Hey folks, Harry here… Doing a round up of some film choices you have this weekend. Enjoy...
Nacho Vigalondo’s COLOSSAL
From the very first time I saw TIME CRIMES – I knew Nacho Vigalondo was special. I’ve seen a ton of this man’s short films and then all of his features. He works in an arena of smaller budgeted films, but there’s never anything small about his films. To me, he’s like if Woody Allen had a child with Rod Serling, then allowed him to be raised in Spain with no knowledge of his ancestry.
There’s an intimate self-loathing to his characters that reminds me of the early work of Woody Allen, but then he’s in love with genre filmmaking. Thus far telling a Time Travel, Alien Arrival and Kaiju Insanity as the themes for his features. With OPEN WINDOWS in 2014, he ventured into a cyber-version of a REAR WINDOW type of thriller. Everything he does has a Serling-esque quirk that is entirely Nacho Vigalondo’s magic.
Take COLOSSAL, which is opening this weekend. The film is one that shows off everything that makes Nacho brilliant. The relationship between Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis is great. Anne is tumbling out of a relationship due to her rampant drinking. She heads to an inherited property in her old home town, where she meets Jason Sudeikis, who she knew all the way back when they were kids.
Jason owns a sports bar, which makes this long ago, handsome… ‘nice guy’ friend all the more appealing. He sets her up with furniture and a television. He’s just being the ideal Prince Charming… On her ‘Walk of Shame’ back to where she lives, there’s a playground in a park. A big sandbox area around a swing set – and there’s something terrifying and magical about this spot when Anne enters it. On the other side of the world in Seoul, South Korea – an enormous Kaiju appears – and whatever she does in the sandbox… magnified to Kaiju proportions in a densely populated area… she doesn’t make the connection immediately. When she does – she’s horrified. The concept that her drunken walks homes resulted in lives taken – it has a sobering effect upon her. But then… A twist occurs. The twist, which I won’t go into – is the reason to see the movie.
The dynamic between Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis in this film is electrifying. Anne’s in a vulnerable state – and Jason has an obsession he isn’t voicing – and if you replaced them with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton – you’d have a great feeling here, though I don’t believe Woody has ever gone where Jason goes in FILM. It’s amazing to watch. And completely satisfying at every level. This is a film that placed on my BEST FILMS of 2016 list – and when you see it, you’ll get it. One of the best screenplays you’ll see actualized this year. So great.
François Ozon’s FRANTZ
Also opening this weekend is Ozon’s FRANTZ. I’ve been a fan of François Ozon’s work since I saw his SWIMMING POOL in 2003, a stunning thriller. So when Ozon’s latest, FRANTZ was offered as a screener for me, in advance of its opening here in Austin and around the country, I was absolutely on that.
The film takes place in the wake of World War I. We begin with a frame of film, I’m not likely to forget. Around the edge of the frame was a lush green vegetation, but in the distance, you see a Black & White town in Germany. Then we jump to the town, black and white… and somber. Old men gather in a tavern, drinking to remember their dead sons and friends. The women of the town in black, mourning their fallen husbands, fiancés, brothers and sons.
We meet one such widowed fiancée, Anna, played by Paula Beer. She has stayed with her fallen love’s family. Helping them to keep moving each day, and they with her. The patriarch of the family is Ernst Stotzner’s Doctor Hoffmeister. Like many of the German men we meet, he hates France. They killed their sons. And, of course, the refuse any culpability for putting the guns in their sons hands. For cheering the war on. Oh no, it’s always a foreigner’s fault.
Anna goes to visit her lost love’s grave and take flowers, only this time, there are roses there, she asks a caretaker who left them and she learns it was a stranger in town, a foreigner. Her curiosity is piqued. The next day she spies the gentleman again at the grave of her would-be husband. She avoids disturbing him.
This mysterious fellow is a Frenchman named Adrien Rivoire, played brilliantly by Pierre Niney. He is looked upon with hatred by most everyone in the town. A walking reminder of those that took those they loved. He ends up meeting with the Hoffmeister’s and Anna. He brings new memories of Frantz, the dead man, in a time before the war, when the two were friends in Paris. There’s a chemistry between him and Anna. She begins to hope again. She takes Adrien to a favorite place that she and Frantz used to frequent, there’s a natural stone arch on the way – and as they go through it, the world returns to color and they have a great time. Nothing sexual, but a chemistry you feel in two people that are not looking for a relationship, but are desperate to feel again. Great work.
Skipping ahead a bit, Adrien must return to France – and he needs to unburden himself with a truth he has not dared speak. So he intimates it to Anna. This revelation is a powerful one. One, she has trouble with – and does not communicate to the Hoffmeisters. Adrien leaves and writes her – but she hasn’t the heart or the mind to write him back. By the time she does, the envelope is returned with a NO LONGER AT THIS ADDRESS notification, so the Hoffmeisters send her to seek him out. Adrien is all they have left of their son.
That trip – took the film to levels I wasn’t expecting. The use of BLACK & WHITE and the use of COLOR to illustrate a will to live in the people and world you see… is elegant and used for maximum power. The film deals with the healing nature of perfect deceptions – for others and ourselves. The will to live. The will to change. The revelation of Frantz’ favorite painting in the Louvre is powerful indeed.
Ozon has crafted a haunting film of the aftermath of war upon the hearts and minds of those left behind. Stunning film.
Oliver Assayas’ PERSONAL SHOPPER
Assayas’ latest has been out at Indie theaters for a bit, but of the films I’ve seen thus far in 2017, this is my favorite. The film that put Oliver Assayas on my cinematic map was his DEMONLOVER from 2002, a criminally under watched film from 2002, which was ahead of the curve with it’s portrayal of 3D Manga Porn, and the industry around it, while also being a powerful story of Women in that world played by Connie Nielsen, Gina Gershon and Chloe Sevigny. Really did love that film. It isn’t for everyone, but would be an excellent film to watch with Verhoeven’s ELLE.
PERSONAL SHOPPER is a completely different film. Assayas has done so much in his career, but PERSONAL SHOPPER struck me like a shovel to the forehead. When I watched this film, I didn’t know Assayas was the director till I saw him in the credits. All the hype for the film was calling this Kristen Stewart’s PERSONAL SHOPPER – and given her tremendous performance, I can understand that, but as a film geek, I follow directors more closely than actors. It’s just how my brain works.
This film is hypnotic. I feel like we’re a spirit observing the haunting of Kristen Stewart’s Maureen. The film has the sense of naturalism that you can find in Nicholas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW, while having the voyeuristic feeling of following one of DePalma’s women of film and also there’s moments of ghostly wow that I’ve not quite felt this perfectly since the Spielberg/Hooper team up on POLTERGEIST. Never that type of horror, but the “WOW” factor that could chill you to the bone.
In fact, Stewart is so out there on her own, desperate to connect. You see, her Maureen is a personal shopper for some famous femme, we follow her as she does her fashion shopping for her employer, choosing clothes she’d die for, but not allowed to try on. Through the story, we learn that her brother and her are MEDIUMS, only… her brother has passed on – and they had made a deal that whichever died first, would contact the other in such a fashion that it would be definitive proof of survival of the spirit.
She can’t move past this. We see her waiting his spirit out – and we’ll see shit that turn your crap white. The trap of this awesome film is luring you closer and closer and closer to Stewart’s Maureen. By the time the film delves into violence in her life, I found myself holding my breath, rubbing my hands on my arms to make the gooseflesh go away. The film is just flat out electrifying.
The film is so perfect, that everything you think you know will change in the final question Kristen Stewart asks and the response. FUCKING APPLAUSE MAN! The final twenty minutes – I was terrified – because I just felt they were going to fuck it up, that it wouldn’t come in perfect, but it did.
If you love GHOST movies, PSYCHIC films and INTIMATE SUSPENSE – this film is waiting for you. Patiently for you to discover it. To be enraptured in it.
Much has been made of Kristen Stewart’s nudity in the film, but this is nudity, like the nudity of DON’T LOOK NOW, nudity of life, not sex. It is an intimacy of being alone and unobserved… the intimacy of a Doctor’s visit… The purpose of it was to feel the shame of watching another’s intimacy without permission and just a ticket. Given everything we know going around her – I found myself being drawn into a protective viewing experience, where you are just hoping for the best, but given the Indie nature of the film – you are disarmed, because the constraints of American cinema do not apply.
Do not let this film pass you by… in fact, do not let any of these three films pass you by. All three films have a theme of survival and moving on. All completely different, the first funny, the second heart breaking and the third heart stopping.
Keep it cool,