The Bridge of San Luis Rey [Import]
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In order to present his case he has researched the lives of the five who died (mentioning those five would ruin the suspense of the story). We learn about The Marquesa (Kathy Bates) whose daughter has departed for Spain to marry well (the Marquesa is starving for the love of her estranged daughter); the kindhearted Abbess (Geraldine Chaplin) who gives refuge to the unwanted including identical twin men Manuel and Esteban (the mute Mark and Michael Polish) and Pepita (Adriana Domínguez). We also meet Uncle Pio (Harvey Keitel) who serves as a harlequin for the court and raises Camila Villegas AKA La Perichola (Pilar López de Ayala) who loves the stage and the accoutrements more than she loves Uncle Pio. Through the kindness of the Abbess, Pepita is loaned to the Marquesa's household as a surrogate daughter, the twins share their devotion to the court until a tragedy separates them, La Perichola is impregnated by the Viceroy and banned from the city (she raises her little boy, hiding from the world because of her post-partum smallpox disfigurement), and Uncle Pio eventually assumes responsibility of the child out of fatherly love. Five of these people who are true to love's power cross the fateful bridge. Brother Juniper is condemned by the Inquisition for his treason and the meaning of the story is revealed.
The cast is heavy on big names and while they make the most out of the stiff script, they never really touch us the way Wilder's novel characters did. But the trappings of the film are grand and accurately portrayed, the scenery is beautiful, and the costumes are some of the finest period costumes in many a film. This is one of those films that requires careful concentration from the audience, a willingness to not be disturbed by the at times static proscenium stage feeling of the setting, but the rewards of understanding the message are great. There are some fine performances here and the film is definitely worth seeing. It is more demanding than most films - and that is just fine! Grady Harp, October 05
However, Robert DeNiro was horribly miscast. I am a DeNiro admirer; I have particularly loved his roles in such movies as Awakenings and The Deer Hunter and The Mission. But not here. Whether it is due to the director's reading of the character or his own, he lacked the necessary gravitas to persuade me that he believed in his own identity. He came across as light voiced, dismayingly colloquial, and, perhaps due to the shape of his moustache, perilously close to comical.Even his asking for Brother Juniper's death gave him no depth. John Lynch and Geraldine Chapman fill out their characters amazingly for the shortness of their actual time on screen. Katherine Bates disappointed me a little -- I wanted more heart. Given the nature of the Marquesa, I wanted sloppiness, more piggishness and self-pity from her in the beginning. When Byrne in his overvoice speaks of the tyranny that informs her maternal love, we have only really seen the generosity of that love.Perhaps a little more time to watch her reactions, more time to see her ideas developing on her face, would have aided the realization of the character in full.
Despite that last comment where I am asking for more rather than less, I wonder if more severe cutting might have helped this film. In visual terms it is beautiful and the details are extremely well realized. I must watch this movie again; I feel that it could have been a truly great film and I feel personally disappointed that it is not.
The photography and costumes in this movie are exquisite and you often feel as if you are indeed looking at a series of the Master's paintings. There are Vermeer moments, and many scenes that would make astonishing still lifes if you freeze the DVD action. But it is all too dense, too thick with brocade and the lives of too many bewigged characters. For the first half of the film, I felt plunged into the alien world of 18th century Peru without enough focus to orient myself. By the second half of the film, I had grasped enough of some of the characters to begin to identify with them and to feel the poignancy of their lives and deaths. But by then, it was too late. I was suffering the tourist's complaint of too much packed into too short a time - if this is Monday, it must be Lima.
They gathered a truly star-studded cast for this film. Except for Kathy Bates and Geraldine Chaplain though, the actors seem a little stiff and out of their element. And in declaiming their lines, some of their words get garbled. That's fatal, because you do need to catch every word that's being said at the outset of this film in order to appreciate what is happening and how the characters are related to each other.
I had read The Bridge as an assignment in high school, but didn't remember it well. This movie presents a student with the opposite of the usual student recourse. Usually, when assigned a "classic" to read as homework, a student can fall back on Cliff's Notes, or better yet - go see the movie. In this case, in order to get a handy take on the movie - you really have to go read the book.
This movie, based on the Pulitzer winning novel by Thornton Wilder, has its moments, and also its share of problems. I'll try to detail them here fairly enough so that you can decide if it's really for you or not.
First of all, the movie's greatest strengths are the wonderful sound track, the exquisite costumes, and the very authentic looking sets and interiors. The music, with its distinctive South American flutes and pipes often getting full play in many of the scenes, perfectly sets the tone of the movie. The second major strength is the amazing period costumes and wardrobe, which seem very complete and accurate to the time. Third, the architecture and the building interiors also seem very authentic, possibly true to the Spanish colonial style itself, although I'm not an expert on this period of architecture. I would have liked to know where it was shot.
Now comes the mixed part. The casting, despite the stellar cast, is very uneven, ranging from excellent to wildly miscast. John Lynch as the military captain and Geraldine Chaplin as the mother superior are both superb although they have relatively small supporting roles. Pilar Lopez de Ayala is also quite convincing in her role as the actress, La Perichole.
I'm big admirers of the next three actors, but they're just not well cast in their roles. Harvey Keitel, as the uncle and go-fer for the court of the Peruvian Viceroy, is actually okay, but I think historical movies just aren't his venue. The same goes for Kathy Bates as the Marquesa. But Robert de Niro, as much as I admire his work in general, is just miscast as the Archbishop who prosecutes Gabriel Byrne's case. Byrne himself, though, is excellent in his role as father Juniper. And F. Murray Abraham is very convincing in his role, and here he has a part not that different from the role of Antonio Salieri which he played in Amadeus or the Grand Inquisitor from In the Name of the Rose. If there's anyone who can project aristocratic hauteur better than he I'd like to see it.
The pacing of the movie is quite stately, although certainly not glacial, requiring some patience from the viewer. However, the movie timeline might be a source of confusion to some people, which involves the use of flashbacks, although it's actually done well here. But if you don't know the original story it could be difficult to follow, or to understand why the main characters get the coverage they do, since that's not really revealed until the very end. The movie progresses by this series of flashback-like vignettes or substories, until we reach the very final scene in the courtroom where it all finally comes together.
The dialogue comes off as stilted at times but that isn't the fault of the movie since the dialog in the book was highly stylized also as per the period. The over-arching theme of the book--how love can be a two edged sword in people's lives--either transforming it for good or for evil--makes an interesting idea around which to build the story. That part at least comes off well in the movie.
So there you have it--a very mixed bag of a movie with uneven casting, a complicated, possibly hard to follow story, the slow pace--but based on an interesting idea and with a strong sound track, costumes, and settings. Whether you decide to see it or not depends on how you weigh the good and bad points I discuss here. Whichever way you decide, good luck!
Based from the Thornton Wilder novel of the same name,Mary McGuckian's screenplay minutely examines the facts in the lives of these five victims.This film IS an inquest, and McGuckian's thorough retelling of Wilder's book is accurately brought to the screen with an intelligent portrayal by an all-star International ensemble of the most well known A-list actors in the world.Special mention,though,has to go to Kathy Bates as the Marquesa.She is a wonder!It is also great to see F.Murray Abraham playing a Salieri-like role that grabbed him his Oscar in AMADEUS.
For SOUNDTRACK LOVERS,the score written and conducted by Lalo Schifrin and The Philharmonia Orchestra is among the best film scores---very LA MANCHA!
Beautifully filmed in Madrid with gorgeous period costumes to boot,THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY is a masterful adaptation of a brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning novel rendered faithfully and rivetingly.
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