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Voltaire vs Toulouse town., 22 October 2014

In the TV series "La camera explore Le Temps",the Calas affair was the audience 's favorite.

A tale of intolerance and religious fanaticism,it's still (unfortunately) relevant today.

Among the great writers of the Age of Enlightenment,Voltaire was the only one who really fought for his compatriots ,when liberty,equality and fraternity were still words.

Voltaire was famous for his mordant irony ,and he was also a canny pretender:the first pictures show an almost dying aging man,who does not seem to car about what he is listening.Someone tells him about an innocent man's inhuman death :the prologue shows us the terrifying torture on the Wheel,two hours of awful suffering ,for something he had never done.

Then the movie uses flashbacks -which were rare in these historical series - sometimes these testimonies contradict each other.

Mr Calas had a B.A. in law ,but being a protestant (Calvinist) in 1963,did not allow him to become a lawyer,unless he abjured ;his elder son opted for catholicism but his brother ,once tempted ,decided he would remain a protestant.

The Young man dies ;the cause for his death remains obscure :most likely he hung himself ,but some historians disagree and claim he was murdered for his purse.

One thing for sure,the father was totally innocent:not only he had to cope with the loss of a child,but he had to face the infamy of an unfair trial and to die in a way even the worst executioners of today would not think of.

The movie is not one-sided:a catholic priest tries to defend the prisoner;but what can he do in a town (Toulouse) where hatred for the "Huguenots" knows no bounds and where the populace used them as scapegoats .The Capitoul (=mayor and also judge) is probably overtaken by events and must sentence the accused to death ,even without a decisive evidence .

Little by little,as he is told about the story ,Voltaire "awoke " from his "sleep" and he decided to react to those intolerable facts:he wrote letters,abetted by some of his compatriots who would have kept their mouth shut without his intervention.Such was the man,who restored Mr Calas' good name,had the rest of his family released ,and was ready to resume his fight with other affairs ,the Chevalier De La Barre's being the most memorable.

The movie shows us scary catholic fanatics ,often passed over in silence in history books, the White Pénitents,whose look predates that of (brr!) the Ku Klux Klan.

Not to be missed by history buffs and tolerant people .

Comment Allez-vous?, 21 October 2014

My good friend Writer's Reign, a true connoisseur of the French cinema ,wrote the first review ,and as usual,I second all that he said.It's incredible that ,in 7 years ,no French user felt like sending a comment .

Writer's insists on what I would call a "prologue" ,taking place in the subway:this incident is the straw that breaks the camel's back for the hero is already paranoiac ,depressive and terribly stressed.

For a while I feared the incident on the street with the cops could lead the movie into the clichéd post -68 cinema territory:"cops are b.......";these policemen on the street have really a hard work to do ,they get stressed too,and the fact is that Alex is really a pain in the neck that night.The suicide rate is high in French police ,certainly higher than among accountants in suits.

But fortunately ,Emmanuelle Cuau put the whole French society on trial.In her movie,her characters belong to middle class,no wealth ,but no poverty either.In the hospital ,a woman asks Béatrice if she looks haunted ,then if she is red in the face ;in her taxi ,another one begins to talk about her shrink ,which infuriates her .

It goes to show that in-communicability is in the center of the movie;wherever it takes place,be it in the precinct ,in the mental hospital or during the job interviews ,it's like talking to a brick wall,in a Kafkaesque -as Leon wrote- world.

Reductio ad absurdum:it is when he cheats (the Mickey Mouse degrees which he got on his computer) that Alex learns the rules of the game ,that he becomes part of the "normal" society.It should be pointed out that the ending remains very ambiguous :is Alex in through the out door? Very well acted by the two principals ,and the secondary characters are extremely true to life.

The farther one travels,the less one knows......, 21 October 2014

The title is no misnomer.As George sang in the track from the eponymous album,"by the Lord Sri Krishna's grace (....) my salvation from the material world" .At the time many people laughed at Harrison whom they dismissed as unhip and holy-than-thou.

Scorcese's movie is exactly what George would have wanted:a long and winding line of thought of an icon who,little by little ,ditched the material world :an adulated entertainer in the glorious years of the Beatles (to whom he contributed a good handful of classics) ,a peak of musical and spiritual inspiration with his mind-boggling " all things must pass" (which remains,along with "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band" ,my favorite solo album).

In the seventies ,it seems that George was not that interested in carrying on with a career which anyway was on the wane after "material world" ,his last number one .The concert for Bangla Desh was a grand gesture (and Bob Geldof's laurels actually began to the ex-Beatle),but the rest of it ,the 1974 tour,the infatuation with racing cars ,the homemade productions ,the Japanese tour were minor events .

George had warned us on the overlooked B side "the inner light" in the words he set to music on a college professor's request:"without looking out of my Windows ,I could know the ways of Heaven" .

His final years were probably the happiest of his life ,with a marvelous wife ,Olivia ,who shared his way of life ,and a son to carry on.Two hundred years after Voltaire,like Zadig,he cultivated his garden while continuing his spiritual quest.His ultimate album,"brainwashed" ,lived up to its name:although terminally ill,the musician produced a cheerful album,full of serenity .More than thirty years after the song,he had learned the "art of dying" ;"I've never seen such a confident patient " a physician said .

Like Scorcese's take on Dylan ("no way home" ) ,"living in the material world " is never off the point .Nothing sensational,nothing scandalous,but an absorbing portrayal of a man,who,after conquering the whole world,realized he could "arrive without traveling " and "see all without looking".

Face Value (2002)
Good entertaining value, 20 October 2014

It begins as a "buddies movie " but the viewer feels there's an ambiguous Relationship between the two men .One of them welcomes his pal in a luxury apartment and treats him like a king ;but his words do not ring true.

The screenplay is not that predictable and if it enters sometimes the Highsmith/"talented Mr Ripley" territory when a character takes a would be friend's name,the developments are suspenseful and the ending (one of the female characters alone justifies the very title of the thriller) The script may seem simple ,but it makes sense (no open ending ,no unanswered question) ,and considering some of today's "unexpected twists","face value" is to be recommended .

Landes (2013)
Bogged down in a resinous situation, 20 October 2014

The main asset of the movie is its location: the Landes ,in South-west France.

A Young widow (Marie Gillain) wants to carry on with her husband's work:managing a pine plantation where they extract resin;but most of all,she wants to have electricity installed in her valuable property.In this place,it seems that 1789 never happened and that time stood still:her workers,circa 1920,do not receive any salary and ,like the peasants in the middle ages,have to bring their production to their landlady.

But her progressive ideas come up against men still remembering WW1 and against her peers ,a bourgeois relative and other macho.Her foreman ,first bewildered ,is finally won over by his boss' resilience and strength of character.For her own good,the Young heiress is too ahead of her time.

The director makes the best of the beautiful landscape;he casts Miou-Miou (who proves she can age gracefully;I was not exactly his fan at the time of "going places " (Les valseuses,1975))against type,as a middle-age modest brunette,and the mischievous Tsilla -Tatie Danielle- Chelton as an old dowager,warning the ingénue about the man's man's business world.

For all that,the movie does not really grab the viewer;it's too short and marred by a derivative ending;as a social comment,it fails totally to convince;as a psychological drama,it's a routine affair.

A Breton movie, 27 September 2014

Recently restored ,the quality of the pictures is excellent for a 1934 movie. This is a simple story ,not an intellectual bore and it's accessible to anyone;in a word :popular.

A short (about 40 min) ,entirely in Breton ,with subtitles :A French who would not know the Breton language could not understand the lines,which is minor,for the strength of the pictures tell almost everything.

A famous director from the silent era,now long over,Epstein found it hard to adjust to the talkies :that's why the first sequences ,depicting life in a religious school ,are certainly the weakest.We're not told the exact reason for which the student is expelled ,but, as further acquaintance shows,this young man was born to be an outcast all of his life:disowned by his father,fired by the fishermen because his little finger is claw-like and brings bad luck.Even if they put their faith in Virgin Mary (the propitiatory procession ),they remain suspicious superstitious men.And even love is denied because he has fallen for the châtelaine who is to marry a rich count.

The love story is told in a legendary way (the ending) and the white veil on the cliff might have inspired Jean Grémillon for a "Pattes Blanches " shot.

There are few lines ;the tale is told (or should I say sung) by a Chanteur who appears on the screen and depicts the fishermen's dangerous work and the peasants'hard labor.

Most of all ,it shows Epstein's (who was born a Pole though)love for the sea by and large ,and for Brittany in particular:it began in 1928,with "Finis Terrae" ,and would continue with such works as "L'Or Des Mers" (1932,another tragic love story which looks like this one) and "La Femme Du Bout Du Monde" (1937)

Haïr A Perdre La Raison., 26 September 2014

Few artists can do what Mister Arestrup does.A character actor in the noblest sense of the word,he never gives you the impression he overplays ;yet,he can be frightening ,makes you blood run cold ,while remaining extremely restraint.In the five last years ,his two portrayals (the wine-grower in "Tu Seras Mon Fils " ,and the stepfather in "A Perdre La Raison" are among the most impressive in the contemporary French cinema.

A Young couple (she is a French Teacher,he is a Morrocan immigrant)sees their life ,slowly but inexorably ,elude them.The Young man's stepfather he calls his Godfather provides them with everything a Young couple may wish :no problem to make ends meet .But the lack of intimacy becomes hard to bear for the Young woman who would like to share a true home with her husband.But the wealthy man does not want his protégés to run away and he 's using financial blackmail as well as emotional blackmail.They are under "tutelage" :the Young man ,who seems immature sees his protector as a merciful God but his wife is not prepared to accept it.This house is not big enough for the three of us.

It's putting off the inevitable;the last scene ,showing the house of "happiness" ,filmed in fixed camera shot ,could not have been more harrowing.

Chameleon (1996)
Go figure!, 26 September 2014

I was expecting a thriller.What a disappointment!The screenplay is so muddled it's hard to follow the plot.Almost all the lines deal with sex ,dirty words abound,which is boring in the long run.No actor stands out:Chiara Mastroianni is as cold as ice and her monotonous portrayal does not help;to enliven things a bit ,she flashes her tits.Jackie Berroyer as the libidinous superintendent gives a Johnny-one-note performance.American Seymour Cassel as a painter hams it up all along the way and,had I to watch that again (God preserve me) ,I would skip all his scenes.Benoit Cohen is not John Cassavetes .

The third of the dialog is in English with subtitles .

Aspirin needed afterward.

Why the lights went out in NYC., 24 September 2014

Superseven's second movie-and substantially better than the first . The screenplay remains naive and of comic strip quality but it includes several interesting developments and even unexpected twists .

It must be Yoko Tani,French actor Roland Lesaffre's wife ,who is different from the bimbos who fall for Martin in both episodes .The character is a bit more complex than the others .Unlike Pussy Galore in "Goldfinger",her volt-face is not only explained by the hero's charm:"in my country,we are taught no to behave like you (westerners)"

In the first (and poorer) episode ,there was a good scene : to hide a dead body ,Superseven makes it out to be a waxwork;in this one,Lenzi does a good job,transforming a florist shop into an antique dealer place ;Egypt's landscapes were poorly used in the first effort;here the director takes advantage of Greek landscapes (particularly the Parthénon)even if he introduces the Sirtaki ,a dance which was very trendy in those days in the Wake of "Zorba The Greek"

And now we know why there was the Northeast blackout in 1965 . believe it or not.

The last scene is -relatively-smart.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
My name is Stevens .Martin Stevens ., 24 September 2014

A first installment in the "Superseven " (sic) adventures .And not the best of the two.The action takes place in London ,Superseven (stronger than 007!)is irresistible and all the girls fall for him even if they are evil.

Roger Browne was essentially known for his sword and sandals flicks but he also starred in spy thrillers and -you have to live!- photo novels for the Italian "Edital" group .He was on the rare actors working in Italy who had an American name AND was actually American .

The screenplay is a nonentity: a radioactive new metal which all the spies covet ,and ,as the title reads ,action takes place in Egypt,but the director does not take advantage of the landscapes:even the pyramids are badly filmed .One of the villains worked in a Nazi concentration camp and it shows.

Lenzi would do a little better next time.

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