#370- Pierrot le Fou

Quick recap: Ferdinand Griffon is tired of his bougie lifestyle so he takes off with ex-girlfriend, Marianne, who is maybe wanted by terrorists or something. Whatever the case may be, the two of them leave a trail of dead bodies in their wake and enough symbolism to last me the rest of this list.

I wish I knew how to quit you, French New Wave cinema

Fun (?) fact: Here is what director Jean-Luc Godard said about his film, in the most French way possible :  “it is not really a film, it’s an attempt at cinema. Life is the subject, with [Cinema]Scope and color as its attributes…In short, life filling the screen as a tap fills bathtub that is simultaneously emptying at the same rate.”

My thoughts: As I sit here drinking my canned wine after a full meal of hot dogs and potato chips, I cant help but feeling a little offended that Godard hates American culture. To be fair, it is American cinema he hates, although I doubt he felt anything sentimental towards the actual citizens. And so Godard set out to make a film that both satirized and showed his love for all things America. Which I think he did. Or did not. Hell if I know, actually.

Pierrot le Fou is the weirdest film to describe because although it has a linear plot about two lovers on the run, I never understood what they were running from or why they were killing so many people. But then I read up on trivia and saw that it was a satire and it kind of reminded me of the first time I saw Austin Powers. I thought the movie was hilarious but I only understood about 40% of it because I had never watched a James Bond film before. That’s what this movie is. If I had watched the films Godard was referencing, I think I would’ve understood what was going on a little better but since I didn’t, I just kept waiting for something to make sense. There are a few funny elements in the film but many of them are dark so I wasn’t sure if it was French humor or something else. I like to imagine audiences back in the 60s watching Pierrot le Fou and cackling every time Ferdinand reads a book or when Marianne pulls out her dog purse. But to me, I felt left out of the joke.

That’s not to say that I was bored to tears or anything by this movie. The colors are gorgeous and so are the actors. I kept watching to see what would happen, even if I didn’t understand every little thing going on. The dialogue spoken was also confusing, like watching the Thin Red Line again. If I had turned off subtitles and just watched the action, I think I would’ve walked away from this with a much higher regard for Godard.

Final review:2/5

Up next: Toy Story

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#369- Kiss of the Spider Woman

Quick recap: A man imprisoned for homosexuality is locked up with a political prisoner. The two develop a very deep bond despite horrible conditions. Think of it like the Odd Couple except not funny and someone dies. Cheers!

Fun(?) fact: Sônia Braga, who played several roles in the ‘film within a film’ part of the movie, spoke no English at the time. Instead, she memorized her lines phonetically.

Yes, Virginia, there really is a spider woman

My thoughts: It’s been difficult to decide on a direction for this movie because it is all over the place. It’s sweet at times, painfully sad, funny and also a mystery? But in the end, it just didn’t work for me. I’ll start by saying that I loved William Hurt and his performance is the reason I’m giving this film any points at all. The way he tells the ‘film within a film’ plot was magical and well worth sitting through the rest of this pile.

I think the many directions this movie takes is why I’m so hesitant to embrace it. If it had stayed a story about a gay man falling for his prisoner roommate who is very masculine, that would be fine. If it had just been about an unfair justice system and regime, that also would’ve worked. Hell, if it was just about William Hurt’s character Luis actually being an informant, that would also be compelling film. But all of these things plus two movies within this movie? There’s just too much to focus on. Luis himself is a mess so I get it to some degree. And I enjoyed not knowing what would happen next because of that. It felt more realistic to not predict what Luis would do after he got out of prison. At the end of the movie, however, I still hadn’t decided on how I felt about his character. Was he ever in love with Valentin or was it all an act so he could be released early? I guess if you look at the ‘film within a films’ it would seem as if he really did fall in love and saw himself as a sort of martyr. That would also explain the ending, which I won’t spoil for once.

I loved the way the scenes from the past were weaved in with the present, as well as the silent movie throughout the various scenes. It all made Kiss of the Spider Woman compelling to watch, even if the end wasn’t satisfying.

Final review: 2/5

Up next: Pierrot le Fou

#358- La Dolce Vita

Quick recap: Marcello Rubini proves that the paparazzi are really just the worst.

Me, getting home from work everyday

Fun (?) fact: I know I’m picking the most obvious one, but it’s still somewhat amazing. The term ‘paparazzo/i’ was coined in this film. Paparazzo is the name of Marcello’s photographer friend who chases down celebrities and the rich in order to get the scoop first.

Everyone, yes EVERYONE in this movie is the worst. Even that kitten in the previous gif.

My thoughts: I wouldn’t round my relationship with director Federico Fellini up to BFF status just yet, but we have certainly spent a lot of time together these last few years. I was introduced to his style with Juliet of the Spirits but it was Amarcord that won me over. I put my trust in him completely as a director. And honestly, with his movies, I felt invincible. ‘ If I can grasp the themes of 8 1/2,’ I thought to myself, ‘then I can understand any movie!’. But it was not to be, alas. Fellini, we’ve had some good times together but I just don’t know if I can forgive you for putting me through this movie.

I guarantee La Dolce Vita is one of those films people who call themselves ‘film enthusiasts’ love to tout as one of their favorites. And it’s not that I think they are full of it. I just don’t GET.IT.AT.ALL. There is not one redeeming quality about this movie whatsoever, except maybe the camera work. The gorgeous shots don’t come close to making up for the 3 hours of watching insufferable people do the most insufferable things like:

gathering friends around to listen to their poetry on vinyl

taking a famous actress around town and wading into a fountain in the middle of the night

trying to start an orgy at a party but no one is really into it so everyone just walks out to the beach and looks at a dead stingray

I had to brush up on the plot on Wikipedia because everything was just so disjointed and weird. One scene is at a site of a supposed miracle and then right after that, Marcello is taking his father out to a cabaret. The passage of time is loosely one week spent on the main character’s life but that’s also not really true because the end of the movie happens possibly years into the future. I know the good reviewer in me should have read on in the article about theme and symbolism but honestly, I was too worn out by watching everyone pick the worst possible choices in life.

Final review: 2/5

Up next: My Fair Lady

 

 

#351- Irreversible

Quick recap: A tragic night is told in reverse chronological order

just about the only screenshot I can show

Fun (?) fact: As if the film wasn’t gruesome enough, a low frequency sound was added to the first 30 minutes which causes nausea and dizziness. 3 people fainted during the Cannes showing and it’s claimed that 200 others walked out.

My thoughts: My main draw to Irreversible was the reverse chronological order format. Each scene ends at the moment as the one previous to it. For example, one scene starts as a group of friends walks to a party and ends as the two men talk about their sexuality. The previous scene started as the two men discussed their sexuality and ended as the woman left the party. It’s an interesting concept and made me pay attention more because I didn’t know what would be important later on. The beginning of the movie, which is really the end of the night, wraps up what happened but I didn’t realize it while watching because I didn’t know what would be significant.

The rest of the movie is disturbing on SO many levels. Nudity, graphic violence and a 10 minute full rape scene are just some of what I had to endure. Was it a worthwhile film for the list? Maybe? But probably not. I hesitate to throw full support for the movie because it’s just so dark for no good reason. Director Gaspar Noé began Irreversible as a study of married life and as his plan went on, the idea become more dark. So it’s not that he wants us to learn anything from this; he just wants to throw as many disgusting things as he can for the sake of art. The first 20 minutes are of the main character Marcus in a gay club, searching for a man. Noé was afraid he would come across as homophobic in the scene so he played one of the characters participating and enjoying himself, as if that makes it ok. The rape scene is just as horrible as you would imagine (please don’t) but later on we find out that the woman who was raped was also pregnant. What’s the point of adding that detail other than to shock and bum everyone out?

Final review: 2/5

Up next: La Dolce Vita