REVIEW: Blue Is the Warmest Color

Blue-Is-the-Warmest-Color

Blue Is the Warmest Color
Directed by: Abdellatif Kechiche
Written by: Abdellatif Kechiche & Ghalia Lacroix (screenplay), Julie Maroh (graphic novel)
Starring: Adèle Exachopoulos, Léa Seydoux, Salim Kechiouche and Benjamin Siksou

A three-hour epic of writhing limbs and ferocious love, Blue Is the Warmest Color is without a doubt one of the most unforgettable and complicated movie-going experiences of year.  The performances are so raw, the young actresses so vulnerable in their portrayal of this intense relationship, that it nearly transcends some of its director’s problematic depictions of them.

Abdellatif Kechiche’s film deeply impressed this year’s Steven Spielberg-led Cannes jury, taking home the Palme d’Or but also sparking intense debate.  Julie Maroh, the writer of the graphic novel, said that while watching the sex scenes it became clear to her that there were no lesbians on the set.  She connected the way Kechiche shot those scenes to a later conversation in the film, where a man at a dinner party discusses how sacred and mystical the female orgasm is.

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Debatable: Do most moviegoers dislike art movies?

Debatable, one of our newest series piloted earlier this year with a discussion on video-on-the-go, pins CyniCritics contributors together to tackle big picture movie-related topics through back-and-forth dialogue. The latest prompt asks editors if general movie audiences dislike art movies and if so, why.

Matt: I don’t think the “general public” is opposed to art movies in general. It’s mostly about distribution and marketing. The biggest marketing tool for successful art movies is the Academy Awards. However, the taste of Oscar voters leaves out many films that don’t fit into a specific mold or go too far away from narrative convention. That taste then translates to the public, who has limited choice and is more likely to look for stars or be influenced by a memorable trailer.

Luke: I think you bring up an interesting point with the Academy Awards as a marketing tool. There are countless art movies released in the year that find little commercial success until the holiday and awards season. Once the Academy, critics and marketing push a handful of “must-see” films, they start making a lot of money at the theaters because audiences feel these are good films they shouldn’t miss out on. No one would have seen Slumdog Millionaire without the buzz. Nominations and such also translate into good DVD rentals, which explains why Netflix’s top 10 rented movies are mostly Best Picture nominated films. Before then, people just don’t know what is good or don’t know how to find what is good and are too afraid to take a chance. This might explain why it’s easier to go see Mission: Impossible over Hugo. Continue reading

REVIEW: Poetry

Poetry
Directed by: Lee Chang-dong
Written by: Lee Chang-dong (screenplay)
Starring: Yun Jeong-hie, Ahn Nae-song, Lee Da-wit, and Hira Kim

What good are our memories to us if one day they can evaporate like river water?  What good is a younger generation that grows increasingly dehumanized?

The initial shots of Poetry set up the movie to answer these questions.  We watch as a couple of young children stand by the river, and then we follow what we eventually pick out as the body of a young girl float up to them.  For the rest of the movie, that murder will reverberate through the life of Mija (Yun Jeong-hie) in a blur.

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REVIEW: Vincere

Vincere
Directed by: Marco Bellocchio
Written by: Marco Bellocchio & Daniela Ceselli (screenplay)
Starring: Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Filippo Timi, Corrado Invernizzi, and Michela Cescon

Benito Mussolini and the exploits of Fascist Italy are criminally underfilmed in the annals of WWII films when compared to Hitler’s Nazi regime.  Because Mussolini took a back seat, his atrocities appear to somehow be less atrocious in the eyes of history and film.  Vincere, an astounding Italian film from Marco Bellocchio, does not show us his direct rule, but rather slims its focus on his horrendous treatment of his first wife, Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno).

Dalser falls in love with him from the moment she sees him challenge God in a crowded forum.  It’s the beginning of his revolution, when he still had time for love between the killing.  This isn’t a movie about Mussolini, though.  This movie is about Ida, who he abandons for another woman after he goes to war.  He leaves a son and a woman scorned behind.

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REVIEW: White Material

White Material
Directed by: Claire Denis
Written by: Claire Denis, Marie N’Diaye, & Lucie Borleteau (screenplay)
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Christopher Lambert, Nicolas Duvauchelle, and William Nadylam

When viewed through an American lens, the new film by French director Claire Denis has an almost eerily identifiable allegory to our society.  It follows Maria (Isabelle Huppert) as she tries to cling to her way of life as the French colonial society in Africa crumbles.  The economy and the very fabric of society are tanking, and she and her family’s wealthy coffee plantation are at stake.

Maria is not solely sympathetic.  Her stubbornness and white arrogance have led her to a place where she thrives while many around her are left to suffer in poverty and death.  Denis gets this point across not just by putting Maria in the midst of this chaos, but by showing us first-hand the toll of poverty in the form of child soldiers.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: A Christmas Tale

A Christmas Tale
Directed by: Arnaud Desplechin
Written by: Arnaud Desplechin & Emmanuel Bourdieu
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric, Anne Consigny, and Jean-Paul Roussillon

The French movie character, with its wildly shifting eyes, deep self consciousness, and ever-looming misery, never ceases to be endlessly thought-provoking.  Throw a bunch of these creatures together in the days preceding Christmas, and you’ve got the emotional bloodbath equivalent of Kill Bill.

A Christmas Tale is the typical American holiday drama done elegantly and boldly in the French fashion.  It is a dysfunctional family coming together during the holiday, and yes, mother is dying of cancer.  The movie succeeds because disease is a theme and not a plot point.  Cancer of one form or another has eaten away at this family’s soul for years; Junon (Catherine Deneuve) is suffering from the same form of cancer that killed her four-year-old son decades ago.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: The Five Obstructions

The Five Obstructions
Directed by: Jorgen Leth & Lars von Trier
Written by: Jorgen Leth & Lars von Trier
Starring: Jorgen Leth, Lars von Trier, Patrick Bauchau, and Anders Hove

Fans of Danish auteur Lars von Trier likely know his penchant for sadism, both on and off the screen.  Until The Five Obstructions, we’ve had to take Bjork’s word on the off screen part.

Though there are no grueling executions, rapes or scenes of graphic mutilation, von Trier does have his way with one of his idols, director Jorgen Leth.  He challenges him to recreate one of his earlier films, The Perfect Human, five different times with different rules, or “obstructions,” each time.

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