Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: "House of Sand and Fog" is Filled with Conflict (Happy B'day, Jennifer Connelly)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 101 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

House of Sand and Fog (2003)
Running time: 126 minutes (2 hour, 6 minutes)
MPAA – R for some violence/disturbing images, language and a scene of sexuality
DIRECTOR: Vadim Perelman
WRITER: Shawn Otto and Vadim Perelman (from a novel by Andre Dubus III)
PRODUCERS: Michael London and Vadim Perelman
EDITOR: Lisa Zeno Churgin
COMPOSER: James Horner
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, Ron Eldard, Frances Fisher, Kim Dickens, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Jonathan Ahdout

After being abandoned by her husband, Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly), an alcoholic, discovers that the county has foreclosed her home and put it up for auction. After the county discovers that the foreclosure was an error on their part, they try to buy the home back from the new owner, Colonel Behrani (Ben Kingsley), an Iranian military officer under the Shah (who was deposed by the Islamic revolution in the late 70’s). However, Behrani bought the house with the intention of selling it again at a profit, and he will not sell it back to the county unless he gets his asking price, which is four times what he paid for it. Thus, begins a conflict between Kathy and the colonel that has tragic consequences for all involved.

House of Sand and Fog is a well-acted mega-tragedy that switches from being harrowing and riveting to depressing and boring. The film is a brilliant rumination on how living in the past and failing to move on with one’s life can lead to both a figurative and literal death. However, it is also a painfully obvious, artsy movie drama racing down the slippery slope to film tragedy.

The film received three Academy Award nominations: Ben Kingsley for “Best Actor in a Leading Role,” Shohreh Aghdashloo for “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” for her part as Behrani’s wife, and one for James Horner’s gorgeous score. Although Kingsley and Ms. Aghdashloo did not win, they were clearly robbed. The rest of the cast stands out quite well (even prior Academy Award winner Jennifer Connelly), but Kingsley and Ms. Aghdashloo give impeccable performances in this relentlessly morose drama. In fact Kingsley is not only clearly a great film actor; he is also an artist, and when he’s in a film, his filmmaking collaborators’ efforts sometime end of up merely being the canvas upon which he paints his brilliant work.

I’ll recommend House of Sand and Fog to people who love to see good acting, if they can stomach this film’s heartache and misfortune. At least we can give director Vadim Perelman credit for so convincingly making sadness eye candy the way pop directors make action sequences so appealing.

7 of 10

2004 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Ben Kingsley), “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Shohreh Aghdashloo), and “Best Music, Original Score” (James Horner)

2004 Golden Globes: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Ben Kingsley)

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