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Change moi ma vie (2001)
Nice try to show a different kind of encounter of social outsiders
Though being a hardcore Fanny Ardant fan I have to admit that this movie won't make it into my list of favorites. Fanny's acting nevertheless is absolutely flawless and shows again her huge spectrum as an actress. Also her counterpart Roschdy Zem convinces with a solid performance and transports the picture of a lost character with deep impact on the viewer. But the story doesn't keep up with the director's ambition. The plot runs short and flattens towards a strange and silly end. To me it seemed that they hadn't made up their mind about the movie's end until they had almost finished the shooting. It destroys the good impression of the numerous, really touching and heart wrenching scenarios that carry this film. Another big weakness of the story lies in the lack of real peaks and highlights. A director or story board writer doesn't always have to follow the "2-peak-rule", of course, but if the viewer isn't shaken by some outstanding and most of all recognizable elements that break the strand, boredom will be the inevitable result. These technical weaknesses have impeded the out-coming of a perhaps great movie because the topic and the characters lay the ground for the presentation of a rarely discussed social phenomenon: the life of male prostitutes from the Magreb, illegal emigrants living on the edge of French society, their bonding and strategies of surviving, their dreams and falls. The encounter of another outsider of society, a run-down actress out of work, physically of great beauty and most definitively an experienced and talented performer, but too old for many directors and out of the business for too long could have resulted in a deeply shaking drama. Unfortunately, the cast's great performance on screen isn't enough for that. On the list of positive features I must note that the director balanced scenes of sexual cruelty and humiliation with moments of soft, romantic and tender love. But then stylistic elements to deliberately confuse the viewer are overused in the beginning and lose their effect or seem displaced (e.g. Nina entering a taxi to run away from Sami followed by the scene of a man sitting in his car while somebody is doing a blow job on him and everybody thinks it must be Nina to pay the taxi ride), some interesting characters aren't explored deeply enough and remain too superficial (e.g. Fidele or the theater director). The relationship between Nina and the gallery owner who obviously finances her during her time of unemployment isn't explained satisfyingly and leaves too many questions open. Perhaps the movie's title should have been "Je change ma vie" (I change my life) instead of "Change moi ma vie" (Change my life) because the main characters actually don't change each other or wait passively for the other's help but receive an impulse by their mutual encounter so that they do something themselves about their specific situation - for the better or the worse.... Still the movie deserves a fairly good rating due to the daring topic, the great acting of Fanny Ardant, the perfectly matching soundtrack and the partly really realistic illustration of the social circumstances in which the characters live.
Paris, je t'aime (2006)
Wonderful love declaration to a beautiful capital
I watched this movie a couple of days ago in a small independent cinema in Paris. It was my last evening in the French capital and the best good-bye I could have chosen. These twenty episodes made me relive the impressions I had collected in Paris in a heart-warming manner without drifting off into kitsch or sentimental schmaltz. Each episode is full of surprise, strong emotions and suggestive pictures and each short-film is directed according to the rules of a good short story. To me this kind of movie demands a lot more talent and qualities of a director and a story board writer than any epic two hours drama and all of them succeeded in their task excellently! The stories were chosen carefully with regard to their matching Arrondissement and express the respective flair perfectly. Each episode was seen from a different ankle, had a different topic, a different style and still the twenty stories result in a harmonic orchestra of films. The most outstanding advantage with the concept of an episode movie in my opinion is based in the fact that you can switch in between a large variety of feelings and moods without the danger of overload, just the other way round: the melange of sadness, melancholy, pure joy, despair, wrath, anxiety, curiosity or passion gives this movie a unique freshness and harmony. And not to forget the all over topic of love! Love between the characters, love between the characters and Paris and also the love of the directors and actors/actresses for this project. I don't want to go into the details of the episodes since there are so many, but I must highlight the range of world famous actors and actresses from all over the world and their approach to this project. Some played with their image, some broke it completely and some interpreted the stereotypes connected with their home country or the roles they had played before, so intertextuality was given all through the movie. All in all I can absolutely recommend this great collage and will be looking forward to its release on DVD.
French cinema with the everlasting theme of ménage à trois...
I've seen this movie on TV some days ago. I knew a little about the plot from some cinema advertisement but had no clue about the end. So I was positively surprised by it. Usually the ménage à trois ends tragically, but here the viewer's imagination may to some extension finish the story individually. I had read bad comments about this movie in the French press and while watching it myself I really wondered what for? Two of France's most popular actresses and a typical French topic is obviously not enough to satisfy the critics nowadays. OK, the descriptions of sex which actually had not taken place at all seem a bit too long and too monotonous in the beginning, but after having seen the complete movie the viewer should have understood the meaning of that this kind of telling about fictional sex only serves to keep Catherine's attention as long as possible. If the stories would have been too good and exiting she might have tried to explore her new insights at once and by this Catherine would have stopped her deal with "Nathalie" too soon. I was most fascinated by the actresses' capability of shaping such a tension concerning their relation ship on the screen. It becomes clear quite soon that there's more in between these two women than just a client-customer deal but you never know who will take the next step. Fanny Ardant's facial expression for desire is legendary, just have a look at her in "Eight women". If there's somebody who knows to seduce convincingly on the screen, it's her. This movie may have been designed more for TV-broadcasting than in cinemas, but it's a nice piece of erotic entertainment.