Tag Archives: French cinema

Film review: Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

Lea Seydoux Adele Exarchopoulos

Genre: Drama/Romance

Cast: Adèle Exarchopoulos (Adèle), Léa Seydoux (Emma)

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche

We believe Adèle’s emotions because they are spoken through her eyes. She may not say much, and she may keep a lot to herself, but her big hazel eyes are as expressive as the painterly strokes in a Monet canvas. Adèle is a young teenager full of life and creativity. She enjoys a good book and she believes in love, not necessarily in the cute tale of the couple that lives happily ever after, but in the passionate, mad, irrational and uncontrollable kind of love that has led to wars, murders and impressive heroics throughout human history.

Continue reading Film review: Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

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Film review: La Vie en Rose (2007)

La Vie en Rose 3

Genre: Drama/Biopic

Cast: Marion Cotillard (Edith Piaf), Gerard Depardieu (Louis Leplee), Sylvie Testud (Momone)

Writers: Isabelle Sobelman & Olivier Dahan

Director: Olivier Dahan

Edith Piaf, the famed French singer whose fans called the “Soul of Paris”, seemed at odds with life from the moment she was born. Cast aside by a mother who dreamed of a career as a performer, Edith would follow her footsteps almost subconsciously, singing for money at first, and later for salvation. Her childhood was spent in a brothel, a circus, and the streets of Paris. It was a hard life, marked by the occasional tragedy, but also a unique life, picturesque and unpredictable, the life of an artist.

Continue reading Film review: La Vie en Rose (2007)

Halloween Movie Night

After a very entertaining weekend in which I was the host of a Halloween party, I decided to spend the actual night of Halloween in good company to enjoy a double-feature-stay-at-home-movie-date.
My evening started with 2007’s “Trick ‘r Treat” followed by 2003’s “High Tension”. Thankfully, both proved to be somewhat entertaining in their own ways making for a rather enjoyable end to the festivities.

Trick ‘r Treat

Directed by Michael Dougherty and starring Anna Paquin, the wonderful Brian Cox and Dylan Baker, “Trick ‘r Treat” follows interwoven story lines that take place on Halloween night in some nameless town in America. At first, I assumed I was watching your typical serial-killer type of movie where our murderer hides in the fully costumed crowds to perpetrate crimes without being noticed. Luckily, I was a bit off. From the beginning, there is a certain element of the supernatural that lurks in the shadows just enough not to become so obvious. The stories do rely a bit on the typical mistakes victims tend to make that ends up getting them killed, which I call “Low IQ horror Flick Syndrome”. Despite the obvious cliches, the film does pull through, especially when we are introduced to the terror-seeking group of kids that head to a quiet part of town to find out if the myths about a school bus massacre are true. As it happens often in Hollywood, talented child actors give a movie a sense of wonderment, innocence and tenderness that is otherwise unattainable with adult actors.

 

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Social Cinema: 9/11 (2002)

In light of the 10th year anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, I have decided to open up yet a new series in this blog of mine: Films that Matter. The goal of this series would be to discuss pieces of film that have touched upon subjects that are of relevance to the world we live in today. These films might not be ultimate works of art, but because of their content, they have a relevance that should not be overlooked.

Like I said, I would like to start this new series with a French documentary simply titled 9/11. In case you are already wary of what you are about to read, I can preview the next few paragraphs by saying that what makes this film remarkable and different from the rest is that it did not intend to be what it ultimately became. In fact, the film was intended to be a rather modest inside-look at the lives of New York City firefighters, focusing on the daily occurrences at a station that happened to serve lower Manhattan, to then quickly turn into an astonishing true recollection of a historic event.

During most of its running time, the documentary is nothing more than an hour of impressive footage. It is, without a doubt, one of the most vivid and poignant accounts of the greatest terrorist attack in history. There were no sappy moments or over rehearsed accounts of those involved, it was simply a raw and intimate look from the heroic perspective of the firefighters that were called to action that unforgettable morning.

It is by no means a polished or extremely well-crafted documentary. In fact, a good amount of the film is rather uninteresting as the two french film makers spend time documenting the lives of firefighters in Manhattan in the days prior to the tragedy. It is especially dull because we all know what to expect coming into the film, and the first part has little to do with the tragedy and more to do with understanding the inner workings of a fire station.

What the film does provide is an indelible account of the story told by the cameras of innocent survivors that found themselves in the midst of one of the most horrifying catastrophes the world has ever seen. For all of its value as a historic piece, the film remains a relatively unknown documentary and one wonders why it has. Perhaps it has to do with the over saturation of imagery and video footage provided by an infinite amount of news outlets all around the world, or maybe this is a film that is not suitable to a larger audience whether it may be for the disturbing nature of its content or because the issue remains a sensitive one to a lot of people.

What is definitely true is that “9/11” is a hair-rising, stomach-turning, incredibly horrific account of the tragedy, one that should be watched in order to realize the degree of devastation and human loss from the point of view of the true heroes of that day: fire fighters.

Niels

IMDB Top 250: The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (2007)

My mission to watch all of the TOP 250 films in the IMDB site (as of March 22nd) continues…

Among the 8 films I have been able to watch pertaining to my top 250 challenge, none other has left a bigger impression on me as the wonderful french movie “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly” by director Julian Schnabel.

The movie is based on a true story that depicts the horrible fate of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor-in-chief of the French Elle magazine. One day a successful and womanizing business man, and the next a man who has suffered a massive stroke that has rendered him almost completely paralyzed. We meet him at the hospital, struggling to wake up from a coma. Soon, a parade of doctors and nurses hover above him and we realize that he is still a completely rational man who is trapped inside his “diving bell” of a body with only his left eye left to communicate with others. He blinks once to say yes, twice to say no, and repeatedly to express a more specific desire. The viewer spends a good part of the movie inside him looking out, sharing, to some extent, the sense of claustrophobia and helplessness Bauby must have had to endure.

The director, Julian Schnabel, treats the story without grand gestures or manufactured uplifting moments. Schnabel’s effectiveness in this film comes from his simple and honest depiction of great adversity. We get to inhabit Bauby’s paralyzed body, relive some of his memories in order to understand the man before the tragedy, and we take part in the asphyxiating situation he is in. Schnable trusts the power of his story to speak for itself. Bauby is a tragedy but also a triumph since he was able, against all odds, to compose a memoir using only his left eye to blink as a nurse recited the alphabet, painstakingly constructing words.

Of course, the movie would have floundered if it wasn’t for a simply wonderful cast. Mathieu Amalric, whose performance as Bauby, is as complex and accomplished as I have ever seen. Almaric embodies the spirit of a free man who loves life as convincingly as he captures the painful reality of Bauby’s paralysis. His father, played by Max Von Sydow is equally moving and wonderful. The rest of the cast acts in a manner that is so natural and honest that it allows us to forget we are watching a film.
Released in 2007, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly enriched a rare year for movies that was full of quality films. This wonderful French movie greatly deserves its place among the best that year but also among the best films of all time.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (masterpiece)

Niels