Film Review: Le Redoubtable (Godard Mon Amour)

LE REDOUBTABLE (GODARD MON AMOUR) (France 2017) ***
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius

 

The film GODARD MON AMOUR (American title) /LE REDOUBTABLE (French title) that premiered in Cannes last year, a loose chapter in the biography of Nouvelle Vague director Jean-Luc Godard and directed by Michel Hazanavicius who made THE ARTIST is one anticipated by many especially cineastes.  

During the making of one of his films, French film director Jean-Luc Godard (Louis GarreL) falls in love with 17-year old actress Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin) and later marries her.

The film is shot in the style of many Godard films - the way and mannerisms the characters speak, the large word title, the colourful huge lettering, clothes and so on.

In the film Godard is shown to be quite the oddball occasional jerk when he is on his politics activist side.  Anne, in one scene claims she married Godard the film director not the activist.  It is clear what Anne thinks, as the film is adapted from her novel "Un an après”. Anne dislikes any political activism.   This is emphasized in a street demonstration scene when a activist/marcher Jean-Jock laughs at a film critic/director that his film is to be played at Cannes.  “With what is going on, who is going to Cannes?”, he remarks and laughs controllably.  Not much else needs to be said as it is clear that Jean-Jock is the total idiot.  Films, as everybody knows can influence what people think, hence any political activity can be affected by film.

Though the film might look trivial on the surface, there is much going on that can be read between the lines.  This is a chapter of the life of Godard as seen from Anne’s point of view, not a biography of Godard.  Nothing is mentioned of his early life, background or life.  But the film does illustrate Godard’s need to be politically involved, perhaps he has the need to feel important that he can make a difference.  The Godard character does not like films, thinking that they are trivial.  Even when activists criticize him and his movies, Godard takes their side.  Godard has to decide to be a filmmaker or a revolutionist.  He tries both and fails.

Hazanavicius film on Godard will obviously be frustrating as it is unclear his aim of making it.  Hazanavicius shoots with the occasional humour of his OSS 117 and THE ARTIST though the humour is much less.

Louis Garrel (THE DREAMERS) does an almost perfect Godard, capturing all his mannerisms and quirkiness.  Hazanavicius’s wife Bérénice Bejo has a supporting role as Godard’s friend.  It is simply hilarious Godard moves throughout the film annoyed, bewildered and manipulated by the activists.  He is also shown as an insensitive and rude person while always being an oddball.  One feels the urge to punch Godard right in the face at any time.

The film did not earn a high approval rating, likely because of high expectations, but the film may turn out to be an entertaining, light and trivial tribute to an arguably great director of the Nouvelle Vague.  On the other hand, one might end up hating this film thinking that Hazanavicius could have done a more serious piece with more insight on Godard.  It would be interesting to hear what Godard himself thinks of this film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nh2zKF6Ucv8

Film Review: LA TERRE VUE DU COEUR

LA TERRE VUE DU COEUR (EARTH: SEEN FROM THE HEART) (Canada 2018) ***
Directed by Iolande Cadrin-Rossignol

This new documentary that celebrates our Planet Earth opens in Toronto with competition from the Hot Docs Film Festival currently on at the same time.  If one wants to take a break from the Hot Docs crowd, this fascinating documentary serves to celebrate, educate and warn human beings of the delicate nature of the planet.  LA TERRE VUE DU COEUR (EARTH: SEEN FROM THE HEART) is a French documentary from Quebec subtitled in English with narration by well-respected scientists.

Having lived for 40 years on an old farm in northern Burgundy, Quebec astrophysicist Dr. Hubert Reeves has observed the deterioration of nature around his property.  Faced with this threat to the Earth's ecosystem, the scientist shares his concern in regards to the imminent possibility of a sixth extinction of animal and plant species on the planet.  Reeves and French sociologist Dr. Frédéric Lenoir team up with a variety of experts in various fields to propose possible solutions to stop the overexploitation of natural resources and the erosion of biodiversity.

The doc begins like a science lesson.  Water is the source of life, the audience is reminded, and it comes from depleted stars.  How water came to Planet Earth is a subject of scientific debate  Nevertheless, there is life.  The theme of water is kept throughout the film, coming back to the importance of water regardless of the current topic.

The biggest enemy to EARTH is oil, which director Cadrin-Rossignol attacks fiercely.  The unethical drilling of oil without any permission by TransCan in the St. Lawrence estuary is enough to infuriate anyone.  The drilling is eventually halted after the company is brought to court by the locals protesting the Harper Government and the company.

The film in its attempt to be exhaustive covers too many issues on the health of the earth.  Issues covered include global warming, the melting of he icebergs and opening of the NorthWest Passage, death of corals in the oceans (coral bleaching), permaculture, deepwater illumination,  overfishing, just to name a few.  One needs to learn more on each of the subjects put forward.  For example, Jeff Orlowski’s documentary CHASING CORAL would be a good film to learn more about coral bleaching.

As far as educational values go, the film excels.  There are many issues examined here that audiences will likely be unaware of.  The most important thing is that there is hope for the planet, hope in the form of the tireless activists that volunteer their time and money for an urgent course.  The film ends on a high note that cities are beginning to do their part.  Rosemont in Quebec are widening pavements for planting trees and shrubs while roofs in the neighbourhood will all eventually be changed to white to reflect heat to keep the neighbourhood cooler.  When one turns on the tap in NYC, the water that come out is filtered by natural means.

Rossignol’s doc also talks about the importance of animals.  Donkeys are monkeys are mentioned with some esteem.  Hunting is also brought into perspective.  It is explained hat animals eat others in order to survive and it is part of the cycle of life.  When wolves were eliminated from the American National Parks, the elk population expanded too fast which resulted in vegetation eaten too quickly.  Nature was rebalanced when wolves were brought back into the equation.

Director Rossignol has recruited a wide range of talents from many disciples to narrate his feature and to give it clout.  Among them are a cinematographer, a botanist, a conservationist, an entomologist, a biologist, an astrologist, an environmentalist and even a philosopher.

In the film, a narrator mentions that a person could be remembered as a party person or someone who makes a difference to the planet.  Oddly enough, this also points the finger at people going to see films like A SWINGER’S WEEKEND which also opens this week or this one about the planet.  The film opens coinciding with the celebration of EARTH Month. 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOpOaxZBeww&feature=youtu.be

Film Review: Revenge

REVENGE (France 2017) ****

Directed by Coralie Fargeat

 

REVENGE borrows from many classic films like MAD MAX, THE HUNTING PARTY and female stalker movies to provide another gore fest in which victim becomes hunter with a few more tricks on display.  This is French director Carolie Fargeat’s debut feature shot in both French and English and an impressive one at that.  She presented her film at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, proving that she talent as well as beauty.

A rich businessman, Richard (Kevin Janssens) takes his mistress, Jen (Italian model Matilda Lutz) on a getaway in a gorgeous mansion by a desert.  His two hunting friends, Stanley (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède )show up and abuse her while he goes off on a chore for two hours.  Instead of being on her side, Richard takes his friends side.  When she threatens to tell his wife, Richard pushes her off a cliff.  She survives.  They hunt her down while she, turns the table on them. 

The film is the real BATTLE OF THE SEXES and one that is relevant considering how women have ben abused by celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Crosby.  Fargeat’s strong feminist imprint is present in her frill from start to finish.  She shows that the female is not a plaything and if treated as one with disrespect, will come fighting back for REVENGE.

Fargeat’s film is gorgeous to look at in all respects from the exterior landscape to the interior sets.  The stunning desert landscape that includes one pool of water, as well as the cliffs are well photographed.  The mansion in the middle of the reset with its swimming pool is a marvel in modern architecture.  Around 20% of the film is set in the darkness in the dead of night.  The cinematography by Robrecht Heyvaert is nothing short of magnificent with just enough light to see what is happening in the dead of the desert night.

This French horror slasher can be seen to be quite different from the American counterparts.  REVENGE is ultra violent, flashy with less distracting humour and hardly any false alarms (excepting the nightmare sequences) and cheap tricks to jolt the audience.  Fargeat’s attention to detail like the blood dripping on the ant in the desert and the one hunting friend chewing a crunchy chocolate bar while a rep is going on is particularly menacing.

A few gory set-ups include one where a man extracts chards of glass from the base of his foot and another with Jen tending to her wounds with the aluminium of a red hot beer can.  The latter segment lasts a full 10 minutes and almost too gruesome to watch, while Jen takes peyote so that she will be unable to feel the pain while tending the wounds. 

The climatic scene is full of inventive cat-and house chasing complete with Richard applying Saran wrap around his wounds.

It will be a very eager wait for Fargeat’s next film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTJrztVvmx0

Hot Docs 2018 Toronto

HOT DOCS 2018 TORONTO

 

Hot Docs arrives once again to Toronto with a slew of documentaries covering a wide range of subjects from countries all over the world.

The options are tremendous.  What should one see?  One way is to pick a subject one is the most interested in, and see the doc on that subject - be it global warming or human rights or racism.  Another tactic is to choose a doc on a subject one knows the least about, perhaps on drug addiction in Afghanistan.   Or even one with the weirdest subject as in THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS where triplets discover each other and then also that they were a part of a human behavioural study.  Some docs on subjects demand to be seen as in THE GUARDIANS where seniors are kidnapped  for money in government sponsored homes.

The festival of Documentaries runs from April 26th to May the 6th.

For the complete program, schedule of films and ticket pricing check the docs website at:

https://www.hotdocs.ca/

Capsule Reviews of Selected Docs follow:

 

THE ACCOUNTANT OF AUSCHWITZ (Canada 2018) ****
Directed by Matthew Shoychet

This eye-opening doc, despite its well worn subject of Jews slaughtered in Nazi concentration camps is based on the 2015 trial of 94-year-old Oskar Groning, the Accountant of Auschwitz.  He went on trial in his home town in Luneburg, Germany for the murder of 300,000 people, way back in 1944. The case made headlines around the world, as a frail old man took the stand to finally face justice for crimes committed long ago.  Director Shoychet shows two sides of the argument, that a precedent must be set for the murders of the past.  On the other hand, it could be argued that Groning, like many other Germans that followed served no purpose.  The photo of Groning as a young man in uniform makes the guilty man look so innocent, and his current photo at the age of 94, which bears no resemblance at all to the old photo stresses the relevance of prosecuting the man.  The doc is quite different here, as many Germans are interviewed and have their say on camera.  The Germans get to debate both sides.  Survivors and Nazi hunters alike are therefore torn over whether he should be prosecuted at all.  The film also contains archive footage with relevant commentary on the Nuremberg Trials.  But the highlight of the film are the testimonies of the survivors, prosecutors and other interviewees whose words bring shivers regarding what have transited in the past.  Oskar Groning just passed away March of this year.

Trailer: (unavailable)

 

 

 

 

ANOTE’S ARK (Canada 2018) ***
Directed by Matthieu Rytz

 

A clever title for a documentary on the Pacific island of Kikibati.  The nation of Kiribati (population: 100,000) is one of the most remote places on the planet, seemingly far-removed from the pressures of modern life.  Yet it is one of the first countries that must confront the main existential dilemma of our time: imminent annihilation from sea-level rise due to global warming from climate change.   

The film opens with a shot of the island surrounded by crystal clear blue waters.  The island is described as the corners of the earth as it streets north and south and east and west of the international date line.  The fishing scene also shows how rich the waters are. 

Anote is the then President who needs to build an ark for the nation to survive the flooding, similar to Noah building an ark to save the animals from the world flood.  The film documents the desperation of the people as the tides rise and flooding occurs.  Lots of footage here including scenes of devastation resulting from the floods.  While Kiribati’s President Anote Tong races to find a way to protect his nation’s people (he attends the Paris Climate change Conference with other world leaders including ex-U.S. President Obama) and maintain their dignity, many Kiribati are already seeking safe harbour overseas.  The film follows one such couple who sees New Zealand as their new home.  

Both director Matthieu Rytz, and subject President Anote Tong will be present during the Hot Docs screening.
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/244728466

 

CHEF FLYNN (USA 2018) ***

Directed by Cameron Yates

 

Documentary CHEF FLYNN picks 10-year old Flynn as is subject when Flynn first transforms his living room into a supper club using his classmates as line cooks. With sudden fame, Flynn outgrows his bedroom kitchen, and sets out to challenge the hierarchy of the culinary world.  Like most docs on a subject that runs out of material, it gets distracted with other issues such as, in this case, the mother’s filming obsession, Fynn’s relationship with his family (father and sister) and his new restaurant’s opening night.  But when the camera is on the young chef prodigy, it gets the most interesting.  To director Yates’ credit, he ties the other issues to Flynn’s culinary duties.  Flynn’s culinary creations look marvellous on screen though this fine dining experience may only be suited for the rich and wealthy.  Still, it is a rewarding experience to see a talented youth (seen through the ages of 10-15) experience both the highs of his talent and pains of growing up too quickly.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvaouhB0qzc

COMMANDER ARIAN - A Story of Women, War and Freedom (Germany/Spain/Syria 2018) ***
Directed by Alba Sotorra

 

The Commander Arian of the film title is a 30-year-old female fighter of the Kurdish Resistance (YPJ ).  The aim of this group of women is to free villages captured by ISIS who treat women, in Arian’s own words, less than the worth of a piece of fabric.  Her aim is also to promote the woman’s cause - beyond marriage and making love.  Director Sotorra’s film is in two parts.  The first shows Arian in convalescence, after wounded by 5 bullets.  She speaks candidly of her goals, aspirations and her work. The film flashes back earlier to show her commanding her troops in the unending battle against the ISIS.  The film hails the conquering hero and Arian demands the respect she works for.  She is also shown in her weakness when her body is hurting and at her strengths when she is inspiring her soldiers.  To Arian, death must be worth the fight.  The film shows many candid battle scenes.  A solid documentary that is both eye-opening and disturbing.

Short Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agx7hzHVsN4

 

 

GURRUMUL (Australia 2018) **
Directed by Paul Williams

GURRUMUL is a name most people have never heard of.  So the image of him as seen on the cover of “Rolling Stone” magazine must stand for something.   Celebrated by audiences at home and abroad, Indigenous artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu was one of the most important and acclaimed voices to ever come out of Australia.  Blind from birth, he found purpose and meaning through songs and music inspired by his community and country on Elcho Island in far North East Arnhem Land.  Living a traditional Yolngu life, his breakthrough album ‘Gurrumul’ brought him to a crossroads as audiences and artists around the world began to embrace his music.   William’s film follows his life as told by his mother, father, uncle and assortment of relatives.  He has two white folk aid him in publicity and his work.  GURRUMUL is unlike most biographies where there is downturn and then redemption.  But Gurrumul is no angel either, as his manager gets extremely frustrated when he does not show up for his American tour.  But the film that stresses Gurrumul’s voice and songs comes across as a rather lacklustre affair despite director William’s effort of educating the audience on Gurrumul’s tribal responsibilities. The only time the film comes alive is the duet performance of “Every Breathe you Take,” by Gurrumul and Sting.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXa3gw3g4C4

LAILA AT THE BRIDGE (Afghanistan/Canada 2018) ***

Directed by Sylvia Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei

The bridge in Kabul, Afghanistan is a filthy and disgusting place.  Smelling of human faeces and vomit, this is the makeshift dwelling of hundreds of homeless Afghanistan drug addicts.  As the difficult to watch (for reason of its material and harsh depiction of human hardships) film informs at the start, 90% of the world’s opium is grown in the country with more than 11% of the population addicted.  Laila is the Mother Teresa who brings the addicts home, feed, clothe and more important, try to get them clean and to stay clean.  This is her story.  Laila is shown as a dedicated mother of sorts but not without faults.  She can be too forward, loud, and bossy, especially when trying to get government aid for her exploits.  The film shows two crucial scenes at the bridge, one with her distributing  limited food and the other searching through the rubbish for a convert.  The film ends on a note of hope with her possibly having a way to get funds for her project.  The film is also made more alive by examining a few addicts in detail, one of whom is Laila’s brother who is presently clean and helping her, after 25 years of addiction.  A very eye-opening documentary set in a  country with a culture North Americans know very little about.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it8INQaTcB0

DIE NACHT DER NACHTE (THE NIGHT OF ALL NIGHTS (Germany 2018) ***

Directed by Nesrin Samdereli, Yasemin Samdereli

 

Likely the most charming documentary at Hot Docs 2018.   Together for a lifetime?  Who can manage this?  And who still wants this? What seems to be an oddity for us nowadays was the norm for the generation of our grandparents.  The doc follows four separate lifelong couples from different countries as they experience and talk about traditional wedding night.  The couples are elderly couples from Japan, Germany and India including a gay couple from Pennsylvania in the United States.  The film is shot, with subtitles in Japanese, Hindi, German and English.   This is a simple documentary not requiring much research or what it lacks in terms of content and history is compensated by the amusing observations on human behaviour.  Of all the couples on display, the Indian couple is the most endearing.  The segment where the husband and wife describe their first ‘touching’ encounter in the cinema is unforgettable and in itself is worth the price of admission.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_Dg-py6X_U

OVER THE LIMIT (Poland/Germany/Finland 2017) **

Directed by Marta Prus

OVER THE LIMIT begins with a beautifully choreographed display go gymnastics by Olympic gymnast Rita Mamun, doing wonders with a hoop.  To the audience’s surprise, she is then violently chided by her trainer, a Ms. Irina despite praise from her coach, Ms. Amina.  The film concentrates its focus on these three individuals.  Ms. Irina is depicted as the wicked manipulative witch who hurls abusive insults and personal attacks on both Rita and the coach.  The main goal is the winning of the Olympic goal which becomes the climax of the doc.  Is this successful Russian system for training athletes transgresses boundaries really worth it?  Results may show but the path and destruction of human lives might not. This is what Prus intends to show and succeeds.  Elite rhythmic gymnast Rita Mamun has reached a crucial moment in her career.  This is a difficult to watch nail-biting behind-the-scenes drama about the intense physical and mental labor put into a sport that thrives on its beautiful aesthetics.  But there are too many repeated segments of Ms. Irina abusing Rita.  The audience gets the point early in the film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W47fIKJJAVw

THE SILENCE OF OTHERS (Spain/USA 2018) ***1/2

Directed by Almudena Carracedo, Robert Bahar

One of the biggest docs to premiere at Toronto’s HOT DOS 2018 this year is Pedro Almodovar’s presentation of THE SILENCE OF OTHERS, a film about the evil of the Franco regime of 40 years.  The film gets personal at the film’s start when a 90-ish old women places flowers at the side of the road.  She is still mourning the death of her mother, who was taken away by the townsfolk way back in the 30’s and left by the side of the road.  Her body was not allowed to be taken to the cemetery.  Footage taken in 1936 the shows Franco next to Hitler followed by massacre of rows of people and other injustices such as brutal beatings by Franco troops. All the above occurs within the first 5 minutes of the film so the audience is primed for a solid riveting historical documentary.  This elderly woman is just one person seeking just for inhumanities done during the Franco regime.  She and many others want their relatives’ graves exhumed for their remains.  Others were tortured by officials in the regime.  They,understandably want justice.  The film follows a select few of those who suffered under the Franco regime.  Many want the torturers punished and go to jail while others want the bodies of their dead ones back for proper burial.  The film centres on their emotions especially showing their joy and relief after the courts have passed sentence.

Trailer: http://www.critic.de/film/the-silence-of-others-11676/trailer/

TRANSFORMER (USA 2018) ***

Directed by Michael Del Monte

TRANSFORMER, the true transgender story of a muscled power lifter undergoing a sex change operation offers an unique perspective on the transgendered community and how each transition is unique to the person transitioning.  Janae (aka Matt) Kroc was as masculine as one can be prior to her transition, a world record powerlifter renowned for her masculinity. When she transitioned, she struggled with remaining true to her passions as a powerlifter while wanting to become more feminine.  The film illustrates a lesson that transitioning does not mean leaving one person behind to become another - so audiences should be prepared to be taking for quite the ride.

The film also shows the sadness at people in the world who still stupid and are unacceptable of gays or people who are different in general.  A moving while disturbing segment has protesters during an LGTT march.  These people carry just awful and nasty holding signs like LGBT (Let God Burn Them) and HOMO Sex is Sin.  Well, Kroc has admitted earlier in the film that he is still attracted to females and not men.  After the segment when the camera then focuses on Kroc back in male clothes, one certainly gains a new respect for this man - one who is able to stand up for what he believes and to challenge all the unaccepting idiots in the world, who are the ones who should burn in hell.  Director has lifted this film that could have been a freak show turn into something more insightful.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/233416373

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS (USA 2018) ***
Directed by Tim Wardle

 

The doc, THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS opens in the year 1980 when 19-year-olds Robert Shafran and Edward Galland found each other at the same community college and realized they were twins separated at birth.  To each other’s surprise, they discover a third.  Triplets at birth finding each other is news.  The surprise triplets became fast friends and overnight media sensations.  Can the happiness last forever?  Every story eventually has a dark side.  The dark side involves the discovery at the adoption agency that the triplets (as are other twins) were part of an experiment conducted on human behaviour.  The film’s best part is the insight given by a few of the interviewees.  One, a lady who worked at the adoption research centre gives her opinion that it was not considered inappropriate in those days to do experiments of this kind.  Psychology was new and in, and it was a cool subject then, not like today.

A documentary is often as good as its subject.  A far as Wardle’s documentary goes, what other film could have topped this with a more intriguing subject.  THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS will eventually be praised as a film despite its glaring flaws.   One wishes that more conclusion would have been presented regarding the experiments

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-OF0OaK3o0

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