Breakfast Club meets Dawn of the Dead. Bonello's controversy seeking cinematic stunt is all looks and no substance. First half is unbelievably tense, almost silent film as a group of twenty-something Parisians orchestrate terror attacks and an assassination of political and economical targets (head of HSBC France, a big glass office building, Ministry of Interior and the gold statue of Jean d'Arc).
After most of them successfully retreat to their meeting point - a large lux department store, things slow down significantly, as they have to hole up for the night. A bit hesitant at first, then they try on brand name clothes and drink wine while dancing to bad rap and electronica while avoiding the news on the big screen TVs. Are they avoiding their inevitable doom or are they that clueless?
Adele Haenel makes a cameo, to deliver the line Nocturama is built upon, as a girl on a bike in the middle of the night, as David, one of the babyfaced terrorist sneaks out of the department store out of boredom to smoke a cigarette, runs into her and talks to her. "It had to happen. And now it did."
In the wake of the Berlin terror attack and the assassination of the Russian Ambassador in Turkey, Haenel's statement surely reflects the mood and tension of not just France but the whole European continent. It's the anger and frustrations being bottled up not only in immigrants but every single Parisians, Bonello tells us, as he fuzzes up these young people's motivations or directions.
But then again, Nocturama is just an abashedly entertaining, slick moviemaking. I wish Bonello reflecting the mood and violence on the street in this movie is the extent of bottled up anger and blowing off steam are true and the extent of it. If only. But we all know that the world we are living in now is much darker and much more sinister place, unfortunately.
Frantz is as usual for Ozon, a seductive concoction. Disguised as period costumes and sumptuous monochrome cinematography that bursts in to color in pivotal moments, but the film hold some sinister undertones of lost innocence and pain/joy of growing up.
Paula Beer, a young German actress is marvelous here to carry the whole movie on her shoulder. It's perfectly normal to see the film from a female perspective in Ozon's films, and obviously he flirts with sexual attraction and sensuality (albeit very subtly). But Anna being a German lost in unforgiving world of its enemy gives another layer.
Ozon, the master of a twisty narrative, packs much more interesting development in store in the second half- part detective story, part romance and part reflecting the current climate of the rise of nationalism where the relationship between two old neighbors - France and Germany and Europe as a whole is being tested. It's one of his very best films in years.
Bruno Dumont does Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie? Known for his austere films about human conditions or religious faith being tested, Dumont, hailing from Northern France, sets Slack Bay in Channel Coast, just like in most of his films. So how do I feel about Dumont doing comedy...? I quietly bailed out on his 4 part TV series Lil' Quin Quin. I found its weird sets of characters (played by non-actors, true to Dumont tradition) came across as extremely unauthentic. He does another all-out comedy here, but this time with big French movie stars pitted against another set of weird looking non-actors.
The Van Peteghems, (Fabrice Luchini and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) with their two daughters are vacationing on the coast in their 'Egyption style' mansion, overlooking a picturesque bay consist of sand dunes and cliffs. They are soon joined by Aude (Juliette Binoche), M. Peteghem's sister with her tomboy daughter/son Billie (stunning newcomer Raph) and mentally challenged/PTSD suffering Christian (Jean-Luc Vincent), Mme. Peteghem's brother. Down below, the Bruforts, a long faced hearty fisherman clan live, making extra pennies by carrying visitors across the channel in their arms to slog through knee deep water- I guess rich doesn't want their clothes wet?
People have been disappearing in the bay and Laurel and Hardy of a bumbling police inspectors are dispatched to solve the mystery. Just like the police in Lil' Quin Quin, the duo in Slack Bay are also extremely inept and grossly peculiar in their behavior and mannerisms.
The thing is, it's really uncomfortable to see all these esteemed actors acting grossly over the top characters- Luchini slurrs his lines in his hunchback posture, Tedeschi is overly hysterical, Binoche's acting, with rolling eyes and over-exaggerated faint spells, can only be described as camp.
Yes, the notion of 'Eat the rich' is literally fulfilled in Slack Bay. The Van Peteghems are nothing but snotty nosed inbreds. But Dumont doesn't show how the Bruforts are any better. There is a scene where Ma Loute Brufort (Brandon Lavieville) brutally beating Billie after he finds out she is a he. I find that very disturbing. The faces of Dumont's Bruegel-esque non-actors worked to his advantage to ground his films firmly on the ground. With well known actors acting like retards in Slack Bay, it loses grip on its reality and floats away like the obese police inspector does in the movie.
One year artist residency in an ancient villa in sunny Medici is the setting for a delicious daydream that involves a budding writer Camille (Clotilde Hesme) and a photographer Axéle (Jenna Thiam).
There are illicit affairs, artistic jealousy, moving statues and ghosts. Camile's older and more successful writer husband (Tchkéy Karyo) tags along for the trip with their young daughter. But soon she finds his presence overbearing. Axéle's affair with a married man doesn't lead her anywhere and she soon has an artistic identity crisis.
Daydreams has self-reflexiveness of Philippe Garrel (director Caroline Deruas' older, more established husband) and Ozon's playfulness. It's a very accomplished debut of a talented writer/filmmaker. Daydreams also allots ample screen time for Hesme's big green eyes in series of close ups. Great.
STRUGGLE FOR LIFE
Because of subway delays Chataigne (French comedian Vincent Macaigne), a thirty-something portly intern of Ministry of Standards, is assigned to French colonial Guiana to report on the progress of an absurd public works project titled Gui-snow, the first ski resort which will be built in the jungle of the tropical country.
With a resilient tax agent mistaking him for tax evader and nothing really to live for, Chataigne head for Guiana with a second grade computer and a thick red French standard guide book. In Guiana, because he doesn't have a license, he is assigned a driver named Tarzan (Vimala Pons), another intern from the Ministry of Versailles, seeing over the completion of French style garden. With humidity, mud, millions of manacing insects, allegators, monkeys and other jungle elements hostile to humans, the duo soon gets lost in the jungle. They have to survive by their wits.
It's another madcap comedy by Antonin Peretjatko and starring Pons, a circus trained actress who worked with Peretjatko and Macaigne in The Daughter of 14th of July. Taking a jab at absurd notion of taming the jungle and the first world arrogance, Struggle for Life thrives on slapstick comedy and racy humor a la Woody Allen's Bananas and largely rides on the charm of Pons who dons hot pants with cigarette forever dangling from her pouty mouth. Macaigne is a very lucky man to be paired up with Pons and spend entire film with her in the jungle alone. Oh, Mathieu Amalric shows up as a swinging bureaucrat in charge of Project Gui-snow in Guiana.
HEAL THE LIVING
A young blonde boy, Simon, wakes. He kisses his girlfriend who's still in bed, sneaks out of the window to join his buddies to go surfing. It's winter. The whole beginning sequence of Katell Quillévéré's Heal the Living has a fluidity and detached youthful spirituality of Gus Van Sant movie.
It's an organ transplant weepee - 'An accident cuts a young man's life short and gives another a second chance in life' story. We've seen this before, many times. What elevates this lifetime movie of the week premise is its ensemble cast which includes Emmanuelle Seigner, Kool Shen, Tahar Rahim and Alice de Lencquesaing.
Through Simon, we see the glimpse of other's lives - both professional or private in equal measure. It's the space between the brain and the heart- which makes us human that Quillévéré explores. It would've definitely turned out corny in less assured hands. It's remarkable that Quillévéré, with just 2 other films under her belt achieves something so graceful and thoughtful.
Sophie (Caroline Grant), a mischievous young girl leads a normal bourgeois life in a chateau with a beautiful but sickly mom (Golshifteh Farahani). Sophie's antics could be sometimes too much for her mom and friends who could tolerate her as girl with the too much imagination and energy. But her journey to the new world (America) ends in tragedy and leaves her orphaned. She now comes back to the country under the care of strict, unloving stepmother Mme. Fichini. She rejoins with her best pals and their kind hearted mother Mme. de Fleurville (Anaïs Demoustier).
After sexually charged interpretation of a Greek mythology, Metamophorses in 2014, Honoré returns with unabashedly unadulterated kid's movie, Sophie's Misfortune, based on a beloved 19th century children's story by Countess of Segur. He gets mindbogglingly true to life performances by youngsters. It reminded me of Jacques Doillon's Ponet. Great use of seamless animation too to portray kid's imagination running amok. I didn't expect this from Honoré and it's a nice surprise.