I did not think that Umami was a great movie, but I did find it really fascinating, particularly the Japanese part which showed so many things about Japanese life far from Tokyo and of course the appreciation of umami. Gérard Depardieu is a Michelin starred chef who has never digested the fact that he came in second in a cooking competition 40 years ago. The winner was Japanese. They have not been in contact since then. In fact, they have been avoiding each other. But the French chef decides that he has to track down the Japanese chef wherever he might be. It turns out he has a tiny noodle shop in a small town while the place in France is one of those incredible establishments in a provincial château.
I hated all the crap about Gérard Depardieu's struggles with the Japanese language and culture, but I guess it's one of those obligatory moments in movies like this. The Japanese chef himself speaks French because he worked in a restaurant in New Caledonia for seven years. Convenient.
Anyway, I wish the movie had been better, but it was still very interesting.
L'amour et les forêts (international title: Just the Two of Us) is a movie of the genre "toxic relationships." Blanche and Grégoire fall in love, marry and have children. But as time goes by, he becomes more and more possessive and domineering, controlling her every movement, the money she spends, her daily schedule... She finally can't take it anymore. We've seen these movies before, but they unfortunately remain relevant, and the problem is as serious as ever. Couples who need to see this sort of movie probably will not do so, because the toxic spouse will prevent it.
In Omar la Fraise (The King of Algiers), Reda Kateb plays small time Franco-Algerian gangster Omar who thinks he is hot stuff, but he has to flee to Algiers to avoid a 20-year French prison sentence. He is accompanied by is best friend and accomplice Roger, who was acquitted but they are inseparable. In Algiers he is kind of treated like royalty by the locals but the royalty of a bankrupt kingdom. He is very restless as the new big frog in a small pond. He tries hard to seduce the local manager of a cookie factory. She doesn't take him seriously but is finally worn down by his non stop efforts. And then bad things begin to happen.
Ramona is a Spanish movie about an indecisive young woman who maybe wants to be an actress, maybe not. She meets a film director who tries to convince her, but then she has to worry about her boyfriend. This movie doesn't really go anywhere, but it was not unpleasant.
This was clearly my Spanish week, because I also went to see La Maleta (English title Lost and Found), which I found much more interesting even though it is preposterous when you begin to analyze the plot. By the time you get to the end, it could be a James Bond movie.
Mario is in charge of a lost & found office, which seems to have been forgotten by the administration. They used to hold auctions of items unclaimed after two years, but then it stopped with no explanation. So everything keeps piling up, except that Mario takes his job very seriously and tries to find the owners of recovered items, even when they have little or no value. He also fixes things since there is nothing else to do. The warehouse looks pretty much like the one at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie.
One day, among other items, he receives a fancy little red suitcase, which was among items dredged out of the river during a rare cleaning operation. Yikes, it contains the skeletal remains of a baby along with a few other items. Once it is clear that the police are not really very interested, it doesn't take Mario more than a few sleepless nights to begin his own investigation using the fragments from the suitcase
This is when the movie starts derailing, even though it becomes more and more intriguing. First we go to a huge luxury hotel which turns out to be nothing more than a gigantic whorehouse. Obviously, the mother of the dead baby must be one of the workers there...
At the end we are in Argentina where there is a big baby farm to sell children to rich people. It pretty much looks like it is run by Nazis. And at the very end, Mario escapes to Montréal with the girl he found at the hotel and the new baby she just had.
Well, movies are supposed to be escapism, so realism sometimes has to go out the window...
I knew that The Whale was supposed to be a superb movie, but sometimes the idea of a movie repels you even when you know it's supposed to be good. And then Brendan Fraser won the Oscar for best actor this year, and that made me feel guilty. Luckily, Paris is still the movie capital of the world with 420 screens in a relatively small area, so today I overcame my prejudice and finally went to see it, just before it disappears from the big screen.
Okay, you can tell it's based on a play since everything happens in the same place, but of course morbidly obese people are not going anywhere, so that's normal. I had a few reservations about the character of Liz, his voluntary part time carer. Why was she so dedicated? And when more is revealed about her, I found it a bit artificial.
Nevertheless, it is a superb movie, and it brought tears to my eyes at the end.
I realize this is off topic, but reading about La Maleta instantly reminded me of this sad little picture, even though it shows no maleta roja. You will recognize the report which contains the picture, as you were a major contributor to it.
L'ile rouge is about a sort of dream world as seen by a little boy. In the real world it was French air force base 181 in Madagascar. Even though Madagascar gained independence from France in 1960, it remained pretty much under French control for the next decade. So the movie shows this parallel world where the French live completely separated from the Malagasys, and of course tensions grew. The French base was closed in 1973. It is now the site of the principal airport of Madagascar.
It was all rather depressing, but not the fault of the director -- it was the fault of history and colonialism. At the end there is a Malagasy revolt to make the French leave, which should have happened 10 years earlier.
I didn't give a shit about the plot of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, but I had read that the animation is brilliant, and it really is. I have absolutely never seen such an imaginative variety of styles. (The trailer shows absolutely none of the graphic surprises.) The plot is not worthless of course, like with any good movie about teenage angst, there is a lot with which to work.
I thought that Renfield was excellent in the trashy comedy gore genre, and on top of that it takes place in New Orleans, which is a lovely setting. Nicholas Hoult plays Renfield, the assistant of Dracula (Nicolas Cage). Of course he gets all the shit work since he is supposed to supply victims to his master, virgins or at least innocent people if possible. He doesn't like this job anymore because it gets dangerous, especially in a dangerous city like New Orleans. At one point in a fight, he gets his belly slashed open and he has to run around cupping his guts in his hand. Dracula can fix anything with his blood, which is one reason to keep working for him. Renfield also has temporary enhanced powers when he eats live insects.
Anyway, Renfield and Dracula live in the ruins of Mercy Hospital. How cool is that? But then Renfield basically resigns and moves into his own studio apartment. People help him buy modern clothes instead of his usual 19th century gear. But of course Dracula isn't going to let him get away that easily...
I thought that The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was mostly charming before coming to a weak conclusion. The English countryside was absolutely lovely everywhere and the various people were all as delightful and eccentric as we know they are. Retired Harold Fry is in a marriage where love has died and only routine persists. So when he receives a letter from old friend Queenie who is dying in a cancer hospice, he decides (after a talk with a blue haired petrol station attendant), to walk from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed (basically the entire length of the country) and tells Queenie that she must hang on until he arrives.
Naturally, the long walk allows him to remember all sorts of secrets from his past.
Syk Pike (Sick of Myself) is a Norwegian dark comedy that becomes so dark that the comedy fades away. Signe and Thomas are a happy couple until Thomas suddenly becomes famous as an artist. He creates sculptures out of stolen furniture. Signe becomes invisible. Nobody pays any attention to her anymore when Thomas is in the room. Maybe if she became sick it would help. She discovers a Russian drug that was banned because it can cause skin problems. She goes to see her drug dealer, who gets her a healthy supply even if he is more interested in autofellatio. She takes the pills and then more and more until she finally gets a rash on her arm and neck. This gets a little attention but not enough, so she starts taking the pills by the handful. Her face is quickly covered with horrible bleeding boils so she goes to hospital, but won't let the staff do any tests on her. When the bandages come off her face, she is hideous but pleased. And since this modern world seeks to be inclusive, she becomes a fashion model. This helps a lot because her boyfriend was arrested and sent to prison in the meantime for stealing all that furniture. Norwegians make such funny movies.
Wahou! (Wow!) is a useless French comedy with an extensive B-level cast. It is a sketch comedy about real estate agents trying to fob off their places on a variety of weirdos, assholes and neurotics, and of course they are no better than the customers.
Love Again is a useless American romantic comedy adapted from a German film, and on top of that Céline Dion is an executive producer and gave herself a major role in the movie. The starting premise is acceptable rom-com material: the girl's financé was killed 2 years ago in an accident. She has never recovered from it and keeps sending deeply emotional text messages to the dead guy's mobile phone. Meanwhile, a young Scottish journalist in New York has received a new work phone and it happens to have the same number, now reassigned, of the dead guy's phone so he gets all of the messages. And Céline Dion gets to play the fairy godmother to make things right. (This movie was filmed before her life went to shit.) It's probably not worth it to explain anything more, but the rom-com fans will get their money's worth because they are so used to total suspension of disbelief.
I only go about 5 times a week. For me, the most interesting days are Wednesday and Thursday. I go to the same cinema on those two days. Wednesday is the day that movies come out in France, and I almost always go to the UGC Ciné Cité Les Halles. It is the #1 cinema in the world in terms of spectators, but I would imagine that there are other places in the world with more than 27 screens, just not as many spectators. Thursday is interesting to me because I see immediately what people went to see the previous day. For example, on Wednesday I noticed that Wahou! clearly had more spectators than expected because it was in a smaller auditorium but seemed crowded even at 9am. And today it had been switched to a screen with twice as many seats. And going to see Love Again today, I saw that the spectators were pretty sparse, but I don't know if it opened on the same screen yesterday. On other days of the week, I try to go to different cinemas. My unlimited card allows me to go just about anywhere.
The stupidity of Love Again continues to churn in my brain. This is possibly a positive point for the movie because I forget about half of the movies I see within 24 hours. For example, why does Indian actress Priyanka Chopra play an ordinary New Yorker? Have the producers never heard of cultural appropriation? No mention is ever made of her ethnic heritage, and since she has a totally American sister in the movie, she was impersonating another culture. (To be clear, I find this totally fine and I absolutely hate the controversy about people playing someone from a different culture.)
Of course, this particular casting is the whole reason for a major inside joke in the movie. Mira is set up with a date by her "helpful" sister on a dating app. He turns out to be a muscular ape creature with no brain. Since the guy is played by Nick Jonas, her husband in real life, this harks back to Friends when Brad Pitt was confronted by Jennifer Aniston.
To finish you off, here is Céline's song dedicated to the movie (a hefty 23% rating on Rotten Tomatoes).
L'ultima notte di Amore (The Last Night of Amore) is an Italian police drama not at all about love but about a policeman called Amore. It is his last day of work before retirement, and in 35 years he did not ever use his gun. You can already see where this is going, right? There have been plenty of other American, British, French, Korean, etc. movies that cover the subject of everything that can go wrong on the last day before retirement. Anyway, you don't want to get mixed up with the Milanse Chinese mafia, that's for damned sure, and even less if they are smuggling diamonds. It's all very tense and exciting.
The Romanian animated film The Island is everything that animation should be, with no limits and no need to follow a logical story line. Robinson lives alone on an island in the Mediterranean. He helps migrants trying to cross the sea. One day he saves Friday, the only survivor of his shipwreck. But there is also a pirate, a mermaid and merciless Mother Nature. All sorts of trash floats on the sea, and there are radar dishes and strange contraptions on land. They go off on various adventures, leaving Friday to fend for himself. He grows magnificent tomatoes which always get stolen by an evil capitalist. So he goes on the sea himself to help migrants. Should I mention that it is a sort of musical but not really?
Fifi at first seems like it is going to be a standard and perhaps trashy coming-of-age movie but not at all. 15 year old Fifi (Sophie) lives in a relatively crummy housing project in the suburbs of Nancy with her chaotic family. Everybody is always screaming or crying. She runs into an old school friend, and this sets everything in motion. They were best friends several years ago, but Fifi stayed in the poor school and her friend Jade went to the higher class place. Jade seems blissfully unaware of this and invites Fifi for a quick visit. The family is on the verge of leaving for a month for a holiday at the sea, so Fifi grabs a set of keys out of the key bowl in the entrance before she leaves.
She is already back in a day or two to enjoy the bourgeois pleasure of a nice empty house. But Stéphane, Jade's older brother (age 23), walks in on her. He was hoping for some time without his family, too. He is going to a boring business school in boring Paris. But things click between them, not romantically but instead two solitudes meeting each other. This was the brilliance of the movie. Even though a sort of romance starts to creep up, he never deflowers her because his moral standards do not allow it. They work together stuffing envelopes for his summer job. And even though she is disappointed, she basically understands it as well. Maybe they will meet up later in life.
It was refreshing to be left with mild frustration.
99 Moons is a Swiss movie which leaves little to the imagination. Bigna is a seismologist who has somewhat peculiar sex cravings. She recruits Frank on the internet to assault her in a parking lot wearing a hockey mask. She wrestles him down and sits on his face, writhing until she reaches orgasm. Frank is so shocked that he cries.
Even though she wants a new guy every time, before long Bigna and Frank just can't keep away from each other. He works in a club where everybody wears headphones for the music but it is otherwise totally silent. She uses him various ways for her pleasure, but it is a while before he finally gets to stick it in her.
99 moons is about 8 years, so their relationship comes and goes, their jobs change, their looks change, but their uncontrollable attraction persists, even if Frank sometimes has to relieve himself while masturbating with a suffocation cord around his neck. And Bigna doesn't want to let him pee when they are taking a bath together. Happiness is elusive.
funnily, when i watched the trailer i concentrated so much on the subtitles, i didn't hear what language it is. and then i wondered and watched it again and realized it is german ...