This is the first Emmanuel Mouret film I’ve had the chance to catch and may be the first of his films to have received American theatrical distribution. I can’t claim to know too much about him, but I understand he is extremely well known in France. This is mostly a quirky romantic comedy, but there were a couple of moments that were extremely effective and interesting. He uses the camera in some interesting ways in these moments and I will keep him on my radar. This worth catching on DVD at a minimum if you can’t make it to the independent theatre to see it.
Archive for the ‘Key Sunday Cinema Club’ Category
Kristin Scott Thomas now splits her time and career between France and the rest of the world. This is the first French language film that I have seen her in and she is at her best. This is another small budget character drama but it unfolds more like a mystery. Thomas has just been released from prison after many years and moves in with her younger sister and family. The circumstances surrounding her imprisonment and her familial estrangement unfold over the stretch of the film brilliantly. Debut director and screenwriter Philippe Claudel actually writes mystery novels as his day job and handles the jump to film expertly. The film meditates on loss of varying types with virtually every character. Their disparate reactions and coping mechanisms are realistic and enlightened. Claudel earns the audiences empathy brilliantly and seems to falter only at the very end of the story with a reveal that is a little nonsensical and arguably unnecessary. I would expect this to make some yearend best lists and believe that an Academy Award nomination may be coming for Kristin Scott Thomas.
Jamie Bell might still be best remembered for his debut in the title role of Billy Elliot (now a ridiculous looking musical on Broadway). Hard as it was for me to believe, eight years have passed since that film and Bell is now twenty-two years old. He is a wonder playing another title role in David Mackenzie’s latest, Mister Foe (Hallam Foe in the UK).
Hallam is an awkward Scottish teen about to fall into his awkward Scottish adulthood. His mother drowned under mysterious circumstances a few years earlier and Hallam retreated inward. He has become extremely voyeuristic heading to higher and higher ground over the course of the film seemingly in an attempt to gain clarity.
Upon leaving his home for the city under extreme conditions, Hallam encounters a young woman to pin his hopes upon. Sophia Myles plays Kate Breck, the young woman of interest who bears a striking resemblance to Hallam’s mother. Myles shines as Kate, a young woman with an easy appeal, yet a deep enough character study to be simultaneously flawed and magnetic.
Jamie Bell walks a tightrope as Hallam and makes it look easy. Reading the synopsis and I would imagine the script, Hallam sounds perverse, likely mentally ill (which he may be), and socially inept. Bell makes believable his contrary cleverness and his unexpected ability to have a normal, even charming conversation. His voyeurism doesn’t seem sexual in nature, rather his way to observe the human world and sometimes to get to know and care about people while avoiding a two-way vulnerability. The film is shot from his characters’ perspective, putting Bell in every scene without ever wearing out his welcome. If he continues to choose wisely, I expect a successful adult transition and a long career to come.
The film gets into oedipal themes as well as veering off into distinctly Shakespearean territory without losing a basis in its modern setting. It has more than enough emotional resonance for these themes to avail themselves to the audience on subsequent viewings. I also want to mention how beautiful the film is, gorgeously captured in overcast muted fall tones by cinematographer Giles Nuttgens. Director David Mackenzie successfully presents an untraditional lead character and a non-formulaic story arc without alienating the audience or feeling overlong. He is really switching gears for his next project, an Ashton Kutcher sex comedy… Huh?
I just attended my first Key Sunday Cinema Club (KSCC) screening this past weekend where my local chapter viewed Mike Leigh’s latest, Happy-Go-Lucky. The film largely forgoes the plot-driven film making approach in favor of several in-depth character studies. Happy-Go-Lucky finds writer/director Leigh displaying a lighter touch than he has before, but doesn’t stray too far from a foundation of realism, or at least real humanity (and wreckage).
The film primarily focuses on Poppy, an eternal optimist and an unforgettable character. Poppy is portrayed quite remarkably by Sally Hawkins. Hers is amongst several performances in the film that will send you straight home to an IMDB search. Poppy is one of at least four characters who are teachers/instructors of some sort with varying approaches and levels of effectiveness. I try to avoid learning about new films prior to writing wherever possible, though the discussion at the KSCC assured me that Mike Leigh was interested in exploring the role of teachers in our society in this film.
I was fixated on another aspect of the film. From the beginning I found myself interested in gaining a deeper understanding of where her optimistic outlook stemmed from. Perhaps this is a sad self-revelation on multiple levels, but so be it. I cannot say that this film has fixed my alternately retreating and curmudgeonly ways, however it does further my own thinking that having a positive worldview doesn’t necessarily mean you are either, a: not paying attention or, b: a moron. (Though I still theorize that these may be to the most common sources of optimism next to answer c: both a and b.)
Poppy displays her depth through her humanity. A scene midway through the film in which Poppy stumbles upon and spends some time listening and connecting with a homeless man suffering from significant mental illness was the most polarizing in the post-film conversation. I thought the scene was moving and an effective way to shine a light on a defining aspect of her personality. While I can appreciate that this film leans closer to realism than fantastical fiction, it’s still a movie and I don’t mind a scene like this with a slightly greater departure from reality. It serves its function. Without her humanity, Poppy would grow tiresome posthaste. Many of the viewers did find the character ultimately extremely irritating during our discussion.
I found her character exemplifies another long-held belief of mine; that existentialism doesn’t always have to be of the “nothing matters so I might as well kill you and/or myself” variety, but can be joyous in its absurdist hilarities; a way of dealing with a world of difficult compromises and people. Poppy refuses to succumb to darkness or cynicism, despite the urgings of and in the face of other characters who have set up permanent residence in their own Shitopia. You could confuse her jokes in these moments as passive-aggressive, but I believe she is simply entertaining herself rather than getting bogged down. This is fairly high praise from me, still I think I would go the long way around to avoid her if I worked with Poppy, and could eventually be forced into the former brand of existentialism on my bad days.