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Entries in Review (4)

Thursday
Nov132014

Stockholm Film Festival: The Franco and the Faulkner

Glenn has been attending the 25th Stockholm Film Festival as a member of the FIPRESCI jury. Today he looks at James Franco's latest creative endeavour, 'The Sound and the Fury'.

James Franco’s latest isn’t a part of the films I was sent to Sweden to judge, but in my apparent need to one day become the pre-eminent expert on the 36-year-old’s career, I decided to find time for The Sound and the Fury. His second Faulkner adaptation after last year’s As I Lay Dying shows that Franco is improving as a director when it comes to the creation of coherent and engaging cinematic worlds, but while somebody like the equally fast-moving Xavier Dolan is able to take his inspirations and weave them throughout his own auteurial style, Franco’s films still feel like he’s merely copying what he has seen elsewhere without putting his own stamp on it.

For instance, his misguided debut film about the murder of Sal Mineo, titled simply Sal, was Gus Van Sant lite to say nothing of My Own Private River, while last year’s Child of God was incredibly indebted to Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone. Faulkner’s novel, from what I gather, isn’t the easiest to make work on screen and Franco with his editor Ian Olds have chosen an elliptical form that layers flashbacks upon memories within sun-drenched images of nature and human innocence to symbolize how precious this life is. It’s style is representative of the source material’s structure, but it comes off visually as derivative of other films, predominantly The Tree of Life and it’s swirling, time-skipping narrative.

For those unfamiliar, The Sound and the Fury tells the story of the Compson family, a formerly rich and powerful Mississippi dynasty who are devoured by misfortune and resentment. Divided into three chapters (the book’s fourth chapter is integrated throughout), each devoted to one of the family’s three brothers: Benjy (Franco, clearly having never seen Tropic Thunder), Quentin (newcomer Jason Loeb, anchoring the film’s strongest segment) and Jason (a slimy, cowardly Scott Haze, much improved over his similarly hot-tempered role in Franco’s Child of God). It was wise of Franco to not indulge in a lavish adaptation, keeping the ensemble low-key (he does, however, find time for cameos by Seth Rogen and Danny McBride – most unexpected Pineapple Express reunion ever!). Yet at the same time his devotion to the novel means more interesting characters don’t get the attention they deserve.

Ahna O’Reilly as scandalous sister Caddy, Joey King as her deserted child, and Loretta Devine as the long-serving family maid are all impressive – Devine especially gets one killer showdown with Haze that begs for a director to capitalize better on her intense face. Despite their stories feeling redacted with large blank holes of history left untouched, they are the more emotionally and dramatically complex characters. Perhaps a narrative shift to these unsung female characters is the brave direction Franco needed to allow his film to truly separate itself from both the novel and similarly-themed films. The film looks handsomely made, the period details appearing nicely deteriorated, but in terms of impact I was left wanting. The Sound and the Fury is a step in the right direction for Franco the director, but it still doesn’t quite suggest he’s on the verge of something truly great. Yet, at least.

Tuesday
Nov112014

Stockholm Film Festival: French Films Lack Luster with Big Stars

Glenn has been attending the 25th Stockholm Film Festival as a member of the FIPRESCI jury. Here he shares thoughts on three French films starring big names Catherine Deneuve, Jean Dujardin, and Gemma Arterton.

In the Name of My Daughter

As is common during a film festival, I had taken a seat in a cinema and completely forgotten what I was set to see. When the title card came up announcing ‘French Riviera’, I thought they were playing the wrong film as we had no such film on our schedule. Me in my festival state, stupidly didn't realise this was merely a location card. It wasn't until I checked the guide that I actually realised its name was In the Name of My Daughter. That title, far more verbose and clunky than is befitting André Téchiné’s movie, rather uncomfortably links the film to Jim Sheridan’s famous 1993 IRA drama despite not sharing anything in common. And, in further contemplation, actually comes off as rather offensive when comparing this trifle’s rich, white characters of privilege with those played by Daniel Day-Lewis and Pete Posthlethwaite.

Catherine Deneuve and Adéle Haenel star as Renée and Agnés Le Roux, mother and daughter. Renée manages the floor of a casino on the southern coast of France and Agnés has just divorced and returns to the French Riviera to open a book and ethnic trinket and knick-knack shop on her mother’s dime. With the assistance of her mother’s smooth operator assistant, Maurice, a ridiculously handsome and suited-up Guillaume Canet, she seeks to separate herself from the downward spiral of her mother’s business that could see her inheritance reduced to a pittance.

And therein lies the biggest problem with Téchiné’s film. Unlike before in films like Wild Reeds or The Witnesses (and perhaps the six other collaborations between Deneuve and Téchiné, none of which I have seen) his characters are horrifically hard to care about. Haenel and Deneuve, puffing on cigarettes at every turn, aren’t given enough material to make their characters identifiable as human beings worth empathizing over; their bourgeois, petty squabbles over money increasingly difficult to care about. A third-act turn into mystery territory at least gives audiences something to latch on to, that of a mother’s devotion to discovering the truth about her missing daughter, but it’s far too little too late and the lack of genuine development in their characters makes the stakes significently dim. A brief moment featuring the predominantly non-white employees of the mother’s casino being told they no longer have jobs threatens the prospect of Téchiné navigating something interesting in looking at the population for whom the French Riviera doesn’t mean easy-living, but it’s short-lived and cannot save this bland affair. C-

More films after the jump...

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Saturday
Oct042014

How To Get Away With Murder - Two Episodes

How to Procrastinate Film Blogging? Live-blog a tv show.

Since The Film Experience has been in Viola Davis's corner for a dozen years now -- I gave her one of her first film prizes even if she didn't know it: a gold medal for best cameo in Antwone Fisher (2002) -- I felt obligated to watch her new headlining gig for at least a couple of episodes. I'm not remotely a procedural kind of person or a Shondaland person. Grey's Anatomy, her career-maker, had too much whining and Scandal is too hysterical and (worse) wildly uneven in its acting. Nevertheless I thought I'd live blog the first two episodes and see if it's fun enough to stay with (?) and largely to see if you are watching, too.

How To Express Your Feelings? Comment on said blog.

1.1 Pilot
00.01 Opening sequence is like those 'we're changing scenes and denoting the passage of time!' interstitials on Scandal but for like a whole interminable two minutes. Average Shot Length of .0001 seconds is not my speed. Some college kids are shouting about what to do with a dead body. Is it mine? Having died from seizures from the editing.

01.48 Tall cute black guy (who has the longest neck I've ever seen on TV) says that "tossing a coin" is OUR ONLY CHOICE. Thank god for coins because decision making, man. Tall cute black guy looks super familiar but I can't figure out why*.

03.03 MATT MCGORRY! (love him on Orange is the New Black. And his sense of humor as a celebrity)

03.33 Giggling that Wes (that's the tall guy's name) is told there's a seating chart in his class. He looks at it for less than .002 seconds while simultaneously swivelling his head around with that crazy neck of his to talk to all the other main characters (everyone with a line will surely be important)...and yet he knows EXACTLY where to sit. Psychic. 

03.39 VIOLA ENTERS... 

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Sunday
Jul132014

Tweet of the Capsule of the Dawn of The Planet of the Apes

Of the. of the. of the. Help, stuck in a prepositional loop! I regret to inform that there is no full review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) -- you may have noticed unusually sparse off my game posting -- but I press on with this exhaustively multi-tasking post. It's a list. It's a tweet roundup. It's a review.

I can't go on. I'll go on."
-Samuel Beckett 

Were I to write a traditional review of the surprisingly strong sequel to the surprisingly good Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) it would essentially be some sort of fussy expansion and tangent filled detours of these 10 points:

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