Humbert Balsan

Humbert Balsan

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The Intruder Review


Weak
There are dozens of reviews of The Intruder online that will tell you exactly what it isn't: It isn't a conventional story, it isn't a narrative in any traditional sense of the word, and it isn't even about an intruder. What few people will actually come out and say is that it isn't really very good. It's yet another meandering piece of existentialism, signifying nothing except for what you're willing to project onto it. But director Claire Denis has built a name as an arthouse favorite based on a string of films like this, and no one's calling out the emperor.

You want this movie to be a piece about the loneliness of growing old? Sure, it can be that. You want it to be about redeeming yourself for a bad life before you die? It can be that too. It can even be a psychological mystery about spies, the black market for human organs, and illegitimate children. It's barely any of these things, but if you try real hard you can convince yourself that Denis has a point somewhere in this.

Continue reading: The Intruder Review

Le Grand Voyage Review


Excellent
Imagine driving a rattletrap station wagon from France all the way to Saudi Arabia. Now that's what we'd call a grand voyage, and that's what Le Grand Voyage delivers, an extreme road trip unlike any other you've ever witnessed.

The elderly patriarch (Mohamed Majd) of a family of Muslim Moroccans who have resided in France for years has gotten it into his head that this is the perfect year for him to finally make his pilgrimage to the Hajj in Mecca. Because he's a subscriber to the theory that the journey is the reward, he decides that he must go by land, but since he knows it will be a tough trip, he demands that his 18-year-old son Réda (Nicolas Cazalé) drive him.

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On_Line Review


Bad
Our culture is spending too much time online (shame on you, readers!) So making a movie about being an Internet surfer looking for love in all the wrong places feels redundant -- why would you want to watch a movie about searching for sex and love and, oh yeah, human connection via the Almighty Computer?

On_Line isn't even really a movie in the traditional sense. It feels more like a Web site. The cinematic frame, if you can call it that, is filled up with "pop up windows" as characters talk with one another over webcam. It's a distracting back and forth electronic collage, as bright young slacker John (Josh Hamilton, The House of Yes), suicidal waif Moira (Isabel Gillies), foxy sex goddess Jordan (Vanessa Ferlito), gay best friend Al (John Fleck), and other techno-geek characters communicate over the desktop.

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Young Guns Review


Bad
Remember the Alamo, and remember the '80s. Young Guns supposedly takes place in the old west, but it actually takes place in front of the cameras. If you use your imagination, behind the impeccably coiffed brat pack (Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Philips, Charlie Sheen), you can almost see their hairdressers, lint removers, personal assistants, entourages, and playmates. Young Guns doesn't have a good reason to exist besides an excuse for these hot young Turks to look good onscreen, pop off their guns, then mosey off the set and indulge in stardom. It might seem unfair to judge the movie this way, but damn if that isn't the way it feels -- an excuse for preening.

Fifteen years later (as the film is reissued on an indulgent Special Edition DVD set, complete with commentary track from three of the less-busy stars), everything in Young Guns feels wrong. The cheap sawdust sets, the dust-free costumes (except for tobacco chompin' Dermot Mulroney, who is "Pigpen" to the rest of the Peanuts Gang cast), the barely awake performances by Yoda-like mentor Terence Stamp and bad guy Jack Palance, and the flat-out arrogance of some of the cast members. At the time, they may have been the masters of the universe -- emblematic success stories of the Reagan era. Now, Emilio Estevez's Billy the Kid is a cute nihilist, a maniac winking at the camera to let us know deep down, he's really svelte Emilio.

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Soylent Green Review


Good
Charlton Heston runs down the crowded street shrieking at the top of his lungs, "Soy-LENT green is PUR-PLLLLLE! IHHHT'S PUHHHHR-PLLLLLLE!" All right, that scene does not occur in the actual '70s pulp sci-fi movie -- it was the nifty Saturday Night Live parody where the late Phil Hartman made a mockery of Chuck's hambone line delivery.

Let's pause for a moment and reflect on Charlton Heston's wonderful '70s science fiction career. He had a penchant for wincing his way through angry line deliveries like, "Gehhhht yer STINKING PAWS off me, you DAMN DIRTY APE!" using every wrinkle in his brow, his shark-like teeth gleaming in the sun. Sweat would glisten on his prominent brow and chiseled cheeks. When he dies, we shall say there was an actor.

Continue reading: Soylent Green Review

Divine Intervention Review


Excellent
Welcome to Nazareth. A man dressed as Santa Claus is pursued up and down its hills by a swarm of angry children, bleeding profusely from a knife wound. Such is the opening of Elia Suleiman's bitterly dark Divine Intervention, a series of sketches (the director refers to them as "gags" or "burlesques") portraying Israeli-Palestinian tensions. It's worth noting that the director is Palestinian, Nazareth is his hometown, the neighbors are portrayed as morose at best (and teetering on the brink of violence at worst), and the filmmaker portrays his surrogate self within the film, a character named E.S. The E.S. of the film is a poker-faced, silent presence, kept tiny within the wide-angle compositions of Suleiman the director. As Brit pop icon Morrissey might say, "I'm just passing through here / On my way to somewhere civilized / Maybe someday, I'll finally arrive."

The non-narrative storytelling references back to E.S., tending to his ailing father (Nayef Fahoum Daher) and meeting a beautiful Palestinian freedom fighter (Manal Khader) for unspoken hand-holding, seen discreetly on the Jerusalem border under the watchful eye of soldiers. If E.S. is the observer (he's too inactive to truly function as a conscience), he's also maybe the dreamer. His fantasies serve as comical outbursts, seamlessly interwoven into his mundane life. The freedom fighter transforms at one point into a cloaked ninja, beating the hell out of Israeli soldiers to a kitschy pop jingle. One of E.S.'s apricots also functions as a hand grenade, blowing up an enemy tank. A colorful balloon emblazoned with the picture of Yasser Arafat flies over an Israeli checkpoint unhindered. Any dream will do.

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Humbert Balsan Movies

Le Grand Voyage Movie Review

Le Grand Voyage Movie Review

Imagine driving a rattletrap station wagon from France all the way to Saudi Arabia. Now...

On_Line Movie Review

On_Line Movie Review

Our culture is spending too much time online (shame on you, readers!) So making...

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