Friday, November 2, 2018

Animation Show of Shows - 20th Anniversary - review

By Purple

If you are like me and wish to escape the madness unfolding  in our current daily news, then I prescribe a healthy dose of animation and urge you to leave your bunker and get yourself into a cinema this weekend to check out the Animation Show of Shows.  Now in its 20th year, the Animation Show of Shows continues its ongoing mission to seek out and share a carefully chosen  crop of new animation from around the globe.

This year, the Animation Show of Shows features 15 short films that cover a broad spectrum of styles and narratives.  The program starts off strong with an award winning crowd pleaser  "The Green Bird" which delightfully depicts one bird-creatures persistent efforts to keep its egg safe.  This is soon followed by director Andrew Chesworth's sweet short film "One Small Step" which warms the heart while reminding us to keep shooting for the stars. Handkerchiefs might be a good idea.

 My  personal favorite films include "Grands Canons" which comes from French artist Alain Biet who combines his skill as an illustrator and painter with an incredible obsession to depict an awesome array of tools and objects. Set to a manic music score by Pablo Pico and Yan Volsy, Grand Canons delivers such an intense experience I found my mind spinning on it for days.

I also found myself mesmerized  by the movement in "Love Me, Fear Me" from German creator Veronica Solomon who uses her craft to conjure a claymation creation that uses exquisite dance movement and shapes to express the many sides a person can have.

The 2018 Animation Show of Shows also includes the latest from the Google Spotlight series which points its glow upon "The Age of Sail" a hearty sea voyage taken with a crusty captain voiced by Ian McShane of Deadwood fame.   The program also includes some films with unexpected twists such as "Flower Found" which follows a growing parade of super cute characters who all take some surprisingly dark and disturbing turns before the credits roll.
In times like these its good to treat yourself and your loved ones to an animation vacation. I urge you to put your devices down for 98 minutes and be reminded that thankfully the world also includes animators who use their gifts and talent that we can enjoy at the Animation Show of Shows.

Bay Area animation fans have an added treat: The Animation Show of Shows 's founder and curator Ron Diamond will be making in-person introductions and host some Q and A after the show at theaters throughout the bay area this weekend. Starting Friday night in San Francisco at the Vogue theater, then  onto the Lark on Saturday in the north bay, and then back in SF at the Roxie for a Sunday matinee. Ron Diamond  finishes his tour at the New Parkaway theater in Oakland early Sunday evening. All the details can be found on the Animation Show of Shows facebook event page.   

Still searching for the full length soundtrack music featured in Grand Canons, for Movie Magazine this is Purple.

© 2018 - Purple - Air Date: 10/31/18
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Venice keeps women off the Red Carpet to protest marginalization of women

By Moira Sullivan
Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton at premiere of "Supiria". ©Corbis
This year’s Venice Film Festival has one of the best lineups in years primarily because the competition is full of former award-winning directors that are well known. To get into the lineup without such a background is rare. It is worth mentioning that only one woman, Jennifer Kent, is among the competition this year with The Nightingale which debuts September 5. Venice did not grant women the red carpet to make a protest of the marginalization of women in the competition and festival president Alberta Barbera defers to the overall society where he believes the real problem of gender inequality lies.

Several of these films will be available soon to view on Amazon and Netflix in the next months. Venice has avoided the problem these streaming platforms had at Cannes in May which requires that a film be released in French theatres first before streaming or will not have a debut.

The remake of Suspiria directed by Luca Guadagnino will soon be released on Amazon, but many will be put off by the image of a director on the Red Carpet premiere proudly displaying his t-shirt “Weinstein is Innocent” (Luciano Silighini Garagnani)

Suspiria is a cult class directed by Dario Argento in the 70’s starring his wife Daria Nicolodi, the parents of Asia Argento. Dakota Johnson plays Susie Bannion in this remake an American dance student in Italy. Also starring Mia Goth and Chloe Grace Moretz as students under the tutelage of Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) The film is out on Amazon soon though not as chilling as the original. 

Non-Fiction (Doubles vies - Double Lives) Olivier Assayas stars Guillaume Canet as Alaine a Parisian editor. Juliette Binoche is his wife Selena who is employed playing a cop on a TV series. The film is more of a comic exposé on how the French has received or not received the digital economy, set in the environment of a Parisian publishing business. The digital world -the promotion of binge TV shows, both addictive and often superficial, blogs and social media, and the gig labor market fueled by apps and cellphones are up for discussion where the actors try to make sense of it and flow with the flow.

Other auteur directors include Joel and Ethan Coen who serve up their latest creation - The Battle of Buster Scruggs produced by Netflix, and Annapurna Pictures – a six-part narrative about the American west.

Alfonso Cuarón has made ROMA about a middle-class family in Mexico City.

And Julian Schnabel presents At Eternity's Gate about Vincent Van Gogh starring
some of the revered actors in the art house world - Willem Dafoe as Van Gogh, Mads Mikkelsen, Mathieu Amalric, and Emmanuelle Seigner. Next week more from the Venice Film Festival.

© 2018- Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/05/18

Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

End of gladiator sport for male gaze at Cannes

By Moira Sullivan

The "71:e Festival de Cannes" from May 8-19 has changed its agenda from its praxis of most recent years. It is being held a week earlier this year starting on a Tuesday and ending on a Saturday to be able to add an additional gala event !  before the first weekend, circulate previews of new films to be released in France and for maximum visibility of the Palme d’Or awards on Saturday night.

The other change this year is a ban on streaming production companies from premiering their online films at Cannes in the in-competition section. Streaming film is not considered a "proper" form for an original art work shown outside the realm of theatrical distribution at Cannes. There is also a new publication embargo on film reviews from the official selection until the premieres with the cast and crew. Previously film critics have seen the films a couple of times before the production team and reviews circulating beforehand interfere with the films getting a so-called fresh start. The plebeian kickstart with reviews by 4000 journalists has given way to the elite star studded gala opening on the red carpet with critics placed in a smaller venue close by at the same time However, it is more about French theater owners insisting on a film having theatrical distribution first and waiting three years before going online. This is not how things are done in the US that knows the market demands instant gratification.

According to Cannes festival director Thierry Frémaux these changes herald a new era of Cannes. They are intended to make the time-honored festival optimally exclusive where new films are unveiled without anyone having seen the official selection apart from the cast and crew. But it is quite clear that it is also about French theater owners guarding their market and not losing exclusivity to online conglomerates.

Netflix is not silent on the matter and has made its interest known in purchasing the opening night film by Asghar Faradi, the Spanish drama Everybody Knows which could go to immediate online distribution. Faradi casts mega Spanish couple Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem on screen and off in a film about secrets from the past.

This publication embargo is predicated on the belief that revealing plot and narrative construction spoils a film. Yet, how a film is made is what gives a film its uniqueness. Most film critics do not write about the look and feel of a film, the stylistic content, so whereas you might learn beforehand what happens you don’t learn how it happens. Film critics who concentrate primarily on narrative content do not reveal the intricate design of the director. In this respect there are really no spoilers. A critic’s take on a film might conjure up an entirely different film than what is theatrically released.

This year the festival president is Cate Blanchett who has announced that films directed by women are still a paucity, making the festival a gladiator sport for the male gaze. Five women three actresses, one composer and one director constitute the majority of the official jury, but three male directors and one Chinese actor still prove that parity for directors is not there yet.

Several non-mainstream events cluster before the first weekend at small venues– The Swedish Institute and Women in Film & TV International (WIFTI) present Working For Change: 'Filmmaking In the New Landscape'. At the Irish Pavilion representatives from Eurimages and its "Gender Working Group", the BFI Film Fund, the New Zealand Film Commission and the South African Screen Federation will discuss The Fight of Inclusion by women working in film. Other parallel events include a panel on next moves for #MeToo and the Gender Equality movement in Cannes. Probably the most radical talk of them all will be held by Nina Menkes, filmmaker and teacher at California Institute of the Arts and USC who will talk about the embedded misrepresentation of women in film language. Her emphasis is on changing the way films are shot, edited, framed and cast as noted in the work of male directors – a system that depends on perpetuating empty stereotypes for women with zero agency, and the ability to influence the narrative outcome.

Three of the 18 films of the official selections directed by women Alice Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro - a meeting about a young peasant and nobleman), Eva Husson (Girls of the Sun - about a female Kurdish military battalion), and Nadine Labaki (Capernaum about an impoverished boy who sues his parents for giving him life

© 2018 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/9/18
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Busan International Short Film Festival Forum - Women and the Avantgarde

Speakers , Moderator and Debaters at BISFF Forum
By Moira Sullivan

From April 24 -29 the 35th Busan International Short Film Festival was held in South Korea orchestrated by Festival director Cha Minchol. There was an international and Korean competition and a special program called the Busan International Short Film Forum with a focus on women in the avantgarde. Special focus was on the work of US filmmaker Maya Deren who made films from 1940-1960. The program was entitled "Maya Deren’s Cinematic Universe". Her Chapbook - "An Anagram of Ideas on Art , Form and Film" was translated through a Republic of Korea art grant. This was done by Kim Byeongcheol (Dong-Eui Univ. Prof.) I was invited to speak on Maya Deren’s use of choreography for the camera. Also invited was Eleni Tranouli (a Greek Art Advisor/Researcher).l who spoke about interiors in Deren’s films. After presentations, some provocative questions were asked by Roh Chulhwan (lnha Univ. Prof.), Bang Hyejin (Art Critic) and Heo Eunhee (Dong-Eui Univ. Prof.) Considering that Maya Deren is relatively unknown in Korea this interplay of scholars with debaters on the points made in the lectures was dynamic and occurred in front of young South Korean Students and guests.

Pip Chodorov, an American experimental filmmaker who teaches film in Seoul and Busan and runs a film distribution company for avantgarde work in Paris (  led students in a presentation of films made in Super 8. The film and chemicals to process them were imported for this purpose and the students realized that one cannot erase Super8 film as is done with digital film and came to terms with the nature of the material in a profound way. Also part of the program were presentations on Asian women in avantgarde film.
Hwang Miyojo presented an overview of films directed by women in South Korea  (Korea National University of Arts Prof.).
Ryan Cheng ( Programmer of Kaohsiung Film Festival and Film Critic spoke about Taiwanese women in film. Trinh Le Minh Hang (Head of Vietnamese Skyline Media) spoke about Vietnamese women’s films.

Not only was her work discussed by scholars but filmmakers working in Maya Deren's spirit showed their work. Three filmmakers - Kano Shiho (Japan) , Camille Degeye (France) and  Emilija Skarnulyte (Lithuania) were invited to the forum.  Skarnulyte’s  Sironemelia was about a mermaid who visits a Cold War Arctic submarine base. The filmmaker will be interviewed later in the program. Sironemelia and three other Lithuanian shorts were also shown at the Corner Theater in Old Busan curated by Jurga Sabukaite who also showed her film Une Chambre à Soi. The films were followed by a discussion with Koreans who come to this tiny theater to see and study non-narrative work.
The work of Korean women in the Avantgarde at the forum included Kim Sukhyeon (Experimental Film), Kim Dongryung (Documentary) and Jeong Dahee (Animation).

The Busan Short Film Festival was held in the magnificent Busan Cinema Center with both an outdoor and indoor cinema in this multilayered gargantuan edifice. The Grand Prize winner of the festival this year was The Distance by Iranian filmmaker Yousef Kargar, a film about a friend of a man who dies in a scaffolding accident that returns home to tell his  parents, but complications arise. As winner of the grand prix, the film is automatically entered as a contender for next year’s academy awards.

© 2018 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/02/18
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Créteil Films de Femmes Palmarès 2018

By Moira Sullivan
Joanna Scanlan and Lily Newmark in "Pin Cushion"

The 40th edition of the Créteil International Women’s Film Festival ended on March 18 after a 10-day run that began on March 9. The palmarès - awards - were given out on March 17. This festival was outstanding in many ways. The films selected by programmer Norma Guevara were excellent and nearly every screening contained a film of high quality. One of my favorites was The Road Forward, an innovative musical documentary directed by Marie Clements, on Canada's First Nations activism and history going back to the 1930’s. The stories are told by Native brothers and sisters who are artists and performers that reveal their strength and experience in a dynamic film form.

The Prix du Public - "Public Prize" went to Pin Cushion by Deborah Haywood from the UK –a story about a teenage girl and her mother Lyn. They both move to a new town for a fresh start, but Iona falls in with the wrong crowd - a group of snobbish teens that treat her with disrespect. Lyn is called the town freak because of her eccentric homespun clothing and also is desperate to make new friends. The art direction of the film is brilliant, and the story is one that is endearing and tragic, based in part on the life experiences of the filmmaker.

The Polish film Birds are Singing in Kigali by Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze (2017) built around the Rwanda genocide of 1994, received special mention from the Jury. The Jury Prize went to Medea by Alexandra Latishev Salazar, a film about 25-year Maria Josée is 25 who grows up with parents who don’t care about her and  takes a special interest in a young boy. Unbeknownst to all she is pregnant and from the title it is clear that her relationship to the unborn will fateful.

On the occasion of the 40th film festival two filmmakers Chris Lagg and Sophie Nogier made an excellent documentary - Chroniques d'un festival" Partie 1 and 2 that chronicles the history of the festival with interviews with director Jackie Buet and the former co-director Elizabeth Trehard. The festival originated in the Parisian suburb of Sceaux in 1978 and later moved to Créteil where the prefecture government took a great interest in the event and helped sponsor it. The film shows how many filmmakers and actresses have guested the festival through the years – such as Mira Nair, Anna Karina, Catherine Deneuve, Bernadette LaFont, Dominic Blanc, Julie Dash, Kimberley Peirce, Susanne Osten, Ulrika Ottinger and countless others. The film has a good tempo with excellent editing – a fitting testimony to this retrospective of 40 years of women behind the camera and on screen. If there is any doubt that there are women behind the camera in droves, this film proves it.

© 2018 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 03/21/18
Movie Magazine International


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

40:e Créteil Films de Femmes Festival opens!

By Moira Sullivan
Delphine Seyrig in "Jeanne Dielman"
The 40th edition of the Créteil International Women's film festival opened on March 9 for a 10-day run. Guest of honor is the German director Margarethe von Trotta whose films have been extremely important to feminists and have screened at Créteil in the past years - such as The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum  (1975) with co-director Volker Schlöndorff , The Second Awakening of Christa Klages  (1978), Marianne & Juliane  (1981).  Rosa Luxemburg (1986) wasn nominated for a Palme d’Or and winner of the best actress award for Barbara Sukowa and Trois soeurs  (1988) was also nominated for the Palme d’Or.

More recent films by von Trotta include Rosenstrasse  (2003) - and Vision (2009) - on the German nun Hildegard von Bingen. Her most recent film  Hannah Arendt (2012) is about the political theorist. Both von Bingen and Hanna Arendt were played by Barbara Sukowa. At the Cannes film festival this year von Trotta will present a documentary on the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman but in an entirely different light.

Von Trotta’s films have strong female characters and provocative political content in the aftermath of the Nazi regime in Germany. She was on hand for a Master Class, and present at several screenings of her films.

Some of the other highlights of the festival include an homage to the late Lebanese- French actress Delphine Seyrig. Together with Carole Roussopoulos she made Sois belle et tais-toi  (Be Pretty and Shut Up) in 1976. The film archived at the Simone de Beauvoir Audiovisual center in Paris was shot on 16mm film with handwritten credits and dubbing of English language speakers. It has not been digitally remastered, so its date is directly experienced. However, Seyrig interviewed 26 actresses on working in film - including Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn, Maria Schneider and Warhol actress Viva. They reveal how the conditions for women in the industry predates the activism in Hollywood today – Schneider revealed how when making Last Tango in Paris (1971) that Bernardo Bertolucci was not interested in her other than her physical attire and planned the film solely with Marlon Brando. This information predates the recent media frenzy about the film and Bertolucci's secret planning with scenes with Brando that excluded Maria – but she  told the story all along and no one listened to her in corporate media. 

Roussopoulos and Seyrig  also worked on the French version of the SCUM manifesto by Valerie Solanas where Roussopoulos dictates the text and Seyrig types - both wearing bandanas. Seyrig has been featured in many important art house films such as the famous Jeanne Dielman in 1975 by the late Chantal Akerman, India Song by Marguerite Duras (1977).  Freak Orlando in 1981,  and Johanna D'Arc of Mongolia  (from 1988) were both by Ulrike Ottinger.

The opening night film was Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts,  directed by Mouly Surya from Indonésia (2017) about a young woman living on an Indonesian island raising cattle. She is visited by bandits who assault her, but plans a brutal revenge. Marsha Timothy won best actress at the Sitges Film Festival in Germany last year for her daring role.

Also of interest at the festival was the Polish film Birds are Singing in Kigali by Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze (2017). Krzysztof Krauze died in 2014 and his wife Joanna finished this amazing film built around the Rwanda genocide of 1994. A Polish ornithologist is in the country at the time and rescues a Rwandan woman whose family has been massacred - Ann Keller Jowita Budnik and Claudine Mugambira played by Elaine Umuhire. Their re-entry in Poland is wrought with turmoil and painful memories. The cinematography,  elliptical editing and non- linearity make this one of the best films of 2017.

Another film of special mention at the festival is the documentary Orione by Toia Bonino from Argentina- which won first prize at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema. This is a fragmented document about Alejandro "Ale" Robles , a young gang member shot to death by the police, whose life is retold in a mosaic of images . His mother tells part of the story while making several luscious cakes.

Next week more from Créteil.

© 2018 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 03/14/18
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Double trouble for women in Ozon's psychopathic twin tale

One of the twins comforts Chloé in 'Double Lover'
By Moira Sullivan

Double Lover premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, a narrative by François Ozon starring Jérémie Renier who doubles as twins and Marine Vacth as his lover. In the space of 30 years two films with the same premise based on novels written by women have captured the public imagination. As Godard says, we don’t create for ourselves but for consumers. Since one of the twins is a misogynist and psychopath and the other "a kind of nice guy", were these two novels trying to create a perfect man by taking the bad boy out?

Two famous male directors have selected this theme,  "twins" – one from Canada and the other from France who are delighted that there is a bad boy to be discovered which makes for a perfect thriller. It does not matter that women are deceived,  intimidated and physically assaulted, it’s part of why this kind of suspense thriller works. But is it a film that you want to see on Valentine’s Day when it opens in the US, or any day for that matter?

Claire ( Genevieve Bujold) comforts one of the twins in Dead Ringers

David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers (1988) was a screenplay adaption of Killing Gift by Bari Wood (1975). Genevieve Bujold plays Claire Niveau, a famous actress who falls for one of the famous gynecologists - Bev and Elly Mantle played by Jeremy Irons, who have been deceiving women they trade off with each other. The mystery is based on an intrigue that no one can tell them apart – not the man nor the behavior.  Double Lover has a similar premise with screenplay adaption by Ozon of the novel Lives of the Twins written by Joyce Carol Oates in 1987.

Although Claire Nieveau can figure out which twin is which, 25 year old Chloé Fortin (Marine Vacth) can not. Jérémie Renier plays Paul Meyer, a successful psychiatrist whose patient becomes Chloé. Breaking all professional ethics, he allows her to fall in love and move in. She later discovers he has an alter ego Lois Delord, who is the bad boy of the two. She figures this out primarily because Paul hates cats and Louis does not (!) A love hate relationship ensues to add to her trouble to be worked out by her psychiatrist husband which includes physical assault by his twin.

There is a gynecologist angle in the film as well in Double Lover.  Dr Agnès Wexler (Dominique Reymond) encourages Chloe to start seeing Paul for therapy to cure her of her imaginary stomach pains. While it is perhaps better with a woman gynecologist in this film than lecherous males in Dead Ringers, what business does she have of making recommendations for dating to a patient in an exam. The subtext is that all Chloé needs is a man to take away her pains. Veteran actress Jacqueline Bissett who plays Chloé’s mother does not have much to do in this film, who like Vacth started off by modeling and then playing roles about beautiful women, who are naive or femme fatales. Nowadays she gets roles as monstrous females.

Marine Vacth worked with Ozon five years ago in “Young and Beautiful”. Today at 26 she still is young and beautiful as well as a model and the script calls for a young model who needs therapy.

Double Lover is framed with slick art direction in a film about beautiful people who need perversion and assault to make their flawless physiques believable. Neither Cronenberg or Ozon seem to think well about women where double lovers are only double trouble for them.

© 2018 - Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 02/14/18
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird from Sacramento, California

By Moira Sullivan

Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf in LadyBird

Saoirse Ronan gives an unforgettable performance as a young Sacramento woman from valley Catholic high school about to graduate and go on to college. The film directed and written by Greta Gerwig is nominated for best picture and screenplay at the Golden Globes next month. Lady Bird film has inventive and realistic dialogue with an engaging plot development. Credit must be given to the outstanding ensemble cast of the principle character Saoirse Ronan as Christine 'Lady Bird' McPherson, and Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson and Tracy Letts as Larry McPherson, Lady Bird’s parents. Both Ronan and Metcalf have received Golden Globe nominations for their acting roles. It is their relationship that provides a dramatic tension that gives the film its luster.

The opening scene shows Lady Bird and Marion on the way home from a trip where they were scouting colleges which demonstrates growing tension in their relationship. Pushed to the edge by her mother’s comments, Lady Bird ends her discussion by jumping out the car much to her mother’s horror. Only a broken arm to mend, this is a coming of age film for Lady Bird who is at odds with many of the values of her teachers and classmates except for her best friend.

The opening citation in the film from Joan Didion proclaims that anyone extolling the hedonism of California has not spent a Christmas in Sacramento. From the point of view of a Catholic high school, that is certainly the case but what is also obvious are the class differences of the students. Lady Bird’s father has just been left go of his job and her mother works as a nurse. The capital of California has the reputation of being out of step with the progressive nearby Bay Area and is regarded as provincial and claustrophobic. Lady Bird longs to escape from this and go to school back east, much to the dismay of her mother who wants her to live close by and attend a college in Davis renowned for animal husbandry.

Gerwig’s film is rich with these kinds of details and characters. that paint a colorful picture of the town and young girl trying to find her way. Lady Bird candidly wonders when would be the right time to engage in premarital sex and gets counsel from her mother. Her teachers try to guide her suggesting she try dramatic arts and also help her with her college applications with her aptitudes in mind. What the film foremost shows is despite her restlessness with being in a nuclear family which includes an adopted son and his girlfriend she still has fondness for Sacramento. Her brother’s bedroom is also the computer room that Lady Bird must share and certainly reveals how cramped her family’s living situation is. She aspires to live in a big house and even tells one of her classmates that she does.

Lady Bird is a feel-good feature with an actress turned director from Sacramento that has made an excellent second feature.

© 2017 - Moira Sullivan - Airdate 12/27/17
Movie Magazine International

'Molly's Game' Jessica Chastain as high stakes captain

By Moira Sullivan
Jessica Chastain holds her own in a sea of male gamblers.
Based on the memoirs of by Molly Bloom and screenplay written by director Aaron Sorskin, Molly’s Game is one the best films of 2017 with two nominations for the Golden Globes next month as, best adapted screenplay, and best actress Jessica Chastain. Incidentally along with the report on Lady Bird set in California’s capital on this week's show - Chastain is from Sacramento California. Although she has recently been playing films as a woman in the midst of powerful men that can hold her own as in Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and Miss Sloan from last year, Molly’s Game is her most virtuous effort.

When Molly Bloom took a serious tumble in competitive skiing, her career as a professional athlete came to an end. With her name and reputation, she went on to create a high stakes poker game under her own rules and conditions. We discover this at the beginning of the film when she has been arrested and is being prosecuted by the FBI for illegal gambling. Acquiring a good lawyer is part of her plan to vindicate herself, and she is able to convince the brilliant defense attorney Charles Jaffey (Idris Elba) to take on her case as an innocent clean and sober client. He is most persuaded however by his teenage daughter who has read about Molly Bloom’s games and considers her a feminist hero. The uncredited role of Jaffey’s daughter is important as it was at about this age Molly Bloom was forced to take a turn in a promising career. This young girl remains throughout the film with flashbacks and the process of coming to restitution with her formative years.

Kevin Costner plays a father who pushes Molly to excel beyond her abilities yet she is a worthy adversary to his browbeating demeanor. The script is brilliant in replicating past and present not only through images but engaging and thought-provoking dialogue. The rapport between Chastain and Elba is brilliant.

The cast of poker players in positions of power and wealth that Molly directs confirms why Jaffey's daughter holds her in such high esteem. The poker game turns out to be illegal although Molly is careful about operating within the scope of the law. Her access to large sums of money makes her a target later for underworld criminals and there is no one to protect her except her own wits fueled by copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. It is at this point after a vicious attack that she realizes she is over her head. Molly is an unattached woman who is desired and eventually used exploited and assaulted by men. When she resorts to counsel she is still the brilliant and astute woman she has always been, the woman her father could not bully or intimidate along with the other players except when she is criminally assaulted. Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom is a smart, vulnerable and humble player who comes to terms with her life in film that gives us reasons and explanations, illustrating numerous aspects of her game and how she is able to navigate a group of men including the FBI and stay in control.
© 2017 - Moira Sullivan - Airdate 12/27/17
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

French yuletide noir at San Francisco Roxie

By Moira Sullivan

Henry Baur as Père Noel
In Italy, December 13 is the day St. Lucia is celebrated who was murdered in 304 AD for refusing to be married. Her death on the Julian calendar was closer to the Winter Solstice on the darkest day of the year, but the Nordic countries kept the date when the Gregorian calendar was later adopted and solstice fell on the 20th of December. Lucia has long been celebrated in Sweden with a tradition of selecting a woman with candles in her hair to lead a procession of maidens, star boys and gingerbread children who bring forth the light.

In San Francisco, a French noir Yuletide double feature is being shown at the Roxie Theatre on December 13– L’ASSASSINAT DU PÈRE NOEL (Who Killed Santa Claus - 1941) by Christian-Jaque and LE MONTE-CHARGE by Marcel Bluwal (1962). Both films could hardly be claimed to be light entertainment and as crime fiction are associated with noir. The films do not evoke warm fuzzy feelings for Christmas but are dark and brooding plots involving intrigue, deception and murder. There are children in these films and Santa Claus but little joy for the them or the adults that try to make the best of the holiday.
L’ASSASSINAT DU PÈRE NOEL (Who Killed Santa Claus - 1941) has none of the stylistic of noir in terms of lighting. Most of the dark heavy gothic scenes without light are filmed indoors or are shot in the super bright snow on sunny days in the French Alps. The setting is a village near Grenoble where the town pharmacist Ricomet (Jean Brochard) goes to order medicine for the village, one of the many threads of the plot. 

Gaspard Cornusse dons his Father Christmas costume every year for the children played by Henry Baur, a rotund, jovial character with heavy drawn eyebrows in his early 60s. Gaspard makes toys such as world globes that light up. His acting style is steeped in a classical theatrical tradition. At times Gaspard's makeup seems like he will peel it off and another person will emerge. In the corner of his living room is a shrunken head of an Asian man, and as it is hanging he tells the village children the story of the bandit Fu-Xiyu who robbed for his daughter Princess Aurora. 

Henry Baur and René Faure
Meanwhile upstairs his daughter Catherine (Renée Faure) lives in a world of fantasy, raised on her father’s stories waiting for a romantic hero to carry her off on a white horse. Elsewhere in the film is a poor woman referred to as Mother Michel  (Marie-Hélène Dasté) who searches the village looking for her cat and was formerly married to Ricomet. Both of these female characters are not noir femme fatales but evocative women who are deeply disturbed because of the influence of the men in their life. Women serve the men of the village who wear large black berets and spend time drinking or gambling.  True to fairy tales, Catherine falls for a man she believes to be a prince with a hand covered by a black glove he claims has been deformed by leprosy, Baron Roland de la Faille (Raymond Rouleau). She is being courted by an annoying village teacher who threatens to punish wayward students by having them write about their grievances over and over. After meeting the Baron Catherine only has eyes for him. 

The film includes a Tiny Tim character, a young boy, who lies sickly in bed waiting for the gift he ordered from Santa Claus. There is also a thief in town who has taken St Nicolas’ ring from the village church and Santa Claus is found shot in the head in the Alps. Getting to the bottom of the mysteries in play involves calling in the territorial police and the townspeople and officials. 

Director Jaque brings out staid acting performances which border on overacting –children and adults alike, following the fiddle of Henry Baur, Father Christmas. During the time the film was made, France was under German occupation and the film was produced by the Nazi film company Continental Film. Director Christian- Jaque and screenwriter Charles Spaak were able to create a subtext to the film with subversive themes with allegories to the political realities. In real life Baur’s wife who was Jewish was taken away by the Gestapo and he was tortured and arrested the year after the film was made. After being released from prison he died in mysterious circumstances. 

LE MONTE-CHARGE by Marcel Bluwal (1962) starring Robert Hossein and Lea Massari has a noir stylistic with trains emitting billowy white smoke as they charge up a dark railway. It is set in a seedy looking Paris suburb - Courbevoie with notable signs pointing to and from Argenteuil on the other side of the Seine. Films featuring Hossein are often populated by districts of Paris, fictitious or real. On Christmas Eve, Robert Herbin (Hossein) has just gotten out of prison after seven years for murdering his boss’s wife. On his first night out, he takes notice of Marthe and her little daughter Nicole (Pascale Brouillard in a restaurant. Nearby is a movie theater and Robert follows Marthe and Nicole inside. During the screening Marthe allows him to put his hand on her shoulder and later to follow her home and come in for a drink. The apartment is big and spacious on top of her husband’s factory, nicely furnished with a sparsely decorated Christmas tree. In a series of attempts at passion followed by rejection, Marthe has the upper hand of Robert. She leaves with him to go to his apartment leaving Nicole alone, and then changes her mind and returns to her apartment again only to discover her husband dead. Robert must leave because he can’t be found anywhere near Courbevoie but is obsessed with Marthe. He follows her to Midnight mass where she faints, and then takes her home again assisted by another man who sells American cars.

Lea Massari, Pascale Brouillard and Robert Hossein
Christmas eve is robustly celebrated with last minute Christmas shopping, family get togethers in restaurants, fights in bars and a packed church of worshippers. Le Monte is a somber thriller involving murder, deception and a little girl dressed in a white fur parka whose step father hates her. Marthe’s attempt to leave a loveless marriage is well-planned where she uses men to help free her from her entrapment. Everything about the set design conveys this feeling of confinement from dark, shabby apartment houses to desolate streets of loneliness. Robert and Marthe cling to each other to free themselves from their circumstances yet wind up creating a complicated relationship that frightens them both.

Robert Hossein
© 2017 - Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 12/13/17
Movie Magazine International
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