Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mes Stars Et Moi

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : Oct ‘08
Time : 88 minutes
Director & Writer : Laetitia Colombani
Starring : Catherine Deneueve, Emmanuelle Beart, Kad Merad, Melanie Bernier, Rufus

A delightful movie, that engages you right from the start and leaves you wanting more. Imagine a movie fan who’s so lost in his world of stars that he ignores his family. Who would rather attend a movie premiere than meet his daughter. Who calls up bad reviewers and threatens them if they dare write something bad about his stars. Who stalks his stars and calls them up, amiably though, without ever scaring them. And who’s just obsessed, in a very real kind of way, without ever being psychotic or lunatic or even being ‘in love’ with them. Sounds plausible ?

Now take the stars – there’s actually three of them who are the objects of his affection. The senior, gracefully ageing Catherine, the beautiful Emmanuelle and the new starlet, a wide-eyed Melanie. Who decide they must do something about him. And do so in spectacular style…

The beauty of the film is that its kept very real and we feel for all the characters, including Kad, who is put through the wringer by the three gorgeous women. We feel for the stars as well, each one in different personal situations and affected differently by Kad’s obsession. Melanie, for example, has her TV audition cancelled as Kad calls up the TV Director, pretending to be her agent and lets him know that she would prefer to focus on cinema. And he tries to break up Emmanuelle’s affair with a rugby star as he feels he’s not right for her image.

There are two excellent cameo’s, one by the director / writer herself, as the psy-cat-analyst (for more on what that is, you’ll need to see the film) and another by Rufus, who plays Catherine’s friend cum driver cum housekeeper as dignifiedly as possible.

The pace of the film is great, something always happening. And the end is delicious, totally unexpected, showing leopards rarely change their spots...

Eastern Promises

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : Sep ‘07
Time : 100 minutes
Director : David Cronenborg ; Writer : Steven Knight ;
Starring : Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Vincent Cassel

“Anna: Have you ever met a girl named Tatiana?
Nikolai Luzhin: I meet lot of girls named Tatiana.
Anna: She was pregnant.
Nikolai Luzhin: Ah, in that case - no, I've never heard of her.
Anna: She died on my shift.
Nikolai Luzhin: I thought you did birth?”

“Semyon: So, you know where I am...and now I know where you are, Anna Ivanovna”

“Nikolai Luzhin: Forget any of this happened. Stay away from people like me.”

A really, tight, tense film, which never lets up from the time it starts, beguiling you into its very authentic, violent, intimidating world. A world which seems to exist in parallel to the one we inhabit, a world with its own rules and own hierarchy.

This is a film about an English mid-wife, Anna’s (Naomi Watt) slow exposure to the Russian mafia. At first the characters seem charming, Semyon, with his restaurant, his borstch and violin playing skills, seems the epitome of graciousness. But then slowly, the blue eyes turn steely and then its too late for Anna to turn back. Semyon’s son Kirril (Vincent Cassil) is a bit too drunk, a bit too obsessed with girls and a bit too reliant on Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), his driver. And the driver is, like the frozen wastelands of Russia, icy and restrained, almost emotionless.

Just to spice things up, there are some murderous Chechen’s, a Jewish barber who doubles as a hitman, Anna’s uncle who claims he used to work for the KGB and of course, there is Cristina, the baby who Tatiana died giving birth to…

Slowly, the film kind of comes together, things become clearer and the plot kind of assembles itself. What makes the film special though is the steady pace, the unrelenting tension, the attention to detail and the excellent performances. Viggo, Naomi and Armin, in particular, excel and epitomise their roles. The whole thing about tattoo’s, especially the Russian prison stories, are both chilling and interesting at the same time and provides a nice thread through the film. But it’s the tension which stays with you, even when it ends. Its gory in parts, graphic in others (despite the Indian DVD version seeming to have undergone several cuts) but never to a point where it becomes unwatchable.

There is another line in the film, where Nikolai asks Anna to go back to her world, where nice people belong, and he says it matter of factly, without emotion, without threatening and also without sadness. For me, that line encapsulates the film, underlining that there is a lot that is happening in reality which we don’t know about. And maybe we don’t want to.

Le Crime Est Notre Affaire

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : Oct ‘08
Time : 109 minutes
Director : Pascal Thomas ; Writer : Francois Caviglioli, inspired by Agatha Christie
Starring : Catherine Frot, Andre Dussollier, Claude Rich, Chiara Mastroianni, Hippolyte Girardot, Annie Cordy

Take a slightly looney aunt, who chases butterflies professionally. A bored housewife, who yearns for excitement after her husband's retirement from the police force. A villa, which is packed with crazy characters, each weirder than another. And finally take a murder that may have happened or not, depending on who you believe.

The concept, of witnessing a murder on a train passing by, is an age-old one, in this case copied from Agatha Christie’s ‘4.50 to Paddington’. However, what makes this film refreshingly different is that it decides to take the ‘tension plus fun’ angle instead of just ‘tension / murder mystery’. And we have to thank the lead characters, Catherine Frot and Andre Dussollier, for most of the fun, as they show the younger generation how to be romantic and live life kingsize, even when you’re retired.

From Catherine’s exotic mixing of music and food, her sudden love for snowshoes, her reaction when she walks back to her home and realises its ‘filled’ with noisy nephews to Andre’s struggle with his kilt, his reaction when he realises what lay behind her love for snowshoes and his several romantic efforts, there are enough comic moments throughout the film.

And given the creepy nature of the villa, aptly named ‘House of Wolves’, with several stuffed and sculpted specimens dotting the landscape and also the crazy inhabitants, including the incredibly stingy and screechy owner, Claude Rich, there are enough tension filled moments for those interested in the mystery part of the story. Nice film, taking a familiar concept and twisting it nicely, with enough thrills and spills to make it work well for fans of both comedies as well as mysteries…