Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Two French films

As a recap of what I've been watching lately, I thought I'd demonstrate how wildly different contemporary French film can be. Regular Lovers, my first experience with director Phillipe Garrel, is a war story of a different kind. Set in 1968 Paris during the student uprising, Louis Garrel (the director's son, and one of my favorite French actors) plays Francois, a 20 year old poet who is, for the first hour of the film, involved with some revolutionary groups. We see stunning front-line footage, but nothing really ever happens. Garrel is trying to demystify what has become an epic myth about that time; his characters randomy flip cars over and have a hard time organizing anyone to do anything. As can be expected, the group's political efforts fall apart rather rapidly.

And yes, I did say the first hour. This film clocks in at nearly 3 hours, but the pace is so incredibly slow that it might seem like 6. There are long, unbroken shots of almost nothing happening, and while this can be beautiful under a trained eye like Garrel's, it's often frustrating as well. Francois falls in love with Lilie, a young, ambitious, beautiful sculptor, and the next two hours explore their relationship, as well as the lives of the tangential characters that share their lies, including more artists and a young man with a hefty inheritance and an opium addiction. Francois and Lilie's relationship isn't really tumultuous, although Francois does have problems with Lilie's insistance on non-monogamy( ones that he doesn't express, but you can see it in Garrel's expressive face). When they say they are going to be together forever, some people mean it more than others. The dramatic ending is a bit much, but mostly, the film is gorgeously shot and acted, if a little trying on the patience.


On the other side of the spectrum is Them, directed by The Eye's David Moreau and Xavier Palaud. A quick, not-even-80-minute horror film, the setup gets to the point, gets intense and scary, and stays that way. A French couple living in Romania (apparently because the boyfriend is working on a book), half an hour outside of Bucharest, is terrorized by a group of home invaders. That's it, although the story gets really scary. The girlfriend and boyfriend are more or less the only characters in the story, and while there's not much in the way of character development (but not in that way that shitty PG-13 horror movies put each character into a stereotype box), you honestly do care about the characters and do want them to get away. If you rent it, don't read the Netflix description, because, in that subtle Netflix way, it kind of gives away the ending. Nothing that will ruin the story, but still, come on!

I wasn't paying too much attention to the direction in The Eye, but where Regular Lovers is classically beautiful, Them is horror movie beautiful. Mostly taking place in the dark, there are some really scary moments, and the film is shot on grainy digital film, giving it a real documentary-type feel. If you want a quick, intense thrill ride, Them is for you.


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Comments on "Two French films"


Anonymous Scott said ... (7:38 AM) : 

I agree with you regarding Ils (Them). It's a terrific horror movie, one that works despite having very little in the way of graphic violence. It's loads better than Frontier(s) and Inside, both of which traffic in cartoonish gore.


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