Month: March 2016

Microbe et Gasoil (2015)

This is one of the more bizarre French films, but I’ve always held French cinema in high regards, especially after watching The Intouchables. Microbe et Gasoil is a wonderous piece of filmmaking from Michel Gondry, the man responsible for the story behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s an excellent coming-of-age tale from the mind of Gondry, but with potentially the most bizarre plot.

Daniel, or as he is known at as school Microbe, is a talented sketcher who becomes best friends with the new kid, Théo, who’s nickname becomes Gasoline, due to him smelling of the stuff. Daniel and Théo begin to spend a tonne of time together, before deciding to adventure around France in a car they build with a lawnmower engine. (Yes, you did read that correctly.)

Their plan for this nonsensical trip is thwarted before it begins due to the ‘car’ being impossible to register. Daniel saves the day with the idea of building a house on top of the wheels. (yes, you read that correctly, too!) But the genius house idea serves as a way to hide from the police, seen a few times throughout the film, in those excellent light hearted scenes.

However, instead of this rather intriguing and hilarious idea rolling away with the story, Gondry created some rather peculiar kids to control and contain the story. Daniel & Théo embrace their peculiarity and understand they are not like the regular kids, probably shown as only Théo is only the one to show up at Daniel’s art show and Daniel being the only one to laugh at Théo’s jokes.

The chemistry between the leads is brilliant, as it feels as though a genuine friendship in being born on screen, between Ange Dargent (Daniel) and Théophile Baquet (Théo). Because the leads being so strong in this regard, the rest of the cast (aside from Audrey Tautou’s Marie) is nonchalant. Marie has an intriguing backstory, that is never quite explored, but I think that would’ve taken away from the story centralised by Daniel and Théo.

As the two friends tour from Versailles, to Auxerre and onwards to Morvan. (a trip consisting of at least 190 miles) The film embraces weird situations, including a feud about Daniel’s hair, so much so he ventures to a Korean brothel and has the hair cut right down the middle, before running away.

The story isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it’s strength is in the chemistry as I mentioned. That being said, Gondry enlisted a few moves to keep it fresh, with Daniel intentionally leading them to Morvan to chase his crush. Unsurprisingly, Théo disagrees with this motive and this causes disruption between the two and due to their parking situation, their shed on wheels is mistaken for a Romanian camp and ends up smouldering. Although this isn’t the most inventive story, it doesn’t take anything from the enjoyment factor that can be taken out of the film.

Suddenly the film takes a serious swing as the parents are shown worrying and the boys show continued disregard to their families and rejoice in each other’s company. This seriousness changes the tone of the film and although doesn’t leave a bitter taste in the mouth, it changes the mood and lasting thoughts on the film.

That being said, the memorable scene of the wrecked car/shed hybrid emerging from a plume of smoke to save Daniel in the nick of time is fantastic and wouldn’t fail to bring a smile to anyone’s face as Théo grins heartily coming over the horizon.

Gondry has created a rather bizarre, but very entertaining coming-of-age story. Now it isn’t exactly the most perfect film, but it’s rather enjoyable and paced fantastically over the 110 or so minutes. I thought it was an excellent for the story not to be invested in the car/shed thing, but rather the friendship that blossoms throughout the movie and the life-affirming and carefree attitude it evokes. Although it came out last year, I think if you choose to watch a French film this year, Microbe et Gasoil would be a fantastic choice.

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Brooklyn (2015)

After the initial trailers, Brooklyn didn’t look like a film that would completely enthral me. After the massive talk of it scooping awards for Saoirse Ronan’s performance on the big screen, it kindled my intrigue to watch Brooklyn.

Initially I thought the film was going to be a tragic love-affair gone wrong, as Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) is caught between two relationships, in two different countries. Eilis (pronounced Eh-lish) is a young, Irish girl from a small town of Enniscorthy. She moves to America with the aid of Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), who arranges her accommodation and work and she begins to feel homesick as she starts life in the big city. I thought was going to be the simple storyline. Oh, how wrong I was. We’re given much more than that, as the film picks up it’s stride and becomes this excellent and enjoyable watch over the hour and forty-five minutes. (give or take a few minutes)

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In these opening scenes Eilis is this lifeless body that drifts from day-to-day in Enniscorthy and eventually in Brooklyn too, prompting comments from her bosses and housemates. As the film progresses, she flourishes and becomes this curious but rather enchanting young woman when compared to the Eilis we were introduced to at the start of the film.

At the root of this film, it is this sweet and innocent Irish girl caught in a whirlwind romance. During one of the Irish dances, she meets Tony (Emory Cohen) an Italian boy from Manhattan, whom she falls for very quickly. The chemistry on screen between Cohen and Ronan blossoms and is a joy to watch unfold, and becomes the centralised reason to continue watching.

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As I mentioned Eilis becoming this enchanting character on-screen is down to the whirlwind romance and her confidence grows as does the relationship with Tony. Eilis finds colour and embraces the natural beauty that she possesses which is a far-cry from the Eilis we see board the boat at the start of the movie.

(Potential Spoiler – Very small one)

In an excellent couple of scenes, the tips that Eilis received on her first trip to the States comes full circle, as she becomes the character giving the tips to a young Irish girl on her first trip to the States. It happens often, this once-shy Irish girl that never put a foot wrong, becomes this outgoing, happy, confident and fascinating woman to watch on screen.

(End of potential spoiler)

As the chemistry develops on screen between Tony and Eilis, she is suddenly summoned back home after a tragic turn of events (I won’t spoil this). During this time, she has the usual catch up with her best friend, and begins spending time with Jim Farrell (Domnhall Gleeson) and she gets caught up being back home.

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For an interesting turn in the story Jim and Eilis begin a friendship, however, this could’ve gone anyway possible, but the way the film plays out and with the pacing it worked perfectly. Naturally you become anxious watching the relationship blossom between Eilis and Jim, when half the world away awaits her love, Tony.

With this turn of events, it keeps the film fresh instead of the lost romance path it could’ve been led down. It has to be said that the film was made for the powerhouse performances given, topped off by Saoirse Ronan. And everyone is given room to breathe, as Tony taking lessons from his rather stereotypical Italian little brother on writing letters, to Jim being more than just a lad from the rugby club.

All this encapsulated and swept up in the 1950s fashion that is marvellously styled throughout the film is fantastic and an absolute joy to watch. The trouble is, at the core of it, the film is a love story, but what unfolds is a great character performances, helped on by the supporting members. (Some I realise I haven’t even mentioned like Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent). That being said, the film was truly outstanding and a simple joy to watch.

The Revenant (2016)

Hot off a successful award season, The Revenant is slowly winding down it’s impressive six-week run and I managed to get in a watch. (albeit late to the party I know, but still)

Leonardo Dicaprio in the run up to this film was tipped to finally take home that famed Best Actor Oscar. DiCaprio gives a rather excellent performance as Hugh Glass, a man well travelled in rural America, that at the time is being discovered and pillaged by a groups of American and French pelt hunters.

Emmanuel Lubezki, who previously worked with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu on Birdman, is responsible for the jaw-dropping, vast beautiful picturesque backdrops of America. However, it’s not just the backdrops that are fantastic, the camera work is dizzyingly close to the action and downright immersive, especially from the first scene onwards. Inarritu has managed to continue his fantastic use of camera work from Birdman, and making film seem like one big tracking shot and fully intoxicating camerawork throughout the film. (But in the good way)

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Often with these big picturesque and fancy films, it’s let down by the characters, or the story. With The Revenant it’s not the case, both keep up the high level of filmmaking and enjoyment with the central characters revolving around Hugh Glass (Leo), Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Henry (Domnhall Gleeson) and Bridger (Will Poulter). Naturally Leo takes center stage with Tom Hardy playing the adversary, but the supporting cast comprised of Poulter and Gleeson ups the ante and enjoyment level.

My only issue with the story comes with the pacing of the film. After the whirlwind start to the film, and the bear attack, the films pace slows dramatically. Between this and final act (if you could call it that) the films pace is slow and could have done with shaving off. However, this doesn’t take anything away from the enjoyment because as Glass wanders the rural American landscape, the shots and scenes are enchanting and a pleasure to watch on-screen.

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I thought the music was a massive success in this film, as the diegetic sound is simply outstanding. The creaking of the trees was the most evoking sound throughout the film as Glass spends nights in the woods recuperating and all that can be heard is the creaking of the trees, enhancing the mood of the film and immersive tactic employed by Inárritu.

As with the fantastic sound, acting and story, the effects were incredible, but admittedly, it was gruesome. I won’t divulge too many details on this, as it could ruin the storyline, but Glass’ bear attack wounds, the horse scene and the whirlwind opening scene all showcase this fantastic use of effects and the very brutality of these effects throughout the film.

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Inárritu has created a fantastic piece of filmmaking and throughly enjoyable. That being said, it isn’t exactly the perfect piece of film, but it’s not far from it as it has everything. An intriguing backstory from Fitzgerald and Glass, the evoking and immersive sound and of course a film rife with action completed with the stunning backdrops and scenes with the help of Lubezski.

If the film could’ve been shaved off by anywhere around half hour the film would’ve made me settle more instead of me looking at my watch half way through the run time. The film was worthy of the Oscars it won though, including Best Actor, but I cannot comment on Best Picture as I’ve not seen Spotlight. All this being said, I’m rather glad I caught this at the cinema because it was such a good cinema experience to watch unfold, with the intriguing and mysterious character, the creative and incredible effects and the immersive action scenes.