Sunday Movie Roundup (5/7/2017)

Some weeks are better than others.  I’ve had better weeks, but here are the results.  Even disappointing movies are fun to write about.

Eden (2014)

Director:   Mia Hansen-Løve

Most of the time I’ll watch a movie without knowing much about it.  I like the experience of being surprised, whether it’s in a good way or a bad way.  So when I read the synopsis of this movie, I imagined it might be an engaging story about the rise and fall of a Parisian music DJ, set against the backdrop of the 1990s music scene.  And it sort of is about this, but the director’s utter failure to weave a compelling storyline around a bunch of raves ultimately dooms this “might have been” film.

The plot:  young Parisian Paul Vallée thinks he has a talent for DJing.  Does he?  We never really know, because we never see him at the turntables for more than 10 seconds clips.  No matter.  It’s the 1990s, and the house music scene is in full swing.  He spends his days and nights hanging around music clubs with a lot of other dead-enders, fantasizing about being a great DJ.  And that’s pretty much 90% of this movie.  We get two hours of scene after scene of Paul talking to people, going to clubs, talking about how great his thinks he is, and things like that.  There are a few girlfriend scenes thrown in for good measure, but they fail to inspire.  The acting by the lead role is flat and dull.  We’re never given any reason to care about this guy or his heroic struggle in pressing buttons on a sound-board in a club.

The end result of all this is that Paul eventually realizes he is deeply in debt and has a drug problem.  But even this is told in such an insipid, milquetoast way by the director that we never really care.  And that’s the end of the movie.  That’s it.  I suppose this might be a good way to spend a couple of hours if you were a club rat in the 1990s and want to hear some good European house music.  The soundtrack features tracks by Daft Punk, Frankie Knuckles, Joe Smooth, and Terry Hunter.  I was never into this stuff, so for me it’s not enough to sustain my interest.  Maybe for some people it is.

Watching this movie was a frustrating experience, because a skilled director can make good art out of any “rise and fall” story, regardless of what endeavor he is involved in, whether it is music, art, politics, sports, even crime.  It’s not the subject matter that turned me off, it’s the fact that the director failed in the director’s basic duty: to tell a good story.

 

Lady In The Car With Glasses And A Gun (2015) (La Dame dans l’auto avec des lunettes et un fusil)

Director:  Joann Sfar

This is another one of those thrillers that tries to be too cute for its own good.  One thing I’ve learned from watching movies over the years is that most of what are called “thrillers” are not thrilling at all.  But at least this one has alluring redhead Freya Mavor in it, so that counts for something, I suppose.  (The more I think about it, the more I think it counts for a lot.)

The first thing I would have changed in this movie is the awkward and absurd title.  The plot:  diligent secretary Dany (Freya Mavor) is asked by her married boss to come over to his house and work on a special project.  She agrees.  When the job is done, the boss asks her to go with him and his wife to the airport, drop them off, and then drive his vintage Thunderbird back to his house.  She agrees.

From this point a lot of unusual and annoying scenes intervene.  We get irritating characters, implausible interactions, and boring conversations.  We can sense some sort of scam is brewing, but by the middle of the film we don’t really give a shit.  At the end of the movie, the entire mystery is unraveled, and it has to do with a big set-up, a crime cover-up, blah, blah, blah.  Fill in the blanks with the conspiracy theory of your choice.  It’s sad, because Freya Mavor is actually a very good actress and does a good job here.  I can’t say the directing was terrible, either.  It’s just that the script never really congeals here.  Nothing really comes together to make this a pulse-pounding tale.

When I have to sit through movies like this, I try to look on the bright side.  I try to enjoy the scenery, the scenes of Paris streets, and the beautiful women.  You always have to look on the positive side of life.

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