Halfway through Sam Mendes’ Empire of Light, projectionist Norman (Toby Jones) explains the science of movie magic to theater worker Hilary (Olivia Colman). He tells her about the illusion of movement, the number of frames that occur per second (it’s 24!) and, of course, the importance of that beam of light.
Within the context of a film, a scene like this often carries a lot of weight. For Sam in Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, for example, the description of the inner workings of a projector provides a young boy with his life’s purpose. In Giuseppe Tornatore’s beloved Cinema Paradiso, a similar exchange illustrates the palpable weight that a simple dream can hold. Almost all of the time, a “How It Works: The Movies” scene is meant to convey one thing at its core: Cinema is a beautiful, magical thing.
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On the beach that comparative literature scholar Leda (Olivia Colman) lounges on throughout The Lost Daughter, the skies are a crystal blue, the beaches a shimmering white, the water warm and translucent. But the shore is also infested with crass, noisy people; Leda’s fruit infected by a malignant rot; her bedroom contaminated with screeching bugs; a little girl’s doll corrupted by noxious black liquid and writhing insects. This tonal tension is symptomatic of the film’s spirit: It’s a glossy apple, rapidly decaying from the inside out.
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There aren’t many contemporary novelists whose work filmmakers are more eager to adapt than Italian author Elena Ferrante. In 1995, her novel Nasty Love was turned into a thriller directed by Mario Martone; The Days of Abandonment was adapted by Roberto Faenza in 2005. And, in 2016, it was announced that her four-part book series The Neapolitan Novels was being taken on by HBO as a 32-part TV show.
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