Reviews written by registered user
|4 reviews in total|
No one, but no one, makes movies that better capture a sense of place
than Cedric Klapisch. Since the miraculous little When the Cat's Away
(Chacun Cherche son Chat, 1996) he's consistently been able to evoke a
real sense of lived lives and inhabited city spaces. Wonderful then, to
discover that after all the travels of The Spanish Apartment (2002) and
Russian Dolls (2005) he's returned to Paris to make one of the best
films ever made of those little universes within the City of Light.
That said if you know nothing about France or its history and culture
you just won't get it!
The hook on which this multidimensional movie hangs is Pierre (Klapisch favorite, Romain Duris), a professional dancer who's justlearned that his heart is failing. A transplant may save him, maybe not. All this has echoes of the great Agnes Varda film, Cleo de 5 a 7 (1962), where Cleo, a young singer played by Corinne Marchand, also gets a frightening diagnosis and she too, walks the streets of the city facing her own death. Maybe Paris (the film) achieves even more as a kind of aubade or farewell to the dance of life that ceaselessly crosses Paris (the city) in time and in space.
The centre of the film is Pierre's sister Élise (Juliette Binoche in her most relaxed and charming performance in years). Elise moves in with Pierre (along with her children!) to help out and her own little adventures as she shops at the local market opens out the film as we discover the complex and many layered live of the market workers, especially glum Jean (Albert Dupontel) and his soon to be ex wife Caroline (Julie Ferrier).
Another story thread follows terminally bored history professor, Roland Verneuil (Fabrice Luchini) embarking on a new career as a TV pundit: these scenes are beautifully satirical yet also curiously touching.
Among the many delights of the movie is a great dream scene where Roland's brother, architect Philippe Verneuil (François Cluzet) is plunged into the 3D Universe used to sell off one of his middle class housing Projects and floats like a tormented Mario Brother from some gleaming modernist disaster to rapturous potential buyers and back again. This delicious scene goes on just long bought to make more than a few silly dreams of home improvement (let alone all those fantastical TV Reality shows) seem, as they are, utterly absurd , yet also quite nightmarish in their silly faith in problem solving by buying stuff. For this alone the movie's worth the price of admission!
Interwoven, too, is the story of the anxious young Benoit in Cameroon, adrift and about to try to join his Paris based émigré family in that most dangerous of ways, the open boat from Africa to Europe. All French life, it seems, is touched upon, not least the political morass facing governments as they grapple with the problem of the poor and dispossessed out in the projects. The music track is equally complex, with that old favorite (since Truffaut used it in Shoot the Piano Player almost fifty years ago!) Erik Satie's Gymnopedie Number 1 again weaving its extraordinary spell! You just have to be there!
Klapisch has done something marvelous here, a film full of ideas and humanity, yet one that somehow enables us to engage with and care for so many complex characters without ever having to resort to stereotypes. It's a great achievement and a glorious movie about that city to which we must all return in our dreams: Paris.
The Science of Sleep (Michel Gondry, 2006)
With the magical imaginings of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ( though aided by a great script by Charlie Kauffmann) Michel Gondry became yet another filmmaker to negotiate the dangerous waters between video clip fame and auteur hopes. Few have made the trip and even less survive, But Gondry was always more daring than your average and his sights seem set on the possibilities for cinema to capture the very essence of dreams and of loving.
With The Science of Sleep, it is dreaming itself that is Gondry's focus and he pull of the impossible with childlike ease. Childlike because this little fable of a young man adrift in Paris, stars Gael Garcia Bernal , so very good in Motor Cycles Diaries (Walter Salles, 2004), yet so prone to be cast as a pretty boy, in a role that fits him perfectly the Young Artist at the very beginning of a life.
Bernal is Stephane, pitch forked by circumstance (the death of his father in Mexico) and his mama into a dead end job in a calendar design studio when all he wants is to create his imaginary alternative worlds. His next door neighbour is the belle laide Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and of course he is soon committed to a one way street of love with this gawky , amiable creature.
The film swirls with likable and intriguing characters and the imaginary spaces in Stephane's head: the cardboard TV studio where he runs his alternative life, dream townscapes, all avoid the clichés of so many over cute animation projects (how many more lovable ogres must we endure?) and seem rather (as the credits rather suggest they were) to be made out of ticky tacky and plasticine by Gondry's extended family.
In eschewing CGI perfection, Gondry has made a Paris both real and magical, out of the stuff of a kindergarten play box and the results are touching, sweet and often very funny. This sort of film-making seems increasingly impossible when a Spiderman sequel ( try 3) costs almost half a billion dollars to make and shows it in every steroidal frame. Gondry, as he did so well in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, seems to be closer to the deep humility of a Jacques Tati and this, in The Science of Sleep makes for an utterly unique vision that remains uncompromised by technology, budgets or financiers .At times, at his best, Gondry's work seems like that of a lighter, brighter twin to the dark and deliberate uncertainties of that other uniquely European and original film maker - Michael Haneke. He also restores Paris, as does the recent Paris Je T'aime (2007), to its place at the very centre of our movie dreams of some shining, magical city that may actually turn out to exist!
Most just loved the amazing look of this Aussie eccentric: John Seale
(OSCAR for The English Patient) shot it in what was then a very surreal
visual style... wild revue acting with a great cast of character actors
also made it a lot of fun and it did very well in Oz according to box
office figures...the young actors did their best competing with a very
stylish set and some Big Top scenes that tended to overwhelm the whole
shebang at times. Many of the actors went on to star in other things
(John Wood has become a legend in the TV series Blue Heelers, which
make the whole movie a rather historic time capsule.
But above all, the sheer high spirited energy and great look of the art direction and cinematography as well as a totally over the top rock(?) soundtrack -when you'd think a mouth organ would have done the job- make this a real and underestimated keeper. But GM never got a DVD release...why?
What this excellent piece of cinema verite actually reveals is not so
much a gallant department struggling against fiscal horrors (and these
are certainly real) but some sobering truths about tenured university
teachers . The real centre of the film is the self obsession and self
interest of the departmental staff - top heavy even for an older
university.Facing the Music is great film-making but is also a classic
case of a wily subtext overwhelming the filmmakers' intended message .
The dramatic payoff -Professor Boyd's rather derivative Anglican church music- is presented to a posh and bourgeois audience and hardly seems the stuff to inspire anyone other than those who believe liturgical music stopped in the mid 1930s.Certainly not contemporary music students.
The true hero of this movie is 'Chris' -the administrative officer who is holding the leaky vessel together .She us surrounded by wailing and weeping teachers, all claiming stress and untimely death as the clear fate for such sensitive souls as they. Around them the wonderful young students practise and create away and provide for the soundtrack a glorious and ironic counterpoint. Naturally not one of them gets to speak! The whole doco reveals, quite starkly, that claiming 'standards' and higher goals' than the students or mere administration could ever comprehend is shown up for the special pleading it is -all in one key scene where a quavering female student is monstered into tears in the name of Art. A clear case of the 'speaking subject' talking too much.Very revealing indeed.