sâmbătă, 21 aprilie 2018

Where the Money Is, based on a story by Max Frye


Where the Money Is, based on a story by Max Frye


In the archetypal, quintessential book on all things Hollywood, film making, actors, screenwriters and all those involved in the movie industry, Adventures in the Screen Trade, Paul Newman is one of the professionals, glorious actors, wonderful men that are described in the phenomenal work by William Goldman, who has worked with this deity on the set of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid – for which the writer has won one of his two Oscars- and other features.

Paul Newman had his first chance to glory- and he took it- when another phenomenon, Montgomery Clift had passed on the chance of working on Somebody Up There Loves Me- and he did the same for On the Waterfront, launching the career of Marlon Brando and then with his refusal of East of Eden, gave audiences the brief opportunity to enjoy James Dean.
From the aforementioned classic, we learn that Paul Newman was not just a very accomplished actor, doing his fair share and delivering his lines with aplomb and talent, but interested in the other colleagues and a team player, waiting on the set to give the lines to a fellow actor, which is very unusual.

Adventures in the Screen Trade gives the examples of Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford- among others, including Al Pacino- who have more than misbehaved, the former when he acted macho and absurd on the matter of a flashlight and then made Lawrence Olivier suffer- literally- on the set of Marathon Man, and the latter showing an ugly character twice, once after the release of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and the second while preparing for All The President’s Men- the second Academy Award for the brilliant William Goldman.

In Where the Money Is, Paul Newman has one of his last roles, as a legendary bank robber called Henry Manning, who has had a stroke while in prison, was sent to a retirement home where he plays for time and acts- an acting role within the acting role- the part of a vegetable, in order to escape prison.
This is where he meets nurse Carol MacKay played by the very good Linda Fiorentino, a young, attractive woman, who, although popular, seems to be unsatisfied with where her life is going, which is towards an unremarkable, modest existence with her husband Wayne MacKay.

The latter used to be a very successful football player, in school only alas, but now he is not offering his spouse the excitement she longs for, he appears to be less gifted in the intellectual domain and anticipating a little, his values and principles ultimately amount to little, if anything.

Clever Carol thinks there is more than meets the eye in the case of the supposedly helpless Henry, perhaps she also has an intuition and then uses the Thin Slicing Theory explained in the archetypal, classic Psychology masterpiece, Blink- The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by the genius Malcolm Gladwell.
When she takes Henry Manning out with her husband, she is trying to push him to confess- talk, which he claims he does not do anymore – and admit this is all an act and he did not fool her, if he had convinced everybody else that he has no control over his body anymore.

Before this trip in the country, near the canal, the woman had even tried lap dancing to see if there is a reaction, somewhat in the manner of the dancer in Mel Brooks’ History of the World, where a huge tongue comes out of the mouth of the fake eunuch when he sees the erotic dance.
When she sees there is no blink from the retired bank robber, Carol starts pushing his wheelchair towards the water, meanwhile continuing with her threats and saying that she will push him into the water, all the way to the edge where…she throws the potentially innocent, disabled man on to his death.

Her husband jumps into the water, although he is some distance from the place of the incident- attempted murder? What will the police qualify it as? - and the women is starting to take clothes off, when the wet patient is slowly starting to climb the stairs out of the water.
He is annoyed, angry and puzzled, asking the nurse what is wrong with her and where is that professional need to care for the patients – instead of throwing them to their final departure- and her husband as well- are you going to turn me in? Which attracts a quick response- are you calling me a rat?

Later on, Henry will explain how they have access to so many books in prison, from Buddhist philosophy, to how to control your mind and he became able to control his reactions to the point where he enjoyed it when a bug would come on his face and stop half way into his nostril and his mouth, happy to have a guard witness this extreme scene and convince him of his absolute immobility and paralysis.
Henry and Carol get very close together- there seems to be a better compatibility between them, confirmed by later developments, than between the wife and her husband- and they plan a robbery, for which she recommends the contribution of her spouse.

Henry is brilliant, he has a self-possessed style that makes him face policemen in a supermarket and even give them a story of his religious zealotry, to make them want to Get Rid of him, instead of the opposite, but the third partner had been a terrible choice and he proves to be more than a liability, when they tie up guards and he leaves behind his cutter and therefore the prisoners make an early escape, compromising part of the heist and then more.
It is surprising to see that this good film has a Metascore of only 49 and, even if this is not Goodfellas or the Godfather, I or II, it is still a notable achievement and, like always, Paul Newman is an exquisite pleasure to watch, his company, Linda Fiorentino offers a performance worthy of her gigantic partner.

Winter, written and directed by Heidi Greensmith


Winter, written and directed by Heidi Greensmith


Even if this is not a mega production, or because of it, Winter is a worth watching, sensitive and good film.

The central figure is that of Woods Weston portrayed by an excellent Tommy Flanagan, a painter that has suffered a terrible trauma and the consequent Post Traumatic Stress disorder, after the death of his wife he has had trouble trying to continue with his life.
He has two sons, the nineteen-year-old Tom and the fourteen-year-old Max, the latter is interned in an institution and would not be released in the care of his father, until the parent shows that he is responsible- and much of his behavior casts doubt over that hypothesis.

Woods Weston has been drinking, he has tried and stayed off drink for various periods, but various circumstances and especially his grief, the insufferable pain caused by memories of his wife and the glory days, make it impossible for him to resist the temptation of an anesthesia, a reprieve offered by the illusory glass of alcohol.
The older son, Tom, has been caring for his parent for years, but this has taken a toll and it would make him miss his life, or a large- maybe the most important?- part of it while keeping busy with his boozing parent, while rejecting the admissions he has won for the University of Colombia.

Furthermore, when drunk- and it seems that from one point on, alcoholics appear to be permanently inebriated- the father is abusive and he questions so much, or most of what his son is doing and he becomes violent, overbearing and obnoxious, making one think why go to all the trouble of protecting a man who is not only ungrateful, but he feels he is owed more.
However, the answer is also obvious, for if some people can experience Post Traumatic Growth, after a loved one passed away, coming to realize that life is so precious, on the contrary, in the case of the hero, he is always terrified by the thought that he could have been at the place of the tragedy a little earlier and then would have prevented it.

Furthermore, there are scenes after which there is a feeling that, apart from the catastrophe that had hit the protagonist, there is unfairness in the treatment he receives from the rest of the world, except from his sons and some people who are near , who add to his misery.

Take this case where the tormented man sees a lonely child, when he was visiting with his elder son the younger one, Max, and goes to him and tries to engage in a conversation, showing kindness and compassion when inviting the boy to sit with them, if he has no relatives coming and feels like it.
Instead of appreciating this human emotion, the supervisor interferes- in a well-intentioned effort perhaps, but “hell is paved with good intentions”- and is increasingly more hostile to Woods Weston, telling him first to back away and then stating that he would not be allowed to visit his son again, taking all this to an absurd extreme and provoking an awful reaction in turn.

For the hero, already an angry individual, anxious and tense, exasperated with the world after it took away the love of his life and the reason to live, has had enough of this supervisor and the unfairness of which he had already had more than his share and so hits with his head the insensitive official and then kicks him to the ground.
Two women have a chance to improve- or make worse – the existence of the protagonist and his sons, Miriam- portrayed by the wondrous French actress, a key performer in the phenomenal, outstanding L’Auberge Espagnole, one of the best comedies Ever! - and her daughter Sophie played by the actress that was brave enough to act with nonchalance in Nymphomaniac I and II and then be the wife of the magnificent film maker in Godard Mon Amour.

Sophie has a relationship with Tom, even if it is not easy to go out with a man that has such a heavy responsibility and when his date is keen on having some fun, he has to say that he needs to go home, like an aged, married man with several children that need his attention, only in this case it his ailing parent that demands his constant surveillance and push to recover from some new hangover or fight, perhaps both.
The young girl has the initiative and the compassion to suggest that she would take Max with her mother, into their family, since his biological father would be rejected – given the recent violence during a visit, he is not even allowed on the premises any more- but even this generous, kind and empathical offer brings out the violence, Fire and fury that the protagonist so often displays.

When he hears that Miriam and Sophie intend to take into their home the younger son, Woods Weston is convinced this is proof of a conspiracy- which might be due in part to his condition- depression, aggravated by alcoholism- and instead of applauding the solution and expressing gratitude, for after all, this might be his chance to see his child frequently, he gets paranoid and hostile.

There is a however a change of mind, for in discussion with Miriam, the hero learns about the fact that Tom had been admitted to Columbia University, an idea that he rejects since he does not know of this, then insists and understands that his son loves him so much that he is willing- had been in fact- to sacrifice his own wellbeing, a large portion of his life to take care of him.
A dialogue between father and son ensues, there is also hope offered by an exhibition and the perspective improves, not to the point where this would become a syrupy, hard to believe after what has taken place in the movie, ending that could destroy the feature

vineri, 20 aprilie 2018

Welcome to Germany, written and directed by Simon Verhoeven


Welcome to Germany, written and directed by Simon Verhoeven


The theme of this film is of utmost, paramount importance, indeed, it can be argued that it has influenced the outcome of the German elections and given this country's position in Europe, it affects us all here and those trying to arrive in the capitalist paradise.

Welcome to Germany is about immigration, looked at with humor, as opposed to this year 's winner of the Golden Globe, yet another German feature, In The Fade, that brings to attention the violence directed against minorities, an explosion killing a man and his son and then the Nazis themselves are blown up in a kamikaze, suicide revenge attack on them.
In Welcome to Germany, Dr. Richard Hartmann is a rich surgeon, married to Angelika and father to Philipp and Sophie, a family with some issues, but not more than normal, the son is divorced and a successful lawyer, who has sacrificed his personal life- and is about to do the same for his own son if nothing stops him- while the daughter is still confused in regards to her future career, after trying various studies and starting afresh at the age of thirty two- was it?

To begin with, Dr. Richard Hartmann is an ambiguous character, successful as a surgeon, head of his section at the hospital, coordinator of resident doctors, owner of property and a couple of luxury cars and yet experiencing some crisis, at the age of about sixty five...maybe.
He has a friend, another surgeon who is specialized in plastic surgery, who injects some Botox- is it? - into his cheeks and invites him to the disco and more generally, to have sex with the many young women that he knows, some are employed by him, others are probably interested in his services.

At the hospital, Richard Hartmann has a very tense relationship with one of the residents, Dr. Tarek Berger, the latter seems to identify possible mistakes, at one point he offers help for a presumable weakness of the older Doctor, but it is the older man who appears to be grumpy, maybe envious on account of the youth of the resident, who had been at his house at the age of about seven and played football in the dining room, breaking a precious vase, a gift from the parents.
One evening, as the Hartmann family is having dinner, Angelika Hartmann announces that they will host a refugee, to the surprise of her children and facing the opposition of her husband who says they will do no such thing...has his wife gone crazy? Asks the confused, unbalanced Doctor.

Nevertheless, he regrets his outburst, apologizes late and the couple go to the establishment where immigrants are hosted, asking some funny and some serious questions...can they select their refugee? Is this like a casting? It is more Richard Hartmann, in fact his wife tries to temper and prevent him from asking inappropriate questions about religion and other such issues.
What follows are some amusing scenes - which have an ingrained sadness within given the circumstances - wherein various people sit on the couch, many in groups, underlining that they belong together and therefore making them unsuitable for the protagonists who want only one guest.

Diallo Makabouri is selected, he is alone, has travelled from Nigeria, his family is gone and although he does not want to talk about it, it seems that there is a sad story, maybe even tragic connected with his loneliness.
The tone of the narrative is not pitiful, there are jocular elements everywhere...for instance, when talking about marriage, Diallo emphasizes that in his land, it was impossible for him to get a wife, because he did not have money of property.

The differences between his culture and the German way of life can also be funny, especially since the Nigerian is such a pleasant, positive and amiable young man, who insists when there are quarrels that the children must show deference for the parent, although in the matter of the wife, he appears to favor an obsolete perspective, that she belongs to her man.
Open minded, clever, persistent, creative and intelligent as he is, Diallo Makabouri is able to change and adapt to his new surroundings, even if the situation can and does get chaotic, when Richard Hartmann decides to leave the house or when there is a rebellious party at the house.

A friend of the Hartmann family is a woman who loves a hippy life style, liberal, drug consuming and friendly...she invited tens of refugees to a party welcoming Diallo, but without the knowledge of the hosts, bringing in even a zebra.
The neighbor next door is a Nazi sympathizer, who insults Diallo and his hosts, calls the police to break the party and finally, her fascist group that start demonstrations against Diallo and his own, throwing stones at the windows of the house.

Alas, poor Diallo is caught in the middle of these disputes and the police reports do not help his application for residence, especially since there is the matter of the musical video for a song, that had some prostitutes invited, of whom the Nigerian was unaware and then the fight at the house, in which he tries to help Sophie Hartmann and the law enforcement agents are yet again on the premises.
Racism is discussed and satirized, there is the important message - conveyed otherwise by the Chancellor herself, Angela Merkel has said on the matter of immigrants that "they will manage together" - that with kindness, compassion, humor, intelligence, persistence, rich Germany can deal with this and so many other delicate matters and problems.

Diallo Makabouri is in fact the guest who helps th Hartmann family understand its issues and solve them...it is because of him that Philipp Hartmann gets closer to his son, understanding that his obsession with money, power and a transfer to Shanghai are very misguided.

Positive Psychology studies have demonstrated that the happiest people do not have money, wealth in common, but a strong bond with family and friends and time affluence is more important than material affluence.


joi, 19 aprilie 2018

In The Fade aka Auf Dem Nichts, written by Hark Bohm and Fatih Akin


In The Fade aka Auf Dem Nichts, written by Hark Bohm and Fatih Akin


In The Fade has won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, although in this cinephile's opinion, Una Mujer Fantastica- which has won the Oscar in the same category- Nelyubov or The Square would have been better choices.

Having said that, Auf Dem Nichts is a very good, significant, remarkable feature, that attracts attention to violence against minorities, in this case the Kurdish community in Germany.
It is therefore not one sided, we do not have only Muslim lunatics killing innocent "infidels", but also some extreme Europeans murdering the other side.
The problem is that, unacceptable, horrifying and vile as these acts are, it appears that the overwhelming majority of atrocities are committed by zealots acting in the name of Islam- radical and unrepresentative as they are for this supposedly peaceful faith, although there are passages in its holy book that seem to insist on a violent jihad and ultimately aggressiveness.

Aside from these facts, there is the issue of those involved in attacks on immigrants, who are fascists, a system of thought at the fringe of Western society, unrepresentative for the belief of more than ninety per cent of the population.
Against this background, the film is compelling and any murderous act is terrifying and loathsome, no matter if one side kills one thousand and the other just two, especially since in this plot an innocent child is dismembered.

Diane Kruger is the excellent actor who plays the protagonist of the narrative, Katja Sekerci, mother to Rocco and married to Nuri, and both husband and son die in an explosion, early on in the story.
Nuri had served a prison sentence for drug dealing, in fact this is how husband and wife had met, when she went to buy some hashish from him.

The explosion was caused by a bomb and in the first instance the police suspect that the criminal activities of the dead man might have been continued after release from prison and because of some dispute over some deal, the bomb could have been a revenge killing.
Katja knows that her spouse has stopped dealing, he has a tax advice and translation office now, where he also sells plane tickets to Turkey, but she asks their lawyer and friend Danilo Fava if Nuri was clean and the answer is that he was.

The investigators are suspicious because the house where the Sekerci family lived is rather lavish for the annual income of about fifty thousand euros and there is a feeling that instead of concentrating on the killers, the dead man is a suspect...evidently, they need to know what the circumstances are.
Katja fights with her mother, who accuses the late husband of making her daughter a drug addict, the parents of Nuri have their own rejected claims- to take the bodies of son and grandchild to Turkey to be buried.

The protagonist suffers from deep depression, she is so disconsolate, tormented, overwhelmed that she decides to kill herself, in the bathroom, she cuts her veins...
Fortunately- for the time being- the phone rings and Danilo is at the other end, with the message that the killers have been caught, they are detained and justice will be done...hearing this message from what could be the other side, the poor woman walks out of the tub of death and decides to see that the assassins are punished.

The widow had given the police details about a young woman she saw at the office, on the day of the bombing, who had a new bike, with a box at the back and which was left without any chain, hence Katja told her to tie the bicycle up.
Edda Moller and her husband Andre have been arrested, they had chemical fertilizer, nails and the other ingredients necessary for a bomb, in the garage near their house, the traces from these chemicals matching what was found at the site of the explosion.

The case in court is complicated nevertheless by some aspects, one of which is the fact that drugs had been found when the investigators searched the apartment of the deceased and they belonged to Katja, who is invited at the trial, by the defense lawyer to pass tests to see if she has taken illegal substances that would have impaired her ability to identify The Edda Moller as the woman with the bike aka the female bomber.
The defense counselor is as obnoxious and repugnant as can be, doing otherwise his job with mastery, insisting also on the fact that the key to the garage with the explosives was kept under a stone and in consequence more people could get into the hiding place and plant the bomb.

The fingerprints of the Neo Nazis have been found on nails at the crime scene, but there are some other fingerprints that have not been identified and the defense uses that, plus the argument that the solicitor for the defense himself has fertilizer and nails at his house, with his fingerprints on them, but that does not make him Unabomber...
Meaning that somebody could have entered the garage of the Mollers, taken the bomb and used it, since Katja uses drugs, she is in no position to claim that her testimony is accurate.

The Neo Nazis have another ace in the sleeve, for they bring a fellow fascist, all the way from Greece and he testifies that at the time of the bombing, the suspects wee in fact staying at his hotel, thousands of miles away from the death scene...

What will the court decide?
Is there another revenge envisaged, planned by Katja?
The motion picture gets ever more gripping and enticing towards the end, which is unexpected.

miercuri, 18 aprilie 2018

Red Sparrow, based on the book by Jason Matthews


Red Sparrow, based on the book by Jason Matthews


Red Sparrow is a good, entertaining thriller, spy story, although, given the star studded cast one would have expected more...perhaps much more?

Jennifer Lawrence is the star of the show, as Dominika Egorova aka the Red Sparrow, and the acting is honorable, the young actress is not by mistake the highest paid woman in show business for 2016-was it? For in 2017 it was Melissa McCarthy.
Dominika is a ballet dancer, a prima ballerina in fact, up to the point where she is dropped on stage, at what is supposed to be a climax, by her ruthless partner, who will pay dearly for that, albeit as the plot develops, there is a feeling that the career as a dancer lasts only as long as the highest interests of the police state would allow it.

Dominika Egorova has an uncle who is the second in command in the directorate of the FSB- the new or is it actually the old? KGB- and he looks very much like Putin- an old spy hand himself.
Vanya Egorov, the uncle, is played by an excellent actor, the Belgian launched by Bullhead.

Vanya provides his niece with a recording that is supposed to prove that her partner in the ballet had arranged with his lover, who is also a competitor for the coveted leading role, to drop Dominka, finishing her career, not just eliminating her from the cast.
A vengeful woman attacks the villainous couple in a steaming sauna, where they were having sex and she maims them in turn, breaking the jaw of the other dancer and using extreme violence in her attack.

The uncle explains that the Bolshoi will not let her use the apartment and besides, her mother will lose her health coverage, after the accident, unless Dominka helps her relative gather some information from a man that she old see at the hotel, if she agrees.
Given the lack of alternatives- her mother is sick- the woman helps reluctantly, but the powerful "enemy of the state" is used to exploit and rape women and he proceeds with his victim, he is killed while still inside the helpless victim.

This becomes another element that the heartless uncle uses in his game, helping to convince Dominika to join the Sparrow school, a place where future agents are trained to use their good looks in order to gain useful information for mother Russia, or, more likely, the operators that act in its name, for their own interests.
One could think that some of the lessons are over the top, exaggerated, but given the use of Polonium to poison Litvinenko and chemical gas in the more recent case of Serghey Skripal and his daughter, we could not past anything past Putin and his acolytes.

One innocent girl is taken in front of class and told to perform felatio on a man who has been front there for that purpose, she cannot do it, but Dominika, when asked to have sex in almost the same spot, in front of the same crowd, finds a way out.
She gets all her clothes off and she spreads her legs, sitting naked in front of the colleague who had tried to rape her, using contempt to make him lose his self esteem and finally any hope of an erection.

Meanwhile, Joel Edgerton aka the American CIA agent Nate Nash has been working with a mole, high in the Russian intelligence apparatus and while they had a meeting in a park, the police showed and even if they have both escaped, the FSB has made a top priority of catching their double agent.
The Red Sparrow would approach Nate Nash, get close to him and then make him divulge the name of the traitor- after which these nice Russian officials will decide whether it would be Polonium, nerve gas or some other delicacy, like the gruesome peeling of the skin, which they use in a terrifying scene on one of the protagonists of this motion picture.

Nate and Dominika seem to like each other, even if one must surely think what it is like to share the bed and perhaps life with someone one never knows so well as to trust that there would not be a knife in the back at one point- but then I guess that is what marriage is anyway...
There is a plan to have the Red Sparrow move to the other side, she would like some money and she has something to give: the chief of staff of a senator has some secrets, satellite details that she is willing to pass to the enemy for two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

Some aspects are praiseworthy, if somewhat incredible- the strong woman at the center of the plot, brave, determined, smarter than all the men involved, resilient, strong, with a phenomenal perspective- a few moves ahead of everyone- such a character in the leading role used to be rare in motion pictures dominated by men.
We can also speculate that Ms. Lawrence was probably paid more than all her partners in the film together,the trouble is that some scenes do not seem possible in the context of Russia and especially its spying agency.

Take the attitude towards some of her superiors, like the head of their station in Budapest, who comes along to assist or better said to supervise the operation in London- Dominika tells him to go get a drink, dominates him, which is fine in a new perspective of women getting a better position in the world and in its representation on the screen, but would that really happen in the real world?
Repeating, in order to emphasize the attitude of these monsters: they do not hesitate to use Polonium and nerve gas in Britain, a good guess would be that if a lower ranking agent tells a higher ranking one to go and get something, there would be violence involved.

Of course, Dominika is the Red Sparrow, a manipulator and she also had some compromising material on that personage, but this is not the only incident and this view on things seems far fetched from here.

Otherwise, The Red Sparrow is good entertainment, if not the best film you could see...Loveless aka Nelyubov would be a much better choice.

marți, 17 aprilie 2018

Paris Can Wait, written and directed by Eleanor Coppola


Paris Can Wait, written and directed by Eleanor Coppola


Although interesting, sensitive, informative, this motion picture is not fascinating or breathtaking, even if it is signed by one member of the gifted, talented, creative Coppola family.

Diane Lane has the leading role of Anne Lockwood and she acts with professionalism and skill, but without a glow, an otherworldly quality, an inspiration from beyond, which alas, lacked at this film.
I loved Alec Baldwin, who has the small, supporting role of the husband, Michael Lockwood, surely influenced by his recent flabbergasting performances as the demented Trump, for Saturday Night Live shows, where he is absolutely outstanding!

Arnaud Viard has the role of Jacques Clement, an associate of Michael Lockwood, the two men working as producers in the film industry.
Michael and his wife are supposed to fly to Budapest and Jacques is accompanying them to the airport, stopping on the way to get some food and medicine for the ear pains that Anne is suffering from, then some strawberries.

Throughout, this hero will prove to be a connaisseur, a gourmand, if not on the level with Gargantua, at least very aware of the fine restaurants, the good wines, the specialties of various lands.
When they reach the hangar with the private plane that is about to take off, the heroine says that she is not feeling well and therefore she wants to skip the Hungarian capital and go straight to Paris.

The galant, polite, friendly Jacques Clement offers to drive her, because he will travel to the City of Lights and anyway, the trains will be full, now that the festival is over.
They agree on this, although jokingly Michael will come to regret it in phone conversations with his spouse, who travels with the French associate in his thirty - was it? - years old Peugeot, a cabriolet, odd looking vehicle, that needs water more than gas, for which they have to stop rather often.

Part of the attraction of this motion picture rests in the cultural tour, the informations given through this tour of France, by the amiable Jacques and tour guides when he is not available.
They pass first by the celebrated mountain that was painted by Paul Cezanne- who some say was the greatest painter of all- situated very near the main road- on the phenomenal artist, the American comments that she has seen some of his paintings that seemed very sad- if I remember this well.

When they are stopped at a gas station, Anne enters the shop, while the French man is looking after his car, but when she walks out, he has disappeared...to return after some time with the back seat full of roses, for he has a friend with a rose garden nearby.
Alas, the old Peugeot would not budge, after the man and the woman stop for a picnic near a river, in a splendid, magnifique setting, with wine, delicious food and heaven in their proximity.

They get a rental car, but they keep stopping and as a consequence...Paris Can Wait, for they stop at a hotel, where they have a romantic dinner, they exchange pleasantries and the romantic hero seems to try to get closer and closer to the good looking, middle aged woman.
He knows about the Romans, the glorious constructions- they take pictures near the famous bridge from antiquity- the fact that the ancestors of the Italians have started producing wine in...France.

This man does not know only figures, history and facts, but also a big number of people, in all the places that they stop in, and they keep interrupting their journey to Paris, so much so that Michael is worried, he says so in jest, but insists that his wife must be apprehensive of the French men and their ways, especially Jacques.
This romantic figure is not married, but he is clearly a womanizer, when they go to visit the museum dedicated to cinema and the inventors of motion pictures, the Lumiere brothers, Anne is accompanied by a museum guide, while Jacques is invited to the office of the manager, a woman he had known for a long time...when he comes out, he does not know that his traveling companion is in the vicinity and he pulls his trouser...the two have been busy faire l'amour.

Anne and Jacques get to know each other, stories, predilections, he even tells her a story with heavy impact, if unknowingly, when he mentions that Michael, who is such a grand figure, was approached by a beautiful woman who took his shoe, poured a drink and was ready to drink- or did she actually do it?- from it, making the film producer give her his pink Rolex watch.
The wife is affected and visibly distressed, saying I know the watch it was a gift from me!

This lamentable act of giving such a precious memory aside, one may feel that Alec Baldwin is a better choice than Jacques Clement, who is a confirmed womanizer after all.
And then he eats so much and talks about pain inflicted on animals that end up on the plate: escargots for instance.

Will they end up having an affair together?
I do not know, but the mystery maintained for such a long time seems to be part of the attractiveness of the movie, at least as intended by its writer- director.

luni, 16 aprilie 2018

Baby Driver, written and directed by Edgar Wright


Baby Driver, written and directed by Edgar Wright



The excellent, intelligent, sardonic, perhaps too much to the left of the political spectrum, amusing comedian Bill Maher is right when he criticizes Baby Driver and other films about driving a car- there is not much that one can find thrilling in an activity that we have to perform on a daily basis.

And yet, Baby Driver is more of a formula one pilot than one of those that are stuck in traffic routinely, even though there are races that we could watch, the Grand Prix of Monte Carlo and others where the likes of Lewis Hamilton pilot their super cars at speeds exceeding three hundred kilometers per hour.
Nevertheless, there is also a plot around the idea of piloting these vehicles, with speed, skill, intuition, creativity, boldness and a large dose of madness, alas, very little is new in this feature that somehow has managed to receive very good reviews from critics and audiences alike.

Baby is the hero of the motion picture and he drives getaway cars for bank robbers, hired by Doc aka the now disgraced Kevin Spacey, a man who works with different teams and is ruthless, eliminating those who cross him and members of their families.
The first team to rob a bank includes Buddy aka Jon Hamm and Darling - the two of them are partners in crime and lovers.

At the end of the heist, the loot is divided by Doc, but Baby receives only very little, probably about ten thousand dollars, and the mastermind explains in the parking lot that the young man only has another job to help with and he will have paid his debt.
I for one did not get what that debt was and it is actually less important, the crucial aspect is that an older man, a ruthless mobster speculates the advantage over someone who is only twenty maybe and abusese this position making the youngster work in an extremely dangerous, illegal position and pays him peanuts.

The second robbery is more violent, shots are fired, Baby has to drive a pick up truck- which is so much more difficult to operate - I have a Ford Ranger and I should know- and he proves his talents by exploiting whatever the heavier, slower vehicle has to offer: entering off road, jumping over obstacles and other astonishing acts.
Jamie Foxx is Bats, a violent, crazy, aggressive criminal who wants to shoot a man who had witnessed their attack and is chasing the Chevy pick up truck with a shotgun, driving another truck, a Dodge and coming close to blocking the path for the fugitives, when a maneuver of the hero prevents  Bats from killing the concerned citizen, who was probably an ex Marine or some law enforcement agent in his free time.

There is a rather hazy side here- at least for this viewer- for it is clear that Baby does not belong with these hardened felons and he wants to stop, he even records their conversations about the various heists, but it is not clear how he came to be in this company and be an accomplice to serious crimes.
We see through flashbacks that, when he was a child, perhaps only a five year old, the protagonist has been in a car accident, provoked by his parents arguing all the time, but it is not clear how this fits with the robberies.

There seems to be an effort though to portray the hero as a sort of Rainman, or the main character in stories or films where the special man or woman is challenged, but at the same time he has almost supernatural, paranormal qualities.
Here the main personage has problems with his hearing and he has to listen to music all the time to cover the other annoying noises that he would hear in his mind otherwise, but he is not only an excellent driver, but he obviously has other superb qualities.

Bats challenges him at one point, thinking that the driver does not get anything from the plan exposed by Doc, since he always has his earplugs and listens to music, but we are all completely besides ourselves to hear Baby give all the minute details of the operation, as it had just been presented.
The hero falls in love with Debora aka Lily James- remarkable first in Downton Abbey and more recently in The Darkest Hour- who is a waitress at a fast food and who responds in kind to the romantic feelings of the protagonist.

By the way, one can appreciate the talent of the actor in the leading role, but this viewer was not mesmerized, in fact it felt that the performer lacked the charisma, the glow, ability to fascinate that Lily James has.
The third robbery is a disaster, announced to a large extent by the violence and the shootings that had preceded it, when the new team with old members went to get guns- which was in itself not credible: either they have a good well prepared plan, or they just go out to get the needed paraphernalia right before the heist.

Many are killed in a paroxysm of violence, a climax is reached, with victims on both sides and the denouement is very near and somewhat predictable.
The motion picture was appreciated, but this cinephile is not enthused, considering that Drive, for instance, with a much better Ryan Gosling in the leading role, was a superior offering on all counts...not to mention The French Connection, with an astounding Oscar Winner in the phenomenal persona of the Cineam deity, Gene Hackman, and other classics of the genre.