Entries tagged with “Catherine Deneuve”.


You can hardly get a better set of premises for a film than the ones of Le tout nouveau testament or The Brand New Testament by Belge director Jaco Van Dormael. Bored being, one day, God created Bruxelles (quite a fun city actually, but this is a tourist perspective, not the one of the inhabitants and certainly not the one of God). Then he moved together with his wife and daughter (his Son JC died about 2000 years ago, as we all know) in a secluded apartment, from where he controls the world by means of a PC and an Internet connection. He is quite a nasty guy, making happen to people on Earth all the unpleasant things we know about, and an abusive father, who does not allow any TV but sports in the apartment. Until the day when his pre-teen daughter decides to take revenge and run away, not before using her Father’s computer to let all people on Earth know the date and time of their death. When arrived on Earth, she needs to find six extra-apostles chosen randomly from the population of the planet (or of Belgium better said). Why 6? Because 12 + 6 = 18 – the number of players in baseball, the preferred sport of Mother.

 

source http://www.cinenews.be/en/movies/le-tout-nouveau-testament/

source http://www.cinenews.be/en/movies/le-tout-nouveau-testament/

 

Before you get angry on me, these are only the first 5 or 10 minutes of the story. The rest is about how these wonderful premises are being used. Director Van Dormael seems to have had two models in his mind. The first is of course the eternal masterpiece of historical satire Life of Brian. Because of the subject. The second is the eternal masterpiece of sweet feel-good movies Amelie. Because of the kid-actress who is in control of all the action and all good or at least well-intentioned things that happen on screen. The result is also middle-of-the-road. Too middle-of-the-road. Because Van Dormael does not have (yet?) the daring insanity of Monty Python and because Pili Groyne is not (yet?) .

 

(video source European Movie Trailers)

 

Much of the film is spent with telling the stories of six brand new apostles, what they chose to do with the rest of their lives now that they know precisely how long it will last, and how the Brand New Testament and the team of 18 are performing better than the previous editions. As one may expect, the ending is kind of DEUS EX MACHINA.

This sweet merry Reformation on screen is fun to follow for most of the time. Just the pleasure of seeing in a new role (one of the apostles, no more or less) is enough reason to go and see it and there are other. Yet, director Jaco Van Dormael took a bet and partly lost it in starting from such bright ideas and producing just a nice film.

‘Indochine’ was released to the big screens in France by the time of my first visit in Paris in 1992, the city was then full of posters about it, I remember them even on the Champs Elysees. Going to the movies was not my priority at my first time in that splendid city, and thus more than 20 years passed until I got to see this film, probably one of the most ambitious projects in the history of the French cinema, a tentative in the historic epic and romantic saga genre set in the final decades of the French colonial rule in Indochina. As other similar projects like ‘Gone with the Wind’, ‘Australia’, ‘Cold Mountain’, or ‘A Passage to India’,  it mixes a long and tortuous romantic story with a rendition of the history from the perspective of the ‘white man’. It works to a large extent. Falling empires and republics in turmoil have many similar things and a charm of their own on screen.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104507/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104507/

 

Romance and history meet in an intrigue which is a little bit too long, and too much decorated with coincidences, but then credibility to the detail is not necessarily the principal quality we look for when reading sagas or watching saga films. The main character played by Catherine Deneuve is a rich, beautiful and independent plantation owner who raises a Vietnamese adopted daughter and tries to keep the luxurious way of colonialist life while the world around her is cracking and falling apart. Her passion for an officer younger in age turns into a family drama when this one falls in love with the adoptive daughter and in political intrigue when the two take ways apart and join the anti-French forces. Cultures and ideologies mix and conflict in the film – colonialism fights nationalism and communism, cosmopolitan French style of life clashes with the traditions and religions of this area of Asia. There are many details in the film, but I also had a feeling of lack of focus, like in a very large picture full of characters and objects, but also a little blurred. Or maybe these were only background elements for director Regis Wargnier, I cannot know. The director BTW all but disappeared after a few ambitious but not very successful movies in the 90s.

 

(video source Elizabeth Weber)

 

There are two fabulous qualities in this film which balance all the minuses. One is Catherine Deneuve. I am in love with her until she will be 150. There are only two other actresses at the same level, radiating light, intelligence, beauty in any role they play – Ingrid Bergman and Cate Blanchet. Deneuve crosses in this film many years in the story but she stays beautiful and dignified, socially strong but emotionally vulnerable. A great role. The second exceptional quality is the cinematography, and I must mention the name of the artist in charge – Francois Catonne. The landscapes filmed in location are exquisite, so are the scenes that bring back to life the cities of Indochina of the 30s. I am not sure if after watching ‘Indochine’ I have really a more accurate image about how that part of the world was in the 30s of the previous century, but I surely do have a beautiful one.

 

At the beginning of the story in this film the hero seems to be at the peak of his life. He has it all: a comfortable life, a wife and two kids, he lives in a villa in the province and works in Paris as a successful lawyer on the brink of becoming lead of a lawyer office (inherited from a terminally sick woman played by Catherine Deneuve who has only three short scenes, but so great to see her still beautiful and in good acting form). At the end he has nothing, is a fugitive with no identity. And yet, the story is the one of fulfillment as the hero while losing his status and family will find himself, a new profession and passion.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1533818/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1533818/

 

It’s a very well written story and script (based on a novel by Douglas Kennedy). It also is a more than satisfying crime story (albeit it’s about an accidental murder) which as some point in time plays with the theme of the first book in the Bounty Identity series, with the murderer taking over the identity of the victim, and finding refuge in the least policed place in Europe (at least according to the script). It so happens that the victim was a photographer, and while trying to mimic his way of life the hero develops a passion and discovers a talent in the profession, actually a stronger talent than of the one of the true owner of the name. Succeeding means however acquiring fame, and this puts under risk his second identity. I will stop here in order to not disclose too much of the rest of the story, but I will just say that the mixture of crime story, stolen identity, and self-discovery works quite well in ‘L’homme qui voulait vivre sa vie‘ (the English title is ‘The Big Picture’).

 

(video source MadameFigaro)

 

Much of the film rests on the shoulders of Romain Duris and he is doing a fine job. I do not know too much about director Eric Lartigau, but he is telling the story and leading his team with a good professional hand. ‘L’homme qui voulait vivre sa vie’ is a god thriller and a compelling drama about a man who breaks twice the frames of his life, finding himself when he seems to have lost everything.

 

‘Le Dernier Metro’ is one of the last films Truffaut made, and I believe was the last that premiered during his life time. His period of innovating and revolutionizing the French cinema, breaking conventions and pushing ahead a new way of making movies and a new style of passing the message from director (the undisputed author of the film) and the viewers was behind him. Now he had the time (and not less important the money) to make the films that expressed him best. It is significant that one of the themes he chose to deal with in this final period of his life and creation (although he may not have been aware it’s one of his final films) was the French Resistance and the Holocaust, more specifically the attitude of France and of the French people towards its Jewish population.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080610/

 

The film tells the story of a classical triangle of lovers in the best French tradition. He (Heinz Bennent) is a famous stage director, she (fabulous Catherine Deneuve) is a beautiful actress and has just taken over the administration of the theater, the rival to her heart is the womanizing young star (Gerard Depardieu in one of his first great roles). The times are however not usual, director Lucas Steiner hides in the cave of his own theater because the year is 1942 and he is a Jew, deprived of any civil right, deprived of his property, deprived of the right to profess his vocation, and soon to be deprived of the right to live. While his wife and one or two close friends stand to hide and defend him, the whole system of the collaboration is after his person, his family life, and his physical life. The forbidden love will eventually be consumed only after the duty of honor in protecting the prosecuted is fulfilled. The story saves the French honor by showing that some stood up, but also makes quite clear that those were only a few.

 

(video source DODprod)

 

Some of the critics consider this film not to be one of Truffaut’s best, they also point to the success it enjoyed (most successful of all his movies) and to the plethora of Cesar prizes it received. I respectfully differ. Success with the audiences is no sin, and if true emotion is passed to the viewers, if we viewers go out of the cinema hall and continue to care and think fondly about the characters then the movie in my view succeeded. There is a double love story between the woman and the two men in her life, but there is also another story of love and deep respect in this film – it is the love for theater, for the art that fought censorship during the war and kept alive the national pride and also the capability of getting together the audiences and making them resonate to human emotions and share hope. To some respect ‘Le Dernier Metro’ plays in Truffaut’s cinematography the same role as ‘The Pianist’ plays in Polanski‘s career – a work apart with an important message and a sober but elaborated execution.