Film Review: THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF THE FAKIR (India/France/Belgium 2018) **

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Poster
Trailer

Ajatashatru Lavash Patel has lived all his life in a small Mumbai neighborhood tricking people with street magic and fakir stunts. He sets out on a journey to find his estranged father, but instead gets dragged on a never-ending adventure.

Director:

Ken Scott

Writers:

Romain Puértolas (screenplay), Luc Bossi (screenplay) | 3 more credits »

The term fakir is more unfamiliar to North Americans than say the British who likely termed the word since India was part of the British Empire.  The best example of a fakir, as often seen in British comics, is the Indian with turban blowing on a pipe with a snake rising to its music from a basket.  In the fantasy comedy THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF THE FAKIR adapted from Puértolas’ novel “The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe,” that came out in 2014, the fakir is Aja (Dhanush), a magician who     performs magic tricks in crowd while pickpocketing unsuspecting watchers in the bustling city of Mumbai.  But he was son of a is ale mother who embarks on a journey to Paris in search of his father, after mummy passes away and yes, he has given away his sacred cow after seeking advice from her.  Any book with a title as odd as thine, must surely attract a lot of readers, but the title of the film has been toned down a little.

Quebecois director of crowd pleasing films like STARBUCK and THE GRAND SEDUCTION i an appropriate choice to heal this crowd please given his track record.

Any fantasy story with a message despite the fact that it is fictional fantasy requires some credibility int he story or the message will fail to come through.  It is unfortunately that the source material itself involves a journey of chance from one city to another all over the world but Scott’s direction does not help either.  He does not attempt to normalize any of the fantasy situations.  Even the main message of the film met through, through the protagonists’s mother in a photograph talking to him.  

The film on the positive side, contains an impressive list of international stars.  The lead himself (Dhanush) is a popular Bollywood actor though people outside India would likely not heard of him.  Thee is a complete Bollywood style dance midway during the film allowing him to strut hi Bollywood expertise.  Though the sequence is non-consequential to the story, it still makes one of the more entertaining moments in the film.  Berenice Bejo, the Argentine born French actress (star of her husband’s THE ARTIST, the Oscar Winner for Best Film) plays a movie star who befriends Aja as does Somolian Actor Barked Abdi (Academy Award nominee for Best Supporting Actor as one of the pirates in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS) playing a Somolian refugee.  French actor Gerard Jugnot (almost unrecognizable sporting hair) as the cab driver cheated out of his cab fare by Aja.

THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF THE FAKIR ends up feeling totally fake in its execution, message and entertainment.  But the film would be enjoyed by the lesser demand audience and the film did go on to win the Audience Award for Best Comedy at the Barcelona Sant-Jordi International Film Festival

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1WASu-s4eA

Film Review: THE QUIETUDE (LA QUIETUDE) (Argentina 2018) **

The Quietude Poster
Trailer

Two sisters, as close as they are different, find themselves after a long separation.

Director:

Pablo Trapero

Writers:

Alberto Rojas Apel (collaborating writer), Pablo Trapero

THE QUIETUDE is the name of the sprawling ranch in Argentina where a wealthy Argentine family resides.  The quiet ranch will be shown to be not that quiet or restful by the time the film ends.

The film begins with a beautiful young lady in Buenos Aires, Mia (Martina Gusman) entering the house and interrupting a nasty argument that is heard but not seen, which is likely all for the best, as the audience gets the picture.  Mia follows the father to the D.A,’s office where he suffers a stroke and is bedridden.  This brings back to Buenos Aires the other member of the family – Eugenia (Berenice Bejo, the actress and wife of the director of the Oscar Winning Best Film THE ARTIST.)

With every member of the family at home, trouble ensues, as expected.  It is revealed that the two sisters have an unhealthy sexual incestuous relationship, as can be witnessed in the 5-minute or so oral sex scene that should keep many an audience aroused.  The two main actresses are both Argentine and they look so alike, they could pass on for twins.  This is a bit confusing during some parts of the movie when one needs to distinguish Mia and Eugenia, unless their names are used in the dialogue.

The events take place during the political unrest of the country due to the brutality of the current dictatorship.

But Trapero’s film, apart from the sexual scenes are boring for the fact that they are hardly credible.  It seems that anything goes for drama, and Trapero puts in any event convenient to create high drama, like the father’s stroke, the sex between two females and then male and female.   A bit more detail would have been helpful to aid the story’s credibility.  Nothing is mentioned of how the family’ wealth is achieved or the reason Eugenia went away to Paris or he reason father and mother stayed together despite huge disagreements.

Though shot on a ranch, most of the film’s scenes are interiors, with not much seen of the animals or in the farming. But the exteriors and production sets are quite good to look at courtesy of the cinematographer and production designer.

Trapero does not do anything to connect the audience with his characters.  The audience do not care if the father passes away or not or whether the two sisters will earn their happiness.  It appears that all Trapero is interested in doing is to titillate or shock his audience – as in the sex scenes and the oddities of behaviour of the family. 

The end result THE QUIETUDE is a rather boring family affair which could be quietly  dismissed.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e23SQyvTfcA

Film Review: LE REDOUBTABLE (GODARD MON AMOUR) (France 2017) ***

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Godard Mon Amour Poster
Trailer

During the making of one of his films, French film director Jean-Luc Godard falls in love with 17-year old actress Anne Wiazemsky and later marries her.

Writers:

Michel Hazanavicius (script by), Anne Wiazemsky (adapted from the novel “Un an après” by)

 

The film GODARD MON AMOUR (American title) /LE REDOUBTABLE (French title) that premiered in Cannes last year, a loose chapter in the biography of Nouvelle Vague director Jean-Luc Godard and directed by Michel Hazanavicius who made THE ARTIST is one anticipated by many especially cineastes.  

During the making of one of his films, French film director Jean-Luc Godard (Louis GarreL) falls in love with 17-year old actress Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin) and later marries her.

The film is shot in the style of many Godard films – the way and mannerisms the characters speak, the large word title, the colourful huge lettering, clothes and so on.

In the film Godard is shown to be quite the oddball occasional jerk when he is on his politics activist side.  Anne, in one scene claims she married Godard the film director not the activist.  It is clear what Anne thinks, as the film is adapted from her novel “Un an après”. Anne dislikes any political activism.   This is emphasized in a street demonstration scene when a activist/marcher Jean-Jock laughs at a film critic/director that his film is to be played at Cannes.  “With what is going on, who is going to Cannes?”, he remarks and laughs controllably.  Not much else needs to be said as it is clear that Jean-Jock is the total idiot.  Films, as everybody knows can influence what people think, hence any political activity can be affected by film.

Though the film might look trivial on the surface, there is much going on that can be read between the lines.  This is a chapter of the life of Godard as seen from Anne’s point of view, not a biography of Godard.  Nothing is mentioned of his early life, background or life.  But the film does illustrate Godard’s need to be politically involved, perhaps he has the need to feel important that he can make a difference.  The Godard character does not like films, thinking that they are trivial.  Even when activists criticize him and his movies, Godard takes their side.  Godard has to decide to be a filmmaker or a revolutionist.  He tries both and fails.

Hazanavicius film on Godard will obviously be frustrating as it is unclear his aim of making it.  Hazanavicius shoots with the occasional humour of his OSS 117 and THE ARTIST though the humour is much less.

Louis Garrel (THE DREAMERS) does an almost perfect Godard, capturing all his mannerisms and quirkiness.  Hazanavicius’s wife Bérénice Bejo has a supporting role as Godard’s friend.  It is simply hilarious Godard moves throughout the film annoyed, bewildered and manipulated by the activists.  He is also shown as an insensitive and rude person while always being an oddball.  One feels the urge to punch Godard right in the face at any time.

The film did not earn a high approval rating, likely because of high expectations, but the film may turn out to be an entertaining, light and trivial tribute to an arguably great director of the Nouvelle Vague.  On the other hand, one might end up hating this film thinking that Hazanavicius could have done a more serious piece with more insight on Godard.  It would be interesting to hear what Godard himself thinks of this film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nh2zKF6Ucv8

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Film Review: L’ECONOMIE DU COUPLE (AFTER LOVE) (France 2016) ***1/2

after love.jpgAfter 15 years of marriage, a couple with two kids is about to divorce. Until the husband find a new place to live, they have to cohabit, and figure out how to share their belongings.

Director: Joachim Lafosse
Writers: Fanny Burdino
Stars: Bérénice Bejo, Cédric Kahn, Marthe Keller

Review by Gilbert Seah

Those that know Cédric Kahn will definitely remember his excellent 2004 directed suspense drama FEUX ROUGE (RED LIGHTS) which he also co-wrote. The story concerns the marriage breakdown of a mediocre salesman Antoine (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) and his attractive, successful and increasingly aloof wife, Hélène (Carole Bouquet), as they are en route to pick up their daughter from camp, bickering as usual. The broken relationship is seen from the backdrop of her sudden disappearance when she decides to take the train.

Kahn leaves the director’s chair to play the husband in this equally absorbing broken marriage story of Boris (Cédric Kahn) and Marie (Bérénice Bejo). Though the background is different, both films have similarities and are both equally a difficult watch. The couples have seen their love gone sour and both try to give it a second chance. In this film, the couple have decided to separate after 15 years together. They have two girls that they adore, but tensions rise as cash-strapped Boris continues to live in the family home. Neither of the two is willing to compromise, making their apartment a war zone.

Sexual and emotional tensions remain high. An example is when the Boris accidentally enters the bathroom while Marie is having a bath. He claims that he did not see her inside and just getting his toothbrush. When she is angry he replies that he has seen her naked before. These are words and incidents that will eventually happen, regardless whether by a accident or not and will always lead to confrontation and uneasiness. The scene is done from the point of view of Marie, the camera focused on her expressions while she lies in the bath when the dialogue goes on between the couple.

Lafosse takes no sides. The audience sees the irrationality of both the husband and wife and how emotions blur their better judgement. At one point, they scream uncontrollably in front of their two daughters. The scene in which they both eventually sit down as a family and the parents promise their daughters never to shout at each other is a touching one.

One would imagine that watching a film on this topic be a brutal one. Surprisingly it is not, because Lafosse makes what appears on screen incredibly real than theatrically brutal. The sensitive and humanistic sides are also shown.

Kahn and Bejo, especially are excellent in their roles.

But all is not hate. In one sensitive and brilliant moment, Lafosse demonstrates that the love the couple once felt for each other was present in the past and not forgotten. “I did really love him” says Marie to her friends one evening party before Boris shows up and creates emotional havoc. The one unexpected visit by Marie turns out to be an evening of family warmth with the father and two daughters dancing together, edged on by the mother.

Lafosse leads his remarkable AFTER LOVE to its obvious ending as Boris and Marie eventually separate but for the better.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-zxQXzSpbM

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