Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2019 3:34 pm 
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Location: California/NYC
In New York. Feb.-Mar.-Apr. 2019.
The Rendez-Vous with French Cinema and New Directors/New Films - the two Lincoln Center film series in February and March (ND/NF runs till April 7 this year - are a dramatic escape from the Winter Movie Doldrums I've been getting since 2006. The press screenings have been curtailed, making it more complicated. Not much time nevertheless to watch any commercial releases so far since I got here Feb. 26th. These are the ones I fitted in after the two series.

Only:

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SORRY ANGEL (Christophe Honoré 2018) - rewatched.

in my NYFF review I called it "a lot to take in." (Plaire, aimer et courir vite, "Pleasing, Loving and Running Fast" is the French title). First thing in this NY sojourn I saw it again in its US theatrical release. I'm more comfortable with it now. Thought the ending a bit "sentimental" but was impressed in the wake of two Vincent Lacoste performances in the Rendez-Vous (in The Frenchman and Amanda at the brave, virtuoso scenes he turns in here. Also Armond White's appreciative new review - "Sorry Angel, a Near-Masterpiece, Complicates Gay Politics" - underlines what a significant contribution to gay cinema it is. Honoré takes on three challenging stages of a gay man's life, youth, adulthood, and middle age, as well as the "horrible" AIDS years of the early Nineties, when he came to Paris and became HIV-positive, when it was still a death sentence and ACTUP was still crucial to survival. If this is a lot, Honoré is up to it. Not everybody necessarily sees that. The AlloCiné press rating is 4.2 but the Metascore is only 76%. Watched at Quad Cinema 27 Feb. 2019.

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EVERYBODY KNOWS/TODOS LO SABEN (Asghar Farhadi 2018)

As many have said, not satisfying and not up to Farhadi's best work at all. His best have been made at home, in Farsi. This is in Spain and stars Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz and Ricardo Darin. There are first-rate actors all thorough. The opening segments are appealing but feel fake; they're like a TV commercial of full-of-life Latin types and adorable chaos. The kidnapped girl story parallels his earlier About Elly but is more conventional. The resolution seems irrelevant and is unsatisfying and these weaknesses undercut the potentially interesting moral and social issues for which the mystery is a pretext. Farhadi's other foreign-made one (à la Woody Allen?), the France-set The Past, was more specific. It had one foot in Iran. Nobody will hate this film. It's enjoyable and beautifully made. If you love these actors or this filmmaker, you'll probably want to see Everybody Knows at some point, but you won't walk out of the theater delighted. Metascore 68%. Watched at Village East 16 Mar. 2019.

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GIANT LITTLE ONES (Keith Behrman 2018)

Dialogue that's alternatively sketchy or obvious and a grating score (an annoying loud tune every five minutes) unfortunately made this hard to take for me. It is original in its plot line, in leaving its high school protagonist's sexual identity undecided. Josh Wiggins' character Franky balks when his best friend Ballas (Darren Mann) performs oral sex on him when they're drunk, then, scared, Dallas blabs about it and claims Franky, not he, was the perpetrator. This leads to lots of problems - fights, Franky's gf leaving, bullying. At least he grows to accept his father leaving to live with a man, but hanging out with his friend's promiscuous sister leaves things up in the air. I miss the Eighties youth pictures! Maria Bello and Kyle MacLachlan as his parents help give the movie visibility. Set in the director's native Canada. Metascore 66%. Watched at Village East 17 Mar. 2019.

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MÉNAGE/TENUE DE SOIRÉE (Bertrand Blier 1986).

A mousy couple squabbling at a club (Michel Blanc and Miou Miou) is adopted by a flamboyant bisexual ex-con burglar (Depardieu)who takes over their lives and their sexuality with outrageous and hilarious results. Blier seems to turn Parisian boulevard comedy on its head making it far more vulgar and crazy. I didn't know French movies were this raw and obscene in the Eighties. It is funny, especially in French, but makes no logical sense, indeed some note Biier doesn't know how to end and it just goes wacko. The heady, exciting opening scenes where Bob takes Antoine and Monique burglarizing and enjoying rich people's houses seem the best. I was a total novice at Blier, and if I can spend more time at the renovated Quad Cinema, which is currently presenting AMOUR OR LESS: A BLIER BUFFET, a series of his relatively small oeuvre in original 35mm film prints, his famous 1978 Get Out Your Handkerchiefs/Préparez vos mouchirs presented daily all day, other films once a night at nine, this wrong can be set right. Watched at Quad Cinema 17 Mar. 2019 at 9 p.m.

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BEAU-PÈRE (Bertrand Blier 1981)

The wife divorces, and from age eight, the new younger husband helps raise the daughter, Marion. Then the wife dies in an accident, and the real dad and step-dad vie for custody of the girl, now fourteen. But she wants the young (29-year-old) in-law dad who raised her. And not just as a dad. She wants him as her first lover. Blier takes on a serious plot this time. Notable for being the last time he could use Patrick Dewaere, who plays René, the lead father-in-law, an attractive, indecisive loser. Also with Nathalie Baye. Once again I was struck that Blier's seems really good at openers and not good at endings. He's got a dazzler opening section when the Lolita-esque daughter puts the make on step-dad and his resistance slowly melts. Then it drags on way too long.. Nonetheless, this a quite subtle and fascinating film. One can't help being moved by Dewaere's convincing performance as a sad sack musician who hates himself, knowing that the actor committed suicide at 35 the following year. The whole thing reminds me of Ozon, but seems more sincere. Watched at Quad Cinema in their "Blier Buffet" series 9 p.m. 18 Mar. 2019.

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MERCI LA VIE (Bertrand Blier 1991).

In this one, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Anouk Grinberg, Michel Blanc and others, A young girl studying to pass her "bac" (high school graduation exam) meets Anouk Grinberg, a much more experienced somewhat worse for wear young woman and latches onto her for experience of life, especially sex. What follows is a series of elaborate self-reflexive vignettes, at the end so grand they somehow combine the horrors of AIDS (still then a scourge and death-sentence) and the Nazis, makiing a mélange of periods and horrors. He seems to think he's Fellini making 8 1/2. He's not. This left me coldest of the Blier films so far, but one regular walked out exclaiming "Wow!" Watched at 9:15 p.m. in the Quad Cinema "Blier Buffet" series 19 Mar. 2019.

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GET OUT YOUR HANDKERCHIEFS/PRÉPAREZ VOS MOUCHOIRS (Bertrand Blier 1978).

Raoul (a very young Gérard Depardieu) calls in Stéphane (Patrick Dewaere) because his wife Solange (Carole Laure) just knits and cleans the house, has fainting fits, is not turned on by him sexually and can't get pregnant. Stéphane is happy to be called in, beds her for a while, and introduces her to Mozart. But the same problems soon arise and it's left to Christian Beleul (Riton Liebman), a wealthy and brilliant 13-year-old boy they encounter working in a summer camp, to turn her on and get her pregnant. The same madcap energy prevails here as in the other Blier films. Still I'm not impressed by the narrative structure, which always seems to be lacking in economy and thrust. As with Beau-père and in a similar vein, Blier plays with taboos, but here the seduction isn't so deliciously drawn out. This is shown all day at the Quad during the "Blier Buffet" run, setting the way for a wider rerelease of this best known of his films and his Best Foreign Oscar winner. Not as interesting to me as Beau-père, but no doubt essential Blier. 21 Mar. 2019.

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BUFFET FROID (Bertrand Blier 1979).

A grim takeoff from theater of the absurd in which an out of work man (Gérard Depardieu) and a Paris chief inspector of police (Bernard Blier, the director's father, very droll) form a strange alliance with a hapless serial killer (Jean Carmet) in a dark, soulless Paris dominated by the modern business district west of the city, La Défense. There is a series of killings, which are looked on by everybody as no big deal. It is hard to get one's head around this one, but its screenplay won Blier his first César award. There are women, notably the young, striking Carole Bouquet at the end, but it's not sexy. Once again one has the sense Blier is stringing together vignettes, skillfully here, though. Watched in the AMOUR OR LESS: A BLIER BUFFET series at Quad Cinema, 21 Mar. 2019.

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US (Jordan Peele 2019).

Peele moves into pure horror with a doppelgangers-out-to-get-you-and-your-family story this time. A disappointment compared to his striking debut Get Out, but still with some strong staging and not to be missed for any horror movie fan. Watched at Village East 22 Mar. 2019. Metascore 81%.

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CHRIST STOPPED AT EBOLI/CRISTO SI È FERMATO A EBOLI (Francesco Rosi 1979; US release of uncut version 2019)

Some of the pull quotes from this much-admired and awarded film, now seen in"uncut" form in four original 55-minute TV episodes from RAI (divided over two days), “Best viewed as a meditation and "the audience seemed hushed..." hint at its lovely somnolent quality. It is generally low-keyed as perhaps befits a story about an Italian intellectual in 1935 in "internal exile" from Turin by the fascists for leftist political activities to a remote nowhere town in Lucania (now more often called Basilicata). His life is becalmed, but he experiences uplift as he learns to practice medicine because it is direly needed. Good period flavor, and a classy international production of the time with two French stars, Alain Cuny, François Simon, and one Greek one, Irene Papas, something the Italians could do because of their custom of dubbing everything. (They don't do that so much anymore.) The distinguished-looking, preternaturally calm Gian Maria Volonté plays the autobiographical main character of the novel, medically-trained painter and writer Carlo Levi. Watched in two separate segments at Film Forum 25 and 26 Mar. 2019 at press screenings. The public run will be 3-18 April.

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THE INVENTOR: OUT FOR BLOOD IN SILICON VALLEY (Alex Gibney 2019)

A typical fast-paced standard Alex Gibney doc about the rise and fall of Theranos, the firm that raised $400 million, then billions, to build a box that could do 200+ different blood tests on a tiny pin prick of blood. Lots of rich old famous white men bought into it, Walgreen's bought it, and it was ultimately a fraud. Is it okay to say I hate Elizabeth Holmes? She is compared to Steve Jobs, who I don't like either: but he at least had products that worked. The most accurate word used for Holmes is "zealot." But she was also an idiot, selling people on a medical technology product that was supposed to change the world when it was never scientifically or technologically possible. It's even questionable that as Holmes thought, it would be a good idea for everybody to have a machine to test their blood in their house. This is a very good story. It shows the recent growing prevalence of fraud in Silicon Valley and in the world of startups. Watched at Cinema Village 25 Mar. 2019.

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TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM (Timothy Greenfield-Sanders 2019)

An "American Masters" film about her life and work mainly narrated directly into the camera by Morrison herself with lots of amazing photographs and film clips to illustrate and with talking heads including Hilton Als, Oprah Winfrey, Fran Lebowitz and various others. She is a formidable and engaging person, an insinuating, gentle, but utterly confident speaker. Amazingly, she is 88. Why does she laugh so much in recounting her life? A sense of fun perhaps. I can't really comment or evaluate because I have not read any of her work. I've always feared it would be too melodramatic, or just not for me. For somebody who has won so many awards, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, this is probably blind of me. But this film didn't really change my opinion. Magnolia theatrical release coming Jun. 21. It debuted at Sundance. Watched on a screener Mar. 22-23-24, 2019.

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ASK DR. RUTH (Ryan White 2019)

Another press screener. Everybody knows about Dr. (Ed.D.) Ruth Westheimer, this tiny (4 feet six inches) popular media figure, I guess, but I knew little and was glad to be informed. This gives her whole story, her escape from the Holocaust via a Swiss orphanage, but loss of both loving parents. Her time in Israel on a kibbutz, studying psychology at the Sorbonne, emigrating to the US, working as a housekeeper, three husbands, two children, multiple grandchildren, Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her whirlwind media career began in 1980 on WYNY where they hid her away at midnight on Sundays. She was a pioneer in sex education, and her good humor, positivity, very idiomatic English but heavy German accent, her outspokenness made her irresistible. As I hate Elizabeth Holmes of Teranos, as I am ambivalent about Toni Morrison, I LOVE Dr. Ruth. She comes across to me as an adorable and good person. Amazingly, she is now 90, and the film ends with her birthday celebration. Debuted at Sundance, also (like Toni Morrison) Magnolia, to be released theatrically 3 May and on Hulu 1 June. Watched on a screener Mar 24-25, 2019.

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THE CHAPERONE (Michael Engler 2018)

From the pen of Julian Fellowes, the writer of the popular gentrified British TV series Gosford Park (2001) and Downton Abbey (2010), this Masterpiece and PBS film revolves around Norma, a lady raised as an orphan (Elizabeth McGovern) who married a lawyer (Campbell Scott) when she was sixteen. She gets the job of chaperoning the 15-year-old future silent film diva Louise Brooks (Haley Lu Richardson) on a trip from Wichita to New York City for a summer of dance training with the Ruth St. Denis-Ted Shawn troupe. Norma's motive is to see the nuns who raised her in a New York orphanage and seek the identity of her birth mother. This leads also to liberation from her corset, romance with a German handyman (Géza Röhrig of Son of Saul) whom she meets at the orphanage, and some very genteel collateral excitement. We don't get to see all that much of Louise Brooks and the very promising Haley Lu Richardson is somewhat wasted, but this movie is definitely ideal material for the Masterpiece Theater set. This seems rooted in the small screen (where director Michael Engler has done all his copious previous work) in style and look, but nonetheless theatrical release in NYC is coming 29 Mar., and in the San Francisco Bay Area 12 Apr. 2019. Watched on a screener in NYC 27 Mar. 2019.

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WORKING WOMAN (Michal Aviad 2018).

This Israeli drama about sexual harassment on the job by a high end real estate developer on his very competent female assistant climaxes in Paris and she disintegrates afterward but she pulls out of it neatly enough. The characters are cool and neutral, there is no background music: the director has mainly done docs. Though well done this felt to me as if it lacked something; like an unusually well made instructional film. But in this time of global @MeToo awareness, that could be a plus. Metascore 81%. Showing at IFC Center, but I also had a screener. Watched 2 Apr. 2019 in NYC.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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