Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Romance & Cigarettes

No hidden meaning behind the title of this post - just the name of a movie that nearly no one in the states has seen or even heard of.

You know that feeling when you are anticipating something but keep getting denied it? When you want something even more because you can't get it? Thats how this movie has been for me. Romance and Cigarettes was supposed to be in theaters last August, but due to some trouble after the merger between Sony Pictures and United Artists, this movie had some trouble with distribution. Delay after delay eventually made it seem like it would never be released. Keep in mind the movie had been long since finished.

Then I discovered the distribution overseas was totally fine. It was released in theaters in the UK sometime in March if memory serves me right. I figured eventually things would follow suit here - no dice. On July 17th, it was released on DVD in the UK. Thats when I made my move.

I preordered Romance & Cigarettes on DVD from Amazon UK for about $25 and had it shipped here once it was available. One week later, it was here.

Now, before I talk about the movie, let me go over the cast:

James Gandolfini
Susan Sarandon
Kate Winslet
Steve Buscemi
Christopher Walken
Mandy Moore
Mary-Louise Parker

....and there are more recognizable people in this as well. Produced by the Coen Brothers and directed by John Tuturro. Regardless of plot, this movie has lots of big, current names in it and I'm surprised no one has a made a bigger fuss of this. Here's a link to the trailer in quicktime.

And I just found this today - here's the kicker:
"One of the most deliciously fresh American films of recent years. Kate Winslet is marvellous"**** Film Of The Week TIME OUT

Keep in mind even to this day you can't easily watch this in the US. "One of the most deliciously fresh American films of recent years". And yes Kate Winslet is marvellous in this.

Now, it isn't immediately obvious, but this is a musical of sorts. I want to warn anone that might seen this that it is very raunchy and disjointed, but does have a firm plot - and does break out into song at really unusual moments.

Here's a summary of the plot from imdb without really giving too much away:
Romance and Cigarettes is a down-and-dirty musical love story set in the world of the working class. Nick (James Gandolfini) is an ironworker who builds and repairs bridges. He's married to Kitty (Susan Sarandon), a dressmaker, a strong and gentle woman with whom he has three daughters. He is carrying on a torrid affair with a redheaded woman named Tula (Kate Winslet). Nick is basically a good, hardworking man driven forward by will and blinded by his urges. Like Oedipus at Colonus, he is sent into exile and searches to find his way back through the damage he has done. In an imaginative, humorous, and touching way, Romance and Cigarettes explores the cost and value of a relationship through life and death. When the characters can no longer express themselves with language, they break into song, lip-synching the tunes lodged in their subconscious. It is their way to escape the harsh reality of their world - to dream, to remember, and to connect to another human being.

Thats about right - think Raizing Arizona meets Moulin Rouge! meets some really dirty movie. I wasn't into the musical portion of things as much as I was with for instance Moulin Rouge!, but it still worked. I know a lot of people aren't going to like this movie (my wife started watching it and conveniently found a way to leave the room)

James Gandolfini - I think really a great performance from him and have never heard him sing before. I last saw him in a Coen Brother's film - The Man Who Wasn't Really There and thought he did a great job in both - with very different roles.
Kate Winslet - it is no secret that I think she is fantastic in nearly everything I've ever seen her in - and this is the dirtiest role I've ever seen her in. I'm imagining this is a lot of acting on her part. :) There is no nudity - unlikely many other movies she's been in but still a big departure from most other things I've seen her in.
Steve Buscemi & Christopher Walken - their parts weren't very big in the movie - but honestly I think theyshould have a part in every movie.

I'm not going to reveal more about the plot but I'm just going to close in saying that
1. Yes - it is definitely worth watching
2. Be prepared for something very, very weird.
3. If bad, overtly sexual language (I don't just mean profanity) makes you uncomfortable this movie isn't for you.

The DVD - other that previews - has no extra features. None, unless English subtitles are an added feature.

***If you get the clever idea that you want to buy this from Amazon UK - feel free but just make sure you have a region free dvd player (or one that reads Region 2) or find another way to remove the region coding.

And while I am writing about movies, I'm putting my final plug in for "An Unfinished Life". This movie is great, on DVD now, and needs to be seen if you haven't seen it. I don't care if you try to tell me you are boycotting all Jennifer Lopez movies since Gigi, make an exception for this one. She just happens to be in this movie.