The Israeli film Here We Are washed my brain of yesterday's disaster. It is about a divorced father who gave up his career to look after his autistic son, who is now an adult. But the mother still has her say and thinks he would be better off in an appropriate institution. The father reluctantly agree to take him there, but the son freaks out. So both of them go missing. The trailer makes it look much less tragic, but it also has funny moments, such as in the hotel swimming pool where Uri (the son) has become interested in some young women. The father decides to get him out of there, but the son has such a visible erection that both of them have to stay immerged until further notice...
White Building is the sort of film that fascinates me as it instructs me about a different culture. Like all Cambodian movies, nothing moves fast due to the climate. The White Building really existed. It was built in 1963 by Prince Sihanouk in the city centre to house employees of the Ministry of Culture. When the Khmer Rouge emptied Phnom Penh, of course it was emptied too, but starting in the 1980s, people began to come back, both former residents and new arrivals. And all this time, it continued to crumble with tropical rot, hookers and drug addicts also moved in, and then the real estate promoters arrived. It was finally torn down in 2017.
Anyway, the movie takes place mostly in the final year or two of the building with young Cambodians who never even knew the wars of the past. They just want to win hip hop contests and pick up girls. There are also the parents of the protagonist, trying to save their crumbling dignity. The father has injured a toe, which is slowly rotting away, just like the White Building. He doesn't trust doctors and just uses folk remedies like honey -- later in the movie he is missing a leg.
The director Kavich Neang says the movie is completely autobiographical, and he grew up in the building.
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.
i enjoyed it and agnes declared it one of her favourite movies. of course it is sweet, as it is a disney movie, but i thought not too much, and i found the music enjoyable and also, as is getting more common with newer disney movies, while there is a love story, it is not of the main character and isn't really all that important, the women are the ones doing most of the hero-stuff ... and the main character is not as unnaturally thin as in older disney movies ... well, i guess mainly i just like bright, colourful animation movies...
I was particularly impressed by Belgian actress Virginie Efira in the Swiss movie Madeleine Collins. It is no surprise because Virginie Efira is increasingly impressive in each movie that she does. She was in last year's César winner Adieu les cons and also in this year's controversial Benedetta about crazed lesbian nuns. She already received one César nomination in the past, and I'm pretty sure that she will get one for this film this year.
This movie is another perverse role, about a woman with two different families -- one in France and one in Switzerland. She has two sons with her French family and a daughter with her Swiss family. How is this possible? You only find out by seeing the movie unravel. She is a very busy interpreter for international conferences and is never home for more than 3 or 4 days at a time. The rest of the time she is off in Poland or Italy or Spain... or at least that's what she says. This obviously cannot go on indefinitely, running into people that she knows from the other life. And her two husbands are not as clueless as they prefer to act. The end of this is very messy.
All of you know by now that I don't mind seeing crap movies, so today I went to see The King's Man. It was delightfully ridiculous. How often do you get to see Mata Hari giving a blowjob to Woodrow Wilson in the oval office? We had to wait a hundred years for it to happen again, publicly at least. The movie is chock full of historical events, starting with Boer war atrocities in South Africa, moving on to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo (with Ralph Fiennes riding in in his car!), knife fights with Rasputin, the Russian revolution and of course the Great War in full bloody glory. Frankly, I was impressed by the money that went into this movie. Most of the fight scenes are a cross between russian ballet and kung fu.
Strangely enough, most of these visual treats just act as filler and slow down the movie. Ralph Fiennes is still the champion of the raised eyebrow and Harris Dickinson is still eye candy for many after his gay movies. There is a death in the movie that is unexpected. For those who want a sequel, the after credits bonus scene shows Lenin plotting with a young man called Adolf Hitler for further mischief.
Lamb is a rather unusual Icelandic movie starring Noomi Rapace. Ingvar and Maria are a hardworking isolated farming couple. They are so busy pulling lambs out of ewes and sowing potatoes tht they don't even have time to talk, so there is practically no dialogue in the movie until Ingvar's brother Petur arrives unexpectedly and finds himself in a WTF situation when confronted with Ada, their child who is clearly not human. She has a lamb's head, one human arm and stands upright on two feet. Obviously she doesn't talk, but hey she's still pretty young so who knows? While Petur remains outwardly calm, one of the first things he does is to grab a shotgun early one morning and take Asa out into the wilderness. But lambs are too cute to dispose of like that, so they return to the farm and Petur becomes the favourite uncle. Petur repeatedly wants to get it on with Maria, so she takes him to the bus stop one day and goodbye.
But this is not a totally normal family and one day the dog disappears. What might happen next?
I am generally repelled by movies about gambling because they're all about the thrill of separating weaker people from shitloads of money. Luckily, The Card Counter is not really about gambling at all, even if it takes place in that world. It is about torture in Abu Graib and the need for revenge by some and the need to forget by others. Whether the main point is gambling or torture, it is still as creepy as hell. The fact that it was filmed in Biloxi, Mississippi, made me go see it no matter what.
A Hero is an unbearably grim Iranian movie by star director Asghar Farhadi. Rahim is in prison for debt that he couldn't repay. He gets a two day prison leave during which he must convince his creditor to forgive him. Iran is not a very forgiving country, especially when the morality squad is there to verify everything you say and do. The prison officials are the nicest and most understanding people in the whole movie, which isn't saying much.
I knew absolutely nothing about The 355 except who was in it, and I confess that I found it absolutely delightful. It combines all of the ridiculous elements of the James Bond and the Mission Impossible movies (except, strangely enough, no car chases... this time). Jessica Chastain (USA), Penélope Cruz (Colombia), Lupita Nyong'o (UK), Fan Bing Bing (China) and Diane Kruger (Germany) start out trying to kill each other but as soon as they understand that the real culprits are the Very Bad Men, they work together and of course need to go to Paris, London, Marrakesh and Shanghai to get the job done. They have absolutely no logistical problems even when each battle leaves everything in shreds -- in the next city they are perfevctly dressed and coiffed. Each woman is capable of beating the shit out of a half dozen giant thugs whenever it is necessary, which it seems to be quite often since all of the incredible gun battles never seem to get the job done, even if dozens of men are killed. In the two-months-later epilogue, they are back to their sweet ordinary non combattant lives but seem to be convinced that they will have cause to meet up again.
I think that a lot of women who hate this sort of movie will like this one, at least that's the bet that the producers have made.
I thought Licorice Pizza was delightful but it is such a private joke of a movie that I can't imagine people around the world getting much out of it. It all takes place in the early 1970s along Encino Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley next to Los Angeles, and that's exactly where I was at the time even though I did not see myself in the movie. The clothes! The hairstyles! The pimples! The recreation of the area was just as good as in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but I don't think that any CGI was used -- a lot of the area still looks like it did in the 1970s. Even the radio station that we all listed to was recreated. It was kind of creepy how much Copper Hoffman looks like his father Philip Seymour Hoffman, so I will not be surprised if he comes to an early demise. Bradley Cooper as Barbra Streisand's husband was absolutely spectacular.
I will reveal why it has such a title: Licorice Pizza was the major record store chain in the San Fernando Valley back then. (LP = Licorice Pizza) We often spent hours and hours there. Hard to imagine in this century.
I knew that Twist à Bamako would not be a bad movie since it was directed by Robert Guédiguian, one of the most respected film directors in France, but it was really much more excellent than expected. It takes place in Mali in 1962, just after independence. Young urban people are deleriously happy while still spending every night dancing to French pop music (mostly translated from the American originals). The main character is Samba, the son of a wealthy textile merchant. He works in the socialist brigades during the day and twists his nights away in the nightclubs of Bamako every night.
The people of Mali have difficulty understanding socialism since they already didn't understand capitalism. All they knew was that the French were in charge before and took everything they wanted. When Samba and his friends try to explain to villagers that collective farming will feed everyone and not let the rich landowners sell their stuff to the highest bidder, it just doesn't get across. Farms are set up and abandoned. Schools are built and everything inside is stolen, even the blackboards.
Interestingly, in just about every public office, there is a photograph of Ho Chi Minh along with the African heroes. I kept looking for Che Guevara but didn't see him. Anyway, Samba falls in love with a girl in one of the villages. She had worked for a white family in Bamako, but was kidnapped and married against her will to a man in her village. Any girl could be carried off/kidnapped/raped by anybody who could afford their dowry. Samba brings her back to Bamako but quickly finds out that since the new civil code has not been written yet, tribal law still applies to anybody from a village, so there will be no divorce. "It is more honourable to die than to be divorced."
As socialism fails to take hold in Mali, things get worse. And Western colonial music is obviously a corrupting imperialist influence...
It's a Franco-Canadian-Senegalese coproduction, filmed in Senegal. Too dangerous to make it in Mali.
Was a while ago, but i think i didn't post about it yet ...
Schule der magischen Tiere (school of magical animals) is a very popular book series in Germany, Agnes loves it (we are in book 11 or 12 now) ... And earlier this year, a movie came out. Of course as usual they changed the story a bit, partly in places that didn't make sense ... And of course they made the kids older and put some pop-songs into the movie, and tried to make it more appealing to older kids, though the books are more for 8 or 9 year olds ... But it was still alright, and of course Agnes and her cousins liked it ...
It's about a school class, who gets a new teacher - and that teacher's brother owns the "magical pet shop", and matches the children with their friend for life - a magical animal that can speak and understand human language and will only be recognized as a living animal by those who are in on the secret. In the movie, the first two kids get their animals. But also, there is a thief at the school, and one of the kids is accused of being the thief, so they have to figure out who has really been stealing things.
ah, and on monday, i will do what i haven't done since i was a teenager, i think: i will go see a movie in the theater a second time. it's a's birthday, and she asked to see "encanto" again, with her friends (well, she'd even more have liked to see "paw patrol" again, but that one is not in the theaters anymore).
It took more than two years for Deutschstunde (The German Lesson) to be released in France. I assume that it is because of two years of covid. Anyway, it's based on a bestseller by Siegfried Lenz, and the movie gave me an urge to read it because I felt that quite a bit of explanation was left out. Why did the kid collect dead animals? What was going on his mind to make he refuse to write the essay on "the joy of duty"? The movie gives a lot of tantalizing clues but no clear explanation.
Anyway, it opens with the protagonist, Siggi, as an 'almost-adult' confined in some sort of reformatory, perhaps 10 years after the war. Then we are taken back to the war years on the Baltic coast, an area that apparently did not see any war action and the only difference in life is that the young men are all absent. Two men are the focus of the story -- an artist and a policeman. They used to be extremely close but politics have driven them apart. 'Degenerate' art has been banned by the Nazis and the policeman must enforce this.
The policeman has 3 children (one away in the army), and the youngest is Siggi, godson of the artist, so there is quite a bit of torment in being told "don't go see him again" and things like that. The wives of both suffer mostly in silence at what the men do (just like in most parts of the world).
The somewhat mysterious ending, when Siggi is finally released from the institution intrigued me massively.
Today I saw Dear Evan Hansen, which was not at all on my list of things to see, particularly since I knew nothing about it. A bit of investigation revealed that it was an award winning Broadway musical and that the movie was a total flop, even though it stars the same lead character. One of the principal complaints was that the star is now 28 years old (so probably 25 or 26 when the movie was made) and a lot of critics could not accept that he played a 17 year old high school student. Frankly, this did not bother me too much because he still looks very youthful and only in a few scenes did it bother me that he looked too old. And anyway, the film industry of just about every country has been using young adults to portray high school students for years.
Okay, in terms of it being a musical. Like Bixa and probably some other people here, I am pretty much allergic to musicals with very few exceptions. But the songs in this movie were introspective as though they were just happening in the minds of the characters -- not like the big song and dance numbers of so many movies. And I thought most of the songs were really appropriate for explaining the situation.
I am still super tired of the high school settings for just about every movie or TV series like this. I just cannot stand the central corridor with the lockers and everybody standing around talking/laughing/sneering/scowling/confronting/ignoring/pushing/shoving/fighting. It has all been done a million times, and I don't need to see it anymore.
The theme of the movie was original -- making believe that you were the best friend of someone you didn't even know who committed suicide -- and that is probably what interested me the most. And you know that such a story cannot end well.
I may or may not get back to a couple movies that I skipped but today I went to see the British movie Boiling Point (retitled The Chef in France for some reason). It is well acted, but the most impressive detail is that the movie was filmed in just one take for an hour and a half. Every now and then a filmmaker dares to try this, but most people fail. The last movie that I saw using this technique was the German movie Victoria in 2015, also super impressive.
Anyway, this movie concerns a holiday evening (ultra busy of course) in a chic restaurant with all sort of employee problems, chef problems and customer probems. On top of that there is a health inspection just before opening and certain products that are missing. The original plan was to film the sequence 12 times, but covid reduced the shooting schedule to two days and just 4 attempts. The movie is the 3rd attempt. Still really impressive.
So, I finally saw Nightmare Alley. I am in love with Guillermo del Toro's cinematography (The Shape of Water! Pan's Labyrinth!) but for some reason I was not fascinated with the plot of this one. But it is nice to see Bradley Cooper playing a total sleaze again.
So, I finally saw Nightmare Alley. I am in love with Guillermo del Toro's cinematography (The Shape of Water! Pan's Labyrinth!) but for some reason I was not fascinated with the plot of this one. But it is nice to see Bradley Cooper playing a total sleaze again.
My del Toro love is The Devil's Backbone set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The original Nightmare Alley was a part of my teen year's education, learning exactly what a circus geek is. I do wonder how del Toro could have improved one of the finest films noir although I would like to see the circus scenes in color.
Persischstunden (Persian Lessons) is a fascinating but far from perfect story of a French deportee who saves his own life by claiming to be Persian just as his group is all being slaughtered by the Nazis. The German soldiers are not completely convinced but one of their officers has been searching for a Persian in order to learn the language. So the young man, Gilles (played by Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), is taken into the camp while all of his comrades lie dead on the ground of the forest. When questioned, he has just enough knowledge of Persia to convince the officer, Klaus, that he is really Persian, but this is mostly because Klaus wants to believe it so much. And so Klaus orders him to teach him Persian. Gilles doesn't know a word of Farsi, so he completely makes up the language day after day (and has to remember it). Obviously this cannot last forever, but even though he sleeps in the barracks with the other prisoners, he works in the kitchen during the day and is well fed. This is far better than nothing although it is quite upsetting when they remove prisoners from the camp to kill them, and he is still there to see the arrival of the next group.
What makes this movie peculiar is that it takes place in France (in which case the setting is the Natzweiler-Struthof camp in Alsace), stars an Argentinian actor, and is mostly in French and German. But it is a movie from Belarus and was filmed there and in Russia. Belarus tried to present it as their foreign film for the Oscars, but it was rejected because almost nobody involved in the movie was Belarusian. (That makes me wonder about the French movie Mustang which was accepted at the Oscars in 2015 even though it was filmed in Turkish with a Turkish cast. Perhaps the rules have changed -- or they made up new ones just to keep out Belarus.)
The character of Klaus is quite sympathetic apart from being a Nazi and I was sorry that he was being snookered since his dream was to move to Tehran and open a German restaurant there.
One of the missions of the Mexican film Los Lobos is to set the record straight for people who think that life is a piece of cake for migrants who manage to get into Estados Unidos. Young Lucia has brought her two children Max and Leo (perhaps 6 and 4 years old) to Albuquerque for a (ha ha) better life. The first one room apartment visited is a horrible shithole full of empty bottles, overflowing ashtrays and crap piled everywhere. The kitchen area is a complete biohazard and the bathroom looks ever worse. $500 a month. No thank you. A half dozen other places are also visited, barely any better but more expensive or else requiring legal and work documents. So they move into the first shithole. At least the nasty Vietnamese woman owner offers trash bags and some cleaning tools. The place still looks pretty horrible after cleaning -- there is no furniture -- and the children are ordered to always wear their shoes to walk on the carpet because well, you know.
Lucia gets a job in an industrial laundry and then a second full time job cleaning in a factory. The two kids receive a set of rules, the most important one being DO NOT SET FOOT OUT OF THE APARTMENT. They are really more obdient than one would expect, at least at first. Their mission in life is to "go to Disney." Mom promised, but she never said when. And when can we go to school? "Soon."
Lucia is exhausted, the kids are more and more restless... It is a nightmare. By the end of the movie, their lives have improved maybe 10% and they are overjoyed.
La place d'une autre is a costume drama, not my preferred genre, but this wasn't bad. Nélie ia poor young woman with no prospects. She is fired from her housemaid job because she is too clumsy and winds up back in the street where prostitution lasts only about 30 seconds against an alley wall and is certainly paid accordingly. But WW1 is just starting, so a Red Cross woman gets her a job on the front.
She carries stretchers and changes bandages and that's about it. She meets a young Swiss woman who got sidetracked trying to get to Nancy. Her father just died but gave her a letter of recommendation to an elderly family friend she has never met, who is looking for a sort of lady in waiting and someone who will read to her. The war suddenly arrives where they are and hits hard. The Swiss girl is killed. The only logical thing to do is for Nélie to take the letter and a few other things and pass herself off as the Swiss girl.
After some hesitation, she settles in and is much appreciated. But a few months later, guess who shows up after major medical treatment by the nice Germans? The Swiss girl who didn't completely die. Uh-oh.
Lyna Khoudri, who is Algerian, appeared in an amazing number of movies in the past couple of years -- Papicha, Gagarine, Haute Couture, The French Dispatch, and also in the upcoming new French production of The Three Musketeers (in a two part movie of course). She is definitely an actress to watch, age 29.
L'ennemi (The Enemy) is a very ambiguous Belgian film about a fascinating criminal case that really happened. The youngest MP of the Belgian parliament, from the Green party, fell in love with a radio star and married her. But on a trip to Ostende in 2013, the wife died, an apparent suicide, in the bathroom of their hotel room with a plastic bag over her head. The death is considered highly suspicious, so the husband is arrested and incarcerated. He does not invoke parliamentary immunity to not go to jail and was considered to be acting strangely. Not speaking Flemish also complicated the case. The investigation found that the wife had consumed a lot of alcohol (as had her husband, who didn't remember that night clearly) as well as some medications. So what really happened?
Jérémie Renier is one of the best Belgian actors and was totally appropriate for portraying confusion.
I saw Neige the first time when it was released 40 years ago. Now they have restored it and rereleased it, and I found it incredible to see it again, particularly since I saw it at Louxor this time, which is located exactly in the middle of where the movie takes place. It was the Louxor Pathé when it opened 101 years ago and went into decline (along with the whole area) probably around the mid-1960s and became one of those double feature places showing the worst Italian westerns or Hong Kong karate movies. I'm not sure if it ever went into porn. Anyway it finally closed and was abandoned for several years, and then it reopened as a gigantic gay disco walled Megatown, but that didn't last too long either because such places always got closed down for drugs. And then it was empty for another 10 years or so. The city of Paris finally bought it and did a huge renovation. It is totally spectacular now, and the original Egyptian décor was fully respected. It is a chic art house in an unusual location.
Well, if only the city of Paris could do that for all of the rest of the neighbourhood. Watching the movie was like a time machine for me, because I ws familiar with absolutely everything from 1981 -- the strip clubs (outside only), the sleazy cafés, the pinball palaces and the almost permanent fun fair that occupied the central esplanade all winter with arcade games, shooting galleries, freak sideshows, and sleazier people than most of you can imagine. I used to love walking through there because I didn't have a television and this was all better than any show.
As for the movie, the story is quite simple. A woman (Juliet Berto) has basically been the guardian of one of the young drug dealers, always trying to keep him out of trouble. But he gets killed one day and her "duties" shift to one of his main clients -- a transvestite hooker who needs to be supplied as quickly as possible. Most of the movie is spent trying to locate the drug kingpin, and she has to go from place to place to place, on a mostly wild goose chase, but you get to see all of these awful places.
When the movie ended, I thought "thank god things have changed since then," and then I got slapped in the face with reality. Things have changed, but it's not really any better. Not as many sex places anymore (thank you, internet!), but the area is still teeming with lonely men wandering aimlessly or just standing around waiting for something to happen. 40 years ago, they were almost all North African and now they are almost all Subsaharan African. Mostly harmless but just as lost and in need of substances.
Presque ("Beautiful Minds" in English) is a rather amazing movie written and directed by its two stars, French comedian and actor Bernard Campan and Swiss philospher Alexandre Jollien. A funeral director (Campan) accidentally knocks over the delivery tricycle of Jollien. even though the injuries are minor, he feels very guilty because Jollien is severely handicapped. He has cerebral palsy, caused by being strangled by his own umbilical cord in the womb. You often have to struggle to understand what he says and of course people are always giving him strange looks when they are not openly making fun of him. This makes for some uncomfortable scenes because you can tell that they are taken straight from his real life.
Anyway, the movie is a road trip. The funeral home is in Lausanne, and it is necessary to transport a cadaver to Montpellier. The handicapped man accidentally comes along for the ride. Various minor adventures ensue, and you even get to see an advantage of having cerebral palsy. Campan is stopped for running a red light, and the police are being increasingly unsympathetic. But Jollien comes to the rescue by pretending to be mentally retarded and in extreme grief for his dead mother (the completely unknown woman in the coffin). The police let them go...
It is a very worthwhile movie that will allow a lot of people to modify their views about handicaps.
I found C'mon C'mon (French title: Nos âmes d'enfants), perhaps the best movie that I have seen in a year. It's just a simple road movie (along the lines of Win Wenders' Alice in the Cities) about an uncle who takes care of his nephew while the boy's mother is off taking care of her ex-husband who has mental and probably drug problems at the other end of the country. It's supposed to be for just a week, but extensions are made. It begins in Detroit, moves on to New York City and ends up in New Orleans. The child is extremely precocious and weird but also wise beyond his years except when he turns into the little boy that he really is. The uncle, Joaquin Phoenix, is clueless but tries so hard while at the same time preparing a radio programme about how children around the country imagine the future (these sequences and children are totally authentic while being both uplifting and heartbreaking). I would absolutely give Joaquin Phoenix the Oscar for best actor even though he already won it for Joker in 2020 in a role that could not have been more different.
Most of you will not have the slightest chance of ever seeing this on the big screen, but I urge to you see it on other screens if you have the opportunity.