Nathalie Richard

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Young & Beautiful [Jeune & Jolie] Review


Good

French filmmaker Francois Ozon continues to explore transgressive aspects of sexuality (see In the House) with this deliberately controversial drama about a teen prostitute. But since he refuses to indulge in the usual cliches, we don't react the way we think we should, so the film forces us to think about the story in a surprisingly fresh way.

The teen in question is Isabelle (Vacth), who in the summer of her 17th birthday orchestrates the loss of her virginity to a cute stranger. When she tells her little brother Victor (Ravat), he can't understand how Isabelle could so casually dump this boy. And she never tells her open-minded mother and stepdad (Pailhas and Pierrot). Back home in Paris, she secretly starts working after school as a high-class hooker, visiting her clients in pricey hotels. But when her favourite john (Leyson) dies suddenly, her secret comes out. And everyone wonders if she can go back to being a regular teen.

The twist here is that Isabelle comes from a liberal, wealthy family, and has no need to become a prostitute. She seems to do it out of boredom, because she doesn't need the money and isn't that interested in sex either. On the other hand, she loves pretending to be older than she is. Vacth reveals all of this through a remarkably transparent performance that's often unnerving to watch. By clouding her motivation, we almost become complicit in her actions. We certainly can't just sit back and watch passively.

Continue reading: Young & Beautiful [Jeune & Jolie] Review

Caché Review


Weak
A low-rent setup for two penthouse-level thespians, Michael Haneke's Caché is somehow rigorous yet formless, absolutely exacting in its procedure, yet seemingly bereft of intent and meaning, scrupulously acted for not much reason at all. Derived from the same nervous Parisian bourgeois milieu as writer/director Haneke's Code Unknown but quite a bit more tightly-packed, it's a thriller wrapped inside a moral lesson and presented with the glassy omnipotence of the true voyeur.

The story owes a debt on some level to that greatest of cinematic voyeurs, Hitchcock, whose corpulent presence seems constantly in the filmmaker's mind. Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil plays Anne and Georges Laurent, a perfectly respectable married example of the modern Paris intelligentsia. She works for a publisher where she can set her own hours, while he hosts a literary TV talk show. They have a nice little flat and a nice son, Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky). This is all filled in later, however, as the first thing we see is a static shot of the Laurent household which turns out to be a videotape Anne and Georges are watching which had been left on their doorstep with no explanation. Someone simply set up a videocamera across from their flat and filmed it for hours on end. Things escalate, of course, with tapes mysteriously appearing, soon with childlike drawings attached, of a face spitting blood, a chicken getting its head cut off. Someone starts calling for Georges, sending the tapes to his work, sending the notes to Pierrot at school. And there is no demand, no message, no anything but the constant surveillance and the feeling (soon proven) that the watcher knows more than the Laurents would like about themselves and their past, especially Georges'.

Continue reading: Caché Review

Caché Review


Weak
A low-rent setup for two penthouse-level thespians, Michael Haneke's Caché is somehow rigorous yet formless, absolutely exacting in its procedure, yet seemingly bereft of intent and meaning, scrupulously acted for not much reason at all. Derived from the same nervous Parisian bourgeois milieu as writer/director Haneke's Code Unknown but quite a bit more tightly-packed, it's a thriller wrapped inside a moral lesson and presented with the glassy omnipotence of the true voyeur.

The story owes a debt on some level to that greatest of cinematic voyeurs, Hitchcock, whose corpulent presence seems constantly in the filmmaker's mind. Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil plays Anne and Georges Laurent, a perfectly respectable married example of the modern Paris intelligentsia. She works for a publisher where she can set her own hours, while he hosts a literary TV talk show. They have a nice little flat and a nice son, Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky). This is all filled in later, however, as the first thing we see is a static shot of the Laurent household which turns out to be a videotape Anne and Georges are watching which had been left on their doorstep with no explanation. Someone simply set up a videocamera across from their flat and filmed it for hours on end. Things escalate, of course, with tapes mysteriously appearing, soon with childlike drawings attached, of a face spitting blood, a chicken getting its head cut off. Someone starts calling for Georges, sending the tapes to his work, sending the notes to Pierrot at school. And there is no demand, no message, no anything but the constant surveillance and the feeling (soon proven) that the watcher knows more than the Laurents would like about themselves and their past, especially Georges'.

Continue reading: Caché Review

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