There’s a lot of sex going on in Belgium. Or so it seems, based on Laurent Micheli’s ‘Even Lovers Get The Blues.” When a group of friends loses one of their own, things go haywire and a lot of bed-swapping goes on. Maybe I am dense, but I found there were a lot of characters in the film, and there was not much (any) exposition to these characters that I was confused a lot of the time about who is who among here. That’s why I really did not care much for any of these people, and when they had the inevitable showdown at the lake, nothing registered. I like some of the artsy elements in the film, but over all I was very much unmoved by it.
Some quick hits on some flicks.
I really liked Die Geschwiter (Brother and Sister) which is set in Berlin and touches upon a couple of issues. Written and Directed by Jan Kruger, it is the story of a gay man who finds himself involved in the life of a brother and sister who are illegal refugees from Poland and Russia. He initially gives them a place to stay, then he gets romantically involved with the brother, but are they really just brother and sister? And is he really gay, or is he just being used? We never really get direct answers for some of these questions, and that’s not the point perhaps. We get a glimpse of life where refugees are discriminated, and I learn here that this type of thing doesn’t just happen in America. This was thought provoking and also engrossing.
From France comes Baisers Caches (Hidden Kisses) which is about a gay teenager from suburban France. It is a story about young love, homophobia, bullying. This was really disturbing to me – do these stories still exist in this day and age? I thought the younger generation now do not care about the sexual orientation of people their age? While the film does provide a nice ending, I was really bothered by some of the bullying scenes. At least it gives a positive message for this younger generation.
I am happy that in your local Cineplex between all the summer movies of superheroes and action sequences, there exists a film like ‘Paris Can Wait.’ This film, directed by Eleanor Copolla (Francis Ford’s wife) is, like your average summer movie, a whole lot of nothing. But with its French scenery, French food, and French suitor in the way of Aurnaud Viard, it just seems a lot more sophisticated and worldly. And in the summer heat feels like a great reftreshing creme brulee.
Diane Lane frames the whole film as Anne, a housewife of a movie producer (Alec Baldwin, barely here) who spends her time in his shadow. While at Cannes Film Festival, she develops an earache which prevents her from flying to Budapest with her husband. Instead one of his associated, Jacques (Viard) drives her to Paris. The film then becomes a glamorous road movie, as the normally day trip stretched to two, and along the way, they both explore the French regions, from Aix en Provence to Lyon, weaving through restaurants and museums and Roman aqueducts. To me it’s all interesting, with the shots of fresh lavender fields, and mouth-watering food. I was very much enchanted by all of it, as we see all this through Anne’s eyes. Is Jacques an opportunist French man or is he just plain French? The film will not let you spoil its romantic premise, but then why would you want it to? This is a film of moonlights and slow dances, and sometimes on a Summer afternoon it’s as much as an escape as a space battle. Maybe even better.
‘Four Days in France’ (‘Jours de France’) is one of the weirdest movies I have seen in a long time. It is one of those films that is truly hard to describe. Directed by Jérôme Reybaud, this premiered at Venice Film Festival. It stars Pascal Cervo as Pierre Thomas. At the beginning of the film, Pierre leaves his lover in the middle of the night, and starts driving through Central France. We don’t know why he is doing this – we get a very vague idea in the end. As he goes through the different rural cities, he goes to rest stops and cruising areas looking for hookups. Most of the time he is aided by the ever-reliable phone app Grindr, where he ‘meets’ the men of Central France (Are there really that many there?) There is the idea that he has sex with a whole lot of them, but curiously he doesn’t. He meets a lot of other people along the way – his French teacher from childhood, a young gay man who wants to move to Paris, an older lady walking to the market.
And then there’s his partner, who (again) uses Grindr to track him down. That familiar notification notice of Grindr is ever ubiquitous here, if Pierre isn’t listening to classical music. One can find this film very tedious, pointless even. At times I did as well, but I have to admit I also liked the languid pace of the film, and was amused by the quirky characters he met, even if most of the set ups were quite contrived. This film runs at least 140 minutes, and you feel its length. Oddly enough, though, I felt that my time wasn’t wasted.
It’s always refreshing for me when I find a film that seems like it did not come from a factory. Everything in ‘What We Have’ is interesting, and unpredictable, but never manufactured or fake. It’s the story of Maurice, played by Maxime Desmons, who also wrote and directed this film. Maurice is an actor has moved from Paris to a small Northern Canadian town, and the locals are asking why he would ever move there. We find that he has a lot of demons inside him, and slowly these come out as he gets entangled in the life of Alan (Alex Ozerov) his French language student.
This is a very affecting story, and you at once get invested in these people’s lives. The story takes interesting twists and turns, and at times is very unsettling to watch – but it is extremely real and explores issues of loneliness, commitment phobia, and teenage bullying. It is exhilarating, and it never alienates. Desmons is fantastic, with just the right amount of detachment to make you feel for him as you feel his journey. It will leave you thinking about the characters even after the film has ended.
It was one of those nights – nothing is sticking to me. I started and stopped three films already, and nothing is sticking to me. Until I told myself – just pick one and let it play, commit to it, and chose ‘Things To Come’ (L’avenir), directed by Mia Hanson-Love, and starring Isabelle Huppert. (And yes, it was a film I started and stopped a couple of nights ago) It’s a French film, and the one thing I know about French film is how it sometimes challenges me, or baffles me, or entertain me, but more often than not, I am never bored by it. This film is no exception – the story of Nathalie (Huppert) a philosophy professor who goes through some kind of middle-age crisis. Her husband has suddenly left her, her young adult children are starting lives of her own, and her health-problematic mother passes, leaving her with a freedom she never asked for. I can certainly relate to that scenario. What to do, indeed, when you wake up and realize all you have is a ten year old cat named Pandora. Hansen-Love also wrote the screenplay, is wise enough to not fall into every trap she sets up, and we get a bittersweet and honest story, with a richly textured performance by Huppert – who is all warm, cynical, funny, acerbic all in scene after scene. As Fleetwood Mac sings ‘Unchained Melody’ at the end, you feel like you know Nathalie inside and out and have been in the journey with her, and want to spend more time with her. Sure, there are things that made me scratch my head – the extended Philosophy talk didn’t really help the narrative, and it could use a ten minute cut – but this is a great film for introspection, and I bet we will all learn a little but about ourselves after seeing this film.
“Happy” is one of those films I just randomly chose, based on nothing. It is a French film, so score one for it, and directed and is starring Jordan Goldnadel. He plays Florent who meets an American girl (Isabel Ryan) in the streets of Paris. They are two attractive people who obviously get attracted to one another. I wish there were more to the film than that, and sometimes it feels like it is trying to say something else. But, as one character in the film says, maybe these two are people who meet for a specific reason and they leave and enter each other’s lives, sort of like two ships passing in the night. I think if you look at this film as some great distraction – the beautiful people alone in beautiful romantic scenery in Paris make it worth the watch – you will enjoy it. There’s just nothing more to it, and sometimes that’s just fine.