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Sep 19, 2012

Quick Takes: The Housemaid - Le Havre - Tomboy

The Housemaid (2010)

         Jeon Do-yeon, Lee Jung-jae, Seo Woo, Yoon Yeo-jeong, Ahn Seo-hyeon and Park Ji-young.

                  Im Sang-soo.

                The Housemaid is a South Korean melodramatic thriller that i watched earlier this year. I wasn't actually planning to watch this movie so it was a last minute thing for me. I had no idea of director Im Sang-soo nor the original movie it is based on so i really did not expect anything. The Housemaid is a movie about a maid Eun-yi, played by Jeon Do-yeon and how slowly she falls into the destructive relation with the upper-class family she is working for. Hoon played by Lee Jung-jae who is the Owner of the house gets in a physical relation with the maid while his wife Hae Ra played by Seo Woo is pregnant. They already have a daughter too. This movie starts with a scene which is not connected with the actual plot of the movie, we see a girl killing herself by jumping off the roof. This movie acts like a seductive, melodramatic soap opera thriller with some satire on the upper class life of Korea. That's not to say that it happens all the time but this is just one of the stories, fictional or taken from an incident, it happens.

              I don't know what to say about this movie because the filmmaker himself have no idea what he is trying to say and what he wants to show. The screenplay and plot developments along with characterization is severely problematic and often stumbles. It doesn't follow a clear path which makes its a very dull and boring experience. There is maybe an audience for movies like these but i for once wasn't engaged or involved in it, it should have at least done something for me. Jeon Do-yeon tries to do her best in whatever she has been given to work with and she often does. Not a single standout performance because the material is very thin and muddled. The interiors of the house, the art direction those beautiful furniture etc in itself is a delight to watch. The movie proceeds in a very straight manner in a way but towards the end, it suddenly gets very odd. The very ending is something you may find in a David Lynch movie. Eun-yi has to suffer a lot there even though you really don't get attached to her for all she goes through but still the climax might effect you in a way. And for us to see the family not even remotely effected by what she does to herself in front of them is somewhat painful to watch even though the scene shows their daughter somewhat troubled by it. The sex shown in the movie is very softcore but in a way very heated, often unnecessary and somewhat nonsense. Call it a softcore guilty pleasure or a campy melodramatic thriller, its just an eye candy and nothing too deep. Half baked effort that could have been so much better, i really didn't enjoyed the movie except for Jeo Do-yeon, the lovely interiors and the end.

Grade: D+

Le Havre (2011)

         Andre Wilms, Kati Outinen, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Blondin Miguel, Elina Salo, Evelyne Didi, Quoc Dung Nguyen, Laika, Francois Monnie, Roberto Piazza, Pierre Etaix and Jean-Pierre Leaud.

                  Aki Kaurismaki.

                This French film from Finland is an amazing Dramedy directed by Aki Kaurismaki which won FIPRESCI prize at Cannes Film Festival last year, not just that but it won a few other awards in the festival also winning the main prize at Chicago Film Festival and a few more. This movie follows Andre Wilms as Marcel Marx, a shoeshiner living in the French port city of Le Havre. His life is very simple, one time ambitious writer and now he gave up his dream. We see three aspects of his life which is basically what he do every day which is his wife Arletty, his profession as a shoeshiner which you'll see is not much profitable and a bar where he knows and interact with many people. Something happens in his life, first his wife becomes ill and needs to be admitted in a hospital. The other thing, which is the most significant aspect of this movie is the illegal immigrants, one of which an underage African boy crosses path with Marcel. He is a very kind hearted man with nothing against anyone. He feeds the boy and then hides him in his own house when he is been searched by the police. Not just him bit his very friendly neighbors helps him too in this. Not only does he have the responsibility of his seriously ill wife but he tries to do something for the boy, he arranges an illegal trip by boat for the boy to London where the rest of his family is living.

               The dead pan style in performance and a dark sense of humor in the screenplay with often merry and charming notes blends in to give a brilliant all around lovable movie. It really doesn't breaks any new grounds for anyone here but for me, this is a one of a kind experience. For a topic like this, i don't think a normal filmmaker would go for such an approach but make no mistake, he is Aki Kaurismaki whose work is one of the best from Finnish cinema. The flow of the movie is very simple and in a natural manner with an optimistic sweet tone and very down to earth characters. It acts like a fairytale where every single character in the movie is happy with whatever they have and how they live. They enjoy and live every single moments of their life the fullest with no whining and complaining of any kind. The story underneath maybe a bit grim and troubling but they way it is presented is what makes the movie such a delight to watch. I loved the city this movie was shot in, its very rare for me to get so impressed by a city like this right after watching a movie. Clearly for whatever evil is going around you because life has worst things in every way all the time no matter how much of an angel you are but for people to have such an amazing outlook on the worst things in life is very rare. Its so much rare that i found myself want to live there because I'll for once be happy with whatever i have living among those wonderful people. We need that in our life.

              The music used in this movie is another reason why you'll really have a great time. That one song you'll find in the start and in the end is very touching and has the feel of what this movie is about. There is a concert Marcel organizes to raise money for the boy which is stunning. This movie with its heartwarming human tale often gives shout outs to classic French and Italian cinema. A joyous and often moving quirky drama with a very rewarding ending that makes you wanna cry with joy and i somewhat did. Uplifting and with a spirit that really restores your faith in humanity. Its nothing but a gem and i highly recommend it to you.

Grade: B+

Tomboy (2011)

          Zoe Heran, Jeanne Disson, Malonn Levana, Sophie Cattani and Mathieu Demy.

                   Celine Sciamma.

                Tomboy took me by surprise earlier this year when i watched it with fairly low expectations. This French movie directed by Celine Sciamma is one of the most profoundly moving movies revolving around children i have seen in a long time. This critically acclaimed award winning movie is much more powerful in a very minimalistic way. Its one of the most wonderful portrayal of childhood, the innocence, insecurities, finding yourself and identity crisis i have seen in my life. The story deals with Laure played by Zoe Heran who is a 10 year old girl, she with her father over the summer moves into a new house with her mother and young sister. We see Laure helping her mother because she is pregnant, looking after her sister Jeanne played by Malonn Levana. Laure has few weeks left before starting the new school so she really tries to make the most of it. We see her looking over other children of their apartment playing and she wants to do the same too. The thing is that Laure introduces herself as Mikael (a boy) to everyone and continues to hide this from her family and live this life where she is happy with herself. Mikael tries very much to play football with the guys, he slowly gets closer to a girl Lisa played by Jeanne Disson. They have this very sweat love story, slowly developing friendship and then crush. The most promising scenes in the movie are that of children playing. How wonderfully the director of this movie is able to capture that sense of free spirit that children of that age has. Other moments when they just sit after playing so much, tired, they talk and that is what stuns you beyond your imagination that how wonderfully the innocence and the growing maturity and awareness plays the role in psychology of children.

              Tomboy features one of the most amazing performances by young actors. Celine allows the children to kind of be free and do whatever they as a children would do capturing the most accurate, realistic and natural responses from them. One of the standouts is Malonn Levana the younger sister who performs beyond her age, that maturity that she has in her performance is unimaginable and highly original which is rare in child actors of her age. A moment when on dinner table she nearly exposes her sister's alter ego is such a delight to watch you can't help but laugh out loudly on that. Zoe Heran exquisitely portrays both the shades of her character, the male and the female making her the heart and soul of this movie. She is someone who drives this movie pretty much which is a tough job but she somehow does it perfectly. Brilliant cinematography and free flowing technique of camera with added quite and muted silence stares and surprisingly arresting intimate and personal moments creates a wonderful atmosphere and a sense of surrealism. Tender and effective in many ways while leaving you with a feeling of hope over the hopelessness it tries to show in the middle. The scenes where Laure's family finds out followed by the friends are hard to watch. There is grimness in childhood after all. A wonderfully delightful and utterly charming coming of age tale that i highly recommend you guys to watch.

               In the end, with all those scenes where sisters play with each other doing girls things followed by a girl trying to be a boy playing with other guys in contrast to how Mikael tries different things to show he is a guy the fear he has inside that leads him to do many things to protect his secret. One question it asks which also truly reflects the ending is that why on earth should ones gender or orientation matter at all. Be happy, live your life the fullest, be what you want to be, do what you want to do, play with who ever you want with whatever you want and don't give a damn about anyone.

Grade: A-