Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Francois Truffaut's second feature, this one bearing many of the French New Wave hallmarks. Charles Aznavour plays a one-time concert pianist who falls in love and contemplates a comeback. What is revealed through non-linear flashbacks throughout the story is just why he bottomed out and just what he's tried to flee, only to be pulled back into what he wanted to leave behind. Terrific crime film about characters pushed to desperation by circumstance. ****

The final film Truffaut completed in his life is a black and white noir, starring the incomparable and wonderful Fanny Ardant. She plays the secretary of an estate agent (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who is accused of murder. She doesn't quite believe he is innocent, but feels compelled to defend him and begin her own investigation into the matter. It's got a lot of nice twists and turns, but it's all held together by Nestor Almendros' gorgeous cinematography and Ardant's excellent performance; Truffaut gives her a fully-realized character to play. One of my favorite Truffaut pictures. ****

Not quite what I was expecting. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays a tobacco planter on tiny Reunion Island. He sends away for a mail order bride, and soon Catherine Deneuve arrives. She's shy, but he falls in love with her, and suddenly he comes home for work one day and she's left with all of his money. He hires a detective to find her and then goes on a search of his own, and that's when things go unexpectedly. He finds her pretty quickly, but can't bring himself to kill her. She's in love with him, too, and the two resolve to be together, but there's one problem: there's still that other detective out there somewhere, tracking her down. It starts as a film noir, becomes a picaresque romance, and then goes back to noir. Well-shot, well-acted, continuously surprising. ****

Truffaut's dark comedy, starring the beautiful Bernadette Lafont as an accused murderer. She tells her story to a young sociologist, interviewing her for a paper on criminal psychology. Her story is darkly funny, but the tone doesn't always connect. The whole time, the sociologist becomes more sympathetic, and his secretary worries that she may be manipulating him. ***1/2

HUSH (1998)
Yes, the less said about this mother-in-law-menaces-her-daughter-in-law flick, the better. Dull; not nearly crazy and over the top enough to be watchable, which is disappointing, because Jessica Lange can play crazy and over the top with one eye closed. *1/2

RED EYE (2005)
Aspiring screenwriters should see this; it's like a masterclass in how not to make an effective thriller. Never play your hand in the opening credits if you want to build up any semblance of suspense. Potentially interesting premise and lead character (and Rachel McAdams is fine in a movie that doesn't know what it's doing) pretty much wasted. **

My problem with this kind of cheap piece of garbage is this: it's not meant to be funny. People put these things on and everyone gets excited by the stupidity and says the whole thing is supposed to be a goof, a movie that's so bad it's funny, but here's the thing: it's hard to make a bad movie on purpose. No, it doesn't wash with me. This is something that doesn't even rise to the level of incompetence, that someone looked at and thought "Well, if we market it as so-bad-it's-funny, it'll look like it's awful on purpose, in a fun way." Doesn't wash. Does. Not. Wash. It's just bad. I really only watched it so I could listen to the How Did This Get Made podcast about it. I'm not going to give it the dignity of a rating since it didn't bother to be a movie.

Hard to watch, nihilistic movie about a girl (Juno Temple) who wants to run away from home because she's not happy where she is. I appreciate why it's so confrontational (even though it pretends not to be), but movies like this mainly make me angry. This is another one of those movies about a generation that is lost and drifting in a country that seems to have decided "good enough" is too high a standard to shoot for. And a lot of the people this generation is producing are chasing media-created images of happiness instead of taking stock of what they have, apparently believing so little that there's a tomorrow that they're only chasing down fun at all costs, totally surprised when actions have consequences, because they feel so entitled to their TV-created ideas of hedonism that they literally think they're being oppressed if they're not always deliriously happy. So, yeah, well acted for the most part (haven't seen Kay Panabaker in too long), but hard to watch. **1/2

Well, at least they're trying, but what a boring attempt at a horror thriller. *

Sometimes, I find wit a little too dry. I wanted to enjoy this one, but it mainly left me rolling my eyes. Oh, I got why it was supposed to be funny, it just didn't make me laugh. **

Truffaut again. (Gee, at this point I've seen all but three of his features. By the end of the month, I'll have seen them all.) This film follows the extramarital affair between a film journalist and a young flight attendant (the beautiful Francoise Dorleac, Catherine Deneuve's sister, who tragically died in an accident three years later at the age of 25). I like the deliberate, slow pacing of the affair, as these two strangers discover one another and grow closer. I think it purposely holds us a little at arm's length, showing us the sort of mechanics of the affair and of the man's marriage and how things can just fall apart for seemingly no explainable reason. At the same time it builds the kind of suspense that almost makes us feel complicit in the infidelity we're witnessing. Quite the surprise ending, too. ****


Tallulah Morehead said...

You must have been in the wrong mood to watch Larry Gelbart's The Wrong Box. I remember seeing it in a theater when it came out in 1966, and laughing so hard I could not breathe. In fact, few are the movies that made me laugh as hard as it did. Pure classic farce, with sublime moments, like when the heroine sees Michael Caine's bare bicep and swoons her way down the stairs, theough the hall, across her sitting room and onto a sofa, only to have Caine see her ankle and the two of them are then swept up in passion. Made me explode with laughter. I've seen it twice within the last 5 years, and I think it holds up. Sir Ralph's crazily over-loquacious brother who's non-stop blather could drive a train companion to suicide and the morose butler with the weird speech pattern still give me fits of laughter. I love that movie.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Huh. I honestly thought you'd be more impressed with SHARKNADO.

(No, I didn't.)

Tallulah Morehead said...

Over on my Facebook page, I started a thread of folks coming up with titles for the Sharknado sequel, my favorite being The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat, As Performed by the Inmates at the Asylum at Cheronton under the Direction of the Marquis DeSharknado.