Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Le Soleil des voyous

1967, France/Italy, directed by Jean Delannoy

Another Gabin film, this time partnered with Robert Stack; Stack grew up partly in France and his French, though accented, is impeccable (he speaks in French throughout). The picture is an old buddies/one-last-big-heist affair, with a great deal of emphasis on the procedural detail (justified in part by the presentation of Gabin's character as an especially meticulous planner). Goes down easy, but not especially noteworthy despite a solid if strictly to type performance from Gabin. A few intriguing bits of location backdrop, nonetheless.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Imitation Game

2014, UK/US, directed by Morten Tyldum

For years, I've been fascinated by the work at Bletchley Park, especially on the Enigma decoding program, but this is a bit of travesty in terms of the actual work done there, and bizarre in that it seems to go out of its way to make its protagonist (i.e. Alan Turing) less likeable than the historical record suggests was the case (though the details of his near-marriage were surprisingly faithful to reality). There's also a rather severe case of anachronism in the way that it presents Turing as being autistic in ways that those around of him would never have conceived in the 1930s/1940s. Scrupulous on the production values but otherwise disappointing.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Steve Jobs

2015, US, directed by Danny Boyle

I've little time for the deification of Jobs, and this film doesn't participate in that but I doubt it provides much in the way of insight into the man, either. I'm no great Danny Boyle fan but I will say that he knows his strengths -- he can handle a set-piece with technical skill even if it's a rather empty experience (no surprise that he was behind the Olympic opening ceremony, then), and the film is essentially three extended set pieces, each a variation on a theme, with the repetitiveness and the rhythm, as well as the heavy-handed symbolism of recurring characters, that this suggests. Not a bad film, necessarily, but a pretty hollow one.

99 Homes

2015, US, directed by Ramin Bahrani

While Ramin Bahrani has been moving closer to the financial mainstream of late, 99 Homes retains a good deal of the spirit of more independent cinema, including in its focus on people and experiences generally neglected by big-budget cinema. The protagonists are a hard-nosed real-estate guy and one of the victims of his push-the-envelope financial strategies, who ends up on the sidewalk after he fails to make payments on the family home. There's an obvious artificiality to the setup, and at times the speeches seem quite contrived, while the ending certainly strayed too close to poetic justice for my realist taste, but in between there are some very impressive things going on here -- there's an anger at social injustice that really burns, and a sense that you are in a fully-realized and yet little-known corner of human experience. Andrew Garfield is surprisingly good, and Michael Shannon is terrific, a shark on two legs yet also credibly human.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Absolutely Anything

2015, UK, directed by Terry Jones

Absolutely awful.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

They Live By Night

1948, US, directed by Nicholas Ray

The big screen was a nice way to fill this gap in my cinematic knowledge, with the large-scale image especially notable in the opening sequences with its terrific helicopter shots. The doomed lover plot is a delicate structure around which to build a film, requiring a genuine delicacy of touch to avoid slipping too deeply into melodrama, and obviously Ray pulls the trick off -- while some of the local colour scenes are just terrific, especially the offbeat wedding scene...

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Les Fugitifs

1986, France, directed by Francis Veber

The third and final of the films that paired Gérard Depardieu and Pierre Richard, this is to my eye the tightest of the trio, and also the most pleasing to the eye, but it's also pretty heavy on the sentimentality, as so often with films featuring children... Still, both leads are solid on this occasion -- Richard's status as an inheritor of de Funès seemed especially clear on this occasion. There's also an enjoyable cameo from one Michel Blanc, the same year as he and Depardieu set things alight in the far superior Tenue de soirée

Thursday, March 03, 2016

La Veuve couderc

1971, France, directed by Pierre Granier-Deferre

Granier-Deferre, Simenon, Signoret and Delon combined to generally good effect. The film departs fairly radically from Simenon's source material, but Granier-Deferre shows, again, that he's particularly good on atmosphere and a strong sense of place/time (in this case an almost hermetically-closed community in rural France of the 1930s, with all this implies in terms of mistrust of the stranger, in the form of Delon).


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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.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States