Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 3:50 am 
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PARIS MOVIE JOURNAL OCT.-NOV. 2017

Listed in order they were viewed with links where there are longer reviews.

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BPM/120-BATTEMENTS PAR MINUTE (Robin Campillo 2017). Campillo's vivid evocation of the Nineties French ACT-UP organization fighting the slowness and indifference of government and Big Pharma to the AIDS crisis. Members of the group debate, fight, carry out dramatic actions, and fall in love. This film won the Grand Prix and four other awards at Cannes. The best about this is that it feels authentic, done by Campillo for himself, not trying tp prove anything or lecture anybody, evoking his own experience. In doing this successfully, he may communicate better across age, sex, and generation lines than many more conventional gay films. IIncluded in the Main Slate of the NYFF. lloCiné press raging 4.5, Metacritic 84%. Watched at MK2 Odéon St. Michel (Hautefeuille) 22 Oct.

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NUMÉRO UNE/NUMBER ONE (Tonie Marshall 2017). A big role for Emmanuelle Devos as Emmanuelle Blachey, an executive moving to the top of international corporations. She convincingly speaks Chinese too. But it's wasted because this story is bloodless and unsexy and full of uninvolving plot details, more a sociological tract than a film. Marshall, who's half American and half French, made one prize-winning film, Venus Beauty Institute (1999). This new movie is bursting with empty competence. AlloCiné press rating 3.3. Watched at UGC Danton 23 Oct.

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L'ATELIER/THE WORKSHOP (Laurent Cantet 2017). A successful Parisian novelist (Maria Foïs) comes to coach a cross section of seven young locals of various ethnicities in a summer writing workshop to create a collective mystery thriller in La Ciotat, a town on the Mediterranean coast near Marseille whose shipping manufacturing industry has faded. She clashes with one more talented and provocative student of white racist leanings, Antoine (Mathieu Lucci), whose air of danger may make more sense when we realize the screenplay was coscripted by frequent collaborator Robin Campillo, of Eastern Boys (as well as the current BPM). Cantet, as in his Palme d'Or-winning The Class 9 years ago, returns to form with a cross section of popular society and its discontents. Though this turns into more of a two-hander and thriller, it is more about class conflicts than violence, and Antoine's ability to write provocatively is his best trait. AlloCiné press rating 3.9. Watched at MK2 Odeon 24 Oct.

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AU REVOIR LÀ-HAUT/SEE YOU UP THERE (Albert Dupontel 2017). An ambitious WWI-aftermath fantasy ($22 million budget) starting with a disastrous trench battle just at the end of hostilities when Edouard, a young artist (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart of BPM), who loses his jaw, and the older Albert, who was an accountant (director Dupontel) are thrown together, and remain together in secret in peacetime carrying out a crooked scheme involving war memorials, while Edouard avoids his powerful domineering dad (a rather one-note Niels Arestrup). This is an enthusiastic (and over-laborious) adaptation of the Goncourt-Prize-winning novel of mystery thriller writer Pierre Lemaitre. While Albert is a Chaplin-esque sad sack, his voiceless, miming young pal, whose death he fakes, wears a succession of elaborate masks and has a girl urchin who speaks for him - all well-designed for fans of quaint and colorful period costume spectaculars. AlloCiné Press rating 4.0. Watched at UGC Danton opening day 25 Oct.

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POUR LE RÉCONFORT/COMFORT AND CONSOLATION (Vincent Macaigne 2017). Feature directorial debut of the prolific French indie actor who drops his usual ditsy persona and casts Parisian theatrical mates for a passionate, angry, autobiographical rant about privilege. Focus is on siblings who come back to their family estate near Orléans after five years living it up in NYC and Mexico to face financial problems of the family finances, hanging out, dancing, and drinking at length with less wealthy contemporaries they grew up with, who couldn't afford to wander. One of the latter wants to buy the property for a trivial amount, for retirement home use. This hard-to-watch film, an editorial about social inequities and non-adaptation, is rife with noisy rock parties and violent arguments. In Academy ratio and minimal, with angry, strident yelling where a plotline or cinematic flair might be. AlloCiné press rating 3.2. Watched at MK2 Odéon St. Michel (Hautefeuille) on opening day 25 Oct.

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LE SENS DE LA FÊTE/C'EST LA VIE! (Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache 2017)/. Jean-Pierre Bacri in a typically grumpy and energetic role as chief caterer at the helm of a large, unruly team of waiters, cooks, musicians, et al. responsible for a big wedding party in a 17th-century chateau plagued by many mishaps in this lively but unchallenging mainstream entertainment. Toledano and Nakache made the huge French hit Intouchables 8 years ago with François Cluzet and Omar Sy. There's not the same successful use of touching minority cliché here, or as human a topic. This is a well-oiled machine with mostly good continuity and excellent use of music and spectacle. Chances for more complex plotting or richer layers of social commentary are missed, but that's not the point: it's all about keeping the laughs coming. Vincent Macaigne reappears as - guess what - a schlub with romantic pretensions. Bacri evidently contributed to his role here and performs it with unflagging vigor, if the result is not as sophisticated as he has often achieved in his dry, witty collaborations with Agnes Jaoui. AlloCiné press rating 3.7. Watched at UGC Danton 26 Oct.

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LOVING VINCENT/LA PASSION VAN GOGH (Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman 2017). However silly the story (but I didn't find it silly; it's too obsessive-compulsive for silliness), bringing to life the paintings of Van Gogh in animation makes for a beautiful and surprising film. Sometimes the images are clichés of course, but mostly it is so astonishing for them to come to life, and some of the people, especially Armand Roulin, the postmaster's son who's played by the actor Douglas Booth and who is the narrator-investigator of the story, are beautiful to look at. Most descriptions of this film don't seem complete. Are these "tens of thousands of paintings"? What is happening is motion-capture by numerous actors, with rotoscoping of the painting-images over them. (Investigation will show that Douglas Booth is a very pretty young man.) In France we see a French version, which seems better, since this happens in France. Armand Roulin is voiced by the well-known young actor Pierre Niney. AlloCiné press rating 3.5. Metacritic rating 62%. Watched at UGC Odeon 28 Oct.

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TOUS LES RÊVES DU MONDE/ALL THE DREAMS IN THE WORLD (Laurence Ferreira Barbosa 2017). Pamela Constantino-Ramos stars in an authentic role as a reluctant young woman in France of Portuguese parents who came in the Eighties. This low-key, descriptive film shows what it's like for several young people to live oscillating between two cultures. The Portuguese family village has something irreducibly solid and authentic Pamela feels strongly, and she endorses traditional values, but for her generation Portugal is rural, not Lisbon, and just where they go on vacation. She bonds with another girl of similar background but very different outlook and a crisis unfolds with small drama. Barbosa, who worked notably with Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Jeanne Balibar, makes her first feature in nearly a decade. The look at coming of age is subtle, but there are longueurs. More nods to plot convention might not have hurt. AlloCiné press rating 3.5. Watched at Cinéma Étoile Saint-Germain-des-Près 28 Oct.

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LET THE SUN SHINE IN/UN BEAU SOLEIL INTÉRIEUR (Claire Denis 2017). Denis' lightest, talkiest film is a bitter-sweet and funny dive into the world of a beautiful 50-something French woman (a superb Juliette Binoche), a painter, still very much looking for love and nearly always in the wrong places. The quirky, comically stumbling dialogue has strong contributions from novelist and playwright Christine Angot, with regular dp Agnès Godard providing mostly intimate closeups this time, the scale less ambitious but the approach no less distinctive (Denis' Friday Night being the closest comparison). A string of famous and some hot male French actors including Xavier Beauvois, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Paul Blain, Alex descas, and yes, Gérard Depardieu. Opened in Cannes Directors Fortnight, French release 27 Sept. AlloCiné press rating 3.5. Metacritic 79%. Was in the NYFF Main Slate. Watched at Cinéma Les 3 Luxembourg 29 Oct.

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JEUNE FEMME/MONTPARNASSE BIENVENUE (Léonor Serraille 2017). La Fémis graduate Leonor Serraille's debut feature, made with an almost entirely female crew, stars Laetitia Dosch of Justine Triet's 2012 The Battle of Solferino as an aimless young woman trying to get by in the Parisian neighborhood of the English title.The film, which is mainly a tour de force for its lead, who indulges every crazy whim yet implausibly juggles work in a cosmetics store and as an au pair and romances a handsome overqualified black security guard named Ousmane (Souleymane Seye Ndiaye), debuted in Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2017. It's a feather in everybody's cap, if not a picture of impressive womanhood. AlloCiné press rating 4.0; Metacritic rating 80%. Watched at UGC Odéon on opening day 1 Nov.

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CARBONE (Olivier Maréchal 2017). The French intro: Threatened with the loss of his business, Antoine Roca, an ordinary man, develops a scam that will become the breakout of the century. Caught up by banditry, he will have to face betrayals, murders and settling of scores." Which are his downfall. Ex-cop and frequent crime movie writer Maréchal directed the excellent 2011 Gang Story/Les Lyonnais (R-V 2011) but even with Benoît Magimel and Gérard Depardieu (who worked well together in the recent French TV series "Marseille"), he doesn't whip up as much excitement here. Actually, the cast isn't as well matched this time. There are a number of crisp and striking visuals but the real star is Magimel's character's dashing black Porsche Carrera. And the scam part is something new in French gangster films: online, computer trading crime, even if the animosities and revenges are old school. Opened in France 1 Nov. AlloCiné press rating 3.2. Watched at UGC Odeon 2 Nov.

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THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (Yorgos Lanthimos 2017). This presentation of a mysterious, occult revenge for a debatable wrong works better for me, even if it goes on a little long, than the cruel and offensive mockery of human mating represented by the Greek avant-gardist's widely seen previous film, The Lobster. Perhaps, as A.O. Scott of the Times argues, it's Lanthimos' most conventional film yet. But in so being, it achieves more mainstream appeal and it amuses with its sharp use of the dialogue and neat cross-cutting and haunting use of a neutral American setting (mainly Cleveland). The characters talk in stilted words like those of Eugène Green, but there is no movement toward truth and light. Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell do well as beleaguered parents, but the movie belongs to the young Irish actor Barry Keoghan (also in a key small role in Dunkirk) playing the son wishing to avenge the death of his father under the knife to a cardiologist (Farrell). (French title Mise à Mort du Cerf Sacré.AlloCiné press rating a mediocre 3.0. . Metacritic rating 73%. Watched at MK2 Odeon 2 Nov.

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LES CONQUÉRANTES/THE DIVINE ORDER (Petra Volpe 2017). A simple, unpretentious Swiss German film that does warm and heartfelt job of depicting women's lib in a small village during events that led up to the federal vote for women's suffrage in Feb. 1971. You don't see many Swiss German films and this is a solid one. It blends the personal and the political and strongly emphasizes that sexual liberation has to be first of all sexual. Therefore when the straightlaced but forward-looking Hans (Maximilian Simonischek) wants to support his politically active wife Nora (Marie Leuenberger) it also means he has to give her head and she has to have orgasms. Hans won't even let Nora get a secretarial job, but the women of the village gather in a warehouse and go on collective strike. One of the most eye-opening scenes of the Seventies I've witnessed is a sexual awakening session led by a Swedish woman at the big get-the-vote gathering in Bern. The Seventies, that was quite a time. Watched at UGC Danton 3 Nov. 96 mins. French release 1 Nov. AlloCiné press rating 3.2.

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LE FIDÈLE/RACER AND THE JAILBIRD (Michaël R. Roskam 2017). Reviews are mixed on this (AlloCiné press rating a piddling 2.8) but it has tons going for it even if it's just high-powered bullshit. Begin with the impressive Belgian director Michaël R. Roskam, whose 2011 debut Bullhead was also Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts' impressive breakout film. The costar of this explosive, doomed love story of a sexy, dangerous gangster (Gino, Schoenaerts) and a wild woman racing driver (Bibi) is another obvious cinematic risk-taker who started off with a bang, Adèle Exarchopoulos of Kechiche's Blue Is the Warmest Color. I don't think any of this necessarily makes any sense - how could they be passionate, dedicated lovers and she never find out that his job is conducting violent gang robberies? - but nonetheless the movie is filmed with panache (with realism in both the violence and the sex) and these two actors make an undeniably hot couple. Audiard screenwriter Thomas Bidegain throws too many gimmicks into the pot but the leads' charisma doesn't falter. Opened in France 1 Nov. to the aforementioned lousy reviews. Watched at MK2 Hautefeuille/Saint Michel 3 Nov. Debuted Toronto, Venice. Belgium's Best Foreign Oscar entry.

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BARBARA (Mathieu Amalric 2017) This belongs to Jeanne Balibar, who plays an actress playing the 1930-1997 singer Barbara, with Amalric playing her director, I guess. (He is her director, but sometimes he just seems to be wondering at her.) Balibar is fun to watch, and her ease in imitating the singer an amazement and pleasure.There is no real plot; Amalric and his writer don't make good use of the Felliniesque possibilities of their structure. But apparently French people deeply familiar with the singer's life and work can draw many little pleasures. Anyone can enjoy the overlapping of real footage of the singer and shots in the film, and contemplating the idea of an actress/singer absorbing and living her role. For non-French viewers, this will mostly seem an esoteric object. Possibly the best of the film was its first ten minutes or so, which are great. After that, because a plotless story is so hard to observe and retain, one loses a grip on the details. The best moment is one of the singer herself singing one of her most famous songs: see the trailer. Her delicacy, precision, and light melancholy are of a quintessential French chanteuse. I liked this, and was awed by Balibar, but missing subtleties, it wore a bit thin for me well before the 97 minutes were up, and I found Amalric's constant presence self-serving. Shown as the opening film of Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2017, opening in Paris 1 Nov. AlloCiné press rating 4.1 but Metacritic rating only 60%, showing the disparity between French and Anglo responses. Watched at Cinema Les 3 Luxembourg 3 Nov. Watched at Cinema Les 3 Luxembourg 3 Nov.

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THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED) (Noah Baumbach 2017). This was at Cannes, then the NYFF Main Slate, but released on Netflix 13 Oct. Watched online, but in Paris. Also showing in US theaters, including IFC and Landmark. Metacritic rating 79%. There's a lot to cover here in a thumbnail review. One reviewer, Jessica Kiang, says it evokes "so many other media," theater, short story, TV, she doesn't know why it's a film. It is mainly a decent attempt to be not dry, witty, and cruel like The Squid and the Whale, but, only 12 years later, to be about being an adult, having children, learning to forgive one's father and face his mortality, and so on, and so forth. The "stories" faceting helps to do that, but leave one with a messy, shattered vision. Maybe this is a transition, and that would be from cleverness to something like wisdom, a harder mark to strike. It takes a while to get going, but when it does, it feels warm and kind, and you appreciate its sincerity and goodwill. And yes, Dustin Hoffman and Adam Sandler are good even if Ben Stiller is the closest to a grownup, among the males anyway. Watched 4 Nov.

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CARRÉ 35/PLOT 35 (Eric Caravaca 2017). The actor for his second outing as director turns to a poetic, healing documentary inquest, dominated by his own voiceover and interviews, into a dark corner of buried sorrow in his family's past. Christine, his sister, died in Casablanca, Morocco, at the age of three shortly before his parents moved to France and he was born in 1966. Éric and his brother never heard about Christine. Thsir mother destroyed all photos and films of her. Her grave, plot 35 of the Casablanca cemetery, turns out to have disappeared. As he delves with interviews and archival footage, Caravaca finds links with France's hidden colonial North African past. Looking deeper, he discovers connections with prejudices that survived in the Sixties that he traces back to (hideous) Nazi propaganda photographs justifying euthanasia. It turns out that, although his mother, in her eighties, is still in denial of the fact, Christine was born with trisomy and her development was retarded. She also apparently had a heart or breathing defect, and they said her heart just stopped beating. The film seeks to cleanse wounds his parents never allowed to heal, so his own small child will be free of darkness. It is a profound task. Caravaca gained note with the César for Most Promising Male Actor in 1999 and Carré is dedicated to François Dupeyron (Monsieur Ibrahim), director of C'est quoi la vie?, which won the actor the Most Promising Actor César of 1999. This 67-min. film debuted as Selection out of Competition at Cannes and opened 1 Nov. in French theaters to top marks from critics, AlloCiné press rating 4.3. Watched at MK2 Côté Saint Michel (Hautefeuille) 5 Nov.

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JOAN DIDION: THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD (Griffin Dunne). Didion, the elegant prose stylist of apocalyptic musings about America and its wars from the Sixties and Seventies on, is an essential writer, wwitness her required presence in college writing courses. Her personal torments when first her husband dropped dead, then her daughter, are recorded with brave precision in "The Year of Magical Thinking" and "Blue Nights," the former converted into a 2007 play with Vanessa Redgrave with David Hare. The filmmaker is Didion's nephew, which has its plusses and minuses. He has wonderful access, but the portrait isn't controversy-averse. There are many voice-over readings from her work by her and others and admiring recollections by Anna Wintour, Hilton Als, Harrison Ford. This film, which has the quality of an official portrait, was introduced at the NYFF 11 Oct. 2017, now is on Netflix. Metacritic rating 72%. Watched on Netflix in Paris 5 Nov.

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TOUT NOUS SÉPARE/ALL THAT DIVIDES US (Thierry Klifa 2017). The daughter (Diane Kruger) of a wealthy woman (Catherine Deneuve) gets drawn in with a dashing bad boy (Nicolas Duvauchelle) who's under dire threat from a gang. Also featuring the screen debut of sleek rapper Nekfeu. Since he switched from magazines to movies in 2002 Klifa has attracted big names, and he worked with Deneuve for Le héros de la famille in 2006 and Les yeux de sa mère in 2011; the latter had Duvauchelle. But he is unable to parlay his liking for American '50's noir into anything with real balls or momentum. Quite dire actions make no impression. AlloCiné press rating 2.8, down from 3.0 for the last two. Opened 8 Nov. Watched opening day at UGC Odéon.

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YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (Lynn Ramsay 2017). Joaquin Phoenix got the Best Actor award at Cannes for his performance as a saintly, suicidal tank of a hit man in this adaptation of a Jonathan Ames novella (the author of "Bored to Death" did this?). However it may be claimed the film was thrown together at the last minute for Cannes (which also won Best Screenplay), this is an amazing movie whose elegantly fused, hallucinatory and riveting story, acting, music, editing and directing create something like a wholly new experience. Though ostensibly set and shot in New York, I kept thinking of the South, and the images evoked the color still photography of William Eggleston. A gem, one that will disturb you and lodge in your head. The French release title is A Beautiful Day and is 90 mins.. AlloCiné press rating is 3.4; there is admiration, but Cahiers du Cinéma calls it a "turkey." Metacritic 88%. Opened in France 8 Nov. Watched opening day at MK2 Saint Germain. Coming to the US 2 Feb. 2018, UK 9 Mar. 2018l

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