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"Jane Eyre," "3 Backyards," "Black Death," More

"The most famous line in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre is 'Reader, I married him,'" Jessica Winter reminds us in Slate, where Dana Stevens reviews the latest adaptation. "Depending on the reader, it may also be the most puzzling, given that I is a wealthy young woman and him is a one-eyed, one-handed, pushing-40 grump who proposes to a nanny half his age only to admit at the altar that he's already got a wife and she's locked in his attic. Dreamy! Yet in a 2009 poll by British romance publisher Mills and Boon, readers voted Edward Rochester the 'most popular hero in literature,' ahead of the likes of Heathcliff, Rhett Butler, and Colin Firth."

"So far there have been at least 18 film versions," notes Charles McGrath in the New York Times, "going back to a 1910 silent movie, and 9 made-for-television Janes — so many that they sometimes seem to quote from one another as much as from the novel… So moviegoers may be forgiven if in recollection all the Jane Eyres seem to blend together in one continuous loop, with Joan Fontaine, the 1943 Jane, suddenly becoming colorized and morphing into Susannah York, while Rochester turns, like a character in a horror film, from Orson Welles into George C Scott and then Timothy Dalton."

"Reader, I liked it," announces the NYT's AO Scott. "This Jane Eyre, energetically directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) from a smart, trim script by Moira Buffini (Tamara Drewe), is a splendid example of how to tackle the daunting duty of turning a beloved work of classic literature into a movie. Neither a radical updating nor a stiff exercise in middlebrow cultural respectability, Mr Fukunaga's film tells its venerable tale with lively vigor and an astute sense of emotional detail."

In Slant, Bill Weber notes that this version opens "in medias res, with distraught 19-year-old Jane (Mia Wasikowska) fleeing an imposing stone castle in the wake of her life's most harrowing discovery. A diminished figure seen dashing across the Derbyshire moorlands in an elevated God's-eye shot, pausing for a despairing sobbing fit and pelted with windswept torrents before her rescue by a bland young clergyman (Jamie Bell) and his sisters, Jane is thus introduced… as a blank slate of suffering against her rocky, spectacular surroundings. Then the narrative moves backward to the neglectful rearing of preadolescent orphan Jane (Amelia Clarkson) by hateful relatives, and her fateful hiring as governess at the Thornfield estate by the 'abrupt and changeful' aristocrat Edward Rochester (smoldering Michael Fassbender), whose terrible secret ultimately sets in motion the girl's panicked exodus. If this Jane Eyre, in the wake of at least 20 earlier movie versions, doesn't fully sustain this spirit of reinventing the Brontë story (it can't match the boldness with which Jane Campion recalibrated The Portrait of a Lady for the 1990s), there are sufficient rewards to engage a viewer who hasn't encountered this quintessential Victorian, death-steeped romance since sophomore English, principally the two leads and their duet of Byronic morbidity and virginal fluster."

More from Ed Champion, Richard Corliss (Time), Todd Gilchrist (Cinematical), Karina Longworth (Voice), Michael Nordine (Hammer to Nail), Tasha Robinson (AV Club, C+), Justin Stewart (L), Ella Taylor (NPR), Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York, 4/5) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 9/10). Interviews with Fukunaga: Kimber Myers (Playlist) and Matt Singer (IFC, video, 2'42"). Interviews with Wasikowska: John Jurgensen (Wall Street Journal), James Rocchi (MSN Movies), Andrew Scott (Cinematical) and Jen Yamato (Movieline). Interviews with Fassbender: Sam Adams (AV Club), Andrew Scott (Cinematical) and Matt Singer (IFC, video, 2'56").

"Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy is exactly that," declares J Hoberman in the Voice. "The Iranian modernist's first feature to be shot in the West is a flawless riff on our indigenous art cinema. A romantic, sun-dappled Voyage to Italy with a Before Sunset structure and Marienbad backbeat, not to mention a suave acting exercise that would have been pure hell in the hands of David Mamet, Certified Copy is a rumination on authenticity using William Shimell (an opera singer by trade) as a foil for festival diva Juliette Binoche."

Before we move along any further, I have to urgently recommend Michael Sicinski's piece here in the Notebook.

Alright, then. Writing for Moving Image Source, Aaron Cutler finds that Certified Copy "has much in common with Kiarostami's earlier landmarks. Like Through the Olive Trees, it focuses on a lover pursuing a distant and unwilling beloved; like Ten, it shows compassion for women suffering because of men; like Close-Up, Shirin, and nearly everything in between, it suggests that everyone is the protagonist in his or her own life, and improvises the part."

Michael Joshua Rowin for Artforum: "Toward the end of the film's first half, an Italian café owner mistakes Binoche and Shimell for a couple; the details Binoche invents as she plays along are then taken up in the second half. Binoche also alludes to having suffered a mental breakdown in her past, and thus the second half of the film could be a fantasy dreamed up by this slightly disturbed single mother of one. Or the entire thing is a formalist exercise. At one point Buñuel collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière makes a cameo. Among Carrière's credits are The Milky Way (1969) and That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), films that similarly warp traditional form to emphasize the fluidity of identity and the endless possibilities of representation."

More from Richard Brody (New Yorker; more and more), David Edelstein (New York), Steve Erickson (Gay City News), David Fear (TONY, 4/5), Stephen Holden (NYT), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies, 5/5), Elvis Mitchell (Movieline, 6/10), Keith Phipps (AV Club, A) and Nicolas Rapold (L). Interviews with Binoche: Sam Adams (AV Club), Christopher Bell (Playlist), Elise Nakhnikian (Slant), Dana Stevens (Slate), Keith Uhlich (TONY) and ST VanAirsdale (Movieline). Online viewing and listening: For the New Yorker, David Denby introduces an overview of Kiarostami's work and discusses it, too, with Blake Eskin.

Dan Callahan introduces an interview for the L: "In the 1990s, Eric Mendelsohn did costume design work for several Woody Allen movies, including Husbands and Wives (1992) and Bullets Over Broadway (1994), and he won the Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival for his debut as a director, Judy Berlin (1999), a sensitive portrait of suburban Long Island ennui that featured stellar work from Barbara Barrie, Edie Falco and, in her last film, Madeline Kahn. Mendelsohn spent the years after Judy Berlin teaching film at Columbia University, and now he finally has a new movie..., 3 Backyards, which was shot for $300,000 on his native Long Island and also stars Falco, who plays a chatty artist in one of its three stories of dislocation and isolation. I recently asked Mendelsohn a few questions about working on a low budget and being drawn back to Long Island."

Alison Willmore asks in Time Out New York, "So what's up with the gratuitously showy visual style and aggressive, flute-heavy score that runs rampant over the modest narrative developments? Only Falco gets beyond being merely a symbol for suburban angst, thanks to her fiercely open, not terribly sympathetic turn as a woman taking liberties under the illusion of offering comfort."

More from Stephen Holden (NYT) and Mike Ryan (Hammer to Nail). Dennis Lim profiles Mendelsohn for the NYT. At New York's IFC Center.

"Nothing heralds spring like a plague-and-pestilence movie," writes Mark Holcomb in the Voice, "and Black Death has the suppuration and body count to fit the bill. Thankfully, it's also a fairly nuanced meditation on the subjectivity of blind faith and its attendant brutality, and as such works as a worthy companion piece to last year's Valhalla Rising, right down to the murky palette."

"Christopher Smith's 14th-century period piece exudes an oppressive sense of physical, spiritual, and atmospheric weight, with grimy doom hanging in the air like the fog enshrouding its dense forests." Nick Schager in Slant: "His story concerns a gang of thugs, torturers, and killers led by Ulric (Sean Bean), a devout soldier commissioned by the church to visit the lone, remote town in the land not afflicted by a fatal pestilence, where it's suspected a necromancer is raising the dead. To reach that hamlet, he enlists the services of young monk Osmund (Eddie Redmayne), who agrees to this task so that he might reunite with his lover Averill (Kimberley Nixon). Their romantic relationship is, for Osmund, a betrayal of his oath to God, and thus his mission is partly an attempt to cling to a faith he has already begun to forsake. In Ulric, he finds an example of staunch piousness, though such devotion is cast as potentially hazardous — Osmund's elder counsels that Ulrich 'is more dangerous than the pestilence itself' — as well as accompanied by Ulrich's more sobering belief that, in such a time of plague and hardship, the best one can do is simply ease the suffering of death."

Henry Stewart in the L: "Nightmarish and hallucinatory, this vice-twisting narrative draws to a relentlessly demoralizing final act, as wildly violent Christians butt heads with equally brutal pagans. With screenwriter Dario Poloni, Smith posits all religion as hollow savagery, all faith as gullibility, all miracle as legerdemain, all belief as foolish obstinacy."

More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT), David Edelstein (New York), Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), Noel Murray (AV Club, B+), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY, 3/5) and James van Maanen. Brandon Harris talks with Smith for Filmmaker.



"In the art world being at the center of it all is essential, but for Igor Savitsky isolation was key to amassing the richest collection of Russian Modern art from the 20s and 30s," writes Benjamin Sutton for the L. "His museum, how it came to exist, and how it just barely continues to do so, are the subjects of The Desert of Forbidden Art, an intriguing, beautifully shot, pleasantly narrated (by Ben Kingsley) and exhaustively researched documentary by Tchavdar Georgiev and Amanda Pope. Its narrative of how a hoarder assembled an entire repressed chapter of art history in the Uzbek desert abounds with appealing classical resonances, from Noah setting off, his Ark filled with endangered specimens, to David's unlikely victory over the larger, stronger Goliath." More from Ellen Barry (NYT), Joe Bendel and Diego Costa (Slant, 2.5/4).


"When Mart Crowley's landmark The Boys in the Band opened Off-Broadway to sellout crowds of gays, starved for representations of their lives, in January 1968, Stonewall was 17 months away," writes Melissa Anderson, reviewing Making the Boys in the Voice. "Yet by the time William Friedkin's film adaptation, which included all nine original troupe members, was released less than a year after the legendary homosexual intifada, Crowley's work now seemed outrageously retrograde to many newly politicized homos, who abhorred its pink-face minstrelsy of sobs, self-loathing, and desperate pleading for tolerance. Crayton Robey's documentary on this queer cultural touchstone admirably presents both sides of the divide." More from Cassady Dixon (Cinespect), David Fear (TONY, 3/5) and Bill Weber (Slant, 2.5/4).

"The pitch for Battle: Los Angeles must have sounded great: Black Hawk Down meets Independence Day, an alien invasion told from a grunt's-eye view," suggests the AV Club's Scott Tobias. But: "Every element of Battle: Los Angeles is borrowed from a superior source: the creature designs (District 9 meets War of the Worlds), the shaky-cam 'immediacy' (the last two Bourne movies), even Michelle Rodriguez's character (Aliens, nearly every other Michelle Rodriguez performance). It's loud, relentless, and difficult to endure, capturing the experience of ground-level alien warfare with woeful verisimilitude." More from Josef Braun, Ty Burr (Boston Globe, 2.5/4), Ed Champion, Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 0.5/4), Scott Foundas, Glenn Heath Jr (Slant, 1.5/4), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies, 2/5), Peter Martin (Cinematical), Michelle Orange (Movieline, 2/10), Nick Schager (Voice), AO Scott (NYT) and Swarez (Twitch). Interviews with Aaron Eckhart: Alex Billington (FirstShowing, video, 8'15") and James Rocchi (MSN Movies). At Vulture, Logan Hill lists "7 Reasons Why Video Games Are Better Than Battle: Los Angeles."

Eric Hynes for Time Out New York on Elektra Luxx: "An oddly fastidious sequel to 2009's little-seen Women in Trouble — this second part picks up right where you left off, or likely didn't — it's another episodic, shaggy-dog parade of LA denizens caught in moderately compromised positions. With an ear for dime-store repartee, as well as a fetish for bathroom stalls and stuck elevators, writer-director Sebastian Gutierrez occasionally approaches a kind of seedy poetry, and his overqualified cast slums it with aplomb… But the film apes porn's low-rent aesthetic a little too convincingly, rolling out one incompetently shot-and-edited sequence after another while lacking the wit or verve to make it forgivable." More from Chris Barsanti (Film Journal International), Stephen Holden (NYT), Nick Schager (Slant, 1/4), Scott Tobias (AV Club, C) and Stephanie Zackarek (Movieline, 8.5/10). Stephen Saito talks with Gutierrez for

Mary Pols in Time on Little Red Riding Hood: "David Johnson's screenplay is amateurish and tone-deaf, and director Catherine Hardwicke, best known for the perfume-commercial tone of that first Twilight movie and Thirteen, must have actively encouraged her fleet of able supporting actors to embarrass themselves. Julie Christie, Virginia Madsen, Lukas Haas and Gary Oldman couldn't have reached these depths on their own." More from Manohla Dargis (NYT), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 1/4), Logan Hill (New York), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), Tasha Robinson (AV Club, C-), Drew Taylor (Playlist), Ella Taylor (NPR) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 3.5, 10). Jen Yamato talks with Hardwicke for Movieline.

"As easy as it is to pillory Mars Needs Moms as another jaundiced motion-capture product fresh off producer Robert Zemeckis's assembly line, the fact remains that the film itself is uniquely ill-advised," writes Simon Abrams for Slant. "Based on a kid's story by Berkeley Breathed, the film sports a freakish concept given new life by Zemeckis's plasticine CGI technology and is, conceptually at least, a breath of fresh air by comparison to more level-headed contemporary animated films." TONY's David Fear: "You can credit Disney for keeping the book's harrowing climax intact, in which the story's abandonment issues finally come to a head, but other than that, there's little to distinguish this from every other sci-fi-flavored kid flick of the last five years." More from Logan Hill (New York), Michelle Orange (Movieline, 7/10) and Keith Phipps (AV Club, B).

Sam Adams for Time Out New York on Kill the Irishman: "Violence, freeze-frame, narration, flashback: If the pattern established at the beginning of director Jonathan Hensleigh's gangster flick doesn't ring a bell, you haven't seen Goodfellas lately. Set in the crime-riddled Cleveland of the 1970s, this saga of Irish-American mobster Danny Greene ([Ray] Stevenson) is packed wall-to-wall with shootings, bludgeonings and car bombings — the latter evidently the preferred method of assassination in northern Ohio. The movie itself, however, is a damp squib, fizzling when it ought to go pop." More from L Caldoran (Cinespect), Nick Pinkerton (Voice) and Nick Schager (Slant, 1/4).

"Its elegantly simple structure filled in with startling, understated force, [Ava DuVernay's] I Will Follow is a modestly framed portrait of grief in its first season," writes Michelle Orange in the Voice. In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gives the film 3.5 out of 4 stars: "In one way or another, every emotion in this wonderful independent film is one I've experienced myself… How many people, now dead, have you wanted to ask questions you should have asked when they were alive?"

"Framed as a relationship-on-the-skids drama, Monogamy is instead a shallow and unconvincing look at male psychosexual pathology," writes Andrew Schenker for Slant. "Which is to say, it's a couples drama that's only interested in the dude, and only insomuch as he displays inconsistent bursts of obsessive behavior." More from Manohla Dargis (NYT), Tom Sullivan (L) and James van Maanen.

"After three weekends of promising grosses from screenings in Seattle, Portland, and the San Francisco area, Tom Shadyac's I Am opens in Los Angeles today, continuing what has a proved to be a uniquely successful manner of release," reports Peter Knegt for indieWIRE. Nathan Rabin at the AV Club: "Shadyac (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Bruce Almighty, Patch Adams) posits himself as the quintessential Hollywood achiever in need of a spiritual awakening. Shadyac didn't need to channel his angst into narrative fiction: He just needed to look in the mirror to find a symbol of Hollywood's arrogance and misplaced priorities." More from Andrew Schenker (Slant, 1.5/4).



The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw on Norwegian Wood: "Forbidden love is the sexiest kind, and love of death the most forbidden kind, in this emoish erotic tragedy from Franco-Vietnamese film-maker Tran Anh Hung, based on the bestselling 1987 novel by Haruki Murakami… This movie is gorgeously photographed by Ping Bin Lee, and has a plangent, keening orchestral score by Jonny Greenwood. It rewards attention with a very sensual experience, although there might be some who, understandably, find it indulgent." More from Nigel Andrews (Financial Times, 2/5), Alexandra Coghlan (Arts Desk), Martyn Conterio, who also interviews Tran Anh Hung for Little White Lies, David Jenkins (Time Out London, 5/5) and Sukhdev Sandhu (Telegraph, 3/4).

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Does the eighteen versions of Jane Eyre include the finest of all (I Walked with a Zombie, of course)?

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