Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Pedro is so excited, Francois is in the house, and where is the paperboy ?

A roundup of 3 recent treats:
DANS LE MAISON (IN THE HOUSE), 2012: Starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Fabrice Luchini. and from acclaimed director Francois Ozon, IN THE HOUSE is an unforgettable, blackly comic thriller. A sixteen year old boy insinuates himself into the house of a fellow student from his literature class, and writes about it in essays for his teacher - "to be continued". Faced with his gifted and unusual pupil, the teacher rediscovers his enthusiasm for his work, and finds himself strangely compelled as the boy becomes more dangerously involved with his classmate's attractive but bored mother. However, as the line between reality and fiction become blurred, the boy's intrustion unleashes a series of uncontrollable events.

Thats the blurb in a nutshell, giving a flavour of this unusal comedy - as we start to be unsure of what is real or imagined. I had to stop the film about half way through and could not wait to get back to it later. What was about to happen next? Is Claude going to make a move on Esther, his pal Rapha's mother (Elizabeth Seigner), or maybe even the father? (they shower after sport) and then the son kisses him, as the duplicitious Claude (excellent Ernst Umhauer) pretends to be his only best friend. Does he in fact want to supplant the son and have them as his new family with him at the centre? - 
or is this another take on Pasolini's THEOREM as Germain the teacher speculates. We know Claude's own mother walked out on him and his ailing father some time ago, so naturally he wants this new family to be his - he has been watching them and their house for a long time, wondering how to get in to it. But how is is all going to end? - the teacher's wife (KST) is worried she is going to lose her Art Gallery job (the art on show is amusing too...), as do the ideal family coping with their Chinese clients ..... will the son realise what is going on between Claude and his mother? Will the teacher go too far in blurring teacher-pupil boundaries? Does Claude actually want Germain (the teacher) himself?- then he calls on Germain's wife, who is also making changes ...
This is all absolutely fascinating and plays out nicely. Do see the final moments, a neat nod to Hitch's REAR WINDOW with all those apartments and different things going on in them as our two protagonists - teacher and pupil - watch and speculate ... don't miss the son who comes in and shoots his parents!  I loved Ozon's last, the deliriously comic POTICHE (it was fun seeing it again too recently, I enjoyed its '70s parodies a lot more), this one is another change of pace after those intense dramas like TIME TO LEAVE or UNDER THE SAND. (see Ozon/French labels). Fabrice Luchini (Mr Nasty in POTICHE) scores again here too. It is all simply delicious.  Good extras too and deleted scenes. 

Pedro's new one I'M SO EXCITED has not attracted such good notices and did not hang around. It is a rather leaden farce, with some amusing moments though. We have to allow Almodovar the occasional misfire, there is a lot to amuse though in this satire on Spain's economic crisis as we take to the skies ...

The action takes place above the clouds as the pilots of a stricken airliner battle to make it to Mexico City. In the face of danger the crew decide to forget their own personal problems and await their fate with a smile. They devote themselves body and soul to the task of making the flight as enjoyable as possible for the passengers - in first class at any rate. The ones back in steerage are sedated and drugged and have no say in what is going on (a comment perhaps on the Spanish economic situation) . Life in the clouds is as complicated as it is at ground level, and for the same reasons: sex and death. 
A few familiar faces here: Banderas and Cruz at the start, and Cecilia Roth from ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER and Javier Camara from BAD EDUCATION as one of the camp (very) air stewards. It is a sendup of the AIPPORT and AIRPLANE type of movies set in Almodovar's particular universe where anything goes. The plane is in trouble, and in true Almodovar fashion, everyone tries to bare their soul, find some relief, and enjoy themselves - even the pilots - bring on the drink and drugs. It may be just a silly comedy - but hey, enjoy it, even if it falls rather flat in the middle - at over 80 minutes it is mercifully not too long. More serious Almodovar soon, as I go back to THE SKIN I LIVE IN
THE PAPERBOY.  Directed by Oscar nominee Lee Daniels, THE PAPERBOY  is the story of two brothers: Ward (McConaughey) a successful reporter, and Jack (Efron) a college dropout. Ward returns to his hometown to investigate the case of a wrongly convicted, but deeply unsavoury, man - who has been sentenced to death for murdering a sheriff. As the brothers dig deeper, it becomes clear that they are on a journey filled with lust and betrayal. THE PAPERBOY features an extraordindary performance from Nicole Kidman as the convict's wayward fiancee, and it also stars John Cusack, David Oyelowo and Macy Gray as the lovable maid Anita - yes, that Macy Gray who was a singing sensation a decade or so ago (I nearly wore out her first cd). 

So, a colourful ramble with some unsavoury characters through a Deep South swamp trash landscape - rather like KILLER JOE? Matthew McConaughey, on a roll after MAGIC MIKE and JOE (both reviewed at 2000s label), scores again here and Zac Efron is maturing nicely (I hadn't actually seen him in anything before) - and they get him down to his underwear frequently. Kidman - I had not wanted to see any of her recent films for ages - is terrific here, as the story is told by Macy. Ward has his own secret life too, as we discover when Jack has to rescue him from a pickup that has turned nasty ... It is good lurid fun with the cast challenging themselves in some staggering sequences - Zac shedding his boy next door image, Nicole pushing the limits .... The backwoods swamp milieu is fascinating too, as we get to that grisly ending. Daniels' THE BUTLER should be interesting too ...

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