Shine

on November 22, 1996 by Lael Loewenstein
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   The subject of a fierce bidding war at Sundance, "Shine" seems destined to be remembered as the film that got away from Miramax chairman Harvey Weinstein when Fine Line snatched it from under him. Despite the much-publicized hysteria surrounding its distribution, "Shine" merits the hype. It's a beautifully written, forcefully executed drama about a brilliant Australian pianist, who struggles to express his creative genius as madness races to claim his soul. Inspired by David Helfgott's true story, the film uses a challenging, original and effective narrative structure that begins in medias res and skips back and forth across time. When he stumbles into a restaurant on a rainy night, a frantic, unintelligible David (Geoffrey Rush) nearly collapses in a stammering fit. Returning to his childhood, we learn how he became such a tormented adult.
   Raised in Melbourne by simple but stern parents, young David (Noah Taylor), is a child prodigy needing special care. His father (Armin Mueller-Stahl) beats him ruthlessly but praises his skills. When David accepts a fellowship to study in England under the tutelage of the great Cecil Parkes (a feisty Sir John Gielgud in a rare recent appearance), the senior Helfgott accuses David of betraying the family and disowns him.
   While performing in England, David fragments mentally and keels over just as he finishes a difficult concerto. Hospitalized, David struggles to regain his reason but must sacrifice the piano in the process. Only later can he find a balance between the art he needs to express himself and the illness that controls him.
   A stunning tapestry woven from tissues of the human memory, "Shine" is a remarkable achievement. David's thoughts and feelings dictate the story structure, skillfully blending past and present. The film's nonlinear format perfectly suits its content as a portrait of a mind fraying at the seams. The film would hardly succeed as well as it does without the exquisite, empathetic performances of Noah Taylor and Geoffrey Rush as the young and old David, respectively. Praise is also due cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson. He has lit and filmed "Shine" so vividly that the viewer nearly flinches as sweat flies off David's brow in the climactic concerto sequence.

   Further thoughts on "Shine," from the Showeast Convention... (ATLANTIC CITY, NJ)--On the art-house/specialty front, Fine Line's "Shine" was one film shown at the annual Showeast confab that had it all: pathos, heart, classical music and a based-on-life drama that plays like great fiction. "Shine" is the thinking person's fall melodrama, and should play well to the elite and the more high-minded among the groundlings alike. With lead actor Geoffrey Rush a virtual shoo-in for an Oscar nom, it's becoming more and more obvious why Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein was so steamed when he lost out to Fine Line on this one.
   Already given a five-star review in our April 1996 issue, "Shine" is easily one of the year's best, most emotionally satisfying films. The true triumph-to-tragedy-to-triumph story of schizophrenic pianist David Helfgott is great passionate filmmaking about great passionate musicmaking. Art-house exhibitors lucky enough to book this one will want to have a box of Kleenex on hand for the easily affected, as well as a bucket to carry away all the money that'll be coming into the boxoffice. Fine Line continues a platform release through year-end. - Ray Greene Starring Geoffrey Rush, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Sir John Gielgud, Lynn Redgrave and Noah Taylor. Directed by Scott Hicks. Written by Jan Sardi. Produced by Jane Scott. A Fine Line release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for nudity/sensuality and intense thematic elements. Running time: 104 min. Opens 11/22 ltd, expands 12/25, 1/17 & 1/31

Tags: Geoffrey Rush, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Sir John Gielgud, Lynn Redgrave, Noah Taylor, Scott Hicks, Jan Sardi, Jane Scott, Fine Line, Drama, pianist, David, Cecil Parkes
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