Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)

The Illusionist is an animated feature set in the late 50s when show business is changing and Tatischeff, a fading French magician and illusionist finds himself one of a dying breed of stage entertainers. Forced to accept increasingly obscure venues, he ends up performing in a village pub off the west coast of Scotland. There he encounters Alice, an innocent young girl, who thinks his tricks are real magic. The two lonely strangers quickly bond and Alice follows him to Edinburgh. Their relationship is chaste and they fall into a father and daughter relationship and Alice keeps their home at a boarding house for vaudevillians. Flattered by her devotion the Illusionist continues to reward Alice with increasingly lavish gifts he has 'conjured' into existence. Desperate not to disappoint her, he cannot bring himself to reveal that magic does not exist and that he is driving himself to ruin working all night jobs to buy her gifts. When Alice eventually falls in love with a younger man she moves on with her life, and The Illusionist now untangled from his own web of deceit, resumes his life as a much wiser man. The movie was based on a Jacques Tati script and was adapted by Sylvain Chomet. The movie has exquisite images mixed with poignant humor which echoes of cinema history and a sense of having watched genuine magic. Worth the watch.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beautiful Lies (De Vrais Mensonges)

Director: Pierre Salvadori

Starring: Audrey Tautou, Nathalie Baye, Sami Bouajila, Stephanie Lagarde, Judith Chemla, Cecile Boland, Didier Brice, Daniel Duval.

A farce (what else?), featuring two of France's most beloved actresses, Nathalie Baye and Audrey Tautou. The story tells of a young, provincial hairdresser, Emilie (Audrey Tautou) who desperately wants to help her love-starved mother, Maddy (Nathalie Baye). When Emilie receives a beautifully written anonymous love letter [from her estranged maintenance man, Jean (Sami Bouajila)] she sees a perfect opportunity to make her mother smile again. Emilie copies the letter and sends it to her mother who is overjoyed to receive it and all the more determined to find the author of the letter. Complications ensue (of course) when Maddy expects more letters (which then need to be written by Émilie less eloquently). Chaos prevails when Jean is entrusted to post one of the anonymous letters by Émilie, but instead decides to deliver it in person. Good performances throughout in this feel good chick flick farce.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mr Popper's Penguins

Director: Mark Waters (VIII)

Cast: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury.

One for the younger kids and based on the 1938 novel by Richard and Florence Atwater of the same name, Tom Popper (Jim Cary) , is a ruthless New York City property developer who is given an ultimatum by his bosses to get the owners of Central Park's Tavern On The Green to sell up or he will never became a partner of the firm. Out of the blue Tom receives a parcel from his late world-travelling father, a souvenir from Antarctica, - a real, live penguin. Despite attempts to rid himself of the penguin others arrive on his doorstep. Soon they take over his life as he adapts his luxury apartment accommodate his new friends the birds help him understand the importance of family. Good vehicle for Carey’ talents and a movie definitely made for kids.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The tree of life

Writer and Director: Terrence Malick

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, Fiona Shaw, Hunter McCracken

This is a bit of indulgence from director, Terrence Malick (Badlands) in a movie which examines father and son relationships. Jack O’Brian (Sean Penn) reflects on his love-hate relationship with his stern father (Brad Pitt), younger siblings and the after-effects of childhood tragedy. Jessica Chastain plays the boys’ nurturing mother and someone he wants to protect. Good performances from all the cast and particularly Hunter McCracken, who plays young Jack. But the mixture of wide vistas and extreme close-ups strung together by a disembodied narration did little for me.

Mozart’s Sister Nannerl, La Soeur De Mozart (Mozart's Sister)

Director: René Féret

Starring: David Moreau, Marie Féret, Delphine Chuillot, Clovis Fouin

What goes on tour stays on tour, this is an everyday story of the family, Mozart. Under the directed by an obsessed stage father, Léopold Mozart (Marc Barbé) and nurtured by mother Anna Maria (Delphine Chuillot) the family Mozart tour Europe following the patronage of the wealthy in the 18th century. Young Wolfgang Mozart (David Moreau) had an older sister Maria Anna "Nannerl" Mozart (Marie Féret) who plays harpsichord accompaniment for her protégé brother. Despite being a gifted musician, Nannerl must accept the 18th century convention from becoming a principal violinist and composer. This is a source of frustration to Nannerl but a chance meeting with Louise de France (Lisa Féret) daughter of King Louis XV, sees the girls become close friends. Louise entrusts a love letter to Nannerl to deliver to Hugues le Tourneur (Arthur Tos), when she visits the King’s Court in Versailles. There she meets the King’s son, the Dauphin (Clovis Fouin), who was recently widowed. Struck by her virtuoso he encourages her to compose and secretly commissions a chamber orchestra to perform her work, inviting her to play first violin. Conforming to the prevailing protocol, she’s forced to disguise herself as a male on these occasions. An unfulfilled love affair ensues with a plot not that far removed from Mozart opera. The movie is beautifully shot by Benjamin Echazarreta with some of the scenes filmed at the Palace at Versailles, which adds greatly to the film's sense of place and time. A balance of fact and fiction definately one for music lovers.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Special Treatment (Sans queue ni tête)

Director: Jeanne Labrune

Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Sabila Moussadek, Bouli Lanners

Alice Bergerac (Isabelle Huppert) is an aging high class prostitute who specializes in role playing routines for her clients. After a violent episode she is forced to leave her apartment and move in with friend Juliette (Sabila Moussadek). Alice now contemplates changing her life style and seeks the help from a psychiatrist. Eventually she meets Xavier Demestre (Bouli Lanners), a disillusioned psychoanalyst. They share one love, object d’art. The film gradually brings together and rhymes the skills and experiences of two very different disenchanted individuals. Despite good performances by the leads and strong support the movie is rather a bit of a non-event and what might have been a hilarious comedy is played straight and suffers as a consequence.