Originally created 04/15/04

Movie releases



How's the saying go - something about death and taxes? Well, we hope most of us will make it through the day without shuffling off the mortal coil, but few will make it past midnight without having placed money in the extended hand of the government.

Uncle Sam isn't the only entity that demands a pound of flesh: The film industry has been known to exact a toll as well.

Although theoretically entertainments, not all movies, even good ones, are pure pleasure to watch. Sometimes they can be pretty taxing.

Get it? Taxing. It's tax day. Oh, never mind.

Anyway, here are a few favorites that while cinematically excellent, can leave an audience emotionally, physically or intellectually drained:

LEAVING LAS VEGAS (1995): An alcoholic at the end of his tether systematically drinks himself to death. A Las Vegas prostitute finds herself stuck in the vortex of her unsavory career. There are beatings, betrayals and boozy black humor that sickens the soul, and yet, Leaving Las Vegas is a taut, inspired little movie. Just be prepared to feel a bit beaten up by the bittersweet end.

SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993): Steven Spielberg's masterpiece, this portrait of an industrialist striking a small blow against the Holocaust is harrowing, never shying from its story's raw facts. It's also a lovely and lyrical piece of filmmaking. In terms of technique, storytelling and understanding the art of cinema, few films can match Schindler. In terms of gut-wrenching anguish, the same might also be said.

THE SEVENTH SEAL (1957): The chess game scene with Death that has become a cliché seemed fresh when Ingmar Bergman ran with the idea in his famous morality tale. Chess in person takes some patience. Chess on film, in Swedish and black and white is a true test of endurance. Still, for those willing to make the investment, The Seventh Seal is an intelligent, challenging and ultimately rewarding film experience.

THE LAST EMPEROR (1987): With a run time of nearly four hours, Bernardo Bertolucci's cinematic biography of China's last emperor truly requires buns of steel. But for those with the stamina - and circulation - to endure its impressive length, the visual and dramatic rewards are well worth any discomfort. Particularly impressive are sequences shot inside the Forbidden City, China's royal stronghold.

PI (1998): This is a movie that not only asks you to endure lengthy expository sequences dealing with chaos theory, high math and numerology, but it also asks its audience, at some level, to understand it. As much a college lecture as a thriller, this stylish math noir does require some fairly nimble intellectual acrobatics, but the payoff is well worth the effort.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.