February 6th, 2017 — 11:02pm
This is a French film with subtitles, directed by veteran Dutch film maker Paul Verhoeven and stars Isabelle Huppert who has already received a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for her outstanding performance in this movie.
The film opens with a violent rape by an intruder and the story progresses as a whodunit, combined with a study of the main character in a backdrop of modern French society where sexual affairs are part of the landscape. Ms. Huppert plays the CEO of a video game company which is in the process of producing a cartoonish, violent, sexualized game. She interacts with her ex-husband (Charles Berling) and his girlfriend. She also has an interesting discussion with her mother (Judith Magre) who seems quite botoxed and is having an affair with a younger lover. The mother wants her daughter to visit her father who is serving a life sentence for brutal murders 30 years before, which left his young daughter stained with blood as photographs show of this gruesome event. There is the good looking married neighbor (Laurent Lafitte) to whom she is strangely attracted. There is also intrigue involved with the people who work for her company and the main character’s continued pre-occupation with the horrible rape that she experienced.
As the story unfolds, the viewer cannot help but be gripped by the complicated relationships. The more than two hours it takes to set up the story went by quite quickly. However, putting together all the pieces of the puzzle and the subtle psychodynamics, leave lots of rooms for speculation. The screenplay by David Birke, based on the novel by Philip Dijan gave us a thrilling, complicated story but we needed a couple of hours over dinner with friends to try to piece everything together.(2017)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Mystery
January 26th, 2016 — 9:03pm
In the Shadow of Women-sp
(French with English subtitles)
You probably will not see this movie unless perhaps you are taking a course about French films. We also don’t think you are missing anything. It is directed by Philippe Garrel who we were told by two experts in this genre has a following among such afficiandos.
The movie is in black and white as is the story. The theme is infidelity. Pierre (Stanislas Merhar) and Manon (Clotilde Courau) are seemingly a happily married couple, although Pierre really doesn’t seem happy about anything. They are filmmakers and are making a documentary in which they are interviewing a supposed hero of the French resistance who is reviewing all his heroic acts during World War II. However, it turns out that he is lying and deceiving the filmmakers. He really turned in all his friends to the Nazis. Pierre is also doing a bit of deceiving as he is having an affair with Elisabeth (Lena Paugam). This would seem to be very unfair to his wife, Manon, as she seems to be very dedicated to the marriage. However, despite this initial impression Manon is having a secret liaison with her lover. When circumstances lead both Pierre and Manon to confess to each other, they both become furious and split up. They meet sometime later at the funeral of the subject of their documentary film and quickly end up passionately in each other’s arms.
We obviously have not avoided providing spoilers since we doubt most of our readers will see this movie. As we ponded the meaning or message of the film, we saw very few clues to the background of the characters. We appreciated the echo of deception in the subject of Pierre and Manon’s documentary film and the deception in their lives. Was this a morality story? We think not. One of the native French movie experts discussing this film at our screening stated that in France as compared to America “Infidelity is not a moral issue.” She agreed however that this doesn’t mean that the participants might not have personal emotional responses. We saw a very little of such responses and certainly, as we stated, there was no understanding of the meaning of the infidelity to each of the characters.
The title of the film suggests that there is something more meaningful in infidelity to women than to men. This is an interesting point but certainly was not developed in the movie. We understand that the screenwriters Jean-Claude Carriere, Caroline Deruas and Arlette Langmann have a very fine reputation in France as does the director. Mr. Garrel is a master of black and white and the filming of the streets and the alleys kept a consistent atmosphere and mood of the film. The third party voice-over helped to fill in some of the details of the story. However, one of us felt they should have edited in about a half hour more to the 73 minutes running time in order to develop some insight into the characters. But the other one of us felt the best part of the film was that it was short! (2015)
Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Foreign
January 13th, 2016 — 6:01am
The Brand New Testament- sp
This is a French/Belgium foreign film directed and co-written by Jaco Van Dormael that was nominated for a Golden Globe Award this year. It is a full-blown irreverent satire on religion that borders on the ridiculous, but will extract some laughs from most people. It has distribution thus far in 50 countries but not yet in the United States, so you will probably have to go to Netflix, if you are inclined to see it.
In this story, God (Benoit Polevoorde) is a middle-aged guy running a computer in a special room in his middle class house where he lives with his wife who seems to be a mousy downtrodden woman. His teenage daughter (Pili Groyne), who is the sister of Jesus, at night sneaks into daddy’s office and sends an email to everyone on the planet, telling them exactly when they will die. This has lots of implications to people individually as well as for world peace. Then, for some reason, the daughter of God decides that she should have a new set of apostles perhaps because she is a little competitive with her brother. Each apostle has a different theme, the satirical implications of which we seem to have missed.
We only recognize one of the actresses in this film and that was Catherine Deneuve. Her character was having sex with a gorilla. There is not more to say about the film. Although we cannot recommend this movie, we realize your curiosity might get the best of you (2015)
Comment » | 2 Stars, Comedy, Foreign
July 21st, 2015 — 7:36pm
Samba-sp (In French with English subtitles)
Among the political issues currently debated in the United States as well in other countries throughout the world is how to deal with illegal or undocumented immigrants. This is the main focus of this French film written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano starring Omar Sy. This trio got together to make Intouchable in 2011 which became the second biggest box office hit in French history. It also did very well in the United States
Omay Sy in the current film plays Samba, an immigrant from Senegal, who has been living in France for 10 years. He, like many other people who don’t have proper citizenship papers must live in the shadows and are susceptible to arrest and deportation. Samba is discovered and temporarily placed in a detention center where he meets Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a young executive who was trying to stabilize her life by doing volunteer work in this facility. Samba is released with the expectation that he will go back to his home country. It is at this point in the film that we see him and other people in similar situations as they struggle to get illegal identification papers, procure jobs ranging from working in restaurants, hotel kitchens, cleaning windows in high-rise buildings or even just doing day labor. We get an insight into the painful life of trying to survive in this environment often while sending money home to their families.
Although they are coming from different places in life, Samba and Alice are drawn to each other and these wonderful actors create a very real chemistry between them. Even though we felt this 118-minute film could have been shortened and tied together a little better, the result is clearly a very interesting, enjoyable and thought provoking movie. We came away from it having empathy for the determination of a long line of undocumented immigrants who struggle for years to try to stay in their chosen country and become legitimate for themselves and ultimately for their children. Obviously, there are other points of view on this complicated political and social issue. However, if this movie reaches even half the audience that the last collaboration of this writer/director and star did, it will stand a chance of significantly influencing the great debate on immigration. (2015)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign
April 24th, 2015 — 7:29am
Felix and Meira – sp
You may have a negative impression of the Hassidic community, as a cloisted male-dominated sect where the woman’s role is to take care of the children and serve the men while they sing their songs, do their dancing and prayers. If that is the case, this movie will not change your mind and will confirm your thinking. Meira (Hadas Yaron) is such a wife living in a Hassidic community located in Montreal who has one child so far but uncharacteristically does not want anymore and does not like the role that is expected of her. She has a chance meeting with Felix (Martin Dubreuil) who is a single man who is not part of her community. We see that she is drawn to him and sees her way out of the life that has been fated for her. This is much to the consternation of her husband, Shulem (Luzer Twersky) who realizes what is happening but can only demand that she should do what he feels she is supposed to do and that is follow the rules of her community. If we were expected to develop an understanding and insight into all these characters, our opinion is that the film was unsuccessful. We know essentially nothing about them as individuals, perhaps with the exception of Felix who we know had a father who never showed any love to him although it seems irrelevant to the plot. Certainly, we do not know the back story of the other main characters. We find them all two-dimensional. The acting and the setting seemed quite genuine. This is a French film directed by Maxime Giroux who also wrote the screenplay, It seamlessly moves back and forth from English and Yiddish with subtitles as needed. However, what we needed here was a story with more depth to it. (2015)
Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Foreign
April 11th, 2015 — 8:44pm
POTICHE – nf (French with English subtitles)
Potiche is a French word which refers to a person, a man or a woman (although in this case, it is a woman) whose function is purely decorative and who has no power at all. This is obviously meant to refer to Suzanne Pujol (Catherine Deneuve), wife of Robert Pujol (Fabrice Luchini), manager of the family umbrella factory. He is kidnapped by union zealots who are demanding better pay and working conditions. They are led by a communist member of parliament (played by another French superstar Gerard Depardieu). Although this film was made in 2010, the setting is the late 1970s and the film is clearly about the changing role of women. Deneuve’s character is a beautiful mature woman with two grown children played by Jeremie Renier and Judith Godreche, is initially referred to as the “trophy wife” but when her husband after being freed from his captivity is incapacitated by a heart attack, she takes the role as manager of the factory and chief negotiator. Being a French film, we should be not surprised that her husband of course, has had many affairs including a current one with his secretary, Nadege (Karin Viard). Of course his wife (Deneuve) has had her share of trysts in her day and there is even some question about who is the father of her son. But the real intrigue and strength of this movie is the evolving of Deneuve’s character as we come to understand her and see her relate to her family, former lover, and to the new era for women. This film is punctuated by Deneuve, in character, singing a song at the end of the film which captures the uplifting theme of this movie which was directed by Francois Ozon. Since you will most likely view this film on Netflix, we highly recommend that you watch the special feature which shows many in-depth clips about the making of the film. You will see the director and the well-known French actors and actresses professionally plying their trade but also informally interacting with each other and the crew. This is a worthwhile viewing experience in and of itself. (2010)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign
March 12th, 2015 — 7:13am
5 to 7-sp
If you are tuned in to the lingo of certain aspects of French culture, you might know that the title film refers to 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. This is the time in which it is permissible in some marriages for each partner to have an affair. Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin) is a 24-year-old single struggling writer in New York City who strikes up a conversation on a Manhattan Street with a beautiful French woman Arielle Tierpont (Bérénice Marlohe) who happens to be nine years his senior. She is married with two kids but is perfectly comfortable having an affair with him during these two magic hours of the day. Her husband Valéry Tierpont (Lambert Wilson) is a very handsome likeable guy and is glad to meet Brian who is quite bewildered by this chain of events. This all is not taking place in Paris but in New York City. The screen writer and director Victor Levin seems to know a lot about these things, as well as apparently being in love with New York. From the creative plaques on the benches of Central Park to the lovely Hotel Carlisle where much of the love making takes place, to the magnificent Guggenheim Museum, the mood of the film is clearly established. We come appreciate how this young man is absolutely smitten by the stunning, and very appealing French woman. He even introduces her to his Jewish parents. His mother (Glen Close) is charmed by this woman no matter what the circumstances, if she loves her son. His father (Frank Langella) is the comic relief to this film as he tries to digest the situation that his son is in. The dialogue of the film mostly New Yorkese with some occasional words of French thrown in with English subtitles The soundtrack also sets the mood about falling in love perhaps in a lifetime situation. The only flaw we couls find, is that as charming as young Mr. Bloom may seem to be and as much as we could appreciate his falling head over heels in love, we did not feel the film conveyed to us how this older beautiful woman was developing similar feelings to him. Perhaps Mr. Levin didn’t quite get into the French woman’s shoes. Nevertheless, the film is a moving, exciting, very creative, and a unique love story that is worth seeing (2015)
1 comment » | 4 Stars, Romance
April 20th, 2013 — 6:15pm
Renoir- rm – This movie becomes an enjoyable stroll through a museum filled with the paintings of French Impressionist Pierre- Auguste Renoir. However, instead of looking at the beautiful colorful paintings of this master you are watching a film about him and the people around him living on his picturesque farm on the French Riveria. The photography and the lighting , so often during the magic hours preceding sunset along with the delicate colors and the characters gracefully moving through the French countryside or in the period living quarters, transport the viewer into so many of Renior’s paintings. The screenplay is written by writer/director Gilles Bourdos and is based on the writing of the painter’s great grandson Jacques Renoir. The movie takes place in 1915 during World War I and opens as Andree (Christa Theret) a young beautiful girl with red hair comes to work as a model for the aging Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet). His wife having recently died, he is surrounded by women of various ages who act as his housekeeper, cook and assistant with the suggestion that some may have been previously his models or even more than that. Shortly thereafter his oldest son Jean Renoir (Vincent Rottiers) returns from the WW I battlefield to recuperate from a leg injury. We also meet young Coco Renoir (Thomas Dorot) the sulking youngest son of Renoir and learn of another older son who is also in the military. The story revolves around the role of Andree becoming the inspiration of the elder Renoir and his appreciation of her beauty and velvety skin, which is amply framed in the movie. At the same time there is her connection to son Jean and we get glimpses of them planning their possible future together. But alas, while Andree has aspirations to be an actress and plants the seed that Jean should become a filmmaker (which of course he did but beyond the time frame of the film), this young man is determined to return to fighting in the Great War. Whether you did or did not know the reality not exactly shown in the film that Andree was actually the muse for both father and son, will not influence your appreciation of this film. The almost 2 hour movie was easy to digest and the storyline mattered very little as the true effect of this movie was a visceral sense of this old master mixing colors, putting down his whirling brush strokes and capturing the beauty of the people and the countryside surrounding him. (2013)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Foreign, Romance
April 16th, 2012 — 5:52am
Monsieur Lazhar– sp (French with English subtitles) This film was the Canadian nomination for the best foreign film in the 2011 Oscar race. The opening scene takes place in a middle school that is the setting for most of the movie. We see a young student peeking into an empty classroom where he sees his teaching dangling from a rope where she has hanged herself. Starting with this violent event the movie progresses with an examination of the emotional meaning to the young students and to the replacement teacher Monsieur Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag ) an immigrant from Algiers, where he had his own secret tragedies. The movie is a remarkable accomplishment in that it is mostly these children who are expressing in a subtle manner what this experience has meant to them as well as the nuances of the storyline (which one must follow carefully through the subtitles). Fellag was imported from France for this role, which he handles with great sensitivity and believability. He is able to synchronize the working of his own emotions with those of the children. Much of the credit belongs to writer and director Phillipe Falardeau who adapted this story which he originally saw as a one person play. He concludes the film with the antithesis of how he began it. (2012)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign
January 27th, 2012 — 10:53pm
Declaration of War- sp– This movie is the French entry, for the best foreign picture in the 2011 Oscar Awards. It is the story of a young couple who fall in love and have a child who turns out to have a brain tumor. It almost could have been a documentary as they are relentlessly followed through every step of their ordeal. We have had a great deal of experience in our professional lives seeing patients and families who go through the very personal issues in and out of the hospital that these two young parents had to deal with. In that respect there were no revealing surprises Also who among us has not personally had to have discussion with family members about serious medical issues that someone close to us is going through? Everything about this movie was authentic. In fact the screen writers and stars of this movie Valerie Donzelli (who also directed) and Jeremie Elkaim have been a couple in real life who have had a child with a serious medical problem. They have stated that this film is not an exact mirror of their life experience but they were able to draw upon it to create the emotional experience which they portrayed so well. This was one of love for their child and for each other, support from their families and for each other as well as optimism and determinism. They were able to cinematically create special moments between them which provided insight into how they were attempting to cope. These are two very appealing persons and it was easy to identify with their youthful exuberance which made it all the more difficult to have to also identify with their fear and anxiety. We came away from the film experience having shared the ordeal of the people in the film with the hope that we and our loved ones could have strength of character that they showed, should we have to face such a crisis. (2011)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama