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Tu peux garder un secret? (2008)
Office farce has had better treatments, such as Le Placard and l'Antidote but Tu peux garder un Secret is fairly amusing with some good acting in the form of Pierre Arditi and Juliette Arnaud.
Who hasn't had the experience of telling a confidence to someone only to have it spread like wildfire around the who office. In Arnard's case it is a rash confession that she is sleeping with the boss, which she isn't. He's sleeping with someone else... Linda Hardy... who is still pretty fit 16 years after winning Miss France.
The advertising agency Arditi runs reminds me of Parisien BCBG workplaces (yes I've worked in offices overlooking the Eiffel Tower).
The film doesn't require a lot of attention to watch, ideal fodder after a hard day in the office.
Modern Love (2008)
Love is not like in the movies
Modern Love is a slightly odd format of a film within a film, which some might find disturbing, or contrived. The sub-film: Modern Love features the ever excellent but sadly underutilized Alexandra Lamy (Marianne) gets off to a bad start with gallery director and Brad Pitt look alike Stéphane Rousseau (Vincent) but everything works out "just like in the movies" in the end. Highlights are Vincent's knight on white charger rescue of Lamy at the altar and the excellent duet sung in sign language - a classic piece of cinema.
In the real world things are not so easy as we followed the tangled lives of cute but boyish Bérénice Bejo (Elsa) Stéphane Debac (Jérôme), France's fairytale princess the Duchess of Savoy Clotilde Courau (Marie) who anglophones will probably know from Piaf and Pierre-François Martin-Laval (Eric). Eric is the author of the film within the film but is brutally dumped by Courau before a brief encounter with Bejo.
There is a funny sequence at a Party where Bejo meets Debac who is her ideal man (doesn't like football, good looking, sensitive, improbably lives on a boat in the center of Paris). It is obvious to the viewer that we are not in Kansas, Toto but Bejo manages to dig a deep hole. However in the end no-one in the "real world" really ends up happy.
All very gallic, in the end one wishes for more of the musical escapism of Lamy and Rousseau.
Prête-moi ta main (2006)
Much Ado About Something?
Alain Chabat claims this movie as his original idea but the theme of reluctant lovers who finally get it together is as old, if not older, than Shakespeare.
Chabat is a "vieux garcon", happily single and not wanting any member of the opposite sex to disturb his life. He has a problem, 5 sisters and a matriarchal mum - the G7 - who decide he should be married. Enter the delightful, charming Charlotte Gainsbourg and what should be a simple plan. Charlotte has to pose as Chabat's girlfriend and then simply not turn up on the day of the wedding. No more talk of marriage from the G7. Of course the best laid plans have a habit of spiralling out of control.
There are very strong supporting roles from Lafont as the mother and Osterman as the tight-fisted brother of Gainsbourg.
There are some fantastic scenes as first Charlotte has to charm, then revolt the family. French farce with an English.
Wipe Out (2004)
I started to watch this because I thought it was going to be a surfing movie! Well it is after a fashion. It is a BBC children's television short film.
Basically the main character, a teenage boy, has lost his mum. She was a pro-surfer and the family spent seasons in Australia. Does this have anything to do with the story. It is not clear.
The story deals with how the boy comes to terms with his mum's death in a series of flashbacks or dream sequences and also how the shock of his mum's death brings his aunt out of her shell - she is still grieving 11 years after her husband has died.
The message seems to be "move on and get over it". Maybe from a child's or teenager's viewpoint the story seems a bit stronger.
The War Lover (1962)
Don't put out on the first date
The producers of this movie were lucky that black&white was still just possible for a cinematic release. This meant they could reuse a lot of newsreel footage although the joins do show.
In the main the special effects are pretty good. The back projection of cockpit shots is believable. The real flying sequences are fantastic, particularly when Rickson "McQueen" buzzes the airfield in his Flying Fortress. The stunt pilot must have been pretty good.
The final mission gives you an idea of what it was like to fly a heavy bomber. In part there is the adrenalin of shooting at enemy fighters but on the other hand the ever present risk of death. The Fortress looked like a state of the art bomber with its powered lower gun position obviously the Star War's Millennium Falcon was based in part on the Fort.
What of the movie? We don't find out much about McQueen. Shirley Anne-Field has an accent so posh even the Queen of England would sound like an pleb. Interesting that she beds a young and suave looking Wagner on the first date although the between the sheets action is kept to Field doing up her stockings while wearing a nightie. The moral of the film is possibly "don't put out on the first date"! Although British war girls did have the reputation of Teflon coated knicker elastic where Americans were concerned.
The good thing with these old movies is spotting the bit-part players. The recently deceased Ed Bishop, who, apart from cult TV favorite UFO, made a career as a bit-part Yank and who would believe it Michael Crawford as the gunner, long before his madcap antics on SMDHE. Burt Kwouk (bit part Chinese you would have thought that after 77 years he would have lost the accent !) even gets an unaccredited speaking role.
Two Rode Together (1961)
Two Rode Together is not a sophisticated movie but it explores the relationship between kidnapped and captor which, in our more sophisticated times would be referred to as Stockholm syndrome.
A Comanche tribe has been capturing "whites". After a campaign lasting many years the relatives convince the government to try and free these captives. Because a peace treaty has been signed with the Comanche it is decided this is best handled by negotiation a deal enter Jimmie Stewart's wheeler-dealing Marshall. As the start of the film we see Stewart sending some mean looking gamblers packing from his town so we know he is not to be messed with.
Of course, after so long many of the captives have either been sold to other tribes or are dead from battles or exhaustion after being used as slaves. The remainder have more or less developed an attachment for their captors. The reintegration into society is not going to be easy as we will see.
The recent release of an Austrian girl after 8 years in captivity (Natascha Kampusch) puts this movie into some kind of relief. The anguished parents never knowing the fate of their loved ones then the return and questions surely the hostages must have been complicit and then there are the mixed loyalties of the hostages. Two Rode Together explores these themes but spends too much time lingering on subplots and distractions while not really getting to grips fully with its core subject. Still a surprising theme for a Western.
The Spanish Main (1945)
All at sea
The studio sets and models are not too bad although the matts are visible in some shots. The action is a bit lacking. There is the obligatory duelling galleys in the early part of the movie but you don't really get the feel that these are men fighting for their lives.
The lack of action is not made up for by the story. There are some amusing bits of dialogue, most of the good bits are on IMDb.
Maureen O'Hara looks terribly mature for a 25 year old but plays her role well but the film lacks a strong central role such as Robert Newton.
More a sailing than a pirate movie.
Carve Her Name with Pride (1958)
A bit rushed
Central and RADA actors provided the backbone of British cinema during the 50s and were noted for their awful "cockerney" accents. McKenna is no exception and she is a bit all over the place where she might have been better sticking to her own voice. However she and Schofield along with Jack Warner give good performances.
The development of the back story is overly long by modern standards and the scene in France rushed and lacking in action. The rebuilding of the resistance network and the operations in her first drop seem to have been more extensive. In the film you almost feel like she's done a weekend Eurostar shopping trip to Paris.
Renews the Bronzes franchise
The Bronzes return to the "Club Med" setting of the first episode but I felt that the script was a lot tighter for this outing than the two previous films and they even managed a good, if somewhat implausible, ending. Okay, some of the jokes are familiar but the film is funny and entertaining.
For anyone not familiar with the plot, and that probably included the majority of 14 year olds in the audience, the scenario is all too familiar. A group meet on a "holiday camp" and agree to keep in touch as we probably all have done. In reality they have little in common to bind their friendship. This sequel brings them back after 27 years apart - following a somewhat disaster prone holiday in Val d'Isere.
This film certainly renews the franchise and I for one wouldn't be surprised by a no.4 - but where to set it?
The Girl in the Café (2005)
I'm not a big fan of Richard Curtis. I guess he is at least environmentally friendly, recycling the same old rubbish but this short TV movie is firmly in the toxic waste category. McDonald and Nighy are excellent actors but what can you do with a lame script full of Curtis retreads? Nigh has the Hugh Grant role, it does not work. We have all the usual "oh gosh, uhm, b*gger b*gger, b*llocks, golly, f*ck" which is what passes for dialogue in a Curtis movie but little of any substance. Even asking McDonald to walk around topless in a cute pair of pink knickers does little to cheer although she may break a few pause buttons on video players. The bedroom scene is just a rerun of Grant/McDowel in 4 weddings.
The movie's message - people are dying in Africa - is laid on so heavily it will probably turn off people who would watch this kind of film. Yes Richard, we know life is short and hard in Africa.
Nighy is a very senior civil servant - we know from Yes Minister etc that he wouldn't have made it to that position if he was really as shy, bumbling and introverted as his character. The whole concept is preposterous and embarrassing to watch, not least for the two leading actors.
Blackbeard, the Pirate (1952)
Gangs of the Caribbean
I'd always wondered were Daniel Day-Lewis had found his weird accent for Gangs of New-York. Finally an explanation, the character of Will The Butcher is based on Robert Newton's superbly hammy Blackbeard (note: other IMDBers have suggested Bill Sykes, another Newton character).
There are some drawn out scenes, such as where Newton swaps clothes with a look-alike to escape soldiers only to promptly shoot him in the back. The boat scenes are pretty well done though.
Newton is the prototypical celluloid pirate with his outings in the definitive Treasure Island. Both films have memorable endings but are not up to the special effects of Pirates of the Caribbean.
We Dive at Dawn (1943)
Brit Docudrama Propaganda Piece
It is always pleasant to see John Mills acting but the constraints of wartime mean this is not much more than a propaganda piece plucky Brits pulling off a near impossible mission. The film quality is good but I had trouble hearing some of the dialog British accents have changed a lot in 60 years - even for a native speaker.
The underwater scenes where the crew is hunted by two German destroyers lacks the tension of later movies in particular the superlative Das Boot. I was impressed by the calculations for torpedo firing, Mills trying to get angles and his officer working out trajectories on a slide rule. Funny to think they were still using such technology on the Apollo Missions. The special effects are lacking, although the "bathtub" scenes where Mills looks through the periscope are well done as are the real submarine scenes.
The film lacks the pace and production values of later (and some earlier) war movies. It has the feeling more of docudrama.
A man's gotta do...
Some of us watch Westerns because they remind us of a time when the world was a bigger place. When it took weeks not hours to cross America. Big vistas, and big country, when men were men and didn't use their wife's beauty products.
Firecreek isn't this kind of Western, although it has the traditional gunfight and no doubt the producers said "we need that stuntman that falls from his horse and gets dragged the length of Main Street that they have in all westerns". Instead the story seems more a parable for the decadence and isolation that Western culture was falling into towards the 60s. When gangs ride into town, be it on horses or motorbikes, and everyone turns a blind eye.
I can't fault the Stewart character; he sees trouble coming and knows that if the town just keeps their heads down it will keep on moving only he's backed up by the town's people from hell. From the young slut who'll do almost anything for a few dollars more to the liveryman who thinks that Jimmy should lock 'em all up to a simpleton who somehow got elected deputy sheriff (presumably no-one else in the town wanted to put their ass on the line) who just can't help sticking his nose in.
Of course the whole thing degenerates and Stewart ends up having to play the Gary Cooper character. The movie is not unenjoyable and reminds us today that if we want to live in a pleasant society we have responsibilities and can't just lock ourselves away behind gates. Still hard to believe that there is only 5 years between Firecreek and High Plains Drifter.
JAM (Christian Clavier), a French "master of the universe" is on the brink of a major takeover when he starts suffering from anxiety attacks. His doctor (Lhermite) thinks it is to do with childhood experiences and suggests he searches back in his mind to something that could be the trigger and will prove to be the antidote. Enter André Morin (the late, great Jacques Villeret) reprising his role of the amiable "con" (idiot) who proves wiser than everyone. Morin is a smalltime accountant who has become a champion of the little man the small shareholders who are taken for granted by today's business leaders more interested in power and wealth. It is a real clash of cultures and provides plenty of laughs.
JAM is obviously inspired by ill-stared Jean-Marie Messier (J2M), former head of Vivendi entertainment. JAM's company is the similarly bland sounding Valdis. Without giving anything away the story obviously owes something to Citizen Kane. There is a interesting opening title sequence, which suggests more thriller than comedy and some good special effects for the Rosebud moment. If you loved Le Diner des Cons you will enjoy this movie.
After me, the accountants
A leading politician for almost 50 years, from the dark days of the Vichy, through the De Gaulle era into the 1990s, Mitterand finally grasped the crown of the French presidency only to find that he had prostrate cancer with a short time to live. His father had succumbed in 2 years to the same disease.
Mitterand struggled on for the whole fourteen years of his two terms as President but in the twilight months of office he makes a strange invitation to young journalist Georges-Marc Benamou, a Jew, to write his memoirs. Benamou is fascinated by the contrasts. Mitterand came from the right, in the 1930s he was a member of a fascist group that protested about immigrants. Benamou wants to find out about Mitterand's murky war years when the President worked for Petain's collaborationist Vichy regime. He finds out that no-one in France, least of all the President, wants to look at this time too closely.
Mitterand still holds a fascination for France. The man who betrayed the right to become a committed socialist, made the left wing electable and then presided over France almost like Louis the XIVth. His first couple of years were marked by radical reform, crisis, retrenchment then a long period of stagnation under cohabitation with a right wing government. But his period in office reminds people of a "temps perdu" of certainty before globalization and it maybe this reason why the cinema was nearly full on a cold Tuesday afternoon.
The film tells us less than we know, certain controversial parts of Benamou's book, such as the last New Year supper where Mitterand gobbles down Ortolan, are left out although the President's half brother, the actor Roger Hanin, recently confirmed the veracity of these events. Michel Bouquet portrayal of the declining days of Mitterand is excellent. It is almost painful to watch and the other characters are superb.
Colette, une femme libre (2004)
A poor epitaph for the fifi battue
This is one of the more confusing biopics I have seen. We know that shooting of the film was complete by the time of Marie Trintignant 's tragic death so I can only assume that the director, her mother, was too upset to give the editing the attention it deserved or too busy writing her emotional book about Marie.
Even with that excuse it is hard to get to grips with what should have been a fascinating story. Colette (Trintignant ) hardly appears to age during her long life and characters, such as her husband, appear and disappear from the story without explanation. It is hard to sympathize with anyone in the movie. Trintignant seems to be sleep walking through the role... perhaps as a result of her difficult private life that became all too public.
Je suis un assassin (2004)
The Road is Paved with Bad Intentions
Two men, vague acquaintances meet on a train to Marseille. One Giraudeau (Brice) is a successful author of pot-boilers, the other Ben (Cluzet) also an author of thrillers has won critical acclaim but little commercial success. Brice is outwardly successful but is suffering from writers block due to a difficult on-going divorce. Why doesn't he publish Ben's next manuscript under his own name and they split the proceeds, some 200,000 dollars. Oh, there's only one catch, Ben has to kill Brice's wife or she will take the money as part of the divorce settlement. Brice suggests that as crime writers they are the ideal candidates to pull off the perfect murder, especially as there is little to link the two men.
Comparisons with Hitchcock's Stranger's on a Train are obvious but this movie has an altogether more complex moral than crime doesn't pay. But first what a strange coincidence that François Cluzet, whose ex-wife Marie Trintignant was battered to death, is in a movie where he performs a similar act. What will Marie and François's son make of it?
The cinematography, while tipping a hat to Hitchcock and Becker's One Deadly Summer shows many subtle touches. A horrific scene where a woman is beaten to death is viewed through the distorting reflection of a vase. Cluzet's walk down the steps of the Marseille railway station and cut to him entering a red painted room are like his descent into hell. Then there is the acceptance of food from the plate of the woman he will eventually kill.
Of the two leads, Giraudeau's acting is superb considering his recent serious illness and Cluzet is on-form as well.
<*** attention slight spoiler ***> In the end it is this unlikely and reluctant assassin who proves most cool headed while the people surrounding him descend into their own personal torments. A surprising and horrific ending leaves you wondering whether Ben was really happier before his fateful meeting with Brice when events started to spin out of his control.
The Wicker Man (1973)
Is Nothing Sacred?
I saw The Wicker Man a long time ago and was haunted by the ending. Although not a classic 'blood and gore' horror movie it explores interesting themes and shows today's directors that a plot is more important than a huge budget and special effects.
Recently I got a DVD with the so called Director's Cut. Such a thing doesn't really exist and this is a bit of hodge podge of sources that make a 99 minute run time.
Both Lee and Woodward give good performances although some of the supporting stars were obviously just people contracted to British Lion. I was stunned how much Britt Ekland resembled a 50s Brigit Bardot - although a somewhat fitter version. The film must have caused quite a stir in its day.
Rumour has it that we are soon to be treated to Hollywood's version of The Wicker Man staring Nic Cage. After the theft of Get Carter and the Italian Job one has to wonder if anything is sacred to the bloodsuckers of Hollywood. It is the wholesale pillage of British culture.
28 Days Later... (2002)
The Beach, Reloaded
The Boyle and Garland team reload The Beach as a modern day horror movie. A group of post holocaust survivors discover refuge from marauding zombies with army remenants but their brief respite turns into a nightmare. In this movie Garland seems to explore similar themes to the beach but the lack of budget really shows.
The opening scenes of a deserted London are brilliant but much of the film looks like it was recorded on a domestic camcorder. The bits with the army look like one of those recruiting adverts. The lead actor is really annoying, spending a great deal of the movie shouting "hello?" like one of the Crankies!
Forgetting the fact that primate experiments are banned in the UK. The plot is so full of holes you could drive an army truck through them. For example, we are told that electricity has failed but when they raid a supermarket (miraculously intact and open) they lighting is obviously working. We also learn that the world managed to isolate Britain but their radio doesn't pick up any broadcasts from even France.
Unfortunately for Boyle it was all done much better by the BBC's Survivors in the 70s.
15 Minutes (2001)
Man Bites Dog
When I saw this film I assumed it was another Hollywood remake of a French language film, in this case the classic Man Bites Dog. The film didn't seem to be able to decide whether it was a comedy... certainly DeNiro seemed to be in his "Analyse This" role with a tip of the hat to Taxi Driver when he reherses his wedding proposal in the mirror. But at other times the film is all too serious and gory.
In the end it makes a comment about reality TV and the whether the press acts as an agent provocateur in crimes.
Killing Me Softly (2002)
Cul de foudre
Heather Graham ditches boring soccer loving boyfriend for mercurial mountaineer Adam (Fiennes), a story as old as Eve herself. But is it a case of the moth getting too close to the flame. All is not quite as it seems in this thriller/love story.
The sex scenes are quite graphic, although it is once again Fiennes butt that gets the exposure with Graham staying chastely clothed for much of the between the sheets action... maybe she's shy about her ample but sagging breasts?
Fiennes is plausible as the the taciturn mountaineer given at times to extremes of violence. Graham is every inch the nosy and suspicous American chick. The director has obviously studied thrillers and tried, not always successfully, to introduce some good parts. I was reminded of 'Dead Calm' amongst others. But the tension is lacking from the end as by now you've sussed out Adam and his all too friend sister.
Gone in 60 seconds
In France the advertising is selling this film on its rollerblading content. Don't be fooled, the cool rollerblading stuff lasts about a minute. There are some other nice stunts like parachuting off a bridge but the acting, for the most part, is really terrible.... it is also very very short. You can see where the budget went, on stringing a few cool stunts together.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Tat masquerading as art
This seems to be what Canal+ (the backers of this movie) would call a December film. Canal+ is bound by French law to give 3% of their profits to film making. Come to them with a story in June and they will consider it carefully and politely show you the door. Come back in December and they are desperate to unload the rest of their budget and will back any ill-conceived mish-mash of ideas, even a failed TV pilot already rejected in the States.
I know, I know the critics have raved about this movie, but they also rave about paint splashed on canvas by chimpanzees. Ignore them, never have cinema seats seems so hard, never has two hours seemed so long. Excellent cinematography and good acting performances do not equal a good film as Lynch pulls tricks out of his stock rag-bag of ideas.
And film finanaciers, I beg you, stop confusing tat for art and stop giving this man money. Surely Eraserhead warned you of what was to come?
What shocked me most about this movie is how derivative it is of Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon. Maybe there are not too many ways that you can film a woman's descent into madness? The POV, mise en scene and even the music are so derivative of Deren's work that I can't believe that Polanski hadn't seen it at film school, assumed that the wider public wouldn't notice and then proceeded to derive large junks.
Deneuve shows potential but had yet to achieve the heights she reached in films such as Belle du Jour. The story of a girl driven to insanity by, we are meant to assume, memories of incest by her father is laid on pretty heavily and the film has quite a dated feel. However the mise en scene and sound had derivatives in Lynch's Erasehead and like Lynch's movie I am still wondering what all the fuss is over Polanski.
Is happiness really to be found in the meadows?
Sandrine, a parisien girl, fed up with her unfulfilling existence as a computer trainer and the everyday problems of city life decides to leave the Paris to become a peasant farmer.
Sandrine buys a farm high on the Vercors plateau in South-East France from Adrien, an old peasant suspicious of Sandrine's college ideas. It's spring and Sandrine makes a good start, developing other aspects of the farm, a rural Gite welcomes travellers and school parties and a Web sites advertises goat's cheese.
Although the locals are suspicious they are perhaps more accepting of a young, dynamic outsider free of the petty local rivalries that set family against family in these close knit rural communities. This is no Jean de Florette and is illustrated when Adrien defends the changes Sandrine has made to his mates in the village bar.
However the rural idyll is not all that it might seem to city folk. The audience is confronted with graphic scenes of a pig having its throat cut to make Boudin (black pudding) and later of mad cows being killed with a bolt gun. Winter comes and the sense of despair and isolation felt by many small farmers is complete when we see Sandrine in long shot, alone in the barn after one of her goats has stillborn kids.
The film explores the conflicts between conformable but ultimately pointless city life - going nowhere in the Paris traffic and the savage beauty of life on the isolated Vercors plateau. Even the peasants shop at the local hypermarket in Grenoble.
Adrien's initial scepticism gives way to a hope that Sandrine will carry on his farm but he has difficulty with the rapprochement, perhaps caused by events in his own life. The Nazis burned his farm in '44 looking for maquisards and later Government men arrive to kill and burn his cattle infected with mad cow disease. Are the government men worse than the Germans? For Adrien maybe, as these events lead to the death of his wife.
Like the Vercors, Sandrine seems both beautiful but uncompromising but we see constant flashes of the temperament that, like the weather vane in front of her house, cause her to make sudden changes affecting those around her. She is really quite vulnerable needing the occasional love of her city boyfriend and the friendship of Adrien. Maybe it is this qualities that will lead to her eventual success?
A final comment, like many movies these days there is quite a bit of product placement - Volvo cars, Lowe mountain gear, Carrefour but the countryside is wonderfully shot.