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Archive for the ‘Marion Cotillard’ Category

Nine

22 Oct

Nine – Directed by Rob Marshall. Soundstage Musical. 2009 COlor 118 minutes.

★★★★

The Story: A film director puts off everyone as his film goes into production, but he can’t admit he has no script.

~

Daniel Day-Lewis stars in this musical in which one cannot say he dances any more than a monkey might, for his strong body is put to musical acrobatic uses, and perhaps he has two left feet. The dancing and the singing are left up to the cherishable skills of Marion Cotillard, Penèlope Cruz, Fergie, Kate Hudson, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, and Sophia Loren. Who could ask for anything more?

Not I. The dances are super-duper and the songs are fun. Judi Dench is a musical comedy singer from way back, and does a wicked Follies Bergère number with a mile long boa. Fergie in a wilderness of hair that somewhat unnecessarily masks her interesting face reviews her philosophy of Italian love in a wild song and dance. Kate Hudson plays an American reporter who does a big witty number about Italian Cinema.

For the musical is about the block Day-Lewis has in writing his next musical. All the women pose delays, distractions, denials. And in the end Nicole Kidman writes his new film off because he cannot show anyone a script. He is impotent. She sings goodbye to him.

What starts with Penèlope Cruz performing a hot comic turn as his mistress winds up with Sophia Loren singing him a lullaby to reform – no two actresses have resembled one another in film history more than these.

One would not question the execution of this material. One might question the strength of the source of this material. For it devolves from Fellini’s 8 1/2, which is about a similar predicament for a director. It starred Marcello Mastroianni. Mastroianni is an interior sort of actor, the kind that doesn’t move much, and the story of impotence is too navel-gazing to move me much either. Both seem weak. And Day-Lewis is cast in and plays the part along the lines of Mastroianni also. His opening scene where he lies to the press is his funniest, and it also displays his Italian accent and manner ruthlessly.

No, it is neither he nor the story that carry the film, but the women, their exuberance, their talent, and the dances in which the choreographer has put them to use.

I liked it. I didn’t think I would. But I like it. Because I liked these women, their sauciness, their independence, their smart take, their beauty, their agility, their out-front-ness, and the talent in each of them whose bigness warrants their being up there before me. They gave me their all and I took it for the plenty it was worth.

 

The Immigrant

02 Jun

The Immigrant – directed by James Gray. Tragedy. 117 minutes Color 2014.

★★★★

The Story: A young woman is snatched from Ellis Island and forced into prostitution by a man who competes with her favors with his ne’er do well cousin.

~

The Immigrant would be an important picture-going experience, except for one ingredient which cancels it out as such and leaves one merely shrugging.

It is beautifully produced. The costumes are apt and evocative. The filming and editing are tip-top. The direction of crowds, the engagement with real settings cannot be surpassed. The casting is…

Yes, the casting.

Setting aside the secondary roles of Polish immigrants and Irish cops which are perfectly cast, we must bow down as well before the casting of Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner. No two actors in the world are more suited to play opposite one another than these, because they are the two most rash actors on the planet at the present moment.

On the one hand we have Phoenix’s construction of the pimp as a man of almost priestly quietude and intent – except when he is madly drunk. Phoenix gives but one indication of his extremes, until the big scenes at the end – exactly the way to strategize the role. His awkwardness as the m.c. in a girlie show is the perfect choice.

Opposite this is the extrovert Renner, who plays an illusionist who is a suave public performer. And what a beauty Renner is to look at! What eyes! What physicality! Where Phoenix offers you nothing to empathize with, you fall for Renner on the spot. He captures the Mercurial instability of the character in a snap. Phoenix’s instability as a character is of another flavor entirely. They are both masters of the extreme.

The fatal damage comes in the playing of Marion Cotillard whose performance clogs the piece to a standstill. What is she up to, you wonder? What is she shooting for? She plays “helplessness.” She plays “innocence.” She plays “placidity.” That is to say, she plays qualities – instead of playing actions. What is her character is doing is saving her sister and  is laid out by the dialogue, but you never see anything stir in Cotillard’s performance in that direction and in aid of it. She is inert.

Ever since playing Piaf, Cotillard has been doing this sort of dumbshow acting, as though, seeing the situation her character is in, the audience will “feel” her response to it. That the audience will fill in the blanks. That the audience will empathize the contents into being. They won’t. They’ll feel cheated. They won’t be fooled. They won’t care. They’ll suspect her of stinginess. They’ll suspect her of artistic stupidity. They’ll suspect her of vanity and self-indulgence. Opposite two such extreme actors, an actress cannot coast or play against the grain or abdicate. She cannot play a trick. If she does the result is narrative incoherence, which is what we have here.

Less is not always more, but less than less is a monstrosity. Cotillard in a film is a sabotage not waiting to happen. This film is demolished by her.

 

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises

20 Jul

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises – directed by Christopher Nolan. Comic Book Action Adventure. Batman wants to retire. but no; the forces of virtue and of evil must be met. 164 minutes Color 2012.

★★★★★

A tragic aura dogs the claws of Batman, or at least dogs the velvet slippers of Bruce Wayne, and it’s fragrance imbues all who come in contact with him, from Michael Caine, who plays his loyal godsbody all the way to Anne Hathaway who plays the Catlady, a sort of second story jewel thief whose wit almost cuts through the sorrows of our hero, valiantly played by Christian Bale. Hathaway supplies the only comic relief of this piece and the actress is brilliant at it; one sighs with relief whenever her impudent self appears before us. As to the rest of the cast, they are the best actors in the world. Gary Oldman as the chief of police with a dark secret of his own; Tom Hardy as the heaviest heavy in all hell; Marion Cotillard as the billionairess out to save the day; Morgan Freeman as the keeper of the flame of Bruce Wayne’s fortune and dangerously advanced experiments. Then we have Matthew Modine as the cocky cowardly cop and Liam Neeson who is the cause of it all and Joseph Gordon-Levitt terrific as Batman’s volunteer helper. And the reason all is well with the acting is that the script is tops, with many diversions and excursions, examinations, and analyses, blasts and bombs and a flying bat jalopy and leaps and bounds, and so many long corridors of interest and imagination that one is lost, until the story finds one again at the end, the ends, the loose ends. I shall spoil nothing by saying that the obvious difference from this and all other Batman movies, aside from the superiority of the script, is that the big branagan at the end, and lots that lead up to is, is shot in full daylight. Batman was ordinarily a nocturne, wasn’t it? The Dark Knight operated only in The Dark Night? Because? Because why? Because he was a bat!

 

 

Midnight In Paris

04 Jun

Midnight In Paris – Written and directed by Woody Allen – Light Comedy. A screenwriter and his fiancée fall out over Paris, as she shops forward, and he time travels back. 100 minutes Color 2011.

* * * * *

We expect another dose of Allen’s tired concerns, but we find instead a spoonful of sugar and no medicine at all. Adrien Brody’s excruciatingly funny rendition of Salvador Dali is worth the ticket of admission. Alas, it stands virtually alone as a form of comic comment as Bunuel, Picasso, Matisse, Lautrec, Degas, Gauguin, cameo in and out with no savor comique at all. The joke of celebrity artists’ sudden appearances plays out long before they turn up, and Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein is once again out of her element in Paris. But, more than the actors, in all these cases, it is the fault of the writer Allen, whose script is flaccid and who tends to sacrifice humor to comedy and comedy to jokes – although some of the jokes admittedly are marvelous. Allen also writes the lines of his male lead for one actor and one actor only, himself, but he is not playing the part just at present, so Owen Wilson who happens to be playing it here, is at times trapped by the Allen rhythms and, through no fault of his own, cannot always adhere to a character whose rug is being pulled out from under him by the failure of the screenwriter who thinks that someone else should be as funny as Woody Allen is when, all the time, Owen Wilson is just as funny on his own and as himself as any normal light comedy film requires. Wilson is right for the part, of course, a gormeless, lecherous, shy, literarily ambition bloke, and his stentorian style of reading his lines is droll beyond measure. He carries the film, for sure, right where it belongs into our own willingly gullible hearts. He is helped in this particularly by Rachel McAdams who gets plenty of and deserved attention from the camera as the fiancée from hell, an extremely well-written part and one which she does full justice to – she’s so funny in everything she does, you’re too horrified to laugh. The other dead spot is Marion Cotillard, leaden as the leading lady in a part that requires mischief and sexual animation such as Carole Lombard had or Goldie Hawn or some Unknown Delight. But, nonetheless, the film carries itself through for us in a good old-fashioned way; it offers us a fairy tale we all have had of hobnobbing with the accomplished. It carries the dream fun through, the feckless younger son meeting all the sacred monsters in the woods of fame, while all the imps are Allen.

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Inception

10 Apr

Inception – Directed by Christopher Nolan. Techno-thriller. To change a man’s mind, a trained crew enters his dream-world to try to hypnotize him. 148 minutes Color 2010.

* * * * *

Pete Postlethwaite plays the pivotal role here, which can mean and does mean that his part may be minute but still crucial. All he needs to make is one small turn. Everything depends on that. Hubbing out from him are his son and heir whose mind is to be invaded, and on the outer rim the tycoon who is financing the invasion. The focal role is that of the son, very well acted by Cillian Murphy. Tai-Li Lee does the tycoon beautifully. Which leaves the spokes, the crew of invaders, all beautifully cast and perfectly played: Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page, the last two of which are given and reward a good deal of our attention. The one item of miscasting is Marion Cotillard as the wife of Leonardo Di Caprio. She’s a great actress, but lacks mystery, at least in this part she does. The result is that we do not really care about the fate of their marriage. I’m not sure that any actress could play the part, for the hero/husband is played by Di Caprio, who is not a leading man but a leading boy. The vexed lines between his brows, the passion and conviction and honesty and skill with which he animates and invests every single thing he does here cannot countermand the fact that he is not a grown-up. Fortunately it is not a grown-up movie, so it doesn’t matter that much. It is a wonderful piece of child’s play, superb in all particulars, and we sit on the edge of our seats to follow it. It is executed to perfection by the director and the camera people, by everyone involved, in fact. It is cinematic to the max: our suspense is sustained for the last 20 minutes by the mere drift of a van off a city bridge into the water of a river. What could be better? In this genre, nothing. Di Caprio is one of our great actors, but he is not a leading man: he is a character lead, which is a quite different category and requires exactly the rare instrument which De Caprio in fact possesses: a talent for imposture. See him in Blood Diamond, Celebrity, Total Eclipse, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to really get a sense of his gifts. But see this too. He can carry a load. But because he carries them, all the loads he carries become  — and it’s still delightful to us all when the load is, as here it is supposed to be — hollow.

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