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Recent Movies: Salt of the Earth; Kingsman: The Secret Service; Seymour: An Introduction

June 3, 2015

Recent Movies

Salt of the Earth

This French-Brazilian documentary follows the life and work of photographer Sebastiao Salgado who was born in Brazil and spent much of his adult life in France .

The cinematography of this film (including those of Salgado’s photographs) is sharp and stunning just as the subjects of the photographs are real and disturbing.  They provide a history of well known famines and wars of the past half-century.

At times, the images become overwhelming.  The rage and passion one feels at the start turn to numbness and withdrawal later on making it easier to understand Salgado’s comments on his extreme disappointment of humankind.

As the later part of the film turns to environmental causes, there is actually an optimism to help heal the pessimism felt earlier.  In a practical way, the film gives us a hopeful direction that could actually work.

Perhaps with less time spent on some of the images and more time spent on Salgado himself, there would have been more balance.  But the film still succeeds with its good intentions.

RATING (out of four stars):   * * *

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Kingsman: The Secret Service

A seasoned British spy (Colin Firth) mentors a younger spy (Taron Egerton) as they join a broader effort to save the world from an evil plan of an eccentric billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson).

“Kingsman” is occasionally too busy in its story but is still above average compared to other modern suspense-thrillers.  It also has more than its fair share of violence (the odd use of the upbeat song “Pomp and Circumstance” in a particular scene is bizarrely unforgettable).  Yet it still comes off as entertaining and enjoyable.

Like the James Bond films (likely an influence), the gadgets and special effects add much to the entertainment value.  Firth also brings along his dependable amount of class and talent especially in a scene when he must verbally defend his actions in a redneck, hate-filled church.  Having Michael Caine in the cast is the icing on the cake.

RATING:   * * *

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Seymour: An Introduction

Ethan Hawke directs and appears in this American documentary whose subject is Seymour Bernstein, a renowned pianist who stopped performing in concerts at age fifty and began teaching.

Bernstein is a delightful man in his eighties whose philosophies of life interchange with those of his art.  During the film, he mentors Hawke who is now reflecting on his own choices of life and art.

Some of the best dialogue occurs at the beginning and end of the film when the amiable Bernstein speaks of the conflict of trying to mix the inner soul of an artist with the outer commercial and social worlds.  It is also fascinating to hear him speak of nervousness before performing.  More movie time, however, is spent in his teaching techniques.  While this is less interesting than the other discussions, this remains a fine film overall.

There is genuine modesty in Bernstein’s personality (compare him to the many less talented people who hire publicists) and likewise that of Hawke for openly admitting his own insecurities.  And there is nearly always beautiful classical piano music in the background.

RATING:   * * *

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Dennis Bowman

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