Elena et les hommes

Note : this review is my participation to The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman blogathon hosted by the wonderful Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema.

Elena et les hommes aka Paris Does Strange Things (Jean Renoir, 1956)

Polish countess Elena falls in love to a French radical party's candidate, a general, in pre World War I Paris, but another officer pines for her.

This French Technicolor fresque about a time where gallantries and polite high society was manners and courtship, we follow the Polish princess Elena, a superb 41 years old Ingrid Bergman who looks like her mid twenties, as a debonair woman ready for amusement and entertainment.

Bergman seems to be in her element as a princess in a Renoir world of Paris and high society. She shines on the screen and her presence is elegant, naive, sexy, and lovable. It was her first film after her departure from her husband Roberto Rossellini and we see her as a new woman. She seems liberated and despite having been broken from this relationship she is still a star and the camera simply loved her.

Elena and Her Men, is not Bergman’s one-woman show despite the presence of Jean Marais and Mel Ferrer. It is a Jean Renoir film and another vignette of his Paris and his France. His films are a visual storytelling of his land and the way people lived and were during his child life. Most of Renoir’s stories are influenced by his childhood in Paris and his later films were his reconnection with his motherland. However, it was not his best depiction of the nostalgia of a memory and the story seems to be too much centered on Bergman’s character and not enough on the politics of France and the implications it could have done.

The story and its treatment is too light for us to really care for the issue of anything but Elena. While Renoir’s most celebrated films had the lenght and depth to reach for greatness, Elena and Her Men is a nice little love story on a political back drop. 
As a huge fan of Jean Renoir and Ingrid Bergman I would suggest to give it at least a watch because both were at turning points of their career having already legendary credits they have had superb careers. For classic film lovers, Elena and Her Men is a delight and may not be a great film but a nice Technicolor eye candy. 



1941 (Steven Spielberg, 1979)
Hysterical Californians prepare for a Japanese invasion in the days after Pearl Harbor.

After a couple of blockbuster hits in the Horror genre with Jaws in 1975 and the Science-fiction genre with Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977, Steven Spielberg was hot at the box-office. While grossing more than half a billion dollars with the two films aforementioned, Spielberg turned to comedy to make a comedy that was reminding of old tymes like the films of Howard Hawks, Norman McCloud, etc. Well, a comedy that was out of its time.

Despite the presence of the most iconic comedians of the time : Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, John Candy, Ned Beatty as long with film legends such as Warren Oates, Slim Pickens, Christopher Lee, Toshiro Mifune, Robert Stack and well known names like James Caan and Nancy Allen to name more than a few the film seemed to be a huge pot of anything. Even with the writing work of Robert Zemeckis, John Milius, and Bob Gale Spielberg’s lack of real natural touch for comedy has at the start failed 1941.

Not being a total train wreck does not save the film from being a mess. Scenes after scene the plethora of characters isn’t really connected neither really engaging. Some of the best scenes are with two of the greatest actors of all time Toshiro Mifune and Christopher Lee in the Japanese submarine. For the rest, some riots and the Hollywood boulevard scenes are directed with Spielberg’s mastery, however it’s still not enough to elevate the whole and achieve an Airplane or a Mel Brooks level.

Since there are many characters, there’s a waste of talent like Belushi who has to act again like an animal. Aykroyd might probably the most interesting character and Candy could have been bigger on this as well.

Even if Spielberg made a lesser film with his try at comedy with 1941 it didn’t stopped him from getting back on top with his excellent Raiders of the Lost Ark two years later.  More than thirty five years after its initial release, 1941 has now earned a cult status and is an alien in Spielberg’s filmography. One of the few comedies he ever directed and one of the lowest rated films he ever made. It is indeed a curiosity and if you are a fan of the director you might give it a watch but don’t expect huge belly laughter.


Music Review : Krallice – Ygg Huur (2015)

Music Review : Krallice – Ygg Huur (2015, self-released)

Since ten years or so, American black metal has been revigorating the metal world with new band tenures and new extremity in a music that is probably the most repellent for the occasional listener. Of all those American bands, Krallice might be the most unique in sound with an almost metalcore clarity and a death metal intensity.

Their 2012 release, Years Past Matter, was grandiose in its affirmation of aggressivity and mastery of long dissonant songs. With Ygg Huur, Krallice is closer to a Converge-like sound that would take a small turn into the black metal sonority. But Krallice is using elements of progressive music to make a twisted take on a genre that has been saturated for a long time. Their craft with Ygg Huur has reached the level of complexity and mastery that The Dillinger Escape Plan did with Calculating Infinity did with hardcore.

The guitar work by Mick Barr and Colin Marston is precise, fast, and punishing. Lev Weinstein on drums does an amazing job at keeping the pace and playing on the blast beat concept of the ritualistic drumming black metal parts.

Ygg Huur is a complex album that unfolds and plays better everytime it gets spined. As far as I know, this is a strong contender for the best metal album of 2015.



Music Review : Tame Impala – Currents (2015)

Music Review : Tame Impala – Currents (2015, Interscope)

Kevin Parker’s band, Tame Impala has been on a series of successes since its debut in 2007. First with Innerspeaker and then with Lonerism with which he earned a lot of money with the song Elephant only. The much awaited Currents is, to me, reaching in the spheres of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memory. In the way that it is far from the usual records I would listen by myself. It brought me out of my comfort zone, which is underground extreme forms of metal.

With Currents, the psychedelic rock of Tame Impala is brought to a new level of pop rock. While being of its time with the electronic insertions, there’s a sense of timeless dreamy quality to the whole album that Parker perfectioned while working with Mark Ronson last year.

The opening track, Let it Happen is a confession of faith to the whole concept behind the album. Once you get into those almost eight minutes you know what kind of trip you are taken on.

Currents is floaty, dreamy, sometimes rocking, most of the times executed with a precision that gives to its pop a edge that is completely assumed. Probably one of the best albums of 2015.



Music Review : Locrian – Infinite Dissolution (2015)

Music Review : Locrian – Infinite Dissolution (2015, Relapse Records)

While most Black metal bands are centered about the dark themes in human nature, the new generation of American black metal bands have taken an approach near light and the human introspection. This anti-conformism of a very conformist and hermetic genre is giving a fresh breath to a genre that could have stayed deeply rooted in its origins of Satan worshipers and underground influenced bands like Discharge and Black Flag.

In the case of the Chicago native band Locrian we are far from the real source of the Second Wave of black metal. However, its sound or resonance is still omnipresent when their music touches many elements of noise, experimental, and drone. It is hard to tell what is really the sound of Locrian but it is a given that Infinite Dissolution is a mastered work of inspired music.

With frontman André Foisy, now based in Baltimore, Locrian has unleashed a sound that only the initiated of more popular bands like Deafheaven that permit almost a mainstream interest in at first unappealing pans of music. Don’t get this wrong but Locrian won’t ever be at the forefront of popular music.

Infinite Dissolution is a dissonant record that goes into blissful moments without compromising any integrity to do so.



Music Review : George Kollias - Invictus (2015)

Music Review : George Kollias - Invictus (2015, Season of Mist)

Greek musician George Kollias, known mostly for his work as the longest staying drummer with the band Nile, has released a solo work of Technical Death metal. Well, his main band Nile also does a form of Technical Brutal Death metal. So what does set him apart from the other band? The comparison between both bands is easy and a bit harsh for Kollias.

 It is useless to mention his mastery behind the drums and how he released many lessons on Extreme Metal drumming. But does that make him a composer and a lyricist? This is where Kollias part ways with Nile, on the comparison level.

Invictus is an interesting musical album for the drumming parts and to hear what Kollias has under his belly when it comes to full music. However, Karl Sanders and his other Nile band mates are what it makes the band such an important metal act.

Undoubtedly, Invictus suffers from an easy comparison and making an album in an already closed frame genre does take a bit over the just another Death metal record but not that high either in the bests of the genre.



Music Review : High On Fire – Luminiferous (2015)

Music Review : High On Fire – Luminiferous (2015, E1 Music)

Produced by Kurt Ballou (Converge), the latest record from sludge masters High On Fire couldn’t be more on point than it is. A return to their pre-Snakes For the Divine and De Vermis Mysteriis detour. Their music is fast, heavy, and sounds strong as a ton of bricks. Well, exactly what heavy metal music should be. Sandpaper in your ears and not Vaseline.

With singer/guitarist Matt Pike back stronger than ever, High On Fire is promised to great things. Luminiferous is one of the best Metal albums of the year so far. It can have all the qualities listed up and explores some of Pike’s esoteric fantasies. It suits well the music and we are not into Sleep’s territory either. This is one of the reason why it makes an album true to the band’s sound.

On drums, Des Kensel is once again the locomotive and the support for the superb guitar riffs along with bassist Jeff Matz who heavy sound just amplifies the fuzzy yet heavy atmosphere of Luminiferous.

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