2011-11-30

Launch of the Seven Days of French New Wave Dec. 1 to 7

Starting on December 1st until the 7th, I will be presenting nine of the most important figures of the French New Wave. Alongside you'll have tops of their films and a review of a famous film or a more obscure offering. The schedule goes like that:

1. Agnès Varda & Jacques Demy
Since this is a Seven days event I wanted to catch up with the most important figures of the wave. That's why, like in their time, I united Varda with Demy, only to have a big start for this event and also because I don't like to split lovers apart. 
Let's make it clear: Agnès Varda is Agnès Varda and Jacques Demy is Jacques Demy


2. Eric Rohmer
One of the most subtle, interesting, and romantic of the the Nouvelle Vague, Rohmer stands as one of the most accomplished "auteurs" amongst his peers. A director I have seen more than the half of all his films and that I like more and more with the passage of time.


3. Jean-Luc Godard

Does the man needs an introduction? You'll see when you'll read about him and his films in my presentation. An intriguying character and one of the most frustrating to follow.


4. François Truffaut
Truffaut died too young and he was the first director of the French New Wave I really connected with. His bittersweer approach, Antoine Doinel, and his life will be discussed in my presentation of him.


5. Claude Chabrol
A director whom I' ve never seen any film ever. It will be very interesting to discover my first with this event.

6. Alain Resnais & Robert Bresson "The Outsiders"

Even if both of them never been a part of the Nouvelle Vague, their influence and their movies made prior and during the time of the French New Wave made them "the outsiders" of it. As the many figures that gravitated around the Nouvelle Vague I must not forgot to list Louis Malle, Jean-Pierre Melville, Henri-Georges Clouzot, and many others.

7. Jacques Rivette

Idem to Chabrol, I am ashamed to say that I haven't seen one film of the great Jacques Rivette. A great opportunity for me to discover this legendary master.

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I will accept links to reviews or articles about the Nouvelle Vague and also about each and every "auteur". Feel free to contribute! I'm not displaying which film I will be reviewing for every director on the list to keep the surprise and also because I want you to send any reviews you want and not just about the films I will or won't review!

Send your contributions at michael dot parent at hotmail dot com

I hope to read your submissions and your comments!

Top films of Woody Allen by LMdC


On the eve of Allen's 75th birthday, I've decided to honour the man with a Top of his films and a modest presentation of the second to best filmmaker of New York city, the first being the great Martin Scorsese. In the beginning of his career, Allen was a stand-up comedian with punched one-liners like no one. At thirty years old he starred in his first ever movie called What's New Pussycat? One year later he directed his first film What's Up Tiger Lily? The first seven films he made were straight up comedies bringing a fresh and unseen absurb approach to the genre. Sometimes on the surrealist side but always heavily accentuated by Allen's unkind humour. His first real recognition as a serious filmmaker was his first masterpiece Annie Hall in 1977. Allen won the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay and was also nominated for Best Actor.

2011-11-28

R.I.P. Ken Russell

We will miss you!

2011-11-16

Mon oncle

Mon oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958)

In this warm up through the month of November until the event of the Seven Days of French New Wave, countless French films will  be explored to contextualize the French film industry of the time. This 1958 film from France, by one of the most anachronical director of all-time: Jacques Tati is a masterpiece amongst Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot aka Mr. Hulot's Holiday and Playtime. Playing with Silent comedy and slapstick gags, the crossover between Chaplin, Keaton, and cartoons could vaguely described this character.
Like its director, the character played by Tati himself, seems to come out of another time, he is a silent witness of the not always successful progress and constant changes in the society.
The success of a Tati film isn't palpable for everyone because it can easily bore someone out. The slow-pace action, the repetition of effects, and the not so obvious gags makes Mon oncle, and all his films, very difficult to appreciate for the modern day viewer's eye. However, if the audiences take the time to observe and appreciate the finesse and the subtle comedy that Tati's Mr. Hulot has to offer it will discover how it is well worth effort and moreover the concentration.
It is another important aspect that I learned with Tati, the concentration of the viewer should be at its maximum anytime because when you think that some scene doesn't matter this is exactly the moment when Tati will get you. I would love to see a film by this director about how the society has changed since the 1970's and I'm sure he would have made a film about everyone connected to his/her phone in a restaurant full of people texting and being isolated from each other while posting little non-sense sentences of Facebook or Twitter.
Mon oncle is by far my favorite film by Jacques Tati, a filmmaker that made not so many films but that worked so hard on each one of them that it is already a lot when you calculate the number of gags and the quality of them all. He was the last of a tradition lost probably forever because this kind of humor only makes laugh nostalgics and stubborn film buffs like me...

2011-11-14

Eyes Withtout A Face

Les yeux sans visage aka Eyes Without A Face (Georges Franju, 1960)

Entering into Les yeux sans visage wasn't very hard because I heard so much good words about it that it was just a matter of time before I actually watched it. Released by Criterion Collectin it wears the seal of approval of many cinephiles including myself. Categorized as a Horror movie or some might say a foreign film, Georges Franju's most famous film is an amalgame of Frankenstein, moral dilemma, thriller, medical experiences, and beautiful imagery.

Way way ahead of its time Les yeux sans visage, takes you on terrains you wouldn't guessed for a film of the 1960's. A doctor who's daughter has lost her beautiful face because of his bad driving that caused an accident has swore to himself to get her a face so she'll be able to relive again and have a normal life. The doctor reprensents how science wants to control nature or the creatures of God. To find a new face for his daughter he must kidnap young women with his wife and take off the flesh of their face and put it on his daughter. The surgery and the special effects are well executed and the scene is actually very convincing. Even with her mask, Christiane, the daughter, has somekind of scary ghost like look of the same kind as the Phantom of the opera.

The moral issues and the treatment of the story gives goosebumps and the clean black and white give a Universal look to the film which helps a little to be a less frightened because if it was in colours I bet many scenes would have shocked people even more. Mixing classic elements of the genre and the ever evolving medical science, Les yeux sans visage is a must see. This is a great Horror movie, a classic and probably a masterpiece of execution and storytelling.

2011-11-11

L'argent

L'argent aka Money (Robert Bresson, 1983)

The final film of filmmaker Robert Bresson was shot when he was 82 years old and couldn't be fresher or more bressonian. While keeping his monotone dialogues, slow paced action of almost boring subjects the themes exploited by his story always bring deep meaning about society. This 1983 release couldn't be more actual, the 1980's were a period of great economic depression and the thought of making fast money by conterfeit or robbery might be something that occured in the mind of many twisted people. A lot like in the 1930's where the gangs like Dillinger's, Bonnie and Clyde, and all those famous robbers.

The case here, is on how fake money can alter and change the life of people and how ironic this trading of money touches everything we do in life. Well, if you are like me; I don't even have money with me anymore, I only carry my credit card or my debit card. Still, this is money and a materialist property. Based on Tolstoy's novel A Fake Coupon, L'argent demonstrates how malevolent and immoral money really is in our society. The themes of greed, corruption, class struggles, and criminality are all provoked by money and the materialist world we all lie in. The christian values of forgiveness, sharing, and charity are all flouted by the greed of the young criminal. I mention christian values because Bresson always exploited themes around the spirituality and the values it represents as another level of reading in his films. This is the focal point of the film and it leads to its final and tragic ending.

However, Bresson's films are so cold and unappealing that it is difficult to fully appreciate and love them, they are must sees and as a filmmaker he influenced a lot of directors of today; just take a look at the brothers Dardennes' films for example. Getting warmer for the Seven Days of the French New Wave in the first days of December...

2011-11-09

Le samouraï

Le samouraï aka The Godson (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)

In my warm up for my upcoming Seven Days of French New Wave I wanted to catch up with the French filmmakers that made films during the Nouvelle Vague years that weren't a part of it or considered as New Wavers. Jean-Pierre Melville has been very influential on the "auteurs" of the French New Wave, with his neo-noirs starring impassive leading characters wearing trenchcoats and hats. Melville's presence in the wave was resented as the presence of a big brother for all the young directors like Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer, etc. He even made a famous cameo in Godard's À bout de souffle.

Le samouraï is the first Melville film I've ever seen, the fact that he wasn't a part of the New Wave was probably one of the reasons why I didn't watched any of his films before. Well, now I know I should have looked up Melville before. This 1967 release is an instant classic, the slow paced action, the dead pan face of Alain Delon's Jef Costello the Samurai theming and the wonderful simple but efficient cinematography took me 30 seconds into the film to know I would fall in love with this film.

Having read the Bushido many years ago, when I first saw Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, I completely understood the main character and the title: Le samouraï (The samurai). With only one reference to the title in the openning of it, Jef Costello is literally a samurai, always dressed like if it was the most important day of his life, with a clean trench coat, a well worn hat, always clean shaven and even when he gets hurt he'll take care properly of himself and clean his wounds himself. His final mission was a suicidal one an aspect of the Bushido that is more than central is the fact that the samurai must die in a valiant way by his enemies or by a clean suicide.
The direct influence of Kurosawa's samurai film is palpable not only in the Bushido references but also in the framing of the film that doesn't mistake at all. There is also the influence from the contemporary theme films of Kurosawa; The Bad Sleep Well, High and Low, Stray Dog. The kind of story where the details are more than important and the construction of the plot is strongly mastered. I will be discovering more Melville films in the next weeks because this is a filmmaker that diserves  my attention. He makes the kind of films I admire like Coppola's The Conversation, Pakula's All The President's Men, and Fincher's Zodiac. A must see!

2011-11-05

Nanook of the North

Nanook of the North (Robert J.Flaherty, 1922)

Having loved Flaherty's Louisiana Story, I got into Nanook of the North with some expectations of documentary style and realism. This Silent Film shot during one year in the great North of my country, Canada and even more specifically, the Province of Québec, has a very important anthropological value. It shows how those people pratically isolated from civilization lived in these extreme conditions.
However this is not absolutely a great film or the kind of feature you want to buy and watch repeatedly. It's the subject matter and how the techniques of documentaries have been developped within this film. It is more important to see this film as a piece of History, a witness of another time instead of a great film. It is clearly the birth of documentaries, even if Flaherty always had some kind of story structure behind his images, it is still a how to make documentaries.
It was a mandatory stop as a part of my journey through Mediafilm's Masterpieces list and They Shoot Pictures' 1000 Greatest Films.

2011-11-01

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)

Of the many films I planned to watch from the 1000 Greatest Films of All Time list from They Shoot Pictures, Dazed and Confused was one of the most anticipated. I caught it on IFC and taped it on my DVR. Well, what a marvelous thing is this DVR, I acquired it late august and it gave me the gift of time! Simply because I can easily save several hours of television and movies and I don't have to tape it on VHS or be at the right moment in front of my TV!

Dazed and Confused is the kind of movie coming with a cult surrounding it. It tells, the final day of school of 1976 lived by freshmens and High Schoolers. Depicting a somewhat simpler time of our teenage years. Despite the time period, the occupations look the same and I remember having hang out with approximately the same kind of characters back then. The time of your first drunken evening, first love, the discovery of the possibilities of life and everything that surrounds drugs, alcohol, hanging out with friends, and partying. Dazed and Confused has a thin plot and luckily, Linklater (Slackers, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Waking Life, Me and Orson Welles, School of Rock) knows how to direct a film with no real tension but human interactions. He also understands teenage years and translate it in a way that brings us back to this time of our lives.

When I got into this film I did not knew how to perceived it, first because I tend not to like smoke head movies, since I haven't been one when I was at the High School but also because I don't really like them at all. In this case, there are many scenes of drug and alcohol abuse, but unlike Larry Clark's Kids or any pothead flick around it is a meditation of the effects of our actions as teenagers and the intercourses involved in this confusing time in a human's life. I think I may have liked this film even more than I actually expected. Recommended.
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