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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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.
Continue reading: The Duchess Of Langeais Review
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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There's already an Oscars buzz surrounding this movie.