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OMG! Tornatore did it again! This is a haunting thriller, as dark as life can sometimes be. It's the story of a woman, former Eastern European, slave prostitute, struggling to find the right path in life, but not in a simple way, instead, trying to find answers in the troubled world where she lived. The actress playing Irene, Ksenia Rappaport is simply amazing. All the cast is wonderful. Michele Placido, playing her bald brutal pimp, is soo good, he gives you goosebumps. Master Ennio Morricone's beautiful score completes and defines the mood the movie creates. After Cinema Paradisso, The Star Maker, The Legend of 1900, Malena, and now Sconosciuta, Giuseppe Tornatore stands as one of the finest directors in the world. He, definitely,is my favorite.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Everything together just right - highly recommendJuly 24 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
From a director who has made some wonderful films, from one of the best composers there ever has been, and from an actress that gave a performance of a lifetime comes this incredible piece of work that I cannot recommend enough.
As far as acting, risks and film style - this should have won that year but at least it got submitted for the Academy (wrongly overlooked - probably due to content). A suspenseful tale that follows the lead woman through flashbacks and present time, with an editing style that makes the film a stand-out in storytelling. Xenia Rappaport convinced me beyond any doubt of her skill level, and even when you watch the supplemental documentary, she exudes a certain professionalism that warrants attention. A strong R rating of a film about retribution, loss, prostitution in the worst way, and an ending I did not see coming (considering all that had happened).
The DVD quality is excellent, the sound mixed perfectly for what was being asked, and the supplemental feature contains just the right amount of background material and non-cheesy interviews. Hope this does not get overlooked again.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Difficult, dark film. Xenia Rappoport is amazing.Sept. 9 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
A little hard to follow and a little hard to swallow, this film by the director of Nuovo Cinema Paradiso is gritty and loose. A dark controlled chaos in skilled hands, it feels like an army of films rushing at you all at once. It's a bit overwhelming until the grabs you, sucks you in and won't let you go performance of Xenia Rappoport kicks in. She's a magnet in the middle of a mysterious mayhem. It's too bad that the style and substance of the film will prevent it from ever becoming popular because her portrayal of suffering and sheer determination is one for the history books. The woman's got chops. She moves like an insect through the undergrowth of her seedy milieu with an androgynous, unkempt beauty that's both tempting and invisible. She's able to shift her portrayal from one emotion to another, and then another, without moving a muscle in her face--a skill few actors possess. It's her story and we follow her through it not knowing exactly what she's after or what she will do with it when she seems to have it in her grasp. That's the unknown part and Rappoport plays the mystery for all it's worth. She works the complex narrative inside her head and lets the revelations drip out slowly, uncontrollably.
Director Giuseppe Tornatore says this film is about a woman reclaiming her power as a woman (there's a great big serving of motherhood with that) after it has been stripped from her from every angle imaginable. Rappoport's character is the victim of a human slave trade that uses immigrant Eastern European women to make babies for the upper-class. She's gotten out of it, but with a lot of baggage. Some of it is misplaced and some of it is hurled at us in short, chaotic flashbacks in the beginning of the film (that's the hard to follow part), slowly unfolding to more understandable scenes as they catch up with her present life at the end of the film--a nice structural technique by the director.
Roger Ebert wrote a review of this movie which essentially lists the aspects of it he thinks he understands and the aspects he thinks he doesn't. He scores a little above average, I think, which is about as good as anyone is probably going to do. There's a noir-ish component (not a stylistic one) to the film where major events and character traits are unleashed which are way beyond the reality of any mere mortal's life. There are also plenty of cause-for-pause moments when you will consider if the means justify the end. That's the hard to swallow part but I'm not complaining. It is a movie after all, and if you've read many of my reviews you know that I take all comers when it comes to plot gymnastics as long as they don't infringe upon the integrity of my players, as long as they don't cause incredulity to appear on the faces of the actors because they don't believe the script. Giuseppe Tornatore is lucky, or smart, to have enlisted an actress with the strength of Xenia Rappoport. ET coulda popped in here and I don't think she would have missed a beat.
Speaking of beats, Ennio Morricone scored this film spectacularly.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Giuseppe Tornatore is a genius, this movie is a gemJuly 21 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
Giuseppe Tornatore is a genius, this movie is a gem. Buy it and keep it in your collection. Superb acting, incredible story of human love and desperation. I cannot believe this movie did not win any Oscars.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The Tale of an Indomitable WomanAug. 29 2010
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Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore both wrote (with Massimo De Rita) and directed this intensely powerful film about the resilience of the human spirit. It is a triumphant masterpiece of a film that somehow has escaped the eyes of the audiences here in this country. With this DVD it should find a legion of fine film aficionados for 'La Sconosciuta'/'The Unknown Woman'/'The Other Woman' as it is variable named.
In a series of flashbacks and flash forwards the story reveals the history of a Ukrainian girl Irena (a brilliant tour de force of acting by Russian born actress known variably as Kensiya/Ksenia/Xenia Rappoport) who lives in a small village, has a handsome construction worker lover, but following a need for a better life of wealth and fame, becomes involved with the pimp Muffa (Michele Placido) who uses her popularity as a prostitute to fill his coffers while sadistically binding and beating her into submission as a breeder of babies for the black market. Irena finally attacks Muffa, thinking she has killed him, escapes and moves to Velarchi, Italy where she rents a small apartment across the street from wealthy couple Donato (Pierfrancesco Favino) and Valeria (Claudia Gerini) Adacher who are gold dealers and their daughter Tea (Clara Dossena) who apparently is suffering from a neurological disorder that causes her parents to be overprotective of her lack of ability to cope with aggression. First working as a servant and house cleaner Irena pleads with her employer to find her a better job, and that job just happens to be a new nanny for the Adachers. Irena gradually ingratiates herself in to the family, earning the trust and respect of the parents and especially that of Tea. In a series of flashbacks instigated by events that occur in the household Irena relives her gruesome past, devotes herself to training Tea how to defend herself, and in general makes herself indispensible to the family. But many twists and turns occur: Muffa is not dead and shows up in Velarchi demanding money, beats Irena, and causes a life of desperation for Irena. Because Irena is convinced that Tea is one of her babies she sold on the Black Market she does many things that turn out negatively: at worst she discovers Tea is not indeed her daughter and the events that follow are both tragic and ultimately redeeming Kseniva Rappoport is transcendently beautiful, immersing herself in this impossibly difficult role without ever losing our empathy. Both Gerini and Favino as the parents and Dossena as the daughter are consummate actors and the fine cast is supported by cameo roles by such luminaries as Margherita Buy, Nicola Di Pinto and of course Michele Placido as one of the oiliest, most hateful villains ever created for the screen. The effective cinematography, mixing the past imagery with the present, is the fine work of Fabio Zamarion and the musical score is by the always-fine Ennio Morricone. Giuseppe Tornatore has created a masterpiece of cinematic art. A revelation. Grady Harp, August 10
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
As Good As a Patricia Highsmith BookJune 20 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
What an amazing film.
It reminds me of Patricia Highsmith books: slow-paced and confusing at first, developing little by little into a masterpiece that depicts how twisted and sick mankind can be. Kseniya Rappoport arrives in Trieste to do what it takes to find and get back what's been taken away from her. Some of her acts are questionable, and you will have trouble justifying her or condemning her.
If you liked Giuseppe Tornatore's "A Pure Formality", starring Gerard Depardieu & Roman Polanski, you will definitely like this one. While this is a Giuseppe Tornatore movie, "The Unknown Woman" has nothing to do with his most famous works "Malèna", "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso" and "The Star Maker", which deal with social aspects of culture in Southern Italy, specially Sicily.
Kseniya Rappoport also stars in the excellent Italian thriller "La Doppia Ora" (The Double Hour) by Giuseppe Capotondi.