Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I realize it has been a long time since I last posted on this blog. Blame it on a hectic life and a long holiday! It was actually during a long flight to my holiday destination that I watched The BestExotic Marigold Hotel, released in 2011. The film was directed by John Madden and features a stellar cast: Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), the excellent Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith (the Harry Potter films), Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup. This movie is a little gem. 

Story is fairly predictable: a group of British retirees, who don’t know each other, lured by the magnificent brochure and promises of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, decide to basically outsource their retirement to Jaipur in India. Of course nothing is as it seems and, although the hotel, managed by Sonny (Dev Patel), does not live up to it promise, their lives are altered forever.

This is a feel-good movie, so do not expect a true depiction of India – I found Slumdog Millionaire to be much more accurate. Here you see India very much from the eyes of the tourist, in a sea of colour, music and smiles. Not that it is not enjoyable! It is actually a hugee contrast, to be frank England at the beginning of the film is described as a sad and rainy rat hole. Having been to both countries, the truth lies somewhere in the middle :).

If you like British humour, as I do, then this film will be a delight. Each character has its own story, its own specificity, and although the focus is primarily on Judi Dench (I found), each character is equally likeable. Of course here stereotypes are layed up, big time, but for your greatest pleasure. All actors are magnificent, but Maggie Smith steals the show as the bitter, racist old woman.But to be frank I loved all characters, each of them brought something to the story, each of them made me laugh. Even for more difficult, sad scenes, I could not feel sad.

What can I say? Most scenes, most lines are full of humor. Acerb humour, as the British know how to do with perfection. Dev Patel as Sonny adds colour and optimism. I remember so many scenes that I love that I cannot recount them all for you, it would take a lot of space and you would have no incentive to see it!

Some of my favourite lines:
Sonny: [trying to reach a fallen Norman] Let me through, my brother is a doctor.

Graham Dashwood: I'm gay - although nowadays more in theory than in practice.

Jean Ainslie: It's our 40th anniversary, we haven't decided quite how to mark it.
Madge Hardcastle: Perhaps a minute of silence.
Overall, don’t try to look too much for hidden meanings, hidden messages, you get what you see: pure entertainment, subtle humor, all in all, I loved it, and I have not loved a movie in a long long time.

The last word goes to Sonny:
Everything will be all right in the end... if it's not all right then it's not the end.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Yes, I know, it has been an extremely long time. As I love musicals, and teenage movies such as the John Hughes movies, I decided to watch Fame, released in 1980 and directed by Alan Parker, wich stars Irene Cara (unforgettable interpreter of the movie song Fame) and Paul McCrane as Montgomery McNeil (and incidentally, Dr Romano in ER !), among others. 

Basically, the movie follow the stories of various students in New York, trying to make it to the art scene: dancing, acting, singing, the whole range’s here. The students we follow are ambitious Coco Hernandez, shy Doris Finsecker, sensitive Montgomery MacNeil, “mad at the world” Leroy Johnson, and abrasive Raul Garcia.

Overall, I would say the movie has not aged well, compared to others, and is a reflexion on how much you have to fight to make it into show business. There are some good moments with cool dance scenes, nice performances, however overall the plot is predictable, so are the characters (see description above!), which I found globally extremely disappointing. And I was expecting so much!

Some of the good scenes, which also create expectations for the rest of the film, happen at the audition at the beginning of the movie. I like that Raul goes around to every art department saying that his father was great at every one.  I like the dance scene with Leroy Johnson completely outshining his partner, and oh my God the outfits were just ridiculous. Granted, at the time it may have been “in”, but that is also why I think this movie did not age well.

One good thing about the movie is off course the music. Irene Cara has a great voice.
No quote for this one, I really tried but could not find anything memorable. Overall, maybe not a waste of time because I think this s one of those movies you need to see, but don’t expect too much.

Monday, May 28, 2012


This is one of those DVDs that’s been sitting at my home for ages, yet I had never watched it. And of course, now I cannot understand why! Out of Africa is a movie released in 1985, based on the novel of the same name by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blxen), which recounts her story. Directed by Sydney Pollack, the movie stars Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, and won 7 Oscars.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Karen (Streep) is a young, wealthy woman from Denmark who enters into a marriage of convenience with Baron Bror Blixen (Klaus Maria Brandauer) – he gets the money, she gets the title. They move to Kenya where they plan on running a coffee farm. Karen meets Denys Finch Hatton, a free-spirited game hunter. Rapidly, Karen and Bror break up, due to its excessive extra-marital activities, and Karen and Denys start an affair.
Ok, so this is a short version of the story…. I did not read the book so I cannot really say whether the adaptation is accurate. I’ll focus on the choices of actors. Brandauer, who won an Oscar for his supporting role, is simply brilliant. And, to some extent, handsome, although not with the same charisma as Redford. His character is perfectly portrayed, and to an extent he, as opposed to Karen, meets his end of the bargain: je marries her out of convenience but never promised love:
Baron Bror Blixen: You're not going to fall in love are you?
Karen Blixen: Not with someone who's always leaving.
Later, when Karen has started her affair with Denys, the exchange between Redford and Brandenauer perfectly paints the two characters:

Baron Bror Blixen: You could have asked, Denys.
Denys: I did. She said yes.
Redford, on an other hand, is not just a moderately handsome man with nothing really extraordinary like Bror, he is a free spirit, that nothing can tie to a home. He loves Karen but still needs to feel free, as their argument about marriage highlights. His character can be summarized by what his friend says to Karen:
Berkeley Cole: He likes giving gifts... but not at Christmas.
As for Karen, well, she was obviously an extraordinary woman – of course, remember that the movie is adapted from a book written by her J… She obviously has more guts than Bror, who must probably feel inadequate, has a lot of dignity, and turns out to be a match for Denys, who is brave and fearless, and is quite impressed by her – together they form a fantastic team – the scene where they shoot one charging lion each (she first!) is simply incredible. She is a very strong woman who got through terrible times. Together with Redford, they show an incredible chemistry.
Her story is sometimes interrupted by her voice over, repeating over and over again “I had a farm in Africa” which, from the start, suggests to the viewer that whatever happened did not last…. But that’s all I’ll tell you!
Overall, a great moment, highly recommended.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


 I’ll start with this: Marlon Brando looked good in A Streetcar Named Desire, but years later he was a wreck. Last Tango inParis, released in 1972 and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, stars Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider.

Jeanne, 20-year old and about to get married, meets Paul, a 45-year old widower, while visiting a flat in Paris. No word is exchanged and the two of them have a sexual encounter where he practically rapes her, that leads to an affair where the rule of the game is: “no names”. The sordid relationship evolves to the point of no return.

So I had heard the movie was pornographic, give or take a couple of scenes, it is not. For me it is mostly about psychological domination, borderline torture. However, it leaves the viewer feeling uneasy, as the dominance of Paul over Jeanne is borderline overwhelming and clearly sordid. I could not get attached to the characters: Brando plays a sick pervert, and looks the part, too. To be frank, I found he, in this movie, bears a striking resemblance to Dominique Strauss-Kahn…. Not really a positive point.
Paul: You know in 15 years, you're going to be playing soccer with your tits. What do you think of that?
Schneider is very pretty, no argument about that, but screams most of the time and her character has limited depth, apart from the very end. Is she attracted to Paul? I found it difficult to figure out what was in it for her, what she could possibly get out of that relationship. She is degraded, humiliated, but still keeps going back to him. To understand Paul is a bit easier, he is a widower trying to find release and some form of peace after his wife has killed herself.

Note the evolution of characters though. In spite of the “no names” rule, Jeanne wants to know as much as possible about Paul, and he rejects her. In the end Paul ends up falling in love with Jeanne, in a sort of twisted, sick way, whereas Jeanne loses all (pretense of) innocence, with the last scene leaving the viewer fairly terrified that the “monster” with her has been released. Doesn’t bode well for the life she has ahead of her, with Tom, a young man with limited interest.
Paul: You ran through Africa and Asia and Indonesia, and now I found you... and I love you. I want to know your name.
Some elements in the scenario are interesting: Jeanne confesses her first love was her cousin Paul, oblivious of the fact it is her lover’s name. Jeanne’s fiancé want to have a daughter and name her Rosa, the name of Paul’s deceased wife. Other than that, the atmosphere is heavy, burdensome, and, although I can see why the scenes would have appeared shocking in 1972, seriously I do not understand how someone could make a whole film about such a story. I read somewhere that Maria Schneider’s career really suffered after this movie, and that she had extreme difficulties getting over it. All in all, I’d say it was a youth’s mistake, and sadly it was not worth it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dirty Harry

 I thought the story would be about a rogue cop. Boy, was I wrong. Dirty Harry, released in 1971 and directed by Don Siegel, stars Clint Eastwood and Andrew Robinson as the main characters.

In the 1070s, San Francisco is under terror as a maniac who calls himself Scorpio sniped at random victims and requires ransom money. Inspector Harry Callahan (nicknamed Dirty Harry) is assigned to the case.

The plot is straightforward and requires no thinking whatsoever. It’s the performances that make this movie unforgettable. Andrew Robinson as Scorpio is the perfect psycho, sadistic and frightening, the kind of person you certainly would not want to meet. My view is that his character is inspired by the Zodiac Killer, who operated in California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 
Clint Eastwood is more than perfect as Harry, who'll take any job that comes along in order to restore peace and lock up the criminals. Dirty Harry is a cop with the type of charisma you rarely see, who pulls no punches and is proud of that. Clint Eastwood set a standard with his exceptional macho portrayal of Harry. 

No elaborate camera angles, no special effects, no sunshine, no flowers, only dark. Everything is sordid and there is no humor or romance. The locations where the scenes are played are chilling, and the final scene is amazing. There are also so many classic lines in this movie it is hard to keep track. My favourite line of the movie (and a perfect summary of Harry’s character):
Harry Callahan: I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
Clint Eastwood creates one of the most memorable characters in cinema history, he just oozes cool.
Bottom line, Dirty Harry is an absolute must.

But why do they call him Dirty Harry, might you wonder?
Harry Callahan: Now you know why they call me Dirty Harry: every dirty job that comes along.