Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy's smart sex-and-tech Victorian comedy has a whole lotta shaking going on
Even before watching "Hysteria," I could get a sense of the challenge facing the filmmakers. Inspired by Dr. Joseph Morton Granville's radical therapy for "Female Hysteria" in the Victorian era -- "curing" listlessness and general lack of sexual satisfaction by the application of stimulus, not with the prior era's technique of the gentle touch of a doctor but, rather, with the speedy buzz of a high-tech (at the time) device. Hugh Dancy (who, despite my never having seen a picture of the real good Doctor Granville, I bet looks nothing like the good Doctor Granville) is a doctor and scientist tired of the Victorian era's repressions and ignorance -- a superior at a hospital is unconvinced by germ theory and the need to wash hands and change bandages. All a doctor needs to offer, he says before firing Granville, is "...a steady air of calm assurance and the occasional bleeding."
So Granville finds himself joining the practice of Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce, looking more than ever like an owl in a suitcoat), administering "hysteria cures" to women and getting embroiled in the lives of his younger dutiful daughter Emily (Felicity Jones) and firebrand reform-minded daughter Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal). But it's labor; suffering from a pioneering case of sex-related carpal tunnel syndrome, a pained and disgraced Granville, inspired by his confirmed bachelor mad scientist friend Edmund St. John-Smythe (a bearded, brisk Rupert Everett) and a failed attempt at an electric feather-duster, invents the vibrator, turning hours of effort into startling results within moments. "Three paroxysms…within five minutes," Granville tells Dalyrimple, who sees a vision of humanism and pound notes hovering before him.
But the invention of the vibrator comes nearly an hour into the film, after extensive set-up about the practice and Charlotte and Granville's high ideals and Dickensian circumstance. I thought I wish the main thrust of the plot had come in a lot earlier than this; I would have liked more of that before the film's climax. And then I thought How do you write "Hysteria" -- never mind write about "Hysteria" -- so that it doesn't become a 95-minute long 'That's what she said!' joke in vests and petticoats? Well, in part, you make it about the fact that, in Victorian England, you couldn't make a 'That's what she said!' joke, in no small part because she was expected to keep quiet.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt bikes his butt all over Manhattan
On France, fear and the joys of Midnight Madness
Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury may have only two films to their credit -- but when one of those films is conspired by your correspondent to be one of the best horror films ever made, 2007's "Inside," then that's enough to get your attention when its follow-up, "Livid," lands at the Toronto International Film Festival in the Midnight Madness section. "Livid" is a mix of blood and ballet, as a group of kids inadvisably try to ransack the house of a 100-year-old ex-ballet teacher who's been in a coma -- only to discover that she's not really in a coma, and not especially human anymore. A mix of Sam Raimi, Dario Argento and "Black Swan," "Livid" is a dark phantasmagoria -- and a universe away from the knife-and-shadow realism of "Inside." We spoke with Bustllo and Maury in Toronto.
I was at the 2007 midnight screening of 'À L'Intérieur' ('Inside') -- and have never been more frightened in my life. And it's great to see that that film from you guys, who have a history with such a great film at the festival, it wasn't a case of you guys being last-time directors: You came, you conquered, you closed it out, and everybody went home terrified. Can you talk briefly on what that experience was like, having the film close out Midnight Madness in Toronto?
Maury: For us, it was first unexpected to be there, because it was our first movie. Since the beginning, it was just a small movie that we've made in our country, in France, and we never expected to be invited anywhere else than in France. When Colin Geddes sent us an invitation, it was like, 'Wow, we're going to travel; it's so cool.' We knew (Toronto's Midnight Madness) has a good reputation, but we weren't so familiar with it. It was like a punch in the face, because as we were expecting nothing, it was really wild. As I said during 'Livid' presentation, when it's really honest, we've shown the movie worldwide, and it was the best audience we ever had. It was really wild; for a director-filmmaker, it was so exciting, so satisfying, because that's why we make movies: To entertain and to tell stories to people and hear the crowd react so well was an achievement for us.
The atmosphere at Midnight Madness, is that great for you as a filmmaker?
Bustillo: Yes. Like I said during the presentation, it was like being in heaven. We went to the Midnight Madness for the first time four years ago. The smell of weed, a lot of people played with a beach volleyball. We don't have this kind of stuff in France. All these guys were here to watch our movies at midnight, so it was really like being in heaven. Like Julien said, it was really, really incredible and maybe the most crazy audiences we had seen during the promotion of 'Inside.'
Channing Tatum-starrer was a flop at this year's festival
It’s one of the great mysteries of cinema land – how truly terrible, laughably bad, wrenchingly tone-deaf films make it into prestigious festivals like Sundance, allowing them to forever be marketed as a “Sundance film.” To the layman, seeing “Sundance film” tacked on before a film’s title will likely spark the desired reaction – a sense that said film must somehow have merit, at least enough to get into a top-notch festival like Sundance. But to anyone who has ever attended a film festival (even the biggies like Sundance or TIFF or Cannes), the bloom is off that rose, and in a big way. Entry into a film festival, even for films with top-notch casts and a known filmmaking team, do not guarantee quality.
Such is the case with bonafide Sundance flop, “The Son of No One.” The film’s pedigree, including director Dito Montiel (whose previous Sundance film, “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” is an underseen little gem) and stars Channing Tatum, Katie Holmes, Al Pacino, Ray Liotta, and Juliette Binoche, couldn’t save the film from near-ruin at the festival. Walk-outs at festival films are more commonplace than most people would think, but this year’s Sundance looked to set new records of both industry buffs and regular moviegoers skipping out on films before they reached their end (and I know, I witnessed more Sundance walkouts this year than I’ve ever seen at any other festival in my years of fest attendance). But even with that new standard set, “The Son of No One” made waves (and even published stories) with its walkouts, so remarkable was their number.
But that didn’t scare Anchor Bay off, with the distributor acquiring the film, which will release the film later this year. The film stars Tatum as a young cop assigned to his old (and tough) neighborhood. But all is (of course) not as it seems, and an old secret threatens to expose some harsh realities for everyone involved.
Check out the first trailer for “The Son of No One,” thanks to Fandango, after the break. How does the film look to you?
Videodrone's take on the biggest, best, coolest and culty-ist home video releases of the week
"Thor" adds the God of Thunder to the superhero home video library and another dozen or so seasons of TV shows (including the first season of "Blue Bloods" and the final seasons of "Rescue Me") hit home video this week, but the big news in this week's releases are in Blu-ray: Orson Welles' classic "Citizen Kane" and the beloved "Star Wars: The Complete Saga" both make their long-anticipated Blu-ray debuts. Read on for details and more releases…
Kenneth Branagh brings "Thor" (Paramount, the Norse god-as-comic-book hero, to the big screen with Shakespearean dimension and god-versus-robot fantasy action. In other words, full of sound and fury and not much else. Chris Hemsworth does cut an impressive figure as the Aryan princeling god, though. Videodrone's review is here, and we talk with Kenneth Branagh about gods, superheroes and movies here.
Kelly Reichert's "Meek's Cutoff" (Oscilloscope), a frontier drama about a wagon train lost in the high plains of Oregon, may be the quietest western you've ever seen. Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood and Will Patton star in this superb, beautifully observed film. Videodrone hits the trail with the film here.
Joseph Gordon Levitt is a headbanging blast of anarchy with a healing presence in "Hesher" (Lionsgate) and Helen Mirren is Prospera in Julie Taymor's take on Shakespeare's "The Tempest" (Touchstone), which co-stars Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming and Felicity Jones.
"Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop" (Paramount) chronicles the comic's "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on TV" tour after his departure from "The Tonight Show." The French-language Canadian drama "Incendies" (Sony), about siblings who travel to the Middle East to meet family they never knew existed, was an Oscar nominee for "Best Foreign Language Film." Other imports this week include the French/Austrian/German coproduction "Lourdes" (Palisades Tartan) and "Le Quattro Volte" (Kino Lorber) from Italy.
Takes over the role once thought to belong to Amanda Seyfried
Louis Leterrier’s “magician heist” film, “Now You See Me” now has a lovely leading lady to throw knives at (or slice in a box, or have hold a rabbit in a hat, or similar). Variety reports that Isla Fisher is in talks for the role that was once pinned on Amanda Seyfried. Letterier, best known for the technical disaster “Clash of the Titans” (a film that stands out as one of the worst examples of post-production 3D conversion to date), will next lens the film from Edward Ricourt and Boas Yakin’s script.
The film will focus on the Four Horseman, “a squad of the world’s greatest illusionists who pull off a series of daring bank heists during their performances, then shower the profits on their auds.” Jesse Eisenberg will star as one of the Four Horsemen, with Mark Ruffalo cast as an FBI agent who leads the charge against the magic mischievous makers. Morgan Freeman is on board as an ex-magician, and Melanie Laurent will play one of Ruffalo’s agents.
Fisher’s role is that of “Henley,” who helps the Horsemen with their illusions (and crimes) by way of “contraptions” she builds, thanks to her own unique and refined skill set. Fisher’s career has been picking up some serious steam as of late as the actress, once just a cute diversion in witless rom-coms (hi there, “Confessions of a Shopaholic”) and the standout in new comedy classics (“Wedding Crashers”), is rounding out her resume with all sorts of roles. She recently voiced a part in “Rango,” and will next be seen in Baz Luhrmann’s 3D take on “The Great Gatsby” (great cast on that film, totally pointless 3D).
Despite the technically terrible “Clash,” Letterier did pull off some interesting bits with that film, and his previous films, particularly “The Transporter” and its sequel, show that the director has an eye and an interest for action with a twist. If “Now You See Me” can also utilize its talented (and comically-rooted) cast, the film could turn out quite well. Now you see it? I’d like to.
Vows to release only the original versions of it and 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' on Blu-ray
His inexplicably proclivity for following up portentous awards season fodder with seemingly junky genre fare notwithstanding, Steven Spielberg might be the Hollywood paradigm of artistic integrity. (Admittedly, that's not saying much.) Always ready to admit his mistakes, Spielberg exudes an admirable willingness to let past be past. George Lucas, are you taking notes?
After a (recent) special Los Angeles screening of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to commemorate that film's 30th anniversary, Spielberg (plus a special guest) took to the stage for an impromptu Q&A. All Things Fangirl has an extensive transcript for those interested in the full scope of the conversation, but for everyone else, the main takeaways were these: Spielberg counts George Lucas among his lifelong besties, and fully supports his friend's right to do whatever the heck he wants to "Star Wars" no matter how terrible it might be; Spielberg, for his part, fully regrets changing a single frame of "E.T." for that film's latest theatrical rerelease (when he caved to pressure to make it more "family-friendly" by, for example, digitally replacing every gun with a walkie-talkie); and, most important, Spielberg has learned from his mistakes and will release the original, unadulterated cuts of "E.T." and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" only on Blu-ray.
Should Spielberg be commended for such thoughtful consideration of our childhood memories? Is an honorary Oscar of some kind perhaps in order? Or does his producing work on the "Transformers" series obviate all that goodwill? As always, let us know in the comments!