Julie Dreyfus

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Vinyan Review


Grim
A vivid example of style over substance, this textured film creates an overwhelming sense of emotion and dread, but never manages to find a point to it all. It merely gives into the grisliness, leaving us shaken and unstirred.

Six months after their son was killed in a tsunami, Janet and Paul (Beart and Sewell) are still living in Phuket nursing their grief. But Janet is convinced that he must be alive and living up-river in Burma, so convinces Paul to fund a desperate expedition. Their first guide (Pankratok) is a bit of a crook, but they soon link with Thaksin (Osthanugrah) and another expat, Kim (Dreyfus). And the further they venture into this strange region, the more bizarre things get.

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Vinyan Review


Weak
Coming on the heels of the spellbinding backwoods horror flick Calvaire, Belgian filmmaker Fabrice Du Welz's Vinyan is an incredibly intense and, sadly, obtuse third-world metaphysical thriller that is bound to disappoint less discriminating viewers. Maybe even discriminating ones.

Ostensibly a mash-up of tsunami-inspired tragedy and Lord of the Flies-styled allegory, Vinyan opens with an Anglo couple, Paul (Rufus Sewell) and Jeanne (Emmanuelle Béart), living on the Thai coast and trying to get on with their lives six months after the tsunami swept their little boy away. Attending an art opening, they see a grainy film of Burmese children left to fend for themselves in abandoned jungle outposts and Jeanne sees her son among them. While the image is never clear (the child is hobbling away from the camera), Jeanne is convinced and immediately plunges into the Bangkok night, a riot of neon and prostitution, to find a human smuggler who can take her to where the film was shot. Led by Thaksin Gao (played by the affable and afroed Petch Osathanugrah), Paul and Jeanne sail into war -torn Burma to find the "white child" in the country's fog, mud, and forest. Of course, that's when things get bizarre, and the film spins out leisurely towards a mind-boggling conclusion.

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Tokyo! Review


OK
Tokyo! is a curious conundrum. The movie is a triptych of short films about the titular metropolis made by Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Joon-ho Bong, three non-Japanese filmmakers. Each tries to offer up personalized impressions of the Japanese capital, and that alone would suggest a worthwhile cinematic experience. But the films themselves lack the intimacy with Tokyo's cultural nuances that we crave from a piece like this, trafficking instead in stereotypes and platitudes.

For its easy charm and humor, Michel Gondry's "Interior Design" comes off best. Gondry's story follows a young couple -- Hiroko and Akira (Ayako Fujitani and Ryo Kase) -- who have just moved to Tokyo, struggling to find an apartment, jobs, and generally to start their new lives. Akira's an aspiring filmmaker-artist, hence a bit of a space case, while his girlfriend Hiroko is smart but directionless. While getting started in Tokyo, they bunk up with a friend in her absurdly tiny apartment. Gradually, Hiroko pulls away from Akira and, in a Gondry-esque bit of transmogrification, she suddenly has the ability to shift from human to chair form and back. As a chair, she becomes part of the furnishings in a stranger's home, and feels herself an object of value, something she lacked as a human being. Gondry pokes fun at Tokyo's housing crisis: The living spaces are hilariously cramped, hardly more than glorified closets. With the low-key bantering of its characters, the quotidian details of Tokyo street life, its movie-within-a-movie device, the human-chair magic trick, and the overall theme of life-as-reverie, this is a Gondry project through and through. And, though not illuminating on the subject of its city, it's still a cute, clever take on Tokyo to keep us amused.

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Kill Bill: Volume 1 Review


Grim

In the wake of "Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction" and "Jackie Brown," film buffs have come to expect intrepid sub-Hollywood scavenger Quentin Tarantino to bowl us over with ingenious, amped-up, style-blending B-movie off-shoots made with a quantum leap of depth and cinematic panache.

Influenced by cut-rate, under-the-counter samurai imports, spaghetti Westerns and popcorn-munching exploitation flicks of bygone eras, the writer-director's two-part revenge saga "Kill Bill" ("Volume 2" is due in February) has sexy, gritty, droll, deluxe Tarantino élan coming out its ears -- and absurdly grisly dam-bursts of stage blood spurting from other violently severed body parts in ambitious marathon swordfight scenes. But while the picture oozes style (and blood), it comes up short on substance -- which is what has always set Tarantino's grindhouse homages head and shoulders above the pulp pictures that inform them.

Choreographed by both kung-fu genius Yuen Wo-Ping ("The Matrix" movies, "Charlie's Angels," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," etc.) and Japanese Kenjutsu legend Sonny Chiba (who plays an eccentric master sword-maker in the film), these focal-point fights are the culmination of a plot about a sultry, strong-willed former assassin (Uma Thurman) who was left for dead when her employer -- possibly peeved by her resignation, although "Volume 1" is vague on that point -- turned her wedding into a massacre.

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Kill Bill: Volume 2 Review


Good

Everything the kinetic, colorful, superficially violent "Kill Bill: Volume 1" lacked in depth and character is remedied tenfold in Quentin Tarantino's stunning, cunning conclusion to his epic revenge fantasy.

Gone are the absurdist bloodbaths and the superficial grindhouse storytelling, and in their stead the wily writer-director transitions (with masterfully effortless cinematic aplomb) into a character- and dialogue-driven feast of substance and surprises -- which is, nonetheless, still punctuated by spectacularly stylish swordplay.

After a winking mock-noir prologue of recap narration, Tarantino opens "Volume 2" with a parched black-and-white flashback to the wedding rehearsal (glimpsed throughout last year's installment) at which The Bride (Uma Thurman), an unnamed and incognito former assassin trying to go straight, was brutally gunned down (along with everyone in attendance) by her former compatriots.

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Julie Dreyfus

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