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Features Live Action Movies

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

Breakout Brothers (To Yuk Hing Dai, 逃獄兄弟)

Director – Mak Ho-pong – 2020 – Hong Kong – 12 (Camden Council) – 90m

****

Three prison inmates attempt to escape so that they can attend to various pressing, personal issues– online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2022 Making Waves from Friday, July 8th to Sunday, July 10th

The generic side of Hong Kong movies (kung fu, supernatural, swordplay, gangster, horror, comedy) has long been one of the strengths of that territory’s film production. This one has already spawned two sequels (Breakout Brothers 2, 2021 and Breakout Brothers 3, 2022, both Mak Ho-pong). In essence, it’s deceptively simple: three inmates in prison attempt to break out. This is hardly an original concept, however two elements makes it different.

One, it’s conceived and shot as a caper movie. It’s not really a comedy, but it most definitely has a lightweight feel. This is brilliantly established from the get-go with the introduction of the score by Pong Chow and Noel Li, which follows a long tradition of themes in caper movies and TV series typified by Mission: Impossible (composed by Lalo Schifrin, 1966) with its driving yet off-kilter bass-line. In Breakout Brothers, this is accompanied by a striking, graphic,opening title sequence as good as that for Collectors (Park Jung Bae, 2020), the difference here being that Breakout Brothers lives up to the promise of its superlative title sequence whereas Collectors doesn’t.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Marona’s Fantastic Tale (L’Extraordinaire Voyage De Marona)

Director – Anca Damian – 2019 – France – 92m

****

Winner of the André-Martin Award for a French Feature Film at Annecy 2021.

Marona’s Fantastic Tale opens with a device straight out of film noir. The main character has been hit by a car and is dying in the arms of an old friend who got to him a few seconds too late to prevent disaster. Him isn’t correct though: both characters are female. Marona is a dog while late teenager Solange is her owner.

The narrative flies in the face of the idea that people take on pets and everything is hunky dory thereafter. Marona never has a stable life. She’s the last of nine puppies in the litter, so her mother names her Nine as if knowing that her daughter may not be around long and that a new owner will likely give her a new name.

The last to be born is the first to be given away as Marona is placed with her father, a haughty Argentianian mastiff of high birth. Marona only lasts about a day there and ends up walking the streets.

As part of my Annecy 2019 coverage, I review Marona’s Fantastic Tale for DMovies.orgRead the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Undergods

Director – Chino Moya – 2020 – UK – Cert. N/C 18+ – 91m

**1/2

Overlapping narratives unfold within a mysterious city which resembles something out of Eastern Europe – in cinemas from Monday, May 17th

In a grey urban environment resembling an unspecified city somewhere in Eastern Europe or possibly Russia, two lorry drivers go about their daily routine of picking up corpses from the street. These two characters form the frame story of what is to follow, although exactly what that is isn’t clear from the narrative’s meandering nature. There are stories within stories wherein the character you think is the main character is suddenly usurped by a different character. Several times over.

That’s a pity because they are potentially very interesting stories, so it’s frustrating to see them consistently half-baked. The anthology film is, after all, a tried and tested format and this film attempts do something radical and new with it. The problem is though, to make that form work you really need to understand its rules before you play around with them, break them, or abandon them altogether. This film seemingly lacks that understanding, or thinks you can throw away the framework and everything will still somehow work.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies Series Shorts Television

Greenaway By Numbers

How Peter Greenaway’s obsession with various numeric and other cataloguing systems has led to the creation of highly complex, multi-layered film pieces that joyfully play with audiences

If ever anyone were to make a film about the Dewey Decimal System, it would be Peter Greenaway. He is obsessed with ways and means to classify the world in which he finds himself, systems to organise and make sense of that peculiar world, people’s relationship networks with one another and their movement and actions within that world and those networks.

I first came across him on the theatrical release in Hammersmith of his three hours plus epic The Falls (1980), made in between his early, self-financed short films of the 1960s and 1970s and his first, more conventional in length feature The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982). The Falls takes its name from entries in the section of a directory beginning with the letters F A L L e.g. Orchard Falla, Constance Ortuist Fallaburr, Melorder Fallaburr. The directory chronicles survivors of a Violent Unknown Event, VUE for short… [read more]

Full article at DMovies.org in association with Doesn’t Exist Magazine – purchase your copy now.

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Animation Art Movies Shorts

Memorable (Mémorable)

Director – Bruno Collet – 2019 – France – 12m

*****

The techniques used in this remarkable short include both computer and puppet animation, with all the surfaces of both the puppets and the sets resembling that of a canvas painted with oils. It’s the perfect artistic form in which to express the story the film wishes to tell.

Louis is a painter suffering from dementia. Neither he nor his wife and model Michelle are coping well. He struggles to recognise different items of food by name at the dinner table – a bit of a problem when Michelle asks him to pass the pepper – and attempts to eat a banana without taking the skin off it first… [read more]

Nominated for Best Animated Short at the 2019 (92nd) Oscars.

As part of my Annecy 2019 coverage, I review Memorable (Mémorable) for DMovies.org.