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English is not my mother language, so please bear with my twisted English...
The Way It Is (1985)
Permanent Vacation's little hidden cousin
The Way It Is or Eurydice in the Avenues (title as seen on screen) played tonight at French Cinematheque, in Paris, in front of a crowd of about 40 people, seriously silent while facing this quite hard-to-follow homage to Cocteau and film noir, mixing street theater rehearsals and no-budget sequences revolving around the death of an aspiring actress set to play Eurydice. The long flashback is reminiscent of Sunset Boulevard, just to add to the influences.
Seeing Gallo and Buscemi in their first roles was quite moving, they were the only able actors out of the bunch, and really get something out of their scenes. Gallo, always in a white tank top, already lands this tormented lover profile (never loses his cool though), and Buscemi gets to play the unfathomable funky sidekick (at one point, with Kai Eric, he attempts a sort of break dance routine, throwing himself onto a cardboard layer in Central Park).
Filming was done in B&W 16mm, mostly in the street and very obviously without any permission by NY authorities ! Most of the filming was done without any sound and so got entirely post-synchronized, quite badly to say the least, but verism was probably not the main goal of Eric Mitchell, who deliberately sticked to the New Wave "artificial academism". At one point the bunch of friends go to a cinema and watch Mad Max (a whole sequence of the Miller's film can be seen), and then debate about it at a cafe terrace.
New York is nicely captured, as a quiet, sunny, seemingly broke-down neighborhood with hardly any cars, just bikes and pedestrians in no haste. The long closing credits sequences (5 minutes, with a wonderful dream-jazzy score by Gallo) is a series of moving vignettes across the streets of New York, with decrepit building facades filmed from the streets with a tilted viewpoint.
The film has a plot, but doesn't try too hard to have a story. I guess it can be seen as a poetic statement, or as a declaration of love to film, to theater or to NY... or most likely to all of these at the same time. The amateurism doesn't make it as magnetic or unforgettable as its royal brother, Permanent Vacation.
Somebody Up There Likes Me (2012)
The pain of being stuck in a theater room
So I got stuck in the metro because of an accident on the line, so I went out of the station, it was raining and very cold, so I found shelter in this Paris art-house cinema, mostly because of my everlasting interest for films, but also attracted by -let's face it- the nice poster with bright colors, as the night was falling and the frost was biting my feet. After 5 minutes in the empty screening room (the usher was not sure that there would be a "private screening" just for me but then another person walked in), so then after 5 minutes I knew that this film had already shown it all, and that there would not be any surprise to come : I was facing a time warp into the early 90s indie cr*p, the sort of film made by some Hal Hartley wannabe, with a twist of today's Solondzness. Caricatural shifty/witty/ugly/unlikeable characters, lots of void & pouting glares between cues, pretentious unfunny comedy lines, annoying corny little music score. Love & melodrama between the kitchen sink and the bathroom, over 20 years in the lives of unfathomably dull characters (could have been a French film, but not even). A deluge of clichés resuming in a film that, in a normal world, should have stuck to a late night screening of a penniless, remote & semi-freaky festival. But released theatrically ? I just couldn't believe my eyes. At that point (10 minutes), I felt an urge to rush out. I could obviously face the rain, and the possibility of the metro being still blocked and of having to bump into throngs of hurrying people in the streets. I chose to stay. It was warm in there. I played Angry Birds for the rest of the film (the Star Wars edition). The images of the film were sort of gliding over my forehead, making their way to the back of the room. I could follow the plot effortlessly without really watching or listening.
One of the most miserable evenings of my life so far.
Dans la ville de Sylvia (2007)
Just what an art film should NOT be
This film is simply a disgrace. It looks like it's been shot by an art student fascinated by women to the point that he thinks the viewer can actually SHARE his fascination because he relentlessly points his camera to these women. Ha ha ! No it doesn't work like that !!!
Everything in this film is just plain fake, like the way extras are being used : one of every race, one of every color, one of every nationality, one of every age... to make a point about Strasbourg being the epitome of the modern pan-cultural city. Every time I saw (and I had TIME to look at them) an extra crossing the screen, I could only but imagine the first assistant director saying, behind the camera : "Old lady with bags, go now ! Crippled Indian flower seller, walk faster ! Pretty brunette with the black skirt, look more dreamy !" All the "good" intentions of the director (seeing people through windows, or reflected on tramways, so as to show the distance between the main character and the people that surround him) are so underlined, so obvious, so pathetically childish that the whole film slowly becomes an obvious piece of I'm-so-arty-I-could-die piece of dung. Then of course, you show this film to someone who's used to blockbusters, he'll walk into another dimension right away. Like "What ? This can be cinema too ?" Happy may be the innocent. But for an art film lover like me, this is precisely the sort of "artsy trap movie" I'm certainly not gonna fall into. Oh and by the way mister Guerin, flower sellers don't roam the streets IN THE MORNING (as a matter of fact, restaurants are closed) Whatever anyway.
What a disappointment !
I was really waiting for the DVD to come out, as a big fan of Derren Litten, brilliant actor seen on "The Catherine Tate Show" and who wrote the entire "Benidorm" series (without even getting himself a small part in it !). Well, what a disappointment ! Instead of the sarcastic and subtle humor (though the premises were ideal in that matter) that I was expecting, all I saw was poor & terribly vulgar situations (beyond words AND laughs), ill-directed actors, almost total absence of wit and intelligence. The only nice thing was to see Chrissy Rock again (from Ken Loach's "Ladybird") as the karaoke presenter. Apart from that, nothing. Total vacuum.
I just CAN'T believe this show is to be cancelled
Watching this series from a European point of view probably doesn't differ much from an American one, but, even though I've been a series buff for quite some time now, I've seen the 13 episodes in a row and have NEVER been that excited for a very long time. The potential of "Journeyman" is so rich and dense that the first season only explores an infinitesimal proportion of it. That's what differs from many shows, which stand out on their first episodes, but then keep on somewhat repeat themselves. Here, the multiple layers (Livia's point of view, scientific point of view, time travel paradoxes) add up to a totally unpredictable show, at the same time totally down-to-earth and philosophically challenged. And I love the fact that it never relies on the Sci-Fi usual excuses to make the audience believe in what's going on.
Sure there are some minor flaws, like the fact that no one (except Zack) ever sees Dan ACTUALLY disappear or appear (not very believable IMHO), but otherwise the whole show is fantastic, and this is going to be HUGE when it comes to Europe.
I can't believe it probably won't be renewed for a 2nd season & more. The ratings are important, sure, but the blooming cult following this first season would increase with a further development of the show. Characters and cast are just totally great So, people at NBC, give yourselves a little more time before definitely calling it quits. PLEASE DON'T CANCEL JOURNEYMAN ! This was my plea to the NBC execs from Paris France, on a nice Saturday afternoon. (and please forgive my English mistakes, don't worry I understood the show perfectly well :)
Exactly what french TV will never be able to do !
"Spaced" has never been broadcast (to my knowledge) on French TV, so I bought the complete 2 seasons series on Amazon after seeing Shaun of the Dead, which I consider to be one of the best comedies ever. Well, even without any subtitles (I get around in English), "Spaced" appears to me as the exact epitome of what British TV can do at its best : a perfect brew of comedy, rhythm, political incorrectness, extraordinary acting, stylish writing, socially-oriented matters... I really was mesmerized at the creativity both screenwriters and director displayed all along the 14 episodes, always renewing what could be taken as pure show-off style on the first one. This is why I love British comedy, TV & cinema. Wit. Man do they have it. Simon Pegg if you ever read this : you ARE the Force !
The Boy with Two Heads (1974)
From the depths of my memories...
For a very long time (until last year to be precise), I really thought that I had "dreamed" this serial, since noone around me ever remembered having seen it.It actually came only once on french TV, late summer 1978, and then vanished into thin air. Miraculously, the DVD got released in France last December, and through various internet forums I have managed to talk to a few people who DID remember it... and thought they were they only ones ! Actually this show was something to be remembered : it is the tale of two kids who find a shrunken jivaro head in a box stolen in an antique dealer shop, and who spend the whole series carrying it around, hidden inside a football, to preserve it from the hands of two evilish thugs who want to make money out of it. Of course, a second vision, almost 25 years later, of this naive and childish scary story really doesn't enhance the terrified memory I had of it. The shrunken head, which looked absolutely horrid when I was 7 now looks like a corny wooden puppet with two eyes that go from left to right. The mood of the story is more detective-like than terror-oriented, but the simple fact that it was a head with no body attached to it made the whole thing totally spooky. Actually, the whole thing looks more like an Enid Blyton one-shot than like an episode from the "Tales from the Crypt". But I probably should remain faithful to my memories and not slouch in the usual and obvious adult contempt, cynicism and mockery. After all, this was made for kids, and it worked. Well, for kids in the 70's it did. Today's would probably find "The Boy with Two Heads" atrociously ridiculous !
Ward 13 (2003)
Excellent animated short!
The qualities of this little animated gem obviously remind me of Aardvark Studio's work : the same efficient use of plasticine for round-shaped and exquisitely expressive characters, the sense of humour and irony within a specific genre, and the constant cinematographic references. Here, it is the horror film that is spoofed, with an inclination toward the "hospital horror" sub-genre. But it is never done to the detriment of the rhythm or of a strong story line : the humour within the fear is always sharp and witty, and the director even winks at Nick Park's specific work with a chase in the hospital hallways that is clearly an hommage to the chase between Gromit and the penguin in The Wrong Trousers. With such impressive skills, I don't really worry about Peter Cornwell's future : it looks bright.
Le père Noël est une ordure (1982)
The one and only absolute french comedy ! ! !
I must have seen this film about 100 times : Le Père Noël... is probably the most famous french comedy ever done, at least in France, far, far more famous and cult than the recent "Le diner De cons" (which is not cult at all, plain funny and that's it). Le Père Noël wasn't a real hit when it got released (it was in fact the movie version of the same-titled play), but it gradually became THE reference in cult comedy amongst french teenagers. I don't even see what the equivalent could be in the States. Anyway : each and every line of this film is sheer fun delight, total trashy-meets-uptight-meets gory-meets-nonsensical humor. Obviously untranslatable and mainly based upon the very subtle depiction of each character, most of the specific expressions of the film are now part of everyday language. It's not even a must-see for every french movie-goer since everyone has seen it at least once in his life. For those who don't cringe at french humor (nothing scatological here), this is an absolute topper in fun. Highly recommended.
Cutting Moments (1997)
An amazing viewer experience
I've seen this short film during a nightly "forbidden films" program on french cable TV. I don't usually review films on IMDb, but this one is rather an incredible piece. At first it reminded me of Happiness (by Todd Solondz), because both films develop similar themes such as incest. But Cutting Moments takes a horrific turn towards the last third, and gets bloody in a very strange way : not grandiloquent nor arty, the sheer horror it shows (a woman cuts her own lips off, then makes love to her husband who cuts her breast off with a pair of secateurs, then cuts his own genitals off) is depicted in a very slow, banal pace. This is where the film really works : the maiming, just as the blood on The Big Shave by Scorsese was meant to depict America's situation during Vietnam War, is here to develop the internal psychological state of the characters (incommunicability, despair) on a graphic point of view. The film is intense, terrible, unwatchable, then, as as the song "If", by the Pink Floyds, invades the end credits, the whole thing gets back to its news item status, with the arrival of the police. An unforgettable film, no matter what...