Review: Planetarium

5 10

PLOT: Two American sisters (Natalie Portman & Lily-Rose Depp) living in Paris pre-WW2, and posing as spiritualists, get involved with a French film magnate, who wants to put them on film, hoping he’ll be able to capture images of the dead.

REVIEW: It’s rare these days that a Natalie Portman movie comes out with very little buzz, but that’s exactly what’s happening with PLANATARIUM. An extremely arty aside for the actress, this one got lost in the shuffle during last year’s festival season, where it was wholly overwhelmed by the presence of Portman’s own, far-superior JACKIE. This one is unlikely to find much of an audience beyond hard-core cinephiles, although its artsy pretentiousness makes it a tough film, at times, to sit through.

That said, there are a few things that make PLANETARIUM worthwhile. The actual premise isn’t half bad, with it being loosely based on the life of Pathé founder Bernard Natan, who began his career as France’s first porno director, but eventually rose to mainstream prominence, developing (among other things) the first anamorphic lenses used in France, before being killed in the Holocaust.

The Natan doppelganger, here named Fernand Prouve, is played by Emmanuel Salinger, but none of that really interesting stuff is depicted here. When the story starts, he’s in his mainstream period, although dark clouds are forming on the horizon, with an anti-Semitic vibe in the pre-war air. For the most part, the movie is concerned with his fascination for Portman and Depp’s Barlow sisters, initially hoping to make experimental filmed séances with them, until Portman turns out to be a natural in front of the camera, and takes Paris by storm as an actress. Meanwhile, her sister, as played by Depp, and may be a real-deal medium, continues on with Natan.

Directed by Rebecca Zlotowski, PLANETARIUM is thoroughly European art fare, with much of the dialogue in French, a language seemingly mastered by both Portman (who speaks it with a modest accent) and Depp - who’s fluent (don’t forget - her mom is Vanessa Paradis). It’s slow-boil, to the extent that at times it's deadly dull, but Zlotowski’s style seems to hail from another era in French cinema, the “cinema du look” period in the mid-eighties, with the emphasis being on style and recreations of 1930s era French film.

Visually, it’s stunning in every-way, with it apparently having been shot with the Alexa 65, meaning ultra crisp visuals and colors (other movies shot with that camera include WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES and THE REVENANT). The gorgeousness extends to the way Portman is lovingly photographed and costumed throughout, although she’s surprisingly outshone in terms of acting by the young Depp, who has a more interesting part.

Given the premise and cast, PLANETARIUM should be a better film than it is, and while the look of it is certainly something to be respected, I can’t recommend it, as it’s really an arty snooze. Portman completists may want to check it out, but it’s solely for the devout fans.

Source: JoBlo.com



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