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Douze heures d'horloge (1959)
Inferior French Noir
The 1950's mark the birth of a new style of gangster movies in France. Two milestones set the tone for dozens of variations on the theme offered by quite a few filmmakers, Jules Dassin's unequaled heist film "Du Rififi chez les hommes" (1955) coming on the heels of Jacques Becker's seminal post heist tragedy "Touchez pas au grisbi" (1954). From Verneuil to Melville, from Grangier to Sautet - not to mention Jean-Luc Godard and his deconstructed "A bout de soufflé" (1960), many indeed are those who contributed to the renewal of the Gallic crime movie genre, whose dark clouds still more or less overshadow our cinematography today. Of course, not every filmmaker is either Dassin or Becker. Most of them do not rise above the level of good workmanship, which is the case of helmer Geza Radvanyi, who after emigrating to the West failed to equal the qualities human and artistic of his Hungarian classic "Somewhere in Europe" (1948). An estimation which is not likely to be undermined by the viewing of "Twelve Hours by the Clock". From the first minutes of film though, it looks as if you are in for another great entry in the 1950's French noir new trend. The black and white pictures, finely crafted by the talented "light sculptor" Henri Alekan, the well-shot and edited prison break sequence and and the presence of three competent actors playing the escaped prisoners, Lino Ventura, Laurent Terzieff and Hannes Messemer, go in this direction. Unfortunately, due to two fundamental flaws, this initial good impression does not last. The first (major) defect lies in the fact that, on the pretext that the action takes place in the South of France, the actors (including the German ones !) speak with a fake Southern French accent. The result of such nonsense is that it immediately (and irreversibly) torpedoes the credibility of the whole thing. Second and even worse defect, the tense basic situation (after their escape, the three men have a twelve hour window to find documents before boarding a cargo ship to liberty) deplorably shifts from noir to stale romance. After the captivating beginning in the style of "Reservoir Dogs" or "Desperate Hours", the narrative dissolves only too soon into photonovel sugar dripping from a worn "you love me-you love me not" thematic. Loss of interest involving boredom, the state will not leave you until the end of the movie, despite one or two flashes of violence. It is always a bad thing when a story starts intensely and loses impact minute after minute.
Which is why I would not recommend "Twelve Hours by the Clock" to anybody but film historians (as a sample of the French Film Noir wave) and/or Lino Ventura completists. The others are likely to be disappointed: wet powder is useless!
7 minuti (2016)
A social drama without sanctimonious rhetoric
Well, to say the least, "il bel uomo" Michele Placido ("Till Marriage Do Us Part, "Marcia trionfale", "Three Brothers"...), has become along with time a heck of a director ("Romanzo Criminale", to name but one example). This time, with "7 minuti", Placido is back in business in a big way. Not only is the subject he has chosen food for thought but the Italian director manages to make the potentially dry subject a great show, full of tensions and suspense. All this from a simple but very effective starting point: the buyers of a textile factory promise no layoffs on the only condition that the she-workers give up seven minutes of their fifteen minute break. Following this offer, eleven of the staff representatives, including their spokesperson (Ottavia Piccolo), gather for the vote and... the heated discussions preceding it. Socially relevant (there are countless cases where workers have to face such dilemmas) honest (naive optimism is not on the agenda while racism, hatred and jealousy are rife; all the points of view are exposed and debated) and committed (employment blackmail is harshly denounced), Placido's last opus is also a model of construction (an "in camera" drama in the line of "Twelve Angry Men", complete with clashes pitting the ones against the others and final suspense) and of actress direction (all the performers, young, mature or old ARE sensational). All in all, this film is an exploit in its ability to talk straight and to entertain at the same time. Agreed, Michele Placido is not the only one in this category (Martin Ritt's "Norma Rae" is another example of such a talent) but he is one of the few artists capable of such achievements.
A new director is born
'Louis-Do de Lencquesaing' (qv) is a very active movie and TV actor (85 films between 1990 and 2017), who worked for such talented directors as Chabrol, Kahn, Desplechin, Godard, Assayas, Haneke, Bonello and Ramos in roles rarely leading (the producer of _Le père de mes enfants (2009) (qv) his best performance to date; the father in _Taj Mahal (2015)_(qv)), more often supporting (the bookstore owner in Caché (2005)_ (qv)). Also a theater actor and a stage director, the characters he embodies are often in his own image, casual, charming and slightly mocking, which does not prevent him from playing character parts, including historical figures (Jean de Luxembourg in _ Jeanne captive (2011) _ (qv)) and/or malevolent beings (the wealthy pedophile who believes himself above the law in _Polisse (2011) _ (qv)). All these activities are apparently not enough for this passionate workaholic. As a matter of fact, he has also (starting in 1998) tried his hand at filmmaking and managed to direct, write and interpret (in the latter case with one exception) three shorts and one feature, all displaying more or less strong autobiographical overtones (sonhood, fatherhood - especially father-daughter relationship -, satire of the Christian noble family he comes from and rejection of its values, writing, coming of age, love, separation...). "Mécréant" is the first of these four efforts. To tell the truth, this modest short, although amusing and intriguing, has nothing particularly remarkable about it. Compared to _Au galop (2012) (qv) _ , de Lencquesaing's very rich first feature, this one shows much more limited ambitions (a wise move in fact for a first-time director) : filmed in one sequence, in a single place (an office), with only two actors (Louis-Do as Vincent, an office worker, and Nelly Borgeaud as his mother), it merely consists in a phone conversation. The plot is basic as well : Vincent's mother, a declared catholic, is organizing the funeral mass of her own mother and is currently on the phone with her son Vincent, who is irritated not only at being interrupted in his work but at having to collaborate to something he deeply disapproves of (in this particular case, the choice of funeral hymns, and more generally speaking, the Catholic religion he has rejected). But his mother is his mother and although reluctantly and with ironic bites, he abides. I said above that the situation was elemental in its extreme simplicity but this is not totally true. In fact, it gets complicated by another call on another line in which a family member announces the birth of a new baby. The result is that Vincent, who has had his work interrupted by a first call, now sees it interrupted by a new one. The effect produced is both comic (his being forced to juggle two antagonistic conversations at once) and touching (death and life intermingle). Although, not an outstanding work, "Mécréant" is pleasant to see. Light and elegant (despite Vincent's constant swearing!), it acquires more substance if you take it as an introduction to de Lancqueseing's director's corpus and if you view it with the prospect of his films to come. Part of the actor-director's themes are indeed already present, connecting - discreetly but undeniably - this "sour candy" to the much more invigorating "Au Galop", his deep and charming first feature.
Not "Raining Stones' or 'The Full Monty' but quite watchable social comedy
Typically the sort of movie I would have loved to love but that I ended up finding only middling. Neither absolute junk nor the masterpiece it could have been, 'Discount', Louis-Julien Petit's first feature, can be considered a relative disappointment probably for promising too much for what little it had in store. Advertized indeed as a social comedy (one of my favorite genres), this tale of marginalized people joining forces to fight the big bad ultra-liberal ogre immediately conjured up in me images of such British delights as 'Raining Stones', 'Brassed Off', 'The Full Monty', 'Made in Dagenheim', et al.) - the kind of intelligent entertainments (no, the two terms are not oxymoronic!) where social commentary goes in hand with great laughs. Unfortunately, the exhilaration expected was not in the cards, although I liked the subject and found the acting tolerably good. What then accounted for the impression of dissatisfaction I was under on leaving the theater? The answer came to me upon reflection: I had simply asked a bit much to what was nothing but a modest effort and which did not look further than that. This is a first film after all and as such its shortcomings are understandable. Petit still has time ahead to make progress and father more accomplished works in the future. His following work, for one, 'Carole Matthieu', a taut social drama, is an interesting prolongation of 'Discount', in a serious mode this time. As I said, the plot of 'Discount' is not at play in my (relative) disappointment. On the contrary, its premise is perfect : in a hard discount store whose management focuses on profitability at any cost, Gilles, Christiane, Alfred, Emma, Momo and Hervé are declared redundant and will soon be replaced by automatic pay stations. After a period of doubt and depression, they decide not to accept the situation passively and under Gilles' guidance soon organize resistance by opening a solidarity grocery selling... goods 'borrowed' from the store they still work in! By stealing those who have robbed them of their jobs, thereby of their resources and dignity, and by redistributing the products among the needy, they become a kind of Robin Hood and his Merry Men (and modernity oblige, women!). A wonderful premise which could have generated torrents of laughs and tears, all mixed together, like in a Capra, a Frears or a Loach gem. The trouble is that, if the satire is biting enough, the comedy lacks hilarity while the drama is scant in emotional punch. As a Whole 'Discount' lacks life , rhythm and relief, its weak dialogues fail to hook the viewer, who is not involved enough and accordingly responds only mildly to potentially strong stimuli. As for the actors (Corinne Masiero, Pascal Demolon and Zabou Breitman in the lead) they are good enough, but never shine particularly because of the lackluster text they have to deliver. Quite imperfect as far as its form is concerned, 'Discount' is nevertheless a film worth watching for substance particularly when it comes to its right presentation of the labor relations in today's France. Moreover, not everybody shares my reservations on the film. So, do not shy away from it, you may be part of these happy viewers.
Chante ton bac d'abord (2014)
Singin' in... the school
"We Did It on a Song" is quite a singular movie, maybe the only one of its kind... A documentary? For sure it is one, but a documentary in which the protagonists, although not professional performers, regularly express themselves... singing. Somewhat unusual, isn't it? A very bold project at any rate, which had every chance to derail but nonetheless blossomed into an exclusive masterpiece.
David André, its director, is an expert documentarist ("Armes de dérision massive: "Le Nouvel activisme américain" (2008), "La vie amoureuse des prêtres" (2012),...) and as such, his idea of following a group of students throughout their senior year will hardly surprise anyone. What is more original is the choice of Boulogne-sur-Mer as his place of investigation owing to the fact that the seaside town, once a thriving port, has been hit hard by the crisis, thus deteriorating into a zone where the prospects are anything but bright for the young. André could have been content to accompany a chosen sample of such students for nine months, from their first day back to school to their "bac" (secondary education final exam), along the lines of a pure documentary approach. But he wanted more: his chosen few were to comment on their daily experiences in filmed scenes of their lives combined with interviews of themselves and of their parents. Even more innovatory , he would ask his young 'heroes' to create songs (in partnership with the composer and himself) to sing them on the screen.
But, original and attractive as this idea might appear on paper, would it be possible to really get it off the ground ? Which of the 12th graders would be willing to confide their feelings before the director's camera considering that everybody would know everything about them once the film was shown? Which of them, supposing they accepted (they finally did after viewing a sample of David André's works), would keep the viewer interested for an hour and a half? The director naturally asked himself these questions but finally overcame his doubts and took the plunge. How right he was! How beautifully his bold move paid off! Successful in every category psychological, sociological, documentary and musical this 'documusical' is a genuine enchantment.
The first factor contributing to such an achievement is first and foremost the inspired choice of the main protagonists and their serious involvement in the project. The photogenic Gaëlle Bridoux is undoubtedly its leading figure insofar as not only is she refreshingly charming but she is also the only one having definite ideas about her future. Which does not mean that the others leave you indifferent. On the contrary, they are all interesting persons and even if they do not appear so as of the beginning, they each have their own engaging personalities. And they may be less determined than Gaëlle, but it may be their very insecurities which makes them touching. Rachel - the slender saturnine girl others misjudge as haughty, Alex the punk- looking but adorable boy who takes all lightly, Caroline - the sensitive girl unsettled by the fact she may never be able to leave her narrow dreary environment, Nicolas - the handsome guy with a brain, a heart and... delicate nerves. You all get to know them intimately and when the film closes, you find it hard to have to leave them. Just the way they do knowing that after their finals, their group will be separated and nothing will be the same again.
The other strong point is the social aspect. Through the individual cases described above, the director takes stock of today's problems in a place particularly stricken by deindustalization and its corollaries, decline, unemployment, poverty and loss of bearings. An agenda that would be hard to swallow if the film was made in the mere tone of statement but which is made much more palatable by the empathy for the characters the viewer become closer and closer to. A prodigy Ken Loach ("Raining Stones", "The Navigators", "I, Daniel Blake) usually achieves in the same way, with humor instead of songs
In the final analysis, David André has more than won his bet a bet that looked almost impossible to win. But magically (or rather through a cocktail of passion, talent and perseverance), he managed to make this 'impossible object' possible. An amazing and unique work where opposites meet like they rarely do elsewhere: realism and poetry, journalism and music, Jacques Demy and Ken Loach. Highly recommended for all.
Gang Related (1997)
A duo of cops + dope + a famous-rapper-turned-movie-star, what can you expect from such a mix of ingredients? The usual vile brew, you may say... But surprise! "Gang Related" soon proves worth much better than that a fact you realize right from the very first minutes of projection, and with what pleasure! Directed by the relatively unknown Jim Kouf, the film can indeed boast a personal tone, which makes it easily stand out of the crowd of lowbrow crime movies. Of course there is a duo of cops in this one but, to begin with, they are bad cops, a sure guarantee against an umpteenth rehash of "48 Hours", while creating at the same time a malaise rather uncommon in the duo of cops sub-genre. The two improbable partners here are white detective DiVinci (James Belushi, excelling at being unbearably talkative and self- satisfied) and his black counterpart Jake Rodriguez (Tupac Shakur, surprisingly collected in his last role). Another originality of the script is that they are not reluctant partners like in Hollywood's run of the mill cop movies: on the contrary they are on the same wavelength and not for the sake of fighting the good fight. Or to be more exact they were... as long as their shenanigans did not go too far. Because just now DiVinci is crossing the line. Not content indeed to steal the drug from dealers, he has started to kill them. Which is not to the taste of Rodriguez who, although not a lamb himself, cannot put up with such deviations anymore. Little by little he turns into the Jiminy Cricket type but to no avail: the more he tries to refrain his partner, the more radical DiVinci gets. One of the plot's driving forces is precisely the worsening of the two men's relationships, with a more and more reluctant Tupac Shakur and a more and more freewheeling James Belushi, without the former managing to curb the latter's blind madness. The second main effective element lies in the parallel (and inexorable) worsening of the situation they find themselves in. As a matter of fact, DiVinci, who thinks he has a knack for finding ways out of bad situations invariably makes his mate and him jump out of the fire into the frying pan. The suspense does not lie in their desperate rushing along then it is a recipe for disaster - but stems from the question 'how will DiVinci manage to make them sink even lower ?, Thrilling throughout, extremely well written, "Gang Related" is a superior crime movie and with a moral viewpoint to crown it all. Nothing to do with Tarantino and his complacent displays of cynicism and sadistic violence. In 'Gang Related', the viewer is confronted from the beginning to the end to the question: are you ready to break the law in your everyday life and if so, where do you draw the line? But be reassured, nothing to do with boring lecturing either. Fun and surprise await you instead.
Crash Test Aglaé (2017)
India tries to make it to... India
Year after year, once or twice a summer season, appears a regular UFO, all the more refreshing and enjoyable as it has been unheralded before and so, totally catches you by surprise. And this is the case here. Who indeed had heard before of Eric Gravel (a French Canadian living in France whose first feature this is), of his main actress India Hair (whose hitherto supporting roles often as a schoolgirl or a student - still had not given her a name) and of the movie itself, oddly titled "Crash Test Aglaé", filmed in 2015 but shelved until August 2017? Hardly anybody I would say, but little does it matter since no sooner have you read the summary or watched the trailer than you are hooked: you just feel like going to the closest movie theater in the area to find out about the plot developments. And to become friends with the heroine, 25-year-old Aglaé, that young woman like no others. To tell you more about her, know that the lady has been brought up by irresponsible parents and, as a result, has been suffering from permanent anxiety. In order to fight her insecurities, she has devised a special method, namely living an extremely well-ordered life and practicing her job (as a vehicle crash test worker) in a rigorous, almost finicky way, which incidentally makes her her factory's best preparer. So just imagine the shock she experiences the day she learns the plant she works in is to be relocated: her inner framework logically tumbles down and depression looms. A different job is just unconceivable! Which is why when the parent company hypocritically offers her (along with the rest of the staff) to hold the same job at its new location... India, she... accepts! Even if it means having to travel and live 7,500 kilometers away from her native place, even if the trip is at her expense, even if it includes a pay cut and the loss of all welfare benefits. What does that matter, she will go there come rain or come shine! And away she drives in an old Citroën Visa, accompanied by two co-workers, Liette (Julie Depardieu) and Marcelle (Yolande Moreau), who for reasons of their own - have decided to follow her. An eventful trip ensues, whose twists and turns must not be spoiled: you will be better served when you discover them on a screen yourself, whether small or big.
Suffice it to say that there are plenty of gags and witty lines - mainly in the first half of the film -, the comedy being aptly provided by Julie Depardieu and Yolande Moreau (the latter downright irresistible with her improbable Looney Tunes Granny look and wry humor). Among the most effective comic effects are the satiric bites at today's so-said managers of human resources, their being ridiculed acting as a vicarious revenge on those inhuman fellows (I'm thinking, in particular, of the one in charge of delocations unabashedly eating peanuts under the nose of those he lays off). The relationships between the three women, whether in the factory scenes or in those featuring the trip's disastrous beginning, also rank among the funniest.
But don't be mistaken: "Crash Test Aglaé", while undeniably a comedy, cannot be reduced to this kind of light entertainment. So don't expect a pure exemplary of the genre. For there is more to Gravel's film than just a series of good laughs. As a matter of fact, the more Aglaé moves on, the darker the tone of the narrative gets, passing from a bit crazy at the beginning to more and more serious, going as far as to border on the tragic towards the end. The reason is that, as time goes on, difficulties pile up in hostile environments for Aglaé (now alone as her companions have dropped her midway). And as the young woman never wants to give up whatever the obstacles, the situation cannot but worsen. What also makes the film less funny (but more profound) is that the journey , merely physical at the beginning is gradually matched by another - all interior: Aglaé puts herself to the test and discovers her own reactions to the ordeal she goes through until in the end she knows who she actually is and how she will embrace life in the time ahead.
But although graver the second part sequences are never boring, surprising and unpredictable as they are. The most remarkable thing may lie in fact that in the closing scenes Eric Gravel manages to marry the opposite tones of his film's two parts. Humour and satire then resurface within the philosophical tale but without jarring, thus ending at best this offbeat picture.
As a bonus, this second part features unexpected but all the more impressive views of the Kazakhstan desert.
And let's not forget India Hair for whom the whole movie is a showcase. Her talent really explodes in it. Forceful and stubbornly serious in a comic environment, she stands out of all the other performers. She really carries the whole film on her young shoulders and deserves praise for that
My recommendation is not to miss this stimulatingly original film. Believe me, not only will it surprise and entertain you but it will give you food for thought in addition. Not a bad programme, is it?
Les combattants (2014)
The paratroopers of love
One more "Boy Meets Girl" story? Just another Rom-Com? Not really. First things first, you will never prevent boys from meeting girls and the reverse, so there will always be love stories and thank heaven for them when they manage to rise above the clichés and the cheesiness too many of them bathe in. A defect mercifully avoided by this particular affair of the heart. A mere look at the title ("Les Combattants" - literally "The Fighters" -) is an obvious guarantee that you will be spared the stale old exasperating Cha Ba Da Ba Da tale. Actually, neither the characters nor the situation are conventional or predictable. Take our young Romeo for example: Arnaud is a young carpenter who does not show any real passion for his trade. Docile, mild-mannered and easy-going, he takes life as it comes; in other words he still has to find himself. For her part Madeleine, the girl he meets, has little in common with the frail, sensitive Juliet. Three adjectives best qualify her: brusque, burly and nihilistic. Completely out of this world, the horsey lady has an obsession: mastering survival skills in order to... get through the end of the world! As you can see, not the standard Rom-Com, all the more as the stereotypical gender roles are reversed: Miss Headstrong is the dominant one while Mr. Least Line of Resistance yields and follows... at least for a time.
For all the rhetoric, though, this is a love story. Even if it looks just the opposite. Even if it is set in a more and more unusual context as the minutes pass. And it is precisely the odd settings and the crazy story developments that prevent boredom. Unique in its kind "Les combattants' has romance bloom... within the framework of a training session for wannabee paratroopers and, a little later, in the middle of a survival experience in the grip of untamed nature!
Nothing wishy-washy to fear as you can see. On the contrary in the end you will have been told the touchingly serious story of two creatures who attract each other but have to struggle to find who they really are and to make out how they can relate to each other satisfyingly. Another quality of Thomas Cailley and Claude Le Pape's screenplay, lies in the fact the two characters, a bit caricatural at the beginning, evolve in the course of the action and gain in depth. The last added value is the film's interesting examination of what it is like to be young in today's France, a country once prosperous and proud of itself which now seems to have lost its bearings. Both Madeleine and Arnaud, each in their manner, are disoriented and do not know where they are going. A statement that, by extension, can be applied to a big share of French youth and brings the movie a rich sociological touch.
Always where you least expect him, Thomas Cailley succeeds in combining several genres (documentary, comedy, romance, psychological study, army movie, disaster movie) without ever sinking into confusion. So much so that "Les combattants" appears as a unique example of its kind. Well-served by its actors (delusively bland Kevin Azaïs and always under pressure Adèle Haenel), it will surprise and amuse you while giving you - Thank God in a casual way - food for thought.
Great documentary about the green years of a great writer
It is amazing to think that French writer Colette (1873-1954), world- acclaimed for the imaginative delicacy of her writing and for her indomitable freedom-loving spirit, loomed large on French literature for over five decades and has managed to survive oblivion without even having to endure the least barren period. When in 1900 she first stood out of the crowd, it was, to be true, as much for scandalous reasons as for the qualities of her style. But opprobrium has its compensations: if daring to defy the prudishness of her time through her writings indeed created an outcry it also brought the young woman a cohort of devoted readers. Many indeed were those who bought and read the 'Claudine' series (four spicy episodes in the life of a cheeky teenager turned young married - and bisexual - lady). The novels that followed, once again more or less loosely based on her intimate and/or artistic life ('L'Ingénue libertine', 'La Vagabonde', 'L'Envers du music- hall'...) were also well received, both for their inflammatory content and their inspired style. But the early 1920s marked a turning point in Colette's career as started exploring a new, less provocative vein: evoking her youth. Growing older (she was nearly fifty at the time), the writer felt a sudden urge to look upon her green years. A significant part of her production now concerned the people and the places that had made her youth an enchantment: her mother Sidonie (nicknamed Sido), her native village (Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye), her native region (Burgundy) and its wonderful nature... From 'La maison de Claudine' (1922) to 'Paysages et portraits' (posthumous, 1958), she did write thousands of admirable lines about her ideal first eighteen years and her ideal mother.
Ideal or idealized? That is the very question Jacques Tréfouël, the excellent TV director ('Médecins de nuit', 'Les Eaux dormantes') asks himself in 'I Belong a Place I Have Left'. And he does have questions to ask! Here are some (among others): if Sido was such a perfect mother, why didn't Colette visit her when she was seriously ill while she begged her to? What were her real relationships with her father, one-legged ex-captain Colette? Why did the writer sidestep the eighteen months she spent in Châtillon-sur-Loing after leaving Saint- Sauveur?
To address these uncertainties, Trefouël, playing the sleuth, literally investigates the mystery. He turns his interrogative camera towards Saint-Sauveur and the surrounding countryside (a place which has changed very little since 1890), he snoops around Colette's birth house, he lets us into Colette's school, etc. Like a detective craving to uncover the truth, he interviews and interviews - both local people and Colette specialists (the best known being the novelist-biographer Michel del Castillo). And like a historian, he consults and consults (and shares with the viewer) an impressive number of period documents.
The result is an exciting work, miles away from hagiography, which manages to brush the complex portrait of a complex human being. After seeing this highlight documentary, Colette, Sido and Saint-Sauveur will have lost part of their mythical aura but will have gained authenticity. Which will not prevent you from enjoying Colette's idealized version of her youth: her books dealing with the subject do remain masterpieces of literature, as evidenced by the lines read of Ludmila Mikael and Véronique Silver in the course of the film. Do not be afraid, knowing the author better will not turn you away from her, just the opposite: it will actually give you the desire to immerse yourself in her superbly written memories, idealized as they are.
Nuts? Really? Streisand and Dreyfuss as nutcrackers!
Powerful, punchy, full of frills and spills, why on earth does this exciting court drama remain so little known? 'Nuts', Martin Ritt's next to last opus, is an excellent work though. The direction is solid and its fast-paced editing combined with first-rate performances from such established talents as Richard Dreyfuss, Maureen Stapleton, Karl Malden, Eli Wallach... are a decided guarantee of excitement. At the same time, Martin Ritt, has never been as the king of hollow entertainment, so you can be assured that, as a bonus, he will give you food for thought. Tom Topor's finely crafted play indeed gives him a new opportunity (remember 'The Great White Hope, 'Conrack', 'Norma Rae'...) to advocate human dignity (the basic theme of all his body of work). Ritt does it this time through questioning the limits of American justice and, by extension, of American democracy. In 'Nuts', he rises one more time against the vices undermining the virtues of the system, namely self- righteousness, hypocrisy, selfishness and intolerance. Fortunately for the viewer, the director never preaches. On the contrary, he has the intelligence of putting emotions and entertainment first, making meaning derive from the action instead of inducing it the way they do in heavily demonstrative 'thesis films'.
A lot of reviewers keep complaining about Barbra Streisand being hammy as Claudia Draper, a woman accountable to no-one whose parents want to pass off as insane. I agree with them that Streisand does not go in for subtleties but supposing she did wouldn't be out of step with her character? Claudia's behavior is determined by her adamant resolution to be her own and only mistress, whatever the circumstances are. Now, refusing to be subject to or controlled at any time by - parents, husband, superiors, judges,... requires no small strength of mind, especially when you are a woman. Taking this factor into account, a peremptory tone, strong words, abrupt attitudes or poses make perfect sense then. Playing such a character as Mrs. Soft Touch would even be sheer misinterpretation. Anyway, what just cannot be denied is Barbara's deep personal involvement in the achievement of 'Nuts'. Not only does she give a sincere and passionate performance (even if considering she overplays) but she also produced the film and wrote its score. Not really surprising when you realize both the fictional Claudia and the real-life Barbara are equally determined, and straightforward not to say pushy. Such a miraculous adequation just could not not be. To put it in a nutshell if you do not mind intelligent entertainment feel free to enjoy 'Nuts'... without restraint