Tim Grierson Reviews 'The Dark Knight Rises'
Reviewed by Tim Grierson
July 19, 2012
Reality television plays host to plenty of rich, self-absorbed pseudo-celebrities, which may lead you to assume that you needn't bother seeing "The Queen of Versailles," a documentary about David and Jackie Siegel, a wealthy Florida couple who decided to build the biggest house in America. But director Lauren Greenfield's film unearthed something much more human and gripping when the Siegels were devastated by the 2008 financial downturn, putting not just their dream palace in peril but also their extravagant lifestyle. Greenfield can't resist the occasional cheap shot at the expense of ditzy, cosmetically enhanced Jackie and her workaholic (and much older) husband, but on the whole "The Queen of Versailles" is a depressing, maddening portrait of prosperity run amok, offering an up-close view of a family that's painfully cut off from reality. There's little schadenfreude in watching their fall from grace, however, as it's too sickening and pitiful to allow for gloating.
Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike's samurai film "13 Assassins" -- which concluded with a ruthless, invigorating 45-minute battle sequence -- made its way to American theaters last year, and in 2012 he returns with "Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai," a somewhat more subdued, nuanced drama about guilt and revenge. The film opens in the 17th century as older warrior Hanshirô (a wonderfully stoic Ebizô Ichikawa) visits Kageyu (Kôji Yakusho), a feudal lord, to request the use of Kageyu's domicile to perform his ritual suicide. Instead, Kageyu tells Hanshirô of another man who had recently made the same request, a young, desperate pauper named Motome (Eita). Thus begins an extended flashback to Motome's sad story. Is there an unknown connection between him and Hanshirô? Slower paced but emotionally resonant -- even if the story's twist is a bit obvious -- "Hara-Kiri" builds to an unexpectedly potent finale that may be less galvanic than the one in "13 Assassins" but is still nicely rewarding.
"Hara-Kiri" is based on 1962's "Harakiri," but it's not the only foreign-language offering this week adapted from an earlier film. "The Well Digger's Daughter," a remake of French filmmaker and novelist Marcel Pagnol's drama of the same name, represents the directorial debut of renowned actor Daniel Auteuil, whom American art-house audiences will recognize from "Caché" and "My Best Friend." Auteuil plays Pascal, a lowly well digger, who would like to wed his daughter Patricia (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) to a trustworthy older employee (Kad Merad). But Patricia's heart has been captured by a rich pilot (Nicolas Duvauchelle), who unexpectedly gets her pregnant. A light melodrama with a disposition as breezy and sunny as the film's countryside locales, "The Well Digger's Daughter" is a gentle tale about love and class differences that's well-acted across the board. Auteuil doesn't overdo Pascal's stubborn pride, and Jean-Pierre Darroussin is excellent as the pilot's affluent father, a man whose pomposity quickly gives way to melancholy and compassion.