Sunday Video Essay: The Double Life of Veronique

The most difficult and compelling film of 1991, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s surreal meditation on doppelgangers and parallel worlds, The Double Life of Veronique, may have lost the Palm D’Or to the Coen Brothers’ Barton Fink, but it remains my favourite film of that year.

Starring Irene Jacob who was also the lead Kieslowski’s Three Colour’s Trilogy entry, Red, and indeed, the film feels like a more ethereal, spiritual entry into that trilogy, only it moves out of the theme of “Humanity in France” and into “Humanity in The Universe.”

Vimeo Channel Glass Distortion have made this affecting visual tribute about the use of close ups and details in the film, a wordless visual essay. Enjoy.

Trailer: Men & Chicken

A lot of people get confessional, or get hit on the head (often both at the same time) in Anders Thomas Jensen’s farcical comedy, Men & Chicken Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Nicolas Bro and many other familiar Danish faces, the film is about a pair of socially-challenged siblings who discover they are adopted half-brothers in their late father’s videotaped will. Their journey in search of their true father takes them to the small, insular Danish island of Ork, where they stumble upon three additional half-brothers—each also sporting hereditary harelips and lunatic tendencies—living in a dilapidated mansion overrun by barn animals. Hitting ensues.

Drafthouse films acquired the film, and have cut a domestic trailer for the film which they are releasing very soon.

Friday One Sheet: Lights Out

This is my kind of poster design. A simple, clear message that evokes a feeling. And while I am generally not a fan of the sugar-mill output of James Wan’s brand of horror film (Wan is producer here), I cannot argue with putting the concept of the film, right front and centre on the advertising. You may recall a short film from a few years ago from director David Sandberg that had ghosts appearing literally when the lights were clicked out, this is that short blown into a feature.

The trailer is also tucked below the seat.

Would you like to know more…?

After the Credits Episode 186: April Preview

Prequel. Sequel. Who cares? Just. Bring. It.

Prequel. Sequel. Who cares? Just. Bring. It.

This year’s flu season really hit me hard and as a result, we were unable to record anything for March but we wouldn’t let you down two months in a row so amidst holidays and new work schedules, Coleen, Dale (Letterboxd) and I (Letterboxd) managed to find some time to get together and look ahead to what’s coming in April. And holy crow, there’s a lot of stuff coming in April!

Other stuff mentioned this episode:

– The American Scholar article on Colonia
– Smithsonian article on story behind Elvis and Nixon photograph

Would you like to know more…?

Mamo 441: Matt-Man v. Super-Matt – Dawn of Mamo

Mamo!

Two Matts enter, one Matt leaves! Then another Matt leaves, by a different door. It’s the title fight you’ve all been waiting for: does Batman v. Superman deserve a Dawn of Justice or what even is Justice in this context anyway yadda yadda yadda maybe the movie’s not that bad.

Carlos’ Review Round-Up

Here’s a quick sampling of my week’s watches. You can find more of my reviews at Always Good Movies.

 

Fireworks Wednesday (2016)

Directed by: Asghar Farhadi
Country: Iran

Originally dated from 2006, “Fireworks Wednesday”, is a not-so-known major accomplishment from the celebrated filmmaker, Asghar Farhadi, one of the most acclaimed voices of the Iranian cinema. The Film Forum in New York recently retrieved his third feature, which was already revealing the filmmaker’s keen propensity for realism, as well as his capacity to devise potent family dramas that never feel vulgar and instantly occupy your eyes and mind with its deeply eloquent and susceptible environments.
The film, set in the contemporary Tehran on the Persian New Year, is an honest examination of marriage and infidelity in the very particular society where it takes place.

The central character is Rouhi (Taraneh Alidoosti), a young woman who works for a cleaning agency and is about to get married to a man who’s crazy for her.
One day she’s assigned to clean the apartment of a married couple that is living an intractable marital crisis. The constant arguments between Mojdeh (Hediyeh Tehrani) and Morteza (Hamid Farokhnezhad) are reflected in their apartment whose windows were broken the night before and where everything is placed upside down. The couple’s son, Amir Ali (Matin Heydarnia), is pretty compelling in showing the affliction derived from the distress of witnessing the state of disaffection that his parents fell into. Gradually, Rouhi starts to understand the anguish of Mojdeh who has reasons to believe that her husband is having an affair with the woman next door, Simin (Pantea Bahram), an independent mother who turned her apartment into a clandestine hair salon.
Confused, Rouhi is caught in the middle of the gossips and, by turns, is used by both wife and husband in their desperate schemes.

I don’t have enough laudable words to describe the magnificent performances, authentic dramatic acting lessons for the ones interested in learning the plainness of the art.
The camerawork is another glorious achievement by Mr. Farhadi who cohesively weaves the little fragments that seamlessly express the whole without wasting one single minute of our time. Every scene is meaningful and is there for a reason, allowing us to apprehend the story effortlessly.

Thoroughly absorbing, “Fireworks Wednesday” is anchored in the truthfulness of many men-women relationships. It’s a powerful storytelling put up with brilliancy.


Remember (2015)

Directed by: Atom Egoyan
Country: COUNTRY

I went to watch “Remember” with some reservations. All because the Canadian filmmaker of Armenian descent, Atom Egoyan, hasn’t been so inspired in the last few years, presenting trifles such as “Chloe”, “Devil’s Knot”, and “The Captive”. However, his career started incredibly encouraging, and films like “Family Viewing”, “Speaking Parts”, “The Adjuster”, “Calendar”, “Exotica”, and “The Sweet Hereafter”, are no less than fundamental, forming the solid foundations of his individual filmmaking style.

In “Remember”, Mr. Egoyan redeems himself from the recent frivolous creations and, together with the veteran actor, Christopher Plummer (“The Sound of Music”, “Waterloo”), brings into the world an arresting, fairly balanced, and constantly tense drama, which is a subtly relentless revenge tale.

Mr. Plummer is terrific as Zev Gutman, a 90-year-old Auschwitz survivor who lives in a retirement home and struggles with a galloping dementia. Whenever he awakes from his superficial yet recurrent sleep, so characteristic of the old age, the only thing he remembers is his wife Ruth, who had passed away a week before. Invariably, a solace comes from his closest friend, Max Rosenbaum (Martin Landau), another former captive who managed to escape with life from Auschwitz. Max persuades Zev to make a risky, solitary trip to find and kill the former Nazi guard, Rudy Kurlander, the man responsible for the death of his family. Considering that the man’s memory is deteriorating, this is a problematic task that gets even harder when he realizes that there are several Germans called Rudy Kurlander living in the US. Only the right one must die and Zev thinks of himself as the right executioner, as he had promised to his friend.
Now you are probably asking how the hell he manages to remember about the details of an almost unfeasible mission? The answer is: through a handwritten letter, provided by Max, which contains all the important details he needs to know about himself and thorough instructions to successfully accomplish the task.

The hazardous trip comprehends distinct encounters with different Kurlanders. The first one confesses he always agreed with Hitler and is still proud to be a Nazi, but only served his country in the North of Africa; the second encounter was unexpectedly emotional; the third was a terrifying experience; and the ultimate encounter brings a decisive twist to a story, written by the newcomer Benjamin August, that empowers the overall appreciation of the film.
Without reinventing the wheel, Mr. Egoyan shows a commendable confidence that reverberates in the performances, bestowing the decorous benefits to make the film interesting. Even dealing with a few narrative gaps, he sets up the adequate nail-biting tones to spare us from boredom.


Emelie (2015)

Directed by: Michael Thelin
Country: USA

“Emelie” is a wobbly thriller written by Rich Herbeck and directed by Michael Thelin. Both screenwriter and director work together on the source material, product of their own minds, in order to take it to the screen.
The film, unsettling at first, put you in a position of wondering what can possibly happen when you entrust your kids to someone you don’t really know.

The opening scene, intentionally shot at a considerable distance, makes us immediately alert by portraying an abduction of a babysitter who’s hauled into a car. Right after the opening credits, we follow Dan Thompson (Chris Beetem) driving, on his way to pick up the babysitter who will be taking care of his three children – Jacob, Sally, and Christopher – while he and his wife, Joyce (Susan Pourfar), go out to celebrate their anniversary.
The babysitter in question, Anna (Sarah Bolger), is not the regular one. She’s actually a stranger to the family. However, the Thompsons are pretty much certain that everything’s going to be fine because Maggie (Elizabeth Jayne), the daily sitter of the house for many years now, was the one who recommended Anna.

The couple leaves the house, not before giving all the instructions and recommendations. Nevertheless, Anna simply neglects everything she was told, allowing an unsafe little chaos at home. Besides the permissive and often uncaring attitude toward the children, Anna, whose true name is Emelie and obviously has no experience with children, acts like a disturbed person, exhibiting an insolent pose of superiority and a reproachable perversity that intrigues. What is the decent creature that seated on the toilet asks an appalled 11-year-old kid to open up a tampon because she just had her period? Or starts watching a very private videotape with the embarrassed children by her side? Or make a poor little girl desperate when she gives her beloved fluffy hamster to be devoured by a snake? Or let the kids play with a real gun?
At this point, I was guessing that this frightening situation might be a revenge for something bad that one of the parents could have done in the past. This assumption gains some ground when we realize that another presence keeps watching the relaxed couple through the window of the restaurant.
One thing was clear, though. These children were under threat.
A sense of great responsibility falls on the courageous Jacob (Joshua Rush), who has to find a way to stop Emelie’s evil intentions, especially after noticing she had developed a strange obsession with the youngest of the siblings.

Mr. Thelin, who showed a flair for creating suspense, had done everything right until the beginning of the climax. In the film’s final section, a couple of misrepresented scenes were sufficient to make the whole story collapse. The direction failed exactly where it should have been sturdier to better play with our emotions. Instead, the key moments were set up in a rushed and oversimplified manner, pushing the film into precarious places rather than entertaining.
I dare to say this wasn’t lack of ambition from the director but the inexperience talking when it comes to handling influential material that will determine if your film has some validation or not. Regardless the admirable performances, “Emelie” would have overcome expectations if less schemed and more qualified in its execution.


Would you like to know more…?

Review: The Bronze

bronze-posterDirector: Bryan Buckley
Writers: Melissa Rauch, Winston Rauch
Producer: Stephanie Langhoff
Starring: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Thomas Middleditch, Sebastian Stan, Cecily Strong
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 100 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found on LetterBoxd

 


Weirdly the third Olympics related movie to be released within the past month (after Race and Eddie the Eagle), The Bronze ironically earns its title by being decidedly the third best (aka the worst) of the three. Coming at things quite differently from those other two titles, The Bronze isn’t an inspiring true story of tenacity and courage, but rather a repugnant crass comedy masquerading as the kind of bold and daring indie character story that Sundance eats up every year. It was the opening film of last year’s festival, and it’s no surprise that you haven’t heard a peep about it for the past 14 months between then and its release. The directorial debut of Bryan Buckley, The Bronze serves as a star vehicle for The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch, who also co-wrote the screenplay with her husband Winston (their first, and it shows), and it makes you wonder why anyone would write such a vile, intolerable character for themselves to play.

I suppose Rauch’s sense of humor just veers in a different direction than mine, and she gets a kick out of the violently unfunny material that she offers up for herself here as Hope Ann Greggory, a former wild child bronze medalist turned washed-up has-been who spends her days milking whatever glory she can from her fifteen minutes in the spotlight over a decade ago while living in the one horse town of Amherst, Ohio. Through a series of contrived circumstances, Hope finds herself coaching Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson), a plucky young superstar gymnast who is everything Hope could have been back in the day (and happens to be living in the same nobody town), if an injury didn’t prevent her from achieving her dreams. Cue the redemption arc as Hope finds true happiness and softens her aggressively unpleasant shell to let some people in, like her put-upon father Stan (Gary Cole) and coach’s aid Ben (Thomas Middleditch), whom she mocks for his involuntary facial twitch. Sebastian Stan shows up as her male counterpart, an egomaniacal showboat who won gold back in the day and is training the Olympics team that Maggie is hoping to become a part of.

bronze-still012

Aside from one admittedly inspired character turn in the final act, the Rauchs’ screenplay goes exactly where you think it’s going to, following one of the most annoying characters in years as she plays out her own kind of Bad Santa road to moral salvation or whatever. The only problem is that she’s so impossible to have any kind of affection for or investment in that you don’t even want her to succeed on this path. You’d rather just run away and never have to suffer through another second of time spent with her on the screen. Things get a little more bearable after the first act (which is so violently unpleasant that I really considered walking out of the theater and just accepting my losses), but The Bronze never approaches anything close to “watchable”. If you had any awareness of this movie even existing, it was likely from the word about the outrageous gymnastics sex scene that occurs. Even I have to admit that this scene is quite amusing, in a ridiculous Will Ferrell comedy kind of way, but one moment in a sea of utter waste isn’t nearly enough to wash the bad taste out of your mouth.

Friday One Sheet: Deepwater Horizon

Based on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico and directed by Peter Berg (The Rundown, Hancock), this poster caught my eye because the entire poster is pretty much competing negative space: A large expanse of sky, a large expanse of water, and an ever widening column of smoke from the oil-well which is on fire in the corner. Hopefully, the powers that be will never attempt to integrate Mark Wahlberg’s floaty head into the design.