Posts Tagged “Romance”

1958

Netflix DVD
USA
English
129 Minutes — May 28, 1958
Crime / Mystery / Romance / Thriller
Alfred Hitchcock [The 39 Steps; The Lady Vanishes; Rebecca; Notorious; Rear Window; To Catch A Thief; North By Northwest; Psycho; The Birds; Frenzy]

#2 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

A detective with a fear of heights is drawn into a complex plot in which a girl he loves apparently falls to her death. Then he meets her double.

“Double identity thriller which has many sequences in Hitchcock’s best style. A film as unsettling as the phobia it deals with, keeping its audience dizzy and off balance throughout.” — **** — Halliwell’s.

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

James Stewart…John Scottie Ferguson
Kim Novack…Madeleine Elster
Barbara Bel Geddes…Midge Wood

The Top 10 films of all time (based on that holy list I love) goes: Kane, this film, Rules Of The Game, 2001, 8 1/2, Godfather, Searchers, Samurai, Singing In The Rain, Potemkin.

One of these things is not like the other. And that thing is VERTIGO. There is no way that VERTIGO is the second best film ever made. No way.

Stewart is his usual charming, natural self. Novack is wooden at best and terrible at worst. Bel Geddes is entirely charming as the BFF of Scottie who has real feelings for him.

Positives:

–Hitchcock took the most beautiful city in North America and made it look even more beautiful somehow. It makes me want to drive up to The City to find Scottie’s apartment right now.
–The give and take between Scottie and Midge is pretty great.
–The sexual obsession of Stewart is pretty strong for a film made in 1958. He essentially can’t get turned on unless his date is made into another woman for him.
–Novack is pretty hot, especially in either a white coat or a black dress.
–Colors and angles are all superb, as you’d expect from Hitchcock (who apparently never looked through the camera during filmmaking).

Negatives:

–They fell in love too easily.
–How did Scottie get off the ledge in the first scene?
–Way too much following of people.
–Stewart: 50 years old; Novack: 25 years old. Um, of course he’s attracted to her.

Scottie is recuperating from his brush with death after chasing a criminal over the rooftops of San Francisco. An old college friend (though clearly living in England) asks him to follow his wife who is apparently under the spell of or possessed by a woman who died long ago. Scottie follows her and she’s gorgeous and she’s troubled and she jumps into San Francisco Bay and he had to take her wet clothes off and put her in his bed, so naturally he believes he’s in love with her. And we are asked to believe it as well. Her possession and sadness cause her to do herself harm and he spends half an hour seeing her in every other blonde in San Francisco.

And he doesn’t realize that an attractive, artistic, intelligent woman is his for the asking. Plus, she’ll fix him dinner and pour him bourbon.

Fabulous San Francisco locations. Great music.

I mean, it doesn’t suck. It’s pretty good and it was probably a big deal when it came out. But why all the praise?

I was surprisingly disappointed.

8.5 IMDB (Number 45 All Time)

VERTIGO

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NOSFERATU, EINE SYMPHONIE DES GRAUENS
1922

Cinequest 21 San Jose Film Festival
Germany
Silent — Wurlitzer Organ Accompaniment by Dennis James
Fantasy / Horror / Mystery / Romance
F. W. Murnau [Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans]

Film Number 103 Of All Time — They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000

OK, so it was made in 1922. It’s famous for being the first of the many vampire films. It’s campy and corny and silent. But was it fun to watch?

Absolutely. I was mostly worried about dozing off as it was my fourth film of the busy day. But seeing something that my great-grandparents might have seen, in a theater that my grandparents might have gone to as children, surrounded by a balcony full of fans ranging in age from about 8 to about 90, meant that it was an experience I’ll cherish forever.

Dennis James got sounds out of the mighty Wurlitzer that seemed to required five people to perform. He kept the pace and made us scared and happy and when a drummer appeared on screen, I’ll be damned if a snare drum didn’t sound from the right speaker in perfect syncopation. If you’ve never heard live accompaniment to a silent film before, get your ass out of your house and go to one. Even if you don’t like the film. It’ll be worth it.

The story was overacted and the special effects rudimentary, but again, it was filmed just after World War I, for god’s sake. Women and men alike seem to swoon, the bad guys are extra bad, the wacko mental patients extra mentally.

But I found it touched me–the darkness, the lust, the way the Count looked upon a drop of blood while licking his lips.

And my, oh my, to experience all of this in a double-decker full house like the California Theater. The title cards causing snickers and oohs and aahs. The “wow” factor of the Count levitating. The creepiness of a long boat ride. People were enthralled. I was one of them.

And I didn’t doze once.

8.1 IMDB

NOSFERATU

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2011

March 4, 2011
USA
English
Cinequest 21 World Premiere
Drama / Romance
Conrad Jackson

Elliot Carson = Parker Croft
Chloe Webb = Emilia Zoryan

One of the best pleasant surprises I’ve had in my 14 years at Cinequest.

On paper, this film had every red flag imaginable. Terminal illness, Los Angeles hipsters, a house party, a meet-cute in a Jamba Juice, an internet entrepreneur, and two incredibly adorable young people who spend a single night together. And yet…

Elliot visits his doctor the day before he has brain surgery. The doctor assures him that he’s optimistic, but we can tell from Elliot’s eyes, that he has no such positive feelings. He wears sunglasses indoors as the light bothers him and on the way home from the doctor’s office, he needs to pull over his car in order to barf. Looking for a bathroom in which to clean himself up, he ends up at an ice cream / smoothie place staffed by an almost supernaturally adorable girl named Chloe. As he walks in, she’s taking photographs of the store’s merchandise. She kindly lets him use the bathroom, he orders an “anything with bananas in it” drink, and they make smalltalk. But realistic smalltalk. Awkward, silence-filled, customer-employee smalltalk. He picks up a card for her photo exhibit that night–”you should come”–and heads back to his sparsely furnished, though expensive looking apartment, where he enjoys a bowl of cereal after closing the shades.

Trying to get his mind off of the next morning’s procedure, he heads down to Chloe’s show, where they exchange names and more conversation. Which leads to dinner, which leads to a houseparty, bike ride, security guards, danger, a hike, some music, and all those other things that can make a first night with someone magical. But eventually, Elliot will have to tell Chloe why he hasn’t eaten or drank anything since midnight, won’t he? And what if she wants to plan something for that weekend?

There are several things to say here, in bullet-point format:

–the cinematographer and director find a way to perfectly capture the dizziness, migraine, and ear-ringing that accompany someone who is about to barf. I can’t recall ever feeling someone’s nausea quite so vividly. The sound quiets, the lights get brighter, and the speed sort of changes. Very well done.

–The young woman who plays Chloe, Emilia Zoryan, looks like an “almost” Minka Kelly from FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. She has these huge, soulful eyes that stare at Elliot, often when he isn’t looking. She is convincing as a normal, LA girl, who works in a store, but longs for great, artistic things.

–The young man is played by Parker Croft, who was one of the writers of the film. He looks like an even-thinner young Roger Daltrey, all angles, and bones, with a big mop of blonde hair on his head. He has this slow-blinking, surfer drawl dialogue delivery that somehow isn’t annoying. Because it sounds like a kid his age. And with his very thin frame and our knowledge of his condition, we can’t help but cheer for him as he tries to experience a memorable night on what might be his last.

–The two leads, while conversing–both initially meeting, and as the topics get deeper–sound perfect together. At the Q & A after the film, it was learned that the crew filmed this over a two week period of nights. And I know that Parker was one of the writers. But something more is happening here. I don’t know if they work-shopped the dialogue or were given a simple framework upon which to improvise around. The two 20ish actors are speaking like two 20ish people who are meeting someone they might end up eventually liking. The honest awkwardness of silences, of jokes that don’t land, of spilling food on a first date–all of it seems real. They don’t finish each others sentences and they mostly don’t have a rapid-fire HIS GIRL FRIDAY thing happening. It just seems more organic. Or else I was just fooled, which is good enough for me.

–The music worked, especially a “concert in a tunnel” where someone’s friend of a friend is performing on guitar and a tiny amp. The crowd looks happy, if a bit too hip and good-looking. The other songs didn’t hit us over the head. There was no “brain tumor theme” for example.

–A new romance causes us to completely lose track of time, and somehow that feeling was communicated in this film. Everything they do could plausibly have taken place during one night. But looking back on memories of perfect nights with perfect people, we never really relay that story perfectly, do we? Maybe the bike ride took four hours and maybe it was just around the block. The important thing was who you were with, not how long it really lasted.

–Capturing blossoming feelings is incredibly difficult on screen. You have to believe in the chemistry of the two people. They have to be realistically right for each other. There has to be something in each of them that would attract the other. All of these things work in this film. Though, due to Elliot’s condition, he needs to hold back his feelings more than Chloe does. I thought that she fell too hard for him too early. Plus, she’s adorable. Why doesn’t she already have something to do that night?

–Another entirely tiny positive thing that no one probably noticed but me. Both members of the couple sustain minor injuries during their night together. Hers is much less conspicuous. But I noticed that the continuity didn’t lapse when I saw her in a later scene. Attention to detail=A.

Lest it sound like it was perfect, let me slow down that impression now.

–The hipster, mostly white-people, young and funny, houseparty birthday “my friends are outrageous” stuff was almost a bit much for me. Almost. A sobbing birthday girl, a cynical bearded friend, a guy with one of those stupid knit hats with the ear flaps, a conversation about grilled cheese, a top-half-clothing-trade. If I wasn’t so invested in the couple’s beginning, I would have hated, hated, hated that group of people. They hike up an LA mountain, where a group of people has cold beer ready and a tree adorned with lights and a couch and deep and shallow conversations abound. I get that this is a real thing that happens, but that doesn’t mean it makes good cinema. When I was their age, my friends and I acted exactly like them. If you are between the ages of 16 and 30, you’ll even love these scenes.

–Both actors were pretty spectacular, especially when compared to their resumes. Parker was a bit stronger than Emilia, but her big eyes go a long way towards helping us forget that. Parker has a big scene that starts with spinning a globe that I never quite bought. I wanted to, but it was too long, too close-up, too monologue-ish. That was the only misstep I could find in his performance.

In conclusion, I’m almost embarrassed by how much I like FALLING OVERNIGHT. I’m a sucker for the falling in like part of cinema relationships (BEFORE SUNRISE remains the gold standard), but the LA location, the age of the participants, the extra “bonus” of a brain tumor, all told me to avoid this film. I’m glad I didn’t.

FALLING OVERNIGHT

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2010

August 14, 2010
Sneak Preview Cinearts Santana Row San Jose
USA
English
90 Minutes — August 27, 2010
Comedy / Drama / Romance
Rob Reiner [This Is Spinal Tap; The Sure Thing; Stand By Me; The Princess Bride; When Harry Met Sally...; Misery; A Few Good Men; The American President]

You Never Forget Your First Love.

There is not a single moment within FLIPPED’s 90 minutes that could possibly offend anyone. Except maybe people looking for a compelling story or strong acting or well-rounded characters. But language and subject matter and the blossoming of young love are done with such apple-pie restraint, that I hate myself for hating it.

Bryce Loski moves into a new neighborhood across the street from Juli Baker. Juli introduces herself and appears to be ready to spend the day with the new family before their moving truck is even unpacked. We are told the story almost entirely in voice-over. First Bryce gets to explain what happens, and then it flips (get it?) and Juli tells us the same story from her point of view.

Bryce is played to an almost unbearably bland level by a kid named Callan McAuliffe, whose sole qualification seems to be his blond hair and skinny frame. Why Juli likes him, we cannot speculate. Juli, on the other hand, is equally attractive, but is at least given a back story and a personality which Bryce is sorely lacking. Juli is a spitfire, she isn’t afraid of what other people think, she mounts a tree sit-in 40 years before Julia Butterfly Hill will do the same thing up in Humboldt. Juli is played with a smile and energy by Madeline Carroll, whose list of credits dwarfs McAuliffe’s.

This romantic mis-match continues to their respective families. Bryce has an older sister and snobby parents played by Anthony Edwards and Rebecca De Mornay. Edwards’ character is seen with a constant scotch in his hand and a negative word for everyone, while De Mornay doesn’t appear to do anything. The one bright spot in the family is Bryce’s grandpa, played by John Mahoney who seems to figure out how great Juli is before the rest of the family does.

Juli has twin brothers, a hard-working mother (Penelope Ann Miller) and a bricklayer father, who spends his free time painting, well-played by Aidan Quinn. There is also an uncle who is in an expensive institution, which explains why the Bakers, gasp, rent their home and don’t own it like the self-respecting Loskis do. Dismissed as hillbilly dreamers by the Loskis, the two families don’t interact. But the Bakers are seen singing at the dinner table, raising eggs in the backyard, and being loved, while the Loskis argue and suffer the rage of Edwards’ character. And we suffer right along with them.

The plot is as follows: Girl sees boy move in, girl stalks boy, boy avoids girl for five years, boy realizes that she’s pretty great, girl now hates boy, boy apologizes for being a dickhead, hands are held. The end.

As I’ve mentioned, though, the girl’s affections are something worth fighting for, while the boy is a blank-staring guy with obnoxious friends.

The voiceover stuff is necessary to move the plot along, but it tries to put us in the mindset of every other, and much more well done, nostalgic film we’ve seen. The Richard Dreyfuss stuff in STAND BY ME, a much better Rob Reiner film, did this in a great way. Much of the praise for that can be leveled at Stephen King, a man who has had some success in the publishing arena.

But FLIPPED has too much voice-over and then we have the other character voice-over us a bit more. There is also a big problem with what they’re saying. They are speaking at a level of clarity and self-awareness (and vocabulary for that matter), that no 13-year-old could possibly handle. Not for a second did I think these characters were doing the talking and not some older writer or director.

The side-trip to see the retarded uncle was painful. It is nearly impossible to play mentally challenged (as Robert Downey, Jr. explained in TROPIC THUNDER), and this was no exception. Wait until you see what happens when he drops his ice cream cone. Oy.

There is a 15-minute meaningless sub-plot about the eggs that Juli’s hens are laying in her backyard. Two neighbor women begin paying her for several dozen eggs a week and she gives Bryce’s family some for free as a thank you for past niceties. During a meal, the Loski family begins by being thankful of the eggs, and then with Bryce’s help, by the end of the meal they’ll all be convinced that there is either an embryo or salmonella hiding under each shell. This leads to throwing them out, but still accepting them from Juli on a regular basis.

Quinn and Carroll are very good in their roles, Mahoney does the best he can, but the rest of the cast is not given much to work with. Edwards, especially, is never seen smiling, yells at his kids at the dinner table for seemingly no reason, and harbors preconceived notions about just about everyone he comes in contact with. His role is thankless.

After watching this, I’m convinced that TOY STORY 3 should be the film with a PG rating and this one should have eliminated one utterance of “asshole” and been the G-rated family film that it’s trying to be.

One side-note. Pay attention to the Bryce’s lawn and parking strip. When shot from Juli’s house, the strip is clearly covered in dark-green astroturf, while the lawn appears to be real. Then the strip is magically back to normal, then turf, then normal. If there’s a symbolism there, I’m not sure what it is.

You can safely take your grandmother and your six-year-old to this film. And then apologize for it later on.

6.5 IMDB

FLIPPED

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2009

July 19, 2009
Camera Cinema Club
USA
English
95 Minutes
Comedy / Drama / Romance
Henry Jaglom [Hollywood Dreams]

Time Never Kills The Love Of Your Life.

Actress Tanna Frederick. Remember that name, please. Although you’ll be hard pressed to forget it after the credits for IRENE IN TIME spend what seems to be a full 60 seconds where they say simply “Tanna Frederick In”. In huge letters, while background images of the ocean are changing. Someone (director Henry Jaglom) really must think that the name Tanna Frederick either means something now to audiences, or will soon mean something to audiences. She also starred in his last film, HOLLYWOOD DREAMS, and fool me once, shame on me, but fool me twice…you know the rest.

Frederick plays a 20-something, unlucky-in-love, singer who is recording an album. While Ms. Frederick’s voice won’t make you nauseous, neither will you believe for a second that she has a recording contract. Nor will you believe that the obviously hip producer spends his time staring out his booth’s window at Frederick while mesmerized by the dulcet tones coming out of her mouth. Someone told the actress she could sing, Jaglom encouraged her, now she’s playing a singer. (This is something I’ve referred to for years as the “Potsie Principle” named for the Happy Days character who found a way to sing in nearly every one of the later episodes of that classic sitcom.)

Never mind that her songs include one call “Dancing With My Father” (lyrics: I’m dancing with my father by the light of the moon) and a song that must be heard to be believed called “Starbucks” about a woman who walks into the coffee shop with a cellphone thus making the retail chain (ticker symbol: SBUX) magical. Or something.

I really enjoyed the 2007 Irish film ONCE, and one of the reasons why was the recording studio scenes. Typically films have a big “reveal” whereby a band or singer hits one, maybe two notes and the heard-it-all producer stops what he’s doing, silences his co-workers, and stares longingly at the musicians behind the glass. ONCE didn’t do this. The first verse of the first song was shaky, but it got better and better, and while the recording engineer didn’t gaze at the band as if witnessing greatness, he did smile at the surprise of hearing something decent.

IRENE IN TIME has sweeping camera shots of what seems to be entire songs, where our beautifully lit star, Ms. Frederick, is singing with such passion that every other musician in the room can’t help but stare. And producer, and later love interest, Jakub, sits in a director’s chair absorbing every note that comes towards him. He even uses his love of her singing to land a date with her. I don’t doubt that people may find her whiny voice appealing, but I defy anyone to tell me that the rest of her band, including four other professional singers, would smile as much at one singer, when they have much more important things to worry about–like producing their best performance. It rang completely false.

There are also those films where the director needs to show us that the actor or actress is really singing. And that he or she is really remarkable. And that the words that the character wrote are so deep that we need to hear every verse and every word. And then the whole band has to hug and high-five afterward to prove that magic was made during the session we just witnessed. Somehow IRENE IN TIME covers each of these bases. And did I mention the song called “Starbucks”.

This film is completely populated with boring, self-centered people. And the queen of the self-centered is Irene. This gaggle of women meet up to drink wine, swim in a posh Santa Monica bungalow’s pool, and bad-mouth their former and present boyfriends and their mostly absent fathers. There are tears aplenty. Whenever this group of women meet, or even when a group of older friends, male and female, hold poker nights, Irene gets to be the first and last person to talk. Her problems are so much bigger than everyone else’s. She gets to be first in telling the story about how great her now-dead father was, how he would lie to teachers to get her out of school and take her bike riding or sailing or to the circus. In fact, why limit these incredibly compelling stories to just friends or even just acquaintances? Why not discuss her father on first dates? And, believe it or not, why not discuss her father with the unknown high school student at the next table at a restaurant?

There’s a scene where a father and daughter are having dinner in a restaurant booth. She is one of those only-in-the-movies teenagers who speaks of existentialism and parental boundaries and how her dad could have been a better father. He leaves to go to the bathroom, against her wishes. Meanwhile, our heroine’s date, a jazz singer’s manager, has been getting eyes from the restaurant’s hostess (played by Dorothy’s little sister and the ex-Mrs. Bogdonovich, Louise Stratton) so he leaves his date to go talk with her. This shows us that another man in Irene’s life will be a dog like all the others, but that’s not the worst of it. Irene scoots over to talk with the young woman. Are you with your dad? Yes. My dad used to come to school and lie to the teachers and take me bike riding. And within minutes of meeting, she’s explaining the greatness of her dead father to yet another victim. The teenager, who is both wise beyond her years, and much more aware and intelligent and grown up than Irene mentions that her date is right now flirting with the hostess and “he’s not the right match for you.”

In addition to the contract rider which provided Frederick with three full songs to sing on camera, there must have been an equally enforceable clause which required that she appear in a bikini. Don’t get me wrong, she looked fabulous, but with the exception of a scene that actually took place poolside, the other two bikini-scenes were were completely gratuitous. Frederick has obviously been hitting the gym and if I had a body like hers, you know, but more guyish, I’d scarcely keep my shirt on anywhere. But sometimes scenes are added to films just because the actress wants them. To the best of my recollection, she never actually sang while in a bikini. Though perhaps those scenes will surface in the DVD release.

All of the characters come from money. Irene’s father apparently gambled a lot and on one of the occasions when he won, it paid for the down payment on the house she grew up in. Irene currently lives with a friend and her friend’s mother (Karen Black), in a huge house with a pool and fountain. It’s not clear how Irene makes a living. Surely not in the hour a day she spends recording songs with such titles as “Starbucks.”

In the mid-point of the film, Irene visits the house she grew up in as her mother hosts a last party before selling it. She escapes to her old room to look around. She finds a music box and inside of it is a note in her father’s handwriting. Why she waited this many years to open the music box even though many a childhood treasure hunt started there, is never explained. The clue inside says to look in a box in the closet and in that box is the photo of a young singer. At this exact moment a family friend comes into the room and nervously says “put that away before your mother sees.” Uh oh. The plot thickens. Or maybe, the plot finally starts. Not really.

Next scene: a woman is rehearsing a jazz song while her manager watches. Irene comes in at the exact second the singer starts performing a song. Irene begins shaking and crying and sobbing and looking on in mouth-agape wonder as the woman continues to sing. When it’s over, Irene (who is unknown to both singer and manager) demands to know “where did you get that song!” Again, Irene walked in just as the song was starting. The manager tries to cool her down and asks if she’s a fan, but she isn’t. The singer comes over and tries to comfort Irene. Irene, never one to hide her emotions from strangers, begins a story. “My daddy and I wrote that song together and I haven’t heard it for 15 years, I demand to know how you got it!” The answer is obvious to we in the audience, though it isn’t so obvious to Irene because apparently nothing is obvious.

Yes, her perfect father (disappearing gambler, breaker of public school truancy laws) may have had a mistress or two on the side and perhaps this singer was one of them. The singer tries to lessen the blow by saying “you remind me of him” and “I loved him so much”, etc. Once we find out that Irene’s mother adopted her, it doesn’t take a genius to deduce that the singer is the mom and Irene is the daughter and the father wasn’t the prince that she thought he was. Her constantly rosy view of her “daddy” is finally cracking a bit when faced with this kind of evidence.

Irene is a “close-talker”. Irene stares at people and says things like “I feel this connection” or “Daddy is watching over me.” Irene is apparently so incredibly beautiful, inside and out, that every man who comes within her zone of influence is immediately smitten and must date her. But what about the women in her life? Thanks for asking. In what may be the most ridiculous scene in a film full or ridiculous scenes, there is a bathing-suit-clad couch scene where four women are talking. One of the more forward women, who looks like a former Olympic swimmer, is all but devouring Irene with her eyes. “I find you very attractive” she purrs as her hands stroke our heroine’s bare shoulders. “Have you ever been with a woman?” Only in the movies do we hear “let’s kiss to see if we feel anything” and our giddy main character kisses the Olympian to see if her problem isn’t with her choice in men, it’s with her choice of males. Then the other two have to kiss, but they don’t take it seriously. Then Irene gives her review: “your lips are softer than a man’s–it’s like kissing yourself,” which in retrospect is probably something the narcissistic Irene has always wanted to do.

The next male who falls for her is the record producer, a buffed, seemingly normal guy who all but begs for a date. She agrees (while close-talking) and he picks her up while holding a bouquet of red and blue balloons. You’d think he was a medium who contacted her father from beyond the grave by the way she acts. She again shudders and cries and sobbingly says “Oh my god, when I was a kid, my dad would give me balloons that were also red and blue! How did you know?” she says through her tears. He replies, “I thought of you when I was picking the colors.”

To review the men we see with Irene. 1) Man comes over for dinner at Irene’s house. She admits how happy she’s been with the past three months together. He counters that it’s really only been 2 and a half. Gone. 2) On date with architect, her chirpy, borderline retarded interaction with him (“Close your eyes. Now think of your favorite drafting tool”) results in his replying something that the rest of us will wonder for the rest of the film “what’s wrong with you?”. Gone. During the meal. 3) A man returns to L.A. after six years and has lunch with Irene, her friend, and another man. By the way, the friend has to “pretend to be straight this one time” and though she ends up telling her date she likes women, he almost changes her orientation with a single kiss. The man who returned after a long absence used to date Irene and he continues to talk about the good times and how he’s grown and changed the way she wants and then he proposes marriage, right at the bar. Gone. 4) Jazz singer’s manager, calls her up, they bike ride on the Santa Monica boardwalk (the better for Irene to again tell the story of her father “kidnapping” her to go for a ride), and they have the aforementioned meal while the hostess licks her lips while watching him on his date. She gets dropped off by him after a different date saying “you make me feel like an awkward 8th grader” though I’m not sure what that means. Gone. 5) Record producer who stares at her through the glass, is smooth and handsome, and picks her up with huge display of tear-inducing balloons. They have what appears to be romantic walks on the beach and good sex. This man leads Irene to invite her complaining girlfriends over for a ceremonial burning of the huge collection of self-help dating books she’s collected. They throw them into the fireplace with enthusiasm. Irene then says “this past week with Jakub has been great. I think I finally found the one.” Yup, it only took her a week, but she knows for sure. A later phone call will reveal that Jakub is on his way back to Chicago where his wife and family live. Gone.

Zero for five. And none of them are as great and warm and loving as Irene’s Father was.

Frederick (or her character, and I’m not sure which is which) is as self-centered and neurotic as Woody Allen, with none of his humor or charisma. That’s right, she has less charisma than Woody Allen. Her mother will say “did you know you come from a long line of narcissists?” Anyone who watches this film will be nodding their head vigorously. This film was full of boring people (mostly women) who continuously boo hoo’ed over their man problems. And each of them connected their present day problems with men and the fact that their father left them, or were abusive, or were perfect, or were too caring, or not caring enough. We get it.

Fathers have incredible “power” over their daughters’ formation of male roles and relationships. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that fathers have been responsible for untold negative relationships between daughters and the men they attempt to love. On the other hand, fathers have also been responsible for well-adjusted and fulfilling relationships between daughters and the men they form partnerships with. Most of us have parents who mostly did the best they could. It’s time to move on and take responsibility for ourselves.

This film was a mess of talky scenes where characters I didn’t care about lamented how terrible their lives were, while surrounded by affluence. No one is seen working or paying for anything or checking off anything on their to-do lists. They were just seen talking. Over and over again about the same thing. Mostly, about the father that Irene hasn’t seen in 15 years.

A final title card says (in flowery script): For My Daughter.

5.4 IMDB [20 Votes]

IRENE IN TIME

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2005

July 10, 2009
IFC
Australia
Vietnamese / English
114 Minutes — February 24, 2006
Crime / Drama / Romance / Thriller
Rowan Woods

A former heroin user’s efforts to rebuild her life are hampered by her drug-dealing brother and boyfriend and her best friend, a onetime sporting hero turned addict.

Cate Blanchett is her usual fantastic self, this time as a 32-year-old recovering heroin addict, forced to continue to live with the mistakes she made five years prior. She lives at home with her mother and has worked for four years in a Little Saigon video store. She longs to own her own place but no bank will look past her previous financial trouble. Her ex-boyfriend, Dustin Nguyen (yup, 21 Jump St), comes back to town after his own drug issues and they try to avoid old habits. Sam Neill plays a crime boss who dabbles in young men and Hugo Weaving plays a former rugby great, now reduced to selling jerseys for drug money. Each of the characters is afraid of being ordinary, small, like the title says. Blanchett’s family has had their share of tragedy, but so have so many others in Sydney.

One very bright spot is the Vietnamese/Australian relations in this film. Drug dealers come from both camps, business leaders come from both camps, both sets of parents are demanding and caring, and no one utters a word which would cause you to think they even noticed the difference. Cate and Dustin were/are in love, Cate learns Vietnamese to better deal with customers, Dustin’s uncles reflect on their own immigration story. That phase of the film was incredibly well done.

It’s not quite as sad as it all sounds. It’s dreamy and out of focus. We don’t see any detox scenes which have become filmmaking cliches. But somehow, Blanchett shows us how hard it is to try to rebuild a life after being an addict.

7.7 Metacritic
6.4 IMDB

LITTLE FISH

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1972

July 1, 2009
De Anza College Film Class
USA
English
116 Minutes — June 21, 1972
Crime / Horror / Romance / Thriller
Alfred Hitchcock [The 39 Steps; The Lady Vanishes; Rebecca; Notorious; Rear Window; Vertigo; North By Northwest; Psycho; The Birds]

A disillusioned and aggressive ex-RAF officer is suspected through circumstantial evidence of being London’s “necktie murderer.”

Hitchcock’s second-to-last time in the director’s chair. Notable for a few things. The violence is close-up, face-to-face, and we don’t cut away. There is no implication of violence, there is violence on screen for all to see. Also, Hitch appears to have given in to the temper of the times by showing us nudity, albeit, just after or before violence has occurred. Much like every slasher film from the 1980s. The story is about a guy who may or may not be a serial killer. The star’s resemblance to John C. Holmes may take some viewers out of the story. There is 70s era clothing and hair and ADR work. And there are scenes of real tension proving that even at his advanced age, Hitchcock really had a certain film-making skill set. A scene in a potato truck could have gone horribly wrong, but didn’t.

7.5 IMDB
* Halliwells

Frenzy @ Amazon

FRENZY

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1925 & 1942

June 28, 2009
Netflix DVD
USA
English
72 Minutes — April 18, 1942 re-release
Adventure / Comedy / Romance
Charles Chaplin [City Lights]
#27 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A lone prospector in the Yukon becomes rich after various adventures.

Most famous for the scene in which a starving-to-death Chaplin boils his shoe and he and his companion eat it. Sort of a collection of gags more than an actual story. Chaplin is out of his depth as a prospector. He narrowly avoids being eaten by a bear on several occasions, and once, his starving roommate swears that Chaplin’s turned into a five foot chicken just waiting to be eaten. There are dance hall girls who will break his heart and rich guys who will spit on him. But because it’s Chaplin, we know he’ll have the last laugh.

This was released in a much longer version in 1925 as a silent. Once sound in movies was perfected, Chaplin went back, wrote a score, took away the title cards, and narrated a brisk 72 minute version. I’ve never seen the original silent. The narration was less intrusive than you might imagine. Though it does tell us things we can already understand while watching. The special effects are astonishing for its time period, especially as a cabin balances on the edge of a cliff.

8.2 IMDB #157 All Time
**** Halliwells

The Gold Rush @ Amazon

THE GOLD RUSH

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AVENUE MONTAIGNE
2006

June 20, 2009
Netflix DVD
France
French / English
100 Minutes — February 16, 2007
Comedy / Drama / Romance
Daniele Thompson

I still don’t know why this film showed up in my mailbox. I obviously added it to my Netflix Queue, but for the first time, I have no idea why. It didn’t star anyone I’ve seen anything else from. The director was new to me. I don’t love Paris-based films. I don’t add things because Netflix says “I also might enjoy…” So I’m not sure what happened, it may have even been a mistake. Having said that, it was an enjoyable story about a single block on a street and the stories behind a play, a piano recital, and an auction all taking place on the same night. One spunky “amelie-esque” waitress is the connection to all three stories. All of the characters are wealthy and attractive, but even rich people have a hard time being happy all the time.

The actress in the play, feels like she’s slumming by appearing on a soap opera when all she really wants is to be cast in the newest Sydney Pollack film. The pianist would rather play in shorts and flip flops to a group of children or hospital patients than tour nonstop for rich audiences. The old man who is auctioning off his priceless art collection is trying to stay young in the arms of a beautiful woman who is open about only loving his money.

It’s good, it’s french, and the main waitress character is adorable. What’s not to like?

6.4 Metacritic
6.9 IMDB

AVENUE MONTAIGNE

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2009

June 14, 2009
Camera Cinema Club
USA / UK
English
98 Minutes — June 26, 2009
Comedy / Drama / Romance
Sam Mendes [American Beauty; Road To Perdition; Jarhead; Revolutionary Road]

5.7 Metacritic
7.8 IMDB

Away We Go @ Amazon

AWAY WE GO

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1999

May 26, 2009
May 31, 2007
June 20, 2003
May 27, 2001
October 18, 2000
June 12, 2000
DVD
Germany
No Dialogue
45 Minutes
Drama / Romance / Short
Farhad Yawari

Lara…..Julia Brendler
Jakob…..Marco Hofschneider [Immortal Beloved]

At least the sixth time I’ve seen this short film about a girl in a mental institution who only feels free when she dreams she’s swimming with dolphins. Though a German production, there is no dialogue. This fact shocks my high school students to whom I give extra credit if they stay awake for its entire 45 minute running time. The music is sweet and complimentary, often providing a form of dialogue which may be more hardwired than spoken language. The colors are bright and important–the girl’s room is white, except for the blue (water) dress she wears and her beloved gold goldfish. I’m probably too close to this movie to objectively grade it. I fall for it hook, line, and sinker every time I see it. I love the girl dancing with the single drop of rain on her arm, I love the tender way the boy holds the shell up to her ear so she can hear the ocean, I love the drawing of the sea he gives her, I love how when she dances, the whole world dances along with her.

Who wouldn’t want to swim with the dolphins like Lara does?

Still the greatest 45 minute film I’ve ever seen.

Previously Written:
I swear I have to watch this every year or so just to remember what can be done with sound and images. This film fills me up with happiness. Still touching and beautiful.

Previously written:
Surely the greatest 40 minute film in history. No dialogue. Beautiful music. Spectacular cinematography. This is not a nature film, but the story of a young woman in a mental institution who can only feel free when she dreams of swimming with dolphins. It is pure magic from start to finish. It is never slow. This was my fourth time watching and it effects me the same way each time. The colors are fabulous, the young woman (Julia Brendler) an absolute doll, and the feelings this film expresses do not require any character to speak. It’s on a Film Fest DVD which is well worth the price for this short alone.



6.4 IMDB

Film-Fest DVD – Issue 3 – Toronto @ Amazon

DOLPHINS

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1926

May 24, 2009
Netflix DVD
USA
Silent
107 Minutes — February 5, 1927
Comedy / Romance / War / Action
Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton
#30 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A confederate train driver gets his train and his girl back when they are stolen by Union soldiers.

What’s amazing is not just that it’s 82 years old, not just that it isn’t boring, but that it’s downright exciting to watch. Keaton never changes expressions, which makes his evermore perilous situations even more entertaining.

The plot is simple. Fort Sumter has been fired upon and the the Civil War is upon us. We are in the South and men rush to the recruitment office to enlist. Keaton loves both his locomotive and his girlfriend. She insists that he sign up for the army, but the military leaders believe that he’s more valuable as a train engineer bringing supplies to and fro. Though no one tells him this. His girl refuses to see him until he’s in uniform. He continues engineering for a full year until at a dinner stop, a Northern spy steals his train and starts speeding north, burning bridges and tearing down communication towers. It is up to Keaton to get the train back.

He first runs, then steals a huge-wheeled bicycle, then gets on one of those up and down sidecars that rides on the tracks, and finally, the gives chase in another train engine. The chase is thrilling. He constantly has to feed the engine wood, he grabs a cannon and tries to fire it towards the other train, the escaping men leave obstacles on the tracks which he must push off, the two armies are marching in the background as Keaton obliviously chops wood, and Keaton is running on top of the train and over the woodpile and into the boxcar. The action is fabulous. We always know where everyone is. The camera follows from the side at high speed. And Keaton never changes expression. Like there’s nothing he can’t do. He isn’t a reluctant hero, he is going to get his train back no matter how far north he has to chase it.

There are creative sight gags involving the water tank and the cannon which shifts and aims squarely at Keaton himself. There is a damsel in distress. There are some pretty impressive battle scenes using hundreds of extras. And then there is the scene of a full-sized real locomotive attempting to cross a river on a burning bridge before it plummets to the valley below. The layout of the sequence is impressive even by modern standards. The camera follows from quite a distance as the Union army begins marching down the steep hill to ford the river while the huge train rumbles (silently, natch) over the smoldering bridge. Horses and cannons and men with muskets all marching from left to right. The train is incredibly imposing, comes from out of the woods and chugs towards the right of frame. Just when it looks like the bridge might hold, the heavy machine crashes through and lands in a smoking heap in the river below. There was obviously no chance for a new take. I don’t know how many cameras I would have had operating to ensure that the event was captured. But the interesting thing is that the big crash stunt was part of a much larger mosaic of things happening all over the frame. There are men moving, trees swaying, the river is rushing, etc. None of the actors are watching the train because they know what’s about to happen. The whole scene seems like the train fell through by mistake, which makes it much more realistic.

There is a terrible-quality clip of the scene you can watch here.

The film had a complete story, it was exciting and the jokes were shown in the service of the story, not as a set piece as you might find in other silent comedies. And what Keaton did physically and how he shot the action sequences are a fabulous antidote to modern comic book films where the audience is never sure where characters are onscreen and who is fighting whom. Keaton didn’t have the luxury of quick cutting. Most of our modern action directors could learn a thing or two from 1926′s THE GENERAL.

Clip of the cannon stunt

“It is an epic of silent comedy, one of the most expensive films of its time, including an accurate historical re-creation of a Civil War episode, hundreds of extras, dangerous stunt sequences, and an actual locomotive falling from a burning bridge into a gorge far below. Keaton defies logic with one ingenious silent comic sequence after another, and it is important to note that he never used a double and did all of his own stunts, even very dangerous ones, witha calm acrobatic grace.” — Roger Ebert The Great Movies

“One of Buster Keaton’s most celebrated comedies. It’s a classic and many people swear by it, although it isn’t funny in the freely inventive way of his Steamboat Bill, Jr. Its humor is too drawn out for laughter. And yet is has a beauty: it has the shape of comedy.” — Pauline Kael

“It is real and the train’s maneuvers credible and dangerous. It is well known that Keaton performed personally in scenes that involved considerable risk. It is not only a comedy but a genuinely heroic film. I would swap all of Modern Times for that glorious moment when Buster’s meditation fails to notice the growing motion of the engine’s drive shaft on which he is sitting.

“Slow-starting, then hilarious action comedy, often voted one of the best films ever made. It was an expensive production, with its spectacular train crash becoming the most costly single shot in silent films. At the time of its original release, it was a critical and popular failure. It took thirty years before it was recognized as a classic of comedy. Its sequence of sight gags, each topping the one before, is an incredible joy to behold.” — #128 Halliwell’s Top 1000

“Keaton’s best, and arguably the greatest screen comedy ever made. Against a meticulously evoked Civil War background, Buster risks life, limb and love as he pursues his beloved railway engine, hijacked by Northern spies up to no good for the Southern cause. The result is everything one could wish for: witty, dramatic, visually stunning, full of subtle, delightful human insights, and constantly hilarious.” — Time Out Film Guide 2004

“Keaton’s masterpiece and arguably the most formally perfect and funniest of silent comedies. Full of eloquent man-vs-machinery images and outrageous sight gags.” — Videohound’s Golden Movie Retriever 2001

“One of Keaton’s best silent features, setting comedy against true Civil War story of stolen train, Union spies. Not as fanciful as other Keaton films, but beautifully done.” — Leonard Maltin’s 2007 Movie Guide

#30 They Shoot Pictures Top 1000
8.3 IMDB #127 All Time
**** Halliwell’s
**** Videohound
**** Maltin

 

The General @ Amazon

THE GENERAL

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BREATHLESS
1960

May 14, 2009
May 10, 2009
Netflix DVD
France
French / English
90 Minutes — February 7, 1961
Crime / Drama / Romance / Thriller
Jean-Luc Godard
#33 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A young car thief kills a policeman and goes on the run with his American girlfriend.

~~
~~

BREATHLESS is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 71. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 BREATHLESS Discussion
• Break
• 18:27 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 18:59 The Last Five®
• 47:26 Credits and Outtakes

~~
~~

“Casual, influential, New Wave reminiscence of both Quai des Brumes and innumerable American gangster thrillers. One of the first and most influential films of the French New Wave.” — Halliwell’s Film Guide 2008

**** Halliwell’s
8.0 IMDB

Breathless – Criterion Collection @ Amazon

BREATHLESS

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2002

May 10, 2009
Netflix DVD
France / Portugal
French
92 Minutes
Comedy / Drama / Romance
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; A Real Young Girl; 36 Fillette; Perfect Love; Romance; Fat Girl; Brief Crossing; The Last Mistress]

A female director struggles to get a scene of sexual intercourse on film.

**^ Ebert
**^ Berardinelli
B+ Schwarzbaum
6.3 Metacritic
5.9 IMDB

Sex Is Comedy @ Amazon

SEX IS COMEDY

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BREATHLESS
1960

May 10, 2009
Netflix Roku
France
French / English
90 Minutes — February 7, 1961
Crime / Drama / Romance / Thriller
Jean-Luc Godard
#33 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

BREATHLESS will be the subject of Cinebanter Number 71, which will be posted shortly.

8.0 IMDB

Breathless – Criterion Collection @ Amazon

BREATHLESS

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2008

May 3, 2009
HBO
USA
English / Hawaiian
111 Minutes — April 18, 2008
Comedy / Drama / Romance
Nicholas Stoller

A Comedy About Getting Dumped, And Taking It Like A Man

6.7 Metacritic
7.5 IMDB

Forgetting Sarah Marshall @ Amazon

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL

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2008

April 17, 2009
DVD — Thanks, Nazhat S.
USA
English
90 Minutes — October 3, 2008
Comedy / Drama / Music / Romance
Peter Sollett [Raising Victor Vargas]

6.4 Metacritic
6.9 IMDB

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist @ Amazon

NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST

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BRIEF CROSSING
2001

April 14, 2009
Netflix DVD
France
French / English
80 Minutes
Drama / Romance
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; A Real Young Girl; 36 Fillette; Perfect Love; Romance; Fat Girl; The Last Mistress]
Alice: Sarah Pratt [The Last Mistress]
Thomas: Gilles Guillain

Alice and Thomas meet on a ferry in the cafeteria line. He can’t find a seat, she offers one at her table. He says he is 18 and loves to smoke cigarettes. She listens bored. At first. His immature small talk begins to change as they watch each other eat. She is in her mid-thirties and says she is moving back to England after her husband asked for a divorce after eight years of marriage. His true age of 16 is discovered when they try to buy booze at the Duty-free shop. She begins to feel protective and when he suggests they get a drink in the lounge, she accepts. He drinks soda while she enjoys a brandy and a few people dance in the background. This scene goes on for quite some time. Maybe 20 minutes. But it’s not boring. Alice continues her “all men suck” statements while Thomas counters with “I don’t suck” statements. She gets tipsy and he asks her to dance. She feels much older than the others in the lounge, but she accepts to placate him. He even dances immaturely grabbing her inappropriately. Back at the table, a long scene takes place where a magician and his assistant perform a trick involving a woman in a box. This symbolism is hammered home by Alice’s speech about women knowing their places, etc. But something is happening that is just out of frame. Before we realize it, they are holding hands. He is bravely stroking her arm, she is happy about it, and they look suddenly like a normal pair of lovers. Just a couple, on a boat, holding hands in a bar.

He tries to kiss her, she pushes him away, he is hurt, she goes back to tell him it’s okay. He states his intentions brazenly, saying “I want to sleep with you.” Or is it naivete? She has a cabin on the ship, he only has a place where he’s set down his luggage. They go to her room. He is a virgin. She is angry at her ex-husband and therefore all other men. Her seduction was spontaneous, wasn’t it? But why is there a red scarf covering the lamp in her room to make it more romantic?

This is probably the most accessible of Breillat’s films. It’s a short 80 minutes. There are only two characters to keep track of. There is scarcely a body fluid to contend with. At no point did I turn my head from the screen. There is a realistically clumsy loss of virginity scene. The gender roles are again reversed. We think nothing of a man being 15 years older than a lover, but rarely do we see the opposite. The fact that Alice looks like Julianne Moore doesn’t make the idea any less rare. When she lets her hair down, and when he becomes emboldened (by lust or her responses or the alcohol he drinks or her beauty), they seem to turn into a realistic, viable couple who share a passion for each other.

But just because they are both able to perform sexually does not mean that they expect the same things from each other. He is completely smitten with her, she seems to return his feelings cautiously. They will be arriving in England in 20 minutes. What will become of them once they get there?

“A thirtysomething Englishwoman and a 16-year-old French boy meet, converse, and engage in a one-night stand while on board a ferry crossing the English Channel. Another of Breillat’s cynical forays into male-female expectation and manipulation, this one offering her usual generalizations about male sexuality. Leaves a bitter aftertaste.” — ** Leonard Maltin’s 2007 Movie Guide

7.2 IMDB

Brief Crossing @ Amazon

BRIEF CROSSING

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PERFECT LOVE
1996

April 11, 2009
Netflix DVD
France
French
110 Minutes
Drama / Romance
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; A Real Young Girl; 36 Fillette; Fat Girl; The Last Mistress]
Frederique: Isabelle Renauld [The Last Mistress]
Christophe: Francis Renaud

The opening scene is the investigation of a murder. A man has murdered his girlfriend in her kitchen. Without emotion, he describes and re-enacts his crime with police inspectors. The rest of the film becomes a why-done-it.

We flash back to a wedding where an attractive 34-year-old woman toasts the new bride and groom, comments to a 20-something man that he’s grown since the last time she saw him, and is invited by that same man out to the garden where they sit on a bench and have a chat. The man, humorlessly, mentions that he’s dated women her age and that it’s no big deal. He will declare later that “our age difference is an injustice”, and right away he seems to be out to prove that the fact that she is twice married and has two children does not exclude her from his attention.

She looked to me like a French Diane Lane, so it’s not like she isn’t used to the attention of men. She seems strangely uninterested, but they begin an affair nonetheless. The man often remarks that he’s the mature one in the relationship. She wonders to his friends and sometimes to him, whether or not he’s actually gay. There are the early dates, the sloppy grope sessions outside her apartment, the juggling of parental duties and job duties (she’s an ophthalmologist–he made some money in his own company).

Because this is a Catherine Breillat film, there are scenes of sex which are long-lasting and awkward and vary in their success rate. At first they’re in a hurry to make love, later she requires more of something he can’t give. After sex, they do a lot of talking. We learn, seemingly, about every other person they’ve ever slept with. Again, weirdly dispassionately. They’re not bragging to each other, exactly, but this disclosure of past lovers seems to make no impression at all on the two of them.

The good times don’t last long. She’s a bit critical, he accuses her of keeping him on a short leash before she has the chance to. He misses his friends, misses the casual sex he used to have with his fellow clubgoers. She isn’t sure this young man is someone who should spend the night in her apartment with her children there. The sex slows down, the fights begin, the drinking starts, the vindictive comments hurt.

It’s not exactly a fun ride, but none of Ms. Breillat’s films are serene walks in the park. The fact that we know that this relationship will end in murder doesn’t hurt the story, but I’m not sure it helps it. We can see the mistakes we’ve made in our own relationships as we watch this. We can take one of the lovers’ side in their many arguments. We can wonder what one is doing with the other. We can wish we had someone as attractive as both of the leads are. But we always wonder exactly what could have gone so wrong for the man to kill his lover in a moment of passion on the kitchen table. Is there anything she could have done to deserve such a fate?

There are few body fluids this time out for Breillat. The man constantly drinks Coca Cola, as a shorthand to prove how much younger he is than she. He is cocky and rides a motorcycle. She is flippant with his love at first, and then ridicules his sexual powers later on. They are a bit of a miserable couple and we wonder why they stay together as long as they do.

His youth also results in the “I Love You” declaration way before we see it in the two characters and probably way before he actually means it. It’s one of the ways he forces what he wants to happen on a relationship where it might never happen. He flirts a bit inappropriately with her teenage daughter. He has boring sex with other women. She sits by while he chats up women in bars.

It’s all very angsty. But it also has moments of truth that anyone who’s been in a relationship can relate to.

“Breillat’s provocative drama charts how an idyllic affair between a divorcee — an optician with two kids — and a feckless, womanizing twenty-something leads to brutal murder. Though some may find the woman’s increasingly masochistic reactions to her young lover’s behavior questionable, the film is psychologically astute; just watch how the boy’s early curiosity about the woman’s greater experience slowly turns to insecurity and a determination to keep control. The performances are unsentimental, the tone uncompromising, and if the film ends up too schematic for its own good, there’s no denying its emotional punch or the intelligence of its dark insights.” — Time Out Film Guide 2007

6.6 IMDB

Perfect Love @ Amazon

PERFECT LOVE

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THE MAN WHO LOVED YNGVE
2008

March 7, 2009
Cinequest 19
Norway
Norwegian
98 Minutes
Drama / Romance
Stian Kristiansen

Notes:
1980s music references in this film: The Smiths; Combat Rock; Joy Division; Jesus and Mary Chain; REM The One I Love; The Cure Just Like Heaven; Ever Fallen In Love With Someone You Shouldn’t Have Fallen In Love With; Just Like Honey.
This film has the greatest Rock N Roll girlfriend of all time–beautiful, passionate, drinks with the boys, goes to band practice, cries when boyfriend tries out new song on guitar, often initiates sex. Because I wish I was in a band and I wish I had a Rock N Roll Girlfriend like Cathrine, I’ll mention that she’s played by a woman named Ida Elise Broch. Look for her. Even this example of cool femaleness isn’t enough for our hero when a new blonde god arrives at school. They first talk in the lockerroom shower, of all places. Those crazy Norwegians and their lack of inhibitions! The band plays songs like “Pussy Commie Anarchy”. They are a rock trio. And they’re pretty good. Our hero is angst-ridden about being in love with two people. Blonde boy is sometimes shot in super slo-mo with sun shining down on his beautiful hair. The pacing is great. Jarle, the guy we’re following, speaks to the camera to get us up to speed on what era we’re watching. The new boy, besides being handsome, shows Jarle some of his sketchings. Music is interspersed throughout. The boys practice, deal with family issues, buy pot, the usual. Jarle and Cathrine have good sex, he can perform. He makes mix tapes for people he cares about, male and female. And who exactly did he write that heartfelt love song for?
Cute story about boy loves girl, boy gets girl, boy also loves boy, which takes place before bands seemed to be unhappy with their success.

7.4 IMDB

THE MAN WHO LOVED YNGVE

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2008

January 22, 2009
DVD
USA / Germany
English / German
124 Minutes — January 9, 2009
Drama / Romance / Thriller / War
Stephen Daldry [Billy Elliot; The Hours]

How Far Would You Go To Protect A Secret?

It’s been more than a week since I’ve seen it and I can’t seem to figure out how to go at this film. It is not good. In fact, it’s a bit preposterous. Winslet is a fabulous actress, but in THE READER she must choose between dour, embarrassed, angry, or predatory. There is no in-between.

It’s just after World War II in Germany. A young boy of 15, stricken with fever, is helped by Winslet’s character. After his recovery a few weeks later, he goes to her house to thank her, and before you can say “you’re 18, right?” they’re in the sack. What he sees in her is obvious. She’s nearing 40, is hot, and he’s 15 and would probably avail himself of just about any opportunity. What she sees in him is a bit less obvious. He’s a nubile 15 to be sure, but why couldn’t someone like her find someone within a decade of her age, at least? I suppose he’s naive enough to not ask too many questions, to not question his incredible luck. What a story he’ll have to tell that summer at camp!

Strangely, she begins to demand that he read to her before each encounter. Which is a small price to pay for him, I’m sure. A more successful homework system has yet to be devised. He catches the eye of other, more age-appropriate schoolmates, but what chance do they have against a fully grown, willing woman who doesn’t ask questions? They fight, they break up. He heads off to law school. And the film begins to self-destruct. Because during a field trip to the courthouse, who does he see on trial for Nazi atrocities? That’s right, the woman who took his V-power, in the flesh. And here’s the kicker: she’s accused of writing an intricate plan for others to follow which leads to the deaths of 500 Jewish prisoners. That she shows no guilt for what she did is bad enough. But when she’d rather admit to something she didn’t do than admit to not being able to read or write, the film goes off the rails.

That’s right. In post-war Germany, killing Jews in the name of Hitler isn’t quite as bad as admitting that you don’t know how to read.

Ralph Fiennes shows up as the grown up boy who then begins his very own Audible.com franchise, sending tapes to Winslet as she spends the rest of her days in jail.

Ridiculous, but Winslet is pretty hot and rarely has a film made reading the classics seem quite as sexy as THE READER does.

5.8 Metacritic
7.0 Critical Consensus
8.0 IMDB

The Reader (Book) @ Amazon

THE READER

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2007

January 18, 2009
San Jose Camera Cinema Club
Vietnam / USA
Vietnamese
97 Minutes
Drama / Romance
Stephane Gauger

10-year-old Thuy runs away from her mean (but not too mean) uncle’s bamboo blind factory and heads for Saigon after he yells at her when she makes a production mistake. She breaks open her piggy bank, gives away some items to friends, and is on her way. She shows up in the bustling city with one outfit and a pink princess backpack containing her two beloved dolls. She falls in with the other kids who try to make a living on the street, selling postcards, food, or roses. No one she comes into contact with is particularly sinister and all have advice for the new girl in town: “customers can’t say no if you have a good story.”

Meanwhile, a flight attendant checks into her regular room at a rather-nice hotel. She is 26 and attractive, with a good job. But she finds herself meeting a married pilot for an afternoon of non-feeling sex. Of course, he’ll never leave his wife. Lan knows this, but she falls back into easy patterns of behavior. “I’m not good at dating” she tells a setup over dinner after she sneaks out the back way. The people she comes into contact with can’t seem to figure out why she’s single.

Across town, at the Saigon City Zoo, Hai tends to the animals, especially his favorite young elephant who has been sold to a zoo in India. Hai was recently dumped by his beautiful, high-maintenance fiance. “She just changed her mind” he says. When asked why he’s single, he replies that he’s not the type of man women like. Hai gets more enjoyment from the animals, having grown up living at the zoo while his father worked as a zookeeper.

We know that somehow these three intricately drawn characters will cross each other’s paths. But before they do, we already care what happens to them. It’s the weirdest thing. We fear for the young girl’s safety in the big city, of course, but we also want Hai and Lan to be happy almost from the moment we meet them. Their loneliness is written all over their faces. In fact, the runaway little girl seems to be happier than the two adults.

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The film is shot with hand-held cameras which take us right into the crowded alleyways and shops of the city. We’re in traffic with the characters, we experience what they experience. The city is every bit as big a part of this film as Mumbai was for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

The anchor of the story is young Thuy. A non-professional actor chosen for the part with just two days to learn the lines before shooting, it can’t be overstated what a screen presence she is. Her open, trusting face and her ability to carry us along with her as she meets every challenge with calm thoughtfulness. She is given a crash course in sales by the other children. She never complains about her fate; “I’m used to sleeping on the floor–it’s good for the back.” She seems genuinely touched when someone shows her a kindness. And the first adult to do so is zookeeper Hai. He lets her feed the elephants sugarcane, he explains the hidden dangers of some of the animals. She follows him around as he does his duties, he offers her lunch (which she needs to protect from his pet Orangutan). She doesn’t talk in the way of wise-beyond-their-years child actors that we’re used to. She seems to suck everything in and digest it before speaking. By the same token, she isn’t afraid to ask questions of her adult friends. A favorite is “why are you alone?” which is typically answered with “you ask too many questions, sometimes.”

Thuy meets Lan while trying to sell her a rose as she eats alone after another miserable date. Lan sees something in the young girl. An honesty, perhaps. A girl who isn’t so different from Lan when she was 10. Or maybe Lan just needs something to live for; something to protect. Whatever the cause, a simple sharing of some Pho turns into an offer of a roof over her head. Thuy is beside herself with appreciation. Lan is happy for the company, even when Thuy applies Lan’s makeup while she sleeps to see what it’s like to be a grown-up.

Young Han Thi Pham inhabits the role of Thuy as if she’s living her life in front of our eyes. Part of that is probably due to the hand-held cameras which captured what was happening without lengthy setups or too large a crew. Thuy sees that what both of her adult protectors are missing is each other. She mentions them to each other and finally tries to arrange a meeting at a restaurant. The scenes of the three of them, each adult holding one of Thuy’s hands, is nothing short of magical.

There are something we know while watching OWL AND THE SPARROW. The uncle will search, the authorities will find out she’s a runaway, there will be a scene in a (pleasant) orphanage, tears will flow, children will be ripped out of arms. But the ending is never in doubt. The zookeeper’s lower status, the flight attendant’s far-away job, and the girl’s relatives are all merely speedbumps on the way to the inevitable. And I loved every minute of it.

OWL AND THE SPARROW is being self-released and is playing in pockets of California now.

8.5 IMDB

OWL AND THE SPARROW

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2008

Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA / UK
English
119 Minutes — December 26, 2008
Drama / Romance
Sam Mendes [American Beauty; Road To Perdition; Jarhead]

How Do You Break Free Without Breaking Apart?

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REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 66. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 THE WRESTLER Discussion
• Break
• 23:58 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 24:54 REVOLUTIONARY ROAD Discussion
• Break
• 45:06 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 45:35 The Last Five®
• 1:03:53 Credits and Outtakes

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6.9 Metacritic
7.4 Critical Consensus
7.9 IMDB

Revolutionary Road @ Amazon

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD

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2008

January 4, 2009
DVD
USA
English
101 Minutes — October 31, 2008
Comedy / Drama / Romance
Kevin Smith [Clerks; Mallrats; Chasing Amy; Dogma; Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back; An Evening With Kevin Smith; Dinner For Five; Jersey Girl; Snowball Effect: The Story Of ‘Clerks’; Clerks II; Siskel & Ebert & The Movies; An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder; Live Free Or Die Hard; Reaper]

Disclaimer: I’m a few years older than Kevin Smith and when I first heard him interviewed in the mid-90s as he was becoming well-known, I used to tell friends that he was the first person younger than me who I completely admitted was better at what he did than I could have been. That is, when he spoke or wrote, I knew I’d be hard-pressed to keep up. This was a revelation to me. He is one of the best guests that Howard Stern ever had on his program; he somehow was insightful and smart when he filled in for Roger Ebert, even though he was trying to critique people he may some day work with. I have his books on my shelf right now, Silent Bob Speaks and the screenplays to Clerks and Chasing Amy. I’ve downloaded every episode of his Smodcast podcast (though he and Scott can be so wordy that I can’t take a full 90 minutes per week).

If he’s involved in something, I want to read/see/listen to it. I hope that as he grows into middle age, he’ll become some sort of film or pop culture historian. Sort of like what Scorsese does with his documentaries and what Tarantino tries to do in his screening room with young actors. Smith is an aware social critic, pointing out hypocrisy in culture and politics. He can often give compelling arguments as to how comic books are an art form. He finds a way to be a good catholic and a smut peddler at the same time. I remember reading a piece somewhere about John Madden, the football magnate. The quote was “Madden is a genius who masquerades as a lunkhead.” The same can be said for Kevin Smith. Get past the language (and for god’s sake get past the poop humor–please!) and you’ll find stories about love and self-awareness and inferiority and all the other parts of the human experience that artists have been trying to make sense of for hundreds of years. If you haven’t seen them, go watch An Evening With Kevin Smith 1 and 2. He is charismatic and charming. If he keeps filming his Q & As, I’ll keep watching them.

He has said himself on many occasions that he’s a terrible director, but he makes up for it in his writing. His blog posts and his essays and his book of random thoughts are compelling, humorous, and honest. He has no trouble (often to a fault) exposing his thoughts and beliefs and idiosyncrasies to whomever is there to listen. I suspect he’d be exposing these same thoughts if there was no one listening.

So it is with great sadness that I have to report that ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO is a failure on nearly every level of filmmaking.

Plot:
Zack and Miri are friends from childhood who live in a terrible Pittsburgh apartment. They act as brother and sister, get in arguments, make fun of each other–all the groundwork needed for an inevitable hookup down the road. The fact that Elizabeth Banks seems too smart, driven, and beautiful to be living in such an apartment is just one of the film’s many problems. The two buddies are so low on cash that their utilities are turned off and they decide to film a porno as a last-ditch effort to make some money. Not get more hours at the coffee shop, not cut back on hockey expenses, not take on another boarder, but film a porno. In the real world, modern porn has much higher production levels than these two can come up with. In the real world, distributing a movie to 800 classmates would barely begin to turn a profit. In the real world, people don’t film porn in Pittsburgh coffee shops. And the actors don’t look like Zack (at least since the retirement of Ron Jeremy). And with downloading now an issue, how many copies were they hoping to sell? And why wouldn’t those same customers just get on the almighty internet to get their fix of amateur couplings? None of this occurs to Zack and Miri.

Casting:
Seth Rogen plays Seth Rogen. He is frumpy, lazy, mutters quips under his breath, and will end up with a girl way out of his league. I have been a fan of his since Freaks and Geeks, but he is in even bigger danger than Michael Cera of being typecast as the exact same guy for the rest of his filmic life.

Jason Mewes is in the cast of the fake porno and he actually has improved since his other attempts at acting in Kevin Smith films. His heroin habit apparently behind him, he actually does exactly what the part needs him to do.

Traci Lords and Katie Morgan have actual porn experience, so they lend the film whatever realism it has to offer.

Craig Robinson plays an unhappily married co-worker of Zack’s who incredibly gives up a flat screen TV (how he can afford one while having the same job as Zack who can’t keep his heat on is a question the film doesn’t attempt to answer) in order to “produce” the movie. Robinson’s scenes are both funny and incredibly demeaning. When the script calls for hip street language, Robinson is there to deliver. When there’s a hint of racism, Robinson is there to comment on it. When there are grammar rules to be broken, call up Robinson. He is the one exception to the lily-white cast. He does more with two minutes on The Office when wiping the floor with Michael Scott than he does here in a full length film. Go rent KNOCKED UP and watch his single scene as a club doorman and think what might have been. Examples of his delivery in this film (watch the grammar): “What? Han Solo ain’t never had no sex with Princess Leia in the Star War!” and “Her name Bubbles”. His “boob audition” scene was pretty funny.

But the person who emerges the most worse for the wear is Elizabeth Banks. She has proven to be that special combination of cute and funny on Scrubs and 40-year-old Virgin. She is a sweet girlfriend in Invincible. I hear she’s good as Laura Bush in W. But she is completely miscast in this film. She is too cute and smart to be surrounding herself with either Rogen as a roommate or any of the other people she comes into contact with. But the fatal flaw with her is that I simply never believed that she’d talk the way her character talked, act the way her character acted (her squirm-inducing seduction of the popular guy from high school was well-done), or involve herself in the money-making idea that she follows through on in this film. It’s like she’s pretending to be a hard-assed f-bomb throwing girl-next-door and it didn’t work. At one point, she even says “Hey Zack, no one wants to F-in watch us fuck.” That’s right, she used f-in and the full work fuck in the same sentence. I believe that someone like Sarah Silverman actually talks like that. I believe that Kevin Smith talks like that because I’ve heard him talk like that dozens of times. But I never bought that Banks was speaking realistically. To be clear, I’m not saying that people don’t act or speak like Smith writes, I’m just saying that I don’t believe Banks or her character would. I found myself embarrassed for her.

Which leads us to writing: If Smith only gave the world Chasing Amy, he’d be rightfully held in some regard for finding a way to weave both a tender can-I-turn-a-lesbian-straight romance and a here’s-why-she’s-called-fingercuffs raunchy comedy into something special. (Setting aside the male-dominant view that all any lesbian needs is a perfect guy to “cure” her.) It wasn’t Ben Affleck that made that movie, it was the writing. But here, again, is where ZACK AND MIRI fails. The “realistically dirty” language we’ve come to love from Smith (and Apatow) is here used to prove something, I think. Like Smith is afraid that when we boil down the story we’ll see a sappy love story, not unlike WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, and to avoid accusations of becoming soft, he goes for the verbal grossout. I simply do not believe that Banks would recount in casual conversation the time that Zack tried to fellate himself for about an hour. I’m pretty sure that she wouldn’t stay around that long to watch. But the script has that experience as one of the many that is supposed to make us feel like these two have shared everything with each other except feelings. As a guy with far more female friends than male, I can say that when Zack claims to have never wanted to sleep with Miri, even though they share a bathroom and 25 years of friendship, I say, bullshit. Plain and simple. That the plot has us believe that until they were scheduled to have on-camera sex, the thought of trying out a romance with each other never occurred to them is preposterous. And from the second they do, the movie goes completely haywire. Slow motion, closeups of their faces in love-filled ecstasy, a completely different song by the band Live which seems to be playing only in their heads, all combine to turn the film into something else. Something it neither earned, nor does particularly well.

There have been hundreds of films where two characters fall for each other after a hookup or a good talk or some other event. What is this one saying? “The search is over, you were with me all the while” to quote a sappy 80s song. Tell us something new.

But that’s not the worst of it. After a misunderstanding at a party, whereby Zack leaves with a pornstar to have sex after Miri has given permission, the next morning brings an argument, which sends Zack peeling out, then moving out, then working at the Penguins hockey games as a human target. The screen says “Three Months Later,” but not 30 seconds in, we see Robinson who has come to get the two crazy kids back together.

I can’t explain just how off the pacing is at this point. Zack drives off, film crew wonders why, Miri sees that Zack has moved out (where to? we never find out), “3 Months Later”, we are there to see Robinson contact him for the first time by using a quote that only they would recognize, they rekindle a friendship (not sure why they broke contact with each other), Robinson entices him back to his basement where they are still (after 3 months) editing the film, then the big reveal that Miri never had her second on screen sex scene, a ridiculous attempt at a serious line from Robinson about how people make you believe you can do things that you didn’t know you could or something, a musical cue that sends Zack back to Miri where a final misunderstanding involving her new male roommate gives way to a tearful hug and reunion and happily ever after.

It may have been the most painful 15 minutes of film I’ve seen in years. It’s made more painful because it’s my hero Kevin Smith who’s in charge.

I haven’t brought up the music: fake porn background music throughout, even when the scenes change; great 80s pop at the high school reunion; sappy I love you songs when the two are having sex..making..doing whatever they did.

I can remember exactly two laugh-out-loud moments: Jason Mewes in the last five minutes discussing the “Dutch Rudder” was deadpan delivery at its best.

The other one was a spectacular cameo by Justin Long as an “actor” in L.A. who attends the high school reunion with his football hero lover. “Really, you’re an actor? What kind of movies have you been in?” “All kinds of movies with all male casts.”

Zack Brown: All male casts? Like “Glengarry Glen Ross”, like that?
Brandon: Like “Glen and Gary Suck Ross’s Meaty C**k and Drop Their Hairy N**s in His Eager Mouth”.
Zack Brown: [pause] Is that like a sequel?
Brandon: Sort of. It’s a reimagining.
Zack Brown: Oh, like “The Wiz”.
Brandon: More erotic. And with less women. No women, to be exact.
Zack Brown: I apologize in advance if I am outta line here, but are you in gay porn?
Brandon: [smiles] Guilty as charged.

[I've added the *] The fact that his lover is played by the guy in the new Superman movie is one of the fanboy tips of the hat that Smith is famous for. Long is funnier in those five minutes that the remaining 95 minutes of the movie. Don’t get me wrong, whenever a character like Rogen’s talks as quickly as Smith’s script call for, there will be chuckles. “Where’s the clitoris again?” caused me to smile. But those smiles were so few and far between and so hidden by the rest of the “look how outrageous my dialogue is” that the impact was weak.

I wanted so much more from my former BFF Kevin Smith.

MichaelVox Twitter Review In 160:
Zack And Miri Make A Porno (08 Smith C-) Dear Kevin, I’m breaking up with you after 14 years of bliss. It’s not me, it’s you. WTF happened?

5.6 Metacritic
7.5 IMDB

Zack and Miri Make a Porno @ Amazon

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO

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2008

December 30, 2008
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English
159 Minutes — December 25, 2008
Drama / Fantasy / Mystery / Romance
David Fincher [Se7en; The Game; Fight Club; Zodiac]
Brad Pitt [Less Than Zero; Thelma & Louise; A River Runs Through It; Kalifornia; True Romance; Interview With The Vampire; Legends Of The Fall; Se7en; Twelve Monkeys; Sleepers; Seven Years In Tibet; Fight Club; Spy Game; Ocean’s Eleven; Troy; Ocean’s Twelve; Mr. & Mrs. Smith; Babel; The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford; Burn After Reading]

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THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 65. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON Discussion – Part 1
• Break
• 17:17 THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON Discussion – Part 2
• Break
• 33:20 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 34:18 The Last Five®
• Break
• 49:02 Listener Last Five (Aaron in Washington, DC)
• 1:03:07 Credits and Outtakes

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7.0 Metacritic
8.6 IMDB #74 All Time

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button @ Amazon

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

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AN AFFAIR OF LOVE
1999

December 11, 2008
Netflix DVD
France / Switzerland / Belgium / Luxembourg
French
80 Minutes — September 4, 1999
Drama / Romance
Frederic Fonteyne
Nathalie Baye [And The Band Played On; Venus Beauty Institute; Catch Me If You Can; Tell No One]
Sergi Lopez [To Die (Or Not); With A Friend Like Harry; Dirty Pretty Things; Pan’s Labyrinth]

An off-camera voice interviews a man and woman separately. They are discussing a past “relationship”. Relationship is in quotes because the definition of what they are as a couple is in a state of constant flux. While discussing this past fling, they both appear to be looking back with warm feelings.

The woman, Her (because they don’t exchange names), puts an ad in a sex magazine. The man, Him, actually put his copy of the magazine into a protective sleeve, which he displays with pride to the interviewer. “I guess I’m just a romantic, ” he declares. We know where this is going, don’t we? Two swingers meet up to have sex and then stop meeting up to have sex. But not so fast.

She mentions that there has always been a fantasy that she’s never been brave enough to ask past lovers. She puts it in the advertisement. He is not a casual reader of the magazine–in fact, he claims that this was the only time he responded to a personal ad. As so often happens when recalling something from years past (she has dyed her hair black and he has taken to wearing a goatee when we meet them in the present day), the details are fuzzy. He remembers sending a photo in response, she claims to have had no idea what he looked like.

They nervously meet at a cafe in Paris. There is small talk. There are few questions. She says, a bit too matter-of-factly “I’ve reserved a room down the street–is that okay?” He is excited by her assumption. She is drinking coffee and as she finishes to put on her coat, he orders a cognac, appearing to be in no particular hurry. She goes into some small talk about being young and wanting a lover who was hairy only to discover that she’d been “hoodwinked” when they turned out as hairless as the rest. She is not being cool. He is not being cool.

It needs to be mentioned here that the two leads are being played by Nathalie Baye and Sergi Lopez. Lopez is best known for the fantastic thriller WITH A FRIEND LIKE HARRY. He’s clearly middle-aged and looks like a French, poor-man’s George Clooney. Baye is one of those beautiful women who is allowed to grow older, but remain incredibly alluring and sexual, in role after role. She was recently seen as the lawyer in TELL NO ONE. I’ve just looked up her age and if correct, then she certainly wears her 51 years well on screen as a sexually alive, adventurous and frank woman. Someone Dan Savage would call “GGG.” Why American actresses are not afforded the same opportunity is incredibly annoying. Baye has entered her most erotic stage of life. It’s nice (not to mention exciting) to be able to watch it on film.

Back to the plot. These two middle-agers, still attractive, well-read, witty conversationalists–do, indeed, head over to the hotel. The camera lingers on the procedure for checking into a hotel frequented by short-term guests. The clerk’s expression, the credit card transaction, the key exchange, the walk to the room. This is done slowly and deliberately. We arrive at their front door. They go in, but we are left in the hallway. The hallway is bathed in low-lighted red. There is natural light coming from below the door. But we don’t get to go in to see what happens. And that move becomes genius later on.

The two emerge out onto a crowded dusk Paris street. Not sure what to do to continue this “situation” and afraid that perhaps they’d be the only one wanting a second round, they are silent. They agree that, if interested, they will meet at the same cafe the following Thursday. She gets on the Metro, he into his car. They are not smiling, exactly, as they move away from each other, but they are certainly not ashamed of what just happened.

The next shot shows Her in the same cafe, finishing up a coffee, and getting ready to go. He clearly didn’t want to see her again, but then he shows up, a bit ruffled due to traffic. They have a bit more detailed conversation. They laugh a little more. To the interviewers she says, “there was no posturing, no trying to impress. We already knew each other sexually–the conversation was easy and much more honest.” I’m paraphrasing, obviously. So begins a regular meeting between these two people. Always at the same cafe and always leading to the same hotel, where by now the clerk can hand over a key much more quickly.

They recall this stage a bit differently, she says they met several times a week, he remembers it more like every other Thursday. The details are not important. What is important is how they go from a purely sexual, no-names-ages-occupations-needed casual hookup, to becoming de facto partners for each other. They get drinks and sometimes dinner afterwards. He never drives her home, and they never exchange information.

Can these two continue to meet for sex without falling in love?

One day, she changes everything, by nervously uttering, “let’s make love this time?” “What do you mean?” “The regular way” “You mean, missionary?” “No, I like to be on top, not exactly dominating, but in charge.” “OK,” he says. And this time as they head to the same hotel, they are giggling like teenagers. And this time we get to go into their room with them and see how it’s blue and white color is a happy backdrop. The scene is non-nude, but highly erotic. “Do you mind if I talk during?” she asks.

Something has clearly changed between them. And somehow between characters and we viewers.

This is one of the best portrayals of adult sexuality and love I’ve ever seen. Not Hollywood sex and love, but realistic. The way feelings can change in mid-sentence, the way people are brave with each other up until they can’t be anymore. She mentions that in the movies, sex is either heaven or hell, never in the middle. In life, there is a lot of sex in the middle. If you’ve ever stopped to realize that almost all onscreen sex scenes, including a couple’s first, begin with passionate kissing while clothes are torn off, acrobatic lovemaking with not a hint of clumsiness (no hair pulled, no heads bumped, no need to verbalize movement), a to-the-second mutual climax, followed by one of those bedsheets that goes up to his stomach, but also up to her shoulders.

We go to the movies to see people better looking than we are do things more exciting than we do, but I could do without another one of these by-the-numbers sex scenes.

This film has exactly two characters. They are flawed and perfect, like we are. They are trying to figure out how much of their hearts to give this relationship that started in the back pages of a porno magazine. Will they fall in love? Are they already in love? Will they say this to one another?

This is what an adult relationship film should be. Go see it.

6.7 Metacritic
7.0 IMDB

An Affair of Love @ Amazon

AN AFFAIR OF LOVE

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1988

December 7, 2008
Netflix DVD
France
French
88 Minutes — January 6, 1989
Romance / Drama
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; A Real Young Girl; Fat Girl; The Last Mistress]

Lili is a 14-year-old girl, staying with her family in a tiny camper while on holiday at the French coast. The sun never shines. Her father is miserable and spends his time listening to sports with headphones, her mother is cold and distant, and her older brother is the source of sibling annoyance we can all identify with.

She is trying to get her head around the fact that her body is changing–drastically–while inside she remains a barely teenage girl. We’ve just entered the Catherine Breillat zone, where entire films are made attempting to describe the mind of a pubescent girl as she is both awed by her body’s power and scared shitless by it in equal measure. The title apparently refers to the size of the dress that Lili is literally busting out of as we see her head towards a disco with her older brother in search of–well, what is she really in search of? Not sex, exactly.

She wants to be older, to act older, to be taken seriously by older people (men), but has no way of knowing how adults speak to each other or act towards each other.

The plot, such as it is, involves Lili getting her brother, JP to get permission for the both of them to go out to the local disco in the seaside town where they’re camping. They hitchhike in an aging playboy’s BMW. She acts like a complete brat (or, a 14-year-old) and ends up screaming and leaving the car. The man says, under his breath “what’s the matter, I didn’t look at you enough?” And he’s right. She wants to be looked at and admired, but on her terms, which change on a minute-by-minute basis.

She gets her own ride by a middle-aged man who calls her a bitch when she doesn’t let his hand stay on her leg while he drives. She goes to a cafe where a famous musician looks up to see her devour him with her eyes. They have the only meaningful conversation of the film. She meets the group at the disco where a $20 gets her past the bouncer. There is clumsy passion–she encourages, then changes her mind. The Playboy and she then take a walk and end up in his hotel room where she promises nothing will happen.

This dance between the two–a young girl and a 40something balding convertible guy–is the main emotional focus of the film. Is she teasing him on purpose? How serious is she about calling the cops on him? Does he even want to sleep with her? He mentions that he no longer possesses the stamina to keep up with a teenager in the wee hours of the morning.

But the most important question to Lili is: how badly does she want to lose her virginity?

Much like the main character in A REAL YOUNG GIRL, Lili is more excited about the loss of virginity on paper than she is in practice. And she is an awful girl to hang out with. Is her youth and inexperience worth the trouble? That’s what the older man has to figure out. She feels that the boys her age at the campsite are beneath her, though they’d be a much better, if bumbling, partner for first time lovemaking.

36 fillette

Lili is another protagonist from the Breillat filmography who isn’t a victim or a seductive Lolita, but has every terrible behavioral trait that many young girls have–brattiness, boredom, meanness, taunting, put-downs, and mostly in Lili’s case, teasing–both in the childlike sense and in the sexualized sense. It’s hard to see what the older man can possibly get out of an interlude with Lili that wouldn’t be much more fulfilling with one of the many women available to him in the town. She simply isn’t that fantastic.

However, as a character, she certainly is well-rounded. Played by a 16-year-old actress named, Delphine Zentout, Lili must be both annoyingly adolescent and often charmingly seductive. She needs to be awkwardly sexual–to use her body and the hair over her eyes to make the men in the film–of all ages–believe she’s worth the trouble.

36 fillette

As usual after seeing something by Catherine Breillat, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the quality or what it’s trying to say. But I will continue to praise her for bringing stories that men can’t tell to the screen. She claims that this film is semi-autobiographical. But don’t most films by most directors include many incidents taken from real life. The difference here is that those incidents don’t show the main character in a particularly good light.

Get past the old man / young girl dynamic and think of it as the study of one realistic 14-year-old trying to find her way in the world. Thank you Ms. Breillat.

Two sidenotes: There is no bodily fluid in this film. A first. And this may be the single worst DVD transfer in the technology’s history. You’ll want to watch this on the smallest screen possible. I’m old enough to remember the unacceptable quality of foreign VHS tapes back in the 80s, so I should thank my lucky stars that this one isn’t that bad. However, ouch.

6.1 IMDB
***^ Ebert

36 Fillette @ Amazon

36 FILLETTE

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2008

December 3, 2008
San Jose CA — Cinearts Santana Row
UK / USA
English / Hindi
120 Minutes — November 12, 2008
Comedy / Crime / Drama / Romance
Danny Boyle [Shallow Grave; Trainspotting; The Beach; 28 Days Later; Millions] & Loveleen Tandan

It’s hard to describe just how “cool” this movie is. Which is a terrible way to refer to any kind of film. “Cool”.

A young man from the slums of Mumbai is a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. The host can barely contain his contempt. Everyone expects him to exit the game early. But he continues to answer questions correctly, captivating all of India in the process. Most of the film is told in flashback as each question he is asked on the show reminds him of a part of his life. If the question is about US currency, he flashes back to a time when he was a hundred dollar bill. This is clearly unrealistic but sometimes, as the screen shows us early “It is written”. These flashbacks provide and opportunity for us to watch the visual styling of Danny Boyle, who is working out of his European element here. Jamal and his brother are first played by tiny Indian boys who live in an enormous slum just outside the gates of an airport. They spend their time playing cricket, trying their luck at money-making schemes, and outrunning the corrupt police.

There is thumping music, colorful fabrics, slow motion and shaky camera work. It is incredibly exciting.

The boys are compelling and respond to heartbreak with a seen-it-all attitude. They become orphaned and pick up a “third musketeer” along the way.

The film continually moves between the present-day quiz show and the incidents in Jamal’s life that led him to know answers that he has no right knowing.

It is loud and exciting and is a great mixture of western and Indian filmmaking. I loved it.





8.5 Metacritic
8.6 Critical Consensus
8.6 IMDB

Slumdog Millionaire @ Amazon

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

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1934

November 2, 2008
Netflix DVD
France
French
89 Minutes
Drama / Romance
Jean Vigo
#16 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A barge captain takes his new wife down river.

“Jean Vigo’s final masterpiece is a simple, slow-moving account of a troubled relationship. The film works on a poetic level, with Kaufman’s camera capturing mysterious dreamlike images of river life, while Michel Simon’s deckhand is one of the great screen performances” — *** Halliwell’s Film, DVD, and Video Guide 2007

“Naturalism and surrealist fantasy blend beautifully in all-time masterpiece about a young couple who begin their life together sailing down the Seine on a barge. Ultimate in romantic cinema also anticipated neorealist movement by more than a decade.” — **** Leonard Maltin’s 2007 Movie Guide

8.0 IMDB

L’ Atalante @ Amazon

L’ ATALANTE

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2008

October 15, 2008
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English
113 Minutes — October 3, 2008
Drama / Romance
Jonathan Demme [Melvin And Howard; Swing Shift; Stop Making Sense; Something Wild; Married To The Mob; The Silence Of The Lambs; Philadelphia]

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RACHEL GETTING MARRIED is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 62. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 RACHEL GETTING MARRIED Discussion – Part 1
• Break
• 18:17 RACHEL GETTING MARRIED Discussion – Part 2
• Break
• 33:07 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 33:37 The Last Five®
• 48:56 Credits and Outtakes

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8.2 Metacritic
6.8 IMDB

Rachel Getting Married @ Amazon

RACHEL GETTING MARRIED

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Written by Michael W. Cummins