Sunday, May 31, 2015

One weekend, three movies

For the first time in months I got out my tablet and scrolled through Netflix to see if there was anything decent to watch. Honestly I find Netflix offers such a paucity of independent and foreign films - and lack of just interesting movies generally - that I hardly ever think about going to the website. But alas a weekend with some hours on my hands and next to nothing to see at the theatres, so why not. As it turns out both the foreign movies I watched were in French. Netflix offers very little of any other kind…… In any case, first up was The Face of Love (2013), not French but American and starring a couple of more than credible actors - Annette Bening and Ed Harris. Even the late great Robin Williams puts in an appearance as a sad sack neighbour who, to me, in a mood that presaged his suicide. Roger Stillman directed. On the surface the idea behind this film didn’t seem very credible. Nikki’s (Bening) first husband (Harris as Garrett) drowns. So distraught over his death, even years later, she falls in love with a man who appears to be his double (Harris of course as Tom). Only it’s not Tom she’s in love with but the image of her late husband. Tom has many talents not least of which he’s a great artist. We never learn what Garrett’s attributes were. But how likely is it to meet someone looking exactly like your ex beau? Yet the film transcends this unbelievability to serve up a lesson on the superficiality of false obsession…..Then it was the two French films…..The first (French-Swiss), Love is the Perfect Crime (2013), directed by Arnaud Larrieu and Jean-Marie Larrieu and starring Mathieu Amalric as Marc. Marc is a college creative writing instructor (and of course admitted failed author) and womanizer though it’s more like women fling themselves on him. This film suffers from wildly unwieldy direction, and it’s way too long.  You have to pinch yourself to realize there’s a murder investigation going on. Nevertheless Amalric is always interesting and the scenes of Lausanne provide a nice backdrop……Finally in Paris Follies (Marc Fitoussi, 2014) two of France’s long time leading stars, Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Pierre Darroussin, combine in this comedy-drama about the boredom that can creep into long time marriages. Brigitte (Huppert) and Xavier (Darrousin) are cattle farmers in Normandy. But the day to day irritations that can creep into domesticity prove just a bit too much. Brigitte needs a release and pretends she’s going to Paris (picture above) to see a doctor. Instead she tries hooking up with a man decades her junior whom she met at a recent party. But eventually she enjoys the overnight companionship of a sophisticated Dane. This really is a character study focussed on Brigitte. And Huppert, seasoned professional that she is, brings off the role effortlessly. One scene in particular - it lasts an astonishing 40 seconds - is a close up of Brigitte after she discovers her husband had been trailing her in Paris. You can almost imagine the thoughts running through her head with the slight movement of her eyes and face, with eventual tears welling up. It’s magnificent.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Deneuve stars in stylish French thriller

In the Name of My Daughter, opening Friday at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, is a smart sophisticated French whodunit, the likes of which we haven’t seen around here in some time. And it makes more than sense that the star of the film should be none other than the classiest lady to have ever performed before the cameras in the post-World War II era - Catherine Deneuve. Here Deneuve plays Renée Le Roux, the elegant doyenne of the Palais de La Mediterranée casino in Nice. It’s the late 1970s. Her daughter Agnès (Adèle Haenel), following a broken marriage, has just returned home from Africa. She wants to open a store selling African artifacts but she needs money. The casino is running a deficit and her mother, known for running a fair if tight ship, is reluctant to cash out Adèle’s shares. Meanwhile Agnès becomes infatuated by Renée’s business advisor, a lawyer named Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet), 10 years her senior. Maurice, not yet divorced, is a womanizer. Adèle falls hard for Maurice, who likes his freedom and hates women’s emotions. But he goes along enough with the relationship to swing a deal with a reputed mobster, and rival casino owner, to get cash and split the proceeds into two accounts - his and Adèle’s - “symbolic” of their shared love. In return Adèle, at a casino board meeting, votes directly against her mother, to turn over control of the casino to her benefactor, rival casino owner Fratoni. Fratoni then liquidates the casino, blaming its finances on Renée’s poor management. A developer is in the wings and wants to convert the Palais into luxury apartments. Adèle, having in part compromised her principles for her lover, finds her love unrequited. Maurice withdraws more and more and Adèle, obsessed with him, even begins stalking. Starved for attention she attempts suicide. In October 1977 - the movie is based on true events - she eventually disappears, her body never found. ”My journey is over,” her diary reads. “I want Maurice to take care of everything.” And so he does, transferring her three million franc share into his account. “It was what she wanted,” he says. Years later, Renée, forlorn as an old woman living in a bare bones flat, presses the local prosecutor to reopen her daughter’s case. In the Name of My Daughter is a stylish detective thriller, with taut acting all around under the assured directorial hand of French master André Téchiné, known for probing the complex interpersonal motives that underlie human affairs. Deneuve, at the top of her game - still after all these years - displays her trademark controlled emotion under that ever so elegant and civilized exterior.