Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Francois Truffaut's "Antoine Doinel" film series

***light spoilers ahead; read with trepidation if you plan on watching all five films***

A few weeks ago I watched the interesting documentary Two in the Wave that is about Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Goddard, their friendship, their rivalry and the French New Wave. I've never warmed to Goddard but have long loved the work of Truffaut. It was good timing as SJ and I have been slowly winding our way through Truffaut's wonderful series of films on the character "Antoine Doinel." The "Antoine" films capture all the qualities I love in a Truffaut film: the combination of serious and comic, an overtly sweet romanticism, the palpable joy of living and the foreboding sense of "Frenchness" that covers pretty much everything on the screen.

"Antoine Doinel" showed up in Truffaut's first film The 400 Blows in 1959 and it was the first depth charge for what would become known as the French New Wave. Jean-Pierre Leaud played the 12 year old Doinel, as he did the next four installments over the next two decades. As Leaud ages, so does Doinel, although the character never seems to truly "grow up," continuously getting into romantic troubles and inable to hold down a job. Leaud is the perfect cinematic foil for Truffaut's alter-ego in the series as I'm not sure Truffaut would have been able to continue had he not had such a rapport with Leaud as his leading man.

The second time Antoine shows up is for the only short film of the bunch with the 1962 Antoine and Colette. The charming 32 minute film sees Doinel start up a familiar topic for Truffaut to mine in the future: romantic obsession. He spots a woman he finds fetching at a concert and begins to pursue her to no avail. No amount of wooing can win the heart of Colette it seems and the groundwork is laid for the films that come next in the series.

Stolen Kisses comes in 1968 and starts with Doinel being kicked out of the army for unfit behavior. He immediately gets in touch with Christine (Claude Jade) even though she just wants to be friends. Doinel is persistent though and gradually she gets drawn into the romantic whimsy of the character. Along with the romance is some comic material related to Antoine's inability to hold down a job with a chunk of the story involving him bumbling around as a private detective. Stolen Kisses is my second favorite of the films--it's hard to top the always watchable The 400 Blows--as it just has a terrific feel to it. Perfectly paced and full of fun scenes and characters, it's a joyous trip into the foibles of poor Antoine and his work/love life. Classic stuff from Francois Truffaut.

Just two years later in 1970 comes Bed and Board, the fourth installment in the series. Antoine is now married to Christine and the scenes early in the film of their wedded life are filled with some of the same light-hearted comedy and charm that makes up the bulk of Stolen Kisses. As the film evolves though, there is a tonal shift and it becomes a little more somber and introspective as Antoine begins to rue the mistakes he is making in the marriage--starting up an affair with an exotic Japanese woman for example. Growing into an adult has taken some of the youthful exuberance from Antoine and Bed and Board hints that it might not be as easy for Antoine to get what he wants in the future. Adults seem to find it harder to bounce back from failure than young people and Antoine finally might be on the path in growing up.

Or maybe not. Love on the Run comes nine years after Bed and Board and finds Antoine and Christine divorced whilst Antoine is up to his usual shenanigans with a variety of women. There's even a return of Colette, now a successful woman in her 30s that piques the interest in Antoine (who doesn't?). Love on the Run does something I didn't like at all--it uses a bunch of scenes from all the previous films cut into the story. This wasn't a good idea. I've already seen those films so didn't need to re-watch scenes I already know and remember. The new story was really hampered by this continuous interruption of the fresh to insert this old footage.

If you love French cinema, do yourself a favor and watch the Antoine Doinel series of films by Francois Truffaut. Even if you've seen 400 Blows, return to it and then follow it up with the four charmers that follow, you'll be happy you did. I just wish Truffaut would have come back for a sixth installment.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Movie tickets #19

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

UTW review of Easy A

This was a surprise. I was assigned by Urban Tulsa to watch the teen oriented romantic comedy Easy A and guess what--I liked it. A lot. Fun, smart and lively, Easy A is one of the more pleasant experiences I've had in a multiplex all summer. Ain't movies great?! Go here to read my review in full.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Breakfast Club poster by Dan Fritschie

Each month Dan Fritschie does an original bit of poster artwork for whatever film is showing for Circle Cinema's midnight movie. This coming weekend it will be The Breakfast Club. This is the poster he designed for it that I've put up in various Tulsa locales. It's a fun one I think. If you're in Tulsa and up late this Friday or Saturday, come re-watch this classic teenage comedy/drama from the 1980s.

Friday, September 17, 2010

UTW review of Flipped

Go here if you want to read my review of Flipped in the latest Urban Tulsa. It's a family friendly film wrapped in the golden hues of nostalgia as it looks at young love between a couple of kids in the early 1960s.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Invasion of the Body Snatchers - Trailer

One of my favorite science fiction films of all time is 1956's Invasion
of the Body Snatchers. It's a great movie that works on a lot of levels--
thriller, statement on the witch hunt for supposed communists during
this era, or just a creepy tale about aliens among us and up to no good.
The lead actor, Kevin McCarthy recently died at the age of 96.
McCarthy is the main guy in this trailer, the one with the prominent jaw.
Check this classic out if you haven't seen it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Switch, Piranha 3D + Winnebago Man

The Switch. Not good. The Switch pretty much fails at most of everything it tries to do. That's a shame too because its male lead, Jason Bateman, is as good as it gets but a flop as a romantic lead might launch him back to supporting roles. He's too good to play second fiddle all the time in a supporting role. Bateman and Jennifer Aniston have little to none on-screen chemistry. I'm not going to blame Bateman though as he's rarely been given a romantic lead whereas Aniston makes a disaster of the genre repeatedly. Unless you happen to like such junk as The Bounty Hunter, Love Happens, He's Just Not That Into You and Marley & Me. The Switch has a workable premise for this sort of film of long-time friends with a mix-up involving sperm and an artificial insemination procedure. That should be guilty pleasure comedy gold but it's mucked up from start to finish. Only Bateman and oddball Jeff Goldblum make it remotely worth watching. The real question is how many more awful romantic comedies will Aniston get to make?

Piranha 3D. If you read my recent review of The Expendables, I spent a lot of time ragging on its empty celebration of the worst of the roided up action films that were popular in the 1980s. I loathed everything about it--from its endless destruction to its gimmicky, lunkheaded cast. Now, reason would tell you that I would despise another throwback styled genre picture in Piranha and guess what, you'd be dead wrong! I actually enjoyed this bit of silly mayhem from French director Alexandre Aja. The story is flat-out ridiculous but who cares? This is about getting a bunch of nubile bodies in skimpy bathing suits while they are mauled by a horde of fake, CGI prehistoric flesh-eaters let loose by a volcanic fissure in the bottom of a huge lake. And it's in 3D. I am sick and tired of all the 3D but this time the ploy for more money from my wallet works. It's safe to say I've never seen this many breasts bouncing around in front of my eyes in a theatre. Aja definitely ups the lecherous meter throughout. While it could have devolved into just a series of exploitive scenes, there's even some genuine tension toward the end and a snarky sense of humor that pops up from time to time. Piranha 3D is a blast of summer fun.

Winnebago Man. We live in a culture where fame can be found by pretty much anyone via the internet. Put some deranged, humiliating or attention getting video on youtube and if you get lucky, it will go viral around the globe. Suddenly, you are a star! Or, a fool mocked and ridiculed. This kind of celebrity has come to Jack Rebney. Search "Winnebago man" on youtube and you can see his infamous collection of profane outbursts as he was filming an industrial commercial in the 1980s touting all the positives in the RV field. Rebney is a maniac and unleashing a barrage of curses that are hilarious and captivating at the same time. Rebney seems to have disappeared from society as there is no trace of him after he was fired from Winnebago. This documentary attempts to locate Rebney and find out what he's been up to the past couple of decades. The film wants to make a statement regarding fame and the damage done to people who become celebrities without their knowledge or intention but that is its weakest element. It works best by just tapping into the strange life of Rebney himself as he's turned out to be a hermit, living on a mountain and with absolutely no clue so many people love this clip of him going berserk. Rebney and Winnebago Man is at times sad, charming and funny.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

UTW review of The American + Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

Go here if you want to read my reviews of The American and Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child in this week's Urban Tulsa Weekly. One is a slow moving yet artistic film about a hit man and the other is a documentary about an artist in the 1980s.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Admiral Twin Drive-In burns down

On Friday, the Tulsa institution Admiral Twin Drive-In unexpectedly caught fire and burned to the ground. This is a heartbreaking loss for Tulsa as it has been an important element to Tulsa's movie fabric since the early 1950s. A save the Admiral Twin Facebook page has been started and they have over 22,000 people on it as of Monday morning. Go here if you want to join it and get information on how to donate money for rebuilding it or buying a t-shirt, etc etc.

Earlier this year I wrote a longish piece in Urban Tulsa about the Admiral Twin and my love for it--go here if you want to read it.

Friday, September 03, 2010

August movies

Highlight of the month: Winter's Bone. See it as it's one of 2010's finest so far. Low point? Bruce Campbell's My Name is Bruce. I love Bruce but this movie is wretched. I don't give a lot of 1 stars (I usually just stop the film before it ends if it is that bad) but this disaster is deserving of that 1 star and no more.

Dinner for Schmucks---2010---usa   ***
Corazon Marchito---2007---mexico   **
Winter's Bone---2010---usa   ****
My Name Is Bruce---2006---usa   *
Julie and Julia---2009---usa   **
Eat Pray Love---2010---usa   ***
The Expendables---2010---usa   **
Wild Grass---2009---france   **
Two From the Wave---2009---france   ***
Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World---2010---usa   ***1/2
Shake It All About---2001---denmark   ***
Matinee---1993---usa   ***1/2
Stolen Kisses---1968---france   ****
Patrik, Age 1,5---2009---sweden   ***1/2
Get Low---2010---usa   ***
Bed and Board---1970---france   ***1/2
Water Lilies---2007---france   ***
Zurdo---2003---mexico   ****