Tiny Beam of Light

Shining a tiny beam of light on some great films you might not know existed (and the odd blockbuster too).

Micmacs (2009) dir: Jean Pierre Jeunet

After a quiet period I’ve managed to get in 5 movies in the last week or so with a couple more planned for next week! Hurrah! ‘Micmacs’ (‘Shenanigans’ is apparently the best english translation) is, and I quote Jean Pierre Jeunet himself here, “a stupid comedy”. But it’s so much more.

It’s the story of Bazil (Dany Boon). As a child his father was killed by a landmine built by one particular arms company and 30 years later he himself is accidentally shot in the head by a bullet made by a different rival arms company. It all sounds a bit grim but it isn’t. Bazil loses his job but is adopted by a sort of quirky magnificent seven of unusual characters who include the contortionist, the human cannon ball, the human calculator and the super strong (but very old) clockwork toy maker. They help Bazil plot a series of daring escapades to take revenge on the bosses of the arms companies.

Bringing all his visual ‘joie de vivre’ to the table, Jeunet has created a film that is not only wonderful to watch but also great fun. There’s so much delight to be taken just from his distinct visual storytelling style. And so much of the story is told to the audience with just a sequence of images – no chit chat! It makes me want to cut half the dialogue out of the film I’m working on!

There are so few really cinematic directors out there who have such a unique visual style (Tim Burton comes to mind as one) that for full affect Micmacs really deserves to be seen on a big screen.

I’m sure some critics will call it sleight but they miss the point. Bollocks to them. Yes sometimes I occasionally had absolutely no idea what was going on but it didn’t matter one jot. Absolutely marvelous stuff that will leave you with a smile on your face even though there is a serious issue at the film’s heart.

BTW. Here’s something I learned today: Jeunet wrote ‘Amelie’ for Emily Watson and even started working on it with her in London before she pulled out due to ‘personal reasons’.

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Filed under: comedy, fantasy, film, Must See, , ,

Looking For Eric (2009) dir: Ken Loach

Well here’s a film from the UK’s most undervalued director that will hopefully appeal to a wider audience giving the director some much deserved mainstream success.

Eric (Steve Evets) is suffering from depression, his life is crap and he was last happy when he saw Eric Cantona play soccer for Manchester United. As he drowns in despair, he starts seeing Eric Cantona, his hero, who begins to give him advice on how to change his life around.

Like Ken Loach’s other films, this is still a story with a social aspect at its heart but here it is wrapped in some touching comedy.

It was a pleasure to watch the interaction between the two Erics. Ken Loach (unusually for a filmmaker) shoots his films in sequence and the actors are never given a full script –  they don’t know what’s coming next. So, when Eric first sees Eric Cantona his expression and reaction is priceless. The film is really good stuff.

Apparently, Eric Cantona originally approached Ken Loach with a slightly different idea, based around a Leeds United fan who had switched allegiance to Manchester United when Eric Cantona move there. The fan lost his job, his friends and family. From there screenwriter John Laverty developed a new idea which eventually turned into the screenplay for this film.

It’s worth noting that the film is not really about football, (I’m not a big fan of it), so if you hate football/soccer – don’t let the football aspect put you off.

The French love Ken Loach, the Brits love the French Eric Cantona, hopefully this is a marriage that will play to a wider audience.  It’s been picked up by IFC for America – so even you lot in the good old US of A have no excuses.

Filed under: comedy, drama, fantasy, film, , , , , , , ,

Becoming Batman (2008) dir?

I wasn’t expecting to do this, but this YouTube series of short films is so enjoyable, it’s Batman meets The Office.

Becoming Batman on YouTube

Start with episode 2 then go to episode 1.

Filed under: comedy, film, short, youtube, , ,

Serial Lover (1998) dir: James Huth

OK. Bit of a rule breaker here. This is an old film, so I’m not going to do this often. But it was great! And you won’t have heard of it. And I’ve got a bit of time on my hands (but that’s another story).

Picture the scene:

I had to get up really early on a cold Saturday October morning to go to a seminar. It was heaving down with rain and I was grumpy. So me and these 5 other people sat down in this huge empty auditorium – 9.00am – in these uncomfortable metal chairs. The kind that are always dug out from the room marked ‘Pain’ at these sort of events. Then an announcement comes on: “Before the seminar we’d like to show you this French film.”

“God noooooo!” I’m thinking. “I’m just not in the mood for some arty farty boring subtitled film.”

(I was a bit of an idiot in those days when it came to subtitles and foreign language films. And I had no hot chocolate on me to soothe my sorrows.)

What’s more the film didn’t start off too hot neither.

35ish Claire (Michèle Laroque) has decided she needs to settle down and get married, but she’s single. She doesn’t have a boyfriend. Her biological clock is ticking.

This didn’t sound like a good setup, I knew where this was going: it was a one way trip to La Boredom. But it’s shot nicely so I’ll hang in there.

But then Claire has three male friends and she’s going to pick one to marry.

I’m shuffling in my bum-numbing seat and thinking about blowing the seminar entirely. God it’s cold in here.

So she invites them over for dinner and…

…accidentally kills them all – one by one – in entirely believable and ingenious ways.

This was now laugh out loud black comedy.  Coen brothers territory but funnier. All six of us in the audience are trying not to choke.

And it just got funnier:

After she’s killed two of her friends, and failed to hide the bodies properly, her last remaining friend discovers whats been occurring and panics. He shuts himself in her bedroom, and pushes the end of a bookcase against the door. Maybe he can save himself from this apparently deranged and psychotic woman?

He sits down, and leans back against the other end of the bookcase to keep the door from opening.

She’s banging on the door “It was an accident! I didn’t mean to kill them!…. Both times!” Or words to that affect (and in French).  I can’t remember exactly.

On top of the bookcase is an ice-skate.

Claire’s banging on the door, blokey is on the floor freaked out.

Bang, bang, bang goes the door against the bookcase.

Snick!

The ice-skate falls and embeds itself in the guy’s skull. But he’s alive – that’s not fatal.

“Are you ok?” Claire calls out from the other side of the door, now that her friend has gone quiet.

Thump, thump, thump as the door rattles against the bookcase. Very slowly Claire’s bowling ball, which we now learn she keeps on the top shelf, gently rolls off and…WHAP! Smacks the top of that ice-skate – with dire consequences.

Of course there’s no way I can do this scene justice, but the film was an absolute delight. I mean I’m banging on about it now and it was like 10 years ago when I saw it! It came out in France, during the 1998 World Cup staged where?  France. So no one went to see it. And it’s been released on DVD in Germany.

As far as I am aware, that is it.

At one time Sean Penn had the remake rights but I don’t know if that is still the case.  I met James Huth once and even he didn’t have a copy of the film.  James is doing OK though, one of his more recent films (which I haven’t seen) ‘The Brice Man’ was No. 2 in the French box office for 2005 – after Star Wars: the something or other.

If you happen to have a copy, with English subtitles, please let me know.  I’d love to see it again.

Filed under: comedy, film, humour, Must Read, Must See, Not Heard Of, , , , , , , ,

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