On his way to Vienna, American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meets Celine (Julie Delpy), a student returning to Paris. After long conversations forge a surprising connection between them, Jesse convinces Celine to get off the train with him in Vienna. Since his flight to the U.S. departs the next morning and he has no money for lodging, they wander the city together, taking in the experiences of Vienna and each other. As the night progresses, their bond makes separating in the morning a difficult choice.
We can view François Truffaut’s miniaturist classic the way it so often is—as the opening salvo of the French New Wave and the boldly personal work of a once hot-tempered critic. Or we can see it for what it has become: neither as bracing or dynamic as Godard’s best (nor as beneficial), and the start of its maker’s sentimentalization of youth. That’s not being glib. The 400 Blows will always serve as worthy inspiration to future humanists attempting to chronicle the misadventures of lost boys with a caméra-stylo as light as cinematographer Henri Decaë’s “pen.” But today’s film culture certainly doesn’t lack for cutesy autobiography; moreover, the revolution we need most in movies today is not one of the heart but of the mind.Enough harshness. Go to Film Forum’s revival and be moved, as you surely will be. Beyond attack is the blinking performance of Jean-Pierre Léaud, only 14 at the time of shooting (he responded to a want ad) as the impossibly sympathetic Antoine Doinel, the director’s surrogate for several more films. Antoine mopes in his bedroom and the sad rooms of others; he cribs Balzac for his homework; he runs away and considers unethical acts. The movie’s final zoom-in remains a stunner, as close to sublime as Truffaut would ever get.
Audacious but misguided, this determinedly Chaplinesque comic fable starts well enough with the innocent, childlike Guido (Benigni) arriving in a Tuscan town in 1939 to visit his uncle, and courting, in typically eccentric fashion, local teacher Dora (Braschi), whom he manages to seduce away from her Fascist fiancé. So far, so amusing - but then, when the film flashes forward to the couple and their son being sent to a concentration camp, with Guido imaginatively turning events around them into a bizarre child's game in order to protect the boy from the ugly realities of the Holocaust, the whole thing turns sickly, not to say disingenuous (how come the villains are now German rather than Italian?). Well-meaning humanistic 'charm' and a 'poetic' approach to horror (including fuzzy shots of mountains of corpses) are inadequate to the task, and soon bogs down in manipulative and maudlin sentimentality.
SMOKE ’EM IF YOU GOT ’EM Fassbender inhales the breakfast of champions. Hunger’s ostensible protagonist is IRA member Bobby Sands (Fassbender), the brains behind a 1981 hunger strike at Northern Ireland’s Maze prison, which resulted in his death (after 66 days) and made worldwide headlines. Yet director-cowriter Steve McQueen elides Sands’s presence for much of the film’s first half, focusing instead on the isolating rigmarole of prison life through the alternating perspectives of a paranoid cell-block guard (Stuart Graham) and a freshly incarcerated convict (Milligan). When Sands finally emerges—dragged naked and screaming into a bathroom, where he’s forcibly washed and shaved—it’s as if from a chrysalis, and a shit-caked one at that. Sands’s hunger strike is detailed in grueling fashion, the mostly static camera lingering over aspects of his increasingly wasted anatomy, just past the point of discomfort. Flesh hugs bone, eyes glaze over, open sores stain bedsheets—a literal breakdown of the body politic. McQueen’s conception is schematic, but his aural and visual aesthetics are continuously arresting, even as they edge, in Hunger’s final movement, toward clich. As Sands sinks further into dementia, he sees himself as a teenager running through darkened woods, birds hovering ominously overhead. It’s an interesting effect: Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “child is father to the man” sentiment clashes provocatively with John Donne’s “death be not proud” corporeality, though McQueen
Despite what, in abstract, seems to be a perfect pairing of artist and subject, Michel Gondry’s adaptation of French author Boris Vian’s whimsical 1947 novel, L’Écume des Jours (translated in English as Froth on the Daydream), is aggressively irritating. Our hero, well-to-do Parisian Colin (Romain Duris), lives a robustly carefree life: He wants for nothing, thanks to his attentive financial adviser/personal chef Nicolas (Omar Sy), whose meals literally come alive on the plate. And his apartment is a fantasy world where a mini-man in a mouse costume lives in the walls and a piano-cum-cocktail-dispenser makes harmoniously blended drinks. (It’s called, natch, a “pianocktail.”) Your quirk meter overloaded yet? Just wait until Chloé (Audrey Tautou) enters the picture. She’s the woman of Colin’s dreams, and the duo embarks on a whirlwind romance that involves everything from a cloud car that flies across the skyline to a wedding presided over by a priest who descends in a spaceship. Tragedy is also in the offing, though the film’s slow change in mood doesn’t stop Gondry from overloading each scene with continually “inventive” sights: CGI, stop-motion animation, minutely detailed miniatures, forced perspective. The results make your head spin more than they make your spirits soar. It’s unfortunate, since the filmmaker is among those few who can wow you simply by the fact of his seemingly boundless imagination. In the movie’s best scene, the newly married Colin and Chloé float fro
Joel (Carrey) is a shy sort of fellow who might prefer a huddle with his pens and drawing pads to the jolts and vagaries of novel human interaction. Waiting for the overland to work one wintry day, he feels an uncontrollable urge to hop a train in the opposite direction, and only thus encounters Clementine (Winslet), a blue-dyed boho who makes little distinction between her every thought and the words she speaks. His passivity attracts and antagonises her; she flummoxes him and turns him on. Counter-intuitively, they click. It's almost as if they've met before. Viewers deserve to see Gondry and screenwriter Kaufman's hilarious, love-stricken, endlessly inventive collaboration fresh for themselves - especially since the more surreal thrills hinge on an 'am I awake or dreaming' mix up, and since even the quieter passages tremble with pain and revelatory vulnerability. We won't go into too much detail about Dr Mierzwiak (Wilkinson), who runs a popular if low rent New York practice in memory-modification with a merry young staff (including Dunst, Ruffalo and Wood); or into how the film, in boldly dramatising memory and the subconscious, develops as an equally loopy and poignant companion piece to Kaufman's Being John Malkovich. Suffice to say the formidable Gondry/ Kaufman/Carrey axis works marvel after marvel in expressing the bewildering beauty and existential horror of being trapped inside one's own addled mind, and in allegorising the self-preserving amnesia of a broken but h
A scientist (Vincent Price) builds an animated human being -- the gentle Edward (Johnny Depp). The scientist dies before he can finish assembling Edward, though, leaving the young man with a freakish appearance accentuated by the scissor blades he has instead of hands. Loving suburban saleswoman Peg (Dianne Wiest) discovers Edward and takes him home, where he falls for Peg's teen daughter (Winona Ryder). However, despite his kindness and artistic talent, Edward's hands make him an outcast.