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

 * * *

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

Blue Is the Warmest Color…?

There is a lot to like about Blue is the Warmest Color — winner of this year’s highest prize at Cannes, and a lot not to like.  I was generally absorbed by the drama, following the lead character Adèle into and out of her various relationships.  But I also had problems with it.

Blue is the Warmest Color - posterThe actress Adèle Exarchopoulos, who plays the character Adèle, cries a lot in this movie, but I began to tire of all the phlegm.  Phlegm is great once, but after that it’s like the boy who called wolf — we don’t need to cringe at seeing it a second or third time.  There is also a lot of sex in this movie, but I don’t think it’s overused as is the crying.  The sex is the main point of the film after all.  All of it is performed, along with all the other action, with raw, almost shocking reality.

I’m on the fence with this one.  On one hand, it reminded me a little of the last French film I saw, Holy Motors — it never really gets out of gear.  I also took issue with its lack of rounding out a complete world for Adèle.  And I don’t appreciate the way it’s marketed — it’s title in French translates to The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 & 2 — kind of a boring title, and there aren’t two chapters here, there’s anywhere from three to six.  But the reason I have a problem with the title is it misleads; it speaks to the promise of more than this movie delivers.

To understand why I have a problem with this movie, compare it to the terrific Sleeping Beauty.  I know we are not going down such a fascinating path as that film, but still I expect more.  Blue is too one-note.  With its 3-hour run time, another good comparison is the Lars von Trier masterpiece Breaking the Waves — an exercise to sit through, but with titan rewards.

On the positive side, Blue did keep me engaged for the entire picture — no easy task for a film so long.  And it does have a certain lyric rhythm — I especially liked it when Adèle protests and dances.  Besides winning at Cannes, Blue has received a lot of praise.  For me, the strengths of the film don’t overcome the fact that it never comes together as complete story.  5/10 but your results may vary.