Did you see 2003’s THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE? Writer/director Sylvain Chomet’s animated feature is a wildly inventive, meticulously contrived and brilliantly drawn masterpiece about the kidnap of a young bicycle competitor, and the dogged pursuit of him by his iron-willed Grandmother and her doggy. Aided by three insanely eccentric, frog-eating singing women in the twilight of a career that saw them at one point star club singers known as Les Triplettes but now has left them with little in the way of income, Gramma faces down disaster after disaster, including explosions at sea and gangsters with machine guns to get to the center of the dastardly plot that her kidnapped grandson is being held captive for. The plot is feverishly clever filled with incredible details such as the apartment that grammy and Champion (the bicyclist) live in that is so close to a passing air tram that when the train cruises past it feels as though it is right there in the room and the bizarre swamp bombing the aged singing sisters perform to gather their nightly frog dinner. The movie lacks any true dialogue and tells its story using age-old silent film techniques that have been so lauded in such recent Pixar films like WALL-E and UP. Different than these American films, THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE never really dips into dialogue, content instead that we will understand everything that we see, no matter how far-fetched or unreal the twists may get. The characters are truly compelling, especially the older women (the grandmother and the joyful triplets) who are unwilling to do anything but laugh in the face of life’s cruel jokes. The movie is buoyed and broadened by its incredible soundtrack of Les Triplettes singing both in the past and in the present; their wild harmonies and crazy soulful jazz songs are made of the same uplifting stuff as the indomitable will of life.
Now, Chomet has come out with his first feature film since then in his adaptation of a script that Jacques Tati wrote in 1956 called THE ILLUSIONIST telling the story of an aging stage magician in the early 60’s whose career is being closed out both by his own age and the emergence of new exciting stage acts like rock and roll bands. It is a very different offering from his previous film in that it is a much smaller story, without much in the way of plot devices or twists of really any sort. Instead, it is a straight forward story of an aging entertainer facing unemployment and the fears of being unable to care for himself. He finds himself getting an obscure gig in Scotland in a off-the-path hotel somewhere where he meets a young girl who quickly becomes a fan. When he leaves Scotland, she stows away on the boat on which he’s traveling and basically becomes his ward of a sort. With the gifts that he buys her, she blossoms and becomes a lovely young woman who inspires the affections of a young man who, like her, is at the beginning of a wide open life. As the illusionist struggles to keep their household afloat with any odd job he can get, the gulf separating the two becomes wider and their vastly different futures become impossible to ignore. In general, there is a wistful and timelessness throughout the film, of the sort you’d expect to feel while reading a novel by Dostoevsky or listening to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21. It serves as testament to the faithful adaptation of Tati’s 55-year old script that the film comes off, though modern and fresh feeling, as if it could have been made back in the 1960’s, or even earlier. As in his previous feature, there is very little dialogue in this film; we watched it without any subtitles, after being annoyed by such lines as “everyone laughs” and “music swells” that didn’t actually add anything to our comprehension of the story. Though not the same sort of must-see film as THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE, THE ILLUSIONIST remains a fascinating portrait of a life of solitude.
Scroll down to read about the rest of the movies this week, including Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in BLUE VALENTINE.
Alrighty, that’s all folks, hope to see you at the stores.
Love and Kisses,
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Ryan Gosling/Michelle Williams.
Directed by Derek Cianfrance.
* This honest and painful portrayal of love and pain in a marriage features two of the hottest actors in Hollywood today. Goslin plays Dean, the child of a broken marriage, a professional house painter, a morning drinker, unapologetically unambitious but relatively good-natured, and a hunk who has relatively accidentally fallen in love and become a father against all natural design. Of course look who he’s in love with, the insanely gorgeous Cindy (Williams), also the child of a difficult home, and also someone who struggles with judgment issues. The film cuts between time periods to put together the puzzle of who they are, how they got there, and what happened along the way. The marriage itself is precariously balanced, and somewhat a third main character that you care for and wonder what will happen to. Anyone who has been in a relationship knows the pitfalls that seem to be available to fall into around every corner and the precarious nature of modern love. Dean and Cindy’s love is a love you know; either one like you’ve been through, or one your good friends are dealing with right now.
I SAW THE DEVIL.
Directed by Kim Jee-Woon.
*…and it’s name was the Internet! Actually, in this scary film from the maker of THE GOOD THE BAD THE WEIRD, a killer murders the pregnant fiancée of a secret agent, whose pursuit of revenge knows no boundaries between right and wrong. His pleasureful pursuit of the bad guy involves a sort of cat-and-mouse catch-and-release game that becomes sicker and sicker. I’ve heard this film called the best serial killer movie since THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Hmmm.
THE ILLUSIONIST (2010).****BD****
* From the director of THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE comes this wonderful little film that I have knick named in my head THE GREAT BIG SAD SCARY WORLD. An aging magician, working at smaller venues then in the past, but acting with great dignity and no anger at the changing world, takes in a young woman and becomes a conduit for her to begin her adult life. Sad, but not in a hopeless way, and joyful, in the sense that we are all in this crazy life together, THE ILLUSIONIST is a beautiful little film about endings and beginnings.
NO STRINGS ATTACHED.****BD****
Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher/Ludacris/Olivia Thirlby/Greta Gerwig/Kevin Kline.
Directed by Ivan Reitman.
* His first film since MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND, Reitman has a way with comedy, and an understanding as to what is funny. Perhaps that is why this somewhat bland, middle-of-the-road looking romantic comedy about two people who just want to have fun, no strings attached, rises above the normal fluff of its kind. Or maybe it’s because Natalie Portman is the star…not sure.
WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?****BD****
Directed by Pamela Tanner Boll.
* Intense exploration of mothering, and the brutal choices so many moms have to make regarding being a person in the world and being beholden to the lives that she has created. Those choices can affect careers, marriages and relationships, and personal growth. This film focuses on five moms who are trying to do everything, and the challenges they face every day.
DOCTOR WHO: PLANET OF THE SPIDERS.
* The John Pertwee years, 1970-1974.
DOCTOR WHO: THE TERROR OF THE AUTONS.
* The John Pertwee years, 1970-1974.
IN PLAIN SIGHT: SEASON 3.
Mary McCormack/Frederick Weller.
* The continuing story of a US Marshall whose main gig is in relocating federal witnesses.
MOLL FLANDERS: THE FORTUNES AND MISFORTUNES OF.
* Alex Kingston plays Moll in this 1996 retelling of the tale of Moll Flanders “the wickedest woman in England”, who actually just appears to be the victim of some rotten luck, bad parenting, sexual abuse and, eventually, poor judgment.
............//NEW ON BLU/............
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF: 40th ANNIVERSARY EDITION.
* Truly one of the finest musicals ever written.
THE BIRDS: COLLECTOR’S EDITION.
* Tweet tweet, aaaaaarghghgh!!!!