The Mill and the Cross or Barry Lyndon the Prequel. The melding of art and cinema is natural and it's a crime we don't see more of it. Stanley Kubrick created the best example with Barry Lyndon (1975), a film that is as much a series of painting as it is a motion picture. TMTC is set a few hundred years before Lyndon and is the study of Pieter Bruegel's 1564 painting The Way to Calvary. Polish director Lech Majewski did the honors and his bang up cast is led by Rutger Hauer as Bruegel, Michael York as his patron and Charlotte Rampling as the missus. This is one of those films in which actors must have a certain look and otherwise stay out of the camera's way as much as possible. They are part of the scenery and not keys to the action. Indeed the "action" here happens around and about everyone. The dialogue is at a bare minimum, mostly non existent for the first third of the film. Here is a powerful look at daily life in Flanders. The bareness of the existence, the music, the cruel raids of the Spanish, charged with the swift punishment of "heretics" (read non Catholics). The painting is a re-creation of a time and place and the film moves in and out of the painting and that world effortlessly. TMATC is an antidote to any action hero, explosions galore nonsense you may stumble upon. It is gorgeous, meditative and a great pleasure to surround one's intellect with. It is a film based on a painting and I'm ready for more of its like.
My Week With Marilyn or My Two Hours With Michelle. This is a perfectly delightful film chock full of first-rate acting performances. See Michelle Williams gamely trying to re-create the magic that was Marilyn Monroe. See Kenneth Brannagh do Sir Laurence Olivier to the proverbial tee. Also enjoy Dame Judi Dench who merely needs to utter a a few lines to demonstrate that she is one of the great acting presences of our time. See also Eddie Redmayne in the lead role, playing the young innocent delightfully, if not terribly originally. At its best MWWM is a showcase for some excellent performances and an inspiration to know and see more of the great Ms. Monroe. Those are strong selling points. But this kind of ground seems well trodden. Not the bit about Monroe in England making a picture with Olivier, but the idea of the youngster on the cum getting to spend time with the tippy top of a profession. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the film but nothing very special about it either.
Drive or Gosling Does O'Neal. It's so totally based on Walter Hill's The Driver (1978) starring Ryan O'Neal that its a veritable remake. Yet there is no acknowledgement of this in either the opening or closing credits. If I were Hill I don't know that I'd mind after having seen Drive. It's a decent enough film as an homage to the original, but its seriously flawed. The soundtrack is downright annoying, particularly the use of one song during a scene that is straight out of a romantic comedy. The driver and the love interest (Carey Mulligan) and her little boy have a carefree motor ride and the scene sticks out like a sore thumb. This is one instance where a studio bigwig should have the power to tell a director, in this case Nicholas Winding Refn, to cut a scene. I never mind violence in a film, but it seemed over the top in Drive. I hesitate to call it gratuitous but I suppose that fits. Gosling is the best thing about the film. Like O'Neal he plays the nameless driver as stoic and mysterious not to mention (no pun intended) driven -- though to what purpose we don't know. Drive simply lacks the style of the first film. It doesn't seem to have a reason for being. Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston played against type and were strong in supporting roles though the film they were supporting hardly warranted their and Gosling's excellent work.