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Entries in May Flowers (18)

Friday
May312013

Belated Birthday Flowers: Carey, Annette, Helena

Belated Birthday May Flowers ~  Andrew here.

It’s the end of May and with the end of the month comes the end of May Flowers (*tear*). This past week saw three significant birthdays pass by for The Film Experience – Helena Bonham Carter (May 26), Carey Mulligan (May 28) and Annette Bening (May 29). Although we didn’t carve out proper time at TFE to fête each of them  – a combined celebration of May Flowers will surely suffice. True, they’re all at different stages in their career but if there’s one thing that we at The Film Experience know it’s that actresses are the flowers in the garden of cinema and we just couldn’t survive if they stopped prospering. So, on with the celebration. 

First up, Carey Mulligan...

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Wednesday
May292013

May Flowers in "Bright Star"

Andrew here using May Flowers celebrations to talk about one of my favourite 21st century films.

If you asked me to pick a single image to represent movies from 2000 onwards chances are that I’d choose this specific image from Jane Campion’s Bright Star. It’s still one of those movie images seared into my brain, four years after I first saw it. Campion’s 2009 film has so many things going for it, and Greg Fraiser’s peerless cinematography is somewhere towards the top. It’s not quite my favourite film of its year but it is, easily, my choice for “most beautiful” and that’s not just because it has the prettiest couple heading its romance. [more...]

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Friday
May172013

Ruth Wilcox’s May Flowers

They’re arriving so late in the day because Mrs. Wilcox is a nymph who travels at night.

As far as evocative film openings go this lush green opening for Howards End ranks among the top for me. Really, though, many films would be vastly improved if they open with a strolling Vanessa Redgrave. more...

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Thursday
May162013

Buy a Flower Off a Poor Girl

Another edition of May Flowers is blooming...

abstew here with a look at a film that's so enamored with flowers that beautiful blossoms show up on screen even before the title of the film:

But, the flowers aren't merely decorative... although they are loverly. They line the streets of Covent Garden where the rich come to take in the refined, artistic pleasures of the Opera. And the poor, including our film's heroine, Eliza Doolittle (played by Audrey Hepburn), try to make a decent day's wages by selling the flowers to the visiting elite. The whole series of events that changes Eliza's fate all happens because she tries to sell her violets to one Colonel Pickering (Stanley Holloway). Little does she know that her conversation with the gentleman is being phonetically transcribed by a linguist professor named Henry Higgins (or as Eliza would say, 'Enry 'Iggins and played by Rex Harrison in his Oscar winning performance). Higgins, wondering "Why Can't the English Learn to Speak?", makes the case that it is Eliza's Cockney accent that keeps her in the gutter selling flowers. If he taught her how to speak properly he could pass her off as a Duchess at a ball. The next day she takes him up on the offer, wanting to get a job in a flower shop if he can teach her to speak more "genteel".

And thus begins the transformation of this Eliza:

To this Eliza: 

Instead of selling rain-soaked, trodden bunches of violets, she is now bedecked in rosettes made of pink chiffon and surrounded by lilies in a hot house. What a difference some voice lessons can make!

Unfortunately, Audrey's own voice (singing voice, that is) was more flower seller than Duchess. Though she was cast thinking she would do Eliza's singing herself, producer Jack Warner was secretly having Marni Nixon record Eliza's songs. (Nixon was, of course, the singing voice to the stars. She also did Deborah Kerr's in The King and I and Natalie Wood's in West Side Story. Too bad they didn't ask her to step in for Helena Bonham Carter...). The film went on to receive 12 Oscar nominations (and 8 wins, including Best Picture), but no nomination for Audrey.

Who did win Best Actress that year? Oh, just a British actress making her film debut. She just happened to be the original Eliza Doolittle from Broadway. She took the part in Mary Poppins after Jack Warner determined she wasn't a big enough star for his film. For Julie Andrews, I'm sure success never smelled so sweet.

Tuesday
May142013

May Flowers? Mrs Dalloway Buys Them Herself!

How soon into a movie or book or anything do you know you'll love it? When I first read The Hours, Michael Cunningham's transcendent riff on Virginia Woolf's "Mrs Dalloway" I knew as soon as Clarissa had entered the flower shop. With the film version I knew even sooner, perhaps having been prepped for the movie by the book but also because of the unfussy simplicity of the kick-off to this glorious triptych. (The Hours isn't always unfussy, of course, but note how the music drops out completely in this absolutely key moment when Virginia finds her first sentence.)

All we're left with is three women, three eras, three great actresses, and three separate temperaments. 

Virginia: Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
Laura: Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
Clarissa: Sally, I think I'll buy the flowers myself. 

How utterly perfect and succinct - Art, uttered first in the imagination, is then received and contemplated, and finally lived-in and through, having made its mark. (It's a subtle thing but how beautiful that Stephen Daldry's camera pulls out a bit with each repetition, making more room in the world for the words)

"Mrs Dalloway", Virginia Woolf's masterpiece -- or one of them at least (I can't live without "Orlando") --  was first published 88 years ago on this very day!. The concept, a woman's whole life in a single day. And as the later book and film helpfully extrapolates and reminds us ... and in that day her whole life

I love the cut to Allison Janney's blunt exclamation, that pulls us out of this first sentence reverie before it gets to precious.

[to Clarissa] WHAT? What flowers?
[to Self] Shit.

Which  books do you wish would inspire not straight adaptations but spun off works of art that stand beautifully on their own? How soon did you love The Hours?

Previously in The Hours
Nathaniel talks to Nicole Kidman about her Oscar win
Joe & Nick discuss The Hours its kisses, hands, actresses and tics at length