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Sara and David were already a hundred years old and the great disappointment of their lives was that they had had no children. God was moved by their distress and said to them in his typical big booming voice 'Don't worry, I will give you an heir'. How did the future parents react? Did they kneel down in adoration? No, they burst out laughing at the incongruity of the situation. An early - and characteristic - display of Jewish humor. And, according to Gérard and Stephan Rabinovich, the authors of this excellent TV documentary, an epitome of this unique form of derision. Jews have a knack for making fun of their community in general and of themselves in particular. What makes Sara and David laugh is to picture themselves becoming YOUNG parents at an age where they should be GREAT-GREAT GRANPARENTS! God's miracle is only secondary to them at this moment : they just see the ridiculousness of the situation. In " Isaac's Smile ", a succession of guests (filmed in Paris, New York or Israel) try to analyze or define the notion of Jewish humor while others are content to tell - hilarious - Jewish jokes. And to add pleasure to pleasure, the whole thing is interspersed by clips from movies and TV shows featuring kings of laughter like Woody Allen, Jerry Lewis, The Marx Brothers and many others. If you have a sense of humor and are not afraid to laugh at yourself or to deal with serious or tragic subjects with a smile, this well-made rich documentary is for you.
Jean-Paul Rouve is a funny fellow. It has been known for a fact since 1996 when, in association with his friends Pef, Marina Foïs, Maurice Barthélémy, Pascal Vincent and Elise Larnicol, he founded Les Robins des Bois, a comedy troupe famous for their taste for nonsense and their unique way of ridiculing dick-heads and bullshitting. But it is a long time since he has shown he can play something else than Monsieur Van de Velde, the alcoholic soccer fan of "Les Robins". Just remember his first remarkable feat, the loathsome collaborationist Pierre-Jean Lamour in Gérard Jugnot's memorable " Monsieur Batignole " (2002). And - to name only two other roles - the farmer-adoptive father in "Le temps des porte-plumes" or the scruffy crime novel writer haunted by the image of a Marilyn Monroe-like dead girl in " Poupoupidou ". But acting in various registers obviously did not suffice to satisfy Rouve's hyper creativity. Directing pictures (and - of course - playing in them) soon became a necessity: since 2007, he has already managed to make three films, each very different from the other: " Sans armes, ni haine, ni violence ", an action movie about the legendary bank robber Albert Spaggiari, " Quand je serai petit " (2012), a fantastic tale in which his hero (himself?) makes friends with a little boy looking very much like him when he was a child. His latest effort is the newly released (December 2014) " Les souvenirs ", a sensitive evocation of old age co-adapted with David Foenkinos, the author of the novel of the same name. The story (a young adult getting closer to his grandmother whereas his own father and his two uncles prove unable to deal with her with humanity) could easily have given rise to a low grade tearjerker. Luckily, it is far from being the case as Jean-Paul Rouve always finds the right tone, neither too depressing (although " Les souvenirs" is about such grave issues as making lifestyle choices, the purpose of life, old age, retirement, death...) nor too feel-good (yes there is tenderness, love and humor, but always with the appropriate dose of moderation). The result is a touching chronicle examining the difficulties of no fewer than three generations (finding one's way in life for young Romain ; coming to terms with entering into old age and retirement for Michel ; going through one's last days with dignity for Madeleine). Jean-Paul Rouve directs with a steady hand but without showing off. He gets beautiful images from cinematographer Christophe Offenstein (Etretat and its cliffs do inspire the two men), a beautiful score from Alexis Rault and above all fine performances from a wonderful cast : Michel Blanc (petty, pathetic and occasionally obnoxious), Annie Cordy (her restrained acting making her role particularly moving), Chantal Lauby (for once not at all in the register of caricature), William Lebghil (hilarious) and beginner Mathieu Spinosi (very natural and appealing as the young man). Another actor should be noted, Daniel Morin, usually a specialist of saucy jokes on the France Inter radio channel ; in "Les souvenirs" he embodies... Destiny itself. In two scenes set in the shop of a gas station, he guides, as solemn as a judge, two of the characters towards a better life. A remarkable against-type performance. Rouve has undeniably become as eclectic and talented a director as he is an actor. And you will have understood that "Les souvenirs" is highly recommended by this writer.
" Return to Ithaca ", Laurent Cantet's last film to date is about the
lost illusions of a group of Cubans who once believed in Revolution and
in a fairer society. Back in 1994, that is exactly twenty years before,
Cantet, fresh from graduating from the FEMIS film school, shot his
first film, a short titled " Tous à la manif " (Come One, All To The
March!). And what do you find in this first film ? A group of
intellectuals (just like in " Ithaca") ; and among the members of the
two groups, a blue collar (Serge, the young waiter in the short and
Aldo, a factory worker in the feature) ; idealism (the high school
students of " Tous à la manif " strike and demonstrate to prevent the
French educational system from deteriorating while the Cuban friends
once wished to make their country an egalitarian place). The major
difference is that in two decades the world has turned and has become
even more unjust and ruthless. Cantet, himself, twenty years older, has
become more disenchanted, although the gap between who he was in '94
and who he is now is a little less abysmal than the disillusion
experienced by the Cubans of " Ithaca ", his own vision of the 1994
student protest being far from beatific. For if the director does feel
sympathy for his characters, the way he depicts them is not without
irony (the three girls more interested about the experience of sex one
of them has just gone through than in the cause they are supposed to
defend ; one of leaders of the movement stating that he goes on strike
because everybody else does and rejoicing over the holidays the strike
is synonymous with). What would these students say to each other of
they met again in 2015, this could be for Cantet the subject if another
"Return to Ithaca", French-made this time. Be it as it may, the
thematic continuity is undeniable and putting the two films in
perspective is a plus. A plus but not a necessity as "Tous à la manif"
stands alone very well.
What is fine about this short is that it is played by amateurs the director has managed to make natural despite the camera : as a matter of fact, it does not suffice that the protagonists are genuine high school students in real life, you must BELIEVE THEY ARE in the fiction. And YOU DO, not such an easy thing to accomplish. Another good point of his short, besides being a testimony of its time, is that it avoids the boredom militant films often generate: there are slogans of course but the up in arms side is only part of a whole, more incarnate and more critical. The demonstration of the title is indeed not the central subject of the movie; it may even be considered as nothing more than a backdrop against which a more intimate "revolution" unfurls, the attempt by a teenager to emancipate himself from his father's tutelage. Will Serge manage to become a free man, able to choose his own way, is what is primarily at stake and constitutes the true suspense in Laurent Cantet's opus one.
You will certainly appreciate this portrait of France in the year 1994. Seen through the small end of the telescope of course but aren't some modest chronicles more telltale than a lot of phony epics? As for those who have seen " Return to Ithaca ", their pleasure will be doubled by the perspective on the two films and its common themes: idealism versus reality; idealism, a giant with feet of clay. Which does not spoil anything, does it?
Lucie Borleteau's first feature-length movie is a strange one. It has an interesting premise (few are the movies that revolve around a woman... working as an engineer on a freighter) but its development is - to say the least - surprising. You might expect a documentary on the theme : 'the everyday life and working conditions of a female worker on a merchant ship' or a sociological study dealing with the point 'how does an insert element manage to fit into an a priori unfriendly universe?' And - to be fair - there are elements of the response to both questions. On the documentary side, the cargo ship Fidélio on which most scenes take place is a real one and it shows. As a consequence everything rings true, from the sorry state of the antiquated freighter to the engine room operations to the superstitious Filipino crew members, to the wild sprees ashore. As for the study of what it is like to be a woman in a male-dominated environment, the result is only fairly convincing : this is probably due to the fact that Alice is seen in too many scenes in which she thinks of love, yearns for sex or actually makes love and in not enough where she carries out her engineer's job. And when she IS doing so, she appears too beautiful, too well-groomed and her hands are just about greasy enough. Of course it is Lucie Borleteau's choice to show that a woman, whether working in an engine room or not, will be a woman (which I perfectly understand), but it seems to me her film would have been better if she had found a more adapted balance between the intimate and the documentary sequences. On the whole, though, "Fidelio, l'odyssée d'Alice" remains quite a watchable film. First of all because it may be the first (or if is not, one of the first) fiction movies on its theme - and this is no small thing. In addition, even if more could have been shown about Alice's trade, the relationships between the various member of the crew are well observed and well captured in this aptly-made drama. Another asset of 'Fidélio' is its fine cast consisting either of professionals (in particular the classy Ariane Labed as Alice the free woman and the sensitive Anders Danielsen Lie as Felix, the young lover she has left behind) or of real-life seamen who play themselves in a very realistic way. All in all, a voyage you can embark on provided you don't mind a significant part of its running time being devoted to its main character's sentimental pangs or graphic lovemaking.
As a starting point, let us say that "Return to Ithaca" is not a movie
that will please all audiences. This new film by Laurent Cantet ("Human
Resources", "The Class") certainly does not offer a spate of
spectacular, violent or erotic scenes. Moreover, it is spoken in
Spanish and does not exist in dubbed version. Its target is obviously
not the general public, consequently total fans of blockbusters or any
other type of light entertainment fare should avoid this one. For if
you do not get into the film, you are bound to get awfully bored. But
if you know a minimum about Cuba's recent history and - mainly - about
human relationships, "Return to Ithaca" will not only satisfy you but
will end up enthusing you as it is true that in the two fields
mentioned it is a masterful achievement. More generally speaking, you
will remember "Ithaca" as a particularly rewarding experience given its
amazing capacity to work on different levels (narrative, technical,
psychological, historical, sociological) at any second of its running
time, leaving you in the end with a single wish, to see it again.
One of the few criticisms made to the film is its theatrical form, giving rise to the usual (or should I say inescapable) derogatory term of "filmed play". One can wonder why the locution appears under the critic's pen as soon as there is unity of time, place and action or when the director has dared adapt a stage play ? As if cinema and theater were mutually exclusive! Don't some filmed plays contain more "cinema" than certain movies in wide screen changing settings - natural or artificial - every five minutes ? and the reverse. I personally experienced more thrills watching "chamber movies" like "Twelve Angry Men" or "Death and the Maiden" than "The Ten Commandments" and the like. So let's brush aside this phony argument and let's try and analyze "Return to Ithaca" for what it is, a powerful exciting thought-provoking apologue.
To begin with, what is the situation and who are the characters ? The time is one warm evening these days, the place a terrace overlooking Malecon Boulevard in Havana. Three friends are gathered there waiting for Amadeo, a novelist suffering from writer's block, back in Havana after sixteen years of exile. Before his coming, Tania, Rafa and Aldo drink, laugh, dance, exchange happy memories. After Amadeo finally drops in, Eddy, another seemingly jolly good fellow, joins the party, which soon... turns sour. Little by little, the five revelers' social conditions and inner feelings are revealed: Tania is an embittered eye doctor who only ekes out a living; Rafa, a once major artist, has become an alcoholic and is now reduced to painting daubs; Aldo, an honest man , does nothing better than mount batteries in a factory despite his engineer's training. As for Eddy, a genuine literature lover, he has been a self-satisfied parvenu for years...
From dusk to dawn, the complicit old friends will turn accusers; of the failed Revolution, of themselves and their past naiveté, and above all of... the four others. With a few exceptions (the dinner taken in Aldo's apartment), tensions prevail; rage breaks out : the five of them tear each other apart in a cruel game of truth.
As the day breaks, they are still together, exhausted, wondering if their friendship will survive the psychodrama they have just gone through.
And as the end credit rolls, the viewers, shaken as they are, realize how irrelevant it is to reason in terms of "filmed play". Watching people talking for the whole duration of a film is not necessarily boring. A movie will never be dull if - as is the case here - the topics broached are intelligent, if they are source of conflict, if there are hidden truths that are doled out shrewdly, if the tone varies constantly from exhilaration to depression, if there is singing and dancing and anger and wit and spite, if the camera moves are slick, if the editing is dynamic. Last but not the least when like here - the lines of dialogue signed by a great Cuban novelist (Leonardo Padura) are told so brilliantly by a pocketful of the best Cuban actors of the time (of Isabel Santos, Jorge Perugorría, Fernando Hechevarria, Nestor Jiménez and Pedro Julio Diaz Ferran I really cannot say which one is my favorite).
A real masterpiece, reminiscent of Tchekhov's dramas or classics of the Italian cinema such as Ettore Scola's "We All Loved Each Other". An all the more impressive feat as "Return to Ihaca" is directed by a French filmmaker, who seems as comfortable in the circumstances as if he were Cuban-born. Highly recommended except, as I wrote before, if you are a confirmed popcorn movie lover.
Judging by André Téchiné's 2009 " La fille du RER " and his latest work
to-date, " L'homme qu'on aimait trop ", the French director has
recently developed an interest for actual events, and more particularly
for those produced by duplicity. The two films mentioned have indeed in
common to revolve around a person who made big headlines and did so by
deceiving others (the former centering on the case of Marie L., a young
mythomaniac who, in July 2004, faked an anti-Semitic attack while the
latter revolves around the dubious figure of Maurice Agnelet, a lawyer
from Nice, ambitious,winsome and charming, but also a crook and
probably the murderer of his mistress). But sticking to facts does not
necessarily mean that Téchiné has said farewell to what he had
specialized in, the illustration of the torments of passion (remember
for instance "The Bronte Sisters " and " Wild Reeds "). For in "
L'homme qu'on aimait trop ", the director, amongst other things makes a
point of depicting a passion, and one of the kind he usually delights
in : an overpowering, dark feeling that bonds a troubled heart to
another. But the movie being based on a true story, let's begin by
considering the facts. They concern the Le Roux affair, from its
genesis in the mid 1970s to nowadays. This cause celebre, still pending
after 37 years, involves Renée Le Roux, the manager of a luxury casino
in financial difficulties; Agnès Le Roux, her daughter in conflict with
her; Jean- Maurice Agnelet, a go-getter lawyer close to Renée but who
turned against her after becoming Agnès's lover; and Jean-Dominique
Fratoni, a mafia boss and Renée's business rival who gained Agnès and
Agnelet's support in getting his hands on Mrs. Le Roux's establishment.
An undeniably circumvoluted situation but be reassured, Téchiné gets by
just fine and his account of the facts is both faithful and crystal
Of course, this is no documentary and Téchiné being Téchiné, his film cannot be just that. It also aims to be a work of art and manages to. To my mind, and contrary to what too many critics have said, "L'homme qu'on aimait trop" HAS style. The director is indeed not content to narrate his (interesting) story he also gives an artistic approach, thus intensifying the viewer's response to what they are shown.
One of his objects being to condemn a world corrupted by money (our world in fact !), André Téchiné achieves it not only through dialogue but through art as well. A brilliant Mediterranean sky too blue to be true, the exceedingly glittering golds of Renée's sumptuous gambling- house, the unashamed hugeness of Fratoni's villa and the splendor of his garden tell more by contrast about moral ugliness than a verbal accusation: the more seductive the images are the more the baseness of this tainted world appears. And there is another field in which Téchiné excels, character study. The Gallic helmer delights in digging into the psyche of his characters and trying, like a detective of the soul, to unlock their mysteries. Does he really find the key to Maurice's childish dream to make it big, to Renée's desperate fight for winning back her daughter's love, to Agnès's consuming rage? Not really, but are these personalities really reducible to mere psychology? At any rate, they are three-dimensional and - accordingly -interesting.
Of these three characters, the one that fascinates the director (and us as well) most is obviously Agnès. At the same time idealistic and greedy, fiercely independent and under the yoke of passionate love, ungrateful to her mother but not devoid of love for her, Agnès, contradiction personified, is the real focus of the film and through the mystery of her troubled character, she joins Téchiné's long list of tormented heroines (from the unbalanced Paulina in "Paulina is Leaving" to the Bronte Sisters to Alice in "Alice and Martin" among others). Embodying her is young Adèle Haenen, an amazing concentrate of vital energy. But the young actress, who is often like a bull in a china shop, also manages to translate effectively the insecurities of her character. Such a mix of bluntness and subtlety, of roughness and insecurity is hardly ever seen. She is surrounded by a solid cast (Guillaume Canet, Catherine Deneuve and the little known Jean Corso, who creates an all too believable Fratoni, and the vivacious Judith Chemla as Zoune, one of Agnelet's mistresses).
Some find the movie overlong, but I personally did not; probably because Téchiné has a sense of tempo: he always cuts a scene at the ideal time, never too early nor too late.
"L'homme qu'on aimait trop" is a worthwhile film, beautiful to look at as well as informative, intriguing and giving food for thought. Recommended.
Anna, a girl in her late teens who has missed the last train to
Clermont-Ferrand and lost her baggage, finds herself alone in an empty
Paris station. Appears a middle-aged man walking his dog. The guy takes
her to his apartment and once there tries to take advantage of the lost
creature and have sex with her...
Summarized this way, 'Acide Animé ' can make you fear the worst. And it is true that at first sight such a plot looks just like a pretext for showing sick graphic sex scenes. Fortunately that is not the case. Sure Félix, the male character, is tempted to sexually abuse the helpless girl (isn't he seen swallowing a mysterious pill - a sexual stimulant, to be sure - and pouring another substance in Anna's drink?), but those objectionable urges stay at the level of intentions. For what matters to Guillaume Bréaud, the gifted director of this short, is not to give horny spectators an opportunity to get an eyeful, it is to draw the sensitive portrait of two confused people put side by side by a quirk of fate.
Mission accomplished: Bréaud does succeed in making his two characters (and let's not forget Jacques, Felix's dog!) engaging. Not without defects but engaging. On the one hand you have Anna, a charming young thing, fresh and spontaneous (but maybe not the pretty well-bred provincial we first think she is). On the other, Félix, a somewhat selfish sexually frustrated bachelor (but, as we find out, having kept the spirit of childhood). What separates them is that young and pretty Anna might become a sexual prey for Félix but there is something much more important that genuinely unites them, childhood, at least the part of it which is not gone in her yet and is still present in him despite being twice as old as her. A bond stronger than Felix's attempted assault, which is illustrated by the final scene : still in a state of shock because of what has almost happened to her, Anna nevertheless bursts out laughing. She had a narrow escape, needless to say, but the experience she shared with this eccentric fellow just before was definitely worth living.
And indeed, before things turned sour, the two "misfits" (Anna, whose early love life caused turmoil in her family; Félix, who failed to find a genial soul to share his life), managed to talk (Anna's merry confession, in particular, filmed, played and edited remarkably), to discover each other and - the most original side of ' Acide Animé ' - to have fun together like the two little children they have remained deep inside themselves. Guillaume Bréaud brilliantly translates the ebullience that carries away the two partners when they find out they both know the joyous song " We're Off to See the Wizard " from " The Wizard of Oz " and that they can sing and dance to it! During this marvelous sequence, the director captures to perfection the glee that sublimates the best Hollywood musicals while managing to give us the feeling that these two beings who should never have met have become as one. Of course this impression is only transient and this miraculous unity is soon permeated by Félix's lust, beginning by a rather disgusting game of forfeits. But, oddly (and unconventionally) enough, the miracle, tarnished has it has been, remains a miracle.
Naturally the film would be nothing without the right actors. But in this field too Guillaume Bréaud rises to the challenge: Didier Bénureau and Ludivine Sagnier are just the ideal pick. Bénureau, too rarely seen on the screen, gives a top-rate performance here, underlining with equal talent the dark and bright sides of his character. As for Ludivine Sagnier, still in her teens at the time of filming, she is already an accomplished actress whose talents range from performing her own stunts (running after a train moving off) to speaking alone facing the camera during a whole sequence to singing and dancing in English.
Finely crafted by Guillaume Bréaud, ' Acide Animé ' is a worthwhile short which gave hope that its young director would pursue the same brilliant career as its leading actress. But the movie world is cruel and for all his undeniable talent he has only been able to write three screenplays ever since. He is nevertheless still active and, as miracles do happen, it is not to be ruled out that some bold producer might decide to trust him again. For his - and our - sake.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jean Daskalidès was an amazing man. He was in turns (and sometimes at once) a jazz musician, the manager of Leonidas (the famous Belgian chocolate company), a film producer and director and a... gynecologist! An eccentric, intriguing, multifaceted personality indeed! As far as the movies are concerned, Daskalidès's debut was encouraging; among the shorts he made, a few were noticeable by either their tenderness (" De diefstal "), their cruelty (" Mundo Carne ") or their humor (" Bibi "). His transition to feature film was less fortunate though. And yet when in 1972 the " 6 rue du Calvaire " project was initiated, there was reasonable hope that it might result in a fine atmospheric movie. Alas, the chocolate tycoon's first (and last for that matter) fiction feature was a real disappointment: it was indeed made so amateurishly that on this occasion Daskalidès appeared more as a jack-of-all-trades than the protean figure he was wont to be. Not that this noir crime film is inept. The subject (Hugo, a French engineer, accommodated in his Flemish friend's home, unveils a terrible secret in the family) has potentialities. Clouzot, Chabrol or Polanski at the helm would doubtless have made this adaptation of "De Dames Verbrugge", a novel by Roger d'Exsteyl, a hair-raising and haunting experience. But not Daskalidès who as it happens proves unable to create a real atmosphere of fear. This is due to the director's clumsiness: he indeed makes nearly all the beginner's mistakes: the cinematography is undistinguished, the natural setting (Ghent in East Flanders) filmed in an indifferent way, the editing approximate (uneven rhythm and even worse, padding: oh, those useless night club scenes!) and the acting mediocre (with only one exception, Lut Tomsin, who literally exudes frustration and bitterness). Even top-billed Marie-José Nat is a bad choice. She may have attracted one or two more spectators to the theaters and - agreed - she is very beautiful but why choose a jet black haired Corsican to play a Flemish woman? And why does she always express herself in French while her brother and sisters speak Flemish? Furthermore, the actress can't live up to the ambiguity of her character : she is all right as long as she has to give life the sweet side of her personality but when it comes to her darker side she is not frightening at all, which is quite a handicap. In these conditions, it does not take long before you realize you are doomed to be delivered more tedious than exciting moments and you gradually lose interest. Viewing his own film must have been a reality check for Jean Daskalidès himself: he never directed another feature after that. But he went on producing movies signed by others, one of which is a masterpiece, "Dust" (1985) by Marion Hansel.
To this day, Anna (or Anne) Novion has made three shorts and two
feature films ( 'Les grandes personnes', 2008, and 'Rendez-vous à
Kiruna', 2012 ). It is to be noted that her first film effort
('Frédérique est française', 2000) as well as her two full-length
pictures share a common point: the shock of two cultures, namely the
French and the Swedish ones. A fact that owes nothing to chance,
knowing that the young director has roots in France and in Sweden.
Bringing the latter country to the fore is therefore a natural thing
for her to do. In addition, it is also a guarantee of genuineness on
her part as well as a plus for a French audience not really swamped
with information on Scandinavian civilization. Agreed, Anna Novion has
been living in France since she was born, but she has always been
attracted, not to say fascinated, by her origins on her mother's side.
It accordingly comes as no surprise that besides studying filmmaking
she landed a postgraduate certificate whose subject was "Anxiety, Guilt
and Desperation in Bergman's Work". And that Sweden is the star of
three of her movies.
Moving on to "Rendez-vous à Kiruna", let it be said that the story revolves around Ernest Toussaint, a renowned architect, full of himself and always in a rotten mood. At the beginning of the movie he is seen supervising his team while they are on the verge of winning a competitive bidding contract. So why does he suddenly leave everybody behind and drives away for... Lapland? The explanation lies in the fact that a young man has drowned himself in some remote spot of Lapland and that the victim, a Swedish policeman told him on the phone, is none other than his own son.
On the road, Ernest happens - quite against his misanthropic tendencies - to give a lift to Magnus, a hippy-like young man, also bound North. From this moment on - although he does not know it yet - Ernest will never be the same again... Alternately realistic (what we see on the screen is grassroots Sweden, not a series of tourist sights), comical (the two men's misadventures with a group of aggressive bikers), philosophical (Magnus's grandfather's speech) and touching (Ernest's gradual coming to terms with his inner self; the grandfather's quiet desperation), Anna Novion's road movie goes its long (but not lengthy) way to a heartwarming finale. Psychologically accurate, "Rendez-vous à Kiruna" can also boast an interesting stylistic approach. You will not have failed to notice that Ernest's mental journey (his mind mellowing as the miles trickle away) takes place in the direction opposite to the physical one (the landscapes becoming barer and barer).
This is a serious movie indeed but Anna Novion doesn't mistake gravity for boredom: Arthur's defects are fun to watch ; so is his forced cohabitation with a young man, as cool as he is tense, as modest as he is conceited. She furthermore has a talent to find an unexpected or incongruous detail which appropriately lightens the atmosphere when things get too dramatic or too brain-racking.
As for the two lead actors, Jean-Pierre Darroussin (the ultimate grumpy one) and his Swedish counterpart Anastasios Soulis (a relaxed but far from superficial young man), they complement each other to perfection and carry the movie on their shoulders. They sure are instrumental in the success of "Rendez-vous à Kiruna"
So allow yourself to be tempted by this unconventional journey to the North of Sweden. You will not be disappointed. It is worth the mileage!
The metallic din of a car crash heard off a black screen... A road at
night... A guard rail broken off... A man looking down at a car
overturned on its side in a ditch... The man getting back into his car
and starting dialing 112 for emergency on his cell phone but not
finishing his gesture... The man parking his car near an emergency call
box but hesitating and not pressing the button...
Such is the beginning of "112", Pierre Alt's latest film to-date. Of course it can make you start wondering: is it going to be one of those films with a thesis, of the type André Cayatte once specialized in? Is it going to be a charge against hit and run drivers, complete with such questions hurled at you as "And you, what would you have done in the man's place" or "In your opinion, can this bad citizen benefit or not from extenuating circumstances?" And why not after all? Anyway, you are so abruptly projected into the dismayed driver's mind that you just can't help examining the issue. And as it is far from a silly one, is it that bad to be faced with it once in a while? However, the hypnotic, melodyless music that accompanies the images makes you feel a rat: with such a sound design, this movie is not going to be the illustration of a moral debate, or to be more to the point, it is not going to be just that. Indeed, guided unconsciously both by Samuel Brunel's very unsettling score and by Klaus-Peter Weber's nocturnal cinematography, you gradually sense that the "reality" you are given to see is only an illusion, or else if it IS reality then this reality is in fact permeated by fantasy. Just how, I cannot reveal here for fear of spoiling the final discovery, not unworthy of a tale by Edgar Poe for that matter. An ending that upsets you, makes you reconsider the whole film and want to see it again. As usual, Pierre Alt proves as good in the realistic sequences (in the flashback scenes he tells the viewer nearly as much about his main protagonist as Sautet, Guimard and Dabadie in "The Things of Life") as in the fantasy ones (in which he manages to instill anxiety without having to resort to a cascade of spectacular visual effects). Led by an excellent actor, Berlin-living Henry Arnold, who captures to perfection his character's deep sense of unease, this haunting tale presents another particularity : it was filmed on both sides of the French-German border (in Moselle and in Saarland) and spoken in the languages of the two countries. Just the path "Party Girl" would follow two years later... before winning the Golden Camera at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Our wish is that Pierre Alt, now at the top of his creative capacities, can soon turn to the feature-length format and be as successful as Claire Burger, Samuel Theis and Marie Amachoukeli.
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