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 Post subject: PARIS REPORT April 2010
PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:42 am 
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PARIS REPORT APRIL 2010
I'll be reporting on new films showing in Paris for two weeks, April 6-22.

Paris: featured releases:

Featured films opening in Paris April 14 are Paul Greengrass’ GREEN ZONE and Luc Besson’s LES AVENTURES EXTRAORDINAIRES D’ADELE BLANC-SEC ("The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec"). The Besson movie blends elements of the US "Museum" series and other adventure blockbusters with a beautiful and accomplished young female star (Louise Bourguin), 19th-century costumes, and a lot of makeup and CGI. It’s doing well at the box office; the French critics aren’t so thrilled (Allociné 2.2/29). On the other hand GREEN ZONE (Allociné 2.8/63) is slated for both high attendance in France and critical acclaim. The French never bought into the Bush-Blair WMD scam, and so they consider the story of a soldier who exposes it highly significant. Also getting well promoted this week is Xabi Molia’s little debut feature HUIT FOIS DEBOUT("8 Times UP") -- a Lincoln Center/Rendez-Vous selection this February-March that I reviewed. "8 Times Up" is a low-key narrative of a couple drawn together when they both become homeless. It teeters delicately between comedy and depression. It’s wouldn’t receive the strong promotion in the US it’s had in Paris; a minor art house item in US terms, it’s more first-run fare here. Note: Todd Solodnz’s new feature LIFE DURING WARTIME will be released in France April 28. IFC has bought it for US summer release.

What I watched (in order of viewing):

MY OWN LOVE SONG (Olivier Dahan). In English, with Renée Zellweger, Forest Whitiker, Nick Nolte)
ARNACOEUR (Pascal Chaumeil directs this romantic comedy with Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis)
TÊTE DE TURC (Pascal Elbé, with himself and Roschdy Zem)
REMEMBER ME (Allen Coulter, the non-TWILIGHT Robert Pattinson vehicle)
SOUL KITCHEN (Fatih Akin film about a disorganized German-Greek restaurant owner)
GUARDIENS DE L'ORDRE ("Peace Officers," Nicolas Boukhrief film noir with Cécile de France and Fred Testot)
NÉNETTE (Nicolas Philibert)
TOUT CE QUI BRILLE ("All That Glisters," Géraldine Nakache, Hervé Mimran)
LA PRIMA LINEA (Renato De Maria)
LES INVITÉS DE MON PÈRE ("My Father's Guests," Anne Le Ny)
ACHILLE ET LA TORTUE ("Achilles and the Turtle," another Takeshi "Beat" Kitano movie about a failed artist)
LES AVENTURES EXTRAORDINAIRES D'ADÈLE BLANC-SEC (Luc Besson)
NUITS D'IVRESSE PRINTANIÈRE ("Spring Fever," Lou Ye)
ENSEMBLE, NOUS ALLONS VIVRE UNE TRÈS, TRÈS GRANDE HISTOIRE D'AMOUR ("Together We'll Live a Great, Great Love Story," Pascal Thomas)
NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU (Mira Nair, Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Allen Hughes, Shekhar Kapur, et al.)
LES ARRIVANTS ("The Newcomers," Claudine Bories, Patrice Chagnard)
MARIAGE À TROIS (Jacques Doillon)


My reviews:

MY OWN LOVE SONG (Olivier Dahan, in English, with Renée Zellwegger, Forest Whitiker, Nick Nolte)

French director Dahan’s first film set in post-Katrina Louisiiana and shot in English is a rambling, overly sentimental road picture about two damaged individuals who go on a quest. Zellwegger’s paralyzed from a car accident seven years ago, when she met Whitaker in the hospital. He was there for mental problems. He still thinks he hears the voices of angels. They go off in an old Seventies car (which is later stolen) to see the author of a bestselling books on angels, and Whittiker’s character wants to take Zellwegger to the birthday party of her little boy, who was adopted by a rich family when her injuries and poverty made her unable to raise him. On the way they meet a run-down singer (Nick Nolte), something like Jeff Bridges’ character in CRAZY HEART except that he only plays the guitar and has sunk so low he can only get gigs at an old hotel and that only if he brings a singer. So he persuades an unwilling Zellweger to come along and perform. There and at her son’s birthday Zellwegger gives surprisingly powerful, earnest performances of two songs -- both written by Bob Dylan for this film. The colorful southern atmosphere and the Dylan compositions (which include his own very Tom-Waits-esque performances on the soundtrack) may be the main reason for watching this otherwise weak effort. It would work better if Whitaker didn’t give one of his most mannered performances and if the two principals were not written in as such hopeless losers. Poor critical rating in France: Allociné 1.2 (26). Dahan is out of his element here and wallowing in sentimentality and the effort fails despite interesting musical performances, local color, and a name cast.

L'ARNACOEUR (Pascal Chaumeil directs this romantic comedy with Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis)

The title means "The Heartbreaker." This charming and smoothly executed if far-fetched farce/action/rom-com about a team of professional marriage-derailers-for-hire has won rave reviews along with top box office in France (Allociné critical rating 3.0 (72). As has already been written in a US review, this is exactly the kind of thing Hollywood loves to copy but never manages to do with the required Gallic lightness and elegance. Actually there’s a slight overload of added slapstick and violence this time; still, the action movies on such well-greased wheels and the actors perform with such dash, the movie never ceases to entertain. The premise: Duris and his sister (Julie Ferrier) and her husband (François Damiens) run an outfit specializing in breaking up impending weddings by showing the bride that her fiance isn’t as desirable a match as Duris. Duris, AKA Alex, withdraws with a touching story about how he’s too heartbroken to be the one. Usually a rich father employs the team to perform this scam. Such is the case when Vanessa Paridis is about to marry Jonathan, a wealthy young Englishman (Andrew Lincoln). The job goes against Duris’ basic rule never to break up a match when the couple is genuinely in love with each other -- as these two are. Also the deadline to stop the wedding is impossibly short. But the team takes it on nonetheless because of a major debt. Gangsters are threatening to do huge damage to Duris if he doesn’t pay up very quickly. Two gaps in the writing: it’s not entirely clear why Paridis’ father is so keen on destroying this match; and the team’s elaborate high-tech methods are impossibly clever and complicated. However none of this is meant to be taken seriously. Much of the fun is in the ingenious tricks the team uses to follow Paradis’ movements and give Duris opportunities to seduce her -- an outcome which she stubbornly resists till the very last moment. And then when she gives in, of course, he breaks another of his cardinal rules and falls in love with her; but it’s all resolved in a lighthearted fashion. A fun watch with definite US release potential, and in fact a US release is coming. Seen in Paris in April 2010 and again in a preview in NYC, when it seemed a little longer than it needed to be (there is a lot of repetition). But Duris' deftness as a comic actor, his physicality in the dancing bits, Paridis' charm and elegance, and François Damiens' sympathetic personality hold up and indeed inspire awe and admiration on repeat viewings. A well-oiled machine that blends comedy, love story, and actioner.

TÊTE DE TURC (Pascal Elbé, with himself and Roschdy Zem)

Bora (Samir Makhlouf), a fourteen-year-old Paris Cité resident of Turkish descent, saves a medic during a ghetto fracas by pulling him out of a car where he sits unconscious. Only trouble is he’s the one who threw the Molotov cocktail that set fire to the car in the first place. It turns out the medic has a cop brother (French-Arab vet Roschdy Zem) bent on vengeance for the act against his brother (even though he comes out of his coma and is fine) and, ironically, the brothers are Armenian. Bora’s mom is eager to profit by his good deed to get him out of the ghetto. Meanwhile an old man also wants vengeance because his wife died due to the medics’ being held up in the melee. Writer and first-time director, Pascal Elbé, a veteran actor, also plays Simon, the medic. The film weaves its way back and forth among these people and their goals. Bora is conflicted about whether to step forth as the savior of Simon, not only because he also threw the Molotov cocktail but because his good deed will get him in serious trouble with his Cité comrades and even his feisty g.f. Nina (Adèle Exarchopoulos). The film combines actioner elements with sociological focus, has good momentum helped by the director’s obvious feel for his actors, but its ending is a bit facile, and its whole trajectory has something of a TV-movie quality beginning with the stiff, stylized editing of the opening conflict sequence. Allociné critical rating 2.8 (51) seems a tad overenthusiastic. The themes seem a bit self-conscious and the Turkish-Armenian issue somewhat tacked on, the screenplay too tightly wound: its manipulation is showing. Yet the dark excesses the wayward cop couple get into, though far-fetched, are atmospheric and intriguing. too.

REMEMBER ME (Allen Coulter)

This vehicle helmed by TV director Coulter for TWILIIGHT hearthrob Robert Pattinson has tanked with US and French critics alike for the justifiable reason that the screenplay makes no real sense. Why did Pattinson’s g.f.-to-be have to witness her mom being shot on a subway platform ten years before earlier? Why does his little sister have artistic talent but trouble getting along with her posh schoolmates? Why does one of the principals die in the Twin Towers on 9/11 and what does that contribute to the story? For that matter why did Pattinson and his roommate get into a violent fracas with the future g.f.’s cop dad, and why does the roommate thereafter suggest seducing the girl when he discovers she’s the cop’s daughter and goes to NYU with them? Every one of these events seems contrived. None of it works together. The action is leaden. The visuals are inexplicably murky. There are mild redeeming features. As not infrequently happens these days, two Brits acquit themselves ably as Americans, Pattinson himself as Tyler Hawkins, the protagonist -- who has a good scene (perhaps his best moment?) with an ashtray -- and Pierce Brosnan as his aloof financier father. The movie tries with some success to depict the rudderlessness of today’s American college kids, and show how they interact with each other and their parents and how they talk. I was with two friends and English was our only common language, so we went to it rather than the off-putting sounding ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Horrible Allociné critical rating, 1.5 (18, virtually ignored by major critics), but doing well at the French box office.

SOUL KITCHEN (Fatih Akin)

This is an endearing, watchable movie about non-German Germans, food, music, and getting along on sheer nerve. It’s not a patch on Akin’s HEAD-ON or his even better THE EDGE OF HEAVEN and isn’t meant to be. It’s something different, more relaxed. It it has an amiable ensemble quality that few other directors could carry off so successfully. Akin gets away from strictly Turkish/German themes by focusing instead on German-born, Greek-origin brothers Zinos Kazantsakis (Adam Bousdoukos) and his time-serving brother Ilias (Moritz Bleibtreu). The venerable Udo Kier comes in briefly as a nasty capitalist, and the inimitable protagonist of HEAD-ON Birol Ünel has an important role as a master chef who brings Zinos’ mediocre but somehow popular warehouse restaurant back to life. His character may remind viewers of the Sergio Castellitto character in the 2001 German restaurant film BELLA MARTHA ("Mostly Martha"). Zinos, you see, can’t really cook. His cowardly, disloyal g.f. Lucia (Anna Bederke) goes off to Shanghai and despite Skype confabs in which she complains of missing him, she fails to inform Ninos what she’s actually up to. He alternates between pining for her and considering moving to Shanghai, and struggling with crippling (but sometimes funny) back trouble and the waning success of his business ventures. This is about Greek-Bermans, but it is Turks who come in to save the day. Akin shows skill in keeping us perpetually unaware of what Ninos is going to do next or what’s going to happen to Soul Kitchen. Plot twists don’t seem like devices but stuff that happens with a survivor who goes with the flow while using his on-leave-from-jail bro and eccentric pals to help him dodge tax officers, health inspectors, and a school-pal real estate shark wanting to get hold of the restaurant and turn it into a disco. The film is economical and has a good rhythm and if you lay back and enjoy the music by a series of groups and warm to Bousdoukos’ charm you’ll have a pretty good time. Good critic rating on Allociné, 2.7 (63). This will have its US debut at the Tribeca Festival April 22, 2010. Given Akin’s international rep it seems slated for US theatrical release, but may not do as well critically as the other two he’s known for.

GUARDIENS DE L'ORDRE ("PEACE OFFICERS," Nicolas Boukhrief )

The director’s third "polar," this is a modern film noir about basically honest cops drawn deep into the nocturnal illegality of a posh underworld drug scene to clear themselves of false charges when a government official’s son accuses them of firing on him without provocation. Julie (Cécile de France ) is merely answering a simple disturbance of the peace call with her regular partner and new addition Simon (Fred Testot), when the youth opens his door and immediately shoots and kills her partner. They fire back at him in response. Due to the kid’s position as a deputy’s son, police administrators persuade the two cops to sign statements saying they shot him purely by accident. When the kid come out of a coma he accuses them of armed assault. Their statements don’t protect them from possible action. In response to this situation Simon and Julie go on a tense, intriguing chase after an exotic illegal pill called "Sphinx" that they found in the kid’s hands, presumably to exonerate themselves by a major drug catch, or to show the kid was heavy into illegality himself. The film combines scenes of everyday police headquarters routine, attempts to game the hierarchy against tough odds, and a dark world of glamor and danger that Simon and Julie into. De France’s striking looks and air of ramrod toughness serve to make her interesting as a free-lancing undercover femme fatale. As her new partner in danger and (increasingly) romance, Testot has a suitably ambiguous edge of hardness plus elegance. As the grinning, recessive drug lord Marc, actor Julien Boisselier is a blend of softness and deviousness that almost comes off; he hasn’t quite the range to be sufficiently scary. The film moves forward with such impetuous rhythm it makes you want to ignore its implausibilities, but Nick and Nora enter with jaw-dropping willingness into not only illegality but immense danger with rewards and outcome uncertain. The action maintains traditional values; it’s compelling without resorting to blockbuster violence. There’s no hint of an explosion, or at least not till the end. The fun is all in getting there. Cécile de France in a slit Mata Hari gown with a pistol in hand is worth the price of admission; but is this polar noir greatness worthy of Melville? Sûrement pas. Allociné critics: 2 (47) -- many mediocre ratings show reviewers were doubtful.

NÉNETTE (Nicolas Philibert)

Philibert’s 2002 ETRE ET AVOIR ("To Be and to Have"), an intimate, irresistible year-long study of a one-room elementary school in a mountainous region of France, met with great attention and critical acclaim. Here the filmmaker turns his attention to an aging female orangutan, perhaps the senior resident of the Paris Jardin des Plantes zoo. Though this documentary is predictably subtle and thought-provoking, it’s a let-down after TO BE AND TO HAVE and has far less box office potential. The subject matter is considerably less appealing -- though as an experiment in point of view and a study of captivity, NÉNETTE is not without originality and interest. Philibert focuses exclusively on Nénette as seen from the visitors’-side glass barrier, and while there is a frequent "voice-over" consisting of overheard comments from anonymous watchers (in French and multiple other languages) and lengthier monologues by several zoo custodians with long experience of Nénette, viewers of the film never see the speakers and are almost always "staring" at the orangutan. Nénette has been in the zoo for 37 years, we learn, since virtual infancy, and may now be up to 44 years old. Since the usual maximum age in the wild is 30-35, this makes her truly an old lady. While she appears passive, taciturn, perhaps even depressed (possibly missing the third, and youngest, of her three male partners), a custodian remarks that in the wild orangutans also don’t move around much and can stay in one place for five or six hours at a time. Moreover we gradually gather than Nénette is observing, quietly, knowingly. A custodian remarks that she has "seen it all." It’s also explained that Nénette’s tea-time snack includes a birth control pill to make sure she doesn’t get pregnant by her son, also in the cage for company, because authorities aren’t sure incest isn’t a possibility among orangutans. In her Variety review Alissa Simon expresses the notion that film may suggest documentary filmmaking as a metaphor for capture. Certainly this is a study of imprisonment, and Nénette’s passivity and relative immobility increase the viewer’s sense of the limitations of her captive state. As much as the camera dwells on Nénette’s face, it’s hard to get a handle on what she looks like, somehow; she seems different from different angles and at different times. There’s a bit of downbeat chamber music, a Russian traditional song, and a read passage from a 19th-century commentary on orangutans. Allociné critical rating a so-so 2.3/21.

TOUT CE QUI BRILLE ("All That Glitters," Géraldine Nakache, Hervé Mimran).

Allociné critical rating 2.8 (55), generally solid, acknowledging (as one critic put it) that this is a "machine" that "works." It’s a story of class and temptations of the city focused on two young, attractive women of Arab descent from a colorless suburb of Paris who are seduced by the idea of posing as residents of the chic center and hanging out with folks who live there, temporarily slighting their friends and family. The homely lesson they learn is that it’s best to stick with what you know and be true to who you are. Stars Leïla Bekhti (Lila) and Géraldine Nakache (Ely) almost have a Sarah Jessica Parker Sex and the City quality in their mix of neediness and panache. However they’re very far from living large; they’re clerks in food shops who sneak into a posh dico by the back door after the bouncer has flatly rejected them. There they meet Agathe (Virginie Ledoyen) and her Asian top model roommate Joan (Linh-Dan Pham), and when they save Agathe from a mugger outside afterward, they’ve found a friend. But all Ely gets out of this is a chance to babysit Agathe’s kid. And Lila learns that Maxx (Simon Buret), who sleeps with her a few times after the disco meeting, is not a loyal b.f. but just a serial seducer. Lila and Ely get wrapped up in an increasingly hard-to-sustain fantasy that they might be a part of the glam world of well off Parisians. When the girls finally get the message that they need to trust their origins and keep clear of slick urban types, they slowly come back to being friends and looking to home for solid relationships. Along the way, yoga-physical trainer pal Carole (Audrey Lamy) remains, throughout, a model of a girl who’s sure of herself and tough, who can benefit from the rich without being in thrall to them. Some writers have compared TOUT CE QUI BRILLE with L’ARNACOEUR in favor of the former, pointing out that L’ARNACOEUR is glib and implausible throughout, whereas TOU CE QUI BRILLE’s message is homely and true. Maybe. But L’ARNACOEUR comes closer to being world-class filmmaking, and as heroines, Lila and Ely seem pretty dumb. This is a film with a lot of local appeal to French viewers, with references to curent "chic" stuff -- less fascinating perhaps for other audiences.

LA PRIMA LINEA (Renato De Maria)

This is an Italian revolutionary romance set during the "Days of Lead" (anni di piombo) between the late Seventies and early Eighties. It was a time when the Red Brigades-style Italian leftest fervor (and proclivity for escalating violence) was turning into disenchantment in the face of constant defeats. The moment is brought to life by two major film heartthrobs in the title roles, Riccardo Scamarcio of the pale blue eyes and hypnotic gaze as narrator Sergio Segio (from whose book the screenplay is adapted), and the soulful and intense Giovanna Mezzogiorno as his companion in life and struggle, Susanna Ronconi. Scamarcio already played an ardent leftist in Daniele Luchetti's amusing 2007 political saga MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD. The whole film is in the form of three flashbacks from prison depicting when the lovers met, their time of major ideological conflict, and a risky operation to free Ronconi from prison, which eventually leads to both being imprisoned for lengthy periods. Today as end titles tell us, both are free. This is a first feature by De Maria, a veteran TV director. In many ways LA PRIMA LINEA is overshadowed by recent films about related subjects. It lacks the intensity of focus and almost real-time suspense of Bertolucci's 2003 GOOD MORNING, NIGHT (about the Aldo Moro kidnapping, which Prima Linea had nothing to do with). It can't match the complexity and elaborate staging of the 2008 German BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX; its prison break sequence pales in comparison to that of Jean-François Richet's intense two-part MESRINE. What it has is warmth and simplicity. It excells in depicting the little group that Sergio heads up to liberate Ronconi from prison -- though the characters could be more clearly individualized. It stands out in the scenes of affection and conflict in which Scamarcio and Mezzogiorno quietly eat up the screen -- and in an understated sequence when Sergio briefly visits his parents. This film differs from the others in that its focus is on a man who has already for some time lost faith in ideology or in violent revolution, and who has reformed a group without a name only to free his lover. The whole story is suffused with the quiet desperation of lost faith, and there's something heart-wrenching about its cool urban landscapes. A limited release in Paris. Allociné critical rating 2.2/33.

LES INVITÉS DE MON PÈRE ("My Father's Guests," Anne Le Ny)

An interesting glossy French bourgeois comedy that has serious overtones. This is a study of the blindness of do-gooding, the selfishness of an old man seeking to rediscover his youth, the limits of charity. A wealthy man takes in an eastern European woman and her young daughter and marries her so she can work in France and eventually have secure status. Little by little he falls in love with her and they become sexually involved despite the great gap between their ages. From the beginning the man’s daughter and son find the woman offensive, crude, annoying. Only later they realize that she is threatening to destroy their sense of family and cut them off from their father and their patrimony. Fabrice Lucchini has never been better than he is here as the worldly-wise lawyer son Arnaud Paumelle, who at first grants the father the right to do what he wants, but then reaches the point where he must put his foot down. Karin Viard is excellent as Arnaud’s doctor sister, whose confusion at the family disruption is expressed by an affair with her young male associate. Michel Aumont is solid as the retired doctor father Lucien, who marries at the age of eighty. The issues are handled with subtlety, despite the overall comic tone. (Allociné 2.6/63 shows solid approval.)

ACHILLE ET LA TORTUE ("Achilles and the Turtle," Takeshi "Beat" Kitano)

Another relentless study by Kitano of an artist with no talent who refuses to give up, this goes on far too long and bludgeons the viewer with its relentless picture of a helpless sycophant trying to become a success by imitating his betters or copying trends that have just gone out of style. There is a disconnect between the early passages of the artist as a boy, which are fable-like, haunting, and touching (but also droll and odd) and the segments of the artist as an adult and "old" man (when Kitano himself takes over), the latter being simply a series of conceptual put-ons. Throughout the film is hurt by its suggestion that art of limited merit has no merit at all; that a child artist wouldn’t produce anything of interest. And its later scenes are increasingly brutal and macabre. Another example of Kitano’s limits as an "auteur." His work is distinctive and persistent, but there is a coldness, even a cluelessness, about it that is unappealing. The Allociné critic rating of 3.0/70 is full of raves, showing Kitano’s strong "auteur" status among the French.

LES AVENTURES EXTRAORDINAIRES D'ADÈLE BLANC-SEC (Luc Besson 2010)

In this breezily far-fetched mixture of Mary Poppins and Lara Croft, popular novelist Adèle Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin) must save a crazy expert who has brought a pterodactyl to life, so he can bring an Egyptian mummy back to life, and it can in turn use ancient magic to revive her sister, who has been dead or in a coma for four years following a bizarre tennis accident. This is a comic imbroglio adapted from the graphic novels of Jacques Tardi and brought to the screen by big Euro producer Luc Besson. The humor is a bit heavy-handed, the early twentieth-century feel is hardly precise and Bourgoin’s behavior lacks finesse, but Besson has a gift for spectacle. Matthieu Amalric and Jean-Paul Rouve are also featured. Adèle rides the pterodactyl around like characters in Avatar. Mastering your pet monster and turning it into a means of rapid transportation is becoming a commonplace video-game-into-movie gimmick. There’s a handsome young scientist madly in love with Adèle, who’s got no use for him. Luckily he meets her sister after she’s been revived by the mummy. The movie’s excessive enthusiasm for makeup is revealed in Amalric’s unrecognizable look as the evil Dieuleveult, and Adèle’s series of disguises as a fat cook, nun, doctor, etc. visiting the prison vainly trying to liberate Professor Ménard. Fancy kid stuff from France, not likely to translate well to the global market but further evidence of the French skill at complicated production. Seen in Paris on opening day in April 2010 at the classic old cinema on the Rue de Babylone, La Pagode.

NUITS D'IVRESSE PRINTANIÈRE ("Spring Fever," Lou Ye 2008)

This film by the director of SUMMER PALACE, which depicted turbulent relationships at the time of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, is a murky five-way gay romance that’s so depressed-feeling it’s surprising there’s only one suicide. According to Derek Elley’s Variety review the director bypassed the five-year filmmaking interdiction his previous effort brought on by listing this as a Hong Kong-French co-production, though it was shot "in Nanjing, central China, on digital equipment," and transferred to 35 mm. -- not entirely successfully, judging by the extremely dark interiors, which lose the desired sense of metaphysical longings influenced by changing weather (and oncoming spring). The action isn’t so easy to follow at a basic level, either. There’s intense gay sex at the beginning (and scattered throughout). It develops that the one married partner in the affair is being followed at his wife’s behest and photographed. She violently confronts her husband and humiliates the other man publicly at his place of work. Later, the man who tailed the lovers loses interest in his g.f. and becomes attracted to the unmarried gay man, whose talents include singing in drag. There is a sequence when three of the principals overcome grief by doing some Karaoke singing and then go on a momentarily successful car odyssey together. Elley thinks this is better organized (despite its desultory later developments) than SUMMER PALACE, but still far inferior to SUZHOU RIVER or even the flawed but interesting PURPLE BUTTERFLY. To my mind, SUMMER PALACE was more interesting, its scenes more atmospheric. SPRING FEVER may attract some festival audiences and work best at gay series, but its literary quotations and moodiness only heighten its clumsy feel. If Lou Ye was trying to channel Wong Kar-wai, he ought to have hired Chris Doyle and directed his actors better. Some French critics were impressed through all the mess (Allociné rating 2.3/46) and this was shown at Cannes.

ENSEMBLE, NOUS ALLONS VIVRE UNE TRÈS, TRÈS GRANDE HISTOIRE D'AMOUR ("Together We'll Live a Great, Great Love Story," Pascal Thomas 2010)

This need not be taken too seriously and is just a piece of fluff (Allociné raing 2.0/32). It's like a fable. Marina Hands (Dorothée), is a big girl on the model of Mariel Hemingway; she also played Lady Chatterley. This will work for you if you buy the chemistry between her and newcomer Julien Doré, as the boyfriend, Nicolas. The pair meet at a rural gathering of ethnic performances. It's love at first sight. Nicolas relocates and becomes a hairdresser in Dorothée's town. Her father objects; they try to commit joint suicide dressed in wedding clothes lying on a railroad track, but are saved. Daddy dies and they're to marry but Nicolas believes a nasty rumor. They both wind up in Paris hunting for each other. She gives up and marries a deaf-mute Italian tailor (Guillaume Gallienne, a splendid mime here). When Nicolas reappears she regrets this, but the trouble is, her husband is just too nice to betray. What to do? It's all too far-fetched to recount here -- or to object to. "Together We..." has some charming, funny moments. Julien Doré struck me as having some of the appeal of the young Hugh Grant.

NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU (Mira Nair, Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Allen Hughes, Shekhar Kapur, et al.) 2010


This doesn't fit the category of items not available in the US, where it has received a miserable Metacritic rating of 49. However it looks better in Paris, where NYC is exotic and exciting, and appealed to a traveler feeling stranded in France due to a volcano and running out of new French films to see. NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU came out in the US in 2009 but it was just released in Paris. This is another in the projected cities/love anthology series begun with PARIS, JE T'AIME (2006). This one is made up of eleven seven-minute segments. The French one was 20 six-minute segments, each set in a different one of Paris' 22 districts or arrondissments. NEW YORK inevitably is set in certain neighborhoods, but fewer, and it sticks in tiny segments along the way reintroducing characters from earlier segments. The effect of PARIS, JE T'AIME was of many discrete parts so short the mind boggled trying to keep track of them. This time it's easier to remember them, but the links are pointless, suggesting a feature film that really doesn't exst. The segments' greater length doesn't add up to greater profundity; in fact the PARIS directors seemed to rise more to the challenge sometimes by packing rich and inventive material into their short segments, while here, the trend is toward the sentimental and the trite, little stories with surprise endings è la O. Henry. For example, a man and woman having a cigarette outside a restaurant (Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn) have a sexy conversation in which the man propositions the woman. They turn out to be married and go back and enjoy the rest of their meal. I saw that one comeing. Similarly, a man lighting a cigarette for a beautiful woman propositions her and proposes doing sexy things to her. She turns out to be a prostitute, and gives him her card and website. Also predictable. However, Chris Cooper and Ethan Hawke both do good jobs in these exploitations of the eternal, if unfortunate, association of smoking and sex in movies, and Yvan Attal directed both of them well. In another segment, a 17-year-old (Anton Yelchin) agrees to take out a phramicist's daughter to his prom because his girlfriend has ditched him. She turns out to be in a wheelchair. But after he comports himself nicely and they spend the night in Central Park together, she turns out to be an actress with perfectly sound legs preparing as a "method actress" for a handicapped role. (This just seems like a gimmick.) Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman do a classic old-couple on a walk routine in Brighten Beach. It's corny, but with vets like these, it still works. Some debunk the opener where Hayden Christensen, Andy Garcia, and Rachel Bilson meet in a bar and the two men both turn out to be pickpockets who've robbed each other, but I'd give this credit for at least making you momentarily think something compicated is going on.

LES ARRIVANTS ("The Newcomers," Claudine Bories, Patrice Chagnard 2009)

A painful but important French documentary about what happens to a handful of foreigners who present themselves as asylum-seekers to a Paris charitable organization specialized in such cases, seeking permission to remain in France. They are couples, have children; several of the women are pregnant. Since summer 2008 when the film was made, only one couple has been granted asylum. One young woman from Eritrea with a newborn, who has been an exile all her life and was sexually assaulted in prison, has been sent to another country. A family with several children from Sri Lanka, who don’t know how they got here or through which countries they traveled, is still waiting for action. A Mongolian couple was denied. All of them have arrived with their papers definitely not in order, with no money, nothing. The film also focuses on the two of the organization’s enablers who deal with this group. Caroline is young and impulsive; she seems ill-suited to this work, often losing her composure. Colette, who’s older, is sympathetic but disorganized. They have to deal with people whose languages they don’t speak, and an English interpreter speaks English that’s as spotty as the newcomer’s; some interpreters can only be contacted by telephone. At one point Colette tells a couple with a newborn that she can only provide them with food vouchers for one meal a day for the coming month. The film is in French, Arabic, Sri Lancan, English, Mongolian. One staggers out with renewed awareness of what a tough life much of the world is forced to lead. The French are trying to help those who come in, but can only accept a certain number of them. An interesting coupling is this film with Anne Le Ny’s LES INVITES DE MON PERE. Very high critical rating from French reviewers according to Allociné: 3.2/72.

MARIAGE À TROIS (Jacques Doillon 2010)

A theatrical producer, Stéphane (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, who is wonderful as the film producer (inspired by Hubert Balsan) in Hansen-Love’s LE PÈRE DE MES ENFANTS, reviewed in ND/NF, but wasted here), brings an actress and an actor to meet with Auguste (Pascal Greggory), a playwright, at his peaceful, remote demesne. Stéphane envisions them as being cast for August’s new play. They are Théo (Louis Garrel) and Fanny (Agathe Bonitzer). The latter is August’s ex-wife, and, he learns, she is going to marry Stéphane’s young discovery, Théo, at the end of the summer. August doesn’t like that at all and sets out to do all he can to win Fanny away and perhaps banish Théo; or perhaps set them all up in a ménage, or mariage, à trois. But August has a conflicting interest. He wants to replace Fanny in his play with his young assistant, a student, Harriet (Julie Depardieu); he thinks Fanny’s too old for the part. Lots of poly-sexual byplay is tossed around as a possibility as all the discussions and manipulations and flirting occur, but with nothing but kissing and smacking actually taking place. MARIAGE À TROIS, which happens at a house out in the country in summertime, is itself like a play. The acting, except for Depardieu’s nuanced ingtenue turn, tends to seem rather artificial, though nonetheless good. Bonitzer has an appealing warmth; Greggory is ironic and subtle; Garrel is a good comic actor whose gestures amuse even if they seem utterly self-conscious. As the reviewer in Le Monde suggested, the film seems improvised from scene to scene, is elegant but too long (and too talky), and is graceful but too superficial to be "a great film." And it lacks authentic action, physical or emotional. One man knocks the other down. One of the women runs around shooting a rifle. But there is still no climax -- just the traditional comedic finale of the proper partners reunited, in an iris fadeout. Good critical reaction from the hipper french periodicals perhaps, but small reaction generally (Allociné 2.4/37). Ths could be worthy of US art house play, certainly some US festival possiblities. It seems like the French art house operer of the month, so it is a good place to end.

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