Grace of Monaco is the kind of movie where the star wears billowing ballgowns and races distraughtedly through endless palace corridors to leap into a huge bed and weep. Life is so very difficile; even when Maria Callas (Paz Vega), wearing a fabulous Jeanne Toussaint panther ring, is your friend and warbles beautifully at every occasion except when riding wild stallions; and even when all your jewels are stunning Cartier creations. Luckily there’s a ball that will resolve all conflict, international as well as marital. Nicole Kidman gets such enormous close-ups that her earrings end up out of focus. It’s pure trash, lovely to look at.
It’s so extraordinary to see a contemporary film where one is absolutely convinced at first viewing that it’s a masterpiece, comparable to the very greatest, and a critique of contemporary Russia I urge Americans to see because the US is not producing its like, however much they go on about Democracy. Here, a man who’s built his own house with his own hands on land his family’s lived in for generations is being kicked out of it by a local government politician who acts like a medieval baron. As the film unfolds, one gets a sense of the 99 per cent, not only in Russia but world-wide. Ordinary people, flawed but decent, with modest dreams of a house and children and some dignity, shunted around in a sea of bureaucracy that evokes Tsars and Stalin and Kafka and that not only has not been defeated but has successfully been exported to the west. We see a culture that drinks too much, waives guns too freely, whose external roughness does not negate the depths of feeling these characters have; the bonds they share with each other are complex, the rationale for their betrayals understandable if frightful. It’s a world where the individual is always sacrificed to political interests, generations of lives destroyed on a whim, because someone got ‘uppity’ and fought back. Poetic, with beautiful chosen images, the deadening bureaucracy sometimes evoked by the reading of dull and complex courtroom decisions quickly in a monotone voice, beautifully structured so it builds and unfolds to its inevitable conclusion. It’s a great film; one can’t shake it off; critical, poetic, real, true. Watching Leviathan, understanding and sorrow and beauty all seem to converge in one’s mind and make one want to weep.