Friday, June 27, 2014

Disgrace (2008)

DisgraceAfter having read J.M. Coetzee's complex, disturbing, shocking and controversial novel, one could not directly see how this story could be transformed into an appealing screenplay and still less into a convincing movie.

It's heavily charged with all kind of sexual contacts, unforced and forced ones (by someone who is in a dominating position) and even with pure rape. It deals also with the eventual outcome of those contacts, like pregnancy and parental love.

Moreover, the story unfolds against the violent background of open racism in a country known for its apartheid.

Steve Jacobs did a formidable job in turning the harsh and sometimes bitter and terrible realities into a moving, emotional and ultimately sublime movie, which matches the book.

The director was impressively helped by his cast and in the first place by John Malkovich, whose (physical! and mental) interpretation of the very uninviting character of a sexually driven university professor is certainly one of his most memorable. He was superbly seconded by Jessica Haines as his fiercely independent daughter as well as by the rest of the cast.

A must see for all movie lovers and for all admirers J. M. Coetzee's work.

An Academy Award Quality film that generates an exquisite level of emotional impact rarely seen outide of such modern classics as, "American Beauty" and "House of Sand and Fog." Without a doubt, Malkovich is convincing in his nuanced and powerful role as a scoundrel and Lothario--but with none of the histrionics or over-the-top acting for which he is perhaps best known. This is a painfully insightful and politically charged movie that will be much appreciated by discerning viewers.

Buy Disgrace (2008) Now

Let me begin by saying this film may be one of the best of the past year. The performance by John Malkovich gives us another reason to extend to him a title of superb actor. And, probably no one else could fill his shoes in the film.

The film is taken from the book by Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee. He won the Booker Prize for this novel. I have not read it and find I must. Coetzee is one of those authors you remember, and as far as I am concerned has not won the acclaim he deserves. The film takes place a few years after Apartheid. There is no longer the legal stigma of socializing or dating among the races. Malkovich is a professor of Romantic Poetry at the U of South Africa. He is arrogant, pig headed even, and thinks of no other except himself and his needs. He has an affair with a young student, and while it is not rape, she obviously does not enjoy it. He is found out and is asked to leave the university. He shows no regret except that he was found out.

Malkovich goes to visit his young daughter, Lucy, in the country. Here, things are simple, she raises dogs, and has a farm of flowers and veggies that Lucy tends. Lucy is a Lesbian and had a sig other who seems to have left. She also has a black man who lives on the farm and helps her out. Malkovich cannot understand this arrangement, the man walks in and watches television whenever he wants. Certainly things have changed. Lucy is very independent, and has her own way and manner of living. A horrible incident occurs and things will never be the same. However, life does go on, and the times and situations change and Malkovich has a new understanding of life such as it is. He asks for forgiveness from the family of the student of whom he had an affair. But, not all has changed and as we see, Malkovich, the Professor, retains his own way. Throughout this film questions keep rising, is this the right thing for Lucy to do. What would I do. What is happening to the Prof, Malkovich. How can things remain the same but be so different?

The acting is superb. Lucy is played by Jessica Haines with such a fine, free base of understanding. Her farm manager is an African named Petrus, played by Eriq Ebouaney. His acting shows us a man who is sure of his place. Other characters are sure footed and superb. In one instance Malkovich, whose job it is to help a vet attendant care for and put down animals that have no home, helps to put down a dog that he has shown great affection. I could not help but shed tears at this scene. Was Malkovich looking for some sort of atonement. The entire film has a feel of moral ambiguity. How do we place ourselves in surroundings and cultures new to us and find a place that is real and OK.

The final scene is perfect, this is just the way things are. Superb, superb, one of the year's best films.

Highly Recommended. prisrob 05-08-10

Being John Malkovich [HD DVD]

Dangerous Liaisons [VHS]

Read Best Reviews of Disgrace (2008) Here

John Malkovich nails the role of a pompous Cape Town literature professor, David Lurie, who glibly spouts Byron and Wordsworth. And he certainly loves the ladies. He uses his status to initiate an affair with an attractive student, who becomes the reluctant recipient of Lurie's affections. She is a young coed; he's fifty-two. When the scandal breaks, Lurie gets booted out of his cushy faculty post and seeks refuge in his daughter Lucy's home.

Lucy lives in a remote region in the East Cape on a small plot of land. She raises dogs and sells flowers to scrape together a modest living. It seems Lurie and his daughter had long been separated; they scarcely know each other when the "disgraced" professor comes knocking. A big part of the film is how their relationship develops.

Turns out Lucy lives in an area that lacks law and order. Hooligans roam without check. This is post-apartheid South Africa at its worst. Horrible things happen in this film. It seems that people must protect themselves in this region; Lurie and his daughter are not good at self protection.

The film is also about how Lucy is trapped by forces beyond her control. She must accept bitter realities in order to survive. She also feels that she has carved out a life and is determined to stay. Perhaps a lot of money would help, but money is scarce, although the ex-professor can afford a trip to Cape Town where he pays a prostitute. So the arrogant Lurie must take a crash course in Life 101, South African style. He must get his hands dirty, in both a literal and figurative sense. He also finds romance in the arms of a woman who is quite a contrast to the aforementioned coed.

Jessica Haines most convincingly portrays Lucy. She acts in a completely natural manner; it's as if she is playing herself. She strikes no poses.

It's a great film, perhaps a bit overlong. The cinematography is stunning, capturing the pretty urban life of the comfortable in Cape Town, the grinding poverty of many South Africans, and the stark beauty of the remote rural area where Lucy lives.

Want Disgrace (2008) Discount?

Based on the novel Disgrace: A Novel by J.M. Coetzee, this movie does a fairly good job of portraying the book. John Malkovich stars as the professor, David, who has serial affairs with women, the latest one being an imprudent one with one of his students. When she reports him to the Capetown university's administration, David pleads guilty and resigns from his position. He travels to a rural area in South Africa to stay with his daughter who is a lesbian and has just broken up with her partner. The movie very deftly shows the palpable awkwardness of the new apartheid and the painful aspects of a woman living alone.

The book more clearly discusses apartheid and its role in events that occur, while in the movie a lot is left up to the viewer's summation or prior knowledge of South African history. Though I think that John Malkovich is an excellent actor, I had a very hard time picturing him in this particular role. He just didn't seem to fit with the character that he portrayed. The woman who played his daughter does an excellent job.

It is difficult to give much of the plot details because of spoilers. However, I found the movie riveting. I recommend reading the novel first so as to have a better understanding of what is happening, and also for background information.

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