Month: July 2009

Divorce a l’Italienne

19101659Divorzio all’Italiana
Pietro Germi :: Italy :: 1961 :: 1h44

Ferdinando (Marcello Mastroianni) is a 37 year old baron living in a small sleepy town in Sicily. Other then avoiding the southern heat during the day, there is but one thing haunting his days – his desire for the beautiful young Angela (Stefania Sandrelli). There is however a catch – the wife. His empty existence becomes filled with wild fantasies of murder to be able to separate himself from his “till death do us part” allegiance. As time cruelly drags by, and Angela affirms her love for him too, he starts to hatch a plan to trap his wife.

In a period of post-war Italy where progress is sweeping along, there are still remnants of another Italy, one in which divorce is cruelly illegal, where honour dictates behaviour and where the Mob can always lend a helping hand when required. The film clearly intends to show its contemporaries of the disparities (and injustices) in their rapidly evolving society. Italy has in fact changed so much, that watching the film today seems to land you in another world altogether, even if it was already a caricature at the time.

Obscure morality and historical relevance aside, what a dark comedy to watch! Mastroianni is, of course, fabulous as the devious bungling aristocratic anti-hero, whipping up sympathy where there should not be any. The movie is rightfully classed as a masterpiece of Italian comedy. If you have not seen its dry humour in the Mediterranean heat, I could not recommend it more.


Planète Parr


Parrworld: the Collection of Martin Parr

Martin Parr (Curator: Thomas Weski) :: Exposition :: Jeu de Paume, Paris :: 20/06 to 27/09/2009

The Jeu de Paume groups together photographs and collected miscellaneous articles by the prolific British Magnum photographer Martin Parr. Besides the humorous time-stamped (mostly) kitsch miscellany of Saddam Hussein watches and postcards of highways, his own collection also groups together photos of both well-known and unknown photographers which inspire him. Of his own work, we are presented with three series: One on luxury (“Luxury”), one on tourism (“Small World”) and finally an urban portrait series of the UK made in conjunction with the British newspaper The Guardian.


In the section on Luxury, Martin Parr looks at the wealthy over the last 5 years “showing their wealth”, as he puts it. The pictures have been taken at horse races in Durban, Ascot, Longchamps and Dubai, and at a Millionaires’ fair in Moscow and surprisingly enough at the Oktoberfest in Munich. He sees his pictures as a record of a period of rapid growth before the current credit crisis set in. He talks of wealth as a global phenomena, yet you can clearly see the differences between the pictures he presents. Sometimes ‘luxury’ seems to be little more than a brand name, at other times it is a market, at other times it is elegance and again at other times just a state people find themselves in.

Let us take a look at two of them. The exhibition’s poster, taken from a picture in this series (from the Moscow Fashion week) shows a young woman wearing a colorful body-warmer, with an air of contented and fascinated greed. This light andhappy obsession, strikes a completely different chord to an unflattering one taken at a charity event in the USA (here), where we see opulently dressed guests being fed food on sticks. Because of their dark sunglasses, it is almost as if they are being fed blindfolded, as we see the hand on the left already handing them another helping, as if the food is being shoveled into them. This gives us a more cannibalistic image of wealth, and one far removed from the fascination of the young fashion victim at the fair, even if, in the same series, they could be seen as follow-up events…

Small World

Parr by dorsserAs you walk through the gardens of the Tuilleries in summer, with the thousands of tourists around you, Matin Parr offers you a critical and humorous glimpse of the very industry which brings all those people there: tourism. This is an industry built around selling experiences. To lift out two images, consider the funny and quite formal picture of someone taking a picture of a row of tulips (at the Netherlands?) wearing a red-yellow-blue coat which matches the colours of the flowers in the picture he is taking.

The lightness of the picture could not contrast more with the one taken out of a moving jeep out in the African bush, with a group of children running after them. On close inspection, we see a worrying determination in the eyes of the children running after the jeep. Then we notice the somewhat scared little white girl looking down at them, wearing an Egyptian souvenir T-shirt. If we sense some tension in the air already, then our prejudice is confirmed when we see that there is a man standing on the back of the jeep, in what looks like a military shirt. We can suppose that we are witnessing tourists touring a war-torn or impoverished nation being escorted through the zone. To finish off our feeling of discomfort, we see the man on the left take a picture of the running children, reminding you that the photographer himself is also on that jeep taking the picture of the running children, passively using the lives (or distress) of others as a source of his livelihood. A very uncomfortable thought.

If you happen to pass by the Concorde with little time, take in the “Small World” pictures which are shown in the open air. Seeing the critical and funny images of perhaps the worlds biggest industry and one which both surrounds us and in which we partake, is unique. If you have a little more time, go on in to see the rest of the collection – it’s a unique opportunity. //



Larry Charles :: USA :: 2009 :: 1h23

An extravagant homosexual Austrian fashion reporter is ostracised from the European fashion community after an unfortunate incident at a Milan fashion show provoked by his suit made entirely out of Velcro(!?), on which he decides to fly to LA and try his luck over there at becoming famous. This is the general pitch for the fictional character of Brüno (Sacha Baron Cohen) as he interacts with passer-by’s, mostly in the US, to provoke them.

As with their previous film of Borat, the audience is confronted with one embarrassing situation after another, for both Brüno and unsuspecting Americans, transgressing the limits of good taste, decency and acceptable morality. What is real and what is set up is impossible to distinguish, leaving the public just to laugh at his outlandish comments and in-your-face behaviour, hoping for the best. To judge how absurd it gets, I think the worst moment in the film was when Brüno skids off on a scooter holding a baby boy in his hands, narrowly swerving around an oncoming car. I sincerely hope we can trust the film crew NOT to have actually done that.

As with Borat, the movie is probably funnier for the Americans than for the Europeans, partly because the character has been tailored to offend (/ challenge) the American public and partly because the film dupes people famous in the US. I have to commend Sacha Baron Cohen on his creativity at getting this all off the ground, but it does still leave a sour taste – earning a living through self-ridicule is one thing, but through the exposing of others is far from glorious. Judge for yourselves if you want to reward him for it.

Fais-Moi Plaisir


Fais-Moi Plaisir
Emmanuel Mouret :: France :: 2009 :: 1h30

Jean-Jacques (Emmanuel Mouret himself) and Ariane (Frédèrique Bel) live together happily in their playful world, till the day Jean-Jacques admits to have met another woman. Although he tries to tell her otherwise, Ariane is convinced that he desires this other woman, Elisabeth. With the impending risk of having their relationship end over this supposed desire, she tells him to give in to temptation to quench his desire. Although not wholeheartedly convinced himself, Jean-Jacques none the less goes out to meet the mysterious Elisabeth. It turns out to be a very eventful evening.

Emmanuel Mouret is rapidly establishing himself as a modern master of comedy, theatrical-style, even if he is still perfecting his art. Fais-Moi Plaisir stands clearly in line with his previous comedies of Changement d’adresse and Un baisir s’il vous plait, and hopefully not the last either! It is a pity to ruin the thread of unfolding events which take you from one sketch to another, but perhaps a glimpse into a scene will do the trick, here one with a Jacques Tati style humour:

When Jean-Jacques arrives at Elisabeth’s front door, he takes out a piece of paper on which he had written her doorcode and starts punch it in. And it continues… being long enough to be the international phone number of someone in central India. But the door opens. He steps into the hall and into an elevator. Jean-Jacques quickly notices that there are no buttons. Even before the confusion can settle, he hears a voice bidding him welcome into the elevator, and asking him which floor he would like to go to. He replies: “4”. Instead of moving, the elevator voice asks him to repeat which floor he would like to go to. He says “Eh, fourth floor”. The elevator again says that is does not understand, and asks him to repeat. Jean-Jacques says: “I’d like to go to the fourth floor… please” and the doors close…

As Jean-Jacques charms all the beautiful ladies surrounding him, we too are swept along through the romantic dreamy world of wide-eyed starlets in hidden corners till our brutal awakening back to earth: the ending. While in itself unremarkable, it still comes along as floodlights in the night. It is a curiosity to leave a comedy unsettled, but the ending is out of character with the film. A blemish on a creative and humorous achievement… but watch it none the less…

Tradegy at the Box-office

LolPARIS – Why does the press insist on reminding us of the financial success of films, as if the audience is composed of potential investors? Knowing that Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis was the absolute box-office hit in France in 2008, does not make it a better film. This is akin to claiming BP’s petrol is better than Exxon’s because their stock is more stable. It really is not related. But why do we keep seeing it?

This year starts with a similar curiosity as 2008, with the film Lol (Laughing out loud) by Lisa Azuelos having attracted the most viewers. Having been one of those people who walked in, but also walked out(!), something which happens to me very rarely, the thought that it would now hug the limelight is embarrassing. I had even snobbed it out of a crushing review. So how does a film like this attract so many people? Before being accused of living in some little Parisian bubble, notice that even on the IMDB only 2 people bothered to comment on its merits! But let me make a case for the attraction of the film anyway.

For those lucky enough to have missed it, the concept is actually quite appealing: the always beautiful Sophie Marceau, who was a teenager in the hugely successful 80s party film La Boum, is now back as a mother with a partying daughter. A true generational film, especially for those who were around in the 1980s to live the original with her. Sounds like fun. But the movie near opens with a young girl claiming something along the lines of “he MSN-ed me and I downloaded it from Myspace”… and you know that the film is a farce. Not because a teen could not say that sentence, but because it is so obviously constructed, like the title. A film can not be about youth and have to explain such trivialities such as “Lol” as well, should there still be anyone around who does not know what it means. But of course, this is not a debate about quality, or lack thereof. This is about misguidance.

Lol is not a good film and you would waste your time going to see it, as I have (partly) done and many others with me. No doubt some people appreciated seeing Sophie Marceau again but that does not change the appalling level of the film. If the audience was offered the chance to reward the film with a number of stars on leaving the cinema, as one does when one deletes an iPhone application, movies could be judged on appreciation instead of on financial gain or number of people who were caught out. Of course, even with appreciation level established, we could be very surprised by the result… lol.