Melbourne, July, 11th , 2017 (Peter Malone). Below, find the first part of film critics written by Peter Malone for the month of July.
- ALL EYEZ ON ME
- DESPICABLE ME 3
- CARS 3
- FIRST GIRL I LOVED
- HOTEL COOLGARDIE
- HOUNDS OF LOVE
- HOUSE, The
- IT COMES AT NIGHT
- MONSIEUR CHOCOLAT
ALL EYEZ ON ME
US, 2017 140 minutes, Colour.
Demetrius Shipp Jr, Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Annie Ilonzeh, Dominic L.Santana, Jamal Woolard, Cory Hardrict.
Directed by Benny Boom.
An audience needs to be well informed about the American Rap scene in the 1990s, especially about Tupac Shakur and his meteoric rise to success and his sudden death at age 25. If encountering this story for the first time or with a vague awareness about it, the 140 minute film needs a strong amount of commitment to stay with it.
It is very well made, recreating America from the 1970s to the 1990s, especially in terms of the world of the African-Americans, the immediate aftermath of the political uprisings of the 1960s and outspoken leaders of a more revolutionary vein than Martin Luther King like Malcolm X and the Black Panther movement. The film opens with Tupac’s mother (a strong and nuanced performance from Danai Gurira who has to change dramatically over the quarter century of the film’s action) released from jail, having conducted her own defence, pregnant, giving a defiant speech on the steps of the court.
Tupac is born in 1971, grows up in his early years in New York City, not knowing his birth father but bonding with his stepfather, Shakur, attending meetings, absorbing the revolutionary atmosphere. However, after a smug and brutally racist raid by the FBI, his mother decides that the family should move to Baltimore. His mother is also very strong on education and Tupac is seen as a teenager performing a soliloquy from Hamlet with the prospect of becoming an actor. However, his mother goes on the move again, this time to California. His close friend in Baltimore (and who later challenges his way of life) is Jada Pinkett (who has been married to Will Smith for many years).
Tupac experiences a sudden transition in California from his acting possibilities to music, to Rap music, to creating some stark stories, often stories of African-American experiences, in the drug world, unwanted pregnancies, suicide. (At one stage, Vice President Dan Quayle begins a campaign against the songs and is joined by a group of African-American women who object to the portrait of the black world.)
The rest of the film focuses on Tupac and his music, some MTV clips from the time, performances, with need for close attention by audiences not quite accustomed to Rap lyrics.
Tupac, 20, begins a steep rise to success, performing in some films, arguing with record producers about the value of his bleak lyrics, going on tour, making albums in rapid succession which go to the top of the charts. However, he gets caught up in the glamorous though often sleazy world of women, exploitation, criminals. He forms a bond with Quincey Jones’ daughter. He is frequently arrested – and ultimately goes to prison when he is set up for a rape accusation, not guilty, but sentence because of molestation.
He is harassed without cause by sneeringly violent police (and this is the period of Rodney King).
He does not stay long in prison but is taken up by record producer Suge Knight and becomes friends with performer, Biggie Smalls. This leads to complex negotiations, the founding Death Row Records (with artists like Dr Dre) and great success, his being asked to set up the branch on the East Coast.
Tupac Shakur was shot dead in a drive-by incident in 1996. There have been several other films about Tupac, a documentary by the British Nick Broomfield, Biggie and Tupac, as well as a portrait of Biggie Smalls, Notorious (with the same actor Jamal Woolard in Notorious and here). An afternote indicates that the murder has never been solved.
A comparison might be made with the 2015 Straight Outer Compton, a different take on the development of African-American musicians in the 1990s.
US, 2017, 116 minutes, Colour.
Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Pryanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hadera, Jon Bass, Yahya Abdul Mateen II.
Directed by Seth Gordon.
Yet another movie version of a popular television series of the past. In fact, in the latter part of the 1980s to 2000, the series, Baywatch, had over 200 episodes, capitalising on the popularity of David Hasselhoff and the glamour of Pamela Anderson. Both of them have cameo rules here, Hasselhoff being particularly unconvincing in his scene with Dwayne Johnson in an IT shop, but pleasant in chat during the final credits, and Pamela Anderson, in the last minutes, sashaying on to the set without saying a word (perhaps she never had to).
Dwayne Johnson has proven to be a very popular action hero in a wide range of films, including some of the Fast and Furious actioners. Here
he is incarnating Hasselhoff in 2017, a strong presence on the beach, absolutely dedicated to his lifeguard job, often giving speeches about teamwork and team effort. On the other hand, there is Zac Efron as Brody, an Olympic medallist who has blown his chances, not a team player at all, self-satisfied with few grounds for this self-opinion, rather dopey in his general knowledge. He works on the presumption that he is God’s gift to the world and, of course, is to be taken down a peg (well, a long ldder of pegs) as he displays his skills but is defeated by Johnson.
And then there are the female lifeguards, Kelly Rohrbach incarnating CJ (Pamela Anderson’s role) but a bright, strong, glamorous presence along with Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera) the 2IC. Alexandra Daddario is a trainee – who, not quite inevitably, will finish up kissing Zac Efron.
There is also another would-be trainee, Ronnie, played by Jon Bass, rather in the vein of Jonah Hill, in need of some exercise, sex-preoccupied (Rather more explicitly than might have been expected), bringing to mind that Zac Efron has been described as “cocky”, rather emphasising a thematic presentation throughout the film. And, of course, in the tradition of the series, there is quite a bit of ogling.
Baywatch can’t exist on friendships and rivalries alone so a drug theme is introduced, with a Dragon Lady, Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), lording it over the local police and city councillors, importing drugs, wanting to buy up local property, with thugs to impose her presumptuous will.
Brody has conversion experience after letting down the team, has rushed into some rescue operations recklessly, now wants to do his best – but this is sorely tested when they go to the local morgue to check on a murdered councillor (a reminder that there is no personal privacy in a morgue), hide themselves in containers and have a very upsetting experience.
The plot and the trapping of the Dragon Lady (and her dispatch) are comparatively innocuous, as is the whole thing, despite the ogling and the frequent innuendo.
US, 2017, 102 minutes, Colour.
Voices of: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonso, Chris Cooper, Nathan Filion, Larry the Cable Guy, Armie Hammer, Tony Shalhoub, Bonnie Hunt, Kerry Washington, Margo Martindale, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Directed by Brian Fee.
While there have been many entertaining Pixar animation film is, it is only Toy Story (four episodes) and now Cars, three episodes, which have led to substantial sequels.
For those coming on the Cars franchise for the first time, they will need to do quite a lot of revision because we are now seeing Lightning McQueen in his (comparatively) old age, not doing as well in the races as he did in the earlier films but still held in enormously high regard. Owen Wilson is back again voicing Lightning in his familiar and easy-going drawl.
At this time he has to learn that there is a younger generation, with highly improved and modern technology, some mocking attitude towards their elders, and plenty of arrogance as they win their races (one, especially, Jackson Storm, voiced by Armie Hammer).
The moral of this episode is that cars (and, of course, people) have to acknowledge that they grow older, that they haven’t quite the stamina of the past. But, this does not mean that they need to give up. They need to capitalise on their abilities, channelling them perhaps in different directions.
Behind all this is the story of Doc Hudson (formerly voiced by Paul Newman, with a credit in this film with some voice engineering), who was a champion, admired by Lightning, his protégé and, with the help of quite a number of old-culture cars and trucks, especially juice to (voiced by Chris Cooper), encouraged to try again on the racing circuit, doing some extraordinary training in a very modern centre, even with simulator, and coached by a perky female car, Cruz (a confidently forceful Cristela Alonso)
Lightning also does a whole lot of training out in the desert, learning to whirl in the dust on curves, finding the open spaces and windows in getting through a herd of cattle, all of which helps in the final testing race.
It does seem fairly obvious halfway through the film that Lightning is on the way out as a racer, despite his best efforts, but that he will come to realise that Cruz, even though she is labelled a trainer, has all the abilities to be a winner. (There has been a lot of comment in recent times about roles for women on the screen – and this time there is acknowledgement of equality between men and women or, at least, between male and female cars, and Cruz is also Hispanic).
A lot of the old characters are back, there is a lot of special effects work to make the races more effective, that the audience feels that they are in the middle of them. And, for those who wait through the rather long credits, there is an enjoyable little epilogue with Larry the Cable Guy doing his ditzy thing as Mater.
DESPICABLE ME 3
US, 2017, 90 minutes, Colour.
Voices: Steve Carrell, Kristin Wiig, Trey Parker, Julie Andrews, Steve Coogan, Pierre Coffin,Jenny Slate.
Directed by Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin.
If you have been following the career of intense mastermind criminal, Gru, as well as his conversion to the side of right, and also his devotion to agent, Lucy, then there is no doubt that you will want to see what they are up to in this third Despicable Me film. And, of course, of course, there are the Minions, still with their bright yellow, still some of them with a touch of personality while there are hosts of almost anonymous others, with their particular intonations and language which we scarcely understand, and their propensity for being on the side of those against the law.
The animation is the same and it has delighted audiences, especially younger audiences, in the previous two films and the Minions’ own feature and short films. While there could have been more of the Minions in this film, they turn up at various times, bringing a sense of comic relief, in their turning against Gru because of his law-abiding missions, rounded up and going to prison and causing more than a rumpus there, escaping and flying through the air in their own contraption and able to help out in final confrontations.
Steve Carrell voices again the character of Gru, and Kristin Wiig is Lucy. If you have seen the preview, then you won’t be surprised that one of the plot developments is the introduction of a villain par excellence, Balthasar Bratt (voiced by Trey Parker of South Park), a superstar child of 1980s television, a young successful criminal. After a bout of acne, he loses popularity and decides to retire to be a criminal in real life, seeming to have unlimited funds (probably his royalties) to create robots, planes, weapons.
Gru has a mission to capture Bratt but just misses out so he is fired from the agency as is Lucy when she stands up for him. They retire to home with their three daughters and all seems to move towards a quiet film. But, then comes the news that Gru has a twin brother, Dru (also voiced by Steve Carrell but in a higher register), so Gru contacts his making-whoopee mother (voiced by, of all people, Julie Andrews!) who tells him the truth and he goes to find his long-lost brother who has yellow hair while Gru has none. The whole family moves into Dru’s luxurious home.
But, Bratt is not to be put down and has stolen a jewel from Paris – which means, of course, that Gru will be after him again, with the help of Dru (who actually wants to be a criminal). So, finally, plenty of action as Bratt takes his plane and then his giant robot of himself and laser in a pretty successful attempt to demolish a lot of Hollywood, only to be defeated by Dru – and the Minions coming to the rescue.
And there it is, more or less what we might expect, a lively entertainment, especially for younger audiences.
FIRST GIRL I LOVED
US, 2016, 90 minutes, Colour.
Dylan Gelula, Brianna Hildebrand, Mateo Arias, Pamela Adlon, Tim Heidecker.
Directed by Karen'srem Sanga.
First Girl I Loved is a serious reminder of how themes of sexual identity and orientation have changed since the reticence of half a century ago, the late 1960s, and now with contemporary films.
This is a significant film for and about 18-year-old girls as well is their parents and for those who are apprehensive about facing issues of sexual identity, the psychological, emotional as well is ethical repercussions.
It is surprising that this film has been written and directed by a man, Kerem Sanga, who also wrote and directed a film about teenage pregnancy, The Young Kieslowski. First Girl I Loved seems very much a female film, in the characterisations, in the dialogue between the two girls, even to their chatter and mannerisms, and alertness to female sensibility.
The central character is Anne, Dylan Gelula, a strong-minded 18-year-old who, nevertheless, is revealed as very confused. In the opening scenes we see her photographing a young woman, Sasha, Brianna Hildebrand, a softball champion and we realise the attraction. However, the next sequence shows a young Hispanic student, Cliff, at home with his grandmother, receiving a phone call from Anne to come and look at her new bike. They are best friends, confidantes, talking over all the issues but with Anne hesitant about the key factor in her life – although we realise, as the film goes on, that Cliff has a presupposition about his sexual relationship with Anne.
On the pretext of doing an interview for the school magazine, Anne visits Sasha, ask her awkward questions, but the two get on well and do a great deal of texting, especially about teenage sexual satisfaction, as well as meeting, going to a clothing shop, sharing experiences.
When Anne’ bike is stolen, she has a clash with Cliff whom she suspects and is violent towards him, suspended from school, to the shock of her disabled mother who react badly and slaps her daughter, instantly regretting it. Which means that Anne asks Sasha whether she can have a sleepover at her house. It is then that the complications arise, especially when they sneak out at night to go to a club, dance and kiss, are photographed by an onlooker, a photo which causes deep problems.
Anne becomes more and more confused, remembering an encounter with the young man who took the photo, succumbing to Cliff’s requests but then declaring herself to him, to his bewilderment.
When the photo is published, Sasha’s parents are highly indignant, there is a school meeting with Anne’s mother and Sasha’s parents, with the school counsellor who has listened to Cliff’s story, with Sasha and her hesitation in telling the truth.
Finally, Anne gets a sympathetic ear, declares her orientation and is prepared to move forward in her life.
The value of the film is in its insightful depiction of the characters and their problems, the uncertainties of this age, expectations of them, sexual developments and sometimes inability to deal with these, especially in a society where there do not seem to be any norms and helpful moral compasses.
Australia, 2016, 83 minutes, Colour.
Directed by Pete Gleeson.
A number of commentators on this documentary have mentioned that its treatment is the fly-on-the-wall kind, close observation of situations and characters.
One of the problems with responding to the film is that this is not particularly the kind of wall that one would like to be a fly on!
Coolgardie is a small town in Western Australia, right in the outback, in the desert, distance from Perth but not far from the larger town, Kalgoorlie. It is an old mining town with a rough kind of heritage, some modern amenities, but old pubs and old drinking traditions. In fact, at times audiences who know the novel and the film, Wake in Fright, will be alert to some of the similarities.
This is the story of two young women from Finland who holiday in Bali and are robbed, finishing up in Perth, deciding that they will get some temporary work and build up their money reserves. In the meantime, we have seen the owner of a pub in Coolgardie, pretty rough and ready himself, who has a system of employing young women for a couple of months as temporary barmaids, putting them up at the hotel, seeing them as something of an attraction for the mainly male customers at the pub – and there are some female customers as rough and ready as any of the locals.
The girls, Steph and Lina, accept the job, travel by train, meet the owner, and are set to learn the ropes with the friendly girls who are finishing up as barmaids and a very helpful. Actually, Steph and Lina are not very good at their work to the impatience of the owner who has outbursts about their inefficiency and lack of listed their work. When they arrive, they are advertised as new girls which means that the men will turn up, drink and flirt, be openly crass in their comments. There are some young men who water know and be better but virtually in an apprenticeship to be coming older sex obsessives. However, there are some sympathetic customers, especially in old vagrant who lives with his dog in a very unhygienic van but who offers to take them out on local trips.
The girls live in accommodation in the hotel, find they have covered the sites of Coolgardie in about five minutes, and find whole situation boring and alien (something which is probably shared by quite a number of the audience). It is a world of isolation and, despite the open spaces, claustrophobia.
The owner goes away and there are several temporary managers of the hotel who are more sympathetic and more helpful to the girls. One of the difficulties is that Lina has severe diabetes and goes into a severe turn and has to be hospitalised.
It probably seems best that the girls be terminated with their work, which happens, and back they go to Finland – with a strange, very partial, experience of Australia.
There are some momentary glimpses of an aboriginal or two but indigenous people are notably and noticeably missing from Coolgardie and the hotel.
Many of the reviewers have praise the film as being fascinating. Maybe. Another reviewer referred to the whole thing as being fascinating and appalling. Fascinating in a bizarre kind of way – and a reminder that there are many appalling aspects of Australian culture, of the attitudes and behaviours of Australian males, especially in a pub context.
US, 2017, 88 minutes, Colour.
Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, Ryan Simpkins, Nick Kroll, Alison Tolman, Rob Huebel, Jeremy Renner.
Directed by Andrew Jay Cohen.
After the final credits, to the ushers at the cinema asked how the film was. The spontaneous response was, “Terrible”. That had certainly been the response during the first hour of the film – but some modifying moments during the last 28 minutes held out a little hope but, the spontaneous response was “Terrible”.
Yes, it was in many ways a spoof. Yes, in many ways it was a farce. Yes, a lot of the performances were over the top. And, it was too expletived for this kind of small-scale comedy. And the director wrote the two Bad Neighbors films as well as Mick and Dave Need Wedding Dates.
Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler have done a lot of very funny comedies and even Jason Mantzoukas can be funny in an irritating kind of way. It started placidly enough with devoted parents, Scott and Kate, hoping that their daughter, Alex (Ryan Simpkins), will get into the local college as they had. Nevermind their druggie and larrikin-like past, the important thing was better behaviour now.
And, of course, this film is filled with the opposite.
When the smug head of the local council publicly announces that all city finances are to go to the building of a new pool and that college scholarships are abolished (after all everybody likes swimming more than allotting funds to students), Scott and Kate realise they don’t have the funds, despite all kinds of appeals for loans, to send their daughter to college.
In the meantime, their neurotic neighbour, Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) with a gambling addiction that exasperates his wife no end comes up with a brainwave to set up a hidden casino in his house, in partnership with Scott and Kate for him to get money to pay off his mortgage, regain his wife, and for them to send their daughter to college.
Perhaps a funny idea – but it soon turns into a bit of a wallow, mean-minded middle-classly affluent citizens with nothing better to do every night but go to a casino and waste their money. And bet on fights between bickering clients. And, defying credibility, the space in the house for the casino and the continually more expensive machines and decor certainly make it look like a mini Las Vegas. And, Scott and Kate, despite their dialogue and discerning, become more and more involved in making even more doom-ridden decisions, even Scott getting the reputation of The Butcher demanding payment of debts and, with its own bits of blood and gore, his chopping off a finger as well as the hand of the local criminal boss (unexpectedly played by Jeremy Renner).
There is a kind of obnoxious about the characters of Scott and Kate, let alone the evermore eccentric Frank, their behaviour and their steadily growing self-absorption, preoccupation with money, enjoying lording it over their neighbours.
Then there is the subplot about the head of the local council, more than duplicitous in many counts, the local police officer and his moral decisions – though that is an overstatement.
At moments, Scott and Kate come to their senses – but they don’t stay there long.
What might have been a sharp 10 minute spoof on Saturday Night Live, given the talents of the stars, this is a generally unfunny, even objectionable, look at the American middle class.
HOUNDS OF LOVE
Australia, 2016, 108 minutes, Colour.
Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, Stephen Curry, Susie Porter, Damien De Montemas, Harrison Gilbertson.
Directed by Ben Young.
What to say about Hounds of Love? It is expertly made and has compelling performances. However, and for some audiences this could be a big however, it is extremely unsettling to watch and, ultimately, gruelling. This is the kind of story that takes its audiences behind the headlines or the news items on television about murders, abductions and psychological and violent torture.
The acting is first rate, to be commended. Ashleigh Cummings is Vicki, the 17-year-old whose parents have separated, who bonds with her father but blames her mother for walking out on the marriage and ruining her life. Stephen Curry, rather puny in many ways, with is self-assertive moustache, is John, who lives in the street a couple of blocks away from Vicki and her mother. Perhaps best performance of all is from Emma Booth as Evelyn, John’s partner, wanting to bring her two young children to live with them.
The film quickly establishes a tone and mood as the audience watches a group of schoolgirls playing netball, the view from a car, voyeuristic, an obsessive gazing at the girls, then one of the players being offered a lift home, accepting…
When Vicki decides to defy her mother go out one night to a party, she is offered a lift by John and Evelyn, quietly chatty, pleasantly persuasive, offering some drugs, with Vicki getting into the car, going to their home, Evelyn nicely persuading her to come inside and have a drink – which is drugged.
Much of the rest of the film takes place inside the home, disturbing for the audience because this is Perth 1987, December, in ordinary suburbs, in ordinary houses, in ordinary streets, with ordinary people living quiet lives. But, inside the house, John and Evelyn, portrayed in an increasingly co-dependent way, especially for Evelyn, who was been with John since she was 13, loving him, her sexual intensity, yet his using her. He buys her a dog which prevents Vicki trying to escape – but there is a later scene with the dog who has a habit of sorting the floor inside, provoking John to sadistic anger which may be the trigger point for the resolution of the film.
With the audience empathising with Vicki and her being tied up, emotionally drained, abused, there seems to be very little letup. John exhibits no qualities which would make him likeable let alone audiences empathising with him. On the other hand, there is always an ambiguity about Evelyn which makes her character the most interesting, audiences understanding her co-dependence while wishing she could see through it, but dismayed at her often sadistic behaviour, a seemingly innate cruelty and, while she can’t dominate John although he depends on her, she can dominate Vicki.
The audience has seen Vicki with her parents, Damien de Montemas her father, and, impressively, Susie Porter (who also played the mother of the victim girl in Don’t Tell) as her mother, trying to deal with her daughter’s antagonism and the desperation of her disappearance. And there is a cameo by Harrison Gilbertson as Vicki’s boyfriend who has a key role in leading towards some kind of resolution because of the letter that John and Evelyn force Vicki to write saying that she had gone to Adelaide and that they were not to worry.
There have been similar kinds of stories from the United States and other countries, often the basis for horror films or genre films with touches of blood and gore. This film is rather different, while it has some graphic moments, it is more of a cinema study of the psyches of two serial killers and of their relationship as well as of the frightening impact on the abducted girl.
IT COMES AT NIGHT
Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Griffin Robert Faulkner.
Directed by Trey Edward Shults.
Given some news from the United States where angry patrons have denounced and/or walked out of this film because they were waiting for “it” to arrive, a worthwhile comment is that this is a psychological drama, with some overtones of horror, not for the multiplex audience but more for arthouse audiences. This is nothing of a monster-fest but what might be called a serious imagining of the human condition in crisis circumstances.
Actually, it is a bit hard to work out what the title actually means. During the film and at the end we are asking ourselves what “it” actually is. While much of the film is at night, there is also a great deal of daylight.
Nevertheless, this is a very well acted film, a film with a great deal of atmosphere, a great deal of tension. Something drastic has occurred in major North American cities, making people flee from the cities, making them live in isolation in the woods, water and food is scarce, no electricity or communications. The drama at the opening of the film consists of a man, obviously highly infected with some mysterious disease, his relatives wearing gas masks, acknowledging his death, burying and burning him.
Within the house, the family, consisting of father, Paul, Joel Edgerton, his wife Sarah, Carmen Ejogo, and their 17-year-old son Travis, Kenneth Harrison Jr, can take off their masks, sit rather solemnly, wondering what is going to happen and how they will cope. Suddenly, there is a banging at the door, someone trying to get in and they treat him with utmost suspicion.
With this atmosphere and mystery, and with the man identifying himself, looking for refuge for himself and his wife and son, the film shifts into a movement away from paranoia (and one reviewer did make the remark that the film was about post-apocalyptic paranoia – was this the “it”?) and an attempt for the families to live together.
Joel Edgerton is a former history teacher taking on patriarchal responsibilities (and he and his wife are in a mixed race marriage). The other interesting character is the son, Travis, who experiences strange dreams, probably some premonitions about what might come.
As indicated by the angry responses of American horror and monster fans, the film leaves us with the mystery, the paranoia, the suspicions, the violence, and the uncertainty of how to survive in a world turned extraordinarily mysterious.
Turkey, 2017, 79 minutes, Colour.
Directed by Ceyda Torun.
If T.S.Eliott could write a suite of poems about cats, and if Andrew Lloyd Webber could compose a successful musical based on Elliott’s poems, there is no reason that Turkish director, Ceyda Torun, should not make an 80 minute film about cats in Istanbul.
Whether the film is a success will depend on your love of cats. Any devotees of cats will have no difficulty with the film and think it is probably too short! On the other hand, if you are a dog person or of cats don’t particularly attract or interest at all, then it may well be hard going. It does remind us that dogs (a few of them actually do appear here) are able to show, even express in their face and demeanour, a great deal of devotion more than cats are able to. Cats can look at you but there seems to be something of a glacial stare at times and/or lack of personal interest.
So, there are plenty of picture postcard views of the city of Istanbul, many of them by helicopter above the buildings, always interesting and attractive, especially for those who have visited.
And there are quite a lot of humans in the film, many of them absolutely devoted to cats, some of them dotty about them, both males and females expressing their love for cats, patting them, feeding them, doting on them. Some have personal names. Actually, those in the audience who appreciate cats might enjoy doing a bit of cat-spotting, able to identify all the breeds and variations.
The first part of the film focuses on female cats and their kittens, the devotion of the mothers scrounging around the city picking up food for the kitties, or else looking pleadingly and seemingly helplessly for scraps to take home. So, we follow quite a number of cats around, an exceeding number, beyond expectation, to be found in Istanbul!
The director obviously has a photographic eye and, right throughout the 80 minutes, there are numerous, numerous, shots of cats, poses, cats framed with the scenery, close-ups, cats always, seeming plaintiff looks, and touch of the catfight when aggressive males get into conflict.
The male cats are left to the second part of the film, less cuddly, of course, than their female counterparts with their maternal behaviour with their kittens.
Obviously, a more intense and intensive review of the film could be done by a cat lover who could alert us to all the nuances, all the traits, all the furry lovableness – but for others, they might feel they have had a catful!
France, 2016, 119 minutes, Colour.
Omar Sy, James Thierree, Clotilde Hesme, Olivier Gourmet, Frederic Pierrot, Noemie Lvovsky.
Directed by Roschdy Zem.
In 2011, worldwide audiences enjoyed the French film The Untouchable is, the story of an aide to a wealthy disabled man, a crotchety patient who became more humane through his interactions with the nursing aide. The aide was played by French actor, Omar Sy. Since then he has appeared in Samba as well is supporting roles in an X-Men action film and the Dan Brown story, Inferno.
His reputation will be more than enhanced by his presence and performance as Monsieur Chocolat.
The film opens in provincial France in 1897, a travelling circus, the acts not particularly good but enjoyable for the small crowds that come from the surrounding towns. One of the stars is Kananga, the Cannibal, played by Sy, whose act is to terrify the audience, especially the children, with ferocious looks and roars from darkest Africa.
Some flashbacks indicate that his family were servants, if not slaves, for the colonial French, the young boy, Rafael, seeing his father serving at meals and having to perform like a dog begging for food to the family’s laughter. Rafael escaped to Spain, got jobs, eventually finishing in the circus – and seems to be satisfied.
However, an acrobatic clown, Footit, down on his luck sees Kananga and decides to create a double act which is so successful that an entrepreneur from Paris makes them an offer they cannot refuse. This clown is a sad clown, later revealed to be a lonely gay man, played by James Thierree – who has a very serious demeanour but an exceedingly malleable body for his acrobatics probably part of his heritage as a grandson of Charles Chaplin.
While things go swimmingly in Paris at the turn-of-the-century, society audiences feting the clown duo, Footit and Monsieur Chocolat, and their gaining celebrity status, caricatures even drawn of Rafael by Toulouse-Lautrec, there are elements for destruction. Rafael is a gambler, compulsive, risking all his earnings and possessions, something which ultimately destroys him. While he had an affectionate relationship with the horse-writing acrobat in the provincial circus, he is also a womaniser and betrays her.
The other element of destruction is the fact that all the laughs in the circus are at the expense of the black man. While there are many variations on the act and the performance, it is ultimately the white man kicking the black man that raises all the laughs. When Rafael is arrested for lack of papers (the vengeful action of the wife of the provincial circus owner), he is humiliated by the prison officials literally scrubbing him to get rid of the black. But he does meet a political prisoner from Haiti who eventually makes him more conscious of the even greater humiliation of the circus performance.
While performing for children at a hospital, he encounters one of the nurses and eventually has a relationship with her. But the grateful parent of another sick child is a theatre owner who offers Rafael the possibility, suggested by the Haitian prisoner, that he move beyond his love for Romeo and Juliet to perform Othello.
The film uses the realism of Rafael’s history to move towards the ending, rather downbeat at the time of World War I in the provinces, but the film finally includes some clips from the actual duo to remind audiences of the talent to amuse. Some commentators on the film point out that, while it is a true story, the facts are rather loosely used and that, in fact, Rafael’s success came some years earlier than that shown in the film. It is one of those cases where a film is valid even if some of the facts are inaccurate.