Wednesday 22 November 2017

Centenarian's dry wit prevails

Hilary A White and Aine O'Connor

Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl

Cert: 12A

WHAT to do when there's a recession on and you want to show a high-class girl you're a man of means? This is the plight of Macario, the protagonist of this dry-humoured little film from centenarian Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira.

Played by Ricardo Trepa, Macario works in his uncle's Lisbon office when he falls head over heels for an alluring lass (Catarina Wallenstein) whom he spies through an upstairs window across the street. In the process of seeking an introduction, he enters a world of private members' clubs, literary societies and high-end jewellery shops -- an ostentatious, classy Lisbon just like the director probably remembers it.

But when his grumpy uncle banishes him from home and the business for wanting to get hitched, things start to go wrong, and poor Macario has to jump through hoops for the apple of his eye. While he'd been lucky to have a steady job, he has sacrificed it and more in his need to embrace old-fashioned ideals about being a good provider for his bride-to-be. During this second half, the droll humour is ratcheted up a notch at his expense -- what makes him cry will make you laugh.

De Oliveira has a compelling touch with light and composition, while his adaptation of this Eca de Queiroz tale is laced with a charmingly absurdist wit that pops up every so often. The quaint and the devilish gradually blur towards the end, and there's no walking off into the Lisbon sunset.


Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl is now showing

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Cert PG

BACK in the Middle Ages Merlin's male minions had a fight. The good guy, Balthazar (Nicolas Cage), won and has for hundreds of years carted assorted evil-doers -- and unfortunately his true love, played by Monica Bellucci -- around in a Russian doll. He travels time and the world seeking Merlin's successor, the not so dinkily titled Prime Merlinean. In New York in 2000 he finally finds him in the form of nine-year-old Dave, but the meeting doesn't go so well, Dave is traumatised and ridiculed for the next decade, while Balthazar spends it locked up in a vase with his evil former classmate Horvarth (Alfred Molina).

Cue the present day and Dave (Jay Baruchel) has recovered and is now a physics genius in college. He rediscovers his childhood love Becky (Teresa Palmer) but his renewed attempts at wooing her are complicated by the announcement that he's the Prime Merlinean and the fights between his mentor Balthazar and the baddie Horvarth, both of whom have just been freed from a decade in a vase and can't agree over liberating super-evil Morgana from the Russian doll. Geddit?

Director John Turtelaub's rough retake on parts of Disney's Fantasia gets an enjoyable performance from his National Treasure star Cage and the rest of the cast deliver performances that save a pretty weak film, which relies on a very simplistic good vs evil theme and CGI-induced wonder rather than real story telling or depth. Good-natured, it might appeal to kids with a penchant for magic from age ten-ish onwards (the story is too hard to understand for younger ones).


The Sorcerer's Apprentice opens this week

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