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Tomorrow morning I'm being inspected during one of my lectures (last time it happened it was in december 2007 so it isn't that often!) and I think I'm done preparing my lesson. It's on the Gulf War and mostly based on G. Bush's speech on september 11, 1990, plus a few maps and pictures (which I'll use if the projector and the computer in the classroom work!), and a second text giving Saddam Hussein's take on it.

What should I do now?

I feel a Deadwood itch to scratch. Might be because I watched The Sessions yesterday, and besides John Hawkes (who was indeed amazing in the film), two other Deadwood alumni have a small part in it: W. Earl Brown who used to play Dan Dority, and Robin Weigert who was the wonderful Jane.

The Sessions isn't a great film in terms of writing or mise-en-scène– and it's a bit too light for me, but you know I like my films darker –, but it is tasteful and touching. It's worth seeing if only for John Hawkes and Helen Hunt who both deserve all the praises they received.

It's quite unbelievable that John was snubbed by the Oscars btw, but I guess it's because his performance doesn't look like a performance (while he did hurt himself for the role!)which is really something given the nature of the role!

His acting is just so natural, so humble and yet so easy, there's nothing showy about it. He just makes the character come to life, and you forget about the fact that there's an actor playing that man.

chani: (woman in yellow)
I don't write film reviews anymore because I don't have the time to do so...and I barely go to the cinema anymore. Yet I finally went and saw Skyfall yeterday evening, and mostly enjoyed it even though I found it was a bit too long (it was half past midnight when it ended).

Beware of spoilers! )
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I finally went and saw Ken Loach's The Angel's Share.

Such a lovely film. The kind that puts a smile on your face so people wonder what's happening to you when you walk the streets after leaving the theatre.

As usual with Ken Loach, it's filled with humanity, moments of rude awakening and moments of laughter...and, of course, with politics.

As a committed author and a trotskyist, he never stops denouncing capitalism, but he never forgets to be a good director who respects (and loves) both his characters and audience. His films never shy away from the harsh light of day and always make you think, but, above all, they have heart.

This time, Ken Loach managed to make a comedy, poke fun at the law of "supply and demand", build a sort of subversive fairy tale in Glasgow -- in which there's a way out of a merciless system and there's sharing out the riches --, while writing an ode to whisky.

As we were leaving the dark room an old woman said that the film made her want to have a glass of whisky in the evening. I shared the sentiment.

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I updated my blog with a review of Benoît Jacquot's beautiful film Les Adieux à La Reine that shows three days in Versailles (July 14, 15, 16, 1789) through the eyes of the queen's personal reader...and her biggest fan.

I'd be curious to know what his son, whom I taught this year until I went on training leave, think of the movie.

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I went to the movies after a sleepless night, several hours of work in the library (had to reward myself!)...and finally saw Martha Marcy May Marlene which is indeed a good film – I wish I had the time to write a proper review and elaborate on the ambiguity the film is based on and all the wonderful little details it provides to tell the story of a shattered personality and of an identity meltdown through mirror plays, memory tricks, merging timelines and madness, and create the right atmosphere, but instead here's a link to a spoilerish review from The New Yorker –, and Elizabeth Olsen is terrific...but damn John Hawkes again blew my mind. As usual his performance was powerful but subtle.

There was nothing cartoonish about the pastoralist sect guru he played, and yet he was totally believable in the role, exuding charisma, virility and danger, but also sweetness (John's smile makes me weak on the knees!) and perversion, appearing both charming and terrifying, caring and creepy.

No, it isn't at all the same role as the one he played in Winter's Bone. Teardrop was a threatening presence, a hillbilly lone wolf addicted to meth who inspired fear, but he turned out to be someone a girl could count on. Patrick is quite the opposite, he appears much nicer, but is much more dangerous; he's a sorcerer who puts on a seduction act and pulls the strings of his puppets/admirers, and he is bad news for little girls.
John Hawkes doesn't have a lot of screen time but owns any scene he is in(even the orgy scene...he doesn't partake but the picture that stays with you is Patrick watching from the stairs while his puppets are fucking), and the character haunts the film, just like he haunts the girl who is Martha/Marcy-May/Marlene.

And of course there's the beautiful scene in which John plays the guitar and sings "Marcy's Song" and the actress seems to become the girl in the song. The scene is a bit like the one from Maria's Lovers, when Keith Carradine serenaded Nastassja Kinski with "Maria's eyes".

Martha Marcy May Marlene isn't flawless but for a debut movie it's really really good. I'm glad that one fo my favourite actors chose it.

Also, apparently John Hawkes has turned down a part in The Walking Dead. Good for him! He's very busy with movies (I'm so looking forward to seeing The Surrogate that some say it gave his career's best role *) and The Walking Dead doesn't deserve his talent.

Anyway, if John should come back to television, I demand that it would be on Justified !!!!! They keep hiring Deadwood alumni, so I'm sure they'd love to have him...and having Sol Star and Seth Bullock reunited on screen would simply give me a tv orgasm.

* Just read an interview in which John mentioned that his "Deadwood pals"– Earl Brown, who plays Dan Dority, and Robin Weigert, who was Calamity Jane– got parts in The Surrogate!

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On Friday, before the Césars evening, I went to the movies and saw a low-budget Russian film, Twilight Portrait,  Portret v sumerkakh , directed (and co-written) by Angelina Nikonova. It's the kind of films that probably very few people will see (it was showed in only 4 theatres in Paris) either here or in Russia, although it received several awards in various festivals, and it's a shame because it's very good.

It isn't an easy film, it's even rather disturbing, as it explores the most violent and unpleasant sides of modern day Russia, but it has more subtletly and generosity than darkness. The lead is a posh woman from the upper middle-class, unhappily married to a businessman, who starts the film being unable to connect to people around her but goes on  a journey after a traumatizing event, but the film also shows how corrupted the police is, how two worlds meet and clash, how the lumpen people live...and how love might save people, even those who firstly looked like feelingless monsters. It's the story of a woman who could have sought revenge but instead bring a man back to humanity, saving herself in doing so.

It's very Russian and yet it made me think of films directed by other women: Courtney Hunt's Frozen River, Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank , Keily Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff, or Debra Grabik's Winter's Bones.

Those women don't rely on formula and dare to go where male filmamkers don't seem to go anymore.

Maybe the future of cinema lies in the women's eye.

PS: No Oscars post from me, too many films on the list I didn't see, and some of them I heard were terrible (The Help, The War Horse) and as for those I actually saw, I didn't find them that good, except for The Artist – and I am not saying that because it's a French film. Many critics commented on the mediocrity of the Oscars batch this year and I think they are right...Yet there were some good films (American or not) this year but the Oscars people left them out.

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I watched Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy yesterday at the cinema with a bunch of friends. The film, directed by Tomas Alfredson, is based on one of John Le Carré's novels and adapted for the screen by Peter Straughan and the late Bridget O'Connor.

I really liked it. It's a much better movie than Eastwood's J.Edgar (especially for the use of non-linear narrative and flashbacks!) that I saw two weeks ago, or than The Descendants. And damnit, yes Gary Oldman deserves an oscar!

It's good to see him as the lead in a good movie. It felt like ages since he had a good part in a decent film. He was excellent here, but all the cast was good, especially Benedict Cumberbatch (who looks much better as Sherlock than he did with that blond hair!). Apart from the "stars" (Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt), the film was filled with familiar faces from tv series (like Cesar from Rome, or Edith from Downton Abbey), and everybody was pretty much perfect. Gary delivered a fine, restrained and subtle performance, based on his commanding presence, and all the other actors seemed to tune in according to his acting.

spoilerish review under the cut )

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the kind of spy movies that I like, gripping and focusing on the Intelligence work rather than on showy action scenes, so obviously the anti-Bourne kind...

I recommend it, but it is not pop-corn movie, people!

A must see

Jan. 14th, 2012 11:19 pm
chani: (sunset in Tanzania)
Take Shelter is a very good film that manages to be about mental illness, the current crisis in America and the end of the world, all at once!

In other words, it's about fear and vulnerability in a middle class family in Midwest, and the tall Michael Shannon is terrific at embodying that paranoid America.

This daring film seems to mix genres, borrowing from Hitchcock and Stephen King, somewhere between the psychological thriller, the social study, the mystical parable, the intimate drama and the disaster movie; it could be a mess, but it's a success. Jeff Nicols masters his subject, the mise-en-scène is flawless, the slow-burn pace is perfect and the photography is beautiful.

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The theatre was full yesterday evening when M. and  I saw Steve McQueen's second film, Shame. The film is doing well over here (only -12 rated unlike the American NC-17) and has received good reviews from the critics, like this one from Le Monde. Of course, everybody praises Michael Fassenber who plays Brandon, the sex addict. And he truly deserves all the praises he's gotten. He does carry the film.

I was looking forward to seeing Shame because I was very impressed by McQueen's debut, three years ago, and I knew this was a filmaker to follow.

And indeed he's still very much the super talented cinematographer we had discovered with Hunger. That said, I have to confess that I prefer Hunger.

is not a bad movie, far from it. It is actually a good movie starring and incredible actor. It is elegant and stylish, which was a given for anyone who knows McQueen's work and background. As I said before, when I reviewed Hunger, the guy is an alchemist. He turns mundane stuff or even garbage and shit into gold. This is a filmaker who always finds grace and beauty in ugliness, who transcends base acts with his art.

And here again the magic works.

Read more... )
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Films I have seen in theatres in the past weeks

The Ides of March

Not as good as Clooney's debut movie, Goodnight and Good Luck, but
quite watchable. The pace is good, the cast is fine and it is well filmed. That said, nothing very refreshing or surprising.


Ok, it was not my idea to see it. The film we wanted to see was sold out so we ended up watching Tintin. Another example of a 3D thing that brings nothing to the experience. It has moments I enjoyed but the whole thing is kinda spiritless, or rather soulless.


Not a bad film at all, but not sure it deserves the prize it got in Cannes either. It is an interesting (and often funny)chronicle of La Brigade de Protection des Mineurs, but Maïwenn's way of mixing ficton and elements of her own personal life is a bit disturbing, and in this case, I don't think that the love story with Joey Starr's character and the family scene(Maïwenn casting her own father in it!) were necessary. Marina Fois is amazing in the film, though. It's worth watching if only for her part.

L'Exercice de l'Etat

Very good French movie! Better than Clooney's IMO (actually it's weird to compare the two films but they are both about politics). Olivier Gourmet was impressive (Michel Blanc also very good); the writing was clever and and the mise-en-scène was excellent with a few daring things here and there. Here's the trailer:


Good opening, but unfortunately after the first 15 minutes it gets poorer and poorer. To be fair, I didn't expect a masterpiece and only went to see it because Bryan Cranston and John Hawkes had small parts in it!
Speaking of "tv actors" Veronica Mars' father and Jennifer Elhe from BBC Pride and Prejudice were also in the film.

On my To-see-before-Christmas list for the upcoming weeks:

Sleeping Beauty



A Dangerous Method

Movie buff

Oct. 26th, 2011 12:13 pm
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I forgot to mention, in my Update post of yesterday, that I also went to the movies and saw The Artist.

It's super ballsy (to make  a w&b silent movie nowadays!)and it is really a wonderful film. Beautiful (white &black as usual makes the most beautiful films), poetical, smart (but not pretentious at all in spite of several references here and there) . And the actors are terrific. Jean Dujardin totally deserves his award in Cannes. He's simply perfect for the role and his acting subtly evolves throughout the film.

And the dog...the dog is amazing! That dog is more than a comic relief or a wink at EMI(His Master’s Voice !); he is a key character to understand what the film is really about.

I couldn't more recommend that movie.

It's much more than just an exercice de style or a performance film for the lead, the fact that the film is silent is very significant. The form matches the content, as any work of art should (hence the mise-en-abîme of the opening scene). Michel Hazanavicius, the filmaker, truly is The Artist of the title.

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I went to the movies yesterday evening and saw Meek's Cutoff which is a beautiful beautiful movie.

I'm sure that many people who mostly seek entertainment would find it too slow, and perhaps even boring, and would hate the open ending, completely missing the point that it is ALL about the journey, and that the film is a work of art. It isn't an action movie for sure, but an existential story. Actually, I liked it better than the Coens' True Grit and I'm a fan of the Coens! 

Meek's Cutoff is a great modern western (although it takes place in 1845), renewing and updating the genre by choosing  a new point of view (the women's) and getting rid of formula and many cliches, while bringing us back to the roots of the western that are both religious and historical (the Bible and the reality of the conquest of the Wild West)and creating a universal and engrossing tale.

The film manages to convey realism, demystifying the take on those pioneers and a journey that would have been epic in old films -- here, on the contrary, and despite very few close-ups, we get to be close to them, to see the dirt, the doubts, the fears, the sheer craziness, the real tough life of a wagon train, we get to smell the stink even --, while also playing on the metaphorical level.

Apart from the obvious allegorical and biblical side of the journey from the Genesis reading and the garden (the water land), through the desert, to the Tree of Life, a journey in a desert land is a bit like a journey in a labyrinth; it is always metaphorical and cathartic (purgatory-style) on screen (remember Gus Van Sant's wonderful Gerry?), so we see the settlers slowly getting rid of superfluous weights, but the film also tackles the question of power and how it may shift (the subjugated ones may become in charge eventually), and there are the key element of fear and human vulnerability, of being dependent on others for survival, and therefore of trust and distrust.

It's about being a stranger in the strangest land and the theme of otherness is central: men and women are different worlds, set apart and hardly communicating (the men make decisions, the women, mostly going about their chores, follow), which the first part of the film shows very well; Meek, who is supposed to lead the settlers to Oregon and chose that dangerous shortcut, is something of a mystery himself for the immigrants to the point that they begin to suspect he might not know what he is doing or is an evil man so, even though he's somewhat familiar, they consider killing him; and of course there's the Indian who is the ultimate Other of the tale. And then it's all about blood and water, and about whom they can really trust to guide them towards water, to be their saviour.

The screenplay is smart but, above all, the cinematography is just fabulous (at first the square screen is weird but then you forget about it and the pictures are simply breathtaking), the angles, the frame are perfect, the mise-en-scène is clever and the film has the best crossfade I have ever seen, I mean EVER.

At the end of the day, the viewers are like the three foreign families in the wagon trail, trusting some stranger, the director, to take them somewhere, focusing on the destination (the supposed climax and pay-off we expect in adventure movies) but actually forced to go on an uncomfortable journey which takes time, so it can be confusing and you may think that the director has let you down, actually got lost and has gotten you lost in the process. Or like Emily, played by Michelle Williams, you can reject the clueless oldschool cowboy whose leading days are gone, you choose to follow the native person who knows that new land, you start interpretating his/her language, and you trust that he/she will lead you to the refreshing  and rewarding water.

Also, on a meta level, one could say that the film is the opposite of Meek's goal and reflects the story showed on screen for there's no cutoff, no easy road, no explanations handed on a plate to the passive audience.

Michelle Williams delivers a good performance (just as a good as the one in Blue Valentine), playing a strong female character that is a nice change from her usual roles, but all the actors are perfectly cast (and the Indian is hot!).

I'm really impressed by Kelly Reichardt here, and glad to see that there are great female directors (Debra Granik, Courtney Hunt being other examples) out there, rising in indie movies.  Reichardt defies the expectations of the genre, from beginning to end, but she is up to the job of directing a great western of the XXIst century.


Jul. 4th, 2011 07:12 pm
chani: (medieval demons)
In the last couple of days I sought advice from people around me, regarding the thesis dilemma, and everybody came up with their own piece of course, so I decided to let it "rest" and put my mind off the issue for a while (not too long because the Summer holidays are upon us so if I want to make my move and get in touch with Orléans prof I guess I must do it before the 14th of July)...

So I've been reading Michael Connelly's The Reversal, featuring both Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller, and it's fun. I got the copy from a colleague who got it from her son who bought it in the U.S so I'm reading it in English. It's an easy read and I'm almost finished. Every time I read Connelly in English it reminds me that he isn't a great writer, at least style-wise. But he's a good storyteller and I like the tapestry, or rather the painting, he has created, through all his recurring characters whose paths cross in L.A. And there's Bosch of course who remains his best creation, no matter how entertaining the others are. Haller, the Lincoln lawyer, makes for good stories but he can't compete with Harry's charisma. In the novel, every other chapter is from Haller's point of view (and written with the first person singular) while when it's Bosch' s chapter we come back to the omniscient point of view (although we often get to know what's ging on in Harry's mind) so Bosch remains more mysterious in a way. He is the only character that Connelly keeps protecting from Hollywood sirens while he lets movies borrow his other characters (that said the recent film based on The Lincoln Lawyer wasn't bad, and I also enjoyed Blood Work starring Clint Eastwood as Terry McCaleb years). Harry Bosch is one of a kind.

I also went and saw My Little Princess, my second French film, after the excellent yet  very unusual Pater (who received a 17 minute standing ovatin in Cannes and is impossible to review) in 8 days!

Very disturbing movie. First, the topic is disturbing. The film takes place in the 70's and the" little princess" is a 10 years old girl, raised by her great-great mother, and whose quirky and instable mother, whose love she's desperate to get, decides to involve her into her artistic lifestyle and turns her into a model. The mother becomes a famous photographer thanks to her little muse...except that the pictures she takes are quite erotic and morbid so scandal ensues (to the point that the little girl is called a whore by her classmates and nicknamed "porn baby" by the media). It's the story of a stolen childhood and of a dysfonctional and yet passionate relationship between a mother and her daughter. The mother kind of loves her daughter but she's immature and displays more art (gothic and decadent) than heart, and the fact that she's from Romania adds to the vampire-vibe. Isabelle Hupper who loves twisted roles plays the mother (she's very histrionic, quite Drusilla-esque, something between a crazy woman and a self-centred diva to our eyes, and to her daughter's eyes between a fairy and a witch), but it's the young actress (twelve) playing Violetta who is really amazing on screen.

The film is disturbing because it shows how it all begins like a game for a girl who was neglected and is trilled to suddenly be her mother's favourite model, the only object of her attention, and also because all the little girls like to dress up, but then she slowly becomes the character she plays on the photographs, outside the shooting room, looking like her mother in parties and exhibition's previews; following the model her mother loves, she changes her looks in "the real world" (she wears make-up, tiaras and eccentric princess-like clothes at school, and later is dressed like a poptart with high heels and expensive clothes) and her behaviour evolves (playing the femme fatale with journalists, with boys) as if the photo sessions had some shaman power changing her! Violetta get caught up and becomes a freak which causes troubles and makes her a pariah in society, and eventually the desire to fit in, for "a normal life", wins and she rejects the role and her mother's world, looking for her lost self.

The most disturbing thing is that the film is quite autobiographical for it is the story of the filmaker, Eva Ionesco. Her mother, Irina Ionesco was a famous photographer in the 70's and actually the true story is "worst" than what is showed on screen for Eva's role as a sexualized model began when she was 4 years old and not 10 (and the film suggests things but of course doesn't show the girl in the nude).

Read more... )

chani: (Default)
stories can be told without saying a single sentence." W. Wenders

Yesterday I went to the movies and saw Wim Wenders' Pina. I was quite reluctant to see it as I have never been a big fan of Wenders' films, but my friend M. talked me into seeing it, and guess what? it's a must see, really!

The trailer doesn't really do justice to film but here it is.

This tribute to Pina Bausch is simply amazing, and it is the first time that I do see the point of a 3 D movie!

The choreographies are terrific, but Wenders' camera worked magic to enhance them when they are shown on stage (but then it isn't a filmed play, it's a "fake" performance with a fake audience) and also to bring them out of the theatre, in the streets and outdoor places of Wuppertal, in the  the wide world.
Of course you can watch extracts from the film online (see the embedded vid below) but you can't fully grasp the experience of seeing it in a theatre with the 3D spectacles on your nose; the 3D is a great trick then either to make us join the dancers on stage, and be part of Pina's world of moves, or to draw the dancers outside, into our world.

The dancing sequences, either staged indoor or outdoor, are interspersed with portraits (rather than interviews for there's just a face and an intense gaze and a voice-over) of the company members, and there are also few archive shootage showing Pina herself (films within the film, and therefore shown as such).

So the film is much more than a mere documentary on Pina Bausch's creations and on her fellowship – although that side is really interesting as you can guess the strong relationships between Pina and the members of her company ( she was something of a guru in the Tanztheate! ) , it's a work of art  per se,  a pure elegy.

There's a little bit of Pina Bausch  in Wim Wenders but, at the end of the day, Pina isn't her show but his.

If you like dance, theatre, movies and art, go and see it!


chani: (medieval demons)
I often lament about the lack of great French writers or great French films these days. Compared to the beginning of the XXth century French literature has been poor for the past decades, and French movies keep disappointing me.

But I've read the interesting and original Mémoire de La Jungle by Tristan Garcia and I'm reading Michel Houellebecq's La Carte et le Territoire, which is really really good. Besides I saw yesterday Xavier Beauvois's Des hommes et des Dieux so there's hope still.

No matter what is said about Houellebecq, he is a good writer and  true author –– not the likes of Marc Lévy or Anna Gavalda or Amélie Nothomb who sell so many books every year–– and his last book belongs to Literature with a capital L.

As for Des Hommes et des Dieux (Of Gods and Men), it's the best French film I have seen for a very long time. It won Le Grand Prix in Cannes and many critics consider it should have received la Palme d'or instead of Uncle Boonmee (I haven't seen Uncle Boonmee yet so I can't tell). Xavier Beauvois whose Le Petit Lieutenant I enjoyed very much years ago, really turned out to be an amazing film maker.

Go, run if needed, and see this movie! If you are a movie buff you will be thrilled, if you're a believer you will feel warm, and if you're just a human being you will be deeply touched.

By the way, it's funny to think that a movie like this does much more for the Catholic Church and its Christian values, even though it isn't Xavier Beauvois's intent at all, than The Pope's behaviour or speeches.

Des hommes et des dieux tells the story of the Trappist monks from Tibihirine (a monastery in the Atlas) who died in 1996, during those horrible years in Algeria when the F.I.S party, that had been declared outlaw after it had too much success in elections, tried to conquer power using terrorism while the government (ruled since 1962 by one party, the FLN) fought back using similar means. It was a decade of violence and sheer terror for everybody living in Algeria and a lot of blood has been shed. Seven monks (out of the 9 who lived in the monastery then)were among the thousands victims because they decided to stay over there. Finally they were seized by G.I.A (the F.I.S's army) and their heads were found later...

For a long time their death has been a mystery, even though the official version was that the Islamist terrorists killed them. However last year a former French officer from the secret services finally told a judge what he knew from a fellow Algerian officer but had covered until then for the sake of the French-Algerian relationship: it's likely that it's actually "an error" (I don't know the English word for "bavure") from the Algerian army that killed the monks.

That said, the film isn't about the mystery or about who killed the monks. It's about their last days, about the everyday life that was theirs, about brotherhood, harmony and solidarity; about the fraternity within that religious community but also between the monks and their Algerian neighbours who lived in the village nearby and often shared stuff with the brothers and whom the Trappists helped but never tried to convert; about the harmony between men from different cultures (an example of peaceful coexistence between religions) and also between men and nature.

Of course the violence surrounding Tibihirine is there and the film doesn't shy away from the consequences of terrorism or the threat of having the military around, but it isn't a study on terrorism or a documentary on the civil war in Algeria.

It's first and foremost about those men, and at some point, despite the liturgy, the religious singing and the habit, you forget that they are monks, you just see how human they are. They don't live or dies as heroes but as men. And they are simply touching.

You can see the trailer on youtube.

The film is beautifully shot and moving but never falls into melodrama; it isn't austere but it isn't a hollywood movie either!

Beauvois films the everyday life of the monks like he filmed the everyday life of a police station in Le Petit Lieutenant. His movie has the realism of a documentary but also the lyricism of an opera. There are the beautiful landscapes of the Atlas, the camera indulging in a contemplative side that suits the Cistercian order; there's the quiet of working the land and another kind of quiet that comes from the hymns they sing; there are also moments of smile and moments of tears.
The cast is brilliant; Michael Lonsdale is a wonderful brother Luc, Lambert Wilson isn't bad as Christian (he's even quite good when he stops watching himself act)  and I was impressed by Olivier Rabourdin as brother Christophe (on the picture below). The most beautiful scene in the film, as the monks are having a Last Supper together while listening to The Swan Lake and drinking burgondy wine, is rather daring and could have been terrible but was poignant and powerful. I couldn't help crying then.

Those monks won't be forgotten.

The rest is in French )
chani: (Default)

Monsieur Verdoux is such an underrated movie. I read that Chaplin considered it to be his most intelligent and most brilliant film and I understand why, even though, to me, Modern Times will always remain his true masterpiece.

I love the dark humour Chaplin displayed in the film thourgh the witty dialogues and black comedy situations, as well as the pure Chaplin-like comedy moments (especially in scenes with Anabelle Bonheur played by Martha Raye!).
Although it was a bit weird to listen to an English speaking film that is supposed to take place in France, with "monsieur", "madame" and "merci" thrown here and there, the acting is fantastic and the mise-en-scène is brilliant!

What a daring move from Chaplin to leave his famous Tramp, a likeable fellow it was normal to root for, and play this cold-blooded serial killer who would finally deliver the famous phrase:

"Wars, conflicts - it's all business. One murder makes a villain; millions a hero. Numbers sanctify."

The final message of Monsieur Verdoux is a little bit heavy, but the rest is quite subtle and some scenes are just a mere leçon de cinéma !

chani: (Default)

I've been on a sort of break since Friday. The Bac starts in two days, as usual with Philosophy, and the History & Geography exam is on Friday morning so I will enter Marking Hell on Monday after I'm given the papers. So before I'm bound to invigilating and then marking duty, I'm entertaining myself with music, books, films and tv shows.

I saw Kiarostami's Copie Conforme, which was fine but I am not surprised it didn't get any reward in Cannes, except for the Best Actress prize. Juliette Binoche was indeed great in it. I read that the film won't be released in Iran because of her clothing! Too cleavage-y, I guess.

As for the tv shows, since it was difficult to get The Wire online, I'm currently watching the first season of Fringe. I watched the pilot and the following episode on French tv last year but dropped it for I couldn't watch the show in its original language and it seemed to be a ripoff of The X-Files, but I've heard good things about Fringe this year and now I'm rather enjoying it. I can't wait to get to the second season which is apparently better!

Many things are quite predictable but it's well done, and it's the relationship between father and son that makes the show work for me.

I'm glad for the return of True Blood that was a lot of fun for the premiere.

Also I watched the pilot of  Persons Unknown and might stick to the series for a while.

But, frankly, I miss the really good stuff. I miss Caprica !
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ARTE has scheduled a lot of good movies for May. I just watched Paranoid Park that I had missed when it was released. This is one of Gus Van Sant's best films, in the wake of Gerry, Elephant or Last Days. It's a book adaptation and yet a personal movie as only great filmakers can make so.

As often with Gus Van Sant, the story is about a teenager and focuses on the relationships he has with mates and family. Above all it appears that Alex is into skateboarding, fascinated with a skating park–– the youngsters called it Paranoid Park, and its crowd of dropouts. The place keeps luring him but he mostly remains a watcher, and some day Alex finds himself involved in a deadly accident that police investigates as a murder.

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chani: (medieval demons)
First off, a few words on last Sunday's episode of Being Human. Spoilers under the cut.

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Secondly, I'm avoiding Marking Hell so I have rewatched another of Eisenstein's movies: Ivan Groznyy I . I wanted to rewatch it since I watched Csar by Pavel Lounguine, a film I had mixed feelings about. I have yet part II (the second opus that Stalin forbid and was released in 1958 only, under Khrushchev) to watch and I intend watching October too. Visual-wise, it is really something. The photography is gorgeous; every shot is framed like a painting with lots of symbolical meaning. Each scene is precisely plotted and designed. The theatrical facial expressions (an oversuse of bulging eyes, especially)and poses, the exaggerated acting and the many closeups may be bizarre and ludicrous for nowadays' audiences but they served Eisenstein's poetical ideas and give the film a surreal charm. The overacting and closeups sort of recalls silent movies in which gestures and faces told the story but the film here is more stylised than silent movies and the expressions/portraits are sometimes so intense that the magic works at the end of the day. The characters manage to convey true emotions from time to time (Anastasia and Andrei Kurbsky, above all) but they are more metaphors than real characters hence their resemblance to animals (Ivan being an eagle of course). And the play on lighting and shadows thrown against the walls is brilliant (Eisenstein might have been inspired by Disney's Fantasia). Of course there's propaganda and the film served Russian nationalism in 1944 but we are far far away from Jdanovism and "socialist realism"!
I'm pretty sure that Coppola's drew part of his inspiration for Dracula in Ivan Groznyy Part I. Both films are splendid and highly stylised, and there's something in Vald, not only in the prologue after Elisabetha's death but also in his interactions with Mina, that recalled Ivan (who's quite sexy too in a few scenes)and his relationship with Anastasia. And Coppola played with shadows on walls and floor too. I can see a sort of cinema filiation from Murnau and Lang to Eisenstein and Coppola.

I think I still prefer Alexander Nevsky ––by the way Prokofiev scored Groznyy too and that soundtrack music is great but I find it to be less powerful and less memorable than the music he composed for Alexander Nevsky––but Ivan is also a beautiful film that deserves to be praised. Eisenstein was a poet and a wizard.
chani: (Vermeer)
Yesterday I watched Francis Ford Coppola's Tetro. Now that's a real movie and a very good one!

I wouldn't call it a  masterpiece for it has a few little flaws, but it's definitely a film worth watching and one of the best Coppola ever made. I highly recommend it. This is a personal work, fed with private stuff, but this is mostly the film wherein Coppola shows his love for the movies and how he's mastered the art. 

The black and white photo(the flashbacks or the "quotations" only are showed in colour, colours that look quaint compared to the timeless w&b) is gorgeous and conveys the right intimacy and modesty the story required; the cinematography is beautiful (hey people no need to have fancy special effects, 3-D and Pandora's  ecosystem to provide lovely visuals, creativity and style !!!!); there's a real scenario, smart writing; there's imagination, and the cast is really good.
I wish people would see films like this rather than just watch Summer blockbusters or hyped movies supported by Internet buzz.

"Tetro" means either sad or dark in Italian...wich perfectly defines Vincent Gallo's character who goes by that name. In the movie Tetro is also short for Tetrocini which is actually the character's last name or rather his patronymic name.

 In Buenos Aires, a young sailor (still a boy since his 18th birthday happens during the film), Benjamin Tetrocini, turns up at his long lost brother's place. The 20-year-older brother is a broken man/artist who has given up his literary ambitions and now lives with a woman who used to be his doctor in the asylum he had ended up. He has cut all the family bounds, changed his name (Angelo became Tetro), works as a mere electrician (he is dark but he is the one providing the light!) and doesn't seem happy to see his baby brother. But Bennie needs answers and takes roots. Slowly the past unfolds and the truth is unveiled, glaring like  a dangerous dazzling light in the dark ...

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