First Friday Films | Take Two

First Friday Films | Take Two
Artists & Cowboys & Jail Bait...oh my!

Avenue Montaigne (French)

Quirky, adorable, charming, tender, funny...think of it as the French version of romantic comedy. While I think most Hollywood romantic comedies are tres lame and contrived, other countries seem to understand that you can have romance and humor -and- depth and plot. Imagine that.

A 30-something woman moves to Paris from the countryside and works as a waitress in a posh cafe. She meets all sorts of famous people, who, by the end of the movie end up all crossing paths and impacting each other in some way. The film is a vignette-style ensemble with really interesting characters. I love vignettes, I love ensembles and I loved this movie.

One thing that strikes me every so often, and struck me again while watching this movie, is that one reason Hollywood is so boring to me is because everyone looks the same. "Beautiful" is so predictable and their narrow definition is tired. The people in this film are beautiful but in totally unconventional ways. The characters have a diversely mis-matched urban feel and I liked that.

Factory Girl
How indulgent, selfish, and vain can you possibly be? I'm too young to have experienced Edie Sedgwick first hand, but I suppose there are plenty of modern equivalents to keep US Weekly staffers on their toes. "Factory" in the title is in reference to Andy Warhol's artists commune in New York City in the 1960s. Sedgwick came from old money and came to New York as a drop out from Cambridge. The film chronicles the arc of her obscurity to fame to rock star status back to obscurity. Tracing throughout this arc are insane amounts of drugs, parties, post-modern art experiments, and androgynous pretty people.

As indulgent, selfish, and vain as the Warhol world seems, the story is oddly compelling. I should also admit that while indulgent, selfish, and vain, it's completely seductive. No small part of me wanted to cut my hair short again and waste away my days creating 3-D metaphors of Mahler's symphony 3 with only a rusted fork and blue paint while playing a lute and chain smoking in the name of world hunger and Bolivian worker's rights.

Guy Pearce has long been a favorite of mine and he is perfection as Warhol. I couldn't take my eyes off him and he definitely stole this movie. Even if the film doesn't interest you, watch it for Guy's performance. Hayden Christensen, on the other hand, while very much looking the part, was trying so hard to be an emotionally earnest and throaty Bob Dylan* that he came off a bit spastic. You still get the point, you get that he's artsy folky, and you read Dylan clearly in his performance, I just think that trying to hold a candle to Guy Pearce is an impossible task.

* Apparently Bob Dylan's attorneys tried to sue the makers of the film to stop it from being released. The film alludes to the theory that Edie's downfall and suicide were based on a botched romance with Dylan. The DVD extra features discuss this conflict extensively and are really well done, fyi.

3:10 to Yuma
Since when am I so hot for cowboys? Seriously. I really really like this movie. Now I want to see the original 1950s version...and every last John Wayne movie I can get my excited hand on. My original motivations for seeing this film, I admit, were quite shallow. I've been in love with Christian Bale ever since he delivered papes' as a precocious newsboy, singing and dancing his way into my heart. Russell Crowe in a Roman loin cloth. Enough said. But all of this eye candy aside, the script is well-written, the structure is complex, it's tense, it's sensual, it keeps you guessing, it's a must-see.

Fallen (Falling) - German
Reality Bites. Friends. Sex in the City. Rent. Anniversary Party. Bridget Jones
Diary. Fallen. This film is easily categorized with other wallowing, wandering, wistful GenX dramas catered to the romantically-challenged 30-something set. Much like Time Out (French) begs the assumption that marriage malaise is universal, Fallen begs the assumption that it's not just American 30-somethings that struggle to define themselves, the world, and themselves in the world. One could argue this tension exists at any age, but there seems to be something particular to the poignancy of these feelings in one's 30s.

The story is simple enough: childhood/teenage friends reunite in their hometown for a funeral. The directions their lives have taken are drastically different from one another and this creates both arguments and fascinating conversations. The structure of the movie, however, is anything but simple. The filming technique, as well as the pervasive emotion, is very stark and at the same time, very dense. German films pull off this paradox really well.

The movie feels lost, as though it's wandering around the true story but never really finding it. You wonder when it's going to start, pick up, get to it...and then you realize that each of these women feel that same frustration with their lives. Brilliant. Movies that draw you in and make you a character are rare and delicious finds.

It's also worth noting that the soundtrack rocks. It's impossibly hip urban electronic trance pop. Yeah, when you figure that out, let me know. In the meantime, I'm just gonna rock on. You can find my favorite track in iTunes for a mere $0.99. Song: "We Shall Overcome," Artist: Gustav, Album: Rettet Die Wale.

Notes on a Scandal
My father always used to say, you know, like on the tube, mind the gap...the distance between life as you dream it and life as it is. (Cate Blanchett as Sheba Hart)

I saw this movie in the theatre when it was first released (three times) and I've since purchased the DVD and watched it again (twice). It's so so so good. Dame Judi Dench is a sexy cougar by any standard and yet she completely transformed herself for this role. She's creepy crawly stalker perfection. Cate Blanchett is a vision. She is one of my favorite actors and I enjoyed watching her special features interview as much I enjoyed watching the movie itself. Not to be overlooked, Bill Nighy is a force to be reckoned with in his own right. This movie is smart and sexy and challenging. Phillip Glass composed the score...does it get better? Perfect.

Gomgashtei dar Aragh (Marooned in Iraq) - Iranian

I'm not nearly smart enough to fully enjoy this movie. I related to the classic road trip themes of falling into and out of love, music and singing, robberies, parties, lust, bribes, corrupt police officers, death and redemption. What I wasn't prepared for was understanding the intricate details of the conflict between Iraq and Iran and the politics of Kurdistan.

I learned a lot about the oppression of the Kurdish people and the bombings and chemical weapons employed by Saddam Hussein (which is what he was finally convicted and hanged for, if I remember correctly, a massacre of Kurds in 1982). The film is generally about Iraqi Kurdish refugees fleeing to the Iranian border. Specifically it is about two sons traveling with their father as he searches for his ex-wife who left him years ago for his best friend. Catch all that?

Spoiler warning. The end of the film is heartbreaking. The father, Mirza, finally finds his ex-wife, Hanareh, in a female refugee camp. The best friend/new husband, Seyed, has died and before he passed he requested that Mirza be the person to burry him. Mirza realizes, only after traveling an incredible distance, that Hanareh sent for him for this purpose and not because she wanted to see him or mend their relationship. Hanareh was disfigured in a chemical attack, lost her voice in the aftermath, and she never leaves her tent or acknowledges Mirza. Mirza is given Hanareh and Seyed's daughter, Sanooreh (which means "border"), and the final frame shows the two of them crossing the barbed-wire to enter Iran.

Stomp the Yard
Yup. That's right. The pretentious girl who prattles on about the ethos of German film owns Stomp the Yard and watches it over and over and over again.

You're taking the bus? Why?

Can you keep a secret?