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Friday, June 6, 2008

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING (1988)

Philip Kaufman may have less to show for his great natural gifts then any American filmmaker of his generation. After writing THE OUTLAW JOSIE WALES/'76 & helming THE RIGHT STUFF/'83 & this film, he went on to crud like RISING SUN/'93 & TWISTED/'04, hard to fathom. Perhaps BEING looks better now than it did back when. Just as comparison, the Best Pic noms at the ‘88 Oscars were ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, DANGEROUS LIAISONS, RAIN MAN, MISSISSIPPI BURNING and WORKING GIRL. Go figure. The thrilling cast seen here seem positively haunted by roles with so much character, sex, history and passion going for them. Daniel Day-Lewis (looking like Egon Schiele) is phenomenally engaging as the womanizing doctor whose life takes us through the ‘68 Czech political crisis, but everyone deserves gold stars: Lena Olin, Erland Josephson, Derek de Lint, Stellan Skarsgard, Juliette Binoche (she gets two gold stars), plus one of the great film dogs, Karenin. In ‘88, filming in Czechoslovakia was off-limits, but Pierre Guffroy’s art direction and Sven Nykvist’s lensing are small miracles of trickery & delight, while the script Kaufman & Jean-Claude Carriere crafted from Milan Kundera’s unadaptable classic is exemplary. Three hours long & not a moment wasted.

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