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Well, I didn't see that coming!
So here's a bit of background on how I came to see this movie. As you probably know, this is the original French film, that was then remade (quelle surprise) by Hollywood as Wicker Park. Well I avoided that movie like the plague when it was first released, simply because, a) I knew it had absolutely nothing to do with Wicker Park, and living in Chicago, I didn't see why they called it that - it was filmed in fricking Canada for a start! - b) I have a very hard time bothering with pointless remakes, done purely because Hollywood thinks we're too bone idle to read a few subtitles (I am dreading the remake of Infernal Affairs by the way) and c) I can't stand Josh Hartnett, 'nuff said there.
However, I came across WP on TV the other day, probably about half an hour in, and I have to say initially, it made no sense at all, until about half an hour from the end, when it started coming together. By the end, I was really surprised to find myself really into it, and then the ending just seemed so good - a perfect combination of story, passion and ending with possibly one of the greatest musical choices I've ever seen (heard??).
Since then I've heard a lot about the L'Appartement vs. Wicker Park argument and looking at WP, I still say it has bugger all to do with Chicago, but there seemed something about it that I liked, so when it was on again, I watched it again - unfortunately, still missing the first chunk (I've still yet to see it!), and I still thought it was pretty good. Heck, even Josh Hartnett seemed good! But I was curious about L'Appartement and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So I waited and waited to catch l'Appartement somewhere somehow. Netflix let me down, so I ended up getting a copy from some website in Ireland. And I've just watched it.
It's really kind of weird, but a good weird. A classic French film. Great acting, Romane Bohringer is an absolute gem - sorry, but she acts Monica Bellucci off the screen in every scene. Vincent Cassel was a weird choice for the lead but by the end he works. And I've seen Jean-Philippe Ecoffey in a lot of movies and I just love him - the scene where Alice dumps him in the restaurant and he just looks like someone's told him his puppy's been run over was excruciating! But, I can honestly say, having seen WP and pretty much expecting that to have been a scene for scene copy (as about 75% of the rest of the movie had been - maybe in a different order, but come on, the scene with the coffee in the glasses?? Word for word!!), you can imagine my surprise when I watched the ending of L'Appartement!! I can literally say I was blown away - hmm, a bit like poor old Lucien was through the cafe window really! So, be prepared, if you've seen Wicker Park and you fancy taking a look at the original like I did, do not make the mistake of expecting an identical movie, because you'll either be disappointed, or exhilarated at a piece of French movie history - a prime example of how you can watch a movie, think you're going to watch a pithy happy ending, and get whiplash from the total spin in the opposite direction right at the end. Definitely catch this movie. Oh and while you're at, maybe not too near the same time, but down the road, take a look at Wicker Park, it'll surprise you too.
9 Songs (2004)
Actually pretty thought-provoking
This film has had a lot of criticism and a lot of controversy because of its explicit nature. I have to admit I was both in intrigued by it and hesitant to watch it because of that. But the idea of movie actually showing sex as it is and how it can continue in the atmosphere of a relationship as it breaks down finally won me over. And I have to say, I enjoyed this movie. To me, it's not at all pretentious, because it's charting a man's memories of a very important time in his life, and how even in a desolate and isolated environment as the Antarctic, he can visualise that time, and how he felt. We don't know when it happened, although you can guess from the music, but this could be a memory from years ago. He could be married now. They could be married now. You don't know, which is part of the beauty of the film. We all have memories, and they can hit us at the most unexpected moment. And it's not just about the sex, it's about the music too. If you think about it, he's remembering the music as much as he's remembering the sex. The impression I got from this film was that it was charting how one person's view of a relationship can be totally different from their partner's view. Think about it, how often have you've been in a relationship only to find out your so-called partner thinks you're only casually dating? There were a lot of hints to this in the movie. To Lisa, it was a very physical relationship. To Matt, it was more than that, it was love. He wanted to do all the things that boyfriends and girlfriends do. Make dinner for her, take her away for the weekend, go to gigs. He even wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving for her. For Lisa, that wasn't what she wanted, she was wanting a partner in life's events, not life itself. So when she feels it's time to leave, it isn't a big deal to her, and that's clear from how she acts when she tells him she's leaving, he's angry and hurt, but her instinct is to take him to bed. So, give it a try. Anyone who's been in a unbalanced relationship, will recognise these characters. Oh and as for the sex? Is this just porn or not? No, it definitely isn't, but it's a very highly charged erotic movie, so you probably don't want to go watching it with your parents!
Light and fluffy as only the French know how
If you don't expect too much other than an enjoyable care-free 90 minutes, Housewarming will deliver in bucket loads. The basic premise is a single mum cum lawyer cum human rights activist who works so hard she ignores how dilapidated her apartment is until her mother suggests she should take advantage of her now departed squatters in the upstairs apartment and do some renovating. She hires a rather dubious Colombian architect to do the designs and he in turn hires some equally dubious Colombian builders. What can go wrong, does go wrong, with walls falling down, baths being cracked, fires burning, dodgy electric wiring, etc, but the whole way through Chantal (the ever charming, ever gorgeous Carole Bouquet) just about manages to hold on to her sanity, even when trying to dodge the amorous businessman she saves from prison at the beginning.
The film is an absolute riot, and in case you think it's a complete farce, it also touches on the increasing problem of illegal immigrants in Paris and how badly treated they are. Don't let that put you off though, this is a real gem of a movie.
Bang Bang Orangutang (2005)
One of the most depressing films ever made.
Firstly, this film has such a misleading title, that judging by the audience around me, I wasn't the only one expecting this to be a funny typically Swedish satire on middle class society and sex. Adding to this, the still of two naked women with whips and a man in a gorilla suit, as the PR for the film, you can also see how it was easy to make that mistake. Was this deliberate on the part of the producers because they knew that no one would actually go and see this film if they knew beforehand what they could expect?
The premise of the story is a that a workaholic family man is too busy chatting on his phone as he drives home, to see his young son coming running towards him to greet him. The unfolding tragedy of the man, running over his son, being disowned by his entire family, including his wife, losing his home, his job, and ending up driving a taxi that he also sleeps in, and then mistaking a young woman's pity as love, is just about the most depressing example of how a life can go so seriously wrong, I can't think of another movie I've seen that was quite such a mood-killer.
The film was listed as a comedy. Er no. It isn't. And the attempts at humour are so heavy- handed, they fail miserably. Yes, the man in the gorilla suit does appear, he's a passenger in the taxi, but it's just too out there to really make any logical sense - let's stick a man in a gorilla suit in the frame, it'll make people laugh. This isn't a film where you should laugh. It's a film, where you walk away and want to punch someone!
The Dirty Monks (2004)
Herr Vittles is a bad ass!
Ace buddy movie, especially considering this is a true indie - you know how it is, Indies are usually too high-brow for a buddy movie, there has to be angst and tears and dead parents and all that depression. No, this is great because you get poop jokes and crazy store gangsters and conspiracy theories, without feeling like you're being sucked dry of all humanity like a Bruckheimer monstrosity. Definitely worth a view for the great cast who really seem like they've been the best of friends since grade school, and it'll definitely get you wondering what ever happened to the tee-peers from high school. Oh and whether your oven is really as clean as you think it is!