Entries tagged with “Kristin Scott Thomas”.


The format of the British film “The Party” directed by is quite unusual. It’s total screen time is just over one hour, which places the film in the class of mid-sized features, not very popular nowadays. It is even shorter than what would be a filmed theater play, although from many other aspects it looks like one. All the action happens within the walls and in the garden of one house. There are a total of seven characters which are on screen (on stage if you want) most of the time. Actually the closest work I could think about are the plays of , and especially “Dieu du carnage” which inspired “Carnage“  directed by . And yet, “The Party” is based on an original script written by the director of the movie . It may be the goal of the West End theaters to put on stage the play inspired by the film.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5814592

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5814592

 

Janet () is a British MP in the opposition, who lives what should be one of the best days of her life. She was nominated a minister in that odd British institution which is called ‘the shadow cabinet’ – a mirror of the real government formed by opposition politicians to show publicly the democratic alternative. She is on her way of becoming, maybe, the next Margaret Thatcher. A party with her closest family and friends is called, but besides the principal events, her family and friends have also their own announcements which will completely change the course of the day and of their whole lives. We witness one of these situations in which events go quickly out of control, marriages and old friendships are broken, and the masks of conventions fall completely because of the revelations of hidden secrets from present and past.

 

(video source Madman Films)

 

Music plays an essential role in the film. Vinyl records picked from a box near the pick-up music machine in the living room will provide the almost continuous musical background that starts with Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry’s ‘Jerusalem’ continues with famous jazz standards by Sidney Bechet, John  Coltrane and Ibrahim Ferrer, jumps between the funereal “Dido’s Lament” by Henry Purcell to the Romanian folk song ‘Ciocarlia’ (‘The Lark’) played by Grigoras Dinicu and ends with Latin music, appropriate to the passionate ending.  The music and the intensity of the acting provides the quality and the satisfaction that I experienced as a viewer. is fantastic, fast forwarding between self-confidence and vulnerability, between feeling hurt and planning revenge. as Janet’s husband wears a mask that viewers will find hard to forget, and seeing again the excellent German actor was also a treat. Each of the actors creates first class performances, their characters have each strong individuality and interact well together. The choice of black-and-wide filming became a fashion, sometimes justified, but in this case it did not seem to me to have added anything special. “The Party” with its duration and content looks less like a full length movie, and more like an afternoon theater performance in the London West End, but a good one.

This season of the Academy Awards has two strong contenders in movies that deal with the events that took place in May and early June 1940. While ‘s Dunkirk used the power of the computer effects to retrace the saga of the evacuation of the British army from the beaches of Europe in the first year of WWII, ‘s Darkest Hour takes us in the shady rooms of the politicians and army decision makers who had to make crucial decisions after the disastrous beginning of the war. While the focus in the first movie was on the collective resistance and heroism, the later puts on the first plan the personality of the man who took upon himself the reigns of power in the most difficult moments of the history of the United Kingdom.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4555426/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4555426/

 

There is a lot of history in Darkest Hour, part of it facts, some other fiction trying to be true to the spirit of history. ‘se non e vero, e ben trovato’ – ‘Even if it is not true, it is a good story’. The vision created by the authors of the script presents Winston Churchill as a candidate of compromise at a crossroad of the history, who reaches the peak because he is the only politician capable of gathering Labor opposition support for a national unity government. The conservative party and the king himself are very hesitant about his nomination, and much of the first weeks (described in the movie) of his prime-ministry will be faced finessing the attempts to have him replaced by an internal party coup, and fighting to take the kingdom firmly on the path of uncompromising resistance to the Nazi enemy and fierce fight to total victory, in the conditions of the defeat of the allied armies and fall of most of the Western Europe under German occupation. It’s a story of political intrigue and the personal story of the controversial politician becoming the leader of the free world at war.

 

(video source TRAILER CITY)

 

Director does in my opinion a very good work in building the story as a political thriller, re-creating to detail the atmosphere of London at war, and bringing to life on screen the characters of the principal players of this historical drama. At some moments he plays with the formats of the frame, we can see the characters and especially Churchill cornered or squeezed to part of the surface of the screen, almost like in two-dimensional paintings, thus creating the sensation of claustrophobia or psychological pressure the heroes find themselves in. Churchill may be one of the most popular historical personalities in cinema, but the absolutely fantastic performance of brings new angles, as we see the quite old politician and flawed human being transforming himself into a leader with the moral force, political skills and strong convictions not only to lead but also to become a model for his country at war. The rest of the actors team is up to the mission as well, including as Winston’s supportive wife, with a nuanced version of King George VI (although his change of mind is not so well explained) and as his young and devoted secretary.

Winston Churchill is not only a popular film hero but he is also claimed as a model for many politicians who came after him, until today, when they try to prove that compromises and appeasement are not the right tactics when faced with enemies perceived as evil. He proved to be on the right side of history more than once, first when fighting the Nazis, later when opposing Communism in Europe. Yes, he was was also a human, he liked whisky and champagne and cigars, but this was not what made him great, but the fact that he fought for the right causes. One of the key scenes in the film shows him taking the underground – for the first time in his life! – and confronting the random sample of people in the train car with the dilemmas he is facing. They unanimously express their support for his own uncompromising positions. The moving scene intents to show that his strength derived from the people’s will. It’s a little bit romanticized and of course, fictional, but yet, this seems to concentrate the principal message of the film.

 

The life and death of Irène Némirovsky and the fate of the cycle of novels that inspired ‘Suite francaise‘ could be the subject of a thrilling movie, a different one. Born in 1903 in an Ukrainian Jewish family, she took refuge to France after the First World War with her family flying the Russian revolution, but was never granted French citizenship. Converting to Catholicism and writing French nationalistic (some consider these anti-Semitic) fiction did not spare her the fate of the majority of the French Jews – deportation to the concentration camps and death (at Auschwitz). ‘Suite francaise’ was planned to be a five volumes saga about the years of war, written as the events happened. Irene Nemirovsky wrote only two of them before being deported, the manuscript was unread for more than half of a century until discovered by her daughter and published as what has become a historical novel about the years of the war.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0900387/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0900387/

 

I did not read (yet) the books, but from the synopsis on Wikipedia I understand that the script departs quite afar from the original. The (spectacular) introduction scenes may not be in the book but they are useful to understand the context and the historical moment. Similarly, the final seems to be a Hollywood patch, not necessarily adding anything. The core of the film resides in the building love story between the young French woman whose husband is a prisoner of war and the German officer who is allocated to live in their house. It’s a complex relationship, and the merit of the script is that it avoids the black-white, bad-good nuances and moral judgments leaving room for the feelings and emotions. There is also a strong social content, both in the main story (are love or even co-existence allowed between occupier and occupied? here is a question valid also in other times and places) and in the secondary story of the mayor-viscount who pays with his life the price of collaboration. Ambiguity is however the tone that works here best.

 

(video source Entertainment One UK)

 

One of the hard obstacles for viewers of ‘Suite francaise’ is the fact that the film is American and spoken in English. I do not know whom I should ask, but I would certainly loved to see a French version. Maybe it’s still easier for the non-French to deal with the theme of ‘la collaboration’?Beautiful and fragile and tormented and introspective do both good acting jobs in the main roles, but best of all is  as the mother-in-law who may make you change your mind about the moral fabric of the French high classes.  is only at his third long feature film and directs with kind of an academic touch not exactly to my taste, but there are many good reasons to go and see this film.

The music in the opening scene of this French movie should give a strong hint to the viewer about what to expect. It’s a soul song which combines oddly with the first shots of an apparently idyllic gathering in the French countryside. What follows is however all but idyllic. It’s a complex thriller drama about a murder that happened eight years before, a love story and a disappearance that refuses to heal. One of the most intelligent and most sensitive stories in the genre that I have seen lately.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0362225/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0362225/

 

It may come as a surprise that the film is French, but inspired by a novel and a story written by Harlan Coben. The fine author of mystery novels and thrillers had amazingly few encounters with the movies, this being as far as I know his only novel brought to the big screens. The approach taken by director places the story in France (of course) but none of the characters belongs to any specific localization. Beyond the love story and beyond the sophisticated detective story that is smartly and consistently built, there is a quality of the making that keeps the interest (both intellectual and emotional) awake for the duration of the more than two hours that the film lasts (another Hollywood influence?).

 

(video source peanutspowa)

 

Much of the quality can be attributed to the excellent team of actors, and first among equally good – one of these actors who make you feel their emotions without any apparent effort, just by being himself. The hand of the director is light, he just does professionally his job enjoying the fine team of actors and the intelligent script he has at hands and making us enjoy the story as well. Now I just hope that the studios in Hollywood will not reclaim back this film for an American remake.

 

Dans la maison (In the House) directed by Francois Ozon is one of the the most surprising films i have seen lately. Adaptation of a play, the screen is so smart that my major question is how is it that Woody Allen did not write it first? or maybe he wrote it under disguise?

 

source www.impawards.com

source www.impawards.com

 

It is really such an Allen-esque story, which mingles real life and imagination, the writer as a creator of life, and life as a creator of literature.  It even has a thread about relations of adults and underage and even if it loses a little bit of steam by the end, talking so much about a good ending for the story that it forgets to create a real good and non-conventional one, it is still one of the smartest and most original scripts I have watched lately brought in screen. The hero is a professor of literature Germain (Fabrice Luchini), smart enough to abhor the re-introduction of uniforms in high school, whose literary ambitions were not fulfilled and who finds a goal (and a change in the routine) in pygmalionizing one of his pupils Claude (Ernst Umhauer) in the ways of literature. As it happens Clude’s subjects are his friend and colleague Rapha (Bastien Ughetto), his house which is the middle class dream for a poor kid from the peripheries, and his family or especially his mother (Emmanuelle Seigner) who becomes the object of his teenage dreams and guilty desires. As the story develops, the house becomes the stage of the action, reality inspires fiction at first just to make room for literary fiction becoming reality, the intervention of the teacher becomes much more than correction of grammar or style, it starts to be correction of destinies. All in a fluent and well paced style for most of the time.

 

(video source abcscope)

 

I liked the acting of Fabrice Luchini, well supported by other fine actors as the two charming Kristin Scott Thomas (as his wife, co-reader of Rapha’s essays and supporting character playing eventually a surprising role in the story) and Emmanuelle Seigner. All of them act solidly, their problems are credible, and we can feel the atmosphere and the torments of the middle class in the French province. The two teenager roles are played with the natural touch and expected freshness by Ernst Umhauer and Bastien Ughetto (the latest is very promising, may he have luck in getting distributed in roles that fit his talent and his face!). Overall it’s a smart and funny movie, worth seeing for many reasons.