Martine Marignac

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Holy Motors Review


Essential

Indescribably insane, this outrageously inventive French drama is so bracingly strange that we can't help but love every moment. It's certainly not like any movie you've ever seen before, and French director Carax packs it with so many offbeat touches - from wildly unexpected casting to witty movie references - that watching it is almost like a fever dream.

It's the story of Oscar (Lavant), who goes to work in a white stretch-limousine with his driver Celine (Scob). But the limo is actually his office, and his job entails dressing up in full make-up to play nine roles over the course of the day. These include a scabby homeless woman, a dying husband and a freaky green mischief-maker who invades a funeral and bites off people's fingers. But as the day progresses, Oscar begins to crack under the strain. Is it because of the job's huge emotional demands or because he's not living his own life?

The film is like a razor sharp satire of reality TV and social networking, as Carax cuts through the layers of artificiality of modern life. At the centre, these are all actors playing actors in a variety of scenarios. But who is watching? Some of these scenes are sexy and funny, while others are terrifying or darkly moving. But for all of the intensity of feeling, the situations are essentially shallow simply because they're not actually real. And Carax pushes each segment far beyond what we expect.

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The Duchess Of Langeais Review


Excellent
It's no mystery that men and women do unconscionable things in the name of love, but the way French-new-waver Jacques Rivette plays it in his adaptation of Balzac's Don't Touch the Axe, you would think it was an epidemic.

Titled The Duchess of Langeais, Rivette's Restoration anti-romance takes the structure of a courtship between General Montriveau (Guillaume Depardieu), a celebrated war hero, and Antoinette (the astounding Jeanne Balibar), the titular married coquette, in the early 19th-century. At a ball in the upper echelons of French society, Antoinette becomes intrigued by the stoic Montriveau even before she meets him. Despite his lack of game, the general entices the married duchess with stories of his wartime campaigns. A student of Bonaparte, Montriveau becomes infatuated with Antoinette, who, in turn, begins to strategically toy with her soldier-in-waiting.

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Dangerous Moves Review


Excellent
The title may sound like soft-core porn, but it's actually a Best Foreign Film Oscar winner that you've never heard of.

Never before seen in the US, this Swiss production concerns a championship chess match between Soviet master Liebskind (Michel Piccoli) and his former student, a defector named Fromm (Alexandre Arbatt). The underlying political intrigue -- which we expect -- is quite understated as the film focuses on the mind games between the two players. Sure, there's a political agenda, but the insight into how these players try to outfox each other between matches is priceless. They plan strategies, only to watch them come undone during the actual game. When we learn that Liebskind is dying, the game becomes a metaphor for not just east vs. west, but life vs. life.

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La Belle Noiseuse Review


Very Good
Fine art's a funny thing that I barely pretend to understand. In this molasses-slow four-hour drama, Jacques Rivette proves that he's got an understanding of fine art, but a minimal one of the art of movies. Four hours of sketching, painting, and posing a naked Emmanuelle Béart has a certain summer-in-the-south-of-France charm to it, but that can't drag us through 240 full minutes. The story is threadbare: Old artist, young visitor, his girlfriend becomes the old artist's model -- and together they figure out that neither of them is really in charge of the artistic process. Lots of self-discovery and philosophizing along the way. Very French, and actually much more capable of being enjoyed at a setting of x2 speed on your DVD player.

Va Savoir Review


OK
Only the French could make a romantic comedy that clocks in at more than 2 1/2 hours in length. And of course, it wouldn't have much of a plot, either. This wafer-thin production, reminiscent of a really long Oscar Wilde play, Starring Jeanne Balibar (the poor man's Audrey Tautou), the movie is a hodgepodge of love triangles and petty theft, some of which amuses, but not for long enough to keep this critic's interest over its full running time. A curiosity that's easily forgettable.
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Holy Motors Movie Review

Holy Motors Movie Review

Indescribably insane, this outrageously inventive French drama is so bracingly strange that we can't help...

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