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The Farewell Party

High drama and lowbrow, morbid humor get stitched together in this successful tragicomedy about terminal patients and assisted suicide. Works better than expected.

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Sunshine Superman

I found Jean Boenish’s philosophical musings less than persuasive. And I don’t think my fear of heights was the reason for my bias.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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But "Beowulf" was great, not just funny!

From Marsha Sinkevich, Mentone, CA:

While I have often found Mr. Ebert’s reviews perceptive and illuminating, I must disagree about his assessment of this interesting and innovative film. Am I the only one who has focused on the fact that the story shows us TWO kings who have been seduced by Grendel’s mother, a union that resulted in strange and frightening offspring on both occasions? Yes, Angelina Jolie’s naked golden body is wonderful. Somehow, most reviewers seem focused on that alone and not on the fact that she is not what she seems. We see her talons several times, especially when she’s cradling the dying Grendel.

Sorry, but I did not yearn for a laugh track or find the film funny either. I found a deeper message in this "Beowulf" than I did in the original, which I read years and years ago. I think this film is a terrific new art form, and because of it, many reviewers, including you, aren’t quite sure what to make of it. I found the film moving, dynamic, and even with the blood and guts, very poetic and sad. Like in traditional Chinese theater, the sometimes immobile faces of this evolving filming technique contributed -- rather than detracted – to the telling of the story.

I think this film (and use of the digitized technology) is storytelling at its best, even with the plot deviations that do not exist in the original. For example: At the film’s end, Beowulf’s stalwart friend (and now the new king) stands in the waves contemplating the ship where Beowulf’s body is being ceremonially burned. When he suddenly finds that magical dragon cup in the sand, and stares at the newly beautiful mother of Grendel, like Beowulf, he finds himself on the threshold of an important decision. Will this lead to more monsters? Probably so. Let’s not forget that Hrogarth got this very same cup by killing a dragon. Was this dragon – also his son?

In this modern age of frequently lackluster tales of vapid emotion, in my view this was a wonderful story about the secret darkness that exists in all human hearts.

Reply: I persist in thinking the movie was funny. But I think the spectacle of the IMAX 3-D actually came between me and the drama, and I plan to see it again in 2-D. I'm not sure 3-D contributes to serious storytelling. -- RE

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