far, A & O film critics Sylvain Richard and Robert Lewis
have seen the following films. Here are their ratings and
comments, always out of 4, reserving 2.5 or more for a noteworthy
film, 3.5 for an exceptional film, 4 for a classic.
Sylvain Richard's best ever films = (The
Legacy, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, 13 Tzameti, Sauf
le Respect que je vous Dois, Live & Become, 36 Quai des
Orfevres, Corsica, From Heaven, Hell in Tangier, Camaron,
Who Are You, King of the World).
-- THE CONCERT,
An intelligently mixed blend of comedy and drama that is emotionally charged on all levels: music, performances and
script. Thirty years ago, legendary conductor of the Bolshoi
Orchestra, Andrei Filipov was fired and publicly humiliated
for refusing to get rid of the Jewish musicians. Currently
he is still at the Bolshoi as an alcoholic janitor. One day
he intercepts a fax inviting the orchestra to perform at a
prestigious Parisian theatre. He embarks on a wild scheme
to round up all of the former musicians and pose as the real
orchestra. Powerful conclusion.
-- A REAL LIFE,
Petty thief and a German language teacher fall for each other.
Lacked direction, form and purpose; performances were on the
verge of being silly; inappropriate music.
2.6 -- HOME SWEET HOME,
Didier Le Pêcheur
Equal mix of comedy and detective flick serving as France's
answer to the "Odd Couple/Grumpy Old Men." A daughter/ niece,
and Parisian detective investigating the death of a local photographer
and a secret from the past. Humorous with a touch of melodrama..
Socially conscious political thriller based on the assassination
of a progressive politician; the complicity of the authorities
in dismissing it as an accident and the thorough investigation
by the magistrate. Well acted and constructed film that has
stood the test of time (made in 1969). Interrogation scenes
are among the best in the genre.
2.6 -- HE'S MY GIRL,
Relational comedy about the loves of clarinetist Simon Eskenazy
and the complications that arise when his bedridden mother moves
in and his ex-wife and son re-enter his life -- not to mention
that he is on the verge of a breakthrough. Mehti Dehbi, in only
his second major role, nearly steals the spotlight with an amazingly
credible performance as Simon`s much younger transvestite lover.
Appropriate inclusion of klezmer soundtrack.
Boris and Sandra -- two very distinct individuals, like night
and day; but it's 'love at first sight.' She is in real estate,
highly intelligent; he is a talented artist but addicted to
drugs. So begins a co-dependent roller coaster relationship.
Good performances from both leads but editing and script were
left a lot of loose ends.
-- ERREUR DE LA BANQUE EN VOTRE FAVEUR,
Michel Munz, Gérard
Sparkling irreverent comedy about a maître d' at a
Parisian bank's private dining room who, with his best friend
(a cook), decides to leave after 17 years; they want to open
their own restaurant. Maître d' goes to his employers
to get a loan but is turned down. He overhears his bosses
discussing some insider information and decides to turn the
tables on them. Common treatment of a common subject yet a
joy to watch.
-- EDEN IS
Drama about a young man travelling to Paris with
no papers. Despite the personal aspect and touch of humour the
protagonist lacked credibility.
-- THE OTHER
Mario Bernard, Pierre Trividic
Psychological drama about a fiercely independent woman who
has recently split from former lover. Things are going amicably
until she learns that he has met someone new, precipitating
a descent into a self-imposed hell of paranoia and obsessive
jealousy. A chameleon and brilliant performance from the lead
-- Dominique Blanc. Haunting contemporary soundtrack. Original
editing and camera work. Disturbing and powerful dissection
of 'lost love.'
Jean-Xavier De L'Estrade
Julien has just been paroled after 13 years in the penitentiary.
Upon his return home he searches for and finds Emilie. What
is the bond that ties them together? Well acted but somewhat
lukewarm script; suspense is effectively restrained/understated.
An authentic socio-economic study about an 11-year old girl
living in a blue collar neighbourhood while attending an upper
class school. Discreet and touching performance from Leora Barbara
as Stella. Some loose ends in script and editing.
-- ONE MORE FOR THE
Adaptation of journalist Herve
Chabalier's memoirs regarding his struggle to overcome
alcoholism. Insightful and at times touching; tragedy and humour
in just the right proportions. A mix of Billy Wilder's "Lost
Weekend" and Mary McGuckian's "Intervention."
-- A NO-HIT, NO-RUN
The second annual school program screening that aims to introduce
young audiences (grades five to eight -- pre-adolescents.) to
the world of cinema. Like last year's "Winter Tales"
this year's entry played to an attentive and cheering crowd
(seven schools represented) and the Q&A afterward with novelist
and screenwriter Marc Robitaille was distinguished by very incisive
questions. The summer is 1969, when man first walked on the
moon and the Montreal Expos played their first game. Twelve
year old Martin and his friends want desperately to play on
the local team yet its strict and rigid coach rejects them.
Martin's father, who has never shown an interest in baseball,
decides to organize his son an friends into a farm team. Light
hearted family comedy destined to become a classic little gem.
Drama about a young girl (Sophia) born in France of Moroccan
parents facing an identity crisis ten years after the family
returned 'home' to Morocco. Rest of the family has adjusted
except for Sophia -- who questions her identity -- Moroccan
or French? Moroccan landscape is breathtaking. Editing and script
a little loose.
Espionage thriller about Soviet spy Colonel Grigoriev (code
name: Farewell) who changed the course of history by passing
critical and highly classified material to the West via a French
engineer stationed in Moscow. Superb and credible performances.
Powerful and riveting. Well scripted and seamless editing.
2.4 -- BE GOOD,
A young, beautiful yet mysterious woman arrives in a remote
mountainous village. She is hired by local bakery to deliver
bread to the villagers. Why is she there and what is her agenda?
A forbidden former lover? Strong premise yet takes too long
and too slow to develop.
2.5 -- YOU'LL MISS ME,
Comedy that explores the concept that destiny hovers over
all of us. The lives of six individuals converge in an airport.
Complex and rapid fire dialogue. Weak ending.
3.0 -- SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS,
A riotous and satirical farce about media manipulation. Two
radio correspondents are assigned to cover the situation in
Iraq but they lose both their expense money and airline tickets.
So they hideout in a Parisian multi-ethnic suburb and fake their
daily reports. The result is a laugh-filled fest from opening
frame to final. Two leads would easily rival the best of comedy
duos (Laurel and Hardy, Lemmon and Matthau, Lewis and Martin
1.9 -- A DAY AT THE MUSEUM,
Absurd and zany send up of the millions who visit museums
each year. Cameos abound from who's who in French cinema. Some
very funny situations that become repetitious and tacky to the
point of being irritating.
2.2 -- BABY BLUES,
Relational comedy addressing a common modern dilemma facing
today's women -- career vs baby -- especially if her biological
clock is ticking. Not as engaging, effective and humorous as
Richard Trogi's "Horloge Biologique."
2.5 -- SECRETS OF STATE,
Complex counter terrorist thriller that holds the premise
that "an agent is not a human being but a weapon." A little
over the top plot-wise despite excellent performances.
2.1 -- PARDON MY FRENCH,
Offbeat comedy about an author with neurotic tendencies (Woody
Allen owns the genre), suffering through writer's block. Unengaged
and somewhat irritating characters.
2.5 -- INCOGNITO,
Laugh-filled and amusing comedy about a successful musician
trying to hide that detail from a long-vanished but reappearing
former band mate. Not an original concept (Bollywood's "All
the Best") but well executed. Zany characters and situations
keep one engaged.
2.6 -- MADEMOISELLE CHAMBON,
Emotional drama about a successful mason, happy and contented
with his wife and son. Picking up his son from school one day,
he meets son's teacher, who is from a completely different strata
of society. This engenders revelatory feelings within him. Very
slow paced with feelings communicated through gesture. Excellent
chemistry between the leads.
THE ARMY OF CRIME,
Historical drama of an international group resisting and
fighting for France's liberation from Nazi Germany in Paris
circa 1941. All were communist and recent immigrants. Superb
ensemble cast. Powerful dialogues. Authenticity and tone of
the times masterfully enhanced by set and costume design as
well as by A. Desplat's moving score. A notable facet of this
film is how, despite the difficult times, the majority population
(even the loved ones of resistance fighters) hang on to their
day to day routines as if nothing is happening and that it will
PLEASE PLEASE ME,
Physical gag-induced comedy recalling classic Peter Sellars,
Woody Allen and Jerry Lewis. Mouret's deadpan reactions to the
sundry situations his character finds himself in is a joy and
a delight to watch. A guaranteed fun time at the movies.
2.4 -- WELCOME,
Seventeen year old illegal immigrant wants to swim across
the English Channel to join his girl friend in London. He enlists
the help of a local swimming instructor. Reluctant at first
but gradually the instructor develops a kind of father to son
type of relationship -- at tremendous risk. The two main aforementioned
subjects received less than noteworthy treatment.
2.3 -- I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A GANGSTER,
Screwball comedy involving four separate tales with one common
element -- a road side cafe. Lacked balance. Unclear, often
rubbed out subtitles, and grainy images with somewhat obscured,
2.7 -- LA TRES TRES GRANDE ENTREPRISE,
A David versus Goliath conflict deftly handled in a light-hearted
comedic way. A group of four (like Musketeers) attempts to infiltrate
the HQ of a multi-national, agro-chemical corporation to unearth
evidence that it was negligent and responsible for the loss
of a small community's livelihood and health. A serious undertone
pervades film and brings home an all too real truth in today`s
2.7 -- COCO CHANEL & IGOR STRAVINSKY,
An account of the tumultuous relationship between two of
the 20th century`s artistic geniuses -- Chanel and Stravinsky.
Begins at the riotous premiere of his Rite of Spring and includes
the development of her famous perfume. Elegance and beauty reign
in this film. Good performances by entire cast. Audrey Tautou`s
portrayal of Chanel ("Coco Avant Chanel") was more
convincing than that of Anna Mouglalisis. Character development
Robert Lewis' best ever films = (Fitzcarraldo, Life Is Beautiful,
Death In Venice, Babel, Days of Heaven, A Long Walk, Wings of
Desire, The Immigrants, Babette's Feast,Pele the Conqueror, Mulholland
LA TRES TRES GRANDE ENTREPRISE,
Four workers, missing incriminating data for an upcoming
court case, volunteer to infiltrate a highly securitized chemical
conglomerate. Entertaining, cleverly scripted; its brisk pacing
a function of both suspense and the engaging, up-close relationship
dynamics. Slick jazz sound track by Mano Katché.
SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS (ENVOYES
Two journalists, hiding out in Paris, fake direct radio broadcasts
from Iraq. A riotously funny film that doesn't pretend to be
anything other than light and entertaining: the cinematic equivalent
of happy hour.
COCO CHANEL & IGOR STRAVINSKY,
The Stravinsky effect: his avant-garde music on the polite
society of his time, and the force of his personality on, the
first to wear pants, designer Coca Chanel -- and her E-sharp
major effect on him. The film wisely does not try to explain
genius. Films that do fail miserably ("Amadeus" and
"Round Midnight" are two notable exceptions). Instead,
Kounen explores the intense and passionate relationship between
Igor & Coco, and how it informed their creative life. Sumptuous,
Chanelesque period sets, designs and 'fragrances,' and electrifying,
script-equivalent music from the master. A rite of film not
to be missed.
PLEASE PLEASE ME,
An initially intelligent romantic comedy (first 15 min.)
that reverts to the formulaic what can go wrong will go wrong.
Nonetheless, often inventive, at times hilarious, with engaging
Fernandel and Boris Vian typecast characters.
-- MADEMOISELLE CHAMBON,
Small in scale, large in effects, Brize's 4th film is an
homage to that very deliberate and precious method of filmmaking
(not yet under seige) that is specific to Europe. A happily
married man (housebuilder) meets the refined school teacher
(violinist) of his young son. Small things happen cumulatively,
changing their lives in a big way. Emotional impact benefits
from note-perfect pacing, excellent casting, and a laconic
script that is wisely delegated to the stirrings of the heart.
The ending will not satisfy everyone.
-- BE GOOD (SOIS SAGE),
An enigmatic young woman is coping poorly after being let
go by an older, married man with whom she was having a relationship.
Her behaviour becomes increasingly remote and bizarre as
she follows him at a distance before revealing to him that
she knows he's her father. A suspenseful, brooding, moody
film that turns on the stillness and depths of summer imagery
supplied by small town life in France.
-- THE ARMY OF CRIME,
Set in France during WWII, about an ethnically mixed group
of heroic resistance fighters and the varied response
of the general population during the Nazi occupation.
Film doesn't allow for much grey in its portrayal of good
and evil, but at 140 minutes, it's gripping from beginning
-- A DAY AT THE MUSEUM (MUSEE HAUT,
A highly original satire on the art world and museum culture;
the arbitrariness of the values and meanings we assign
to art. Despite the all-star cast and several brilliantly conceived scenes,
the serious questions this film asks of art are undermined
by an over-indulgence in farce and low brow humour.
2.8 -- THE OTHER ONE (L'AUTRE),
Pierre Trividic &
Patrick Mario Bernard
An older woman, for no apparent reason? or pre-emptively?
or in fantasy? breaks up with her younger boyfriend
-- but can't let him go, and obsesses over his new girl-friend.
Thus begins her decent into madness. A disturbing film
with a pacing and mood all of its own. That no explanations
are offered for anything could be viewed as an affectation.
Powerful opening isolation shots of the city of lights (Paris)
at night. A cumulatively, complex performance by Dominique Blanc.
2.6 -- WELCOME HOME (SUR TA JOUE ENNEMIE),
Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
A disturbed adolescent, after murdering his parents, returns
home after 13 years in prison, looking for forgiveness
from his sexually reckless sister. But can he forgive
himself? A crime and punishment drama that does not
rise to the occasion of Dostoievsky.
-- SECRETS OF STATE,
A slick but formulaic counter terrorist film that explodes
the dirty business of training (brain washing) agents
and terrorists, who count for nothing next to their
respective causes. Not enough emphasis on the fascinating
agent/terrorist symmetries; too much plot manipulation.
Souad El Bouhati
Unable to make ends meet, an Arab and his family move back
to Morocco. His French-born daughter revolts against
the decision and vows to return to France. Will family
and tradition allow for it? A subtly conceived clash
of cultures film not helped by an uneven script and
thinly drawn secondary characters. Making a strong
case for staying put is the hypnotically gorgeous,
sun-kissed landscape in the olive growing region of
3.0 -- ONE FOR THE ROAD (LE DERNIER POUR
Gritty, affecting, instructive drama about a successful journalist
who checks into a rehab center for alcoholics. Wonderfully
nuanced performance from Francois Cluzet (and entire
cast). A well researched script that does not hold
back in its sometimes unbearable baring of the alcoholic
soul on ice.
-- FAREWELL (L'AFFAIRE FAREWELL),
Refreshingly unglamourized account of the sometimes mundane
(but always lethal) aspects of spying (moles) in
the Soviet Union just prior to the collapse of the
Berlin Wall. The tension of the film is owed to
the juggling of family life and commitment to an
-- EDEN IS WEST,
Forced to jump ship and swim to safety, an immigrant ends
up in a nudist resort, and thus begins his many
misadventures in his new country. His dream is to
get to Paris. Without papers, without money, his
plight divides the world into two camps: those that
want to help and those that want to help themselves.
Film couldn't decide if it wanted to be a drama
or comedy, meaning the Chaplinesque approach to
the very serious problem of immigration will not
be to everyone's liking. From one of the great director's
of his time who gave us the masterpiece "Z,"
his latest gets a C minus.
-- LOVEBIRDS (LES INSEPARABLES),
Love & Addiction. Boris and Sandra are a new couple.
Sandra, saddled with a double-digit IQ, is addicted
to Boris (a talented artist, of course); Boris is
addicted to hard drugs. We already know Boris loves
drugs more than any human being, which is why Sandra's
addiction and Marie Vialle's mature performance
is what carries (almost recommends) the film.
2.2 -- A REAL LIFE (AU VOLEUR),
Contrived drama about a thief and the school teacher who is
fatally attracted to him. Sharing a blitheful disregard
for the future, the 'two for the road' end up as
fugitives (not unlike Bonnie & Clyde) on a boat
on river, but we suspect their pastoral is not the
stuff of eternity. An unsatisfying, rudderless film
that yields few surprises.
Fifteen minutes into this comedy drama, you already know how
it's going to end, that it's a feel good film,
that the undisciplined, unpracticed Bolshoi Orchestra
will make it to the podium (in Paris) on time.
Inbetween, you'll be (mis)treated to lots of gags,
slapstick and craziness as well as the plight
of the Bolshoi's Jewish musicians under the Soviets.
But the last 15 minutes are so joyous and uplifiting
and madly inspired, you'll leave the theatre convinced
you've attended a very good film. And whatever
are your views of the composer Tchaikovsky, there
is absolutely no denying his great moments, which
in this film belong to his celebrated violin concerto
the ratings of 2008 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.
the ratings of 2007 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.