Macbeth

The reason why I’m not a fan of William Shakespeare has nothing to do with the work itself. As a French-Canadian, I find it difficult to understand what is being said. Heck, some English-speaking folks might also be challenged. The only times I have enjoyed his plays is when they were translated into French. This is the plot: After Scottish General Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is victorious in the war against Norway, three witches tell him he is soon to become King of Scotland. Having heard of this prophecy, his wife Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) conspires with Macbeth to kill King Duncan (David Thewlis). Then he has to kill again and again to get to the throne or to remain there. This Macbeth owes a lot to the Game of thrones TV series. To say that the production is overblown would be an understatement. Everything is shot in the darkest of fog, or it is always raining. In the opening battle, the soldiers are dirty with war paint, mud and blood. Rivers of blood are cascading from the wounds. You know the makeup department went crazy, when the witches look like characters from Star trek : The next generation. And in the last scene, everything seems to be burning because everything is red. Contrasting that is the minimalist acting from the two leads. Fassbender manages to simultaneously whisper and growl all his lines. My research told me that Lady Macbeth has a classic sleepwalking scene. Someone must have forgotten to tell Marion Cotillard she did not have to sleepwalk through the whole film, because I could not say where the sleepwalking happened and when it stopped. Anyway, Justin Kurzel adapted, rewrote and changed the play so much that purists and lovers of Macbeth are bound to be angry. And me? I just found it dreadful.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Macbeth

Directed by:
Justin Kurzel

Screenplay by:
Jacob Koskoff
Michael Lesslie
Todd Louiso

Starring:
Michael Fassbender
Marion Cotillard
David Thewlis
Paddy Considine
Sean Harris
Elizabeth Debicki

113 min.

Rated 14A

2015’s Top Ten Films

Was 2015 a good year for films? How does it compare with last year? Well, for one thing, there is no film as good as Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. But those ten films shows a great variety of styles and genres. Again this year, all the films on my list were premiered at Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema. Have a happy new year!

1. Carol directed by Todd Haynes

Twentysomething Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) and Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) glance at each other from across a crowded Manhattan department store. And bang! It’s a “love at first sight” moment like you’ve never seen. Haynes and screenwriter Phyllis Nagy get everything exactly right. From Mara and Blanchett’s complementary performances, to great work from costume designer Sandy Powell, cinematographer Edward Lachman and composer Carter Burwell. Carol‘s last scene is simply Breathtaking!

https://loveatthemovies.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/carol/

2. Room directed by Lenny Abrahamson

Joy (Brie Larson) was abducted and has been locked in “room” for seven years. Her son, five years old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has never seen the outside world. After they escape, they have to face the world together. A unique mother and son relationship, with starmaking performances by Larson and Tremblay. Heart pounding!

https://loveatthemovies wordpress.com/2015/11/06/room/

3. Relatos salvajes (Wild tales) directed by Damián Szifrón

Wild tales is a collection of six stories who are connected only by its common theme : The world is a dark and awful place, let’s have fun! An audience favorite no matter where it plays. Argentine director-screenwriter Damián Szifrón has a vivid imagination and a devilish view of human nature. The most fun I’ve had at the movies in years.

https://loveatthemovies wordpress.com/2015/03/13/wild-tales-relatos-salvajes/

4. Phoenix directed by Christian Petzold

Concentration camp survivor, Nelly Lenz (emotionally wrenching Nina Hoss) is unrecognizable after reconstructive surgery. Even her husband does not recognize her. She’s still in love with him until she finds out the truth about him. A great melodrama with the perfect, simple climax, and a director that knows a thing or two about telling stories.

https://loveatthemovies.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/phoenix/

5. Testament of youth directed by James Kent

Adapted from Vera Brittain’s memoirs, Testament of youth, is an account of the First World War from a woman’s perspective. Young Vera (Swedish actress Alicia Vikander) joined the war effort as a V.A.D. nurse, and saw those she loved die. Testament of youth is a beautiful anti-war poem.

https://loveatthemovies.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/1184/

6. Guibord s’en va-t-en guerre (Going to war with Guibord or My internship in Canada) directed by Philippe Falardeau

Patrick Huard is Steve Guibord, an independent MP for a Quebec riding finds out that he holds the balance of power and he’ll decide if Canada will go to war. Every aspects of Canadian political and cultural life is parodied, but Falardeau and Huard make you love Canada even more.

https://loveatthemovies.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/1360/

7. Une nouvelle amie (The new girlfriend) directed by François Ozon

As a recently widowed crossdresser, it’s like Romain Duris plays on a tightrope. Does he play a man dressed as a woman, a woman or a man slowly becoming a woman? And François Ozon keeps us guessing until the last scene, with a healthy dose of those Ozon campy aesthetics.

https://loveatthemovies wordpress.com/2015/08/28/une-nouvelle-amie-the-new-girlfriend/

8. La famille Bélier (The Bélier family) directed by Eric Lartigau

First time actress Louane Emera is Paula, the shy daughter of deaf farmers. Paula never thought she could sing until she gets involved into the school choir. La famille Bélier is the most effective tearjecker I have ever seen. And you can thank Louane Emera for that. And Michel Sardou’s songs.

https://loveatthemovies wordpress.com/2015/07/02/la-famille-belier-the-belier-family/

9. Jafar Panahi’s Taxi directed by Jafar Panahi

Iranian film director Jafar Panahi has been banned from making film in Iran. Don’t let that stop him. He films with a rotating camera on the dashboard of his taxi, with a cellphone and a portable camera. When Panahi is asked what he considers a good film, he answers that all films are good. Indeed.

https://loveatthemovies wordpress.com/2015/11/15/jafar-panahis-taxi/

10. Every thing will be fine directed by Wim Wenders

When young writer Tomas (James Franco) accidentally kills a young boy, he does not know the ripple effects it will have for him, but also on the grieving mother (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and the surviving older brother. German director Wim Wenders delivers a reflective film about how we cope or how we don’t. And how time heals.

https://loveatthemovies.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/every-thing-will-be-fine/

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Carol

In 2002 American film director Todd Haynes made Far from heaven, his beautiful homage to the Douglas Sirk women melodrama of the 1950s. Then in 2011, there was Mildred Pierce, a five-hour miniserie for HBO. Starring Kate Winslet it was set in the 1930s. So, after watching Carol, you could say that Haynes is enamored with the past. Carol is adapted from the 1952 Patricia Highsmith novel, The price of salt. It all starts when a man interrupts a conversation between his co-worker, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) and an older woman, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett). Although we have no idea what was said, the atmosphere was charged with tension. As Therese looks out the car window, she can see Carol leave the Ritz-Carlton through the steamy glass. And she remembers when she first met Carol. That day they furtively glanced at each other from across a crowded Manhattan department store. Bang! It’s a “love at first sight” moment. If Therese had any doubts about her attraction to women, now is the turning point. Carol already knows. It’s Christmas and twentysomething Therese works in the toy department. Carol is there to buy a doll for her daughter. Although Therese has a boyfriend, we feel there is a certain lack of passion and enthusiasm, at least from Therese’s perspective. As for Carol, she is seeking divorce from her husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler). When Harge becomes aware of the two women’s relationship, he threatens to fight for sole custody of their daughter. He even hires a private investigator to have proofs he can bring up in court. Blanchett plays the lesbian seductress with painstaking attention to details, playing with Carol’s costume accessories : the gloves, the fur coat, the purse, the high heels, etc. All done with hushed tones, sultry, breathy voice. “I like the hat!”, she whispers to Therese, who is wearing a Santa Claus hat. Everything is meant to seduce. How she stand in the middle of the department store, the way she is pointing to her own hat, and that mischievous smile… That smile that lets Therese in on the joke, it says, “I know you want to, and you know you want to. So why don’t we?”. But Haynes and screenwriter Phyllis Nagy are in no hurry. The two women don’t even kiss until much later in the film, so the sex scene is even more passionate and meaningful because of that. Even if Rooney Mara has more screen time than Blanchett, Carol seems to be the more interesting character. It is only once Carol is over that we get the full impact and greatness of Mara’s understated performance. How do you play someone who is never sure of anything and who constantly doubts herself and the choices she makes? This is what it was like for gays and lesbians in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Mara’s Therese is uncommitted, dispassionate and awaiting something (somebody) who will her feel alive. And Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett are brilliant together. I also want to note Sarah Paulson who plays Carol’s former lover. Haynes has cleverly brought back Far from heaven‘s costume designer Sandy Powell (Carol’s fur coat, wow!). But with Carol we are in the real 1950s, so cinematographer Edward Lachman films things in such a realistic, unvarnished light, that we are in the 1950s. Composer Carter Burwell is one of my favorite film composer, and in Carol he seems to be the glue that make it all work. At the end Carol left me and other reviewers at a lost for words. This is my favorite film of 2015. Simply put: Breathtaking!

You should know… Patricia Highsmith’s The price of salt was published in 1952 under the pseudonym  of  Claire Morgan because of the subject. It was popular among lesbians in the 1950s because it had an ending with the possibility of happiness that defied the lesbian pulp formula and because of the unconventional characters that defied stereotypes about lesbian characters.

And the Oscar went to… Carol did not win a single award. Best actress went to Brie Larson for Room, Best supporting Actress to Alicia Vikander for The Danosh girl. And Carter Burwel lost the Best score to 87 years old Ennio Morricone, who won his first Oscar for The hateful eight.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Carol

Directed by:
Todd Haynes

Screenplay by:
Phyllis Nagy
Based on the novel The price of salt by Patricia Highsmith

Starring:
Cate Blanchett
Rooney Mara
Sarah Paulson
Kyle Chandler

118 min.

Rated 14A

 

Theeb

1916. We are in the Ottoman Empire and young Theeb (meaning “wolf” in Arabic) is standing by a tombstone marked by a single triangle. Theeb’s father is buried there. He was a Bedouin Sheikh. Theeb (Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat) and his older brother, Hussein (Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen), and their Bedouin tribe are living in the Jordanian desert. Bedouins are peaceful. First time director Naji Abu Nowar says, “In Bedouin law, if a stranger arrives at your tent requesting refuge, you must grant him protection until the threat can be peacefully resolved. This is known as the law of Dakheel”. So when British soldier Edward (Jack Fox) and his guide come and asks for an escort, new Sheikh, Hmoud, sends Hussein with them. The blond stranger has picked Theeb’s curiousity. And what is in that mysterious wooden box that nobody is allowed to touch? Theeb secretly follows the men but he is stranded when he gets thrown off his camel. So Theeb winds up traveling with Hussein and Edward. They are attacked by a group of violent Bedouin thieves. Theeb has to survive the most dangerous situations and even come face to face with one of the thieves (Hassan Mutlag Al-Maraiyeh). Except for British actor Jack Fox, Nowar has used non-professional actors. The most impressive of those is young Jacir, who is in every scenes and literally carries the film. Despite its apparent Oriental locations and subject, Theeb is very much an Occidental production. The director was born in the UK, editor Rupert Loyd also took a producer credit. The stunningly beautiful photography is by Austrian cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler. The score by London based composer Jerry Lane is perfect, but he does not fall into the expected trap of exotic, traditional intrumentations and instead, he uses the full orchestral palette to tell a story that is completely foreign to us westerners. Just as Maurice Jarre did with Lawrence of Arabia. But Nowar also plays around with silences. The sparseness of the dialogue are loaded with meaningful silences. But silence can be deadly. And at night in the desert, in the dark when silence is interrupted by sudden, deafening chaos. Highly recommended.

And the Oscar went to… Best foreign language film went to Son of Saul from Hungary.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Theeb

Directed by:
Naji Abu Nowar

Screenplay by:
Naji Abu Nowar
Bassel Ghandour

Starring:
Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat
Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen
Hassan Mutlag Al-Maraiyeh
Jack Fox

100 min.

In Arabic and English with English subtitles

 

Every thing will be fine

Every thing will be fine is the latest film by German director Wim Wenders, and it is notable for its peculiarity. It’s peculiar because there is not really a point or a sence of what Wenders wants us to see, to comprehend. What does it mean? The story is simple: The main character is Tomas (James Franco) a young author. Driving his car on a Quebec country road during a snow storm, Tomas has an accident. At first he is relieved to find that 5 years-old Christopher is uninjured, and he walks the boy to his house. That’s when he meets the boy’s mother, Kate (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and he learns that the dead body of Christopher’s younger brother is under the car. The film explores the impact the accident has on Tomas over the next 12 years. After going through depression, a suicide attempt and the break up with his girlfriend, Sara (Rachel McAdams), life gets better for Tomas. The writer’s block that hampered him is over, and it seems that the tragedy has inspired his writing. He becomes a successful writer and falls in love with Ann (Marie-Josée Croze). Still, Tomas feels the need to go back to that traumatic country road and reconnect with Kate. Later, it’s Christopher, now a teenager (Robert Naylor) who wants to meet Tomas. It is impossible to categorized Every thing will be fine. You could say it is a psychological thriller, but that is not entirely true. Wenders uses some of Hitchcock’s techniques, like the subjective point of views. There is a beautifully shot phone conversation between Tomas and Kate. Through editing, fade in and fade out effects, they seem to be in the same room. There is suspense, scary and intriguing moments. Franco is very good, but Gainsbourg annoyed me with her tendency to whisper every lines and as a result make them inaudible. But this is not about acting, but about how we cope or how we don’t. And how time heals.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Every thing will be fine

Directed by:
Wim Wenders

Screenplay by:
Bjørn Olaf Johannessen

Starring:
James Franco
Rachel McAdams
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Marie-Josée Croze
Robert Naylor
Patrick Bauchau

119 min.

 

Brooklyn

Adapted from Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel, Brooklyn is not what you would call exciting. Except, of course, if you are a fan of the novel and you like the commas and dots, the Ps and Qs all lined up properly as they are in the novel. After all, one would not like to be too original, would one? Saoirse Ronan plays Eilis Lacey, a young Irish woman who in 1952 has decided to immigrate to the United States to find a job and build a better life for herself. She stays at Mrs. Kehoe’s boardinghouse in Brooklyn. Once again, as Mrs. Kehoe, Julie Walters assaults the audience and the camera in yet another overbearing, unsubtle performance. At first, Eilis is homesick and misses her mother and sister terribly. She gets support from Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) who offers to pay for bookkeeping courses. Then Eilis meets Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), a nice young man from a Italian and they fall in love. Eilis marries Tony just before she has to go back to Ireland where her sister died. She hides the news of her marriage to family and friends. If she feels a slight pressure to remain in Ireland, Eilis does not put too much resistance. She gets a job as a bookkeeper and Jim Farrell (Domnhall Gleeson), a young bachelor, start courting her. Eilis even ignores Tony’s letters. There are a lot of talk of Saoirse Ronan as a possible Oscar contender. Personally, I found both Ronan and the film boring and uninvolving. Emory Cohen impressed me most. His scenes with Ronan are delicate and sweet. You find yourself going back to a more romantic, innocent era. Brooklyn was shot in Ireland and Montreal. Quebec cinematographer Yves Bélanger does an exquisite job in the second half with those beautiful Irish sceneries. Brooklyn has enough romance, but not enough passion.

And the Oscar went to… Brooklyn lost Best picture to Spotlight, it was not his to win. Saoirse Ronan may have had a chance as Best actress, but it was Brie Larson that was awarded for Room.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Brooklyn

Directed by:
John Crowley

Screenplay by:
Nick Hornby
Based on the novel by Colm Tóibín

Starring:
Saoirse Ronan
Emory Cohen
Domhnall Gleeson
Jim Broadbent
Julie Walters

112 min.
Rated Parental Guidance