Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an authoritarian dictator. A blending of fact and fiction, this award-winning film has a remarkably visual sensibility thanks to actor-turned-director Brady Corbet and his intense cast. It's a bit relentless in its murky atmosphere, but there are flashes of genius all the way through.
The story opens in 1918 Paris, where an American diplomat (Game of Thrones' Liam Cunningham) is knee-deep in negotiations that will lead to the Treaty of Versailles. His wife (The Artist's Berenice Bejo) and pre-teen son Prescott (Tom Sweet) are rattling around their country house waiting for him to come home, and there's also a loyal maid (Yolande Moreau) and an observant nanny (Stacy Martin). But Prescott is a handful, refusing to cut his hair and challenging everyone around him by throwing a series of epic tantrums. With his father busy with work, his mother is so lonely that she turns to family friend Charles (Robert Pattinson) for company. And it doesn't help that the maid indulges Prescott's every whim, leaving the nanny unable to control him.
Where all of this goes is elusive and complex, hinting at a variety of secret activities happening just out of reach. Since everything is depicted through Prescott's immature perspective, the film's plot feels suggestive and seemingly irrational, and yet there's a driving sense of logic to it as well. And by mixing in newsreel footage to root everything into this pivotal point of history, Corbet offers haunting echoes of the young lives of populist tyrants like Hitler and Mussolini (and maybe Donald Trump). All of this allows the cast to dig deeply into their roles, offering a glimpse beneath the surface at every step. At the centre, the remarkable young Sweet is fierce and also fragile, eerily likeable even as he behaves so monstrously. Meanwhile, Bejo's helpless sensitivity is cleverly contrasted with Cunningham's distance.
Continue reading: The Childhood Of A Leader Review
With Ozon's usual sharp writing and direction, this black comedy is a fabulous series of provocations, challenging us to explore how we see, or perhaps imagine, the people in our lives. It's also a playful exploration of the nature of storytelling itself, using a teacher-student relationship to reveal all kinds of uncomfortable truths.
The teacher and student in question are Germain (Luchini), who's tired of teaching literature to illiterate students, and shy 16-year-old Claude (Umhauer), a gifted young writer. His essays spark Germain's imagination because they continue on from each other to serialise his encounters with the family of his friend Rapha (Ughetto). As Claude writes about flirting with Rapha's mum (Sagnier) or becoming pals with his dad (Menochet), Germain becomes gripped by the story. And so does his wife Jeanne (Scott Thomas), who sees this as a wonderful escape from the mundane pressures in her life. But in a private tutoring session with Claude, Germain crosses an ethical line. And things start to get strange.
Writer-director Ozon is wickedly blurring the line between fact and fiction, as everyone who reads Claude's essays imagines the people in ways that fuel their own fantasies. So events unfold through a variety of perspectives, some of which must surely be imagined, especially as Germain and Claude adjust the characters to reveal hidden secrets. Yes, this brings out the voyeuristic tendencies in all of the characters, and in us as well, since we too are living vicariously through people whose lives seem so much more interesting than ours. Even if they are supposed to be us.
Continue reading: In The House [Dans La Maison] Review
Serge (Depardieu), better known as Mammuth, is a long-haired biker dude who has retired from working in a slaughterhouse. His sharp-tongued wife Catherine (Moreau) has no idea how he'll fill his time and, when his pension doesn't come through, she starts to worry that her supermarket job isn't enough to make ends meet. So he dusts off his old motorbike and heads off in search of the papers he needs to claim his pension. But riding it sparks memories of his lost love (Adjani), who haunts him as he travels from town to town.
Continue reading: Mammuth Review
After being shot by an errant bullet, Bazil (Boon) becomes homeless. Taken in by the Micmacs, seven misfits living in a secret lair under a rubbish heap, he discovers that rival Parisian arms dealers manufactured the bullet that hit him and the landmine that killed his father when he was a child. As he plots his revenge, his new friends all want in on the plan, so they set about inventively using their salvage to get the company owners (Dussollier and Marie) to square off against each other.
Continue reading: Micmacs [Micmacs A Tire-larigot] Review
As she celebrates her 80th birthday, the iconic French filmmaker compiles an impressionistic collage of photographs, home movies, new scenes and clips from the classic films she had a hand in. She recounts her career alongside Godard and the Nouvelle Vague, and links her memories together with beaches from near her birthplace in Belgium to Los Angeles by way of Cuba and Cannes. She also installs a beach on a Paris street, occupied by female members of her staff.
Continue reading: The Beaches Of Agnes [Les Plages D'Agnes] Review
Moreau is by turns frumpy, impish, poetic and beatific in her portrayal of the innocent, doomed artist. The actress soaks in the beauty of Provost's mannered compositions, and her expressions of unmediated rapture at the sublime countryside around her infuses the film with the religious ecstasy of pure artistic creation. Séraphine advises a character in the film, "When I feel bad I go for a walk in the country and I touch the trees and I talk to the birds, the flowers, the insects... and I feel better." As Séraphine, Moreau makes a strong case for modern day pantheism as a cure for all our daily woes.
Continue reading: Séraphine Review
Her name is Vellini (Asia Argento). It's rumored she's the flamboyant progeny of an Italian priestess and a Spanish matador. She licks fresh blood off of gaping wounds. The ringlets of her hair resemble a heart turned on its head. It's said she can outstare the sun and the second you get your first glimpse at Argento laying on her canapé, you believe it sans aucun doute. Though he first casts her off as an "ugly mutt," the young playboy Ryno de Marigny (Fu'ad Aït Aattou) takes it as his task to possess this creature despite her blatant loathing of him. Eventually they exile themselves to Argentina and bear a daughter, only to see her die from the sting of a scorpion. Unchained and thrown into an abyss of grief, Argento's bellowing growl of despair could shred the very screen.
Continue reading: The Last Mistress Review
Amelie delivers the goods on all levels, with crafty storytelling, superb acting, and clever directing. The film follows the exploits of the young Amelie (Audrey Tautou), a shy, introverted girl with a dysfunctional past who lives alone in a small apartment in Paris. Amelie spends her days working at a local Parisian café, pines for the love of a strange boy who stalks the instant-photo booths of the Metro, and silently observes the lives of her neighbors.
Continue reading: Amelie Review
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.
Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...
With Ozon's usual sharp writing and direction, this black comedy is a fabulous series of...
Mixing warm drama with hilariously deadpan comedy, this is one of the most unusual road...
Parisian songwriter and director Serge Gainsbourg was a legend known all around the world, for...
Back in Amelie mode, Jeunet creates a wonderfully entertaining romp about a group of outsiders...
As French na?ve painter Séraphine Louis, Yolande Moreau dominates Martin Provost's Séraphine like Séraphine's "secret...
After years of lascivious experiments and audience-bludgeoning anti-romances, French provocateur Catherine Breillat pulls an unexpectedly...
After only a few films have I been left with an indelible sense of wonder...