Saturday, 31 March 2012

Le Gamin au Velo - The Kid With a Bike


In every way.

After the horror of "A Dangerous Method", a film that managed to wipe out years of good will towards Cronenberg and solidify my loathing of Knightley, it was a delight to exit a cinema feeling that my faith in film, art and my fellow human beans had been restored.

The Dardenne brothers are serious film-makers and men who are well respected at home, abroad and by the film community.  With "The Kid With a Bike" though they have made a film that will play with a wider is, at the most basic level, a simple story of a boy from a broken home desperately seeking someone, anyone, to love him and it will touch everyone who makes the effort to see it.

Crucial to the film working is the performance of Thomas Doret as "Cyril"...the kid with a bike.  In a world where so much is made of performances that are, no better than, average this is a performance that should leave you speechless.  Doret is absolutely convincing as a damaged, traumatised, violent, loving, bruised and battered boy who has been let down at every turn by a father (the brilliant Jeremie Renier) who is the very definition of "absent".

Dorets relationship with local hairdresser Samanthan (Cecile De France) is achingly honest and accurate as the two come to terms with whatever it is that has bound them to one another.  De France is fabulous as the woman who decides that the broken young boy she chances upon deserves one person who will stand by him, love him and support him.  There is no reason for her to be that person...there is no blood tie but she sacrifices her time, her money and her reputation to do the right thing.

With your local multiplex about to be poisoned by the second "Titans" movie I would suggest that you trot along to your nearest independent cinema and support a film that actually has something to say and that will leave you feeling much better about yourself and the world around you.

Monday, 26 March 2012

A Dangerous Method

If you would like to read a review of David Cronenbergs "A Dangerous Method" can I suggest you read this review by Mr Phillip French.

I am afraid that I cannot offer a review of the film.

Instead I am going to launch into a vicious tirade against Kiera Knightley.

This "actress" simply stinks up the room in every single scene she appears every single film she has ever appeared in.

"Never Let Me Go"...a wonderful story by a wonderful writer totally ruined by her non-performance, ably assisted by the equally awful Carey Mulligan.

"Atonement"...proper film, great source material and yet again she single handedly ruins every scene she appears in.


"Pride and Prejudice"...a film where all she had to do was play herself, a simpering posho, and she couldn't convincingly manage that.

"Love Actually" takes a special talent to out-stink the sort of people who appear in Richard Curtis films but Kiera does the business.

"Bend it Like Beckham"...horrifically miscast but still manages to be the worst performer in a film that also features Jonathan Rhys Meyers...what an achievement!

I know, I know...this all sounds terribly mean spirited and, possibly, just plain hateful but I just cannot stand the fact that there are genuinely talented actresses in the world, scrabbling around in dead end jobs,  trudging around a series of soul destroying auditions and living in near poverty while this simpering princess is raking in top dollar and trotting up and down the red carpet because of her parents connections.

It's sickening quite frankly.

Look at someone like Vicky McClure...a bona fide talent.  An actress who has managed to put herself physically, emotionally and mentally into situations that have dragged shattering performances from somewhere deep within herself.

Compare that with whatever it is that Knightley is doing in the "Pirates" franchise.

Here, in "A Dangerous Method" she seems to confuse portraying madness with a gurning competition in some Yorkshire village in the early 1900's and ends up looking like Compo from "Last of the Summer Wine".  

She may also be the only actress in the world  who can appear tied to a bed, in a basque, her breasts revealed, being spanked by Michael Fassbender and leave every male in the room admiring the wallpaper.  I'm not even joking.  In what is meant to be a scene of sexual desire, shame and arousal she manages to rob it of any sexuality or sensuality and leave us with...nothing.

It would be wonderful to think that Knightley is destined for made for TV fare but when a respected film critic like Mr Phillip French describes this film as "admirably acted" then I fear that the extent of her familial connections has stretched so far as to render her bullet proof and we must all brace ourselves for a probable return in  "Pirates 5" and, quite probably, "Domino 2".



Ladies and gentlemen.

Excuse me.

Can I have your attention please?


Right, thank you.

My name is Paul and I am here to confess something to all of you.


This is much more difficult than I thought it would be.


The thing is.


You see.

Oh good grief...I didn't like "Amelie"

There...I've said it.

I feel much better now.

Why did I tell you that?

Well, on the surface there would appear to be some similarities between "Amelie" and "Delicacy".

Audrey Tautou...check.

An unorthodox love story...check.

Defiantly French...check.


But it is important to note that "Delicacy" is, in every way, a superior film to "Amelie".

Where "Amelie" was clunky, deliberate and a touch patronising "Delicacy" is more subtle, less obvious and knowing instead of patronising.

It's a joy.

Tautou plays Nathalie...the beautiful wife of Francois.  The pair are gloriously in love with one another.  She adores him, he adores her, they adore each other...were it not for the warmth of the performances of both Tautou and Pio Marmai you could hate them!

When Francois is knocked down by a car Nathalie is left alone, shattered and hopeless.

The years pass and she builds a new existence but, importantly, never creates anything resembling a life. She remains without hope and she remains without joy.  Losing herself in work and experiencing life vicariously through her best friend and the family she is building with her partner.  She eats, she sleeps, she works...but she does not feel anything other than a dreadful sense of loss.

One day her co-worker Markus enters her office to deliver some papers.  Wordlessly Nathalie approaches him, takes his head in her hands and kisses him with such passion and such intensity that he is left breathless and wordless.  Things like this don't happen to people like Markus...he is an outsider, a Swede making his way in France, he is too, really, a little too tall, he is overweight, he is balding and he does not have the Hollywood dental work that passes for "normal" today.

From this brief encounter a brilliantly funny and beautifully warm love story begins to unwind.  A game of cat and mouse is played between the two...with neither really sure what is happening or, indeed, if anything is happening.  They fall for each other but can't bring themselves to accept it.  They accept it but nobody else appears able to.

The real joy in "Delicacy" is in the honesty that stands at the heart of Markus and Nathalies relationship...she never has to deny her love for Francois, he never has to pretend to be something he is not.  At no point is there a suggestion that the only way to this beautiful womans heart is to go to the gym.  There is no ghastly "Pretty Woman" style shopping montage with Nathalie "making over" Markus.  He is who he is him that she falls for and neither one sees any need to change that.

I suppose that one would have to label "Delicacy" a "rom-com" because it is both romantic and genuinely funny but where it differs from the sort of films that Jennifer Anniston makes in Hollywood is that the romance never feels anything other than real, pure and true.  For that reason alone "Delicacy" deserves to be seen and to be praised.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Devil Inside

"The Exorcist" is, unarguably, one of the greatest films of all time.

That doesn't mean that there isn't room in the world for another great possession/exorcism movie.

"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" came close.

"The Last Exorcism" blew it in the final few moments.

Here we have another attempt that, on paper, would have looked like a cracker but on film ends up being the sort of snore-fest that makes a Daniel O'Donnell concert look like the last days of Rome.

Arriving in Rome beautiful young American Isabella has come to find out the truth behind her mothers mysterious deportation from the States to a mental hospital following her brutal slaying of a nun and two priests.  What she discovers are two rogue priests who help her to see that her mother is possessed and not simply mentally ill.

There follows all the usual contemporary exorcism markers...inverted crucifix, bodies bending, twisting and contorting, spider-walks, red eyes and tortured priests.

The problem for this sort of film is that "The Exorcist" is flawless.

In the same way that all slasher flicks since "Halloween" have been increasingly ridiculous and overly reliant on torture porn tricks so the likes of "The Devil Inside" cannot best what has come before and so rely on a checklist approach to film-making that renders the final product, at best, diverting and, at worst, dreadfully dull.

The found footage stylings on show here were better deployed in "The Last Exorcism" and it's difficult not to see this as being the death rattle of that particular trick...which is a shame because, as we saw in "Blair Witch" and "Paranormal Activity" it offers the possibility of real scares and the ability to disconcert an audience.

So, I keep waiting for a new exorcism movie to rival the greatest film ever made (copyright M. Kermode!) and praying that in order to meet the desires of people like me some studio executive doesn't greenlight a remake of "The Exorcist" with Justin Bieber playing Regan.