Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rear Window

No 42 of the greatest movies of all times, as named by the AFI, Rear Window (1954) is simply magnificent. I am not necessarily well acquainted with Hitchcock movies, but I was enthralled from the start.

LB Jeffries (played by James Stewart) has a broken leg and is confined to his apartment. Out of boredom he starts observing his neighbours and speculating about their lives, to the point of being obsessed with them. One evening he hears a cry and starts suspecting one his neighbours, Thorwald (Raymond Burr) of having killed his wife. He begins investigating, with the help of his caretaker Stella (Thelma Ritter) and his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly).
At first nobody believes him, and the whole film turns on one statement by Grace Kelly: "Tell me everything you saw, and what you think it means."
Indeed, all of his accusations are based on what he sees, not what he hears. And on what WE see, because we are basically in the room with Jeffries, unable to move : all is filmed from Jeffries’ appartment, giving sometimes an impression of choking, but also bringing the viewer in from the start. The side stories of the other neighbours  (music composer, dancer, newlyweds, single woman) also provide for an nice breath of fresh air that break the tension, also highlighting the fact that, when you are not watching your environment, anything can happen.

As usual Hitchcock makes a cameo appearance in the film, I did not spot him and had to ask for the «solution». Some key elements remain unanswered, that may have been a bit frustrating to me and to my movie companion.
Nevertheless, I think this is a classic thriller, with impeccable acting : James Stewart is fantastic and Grace Kelly just shines. What a beauty. Special notice of Thelma Ritter, who is thinking and saying all of the things all of the other characters in the film are too polite to think and say themselves.
it is timeless – over fifty years old anf still has not aged a bit. I am just disappointed I waited so long to watch this.

One word for it : delicious. Deliciously stressing, deliciously witty, delicious James Stewart, delicious Grace Kelly.

Lisa: I wish I were creative.
Jeff: You are. You're great at creating difficult situations.

Jeff: [into the phone] He killed a dog last night because the dog was scratching around in the garden. You know why? Because he had something buried in that garden that the dog scented.
Lt. Doyle: [voice] Like an old hambone?
Jeff: I don't know what pet names Thorwald had for his wife

Jeff: Would you fix me a sandwich, please?
Stella: Yes, I will. And I'll spread a little common sense on the bread.

Jeff: She sure is the "eat, drink and be merry" girl.
Stella: Yeah, she'll wind up fat, alcoholic and miserable.

Lisa: Why would Thorwald want to kill a little dog? Because it knew too much?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Les Tontons Flingueurs

Let’s switch to a French movie for a bit. I watched Les TontonsFlingueurs, a must-see French movie dating back to 1963, directed by GeorgesLautner. Brilliant dialogues are by Michel Audiart. It stars Lino Ventura, Jean Lefebvre, Claude Rich, Bernard Blier, Francis Blanche and Sabine Sinjen, among others. It is a myth in french culture.

Apologies to non-french speakers, unfortunately that one’s going to ba hard to translate.

Monsieur Fernand is an ex-con who goes visit his dying ex-partner, Le Mexicain, who is still in organised crime. The dying man leaves him in chage of his business and of his teenage daughter, which is not really appreciated by the gang, some members decide to get rid of him. Monsieur Fernand has to defend himself from a series of comical killing attempts.

I have to admit I had some difficulties getting into the movie, but rapidly got the gist, and it is indeed hilarious. I am not that familiar with French must-see movies, strangely enough, but I enjoyed my time a lot, more and more as the movie was advancing. The greatest scene is when the five gangsters are drinking alcohol in the kitchen. And the ending. And the continuous punching of Raoul by Fernand. Many good scenes. My all time favourite is the shooting scene. I loved it. The language is slang, and sometimes difficult to understand, I have a feeling I may have missed some of the subtleties of the dialogue, so that would call for a second viewing….

Although it has all the features of a gangster movie this  turns out to be a comedy of bad manners involving two factions led respectively by Lino Ventura and Bernard Blier. It is strange to say that it is only restropesctively that I realize how subtle and funny the movie is.

Theo : La bave du crapaud n'empêche pas la caravane de passer !

Paul : Écoute - on te connaît pas. Mais laisse-nous te dire que tu te prépares des nuits blanches, des migraines, des « nervousses brékdones » comme on dit de nos jours

Monsieur Fernand : Les cons ça ose tout ! C'est même à ça qu'on les reconnaît.

Monsieur Fernand : Trois morts subites en moins d'une demi-heure, ah ça part sévère les droits de succession.

Raoul : Mais dis donc, on n'est quand même pas venus pour beurrer les sandwichs.

Raoul : Mais y connaît pas Raoul ce mec ! Y va avoir un réveil pénible, j'ai voulu être diplomate à cause de vous tous, éviter que le sang coule. Mais maintenant c'est fini, je vais le travailler en férocité, le faire marcher à coup de lattes, à ma pogne je veux le voir ! Et je vous promets qu'il demandera pardon et au garde-à-vous!

While I was watching I laughed a little, but thinking about it again, I realise how hilarious this really is : double entendre, irony, plain funny, the movie’s got it all. A real classic that I’ll be happy to watch again.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Devil Wears Prada

A few years ago, as I was suffering at work 18 hours a day, a friend gave me the book The Devil Wears Prada, written by Lauren Weisberger, who incidentally writes good books, although maybe just for female target customers…. Anyway, the book was so successful they had to turn it into a movie…. I do not remember how accurate the movie is compared to the book, but it gives a pretty good idea. Some facts are just referenced but not necessarily explicit : in the book, it is Miranda's trademark that she always has a white Hermès scarf somewhere on her person.

Directed by David Frankel and realeased in 2006, the cast is simply amazing : MerylStreep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, Emily Blunt, the gorgeous trio : Adrian Grenier, Simon Baker, Daniel Sunjata, and a brief appearance (for the guys) by model Gisèle Bündchen.

Basically, Andy Sachs (Hathaway), recently graduated, has looked for journalist jobs everywhere in New York and as a last resort applies at Elias Clark to be the assistant of Miranda Priestly, editor in chief of Runway (a Vogue equivalent, I guess), a job « a million girls would kill for ». The deal is to work for Miranda for a year and go anywhere from there. As it turns out, it is not as straightforward.

Nigel: [talking about Andy] Who is that sad little person? Are we doing a before-and-after piece I don't know about?

Andy Sachs: [thinking she is about to be fired] Miranda, about last night. I'm...
Miranda Priestly: I need the new Harry Potter book for the twins.
Andy Sachs: [relieved] Okay. Okay. I'll go down to Barnes and Noble right now.
Miranda Priestly: [rolling her eyes] Did you fall down and smack your little head on the pavement?
Andy Sachs: Not that I can recall.
Miranda Priestly: We have all the published Harry Potter books. The twins want to know what happens next.
Andy Sachs: [realizing with dread] You want the unpublished manuscript.
Miranda Priestly: [baiting] Well, we know everyone in publishing, so it shouldn't be a problem should it? And you can do anything. Right?

Emily: I know. I'm so sorry, Miranda. I actually did confirm last night. 
Miranda Priestly: Details of your incompetence do not interest me. Tell Simone I'm not going to approve that girl that she sent me for the Brazilian layout. I asked for clean, athletic, smiling. She sent me dirty, tired and paunchy. And R.S.V.P. Yes to Michael Kors' party, I want the driver to drop me off at 9:30 and pick me up at 9:45 sharp. Call Natalie at Glorious Foods and tell her no for the 40th time. No! I don't want dacquoise. I want tortes filled with warm rhubarb compote. Then call my ex-husband and remind him that the parent-teacher conference is at Dalton tonight. Then call my husband, ask him to meet me for dinner at that place I went to with Massimo. Tell Richard I saw the pictures that he sent for that feature on the female paratroopers and they're all so deeply unattractive. Is it impossible to find a lovely, slender, female paratrooper? Am I reaching for the stars here? Not really. Also, I need to see all the things that Nigel has pulled for Gwyneth's second cover try. I wonder if she's lost any of that weight yet.

At Runway, Andy doscovers not only a world of fashion and glamour, but also the reverse of the medal, as she soons finds herself enslaved by her boss. After a disastrous start and in order to survive, she goes through a makeover, helped by artistic director Nigel, and gradually alienates herself from friends and family, presumably losing her boyfriend in the process.

Andy Sachs: Can you please spell 'Gabbana'?

Nigel: I don't know what you expect me to do. There's nothing in this whole closet that'll fit a size six. I can guarantee you. These are all sample sizes- two and four. All right. We're doing this for you. And...
Andy Sachs: A poncho?
Nigel: You'll take what I give you and you'll like it. We're doing this Dolce for you. And shoes. Jimmy Choo's. Manolo Blahnik. Nancy Gonzalez. Love that. Okay, Narciso Rodriguez. This we love. Uh, it might fit. It might.
Andy Sachs: What?
Nigel: Okay. Now, Chanel. You're in desperate need of Chanel. Darling, shall we? We have to get to the beauty department, and God knows how long that's going to take.

So, first, I have nothing against Anne Hathaway, but making her play a character deemed to be « fat » is a bit too much – come on, please.

Andy Sachs: So none of the girls here eat anything?
Nigel: Not since two became new four and zero became the new two.
Andy Sachs: Well, I'm a six...
Nigel: Which is the new fourteen.

I liked the bitchy character of Emily Blunt, playing Emily the first assistant, obsessed with shoes and diets, and I found the character impersonated by Stanley Tucci, whom I have always admired, added some substance to the whole story. But what really differentiates this film from a simple, forgettable chick flick, is the extraordinary performance of Meryl Streep : A-MA-ZING. Once again she pull it off, beautifully, to the point even I was scared !!!

Having watched the film a few times, I find the real thought behind is : where to stop ? It is asked through witty quotes, humourous sentences, but in the end that’s exactly it. It is more and more a fact that having a good career means giving up all pretence of a personal life. How much are we giving up for (the mirage ?) of professional success ? As one adapts to the corporate world, where competition is fierce, one slowly changes, as Emily bluntly puts it :
Emily: You sold your soul to the devil when you put on your first pair of Jimmy Choo's, I saw it.

It was, and still is, one of my big question when I consder the work I am doing, and where I would like to go from there. Nigel puts it quite clearly at some point :
Nigel: Let me know when your whole life goes up in smoke. Means it's time for a promotion.

So yes, I liked it, but after a few times it kind of leaves me with a bittersweet taste and unhappy questions about life and love.