Volume 1, Number 24
|The School of Flesh
(Dir: Benoît Jacquot, Starring Isabelle Huppert, Vincent Martinez, Vincent Lindon, Marthe Keller, François Berléand, and Danièle Dubroux)
BY: DAVID PERRY
As much as I truly hate to admit this, it is quite a rarity that I see a movie without any prior knowledge about it. I see most films in first run, so I'm there for many viewings of many trailers. Anyone that has kept an eye on trailers lately would notice that they are getting as bad as back in the forties and fifties and giving away the entire film. Recent films like Pleasantville and Arlington Road have given away the endings to their films (in the case of Pleasantville, the audience is practically shown the final scene in its entirety!). Sure this has angered me, but still I remain in the seat as the previews begin before the films. I see this as giving more information than I need to know before I see a film. I actually would rather not known anything about a film. Before I see a film, I often check the critical consensus on http://www.rotten-tomatoes.com, but I rarely read any print reviews (one must recall that Gene Siskel gave away the big twist in The Crying Game in his review). The only things that really fill me with information are trailers and watching Siskel & Ebert every week.
What does all this have to do with The School of Flesh (L' École de la chair)? Well, School is one of those very few films. It was never trailered at any screenings I visited and I do not remember it ever being reviewed on Siskel & Ebert (though it very well may have been). I entered the theatre and only knew the name of the director and the lead actress. I knew none of the plot, none of the twists, and none of the ending. It was actually refreshing to see a film and actually learn something with every frame instead of just awaiting the film to get beyond the furthest its trailer delved. I enjoyed the film very much, though I think that I would have liked it just as much had I seen it already knowing what it was about.
So that leads me to exactly what the film is about (as usual I do not believe that I go beyond anything that one should not know before seeing the film). Dominique (Huppert) is a wealthy woman in France who has been less than lucky in dealing with relationships since leaving her husband. Though in her sixties, she begins a relationship with a very young hustler she met at a bar named Quentin (Martinez; looking alarmingly like a shaven Vincent Gallo). They begin a torrid romance that seems inevitably doomed. He cannot settle down his rogue and ungentlemanly ways, while she cannot stand the slightest deviation from neatness and eloquence.
The film uses its rare
nudity (rare considering its American title) in the same way that Eyes Wide Shut
used its nudity. There is no real erotic scene in the film, it is pretty much all
characters. The film is what could easily be considered the quintessential filmmakers'
film: a film that gets to show off the ability of its director, cinematographer, editor,
writer, and actors without being filled with constant explosions and atrocious
distractions. The film is all talk and thought. Much of what is said in the film is simply
told through body movement (in other words, if subtitles distract you, stay away from the
film) and that only causes the actors to show off more prowess than a script that just
draws a map of the film. The actors are brilliant, with Huppert shining beyond any English
language performance from a female this year. Jacquot shows himself as a very refined and
interesting director and writer, with Caroline Champetier's cinematography and Luc
Barnier's editing also looking rather impressive. Still there are lulls in the story and
the film somewhat falls apart at the end. The film on a whole works, even though I thought
that its ending was rather weak. A thought provoking and haunting journey into the minds
of two different individuals that impressed me in a visual sense and a mental sense
|Run Lola Run
(Dir: Tom Tykwer, Starring Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaup, Nina Petri, Armin Rohde, Joachim Król, and Ludger Pistor)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt) is easily one of the most interesting and engaging films I've seen this year. It has more adrenaline than anything since The Matrix and is more visually impressive than anything since The Red Violin. Running a susinct 79 minutes, the film seems a mere 30 if not less. It just runs right through (no pun intended) and tells the story that the audience has been led to see, rarely ever pausing for a break.
The film is pretty much the same 20 minutes reenacted 3 times with a slight difference each time. Early on we see Lola (Potente), a young dyed hair German, receive a phone call from her boyfriend Manni (Bleibtreu). It seems that he was to deliver 100,000 German marks to a local thug as a test of his loyalty. After picking up the money, he lacks a ride from a late Lola and must take the subway, where he accidentally leaves the bag of cash to the pleasure of a bum. With 20 minutes to get the money and save his life, he asks lola Lola to help him get this cash before he robs a nearby grocery store. Lola panics and runs to find the cash, early deciding that her best bet would be her father at the bank. As she runs, she encounters a boy and his dog, whose actions decide the fate of each story and the people that run into Lola along the lines.
Using many techniques of filming ranging from slow
motion to photography stills, from video to animation, the film is fast paced and fun. The
pleasure in seeing Lola do so much for the person she loves comes off much more believable
than anything handed out at films like Runaway Bride and The Thomas Crown
Affair. I thoroughly enjoyed the direction of Tom Tykwer, cinematography of Frank
Griebe, and editing of Mathilde Bonnefoy, all of which use an eclectic feel that
summarizes all of what a suspense film should be. Even though I had seen a variation of
the story just twenty minutes before, each time I was given a new version of the scenario,
I was hooked and interested. My only problem with the film was in a small sub plot
involving Lola's father and his mistress (that also changes with each version) which
seemed a little poorly put together, though admittedly important to the design of the
film. A fast paced film, Run Lola Run is the best I've seen in action this summer
and it doesn't even have any humongous earth shattering special effects.
|Detroit Rock City
(Dir: Adam Rifkin, Starring Edward Furlong, Sam Huntington, James DeBello, Giuseppe Andrews, Natasha Lyonne, Lin Shaye, Melanie Lynskey, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss)
BY: DAVID PERRY
I've now seen 105 films for the 1999 film year and it is getting to where it becomes a tougher time to become a "best of" or "worst of" as there are many more competitors. It slowly becomes a rarity that I say "I have not seen a better film this year" but it still happens (that phrase was recently used only four weeks ago with Eyes Wide Shut). Where Eyes Wide Shut became the best of the year, Detroit Rock City gets to be its worst of the year counterpart.
I guess that it would be best for me to admit that I am not a fan of the seventies rock band Kiss, whose fans are the subjects of this film. They just never really worked for me, does that make me a "Guido"? I don't know. Still I think that my lack of gratitude to the directors for making a film that would reach me did not make me look down on the film anymore than I would if I was a die-hard fan of the band. It is the worst looking mess I've seen in years. I heard one person say that they liked the film because every part of the film had some directorial touch that is unusual in most films. That aspect did not make me like the film, instead it gave me a terrible headache.
Detroit Rock City is about the things that happen to four friends as they set out to see Kiss in concert in Detroit. After one friend's, Jem (Huntington), bible belt Catholic mother (Shaye; how could she do this after There's Something About Mary?) burns their tickets because she believes that the band stands for "Knights in Satan's Service", the four must come up with a new way to get tickets. Next thing we know, they are breaking Jem out of boarding school and heading to the concert. There they find the trouble that can occur when trying to get tickets on the evening of the show. Each friend sets out on his own and gets into his own cut of trouble.
The film is an annoying
look at why films set in the seventies should be banned for a few years (not even the
neo-classic Boogie Nights can make me forget sitting through all this dreck set
in the seventies). I did not like the characters and I couldn't have cared less what
happens to them. When one of them (DeBello) is in the middle of a armed robbery, I was
actually hoping that he would be taken out of the film by the stick-up man. I'd feel fine
saying that this is easily the most technically unimpressive films of the year and the
worst film over all.
(Dir: Frank Oz, Starring Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, Terence Stamp, Adam Alexi-Malle, Jamie Kennedy, and Robert Downey, Jr.)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Like my affinity to dark comedies, I also quite enjoy satires. Sure there have been many bad satires over the years, but when they succeed they can be some of the biggest treats in film history. Look at the political satire All the King's Men. Not only is it generally considered a masterpiece in American cinema, it also won countless awards including the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1949. While that is my choice for the best satire ever, my choice for the best type of satire is satires on the Hollywood system. I will be first to admit that there have been a great deal of atrocious Hollywood satires (An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, anybody), but then there are classics like All About Eve and Contempt that make up for anything that Joe Esterhaus could make look awful. Bowfinger is just such a Hollywood satire. It has a biting commentary on what American audiences as well as those abroad have found to be the big Hollywood action picture. Names like Michael Bay and Simon West come to mind, being overturned and cowered by the guy that voices Yoda in the Star Wars films!
Though not nearly as successful, Bowfinger does for modern day movie satire what The Truman Show did for television satire. The film is about the attempts of a small production company run by Bobby Bowfinger (Martin) to make a big action/sci-fi film that can mark success for the company and those involved. Armed with a script he sees as mesmerizing, Bowfinger sets out to get a producer interested in the film. As a joke, a big shot producer (Downey, Jr.) tells Bowfinger that he'll give the film a go if he can get Kit Ramsey (Murphy) to star. Since there is not a chance that Ramsey will do the film, Bowfinger begins filming anyway, having actors walk up to Ramsey and read their lines, letting his real reactions serve as fright from aliens attacking the world in chubby rain. After coming to the fear of aliens taking over the planet, Ramsey goes into exile to get back on cue, leaving Bowfinger without a star. So he finds himself a look alike named Jiff and gets underway on his big project.
I loved the feel and the touch of the film on the
Hollywood system. Though admittedly not the most knowledged on the subject, I do read Variety
and keep up with the latest film news (and not from Entertainment Tonight). I
must say that no film has so perfectly hit the behind-the-scenes detail of films like this
since Robert Altman's The Player. The film knows exactly what it's doing and
where it is going. I'm not too suprised that it is so well written since it is by the
great Steve Martin, who has a better grasp on comedy than any of the younger actors going
around in comedies right now (I'd dare say that Martin and Bill Murray are the official
choices for best working comedians). Not once was I bored with the film. I also think that
the film easily works for someone that knows very little about the Hollywood system, with
its line of in-joke free comedy. It is actually a rarity that I give a comedy more than a
B rating, but ,without a doubt, Bowfinger deserves the B+ it garners.