Friday, July 31, 2015

Une Etrange affaire

1981, France, directed by Pierre Granier-Deferre

An extremely successful marriage of biting satire and fantasia, which might make a good double bill with Bartleby in terms of its analysis of work/life balance -- indeed, this seemed to me to be at the heart of the satire. Michel Piccoli is at the peak of his considerable powers at this point in his career, and Gérard Lanvin proved something of a revelation: he's a capable lighter actor, and did particularly well in some successful buddy pictures of the period, but many of his later roles do little to stretch him as an actor. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What We Do in the Shadows

2014, New Zealand, directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi

Like many a mockumentary subject -- in this case chronicling the endless lives of a group of vampire housemates in New Zealand -- this is a little thin at feature length, although paradoxically I thought it improved a good deal after the scattered opening twenty minutes with the addition of a new character that injected an element of plot: Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, who's apparently best-known as a standup comic, is quite brilliantly deadpan, and there are some very amusing set-pieces, especially a gala gathering at a desultory local hall (there are also several surprisingly gory scenes -- surprising especially for my neighbours when I watched this on the seatback screen of a plane). 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Les Fantômes du chapelier

1982, France, directed by Claude Chabrol

Simenon and Chabrol are well-matched: highly productive artists who were also voracious consumers on a great many levels, and with a shared set of thoroughly mixed feelings when it comes to the bourgeoisie. Thus here the killer himself isn't so much  the target of Chabrol's ire as is the milieu in which he existsIn an environment where carefully-regulated sexual infidelity and domestic inattentiveness are tolerated, or even encouraged, what more profound transgression than casting oneself out through indulging in a spot of serial killing? While Serrault's performance is certainly showy, occasionally even distracting, I loved his very precise work throughout: the little dances with his hands, the exactitude of almost all of his actions, the very controlled delivery of the dialogue. Chabrol also makes fine use of the off-season Breton locations, in Quimper and Concarneau -- the rain is virtually a character in its own right.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Rock

1996, US, directed by Michael Bay

Early period Bay: while he's already in full crank-up-the-bombast mode, the camera isn't quite as restless (reckless?), though I still recall the entire cinema trembling in the big set pieces, and that was just the music. Completely idiotic, sometimes very bloody, and admittedly rather fun.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Passe ton bac d'abord

1978, France, directed by Maurice Pialat

A distinct change of pace for Pialat, something of a return to the sources of L'Enfance nue in geographical and sociological terms, and a move away from the deep focus treatment of relationships (familial and romantic) of the the immediately preceding films. Here, though, the narrative follows, in loose format, a group of teenagers as they attempt to navigate the end of school and the beginning of a new phase of life. Mired in France's economic and social woes in the post-1968 period, it's dispiriting stuff -- most of the kids are already accepting of a fate that radically limits their horizons (while remaining very self-aware), and even those who dream of escape have adapted themselves to the realities of precarious employment. There's also a profound sense of fraying bonds: even though the film focuses on a group, individual loyalties are constantly shifting and unreliable, with relationships taken up or dropped with little sense of purpose or commitment. One of the great challenges of the film is the lack of a truly defined protagonist, and yet Pialat makes of this a virtue -- there's a sense of collective experience that transcends individual anecdote, further reinforcing the sense that no-one can escape the fabric in which they've been living.

The Great Flamarion

1945, US, directed by Anthony Mann

You wonder what must have gone through von Stroheim's mind as he strutted his stuff in fare like this, but to give him his due he always seems fully invested no matter the circumstances and there are moments of genuine poignancy as his character, a stage shooting performer, realizes just how badly he's been had. There's a Double Indemnity vibe to it all, including the narrative, which is almost all in flashback, though the film can't match the cynicism of its predecessor. It's a very early entry in Mann's development as a filmmaker, too, and while there are a couple of nice set-pieces, especially the tense sequences when von Stroheim performs his routine, as well as the visually striking scene when he's interrupted during a practice session.


List of all movies

Most of the images here are either studio publicity stills or screen captures I've made myself; if I've taken your image without giving you credit, please let me know.

About Me

Boston, Massachusetts, United States