Mud, “mon coup de coeur”.

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Lately, Matthew McCaunaughey, multiplied pretty good movies, and with Mud, he reached the top.

I am a fervent fan of Jeff Nichols‘ work, and after loving Take Shelter, I couldn’t be more excited when I heard about his new film. A modern fairytale happening near the Mississippi River, where the Nature is queen.

The relationship Jeff Nichols has with the various elements of nature and how he films them, and add his characters to the environment created, is fascinating, and takes away the spectators. When I watched Mud, I wanted to live there, even the most towny person ever, might be able to consider living in Arkansas. And this phenomenon is explained; despite the rural aspect and this concept of “living with what you have”, this is a ticket for your mind to escape from routine and problems.

Nonetheless, the photography is perfect, but the story is a truly well mastered fairytale; a beautiful illustrated tale.

We are being introduced to Ellis (the edible Tye Sheridan), who happened to be in full transition, and discovering the secrets of a love relationship. Indeed, at home he sees his parents being torn apart, and at this specific moment, he encounters Mud (outstandingly performed by McCaunaughey) on an island, while he was sailing with his friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), and trying to find a boat in the trees in order to make it their secret HQ. Mud, is a men who killed for love, and who exiled himself into this island, being provided with food by a friend of him. When he told his story to Ellis, this one did all he could to make the two lovers meet up again, as Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) was in town to see him, after years of turbulent love. And he’s finally taking example on Mud, and not on his parents which relationship appears as defective.

So, there’s this girl, older than him, for who he didn’t hesitate to punch a bigger guy in the face, when this last one was annoying her. Love brings courage, and love is about, doing all you can to defend and maintain your relationship. At least, this is what we are understanding in the beginning, and this is something we want to believe in. That’s the fairytale we want to see, when love conquers all, but also need some sweat and blood.

But Mud isn’t about this, Mud is about knowing how and when letting go. Some relationships, no matter how their were great, and brought happiness at some point, are just harmful and too painful. And we are not only talking about love relationships but all kind. Ellis and Mud, maintained one that permitted them to learn things, and to shared moving moments, but, at the end, it wasn’t a healthy or recommended friendship. And Ellis will have to keep the most inspiring and lovable things experienced during their time together, and learn how to let go when it’s time.

What I loved the most, and this is just because, I’m still a little girl, is that, Mud also learned from Ellis, and putted his life in danger for him. He was a symbolic son, but also, some sort of reflection of him. That is to say, Mud, was being the dad, himself never had and wished he had.

But this elements of fairytales, friendships and love, were set on to a revenge background. The men Mud killed, had very spiteful father and brother. And during a long part of the film, we are holding our breath. The original and very very exciting thing about this movie, is that we have suspense, vengeance, love, nature and kids. Elements that I didn’t see anywhere for a while.

The characters are very attaching, the story is moving, the actors are well playing their roles, and are spreading emotions with some kind of innocence and clumsily.

Huck’ Finn, had after 128 years, still a palpable influence in many movies, and Mud is among of them.
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Trance – Headache

20130823-012932.jpgAt the end of Trance I went to get aspirin for my headache. I felt like I spent my entire day trying to finish a puzzle of 3000 pieces.

I hated all the characters at the end of the movie,Danny Boyle did hit hard this time.
And I do love his movies, The Beach for example, was a truly masterpiece of its own.

Well, I liked Trance, and I liked the headache it gave me, because it meant I was very focus during the film, and it meant it left me something, I will not forget that movie. I usually love to propose Memento to people who want a great psychological thriller, now I know I will think also about Trance. Even if it is not really fair to compare.

The story is about a thief, Simon Newton (the cute James McAvoy), doing an inside job for some others guys, in an auction house, and helped them steal some of the most valuable paintings. Except for that last one… A Goya, which disappeared the day they took action. And because of some concussion, we assume, Simon forget everything that happened during the robbery, and Franck (Vincent Cassel) the leader of the group, wanted him to choose a hypnotist in order to remember.

Elisabeth Lamb, the stunning Rosario Dawson, is the chosen one. Starting from that moment, Trance is a big puzzle, and you will lose some pieces and found different others but which, surprisingly, will fit perfectly. Now, even more important, you’ll ll have to know how to differentiate dreams from reality.

The weakest point of the movie, is that we feel like there’s too much plot twists, and dead ends. You end up hating everyone, and hoping it will soon end.
However, the concept and how the idea itself is developed, is really interesting and kind of fascinating. It is all about manipulation, from the characters, the actors, the director and from the flabbergasting screenwriter John Hodge (The Beach, Trainspotting).

You feel like a stupid piece of plasticine being constantly knead, by some invisible hands. And you could do whatever you want, you would get hypnotized yourself, and try your hardest to understand what’s happening.

Enter into the trance, and tell us about your journey there, it might be painful.

(PS: guys, just know that Rosario Dawson gets naked in that film)

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Pain and Gain – Gangsta’s paradise

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I liked Pain and Gain. This is the typical action movie I like: something set in a shiny place, scammers, some humor, something fresh. It was like an amateur version of the Ocean’s saga.

Based on a true story, the movie, set in 1995, recalls the life of three bodybuilders who wanted to become even more muscular, than they already are, and RICH. Danny Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) the head of the group, is full of ambition, a “doer” as he likes to call himself, and is a manipulative professional who will give his buddies 3 years of luxurious life.

Dwayne Johnson, performing Paul Doyle, is showed as a big dull tattooed teddybear, who adores Jesus and wants to do good but as far as he’s a cocaine addict and extremely naive, as if he was a kid, he found himself influenced by Lugo and Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and he entered their crime-plan.

Doorbal, is this black guy, with some temper but who wouldn’t kill a fly, whereas in the real life, he was the most violent of all three (and not black).

Finally Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), is the unpleasant rich jewish, who started from nothing and build his career step by step.

Every characters is really stereotypical and maybe a little bit caricatured, it had to, so a little bit of humor would went out of it.

Now, the whole controversy of the movie, and Michael Bay, obviously didn’t think about it, is that, we empathize and sympathize with the three bad guys, and despise the victims. This is wrong, because people have been tortured and killed, we should be outraged, however we are not, and our moral is shaken.

Everything is reduced to a futile comedy, so nothing is taken seriously, but if we put ourselves into the victims’ families’ shoes, we might get upset and angry.

Now, Pain and Gain, is a great film to watch when you feel the need to be entertained and not fall into something too serious and psychological.

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Two mothers, four lovers

How would you react if you learn that your mother is having sex with your best friend? Well, in Adore, Tom (James Frecheville) decides to go and do the same with his best friend mother. Revenge? Or deliverance?

Anne Fontaine has based her movie on Doris Lessing‘s novel The Grandmothers and created this huge mix of relationships, dealing with cougars and society’ scheme and moral.

Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright) knew each other for ever, they grew up together, and both gave life to baby boys. And again, the children grew together, and when they reached 18, all four were having beers around a table, laughing and sharing memories. Obviously it was important to get rid of the fathers, so one died, and the other moved to Sidney.

You may envy their bond, and you get into the whole atmosphere the characters and their environment are creating, where the sea seems to be purifying. But slowly, you start seeing something else being created, a sexual tension between Roz and her best friend son, Ian (Xavier Samuel). They finally sleep together, and as they were very lucky, Tom figured everything out the night it happened, and he ran into Lil’s house, to do the same. At this exact time, I was confused; at the beginning of the film I said to myself “it is for sure that Roz and Liz can’t be together so they chose their respective sons to be with. They tried to get close to each other by any way.” But then, Tom and Ian were also very keen on them, so maybe after all it was consensual love that grew all those years because they were always stuck together. The whole thing was about deliverance, succumb to the oppressive temptation and a fight against taboos.

Adore is a moving story, powerfully sewed by the characters. But Anne Fontaine might have wanted to get too close to a book’s structure. That is to say, that it shows some events, that didn’t seem so important, and because of the length fixed for the film, Fontaine had to go quickly on them. So it may happened that sometimes we think: “okay useless scene”. And we found ourselves laughing at some moments, while we should have taken them seriously.

However what I will remember of this movie, is how far forbidden, “immoral”, abnormal love, a relationship that goes beyond the society’s limit line, are capable of destroying you, and make you hurt the ones who could have permitted you to fit into the normal scheme, by not caring at all about them; such as Tom and Ian did to their wives.

And, you can try, and try, again and again, as hard as you can to fight against your nature and your feelings, you will never succeed. Anne Fontaine did a perfect job in creating a marginal fairytale.

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American Nightmare – Welcome to America!

20130819-160409.jpgI was at a friend house when the idea of watching The Purge came out of my mouth. When I first heard of the movie I thought the idea was incredible! Then I read some reviews and I was quite confused; they were bad… However I was still very excited about taking a look at it.

Basically the story is set in a near future (2022) where once in a year, at night, for twelve hours, crime is no longer forbidden. No police, no ambulances, no help: here comes the purge. But, the purpose of this “violence-free” event, is to eliminate all homeless and poor people, so that not only the crime level decreases but also the unemployment rate, and of course the economy of the country will rise.

They call it “hunting”; every armed people going out there the n-night, are moved by only one goal, which is to find and kill the poor, just like you find and kill a dear in the forest. And it is discriminatory, as far as, poor people are belittle to the status of animals. It’s not only that they are rejected by the population and at the margin of the society, they aren’t even considered as human beings.

I wasn’t quite sure, if the movie meant to be a dystopia, but what I know, or at least what I noticed, is that James Demonaco is denunciating the violence in America, and showing the cause of this phenomenon, which is the fact that guns are allowed in the country. We are talking about a violence which keeps getting a higher and higher rate, and maybe the 12hours/years in the movie will be a solution in 9years from now.

Now, the film itself, starring Ethan Hawke married to Lena Headey ( what an awful couple they make), is very very disappointing and so obvious in many ways. The catalyzer of the catastrophic scenario, is Charlie Sandin (performed by Max Burkholder), son of a famous home security developer, James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), who wanted to save a homeless (Edwin Hodge), chased by a masked organization, who was screaming for help in their neighborhood.

Most of the actors are offering a shabby performance, and the whole atmosphere looked like a bad version of Funny Games US. Lena Headey (Mary Sandin) is the worst Naomi Watts ever, and her only good scene is at the end, when she smashed on the table the face of her neighbor (must be for sure her Cersei Lannister side), the children (Charlie and Zoey Sandin) are acting “too much” and can’t be taken seriously, the homeless guy Charlie wanted to save, Edwin Hodge has two lines in the whole movie and disappear every time… Only Rhys Wakefield, a fair Michael Pitt, has done a fine job in his psychopath role.

If we had to draw a curve, showing the thrills experienced throughout the movie, we would only see a few picks. Because, the suspense is near 0 and the script really looks like it was written by a tired James DeMonaco.

In a nutshell, the concept of The Purge deserves a strong 4/5 whereas the film itself a 2/5.

Stoker – A gothic tale.

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I was very excited when I bought Stoker from the DVD store. I thought “Hey! First Park Chan-wook‘s english film, I must try this thing.”

Nicole Kidman (Evelyne Stoker) in a big house, close to the mansion’s structure, pale green of the walls; this few things reminded me the atmosphere of The Others directed by Alejandro Amenábar. But then, came her teenage girl India (performed by Mia Wasikowska) and I said “Oh my God, this is a character running away from the Adam’s family!” This blending of style and cinematographic references (Hitchcock‘s Shadow of a Doubt) were very attractive and Park Chan-wook was, once again, offering us a different menu; however it is again about revenge.

Indeed, the story is about, a family torn apart when the father (the handsome Dermot Mulroney) dies in a “car accident”, and his brother, the so-called uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) came into the lives of the widow and the fatherless girl.
The relationship mother/daughter is defective, they are more represented as rivals than family and we can feel some jealousy between the two. Therefore, when Charlie came, the mother, literally jumped into his arms, and India, at the first place seemed more suspicious about this uncle who came from nowhere, but the more we go deeper and deeper in the movie, the more we ask ourselves “maybe, India is jealous, and angry about this uncle who choose her mother over her”. Thus, when he tried to get close to her niece , she rejected him, again and again.
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That’s when the most beautiful scene of the movie is showed. She was playing the piano, and Charlie came (again from nowhere) to play with her; and at this specific time, a duet was formed. They kept playing and playing this bewitching music, with from time to time some scary tones in it. And it felt like it was more than a duet; it felt like the music was the fruit of sexual tension or action; India was having sex with her uncle through the piano, and when she was close to reach the orgasm, her uncle stopped, and disappeared.
But the girl was somehow relieved, from something, even if we don’t know what yet.

The incest in the movie is trivialized, or at least used as an element of horror. The obsession the uncle had for India for years and all the manipulative actions he took to get close to her, was quite frightening. Until where sociopaths can go to get something which had been forbidden for a very long time?

We are spectators of the India’s initiation to crime. Her uncle killed, in front of her, a boy who was trying to rape her. He strangled him. And when she came home that night, she went to the bathroom to clean herself; and at first, I thought she was crying in the shower, but something totally different was happening…  She was masturbating thinking of the murder, and reached the orgasm when finally she came to the part where the neck of the boy broke.
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Here again, Park Chan-wook directed a disturbing but somehow fascinating scene, alternating different shots. It is unquestionable that Mia Wasikowska is perfect in movies where she has a relationship with someone older, and is doing a perfect job performing those roles. She seems pure, discrete and reclusive; but this is only outwardly. She develops through the film an admiration for this men who came suddenly into her life, and who is so different from his father, and had this attractive craziness, and captivating look into his eyes. Wasikowska might be representing one of the greatest actors of her time (even if sometimes, her tastes in movies can be discussed).

Every character in the movie is bringing mystery and awkwardness, and the whole atmosphere, the crimes, those different characters, all of this was kid of reconstituting the Cluedo (the deduction board game). We, spectators, knew about the weapon used by the murderer, and who it was, but we were watching the others finding out. Only the dead father brought some humanity and love to the film, and to India, preventing her, while he was alive, of finding she had a killer nature. He was controlling this.

We cannot be disappointed by Park Chan-wook’s work, even if you didn’t like it this much, you always find something which was worthing watching the movie. And this is the most important thing in a filmmaker’s work: trying his best to attract by any way the spectator’s eyes.
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Amarcord – I remember.

20130813-110554.jpgI always loved this kind of gap between the italian cinema and all the others. There is something different about the characters, the atmosphere, the stories, everything. Amarcord regrouped everything lovable and let us enter the semi-autobiography of its director Federico Fellini.

We are in the 30s, the fascism movement is implemented in Italy, and the movie is the critique of the consequence this politics had on the population, and somehow on the filmmaker himself.

Let’s suppose, you know nothing about Italy, nor Federico Fellini, and you watch this movie. Objectively, this is the story, partly focusing on a teenage boy and his life experiences, but also on a middle class population, their family bond, and the feeling of joy they’re spreading. Because after all, Amarcord is a comedy (sprinkled by drama).

However, when you put some context, and you watch it again, you understand how Fellini presented his characters as apathetical and indoctrinated by fascism. They are somehow, showing that nothing is harming them, and they’re living in peace. They’re described as passive but also part of the strengthening of the political movement, there is this indirect cooperation between those two.

And if it is semi-biographical, the critique is also made towards Fellini himself. If the youth of Italy at that time wasn’t this concerned about sex, having fun, the celebration of every possible event, but more about their country, freedom and future, they would have made an earlier move. The italian filmmaker remember a time 30years later, but with contempt and nostalgia.

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His characters are close to the caricature, all their flaws are strongly and satirically represented. And as far as I am concerned, I couldn’t create a “connexion” with any of them.

Nevertheless, Amarcord offred us beautiful images that couldn’t be forgot. Some scenes such as the peacock which escaped and flew until he landed majestically in front of the little crowd of people, or the one in which Titta, the teen boy, performed by Bruno Zanin, follows Gradisca (Magali Noël, the most admired and desired women, lose her each time because of a biker, and when finally he gave up, the camera take a step back, and we see them, taking opposite paths. Showing comically and beautifully, the end and the departure of his teenage fantasy.

Amarcord is a majestic movie in its own style and as many filmmakers said, you must watch this Fellini’s brilliant piece of work.

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