Thursday, January 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger 1919-2010



First Rohmer, now Salinger. The icons are dropping like flies. But mark my words, in the coming years - now that his 30 years of secret writing and all the speculative work that he sued to suppress can finally be published - his legend will be even bigger than it was during his life.

Publishers...let the bidding begin.

J.D. Salinger 1919-2010



First Rohmer, now Salinger. The icons are dropping like flies. But mark my words, in the coming years - now that his 30 years of secret writing and all the speculative work that he sued to suppress can finally be published - his legend will be even bigger than it was during his life.

Publishers...let the bidding begin.

Rohmer in Retrospect: Full Moon in Paris (1984)

Director, writer and critic Eric Rohmer passed away on January 11, 2010, at the age of 89. In this series, we will be examining some of his lesser known films.


Smack dab in the middle of his Comedies and Proverbs series, “Full Moon in Paris” is an underrated work by Eric Rohmer. Its predecessor, “Pauline at the Beach”, was wildly successful, both critically and financially, and Full Moon’s reception was second tier in comparison.


But in many ways, this is the archetypal Rohmer light romance, complete with a confused and utterly self-absorbed protagonist named Louise (Pascale Ogier); a shallow young woman with a brand new degree in interior design, beginning what she thinks will be a glamorous career in Paris. She has moved into a suburban apartment with her stogy but dependable boyfriend (Tcheky Karyo), who she considers more of a lifeboat than a lover.




Louise foolishly wants it all; a settled, stable home life when it suits her, and wild nights of partying and flirting when it doesn’t. But mainly, Louise wants whatever she doesn’t have at that second. She justifies her flightiness by allowing Karyo the same freedoms, although he is totally uninterested in an open relationship.




As is typical for this series, the story plays out as Louise interacts with her circle of young Parisian friends, who spend their nights dancing to dreadful French pop music (yes that is a redundancy) and sneaking off to terraces and alcoves for a little old fashioned necking.




A wet-behind-the-ears Fabrice Luchini is quite good as Louise’s married friend and confidant Octave, who is content with their platonic relationship for now, but thinks Louise would make a smashing mistress one day. Despite her posing, Louise’s liberated lip service will be severely tested as the film unfolds, and she will learn that getting what you wished for can be surprisingly hazardous.


The film is rendered in Rohmer’s typical light tones, so light in fact that it almost seems un-ambitious, and it is clear where the story is heading long before the dénouement, but that is the fun of Rohmer: watching the manipulative and the misguided arrive at their long-awaited date with Karma.



Production Details


Rohmer in Retrospect: Full Moon in Paris (1984)

Director, writer and critic Eric Rohmer passed away on January 11, 2010, at the age of 89. In this series, we will be examining some of his lesser known films.


Smack dab in the middle of his Comedies and Proverbs series, “Full Moon in Paris” is an underrated work by Eric Rohmer. Its predecessor, “Pauline at the Beach”, was wildly successful, both critically and financially, and Full Moon’s reception was second tier in comparison.


But in many ways, this is the archetypal Rohmer light romance, complete with a confused and utterly self-absorbed protagonist named Louise (Pascale Ogier); a shallow young woman with a brand new degree in interior design, beginning what she thinks will be a glamorous career in Paris. She has moved into a suburban apartment with her stogy but dependable boyfriend (Tcheky Karyo), who she considers more of a lifeboat than a lover.




Louise foolishly wants it all; a settled, stable home life when it suits her, and wild nights of partying and flirting when it doesn’t. But mainly, Louise wants whatever she doesn’t have at that second. She justifies her flightiness by allowing Karyo the same freedoms, although he is totally uninterested in an open relationship.




As is typical for this series, the story plays out as Louise interacts with her circle of young Parisian friends, who spend their nights dancing to dreadful French pop music (yes that is a redundancy) and sneaking off to terraces and alcoves for a little old fashioned necking.




A wet-behind-the-ears Fabrice Luchini is quite good as Louise’s married friend and confidant Octave, who is content with their platonic relationship for now, but thinks Louise would make a smashing mistress one day. Despite her posing, Louise’s liberated lip service will be severely tested as the film unfolds, and she will learn that getting what you wished for can be surprisingly hazardous.


The film is rendered in Rohmer’s typical light tones, so light in fact that it almost seems un-ambitious, and it is clear where the story is heading long before the dénouement, but that is the fun of Rohmer: watching the manipulative and the misguided arrive at their long-awaited date with Karma.



Production Details

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lorna's Silence (2008)


Being human, I suppose the Dardenne Brothers are capable of making a bad film, but they haven’t done so yet. With Lorna’s Silence, the talented siblings back off a bit on their raw meat documentarian style – there are a lot less violent camera swings and shots of the backs of people’s heads – but story wise, the brothers remain in their comfort zone with another tale of fringe, shadowy hustlers trying to make a quick buck off of illegal immigrants.


I would never have imagined that there are so many people desperate to live in dreary Liege, Belgium but, over the years, the Dardennes have introduced us to many of them, and their compelling, heartbreaking stories. Undocumented Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) has entered into a sham marriage with a heroin-addict (Jeremie Renier) as a way of obtaining Belgian citizenship. As soon as she gets her papers, she plans to divorce Renier so that she in turn can marry other illegals and help naturalize them, etcetera etcetera.


All of this is quite lucrative and, on the surface, fairly harmless, until Lorna’s sleazeball business partner (Fabrizio Rongione) devises a scheme to double their profits through a sinister shortcut. The Dardennes succeed brilliantly in making us feel Lorna’s dilemma, as her seemingly benign plan has been taken to a new, high stakes level.


Lorna’s desperation manifests itself in surprising ways, and her lack of predictability is captured by the brothers with their trademark objective immediacy, and ultimately, we share her sense of helplessness and guilt. Lorna’s attempt to make amends using the only option available to her is both pathetic and oddly logical, and we realize the full and devastating measure of her predicament.


In typically Dardenne fashion, Lorna is neither obviously endorsed nor condemned by the storytelling, but the matter-of-fact presentation of events makes us keenly aware of the “banality of evil”, and the thin, fragile line that separates us all from a world of utter barbarism.

Production Details

Lorna's Silence (2008)


Being human, I suppose the Dardenne Brothers are capable of making a bad film, but they haven’t done so yet. With Lorna’s Silence, the talented siblings back off a bit on their raw meat documentarian style – there are a lot less violent camera swings and shots of the backs of people’s heads – but story wise, the brothers remain in their comfort zone with another tale of fringe, shadowy hustlers trying to make a quick buck off of illegal immigrants.


I would never have imagined that there are so many people desperate to live in dreary Liege, Belgium but, over the years, the Dardennes have introduced us to many of them, and their compelling, heartbreaking stories. Undocumented Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) has entered into a sham marriage with a heroin-addict (Jeremie Renier) as a way of obtaining Belgian citizenship. As soon as she gets her papers, she plans to divorce Renier so that she in turn can marry other illegals and help naturalize them, etcetera etcetera.


All of this is quite lucrative and, on the surface, fairly harmless, until Lorna’s sleazeball business partner (Fabrizio Rongione) devises a scheme to double their profits through a sinister shortcut. The Dardennes succeed brilliantly in making us feel Lorna’s dilemma, as her seemingly benign plan has been taken to a new, high stakes level.


Lorna’s desperation manifests itself in surprising ways, and her lack of predictability is captured by the brothers with their trademark objective immediacy, and ultimately, we share her sense of helplessness and guilt. Lorna’s attempt to make amends using the only option available to her is both pathetic and oddly logical, and we realize the full and devastating measure of her predicament.


In typically Dardenne fashion, Lorna is neither obviously endorsed nor condemned by the storytelling, but the matter-of-fact presentation of events makes us keenly aware of the “banality of evil”, and the thin, fragile line that separates us all from a world of utter barbarism.

Production Details

Monday, January 25, 2010

In The Loop (2009)


Doctor Strangelove meets The Office in this bouncy quasi-doc that somehow makes us laugh out loud at a bit of recent history - the selling of the Iraq War - that wasn’t the least bit funny when it was happening. The film looks at the unique, and rather sordid, relationship between the US and UK governments in drumming up war fever; a relationship based on mutual exploitation and bamboozlement.


The fun gets rolling when a dim bulb of a cabinet minister (Tom Hollander) makes a casual public remark that war is “unforeseeable”, and the BBC makes the mistake of assuming that Hollander has a clue what he’s talking about. This causes frenzy on both sides of the pond as US and UK officials realize they must now redouble their efforts to sell this war to a skeptical public. Hollander and his young assistant (Chris Addison) are quickly summoned to Washington, where a thorough tongue lashing awaits them from a cold blooded State Department neo-con (well played by David Rasche), who wants this war so badly he can taste it.


Along the way we meet an array of powerful goofballs and wannabes, and all of them share the trait of ineptitude tempered by naked ambition. Mimi Kennedy (yup, Dharma’s mom) and James Gandolfini kind of steal the show as Secretary of State and a dovish 5 star general, respectively, and it’s great fun watching these two gifted talents interact.


Ultimately, the whole rush to war is nearly derailed by a livid constituent of Hollander (the hilarious Steve Coogan) whose garden wall is falling down and somehow it’s the government's fault. Then there’s Peter Capaldi as a shadowy Downing Street official whose profanity laced tirades serve as a vivid reminder that British cursing is much funnier than the American variety.


“In the Loop” is an entertaining and enjoyable romp. Just don’t think too much about the actual events the film satirizes or you may find yourself feeling a bit nauseous.



Production Details

In The Loop (2009)


Doctor Strangelove meets The Office in this bouncy quasi-doc that somehow makes us laugh out loud at a bit of recent history - the selling of the Iraq War - that wasn’t the least bit funny when it was happening. The film looks at the unique, and rather sordid, relationship between the US and UK governments in drumming up war fever; a relationship based on mutual exploitation and bamboozlement.


The fun gets rolling when a dim bulb of a cabinet minister (Tom Hollander) makes a casual public remark that war is “unforeseeable”, and the BBC makes the mistake of assuming that Hollander has a clue what he’s talking about. This causes frenzy on both sides of the pond as US and UK officials realize they must now redouble their efforts to sell this war to a skeptical public. Hollander and his young assistant (Chris Addison) are quickly summoned to Washington, where a thorough tongue lashing awaits them from a cold blooded State Department neo-con (well played by David Rasche), who wants this war so badly he can taste it.


Along the way we meet an array of powerful goofballs and wannabes, and all of them share the trait of ineptitude tempered by naked ambition. Mimi Kennedy (yup, Dharma’s mom) and James Gandolfini kind of steal the show as Secretary of State and a dovish 5 star general, respectively, and it’s great fun watching these two gifted talents interact.


Ultimately, the whole rush to war is nearly derailed by a livid constituent of Hollander (the hilarious Steve Coogan) whose garden wall is falling down and somehow it’s the government's fault. Then there’s Peter Capaldi as a shadowy Downing Street official whose profanity laced tirades serve as a vivid reminder that British cursing is much funnier than the American variety.


“In the Loop” is an entertaining and enjoyable romp. Just don’t think too much about the actual events the film satirizes or you may find yourself feeling a bit nauseous.



Production Details

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dequenne & Deneueve


A still from Téchiné's La fille du RER (The Girl on the Train) which is finally being released in a few highly civilized North American cities. I'm looking forward to this one.

Review From Indie Wire

Dequenne & Deneueve


A still from Téchiné's La fille du RER (The Girl on the Train) which is finally being released in a few highly civilized North American cities. I'm looking forward to this one.

Review From Indie Wire

Friday, January 22, 2010

An Education (2009)


Set in London in 1961, “An Education” is an intelligent and sophisticated drama that features a performance from Carey Mulligan that is nothing short of astounding. Mulligan stars as Jenny Miller, a 16 year old straight-A student who is introduced to the scary but exhilarating world of adult freedoms and responsibilities through a new and seemingly harmless friendship with a 30ish charmer named David (Peter Sarsgaard).


David’s apparent wealth and worldliness, coupled with his mild nature and self-effacing modesty make him an irresistible package both to Jenny and her squabbling and insecure parents (Albert Molina and Cara Seymour). Through David, a new and exciting world opens up for the diligent Jenny, a world that suddenly puts all of her dreams within her grasp, and with a speed and ease she never expected.


But as we learn in this well constructed story, short cuts to happiness can be treacherous and heartbreaking paths. Director Lone Scherfig works with a clarity and confidence that is reminiscent of David Lean and early Hitchcock. Editor Barney Pilling’s work is invisible and therefore nearly perfect as the film’s surprises unfold at a pace that neither rushes nor drags.


While there are elements of the story that could be considered anti-Semitic by the overly sensitive, screenwriter Nick Hornby does a fine job of finessing these aspects and makes us realize that it is really Britain’s deeply engrained and quite exhausting class warfare that can cause even the most clear-headed to pursue reckless courses of action.


Despite the strong supporting cast, it is the extraordinary work of Carey Mulligan that keeps us enthralled and riveted as this superb film proceeds, and the connection we feel with her enlarges this small scale story into a sort of parable for the way the world has changed since 1961. Jenny’s lost innocence echoes our own, as we have learned that people are not always what they seem, and that the quick and easy route is often the most perilous.

Film Details

An Education (2009)


Set in London in 1961, “An Education” is an intelligent and sophisticated drama that features a performance from Carey Mulligan that is nothing short of astounding. Mulligan stars as Jenny Miller, a 16 year old straight-A student who is introduced to the scary but exhilarating world of adult freedoms and responsibilities through a new and seemingly harmless friendship with a 30ish charmer named David (Peter Sarsgaard).


David’s apparent wealth and worldliness, coupled with his mild nature and self-effacing modesty make him an irresistible package both to Jenny and her squabbling and insecure parents (Albert Molina and Cara Seymour). Through David, a new and exciting world opens up for the diligent Jenny, a world that suddenly puts all of her dreams within her grasp, and with a speed and ease she never expected.


But as we learn in this well constructed story, short cuts to happiness can be treacherous and heartbreaking paths. Director Lone Scherfig works with a clarity and confidence that is reminiscent of David Lean and early Hitchcock. Editor Barney Pilling’s work is invisible and therefore nearly perfect as the film’s surprises unfold at a pace that neither rushes nor drags.


While there are elements of the story that could be considered anti-Semitic by the overly sensitive, screenwriter Nick Hornby does a fine job of finessing these aspects and makes us realize that it is really Britain’s deeply engrained and quite exhausting class warfare that can cause even the most clear-headed to pursue reckless courses of action.


Despite the strong supporting cast, it is the extraordinary work of Carey Mulligan that keeps us enthralled and riveted as this superb film proceeds, and the connection we feel with her enlarges this small scale story into a sort of parable for the way the world has changed since 1961. Jenny’s lost innocence echoes our own, as we have learned that people are not always what they seem, and that the quick and easy route is often the most perilous.

Film Details

80 Years at the Races

Most Marx Brothers aficionados agree that 1937’s A Day at the Races was the last truly great film featuring the zany siblings. Produced by ...