Category Archives: foreign

The Artist (2011) Movie Review

Disclosure #1: I watched The Artist for the first time in the middle of a 14-hour trans-Pacific flight. I didn’t even have an aisle seat. Not the best conditions for enjoying quality film, but do not be mistaken–The Artist is certainly a quality film.

Of course, the Oscars have come and gone, and The Artist won basically everything. Naturally, the usual backlash against the film occurred before the ceremonies were even over.

Disclosure #2: I wasn’t rooting for The Artist. My personal favorites were Midnight in Paris and Tree of Life, but the French tribute to silent film was a shoo-in. Now having seen the film (finally!), it’s clear to me why it won. Not that I have anything against horses or baseball.

Much has been said about the sound–or lack thereof–in The Artist. As a silent film about silent film, the choice of background music and sound effects shines through each chiaroscuro scene.

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La Grande Bouffe (1973) Movie Review

Do not watch this movie. Watch The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie instead.

Both films critique bourgeoisie excess and the decline of French (and to some extent, Western) civilization. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie manages to do all of the above while keeping the tone light and stimulating, while La Grande Bouffe (The Great Feast) takes forever and a day to set up the story, makes an obvious argument, and then beats a dead horse for another hour and a half of repetitive orgiastic nonsense. Continue reading

Beautiful Lies (De Vrais Mensoges) Mini Review

Ah, love. There’s nothing else the French are more known for, especially in cinema. De Vrais Mensoges (Beautiful Lies for North America) is a cute romantic comedy, starring Audrey Tautou and Sami Bouajila.

The movie itself isn’t particularly clever or insightful, but romantic comedies don’t need to be. Tatou plays Émilie, a streetwise salon owner, who receives a note from a secret admirer. Unbeknownst to Émilie, that admirer is none other than the salon’s janitor, Jean (Bouajila), who also has a few surprises up his sleeve. Continue reading

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) Movie Review

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) is a visual masterpiece. Far from the stark monochrome jump cuts of Jean-Luc Godard, contemporary Jacques Demy‘s movie musical explodes with color. Color saturates every frame, and the constant lilting music of every spoken word helps create a fairytale realm that is at once fantastical and all too real.

It would be a mistake to treat the film lightly merely because it happens to be a  musical. Starring Nino Castelnuovo and an ethereally beautiful Catherine Deneuve, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg explores love in all its tragic beauty.

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COLCOA Film Festival Review

This year was my third year enjoying the fruits of the COLCOA Film Festival. That’s City of Lights – City of Angels, i.e., Paris – Los Angeles.

COLCOA is an annual French film festival featuring the best of new French film. Many films being screened premiere for the first time on the West Coast, or in the U.S., or in North America, at this festival. Tickets are inexpensive, and the crowd is always lovely.

To whet your appetite, here’s a clip from one of my favorite shorts screened at the festival. Not quite as funny without context (and without an entire theatre pealing in laughter), but you get the gist.

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Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives Review

I had heard buckets about Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives before it finally came to my part of town. Moving, ethereal, confusing, more art than film… I couldn’t miss it. Indeed, the film was all of those things.

Long title

French poster used because American promotional materials were, IMO, atrocious. Edit: Don’t hate me! My local theatre didn’t have the Chris Ware poster, but yes, that one is not at at all atrocious.

The film begins with a prolonged, and very dark*, sequence involving a water buffalo. Boonmee is dying, and he begins seeing his former lives. Is the water buffalo one of Boonmee’s past lives? What does it mean for his current life, if so?

The latter is the question that most interested me during and after watching this film. The movie is rife with what seem to be either flashbacks (to prior lives?) or dream sequences. Or perhaps, these vignettes are merely side stories attached to the main narrative for perspective or distraction. Just as we are wondering what impact Boonmee’s past lives have on his current, we must also wonder what impact these bits of dream have on the main narrative.

The mystical nature of the quasi-dream world leaks into the real world, as Boonmee’s wife’s ghost appears at the dining table. Their son also appears, having transformed himself into a “monkey demon.” The reaction at the dining table is probably the only laugh-out-loud scene in the movie, so it is a pity that almost every review spoils the admittedly funny line.

I spent at least a third of the movie with my mouth gaping in surprise.  Continue reading

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise (Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie) Review

Bonjour tout le monde!

Parlez-vous française?

Ah, bon.

Alors…

The bowler-lips-legs creature is named Eddy.

As an unabashed Francophile, I have been going through classic and contemporary French cinema through three main sources: Netflix (J’aime le Netflix!), Laemmle and other indie theaters, and the annual COL-COA French Film Festival in Los Angeles. More on COLCOA in another post.

Aujourd’hui, I mean to discuss Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise*. Let’s be clear; I am no expert on Buñuel. I enjoyed and was slightly mystified by Belle de Jour, but I haven’t seen any of his other work. However, based on these two films, I consider myself a newly-minted fan.

Le Charme is silly, irreverent, and, like much of French cinema, deeply political. The film follows a group of bourgie men and women, whose attempts at a fine meal are constantly impeded by ever more inventive interruptions. Continue reading