Bright Star

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Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:00 pm

So I waited for Netflix, and am glad I did, but I didn't dislike the movie. It's genre-that-doesn't- interest-me twice over -- historical romance and gifted artist tragically cut down in the bloom of youth -- but it was obviously made with loving care, and offered alot of beauty, whether the objects being photographed or the composition of same. I'd actually be more emphatic about the costumes than others here have been. It certainly helped that for the first 15 minutes everyone was talking about the dresses, but I thought these were the most stunning costumes I've seen in any film since Marie Antoinette.

I'm midway on Paul Schneider (who I loved in Lars): I found him obnoxious throughout this, even while recognizing there was some subtextual (presumably homosexual) motivation to his behavior. I just thought the film needed some resolution of his and Fanny's relationship -- not a spelling-out, but some sort of confrontation wherein he seemed like something more than a jerk (so we could at least see why Keats was defending him at the start). It's not his fault that scene wasn't in the script, but his performance suffered from the lack.

Cornish? Better than Sandra Bullock, and a desperation nominee in a lousy year, but no one whose omission would bother me.




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Postby Damien » Fri Oct 16, 2009 2:08 am

I liked it, for its intelligence and wit and period recreation. However, it's surprisingly -- given the story it's recounting -- emotionally distant and dispassionate, and thus is much closer in feel to Portrait Of A Lady than The Piano.

Still, a scene in which Keats and Fanny are knocking on the wall that separates their bedrooms is subtly but wildly erotic. And Abbey Cornish is terrific. Extra added bonus: a wonderful cat.

7/10
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Postby Penelope » Sat Oct 10, 2009 7:33 pm

I'll go with BJ with a side of Sabin: a gorgeously filmed (and costumed) chick flick (the women in my audience were crying buckets by the end) which I found, ultimately, to be a lugubrious experience.

The movies that I kept flashing to whilst watching the film were Cukor's Camille and Zefferilli's Romeo & Juliet--the former simply for being a better tearjerker of the same period and the latter for being a better example of costumed first-love flicks.

The problem I had with the film is that I never felt any REAL connection between Fanny and Keats: I don't know that Cornish herself is vapid, but the character of Fanny struck me as being such--in fact, not only vapid but just a touch psycho, too--had I been Keats, I would've been running quickly in the opposite direction! Ben Whishaw has the Camille part here, and he swoons effectively, but I just didn't feel it.

Sabin's comment about Paul Schneider is spot-on, however. In fact, not only does he seem to have wandered in from a better film, I found the relationship between Brown and Keats to be much more fascinating--seemed to me that Schneider was playing Brown as being in love with Keats and jealous of the vapid, psycho Fanny's intrusion into he and Keats' idyllic existence. Taking aside the glorious cinematography, whenever Schneider WASN'T on-screen, I was bored out of my mind.




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Postby Okri » Sat Oct 10, 2009 5:37 pm

I think I'm more on Sabin/Bog's side of the debate.

I see where BJ is coming from. It's marked by a typical biopic shapelessness. Indeed, despite the bustle, there's not much happening here of import, narrative-wise. Indeed, the screenplay can be reduced to Campion ticking off bullet points throughout.

But here's the thing: it's just exquisitely filmed. So many scenes find just the right tone, the right movement, the right colours, as to be breathtaking. The butterfly scene is an obvious one; the lilacs, . The stop-start scene with Keats and Fanny running behind her younger sister was a beautiful delight, and there's a number of other light moments throughout that I'll just cherish.

I found the casting largely on point as well, especially in the smaller roles (tell me your heart didn't wrench a little when young Toots tells Keats that she loves him). Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who was terrific in his Doctor Who episode, interests me as well (his role is almost entirely observational, and he's not even that important, but I really liked him).

I wouldn't label Cornish as vapid (indeed, I think it's a less-is-more type performance that I enjoyed, but not everyone will) - I wouldn't root for an oscar nomination, but it wouldn't be entirely undeserved. Ben Wishaw is interesting. Since Perfume, he hasn't really had that major film role that would explode his career like he deserves, and Keats isn't it. Didn't care for Schneider at all. While I thought he was the best thing in Lars and the Real Girl (otherwise atrocious) and terrific in Assassination of Jesse James....), I thought he completely missed the boat here.

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Postby Bog » Sat Oct 03, 2009 8:23 pm

I feel I may have liked the film a bit more than BJ...maybe a little closer to Sabin. The bright spots that stand out most for me were the costumes, the cinematography (which I found spectacular at points), and the unbelievably charming little red headed girl given basically the role of go between for the primary characters. This film is not without passion, not even the slightest bit...I find the no on-screen sex argument against this fact to be tiresome, personally.

Tee, if your heart was not in this, you would find yourself to have wasted the 2 hours and 9 or so bucks. I don't think I'd go quite at the tedium adjective...but I did feel it was the kind of film I expected those who came in not knowing what to expect to be finding a mass exodus to the lobby at about the 1:20 mark.

I did enjoy this quite a bit, and due to the lack of (quality) films I've seen so far, it would rank highly so far for 2K9. The Mrs proclaimed this her favorite film of the year so far as we were walking out and discussing...I promptly asked her if she had so quckly forgotten Summer Hours.

I'd hope for a Cornish and Schneider mention in year end award lists, but really I'd only be extremely disappointed without a cinematography nod...and the given costumes.

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Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 24, 2009 9:06 pm

The Original BJ wrote:Question (juvenile alert!): who is Elvira Madigan?

Actually, that would be What is Elvira Madigan?

Answer: an apparently no longer so famous Swedish film from the late 60s.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061620/

Along with A Man and a Woman, it was the art-house make-out hit of the era. Doomed love in an earlier time; rebellious youngsters frolicking in the woods to Mozart (you'd recognize the theme music, I'm sure). These lovers' montages were the films' signature, and were imitated in what seemed half the movies that came out over the next decade.

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Postby The Original BJ » Thu Sep 24, 2009 8:46 pm

Tee, it definitely sounds like you'll fall asleep.

Question (juvenile alert!): who is Elvira Madigan?

I've realized that Jane Campion is one of those filmmakers who I hold in high esteem mostly based on one film. The Piano was such a formative viewing experience for me, I usually anticipate her films even as some of them have disappointed me. At the end of Bright Star, when Abby Cornish shows up wearing what looks a lot like the iconic Piano bonnets, I just about that, "well, that clearly wasn't as transporting experience as that film," but for me she'll always have that glorious picture.

Paul Schneider tends to appear in films I like (or at least the type of film), but more often than not I find him a grating screen presence. I don't remember actively disliking him in Lars, but I wouldn't rank him above Gosling, Mortimer, Garner, even Patricia Clarkson. (Note: the one exception to this opinion would be The Assassination of Jesse James, but I guess that's what happens when you're in a film touched by God.)

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Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 24, 2009 3:28 pm

The Original BJ wrote:Some of this -- like a lot of the walking through empty fields reciting poetry -- is the stuff I'm sure detractors of '70's art films made fun of heavily during that era.

AKA Elvira Madigan Effect.

Sounds like I'll skip it. Based on standard release patterns, I can tick off the costume nomination via Netflix in January/February.

I agree Jane Campion is an artist, but I decided long before Sabin she was a far better director than writer. I thought it was bizarre her Piano Oscar was for screenplay when, to me, the whole movie was a triumph of glorious imagery over a tiresome story: The Most Happy Fella with metaphors and saintly aborigines (oddly, I thought the last half hour was the best -- least familiar -- part of it). And Portrait of A Lady almost literally put me to sleep. So, if you say this is tedious, I'd surely resent wasting scarce resources on it.

Does your observation about Schneider hold for Lars and the Real Girl, as well? I actually found his performance there the one I liked best.

My take on all the years we've posted opinions here is that yours come closest to mine, both in terms of that for which we feel genuine enthusiasm and of that which we generally can't abide. So it's natural in an iffy situation I'd look to your take for clues.

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Postby The Original BJ » Thu Sep 24, 2009 2:43 pm

Well, the costumes will be nominated, so if that's one you want to check off the list, there's that.

I think Sabin pretty much hit it on the head with the word 'tedium.' Now that description sounds a lot harsher than my feelings toward the film probably are. This is definitely the work of an artist, and as such, it's far more worthwhile than stuff like Miss Potter, to which this film was compared below. One need only look at something like the butterfly sequence in Bright Star to notice Jane Campion's hand.

But my big problem was that, as a narrative, this film is pretty wispy. It's the kind of film where you sit there through the first reel wondering when the story is going to kick in, and at some point you realize the rest of the film is just going to be a lot more of what you've been seeing. Some of this -- like a lot of the walking through empty fields reciting poetry -- is the stuff I'm sure detractors of '70's art films made fun of heavily during that era.

I also thought the cast was a big part of the problem. Abbie Cornish to me is mostly in Keira Knightley mode: she's a pretty enough face, but I thought her performance was mostly vapid. There were big scenes when her facial expressions in reaction shots barely even changed -- she's not terrible, it's just that a more interesting actress would have found a lot more in the role. Ben Whishaw doesn't really register, but then again, I think he's barely even given a character to play, so I don't blame him entirely. And Paul Schneider continues his current streak of typically being the least appealing performer in his films. I guess I have to disagree with Sabin there -- I thought Schneider just about walked in from a different, much broader movie entirely.

So, Tee does that give you the information you wanted? I'm so honored you'd consider going to a movie or not based on what I thought.

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Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 24, 2009 9:19 am

The Original BJ wrote:
matthew wrote:Sabin - What did you make of Abbie Cornish's performance? Do you think it has a chance to make it into the Best Actress lineup?

I certainly hope not.

I plan on commenting further later, but I had really been looking forward to this film, and I was mostly disappointed.

BJ, could you rush at least a capsule reaction prior to tomorrow? This movie, for me, is right on the cusp of see it now/wait for Netflix to catch the nominated costumes, and 1) I don't want to spend full price tomorrow if I'm going to truly dislike it (given I've never been an especial fan of Campion in the past); and 2) your opinion seems to sync with mine at least semi-regularly.

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Postby Sabin » Wed Sep 23, 2009 10:12 pm

I think Cornish has a shot but it's an outside one. I think BRIGHT STAR is going to be viewed as distant by quite a few. I like the movie but the more I think about it, I can't deny the fact that I wasn't swept away by it. Abbie Cornish has everything she needs to get a nomination but perhaps not the movie. She's a beautiful, naturalistic presence with scenes of longing, sensuality, and unbearable grief at the end, quite the crying jag. I think this film will get nominated for Costumes and maybe that's it. Ben Winshaw is very good at embodying a role that, quite frankly, I don't think Jane Campion gives a crap about. Paul Schneider probably won't either, which is a shame.

I don't see much happening, but you never know? It's too soon. I would certainly put Abbie Cornish on my list of the Best Lead Female Performances this year but then again: A) I haven't seen too many movies this year, B) let alone with strong female roles, and C) they're not likely to be better than Tilda Swinton's fucking awesome turn in JULIA.
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Postby The Original BJ » Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:37 pm

matthew wrote:Sabin - What did you make of Abbie Cornish's performance? Do you think it has a chance to make it into the Best Actress lineup?

I certainly hope not.

I plan on commenting further later, but I had really been looking forward to this film, and I was mostly disappointed.

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Postby matthew » Wed Sep 23, 2009 7:02 pm

Sabin - What did you make of Abbie Cornish's performance? Do you think it has a chance to make it into the Best Actress lineup?

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Postby Sabin » Tue Sep 22, 2009 10:19 pm

Jane Campion's not really a great writer, is she? Huh. It took me a long time to realize it. There are several amazing scenes in THE PIANO that take my breath away, but all things considered the third act could have gone several different ways and I think it could have been just as strong if not stronger. The strength of a good Campion scene is the intense emotion innate in her saturated imagery and the tug of war she plays with her heroines. In BRIGHT STAR, she does a series of interesting things within the confines of her script. She keeps the camera static and locked in when Fanny and John are together, and moving swooningly when they are apart. This is not unintentional. This is a film about idyllic sweetness and desperate longing. Campion's much-discussed decision to refrain from on-screen sex has inspired several accusations of lacking passion; this is not the case. Jane Campion infuses this film with a small planet of passion, longing, affection...just not much variation.

The film is ostensibly a battle between Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) and Keats' fellow poet Charles Brown (fantastic Paul Schneider) and the tug of war between an aloof life without and an impassioned life within. For all the discussions of poetry in BRIGHT STAR, Campion is far more enamored with the power of first love and how it exists so much as it does now as then. Campion has a lot to say about this world. Fanny and John are never allowed a moment's peace. They're always surrounded by children, mothers, butterflies, cats, traffic of all sorts coming and going. How are you going to have time to fuck in such a house? There is a powerful draw innate in the middle passage of BRIGHT STAR but there is a waft of tedium throughout that cannot really be avoided. It's a strong piece of filmmaking around a story I found intermittently unengaging. It also doesn't help that Paul Schneider is at times almost too-welcome a presence. You just want to follow him into another movie. It's too early to which leads are going to be wrong-headedly reduced to support but what a shame it will be if he goes without a nomination.
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Postby Big Magilla » Sat May 16, 2009 5:45 am

Sabin wrote:A journalist friend told me an hour ago that Bright Star will be Oscar nominated in seven or eight categories because it delivers that particular brand of period romance fulfillment that people of a certain persuasion line up for when movies of this sort play the Royal in West Los Angeles and the Lincoln Plaza in Manhattan.

Didn't Becoming Jane and Miss Potter provide the same fulfillment two years ago without being anywhere near Oscar's radar?
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