After Burning Casablanca (reply #2511) and its Moroccan heavy metal, I went to see Haut et Fort (English title: Casablanca Beats), a film about Moroccan rap. Rapper Anas left his successful career to work in a cultural centre in a rough suburb of Casablanca. All sorts of youth go there to get access to urban culture, would be bad boys, good Muslim girls, geeks and everybody in between. Some of their families support them or don't care and some of the families are totally opposed to this miscreant michief and/or guaranteed ticket to hell. I found the movie a bit repetitive in trying to hammer its message, but at the same time, shit, this is Morocco and something special and important is happening there in terms of the younger generation trying to adopt more progressive ways. The main actor in the movie as well as all of the young people at the cultural centre are not professionals, and that made it all the more impressive.
It was the first Moroccan movie in history to compete at the Cannes festival this year. Naturally it did not have a prayer of a chance.
Nebenan (Next Door) is Daniel Brühl's first directoral effort. He was at the screening last night and explained that he fell in love with Berlin when he starred in Goodbye Lenin at age 21. This movie takes place almost entirely in a seedy bar where film star 'Daniel' stops for a coffee before flying to London for an audition. In the bar is a next door neighbour he had ever noticed who has been observing him much too attentively. The huge tensions that still exist between West Germans and the Osties become intense as Berline continues its gentrification. It was refreshing to see Daniel Brühl escape from Marvel, Tarantino et al and return to German cinema. The pandemic made itself a tiny bit evident, because he said he had to speak English to answer questions last night because it was his first trip to France in 3 years...
Les Magnétiques (Magnetic Nights) takes place in the early 1980s and concerns two brothers but mostly the younger one who does not manage to evade military service and is sent to Berlin. He is fascinated by the new pirate radios that are spreading across France, but what can you do when you are in Berlin? The recreated period details of that time are absolutely magnificent, but unfortunately I did not find the plot itself to be sufficiently interesting. Nevertheless, this is the sort of movie that makes you understand that the next movie by the director might turn out to be sensational if he has understood what was weak this time.
Nicole Garcia is an excellent actress and director, but she is totally in the world of the haute bourgeoisie and her movies never stray from that area. It is not at all what interests me in French cinema, even though that is all we got to see for so many years. Now things have changed, but there are still too many movies where everybody lives in beautiful apartments or villas, and they never seem to really work, but if you do see their workplace, it is always magnificent as well. Okay, the two worlds rarely meet, but I will admit that Nicole Garcia always films her elegant world beautifully.
Anyway Amants (Lovers) is a very good film with a typical French theme -- a love triangle. Young cocaine dealer in Paris falls in love with a hotel school student, but runs off when a customer dies from an overdose. Three years later, he is working at a hotel in Mauritius when his love interest reappears with the businessman she has married. They spot each other and well, you know. But then more years pass, and he shows up where she and hubby are living in Geneva. The plot thickens...
Having lost my attention span, I’m not able to read the big books I had planned to reread. Fortunately, DVDs of movies made from these favorite books are available. The first film as a novel substitute is the film (1983) of Ismail Kadare’s novel The General of the Dead Army. (1963) (Wiki says, this was the stimulus for Tavernier’s film Life and Nothing But)
Albania and Italy have had a long relationship. WWll saw the Italian invasion of Albania. When Italy left the war, many Italian soldiers were left behind , killed by the Germans as enemies (Cefalonia of Corelli’s Mandolin) captured and regarded as traitors, not war prisoners, and used as forced labor, or captured by Albanian guerrillas, used as slave labor and often not repatriated at the end of the war leaving them stuck in Albania. The movie Lamerica, (1994) actually filmed in Albania, deals with a stranded live Sicilian soldier while the movie I saw obviously deals with the finding and exhuming of graves for removal to Italy of about 3000 corpses. The Italian crew meets up with a crew headed by a German general who is on the same mission. The two generals both served in the disastrous fighting on the Eastern Front.
Marcello Mastroianni is the general who is to round up all these corpses, Anouk Aimee, is the rich countess and dead count/colonel’s wife who wears her 5 strand pearl necklace during her midnight swim and Michel Piccoli is the priest who has mapped out the body locations according to information received. Jean-Claude Carriere did the screen writing.
The Italian movie, needing a focal point for a very long book used the search for the missing hero colonel rather than tales related by the Albanian book author although some tales are worked into the story . The missing hero colonel died less than gloriously at the hands of an Albanian woman after her daughter he raped threw herself down a well. The Italians, in retaliation, hanged the husband. At a local wedding the Italians foolishly decided to attend thinking they would be welcomed, the woman brings the Italian colonel’s bones in a burlap bag and does a lot of spitting. The bones are thrown into a river. However the Italian general must deliver on a promise he made to the countess to return with the count's body.. As all the Italian bodies have been shipped out, he has to buy a body from the German general. The general was tall for an Italian but, fortunately, the dead Germans are very tall providing lots of pickings. The wonderfully Italian comedy in a “let’s all lighten up” mood starts here.
Visually, the contrasts between what must have been during WWIl and “now” were fascinating. The carving of a lamb roast while toasting with champagne, sleeping in well insulated pup tents, the lavishly furnished base camp tents, fur covered and trimmed hats and greatcoats were just a few.
I have read most of the works of Ismail Kadare and strongly regret that he has not won the Nobel for literature.
I was pretty sure that I wouldn't like House of Gucci but I didn't expect to despise it as much as I did or find it so boring, although I was a bit worried about the 2h37 running time. Ridley Scott used to be a good director and he still hires competent actors for the crap he makes now, but this was really really bad. I don't see how a director, even an old one, can still dare to make a modern Italian story in English with no Italian actors to begin with, making us endure a variety of totally variable fake Italian accents which come and go. (The devil's advocate would say that with all the travel they do, their accents are influenced by the location.) The lives of the rich and famous are of no interest to me, although I suppose that this is what will pull in most of the spectators -- the mansions, the hotel palaces, the fancy cars, the clothes. And speaking of clothes, I had never really paid attention to how horrible Gucci apparel was before the arrival of Tom Ford, not to mention looking really uncomfortable. And the acting? What acting? Poor Lady Gaga gave it her all, which meant acting like a bipolar injured puppy, but the others were just there to collect their paychecks, although Jared Leto had to suffer through all of the makeup. The silver lining of my cloud? Every other movie that I see this week is sure to seem much much better.
Suprêmes is a biopic about the top French rappers of the 1990s who created the group Suprême NTM, now known as just NTM (Motherfuckers). I have never been a fan although I very much respect the actors they have become after leaving most of their music by the wayside. The movie, however, is pretty good because it isn't complacent and shows just what kind of street trash they were at the beginning. At first it's just a gang of about 30 lowlifes who steal things, trash buildings and spray crap graffiti on metro cars. The principal character Didier Morville (who has become Joey Starr) also aches to please his father who seems to totally hate him. There is no mother, and he has been kicked out into the street where he often sleeps. Not many people rise out of this sort of situation and that's what makes the movie interesting. He hangs out mostly with his friend Bruno Lopes (who has become Kool Shen). They both like rap but have differing opinions -- one says that rap is an American thing and can only be done in English and the other says that rap can be in French, too (all the more so when you don't speak English).
Anyway, slowly but surely they get noticed, first by slumming bobos -- a guy from Jean-Paul Gaultier and a rich kid from the nice part of Paris. They both have contacts in the music world. Anyway, obviously fame is on the way, but the movie doesn't hide the conflicts, the arguments, the close friends cut loose along the way. It is not a pretty picture but it is the real story. The movie ends with their first concert at a major venue; otherwise it could have lasted six hours.
Joey Starr and Kool Shen were both involved in the creation of the movie and since both of them have remained authentic and without concession, and I'm pretty sure that the movie is relatively accurate. The two principal actors spent a year to become the characters (which are totally unlike them if you have seen other movies they have done), and the physical transformation is amazing.
I went to see Disney's Encanto today to neutralise some of the venom from other films I have seen recently. It was sickenly sweet of course, but that's not always a bad thing. And of course Disney needed to get some more diversity points.
The winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival L'événement (Happening) is definitely the most devastating movie about abortion that I have ever seen. It takes place in regional France in 1963 but it could just as well be Texas in 2021. Annie gets in "trouble" and needs to find a "solution" -- that's the way people talked back then because the real words were so taboo and still are in certain circles. She is rejected by the doctors she dares to see although one of them gives her prescription for something. She tries it but it doesn't work. Later she finds out that is a drug that anti-abortion doctors give to women to make the foetus even healthier. Then it's time for the knitting needle. She does it herself (hard to watch!) but only manages to injure herself and not the baby. Time marches on -- three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, six weeks... At ten weeks, the friend of a friend of a friend gives her a contact and she goes to get it done. (Hard to watch!) The women sterilises her torture instruments in a basin ("Some barbarians just use bleach.") and warns her "if you make any noise, I'll just stop and you're out of here!" No sort of anesthesia. She whimpers just a little and makes a loud gasp because of the horrible pain, but it's the end. "It's done," the woman assures here. What next? Annie wants to know. "It will come out after 24 hours." But it doesn't, even though there is plenty of blood. She goes back to the woman who tells her "it's too dangerous to do again" but finally relents "at your own risk." (As if there had been no risk the first time.) This time it works, but oh my god, when she goes to the toilet in the university dormitory, it was one of the most awful scenes ever. Finally there is this big plop in the toilet. A friend has come looking for her, and she says she needs help. "Go get the scissors in my room!" The friend has to gut the dangling ombilical cord... and things go downhill from there.
Perhaps worst of all is that the movie was based on an autobiographical book. People were so morally wrong not so long ago.
Oranges Sanguines (Bloody Oranges) is among the blackest of black comedies. It starts out as a mildly stinging social portrait of various people -- a senior couple competing in a rock dance contest which they need to win to pay off their debts, a 16 year old girl preparing to lose her virginity, the Minister of Finance who risks having a foreign bank account revealed, a few other characters. Everybody is amusingly ridiculous. And then it all goes bad. The Minister of Finance's car breaks down near a farm and he seeks help from the person living there. The guy is sharing his Japanese dinner with his huge pet hog -- one bite for you, one bite for me... But when there is a knock on the door, he sends the hog to his room and greets the Minister of Finance. He is super friendly but seems to be doing everything possible to delay the man who is in a hurry. He just wants to borrow a mallet because the nuts and bolts on his tyre are stuck. The farmer guy insists that he try his special liqueur first ("I'll give you a bottle if you like it."). After one sip, he collapses on the floor because it is actually elephant tranquilizer. He is then brutally sodomised multiple times before being driven naked to the National Assembly in Paris and tied to the fence in front of it. Meanwhile, the girl loses her virginity as planned (no big deal) and is walking home on a lonely road until guess what? The same guy kidnaps her and takes her to his farm. She watches him cook crêpes but manages to get loose and knocks him out. They are in his tool room, so she looks for an appropriate tool. The oyster knife won't do, and the rusty saber is too big. She tries a big pair of shears, but they don't cut through his genitals well enough, so she finishes with an electric hedge clipper. She removes his testicles from the bloody mess and puts them in the microwave. One of them pops of course, but that's no big deal. She then feeds them to the guy, who is not very hungry. He manages to spit one of them out, but his dog has no trouble eating it at all. As for the senior couple, they lose the dance competition and commit suicide. Have I already told you too much?
De son vivant (While still alive would be the literal title but the English title is Peaceful, which I kind of prefer) was a difficult film to make. Production was interrupted 3 times, twice by covid lockdowns and once by Catherine Deneuve's stroke which nearly killed her.
It is about a former actor, now a theatre school teacher, who has learned that he is dying of pancreatic cancer. He knows that he is condemned but prefers to ignore it as long as possible. He doesn't want chemotherapy because he knows that it will not save him. He has six months left at best.
Mother Catherine Deneuve is frantic, as just about any mother would be, but she is also lucid. Just about all of the movie takes place in the hospital room with the nice doctor, the loving nurse and other hospital personnel. Later, the adult son appears from Australia. He was never acknowledged by his father and is not sure he wants to see him. Since the dying father is only 39 years old, clearly the son was born when he was very young.
Anyway it was a very difficult film to make. The star Benoît Magimel had to lose 20 kg three times due to the filming interruptions. I did not feel involved in the tragedy for a long time -- there have been so many 'terminal' movies in the past. But yes, the ending gripped me in the end because it was very well done and was not weepy at all (except for the spectators).
I absolutely loved Kirill Serebrennikov's Leto a few years ago about the beginning of the rock scene in Soviet Russia, so I was enthusiastic about seeing his new movie Petrovy v grippe (La fièvre de Petrove / Petrov's flu). You have to dig in and hold on to appreciate it (some people walked out) because it lasts two and a half hours. It is a total fever dream that seems to make no sense (just like a fever dream). There are all sorts of weird happenings in an icy atmosphere, a big Christmas party for children with a number of upsetting events. every now and then somebody is suddenly completely naked in one scene and wearing clothes again a few moments later, without any reaction from the others. In any case, it is extremely Russian with huge consumption of alcohol, vomiting, passing out, etc. In other words, the way the Russians really live (or so they say, including the Russians). You finally understand that some of this is taking place now, some of it is flashbacks to the past, some of it might be fantasy, but it doesn't really matter -- it is all a dream. It could have lasted even longer because I was totally enthralled by then and like many of my own dreams, I didn't want it to stop.
Almodovar's Madres paralelas is okay, neither inspired or uninspired. There are always a few little quirks, but he gets more mellow as the years go by. The last 3rd of the movie was surprisingly tender. Some critis have called Penélope Cruz's performance outstanding, but you have to already know how to play "overwrought hysteria" just to get a job with Almodovar in the first place.
Les choses humaines (The Accusation) is an extremely rare genre for French movies -- a courtroom drama. They are just not done in France because the justice system is completely different from Anglo-Saxon countries and it is very difficult to create the drama and suspense of American style trials.
An upper class student (after all, he is going to Stanford in mythical America) is arrested one morning for rape. He went to a party with a girl and now she has fied rape charges. On top of that, his father is a major television media personality and his mother is a well known feminist activist. His parents had split up, and the girl is the daughter of his mother's lover.
So, what happened. The movie shows both versions of the party -- the way the guy saw it, the way the girl saw it. Who is telling the truth? Due to his social status, the young man is not imprisoned (unlike many others without social status), and then we pick up the story.... 20 months later, because that's how slow the justice system is in France.
Have the stories changed? How will the lawyers treat the situation? So we have the full courtroom drama and the attendant suspense until there is finally a verdict.
One thing that I found particularly interesting about the movie is that the young man (Benjamin Attal) is the son of the director, and his mother (Charlotte Gainsbourg) plays his mother in the movie. That must have been kind of weird, especially with all of the tough questions even if it is a fiction. Do you pratice sodomy? How often do you masturbate? What kind of porn do you watch on the internet? Don't forget that we already know this because we confiscated your computer and even if you deleted your browsing history, we still have acccess to it. Yikes.
This morning I wasted two hours of my life at Ghostbusters. It's not entirely trash, but it should be reserved for the new generation that was born after the other versions came out. And for that reason, they should not have brought back the original actors for cameo appearances.
What could Steven Spielberg possibly have been thinking? Did he imagine for a moment that we we would have not solved all of the problems about racism, poverty, discrimination, cultural clashes, etc. that were displayed in the 1961 version of West Side Story? Of course he kept the movie set in 1957 when those problems are rumoured to have really existed, but I'm wondering how many people still remember those antiquated problems from the past?
There are nevertheless some very impressive moments in the new movie, and I learned that if I had been asked the question on a quiz show, I would have sworn that the song "I Feel Pretty" was from My Fair Lady and I obviously would have been wrong. Some of the lyrics of the other songs may have been modified, because I am convinced that I heard at least two fucks and a motherfucker in one of the songs. I'm also pretty sure that there was not a trans man character in the 1961 version.
Laure Calamy has begun to be noticed by international audiences, since she was one of the regulars of "Call My Agent" as well was winning the César for best actress last year for Antoinette dans les Cevennes ("My Donkey, My Lover and I" en anglais). In her new movie Une Femme du Monde (English title: Her Way) she plays a pleasant independent prostitute in Strasbourg who has been working for 20 years, but she has a 17 year old son who is definitely at that difficult age. He has been kicked out of high school and no other public school will take him. The one thing that interests him is to become a chef but the only possibility left is the prestigious private cooking school which costs 7000 euros a year. This is beyond the means of a small time hooker, because she is only earning about 1500 euros a month since the African prostitutes destroyed the market by accepting customers for 20 euros. What to do? She gives up her independence and gets a job at a whorehouse in Offenburg across the border. Will things work out? Probably not.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Supai no tsuma (French: Les amants sacrifiés / English: Wife of a Spy) tells the story of a modern (westernised) Japanese couple in Kobe in 1941 on to 1945. I think we are all aware of what period of time this was. Kobe was spared most of the problems of the war until it was bombed to shit by the Americans. While I was not entralled by the plot, I was very happy to see the events from a different point of view. And the set decoration was absolutely spectacular. It won the Silver Lion (2nd place) at the Venice film festival in 2020.
I must admit that I avoid certain movies like poison because I know that I will hate them. We all do that, don't we? The first movie about "Les Tuche" dates back to 2010. It concerns a white trash family in northern France. I have no idea what the plot was, but it was a surprise hit throughout France. And when it appeared on television a couple of years later, it had some the highest ratings in history. So they decided that they absolutely to make Les Tuche 2. I know the plot because I had to endure the trailers. They won the jackpot at the lottery and took a family trip to Las Vegas. The movie was a mega hit (at least twice more than the first one). This brings us to Les Tuche 3. The plot was as revolting as it was preposterous, because Mr. Tuche is apparently elected President. Another fantastic hit. I can't even imagine how the plot went.
This brings us to Les Tuche 4, a Christmas movie. It was supposed to come out last year but we were in partial lockdown with no cinemas, so they had to wait a full extra year to release it. And I decided that I had to see it this time, just to see what the fuck was going on. Now I know.
Although it made my skin crawl, it was not horrible, probably because of the Christmas theme. In the opening scene, Mr. Tuche resigns as president (no explanation but certainly a relief for the country). So then he is at home doing nothing as usual with his family of weirdos. Let's cut to the chase -- he hates his brother in law who is the regional manager of Mégazone, a multinational giant of online sales. They have built a huge facility in the area and all the land around, except for the location of an old toy factory that went out of business, which they need for the parking lot. (You can see where this is headed, right?) Obviuosly Mr. Tuche buys the old toy factory and puts it back in business. We have industrial espionage, attempted arson and obviously a happy end. I just cannot hate a movie that tries to be nice, but this was really an ordeal for me to watch.
Nowhere Special is a Romanian produced movie by an Italian director but it stars James Norton (possibly the next James Bond) and takes place in Belfast. It is an extraordinary tearjerker based on a true story, but it is so low key that not many tears flow. It's about a single father and his 4 year old son. The father is dying and is working with social services to find a new family for his son. They visit lots of couples who want to adopt and nothing needs to be said about why just about all of them seem wrong even though they mean well. The father's health declines to the point where he can't do his not too glorious job as a window washer anymore. The little kid is beyond incredible.
The first trailer is the French trailer with reveals very little about the plot. The British trailer is much more heavy-handed.
Rose is nice and also a bit boring. It shows us (Sephardic) Jewish life in the 19th arrondisseent of Paris. Rose is widowed early in the movie but surrounded by her 3 adult children, all a bit dysfunctional -- the divorced daughter who is still in love with her ex, the doctor who is all career and no personal life and the petty criminal son who is still living with her. As in Jewish life in general, the parties are too long, the dinners are too long, the family confrontations are too long -- and all very Jewish, which is the whole point. (I wonder to which religion the director Aurélie Saada might suscribe?)
After the initial shock of being a widow, Rose starts to wake up to the new possibilities of life. The owner of a local café shows interest in her even though he is at least 30 years younger. (She says she is 76 years old in the movie, but in real life Françoise Fabian is 88.) It doesn't take long for her to discover that he was just being nice, but she goes on to other minor adventures, which terrify her children who wonder if she is getting senile or something even worse. At the end, she sets them straight.
So, I got Spider-Man out of the way this morning. It is sold out most of the day in most of the cinemas in Paris, but I wisely thought to reserve a few days ago. As usual, I found the plot mostly boring. These super villains have issues about the strangest stuff. They need to see a psychiatrist but they never do. Besides Spidey, the other main character is Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and he is perhaps the super person who bores me the most in the MCU. And of course, I can't stand the special effects anymore. They are more and more extreme each time and go so fast that you can't even admire them. You never see them long enough. Of course, it might be because if you had more time to see them, you would notice the visual mistakes. Since they use at least a dozen different visual effects companies in these movies now, some of them are certainly better than others.
The thing I absolutely loved was having all 3 Spider-Mans in the same movie since the other 2 fell out of their multiverse when Doctor Strange fucked up. The age differences and the vintage costumes were delightful. Tobey Maguire is 46 now, Andrew Garfield is 38 and Tom Holland is 25. They had great chemistry working together as a team and I can imagine in real life how they must have joked about all of the crap they had to do in their various movies. Once again a major character died, but that has to happen from time to time. Some of the visual jokes were excellent, such as the fact that the Statue of Liberty was being changed to hold Captain America's shield instead of a torch.
But the most interesting thing wasn't the movie at all -- it was the full house of fans, who gasped, laughed, applauded and cheered at various points in the movie. And the understated French reaction is probably nothing to how the spectators will behave in countries like the United States. I was also able to notice how old I must be because sometimes when the audience gasped or applauded it was due to the appearance of an actor regarding whom I didn't have a clue. It made me feel that they must watch their Marvel collections for hours every day while discussing every detail in fan forums. It must be wonderful to be young.
The Beta Test is a rather weird and upsetting movie about the totally fake life of a media agent in Hollywood. The main point is that not a single person acts natural -- they are either lying all the time or pretending not to be affected by anything that is being said to them. A pretty horrible life.