Monthly Archives: June 2005

Howl’s Moving Castle

Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki follows up his international hit Spirited Away with this adaptation of a British novel by Diana Wynne Jones; I haven’t read the book, but the movie’s dreamlike spaces and characters are sometimes worthy of Lewis Carroll. One thing that makes this highly cinematic is the radical fluidity of both age and character: people and objects are constantly transforming, and wisdom doesn’t so much succeed callowness as peacefully coexist with it. The heroine, a teenage hatmaker, runs afoul of a wicked witch and gets turned into a 90-year-old woman; she becomes housekeeper for a youthful magician named Howl, tending to the gigantic walking castle where he lives. Whenever she feels romantic stirrings for him, she becomes a teenager again. Voices are by Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Billy Crystal, and Lauren Bacall, among others. PG, 118 min. Reviewed this week in Section 1. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Pipers Alley, River East 21. Read more

She’s One Of Us

In this provocative first feature (2003), French director Siegrid Alnoy asks us to accept the premise that an insecure and awkward provincial office temp (Sasha Andres), suggestively called Christine Blanc, becomes transformed overnight into a confident and successful executive after gratuitously murdering a contact at work and getting away with it. Even if, like me, you can’t buy this premise and read it as a studied spin-off of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, Alnoy creates such a visual and aural tour de force of show-offy stylistic gestures that you can’t help but sit up and take notice. In French with subtitles. 100 min. (JR) Read more

Pepe Le Moko

Jean Gabin plays the title hero, a dapper Parisian gangster hiding out in the casbah until passion tempts him toward doom. Along with the colonial atmospherics and some crude sadism, Gabin’s probably the reason for the enduring success of this 1937 exercise in poetic realism, adapted from a 1931 novel and directed by Julien Duvivier. At least three American remakes derive from it (including the Orson Welles radio version)not to mention aspects of Casablanca and even a Warner Brothers cartoon character, Pepe Le Pew. This has a lot to do with the romantic fatalism that would be called film noir after it crossed the Atlantic. An early voice-over segment about the casbah itself, before Gabin makes an appearance, is so pungent you can almost taste the place, even though the filming was clearly done in a studio. With Mireille Balin. In French with subtitles. 93 min. (JR) Read more