Film Review: ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE (USA 2018) ***

The iconic Carlyle hotel has been an international destination for a particular jet-set as well as a favorite haunt of the most discernible New Yorkers.


Matthew Miele


Matthew Miele

Documentaries are made for varying reasons. They could be for education, to inform the world of some little known subject, to celebrate a famous person, to whistle blow or to honour a person in a biography.  ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE, the new documentary written and directed by Matthew Miele celebrates a famous hotel – the famous hotel called the Carlyle.

The iconic Carlyle hotel has been an international destination for a particular jet-set as well as a favourite haunt of the most discernible New Yorkers.  This documentary celebrates glamour – the glamour of the hotel (the cost of a suite could go for as high as $22,000) and the glamour of the guests that have stayed there.  The list of guests includes stars Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, Anthony Bourdain, Naomi Campbell, George Clooney, Sofia Coppola, Alan Cumming and Jon Hamm as well as Presidents and dignitaries like John F. Kennedy and Ted Roosevelt.

The Carlyle Hotel enjoys the reputation popularized by recent movies like the JOHN WICK films and HOTEL ARTEMIS with Jodie Foster.  In these films, a hotel would service any client no matter what background with everyone treated fairly and equally despite any shadiness. At the Carlyle, the management declined to tap the rooms of any suspicious clientele as all hotel guests are treated with respect.  The example given is the request by the government agency to  tap the Iraqi delegation that stayed there during the Gulf War.  No was the answer.

Whatever happens at the Carlyle stays at the Carlyle.  That is the saying and understand of both the staff and guests of the plush expensive hotel.  Even the names of the celebrities are not disclosed by the staff.

Director Mile has assembled a varied cast of interviewees to shed light on the hotel.  Besides the stars mentioned, the hotel staff, many of whom have spent their entire lives working there.  These include Kim of Room Service, Ernesto the doorman, Helal the waiter and several of management from sales to decor designer.

The film reveals the uniqueness of the Carlyle, in the words of both sides, the clientele and staff.  The art decor, the personal friendliness, the class, the care taken and style are a few of the factors.  The staff also speak of their favourite encounters.  George Clooney (who also speaks to the camera in an interview) and John F. Kennedy top the list of the staff’s favourite guests.

What is a hotel without some wicked scandal?  The hotel staff is asked about Marilyn Monroe and Kennedy and about many young and super gorgeous twenty-somethings that enter the hotel doors.  Fortunately, the staff is discreet.

The film’s highlights are the performances that take place at the hotel’s cafe.  A seat is reputed to cost at least $150 with a minimum of a $75 order.  One of the most popular performers is Bobby Short who is shown performing in a brief clip.  His performance and the hotel are also featured in Woody Allen’s film HANNAH AND HER SISTERS.  Woody Allen is also featured playing the clarinet in the cafe.

ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE is entertaining fluff.  The film celebrates celebrities.



Film Review: RBG (USA 2018) ***1/2

A look at the life and work of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


Julie CohenBetsy West

Often the first 10 minutes of tim sets the tone and mood for the rest of the movie.  As far as this doc called RBG (standing for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but using the initials of the famous rapper) goes, it is the most spirited first 10 minutes of introduction to any film beginning with the uplifting music I have witnessed in a film this year.  What an into and what anticipation the directors have created for their audience who are then introduced to this ‘witch’, ‘American’ ‘shit-disturber’ who have changed countless lives.  In her very won words: “Everyone wants to take a picture with this 80-year old lady.”

The film delivers a message in the form of Ruth’s mother’s advice to Ruth: “Be a Lady.  Be independent!”  Ruth or RBG explains that being a lady means controlling girly emotions like anger.  The way to win an argument is not to yell.  Being independent means being able to take care of oneself.”  These simple words also apply to males as well with “Be a Gentleman.”

You could do something to make the world better!  Ruth decided to become a lawyer.  If not her husband can support her, Ruth’s parents muse. 

The film benefits from the availability of archive footage.  There are marvellous grainy black and white footage with voiceover provided by Ruth.

The most amazing thing about Ruth, as the movie emphasizes to great effect, is that she did not get life handed to her on a silver platter.  She burnt the candle at both ends by looking after her daughter and ill husband (with cancer) while she was third year at Law School.  The hard work work paid off for Ruth.  Her children also speak to the camera, praising their mother.

The most important issue tackled by the doc is however, the injustices against women.  Law firms did not hire women – it was just the way it was.  Ruth fought for women’s rights.  Ruth Ginsburg used her legal education to make the difference, dealing with sex discrimination cases thus making a difference in the women’s rights movement.  She would take cases that made good law.  The film gets more personal with a specific case –  Frontiero vs. Richardson.  The film is fortunate to have the real Sharron Frontiero interview and speak her case.  She was denied a housing allowance in the Air Force.  “You are lucky to be in the Air Force at all, she was told.   Sharron filed a lawsuit, under taken by RGB.

RBG is an inspiring doc that would make even men cheer that women have attained their deserved rights through the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg,

The film also shows her personal side.  They are shots of Ruth attending her favourite pastime – opera  She appreciates the sound of the human voice (she likens it to an electric current), the drama and the music.  Justice and mercy are all in the opera,

Ruth knew exactly what needs to be said and it was a very shrewd strategy.  Ruth wins many cases carefully outlining the words to emphasize the cause.

RBG premiered in Toronto at the Jewish Film Festival a few weeks back.  But he doc and its content has universal appeal.  The directors have created as inspirit a doc as its subject – the Notorious RBG.


Review: 90th ACADEMY AWARDS 2018

The 90th Academy Awards ceremony (2018) took place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.  During the ceremony, AMPAS presented Academy Awards aka Oscars in 24 categories.   Comedian and late show host Jimmy Kimmel did the honours as M.C. for the second consecutive year.   

The Oscars always discouraged politics, well maybe till now.  Winners of awards that deliver political or activist related speeches often get boo’ed off stage, the most memorable example being Michael Moore boo’ed off stage way back when.  Two current issues will take the stage along the winners this year.  One is the February NRA boycott.  It is reported that anti-NRA badges were put into the swag bags given to the stars.  It would be interesting to see who will be wearing these badges.  The other is still the #MeToo movement.  The latest victim is Ryan Seacrest.  As news mounted against him regarding sexual allegations, the decision had to be made whether he should cover the red carpet.  When the time finally arrived, Seacrest was on the red carpet, with stars like Christopher Plummer and Richard Jenkins stopping by for interviews.  (E! supported Seacrest saying that there is insufficient proof to Seacrest’s allegations of sexual misconduct.)  The female equality movement was emphasized throughout the ceremony that reached its fever pitch during  the rousing Frances McDormand’s Best Actress speech.

Host Kimmel began by reminding everyone women and men, women (coming first) that it is the grand 90th anniversary.  Jokes were first made regarding the wrong envelope for Best Picture last year.  “When you hear your name announced, do not come up right away.”  Most of the humour were funny enough, credit to Kimmel with the funniest joke was related to Best Picture Oscar Nominnee THE SHAPE OF WATER.  “The year will be remembered for the fact that men screwed u so much that women started dating fish.  But he mentioned milestones this year such as Rachel Morrison being the first Oscar-nominated female cinematographer for MUDBOUND. 

The ceremony had a few unforgettable nostalgic moments.  After a clip of Eva Marie Saint in the black and white ON THE WATERFRONT, the Best Supporting Actress appeared to present the Oscar for Best Costume design.  After a standing ovation, she recalled working with Edith Head, one of the greatest film costume designers of all time.  The clips celebrating the Academy Awards 90 years of film with many unforgettable scenes made the other highlight.

Jimmy Kimmel’s giving away of a jet ski to whoever gives the shortest acceptance speech is the ceremony’s running joke.

The Oscar’s best timely moment is James Ivory’s acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay right after a spill on equality and fairness in movies.  He stresses the importance of first love whether be straight gay or otherwise in his writing.  Then black writer Jordan Peele won for Best Original Screenplay for GET OUT.

And if anyone noticed Jane Fonda said “The Winner is..”  instead of “The Oscar goes to..” in the presentation of the Best Actor Oscar to Gary Oldman for DARKEST HOUR.  His speech?  “To his 99-year old mother: “Put the kettle on, I am bringing the Oscar home.”

Right up to the end of the ceremonies, no one could guess which film would win the Best Picture Oscar, whether it be “SHAPE OF WATER or “THREE BILLBOARDS”.  The best joke of the evening was the presentation of the Best Pictures Oscar.  Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty did the honours the second time around.

Below are the full list of nominees with asterisks beside the winners.

Best Picture:

“Call Me by Your Name”

“Darkest Hour”


“Get Out”

“Lady Bird”

“Phantom Thread”

“The Post”

“The Shape of Water” ***

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”


Lead Actor:

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”

Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”

Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”

Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour” ***

Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”


Lead Actress:

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”

Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” ***

Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”

Meryl Streep, “The Post”


Supporting Actor:

Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”

Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”

Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”

Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” ***


Supporting Actress:

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”

Allison Janney, “I, Tonya” ***

Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”

Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”

Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”



“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan

“Get Out,” Jordan Peele

“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig

“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson

“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro ***


Animated Feature:

“The Boss Baby,” Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito

“The Breadwinner,” Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo

“Coco,” Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson

“Ferdinand,” Carlos Saldanha

“Loving Vincent,” Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman


Animated Short:

“Dear Basketball,” Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant ***

“Garden Party,” Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon

“Lou,” Dave Mullins, Dana Murray

“Negative Space,” Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata

“Revolting Rhymes,” Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer


Adapted Screenplay:

“Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory ***

“The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

“Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green

“Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin

“Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees


Original Screenplay:

“The Big Sick,” Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani

“Get Out,” Jordan Peele ***

“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig

“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh



“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins ***

“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel

“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema

“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison

“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen


Best Documentary Feature:

“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” Steve James, Mark Mitten, Julie Goldman

“Faces Places,” JR, Agnès Varda, Rosalie Varda

“Icarus,” Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan ***

“Last Men in Aleppo,” Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed, Soren Steen Jepersen

“Strong Island,” Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes


Best Documentary Short Subject:

“Edith+Eddie,” Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright

“Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405,” Frank Stiefel ***

“Heroin(e),” Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon

“Knife Skills,” Thomas Lennon

“Traffic Stop,” Kate Davis, David Heilbroner


Best Live Action Short Film:

“DeKalb Elementary,” Reed Van Dyk

“The Eleven O’Clock,” Derin Seale, Josh Lawson

“My Nephew Emmett,” Kevin Wilson, Jr.

“The Silent Child,” Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton ***

“Watu Wote/All of Us,” Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen


Best Foreign Language Film:

“A Fantastic Woman” (Chile) ***

“The Insult” (Lebanon)

“Loveless” (Russia)

“On Body and Soul (Hungary)

“The Square” (Sweden)


Film Editing:

“Baby Driver,” Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss

“Dunkirk,” Lee Smith ***

“I, Tonya,” Tatiana S. Riegel

“The Shape of Water,” Sidney Wolinsky

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Jon Gregory


Sound Editing:

“Baby Driver,” Julian Slater

“Blade Runner 2049,” Mark Mangini, Theo Green

“Dunkirk,” Alex Gibson, Richard King ***

“The Shape of Water,” Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood


Sound Mixing:

“Baby Driver,” Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin

“Blade Runner 2049,” Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill

“Dunkirk,” Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo ***

“The Shape of Water,” Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick


Production Design:

“Beauty and the Beast,” Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer

“Blade Runner 2049,” Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola

“Darkest Hour,” Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

“Dunkirk,” Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis

“The Shape of Water,” Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau    ***


Original Score:

“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer

“Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood

“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat ***

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell


Original Song:

“Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Mary J. Blige

“Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name,” Sufjan Stevens

“Remember Me” from “Coco,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez      ***

“Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” Diane Warren, Common

“This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Benj Pasek, Justin Paul


Makeup and Hair:

“Darkest Hour,” Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick ***

“Victoria and Abdul,” Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard

“Wonder,” Arjen Tuiten


Costume Design:

“Beauty and the Beast,” Jacqueline Durran

“Darkest Hour,” Jacqueline Durran

“Phantom Thread,” Mark Bridges ***

“The Shape of Water,” Luis Sequeira

“Victoria and Abdul,” Consolata Boyle


Visual Effects:

“Blade Runner 2049,” John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer        ***

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick

“Kong: Skull Island,” Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,”  Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlan

“War for the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

Film Review: POOP TALK (USA 2017)

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Poop Talk Poster


POOP TALK or in other words, SHIT TALK is a comedy doc that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year that luckily got picked up for distribution.  It is an hour and a quarter documentary about shit, if one can take it.  At least the doc takes a humorous look at it, as seen primarily from the point of view from a wide selection of stand-up comedians. “If I had one wish only from a genie, it would be that I would never have to shit,” jokes one comic at the film’s introduction.   A few shit experts (Dr. Joel Brown and Dr. John Vainder as themselves) also have their say, if that means anything.  The film aims  at giving an inside look at all things poop — from uncensored, embarrassing moments to scientific explanations recounted by 50 experts and comedians

Most of the comedians are not too famous, that majority of them unheard of, though that does not mean that they are not funny.  The one appearing most might be familiar with would be Kumail Nanjiani who also starred in his recent hit romantic comedy THE BIG SICK.

If the film is about to run short of material and begins to drag, director Feldman is quick enough to insert segments from the comics about poop that will guarantee at least a laugh or two.

Among the film’s funnier stand-up comic moments are the ones in which a female describes how she flooded the toilet and her friend’s bathroom ending up with her poop splashing on her mother’s face and the other where a dwarf comedian describes his experience pooping in a public toilet with the lights shut off.

Ironically, I am writing this review in Cuba when my partner is having traveller’s diarrhoea.  He has had the runs at least 5 times in the last half hour last evening, and has to be taken to the hospital.  But this is another story.  Another poop story.

Do not expect major insights, even on poop from this doc.  Feldman offers doses about poop in Africa, Russia and a few other foreign countries.  Mildly funny, at best!

The film also talk about different types of toilets like the squat toilets, especially in India.   All Pakistani bathrooms for example, there are washers for washing poop.  There a lot of funny stories about shit in other countries, but India has the funniest ones.

The most public place one has pooped in?  there is a segment in the film about this.  At the beach?  In the sea?

The psychology of shit?  The film has comedians talk about not shitting in public.  And the best is shitting on cocaine. Those in the know, know how much smellier poop can smell after snorting a line.

The most disgusting (or funny) is King kong Bundy the wrestler , 6 foot foot five 400 pounds tang a shit.

For all that is worth, POOP TALK does its best on the topic, despite the subject’s limitations.  Sadly though, this is not enough of a full length documentary.  The film also lacks a solid climax.  POOP TALK is an ok small movie, maybe to watch on the small screen, unless one want to spend extra bucks for shit.





Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Film Review: AIDA’S SECRETS (Israel/Germany/Canada/USA 2016) ***

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Aida's Secrets Poster

Family secrets, lies, high drama and generations of contemporary history unspool in this international story that begins with World War II and concludes with an emotional 21st-century … See full summary »


Alon SchwarzShaul Schwarz (as Saul Schwarz)


AIDA’S SECRETS is a heartfelt documentary about secrets that could very well have been a fiction suspensor.  

Though the film has Aida in the title, the woman Aida does not appear until half way into the picture.  She is first seen in a senior’s home in Quebec visited by her two sons.

AIDA’S SECRETS begins with the character of Izak.  Izak is clearly Jewish, getting up there in age and is first shown in a torn T-shirt sitting in a yard living in Israel.  Izak, as a child was brought up by a loving family in Israel who never told him the truth of his origin.  As a boy, his friends teased him that his parents were not his real parents.  He finally finds out that he was an adopted child and that his birth mother is living in Canada.  To his greeter surprise or rather shock, Izak finds that he has a brother, who is blind also living in Canada all through a family tree agency, the agent who seems as talented as a Sherlock Holmes.

Director Schwarz builds up his first third of his documentary with great finesse, piquing the audience curiosity as much as he can.  The audience is as curious as Izak as to why his foster parents never told Izak the truth and why his mother kept he secret of his brother from him, after the two of them have met.  As he title implies, there are more secrets to come – not to be revealed in this review to prevent spoilers.

Schwarz’s film takes a noticeable turn after the firs third when he finally meets his blind brother Shep for the first time in Canada.  Suspense is unfortunately, turned into melodrama.  Izak quips and hugs his brother Shep too many times: “You are my little brother.  I love you.  My little brother!  My family!”  

Aida has passed away since the film was completed leaving many questions the two sons unanswered.  But some answers were provided by DNA tests as suggested by the agent of the family tree company.  To his credit, many discoveries were made.

It is also fortunate that Izak’s father was a photographic specialist.  There were lots and lots of old photographs that were studied with many conclusions drawn.

One touching scene is the first meeting of Izak and Shep at a Canadian airport.  It is doubtful that the cameraman followed Izak on the plane or waited at the airport to capture the prized moment.  It is more likely the reconciliation was an re-enactment.  But the scene is still a powerful one.

The film also educates on what happened to the Jews after they were freed from the Nazi concentration camps.  They were placed in displacement camps, like Izak’s father.

Ultimately AIDA’S SECRETS is about survival during the war.  And the consequences, some uncontrollable that affect the lives of ordinary people. That is the reason the film is able to hold interest from start to end.



Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Film Review: Molly’s Game

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Molly's Game Poster

2:07 | Trailer
The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.


Aaron Sorkin


Molly Bloom (book), Aaron Sorkin (screenplay)


MOLLY’S GAME is writer Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut.  Sorkin also adapted the script from the memoir Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom.  Anyone familiar with Sorkin’s work, the most notable being the script for THE SOCIAL NETWORK will surely know that a lot of dialogue is expected and the actors in the film have to be motor-mouthed to be able to speak Sorkin’s dialogue at hundreds of miles per hour.  Lead actors Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba do just that and supporting actor Michael Cera known for his fast speaking does the same.

MOLLY’S GAME is stud poker.  It would be beneficial if one knows the rules of the game in order to appreciate the film.  There are suspense scenes involving being dealt the winning card and if one is unsure whether a full house or a royal flush wins, then one might do better to learn the rules of poker before venturing into a poker film.  Besides the fact, Sorkin has done his homework on high poker stake games around the world and what transpires on screen in extremely credible.  No doubt the memoirs must have have been quite detailed.

There will undoubtedly be those who will complain about the film being too talky.  But this is the niche of watching an Aaron Sorkin film – script or direction.  Sorkin has the gift of words and though the film is talky, he is to be given credit for a fast moving 140 lengthy film.  His attention to detail is an additional bonus.  

Sorkin’s both subtle and over-the-top humour is also present.  This can be observed in the detailed and lengthy 10 minute introduction to the film where the voiceover announces that the Molly’s skiing has nothing to do with her poker.  The film then establishes from scratch how Molly enters the game and finally how she becomes super good at ti before it all crumbles.  Then the biggest joke is that all this is revealed at the film’s end to be caused by skiing after all – to be due to that twig that trips Molly during her final ski jump.

In the story, the FBI presses Molly to reveal the high profile players so that they can be investigated leading to persecution.  Molly sticks to her principles against her lawyers advice.  Yes, this leads to more verbal debate!  Sorkin stays true not to reveal any big names in the film as well.

As in the other Sorkin scripted films, the dialogue goes on so fast that one can understand 20% of its if lucky.  But Sorkin has the gift of making the audience feel as if they have understood everything necessary for the film to go on.  Sokrin’s scripts and MOLLY’S GAME, his first film are strong on his style of writing.  To be fair to him, his story gets through and the film moves fast, at times as fast as the dialogue.  But if one wants to complain about this, stay away from this film.

MOLLY’S GAME premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to mixed critical reviews.  Love it or hate it, but the Sorkin dialogue film has its pleasures.


Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

LA DANSEUSE (THE DANCER) (France/Belgium/Czech 2016)

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

The Dancer Poster
Loïe Fuller was the toast of the Folies Bergères at the turn of the 20th century and an inspiration for Toulouse-Lautrec and the Lumière Brothers. The film revolves around her complicated relationship with protégé and rival Isadora Duncan.


Thomas Bidegain (collaboration), Giovanni Lista (novel)| 6 more credits »


A 2016 French biographical musical drama film based on the true story, directed and written by Stéphanie Di Giusto and co-written by Thomas Bidegain and Sarah Thiebaud, based on the novel by Giovanni Lista, LA DANSEUSE opens with the film’s subject and protagonist carried away after what looks like an injury during a dance.  This scene is returned to at the film’s halfway mark after she collapses from her first performance.

Director Di Giusto then takes her audience back to the dancer’s early days before she began her dance career, which is assumed must be a famous one.  Loie Fuller (Soko) is revealed as a rebellious teen taken in by her stern mother after her alcoholic father dies.  Loie promises to be obedient and not cause trouble which translates in movie terms that she will be disobedient and cause trouble.  Besides posing nude and starring on stage, she finds her calling as a dancer, though what occurs on screen does not seem credible.  One assumes what occurs must be true as the film is based on a true story.  Di Giusto uses that as carte blanche to bring in whatever she likes and portray the incidents however she deems suitable.  The result is a rather rough film, with too many incidents inserted inappropriately leaving the narrative disjointed.

Isadora Duncan (Lily-Rose Depp) is Loie’s dance peer.  Her appearance might eclipse Loie’s story, but Di Guisto keeps that in check.  Still it is hard to like Loie’s character.  Di Giusto shows her as strong willed, stubborn to perform at risk of her personal health, self destructive  and one who never accepts authority.  Loie comes off as an unlikeable character no matter how dedicated she is to her art.  As for the choreography with flowing dresses, it is quite different from ballet or modern dance and is a style in itself, taking a while to get used to.

The film is oddly shot in French and quite a bit in English.  The mother is English while the father is French, which is assumed the reason.  LA DANSEUESE is a period piece set in France and the period atmosphere and costumes show it.  The film won the Cesar for Best costume Design (by Anais Romand).

The most famous of the cast is Gaspard Ulliel who always looks dashing in this case playing Loie’s romantic interest.

The film is an ok biography which is keen to reveal the (anti-feminist) prejudice of the times and travails the main subject went through.  Di Giusto makes no attempt to make any of her characters likeable from Loie, to Isadora Duncan and to lover Louis and her other lesbian lover, Gabrielle (Mélanie Thierry). The result is a difficult film to like.

LA DANSEUSE was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.  It took a year before finally released here, and might be worth a look if one likes period drama with some dancing added in for good measure.  The film was nominated for several Cesar and Lumiere Awards, including nods for Best First Feature and acing (main and supporting) roles.


Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY