Monday, January 14, 2013

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina is a 2012 film directed by Joe Wright based on the novel by the same name written by Leo Tolstoy 1877.

Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina
Jude Law as Alexei Karenin
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Count Vronsky
Domhnall Gleeson as Constantin Levin
Alicia Vikander as Kitty

A theater curtain is raised and the film begins. Anna has just received a letter from her brother Stiva to help him reconcile with his wife, Dolly, who has banished him from seeing her or their children after she discovered that he was having an affair with the children's governess. Before she leaves, her husband, Alexei Karenin, warns her about fixing the problems of others. On the train of Moscow, Anna meets Countess Vronskaya, who is known throughout all society as an adulteress, but finds the subject of her reputation trivial because of her old age. She is instead more focused on her son, Count Vronsky. At the station, Anna meets Count Vronsky and the attraction between the two is felt immediately. As they prepare to leave, a worker is caught beneath the train tracks and is killed. To impress Anna, Vronsky decides to give money to the deceased man's family.

In Moscow, Stiva's meets up with his friend, Konstantin Levin, who professes his love for Stiva's sister-in-law, Kitty, and seeks his advice on what to do. Levin proposes to Kitty but she refuses, believing  that a match with a handsome cavalry officer named Vronsky will be is imminent. Levin then goes to visit his elder brother, Nikolai, who has abandoned all the grandeur of the aristocracy for the life of a poor man. He takes a prostitute as his wife and bids that Levin should do the same and marry one of the peasants working on his estate. Drained by these events, Levin returns to his country estate.

Anna convinces Dolly to take Stiva back. At the ball, Kitty truly earns her title as the "Belle of St. Petersburg Society", looking radiant in white, until Anna shows up, dressed in black. Kitty must dance with the men in her dance card, while Anna and Vronsky dance the night away, upsetting Kitty. Anna notices this and decides to leave feeling that she has upstaged Kitty. Anna boards a train back to St. Petersburg and at a rest meets Vronsky who boldly declares his love for her. Anna tells him that can not be together and but Vronsky will not take no for an answer. Vronsky begins appearing wherever Anna does. During a soiree held by Princess Betsy, people are abuzz with gossip and Anna and Vronsky. Vronsky begins to flirt openly with Anna and these interactions are seen by Karenin, who warns Anna not to give people a reason to talk. Anna denies the rumors and shortly afterward meets Vronsky at a hotel and they make love.

Anna and Vronsky are staying at a country estate when Anna tells Vronsky that she is pregnant with his child. At the horse races, Vronsky suffers a fall from his horse causing Anna to scream in shock, this reveals the true nature of their relationship to the whole of society. Karenin takes his wife home where she confesses to him that she is indeed Vronsky's lover. Vronsky demands that she and Karenin divorce but Karenin does not allow her to and knowing the consequences tells him that they will find a way.

Levin returns to Moscow where Stiva urges him to propose to Kitty again, since a match between her a Vronsky is not out of the question, but Levin is hesitant considering what happened last time. He leaves to his summer estate and spends his days out of the fields, helping his men plow the land. One morning, before work has started, he catches a glimpse of Kitty with her head out of the window in a carriage, looking serene and angelic. They are then reunited at Stiva's house where they profess their love for each other. They marry.

Karenin catches wind that Vronsky has been at his house despite what Karenin has said about him not being allowed to be there. He searches through Anna's desk and finds love letters. He declares that he will divorce her and take away her son. While staying at Stiva's place, Karenin receives a letter stating that Anna is dying in childbirth. She begs his forgiveness and berates Vronsky for being nothing like Karenin. He readily forgives her, asking her to forgive him for the way he treated her. Anna survives but immediately returns Vronsky.

One day, Levin returns home to discover that his brother, Nikolai, is sick and is being nursed by his prostitute wife. Levin is quick to banish the fallen woman believing that Kitty will be outraged to be in such a woman's presence but on the contrary, Kitty goes to nurse Nikolai alongside Masha. Levin comes to realize that Kitty has indeed grown up and that innocent love can bloom into something more.

Anna decides to go the opera despite Vronsky's warnings. At the opera, attendees look at her in disgust and one of the atendees makes publicly insults Anna and leave and Anne begins to understand that society does not accept her. Anna remains composed for the rest of the opera but cries upon returning back to the hotel. Vronsky is able to sooth Anna with a mixture of laudanum and water. The next day Anna has lunch at a restaurant but is ignored by everyone except Dolly. When Anna sees Vronsky being picked up by Princess Sorokhina, she loses her grip on reality and she kills herself by throwing herself in front of a train screaming "OH GOD FORGIVE ME"

Levin returns home in the rain to find Kitty giving their newborn son a bath. Kitty asks him what is, and Levin cradling his baby boy in his arms looks at her, with tears in his eyes.Stiva and his family eat with Levin and Kitty, and Stiva looking weary and sad, goes outside lights a cigarette, mourning the loss of his sister.

Karenin is seen enjoying a book in the meadow where Serozha and Anna's illegitimate child, Anya, playing among the daisies growing in the field. It ends with a wide shot, it is revealed that the field is on a theater stage where the film began. Thus the whole film's concept of the Russian aristocracy living their lives as if on a stage.

I give 3.5/5 and ma femme, who also saw the movie, gives it a 2/5. Oh what a surprise, Keira Knightley in another period piece... but we here at Gatchina Palace love her it. ABSOLUTELY AMAZING VISUALS. Wright's decision to stage the movie on a play didn't disturb me as it did ma femme and I thought it LOOKED beautiful. Costumes were great and I believe whole heartedly that they deserve the Academy Award and NOT Snow White's and the Hunstman - sorry Kristen Stewart fans. Story wise: Meh. Anna Karenina is comprised of two stories; love coming together with Kitty and Levin and love falling apart with Anna, Karenin and Vronsky. Kitty and Vronsky's story paled in comparison to Anna's so I wasn't particularly attracted to either character (although I'll admit that their love confession was undeniably cute). Another Keira Knightley with a similar theme of adultery is The Duchess which I prefer to this movie because unlike the Duchess where Knightley's husband cheated on her and raped her, Karenin was a good guy and I, being recently engaged and everything, do not like adulterers who cheat because they are just bored. I thought Jude Law was great in the role and added a depth to the character to Karenin that I couldn't get from reading the book. In short, this movie is for those artistically inclined than the average movie goer.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Les Miserables

Les Miserables is a 2012 film based on hit musical by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alan Boublil, which in itself is based on the 1862 novel by the same name by Victor Hugo, directed by Tom Hooper.

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean
Russell Crowe as Javert
Anne Hathaway as Fantine
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette
Eddie Redmayne as Marius
Samantha Barks as Eponine

In 1815, convict Jean Valjean is released on parole by prison guard Javert after serving a 19 year sentences, 5 years for stealing a loaf of bread and the rest for repeatedly attemting to escape. Valjean is taken in by the Bishop of Digne but steals his silver during the night. When he is caught by the authorities, instead of condemning Valjean, the bishop lies and says that he gave the silver to Valjean. This act of kindness causes Valjean to turn away from his life of crime for a more honest one.

Eight years later, Jean Valjean, under a new name, is a factory owner and mayor of a small town. One of his workers by the name of Fantine, works so that she can pay for the upkeep of her illegitimate daughter, Cosette. Once her secret is exposed, Fantine is fired by the foreman. With the Thenardiers, whose care Cosette is under while Fantine is away working, demanding ever more money, Fantine sells her hair, two of her teeth and eventually resorts to prostitution to pay for her Cosette's upbringing. During an argument with a customer, Fantine is arrested by Javert but Valjean intercedes.

Later, Valjean learns that another man has been identified as the "real" Jean Valjean. Unable to condemn an innocent man, Valjean reveals his true identity to the court before going to the hospital to see a dying Fantine. He promises the woman that he will care for her daughter as if she were his own and Fantine dies peacefully knowing that her daughter is in safe hands. After escaping from Javert, Valjean visits the Thenardier's to collect Cosette, who has been abused under their hands while their daughter, Eponine, is spoiled, after paying a hefty bill to get her. 

Nine years later, General Lamarque, a general popular with public for his sympathies with the poor is dying. Enjolras, a student, begins to talk of revolution with the street urchin, Gavroche, and his friend, Marius Pontmercy. One day Marius catch a glimpse of Cosette, now a beautiful young woman, and is immediately smitten. He employs the service of his friend, Eponine, to help him find Cosette, not realizing that Eponine herself is in love with Marius. During an attempt to rob Valjean's house, Jean Valjean believes that Javert has discovered his hiding place and he decides to flee with Cosette to England. Heartbroken at Cosette's departure, Marius decides to join the fight. Javert poses as a revolutionary to spy on them but is spotted by Gavroche. During a gunfight, Eponine saves Marius's life by taking a bullet for him. She professes her love to him before she dies.

Valjean discovers Marius's letter of love to Cosette and is determined to save him from death. After saving Enjolras from a sniper, Valjean is accepted into the revolutionary ranks and is allowed the honor of executing Javert. Valjean instead frees Javert much to the confusion of Javert. With dawn, the students realize that the Parisians will not join their cause and prepare for the final battle. Enjolras and the rest of the students are kille. Marius is saved byValjean, who carries him through the sewers. At the end of the tunnel however Valjean is confronted by Javert. Conflicted by Valjean's generosity and his duty, Javert kills himself.

 Marius is reunited with Cosette and the two are set to be married. Knowing that as
long as he is with them he is placing them in danger, Valjean decides to leave. At the wedding of Cosette and Marius, the Thenardier crash the party and threaten to reveal the identity of Valjean to everyone. Monsieur Thernardier shows Marius a ring as proof of Valjean's terrible past not realizing that the ring is actually Marius's. Marius and Cosette rush over to the church where Valjean is dying and spend his last moments with him. Valjean is led by Fantine to heaven and is joined by Eponine, Enjolras and Gavroche.

I give this movie a 4.5/5. An absolutely stunning movie with amazing visuals and spectacular cast. I came into this movie with the mindset that it was a good way to pass time (I read the story in my formative teen years) with my best friend and that Russell Crowe was a terrible singer. Both turned out to be false. Yes, Russell Crowe is not the best singer in the world but he gets the movie along. But no, the movie was fantastic.  Someone who particularly stood out to me was Anne Hathaway who somehow managed to make me cry every time she appeared, I was literally bawling in the theater, gripping as tightly as I could on my best friend's hand when she sang "I dreamed a dream" and "Come to me". I'm happy to learn that she has just been nominated for best supporting actress at the 85th Academy Awards, she surely does deserves it. Shoutouts to Samantha Barks as Eponine, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette and Eddit Redmayne as Marius. For me, Aaron Tveit as Enjolras was the much better hearthrob which is in no way Redmayne's fault and more the fact that I have never particularly liked Marius. Tveit was handsome and charismatic, which is perfect in my book. My one gripe with the movie is Javert's suicide scene. Now the movie did seemed a bit rushed to me as the books seems to play things out a bit longer but I was perfectly fine with it through most of the film. However, Javert's suicide was something I couldn't get into, it seemed rush. And of top of that, when Javert falls to his death you hear this horrible snapping sound that completely took me out of the movie and in that moment the film lost its artistic viewpoint and I just did not like that, it was not poetic. Otherwise, a very good movie and I would tell you to get to the theaters as fast as you can......but make sure you bring a box of tissues with you!