Monday, January 31, 2011

The Concert

I do not really like classical music. I remember, as a kid, sitting through 2 or 3 hours of concert and finding it boring. I guess I do not have the “gift”. So I tend to avoid classical music, when it lasts for more than 10 minutes.  So I was a bit skeptical when my best friend told me to watch The Concert, since it is all about the music! Released in 2009, this movie made by Radu Mihaileanu has won the Best Original Score and Best Sound awards at the César Awards in 2010. 30 years ago, Andreï Filipov was the talented conductor of the Boslhoï orchestra, before his career was abruptly terminated in the middle of a concert by Brezhnev because he had hired Jewish musicians. He now cleans the concert hall where he used to direct – the movie starts when he intercepts an invitation from the prestigious Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, and decides to reunite his old team, pose as the Bolshoï, go to Paris, and finish the Tchaikovsky concerto he never finished 30 years ago.

Language is half in Russian, half in French. It is a perfect mix between drama and comedy. A few scenes are simply hilarious: the Russians forging passport and visas at the Moscow airport, under the nose of the policemen is great. So is the arrival of the drunk Russians in Paris: as soon as they arrive they scatter and disappear, leaving the ship to do exactly the same job they were doing in Russian. Ivan Gavrilov looking for his old communist party friends is a good moment: as a French national, the communist party has slowly disappeared over the past years, and it is ironic to see this guy, nostalgic of the past, who comes to Paris hoping things can be fixed. I laughed watching effeminate Duplessis cry at the sound of music. All in all, a great use of clichés (in the right quantity) that break the tension, as the spectator is left wondering what is going to happen.

I did not care too much for Anne-Marie Jacquet, it was not a real surprise but I can appreciate it was the element that brought people together. But to me, it was a bit too obvious. But it doesn’t matter. Filipov, portrayed by Aleksey Guskov, is the star of this movie, outshining very single character. He conveys his passion, his emotions, and “brings the spectator in”.
I will not comment on the final scene, which comes as no surprise, but will just say that next time I have the occasion to go to a concert, I might see things differently. After an initial moment of stress things fall into place, and suddenly Tchaikovsky is not so difficult to listen to anymore. All in all, an excellent moment and a lot of emotion. People told me the movie was all about the music, I think it is more about the passion for music. Even just about passion. 2 hours went by, and I was left wanting more.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gone with the wind

Well, after the somewhat horrible images of Linda Blair and demonic possession, let’s go back to 1939 and the release of Gone with the Wind, based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell. The story recounts the American Civil War and Reconstruction era, but is first and foremost a love story.
What can I say about it that has not been said before? For one, you need to have time, as it lasts for about 3 hours and 45 minutes. I read the book years ago, and strongly recommend it - the movie is exctly how I had pictured it in my mind.

Yes it’s 1939, yes the technological capabilities were limited, but whenever I see an “old” movie, I am always shocked by the decor – looks so fake it is actually kind of hilarious, but sometimes that may slightly kill the credibility of the scene!

Vivien Leigh is of course amazing : her face shows each single emotion: love, hate, anger, pain. In the end, hers is a bit of a sad story: she pursues Ashley all of her life, without realizing the true love of her life is in front of her. Ever happened to you? Her first two marriages are calculated and without love, which leads Rhett to ask “Did you ever think of marrying just for fun?”. The film has some humour to it, which contrasts with the harsh reality of the war and danger. Here Scarlett replies: “Marriage, fun? Fiddle-dee-dee. Fun for men you mean”.
I like Olivia de Havilland, although, as her character maybe imposes, she lacks substance, as she did when playing Marian in Robin Hood. That said, given the strong personality of Scarlett, everyone is bound to look pale by comparison. I hated Prissy, found her annoying, and her high-pitched voice gave me a headache. 
The real star is Mammy. Mammy rocks. She sees and understands everything, speaks her mind, and is probably the only person that Scarlett is not able to manipulate. My favourite scene is at the beginning:
Scarlett: Ashley told me he likes to see a girl with a healthy appetite!
Mammy: What gentlemen says and what they thinks is two different things, and I ain't noticed Mr. Ashley askin' for to marry you.

 What else? Oh yes: Rhett “I believe in Rhett Butler, he's the only cause I know”. A character full of contradictions, who we learn to love. He is a crook, but also incredibly human and dependable, although it may be difficult to see at first.

Last word to Scarlett O’Hara:
I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.
After all... tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The scariest movie of all time

Or... is it?
You probably know what I am talking about already: The Exorcist.

I had watched it already, but recently, with some friends who had not seen it, we decided to spend a saturday evening watching what is deemed to be a classic. What to say about it? I hesitate between amusement and terror. As opposed to current horror movies, which are really graphic and do not hesitate to go even further is the gory and bloody images, this movie is more about suggestion. The dramatic music played behind sets up a heavy atmosphere, which means every spectator is on tenderhooks, waiting for something horrible to happen. Then some things do happen (for instance Regan going down the stairs upside down) and we are actually relieved it was not worse. So you laugh - but are you laughing because you are relieved or are you laughing because the pressure, acting, decor and images are just a tad too much, and you are relieved to ease the tension a little?

The movie leaves you in a state of tension that you do not necessarily realise: while we were watching, the nieghbours upstairs were a bit noisy (a sort of knock knock knock made likely by walking with heels on a wooden floor) and that made us jump. When I left my friend's place to go back home I felt a bit queasy walking down a dark corridor. That's probably the genius of this movie: in itself, especially in 2011, it is not scary. Other movies were more terrifying. But it still leaves you with an uneasy feeling. Of course, we have to remember this was released in 1973, probably the first of this kind ever released, and must have come as a huge shock at the time.

Kudos to young Linda Blair - even though huge piles of make-up were involved, her eyes convey the changes throughout the movies as well as the malice of her character. Contrary to popular belief she did not go insame later in life, from what I gather some drug issues put an end to her career. 
What surprised me though was the mother: her daughter is giong crazy, she is possessed, and her only solution is to restrain her and close the doors? A bit of a passive reaction in such a situation, but then again I am no expert. I just remember wondering about it.
I still do not know what to think of the movie - deep inside, it was more terrifying than I dare to admit, that said it is definitely a must-see!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

John Hughes, my hero

I was surprised that not many people know John Hughes. Up until one mentions Ferris Buellers' Day Off! A classic. That, for once, I have seen. Well, last weekend, before I even had the idea of the blog, I went on a John Hughes Marathon: Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful, Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink.
What can I say about it? For those who don't know, the Breakfast Club features a group of teenagers who have to spend detention together at school on a saturday. You hear "cliché"? Indeed: you have the geek, the rebel, the princess, the sport athlete and the outsider. As the day goes on they realise they are not that different. A real lesson of tolerance. And a very good laugh. the scene where they all whistle the music of The Bridge on the River Kwai is simply hilarious.

Then of course you have Some Kind of Wonderful, featuring Eric Stolz, Mary Stuart Masterson and Lea Thomspon, the one and only Mom of Back to the Future, no less! This movie would be deemed the origin of all rom-coms. Basically the guy is in love with someone out of his reach and does not realise his best friend is in love with him. The reason I like it so much is that, as opposed to today (movies and reality), things are much simpler, people do not hesitate to say it as it is, instead of hiding. Problems are real there, and not only "rich kids issues". Of course, the acting is not very credible, you can see this is these kids first movie! The award of the worst act goes to Craig Sheffer, who later in his career went on to play Keith in One Tree Hill but, there again, they deemed his acting so bad they had to kill him off after a couple of seasons. We can all relate to Mary Stuart Masterson, the only one truly capable of acting, who communicates her emotions so vividly and makes this movie fantastic. yes, I said it. Fantastic. I discovered that movie while watching the now famous, more girly, lass intelelctual (and certainly not deserving a review on that blog) He is just not that into you, when Gee Gee is watching it while waiting for a guy to call. Then again, who hasn't done that at some point? Never mind, don't answer that.

Finally, the marathon ended with Sixteen Candles. Molly Ringwald is as usual stunning and extremely credible as a shy girl with little, if any popularity. It is good to see her as the main star, I much preferred her than in Pretty in Pink, where those debates about rich vs poor took the center stage much more than in the others, I thought. The guy Jake is obvisouly cute, but says about 4 sentences in the entire movie. It is more the secondary characters that makes the movie fun and enjoyable: Anthony Michael Hall is brilliant. We also get to see Joan and John Cusack acting in the same movie! I was always amazed at how alike they look, even though there was always a nagging doubt in my mind: who would name their two children with names that are so similar? It's like Brenda and Brandon in 90210. Oh well.  

Researching some background information I found the actors that keep appearing in these movies (Molly Ringwald, Emilio estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, etc), constitute the Brat Pack - information available here.

Anyway - why did I start the series of "must-see" movies with John Hughes? Well, I cannot transition from watching only girls movies to serious movies overnight. I thought he was a good compromise. No, that's not true. I just really love him :)

Monday, January 24, 2011


It all started recently

I love TV. I love TV shows. And I love movies. Recently however, I was having dinner with friends, and they started mentionning recent movies, some of them that got Oscars, and I could not comment. My expertise is with rom-coms, action movies, movies easily watched and easily forgotten. On the spot I decided to tackle a new challenge: renew my collection, and watch only "must-see movies". The internet being full of resources, I have now compiled a list of movies everybody ("everybody" being of course a subjective term, and representative of my opinion only) should see, and will start with those. Hopefully by the time I reach the end of that list I will have been provided with suggestions for new ones!

This blog will provide feedback on each experience, and ensure that I go through with it.Thanks and be in touch soon!

xx MovieFan