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Reviews

A Primeira Morte de Joana
(2021)

A sensitive intimate portrait.
Death of a loved one upsetting a teenager, denunciation of machismo and retarded morals in Brazil (at least by 2007, when the action takes place), slow realization of her homosexuality by Joana, the young protagonist of the story, it's a lot for one film. A question therefore arises: won't the writer-director bite off more than she can chew, as the saying goes? On the other hand, will she be able to avoid the two major pitfalls that threaten an effort of the kind, being over-demonstrative in terms of ideas or over-indulgent in terms of sex scenes, or both? Fortunately, as of the first minutes, we feel it for sure: it will be nothing of the sort.

Of course, gravity and tension reign, drama and threat loom in 'The First Death of Joana' (Cristiane Oliveira's second feature after 'Mulher do Pai' in 2016), but the author opts for a chronicle, not a tragedy. As a result, the story, told is an intimate one told day by day, is one in which darkness is aptly counterbalanced with lightness, crudeness with poetry and tenderness. And it works all the better because Oliveira has a deep sense of psychology, which helps us connect with the main character. Her fine description of Joana's personality, moods and emotional journey really make this young girl endearing. Gradually discovering Joana to be sensitive, quick-witted and combative raises our interest in her evolution from the stage of late childhood (which ends at the death of her beloved aunt) to that of nascent maturity (when she discovers her sexual orientation).

In the end, we leave the film moved and enchanted. Which means the director has made the right choices: capturing the characters in their authenticity (they all ring true, from Joana - Laeticia Kacperski - and her best friend Carolina - Isabela Bressane - to the adults, to the grandmother); placing them in a well-defined context (Rio do Sul, in the South of Brazil, its omnipresent nature, a big lake, a vast wind farm) ; advancing the story with light touches, infusing the seriousness of her subject rather than asserting it schematically, dogmatically or complacently. We feel before we understand: this is great impressionist art.

Also noteworthy is the use of the Scope format, which has often been said to be perfect for large spaces and gigantic sets but inappropriate for capturing intimacy. This film proves the contrary.: the 2.35 ratio can very well enhance the wide open spaces of... the human soul.

With this delicate film, Cristiane Oliveira falls within the category of sensitive and humanistic filmmakers and could one day join Renoir, Truffaut, Ozu, Kiarostami or Satyajit Ray in their pantheon. An artist to follow in any case.

Adieu Paris
(2013)

Better than the first few minutes of runtime can make you fear.
The beginning is somewhat alarming: it looks as though we are in for just another boring sentimental movie. What a trite photonovel situation indeed: on an airplane, a thirty some German woman is traveling to Paris where she is to meet her married lover. Flying on the same plane is another traveler (a handsome man of course). The said fellow has helped the lady get out of an awkward situation at the airport just before takeoff and though their first contact has been nothing short of uneasy, you can be sure of one thing, they will meet again and eventually fall in love. Along with time we learn more about the characters, already or not yet present: Patrizia Munz is a novelist, her lover an architect, the lover's wife a dentist and her savior, Frank Bendssen, a banker about to land a big deal in France. Well, if not a photonovel, "Adieu Paris" might well be one of those too oft-seen tedious bourgeois dramas. Sigh!

Wrong impression so pleasant surprise. Martin Rathaus' screenplay gradually acquires real depth: Jean-Jacques, Patrizia's French lover, has just had a serious accident and lies in hospital between life and death. The mistress is led to meet Jean-Jacques' wife and an ambiguous relationship develops between them. From then on, the narrative takes unexpected paths, and we find ourselves light years away from the worn-out story, seen a thousand times and more, which was threatening us poor spectators.

As a matter of fact, "Adieu Paris", well acted and competently directed (by Franziska Buch, gradually asserts itself as a beautiful meditation on life and death, safe from Bergman-like hysteria but imbued with real gravity, occasionally corrected by welcome touches of lightness. One exception to this delicate balance, the main character's propensity to indulge in navel-gazing, to feel sorry for herself with exaggerated complacency. But that is only a slight defect, it does not prevent the film from being absorbing on the whole.

All in all, "Adieu Paris" is not for those who think that a movie is pure entertainment and nothing else. But it will please those who do not refrain from thinking. Life, death, how make the most of the one life we are entitled to are the real issues addressed by this German film. A little reflection from time to time can't hurt.

Mémoires. Le temps qui passe: 1920-1960
(1996)

The Way they were
Using amateur films shot between 1920 and 1960, Jean Baronnet takes us on a fascinating journey through the depths of France, which we see evolving in black and white (and sometimes in color) - in terms of clothing, morals, entertainment, etc. Intelligently, the director chooses chronological order as the main thread, but also frequent flashbacks, which allow us to take stock of what we have just seen, avoiding that one image chases the other.

The tone adopted is rather good-natured, a little nostalgic, gently humorous. Baronnet makes only rare allusions to the tragedies that the country went through, notably the Second World War, during which the daily life of the French was disrupted. This is simply not the object of this simple chronicle of a nation's daily life We are shown people like everyone else, with few famous figures (one exception, Saint-Exupéry who gets off his plane in 1938): there are many scenes of family life, vacations, local festivals, etc. Four decades of daily life, unchanging in its rituals but always changing, unfold before our alternately amused and moved eyes.

If I had to select one sequence from this documentary, it would be the extraordinary crossing of Paris filmed in 1924 from a car: the driving license had only existed for two years and traffic lights were not yet in use. There were few cars but that did not prevent the traffic from being totally random, with everyone doing as they pleased. Poor passers-by (there were no pedestrian crossings either) having to jump between the vehicles at their own risk!

The film. A mix of interesting information, warm nostalgia and constant smiles, is to be recommended. One is not bored for a minute.

Médecin de nuit
(2020)

A brilliant contemporary film noir.
"Médecin de nuit" (The Night Doctor), co-written and directed by Elie Wajeman ("Aliyah", "The Anarchists"), filmed in Paris at the turn of 2019 and 2020, checks all the boxes of the film noir genre: a city at night, individuals at the margins of society, either by choice or left behind by the system (drug addicts, thugs and other traffickers, homeless or destitute underdogs), violence erupting at regular intervals, a hero (Mickaël, the night doctor of the title) somewhat in trouble with the law struggling against forces beyond him, including a (could-be) femme fatale (Sofia, Mickaël's ambiguous mistress) and a seductive but devious villain.

Naturally, gathering all the ingredients of a recipe does not mean that the dish will be successful, one has to accommodate them the right way. Judging by the result, Elie Wajeman has proved up to the task. The cook sure did not spoil the broth!

First things first, for Wajeman, just like Richard Bohringer, "A City is Beautiful at Night", an aesthetic taste that he manages (with the competent assistance of cinematographer David Chizallet) to translate on the wide screen, the cold ugliness of the areas the doctor drives through being advantageously replaced by the warm glow of all kinds of lights, fixed or changing (red lights, neon signs, lit windows, etc.) Secondly, as a writer (Wajeman started writing the script with Agnès Feuvre but completed it alone), the director shows an aptitude (required for this kind of film) to spare his effects, to play with the unexpected, to sustain the interest until the denouement: tension, threats and twists duly pervade the plot. Moreover, by compressing the action into a period of less than 24 hours and a running time of 82 minutes, Wajeman further enhances the dramatic potential of his story, constantly varying according to the moments from anecdotal, daily or amused to dramatic, even tragic, through a whole range of intermediate tonalities For his part, he actor Vincent Macaigne is not for nothing in this success: his unfailing investment in his character added to his natural talent give a flawless consistency to the whole thing. It is impressive to see him change without apparent transition from "holy man" to "thick brute", from worn out man to consoler of those who suffer.

Last but not least, as in the best films noirs, the author is not content to illustrate the crime plot, he places it in the richer framework of psychological study, sociological observation and documentary, Thus we will witness the marital crisis that pits Mickaël and his wife Sacha against each other.

Thus we will discover what is hidden inside these impersonal buildings housing modest beings in modest districts.

Thus we will see how a night doctor works (the consultation scenes seem to come out of reality as if filmed by a hidden camera.) At the time of the final sequence, of great dramatic power, you will be completely shaken. "The Night Doctor" will not disappear instantly from your memory.

Rosita
(2000)

Unpretentious homage to the slapstick comedies of yore. Some good laughs.
Dating back to 1997, the short film « Rosita », is one of the first comedies made by the duo Abel and Gordon. Featuring a fortune-teller and her assistant Raoul, it was quite relevantly shot on a fun fair ground ( The Foire du Midi in Brussels).

Well, despite this authentic element, this is not really a masterpiece. The duo's major comedies are still to come. Fiona Gordon is not yet this offbeat Englishwoman, half-minger half-fairy while Dominique Abel, although already maladjusted to the world around him, does not yet exude the sympathy that will make his character so endearing in their further efforts. Thematically speaking, there is at least one interesting feature, namely the indelible bond that unites the two losers whatever happens (and God knows how much fate is against them), a constant in their works to come. The scenario here is basic (we are still far from the elaborate universes of "The Iceberg", "Rumba" or "Lost in Paris"). It barely reports the misadventures of a doomed couple, Rosita, a clumsy clairvoyant and her even clumsier assistant. By joining forces (or rather by joining weaknesses), they are sure to fail. And they do ! The pair hopelessly (and hilariously) misses all their effects and the customers flee !

That's about all there is to it but we do laugh. After all, many of the first slapstick comedies were not more complex in terms of the scenario either but still work fine today.

So do not expect more than just a good glassful of unpretentious laughter, which is actually not that bad.

Visages du littoral: La Manche
(2012)

Passable. Not unpleasant bot too superficial
"Visages du littoral ; la Manche " is one of that (too numerous) kind of documentaries one watches without displeasure but that hardly leaves any trace in our memories.

To make us travel along the French coasts from the Belgian border to the confines of Normandy is naturally of interest. Amazing indeed is the number of natural and architectural beauties we are invited to fly over: the Opal Coast, the Bay of the Somme, the old town of Dieppe and its castle, the Mont-Saint-Michel - and these are only a few examples. But that is precisely where the shoe pinches: we are given to see zillions of sights, each one more beautiful than the other, far too many actually for a 52-minute screening time. Moreover, they are almost exclusively shown from the sky, so with a great distance, leaving in the shade the human beings who populate these places. Well, for sure, the director « overviews » the subject in both senses of the term.

Moreover, when Gilles Kebaïli, the director, decides to bring us closer to the inhabitants, he resorts either to archival footage (we are interested in the words of the philosopher Michel Onfray or Gérard Fusberti, Jacques Prévert's friend but they are taken from previous sources). And when he does not do that, he is content to film parachute jumpers, golfers and other sportsmen: aren't there people who put their region in a better light than all these fellows, who are certainly nice but who are only entertaining themselves, which all amounts, cinematographically speaking, to padding out.

If you are well-disposed, you can still get a minimum of pleasure out of this superficial travelogue and its images, assuredly beautiful but frustratingly fugitive.

Tout est normal mon coeur scintille
(2014)

Odd one-man show, at once brilliant, poetic, hilarious and disturbing.
"Tout est normal mon coeur scintille" is a fantastic journey into the troubled mind of a man who loved his girlfriend more than anything else and who can't get over her departure. She doesn't love him anymore, why? Well it's a fact, it can't be explained. But no explanation means no solace and the poor fellow finds it hard to survive, feeling as if he were amputated of half of himself. To express this terrible disarray, Gamblin denies himself nothing: neither humor, nor absurdity, nor onirism, nor dance, nor acrobatics, nor back projections, nor song hits ("Believe In Us" by Jay Jay Johanson). The result is a very personal one-Man show that has few equivalents, if any.

Fully invested in his character, disoriented but not without self-derision, Jacques Gamblin carries the whole show on his shoulders, with the added support of two dancers, one male one female, helping to express through their movements the character's emotional lack when his words are not enough. A multi-talented artist, he gives a breathtaking performance.

His February 2013 show (given at the Théâtre du rond-Point) has fortunately been recorded by Vincent Bataillon. A good deed indeed, for now a DVD exists and the play will not only exists in the memories of those who saw it at the theatre. This skillfully made recording is a real must-see for viewers in search of authenticity and originality. If you are in this case, please don't miss it.

Monsieur le maire
(1947)

Alsatian oddity
An overplayed, heavy-handed comedy with a hackneyed subject, "D'r Herr Maire" would not be of any interest if it were not the first talking film in the Alsatian language. Adapted from a successful play by Gustave Stoskopf from 1898, and performed by local actors, the film really only speaks to pure Alsatians. Non-Alsatians will appreciate it even less knowing that the subtitles are very incomplete, the French version leaving half of the dialogues in the dark. The historian may eventually be interested in this cinematographic UFO: shot in 1939 by Jacques Séverac (not from Alsace at all but from Normandy and a specialist of...Morocco!), "D'r Herr Maire" shows views of an Alsatian village near Strasbourg at it was shortly before World War II. Likewise, the film documents the costumes and headdresses still worn by its inhabitants. The ethnographer will be less convinced insofar as the customs of the local people are portrayed in a very superficial and conventional way.

To be reserved for the amateurs of curiosities, the others will pass their way.

Geu-hu
(2017)

Pure Style + Joyful skepticism = The Day After
Areum has just been hired by the publisher Kim Bongwan. She replaces the boss's resigning secretary (and mistress!). This morning, well before dawn, Areum leaves the marital home to join her new office. On the way, she can't stop thinking about the woman who left. On the spot, she sets to work. At the same time, Haejoo, Kim's wife, finds a love letter that he had left lying around in one of his pockets. Exploding with rage, she goes to the office. Taking Areum for the accomplice of her unfaithful husband, she slaps her in the face...

One likes or dislikes Sang-soo Hong as one likes or dislikes Eric Rohmer. But if one is sensitive to the charm of a "conversation piece" type of cinema, one will appreciate this philosophical fable, delicately hidden under the attractive trappings of a pure marivaudage. Ironic evocation of the indecision in love, serious reflection on honesty and hypocrisy, unvarnished denunciation of male cowardice, many themes of the Korean director are gathered here. But Sang-soo Hong, closer to Marivaux than Bossuet, approaches these austere subjects with a lightness that is both caustic and good-natured. And it is well-known that smiles help moral and reflection go down. As for the direction itself, "The Day After" bears the indelible signature of its author, namely these long sequence shots where the protagonists talk and talk, laugh and laugh and drink soju by hectoliters. Such a technique gives once again Hong's favorite actors the opportunity to shine (the beautiful Kim Min-Hee and the cowardly Hae-hyo Kwon here getting the best part of the cake). However, there is no question of the Korean master resting on his laurels; on his agenda is also the exploration of new territories, such as the use of black and white as well as some interesting research on the dilation and retraction of time. "The Day After", an unprecedented example of pure style and joyful skepticism, is to be recommended ... to those who are not allergic to this kind of cinema.

The Theory of Everything
(2014)

Two against the odds
A filmed biography of Stephen Hawking was inevitable. A genius of cosmology and quantum gravity, he was one of the rare scientists to have acquired great public notoriety. Knowing moreover with which valor this exceptional being, supported by his loving wife, resisted the ravages of Lou Gehrig's disease, the novelistic side was guaranteed. It resulted in James Marsh's « The Theory of Everything", not an exceedingly original work but quite a satisfying one for all that. It certainly deals only superficially with hard sciences, but could it be otherwise in a work intended for the general public? Inspired by Jane Hawking's book, the screenwriter Anthony McCracken has chosen - and rightly so - the only possible angle, that of the personal story of Stephen and Jane, closely united as they were in their struggle against an adverse fate. Thus considered, this "The Theory of Everything" proves to be as edifying as touching, thanks in particular to its two actors, Eddie Redmayne, amazing in his evocation of the physical deterioration of his character, and Felicity Jones, knowing how to ally the energy of the fighter to the expression of the unconditional love. Overall, not too much pathos, and even some humor. With such a potentially lachrymal subject, the finished product could have been worse, much worse.

Gauguin - Voyage de Tahiti
(2017)

Cassell and Tahiti are ok but...
Paul Gauguin has had enough of married life, of France and of misery. In the hope of a healthier and more authentic life, the painter moves to Polynesia. An opportunity for him to develop his style and become an artist with an inimitable touch. There, he also falls in love with the beautiful Tehura. The earthly paradise seems within reach...

On the plus side, a very decent reconstruction of the period, beautiful views of Tahiti and Vincent Cassel's rough but intense interpretation. On the other hand, the watering down of the subject is pretty hard to swallow. The girls (not the girl) with whom Gauguin slept were under the minimum age allowed by the law (which is not the case of the pretty actress Tuhei Adams, eighteen at the the time of filming); as for the disease that struck the artist, it was syphilis, not diabetes. It is not by embellishing things that one captures the truth of a human being.

L'orchestre de minuit
(2015)

Interesting little examined subject unfortunately marred by deplorable direction.
Michaël Bitbol left his native Morocco long ago. Thirty years later he returns at the request of his father, who has become a virtual stranger to him. In any case, he has no memory of the glorious time when Marcel was a famous Andalusian musician and director of the Orchestre de Minuit. Unfortunately, the reunion is short-lived: Marcel dies suddenly. Michaël then undertakes to repatriate his body. It is on this occasion that he meets Ali, a cab driver and absolute fan of his father. Ali introduces him to several members of the Orchestre de Minuit.

A serious and little examined subject (the forced departure of the Jewish community from Morocco following the Yom Kippur war), this is what predisposes in favor of this film. Unfortunately, the direction is not up to the task, to say the least. Jérôme Cohen-Olivar, whose sincerity is not in doubt, even succeeds in checking off all the wrong boxes: a messy production, extremely naive flashbacks, a whining self-pitying tone, clumsy and repetitive humor, heavy-handed acting (with the exception of Gad Elmaleh), the worst being Aziz Dades, who horribly overplays. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, it cannot be repeated often enough.

My Cousin Rachel
(2017)

Dark romanticism but a bit washed-out.
Philip Ashley, a Cornish landowner, learns of the mysterious death of his cousin Ambrose in Italy, which occurred shortly after his secret marriage to Rachel, a young and beautiful widow. What really happened? Philip wants to know. One day, the new cousin conveniently arrives at Philip's house. At first suspicious, the young man falls passionately in love with Rachel.

A fairly good adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's novel. There is fine image composition, attractive colors (especially in the candlelit scenes), good actors (Rachel Weisz, an attractive black widow; Sam Claflin, a touching big baby in love) but it lacks the spark that would set this too mild story on fire. One may prefer the previous version signed by Henry Koster, with a more bewitching dark

Mr & Mme Adelman
(2017)

Scenes from a married life - Franch champagne socialist version.
A series of sketches of married life over four decades, starting in 1971 when Sarah, a doctoral student in classics, met the writer Victor Adelman. Sex, happiness, children, cowardice, binge drinking, deception, betrayal, secrets, fights, separation, return home, divorce - the life of Mr. & Mrs. Adelman as a couple has not been a smooth one.

Choosing to tell four decades of the life of a man and a woman, how ambitious for a first film! It sure was a risky move for Nicolas Bedos. But from the very first minutes of the film, you realize that the challenge will be met. The fledgling director has indeed the gift to reconstitute with accuracy the times gone through while proving able to make his characters age with naturalness. He also succeeds, with the complicity of his companion Dora Tillier, in making endearing a rather failed love story, ravaged by the exacerbated cynicism of Victor, a champagne socialist. Perhaps because everything is seen through the eyes of Sarah, clearly less neurotic than her companion. Written in an energetic language, in which all the words bite home, "Mr. & Mrs. Adelman" shakes the spectator, pushes him in his tracks, while arousing in him a certain melancholy, born from witnessing the failure of a couple that had everything to succeed, both physically and intellectually. If the fiction couple works only intermittently, it is not the case of the duo Nicolas Bedos & Dora Tillier, whose alchemy is perfect. A good point also to Pierre Arditi as an upper-class jerk: the way he throws his lines in the scene of the meal is great art.

Le divan de Staline
(2016)

Mind games - in Stalin's style
Stalin comes to rest for three days in a castle in the middle of the forest. He is accompanied by Lidia, his long-time mistress. In the office there is a couch of the same kind as Freud's in London. Stalin proposes to Lidia to play the psychoanalysis game at night. During the day, the young artist Danilov, waiting to be received by the dictator to present him the project of a monument he has designed to his eternal glory. A troubled, dangerous and perverse relationship develops between the three. The challenge is to survive fear and betrayal.

Three years before his death, Comrade Stalin is no longer in very good health. His doctors recommend that he rest. He then moves to a rococo castle in Georgia and what does he decide to do there in order to regain his strength? Well, to play a very "entertaining" game: he will pretend to be a patient of Freud's while his mistress Lidia, a notebook in her hand, will play Sigmund! She will have to hear him reciting the dreams that haunt him (which include his mother, Lenin and his suicidal wife) and to interpret them... in the way that suits her terrifying lover. Soon, the entry into the fray of a young artist (who is not without carnal link with Lidia), will transform the perverse duo into an even more nightmarish trio. Fanny Ardant, now behind the camera for the third time, creates with great efficiency a heavy atmosphere, often nocturnal, misty, ghostly. Everything is slippery, uncertain, unpredictable, threatening... just like the Little Father of the Peoples. Depardieu powerfully composes the one who, not content with tyrannizing his people, can't help but do it with his entourage. He is well supported by Emmanuelle Seigner, whose face expresses a mixture of disillusionment, fear and cunning; to complete the picture. Pierre Hany is up to the task, making credible his character of a young artist ready to compromise himself in the official art.

Pupille
(2018)

Luminous
Théo, a baby born anonymously, is given up for adoption the day of his birth. The biological mother has two months to reconsider her decision... or not. In the meantime, the child welfare and adoption services are working hard. The first to take care of the newborn, the second to find an adoptive mother. Her name is Alice, she is 41 years old and she has been fighting for ten years to have a child.

Baby, anonymous delivery, adoption, one fears the syrupy soap or the two-bit photo novel. Don't worry, it's not! On the contrary, Jeanne Herry's (Miou-Miou's daughter) attentive pen and camera know how to find the right measure and the perfect angle of attack at every moment. As interesting as it is moving, the film harmoniously mixes the pedagogy of a documentary with the great emotions of a successful fiction. On the information side, we are put at the heart of the teams that work around the infant (caregivers, specialized educators, adoption officers). On the emotional side, we follow the long and painful journey of Théo's candidate for adoption (sensitive Élodie Bouchez). All of the actors in the film are to be commended for their ability to capture both the strengths and weaknesses of their characters. However, are particularly to be praised Sandrine Kiberlain as an empathetic social worker, Olivia Côte as the firm but understanding head of the adoption service as well as the most endearing of them all - divine surprise-, macho Gilles Lellouche as the baby's tender provisional father. A luminous work, which does honor to French cinema.

Be My Wife
(1921)

When Max meets Mary
Max and Mary are in love but Mary's aunt Agatha doesn't like Max and prefers the unattractive Archie. So Max has to resort to a series of tricks to try to get rid of Archie and spend time with Mary. Finally, Max devises a scheme that will allow him to prove to Aunt Agatha that he is more worthy than Archie.

In this second of three films that he made in the United States, Max Linder pulls out all the stops. The man whom Chaplin considered his master shines in almost all the roles (directing, screenplay, production and of course acting). From a simplistic argument as "Max loves Mary; Mary loves Max; aunt Agatha does not want", Linder manages to build a whole complex comic machinery with infernal precision. What a cascade of hilarious gags (the wild dance, Max disguised as a scarecrow); what a flawless sequence of slapstick, the highlight being the hilarious scene of the fight with an imaginary burglar. With so much brilliance deployed to approach her in spite of a surly aunt and a malevolent rival, how could Mary have resisted eternally the proposal of the elegant mustachioed man? To "Be my wife," her answer could only be "Yes!"

En liberté!
(2018)

Great atypical comedy
The police lieutenant Yvonne Santi, cherishes the memory of Captain Santi, her late husband, a model of bravery and integrity. For her little boy Théo as well, Dad is his own personal Superman. One day, Yvonne learns that the "white knight" was in fact a dirty cop of the worst kind. Upset, she vows to devote the rest of her career to righting the wrongs committed by the captain.

A hilarious, sometimes almost burlesque, fast-paced comedy, "The Trouble with You" raises above this mere level by its unbelievable profusion and inventiveness. Of course the viewers laugh all the time but never stupidly because behind the entertaining story are hidden themes as serious as widowhood, the education of a child by a single woman, guilt and redemption of faults, the deleterious role of prison, true love. A mixture of registers that works perfectly despite the difficulty of the thing. In the same way, the "couple on the run" style detective story goes well with tenderness and poetry, which are particularly expressed during the love exchanges. Adèle Haenel (energetic as always, but also very feminine) and Pio Marmaï (a likeable mad dog with astonishing fits of uncontrolled violence) help Salvadori in his approach. In the end, a great atypical film not to be missed.

Roulez jeunesse
(2018)

A fine mix of comedy and drama
Alex, 43 years old, is a repairman in the garage that his mother runs with an iron fist. One day, he helps out Prune, a pretty girl who is a bit lost. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Alex spends the night at her place. In the morning, he realizes with amazement that the young woman has disappeared, leaving him with her three young children.

A first feature film that skillfully mixes comedy (the tribulations of an immature forty-year-old infantilized by an authoritarian mother) and drama (three children abandoned by an irresponsible mother) without falling into the excesses of either the comedy film or the melodrama. The film, well written, is well served by its performers, Eric Judor (who reveals here his hidden side, that of sensitivity), Laure Calamy (full of energy), Marie Kremer (uninhibited and unrestrained, far from the sweet young girls she once played), Brigitte Roüan (castrating mother figure) as well as a trio of very convincing children. A good start for Julien Guetta.

The Children Act
(2017)

Judge... and jury?
A High Court judge, more invested in her job than in her married life (something her husband Jack reproaches her for), Fiona Maye has a difficult decision to make: should she impose a transfusion on a teenager that could save his life, knowing that he and his family are Jehovah's Witnesses? Before deciding, Fiona makes an unusual decision: she decides to visit the young man, which will not be without consequences on the events to come, whether judicial, health or sentimental.

This beautiful film has everything, if posterity is willing to do it justice one day, to become a classic. The product of a fruitful collaboration between two great professionals, the novelist Ian McEwan and the Shakespearean director Richard Eyre, "My Lady" is striking for its clever mix of elements that are a priori disparate (psychology, documentary on the functioning of British justice, meticulous study of a social fact, daily realism, psychology, wild romanticism). What is certain is that, whatever the register, the film is gripping, from the introductory scene to the word "end". As for the central thesis (priority to life or absolute respect for religious conviction?), it is presented with scrupulous honesty (both points of view are exposed without one or the other being favored). Similarly, Fiona Maye is not made a saint (her unfair attitude towards her husband; the fact that she is at one point judge and jury). She is simply a human being, with her qualities and her defects. A dramatic approach that Emma Thompson reinforces. By brilliantly going through all the registers of emotion (coldness, technicality, height, conviction, trouble, love, remorse, renunciation), she gives all her relief to her character. The very tender original music by Stephen Marbeck, of restrained melancholy, is perfectly appropriate to the tone of Richard Eyre's film. Yes, "The Children Act", if one had looked closer, would already be a classic. Frankly, you won't find many films that know how to both interest and move you with such subtlety.

Denial
(2016)

Thrilling courtroom drama
The Holocaust denial historian David Irving is suing his American colleague Deborah E. Lipstadt, a Holocaust specialist. He did not accept that the latter accused him in a book of falsifying history. The trial, whose outcome is anything but obvious, is held in England. Frustrated at not being able to speak for herself, Deborah is well represented for all that by the lawyer Richard Rampton.

Based on the transcripts of the Irving vs. Lipstadt trial that took place in London in 2000, Mick Jackson's film exudes authenticity. The question of Holocaust denial and how to combat it, which is at the heart of the debates, is posed with a commendable clarity that is never boring. The pace is lively and the suspense effective (which of the two enemies will win the battle is impossible to guess until the very last moment). The film is further vitalized by its trio of actors, fully invested in their roles: Rachel Weisz, a raging ball of nerves, Tom Wilkinson, calm and reassuring as the experienced lawyer he plays and the talented Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew, Voldemort's servant in "Harry Potter"). He really looks the part, if there is such a thing. With all these virtues, "Denial" will please everyone, except the deniers!

Incense for the Damned
(1971)

Ridiculous!
In Greece where he spends his vacations, Richard Fountain, an Oxford student, falls in love with Chriseis, a pretty young girl who has the particularity of practicing black magic. Through her, he finds himself involved in a vampiric adventure. His friends will try to get him out of it.

A vampire movie with Peter Cushing, how enticing ! The result unfortunately does not live up to expectations, to say the least. Granted, there is Peter Cushing and his impressive natural authority, but in a frustrating minor role. But besides him and a few beautiful views of Greece, everything is mediocre, not to say ridiculous: the very approximate direction, the discourse on vampirism and sexual deviations, a thrilling chase... on the back of a donkey, etc. Moreover, apart from Cushing, the actors are anything but convincing, the worst being Alex Davion who fascinates more by his long ears than by the subtlety of his acting. One consolation though, many of the characters die before the end!

Stars 80
(2012)

Pure junk
Vincent and Antoine's entertainment company is going to the dogs. To save it, they have an idea, to bring back on stage forgotten song stars of the 1980s. The tour they organize, although quite eventful, reaches its triumphal conclusion at the Stade de France.

« Stars 80 » is pure junk. With a pathetic humor, that pedestrian hymn to the most corny singers of the 1980s, is not recommended, to say the least. Its only real quality: the so-called stars know how to make fun of themselves. Not the film.

The Scarlet Car
(1917)

Rather dull but some redeeming qualities
Paul Revere Forbes, a cashier in the bank run by Ernest Peabody and his father Cyrus, discovers one day that the two men are laundering money in the establishment. They decide to get rid of the troublemaker.

A curiosity. Despite being dull on the whole and although Lon Chaney hardly has the opportunity to shine in the role of an old accountant, Joseph DeGrasse's film surprises on occasion. Note the night sequence in the rain (a feat for a cinematographer of the time), the early use of flash-backs, one of which is even false (i.e. distorted by the lies of Peabody's son) and, on the dramatic level, the intervention in the action of the War of Independence patriot Paul Revere!

Viceroy's House
(2017)

Well-made and historically relevant
March 1947. The Viceroy's palace is in turmoil. The new Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, is about to be welcomed there, and he will be the last. His mission is to prepare the country for independence, a task that proves to be much more difficult than expected. Negotiations with Nehru, Gandhi and Jinnah are indeed disrupted by violent religious conflicts.

« The Viceroys Palace » is not an imperishable film. It is a little stiff but it does have some serious assets: sumptuous sets and costumes, a quality Anglo-American cast and a certain historical interest: the touch and go situation in which India finds itself just before falling into painful independence is clearly set out by Gurinder Chadha ("Play it like Beckham"), which is no small feat. It is also interesting to see how the general tension spills over to the palace servants, 80% Hindu and 20% Muslim, as well as to the love story that should unite Jeet and Aalia. The soap opera ending is unfortunately not up to the rest.

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