Jeune & jolie (Young & beautiful)

Vacationing with her family in the south of France, 17-year-old Isabelle (Marine Vacth) loses her virginity, but does not feel anything. Back in Paris she becomes a high-end prostitute. She starts her own website, changes her name to Lea and meets older, rich men after school. 300 Euros is her price. She steals her mother’s dresses to look older, and pretends she’s 20. Her most regular client is a kind older gentleman called Georges. At home nobody knows her secret. That is until an accident happens, and Isabelle’s mom gets a call from the police. It will not please some people, but Jeune & jolie is not a morality tale with neat lessons to be taken home after the film is over. What I liked the most here is the fact that director François Ozon camera does not judge Isabelle. There are no narrator telling us what she is doing, or why she is doing it. Nothing is spelled out for us. Jeune & jolie is the cold, clinical exploration of the subject. Marine Vacth impressed me with her way she shows Isabelle from innocence, sexual detachment, defiance and finally maturity. Géraldine Pailhas as Sylvie, Isabelle’s mother also give an excellent performance. It is topped by the late arrival of Charlotte Rampling (a Ozon favorite), whose performance only lasts a few minutes. There is a lot of sex and nudity in Jeune & jolie. Certainly not for prudes. It is nevertheless a classy act. And talk of classy act, Ozon adds great song from French singer extraordinaire Francoise Hardy. Imagine! A French film with French songs! I thought I was dreaming. Four songs for the four seasons that frames Isabelle’s story.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Jeune & jolie (Young & beautiful)

 

Directed by: 
François Ozon
 
Screenplay by: 
François Ozon
 
Starring: 
Marine Vacth
Géraldine Pailhas
Frédéric Pierrot
Charlotte Rampling
 
95 min.
 
Rated 18A
 
In French with English subtitles.

Tracks

In 1977 Robyn Davidson undertook to walk 1,700 miles in the Australian desert accompanied by a dog and four camels. She wrote about her adventures for National Geographic and in the best-selling book Tracks. Now her story is brought to the screen by American born Australian John Curran director. Coming to the town of Alice Springs to learn about camels, Davidson, then 27-year-old, decides to travel from there to the Indian Ocean. Sponsored by National Geographic, the trip is documented by photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver), who annoys her terribly, but eventually becomes her friend and occasional lover. Along the way she meets Mr. Eddie (non professional actor Roly Mintuma), an old Aboriginal man who take her through sacred areas of the desert forbidden to women. Superbly played by Mia Wasikowska. To say that she “carries the movie” would be an understatement. There is not one scene without her, and for long stretches of the film she is alone. Alone with Diggity, the dog, and those beautiful camels, Dookie, Bubs, Zelly and Goliath. Dookie seems particularly ferocious, and has a set of teeth that could bite somebody’s head off. The best thing about Tracks is the cinematography by Mandy Walker. Simply beautiful.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

 Tracks

 

Directed by: 
John Curran
 
Screenplay by: 
Marion Nelson
Based on the memoir by Robyn Davidson
 
Starring: 
Mia Wasikowska
Adam Driver
Roly Mintuma
 
112 min.
 
Rated Parental Guidance

Fading gigolo

In this bittersweet comedy set in New York, actor-director John Turturro casts himself as Fioravante, a ladies man who takes on a new career (he’s originally a plumber) as an escort after bookshop owner Murray played by Woody Allen pimps him up with his beautiful but frustrated dermatologist played by Sharon Stone. He accepts reluctantly at first because of the moral aspect of things. After a while and a few more dates set up by Murray with women from the neighbourhood, he is more and more at ease with his new profession. Not to mention the financial advantages with being a gigolo. All this will change when he meets Avigal, (Vanessa Paradis) a young Hasidic with whom he’ll truly fall in love. If you can get beyond the impossibility of Sharon Stone paying John Turturro to join her in the sack you’ve got it made. Fading gigolo is a sweet and gentle film that takes its mood from its jazzy soundtrack. Music is important in this film. It sets the tone and creates the atmosphere. Woody Allen is very funny playing yet another variation of the permanently harassed, wise cracking paranoid character we saw him play in his own movies. This time he does it under the direction of John Turturro with sheer brilliance. The chemistry Allen-Turturro also works on the screen, especially in the scene where Allen cons Turturro into prostituting himself and sharing the profits with his new-found pimp. Sharon Stone is equal to the task as the dermatologist with sexual fantasies. Fading gigolo is a delightful sexy comedy with nice shots of Brooklyn. For the incurable romantics.
André St-Jacques
 
 
 
 Fading gigolo
 
 
Directed by: 
John Turturro
 
Screenplay by: 
John Turturro
 
Starring: 
John Turturro
Woody Allen
Vanessa Paradis
Sharon Stone
Sofía Vergara
Liev Schreiber
 
98 min.
 
Rated 14A

Tom à la ferme (Tom at the farm)

Young Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan was a big hit at this summer’s Cannes Film Festival. His film Mommy became the talk of the town. With his previous film, Tom à la ferme, Dolan shows a restraint you could not foresee from his other films. Tom (Xavier Dolan), a young advertiser ,travels to the country for the funeral of his boyfriend Guillaume. Guillaume was not out to his family. His mother Agathe still thinks he had a girlfriend named Sara. Francis, Guillaume’s brother, knows who Tom is, and violently convinces him to shut up. Francis is a violent homophobe, but like his mother, there is also a streak of fragility and vulnerability. After the funeral, when Tom tries to escape he is brought back by Francis. There is a scene in a corn field where Dolan creates (with his acting and his direction), a complete sence of emotional and directional confusion, which is perfect of course because that’s what Tom à la ferme is all about. Tom may try to escape, but is not able to. It becomes impossible when he finds the frame of is car mounted on bricks in the stable. The real question is: Does Tom really want to escape? Tom finds himself sexually attracted by the violence (and by Francis), and at the same time he is repulsed and creeped out by it. With the arrival of Sara, hysteria goes up a few notch, especially from Agathe who seem to suspect the truth about Guillaume. Dolan is a marvelously effective director of psychological thrillers. But his force here is in his cast, and how he directs them. Lise Roy’s Agathe is a woman with in a deceptively fragile physical and emotional state. Francis is played by Pierre-Yves Cardinal, and he shows all the right nuances of violent, aggressive, tenderness and all manners of sexual ambiguities. It so exciting to watch him and Dolan in a sort of cat and mouse emotional chase. But the best moment happens toward the end of Tom à la ferme. In a conversation Tom has with a barman ( Dolan’s father Manuel Tadros) he is told Francis and Guillaume’s terrible secret. In its simplicity and subtle acting, it reveals the greatness of Dolan as a director. Dolan and Michel Marc Bouchard adapted Bouchard’s play. And we should not forget Gabriel Yared’s tense score creating dysfunctional musicality.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Tom à la ferme (Tom at the farm)

 

Directed by: 
Xavier Dolan
 
Screenplay by: 
Xavier Dolan
Michel Marc Bouchard
Based on Bouchard’s play
 
Starring: 
Xavier Dolan
Pierre-Yves Cardinal
Lise Roy
Evelyne Brochu
Manuel Tadros
 
105 min.
 
Rated 14A
 
In French with English subtitles

For no good reason

This documentary is about British cartoonist Ralph Steadman. We’ve all seen his work (or from other artists that are similar to Steadman’s. For instance, the Pink Floyd album The wall and the film of the same name are Gerald Scarfe’s design). His illustrations can be found in new editions of Alice in Wonderland, Animal farm and Fahrenheit 451, or on film posters (Withnail and I, Where the buffalo roam). But his most frequent collaborator is writer Hunter S. Thompson. Steadman illustrated some of Thompson’s articles published in American magazines. Steadman is also well-known for his visual take on key issues of the 1970’s (the Vietnam war, Nixon and Watergate, ect). In 1971, Thompson wrote Fear and loathing in Las Vegas, and Steadman came on board to illustrate the book. Johnny Depp acts here as narrator and we see him visiting Steadman. Depp is Steadman’s friend and was in the film version of Fear and loathing in Las Vegas, but I found his presence to be out place, as he takes the focus away from Steadman and Thompson. For no good reason is visually stunning film. We see him create beautiful illustrations from splashes and botches of paint. His life and his artwork make for a good night at the movies.

 Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

For no good reason

 

Directed by: 
Charlie Paul
 
Narrated by
Johnny Depp
 
89 min.
 
Rated 14A

La petite reine‏

Julie Arsenault, a star of cycling is two races away from the world cup. She loves her sport, the spotlight and all the hoopla that goes with it. Encouraged by her coach and doctor, she takes performance enhancers from age 14. Since she is a high-profile athlete, the  anti-doping agency keeps an eye on her. After a close call test in Phoenix Arizona where Julie trains, the agency zeroes in on her doctor who, in order to save his hide denounces her. A scandal ensues. A deeply troubled and upset Julie tries to mask the truth along with her unscrupulous coach. This film is based on the life of ex-cyclist Geneviève Jeanson who was implicated in a scandal involving EPO, a performance enhancer, illegal in cycling competitions. Jeanson collaborated as a consultant on the film. Laurence Leboeuf offers a strong performance as Julie, a.k.a. Geneviève who thrives and has to live with a lie in order to keep her place in the sun and the spotlights on her. Patrice Robitaille steals the show as the unscrupulous, manipulative coach who will stop at nothing to brainwash and control Julie just for the sake of winning. The film is an interesting reflection on how far athletes are willing to go to be the best. You can’t watch this film without thinking of Lance Armstrong or Ben Johnson. All athletes who wanted to be the best, who cheated  and who, in the end disgraced themselves. The higher they want to climb, the harder they will fall. A must see movie this summer for sports fans, although it might leave a  sour taste in their mouth. 
 
 
 André St-Jacques
 
 
La petite reine‏
 
 
Directed by: 
Alexis Durand-Brault
 
Screenplay by: 
Sophie Lorain
Catherine Léger
 
Starring:
Laurence Leboeuf 
Patrice Robitaille
Denis Bouchard
Josée Deschênes
Jeff Boudreault
Mélanie Pilon
 
108 Min.
 
In French
 

We are the best! (Vi är bäst!)

Bobo and Klara are two 13-year-old girls. Being ignored by their parents and seen as weirdos at school, they have only each other to rely on. On a dare they decide to form a punk band . Problem is: they don’t know how to play. The girls have written a song railing against the gym teacher. Eventually they meet Hedvig who play classical guitar. Hedvig is also an outcast at school due to her Christian upbringing. The three become friends as they try to perfect their playing. Director Lukas Moodysson lets his young actresses improvise and that helps keep the spontaneity and the material fresh. Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin and Liv LeMoyne are fun to watch and seems to be having a good time. Some of the scenes are longer that is needed Without being a great film it has its charm and is worth it mostly for the three leads.

 Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

 We are the best! (Vi är bäst!)

 

Directed by: 
Lukas Moodysson
 
Screenplay by: 
Lukas Moodysson
Based on the graphic novel by Coco Moodysson
 
Starring: 
Mira Barkhammar
Mira Grosin
Liv LeMoyne
David Dencik
Alexander Karlsson
Anna Rydren
 
102 min. 

Rated 14A

In Swedish with English subtitles.
 
 

Quai d’Orsay (The French Minister)

Bertrand Tavernier’s Quai d’Orsay is a deliciously brainy comedy. It takes place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where young Arthur Vlaminck (Raphaël Personnaz) gets hired as a speechwriter for Minister Alexandre Taillard de Worms. The film is based a very successful French comic book series. Taillard de Worms is based on Dominique de Villepin who was France’s Foreign Affairs Minister between 2002-2004, and then Prime Minister. Played with gusto by French star Thierry Lhermitte, this character is a bombastic train wreck. An incompetent double-talker who constantly contradict himself, he enters every room slamming doors, papers flying all over the place. The Minister’s tantrums about how important it is for him to get the right highlighters, or the need to find quotes from Greek philosopher Heraclitus included in every speech are some of the highlights. Arthur receives a lot of help and support from the Chief of staff. Claude is really the person who runs the ministry. Time after time, we see him patiently trying to fix the mess created by the Minister. Niels Arestrup (Un prophète) is incredibly effective here. He calmly whispers every line, with perfect diction and enunciation. The rest of the ensemble cast is excellent. The complex world of politic is well served by an intelligent screenplay. Great fun.

You should know… The Quai d’Orsay comic book’s authors are Christophe Blain and Abel Lanzac. Lanzac’s real name is Antonin Baudry, former speechwriter for Dominique de Villepin (memorably portrayed by Samuel Labarthe in Xavier Durringer’s 2011 film La Conquête). In Quai d’Orsay, actress Julie Gayet plays a sexy counselor. In 2013 a French magazine revealed as President François Hollande’s mistress.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

 Quai d’Orsay (The French Minister)

 

Directed by: 
Bertrand Tavernier
 
Screenplay by: 
Christophe Blain
Abel Lanzac
Bertrand Tavernier
Based on Blain and Lanzac’s comic strip
 
Starring: 
Thierry Lhermitte
Raphaël Personnaz
Niels Arestrup
Julie Gayet
 
113 min.
 
In French with English subtitles.

 

The German doctor (Wakolda)

Josef Mengele was the most infamous Nazi doctor. He was also called The angel of death. At Auschwitz concentration camp, he was in charge of the selection of victims to be killed in gas chambers. But he is mostly known for performing unscientific and deadly human experiments on prisoners. He escaped justice and settled in South America. In The German doctor, Mengele is in Patagonia (a region shared by both Argentina and Chile). We are in 1960 and Mengele (under the alias of Dr. Helmut Gregor) meets Eva and Enzo and their 12-year-old daughter, Lilith. The couple have inherited a hotel and Mengele moves in. Too small for her age Lilith is terribly unhappy at her new school. The doctor proposes treatments to make her grow, but Enzo declines. But Eva secretly brings her daughter to see Mengele. Lilith seems to be attracted by Mengele’s attentions towards her. He also becomes Eva’s doctor as she goes through a pregnancy. A Nazi Hunter has infiltrated Mengele ‘s entourage. The German doctor has an atmosphere of depravity. The acting from Àlex Brendemühl as Mengele and Florencia Bado as Lilith is admirable. But I found the film slow and uneventful and at the end disappointing as a suspense or a historical drama.

 Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

 The German doctor (Wakolda)

 

Directed by: 
Lucía Puenzo
 
Screenplay by: 
Lucía Puenzo
Based on her novel Wakolda
 
Starring: 
Àlex Brendemühl
Florencia Bado
Diego Peretti
Natalia Oreiro
Elena Roger
 
93 min.
 
Rated Parental Guidance
 
In Spanish and some bits of German and Hebrew with English subtitles.

En solitaire

Staring François Cluzet as navigator Yann Kermadeck determined to win the Vendée Globe, a 3 month-long race arround the world where each navigators sail their yacht alone. Kermadeck is in full control of the race right until he discovers a clandestine passenger on board the yacht. After the initial shock, and mutual mistrust, they will learn to work together. A secondary intrigue shows us a difficult relationship between Yann’s new girlfriend and his young daughter. The film offers a rugged and realistic view at international sailing races. But on the cinematic side of things, En solitaire fails to offer characters you want to spend time with. Cluzet offers a solid performance as a tough sea wolf, but that’s it. The relationship between Kermadeck and Mano (the clandestine lad) falls flat and is not credible. Same goes for the secondary plot: it is purely melodramatic and insipid. On the positive side, there are amazing sea shots that demonstrates the roughness of life at sea. There’s not enough substance to keep you interested for the duration. If you are a fan of sailing races, well that’s another story. The photography is splendid as one could expect. The rest of the picture is pretty average and falls to some kind of film formula often seen in the past.
André St-Jacques
 
 
En solitaire
 
 
Director:
Christophe Offenstein
 
Screenplay
Frédéric Petitjean
Pierre Marcel
Marc Guilbert
Christophe Offenstein
 
Staring:
François Cluzet
Samy Seghir
Virginie Efira
Guillaume Canet
Karine Vanasse
 
93 min.
 
In French.