Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Starting to feel like the dog days

It’s mid-July. There hasn’t been a whole lot in the cinemas. Not quite the dog days but… So I turn to Netflix, which still amazes me in that I can switch on my tablet and watch a film. How luxuriously convenient in the early 21st century…..But it’s been a pretty mixed bag in terms of what I’ve seen.

Barefoot in the Park (Gene Saks, 1967) starring for the ages Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. I should always be suspicious of Neil Simon, since he wrote this and the earlier Broadway play, with his predictable saccharine romantic stories. But, believe it or not, I’d never see the movie, let alone the play, and wanted to give it a twirl. Silly me. What we get is basically a filmed version of a static play, with 90 per cent of it shot in the sixth floor Greenwich Village walk-up of the newlyweds first home. Listen folks, if you’re going to see a movie, make it a movie. Let’s have something shot on a bit of a wider canvas, as in more scenes in more indoor - and outdoor - locations. It was claustrophobic just watching this thing. Regardless, Fonda as Corie (opposite Redford’s Paul) is as natural they come and shows for all the world why she’s been such an outstanding actress.

Unforgiveable (André Téchiné, 2011), based on the Philippe Djian novel, is a bit of a brain tease. It stars the always engaging André Dussollier as Francis, a crime novelist seeking a reprieve on the island of Sant'Erasmo in the Venice Lagoon. He falls in love with the realtor, Judith (Carole Bouquet), who sets him up with the house, and they rather improbably marry. Then his visiting daughter Alice (Mélanie Thierry) disappears. He hires a private detective, the flamboyant Anna Maria (Adriana Asti). Turns out she and Judith - who seems promiscuous - had been lovers. Francis eventually fears Judith is cheating on him and hires, of all people, Anna Maria’s son Jérémie, an ex-con, to spy on her. Yup, Judith seduces him. Jérémie in turn gets into a physical confrontation with a gay man. While the film has its moments depicting human introspection (Francis) and character (Anna Maria), to believe all these storylines within the context of a few close knit people is to render the viewer a bit of a fool.

Gemma Bovery (Anne Fontaine, 2014), based on Posy Simmonds’ graphic novel, got some positive media buzz when it was released. How delightfully intriguing - have a character named Gemma Bovery whose name sounds almost like Flaubert’s famous Emma Bovary. Only this Bovery is English though beautiful and sophisticated. Her neighbour across the street Martin (Fabrice Luchini) develops an immediate crush. And yes Gemma’s life does follow, loosely, that of the 19th century heroine. Some people might think this is cute and original but to me the story simply seemed contrived just to create those very reactions. 

The Art of Getting By (Gavin Wiesen, 2011) is a slacker film extraordinaire and a kind of millennial The Cather in the Rye. It was the best of this Netflix lot. The film opens with George (Freddie Highmore) doodling away oblivious to his high school class and teacher. The world is meaningless to George and he casts off studies, family and the entire conventional world around him into a psychological dustbin. But one of his clasmates, Sally (Emma Roberts, whose a dead ringer for another Emma - Stone) sees a certain integrity in his misanthrophic personality and they become friends. A third character Dustin (Michael Angarano), a rising young artist, also finds much talent in George’s art and mentors him. He gets romantically involved with Sally, to George’s (who’s professed only platonic friendship) chagrin. My one disappointment: the movie ends in a kind of pat way with George tying up all the pieces. I would have preferred he remained in rebellion always and everywhere.

More Netflix films, unless there’s something else to write about, in the next post…

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