French

Kings & Queen

April 9th, 2011 by Wayward Muse

Desplechin makes very long movies, full of incredibly neurotic and dysfunctional individuals and families having very odd interactions involving a whole lot of philosophical and literary dialogue. This film is a prime example. Nobody is really a hero or heroine; everybody is an anti-hero, with some good qualities, but their humanity generally shines through. The film portrays a somewhat cynical and tragic view of life, but with a strange sense of humor to balance it out. If that doesn’t sound like fun to you, give this a miss. Desplechin’s more recent film, A Christmas Tale, is at least oddly uplifting; Kings and Queen is much less so, though a case could be made that Devos triumphs over her father’s malevolence, or that sheer survival is a kind of triumph. Read More…

La Moustache

April 8th, 2011 by Wayward Muse

I’ll warn off folks who need to have things neat and tidy right off the bat, because there is nothing neat and tidy about this film. When you watch the extras, you’ll see Emmanuelle Devos state that she still doesn’t understand the bit about the moustache! Well, if she doesn’t, how are we supposed to? At various times throughout the story I thought Marc was crazy, his wife Agnes was crazy, or Agnes was plotting to make Marc think he was crazy. I’m still not sure which, if any, of these is the case. One of the really interesting things I experienced while watching this was the twists and turns in my own reactions; fear, sympathy, suspicion and distrust, loathing, frustration…and constantly jumping to conclusions…it was a great ride! Read More…

La Truite

April 7th, 2011 by Wayward Muse

This is a rather odd character-driven movie that will appeal to a rather limited audience. This film could almost be considered feminist, but it isn’t really. It is primarily the story of Frédérique, played by Huppert, a young woman who, utterly disgusted by her father and his friend’s constant womanizing, becomes determined to get as much from men as possible, without giving anything in return. The movie is largely about watching her do just this, with a variety of men. Read More…

Mississippi Mermaid

April 7th, 2011 by Wayward Muse

The primary mystery is solved early on. What remains is the mystery of just how far down a man will go in pursuit of the object of his mad love. The film moves and flows at a wonderful pace, with lots of twists and turns, so it remains interesting and engaging throughout. That anyone would be completely obsessed with the enigmatic, preternaturally gorgeous, and impenetrable Catherine Deneuve, is hardly a stretch of the imagination. That such a masochistic obsession would grow in the face of cruelty and betrayal is also hardly a revelation. Read More…

Private Property

April 7th, 2011 by Wayward Muse

This is a complex, twisted tale of family dysfunction that requires patience, attentiveness, and the ability and inclination to watch faces and bodies for clues to emotions and thoughts. It’s not a “talky” movie. The characters don’t tell us or each other much of what is actually going on with their thoughts and emotions. But it is painfully realistic—the essence of dysfunction is the breakdown of healthy communication, and in this film the viewer is dropped into a situation where they are in exactly the same situation as the family members—adrift in an uncharted sea without map or compass, trying to make do. Read More…

Alias Betty

April 7th, 2011 by Wayward Muse

Though less ambiguous than many of Claude Miller’s films, it still bears the mark of his hand, in that he never takes you to the obvious places—good and evil is explored with Miller’s characteristic subtlety. This film is not about the “letter of the law” but the spirit of what is somehow “right.” We sympathize with the protagonist, even though she is clearly breaking the law. We may hold high-minded ideals about never “taking the law into our own hands,” but the film appeals to our deeper sense of righteousness that longs for things to somehow work out right. Read More…

A Secret

April 7th, 2011 by Wayward Muse

Set before, during and after the deportation and murder of approximately 90,000 men, women, and children- 26 per cent of the French Jewish population. The director, 66 year-old French Jewish veteran filmmaker, Claude Miller, lost most of his aunts, uncles and grandparents in the concentration camps. I think it is the subtlety, and refusal to make this a straightforward story of perpetrators, victims, and politics, that is actually the most disturbing or uncomfortable thing about the movie. After all, we still live in a world of Holocaust deniers and victim blamers. I am thus, extremely grateful to Mr. Miller for treading into these murky waters to create a story about real people with real human passions, ideals, opinions, politics, wounds, foibles, and humanity—rather than cardboard victims and villains. Read More…

The Best Way to Walk

April 6th, 2011 by Wayward Muse

This film will annoy those expecting the promised “unflinching portrait of an unlikely alliance,” to result in a modern coming-out story. I was more immediately confused by the ending than annoyed, as it left me not really sure what the “message” of the film was, but it percolated in my subconscious for days after viewing. It made me think…and think and think…and the longer I thought the more I appreciated the film. Miller’s “message” is rarely obvious, but that is what I like about him. He makes character-driven movies, and the characters of Phillipe, Marc, and Phillipe’s girlfriend Chantal are all wonderfully written and exquisitely acted. Read More…

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

April 6th, 2011 by Wayward Muse

Michel Legrand’s melody “I Will Wait for You” weaves throughout this deceptively simple “romantic” tale, adding a touch of irony that is more poignant for those raised on the English-language lyrics of this old standard. It’s not your typical Broadway or Hollywood musical, as it’s structured more like an opera—between the more obvious “songs,” where the characters reflect on their inner worlds and heightened emotions, all the dialog is sung in the style known as recitative in opera, a more speech-like singing that moves with the action. This might take a little getting used to for more mainstream modern audiences, but this wonderful film is worth every bit of the effort. Read More…

Belle de Jour

April 6th, 2011 by Wayward Muse

Beautiful film that is definitely dated in the eroticism department. But in terms of the overall story and meaning, this is not important, because really, it is a film about social-sexual repression and hypocrisy. Catherine Deneuve is a beautiful young bourgeois newlywed who wants to be bad..really bad! Now in a sane, rational, hypocrisy-free world; no problem! She just says: Honey, I’m just not turned on by this two bed, missionary-style gentle version of sex you keep offering me; I WANNA GET FREAKY! And he doesn’t say: OMG, I married a harlot, not the pure uptight virginal Madonna I paid for. Get thee to a nunnery, wench!! No, in a sane, rational world he says: Whoopee! I hit the jackpot! Let’s go buy some STUFF! Read More…

A Christmas Tale (The Criterion Collection)

April 6th, 2011 by Wayward Muse

A Christmas Tale is the story of a dysfunctional family that comes home for a little Christmas healing. The whole cast is exceptional, and the characters are captivating. It’s not particularly edgy or exceedingly artsy (a little, but not too); things I rather enjoy typically, but I thought it was great nonetheless. It is very “artistic” but in a very accessible rather than experimental way. It’s very long at 2 1/2 hours but I wasn’t bored for a moment and could just go on and on voyeuristically enjoying these terrific performances and fascinating characters. Even the most outrageously dysfunctional behaviors just seem “natural” not maudlin, not exploitative, not sensationalized. All the various relationships are treated with so much more nuance and sophistication than most Hollywood offerings—always a great draw of foreign film. Read More…

La Vie Promise

April 5th, 2011 by Wayward Muse

This film is the story of a woman suffering from severe mental illness, possibly exacerbated by drug-addiction. Whether or not she finds anything approaching redemption or healing at the end of her Odyssey depends totally on how much the viewer is willing to suspend reason and believe fully in the power of love to heal all. As her present and her past unfold, we realize she has been in and out of a mental health institution, possibly more than once, and has been loved deeply by a husband who was probably helpless before her mental illness, though he tried his best. Read More…

Vagabond

December 23rd, 2010 by Wayward Muse

Agnes Varda’s masterpiece with Sandrine Bonnaire’s breakout performance as the enigmatic “vagabond” is simply sublime. The very first shot in the movie is of Mona, our vagabond, lying dead in a frosty ditch. There are no surprises in this movie, just an intricately traced “journey” of the last period of time that Mona was alive, and the people with whom she interacted. Read More…

Cleo from 5 to 7

December 20th, 2010 by Wayward Muse

What an utter delight! There is so much here with such a deceptively simple presentation. The film follows Cleo, a young Edith Piaf successor (we even get a report on Piaf’s most recent medical recovery over the radio in a taxi ride), over the course of an hour and a half, which seems much longer as so much happens. But the camera never seems to lose sight of Cleo for a moment, staying with her in “real time” through taxi and car journeys, bus rides, and strolls down the streets of Paris, while she tries to come to terms with the fact she probably has cancer. Read More…

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