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Immensely refreshing 'little' film about a 'great' thinker
Even when they are full of ideas, some filmmakers can be sometimes a bit 'stingy' when they try to film great thinkers. What happens when an image inventor confronts a creator of concepts? There can be many misunderstandings (maybe due to the language barrier?) and theaters can remain painfully empty. Not long ago, in 'Film Socialism', Jean-Luc Godard filmed Alain Badiou talking in front of an empty theater.
It seems that Michel Gondry accepts with great pleasure the emptiness that can sometimes separate images and philosophy on the screen. His film plays with the principle of 'illustration': this funny documentary is made of (often) naive drawings, coming from the discussion between the two men.
The viewer will not leave the theater with a manual on 'generative grammar' of the American linguist, MIT star. Instead he will be struck, blown away by the creative explosion of a free filmmaker, an inventor renewing at a rate of a thousand digressions and associations of ideas, with its memorial vein and dream, like in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep (his most romantic period). No wonder that the film is secretly haunted by Chomsky's absolute love for his late wife, Carol. Nonetheless, I found this 'little film' immensely refreshing.
Bird People (2014)
A film about mutation, reincarnation and rebirth
I saw this film in Amsterdam at a sneak preview, quite late, and it was incredibly hot. In the beginning I thought: Ouch! Another brainy French film... But no! I haven't seen such an original film in a quite while. Not only in its most amazing parts (a sparrow hovering above an airport, sometimes funny, sometimes scary; a real adventure in itself). But it is more in its entirety that this film impressed me, going from one story to another, combining realism and magic. Even the music is bewitching, like with Bowie's Space Oddity, at a key moment. This non-standard film is both spectacular and experimental, sensitive and cerebral, ultra-contemporary and timeless. Free as air, this films is about mutation, reincarnation, rebirth. A real jewel!
A beautifully photographed fable about the importance of not letting life slip away
This film is a beautifully photographed fable about a ghost village where no one has died since 1976, and where old people are stuck in their memories - until the arrival of a young female photographer changes things. It is also a melancholy ode to the heydays of the coffee plantations in the Paraíba Valley, once the symbol of Brazil, and a flourishing region that prospered thanks to its coffee plantations, but now a derelict region full of empty estates and ghost towns. This wonderfully touching and melancholic story is beautifully shot, sweet and sour, honest and heart-warming. It shows Brazil as a country with many realities, and reflects one of these realities, one that often remains untold. The film is very well acted, slow at some points, but it definitely stays with you after it ends. It is also a fantastic reflection on the passage of time, a poetic, humble film about the last people left in this small village, people full of hidden memories and set in their ways. As the worlds of the young and old intertwine, the dichotomies between resistance and understanding, and between labor and art begin to fade (like the old photographs hanging on Madalena's walls). Through a growing relationship, each teaches the other about life and about the importance of not letting it slip away. A real gem!
A mixture of Chanel No. 5 and the music of Stravinsky
Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky: A mixture of Chanel No. 5 and the music of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring". It depicts a love story between two geniuses: madness, passion, pain and aesthetics. With her beauty and her deep voice, Anna Mouglalis embodies her character with grace and talent. She's truly sublime. The cast is very good, and it is beautifully filmed, full of gorgeous details. The historical reconstruction is also almost perfect.
Although this film is quite different from Kounen's previous movies, it is primarily a film which is qualitatively very solid. One of the most memorable sequences of the film is the moment when, after a short sequence introducing Coco Chanel, we watch the famous sequence of the Rite of Spring. Although you cannot compare Stravinsky with Kounen, this sequence refers in a way to the reaction he got with some of his previous films: adored by some and totally rejected by others. After this sequence, we enter directly in the plot that tightens the relationship between Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky. Through this story of feverish passion and this both intense and particular relationship, Kounen questions the turmoil of creation and thus plunges us into the intimacy of two of the most influential figures of their time, each being on the verge of achieving something extreme in their work (fashion/perfume, and avant-garde music). A very interesting film that demonstrate that Kounen has the ability to capture a new subject: not really a biopic, more a tale of an intense passion and confusion. The question remains whether this film is a parenthesis in his career or a new development.
Laughing, sleeping... depressing!
I had found Borat so-so... Sometimes very funny, often crude and childish, at other times really disturbing, but also almost poetic, in a very un-PC way. I can't say the same about Brüno. It's quite simple: the beginning of the film made me laugh (it was a bit like a Gay Pride on testosterone), then in the middle I got really bored (I even fell asleep a few times), and in the end it just made me sad. Really sad. It was like watching one of these really bad porns from the 70's, with bad lighting, bad actors, bad costumes and bad sets. I ended up feeling completely depressed (especially with the cameos at the end with Bono, Elton John, etc.), and I wanted to ask: WHY??? If the intention of Larry Charles and Sacha Baron Cohen was to make us laugh, it worked (for me) during the first third of the film, and if their intention was to prove something about the bigotry of some people, well... I only need to read the newspaper for that (and reality beats Brüno big time!). It just wasn't funny enough to counterbalance some of the crude (and unfunny) things you see on the screen. Try and watch Mitchell's 'Shortbus' instead: there are (flamboyant) gays, there's sex, there's humor, it's sometimes on the verge of being crude, but in the end, it's just human. Everything is so forced, in Brüno, that nothing is really human. I can't think what Cohen is going to 'offer' us next time. It's either something that goes even further (is that possible?) or... nothing? I think nothing would be the best. Or then, 'something completely different'. Nudge-nudge... ;-) Mr. Cohen, being British, please watch again a few movies and/or series from the Monty Python ). Please, oh please!
La maison (2007)
A small miracle
One finds in this beautiful film all that makes us appreciate the work of Manuel Poirier. People who have been hurt by life, confronted with the wounds of their existence (here, a divorced man with children, the death of a father
), who try valiantly to cope, with their strengths and especially their weaknesses. A very human film, significant and right, with an infinite tenderness. The tone is melancholic, almost harsh, trying to come to terms with people and relationships, but also the links between them (both mysterious and changing). This house becomes the powerful symbol of it. But let this not stop you seeing it: La Maison isn't a comedy, but its characters are profound, perfectly interpreted (Sergi Lopez, as usual, but also Bérénice Béjo, very moving in an unusual register) and beautiful locations (one realizes how much the director loves the 'province'... he's one of the few who knows how to depict it really well). There is something of Pialat, in this film (in a positive way). This fascinating little jewel stays in our heads, like all sensitive and true works. In its own way, a small miracle.
What is there to add?...
What can you add to all the (good) things that have been said about this film? It grabs you progressively by the throat and hardly ever lets you go, until the end. It's like a punch in the face, and it makes you think: What would you have done, in such a case? And although it's very dark, it's still very human. It's not a 'black/white' 'Good/Evil' film. Just a film that shows you how human beings are, sometimes, at their worst, but also at their best. It's just about life, basically without any 'make-up'. I've highly recommended it to all of my friends who will 'get it', but not to the people who might only 'sort of' like it, with a lot of 'buts' that I wouldn't be able to hear. Either you love it, or you hate it. Period. I loved it.
Les chansons d'amour (2007)
The Unbearable Lightness of... Life?
I wish I could see this film at least another 3 or 4 times, before making this comment, but I can't wait telling the world (ah ah) how much I loved it! This film is a huge and wonderful homage to a great deal of things. 'Great things' such as love, life, death... and more 'minor things' (?) such as youth, friendship, music, Paris, actors and actresses, directors such as Stanley Donen, Jacques Demy, etc. And still, this film manages to stay incredibly fresh, new, full of veiled references (I couldn't help smiling with delight, when seeing Chiara Mastroianni under her transparent umbrella, a reference to her mother, Catherine Deneuve, in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg). And the film goes on like that, like on a tight rope, with actors perched on their frail voices, never ridiculous, always moving and/or witty. It keeps moving (never a dull moment) and it keeps moving you. Never vulgar, never cheap, never shocking. A marvel of lightness. Could it be the unbearable lightness of what we call life?
Voleurs de chevaux (2007)
Epic equestrian western
Set "somewhere in the East, around 1856", this action/costume film is a revenge story between two 'couples' of brothers. Jakub and Vladimir, two young Cossacks who suffer terrible humiliations during their military training and Roman and Elias (the two horse thieves of the title). After a terrible tragedy, Jakub leaves his regiment and tracks down the two thieves with what looks like a samurai's sense of honor and dignity. Shot in beautiful landscapes, with a minimum of dialogs, an impressive music, and an epic ambition, this blind and brutal race towards a metamorphosis (to free himself, Jakub will also have to become an outlaw) is also a study of dependence struggles (the two elder ones taking a role of father and imposing their choices to their youngest brothers). To appreciate this film, one needs to be sensitive to children's stories with a simple framework, disregard a certain awkwardness, and accept a very literary narration (three chapters announced by three titles: Him, Them, Manhunt), and a depiction of rough characters, the oldest thief (Roman, played by Grégoire Colin) almost turning into a kind of caricature.
'Voleurs de chevaux' is a sort of equestrian western which was obviously made on a low budget. The reconstitution of a mythical European mid-19th century often misses what the big Masters made of it (one can't help thinking of Kubrick with Barry Lyndon, or Kurozawa with Dersou Ouzala). Micha Vald took a risk, but there is an undeniable 'soul' which animates his beautiful story: the confrontation, crimes and vendetta of the four brothers, bathed in the cold light of a poisonous and solitary nature. Between the end of their adolescence and the beginning of maturity, the four characters compose a striking fresco, which owes most of its success to the actors' performances. One can't help taking one's hat off to this group of very young actors who support the whole film: Adrien Jolivet and Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet on one side, and Grégoire Colin and François-René Dupont on the other side. We won't forget the charm of theses ferocious dogs for quite a while.
Mortelle randonnée (1983)
Made me dream when I was 19...
...and still does now that I am 42. Serrault and Adjani (an improbable 'incestuous couple' at a first glance, but actually a dreamy duo which really works) are just great. They both look like zombies: two people who died a long time ago and who consider life as a sort of waiting room. They only want to step back into the black&white school photo, when everything was still OK and life worth living. The story verges on the side of madness from the beginning, with Mrs Schmidt-Boulanger (manager of detective agency - beautiful cameo for Geneviève Page, who was the Madam in Bunuel's 'Belle de Jour'). While she's explaining the case to Beauvoir (the detective), he watches dreamily a homeless smashing a window of Schmidt-Boulanger's car, stealing her fur coat and putting it on, parading around on the parking lot, like a model on the catwalk. And the music! Another improbable couple: Carla Bley and Schubert! And the dialogs! Michel and Jacques Audiard wrote one little gem after another. And the black humor! Just sit back, don't expect any believable plot, and ENJOY this little gem from the 80's!
Marie Antoinette (2006)
Could have been great, but...
I've just seen Marie-Antoinette at a sneak preview in Amsterdam. I had heard and read so much about this film that my expectations were probably too high. Hence my disappointment. What a strange mixture! Kirsten Dunst is excellent, and Jason Schwartzman too (as Louis XVI), but what a pity for the rest of the crew: this mixture of accents (American, English, French, fake French...) doesn't help. Coppola tried to give a modern twist to M-A's story (with Rock'n Roll music and Dogma-style filming), but I found certain things quite... surprising, like the masked ball at the Garnier Opera, which was only built in 1874, 80 years after M-A's tragic death... But I thought: Why not? Let's be open-minded... Actually, my main problem was not with this aspect of the film, but more with the fact that it lacks rhythm, and that it's much too long (almost 2 hours!). And there are huge gaps on the historical level, which Coppola tried to fill up with paintings (like the death of one of her children, who's erased from a painting). Could have been 'funny', but alas!... it isn't. But let's stop complaining for a moment. I gave this film a 7 because I still think that some moments are of pure magic, like the part about nature, when M-A seems to find peace in her little 'farm' next to Versailles. In those moments, I had the feeling of seeing Lux Lisbon from The Virgin Suicides (also played by Kristen Dunst...) evolving in a sort of timeless parallel world. Pure beauty! In those moments, I thought: What a queen!
Au plus près du paradis (2002)
Unpretentious fun, gorgeous cities and women...
I just LOVED this movie. Pity I saw it on my (tiny!) TV. I wish I could have seen it in a real theater, on a huge screen. Paris, New York and Deneuve are gorgeous, dialogs and music are fantastic, and the light is beautiful. OK, the story is a little bit patchy, but who cares? You just watch this movie like you read a John Irving novel: you don't care if it's not a masterpiece, you just enjoy it! My biggest problem with this movie was the fact that they decided to dub the second half of the film. Even if Deneuve is dubbing herself quite well, it looks and sounds strange... Maybe Hurt's French wasn't good enough? For the rest, I found that all these "satellites" that evolve around Deneuve are just great: her doctor/lover who comes to check on her heart, her lesbian daughter who seems more mature than her own mother, her colleague who keeps crying because her lover left her (but who can't help noticing Fanette's beautiful shoes), her alcoholic brother whom she doesn't judge. And all these bits and pieces from Leo McCarey's 'An Affair to Remember'... The beauty of the film comes from this amazing paradox: it's a star who plays this 'weak' and lonely woman who is herself fascinated by movie stars. A beautiful present to a beautiful actress.
Les petits fils (2004)
A real little gem...
This film is so refreshing and touching... You have to see it! This is the story of Guillaume, 24 years old, who studies to be an opera singer. He tries to free himself from the love of two women: his mother, who just died, and his grandmother, who brought him up. The relationship between Guillaume and his granny is often stormy. Especially since Régine, the grand-mother, keeps on the balcony of her Parisian apartment an urn containing Guillaume's mother ashes, which goes against the dead woman's last wishes, who wanted them to be scattered in Scotland. A few other 'satellites' evolve around these two eccentric characters: Ben, a little boy who stays at Régine's from time to time, and who's fascinated by the mysterious urn, Maxime, the young guy who come to clean up Régine's apartment, and Serge, who's in love with Guillaume, but who doesn't seem to be able to express it... They're all so human (with a slight touch of 'Woody Allenish' humor, from time to time). It's never really sad, often very touching, and never boring. A must see!
La fausse suivante (2000)
Profounder than 'Dangerous Liaisons' and 'Shakespeare in Love'
Marivaux (an 18th century playwright) had a reputation for writing 'light' comedies about love, the ambiguity that can exist between men and women, lovers of both sexes, servants and masters, and what can be fun (and semi-tragic) about it. In each of his plays, there is always something to learn, a moral which can often seem moralistic in our modern time. The language used is typical of the 18th century: every word is chosen very carefully and has often a double meaning (especially in this case). Benoît Jacquot has managed to stay faithful to Marivaux's spirit, while making a fine film that avoids all the dangers of 'filmed plays' (which can be excessively static). The scenes take place in a modern Parisian (but classical Italian-style) theater (no grandiose reconstitution like in 'Shakespeare in Love' or 'Dangerous Liaisons'), the costumes are typical of Marivaux's time, there is hardly any music (except for a few chords of Couperin's 'Charmes' between some important scenes) and the acting isn't too 'modern'. And yet, it is far from being boring: there's a perfect balance between the various genres, the actors are excellent, the intrigue becomes every minute more thrilling, and because of the proximity of the camera (something that you usually miss in a theater), you get to experience all the cruelty of the 'game' through the actors looks. The only problem might be for those who are not fluent in French. Dubbing this film wouldn't make any sense. I wonder if it has ever been subtitled, of it will ever be... Even so, there is almost no way the subtlety of the 18th century language can be translated (especially with the speed at which the actors sometimes speak). But this is nonetheless a challenge one should take up. Only because this film makes you feel like going more often to the theater, and also because it proves that filmed-plays do work!
Le temps qui reste (2005)
Life and death can be so simple and beautiful
Funny enough, I didn't expect this film to be such a great moment of cinema. I had read a couple of reviews, and most of them were rather lukewarm. I experienced this film like a soft punch in the face and the stomach, and I felt a kind of empathy with most of the characters (except maybe with the sister), because they all represent a problem in modern life. And the actors were so good at their job, without forcing it, that I didn't even think 'Oh wait, but it's Jeanne Moreau playing the part of...", etc. And there's even some humor: sometimes I laughed, and not because I felt ill at ease, but just because it was plainly funny. But it's not a comedy. It's a reflection about love, life and death. How those three can be simple, beautiful, and painful. A beautiful parable on life without any screaming, violence, shooting (like in 'Crash', for instance, which was also a beautiful film in its own way). Go and see it! It might change the way you look at life. If only for an hour or two...
De bitterzoet (2000)
Masterpiece or crappy film?
I'm not sure what to think of this film... I was tempted about 10 times to stop watching it, but then, the actors can sometimes be quite great. The only problem is that it shoots in 100 directions and leaves you uncertain of what to think. Unfortunately, my general opinion was: Why did they even bother? It's obvious that the director liked the play and thought: "Oh, wait! Why don't we make a film out of it?". At times, I almost felt sick, watching certain scenes (I thought I was rather progressive, well... that one was pretty trying...). Very dark, depressive, unrealistic the bad way, etc. Plus the main actress (who can be sometimes be quite convincing) has a terribly irritating voice and very often overacts. The only real good actor in this film is Fedja van Huêt. The 3 points I gave to this film are for his performance. For the rest, don't even bother...
Indeed, what a fabulous destiny... I just loved it, from the first second to the last one. You know when people tell you: Oh! You HAVE to go and see this film, it's so and so... blah blah blah... and you think: I'm sure I'll be slightly disappointed, even if I like it. Well, don't worry, you won't be disappointed. Amélie is so sweet and really Ab Fab!!!