Do you ever wonder how Olivier Assayas would do a Woody Allen movie? Well wonder no more because he does just that in ‘Non-Fiction.’ This film is a funny film about relation ships in modern times, and about how social media and technology has affected how we deal and interact with each other nowadays. It is also a commentary about the French Publishing industry – how it tries to survive and thrive in these ever-changing times. But really, ‘Non-Fiction’ is abotu relationships, and how we navigate and circumvent what we know, who we love. My family always say I like movies that are ‘talkies,’ and this is certainly one that classifies as such. I think at times there’s too much talk here, and I am pretty sure I missed a lot of topical French references, but I love the great performances by all here, especially though Guillame Canet and Juliette Binoche (the latter I could watch do nothing on screen) I think this probably warrants a second viewing for me to fully grasp, but I would gladly do it.
The ‘gay hustler’ genre is an integral part of queer cinema. I remember int he olden days when most films about gay men had this factor. And for some reason, I am always interested in it – there is something in there that endlessly fascinates me. I know it is somewhat of a tired concept, and really, Camille Vidal Naquet’s ‘Sauvage/Wild’ could somehow feel familiar. But this film felt a little different. First of all, it’s immensely sad as it centers around Leo a street hustler in Strasbourg, who has a very different attitude about hustling. He seems to be not out for just the money. He seems to be a fleetign soul who just wants to be loved – he has no qualms about kissing his client, and he is kind of in love with a fellow hustler who advises him to just look for someone older to take care of him/ (Indeed, that character eventually gets in a similar situation) Leo’s health is failing, and he uses crack. It’s all very bleak and depressing, to be honest, and the caretaker in me wants to shake him up and say, :there are other choice, there are resources which could help you be on the straight and narrow road.’ But of course, we all make mistakes, and we do what our heart tells us to do. The ending here is unconventional – it will make you ponder in its open-endedness, and it will probably upset people. But I looked at it differently after thinking about it – there’s a certain romanticism in being free and doing what you really want, even if sometimes it could lead to destruction. We face those choices everyday, and I sometimes feel it takes more courage to be true to your heart. I have to admit Leo stayed with me for a bit after leaving the movie theater, and at times I couldn’t figure out if I fell in love with him, got mad at his choices, or maybe, I was just in awe of how much he knew what he loved.
Once in a while, there’s a movie that really touches me. I may not be the best movie in the world, but nowadays I find that stories that touch me are rarer to find. But ‘Un Frere’ (A Brother) took my soul in 70 minutes or so, and now I just need to tell the world to see it because chances are, it’ll touch someone else’s soul too.
Tom (Simon Royer) is vacationing with his family when he finds that another boy Felix (Marin Lafitte) is temporarily living in their house. And it doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going. He falls in love with him, and finds a little about himself in the process. Royer’s wide eyed innocent performance is spot on, and it was great to see that exact moment when we see him recognizing that he is attracted to Felix. And int he beginning we sense that Felix may not really be into it, but as their friendship deepens, we see Tom’s effect on him. This is a sweet and sour summer story, with elements of awakening and coming of age, and perhaps the French provincial version of ‘Call Me By Your Name.’ It’s charming, and it made me cry just a little bit.
‘Transit’ is one of those movies that challenge me. I was mesmerized by it, but I have to be honest, there were parts that I did nto understand at first, and while some of them made more sense as the film went on, there were also some that were still puzzling after. Directed by Christian Petzold, the film probably warrants a second viewing. But life is too short and I have so much on my to-be-watched plate that I want to do it, but at the same time I don’t have the patience.
But what I got is good. I know it is based on Anna Sagher’s 1944 novel, but is set on present day France (first Paris, then Marseilles) This Paris is not the city of lights, it’s a turbulent one, with chaos and police activity. A man (Franz Rogowski) assumes another man’s identity, then goes to the port city of Marseilles, facing emotional, and political complications. Some of it doesn’t make common sense, but I don’t think Petzold is too concerned about that – the narrative is fluid, combining past, present, 1944, and 2019. It is supposed to be seamless, but it’s messy – perhaps to elevate the chaos of the story. Rogowski, looking like a German River Phoenix, is perfect for the role of a man confused, determined, obsessed. He is mesmerizing to look at. But as I said earlier, this is a tough watch. I cope to having unanswered questions that make me feel slightly dumb. For sure, though, this movie stayed with me. I just don’t know what to do with the fragmented pieces I got.
‘Godard Mon Amour,’ as a film, is pretty to look at, with an ode to Godard’s primary-colors theme as in ‘A Married Woman.’ But pretty only goes so far. Perhaps this film, directed by Michael Hazanavicius (of ‘the Artist’) is meant for people who know Godard and his films well, because a lot of times I am lost, when funny scenes are supposed to be funny I am not laughing. And even though Louis Garrell tries hard, there seems to be me no meat in the character of Jean Luc Godard here, and I knew not much more about him after the film ended. Yes, I know the film is not an exact biography, but more a slice of life representation of the years when he was married to Anne Wiazemsky, his second wife. But still, context might have helped me. I found myself thoroughly bored by the film and couldn’t wait for it to end.
‘Faces Places’ was very renowned during the awards season, and although it did not win the Academy Award for Best Picture, a lot of people feel that it should have. I am just catching up to it now, and I like it fine. It is directed by Agnes Varda, along with the artist JR, and it also starts the two of them. They go through the French countryside provinces and talk to regular folks, take their pictures, and blow these pictures up and paste them on large surfaces, like the sides of buildings or expansive farm houses. I honestly wish I were more interested in them, but city folks appeal to me more. But I do respect the work, as I know Agnes Varda is one of the key proponents of French New Wave Cinema. That is referenced in the touching last part of the film. I don’t know if I would want to ever see this film again, but it was fun watching.
I know French Director Arnaud Desplechin has a huge fan base, and his new film ‘Ismael’s Ghosts’ cater to that. I am only finding this out because I absolutely loathed his new film ‘Ismael’s Ghost” and I just did not get why the film was garnering raves, even opening Cannes Film festival last year. Sure enough, a lot of what is in the film are nods to some of his earlier films and are ‘inside jokes’ of sorts. Obviously, I did not get most of them, as I don’t even know if I have even seen any of his other films. I can’t say I am an expert on French Cinema, as I only see what is accessible to us here in the States.
Needless to say, I thought ‘Ismael’s Ghosts’ is a hot mess. Stories and characters weave in and out and ten minutes into the film, i was already exhausted by it. They say if a film doesn’t engage you after a certain number of time, then you will never get it. I never got this. I know that the director character here is supposed to mirror Desplechin, and I guess that metaphor works that way: there is too much going on here, as if ideas have exploded in his head, and I just don’t have the patience for it. The version I saw was the ‘Director’s Cut,’ which is the version longer than the one shown in Cannes. Perhaps I would like that version better, although some reviews have indicated that this ‘fuller’ version makes more sense. Well, it still did not make sense to me, and I really have no interest in finding out more.