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Du vent dans mes mollets (2012)
I'm not normally a fan of films about children, but I liked this one a lot. It's a bit corny, a bit predictable, and at the end rather shockingly tragic, but it's well done every step of the way.
The two little girls really are very cute: shy, withdrawn little Rachel, and naughty, mischievous Valerie who befriends Rachel for no particular reason at all, both are excellent and a joy to watch either alone or together. The story involving the relationship between Rachel's parents is also pretty predictable and not without holes, but again it's done with a light and deft touch and is in the end touching rather than annoying. The character of the grandmother is probably the least satisfactory simply because while she's always there, we learn next to nothing about her.
There's a small role for Isabella Rossellini as a child psychiatrist: she's put on a kilo or two since Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, but she's still got more real beauty than a thousand of those American actresses who can still fit into the dresses they wore when they were 18 but look as if they've spent their lives pickled in formaldehyde.
Not a great film, but I'm very glad I saw it.
Disappointing but some redeeming features
I was expecting Juliette Binoche to be as fabulous as she normally is, but she was the disappointment among the three female leads.
To be fair, I think it was the fault of the part, rather than faults in her performance. I think the idea was that her character, the journalist, got so involved in what she was researching and writing that she forgot about her own life and family until the story was finished; but the result was that her character was just a mess.
What I liked about the film was what seemed to be a much more honest and realistic portrayal of the two prostitutes than we normally see. Both were very believable. Both students, one (Anaïs Demoustier as Charlotte) in control of what she was doing, and the other (Joanna Kulig as Alicja) drinking to much and seemingly headed for disaster. Both of them liked sex; Charlotte liked the sex she had with her customers apparently just as much as she liked the sex she had with her boyfriend. You don't see that in Hollywood movies. In Hollywood movies the prostitutes never kiss and they never have orgasms, and they all hate what they're doing. In this film, Charlotte didn't hate it at all, in fact she liked it a lot; whereas Joanna said that she liked it, and seemed to like the physical sensations, but also seemed to hate the idea of what she was doing. That seemed pretty realistic to me.
There were two things that struck me particularly. One was quite early on in the film, when Juliette Binoche asked Charlotte why she kept working. The answer was that the money was hard to give up.
The second was from Charlotte again, and again in answer to a question from Juliette. The question was, what was the worst thing about the work, and the answer was having to tell lies all the time.
Both of those things rang pretty true to me.
So what it comes down to is a more realistic portrayal of prostitution than we normally get, but a rather messy movie with a rather messy central character.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
I really cannot understand all the glowing comments about this film. I thought it was a complete shambles.
I think the basic problem is that no-one seems to have subjected the script to critical analysis. If they had, they might have found lurking in there a nice little film about mentally ill people finding ways to help one another to cope with themselves and with society. What we have instead is a mess of silly plot contrivances, incomprehensible characters and a ridiculously confected happy ending.
Just consider the principal characters one by one.
Pat. For most of the film he's an out-of-control manic depressive whose mood swings and violent outbursts bring him into constant conflict, often violent, with almost everyone he comes in contact with. Then suddenly, with absolutely no reason given, he becomes at the end of the film a support for Tiffany, a reasonable ex-husband of his wife Nicki, and generally an admirable citizen. A theme for the first half of the movie is his refusal to take his medication because it makes him "fuzzy"; then there's a single scene where he takes his pills; and from then on the pills don't get a single mention. Does he take them consistently or not? Do they make him fuzzy or not? What's the point of introducing the theme and not concluding it?
Tiffany. I'm afraid that the constant switches from in control to out of control were just too much for me.
The father. I have to confess that I've never been a fan of Robert de Niro: as an actor, he seems to me to be great at playing Italian gangsters but not much else. Here however the problem is with the part. Is he an obsessive/compulsive or not? Half the time he's rational; half the time he's not. He's a bookmaker, and apparently a successful one, but he backs his sentimental favourites. Real bookmakers don't do that, and if they do, they don't survive in business for very long.
The black friend, Eddie. Again, he goes, without explanation, from a nutter obsessed with his hair to a normal, rational human being.
And I can't resist a word about the doctor. He was good, even outstanding, as a doctor. I could even believe him when he revealed at his consulting room door that he was an Eagles fan. But when he turned up at a game IN FACE PAINT, I'm afraid it was the point at which I decided, once and for all, that the film had no hope of redemption.
I read somewhere that Sydney Pollack had agreed to make this film but died before he could get started; and that he had said that it would be a very difficult film because if its mixture of styles. Pollack was a master and he could have done it, I think, but it would have been a shorter film and one from which many ingredients had been deleted. The film ended up being made by the person who wrote the screenplay, and one can't help thinking that he lacked the objectivity to see the glaring faults in the screen play and jettison or fix them.
The one person I except from criticism is Jackie Weaver. Her part was very small and her character had the huge virtue of being consistent throughout. I thought she did a very good job as the loving mother at the end of her tether.
The Ides of March (2011)
Sorry, but this one clunked from beginning to end.
Let's start with the plot. Idealistic staffer for presidential candidate is tempted to the other side. Then a silly girl suicides because her lover, the candidate, disappoints her. One is tempted to ask what she expected, especially as she's from a political family and is also a staffer for the same candidate: hasn't she heard of Monica? Then candidate denies having known her, to the great disappointment of Mr Idealist. Again, what did he expect?
Acting? It's OK, but I never found myself caring for a single moment what happened to any of the characters, not Mr Idealist, not the silly girl, and certainly not presidential candidate Clooney, whose only policy seemed to be some ridiculous waffle about renewable energy.
I was bored about two minutes after this started and it never got any better. Just totally unconvincing from beginning to end.
La fée (2011)
To tell the truth, I only saw the second half of this film. It was on cable TV and I flicked onto it. I almost turned it off straight away, but while my finger was hovering over the button I found, to my surprise, that I was smiling; and then, to my even greater surprise, I laughed out loud.
I'm not generally a fan of French comedies. Far to many of them seem to think that it's funny to watch people shouting at each other as a result of some ridiculous misunderstanding. But occasionally there's one that's less aggressive, more subtle, and this is one of them. "Subtle" is probably not a word that would normally be used to describe the purely visual and physical humour of this film, but for me there was subtlety in the way the physical contortions of the two lead characters were performed without flamboyance or theatricality, and used to create situations that were totally unexpected.
Although not generally a fan of French comedies, I am certainly a fan of French cinema in general. One of the reasons for that is its ability to produce the occasional offbeat gem, like this one. It's funny, it's innocent and it's warm-hearted. I liked it a lot.
Naked women can be boring
I wouldn't have believed it, but it's true.
Beautiful naked women parade around the screen for just over two hours. And yet it is just plain tedious.
Nothing happens in this film. It's unrelievedly gloomy, the girls are all depressed, none of them like sex, and the men all want to do bizarre things with them.
We don't learn much about many of the girls.
We learn little or nothing about the legal or social system in which the maison close operated, i.e., what was legal and what was not.
I really do not understand what the point of the film was.
Paperback Hero (1999)
Sweet and simple
Sometimes it's good to watch a film that tells a simple story well, has characters who are all decent human beings, has actors who play those characters straightforwardly and sympathetically, and doesn't take itself too seriously. This is one of those films.
Australia has only a small film industry by world standards, and it suffers from the fact that when anyone of real talent emerges, he or she is invariably whisked off to the dollars of Hollywood very rapidly, so that most of our best people, not only actors but directors and all the others who work to make a film, don't make films in Australia. It's therefore a welcome surprise when an Australian film turns out to be good. One very common problem is the lack of good screenplays: most of them have fundamental problems of structure, and nearly all of them have not been developed sufficiently. This one's a good one. The idea of a truck driver writing Mills and Boon romances is interesting in itself; the enlisting of a local girl to "front" for the real author is a predictable but acceptable nest step: and the romance that slowly but surely emerges out of the background to take over towards the end is also predictable but very nicely and gently done.
The film didn't make much of a public stir when it was released, in fact I don't recall it in cinemas at all. It comes up every now and again on TV, and it's much underrated. It also deserves a much higher user rating than its current 6.1. Perhaps it's the lack of pretension itself that leads viewers to mark it down.
If you're looking at IMDb wondering whether to bother with this film, then my suggestion is to bother. It won't change your world, but it will amuse you and leave you feeling happy.
Random Hearts (1999)
I decided to watch this on cable because it was made by Sydney Pollack and stars Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott-Thomas.
I wish I hadn't. Or perhaps I wish I'd known something about who the writers were. Because this was about as bad as a Hollywood movie can get. Every cliché you can think of, and all of them put in the most obvious places.I can sort of see how it managed to attract the sort of money that's needed to make a Hollywood movie with that sort of star power, because if you take the elements one by one, all of them would sound OK. It's just that they were put together in a manner that makes no sense whatsoever.
It's a waste of 131 minutes.
Absolute Power (1997)
First the plusses. It's watchable. The plot moves smartly and the viewer can understand what's going on. That's about it for the plusses.
The biggest minus is the absolute predictability. I saw this on cable with my wife (there being nothing better on at the time), and we missed the opening scene in which the murder occurs. After we'd been watching for about ten minutes I said to her, "You know, I don't think Clint committed the murder and I think all those nasty CIA guys are going to end up dead." She replied, "And I don't think the estranged daughter is going to remain estranged."
That's Hollywood, I guess. It wouldn't do to have the bad guys winning.
I think the thing that most disappointed me about this particular effort from Clint was that he was supposed to be a master of disguise, and we saw him in about half a dozen different disguises, but in every single one of them he was instantly recognizable as good old Clint.
Angèle et Tony (2010)
I was hoping this film would be good and I wasn't at all disappointed. It was lovely.
I saw Clotilde Hesme in Le fils de l'épicier, another little charmer. Her smile lit up the screen in that one, and it does the same in this one. She's an excellent actress. The acting is all good, actually.
The story is simple, and predictable enough if you want to predict things, but it's very nicely told, with delightful understatement and restraint. The film is beautifully photographed, again with great restraint, so that the beauty of the northern sea and sky and the pale and subtle colours of the landscape are allowed to emerge and speak for themselves.
The film doesn't pretend to be anything more than a simple romance. It certainly doesn't pretend to be great. But it is in fact very good.