The grand seduction

Jean-François Pouliot’s 2003 film La grande séduction (en anglais AKA Seducing Doctor Lewis) was such a big hit at the Quebec box-office, that it beat the big American blockbusters coming out the same week-end. Then it won the World Cinema Audience award at the Sundance Film festival. In France, where the original film had a small successful run, there was a remake. The appeal of the story is universal, and could be adapted to any country. The film is set in Tickle Head, a small Newfoundland fishing village of about 120 people. But the fishing days are over and there are no jobs. The residents are resigned to collect welfare. The whole village line up once a month at the bank to cash their cheques. The spirit is pretty low. It is so bad the mayor runs away. At that moment a plastics manufacturer wants to open a factory. One of the condition : they have to get a resident doctor. Enter Dr. Lewis (Taylor Kitsch) who has had problem with the law and is forced to spend one month in Tickle Head. But is it possible to keep him? New mayor, Murray French (Irish actor Brendan Gleeson), has designed a plan. The residents will pretend to play cricket – the doctor’s favorite sport – instead of hockey, put some exotic food on the menu of the town’s only restaurant and some poor soul has to pretend to be an avid listener of fusion jazz, ect. They tap his phone to find out more details about him and his life. The original Quebec film was popular because all the actors in it were familiar faces from TV and movies. Quebecers love their stars. But the talents involved in this remake are all remarkable. Gleeson and Kitsch are excellent , as are Canadian great Gordon Pinsent and This hour has 22 minutes‘ Mary Walsh, Mark Critch and Cathy Jones. Director Don McKellar and writers Ken Scott and Michael Dowse did a good job with this remake. And the setting of Newfoundland is exactly right. The grand seduction is as typically Canadian, as La grande séduction was typically Québécois.

 Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The grand seduction

 

Directed by: 
Don McKellar
 
Screenplay by: 

Ken Scott

Michael Dowse
Based on Scott’ screenplay La Grande séduction
 
Starring: 
Brendan Gleeson
Taylor Kitsch
Liane Balaban
Gordon Pinsent
Mark Critch
Mary Walsh
Cathy Jones
 
115 min.

 

 

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Ida

The two women are holding each other. The younger is wearing a nun’s habit, while the older stares blankly and seems a little distraught. The framing of that shot also includes the ceramic wall behind them. Every shots in Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida are perfectly composed, always showing us the characters and their surroundings. Set in the early 1960s in Poland, Ida‘s main character is Anna, a young novice nun. Before taking her vows, she has to make contact with her only surviving relative. She meets her aunt Wanda, a chain-smoking, alcoholic, bitter woman. Wanda tells Anna that her name is actually Ida Lebenstein and that she is Jewish. They travel to find out what happened to Anna/Ida’s parents. The farmer who hid them during the war is reluctant to talk. The two of them are an odd pair. Anna, the nun and Wanda, the atheist who gets testy when Anna mentions God or pray. And Wanda smokes and drinks a lot, which does go well with Anna. But they become closer through the truths they uncover. Along the way they meet Lis, a young handsome saxophonist who was hitchhiking. Anna and Lis become friends. This film is about truths that have to be told, so that the younger generation will be aware of the their past. Ida is interesting on two counts: The acting from newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska and Agata Kulesza (winner of the Polish edition of Dancing with Stars). Kulesza is especially excellent, bringing some needed humor and cynicism. And that marvelous black-and-white Cinematography by Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski. There are lots of things to like in Ida, but I found the film too slow and the topic of little interest. However, esthetically Ida is as close to perfection as a film can get.

And the Oscar went to… Poland won its first Foreign language film Oscar in history for Ida. Accepting his award, director Pawel Pawlikowski ignored the musical cue signaling the end of his alloted time. The audience was having a ball, seeing that whatever the orchestra did, it had no effect. Pawlikowski kept speaking over the music. It was funny the first time, but when every winners did the same throughout the night, it got quite annoying. Next Oscar, install a trap. That’ll be funny!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Ida

 

Directed by: 
Pawel Pawlikowski
 
Screenplay by: 
Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Pawel Pawlikowski
 
Starring: 
Agata Kulesza
Agata Trzebuchowska
Joanna Kulig
Dawid Ogrodnik
 
80 min.
 
Rated Parental Guidance
 
In Polish with English subtitles.

 

Under the skin

I have never seen a film so effectively original as Under the skin. It has at times some of the same imaginative qualities of Stalanley Kybric’s 2001: A space odyssey and the nightmarish atmosphere of David Lynch’s Mulholland drive. But I am quite convinced of one thing : it is its own beast. The screenplay (adapted from Michel Faber’s novel, but barely recognizable) leaves lots of room for interpretations. Scarlett Johansson plays an unnamed woman who, we are led to believe, is an alien that has taken a human form. She drives around in a truck, asking men for directions, seducing and luring them to her apartment. To tell you more of what happens there, would spoil the surprise. Let’s just say that what is done to those men is beautifully strange, dark and cruel. The alien woman (like british director Jonathan Glazer and his crew) observes daily life on earth. In one moment she sees a drowning couple and kills the man who tried to save them. In another scene she picks up a man who is terribly deformed, then later on releases him. The alien woman gradually starts feeling more and more human and starts diverting from her mission. Under the skin is actually an experimental film disguised as a sci-fi film. It is peculiar because of Glazer’s use of documentary techniques (see bellow) in the context fiction film. The special effects are so beautiful that you feel you are in an art gallery, and you could actually say that about the entire film. Scarlett Johansson is one fearless, gutsy actress. She meets every challenges and demands to create a complex, scary, seductive and disturbing character. Visually stunning, dark but beautiful work by cinematographer Daniel Landin, who filmed on location in Glasgow, Scotland. And that score by Mica Levi scratches, or vibrates, or does whatever needs to be done to keep us on the edge of our seat, completely mesmerized. Everybody working on that film is brilliant. Not everyone is going to agree. Under the skin is going to annoy a lot of people. Too many things are left unexplained, left to our interpretation. It is also a violent, cruel film. But as scary as the actions of the alien woman are, it is the scenes of men attacking her that are shocking us. Not for every one to be sure. But this reviewer thinks Under the skin is a masterpiece.

You should know… Under the skin took 10 years to make. The adaptation of Michel Faber’s novel had several drafts. One earlier version had two aliens disguised as farmers, with Brad Pitt attached to the project. Apart from Johansson, Glazer mostly uses non-actors to play the men who become the alien’s prey. With a camera hidden in the back of Johansson’s truck , she had unscripted conversations with men. They were then asked to take part in the film and explained what the had to do (Including nudity). And when Scarlett Johansson accidentally fell on a sidewalk, it was kept in the film.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Under the skin

 

Directed by: 
Jonathan Glazer
 
Screenplay by: 
Walter Campbell
Based on the novel by Michel Faber
 
Starring: 
Scarlett Johansson
 
108 min.

Only lovers left alive

Vampires are very popular these days. There always seems to be a movie or TV series with vampires. Nones are like Only lovers left alive. That’s because director Jim Jarmusch’s screenplay is so original and the two main characters such creations, that you can almost feel the crew roaring with laughter in between takes. Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) have been in love for centuries. Adam lives in Detroit and has become a reclusive rock musician, complete with goth clothes and hair. He buys vintage guitars from a young “rock and roll kid” called Ian. Eve lives in Tangier and her uncontaminated blood provider and her BFF is Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe (the always excellent John Hurt). Adam buys his blood at the hospital from a certain Dr. Watson. Those modern vampires prefer not to kill to feed themselves. “This is the 21st century!” says Eve to a another vampire. Eve feels that Adam might be in danger, so she comes to Detroit to reunite with her husband. At night, Adam and Eve drive through a deserted Detroit. Then Eve’s younger sister, Eva (Mia Wasikowska) arrives. Adam does not like her. And she is indeed trouble. Tilda Swinton’s performance has much help by the mass of white/blond, braided, dusty hair. Or the yellowish leather coat that’s both modern and ancient. She walks in the narrow streets of Tangier, she looks like a dangerous animal looking for her next victim. Swinton, Hiddleston and Jarmusch’s screenplay full of snappy dialogue and intelligence. Esthetically the film is excellent, particularly the exteriors, either Detroit or Tangier. A great score by Dutch composer Jozef van Wissem, has a distorted electric guitar sound that seems perfect here.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Only lovers left alive

Directed by:
Jim Jarmusch
Screenplay by:
Jim Jarmusch
Starring:
Tilda Swinton
Tom Hiddleston
Mia Wasikowska
Anton Yelchin
Jeffrey Wright
John Hurt
123 min.
Rated 14A
In English with some French and Arabic with English subtitles.

Nymphomaniac: Volume 2

At the conclusion of Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Volume 1 (https://loveatthemovies.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/nymphomaniac-part-1), Joe was living with Jerôme and their son. She was unable to reach orgasm. As Volume 2 starts Joe seeks new, bolder ways to amuse herself. Stacy Martin briefly plays young Joe until Charlotte Gainsbourg takes over as older Joe. Like Volume 1, the story is told by older Joe to Seligman, the man who found her beaten in an alley. Seligman’s attempt to intelectualize every aspects of Joe’s life is starting to annoy her. Her story is getting darker as Joe gets into a sex threesome with two black men and meets a man called K (Jamie Bell) and discover bondage and sadomasochism. At the end of their conversation, Seligman tells her he’s not only asexual but a virgin. The scenes showing Gainsbourg tied to a couch, whipped by ropes were for me difficult to take with tongue in cheeks, like some reviewers are doing. I never liked von Trier’s films because I find them pretentious and Nymphomaniac only worked on my gag reflex.

You should know… To get the part Shia LaBeouf had to send photos of his penis. Says LaBeouf “I sent videotapes of me and my girlfriend having sex and that’s how I got the job.” During the sex scenes the actors’ sexual organs were digitally altered and replaced by those of models. Prosthetics were also used. The complete five-hour Nymphomaniac was released on December 25, 2013 in Denmark. Merry christmas!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

 Nymphomaniac: Volume 2

 

Directed by: 
Lars von Trier
 
Screenplay by: 
Lars von Trier
 
Starring: 
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Stellan Skarsgård
Shia LaBeouf
Stacy Martin
Jamie Bell
Christian Slater
Connie Nielsen
Uma Thurman
Udo Kier
 
120 min.
 
Rated Restricted; Coarse Language, Sexual Violence.

Cas & Dylan

Richard Dreyfuss and Tatiana Maslany give road movie Cas & Dylan more than enough to make it worthy. Dreyfuss plays Dr. Cas Pepper, a man dying of cancer. Cas wants to leave Winnipeg and drive to B.C. to be with a woman he loved. Enter Dylan Morgan, a young excentric wannabe writer with a motor mouth. She is escaping an abusing boyfriend. At first Cas can’t stand Dylan, but soon they get to appreciate each other. This is, like it or not, quite formulaic. Clashing personalities, funny at times with a thick slice of pathos toward the end and, of course, characters who were not supposed to get along ‘changing each other’s lives’. I liked Dreyfuss and Maslany’s company more than Cas and Dylan’s. Tatiana Maslany is better known for TV show Orphan Black in which she plays a multitude of characters. In Cas & Dylan, her wide expressive eyes let us penetrate inside a character that would otherwise be one-dimensional and annoying. Dreyfuss succeed in showing the gradual hold the cancer has on Cas’ body and spirit. This is for the most part a two character film. Canadian actress Jayne Eastwood has such a small part as the hotel receptionist that if you blink you miss it. Cas & Dylan was shot in Sudbury and Calgary with postcard cinematography and songs provided by Canadian performers like the Sheepdogs blasts through the car radio. This is Beverly Hills, 90210 (also Canadian) actor Jason Priestley’s directorial debut.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Cas & Dylan

 

Directed by: 
Jason Priestley
 
Screenplay by: 
Jessie Gabe
 
Starring: 
Richard Dreyfuss
Tatiana Maslany
Jayne Eastwood
Eric Peterson
  
90 min.
 
Rated 14A