Expert writing, directing and acting help this offbeat drama discover some powerful new themes in a novella that has been scandalising Western society since it was first published in 1870. The book's author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch even gave us the word "masochism". But this film by Roman Polanski and playwright David Ives digs far beneath the S&M to say some startling things about the male-female divide.
It's set in a theatre on a rainy day in Paris, where the actress Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) arrives late in a disheveled state to audition for the play's writer-director Thomas (Mathieu Amalric). But he's had a bad day, and immediately writes Vanda off. Eventually she wears him down, and the moment she starts reading his own words he's transfixed. She not only embodies the character, but she sparks something inside him that makes him question his own work. And as he runs the lines with her, she exerts an odd power over him that shifts in ways Thomas never sees coming.
Even with just two people on a stage, this movie is utterly riveting: funny, sexy, scary, surprising, intelligent and fiercely stylish. Polanski's direction is bold and playful, building a compelling rhythm that charges through 90 minutes of sometimes too-clever dialogue that keeps our minds spinning. And both Seigner and Amalric make the most of the script, packing every moment with insinuation and wit as they play with the ideas raised by the play within the film, which is about a dominatrix and her slave.
Continue reading: Venus in Fur Review
The leading stars of 'Jimmy P: Psychotherapy Of A Plains Indian' Benicio Del Toro and Mathieu Amalric pose on the red carpet at the movie's premiere at the 2013 New York Film Festival alongside director and writer Arnaud Desplechin.
In 1911 Paris, Adele (Bourgoin) is a novelist who travels the world in search of adventures to write about. Her latest quest takes her to Egypt, where she uncovers a Pharaoh's tomb and sneaks off with his physician's mummy, who she plans to resurrect with help from her mad-scientist friend Esperandieu (Nercessian), all in an attempt to cure her badly injured twin sister (de Clermont). But the doctor's experimentation has brought to life a hatchling pterodactyl, which is now menacing Paris. Apparently surrounded by incompetents, Adele will have to fix everything herself.
Continue reading: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec Review
When the imaginative Georges (Dussollier) finds a wallet in a parking garage, he begins to wonder about the owner. He hands the wallet to a cop (Amalric) and goes home to his wife (Anne Consigny), with whom he has two adult children (Forestier and Vladimir Consigny). Meanwhile, the wallet's owner, Marguerite (Azema), also begins to wonder about this strange man who found it. But when they get in contact, strange obsessions lead to irrational decisions and actions. Or maybe they're just imagining what could possibly happen.
Continue reading: WIld Grass [Les Herbes Folles] Review
In 1973, rampant criminal Jacques Mesrine (Cassel) has finally been captured by the cops but stages a daring courtroom escape with the help of his pal Charlie (Lanvin). He's soon back to his bank-robbing, executive-kidnapping ways, taunting the tenacious detective Broussard (Gourmet) even when he's arrested.
In prison he concocts an elaborate escape with fellow inmate Besse (Amalric), and the two go on another brazen crime-spree, meeting Mesrine's next wife Sylvie (Sagnier) along the way. But as Mesrine adopts the politics of Germany's Baader-Meinhof gang, the cops are closing in.
Continue reading: Mesrine: Public Enemy No 1 Review
While still on the hunt for the people responsible for the death of his gal pal Vesper (this installment picks up mere minutes after the end of Royale), James Bond (Craig) discovers a plot by energy tycoon Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) to corner the market on the world's most precious natural resource. It is part of a much bigger scheme by Quantum, a notorious criminal syndicate, to influence events in the world. They include the overthrow of the current Bolivian government, the installation of former military dictator General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio) there, and a continued stranglehold on world intelligence. Under the suspicious eye of MI6 director M (Judi Dench), Bond sets out to uncover the plot, determine the purpose of Quantum, and get revenge. He is helped by a young Russian girl named Camille (Olga Kurylenko). She has her own personal motives for getting even with these villainous bad men.
Continue reading: Quantum of Solace Review
Only a few days before the sugar plums and wassail are set on the table, Junon Vuillard (Catherine Deneuve), the grand matriarch of a family of lunatics, is diagnosed with a serious case of lymphoma, the same disease that already claimed her eldest son Joseph. The film opens with her husband Abel (Jean-Paul Roussillon) mourning over his son with a startlingly breezy candor. Employing shadow puppets, the lineage of the Vuillard family in its current incarnation is explained, leading to Ivan (Melvil Poupad), the youngest of Junon's children.
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That psychiatrist goes by the name Simon Kessler (the reliable Mathieu Amalric) and make no mistake, he's a bigger lunatic than any of the well-groomed Gucci tards that find their way into his office. At a bar nearby, he asks the luminous Louisa (Laetitia Spigarelli) to play the piano naked for him. He later discards her over a piece of corporate mail. In between these moments of lucid confusion, he finds time to interview perspective employees and catch quickies with a blonde pants-suit named Isabelle (Delphine Chuillot). It's when Kessler is asked by his boss, the perfectly-named Karl Rose (a potently-glacial Jean-Pierre Kalfon), to begin looking at SC Farb's CEO Mathias Jüst (the astounding Michael Lonsdale, who played Amalric's father in Munich) that the cerebral pistons begin firing.
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Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly takes its title from said book, and, like its source material, the film has a spiffy discordance to it. When Bauby (the great Mathieu Amalric) opens his eyes, so does the camera, and we are struck by the light in the same petrified and blurry way that Bauby is. Manipulated to Brakhage-like lengths, the image has the same effect as Jean-Do's fumbling voiceover; we are as unsure of his footing as he is. His pleading to not sew up an eye threatened by infection becomes our begging; we don't want to lose the slight view we have. Then, with little preparation, we aren't with the protagonist anymore, and we are looking at a frozen, terminally-twitched face in a hospital bed.
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What makes Munich even more ambitious than films like List or even Empire of the Sun is that it's not as recognizable a film as those classically-structured epics. This film is part spy thriller and part meditation on violence but not completely either. The result comes out as somewhat scrambled by the end, with the pieces of about a half-dozen lesser movies mixed around inside, but there's rarely a moment when it's not grabbing you by the collar and demanding your undivided attention. We should have more of this kind of thing.
Continue reading: Munich Review