Do you remember in Midnight in Paris where Owen Wilson finds himself transported from the present day back to 1920s Paris? Wilson finds himself amongst historical figures of that era, including Luis Buñuel. At one point, Wilson tells Buñuel to make a film about people who cannot leave a house even though they want to.
In real life, of course, Buñuel made The Exterminating Angel (1962) where the members of a high society dinner party are unable to leave the mansion where they are staying. Try though they might, they are simply unable to leave.
It follows that at one point early in his life Darren Aronofsky was visited by someone from the future who told him he should one day make a film about a couple who can’t get their guests to leave.
mother! is that film.
Buñuel (1900 – 1983) was the undisputed master of surrealism in cinema in the 20th century, and now it seems that Aronofsky wants to wear that mantle in the new millennium.
Just to prove how different this film is, the lower-case spelling and exclamation point on the title will prove difficult for those used to capital letters and cookie-cutter plots. Those who complain that major studios are only recycling franchises will note that this highly original film comes courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
In the film, Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence are an idyllic newly married couple, and they suitably live in a country estate surrounded by natural forests with no sign of a driveway or parking facilities. He’s a published writer and she’s his trophy wife a generation younger.
Somehow random guests start showing up, the most notable being a couple played with a seething repulsion to life by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. Real life brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson play Harris and Pfeiffer’s sons.
After wrecking havoc the guests leaves. Bardem and Lawrence conceive, and the movie rapidly shifts to her last trimester. Only the peace and serenity of their existence becomes once again threatened by the arrival of fans of Bardem’s latest publication.
Aronofsky staffs his cast with characters that are ciphers yet readily identified by names like Damsel, Fool, Adulterer, Zealot, Pisser, Devotee, Neophyte and many, many others.
By the time of the big reveal you literally have no idea of what is about to happen, but it involves a metaphysical crystal.
mother! will spawn numerous post-film coffee house discussions. Whether you like it or hate it, mother! definitely penetrates your psyche.
mother! opens at area theaters this weekend.
Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood leaves the viewers with an expanded vision of how movies were made in another era. The 2001 documentary was originally made for AMC (American Movie Classics), yet it stands the test of time.
Aside from one glaring error that we will address later, this doc gives a full accounting of the tumultuous production that at the time, and even now adjusted for inflation, stands as the most money ever spent making a film.
Consider this: the average new car design costs manufacturers hundreds of millions in development, so making a movie with a budget likewise that has the potential to turn a billion dollar profit is not a bad idea.
Movie production has always been a business; make no mistake about that fact. Eventually, Cleopatra, which shot for over 400 unit days, was released in 1963. And despite not making bank initially, it has since gone from the red to the black.
This comprehensive doc looks at the entire history of the production from the first (classic silent film) helmer Rouben Mamoulian (responsible for many of Greta Garbo’s big films) attached to the project to the eventual credited director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, perhaps the first director to win back to back directing Oscars® for A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950).
At the time, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were married to other people. In fact, Taylor’s then husband Eddie Fisher supervised her nude scene. Cleopatra the film fits nicely into the early 1960s mode of sword and sandal epics that included El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire (which was remade as Gladiator).
Taylor would eventually make more money off the film than any preceding actor had ever been paid because she had backend points but also a provision that if the film shot over sixteen weeks she would be paid a healthy amount for every week of overtime.
However, Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood inaccurately states that Taylor was signed for a million dollars. In truth, Taylor demanded said amount and Fox executives at the time said no and decided to cast Susan Hayward in the part. Taylor reduced her fee to $750,000.
In the end, because of production delays and contractual stipulations, Taylor ended up making around $7 million for her participation.
My source on this is one-time head of 20th Century Fox Tom Rothman, who headed the Fox studio for 18 years and also created Fox Searchlight. Rothman was head of Fox during the production of Titanic. Rothman is also married to Jessica Harper (Phantom of the Paradise, Susperia), and basically that trumps any naysayers.
Needless to say, Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood will win you over with its barrage of facts about filmmaking during this era.
As an added bonus, a Q&A will follow the film with Pulitzer Prize writer Lawrence Wright and actor/director Bob Balaban. Both Wright and Balaban are involved with an Alley Theatre production of a play that examines the relationship between Liz and Dick during the production of Cleopatra.
Because of the recent damage to the Alley Theatre from Hurricane Harvey the play has been pushed back to next April. However, the Q&A and documentary will proceed as originally scheduled.