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Swept Away (2002)
8/10
A really good surprise.
8 July 2009
Maybe true romantics and couples in love only can appreciate it. 'Zorba meets Moliere in Hell in the Pacific' is not of course The Remains of the Day but it can stay as a truly timeless romantic and humanist.

My wife and I (both 30 with thousands of movies in our brains) caught this film by chance on TV maybe 10' after the beginning and got trapped. First by Adriano Giannini and his comedy character of the valet a bit smarter and more profound and philosophical than his totally self-centered spoiled and bored employers that think they know it all better than anyone just because they made money. (A classic theme since Molière and Beaumarchais). Giannini's Greek beauty combined with the incredible one of the Mediterranean sea made us think of Zorba and want to watch further. I later realized that the exceptional Oscar worthy music theme (single simple piano notes) also participated in captivating me.

Only to discover Madonna in a role that was fit for her and that no one else could have played better and more truly. The comments here are very unfair. She's never been that good. She was a real surprise and a pleasant one. We want to see her more that way, in love and not sexual or aggressive only. Even if she is great too as the nasty boss. But anyone expects her that way and that is surely why they hate her. Both characters caught our sympathy and got us attached to them even if they could have been explored deeper. The story unraveled with them into an almost perfect timeless classic that blends one beautiful romance with social concerns that reminded us of Moliere and Beaumarchais. Except that in their time, these authors could not dare or maybe even imagine to create a love story between the valet and his nasty employer. There is also the deserted island and Robinson myth that is as powerful as the desert in Lawrence of Arabia. Of course the characters are not that deep here but it never seemed to be the ambition. Here it is closer to Hell in the Pacific except that the evolution of feelings between the two focused too much on their beginning and end but not enough on the turning point that is the most interesting. That is the only weakness of this story with its end that is very efficient but very unpleasant too since it seems a bit forced by a rule of being 'not as usual' that makes it actually usual. But this end sure helps the desired effect. Overall, we loved it and found it funny, smart enough, not pretentious, and heartbreaking.

Thank you all who worked on this. You did not waste your time. Guy Ritchie took a risk by going totally classic and refusing being edgy as in his first and only masterpiece so far, 'Lock Stock…'. He failed commercially but this story will never go old and that will make it as durable with time. And that is already rare enough to be remarkable. WE WANT THE SEQUEL!!
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8/10
At last a GOOD French Film!! :) Bravo Philippe Haïm!
8 July 2009
At last a GOOD French Film!! :) First, to introduce my opinion and place it in perspective, I must say that for more than two decades, I've been watching almost everything released both in the US and in Europe and the best of Asia, South America and the rest of the world. And among all topics, realistic spy/intelligence Films/Mini-Series/TV series has been in my favorites for half a decade. Thus I am a big fan of this genre and one can honestly say that my culture about it as well as about movies in general is quite large. My favorites lately being by far BBC's MI5:Spooks, I've watched all 7 seasons of it (about 100 episodes). Or for example, I'd also recommend The Company (Miniseries) or DeNiro's The Shepherd. Being French, I also watch a lot of our films and I must sadly admit that it is most often a boring torture, especially lately. But not today with Secret Defense. And I can at last happily share and say that SECRET DEFENSE is probably in the BEST entertaining spy French Films released for a long time. (I also rarely write reviews. Only mostly to praise and recommend a good film that might need attention or to sack the worst pretentious ones that attract crowds of sheep despite having been a torture to watch for me).

Why is SECRET DEFENSE so worthy of our attention? First, the storyline is properly well written, simple and plausible rather than far fetched to exaggerated improbabilities for the sole objective of cinematic roller coasting attempts too often seen in this genre. That makes it more believable and interesting. The counseling from renowned French and Oriental experts on this topic was wise, mostly followed and thus effective. There are not that many features on our former DGSE and I praise the production for not going in the James Bond direction but more in the MI5 one. Although one true fan might ask when are we at last gonna see and show how intelligence work can mostly be truly boring or spooky and inhumane? But we're getting in that direction here, right from the beginning when Lanvin introduces himself in saying that an agent must be seen as a weapon only and never as a human.

The final editing is properly paced with no unnecessary elements making the movie properly entertaining and interesting.

Then, the visual directing is OK+ with some cinematographic effects worthy of a big screen release. That is becoming rare.

The excellent beginning credits are Oscar worthy!!

Then the actors directions is not questionable. Gérard Lanvin (lead actor) is perfect as always. Second & third characters are never playing out of tune. That is remarkable in France where even lead actors can sometimes, way too often, be left directed out of tune in the final editing. That is a torture to my hear as much as a bad singer. And I'm not even mentioning second characters that often sound worst than imaginable, worst that the worst liar. Not here.

Vahina Giocante (lead actress) is also very well directed and surprising when she (quite often) manages to make us forget her exquisite beauty and discover her effective tormented face full of emotions that then becomes not only pretty but efficiently emotive, in the Charlize Theron direction. And like Charlize, she has the highly saluted courage of not fearing to not pass over the best primal parts of her, her very beautiful body in the nude and bare butt. And that makes sense to show them since the story uses her beauty as a "weapon, that only is an agent" (dixit Lanvin). A bit too rarely here but more could indeed unfortunately have affected the nature of her performance in the movie. Thanks Vahina.

Overall, All this makes SECRET DEFENSE a very honorable or good French Film, one of its best made in the last decade in the entertaining with a substance spy action genre. So watch it and prove otherwise if you don't agree.
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Chrysalis (I) (2007)
2/10
Let's hope Julien Leclercq STOP directing movies like this.
29 June 2009
Watching this movie to the end was such a real torture for multiple reasons that I had to share about my pain and frustration from this horrible experience. First, the story is so empty, dull and finally stupid that it could have been told in 15 minutes max. But much worst is the directing style that is terribly boring. It starts nicely visually like for an advertising for any high end contemporary luxury product; as if it was the only intention of the director, to prove that he could do it nicely (with tons of cash). But having to watch this commercial for more than 30 secs but a full hour and a half becomes very painful after just 15 minutes. The directing is terribly boring with endless very useless slow camera moves on cold architecture, useless moving cars, actors walking in or out for 20 secs or elevators elevating for a good 20 or 30 secs. What the hell?!? Mixed with fistfights with no visual interest, a very dumb and not plausible shooting while running scene where one cannot shoot another from 2 meters, and endless slow paced and useless scenes that should have been cut out or not even be shot to start with. Very soon, it all appears very pretentious. Because when they finally talk, foreigners might not hear it but the tone is often horribly false, especially with the German accent of the blond actress. Her tone is SO wrong. It becomes a torture like with very bad amateur karaoke singers. I do not understand how a director cannot hear it when editing. like a musician without hears. Dupontel who I usually always love despite very strange (bad) career choices has no lines here and is only one color tinted, making his character totally dull and boring after 20 minutes. Melanie Thierry is not bad but a bit transparent here despite extraordinary facial features. No characters has any interesting point besides the villain just because he remains a bit mysterious but we'll quickly discover that besides his strange eastern accent he has nothing more to deliver than pure brute stupid violence. Sublime former French model Estelle Lefébure took an honorable chance to show some of her unknown acting talents and truly did not fall in many traps and delivers as much emotion as the script allows her to; maybe even a bit more. But of course there was not much to deliver from the script and to remember particularly to start with. Overall I had to push "2x" faster button many many (too many) times to not fall asleep for a third time. This movie can only be an excellent "berceuse", something to go to sleep in 10-15 minutes if you don't mind having to start over the next day to this where it goes. And there is no spoil here in telling that it leads NOWHERE. Good Luck. pass your way. PS: On this same SciFi topic of memory manipulation, I just watched Paycheck from P.K. Dick and John Woo and that was way much better even if really not good neither. Mandchurian Candidate seems to keep staying one good reference.
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Quarantine (2008)
1/10
boring endless dump crap
22 February 2009
This movie (story, text, characters, directing) are all so bad, sadly predictable and profoundly stupid that it is NOT the slightest scary nor interesting for a second.

This really is in the bottom 3 WORST movie of the year and obviously a huge WASTE of time to watch and worst to buy.

What a disappointment after all this hype about the so acclaimed original which I'm not even sure I'll see anymore.

Pass over and go for better things.

There are so many other great movies to watch.

And "Dexter's sister" is totally pointless and disappointing here. A great way for her to ruin her starting career.

P.S.: I rarely write reviews but I had to help YOU spare your so needed time and keep away from this boring crap.
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The Pianist (2002)
10/10
Humanity at its best and worst
7 December 2004
It must not only be seen because of the subject that can never be studied enough but because it is perfect in every sense. EVERY SENSE.

It is perfect in terms of cinema for the performance of every professional involved in this film.

It is perfect in terms of subject treatment because for the first time we get a beginning of an answer to the puzzling question "how could so many see themselves being slowly tortured and slaughtered, let the horror surround them, without more reaction and hysteria, with so much faith?"

In the Polish ghetto, Polanski answers. For the first time, we see the everyday life as an everyday life and not as a drama for the drama necessary to a movie. The film serves these humans' story and not just the contrary.

Polanski's film does not want us to cry only. he wants us to wonder, explore and discover. It is dreadfully efficient. He shows that Art that is love is the one link that brings one back from barbary to humankind. Each second of it means a future lifetime for the pianist.

Polanski brilliantly illustrates the old idea of Art saving humanity in recent times when it was needed more than ever. In that sense, he helps to save us all. THANK YOU.
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A Must See for any writer
7 December 2004
The narrative structure, the order in which key information are distilled is close to perfection despite a few overlong passages. That only is enough for this movie to be seen by any writer. Beside that, the timeless and very humanistic subject is brightly illustrated by the drama.

The only reproach is "why does he resign and not fight against the stupidity of the accusation in the first place?" But there would not have been any story. That is the only detail that makes the story purely American. Otherwise it is timeless and universal.

The class A acting and directing is up to the task even if it is not their best work.

Congratulations Mr. Roth. Please, more.

P.S.: For the first time ever, our French Title "The color of lie" seemed better to me than the original. To me, "The Human Stain" contains the idea of stain that could be dangerously misunderstood by many or could even just be taken as a biological reality. Which is not of course. For many, that stain notion refers to bloodline and genetics. That is dangerous to keep that false idea alive by just reminding it, even in a denouncing way, with such a title. whereas "Color" has nothing to do with genetics or biology or any science but with just what we see, what humans believe but not reality under appearances. That is more subtle in my opinion. Human stains do not seem to be washable. That is scary. Colors can. just in our minds.
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