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The Constant Gardener

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I'm very excited about this. In a spring's viewing that didn't include a lot of exceptional films, CITY OF GOD was an absolute revelation.

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Now David Poland is raving about it.

The Constant Gardner is, with virtually no competition in English, the first truly great non-doc of 2005.

AND THIS...

... now have proof that City of God was no fluke and that Fernando Meirelles is one of the finest directors on the planet.

Meirelles has, after just a couple of films, a distinct but flexible vision. He uses the camera like a paintbrush. The images often flow in a non-linear way, but Meirelles is not just showing off. As the connections, which already stand up simply as beautiful, powerful images, start to come into the focus of the audience's consciousness, we are drawn into that vision.

Meirelles is clearly interested in the planet. More so than any other filmmaker has - including Phillip Noyce who did a nice job with Graham Greene's Vietnam in The Quiet American - he takes a novelist's (John Le Carre here) blend of exotic cultures and complex, but traditional, storytelling and gives it the platform that only film could offer, completely different, but strongly connected to the literary work.

And THIS!!

It struck me that if Team Bourne is interesting in taking the next Bourne film to another director, that might be the perfect vehicle for Meirelles to do his first really big movie. It would be closer to Liman's version than Greengrass'.

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And Fiennes rules.

And Rachel Weisz, well...goes without saying. She beats even Monica Bellucci in my book.

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I have no doubt that it will be good. I loved City of God. I'm glad to hear this, but...

...sometimes I wonder about Poland. He rarely "hits" for me. I often find myself scratching my head about some of the things he says (not in this case).

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It struck me that if Team Bourne is interesting in taking the next Bourne film to another director, that might be the perfect vehicle for Meirelles to do his first really big movie. It would be closer to Liman's version than Greengrass'.

What a shame that would be. To take a brilliant director and shackle him to a mere action movie franchise. Wouldn't that be just typical Hollywood thinking: "This guy's amazing! Let's use him to sell popcorn!" Hitch your star to a wagon. "This Leonardo DaVinci guy has quite the imagination. Let's give him his really big break - think he could design a roller coaster for Magic Mountain?"

angry.gif

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That's what I was thinking Ron. The Bourne films have been a cut above most action films (especially the first) but even so...

This film has be excited too. I read about it on http://www.ioncinema.com which, by the way is a fun little site. I agreed on almost all his ratings (within a star) for the last two years. With the exception of his low rating for A Mighty Wind.

I've added about 15 films to my Netflix queue because of the site.

Jeff, I think I first saw the link in a post you made, so thank you.

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Arrrrrgh. The Hollywood Reporter's review has been up for four days, but the film itself does not come out for another eleven days, so I'm not sure I can say anything about it yet. Then again, if Wells and Poland are raving already, then perhaps it's okay for me to let slip that I am NOT a member of the glee club. Visuals good (and hey, Jason, can you handle Weisz naked AND PREGNANT?), script not so good. Details to follow when others have had a chance to see the film too.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Wow. I haven't read Ebert's review yet, but four stars is definitely excessive. I'm going to guess (only semi-seriously) that he was swept away by the visuals (which ARE impressive) and by the film's politics.

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I wasn't quite feeling the relationship b/t Weisz and Fiennes, but overall this is a good film. Good, but not absolutely great. Like the message, but it felt a little drawn out and the film felt resolved before it thought it was itself.

Still ...

8.5/10

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FWIW, my review. When I got the assignment (very much at the last minute), I warned the editor I would be a bit "contrarian", and I toyed with giving it only 2.5 stars (and I did find at least one major daily, The Globe and Mail, that did just that -- everybody else seems to be giving 3 stars minimum), but the more I thought about the acting and the cinematography, the better I liked it, so I figured what the hey, give it 3.

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Well, here is ONE critic who really didn't like the film:

City of God
first evidenced Meirelles's penchant for aestheticizing poverty into Benetton ads. As he did with the slums of Rio de Janeiro, he has filmed the destitute Nairobi with oversaturated colours, jerky camera work and choppy editing. Stylizing on demand, he has also photographed the scenes in London with a gloomy olive filter, and stages the Quayles' between bedsheets as if it were a Lancome perfume commercial. Basically, Meirelles is like the Brazilian Michael Bay, only with slightly more sociopolitically-charged material to better inflict liberal guilt trips upon viewers.

Ouch.

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I just read your review Peter. I'm a bit curious as to why, in the "content" section, you have to specify that there is pregnant nudity along with normal nudity? Just curious as to the editorial decision behind that....

I saw the movie this evening and really enjoyed it. I sat a bit further up than usual, and the screen was bigger than the theatre I usually go to, so the steadycam use was a bit disorienting, but that's more my fault than the filmmaker's. I'm sure it would have been fine if I had sat further up.

Great performances all around. I love Rachel Weise more in every film I see her in.

I've actually been to the area of Nairobi where the AIDS drama is taking place near the beginning of the the film; shanty-town called "Blue Town."

SPOILERS!!!!! SPOILERS!!!!! SPOILERS!!!!! SPOILERS!!!!! SPOILERS!!!!! SPOILERS!!!!! SPOILERS!!!!! SPOILERS!!!!! SPOILERS!!!!! SPOILERS!!!!! SPOILERS!!!!! SPOILERS!!!!!

Spoilers for Constant Gardener, and also, The Life of David Gale below.

I found the conclusion/climax of this movie to be very similar to The Life of David Gale, a movie I completely loath. Both of them feature the protagonist allowing himself to be killed in order to expose the corruption of the government. I think that part of what made it so much more resonant in this movie is that in C.G. the sacrifice was more about his love for his wife than his dedication to the cause for its own sake. I remember a conversation (one of those "date conversations" which can seem like demented question and answer sessions) and I was asked, "If you could have prevented the holocaust from happening by dying, would you have chosen to die?" I had to answer, "No," (much to her disapproval.) A cause is too impersonal for me to lay down my life for, though if it were my family, or friends, or maybe even people I've only known a short while, I sometimes think I would have the love to lay down my life. But not for random people. I know that this falls short of Jesus' example, but I'm just being honest about where I'm at. So, while David Gale may more closely approach Christ's example in his sacrifice, he's too much of a jackass (and too self-righteous) for me to admire it too much, while Justin's sacrifice is an extension of his dedication to his wife and is therefore much more touching from where I'm at (being a sodding romantic and all).

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solishu wrote:

: I'm a bit curious as to why, in the "content" section, you have to specify that there is

: pregnant nudity along with normal nudity? Just curious as to the editorial decision

: behind that....

I don't think I "had to" do that. I think I also specified that much of the nudity took place when the characters were married, right? To me, casual nudity in the context of a marriage that is becoming a family is a GOOD thing, so in MY mind at least, pointing these things out was a way of saying "the nudity isn't that bad really, actually it's rather good."

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This was the first film that I've seen since I've settled in my new place here in BC (Victoria that is, so now I join the growing number of A&Fers who make this region of the continent their home). I took the film in yesterday afternoon by myself, in a rather sober mood and ended up loving it. I'm an unabashed lover of City of God as well, and I was glad to see that Meirelles is no flash in the pan. To me this proves that he's going to be a force to be reckoned with. Rachel Weisz deserves an acting nomination of some kind and Danny Huston is wonderfully rotten. What I also love is how this film is a grown up, well acted, visually exciting thriller. In the hands of a lesser director or a less accomplished cast, this could have been another summer action flick, but the film to me is top notch filmmaking. I appreciated that they set out to tell a story that was entertaining and thought provoking, but also art. I have to give this one a big thumbs up and a nice way to end the summer.

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I also saw this yesterday, and I'm sure I'll be seeing bits and pieces of it again and again over the next year or so, when Fiennes and Weisz get their inevitable Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. And deservedly so; each actor gives an excellent, impressively nuanced performance.

Here's hoping for a cinematography nomination, too; this film LOOKED great. But that's really where my praise ends; this isn't a great film so much as the empty shell of a great film, made from what feels like the rough draft of a script.

The biggest problem is overcrowding. It feels like a four-hour epic crammed into a two-hour film, with the plot and characterization being rushed and often poorly explained. This is especially evident in the relationship between the two leads, which never really makes any sense. There are several instances in which the film expects us to sympathize with Fiennes and Weisz and their marriage, and it is redeemed only by the actors.

It also seemed overtly political to me. Watching the African plight made me feel rather guilty, but, unlike, say, Hotel Rwanda, this film toed the line of manipulation. Perhaps it's because of the anti-Bush (well, anti-Blair, anyway) tirade that Tessa makes at the start of the film, which casts the film's political scenes in a Michael Moore-ish light.

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Josh, just wondering, did you read my review? Because I think nearly every point you make there was prefigured in my own official response to the film. (If not, then hey, obviously, great minds think alike. Wish I'd thought up "empty shell of a great film", though!)

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I've been trying to avoid reading reviews until after I've gotten my OWN reviews written, so no, I haven't read your review. But I'm sure I've read some of your thoughts on it in your blog, which probably creeped into my own reaction just a bit. laugh.gif

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Actually, I avoided saying anything about this film on my blog, because the studio handling it here is one of the stricter ones when it comes to posting or pubishing reviews before a film's release date. And then, on the morning of the release date itself, the CT Movies editor e-mailed me to ask if I had seen the film and, if so, could I review it -- he hadn't assigned the review, and when he saw how it was getting attention and Oscar buzz and stuff, he figured he ought to cover it. So I then spent the next day working on a formal review, and never had time to write anything blog-specific. That's why the review didn't go up until Friday, even though the film came out on Wednesday.

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That's why the review didn't go up until Friday, even though the film came out on Wednesday.

I was curious about that!

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