Raw, Local, Organic

I love good edgy indies foreign and domestic; Raw is not one of them.  I wasn’t buying most of it, and there wasn’t enough style or substance to overcome its many issues, for example I never felt like I was watching students at a veterinary school, but maybe some sort of weird cult.  More problems:

SPOILER ALERT!  SPOILERS ALERT!  This girl is a devout vegetarian one moment, and the next, for no good reason, is scarfing meat down with abandon.  Vet students are animal haters?  And she grew up never seeing her father with his shirt off?  These and many other issues toss Raw down to B-movie territory, except there’s not enough fun to elicit that B-movie charm.  Forced, inorganic storytelling exacerbates these weaknesses.

Still, there was a certain raw, explosive power to the movie that kept it engaging.  But even in this regard, when the director was holding a straight flush she folds.

On top of everything else, Raw just wasn’t as original as it’s been made out to be; see Comparison Notes.  Entering the local arthouse, I was told that someone had fainted during a previous showing.  Barf bags and warning signs were hastily dispatched.  I so wished that Raw lived up to all the hype.  5/10

PS Raw is categorized as a horror film, but it’s a joke as a horror film.  Hardly horrifying.

Comparison Notes (all recommended): for infinitely better French ‘fare’ about consumption of human flesh — which they have a knack for, check out the greats Delicatessen and Les Amants Criminels; Teeth, every vampire movie ever (Only Lovers Left Alive looks like a masterpiece by comparison), Antichrist, The Neon Demon

Film Brief: Elle

I though Elle was going to be about a woman who was sexually assaulted, and then took that experience and instead of feeling victimized by it, turned it around, flipped the script and used it to her empowerment.

Instead, we get a muddled take on Basic Instinct-cum-pseudo Hitchcock psychological crime drama.  Operative word is muddled.  The movie held me well enough through the first half or so, but lost its way later on.  A disappointed, marginal no.  5/10

French Highlights: La Cérémonie

La Cérémonie - poster

I lived in LA for three years, from 1995 through 1997, and caught what seems now an inordinate proportion of terrific films, among them a string of great French and Italian productions.  One of them was a compact little bulldog called La Cérémonie (1995), a later offering by French New Wave director Claude Chabrol.

In 2012, Roger Ebert rendered his highest rating, hailing it as a “Great Film”:

The French have a name for the events leading up to a death by guillotine. They call it “the ceremony.” Although Claude Chabrol’s “La Ceremonie” (1995) contains no guillotines, there is a relentless feeling to it, as if the characters are engaged in a performance that can have only one outcome. It comes as a surprise to all of them, and to us. But given these people in this situation, can we really say in hindsight that we’re surprised? …

The film implacably moves toward a horrifying conclusion.

Watch this one if you can find it.  Availability is limited to DVD rental from Netflix or purchase from Amazon, or VOD from British iTunes (purchase only £4.99!), but you’ll need an account for that store — which I am thinking of doing just for La Cérémonie — it’s worth it.

Film Brief: The New Girlfriend

The New Girlfriend - poster

Less plot than a 23-minute episode of Dates on the CW: not good for a nearly two-hour long movie.  Even Blue is the Warmest Color was a narrative powerhouse compared to this.  They don’t do much, but the pair of likable characters — and a great cabaret sequence — lift Une Nouvelle Amie to 4/10.

PS – The title translates as A New Girlfriend, so a miss right off the bat.  A minor quibble with the marketing, but it’s one of those things that annoys me.  On the plus side, I like the 1950’s/60’s-esque poster graphics.

The New Girlfriend - text block

Film Brief: Two Days, One Night

Two Days, One Night - poster smallLincoln failed by being a movie about the petitioning of individual votes, instead of being about, say, the sixteenth President of the United States, or the Civil War, or Slavery.  Two Days, One Night is a better movie, but fails by the same account.  It also builds the case — along with The Blue Room and Blue is the Warmest Color — that critics are amoureux with anything French these days.

For most of the movie monotony ruled and I was saying no; by the end a couple nice scenes turned it to a yes.  But on reflection the no votes win out.  5/10

 

Film Brief: The Blue Room

The Blue Room - poster smallBoredom gradually yielded to tedium as I sat watching The Blue Room (La Chambre bleue).  What is it with the French and blue?  For two consecutive years, the only French film I watched had “Blue” in the title, and both fell well short of any aspirations I may have had at watching the next great foreign film.  I do not wish to throw Blue is the Warmest Color [prior post] in the Blue room, for it’s a much better the blue room - text blockmovie.  But that is saying very little indeed.

Did critics laud this movie just because it is French?  Who knows.  Besides the requisite good performances, the only saving grace was a bit lip that worked its way under my skin for a moment; for that this yawner nudges up a tick to 3/10.

Step into The Dance of Reality

The Dance of Reality - still

When watching Alejandro Jodorowsky’s autobiographical The Dance of Reality, I was reminded of the great Italian tribute to movies, Cinema Paradiso.  And while I was solidly held by Dance, I at no time felt the passion that was instilled in me by Cinema.  There’s a good story told here, for the most part well executed and mixed with lots of great visuals, but it did not strike me on an emotional level the way it might have.  I liked it very much, but I’m not gaga.  Colin Covert of the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune sums it up best:

The story is patchy and stitched together, but Jodorowsky’s images can be stunning, and his ability to acknowledge pain without being depressing is a rare gift. The film is a wayward dream but well worth embracing.

The Dance of Reality arrives on the heels of Jodorowsky’s Dune, a highly regarded documentary which I missed.  Apparently, Jodorowsky has been making movies since the sixties, but I had never heard of him.  My interest is piqued: I look forward to any future output by the director, and will seek out past triumphs.

Though I wasn’t over the moon about The Dance of Reality, it is an entertaining film and a good choice for those in the mood for a little Chilean flavor.  7/10

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Comparison Notes: Highly Recommended: Hugo, Cinema Paradiso, Central Station, Il Postino; Not Recommended: Holy Motors [my post here]