Un amour impossible (An impossible love)

What makes Un amour impossible a fairly good film is that we have never seen a character like Philippe Arnold, so perfectly and clearly defined by Franco-Canadian actor Niels Schneider. But the film’s main character is Rachel Steiner (Virginie Efira, Schneider’s partner in real life). Rachel and Philippe meet in 1958. They have sex and a daughter, Chantal, is born. That’s when Philippe becomes illusive. It seems to us that Rachel has no clue what is happening. But we’re ahead of her. Philippe Arnold is a young man from a wealthy family, would not let it be known that he had a daughter with a simple office worker. It’s all about of class. But that is OK with Rachel, who loves Philippe and is ready to love him whenever he shows up, which is not very often actually. As for their daughter, Philippe simply stays away for a few years. He really starts to try having a relationship with Chantal (Estelle Lescur) when she is a teenager. But he stays cold and distant. He is resisting to the proposition that she officially take is family name. Then he gets closer to Chantal, to the point that the young lady gets along better with her dad than her mom. A weird reversal. That’s when Rachel discovers the truth about Philippe and Chantal. Un amour impossible is very good at understanding, and making us understand, where everyone positions themselves. Like many woman of her time, Rachel let men walk all over them. Men of Philippe’s standing knew they could get away with it. And so they did. Philippe’s impositions are not violent, but he’s just a very imposing man who knows how to control people. Virginie Efira, who was playing comedy in Le grand bain a few month ago, carries the film with her raw emotions. Rachel’s frustrating paralysis is terrible to watch, but so real. Niels Schneider is so dark here that he certainly won’t win any popularity contest. But he does well for the film. At the end teenage and adult Chantal (Jehnny Beth) becomes estranged from her mom. The love that is impossible is also between Rachel and Chantal. It’s daughter against mother, woman against woman. Typically French! And it justifies this turn around by over intellectual over analysis. For sure it is a highly dysfunctional situation, but it got worse, in my opinion, when he got back into the picture. So half of a good film. Close, but no cigar!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Un amour impossible (An impossible love)

 

Directed by:
Catherine Corsini

Screenplay by:
Catherine Corsini
Laurette Polmanss
Based on the novel by Christine Angot

Starring:
Virginie Efira
Niels Schneider
Estelle Lescur
Jehnny Beth

135 min.

In French with English subtitles.

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The white crow

The white crow is a Rudolf Nureyev biopic chronicling the time the Russian dancer defected at a Paris airport. The year is 1961 and 23 years old Nureyev (Ukrainian dancer Oleg Ivenko) is touring Europe with a ballet troupe from Russia. But the dancers are given very little liberties, like being allowed to mingle with foreigners. Nureyev visits French museums, like Le Louvre, to soak up inspirations from the great sculptures and paintings. But every time he goes out, he has to be followed by KGB guards. He makes friends with a young woman called Clara Saint (Adèle Exarchopoulos), who shows him around and even go to a gay bar. He has an affair with Xenia Jurgenson (Chulpan Khamatova) the wife of his ballet instructor, Alexander Pushkin (Ralph Fiennes). But it is clear that Nureyev is interested by men. But what irks Nureyev the most, and probably a good reason for his defection, is that he feels under appreciated. Everywhere they go he is the star of the ballet company. But receiving universal acclaims doesn’t assure you better treatments from the company directors or the KGB agents. And it does not mean better contracts with more money. He was suppose to do it all for mother Russia. But he refuses to conform. At the end of The white crow, Rudolf Nureyev is at the Paris airport and he feels his life may be in danger. Yes, this scene is tense, but it is subtle and extremely well made and acted. But it’s true for the whole film. From the scenes in Le Louvre to childhood flashbacks, The white crow is a class act. Thanks to Fiennes, who does his best directorial work and David Hare’s excellent script. But the film is carried by Oleg Ivenko. I’ll let others who can better compare Ivenko’s dancing with Nureyev’s. (To my untrained eyes his dancing is beautiful to watch) Ivenko’s acting is more than competent. It’s not always true that dancers can be good actors, but Ralph Fiennes has made the good casting choice. A must see.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The white crow

 

Directed by:
Ralph Fiennes

Screenplay by:
David Hare
Inspired by the book Rudolf Nureyev: The life by Julie Kavanagh

Starring:
Oleg Ivanko
Adèle Exarchopoulos
Chulpan Khamatova
Ralph Fiennes
Raphaël Personnaz
Alexey Morozov
Louis Hofmann

127 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

In Russian, French and English with English subtitles.

Edmond

Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac is considered one of France’s best plays. Edmond is Alexis Michalik’s screen adaptation of his own play. But like the film, it is more complicated than that. Originally Michalik wrote a screenplay, but he could not find anyone who wanted to produce it. So he turned it into a play, and once it became successful on stage, it could then become a film. Edmond is not a biopic, but a comedy about the creation of Cyrano de Bergerac. In Cyrano de Bergerac two men are in love with the lovely Roxane: her cousin Cyrano, secretly enamoured, but feeling that his ugliness, especially his long nose are going to chase her away; and the handsome Christian, who is so shy that he is incapable to proclaim his love to Roxane. So it is Cyrano who has to hides under the balcony and tells her how much he loves her and write all those love letters, while Christian takes all the credit and the love of Roxane. In the film, Rostand (Thomas Solivérès) has to hide under a balcony and write love letters to help his friend, actor Leo Volny (Tom Leeb), who will eventually play Christian, seduce the beautiful Jehane (Lucie Boujenah). Leo is also pretending to be poet playwright Edmond Rostand because she loves his plays. If it sounds complicated that’s because it is. Doing this inspires Rostand to write Cyrano de Bergerac. He has been commissioned to write a comedy for actor Constant Coquelin (Olivier Gourmet). It is while writing love letters that he is writing the play. The fact that Rostand has a wife complicate things even more as he has to explain to her that he would never cheat on her because he loves her (Duh! Yeah right! In 1915 he left her for an actress more than half his age). But when it comes into producing and rehearsing the play, there’s plenty of problems that pop up. Some really happened, but most are invented by Michalik. The main characters are really the actors who opened Cyrano de Bergerac. Michalik himself is playing playwright Georges Feydeau, Rostand’s rival. The pace is frantic, but without knowing Rostand’s other so-called comedies, Edmond‘s style of comedy feels more like a Georges Feydeau’s more popular and populist comedies. A more frantic Georges Feydeau, but a Georges Feydeau nevertheless. How can you play tribute to one author by imitating another? But as I said, I know nothing else by Edmond Rostand. But I know Feydeau. At times Edmond can be fun. But it is when Olivier Gourmet as actor Coquelin start playing Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac that the really comes alive. No imitation there! Gourmet and Rostand are the real thing. Production values are excellent, (costumes, sets, hairs, make up and mustaches all look right), except the special effects. There is a shot of Paris in 1897 that is worse CGI I’ve seen lately. If it is CGI. It looks like an animated film or a painted background. Most people will have fun. If they love French films and don’t ask too many questions.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Edmond

 

Directed by:
Alexis Michalik

Screenplay by:
Alexis Michalik
Based on his play

Starring:
Thomas Solivérès
Olivier Gourmet
Mathilde Seigner
Tom Leeb
Lucie Boujenah
Clémentine Célarié

110 min.

In French with English subtitles.

Mademoiselle de Jonquières

Emmanuel Mouret’s Mademoiselle de Jonquières is an exquisitely fluffy comedy of manners and revenge set in 18th century, France. It stars the marvelous Cécile de France as Madame de La Pommeraye, a young, attractive widow. Spending most of her time on her lavish country estate, Madame takes long walks in her garden with the Marquis des Arcis (Édouard Baer), a houseguest who doesn’t seem to want to leave. Madame knows very well that the Marquis is wooing her, but she finds his attempts amusing. Besides, she enjoys the long conversations they have, and the attention of course. Madame’s friend, Lucienne (Laure Calamy), warns Madame about the Marquis. If she is to become his lover, eventually he will leave her at the first opportunity and go to his next conquest. Madame de La Pommeraye dismisses Lucienne’s warnings, and starts an affair with the Marquis. But Lucienne was right. The Marquis des Arcis tells Madame that he has fallen out of love, but they should remain good friends. She tells the Marquis that she agrees, but she’s terribly vexed. To exact revenge, she hires the help of Madame de Joncquières (Natalia Dontcheva), a woman who was seduced, scandalously became pregnant and had to prostitute herself to feed her daughter, who also became a prostitute. That daughter is the Mademoiselle de Joncquières (Alice Isaaz) of the title. On Madame’s instructions they are to pretend to be religious devout. Madame arranges for the Marquis to meet them, hoping he won’t be able to resist the (false) virgin Mademoiselle. Mademoiselle de Jonquières is inspired from characters in Denis Diderot’s Jacques le fataliste et son maître. It is a lighter, fun version of Les liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. It is a talk fest, a genre of film that I don’t always enjoy. But there is something here that I found irresistible. There is the snappy dialogue and the acting from the two leads. Cécile de France smiling eyes, Baer’s passionate performance. Mouret and Laurent Desmet, his cinematographer, made the brilliant decision to set most of the exteriors, most of the film in fact, in bright and sunny French gardens. The camera has been pulled back to reveal the characters surrounded by spectacular landscapes. The film is at times cruel, yes, but it is also very funny. Mademoiselle de Jonquières is a joy to watch.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Mademoiselle de Jonquières

 

Directed by:
Emmanuel Mouret

Screenplay by:
Emmanuel Mouret
Based on the stories from Denis Diderot’s Jacques le fataliste et son maître

Starring:
Cécile de France
Edouard Baer
Alice Isaaz
Natalia Dontcheva
Laure Calamy

119 min.

In French with English subtitles.

If Beale street could talk

There’s talk of Oscar nominations for If Beale street could talk, Barry Jenkins’s follow up to Best picture Oscar winner Moonlight. Adapted from civil-rights activist James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, it is a love story between 19-year-old Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne) and 22-year-old Fonny Hunt (Toronto born Stephan James). Their story is set in Harlem during the early 1970s. When Tish announces she is pregnant, her parents Joseph (Colman Domingo) and Sharon (Regina King in an Oscar worthy turn) are surprisingly supportive. They have more problem telling Fonny’s mom (an explosive Aunjanue Ellis) who is not one to mince words. But after they start living together, the couple has other problems. Fonny is falsely accused of rape and arrested by a racist cop. Tish knows that Fonny has an alibi, and she finds out that witnesses claim that a white man was the rapist. Worse, it seems that the victim has suddenly, and conveniently, moved back to her native South-American country. Desperate to help, Sharon flies there and tries to find her. Such is the plight of African-Americans, then and now. As he did with Moonlight, Jenkins chronicles the lives of American black communities. It seems to us that we are watching something new, innovative, and we are unprepared to see something so fresh, new and real. The emotional impact is coming from every directions at once. The production values are exceptional. From cinematographer James Laxton’s bright colors, to composer Nicholas Britell’s jazz infused score, there is not a wrong turn in the film. It has a perfect ensemble cast, headed by the brilliant Ms. King. But what that impressed me most is the screenplay. James Baldwin’s words (Oscar nominated documentary I am not your negro was about Baldwin and his writings) are treated with so much respect, spoken with such reverence, that it felt that the actors were reading poetry. As if Baldwin was a modern-day Shakespeare. That’s one of the best reason to see If Beale street could talk.

And the winners are… As expected Best supporting actress went to Regina King who thanked God.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

If Beale street could talk

 

Directed by:
Barry Jenkins

Screenplay by:
Barry Jenkins
Based on the novel by James Baldwin

Starring:
KiKi Layne
Stephan James
Regina King
Colman Domingo
Teyonah Parris
Michael Beach
Brian Tyree Henry
Ed Skrein

117 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

Transit

In adapting Anna Seghers’s 1944 classic novel Transit visa, Christian Petzold has made the weird and misguided choice to film in modern-day France even though the action takes place shortly after the German occupation. Transit‘s main character is Georg (Franz Rogowski), a German exile who lives in Paris after the end of the Nazi occupation. He flees the Paris authorities to go to Marseilles where he hopes to be able to take a boat to America, “le Montréal”. To do that he has to assume the identity of Weidel, a dead writer. In Marseilles, Georg meets a community of Germans, who like him are awaiting permission to leave. There is also a beautiful woman searching for her lost husband. They keep seeing each other because she mistakenly thinks Georg is her husband. He later finds out she’s Weidel’s wife, Marie (Paula Beer). I really liked Phoenix, Petzold’s previous film. But Transit isn’t very exciting or good. It’s slow and boring and so confusing. We are asked to accept a bizarre convention where the characters live in the 1940s, but everything surrounding them is modern, 2018 cars or people wearing 2018 clothes. Whatever the reason (choice or lack of money), it looks cheap and I did not buy it at all. What a disappointment.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Transit

 

Directed by:
Christian Petzold

Screenplay by:
Christian Petzold
Based on the novel Transit visa by Anna Seghers

Starring:
Franz Rogowski
Paula Beer
Godehard Giese
Maryam Zaree

101 min.

Rated Parental Guidance.

In German, French, and French Sign Language with English subtitles

Bel Canto

Based on actual events (the1996 Lima hostage Crisis) but adapted from an Ann Patchett bestselling novel that has almost nothing left, if anything, from the real events, Bel Canto is a most amusing political drama/soap opera. Amusing to me at least. Among the international cast, the most well-known are Japan’s Ken Watanabe, France’s Christopher Lambert and American actress Julianne Moore. Watanabe plays Japanese industrialist businessman Katsumi Hosokawa who travels to a South American country to celebrate his own birthday. President Ochoa wants Hosokawa to open a plant, but has refused the invitation. Knowing very well that Hosokawa is an opera fan, the President has hired Hosokawa’s favorite singer, Roxanne Coss (Moore, with the singing voice of Renée Fleming) to give a concert in the President’s residence. But Hosokawa has no intention of doing business with the dictator and only come for the concert, and Coss only accepted because of the money they were willing to pay her. The concert has just begun in front of dignitaries, ambassadors and their wives, when a group guerrillas with machine guns crash the party. They keep everyone hostage and they demand that President Ochoa, who could not attend the concert because he was sick, release all political prisoners. At first the relations between the hostages and the guerrillas are tense, but over time, call it Stockholm syndrome if you want, things get friendlier. Hosokawa and the opera singer are obviously in love, so they start an affair. There is also attractions between Hosokawa’s translator (Ryô Kase) and a female guerrillas (María Mercedes Coroy). The film has a lot of credibility issues. Laughable scenes like the one where, after the government has cut off the water, Roxanne Coss goes on the balcony and sing so they’ll get the water back. And they do! Moments like this, and others even crazier, only work if you are good and innocent, or if, like me, you don’t take the film too seriously. Yes, there are beautiful things and marvelous music. Yes, Julianne Moore is very good, as always. I just think that the whole thing could easily have become a parody in the Airplane style. It ends in chaos and predictable tragedy. Predictable, but still disturbing. Your choice.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Bel Canto

 

Directed by:
Paul Weitz

Starring:
Julianne Moore
Ken Watanabe
Sebastian Koch
Ryô Kase
María Mercedes Coroy
Christopher Lambert

Screenplay by:
Paul Weitz
Anthony Weintraub
Based on the novel by Ann Patchett

101 min.

Rated 14A

In English and some Spanish, French, and Japanese with English subtitles

The wife

In The wife Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce are Joan and Joe Castleman. In the film’s opening scene, they receive the news that Joe has been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. As we look into Close’s piercing blue eyes, we’re not quite sure what Joan feels when she gets the news. Is Joan happy, angry, sad or just plain mad? All of the above at once and more. Soon the Castleman fly to Stockholm accompanied by their adult son David (Max Irons). David who has a highly dysfunctional relationship with his father, is also a writer. Journalist Nathaniel Bone (a miscast Christian Slater) is traveling on the same plane. Nathaniel wants to write Joe Castleman’s unauthorized biography in which reveal that all of Joe’s novel were the work of a ghostwriter. With that cloud, true or not, hanging over their heads, David’s temper tantrums, Joe’s attempt to cheat on his wife again for the nth time by seducing a young Swedish photographer (Karin Franz Korlof) and Joan seeking more independence, things are about to explode. There are some misguided flashbacks to their earlier years, but the only thing that we want and need is Close and Pryce together. Pryce hasn’t been a leading man in a long time and now he has found the right part and the right partner. Close and Pryce enjoy sinking their teeth into those juicy parts. And the moviegoers should also enjoy it!

And the winners are… Glenn Close lost for a 7th time to The favourite‘s Olivia Colman.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The wife

 

Directed by:
Björn Runge

Screenplay by:
Jane Anderson
Based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer

Starring:
Glenn Close
Jonathan Pryce
Annie Starke
Harry Lloyd
Christian Slater
Max Irons
Elizabeth McGovern

101 min.

Rated 14A

The Sisters brothers

In the 1850s gold rush, Eli and Charlie Sisters have been hired as hitmen to kill gold prospector Hermann Warm. The two brothers (John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix) travel from Oregon City to San Francisco killing a few people along the route. Meanwhile, Hermann Warm has met detective John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is looking for Eli and Charlie. Rather than becoming enemies, they work together to find the brothers. Warm has invented an intriguing liquid formula that makes it easy to see gold at night. But it is highly toxic. French film author Jacques Audiard has adapted the award-winning novel from Canadian writer Patrick deWitt. The Sisters brothers is a more introspective western than we usually see. But the character study seems to be more successful than then the confused labyrinthine plot. We don’t care where the characters are, what they’re doing there or why. And after a while, we don’t care. The only thing that keeps this affair together is John C. Reilly (also one of the producer), who manages to create a real person amid all the noise. Still Audiard is carefully holding back on the violence. He rarely shows the aftermath of the gunshot even when he shows us the pain. There is a particularly gross moment when a spider enters Eli’s mouth as he is sleeping. And I’m not talking about a small spider, not a tarantula, but still a big enough mother. The cinematography is by Benoît Debie. An inspired score by Alexandre Desplat has metallic rhythmic sounds that reverts back to Jerry Goldsmith or Ennio Morricone’s music for 60s and 70s westerns. It’s as if Desplat understood that it’s all about nostalgia. Like the Sisters brothers eventually seeking something familiar and warm.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The Sisters brothers

 

Directed by:
Jacques Audiard

Screenplay by:
Jacques Audiard
Thomas Bidegain
Based on the novel by Patrick deWitt

Starring:
John C. Reilly
Joaquin Phoenix
Jake Gyllenhaal
Riz Ahmed
Rutger Hauer
Carol Kane

121 min.

Rated 14A

1945

August 1945 in a small Hungarian village. It’s a special day for town clerk István (Péter Rudolf), who’s marrying his son, pharmacy owner Arpad (Bence Tasnádi). But Arpad’s drug-addicted mother, Anna (Eszter Nagy-Kálózy), is not happy about the marriage. Anna knows that the bride, peasant girl Kisrózsi (Dóra Sztarenki), is only marrying her son for the money, and that Kisrózsi is still having sex with her ex-fiancé, handsome hunk Jancsi (Tamás Szabó Kimmel). In the middle of all this drama and the wedding preparations, István gets news from the train station master of the arrival of two Orthodox Jews. The whole village goes into a state of paranoid panic. There were Jewish families before the war, but the Nazi send them to the concentration camps. Some of the villagers were quick to grab their properties and everything else they could. The pharmacy doesn’t really belong to István or his son Arpad, it belonged to one of the Jewish family. And now everyone is afraid that the two men, who arrived by train with two wooden boxes, are survivors there to claim what was stolen from their families. A defying István seems ready to do anything to keep the things he says are his. Village drunk Bandi (Jozsef Szarvas) feels so guilty he wants to give everything back. Not so with his wife (Ági Szirtes) who starts hiding things in the basement. This is a very good film with a seldom told story about collective guilt and shame. Ferenc Török doesn’t make the mistake of political correctness, because political correctness did not exist in 1945. So the general discourse is anti-semitic. Török keeps up the tension and the suspense, as he keeps the villagers, and us, guessing. It was shot in beautiful black-and-white, and the ensemble cast of unknown is excellent.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

1945

 

Directed by:
Ferenc Török

Screenplay by:
Gábor T. Szántó
Ferenc Török
Adapyed from The homecoming, a short story by Gabor T. Szanto

Starring:
Péter Rudolf
Bence Tasnádi
Tamás Szabó Kimmel
Dóra Sztarenki
Eszter Nagy-Kálózy
Ági Szirtes
József Szarvas

91 min.

Rated 14A.

In Hungarian and some Russian with English subtitles