Sunday, October 27, 2013

100 Words On ... Little Shop of Horrors

Based on the Broadway musical, not Roger Corman’s rough-edged black-and-white original, Frank Oz’s highly stylized rom-com takes its cue from Alan Menken’s zesty R&B score and Howard Ashman’s witty lyrics and book.

Monday, October 14, 2013

NYFF 2013: Blue is the Warmest Color

After one of their titanic lovemaking sessions, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) teasingly asks Emma (Léa Seydoux) for a grade. Leah assigns her a 14 (out of 20 on the French grading scale), adding gently that she needs a little more practice. “I’ll give it all I’ve got,” Adèle promises.

That promise is kept in spades, by both character and actress, in Abdellatif Kechiche’s deeply felt coming of age story about a sympathetic young woman’s passage from adolescence to young adulthood and the first love that helps her find her true self. Seydoux is a worthy match for Exarchopoulos as the older and more experienced of the two (Emma is in art school and Adèle in high school when they meet), exuding the cool self-confidence of her character’s haute bourgeois background along with a charismatic artist’s seductive ability to make whoever interests her feel truly seen and understood.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

NYFF 2013: The Immigrant

Marion Cotillard is an icon of suffering in James Gray's somber passion play The Immigrant. As he did in Little Odessa, The Yards, and We Own the Night, Gray introduces us to a dysfunctional family and a criminal subculture prone to preying on the weak, going light on narrative twists to focus on the milieu and the interplay between his main characters. But where the best of his work sweeps you up in a tide of emotion and imagery so strong you aren't tripped up by on-the-nose dialogue or underdeveloped characters, The Immigrant leaves a few openings for suspension of disbelief to leak out.

NYFF 2013: Bastards

There is no shortage of title characters in this tale about the destructive power of a deeply dysfunctional family, but if the men inflict most of the violence, the women bear their share of the blame for the damage done. In the Q&A after the press screening, Claire Denis said: “They [women] are victims, for sure, often. But I don’t want a film to give them pity always. I prefer to be fierce with them.” Her story keeps circling back to questions of guilt and personal responsibility, each turn revealing more complications in her characters and their actions.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

NYFF 2013: Abuse of Weakness

Like its heroine, Abuse of Weakness wastes no time looking back, eschewing flashbacks of director Maud Schoenberg (Isabelle Huppert) ruling over a set or being courted by critics at Cannes. Instead, we meet Maud as she wakes up from a twitchy sleep to find herself half paralyzed by a stroke. Director Catherine Breillat doesn’t linger long on her recovery, either. We see enough of sterile, near-silent hospital rooms and painful therapy sessions to know it was a long slog, but we’re soon back home with Maud in her high-ceilinged Paris apartment, where the real story begins—and takes place, for the most part, since she can’t get around without help and she’s too proud to ask for much.