Thursday, August 31, 2017

Movie Review: Dark Night

Dark Night * ½ / *****
Directed by: Tim Sutton.
Written by: Tim Sutton.
Starring: Eddie Cacciola (Veteran), Anna Rose Hopkins (Summer), Robert Jumper (Jumper), Aaron Purvis (Aaron), Kirk S. Wildasin Iii (Little boy). 
Back in June, when I did my list of the 25 best films of the 21st Century so far (inspired, like so many, by the New York Times doing the same thing) one of the films I listed was Gus Van Sant’s Elephant – which was his film about a school shooting not unlike Columbine. Made just 4 years after Columbine – at a time where it seemed like every week brought another school shooting (it doesn’t seem to have stopped, as much as morphed – it’s no longer just schools that are the targets of these mass shooting events) Van Sant’s film offers no reasons, no explanations, no comfort to the audience. He depicts a day at a high school, like it was any other day, except that the end of the film has two boys storm the school and kill many of their classmates. The film was controversial at the time for many reasons – one of them was the style of the film – which was basically made up of long, flat, tracking shots – made the events look calm or even beautiful, and Van Sant did nothing different for the normal scenes as he did the shooting scenes. That was, of course, part of his point – and even though Van Sant does depict the violence, it’s impossible to argue he glamorizes it. The violence has no sense of cathartic release, or even visceral power. It’s drained of that. Director Tim Sutton says he was heavily inspired by Van Sant’s Elephant when making his film, Dark Night, which is his take on the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. His film is more stylized than Van Sant’s – and as an example of film craft, the movie is quietly remarkable. And yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling throughout the film that Sutton is guilty of many of the things that Van Sant was accused of, but I didn’t think he did. Dark Night felt more exploitive and judgmental than Elephant did – and also feels like a film that Sutton is congratulating himself for making as he’s making it. The whole thing rang hollow to me.
The style of the film is somewhat confusing. It is going for a vérité quality in most of its scenes – although there are moments that resemble a more traditional documentary – as the filmmakers are interviewing their subjects (why they are interviewing them is never answered) – and there is even a fantasy sequence at one point. Mostly though, the film follows its characters, who are mostly leading quiet, lonely, melancholy existences – isolated, or self-isolated, from those around them. Unlike Elephant, which never tried to hide the identities of the would-be shooters, Dark Night doesn’t tell you until the end – and actively tries to misdirect your suspicion throughout the movie. Will the lonely teenage artist – who has given up his passion, and answers questions with as few words as possible snap, and kill people? What about the guy who dies his hair orange – much like the shooter in Aurora (who we see on TV) be the one who snaps? Or the army veteran, who has trouble getting his life back together, and spends time cleaning his guns? Eventually, it will become clear who the shooter is (Spoiler alert – it’s none of them, but another lonely soul). The film follows them all – as well as a fitness obsessed young woman with a YouTube channel (I think that’s what she’s filming for) – and some younger teenagers just being teenagers.  
Honestly, more than anything else, it was this approach that bothered me – this guessing game the Sutton is forcing the audience to play to figure out who’s going to live and die. It felt exploitive. Worse, because they are all living what amounts to similar, lonely, isolated, depressing lives, Sutton seems to be implying that all his characters – and perhaps everyone – all live in the same spectrum, all just waiting to snap and kill people. That feels like a rather glib observation – and, frankly, an offensive one. The ending of the movie doesn’t bother to show the violence – just the moment’s right before it’s going to happen – and it felt to me like Sutton wants to be congratulated for his restraint here. But it feels cheap.
Sutton’s talent is undeniable. The film is impeccably crafted, with great visuals and sound design. He has talent – and many who saw his last film, Memphis (which I have not) loved it. Yet, in Dark Night all that talent is at the service of a glib, superficial take on an important issue in American society, Van Sant’s film didn’t offer answers or easily platitudes – it made you uncomfortable, but forced you to watch – and 14 years later, it still haunts me. Dark Night angered me – and not in the way the film intends.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Movie Review: Good Time

Good Time **** ½ / *****
Directed by: Ben Safdie & Joshua Safdie. 
Written by: Ronald Bronstein & Joshua Safdie.
Starring: Robert Pattinson (Connie Nikas), Buddy Duress (Ray), Benny Safdie (Nick Nikas), Taliah Lennice Webster (Crystal), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Corey Ellman), Barkhad Abdi (Dash the Park Security Guard), Necro (Caliph), Peter Verby (Peter the Psychiatrist), Saida Mansoor (Agapia Nikas), Gladys Mathon (Annie).
You cannot help but think of the New York films of the 1970s – from Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets (or After Hours, although that’s the 1980s) to Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon and beyond – when you watch Good Time. The film captures that same nervous energy, that sense of constant action, and impending doom, from beginning to end. Good Time is a film of constant, propulsive energy – and represents a step forward for director brother Ben and Joshua Safdie – who are among the most exciting directors of Indie films in America right now. They capture that constant hum of a city like New York – in no small part because of the great performance at its core by Robert Pattinson – whose career since the Twilight films ended hasn’t been spotless, but shows remarkable ambition, and good taste in directors. Here, he channels an actor like Pacino at the height of his 1970s power – and delivers one of the great performances of the year.
The film opens not on Pattinson’s Connie – but on his brother, Nick (co-director Benny Safdie) who is being interviewed by a psychiatrist about his recent difficulties. It’s clear that Nick suffers from some sort of mental disorder – although the film never specifies what. After this interview, which goes on longer than you would think it would, Connie busts in and takes Nick out of the interview – walking down the hall, he points at the other patients in the area and asks Nick, almost cruelly if he thinks he’s like them. Smash cut to the pair of brother committing a bank robbery – that seems to go off without a hitch – until during the getaway, a dye pack explodes. In the foot chase after, Connie gets away – but Nick gets arrested. Nick doesn’t do well at Rikers Island – and finds himself in the hospital. The majority of the movie takes place over one long night, in which Connie tries to find a way to get his brother out of jail/the hospital – first by trying to come up with bail, and then more adventuresome means.
At his core, Connie is a gifted conman – he thinks well on his feet, and through the night, as one thing after another goes wrong, Connie is able to up with one plan after another to keep himself ahead of the noose that is tightening around his neck. He may not always be great and seeing ahead four or five moves – but in the moment, he’s able to figure out the one move he needs to make to stay ahead. The camera seems to tighten on him throughout the movie – moving in closer and closer to him, trapping him – until the film climax, which pulls back in a dazzling helicopter (not drone) shot to see Connie as the rat in a maze of his own design he cannot get out of.
I’ve heard Good Time described as a crime film about white privilege, and while I’m not sure I’d say the movie is “about” that, it certainly acknowledges the advantage Connie has because he is white – and how he exploits it. From the bank robbery itself – where both he and Nick don masks that make them look like black men, to the elderly woman into whose apartment he cons his way into, to her teenage granddaughter he seduces, to the security guard at a seedy “amusement park” (Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi – it is black people who are most hurt by Connie’s actions, and who he exploits.
There is a point – while at the woman’s apartment – where I almost felt like the movie had painted itself into a narrative corner it couldn’t escape – and that is when Ray (Buddy Durress) – shows up, with a story so convoluted, and brilliantly told, it almost acts as its own short film within the film. Ray isn’t any better than Connie – in some ways he’s worse, and not as charming to boot, but he gives the movie a shot in the arm, and sends it hurtling towards its brilliant climax.
Good Time is the kind of gritty, small scale crime drama you do not see made much anymore. The Safdies made the film for little money, grabbing shots where they could, and getting great performances by pros and near amateurs alike. Pattinson has never been better. You like him despite yourself, and then gradually realize how monstrous he is (this is something the Safdies have specialized in during their careers). He has turned himself into an ambitious actor with an impressive list of directors he’s work with – David Michod (The Rover), David Cronenberg (Cosmopolis, Map to the Stars), James Gray (The Lost City of Z), Werner Herzog (Queen of the Desert) – and upcoming projects by Claire Denis, the Zellner brothers, Olivier Assayas, Harmony Korine and Joanna Hogg. I was hard on Pattinson during the Twilight films – and with good reason, unlike co-star Kristen Stewart, he was painfully awkward in those films – but while not all of his performances have been great since then, he has shown more range, skill and ambition than I would have thought he would. Here, he is a brilliant bundle of nervous energy – it is a great performance at the heart of a great film.

Movie Review: The Hitman's Bodyguard

The Hitman's Bodyguard ** ½ / *****
Directed by: Patrick Hughes.
Written by: Tom O'Connor.
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson (Darius Kincaid), Ryan Reynolds (Michael Bryce),  Elodie Yung (Amelia Roussel), Gary Oldman (Vladislav Dukhovich), Salma Hayek (Sonia Kincaid), Richard E. Grant (Seifert), Rod Hallett (Professor Asimov), Michael Gor (Livitin), Barry Atsma (Moreno),  Kirsty Mitchell (Harr), Tine Joustra (Renata Casoria), Sam Hazeldine (Garrett), Joaquim de Almeida (Jean Foucher).
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is one of those lazy, late summer programmers that studios release in theaters hoping that the film will make some money on the strength of its stars. It’s not precisely a good movie – and it certainly wears out its welcome well before it ends – but it is the type of film that you can go into and have fun for a while – as long as you don’t think about any of it. The film coasts along, allowing Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds to essentially do what they do for its entire runtime, which, fine, is fun for a while. What’s a little less fun is having your villain being a genocidal madman dictator from a former USSR country, and have a major plot point involve driving a giant truck into a crowd of people – but hey, those are two of those things you cannot think about during the runtime of the movie if you want to have fun.
In the film, Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, once an elite bodyguard, working for the best clientele – who is now desperately trying to get back to the level he had two years ago when he lost a big client. Jackson is Darius Kincaid, an international hitman, in the custody of Interpol, who is needed at the Hague to testify against Belarussian dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) or else he’ll go free, and go right back to his regime built on ethnic cleansing. For some reason, Kincaid needs to be at The Hague by 5:00pm two days away, or else his testimony is useless. When Interpol’s first attempt to get him there goes horribly awry, Agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) calls Michael – her ex-boyfriend – and trusts him to get Kincaid there. Along the way, there is a race to see if Jackson is going to say motherfucker more times than he shoots people in the head – and I think it’s pretty much neck and neck.
Both Jackson and Reynolds could play these smart alecky roles in their sleep – but they don’t – they seem to be having fun playing off each other in a love/hate relationship. And for a time, I had fun watching them. There does come a time when you wish they had something more to do than what the films gives them – but what can you do? Salma Hayek has fun too as Kincaid’s wife, who also likes to say motherfucker a lot – and does so with great aplomb. Gary Oldman eats all the scenery he can find as the dictator – but at least he doesn’t seem bored. I really do wish they gave Yung something to do rather than be the nagging ex-girlfriend.
There isn’t much to say about a movie like this. It is lazily written and directed, provides some entertaining moments, and gets out before you become too bored. It’s a parking lot movie to be sure – you will forget all about by the time you hit the parking lot – but it’s not a bad one. It’s just that it’s not really a good one either – and with this much talent in front of the cameras, it should have been.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Classic Movie Review: All That Jazz (1979)

All That Jazz (1979)
Directed by: Bob Fosse.
Written by: Robert Alan Aurthur & Bob Fosse.
Starring: Roy Scheider (Joseph "Joe" Gideon), Jessica Lange (Angelique), Leland Palmer (Audrey Paris), Ann Reinking (Katie Jagger), Cliff Gorman (Davis Newman), Ben Vereen (O'Connor Flood), Erzsébet Földi (Michelle Gideon), Michael Tolan (Dr. Ballinger), Max Wright (Joshua Penn), William LeMassena (Jonesy Hecht), Deborah Geffner (Victoria Porter), John Lithgow (Lucas Sergeant), Jules Fisher (Jules), Chris Chase (Leslie Perry).
The phrase “vanity project” gets tossed around a lot about movie star vehicles or self-indulgent directorial efforts in which artists do little more than navel gazing. And yet, when done right, vanity projects can be masterpieces – as evidenced by Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz. Fosse, the infamous choreographer turned director on stage and screen, takes Fellini’s autobiographical 8 ½ (another vanity project, that one about a director making a vanity project), as his model, and makes a film about a Bob Fosse-like director who is both a towering genius and – this is key – a towering asshole. Perhaps that is what separates All That Jazz (and 8 ½, and hell, Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories, made around the same time, also inspired by Fellini’s masterpiece) – that while the artist cannot help but call himself a genius, he is also more than willing to admit his failings. All That Jazz is the rarest of things – a musical about death that is both entertaining as hell, and a deeply artistic exploration of its creator.
In the film, Roy Scheider stars as Joe Gideon – who in the film is in the process of editing his latest film – clearly inspired by Fosse’s Lenny – and choreographing and directing a new show on Broadway. He smokes constantly – even in the shower – and is on a steady diet of Dexedrine and alcohol. He runs from one work place to the next, constantly either dodging, or reassuring, a series of moneymen, producers, dancers etc. He has an ex-wife (Leland Palmer), a current girlfriend (Ann Reinking) – and a series of one night (or slightly longer) stands that float in and out of his bed. He has a daughter who he loves, but cannot help but be constantly letting down. He doesn’t want to die, but knows that everything he’s doing will lead him to an early grave anyway – as he is literally flirting with Death (Jessica Lange).
All That Jazz is a film that works on multiple levels. As a musical, the film is a masterpiece – starting with the opening musical number, an audition sequence so precisely choreographed and edited, that it makes a staple in these types of films feel new. Then there a dance set piece in the middle – one for his new play, which stars off exuberantly, and turns almost into dance as sex – which is even better. There are numerous other set pieces along the way – but the one that will be remembered is the finale – an exuberant death knell, with Ben Vereen, that really is one of the best musical numbers in screen history. Fosse was a perfectionist, and you can see it in every frame of the dance sequences – which are a masterclass in editing, which is precisely timed with the movement of the dancers. On a purely technical level, All That Jazz is one of the greatest musicals ever made.
But, of course, there is more to the film than that. This really is a deeply personal film, made by a man who understood his weaknesses enough to know that he was never going to overcome them. The heart attack Fosse suffered while editing Lenny and preparing Chicago for the stage 5 years before he made All That Jazz didn’t kill him – as it ultimately does in All That Jazz – but his demons would eventually catch up with him (he died when he was only 60). According to the movie, if you were unfortunate enough to love Bob Fosse, you would get more than your share of disappointment and pain for your efforts.
And yet, dammit, you still like Joe Gideon in the film. A lot of that is because of Roy Scheider’s performance in the role – an unlikely choice (originally Richard Dreyfuss was cast, but walked away, thinking Fosse couldn’t pull it off – and the studio wanted someone more famous, like Warren Beatty). Scheider is wiry and thin in the film – and dancer’s body – and he exudes the charm that someone like he would need to inspire so many people to put him with an asshole like him. He has a sly, devilish grin that he can pull out around anyone. It’s only by himself – he morning routine in the shower, listening to Vivaldi, before proclaiming, with increasing sadness throughout the film “It’s ShowTime” to an empty room – where Joe seems to not be on. He realizes all the things he’s messing up – realizing that he isn’t a good enough dad, husband, hell person – but he cannot stop it. This is Scheider’s best performance – and really one of the best ever in a musical.
That’s what gives that final musical number added resonance. It is exuberant and joyful, even as it is explicitly about his upcoming death. For Fosse and Gideon, he has to give you a show – some entertainment – no matter what, and he goes out doing just that. Yet, remember the final image of All That Jazz – after the music ends, and it’s just Scheider by himself, alone, quiet, dead – as eventually we all will be.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Movie Review: Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky **** / *****
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh.
Written by: Rebecca Blunt.
Starring: Channing Tatum (Jimmy Logan), Adam Driver (Clyde Logan), Riley Keough (Mellie Logan), Daniel Craig (Joe Bang), Hilary Swank (Agent Sarah Grayson), Seth MacFarlane (Max Chilblain), 
Katie Holmes (Bobbie Jo Logan Chapman), Katherine Waterston (Sylvia Harrison), Sebastian Stan (Dayton White), Brian Gleeson (Sam Bang), David Denman (Moody), Jack Quaid (Fish Bang), Dwight Yoakam (Warden Burns), Macon Blair (Brad Noonan), Charles Halford (Earl), Ann Mahoney (Gleema Purdue).
Since he “retired” from directing movies in 2013, Steven Soderbergh has kept busy – directing 20 episodes of his TV show The Knick - on which he also served as cinematographer and editor – two jobs he also did for Magic Mike XXL, the sequel to the film he directed. And now, he’s back directing movies again, with Logan Lucky. We knew Soderbergh wasn’t really retiring right? He’s one of the prolific directors out his generation – there are multiple years where he saw more than one of his features hit theaters, so although he’s undeniably right about so much of what he says about the state of the movie industry, it always seemed odd that one of its major players would just step away. And yet, perhaps it was a good thing for Soderbergh to do that. I think that perhaps he was too prolific for a time – and he spoiled us into thinking he’d always be around, producing high quality, entertaining genre films better than just about anyone else. Looking back at some of my reviews of his work, I think I was certainly guilty of taking Soderbergh for granted. Perhaps the reason I liked Logan Lucky as much as I did is because, without having Soderbergh around for a few years, you get to appreciate just how effortless he makes a heist film like this look.
The film stars frequent Soderbergh collaborator Channing Tatum as Jimmy – who was once going to be a football star, but hurt his leg, and is instead stuck in his dead-end West Virginia home town – a failed marriage in the rearview mirror, and a young daughter he adores – but no work to support himself. His brother, Clyde (Adam Driver) lost an arm (really, a forearm and a hand he says) in Iraq, and now works in a bar in the same town. There sister Mellie (Riley Keough) works in a beauty salon. Jimmy hatches a plan to rob the motor speedway – he had a short term job fixing sinkholes underneath it, and found out about their pneumatic tubes that takes the money to the vault. He’s going to need the help of his siblings of course, but also of an explosives and safe cracking expert. This is Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) – who wouldn’t seem to be available to pull a job since he is currently in-car-cer-rated – but the brothers have a plan to break him out so he can help with the robbery – and then back in, so he doesn’t get caught, and is out in 5 months like planned.
To say more would be to spoil the fun, so I won’t – except to say that this is the type of film Soderbergh excels at – the film plays with that knowledge, directly acknowledging the Ocean’s 11 movies that Soderbergh directed, although the film (written by Soderbergh’s wife, under an assumed name) has a touch of Coen brothers in it as well. For much of the running time, you really don’t know if these characters are complete and total idiots, or some sort of geniuses. The cast – most of whom are not from West Virginia – have fun with their exaggerated, mismatched accents. It was smart to cast Keough, Elvis’ granddaughter, who with this an American Honey is showing herself to be a great actress – and one who can plausibly play Southern, without devolving into caricature (the rest of the cast does that to a certain extent, so Keogh works as a counter note). I loved everyone in the cast pretty much though – Driver is probably the funniest, and Tatum shows that move star charisma the movie needs in the lead role.
The film works like a well-oiled-machine and even if you think you’ve spotted a plot hole, you really haven’t – the movie just hasn’t gotten to that point yet. It’s not an overly deep or overly original film – but it doesn’t have that ambition either. It is precisely the film it wants to be – and the most fun I’ve had at the movies since Baby Driver.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Movie Review: The Trip to Spain

The Trip to Spain *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom.
Written by: Michael Winterbottom.
Starring: Steve Coogan (Steve), Rob Brydon (Rob), Claire Keelan (Emma), Rebecca Johnson (Sally - Rob's Wife), Justin Edwards (Greg), Kerry Shale (Matt), Marta Barrio (Yolanda), Margo Stilley (Mischa), Timothy Leach (Joe), Tom Clegg (Busker), Kyle Soller (Jonathan).
There are now “Trip” movies, all directed by Michael Winterbottom – the prolific English director, who seems to be slowing down a little bit now (perhaps having concluded he’s just about accomplished the goal of having a film of every genre) and starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, playing versions of themselves, and the drive around a country, stopping at various, amazing looking restaurants apparently for “magazine pieces” and generally riffing with each other. The comedians are competitive, but mainly friendly and by this third film, they’ve more or less settled into a routine. Yes, they can still grate on each other’s nerves, and play games of one upmanship – but they more or less understand each other, and give each other enough slack.
We’ve seen them in North England in 2010’s The Trip and Italy in 2014’s The Trip to Italy, and now, of course, we see the pair of them in Spain. Coogan is the bigger international star of course, and has the ego to prove it – not least of which because he received an Academy Award nomination for co-writing Philomena a few years ago, a fact he will mention to anyone if given half to chance. He’s also the more neurotic and insecure of the two of them still sort of struggling with his now 20-year old son, and an affair with a much younger woman, who happens to be married to someone else. Brydon has a young family himself (at 50, he says he snuck them in under the wire), and while the movie gets a laugh in the opening scene as Brydon surveys his life – including his crying 2-year-old – before immediately agreeing to another trip, he seems pretty comfortable and happy in his domestic life, and in his marriage.
The films don’t strain for any sort of relevance really – they know they are more or less meaningless, and an excuse to watch these two comedians riff with each other. The dueling impressions have become infamous – and while nothing here matches the brilliance of their Michael Caine’s in The Trip to Italy, there are good moments here where they compare Mick Jagger’s and David Bowie’s. There is a (very) one near the end where they start doing dueling Roger Moore’s – trying to impress two of the women who have shown up to help them through a photoshoot – and Coogan eventually tries to impress them with his knowledge of Spain – only to have Brydon just keeping going and going and going (and going) with his Roger Moore, which goes from hilarious to painfully awkward more than once. The movie only really hints at darker things that in their both of their minds – particularly Coogan’s – who is more apt to get hurt or embarrassed and sulk away (“He doesn’t like to be told things he thinks he knows” Brydon offers a young man who offends Coogan with travel advice).
The ending of The Trip to Spain is a little strange. I thought that movie was pretty much ending because Brydon and everyone else apart from Coogan are return to England – but Coogan stays for a little, and then travels farther. I don’t quite know what to make of it. But I do hope that Coogan and Brydon take another trip at some point. While you would think the charm of these films would have worn off by now, it really hasn’t.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Classic Movie Review: All About Eve (1950)

All About Eve (1950)
Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz.   
Written by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
Starring: Bette Davis (Margo Channing), Anne Baxter (Eve Harrington), George Sanders (Addison DeWitt), Celeste Holm (Karen Richards), Gary Merrill (Bill Simpson), Hugh Marlowe (Lloyd Richards), Gregory Ratoff (Max Fabian), Barbara Bates (Phoebe), Marilyn Monroe (Miss Casswell), Thelma Ritter (Birdie Coonan). 
Some films have become so infamous, so part of the canon – the foundation on which so much else has been built – that it can a little difficult to see them clearly for what they are. All About Eve is a film like that – it was a critical, financial and Oscar hit when it was released in 1950 – that rare best picture winner that is also a masterpiece, nominated for (still) a record 14 Oscars – including 5 acting awards (four for women, another record – although, of course, it was the one man nominated who was the only one who won). It is famous mainly for the acid tongued dialogue written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (who also direct) and the performances by Bette Davis and George Sanders – career bests for all of them. I saw the film a couple of times years ago, but hadn’t revisited it recently. I remembered a bitter, cynical but wickedly funny film – all of which is true – but there’s more to it than that as well. The title character is (necessarily) a cipher – she changes to whatever she needs to be at any time – but the rest of the cast are fully realized people. There is cynicism to All About Eve – a lot – but it remains a story of people who feel real.
Bette Davis gave her best performance in a career full of them as Margo Channing – the “aging” Broadway star, who will turn 40 during the course of the movie, but is still packing in audiences when she plays characters in her 20s. She is a legend, and she knows she’s a legend – as does everyone else. Her boyfriend is her director, Bill (Gary Merill) – only 32, something that if their gender were reversed wouldn’t matter – but, of course, they’re not, and it does. The playwright is Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), who knows Margo is his meal ticket, but still wishes he’d be recognized for his own (perceived) greatness. He’s married to Karen (Celeste Holm) – Margo’s best friend. It is soft-hearted Karen who first meets Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). She is on the street after a performance of the latest play – she has seen every performance she says, and taking pity on her, Karen invites her to meet Margo and company. Margo loves the attention, and laps up Eve’s sob story – everyone else does to, except for Birdie (Thelma Ritter) – Margo’s dresser, who sees through Eve from the get go. Eve has soon got herself inside Margo’s inner circle – where she’ll go from an assistant to an understudy to a rival of Margo’s.
The movie is narrated by Sanders’ Addison DeWitt – the powerful newspaper gossip writer and critic – who is the most cynical person in this film full of cynics. He has the power to make or break people, and he uses it. In Eve, he finds a kindred spirit of sorts – someone as ruthless as he is, but better able to hide it. Every word out of his mouth is full of cynical, sinister glee, except for the scene with him and Eve alone, where he brings it down a register – he knows precisely how to bring her down. Sanders is perfect for the role (given the wording of his suicide note, which I’ll let you look up, even more perfect than you first realize). Yet, as a great as Sanders is, even he plays second fiddle to Davis’ Margo. The aging actress is in many ways a clichéd movie role by now – Gloria Swanson plays Norma Desmond this same year for instance, and many films center on an aging actress and her youthful rival. None are better than All About Eve, and that’s because of Davis, capable of delivering the bitterest, most cynical lines in the movie, and still come across as sympathetic. Her speech about Bill being 32 is one of the best in screen history – and she makes the most of it. David knew this role all too well – she was 42 at the time – but she was already aging out of where Hollywood likes their leading ladies – she was a perennial Oscar contender from the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s, but hadn’t gotten the really good roles in a while (was nominated 7 times between 1935 and 1944 – and 1950’s All About Eve was her first since). This is a sad story for most actresses – who have much to offer after 40, but Hollywood isn’t interested – but downright tragic for Bette Davis, best at playing strong willed, mature women. She knew Margo Channing, she was Margo Channing, and that’s why it’s one of the great performances in film history.
The rest of the cast is fine as well – although neither Merill or Marlowe could keep up with the women (Merill does have a great put down of Eve, but other than that doesn’t do much, Marlowe remains a clueless dope throughout). You feel the worst for sweet, lovable Karen, as Holm makes her not stupid, but friendlier then the rest, and that gets her in trouble. I would have loved more Thelma Ritter – who seems born to play Birdie, but the film doesn’t make much time for her. Marilyn Monroe shows up at the infamous party scene, and when she’s onscreen, you cannot look away. As for Baxter, she is pretty much perfect as Eve – she is right in every moment in the film, even if Eve never really becomes a believable three-dimensional character – then again, perhaps Eve doesn’t have three dimensions at all. Margo is a great actress on stage, Eve is acting always. Davis – and others – blame the fact that Baxter was nominated alongside Davis for Best Actress, as to why Davis didn’t win the Oscar this year – because Baxter split the vote. Perhaps that’s true – perhaps Swanson, playing another aging actress, and going over-the-top with it – stole some votes to (Judy Holiday won for Born Yesterday – and fine, its good, but Davis and Swanson are literally two of perhaps the 10 greatest performances ever by an actress).
All About Eve is so beloved, so iconic so entrenched in the canon that I fear some are intimidated by it – what else is there to say about the film. Perhaps not much. But is beloved for a reason, iconic for a reason – and if nothing else you should see it to find out why.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Movie Review: Manifesto

Manifesto *** / *****
Directed by: Julian Rosefeldt.
Written by: Julian Rosefeldt.
Starring: Cate Blanchett (Various). 
Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto is one of those challenging movies that you have to accept on its own terms, or not at all. I cannot say the film “works” in a traditional sense, because the film isn’t interested in “working” in that way. It is a film in which its star – the great Cate Blanchett – plays 13 different characters, delivering 12 different Manifesto’s from history – mostly centered on art and the artist. Rosefeldt is a visual artist by trade, and the film started out as an art installation, and was later edited in the form we see it now. It’s a thought provoking mess of a film – humorous and self-important, brilliantly acted and staged, and yet confused and messy by design. It’s an odd film to be – maybe not a good one, but certainly not a bad one. Its one-of-a-kind whatever it is.
Casting Blanchett in these 13 different “roles” is important. I’m not sure there is another actress (maybe Tilda Swinton) who could have pulled this off, or that you would want to see attempt to. The word chameleon is overused a lot when discussing actors, but it’s fitting for Blanchett, who really does disappear into her roles. She’s perfectly suited for this role because she has always excelled at playing characters who themselves are playing characters – characters who are in essence putting on one face for those around her, but allowing the audience to see something different (this is one of the reasons why she works so well with Todd Haynes in I’m Not There, playing Bob Dylan at his most self-involved, and in Carol, as a closeted lesbian, pretending to be a perfect 1950s housewife).
In Manifesto, Blanchett plays everything from a houseless derelict screaming Karl Marx’s words through a megaphone, to a prim and proper elementary school teacher “teaching” Lars von Trier’s Dogme 95 rules to her students. In another segment, she’s a news anchor and the “reporter on the street” she is interviewing about conceptional art. Or she’s a drunken punk in a bar, a housewife saying prayers around a Thanksgiving meal, a figure out of what seems like a dystopian future, a woman making puppets, the gallery host at an expensive art gallery, a choreographer upset with her dancers, a struggling single mother, etc. The various real life manifestos she is delivering are devoid of context, often contradict each other, and usually have little to nothing to do with how Rosefeldt has chosen to stage them, or how Blanchett has chosen to deliver them.
At this point, you may well be asking yourself what the purpose of all this is, or what it all means. Those are perfectly reasonable question to ask, and I don’t have adequate answers to them. I’m not going to trying to pretend that I even understand Manifesto completely, because I don’t. If the whole thing sounds like a pretentious art exercise, I think you’re partially right – except that I think Rosefeldt and Blanchett know that as well. There is something incredibly pretentious about manifestos in themselves, and the film recognizes that and pokes fun of that.
I’m not sure if Manifesto is a good film or not – but I do know that no matter what it is, it is by design, and is one-of-a-kind. Even if that doesn’t quite work, is that itself worth celebrating?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Movie Review: Annabelle: Creation

Annabelle: Creation *** / *****
Directed by: David F. Sandberg.
Written by: Gary Dauberman.
Starring: Anthony LaPaglia (Samuel Mullins), Talitha Bateman (Janice), Stephanie Sigman (Sister Charlotte), Miranda Otto (Esther Mullins), Lulu Wilson (Linda), Grace Fulton (Carol), Philippa Coulthard (Nancy), Tayler Buck (Kate), Lou Safran (Tierney), Samara Lee (Bee Mullins), Mark Bramhall (Father Massey). 
It’s become a standard trick in genre films over the years – when you run out of ideas of sequels, go back and tell the origin story that no one needed or asked for. That way, you can at least keep the lucrative franchise churning, for at least one more film. That’s kind of what happened here in Annabelle: Creation – the film is a prequel to 2014’s Annabelle, which itself was a spinoff/prequel to James Wan’s The Conjuring – one of the best mainstream American horror films of the decade. The original Annabelle was a middle of the road horror film – not great like The Conjuring was, but not horrible either. And best of all for the studio – it made money. But, there was a problem – that story took the title character – a creepy, inanimate doll – right up to the point where the protagonists of The Conjuring, Ed and Lorraine Warren, have the doll under lock and key – preventing it from having further evil adventures. So even if it kind of, sort of looked like they explained the origins of the evil in the doll in the original Annabelle, Annabelle: Creation reveals that wasn’t quite the case, and tells the origin story of that doll, and how that lead into Annabelle. By all reasons of logic, this movie therefore shouldn’t work at all – and yet, it does. It is magnificently creepy and atmospheric, and fits in well with the themes of the entire series up to this point. It is better than the original Annabelle – even if it doesn’t reach the level of either Conjuring film. It is, basically, as good as this movie could reasonably be expected to be.
The film takes place in the 1950s – and opens with what seems like a wholesome, mid-Western family – the Mullins. The father (Anthony LaPaglia) makes dolls – and we see him making Annabelle in the opening scene – and along with his wife (Miranda Otto) and daughter, Bee (Samara Lee) – they seem to be the personification of the ideal 1950s nuclear family. And then Bee gets hit by a car and dies. 12 years later (I’m just realizing now, that in order for the time line to fit with what we know, the main action of the film happens in 1955, which means that opening must have been 1943 – odd that everyone seems so enamored with the Mr. Mullins doll during WWII – but no matter), the Mullins welcome a nun – Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and a group of six orphan girls – ranging in age from about 10-16 – into their large home. Mr. Mullins barely speaks, and Mrs. Mullins is even more mysterious – she stays in her room day and night, and rings a bell when she needs anything. The film quickly focuses in on Janice (Talitha Bateman) – a young girl stricken with polio, and her friend Linda (Lulu Wilson). Mr. Mullins tells Janice not to go into his daughters old room – which he keeps locked at all times. But at night, the door becomes unlocked for some reason – and Janice cannot resist. You can tell where things will go from here – Annabelle the doll makes a return appearance, and soon everyone’s soul is on the line.
The film was directed by David F. Sandberg – which shouldn’t be too surprising, since his debut horror film (last year’s creepy and effective Lights Out) was produced by The Conjuring’s James Wan. Like he did with Lights Out, Sandberg clearly shows skill at slowly building atmosphere and tension, getting on the audience edge, so just a little push has them scared (it worked like a charm in the nearly full theater I saw the film in). The film is so well made by Sandberg in fact that it helps the film overcome many of its problems – the chief among them is the film internal logic consistency, which it doesn’t have it all. It almost feels like the screenwriters were making up this logic as the film progressed – which is a no-no in horror films, which thrive best when they stick to the rules they set out for themselves. Had Sandberg also found a way to make the film a little shorter (it runs nearly 2 hours, but doesn’t have nearly that much plot, so it does grow repetitive) the film would have been even better.
Annabelle: Creation should have been terrible, so the fact that it’s a good horror film is a pleasant surprise. It confirms the talent that was apparent in Lights Out – that Sandberg is a classicist horror director, and I want to see him make something even better. Something like, say, The Conjuring.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Movie Review: The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature * ½ / *****
Directed by: Cal Brunker.   
Written by: Bob Barlen & Cal Brunker & Scott Bindley & Peter Lepeniotis & Daniel Woo based on characters created by Peter Lepeniotis.
Starring: Will Arnett (Surly), Katherine Heigl (Andie), Maya Rudolph (Precious), Jackie Chan (Mr. Feng), Isabela Moner (Heather), Peter Stormare (Gunther), Bobby Cannavale (Frankie), Bobby Moynihan (The Mayor), Jeff Dunham (Mole), Gabriel Iglesias (Jimmy), Sebastian Maniscalco (Johnny), Tom Kenny (Buddy), Kari Wahlgren (Jamie), Rob Tinkler (Redline), Julie Lemieux (Lil' Chip).
It sometimes surprises me what movies get sequels. The original Nut Job – from 2014 – was a forgettable animated film, about cute, talking animals that I don’t think has entered my mind since I wrote my review of it then. It wasn’t exactly a huge hit at the time (although when I checked Box Office Mojo, it is the highest grossing film released by Open Road Films – ever – sadly, beating out the Liam Neeson and the wolves film The Grey) so that probably explains it. The fact that it made less than half what the first film did in its opening weekend is a sign no one was really clamoring for this film. And yet, here it is, and it’s my daughter’s 6th birthday, and she wanted to go (as did her 3 year old sister – who I must be raising right, as this was her first 3-D movie and she complained that the “glasses make the movie dark”, which has been my complaint for years) and so we went. Like the first film, it is a fast paced, cheaply animated, lazily written film that produces a chuckle or two because of its talented voice cast, and then ends without ever really doing much of anything. It’s not a painful sit – it’s nowhere close to as bad as The Emoji Movie for instance – but there’s not much reason for it to exist either.
The film is the further adventures of Surly the Squirrel (Will Arnett) and his posse of forest animals, who when we last saw them were living large in the nut shop, where they no longer had to work for food. In the opening of this film though, the nut shop explodes – and these pampered animals have to head back to the park, and scrounge for food. That would be bad enough, but even worse is that the corrupt mayor (who, I’m sorry, reminded me of Donald Trump) is angry at the park, because it’s the one part of town that produces no profit, and he needs to keeping skimming off the top – he has a private Golf Club to maintain, etc. So the mayor wants to make the park into a cheap amusement park to milk money out of suckers. And it’s up to the animals to stop him.
The Nut Job 2, like the first movie, makes the mistake of thinking that all you need to do to please kids have cute talking animals, some lame jokes, and quickly paced action sequences and they’ll be happy. My two kids were quiet during the movie, but I didn’t sense they were all that engaged. They had fun – because they always have fun at the movies (like I mentioned before, they enjoyed The Emoji Movie – so perhaps I should take back that comment about how I must be raising them right). Basically, I cannot help but think that a movie like this is little more than a babysitter – something to throw on TV on rainy Sunday afternoon, when your kids are bored of all the better animated film out there. In that way, it’s very much like the first film. I doubt I’ll think of it again after I finish this sentence.

The Return of Star Ratings

A couple of years ago, I stopped issuing star ratings on my movie reviews – essentially because I think they are kind of silly, and often I get bored of questions of why this film got 3 stars, and that one got 3 ½ stars – or that, over the course of days, weeks or months, I change my mind, and people seem to want absolute consistency, which I cannot guarantee. So I stopped. And yet, on Letterboxd, I continue to assign star ratings, so after a lot of though, I’ve decided to bring it back – and this time, I’ll use the LEtterboxd 5 star system, instead of the Roger Ebert/Leonard Maltin 4 star system I used for years. I think five stars give a little more nuance than 4. I will note this – don’t expect too many five star reviews (probably 2-3 per year (for instance, last year, I gave 5 stars to OJ: Made in America, Manchester by the Sea and Toni Erdmann – the year before, to Inside Out, Carol and Anomalisa – and nothing so far in 2017). This extra nuance allows me to reserve 5 stars for the best of the best. I’m going to go back and put star ratings on the 2017 films I have reviewed – but I won’t go back and further, and for the time being on the “classic movie reviews” I won’t be doing that either. I’ll see how it goes.
Basically the star ratings work like this
5 Stars - Masterpiece
4.5 Stars – Great Film
4 Stars – Very Good Film
3.5 Stars – Good Film
3 Stars – Mediocre
2.5 Stars and Down – Various degrees of Bad
Basically, I’d recommend anything 3.5 stars and up, and wouldn’t recommend 2.5 stars and down – and if it’s a three, it’s a tossup.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Movie Review: The Dinner

The Dinner * ½ / *****
Directed by: Oren Moverman.
Written by: Oren Moverman based on the novel by Herman Koch.
Starring: Richard Gere (Stan Lohman),  Laura Linney (Claire Lohman),  Steve Coogan (Paul Lohman), Rebecca Hall (Katelyn Lohman),  Chloë Sevigny (Barbara Lohman),  Michael Chernus (Dylan Heinz), Charlie Plummer (Michael Lohman),  Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick (Rick Lohman),  Miles J. Harvey (Beau Lohman), Laura Hajek (Anna),  Adepero Oduye (Nina).
Herman Koch’s The Dinner is a pitch black, cynical satire about awful people who do awful things. It is about affluence, and how that breeds apathy. It is told from the unreliable point-of-view of its main character, who can see how horrible other people are, but cannot see it in himself – even if the reader can. It is a novel about two couples who meet at a fancy restaurant to discuss something abhorrent their children did together, but spend most of the time doing everything except discussing it. The film version – it’s actually the third, as one was made in Koch’s native Netherlands, and another made in Italy (both unseen by me) – was written and directed by Oren Moverman, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out if Moverman didn’t understand the source material (which I find hard to believe – it isn’t overly complicated) – or else he got so wrapped up in trying to overcome the inherent staginess in the premise as well as straining to add some sort of historical resonance to the situation – that he lost sight of what the film was actually about. In short, I know what Koch’s novel was about – but I have no idea what Moverman’s film is about.
The film is about Paul Lohman (Steve Coogan) and his wife Claire (Laura Linney), who are going out to meet his brother, Stan (Richard Gere) and his wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall). Paul and Claire’s son, Michael (Charlie Plummer) alongside Stan’s son from a previous marriage, Rick (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) did something terrible to a homeless woman sleeping in an ATM vestibule – and a video of them doing it has been posted online. No one knows that it was the boys who did it – yet – but this is not a secret it seems this family can keep (there is already blackmail going on, and other things, inside this family). If and when the truth is discovered, it could, of course, end with their children going to jail – and could cost Stan his rising political career as well. The film cuts back and forth in time – in deliberately jarring fashion – not just to their kids and that night, but also mainly to Paul’s past, which is marked by mental illness, and a few instances of violence of his own.
I’m not quite sure where it was along the way that Moverman lost sight of what the movie was about – but it was clearly somewhere in the writing process. The film has been transplanted from the Netherlands to America, which necessitated some changes to be sure – but the changes Moverman makes are odd to say the least. Paul was once a history teacher – and was working on a book about Gettysburg – and we get a long (long) flashback to him and Stan visiting the Gettysburg site as Paul was trying to recover from one of his breakdowns. Whatever Moverman is trying to say here, about America’s violent past, and its effect on the action in the present of this movie is lost on me (there is no real correlation between Gettysburg and affluenza, which is what the movie is about, that I can see). Moverman also makes the rather odd choice to make Hall’s Katelyn Stan’s second wife – we see his first, Barbara (Chloe Sevigny) in all the flashbacks – a detail that wasn’t in Koch’s book. I’m not sure what this accomplishes, rather than just adding another character to the narratives – and since it pretty much takes the film nearly 100 minutes of its 120 minute runtime to give Hall anything of interest to do or say, it really doesn’t work.
At the very least, The Dinner should work as an actors showcase if nothing else – but unfortunately, that doesn’t work very well either. Coogan is miscast as Paul – it is a very heavy role, and while Coogan is a talented actor, he doesn’t do well here. His American accent doesn’t sound convincing, and the narrative requires so many personality changes for his character, that its rather jarring (this is an instance of things working better in the novel than the movie – because in the novel, it’s his point-of-view, and we can tell that the way he sees himself, isn’t the way he really is – in the movie, it all looks the same, so he comes across as wildly inconsistent). Gere fares a little better as Stan – but I’m not quite sure that either he or the movie realize how awful a character he really is – he almost comes across as the good guy in the narrative – or at least the only one trying to do the right thing, but doesn’t make it clear how selfish his motivations actually are. The movie also skimps on the details of their children – Michael just coming across as a whiny brat, and Rick not getting almost any screen time (and the film, which follows the book’s example, and has Stan have another son – an adopted one, who is black, does nothing with that character, and fails to show the racism of everyone else in the movie. Yes, in the book, that adopted son is also a prop – Koch’s novel was hardly perfect – but the character at least had a purpose.
Really, the only ones who escape unscathed in the film are Laura Linney as Claire, and Michael Chernus as the waiter, who is remarkable at keeping things flowing through the awkward dinner. Linney is, of course, one of the best actresses working today, and she always finds a way to show that – which she does here as well, even if her character is not that unsimilar to her one in Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River (in that film, she only gets the one scene to show her true colors – which are more prevalent here).
The movie pulls its punches right to the end – it’s an abrupt ending, that doesn’t really offer anything resembling resolution, but also cuts out some of the worse things the adult character do in Koch’s novel. When the author saw the film at this year’s Berlin film festival, he didn’t go to the after party, because he hated the movie – and saw it as overly “moralizing”. I think Koch was being generous – in reality, the film is just a mess. It doesn’t know what its saying or what it’s about – and wastes a talented cast. Moverman is good filmmaker – this is his fourth film, and his other three are all excellent – but here, he clearly missed the mark.

Movie Review: the bomb

the bomb ****/*****
Directed by: Kevin Ford & Smriti Keshari & Eric Schlosser.
There are times in which, by pure happenstance, the timing of something works out just about perfectly – and releasing the montage documentary the bomb on Netflix for everyone to see on August 1 – and having the leaders of North Korea and Donald Trump trade threats of nuclear annulation the following week is one of them. The film was originally made has essentially a 360 degree art installation, in which viewers were to be surrounded by screens, showing the same images, and listening to the hypnotic score by The Acid, and seeing the history of nuclear weapons play out in front of their eyes, with no words, until close to the end. The makers of the film said one of the reasons why they made it is because no one talks about nuclear weapons anymore – even if there are more than enough to kill us all many times over. Well, they’re talking now – and a film like the bomb, even in the much diminished form of watching it on Netflix instead of how it was made to be watched is still hypnotic and frightening.
The film runs just under an hour, and is basically a long montage of images about the how the bomb was created, tested, and used – the images start out almost triumphant, and the music echoes this – as of course, this is a magnificent scientific achievement, even if it’s a horrifying one as well. The makers get there as well, showing us clips of old educational films about the bomb, and how to protect your family and what to do in the event of a nuclear strike – which, of course, was pretty much all lies. We get images of the tests as they happen, as they blow apart houses and other structures. We get images of the two times these bombs were actually used in war – in Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and the tremendous cost of those. Through it all, we hear no words, just the music by The Acid, which finds the right notes as it moves along.
The film, which seems to be one of mounting hopelessness and despair, doesn’t actually end as bleak as you may it expect it will. The only time the filmmakers allow words to come into the film, they pick a few snippets of speeches by two US Presidents – Reagan and Obama – both of whom hoping for a nuclear weapon free future. It was a TV film – The Day After – which helped Reagan reach this conclusion, so who the hell knows if the bomb could help anyone else do the same – but it cannot hurt.
The film is a stunning achievement in editing and music – a ride that is both terrifying, and, oddly enjoyable. There isn’t a ton to say about the film, and I really do wish I had been able to experience like those at film festivals in 2016 were able to. Yet, even playing on Netflix, the film is stunning and unforgettable.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Classic Movie Review: The Devil, Probably (1977)

The Devil, Probably (1977)
Directed by: Robert Bresson.
Written by: Robert Bresson.
Starring: Antoine Monnier (Charles), Tina Irissari (Alberte), Henri de Maublanc (Michel), Laetitia Carcano (Edwige), Nicolas Deguy (Valentin), Régis Hanrion (Dr. Mime, Psychanalyste), Geoffroy Gaussen (Libraire), Roger Honorat (Commissaire).
In the film of Robert Bresson, suffering is often only alleviated by death. His is not a happy filmography, as his title characters – in Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) or Mouchette (1967) have lives of suffering and pain, that is only relieved by death – for Balthazar, when he is finally allowed to stop working and being tormented so he can lie in a field and die, and for Mouchette, finally stopping the abuse through suicide. By the time he made his penultimate film, The Devil Probably, in 1977, he had to have known people were onto his tricks, and I think he’s poking fun at them in the film. His final film – L’Argent (1983) messes with you more because of what you know about Bresson’s previous films – which makes where that one ends up even more devastating. But between all these masterpieces, there is this film which I found to be insufferable. Perhaps I was supposed to though – we cannot possibly be meant to like or sympathize with Charles, the main character in this film are we? Next time someone tells you millennials are spoiled and entitled brats, and it’s different in this generation than in previous ones, show them this film. Charles has them all beat by a mile.
Charles, played by Antoine Monnier, you see is a pure soul. He’s brilliant, but depressed. He sees through all the phoniness around him see – the emptiness of political engagement, of philosophy, or psychology, etc. He’s not crazy, he tells a psychologist near the end of the film – he just sees things too clearly. Throughout much of the film, I wondered just how seriously we were supposed to take Charles – does he actually believe the idiocy that comes out of his mouth, or is it all just a line (if it was a line, it was working – he has two beautiful young women fighting over who gets to save him through sex). But no, it appears, it is no line – Charles believes it. The question is, does Bresson?
I don’t think he does – while Bresson recognizes how Charles believes his own bullshit, and how those around him mistake that for depth, he also mocks them for it. There earnest readings as the show footage of environmental destruction, and people clubbing baby seals is certainly meant as mockery, isn’t it?
Ultimately, I do think that Bresson is trying to have it both ways in The Devil, Probably – trying to show just how seriously Charles –and the other youths in the movie – take themselves, and especially how Charles takes his “suffering”, while at the same time, mocks them for not really understanding the world around them. As he showed in Au Hasard Balthazar, Mouchette and L’Argent, the world can be a brutal, unfeeling, cold, cruel world. But the protagonists of those movies had much more to complain about that Charles, who sadly will never grow old to realize what an idiot he was as a teenager like the rest of us have to. I find much of Bresson’s work to be profound and moving – but not this one, which is more annoying than anything else.