Mary Poppins Returns
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All Critics (25)
| Top Critics (10)
| Fresh (19)
| Rotten (6)
| DVD (2)
Oliveira establishes a sense of timelessness only to catch his audience up short with a film that ultimately could scarcely be a more timely comment on the world in which we live.
Structured like a chatty play in three acts.
Extremely slow and won't be for those with no appetite for lengthy, self-serious monologues, but it also has a sharp, personal edge to it.
A potent and troubling meditation on the state of Western society.
A thoughtful, provocative effort that makes up for its narrative failings with its astute philosophical musings.
The freeze-frame finale is a stunner.
It's an engrossing pic that speaks to our hearts and minds, as it leaves us with an unsettling feeling about both the past and present.
Though Oliveira's stylistic approach may be more relaxed and laid back in tune with seasoned years, his keen and cutting insights point to a mind on fire, as if on mental Viagra.
Only someone in his golden years could have made something as profound and as devastating as A Talking Picture, and only Oliveira could have made it as good as this.
A veteran filmmaker's moment of reflection and didacticism, and one supposes he's earned it.
Talking is about all that happens here.
Not only is this approach boring but also it is an artificial contrivance that leaves little for the actors to do but regurgitate facts in an encyclopedic way.
A Talking Picture, directed by Portugues legend Manoel De Olivera, spends its first half as a badly filmed travel-log with commentary by Leonore da Silveira and an 8-year-old child, portraying her daughter.
Where they go and what they have to say holds some interest, as da Silviera speaks in grand terms regarding civilization, mythology and legends, but the clarity of the film itself looked like it was shot by a 1950's era camera. I was crying out for a polarizing filter to get rid of some of the pervasive haze.
Between the lines the film's message is about humanity, as da Silviera and daughter spend time talking to a fisherman in Marseilles, simply because he has a cute dog. The theme is then echoed when they reach Istanbul and take in the Hagia Sophia, pointing out how the Christian cathedral was conquered by the Muslims and turned into a Mosque.
There are several very static shots, filmed as if you were behind the camera looking out at the scenery; often the camera lingers after Da Silviera has left the frame, so you can see other tourists walking in front of the camera. Interesting, but something I would have edited out of my home movies.
From the previous paragraph it is obvious that there isn't much in the way of artful filming going on, although there is a nice shot where the camera films da Silviera exiting a taxi, filmed from the street, looking through the taxi window, which reflects the ancient architecture of the building behind.
As da Silviera and daughter are traveling the Mediterranean via boat, there are some almost laughable shots of the old cruise ship bobbing on the waves - looking like something Ed Wood would have produced using a toy ship in a bathtub. Add to this the ridiculous filming of the ships' prow cutting through the water to signify time passing between destinations and you've got yourself a bad home movie.
Other wasted opportunities include a showing of only a single mosaic at Pompeii (and no frescos), and while at the ampatheator in Athens, the guide points out a stone chair and says "this is a very important chair, see the inscription." Of course the camera shows the chair and inscription, which is in GREEK!! I don't read Greek and don't believe da Silviera does either - so I have no idea whose butt sat in that chair of honor.
The 2nd half of the film takes place in the dining salon aboard ship, where da Silviera and daughter are seated near the captain's table - which allows the film to focus on the captain and his honored guests - 3 VIP women who all hail from different countries, yet understand enough varied languages to be able to keep up a fluent conversation (this also speaks of the commonality of humanity). John Malkovich, who is his usual droll, restrained self, plays the captain. He notices the young girl, so after the meal approaches da Silviera and invites her to the captain's table the following evening; an offer that she demonstrably refuses as if she believed Malkovich was hitting on her - truly odd.
At the next evening's supper, Capt. Malkovich cajoles a famous Greek actress and singer to do a number for the guests. The song, sung in Greek and going on way too long, is about the missing leaves of the trees and how they were blown away by a harsh north wind.
The film has a surprising twist at the end, and when the final frame freezes on Malkovich's face you understand the message of the centuries of civilization and humanity - striving forward and creating through strife, chaos and loss, as a reprise of the Greek song plays over the credits.
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