Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 10:54 am
This election season, pundits have been fond of pointing out the near-50/50 split of the electorate and talking about how the American people are as deeply divided as at any other time in our history. The opening moments of Lincoln put those hyperbolic claims in perspective, as Steven Spielberg — with his usual flair for highlighting how truly ugly war really is — shows a nation so divided that its opposing factions are killing one another in numbers so extreme that the bodies are literally piling up on top of one another.
In two of her most prominent early roles — as Woody Allen's teenage girlfriend in Manhattan and as Dorothy Stratten, the slain Playboy centerfold in Bob Fosse's Star 80 — Mariel Hemingway played young women under the sway of older, more powerful men. Both characters are objects of beauty, and Hemingway's soft voice and hazy eyes reinforced their passivity, even as they hid a more introspective side. The overall effect is an innocent, almost childlike openness, like a blank slate ready for imprinting.
It's never quite safe to trust your eyes — or your memory — when it comes to In Another Country, the latest effort from the playful and idiosyncratic Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo. Isabelle Huppert appears as three different characters, all apparently named Anne; she's thrice the star of a hypothetical movie within the movie, a screenplay coming together on the notepad of a young Korean woman living away from home.
Relocating Dangerous Liaisons, the 18th-century French erotic intrigue, to 1930s Shanghai is a bold move. And yet it's not especially surprising. In Chinese movies, that city in that decade frequently serves as shorthand for decadence. And what could be more decadent than two debauched ex-lovers cold-heartedly planning to destroy the innocence of not one but two virtuous women?
The Oscar race for best foreign-language film rarely comes without a helping of muslin-and-bonnet dramas stuffed with misbehaving royals, masked balls and burgeoning job opportunities for food stylists. As heritage cinema goes, however, the year's Academy Award entry from Denmark is a firecracker.