Any film that has Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson and Fergie parading around and shaking their booties isn’t unwatchable.
“Nine” – adapted from the Tony Award-winning 1982 musical by Michael Tolkin and the late Anthony Minghella – is a bit messy, though. The musical was based on Federico Fellini’s 1963 classic “8¢,” about a vain, womanizing Italian film director who is stuck creatively.
In this Rob Marshall-directed musical, Daniel Day-Lewis takes over the role of Guido made famous by Marcello Mastroianni in the Fellini film. Guido’s wife, Luisa (Cotillard) is resigned to his philandering.
Cruz, a married woman, is his mistress. Kidman is an actress meant to remind you of 1960s Swedish sex kitten Anita Ekberg, while Hudson plays a Vogue reporter who flings herself at the director. And pop star Fergie is Saraghina, the village prostitute who gives the boy Guido a peek at future sexual delights when she grinds through a number called “Be Italian.”
As a musical, “Nine” has always had shortcomings. It’s a circus – a reflection of the swinging 1960s – filled with glitz and glamour; so it’s hard not to be a bit dazzled and overdazzled. Marshall uses the same tricks as he did in “Chicago,” quick cuts and close-ups, giving the film a frenetic drive. He mixes black and white and color, zooms in and out, but he doesn’t invest much in his characters.
There is a raffish charm to Day-Lewis’ Guido with his ever-present black hat, but there is no angst over his current artistic predicament in the character. And a number of the songs by Maury Yeston are overbaked and not particularly memorable. All of Guido’s women, including his costume designer-confidante played by Judi Dench, get their solos. In the end, “Nine” is like a moving fashion spread. Sometimes there is a sparkly image that catches your eye, but most of the time you want to turn the pages faster.
COPPOLA GETS PERSONAL
Francis Ford Coppola once made epics like “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now.”
Since retreating to his vineyards, he has turned his attention to smaller, seemingly personal films like his latest, “Tetro.” The film involves two brothers, the sons of a world-famous director, Carlo Tetrocini (Klaus Maria Brandauer). The 17-year-old Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich) is the younger. His much older brother, the title character (Vincent Gallo), lives in Buenos Aires, escaping his overbearing father.
Bennie doesn’t know much of Tetro, who seems to idle away his time but whose own artistic ambitions have been crushed by his father.
When Bennie discovers an unfinished play in Tetro’s apartment, he finishes it and enters it in a contest. When Tetro finds out, it unleashes a torrent of emotion and memories, shot in dreamlike black and white. It ultimately leads to a terrible family secret that Bennie doesn’t know about.
There is some speculation on how autobiographical the film is. It was written by the famed director, the son of a conductor – not as well-known as Carlo in the film – but of significant stature, and he has a well-known artistic family.
Those who care can make their own judgments, but it is for certain that Coppola hasn’t lost much as a filmmaker, although his scale may not be as large. “Tetro” is dark but visually powerful.
In the recent Royal Shakespeare Company production of “Hamlet” that aired on PBS last week, “Doctor Who’s” David Tennant makes a fine transition from Time Lord to melancholy – but almost acerbic – Dane.
Many of the same energetic traits that made his “Doctor Who” fun to watch – even amid the silly stories – are manifested in his Hamlet, which is set in modern day. Of course, this time, Tennant speaks some of the most beautiful and profound lines ever written.
The production – which like most today is trimmed a bit from the Bard’s original – also boasts another stellar performance from a sci-fi and RSC veteran, Patrick Stewart, as the cool, calculating Claudius.