December 29, 2017No Comments

Mon Roi – Maiwenn – 2015

40 year old lawyer Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot, winner of Best Female Actress in Cannes FF) falls in-love and swiftly marries Georgio (Vincent Cassel, brilliant as always), a hyperactive charming playboy, owner of restaurant and alpha male of his pack. They live, they laugh, they make love, they make a baby (after Georgio has a night time epiphany, that leads him to ironing shirts and making a passionate speech about reproducing). We fall in-love with their happiness, their ripe maturity. But this is just the exposition, as the rest of film’s two thirds are occupied with following the man’s shortcomings: a large palette of sometime authentic - sometime completely fake and illogic actions. Once the baby begins to show-up, Georgio becomes a crazed teenager, chasing women, booze and all that he left behind. 

The abrupt character change is a tough sale, and it hold mostly due to Cassel’s natural charm. Although the focus of the story is on the feminine character, it doesn’t feel completely explored and is strangely (coming from a female director) stereotypic. As film critic Mike D’Angelo puts it: “She [Maïwenn] appears to side with Giorgio, who, when Tony says she’s weary of constant highs and lows and just wants something calm and steady, points out that, on an electriocardiogram, highs and lows signify life, whereas a steady flatline means that you’re dead.” Moments towards the end, where Tony is shown at her office, powerful in charge, receiving Georgio behind a big desk, appear for her character as a silly compensation. End scene saves the day: a meeting in face of school teachers, discussing their kid, is an opportunity to show that nothing has really changed.

December 27, 2017No Comments

La deuxième souffle – Jean-Pierre Melville – 1966

The elements at work in Le deuxième souffle, a 1966, two and a half hours long, French “film gris” feels inexplicable in today’s terms. Painstakingly slow in offering conflict, all you’d like to do is to take it back to the editing table and remove one hour out of it. The crime genre has probably morphed the most over the years. But this is also why it’s still an interesting watch, given that it’s 11 AM and you do this for a living. It’s impressive to notice what was thought of to be relevant in terms of exposition. It’s also impressive to notice a top-notch blocking, offering constant character movement on the screen, built to support the endless dialogues between Lino Ventura’s villain and his social circle (friends, lover, crime partners), which takes first hand as opposed to genre’s mandatory twists or point of no returns.

September 17, 2017No Comments

Demain – Cyril Dion – 2015

Films trying to bring about change on the environmental front suffer from a BAD-BAD-BAD-BUT WE CAN STILL DO GOOD pattern that, in my opinion, dooms their effect from the start. “Demain” / “Tomorrow” is no different, except maybe that it goes about a BAD-BUT HEY LOOK AT ALL THESE AMAZING EXAMPLES OF GOOD scheme, as it tries, just like the others before it, to scratch on humanity’s awareness on the issues. Yes, the examples are great: the coming together of communities, the 21 pound bill that one English town issued, the recycling. 

It’s still not enough. We need to be bombarded with the naked, bleak, frightening truth. Plus an unending wave of “Demain”-like films: good old fashioned propaganda. (That don’t cost 300+ euros to screen publicly, like this one.) 

July 30, 2017No Comments

Visages Villages – Agnes Varda, JR – 2017

Visages Villages, a playful road-trip in the company of Agnès Varda, turning 90 next year, is a gift, for this reason alone. Accompanied by visual artist JR, the two hop on and off through different places in France, plastering walls, barracks or industrial shipyards with gigantic prints and making people happy. There aren’t any hidden truths around the corners, but a collection of moments. We get to visit JR’s 100 year old grandma and see Agnes Varda become a respectful young lady. We visit a farmer, a worker’s neighbourhood, a village. JR is poking fun at times at Agnes and she hits back at him for constantly wearing sunshades. Towards the end we embark on a train ride to visit nobody else but Jean Luc Godard’s place in Switzerland. It’s no spoiler that he doesn’t receive them, right? At least he leaves a note on door, referencing some memory of their youth, that instantly tears Agnes’s eyes. She starts recounting the early days. What a glorious life these people lived. 

July 28, 2017No Comments

Rester Vertical – Alain Guiraudie – 2016

Rester Vertical is a film that shines bright in my memory cave. It’s full of idiosyncrasies, it shifts between realism and pure crazy, it’s overtly explicit in some of its cause/effect relations, it’s opaque and mysterious in other. 

- follows the story of somebody who seems to be a screenwriter, drifting through countryside France;

- we see a vagina, we see a penis, we see a baby getting born. in this order, that directly and explicitly;

- this is compensated by the character’s mysterious lack of reason behind his actions. He seems driven just by sexual energy - he stops his car by the side of the road and clumsily tries to seduce a young man. Who seems like the lover of an older man living near by. 

- our man has a purpose nevertheless, which he states plainly when bumping into a lady-shepherd, guarding a flock of sheep, on a hill one day: to see wild wolves. Which is exactly what the lady is there to protect from. They have a baby together in no time.

- the cast is incredible, you could stare for hours at the landscape of expressivity that the faces in this film brings.

- poetic and captivating.

- in the end, the wolves surround him, but he’s finally equipped to deal with them.

May 28, 2017No Comments

Personal Shopper, Oliver Assayas, 2016

Personal Shopper is melting pot of blesses and curses. For one it’s driven by Kristen Stewart who’s taking the world by storm. The young woman is magnetising to look at. She thinks on screen and she could carry a silent film from beginning to end. It’s proposing a story based on a good premise. In this day and age, Kristen’s character is a medium, connecting to spirits and all, but since it’s not something that pays the rent, she’s the personal assistant of a celebrity, for whom she’s buying clothes and jewellery. A while ago, she lost her twin brother, also a medium, who made a pledge to her, that he’ll make contact from the other world. Great, let’s roll!

But it’s at this moment that curses begin to abound. For the script offers us a fake lead in the form of sms texts that Kristen receives, suggesting they might come from the other world. It doesn’t take long before this gets silly. And in a brutal lack of imagination we get to spend an awful amount of time being forced to read texts off the screen of an iPhone. Some CGI ghosts begin to hover as well. Stories listened (over youtube) about painter Hilma af Klint and writer Victor Hugo making contact as well are placed as to convince us. Glasses fall out and break out of the blue. 

BUT, for all its quirkiness, the film still manages to be evocative. It’s quite heavy at times, quite sexy as well. It’s choices are fresh at many times. Just don’t let that Cannes “Best Director” accolade put too much pressure on it. Or you.

Oliver Assayas and Kristen Stewart’s previous effort together, Clouds of Sils Maria is a masterpiece.

(Award was ex-aequo-ed with our own national pride, Cristian Mungiu’s “Baccalaureate”)

May 25, 2017No Comments

La Grande Illusion, Jean Renoir, 1937

1937 film about a group of French prisoners in a German camp. No “trench action”, just a demonstration of how, when looking up close at the combatants, war becomes an abstract notion. As far as consensus goes, Jean Renoir is the most compassionate director when observing his characters and he’s capable of showing basically no difference between the two opposing sides here. Rather the difference is between the social class divisions inside the same nation. The French officer shares the same notions of chivalry with his aristocratic German counterpart, while the foot soldier, a larger than screen Jean Gabin, just can’t manage to convince him to shed the polite form of addressing, second person, plural. When it comes to escaping, the officer would rather make a point and showoff of his beliefs, rather than stealthy make a run for freedom. Gabin escapes and falls for a German widow that shelters him for a while. The Grand Illusion here being that no matter how alike people are, the war’s end is never in sight.  

Camera movements are a joy to follow. You never know where its ballet will finally get you. 

May 1, 2017No Comments

Les Habitants, Raymond Depardon, 2016

Titled “France” in its English version, Les Habitants is the documentary work of an underground master, Raymond Depardon, a discreet shining French national gem. Depardon started as a photographer and journalist (of Pulitzer fame), a thing that might have contributed to the simple observational way in which he chooses to follow a subject and his stern persistence in developing long term projects (his trilogy of Profils paysans spans over almost a decade).

In Les Habitants he drives a caravan through under the radar, common French towns, and invites two people at a time to talk to each other. Gossip, money, love, the future or the past, hopes and fears. All through the most compassionate and humanistic regard. J’aime Raymond Depardon a lot.  

March 28, 2017No Comments

Personal Shopper, Oliver Assayas, 2016

Personal Shopper is a melting pot of blessings and curses. For one it’s driven by Kristen Stewart who’s taking the world by storm. The young woman is magnetising to look at. She thinks on screen and she could carry a silent film from beginning to end. It’s proposing a story based on a good premise. In this day and age, Kristen’s character is a medium, connecting to spirits and all, but since it’s not something that pays the rent, she’s the personal assistant of a celebrity, for whom she’s buying clothes and jewellery. A while ago, she lost her twin brother, also a medium, who made a pledge to her, that he’ll make contact from the other world. Great, let’s roll!

But it’s at this moment that curses begin to abound. For the script offers us a fake lead in the form of sms texts that Kristen receives, suggesting they might come from the other world. It doesn’t take long before this gets silly. And in a brutal lack of imagination we get to spend an awful amount of time being forced to read texts off the screen of an iPhone. Some CGI ghosts begin to hover as well. Stories listened (over youtube) about painter Hilma af Klint and writer Victor Hugo making contact as well are placed as to convince us. Glasses fall out and break out of the blue. 

BUT, for all its quirkiness, the film still manages to be evocative. It’s quite heavy at times, quite sexy as well. It’s choices are fresh at many times. Just don’t let that Cannes “Best Director” accolade put too much pressure on it. Or you.

Oliver Assayas and Kristen Stewart’s previous effort together, Clouds of Sils Maria is a masterpiece.

(Award was ex-aequo-ed with our own national pride, Cristian Mungiu’s “Baccalaureate”)

February 17, 2017No Comments

India Song, Marguerite Duras, 1975

Marguerite Duras was a prolific French writer of the XXth century, whose influences drew on her upbringing in the defunct Indochina, prior to the Second World War. And me, as someone who lived in the neighbourhood (India) for just 5 months, I can testify on the effect that Asia can have on the Westerner’s views and sensibility. Given the right circumstances, Asia is devastatingly rapturous. This being said, although India Song, a film that Duras directed, is by no means connected to Indian nor Asian culture, it is connected indirectly to its effects.

The film is almost unwatchable, if you naively approach it - with no prior proper documentation. Because it’s an experimental film. It offers a sensual universe where immobile members of a lost bourgeoisie interact and talk to each other, in post-modernistic fashion, without their lips moving. 

Besides this, Duras is also the scriptwriter of a classical masterpiece, Hiroshima, mon amour, directed by Alain Resnais. 

Contact

Email: hello@bogdanstamatin.com
Twitter: @bogdanstamatin
Letterboxd film diary

© Bogdan Stamatin 2020