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.
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 →
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I Am Love Directed by: Luca Guadagnino Written by: Luca Guadagnino Starring: Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parente, Edoardo Gabbriellini, and Alba Rohrwacher
Amid the beautiful interiors, finely prepared meals, and meticulously planned out wardrobes, a human element emerges. I Am Love, the beautifully written, filmed, and acted drama from Luca Guadagnino, is obsessed not only with its elegant, finely tuned surface, but the emotions that boil just beneath it as well.
The age of the horrific Katherine Heigl rom-com doesn’t exist yet in this film, which chronicles the Recchis, a wealthy Italian family, and the Russian black sheep who married into it at the turn of the millennium. Every day, Emma (Tilda Swinton) must suit up in a differently colored, yet similar-looking dress and perform the functions of an everyday aristocrat.
Oldboy Directed by: Chan-wook Park Written by: Jo-yun Hwang, Chun-hyeong Lim, & Chan-wook Park (screenplay, Nobuaki Minegishi (comic) Starring: Min-sik Choi, Hye-jeong Kang, Ji-tae Yu, and Dae-han Ji
Chan-wook Park makes no secret of his influences. From Tarantino-esque violence to Frank Darabont’s Shawshank Redemption, this movie’s story and visual style are the cut-up pieces of movies new and old. Is it a coincidence it came out the same year as Kill Bill? Someone with a PhD in film studies could probably have a field day, but I was grossed-out and bored.
Oldboy is the kind of movie sold as a visually-stunning thrill-ride that makes you think. Other than keeping up with the fairly simplistic story amid all of the visual prowess, not much thinking really takes place. People mistake the “gasp!” twist near the ending for actual thematic depth, when in reality the only means to this movie’s end is driving out the memories with a hammer to the head.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev Written by: Nikolaj Arcel & Rasmus Heisterberg (screenplay), Sieg Larsson (novel) Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Peter Haber, and Sven-Bertil Taube
No matter how many times it happens, it is always a disappointment when a movie adapted from a book doesn’t live up to its source material. It happens too often, usually because it’s trying to please the fans or just doesn’t translate well as a movie. Neither of these are the problem with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, it’s that the wrong things were cut and not enough was condensed from the 600 page novel to keep a film viewer engaged.
For all of its narrative bumps, the chief success of this movie is capturing the grotesque and demented sense of discovery you get reading Stieg Larsson’s best-seller. It follows Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a disgraced Swedish journalist who leaves his self-financed magazine Millennium to help it survive his blighted reputation. He is contacted by Henrik Vanger, an aging business tycoon looking to tie up his loose ends. He wants Blomkvist to help solve the 40 year old murder of his niece Harriet. Blomkvist retreats to the island where the murder takes place, and where all the bitter Vanger family/suspects still reside. Aided by the hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), Blomkvist embarks on a treacherous investigation that puts them on the tail of a serial killer that may or may not have killed Harriet.