Posts Tagged ‘Léa Seydoux’

Killers and Liars

Spectre

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Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Christoph Waltz, Naomie Harris, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Jesper Christensen

British director Sam Mendes follows up his 2012 blockbuster Skyfall, with the 24th installment of the 007 franchise aptly named Spectre, which serves as a pastiche of all previous Bond films, but particularly referencing Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.

With a truly spectacular opening sequence shot during the Day of the Dead festival in the sprawling and crowded central plaza of Mexico City, Spectre promises better and bigger cinematic moments. On all accounts, Spectre delivers although at times, the Bond film could have been more tightly edited.

The action sequences in Mexico City, Rome and Tangier are gripping and the production design and cinematography are quite startling, shading the film between sequences of extreme illumination and murky darkness in keeping with the sinister undertone pervading the entire narrative.

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Mexico City and Tangier are beautifully done, with gorgeous colours contrasting against the monochromatic elegance of the Roman streets at midnight or the snow covered Austrian Alps during ski season.

The Tangier scenes are clearly influenced by Bernardo Bertolucci’s classic film, The Sheltering Sky, especially when Bond and Dr Swann disembark from the Moroccan train into a sweltering Saharan desert, while the previous action on board mirrors that of The Spy Who Loves Me. Audiences should watch out for Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) as the Spectre henchman Mr Hinx who has a penchant for popping a man’s eyes out with his thumb nails.

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Daniel Craig returns as James Bond looking slightly weary and a tad less nimble but nevertheless maintaining a smirk on his face along with those dazzling blue eyes. In a stroke of genius casting, French actress Lea Seydoux is brilliant as Dr Madeleine Swann, daughter of the Pale King, whilst the villain is suitably menacing and at times slightly camp, Franz Oberholzer better known as the evil mastermind with a penchant for white Persian cats, last seen in You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds are Forever.

Naturally, Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained) is fabulous as Bond’s crazed arch enemy, but somehow does not make as brilliant an impression as Javier Bardem did as Raoul Silva in Skyfall.

With the absence of Judi Dench as M, Ralph Fiennes, appears craggy and irritable as the new M, reminiscent of the original M in the 1960’s Bond films. Refreshingly, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw as the technically gifted Q have bigger roles in Spectre, acting always as Bond’s necessary sidekicks. Watch out for a brief but glamourous cameo by Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra and Jesper Christensen as the ubiquitous Mr White, last seen in Quantum of Solace.

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Spectre, which stands for the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion is subtly portrayed as a pervasive and dangerous shadow organisation responsible for all sorts of international atrocities, which in the 21st century is particularly apt. As the visual references abound throughout Mendes’s Spectre, it will only be the serious Bond fans that will spot all those cinematic clues. In this respect, Spectre pays tribute to the success of the longest running film franchise ever, without undermining its inherent and enduring appeal.

Spectre is highly recommended viewing for ardent Bond fans, although some might find this film slightly long and the narrative muddled, but then again, one has to identify all the past 007 signifiers, for Spectre to be truly appreciated.

The question remains, much like the creepy opening sequence, is there life after Spectre?

 

 

 

The Fight for Elegance

Saint Laurent

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Director: Bertrand Bonello

Cast: Gaspard Ulliel, Lea Seydoux, Louis Garrel, Helmut Berger, Jeremie Renier, Brady Corbet, Aymeline Valade, Amira Casar

Director Bertand Bonello’s epic portrait of the life of influential fashion Designer Yves Saint Laurent is beautifully if not explicitly captured in his amazing biopic Saint Laurent, starring the gorgeous Gaspard Ulliel as the iconic and tortured designer.

Belgian actor Jeremie Renier  (In Bruges) stars as the French industrialist Pierre Berge whom together with Saint Laurent founded the hugely successful and influential Parisian Fashion House Yves Saint Laurent YSL, making it an international, synonymous with style and sophistication.

Bonello’s Saint Laurent not as brilliantly done as Olivier Dahan’s Oscar winning La Vie en Rose about the life of Edith Piaf, but just as lush and gorgeous simply making the entire film a tribute to Proust, the French novelist and celebrated aesthete who influenced the extraordinarily talented designer Yves Saint Laurent.

Choosing not to show YSL from his early years in Algeria or his time briefly spent in the French army, but rather focusing on the crucial years of his artistic flourishing between 1967 and 1976, where together with Berge he transformed women’s fashion and the two of them whilst being lovers also were integral in establishing a hugely profitable international fashion label.

Industrialist Pierre Berge was the business brains behind the venture while YSL was clearly the creative force whose own inner demons led him into a debauched life of drugs, orgies and extravagant co-dependence.

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Yves Saint Laurent love affair with the notoriously promiscuous Jacques de Bascher who embraced the 1970’s sexual revolution and rise of gay expression, post Stonewall in Paris and New York. They were frequently seen at famous Parisian nightclubs and indulged in a decadent relationship which was eventually doomed to failure, as YSL’s drug and alcohol excesses were threatening his distinctive creativity.

Jacques the epitome of a gay 1970’s dilettante, wonderfully played by Louis Garrel from the provocative Bernardo Bertolucci film The Dreamers is perfectly cast in this role. Seductive, dangerous and certainly a bad influence, Garrel portrays Jacques as a male version of a femme fatale.

Berge intervenes and rescues YSL from this dangerous courtship and soon re-establishes their dominance in haute couture in 1970’s Paris. YSL was famous for dressing such stars as Catherine Deneuve and opera singer Maria Callas.

Clearly influenced by Martin Scorsese, Bonello’s two and a half hour Saint Laurent is a drug fuelled, sexual and gorgeous portrayal of one of the 20th century’s most famous fashion designers who subverted traditional gender roles with the introduction of the feminine two piece pant suit complete with fabulous accessories and sparkling cobra shaped belts.

Yves Saint Laurent own obsession with 19th century French novelist Marcel Proust and his tremendous love of the aesthetic is defined as the continuing fight for elegance.

Dividing his time between his villa in Marrakech and his lavish apartment in Paris as well his jetset appearances in New York, the portrait of YSL is of a true creative genius, eccentric, tortured and revolutionary. Bonello’s chooses to frame Saint Laurent in his later years in the 1980’s as he leads a reclusive life in Paris in between splicing shots of the rapturous 1976 Haute Couture Fashion Show at the Paris Atelier which YSL become so famous for.

Saint Laurent is a gorgeous film, beautifully portrayed by all in the cast including upcoming actress Lea Seydoux (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Midnight in Paris) as Loulou and indie actor Brady Corbet (Mysterious Skin) as the American representative for YSL.

Capturing the fragility and creativity of YSL, Gaspard Ulliel by his looks alone carries the role for the entire two and a half hour film but audiences should be warned that besides the subtitles, certain sexual scenes may be disturbing to the uninformed.

As biopics go, Saint Laurent is not a perfect film, slightly indulgent, beautifully shot and at times like watching Tom Ford’s A Single Man on an extended acid trip. Recommended viewing for those that enjoy a strenuous French film about that nation’s most influential fashion designers and more importantly the business of Fashion itself. Best line in the film: “You can’t name a perfume Opium”.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yves_Saint_Laurent_(designer)

Fading Reign of Art Nouveau

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton

Moonrise Kingdom director Wes Anderson assembles a hugely talented ensemble cast led by the irresistable Ralph fiennes as Gustave H.  a suave Concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel who gets embroiled in a whimsical art theft after his benefactor dies mysteriously and her evil son Dimitri played by Adrien Brody pursues the eloquent and flamboyant Gustave in a fictitious republic of  Zubrowka representative of a modern day Yugoslavia or even The Czech Republic, but emblematic of a crumbling decadent and ravaged Eastern Europe.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a wonderful plot, inventive, hilarious, witty and beautifully orchestrated matched by a superb ensemble cast the likes of which haven’t been seen on screen for years including Oscar nominees F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), Harvey Keitel (Bugsy), Willem Dafoe (Shadow of a Vampire), Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), Edward Norton (Primal Fear), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) and Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) – all consummate character actors and brilliant performers in the own right.

Each perfectly constructed shot in the Grand Budapest Hotel is a pastiche of old European movies and landscapes reminiscent of a time between the wars when civility was still in fashion. When Old European Hotels were lavish and comfortable establishments with Bell Boys, Lift Operators, Chefs and naturally charming yet slimy Concierges adding to the intrigue of its elegance. When Hotels were places to spend a week, when time was plentiful and guests came to languish in the extraordinary facilities of these beautifully decadent Hotels which populated the ski slopes and small towns of Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

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Even though, the fictional country,  Zubrowka is representative of a mixture of Eastern European countries which all suffered under the Nazi’s and then under the Communists, the institutional history of such a charming hotel remained the centre of a town’s attraction, where legends of its fabled guests were passed down over the decades. The Grand Budapest Hotel reflects an era when Art Nouveau reigned supreme especially in the 1930’s. This comedy set in 1932, featuring a complicated and whimsical if not absolutely witty plot is deftly handled by screenwriter Anderson who makes sure each of his cast members whether on screen for a second or for several scenes delivers a perfect performance.

The cast also includes Lea Seydoux, Mathieu Amalric, Owen Wilson and Tilda Swinton. Inspired by the works of 20th century Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, The Grand Budapest Hotel is expertly crafted, dazzlingly assembled and wonderfully executed. A real treat of a film which will sure to delight audiences for years to come  much like the Hotel whose guests found its hidden charms suitably enchanting. Highly recommended viewing and a winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival, The Grand Budapest Hotel is marvelous, whimsical, witty and comical with an underlying menace attached to the action, making the comedy almost tragic in its relevance.

 

 

 

2013 Cannes Film Festival

2013 Cannes Film Festival Winners

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Winners of the five main prizes at the 2013 Cannes International Film Festival were as follows: –

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Palm d’Or – Blue is the Warmest Colour directed by Abdellatif Kechiche starring  Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux

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Best Director – Amat Escalante for Heli (Mexico)

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Best Actor – Bruce Dern for Nebraska

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Best Actress – Bérénice Bejo for The Past

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Best Screenplay – Jia Zhangke for A Touch of Sin

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Cannes_Film_Festival

Recapturing the Magic

Midnight in Paris

Owen Wilson has never been a brilliant actor. Mainly a comic actor and often cast in similar roles in a long series of American comedies from You, Me and Dupree to The Wedding Crashers. Under the right direction and script, Wilson is the type of actor that would shine. This is proven in Woody Allen’s simply delightful nostalgic film Midnight in Paris, which won him the 2012 Oscar for best original screenplay.

Wilson, like Jason Biggs and similar actors including Larry David plays a version of Woody Allen, a young idealistic  and neurotic playwright/author who is on holiday in Paris in the 21st century with his fiancée a wealthy American played by the effervescent Rachel McAdams. Wilson plays starry-eyed Gil who wants to recapture the Paris of the twenties, the enchanting city of lights as the epicentre of literary and artistic culture and bohemian ideas as it was decades ago. The Paris of Henry Miller, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. The Paris immortalized by F. Scott Fitzgerald in such novels as Tender is the Night.

Partly to avoid his annoying future in-laws, the hapless Gil strolls the streets of the French capital and by some magical twist at the stroke of midnight is transported back to the late 1920’s where his literary figures come to life. With real interaction with the artists and writers of the 1920’s and also of the earlier more elegant Belle Epoque, Gil is inspired to forgo all the promised commercialism of an America career and remain in gorgeous Paris,  a move that so many of his literary heroes did more than 80 years ago.

Midnight in Paris is a homage to Paris as an inspirational city not just for a whole generation of American literary greats, but Spanish artists such as Dali and Picasso but also filmmakers such as Luis Bruneul. Woody Allen deftly integrates a French and American ensemble cast including Oscar winner Marion Cotillard as Picasso’s muse, Adrien Brody as Dali, Allison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein and even Carla Bruni.

Moving away from his Manhattan obsessions, Woody Allen is clearly enchanted with such European cities as Paris, Barcelona and London completes his European set of films with Midnight in Paris, an equally brilliant companion to Vicky Christina Barcelona and Matchpoint, with each film not just capturing the essence of these cities but also the ambiance and social characteristics of its famed residents, whilst throwing an American hero or heroine into an essentially foreign continental culture.

 

Initiating Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Surviving the Sand Storm

The fourth instalment of the Mission Impossible films is simply fantastic and exceeds the dimensions and downfalls of the last two Mission Impossible films. Directed by Brad Bird, Tom Cruise returns as IMF agent Ethan Hunt whose tag line “this is your mission should you choose to accept it”, takes special agent Hunt from the Kremlin in Moscow to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai to a fantastic 007 sequence in Mumbai complete with seduction, missiles and a superb action sequence.

While Mission Impossible 3 featured Philip Seymour  Hoffman as the elusive villain and was a much more bloody and heart pounding film with chase sequences in Berlin and Shanghai, it is Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol that shows that while Tom Cruise might be getting older, he certainly has not lost his touch as one of the quintessential action film stars of the last three decades.

In Ghost Protocol this is helped by a more robust and slimmed down supporting cast including Jeremy Renner from The Hurt Locker and The Town,  Paula Patton, Simon Pegg and Michael Nyqvist as the villain from the Swedish films of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is fabulous for the spectacular stunt  sequence at the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai sandstorm car chase while the Mumbai automated car storage sequence and is definitely a homage to all the hugely popular James Bond franchise.

All the Mission Impossible films are formulaic but it is that perfect formula which works: daring action hero taking on an elusive villain whilst performing dangerous stunts in exotic international cities. All the films have allowed for great cameos by a host of international stars including Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anil Kapoor, Vanessa Redgrave and Kristin Scott Thomas to name a few. Ghost Protocol does not disappoint for all the fans of the previous three films and this fourth instalment does hint at more to follow especially with the competent Jeremy Renner in the cast…

Muscular Remake of Robin Longstride….

Robin Hood

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Ridley Scott’s Epic and muscular retelling of Robin Hood is better than expected. With Scott’s usual visual panache, 12th century England gets a grand and lush veneer along with a muscular and slightly jocular Robin Hood, played by Russell Crowe who teams up with an equally feisty Lady Marion, played with all the haughtiness of a woman trapped by her grand situation by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett.

The action is swift, gritty and visually compelling without dwelling on the gore but hinting at the brutality of the times. Robin Hood, which surprisingly opened the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and is devoutly English in its version of the pending invasion by King Philip of the brittle and precarious English realm of King John in 1199.

Supported by a wonderful cast including Mark Strong as yet another evil villian in the role of the allegiance shifting Godfrey, Eileen Atkins as the delicate but influential Eleanor of Aquitaine played by Eileen Atkins and Max von Sydow as Sir Walter Loxley, Robin Hood is Ridley Scott back in the style of Gladiator with similar themes of an empire on the precipice of change, a slightly demented ruler and an anti-hero who leads the battle and starts a myth. Robin Hood also known as Robin Longstride is a brawny and hairy Russell Crowe who is forced to delve into the idealism of his youth where his father prophesied the Magna Carta and the saying Lambs become Lions….

Scott’s trademark elements of water and shadow are skilfully used to enhance a much larger and bolder canvas of a Kingdom ravaged by a ten year crusade to the Holy Land, rebellious noblemen and coffers which are far from full. The ever-menacing relationship with France is tested by the betrayals and ambitions of Godfrey and King Philip along with his niece Queen Isabella who is married to King John, younger brother to King Richard the Lionheart, a brief but great turn by Danny Huston brother of Angelica Huston.

Crowe and Blanchett make a fine team, both experienced actors with the right amount of gravity to pull off these mythic roles with depth and sensitivity without resorting to cliche. Had these roles been cast to lesser known stars the force of the film would have been lost. Robin Hood is an epic Historical tale which hints at the popular story of Robin Hood and his merry men, Friar Tuck and his beekeeping and the Sheriff of Nottingham, gorgeously underplayed by Matthew Macfadyen of Pride and Prejudice fame. William Hurt also makes an appearance as William Marshall to add weight to the already Oscar-laden cast. This film version is certainly not flimsy, but muscular, brawny, dark and partly comical without dwelling too much on the political intrigue, the costumes or the bloodletting of medieval England.

Robin Hood‘s arrow has the perfect shot and Ridley Scott’s film is superb, engaging and visually rewarding more as an historical epic than a special-effects laden blockbuster and will surely be noticed when awards season comes round next year. What would one expect from such an experienced film maker who has brought audiences such classics as Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise and the Oscar Winning Gladiator, which made Russell Crowe an international star.

With a sword he conquored Rome…

As for the French, Robin Hood did open at Festival du Cannes, so perhaps all that cross-channel animosity has slightly cooled! Watch Robin Longstride and his rise to iconic anti-hero and savior of the outcasts and the free…

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