The lengthy title did get me excited for a second. What I did get was a sub standard ‘Forrest Gump’ featuring a very old man in Sweden. It does draw a few similarities from Forrest Gump – Firstly, it uses the same don’t-think-too-much kind of simplistic approach adopted by Tom Hanks’ character in the form of ‘Life is like a box of chocolates’, but in this film, it is re-worded as ‘Things just are!’. When central character Allan Karlsson climbs out of the window of his old folks home and simply just walks away, it starts a random adventure involving a suitcase full of money he stole from a biker gang. Allan meets a bunch of oddball characters who help him evade the potentially violent biker gang while he recounts his colourful past which includes lots of an unhealthy obsession with dynamite, unwittingly being involved with Stalin’s death and the creation of the atomic bomb. Again, another similarity to Forrest Gump as it is about a character who by sheer chance manages to become an integral part of major historical events.
The results of these involvements and the general tone is mildly amusing at best and trying to be original and imaginative, but instead succeeding in being an arduous final third of the film. Allan’s character just wonders around, oblivious to the world around him and manages to have a very colourful and interesting life. At least Forrest Gump provided some joy, laughs and some sadness. 100 year old man… provided none of those!
Lambert Wilson and Fabrice Luchini star as Gauthier and Serge respectively in this French comedy drama about two egocentric, narcissistic actors who have the chance to put their past grievances aside. Gauthier is the more successful actor as he is in a central role in a popular TV series, whereas Serge has quit acting and has decided to live as a hermit on an island. Gauthier turns up to his home and offers him a part in the play Le Misanthrope. Serge agrees to practice reading the part for a week and give an answer after the week is over. During the course of the week, they bicker about which parts they want to play, how the words should be said and they compete over the local feisty but attractive Italian woman Francesca (Maya Sansa).
During the course of the movie, it becomes increasingly apparent that Serge is playing Gauthier for a fool and wants to try and exact some kind of revenge on him by subtly denting his ego. Could Serge be the misanthrope like Moliere’s play? It seems that he does read the part very well and he always wants to play that particular part.
The two central performances are very good as it is a film about acting. They are very complex and masculine characters who play well together. The film has a few light comic touches as well as the melodramatic element. The problem with it is it’s not entirely memorable. It seems like a bit of light entertainment to pass the time, and once it is over, the film will be eventually forgotten. It still managed to surpass the low expectations I had when entering the cinema at least.
Known more for his work as a cinematographer, Diego Quemada-Diez has made his feature debut, and what a debut it is. Initially set in a slum in Guatemala centred around children trying to cross the US border to seek a better life, Quemada-Diez researched the story by interviewing real life young people who have attempted this themselves and the horrific experiences they endured doing it.
Juan, Sara and Samuel are three teenagers who escape their slum to begin hopping freights to the United States. Sara has to cut her hair short and disguise herself as a boy as she understands the risks of being a young girl attempting something this potentially dangerous. During their travels, they meet Chauk, a native American who cannot speak a word of Spanish. He joins the group despite Juan’s initial hostility and together they endure many awful events that happen to them. When things seem to be going well for the group, the train is suddenly raided by people traffickers looking for young women. Also, there are teenage scammers working for illegal employers which the characters fall for. When these events happen and the characters are prised apart from each other, your heart sinks like a stone. Later, the remaining characters have to deal with border patrol and they need to attempt to find people they can trust who know of a way through the American border.
What the Director has created here is something very harrowing. It is what you don’t see that is most disturbing. The writing is also very clever. The dialogue is very minimal throughout the entire film as there is a character who cannot speak Spanish. There is still a lot a of character depth through the actions they choose to escape poverty for a better life. It is also a very confronting film pointing out the problems of de-regulated capitalism and all it’s inequalities and how it has effected countries in central America. It is a very bleak and complex situation which most people either turn a blind eye to or would treat these human beings like dogs. The lack of compassion from not only Americans, but their own people is astounding. It reminds us that atrocities like these continue to be a daily occurrence which needs to be looked at.
This for me is a film which everyone must see. It is not just an educational film, but a fine example of visual poetry. It shows the beautiful rural dwellings of Guatemala and Mexico and how such human cruelty and barbarism could co-exist in this natural beauty. The performances are excellent as it is more in the children’s faces which give us all we need to try and understand their plight which we could never imagine or fully understand. I could not help but compare this to Ken Loach’s ‘Bread & Roses’ and coming to the logical conclusion that his is far more superior! Truly exceptional work.
Ok, I am not the one for costume drama’s. I find it is always full of annoying, upper class families discussing ‘whom one should marry’ in order to tactically keep the family’s fortune going or inherit a large estate etc. This film is no different. The only difference is the racial element which adds interest to the proceedings.
Belle is a half caste who is the result of an affair between a naval officer and a slave. He gives his child to the aristocratic Mansfield family. There are mixed reactions from the family. Some welcome her with open arms and refer to her as ‘Dido’. Others refer to her as a ‘mulato’ and are embarrassed of her presence. She is excluded from meals, but is allowed to appear after the meal. Again, she is subject to mixed reactions from the aristocratic guests. Through the course of the film, there is an historical racial case going on in which slaves were thrown overboard a ship to save the whole ship. Belle gets involved as well as an abolitionist lawyer whom she falls in love with. As Lord Mansfield is the judge, the fact that he is Belle’s legal guardian starts to have an effect on his decision.
It is an interesting part of history this film is portraying as it is at a time of changing attitudes towards race and slavery in the 1800’s. However, I see this as nothing more than a feature length tv movie with over dramatic performance and cliché, stuffy old aristocrats talking about inheritance etc. My mum would definitely get a lot out of this, whereas I should just stay away from them in the future and read a history book instead.
What I did not realise when watching this was the fact that this is the third in a long running trilogy with the films ‘Pot Luck’ and ‘Russian Dolls’ being the previous films all directed by Cedric Klapisch.
When reading of this revelation after I viewed the film, it made perfect sense as to why there were pictures of the characters in three stages of ageing in the opening credit sequence and why there are characters who drop into the film suddenly like we are supposed to know them. However, as a person who did not see the two previous films, I did get to know the many characters quite well and I did care about them in what I thought was a surprisingly enjoyable film.
Romain Duris stars as Xavier, a man whose relationship with Wendy (Kelly Reilly) ends. Wendy meets a man in New York and takes the children with her. Xavier makes a snap decision to move to New York to be with his kids. He initially stays with his lesbian friend Isabelle (Cecile De France) who moved to New York to be with her lover, Ju (Sandrine Holt), who is also having an affair with her babysitter who is also named Isabelle (Flore Bonaventura). Also, Xavier’s past lover, Martine (Audrey Tautou) keeps dropping into New York for work related reasons and meets up with Xavier a few times. Could they start to re-kindle what they had before?
The great thing about Chinese Puzzle is it’s portrait of New York which it shows in all it’s racial and sexual diversity, but not feeling forced or annoyingly politically correct. It felt more like this is the reality of New York being the crowded and multi cultural city that it is. It is refreshing to see New York portrayed in that way as opposed to post card aesthetics used by many, especially Woody Allen. It also shows the difficulties Xavier faces trying to stay in New York and fitting into a strange city. He meets interesting people, gets cash in hand jobs as his holiday visa deems it illegal for him to be in employment, and he gets married to an Asian-American girl in order to stay in the country. It is compelling to watch his character settle in, develop and grow in his new place of residence and how he gets involved with the main characters around him in these intertwining stories. The stories were interesting and it had me routing for the characters, who despite their flaws, are genuinely believable and likeable characters. What did end up annoying me about the film was the fact that it went for the cliché narrative-within-a-narrative structure. While the story is unfolding, Xavier is writing a book about his experiences and his agent is commenting on his ideas. When the story threads culminate into a last minute dash to get the girl who is taking a bus out of New York for good, the agent comments on how the ending is too happy and cliché. For me, this self awareness is worse than just having the cliché ending. For the most part, it was enjoyable and it meant well.
Better known for his TV acting especially as the title character in ‘Dexter’, it is a pleasure to see Michael C. Hall take on a leading role and doing it effectively as the mulleted Richard Dane.
The film starts off as a straight up revenge thriller set in Texas, 1989 (hence the mullet) and really starts off with a bang. The mild mannered Richard shoots an un-armed burglar in his living room. This is seen as an heroic act from the towns locals as he has rightfully defended his property. The police reveal the burglar to be a man named Freddy, son of a man named Russell (Sam Shepard), who is to be released from prison soon. Of course, when Russell is released from prison, he waists no time in going after Richard for revenge. The film starts to cross over into horror territory, reminding me of John Carpenter films, mainly because of the music, and horror/thrillers like Scorcece’s ‘Cape Fear’. Russell is like a mythical, sinister character, who appears out of nowhere and indirectly threatens Richard’s family.
In a thrilling scene taking place at Richard’s family home where his family are used as bait, Russell is caught. Things then start to take a strange turn when Richard sees a wanted poster of the man he apparently shot, but with a mug shot that does not match. The police dismiss Richard when he brings it up which leads to Richard doing some investigation of his own. When driving to the police station at night, he sees Russell being forced into a police car. Richard follows them to a train track where Russell is forcibly injected and left to die on the track to make it look like an accident. Realising he has witnessed something wrong, Richard saves Russell and has him chained up in his Dad’s old shack.
Russell moves from being a sinister, mysterious character into someone you can sympathise for in what is an effective plot twist. We find out Russell’s son, Freddy was not the burglar shot by Richard, but a criminal who is under a witness relocation programme. The police had effectively faked Freddy’s death and wanted Russell dead to tie up loose ends, but unfortunately, it is never revealed the extent of police corruption and involvement into this case.
Enter Jim Bob (Don Johnson), a maverick private detective dressed like a wealthy stereotypical Texan who is also a pig farmer and an old friend of Russell. He reveals the aforementioned information to Richard, who then becomes involved in the case to help Russell find his son. This segment of the film starts to take a gritty turn through shocking revelations involving Freddy and real life snuff videos and a final shoot out which Directors like Rodriguez and Winding Refn would be proud of.
Director Jim Mickle uses diverse styles and genre’s effectively, moving from thriller, to horror, to comedy, to b-movie aesthetic and dark comedy without being too intrusive and undercutting too much of the drama and suspense. The central characters are well played by Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard and Don Johnson respectively. The only weak link is Richard’s wife, Anne played by Vinessa Shaw. She is a weak character and could have done with featuring more strongly especially in the latter half of the film. The ending also poses some loose ends, some of them already mentioned. The film needed more exposition, especially where the extent of police corruption was concerned and the real identity of the man who was shot at the start.
Apart from that, I found it an enjoyable film with some inventive stylistic touches, making this film like ‘Drive’ set in Texas or what you would imagine a film Directed by Rodriguez, Winding Refn and Carpenter would be like!
I have never been much of a fan of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I find his films a bit too twee. At least with previous releases like Delicatessen and Amelie, they were interesting and fun, although never bowled over, but this film has very little to interest the viewer other than some nice visuals.
T.S Spivet (Kyle Catlett) is a young child prodigy who invents the perpetual motion engine. After a call from the Smithsonian museum claiming that he has won a major Baird prize, T.S leaves his humble ranch and journeys to New York to collect the prize. Over his journey, he ponders his eccentric family. His mother Dr Claire (Helena Bonham Carter) who studies insects is distant from her husband who is a cowboy. Also, he ponders the accidental death of his brother which he may or may not have been involved with and wonders if his dad cares about him.
When he arrives, he gets his prize and people start to exploit the fact he is a child. The artifice and manufactured emotions of television is explored not very well and the wonders of science and the potential of such a revolutionary invention is not really looked into. For a bright and quirky film, it really is dull and essentially nothing much happens. I think Jeunet spent too much time making the film look good. I read the writers said they could potentially have a hard time making Spivet’s journey interesting as it does take up most of the film, but according to them, it turned out not to be the case. Oh how wrong they were!