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|Index||24 reviews in total|
Despite a very good cast and a clever idea, this film never happened.
The acting was good but the director was self-indulgent with his
The film was slow and built no tension, and by time Nick Nolte arrived, the film had already died on its backside. The film wasted time on juvenile political discussion. I literally thought that the American boy would accuse the French girl as being a cheese eating surrender monkey, but of course they just fall in love! Every single role was unoriginal from John Turtoro's poetry reading psycho to Juliet Binoche's cool french spy. Given such an important political possibility, the film said absolutely nothing.
Quelques jours en septembre (A Few Days in September) is an
intelligent, classy little film that boasts not only a unique story as
written and directed by Argentinean Santiago Amigorena, but a fine cast
of both seasoned and fresh young actors who capture our attention and
hearts as they progress through Europe on a mission that has a lot to
do (in 2001) with September's indelible imprint on the world. It is a
film that contains biting humor, black humor, love interests, and
bizarre sidebars that make the final moments of the movie all the more
Irène Montano (Juliette Binoche) is an agent in Paris who is somehow connected to secret intelligence in making a meeting with one CIA agent Elliott (Nick Nolte) who holds top-secret information that could change the world... Irène is instructed by cellphone to look after Elliott's estranged French daughter Orlando (Sara Forestier), who loathes the father that deserted her when her mother died, and Elliot's young son David (Tom Riley) from the US who adores his father and has come to Paris to see him. Various meeting places between Irène (accompanied by Orlando and David) and Elliot are aborted until finally the three are told to travel to Venice for a definite meeting. This all takes place between September 5th and September 10th and it is soon suggested that the elusive Intelligence Service Elliott hold information that will impact the world.
As the three characters progress through the streets and cafés of Paris and of Venice they are stalked by a very odd assassin William Pound (John Turturro) who divides his time among reciting poetry, in cellphone consultations with his psychiatrist, killing people and planning the assassination of Elliott. While Orlando and David are at first at odds, separated by language and by disparate feelings about their shared father, the presence of Irène joins the two in friendship and more while acting as a guide and escort through the dangers that lie constantly before them. It is not until the last few minutes of the film that we actually meet Elliott (Nolte) and in these few minutes not only are there changes that occur in the estranged relationship between Orlando and Elliot, but also rapid fire events that breathlessly lead to the moments before the shattering events of 911 in America.
Cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne captures all of the allure of Paris and Venice while keeping the focus of the film intense with well-lighted spaces and camera angles. Laurent Martin has found the right mixture of music types to fit the various moods of the film - from amorous to innocent to terror. The film is in both English and French (subtitled in English) and it is refreshing for a groups of actors to move so graciously between the languages. Binoche is in peak form, creating a fascinating woman whose role is so very pivotal to the entire story. John Turturro adds another character role to his repertoire and provides most of the dark humor that peppers the film. Nolte is strong in his small role, but it is the pleasure of watching newcomers Tom Riley and Sara Forestier, so adroit at being natural, that adds to the success of the movie. While the topic of the film (911) is still difficult to assimilate, this version of how Europe was responding and the suggestion of how our own CIA had prior information make for a seamlessly exciting way of filling in some of the holes that remain to be examined. Strongly recommended on all levels. Grady Harp
Reviewers talk quirky, but offering a different view of an event in September 2001 has to take a roundabout journey to give space for us to rethink events we regard as given. This is not about what the old generation can teach the new - it's about the shifting power balance in the world, a confidence that is about to slip like a picture gone out of focus, a few days before September 11. Through a glass darkly, we feel the imminent change about to happen, the jockeying for position between old, new and confused, but the viewers' foreknowledge gives the plot line extra significance and meaning that would make it otherwise a spy chase thriller and not much more. How often do you see on modern films the kinds of discussions that are in this film? A European perspective, a new kind of world, where even the chauvinist French drive German cars,and the American Empire is given twenty years to live. More films need to be made that explore the truth, separate the paranoid from the conspiratorial, the kooky from the careful look. This films does the latter - thanks to masterful casting and,ahem,unorthodox execution. Binoche has given a sophisticated performance.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't understand why a few people are raving about aspects of this movie - are they related to the film in some way perhaps? - because I really wanted to like this after everything I've heard, my love of French cinema, and the fact that John Turturro is one of the best actors out there. I won't give away any spoilers, but frankly, don't bother. I'm not sure who coined the description "thriller" for this but it ain't. And frankly there's nothing else in the movie to redeem it, everything gets at best nine out of ten. The actors turn in performances that they were asked to do - you can't really fault them here - but the director's pointlessly obsessive playing around with the focus is at best irritating, but mostly just tiresome. The word "dilettante" springs to mind. There isn't anything to "get" here that you might think you're missing, and anyone who puts this in the same category as Pulp Fiction or any other movie with a semblance of action, humour or even a decent narrative, doesn't know what they're talking about. Even the romance isn't worked properly. Sorry to disappoint, it's always a good thing for somebody's pet project to reach the screen, particularly a serious French attempt at grabbing an international audience, but this movie is ruled by a director who needs a tougher producer and an editor who has the capacity to say "no" more often.
This is not really a spy thriller, despite its appearance. This is the
story of the fantastic threesome told stylishly (and sometimes
mischievously, verging on black humour) as they romp merrily through
Paris and Venice. The spying stuff and the pre-911 intrigue are only
for providing a convenient stage for the characters to play on. And
don't expect anything remotely resembling the intricate web of
espionage you see in Syrianna. "A few days in September" is actually
quite simple, if you strip away the clever disguises. But all this is
very entertaining business.
The threesome is an ex-spy (now a "spy trainer") Irene taking a young woman from France and a young man from America on a happy excursion through Paris and Venice to meet their father Elliot, a mysterious figure. Orlando and David, who meet for the very first time in their lives, are only step-siblings, with no real blood relations, and you can sense where that is going, despite their initial animosity, the sure sign of a budding romance. When Orland was a little girl, her mother was killed and Elliot left his daughter in Europe as he was recalled to the States. No wonder she hates him. Back home, he married David's mother, and his new step-son adores him. The story opens after Elliot had been sent back across the Atlantic on some secret mission. Where does Irene come in? A certain secretive party, wanting to meet the ever elusive Elliot for a secretary reason, works through Irene. Elliot finally gives his consent, on condition that Irene brings both his son and daughter to see him at the meeting. Complicated? Not really. Just add a weird assassin William Pound persistently lurking behind the three for an ultimate clean shot at Elliot. There you have everything you need to know, more or less.
It is not easy to fit this movie into a nice little niche. Most of the movie is constructed around the trail of the threesome, chasing after one after another aborted meeting with Elliot. The fact that all these happen through picturesque Paris and Venice is of course delightful. In this movie, we have playful wit, amusing character clashes (you can guess between whom), adventure, tasteful romance and character development. Parallel to that is a character that might have come out of "Pulp fiction", one William Pound who evokes William Blake's ominous "Tiger, tiger burning bright" during a bloody killing, and an assortment of other poets on other similar occasions. He also gets telephone consultation from his shrink on a regular basis. (David, incidentally, is another lover of poetry, and we learn later that he acquired the taste from his step-father.) There is a connection with 911 - the entire duration of the movie, as the title intimates, is from the 5th to the 11th of September, 2001, and no one needs to be particularly clever to guess that therein lies the secret of Elliot's elusiveness. There is even the expected discussion on why people hate Americans, but it is not meant to have any depth. At the end of the day, this is a witty, stylish, entertaining movie, seasoned also with a few pinches of black humour. No, not pretentious. You can be pretentious only when you are serious. But serious this movie certainly is not.
The director seems to have a penchant, for this movie at least, for out-focus shots. Here, they works on two levels. First, they create a special mood of mild intrigue and suspense. But they are also POVs of Irene, who wears eye-glasses. When she takes them off, it is as if she is inviting the audience to join her in taking a break from the excitement of the espionage world to enjoy the beauty of Venice through a mist that enhances your imagination.
It is delightful to see Binoche in an uncharacteristic role, a cool (like, in teenage language) ex-agent trying to out-maneuver seasoned adversaries and baby-sit the pair of young people at the same time, and all this while not forgetting to enjoy herself. Sara Forestier ("Hell", "Perfume: the story of a murderer") plays taciturn Orlando who seems to have a perpetual toothache, which is understandable in view of an experience in her traumatic childhood. But she can be sweet, once her defense is broken down by the easy humour of David. Unknown British actor Tom Riley plays American young man David with the right mix of charm and awkwardness. If he were a little more flamboyant, he could remind you of Hugh Grant. John Turturro ("Oh Brother, where art thou") brings to the movie another dimension, as the eccentric assassin, but you will have to switch on your black humour frequency to get the most out of his performance.
Not top-billed, but must be mentioned, is inimitable Nick Nolte. This superb actor seems to be the best choice when you have a character that appears only in the last 15 minutes but will fill the screen when a huge presence is needed. If you've seen "A beautiful country" (2004) you'll know what I mean. It's also interesting to note that Binoche and Nick were both in "Paris je t'ame", in separate segments.
The only thing remotely exciting in the first half of this movie was if
and when the sexual tension between Irène (Juliette Binoche) and David
(Tom Riley) would end in a tryst between the sheets before one or both
of them were killed by William Pound (John Turturro), a poetry spouting
But then, David's half-sister Orlando (Sara Forestier) appears to hate him and all Americans so much that they will end up together. Who knows? There sure isn't anything else going on as we wait to see if Elliott (Nick Nolte) knows about 9/11.
Quelle surprise! The winner is..., and it only took 85 minutes of the movie to get there! The conversations between Irène, Orlando and David kept the movie interesting until the predictable end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In short: This is a very arrogant and unsuccessful attempt to be
another Jean-Luc Godard, Ingmar Bergman, or Hector Babenco.
This movie was terrible. And, I do not dislike this movie solely because of the rampant anti-Americanism.
I also dislike this movie on its movie qualities.
Let's start with acting. Tom Riley as "David" was so completely ridiculous in his role. Here is a young man who goes to Paris to meet his father, is confronted by two people he doesn't know, has two guns drawn at him ready to fire, is subsequently told his father had a secret family in France and Sara Forestier ("Orlando") is his half-sister he never knew about. He sees a dead body, dripping of fresh blood, of the concierge while exiting the Paris hotel, and is now in fear for his life. Or he should be. How many 25-30 year olds (I'm guessing that's the character's age bracket) have seen a murdered body, especially in his demographics as a middle class white male? I mean how many of us have seen a murdered body ever? Or have had loaded guns in our faces? Or told about their dear father's second secret family that you never knew about? And this all happened within hours.
But how does Riley's "David" react? Like he stepped out of a shampoo-commercial - he's cooking fine cuisines, making jokes about cell phones and wanting to visit the Eiffel Tower? Either Amigorena thinks American characters cannot practice deep retrospection and emotion or Riley is really one of the most horrible movie actor's I've seen in a while.
The Direction . . . So self-indulgent. So "look at me". So "I can be so deep". It really was pathetic. The most pathetic, self-indulgent scene was one of the last where Juliette Binoche and John Turturro or "Irene Montan" and "William Pound" have the last gun-fight. In slow-motion with the sound turned off, the camera pans outside where we only see blasts of light every second and a half. Give me a break. That was such a ridiculous scene that the other people in the theater were laughing out loud.
The Writing . . . Is this a caper film? Is this a spy film? Or is this - a French romance? The brother and sister (well sort of) begin a romantic interlude because deep films have love scenes -- right? This guy is so deeped out, man. Such a ridiculous attempt to be better than anything ever filmed. Such arrogance in his film-making.
There was one part of the film which had humor and kind of worked. After Turturro ("Pound") would kill someone or come close he'd immediately get his psychiatrist on the phone. That was a little funny, and possibly more should have been done with this area.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Santiago Amigorena co-wrote one of my favorite French movies of the last few years, Marion Vernoux' Rien a faire, so I checked out Quelque Jours en settembre with high hopes. Whilst it would be untrue to say those hopes were dashed this IS a film that in refusing classification will alienate as many, if not more, than it intrigues. Any movie that boasts John Turturro as a hit man named William Pound - or indeed as a hit man at all - has to be intriguing to say the least but almost as if that were not enough for Amigorena he embellishes the character by having him spout poetry in addition to being in analysis via cellphone. The film veers wildly and erratically between black comedy, thriller, incest, world politics and travelogue and to expand on just one of those labels it's a thriller shot at the pace of a Merchant/Ivory period piece. The out-of-focus sequences favored by Amigorena break the rules because they are NOT always from the point of view of Juliette Binoche - who periodically removes her eyeglasses to justify the effect but against this the camera-work plays down the two principal locations, Paris and Venice, and is refreshingly free of 'touristy' angles. It was, of course, only a matter of time before someone got around to speculating on the conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11 and this is, I suppose, as relevant as any but will inevitably seem like a let-down to the bubble-gum set should they wander in by mistake. For the rest of us it's highly watchable on several levels which is more than sufficient.
Even the fantastic Juliette Binoche cannot save this too jazzy
editorial self stimulated contemporary cotton eye mixture of noir bluff
meets arty intentions without a heart or a handshake
Jeez, I need a beer and a good nights sleep
Some times expectations just ruins your evening. Putting the DVD into the mac was my biggest mistake tonight.
The story never evolved. The plot was not visible. There was no master plan. Only a director trying to make an impression on other directors, pure jazz without a boiling kettle
My advice: buy some popcorn and watch Kieslowski
I am an American student studying in France right now, and this is the
first foreign film I've seen here. It was a great movie, and was easy
to follow for a person with minimal French experience (one of the main
characters is American, and whenever the other two main characters are
around him they have to speak English, a plus since it helps you catch
up on all the french bits you didn't get!). It did have a few artful
elements, a few gruesome visuals, but it worked. The use of poetry,
silence, out-of-focus visuals, etc. was great, it made the feel of the
film better than I had expected. Intreaguing storyline, great
All in all, I recommend the film.
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