Friday, January 11, 2013

A Grab Bag of Films

I am finally whittling down the backlog of 2012 films I have not yet chronicled.

In the second half of 2012 I saw several slightly above average films; many of them foreign.

Nobody Else But You starring Sophie Quinton; directed by Gérald Hustache-Mathieu; French with subtitles; (2011) - Official Website
The Big Picture starring Romain Duris; directed by Eric Lartigau; French with subtitles; (2010) - Official Website
Killing Them Softly starring Brad Pitt; with Ray Liotta & James Gandolfini; directed by Andrew Dominik; (2012) - Official Website
Easy Money starring Joel Kinnaman; directed by Daniel Espinosa; Swedish with subtitles; (2010) - Official Myspace
The Man From London with Tilda Swinton; directed by Béla Tarr; English & French with subtitles; (2007)

I saw Killing Them Softly & The Man From London at the Roxie.  I saw Nobody Else But You at the Landmark Lumiere, The Big Picture at the Landmark Embarcadero & Easy Money at the Landmark Opera Plaza.

Nobody Else But You is a French film about the death of Marilyn Monroe.  Technically, it is a fictional flashback to life of Candice Lecoeur (Sophie Quinton) who thinks she is Marilyn reincarnated but the plot is very similar to the circumstances regarding Monroe's death...right down to the two brothers who are politicians and have affairs with her.  Since the film is told in flashback as a journalist investigates Lecoeur, the audience already knows she will die.  Once I picked up on the historical basis for the plot, the film lost its whodunit quality.  All that is left is the considerable sex appeal of Sophie Quinton who does an admirable Monroe imitation.

Killing Them Softly stars Brad Pitt as a hitman who has to kill some guys who robbed a mob sponsored poker game.  He has to deal with all sorts of labor issues and management approvals to get the job done.  Ray Liotta has a small but memorable role as a card room manager who has robbed his own poker game in the past.  He even blabbed about it but enough time had passed that he was forgiven.  Some not-so-bright Jersey boys decide to rob the game again figuring Liotta would be fingered for the crime and take the fall.  They are write but eventually Pitt is dispatched to get them.  Gandolfini shows up as a drunk, whore-mongering, out of town hitman who can't get sober enough to finish the job.  The entire is played against the backdrop of the 2008 financial meltdown and presidential election.  The analogies are too ham-handed for my tastes.  Killing Them Softly has the feeling of a good idea taken too far.  The analogy was forced in my opinion.

Easy Money is about JW, who leads a double life - business school student by day and drug courier by night.  He gets involved with a Chilean ex-con.  The two them get involved in a drug war with a Serbian hitman on the other side.  Those three characters are the focus of this taut and violent film.  JW is dating a wealthy woman and trying to impress her family.  The Chilean guy has a pregnant sister and is fugitive (he escaped from prison).  The Serbian has a young daughter he loves.  Easy Money drags a little as these characters are developed.  It doesn't quite reach Scorsesian levels; it's more like someone trying to imitate Scorsese.  However, there are scenes which are extremely tense and one where the little girl receives a call from her father as he lays dying from a gun battle is heartbreaking.  The Serbian character's subplot was my favorite.

Of these film films, The Big Picture is my favorite.  Romain Duris plays a successful lawyer.  Catherine Deneuve has a small role as his law partner.  She still looks beautiful.  Anyway, Paul (Duris) discovers his wife is having an affair with the photographer neighbor.  After confronting him, Paul accidentally kills him.  Worried about being arrested for murder but also tired of his life, Paul switches identities with the dead man and fakes his own death.  Paul was an amateur photographer earlier in his life.  He travels to Montenegro and takes up the dead man's name & profession   He begins taking photos and rediscovers his love for it.  As a foreigner living in such a small town, he attract unwanted attention; especially when a French neighbor, without permission, submits his photos to the local newspaper.  This leads to a job at the local newspaper, followed by an art gallery exhibit and finally an offer for a larger art exhibit in London with full publicity...with his face matched to the dead guy's name.  Paul books illegal passage on a cargo ship where he learns first hand how Eastern Europeans deal with suspected stowaways.

The Man From London was my least favorite of the five.  Practically unwatchable with its snail's pacing, the plot involves a man who witnesses a murder and recovers a large amount of money from a briefcase near the dock he works.  With the penumbra of noir elements, director Béla Tarr forgoes plot and dialog for extended visual compositions  and stylized cinematography.

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