13 items from 2014
Jean-Luc Godard's Goodbye to Language has not only scored an impressive opening weekend per screen average, it's also prompting many, David Bordwell among them, to see it a second or third time. Also in today's roundup of news and views: Godard on Prénom Carmen (1983) and Jonathan Rosenbaum on Godard in the 90s—and on Numéro Deux (1975). Plus Peter Bogdanovich on Vincente Minnelli, Bilge Ebiri on Jack Clayton, David Kalat on Jeanne Moreau in Louis Malle's Elevator to the Gallows (1958), Jonathan Yardley on John Cleese and Mark Cousins, Tilda Swinton and Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Frémaux's open letter of protest to Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev. » - David Hudson »
At least audiences have the music of Whiplash to give them some relief over 100-plus minutes of bloodied hands and psychological trauma that were unleashed this past weekend.
Or maybe not.
The newest film from the young tandem of writer/director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz takes a selection of jazz standards and turns them into a battle ground between aspiring jazz drummer Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) and his perfectionist mentor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons).
As Fletcher pushes Andrew to his physical and psychological limits as a musician, it is the repetition and perfection of a collection of standards that becomes the film’s musical theme.
Ironically, it is the repetition of a simple melody – one that Fletcher is seen performing on a piano in a jazz club in the film – that would serve as the foundation for Hurwitz score with fellow composer Tim Simonec.
But it is the »
- Shane McNeil
(Claude Sautet, 1960; BFI, 12)
Le roman policier and le film policier (now widely known by the reverse slang or verlan term "polar") have been staples of French popular culture for a century. Its soundtrack crackling with underworld argot, its air thick with smoke from Gauloises, its morality pulsating with romantic cynicism, the genre's golden age in the cinema was roughly between 1955 and the mid-70s. That's from the release of Rififi (the 1955 gangster movie directed by blacklisted American exile Jules Dassin, a movie much indebted to John Huston's 1950 The Asphalt Jungle) to the death in 1973 of Jean-Pierre Melville, the Americanophile cineaste and creator of definitive gangster flicks. These two decades encompass the classic polars of Jacques Becker, the best films of Lino Ventura (the French Bogart), the nouvelle vague (informally launched by a Louis Malle policier, Lift to the Scaffold, starring Ventura), and Godard's subversion of the genre in Breathless. »
- Philip French
Its main characters were barely known in the UK, but that hasn't stopped this spin-off from the 1960s Us cartoon Rocky & Bullwinkle rocketing to the top spot
• More on the UK box office
Despite competition from paid previews on The Lego Movie, DreamWorks Animation's Mr Peabody & Sherman posted a decent debut of £3.92m. Mind you, it's worth noting that Mr Peabody & Sherman likewise pursued a previews strategy – likely a knock-on effect of the Lego tactic – and these contributed a considerable £1.39m of the total. The figure compares favourably with previous DreamWorks Animation release Turbo, which landed with £3.89m, including £1.77m in previews, last October.
While Turbo, the story of a motor-racing snail, was one of DreamWorks Animation's lesser appealing titles, Mr Peabody & Sherman might still have struggled to match it. Conceptually, it's not an obvious easy sell – the story of an erudite beagle who adopts a »
- Charles Gant
Dallas Buyers Club (15)
What McConaughey loses in body mass he gains in compassion in this drawn-from-real-life drama, which cleverly disguises its awards-friendliness beneath thespian commitment and non-issue-movie storytelling. Diagnosed with Aids in 1980s Texas, McConaughey's rodeo-loving electrician takes matters into his own hands and devises his own grey-market treatment programme for the ravaged gay community (in partnership with Leto's lovable transgender cohort, Rayon). The authorities don't approve; the Academy probably will.
The Invisible Woman (12A)
Working to Claire Tomalin's biography, Fiennes gives us a tale of two Dickenses: the charismatic literary celebrity and the self-absorbed love rat. But the passion of his secret affair with Jones's teenage actor is smothered by repression, »
- Steve Rose
Directed by François Truffaut
In François Truffaut’s debut feature, The 400 Blows, widely seen as the flagship production of the French Nouvelle Vague, or “New Wave,” he was able to convey a representation of youth in a very specific era and, at that time, in a very unique way. Autobiographical as the 1959 film was, it also featured a notable vitality and honesty, two traits that would distinguish several of these French films from the late 1950s and into the ’60s. While The 400 Blows was an earnest and refreshing portrayal of adolescence, in some ways, Truffaut’s 1962 feature, Jules and Jim, his third, feels even more youthful, in terms of stylistic daring and energetic exuberance. Though dealing with adults and serious adult situations, Jules and Jim exhibits a formal sense of unbridled glee, with brisk editing, amusing asides, »
- Jeremy Carr
Catherine Shoard and Henry Barnes join Xan Brooks for our weekly round-up of the big cinema releases. This week the team watch Matthew McConaughey take the law into his own hands as AIDs activist Ron Woodroof in The Dallas Buyers Club; follow Charles Dickens scampering after his muse in The Invisible Woman; and dig up an old case in the form of the 1955 crime thriller Lift to the Scaffold. Plus, there's interviews with McConaughey, Jared Leto and Invisible Woman stars Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones.
• This is the audio-only version of this week's Guardian Film Show
Xan BrooksCatherine ShoardHenry BarnesThibaut Remy »
- Xan Brooks, Catherine Shoard, Henry Barnes, Thibaut Remy
★★★★☆Louis Malle was always the bridesmaid of French cinema. Though ostensibly a part of the Nouvelle Vague, he was a director who was hard to pin down, his wild eclecticism seemingly anathema to the auteurism of the Cahiers gang. His 1958 debut, Lift to the Scaffold (entitled Elevator to the Gallows in the Us) is a film about transition, both generational and cinematic. Taking place in the netherworld of French cinema between poetic realism and the New Wave, it comfortably straddled both styles. In this regard, it makes for a fine companion piece to Claude Sautet's Classe Tous Risques (1960), also rereleased by the BFI.
- CineVue UK
Directed by Louis Malle.
A self-assured business man murders his employer, the husband of his adulterer, which unintentionally provokes an ill-fated chain of events.
The stuck-in-a-lift plot device grabs your attention. The opening action-sequence of Speed; Emilio Estevez’s short-lived role in Mission: Impossible and the Shyamalan-penned Devil. The claustrophobic, metallic space automatically creates a sense of urgency and tension. The silver-box, hanging by a taught, tight wire seems so fragile and yet it remains the spine of the modern skyscraper – who would walk up so many flights of stairs and remain, effortlessly cool?
- Gary Collinson
Rereleased this week, Louis Malle’s Lift to the Scaffold remains an enduring example of the invigorating cinema produced in France during the late 1950’s. A sophisticated noir, punctuated by a vivacious score courtesy of jazz legend Miles Davis, Lift to the Scaffold is teeming with the type of aesthetic and narrative innovations that would contribute to the future development of French cinema.
Ex-paratrooper Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet) is seen leaving his office, not conventionally through the door, but instead out of the window. Dexterously clambering up the side of the building like a cat burglar, he breaks into the office of Carala (Jean Wall) his boss and the husband of his lover Florence (Jeanne Moreau). Julian kills him with little fuss and sets about making the incident look like a suicide. However, whilst clambering into his car he realizes he has left a rope dangling out of the window. »
- Patrick Gamble
Is there any movie that's more perfectly French, more perfectly Parisian, and more perfectly 1950s than Louis Malle's debut Lift To The Scaffold? Melville's Bob Le Flambeur, perhaps, or Cocteau's Orphée, but there is also in Malle's movie a strong indication of the new directions French cinema would soon take. Although Malle was never officially a part of La Nouvelle Vague, Lift To The Scaffold contains many of the innovations that would later become more closely associated with the Cahiers du Cinéma generation.
This movie made Jeanne Moreau, whose iconic beauty was newly revealed here after Malle got her to ditch the makeup she'd hitherto relied on. She went on to become one of the banner faces of the New Wave, most famously for Truffaut in Jules Et Jim, »
- John Patterson
Out Of The Furnace (15)
Brotherly solidarity, blue-collar violence, pain and grit in a decaying Rust Belt town: this could be a feature-length Bruce Springsteen song. At heart, the story doesn't stretch much further: decent steelworker Bale steps up after his Iraq-vet brother (Affleck) strays too far into outlaw territory, Winter's Bone-style (Harrelson is a great scary baddie). But it's skilfully told and the acting is persuasively raw. Between the cliches, Cooper finds space to give us a tough, textured study of American masculinity in crisis.
Lone Survivor (15)
A Navy SEALs v Afghani Taliban thriller that, depending on your position, is either a pure, visceral »
- Steve Rose
Louis Malle's 1958 crime thriller stars Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet as Florence and Julien, murderous lovers who plan to kill a wealthy businessman who just happens to be Florence's husband and Julien's boss. Often credited with being one of the earliest examples of the French New Wave and with a soundtrack by Miles Davis, it was known as Ascenseur pour l'échafaud in France and Elevator to the Gallows in the Us. Lift to the Scaffold is re-released in UK cinemas on 7 February Continue reading »
- Guardian Staff
13 items from 2014
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