Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Have You Seen This Film? You Should!

A quick post to recommend a must-see film, Simon Curtis's Woman in Gold, based on the true story of Maria Altmann's efforts to recover Gustav Klimt's portrait of her aunt from Vienna's Belvedere Gallery. The elderly Jewish refugee Altmann is played brilliantly by Helen Mirren; her younger self equally stirringly by Tatiana Maslany whose features convincingly look as if they could morph, with age, into Mirren's, despite the obvious differences. Ryan Reynolds is wonderful as Altmann's young lawyer who, astonishingly (to me, at least) is Arnold Schoenberg's grandson (indeed, Randol Schoenberg's family is full of musical luminaries!). Elizabeth McGovern makes a great cameo as a judge (apparently she's married to the director, but obviously the woman will never be accused of nepotism, clearly needing none of it). And I loved seeing Katie Holmes play lawyer Schoenberg's wife. Her character is gracefully and graciously supportive of her husband's commitment to insisting the Austrian government live up to its declared intentions to make restitution for Nazi theft. His timing is terrible, with a second baby due amidst crucial trial and travel dates, but his wife allows no wavering, assuring him that his newborn will be waiting for his return. Not sure if that's what brought the tears to my eyes, or if those were partly occasioned by seeing Holmes pick up the reins of her acting career after some very tough years in her personal life.


Of course, there were many moments during Woman in Gold that occasioned tears. Horror and tears but eventually . . . well, if you don't already know the outcome of this narrative, I'll let you discover it for yourself.  I was very annoyed that I missed the movie on the big screen, but I'm pleased that it was so quickly available on iTunes. If you've already seen it, or if you download it on my say-so this weekend, do let me know what you think.

And if you're interested in another gripping tale about art restitution, I highly recommend Edmond De Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes, which I wrote about here. Again, if you've read this already, or if you read it in the next while, I'd love to know what you think. And as I'm mentioning reading, I will just add that I've added another post over on my book blog, a post about working my way through those lists and stacks of partly finished books . . .

Ooh, and if you've made it this far, one more recommendation. I've just been given permission to share the link to my daughter's blog. She moved to Rome at the beginning of May with her guy (he got work there) and their sweet little girl, and she's been managing to carve out enough time to post occasionally, depending on WiFi in the Borghese Gardens (I know!!) for the first few weeks, and figuring out WordPress during baby naps. If you're curious to meet my daughter, find out a bit about life in the Eternal City, or just peek in on an ex-pat young mom easing into life in a new language and culture, click here. Tell her that her Mom sent you -- she can only roll her eyes so often, right?

12 comments:

  1. Oh no, have to disagree I did not enjoy this film. Helen Mirren's character is a sooo annoying. Actually might be going off Helen Mirren, also disliked another recent film of hers. Think it was called the hundred foot journey. Back to the woman in gold. It's a great story. I enjoyed reading about it but the film was very disappointing imo! Still haven't read hare with the Amber eyes. On my to read list. Must pop over to see what you've been reading. Always interested in your recommendations. Mary

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    1. Hmmm, I didn't bother reading reviews, but after Patricia's comment (see below) it's clear that opinions were divided on this film. I'm still a Mirren fan, and although there are some clear overlaps with other roles she's played, I found the character she developed distinct enough. Very impressed with Reynolds' performance, but we can certainly agree to disagree on the film as a whole. Do make time for "Hare" if you can; well worth it.

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  2. I read Hare a few years ago. I found its description of the aristocratic Viennese Jewish family fascinating. I have been to Vienna once, and loved its air of faded grandeur and found its grey oppressive buildings wonderful, although I don't think my nineteen year-old self really understood the city's complicated history. I found the descriptions of the Netsukes less interesting for some reason and the collector, whose name escapes me, rather enigmatic.

    Brenda

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    1. It's a memoir I may well read again -- I was captivated by the Netsuke and also by the descriptions of the rooms full of Impressionist paintings collected by de Waal's ancestor, Charles, the paintings stacked 5 or 6 deep in spots, Manet, Monet, Pissaro, Sisley, Degas. . . I haven't yet made it to Vienna (thought I was getting close when my daughter's partner was offered a job there -- sounds like a wonderfully livable city, albeit with that darker side to its history)

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  3. Hi Mater, I have read some not-so-flattering reviews of this film, but I think I would like it nonetheless - I adore Helen Mirren, and Ryan Reynolds is cute, what's not to like? (Actually, in some way he reminds me of my younger son, I think it's the eyes and the sense of humour.)

    Your daughter now has at least 2 followers! (I'm assuming you are her first?) I'm looking forward to reading about her adventures, it was nice of her to allow you to share.

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    1. Reynolds impresses me in this film, I think because of the way his good looks disappear or are effaced somehow in the role. That is, he's still good-looking, obviously, but he reads primarily as an earnest, initially struggling young man. You don't notice that he's good-looking in any way that would distract from the seriousness of the work his character has taken on. Seems to me it takes a bit to damp down that amount of cute, right?

      Aw, kind of you to follow my daughter (and yes, I'm the #1 Fan so far). A part of me always yearned somehow for an ex-pat life, but the part that wanted kids at 23 won out. No regrets, but it's fun to experience that other possibility vicariously. . .

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  4. It was a fascinating story but I found the film disappointing. I kept seeing Helen Mirren, rather than someone whose life had been turned upside down by the horrors of WW2. My first boss was Austrian, from a family in similar circumstances, although not perhaps as wealthy. I remember her fondly and the stories she used to tell me of her life before the war. She and her brother were the only members of a large extended family to survive.
    I did enjoy The Hare with the Amber Eyes. I liked the way the narrator was a nebulous figure. It seemed fitting as he told the fragmented stories of his ancestors.
    As for mysteries, I love them and no longer feel guilty about enjoying them. Some of the more "literary" writers seem to have forgotten how to tell stories. Finishing that sort of book is too much of a chore.
    Lilibet

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    1. De gustibus and all that. I take your points, Lilibet, but can only say I wasn't disappointed by the film. Different expectations, perhaps. I had an aunt who spent the war hidden away in Amsterdam, and Mirren's bursts of irritated or impatient asperity resonated. It's definitely not a weight examination, but I admit to finding it satisfying.
      Wasn't Hare good? And I absolutely agree with you about the importance of good storytelling, although I think there are still enough literary writers doing that to keep my reading lists unfinished until the end of my days...;-)

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  5. I just downloaded Woman from iTunes. Brian watched it while I was in Mexico but films other than action flicks don't stay very long in Richmond. I read Hare a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I too visited the Rome blog. It is an experience of a lifetime to move to Italy with such a small child. I have just almost cleared one box of books from my storage but it is a very lengthy process. I really want to find loving homes or at least thoughtful readers for my books. There is always new fiction to be enjoyed and those mysteries for relaxation.

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    1. Considering the comments above, I do hope I haven't steered you wrong, Mme. . . Paul and I were absorbed right through the movie and I hope you will be as well. (Even in Vanc'r, I think this only played at the Fifth Ave Cinema, and only for a couple of weeks, so I missed it there).
      Isn't Hare a wonderful book? And good for you clearing out a box of books -- emotional, isn't it?!

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  6. This is the second recommendation of this film I've read this week and shall have to seek it out. Hare is still on my list and I do want to read it. It resonated deeply with members of my late husbands family and their memories and experiences of their own "lost world" of life in Vienna before the war.

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    1. As I said to Mme, above, I hope you aren't disappointed as others seem to have been. I know you won't be disappointed with Hare -- I can only imagine how deeply this would have resonated with anyone who was part of that horrendous clearing out and destruction of a once rich way of life.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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