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Entries in Isabelle Adjani (4)

Tuesday
Sep182012

Foreign Oscar Updates. Will France Finally Win Again?

With France's official announcement that the blockbuster The Intouchables will be their Official Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film, is the race already over? Its global tally currently rests at an astounding $364 million dollars, most of that from overseas bank. The film hasn't been ignored in American arthouse theaters exactly but it's $9 million gross and mainstream appeal (it's even in the IMDb top 100) qualifies it as a major arthouse hit but no crossover slam dunk; roughly speaking it's a hit the way last year's foreign film winner, the instant classic A Separation, was or the way Beasts of the Southern Wild is.

French cinema has had a complex intermittently passionate long-distance relationship with Hollywood since cinema began and that is reflected in their Oscar success over the years both in this category and others. France leads all countries in most Foreign Film nominations by a wide margin (36 nominees to Italy's 26) but surprisingly they have not won since the Catherine Deneuve drama Indochine rocked US arthouses twenty years ago. Will this Gallic sort-of variation on Driving Miss Daisy (is that too dismissive?) be a lock for Oscar love or will last year's swerve towards critically prestigious international cinema signal a sea change to new glory days for the category? (Yes, I still have impromptu ecstatic flashbacks to A Separation's win)

OFFICIAL SUBMISSION CHARTS 2012 -- everything in one place as we do: posters, trailers, info. Pass it on.

Current Predictions - Australia, Austria, Denmark, France and Romania 
Albania through Iran - 15 official submissions (thus far... updates in progress)
Italy through Venezuala - 16 official submissions (thus far... updates in progress)

Amelie netflix illustration by Tim Hodge (click for original source)A collection of France's biggest Oscar hits if you'd like to catch up with a movie marathon at home... after the jump

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun282012

Best Shot: Isabelle Adjani in "The Story of Adele H"

Previously on Season 3 of Hit Me With Your Best Shot...

Today we're officially back to weekly "Best Shot" posts with François Truffaut's biotragedy THE STORY OF ADELE H (1975). For nearly thirty years French beauty Isabelle Adjani held the record for the Youngest Best Actress Nominee of all time; she was 20 when Adele H made her an international star. To add to Adjani's Oscar Curio factor, she still holds another record: she's the only actor or actress ever nominated twice for French language performances. Nomination #2 came for another biotragedy Camille Claudel (1988). [Marion Cotillard surely hopes to tie that particular Best Actress record later this year in Rust and Bone (2012).]

Adjani all but vanished from screens round about the time she and Daniel Day-Lewis procreated and split. The sensational Queen Margot (1994) and the reviled Diabolique (1996) with Sharon Stone were her last big draws so I assume many readers are unfamiliar and that this Best Shot subject would be a fresh choice. I did not however make the connection that post-Possessed this meant two movies back-to-back featuring women who utterly debase themselves for the love of a playboy who does, in his defense, try to warn her crazy away. Even though both films belong to my favorite subgenre Women Who Lie To Themselves™ it was a disconcerting double feature. 

Adele H doesn't just lie to herself though. She lies to virtually everyone in her relentless pursuit of her former lover Lt. Albert Pinson (Bruce Robinson) who she intends to marry. She prides herself repeatedly on her willingness to cross the Ocean for him, a big deal in 1863.

Though I'd argue that François Truffaut's marriage of traditional costume drama and nouvelle vague experimentation is sometimes an awkward one, I do love the film's take on letters which Adele mostly reads aloud as she writes, sometimes directly to the camera as in this gorgeous passage when Adele recites an entire letter to daddy while the camera actually crosses the Ocean (and then some maps) to deliver it.

She's Written A Letter To Daddy... (my second choice for "best shot")

My dear parents,
I have just married Lieutenant Pinson. The ceremony took place Saturday in a church in Halifax. I need money for my trousseau. I must have 300 francs immediately... in addition to my allowance. If you'd taken care of my music as I've asked you 100 times that would bring me in some money and I wouldn't have to behave like a beggar. 

It's in the letter readings where Adjani earns the historic Oscar nomination. Her lies are so proud and delivered with such entitled petulance that she almost seems thrilled to be reciting them. What's false is true and Adele believes this with religious conviction. And nost just Sunday only conviction but a tent-revival sort of fanaticism. Similarly perverse beats occur when she seems turned on by Lt. Pinson's sexual interest in everyone but her. Adjani is also excellent at delineating Adele's complex relationship to her family name ("H" being the clue and part of the reason I chose the movie at this time) whether she's embracing it, hiding it, or using it as dangling carrot.

Great Moments in Costuming #317,201

But for the Best Shot prize, I choose a shot that falls within a far more typically Oscar-baity context. Toward the end of the film, the inevitable occurs and Adele's internal madness is acutely externalized. After a dog bites at her heels, tearing her dress, she wanders the streets.

In an 18 second unbroken shot she approaches oblivious to the camera she's often looking at. The camera  briefly focuses on the ragged hem of her once rich gown as she passes us by before it pans up again to a bookstore window where Adele's lonely never-suitor stares at his former friend, now utterly alien. She spins about in the street muttering (inaudible) nonsense to herself. She's always spoken nonsense but now that everyone can hear it for what it is, there's no point in listening.

best shot

Don't Believe Her Lies!!!
Antagony & Ecstacy ...thinks it a damn good movie.
Film Actually... on a soldier's indifference
Cinesnatch... 'for the man you claim to be her father'
Okinawa Assault [SPOILERS] talks downward spirals and dusty mirrors

Next Thursday Night: Kim Novak and William Holden get all hot and bothered in the Oscar favorite PICNIC (1955), which I've never seen! Bring your own blankets and sandwiches (and blog posts)

Tuesday
Jun122012

'Best Shot' Resumes Production on June 27th

 

"Hit Me With Your Best Shot" returns from its month-long hiatus in two weeks. Will you join us? I'll try to catch up soon with Possessed (1947) which had terrible timing given my father's passing. Other than a short upcoming moment with Joan Crawford, what's next?

 Wednesday June 27th - THE STORY OF ADELE H. (1975)

For Isabelle Adjani's birthday (and considering that Victor Hugo madness will be heading our way at Christmas time) we'll look back at François Truffaut's Oscar nominated tale of obsessive love. Trivia: Adjani held the "youngest Best Actress nominee" record for three decades until a certain Whale Rider teared up.

*THURSDAY* July 5th -PICNIC (1955)


Technically this is a Labor Day movie as opposed to 4th of July but the point is who wants to sit at home blogging on Independence Day? I've never seen this - hence the choice - but I hear it's visually appealing (James Wong Howe on cinematography duties!) and I enjoy me some Kim Novak and William Holden. Bonus points: filling in the Oscar gaps. This one was nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Picture.

Wednesday July 11th - ROAD TO PERDITION (2002)

It's the tenth anniversary of Sam Mendes' self-consciously 'best shotty' graphic novel adaptation with Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, little Tyler Hoechlin before he was an alpha werewolf and the then (mostly) unknown Daniel Craig who found it all so fucking ridiculous.

Wednesday July 18th - PINK NARCISSUS (1971) 

I like doing short movies for this series (since it's asking a lot to assign y'all a movie each week) and this one is only 64 minutes. Luishergio suggested a NSFW edition and why not? This influential cult classic (the debt Pierre et Gilles owe will never be paid in full) about a rent boy's fantasies was shot almost entirely inside director James Bidgood's apartment and yet it's visually ravishing (the intense color helps). It's one of those movies then that all indie filmmakers without $ resources ought to look at.

Wednesday July 25th TBA
Wednesday August 1st TBA
Wednesday August 8th TBA.. it's so hard to choose but you get the point.

Previously on "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"
in case you missed any... 

Friday
May202011

ISHTAR. Are There Second Winds in the Desert?

Elaine May at the 92Y

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to see Ishtar (1987) at a special event with writer/director/actress/funnywoman Elaine May. She's been out of the spotlight for some time. The last major hurrah was her hilarious supporting role in Woody Allen's Small Time Crooks (2000). Ishtar, for those that are unfamiliar, is an infamous big budget flop in which Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman star as a talentless musical duo who get mixed up with middle eastern politics via "terrorist" Isabelle Adjani and CIA agent Charles Grodin during a gig in Morrocco.

Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and Isabelle Adjani in ISHTAR (1987). © Sony Pictures

If you lived through the 1980s you probably feel like you saw Ishtar even if you didn't it because it became an easy-target for comedians and the basis of a lot of schaudenfreude fun (look how the mighty fall!). The strange thing about seeing Ishtar two decades later is that it's actually really funny and it's hard to see exactly how it inspired such pop-culture hatred. Other than, perhaps, its prophetic satire about how fucked up the USA is whenever they're dealing with Middle Eastern dictators. In the movie the CIA sides with the dictator who wants to snuff out the apolitical singing Americans, before they accidentally inspire his overthrow by "left wing terrorists" (aka those who want democratic reform and human rights.)

The movie clues you in to its satirical naughtiness early on when Beatty & Hoffman try to write a song "Telling the truth can be dangerous business". May repeatedly praised Paul Williams for the song score of the movie -- 'even the crummiest songs had perfect music!' -- but she wrote "Leaving Some Love In Your Will" which is one of the movie's funniest bits as Dustin Hoffman sings a totally inappropriate song about death to two senior citizens on their wedding anniversary.

The movie was born in the imagination of Elaine May and Warren Beatty. They wanted to do a Bing Crosby Bob Hope "Road to" type of movies and US 1980s politics determined the setting. "We were of course in Afghanistan as we always are. We were all over the Middle East," Elaine May explained when she came out for a sit-down interview to talk about the rarely screened film.

She seemed quite pleased with the response to her director's cut.

Either you liked the movie or i'm very sick...

I thought it was funny which is a terrible thing to admit about your own movie. I think of those people who try out for American Idol and how sure they are of their own talent.

She wasn't very sick. The audience clearly liked the movie; there was consistent and at times raucous laughter. Sure, it was a self-selecting crowd. Chances are if you're showing up to see an infamous flop from a famous comedian you're probably either a member of the movie's cult following or a curious cinephile and either way you're a better audience for the movie than the audience it originally received. Or didn't as the case may be.

May shared a bizarre story about the movie's internal sabotage. There was a change at the top of the studio before the movie's release. The new head of Columbia Pictures was David Puttnam. He'd previously competed against Warren Beatty for the Best Picture Oscar (He won with Chariots of Fire beating Beatty's  Reds) and he was no fan of Beatty's. He badmouthed both Beatty and Dustin Hoffman publicly, equating them with spoiled brats, but didn't stop there.

Hoffman and Beatty have very real comic chemistry

May explained how they went from future hit to press target right before the movie opened.

We had three previews and they went really well. Thumbs up. On the day the press came an article came out in the LA Times in which Puttman wiped us out. 'We should be spanked. There was too much money.' He was going to reform Hollywood. It was really sort of unforgivable what he did. He attacked his own movie. Mike Nichols said it was like watching an entire studio committing suicide.

After that article in the Times nearly every press piece about the movie focused on how much it cost and attacked the movie for being grossly expensive, rather than focusing on the movie itself.

May was very funny in person, telling stories about her career (I'll share a few more quotes soon) and discussing this movie which killed her directing career (she hasn't helmed a feature since). The studio has told her that they will be releasing Ishtar on Blu-Ray in the near future. Perhaps it'll be rediscovered?

Earlier today someone said that they had read on the net that the impending DVD release of Ishtar had been delayed by 'my people'.  I was so thrilled to think that I had people! They're going to release this on blu-ray! If they don't you'll be the last people to have seen this movie.

If half the people who had made cracks about Ishtar had seen it, I'd be a rich woman today.

The Blind Camel is the film's comedic MVPThough much of the film's humor feels loose, character-oriented and improvised (it reminded me a smidgeon of Bridesmaids actually -- but maybe because I'd just seen the latter -- in the way it allowed its jokes to roam around and spring from the nuances of the performers and their chemistry) May says it wasn't and that great actors always appear to be spontaneous on the screen. She did note that much of the humor with Beatty's blind camel was improvised because there's no way to tell what a camel will do in a scene.

May joked that the camel was very hard to cast. He wasn't really blind. He just acted like he was. They chose well. They say you should never act with animals but two running gags about camels and vultures pay off big in the movie when the movie stars interact with them.

Given the movie's terrible reputation did the director just think Ishtar was a victim of itself, a movie that was too far ahead of its time? Elaine May had the last laugh at this special event in her honor.

I've never said that a movie of mine is ahead of its time. How is that even possible? Even with string theory.