Director: Richard Linklater // Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing // Release Date: June 21st // Starring: Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply.
It’s been nine years since we last checked in one of modern cinema’s most intoxicating love stories. This third installment initially paints a picture of domestic bliss for cerebral soul mates Jesse and Celine. Hank, the former’s teenage son from a previous marriage, has just spent what he calls the “best summer of my life” with his father’s family (including his twin girls, conceived in the wake of Before Sunset’s romantic trysts) on the Greek Peloponnese peninsula, and the film begins with a quietly panicked Jesse seeing him off at the airport. It’s a winning opening, with Hawke’s affectingly strained performance suggesting that priorities have changed since Jesse first boarded that train to Vienna almost twenty years ago.
Personalities run the risk of being diluted when children are thrown into the mix, but in a ballsy move, Before Midnight positions its characters as people, not parents. Lazy scriptwriting and mortifying perceptions of gender norms mean female characters are most likely to fall prey to the insipid trappings of domesticity. Thankfully, Celine is as unmovable as ever. Her inclination for tart honesty and playful emasculation has only strengthened over the years, and it’s the latter trait that allows tension to mount over otherwise jovial group dinners.
Director: Sarah Polley // Distributor: Artificial Eye // Release Date: June 28th // Starring: Michael Polley, Sarah Polley, Pixie Bigelow, Joanna Polley, John Buchan, Geoffrey Bowes and Susy Buchan.
The multitalented Sarah Polley seeks answers to some very personal questions in this touching documentary. Through a series of jovial interviews, Polley explores the art of storytelling and the impact one particular tale has had on her own life.
Stories We Tell could so easily have been a trifling vanity project. That it isn’t stands not only as a testament to Polley’s talent, but also her inherent likability and aversion to vanity. Behind the mixing desk at a recording studio, Polley coaches her father Michael as he reads out his own account of the many questions left behind in the wake of his wife’s death. She sits there exposed; no Hollywood lighting, no flaw-devouring make-up. The same could be said of her family, who make up the bulk of her interviewees. Few of them are formally introduced and minimal background information is given. Characters instead develop as the film progresses, granting the documentary a swift pace that takes you straight to the heart of their family dynamic.
Director: Gilles Bourdos // Distributor: Soda Pictures // Release Date: June 28th // Starring: Michel Bouquet, Christa Theret, and Vincent Rottiers.
Review: The sumptuous Côte d’Azur setting of Renoir may suggest a languorous tone, but Gilles Bourdos’ story of a precocious teenager reigniting the passions of both of an aging artist and his convalescent son boasts a satisfying sense of momentum.
Director: Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogan // Distributor: Sony Pictures // Release Date: June 28th // Starring: Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogan, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, and Jonah Hill. // Plot: A group of celebrities and their entourages flock to James Franco’s house for a massive party, only to the face the arrival of the apocalypse.
Review: Let it be known that This Is The End is a great film. Eventually. The messy first half of this Rogan/Goldberg comedy alternates between genuine hilarity and pitiful self-indulgence. But when it finds its feet, there’s a lot to enjoy. Security was tight at the screening I attended, obviously in the aim of preventing the film’s many surprises from hitting the net. And we’re not just talking about celebrity cameos – although there are plenty of those to go around – but nerve-shredding sequences, solid scares and some brilliantly realised monsters.
If there’s one thing I can take from the Film Distributors’ Association showcase I attended this week, it is that I am a man of simple pleasures. Even before the suits from Twentieth Century Fox insisted on confiscating our phones for fear of snatches of coming-of-age comedy The Way, Way Back being plastered across social networking sites (Oh, how I longed to wield an innocent Nokia 3210 in their faces…), I was in my element. There were contracts, free coffee and a lanyard with my name on it. It was about as close to Heaven as I ever plan to get.
Now, perhaps my favourite thing about writing, as opposed to merely ‘talking’, is that you cannot see my face. This isn’t to say I consider myself ugly (after all, some people say I remind them of a young Glenn Close), more to point out that I am a terrible liar. I am also legally obligated to wait until each film’s respective embargo expires before I can publish my thoughts, and if I was to be talking to you in person, my face would simply give everything away. However, I can reveal that the line-up (picture after the jump) certainly gave me a lot to think about, and I must thank IdeasTap profusely for granting me this wonderful opportunity.
Director: Harmony Korine // Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, James Franco.
Review: The motive behind one’s participation in a film like Spring Breakers is admirably clear. Those who brave Harmony Korine’s neon-soaked oddity are invited to watch in awe as Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens dismantle their squeaky-clean public personas, a tried-and-tested career move that heralds a rebirth-of-sorts for the Disney starlets, reinforcing their relevancy and signalling a more mature approach to their image and output. It is no coincidence that Hudgens’ raucous new single “$$$ex” dropped in the wake of the film’s US premiere, or that Korine has cited the rise and fall of pop icon Britney Spears as a major influence on the films emotional trajectory in several promotional interviews. It is these assured correlations between the ambitions of both cast and director that elevates Spring Breakers from the depths of depraved exploitation that so many critics have been so eager to bury it in. For better or for worse, this is a film that wears it opportunism on its sleeve.
Director: François Ozon // Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuale Seigner, Denis Ménochet, Bastien Ughetto // Plot: When sixteen-year-old Claude shows promise as a writer, his teacher becomes increasingly involved in creating a story that blurs the line between fact and fiction.
Review: The first half of François Ozon’s latest is an absolute dream, as enigmatic teenager Claude (Umhauer) brings wholesome suburbanites Esther and Rapha Artole (Seigner and Ménochet) to the attention of snarky, childless teacher Germain (Luchini) and his wife Jeanne (Scott Thomas) via his designated writing assignments. The dialogue fizzes and the pace is relentless and confident, while a subplot involving the intricacies of Jeanne’s art gallery works in tandem alongside the teacher’s aggressive critiquing to pose the rather stupefying question of what actually constitutes as credible art, in whatever form. Sadly, such neat self-awareness is simultaneously lost on Ozon, as the celebrated auteur takes his characters into unnecessarily strange territory.