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The story begins with a will, which Nawal (Lubna Azzabal), a Canadian
expat with Middle Eastern origins, leaves behind for twins Jeanne
(Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudet). The will consists
of two sealed envelopes with instructions for delivery listing Jeanne
and Simon's supposedly late father, and their recently discovered older
brother. From that point forward, the twins embark upon an adventure in
a war-torn country, with the sole purpose of unlocking the mystery left
behind by their mother; a mystery providing a gateway to their homeland
The magnificent prologue of the film speaks volumes, with a beautiful, seemingly serene hilly landscape tricking the audience into a false sense of security. The camera then slowly sweeps across a room full of young boys either with clippers shaving their heads to a military standard, or receiving terrifying looking arms. The camera pauses on one boy with piercing eyes, looking at us in a moving combination of fear, anger and resentment as his hair falls on his shoulders, rendering him bald and ready. In the background, Radiohead's 'You and Whose Army' hypnotises us, imprinting the powerful image in our memory one which will strongly be recalled later on in this film. This scene alone is worth sturdy artistic praise.
Face down, naked and without a memorial is the burial instruction left behind by the apparently tortured Nawal, with a haunting quote noting that, " childhood is a knife in the throat that you can't easily take off". The children realise that a gravestone can only be added when the puzzles of their mother's past are unlocked with the delivery of the letters within the cryptic will.
Based on a play by Wajdi Mouawad,'Scorched' which I am not familiar with, but one could feel tell that the screenplay adaptation turned Mouawad's work into a respected and admired, multi award winning picture. The film garnered international attention, with twenty wins in total at various festivals, including an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. 'Incendies' was also one of the most highly praised films screened during the second edition of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF), encouraging further exploration into its appeal.
Can war be poetic? With Villeneuve, this is possible. It is also romantic and ruthless, combining the most extreme of human emotions, leading to radical choices like the Christian Nawal's recruitment by Muslim militia. The poetic narrative exposes idyllic sceneries that the director focuses on often, revealing shortly after the truths of a raw, harsh and poignant reality. .
From the moment Jeanne lands in the Middle East we are transported to stories from her mother's history. Although the country's name is fictional, the historical details fail to belie the nation in question is in fact Lebanon. Every location she visits is alternated with a parallel memory from her mother's past, featuring ferocious battles, both as just a woman and also as a political activist. As soon as Jeanne infiltrates her Nawal's hometown, she is exposed to the complex hatred that society continues to struggle with, even years after the war has ended. The villagers blatantly refuse Jeanne assistance upon discovering she is Nawal's daughter, without any mention of her mother treated like a taboo.
While Simon is resisting his mother's enforced wishes, it is Jeanne who initially takes the solo initiative to seek closure. Throughout her adventures, we learn that this same, unfriendly village appears to be the basis of Nawal's struggles upon falling pregnant with a Palestinian man who was brutally murdered by her own brothers. Drowned in the shadow of disgrace by everybody in the village due to falling pregnant, Nawal delivers a boy who is taken away from her upon birth. With a tattoo marking his shin, Nawal had vowed to find her child at any cost, only to be driven out of the village for fear of persecution and even death. This is when she takes drastic decisions out of anger, resentment and fear, just like the boy at the opening of the film.
The war is not just the context but explains regardless of one's political stance that there's more to what people choose to practice and preach than mere ideals. Nawal's decision to join the militia was primarily born out of despair and the injustices she suffered. In the style of a mythological Greek tragedy, the plot then cleverly reveals key information within every step the twins' detective efforts reaped. After years of absence, it becomes obvious to them that war had never really left all of their mother's past protagonists, but lived on and festered within them.
Although the children had considered their mother as nothing more than a neurotic, unstable character, the journey they embark on honours what is in fact a valiant woman, also known as "the woman who sings". The past was too painful to be easily forgotten, and it seemed they had never really understood their mother.
The film is picturesque, memorable in every scene, surprising, tense and mysterious in parts. Villeneuve portrays a vulnerable and curious vision from Nawal's viewpoint, one that is applicable to any person regardless of religion and political parties, but sharing the same circumstances. For someone who is unaware of the conflict of the Middle East, the narration carries no judgment as to innocence and guilt, or what may be considered right or wrong. As with war in general it is a personal perspective which highlights how one's worst enemy can also be a precious part of oneself. It is the story of struggling women, star-crossed lovers and suffering mothers and the personal journey of a life, and family legend, tainted by war and society.
From the producers of "Shaun of the Dead" comes "Attack the Block", a
science fiction comedy that pits savage alien monsters against the
Earth's best line of defense, a group of hoody wearing, knife wielding,
teenaged youths from the mean streets of South London.
The story for this dark British comedy unfolds in the unlikely setting of a deprived and foreboding council estate, where we meet the anti-hero Moses (John Boyega) and his gang as they rob an innocent woman, Sam (Jodie Whittaker) at knife point. There is no hiding the fact that these teenagers are the stuff of nightmares as they prey upon fragile victims, but it is they who soon become the prey when aliens start dropping out of the sky in the form of dark, vicious dog-like monsters. As one of the teenagers exclaims, the aliens are "blacker than my cousin Femi!" Joe Cornish, the writer/director, took inspiration from his own personal experience of a mugging in Brixton, London. Having an understanding of the nature of disenfranchised youth gave weight to the character development of these teenagers, who, if they were to meet the kids from the 1985 film, "The Goonies", would most likely beat them up, steal their bikes, and eat all of Chunk's chocolate bars. The use of street slang and popular culture is a means to win the audience over "I just want to go home, lock my door and play Fifa" has a universal appeal to PlayStation addicted urbanites across the globe. You soon forget that Moses and his gang would sell their own grandmother for loose change if they weren't being pursued by the devilish monsters from outer space.
There is no doubt that Cornish has attempted to create a film with a social conscious, setting it in a deprived area of broken Britain which remarks on a society not giving the disenfranchised a chance at life. Interestingly, the film was released in the UK a few months before riots broke out in London almost telegraphing a message of discontent felt by the young. Although not standing behind a banner of justice, the riots were a sharp reminder to politicians and community groups that there exist deep rooted problems in certain sections of British society.
By no means an essay for social reform, "Attack the Block" keeps the laughs coming. There are plenty of nods to teenage sci-fi films, with clear references to "Gremlins" and "Critters". But where in those American films, we saw well behaved kids rallying together, here we see young terrors yelling, "killing 'em, killing 'em straight".
The cast of mainly inexperienced actors give real authenticity to the group. Mainly discovered through their schools and online auditions, we are given a raw performances of real street kids all of whom would be expelled from Hogwarts if they even bothered to turn up. Jodie Whittaker is a convincing underpaid overworked nurse who the gang first robs, before reuniting with her to take on the aliens. Nick Frost adds hilarity as a lazy drug dealer who never leaves his flat.
The CGI aliens are probably the most silly aspect of "Attack the Block". They look like black blobs with glowing teeth, which is meant for a minimal effect. I couldn't but help think it may have been a budget constraint. Still this film is about delivering comedic set pieces over its brisk 88 minutes. "Attack the Block" is a film teenagers will adore, as well as adults with misspent youths. You may wish to be warned that some of the comedy may fly over the heads of a non-British audience, but "Shaun of the Dead" worked as an export and if that's the kind of film you like then you are sure to enjoy Attack the Block just as long as you can decode the street jargon.
Based on an autobiographical book by Albert Camus, "Le Premier Homme"
film follows Jean Cormery (Jacques Gamblin) the alter ego of the famed
philosopher and journalist, on his return to Algeria in the late 1950s.
He is back to visit his mother (Catherine Sola) to whom he is attached,
reconnect with his past and trace stories of his father.
The film is relayed in the past and present. We visit the writer's tender childhood through flashbacks, while the present carries the struggles of a man torn between the warmth of the Algerian sun, the weight of the colonialism stamp as pied-noir and the bitter relations between both continents.
The mother and son conversations are some of the powerful scenes in "Le Premier Homme". She is overwhelmingly proud of what her son has become; he worries about her living alone in her advancing years. It is a unique bond, often charming in its silences. One can't be indifferent to the magnificent performances by both Gamblin and Sola.
Then comes the Algerian land that Cormery insists on visiting, triggering his vivid reminiscence of childhood. We are shown how this young boy with innocent features showed, at a very early age, a remarkable gift for perception while excelling in his academic performances. This combination will define him as an adult as he tries to fight the effects of colonialism and pays a price for taking a stand on the dilemma.
"Le Premier Homme" is adapted from the book with the same name, which was discovered after the tragic death of Camus in a car accident. The unfinished manuscript was published intact with Camus' notes and mistakes years later. The incomplete autobiography combines the passions inherited from his Algerian birthplace with the probing intellect of a revolutionary existentialistic and genuine thinker. Camus's words are translated into images allowing us to follow the development of his on-screen persona. The omnipresence of the sun and sea captures the hospitality of the Algerian landscape as he's always described it.
Winner of the Prize of the International Critics for Special Presentation at the Toronto Film Festival 2011, "Le Premier Homme" manages to stay loyal to Camus' spirit. As co-producer Bruno Pésery explained at the Dubai International Film Festival last year, the filmmakers filled the narrative gaps of the incomplete book using archival pictures and letters of the author, with the collaboration of Camus's daughter.
When I first learnt about this film at DIFF, I approached the screening with feelings of fear and excitement. The writings of Camus shaped my early thoughts. Fortunately, the film keeps the integrity of his beautiful descriptions intact: the cinematography, focusing on sunny panoramas and warm-colored flashbacks, offers an authentic view of Algeria.
This is no surprise as Italian director Gianni Amelio, winner of Canne's Grand Jury Award for his 1992 feature "The Stolen Children" has combined his interest in philosophy with a sympathy for Camus' upbringing; both were raised by their mothers and grandmothers and deeply affected by the absence of paternal figures. The results make for a meticulously crafted and emotional film. Fans of Camus will find "Le Premier Homme" both cathartic and heart-warming.
When a film opens with Mark Wahlberg retiring from a life of
jet-setting, high stakes international crime and setting up his own
home security company, you can guess that he probably won't be spending
the next 100 minutes installing CCTV and offering advice on which Yale
locks are best for a garden conservatory. And you would be right. There
are very few surprises in 'Contraband', the highly formulaic and
forgettably entertaining action thriller from Icelandic director
Baltasar Kormákur, opening in Doha this week.
Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is living the good life: leaving behind a career of drugs, car and currency smuggling, he has decided to go straight, set up his own business and settle down with his beautiful wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and their two boys. Unfortunately for the Farradays, Kate's kid brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) has got himself into a spot of bother during a botched smuggling job, and Andy has to replace the lost bounty or else drugs baron Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) will start going after his family. To pay off Andy's debts and save his loved ones from the death warrant hanging over their head, Chris must do one last job. And where better to go than Panama, currently the home of $10 million worth of fake bank notes waiting to be collected and smuggled into the US on an international cargo ship. Using his old connections in the underworld, Chris puts together a motley crew to sail to Panama and pick up the cash, while leaving his family under the protection of best bud Sebastian (Ben Foster).
While Chris stomps around Central America, he goes through pretty much every 'one last job' cliché that Hollywood has to offer. From the mustachioed crime lord (Diego Luna) to the gun happy local police force, everything that happens south of the Panama Canal is enjoyable fun, if you're a fan of the genre, but will feel tired and derivative to audiences hoping for a bit more than action/thriller fluff.
The best scenes that the film has to offer occur between the fantastic supporting cast assembled around Wahlberg, most of whom stay back in the US. Giovanni Ribisi (still probably best known as Phoebe's brother in 'Friends') is all ticks and twitches as a criminal middle-man trying to get his slice of the smuggling-cartel pie while still trying to raise his young daughter and protect her from the dangerous lifestyle that surrounds him. Ben Foster (a highly watchable actor who deserves much better roles than he gets) gives the strongest performance as the duplicitous Sebastian, struggling with a sidekick complex as his best friend gets the beautiful wife and saves the day. Their subplots almost make you wish the screenplay had cut out Wahlberg's two-dimensional character and spent its time exploring the relationships of those around him. But this is Hollywood, after all.
'Contraband' has already gone to the top of the box office stateside, and I'm sure will continue to find financial success around the world. January is a notoriously weak month for cinema releases, hanging in the shadows of the awards baiting films of November and December, so Contraband might be the best that the multiplexes have to offer this week. Just don't expect to remember a thing about it after you leave the cinema.
Adel (Racim Zemnadi), eight years old, is sent to stay at his
grandparent's house for the weekend. Two days turn into a week. Things
are not promising; his parents' quarrel is leading to an inevitable
divorce. But his presence with a caring old couple Khadidja (Nadja
Debahi-Laaraf) and Lounès (Abdelkader Tadjer) will transform his
temporarily stay to a touching lesson about love.
"Kedash Ethabni" is the second feature for Algerian filmmaker Fatma Zohra Zamoum who's written, directed and produced the film. She adds a feminist twist to the subject of divorce and its effects on the modern family.
We don't see much of the divorce itself, but instead we see it through the eyes of the child and his grandparents. The child spends most of his time with Khadidja who is simple and uneducated. She tries everything to make Adel's stay a pleasant one. She cleans his room, takes him to the zoo and embraces him with love and trust. Their unique bond reflects her loneliness as a woman, wife and grandmother. She discovers through him, a part of her that needs to live again.
Adel is a raw subject of affection. He triggers Khadidja into experiencing new things without her husband's knowledge, such as going to the movies for the first time in her life. They become inseparable accomplices in their adventures, and a healthy way to escape from family tensions.
Adel's grandfather on the other hand, is a typical Algerian parent who shows little or no emotion. He doesn't mind his grandson but protects himself from revealing his feelings as not to weaken the child or worse, appear weak himself. He reacts with anger when Adel spends a lot of time with his grandmother in the kitchen because "boys shouldn't cook". But he is the one to introduce Adel to the world of animals by teaching him how to take care of the family pet sparrows.
The different reaction of the grandparents reflects the communication gaps that can be better sensed by women. This is a universal problem also described by Michelangelo Antonioni in 1960's "L'Avventura ", where women are the ones to predict when a relationship lacks understanding, or when something is going wrong.
The child's presence with this old couple plays a major role in assessing the past. When seeing Adel suffering from a strong fever after witnessing his parents fighting, Lounès drowning in worry asks, "Where did we go wrong?" Khaddidja answers, "You were a bit strict on the kids".
And there's Adel, who captures our heart with his performance. He has a natural on-screen chemistry with his grandmother. Wherever they are, there's joy, hope and an abundance of affection. One worries what will become of them if they are ever separated.
"Kedash Ethabni" which premiered at the 2011 Doha Tribeca Film Festival, caught my attention with its smooth narrative, attention to detail and magnificent acting. It's a film that portrays the basics sentiments of love, nature, children and the elderly in a realistic and poetic manner.
Zamoum who is a painter, meticulously frames her shots leaving nothing to random. "Kedash Ethabni" is a tender drama that could take place in any house and opens our eyes to the consequences of our actions and the effects of divorce on children.
On June 24 1991, Ghislaine Marshall, a wealthy widow, is found murdered
in the basement of her villa in Mougins, near Nice. An inscription on
her door written with her blood reads, "Omar killed me" and
automatically directs investigators to Omar Raddad, her Moroccan
gardener who barely speaks French and is eventually sentenced to 18
years in prison, despite no evidence.
Based on true events, the case of Omar Raddad outraged the media at the time and questioned the very integrity of the French juridical system against foreigners. Raddad was tried in 1996, partially pardoned by then President Jacques Chirac in 1996 and finally released in 1998. In France, Omar is still considered guilty by the law, and this film, based on his autobiography, might be his last attempt to clear his name.
The film tells two stories; the investigation by writer Pierre-Emmanuel (Denis Podalydès), and Omar's time in prison. At the same time, we learn of Omar himself, a simple but stoic man, who didn't go to school, but believes in the honor of his name and that of his family.
As the film demonstrates, there were no traces of blood on his clothes, no indication of his presence at the crime scene. Evidence also points to the fact that he was somewhere else at the time of Marshall's death. But in a classic case of corruption, Omar is left to fight against a whole system. Results are manipulated, and Marshall's body is burnt to avoid further investigation. The frustration of his situation pushes Omar to go on food strike in prison and desperation eventually that leads him to attempt suicide.
Sami Bouajila has an impressive approach to Omar he doesn't talk much, but uses his eyes to express his predicament. Consequently, his sparse use of dialogue is all the more effective. "I have no more life, the judge destroyed it," he cries. The portrayal granted Bouajila the Best Performance Award at the 2011 Doha Tribeca Film festival, alongside a Best Arab Narrative Filmmaker award for director Roschdy Zem.
This is not a film with outstanding cinematic techniques, but presents a story rooted in reality and Omar's injustice. Zem solicits powerful performances from his cast, without mining the material for pity. The director is an actor himself and this, his second feature, presents the cause of Omar as unfinished business justice has yet to be delivered.
Similarly, the investigation at the heart of "Omar Killed Me", even as it sets out to prove his innocence, allows the audience to look for clues, make connections and judge for themselves. We follow the investigation of a police drama which is based on fact and where the judges play devil's advocate. There is little conflict over Omar's innocence, but a dawning realization that those in power are readily able to gather their facts and manipulate them in order to convince those who already suspect Omar of the crime. In the end, the film shines a spotlight on a long forgotten case. One can't but respect a filmmaker who sets out to try and make a change.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is little that tempts the viewer to book a Hawaiian holiday after
watching "The Descendants". In Alexander Payne's first film since
2004's Oscar winning "Sideways", sun-kissed beaches, blue skies and
carefree watersports make way for leaden clouds and choppy ocean
swells. It rains often, forcing characters to awkwardly run for cover
in their flip-flops. At home, George Clooney, his hair greying with
worry, sits up at nights, working on legal papers. There's not a slice
of guava to be seen and pineapples are extinct. In short, this is all a
far cry from the reverie of Elvis Presley's "Paradise Hawaiian Style".
Clooney plays Matt King, father to a ten-year-old tearaway Scottie (Amara Miller) and her equally rebellious sister Alexandra (Shailene Woodley). The Kings, and by that I mean the extended family of cousins and aunts living across a number of islands, are preparing to sell a large parcel of land which has been in the family for generations. Resort developers promise the clan untold millions. Matt, however, has other preoccupations. His wife, recently injured in a boating accident, lies in a coma. She will never recover, doctors tell him. Matt has to break the news to his wayward breed and, in the process, assume the role of parent.
None of this is new territory for Clooney who, at various times in his career, has taken delight in portraying misguided zealots ("The Men Who Stare at Goats"), soulless suits ("Up In The Air") and dandyish egotists ("O' Brother, Where Art Thou?"). In truth, he is more restrained here. We can't imagine the Clooney of "Ocean's Eleven" as anything other than a fussy, if suave, lothario. In contrast, when his daughter asks him what he'd like to eat in a restaurant, he waves her away with "Order me anything". His clothing, for the most part, consists of half-sleeved shirts, shorts and flip-flops. Yet as storms close around his family, Matt takes stock of the situation and steers the King clan away from looming danger. Clooney's is a subtle performance, free of histrionics.
"The Descendants" also bookends a series of four films about men in crisis, which started with Matthew Broderick fraying at the seams in "Election". In that film, Broderick's middle aged angst, expressed through his all-or-nothing hatred of a high school over-achiever, was a comic exaggeration which sealed the character's fall from grace. In "Sideways", Paul Giamatti showed us that men stop living when they too eagerly embrace their obsessions. In "The Descendants", Clooney isn't looking to upend his life: he wants to make up for his previous absenteeism. When he learns of his dying wife's affair and travels with his eldest daughter to confront the object of her unfaithfulness a property dealer called Brian Speer Matt doesn't resort to threats, abuse or violence. The scene is quietly played out in Speer's holiday home, at an island in the kitchen. He even agrees not to inform the salesman's wife of his transgressions.
In the end, death marks the end of the whole affair. After his wife passes away, the family scatters her ashes at sea. And in the most peaceful moment of an otherwise blustery film, Matt later settles down to eat ice cream and watch television with his children. The scene, which runs for nearly 90 seconds, is near silent and has the Kings watching a TV set in front of them. For the first time in a while, it seems, the bad weather has vanished.
In a world of James Bonds and Jason Bournes, George Smiley and his lot
are hardly the most outwardly provocative offering in the spy genre,
but that is not the game here. The character previously of John Le
Carre novels, then television series is a spy for adults. So is this
Everything about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is measured. Director Tomas Alfredson has painted his film with bleak London scenes and flat 1970s tones. He shoots through the bars of fences and the frames of windows, immediately entrapping us in the dark, claustrophobic world that was the Secret Intelligence Service during the height of the Cold War.
When Control (John Hurt), the head of the ironically referred-to "Circus", is forced to retire in response to an operation gone wrong, he takes his right hand man, George Smiley, with him. We find George (Gary Oldman) a slightly sad man who continues a routine of swimming and leaving his estranged wife's mail on the table, keeping track of the sort of little details a man who has spent his life in the spy trade would come to value. But while he was forced out, he is compelled back into action to pick up the trail of a mole in the organization. As someone on the outside, Smiley is uniquely to look in.
Given an agent, Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch), to assist his investigation, one of the first things Smiley discovers is that an old colleague, Connie, was forced out as well. As they look through photos of the old days, she remembers fondly the old days, before the secrecy and dealings of the cold war.
As Connie seems so keen to do, we bounce back to the past, and from England to Hungary and beyond. Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy), a young spy who is accused of being a deserter, appears suddenly in George's home with a fantastic story that opens our investigators to another world of treacherous possibilities.
The film is filled with brief scene-setting shotssome mundane, but others filled with detail and plot. The viewer is left trying to put together these sporadic glimmers of story as more involved scenes roll on. The result is an occasionally frenzied attempt at thought in a film otherwise as austere with pace as it is with revelations. And, while these two hours are packed with well-cultivated tension, there is little relief. There are many twists and turns, but very few bring with them as much intensity as may be expected for such a high-stakes game.
The acting is superb from a cast of British elitesmost especially Oldman, who is convincing in both his advanced age and quiet desperation. We see that no one is innocent of treason. We watch as friendships, relationships and solemn oaths fall victim to the pursuit of the greater good. And everyone, even the ultimately-revealed mole, believes what they do to be the right thing.
After two hours of restrained acting, music and even colors, the ending comes together laced heavily with scenes of a past holiday party, smiles and laughs and overwhelmingly cheerful music. Resolutions for all and such an upbeat finale seem to break somewhat from the tone and delivery of the bulk of the film. After being snubbed of a true dramatic climax, it seems a bit dishonest.
Walking out of the theater, however, what lingers about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the meticulousness of it all: the acting, the attention to detail and the use of metaphoric imagery. Despite this being his first international foray, director Alfredson's confidence shows in every minute. He has created a film that will linger with the viewer long after the credits stop rolling.
A plane crashes in Alaska; the survivors find themselves hunted by a
pack of wolves. It's a fierce battle against harsh nature and angry
predators. Ottway's (Liam Neeson) work consists of shooting wolves for
the protection of workers assembling pipelines. He describes them as
"men unfit for mankind". He carries himself with a lot of mystery and
darkness and is detached from the rest of his colleagues.
The prologue of the film gives us a thorough introduction to the world of Ottway. Through flashbacks, we understand that he has lost his one true love. He is dragging his life in slow steps with the bitter attitude of a man who has nothing more to lose and attempts to commit suicide. At the last minute he doesn't pull the trigger; the sight of a wolf he just shot dying in front of eyes gives him a breath of hope and a philosophical statement on the absurdity of life and death.
In one sense this is a typical disaster movie: Ottway finds himself traveling with his co-workers when they crash in the middle of nowhere, in the cold and hostile wilderness of Alaska. Ottway naturally takes charge of the survivors, and like an experienced boy scout gives directions and tips for survival. The others follow out of despair and fear. But what may seem like a classic battle between man vs nature, is upended when they stumble across another major obstacle of a pack of wolves protecting their territory. They don't want to eat, they just kill to threaten. Ottway, the only wolf expert on board, suggests moving locations towards the trees. They are now exposed to the anger of brute mammals.
With nothing but grey and white color palette, and all colors dissimilated, Man and wolves become equal fighters in their endurance. It turns into a rivalry between two species. Action scenes take a conventional turn, and it's not hard to guess who the next victim will be, even if taken by surprise. What makes of the film watchable is the rise of human soul towards spirituality. Their introverted reflections and attitudes is not about survival, but the embrace of a fate they have no control over. It's just a matter of resistance.
The trailer of the film offers more blood and suspense to the viewers than we'd expect. Instead, the focal point is on the journey which brings these men closer together and penetrates the superficial persona that Ottway used to despise in them. The more we know about these men, the more similar they all become.
The snow and storm scenes were not a cinematic illusion triggered by special effects, the actors instead endured the harsh conditions of filming with -40°C in Smithers, British Colombia. The results showcase a natural and beautifully shot storm.
Many might not like the adventurous closure they were expecting from such an action thriller. But I must admit that it is a mature ending, similar to a spiritual revelation. It completes a circle of life and death mentioned in the beginning of the film, and this is clearly why the film might stand out from others similar in themes.
For the next few years, it must be assumed that any film featuring a
popular uprising will attract lazy comparisons to the Arab Spring. The
wild waters of revolution run swift in Benoit Jacquot's "Farewell, My
Queen", set in the days of July, 1789. Over a wet week in France,
starving Parisians storm the symbol of state tyranny, the Bastille,
seizing guns and ammunition. Protesters issue a list of demands,
calling for the beheadings of nearly 300 influential figures. The de
facto signs of regime change are everywhere. Dead rats float in the
Grand Canal in Versaille; mosquitoes terrorize the members of the Royal
household. Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger), the Queen of France,
however, has escapism on her mind she sits in bed, skim-reading the
latest fashion pages.
In this task, she is aided by a number of ladies-in-waiting and her reader, Sidonie Laborde (Lea Seydoux). The young woman is called to run to the palace library and return with books and plays she reads aloud to the queen. We learn she is a member of the queen's inner circle and somewhat infatuated with her employer. She performs her duties with a mixture of fear, envy and respect. When the stench of revolution is impossible to ignore, she is told she will be guided to safety. Understandably, she feels more than a little betrayed when the queen orders her to impersonate a fleeing aristocrat, Gabrielle de Polignac, who will accompany her, dressed as a servant. If she is captured, Laborde risks death, while Polignac will abscond to safety.
This could all be familiar territory Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" (2006) took a distinctly sweet-toothed approach to the French Revolution, imprisoning Kirsten Dunst behind tiers of artisan cakes. In Coppola's film, the French royals behaved like party-goers on an episode of MTV's "My Super Sweet 16". "Farewell, My Queen", which is based on a novel by Chantal Thomas, isn't confection of the same variety. This dimly lit and low budget film marks the end of the fantasy world of Versailles, its gilded halls, jeweled furniture and costumed courtiers. The Royal staff bow and curtsy at every available opportunity in their spare time, they trade gossip about the private indiscretions of their employers and idly speculate the future of post-revolutionary France.
Unfortunately, the inner workings of the court of Versailles simply aren't any match for the layered politics that define teenage life on "My Super Sweet 16". While Coppola's film was candy floss masquerading as history, "Farewell, My Queen" succeeds in laboring every aspect of daily life at the Royal court. We are told, time and time again, there lurks intrigue behind every palace wall most of it remains frustratingly off screen. At one point, I found myself thinking Laborde's chores were no different from the experiences of any gap year student and considerably less hedonistic.
The end, when it arrives, is all too predictable. As members of the royal household are attacked on the streets of Paris, the occupants of Versaille decide to flee. As the royals leave for the last time, their carriages bursting with furniture and jewels, the staff is told "the King will now check the temperature of the throne room". Ice-cold, I would imagine. Not unlike Jacquot's French revolution.
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