Michel Hazanavicius' 'The Search' failed to hit the spot at Cannes.
In many ways, Michel Hazanavicius always had a tough job creating the follow-up to his Oscar conquering movie The Artist, though it's been 2 years since the silent movie dominated the field at the Hollywood and Highland Center Theatre in Los Angeles and the Frenchman has had plenty of time to plot his comeback.
Michel Hazanavicius [L] and his wife Berenice Bejo [R]
That return was marked this week at Cannes with The Search, a drama starring his wife Berenice Bejo and the talented Annette Bening.
It wasn't all about the onscreen stars at the 2014 National Board Of Review Awards Gala in New York; a few highly respected directors and producers also showed their faces at the event including 'Gravity' producer David Heyman and 'Her' director Spike Jonze.
Like his award-winning drama A Separation, this French drama from Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi is packed with complex characters who have detailed, full lives. And the connections between them are so layered with meaning that we can't help but see ourselves in each of them. As the title suggests, this is a story about the baggage we carry around with us, and Farhadi's approach is to confront it rather than hiding it away.
It all kicks off when Ahmad (Mosaffa) returns to Paris after four years back home in Tehran. His estranged French wife Marie-Anne (Bejo) wants him to sign the divorce papers so she can marry her new boyfriend Samir (Rahim), whose child she's carrying. But she also needs Ahmad's help with her 17-year-old daughter Lucie (Burlet), who has taken an irrational exception to Samir's presence. Ahmad has always had a better relationship with Lucie, but as he tries to help he gets dragged into a complicated web of secrets and misunderstandings.
The story is full of wrinkles. Samir is also married, but his wife is in a coma. And his expressive 5-year-old son (Aguis), as well as Marie-Anne's younger daughter (Jestin) also play into their relationship. As does Samir's eerily observant employee Naima (Ouazani). The way all of these people circle around each other sometimes feels a bit melodramatic, with pointed dialog, emotional over-reactions and a stream of revelations that change everything entirely. More interesting are the unfinished conversations and random outbursts that give real insight into the characters.
Continue reading: The Past [Le Passé] Review
Academy Award Nominated, Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) Directs and writes this critically acclaimed, character driven drama orientated around the emotional destruction and discovery caused by marriage and divorce.
Ahmad returns to Paris in order to finalize his divorce with his wife, only to discover she is getting re-married to an Arab, Samir. Since deserting his wife and two children four years ago, Ahmad notices his family relations have deteriorated and must work hard in order to restore his daughters and wife's relationship before a secret from the past is revealed.
Starring Academy Award Nominated and Cannes Best Actress 2013 B'r'nice Bejo (The Artist) as Marie, Ali Mosaffa as Ahmad, Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) as Samir and rising star Pauline Burlet (La Vie en Rose) as Lucie, The Past has caught festival and critical attention being official selected for: Toronto International Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival and American Film Institution with critics already calling it 'Astonishing' and 'Master Storytelling'.
Anyone interested in how movies get made will love this feisty behind-the-scenes documentary, which uses sharp comedy to explore the messy business side of cinema. Both smart and very funny, it may not tell us much that we don't know (mainly that it's almost impossible to get a film financed unless it's a blockbuster with bankable stars), but it reveals things in ways that make us wonder about the future of the movies.
The film follows actor Alec Baldwin and director James Toback as they head to the Cannes Film Festival to secure funding for their planned Iraq-set riff on Last Tango in Paris. They meet with a variety of experts who tell them that their hoped-for budget is three times too high for a movie starring Baldwin and Neve Campbell. So they talk to Chastain, Bejo and Kruger about taking over the lead role. They also consult with a range of prominent filmmakers including Scorsese, Coppola, Polanski and the Last Tango maestro himself, Bertolucci. But the more time they spend with the people who control the money, the more they wonder if their movie will ever get made.
It's fairly clear from the start that Last Tango in Tikrit is a joke project, but everyone takes it seriously. And as they talk to prospective investors, Baldwin and Toback consider adjusting the film to get more cash by, for example, shooting scenes in Russia or China. It's fascinating to hear these billionaires offer advice on how to get their movie made. And hilariously, no one worries about Baldwin's insistence that the story requires explicit sexual scenes.
Continue reading: Seduced And Abandoned Review
It's impossible not to be charmed by this cheeky French comedy, even if it's utterly predictable and never remotely breaks its gorgeously designed surfaces. But it's packed with moments of riotous comedy and surprising drama that keep us on our toes, almost making us forget that we're watching a foreign movie about a typing competition. It also has a secret weapon in Romain Duris, an unconventional romantic lead who's irresistibly appealing.
The period is the late 1950s, when life for a young woman in a tiny village didn't offer many options. After years working for her shop-owner father (Pierrot), Rose (Francois) finally breaks free, applying for a secretarial job in a nearby town. Despite having no experience, insurance broker Louis (Duris) sees a spark in her and gives her a shot. As they begin to flirt, Louis notices that Rose is eerily adept at typing with two fingers, and he enters her in a local competition, which she wins. As she rises through the national rankings, she begins to fall for him. But he's reluctant to let his guard down after the woman he has always loved, Marie (Bejo), married his best friend Bob (Benson).
Filmmaker Roinsard has a great eye for recreating the period, shooting scenes with the same attention to detail as an episode of Mad Men, but with a lot more sassy humour. He also lets his crew go wild with stylish hair and colourful costumes, plus a fantastic song score. In this post-War setting, the actors are able to catch us off guard with their attitudes to class, politics and most notably gender. Francois gives Rose a feisty determination that's wonderful to watch, because we root for her to break through a multitude of barriers. And opposite her Duris gives another prickly but likeable turn as a not always attractive man who clearly has real depth.
Continue reading: Populaire Review
The new movie could prove to be the latest French success on U.S. shores.
It probably won't take you long to work out that Populaire, the new vintage romantic-comedy from debut director Regis Roinsard, is financed by The Weinstein Company. It's got all the hallmarks for Harvey Weinstein's silent French Oscar winner The Artist, while playing on some of the popular themes from AMC's darling Mad Men. Oh, and there's a touch of Amelie in their good measure.
Whether the movie turns out to be the next Weinstein success story remains to be seen, though the trailer certainly hints at a fun filled couple of hours. Populaire follows the story of 21-year-old Rose Pamphyle (Deborah Francois) who escapes her predictable life in a picturesque French village and travels to Lisieux in Normandy, where she meets charistmatic and handsome insurance agency boss Louis Echard (Romain Duris). Though her interview to be his secretary ends in disaster, Louis notices that Rose has a special talent for speed type and subsequently enters her in the national championship. Not your average Hollywood plotline, huh? Bolstered by a supporting cast that includes The Artist's Bérénice Bejo, Populaire appears immaculately styled and instantly likeable.
In 1927, George (Dujardin) is Hollywood's top star, swashbuckling through adventure blockbusters with his faithful sidekick dog Uggy. At one of his premieres he meets Peppy (Bejo), a mystery girl who gets her own shot at stardom as a dancing extra in one of George's films. His grumpy wife (Miller) isn't happy about this. And there's more trouble when the studio boss (Goodman) decides to switch to talkies. So George walks out to make his own silent film, while Peppy becomes a sound-movie star. But she doesn't forget that he gave her a break.
Continue reading: The Artist Review
By now you've heard about the concept of "A Knight's Tale" and had the time to become justifiably dubious. A 14th Century jousting adventure set to the tune of guitar rock stadium anthems? How could that possibly be anything short of laughable?
The answer is -- well, I don't know exactly. But when, five minutes into the movie, a crowd of peasants at a jousting tournament starts stomping feet in time and bellowing "We will/We will/Rock You!" (and soon thereafter do "the wave"), I defy you not to grin an aw-what-the-heck grin and go along for the ride.
The story itself isn't much more than a dressed-up, time-warped sports underdog yarn, in which the lowborn hero ("The Patriot's" jaunty Heath Ledger) poses as a knight (only those of noble birth are allowed to compete) and becomes the toast of the jousting world. But in the hands of writer-director Brian Helgeland (who helmed "Payback" and co-wrote "L.A. Confidential"), the movie's cliché-spawn chassis is merely a jumping-off point for a jocular, undeflatable, high energy theme-park ride of action, wisecracks and romance.
Continue reading: A Knight's Tale Review
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