vrijdag 19 februari 2016

The title stands for 4 girls, 3 days, 2 cities, 1 chance. The movie has been described as the British answer to the very successful American ensemble movie Go (1999, Doug Liman). Another way to describe it would be a Girl Ritchie movie: a comedy thriller in the style of Guy Ritchie, starring girls instead of guys.

4321 was written and co-directed by Noel Clarke (Adulthood), who also has a cameo and whose image on some movie posters is bigger than those of the girls. His movie has a multiple thread script: it's about a diamond heist and a couple of middlemen who are used by the thieves to shake off the police; and it's also about four girls who once were inseparable but now decide to go their own way. Things take an unexpected turn when one of the middlemen accidently drops a diamond in one of the girls' handbag.

The girls all have their own mini-movie: the suicidal Shannon, the prudish Cass, the militant feminist Kerrys and the pragmatic Jo. The four vignettes are interlinked by objects (that are often misplaced) or scenes that involve two or more girls. All loose ends are neatly tied up in the fourth episode, centered around  Emma Roberts - the best known of the four young actresses - as Jo, the foul-mouthed but responsible working class girl who's a real crack at solving other people's troubles (but has trouble to keep her own head above water).

The movie received some very mixed reviews; I liked it, quite a lot actually, but not unconditionally: the movie is vivid, zany, loud and tumultuous, you name it. It also has two steamy sex scenes, one sapphic, one straight. 4321 comes very close to hitting bull's eye but there's something missing; or maybe I should say: it has a bit too much of everything. It has too many characters and the setup of multiple threads told in the non-linear style of Pulp Fiction (yes, Tarantino was an influence too) gradually becomes inextricable. As a screenwriter Clarke is so secretive about things that a couple of potentially good ideas are sunk.

The girls are good-looking (Warren-Markland, who plays Kerrys, is a knockout) but the four vignetttes are wildly uneven (it's by the way also hard to believe that the four were ever bosom friends); the most satisfying episode is the second, starring the incredibly long-legged Tamsin Egerton as the daughter from rich parents who travels to New York to lose her virginity to a guy she has met on the Internet. This episode also benefits from a good cameo appearance by the comedian Kevin Smith (Clerks) as Big Larry, the fast talking man on the Plane.


Directors: Noel Clarke, Mark Davis - Cast: Emma Roberts (Jo), Tamsin Egerton (Cass), Ophelia Lovibond (Shannon), Shanika Warren-Markland (Kerrys), Adam Deacon (Dillon), Michelle Ryan (Kelly), Noel Clarke (Tee), Gregg Chillin (Manuel), Jacob Anderson (Angelo), Sean Pertwee (Mr. Richards), Freddie Stroma (Cool Brett), Kevin Smith (Big Larry), Lindzey Cocker (Gwen), Plan B (Terry), Ashley Thomas (Smoothy), Camille Coduri (Mrs. Phillips), Ben Miller (Mr. Philips), Kate Magowan (Mrs. Richards)

dinsdag 9 februari 2016

Pauline à la Plage

PAULINE A LA PLAGE (1983, Eric Rohmer)

One of Rohmer's finest movies, the third in a cycle of six movies - known as 'comedies et proverbes' - realised by this director between 1981 and 1987. All six movies feature women confronting life and are an illustration of a proverb from French classic literature, in this particular case a verse from Perceval, le comte du Graal by 12th century poet Chrétien de Troyes: "Qui trop parole, il se mesfait" (*1).

Pauline is a 15-year old, inexperienced girl who spends her summer holiday with her older and more experienced cousin Marion in Normandy. Marion is a real man eater, but at the same time she thinks she never experienced true love and is therefore still dreaming about that one ecstatic, passionate love that would drive both her and her lover crazy. While Pauline is having her first tender love affair, Marion feels the desired burning love for a middle aged man called Henri, a heartless Casanova and part-time philosopher. Pierre, a former friend of Marion and still fond of her (but also very considerate of Pauline) is the man in the middle.

Pauline à la Plage is often called one of most playful and gentle movies of this director. Rohmer keeps a save distance to the characters and their obsessions, portraying them with a knowing but mild touch of irony. People talk a lot, but their deepest emotions are passed over. The film is set in mid-summer, but there's always a cold breeze on this North Atlantic beaches and only in the course of the afternoon the sun is strong enough to send a short flash of sultry heat through the air.

But appearances may be deceiving: Rohmer cleverly mocks some popular postmodern ideas about truth and reality from post-war French philosophy (Foucoult, Derrida): Henri skillfully explains those theories in his own favour and in the movie's finale both women decide to believe 'their own truth' in order to avoid dissapointment in love. We know what happenend, and also understand that both woman realize they have been a plaything in other people's life. As more often in Rohmer's world, winners are only winners because they manage to hide their failures better than others.

Brilliantly directed and flawlessly acted, the movie is tender, sexy and (if you're on the right wavelength) often very funny. And it's hard not to fall in love with little Pauline while watching this gem of a movie.

Dir: Eric Rohmer - Amanda Langlet (Pauline), Arielle Dombasle (Marion), Pascal Greggory (Pierre), Féodor Atkine (Henri), Simon de La Brosse (Sylvain), Rosette (Louisette), Marie Bouteloup (Marie), Michel Ferry (Sylvain's Friend)


(*1) "He who talks too much, does himself a bad favour."

vrijdag 5 februari 2016

Young Frankenstein


Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks’ satirical salute to 1930's classic horror (in particular the 1931 Hollywood version of Mary Shelly’s novel) was his first movie to be hailed by so-called 'serious’ critics. The Producers and Blazing Saddles had brought him fame and money, but critical reactions had been divided. Many critics didn't know what to think of Brooks. Like the influential Roger Ebert wrote: "His movies weren’t just funny, they were aggressive and subversive, making us laugh even when we really should have been offended." 

Young Frankenstein changed everything - at least for a while. There are a few irreverent jokes plus a couple of references to the seize of the monster’s sexual apparatus (monstrous!), but otherwise it’s almost family entertainment.

Gene Wilder (who co-wrote the script with Brooks) is Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson, who insists on being called Fronk-en-steen because he doesn’t want to be confused with the notorious mad doctor. But he’s lured back to Transylvania and when confronted with a written account of his grandfather’s experiments, he discovers his true Frankenstein nature. With the help of a hunchback called Igor (it’s pronounced Eye-gor, and if you know the type is played by Marty Feldman you also know why) and a curvaceous laboratory assistant, the young doctor creates his own monster - with results that are both hilarious and devastating.

Young Frankenstein is every bit as funny as some of Brooks’ other achievements but it’s a less anarchic, more controlled effort and therefore probably even works better. It was Wilder who had come up with the idea for the movie and he had also convinced Brooks to forego his usual cameo-appearances and remain off-camera. It seems to have worked in the movie’s favour*. It is shot in a warm black & white and on magnificent studio sets: many props were copies of the lab equipment used in the 1931 movie. Not all jokes work, but most of them do and some are hilarious. Among the highlights: inspector Kemp lighting a cigarette in an uncanny way, the interpretation by the doctor and his creation of Puttin’ on the Ritz and above all the scene set in the cabin of the blind man.


* For this reason there has been some discussion whether the movie should be called a Brooks movie, a Gene Wilder movie or a Brooks-Wilder movie. Gene Wilder was no doubt the spiritual father of it (when he first spoke to Brooks about his ideas, Brooks seemed not interested in them), but on the set and during post-production Brooks was in controll of things: he removed and abridged a couple of sequences because he felt they didn’t work properly and Wilder had to do his utmost best to prevent him from removing the 'Puttin’ on the Ritz’ sequence. More than any of Brook’s movies, Young Frankenstein was a collective effort: Marty Feldman improvised a lot of jokes and Cloris Leachman wrote some of her own lines, such as the 'ovaltine question'.


Dir: Mel Brooks - Cast: Gene Wilder (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein), Marty Feldman (Igor), Peter Boyle (Monster), Teri Garr (Inga), Cloris Leachman (Frau Blücher), Madeline Kahn (Elizabeth), Kenneth Mars (Inspector Kemp), Gene Hackman (Blind Man)