Tag Archives: French Cinema

FILM REVIEW: Holy Motors (Carax, 2012): France

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson.

mv5bodk2mdc4mdk2of5bml5banbnxkftztcwmtcyody1oa-_v1_uy268_cr00182268_al_Viewed at the AFI Fest 2012 at the Egyptian Theatre. Holy Motors, winner of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival’s Award of the Youth and the Hugo Award for Best Feature at the 2012 Chicago International Film Festival, directed by controversial Frenchman Leos Carax of Tokyo! fame, tells a beguiling tale of one Monsieur Oscar, a master of disguise, as he journeys from one appointment to another through the course of the dark hours of the night in Paris.  He is, in turn, a beggar,  captain of industry, an assassin, a bizarre reptilian-like virtual sexcapade participant, a sewer-dwelling, underground railroad member resurfacing as a  cemetery-robbing monster gorging himself on flower bouquets and eventually kidnapping a famous model (played stunningly by Eva Mendez) complete in accompaniment with accordion players and more bizarre culinary choices with Ms. Mendez’s hair and paper Euros.

The film opens with a beautiful shot of the night sky. From there the unusualness begins. We see a sleeping audience. Then, the “appointments” begin with the old woman without a care begging on the sidewalk.While his stretch limo motors from locale to locale Monsieur Oscar utilizes the commute time to change his appearance through elaborate forms of  make-up and disguise techniques. Carax gives the viewer an eyeful with a frontal nudity scene while paying tribute to American Beauty with rose petals and in a more human form with the camera presence of beauty Mendez. Throughout Holy Motors Carax allows famed cinematographer, Caroline Champetier (Of Gods & Men ) the camera ample time in the limo itself. This choice amplifies the effects of Monsieur Oscar’s ability to metamorphisize while on the go from appointment to appointment lending a genius effect that Monsieur Oscar is involved in transacting business, of sorts.

I initially was excited to see Parisian scenes and the River Seine. And while I did get to see these, I also got to see a lot more in the way of artistic license as Carax pushes the limits of normalcy through the antics of Monsieur Oscar through the dark of night in an unseen before Parisian form. Finally, towards the end of the night the viewer is returned to a sense of normalcy as Monsieur Oscar plays a caring family only to be trumped by a surprise ending

I do recommend this film. It has a most interesting style of storytelling. While it may or may not be mainstream, it has unusual artistic value in the subtlety Carax implements to drive home his point that in the end French cinema is all about business in one form or another. Well done, Mr. Carax.

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FILM REVIEW: Planetarium (Zlotkowski, 2016): France

Viewed by Larry Gleeson

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Writer/Director Rebecca Zlotkowski ( Grand Central,  Belle epine) presented her latest work Planetarium , a mixture of drama, fantasy and mystery, to a rousing ovation at the Sala Darsena Theatre during the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. In attendance with Zlotkowski were two of the film’s stars, Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp, who teamed up to portray the infamous American Barlow sisters, believed to possess the ability to connect with ghosts. Zlotkowski bases her film on a trio of 19th century American sisters who played an important role in the creation of spiritualism, the Fox Sisters.

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The film opens with a plush, sensuous cabaret scene with Laura Barlow, played convincingly by Oscar-winning (Black Swan) Natalie Portman, exhorting a rather attentive audience to pay attention to and to witness a medium, Kate Barlow, played refreshingly by Lily-Rose Depp (The Dancer, Yoga Hosers) as she will communicate with the other side. Young Kate Barlow begins breathing as a drum beat permeates. As Kate’s breathing intensifies so does the drum beat until a connection is made with the ritualistic feel of Wicca and in a resultant style of a séance. The seeker is mystified and the audience is wowed as Kate creates a communicative voice from the other side.

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Quickly, Laura finds out the cabaret is closing as it can’t make ends meet despite the additional revenue generators from private dances, bar drinks and the kitchen preparations. With impeccable timing Laura is introduced to a powerful French film producer, Andre Korben, played by Emmanuel Salinger (Oublie-moi, Don’t Forget You’re Going To Die). Korben propositions the sisters. He invites them for a seance house call and then negotiates a deal for them to  stay with him at his estate for an extended, indefinite period of time. He closes the deal by telling Laura he wants to use the sisters to direct the first real ghost film. However, he also has other notions. He acts towards Kate in an inappropriate manner subjecting her to multiple brain monitoring devices and practically pines over her. In addition, he does multiple séances with her as she calls out for his deceased wife. It goes so far as Kate embodying the wife so Korben can kiss her to restore passion to their relationship. Korben then claims he’s falling in love with his wife through Kate. Meanwhile, Laura is acting in Korben’s studio film on location unaware of Korben’s actions with Kate. Soon, however, Kate’s health begins declining and she is bound by weakness to her bed never to recover.

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Planetarium is a beautifully shot film with very good acting. George Lechaptois was the film’s Cinematographer. Interestingly, Zlotkowski draws much of the story line from history. In addition to the Fox sisters, Zlotkowski’s use of the powerful film producer as a jew during the 1930’s allowed her to address the period’s anti-semitism.  The Fox sisters’ benefactor was actually a banker, who had one of the Fox sisters embody his deceased wife for an entire year during the Victorian era while their new doctrine of spiritualism was sweeping through the intellectual circles of Europe.

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Unmistakably, Zlotkowski paid attention to details with the film’s mise-en-scene to create a look and feel of the 1930’s and to her vision of spiritualism. Zlotkowski shared screenwriting credits with Robin Campillo. The costuming, very representational of the time period, was handled by Anais Romand. Makeup was done by Sarai Fiszel. Hairstyles were coiffed by Catherine LeBlanc-Careas and the Artistic Director was Partel Oliva. The film was produced by Frédéric Jouve (Les Films du Velvet) and co-produced by Les Films du Fleuve, Kinology, France 3 Cinéma, Proximus, RTBF (Télévision Belge).
This was one of my favorite viewing experiences of the Venice Film Festival. Shortly after I had taken my seat, Zlotkowski, Portman and Depp all made a grand entrance into the Sala Darsena theater to a standing ovation. The energy in the theater was unmistakable. At times, however, I felt the narrative of Planetarium drifted a tad bit. Nevertheless, Zlotkowski covered a lot of territory and she did it with convincing style. Warmly recommended.

*Photos from Planetarium and featured photo of Ms. Zlotkowski are courtesy of (ASAC Images/Biennale Cinema di Venezia)

SUMMERTIME (La belle saison) rocks #SBIFF The Wave Film Festival ~ France

Summertime, the latest work from writer/director Catherine Corsini, delivered a wallop yesterday evening at the Santa Barbara Riviera Theater during the second day of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s (SBIFF) The Wave ~ France. Using exquisite lighting and the abundant beauty of her actors, Corsini unveils a highly stylized period piece capturing a mood and the sensitivities of life for young French women.

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In its most elemental form, Summertime, tells the story of two young women who, in 1971, meet in Paris by happenchance during the height of the times feminist activities and wind up falling passionately in love. The film received multiple nominations for Cesar and Lumiere awards in categories of Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Director while garnering Lumiere Award for Best Music with the work from Gregoire Hetzel.

 

Summertime screens again on Sunday, July 17th, at the Riviera Theater, 2044 Alameda Padre Serra, in Santa Barbara, Calif. 

Today’s featured films include The Great Game, at 2:00PM, Being 17, at 5:00PM and Fanny’s Journey at 7:30PM.

Tickets and passes are available at the box office. Prices range from $8 – $10 for single admission and $80 – $250 for festival passes. For more information on passes and scheduling click here.

See you at the movies!

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