DR: French faves of last year

The two movies I am writing about in this post have a lot in common. Well having something in common is what made me put them in a Double Review. They are both the movies which garnered the most hype overseas, in the UK and US especially. They have been nominated for a huge slew of awards and have won a lot. They are both reflections of the main issue of the plot. Just dealing with the present and a small period in the lives of the characters, not much of the past and end with a hopeful future.

I Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime)

She was the woman Hugh Grant ignored during the four weddings and a funeral and the lover of English patient and Jeremy’s Clarkson’s idea of the most beautiful woman. Kristin Scott Thomas is wonderful and talented actress who has played a varied set of roles and easily one of finest of the contemporary English ones. With her beauty and talent it’s surprising she hasnt moved to Hollywood. In a way it has been a blessing with her dabbling with a lot of French cinema and this I believe is one of the best of her efforts. ‘I loved you for so long’ is a story of a woman who has just been releas24long.xlarge1ed from prison and has to live with her kid sister who she hasnt seen in 15 years. It shows how Juliette Fontaine (Kristin Scott Thomas) is moving into normal life after such a long stay in prison and at the same time finding love of her sister at a time when she thought all her family has disowned and abandoned her. Juliette is a very strong woman who can take whatever life throws at her and yet inspite of all her strength she cant forget her past. It was an amazing performance by Kristin Scott Thomas and she along with the Elsa Zylberstein, actress who played her sister give the movie its special place.
In many ways this movie reminded me of Rachel Getting Married, where too the elder sister has had a bad past closely related to the family and her life has gone into a disarray. The younger sister who has had to deal with the trauma associated and who builds her life around it and yet makes something out of it. During the movie they bond and resolve their issues, with the younger sister alleviating the pain of the elder one. ‘I loved you for so long’ might have not the overall brilliance flow of Rachel Getting Married but it really stands out as a heart-touching movie due to the lead performances.

The Class (Entre Le Murs-Between the walls)

When a movie wins the Palme D’ Or at the Cannes film festival and attracts praise from critics world wide it definitely evokes an interest in you. And when the subject matter of it is quite commonplace you get even more piqued as to how it turned out so praiseworthy. It has metacritic rating of 94 and also features in several critics' top ten lists. After a long wait, I got to watch the Class and I must say i was underwhelmed. I understand the nuances and the beauty of realism and all but I fail to understand why this movie stands apart?
classThe Class is a semi autobiographical account of François Bégaudeau’s former job as a literature teacher in a Parisian mid-school. François Bégaudeau starred and scripted the movie after the novel he wrote in 2006. He shows us the rich and overwhelming diversity of a class in such a school and how each student has such a baggage of their low income background, identity of their place of origin and religion along with the usual issues which every other teen has to deal with. It makes a volatile atmosphere and yet somehow its is short of exploding. This drives most teachers crazy and they have their limits which makes the task of reform and education more daunting. Any slip on their part, like I see in most western societies, is met with the harshest rebuke. I don't understand how education is possible at a place when the teachers mind. body and spirit are tied down by the system and the students are living with closed minds. How can education happen in such hostile environment?
The movie flows really well and it is quite commendable that it does for there are no concrete plot points along which the movie is woven around but its just a series of well knit snapshots of a class of students in particular year attending this particular subject. There is not a moment where you are bored during watching this seemingly plain movie because of the vivaciousness of the characters(read students) involved. You never once get that we are in a movie and people are acting and saying out lines written for them and in this too the movie is commendable! But what is it that makes it tick and so brilliant I dont comprehend. It maybe my being an amateur or just absence of the right perspective. Whatever it is this is my final say. The Class is a lovely film dealing and a very interesting watch but doesnt really excite you at any point of time during the film or makes you think about it at later which is the whole basis for a great movie.

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Review: Watchmen

The Comic book: Watchmen is the critically acclaimed and wildly popular graphic novwatchmenel/limited series comic book written by Alan Moore and was published in 1986-7 and is set in alternate history where superheroes emerge in the 1940’s and 50’s, US wins the Vietnam war and Richard Nixon has been elected for a third term. It talks about various issues plaguing the society in the 80’s like the fear of nuclear holocaust and detriment of morals in the society and also the angst and troubles of retired and active superheroes especially the wrath they face from the people they set out to protect. The novel is multilayered and very complex in all its essence ie the plot, narrative and themes. It was called unfilmable by several people including the author himself. Its movie adaptation has been in the pipeline right since it was published and finally materialised in 2009.
The Movie: With huge resources and lots of budding talent at hand, Zack Snyder(who made 300) finally got the Watchmen project off the ground and played to his forte of brilliant visualization and loyal adaptation of source material. The first worked perfectly and the second was his undoing. He started out brilliantly with the titles sequence which was very innovative and crucial part of the movie laying the background story for the ‘Minutemen’, the original superheroes and the childhoods of the current generation. However when he cut out the parallel stories running along with the main one(he put em in a direct to video release named Tales of the Black Freighter) and ignored some events due to the crunch of time and excess complication for an average movie-goer the plots loses its lustre and seems trivial and still remained very confusing for lots of people.For Zack Snyder, the Watchmen was like a loaded gun which he lifted and aimed well but miscalculated the firing intensity and range which led to the movie veering out of control by the time second half started and ending on a confused note with hardly any fizz at all.

The problem: The portrayal of Rorsach and the Comedian were brilliant and also they were the only genuine superheroes people are used to seeing, the others being weak willed, confused and resigned to their fates. This was captured well in the comic but the weak direction and acting which was shallow and pretentious, just misguided everyone who dint read the comic. The casting was bad and most performances were flaccid. Flaccid was what Night Owl was when he tried to make love to Silk Spectre in his place. That showed his insecurity and lack of confidence without a suit on.There is a background story giving the reason for this in the novel and also this was supposed to be understood when they finally do it on the top of Archie in the Sky. Snyder totally lost it and audience were clueless about what is happening and they had to endure an atrocious sex scene. This is what happened through out when he left off the fine details which gave strength to the central plot. The sound track too was entirely made of all time hits and was very cheesy. And why the hell were you playing the Sound of Silence during the burial of Comedian?
The Solution: I am no big shot movie producer or script writer but the Watchmen is not unfilmable. It is just cannot be condensed into 2 or 3 hours. What should have been done is a two part movie or a 6 part miniseries with nothing edited out including the actual mind bomb and the Black Freighter. All its ugliness the book portrays and the goriness which ensues by the end, which was hard to be read on print if reproduced on the big screen in its relevance would have made a cinematic masterpiece and I believe Snyder is still the best man to do it, just not in the one film captures it all medium.

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Spanish Film Festival: More reviews

On the third day of the film festival, my second, I got to watch two totally different films both set in the present unlike 13 roses. They were Fermat’s Room and Seven Billiard Tables. It was fun watching two thoroughly yet differently entertaining films back to back

Fermat’s Room (La Habitación de Fermat)

The movie,as everybody else would mention in their review, starts with the line, “If you dont know what prime numbers are, you can stop watching this movie”. Quite a bold statement and kinda nonsensical too because the movie is not laden with heavy mathematical jargon or thesis. It is just a thriller woven around a few mathematicians. 4 mathematicians who donot know each other are invited to a secret meeting to solve an mathematical puzzle and each of them is given a pseudonym for use during the meeting. They are asked to dridstw_080425_fermatve to a certain place and find a Car with a pda telling them where to go. After a while they find themselves in a room at a warehouse. Their host Fermat has to leave due to some circumstance and they are left to solve certain problems the pda gives them. The trick here is they are solving for their lives. Each time they arent able to give the answer within a time frame the room begins to shrink. What they do from then on forms the rest of the story. 
The movie is a standard thriller wearing a mathematician’s moustache. It is very easy to follow and has all the cliches associated with a movie of this sort. A pretty girl, a scape goat, an ambitious young man, some one out for revenge etc. That doesnt mean I discredit the way it is made. The premise is decent and the performances are pretty good. It would make a nice movie to watch on a weekend night.

7 Billiard tables (Siete mesas de billar francés)

7 billiard tables was by far my favorite movie of the lot during the Spanish film festival. It starts out more or less the same way as Volver (starring Penelope Cruz) did and plays out in the same way110 showing a strong single woman who generally lives in the city having to go back to her hometown and family and in doing so reviving and enthusing spirit into the lives of people around her.
This is the story of Angela who gets a double blow of the death of her father and the truth about her cheating and conman of a husband. She goes back to her roots and tries to resurrect her father’s billiards hall. This is the also the story of how a man has wrecked the lives of three other people, living selfishly and always serving his own interests at the cost of others’. This man, ie Angela’s father is not even alive during the movie and yet holds an iron grip over the people involved. As the movie goes on they try and let go. Every character is well carved and thoroughly examined and each person in the story is very likeable.
The movie sails through the story and the viewer is pulled into the life of a middle class spanish household. Unlike the usual dramas the movie has several light moments and I had a great time smiling and laughing at the situational humour spread through out the film. The end kind of fizzes out but overall the movie is delightful to watch. I would love to see more movies like these but yeah that is because I am a sucker for dramas on urban middle class with severe issues.

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