2009 log (1)

(1 Jan) Religulous (2008, Larry Charles)
[ I get the criticisms about how this is barely a documentary, how it’s all about how funny and clever Bill Maher is, how manipulative the editing is, etc. But I don’t care, the damn thing works as a manipulative non-documentary in which Bill Maher gets to be funny and clever. Maybe because I agree with his agnostic views and also think religions can be pretty ridiculous, I got a kick out of watching him go around confronting folks about their beliefs, Michael Moore-style. ]

(2 Jan) Shotgun Stories (2008, Jeff Nichols) 69
[ First 10-15 minutes are eventless, dull almost, but they work as a set-up of what quietly miserable bastards Son (Michael Shannon), Boy (Douglas Ligon) and Kid (Barlow Jacob) are. Then these three brothers hear that their father died and go to the funeral, and we expect more quiet misery, but then we see that the old man is being buried by his second wife and the children from that union, whom Son confronts with this riveting speech: “You’re all here cause you think this was a good man. But he wasn’t. Just cause he stopped drinking, called himself a Christian, began a new life, started a new family… That doesn’t make him a different man. This is the same man that ran out on us. That left us behind to be raised by a hateful woman. He made like we were never born. That’s who this man was. And that’s what he’s answering for today.”

Thus begins a war between the two sets of half brothers… Sort of. This being more of a minimalist modern Western/hanging out movie than a straight thriller, the pace remains languid throughout, but that first confrontation during the funeral casts a deep shadow of tension and painful emotions over all the scenes that follow it, as things slowly but surely escalate… A saddening depiction of the senseless vicious circle of violence, this first feature by Jeff Nichols also shares some of the lyrical, offbeat quirks of the movies of David Gordon Green who, not so incidentally, acts as a producer here. ]

(4 Jan) 24: Redemption (2008, Jon Cassar)
[ Helped by corrupted American officials (including a “creepy guy” played by Jon Voight), General Juma’s militia is staging a coup in the (fictional) African country of Sangala… But he didn’t count on motherfucking Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) being around, working in a small school ran by one of his old buddies (Robert Carlyle) from the Special Forces. Concentrating the “24” real-time formula to two hours (minus commercials), this TV movie deals with serious issues such as the recruitment of boy soldiers, but it also features some badass action and suspense scenes. Good times, etc. ]

(6 Jan) Gran Torino (2008, Clint Eastwood) [ review ] 44

(7 Jan) Derrière moi (2008, Rafaël Ouellet) 66
[ When a naive teenager (Charlotte Legault, touching) living in a remote village befriends a brazen Montreal woman (Carina Caputo, troubling), the attraction of forbidden pleasures soon become harmful… With more production values at his disposal than for his debut, Rafaël Ouellet confirms his great talent for visual composition, for depicting a time and a place, and for pairing actresses both mismatched and complementary. The plot might be a bit too loose, even though the themes (the end of innocence, the identity crisis of young girls, the breach of trust) are striking and thought-provoking. ]

(17 Jan) The Wrestler (2008, Darren Aronofsky) [ review ] 91

“Aime-moi moins, mais aime-moi longtemps.”

(19 Jan) Les chansons d’amour (2007, Christophe Honoré) 75
[ N’est-il pas ravissant de voir deux personnes unir leurs voix pour exprimer leur amour? Pas selon nombre de cinéphiles qui semblent accepter tous les artifices du cinéma, mais qui rechignent dès qu’un acteur ouvre la bouche pour chanter. Par conséquent, on aura beau vanter les mérites des Chansons d’amour avec tout l’enthousiasme du monde, si vous êtes d’emblée allergique aux comédies musicales, vous n’y trouverez pas votre compte. Pivotant d’abord autour d’un ménage à trois (entre le charmant Louis Garrel, l’adorable Ludivine Sagnier et la rigolote Clotilde Hesme) et semblant plutôt léger, voire inconséquent, le scénario de Christophe Honoré comporte plusieurs revirements inattendus et s’avère beaucoup plus complexe émotionnellement qu’on ne l’aurait cru. De même, la mise en scène, faussement nonchalante, est en fait calibrée avec soin et Honoré jongle avec les tons avec une aisance impressionnante, relevant la mélancolie qui peut se cacher derrière les moments de joie et l’humour qui vient à l’occasion alléger les grandes tristesses. Se déployant dans un Paris nuageux mais lumineux, le film multiplie par ailleurs les clins d’oeil à la Nouvelle Vague, tout en demeurant franchement contemporain. Enfin, il y a ces fameuses chansons d’amour, composées par Alex Beaupain, qui se marient parfaitement aux chassés-croisés sentimentaux du récit. Peut-on résister à Je n’aime que toi chantée par le trio Garrel-Sagnier-Hesme, aux différentes pièces interprétées par le mignon Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet ou à Chiara Mastroianni murmurant la touchante Au parc? Probablement, mais ce serait bien dommage. ]

(20 Jan) La belle personne (2008, Christophe Honoré) 68
[ This loose adaptation of “La princesse de Clèves” comes off like a very organic, elegant, artsy high school movie, dealing with the arrival in a lycée of a new student, the achingly beautiful, fragile Junie (Léa Seydoux). A few “Chansons” cast members are back: Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet as a classmate who has a crush on Junie, Louis Garrel as a teacher who’s also enamoured of her even though he’s already juggling affairs with another student and a colleague, as well as Clotilde Hesme and Chiara Mastroianni in smaller parts. But mostly, we recognize’s Honoré’s deft visual touch, his deceivingly easygoing stortytelling, his way with music (even though this isn’t technically a musical, it does feature an original number by Alex Beaupain, plus songs from Nick Drake, Maria Callas and Alain Barrière), his love of Paris locations, his interest in complicated romantic and/or sexual relationships… ]

(21 Jan) Towelhead (2008, Alan Ball) 73
[ For some reason, this was never released in theaters here in Quebec. But like everything Alan Ball (remember, he’s the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “American Beauty” and the creator of “Six Feet Under”), it’s actually pretty damn great. Starring Summer Bishil as a Lebanese-American Lolita discovering her blooming womanhood and the effect it has on men, including a married Army reservist (Aaron Eckhart) and a Black classmate (Eugene Jones). Movies about teenage girls coming of age are a dime a dozen, but this adaptation of Alicia Erian’s novel offers a relatively fresh take on this theme, notably through Ball’s equally sensitive and irreverent approach. The film, which is set in the Houston suburbs during the Gulf War, also deals headfirst with the racism the protagonist and other Arabs have to deal with, something that remains all too relevant, needless to say. ]

(25 Jan) Wendy and Lucy (2008, Kelly Reichardt) 56
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

December / February