erik lundegaard

Movies - Foreign posts

Wednesday June 05, 2013

Hollywood to Remake Audiard's 'Un Prophete'

Sad news out of Hollywood:

Columbia Pictures and parent company Sony Pictures Entertainment have optioned the English language rights to remake “Rust and Bone” director Jacques Audiard's much-celebrated 2009 French crime thriller “A Prophet”...

Be prepared for a mainstream Hollywood remake, because the English-language version of this super-gritty piece of cinema realism will be produced by producers Neal H. Moritz and Toby Jaffe through Moritz's Original Film, whose filmography includes this year's “Fast and Furious 6” and “Jack the Giant Slayer.”

It's worse than that. Among Moritz's production credits, these films:

  • Total Recall (2012)
  • The Change-Up
  • Battle Los Angeles
  • The Green Hornet
  • Vantage Point
  • Gridiron Gang
  • Stealth
  • S.W.A.T.
  • xXx

Plus all of the Fast und Furious movies. And he's remaking my favorite film of 2010.

At one point in “Un Prophete,” a fellow inmate tells Malik (Tahir Rahim), “The idea is to leave here a little smarter." I don't think that'll be possible in the Hollywood version.

Malik (Tahar Rahim) and Cesar (Neils Arestrup) in Jacques Audiard's "Un Prophete"

Malik (Tahar Rahim) and Cesar (Neils Arestrup) contemplate the American remake of their Cesar-winning film.

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Posted at 02:39 PM on Jun 05, 2013 in category Movies - Foreign
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Saturday March 23, 2013

The Best Film of 2012, 'Rust and Bone,' Out on DVD

“Rust and Bone,” my favorite movie of 2012, is now out on DVD. Here is an excerpt from my review:

“De rouille et d’os” (“Rust and Bone”) is a beautiful film about tragic circumstances. In the hands of a lesser writer-director, it would be melodrama but Jacques Audiard (“Un Prophete”) makes poetry out of it. A bloody tooth, loosened during a fight, spins in slow motion on the pavement as if in dance. A woman whose legs have been cut off above the knee returns to the ocean, whose warm waters glisten. Later, with metal legs and cane, she walks down the steps at Marineland, where she once worked, and stands in silence before a large glass tank. She pats the glass once, twice. After a moment, a monster looms into view. An Orca. The Orca? The one who took her legs? One assumes not. One assumes that one has been killed but you never know and Audiard never says. We simply watch the whale move with her movements. It’s been trained, and she was one of its trainers. She’s confronting her past, finally, but it’s also a moment steeped in silence and mystery and beauty and forgiveness. It’s the best scene of 2012.

And here is the cover of the U.S. DVD:

Rust and Bone U.S. DVD

WTF? Seriously, out of all of the beautiful, haunting images in that film, that's what they choose? This shot? This shot that isn't even a shot from the movie? Anyone know who decides these things? Why they went with this? Why not any of these other shots?

Here's what the DVD looks like, front and back, in France:

Rust and Bone France DVD

C'est mieux comme ça.

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Posted at 01:06 PM on Mar 23, 2013 in category Movies - Foreign
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Thursday February 23, 2012

This Is Not a Film They Will Submit for an Academy Award: Richard Brody and David Denby on Oscar's Backward Foreign Language Award

Comment From Indira: Could there be an overhaul to the Foreign Language award to get better movies into consideration? 
Poster for "This is Not a Film"Richard Brody: Absolutely; first, the initial nominations shouldn't be made by the official cinema organizations of each country; foreign films should be nominated here, among films released, by an Academy board that sees lots of them.
David Denby: As you probably know, each country submits a film, which no doubt reflects political as well as commercial considerations. Funny that the Iranian authorities are both pleased by the success of “A Separation” and afraid of it in some way. They are so screwed up.
Richard Brody: Exactly; it makes it impossible for a film that's in political opposition to the regime ever getting nominated from many countries. I can think of some Iranian films that are even better than “A Separation” that would never, ever get past the local governing body
David Denby: I don't think the Iranians will nominate Panahi's “This Is Not a Film,” which he shot under house arrest.
Richard Brody: “This Is Not a Film” is at the head of the list.

--from “Ask the Author: Live Chat with David Denby and Richard Brody on the Oscars,” on The New Yorker site this afternoon.

BTW: The search for the poster led me to the site “Frontier Psychiatrist” and this post, by L.V. Lopez, on the best films of the 2011 New York Film Festival. In case you're looking for a good foreign film to watch.

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Posted at 06:08 PM on Feb 23, 2012 in category Movies - Foreign
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Friday January 14, 2011

“Nhung Nu Hon Ruc Ro" at Rap Thang 8

Read Part 1 here.

On our last day in Hanoi, along with buying last-minute gifts for friends and returning to Cha Cha La Vong for the fried fish lunch, Patricia and I went to “Rap Thang 8.” which sounds like the worst MC Hammer song ever, but is in fact a movie theater frequented by Vietnamese, to see a movie called “Những nụ hôn rực rỡ.” Google translates those words into “The Brilliant Kiss” but at the time we had no idea what it was called or what it was about. We just wanted to see a Vietnamese movie and it was the only one playing in Hanoi that day. The woman selling tickets even warned us. “Vietnamese,” she said. I nodded, made hand motions and smiley faces that indicated we wanted to see it anyway. She giggled. With reason.

The cafe next door, “The Majestic,” was under construction, and I remember a lot of equipment and sawdust in the exposed lobby. The innards of the Majestic itself were exposed. It looked like the place had been bombed out. It was the exact opposite of the ultraclean MegaStar Cinema from the day before.

The posters for all three movies, along with TVs looping trailers for each, were on display behind the ticket-taker. In Phong Chieu 2, we could see “Legion.” Hollywood. In Phong Chieu 1, some kind of samurai horror movie. Japanese? And in Phong Chieu 3, our movie, “Nhung Nu Hon Ruc Ro,” a Vietnamese musical comedy.

We were told Phong Chieu 1 was through that door to the right. It looked like an exit. But we walked through it ... and into an alleyway.

“What the hell,” I said.

“Did you get the directions right?” Patricia asked.

I returned, pointed to the ticket, and the ticket-taker again pointed me to the exit. “No,” I began, “That’s...” What could I say? I wished for the zillionth time I could some semblance of the language.

Sensing my confusion, the ticket-taker pointed out the door and then down the alleyway.

“Really?” I asked. “Okay...”

This time we saw the sign at the end of the alleyway: RAP THANG 8, Phong Chieu 3.” Except there was nothing at that sign even remotely like a movie theater. We stood and looked around.

“What the hell,” I said.

“Well, you wanted a different movie experience,” Patricia said.

“Not this different,” I said.

 

“Phong Chieu 3 is past the bombed-out cafe and down the dank alleyway. You can't miss it.”

Patricia was the one who finally found Phong Chieu 3. It wasn’t all the way down the alley, where the sign was located; it was about three-quarters of the way down the alley on the right-hand-side. You parted some heavy curtains and there you were. The floor was almost level, the theater seated about 50, flies buzzed around. It felt like something out of community theater.

There were no subtitles to the movie, of course, so we had to figure out the plot for ourselves. In the end it wasn’t hard for anyone raised on 1960s sitcoms.

The movie is set on a remote island resort, where a member of a boy band  (which are still popular in Asia) shows up ... to get away from it all? One assumes. The owner of the resort, a good-looking woman, then finagles him and his bandmembers into giving a concert to get the customers to save her resort. Or something. Shenanigans, mistaken identities and romance ensues.

Just another resort owner greeting another boy band frontman in Viet Nam.

It’s a colorful, poppy, probably supremely dopey movie, but there are two things worth noting about it.

One of the supporting players, an assistant at the resort, is an over-the-top gay character. He’s there mostly for comic effect. During montage sequences, for example, in which Girl A is pursuing Boy A, or Boy B is pursuing Girl B, he’s pursuing, haplessly, the quietest member of the boy band: a kid with one eye hidden by his hair, a la Veronica Lake, and a fedora, a la Sinatra.

No surprise that he was unsuccessful in his pursuit. One of our guide books, “The Rough Guide,” mentioned that, while there was no law in Vietnam banning homosexual activity, “Officially, homosexuality is regarded as a ‘social evil,’ alongside drugs and prostitution.” The surprise was that there was a gay character in the movie at all.

Then we got to the end, and the big concert, and the onstage confessions of love from Girl A for Boy A, and Boy B for Girl B. And everyone getting together.

Except for our gay character. He comes onstage. He talks into the microphone. He becomes emotional about what he’s saying. But no one comes out to sing with him. He’s alone. Tears well up. He’s comforted but it’s sad. The message is clear: Don’t be gay.

Except suddenly the Veronica Lakeish boy-band member comes onstage, singing the love song they’ve all been singing. And the two meet in the center of the stage and hold hands. And everyone applauds.

Then the lights go off, along with fireworks, and you see silhouettes of the principles embracing. Including our gay couple.

Then the lights go up and you see everyone kissing. Including our gay couple.

Then we get our happy ending.

Wow, I thought. Much more enlightened than I anticipated. Not only are the Vietnamese not behind us in this particular area, but ... they seem ahead of us.

A confession is made: “We're more enlightened than you.”

That’s the first thing worth noting about the film. The second is more of a punchline than anything.

I wanted to see this particular film because it was the only Vietnamese film playing in Hanoi that day, and I knew, from trying to see Vietnamese movies before we left, that they’re few and far between in the States. All that’s available is a handful of art films (“Cyclo”; “Scent of Green Papaya”; “Owl and the Sparrow”), and the long, messy history of Vietnam War movies.

But I was wrong. “Nhung Nu Hon Ruc Ro” is available in the States. You can watch the entire thing, in 10 segments, on YouTube.

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Posted at 08:25 AM on Jan 14, 2011 in category Movies - Foreign
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Thursday January 13, 2011

Alice in Hanoi

Because, I suppose, I write about movies, I like going to movie theaters when I’m abroad. I’m curious not just what they watch but how they watch it.

In Taiwan, for example, when I lived there 20 years ago, they played the national anthem before each show. We’d all stand and sing along while they ran a short, government-created film. In 1987, when I first arrived, the theme of the film was martial in nature: troops and tanks and such. (China and Taiwan were still at war, after all.) By 1988, it became more cultural: dragon boat races, etc, and by 1990 it showcased the beauty of the Taiwanese landscape: Ya Ming Shan, waves crashing on rocks, etc. Not that “martial” was forgotten. That final film ended with the characters Jung Hua Ming Guo (“Republic of China”) dominating the screen, then appearing on a map of Taiwan. Except it wasn’t a map of Taiwan. It was a map of mainland China. The two countries were still at war but both agreed on this most important fact: there was only one China.

Then we watched “Ghost.”

So at the tail end of our Vietnam trip last spring, after all the museums and mausoleums and parks and restaurants, Patricia and I agreed to check out some movies.

We had two options. I’ll write about the second one, Rap Thang 8, tomorrow. It’s a smaller theater, shows some Vietnamese movies, foreigners rarely go there. Often for a reason. But we did.

On our second-to-last day in Vietnam, however, we went to MegaStar Cinema on an upper floor of the Vincom Towers in the southern part of Hanoi. It looks like almost any shiny megaplex in the States. They serve popcorn and colas and M&Ms and Mars bars. Also sausage and seaweed. I should’ve gotten the seaweed.

 

Eight movies were playing that day, seven from Hollywood, one from Hong Kong (Jackie Chan’s “Little Big Soldier”). The biggest of the bunch was Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” in both its 3D and 2-D incarnations, on its way to grossing more than a billion bucks worldwide.

I’m not sure who was responsible for marketing “Alice in Wonderland” in this megaplex in Hanoi, the capital city of communist Vietnam, just two miles from the former Hanoi Hilton where prisoners of war were held and tortured, but the results were a capitalist’s wet dream. Employees were wearing “Alice” T-shirts. There were “Alice” posters and tables and a little set in the lobby where you could sit in big-sized “Alice” chairs and pretend you were small.

It was a quiet, weekday afternoon in early April, and a few kids were hanging out in a lounge area set up just off the concession stand. There was also a big fan board for Robert Pattinson, and pleas for him not to forget his Vietnamese fans, as part of a “Remember Me” promotion. It was all very clean and empty and kind of depressing.

 

We had assigned seats for the movie and listened to music from XONE FM, including, oddly, “The Girl Can’t Help It,” as we watched the last of the couples straggle in. The ads before the feature were of the superloud, superbright, supercheery Asian variety: teeth whitener, a product called “Diana,” another for a drink (0°?) in which everyone is refreshed by synchronized swimmers. I don’t know if knowing Vietnamese would’ve made sense of these things. Then theater ads:

  • No smoking
  • No chewing gum
  • No cameras
  • No outside food and drink
  • Please remain silent

The movie was the least interesting part of the exercise.

Tomorrow: Nung Nu Hon Ruc Ro at Rap Thang 8.

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Posted at 07:13 AM on Jan 13, 2011 in category Movies - Foreign
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