Pedro Almodovar :: Spain :: 2005 :: 2h01
Raimunda is exiled in a labourers Madrid with her teenage daughter, but still with one foot firmly planted in her provincial past. Times are hard for them, and when both her somewhat ex-communicated mother and her boyfriend die, she is thrust back into the murky depths of her life. Twisted in the Almodovarian way, we are dragged along painfully by a will to survive. By all means an all-womens homage, where the men -if even in the picture- are reduced to being mostly unappealing but obligatory sexual objects, with all the consequences which flow from that. A female reality defined by strong character-ed inter-dependence, but without much hope for any romantic love. The combination of light pessimism with a cynical touch, spices this impressive scenario with an excellent cast, leaving us with a harshly coloured image of an almost surreal world. Watch, and consider for yourself.
The Da Vinci Code
Ron Howard :: USA :: 2005 :: 2h32
Contemporary search for the holy grail rewriting History, as the result of several mysterious murders, most notably of the curator of the Louvre who left behind a coded message for his grand daughter and a Professor in symbology. Embarking on the quest, they unravel the mystery of all mysteries in Christian History, that the Holy Grail is in fact Jesus’ bloodline. The story of the movie is so widely discussed following the unprecedented success of Dan Brown’s book of the same title, that there will be few people out there at the moment who do not know it. None the less, the details of the unravelling are so elaborate (and creative) in the book, that the movie version can not avoid endless explaining, in word and with flashbacks. To keep the pace, the movie unravels quickly, leaving out one of the charms of the mystery genre – that you try to figure it out yourself.
So we just watch passively and try to take it all in, making the thriller almost into a documentary, with some violence and chases added on. This makes it tempting to be somewhat indifferent towards the movie, especially considering there were no major mistakes. It is worth mentioning that there is some great photography – Paris (empty and with soft lighting, as always on film) and London come out well, with an added effect of frame upon frame to integrate the past into the present the way people imagine in real life (through transposition). A nice touch in a somewhat bland but faithful adaptation. It will require equal strength not to go as it was with the book, so avoidance is only for the strong willed.
Jean-Marc Vallee :: Canada :: 2005 :: 2h09
Coming of age in a 1960s to 80s Canadian family of five brothers, Zac struggles to find a place for himself in the world. Tuned to the rhythm of pop, the brothers all take on a role making them a portrait of an era, but do not be misled into thinking that is all. Zac’s development as a person and in his relationships to his parents are at times rudimentary and at times dealt with with sensitive detail. Because of the time span covered, life always seems to take on a certain epic proportion, and it is hard to be left untouched. It is funny to note that friendship, love and music are the only real life factors considered important, as when they study or work we are oblivious to its contents. None the less, the grand details (paths followed, relationships chosen) and small ones (mystical mother-son link, human reactions) render the tale credible, funny and moving. The importance of the seemingly silly title is explained … now only the poster …
(The Quebec dialect is strong, and subtitles sparse, so unfortunately can be hard to follow at times if unaccustomed.)
Les Filles du botaniste
Dai Sijie :: France, China :: 2005 :: 1h45
Orphaned girl Li Min gets sent to a draconian botanist for a schooling placement where she meets An, his patient and dutiful daughter. The magical garden and the surrounding -surreal- countryside bears almost impossibly hidden and cultivated herbs which are poisonous, healing, meat eaters or hallucinogenic. Like Alice in wonderland, they are confronted with the hidden powers of plants. In parallel, they fall in love, with the added complexity that this relationship is illegal in 1980s China. Li Min and An develop a scheme to keep them together in the Botanist’s house to let their love blossom. Unfortunately, especially in the beginning of the movie, their budding love is unconvincingly presented, making the intended sensuous scenes which follow artificial. The violent shocks in the story-line do not make watching any easier either, forcing the viewer to take on a very lenient position towards the characters and their play, a requirement which was easily avoided with more attention to detail. In a few words: A missed chance to praise love, with two beautiful actresses and photography in almost unreal scenery.
Fabien Onteniente :: France :: 2005 :: 1h35
Wealthy man takes his daughter out on a holiday to Marbella, but they never arrive due to their car breaking down forcing them to stay with a group of habitual campers on their August routine. Picture them all dancing one behind the other with their hands on each other’s shoulders through the camp site, but do not be misled into thinking this is Les Bronzés. No doubt this movie is intended as a light pre-summer comedy, so we should not set our standards too high, but even then – how low can you set them? All the camp site holds is a collection of flat characters portrayed in a predictable, vulgar and joke-less environment leaving no reason whatsoever to go and see it. Avoid with effort.
Christian Vincent :: France :: 2005 :: 1h40
Woman leading an uninteresting life inherits 50 000 euros and decides to go and spend it in the Cote d’Azur living it up. On arrival, she falls for a small time swindler, and goes in for the ride. A sunny, fast cars, Cannes and beautiful houses type movie, if it was not for the main characters being played by Isabelle Carré and José Garcia. With their screen time, we could expect a whole lot more than what we got. We are supposed to believe that Garcia’s character has no interest in the advances of Carré’s character, who plays the clumsy seductress but none the less, there is no place to hide her astounding beauty or her charm in those little dresses. Garcia plays the busy-body-I’ll-sort-it-out character, which he is good at, but the script could have given him a little more punch or twist to lift him out of the common. Not much effort went into the photography or music to compensate for the lacks, leaving the whole movie to rest on the shoulders of Ms Carré’s unconvincing character. Remind yourself what a big fan you are of one (or both) of the main actors before (and if) you go in.
Jin-Ho Hur :: South Korea :: 2005 :: 1h45
A man and a woman who were having an affair crash their car against another killing a young man. Their respective spouses find them in a coma in hospital and have to deal with the consequences. Their pain of betrayal, the tragedy of death and coma, and on top of that the frustration of not being able to talk to their partners, brings the two closer together. Fine-tuned with great attention to detail, both in script as in visual execution, enhances the credibility, painting a very intimate portrait of a blossoming love. It would be a pity to elaborate on the fine details worked out in the movie, as that is the charm of watching. Try going in with little more pre-knowledge than that the director takes on the ‘In the Mood for Love’-type theme and see where he takes you from there. Highly recommended.