Posts Tagged ‘France

18
May
10

“Lady Blue Shanghai” (2010)

There’s a new David Lynch movie out there (which you can view in its entirety either from the vodpod on the right side of this page, or by just clicking here). Seeing as how I’ve seen pretty much every movie he’s made, I felt obligated to post about it here. Lady Blue Shanghai is a sixteen minute high-def video commissioned by Christian Dior to showcase some new handbag they’re selling (for about $2,000). For the man who hates product placement in cinema, but also is honest about why he chooses to make commercials, I think this is an interesting choice. Lynch has some previous experience filming shorter ads, for the likes of other fashionista types Calvin Klein and Gucci, as well as for cigarettes and video games. All of these previous films were for-hire projects that clearly had something to sell (actually identifying the product with the advertisement varies with each, obviously). This new film is no exception, except it is clearly longer-form (16 minutes) and intended for viewing only online (as opposed to television).
I hesitate to lump disparate projects together, but this seems to be a fairly new type of “genre”, if you can even call it that: the long-form, internet advertisement. Of course, this type of film-making isn’t exclusive to the Internet, but this medium of delivery is interesting; giving well-established artists/filmmakers the flexibility to create something of their own that also attempts to showcase a consumer product. Martin Scorsese‘s wine commercial homage to Alfred Hitchock, Key to Reserva (2007), springs to mind as an exemplar here. I’m not sure what I have to say here other than to point out the obviousness that advertising is just as much an art-form as narrative filmmaking, though I agree with Lynch that the way in which the two intersect is important. His idea that product placement “putrifies” the art is a noble one. I would like to know if he considers the commercial in-and-of-itself, which I guess is grounded in such putrification, a lesser art or even an art form at all….

SO, on to some specific thoughts on the Lynch film: It’s nice to see a new face in the Lynch universe; Marion Cotillard (apparently ‘the face of Dior’ across several of these internet films) fits right in. Her acting in this is clearly a Lynch-directed performance (which is especially obvious if you compare across the other films on the site, or any of her other roles). I think a lot of people just assume that Lynch’s movies are “weird” without really thinking about how. He clearly has a purpose (whatever that may be) for directing his (female) protagonists in similar ways. Cotillard’s delivery here is similar to the kind of performance (though by no means as mesmerizing) one sees (in parts) from Laura Dern. This film seems closest related to Inland Empire, not only in its non-celluloid look, or because it is the most recent of his features, but because it seems to center around “a woman in trouble” without any apparent plot on the surface (though, of course it is 164 minutes shorter).
Ah, but dear reader, this little short contains quite a bit of substance along with its flashy camera trickery. Basically, the woman replaces her love (real and/or imagined) for a handbag. Yes, that is the simple story. Despite whatever kind of negative, reactionary assessment one might have of the film (like “It’s about nothing!” or “WTF!”), Lynch clearly centers the film around the product. However, he rather ingeniously turns the product (the handbag) from a source of anxiety (“I am afraid to look inside”) to a literal fetish object replacing her previous pursuit of (the) Man. Ok, so maybe you say I’m reading too much into it, but I say, as an unapolegetic Lynch-ophile, that this is an exercise in turning advertising on its head. If the ad works (however that may be measured, most obviously if one were to crazily buy the handbag after watching it), then Lynch has basically made the viewer/buyer admit to his or her own consumerist fetish. Spend a lot of money, buy some love (back) for yourself.  Oh, the economy….

19
Sep
09

Sur mes lèvres (2001)

readmylipsDespite watching this a couple of weeks ago, I still have the DVD sitting here to remind me to write something about it. I’m not in the mood for a heavy analysis, though I wouldn’t be much use in describing its innovative use of sound or all the Hitchockian motifs sprinkled throughout. I just like watching and this movie is all about watching (and, in a certain sense, the problems that arise when you stop watching and actually interact with the world).

I mainly wanted to see this film because of the two actors involved. Vincent Cassel, despite his sometimes over-mugging face, has become quite the interesting role-taker. I first noticed him in the importantly praised La Haine, though most American film watchers only know him from his brief roles in the Oceans films.. This film was made right around the time he started to crossover into Hollywood, only to jump right back into mostly French features to his benefit and Hollywood’s loss.

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Emmanuelle Devos is what makes this movie better than average. I’ve only seen her in a few films (Kings & Queen being another excellent performance), but I will watch anything she does.
I don’t know what it is, but she has that ability to convey more than one thing at a time in just making a face. She also has a very peculiar looking face, which is only made more beautiful in her acting to make it less so (I guess hers is one of those faces that strangely borders between exceptional beauty and not?).
As a hearing-impaired/deaf woman with a lack of social skills (for lack of a better way of describing it), she is required to play the role as an ostracized wallflower. The progression of the character from this to a more empowered, yet deeply co-dependent person is a fascinating characterization. There are stylistic choices made to accent this opening up, as with the increased use of color after a noticeable drab, earth-toned beginning…
The film offers a portrayal of a relationship between two people that is unique to most film stories. It may not be entirely believable to some viewers, but the filmmaking and acting do their best to cover this up.
Each of the characters is simply using the other to get what they want individually, yet they ultimately end up…..well that would spoil the film. Suffice to say, none of the characters are particularly sympathetic. Yet, the film explores an interesting overall premise in its depiction of the interaction between pairs of people throughout; whether it as friends, co-workers, lovers, in marriage or in crime.

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I’m not sure what else I can say. I just wanted to add the film to the list here, in case anyone is looking for a recommendation.
As alluded to above, Hitchcock’s Rear Window is an obvious influence, but if we are genre-ripping, I would also maybe include Sam Fuller, with his more blatantly dysfunctional depictions of crime-fueled relationships.

Having also seen the director’s almost equally impressive character-based follow-up, The Beat My Heart Skipped (a remake of Fingers), I look forward to getting the chance to see Un prophète, which won the Grand Prix (2nd Prize) at this past Cannes Film Festival.

18
Aug
09

Écoute le temps (2006)

ecouteletempsFinally an interesting movie this week (I’ve had crap luck lately in choosing them). I was surprised I liked this, especially for being an arty French debut (not that I would necessarily not like something described that way). The main character (seen left), Charlotte,  is a sound engineer for film documentaries who returns to her home town for a spoiler-ish reason. Let’s just say it involves a death. Hanging around in the home of the deceased, she comes to realize that she can hear events from the past taking place in the house with the aid of her recording equipment. She then proceeds to attempt to solve the mystery around the sudden death. Later, and I think this might not be “in” the film, she discovers another reason for why she can hear what’s no longer there.
I wouldn’t say the film is superb or anything (it, for instance, has major pacing problems toward the end). However, I was pleasantly engaged the whole 83 minutes, no doubt in large part due to the performance by Emilie Dequenne, who some people might barely recognize from the Dardenne’s Rosetta (her first performance; another engaging one in an excellent film).
Obviously, the sound track to the film is supposed to be important here, and there is some interesting ambient-ness to it in parts. It’s also notable that the main character seems to increasingly reject speaking as a form of communication (There are very few extended scenes of dialogue in the film). The film definitely leaves you to figure out what you want out of it. It’s not a haunted house movie or a straight mystery plot thriller, that’s for sure.

ecoute2ecoute3 If I were to pull the WIYL (watch-if-you-like) card, I would definitely name-check The Conversation. I was also thinking (for some reason) maybe tonal parts of The Sweet Hereafter or the roving rural interviewness of The Pledge, but the internets also suggest Polanski’s Repulsion (which makes total sense now that it’s been suggested). There’s another too, but to write the title out would be a major spoiler.
The english title of the film is Fissures, which seems enough of a decent translation, but I’m sure the phrase is intended to be a little vague: listen to time, sound the time, who knows.

15
Jul
09

Elle est des nôtres (2003)

elleestdesnotresI picked this up, because it was supposedly “One of French Cinema’s boldest debuts in recent memory” (courtesy of Film Comment via the DVD box). While I was surprisingly not bored, this film is a bit of a disappointment, while simultaneously sticking with me over the last few days. It is a very clinical, very formal depiction of a woman who does not fit in with people. The film documents her attempts at making friends, securing a job, getting a boyfriend, etc., but also shows her complete lack of interest in any of these once she has them. Though, everyone seems to like her and they always say nice things about her. It’s like she wants to be a social being, breaking out of a seemingly long, lonely solitude, but when she gets the chance she either gets bored or frustrated with the effort needed to maintain it.
Or maybe she’s Autistic.
Or maybe she’s a sociopath (for reasons I won’t go into here).

elleest_poolThe film never explains any of this, which makes for a very interesting performance by Sasha Andres; her character’s name is rather obtusely named Christine Blanc (as in either blank, as in slate, or white, as in pure?).
This is definitely one of those films that people complain is “too arty” for its own good, meaning any kind of satisfaction you get from it is from your own interpretations and filling-in-the-blanks (which I like, if there’s enough there for me to do so). If I were to recommend the film (which I probably would not), it would be for the unique way it blends the everyday, mundane world (especially of the workplace) into a kind of seemingly stylized un-horror fantasy. There are no monsters here but the self. Here are some of the stills that do the screaming:

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27
May
09

Dans Paris (2006)

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While watching this film, I get the distinct impression that I do not understand the culture of French people. I also come to realize that Roman Duris is an amazing actor.

Christopher Honoré’s Dans Paris (Inside Paris) is a 90 minute romp of a film that is ultimately about how two brothers choose to deal with the way their (broken) family has shaped their seeing the world. And it has a lot of scenes with people hanging about half-to-completely naked or in their underwear.
One brother, Paul (Roman Duris), fights with his wife, laughs with her, then fights some more, before ending up back home to literally wade in the depression of his mid-life. The other, younger Jean (Louis Garrel) is a University student who skips class to roam the city, happening upon sex with multiple woman in the same day, because, well, apparently he just can. The two are staying in their father’s apartment and it’s almost Christmas.

The film, in its choice of music and editing (free and choppy, presents itself in a playful nature, starting out with a narrator who talks to the camera and then joins in on the diagesis as if he hasn’t. Yet, at the core, the film deals with, and has quite a nice speech about, sadness; the disconnection that grows from within between people who know each other (too) well.
While I’m sure that some would complain about the lack of a proper plot or arc for these characters (the movie doesn’t really “go anywhere”), there are quite a few remarkable scenes that convey the kind of honesty that only a so-called “low-budget indie” film such as this can accomplish. One scene involves reading a children’s book (I assume one of Honoré’s own) and another involves singing a song over the telephone. The latter is an amazing piece of cinema, among many that save a movie like this from ultimately being a tedious viewing experience.
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