Don’t call it a comeback – we just took a vacation, guys! It was a bit hard to keep in the swing of things over my winter break from school, but I’m back in the routine and that means it’s time to fire up our weekly FYC. Three film recommendations for your viewing pleasure – let’s see if you can spot this week’s theme.
“The Return of the Pink Panther” (1975)
Cast: Peter Sellers, Christopher Plummer, Catherine Schell, Herbert Lom, Peter Arne, David Lodge, Graham Stark, Burt Kwouk
Available to rent or purchase from Amazon Instant, iTunes and Vudu, on disc from Netflix
The third in the series of Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers’ Clouseau collaborations, “Return of the Pink Panther” doesn’t have the freshness of the original 1963 film, nor the more complete comedic vision of “A Shot in the Dark.” It’s rough around the edges and suffers from an interminably boring action-drama interlude in which Christopher Plummer half-heartedly attempts to be James Bond. But what “Return” does have is some of the most inspired set-piece gags ever given to Sellers, who at this point could squeeze a belly laugh out of a squint and a syllable of absurdly-accented dialogue. It’s a wonder that Gstaad is still standing after Inspector Clouseau is through with it. Tell me, do you have a rhhhuuuuuuum?
“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003)
Cast: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellan, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto, Bernard Hill, Karl Urban, John Noble, David Wenham
Oh come on don’t make me look this up. It’s everywhere.
As countless other film trilogies and series have proven at this point, it’s immensely difficult to stick the landing. Peter Jackson may have had the advantage of shooting all three “Lord of the Rings” films together as a piece, but that was still no guarantee for the director that after over nine hours of story and two years of real time, audiences would still be right there with him. But that’s where we were. Mock the multiple “endings” of “Return of the King” all you want, but Jackson earned every one – “The Lord of the Rings” is a monumental feat of epic storytelling, that rare fantasy adaptation that feels just as bold and unbounded as the version in our imaginations. And “Return of the King” was the immensely satisfying conclusion, leaving us as the best stories do: sad to say goodbye, always wanting a little bit more, but safe in our knowledge that everything turned out as it should.
“The Return” (2003)
Cast: Vladimir Garin, Ivan Dobranravov, Konstantin Lavronenko, Nataliya Vdovina
Available streaming on Netflix, for rent or purchase from Amazon Instant
Director Andrei Zvyagintsev has made a stir this year with “Leviathan” (this year’s Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Language Film and a contender for the same at the Oscars) a masterful and undaunted look at the crushing, rotting defeatism at the heart of Russian society and the overwhelming forces of oppression. But Zvyagintsev first burst on to the international scene with his impossibly assured debut “The Return,” a cold, hard slap of a film that announced the director’s interest in authority, the double-edged sword of familial bonds and the brutal weight of Soviet history. When two young brothers are suddenly reunited with their father after a 12-year absence, tension is already high, and laid bare in the isolated wilderness on what is supposedly a fishing vacation, the rift between father and sons becomes something primal, unspeakable. Working on a shoestring budget, Zvyagintsev and his cinematographer draw heavily on the visual aesthetic of Tarkovsky to shoot a landscape of unsettling beauty.