2005 log (9)

(2 Sept) La rue zone interdite (2005, Gilbert Duclos) 63
[ Review / Interview for Voir ]

(3 Sept) Filles Perdues Cheveux Gras (2002, Claude Duty) 76
[ A cheapie but lively contemporary musical about three depressed young women looking for themselves. The electro-pop songs are beyond campy (but catchy as hell) and the blend of melodrama and silliness doesn’t always work, but the actresses are amusing, especially the adorable Marina Foïs as an alcoholic hairdresser mourning her cat. This is clearly not for all tastes but I loved the stupid thing. ]

(5 Sept) Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962, Agnès Varda) 70
[ Stunning B&W cinematography, a dense soundtrack and sparse existential dialogue and narration make up this Nouvelle Vague slice of life about a woman coming to terms with her seemingly imminent mortality. Unfolding in (almost) real time, this is a tale about nothing and everything: hanging out in cafés, riding in cars, meeting with men, singing songs, walking through Paris on the first day of summer… ]

(6 Sept) Sans toit ni loi (1985, Agnès Varda) 67
[ Sandrine Bonnaire plays a drifter whose body is found frozen in a ditch one morning. No one really knows who she was or where she was from, but we get glimpses of what she’d been up to in the winter months leading to her lonely death through the recollections of the various people she briefly encountered on her journey to nowhere. Whereas “Cleo de 5 à 7” was a slice of life, this is a whole sliced bread. Instead of sticking with a woman for two hours, she’s seen through a multiplication of points of view, little moments out of context, like in life. Incidentally, this brisk catching up to Varda’s oeuvre makes me wonder why, in all the recent Gus Van Sant articles I’ve read, there wasn’t any mention of the First Lady of French cinema as an influence. “Sans toit ni loi” in particular is very similar in style and tone to Van Sant’s “Last Days”. ]

(6 Sept) Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse (2000, Agnès Varda) 82
[ Less a documentary than an essay on film (video, actually), this has Varda exploring the world of gleaners, i.e. those who pick up vegetables or other things that have been left behind or thrown away, by gleaning around herself. As if on a spontaneous scavenger hunt, she goes from one place to another and meets various people, following fascinating strands of thought. Her theme is clear (waste vs. recycling), but she’s not prisoner of it – much of the film’s pleasure comes from how it often goes off course and becomes more about poetry than information. ]

(7 Sept) Le Mouton enragé (1974, Michel Deville) 75
[ A seemingly mild-mannered banker (suave Jean-Louis Trintignant) date-rapes a young woman (an amusing Jane Birkin), who falls in love with him anyway, then he seduces the wife (the extraordinary Romy Schneider) of a college professor and various other women. Much sex ensues, and even more talk about it. Trintignant’s character is coached through this -and issues of money and society- by a mentor (played by Jean-Pierre Cassel), in a dynamic somewhat reminiscent of the ones in “Swingers”, “Fight Club”, “Roger Dodger”, etc. Make no mistake, this is a French film, so it comes down to a lot of sex and even more talk about it, but the energetic camerawork and often nervous editing keep things goings at an exciting pace. ]

(8 Sept) MARRON la piste créole en Amérique (2005, André Gladu) 64
[ Review / Interview for Voir ]

(8 Sept) Nuit d’été en ville (1990, Michel Deville) 47
[ More sex, more talk, more Saint-Saëns music, Marie Trintignant instead of daddy Jean-Louis – Deville is quite consistent, it seems… Except that this later film is much less dynamic, taking place entirely in an apartment, where Trintignant spends the night sexing and talking with one night stand Jean-Hughes Anglade. This sounds staged, claustrophobic and potentially boring, and it kind of is, but I liked the way the camera kept exploring the lovers’ naked flesh and how they gradually covered themselves and put clothes back on as they got to know each other more. ]

(12 Sept) Barmaids (2005, Simon Boisvert) 51
[ Right from the opening minutes, one can see a huge improvement from the poor production values of Boisvert’s previous films. Maybe it’s the fact that Diana Lewis isn’t directing (she spends half the film in the swimming pool instead), but “Barmaids” has surprisingly decent cinematography, with actual exteriors, more appealing sets, a few flashy editing tricks… This feels like a real movie, not an episode of Virginie! Boisvert once again plays a jerk who casually cheats on his girlfriend, with barmaids this time. The screenplay offers some good insights into relationships and the way men and women respectively behave, generally not knowing what they want and being rather hypocritical about it. The acting is still a bit rough around the edges, but the actresses are hot and often undressed and the flick kept me involved throughout. ]

(14 Sept) The Cross and Bones (2005, Paul Carrière) 65
[ In the Alberta Badlands, three camps neighbour each other in the rocky Drumheller valley: paleontogists digging for dinosaur bones, an amateur theatre troop rehearsing the Passion of the Christ and 3000 bikers holding their annual rally of drunken debauchery. Through this improbable juxtaposition, director Paul Carrière pieces together a rather original documentary that dives right into the Evolution Schmevolution debate between creationists and scientists. On top of that, the film presents a series of colourful characters that would feel at home in a Christopher Guest movie. The Remax realtor whose business card shows him in full crucified Jesus regalia in particular is as ridiculous as anyone in Waiting for Guffman. ]

(15 Sept) Quand la vie est un rêve (2005, Charles Gervais) 62
[ De l’époque de l’esclavage à la misère actuelle, en passant par dictatures et catastrophes, Haïti ne l’a jamais eue facile. Narré par Frédéric Pierre, ce documentaire retrace les circonstances historiques ayant mené aux problèmes accablant toujours les Haïtiens. Le film donne la parole à des intervenants de toutes les classes sociales, du jeune de la rue au chef d’entreprise, et capte (souvent par caméra cachée) certaines des pratiques par lesquelles les plus désespérés tentent d’échapper au chaos ambiant, que ce soit l’exil, la prostitution, les milices révolutionnaires ou les rituels vaudou. Le film n’offre aucune solution valable pour Haïti, mais beaucoup d’autres se sont aussi butés à ce problème depuis 200 ans. ]

(16 Sept) Niagara Motel (2005, Gary Yates) 48 (Caroline Dhavernas: 100)
[ Après avoir interprété avec brio une jeune femme confuse travaillant dans une boutique de souvenirs de Niagara Falls dans la télé-série injustement avortée Wonderfalls, la jolie Caroline Dhavernas demeure en terrain connu en tenant le rôle d’une jeune femme tout aussi confuse qui est serveuse dans un resto de Niagara Falls. Un maquereau sans envergure (Kevin Pollack), un concierge alcoolo (Craig Ferguson) et une mère de famille (Wendy Crewson) songeant à devenir prostituée sont quelques-uns des autres personnages dont les destinées s’entrecroisent dans cette comédie de mœurs de Gary Yates, qui aspire clairement aux sommets atteints par les films de Robert Altman (Nashville) et Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia). Malheureusement, une surabondance de longueurs et de ruptures de ton freine les ambitions du réalisateur canadien ]

(16 Sept) Just Like Heaven (2005, Mark Waters) [ review ] 64

(17 Sept) L’ennui (1998, Cédric Kahn) 69
[ A philosophy professor tries to rationalise why he’s so obsessed with a big-titted teenage girl (the incredibly sexy Sophie Guillemin) even though she’s deeply boring and dim-witted. The film cleverly and entertainingly gets to the bottom of that eternal mystery of how man often desires something even though he knows it’s wrong for him. ]

(18 Sept) Roberto Succo (2001, Cédric Kahn) 67
[ Another pretty teenager (Isild Le Besco) unwisely gets involved with an obsessive, potentially dangerous man. No philosophy here, but lots of crime and violence. I’m not sure what I think of the film on its own, but taken with Kahn’s previous (“L’ennui”) and next (“Feux Rouges”) movies, it makes for a rather remarkably cohesive thematic trilogy with enough unhealthy relationships and feelings to make Hitchcock queasy. ]

(19 Sept) an unfinished life (2005, Lasse Hallström) [ review ] 54

(19 Sept) Scrap Heaven (2005, Lee Sang Il) 46
[ Un secrétaire suicidaire prend en otages les passagers d’un autobus de nuit: Shingo, un policier poltron, Tetsu, un concierge anarchiste, et Saki, une pharmacienne borgne. Ces trois inconnus se recroisent par la suite dans diverses circonstances tournant autour d’étranges tentatives de déclencher une révolution à partir d’un cabinet de toilette. Fort d’un scénario aux nombreux rebondissements et d’une mise en scène tape-à-l’œil, Scrap Heaven se veut un genre de Fight Club japonais, avec ses bastons déchaînées et ses actes de terrorisme plus ou moins acceptables. L’extrême violence est tempérée par l’humour absurde qui se glisse entre les moments plus dramatiques, mais le film s’essouffle en fin de parcours et son propos sociopolitique n’est pas très clair. ]

(19 Sept) Hormigas en la boca (2005, Mariano Barroso) 39
[ À sa sortie de prison, Martín, un voleur de banques espagnol, se rend à La Havane pour retrouver son ancienne complice et petite amie qui s’est enfuie avec leur butin dix ans auparavant. L’oncle de cette dernière lui annonce qu’elle est morte, mais Martín est toujours déterminé à récupérer son argent. Il se retrouve alors impliqué malgré lui dans un violent conflit entre une veuve assoiffée de vengeance et un sénateur corrompu. Ce film noir moderne est plutôt bien ficelé et bénéficie de l’atmosphère décadente du Cuba d’avant la révolution. Par contre, le récit non linéaire n’arrive pas à conserver notre intérêt et les motivations des personnages ne sont pas toujours convaincantes. Et si Eduardo Fernandez interprète Martín avec intensité, Ariadna Gil n’impressionne pas dans le rôle de la femme fatale. ]

(19 Sept) A History of Violence (2005, David Cronenberg) [ review ] 93

(21 Sept) Inside Deep Throat (2005, Fenton Baily & Randy Barbato) 64
[ An equally insightful and entertaining documentary in the vein of “The Legend of Ron Jeremy”, this film borrows much of the soundtrack and visual style of “Boogie Nights” to recall the infamous history of “Deep Throat”, allegedly the most influential porno of all time – or at least the one that got the most mainstream attention. With interventions from the likes of Larry Flynt, Hugh Hefner, John Waters and Dr. Ruth, “Inside Deep Throat” exposes the hypocrisy of the American people, who consume billions of dollars of porn every year but support politicians and courts that strike down on obscenity. The money shot (Linda Lovelace performing the titular sex act) comes a little too early, but the movie remains interesting enough throughout. ]

(23 Sept) l’avion (2005, Cédric Kahn) w/o
[ From sex (“L’ennui”), violence (“Roberto Succo”) and alcohol (“Feux Rouges”) to a kiddie flick? Interesting. Or not, as the case may be. For a couple of reels, I figured there might be entertainment value in the Freudian subtext of a young boy discovering the magical pleasures of playing with a phallic-shaped toy plane, but the brat child actor is so obnoxious and the film is so touchy-feely that I had to d’angelo out of the almost empty FIFM representation. ]

(23 Sept) Saints-Martyrs-des-damnés (2005, Robin Aubert) 57
[ You have to appreciate a film that can both quote Rimbaud (“Je me crois en enfer, donc j’y suis.”) and milk a three-breasted girl joke for all its worth. For his first feature, Robin Aubert set out to make a film that reflects how he sees himself, hard to connect with but open to it. The result is a film capable of greatness, but often self-indulgent. The story of a Weekly World News-like tabloid reporter (François Chenier) and his best buddy photograph (Patrice Robitaille) who are sent to a small town where mysterious disappearances have been occurring for decades, “Saints-Martyrs-des-damnés” is a supernatural thriller sometimes verging on self-parody, yet sometimes seeming to be taking its cheap trick scares too seriously. Typically great cinematography by Steve Asselin and music by Yves Desrosiers go a long way in keeping this from feeling like a B-movie, but the constant sudden appearances of Creepy Ghost Bride with accompanying loud orchestral thumps get tiresome. Still, there are some memorably grotesque touches (the serveuse sexée and her trisomic teddy bear-carrying son, the masked mechanic, etc.), and the achingly beautiful Isabelle Blais is worth the admission price by herself, even though she does little more than play slide guitar to cows. Diehard fans of Lynchesque nonsense, doppelgangers and giant mutant brain thingies will probably like the flick more than I did, but one way or another, this is a promising debut. ]

(24 Sept) In Her Shoes (2005, Curtis Hanson) [ review ] 82

(26 Sept) AMNÉSIE! l’énigme James Brighton (2005, Denis Langlois) 6
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(26 Sept) Brødre (2005, Susanne Bier) 70
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(27 Sept) Separate Lies (2005, Julian Fellowes) 58
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(28 Sept) Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (2005, Pete Michels) meh
[ “Family Guy” has always been hit and miss, but usually they throw so many gags at you that some of them are bound to be funny. For this straight-to-DVD feature, though, they slowed down the pace, stretching jokes way too much and repeating themselves quite a lot. There are maybe a dozen good laughs, which would be great if this was a regular 22 minute episode, but it’s not a very impressive ratio when spread over 90 minutes. For diehard fans only. ]

(29 Sept) Alias 5.1 (2005) [ review ] 65

(30 Sept) Pretty Persuasion (2005, Marcos Siega) 69
[ “Election” meets “Mean Girls” meets “Wild Things” meets “In the Company of Men” meets… Okay, this is not exactly an original film, but who cares? Irreverently multiplying racist, sexist, homophobic and downright inhuman “jokes”, this merciless satire is actually not that much worse than what’s really going on through America these days. Ultimately less funny than tragic, “Pretty Persuasion” is most notable for how it gives Evan Rachel Wood another chance (after “Thirteen”) to show how seductive, disturbing and moving she can be as an actress. “I don’t know how to be sexy! I mean, I’m only fifteen!” ]

August / October