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The Girl Who Played with Fire, Despicable Me, Wild Grass

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WILD GRASS (Les Herbes Folles): The third entry in this summer’s French Film Festival is definitely thought provoking. You’ll be thinking “what the heck is going on here” even as you enjoy the trip you’re being taken on. It’s the latest from Alain Resnais who famously has a very perplexing title in his credits, Last Year at Marienbad. That was almost 50 years ago. This new one is light, whimsical and only flirting with obsession. We just don’t know why. Possibly it’s to test our willingness to accept storytelling no matter where it goes.

André Dussollier and Sabine Azéma play the two main characters. She’s mugged on a shopping trip. He finds her wallet and tries to start up an acquaintance when he returns it to her. When she refuses, he starts stalking her. Gradually she becomes curious and starts stalking him. And so on.  The story gets more surreal as it goes, and actually has two endings. Neither clears up anything. Resnais, who’s now 88 years old, compared it to a jazz improvisation. Accept that and you’ll find it a stylish and engaging work. (Ridge Theatre). 3 out of 5

THE MISFORTUNATES (La Merditude des Choses): Belgium’s biggest hit of last year requires you to sit through some awfully grotty stuff early on. Heavy drinking and several variations of its aftermath are just the start.  Violent rages, nude bicycling and grunting sex follow, as well as a cringe-making scene in a bar as an old man shows off his medical problems. Then, just as you’re ready to give up on it, the film reveals its real agenda. There’s humanity and even soul among these low-lifes but don’t let them drag you down with them.

The story, based on an auto-biographical novel, is often funny, often sad. It centers on a teenage boy living with his father and three uncles—all boozehounds—at their mother’s place. None of them are motivated to make much of their lives and his father is frequently moved to rail against his runaway wife who he calls a “filthy whore.”  Still, the brothers extol a strong pride in their clan and demand absolute loyalty, a common default position in dysfunctional families. The film is smart in depicting that dynamic including how much of the behavior the son has inherited even as he tries to find a way out. (VanCity Theatre, In Flemish with English subtitles.)  3 out of 5

Watch for …

BRAZILIAN FILM FESTIVAL: This is the third one organized by a Brazilian cultural group headquartered in Florida. I’ll have more on it next week, but note the two films that kick it off Thursday July 15.

LOVE STORIES LAST ONLY 90 MINUTES is a comedy about a love triangle. An unmotivated writer suspects his wife of having an affair with another woman. He saw them on the street one day. He’s immature; she’s headstrong. A lively comedy of manners is promised.

BEYOND IPANEMA:

This is a brisk survey of Brazilian music from Carmen Miranda in the 1940s, the bossa nova era in the 1960s to artists on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop record label and today’s new artists, often using “mashup” techniques to bring outside influences into their music. (VanCity Theatre). For more info on all the films go to http://www.viff.org/theatre/ and click on 3rd Brazilian Film Festival down the right side.

Also playing …

PREDATORS: This is odd. Oscar winner Adrien Brody in the role that Arnold Schwarzenegger played originally. The film is a sequel to the 1987 movie, which has already had three sequels. Robert Rodriguez, who produced this one, wanted to stay in the spirit of the original, and I hear he’s done it. Brody and a bunch of  tough guy actors (Danny Trejo, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace (?) are dropped into a game preserve to be hunted by alien creatures. Shades of The Most Dangerous Game and several other films that have co-opted the idea. (Tinseltown and suburban theatres)

NOTE: The photos were supplied by the studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright woners. 

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