Christophe Barratier

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Himalaya Review


Excellent
Six good reasons to rush out and see Himalaya, a film that director Eric Valli describes as a "Tibetan Western":

1) No Brad Pitt. Valli worked on the Brad Pitt film Seven Years in Tibet, which showcased Pitt and his pathetic German accent trekking the Himalayas and befriending the Dalai Lama. Instead of the overpaid, perfect-toothed Pitt, we get real people from Nepal portraying themselves, in roles that demand good acting and a credible screen presence.

Continue reading: Himalaya Review

Microcosmos Review


Excellent
A welcome trend in recent moviegoing is the increased willingness of audiences to spend time in the company of documentaries. The past couple of years have seen movies such as Bowling for Columbine, Spellbound, Bus 174, Capturing the Friedmans, and Winged Migration holding their relative own at the box office. Since this hasn't always been the case, fans of the last title -- the breathtakingly photographed nature documentary -- are directed to the new DVD release of a little treasure from the same producers that they might have missed: 1996's outstanding Microcosmos.

Its subject, at first glance, is one of the ickiest imaginable: bugs. Given this reviewer's uneasy relationship with the lifeform (grasshoppers in particular freak me out completely), no one could have convinced me that I would leave a documentary about the day-to-day lives of insects in anything but a state of sustained panic. And yet Microcosmos remains among my very favorite nature documentaries or, for that matter, documentaries of any kind.

Continue reading: Microcosmos Review

Winged Migration Review


Excellent
Rarely has there been a movie with such a literal title, but then it's science, not fiction. In that context there's no room for a title implying mystery or hidden meaning. Instead, it puts it squarely in contention for programming on the Discovery channel. It is biology, diversity, and adventure... and one of the five nominations for the Best Documentary Oscar for 2002. It is also the stuff the most exquisite dreams are made of.

Jacques Perrin, producer of such hugely successful French films as the exciting Z and the compelling Cinema Paradiso, has turned to films about nature, such as Microcosmos (insects) and Himalaya for his more recent successes. Winged Migration has the potential in sheer amazement of imagery to fly to the top of his list. In it, he provides minimalist narration, allowing the pictures to astound you not only at their majesty but at what made them possible.

Continue reading: Winged Migration Review

The Chorus Review


Weak
Manipulative, maudlin filmmaking knows no cultural boundaries, and further proof of imports' potential for derivative corniness can be found in The Chorus (Les Choristes), Christophe Barratier's directorial debut - a runaway hit in its native France - about an inspirational music teacher at a boarding school for delinquent kids in 1949 France. An embarrassingly mushy story of an ordinary guy's yeoman efforts to change the world one rebellious rascal at a time, it's a movie that disingenuously invokes and exploits Nazi war crimes and child abuse in service of a feel-good fable. Cloying from start to finish, it's so drenched in syrupy sentimentality - from its plethora of quaint small-town Parisian details to its bludgeoning good vs. evil set-up - that one barely needs to read the subtitles to recognize its utilization of every convention found in Mr. Holland's Opus, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Dangerous Minds, and innumerable other films in Hollywood's trite, faux-uplifting "good teacher-bad student" sub-genre.

Former aspiring musician Clément Mathieu (a charismatic Gérard Jugnot) is the new instructor at a school for uncontrollable adolescent boys which - under the strict orders of dastardly principal Rachin (François Berléand) - punishes bad behavior with swift violence in a policy referred to as "Action - Reaction." Such abuse doesn't sit well with Mathieu, a sensitive soul who believes that there's goodness hidden underneath these wayward kids' rough exteriors. Naturally, The Chorus wholeheartedly subscribes to this romantic theory, characterizing each and every pint-sized punk as an angel in disguise. Though initially intent on terrorizing their new teacher, Mathieu's students see the light once the music-loving professor turns their unruly class into a disciplined choral group, their vocal training indirectly inciting them to study, reconnect with their families (in the case of Jean-Baptiste Maunier's star singer Morhange) or find surrogate parents to embrace (such as with Maxence Perrin's impish Pépinot). As far as Barratier's rose-colored fairy tale is concerned, every bad seed - regardless of his vileness - is redeemable with a little Do-Re-Mi and TLC, and thus The Chorus goes to great lengths to play up the central conflict between compassionate care and corporal punishment embodied by the kindhearted Mathieu and wicked Rachin, a villain so groaningly cartoonish it's a wonder he doesn't twirl his graying moustache.

Continue reading: The Chorus Review

Christophe Barratier

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Christophe Barratier Movies

Himalaya Movie Review

Himalaya Movie Review

Six good reasons to rush out and see Himalaya, a film that director Eric Valli...

Microcosmos Movie Review

Microcosmos Movie Review

A welcome trend in recent moviegoing is the increased willingness of audiences to spend time...

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Winged Migration Movie Review

Winged Migration Movie Review

Rarely has there been a movie with such a literal title, but then it's science,...

The Chorus Movie Review

The Chorus Movie Review

Manipulative, maudlin filmmaking knows no cultural boundaries, and further proof of imports' potential for derivative...

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