Month: June 2006



Gérald Hustache-Mathieu :: France :: 2006 :: 1h36

A young orphan finds herself in the tranquility of a secluded monastery, till the day that she is invited to join the order as a nun. One of her ‘sisters’ tells her she has a brother, and helps her with a two week secretive leave so that she can find him. In the outside world she tracks him down, discovering she has a family, life and love.

If the story sounds like sweetness wrapped in sugar, then you have made your first step into understanding this debut feature-length movie by Hustache-Mathieu. The movie is as naïve and pretty as it is simple and just. It manages to avoid being tedious thanks to a talented young cast, but will be mostly forgotten because of its lack of depth, intrigue or development. Is best served with a box of chocolates on a couch, for those who indulge in the likes.




Olivier van Hoofstadt :: Belgium :: 2006 :: 1h24

Dirty male characters who shout and fight and pretty girls who drink and kiss, in a trashy world of money of scum. A not-for-everybody cultish movie which flirts with originality and vulgarity, in a lukewarm soup which keeps the pace despite being little more than a sequence of sketches. For people who can live with Poelvoorde-type returns in an unappealing setting, where anything goes. Requires a very specific sense of humour and a high tolerance level to be able to fish out the good parts -if you consider the old boot worthwhile- out of this fluid guck.

Changement d’adresse

18644324Changement d’adresse

Emmanuel Mouret :: France :: 2006 : 1h25

Young musician David arrives in Paris, and needing a place to live, he meets Anne who is looking for a room mate. The clumsy, accommodating and naive David and the similarly disposed big hearted Anne become friends, supporting each other in their respective quests for love, but the burning question of course is whether or not they will find it right before them. Their flirtatious, supportive relationship can clearly swing both ways.

David is played by Marseille’s Mr Mouret himself, stepping out of the shadows of the directors-chair and into the spotlight. There are some of the same themes as in Venus et Fleur, his previous movie, with the uncomfortable scenes which come forth from our sentimental lives, but with this time round it is more sophisticated. In what sense? Humour. Changement d’adresse is very funny. A combination of word-play, absurdity and clumsiness make for a great one and a half hours of entertainment, pushing the buttons of inevitability and lightness in amorous affairs. Highly recommended.

Paris je t’aime

18645003Paris je t’aime

20 directors :: France :: 2006 :: 1h50

18 directors, from France and elsewhere, each dedicate 5 minutes of film to the theme of Love in one neighborhood of Paris each. With not only some top directors but also an impressive (similarly international) cast, we are presented with a panoply of micro tales on our so cherished 100 km2. A wonderful cinematographic Symposium theme, which works out somewhat curiously. Most contemporary cinema goers will not be used to watching short films, even if they have been loosely harmonized, and puts some strain on the viewers to get into the characters at TGV speed. None the less, the concept works out more of less well.

There is quite some variety in the type of films shown, from a funny vampire type love story (Vincenzo Natali) to a bitter sweet reflective story (Alexander Payne), and from a clownesque subway scene (Coen brothers) to a the dramatic dealing with loss (Nobuhiro Suwa). But as a whole, despite the international list of film-makers (including some top directors), half the time we seem to be watching Americans in Paris, which makes the city a postcard studio backdrop, against the intention of the film. An unfortunate consequence of the project, which leaves a feeling of disorientation. The movie is neither French, nor is it from anywhere specific, which brings about this cultural schizophrenia. Loving Paris is not about ‘backdrops’, but about people and French culture. Since that is lacking, we must take the movie as ‘Loving in Paris’, where the capital plays a strictly aesthetic background role. Mostly pleasant, but actually not good enough within the context of the project.

On va s’aimer

18611617On va s’aimer

Ivan Calbérac :: France :: 2005 :: 1h37

Two couples of thirty-somethings with -by cinema standards- customary middle-class professions deal with love and infidelity. Succumbing to desire as an escape from the self-induced monotony of daily life is hardly an original theme for a movie, and here it is exposed with almost painful simplicity. To top up the embedded mediocrity, we are treated with unappealing musical interludes sung by actors who can not sing. (Who is that supposed to amuse?) Mr Calbérac dealt with a similar theme in his first movie Iréne, but with a certain lightness and comedy he entertained the audience away from his otherwise over-simplicified reality and lack of insight. But the only humorous scene you will find has been ripped off from an Australian beer commercial, and the last thought-over shot was the poster at the entrance.

But to dedicate a few words to a wasted hour and a half of viewing: The weak characters -and their singing- are contrasted with a beautiful but unavailable Stringfellows dancer half way through the film, prompting, as any perfection does, the character into contemplation and action. If the director understands that his character is motivated by perfection, then why is the audience not treated to some? What is our expected gain? And even if you want to emphasise blandness in conversation, action and singing, how can we believe that the charming Melanie Doutey -even in this naive role- is so common? It would have made more sense to choose another actress or adjust her role to a chronically ill-tempered character. Of course, pointing out flaws is close to futile in a school-play type production of a script which would have been funnier and more insightful had the (in principle good) actors just improvised their way through.

So we are left with normal people (read here: weak and uninteresting) leading normal lives, but ruffling that dullness up with a little promiscuity, which is portrayed as equally devoid of interest. The moral must be -following Mr Onteniente’s Camping– that we can content ourselves through recognition with other dull-witted characters. Besides being an insult to the audience, this takes us far from the entertaining French tradition of creative dialogues and word-game humour, or the arts as a source of inspiration. Although still hoping that we are not witnessing the birth of a contemporary Nouvelle Vague of French cinema like this, I will baptise the trend nonetheless as the Flat Ripple. If we remember that the dot com bubble prompted a Nerd-acceptation wave in cinema, we can get seriously worried about what this is saying about our current Zeitgeest, as the Flat Ripple defends the bourgeois bland. As for Mr Calbérac, if his movies are inspired by his life, he would do well to get out a little more and make some new friends – even misanthropists’ can boast of an, albeit cynical, sense of humour, if they are willing to talk to you…

Dans la peau de Jacques Chirac

18614766Dans la peau de Jacques Chirac

Michel Royer, Karl Zéro :: France :: 2005 :: 1h30

Satirical archive portrait of Jacques Chirac’s political career, hopping from his time as major of Paris, to prime minister to president. Commented footage from the last 40 years or so, where the voice-over plays the role of the thoughts of Jacques Chirac, as a cynical couch self-analysis of his first-of-the-class thirst for power.

At the first glance, it looks like a film constructed by someone who spends too much time in the cellar of TF1 or some other TV station, and at the second glance, that he did not spend enough time there. There are some wonderful photographical moments of him interacting with others, as of course there would be with a career spanning the decades, but the incompleteness is just as striking. A movie, which is sold as such, can be expected to require a little more work than just sailing on the archival property of a public figure. The depth of analysis is done with the level we have come to expect from TV journalism, selecting a target and not looking much further, but does that justify a movie? If we crawl ‘under the skin’ of Jacques Chirac, could we not expect some completeness of the portrait? The French press developed a tradition of wetting the appetite of the public but never delivering, which keeps the public buying their papers and tuning in, because they want to know, be informed, but are mostly deceived. Cinema, even satirical, is mostly been spared of this consumerist cycle, as it should be. On the overlap of the tug-of-war between entertainment and art, cinema -contrary to the French press- is expensive, and should deliver to match.

At the heart of this portrait, we find that same journalistic core: incomplete, easy and a little bland. But all that being said, the movie is funny and it is pleasant to pass some time in the archives, but it should be aired with the rest of its kind – on television.

Conversation(s) avec une Femme

18604049Conversations with other women

Hans Canosa :: USA :: 2006 :: 1h25

A man moves up to a woman at a wedding we don’t really see with two glasses of Champagne and attempts to seduce her. She’s the out-of-town seventh bridesmaid replacement, he’s the older bachelor brother of the bride and both somewhat cynical and melancholic. As the night progresses, their relationship – present, past and future – unfolds through a series of interconnecting word games and half-hidden flashbacks.

The curious difference between the French release title and the US title baffle me. Neither seem appropriate for a what is in essence a dialogue. If the viewer is supposed to take on the role of the male following his conversation with Her, then why the split screen tactic, which allows us to follow them both intimately? And why, in the US title, should there be ‘other women’, when it is clearly an affair of two people? But never mind that, maybe you can figure that one out.

It would be a shame to divulge more of the story, as not only is the movie worth watching, but also it rests very heavily on the dialogues, despite all the complicated photographic effort which clearly went into the production. A little crudely made, with Carla Bruni’s voice flatly laid over the film, the at times imperfection of the script and the obsessional split screen which leaves you feeling like you missed out parts of the film despite being there. But, none the less, a captivating melancholic theatrical emotional adventure which strikes the right chords. Make sure you are in the right mood not to spoil what is actually a little gem of a film.