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By The Sea Review

OK

For their first on-screen partnership since Mr & Mrs Smith a decade ago, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie team up for this period drama about a strained marriage, written and directed by Mrs Jolie Pitt herself. It's made on a lavish scale, with achingly beautiful locations and costumes, plus references to classics from Plein Soleil to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. But none of that can hide the fact that this is a stilted, contrived movie about two loathsome people we wouldn't want to spend five minutes with, let alone two very long hours.

It's the mid-1970s on the Mediterranean coast in southern France, and Americans Roland and Vanessa (Pitt and Jolie) descend into an isolated cove for a getaway to rescue their collapsing relationship. A novelist, Roland is also trying to snap out of writer's block, so he explores local village and chats with cafe owner Michel (Niels Arestrup) for inspiration. Meanwhile, Vanessa prowls around their vast suite in a grand villa perched on the edge of the sea, latching onto the newlywed couple (Melvil Poupaud and Melanie Laurent) in the room next door. But something deeply damaging has happened between Roland and Vanessa, and spying on this couple through a hole in the wall only offers a vague sense of mutual gratification. What they really need to do is confront the elephant in their own room.

Pitt and Jolie always seem aware that a camera is on them, striking poses and blurting their dialogue in ways that never feel remotely honest. Their simplistic reactions to whatever happened in their past (Roland's booze and Vanessa's rage) are never properly explored, so the characters wind up being utterly superficial. And this leaves everything from their big mood swings to their moments of quiet tenderness feeling rather pointless. By contrast, the French actors invest an easy authenticity to their much smaller roles, grounding the setting with an earthiness that only makes Roland and Vanessa look even more alien.

Continue reading: By The Sea Review

Pickpocket Review


Excellent
The dilemma of the thief who's good at what he does and is thusly trapped in a dead-end career by a sense of professionalism is a crime fiction trope as old as the hills. It's also one that Robert Bresson seemingly sets out to explore in 1959's Pickpocket, a film (supposedly inspired by Samuel Fuller's noir Pickup on South Street) about a thief who believes he shouldn't be held accountable for doing what he does. Most films would turn this into a cat-and-mouse tale between the brilliant but amoral thief and the equally driven cop. But this is Bresson, he of Diary of a Country Priest and the long-suffering antisocial protagonist, ultimately concerned more with Dostoyevsky than Fuller.

The setup is non-existent, the backstory meaningless, as we are simply presented with the thief, Michel (Martin LaSalle), a gloomy young Parisian with no purpose in life. Even though his mother is slowly dying, he can't bring himself to even visit her, leaving caretaking duties to a kindly neighbor, Jeanne (the striking Marika Green). After the police let Michel go, he continues his minor crimes, lifting wallets in the Metro and thinking it absurd that there are laws which would stop him from doing so. Later, he meets up with a veteran pickpocket (Kassagi, who also served as the film's pickpocketing consultant) who shows him some finer moves and makes Michel part of a slick three-man operation: one distracts the victim, the second lifts the wallet and passes it off to the third.

Continue reading: Pickpocket Review

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By the Sea Movie Review

For their first on-screen partnership since Mr & Mrs Smith a decade ago, Brad Pitt...

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