Mankind's Finest Moment

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In the Shadow of the Moon' Breathes New Life Into Apollo Landing

The British documentary “In the Shadow of the Moon” premiered at Sundance to great acclaim, rousing the audience to a standing ovation. Many said it was the best documentary they had ever seen. The exciting film focuses on NASA’s legendary Apollo space program—born as a challenge against the Soviet Union during the Cold War—which resulted in Apollo 11’s famous landing on the moon on July 20, 1969. “In the Shadow of the Moon” provides a refreshing look at a well-known period of history—through plenty of newly revealed images and information.

The historical footage and recently shot interviews are crisply edited and illuminating. In fact, the archival clips have been cleaned up and re-mastered from NASA’s original film stock, so that they look brand new and don’t have that faded old newsreel look. Plus, some of the film clips have never been seen before. They definitely provide a unique glimpse from the perspective of the astronauts, who shot footage themselves.

The old clips are interwoven with new interviews, shot in crisp high definition, of astronauts retelling the behind-the-scenes stories of their lives training for the Apollo missions. Each Apollo mission is represented by at least one astronaut. The audience can clearly get the sense that these men are special: the few who have ever orbited the moon—and the even fewer who have set foot upon it.

Notably, the camera-shy Neil Armstrong is not interviewed. He believes that the historic moment of the first man stepping on the moon belongs not to himself, but to all of humanity. Thus, Armstrong feels it’s inappropriate for him to speak as an individual regarding an event that is bigger than just one man.

And it belongs to more than just one country, too. The interviewed astronauts recall how the achievement of the lunar landing was embraced by the international community, placing America’s regard by other nations at possibly an all-time high.

In the Shadow of the Moon (English; 95 min.) Opens Fri., Sept. 14 AFI Silver Theatre Landmark’s E Street Cinema

4.5 out of 5 stars

Delpy’s ‘2 Days in Paris’

“2 Days in Paris” serves as a sparkling romantic comedy—with a bit of edge that might be expected of the debut feature from French writer-director-actress Julie Delpy (“White,” “Before Sunrise”). She throws in pointed sociopolitical commentary while the audience is laughing. And the laughs come nearly every minute. Delpy utilizes snappy dialogue to maintain an energetic, easily enjoyable pace, successfully invoking the spirit of the American screwball comedies of the 1930s, in which fighting couples make funny movies.

Delpy plays the heroine, Marion, a French photographer based in New York. Her relationship with her American boyfriend Jack (Adam Goldberg), an interior designer, has been on the rocks. They try to revive their romance with a trip to Paris to see Marion’s domineering parents (played by Delpy’s own parents, Marie Pillet and Albert Delpy), who don’t speak English. And Jack doesn’t speak French. Throw into the mix Marion’s artist and poet ex-boyfriends, who are a little overly friendly for Jack’s comfort.

In “2 Days in Paris,” the acting style isn’t artificially theatrical—the norm for 1930s American actors trained on the stage before the invention of the talkies. Delpy opts to direct her actors—including herself—to perform in a more natural, modern manner. The resulting sense of realism is aided by the fact that Delpy casts herself, friends and family in key acting roles.

In fact, Delpy wrote many parts specifically for the actors. The script includes a lot of narration and improvisation—not unexpected for Delpy, an Oscar nominee for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay for “Before Sunset.” For audiences who enjoy talky movies a la Richard Linklater or Woody Allen, “2 Days in Paris” makes a tasty treat.

2 Days in Paris (English and French with subtitles; 96 min.) Landmark’s E Street Cinema

4 out of 5 stars

Ambitious ‘Molière’

Young French writer-director Laurent Tirard tackles an ambitious subject with gusto, delivering a keen biopic of the French writer Molière, France’s most esteemed playwright, comparable to Shakespeare. Tirard speculates on Molière’s little-known life as a young man—before he became an icon as the master of satiric comedy with “Tartuffe” and “The Misanthrope.”

In his 20s, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin a.k.a. Molière (Romain Duris of “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”) ends up in debtor’s prison. Monsieur Jourdain (Fabrice Luchini of “Intimate Strangers”) approaches Molière with an offer to pay off his debt. In return, Jourdain seeks to employ Molière’s dramatic skills to aid Jourdain’s chase of a coveted mistress (Ludivine Sagnier of “Swimming Pool”). Of course, Madame Jourdain (Laura Morante of “Avenue Montaigne”) is to know nothing about these happenings.

By using well-known elements of Molière’s plays, Tirard’s fine script creates a plausible scenario for Molière’s creative inspiration. Obviously, with the all-star cast, the acting is superb. As the lead, Duris more than holds his own in such esteemed company. The period piece looks fantastic, with beautifully crafted cinematography, production design, costume design, makeup, etc. And the well-scored music adds much richness to the already rich atmosphere.

Molière (French with subtitles120 min.; scope) Landmark’s E Street Cinema

4 out of 5 stars

Repertory Notes

Please see International Film Clips for detailed listings available at press time.

AFI Silver Theatre The popular Latin American Film Festival, programmed by cultural staff of embassies in D.C., returns Sept. 18 to Oct. 7. “Madrid in the Movies” and “50 Years of Janus Film” continue through Sept. 5. (301) 495-6700, www.afi.com/Silver

DC APA Film Festival The DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival returns from Sept. 26 to Oct. 6. Check the Web site for films and event details. www.apafilm.org

Goethe-Institut “The ‘German Autumn’ of 1977 (Deutschland im Herbst)” (Sept. 10-24) recalls the police killing of a peaceful protester in the Summer of 1967, which sparked the beginning of violent actions by radicals known as the Red Army Fraction (RAF). According to the Goethe-Institut, “These events and the measures enacted in response to them, such as a defense lawyer’s right to contact with his client, gave new urgency to West Germany’s long-running debate on civil liberties and the state’s response to the threat of terrorism in a young, transitioning democracy.” (202) 289-1200, www.goethe.de/washington

National Gallery of Art In describing its series titled “Journey through the Russian Fantastik” (Sept. 9-30), the National Gallery of Art says, “Supernatural beings and bizarre effects preside over the celebrated genre of Russian fantastic filmmaking, one of the most popular and innovative art forms of the Cold War era. Many characters and settings spring directly from Russian literature and folklore, while others are pure fantasies of technology and space travel.” (202) 842-6799, www.nga.gov/programs/film.shtm

National Museum of Women in the Arts The first-ever Festival of Women’s Film and Media Arts runs from Sept. 25 to Sept. 30 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and celebrates the 20th anniversary of the museum with a variety of film, video, media performance and installations of all lengths and genres from around the world. (202) 783-7370, www.nmwa.org

About the Author

Ky N. Nguyen is the film reviewer for The Washington Diplomat.

Last Edited on November 29, 1999