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Recent Movies: Cloudburst; Renoir; Before Midnight; Old Movies: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

July 3, 2013

Recent Movies

Cloudburst

In Maine, an elderly, closeted lesbian couple must deal with  a granddaughter who wants to send her grandmother to a nursing home.  The couple believes they must escape to Nova Scotia where they can marry under Canadian laws.

The first half of the film is great comedy.  As the stronger half of the couple, Olympia Dukakis is perfectly foul-mouthed as a ferocious bulldozer.  She makes one want to smack her except she makes us laugh so much.  Her monologue of defending her frequent use of the c-word is to die for.

While Brenda Fricker is also fine as Dukakis’s partner, the film is weaker in the second half.  A broad farcical scene in a farm home seems out of place as do many other scenes before the film’s end.  While the film ends on a moving note, it’s too bad it didn’t maintain its initial strength.

Rating (out of four stars):   * * 1/2    (but the first half is * * *)

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Renoir

This film recounts the story of the great painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his son, Jean, the great film director.  The film takes place when Pierre-Auguste continues to paint despite health problems and Jean is returning home on leave as a soldier in World War I.

The film has  remarkable beauty about it.  This is well helped by the photography, scenery, settings, and music.  There is also a charming performance by Christa Theret as a painting model (Andree Heuschling) who would later be an actress in Jean’s films.  The reference to her history in the post-script is quite saddening.

The slow pace of the film is pleasant but makes one wonder if the film could have been shorter at this pace.  It’s still a pleasant experience.

Rating:   * * *

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Before Midnight

This film continues the great love story between American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Frenchwoman Céline (Julie Delpy) that began with Before Sunrise (1995) and continued with Before Sunset (2004).   Now in their early forties, the pair must deal with the realities of reaching middle-age.

Hawke and Delpy are co-screenwriters along with director Richard Linklater.  Hawke and Delpy are also in nearly every scene, most of the time being the only two people on screen.  A “talky” film could be dull in most cases but this super-talented pair are stunning and brilliant in their abilities to bring real life to the screen so well.

Whether philosophising about life over dinner with friends, joking around, looking back on life, concern about the lives of their young children, or having a terrible argument, this film has such depth and truth, it is mesmerizing.

The long argument scene is so effective it is easy to switch sides one would take as an observer.  The acting and writing are so powerful that way.  Also, considering that so many of these long conversation scenes were done in single takes (including a car ride with sleeping kids in the back seat), it is not an exaggeration to call this film a masterpiece.

Considering the genius of the two prequels, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (also very highly recommended), Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy already deserve a special place in film collaboration history.  But let’s hope they’re not finished.  One can hardly waitfor another instalment in 2022.

Rating:   * * * *

Outstanding Achievements:

–  Screenplay by Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy

– Performances of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

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Old Movies Seen Again

Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967 – France)

In this musical-comedy, a fair comes to town in a northern seaside French town for a weekend, adding more charm and fun to the lives of a pair of young and talented adult twin sisters and their mother who runs a restaurant.

The great cast includes legends and stars both French and American:  Catherine Deneuve, her real-life sister Françoise Dorléac (tragically killed shortly after the film was made), Danielle Darieux, Michel Piccoli, Gene Kelly, and George Chakiris.

The storyline can be silly but it is deliberately so.  It is part of the light-heartedness that makes viewing this film so joyous; it is like what heaven might be like if we’re so lucky in the after-life.  With everyone dancing in the streets, beautiful colours on sunny days, magnificent songs by the great Michel Legrand, grand choreography by Norman Maen, great performances overall, all wrapped up by the brilliant director Jacques Demy, this film could be the cure for many a cynical, depressed person who can use a lift.

Near the end of the film, the fair is over and the townspeople seem sad that the good time is now over.  This same sadness can be felt in the audience knowing the film is nearing its end.  Luckily, it can be seen again and again.

Sublime.

Rating:   * * * *

Outstanding Achievements:

–  Directing by Jacques Demy

– Music by Michel Legrand

– Choreography by Norman Mean

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