Marcelo Pineyro :: Spain, Argentina, Italy :: 2005 ::1h55
Seven candidates show up at some multinational in Madrid, all of them in the last round of a recruitment process. While the city is immersed by anti-globalization protests on the streets down below, the candidates are turned on each other for the selection. A sadistic analysis of the contemporary business world, pushed just that little bit further to earn it the title of a satire.
The cruel game is played out in the confines of the office, with the candidates fending for themselves under the presumed watchful eye of the named, but anonymous, entity which is the corporation. The tension mounts quickly, as the strong characters clash head-on in their perfectly developed manipulative manners after their years in business life. An excellent cast plays clever but tough dialogues in scenes which are a little too close to reality for comfort. A clear message surfaces as the film comes to a close, leaving a sour aftertaste. Not an uplifting movie to watch, but ingeniously crafted. Bare in mind that you may want to lay in the sun after surviving this one.
Thank You for Smoking
Jason Reitman :: USA :: 2004 :: 1h32
Nick Naylor is the acting spokesman for Big Tobacco defending it against the sign-of-the-times cultural onslaught on cigarettes. A candid, satirical look behind the scenes in a brutal politicized big business nation, where a gifted talker defends the unpopular while still trying to be the role-model for his son.
Partly outdated and heavily American in its approach, we are presented with the ridiculous situation of a serial smoker who does not smoke on screen. In fact, nobody in the film does. On top of that curiosity, we are obliged to assume that being a spokesperson for an unpopular product is bad in itself, in the same way that a lawyer who defends a (supposed) criminal is doing a ‘bad’ thing. On accepting this presumed morality, we can proceed to the rest of the film.
As you can imagine, a hero baring a name like ‘Nick Naylor’ is going to be the best and ‘nail’ the competition into the ground. Well, indeed, he does. He gets all the best lines and sets the competition to shame. Impeccably dressed and charming all the way through, he is the emblem of the American success model, even if he is caught up in the middle of the losing battle between an authoritarian paternal state and the free-market advocates. He fights with the tools accorded to him to manipulate the masses as a contemporary sophist.
Because the film is obsessed with the immorality of his profession, consider the following quote taken as his justification of his profession: ‘99% of everything done in the world, good or bad, is done to pay a mortgage. Perhaps the world would be a better place if everyone rented.’ A funny line to say, but of course as false they get. This makes for awkward viewing as we try to decipher truths from falsehoods at breakneck speed. Removing the arguments from the movie leaves a simple sitcom father-son tale with a charming main character. But that’s not the route to take. Watch the movie for its strengths – it is really very funny. And for the sophistry? Just let it go up in smoke, while you laugh.
Chacun sa nuit
Pascal Arnold, Jean-Marc Barr :: France :: 2005 :: 1h35
Pierre and Lucie, brother and sister, are in a full sexual development swing with their friends, until one day, Pierre does not come home. The question of the movie is what happened to him. The curiosity of the movie, is how Lucie goes about finding out. We follow her as she uses the only power she has discovered, her body, to try to obtain answers in a micro-cosmos of perversity and sexual adolescent indulgence.
It is unfortunate that the movie suffers from a confusion from start to finish, due partly to the resemblance of the characters, partly to the bizarre nature of the script and partly to the (time-frame) editing. Consequently, the audience loses interest in what could have been an original youthful tale. Lucie’s manipulation of others through their desire for her body is taken as her strength, which, even if taken as unfortunate, does not evolve into a more mature version. Character development is perhaps a lot asked for a group of youngsters, but a little more character would have helped. If you venture into the dark hall for this one, make sure its late and you are tired. You will leave with the inspirational originality of the sexual/ amorous melange without being too affected by the overall work. But beware of just being lulled into the realms of your own faraway dreamworld.
Luca Guadagnino :: Italy, Spain :: 2006 :: 1h40
Melissa grows up in southern Italy with a father who is seldom there, her mother who is too preoccupied to really notice her, and her hippie grandmother who is as close to her heart as only a grandmother can be. As she leaves her childhood behind, Melissa progresses into adulthood though her sexuality. Her first experience is so strong and far removed from her imagined contact, that she is twisted into discovering the extremes. An abrupt ending to her sexual exploration brings her to an understanding of adulthood.
The coming-of-age drama differs from others by its exploration of sexual extremes, and by its analysis of a psychological change (into adulthood) through the physical. A large challenge for a film, which it does not really pull off. The relationship between Melissa and her mother leaves too many questions – why is her mother so distant, and why is she treated so badly by the grandmother? The next step in questioning is the curious behavior of those around her. The extent of the sexual promiscuity and deviancy around her seems rather excessive without further explanation. A whole lot of tears with violins playing in the background are not going to make up for the lack of justification of the events. At closing, the audience sits through a standardized finale, leaving them to wonder what it was they had to sit through. And what for? Looking at the film from the perspective of the side characters, the image of the masculine gender as a never-ending source of sexual adventure/ perversion is perhaps not the image desired to send out into the world. Or was that the message? If you sit though this one, bare in mind you are watching teenage cinema not really recommended for teenagers.
Nicole Garcia :: France :: 2005 :: 1h55
A few days pass in the lives of very different characters in a small town on the scenic Atlantic coast. The town mayor, a teacher, a scientist, a crook, physiotherapist and their families all see their miserable lives cross paths with the others in almost two hours of tedious film. An unhappy portrait of a town which should know better, as the characters themselves refuse to take hold of their lives to make something of them. The scientist tries to convince the teacher to join his team, but the essential problem is shared by all – an incapacity to face their own lives, to care for those around them and themselves. A dull, badly worked out film which should have remained in the editing room considerably longer than it did. Do not let the enigmatic title seduce you into the darkness, there is not much to see.
Du jour au lendemain
Philippe Le Guay :: France :: 2006 :: 1h33
A man is plagued by little annoyances in a life which falls apart. One day, everything changes. Every annoyance he had vanishes, and his personal and professional life take a turn for the better. The sudden onset of happiness in his life not only catches him off guard but threatens his very conception of himself. He feels even more lost than he did before, when he was in the tranquility of his miserable little life.
Fans of Poelvoorde will rejoice at seeing him in great shape, they will find plenty of funny details to amuse them through the 1.5 hours. If you do not fall into this category, you will find but a simple comedy based on a simple idea, without inspired dialogues or added value. All the details, on which the movie hinges, are just extensions to the initial set-up and hence will fail to impress them or make them laugh. Personally, I would skip it.
Renny Harlin :: USA :: 2006 :: 1h37
Young descendants of witches battle it out between them when one of them wants all the power. Standard teen movie with supposedly pretty boys and girls, at a good school, doing the right thing, when they are confronted with the evil of one of them. Being a young rebel is not quite what it used to be – dressed in GAP, they listen to standard music, they do not smoke, they drink coca cola and eat hamburgers like a good consumer promoting Ford automobiles. We seem to be regressing into the 1950s but this time round with a commercial gloss. The movie watches like a commercial in its extended version, with the simple ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to define the characters. I suppose that if ‘good’ deviated from what’s available at the local shopping mall it would suddenly be considerably less ‘good’. Ideally, the ‘evil’ character should have had his own independent label music taste and bought his clothes abroad … it would help us understand the true nature of ‘evil’ (but unfortunately the makers did not think of that one). If you have to sit through advertisements before the movie starts, you might get confused as to when it actually starts. Make sure you wear a T-shirt with an ostensible logo if you go in, it’ll help you feel at home.
NB French release title (if ever) is unknown at present time
UPDATE: The movie is being released in France in December 2006 … lucky us.