Two in the Wave

I went to the Film Forum yesterday after a previous screening and watched the new Emmanuel Laurent documentary, “Two In The Wave”, about the friendship and its eventual dissolution, of Jean-Luc Godard and Francoise Truffaut. Most interesting to me was the relationship actor Jean-Pierre Leaud had with the two filmmakers. He was best known for the recurring character, Antoine Doinel, in 5 Truffaut films. Leaud also starred in a number of Godard’s films as well. He was effortlessly acting between the two pillars of the French New Wave and when the two directors fell out years later over philosophical differences, Leaud’s career never quite recovered. “Two in the Wave” is terrific, an appropriate prelude to the forthcoming revival of “Breathless”.  “Breathless”, Godard’s break out film is having its 50th anniversary this year and the Film Forum has a gorgeous new print which they will start showing starting this coming Friday. Can’t wait to see it, having never seen this iconic film on the large screen.

film review: SOLITARY MAN

Directed by David Levien & Brian Koppelman
Produced by Paul Schiff, Steven Soderbergh, Avi Lerner & Moshe Diamant
Written by Koppleman
Edited by Tricia Cooke
Cinematography by Alwin H, Kuchler
Cast:  Michael Douglas, Mary-Louise Parker, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, Susan Sarandon, David Costabile & Danny DeVito
Released by Anchor Bay Films
USA. 90 min. Rated R

[Article originally appeared:]

When Ben Kalmen slithers into a restaurant, nattily so in his black designer duds and Ray Bans, the first thing he does is scope the scene for young attractive women. To avoid embarrassment, he instructs his loved ones to refer to him as Captain Ben when in public, not Dad and definitely not Grandpa. Ben is a former King of New York. A once wealthy and successful owner of car dealerships, Ben had it all, including an adoring wife (Susan Sarandon) and a doting daughter (“The Office”’s Jenna Fischer). Then Ben learned he had a heart condition and threw it all away. He became involved in some illegal business dealings, lost his business, and did some time. Now, Ben is on the cusp of a comeback after years of being considered a pariah. His new girlfriend, Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker), pulls a few strings with her powerful daddy, head of the car dealership commission, and Ben has a true second chance. Accept for one problem, and that problem is named Ben.

Michael Douglas & Susan Sarandon in SOLITARY MAN; photo courtest of Anchor Bay Films

The crux of “Solitary Man”, a comedy directed by Brian Koppleman and David Levien, takes place on a trip Ben takes to his alma mater with Jordan’s daughter, Allyson (Imogen Poots). Ben wants to impress Jordan or Allyson or perhaps himself by helping insure Allyson’s chances of being accepted. Back in the day, he bestowed the university with an endowment and has a library named after him. While there, Ben befriends a geeky college kid named Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg) who, after a few minutes, follows Ben around like a puppy. It’s the peripheral relationships Ben has such as the one with Daniel that is the film’s weakest link. While Ben is obviously charismatic, it’s impossible to think that Daniel would so blindly look up to him as a mentor. Eisenberg played a similar role in both “The Education of Charlie Banks” and “Adventureland”; he needs to expand his range. Even more unlikely is Ben’s inappropriate affair and subsequent obsession with 17-year-old Allyson. Much more believably, he sleeps with a thirtysomething friend of his daughter’s, despite the damage his behavior causes. Read more

film review: LOOKING FOR ERIC

Directed by Ken Loach
Produced by Rebecca O’Brien
Written by Paul Laverty
Cinematography by Barry Ackroyd
Released by IFC Films
116 min. Not Rated
With Steve Evets, Eric Cantona, Stephanie Bishop, Gerard Kearns, John Henshaw, Stefan Gumbs & Lucy-Jo Hudson

[Article originally appeared:]

In “Play It Again, Sam”, Woody Allen played a nebbishy film critic who congers up an imaginary alter ego when in need of romance advice. In this case, that imaginary friend was Humphrey Bogart, the icon of macho cool. I can’t for the life of me imagine Ken Loach, the director of such films as “Raining Stones”, “Riff Raff”, and “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”, being influenced by this 1972 Allen comedy, but his new film, “Looking for Eric”, suggests that distinct possibility. In it, Eric Bishop (Steve Evets), a single father and postal worker, has a similarly active fantasy life. Besides the two layabout stepsons from his second failed marriage living with him in his London flat, Eric also has a grown daughter from his first marriage, a single mother who needs lots of help with babysitting.

Having to pick up and drop off his grandchild at the home of his first ex-wife, Eric is finally forced to contend with the woman he walked out on decades earlier and for whom he still carries a torch. Lily (Stephanie Bishop) brings up many anxieties for Eric, ones that go all the way back to their short-lived marriage. So Eric creates his own macho alter ego, only in this case instead of Humphrey Bogart, Eric dreams up the French soccer star Eric Cantona. Gamely playing himself, Cantona—one of the film’s executive producers—does what most American audiences might feel is impossible—to be speak in an even thicker accent than the working-class blokes that comprise the rest of the cast and most of Loach’s dramas of the past 40 years. Looking for Eric is being billed as a comedy, and for the most part it’s upbeat and heartwarming. However, the subplot involving Eric’s older stepson, Ryan (Gerard Kearns), who gets in over his head with a local thug, delivers a very dark tone to the film until the final scenes, which bring to mind the lighter films of Mike Leigh. Read more

film review: MOTHER AND CHILD

Written & directed by Rodrigo Garcia
Edited by Steven Weisberg
Cinematography by Xavier Perez Grobet
Executive Producers: Alejandro González Inárritu
Original Music by Ed Sheamur
Cast: Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Kerry Washington, Cherry Jones, S. Epatha Merkerson, Elpidia Carrillo, David Morse, Tatyana Ali & Lisa Gay Hamilton
USA/Spain.  125 minutes.  Rated R.

Article originally appeared:

In the opening sequence of Rodrigo Garcia’s deeply moving new film, “Mother and Child”, a flashback introduces 14 year old Karen losing her virginity. The consequences of this tender albeit premature moment sets the stage for what will wind up, in Karen’s own words, defining who she is. Thirty-six years later, now a middle aged adult and skillfully played by Annette Bening, Karen works as a physical therapist by day and as a nurse for her elderly mother by night. The fact that she is a full time caretaker to everyone except for the one person in the world she would like to be—the adopted daughter she gave up—Karen has become something of a cranky loner. It’s as though sealing herself off somehow makes up for the unforgivable act of giving her baby up for adoption all those years ago. While we watch and sometimes laugh at the complex way Karen relates to others, one of whom is her housekeeper Sofia (Elpidia Carrillo of “Seven Pounds”), whose close relationship with Karen’s mother leaves Karen both confused and envious. She simultaneously resents her mother for her judgmental ways even while she seems cursed to repeat the same behavior with others. Karen is harsh towards Sofia’s young daughter, perhaps because of the lost opportunity in having the same unconditional relationship in her own life. It is with the appearance of a persistent and kind admirer (a fine Jimmy Smits) when Karen’s heart begins to thaw. Paco comes to her with a quiet certainty that even the usually reluctant Karen can not resist.

Annette Benning & Jimmy Smits; photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

As is common in so many films nowadays, “Mother and Child” has a series of interwoven story lines in the tradition of “Crash” and “Babel”. The movie’s other two story lines also revolve around how adoption has affected the lives of both Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) and Lucy (Kerry Washington). Elizabeth, the grown daughter Karen gave up all those years ago, has spent her entire life in a cocoon of her own creation. She had her tubes tied at the age of seventeen and remained decidedly single. She has chosen to not settle down in any one place, preferring the freedom of moving from city to city and job to job at her own whim. The pain she carries, as illustrated by her steely composure and occasional acts of cruelty, show a woman trying to cope with the deep sense of abandonment adoption can produce. An attorney, Elizabeth has returned to Los Angeles for a job interview at a prestigious law firm. She’s interviewed by the firm’s owner, Paul (Samuel L. Jackson), and the two quickly fall into an affair–something that takes Paul, a widower and father, by surprise. Drawn to her ambition and independence, Paul becomes rather caught up with Elizabeth. Read more