Stones’ muse story told; ‘Jeanne du Barry’ gains momentum

| April 25, 2024 | 0 Comments

Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg (10/10): 113 minutes. Anita Pallenberg was the lover of one of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones, and the wife of another, Keith Richards. Anita was gorgeous and a strong woman, who was born in 1942 and raised in Europe, arriving in the United States when she was 21. She quickly became involved with the Andy Warhol Factory. In 1965 while working as a model in Europe, she went to a Stones concert in Munich and just as quickly became involved with them, first with Jones. She and Jones looked remarkably similar. Then she segued into her marriage to Richards.
She wrote a memoir, and Scarlett Johannson voices her story of how she became the Stones’ muse, with comments by Anita’s two surviving children, Marlon and Angela, and a few others. Directed by Alexis Bloom and Svetlana Zill, this is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot. With an abundance of archival films never before seen, Anita tells of her short time as a model and movie star (“Barbarella” and a few others), and of her horrible drug addiction. She is frank and unapologetic about her life. But what really comes across is what a strong, confident woman she was, despite her drug addiction. Even if you are not a fan of the Stones (I’m not), this is a documentary not to be missed. Streaming from May 3.

Jeanne du Barry (7/10): 110 minutes. NR. The first half of this film is slow as molasses and not as interesting. The second half is very good. Telling the first half in less than 30 minutes would have resulted in a much better film. I would have walked out had I not been reviewing it, and that would have been a mistake because when it finally gets to the meat of the story, it is much better than average.

Jeanne Bécu (Maïwenn, who directed and co-wrote with Teddy Lussi Modeste and Nicolas Livecci) was a low-born prostitute who became the mistress of King Louis XV (Johnny Depp) of France in 1768 at age 25. She was shunned by Louis’ daughters but persevered for six years until his death in 1774. Filmed in France, mostly at Versailles, the cinematography captures the beauty of the palace. It had a budget of more than $22 million which is much higher than most French films.

The acting is good throughout, especially the King’s daughters, who did not hide their dislike of Jeanne. This film needs someone like Irving Thalberg to recut it. In French with English subtitles, opening in theaters May 2.

Space: The Longest Goodbye (5/10): 84 minutes. PBS Independent Lens. This is a documentary examining the challenges of sending a team to Mars. Directed by Ido Mizrahi, it examines NASA’s attempts to prepare people for the psychological problems inherent in being stuck in a small, cramped spacecraft for 6 to 9 months with no real- time communication with Earth. They will have to get along with each other because they are trapped in close quarters. But this is a problem that has faced explorers since time began. For example, it took the Bounty 10 months to sail from England to Tahiti in the 1780s, all the while out of contact with anyone. While it is an interesting study, it is marred by ill-chosen music that slows and mars the tone of the entire film.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (3/10): 120 minutes. R. While this is based on “recently declassified files of the British War Department and inspired by true events,” it is pure, violent, gory Hollywood hokum. Director Guy Ritchie has used every hackneyed cliché put in all those old WW II “B” movies that came out of the Hollywood factories, and he adds a few more.

Ritchie does a disservice to the brave people who actually accomplished the audacious feat. The few protagonists are shown killing hundreds of Germans, many in hand-to-hand fighting, which, from what I’ve been able to determine, did not happen. Naturally, they all survive without a scratch. The movie starts with graphic mayhem, and it continues throughout. The heroes are all devil-may-care, Errol Flynn types who face danger with a smile, a laugh, and often a bon mot, but it’s a long way from the way war really is. The actual exploit, concocted by Ian Fleming and which laid the foundation for the British SAS and Black Ops operations, was apparently nothing like this.

Recommended reading: “Hunting the Falcon” by John Guy and Julia Fox. Countering centuries of myth and misinterpretation, this illuminates the brutal, tragic relationship between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. “The Twist of a Knife” by Anthony Horowitz, an ingenious whodunit.

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Category: Entertainment

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