Francois-5

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Reviews

Echo in the Canyon
(2018)

Nice movie for Boomers
In reviewing a documentary, one may discuss the object of the film, or the way the object was covered. Echo in the Canyon does present a significant period in American pop music. I wouldn't say that it was a unique period, even restricting the judgment on the USA only: for instance, the era of the Great American Songbook is also memorable. While the 60s in California was marked with better than average creativity on the pop scene, it's certainly ludicrous for Tom Petty to say that Mozart never wrote anything to surpass Brian Wilson! But I understand why the folks who were active in that era consider it to be most meaningful. The documentary does reflect this very vividly, alternating between focusing on what happened during that period and how it is reflected today, by the younger generation of musicians. However, focusing so much on Jakob Dylan was a major blunder: hey, the film is not about him! The film could have been much better if someone had replaced his lengthy and pointless appearances with more interviews of the people who made that era important. In a nutshell: a nice movie for Boomers, which may also interest history-minded youngsters.

Yesterday
(2019)

An insult to the Beatles' memory
What started out as a good idea simply fails miserably. A choppy series of exotic locations with asinine dialogues. The cinematography was a smorgasboard of overloaded decors. The acting was barely tolerable and Himesh Patel looked far too miserable for the part. This is nothing but the movie version of a lousy Harlequin romance. If the surviving Beatles gave their approval for this project, they were tricked.

Green Book
(2018)

Good, but déjà vu
While this is an interesting movie, somehow, I can't say that it is great. Sure, the actors are flawless, the images are splendid, the editing is impeccable, the sound is perfect. There are no dull moments when the action seems stalled. Yet, I had a constant impression of déjà vu. I constantly thought of Driving Miss Daisy, Intouchables and, up to a certain level, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Not to say that the movie is copy-paste of proven hits, but the result just wasn't as striking as I hoped it woud be.

Teheran Tabu
(2017)

An explanation for many of the world's problems?
A powerful film that leaves the viewer completely appalled at the end. Rotoscoping is ideally suited to this film by allowing the viewer to focus on the action and dialogues without being distracted by the details of untransformed images. This lets the viewer realize how religions, especially that which prevails in Iran and elsewhere, have been invented to control people, especially women. In Tehran Taboo, religion is clearly exposed as a catalyst used by criminally insane authorities to facilitate their crimes. Made me glad to be an atheist.

Red Sparrow
(2018)

Mr Lawrence: Please note that we're no longer in the 1970s
I can't believe they still make such dumb movies. Only in Hollywood, I guess.

On the good side, Red Sparrow has some interesting aspects. The scenes illustrating psychological oppositions are strong an compelling. Ms Lawrence, who, I must admit, I had never seen before (I gather she was featured in youngster-oriented action movies), plays those scenes with excellent aplomb. I really look forward to seeing her in other films worthy of her talent. But I was truly upset with all those actors having adopted some pseudo-Russian accent. The action takes place in Russia, for the most part, with characters presented as Russians. We don't need a fake accent to remind us.

This sounded like a throwback to the US quasi-propaganda films of the 1970s or 1980s, displaying the evil Soviets, but not as much as the disgusting cruelty featured in so many scenes. Was it necessary to be so graphic? These cheaply disturbing scenes made the movie a waste of talent and a waste of viewers' time.

Pro lyubov. Tolko dlya vzroslykh
(2017)

Moscow can be a hot city
An interesting suite of sketches by various directors around the theme of, well, not surprisingly, love and marital relationships. Themes go from extramarital sex and swinging to finding love despite a strict, puritanical upbringing, and from the loss of one's virginity to the desire for a perfect baby. The whole affair is a bit tough to follow if you must rely on subtitles, because dialogues are quite rapid, but fortunately, the stories aren't complex at all.

If you're familiar with Russian society, culture and cinema, you'll be in familiar territory. However, if you're a prude, easily offended, stay at home: the language and approach are quite blunt. It is not a milestone, but still a very enjoyable film that I may see a second time.

Caprice
(2015)

A little jewel of a movie
Yes, a little jewel, that could only have been made in France. From beginning to end, we are in a world of finesse and seduction. Although the overall plot is somehow predictable, there are enough surprises to make the whole thing go smoothly. The main characters are realistic and credible. Clément, the male character, is sensitive, without being a ridiculous wimp. Alicia is magnificent, elegant, strong, yet vulnerable. As to Caprice, she is sometimes ingenuous, sometimes bold: quite a performance. The rhythm is impeccable: no rushes, no unneeded pauses. Every character, every scene is relevant to the overall story. Will this revolutionize cinema? No. But will this allow you to have a good time? Assuredly.

Boyhood
(2014)

A pure waste of time
I only have one word to describe this movie: pointless. The traditional cue to a film crew, prior to shooting, is "Lights… Camera… Action!" Well, here, someone forgot to call for action. The film is 165 minutes of banality, without any artistic value. The camera work is simplistic. The dialogues are superficial babble. Merely showing the everyday life of a typical US family is not cinema: it's a home movie.

True, I forget. This was filmed over a 12-year period. This is the only slightly distinctive feature of this horrible movie. This extensive period of filming reminded me of Nikita Mikhalkov's outstanding Anna: 6-18, that I had seen in 1994 when it came out. While Mikhalkov painted a stunning and compelling picture of the evolution of his daughter in the faltering Soviet Union, Boyhood is a long and boring vacuum.

Gravity
(2013)

Surprising they made it into space, since the movie doesn't take off
Let's get one thing clear: 3D and special effects don't do it for me. OK, it's nice technology: but they don't make a movie. I look for a story, for actors who can convey emotions. Gravity had almost nothing of that. A far-fetched script, Sandra Bullcok hyperventilating and panicking continuously, George Clooney being ridiculously cool and relaxed: what a waste of the talent of two good actors. And the clichés: a ping-pong paddle floating in the Chinese space station, vodka on the Russian station... This reminded me of the disaster movies that came out during the 70s and 80s: thank goodness, those have been forgotten since. I was hoping that an intelligent movie could come out of Hollywood: not this time.

An Education
(2009)

A bit of likelihood wouldn't have hurt
Sure, I was not expecting a documentary out of this film. I was, however, expecting to see a portrayal of interesting and complex characters. A likely expectation for a work of fiction.

In this movie, the main characters are so unrealistic that the film loses all its potential value and becomes merely a series of nice images. The cinematography is, of course excellent. The actors are performing quite competently. But, as another reviewer mentioned, even the finest actors still can't do much without a decent script. Which they don't have in An Education.

The main characters are nothing short of phony. Jenny is far too independent and daring to be credible, and David is way too debonair and casual as the well-off but married older chap having an affair with a minor -- jailbait if you will. As to Jenny's father, it's almost a parody. A conservative Briton from the 1960s who practically throws his daughter into the bed of a much older man simply because the guy is a fancy talker and big spender? Come on.

So save yourselves a bit of money and a couple of hours and don't see this movie. Just look at the stills somewhere.

Oscar nominee for Best picture and Best writing? Some folks in Hollywood should stop drinking.

9 Songs
(2004)

Larry Flynt trying to be Claude Lelouch
I went to see this movie out of curiosity. Now I realize that I'm not only curious: I'm tough. This is one pointless waste of film. Is there a script? A story? A purpose? Not at all.

Boy meets girl. They copulate. They attend concerts where none of the singers can sing on tune. They copulate. They split. Recycled chit-chat from other pseudo-intellectual movies. Lousy camera work and lighting, to make it look more intellectual.

The result is a movie that leaves us wondering how come 71 minutes can seem so long. To be avoided. If this were shown in a prison, the inmates would protest against the cruel and unusual punishment.

Million Dollar Baby
(2004)

How to rescue a plain script
OK, I'll admit it right away: I think boxing is a most barbaric activity. And anyone who enjoys it ought to get their head examined. Or punched at, just so they can ponder whether it's really a "sport".

As a result, the environment in which the action was set left me cold, if not upset. Still, I had decided to see that movie, out of curiosity — after all, it had won awards. The camera and lighting work was flawless and very creative. Hilary Swank does deliver an endearing image. Yet the whole story reeks of "déjà vu". The action is linear, usually predictable, and clichés about the tough guys mumbling in a barely understandable tone are, frankly, quite worn out.

Considering I had seen Ingmar Bergman's magnificent Saraband a few days earlier, I experienced quite a sobering evening with Million Dollar Baby.

Another case of Hollywood trying to act intellectual.

La grande séduction
(2003)

A good movie all over
What does it take to make a good movie? Good actors. Good cinematography. And superb writing. (Among other things, of course). This movie has it all.

At first, I was a bit apprehensive. The teaser looked good. But I had seen the questionable "Doc Hollywood", and feared the worst. We do have the plot of Doc Hollywood -- city plastic surgeon seduced by small town folks who need a GP. The difference is that "La grande séduction" has a well-written script. The result is a charming film that steers away from all of the clichés that one would fear. A film with a superb, continuous rhythm. And actors who are serving the story magnificently, instead of trying to show off. That's what makes good actors.

I'll enjoy seeing it again.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding
(2002)

A good, fun movie, but...
I had heard so much about that movie. Perhaps I was expecting too much. It does have an interesting plot, and interesting characters. I did laugh more than once. But once the film is over, you find yourself asking for more. The plot could have been more intricate. The main characters - Toula and Ian - could have had a more complex relationship. There could have been ups and downs. Surprises.

Have this story re-written without any Hollywood-inspired mediocrity, and you have yourself a classic.

Die Another Day
(2002)

A typically good James Bond, but...
... far too much emphasis on special effects.

This is a good Bond movie; and, as noted elsewhere, Pierce Brosnan has grown very comfortable and convincing with his 007 role. The script is well written, the actors are doing a great job, the villain is mean and the scenery is lavish. But.

Bond has always been a suave, subtle secret agent. He still is in this movie: the bit in a Hong Kong hotel is a perfect illustration. Unfortunately, the producers caved in to some kind of popular pressure, and flooded the film with awful special effects. Let's face it: scenes of massive destruction are not interesting per se. Invisible cars are too far-fetched to be fun.

For the next Bond flick, the producers should cut the special effects budget to a fraction of what it was for this one. They would save a few bucks, and would create something much more interesting than the garbage that Hollywood assumes the public likes. And they would rescue the Bond genre from the bad taste abyss which which it is now flirting.

Russkiy kovcheg
(2002)

Simply magnificent...
I had two reasons to see this film. First, the tour de force of making a whole movie in one take. Second, I visited the Soviet Union and Russia a number of times, and spent countless hours of delight in the Ermitage.

I was pleased on both counts. The technical achievement is surely remarkable; but more importantly, it does not come out as a mere trick. It does serve the movie quite efficiently. You are grabbed from the first moment, and your attention is kept continuously until the end of the movie. It is a demanding movie, but it gives so much back.

And, from a historical perspective, the movie is a pure gem. The references to Russian history are numerous, and subtle: like the sequence where the princesses, daughters of Nikolai II, are happily dancing while the Tsarina is worrying about her son's health.

I have to see this one again. It's just so enjoyable.

White Nights
(1985)

Ahhhh... The dance...
Forget about the plot: in this post-Soviet era (and even during that era), such a blatant praise of "Western values" is way too much of a cliché to be enjoyable.

Forget about the acting. It is well played, considering the plot.

Just concentrate on the dancing. Inspired. Passionate. The opening sequence by itself is a pure gem. And the tap dance number with Baryshnikov and Hines. And the solo number by Baryshnikov in the theater. And...

You get the picture.

Birthday Girl
(2001)

Just what is this movie?
I can't say this is a bad or a good movie: I am still trying to figure out what it was supposed to be. A comedy? Definitely not a funny movie. A romance movie? Perhaps. A drama? In a way, yes. But a bad one.

The actors are excellent (although John's lack of emotions in tough situations is a bit strange), the cinematography is first-class, but the writing is quite poor. The film ends up like a cross between "Little Vera" and "Bonnie and Clyde", with a healthy dose of cliché about Russian mail-order brides.

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