John Turturro's homage to the world of theatrical make-believe may fall short of the shining beacons of this Shakespearean genre--Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander and Jean Renoir's The Golden Coach, for two--but his ... more »Illuminata casts considerable sweetness and light of its own. Mostly set in a teeming warren of private and performance spaces within a turn-of-the-century theater, the film follows the fluctuating fortunes of playwright Tuccio (Turturro), his lover-muse-leading lady (Katherine Borowitz, Turturro's offscreen wife), and their colorful company: Rufus Sewell and Georgina Cates, youthful, less wise projections of playwright and muse; Ben Gazzara as a grizzled old thespian forgetful of the line between reality and performance; Bill Irwin as the naive bit player who catches the hungry eye of Christopher Walken's deliciously over-the-top, acid-tongued critic; Susan Sarandon as a calculatingly seductive diva fighting her age; and commedia dell'arte types Aida Turturro and Leo Bassi. Tuccio's dying to get his play on the boards, but as theater owners Beverly D'Angelo (she of the endearing overbite) and Donal McCann (late star of Irish cinema, and of John Huston's The Dead) reasonably point out, his delicate fantasy about love and illusion lacks an ending. Zigzagging through Midsummer Night's Dream misunderstandings and misalliances, slipping seamlessly from mundane into artifice and back again, Illuminata wends its way toward Tuccio's bittersweet denouement. In Mac, his directorial debut, Turturro paid heartfelt tribute to his own blue-collar dad; this sophomore effort (cowritten with friend and fellow director Brandon Cole) glows with warm affection for audiences, actors, and those who dream their plays. --Kathleen Murphy« less
"OK, let me make this succinct.... John Turturro has turned out an unusual film that deals with an acting company in an Italian town at the turn of the century. The movie, in true Pirandellian fashion, slides in and out of illusion and reality and focuses on love as the greatest of human foibles and mysteries. Turturro is fine in the lead role as the playwright, but his real-life wife must take top honors for her exquisite and unforgettable performance as a mature and sensitive stage actress. Christopher Walken is hilarious in the role of an aging, homosexual drama critic who, accused of liking nothing at all (actually he likes young men), insists that here are indeed many things he likes: "...chocolate, Caravaggio, revenge..." The film is thoughtful and often incisive, with, regrettably, occasional lapses into the grotesque, which will turn off some viewers. The great scenes, however, will linger in the mind long after the tawdry aspects of this incomparable film are but a dream. Highly recommended to anyone interested in the meaning of theater, in the illusion of stagecraft, in fine acting, in excellent and original writing for the screen. "Bravo" to Turturro for putting this ocular feast together; "Brava" to his extraordinary wife; and "Bravissimi" to all who participated in the creation of this film. And by the way: how refreshing to watch a distinguished film about Italians without a single mention of the Mafia!"
A film experience worth repeating
melist | San Jose, CA United States | 01/19/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I feel it is only just to give fair warning to those viewers not familiar with the original play. Illuminata can not be confined to a single genre. Just when have laughed so hard you begin to cry, Illuminata will make a fast moving 180-degree turn on you. With the culmination of artists in this film, it was enticing to see how they all fit together to bring an entertaining view of the theater. The answer is...quite grand. I agree with my countryman regarding the performances of Mr. Walken and Ms. Turturro. Susan Sarandon also plays a wonderful aging actress who can not publicly face the fact that she is no longer able to play a nineteen year old virgin. (An audience can only have so much imagination;) yet you are reminded by the smirks on the faces of the male audience members, she's still got it. Ms. Borowitz was inspiring in her role as the independent outwardly strong woman who can not live with out love no matter the cost. Rufus Sewell is the ever-handsome, insecure male (Dominque) who hides his insecurity with an appearance of egotism. As everyone knows, someone eventually must show his or her true colors; and Dominique allows the viewer just a glimpse of his vulnerability. There is not one character that is forgettable and each plays a vital role. This is not a movie to watch just once if not just for the great one-liners. Granted, this is not a movie for everyone, but it is a movie that will be on my mind for some time to come."
Light and intense
alienorhuman | Paris, France | 07/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Humm, it seems that my fellow Illuminata watchers have strongly bent one way or the other. I saw the movie over a year ago, so I can't be descriptive as far as plot twists go, but I found it very moving, tender, slow-moving and intense, with remarkable acting performances. It is true indeed it played on different levels, which I find added strength to the whole, instead of confusion; why should we have to choose ONE genre and stick to it? God, how boring and unlife-like!"
Good and bad
anna | Colorado | 06/05/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I still have mixed feelings about this movie. At times it becomes rather bumbling, and a bit hard to follow as it jumps between subplots. You never really, truly get to know any of the characters on more than a surface level--although this could have been Turturro's point: audiences only become acquainted with actors' parts and their public images, not the real people. As for good points, Illuminata has a pretty great cast. Susan Sarandon is good and Christopher Walken is delightful, but I was especially taken with Rufus Sewell and Katherine Borowitz. When they (along with Georgina Cates) finally perform Tuccio's (Turturro) play Illuminata, it was so tender and beautifully done that that one scene pretty much made up for any of the movie's shortcomings, as far as I was concerned. Illuminata is certainly an interesting movie, and despite any complaints I have about it, I don't regret seeing it. There are some truly lovely moments."
An intensely moving work of art
Phil Clapham | Cape Cod | 01/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Illuminata is nothing short of glorious: a warm, intelligent film that is beautifully staged, acted, directed and filmed. There are many standouts in the cast. Susan Sarandon is wonderful as an aging diva, and Jon Turturro delivers a fragile character who is both sad and humane. But the movie is carried by Katherine Borowitz, whose mesmerizing performance is simple, elegant and poised. This is that rare commodity, a film that takes huge risks dramatically and emotionally, and they all pay off. It combines the best of theater and of film, and the result is an intensely moving work of art."