Month: March 2007

La Tête de Maman

La Tête de Maman

Carine Tardieu :: France :: 2006 :: 1h35

Lulu is 15 years old, living in an idealized French countryside with her parents. Her mother has been depressed and sickly as far back as she can remember, a state which is about to be challenged by a Lulu who slips slowly into young adulthood. The real trigger occurs when Lulu stumbles on an old picture of her mother, where she’s radiant, and Lulu realizes something must have happened along the way. Her second thought, being the entrepreneurial type that she is, is it may also be the route to get her back. A two generational first-love tale unfolds with Lulu at the helm.

The script and movie has the marks of a young woman all over it, both in its strengths and in its weaknesses. One of the great strengths of the film, is Lulu’s character. Not only are the dialogues well-done, but we also get a credible insight into her thoughts which are often brusk and abrupt. They are also very funny, for a large part because it is credible. Visually, we see her as a tomboy and at other times as a pretty young women. This mild oscillation of character presentation goes perfectly hand in hand with her words. As thoughtfully as the female characters (Lulu, mother, grandmother) are presented, that’s how inversely flat the male (love interest) characters are. Since it is somewhat inherent within the project, an Almodovarian -we’ll just cut them out- attitude could have been considered. The most obvious example is her father, who gets quite some screen time, but without properly establishing his character. He is endlessly patient towards his depressed wife, but some indication why he loves her so would have helped, even if it was out of a Christian obligation.

Some small details went over the top – the father’s sympathetic nod to his wife’s old love was just too much. As for Lulu, she could have been a little nicer to her girl-friend to justify their friendship, but even if we brush over these imperfections, you still have a beautiful, funny and captivating tale left. It is rare to see such depth of a young character in cinema. An excellent debut by Ms Tardieu which I highly recommend.

(There’s a beautiful Press File available, if you can read French)


Ensemble, c’est tout

Ensemble, c’est tout

Claude Berri :: France :: 2006 :: 1h37

Franck, a cook, shares a huge apartment with Philibert, a young man having trouble getting started in life. Philibert meets Camille, a young woman struggling with anorexic tendencies living on the top floor of their building. He takes care of her, as Franck does his grandmother. As time rolls by the four characters develop a ‘togetherness’ which helps them out of the little circles of their lives.

A feel-good movie in which the tenderness of the characters is predictably developed rendering the exercise somewhat superfluous. The charm would be to see the added value of ‘community’ as opposed to trying to live your life by yourself, but do we need a lesson in the importance of caring? As with all overall positive movies it is easy to skip over it, and in this case it would not be a miss. Perhaps the message would have been better passed on wrapped up in comedy. It is an easy watch but it borders on time spend watching people walk by in the street. But it’s your time to spend …



Zack Snyder :: USA :: 2006 :: 1h55

An epic propaganda-type film glorifying war and violence. Set a few hundred years before Christ, the Spartans find themselves confronted with the onslaught of the Persian Empire marching in their direction. The Spartan King Léonidas refuses to stand down and illegally leaves with 300 men to confront their enemy, knowing they will not be able to win. The bulk of the movie either hears the rebel cry ‘to the death’ with a sword in the air, or shows the killing of mostly faceless Persians.

The movie resembles a video game, and takes a bit of getting used to as the images are very synthetic. The flip-side of the special effects overdose, is that the photography combined with fast-forward slow-motion effects are spectacular, and re-enforced by an awe inspiring soundtrack. The audience is invited to cheer on the soldiers, as they would a rugby team, in their heavily styled choreography of violence.

The mythical Spartan military training followed by the manly one-liners of camaraderie set the men apart as teamed up Rambo’s in their David vs Goliath struggle. As is often the case with Hollywood ‘historical’ movies, the past is modified to suit contemporary goals (army recruitment and justifying wars, I presume). The idea that blood needs to be shed to obtain ‘freedom’ and that diplomacy is useless is the core message. Having heard the message ad nauseam from the other side of the Atlantic, it blurs the morality of the viewer. Nobody wants to be subjugated to a foreign empire but real life, in the past as in the present, is more complicated than the message which is forced on us, and it is worth reminding ourselves that killing (or war) really should be a very last resort rather than a knee-jerk reaction.

To make clear the obscurity of their fight for ‘freedom’, remind yourself that the portrayed society kills their children unless they seem perfect at birth, abuses their sons to toughen them up, sends them off on their own on missions they may not survive and eventually fights them to the death to protect their ‘freedom’. This is a society which kills a man before getting proof that he is a traitor. Even if nobody wants to be subjugated to a foreign power, it would still be reasonable to ask whether or not we can speak of a ‘free’ society here, and one worth protecting (with your life). Bravery is dangerous recklessness without moral guidance and some thought. Promoting warrior virtues, as in this film, is not going to make this world a more pleasant place to live.

It is unfortunate that a talented director, as Mr Snyder clearly is, should lend himself to these practices rather than concentrating on putting his aesthetic sense to some (moral) good, or at least into the lesser of evils – advertising. About 20 minutes into the movie, we see a 10 second dreamy erotic portrayal of the Oracle. As it already looks like a perfume Ad, I would recommend the director specializes himself away from mainstream cinema to where he does less harm. If you do go in to watch 300, choose a good cinema so that you can at least appreciate the main qualities of the film – the imagery and the sound, but harness yourself morally to keep your sound judgement.

Official Website (and the English version)