Wednesday, June 30, 2010

L'emmerdeur (1973)

This director Edouard Molinaro work is depressing. I blame it on the story by Francis Veber, who also wrote Le dîner de cons, which I think is also depressing. For some people, this movie is very funny, but I take pity on Lino Ventura's character.

Lino Ventura plays Milan, a hit-man, who is usually good on what he does. This time he is hired to kill an important witness in Montpellier. He rents a room in a hotel opposite the court building. Unfortunately, the guest next to him, François Pignon (Jacques Brel in a bad haircut) is trying to commit suicide after his wife refused to meet him. Milan prevents the bellhop to report this to the police and promises to take care of Pignon. We will see later that if the bellhop reports the suicide attempt to the police, the police will come and check their IDs - and Milan doesn't have one. This is stupid as fake ID can always be bought - like in other movies. I think Milan should have killed both the bellhop and Pignon if he wanted to be left in peace to work - but Milan doesn't do that. I guess this hit-man only kills his target. To change room is also impossible, as perhaps the one he has chosen has a perfect view - or the hotel is fully booked.

The English title 'A Pain in the Ass' is very true. Instead of preparing himself for the mission, Milan finds himself driving Pignon to see his wife in a ranch, and driving a pregnant woman to a maternity hospital. Later, a doctor who lives with Pignon's wife injects him with a tranquilizer. In short, it all goes wrong.

Both main actors are good. Lino Ventura portrays a tough hit-man, who although is very annoyed with his new "friend", maintains to have a calm face, but inside burst with rage. Jacques Brel is as annoying as possible, but doesn't know it, and thinks that Milan really cares for him. There is a good scene where both main characters prepare themselves to kill in the hotel rooms: Milan: the witness- who will soon arrive, while Pignon: himself.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mesrine: Part 1 & 2 (2008)

Having watched half of Mathieu Kassovitz's La haine on TV, I hesitated to buy this DVD, which also starred Vincent Cassel. I didn't like La haine because it was too violent - too honest, probably, and turned off my TV after trying to watch it for 30 minutes. I finally bought Mesrine because I got good price on it. I do not regret it. I have seen several movies with Vincent Cassel, but in Mesrine, he is very impressive - and this is the best movie with him I've seen.

This is biopic of Jacques Mesrine, a famous gangster in France and Canada in the 60's - 70's. After serving as a soldier in Algiers, he returned to France and became a regular in nightclubs, where perhaps he got the idea to make easy money and started to rob banks. He became notorious after escaping from prison 3 times, including those with so-called maximum security. 

This movie consists of 2 parts: 1) L'instinct de mort, where we see the beginning of why he becomes what he is, his marriage with Sofia who gives him 3 kids, his adventure with Jeanne Schneider in Canada and how he breaks the prison in Canada (great scene!) and returns in a crazy attempt to free his mates like he has promised. 2)L'ennemi public n°1, where Mesrine teams up with François Besse, whom he breaks prison with, and after Besse left, with Charly Bauer, a radical. The last of the movie is very riveting - showing how Commissaire Broussard ends Mesrine's adventure. Mesrine was known as a honest gangster, means his friends can count on him. In both parts, the sympathy for him was drained after he killed two gamekeepers (in the end of part 1 - so there was no way back) and in part 2 after he almost murdered the Minute journalist.

The DVD features the making of, which I think very interesting. Jean-François Richet, the director, wants this movie as true as possible, except one time in the scene of Mesrine & Jeanne's arrest in America, where he moved the scene from Arkansas to Arizona, for a wonderful shot of Grand Canyon as background. The real Charly Bauer was hired as technical advisor and in the scene with journalist Jacques Dallier in the cave,  Bauer explained to the team what happened in details - which the team reconstructed to Bauer's satisfaction. Dallier was stripped off, handcuffed, beaten and shot in the head, but he survived. Vincent Cassel asked Bauer if he should take the handcuffs off before leaving the cave, but Bauer said that Mesrine had not - so they let the handcuffs stayed. Charly Bauer was happy that his part was played by Gérard Lanvin.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Tournament of Blood

Set in 1322 in England, The Tournament of Blood is a detective story investigating the murders in a jousting tournament. First, a money lender is found dead - followed by a carpenter and an architect. To solve the murders, Sir Baldwin, Keeper of the King's Peace, and his friend Bailiff Simon, our heroes, must move fast, because this time, Simon becomes the prime suspect - and the audience are lust for blood; means they won't wait for a fair trial.

This is the first Michael Jecks book I've read. His writing style is not hard to follow and I must say that I enjoyed reading this book. At first I was a bit disappointed because the name of the killer was told from the first pages and I thought it was going to ruin everything, because one of the exciting things in reading detective story is to find out who did it in the end and to see if we guess right. [I never guess, anyway.] Well, I was wrong, because in the end, the writer had a surprise. The conclusion is also unusual, because a serial killer has to be sent to jail - and one usually gets death penalty. Our heroes here decide to forget all and forgive the culprit as the victims are the real parasites - and put the blame on a dead innocent man.

Not much of the jousting in this book (if it was, it would be harder for me to read), but more of the investigation, how they lived at that time, and how to organize a tournament.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

La reine Margot (1994)

Based on the book by Alexandre Dumas, this is the story of Queen Margot - sister of King Charles IX. Her marriage to Henri de Navarre triggered the Massacre of St. Bartholomew on August 24, 1572. Margot's family is Catholic and with her marriage to Henri de Navarre, a Protestant king, a hope that the reconciliation between both religions will be realized. Contrast to that hope, what happens next is horrible: many Protestants arrive in Paris for the marriage, and they are all killed. Catherine de Médicis, the Queen Mother, wants Henri to die as well, but Margot wants her husband to live - even though she loves another.

When I read the book, the parts I really liked were the friendship between Protestant La Môle, Queen Margot's lover - whom she saved on that terrible night, and Coconnas, a devout Catholic. Coconnas tries to kill La Môle at first, but in the end they become good friends. In this film, the story of their friendship doesn't have a large part, but we do get complicated intrigues from the royal family - which are very interesting as always, like the stories from the court of Mary Stuart or Elizabeth Tudor. Nowadays writers with their imagination cannot compete with real politicians like them.

The cast is solid with Isabelle Adjani (perfect as Queen Margot. She looks so innocent and pure. We sympathize with her.), Daniel Auteuil, Vincent Perez, Virna Lisi (wonderful as Catherine de Médicis. She does look like a witch - Snow White's step mother), and Jean-Claude Brialy (as Coligny - the scene of his death is great. He is thrown from a window, like depicted in Giorgio Vasari's fresco - but not as naked.).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

L'appartement (1996)

I'd read good reviews about this movie before watching and was a bit disappointed when it turned out not as 'spectacular' as I had expected, as always happens when we have too much expectation. I also don't like the ending.

Vincent Cassel [Everytime I see him, in my mind there is always a close-up picture of his father in L'armée des ombres, when Jean François decides to sacrifice himself] plays Max, an executive in a computer business. He is about to marry Muriel when he thinks that he has seen his former girlfriend Lisa (Monica Bellucci). Max tells his friend Lucien (Jean-Philippe Écoffey) that 2 years ago Lisa suddenly disappeared after Max asked her to move with him to New York. In fact it was not fate that separated Max and Lisa, but a third person's jealousy.

To find Lisa this time, Max even neglects his work. When at last he finds her apartment, it is not his Lisa - but another Lisa (Romane Bohringer) who lives there. The movie goes to a series of flashback to explain how this can happen.

The conclusion is rather strange to me. Although at first I wanted Max and Lisa to have a happy ending, I realized that if it was like that, then this would be a usual romantic drama. However I think Max is not that keen to the other Lisa. The love between Max and Lisa, although they haven't met for 2 years, seems stronger - perhaps because it's Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci - a couple in real life. Max seems unsure, doesn't know what to do, and after a series of failure to meet Lisa, he perhaps believes that his destiny lies with the other Lisa. It's quite nice that Muriel wins in the end - although I don't know if Max will keep the other Lisa for a mistress. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

3 femmes... un soir d'été (2005)

The 4th and last episode was shown last night. I still didn't know which 3 of the women in the movie that were meant in the title, until just now when I saw the poster. In the end of the movie, these 3 do dance together. The first woman is Isabelle, who returns to Condom en Armagnac after 20 years. She sends out copies of her memoirs to some old friends. Soon, 3 people - who receives the story- are murdered. The 2nd woman is Police Captain Julie Leroy, who asks to be sent to Condom to investigates the murders, also to learn the identity of her true parents. The 3rd woman is Cathy, a daughter of a wealthy armagnac farmer, who is cast out by her family. She has been carrying secrets all her life.

I enjoyed this series very much. Agathe de La Boulaye who plays Julie is pretty, although sometimes I wished she could do the investigation more efficient. She is too young and too pretty to lead the investigation on homicide cases, imo. She falls in love immediately with the attractive prime suspect, which can be understand as he is played by Anthony Delon :-) She tries very hard to prove that Doctor Mathias, the prime suspect, is innocent. Her task is not easy because Mathias confesses that he is the culpable. Julie knows that Mathias is protecting the mysterious Isabelle, but why? 

In the beginning of the episode 4, the real killer is shown to the audience. After that, the story turns to unpredictable twists, which I think very good. Each supporting characters are developed well. Among the cast, there are old, familiar faces, like Nicole Calfan and Stéphane Audran

The cute soundtrack is entitled Porque te vas (Why do you leave), a favourite song of Isabelle.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Les 400 coups (1959)

Like Vittorio De Sica's Shoeshine, François Truffaut's Les 400 coups is about the harshness of life on boys, and in this case, to the center character, Antoine Doinel (played by Jean-Pierre Léaud - who reminded me of Franco Interlenghi, who was in Shoeshine). In the beginning of the movie, Antoine is a boy like others, who sometimes do naughty things - which depicted well in this. [The title means "to do wild/foolish things when one is young".] Antoine begins to rebel when he thinks that he receives unfair punishments, which culminates when the French teacher suspends him from school even though he doesn't do anything wrong. He is forced to steal and sent to juvenile prison. His parents think he is incorrigible and have given up. 

I think all who have seen the movie will think that it isn't Antoine's fault. We will blame his parents, his French teacher, and perhaps the bad influence from his friend René. If they could understand him better, he would have not fallen like that. His life is getting bitter and harder throughout the movie. A single happy time is when his parents take him out to the movie. As he is so happy, the next blow becomes intolerable, and the fall is very painful.

The b/w picture by cinematographer Henri Decaë is beautiful as usual. There is also a brief appearance from Jeanne Moreau and Jean-Claude Brialy - whose characters are looking for a lost dog - in the scene where Antoine himself wandering in the street, alone and lost.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Second Coming (2003)

Christopher Eccleston plays Steven Baxter, a guy who once worked in a video rental store. One night, after a drink in a pub with his friends, he goes missing. 40 days later he turns up again, saying that he has spent the days in the wilderness and that he is the Son of God. His friends don't believe him, because Messiah wouldn't turn up in Manchester. However, Steve convinces them with 2 miracles. He asks the people to write the Third Testament - or face the Judgment Day.

At first I was confused why he called it The Third Testament. Had we have two already? I think he might mean 1)The Old Testament and 2) The New Testament. I myself always think those two as one, which cannot be separated one from the other. For people in Manchester, Steven Baxter is a down-to-earth man. He goes to the pub, drinks like them, and swears. His girlfriend, Judith, has a hard time to belief that Steven is the Son of God. She is the strongest character here. The devils, possessing some characters - like the guy who is dating Judith, the Chief Inspector, and one of the police officers, are trying to take Steven to their side.

The whole thing is rather odd to me. Steven speaks to the public and asks them to write the Third Testament in 5 days. He is then locked by the police (for his own safety) and mails from all over the world from every religion come to him. The previous 2 testaments were written by many people and canonized by the Church. Impossible that the 3rd should be from a single work. The ending is also strange, it seems the whole movie is written by people who don't like that God exist, and therefore it's strange that this subject was chosen. However, can we really get rid of God? It would have been a horrible world to live.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Religion

Set in the 16th century, when Moslem Turks and Christian knights - known as The Religion - fought over the island of Malta. Mattias Tannhauser, a German, is the hero of this book. Grown among the Turks, Tannhauser has broader mind than his mates. Cares only of his trade, he agrees to come to Malta to find Lady Carla's long lost son, whose name and face they don't know, and as a payment she will marry him and give him a title.

I didn't expected this book to have so many fighting scenes. For some people they might be interesting, but I skipped most of them. Tannhauser promises to marry Lady Carla, but falls in love with her friend. He tells her a beautiful story about a nightingale and a rose, which a longer version "The Nightingale and the Rose" can be read in Oscar Wilde's Short Stories Collection. The triangle love story is moving and complex, and I haven't counted Lady Carla's ex-boyfriend, who is then a powerful inquisitor.