Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 9:33 am 
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My Best of Paris May 2012 Movies


It was very easy to see which the best ones were, but my movie-going was interesting throughout these two weeks -- no real duds or wastes of my time. I was surprised at how enjoyable and well made the boulevard or drawing room comedy LE PRÉNOM was -- and at how well I understood it, since I expect a talky play to be challenging to my knowledge of French. I may have overrated CHERCHER LE GARÇON a bit. I don't think I'll remember it very well, may confuse it with other vignette dating films. There are so many. Including QUEEN OF HEARTS, which the director co-authored. BABYCALL is a small film, but it is an indispensable example of the art of Noomi Rapace, before she started working in Hollywood blockbusters, as she is now. 11 FLOWERS is a lovely little Chinese memoir film. WALK AWAY RENEE showed me what a really nice guy Jonathan Caouette is. TWIXT is a somewhat inexplicable Coppola project, and TETRO is much more interesting, but it's Coppola: you have to see what he's doing. DARK SHADOWS and SCABBARD SAMURAI, both inexplicable, but in very different ways. I probably won't forget SCABBARD, though I might as soon do so. No, I'm kidding: it adds a small key to my knowledge of Japanese culture and in particular Japanese humor. I did not like 2 DAYS IN NEW YORK. But I will some day enjoy arguing about it with somebody. INDIAN PALACE was bland, a mainstream crowd-pleaser for seniors, but it's continually enjoyable to watch Bill Nihy et al. deliver their zingers.

Now for the best ones. It was not hard to pick them.

SISTER/L'ENFANT D'EN HAUT This Swiss-French study of a boy who lives by stealing ski equipment among posh Swiss vacationers and his clueless older sister is harsh, intense, and riveting. It is probably the best of the lot and it was the first film I saw. The young actor Kacey Mottet Klein, is exceptional (the film was created for him), and Léa Seydoux is perfectly cast. I hope that people in the US will get a chance to see it, though I know of no current likelihood of that. I want to see Ursula Meier's prevous HOME, with Olivier Gourmet and Isabelle Huppert, very much now. Meier is a director to watch.

AVÉ is a somewhat mysterious Bulgarian road movie of a nihilistic art student and a girl from a rich family who's a compulsive liar. Compare it to ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA. The latter may be more complex and original-seeming but AVÉ seemed a more real experience in every way, and the two have points in common. I think this captures a certain anguish that 20-somethings can feel sometimes, and also a readiness to go someplace new. There's something raw and exciting about this story. Let's hope Walter Salles' ON THE ROAD is half as good. Konstantin Bojanov is another director to watch.

MOONRISE KINGDOM by Wes Anderson, a big Cannes competition film, shown opening night, is a delight from start to finish and a work of sheer genius, a wholly original auteur working at top form. I loved it. It's not visceral like SISTER, of course. That's not what Anderson is. But such mastery must be enjoyable to anybody who takes pleasure in seeing an original filmmaker at work. Certainly Anderson has his limitations, his hermetic worlds that may seem cut off from the real one, but this seems to me a film I could enjoy watching over and over and will still find funny and keeny observed.

RUST AND BONE is such an intense experience and pushes so many buttons I need to see it again (with subtitles--some of the language was difficult for me to follow), but Audiard works at a very high level and this adds a piece to the puzzle of who he is, by being a different kind of subject, basically a tale of recuperation, only as D'Angelo, my Cannes point of referennce (and this may be the most hyped French film at Cannes) says the person who is handicapped and recovers is not the obvious one. Todd McCarthy called this "surprisingly conventional," and certain elements, like the Marineland scenes and the music, bear that out, but it's not quite as conventional as it may seem.


ALSO SEE my vicarious May 16-27, 2012 coverage of the Cannes festival on Filmleaf. AMOUR (Haneke), REALITY (Garrone) and BEYOND THE HILLS (Mungiu) were big winners -- still to be seen, along with lots more. D'Angelo's favorite (and the most discussed) was HOLY MOTORS (Carax). ON THE ROAD (Salles) and COSMOPOLIS (Cronenberg) were the most promoted, and will come out in the US and UK later this year.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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