Friday, March 25, 2011

The Moviegoer: Certified Copy

Spoiler Alert

During my Spring Break movie marathon, I was intrigued by the trailer for the 2010 French film, Certified Copy, which was playing in Chicago. I found the film beautifully acted by Juliet Binoche and British opera singer William Shimell in his film debut. Like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, the film concentrates on the dialogue of two characters as they flirt and get to know each other, talking of art and relationships.

According to the description, the film is about a British author who spends a day with a French woman in Tuscany. About a third into the film, the two stop for coffee and while the man takes a cellphone call outside, the woman and the barkeep discuss the French woman's husband. Coming from out of nowhere, the couple begin what appears to be role-playing a fantasy relationship. By the end of the film, many in the audience were shaking their heads, wondering whether the two were (1) crazy, (2) spontaneous role-players caught up in a fantasy, or (3) something else.

I think something else.

We are never told what the relationship between the two actually is. She first appears at a lecture he is giving. As he speaks, she leaves her son, who objects to being there, and moves to the  front where a reserved seat sits empty. The man beside her is the author's friend. He registers no surprise when she sits, nor does he seem confused when she leaves her phone number for the author. (I assumed he knew her.)

Later as the two go for a ride in Tuscany, they stop for the coffee. She allows the woman barkeep to assume they are married. He jokes about them being a couple. He tells a story about why he wrote his book about a copy by saying that he had watched a mother and her son sitting under a copy of David in Florence (where he says at one point he lived). She tears up and says that she was sick. He reacts but never says it was her.

Later the two of them come across newly weds and a public statue of a woman resting her head on a man (who is protecting her?) A man they meet tells the author what a woman really wants is for the man to put his hand on her shoulder and walk with her. The author does just that.

After an argument over cheap wine and poor service, the two end up at a hotel that the woman says had been the hotel they had stayed in 15 years earlier on their wedding night. She asks him if he remembers it. He says no, but at the end we are left to wonder.

If the couple is a couple, which part is the fantasy? I believe the vagueness of the first part is the fantasy. She complains during the film about him spending too much time concentrating on his work, and although she says he only speaks English, the two converse in French during the last part of the film. When talking about marriage with the barkeep, the barkeep says the author would be a perfect husband if he shaved. The French woman says that he only shaves every other day. Later she complains to him that he hasn't shaved and he says that one of his quirks is that he only shaves every other day. Since he had not heard her say that  earlier, is that a clue that their relationship is really more complex than just a fantasy game?

If you like a romantic mystery, you should enjoy the film. Have other  thoughts regarding the film? I'd welcome other perspectives.

The Moviegoer: Unknown

When Unknown came out, I wasn't really interested in seeing it. I had been intrigued by the trailer, but opening around the time that heavily panned Red Riding Hood and Battle: LA, it didn't draw me in. During my Spring Break marathon, however, I remembered the trailer, checked it out and decided to try  out the movie.

The movie appears to be a straight-forward story of Dr. Martin Harris who arrives in Berlin with his wife, suffers a head injury, and when he finally comes out of a comma discovers that his wife is with another man who claims to be Dr. Martin Harris. Soon he finds himself followed by people who want to do him harm and nothing is what it seems to be.

The film is filled with Hitchockian twists and turns and a surprise ending worthy of the suspense master (think the cymbals of The Man Who Knew Too Much climax, but with a bigger bang). I am still pleased that I hadn't figured it out, but it all makes sense and works.

The Moviegoer: Getting Paul Home

I was primed to see Paul as I rewatched Hot Fuzz on television. I have enjoyed the work of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost since their movie Shaun of the Dead. Their wacky sense of humor meshes with mine and after seeing them deal with murder mysteries (Fuzz) and zombies (Shaun), I was anxious to see them take on aliens and Roswell. (Am I just imaging Pegg and Frost the modern-day descendents of Abbot and Costello?)

The film didn't let me down. Well written, with strong characters and lots of inside jokes for the sci-fi and comic book geeks, the film does several homages to works such as Speilberg's E.T. and Close Encounters. The acting is fun and whether you understand all the inside jokes, you'll enjoy the ride.

We react to Paul with much the same empathy I remember for E.T. While the character is broad, we root for him to be able to get home. A fun exercise would be to see the two Speilberg films before you go and read up on the latest Comi-Con activities.

One of my friends on Facebook wrote, "I saw it with my mother and we laughed all the way through it."

The Moviegoer: Limitless

Within the last week, I have spent time doing what I love to do--going to movies. I talked in the last entry about Jane Eyre. Since then I have seen four more films, all of which were good entertainment and which I  can recommend highly.


I have been a fan of Bradley Cooper's for what seems a long time, actually since his work in Sex and the City. One my favorite moments in The Hangover was at the end where he carries his son around asleep on his shoulder--a moment so true to the character that it touched me deeply.  

In Limitless, Cooper's character is an unfocussed writer whose messy apartment is meant to be the externalization of his inability to do anything with his life. Through a series of events, he takes a drug which allows him to use 100 per cent of his brain. From the moment he takes it, we know he won't be able to stop. Abruptly the loser becomes a winner, able to see the squalor he lives in and able to organize it all. He no longer has writer's block. He suddenly can understand art and teaches himself to play the piano. He suddenly sees how to turn a small amount of money into millions.

All goes well until he notices that someone is following him--he  knows for the drug--and he begins a downward spiral as he stops taking the drug. What happens next is riveting, with exciting twists and turns. Robert DeNiro shows up and offers appropriate menace.

The film has several innovative techniques that I will not detail, but  expect to be dazzled in places.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Moviegoer: A New Jane

Talbot's The Fruit Sellers, ca 1845, from Wikipedia Commons.
 William Henry Fox Talbot [a contemporary of Louis Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype] left a legacy of fascinating of English photographs called calotypes, a process he patented in 1841. The unique look of Talbot's work was obviously the inspiration for the 2011 BBC film version of Jane Eyre, starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender.

I have to admit, I've fallen a bit in love with Miss Wasikowska, who is indeed an 1840s beauty. Thin and brooding, she conveys not only Jane's strength but also her passion. When Rochester asks her about her sad story, we know the depth of her refusal to share her secrets with him. Fassbender, the Romantic and mysterious Rochester makes a great match for Jane. It is great pleasure also to see Dame Judi Dench as the housekeeper.

I have seen countless film versions of the book, this version with its marvelous sense of period and look, totally enchanted me. I can't wait to see it again.

Articles on the film: