Killing Zoe – 1994’s Nugget

I was wandering around the office the other day, during my lunch break, and I started looking at the movies lined up in two small shelves. Among them, in the middle, shone Killing Zoe. A 1994 gold nugget, produced by Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Bender, and presented by Samuel Hadida.

Julie Delpy had just finished with the Trois Couleurs of Krzysztof Kieslowski, and reached a glowing cinematographic climax at that time. She is Zoe in Roger Avary‘s GenerationX film and she is playing along with Jean-Hugues Anglade and Eric Stoltz.

This was constructed to be an insane creation, and I might consider it a midnight movie, well this is the kind of stuff I want to watch. So I grabbed the motherfucker and I used my lunch break (and a little bit more) to devote myself to this hysterical feature.

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Quickly the story; Zed (Eric Stolz) comes back to Paris after eleven years for “business”, in the cab from the airport to the hotel, he is approached by the taxi driver who kindly offered to schedule him a prostitute as a gift for his return; Zoe. They made love while Murnau‘s Nosferatu was on TV (interesting juxtaposition), and of course, chemistry happened. But Eric (Jean-Hugue Anglade) happened too. The old friend of Zed, entered the apartment like a storm, and threw Zoe out of it, and cheered his childhood friend after all these years. We will soon learn that Eric has a plan in mind, he wanted Zed for a bank robbery, that had to happen the day after.

Fotor0906124422Anyway, the plot is on speed, the scenes are on speed, and the characters are definitely on speed; coke, hashish, heroin, the drug ritual before the d-day. The interesting connection to make here is this one: to persuade Zed to give himself up to drugs the day before their attack, Eric said : “we live life” and “zoe” in greek means “life” therefore: killing zoe = killing life, which is paradoxical and pretty much revelatory, considering what will happen next (but no spoilers).
And in a sort of bonus, we get to know the underground Paris, but never the “real Paris” as Zoe promised Zed to show him. Then we are kindly invited to a jazz club, where you can do drugs, get approached by prostitutes and might order a bottle of wine, with absinthe in it. This lifestyle is pretty much destructive, and you end up stuck in your bubble, floating around pills of all genre, powder of all kind, and needles carrying all sort of diseases, and this is how we learn without surprise that Eric has AIDS. So the guy has nothing to loose diving his face on illicit products and having ideas of robbing banks.

Fotor0906124137For the french actor, Anglade, his role in Killing Zoe, might be his best performance; a serein psychopath, disconnected from all forms of human empathy, darkly funny and hell he is coherent without being coherent. I was literally flabbergasted by his acting, he left me breathless, and not only was I laughing at his lines, but I was admiring his detachment, and I empathized with what he has become, imagined through what he had to go all these years to end up in a small apartment with four dumb drug addicts.  Anglade embodied the character with a nonchalance that seemed almost natural, he found the perfect balance between psychosocial behavior and despair. I believe he was the main character, not Zed or Zoe, but Eric.

"Oups attention, y'a du monde" "Oups, careful, there're people"

“Oups attention, y’a du monde”
“Oups, careful, there’re people”

Killing Zoe, is sordidly fun, and all this craziness, this halo of insanity makes you trip. Even though the end was predictable, and there were some great issues with light, I enjoyed every other aspects of the movie. A pure B movie.

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Charlie Countryman – True Love Hasn’t Been This Wrong

Seriously, Charlie Countryman could have been 10 times greater if Matt Drake, the scenarist, didn’t try to mix up every genres; fantastic, thriller, romance, comedy; my head hurts.
Fredrik Bond, the director, is the second to blame fo being this pretentious thinking his camera could have been able to vomit a unicorn after swallowing all those genres. And most of all, he is to blame for thinking Shia LaBeouf and a Romanian/ginger Evan Rachel Wood could make a good couple; blasphemy.

Well, the story; to understand where Bond got alienated by his creativity. Charlie, played by LaBeouf, just lost his mom (Melissa Leo), who appeared as a ghost to guide him for the last time, she told him to go to Bucarest (for no reason). He took the plane, sat next to a weird guy who died, and again, appeared as a ghost and told Charlie to bring a hat he bought from Chicago to his daughter and tell him a sentence in Romanian.

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Chapter 2; Charlie meets Gabi, played by Evan Rachel Wood, with an awful accent. And from now on, nonsense actions will happened one after another.

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Charlie falls in love; obviously, but falls also into a Romanian mafia, where every one wants to kill him. Nigel (Madd Mikkelsen) Gabi’s ex-husband who is still deeply in love with her, and the head of a strip-club, Drako (Til Schweiger), and that’s not the only the only character of Harry Potter you will find:

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Anyway, road trip turning into a manhunt, where you will see Shia LaBeouf running a lot for many reasons by fear or happiness.

Fear:
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Happiness:

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The movie wants to be a sort of modern/fantastic love story with The XX playing during a sex scene, but it isn’t a success really.

The only good point I could give is for the color palette, and thus for the really beautiful photography.

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I have nothing much to say, a shame that Madd Mikkelsen’s only presence or Shia LaBeouf’s performance weren’t enough to save Charlie Countryman, really a shame.

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Still worst couple ever.

American Hustle – Change your mask

The american cinema this year has been great, surprising, with his mesmerizing love stories, poignant dramas, suspenseful crime films etc. And American Hustle continues on that wave.
David O. Russell loves to talk about his work on his film, and I can clearly understand why.

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Complete transformation of Christian Bale, as Irving Rosenfeld and Bradley Cooper, as Richie DiMaso. I have to say that every previous sexual attraction towards Bale vanished, thanks to his growing belly and baldness, though if you’re more a fan of the cute Cooper, his perfectly curly hair are not very sexy. However, this is the end of the 70’s, and men had weird tastes. Unlike the women of the movie, Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld and Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser, who are breathtaking – and not only physically. Indeed, and that not only for the two actresses, they all done incredible performances and showed the best of their acting. Christian Bale was never so convincing in a style that he’s never done before, and that’s the power and peak of his acting carrer. Not to mention Jennifer Lawrence who is outstanding and changing the concept of the word “supporting” in supporting actress.

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Okay so amazing actors, now let’s talk content. American Hustle is based on some FBI event, and deals with the actions of two characters; Irving and Sydney, lovers and associates in con games. Indeed, they had a little growing business, gaining the trust of people, and also their money, by playing roles. Especially Sydney, who adopted in the movie, a “crime mask”, of an aristocratic english women named Lady Edith Greensley.
Nevertheless, Irving had his mask too, he cheated on his wife, Rosalyn, and had going on a business that nobody close, knew about.
Proof that in America, everything is possible, drop your actual personality, choose an other, there is plenty. The American Dream, the flourishing 80’s.
American Hustle sells some fantasies. Even if Irving and Sydney are unmasked in a first time by Richie, like magicians they have more than one trick in their pockets. That’s the kind of hope the country is dealing. Paradoxically, with the fact that the most honest and big hearted character is a politician.

Well, besides that, the movie is funny, a little crazy, vibrant and provides you a great time while watching it. It is certainly concentrated within the hands of the actors, and they are the ones giving the film this extraordinary strength and life, they enlightened it, and voodooed us.
Worth watching for the explosive cast and performances.

August: Osage County – Dysfunctional Family Bursting into Fire

Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard) disappears, Violet, his wife (Meryl Streep) calls the family to Osage County. 

I believe this could be the start of any ordinary scenario, however Tracy Letts, wrote her play, August: Osage County, so that family, reunited, is yet torn apart.  
John Wells, the director, kept the theatrical aspect for the movie, perfectly conveyed by the acting of its two most amazing actresses: Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts
We observe several elements of theater: a lot of gesture, loud voices coming at each other (not letting us understand a thing sometimes), and a very confined decor. Indeed, the film takes place in specific rooms of the house, quickly filled up with the family members, and even though, the house is in the middle of vast plains, it is ignored by the camera. 

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So here we are, stuck, with crazy people, about to kill each other, with no way of escaping. If the storyline is a déjà-vu; american family, where nobody is really close to each other, and madness and mystery govern, there is material. When I say to material I am talking about the actors performances and the music. 

Let’s take the character of Barbara Fordham (Julia Roberts), married to Bill (Ewan McGregor), although, separated (but not divorced), she has a daughter of fourteen years old, Jean (Abigail Breslin), who smokes pot, and isn’t really open to discussion. Barbara is tired, and even though she tries her best to do the right thing every time, she has a tendency of loosing it, and causing pain around her. Impulsive, she ends up looking like her mother, whereas it wasn’t her goal. 
Lets speak now about Violet; she has mouth-cancer, and is frequently, for not saying always, high on pills, her husband disappears, her daughters are living away, and she is the result of constant abandon. She has two other daughters of forty something years old, Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) who isn’t married yet, and Karen (Juliette Lewis) who’s dating a three-times-divorced rich guy. They are quite disconnected, and naive, and those two characteristics prevent them from freaking out. Unlike Barbara, and her mother, knowing how this family works, they are applying the ostrich policy. 

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Nevertheless, all the characters are lost, and surrounded by madness, that is initially trigged by lots of pain. That’s why, we, spectators, are quite confused, concerning whether we should laugh or cry at some scenes. Concerning whether we are looking a comedy or a tragedy. And here comes into action, the music.
Music has a big part in the movie, however we may never notice it. And this is simple: there’s a scene, intrigued, you watch, wait to see what happens next, and a music comes, sad or not, you combined the two, and start feeling something, feeling sadness, feeling the deep sadness that is eating the characters, where no one has the right to happiness. But that doesn’t last long, we are quickly moving on to something else.
And when there’s no music, and just them screaming at each other, or laughing sarcastically, we laugh two, and find that comic.  

The story isn’t a strong one, but everything else made it important.

August: Osage County is as good as if the play was being filmed. 

 

Blue Jasmine – Woody’s Come Back

It’s been since Vicky Cristina Barcelona that Woody Allen didn’t surprised us with one of his well done “dialogue-only” movie. Blue Jasmine and the incredible performance of Cate Blanchett, who deserved her Golden Globe, surprised me in a really good way.

Jeanette (Cate Blanchett), changed her name into Jasmine, married Hal (Alec Baldwin), a successful businessman, specialized in fraud, and lived a luxurious life, until her husband got caught. After that unfortunate event that ruined her, she moved to San Francisco, at her sister’s place, who is quite her opposite. If one is a tall blond, loving rich, handsome man, and wealthy life; Ginger (Sally Hawkins), is a short brunette, divorced with two kids, who lives in a modest apartment, with her no-good boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale). One thing that could explained that? They both had been adopted.

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As in every Woody Allen film, this one deals with love, break-ups, make-ups, and life-questioning. Once again, without knowing who directed Blue Jasmine, Allen’s touch, is embedded into the way it’s filmed, the music chosen, and of course, the dialogues.
However, if sometimes his films seem heavy and boring, his last work, is as light as a feather. The story is pretty well sewed, and it is full of suspense while being predictable, which is a weird thing to experience. That is to say, there are things you are really wondering about, waiting to happen, things that you know for sure will happen, and finally, the oddest of all: things you know will happen, and yet you’re surprised when they do.
Blue Jasmine, is nothing more, that another funny, light, quite interesting, film to watch, when you need to find a balance between a psychological film, and a childish comedy. But there is this level of “intelligent rom-com sprinkled with melodrama” that is most of the time, found in Woody Allen’s movies, that is not found in his last feature. Indeed, Blue Jasmine doesn’t have the “intelligent dialogue” part, usually played by the director himself. There is only Cate Blanchett, who embodies this often seen, anti-hero, who doesn’t know who she really is, what she want to do, and can’t take it by herself. She seems misunderstood by her entourage, holding to the only thing she knew but that disappeared, and made her world collapsed.

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A last point to notice is her relationship with her sister which is interesting too, because, she appears as if she is giving her advice, but then is actually, completely indifferent, and doesn’t really care. She drinks, she thinks, she’s not mentally present, she’s up there, drowning in her head, filled with thoughts.

What I appreciated in this movie, is that Woody Allen, didn’t try to make it a big thing, and Cate Blanchett’s performance, added life to it. I would strongly recommend people to watch it, even though they shouldn’t think about it as the movie of the year, or a big mind blown, but more as a casual film, who would be worth more than a glance.

Killer’s Kiss – A Promising Filmmaker

I recently received as a birthday gift, a Stanley Kubrick movie pack, regrouping his twelve films (Fear and Desire not being included), I thus, decided to dedicate my future reviews on his work.

I started then, with his second debut feature Killer Kiss (earlier named Kiss Me, Kill Me). Filmed, in black and white, the camera introduced us to Davy Gordon (Jamie Smith) a prizefighter, waiting at the train station, who began narrating us, his past two days that were pretty intense.

On a beautiful background music composed by Gerald Fried, we are entering the enclosed world of Davy, in which he is trapped, showed through several metaphorical and discrete details, such as the box ring, or a fish bowl. However, there’s Gloria (Irene Kane), a taxi dancer at Pleasureland, who has her apartment’s window in front of his, through which he sometimes, watches her with a strong interest, positioning him self as a voyeur (reminding Hitchcock‘s work). They are both attracted to each other, and this complicated things, when Gloria’s boss, Rapallo (Franck Silvera), obsessed with her, tried to force her to be his.

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Being, at first a photographer, we can notice how outstanding are his shots, carefully enlightened, with actors thoroughly positioned. As an amateur, he provided a compelling photography. The whole atmosphere of the film; principally shot at night, filming in alleys, capturing every shadow, has this strong tones of film noir, in a post-World War Two, and Cold War context of fear and corruption. The differences between good and evil are blurred, and Davy found himself a little lost, trying to escape from this world of madness.

It is obvious that this low cost experimental film, was at that time a promising work, but not Kubrick’s best movie. Nevertheless, full of suspense, Killer’s Kiss provided brilliant scenes, just like the fight in the mannequin store (symbolic of crime/thriller movies), and a fantastic and a real pleasure to the eye, photography.

The World’s End – WTF

Usually when you had a tough week, you’d like a drink, or maybe like me, watching people drink. Indeed, I decided to watch The World’s End, of which I had a poster hanging on my wall before seeing it (weird). To close the the trilogy preceded by Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the director Edgar Wright, with its scenarist and main actor Simon Pegg, set up a story about five men, that used to be inseparable back in high school, and that one day they decided to go on a crawl bar and drink a pine of beer from every bar of their town, baptizing their journey: The Golden Mile. Twenty three years later, the leader of their group, Gary The Kind (Simon Pegg), was telling members of the AA, this epic episode of his teenage life. It triggered in him, the desire to do this again, but most of all, having a reason to drink again! Therefore, dressed like he was 18 again, he went and convinced each of his buddies, to put on their most stretchy pants, and go back to their Newton Haven, and get drunk as hell just like.

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I didn’t know, what to expect before watching the movie, I knew EdgarWright‘s earlier work, and I new that it was probably going to be a crazy ass movie. However, I wasn’t prepared for what happened then.

I don’t want to spoil, I want people to experience the same surprise that I had and let them judge by themselves, because, I didn’t fully enjoy the movie. I preferred the two first of the trilogy, and thought that maybe this time, Pegg and Wright wanted to go further, to an extent that may led their movie to ridiculousness. I was really captivated at the beginning, laughing and getting real attached to each of the protagonists, but then WOW, the film has its course changed, and it was suddenly totally mad, and going deep into the what the fuck (or “W.T.F” repeated a lot by Martin Freedman). When, usually, the WTF style, is something that I extremely appreciate, for that particular time, oddly, I was disappointed and a bit confused. Maybe, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, put up a high level, and then The World’s End hadn’t been able to follow.

Though, the characters are pretty cool, strongly caricatured and stereotyped, but enjoyable and appealing. Their craziness, was I enjoyed the most, after all they’re all childish and juvenile, keeping this form of youth burning inside them, growing up while they didn’t want to. Nevertheless, something was lacking, something in the script.

Sad to end the trilogy like this, but… the end of the world (well.. kind of) couldn’t be more enjoyed than around a beer.