In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_alice_through_the_looking_glass

Alice Through the Looking Glass

There is no magic, no wonder, just junk rehashed from a movie that was itself a rehash of Lewis Carroll, tricked out with physically unpersuasive…

Thumb_balpko1iwwmmxte0ffzy9fw3jid

Of Men and War

Bécue-Renard brings his own brutality to the topic of PTSD, by putting us at odds with feeling his subjects' pain, or only studying it.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

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…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

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…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Waterloo

  |  

I met Nino Rota once in a moonlit garden some 40 miles from Rome. He was strolling beneath a balcony that could have been used for "Romeo and Juliet," and was about to be, and he was twirling a rose and humming a tune beneath his breath. Franco Zeffirelli was strolling alongside, nodding with excitement and saying, "Yes! Yes!" Or, more accurately, "Si! Si!"

I mention Nino Rota because he is the greatest composer now at work in the movies. He does all of Fellini's films, and who can forget the theme from "La Dolce Vita," or the quiet little tune that played when the sad-eyed clown led the balloons from the nightclub? That night he was humming the "Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet," which is why Zeffirelli was nodding.

In my fantasies about how directors and composers work together, that night on the location of "Romeo and Juliet" figures prominently. But why bring it into a review of "Waterloo?" Well, because "Waterloo" itself isn't a very good or interesting film, and if you've seen either half of "War and Peace" you've seen the better half of "Waterloo." But I thought perhaps the vision of Nino Rota in the rose garden might help explain the failure of "Waterloo."

Nino Rota, you see, is the composer of the music for "Waterloo," and seldom has a sound track been more crude, obvious, repetitive and inappropriately romantic. I can't bring myself to blame Rota, who is a genius, so I'm forced to blame Sergei Bondarchuk, the phlegmatic Russian who directed, or inflicted, "Waterloo." His "War and Peace" had an undeniable, if heavy-handed, charm. It worked as epic spectacle, and if your blood was warm at all you were thrilled by those thousands of soldiers and that $100 million budget.

But having done Napoleon once, Bondarchuk has done him a second time to less effect. Napoleon himself was more effective in "War and Peace," when he was seen from a distance, or from behind, the way they used to portray the U.S. President in the movies. Seen from the front, he turns out to be a bleary-eyed Rod Steiger hung up on the role and even, possibly, hung over. Steiger found the making of this film an unpleasant enterprise, and it's easy to see why. Bondarchuk is so overwhelmed by the thousands of Russian cavalry troops he's been given to play with, and by his $25 million budget, and by-his obsession for aerial photography, that his leading characters turn out scarcely more human than his extras. 

Seeking for the reason for "Waterloo's" failure, I picture the gifted Nino Rota strolling on a battlefield, with Bondarchuk strolling beside him. But this time Nino Rota is not humming. Bondarchuk is humming, and the tune is "Deutschland Uber Alles," and Nino is nodding, sadly.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Memoirs of a Geisha, Part II: How Are Geisha or Nerd Stereotypes Harmful?

Part two of Jana Monji's essay about the portrayal of Asian characters in cinema.

I believe Dylan Farrow

Separating the artist from the art isn't as easy as it sounds.

Back to "Roots" with a Multi-Channel Remake of the Television Classic

A review of the History Channel remake of the landmark mini-series, "Roots."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus