C’est la vie! (Le sens de la fête)

It’s going to be a beautiful day. Pierre and Héléna are getting married. That is if everything goes according to plan. Wedding planner Max (Jean-Pierre Bacri) certainly hopes so. It’s a big outfit. A 17th-century castle was rented with the reception is to be held in the garden. A ton of staff has been hired, most of them waiters, but also musicians, sound men, electricians, assistants and a wedding photographer. From the start there are a number of small annoyances. The groom’s prefered wedding singer/DJ cancelled, and Max had to hire DJ James (Gilles Lellouche). But Max’s assistant, Adele (scene-stealer Eye Haidara), cannot stand DJ James, and she has no problem voicing her dislike to his face. Max’s brother-in-law, Julien (Vincent Macaigne), is one of the waiter. Julien recognizes the bride as one of his old girlfriend and remains obsessed by her throughout the reception. The photographer starts eating the food before it is served. As if it was not enough, Max’s personal life is also in shambles. As he is about to divorce, his other assistant but also his mistress, Josiane (Quebec actress Suzanne Clément from Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways and Mommy), threatens to end their relationship and starts flirting with a young waiter in order to make Max jealous. Without telling the staff, Max has been planning to sell the business. He had enough! What I liked about C’est la vie! is that it is unmistakably French. A good ensemble cast, headed by the wonderful Jean-Pierre Bacri and an extremely funny script peppered with just enough magic. This not a masterpiece, but it is worth seeing.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

C’est la vie! (Le sens de la fête)

 

Directed by:
Olivier Nakache
Eric Toledano

Screenplay by:
Olivier Nakache
Eric Toledano

Starring:
Jean-Pierre Bacri
Eye Haidara
Gilles Lellouche
Jean-Paul Rouve
Vincent Macaigne
Alban Ivanov
Suzanne Clément

115 min.

Rated 14A

In French with English subtitles.

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The death of Stalin

When Joseph Stalin suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1954 he urinated on himself. This is a true historical fact that is taken very lightly by director Armando Iannucci and his team. As Stalin’s associates are gathering around him they try to figure out what to do with him. He’s not dead yet, so they kneel to help him, and of course they kneel in the pee. They step in it or they touch him and retreat in disgust. It’s milked until its last drop. You’ve guessed it, The death of Stalin is a comedy about the death of Russian dictator Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin). The labyrinthine script is about the power struggle to take the job of Chairman of Council of ministers of the Soviet Union is lampooned. The next in line is the deputy chairman Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor). But Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale), chief of the Soviet security, sees an opportunity to take control. But Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), then a Stalin adviser, is not happy with Beria (or with anything much). They’re all dumb and/or paranoid, and they hate one another. It’s a great cast but I can’t name all of them here. The most noteworthy are Monty Python’s Michael Palin, Rupert Friend as Vasily Stalin, Stalin’s demented son and Jason Isaacs as Georgy Zhukov, an aggressive military officer who wants to rule everyone. But the best performances are from Simon Russell Beale who gives the film its early drive, Buscemi who does the same in the second half. The death of Stalin is not always great or even funny. but it is fascinating. There is so many f-bombs it might put some people off. (The last time I’ve heard that many in a film was In the loop also directed by Iannucci) There was a lot of criticism about historical accuracy. Duh! Do I cared? Not really.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The death of Stalin

 

Directed by:
Armando Iannucci

Screenplay by:
Armando Iannucci
David Schneider
Ian Martin
Peter Fellows
Based on the comic book La mort de Staline by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin

Starring:
Simon Russell Beale
Steve Buscemi
Adrian McLoughlin
Andrea Riseborough
Michael Palin
Jeffrey Tambor
Rupert Friend
Jason Isaacs
Olga Kurylenko
Paul Whitehouse

106 min.

The leisure seeker

At the last Academy Awards, host Jimmy Kimmel offered a Jet Ski to the Oscars winner who gave the shortest acceptance speech. Presenting the Jet Ski like a The price is right model, and obviously having the most fun of the evening, was Dame Helen Mirren. And that’s not all! At the end of the Oscar-cast the Jet Ski was rolled on the stage with the winner (Phantom thread costume designer Mark Bridges) and Dame Helen riding on the Jet Ski. In The leisure seeker Mirren co-stars with Canadian icon Donald Sutherland (their last film together was Bethune: The making of a hero in 1990). They play Ella and John Spencer, an elderly couple (Mirren is 72, Sutherland 82) who decide to run away for a last road trip in their motor home, baptized “The leisure seeker”. They are going across America. They did that without telling their children, Will and Jane (Christian McKay and Janel Moloney). The children are understandably worried since Ella suffers from what we guess is cancer and John has Alzheimer. But Ella and John don’t look too bothered by anything. They’re having a great time. While driving the motor home John, a retired English teacher, constant reciting of Hemingway annoys Ella. Sometimes they park the motor home at camping sites, and at night Ella shows John slides of old family photos. He sometimes remembers, and sometimes not. Often other campers gathers behind them to watch the slides. It’s our collective memories, one’s family being like all families. This is America and when they get robbed, Ella knows how to defend herself. And John goes to a Donald Trump rally. And he likes it. Hey! this a road movie, and like all such films they could be painted by numbers. That is if it wasn’t for the two stars. At first Sutherland plays John as a quiet, withdrawn. And he starts talking, and boy does he talk. Layers upon layers the character becomes more complex. Helen Mirren has played Queens and Shakespearean tragedies, but I’ve never seen her play someone like Ella Spencer. A thick southern accented American with a gun, hopping on a motorbike, holding on to her wig and swearing all the way. This is funny, but also sad. People should not forget that this is a film about two people in love. Their last days, as they say, are numbered. So bring your handkerchief.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The leisure seeker

 

Directed by:
Paolo Virzi

Screenplay by:
Paolo Virzì
Francesca Archibugi
Francesca Piccolo
Stephen Amidon
Based on the novel by Michael Zadoorian

Starring:
Donald Sutherland
Dame Helen Mirren
Christian McKay
Janel Maloney
Dana Ivey

112 min.

The insult (قضية رقم ٢٣)

In The insult we see what can happen when two men let their ideological pride color the way they treat each other. Tony Hanna is a Lebanese garage owner. Tony (Adel Karam) is a staunch Christian party follower. His wife, Shirine (Rita Hayek), is pregnant with their first child. One day water from their drain pipe drips on Yasser Salameh (Kamel El Basha), a construction foreman doing some road repairs. Yasser is Palestinian refugee. Both men hate each other. After Yasser insults him, Tony demands an apology. Despite their wives, friends and family telling them that they should be kinder, words are exchanged and matters gets worse when Yasser punches Tony in the stomach. It escalates even more when Shirine is sent to the hospital. Both mother and child are in danger. That’s when Tony decides to sue Yasser. Tony has a team of lawyers, headed by veteran Wajdi Wehbe (Camille Salameh). As for Yasser, he is defended by a young female lawyer (Diamand Bou Abboud). In the courtroom or outside, Tony and Yasse have started a small civil war. For both men there is too much pain in the past, but maybe they could co to an understanding. At court it is discovered that the lawyers are father and daughter. Even though it’s a bit too formated, the film is still well constructed and well acted. Very good.

And the Oscar went to… The insult was Lebanon’s nominee for Foreign language film, but lost to A fantastic woman from Chile.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The insult (قضية رقم ٢٣)

 

Directed by:
Ziad Doueiri

Screenplay by:
Ziad Doueiri
Joelle Touma

Starring:
Adel Karam
Kamel El Basha
Camille Salameh
Rita Hayek
Christine Choueiri
Diaman Bou Abboud

Rated 14A

113 min.

In Arabic with English subtitles.

Cannes Lions international festival of creativity 2017

The world of commercials have changed so much over the years. The ads used to be almost entirely played on TV between on commercial breaks, each commercials usually lasting no more than 30 seconds. Now that they can play on youtube or be made for a company’s website, there’s no time limit. Some of the commercials are more like short films. I must admit that this year was a very good year. I’ve notice that there was no ads about cars. There are a few about road safety. One of them is a commercial from Quebec about a man who laughs at everything while looking at his text messages. Among the memorable ads is one where an ostrich wears virtual reality goggles. It think it can fly. In a French ad, a man who was terribly disfigured in a fire goes out on Halloween. People think he is wearing a mask and he can dance and have fun like everybody. This is troubling and heartfelt. My favorite is from a traveling agency. Several people go through a DNA test to attest their ancestry, and challenged to travel to the countries of the test. Some of those people are initially prejudiced about other nationalities (“I am better than you,” says one man to the interviewers.). They are surprised and pleased when they find out they really did not know their origins. There are also a lot of Nike ads. One is about powerful young girls doing sports. And I really like the Nike ad done for the Paralympics. This year’s collection is impressive. I recommend.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Cannes Lions international festival of creativity 2017

 

Various directors

112 min.

Rated 14A

Meditation park

One thing is certain, Meditation park will never pass as a cinematic masterpiece. But it is pleasant and heartwarming. One of the main attraction is veteran Chinese actress Cheng Pei Pei as Maria. Born in Hong Kong, Maria emigrated to Canada with her husband Bing (Tzi Ma) and raised a family. Maria’s devotion to Bing is such that she is still learning to speak English. Her interactions with the outside world has been kept to a minimum. One day she finds a pair of woman’s underwear in Bing’s pocket. At about the same time her daughter, Ava (Nepean’s Sandra Oh) brings the news that Charlie, her brother (Maria and Bing’s estranged son) is getting married. Maria knows very well that it is pointless to ask Bing to attend the wedding. But Maria has made up her mind. She tries to make money, meets new friends, learns to bike with the help of a neighbour, Gabriel (Don McKellar). And Maria even follows her husband to see if he’s having an affair. Maria is on the path to liberation. This is not a film with the greatest technical achievements, but it tells a story that is not often told about people who are not the usual movie characters. And with Cheng Pei Pei, Tzi Ma, Don McKellar and the exquisite Sandra Oh, it is worth seeing.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Meditation park

 

Directed by:
Mina Shum

Screenplay by:
Mina Shum

Starring:
Cheng Pei Pei
Tzi Ma
Sandra Oh
Don McKellar
Liane Balaban

94 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

In English.

The party

I’ve never been a fan of director Sally Potter. Her new film, The party, is a uninterresting, annoyance of a film. It stars Kristin Scott Thomas as Janet, a politician from the opposition party, who has received an important promotion. Janet has invited a few friends to celebrate the good news. But her husband, Bill (Timothy Spall), sits around drinking too much and listening to music. He does not look to be in a celebratory mood. Then the guest arrive: cynical April (Patricia Clarkson, the only bright light among the cast), and her life-coach husband, Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), lesbian couple Martha (Cherry Jones) and Jinny (Emily Mortimer), announcing that Jinny is pregnant with triplets, and millionaire banker Tom (Cillian Murphy). A bunch of hysterical nuts! Tom’s wife, Marianne, will arrive later, Tom says before he goes to the washroom to snort some cocaine. Tom also brought a gun. During the evening Bill tells Janet that he is dying and leaving her for Marianne. Meanwhile, Janet is texting a secret lover. It becomes too busy with life-coach Gottfried trying to save the world, April insulting everyone, the lesbians fighting and Tom’s fits of jealous rage. It’s a mess! Shot in a very ugly black-and-white, it at times feels that it was a stage play. But nope, it’s an original screenplay by Potter. It begs the question: Why was it made? Just put The party in the WTF category and forget about it. It clocks in at only 71 minutes. Quite enough. Avoid!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The party

 

Directed by:
Sally Potter

Screenplay by:
Sally Potter

Starring:
Kristin Scott Thomas
Timothy Spall
Patricia Clarkson
Bruno Ganz
Cherry Jones
Emily Mortimer
Cillian Murphy

71 min.

Rated 14A

Loveless (Nelyubov)

Russian director Andrey Zyvagintsev’s previous film was Leviathan (2014), a film about political corruption in Russia. The dislike of Russia’s Minister of Culture did not preclude the film from being nominated for an Oscar as Best foreign language film. Now, Zvyagintsev is back with a no less damning look at modern Russian society. The first cue we get is from the music of Evgueni Galperine and Sacha Galperine: An insisting, loud piano note is a sign of what to expect from Loveless. Alexey (Matvey Novikov), a 12-year-old boy comes home from school to find his parents fighting again. Boris and Zhenya (Alexey Rozin and Maryana Spivak) are about to divorce just as soon as they sell their house and each can go live with their new partners. In his bedroom, Alexey sobs uncontrollably as he hears his parents arguing about who will have to take care of him. The next morning Zhenya seems more concerned with her Instagram account than with her son. As he goes to school, she is spending the day with her new partner. They make love and she confesses that she had an unhappy childhood. Boris lives with his younger pregnant girlfriend. Zhenya comes home late at night and takes no care to have look in Alexey’s bedroom. It’s only the next morning when the school calls Boris that they realise Alexey is missing. When the police is first contacted, Boris and Zhenya are told that Alexey might be a runaway child and that he may return in a few days. The detective does not seem to have a very positive outlook. But when Alexey does not come back a search is organized in the surrounding woods and abandoned buildings. Zyvagintsev’s view of Russian society and bleak. The news (Vlademir Putin’s controlled media) seems to be on at all times, but is anybody really listening. No, it’s only background noises. Your Twitter or Facebook accounts seems more important than your family. In one telling scene the pregnant girlfriend calls Boris to ask him when is he coming home. Never mind that his son disappeared and that they are searching for him, she wants him home. Outside it’s winter, a bleak, gray winter. Andrey Zyvagintsev’s vision is uncompromising, it is slow-moving. But its passions and commitment are undeniable.

And the Oscar went to… Loveless lost Best foreign language film to the equally deserving A fantastic woman from Chile.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Loveless (Nelyubov)

 

Directed by:
Andrey Zyvagintsev

Screenplay by:
Oleg Negin
Andrey Zyvagintsev

Starring:
Maryana Spivak
Aleksey Rozin
Matvey Novikov
Marina Vasilyeva

127 min.

Rated 18A

In Russian with English subtitles