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Only for Resnais worshippers and Ayckbourn fans
Perhaps if I had realised that "Private Fears in Public Places" (the English title for Coeurs) is the name of an Alan Ayckbourn play, I would have stayed away, but the allure of a new movie from one of the great auteurs of the twentieth century was too strong. The man who made Hiroshima mon amour and L'annee derniere a Marienbad has not lost his ability to frustrate the viewer, this time with a series of sad Parisians locked into loneliness and self-defeating behaviours. The "humour" of the film is at the expense of these pathetic characters, for whom it is hard to feel much sympathy, and their complusive and repetitive behaviours rapidly become irritating. Having seen Coeurs, I can understand why Renais' recent output has had little or no distribution in the English speaking world - the film is soulless, overlong and strictly for those who miss the days of the French New Wave.
Chiedimi se sono felice (2000)
Very silly, very Italian
If you enjoyed "Life is Beautiful" last year, I suppose you might like this, but it's really aimed at Italian audiences who seem to like contrived so-called comedies about innocents and incompetents. I found this story of three male actors, and their inability to get anything together in their lives, infantile and (worse) boring, but the Italians in the audience lapped it up. Be warned: if your idea of entertainment doesn't include adults behaving like five year olds, stay away from this movie!
The Goddess of 1967 (2000)
Visually stylish but vacuous road movie
The Goddess of the title is a Citroen DS which a young Japanese Man agrees to buy over the internet. When he arrives in Australia to get it, the owner is dead and he embarks on a journey into the outback with a blind girl for a reason which is never clear, even when it is made apparent at the end. The result is probably best described as contemporary Art House. The film substitutes a vacuous but street smart style for content, and bizarre quirkiness for characterisation. Its flashbacks into the deprived and abused past of the blind girl are bleak, but otherwise there is little story and the two main characters appear almost lost in the vast landscapes they are travelling through. Could Australian movies please get over their current pretentious pre-occupation with mad and irrational characters and meaningless storylines?
The votes on this site, and some press reviews, suggest that some people enjoyed this film. I suspect they are the same people who enjoyed performance art during the 1990s and Andy Warhol movies in the 1980s. Clara Law succeeds in striking a style, but tells us nothing we want to know. Even the Australian outback, which dominates the film, gets a raw deal: the locations appear random, the colour in the outdoor scenes is fashionably bleached, and the whole thing was shot during the wettest summer for years.
Le goût des autres (2000)
Mammon meets art in an intelligent and witty French drama
A rich but uncultured provincial businessman falls for a local actress and pushes himself into her circle of arty friends. Initially they see him as a Philistine and treat him as a joke, but their attitudes change when he becomes a potential buyer for their work. Meantime, his interior designer wife is forcing her chintzy styles onto his sister who has moved in nearby, and his bodyguard and his driver are having to deal with their own shortcomings in their amorous encounters with a local barmaid.
The interwoven sub-plots, the intelligent characterisation and the witty dialogue make this a sophisticated drama in the best sense. The film indulges neither the shallow bourgeoisie nor the supercilious bohemians, but all the characters are real and believable.
If the plot offers no easy solutions to the complex needs and insecurities of its characters, it does at least show each of them, in his or her own way, learning something significant about themselves and about other people. The two leading characters in particular come to see each other in a more accepting light, and a direction for the future is opened up.
The confidence, intelligence and humour with which director Agnes Jaoui presents these tangled lives are a pleasure to experience, and she offers a refreshing and very European alternative to the more clichéd characterisation favoured by Hollywood.
Tout va bien, on s'en va (2000)
Psychologically unconvincing with an uneventful plot
Everything's Fine (Tout va bien, on s'en va) is about the impact on three sisters of the return of their father, who walked out on them 15 years earlier. That pretty much sums up the plot - the film tries to present itself as a psychological study rather than a narrative. Unfortunately the main characters are difficult people and hard to like, and their reactions to their father's return (ranging from total hostility to apparent acceptance) are hard to understand, as nothing is revealed about their former relationships. The film would have been much better if it had taken itself less seriously, and offered more to its audience - more plot, more background, and a more convincing exploration of its characters.