Monday, August 13, 2012

MOVIE REVIEWS #40: "CARNAGE", "PUNCTURE", "HOUSE OF PLEASURES" (aka "HOUSE OF TOLERANCE"), "CORMAN'S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL", "LEAP YEAR" (aka "ANO BISIESTO"), "CHASING MADOFF", "PRINCE OF BROADWAY", and MORE!






Sorry for the delay this week everybody. I didn't intend on it. I also want to apologize for my previous blog. Not for anything I wrote, and I stand by it all, but it was an annoying personal rant, and frankly I try to use this blog for better things than that, but honestly, I don't always have that option/opportunity. It's since been, mostly settled, me and Netflix, and my bank. Hopefully there won't be any more issues with that. Frankly, now, I have issues with my computer. Apparently, I've gotten a virus that's attacked my Clear, my internet provider, installation device, and it's effected, possibly everything on my computer, which includes, many of my Canon of Film posts that I haven't posted yet, as well as my Lists, and numerous screenplays and drafts that I've written, as well as other personal things, basically my entire life. I thought that it could be singled down to a single USB drive, which may or may not be infected, but there it is. Let's hope for the best. I have a temporary computer and alternate internet source for now, so hopefully these blogs will remain regular, but I apologize in advance for any future delays. I do sincerely try to avoid them as much as possible, but this time, it couldn't be avoided.

Well, enough updates on, well, me, let's get to the Movie Reviews!

CARNAGE (2011) Director: Roman Polanski

4 STARS

Not that I ever particularly thought Yasmina Reza's Tony-winning play "God of Carnage" was that filmable to begin with, but Roman Polanski would've been one of the last names I would've thought of to direct it. I guess there's some similar themes in the work comparatively, but this is quite a strange departure for him. The film, which has been titled just "Carnage," earned some wide acclaim, especially for it's performances, and he correctly gets some of the best actors around to be in this really-closed in play, about two parents coming together, originally to discuss an incident between their kids, that led to one of them severely injuring the other, by beating him with a stick. The Cowans Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan (Cristof Waltz), have taken some time out of their busy lives to come to the Longstreets, Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael (John C. Reilly) to discuss what should happen now that they're in this situation, and Nancy and Alan, spend much of the movie, trying to leave the apartment, which they never seem to be able to do. Alan is on the phone with work a lot, he's a lawyer for a major pharmaceutical company that's currently the subject of a lawsuit. Both the Longstreets are middle working class, although Penelope is a published author, specializing in working on books about mass suffering and genocide in Africa. Their New York apartment has quite a view. They've gotten flowers, Penelope made her famous cobbler, and they hopes things can soon be settled. Their son needs dental surgery after the incident broke a few of their son's teeth. We gets a faraway glimpse of the incident in the beginning of the film, as well as a second long shot of the playground at the end. I'm describing a lot of the setup I notice, possibly because it's tricky to describe the events in the film, other than to say that they will inevitably, completely devolve from whatever original attempts at feigning sincerity that they can perceive, and there more primal and anarchistic natures soon take over. I was somewhat familiar with the play going in; it was hard not to be. It's had very successful runs in New York, London, and Paris, which is where Polanski probably first saw it. It's definitely one of those works that plays better on stage than in film, that's pretty unquestionable, but I think the reason gets revealed in this film. It's cause there actually isn't much to this story. Humans devolving into their more predatory natures, New York liberals really are just guilt-ridden ex-hippies, and that the behavior of the parents is often a clue into the behavior of the children, as well as their attitudes and behaviors. Not only is it not new territory, it's actually quite thin in this film. They shot, from what I could tell, pretty much the entire play, mostly in tact, and the movie doesn't even reach 80 minutes in length. That's not necessarily a requirement, but it's telling. It's as much a sign of a lack of substance in the work. Saying that though, on stage, it can be entertaining. Here, it's well-directed, and very well-acted, although Jodie Foster, who I almost never have a critique of, might be overacting a bit, especially when she's yelling and angry. There's some scenes where you can almost see veins in her forehead about to pop, and I'm not quite sure I would've went with that choice, but still, this is about as good a film that could've been made from this material. "Carnage," is basically a four-person play, just filmed, and that's about the only way it can work on stage, and on screen, and it's one of the better examples of shooting how to adapt such a play onto film, and do it really well. It's helped by good filmmaking and good acting, and that alone is more than worth a recommendation. Better than it probably should be.

PUNCTURE (2011) Directors: Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen

2 1/2 STARS

Every once in a while, I find myself watching a movie and going, "Why did I have this on my Netflix again?" It can be a good movie, or a bad movie, but watching it, just seems like, a little bit of a waste of time. Based on the very long waitlist at my library for the film "Puncture," it seems that a lot of people were interested in watching it, while me, I frankly, can't remember why I wanted to see it in the first place. I can't even remember hearing about it even. It's not a terrible movie. It's based on a true story that actually sounds like something that should be made into a film. As I watched it, certain things interested me, but I pretty much forgot all those reasons, within minutes of it ending. Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) is a personal injury lawyer who a drug addict when he isn't tearing apart witnesses. His law partner Paul Danzinger (Co-director Mark Kassen) is the more straight-laced of this pair, with a pregnant wife, Kim (Erinn Allison) and wants to work cases so he can pay the bills and earn money. Meanwhile, a case involving a Nurse, Vicky Rogers (Vinessa Shaw) gets dropped in their lap. She was a nurse who contracted AIDS at a hospital, because of a faulty needle, that broke upon puncture, and she accidentally shared blood with a patient. She doesn't want monetary compensation though. A friend of hers, Jeffrey Dancourt (Marshall Bell) invented a safety needle that would not only eliminate such accidents at hospital, but is also only a one-use needle, so it was instantly disposable and would save lives. However, hospitals weren't buying the needles, 'cause of a company called Thompson Pharmaceuticals was making hospitals not buy them, and enforcing deals making them use their regular needles. The film goes a little into "Erin Brockovich" territory, without the interesting dialogue from here. Well, the dialogue wasn't always terrible, it was fine. The acting, was fine. The directing, was fine, sometimes good. Nothing was particularly special or great in "Puncture". It hit all the notes,- well, it lightly brushed the notes I should say. It just didn't do anything particularly special or do the things that weren't special, it didn't do them well-enough. This is almost a typical, 3am film. Three in the morning, with nothing else on TV, and if you happen to run into it, it might be a nice thing to keep on when you're counting sheep. You might fall asleep, you might not, but either way, the movie wouldn't make a big difference either way. There's no reason to go out of your way to see this film though. It's a bit of a shame, 'cause it's a good enough story to be told through film, but it's insistance on placentness is just frustrating. It's not bad. That's true it isn't. It's just the best thing I can say about "Puncture," and really, does that really make a film worth your time?

HOUSE OF PLEASURES (aka HOUSE OF TOLERANCE) (2011) Director: Bertrand Bonello

5 STARS

The funny thing about brothels, (and please, don't confuse the rest of this sentence as expert opinion, it's mearly observational curiousity) is that there's a such a matter-of-fact manor in the way they're run. It's one of oddities we don't think about, but a brothel, is actually a business. That's still how they're run today. (Again, not an expert opinion. I just live a full tank of gas away from legal ones, it's something I've just been around all my life. I've seen "Cathouse", I get it.) It's least the oldest, and one of the least glamourous of professions, and yet, a major appeal of the industry is that it works very hard at trying to be glamourous. Well, at the level of the turn-of-the-century, upscale Parisian brothel in "House of Pleasures", glamourous. On the low end... I guess they're hoping for glamourous but will settle for desireable. There's no real plot in the film. It looks like a painting, as it should, but the movie is mostly a slice-of-life, at a time when it's around the last bastion of the cultural acceptance of brothels. The men who come are rich, some are powerful. The lifestyle is one of debt and servitude to their Madam, but hardly slavery. In fact, considering some of the options, available, this is a desireable job. They even get girls writing in, hoping to work. One of them, a 16-year old gets a tryout. Most of them have regular clients. One of them still has dreams and nightmares about how it was she got those disheartening scars. It can be a dangerous job too. "House of Pleasures," brings us unto a world. A description used on imdb.com of the film is claustrophobic. We never do actually go outside the brothel, or even outside, until the last shot. I've heard of director Bertrand Bernello before, but this is the first film of his I've seen, although I've had "The Pornographer" on my Netflix list for years. After seeing "House of Pleasures," I think moving it up wouldn't be a bad idea. "House of Pleasures," is erotic and sensual, but it's most of the time, it's just part of their job. Not that it isn't a bad one, or a bad place to work.

CORMAN'S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL (2011) Director: Alex Stapleton

4 1/2 STARS

There's something enjoyably playful and fun about Roger Corman. He's made hundreds of films. Directing, producing, acting, writing, whatever is needed, he makes them,and he makes them quickly. He gave many people their start by having them make drive-in B-movie schlock. Scorsese, Nicholson, Demme, Howard, Bogdanovich, De Niro, Greir. Occasionally, almost by accident, he happens to make a good movie. Hell, Hollywood has started remaking his films. He made the original "The Fast and the Furious". Actually, and this is full disclosure, he recently produced a film directed by one of my old film professors, which a lot of former classmates of mine worked on. I've seen only a handful of his films, and mostly, I've never been impressed, but I'm not the audience. Besides, they were made to make money, not to be good. Nicholson even talks about one movie he made for Corman, where he dares people to watch it and explain the story to him. He's still working, making movies which nowadays go straight-to-DVD, or on the Syfy channel, but they make money, almost all of them. Well, they practically have to, some of them cost a few cents to make. "Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel" is a good entry to the movies and life of Roger Corman for those who might not be that educated about him. A few of the filmmakers note how sad it is that he isn't as well-known now, because he didn't make a lot of great classics, made sci-fi, made exploitation picks, often added nudity and violence, just so it could be there. More people should do that actually. There isn't anything I particularly learned about Roger Corman while watching this film, but that's okay. I was certainly entertained, and now, have a bunch of B-movies that I have to catch up on. The great part about Corman is that, you don't need to take him too seriously to enjoy his films. Well, that might be harder for me than others, but to not see any of his films at all, is to miss one of cinema's great joys.

LEAP YEAR (aka ANO BISIESTO) (2011) Director: Michael Rowe

5 STARS



In case you can't tell by the fact that the movie has a Spanish, alternate title, this "Leap Year," is not romantic-comedy with Amy Adams that came out last year. I haven't seen that one, and wasn't planning to, but I'll put it on my waitlist if I get asked. (Although based on what I'm heard, I'm not particularly hoping for that request) "Leap Year," or "Ana Bisesto" is a Mexican film that depicts one of the strangest and most fascinating characters I've seen all year. She's Laura (Monica Del Carmen), who apparently works as a journalist in Mexico City, although you never see her working. You hardly see her doing anything, in fact. She sits around her apartment all day, usually in various stages of undress, sometimes she talks on the phone. Her editor seems to have fired her at one point, and she has a younger brother, who occasionally visits. When she occasionally does go out, it's to find a guy at a club, for a one-night stand. Soon, she meets Arturo (Gustavo Sanchez Parra). At first, he just seems like one of her long line of fucks, but soon, they develop a routine. She prepares the house, for him to come over. She's wearing, whatever he asks, if anything at all, and they're relationship gets progressively more violent and sadomasochistic. It enthralls her. The more humiliating and dangerous, the better. It is clear that to some extent, Laura has a death wish. She marks on a calendar as it gets closer to February 29, which has a bloody red mark on the date. I'm reluctant to reveal much more. In some ways, their isn't much to reveal, 'cause their isn't much to Laura. In other ways, there's so much deep dark emotions and pains inside her, that we find ourselves wondering about her. Her motives. Her secrets. Her seeming insistence on this lonely and closed-off lifestyle that she's chosen, and "chosen" is the correct word. I'd be shocked if there was more than 5,000 words spoken in "Leap Year", half of them are over the phone, and I'm not counting the moans and groans spoken during intercourse, (and other sexual acts). Early in the movie, Laura looks out the window, to neighbors, yet, it's us that seems like the voyeurs into this woman's world. Catching graphic glimpses, but not learning a whole lot. I might be making this movie sound boring and pretentious even, but it's absolutely fascinating. She a mysterious character, who I still want to know more about. I couldn't wait to see "Leap Year" a second time, just so I can try and dive further into this character, and into her interests and fascinations. Few movies are capable of giving us so little, and keep us so utterly fascinated. One of the best films of the year, and one of my favorites I might add too.

CHASING MADOFF (2011) Director: Jeff Prosserman

4 STARS

Harry Markopolos compiled evidence for years on the fraudulent business practices of Bernie Madoff for years. Over a decade before he was finally caught in 2008. He, along with two others who had similar suspicions about Madoff, made inquiries to the SEC 29 times to look into him. Not investigate Madoff, but to arrest him. They had already done the investigating. Markopolos, a family man, who switched from Wall Street analyst to Fraud investigator after getting sick of working with the crooks on Wall Street, had caught the biggest of them all, and yet, nothing was ever done about it. He gave all the information to the authorities, but they didn't do anything. Meanwhile, he feared for his, and his family's life everyday for years, figuring that somebody who inevitably must weild such great power as Madoff, to continue with such a worldwide scam, he must be powerful enough to get rid of any detractors who might come close to what he's done. "Chasing Madoff" based on Markopolos's book, is a documentary that follows how these few people, were the first ones to not just catch on, but to catch Madoff in his Ponzi scheme. It wasn't that hard to catch him. They were Wall Street accountants and analyzers, they looked at his numbers, they did the math, and they realized it was a scam. He had nearly everyone convinced unfortunately, that he was just a really good stock analyzer. "If he was a baseball player, he'd be batting .964" one of them noted. In stocks, it wasn't possible. He was a crook, but he was the competition, and he was making other lose competition, because investors wanted his portfolio structure, accuracy, and his high-risk, guarantee reward plans. He was the man in charge of the NASDAQ exchange. Yet, what I always got out of the Madoff scheme, which is what Markopolos got too, was not that there was a crook able to climb the highest heights of Wall Street, and able to scheme the uberwealthy out of their money, but that, he was able to, because the people who were in charge of making sure somebody couldn't do what he did, did nothing. Anybody who ever gives me an argument for deregulation, I can just point to Madoff as Exhibit A, for the rest of my life, as proof that it doesn't work. "Chasing Madoff," tells this shocking tale, from this relatively small perspective. The underdog, who's right, but can't convince anybody to do anything about it. Like that Greek oracle who could see the future, but nobody believed them. No, it's even worse actually, it's not that they didn't believe him at the time, it's just that nobody listened to him at all. Markopolos is basically recognized as the ultimate hero by fraud investigators everywhere now, as he should be. Congressman called him a Greek God-like hero, as he testified about the failures of the SEC. They didn't quite do as much as they probably should about the SEC, but they are slowly getting there. "Chasing Madoff," probably could've found ways of giving us a little more about Madoff himself. The only time any of them, actually got close to him, literally, was when a reporter, who did an article in the Wall Street Journal in 2003, about his questionable practices, did he, get a call from Madoff. The article should've been scathing, and Earth-shattering. What's that line about how evil can only triumph when good people do nothing?

PRINCE OF BROADWAY (2010) Director: Sean Baker

4 STARS

Sean Baker's first feature-length film, comes with name-recognition with it, as the DVD box credits, notes that Lee Daniels is presenting it. Daniels, the Oscar-nominated director of "Precious...", is certainly a prestigious name to get a recommendation from. (He's only the second African-American filmmaker to earn a Best Director Oscar nomination) I can see why he appealed to "Prince of Broadway". The movie, has two stories, although one is better and more interesting. That one involves Lucky (Prince Adu), an illegal immigrant from Ghana, who works for Levon (Karran Karagulian), who runs a Fashion District store, which is known locally for having a back room where counterfeit designer clothes are sold. Lucky is one of the ones on the street, trying to entice people to check out the clothes. Suddenly, a woman he hasn't seen in forever, drops a toddler onto him. She, Linda (Kat Sanchez) claims that the kid is his, and that he needs to watch him for two weeks, and then, she speeds off. He has no clue what to do with the kid, who he eventually starts calling Prince (Aiden Noesi). He actually doesn't learn if he has a name, and the mother becomes increasingly harder and harder to get ahold of, although he gets some help by his girlfriend Karina (Keyali Mayaga). Levon, has his own troubles, as his wife, Nadia (Victoria Tate) is quickly starting to leave him. She's going out at night, and probably having affairs. She really wishes that he'd take the marriage, for what it might've at one point been, a green card marriage, but that doesn't matter to Levon, who not only loves his wife, loves his marriage just as much. I don't think that part worked as well as Lucky's story of trying to take care of a baby. He normally barely seems capable of taking care of himself, but..., and yeah, it gets a little cliche, the story of how a new baby can change someone's life, but it's done really well here. New York City is alive in this "Prince of Broadway". Some have even compared the movie to "Mean Streets," in it's praise. I won't go that far, but I did always wonder about those counterfeit clothing places, and the people who frequent places like that. There is a wonderful setting in this film, and the complexity of these characters, who already live troubled lives as, barely legal immigrants in a post 9/11 New York, struggling to get by. There's a lot to like in "Prince of Broadway". There's still some room for improvement, but overall, very good first feature for Baker. It's a movie that has some typical stories, but he manages to make them seem realistic and believable here. Not an easy feat. He's got some skill, and he's young. Can't wait to see what he does next.

ERASERHEAD (1977) Director: David Lynch

4 1/2 STARS

It's always somewhat difficult to rate a David Lynch film. He's clearly one of the great and most original auteurs of cinema. He makes the films he wants. "Eraserhead," was his first movie, and it's a explosive an announcement of a new filmmaker that anyone could've imagined. The title "Eraserhead," I guess come from the hairstyle of the movie's protagonist, Henry (John Nance). He's on vacation, from his normal industry work. He works... Let me start again, his job is... It takes place in-, well, if any of those questions can be answered, it's not by me. He lives in an abandoned building, with a next-door neighbor, and he apparently has a girlfriend, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart). He meets her parents in the beginning of the film, Mr. and Mrs. X (Allan Joseph and Jeanne Bates) and soon, almost unexpectedly, Henry and Mary have a kid. Well, I guess that how I would describe it. It looks like the thing that came out of John Hurt in "Alien". It's deformed, wrapped in a sheet, and it's driving Mary mad. Henry isn't sure what to make of it himself, but he's expected to take care of it, as does Mary. From here on in, there's no real point in explaining anything else involving the story. The movie, is clearly low-budget, but filled with numerous images that are definitely, although of what, is certainly up for interpretation. All Lynch's films are like that essentially. (There's a couple rare exceptions like "The Straight Story," and "The Elephant Man") I know the reasons why "Eraserhead," effected me the way it did, but I'm not sure it would effect others in the same way or for the same reasons. In fact, I know it wouldn't. It's one of those films where it's practically about what you take into the movie to begin with.  It's practically psychoanalytical. I don't know what to make of all the images and events. Henry occasionally listens through the radiator to a woman who sings songs about heaven. I think that's a clue to help explain Henry's actions, but I found myself wondering things like, "What would I have done if I wa in Henry's position? It's actually somewhat surprising just how close to him we actually get, and how we can feel for this man, this one man, while the rest of the world this film takes place in, seems so far from reality, it might as well be Oz. It'll take more than one viewing to get a real sense of "Eraserhead,' that I know for sure. It certainly has to be seen though.

SWINGERS (1997) Director: Doug Liman

4 1/2 STARS

I don't remember even hearing about "Swingers" 'til years after it's original release. Strange, considering that it's one of those movies that's since become synonymous with Las Vegas, which as you all know by now, is my hometown. Strangely, the movie doesn't spend that much time in Vegas. (Well, maybe that part's not so strange for people who don't live here.) Vegas is used as an expression of cool. Maybe not the modern day Vegas, but, eh, more like Rat Pack era, Las Vegas. That's probably more accurate. The movie was Doug Liman's breakout film, and only his second directorial effort, but maybe more telling was that it was written by it's star, Jon Favreau. Jon plays Mike, an unsuccessful stand-up comic, who's moved from New York to L.A., and is still getting over his break-up with his girlfriend, six months after the fact. As usual, per movie like this, and I think a good example of a movie like this, might be something "Annie Hall", Mike has friends, who are really well-meaning, but they aren't exactly the best people to have as friends in this kind of situation. They're idea of getting over one woman, is to find another woman to be with that night. Their idea of a woman to get over, is a woman who is still there in the morning. Hence, the Vegas trip. Mike tries, but he's clearly not as interested in getting with a Strip performer and cocktail waitress as much as Trent (Vince Vaughn) is. That doesn't seem to stop him necessarily. If anything, Trent can't figure out why the girls keep falling all over Mike's sappy story, and completely ignore Trent. "You're so money, you don't even know it." He tells him at one point. Mike still refuses, despite the trip to Vegas, the industry parties, the friends of friends who he doesn't recognize that come up to him. Well, he doesn't completely refuse, he tries. He tries calling one girl, way too early. And then calls her again, and again, and again.... digger himself deeper and deeper into a hole. There's some other good friends of his like Rob (Ron Livingston), who's more understand of Mike. There's also a late but always enjoyable appearance of Heather Graham. I make the comparison to Woody Allen earlier, and I think this basically is one of his films, if it happened to take place in L.A., and with L.A. people, in modern time. A man, who's lovesick confused about love, friends in and out of the industry who are trying to help him get over it, some thoughtful women, some light comedy. "Swingers," is pretty much in his tradition, and thanks a good thing. It makes it smart and observational. The comedy is there, but the heart is just under the surface all the time, and believably so. Sure, Mike's friends are kind of hopeless, but so are mine much of the time. Everybody's is to some extent. They still took you to Vegas, at least they're trying.

THE FACE OF ANOTHER (1966) Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara

5 STARS

I've finally finished that trilogy of films by Hiroshi Teshigahara, and the third movie, "The Face of Another," is the best of the three. The moods he creates in his films are some of the most intoxicating. This movie begins with a man who's face is wrapped in bandages. Mr. Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai) was in a severe accident, and his face is now permanently disfigured. He's notices how people now react around him. His secretary (Eiko Muramatsu), his co-workers, his wife (Machiko Kyo). He talks with a psychiatrist (Mikijiro Hira) who offers a radical solution, to have a mold made of another man's face, that he can wear when out, for a brief period of time, about 12 hours before he has to take it off to breathe normally. The idea alone is rather interesting for a film. There's always been numerous experiments involving dressing or disguising oneself a different way, in art and in real life. (And occasionally, both at once). Mr. Okuyama, has a different idea though. He starts by testing it, by going to some of the same places he went to, while wearing the bandages, and then, to some of the places he went to without. It's not entirely successful. At a place where he rented out an apartment, a young girl who plays with a yo-yo, Yo-Yo Girl (Etsuko Ichihara) spotted him pretty quickly, but promised not to tell anybody. Later though, he reveals his real intentions, which is to seduce his own wife, as a way to prove his suspicions that she's cheating on him. I won't go in to how it plays out, but the way it plays out, as does the film's ending, asks us some deep questions about identity, and appearance, and how one can shape the other, but were not exactly sure how much it does though. There's a second, seemingly separate story going on too I might add, involving a beautiful young woman (Miki Irie) who's has a disfiguring scar on the right side of her face. Her hair blocks it from the outside world most of the time. She makes a very disturbing request to her brother (Kakuya Saeki), which also has some ulterior motives that she's hiding from him. Strangely, Mr. Okuyama, never meets the Girl with Scar. I think the reason is as much economical as it is, storytelling. He's rich, well-off, and has options on the latest available procedures. She doesn't but she has some available options for her. I don't think either got what they probably hoped for at the end. "The Face of Another," is beautiful is look and in story. His characters always seem somewhat, ghostly in their feel. Sometimes they're real ghosts, but there's always this sense of past regrets mixed in with their beauty. It creates a real eerieness with us, that seems strangely comforting. "The Face of Another," is my personal favorite of the three I've seen; I reviewed "Pitfall" and "Woman of the Dunes," earlier. I think it's possible though, that I'm just most prone to liking the idea of "The Face of Another," compared to the others. They're all great, and all are in many ways quite similar. I wish I watched all three in a row, and at once; it would've been a moving experience. Well, 'til the next time I find a Teshigahara come across me.

BETTY BLUE (1986) Director: Jean-Jacques Beineix

2 STARS

"Betty Blue," earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film when it came out, which was back in '86, which surprised me, because it looks like it could've been made yesterday. You know there's something wrong though, when I start off by talking about how great a movie's cinematography is. Although that shouldn't be too surprising considering Jean-Jacques Beineix. He made the influential film "Diva," which started what's been called the "Cinema du Look" movement in France, where French films tried to be more like American movies, in terms of look, structure, plots, stories, editing structure.... Maybe the most famous film in the genre is Luc Besson's "La Femme Nikita", and "Betty Blue," certainly qualifies. Although it has a lot more nudity than Hollywood films. Usually that's a good thing. The movie begins with Zorg, (Jean-Hugues Anglade) a handyman, who has a secret pension for writing, whose life soon changes when he falls in love with Betty (Beatrice Dalle). Soon, her erratic behavior leads to her burning down a house and a whole development that Zorg worked for. Her behavior is unpredictable, too much so, that it's a little hard to imagine that someone like Zorg would be with her for so long. I guess it helps that's she's smoking hot, usually hanging around naked, and that they have a lot of sex. Well, I guess that really just helps the audience get through this nearly three hour sprawling romance epic, of a man's love and devotion to his wife, who we find out by the end is sick. I can't remember if it's psychologically or clinically sick, or both probably, but by the time her book gets a publisher, she's strapped down in her hospital bed and hopped up on pills, for her own good. Probably for the audience too, actually. I guess the movie's trying to achieves this sprawling lifelong romance epic, with a "Love Story," type twist ending. It's well-acted, but boy it was hard to care. The movie is based on, what's apparently a famous novel by Philippe Dijon, but that doesn't really make the movie any better or shorter. I have a feeling that this material, might work better from a more first-person perspective than this film was able to achieve. We get a little narration at the beginning, that doesn't really explain much about Zorg's fanatical devotion to this beautiful but problematic Betty, that might have been helpful. I'm very shocked this movie got an Oscar nomination actually, but this really does feel like an American film, in another language, and I think certain members of the Academy miss the eras when Hollywood would make these beautiful epics where love tries to conquer all, and is more than the world. I'm not nearly as sure. It's got moments that are interesting, but it asked a lot for me to care about these characters, ultimately too much, even with this abundance of nudity.
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