2000; Rated PG-13; 114 Minutes
Kim Basinger: Kuki Gallmann
Vincent Pérez: Paolo Gallmann
Liam Aiken: Emanuele Gallmann
Garrett Strommen: Emanuele, at 17
Eva Marie Saint: Franca
Daniel Craig: Declan Fielding
Produced by Stanley R. Jaffe,John D. Schofield and
Allyn Stewart; Directed by Hugh Hudson; Screenwritten
by Paula Milne and Susan Shilliday; based on the
memoirs by Kuki Gallmann
by DAVID KEYES
has always intrigued me as to what the memoirs of Kuki Gallmann
were actually about. Because they endure wide acclaim and,
ironically, are seldom seen on bookstore shelves (at least
where I have checked), there is a sense of luring enthusiasm
that fills me every time they come into discussion. Those
who identify with my situation might have been relieved
to hear that this collection of recalled adventures in Kenya,
Africa, were being taken to the movies with Kim Basinger
filling the lead. Good news, at least at the time. Now the
movie is done, finished, thrown onto screens for anxious
viewers to look at. Too bad they will wind up walking out
of the theater with more questions on their mind then what
they went in with.
because “I Dreamed Of Africa” is what you might call stillborn
drama; a film that could have been enlightening, but lacks
pace, shape, significance and, most importantly, narrative.
The movie isn’t just bad—it’s frustratingly fragmented.
In almost two slow and slushy hours, director Hugh Hudson
manages to turn his audience into a display of snores and
chuckles, throwing scenes at us with such little conviction
that they can essentially be watched in any order. Those
who actually are familiar with the texts will surely be
just as disheartened; I seriously doubt that any kind of
praised literature can lack this much.
stars as the reclusive Gallmann, an Italian-American woman
who, with her second husband Paolo (Vincent Pérez), leaves
behind the luxuries of civilization and opts to rediscover
life (I guess) in Kenya, Africa, where the animals run free
and the starry skies are vast and beautiful. But their experience
there is anything but simple, as their screen time is bombarded
with endless conflicts that literally jump out of thin air.
In one scene a car is hijacked; in one nearby, Kuki faces
frustration as her husband spends lots of time on Safaris
and she struggles to maintain an African estate with what
little Swahili she can comprehend. Also featured among these
events are poaching issues, animal attacks, dangerous confrontations,
family values and (who would’ve guessed?) dreams. Amazing
how something that runs its course in only 114 minutes can
squeeze this much in.
for the million dollar question—what is the relation to
any of such scenes? The fact that they all involve one woman
seems to satisfy the screenwriters plenty. An entire film
is constructed using as many events as possible in Kuki’s
life, without provoking any kind of depth in order to keep
the running time short. Seeing them unfold is an irritating
experience, especially for someone who don’t have a clue
as to what the material was originally about. Thorough plot
descriptions are hopeless here, because it is impossible
to follow the story for more than five minutes.
worse, the characters are like prototypes for a combination
of multiple contradicting formulas. Kuki’s son is a fine
example of this, who is annoyed at one moment at the prospect
of leaving home and friends for secluded life in Africa,
but does a complete 180 in the same scene and suddenly accepts
the news. Pérez as Paolo Gallmann constructs a persona with
little focus and much meandering, and watching Kim Basinger
in the transparent lead is like seeing her flush her much-deserved
Oscar for “L.A. Confidential” right down the toilet. No
wonder husband Alec Baldwin called the movie “painful.”
Hudson, the director, also made “Chariots Of Fire” in case
you’re wondering. Even though that film is sorely overrated,
it is a picnic compared to this shapeless disaster. The
purpose of doing movies based on famous literature is to
enlighten those unfamiliar with the material, or unwilling
to read it. See “Angela’s Ashes” if you want some kind of
stability in such a translation. “I Dreamed Of Africa” will
have you dreaming, all right: dreaming of a place with less
wandering and more central plot.
David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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