Asia Argento and Isabelle Huppert - Asia Argento and Isabelle Huppert Cannes, France - 2009 Cannes International Film Festival - Day 12 - 'Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky' - Premiere Sunday 24th May 2009
Asia Argento, Isabelle Huppert and Robin Wright Penn - Asia Argento, Isabelle Huppert and Robin Wright Penn Cannes, France - 2009 Cannes International Film Festival - Day 7 - Premiere of 'Vincere' - Arrivals Tuesday 19th May 2009
Judging by the title and the con-game setup, we're on alert for twists from the very beginning: Betty (Isabelle Huppert) is seen with an obvious mark at a casino. Soon she's got him back in his hotel room, drugged, and lets in an older man who's been watching the pair. He turns out to be her partner Victor (Michel Serrault), and they take 1/3 of the mark's money (not so much that he'd miss it) and vanish back to their RV. These guys are small time and they know it. Nothing wrong with that, but while planning their next move, Betty decides to take a vacation. She and Victor reconnect a few weeks later at a mountain resort, and she's apparently got another swindle going with a wealthy man carrying 5 million Swiss francs in an attache case. Obviously Betty's going to make a play for it, but is Victor going to be in on the deal too? Or is he going to try to nab it all for himself?
Continue reading: The Swindle Review
The strapping youth whom the film places at the intersecting desires of three women is Pierre (Louis Garrel), a somewhat idle guy who, after his father's mysterious death, gets sucked into the orbit of his self-destructive mother, Helène (Huppert). This involves a lot of gamesmanship whereby Helène tries to push Pierre into more and more outlandish behavior, especially with her wastrel friend Réa (Joane Preiss), whom she's more than a little chummy with. At first, Helène pushes Pierre towards Réa, seemingly as a way of having one-degree-of-separation sex with him, watching longingly as Réa screws Pierre in public, blasé strangers wandering past. It's easy to see why these three are pushing themselves to such extremes, given the film's bland setting in the Grand Canaries - with its California-like, mildly libidinous atmosphere and constant, enervating sunlight. But unfortunately that doesn't mean there's much depth to it at all, no matter how much philosophical and religious piffle writer/director Christophe Honoré puts into Pierre's portentous voiceovers.
Continue reading: Ma Mère Review
Elective Affinities tracks a foursome in a Tuscan villa who couple in a variety of formations. There's bad feelings and a baby, but most of all there's a whole lotta talking about emotions -- with a pseudo-scientific explanation of love as a mathematical equation (which, sort of, explains the title).
Continue reading: Elective Affinities Review
Continue reading: Going Places (1974) Review
Director Michael Haneke (The Piano Teacher) offers a tantalizing setup this go-round, yet he ultimately does nothing with it. Here's the gist: A family arrives at their vacation house under suspicious (and weirdly hazy) circumstances, only to find squatters living inside. Soon Haneke reveals that some (unexplained) apocalyptic event has transpired, scattering people across the countryside. What happens when people try to survive a nuclear winter (or thereabouts)? Does soceity break down or does it rebuild?
Continue reading: The Time Of The Wolf Review
You better damn well like plates if you're going to suffer through the three hours of Les Destinées, an exhausting family drama about a porcelain empire and just as hard a flick as its subject matter.
Continue reading: Les Destinées Review
The plot is this: Sofia is fed up with Thomas, so she tries to kill him. He doesn't die--he just cracks his head and develops amnesia. Isabelle finds him and takes him under her already fragile wing. Throw in an extortion plot wherein the old Thomas was trying to blackmail a nameless entity, and add the thugs trying to kill him. Eventually, everyone gets sucked into this scheme, and nothing works out for any of them.
Continue reading: Amateur Review
Sandrine Bonnaire (so memorable in East/West) plays a simple maid named Sophie -- so simple in fact that she doesn't know how to read. Hired on by an affluent family living in a large estate in a small town in the north of France, she proves herself an impeccable housekeeper. But when the man of the house calls home for her to fetch files off her desk or the matriarch hands her the shopping list, she invents excuses as to why they can't be done, all in an effort to hide her illiteracy.
Continue reading: La Cérémonie Review
Ever the free spirit, Huppert's Frédérique has a vague Peter Pan syndrome crossed with exhibitionism. Since her youth (you can tell it's a flashback because she has really long hair), she's made a vow to always woo money out of men by playing neo-whore, but without having sex with them. Heading to Japan with a man (Daniel Olbrychski) she meets in a bowling alley (where else would she encounter him!?) is just this to the nth degree. There she encounters another man's wife (Jeanne Moreau), who tells her about satori, the "world of ecstasy."
Continue reading: La Truite Review
Before pondering this, the question of whether or not a frivolous film is acceptable needs to be addressed. Mindless eye candy is redeemable when a) at least one character is fun to follow; b) some of the humor is fresh instead of feeling like a bunch of regurgitated stereotypes; c) not every single scene or line of dialogue is predictable, including the supposedly surprising conclusion.
Continue reading: 8 Women Review
At just over two hours long, one might assume that the inner turmoil would take exhausting eye strain to build, but writer/director Michael Haneke (from a novel by Elfriede Jelinek) craftily structures a detailed, deeply disturbing environment in the first five minutes. As Professor Kohut (Huppert) comes home late one night, her mother (Annie Girardot) violently searches her purse to gain some intelligence about what she's up to. A middle-aged woman forced to answer to a parent is enough, but Haneke takes this dysfunction a step further by concentrating on physical interaction. It's far more powerful to see these two women smacking each other than giving one another the stereotypical guilt-ridden lectures other family dramas often fall back on.
Continue reading: The Piano Teacher Review
One thing's for certain: Kris Kristofferson is blameless. A solid if not terribly nuanced actor, he plays James Averill, an upstanding marshal who arrives Johnson County, Wyoming to investigate rumors of turmoil there. It's worse than he imagines; as the station agent explains when Averill arrives, Johnson County (not Cimino) has become "the asshole of creation," thanks to ongoing bloodshed between wealthy WASP landowners and the immigrant settlers who try to work their small parcels of land. The landowners are led by the obscenely amoral Frank Canton (Sam Waterston, razor-sharp), who draws up a "death list" of 125 Johnson County residents who are legally approved to be killed under false accusations of thievery.
Continue reading: Heaven's Gate Review
Isabelle Huppert stars as Marie, an obviously oppressed housewife whose husband is off at war. Marie dreams of things far beyond possibility -- she lives in occupied France yet wants to be a professional singer -- but nothing is worse than the arrival of her husband (François Cluzet) back from the war, suffering from shell shock. This isn't a happy homecoming. This merely means another person to feed on limited rations -- and one who soils his shorts repeatedly.
Continue reading: Story Of Women Review
An affectionate, sophisticated parody of Technicolor melodramas and musicals of the 1950s -- with a some mock-Agatha Christie thrown in for fun -- Francios Ozon's ironic, estrogen-overloaded "8 Women" is a cinema-couture candy whodunit, full of frivolous twists and frothy performances.
Set at a snowed-in country chateau in France where the man of the house has been found dead with a knife in his back, the artificially stylized film (sets are deliberately soundstagey, Dior-inspired costumes pop with color, characters are mock-'50s stereotypes) traps all its impeccably attired suspects in the house together (The phone line's been cut! The car has been sabotaged!) and slowly reveals each of their deep, dark secrets to fuel whimsical paranoid conjecture.
Could the killer be the man's well-bred bourgeois wife (Catherine Deneuve) who was never all that fond of him? How about their chic, beautiful, ostensibly virginal elder daughter (Virginie Ledoyen) or her tomboyish teenage sister (Ludivine Sagnier)? Perhaps his live-in mother-in-law (Danielle Darrieux) -- who had been faking the need to use a wheelchair for reasons unknown -- did it?
Continue reading: 8 Women Review
The Munich-born, French-dwelling Michael Haneke's work is nothing if not challenging.
The first film I saw of his, "Code Unknown," I found shockingly brilliant, with mesmerizing extended takes exploring all kinds of inner torments, class struggles and frustrations with identity and celebrity.
His follow-up, "The Piano Teacher," was far less satisfying, and struck me as a one-dimensional, unreasonable portrait of a masochist. Nevertheless, "Code Unknown" passed by with barely a whisper and "The Piano Teacher" became a huge art-house phenomenon, even snatching up our San Francisco Film Critics Circle award for Best Actress for star Isabelle Huppert.
Continue reading: Time Of The Wolf Review
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