A two-week reprieve that isn't really a reprieve since I've papers to check, a book review to do and a report on Korea to prepare for has finally come! And for the past couple of days I've gone on a French film frenzy. Here are some of the terrfic finds I've managed to pick out from among the many Hollywood flicks....
Comment j’ai tué mon père (How I Killed My Father)
Forty year-old Jean-Luc is a successful gerontologist living in the wealthy Parisian suburb of Versailles with his beautiful wife Isa. On the surface, Jean-Luc appears to have everything one could want from life, however the unexpected arrival of his long estranged father (Maurice) promises to shatter Jean-Luc’s facade.
A quiet yet lively man, Maurice abandoned his wife and two young sons years ago, without any apparent misgivings, to practice medicine in Africa.
Like most European movies, this film is slow-paced with well-written characters. It builds into a climax so nerve-wracking it is testament to the brilliant acting and directing. For those who have father issues, you'll need a tissue box while watching this one.
Sous le sable (Under the Sand)
Marie Drillon is a strong, attractive, professional, independent middle-aged woman trying to get her life back on track after the sudden disappearance of her husband. Even for a superwoman like Marie, the shock of the tragedy is psychologically traumatizing.
Marie isn't sure what happened to her husband (Is he dead? Did he run off with someone else?) and she's in denial about him being gone. At Parisian dinner parties with her supportive, careful friends, Marie still talks about her husband in the present tense. At home, she still imagines that he is with her; she pours two cups of tea in the morning and she reminds him to set the alarm clock before going to sleep at night.
A film exploring what grief might do to a woman married to the same man for 2 decades or so. Makes me wonder how my mom ever copes. Where Marie verges into extreme denial and bouts of hysteria, my own mother just keeps plodding on. I suppose we're all made of different stuff. Mind you people, I chose these films totally at random!
A middle-class family must deal with racism, incest, homosexuality, and other issues when a pet rat comes into their life. A bitterly funny satire of family life from France.
This is Ozon thumbing his nose in French bourgeois sensibilities. It mocks just about every aspect of a "traditional" bourgeois household. Although most "sexual" images are tastefully implied, it manages to tickle forbidden funny bones. Its hilarious, knee-slapping fun.
I stand alone (Tout Seul)
The story of a brutal, unemployed butcher at the end of his rope, I STAND ALONE is a violent and dark film exploring the darkness of the human soul. The nameless butcher, just out of prison, looks for a new job. With each rejection he becomes more and more certain that the world is out to get him, leading to stunning acts of violence as the protagonist goes on a hate-filled rampage. Containing graphic sex and violence, I STAND ALONE is a disturbing but powerful look at one man's tormented soul.
What to expect from a film by the same director (Gaspar Noe) who made Irreversible? Extreme acts of violence and unspeakable acts designed to make your stomach churn and your brains a-turning. If you can stand it, watch it.
Sur mes levres (Read My Lips)
In its opening shot, READ MY LIPS shows Carla (Emmanuelle Devos) inserting her hearing aids and getting ready for work. But it's evident that her hearing problem does not hold her back as she throws herself into answering the constantly ringing phones at her job as an unappreciated secretary for an architecture firm.
Swamped with work, Carla asks her boss to hire an assistant for her, Paul (Vincent Cassel), an ex-con who is trying to get his life back on track. To everyone else--her sexist coworkers and her sexy friend Annie--Carla is a dog with a disability. But to Paul, who is Carla's subordinate, she's a femme fatale. In Paul's life--to his parole officer and the two-bit thugs to whom he still owes money--he is an untrustworthy outcast and a bum. But to Carla, he is a secret weapon with skills (lock-picking, physical intimidation) that she needs. Likewise, Carla becomes Paul's secret weapon as her ability to read lips opens up a new world of possibilities to his plotting, criminal ways.
READ MY LIPS is a story of romance through and through, and, in its second half, it is a fast-moving and constantly flip-flopping heist drama. Once Carla and Paul really start working together, the tension between them only helps them along. Never trusting each other, never predictable in their actions, these characters imbue Jacques Audiard's masterful film with a breathtaking suspense that is simultaneously alluring and repellent.
I loved this film. Vincent Cassel is hot. Need I say more? :)
Ma femme est actrice
MY WIFE IS AN ACTRESS is a clever French comedy from Yvan Attal, who directs, produces, and stars in the film. Jealous and paranoid, Yvan (Attal) is the husband of Charlotte (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a popular young actress who is constantly being cast in starring roles opposite attractive and seductive male actors. This drives Yvan crazy. But because he loves her, he must let her pursue her career dreams.
A sports writer who operates in a world that is equally exciting, if not quite as glamorous, Yvan's own career is always secondary to Charlotte's. When she travels to London to work on her latest film, sharing the screen with the studly older actor, John (Terence Stamp), Yvan makes furious and impulsive trips via Eurostar back and forth between Paris and London.
He worries that his marriage with Charlotte will not withstand the weight of his heartache.
Roughly the equivalent of a Hollywood romantic comedy, this French version still manages to come off as more real and infinitely more intelligent.