In Michael Walker’s “Price Check” Middle Class Malaise Is Turned Inside Out

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.” —Henry D. Thoreau

Economic instability and the reorder of things as we know them can cause a reflection on the choices the most people feel forced to make about their lives. The consequences of those choices is the driving force behind Michael Walker’s Price Check.

Pete Cozy, played by Eric Mabius of Ugly Betty fame, has resigned himself to a humdrum middle class existence working in the pricing department of a middling supermarket chain. Though he is struggling financially, Pete Cozy has settled into middle class malaise with his wife and young son until firebrand Susan Felders (Parker Posey) is hired to re-invigorate the pedestrian supermarket with innovative strategies that will raise sales margins.  Felders identifies Cozy has the one team player that can assist her in the revamp of the food store. Though Felders’ maniacal strategies and machinations cause discord and office intrigue, her passionate enthusiasm inspires Cozy and fellow office cohorts to new levels of performance and team spirit; but, at what price?

Director/writer Michael Walker ingeniously uses the mundane world of supermarket price gouging and industry practices as a jumping off point to expand his perceptions about the trappings of a suburban lifestyle. Particularly, when that lifestyle defers aspirations and dulls existence. And though there is a fair amount of supermarket pricing lingo in Price Check, Walker has cleverly not overburdened the film with market strategy nomenclature.

What Walker does do well is his use of the Long Island supermarket setting as a background for his commentary on middle class malaise, and the twisted humor in corporate America’s frenzied obsession with price margins and bottom lines, bereft of creativity and human interaction. Walker’s naturalistic dialogue does help move the action along and gives nuance and relativity to several of the film’s characters.

As Peter Cozy, Eric Mabius brings a measured performance that initially evokes the characteristics of a  bright, creative type who has resigned himself to a quiet, unfulfilled existence. With the arrival of Susan Felders, Mabius character superbly shifts from a mild-mannered worker to an aggressive executive.

As Susan Felder, Parker Posey continues her reign as the queen of independent cinema. Her unpredictable, slightly psychotic behavior creates a fantastic juxtaposition against the banality of supermarket pricing. Crude, irreverent, crafty and wacky are all the essential ingredients that Posey’s character needs to keeps audiences poised for the next outlandish verbosity or scheme. And Posey delivers every time and more. As Walker shifts the plot toward Mabius’s character, Parker Posey expertly culls down the extremes, revealing layers of insight and resolve.

As Susan Felder’s ex-boyfriend Ernie, Cheyenne Jackson is wonderful eye candy. Unfortunately, Walker doesn’t give Jackson much more than that, which is a waste of Jackson’s talent.

Images courtesy of Sidney Falco

Though Price Check does lose a little steam in the middle, Walker’s excellent cast carries Price Check to a wonderful conclusion. With Price Check, Walker has crafted a wonderful comedic dissertation on the price of trading in dreams and aspirations for corporate viability.

Price Check stars Parker Posey, Eric Mabius, Annie Parisse, Cheyenne Jackson, and Josh Pais, and opens in select theaters on November 16.

—William S. Gooch

In Farino’s “The Oranges” Holiday Time Has Never Been More Funny

It is almost that time again. That time of the year when movie studios bank on sentimental home-for-the-holiday films that remind moviegoers that the holidays should be shared with family, even if the families are off-kilter or dysfunctional.

Jodie Foster’s 1995 Home for the Holidays examined family dysfunction seen through the prism of unfulfilled dreams and family expectations.  While The Family Stone (2005) follows the quirks and misadventures of a Connecticut family when a favorite son (Delmot Mulroney) brings home his uptight girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker) for Christmas with the intention of proposing to her during the holidays.

The Oranges is primarily in the same vein as most holiday comedy films. However, screenwriters Jay Reiss and Ian Helfer have employed some classic elements from theatre to push the plot along and cause various characters in the film to re-examine their lives.

Set in a New Jersey suburb, the Ostroff and Walling families have been neighbors and friends for several decades. The fathers (Oliver Pratt and Hugh Laurie) jog together every morning.  Vanessa Walling (Alia Shawkat) and Nina Ostoff (Leighton Meester) have been friends since elementary school. And both families share joint holidays.

While both families live in a state of supposed suburban bliss, under the surface there is discontent and middle-class malaise.  Enter free spirited Nina who has returned home for Thanksgiving after the demise of her engagement to slacker boyfriend Ethan (Sam Rosen). Nina conjures up submerged resentment from childhood friend Vanessa and overall mixes up everything and causes chaos and upheaval with both families.

The Oranges, like other holiday films of its ilk, causes us to look at family relationship and societal veneers more closely.  But unlike The Family Stone and perhaps even Home for the Holidays, The Oranges delves deeper into the artifice of suburban bliss and our quest for purpose, happiness, and independence. Helfer and Reiss, through the character of Nina, brilliantly employs the Pan/trickster archetype, spreading chaos and disorder, which can ultimately lead to resolution and wisdom. (Consider Danny Glover’s character in To Sleep with Anger.)  “For me the power of the film lies in its illustration of how people come together because they each need something real and valuable from the other person in order to move forward.  And in the idea that sometimes the most disastrous things turn out to be exactly what we need to wake up to our lives,” details producer Leslie Urdang.

This strong ensemble cast injects humor and pathos into a film that has very well-thought out characterizations and an excellent script. Oliver Platt as the suburban corporate dad who mostly finds enjoyment in new gadgets brings his incredible comedic talent mixed with middle-class melancholy. Hugh Laurie as the confused, co-conspirator with Nina perfectly combines pensive reflection with male menopause turbulence. As the moms, Allison Janney and Catherine Keener are appropriately maternal, funny, and wildly reactive.

Leighton Meester as Nina expertly melds her character’s wanderlust tendencies with a quiet reserve. And as the narrating protagonist, Alia Shawkat appropriately mixes post-college angst and listlessness with heartfelt vulnerability.

For those moviegoers looking for a different type of comedic holiday film, The Oranges will definitely fit the bill. And true to life, no holiday get together is without its blunders and closet skeletons and The Oranges has plenty to spare. Peel back the skin and The Oranges is ripe, succulent, and surprising!!

“The Oranges” images courtesy of ATO Pictures

The Oranges stars Hugh Laurie, Leighton Meester, Alia Shawkat, Oliver Platt, Allison Janney, Catherine Keener, and Adam Brody and opens in select theaters October 5, 2012.

—William S. Gooch


Linden’s “10 Years” Looks Back at High School with Humor and Regret


Though many dread the thought of attending their own high school reunion, audience and movie goers can live their high school reunion vicariously through Jamie Linden’s  10 Years, an ensemble comedy about nine friends and their high school experiences a decade later. Like most reunion films, Linden through the prism of old friends reuniting examines high school angst and clicks and those who have moved on to fulfill their aspirations and those still emotionally stuck in high school. With an all-star cast including Channing Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Chris Pratt, Justin Long, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Anthony Mackie, Max Minghella, and Oscar Isaac there is sure to be a character that everyone can relate to from their own high school years.

The story enfolds as Jake and all of his former high school colleagues arrive at their ten-year high school reunion. Tatum (Jake)  comes to the reunion with his fiancee  Jess (Jenna Dewan-Tatum). Though Jake and Jess have a great relationship, Jake still holds on to feelings for his old sweetheart played by Rosario Dawson. Although Jake and  his former sweetheart have both moved on to other relationships, old feelings resurface at the reunion.

Cully (Chris Pratt), Jake’s friend, who’s married his cheerleader girlfriend from high school and has been looking forward to the reunion to apologize to all the classmates he ‘s bullied. After far too many drinks, Cully gets sloppy and  resorts to old habits of ethnic and racial slurs. Some of these scenes are the funniest scenes in the film.

Between the classmates who were most likely to succeed to the ones who would be best friends forever, 10 Years is a heart-touching comedy that most moviegoers can relate to.  Despite the large ensemble cast and subplots, Director Jamie Linden has done a great job at detailing each character in 10 Years, giving audiences a variety of characters with which they can identify.


Tatum  with his boy-next-door- looks has mastered playing Everyman characters that  pull at audiences’ heartstrings. This role is in that same vein. Rosario Dawson seen more recently in such action-packed roles in  Unstoppable, Eagle Eye and Grindhouse, in 10 Years has gone back to the more sensitive, pensive  roles of her earlier career. Playing a level headed yet flirty Jess, Dawson brings a much softer side to her personality to bring out the authenticity of her acting. While  Chris Pratt (Bride Wars and the television hit Parks and Recreation), with his character  Cully stays true to similar other comedic roles.

Audiences are sure to enjoy this 21st century spin on the 1997 hit, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Whether you just graduated or are looking to attend your own high school reunion,  10 Years will resonate with your own high school experiences.

10 Years  is released by Anchor Bay films and opens in select cities September 14, 2012.

– Cory Orlando

Schreier’s Robot & Frank Takes a New Twist on the Help

In 2011 who can forget the life-as-art performances of Olivia Spencer and Viola Davis in Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, a moving drama about African Americans maids’ attempt to find a semblance of justice as the work in white households in the Jim Crow South. And as The Help takes a look back at the plight of African American domestics during a tenuous and heated time in American history, Robot & Frank takes a forward approach to what domestic service could be in the near future.

Concerned that their father can no longer live by himself, Frank (Frank Langella) is paired with a humanoid robot (voice by Peter Sarsgaard) to help him with his daily needs. Frank, an aging cat burglar, initially bucks at the idea that a robot will set discipline in his household and life, but later realizes that the robot is a possible asset to his re-entry to a life of crime. Frank’s robot is programmed to not only clean his house and manage his daily existence, but to also give advice on diet, extracurricular activities and keep him happy. Frank discovers early on that his robot has no moral compass and since thievery brings great satisfaction to Frank, the robot is willing to assist Frank as long as there is no risk of bodily danger.

In this unusual buddy movie, director Jake Schreier takes an interesting look at what life could be in the very near future as computers replace human initiative and ingenuity, and also serve as companions for the sick and elderly. Schreier juxtaposes human relationships against humanoid computer relationships and ask us in our singular, self-absorbed society to examine the nuance and value of our relationships with the elderly and things of the past. He also examines what happens to senior family members as they seemingly loose value in our society and their children try to provide for their well-being, though they have their own complicated lives and live far away.

Frank Langella manages to inject a lot of humor into a film that could have been heavily weighted down with aging issues. And he has a lot of help from the excellent ensemble cast. Liv Tyler has Frank’s well-meaning humanitarian daughter (Madison) who gallops around the world documenting indigenous cultures is funny, quirky and domestically outpaced by the robot. Susan Saradon is effective as the town librarian and Frank’s love interest who must adapt to changing technology that could easily put her out of a job. And James Marsden as the exasperated son (Hunter) successfully combines sincere concern with his futile attempt to rectify his troubled relationship with his father.

Still, the true star of this film is the relationship between Langella and the robot. Langella makes aging funny, desperate and hopeful all at the same time. It aint over til it’s over for Frank, and Langella uses all the supposed negatives that come with old age to his advantage. Forgetfulness is an excuse to do what you want; low energy is an excuse for lounging around, and a bad disposition is an excuse for candor and honesty.

Images courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films

Though Robot & Frank is a funny, charming film, it does cause us to look at our own mortality and examine our relationship with those keepers of experience and wisdom.

Robot & Frank is released by Samuel Goldwyn Films is and currently playing select theaters.

—William S. Gooch

Robert De Niro Sees and Knows All in Cortes’ Red Lights

While most recent movies about paranormal phenomena lies in documentary cinematography—think  Paranormal Activity and Chernobyl Diaries— the psychological thriller Red Lights is sure to break that trend.

Photo courtesy of Millennium Entertainment

University professor Dr. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) team together to debunk claims of ghost whispering, faith healing, and other psychic phenomena. The two paranormal researchers look for what they call ‘”red lights,” signs or mistakes that suggest fraudulent claims of paranormal ability.

Photo courtesy of Millennium Entertainment

Buckley becomes intrigued as Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), a legendary blind psychic, comes out of a 30-year retirement. Part of Silver’s charm and draw is that his blindness seems to increase his psychic ability and box office appeal.  Determined to defraud Silver, the obsessed Buckley leaves no stone unturned as he doggedly attempts to crack a series of seemingly uncrackable codes and “red lights” that could possibly reveal Silver as the penultimate psychic fraud .

Through climatic scenes down hallway corridors and tense visual double takes, Buckley goes on the wild goose hunt of his life tracking down ways to crack Silver. Using scientific methods and procedures to try and dissolve Silver’s career, Buckley has to reexamine his own beliefs that are juxtaposed between fact-based science and the supernatural.

Though there is an intriguing plot line and unexpected twists in Red Lights, the weak dialogue does little to develop the characters. However, Murphy, Weaver, and De Niro find ways to push the plot along and give noteworthy performances which is a testament their artistry. Still, if De Niro and Murphy’s characters were more invested in the final scenes of the film, the climatic ending would have carried more weight.

The distraught, yet determined Buckley is a  sharp departure for Murphy, who is known for his Scarecrow role in Batman Begins (2005) and Robert Fischer in Inception (2010). Playing dark and mysterious is nothing new to De Niro—consider roles in Raging BullGodfather II, and to some extent Casino.   The Simon Silver character lives up to De Niro’s trademark  screen characterizations of borderline psychotic personas, making the character believable.  While Weaver’s background in the science fiction genre qualifies her for this type of role, director and writer Rodrigo Cortes has given her some great witty one-liners that gives insight into her personality and brings some levity to her character.

Photo courtesy of Millennium Entertainment

Along side startling video direction and a melodramatic sound mix, Red Lights lives up to its genre’s unpredictability. Writer and director Rodrigo Cortés (Buried) keeps you on the edge of your seat until the final unveiling of the masterful puzzle that audience members won’t forget.

Red Lights opens nationwide on July 20, 2012.

–Cory Orlando

Reiner’s The Magic of Belle Isle Finds Another Formula for Success

Summertime is box office heaven for major film studios. Most try to capitalize on school-free kids by churning out one action film after another or animated films. And that strategy is paying off this summer. Just look at the box office receipts from The Avengers, Men in Black 3, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, and Snow White and the Huntsmen. The one exception this summer being Rock of Ages; but with Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, and Mary J. Blige in the cast, how can you go wrong.

Rob Reiner has opted for a different appeal in The Magic of Belle Isle. There’s no superhero, no cgi-wonderworks. Reiner instead has opted for a very good script, great casting, and Academy Award‒winning Morgan Freeman. This simple story of redemption, imagination and community contains ingredients that use to attract significant audiences to movie theaters, and in spite of the pyrotechnical feats that satisfies the ever-thirsty palettes of summer movie goers, there is still room for this type of film.

Famous Western novel writer Monte Wildhorn (Morgan Freeman) struggles finding his passion for writing while dealing with alcoholism and a paralyzing disability. Though confined to a wheelchair, Wildhorn’s nephew (Kenan Thompson) believes there is still hope and arranges a housesitting and dog keeping job for Monte in a small lakeside community. Next door, divorced mom Charlotte O’Neil (Virginia Madsen) and her three kids attempt to lift Monte’s spirits and reconnect him with his writing muse. Of the three kids, preteen Flora (Nicolette Pierini) has the most influence on Wildhorn’s cantankerous mood and gets him to consider writing again after asking him to be her writing mentor.

Reiner has taken a post-racial approach to this film. Though Morgan is one of the few African American in the small lakeside enclave of mostly white residents, there are no racial acknowledgement or references in the film. And though this idyllic setting could promote racial tolerance, in the real world we are not quite there yet. That said; the Magic of Belle Isle is no less charming. And for a feel-good summer movie, there is lots of genuine charm and good performances.

As Monte Wildhorn, Morgan Freeman does not allow the character’s grumpiness to overwhelm the nuance and arc of his performance. His masterful craftsmanship facilitates unearthing the polarity of Wildhorn; the good and the bad; the hopeful and the defeated; the strength and the weakness. And even the burgeoning romance between Madsen and Freeman characters though dubious, Freeman’s sincerity makes the relationship almost believable.

Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen in “The Magic of Belle Isle.” Images courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Virginia Madsen as Charlotte brings a levity and maturity to a film that just could have been another movie about the redemptive power of a child’s imagination. Though her part could have been meatier, Madsen makes a lot out of what she’s been given.

In The Magic of Belle Isle, director Rob Reiner proves that summer movies can be entertaining without a lot of bells and whistles. Good actors are key, but plot and good direction completes the puzzle.

The Magic of Belle Isle is released by Magnolia Pictures and comes out in limited release on July 6.

—William S. Gooch

The Brits Bring Sexy Back in Hysteria

When you think about Victorian period films, rarely does the mind consider film that is outside of the realm of Merchant Ivory dramas or films that distill prudish Victorian values. With the exception of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and a few others, comedic devices such as double entendre, sexual innuendo, and god forbid, slapstick are not commonly used tools that advance the plot. Tanya Wexler’s romantic comedy Hysteria employs all those devices, and then some.

Set in 1880, Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) in an attempt to forward his medical career leaves his position at one of London’s state clinics for a position in private practice with the esteemed Dr.  Robert Dalrymble (Jonathan Pryce), London’s leading specialist in women’s medicine. Dr. Dalrymble’s claim to fame is treating women who suffer from hysteria, a disease state characterized by irritability, melancholy, frigidity, and nymphomania. Victorian medical science believed that hysteria results from a disorder of the uterus, of which Dalrymble’s practice specializes in relieving the symptoms of hysteria by massaging the womb. Into this practice, Mortimer Granville brings his medical acumen and somewhat compassionate spirit.

Add to the plot Dalrymble’s polar opposite daughters, Emily (Felicity Jones), the paragon of Victorian virtue and intelligence and black sheep Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who has chosen to waste her aristocratic privilege and position championing the rights of women and the disenfranchised, and Granville’s well-heeled, dilettante, inventor friend John Smythe (Rupert Everett) and Wexler has concocted a tale that delves not only into the Victorian perceptions about love, sex, and familial duty, but also the political issues of class, gender rights, sexual freedom, and government responsibility. Ideals we still struggle with day, particularly in this election year.

Wexler ingeniously mixes comedy, romance and Victorian morays in this story that is ultimately about the invention of the first vibrator. As Charlotte Dalrymble, Maggie Gyllenhaal brings charm and a feisty determination that is a welcome change from some of the pathological, outsider roles she has portrayed in the past. Though her British accent is a bit off, Gyllenhaal does capture the essence of a privileged English woman who is caught between the worlds of Victorian duty and rectitude and her own passion for human rights. And though Gyllenhaal has never been seen as a great beauty, in this role the combination of Victorian elegance, passion, Gyllenhaal’s convincing performance causes her unique beauty to shine through in a way, perhaps, no seen before.

As Dr. Mortimer Granville, Hugh Dancy struggles with the emerging world of modern medicine and the stuffy, fading world of Victorian sensibility. This juxtaposition is also manifested in his sensible romance with Emily, while secretly attracted to the wild, impulsive, evolved Charlotte. Dancy navigates these polar opposites brilliantly without losing his character’s charm or sense of duty.

Images courtesy of Sony Pictures Classic

Based on the true story of the first battery-operated vibrator, at its core, Hysteria, though titillating at times, is never vulgar. And Wexler has found a way to insert witty charm, sexual entendre, and humor into a subject matter that could be strained and pedestrian.

Who knew the story of the first British vibrator could be so stimulating.  Maybe now we Yanks will look at sex and the Brits in a different light!!

—William S. Gooch

Damsels in Distress: A New Kind of Heathers

hWilt Stillman has made a career out of giving an insider’s purview into the pre-adolescent lifestyle and emotions of the trust-fund brood. Perfect examples are Metropolitan and The Last Days of Disco, where protagonists opine about opposing political points of view and the eroding of certain upper class, social constructs.

In Stillman’s Damsels in Distress, a small clique of New England coeds Violet (Greta Gershwig), Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke), and Heather (Carrie MacLemore) set out to change the male predominant attitudes and morays that still prevail at Seven Oaks University after years of coeducation. Transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton) is taken on the wing of this trio of reformers and immediately employed at the university’s Suicide Center, the reformers’ strategic stronghold on campus, and becomes enmeshed in the politics and philosophy of the clique.

Images courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

While Metropolitan and The Last Days of Disco gave an accurate insight in the haute bourgeoisie’s raison d’etre, Damsels in Distress sometimes fails to illuminate the sincere frustration and annoyance still felt by female students on male-dominated, Ivy League universities. And though Stillman cleverly uses lots of double entendre and tongue-in-cheek dialogue to add levity to a rather overdone subject, the film never gathers enough steam to be a parody of the machinations of this post-Heathers trio or a serious look at an ongoing dilemma.

Noteworthy performances by Greta Gerwig and Analeigh Tipton aside, Damsels in Distress lands somewhere in between half smiles, light chuckles and missed opportunity.

—William Gooch

Willem Dafoe Interview

The producers of The Hunter said you were the perfect choice for this role, that you embodied this character so well. Why do believe you were a good choice for this role?

Willem Dafoe: The producers and director told me they needed a guy that was old enough that you could believe he was at the end of his career, but also fit enough to be able to do some of the physical things required in the film. Also, they were looking for an actor that had a sense of mystery about him, and they felt I embodied the physicality and the mystery.

When I read the script I was attracted to the character, who is a kind of a misanthrope and cutoff from things, particularly at the beginning of the film. He is also at the end of his career and his identity is very tied up in his career, so you have that paradox. Things happen in the film that opens up some compassion in him.

Why do think that your character, Martin, who is a mercenary looking for this almost mythical Tasmanian tiger, through this quest starts to transform and feel compassion?

Willem Dafoe: Someone called this film an eco noir. You have two tracks in this film. On one hand you the narrative tightly focused on him trying to find this tiger, mixed in with the story of never being emotional or physically available for his family. He is also in crisis because he has pressure from his employer to retire after this last hunt. He in a place where is identity is up for grabs. All these things force his humanity to come out more.

Still from “The Hunter”

How did you prepare for this role?

Willem Dafoe: I worked with some old fashioned, outback kangaroo hunters who knew the Tasmanian terrain really well. And most of all I was set me up with a survivalist who knows how to live in the bush without modern conveniences and is very comfortable with nature. That was really important because having those survivalist skills was a key to the character and I also had to assume the attitude and posture of someone who hunts in the bush.

What is your relationship to the camera when you are working?

Willem Dafoe: My relationship with the camera changes according to the style of the film or the scene being shot. Sometimes I am very conscious of the camera, sometimes I am not. In The Hunter, I have very strong, specific actions so I am always making choices.

You could say in some way I was more of a collaborator and an integral part of setting the camera shots with this project than in some other films. And because of that I was more conscious of the camera. Still, I had very concrete actions that I had to play out because of the physicality of the role, which causes you to forget about the camera in those moments.

How is that different than performing in front of a live audience?

Willem Dafoe: In many ways it is not. In the theater your main job is to reanimate that character every performance, even if are improvising, you know what the perimeters are. While in film, you are almost always dealing with first impulses. You go to the location, you map out the scene, you shoot the scene, you move on; you don’t go back.

What attracted you to the story and your character in 4:44 Last Day on Earth?

Willem Dafoe: I was familiar with the director Abel Ferrara’s work and I am very attracted to directors that have a specific vision and way of working. Abel came to me with the scenario of the film, honestly, it didn’t resonate with me at first, but when we started fleshing out some of the sequences of the scenario, I started to get excited about the film. 4:44 Last Day on Earth is a movie where the audience participates; so, if you don’t get hang up on looking for action on this cataclysmic day, or what the signs are for the end of the world, then you accept the story of how two people decide to spend their last day on earth together.

When we screened the film in Venice, we could feel the audience join in this communal acceptance of togetherness of connecting to each other on Earth’s last day. I know that sounds hokey, but it was the general feeling that the audience recognizes that everybody struggles and that we have a commonality. I believe the function of art or telling stories is to find common ground.

Abel Ferrara stated that fiction was a way to make truth more concrete 4:44 Last Day on Earth. What is your take on that?

Willem Dafoe:  This film is Abel’s take on this convention that the world is going to end. If you ask too many questions about why the world is coming to an end, or who is responsible for destroying the earth, you miss the truth of this film, which is the how people access their lives, and what gives your life meaning. Everyone knows that their life is going to end, but if you only had 24 hours left, what would you do and how would you reflect on your existence.

Early on in your career, you said that you longed to play the hero, but you felt you would be cast as a villain or antihero because on camera your face read angry and mean. When did that change for you?

Willem Dafoe: Early on in my career because I wasn’t a smoothie and didn’t look like the boy next door I felt I would not be a romantic lead or a hero. For many years movie was a sideline for me, and I really made my career on stage. Now that I am older I am not concerned about that right now; I get offered very interesting roles, more wide-ranging roles now that really appeal to me.

 —William Gooch

The Genius in Perfection: A Quiet American: Ralph Rucci & Paris

New York City Ballet founder and choreographer George Balanchine once told a journalist, “I don’t create; only God creates. I just assemble very well.” In the documentary A Quiet American: Ralph Rucci & Paris C. S. Leigh examines the skill and acumen of one of the greatest American couturiers of all times, Ralph Rucci; and Rucci’s genius for pulling from different sources, and combining couture techniques into great  modern works of beauty.

As the only American couturier approved by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to show in Paris in several decades, Ralph Rucci has made his mark on global fashion. A Quiet American: Ralph Rucci & Paris gives a telescoped purview into Rucci’s career post his 2002 Paris debut.

From interviews—starting in 2007 and culminating in 2011—with Rucci’s celebrated clients to artisans who work on his collections, to up-close-and personal interviews with Rucci, director C. S. Leigh has crafted a cerebral and detailed look into not only Rucci, but the evolving art of haute couture. “Ralph is marvelous as a person, a friend, and a couturier … everything worn is very comfortable, no frills … he bridges the gap between classic and modern,” contends Princess Lee Radziwill.

Interviews aside, C.S. Leigh meticulously details Rucci’s unbridled passion and reverential obsession for the art of haute couture. “I am making a financial investment in supporting the métier of couture,” admits Rucci. With no big financial machine behind him, Rucci has almost singlehandedly forged a unique American presence in the world of haute couture. A presence that Rucci always believed was dutifully his. “… Paris has always been the focus of my career, I [had to] test myself … I make clothes in New York which I call couture, but I had to prove myself in Paris,” explains Rucci.

The attention to detail and Rucci’s almost priest-like, obsessive dedication to the art of haute couture is evidenced in his measured approach. Even his luxury brand’s name, Chado Ralph Rucci, named after the intricate Japanese tea ceremony, portends the craft and focus necessary to create couture works of art. Though Rucci is obsessive about the perfection needed to create the penultimate black dress or any of his garments, true perfection for Rucci is in the distillation of his ideas, and the arduous tasks of manifesting those ideas.

Images courtesy of C.S. Leigh

C.S. Leigh also expertly weaves beautiful footage from Rucci’s Paris couture shows from 2007 and 2008 around interviews with Hamish Bowles, Andre Leon Talley,  New York Times critic Cathy Horyn, Rosina Rucci, Princess Less Radziwill,  Deeda Blair, Francisco Costa,  Tatiana Sorokko, and Parisian couture artisan Francois Lesage. And though A Quiet American: Ralph Rucci & Paris is still a rough cut and in unedited form, C.S. Leigh in this documentary confirms what is well known in the fashion community, that Ralph Rucci’s work extends beyond trends, and that he is the quintessential American couturier. “Fashion, though fleeting, is a memory you create … yet, Ralph creates garments that are timeless,” says Tatiana Sorokko.

Aptly put!!

—William Gooch

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