Wednesday, March 16, 2011

1996: The English Patient

During World War II, a horribly disfigured man is rescued from a fiery plane wreck and treated by American medics in Italy.  When it becomes apparent that he is going to die soon, a nurse decides to stay behind and look after him in an abandoned monastery so he doesn't have to be constantly transported with everyone else.  Through a series of flashbacks, the mysterious patient's complex background slowly (very, very slowly) unfolds.

There are aspects of this movie that I really like.  The way the tormented man's memories are interspersed with scenes of his present suffering is very well done, for the most part.  There are some really good lines of dialogue, and most of the characters are well-developed and intriguing.  Also, Ralph Fiennes's makeup in the scenes that take place after the plane crash is very convincing.  However, there are several aspects that I have issues with.  I really enjoy Juliette Binoche's performance as the nurse, but I wish that she had more screen time.  Way too much of the movie is devoted to love scenes between Kristin Scott Thomas and Ralph Fiennes.  The story is difficult to get into at first, then it picks up and actually becomes captivating for a while.  But then, pretty much out of nowhere, there are a whole bunch of boring sex scenes, bringing the story to a grinding halt, and it takes a long time for it to regain momentum.  We get the point: they're having an affair.  We don't have to see every moment of it.  We want to know if he's really a German spy.  Once again, the movie could have been a lot shorter.  Then the end, when it finally comes, is kind of abrupt and disappointing, considering all the buildup of intrigue surrounding the main character.  I also find it annoying that the character who's supposed to have lost his thumbs is obviously using his thumbs in all the long shots.

Watching this movie confirmed that my fears have been realized: I have now reached the point in which every Best Picture Winner contains excessive nudity.  Can I please go back to the '40s?  The movies are still about the same war, but they've gotten longer and more vulgar.  And while I'm ranting let me just ask Kristin Scott Thomas's character (I think her name is Katherine): why would you even consider having an affair with Ralph Fiennes when you were married to Colin Firth?

Following this: Titanic (long, depressing, nudity...)

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