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André Wilms (#110 of 4)

AFI Fest 2017 Let the Corpses Tan, On Body and Soul, & Hannah

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AFI Fest 2017: Let the Corpses Tan, On Body and Soul, & Hannah

Kino Lorber

AFI Fest 2017: Let the Corpses Tan, On Body and Soul, & Hannah

For Let the Corpses Tan, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani trade the giallo stylings of Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears for a wild heaping of spaghetti-western psychedelia. The married French filmmakers may be fixating on a new genre, but their deliriously abstract and meta approach to their craft remains intact. In fact, the shift in genre focus only gives them new objects and landscapes with which to play their formalist games.

Beginning with the sound of gunshots as paint splatters on a canvas, Cattet and Forzani announce their intent to elevate style above all else. What follows is a deliriously gleeful, rapid-fire montage of sound and image: extreme close-ups of burning cigars that threaten to set fire to the very image of the film, landscapes refracted through sunglasses or the flames of a lighter, the crackling of meat roasting over a fire, and enough creaking leather to make Kenneth Anger blush. Let the Corpses Tan is driven by sensory overload—its formal elements pieced together in rhythmic crescendos designed to titillate not with sex or violence, but through sheer cinematic inventiveness.

New York Film Festival 2011: Le Havre

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New York Film Festival 2011: <em>Le Havre</em>
New York Film Festival 2011: <em>Le Havre</em>

Back in May, when my Slant colleague Glenn Heath Jr. saw Aki Kaurismäki’s latest film, Le Havre, at Cannes, he called it “a dim reflection of more substantial earlier work” and that, while it certainly is “sweet, relevant, and occasionally moving,” it “reveals a talented director recycling the same ideas without evolving beyond the expected.”

As someone who went into Le Havre not having seen any of Kaurismäki’s work, though, it played differently—and more positively—to me. If this film is indeed “once more around the block” for this director, then allow me to pool some general impressions I get from this initial encounter with Kaurismäki’s brand of working-class humor.

Visually speaking, this is a very “blue” movie—as in, blue-ish shades seem to dominate shots of both interiors and exteriors (courtesy of cinematographer Timo Salminen). This is especially apparent during the nighttime scenes, of which there are many in this film. The last time I saw nighttime scenes captured with such evocative attention to blue tones was with Barry Sonnenfeld’s cinematography for the Coens’ Blood Simple, but the images in that film were meant to be menacing, whereas the visuals in Le Havre come off as an oddball mix of realism and whimsy.

Toronto International Film Festival 2011: A Dangerous Method, The Ides of March, & Le Havre

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Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>A Dangerous Method</em>, <em>The Ides of March</em>, & <em>Le Havre</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>A Dangerous Method</em>, <em>The Ides of March</em>, & <em>Le Havre</em>

A Dangerous Method: The most classical film yet of David Cronenberg’s classical period, this portrait of the struggle between mind and body elegantly suggests a plethora of urges, addictions, and neuroses continuously churning under its fastidious period-piece veneer. The cerebral side is the relationship between earnest fuddy-duddy Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and sardonic silver fox Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) in the early 1900s; the visceral side comes in the contorted, seductive form of Sabine Spielrein (Keira Knightley), the young masochist whose initial hysteria grows even more provocative to the men of science around her as she comes to match their intellects and challenge the limits of their rationality. Working from Christopher Hampton’s play, Cronenberg outlines the archetypal bonds (mentor and pupil, doctor and patient, husband and wife) that comprise what one character describes as “the smooth workings of society,” and then proceeds to examine—not with Dead Ringers microscopes but with Age of Innocence opera binoculars—the itchy irregularities emerging in the creamy white skin of the characters. If it has a tendency to explicitly state its own themes, the film nevertheless unsettles with its lucid visions of release and repression: One can imagine the director putting the ruthlessly composed final image here side by side with the raucous abandon that closes Shivers, and daring us to tell which one is more horrific.

Cannes Film Festival 2011: Le Havre, Hors Satan, & Pater

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Cannes Film Festival 2011: <em>Le Havre</em>, <em>Hors Satan</em>, & <em>Pater</em>
Cannes Film Festival 2011: <em>Le Havre</em>, <em>Hors Satan</em>, & <em>Pater</em>

I recently watched Aki Kaurismäki’s excellent “Proletariat Trilogy” in preparation for Cannes, and the director’s incredible feel for narrative gaps, emotional POV’s, and decisive pacing made me realize there was a whole other dimension to his work than the deadpan surface. With this in mind, Kaurismäki’s newest film, Le Havre, seems a dim reflection of more substantial earlier work, another slow swing at an already exploded piñata. Set in the port district of Le Havre in Normandy, France, Kaurismäki’s film examines the daily routine of Marcel Marx (André Wilms), an elderly ex-writer who now shines shoes to get by. His wife, Arletty (Kati Outinen), exists in a suspended state, keeling over from intense stomach pain only after cooking Marcel dinner. The banality of Kaurismäki’s comedy is readily apparent as Arletty watches from afar as Marcel eat alone.

Immigration politics are at the forefront of Le Havre: a Vietnamese immigrant (Quoc Dung Nguyen) also shines shoes, television and radio broadcasts flood the frame with the sound and fury of angry protests, and a young boy named Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) smuggled into France from Africa becomes the central symbol. While Kaurismäki retains the sense of color, shadow, and tone that infuses his previous work, there seems to be a turn toward overt sentimentality in Le Havre. The relationship between Marcel and Idrissa develops from mutual compassion, but the emotional connection unfolds in familiarly broad strokes. Idrissa discovers an American rock record, Marcel travels out of town to locate the boy’s grandfather, and every character partakes in a final ruse alluding to the unification of many cultures. Everything is so on the nose, except when Kaurismäki spends lengthy amounts of time on strangely tangential moments in the story. The multiple-minute sequence of a charity rock concert is indicative of Kaurismäki’s meandering attention span.