Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Jing Guo (2004)
Lots of nice things about this film: the actors, mainly, the filming and the unusual subject. It's always risky attacking a theme such as unrequited love and a fascination with ancient art in this day and age. The director takes the time to set up the various plots, showing us their lives in little glimpses.
But where the movie falls down for me is in the overall picture it builds up. I can take the slow pace, but would have preferred that it go somewhere a bit more well defined. It might be me, but I left the cinema wondering what the exact relationship was between the two main characters. The best guess would be brother and sister - but there are others. Also, the relationship with the grandfather figure is not really developed.
Still, if you have the time, it's enjoyable for the two main characters and the overall mood.
Viva Laldjérie (2004)
I'd love to love this movie, but...
This is the type of film that I would love to love. The cast are remarkable - Lubna Azabal and the actress that plays her mother in particular. The subject is a complete reversal of what one would expect of Algeria. It's also a film with very strong female roles. So in theory, everything is in place to make an explosive combination.
So why does it drag so much? "Viva" is curiously dispassionate, despite the best efforts of the cast. Longish midrange shots film the actor's movements, without letting us get into their heads. We understand what they are doing and why, without really becoming involved.
With a firmer hand, this could have been an explosive story, à la Almodovar. As it is, I get the feeling it's a great script and cast being put through the motions.
I also have to add a word about the highly distracting plinkety-plonk piano music that adds to the lethargic direction. I presume the director wanted to avoid Arabic music to avoid clichés. But puh-lease! This sounds like a low-budget auteur chamber soundtrack when what was needed was something to drive us towards the next scene.
Banlieue 13 (2004)
Good fun, but...
...whatever happened to the director of "Leon"? "Banlieue 13" is a lightweight re-run of "Escape From New York". Fast, stylish, loud; it has everything in it to become an action classic - except a script.
The two main actors try their best with the clunky dialogues, but "Banlieue 13" digs itself into a mid-range B series far too quickly. First-time director Morel seems to be more comfortable planning the (stunning) chase sequences rather than talking to actors, as the second roles in particular are not too sure if they're playing in a parody or not.
So the spectator is brought from a chase to a fight to another chase without being bogged down by character portrayal or plausibility. The snappy editing skillfully skips past the numerous plot holes.
But at the the end of the day, we wonder how the maker of "Leon" could conceive of co-writing as cartoonish as "Banlieue 13".
Beautiful Boxer (2004)
A remarkable film at every level
The degree of sensitivity shown in this film is remarkable. It works as a fight movie, but is probably even more effective in portraying the incredible personal path of the protagonist. It's hard not to come to the same conclusion at the end of the film (not a spoiler, you'll see). So "Beautiful Boxer" manages to get us inside the head of the protagonist - difficult at the best of times and even more remarkable in this case.
Excellent performances all round from the cast, and a stunning debut from the young director.
By the way, the international version is considerably longer than the original Thai movie.
Au-delà de Gibraltar (2001)
I'd love to love this one, but...
I really would love to throw a ten-star to this one, as it has a brilliant feel to it. Basically, it follows a young Belgian of Moroccan origin as he tries unsuccessfully to find a place in society. Neither totally Arabic nor European, he falls for a cute Belgian girl and watches his friends spin out of control. It's a heartfelt portrayal of life for second-generation immigrants that many people can relate to.
Unfortunately, the directors chose mostly non-professional actors. At times (the family scenes) it works really well. Even the cops are real cops, apparently. But a lot of weight is being put on amateur shoulders in the more dramatic scenes, and I even found it hard following what the lead actor (the striking Mourad Maimuni) was saying.
So the overall feeling is one of vague disappointment. Good looking, perceptive, "real" but curiously lacking in impact.
Warts and all, but I really enjoyed this
Beautifully-filmed road movie with long musical sequences. The tale of two losers that hit the road to reach Algeria from Paris is peppered with vibrant musical interludes that echo their journey back to their roots, from nose-bleed techno, through passionate flamenco to raw Algerian trance. Once they get there, Gatlif loses his hand a little by not concluding the story. Naima is portrayed as a loose cannon throughout the movie, with hints to her past and a huge question mark over her future. Neither of these is I think is answered conclusively. On a sidenote, is this not one of the most explosive women on screen since "Betty Blue"?
But a pretty entertaining tale very well played by the two lead actors, Lubna Azabal and Romain Duris.
One from the Heart (1982)
Stunning, charming, real and rhinestone all at once
To enjoy "One From the Heart", it might help to have been brought up on musical re-runs. Coppola takes a cheesy genre, accentuates the fake and unreal and uses the most ordinary "real" actors he can find.
This combination of pure fantasy and recognisable characters drives the story. This pretty boring almost middle-aged couple re offered a last shot of romance and glamour - and dive into it headlong. Tom Waits' incredible songs add a brilliant running commentary.
And then there is the visual side, a smorgasbord of lush effects and glaring colors. Like so many movies, "One From the Heart" runs best on a movie screen, rather than a TV. The trailers I've seen don't do justice to this oddball combination of corn and touching emotion.
So you'll just have to see it and make up your own mind.