by Anna Luciano
The Da Vinci Code
Ever since they announced that there would be an adaptation of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” I’ve been waiting with bated breath. For me, that book was pretty much the perfect mix of mystery, thriller, intrigue and humor, and the perfect balance between truth and fiction. I was curious – could Hollywood successfully adapt a good book, without ruining everything that made the book great? In “The Da Vinci Code,” released on Friday, May 19 th, the answer is... kind of.
For those that don’t know, “The Da Vinci Code” tells the story of Harvard professor Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) and French cryptologist Sophie Neveu (played by Audrey Tatou) as they try to solve a murder and unravel the mystery of the Holy Grail. Langdon and Neveu must solve a number of clever riddles and break complicated codes in their quest for the truth. In addition, they have to evade the French police, led by Captain Fache (played by Jean Reno), and the shadowy group who would do anything to stop them from discovering the truth.
While the film tells a very interesting story, it departs from the novel in a number of ways, most notably in tone. The book did not make any apologies for the theories it put forth, allowing the reader to fall right into the story and get caught up in the action and excitement. The movie, on the other hand, goes out of its way to avoid controversy, apologizing every time something “touchy” comes up. This fear of offending makes the whole movie feel half-done. It has a good story, and is exciting – but too many scenes seem to drag on forever, and many of the lines are too stiff to sound real.
The Da Vinci Code has, for the most part, a strong and capable cast. Tatou is, as always, lovely, and perfectly captures Sophie’s innocence, intelligence and wit. Reno was the perfect choice to play Captain Fache, a detective used to being right who discovers that this time, he was wrong. Paul Bettany does an amazing job of portraying the fanatical albino monk Silas, and manages to capture the audience’s anger and pity. Ian McKellan is hilarious as Sir Leigh Teabing, and Alfred Molina is convincing as Bishop Aringarosa. However, since the movie revolves around Robert Langdon, it is Hanks that must carry the film. He does not rise to this challenge, instead giving a slightly wooden performance that completely lacks the charisma and wit that defined Langdon in the novel.
The Da Vinci Code is, at best, a decent movie. It’s sort of fun, sort of entertaining. It’s kind of funny, and kind of exciting. If you have nothing better to do, it will help you kill a couple of hours. But overall, you’d be better off reading the book. Or renting “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” which is a much more exciting Grail film.
New DVD Release
by Fritz Voigt
Melinda and Melinda
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Will Ferrell, Jonny Lee Miller, Radha Mitchell, Amanda Peet, Chloe Sevigny, and Wallace Shawn
I saw this complicated movie rather late at night after a humble though delicious meal of black bean soup and tortilla chips. I had company that evening…a delightful and moody Irish woman who fell asleep halfway through the movie then awoke disappointed that I had not bothered to wake her in order for her to see the entire film. Wanting to cool all tempers I offered to let her see the other half of the movie even though I had already seen it in its entirety. She did not comment the next day that while I had consented for her to replay the movie starting from where she had dozed off I had not intended on staying up with her. Quickly after the characteristic jazz came on I found myself happily in bed and nearly fully asleep. In an even stranger twist my lovely Irish woman was not upset with me in the least and if anything, appeared a little sheepish for snoozing through the waking, natural period of our date.
I begin my review with this sort of rambling preamble regarding my date and I to sort of give you the kind of boring-ish mood and action that permeates this movie. I will say right off that I am a real Woody Allen fan and have stood by him throughout all of his artistic phases, however, this movie though novel in its side by side story telling approach (Woody Allen presents one story two ways: comically and tragically), never really broke beyond an array of nerdy little over-sensitized squares and their nerdy little over-sensitized issues. And while I will not name names some of the acting was so bad that I felt embarrassed to watch. Now normally, Woody Allen gives us nerdy little over-sensitized squares with their outrageously self-centered sensibilities and transforms it into the most fascinating show on earth (I still cannot erase the scene where Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives cusses out her estranged husband on the phone while on a date with a timid gentleman in the city). However, this time there never was a moment where I absolutely left my apartment and found myself suspended in Woody World.I will say that if you are a huge fan of Woody Allen (as I am) you will have to see this movie because to love Woody Allen and really to experience Woody Allen properly you must see every single scrap of film he is responsible for. However, if you are simply looking for a great movie on a slow evening I would think twice before you shell out that initial $3.99 with the additional $20.00 investment in late fees.
by David Sirois
Wings of Desire, B & W, then Color
GER, In German, English and French
Directed by Wim Wenders, 1987
“An angel passes by!” a circus-hand says, as Marion, a trapeze artist, leaves the tent with her wings made of chicken feathers. Damiel, an actual angel, watches startled – thinking he has been caught. Damiel, exquisitely played by Bruno Ganz (who I have seen act exquisitely in German, English, Italian and French) yearns to become mortal after falling in love with Marion (wistfully played by Solveig Dommartin). She also is “Longing for a wave of love that would stir in me. That's what makes me clumsy. The absence of pleasure. Desire for love. Desire to love.” The film is seen from Damiel’s perspective, an angelic angle that affords the viewer access into people’s thoughts and feelings. There is a subway ride, for example, in which one person’s thoughts after another are overheard, with angels laying hands on the most distressed – whose thoughts soon take a turn upward.
The German title of the film is Der Himmel Uber Berlin, or The Sky Above Berlin – this sky is dotted with angels in trench coats who keep watch over humankind, celebrating the intense moments of human experience, like a man shouting “No!” for no apparent reason.
Damiel confides in his friend, Cassiel, that he would like to experience humanness. Peter Falk, who warmly plays himself, serves as an earthly guide to Damiel later on.
Cassiel is played understatedly by Otto Sander, who is the lead in the excellent sequel, Far Away, So Close! The film begins in black and white, and only blooms into color when Damiel places his hand on Marion’s shoulder, after watching her listen to Nick Cave’s “No One Saw the Carnie Go”. Nick Cave plays a pivotal role later in the film, for it is at his concert that they meet, just after Damiel has become human. Their conversation is the most spiritual “romantic” moment I have seen on film.
Wings of Desire is one of the best films I have ever seen. It is up in the sky over Berlin with Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, and Andrey Tarkovsky’s Mirror and Stalker. Director Wim Wenders has broken down the walls between worlds, two years before the Berlin Wall fell, showing the line between freedom and bondage to be nonexistent.
I recommend this film for anyone interested in the mysteries of life, and I would like to end this review with a piece of the poem that begins the film. It is called Song of Childhood, by Peter Handke, the brilliant Austrian writer who co-wrote with Wenders).
When the child was a child,
it didn’t know that it was a child,
everything was soulful,
and all souls were one.
When the child was a child,
it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits,
it often sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair,
and made no faces when photographed.