Anatomy of a Fall - Photo NEON
Anatomy of a Fall – Photo NEON

Winner of best Foreign Film at both the Golden Globe & Critics Choice Awards , Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall” has a scandalous premise that should intrigue true-crime aficionados.

The whodunit plot pivots around Samuel Maleski (Samuel Theis) a writer who dies suspiciously after falling from the upper floor of an Alpine chalet and is discovered sprawled in the snow amid a trail of blood from a deep cranial wound.

His wife, and writer of some renown, Sandra Voyter (Sandra Huller), was the only other person in the house. She is suspected of murder. Did she push him? Did he tumble accidentally? Or did he commit suicide by jumping?

The French family drama that subsequently ensues examines various aspects of the couple’s marriage, including the testimony of Daniel (Milo Machado Graner), their troubled, visually-impaired 11-year-old son, in court in Grenoble. 

German actress Sandra Huller adroitly pleads the wife’s case – which is not surprising since director Justine Triet and her writing partner/father of her two children, Arthur Harari, wrote the enigmatic script with Sandra in mind. 

“I was captivated,” Huller has said in interviews. “I’d never read anything like this – the division of power between modern couples – and I wanted to find out if she did it…but Justine never told me!”

What is revealed is that, while Sandra is German, she came to live in France, where Samuel grew up. Noting that their marriage was based on “intellectual stimulation,” she admits that she’s committed adultery and has engaged a lawyer, Vincent Renzi (Swann Arlaud), with whom she was once involved.

“I did not kill him!” Sandra testifies, so her defense centers on the assertion that Samuel committed suicide.

FYI: Despite its acclaim, “Anatomy of a Fall” cannot win an Oscar as Best International Film. Why? Because France did not submit it. Instead, the title selected was “The Taste of Things” (“La passion de Dodin Bouffant”), a period romance revolving around ancient French cuisine. Even after France’s snub, Triet’s film is, however, eligible for nomination in other categories.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Anatomy of a Fall” is a psychologically intense, elusive 8, streaming on Prime Video, iTunes and Vudu.

Maestro - Photo Netflix
Maestro – Photo Netflix

Many years ago during a 1976 Harvard University lecture, ebullient conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein said, “A work of art does not answer questions, it provokes them.” Director/co-writer/actor Bradley Cooper opens “Maestro” with the same statement.

Made with the support of Bernstein’s now-grown offspring (Jamie, Alexander, Nina), this is a love story, not a biopic. It begins with a shot of elderly Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) at the piano and then segues back to November 14, 1943, when New York Philharmonic conductor Bruno Walter falls ill, so Bernstein, as his assistant, is summoned to Carnegie Hall.

“To conduct an orchestra, you must conduct your life,” Bernstein was once told. So despite his on-going romantic liaison with musical collaborator David Oppenheimer (Matt Bomer), he marries sophisticated Chilean actress Felicia Montealegre Cohn (Carey Mulligan) who, at first, accepts his bisexual dalliances.

Chronicled by co-screenwriter Josh Singer and cinematographer Matthew Libatique, who utilizes different ratios, switching from black-and-white to color, the narrative about their unusual relationship moves from their chic Manhattan penthouse to their suburban Connecticut home to Tanglewood in Massachusetts – and back. 

If Bernstein been more discreet, perhaps their marital melodrama would not have escalated – but he wasn’t – and it did. 

Their ferocious fights encompass not only fidelity but also family and increasing fame, encompassing his innovative Young People’s Concerts, film score for “On the Waterfront” and Broadway hits “On the Town,” “West Side Story” and more.

Bernstein’s theatrical collaborators Betty Comden and Adolph Green (Mallory Portnoy, Nick Blaemire) pop in periodically, along with composer Aaron Copland (Brian Klugman).

One of the most memorable scenes depicts exuberant Bernstein’s conducting Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” with the London Symphony Orchestra in Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire, England, in 1973. Bradley Cooper’s intensity and commitment are extraordinary.

As for the controversy about Cooper’s nose, it’s ridiculous. Japanese-American makeup-effects master Kazuhiro Tsuji (Oscar-winner for transforming Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill in “The Darkest Hour”) devised four sets of prosthetics and two bodysuits to show Bernstein’s aging process.

Last but certainly not least, there’s genuinely heartbreaking Carey Mulligan as long-suffering, self-deprecating, sorrowful Felicia, noting: “Life is not that serious.” Watch for her name among the Best Actress Oscar-contenders later this month.

On the Granger Gauge, “Maestro” is an intimate, enigmatic 8, streaming on Netflix.

Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See all her reviews at www.susangranger.com.