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Thread: New York Film Festival 2019

  1. #31
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    LES NÔTRES (Jeanne Leblanc 2020)



    A self-healing society closes around an illicit teen pregnancy

    Les nôtres/Our Own, a French Canadian movie about an unwanted pregnancy, ends with a sort of ironic inconsequence. There was much ado. The thirteen-year-old high school sophomore Magalie (Emilie Bierre) is the daughter of a locally important man who tragically died a year ago. The mayor, Jean-Marc Ricard (Paul Doucet) has dedicated a project in the man's honor, a park, Saint Germaine. His hushed voice doing so dominates the opening scene. This same mayor is the father of Magalie's baby, which she decides to keep. There's a lot of fuss about finding out who the father is. It's never made clear why this should matter so much, exactly, but of course Mayor Ricard is very intent on the secret's not coming out, and everyone, including her classmates, is scandalized by, and disapproving of, Magalie's pregnancy. This is a repressed, constipated film, as perhaps befits the portrait of a small, closely bound community, the quiet Quebecois town of Sainte-Adeline. Everyone here wants to know secrets, or to share in hiding them. It's also a subtle, atmospheric film that shows how this society closes around and protects its own, reducing the tempests to teacups in the end.

    in this hushed and atmospheric film the accomplished director, Jeanne Leblanc, doesn't carry everything off entirely successfully: there are gaps in the story and hiccups in the narrative. It's not so evident, as blurbs claim and reviews parrot, that we are seeing a "carefully maintained social varnish eventually crack" here. I see the society, but not so much the varnish. Nonetheless the atmosphere of lush greenery, high hedges, thick curtains and a tight, muted society is well conveyed. There is a photo image of Magalie seen from the back nude on a disheveled bed in a golden light that's lovely and haunting as an Italian renaissance pointing - or perhaps dp Tobie Marier-Robitaille had Ingres in mind. Emilie Bierre's stubborn silences are eloquent in her many scenes.

    The comparisons that have been made with Eliza Hittman's celebrated Never Rarely Sometimes Always seem pretty wide of the mark. The difference is between the portrait of an isolated individual and the portrait of a society. Hittman's film is a straightforward, lonely, courageous, almost numbingly realistic real-time narrative of the struggle of a pregnant teenage girl in an increasingly women's-health-unfriendly America to get an abortion on her own, without local social services. Les Nôtres is an intentionally dodgy, and ambiguous film. Its young pregnant girl rejects abortion, and it's about a community. The society is a very collective one. What its attitude toward abortion is, we never learn.

    Magalie faints in dance class, and a hospital checkup reveals she's pregnant past the first trimester, and didn't know it. The film is cagey with us, not revealing her special relationship with the mayor, who calls her "princess," till half an hour in. In fact there is more fuss about the unknown father than about the unwed, very underage mother. That is what her mother, the alternately inquisitorial/hysterical and loving Isabelle (Marianne Farley), is most concerned about. This is also a lot about Isabelle's drama. Magalie stonewalls with everyone for several reasons. It's the only way she can maintain some independence. But she's also trying to figure things out.

    She will have nothing to do with the social services officer, Patrice (Guillaume CYr). And he's not ultimately sympathetic. A big, overweight young man, he claims he and his girlfriend had the same problem once and he "understands." But he keeps popping up all the time and seems like a detective trying to get to the identity of the dad. In particular, there is questioning of Manu (Léon Diconca Pelletier), a boy who Magalie insists is not her boyfriend, but to whom she is close. Too close, the mayor says. Manu and the younger, darker, more Latino-looking Felipe (Santiago de la Cortina) are two Mexican boys adopted by the mayor and his wife Chantal (Judith Baribeau).

    The two Mexican boys' residence in the mayor's house doesn't prevent everyone from referring to them in a racist manner, and a boy at school attacks Manu and calls him a "taco." However Manu is tall and has a ponytail and looks like a posh private school boy to me. At a game at school, there is only one person of color visible in the crowd, and that is Felipe. There is nothing integrated or multi-cultural about this world. There is a lot going on - everyone is busy doing things - except maybe breathing. Sometimes this seems a stifling world.

    The final sequence shows a blasé understanding, culturally French, perhaps, that all the fuss has been much ado about nothing. Nobody gets caught - yet: the cop car that comes to pick up Magalie when she's standing with the middle aged authority figure who has knocked her up, is not for him, and only there because she has been missing. She says she just wants to go home.

    Jump forward in time, with Magalie self-consciously shown to be big-breasted but flat-stomached now, to a busy, cozy scene of familiar adults, notably Magalie's mother and the mayor and his wife. They're taking care of the baby boy. It's positively a crowd, a comforting mass. "Won't you stay?" asks the mayor's wife. "No thanks," says Magalie. "My friends are waiting for me." Jump to the final scene: Magalie in the back of a car next to Manu. Of course: she's young. She needs to hang out with her friends. The baby will be alright. There are lots of adults to take care of him.

    Both images, the house interior and the car interior, are social scenes, cozy with supportive people. But we're left with queasy memories of Magalie and the mayor; of the movie's most uncomfortable scene, of the mayor having abortive, humiliating sex with his wife Chantal; and all the nosiness, the repression, the prejudice of this provincial world. Quebec is a province, whose French sounds stranger than the French of Africa. Montreal is somewhere else. It's not even mentioned, nor are books, or the world outside. This movie made me uncomfortable.

    Les nôtres/Our Own, 105 mins., debuted at the Rendez-Vous du Cinéma Québecois (RVCQ) Feb. 26, 2020, and showed also at Nashville Oct. 2020, and Raindance Nov. 2020. Virtual US release by Oscilloscope Jun. 18, 2021.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-09-2021 at 01:51 PM.

  2. #32
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area




    A gossipy, entertaining compare-and-contrast. Not really a "conversation"

    I'm very sorry (as I can hear Truman "&" Tennessee saying, themselves), but this isn't an "intimate conversation." It's not a "conversation" at all. It's lines from each of the two men, both gay American writers from the South who became famous in the fifties, in case you don't know, talking to themselves. Or they are talking to interviewers like David Frost or Dick Cavett. And the lines in some cases are read by actors imitating their voices (Jim Parsons as Capote - not very good; Zachary Quinto - a little better ).

    Two monologues don't make a conversation - at least I hope not! Nowadays, one wonders. This is a time when you think the art of conversation couldn't be more in decline and then it gets worse. That a fabricated collage like this could be called a "conversation," and even an "intimate" one, is one more sign of the decline of conversation and the lack of understanding of what it entails.

    Truman "says" that when they first met, he being 16 and Tennessee 29, Tennessee wanted it to be an "intellectual friendship," meaning no sex, and apparently it was. Though it had serious ups and downs, this friendship lasted till the end. Tennessee died at 71 from an overdose of barbiturates; Truman, 18 months later at 59 from complications of alcoholism.

    Capote's first published works, very precocious, were a story collection, the novel Other Voices, Other Rooms, and a slim book of exquisite travel essays, Local Color. I read them when I was a young teenager. (I was a precocious reader.) Williams' first two great successes were the two plays, A Streetcar Name Desire and The Glass Menagerie. Back in the day one heard about them all the time and they are still living theatrical classics.

    That these two gay southern men became icons of American writing in the Fifties must be important. What does it mean? Can this breezy, somewhat contrived film tell us? Probably not; but it can keep us entertained for an hour and twenty-five minutes.

    The conceit of the "conversation" between two man we almost never see together is the organizing principle. But like so many modern documentaries this one drew on many sources - and frustratingly, flashes on numerous articles about its subjects to allude to them without revealing their contents. A juicy example is James Wolcott's 1976 Village Voice piece about Capote, "Truman Capote Sups on the Flesh of the Famous." That one I glimpsed, freeze-framed, looked up, and found reissued online; but unlike biographical material in print, films like this don't provide the information that would allow one to follow up and read these numerous snapshotted articles. They're like teasers. Does it ever occur to anyone that this makes little sense?

    What we get inTruman and Tennessee in lieu of "intimate conversation," are parallel portraits. And they do have things in common besides being gay writers from the South. They both drank and smoked a lot. They both went to "Doctor Feelgood" - Max Jacobson, the name not mentioned here - the celebrity pill and injection dispenser (who reportedly caused President Kennedy, under the power of his injections, to go almost to the brink of nuclear war). Incidentally they both had a femme side, and both are cited saying they felt they had a little girl lurking within from childhood.

    The fun side and the dark side are evinced by Truman and Tennessee respectively. Tennessee had his boisterous laugh. But Truman comes off lighter in the clips from interviews, where you can see he was quite funny. He must have been good company - wonder he got to have so many friends and could put on his Black and White Ball at the Plaza Hotel, the celebrity party to end all parties. Tennessee on the other hand we keep seeing in nasty, probing moments of patent absurdity when the British interviewer David Frost, once cock of the walk, asks him more and more intimate, embarrassing questions that he answers genially and politely but increasingly uneasily. Here Dick Cavett, shown more briefly, shines forth as a great deal more intelligent. Why did Frost enjoy such fame? Because of his boldness. For Tennessee, the issue of persistent depression, alcoholism, and preoccupation with horrible things like lobotomies and cannibalism come up.

    But the clips from movies based on Tennessee Williams plays, featuring the most glamorous and talented actors of the day, Paul Newman, Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor, present the playwright in a very favorable light and show how central he was in the popular imagination as a poet of glamorous decadence. Truman says he wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly Golightly in the movie of Breakfast at Tiffany's (more clips), not the harder, more polished Aubrey Hepburn. This book seemed (to me) one of Capote's weakest efforts and the movie uninteresting, a cheapening of something already cheap. But movie clips are used here only illustratively, not evaluated.

    The account here of Capote moves on to the magnm opus that both made and destroyed Capote, his meticulous "nonfiction novel" of the Clutter family massacre in Kansas, and again film clips show well, because the movie version of this book sill look very good now, and very close to the real murderers and victims glimpsed in still photos here.

    Next we move on to the decline and fall of these two high profile artists, but it seems Capote was a more visible public figure, growing chubbier and more numbed-out all the time, spoiled, pampered, but going under. Gossip becomes the the big theme in Truman's declining years as he causes gleeful outrage with the four successively more scandalous excerpts from his never-finished novel Answered Prayers, which we all read with pleasure and excitement. Capote acknowledged that it was a "roman à clef" (mispronounced by the actor doing his voice) and said every bit of it was "absolutely true," though he also says it was gossip and embroidered. Yet though in a dubious cause, you could appreciate Capote's refined literary craftsmanship raising its head again, which had been neutralized in the masked reportage of In Cold Blood; but the main pleasure for gossip specialists was spotting the famous people - including a very unflattering portrait of Mr. Williams as "Mr. Wallace," client of a call boy service - thinly veiled in these tasty snippets. Capote is heard saying that all fiction is gossip, including Anna Karenina or War and Peace or Madame Bovary "or Proust."

    One is surprised to hear Capote, who became a denizen of the short-lived Studio 54, saying that it was too bad "people like Toulouse Lautrec, or Baudelaire, or Oscar Wilde" couldn't have enjoyed it and "Cole Porter would have loved it" as well as Proust. He seems to have gone a bit overboard. Obviously Capote cheapened himself, sold out to celebrity, including his own, and was so exhausted by self-indulgence and his punishing obsession with the Clutter murders that he lost control of his literary gift. Meanwhile Tennessee Williams is heard announcing that he never got a good review after The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1963) and could never fully recover from the loss of his longtime companion Frank Merlo, who died of lung cancer in 1963. But this film doesn't fully represent Tennessee Williams' success and productivity during his period of hot play production from 1944 to 1963. He loses here in the celebrity contest. There's moe gossipy material about Truman Capote, even though Capote spent a lot of time not really writing anything.

    This movie is like a child distracted by pretty baubles. It's distracted by whatever colorful quotes or clips it finds, and so it provides a confusing picture distracting us from the fact that, alas, Truman Capote, despite his exquisite precocious beginnings, doesn't life up to comparison with other Southern writers, Harper Lee, Carson McCullers, and, yes, Tennessee Williams, as the catty gem by James Wolcott cited above will tell you.

    This film despite its contrived format will be an introduction to the two important writers that may inspire younger viewers to read their work. Tennessee's plays of course must be seen, not just read. But the questions about why these two writers are important and what their fame means are not answered, and it feels as though Capote's somewhat greater gossip and celebrity value makes the film give him a greater importance as a literary figure whereas that may properly belong to his elder, Tennessee. I enjoyed all the review of Capote's story, but suspect I'd have been better served by less about him and more about Tennessee Williams.

    (Lisa Immordino Vreeland has previously made documentary portraits of fashion maven Diana Vreeland (her husband's grandmother), art collector Peggy Guggenheim, and royal photographer Cecil Beaton.)

    Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation,86 mins., opens in New York at Film Forum and Los Angeles at The Nuart and Laemmle Playhouse & Town Center 5 movie theaters, and is available in virtual theaters throughout the US through starting June 18, 2021.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-10-2021 at 01:36 PM.

  3. #33
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    SWAN SONG (Todd Stephens 2021)



    Udo Kier takes center stage in a quietly flamboyant and touching gay role

    Udo Kier, born in 1944, is a film and voice actor from Cologne, Germany who moved to Palm Springs in the early nineties. A perennial player in pungent small roles, he has appeared in over 200 movies. After playing in Andy Warhol's Frankenstein; he had roles in a raft of horror films or all stripes. He has worked for art house and cult directors like Lars von Trier (extensively), as well as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Walerian Borowczyk, Gus Van Sant, Christoph Schlingensief, and Dario Argento (whose 1977 classic Suspiria he was featured in). Recently he had a key role in the critically acclaimed Bacarau as the head of a gang of evil American playboys who hunt and kill humans for sport, and also appeared in the phantasmagoric Holocaust saga The Painted Bird, where he plays a raging cuckold who gouges out the eyes of his wife’s lover. This time he's a character referred to as "the Liberace of Sandusky, Ohio." It fits him to a T. And it's a first for him: a lead role.

    In the Sandusky-set Swan Song Udo is Patrick Pitsenbarger (the fiction based on a real person), who was a high class beautician in his heyday who styled all the rich and glamorous ladies of the quiet midwestern town. Now he has had a stroke and has apparently long been languishing in a nursing home when prestigious lawyer Walter Shamrock (Tom Bloom) arrives to convey the posthumous request of wealthy former friend and client Rita Parker Sloan (Linda Evans of "Dynasty") to do the dead lady's hair in grand former style for her final appearance at the funeral home. He is to receive a munificent fee for this job of $25,000. At first he flatly rejects the idea. They had a falling out over her failure to attend his lover's funeral. "I'm retired," he says, Kier flashing that basilisk stare of his. He is living a dreary, curmudgeonly life, his hobbies immaculately folding paper cocktail napkins from the cafeteria and stealing clandestine smokes of Mores with a mute old lady in a wheelchair with pretty hair (Annie Kitral), and not much else. He has come to embrace denial and exclusion.

    But then "Mr. Pat" has a change of heart. Stealthily he slips out of the nursing home dressed in his usual sweat suit and gray fanny pack and sets off on foot for the town of Sandusky and the funeral home. Swan Song becomes an offbeat road movie in the manner of Lynch's Straight Story, a colorful walkabout of reconnecting with the past and making amends. In the course of it, Pat drinks, steals, charms, and learns. This is among other things an unapologetically instructional survey of ways gay life has changed since Stephens was young, with gay married couples raising children, gay bars made obsolete by hook-up apps, disappearing high camp drag shows signaling the gradual loss of a whole colorful ghettoized subculture that no longer seems necessary as gayness comes to be more widely accepted in America.

    Patrick is, of course, himself a gay man. His lover, David, died of AIDS back in 1995, a loss he can never recover from that's movingly celebrated by a visit to their joint grave. In this story, Kier gets to play a down-to-earth and personal role and shines in this unique opportunity to be the featured actor throughout a film this time playing an eccentric minority person who has faults but has never been a monster.

    In addition to learning how gay life has changed, Pat encounters other changes, like the disappearance of the joint home he lost because David left no will. He learns his protege Dee Dee Dale (Jennifer Coolidge) who became a competitor didn't wrong him as much as he thought. He gets several surprises about the dead lady and her grandson (Michael Urie). His exploit at the final drag show is a spectacular surprise for the younger generation.

    As for Todd Stephens, his gay credentials couldn't be better: he wrote the screenplay for the all-time best American gay teen coming-of-age movie, the 1998 Edge of Seventeen (directed by David Moreton). (Stephanie McVay, the mom in Edge, is back here; also featured are Jennifer Coolidge, Michael Urie, and Ira Hawkins.) This time, Stevens wrote as well as directed. Stevens has set both films in his hometown of Sandusky, Ohio, a place he left long ago but still refers back to as his own. In Swan Song Stephens celebrates the town he grew up in as well as an accomplished and fabulously campy gay man he looked up to when he was a gay youth coming of age in Sandusky. Stephens knows the territory - and the songs of Pat's heyday, like Dusty Springfield's "Yesterday When I Was Young," Shirley Bassey's "This is My Life," and Melissa Manchester’s "Don’t Cry Out Loud." He frequented the real-life Universal Fruit and Nut Company gay bar where here we see the lip-synch drag shows Pat participated in every week are having their final evening.

    Swan Song is a tour de force for Udo Kier, a warm-hearted, nostalgic performance for both him and writer-director Todd Stephens. Resorting to some surreal moments and tricky flashbacks, Swan Song is not as smoothly directed and edited a film from minute to minute as Edge of Seventeen, which had the directorial hand of David Moreton.The new script as the Variety review puts it is on the "earnest but anemic" side and Udo's teutonic accent takes the speed out of Pat's zingers. The movie's rhythm as a whole falters after the midpoint. The narrative teases expectations so often we start to wonder if Pat is really ever going to do the dead lady's hair, after all. Both the physical challenges the elderly protagonist is put through and the quantities of alcohol he is made to consume strain credulity. But with his patience and quiet inner confidence Kier nonetheless succeeds, seeming indomitable and more sincere than campy playing this real-life person.

    Swan Song 105 mins., debuted Mar. 18, 2021 at Austin (SXSW); also scheduled to feature at Cleveland, Provincetown, Nantucket, and other festivals including Frameline (San Francisco). It has been favorably reviewed already at its debt in Variety, Hollywood Reporter, and IndieWire. It is scheduled for limited US release by Magnolia in theaters Aug. 6, 2021 and on demand Aug. 13.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-13-2021 at 03:32 PM.

  4. #34
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    LANSKY (Eytan Rockaway 2021)



    Gangster biopic

    This is an old fashioned gangster flick, but with a few twists. It is inspired by actual conversations the director'a father Robert Rockaway had with the gangster Meyer Lansky before the latter's death. Lansky and organized crime are presented as complex, in Lansky's words "a world of grays." Yes, these are violent bad guys, but they're also the backbone of early twentieth-century economy, and Lansky did "good" things like aid the US war effort and the fight against the Nazis, and provide financial support to the fledgling State of Israel as a haven for Jews. Later, Israel's subserviency to US interests leads Lansky to be cruelly rejected by the new country.

    This is a biopic that emphasizes, or tries to, the POV of well known but down-on-his-luck writer David Stone (English actor Sam Worthington), who gets a change of fortune when the aging arch gangster Meyer Lansky (Harvey Keitel) unexpectedly summons him to Florida (in the early eighties) for a series of interviews leading to a biography. The movie makes the (invented) character of the writer important too. Lansky wants info on his private life; updates on his marital and romantic issues. While the movie is made up largely of flashbacks of Lansky's life as one of America's most notable gangster kingpins, what's happening in the present time is important too. But the by-the-numbers screenplay by Eytan Rockaway with information from his father Robert can inject little that's structurally or stylistically fresh in its attempt to tell the two parallel tales of the mastermind of Murder Inc. and the National Crime Syndicate and the beleaguered, naive writer with career and marriage problems.

    Keitel, now 82, shines in the relatively static role of the elder Lansky. He seems honed with age, both mellow and sharp. He's lost the external blather, it's all for real now. Wortington is handsome and troubled. He gets that part right. The writer part - well, that is always hard to convey in a movie.

    Stone is staying at a motel. Early on in the conversations with Lansky, we learn Stone is estranged from his wife, with whom he has two little kids, one only 18 months. The lonely writer befriends a pretty girl at his motel, Maureen (Minka Kelly) who one day is menaced by big Ray Hutchinson (James Devoti). Stone steps in and gets knocked out. We learn that she was a tool of the FBI. Schematic scenes show the feds are frustrated and desperate after decades of tracking Lansky and being unable to find the large sums he's reportedly got tucked away. Gangsters in prison have been small help, but One gives a tip: "Geneva."

    Stone's starting issue is the big one: what about the $300 million Lansky's supposed to have hidden. Where is it? Does it exist? Lansky dismisses this claim, saying he wishes he had even one million. The FBI would very much like to know about the money too. Their bosses have almost given up on ever finding out. Lansky is impenetrable, and walks free along the Miami boardwalk walking his Spitz dog from year to year.

    As old Lansky starts telling Stone his story, the thirties period flashbacks roll out. As the young Lansky, John Magaro is sly, with a remote, tunnel voice, and David Cade is both pretty and menacing as Lansky's early muscleman and womanizer partner Ben Siegel (don't call him "Bugsy"). They are Jews. Lansky is a Jew who came to America early from Russia (he reports only one remote, grim memory of an attack by Cossacks) and who from the start was good, very good, with numbers, and figures out dice and gambling and how people chaat at them. He's the smartest gangster of his time, and the most businesslike. He runs casinos as businesses. The brutality, of which there is plenty, is managed by Siegel, with Lansky an ever-present observer. How they get so powerful so quick we hardly know but soon they tie in with gangland kingpins, starting with Charlie Luciano (Shane McRae).

    The movie presents Lansky's war efforts, the major evidence for his "good" side. It begins with a vicious attack by him and his gang on a Nazi rally, severely beating the Nazis organzied by Lansky, who thus enters the public eye. His wife demurs, says people look away from her and their two kids walking down the sidewalk. For the FBI, he hunts down pro-German spies on the docks, using his men. Their interrogation methods used on the captured spies are represented as medieval.

    Salvatore Maranzano (Jay Giannone), "Little Caesar," gang boss of all New York, wants to move in on Lansky's business. Lansky has Siegel kill him, brutally. They set up Murder, Inc., a group of merciless killers. Lansky gets a seat on the high table of the mafiosi, Joe Banana, Al Capone, "Italian, Jewish, and Irish mob bosses from across America. Together they formed the largest organization of crime the world has ever known, the national crime syndicate" says the omniscient voiceover.)

    Not for the first time, the movie relishes a moment of violence: it shows us in closeup Siegel hacking Maranzano's torso into pieces with a big knife. Lansky is guilty by implication through his constant presence when acts of sadism are performed. But the movie never stops stressing that he's the brain, the smart numbers man, who lectures his cohorts that he runs his side of organized crime just like Ford Motors or Coca Cola, a business. (This movie is billed as "The man who turned crime into a billion dollar business.") It's almost like they're trying to tell us Lansky's a gangster who's not really a gangster: it's the point of view of the out-of-luck writer humbly grateful to the celebrity oldster who's given him a break, a man of wisdom, an old charmer.

    His innovation is a change in gangland policy: not snuffing out failing or cheating business underlings but straightening their books and propping them up so they make more money for the syndicate. In short: to emphasize profitability over cruelty and fear.

    Anne Lansky (AnnaSophia Robb), Lansky wife, is an example of this movie at its most one-note. She is nothing but a constant nag and accuser. She is also, it suddenly seems, unstable. In a brief scene, she rapidly becomes hysterical and suicidal: Lansky has her taken away. We see her given period, primitive shock treatments. One longs for a more female-centric and lighthearted gangster movie like Jonathan Demme's great Married to the Mob. Women are mere objects here.

    An interjected scene depicts a man arriving with an appeal and Meyer contributing to the fledgling State of Israel, in the name of Golda Meir (who will have a cameo, with someone playing her).

    Writer David Stone is in deep shit. FBI agents inform him he has unwittingly horned in on a decades-long investigation. They have been watching him. His motel "girlfriend" was arranged by them to collect information from him and he has unwisely (and perhaps rather implausibly) told her a lot of what he's been leaning from Lansky. But the interviews continue, with Stone tells Lansky nothing about his new problems, even though Lansky keeps observing that something looks wrong.. He asks Lansly to tell about Vegas. The film has already rapidly sketched in his involvement in lucrative, tax-free gambling casinos in pre-Castro Cuba. "Vegas?" Lansky begins. "We built that town. And it turned out to be our biggest headache."

    Despite good casting for the young and old Lansky, this is only a movie, and one that never steps beyond genre convention. It takes on one of the toughest gangster topics, because Meyer Lansky is peculiarly mysterious and complex. One claim is that he was never as big as legend makes him, though clearly Irish and Italian mafiosi respected and feared this tiny man who was under five feet and weighed only 136 pounds at his heaviest. And speaking of smallness, a biographical summary refers to an unproven rumor of lifetime earnings of $20 million, not three hundred. It acknowledges his mellow advice to children and grandchildren (not seen here) that was "akin to poetry" in a soothing gravely voice. But it says "some claim" he was never more than an "expendable middleman", and that he was an "overzealous rogue" who "squandered away" whatever fortune he had. Doubtless the Keital-Lansky assertion that he wishes he had even a million dollars is truthful. (According to Wikipedia Lansky's net worth when he died was $57,000.)

    Due to its violence, this is not suitable for younger viewers. For cinematic sophisticates, it will soon pall. It nonetheless does what it sets out to do: dramatize a famous American gangster's life story, in all its ambition, ingenuity, illegality and violence.

    Lansky, 119 mins., has no festival or debut history. It opens in Russia June 24, 2021, in the USA June 25 and in Spain August 27. Released by Vertical Entertainment.

    An article in the Tampa Bay Times about Meyer Lansky's daughter Sandra retells this story from the inside.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Yesterday at 02:22 PM.

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