Michael Bergeron
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The Invisible Woman leads pack

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Charles Dickens walked a lot around his hometown. He would write and then he would walk. In the movie The Invisible Woman, a story that revolves around Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) and his mistress Nelly (Felicity Jones playing English stage actress Ellen Ternan) the characters walk. They walk through the countryside, through the streets of London and along the seashore. You could say that Fiennes, who also directs this first rate movie, walks the walk.

The Invisible Woman puts the relationship with Dickens and his wife as well as Nelly under scrutiny. Nelly was Dickens’ muse, whereas Dickens’ wife was the mother of his children pure and simple. While there are those who are aware of the affair, most are not. In a series of bracketing scenes set after Dickens has passed we observe Nelly preserving the intent of Dickens’ writing and stage adaptations while maintaining the dignity of her own subsequent married life.

Under Fiennes direction the movie flows between the dramatic and the romantic. The costumes flow with authenticity and the settings feel real. Especially one sequence that depicts Charles and Nelly in a train that derails. Naturally the more literate viewer will recognize the references to various works by the author, but The Invisible Woman has appeal to a wide audience primarily brought about by the rich performances and universal theme of love versus fidelity. Kristin Scott Thomas (who starred with Fiennes in The English Patient) co-stars as Nelly’s mother.

There’s no shortage of tony productions set in period English households – just witness the viewing parties that pop up every week for Downton Abbey. But I think we can all agree that movies are better than television. The Invisible Woman opens in an exclusive engagement at the downtown Sundance Cinema this Friday.

Note that a handful of award hopeful films return to theaters this weekend: Captain Phillips, 12 Years A Slave, and Gravity (see it in 3D). Additionally a bevy of well-reviewed films are also on the docket: Her, Lone Survivor, and August: Osage County.

Additionally The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston unwinds two great films this weekend. The documentary The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology featuring the philosophical musings of Slavoj Žižek about Marxist imagery in cinema plays Sunday. On Friday and Saturday evenings treat yourself to the Houston premiere of Russian master Aleksandr Sokurov’s (Russian Ark) Faust. Soukurov helms the story in German, and slightly distorts some of the shots so it’s like looking in a curved mirror.

Sokurov turns the Goethe story into a tour de force of comic timing and knockout set pieces and occasional gross out moments. Faust uses the trapping of the story about a man who trades his soul for unlimited knowledge into a critique on modern day megalomania. Both films are highly recommended.

— Michael Bergeron