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Gad Elmaleh's auto promo vehicle, not for Sophie Marceau fans
This film is only for those who are entertained by "comedian" Gad Elmaleh. He takes up most of the time. Sophie only appears once in a while (another good pay-check for her, though). Gad's type of slapstick humor is really unbearable: the frenetic piano playing, the continuous narcissistic showmanship, the tired old battle of the sexes quips, and his buddies and their clique-y in-crowd--jokes - that must be witnessed by all else around them, because really the joke is on every one else, for paying even a smidgen of attention to these unpleasant creatures. Who wouldn't wanna be part of this social circle, right? Not!
Decor wise it's all a big chaos as well. The only places of relief are the outside Paris exteriors.
Moreover this film is pure propaganda for everything that's wrong with France these days. Absolute conformism to hierarchic capitalism is portrayed as completely normal (even desirable); proposing a further degeneration of the three basic principles of French culture: liberty, fraternity, and equality. The characters think nothing of it, that they have to subject themselves to humiliation and maltreatment from "powerful" people (for example the ape like record company director barking at Gad through Skype - like an African despot). To an immigrant like, Elmaleh, this role reversal might be hilarious, but the native French people are fed up with this degeneracy. Me and my buddies wil bring your once civilised country down, and I'm gonna rub your faces in it. That is the main purpose of the film, I got it loud and clear, from picking up on all the subliminal messages mockingly thrust in my face as "comedy."
This product is reprehensible on all levels.
Non ti muovere (2004)
An ego-centric portrait of Segio Castellito
I was expecting much from this film. The synopsis of the movie interested me, and also Penelope's involvement as a destitute character stirred my curiosity. However, the film is plagued by many faults. The worst one is that the movie focuses too much on the male character, who also happens to be the director (surprise surprise). It's what I call the Nanni Morreti syndrome: a childish self obsessed sexist heterosexual male who is supposedly desired by all other characters, the wife he cheats on, the girl he rapes, the daughter whom he treats like a son, and then still wants the whole world to take pity on him for his suffering existence in the upper class world of the Italian elite. The soundtrack is riddled with too many songs trying to say something about the particular situations of scenes, and the musical score sounds like a bad ennio morricone composition, (even a Mexican soap has better music). By the time the climax of the movie arrives, already so many pseudo-dramatic tragedies have occurred, that one can't really care anymore. This is one of those examples why money shouldn't be pumped into European cinema. Because the money always seems to end up in the pockets of ego centric directors who haven't got a clue about building up drama. I only kept watching because Penelope Cruz's performance is so unlike her normal characters, and she does a great job, but she can't save an otherwise flawed movie.
God Bless the Child (1988)
the American disease
The movie portrays the opposite of the American dream. Because for every great winner there are great losers, not because they deserve that, but because bad luck can strike anyone. And when just surviving becomes an impossible dream to achieve, that's when you know you're a goner. Homelessness is humiliating. It is more important that all citizens have homes and medical aid, than to be spoilt for choice, and become obese, sick with a third house and a yacht, while others have nothing. The Amercian dream should be providence for everyone, but the real nightmare is stark capitalism relentlessly leaving people out in the dark. This movie is incredibly touching and has a communistic message, countering the yuppie consensus of the Reagan era. It surpasses its format, eg, a TV movie. And surpasses most Hollywood dross. 10 out of 10
Rien sur Robert (1999)
making fun of itself
Do characters have to be credible and does a dialogue have to be realistic for a movie to be 'good'? This movie certainly isn't everyone's cup of tea. The typical french virtues/vices of film making are present here: "over-intellectualizing, not tying up a storyline, and wasting time on details", yet, at the same time, the film satirizes exactly this French behaviour, and that what for me makes it very enjoyable, and proves its one step ahead of the current french film makers who all too often take themselves much too seriously without delivering anything intellectually original or emotionally engaging. In particular Sandrine kiberlaine's character is very entertaining.
After un lugar en el mundo and Martin Hache. I was very much looking forward to the new Aristarain movie. Unfortunately the weakest points for the previous here fill out an entire feature length film of a gratingly long 130 minutes. Characters have no other depth than proliferating themselves by talking about their favorite classic/jazz musicians and literary figures. They do not explain what meaning or experience they find in these. just referring to them must convince the viewer that these characters must be very intellectual. Of course the effect is that they come across as very hollow, pretentious and rather unpleasant. Thbe only character that wins the viewer's sympathy probably is Roma, Joaca's mother. Her views are fresh and yet heartwarming. Perhaps it was the intention of Aristarain to alienate the viewer from any emotional bonding with these antipathetic characters, in that case he succeeded. What is truly a structural flaw of the film, not just of taste, is the way the story is told, if one can call it a story. There are just flashbacks which do not seem to follow from one to the next. Characters suddenly take meaning to other characters without any explanation. In the end the film becomes a mess, and I could not even finish watching it. Aristarain is crossed of my list of favorite directors. I hope he'll turn the tide with a next, better, film.
Frío sol de invierno (2004)
beautiful drama in Euskadi
Unax Ugalde seems to be a guarantee for top quality movies. Every single movie he has been cast in, has been an intelligent, emotional, well written, atmospheric film. His excellent acting skills are here enhanced by those of Marisa Paredes. A real surprise in the movie is the actress who plays the tragi-comic role of the young prostitute. Her sub-story left a big emotional impact on me. Unax plays a rich kid, with a mental history, who is released from the institution where has been 'healed' and is returned to his former elderly house, abandoned by his parents, but given the financial resources to survive. He learns that in the drama of his childhood many more persons were intricate, as he gets to know the people who live on the wrong side of the tracks of town. It amazes me that sugary nonsense like 'mar adentro' gets hailed into heaven, while much more original movies such as these hardly find their way to a mainstream audience. I'm glad however I discovered it, and recommend it anyone to watch it.
El milagro de Candeal (2004)
Put a camera in Brazilian town, push record, and you have a film
This is the umpteenth time that Fernando Trueba, a highly overrated director of movies which only exist because he survives on film-subsidies of the government. Basically Trueba goes to Brazil, puts a camera in the middle of a semi-poor area, asks some people to make music, starts recording and then goes back to Spain to show his holiday video to his 'audience'. An audience which exists mainly of people who think by saying they like Truba movies and Brazilian music from the barrio, they are good left wing intellectuals, but in fact are an arrogant bunch of ignorant followers who need someone to introduce Brazilian music to them, whereas it's so easy to discover it yourself, and better music than then the one displayed in this film. If there's any reason why the Spanish government should not pump more money into the 'directors/beggars' like Trueba, here's the proof. It's a disgrace. It's not surprising that Almodovar decided to leave the Academy, because it's made up of lazy directors like Trueba for whom film making is all about financial, and arrogance, rather than a passion to make good films. It'a terribly unoriginal documentary and definitely not a Brazilian Buena vista Social Club.
The performances of singers like Jamelia, Girls Aloud and Delta Goodrem and Brian mc Fadden, seem somehow to make the songs much more boring than when seen on ordinary pop TV shows like Top of the pops, or cd uk. Liza Minelli's singing was truly horrible, she just did not hit those all important belting notes. Elton John did his regular thing at the piano, and Barbara Windsow stuck in a carry on loop. Is there no one within the establishment of 'artists' and performers in the U.K. who dares to stand up on stage, look at Prince Charles balcony, and tell him that it is time to abolish the monarchy. The period of Cool Brittania is definitely over. And even that was overrated.
El principio de Arquímedes (2004)
ambition and success depends on scary capitalist system
It had to be in Spain where a director still dares to make a film about the awful corporate state of most Western (not to mention 3rd world) societies. Against the background of this statement, is set a story of self discovery, love for those who were regarded as failures, and admiration for those who reject the American dream, which mostly comes at the price of abuse and inhuman values. Once again proof of Spain's strong cinematic and socially engaged quality. Marta Belastaugui is going to be one of the most wanted actresses in the next few years, mark my words. Alberto Jimenez is always watchable as backstabbing bastard. And the other two main actors also give very good performances. The slick grey/white corporate style and the business district of Madrid as background give the film also visually its distinctive identity. Full marks
Horas de luz (2004)
Promising beginning which doesn't deliver in the end
Being a fan of actress Emma Suarez, I went to see this film full of anticipation. The film starts off with bleak scenes of crime and punishment, sceneries of an all male world where ruthless police are at war with equally brutal criminals. Men devoid of human consideration and gentility. A world where humans are nothing less than wild beasts, and where their spirits are broken by sadistic guards. After this relentlessly grim opening, Emma Suarez's character arrives. She is the prison's doctor who is shocked by the conditions in which the inmates live. She falls in love with one of the inmates, who we suddenly come to see as noble savage rather than ruthless killer. The moments of tenderness which she is able to give through the excuse of tending to her patient, are very intense. Too soon however the movie swiftly moves on to tell the story of how she starts a campaign to stop the terrible prison conditions. Even though it is very educational, it doesn't make for good drama. The movie focuses in a corny and cheesy manner on the personal relationship between delinquent's hussy, Emma, and her bit of rough. The movie's tone changes completely and it is af if we are suddenly watching another movie. The director should not have tried to tie in 20 years of development, but simply have limited himself to the early years, rather than drag the story on, and on, until it becomes a sugary mess in which inmates, prisoner's wives, police guards and prison directors suddenly love each other to bits.
Fumata blanca (2002)
'religious' screwball comedy thriller
The thriller storyline which involves the blackmail and kidnapping of a Catholic bishop, turned me off at first, but after 5 minutes watching, I realized I was in for a very comic film. A young priest, turned into detective, asks the help of his cop father to find these aforementioned kidnappers, and both get a sly female journalist involved during their search. The chemistry between these three characters sparks off the screen. The dialogue is spiked with sarcastic social comments on the catholic church, religion, the police machinery and the media, as well as more lightweight comedy. There are also more personal story lines which bring warmth into the whole thing. One of the funniest scenes is the blind date the cop father has, and the pseudo-macho banter between this same cop and his partner. Hats off for the scriptwriter. This film could have been a great pilot, for a spin off series which sees the trio of priest, cop and journalist team up time and time again to solve new crimes. A bit like a Father Dowling and Sister Steve for the naughties.
Antigua vida mía (2001)
two classy women helping each other to find a new life
Two upper middle class women from Buenas Aires are trapped in relationships that aren't working well. One is in an abusive relationship, the other is selfish towards her family. The catalyst for change is the murder of the abusive husband by his wife, Cecilia Roth's character. Her best friend, Ana Belen, tries to help her through this process, and by doing so has to tackle her own problems. Cecilia Roth manages to portray very well the shifts of emotion between ignorant bliss and fearfulness. Ana Belen, is truly amazing, as she balances on a the thin line between selfish stuck up diva, and self determined caring confident woman. There are some wonderful scenes shot in Guatamala as well as a nice stylish decor and wardrobe in Argentine. The story loses its intensity from time to time, and tends to become a bit too over-dramatic at times, but in general it is a very pleasant film to watch. The main attraction though are the two leading actresses who carry this story forward with such an amazing power that you won't want to miss one moment of their dialogs.
Like It Is (1998)
One of the better 'gay' themed 90s movies
Early on into the movie one becomes interested in the story and what will follow. The actors give charming performances and their conflicting interests are dealt with credibly. The film consists of a well balanced blend of drama, humour, fast paced action, and gentler quiet moments. Blackpool is visualized as bleak in comparison to brightly lit London; which symbolizes an environment of repression and brutality in contrast to a more liberal and sophisticated environment. The effect this change of setting has on the main character, is the red thread of the movie. He wants that change but, his character is still very much rooted in the Northern village mentality, albeit combined with a very appealing innocence. A straight audience that criticizes the film because the main characters are gay, and therefore cannot identify with these characters and declare it flawed, only reveal their limited imagination and intelligence. Also one must not ignore other important themes such as jealousy, the North / South divide, fast love against long term relationships.
Una preciosa puesta de sol (2003)
psychological tragi-comedy with beautiful settings and wardrobe
This movie is worth watching alone for the performances of two legendary actresses Anna Torrent and Marisa Paredes, who interpret the screenplay with excellent knowledge of the psychological make up of their characters. This movie is about the tensions that exist between family members, about secret feelings of grudge and dislike, and love that overcomes them. It is about the impossibility to get along with each other, and yet about how family members can help each other solve their problems in life by functioning as a mirror to the feelings and worries that so easily get hidden behind the facades of everything being all right. The costumes worn by the lead actresses are strikingly beautiful, as are the settings: a luxury train, chic apartment, posh hotel, and in the background the beautiful landscape of Northern Spain. Sometimes the movie moves forward a bit slowly, especially during scenes when classical music is being played overlong. These scenes are pretentious and unnecessary. The power lies within the dialogue and settings, not the soundtrack.
À cause d'un garçon (2002)
More straight erotic scenes than gay ones, in a gay movie?!
Although I enjoyed watching this movie at first, on second thought I noticed quite a few inconsistencies. The story is about a gay teenager who is outed in school, and how his life is made quite impossible because of this. The young protagonist, Vincent, finds himself ousted from his 'straight' peers, and neither does he feel at home in the 'gay' scene of Paris. The screenplay writer has done a good job at showing how even in modern Western societies, where laws are more and more granting equal rights to gay people, real life is still a far cry from egalitarian. Homosexuality is accepted, as long as you wait till you finish school, and don't demonstrate romantic displays of kissing in public, except in gay ghetthoes like the Parisian Marais. Whereas the screenplay-writer has tried to make this point, the director of the film then goes on to make exactly the mistake of treating straight erotic scenes and romantic storylines, differently to the gay ones. There are many and long 'sex' scenes between Vincent and his girl-friend, whom we constantly see nude on the bed, but very few and not very explicit gay 'sex' scenes. If we have to see Vincent give oral sex to his girlfriend, why can we not see the same between him and another guy? When Vincent meets up with his sex-buddy, we see a few quick kisses, which are immediately followed by him leaving the shower. The 'romantic love story between Vincent and the Jeremy Elkaim character is also rather sparsely portrayed. More focus is given to the the demise of the relation between Vincent and his 'girlfriend', rather than the blossoming of love between the two guys, which has been the catalyst for his outing in the first place.
The final scene is supposed to tell us that Vincent has finally reached 'freedom'. Vincent and his new boyfriend are seen running in the park, in love, but when they tumble down on the grass, just before they 'french' kiss each other properly, the camera moves away, and the end credits appear.
Why have the gay erotic scenes and the gay romantic storyline not been portrayed equally to the straight ones? It smacks of internalized homophobia of the director. A movie that's supposed to be about the liberation and equality of gays, should then not demonstrate exactly the opposite visually, or should I say by lack of showing it!
A pity, I think the screenplay deserved a better directorial execution.
Some questions that are left unanswered:
If Vincent has to train for a sports scholarship by himself because his swim mates cannot stand to be with a 'gay' in the same pool, then how will Vincent deal with this problem when he goes to University, where he no doubt will encounter the same discrimination? Unless he keeps himself in the closet there again.
The excuse given to why Jeremy Elkaim's character did not kiss Vincent at first, is rather odd. Why could their relationship not develop properly?
In the end I even start to believe that this is a gay movie for a straight public, and the director wants to spare that audience too much explicit gay material. A decision which is quite offensive towards gay people.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Inspirational Feel good movie
A feel good movie with beautiful images, which gives a good reflection of modern day Italy and its new immigrants: the Polish builders who might have academic qualifications. Diane Lane, another academic, who has the luck to have the money to be in a better position, acknowledges this fact, and therefore looks after the Polish builders as if they were her family. Stereotypes of Italians and Americans are nicely done away with. The characters want to be judged for what they are as individuals, not for what their nationality is. I was in quite a bad mood when I went to see this movie and left very inspired, thinking about my own life, and how indeed one might see opportunities pass by without taking them, and how it only takes seizing one to start afresh. I enjoy Diane Lane very much as an actress as well. Well worth watching!
My Life Without Me (2003)
Tiny fractions which avoid depth.
Some things I liked about the movie: Leonor Watlings' excellent performance of a scene that was intrinsically so ridiculously far-fetched, that it takes quite some talent to pull it off successfully. Maria de Medeiros' character and her obsession with Milli Vanilli. She relates this 'fake' group and its 'tragic end' to Sarah Polley's character, unwittingly. Because Sarah's character, Ann, seems to be a person who is more lived by others, rather than being a person who's asserting her own life-choices The scene with the waitress The scene with the manicurist from Segovia The scenes with Amanda Plummer The scene where Leonor Watling tells Don to wash his hands before dinner, seen through a curtain of red beads.
Things I did not like: Every time a scene started to become interesting, like when Sarah asks Leonor Watling over to her trailer for coffee, or when she meets the hairdresser in the bar, it is cut short. Relations aren't allowed to develop into any depth. Then again that same method of presenting the story in tiny fractions is what spares us from boring scenes, that almost made me stop watching, namely: Recording her messages for her kids (yawn, it's like so Oprah Winfrey's gratitude journal or something). Sarah Polley's constant growling voice when she's talking, cuddling or playing with the kids or her husband. When Sarah Polley starts screaming before she gets kissed by Mark Ruffalo in the car. The scene with her father Alfred Molina. Never have I seen an actor give such an uninspired performance, which doesn't evoke any emotion, except irritation. And all the scenes with the kids.
Overall: Isabel Coixet's manner of filming doesn't allow the viewer any moment of tranquility. Visually it's shaky. There are too many blurry close-ups too often. And the hurried shifting from one angle to the next at moments in the story which should allow for gentle camera movements really gets on my nerves. The film gave me quite a headache. This confusing manner of filming has a lot to do with Isabel Coixet's personality, I think, because when she picked up her Goya for best adapted screenplay during the Spanish Academy's Film Awards, she made a very awkward speech, and she seemed to affect 'eccentricity,' which was just plain annoying, really.
The conclusion in which we see all the characters flowing past one more time after Ann's death, is so cheesy. I've seen this type of end all too often before. Mark Ruffalo crying in his car as he sees Ann, being picked up by her husband, is the emotional climax for me. All in all my emotions were left unstirred by the whole movie in general.
Los lunes al sol (2002)
Quentin Crisp once stated that when things are shown too beautifully, one is a romantic. When things are show unbearably grim, they are realistic. And when something gets the ironic treatment, they're spot on. Unfortunately for Leon de Aranoa, he falls into the second catagory. This director has obviously tried too hard to make a Spanish "Ken Loach" type movie, without being able to capture the comedy, and warmth between the characters, that elevate Loach movies from merely being 'depressing'. Los Lunes al Sol, is just that, only depressing. Things are unrealistically grim. The characters ultimate moments of misery all reach a climax at the same point, and if the glum story isn't enough, Aranoa washes the tale over with a visually grey and grimy colour palette. The films was ridiculously over-rated at the Goyas. A movie that shows empathy for the weaker citizens in society, in this case unemployed harbour workers, does not automatically make for a good movie, even though I would be the first to sympathize with the fates of these people. This movie only manages to make me grow disinterested in their fate. In 21st century Spain, unemployed people do not live like beggars, and the public transport ferries have decent restrooms, and it's hard to come across a bar with so few punters and such little happiness to be encountered in it. Leon de Aranoa obviously doesn't have a clue about working class Spain, and does it no favours. Pretentious is the only conclusion I can draw. The scene where the men watch a football match for free, has been directly copied from a film which deals much more 'realistically' with the subject of the 'poverty' trap, namely "Purely Belter," which is afar more engaging, humorous, and yet sad.
La espalda de Dios (2001)
A subtle movie about mental 'domestic' abuse
This film is very special in many ways. It has been completely filmed with digital cameras, and visually one feels as if one is personally witnessing the events from a few feet away. It's stylishly done, no hand held shaky camera movements here! The story deals with the manner in which a woman falls for the charms of a cheeky chap, who slowly starts abusing her generosity. She allows it, not because he intimidates her physically, but because he threatens to leave her if she doesn't agree with whatever he wants from her, and she may end up alone again in the no frills life she had beforehand, a life without the thrills he provides. There are also moments when we believe that there must be love and desire between these two characters, so that the 'sado-masochistic' emotional relationship doesn't become an alien concept. A movie that tells a story in a subtle way which is seldom found nowadays in cinema. The director has written an excellent script, and envisualized it pleasantly. We are immediately drawn into the story from the moment we see the main actress and actor meet. Very good acting performances from both main characters, and there's also a small cameo from Leonor Watling, from Almodovar's "Hable con Ella, as a prostitute.
Le divorce (2003)
bad mid 80's Almodovar wanna-be movie
What the hell was that reference to the Almodovar movie "Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down," all about? This line, uttered by the American sisters' brother, when their family arrives at the airport, has absolutely nothing to do with anything at that particular scene. It only goes to show that the director or screenplaywriter has tried to make a comedy of errors in the vein of Almodovar's "Atame" or "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," and failed miserably at it. The drama is an utter bore, and the comedy consists of nothing else but rehashing old stereotypes concerning the difference between American and French culture. This does not make for a good story, really. The Kelly handbag flying above the roofs of Paris, being sucked up into a tubular shaped exhaust pipe in the Centre Pompidou, down the dumper into nowhere, is probably the only thing that made me chuckle, and only because it's so cringeworthy. It's what I would like to do with this movie: make it disappear likewise, down a chute into oblivion, forever to be forgotten.
Entre tinieblas (1983)
A love/hate story about heroine
This film made after Almodovar's first more upbeat outrageous films, is a film that tells of the end of the Movida Madrilenia, a movement existing in the early eighties in Madrid that was defined by a mixture of new romantic punk and pop, and the ironic use of Spanish folklore and the 'housewife' culture. When people in this subculture started to commonly use heroine, the downfall of the movement had begun. This film is about the choices that people had to make at the end of this era. some stayed junkies, others died, some went back to the small towns where they had moved from, others went on to give up on drugs and become more constructive. The convent where the nuns reside can be interpreted as the habitation of this irreverent movement, frequented by police searches, dealers, artists, and junkies. The movie has some great musical moments which indicate that Almodovar might one day take his hand to this genre. The religious element interwtined with (homo)sexuality will certainly be proliferated again in the forthcoming movie La Mala Educacion. The movie also contains a cameo of a Spanish 'Harrold Robbins' type of writer, who is featured sitting at one of the tables wiping her mouth with a handkerchief as Yolanda sings in a night club at the beginning of the movie. This authopr refers to the character of sister Rata de Callejon, who has a secret career as trashy novel writer. The film is somewhat darker than most of Almodovar's early movies, but is very gentle, provides enough comedy and the characters above all remain very human, all of them have their virtues and vices.