Without A Song (Film Thoughts: The Song of Names)

large_song-names-posterThere are a lot of things about Francois Girard’s ‘The Song of Names’ that appeal to me: the historical drama theme, the classical music, the Britishness of it. The story, based on Norman Lebrecht’s novel, and with screenplay by Jeffrey Caine is weaved intricately – a young violinist, on the night of his big concert, suddenly disappears on the same night, and we are there to piece everything together, moving both backwards and forward. But the heart of the film is set in the mid 80s, when Martin (played by Tim Roth) gets a clue on what happened that night to his friend Dovidl (Clive Owens) and pursues the latter’s whereabouts.

The film doesn’t really work in a lot of ways, buy for me, it sill works.  As a thriller, it is tepid, and the direction is much too low key for it to be really suspenseful. But there’s a quiet dignity to the whole thing, and Roth plays the role with expert subtlety. When the ‘big reveal’ is finally narrated, it isn’t as bombastic as you thought it would be, but it still packs intensity. And the music is breathtaking (Ray Chen plays the violin) and gives the film layers, along with Howard’s Shore’s score. I have family members who make fun of my film choices, saying I love ‘talkies.’ This film probably best describes what they mean, and I would gladly wear my admiration for it.

Rate Real (Movie Thoughts: Luce)

large_luce-posterJulius Onah’s ‘Luce’ was adapted from a play by J.C. Lee, who also co-wrote the screenplay.  The material is a powerful piece – one that makes you examine each of these characters closely – people are complex, you see, and people can be both be devil and angel. The film centers around Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr) who is a star student (Debate team, football hero, honors) who isn’t quite who he appears to be. Or does he? Complications abound whenhe submits an assignment to his teacher (Octavia Spencer) praising Frantz Fanon, who advocates using violence as necessary retribution. She has his locker searched and finds illegal fireworks there.

The setting is set up, and I have to admit it was a little on the manipulative side. And the conflicts are settled a little too simplistic – we see complexities in some characters, but honestly, not all. However, we get four fantastic performances here, and each one gives their character so much depth that everything just works. Harrison is a star in the making, and Spencer is magnificent as always (this could give her more nominations by the end of the year) but I was also quite pleased with both Naomi Watts and Tim Roth who play Luce’s adopted parents. In the end, their performances gave me more satisfaction than the piece that laid the groundwork.