Movies - Foreign postsFriday January 23, 2009
The nominees for the Cesars are out, and “Public Enemy No. 1,” about French gangster Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel), set a record with 10 nominations. It was also the third-highest grossing film in France last year. Respect and box office? Is the Academy listening? Are the studios?
Here's the list of nominees for best picture:
- Entre le murs (The Class)
- Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (I've Loved You So Long)
- L'Ennemi public no. 1 (Public Enemy Number One)
- Le Premier jour du reste de ta vie (The First Day of the Rest of Your Life)
- Un conte de Noel (Christmas Tale)
The Cesars will take place on Feb. 27 in Paris.
My Year of Watching French Cinema
A quick word on some of the new images cycling to our left.
Late last year I was getting sick of that first image you’d see every time you navigated to this site: me, in the summer of 2007, slouched over and writing in my notebook on a bridge in le Somail in southern France. It made sense — here’s my writing, so here’s me writing — but it was getting old. We needed something new.
The images now cycling through are hardly new — most are old movie posters — but they’re new to me. I watched most of them for the first time in 2008. Excluding movies I watched for research (the Batman films, the Tyler Perry films), and films seen in the theater, I rented and watched, according to Netflix, 84 films in 2008. It seems like a huge timesuck but most of them were worthwhile. I’ve divided them into categories below.
We all arrive in our culture in medias res and spend most of our lives trying to catch up, and this was the year I tried to catch up with French cinema. Infinitely more difficult than catching up with pre-1963 U.S. cinema. How many Bogart and Cagney references — from Woody Allen to Frank Gorshin — did I see before I saw a Bogart or Cagney film? Hundreds. I knew these guys before I knew them. But no one referenced Jean Gabin when I was growing up. It wasn’t until this year, at the embarrassing age of 45, while watching Max Ophuls’ Le Plaisir, that I went: “Hey, isn’t that the guy from Touchez Pas Au Grisbi? And Port of Shadows? And La Grande Illusion?” Which lead to Can Can and Pepe Le Moko and La Bete Humain and Les Bas-Fonds. For those unfamiliar: Imagine Spencer Tracy with Humphrey Bogart’s roles and Katherine Hepburn’s longevity. Voila.
Thoughts, for what they’re worth, crystallized. Love Max Ophuls and Henri-Georges Clouzot. Jean-Pierre Melville strikes me a little cold. The French New Wave is beginning to annoy. The humor in Les Visiteurs doesn’t travel well but the humor in Le Diner de Cons does. La Faute au Fidel!, about a girl growing up in Paris, feels like me growing up in Minnesota.
As for American films? Boy, Gone Baby Gone was good. God, Brando was powerful in Julius Caesar. Jesus, how come Red Belt didn’t get better reviews?
This was also the year “catching up” felt more and more like a losing proposition. The more you know, the less you know, and I definitely don't know much about world cinema. How do you catch up with entire cultures? But you keep at it. You begin to plan. How much time do I have left? What’s worth that time?
The movies in bold were worth my time.
Boudu Sauve des Eaux (1932)
Les Miserables (1934)
Pepe le Moko (1936)
Le Quai de Brumes (1939)
Le Corbeau (1943)
La Ronde (1950)
Casque d'Or (1952)
Le Plaisir (1952)
The Earrings of Madame de... (1953)
French Cancan (1954)
Les Diaboliques (1955)
Nuit et Brouillard (1955)
Bob Le Flambeur (1956)
Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1959)
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
Le Vieil Homme et L’Enfant (1967)
Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
La Souffle au coeur (1971)
Cet Obscur Objet du Desir (1977)
Coup de Torchon (1981)
Au Revoir Les Enfants (1988)
La Gloire de Ma Pere (1990)
Le Chateau de Ma Mere (1990)
Les Visiteurs (1993)
Trois Couleurs: Bleu (1993)
Trois Couleurs: Blanc (1994)
Trois Couleurs: Rouge (1994)
Le Diner de Cons (1997)
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Biogrpahie eines Blicks (2003)
Le Placard (2001)
Un Long Dimanche de Fiancailles (2004)
La Faute au Fidel! (2006)
Avenue Montaigne (2006)
Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (2007)
OTHER FOREIGN FILMS
The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)
Sansho Dayu (1954)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Wild Strawberries (1957)
Gegen die Wand (2004)
Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul (2005)
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
Om Shanti Om (2007)
El Orfanato (2007)
Lust, Caution (2007)
RECENT U.S. FILMS
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Grindhouse: Death Proof (2007)
The Kingdom (2007)
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
The Savages (2007)
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
The Bank Job (2008)
In Bruges (2008)
Harold and Kumar...Guantanamo Bay (2008)
Baby Mama (2008)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Get Smart (2008)
You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008)
OLDER U.S. FILMS
Ace in the Hole (1950)
The Band Wagon (1953)
Julius Caesar (1953)
The Longest Day (1961)
Silent Movie (1976)
All That Jazz (1979)
I, Claudius: The Epic That Never Was (1965)
Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001)
Imaginary Witness (2004)
Taxi to the Dark Side (2007)
In the Shadow of the Moon (2007)
Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (2007)
Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (2007)
Standard Operating Procedure (2008)
Encounters at the End of the World (2008)
Now Playing: 678 Miles Away
Yesterday I mentioned the nine films currently in the running for the best foreign-language-film Oscar and then added, almost apologetically, that I hadn't seen any of them and had only heard of two: "Waltz with Bashir" and "The Class."
There's a reason. I tried to Netflix the films (on the off chance) but of course none are available yet, and they don't even know when they'll be available. That's of the films Netflix recognizes. Five of the nine.
So I looked them up on boxofficemojo on the off-chance they came through Seattle without my knowledge. Appears not. In fact, only one of the films ("Bashir," from Israel, which the National Society of Film Critics considered the best movie of 2008) is even playing in the U.S. If I got off my high-horse I could see it. In Vancouver B.C. The nearest showing in this country is at the Clay theater in San Francisco: 678 miles away.
I know, I know. Once these films get nom'ed, or when one wins, we'll have a better chance to see them, or it, but this is part of the problem. Increasingly, the industry relies on the Oscars to garner attention for good films ("Bashir," "Milk"), and thus hold off on distributing the good films until the Oscars are announced. Which means the Oscars are increasingly full of films moviegoers have never heard of. Which means we pay less attention to the the Oscars. And on and on.
If I were the Academy I'd tell studios and distributors to get the hell off my back already and lend a hand. Things'll go farther faster if the studios start pushing, too.
ADDENDUM: John Hartl, who should know, confirms that none of the nine have made it through the Puget Sound area. The good news: "Bashir" will be here Jan. 30; "The Class" soon after.
Gomorra in Europe
The European Film Awards (EFAs?) were handed out in Copenhagen over the weekend. Here are the nominees for Best Picture:
L DIVO, Italy
written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino
produced by Indigofilm, Lucky Red, Parco Film, Babe Films, StudioCanal,
Arte France Cinéma
ENTRE LES MURS (The Class), France
directed by Laurent Cantet
written by Laurent Cantet, François Begaudeau & Robin Campillo after
the novel of François Begaudeau
produced by Haut et Court, France 2 Cinéma
GOMORRA (Gomorrah), Italy
directed by Matteo Garrone
written by Maurizio Braucci, Ugo Chiti, Gianni di Gregorio, Matteo Garrone,
Massimo Gaudioso & Roberto Saviano
produced by Fandango, RAI Cinema
written and directed by Mike Leigh
produced by Thin Man Films Ltd., Summit Entertainment, Ingenious Film
Partners, Film4, UK Film Council
EL ORFANATO (The Orphanage), Spain
directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
written by Sergio G. Sánchez
produced by Rodar y Rodar S.L., Telecinco Cinema
WALTZ WITH BASHIR, Israel/France/Germany
written and directed by Ari Folman
produced by Bridgit Folman Film Gang, Les Films d’Ici, Razor Film
Produktion, ARTE France, ITVS International
"Gomorra," a modern mafia story, won, and will be released in the States on December 19, which should be good news for fans of mafia stories. Should be. We'll see how far-ranging the release is.
The European Film Academy, in case you're wondering, was founded in 1988, with Ingmar Bergman as its first president.
Madame, reading from newspaper: “Fears of war in the Pacific.”
Woman 1: What does “Pacific” mean?
Woman 2: "Peace."
— from the English translation of the "La Maison Tellier" segment of Max Ophuls' Le Plaisir (1952)
The film, based upon the works of Guy de Maupassant, is split into three stories that reflect three levels of pleasure. The first, "La Masque," about an odd man at a dance, may be the best cinematic representation of a short story I've ever seen. An event unfolds. It feels sad, and not. Lessons are learned, and not. Nothing more can be done with this. It's deep, but perfectly enclosed.
Ophuls is great at giving us such sad, deep, shrugging moments in his films, no less than in the second part and centerpiece of Le Plaisir, "La Maison Tellier," in which a house full of prostitutes close up shop for a weekend to attend the communion of the Madame's niece in a nearby village. On the train there, an older couple gets on, the women pretend to be more than they are, and Madame Rosa (Danielle Darrieux), who will factor greatly as the story unfolds, feigns a husband: a thoughtful man, she says, who sends her dresses and jewelry and flowers. "He kisses my hand and tells me wonderful things." The conversation is with her friends, but is meant for the older couple, the scowling old woman. Ultimately it's a conversation with her heart. It's a bittersweet moment, but, in Ophul's hands, it's more sweet than bitter, and more poignant as a result.
Ophuls keeps doing this kind of thing: Here's life. He's not even shrugging. He's not pushing. Just...here's life.