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A Walk in the Clouds

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: A Walk in the Clouds

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon
Director: Alfonso Arau
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: August 1995
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Anthony Quinn, Giancarlo Giannini, Angelica Aragon, Evangelina Elizondo, Freddy Rodriguez, Debra Messing, Febronio Covarrubias, Roberto Huerta

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

Given how much I loved and was enchanted by LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, I went to see A WALK IN THE CLOUDS with much excitement. The same director (Alfonso Arau) and the same cinematographer (Emmanuel Lubezki) did both pictures so my expectations were not unrealistic. Both pictures have a look and a beauty that is almost unsurpassed, but more on that later.

A WALK IN THE CLOUDS tells the story of serviceman, Paul Sutton (Keanu Reeves), returning at the end of World War II. His wife rejects him, and he leaves home. He then comes to the aid of Victoria Aragon (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) who is newly pregnant and has never been married. Paul agrees to pretend to be her husband for only a night. Most of the movie then consists of the proud, old, and extremely rich Mexican-American family of vintners trying to find out if they are really married or not. The Aragons live in great spender in the Napa Valley where the movie was actually filmed. The ethnic heritage and their great wealth made me think of the Gallo family albeit the Gallos are Italian-Americans.

The father, Alberto Aragon (Giancarlo Giannini), takes care to remind Paul frequently that he is "a nobody" and that "my daughter can trace her roots back 400 years to the best families in Mexico". Her grandfather, Don Pedro (Anthony Quinn), is much kinder to Paul and tells him "welcome to our happy family" after the father has insulted him again. This continuing family banter followed by brief scenes between Paul and Victoria is what the movie is all about.

Okay, let's cut to the chase. This movie was a huge disappointment for me. Keanu Reeves for all of his terrific looks can do only one thing well, action films. He was super in SPEED, and that is about it. He was pathetic in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and in LITTLE BUDDHA. Her again, he proves he needs more acting lessons and less modeling ones.

The biggest problem in the movie is that there is no chemistry between the two stars. Their lines by the writer (Robert Mark Kamen) of all the Karade Kid movies fall flat. It is as if they are speaking to separate walls rather than to each other. Unlike LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, there is no magic here. I tried as hard as I could to like this movie, but other than the scenic beauty, it is like a meringue. There is nothing there when you bite into it. Alberto sums up the problem with the movie when he says "There is something wrong here. The whole thing is wrong." Finally, the ending is ridiculous and worthy of someone who blessed the world with the realism and the wisdom of the Karade Kid movies.

Although it was hard to tell given the lines she was given, I believe that Aitana Sanchez-Gijon has a lot of potential. She is certainly one of the most beautiful new actresses I have seen lately. She has a compelling look to her in every scene. The one of her dancing in the grapes is incredible. You become obsessed with leaving your seat in the theater and jumping in.

Going to this movie is not a waste. This movie deserves at least an Academy Award nomination for cinematography and another for set design (David Gropman). The look of the yellow and greens of the leaves, the golden amber of sunsets on everything, and the constant backlighting of all of the characters are all worthy of Monet. I could go on and on about how gorgeous this picture is. Perhaps the best scene is the one of the people "flying" in the field at night with alabaster colored wings to keep the frost off of the grapes. You have to see this scene to grasp its serenity and beauty. The infrequent black and white flashbacks and flashforwards provide an effective contrast. Visually, not some, but every scene is a masterpiece. The music (Leo Brower) is quite dramatic and fits the mood of the show and the images very well.

A WALK IN THE CLOUDS runs too long at 1:45 thanks to poor pacing and a lack of stronger editing by Don Zimmerman. The movie is rated PG-13 since it is an adult drama I guess. It is a mild PG-13 since there is no profanity that I can remember, no violence, no nudity, and no sex. Any kid older than 9 should be able to see this show with no problems. On the other hand, I recommend this show only to people studying cinematographic techniques. For others, you are liable to leave the show bored and disappointed, and I recommend you pass on it. I give the movie * 1/2 only for the Academy Award quality cinematography.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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