Serge Riaboukine

Serge Riaboukine

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Look at Me (2004) Review


Terrible
Maybe in Europe, whining is looked upon as an art form. Three years ago, the Italian movie The Last Kiss -- a precursor to Garden State -- was released in the U.S. It bitched and moaned its way to rave reviews, a few festival prizes, and a soon-to-be released American adaptation (starring, yes, Zach Braff and Rachel Bilson), all the while driving me bonkers.

Now, from France, we have Look at Me, another movie lavished with praise that plays like an extra special, extra whiny, extra long episode of thirtysomething. The characters in Look at Me bitch so much about their troubles that you wonder how they're able to get through the day. You care that they find happiness not out of any sympathy for them, but so there's finally silence.

Continue reading: Look at Me (2004) Review

Skin of Man, Heart of Beast Review


Terrible
Upon departing the screening of Helene Angel's Skin of Man, Heart of Beast, I was left with a stupefying mental puzzle filled with jagged pieces of plot and dialogue that did not quite fit together in any coherent manner. While the film is linear in the traditional sense, free of time warps and flashbacks, the imagery and symbolism cause one to wonder about its underlying message. Is it a criticism of the brutal treatment of women in rural French society? Or is it a story of conquest about two innocent young girls able to overcome a sadly dysfunctional family situation? Because of the film's ambiguity, I'll discuss only those pieces of the puzzle that are concrete enough to judge and explain.

Serge Riaboukine and Barnard Blancan represent the titular "beasts." They are two brothers that not only appear strikingly beastly on the outside, but also have rapacious souls, which they nourish through the abuse of women. Riaboukine plays Franky, an alcoholic city cop who is forced to give up his badge after savagely beating a prostitute while in a drunken stupor. He retreats to the family farm with his mother (Maaike Jansen), teenage brother (Pascal Cervo), and two daughters. There he reunites with his boyhood community and is warmly welcomed by his family, friends, and not surprisingly, sleazy underworld connections. Ironically, he is gentle and loving around his two girls, especially the baby, five-year-old Aurelie (Cathy Hinderchild), whose character is meant to symbolize purity, as she exists in an overly optimistic world of fairies and fantasy. At night when he steps way from his family, however, Franky is a gluttonous savage of a man who parties, drinks, and womanizes with reckless abandon.

Continue reading: Skin of Man, Heart of Beast Review

Look at Me Review


Terrible
Maybe in Europe, whining is looked upon as an art form. Three years ago, the Italian movie, The Last Kiss -- a precursor to Garden State -- was released in the U.S. It bitched and moaned its way to rave reviews, a few festival prizes, and a soon-to-be released American adaptation (starring, yes, Zach Braff and Rachel Bilson), all the while driving me bonkers.

Now, from France, we have Look at Me, another movie lavished with praise that plays like an extra special, extra whiny, extra long episode of thirtysomething. The characters in Look at Me bitch so much about their troubles that you wonder how they're able to get through the day. You care that they find happiness not out of any sympathy for them, but so there's finally silence.

Continue reading: Look at Me Review

Mondays In The Sun Review


Weak

Inspired by real laid-off shipyard workers desperately clinging to a sense of personal dignity while entering their third year on the government dole, the melancholy Spanish import "Mondays in the Sun" is thick with powerful, understated, deeply empathetic performances -- and it needs them. It's hard to feel sorry for a bunch of welfare cases who sit around drinking and barely even trying to find new jobs.

Perhaps not being familiar with the particulars of the Spanish economy provides a major disadvantage to fully understanding the characters that populate this film, which swept the 2002 Goya awards. But writer-director Fernando Leon de Aranoa doesn't seem to provide any reason beyond pure frustration and lack of momentum for his handful of sad sack laborers to spend much of their lives in a bar.

Bearded, burly, somewhat unscrupulous but full of pride and wasted intelligence, Santa (played by the impeccably poignant Javier Bardem) is a cauldron of quietly boiling indignation who exhausts his energy tilting against the system and denying his own accountability. In the course of the movie, he applies for not one job, yet he continues to fight a vandalism charge years after smashing up a streetlight during a strike -- on the grounds that the violence was the company's fault for enraging him.

Continue reading: Mondays In The Sun Review

Serge Riaboukine

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