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Harrison's Flowers

 

     This movie was originally released in Spain on Sept. 23, 2000 at the San Sebastián Film Festival. It was filmed in and around New York City as well as the Czech Republic and opened in limited run in the states on March 15, 2002.

     Sarah Lloyd (Andie MacDowell) embarks on a perilous journey to find Harrison (David Strathairn), her husband, colleague and father of their two children. The Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist is missing on an assignment in a country far, far from home. He is presumed dead by his associates and his editor Samuel Brubeck (Alun Armstrong).

     Elias in Harrison's FlowersBut it is Sarah who leaves others in disbelief, hell-bent in her pursuit to find Harrison - dead or alive. Rather than convincing her to turn back, she convinces Harrison's colleagues to forge ahead. In helping Sarah, fellow photojournalists Kyle (Adrien Brody), Stevenson (Brendan Gleeson) and Harrison's best friend Yeager (Elias Koteas) find a new perspective in the midst of this horrendous battle of brother against brother.  Armed solely with their camera lenses, all muster a courage they never knew they had. 
And life, as Sarah knew it, suddenly becomes unreal.  Reality now could only be found in the surreal.

     You can get more information at the official Harrison's Flowers site.
 

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Harrison's Flowers review by Rogert Ebert.

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The following synopsis was submitted by 'Ben' in France. He saw the movie and said it was one of the best he's seen and was surprised it wasn't promoted better in the states:

 

"Harrisson's Flowers (HR) is a French movie with American actors. In fact, everybody who played or made this movie was American, except the film director, who was French, that's why this movie is said to be French.Elias in Harrison's Flowers.

"The film director is Elie Chouraqui. You probably don't know him, but I can tell you that he's a typical French film director -- that means that he is silly and more stupid than my little brother! Every movie he made was the worst movie of the year. Two years ago, he began to work for a French musical, and it is a success (I'm wondering why, it is not great at all...). And at the end of January, "HR" was projected in French cinemas with absolutely no advertising, only a trailer who wasn't projected yet!

"It is one of the most horrible wars of the end of the 20th century. Harrisson is declared "disappeared" in Osijiek, in Croatia. A few days after, the Associated Press says that Harrisson Lloyd is dead. When Sarah learns this, she believes it is the end of everything. But in the middle of the night, she gets a phone call, but there's no one there. She believes it was Harrisson, and she decides to go to Croatia in order to find her husband.

"The movie is not short, but not very long for such a subject (130 min). Adrian Brody plays a photographer, who hates Harrisson at the beginning of the film, but helps Sarah in Croatia try to find her husband. And the last one is Elias Koteas. Elias plays a man called Yaeger, who is a war photographer. I think he works in Newsweek, too. He's Harrison's best friend, and knows Sarah well. He knows her so much, that he's in love with her, but we learn that in the middle of the film.

"When Sarah is in Croatia, he doesn't feel very well. Sarah took the camera of her husband, and she makes photos, and sends them to Newsweek, so that Yaeger knows where she is. He, too, decides to go to Croatia to find Sarah and to bring her back to New York, but ends up there to help her to find Harrisson.

"One great thing: the beginning of this movie is something like an interview of the characters...the first image of the film you see is a close-up at his face!

"The movie itself takes place in October, 1991. Harrisson Lloyd, (David Strathairn) a Newsweek war photographer, is sent to Yugoslavia in order to take photos of a little conflict between Croatia and Serbia. Sarah (Andie MacDowell), his wife, doesn't want him to leave her because their child is going to have a birthday. He promises her he will be back to NYC for the birthday. But days are passing, and it appears that the conflict in Yougoslavia is more than that.

"...Indeed, you see the jobs of these men (and women) who risk their lives to take photos and send them to world papers so that people see how awful war is...."

Andie MacDowell in Harrison's Flowers.

Adrian Brody in Harrison's Flowers.

Andie MacDowell in Harrison's Flowers.

Andie MacDowell in Harrison's Flowers.

David Strathairn in Harrison's Flowers.

A scene in Harrison's Flowers.

Reporters run from violence in 'Harrison's Flowers.'

Andie and David in Harrison's Flowers.'

Harrison's Flowers review
Variety, Oct. 2, 2000

After a long career of making generally lightweight, mostly unexceptional French-language fare, director Elie Chouraqui delivers a hard-hitting narrative depiction of the Bosnian conflict and of the work of photo-reporters in a war zone. Despite a lackluster cable-movie frame set in the U.S., "Harrison's Flowers" nonetheless provides powerful drama thanks to its trenchant core story and harrowing re-creation of the brutal chaos of war. A name cast led by Andie MacDowell could help land theatrical exposure, with stronger prospects down the track on video.

While it shares themes with other dramas about warzone reporters such as "The Year of Living Dangerously" and "Under Fire," the film most directly recalls Michael Winterbottom's "Welcome to Sarajevo," which examined the fighting in former Yugoslavia through a group of war correspondents. Chouraqui's feature arguably comes closer than any nondocumentary work to date in conveying the horror of the ethnic cleansing that devastated that country in the 1990s.

Though it's well played, the bland opening section is unpromising. Title character Harrison Lloyd (David Strathairn) is a veteran war photojournalist for Newsweek with a distinguished career and a Pulitzer Prize behind him. The film pencils in his happy but sometimes strained marriage to Sarah (MacDowell), the weight of his long, too-frequent absences on his relationship with their two kids, the friendship tinged with rivalry that ties him to fellow photo-reporter Yeager Pollock (Elias Koteas), and the resentment directed at him by hot-headed Kyle (Adrien Brody), another reporter whose work has never received the same recognition.

Sarah goes to pieces when word comes back that Harrison has gone missing and is presumed dead on his farewell assignment in 1991 Yugoslavia, at the start of what then appeared to be a minor conflict. Refusing to believe he's dead, she barricades herself in a room and stays glued to CNN until she becomes convinced she sees her husband among a group of prisoners being taken to Vukovar.

The action then switches to Europe as Sarah flies to Graz in Austria. Compelled more by passionate certainty than by reason, she hires a car to drive to Yugoslavia (Czech Republic locations stand in), teaming up with a Paris-based Croatian student eager to reenter the country and move his family to safety.

While MacDowell is not always the most resourceful of actresses, her soft edges and somewhat guileless manner can be used to good effect in showing an ordinary woman shattered by dramatic events. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in her horrific introduction to war, when Serbian tank and rifle fire halts the car in which Sarah is traveling, the student is shot dead alongside her and she narrowly escapes being raped by a soldier.

From this point on, the film takes on an entirely different charge, instantly establishing tension and a raw, shocking quality and maintaining its grip throughout Sarah's terrifying ordeal. While still stunned and speechless after the attack, she is picked up by a group of photographers that includes Kyle and Irish colleague Stevenson (Brendan Gleeson). While they attempt to persuade Sarah that her presence in Yugoslavia is madness and that Harrison almost certainly is dead, she remains undeterred.

She finds unexpected support from Kyle, accompanying her on the increasingly dangerous route to Vukovar. Weathering heavy sniper attacks, Sarah begins photographing the accelerating chain of atrocities and death she witnesses and sending the pics back to Newsweek, attributing them to Harrison. Yeager pieces together what's really going on and travels to Yugoslavia in an attempt to bring her back, but ends up joining the group.

Given the much less physically demanding style of cinema that has been director Chouraqui's forte, the skill with which the highly potent war scenes are handled is doubly impressive. And despite the seeming improbability of certain aspects of Sarah's journey, the sobriety and intelligence brought to the material make it quite persuasive. The impact of the war scenes and of the story of a civilian whose fear is overshadowed by love is matched by the drama's stirring portrait of the reckless courage of the correspondents.

Cinematographer Nicola Pecorini has done a creditable job of capturing both the unnerving stillness of the quiet spells and the unpredictable panic of full-scale conflict, with judicious use of handheld cameras and digital footage.

Called upon mainly to look stunned but determined, MacDowell gives the drama a solid, affecting center. Brody is on target with another smart, edgy perf as a character set up to be a troublemaker but ultimately transformed into a source of surprising strength and commitment, while Strathairn, Koteas and Gleeson also have strong moments.

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French Review (translation anyone??)

 

Les reporters de guerre n'ont pas eu très souvent les honneurs du grand écran, le dernier film en date étant WELCOME TO SARAJEVO de Michael Winterbottom. Elie Chouraqui, réalisateur dispensable et auteur entre autres de PAROLES ET MUSIQUES et de LES MARMOTTES, s'est lui aussi projeté au centre du conflit pour en restituer toute sa barbarie.

Harrisson Lloyd est un grand reporter photographe de guerre, envoyé en Yougoslavie en octobre 1991 pour couvrir "les débuts d'un conflit mineur". Quelques jours après son départ, on annonce sa mort à sa femme. Ne pouvant admettre le pire, Sarah (Andie MacDowell) décide contre vents et marées de partir à sa recherche alors que les combats atteignent leur paroxysmeŠ

Sous le prétexte d'un drame familial et d'une histoire d'amour brisée, HARRISON'S FLOWERS illustre brutalement l'intensité de ce nettoyage ethnique inhumain et presque incompréhensible où l'homme n'est qu'une pipe dans la ligne de mire de quelques snipers. Les séquences de "nettoyage" violemment impressionnantes ne bénéficient heureusement pas d'une quelconque stylisation. Tout y est arraché, tendu, sec et destructeur. Sans rien concéder au spectaculaire ou au voyeurisme primaire, le réalisateur assied un point de vue adulte, celui du "ils doivent savoir", shootant dans tous les sens des images, des témoignages des atrocités tolérées sous on ne sait quel couvert. Sifflement des balles, explosions assourdissantes, exécutions dégueulasses, passages de barrages à haut risque tout est question de survie dans un métier tout aussi répugnant que nécessaire. Pourtant ces louanges ne peuvent masquer la maladresse de l'emballage, un emballage vaguement semblable au SAVING PRIVATE RYAN de Steven Spielberg, sauf qu'ici quatre photographes parcourent des territoires mis à feu et à sang pour retrouver un collègue et mari hypothétiquement en vie. Cette dramaturgie ternit la force indéniable de l'ensemble mais termine à la fois un portrait judicieux de ces hommes et ces femmes qui risquent leur vie pour que les autres sachent. A défaut d'être une ¦uvre totalement réussie, HARRISON'S FLOWERS fait partie de ces films utiles et ça, ça vaut toujours la peine.

 



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