Sunday, November 14, 2004

November Wrap-up

1) Intimate Strangers (Directed by Patrice Leconte, Produced by Alain Sarde): Rating 8/10

This is a classic French movie and has a few signs of an Alain Sarde production as well (for example Nathalie, Jet Lag, Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud, Dry Cleaning). Those signs involve a relationship in trouble and ample intelligent conversation which tries to resolve the situation. This time around the sensuality is all in the conversation itself. A woman walks into a shrink’s office and starts unloading her worries. Then just like that, she abruptly ends her talk and walks off wanting to return for another session. The only snag is that the shrink is not a shrink at all but a mere tax advisor; the woman had walked into the wrong door. So the tax advisor heads down the hall into the therapist’s office to get advice on what do with the situation. Needless to say, he continues to listen to the woman’s needs. The movie heads towards a predictable ending but there are some interesting events along the way. If one has seen plenty of French movies, then this one will not seem to be that great. Still a decent watch! It is still refreshing to see un-glossy actors giving an amazing performance, which only French movies can provide.

2) Monsieur Ibrahim (Directed by Francois Dupeyron): Rating 11/10

This is a PERFECT movie! Along with Exils, this is the best movie I have seen this year. It is refreshing to see Omar Sharif (who plays a Turkish shop owner) given a charming role which he plays to perfection. But the real gem of this movie is the young actor, Pierre Boulanger, who gives a virtuoso performance as the 14 year old Momo. Boulanger’s expressions are priceless (feisty when they have to be, innocent when needed) and Omar Sharif rightly believes that this kid will be a star one day.
So what’s the story? A majority of the movie involves Momo’s coming of age tale -- Momo never really knew his mother because she left when he was an infant and his father is off on his own most of the time. So Momo balances his mostly solitary life with meaningful conversations with M. Ibrahim. And this is where he grows from a young boy into a useful man. The last bit of the movie involves a road journey as well. But a truly pleasant movie!!!!!!!!!!

3) The Mother (Directed by Roger Michell): Rating 4/10

A rating of this movie depends on the fact whether one buys the affair development between a mother and her daughter’s boyfriend. If one buys the entire process, then like most critics, one will be bowled over by this movie. But if one does not believe the story, then the entire movie seems contrived and pointless. Curiously, the movie is based on Hanif Kureishi’s book so I am not sure how the book might have been. An elderly couple comes to London to visit their children. And typical of this day and age, the children have a busy life and can’t look after their parents. The father dies on the trip and the mother finds her entire life shook-up. She opts to stay in London with her daughter as her son is too busy always. Through a very smooth and casual process, the mother rediscovers her zest for life in the arms of her daughter’s boyfriend (a man half her age, give or take a few years). I just didn’t buy the entire process and well thought the entire movie was a waste.

4) Bon Voyage (Directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau): Rating 5/10

Maybe I was not in the mood but this movie just didn’t interest me one bit. It has an interesting cast with Isabelle Adjani, Gerard Depardieu and Peter Coyote. But this murder chase movie set in the mood of World War II seemed really boring.

5) Trio of Truffaut movies – Also there are trio of Francois Truffaut movies that I am currently finishing up.

a) Bed and Board – This is the fourth in the Antoine Doinel series of movies with 400 Blows, Love at Twenty, Stolen Kisses being the other three. Unfortunately, I saw the French version without any subtitles. But such was the beauty of the movie that I managed to follow more or less what was going on.
b) Stolen Kisses – The 3rd Antoine Doinel movie, with 400 Blows being the first one. Once again, the movie glides effortlessly as Antoine goes from one failed project to another.
c) The Last Metro – I have not finished this 1980 movie starring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu.

6) Hiroshima mon Amour (Directed by Alain Resnais) -- I am trying to finish up this 1959 movie so I can watch and understand H-Story, the 2001 Nobuhiro Suwa movie about the making of the original Hiroshima movie.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

October Movie Wrap-up

1) Carandiru (directed by Hector ) : Rating 10/10

This movie is based on a true story. But as it turns out certain characters were changed from real life to fit the movie mould. Nonetheless, this is a very interesting movie. The story revolves around an incident in a Brazilian prison where riot squad massacred un-armed prisoners for purely political reasons. The movie is divided into two segments – the first segment (almost ¾ of the movie) focuses on the prisoners and their stories, lives etc as seen from the eyes of the Prison Doctor. The second segment outlines the prison massacre.

This method works quite well – since we have come to identify the prisoners from the first segment, the massacre puts things into perspective.

2) Close Your Eyes (also known as Doctor Sleep): Rating 9/10

Quite a thriller from the UK! The story revolves around a doctor who uses hypnosis to cure his patients of their smoking habits. During one case, he tells his woman patient not to think of nasty images like a girl floating in the water next time on. The woman is surprised – how on earth did the doctor read her mind? Well as it turns out she is a cop working on a serial killer case. She enlists his help in trying to solve a bizarre sequence of killings.

3) The Ladykillers (directed by the Coen Brothers): Rating 5/10

Once upon a time a movie by the Coen brothers was a sure thing -- Blood Simple, Fargo, O Brother Where Are Thou, The Big Leobowski, Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn’t there! But that has changed. For the second year in a row, they have produced a dud. This could have something to do with the fact that like the dull and boring Intolerable Cruelty, the Ladykillers is not a script written by the two brothers. There is only so much a person can do when working with someone else’s script or even a remake. Even though Ladykillers has the typical Noir elements from other Coen movies but it is not enough to liven a movie.

Massively disappointing!!

4) Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring (Korean movie by Ki-duk Kim): Rating 8/10

The director of the Isle returns with a visually pleasing movie. The story is simple enough – a Buddhist monk lives with a little boy on a floating monastery in the middle of a lake. The movie starts off in Spring and shows the lives of the two monks. The little boy is mischievous and goes out of his way to harm animals around him. So the elder monk teaches the boy a lesson. We next move to Summer when the little boy has grown up into a teenager -- an age where his hormones are acting up. When a young woman comes to stay at the monastery, well his sexual drive kicks in. From there on, the next seasons outline different stages in the young monk’s life. The movie eventually comes full circle to the start, just like things eventually do.

The Winter story is visually STUNNING. Beautiful!

5) Bus 174 (Brazilian Documentary):

This documentary has gotten nothing but rave reviews everywhere. It centers around a real-life bus hostage situation in Brazil where the media beam the entire incident live on tv. The documentary has interesting parts and tries to piece the entire story together – the identity of the armed person, the motives behind the act, the role of the police, and how things turned out. The film gives a realistic look at the characters used widely in movies such as City of God, Carandiru and Man of the Year. But for some bizarre, I didn’t find this movie that engaging. I lost interest after a while and well was bored.