Being Julia: Alex Dukay
Kirven Blount
March 22, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

Unlike way too many period films that are filled with stilted types carefully posed and glazed in antiquity, István Szabó’s Being Julia imagines characters of yore as actual people. There are emotional surges and switchbacks; characters lose focus and laugh too long; portraiture is transcended. Szabó clearly glories in the complexity of personality, professing on his commentary: ”Only a human being can surprise me.” Annette Bening was much-lauded and Oscar-nominated for her turn as Julia, the aging idol for whom all of life is a performance, and Lucy Punch rips into the dotty-ingenue role. Though the film is indeed what Bening calls ”a soufflé,” it’s a joy to watch it rise.

EXTRAS Bening, Jeremy Irons, and Szabó’s commentary is a veritable acting symposium with mutual respect on prominent display; deleted scenes (including a few gems) and two making-of docs continue the lesson.

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