If you want suspense, you want 'The Girl by the Lake'Sept. 20, 2010
By G. Michael Dobbs
Two art house movies are in this week's edition of the DVD review column.
The Girl by the Lake
It's a shame these days that more foreign language film don't receive widespread theatrical release, as "The Girl by the Lake" is a film that could find a wide audience.
It is a solid and compelling murder mystery, whose only barrier for American audiences is its language.
I'm not a film snob, but I hate dubbing. I would much prefer reading a subtitle and hearing the inflections and rhythms in an actor's voice. I'm in the minority, though, as many people simply won't give subtitles a try.
What may put some prospective viewers off this DVD is it only comes in subtitled English.
Toni Servillo stars as a police inspector assigned to the murder of a teenaged girl who is found naked at the edge of a lake in a small, beautiful Italian village. He and his loyal assistant find the local cops cooperative, but the villagers all seem to be holding back information.
Servillo's cop has his own concerns, as his wife is dying and his own teenage daughter is giving him problems. This multi-layered drama creates a very human tragedy.
What I liked is how the film contrasts with so many American films of the same genre. There is sadness and a humanity about it that is often lacking in Hollywood films that center more on acting and editing pyrotechnics.
If you can handle subtitles and love a good mystery, you should check this film out.
All moviegoers have experienced it: you see a film whose trailer looks great and then the film itself is something quite different.
The preview for "Boogie Woogie" made it look like a romp through the world of fine art and a fun comedy.
Certainly, the independent film did make me smile at times and it is clear it is intended as a dark satire of the fine art scene, but a rollicking comedy it isn't.
MGM studio boss Irving Thalberg once told the Marx Brothers they would be more popular if their movies contained elements that would make them sympathetic to an audience. Thalberg's theory was deemed correct and most people believe there has to be some sort of audience identification in a successful comedy.
That's the problem with this film. There are really no characters who are likable.
Danny Huston plays a slimy art dealer trying to buy a valuable painting from an elderly man (Christopher Lee). At the same time, one of his biggest customers, Bob (Stellen Skarsgard), is trying to buy the painting as well. Bob, who is married to a ditzy cougar (played by Gillian Anderson), is not only in a relationship with Huston's assistant (played by Heather Graham), but is setting her up in a competing art gallery.
Graham's character is interested in a video artist who is trying to frame the homemade sex tapes she shoots with her conquests as art.
The film is essentially about what happen when a bunch of weasels are tossed into a large bag with a chuck of raw meat.
There are a lot of good performers in the film and it's sad to see them wasted in such an unappealing story.
As a warning, I should mention there is a fair amount of sex and nudity, none of it fun.
The oddest part of the film is Huston's performance. He essentially does an impersonation of his father's voice in the film the esteemed director John Huston and it's a bit off-putting.