Best friend of edgy indie filmmakers Breaking Glass Pictures continues demonstrating compassionate good instincts regarding sensitive coming-of-age Euro films. The August 7, 2018 DVD release of the 2014 Danish drama "Speed Walking" roughly coincides with the reviewed MUST-SEE Breaking release of the 2017 French dramedy "My Life With James Dean." "Dean" tells the overlapping stories of an independent filmmaker having a comically horrific experience screening his first feature and a gayby experiencing his first true love.
The international and timeless appeal of "Walking" stems from modern audiences from all over the world being able to relate to at least portions of the experiences of 14 year-old Martin in 1976 small-town Denmark. This credibility also reflects director Niels Arden Oplev stating in an interview on the DVD that the film is based on the real-life of the author of the memoir on which "Walking" is based. The strong acting by the main cast further helps sell the story.
An alternative context is that the coming-of-age, the large number of quirky characters, the role of death, and the moderate element of assorted forms of sexuality make "Walking" seem like a John Irving novel.
The following YouTube video of the SPOILER-LADEN Breaking trailer for "Walking" provides a storng sense of the above elements.
We aptly first meet Martin engaged in the titular sport with best friend (with benefits?) Kim. Raucous horseplay in the locker room subsequently ensues, and the boys then go on to have a typical school day. This all occurs in the period in which Martin is in the final stages of preparing for his confirmation.
Everything changes on a completely unprepared Martin arriving home; Family friend Lizzi tearfully tells the boy that his mother is dead. This leads to Martin facing his bereaved father and his 16 year-old brother Jens, who is almost completely out of his mind.
The rites of passage in the form of losing a parent and formally declaring himself to God while also having a range of sexual urges combine to prompt Marin in transitioning from a boy to a man. Anyone of either sex who fully shares a life with an adult male knows that the truth is that the inner boy always asserts himself.
The female object of the affection of Martin is classmate Kristine. Our grieving horn dog uses his recent loss to his advantage regarding his pursuit of this girl. Further, Kim is following a bros before hos attitude in giving Martin first crack at Kristine.
The numerous memorable moments in"Walking " further make it notable. We get Martin showing his lack of game (but not necessarily lack of success) in trying to get some on multiple fronts, losing it in an unexpected (but very symbolic) manner at the funeral of his mother, and having a cute and loving intimate encounter with a terrific humorous element. Another highlight involves Martin and his crew trying to catch his father in the act.
Oplev provides an especially good payoff in having the mayhem lead to the Confirmation;; young blonde Martin wearing an ascot and an open shirt makes one think that he has a mystery to solve.
More fun, tears, and recriminations come in the wake of the Confirmation. A jealousy-fueled heartbreaking betrayal equally affects Martin and viewers, we get a moment in which we see Jens living one fantasy of teen boys, and Martin finds that he has one last rite of passage to endure.
The central theme regarding this eventful 108 minutes is that every male of every age needs a mother. This role often falls to someone other than the person who gives birth to you. She is who listens to your problems, supports you regardless of whom you love, and cleans you up without judgment when drinking too much results in covering yourself in a soup of every possible bodily fluid except blood.
The Icarus Films September 4, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 French political drama "This Is Our Land" is a perfect way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this company that literally prides itself on distributing movies from "independent producers worldwide." This fictional account of a visiting nurse/single mere of two being recruited to run for mayor of her native town in Northern France is an ideal blend of the "provocative" documentaries that are the focus of earlier years in the life of Icarus and the non-fiction fare that that company increasingly distributes.
"Land" follow the (reviewed ) July 2018 Icarus release of the French film "The Great Game." That one has a political veteran ensnaring an unwitting former radical into a coup attempt,
The election of Emmanuel Macron in a campaign centered around the flood of immigrants into France provides the general context for "Land." The "liner notes" on the back cover of the DVD state that this film about the local conservative party recruiting football (my people call it soccer) mom Pauline Duhez to run for mayor is the follow-up of filmmaker Lucas Belvaux to his political thriller "Rapt" about the kidnapping of a French politician.
"Land" exceeds the standard for a good foreign film. It not only can be made word-for-word and shot-for-shot in the U.S. and still make sense, this one is particularly relevant to our state of affairs. We have the same political divide that involves equivalently strong views about immigrants.
We meet Pauline conducting her visits to her elderly clients; an unexpected situation at one home greatly throws off her schedule. Many American single moms can relate to the largely absent ex-husband of Pauline refusing to help with their offspring.
The day continues with Pauline dealing with difficult patients and equally challenging spouses. This typical day ends with this angel of mercy going to the home of her father to pick up her children Tom and Lili. The tension there relates to the father of Pauline refusing to eat the healthy foods that his medical problems require.
The aforementioned aspects of the life of Pauline put her on the political radar of former fascist/long-term family friend/professional mentor Dr. Philipe Berthier (prolific French actor Andre Dussollier). A side note regarding this relationship is that the father of Pauline being a communist seems to have little impact on the relationship between his family and Berthier.
The pitch of Berthier to Pauline includes good humor related (pun intended) to the importance of not letting the politics of the "fathers" being "sins" that tarnish the "sons." He assures her both that her lack of political experience makes her a strong candidate and that her moderate views are in line with the folks who are promoting her campaign.
Other good humor comes via the pros quickly trying to physically and otherwise mold Pauline into their image; this extends well beyond the extreme makeover.
The other piece of the puzzle is Pauline renewing her relationship with former high school boyfriend/current soccer coach of Tom Stephane "Stanko" Stankowiak. The violent past/string political views/current militia activity making this beau an increasingly strong political liability ultimately prompt Berthier to step up his political game regarding getting this man out of the picture. This aspect of the film reinforces the concept that no politic animals have clean paws.
Things fully come to a head when all the worlds collide while Pauline is campaigning, The proportional fallout causes her to push back in a manner that jeopardizes everything. The large theme this time goes back centuries; an "innocent" is thrust from his or her world (a.k.a. comfort zone) into a brave new world that initially seems better than the one that is left behind. This ultimately leads to circumstances that typically require either fully getting with the program to returning to the old life. The associated concept that you cannot fight city hall is particularly ironic in this case,
The conclusion is the icing on the cake; we think that it is a case of little Pauline happy at last when Belvaux throws one last curve that is not so far-fetched in concept and is very believable in execution.
Along the lines of a final twist, Americans truly will see their own political system in this film. One need only watch a scene in which an offhand remark at a neighborhood barbecue leads to tears and recriminations to see that modern politics make ex bedfellows.
The Indiepix Films July 10, 2018 DVD release of the 2013 scifi existentialist drama "Blue Desert" shows that the spirit of the LSD-influenced cinema of the late '60s and early '70s is not entirely dead. The surreal images and heavily philosophical dialogue make it no surprise that the Yoko One art book Grapefruit inspires Brazilian filmmaker Eder Santos. The rest of the story that the press materials share that "Grapefruit" inspires the John Lennon song "Imagine."
The stunning futuristic images looks so good when put in a 4K player and watched on a 4K set that one can only image the incredibly beauty of a Blu-ray version of this winner of a Golden Palm Award at the Mexico International Film Festival.
The following YouTube video of the Indiepix trailer for "Desert" provides a strong sense of every aforementioend attribute of the film.
"Desert" completely revolves around 20-something everyman/narrator Ele. The first sense that we are not in Kansas anymore comes on this Millennial discussing earth now having two moons. We quickly learn that the second moon is a gift that Ele compares to the Statue of Liberty.
Much of the rest of the film evokes strong thoughts of the Steven Spielberg film "Ready Player One" in that the populace often wears VR glasses while going about their business in this (mostly blue) heavily neon world. Much of the fun of the film relates to trying to figure out whether something is real or merely virtual. Ele meeting the girl of his dreams relates to the best of both worlds.
The title of the film refers to the activity of a spirit guide of Ele; An insightful observation regarding the nature of reality that this man shares with Ele is one of the most trippy scenes in the film.
The overall theme is Ele frantically seeking enlightenment; this quest involves a great deal of introspection and affirmative efforts to transcend.
The almost equally surreal Terry Gilliam film "Brazil" makes setting desert in that country very apt. It is a very techno-future world in which it seems that not every form of public transportation actually moves you from Point A to Point B.
The takeaways from "Desert" are that the future is not necessarily completely bleak and that the path to enlightenment is paved with good intentions.
'My Life With James Dean' DVD: Charming MUST-SEE French Film on Indie Flicks and Gay Boy Coming-of-Age
Breaking Glass Pictures impressively outdoes itself regarding the August 28, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 French dramedy "My Life as James Dean." The only criticism is that Breaking does not make this beautifully shot film with a solid soundtrack available on Blu-ray.
The best way to think about this one is that it retains all the style and humor of a classic French film while adding a splash of a Michael Chabon or John Irving novel. We get outrageously comical characters going to extremes to pursue overlapping passions.
The mention regarding accolades this time is that the lack of them is astonishing; one cannot imagine festivals passing this one over.
It is not surprising that relatively new indie filmmaker Dominque Choisy knows of what she speaks regarding the film screening aspects of "Life." It is surprising that a woman has the depicted insight regarding regarding young gay love.
The metaness of "Life" begins with this film having the same name as the fictional film of 20-something first-time director Geraud Champreux around whom the Choisy film is centered. Personal metaness relates to frustrating efforts to arrange screenings of an exceptional indie film of a 20-something righteous dude.
The opening scenes are of Champreux riding a bus to a small Normandy town to host a screening of his film about a man who believes that he is Dean. The comic misadventures begin with losing a modern lifeline when he arrives at his destination.
The audience next gets a glimpse at the life of a first-time indie filmmaker when no one is there to greet Geraud. His subsequent encounter with locals at a bar is the first of many "Northern Exposure" style incidents that reflect the personalities of quirky small-town folk.
Our man temporarily without a country manages to find the theater where his film is to be shown only to be told that his appearance is a surprise and that no screening is scheduled. This discussion includes commentary on the overall sad state of modern cinema in which commerce typically trumps art.
The next stop it the hotel that is the best guess regarding where the woman behind the invitation is putting up Geraud. This brings him in contact with disaffected Jill-of-all-trades hotel employee Gladys,. Her amusing lazy dismissive approach to her job is very familiar to frequent travelers.
The penultimate piece of the puzzle comes when Geraud meets box-office worker/projectionist Balthazar. This canard odd can be considered the very late-in-life brother of mop-topped tall and lanky slacker-type character actor Hamish Linklater.
Another meta moment occurs when the first moments of the fictional film mesmerize Balthazar to the extent that transference results in his falling in love with an unresponsive Geraud. This innocent small-town boy also most likely never having felt the touch of another man is another factor.
The final piece of the puzzle comes when booker Sylvia van den Rood belatedly shows up and subsequently ensnares Geraud in her personal drama that is responsible for neglecting him. This coincides with a sweet declaration of love by Balthazar.
Balthazar outdoes himself in putting himself on the line by showing up uninvited for a booty call. Being given the boot not deterring him is another notably sweet moment in the film. This is relatable to the perk of being a gay man in the form of sometimes being the pursued one in a relationship. We all desire to feel wanted and loved.
The subsequent screenings set the stage as our core group of three and various hangers-on travel through the area.
The biggest surprise comes when casual conversation with the parents of Balthazar leads to a surprise reveal that is a potential game changer. The subsequent developments reinforce that the French are amazingly much more casual about sex and nudity than Americans.
Choisy keeps the fun going to the end as Geraud helps two fugitives as he figuratively rides off into the sunset. The final scenes fully seal the deal regarding the quirky charm of "Dean."
The awesomeness of the Film Movement July 24, 2018 DVD release of the 2009 French drama "You Will Be Mine" extends beyond this tale of a med. student being obsessed with her single white female roommate leaving expectations deeply in the dust. "Mine" further is notable regarding Movement pairing it with the (reviewed) French sex comedy "Three-Way Wedding"
"Mine" additionally passes the same acid test as virtually every Movement film. It could have been made word-for-word and shot-for-shot in America and still made perfect sense and had the same impact..
The following YouTube clip of a "Mine" trailer provides a sense of the cinematography and the performances that make the movie much more than a Lifetime-style film about one post-adolescent woman becoming manic over the girl who shares the expenses.
This almost literal year-in-the-life opens with a gleefully Marie Dandin and her entire family piling into the family station wagon to drive this piano prodigy to the gorgeous apartment that she is going to share with childhood friend Emma while Marie studies at the prestigious Lyons National Conservatory. The rest of the story is that M. et Mme. Dandin virtually idolize Emma for reasons that include her now-absent mother being an artist whom Mme. Dandin particularly admires.
Writer-director Sophie Leloy channels the best of the '80s obsessed psycho films in having the drama start subtly before the excitable boy (or girl) of the film goes completely cra cra. In this case, Emma begins her reign of terror by seemingly innocently suggesting to Marie that they restrict their socializing to the apartment and never have visitors.
The next portent comes when Marie convinces Emma to go to a restaurant; Emma subsequently is very uncool when cute Jewish boy Sami (who later shows one way in which he is one of the chosen people) and other classmatess of Marie run into the roommates and invite them to join them at a bar. Marie not properly interpreting the reaction of Emma ultimately makes a bad situation worse.
Emma soon making a very aggressive mood on a not entirely unreceptive Marie amounts to a rookie mistake that shows that the latter is unfamiliar with films such as "Fatal Attraction" and ""Single White Female." An increasingly aggressive Emma, mixed emotions regarding Sami, intense pressure at school, and having the limited financial resources of her parents limiting her options make Marie a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown by the time of her Christmas break, Her clueless parents inviting Emma, who charms the family, to come along does not help matters.
Spring semester drama includes Emma promising to behave and going so far as to invite Sami to move in with Marie providing a very short respite, A particularly creepy breakfast table conversation among the three roommates is a highlight. However, one of the best moments come via Marie trapping Emma in a major lie.
Leloy wraps all this up in a believable manner in which feelings get hurt much more than bodies.
The bigger picture this time is that Leloy touches on many overlapping themes that are relatable to large portions of the populations of many countries. The first is the extent to which people who lack close ties with blood relatives seek bonds with friends; the second is the gray area between a close platonic relationship and a sexual desire (particularly one involving a same-sex pair). Even more dangerous territory exists regarding someone who is closer to the homosexual end of the Kinsey Scale engaging in physically intimate activity with someone who is close to the heterosexual end. What is a combination of curiosity, horniness, and fun and games to one can mean more than that to the other person.
Film Movement celebrates Bastille Day Month with separate but equal July 24, 2018 DVD releases of French films with modern sensibilities. An upcoming post on "You Will Be Mine" discusses that film about a lesbian love affair between reunited childhood friends.
Our subject du jour is the more comedic 2010 film "The Three-Way Wedding." The attributes of this one include a strong live-stage vibe.
The following YouTube clip of a PG-13 trailer for "Wedding" showcases the midsummer-style comedy and eroticism of the film.
This homage to Woody Allen and all the greats whom he honors in his "Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" and numerous other adult comedies occurs during an eventful day at the country estate of blocked playwright Auguste. His day commences with an intimate moment with young law student Fanny, who is his assistant/confidante. The real fun begins with the arrival of visitors from Paris who are there to replenish the well of creative juices.
The source of much of the trouble is leading lady/Auguste ex Harriet being the current object of affection of leading man Theo, who accompanies her. Discovering this French connection enrages Auguste and prompts le fit hissy by the much younger Theo. Harriet taking off after her current beau does not help matters much.
Meanwhile, Fanny is the young innocent caught up in all this. These developments stir up feelings of ardor by all concerned, This is turn triggers thoughts of various unconventional options that reflect the title of the film. Fanny also is the center of a plan to literally upstage Harriet.
The absurdity of all this is that the plans to make Fanny a woman will rob her of the innocence that makes her appealing. It further seems that she is becoming "New Harriet."
Theo portrayor Louis Garrel steals the show as he pursues Fanny with varying degrees of enthusiasm, plays young stud moving in on the territory of aging lion August, and regularly displays his emo side. Highlight includes his role in a reverse shotgun wedding and his clumsy attempt to seduce Fanny in her car.
Writer-director Jacques Doillon wraps things up in an apt but surprising manner that creates tantalizing ambiguity regarding which combination (if any) of our characters will walk down the aisle and how that will work out. Either way, it seems sure that the finished play will reflect the outcome.
The fun of "Wedding" for Americans is the incredibly strong French feel of the film. Everyone is sophisticated regarding the sexual tensions and related overlapping relationships. We also get heavy emoting that seems par for the course for the affected folks.
The Icarus Films July 24, 2018 DVD release of the 2015 political thriller "The Great Game" (a.k.a. "Le Grand Jeu"") indicates that corrupt power-brokers from every country utilize the same playbook. A similar universal truth exists regarding the bedfellows with whom our elected officials and their staff find themselves.
The following YouTube clip of a SPOILER-HEAVY trailer for "Game" achieves its goal of accurately conveying the tone and the themes of the film.
"Game" fully gets afoot when one-book-wonder novelist Pierre Blum and self-proclaimed problem-solver Joseph Paskin meet at a casino. Pierre is attending the same wedding as his ex-wife with whom he has a much more successful divorce than marriage; Paskin is there to gamble.
The entertaining odd tone of the film begins with Paskin asking Blum whether he is an alcoholic and numerous equally personal questions within seconds of the start of their less-than-beautiful friendship. This conversation including Blum being the author of a well-received book several years earlier but not writing anything since leads to the proverbial seemingly innocent offer that turns out to be a Satanic bargain.
The deal is that Paskin pays Blum to ghost write a subversive book that advocates civil (and less-than-civil) disobedience in exchange for a large sum of money and total anonymity. The rest of the disclosed story is that the manifesto is part of a larger plan of Paskin to turn the hearts and minds of the French people against the current Minster of the Interior for the fun and profit of Paskin.
Paskin apparently making a great effort (and demonstrating tremendous skill) in tracking down Blum after their purportedly chance encounter is the first development that triggers the spidey sense of Blum. Learning the rest of the story provides more reason to run, not walk, away,
Like all good thrillers, the suspense escalates as the audience learns more about the horse that Paskin has in the race to pull off a coup. This coincides with being a ghost writer coming back to haunt Blum to the extent that he must hide at a farm to avoid buying one.,
Blum coming under attack from the left and the right understandably raises the stakes for him; loves past and present creating additional drama further leaves the audience guessing regarding the outcome.,
Writer-director Nicolas Pariser shows additional good basic instincts regarding an apt epilogue to this film that presents itself as a fiction or non-fiction book on its subject. A scene seconds before the end credits begin rolling provides an awesome final aha moment.
The bigger picture thus time is the verification of the depths to which government officials sink to manipulate those whom thee individuals are elected to serve. The lesson here is that turning 30 does not preclude trusting you but getting your paycheck from a political entity does.
The Film Movement June 19, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 French drama "In Syria" provides another reason to look beyond Hollywood (or New York) for quality films. This production with an incredibly strong live-stage vibe literally brings the conflict in Syria into the living room of a typical Damascus family.
Writer/director Philippe Van Leeuw scoring 12 festivals wins in numerous countries reflects the good job by all in this film that has mother of three Oum Yazan converting her apartment into a "barricaded shelter" for her children, her father, a young couple, and a horny teen boy from the building. This siege mentality results from the constant sniper fire right outside the front door.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Syria" showcases the tension and other drama related to being on the front line of a war.
The film opens with a distressed Oum using water from a large container in the kitchen; the action then shifts to the young couple with a baby dreaming of their flight to Beirut. The husband having an appointment to meet their reputable coyote that afternoon provides reasonable hope of that great escape.
The young boy is the fly on the wall as he plays with his grandfather, watches the aforementioned teen horndog demonstrate a complete lack of game, and witnesses an argument regarding a teen girl taking a shower that is much more serious than this running up the water bill or leaving the next person with tepid bathing.
The drama amps up when the "storm troopers" invade what essentially is equivalent to an "Anne Frank" existence. One member of the group taking the brutal brunt of this invasion further frays already strained nerves.
Other drama comes on learning that an absent resident is a casualty of the fighting; this leads to a harrowing mission, which leads to a few out-of-the-blue twists.
Much of the impact of "Syria" comes from seeing these ordinary people cope in these extraordinarily difficult circumstances. It also makes audience members think about how they would handle being in the shoes of these folks under house arrest.
The Movement bonus short film this time is the French film "Le Pain." This one centers on family, love, and loss regarding the impact of the man of the house disappearing after going out for the titular carb.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Syria" or "Pain" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Indie film god Film Movement proves that the play is the awesome thing regarding the June 12, 2018 DVD of the 2015 film version of "Hamlet." This version of that classic tale of a dysfunctional family with an emo boy is a perfectly filmed production of a live-stage performance at the Manchester (England) Royal Exchange Theater.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Hamlet" highlights the artful staging, the intense trauma and drama, and the best-known scenes from this play.
The stark modern staging is perfect for the tone of the story. Androgynous tall thin blonde-haired blue-eyed actress Maxine Peake ("The Theory of Everything") portraying the titular Prince of Denmark follows the practice of the alternative casting in many modern Shakespearean productions. Her appearance also evokes the thoughts that Portia (rather than Ophelia) is the love interest of Hamlet and that the original Yorick soliloquy includes rambling about guessing that Hamlet did not know him very well and concludes that he did not know him at all.
Other fun comes regarding hearing the numerous Shakespearean quotes that originate in this work. Not only do "Hamlet" virgins learn of the roots of these still popular expressions, their frequent use provides the basis for a drinking game.
The best news is that the poetic Elizabethan prose is very understandable; it is equally cool that Peake expertly delivers the numerous soliloquies that provide the primary narrative. The only disappointment is the lack of musical numbers ala the "Gilligan's Island" take on "Hamlet."
Stage director Sarah Framkcom starts thing out right with a sight of the ghost of the father of Hamlet appearing in a manner that is more "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" than "A Christmas Carol." The action soon shifts to a dinner party at which Hamlet is still moping about the death of his father a few weeks ago and his mother Gertrude is reveling with former brother-in-law/new husband Claudius. The urging of Hamlet to get over it hilariously evokes thoughts of the episode of the '80scom "The Facts of Life" in which well-meaning teen Tootie tries to get a grieving Natalie to attend a Pat Benatar concert.
Hamlet learning that Claudius is guilty of regicide and fratricide sets our already excitable boy further on edge. The related revenge scheme further evokes thoughts of sitcoms by including a plan to present a play that is intended to unnerve Claudius.
Meanwhile, the impact of these events on Ophelia and Polonius (who is the mother of Ophelia) affects brother/son/Hamlet bud Laertes in a manner that strains his friendship with Hamlet. The pop culture analogy this time is to "The Princess Bride."
In true Shakespeare style, the final act consists of heavy emoting and bodies piling up like firewood. This leads to the curtain closing on the story.
The moral in this story that still rings true in the 21st century is to come for the culture and to stay for the relevance. Newly single parents often are are not very loyal regarding the former spouse and often quickly enter a second marriage with the wrong person; it is equally true that the kid is the one who suffers the most. It is equally relatable that the heir has mixed feelings regarding a leadership void in the family business.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Hamlet" is strongly encouraged to email me; you also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
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