“Pure”–A Torn Soul

 

Pure the movie

Pure (2010)

In the Swedish film “Pure” (2010) 20-year old Katarina (Alicia Vikander has her breakthrough role before ” Ex Machina” and “A Danish Girl”). She is determined to flee her dreary grungy life, bullied by tormenters at school and neglected by her alcoholic prostitute mother. Everything changes when she hears a performance of Mozart’s Requiem, opening up a new world to a soul aching for an intellectual life. But the path she has to follow in order to escape proves a treacherous one, filled with lies, betrayal and a dangerous liaison.

She has been a combative, fiery, but aching soul. Katarina’s love for music and her eagerness to learn gain her the position of Concert Hall receptionist where Adam the composer introduces her to great literature and philosophy. Dramatic changes, created by her burgeoning awareness, transform Katarina. “Courage is life’s only measure”, a quote she has learned from an admirer of Kierkegaard’s philosophy, becomes her mantra. Music saves her soul and her life, but with unintended consequences.”Pure” rapidly takes the viewer on a roller coaster of surprising turns and an even more surprising end.

The entire film depends on the performance of Alicia Vikander as Katarina, and that performance is flawless. First, we see her as a young girl of passion, through her disillusionment. Second, in the very last scene, her soulful eyes are both exhilarating and deflating.

Catch this underrated psychological thriller and its unexpected ending as soon as you get the chance. Instant stream on Netflix.

“House of Cards” — A Bulimic Buffet for Couch Potatoes?

Why wait a week to watch another episode when an entire buffet is available?  A lot has been written recently about “binge-watching” the practice of sitting on the couch or in bed to gorge on an entire season or a majority of episodes of a television series in one batch.  The bulimic viewer was not possible before Tivo, DVRs and Netflix video streaming (aka Instant Queue). Netflix has given us 13 episodes of “House of Cards”, a reinterpretation of the 1990 BBC miniseries which starred Sir Ian Richardson as a conniving Parliamentarian who rose to the level of prime minister before meeting his fate.

This 2013 “House of Cards” is the first foray into developing original television content exclusively for Netflix members. What has been the unintended outcome of the release of all thirteen episodes of “House of Cards” on February 1 is that the critical reviews of “House of Cards” have been more about “binge-watching” and less about the plot of this powerful political minidrama.

With the genius of Beau Willimon, (the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “The Ides of March”) and David Fincher (Oscar-nominated for directing “The Social Network”) we have a set of twisted plots worthy of Machiavelli or the Borgias. “House of Cards” has been transformed into a contemporary American narrative about a vengeful Beltway insider, US Congressman and House majority whip Frank Underwood.  Hailing from a nowhere town in South Carolina, Underwood masterminds the destruction of all those who blocked his appointment to Secretary of State.

Set in present-day Washington, D.C., Underwood (Kevin Spacey) decides to inflict his volcanic temper and impalpable revenge upon those who betrayed him.  With lethal self-centeredness he is successful in every detail.  Underwood and his wife Claire (exceptionally played by Robin Wright), epitomize an über power-hungry couple who stops at nothing to conquer everything.  Each needs the other in order to be lethal.   Ruthless and cunning, Frank and Claire bask in the shadowy world of greed, sex, and corruption, severing all ties with anyone who stands in their way.  Nothing and no one are beyond their grasp, no matter whom they hurt.  Both exploit even the good qualities in others to set them up for manipulation and debasement.

While I personally like watching more than one episode at a time, if the story is tightly woven and meticulously written, I want to savor every tasty morsel.  “House of Cards” has such biting dialog, stunning character work and a provocative exploration of contemporary politics that an “all-you-can-watch” buffet of episodes may result in indigestion. Use portion control in feasting on this series.