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Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis (2008)
The Triumph of Stupidity
This film is the most successful movie EVER in France. One third of the country have gone to the movies to see it over the span of 2 months or so. That should mean something, but although I do watch my fair share of lame French comedies (old and recent), I have yet to figure out what's funny about this one !
Aside from the two main actors, the rest of the cast simply can't act. The script is paperthin, the direction is awkward, and worst of all, the film is excruciatingly boring and unfunny ! It is basically an introduction to the Ch'timi culture, with their local slang and customs. Period. If learning the regional dialect when you go somewhere is a riot to you, then you may enjoy this movie - and there isn't much else to it.
Also I can't keep myself but have a thought for the people who live there and have been so unflatteringly stereotyped. They're sure to see a lot of brainless tourists over the next decade mock them using expressions from the movie. It is that sad !
25th Hour (2002)
* SPOILERS HEREIN *
Hello New York reviewers: "once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker" blah blah... Mind you, everyone feels the same about their hometown - it is just very self-centered to think New Yorkers experience a very unique otherworldly feeling about their city. So Spike Lee wants to pay a tribute to 9/11 (maybe just so people in 20 years' time can watch his film and go "hey, that's what it looked like hen they were rebuilding the site..."). Fine, fair enough... and maybe the whole I-hate-everyone scene is only there to show us how in the end, he's actually going to miss all these smiling faces that he once hated. Fine, whatever, but it's awkwardly done. And many other things are confusing and annoying: - The Ukrainian friend "had no choice"... that's weak... so it means he or someone else had a motive to denounce Monty. Nothing about that. - Jake and the student: she puts his hands all over herself one minute and is in utter shock when he kisses her the next. End of story. We'll know nothing else. It becomes completely irrelevant. - The broker and his life at work: even more irrelevant. His chemistry with Jake is non- existent for such long time pals. - The editing is majorly botched. - Spike Lee, proud defender of Afro-American cinema gives lead roles to white people and small parts to black people. Just like most Hollywood directors... I wouldn't have expected that of him...
... but what annoys me more than all that is the messed-up message of the movie: Basically, "If you're a drug dealer, don't go to jail: recreate a home somewhere else. It will be tough but you can do it." In other words: "Do not take responsibility for your actions". Maybe this is not the way he meant it, but if I understood it that way (and if I did, it means a lot of other people probably did too), then the message wan't conveyed very well.
That aside, I didn't mind the pacing at all. Many reviewers expect to be entertained with action scenes or else fall asleep. I suppose they only watch American cinema to make such statements. And the acting is fine too. Just too many loose ends...
Appalling in every way !
I never give such low grades and believe me, I've seen thousands of bad movies, but there's really nothing redeeming whatsoever about this one !! Soap opera acting, terrible dialogue, lame attempts at being funny or scary (if you think it's either, then you've really never seen anything funny or scary !), completely unrealistic if not ludicrous situations, a storyline probably sketched out in 5 minutes by a 14-year old who's never seen a film in his life, predictable clichés galore, laughable attempts at creating romantic or moving moments. A complete waste of time ! I don't know how I made it to the end. I was looking at the clock every 30 seconds. I really tried to give it a chance. A real insult to all the young filmmakers out there with fantastic ideas who can't finance their films. AVOID AT ALL COSTS !!
V for Vendetta (2005)
Worst piece of drivel I've seen in years.
I liked Bound, hated the Matrix (and yes I "got it", thank you). The trailer already made V for Vendetta look like utter garbage but I still gave it a try with an open mind and oh my God... I wasn't prepared for this !
American actors trying to imitate the British accent by throwing around words like "bollocks", "bugger off" & "bloke", sitcom acting from Natalie Portman (seriously, does she actually get paid ? Even when she says she's starving you can't believe her), the most uninspired fighting scenes, shallow pseudo-philosophical statements, simplistic politics and morals, and the unavoidable Wachowski question: "Do you get the subtle message behind the movie ?"
I think the real problem is that people seem to think that the Wachowski brothers are the kings of allegory and that this actually is a good movie ! What do these people watch or read the rest of the time ? This is truly scary. No wonder the author of the book refused to have his name mentioned in the credits.
Now, I 've never been able to give a 1 to a film but I think this one really deserves it. It was already painful and embarrassing to watch from the very first minutes. You're definitely better off watching the B-movies that inspired it: Fantomas, Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, the Abominable Dr. Phibes or an episode of Zorro... At least, they don't take themselves as seriously.
Maybe amazing for those who've never seen an Asian film...
The problem is that this film could have been much better but I think the director just kept shooting himself in the foot. First of all, the title gives away the whole point of the film. As you're watching the "Spring" segment, you already know this is going to be another one of those life cycle stories... Why not choose another title then ? At the end of the "Summer" segment, the Master says that lustful acts can lead to murder *nudge nudge*, next thing you know, he finds an article about his disciple in the newspaper wrapping his fish... Why are these scenes necessary ? The disciple stabbing the floor with his knife full of blood was clear enough, and would have had a much more surprising effect on the viewer than having the whole murder thing spelled out for us beforehand. Finally, the disciple becomes the master and there is a new disciple, as if this had to be an unavoidable cycle... which it doesn't. So, the director says he wrote the whole story in 2 hours and made a point not to alter any of it, and I believe him as this story is cute but superficial as a Paulo Coelho novel. It certainly doesn't have the depth of most works by Mizoguchi, Kurosawa, Kobayashi, Ozu or even Koizumi and Kitano. Still, it's watchable, thanks to the acting, cinematography and nice settings, and can be a nice introduction for some shallow Westerners to Asian cinema.
Eyal Sivan's response to forgery accusations
The IMDb guidelines do not allow me to display the URL to this article. You know how to find it. :)
"The Spielberg archive took six years to point out presumed defects in the film, and that indicates the extent of the archive's efficiency," said director Eyal Sivan in response to the complaints against him. "The archive betrayed its role as the body responsible for preserving the Eichmann trial materials." Sivan says that when they began work on the film, the archive offered them 68 hours from the trial. Only after searching did the production team find the rest of the materials, "which were stored in the bathroom of the Hebrew University law faculty. I personally worked for seven months cataloging all the reels we found. We saved all the materials, at our own expense, transferred them to a digital format, and even gave the original copy to the state. Spielberg's people accuse us of editing and of taking things out of context. It's strange that people who betrayed their role are raising such a claim."
Sivan replies to the complaints against "The Specialist" in four words: "We made a film," with everything that implies - editing and adding effects. "After the film was screened for the first time at the festival in Berlin, we emphasized our cinematic work, both in the press and in the book we published afterwards. All the materials we used underwent treatment. We added lighting. We touched up the picture. And still, the claim that we added external laughter to one of the scenes is a lie. The film's sound was taken from the audio tapes of the trial."
In regard to the witness who did not reply to the question "Why didn't you resist?" while in the original another witness was asked about that, Sivan says: "Most of the witnesses were asked the same question. It's true that there's editing here, but it's a film. Hausner's opening speech lasted for three days, and in the film there's only one minute. Did we commit fraud here as well? 'The Specialist' is not the Eichmann trial, it's a film from the archives of the Eichmann trial." And why were Hausner's shouts at Eichmann placed in the wrong context? "The Eichmann trial lasted for nine months, whereas the film lasts for 123 minutes," replies Sivan. "Spielberg's people have to remember that their job is not to make movies, and our job is not to do archival work."
Regarding the blurring of the picture in order to create a similarity between Eichmann and Hausner, both with their backs to the camera, Sivan says: "Did I place them next to one another? Is it my fault that they were both bald and dressed in black? Moreover, had I not presented this scene, would the Spielberg people still have asked why I cut the scene? Of course not!"
In the same language, Sivan also replies to the question as to why he cut short Meyer's testimony, in which he mentions Eichmann's coarse manner of speaking. "Had we presented only the part where Eichmann is a rude man, the Spielberg archive would have asked why I didn't use the scene in which Meyer testifies that he was a nice man."
Regarding the claim that Freudiger's testimony is an editing of two meetings, Sivan says: "That's an outright lie. The Spielberg archive has an old ideological approach, according to which memory is more important than history. It's more important to them to show the witnesses than to discuss the past. Freudiger's testimony at the Eichmann trial is extraordinary because the audience in the courtroom came out against Freudiger and accused him of collaboration."
Les clefs de bagnole (2003)
In France, people tend not to understand absurd humour. The Francis Veber vaudeville type of comedy and vulgar, obnoxious stuff such as "Les Bronzés" are what they like best. No wonder the critics slagged off movies such as "Les Clefs de Bagnole" or "RRRrrrr !". They don't even understand what can be funny about these films. However, if you're into Monty Python humour, or the wackiness of Steven Soderbergh's Schizopolis, chances are you will definitely elevate "Les Clefs de Bagnole" to the rank of a cult classic. I found this to be highly refreshing as well as a great satire of film-making and the movie business. Highly recommended to all open-minded people worldwide !
Les sous-doués (1980)
French cult classic
An absolute must-see for those into teenage comedies. I really wish this one was distributed worldwide as it is somewhat reminiscing of Animal House and The Breakfast Club, but just much, much funnier.
The plot: The story of a bunch of students in a tiny private school. Always up to no good, they end up blowing up part of the school. As a result, they can be sent to jail or... pass their baccalaureate. Since they are absolute losers, they'll come up with the zaniest tricks and devices to cheat during both the written and oral exams (both supervised by the police !). This film is a riot from beginning to end, and after that, you will never forget the "Learning Machine" or Mr. Bruce, the sports teacher.
Poisson d'avril (1954)
Awesome script !
This story is an awesome vaudeville that keeps you wondering how it will end as it gets more and more intricate and confusing for the characters. Everything is tight and plausible. Note that this is the first time you can see Bourvil and Louis De Funes in a same film (9 years before "Le Corniaud" !) despite De Funes's short appearance as a fishing guard. Why this film has remained so obscure is beyond me.
*SPOILERS AHEAD ??*
It's hard to talk about it without giving too much away and ruining the fun of it. However this is how the story unfolds: Emile lies to his wife to go fishing with his son instead. He visits his cousin Annette who tells him he should go fishing on her lover's land - a very wealthy married man. The fishing guard spots him, fines him and decides to report the incident to the wealthy man since Emile said he had his authorization through his cousin Annette. Unfortunately, his wife picks up the phone and later tells her husband about this man Emile fishing in their river. He doesn't mind about that but is more troubled about the kinship between Emile and his mistress Annette. As his wife wants to investigate further about Emile and Annette, her husband gets nervous and pretends to know Emile who supposedly saved his life at war. His wife insists to have him and Annette for dinner, wanting to meet the man who saved her husband's life and thinking Annette is his fiancee (from what her husband told her). Emile accepts after the wealthy man threatens Emile to tell his wife that he goes fishing instead as he found out from Annette.
Confusing ? Maybe when I tell it, but the dialogue is great (Audiard of course) and the film is paced without any loose ends in the script. The story goes on past this memorable dinner scene to take the characters into crazier situations and they even manage to make the film end in a way that works. Now what more do we need ?!!
Lulu on the Bridge (1998)
Awesome multi-layered film
A lot of people seem to compare this to Jacob's Ladder. I understand the connection but what makes Lulu On The Bridge a better film (in my opinion of course) is that it's not only about Harvey Keitel's character but also about Mira Sorvino's and her longing for someone she can be in love with. She's indeed not just a fantasy but a real person as the final scene confirms. I think the combination and interaction of these two characters makes this film much more intense than Jacob's Ladder. As for the people who think the ending is a "plot twist" - I can't believe it wasn't already clear to them what this was all about. There are many many hints throughout the film (maybe too many actually) to make sure you understand that it's all just taking place in the head of Harvey Keitel's character. It's a bit sickening to see that a shallow movie like The Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis is considered as being more subtle than this when it's just as predictable but also much emptier.
I'm really looking forward to seeing Paul Auster's next film !