Une femme est une femme

Une femme est une femme (Jean-Luc Godard, 1961)

In a tribute to the musicals of the 1950's and introducing the style of Jacques Demy's films, Godard with Une femme est une femme assimitated his influences and reinterpreted them in his very own particular way. In the 1960's no director was more prolific than Jean-Luc Godard, as for his number of films to what they brought to Cinema.

Une femme est une femme is a film about Angela (Anna Karina) who desperately wants to have a baby. If it's not from her husband (Jean-Claude Brialy) It will be from her ex (Jean-Paul Belmondo). Angela is a strip-tease girl and besides the fact that she has an "uncommon" job for a married woman she has a very "common" need to have a baby. It's just the way she will have it that is more theatrical... Far from being the traditionnal Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly musical, Une femme est une femme is the child of those two influences on Jean-Luc Godard.

The story of the film itself reflects what the couple Godard-Karina just had to pass through, Karina was pregnant of Godard but complications made her loss the baby with the result of her being sterile. Godard wanted to give to Karina the chance to live and surpass this problem by playing a role that could made her get over that hard moment... But as many know, the couple was like a roller coaster and their relationship was too intense. Sometimes they were having a fight the eve of the shooting and the day after Godard would have written the script with the same words as the last day's fight. His inspirations are everywhere and he always has been the best recycler of everything in Cinema and in his life.

This is a film without any pretention and the way it was shot made it light and beautiful. The lavish colors gives it a melancolic tone perfectly agencing Karina's interpretation of the little Angela. Prior to Vivre sa vie and even after, Karina's characters are often closer to childish women than anything. In Une femme est une femme we have the feeling to see a kid wanting a child. Even her demand to her boyfriend is childish making scenes out of it and playing around. It's an interesting way to discover how Godard perceives women in general.

Une femme est une femme stands as one of the few comedies Jean-Luc Godard did in his whole oeuvre and should be seen for its originality. Godard may be one of the few "auteurs" to actually have changed the face of his art. It's a film that has been underappreciated but stands as one of the strongest efforts from its auteur and from the Nouvelle vague.


Shutter Island

Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010)

No presentation needed here for Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, GoodFellas, The Departed, Shine a Light) an Academy Award winner for Best Director (The Departed). Scorsese, is probably the best American director breathing right now. With a cast of regular Leonardo DiCaprio and newcomers, but talented Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Max von Sydow, and John Carroll Lynch Shutter Island stands strong as one of the best films of 2010.


Winter Light

Winter Light (Nattvardsgästerna) (Ingmar Bergman, 1963)
Cold Nordic Sweden is depicted in Ingmar Bergman's second part of his Silence of God trilogy Winter Light. Winter is the setting of this drama that shows a pastor, his lost of meaning in his faith, the fall of Christianity that is announced in this liberating and frustrating film for Bergman. Frustrating because he expresses his melancholy and anger against a God that never showed any sign.

One of the recurring themes of the films of Ingmar Bergman is the silence or absence of God. Especially here when the pastor (Gunnar Bjornstad) tells the depressive Jonas Persson (Max von Sydow) that God had failed on him. The relationship of the pastor Tomas and his deceased wife explains his anger and his other relation with Marta (Ingrid Thulin), the only person who considers him and has more faith than him, is his kind of redemption.

This is not an easy film and it will take many viewings to understand the profound and meaning of its plot and issues. Although, the visuals are stunning and as always Sven Nykvist surpasses himself, he is able to translate the coldness and emptiness of the church, of the light of God, and of the scenery. Being a great Ingmar Bergman enthusiast I think that this is a must see from is oeuvre but not as good as Fanny and Alexander, Wild Strawberries or The Seventh Seal.

A review by Michaël Parent


Moon (2009)

Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009)

It's strange to see that there wasn't much about Moon when it came out last year. But its DVD release has been good for its spread over the sci-fi film lovers.

Sam Bell, an astronaut of the Lunar Entreprise has been for nearly three years on the moon. A loneliness only tempered by Gertie (reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL 9000) his helping robot. This isolation made him have halucinations and dreams. One day he has an accident while out for a routine tour. He his rescued by a man that has the same name and the same appearance has him.

With many references to 2001: A Space Odyssey but also to Tarkovsky's Solaris and Duncan Jones' own father David Bowies' Major Thom. Moon has its moments and raises many modern issues to the screen. But I think it's its lack of consistency and the feeling of trampling on that annoyed me. I like Sci-fi but I don't like when someone tries to be Kubrick or Tarkovsky (I like them but I don't like a copy of them).

The best part of Moon is Sam Rockwell, he could at least diserved an Oscar nomination for his Sam Bell interpretation(s). All in nuance and in prefect control of his body and soul on the screen. I've seen him before in Snow Angels and I thought he was a very good actor. Now I think he's excellent and I wish to see more from him in the next years.

A review by Michaël Parent


The condition of the seventh Art - Introduction

What's next for Cinema?

I've heard those thoughts while I was reading about Roberto Rossellini some weeks ago a text that demonstrated how Rossellini himself save Cinema itself with his Neorealist approach in the 1940's. His style, far from the classic Hollywood techniques and rules was closer to the documentary than the actual fiction film. For example, take the sequence in Stromboli with the tuna fisheries. Rossellini was one of the first filmmakers to put his camera in front of the actors and let them interpret their character with few indications and even to ask them to improvise.

He was the antipod of the Hollywood way of filmmaking but he manged to influence so many young directors, especially the young critics soon to be auteurs of films like À bout de souffle, Paris nous appartient, Les 400 coups, etc. The French New Wave. Not only influenced by Rossellini but by Hollywood auteurs like Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Nicholas Ray, Samuel Fuller, Howard Hawks, Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch, and many more talented but off the radar auteurs.

The New Golden Age
Soon, it was Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette, etc. that made a revolution followed by American (but european influenced) directors that gave back to the Hollywood Cinema its glory. Guys like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Terrence Malick, William Friedkin, Brian De Palma, etc.

Since the 1970's, Cinema never had a creative blast like or a financial boost, we no longer write about a Golden age but we can begin to see the lone ending of the Theatrical Cinema like the cinephiles and purist knew it. "A film must be seen in theaters the way it was made to be seen".

Did you already forgot Avatar?
Well, late 2009 early 2010, a titan (Titanic reference) entered onto the screens. In 3D. While raising from the grave a lot of IMAX theaters Avatar created a craze cause everybody was shouting: you have to see the last James Cameron on the big screen with the plastic glasses and the Dolby Surround sound!

3D is a nice new perspective, but what does it really brings to the story? This new dimension, except creating new stunning visuals is it worth the extra money they ask you to pay at the entry? Was it really worth making a Step Up 3D? My answer to all these questions is nothing, no, and no.

Home alone
It's funny because when Avatar was released, they announced the coming of 3D televisions. Coincidence? I don't think so, it was planned, anybody a little alert knows that the theaters as we know them by now will disappear gradually and home entertainment is so perfectionned that people prefer to stay home, download the last film or television show and enjoy it alone. Television is the death of Cinema, channels like HBO are presenting better shows with good actors and excellent scripts than most Hollywood films. I don't think Television is bad, but it's another medium that proved to be more powerful and financially more secure for its investors. The creators have turn their heads where money is and they are working for television, they reach more people and they are even selling thousands of DVD boxsets those shows that where "free" to see on broadcast times but so good people want to watch and rewatch them!

My interrogation and fear here reminded me of a fear the late Walt Disney had; Does the Art of Cinema will soon be like classic Arts (painting, sculpting) only to Arthouse and Museums where only big names like Picasso, Monet, Renoir will drag crowds and that on ordinary days only some regulars will visit? Will Cinema only be the Art of the 20th Century? In next weeks and months I will discuss and essay many ideas about the condition of this art that I deeply cherish and I will try to get you the best estimate about this issue.

Michaël Parent


Winchester '73

Winchester '73 (Anthony Mann, 1950)
In the vein of Great Wersterns Winchester '73 is often overlooked. It's obvious that the Western spaghetti genre revolutionned or revisionnized the way Western were made. But before this revolution, the genre always been one of the most popular in American Cinema. Many directors made Westerns but they are quit a few that could handle it like John Ford or Howard Hawks. Sometimes, you can add Fritz Lang to this list but Anthony Mann is often forgotten. Bend of the River, Man From Laramie, Man of the West, The Far Country just to name a few and Winchester '73 will be observed here are Mann's most popular Westerns.

The title of the film refers to one of the best gun a man "cowboy" could own. We follow its path through different hands. From the man (James Stewart) who won it in a shooting contest to the worst bandit of its region. With Shelley Winters as the woman (romantic relief of the story), a young Tony Curtis as a soldier and Rock Hudson as the Indians wild chief.

As always James Stewart is the perfect American hero, he is the good son, the gentleman with the ladies, the cold blood competitor and the good "conscience" of the story. One quality he has more than any other cinematic icon of its time: he is human and has this fragile kind of personnality. He could be anyone, your friend, your neighbor, or even you. He was the son of America, in a good way. He reprensents justice, rightousness, truth, love, friendship, etc. His charcater wouldn't be the same without its presence.

With Anthony Mann he made many westerns and the combinaison seems to fit very well. Mann's camera waits patiently and captures the essence of the story, the scenery, the faces, and gives a great projection of what was the West. It was made of small heroes like Stewart that yes conquered the bad guys but also they don't become Presidents of the U.S.A. at the end of the story. Mann's approach has just the right sensitivity while staying dusty while the Indians attacks and capturing the dirty faces of the bad guys.

The imposing number of Westerns offered can maybe justify why Winchester '73 is often, too often overlooked in its genre but I'd like to take this opportunity to write out loud (if it's possible) how this film is a beautiful black white Western that deserves so much more praise and words from the cinephiles.

A review by Michaël Parent


The Phantom of Liberty

Le fantôme de la liberté aka The Phantom of Liberty   (Luis Buñuel, 1974)

What characterizes Luis Bunuel in the history of films is the fact that he is probably one of the few filmmakers who adapted the surrealist concepts on the big screen in the 1920's, well during the surrealist period. His approach on filmmaking and storytelling brought many new angles to this art. On a career that lasted from 1929 to 1977, Bunuel had the time to direct 34 films.

Le fantôme de la liberté also known as The Phantom of Liberty is one of the best examples of a surrealist approach on a comedy of situations. Far from being Un chien Andalou or L'âge d'or, Le fantôme de la liberty is closer to a film like Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie. One thing charaterizes the films of Bunuel; the feeeling that we are watching the reconstitution of a dream or the dream into the dream. At some point, in these films we never know if it's a dream sequence or realit; it's never explained.

For the film regarded here, Le fantôme de la liberté, we are closer to a surrealist comedy that makes interfere many characters with each other. They populate the film each with his little story. Some stories seem to go in a direction and then at some point they go in a whole other avenue. Other stories are just unconcluded and it gives the viewer a sense of frustration because we are never asked to conclude or finish a story with character. It's like watching people on the street as they pass by us until they turn the corner and someone else comes by and attracts our attention with something completely different.

I tend to think that Bunuel attempted to criticize television that always cuts shows, films or whatever they present with publicities at every 13 or 15 minutes. A critic on the modern society that can't keep its attention on something more than the quarter of a hour. This thinking came to me when I remembered reading an interview with the late Luis Bunuel about the broadcasting of one of his films and was outraged to see it cut in half with a publicity about mattresses if I remember correctly.

Made in 1974, Le fantôme de la liberté is a fresh comedy like only Luis Buñuel could have make, a classic!

A review by Michaël Parent


Destry Rides Again

Destry Rides Again (George Marshall, 1939)

A young James Stewart plays the new deputy (Destry) in the little town of Bottleneck. The city has no real order and the criminals seem to runs the place (ain't talking about politicians here.. well). The Last Chance Saloon where Frenchie (Marlene Dietrich) is running a burlesque show and running the whole town.

The story of the film is set to let enough space to let the comedic elements of the film be exploited at their maximum. Well, far from being a great comedy like a Chaplin, Keaton or even Lubitsch Destry Rides Again is more like a farce into the Western genre. Well, some moments are sure laughs but relying only on that and on the thin story the film would not be worth it if you let Dietrich and Stewart apart of the whole film.

Some scenes are build up to take pretty images of Marlene Dietrich in sexy costumes. Good for the viewer, but it doesn't really help the story to go further. She was a beautiful woman but is it just me but I think she has "funny" eyes?

On the other side, James Stewart is in the first moments of his brilliant Western career and gives an regular good performance in this comedy.

Destry Rides Again is worth the look but not as good as many other Westerns I will be reviewing here in the future. Come back again this week I will be reviewing Anthony Mann's great Winchester '73.

A review by Michaël Parent


Scarlet Street

Scarlet Street (Fritz Lang, 1945)
Fritz Lang had an unique life, he escaped Germany when the Nazi party took the power. He was the greatest filmmaker at that time and his life is sprinkled with many twists. However, some historians prouved that he invented or romantized many elements of his tremendous life. Somehow, this does not make him a worst or a better filmmaker. It's even his ability has a great storyteller that's reflected from those mythomanic inventions.

In the first years that Lang lived in America he struggled a lot to be able to do a project in Hollywood. His strong personnality on the set was blocking him and his reputation as a great director did not followed him on this side of the Atlantic. Fritz Lang had to wait to get the chance of directing Fury in 1936. After this film he worked constantly and directed at least a film per year.

We will stop our sight on his very personnal 1945 offer; Scarlet Street. The major themes of Fritz Lang's oeuvre are present in this masterpiece of Film Noir.

The story: A cashier, Christoper Cross (Edward G. Robinson) is married to a manipulative repressive woman, Adele. To escape from his miserable life Chris met a seductive young woman or read here the femme fatale, Katherine March (Joan Bennett) and tells her that he is a painter like Cézanne. But Kitty (Katherine) is only interested in Chris's money especially with the intervention of her boyfriend Johnny. The boyfriend decides to sell Chris's paintings and deceive the art critics by signing them with Kitty's name on it to take advantage. When Chis discovers that he was fooled by Katherine and she doesn't love him and that she is Johnny's lover he murders her and Johnny gets accused of the midemeanor.

The plot is build so tight and every element is so important that it is a real masterpiece only for the story. There are many interesting moments the fade from Johnny to a painted snake represents the temptation of miserliness that Johnny always ask to Katherine. Later we see Chris taking money from the safe of his job, and he puts it into an enveloppe at the same time his boss asks him to withdraw some money, while he waits the boss put his hand on the enveloppe and taps his fingers on it; it creates a great suspens.

The major theme that we can find from Lang's oeuvre, is the assassination of a loved woman. Many historians proved that Fritz Lang with the concourse of his mistress would have killed his first wife Lisa Rosenthal. He haven't been accused of this murder, this is a case closed as a suicide.

I must add that of the many films of the 1930's and the 1940's I been watching recently they all have a Christmas time ending! I am asking myself: Why that much interest around Christmassy endings?

Scarlet Street is withoout a doubt a great film from one of the greatest director of all time. Even with its depressing ending and the raw non-restored copy I watch I think it is a must see!

A review by Michaël Parent


Leo McCarey's Love Affair

Love Affair (Leo McCarey, 1939)

From the recently repraised and rediscovered Leo McCarey, who's brilliant masterpiece Make Way For Tomorrow has been released by the great folks at Criterion Collection, it's like a cinephile revival of McCarey's films. Earlier this year Leonard Maltin was praising his masterpieces like Ruggles of Red Gap, Duck Soup, Love Affair, and Make Way For Tomorrow and many more.

Love Affair co-written and directed by Leo McCarey, photographed by Rudolf Maté and edited by Edward Dmytryk is wonderful gem of American 1930's Cinema. In the way Ernst Lubitsch made wonderful comedies, McCarey offered the audiences of the time many great comical and, read here, romance moments. Michel Mamet french playboy and singer Terry McKay met on a cruise, each is in a relationship but they quickly fall in love between Paris and New York. They agree to meet each other six months later on the top of the Empire State Building to decide if they are gonna marry together...

Made today it would have been a compleasant easy cliché movie full of sugar sweet moments, but made in the 1930's by a first class director like Leo McCarey, Love Affair has some classic cinematic moments and well, a Christmas time ending. I think it was "à la mode" to do that because Frank Capra's Meet John Doe has the same Christmas denouement. Don't get me wrong here, the endings are not the same at all but the same christmassy feeling is used here.

A nice little gem to discover if you liked Make Way For Tomorrow and if you want to dig a little deeper than just the regular box-office made for today romances...

A review by Michaël Parent


Antonioni's Il grido

Il grido (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1957)

Known for his films from 1960 (L'avventura) to his death in 2007, Michelangelo Antonioni is a deep meaningful italian director. For many his artistic peak was L'avventura or Red Desert, personnally Blow-Up is his best offer. But as a true cinephile I must admit that his pre-L'avventura work is worth a look and it even announces his masterpiece period.

Il grido is the story of a man, Aldo, rejected by Irma a woman recently widowed. He begins a new empty life with his daughter trying to fulfill his lost love with the meeting of many women. This is a film that carries the main themes of Antonioni's filmography: the failure of communication, the emptiness of a broken heart, and pessimism. That's right, Antonioni made many films on that subject and I think the tragic ending of Il grido explains easily the pessimism of Antonioni's oeuvre. I also observed that intentionnally Antonioni put a poster of Charlie Chaplin's The Kid, this may be a reinterpretation of those themes or elements by Michelangelo Antonioni...

Like the rest his entire work, the photography of Il grido is memorable and every frame is near perfect. The mise-en-shot is characteristic from Italian cinema and gives lot of exposure to the tragic scenery. However, the presentation is nice but the content and the story is so cold that we hardly get into the story and get involve with the characters. His 1960 offer, L'avventura is more fulfilling and delivers a better plot.

Far from calling Il grido a masterpiece, I think it is a film worth a look expescially for those who love Italian Cinema and Antonioni.

A review by Michaël Parent
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