Mother of Tears (dir: Dario Argento)
Dario Argento’s “The Three Mothers” trilogy is, decades after releasing the wildly incomprehensible and luridly fascinating second film Inferno, finally completed, not with a bang but a whimper, or rather, in a metaphor more befitting the title, a glycerin tear. Mother of Tears is contrived, confused, clumsy, and quite simply dreadful. It opens on sloppiest archeologists in Italy opening an unearthed urn containing ancient talismans and describing the contents with such numbingly obviousness that you wonder if your experiencing a cheap version of descriptive video for the blind (“It’s some kind of ancient language,” he opines. Really? On an ancient artifact? What, he was expecting Esperanto?). The whole mess is sent to a museum, where an equally dubious expert manhandles the box open and inadvertently brings the talismans to life as giant golems that proceed to eviscerate the head archeologist and strangle her with her own intestines. Their lord and (naked) mistress pulls on an unholy T-shirt with glitter runes and proceeds to cast evil across Rome (which is actually Turin, an unconvincing stand-in made worse by poor locations and indifferent photography).
Even Dario’s daughter Asia, as a wide-eyed archeology student who watches witches from all over the world (dressed like refugees from an eighties New Wave video) swarm the streets like a gang of harpy thugs, can’t get through her lines with a modicum of conviction (Udo Kier doesn’t even bother, he just goes nuts). Written from a compendium of B movie dialogue clichés and directed as if he’d never worked with actors before, Argento’s film is a cheap production with little visual creativity and dull cinematography. He falls back on familiar shocks and images rather than delving into the abstract beauty of his glory days of horror. Once a director of high style, with cameras that danced and floated through scenes of dynamic choreography and searing colors and stunning visions, the master of abstract ballets of blood and beauty has become a tired old man.
I review the film for the Seattle P-I here.
Brick Lane (dir: Sara Gavron)
“I always said I would not marry and move far away.” So says Nazneen Ahmed (Tannishtha Chatterjee), a Pakistani-born woman who was hustled off in an arranged marriage with “an educated man” in London after the death of her mother and now lives a suffocating, joyless existence raising two daughters and tolerating a buffoonish husband who inflated opinion of his intellect and his potential is unreflected in his dead-end job as he’s constantly passed over for promotion. Her escape is her idealized memory-turned-fantasy of the unspoiled childhood Eden in Pakistan, a vibrant remembrance of a lush natural playground and an innocent way of life in sharp contrast to her cramped and cluttered apartment in a dreary, low-income London suburb.
The story is a familiar journey given a new perspective by her situation: It’s 2001 and anti-immigrant violence is stoked by the attacks on the World Trade Center building stateside, which reluctantly pulls her out of her cocoon and into her community.
Sarah Gavron’s adaptation of Monica Ali’s novel is a thoughtful and often evocative drama of identity and assimilation, but she leaves Nazneen so cocooned in her protective shell of disconnection that we can’t connect emotionally. Even her escapes into memory and adultery are more intellectually observed than felt.
But that doesn’t discount her experience or her hard-fought journey past her self-imposed social prison to discover a stronger person than she ever gave herself.
Read the complete review at the Seattle P-I here.