Film Brief: Lost in Paris

Lost in Paris: a bit as if Wes Anderson made a Charlie Chaplin movie.  Delightful, charming, and fun, but never enough to thoroughly sink your teeth into.  Of note: the French title is Paris pieds nus, which translates most directly as “Paris, feet naked,” or “Barefoot in Paris”.  I think a more appropriate title than the one the marketers ended up pandering with.  7/10

Lady Macbeth Doth Protest Too Little

Lady Macbeth started and ran strongly for about the first two-thirds, before running into territory that was a bit mishandled, and less than optimal even if handled perfectly.  Still though, very good and fully engrossing — and the biggest reason is the film’s star.  Adam Graham, The Detroit News:

With quiet menace, [Florence] Pugh chews through director William Oldroyd’s handsomely composed period thriller like a rat gnawing through a wall.  She’s a force to be reckoned with, and her nightmare stare lingers longer than any poor sap who dares to get in her way.

Cath Clarke, Time Out London:

This brilliantly feminist British indie film plunges a cold, sharp knife into the back of bonnet dramas.

Indeed.  A lot of (evil) fun to be had here.  Maybe think of as a companion piece to The Little Hours, which is sticking with me enough that I’m considering bumping it up a notch.  Every time I think of it I smile inside.  As for Lady Macbeth: 8/10

Comparison Notes (all recommended): Les Amants Criminels, Lars von Trier films, especially Breaking the Waves; Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett), The Last Seduction, The Housemaid, Marie Antoinette.

Christopher Nolan Outwitted Again in Dunkirk [u]

Christopher Nolan is highly overrated.  Let’s review:

Following: Caught some of it via VOD.  Don’t remember it well enough, but it started sucking quickly enough that I did not finish.

Memento: A stupid, implausible film.

Insomnia: An utter waste of the talents of Al Pacino and Robin Williams, and a tremendous missed opportunity given the powerful latent elements.  Look at The Machinist for an example of how to use insomnia effectively.

Batman trilogy: Not great; I’ll take Tim Burton over Christopher Nolan any day of the week.

Inception: I saw this before writing my blog, so I don’t remember why I didn’t like it.  But I do remember it wasn’t good.

Interstellar: OK; maybe his best film other than Batman Begins.  But Nolan’s best only reaches a marginal thumbs-up.

And Dunkirk.  I liked the opening sequences, about the first 20-30 minutes, very much.  Nolan very effectively demonstrates the utter futility of the situation.  For that I give him credit.  But then he enters into Balkanized, choppy storytelling that has no flow.  The only thing more futile than the armies’ dire circumstance is the hope that Nolan can convey the powerful story at hand in a way it deserves.

Ultimately, add Dunkirk to the long list of films that show what a hack filmmaker Christopher Nolan is.  This is a great story that I wish Steven Spielberg had made.  5/10

Comparison Notes: Captain Phillips — for how dramatic, edge-of-your-seat true naval adventures should be told.

UPDATE: I just read about the Dunkirk evacuation on Wikipedia.  It was a dire situation, and many lives were lost — but not near so many as Nolan would have you believe: most of the British troops were saved.  Watching Dunkirk, you’d think that only a slim percentage of the army survived.  This looseness with the facts is about enough to drop my rating down another peg.  What a hack.

Will we be among The Beguiled?

Lots of pros in The Beguiled.  I dug the lush homestead and the tight story.

Cons: Colin Farrell is a fine actor, and did a fine job here.  But there could be a more enigmatic, a more beguiling, if you will, character there.  His character was easy to read early on, which made the direction of the plot, i.e. its gradient, too easily discernible at any moment.

I look forward to Sofia Coppola’s films.  She may not always knock it out of the park, but she has an idea what she’s doing, and her films have a unique feel to them — if this one less than others.

* * *

A small movie like this must open up more dimensions, unless the one it chooses forges an exceptionally strong vector.  Still, compelling and entertaining.  7/10

Comparison Notes: the considerably more potent films Dead Calm and Misery

Twin Peaks Pt. 8. Yes, THAT episode.

Everyone’s written about episode 8 of the Twin Peaks revival.  So what the heck, I’ll throw in my two bits.

As I previously expressed, I was concerned at the outset of the series that it would be both worthy of the original, and up to David Lynch’s lofty mindset.  I considered a series of three escalating mile-markers:

(1)  Is it passable?  Does it meet the bare minimum?  Does it reach the standards of contemporary TV drama set down by, say, the last couple seasons of Fargo, or other of the better TV dramas out there?  Lynch was to direct the entire series, all 18 episodes — something he did not come close to doing with the original.  After not directing film since Inland Empire (2006).  Directing is a lot of work, especially considering the scale of Twin Peaks.  And after all, Lynch is no spring chicken.  That enormous cast list, all those moving parts.  A lot to juggle.

So my biggest concern was that the show would be any good at all.  Not a total embarrassment.  Though a little skeptical at first, that threshold was attained early on.

(2)  Now that it’s passable, is it good?  Is it excellent, even?  Does it reach that tier set by the best of Breaking Bad or Fargo season 1?  Can we hope that it ascends to the level of Mad Men or Better Call Saul?  As I said in my prior post, “Lynch’s mojo is solidly in place, and bright, novel storytelling abounds.”

After the first 4 hours and into episodes 5, 6 and 7, we knew it was good.  Real good.  So warp-factor 2 achieved!

(3)  Episode 8 brought things to a new level: the highest stratosphere of entertainment and art ever presented on television.  This 3rd level is a level, we know, beyond the first two, but also in the realm of the unknown.  As in, we have no f-ing idea what it’s going to be.  Safe to say no one saw Part 8 coming.  That complete unpredictability is thrilling to behold.  Having no idea what’s coming next, but that it’s gonna be good, something ‘wonderful and strange’ — is the ultimate promise of Twin Peaks, a promise more than fulfilled.

Reaching this third tier is more than I could have ever hoped for.

* * *

The most cogent analysis and succinct recaps have been told by Noel Murray of the Times.  I highly recommend you read his episode 8 recap;:

There’s nothing to point to in the history of television that helps describe exactly what this episode attempts.

Considered that way — as something to see and hear, and to react to on a primal level — this hour was phenomenal.

Esquire‘s Corey Atad wrote in his recap titled “Last Night’s Terrifying Twin Peaks Will Be Remembered as One of the Best Episodes of Television Ever” — also highly recommended as further explanation of ep. 8:

David Lynch has unearthed something—unlocked it. He’s devoted his entire career to exploring the roots of evil in men, in both the real world and the unreal. His films are often terrifying. Twin Peaks has been terrifying. Still, I’ve never witnessed anything quite like what Lynch gave us in “Part 8” of The Return.

From its long drive through the night, to its cascade of blotches and sparkles and flames, to its flickering store lights, to its silent expressionism, to its 1950s utopian hellscape of crushed skulls, cigarette-toting vagrants, and bug-frogs, “Part 8” brought to television screens a work of art that escapes narrative confines. Where other shows—and films, too—have used the weird and surreal as window dressing for straightforward storytelling, The Return brings the true avant-garde to bear on a story where clarity is beside the point, and perhaps impossible.

By “clarity,” think “obviousness”.

* * *

Lynch has surpassed all expectations that I may have had.  He hit Twin Peaks full-stride, and is delivering some of his best stuff ever.  I think he’s had a lot of unfinished business stewing in him all these years, because I can’t believe all this material is spontaneous.

The Times post touches on something else: Lynch is turning out to be a great humanitarian.  Twin Peaks is more than entertainment; it serves a higher purpose in benefit to mankind.  Picasso — and many other artists — did this too.  Episode 8 brings to mind Guernica.

Film Brief: The Little Hours

The Little Hours is an odd little film, a period piece featuring contemporary foul language.  Mick LaSalle, SF Gate:

Though very funny, “The Little Hours” remains low-key and subtle in its effects. There’s no winking or nudging, no straining for laughs.

He thought it more funny than I, but there were a number of good laughs, and I liked the tone.  Tone is important.  Stephanie Zacharek, Time:

The Little Hours coasts along breezily on the oddball rhythms of its actors. The cast also includes John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon, who cap the whole crazy enterprise in a surprisingly tender coda. It doesn’t hurt that Baena and cinematographer Quyen Tran shot the picture in sun-washed Tuscany. Looking for a break from the Black Death, or even just the summer heat? The Little Hours is just the thing.

7/10