Friday, June 02, 2006

End of Month Film Report: May 2006 Part II


In Part II of the May Film List the clunkers show up as do some more recent works, mainly year 2000+ in this group:

10. Nenette et Boni (1996), Dir. Claire Denis. Denis (pictured left) captures the moody communications of adolescence in this story of a troubled brother (Grégoire Colin) and sister (Alice Houri). At this point in the month I realized that I appreciate visual directors who trust and collaborate with their actors. This is a slow roil of a film that is teeming with the everyday detail of the lives in which the main characters seem to be mired. Human contact, though often indirect and silent, is nonetheless life altering for Denis' characters and it's beautiful to see the actors play out these arcs.
11. Vendredi Soir/Friday Night (2o02), Dir. Claire Denis. An adult tale of sensuality, with two strangers (Valérie Lemercier and Vincent Lindon, pictured left) having a life-altering encounter the night of a transit strike in Paris. Again a story of few words, but, oh, how the small choices change everything. The film also confirms the complex beauty and sensuality of women as their faces take on more character. A pleasure to watch.


12.
Hitch (2005), Dir. Andy Tennant. I'm never gonna get that time back. Is this the same Will Smith who earned an Oscar nominiation for Ali (2001)? Eva Mendes does manage to be a little more believable. The best thing about this film was the vulnerable performance by Kevin James who skillfully infuses his adept physical comedy with pathos.
13. Get Over It (2001), Dir. Tommy O'Haver. Teen romantic comedy; saw this for work. But I was also curious about the director of Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss (pictured right with star Brad Rowe), as in "whatever happened to gay director(name here)..." This film, which he didn't script, is what happened. The story of a boy trying to win his girl back from a boy-band poseur by acting in the high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, apparently didn't do well at the box office--but turned into something of a cult fav after the fact. (O'Haver hit with tweener romp Ella Enchanted (2004) and now has three projects in pre-production; see his shiny new highlighted look below right.) O'Haver's second outing includes an interesting anti-teen heart throb turn by indie actor Ben Foster and early "party dude" work by Hanks progeny, Colin, a macho-diva tantrum by Shane West, plus the first big screen appearance of the former Dru Hill singer Sisqo, and of course a solid turn by "acting machine" Kirsten Dunst. It's actually pretty watchable, and the end credits feature Sisqo and Vitamin C's rendition of Earth, Wind, & Fire's "Dancing in September," providing evidence of Sisqo's fine singing chops, given the right material (e.g. not "The Thong Song")

14.
The Bourne Supremacy (2004), Dir. Paul Greengrass. I won't get this time back either (see #12 Hitch). The sequel to The Bourne Identity (2002). As soon as--SPOILER ALERT-- Franke Potente's character caught a fatal bullet, the film was pretty much over for me. Potente's Maria illuminated the uneasy seams in Jason Bourne's controlled veneer, and raised the bar for Damon's performance. Without her the film's characterizations lack a certain depth until the emotional denouement when Bourne confronts the sole survivor of one of his assasinations.--END SPOILER-- Jason Bourne's character is something of an automaton by training and he needs a compelling antagonist to come up against. While Joan Allen is a brilliant actor she's not given much to do here as this installment's nemesis. She's usually barking orders or contemplating them in a planning room somewhere in DC, Berlin or elsewhere, anyplace but where Bourne actually is.
15. Lie with Me (2005), Dir. Clement Virgo. Jamaican-Canadian Virgo directs this adaptation of his partner Theresa Berger's controversial novel about a young Canadian woman who experiences the world primarily through anonymous sexual relations with a variety of men, until she meets one who wants more. This work appears after both French director Catherine Breillat's Romance (1999) and British director Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs (2004) portrayed actual sex in their respective narratives. The story of the screen sex in Lie with Me is that stars Lauren Lee Smith and Eric Balfour, and director Virgo (pictured right with Smith) made a pact that they would attempt to make the film as real as possible within each of their personal boundaries--making for some rather believable sex scenes. Not a complete success as narrative work, but still some interesting visual work which is mainly how this story is told. Balfour has some well-played raw moments, but Smith has to carry most of the picture and unfortunately she doesn't consistently evidence the ability to make us care about an equivocally drawn character.

16.
Junebug (2005), Dir. Phil Morrison. The story of a Chicago-based outsider art dealer's trip to a small North Carolina town to scout a new artist and meet to her new husband's family. This was worth seeing just for Amy Adams (pictured right). Her performance was "a revelation" to quote a review. Some of her naked quirky innocence was apparent in Catch Me If You Can (2002) where she plays a young fallen southern belle turned student nurse/candy striper. But she truly is a standout here. This story and the film's pacing felt so southern to me, and really North Carolina. Plus it is one of the most interesting films about the crazy politics of the U.S. art world since High Art (1998).
17. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Dir. Garth Jennings. Oh that's about six hours now I'm not getting back (see #'s 12 &14). What happened? The excellent cast included Zooey Deschannel, Sam Rockwell, Mos Def and Bill Nighy. With Mos Def (pictured right with Martin Freeman) cast as alien hitchhiker Ford Prefect, this should have been an Afrofuturist's dream vehicle. But really, as much as I respect the talents of the above listed actors, with the exception of Nighy, they're all US-born. Hitchhiker, like the Harry Potter series, is a UK vehicle, with a particularly British sensibility and should have been cast as such. Plus the space ship set design was boring and flat, in general film had little of the rich textures of the book.
18. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), Dir. Wes Anderson. A tour through the mind of The Anderson family. Only they and Michel Gondry can create such a complete alternate universe whose intricacies enhance instead of overshadowing the rich facets of its human character's sensibilities and narratives. Another pleasurable watch. And you can't beat Brazilian singer/actor Seu Jorge's Portuguese acoustic interpretations of David Bowie classics.

7 Comments:

At 9:23 AM, Blogger John K said...

You've highlighted some of my recent choices--are we sharing a biorhythm? :) Junebug really charmed me quite a bit. The Life Aquatic had its moments, though I felt like it was quirky for the sake of being quirky, and Bill Murray was phoning in about half his performance. The Andersons' color palette and Seu Jorge made it worth watching, though. Hitch was so predictable, but I agree that Paul James's performance gave it something extra, and I just like looking at Will Smith. Speaking of Catherine Breillat, did you see her movie Anatomy of Hell? It is outrageous (and yet strangely tedious) to make you want to swear off sex for a week.

 
At 9:13 AM, Anonymous audiologo said...

Hmm, your Murray asssessment was interesting, I didn't feel he was phoning it in as much as playing "world-weary." I haven't seen the Breillat film, but now I am curious and wary(!) given your description :).

 
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