The Bridesmaid (2004)
Director: Claude Chabrol
At his sister’s wedding, industrious average guy Philippe Tardieu (Benoit Magimel) meets an alluring–and I mean very alluring–girl named “Senta” Bellange (Laura Smet). At first she just seems a little bit quirky, a little bit off-kilter. He soon realizes that the psychological problems run a bit deeper, and that she is, in fact, totally insane. By the time he figures this out, he’s in way too deep. And even then–in classic noir style–he doesn’t really seem like he wants out anyway.
This is not really a deep psychological study of obsession or insanity. There are other films that have done a far better job at that. But I don’t think that’s the goal of The Bridesmaid. This is a mood piece, a movie about trying to live in the aura of someone whom you are both attracted to, and repelled by, at the same time. The whole thing has the feel of a gothic dream, with Senta living in a crumbling mansion and every character being just a bit “off.” I’m not sure what all this adds up to, but I loved watching this.
I had never even heard of actress Laura Smet before seeing this movie. Very appealing, very convincing, and very beautiful.
The Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane (2012)
Director: Brett Morgen
I’ve been on kick lately with documentaries about bands. A few weeks back I saw one on Metallica, so I figured I would give this promising film a try. It’s a documentary narrated by the band’s own members on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. Using archival footage, old interviews, concert clips, and news reports, it tells the story of the Rolling Stones from inception to super-stardom in the mid-1970s (the film does not go past the mid-1970s period). I was never a big fan of the Rolling Stones (although I did see them in concert in 1989), but this movie paints an intimate and compelling picture of what it was that made them successful. We also get a very good look at the pop music and social scene in the 1960s and 1970s. To me, growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, it’s a world that seems more distant and remote than ever: and this, surprisingly, makes it all that more necessary to watch.
The two biggest things that surprised me were: (1) the level of discipline and dedication of the band members, and (2) the impressive stage presence of Mick Jagger in the early days. When asked why he eventually gave up heroin, Keith Richard said, “The band comes first.” Mick Jagger emerges as more mysterious and elusive than ever. Even after all these years, it’s not easy to know what makes him tick. Sincere or insincere, wise man or knave, deep or shallow: we just don’t know.
He’s a slippery, slithery animal; one can never really tell what is going through his head. His mastery of the whole “rock god” frontman persona is to complete, so total, that he can’t even really explain why or how he does what he does. He just does it. There is no conscious thought involved. A fascinating film, all-around; there are even a few This is Spinal Tap moments, which I would not even dream of spoiling.
But there is a dark side here, too. As one looks back on this era–knowing what we know now–it is easy to condemn the generation of the 1960s and 1970s. What once looked like innocent idealism now looks more like self-centered posturing and drug-induced narcissism. We can’t understand how we got where we are today without looking back on how we got here.
Carnage Park (2016)
Director: Mickey Keating