Posts Tagged ‘Zach Galifianakis’

The Conception of an Affair

Tulip Fever

Director: Justin Chadwick

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Judi Dench, Jack O’Connell, Kevin McKidd, Holliday Grainger, Tom Hollander, Zach Galifianakis, Joanna Scanlan, David Harewood, Sebastian Armesto, Matthew Morrison, Douglas Hodge

British director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl, Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom, The First Grader) tackles a cinematic version of Deborah Moggarch’s novel Tulip Fever with the literary assistance of Anna Karenina screenwriter Tom Stoppard.

Assembling an international cast including Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) and fellow Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Tulip Fever is set in Amsterdam in 1623 at the height of the Tulip trade which flourished in the Netherlands and was in essence the first stock market which blossomed illicitly behind Tavern doors and co-opted by solicitous nuns who grew the beautiful flowers in sacred abbeys away from the hustle of Dutch city life.

With sumptuous costumes by Michael O’Connor and suitably dark production design by Simon Elliott, Tulip Fever focuses on the young orphan Sophia Sandvoort superbly played by Vikander who is forced to marry the wealthy yet childless Burgermeester (local mayor) Cornelious Sandvoort played by Waltz.

Like all Dutch noblemen, Sandvoort commissions a young and impoverished painter to paint the couple’s portrait, a 17th century trend which made Rembrandt famous. In steps the exuberant and excitable Jan van Loos played by Dane DeHaan (Valerian, Kill Your Darlings).

Soon van Loos falls for the ravishing Sophia and deception is conceived mainly for her to escape from her pompous husband who really wants to impregnate her with his preferably male heir.

In a parallel narrative, Sophia’s devoted maid, Maria played by British actress Holliday Grainger (Jane Eyre, The Finest Hours, Cinderella) has fallen for the charming if not smelly fishmonger Willem Bok played by Jack O’Connell (Unbroken) who aspire to get married and have six children together.

In a bizarre twist both Bok and van Loos, two young men desperately trying to increase their liquidity embark on making money on the booming tulip trade, in which the precious bulbs fluctuated in price depending on their rarity and natural beauty of the elusive flower.

Oscar winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) plays the Abbess who has to sternly guide the young men in the flourishing yet turbulent tulip trade while the Netherlands was expanding its colonial empire to the Dutch East Indies and South Africa.

Despite the slightly convoluted plot and frenetic story line, Tulip Fever is an enjoyable and raunchy period drama held together by amazing performances by the four main leads which serves as a Dutch version of Twelfth Night.

Audiences that enjoyed Girl with a Pearl Earring and Shakespeare in Love, will undoubtedly love Tulip Fever, which provides a fascinating cinematic perspective on the brief but flourishing Tulip trade which made the Netherlands one of the riches countries in Europe especially in the 17th century, establishing their own national stability and making them the money lenders of Europe.

With all the deceit, obsession and money trading, Tulip Fever is a riotous period drama and gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

Tulip Fever is recommended viewing as a historical drama with a uniquely Dutch twist.

Performance Anxiety

Birdman

Or

The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

birdman_ver3

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Cast: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifianakis, Lindsay Duncan

Mexican film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu whose previous films include the critically acclaimed Babel, Buitiful and 21 Grams, delivers another cinematic magic realist masterpiece in the electrifying film Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance about the crazy antics which occur backstage on a Broadway production of a play adapted from a Raymond Carver story.

Birdman is comical, fantastical and brilliantly acted by a great ensemble cast but particularly by Michael Keaton as the central character Riggan, a washed up 1990’s superhero film star who is desperate to revive his acting career on Broadway.

Michael Keaton delivers a crackling performance as the erratic Riggan, an aging actor on the verge of a nervous breakdown, whose alter ego the superhero film character Birdman keeps whispering in his ear that he should not be taking to the stage but rather resuscitating his failed film career. Riggan also seems to be constantly hounded by a multitude of neurotic woman throughout the film which feeds his own performance anxiety.

Joining the energetic Keaton who just won the 2015 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy is an impressive ensemble cast including the hugely underrated Edward Norton as Mike Shiner a younger more precocious actor, Emma Stone as Riggan’s snappy daughter Sam, Andrea Riseborough as Riggan’s neurotic girlfriend Laura, Amy Ryan as Riggan’s ex-wife and stabilizing influence on his life, Sylvia. The Hangover star Zach Galifianakis as the exasperated bearded theatre producer Jake and Naomi Watts as a drama queen Lesley.

birdman

What makes Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance so utterly absorbing and in parts quite delirious is that Inarritu chooses to film the entire movie as one long tracking shot which keeps the momentum of this frenetic story alive and fresh. Besides the extraordinary direction, a very witty script, there is of course the superb performances by the entire cast who really excelled in a very difficult and strenuous acting stretch reminiscent of Luigi Pirandello’s play Six Characters In Search of an Author with a massive dash of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Magic Realism thrown in.

Visual clues abound along with multiple references to the 21st century super saturated media world of the 21st century. In one of the best scenes of the film Sam (superbly played by Emma Stone) tells her father Riggan that he has lost touch with the world, he does not even have a Facebook Page or a Twitter account and is rarely on social media. As Birdman progresses and in a hilarious sequence with Riggan running through New York’s Times Square dressed only in white underpants, which is naturally captured on YouTube, his digital success changes instantly.

Then after a near meltdown with a bottle of Whisky and after Riggan tells the influential theatre critic Tabitha (a superb cameo by Lindsay Duncan) that he should be taken seriously as a stage actor, the opening night of the play arrives and no one can anticipate the final reaction or the review in the New York Times theatre page entitled The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.

For anyone that has studied drama or been in a stage production, Birdman is a must see film, as Inarritu expertly captures the confidence, chaos and utter lack of self-consciousness of the wild and crazy cast of this production, as they strip for scene changes, fight with their fellow actors and generally are quite debauched in all sorts of ways unique to the Theatre world.

Birdman imaginatively emphasizes that despite all the social media around especially in 21st century contemporary America, there is nothing quite as exciting as Live Theatre.

Keaton, Norton and Stone are absolutely superb and this film is highly recommended viewing, worthy of all the attention it is currently receiving, much like what every actor in the world constantly craves: rave reviews and becoming a celebrity!

 

 

 

 

 

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