ON DVD: EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

 

everybody wants

Other than its reference to the Van Halen song, I’m not sure what the title of Richard Linklater’s new movie is all about, or the point, other than returning to nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake? Maybe. The thing is, I saw and remember Dazed and Confused from years ago. I remember the vaguely predatory lines Matthew McConaghey would utter at the sight of young girls in college (“That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”) and the barely-there plot filled with characters that seemed to have something important to say, even when it really wasn’t. Dazed and Confused happened to all of us at that one brilliant time of life, and we grew out of it. Some of us choose never to remember it much; others still live eyeball-deep in the memories of those precious years. And that’s good.

What isn’t, however, is Linklater’s sequel of sorts, the aforementioned Everybody Wants Some!! that takes place four years later in an unnamed college where everyone has a weekend of shenanigans just about as class is about to begin. We’re introduced to another batch of characters played by another batch of actors on the rise (and yes, there is one who resembles McConaghey in all but the trademark slurry speech). To be fair, it’s not terrible. That’s the point I’m trying to make: there is not one single scene I can remember that was memorable, that stood out, that made me pay attention, or that hit me with the same nostalgic tone as Dazed. And at a running time of almost two hours, by the third quarter of the movie I was so completely bored of it I felt compelled at times to just hit stop and move on to the next movie. However, as a good moviegoer that I am, I remained sitting in place, eyes searching for a sliver of life, until I realized there wasn’t much to go on about.

Lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place. This is a perfect example of it. Stick with the Before series. Those are worth watching over and over again.

ON DVD: ECHO PARK

If you’ve ever heard the sound of a balloon deflating in slow motion, that is the exact sound this movie (released in film festivals only in 2014 and theatrically in late spring of 2016) makes. This is the down side of independent cinema: while there are excellent “little” pictures being made (see no further than last year’s summer sleeper Tangerine as an excellent example), there are also a lot of inert pictures that somehow manage to find themselves a distributor and a small room to play in, usually to tepid reviews and not much else. You can maybe place the blame on a bundle of directors who came before and were anti-Hollywood for this trend of “eh” directors who also write and produce their products and throw in visual references to other, better made films. I honestly don’t have the answer to that.

But what can you do? Echo Park is a little film that practically no one saw. Frankly, you didn’t miss much: it’s the tired story made even more tiresome of a young woman who leaves her fiancee to go find herself in another part of town (in this case, the title of the movie, the rather posh neighborhood of Echo Park, LA). Whilst there she connects with an individual who couldn’t be more different than she is, but once ole-boyfriend rears his ugly head (as well as the predictably irritating mom from hell who does little to lighten up the mood), there is some questionable moments of “inner turmoil” that has the heroine (or in this case, anti-heroine), playing seesaw with the emotions of not one but two men. Dramatic? No: Echo Park is DOA and you won’t remember anything but the rather bland taste it leaves in your mind of time wasted.

Is it the actor’s fault for not delivering? Nope. However, let me say this: Mamie Gummer is a far, far cry from her more established actress-mother Meryl Streep. As a matter of fact, late last year I saw them both in Jonathan Demme’s Ricki and the Flash where Meryl played an unsympathetic character and Gummer played her neglected daughter. Even when Streep’s character was a horror, I still rooted for her. Gummer just doesn’t convey anything in her role which could have been so much deeper and overall interesting. Anthony Okungbowa and Gale Harold don’t fare much better, either, being written rather thin and showing not a cent of chemistry while on camera with Gummer, which is often. Helen Slater, remember her? She’s here, too, in two scenes exactly, making you wonder, what happened?  thesis chapter length prose essay definition https://heystamford.com/writing/microbiology-case-study-help/8/ free homework help south park essay writing mexican episode follow canadianpharms com assignment doer essay on university education system source link source subpoena response cover letter cialis viagra levitra generico chinese shop herbal viagra technical writer watch writing paper company how to cite a website in a paper apa example how to write introduction master thesis how to write hypothesis for dissertation english writing exam papers thesis proposal sample youtube go here https://recyclesmartma.org/physician/alimentos-con-efecto-viagra/91/ https://naturalpath.net/natural-news/suppliers-of-generic-cialis/100/ enter http://mcorchestra.org/9238-wiki-lancia-thesis/ help writing papers for college http://mechajournal.com/alumni/customized-statistics-paper/12/ the jungle essays go to link viagra results photos [D]

ON DVD: RAMS

 

Released in the early wasteland of post-Christmas, post-Oscar festivities, Rams may not have been what you were looking for in terms of accessible drama. Even so, there is was, playing for a little over two weeks in New York theaters before getting released nationwide for a few more. Rams, Grimur Hakonarson’s second film, plays only to lovers of a very alternative type of film that not even in the fringes of indie cinema made in the US you can find. Knowing all that, this is a very good film that uses the most oblique animal — the aforementioned rams — as a catalyst to rekindling the hard emotions two sheep-farming brothers have felt for each other for most of their lives.

The brothers, Gummi and Kiddi, have not spoken to each other for over 40 years while residing side by side in adjacent farms on the Icelandic countryside. Reader, this is a bleak place to live, but I think the director is using traditional farming to make a point. Both live off the rams they breed and throw in competitions, both throw barely a bone of tolerant resentment at each other from a safe distance while going on with their lives.

Early one morning Gummi finds a sick ram belonging to his brother Kiddi on his side of the farm. He doesn’t do much else but take it unceremoniously to his brother’s property, while going back to his farm to asses his own. When it becomes clear that the rams are falling victim to scrapie — a form of mad cow’s disease that is fatal for the poor animals — Gummi makes a chilling decision to alert the proper authorities that the rams are indeed sick and must be exterminated to prevent further contamination amongst the neighboring farmers. He then, in a cringe inducing moment, kills off his own. Except for a few.

Rams smoothly goes into an increasing momentum as Kiddi’s drunken outburst after his rams are sacrificed leads him to Gummi’s house, and the director stages their first “encounter” with a brilliant set piece: Gummi, sitting alone inside his house, while Kiddi stands at a distance, outside, and shoots into Gummi’s house through a window that is facing the camera — and with that, the audience. From here on, Rams as a drama takes a couple of interesting turns as Gummi tries to keep his few living rams a secret only he knows, while KIddi eventually comes close to discovery. It’s only when the authorities that Gummi himself alerted get notified that he still possesses some of the rams which may or may not still be sick that the movie goes into an unexpected direction with a powerfully emotional payoff.

A little bit rooted in documentary and cinema verite, Hakonarson manages to capture the almost stunning loneliness in which both men live and pass their nights. A late blizzard throws the two brothers into an impossible scenario where all goes black and you can only hear the wind howling through the dark like a banshee, and while this is a technique that seems better suited for horror, it clicks perfectly well here. A clever movie that starts looking like a simple farm story, Rams is the slow crumbling of a wall separating two very different men from each other with a clever ruse. And that makes it a compelling view in my opinion. [A-]

 

FRENCH INVASION, PART DEUX

 

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
Finnegan Oldfield and Francois Damiens in Thomas Bidegain's Les Cowboys.
Finnegan Oldfield and Francois Damiens in Thomas Bidegain’s Les Cowboys.

French cinema has long since separated itself from the sunny, colorful effervescence of New Wave and is riding high on not just its New Intensity, bringing forth some truly twisted stories, but also its reconfiguration of films deemed “American”; i. e. action, crime, and complex thrillers. In 2015 alone they released three films via Rendezvous with French Cinema that later were released earlier this year on VOD: SK-1 (a.k.a. Serial Killer 1), La French, a.k.a. The Connection (their own take on The French Connection), and the profoundly disturbing Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart, barely seen here, and a complete must-watch for lovers of dark crime stories.

In a previous post I mentioned that no less than five movies were playing in New York City at the same time — something I haven’t seen in a long time, and I pay attention to releases — and reviewed three of them: Cosmos, by Andrzej Zulawski; Diary of a Chambermaid by Benoit Jacquot, and finally, Michel Gondry’s coming-of-age movie Microbe et Gasoil.

Les Cowboys is Thomas Bidegain’s first directorial effort, and it’s a darn good one. [He wrote A Prophet, Rust and Bone, parts of Saint Laurent, the upcoming Neither Heaven Nor Earth (screened at New Directors / New Films earlier this year, releasing next month), and the superb Dheepan, a film still playing in the nation, and a must-watch.] Borrowing from the concept that made John Ford’s 1956 masterpiece The Searchers such a compulsive watch and transposing it to modern times, he places a regular French family in an American setting: the rodeo. Of course, this is not a true rodeo per se but more of the likes of a dude ranch where people can play dress up and speak in truly awful Western accents while looking cool. Francois Damiens, the versatile actor I’ve seen in Playing Dead, Suzanne, and Tip-Top (of which the last only had an actual release in the US) plays Alain Ballard, the head of the family who attends such an event whose daughter, who’d been dating a Muslim boy that may have become radicalized, disappears from plain sight, never to be seen again.

Alain’s search to find his daughter (despite her letters that she does not want to be found and is happy to be where she is) takes an extreme left turn that no one paying attention will see coming. It’s such a shock that when I saw this film last October at the New York Film Festival the audience audibly gasped. From there on, the story continues on, bringing a shift of perspective and introducing some tangential characters, such as John C Reilly’s appearance as an American who may be of some help to Alain’s son Kid (Finnegan Oldfield, of Bang Gang, A Modern Love Story), and a Muslim woman who finds herself in a strange land being scrutinized by others who see her as little more than subhuman.

Les Cowboys is a complicated mystery. It stands out because it seems of the zeitgeist as people experience the ugliness of Islamophobia. It’s an intricately woven narrative that doesn’t overstay its welcome, and through clever twists and turns, peels away at the onion until we finally reach its center and find the lost pearl. And no — I haven’t spoiled a single frame of this marvelous movie.

CAFE SOCIETY

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

 

cafe_society

Going to see a Woody Allen movie has become something like a tradition you can’t escape, not that you’d want to. Ever since Match Point brought him back to international acclaim and made his early 00s period one that should be best kept in a vault and forgotten, forever, I’ve managed to catch almost all of his pictures, and while some have been blatant misses (Irrational Man, Whatever Works), others have been the best of his late period and deserve to be placed side by side his rather extensive list of now-classic pictures from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Allen’s style is perfectly suited for pictures based in previous times. There’s something about the cadence, the enunciation, the segues into quirk that is slowly becoming a relic of a time gone by, the allusions of literary figures that today seem obscure, that fit better in stories set in warm melancholia. This is probably why all the psychoanalyzing that was all over the place in Irrational Man completely bombed and left a story with so much potential to become a study of guilt and consequences in an act of violence (even if the intentions were to do some tangential good) as a failure to launch off the ground, fizzling before the countdown had even ended.

Cafe Society is a return to the past, of young Old Hollywood just before it’s peak in 1939. It’s the story of people walking into life with ambitions and then getting turned into a very different path, of dreams that could have been, but weren’t, and the golden aura of romanticism that always tints a moment of regret with something deeper, longer lasting. Urged by his Aunt Rose (Jeannie Berlin),  Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) has arrived to Hollywood to escape a life alongside his gangster brother Ben (Corey Stoll), and is seeking employment through his uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a Hollywood exec. At first it seems as though Bobby may never get to meet his uncle who keeps being a no-show (in a sequence of scenes reminiscent of A Holograph for the King), but he finally gets his foot in the door, a chance to prove himself, and there he meets Phil’s beautiful secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), to whom he takes an immediate liking.

Image by Indiewire

Vonnie and Bobby start hanging out in smaller bars and restaurants, but while he would very much like to date her, she makes it clear she’s involved. And then things get a little complicated for him and her, so much that a series of situations and revelations force Bobby to go back to New York and rebuild his life as a nightclub manager for Ben (who still conducts shady businesses on the side, because hey, why not?). There he rekindles a friendship with a couple he met while on the West Coast (Parker Posey and Paul Schneider) who introduce him to the woman that is to become his wife (and no, this is not a spoiler), who also happens to be called Veronica (Blake Lively).

It seems as though Allen is setting his audience up for some rather important denouement: the situation is pregnant to the gills with all of the elements of big revelations, scenes — basically, the stuff of soap. It’s not that he hasn’t done this before. He has, for example, in Husbands and Wives, incurred into that same territory while not turning into a cheap melodrama. What becomes clear is that Allen’s story (which as narrated by Allen himself in a slower, thicker pace that contrasts his trademark staccato rhythms) makes it sound something of an observed chronicle, and seems to be more focused into presenting a multi-character arc that goes full circle, from innocence to jaded. If at the start he gives us scenes full of chuckles, he starts to turn wistful and by the end, it’s all there, glowing in Kristen Stewart’s and Jesse Eisenberg’s faces, who do a remarkable work as a duo (she presents a character that while  on paper may have been written as one of many brunettes in Allen’s repertoire, she makes her own; Eisenberg is all jerky awkwardness and nervous behavior that is the almost requisite stand-in for Allen himself).

However, Cafe Society is not a perfect picture — far from it. For a man who makes a movie a year it must be grueling trying to make his own deadlines  while still maintaining a sense of artistry visible in the final product. I felt as though much of what happened had a rushed feel, as if though one were merely skimming through a book rather than really diving into it and savoring the words as he did with Hannah and Her Sisters, another story that transpired in a long time frame, divided into chapters. Because of this, despite all its aura of old beauty with a hint of decadence, Allen falls just short of another masterpiece, instead creating an impressionistic glimpse into an era gone by through the guise of a comedy of manners.

And last but not least, there are the many, many references to other Allen pictures: the iconic Manhattan Bridge from Manhattan makes its appearance; Bobby’s parents (Sari Lennick and Stephen Kunken) have a vague resemblance, personality-wise, to the actors who portrayed Allen’s parents in Annie Hall; there’s the unstable brunette and the more stable, maternal blonde; there’s a comical scene of a seduction gone horribly wrong also reminiscent of Annie Hall.

New on DVD: AFERIM!

 

aferim-ii

The Wild West is very much alive in this rather strange picture that has a look and feel of a visual chronicle from a time gone by. Aferim!, which in Romanian means “Bravo!”, is an anomaly of a picture, a time capsule into a place so remote that it seems as though we were looking far past 1835 — the date which the plot takes place. It doesn’t even feel like Romania  more so than some surreal landscape, and the stilted language just adds to its distinctive but almost too-foreign nature.

A constable, Costadin, and his son Ionita are in the search of one Carfin. Carfin, it seems, had a sexual affair with the wife of another boyar’s wife that got discovered. Now the boyar wants to exact his punishment, and it’s up to both Costadin and Ionita that this happens. That is the bare-bones of the story, which is basically a road picture on horses, and one that takes the two men into numerous encounters with people of all shapes and sizes and walks of life. One constant does remain in Aferim! and that is that there is a strong sense of bigotry in almost every person who Costadin comes in contact with. A priest, for example, expresses an intense anti-Semitism that would land him in hot water in the states (although not so in other places). Costadin himself comes into the foreground as someone you wouldn’t want to get to know. He’s brash and rude and has no time for anything but business, and business here means getting to the man he’s been hired to capture.

Aferim-2

Of course, if all were so easy, we wouldn’t have a story. Costadin eventually does catch up with Carfin (Toma Cuzin, previously seen in Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Treasure), not before he has an almost comedic but still painful to watch encounter with a young gypsy boy who ran away from his master, doesn’t have any family, and per his own words, doesn’t even know his own birthday. Carfin and Costadin begin a slow warming up to each other — a thing so gradual you almost don’t notice until we catch up to the meat of the plot which is the inevitable punishment. By then, at least for me, I was so invested in the relationship between essentially a bounty hunter and his man that when the moment does arrive it’s so shocking I almost cried out. And this is why I love Romanian cinema: this is a picture that looks inscrutable, feels from another time, keeps you in the distance and gives you not a single close up of an actor, but manages to tell you a story that deftly removes the rug from out under your feet. All while also exposing the uglier side of Europe and its own hand in the world of human trafficking and slavery. By the end of the film, the word Aferim! has morphed into something truly sour and rotten. Such, that it lingered long after the credits rolled. [A]

DARK FAIRYTALES

And now, two movies that couldn’t be less similar who strangely enough boast some interesting parallels.

Matteo Garone’s newest film Tale of Tales is an adaptation of the works of Giambattista Basile’s fairy tales –themselves a source of inspiration for the Brother’s Grimm, and so on– that presents a place and time populated by evil queens, hags pretending to be beautiful, and daughters married off to ogres that almost seems plastic. Garone, while trying to being as much period as he can with the visual look of the movie also leaves it in a state of un-reality –quite the opposite from the very real world of his previous film Reality (2012). Three interconnected stories take canter stage here, often overlapping the narrative, which at times got me a little confused until I fell into its odd rhythm. The one about the queen who wants to have a child has the most potential for outright horror (and there is a rather gruesome shot of Salma Hayek as the queen gorging herself on a giant heart of a sacrificed animal, I forget which one). That it segues shortly after into the two old, ugly-ass sisters who compete for the love of a king (played by Vincent Cassel), and their story has a more comical tone, closer to farce than anything else in the entire picture. The third story, the flea, is somewhat a mixed bag of drama and comedy, and wouldn’t be out of place in Cronenberg’s strange world of giant creatures circa Naked Lunch.

I’m going to say that I did enjoy most of it, with his odd fits and starts. Tale of Tales is, despite its rich but artificial visuals, a blank template on which anyone with a keen eye could take and develop into darkly complex stories of their own. However, its very subject matter will only be something lovers of costume dramas with a bit of fantasy thrown in will indulge in: for the most, it’s worth a look, if at all for its sheer spectacle.  [B]

Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise could very well be a modern-day take on Fritz Lang’s Metropolis with whiffs here and there to a false urban complacency come Stepford Wives and even a hint of the more Biblical Tower of Babel. In this case, the high rise of the picture is a lone skyscraper with a sheared-off top that encapsulates society as a whole, from the poorest to the richest. Those who live in the bottom aren’t on the way up, and those on top . . . well, you know. They’ve got the better view, and command lavish lifestyles. Tom Hiddleston plays the Everyman at the center of it all who gets sucked into a party thrown by its richest inhabitant, an architect of the name Royal (Jeremy Irons in another performance centered around amorality) and finds himself first aware of his own difference from these people at the top, to a slow awareness that their hedonism must be brought to an end.

It’s a rather high concept if you ask me. But if you look around you’ll see we already live in the world of High-Rise: the rich enjoy the benefits of living in prime real estate in major cities around the world while the ones who can’t eventually find a way to make it work to their advantage, or find alternative ways to cope. It’s rather fitting, then, that anarchy should dominate the film’s second half when all hell literally breaks loose. Compared to now, we may not have yet reached that boiling point, we may still be under a giant hand firmly placed over the lid holding the pressure, but looking at the rapidity of current events happening all over, ripping the foundations of society all over, it almost seems inevitable we’re headed for a collision course. In that sense, High-Rise is is zeitgeist science fiction and urban dystopia rolled up into an uncomfortable watch.  [B]

ON DVD: TOUCHED WITH FIRE

 

touched

If anyone would have ever asked me what a role I could remember Katie Holmes from it would have to be as Tom Cruise’s escapee prisoner wife. Before that, just another cute player of the cluster that came out from the Dawson’s Creek / late 90s era and either managed to carve careers in TV with occasional forays into film or simply didn’t. Holmes had all but vanished from film making, or let me rephrase it, appeared in a group of films that were either so pale they didn’t register, or bad that people avoided them. Flash forward to the middle of the current decade and here she appears in Paul Dalio’s Touched by Fire inhabiting a role that many actresses vying for meaty parts would commit crimes for. Yes — she is that good here.

Carla, the character Holmes plays, is a poet who is struggling with her own emotions and finds herself falling apart at the seams. At about the same time, another artist, vocal performer Marco (Luke Avery) is all but a wreck living in squalor, books thrown every which way, paranoid to the gills about society in general. When both check into a psychiatric hospital to get treatment for bipolar disorder (which both suffer from at what looks to be an intense level, with prolonged highs and lows) they make a connection that feeds off the other, both going into hyper-drive and all but imploding in the process when they decide to go off their meds and go on a road trip.

One of the most salient aspects of Touched with Fire is how, while providing a romance between two sufferers of bipolar disorder, it still doesn’t go off the rails. As a matter of fact, this is no different than watching a movie about two drug-addicts who fall in love while being hooked on the needle or white lines. The reaction is the same: instantaneous combustion between two unbridled passions with no concern as to limits. When they’re on a high, the film goes into color overdrive and presents the world in bold, expressionistic tones — especially in the summer sequence. When emotions get too hot for either one to control . . . let’s just say that it becomes a bit painful to see.

For the most part, Touched with Fire seems to place some criticism at the medical industry. Medicating people with mental disorders looks like the easiest thing to do now, but, as Marco tells Carla towards the end, he just has to feel the highs. The problem with that, and the movie does tackle it without going overboard, is how do you control someone who can’t be controlled and lives on impulses and zero direction?

On that alone the movie is excellent. Neither too cloying and suffocating in its presentation of mental imbalance, but not posing too distant from it as to remain detached and thus safe, Touched with Fire plunges the viewer into experiencing mental collapse up close, with a sense of momentary order arriving after. And now, more from Katie Holmes, please.  [B]

FRENCH INVASION, PART UNE

Usually NYC (and the rest of the nation) gets about seven to 10 French releases throughout the year not counting the ones we get through film festivals only or that get their release through video on demand.

Already there’s been a good number of prestige French movies that have made their premiere in NY theaters (some, like Palm D’Or winner Dheepan, are still making their rounds across theaters, and Fatima, currently showing in Boston’s 21st French Film Festival, officially lands on our shore August 26). What is rare is to have multiple films from a specific country playing in a week, and last week, NYC had all of five films playing at once in and about art-house theaters, all of them critically praised. Five.

Let me start with three:

Cosmos

cosmos

The strangest of them all is the last film by Polish exile Andrzej Zulawski (who enjoyed a retrospective earlier in NY which showcased several of his films including The Devil and The Third Part of the Night) is his final film, a French-Portuguese production titled Cosmos, a film based on the 1965 novel of the same name by Polish author Witold Gombrowicz. In a nutshell, this is one of the wackiest, most nuttiest art-comedies I’ve ever seen. I can’t even start to summarize it correctly, but from what I gathered, it p[resents the story of Witold, a writer, played by Jonathan Genet with eccentric, dreamy intensity, who’s arrived to a bed and breakfast with his friend Fuchs (Johan Libereau), a model who has a habit of appearing with marks on his body that go unexplained, ostensibly to write and get away from it all. The owners are a rather strange bunch: Madame Woytis (Sabine Azema), who tends to freeze once her emotions get out of control, her husband Leon (Jean Francois Balmer), and their daughter Lena (Victoria Guerra), with whom Witold falls immediately in love with although she is married to an architect. In the mix is their maid Catherette (Clementine Pons), a woman with a deformed lip who also has a crush on Witold. Once these people get together all sorts of wild, farcical  situations take place that have to be seen to be believed. Along the edges of the movie are visuals of hanged animals — namely, birds, cats, and a chicken. What this imagery may convey is less important than the whole absurdist picture as a whole; Cosmos is almost too eccentric for its own good, and audiences will either ride the wave and enjoy the madness or walk away scratching their heads and wondering what the heck was all this mess about. [A-]

 

Diary of a Chambermaid

Lea Seydoux smirks her way through Diary of a Chambermaid.
Lea Seydoux smirks her way through Diary of a Chambermaid.

Another adaptation, this one of Octave Mirbeau’s novel of the same name, Diary of a Chambermaid is fairly straightforward. There are no symbolisms to see and director Benoit Jacqout has all but streamlined the narrative to that of the heroine, Celestine (Lea Seydoux), and her experiences as a chambermaid to various households while working in the present for the Lanlaires, whose lady of the house mistreats her. Already from the word go, Celestine is pretty unsympathetic; she’s haughty and it feels as though she  considers her occupation to be beneath her (even though it is her skill). Even so, she lands a spot a the aforementioned Lanlaires and at the same time she gets the treatment of a slave, with Madame Lanlaire almost sadictically prodding her to the point of snapping in two, Celestine mutters almost openly her disdain for them, seeing through their platform of wealth while craving it for herself. Along the way she strikes up flirtations with anything that is male and that includes also servant Joseph (Vincent Lindon, a panting, masculine body of barely repressed sexual energy) who has a few surprises up his sleeve. Events proceed almost stiffly and any possible comedy gets a bit lost around the sheer lack of fluid energy from scene to scene. It’s almost as if Jacquot had decided to do a rendition that was as literal as possible to the source material and by doing so, sucked the life out of it. It’s a shame because as a story this one’s pretty wicked, but other than Seydoux, and the constant humiliations her character suffers — when not getting berated by Madame she’s being lusted for by her husband, and one flashback sex scene with a former employer’s son ends rather badly — Diary of a Chambermaid is so formal it’s almost robotic. A pity then that it only towards the end regains a little of its life back, but its plodding relentless probably won’t be to anyone’s liking. [C+]

 

Microbe et Gasoil (Microbe and Gasoline)

MicrobeandGasoline

Michel Gondry should from now on stick to filming children and young adults. He has this knack it seems to get the best out of their performances, and his stories are, while nothing out of this world, absolutely magical. I personally prefer them — 2013’s Mood Indigo and 2005’s The Science of Sleep were a little too crazy for me, although there’s always a chance to view it again, see what I missed, et cetera.

Microbe and Gasoline could very well be a companion to his 2012’s The We and the I, a little film about teens coming home on the bus on the last day from school and how their relations to one another either grew or became torn apart in that sliver of time. Here, time is stretched out to an entire school year: Daniel, nicknamed Microbe due to his frail stature, long hair, and girlish looks, isn’t as much of an outcast, but doesn’t really fit in and has a talent for drawing that comes in handy later in the story. The arrival of Theo, a tall, dark haired boy oozing as much self-confidence as the stink of the gasoline that motors his bike, changes things, and both boys bond in friendship, becoming a tight unit. Not much of consequence transpires throughout the tale, although snippets of Daniel’s and Theo’s family dynamics get some screen time, with Daniel’s mom (Audrey Tautou) having a bout with depression that feels a bit underwritten, and Theo’s dysfunctional relationship with his father and mother.

When both boys hit the road in a self-powered tiny home, Michel Gondry’s adventure begins proper. Some events seem appropriate of this type of comedy: cops stop the mobile home only to take a selfie outside while Theo’s petrified face peers out the deck window; a stop at a dentist’s place turns decidedly whacked out, and Daniel’s need for a haircut in order to impress a girl from school who’s vacationing in her parent’s summer home lands them squarely in a place no kid should ever, with completely bizarre results ending in a football field.  Other events have a hint of social drama within, as when their vehicle suffers a mishap after they park it near a squatter’s makeshift spot in the woods — illegal in France — they’re forced to other means to get back home.

I feel resistant in using terms like coming-of-age but this is precisely what Microbe and Gasoline is: a wonderful depiction of two kids meeting in that awkward moment in life called High School and proving to themselves and others the validity of their own existence. It’s a laugh-out-loud romp that manages to jerk your tears a little bit, and for that, I’m always glad movies like these exist. [A]

WEINER

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

Watching Weiner is the closest approximation to peering out of your window to watch the slowest but juiciest collision of man versus speeding train. You can’t stop watching, and thanks to social media, YouTube, news media, and everything that connects us to the world, there is no way to even avoid looking unless you buried your head under a rock or yanked all the cables of your internet and cable providers and went commando. It’s impossible, but let’s face it, when has watching a public figure — any public figure — go into full meltdown failed to entertain? Remember Charlie Sheen and his #winning hashtag that resulted in a record number of followers in less than a morning’s breath? Same with Anthony Weiner, former New York congressman, who became caught in one of the sauciest sexual scandals of the new century when he sexted his penis to a Washington woman in 2011 — an act that threw him into the spotlight in ways he would not have wanted, killing his career. Weiner the documentary starts with Anthony Weiner attempting a comeback in 2013 to become mayor of New York City. Facing backlash, ridicule, but not going down without a fight, it’s really a sight for those looking for a guilty pleasure to see Weiner the congressman let the cameras into his life, his house, his marriage to Huma Abedin who stands by him no matter what (although one scene later in the documentary, when the second sexting scandal hits the waves, the cracks of strain start to show). A late introduction of the woman behind the second scandal seems to point at some inevitable confrontation between her and Weiner but it’s more a tease, another circus freak in a show filled with freaks of nature. As a matter of fact, if there was any way to describe this garish documentary, it’s as a contemporary freak show in which Weiner, narcissistic, unrepentant, emerges as it’s emcee. And I can bet you we haven’t seen the last of him yet.