Saturday, August 14, 2010

This month I have mostly been watching....

After years of DVD frugality I peeked through my fingers at my bank balance this month and realised I had a few pennies to spare on all the films people never buy me. My pechant for foreign cinema can isolate me at times, no one could conceal the jaded looks of disappointment on the faces of my loved ones as I carefully unwrapped each exciting Amazon bundle to reveal yet another subtitled film. Ah well I am in Euro cinematic bliss. Here are a few that I've recently discovered/ found my way back to.

Paris, je t'aime (2006)

Twenty short films by twenty different directors this film is an homage to the great city of love. The films are tantilisingly only five minutes in length and show every kind of love from maternal to adulterous and even supernatural. With a sprinkling of familiar stars ranging from the fabulous Juliette Binoche to Natalie Portman, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Elijah Wood every snippet will move and astonish you in equal measure.

Some of my favourites include:

'Le Marais' directed by Gus Van Sant. A boy enters a print shop with his mother and while waiting for her becomes smitten with one of the assistants.

'Tuliers' directed by the Coen brothers. A tourist falls vitcim to paranoid lovers on the metro

'Bastile' directed by Isabel Coixet. An adulterer meets his wife to end their relationship only to discover she has terminal leukemia during which he nurses her and falls in love with her again.

'Places de Victoires' directed by Nobuhiro Suwa. A woman grieves for her son

'Faubourg Saint-Denis' directed by Tom Tykwer.  The relationship between a blind man and an aspiring actress.

'14eme Arronissement' directed by Alexander Payne. A lonely American tourist falls in love with the city itself.

There are so many fantastic pieces from the story of how a boy's two mime artist parents found each other to a late night love affair between a vampire and her not unwilling victim! I could rave on about this film for ages but you really need to see it for yourselves. Good food for the soul and a great way to find new directors.

Belleville Rendez-Vous (2003) Sylvain Chomet

With Chomet's latest film The Illusionist about to hit the cinemas I was desperate to see this film as it's one I've wanted to see for many years. Belleville Rendez-Vous tells the story of Madame Souza and her grandson Champion, an aspiring cyclist who is abducted during the Tour de France. His grandmother then embarks on a dangerous quest to retrieve Champion from the clutches of the Belleville underworld. It is a fascinating piece of animation with minimal dialogue, slapstick and caricature that hark back to the days of silent cinema.

I found it enjoyable but not wholly satisfying as I didn't develop any kind of attachment to Champion, a fretful child who transforms into a deformed and largely emotionally ambiguous character. His kidnap, exploitation and eventual recovery were fairly unemotional affairs during which he barely acknowledged the presence of his heroic, limping grandmother and trusty dog Bruno which left me thinking he was a bit of an ungrateful sod!

Despite this one of my favourite scenes comes near the start of the film where Madame Souza massages her grandson after a hard evening of training. Slumped over the kitchen table she pummels his shattered muscles with whatever household utensil or appliance comes to hand from an egg whisk to the vacuum cleaner!

The film is not without its charming moments and the singing Belleville Triplets and the underground mafia are quite intriguing characters with fabulous affectations so please don't think I hated it.  I just wasn't left with that certain feeling one gets when you have been truly moved by a film. Ah well from what I've seen of The Illusionist from the trailers that looks to be more my kind of thing.

Watch this space for more film reviews over the next few weeks.

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