I respected Howards End and The Remains of the Day, Ivory's big Oscar films from the early 90's, but I didn't exactly like or ever have a desire to see them again. When I rented A Room With a View for my Dame Judi Dench celebration last year, I was excited for the Dench, but I wasn't looking forward to the film at all. Nevertheless, I gave it a shot and, lo and behold, it was a magnificent film. Where Howards End and The Remains of the Day are too restrained in their emotions for my taste and tad stodgy, A Room With a View is full of life, humor and color. Helena Bonham Carter is fun as the spunky heroine, but the film belongs to Dame Maggie Smith as Carter's befuddled chaperone and Daniel Day-Lewis as Carter's stuffed shirt fiancee.
Be prepared for this one. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is one of the most intense filmmaking excursions I've ever seen. From the opening moments with Elizabeth Taylor berating her husband, Richard Burton, for not remembering the name of the Bette Davis picture that the line "What a dump!" comes from, you get sucked into George and Martha's intense game of wits and viciousness. Plus, the cast is all in top notch form, giving the best performances of their respective careers.
While the Nouvelle Vague (French New Wave) was receiving worldwide attention, a smaller movement called the Rive Gauche was taking place inside France. Cleo de 5 a 7 was one of the masterpieces from this movenment. The film follows two hours in the life of a young woman awaiting test results that will tell her if she has cancer. During those two hours, the woman contemplates her mortality, escapes her situation for a few fleeting moments with a friend, meets with her accompanist to go over songs she may never record and may possibly find a new relationship with a young man she meets on the way to find out her results. It's true that not much happens, plot wise, but this possibly the most fascinating character study I've ever seen. So many different emotions pour through Cleo during the course of the film but it never feels trashy or over the top; instead, Varda focuses on ordinary life and makes it fascinating.