Michael Abiteboul

Michael Abiteboul

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Simon Killer Review


Good

For a horror film, this is unusually subtle and disturbing, rather than all-out scary, quietly profiling a creepy central character in ways that are designed to provoke the audience. Yes, this sociopath is realistically sinister, but even more challenging is the way filmmaker Campos deliberately manipulates us with his clever filmmaking. Although we wait in vain for the film to deepen into something more meaningful.

It all takes place in Paris, as Simon (Corbet) arrives from America to recover from a messy break-up. A young academic, he has no difficulty chatting intelligently to strangers, but he hires the hooker Victoria (Diop) for more earthly pleasures. Then he decides that isn't enough, and worms his way into her life, making himself indispensable while encouraging her to blackmail her high-profile clients for cash. When this doesn't go as planned, Simon rekindles a romance with another young woman, Marianne (Rosseau), who isn't quite as susceptible to his charms.

Like Patricia Highsmith's iconic Ripley, Simon is a charmer who has no moral centre at all. So we like him from the start and then become increasingly troubled by his twisted actions. And what makes the film even more intriguing is the way it's impossible to tell whether his motivations are villainous or callous. Corbet plays this perfectly, letting us see Simon's darker attitudes (to him, women are little more than sex objects) and pathetic insecurities. Meanwhile, the actresses make the most of their deliberately under-developed characters.

Continue reading: Simon Killer Review

Manderlay Review


Good
You should be very suspicious of anyone who owns Dogville and no other Lars Von Trier film. It's a ruse, a hoax, and a ploy, a way for that pretentious NYU philosophy major with the vintage Members Only jacket to impress that really cool, semi-punk girl with the cool Husker Du pin and prove to her that his brain is much more worthy than anyone else's. To like Dogville alone is to like the idea of Von Trier and to think you're special for picking up all the philosophical ideas behind it, along with name-checking Brecht. You're not, and Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, and The Element of Crime are much better films. Expect a copy of his latest film, Manderlay, Dogville's sequel, to be placed on that NYU kid's DVD shelf right next to Dogville, allowing for more philosophical meandering but this time, on racism and white, liberal guilt.

Picking up after the violent ending of Dogville, we catch up with Grace Mulligan (Bryce Dallas Howard, replacing Nicole Kidman) as her and her father (Willem Dafoe, replacing James Caan) end up at a small southern plantation named Manderlay. A young, black woman runs up to the car, yelling and crying about how they are going to whip Timothy (Isaach De Bankole). Stopping the car immediately and running onto the plantation, against her father's wishes, she finds that Manderlay is a plantation that still employs slavery. Seeing this as a grave injustice, Grace takes a few of her father's goons and starts running the plantation more like a business, making the white owners work while the slaves are given freedom to go about as they please, receiving shares in the crop's revenue. The slaves are led by Willhelm (Danny Glover), an older man who used to serve Mam (Lauren Bacall), the head of the plantation. As things progress, a dust storm, a child's death, the execution of an elder and Grace's slowly unraveling lust for Timothy start raising the issue that maybe things were better as they were.

Continue reading: Manderlay Review

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