Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Le cas du Dr Laurent (1957)

I enjoyed watching "The Case of Dr. Laurent" and thought that it was well made, even though it looked like a public information. In the ending, there was a footnote mentioning that this movie was dedicated to Lamaze method developed in 1952, that mothers could have painless childbirth. 

Jean Gabin plays Dr Laurent, a Parisian doctor who comes to work in rural village of St Martin. Soon after he arrived, he witnessed Dr Bastid, whom he replaces, helping Mrs Loubet to give birth. The process is long and painful, even Mrs Loubet wants her husband not to go near her while she is in this degrading situation. Dr Laurent has learned that in Paris several women give birth without pain and he wants the women in St Martin to know this new method, which is to know the body better, how it works, and learn to control the breath. Those who stick to the old way are against him, believing that the new method is against the nature. They even accuse him of stunt publicity, which is against the professional code of ethics. Only Francine, who is pregnant without a husband, agrees to try the new method. After several months, when the women see how Francine goes with her pregnancy, they begin to have a new hope. "Your idea is like a loaf in the river. It attracts all the fish, even those who pretend not to be hungry."- says Dr's Laurent's housekeeper to him. 

I really like the dialogues among the debating villagers, some support Dr Laurent, some are against him.  "You're used to it (the pain), but my wife is not." - says a husband to a doctor who has helped his wife giving birth. One husband even screams after having burned his hand on a hot pan. [If a hot pan is really that painful, how about giving birth? "All in the name of pain." - he says.] 

"We cannot love our children unless we'd suffered for them." "Then I guess yours didn't suffer so much." 

"My husband thinks it's disrespectful to her mother and aunts who'd suffered." "I'd be happy to go (to subscribe to Dr Laurent's class)  to annoy my mother-in-law." 

It turns out in the end that they are against him because they don't believe in the new method. After they saw how Francine delivered her baby, their eyes are open then. The labor scene is very good, considering this was made in 1957. I was impressed with the labor scene in Jude (the one with Kate Winslet) and yet The Case of Dr Laurent was made 40 years earlier.

Jean Gabin's Dr Laurent is patient and kind. I love how he tends his patients, how he talks to them, how he cares for them. Instead of sending the school director, who has stomach ulcer problem straight to the operating table, like his colleagues do, he tells him to change his diet. I would like to have a doctor like him in my village. 

In the 80's I often saw movies on TV where white women gave birth in pain and they screamed hysterically. That was scary for a child like me. Once I asked my mom if she was like that when she was delivering me and my mom said no. I concluded then that only the white screamed during labor, not us Asians.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Je hais les acteurs (1986)

I like this movie a lot! I think it's one of the funniest movies I have seen. Set in Hollywood in early 40's, these French actors played Americans in the movie. The style of the title is very much like Sunset Boulevard, so is the music. Jerome B. Cobb (Bernard Blier), the boss of a big production, is making Son of Destiny, a movie which they believe will be bigger than Gone With The Wind. His main actor who plays the lead role dies, followed by his replacement, and again the 3rd actor dies. The police suspect their agent, Orlando Higgins (Jean Poiret), and have him arrested each time but must free him due to lack of proof. Who is the real killer?

 The movie begins in colour, Washington in early 80's, when Higgins is already an old man, then flashback to Hollywood in the 40's in black and white. The police in this movie is pathetic and reporters (and me) laugh at the inspector during press conference. The detective here are Korman, the writer of Son of Destiny, and Devlin, a journalist.

If in L'assassin habite au 21 the police arrest 3 different suspects, here the suspect is only 1. Apart from having the movie set to the 40's, I sense the revival of old times, too. Movies at that time were different from modern ones. The way the actors say their lines, I feel that it was really an old movie made in the 40's or 50's instead of 80's.

My favourite part is the meeting between Cobb and his creative department. In order to solve the murder (and save the production), Cobb does not consult the police, but gather writers who work for him and ask them what they think and who they think the murderer is.  

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Le pull-over rouge (1979)

I watched this on TV last night and thought it was very captivating.

Based on a novel by Gilles Perrault, this movie by Michel Drach tells about Christian Ranucci, a young salesman accused of kidnapping and murdering a little girl named Elisa Garcia. The police, upset because they had failed on the previous case, determined to succeed this time. The first hint comes from a report about a car accident near the area, in which the police gets the plate number and description of the driver. There is also a report about a car got suspiciously stuck in a dirty tunnel. The police soon arrest Ranucci, the driver. In the line-up, first hand witnesses who have seen the kidnapper, including the little girl's brother, say that Ranucci is not the man they saw. The witnesses say that the kidnapper had different hair colour, wore a red pullover, and drove a different car. The police found the red pull-over in the tunnel where Ranucci's car got stuck, but when they put it on him, it is too big. Ranucci's mother also says the pull-over is not his son's.

Is Ranucci really the culprit? After 20 hours of interrogation, no doubt tortures including, Ranucci confesses. Later, after sleeping in his cell, he claims he is innocent. However, he has no alibi and as he was really in the area on the particular day, all he can say is that 'he doesn't remember'.

The police, eager to nail Ranucci, select the evidences and put aside those which do not incriminate him. The juge d'instruction, sick after seeing the body of the little girl, dislikes Ranucci the first time she sets eyes on him. Instead of listening to his confession, she wants him to admit what she thinks have been happened. They never think for a moment, that by sending Ranucci to prison they perhaps have a victory, but they let a killer loose and he perhaps might kidnap and kill other children.

The reporters, a first they perhaps doubt that Ranucci is the culpable. The case becomes popular. Who won't be disgusted by a child killer? The public all have condemned him before the trial ends. During the trial, Ranucci's hysterical manner draws away a little sympathy which is perhaps still reserved for him. His lawyers seem only defend him not with their whole heart. They send a young lawyer - who seem to have not much experience - to speak with him.

The judge doesn't hesitate to punish Ranucci with death penalty, even with the lack of evidence. Ranucci is indeed guilty in the car accident case, but is he guilty in the Elisa Garcia's case?

Ranucci refuses the pastor when he is being taken to guillotine. If he is innocent, and I believe he is [in the movie they cast another actor to play the real murderer and there are holes in the story of the main witness, a woman who claims she saw Ranucci taking a little girl to the woods after the car accident], no wonder he has lost faith in God and human, because he thinks they all have forsaken him.

I read that in France this movie was used as a vehicle to protest against death penalty. Guillotine was still used until late 70's. I myself see this as a moving story of a miscarriage of justice.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Europa Europa (1990)

Based on a true story and memoirs by Solomon Perel, this movie tells the story of a Jewish Boy, born in German in 1925. The movie begins when he was 13, in the beginning of WW2, when his family was attacked by those who hated the Jews - which was probable because of the new law. His father decided that the family should move to Poland, where he thought they would be safe, but they were not. Solomon and his brother Isaak left the house and they were separated. Solomon was in Russia and learned to be a communist. Meanwhile, the father & mother were moving to the ghetto. When Russia was attacked by Germany, Solomon was captured and to save his life, he told the Germans that he was also a German. The Germans recruited him because they needed him as an interpreter. He became a war hero and was sent to Hitler Youth school in Berlin. When Germany lost the war, Solomon told the Russians about his true identity, that he was a Jew.

Real brothers René and Marco Hofschneider play Isaac and Solomon.

The movie flows nicely. Incredible that this is a true story, about a Jew who lived among the Germans, but they didn't realize who he really was. In one class in the Hitler Youth, there was a lesson about 'how to recognize a Jew'. The teacher brought the necessary equipments and he called Solomon as the model and measured his head. Yet he didn't find the truth. I haven't read the book, so don't know if the scene really happened. If yes, the equipments didn't work then. As it could not recognize a Jew, perhaps it could also condemn a non-Jewish person.

Several times Solomon was almost caught because of his circumcision. Circumcision, at that time, was it only done in Europe by Jews? Were there not any moslem in Europe? I don't know if Nazi also have problems with moslems, though. 

"Don't tell your story to anyone. Nobody will believe you." said Isaac to his brother. Indeed, this was an amazing story. We learned about a boy who would do anything to survive, to live. And he succeed. I think he was lucky. He was destined to live.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lola rennt (1998)

Run Lola Run is one of the most energetic & creative movies I have seen. Lola's boyfriend, Manni, works for the mob as a courier. One that particular day, Manni has lost a bag of money which should be delivered to his unforgivable boss before 12:00. Manni calls Lola, half blaming her, for if she had picked him up on time as promised, this thing would never have happened. Lola promises Manni to bring 100,000 marks before noon, so she has only 20 minutes to do so.

It seemed to me that Tom Tykwer, as the director and writer, had 3 different ideas on developing the story and when he couldn't decide which one was the best, used them all instead. Twenty minutes to save her boyfriend's life is a short time. She runs and runs because she has no vehicle. The 3 story show us how different decisions taken quickly can give different results. The music used underlines Lola's panic situation. I also love the use of animation and the stories about supporting characters.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968)

I got the Limited Collector's Edition DVD of this movie from Germany, hoped that the quality would be great. It is not. The movie is grainy and the sound is bad. I read that this movie had wonderful cinematography, because the director, Jack Cardiff was excellent in that field; so it's a pity that this movie was not properly restored.

The movie opens with a bizarre scene: Rebecca in a circus, standing on a white horse which runs around the stage, is undressed by Daniel with his whip. It is only a dream, yet it is bizarre. Rebecca wakes up in the morning and put on her leather riding suit [She wears nothing beneath. That is why the title of the German DVD is Naked Under Leather], leaves without saying goodbye to her husband - who is still sleeping - rides the motorcycle given by her lover Daniel as her marriage present, and heads to Heidelberg to meet him. During the trip from France, she thinks about how they met, how she surrendered to his seduction, and how he taught her to ride a motorbike. She also imagines what she will do when she arrives in Heidelberg and meets Daniel in his gazebo.

What is famous from this movie must be the psychedelic art, which Jack Cardiff used to blur the images of Rebecca and Daniel making love. At that time perhaps it was a daring idea, but watching this movie now, I must say I don't like those scenes. About the story, it touches a topic of free love vs conjugal life. Rebecca has already planned to marry Raymond when she meets Daniel, but she knows Daniel will never marry her because of his bitter experience.

I'm not sure how popular Marianne Faithfull (who plays Rebecca) in 1967, but when I hear her name, I always think of Mick Jagger and the song "As Tears Go By". As for Daniel, casting Alain Delon as a professor who is crazy about motorbike and easily seduces women, was a wonderful idea; especially when his rival was Roger Mutton (who plays Rebecca's fiancé - and later husband).

Another complain from me is the big number of scenes of Rebecca riding the Harley, speaking to herself. However, it's the title of this movie, right?

Nikita (1990)

I had seen Anne Parillaud in Pour la peau d'un flic and Le battant, where she played a feminine girl in both - and her later role as Queen Anne in Man in The Iron Mask; so I was very impressed with her as Nikita, especially in the court room scene where she screamed and kicked some policeman.

Nikita is a junkie who has brutally killed a policeman in a robbery. After a fake death penalty, she wakes up and is told that she is recruited by the government as an assassin. Not sure why the government think that she has potential. If you see her in the beginning of the movie, you would have thought that she deserved to die. After years of training, Nikita starts her new life and falls in love with an guy. She is not an ordinary girl, though.

Nikita, before and after.

Nikita in the beginning is a wild girl and seems incorrigible. I would say that when she killed the policeman and attacked her interrogator, she was under some drug. After she is recruited, she attacks her mentor, Uncle Bob, with a chair. Perhaps she is angry then, feels she is robbed. Interesting that this girl, who is capable to do violent things, is afraid to die. She agrees to be trained after Bob threatens to send her to her proper place: the tomb.

The final test for Nikita before being sent out of the training center is the best thing in the movie. We can see at this point that there is something between Nikita and Bob. She is so happy knowing he takes her dining out in a fancy restaurant, and how disappointed she becomes when she finds out that he only takes her out for a mission. And again, another disappointment, when she finds out that the only way out Bob has told her, the little window, has been blocked.

After several missions, Nikita gets depressed. Years in the training center has cleared her brain and she is not as rebellious as before. She wants to quit and has a normal life, but she cannot for she has been bought. Legally, she belongs to the cemetery: dead and buried. The last mission goes wrong ( Jean Reno as The Cleaner is cool!), and the ending shows Nikita disappears from the life of 2 guys who love her and whom she loves.

Amazing to know that this movie was made 20 years ago. Actions and story are great. I prefer this than From Paris With Love, which Luc Bresson also wrote (but not directed).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Diva (1981)

This movie has interesting characters: 1) Cynthia Hawkins, a soprano who refuses to be recorded 2) Jules, a postman, who adores Cynthia Hawkins and lives in some kind of garage 3) Alba, a Vietnamese art student who sometimes sits on the refrigerator 4) Gorodish, Alba's roommate, which always grabs any good opportunity 5) a policeman who loves jogging 6) Jean Saporta, the head of Criminal Division, who has a dark side. 

Jules secretly records Cynthia Hawkins's La Wally in her last concert and shares it with Alba, whom he just met in a music store. Alba shows the record to Gorodish, who knows immediately that it is priceless. Jules also steals the soprano's gown. When two thugs look for him, Jules wonders if it has anything to do with the record and the gown. He returns the gown to Cynthia Hawkins and apologizes and they start a romance. In fact, Jules are in danger because he is undeliberately carrying a cassette containing a testimony from an inspector police's mistress, who recently was killed on a street, about his involvement in a drug and prostitution ring. The inspector wants the cassette back and kill all witnesses.

The plots are very good, with a sense of humour here and there [My favourite is the Veteran's Card and the Beethoven bust.]. There is also a great chase scene between a moped scooter and a jogger - it doesn't really make sense, especially if you only read this but haven't watched the movie, but at least it's entertaining. Jules is the main character, but it's Gorodish who becomes the hero and saves our main character. It's one of the things I like from French movies: the main character is often weak and doesn't know what is going on until the last minute.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sharpe's Tiger

Many people said that the Sharpe series was one of the best historical fiction ever written, so I thought to give it a try. I picked up the first of the series: Sharpe's Tiger. I read this in several weeks, very slowly. For those who enjoy details about wars, this book is not to be missed. However, for me, it was difficult to read those details. I struggled to finish chapter 1, which tells about the war between the British soldiers and the Indians. In the next chapters, after I could pick up the plot, the reading became enjoyable.

I must say that I haven't seen the movie version, where Sean Bean plays Richard Sharpe, the main character. Richard Sharpe is described as an excellent soldier, hated by his superior Sergeant Hakeswill. We will follow Sharpe's heroic journey, where he is saved from being flogged, sent as a spy to infiltrate the enemy, and how he saves the day. Bernard Cornwell did an excellent job in research and I found the details about how the Tippoo Sultan, the tyrant of Mysore, acts towards his enemies - interesting.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Garde à vue (1981)

Most of this movie's scenes are set in Inspector Gallien's office, from 31 December 9 p.m. to New Year's Day 7 a.m.. Mr. Martinaud (Michel Serrault), a lawyer, is called to a police station. What seems to be a simple dog business turns into a story of the rapes and murders of two little girls on November 23 and December 3, in which Martinaud is the prime suspect. Martinau found the 2nd body. Martinaud claims he was in the wrong place at the wrong time both times, but Inspector Gallien (Lino Ventura) finds unexplainable things in Martinaud's testimony: If Martinau was merely taking a walk when finding the body, why chose a muddy path, as the body was lying on a muddy ground. How could he recognize the body as the face was down? Was he really strolling near the lighthouse when the first murder took place? Why he changes his story afterwards, claimed that he was with a prostitute? Why lies at first when his relationship with his wife is not well. After midnight, Martinaud's wife (Romy Schneider) comes and her story convinces Gallien that Martinau is really the killer of the two little girls. There is a surprise in the ending, though.

With Michel Audiard wrote the dialogues, this is an interesting movie to watch, even though there is no action. During the interrogation, we learn so much about Martinaud and his sad relationship with his wife. So bad the relationship is that his wife takes trouble to come to the police station so late at night to incriminate her husband - apart from the letters she has written to Gallien. Not much screen time of Romy Schneider, but she was wonderful as usual, especially in the ending, when she finds the truth.