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Midnight in Paris (2011)
Midnight In Paris
Midnight In Paris follows a young writer in a visit to Paris with his fiancée where he travels all nights ninety years back in time to get advise and friendship from the literary geniuses of the time. Yes, it's another film from Woody Allen, but this time is not as routinary as You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger or as cheeky as Vicky Cristina Barcelona. This shows Woody Allen at the standard he should be at every year. Original, funny, engaging and with some light meaningful message that we all relate to; what else can you ask from a film?
The colors and cinematography of the film are more of the same of the post-Barcelona Allen, all beige and brownish, but he achieves a beauty in his portrayal of Paris that has not come from him since he first visited London with Match Point in 2005. It's also the most original screenplay he has written since, and the plot works and looks like one of his short stories, as a crazy, illogic and absurd showcase of gags and jokes.
The performances are all fine, nothing stellar though, except for Adrien Brody's magnificent role as Salvador Dalí. Owen Wilson does a very good job but he tries too much to be and act like Woody Allen. The impersonations are all great -Hemingway,Picasso, Buñuel, Fitzgerald- they all look exactly the same than in real life.
This is a film that will surely not disappoint any moviegoer or Allen fan. It's true that it doesn't come close to other of his better films, but it is a step forward from Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Cassandra's Dream, You Will Meet... and even Scoop and Whatever Works. Still, if you want to enjoy some true Woody Allen, go and see Annie Hall, Hannah And Her Sisters, Crimes And Misdemeanors, etc. This is not anything brilliant, but it is very entertaining, amusing and original; and it its a great time spent at the movies.
Midnight In Paris is a surreal and touristic romantic comedy with clever comical gags, a creative story and a beautiful portrayal of the City of Lights.
Catfish follows a young photographer whose Internet relationships with an eight year old girl who paints pictures inspired in his photographs, her nine-teen years old sister and their good-looking mother involves him in an identity mystery, always accompanied by both his brother and another friend who continuously film the whole experience. Despite its interesting and thought-provoking messages about loneliness, the pursuit of happiness and Internet relations, the first thing that popped up and surprised me is that we can't say if the story, the characters and the situations developing on screen are real or not. Even before starting to see the film, we are convinced it is a mockumentary, a false documentary; but as the film develops and our characters develop and finally expose themselves completely to us we can't help but notice it's all too human to be fake. It would take a genius screenwriter to have scripted what goes on on a character's mind whose name I won't spoil.
As I said before, the film also makes statements about loneliness and the ways of achieving happiness while feeling lonely, a matter in which the film expresses itself very clearly and that ultimately reduces itself to what Roger Ebert wrote: ''We deserve to share happiness in this world, and if we supply it in the way it's sought and nobody gets hurt, is that a bad thing?'' It's very difficult to talk about these themes of the film without revealing its main plot mystery, which is what ultimately makes the film an engaging and very entertaining one.
As for the technical aspect of the film, the hand-held camera is quite irritating towards the beginning of the film, but as the plot develops this becomes a very minor complaint as our interest and attention is solely in the film's story and characters rather in how they are presented. The editing is fast moving and the inter-cuts of computer inserts and Facebook images at the pace of the music are done effectively. I found myself rather frustrated and disturbed as I didn't find the note on the credits saying that all characters and plots are fictional, which appears on all films and false documentaries, and it just made the film's message hit me on a gut level as I actually thought that these people exist, and that such ordinary people are capable of these (seemingly) not ordinary things.
Catfish is an identity mystery - character study documentary with thought-provoking themes, and engaging and moving plot and a disturbing reality.
Prénom Carmen (1983)
Prénom: Carmen follows a young woman as she falls in love with a security guard who works at a bank she and her friends rob. Hiding in a house near the sea, they share a love that is marked by the impossibility of it to be. The film has some wonderful images, music and scenes, but my main problem with it is that I don't know who these characters are, I never connect with them. We have a truly beautiful love story in front of us, but one that feels really empty and rather forced.
A scene that had the potential to be heartbreaking (the scene with the television) remains as a rather laughable and pretentious one. This isn't the actors' fault, actually the performances are excellent, mostly Maruschka Detmers' as Carmen, but it is Godard's fault for not deepening at all in the characters. They come together, they break up, they try to return, but I don't care whether they end up together or not.
The film though has some wonderful recurring images, mostly the string quartet that plays Beethoven often softly often aggressively as the relationship goes through different stages. Two trains cross each other coming from different directions when the lovers come together or apart and constant images of the waves at the sea are also some other recurring scenes. All these images are extremely beautiful, as are all the angles from the normal scenes of the film. The lights are all very carefully thought of and the film, despite its slight pretentiousness and the little interest we have for its characters, manages to be very entertaining and has a hilarious bank robbery scene. Godard also appears as probably the most interesting character. He plays himself and lives in a mental hospital for being the only completely sincere person in the film and doing and saying whatever he wants all the time.
Prénom: Carmen is a surreal impossible love story with wonderful performances and direction, an engaging soundtrack and a love story we don't care about.
Chico & Rita (2010)
Chico & Rita
Chico & Rita follows Chico, an old and retired Cuban pianist, as he remembers his impossible love with a jazz singer called Rita and his rise and fall as a music performer. Having taken four years to make, Chico & Rita is first and foremost visually mind-blowing. Its animation is as nothing you have seen before and the cinematography, the lights, the angles, the music, just everything related to the technical aspect of this film is absolutely perfect.
But what's best and most refreshing about this film is its old-fashioned love story. In a time where all romantic films try to be as realistic as possible, it seems unthinkable to watch a relationship like this unfold on screen. Following a bolero-like structure, the main characters fall in love as easily as they fall apart, but they never forget each other, having an outdated loyalty that is deserving of such all-time classics as Casablanca or Gone With The Wind, and ending in the brilliant and moving bittersweet final scene.
Jazz music plays a main role in the film and gets to be the third character in what we could call a love triangle between the jazz, Chico and Rita. The two title characters are extremely talented musicians that are sometimes in the position of having to choose between their lover or their musical success and fame. Real jazz performers, such as Charlie Parker or Tito Puente get enjoyable cameos in the film and, practically, all the performances in the film are very delightful and entertaining.
Although the film has some minor elements that prevents it from being a masterpiece, like the appearance near the end of Estrella Morente, they are so insignificant compared to the whole of the film that Chico & Rita is still an exceptional film appealing to an extremely large audience.
Chico & Rita is an animated old-fashioned musical romance with a highly original aesthetic, a both refreshing and outdated love story and sublime original and adapted music.
À bout de souffle (1960)
À Bout De Soufflé
À Bout De Soufflé follows Michel Poiccard, a car thief that goes by the name of Laszlo Kovacs, in his relationship with an American girl in Paris, as he escapes from the police and tries to get the money a friend owes him. Regarded as one of the most important and influential films in history, it has its fame well achieved. In the same year that William Wyler shot Ben-Hur, Jean-Luc Godard invented modern cinema with ingenious angles, hand-held camera, jump cuts, natural dialogue and an emphasis in the relationships between the characters more than in the actual plot.
Godard takes a typical film noir plot to criticize both the amorality of his generation and the obsession of many young people to be like their heroes of the screen. Although the film is a landmark and a symbol of French cinema, the theme of the couple escaping from justice is now seen as a cliché of American cinema. Actually, the whole film has some American feel to it, and that's the proof of its gigantic influence.
Aside of all of its artistic genius, the film is also surprisingly entertaining and appealing to a conventional audience. There is a sequence that lasts for thirty five minutes in which they're basically talking in bed, and this scene plays of with engaging and natural dialogue and overall feels like just ten minutes have passed, and by looking at the ending and all the dialogues in the film it seems to me highly improbable that this film was made without and actual written script (as the legend says).
The performances, especially from Jean Seberg, are excellent and she is both adorable and despicable, while Jean-Paul Belmondo gives his most iconic character a true and realistic feel.
À Bout De Soufflé is a relationship-based film noir with groundbreaking direction and editing, fascinating dialogues, highly influential performances both in and outside the film and it is a masterpiece from Jean-Luc Godard.
Détective follows two parallel stories happening in the same hotel in Paris. One tells the story of a detective who sleeps in a room where a mysterious character named 'the Prince' was killed and he is positive on solving the case; meanwhile a wrestling trainer tries to pay his debts to the mafia. The film is deliberately incomprehensible though very entertaining for film noir lovers and occasionally funny.
What is best in the film is the marvelous direction from Godard, who returns to a filmmaking that is more reminiscent of his 60's work than anything that came after this film, paying a homage to film noir as he did twenty years before to B-movies with Alphaville, although less successfully here. The camera doesn't move in this film and the shots are all very nicely done.
As for what the story regards, the script offers an engaging story that starts off a bit too slowly and an interesting character (a shame it's only one) who has to deal with some more compelling relationships as Nathalie Baye's character is caught between two men. The film has some of those Godardian undescriptible scenes to which you laugh or have feelings to without quite knowing how do they fit into a whole.
On the downhill, we have a film that actually gives no depth to their characters (except for Baye's) and whose satirical tones aren't as strong as you would expect. It has that pretentiousness that Godard usually manages to hide in his other movies and the whole film at the end feels as a mere direction exercise from his part, but if it was just a direction exercise, it is a great one.
Détective is a satirical film-noir with a fantastic direction, cinematography and editing, some witty scenes and a refreshing unresolved mystery.
Alphaville, Une Étrange Aventure De Lemmy Caution
Alphaville, Une Étrage Aventure De Lemmy Caution follows a film noir detective called Lemmy Caution in his visit to Alphaville, the capital of an outer galaxy. His mission is to bring back to Earth a scientist who has created a supercomputer named Alpha 60, whose function is to control Alphaville becoming their leader in a 1984-esque way. Meanwhile, Lemmy has a relationship with a so-called seductress who doesn't know what love is.
Alphaville, as most of Godard's films, can be viewed from different perspectives. It can be seen either as a meta-cinematic satire of everything it touches, sci-fi, film noir, 1984, James Bond or 1950's B-movies, but it can also be seen as Godard's serious take at a near future, where everything is sterilized and unemotional, where people have forgotten what true emotions are and it is forbidden to cry or express these feelings.
Regardless of what Godard was trying to achieve, I find a more enjoying experience thinking it is a mixture of both. The ridiculousness of all the first half of the film, where we see a car as a spaceship or an ordinary phone booth as an intergalactic communication device, can only lead to chuckles and laughs, while in the second half, as it turns to a more serious direction, we start having feelings and even claustrophobia for out main character, ending in a genius, optimistic, yet emotional way.
Alphaville,Une Étrange Aventure De Lemmy Caution is a satirical science-fiction B-movie with a top-notch direction and cinematography and excellent performances by Eddie Constantine and Godard's muse Anna Karina.
Les Vacances De Monsieur Hulot
Les Vacances De Monsieur Hulot is the first in one of the most recognizable sagas in French cinema (preceding Mon Oncle, Play Time and Trafic in the Hulot series). The movie follows m. Hulot through sometimes thoughtful, sometimes easy visual jokes while he is on holiday at the beach town of Saint Sévère. The film doesn't really have a plot or a beginning, middle and end, or any major event that catalysts the story or that even moves it forwards. Aside from when Hulot arrives and leaves the town, everything consists of sketches and sketches of unspoken hilariousness.
Despite the first traces of the visual genius that Tati would later become and his obvious ability to do meaningful flawless comedy (as with Mon Oncle and Play Time), we here have some sketches that are trying far too hardly to make us laugh (as when Tati dresses a s pirate or plays tennis), but places them intelligently between the best jokes the film has, some of them that still remain as classics (like the old couple picking up seashells or the funeral scene). What we can also notice in this film is the absence of a central idea or anything that Tati tries to tell us here, which for me would be alright in any other normal comedy, but I personally expected more out of Tati, having seen the anti-technologist and anti-modernist pieces Mon Oncle and, especially, Play Time.
Les Vacances De Monsieur Hulot is a sketch-based holiday-themed visual comedy with a traditional yet sometimes clever direction, an Oscar nominated funny screenplay and an extremely hilarious soundtrack that consists only of one song played over and over again.