• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Von Trotta’s fifth film with Sukowa opens with flagellant blood while avoiding the brutality that made The Passion of the Christ so crucifying. Hildegard doesn’t favor flagellation and is upset to find that her spiritual guide wore a barbed belt. She loves God, her nuns, and the natural order in a prematurely Franciscan way (“Listen to the birds”). Her stern, Teutonic face is one to put right near Luther, Holbein, and Wagner. Hildegard’s visions tax her health, yet her life force is great. She relishes old Greek tomes and Arabic medicine and is a gifted musician (the film has lovely singing). Despite formulaic close-ups and some ragged shifts of tone, Von Trotta achieves a fairly sensual grip on the past.

Hildegard’s restless brilliance echoes Assumpta Serna’s Sor Juana in I, the Worst of All and Rachel Weisz’s Alexandrian scholar Hypatia in last summer’s neglected Agora. She is a feminist 800 years ahead of schedule. As so often in religious stories, sex nags like an itch. Von Bingen is harsh with a pregnant nun but enjoys seriously sisterly kisses with another. Braced and resonated by Gothic architecture, the mix of German and Latin often sounds profound. The strong cast includes Heino Ferch as a touchingly sympathetic monk. Hildegard, who died at 81 in 1179, seems utterly of her time and yet well beyond it.

★ ★ ★



News on the March: The charming Cinema Under the Stars venue has extended the closure of its 2010 season by adding another weekend of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the irresistible New York entertainment starring Audrey Hepburn, enjoyably backed by George Peppard, Mickey Rooney, Martin Balsam, the late Patricia Neal, and the fabulous Villalonga. Showing at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday, and Saturday at 4040 Goldfinch, Mission Hills. 619-295-4221.

Reviewed in this week’s capsule listings: Leaving, Mademoiselle Chambon, The Milk of Sorrow, The Next Three Days, and Today’s Special.

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from the web

Comments

MsGrant Nov. 17, 2010 @ 1:04 p.m.

At least The Loma is a bookstore. I would be horrified if they turned in into a "Wings" like the OB theatre. Great debut!! Three stars and welcome! I also like that you "star" the movies on your web critique. I missed you when you "left" the UT. Nice to have you back.

0

David Dodd Nov. 17, 2010 @ 1:14 p.m.

I don't have to tell you what Bull Durham's Crash Davis had to say about Susan Sontag. He was right, you know, it was self-indulgent crap. Of course, so is the craft of reviewing film. Good luck, Mr. Elliott. The shoes you fill are apparently larger than life.

0

rickeysays Nov. 17, 2010 @ 9:39 p.m.

So one "star" for a movie getting 91% on rotten tomatoes, comparing it derisively to Slundog Millionaire, perhaps the best movie of that year. Then a review for a movie 12 people are going to see. Graet job Reader - you exchanged one useless reviewer for another.

0

monaghan Nov. 17, 2010 @ 9:55 p.m.

I don't know about wine-time Matthew Lickona and that other guy, but David Elliott's reviews for the U-T were readable and, unlike the retirement of Jonathan Saville from writing about classical music, there IS a replacement, so I am churlish but grateful. I hated Duncan's reviews, but I read them and then discounted them. I will miss his distinctive voice.

0

dialyn Nov. 18, 2010 @ 6:21 a.m.

Welcome to the movie set, David Elliott, Matthew Lickona and John Rubio. I was fearful there would be no replacement for Duncan Shepherd (not that anyone is quite like him) but it sounds as if we could be looking forward to some familiar and new voices. Thanks to unemployment and limited funds, I admit I don't see as many films as I used to, but I do love reading about them. I wish you all well and look forward to your reviews.

0

shizzyfinn Nov. 18, 2010 @ 6:07 p.m.

By my count, dude mentioned nearly 50 movies in this here introductory column. I've heard of 14 of them and have seen or likely ever will see 9.

What to make of those numbers?

0

Alias_Jabez_Goethe Nov. 18, 2010 @ 7:19 p.m.

"What to make of those numbers?". What I make of those numbers, if you've really only heard of 14 of the 50 mentioned, is that you aren't much of a cinephile. By all means, get thee to Kensington video and see 'Olympia','Playtime', 'I, the Worst of All', 'Pee-wee’s Big Adventure', 'Monsieur Vincent', 'Jackie Brown', 'A Taste of Cherry', 'L’eclisse', and Apu Trilogy, if you're interested in the true power and majesty of the movies. While I have plenty of problems with this new regime, not least of all this week's straining to appeal to "Duncanistas" (a "word" I pray never to see again), I wish to bury any annoyances I've had with Mr. Elliott in the past (giving a lone star to 'Last Days of Disco', that dog!), and hope for him a successful run in these pages. And congratulations to John Rubio, who I'm very happy to see play a part in filling in some of this immense hole left in the movie culture of San Diego.

0

antigeekess Nov. 18, 2010 @ 9:24 p.m.

Thanks for your review on the Hildegard film! I'd have missed it for sure. Wrote a paper on her "cosmic egg" once upon a time. Fascinating woman.

I'll be scooting over to the Ken tomorrow to view it. :)

0

TedBurke Nov. 19, 2010 @ 2:01 p.m.

The Reader has the extraordinary good fortune to lose one unique film critic , armed with style, knowledge and sufficient wit, with another critic with equal, yet distinct attributes. Duncan Shepherd has made his mark , I am sorry to see him leave the paper, but I am glad that David Eliot will again have a venue from which to continue his fine history of movie critique. A smart choice.

0

ChairmanLMAO Nov. 19, 2010 @ 2:39 p.m.

Ugh. Depressing.

Duncan was the best thing about the Reader. A sad day for sure.

0

blueprl Nov. 19, 2010 @ 3:50 p.m.

DEAR MR. ELLIOTT, IT'S WONDERFUL TO HAVE YOU BACK IN PRINT! I'VE MISSED YOUR INTELLIGENCE, HUMOR, ENTHUSIASM, AND DISCRIMINATING INFORMATION IN THIS AGE OF LIMITED SOUNDBITES. MY BRAIN CAN NOW GET A BIT OF A WORKOUT,WHICH AFFORDS ME ABSOLUTE PLEASURE. IN YOUR COLUMNS NOT ONLY DO I READ ABOUT CINEMATIC WORKS OF ART, BUT I READ ABOUT THEM WHILE ENJOYING YOUR ARTISTIC, DISCERNING STYLE OF WRITING. I ALSO LOOK FORWARD TO THE TEAM EFFORT YOU DESCRIBE, WHICH MAY PROVIDE A PLEASANT VARIETY WHILE SHARING A WEALTH OF INFO DURING THIS RECESSION. A BIG WELCOME BACK! BEST WISHES TO DUNCAN! -- A FAN

0

JohnnyJ Nov. 19, 2010 @ 4:51 p.m.

I HOPE DAVID ACTUALLY LIKES MOVIES. DUNCAN DID NOT. HE DIDN'T EVEN WRITE ABOUT A FILM HE REVIEWED. WE LEARNED NOTHING ABOUT THE PLOT OR WHETHER OR NOT WE'D LIKE IT.

0

Gail Powell Nov. 20, 2010 @ 9:10 a.m.

Yes-it's true. Duncan will be missed but there is no denying his "reviews" were way over the top of most "Reader" reader's heads. That doesn't mean they weren't somewhat useful, erudite and well-written. But more so for a Film Criticism Seminar in the Visual Arts Dept. at UCSD rather than a mainstream general publication like the Reader.

However stuffy Duncan can sometimes be, he is the progeny and proverbial intellectual son of the great, departed Manny Farber-a man so intelligent, creative, and talented-that he puts mere mortals to shame. I hope than Duncan Shepard can now take the time to sit down at his desk-unencumbered by the pesky demands of a weekly Reader column and write the great ode to Manny Farber. Yes, Jean-Pierre Gorin can also collaborate on this tome to immaculate renaissance man Farber .

I bid a fond adieu to Duncan Shepard and thank him for all his oeuvre of film work over the years and may his restless cinematic spirit rest-in-peace, knowing that much of San Diego does actually respect him for the most part-however obtuse and incomprehensible his written film reviews have previously been.

0

MsGrant Nov. 20, 2010 @ 1:33 p.m.

Foo, I'm digging the '70s porn star 'stache.

0

GeorgeM Nov. 26, 2010 @ 6:26 a.m.

Following in trace of Mr S, all any reader could ask is that you deliver nothing short of your 'best effort", which was clearly, his standard. Best wishes for success. S/F GWM

0

acannell Dec. 3, 2010 @ 7:06 p.m.

There is real meaning in the phrases "acquired taste" , and "learn to appreciate". Duncans reviews opened my eyes to all the wonders of film that I would have never seen otherwise.

I think what most people have a problem with when it comes to Duncan's reviews, is that they don't really learn or want to learn anything new, and are basically "stuck" in the tastes they acquired early on, probably in adolescence. These are the people BUYING the movies in the $5 box at walmart.

So the teeming masses vote some movie to 91%? They also trip over themselves to pack their credit cards with stuff the TV told them to get and buy houses they cant afford. The sad truth is most of humanity is pretty average and pretty boring, with not much to say, and knee-jerk, predictable reactions to pretty much everything. Who cares what they think?

In my opinion, Duncans reviews were NEVER incomprehensible, and were in fact a guiding light. You could read his review and then watch the movie (or vice versa) and see exactly what he was talking about.

Duncan WAS the best thing about the reader, and nobody can fill his shoes. It is indeed a sad day.

0

Sign in to comment

Join our
newsletter list

Enter to win $25 at Broken Yolk Cafe

Each newsletter subscription
means another chance to win!

Close