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Thread: New York Film Festival 2019

  1. #31
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    LES NÔTRES (Jeanne Leblanc 2020)

    JEANNE LEBLANC: LES NÔTRES/OUR OWN (2020)


    ÉMILIE BIERRE IN LES NÔTRES

    A self-healing society closes around an illicit teen pregnancy

    Les nôtres/Our Own, a French Canadian movie about an unwanted pregnancy, ends with a sort of ironic inconsequence. There was much ado. The thirteen-year-old high school sophomore Magalie (Emilie Bierre) is the daughter of a locally important man who tragically died a year ago. The mayor, Jean-Marc Ricard (Paul Doucet) has dedicated a project in the man's honor, a park, Saint Germaine. His hushed voice doing so dominates the opening scene. This same mayor is the father of Magalie's baby, which she decides to keep. There's a lot of fuss about finding out who the father is. It's never made clear why this should matter so much, exactly, but of course Mayor Ricard is very intent on the secret's not coming out, and everyone, including her classmates, is scandalized by, and disapproving of, Magalie's pregnancy. This is a repressed, constipated film, as perhaps befits the portrait of a small, closely bound community, the quiet Quebecois town of Sainte-Adeline. Everyone here wants to know secrets, or to share in hiding them. It's also a subtle, atmospheric film that shows how this society closes around and protects its own, reducing the tempests to teacups in the end.

    in this hushed and atmospheric film the accomplished director, Jeanne Leblanc, doesn't carry everything off entirely successfully: there are gaps in the story and hiccups in the narrative. It's not so evident, as blurbs claim and reviews parrot, that we are seeing a "carefully maintained social varnish eventually crack" here. I see the society, but not so much the varnish. Nonetheless the atmosphere of lush greenery, high hedges, thick curtains and a tight, muted society is well conveyed. There is a photo image of Magalie seen from the back nude on a disheveled bed in a golden light that's lovely and haunting as an Italian renaissance pointing - or perhaps dp Tobie Marier-Robitaille had Ingres in mind. Emilie Bierre's stubborn silences are eloquent in her many scenes.

    The comparisons that have been made with Eliza Hittman's celebrated Never Rarely Sometimes Always seem pretty wide of the mark. The difference is between the portrait of an isolated individual and the portrait of a society. Hittman's film is a straightforward, lonely, courageous, almost numbingly realistic real-time narrative of the struggle of a pregnant teenage girl in an increasingly women's-health-unfriendly America to get an abortion on her own, without local social services. Les Nôtres is an intentionally dodgy, and ambiguous film. Its young pregnant girl rejects abortion, and it's about a community. The society is a very collective one. What its attitude toward abortion is, we never learn.

    Magalie faints in dance class, and a hospital checkup reveals she's pregnant past the first trimester, and didn't know it. The film is cagey with us, not revealing her special relationship with the mayor, who calls her "princess," till half an hour in. In fact there is more fuss about the unknown father than about the unwed, very underage mother. That is what her mother, the alternately inquisitorial/hysterical and loving Isabelle (Marianne Farley), is most concerned about. This is also a lot about Isabelle's drama. Magalie stonewalls with everyone for several reasons. It's the only way she can maintain some independence. But she's also trying to figure things out.

    She will have nothing to do with the social services officer, Patrice (Guillaume CYr). And he's not ultimately sympathetic. A big, overweight young man, he claims he and his girlfriend had the same problem once and he "understands." But he keeps popping up all the time and seems like a detective trying to get to the identity of the dad. In particular, there is questioning of Manu (Léon Diconca Pelletier), a boy who Magalie insists is not her boyfriend, but to whom she is close. Too close, the mayor says. Manu and the younger, darker, more Latino-looking Felipe (Santiago de la Cortina) are two Mexican boys adopted by the mayor and his wife Chantal (Judith Baribeau).

    The two Mexican boys' residence in the mayor's house doesn't prevent everyone from referring to them in a racist manner, and a boy at school attacks Manu and calls him a "taco." However Manu is tall and has a ponytail and looks like a posh private school boy to me. At a game at school, there is only one person of color visible in the crowd, and that is Felipe. There is nothing integrated or multi-cultural about this world. There is a lot going on - everyone is busy doing things - except maybe breathing. Sometimes this seems a stifling world.

    The final sequence shows a blasé understanding, culturally French, perhaps, that all the fuss has been much ado about nothing. Nobody gets caught - yet: the cop car that comes to pick up Magalie when she's standing with the middle aged authority figure who has knocked her up, is not for him, and only there because she has been missing. She says she just wants to go home.

    Jump forward in time, with Magalie self-consciously shown to be big-breasted but flat-stomached now, to a busy, cozy scene of familiar adults, notably Magalie's mother and the mayor and his wife. They're taking care of the baby boy. It's positively a crowd, a comforting mass. "Won't you stay?" asks the mayor's wife. "No thanks," says Magalie. "My friends are waiting for me." Jump to the final scene: Magalie in the back of a car next to Manu. Of course: she's young. She needs to hang out with her friends. The baby will be alright. There are lots of adults to take care of him.

    Both images, the house interior and the car interior, are social scenes, cozy with supportive people. But we're left with queasy memories of Magalie and the mayor; of the movie's most uncomfortable scene, of the mayor having abortive, humiliating sex with his wife Chantal; and all the nosiness, the repression, the prejudice of this provincial world. Quebec is a province, whose French sounds stranger than the French of Africa. Montreal is somewhere else. It's not even mentioned, nor are books, or the world outside. This movie made me uncomfortable.

    Les nôtres/Our Own, 105 mins., debuted at the Rendez-Vous du Cinéma Québecois (RVCQ) Feb. 26, 2020, and showed also at Nashville Oct. 2020, and Raindance Nov. 2020. Virtual US release by Oscilloscope Jun. 18, 2021.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-09-2021 at 01:51 PM.

  2. #32
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    TRUMAN & TENNESSEE: AN INTIMATE CONVERSATION (Lisa Immordino Vreeland 2020)

    LISA IMMORDINO VREELAND:TRUMAN &TENNESSEE: AN TNTIMATE CONVERSATION (2020)


    TRUMAN CAPOTE; TENNESSEE WILLIAMS IN THE 1950S

    A gossipy, entertaining compare-and-contrast. Not really a "conversation"

    I'm very sorry (as I can hear Truman "&" Tennessee saying, themselves), but this isn't an "intimate conversation." It's not a "conversation" at all. It's lines from each of the two men, both gay American writers from the South who became famous in the fifties, in case you don't know, talking to themselves. Or they are talking to interviewers like David Frost or Dick Cavett. And the lines in some cases are read by actors imitating their voices (Jim Parsons as Capote - not very good; Zachary Quinto - a little better ).

    Two monologues don't make a conversation - at least I hope not! Nowadays, one wonders. This is a time when you think the art of conversation couldn't be more in decline and then it gets worse. That a fabricated collage like this could be called a "conversation," and even an "intimate" one, is one more sign of the decline of conversation and the lack of understanding of what it entails.

    Truman "says" that when they first met, he being 16 and Tennessee 29, Tennessee wanted it to be an "intellectual friendship," meaning no sex, and apparently it was. Though it had serious ups and downs, this friendship lasted till the end. Tennessee died at 71 from an overdose of barbiturates; Truman, 18 months later at 59 from complications of alcoholism.

    Capote's first published works, very precocious, were a story collection, the novel Other Voices, Other Rooms, and a slim book of exquisite travel essays, Local Color. I read them when I was a young teenager. (I was a precocious reader.) Williams' first two great successes were the two plays, A Streetcar Name Desire and The Glass Menagerie. Back in the day one heard about them all the time and they are still living theatrical classics.

    That these two gay southern men became icons of American writing in the Fifties must be important. What does it mean? Can this breezy, somewhat contrived film tell us? Probably not; but it can keep us entertained for an hour and twenty-five minutes.

    The conceit of the "conversation" between two man we almost never see together is the organizing principle. But like so many modern documentaries this one drew on many sources - and frustratingly, flashes on numerous articles about its subjects to allude to them without revealing their contents. A juicy example is James Wolcott's 1976 Village Voice piece about Capote, "Truman Capote Sups on the Flesh of the Famous." That one I glimpsed, freeze-framed, looked up, and found reissued online; but unlike biographical material in print, films like this don't provide the information that would allow one to follow up and read these numerous snapshotted articles. They're like teasers. Does it ever occur to anyone that this makes little sense?

    What we get inTruman and Tennessee in lieu of "intimate conversation," are parallel portraits. And they do have things in common besides being gay writers from the South. They both drank and smoked a lot. They both went to "Doctor Feelgood" - Max Jacobson, the name not mentioned here - the celebrity pill and injection dispenser (who reportedly caused President Kennedy, under the power of his injections, to go almost to the brink of nuclear war). Incidentally they both had a femme side, and both are cited saying they felt they had a little girl lurking within from childhood.

    The fun side and the dark side are evinced by Truman and Tennessee respectively. Tennessee had his boisterous laugh. But Truman comes off lighter in the clips from interviews, where you can see he was quite funny. He must have been good company - wonder he got to have so many friends and could put on his Black and White Ball at the Plaza Hotel, the celebrity party to end all parties. Tennessee on the other hand we keep seeing in nasty, probing moments of patent absurdity when the British interviewer David Frost, once cock of the walk, asks him more and more intimate, embarrassing questions that he answers genially and politely but increasingly uneasily. Here Dick Cavett, shown more briefly, shines forth as a great deal more intelligent. Why did Frost enjoy such fame? Because of his boldness. For Tennessee, the issue of persistent depression, alcoholism, and preoccupation with horrible things like lobotomies and cannibalism come up.

    But the clips from movies based on Tennessee Williams plays, featuring the most glamorous and talented actors of the day, Paul Newman, Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor, present the playwright in a very favorable light and show how central he was in the popular imagination as a poet of glamorous decadence. Truman says he wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly Golightly in the movie of Breakfast at Tiffany's (more clips), not the harder, more polished Aubrey Hepburn. This book seemed (to me) one of Capote's weakest efforts and the movie uninteresting, a cheapening of something already cheap. But movie clips are used here only illustratively, not evaluated.

    The account here of Capote moves on to the magnm opus that both made and destroyed Capote, his meticulous "nonfiction novel" of the Clutter family massacre in Kansas, and again film clips show well, because the movie version of this book sill look very good now, and very close to the real murderers and victims glimpsed in still photos here.

    Next we move on to the decline and fall of these two high profile artists, but it seems Capote was a more visible public figure, growing chubbier and more numbed-out all the time, spoiled, pampered, but going under. Gossip becomes the the big theme in Truman's declining years as he causes gleeful outrage with the four successively more scandalous excerpts from his never-finished novel Answered Prayers, which we all read with pleasure and excitement. Capote acknowledged that it was a "roman à clef" (mispronounced by the actor doing his voice) and said every bit of it was "absolutely true," though he also says it was gossip and embroidered. Yet though in a dubious cause, you could appreciate Capote's refined literary craftsmanship raising its head again, which had been neutralized in the masked reportage of In Cold Blood; but the main pleasure for gossip specialists was spotting the famous people - including a very unflattering portrait of Mr. Williams as "Mr. Wallace," client of a call boy service - thinly veiled in these tasty snippets. Capote is heard saying that all fiction is gossip, including Anna Karenina or War and Peace or Madame Bovary "or Proust."

    One is surprised to hear Capote, who became a denizen of the short-lived Studio 54, saying that it was too bad "people like Toulouse Lautrec, or Baudelaire, or Oscar Wilde" couldn't have enjoyed it and "Cole Porter would have loved it" as well as Proust. He seems to have gone a bit overboard. Obviously Capote cheapened himself, sold out to celebrity, including his own, and was so exhausted by self-indulgence and his punishing obsession with the Clutter murders that he lost control of his literary gift. Meanwhile Tennessee Williams is heard announcing that he never got a good review after The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1963) and could never fully recover from the loss of his longtime companion Frank Merlo, who died of lung cancer in 1963. But this film doesn't fully represent Tennessee Williams' success and productivity during his period of hot play production from 1944 to 1963. He loses here in the celebrity contest. There's moe gossipy material about Truman Capote, even though Capote spent a lot of time not really writing anything.

    This movie is like a child distracted by pretty baubles. It's distracted by whatever colorful quotes or clips it finds, and so it provides a confusing picture distracting us from the fact that, alas, Truman Capote, despite his exquisite precocious beginnings, doesn't life up to comparison with other Southern writers, Harper Lee, Carson McCullers, and, yes, Tennessee Williams, as the catty gem by James Wolcott cited above will tell you.

    This film despite its contrived format will be an introduction to the two important writers that may inspire younger viewers to read their work. Tennessee's plays of course must be seen, not just read. But the questions about why these two writers are important and what their fame means are not answered, and it feels as though Capote's somewhat greater gossip and celebrity value makes the film give him a greater importance as a literary figure whereas that may properly belong to his elder, Tennessee. I enjoyed all the review of Capote's story, but suspect I'd have been better served by less about him and more about Tennessee Williams.

    (Lisa Immordino Vreeland has previously made documentary portraits of fashion maven Diana Vreeland (her husband's grandmother), art collector Peggy Guggenheim, and royal photographer Cecil Beaton.)

    Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation,86 mins., opens in New York at Film Forum and Los Angeles at The Nuart and Laemmle Playhouse & Town Center 5 movie theaters, and is available in virtual theaters throughout the US through KinoMarquee.com starting June 18, 2021.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-10-2021 at 01:36 PM.

  3. #33
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    SWAN SONG (Todd Stephens 2021)

    TODD STEPHENS: SWAN SONG (2021)

    Udo Kier takes center stage in a quietly flamboyant and touching gay role

    Udo Kier, born in 1944, is a film and voice actor from Cologne, Germany who moved to Palm Springs in the early nineties. He has appeared in over 200 movies. Kier is known for his roles as Ron Camp in Ace Ventura Pet Detective 1994), Curly in Barb Wire, as a NASA flight psychologist in Armageddon, and as Ralfi in the movie Johnny Mnemonic. He has worked for Lars von Trier. He had a key role in the critically acclaimed recent film Bacarau and also appeared in the spectacular recent war saga The Painted Bird. This time he's the Liberace of Sandusky. It fits him to a T.

    In Swan Song he is Patrick Pitsenbarger, who was a high class beautician in his heyday, in a midwestern town. Now he has had a stroke and is living in an institution for the elderly when he gets the posthumous request, of a deceased former friend, former glamorous client (Linda Evans of "Dynasty"), relayed by a lawyer, to do the dead lady's hair in grand former style for her final appearance at the funeral home. At first rejects the idea. "I'm retired." He is living a dreary life, consisting of clandestine smokes of Mores with a mute old lady with pretty hair, and not much else. He has a change of heart and sets off on foot to go to the funeral home - a colorful walkabout reviewing his past...

    Patrick is, of course, a gay man. His lover, David, died of AIDS back in 1995. In this story, Kier gets to play his most down-to-earth role and has a rare opportunity to be the featured actor throughout a film. Todd Stephens' gay credentials couldn't be better: he wrote the screenplay for the all time best gay teen coming-of-age classic the 1998 Edge of Seventeen (directed by David Moreton). Stephanie McVay from Edge is here. Stevens wrote as well as directed this film. He set it in Sandusky,, Ohio, like Edge, and he's at home here and enjoys celebrating the town he grew up in and a fabulous unapologetic gay man he looked up to back in the day..
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Today at 01:08 AM.

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