Two Days, One Night (2014) – The Dardenne Brothers

21 12 2014

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The new film from minimalist directors the Dardenne brothers, who have won the Cannes film festival’s top honor twice in their career (only 6 other filmmakers have accomplished that feat since the festival began in 1939).  Their films, and especially Two Days, One Night, have always been deceptively simple on the surface, but underneath are raw and poetic and will leave you pondering its messages for long after.  Emotionally and stylistically, Two Days, One Night is a modern day counterpart to Bicycle Thieves.

This follows a working class woman who learns that she may be losing her job, as the staff have been asked to choose between receiving a substantial bonus or keeping her on the payroll.  She has the weekend to visit her 16 coworkers and try to persuade them to let her keep her job.  Through her struggle, which sort of plays out in a series of vignettes, we see glimpses into different family lives, the many ripple effects caused by her actions, her own character arc, and even a rounded portrait of the working class.

In casting Marion Cotillard, this is also the first time the Dardenne brothers have not worked with a complete cast of unknowns.  Marion Cotillard is brilliant, as she usually is, and it wasn’t until after the film that I realized how little dialogue she actually has, as she’s incredibly expressive, but without resorting to chewing the scenery or lashing out.  It’s a wonderful, subtle performance.

9.5/10

 

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Looking ahead to the rest of 2013

1 06 2013

With the year half over and Cannes behind us, here are the 10 films I’m most excited to see during the 2nd half of 2013.  Something I should address up front is that Man of Steel, the most anticipated film for many, is absent here. Though I don’t quite have superhero movie fatigue yet, I’ve just never been a fan of Zack Snyder, and so I’m skeptical of anything he’s behind.  This is his follow up to Sucker Punch, after all.

10) Only God Forgives

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Having loved 2011’s Drive, I can’t help but be excited for Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling’s follow-up.  While Drive was universally praised, Refn seems to be going back to his more divisive ways this time, even drawing comparisons to Valhalla Rising in that it’s visceral, violent, beautiful, but all with a bare bones script.

9) This is the End

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This could be the best “midnight movie” of the year.  This fits right into Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s wheelhouse, and with a great ensemble and an emphasis on improv, it has the potential to be a blast.

8) The Past

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Like Drive, Asghar Fahadi’s  A Separation was one of my favorites of 2011.  His new film is getting very strong reviews and he’s becoming one of the most exciting new writer/directors.

7) Blue is the Warmest Color

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This just won the palme d’Or at Cannes, and so it automatically gets a spot here.  Other than the story centering around a young French lesbian couple, I know nothing of this film or its director.  However, Cannes has a history of picking amazing films for its top honor, and so I can’t wait to see this.

6) Anchorman: The Legend Continues

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Long in the works, and I really just can’t wait to see Will Ferrell back in this role.  Should be a lot of fun.

5) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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After seeing An Unexpected Journey, I’m no longer worried about The Hobbit being split into 3 films.  I didn’t feel it had any pacing issues, it set up a sequel well, and it felt wonderful to return to Middle Earth.  I’m sure Peter Jackson will work his magic once again.

4) Nymphomaniac

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Ever since Antichrist I feel there’s been a misconception among some that Lars Von Trier is a one-trick-pony only seeking shock value.  Though Nymphomaniac doesn’t look to change that view at all, I don’t think it could be further from the truth.  He’s always made wonderfully innovative films, from pioneering Dogme 95 to writing and directing Dogville, which Tarantino called “One of the best scripts ever written,” and that it “Would’ve won the Pulitzer had it been brought to the stage.”  He’s also been unpredictable, ranging from shock and horror to office comedy.  Nymphomaniac will at the very least be one of the most talked about movies of the year.

3) Twelve Years a Slave

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Steve McQueen might be the most exciting new director.  This is his 3rd film after Hunger and Shame.  This time he tackles slavery in NYC in the 1800’s, and he has maybe the best cast of the year led by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender.

2) The Wolf of Wall Street

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The 5th collaboration between Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, and with reportedly one of the wildest scripts around.  There are even rumors of an NC-17 rating, though I doubt a major studio would let a film such as this get that financial kiss of death. Regardless, Scorsese is an all time great, and I can’t wait to see him take on controversial and energetic material again.

1) Before Midnight

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Not usually one for romance, the first two films, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (which brilliantly plays out in real time), are two exceptions.  If Before Midnight reaches the same heights, this series will, in my opinion, be one of the all time best.  The three films were all made 9 years apart, with the actors aging naturally along with the characters. The two stars, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, also had a big influence on the scripts of each film, so not only have the characters aged naturally, but they’ve matured naturally as well.  Before Midnight opens wide on June 14th, and so far it’s been getting nothing but rave reviews.  It looks to be a great end to a trilogy 18 years in the making.





Cannes 2010 lineup

19 04 2010

Lots of good stuff.  Disappointed to see that Malick’s The Tree of Life apparently isn’t ready to be screened, and that Schnabel’s Miral was turned down and will be premiering at the Venice film fest instead.  But still, Cannes is always the best and most exciting festival, and I can’t wait to see a ton of the films on this list.  It’s also nice to see Mathieu Amalric and Diego Luna try their hand at directing.  Here’s the complete list:

Opening film
Ridley Scott – ROBIN HOOD (Out of Competition)

In Competition
Mathieu Amalric – TOURNÉE
Xavier Beauvois – DES HOMMES ET DES DIEUX
Rachid Bouchareb – HORS LA LOI
Alejandro González Iñárritu – BIUTIFUL
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun – UN HOMME QUI CRIE (A Screaming Man)
IM Sangsoo – HOUSEMAID
Abbas Kiarostami – COPIE CONFORME
Takeshi Kitano – OUTRAGE
Lee Chang-dong – POETRY
Mike Leigh – ANOTHER YEAR
Doug Liman – FAIR GAME
Sergei Loznitsa – YOU. MY JOY
Daniele Luchetti – LA NOSTRA VITA
Nikita Mikhalkov – UTOMLYONNYE SOLNTSEM 2
Bertrand Tavernier – LA PRINCESSE DE MONTPENSIER
Apichatpong Weerasethakul – LOONG BOONMEE RALEUK CHAAT
(Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives)

Un Certain Regard
Derek Cianfrance – BLUE VALENTINE (1st film)
Manoel De Oliveira – O ESTRANHO CASO DE ANGÉLICA (Angelica)
Xavier Dolan – LES AMOURS IMAGINAIRES (Heartbeats)
Ivan Fund, Santiago Loza – LOS LABIOS
Fabrice Gobert – SIMON WERNER A DISPARU… (1st film)
Jean-Luc Godard – FILM SOCIALISME
Christoph Hochhäusler – UNTER DIR DIE STADT (The City Below)
Lodge Kerrigan – REBECCA H. (RETURN TO THE DOGS)
Ágnes Kocsis – PÁL ADRIENN (Adrienn Pál)
Vikramaditya Motwane – UDAAN (1st film)
Radu Muntean – MARTI, DUPA CRACIUN (Tuesday, After Christmas)
Hideo Nakata – CHATROOM
Cristi Puiu – AURORA (Aurora)
Hong Sangsoo – HA HA HA
Oliver Schmitz – LIFE ABOVE ALL
Daniel Vega – OCTUBRE (1st film)
David Verbeek – R U THERE
Xiaoshuai Wang – RIZHAO CHONGQING (Chongqing Blues)

Out of Competition
Woody Allen – YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER
Stephen Frears – TAMARA DREWE
Oliver Stone – WALL STREET – MONEY NEVER SLEEPS

Midnight Screenings
Gregg Araki – KABOOM
Gilles Marchand – L’AUTRE MONDE (Blackhole)

Special Screenings
Charles Ferguson – INSIDE JOB
Sophie Fiennes – OVER YOUR CITIES GRASS WILL GROW
Patricio Guzman – NOSTALGIA DE LA LUZ (Nostalgia For The Light)
Sabina Guzzanti – DRAQUILA – L’ITALIA CHE TREMA
Otar Iosseliani – CHANTRAPAS
Diego Luna – ABEL (1st film)





Fish Tank

29 12 2009

Andrea Arnold’s sophomore film is a British indie drama about Mia, a volatile young girl aspiring to be a dancer while living with her dysfunctional family in a rundown neighborhood.  When Mia’s mother brings home a new boyfriend, an odd series of events occur, prompting everything to change for Mia and her family.  It’s somewhat similar plot-wise to An Education, only much more authentic and in a lower class setting.  And much better.

Katie Jarvis, in her first performance ever, is absolutely brilliant as Mia and if there was any justice would be a shoe-in at the Oscars.  Michael Fassbender, who starred in last year’s Hunger and had a role in Inglourious Basterds, plays the new boyfriend and is also terrific (he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite actors).

Despite being such a small film with a shoe-string budget, natural lighting, and an unknown lead actress, Fish Tank is one of the most arresting and poignant films in recent memory.  It uses everything it has so effectively.  I’ll certainly never see Bobby Womack’s song “California Dreamin” in the same way.

As far as I know Fish Tank does not yet have a U.S. release date, and when it is released chances are it won’t be at your local theatre so you’ll probably have to go out of your way to check it out.  But please do, it deserves more exposure.

RATING:  9.5/10 (my #2 of 2009)





The White Ribbon

28 11 2009

Michael Haneke finally won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year (I think he should have won for “Cache” in 2005) for this unsettling drama set in a remote German village just a few years before WWI, where mysterious and violent crimes are shaking up the townsfolk.  Haneke, who’s officially a master of allegory, touches on all kinds of bleak subjects such as patriarchy, crime, revenge, and of course death.  He’s a barrel of laughs, this guy. 

As expected, Haneke explores the dark side of human nature as only Haneke can, and it’s all the more disturbing being that the focus is mainly on the children.  Maliciously neglectful parenting has an obvious impact on the children, and in a way you get a glimpse at the origin of the Nazi party, or at least the origin of extremism with pre-Nazi Germany as the example.

 I also wanted to say that this whole film is absolutely beautiful to look at (it turns out that it was originally filmed in color and then changed to black and white in post-production) and that if it weren’t for Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist,” it would deserve to win every annual cinematography award there is (sadly both films are probably too controversial to win anything outside of the festivals). 

RATING:  9/10