Archive for the 'movie review' Category


The Chorus (2004)

I hadn’t thought of The Chorus, or Les Choristes, since it premiered in 2004. At the time, I wanted to see the film, but never got around to it. I’d completely forgotten about it, until the DVD caught my eye on an Amazon sale. I did a rare thing, and purchased a film without seeing it first. I wasn’t disappointed.

The film happens in a boys’ boarding school for ‘difficult children’ in France of the 1950’s, and it tells a story of a failed musician Clément Mathieu (Gerard Jugnot), who arrives to take the job of a new supervisor. It seems unlikely that such a character – ordinary, sympathetic and little sad man – could get the unruly bunch of kids in line. The disciplinary principal, Rachin, rules with a motto of   ‘Action – Reaction’, and punishes the kids relentlessly for stepping out of line. Mathieu manages to arrange the boys into a choir, and, at least for a some of them, changes their lives for ever.

Despite the dark setting of the film, it comes out as a light, almost a serene story — like a sunny Sunday morning. Perhaps because of the incessant exposure to Hollywood productions, the film as a whole seemed a little undramatic, but only in retrospect. Mathieu seems to simply glide through the events, cleverly overcoming all obstacles and experiencing only minor bumps on the way. While viewing The Chorus, the evenness of the ride was even refreshing; the story is truly profound and much larger than life, but it is a truly pleasant experience to watch. The target audience of the film is a little hazy; if aimed at a younger audience, due to the harshness of the life described, I can understand the choices made. As an older viewer, I did expect a little more contrast between the light and the dark of the film. Then again, as a first full feature directed by Christophe Barratier, the lack of epic emotions can possibly be forgiven.

The music in the film is divine and more than just makes up for anything the film might otherwise be wanting. The kids are singing as the choir for real and the supporting characters are fun to watch as it’s evident they’re truly enjoying the experience. The singing of then 14-year-old Jean-Baptiste Maunier as Pierre ”angel face” Morhange, the focus of the film, is nothing short of amazing; the adult cast is a sweet mixture of dramatic acting and droplets of comedy, sometimes almost unintentional. Perhaps because of the lack of exaggeration, The Chorus has a taste of the real world in it. I confess I’m biased, because films related to arts always strike a chord (no pun intended) with me. Nevertheless, I recommend this film for anyone. May be best viewed on a lazy Sunday morning.


Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

Might include spoilers.

I have been told, numerous times, to watch the film/documentary by the already legendary street artist Banksy: Exit Through the Gift Shop.

“The funny thing is that the movie seems to be making a few points, but is unsure of which points exactly.” (Danny the recommendator)

I’m at a loss on where to start. The film is largely shot by a Frenchman in Los Angeles, Thierry  Guetta, who started filming street artists at work; he seemed to be at the right place at the same time and really got to meet and film some of the greatest* street artists of today. The footage is really interesting and I love the ideology and the whole movement behind the art. Some of it I didn’t really consider art but an act of, I don’t know, protest? Against… clean walls? I don’t know. I’m not sure what the point is with just tagging a wall or making a mess (sorry?); but what do I know? The worst I ever did was probably drawing on a school desk with a pencil.

*So they tell me, apart from Banksy I know fuck all.

Art = Money? (From an art exhibition in Seoul, 2008)

So the footage is great, and the whole journey by Guetta from his silly obsession with filming to his mad adventure over the rooftops of various cities and his incredible luck at actually meeting the person he’d been obsessing over – amazing. Fascinating. Cool. The whole thing gets turned upside down when Guetta puts together his own show. It feels like he’s stealing something; taking the heart of a beautiful ideology and selling it for millions of dollars. It’s backwards, it feels like a scam — and yet, you’ve got to give it to Guetta that he actually pulled it off.

I tell kids that all artists begin with imitation and, in time, they develop their own style which incorporates the parts of their influences which are meant to stick. But the whole story with Guetta raises the question if imitation is art, or if it’s just imitation. If dollars were speaking, Guetta’s work is bona fide. But… His work means nothing, even to himself, I think. To me, art is always about the meaning, and never about the money. Money does not equal art.

“Warhol repeated iconic images until they became meaningless, but there was still something iconic about them. Thierry really makes them meaningless.” (Banksy)

I agree with most of the opinions expressed about Guetta on film – that’s he’s a lunatic or just retarded – but he’s a lucky damn fool. Exit Through the Gift Shop really says all it needs to say in the title, but I’m not sure Guetta gets the sting, or if he just doesn’t care. I do feel Banksy and the rest of the (real) artists in the documentary, in turning the camera back on Thierry “Mr. Brain Wash” Guetta, also turn the joke back on him. I don’t think Guetta means to disrespect, but it seems he just doesn’t get it. Just like with the old shirts, Guetta takes something that’s priceless and gives it an extortionate price tag. And people pay. Who’s the fool?

In Banksy’s hands, a strange hobby of an obsessive compulsive filming addict turns into something bearing the trademark of Banksy: provocative, brilliant, thought-provoking art. The film makes the same questions as Banksy’s stencil/graffiti about the value and meaning of art, so I suppose, in the end, Guetta’s mad dash through the street part of street art and his backward landing as an accomplished artist wasn’t a story completely devoid of a moral.

And, by the way, the trailer alone is brilliant.



The Ramen Girl (2008)

A poster for a silly comedy

I decided to watch the film because I love Asia and with very low expectations – I mean, Brittany Murphy? Puh-lease. The poster was (almost) enough to put me off. But it turns out I was in for a surprise… The Ramen Girl starts without frills and sets the premise of the film at the very first scene: a silly, pretty, blonde girl has left home to Tokyo in order to be with her boyfriend who dumps her. This is basically a growth story happening in a ramen restaurant.

Lost in Translation was wonderful. The Stratosphere Girl was terrible. The Ramen Girl falls in between. It’s actually funny. It dares to make fun of expatriate Americans, and it portrays the Japanese (to my experience) fairly accurately and with the same sense of humour. I liked this film. I laughed and cried from the heart. For being a romantic comedy, The Ramen Girl has both heart and spirit. Duly recommended.

By the way, when I was looking for a picture of the poster for the blog, I also found the below alternative; it’s less selling, but much truer to the film. Isn’t it funny how her hair has been darkened in order to make this look like a film made more seriously?

A poster for a comedy with a point


Burlesque (2010)

Fake. Predictable. Mary Sue.

That film with Christina Aguilera and Cher in it. In the first scene, which serves no other purpose than an attempt to create a back story and to introduce the talented and witty and brave and smart and beautiful Mary Sue Alice from a kitsch little town leaves her stereotypically stingy boss to realise her dream of becoming a dancer/singer in Hollywood. Enter the first Chekhov’s Gun as she stashes her meagre money in the standard hiding place in the toilet water container thing (at least in Coyote Ugly the protagonist used the freezer*). Ah. She’ll be robbed later, then. She fails to find a job, obviously, but because she is super positive and determinate and pretty, she doesn’t get discouraged. By chance she ventures into a burlesque club next to the second Chekhov’s Gun, an unfinished condo building. Alice plunges into the underground club and is instantly taken by the burlesque atmosphere, and the first person she meets is, obviously, the handsome bartender Jack.

And on and on.

The film was full of Mary Sue wonderful things happening to a pretty girl, and, except for a half decent comic relief here and there, the film was… Predictable. The only surprise I had when I took the girl with the glasses as another Chekhov’s Gun, and she wasn’t! She was just pointless. My bad.

Apart from the first song or two, there was virtually nothing burlesque in Burlesque. It was… terrible. However, there was a point somewhere in the middle where I actually forgot I was watching a film… So I guess someone somewhere did something right. I also applaud the visuals in the film, I especially enjoyed the club interior.

* It also wasn’t pretending to be a musical.


The Man From Earth (2007)

Last night, I watched a Richard Schenkman film called The Man From Earth, recommended by the Karlsson clan as an excellent film that happens in one room. The premise of the film is really interesting; a 14 000 year old man reveals his lifespan to a group of friends, who happen to be experts in anthropology, archeology, biblical literature, biology, psychology… I enjoyed the portrayal of reactions of the individuals – kudos for the actors – as well as the idea of the film. It takes a really, really good story to make a film like this to work. This one did. The dialogue held my attention right off the bat (despite the overacting on part of John Billingsley), and as a geek of all kinds, the story captured my imagination.

At the end of the film, I was left wanting more. I think that was the idea, but at the same time, it made me wonder if the film was lacking in something? The one revelation, which I’ll not spoil, might be enough of a shock to some people to carry the whole story. I’ve done enough comparative studies (which is just a fancy way of saying I like reading stuff) to have noticed the similarities in certain things, so I wasn’t blown off my feet. I wanted … more. A man who has lived for 14 000 years; surely he would have more insight than just ‘they keep making the same mistakes over and over again’? It’s possible, also, that it’s just the geek in me talking.

Overall: great film from a psychological, social, historical, cinematographical point of view. I’ve always said I like films that make me think; this one fired up my imagination, if nothing else. Duly recommended.


A world of your own

Films and books which pull me in, the ones I strongly identify with, have the power to affect my mood rather strongly. Today I watched Bridge to Terabithia (2007) on Voddler, and I cried like a baby. I’m also left with a kind of a nostalgic longing for the world of my own… The film is more appropriate for kids and teens, I think, but since I know how it feels to be an outsider from everything and everyone you know, I sympathised strongly with the main characters. I thought this was a lovely film and well worth watching.

Continue reading ‘A world of your own’


봄 여름 가을 겨울 그리고 봄 (2003)

Another find from the local library: Kim Ki-duk’s “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring“. I watched it. It made no impact whatsoever, except possibly with the bad acting. It was shown in the Rakkautta ja Anarkiaa (Love and Anarchy) film festival in Finland sometime around 2005, and, based on the blurbs on the cover of the DVD, it was well received. I understood the Buddhist theme with nature and circle of life / impermanence and all that, and I can’t really point the fault to the story itself (albeit predictable). Even the pretty scenery scenes just left me cold. Has anyone else seen this film? What did you think? What am I missing?

Heard it through the grapevine:

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