FELLOW MOVIE LOVERS
On a recent trip to Spain I opted to succumb to my addiction and went to a movie. I was thrilled to discover that Alejandro Amenabar’s (The Sea Inside, a classic favorite) Agora with the magnificent Rachel Weisz had just premièred in Madrid.
Unfortunately, the movie fell far short of my expectations! What I did admire was the courage of Amenabar and Weisz in tackling one of antiquities most inimitable women, Hypatia. Hypatia, the beautiful, brainy mathematician and astronomer living and teaching in Alexandria, Egypt in approximately 400 A.D.
She was the daughter of Theon also a mathematician who encouraged her intellectual poweress. She became the head of the Neoplatonist school of philosophy in Alexandria. She symbolized learning and science which the early Christians identified as pagan. Hence the challenge and essence of the movie; she refuses to convert and her fate is inevitable.
Always loving and lusting after the spectacle; there can never be enough plagues, chariot races, sea partings to satisfy my cravings but a little knowledge is a dangerous thing; so many of the battle scenes looked digitally produced. Only the sacking of the Alexandria library, a citadel of knowledge, proved realistic.
The religious conflicts and conquests: pagans killing Christians, Christians sacrificing and murdering pagans and Jews became at times tedious and tiresome. Only the personal aspects of Hypatia’s life held my attention. She taught some of the greatest male minds of the period but rejected their advances, more inclined to study the movement of the earth and planets and whether or not the earth is round or flat.
There have always been women of vision and wisdom, real or mythological: the artist Anselm Kiefer in his book Women of Antiquity ranks Hypatia along with Lilith, Pandora and Queen Zenobia as a foremost member of these visionaries.
Amenabar and Weisz have resurrected Hypatia and her remarkable mind, and instead of
Antiquity proves that she is indeed a woman for all centuries.
TWO & ½ STARS
PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE
It is always stimulating and refreshing to see a totally unique, untold topic on the screen: Precious exceeded all of my expectations! This is a brutal, bestial, painful, one of the worst “man’s inhumanity to man” ever portrayed but yet a resplendent tale of survival. Survival of the soul.
Gabourey Sidibe as Precious gives a performance that rivals any first time actor I have witnessed in years; she is riveting. Precious is treated as a slave by her mother and father;
castigated, maligned, humiliated; their cat is cherished, she is hated. They want to keep her fat, illiterate and worthless; she is there to serve, in every degrading category.
Lee Daniels genius is that he never allowed the script to sink into sentimentality; even the fantasy sequences where Precious sees herself romanced, wrapped in fame and adoration adds levity and laughter to an audience inebriated with pain.
Precious’s salvation commences with her being admitted to an alternative school; she is at sixteen pregnant with her second child. Here she is treated with respect, not imagined but real by her teacher Blu Rain (sensitively acted by Paula Patton); who prodigiously plods Precious to write and to read; she is the angel tantamount to Mary’s (Precious’s mother) Satan: evil so tangible it hurts to watch. Mo’Nique is astounding in the role.
Maria Carey shines in a cameo role as a social worker; the most pivotal scene takes place in her office between her, Precious and Mary. The content so virulent, it is beyond comprehension.
Above all Precious, no matter how battered and shamed she was at home; no matter her physical and mental vicissitudes (she did have an aptitude for math); she took time with her appearance, always accessorizing and styling her hair; this poignancy was so pure and such an indication of the beauty within that yes, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Precious will live forever as a screen icon!