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Contempt (Le Mépris)

Director – Jean-Luc Godard – 1963 – France – Cert. 15 – 103m

*****

Review originally published in What’s On In London when the film was reissued in 1996 – reprinted here to commemorate Godard’s passing on Tuesday, 13th September, 2022

Made back in 1963 in the latter days of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (Le Mépris) anticipates J.G. Ballard’s seminal novel Crash, David Cronenberg’s controversial film of which currently awaits a British distributor. Alongside a director in a film studio (Godard casts the great Fritz Lang, who famously made the silent classic Metropolis at UFA in 1926 before a subsequent career in Hollywood on westerns and crime thrillers), Contempt boasts a central protagonist obsessed by his wife’s sexual peccadilloes, not to mention bleak, domestic, modernist architecture and mythical car crash aftermaths.

The camera lingers lovingly over the latter to George Delerue’s unforgettable and heavily romantic score, but (as apparently in Cronenberg’s Crash) pays little attention to the actual moment of impact.

It’s one of Godard’s best films and possibly his most accessible. Director Lang struggles to film The Odyssey at CineCitta with unsympathetic producer Jeremiah Prokosh (a towering Jack Palance) who waxes lyrical about life and art while seducing Camille (a stunningly contemptuous Brigitte Bardot), wife of hired screenwriter Michel Piccoli.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Bergman Island

Director – Mia Hansen-Løve – 2021 – France, Belgium, Germany – Cert. 15 – 112m

First half *****

Second half **

A working, filmmaking couple spend time on the island where celebrated director Ingmar Berman lived, now a niche tourist attraction based around his life and movies – out exclusively on MUBI from Friday, July 22nd

Two writer-directors who are also a couple Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) fly in to spend time and write at the Bergman Estate on Fårö Island in the Baltic Sea, just off the coast of Sweden. This is the site that legendary Swedish film and theatre director Ingmar Bergman left as a legacy to the world, where people could apply for residencies to help in their creative or academic work, watch his films on 35mm and browse his personal audio, video and book library. Chris and Tony thus find themselves alone in Bergman’s private viewing theatre watching Cries And Whispers (Ingmar Bergman, 1972).

Both are involved with screenplays: when he’s over at the Bergman Centre, she sneaks a look in his large notebook entitled ‘F’ which contains extensive notes and erotic drawings veering towards the sadomasochistic. On a later occasion, she stands him up by not joining the Bergman Safari coach tour around the island, complete with a tour guide describing the site where Through A Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman, 1961) plays on a screen.… Read the rest

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Art Features Live Action Movies

Benedetta

Director – Paul Verhoeven – 2021 – France – Cert. tbc – 131m

*****

A 17th Century nun subject to religious visions embarks on a lesbian relationship with a novice – exclusively on MUBI from Friday, July 1st

Christianity. The Church. Religion. Treat them the wrong way, and you can get into trouble. Horror The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973), drama The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971) and comedy Life Of Brian (Terry Jones, 1971) remain controversial. Lesbian nun relationship drama Benedetta may be about to join their ranks. Or perhaps times have moved on. The film is apparently based on a real 17th Century case.

As a young girl, Benedetta (Elena Plonka) claims to commune with the Divine – convincingly so, too, enough to suggest to a bandit gang about to rob her parents and her that a chirping bird is God’s voice, especially when said bird deposits excrement in the eye of the bandit leader who promptly returns a gold necklace to Benedetta’s mother.

On arrival at the convent in Pescia, Benedetta’s father (David Clavel) must pay the Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling who seems to have cornered the market in Reverend Mothers judging by Dune, Denis Villeneuve, 2021) a dowry to enable his daughter to become a novice, which suggests that the institution, like the wealthy Catholic Church under whose umbrella it exists, may have ignored Jesus’ injunction to sell all you have and give to the poor.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Between Two Worlds (Ouistreham)

Director – Emmanuel Carrère – 2022 – France – Cert. 12a – 106m

****

A successful journalist goes undercover in Caen to pose as unemployed and get a job as a cleaner to write a book on conditions in the cleaning industry – out on BFI Player (rental) from Friday, June 24th

This opens at an unemployment office where Christèle (Hélène Lambert) insists on seeing a staff member without an appointment which swiftly develops into a full blown row as she asks, how am I supposed to feed my kids? This is a film about those at the bottom of the social pile, the women who work in the cleaning industry.

The tone shifts to something much quieter as Marianne Winckler (Juliette Binoche) is interviewed for work. She’s asked about the 23-year gap in her employment record, She was married, she explains, but then her husband moved his lover into the family home and the situation became intolerable. So she came to Caen and is now looking for work.

Given a job as a maintenance agent (i.e. cleaning lady), she finds herself on a crew with Christèle who teaches her the ropes. The amount of toilet cubicles that must be cleaned in a day requires the women work at speed, which means that the work isn’t always done to the employer’s satisfaction.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Everything Went Fine (Tout C’est Bien Passé)

Director – François Ozon – 2021 – France – Cert. 15 – 113m

*****

An elderly man recovering from a stroke enlists his two daughters to help him achieve assisted suicide and die with dignity – out in cinemas on Friday, June 17th

Emmanuèle Bernheim (Sophie Marceau) gets a phone call to say that her dad André Bernheim (André Dussollier), 85, is in hospital recovering from a stroke. She rushes to the hospital to meet her sister Pascale Bernheim (Géraldine Pailhas) in ER where he’s having an MRI scan. When they see him on the ward, mouth elongated on on side of his face, he can’t remember what happened. He has lost many everyday functions of his body.

While a fellow stroke survivor on his hospital ward makes rapid enough progress to soon be discharged, the less fortunate and initially bedridden André is moved to another hospital for more specialist treatment. Nevertheless, he eventually improves and in due course graduates to being sat in a chair in his room. Later still, he learns to use a wheelchair. His dietary abilities improve from initial intravenous drip feed through being spoon-fed mashed veg through to eating accompanied in a restaurant.

On one occasion early on when Emmanuèle visits him in hospital, she’s horrified to discover him lying in bed in his own excrement and immediately summons the manageress, who not only makes excuses about the amount of work required to look after a patient like this and how the hospital is short-staffed but also gives a personal assurance that this won’t happen again (and, indeed, no such further incident recurs).… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies Music

The Island

Director – Anca Damian – 2021 – Romania, France, Belgium – 84m

*****

A reimagining of the Robinson Crusoe story with Robinson as a doctor on an island where Friday is the only survivor of a refugee ship – from the Annecy 2022 Animation Festival in the Official Competition section

The story of Robinson Crusoe, the man shipwrecked on a desert island befriended by a native he calls Friday, is here turned on its head by director Damian (Marona’s Fantastic Tale, 2019) bringing to life a clever script using an inventive mixture of 2D and CG animation techniques. Robinson (voiced by musician Alexander Bălănescu, who composed the music and songs with Ada Milea) is a Westerner, a well-off doctor who spends most of his time lounging around on an island with an i-Pad. He might be a shipwreck survivor, at least metaphorically. He sings about dreaming of shopping when hungry and after a while we wonder if he’s simply disillusioned with the Western materialist way of life.

He finds himself in the company of Friday (Lucian Ionescu), sole survivor of a refugee boat who treats the doctor as his saviour. Robinson admonishes Friday to drink only bottled water, because the alternative is unsafe.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Everything Went Fine (Tout C’est Bien Passé)

Helping a loved one to die

Everything Went Fine
Directed by François Ozon
Certificate 15, 113 minutes
Released 17 June

France. Two daughters, Emmanuèle and Pascale Bernheim (Sophie Marceau and Géraldine Pailhas), visit their 85-year-old father André Bernheim (André Dussollier) as he recovers from a stroke. The process is slow and difficult, and he may never make a full recovery. André has lived life to the full, often looking to himself rather than those around him, and has come to a decision. Separately he tells each of them, “I want to die.”

In his current state of health, he considers life no longer worth living and wants to be able to end it while he still has the mental and physical capacity to do so. Ironically, this… [Read the rest in Reform magazine]

Read my alternative, longer review.

Everything Went Fine is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, June 17th.

Trailer:

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Features Live Action Movies

Pickpocket

Director – Robert Bresson – 1959 – France – Cert. PG – 76m

*****

Why is a man compelled to pursue acts of petty thievery – acclaimed, arresting, existential drama is out in cinemas on Friday, June 3rd

I have just rewatched Bresson’s classic and am still not entirely sure I have its measure. Perhaps that’s the thing about great works of art. Oh, to have seen it on its original release, had I been old enough, and watch it without the baggage of it being proclaimed a cinematic masterwork.

Words on the screen proclaim at the outset that this is not the thriller its title might suggest; it’s rather a study of a man who repeatedly commits crimes which is trying to understand why he would do that.

The characters, of whom the main protagonist Michel (Martin LaSalle) is the one who gets most screen time and indeed, is scarcely if ever off the scree, are played deadpan, with Bresson doing his utmost to ensure that his cast perform the roles without acting. He doesn’t want the actors’ craft to come between us and his images of people doing, being, talking. He seeks to avoid the artificiality of acting thereby allowing his performers to realise his images without any acting technique mediating them.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Onoda: 10, 000 Nights In The Jungle (Onoda, 10 000 Nuits Dans La Jungle)

Director – Arthur Harari – 2021 – France, Japan – Cert. 15 – 166m

*****

A Japanese soldier who believes his country has not yet surrendered stays on a Filipino island to fight on alone until 1973 – out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday 16th May.

16th September 1973. A backpacking Japanese student (Ryu Morioka) on Lubang Island in the Philippines sets up his tent on the beach beside the jungle and switches on the cassette player playing a song from the 1940s. The sound drifts through the trees and can be faintly heard where an old soldier, his uniform patched by years of repair, is leaving a flower as an act of remembrance. He hears the music and moves towards it…

This frame story opens this tale and sets the stage for what is to follow. Back in Wakayama, Japan in December 1944, it’s all over for drunken youth Hiroo Onoda (Yuya Endo) whose hopes of becoming a pilot have been dashed by his fear of heights. To his aid comes Major Yoshimi Taniguchi (Issei Ogata), who explains the youth can serve his country in other ways and enrols him in the Nakano School Annex in Futumata, where the major teaches guerilla warfare.… Read the rest

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Art Features Live Action Movies

Benedetta

Sins of the flesh

Benedetta
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Certificate 18, 131 minutes
Released 15 April

The Dutch director Paul Verhoeven revels in controversy… His latest work, Benedetta, is… sexually explicit, but also tackles religion within a historical context. It clearly has plenty of potential to offend.

Benedetta is based on the story of the 17th-century Italian nun Benedetta Carlini who had visions and exhibited stigmata. She became an abbess and was investigated and discredited by Catholic officials. There were suggestions that Benedetta’s visionary traffic was with the Devil rather than God, while various nuns’ testimonies claimed her stigmata to be faked. Her roommate Bartolomea confessed to regular sexual activity with Benedetta. Benedetta was demoted.

Verhoeven eschews historical accuracy for the spiritual, the spectacular and the carnal… [Read more…]

Full review published in Reform magazine.

See also my alternative review.

Teaser trailer:

Trailer: