten years and the most exasperating. He inspires fervent loyalty among some film buffs because his ideas are playful and heady; they don’t start out or play out like anyone else’s, and at their best they can liberate actors’ most inventive impulses.
The genteel French film Monsieur Ibrahim, directed by François Dupeyron, is based on the book Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran, by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, who also coscripted the movie. It is a tender story about a Turkish Muslim and a French Jew. The setting is 1960s Paris, in the gritty but colorful Rue Bleue district, once infamous for its assortment of streetwalkers.
Mountain climbing may be one of the few modern dramatic subjects that contain the key elements of Greek tragedy: terror and folly, hubris and courage. You get a staggering sense of all four in Touching the Void, Kevin Macdonald’s film of Joe Simpson’s book.
In the 1927 silent version of The King of Kings, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, Christ is first seen from the point of view of a blind man regaining his sight. It is a masterful touch that adds grandeur to the story. Over the decades, scores of films have been made about Jesus of Nazareth. Many of these productions dripped with Hollywood glitz, while others tackled serious issues of faith.
Though only the second feature by the Australian director Sue Brooks (and the first to open in this country), Japanese Story is an almost perfectly calibrated small work, like a finely shaped short story. About the serendipity of crossing paths with a stranger, it’s a sort of companion piece to Lost in Translation, but with an entirely different tone.
At year’s end, when all is sad and done in, we gasp as clouds of smoke appear. But it’s only the yews spewing pollen, outdoing chimneys as if it were spring. That and speech about Mideast peace as juncos reseed themselves, the Christmas rose flops open to cold, and Barney the cat perfects his new trick—he unbars our door.
He stares. (He prefers indoors.) But right there’s the morning star, just like the chorale’s. And up close, trouble— a pup hunting kibble and warmth. And there’s more. Mt. Rainier shows up in pink and blue bunting. So clear. Such fresh-powder glory. The sleepy volcano seems suddenly haloed, huge, and near. So much for our little stable.