Marion Cotillard

The Dark Knight Rises (2012, Christopher Nolan)

Much of The Dark Knight Rises is rushed. The film runs over two and a half hours and director Nolan can’t find anything he wants to spend much time on. He’s got a lot of characters to occupy that run time; they occasionally intersect, but rarely long enough to make an impression. Nolan seems to think the Wally Pfister photography can sell any scene, whether it’s one of the most boring chase sequences in a big budget film (but it’s at twilight and Pfister makes it look great) or if it’s ostensible lead Christian Bale and his romantic interest, Marion Cotillard, letting the rainy afternoon bring out their passions. Passions can be in the script, but there’s no chemistry between Bale and Cotillard. Though, again, rainy afternoon passion? Pfister can shoot it. Competent photography doesn’t make something any good, unfortunately.

And there’s not much good about Rises. Some of the acting is fine, some of the acting is bad, some of it is good. But the script’s so lame, Bale never has anything to do. It sets him up as physically incapable of being Batman (set some eight years after the previous entry). Bale looks awful too. So what does he do? He becomes Batman again. There’s no logic to it, just like there’s no logic to all the corporate machinations going on with an extremely lame Ben Mendelsohn as another businessman trying to take Bale’s company. Rises seems like it had an outline, but no connective tissue between events. Anne Hathaway’s “Catwoman” is shoehorned into the film. She’s pointless. Hathaway gives a technically good performance, Nolan just doesn’t have anything to do with her. She’s scenery and the occasional plot foil.

Then there’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who pops in as Gary Oldman’s sidekick. Real quick–Oldman’s awful in the beginning of the film and better in the second half, though he’s no William Shatner when he needs to be–Nolan always casts the wrong kind of ham. Michael Caine’s real bad. His writing is bad here, but he’s also real bad.

Anyway, back to Gordon-Levitt. He’s fine–he and Bale are great together too, but they only get two significant scenes together. It’s dumb. The mistakes the film makes with its characters are dumb. The whole thing seeks to reimagine the previous entries in the Bale and Nolan Bat franchise to fit this one’s needs. But being out of ideas is no excuse, ditto Nolan’s utter boredom with the filmmaking. Rises is like a bad James Bond knock-off, complete with a Bond villain in Tom Hardy’s philosopher brute.

Rises is also a New York action movie, only one where Nolan wants to pretend it’s about “Gotham City” while winking about how it’s really “New York City.” There’s even the obligatory insensitive 9/11 reference–Nolan really goes for the Americana here. Usually to roll his eyes at it. At its core, Rises is supposed to be about heroism. It doesn’t fail at it because Nolan’s a cynic, necessarily, it fails because it has a really bad, stupid script. With awful reveals. And a lot of poorly edited montages set to bad music.

Technically, other than Pfister, Rises is a joke. Hans Zimmer’s score is terrible, Lee Smith’s editing is ugly. It’s not just a poorly edited film, it’s ugly. It’s not all Smith’s fault either, he’s got no coverage from Nolan and Nolan’s got no rhythm.

As for Hardy, like most other things in Rises, he’s lame. It’s not entirely his fault, but maybe some of it is his fault. Did he do his Count Dracula-impression voice? Then that one is his fault. His face being so covered he has no visual affect? Nolan’s fault.

Nolan hopes his cast will earn enough interest to keep the film going–the way he cuts between Bale, Gordon-Levitt, Hathaway, Hardy, Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Cotillard–there’s a definite attempt to engender concern for the cast. Not concern with Hardy so much, but everyone else. Hardy’s supposed to be the toughest mother on the planet and Nolan’s action direction is so bad–not to mention his direction of Hardy as an actor–Hardy comes off less threatening than a villain on the Adam West TV show. Nolan purposely removes Rises and its characters from reality and from danger. There’s nothing to get invested in.

So instead of the movie making it because of Bale or anyone else, it makes it because you feel sorry for them. I didn’t know I was capable of feeling sorry for Bale, but I clearly am, because Bale showed up for work–probably was going to yell at some caterer or whatever–and Nolan didn’t.

The Dark Knight Rises is a bunch of underwritten, short scenes strung together–usually stuck haphazardly together with crap montages. Even more than Nolan’s direction, the problem is the script. It’s atrocious and it’s too bad. It isn’t just Bale who showed up willing to work, it’s just about everyone except for Michael Caine.

It sinks. And it stinks.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Christopher Nolan; screenplay by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, based on a story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer; director of photography, Wally Pfister; edited by Lee Smith; music by Hans Zimmer; production designers, Nathan Crowley and Kevin Kavanaugh; produced by Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas and Charles Roven; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Anne Hathaway (Selina Kyle), Tom Hardy (Bane), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (John Blake), Michael Caine (Alfred), Gary Oldman (Commissioner Gordon), Marion Cotillard (Miranda Tate), Matthew Modine (Foley), Ben Mendelsohn (Daggett) and Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox).


Rust and Bone (2012, Jacques Audiard)

Until about eighty minutes into Rust and Bone, the film resists predictability. Director Audiard has a couple moments of Marion Cotillard bouncing back after a tragedy to pop music, but they’re punctuated with fantastic postscripts. The postscripts make up for any melodramatic shorthand.

Well, until the eighty minute mark. And then Rust and Bone becomes cloying. The film’s style doesn’t change–it’s still harsh and bright (with fantastic photography from Stéphane Fontaine)–but the storytelling changes. It stops being a character study of Cotillard, who has dominated the film, and slowly transitions back to Matthias Schoenaerts.

Schoenaerts is an amiable, if numb-skulled, single dad who just can’t seem to do right. From the eighty minute mark until the film’s conclusion, instead of being a character study, Rust becomes a redemption melodrama. A well-directed, well-acted redemption melodrama, but still a redemption melodrama. The final couple predictable moments are shockingly forecasted. Audiard and co-screenwriter Thomas Bidegain inexplicably bring in narration at the end; had they used it throughout and in future tense, the film could not be more predictable.

The worst part about the transition from Cotillard to Schoenaerts is there’s no attempt to share. Audiard and Bidegain had worked out a great balance between the two–Cotillard’s even top-billed–and then they flush it to manipulate the viewer.

Truly great editing from Juliette Welfling. Not in the montages, but in the scenes.

Cotillard and Schoenaerts’s beautiful acting make the film worthwhile. It’s just a narrative mess.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Jacques Audiard; screenplay by Audiard and Thomas Bidegain, based on a story by Craig Davidson; director of photography, Stéphane Fontaine; edited by Juliette Welfling; music by Alexandre Desplat; production designer, Michel Barthélémy; produced by Audiard, Martine Cassinelli and Pascal Caucheteux; released by Lumière.

Starring Marion Cotillard (Stéphanie), Matthias Schoenaerts (Alain van Versch), Armand Verdure (Sam), Céline Sallette (Louise), Corinne Masiero (Anna), Jean-Michel Correia (Richard) and Bouli Lanners (Martial).


Midnight in Paris (2011, Woody Allen)

Midnight in Paris is one of Allen’s single stroke films. There are some painters in it, so using the paint stroke metaphor works rather nicely. The film’s about one thing; it’s about Owen Wilson’s Hollywood screenwriter who wants to be a novelist learning to take an active role in his life. There’s a lot going on around him—a whole lot, but it slowly becomes clear that one aspect is the salient one.

In the film, Allen continues to search for his perfect stand-in and Wilson does a good job. It’s hard to say how much of Wilson’s personal situation plays into the perception of him as mildly tragic, though it’s always present. Probably doesn’t hurt he wrote some great scripts too.

The film has its quietly profound moments, nothing too neon. There are a lot of literary references, some art ones, a couple film ones. It helps if one knows them. Allen is enjoying himself and not worrying too much about anything else. The subject matter is one he’s interested in and doesn’t care if the audience can’t keep up. It’s closer to his absurdist seventies comedies than anything has been for a while in that way.

And he gets an absolutely amazing performance from Michael Sheen. Also great is Adrien Brody in his one scene.

Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates and Corey Stoll are all good. Rachel McAdams has too little to do, but does it well.

With Darius Khondji’s luscious photography, it’s a wondrously self-indulgent feast.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Woody Allen; director of photography, Darius Khondji; edited by Alisa Lepselter; production designer, Anne Seibel; produced by Letty Aronson, Jaume Roures and Stephen Tenenbaum; released by Sony Pictures Classics.

Starring Owen Wilson (Gil), Rachel McAdams (Inez), Marion Cotillard (Adriana), Michael Sheen (Paul), Corey Stoll (Hemingway), Kurt Fuller (John), Mimi Kennedy (Helen), Carla Bruni (Museum Guide), Kathy Bates (Gertrude Stein), Tom Hiddleston (Scott), Alison Pill (Zelda), Marcial Di Fonzo Bo (Pablo) and Adrien Brody (Dali).


Inception (2010, Christopher Nolan)

Inception is a moderately engaging, globe-trotting adventure. On any reflection, it’s also mind-numbingly dumb.

What’s brilliant is how Nolan packages it. He takes a heist film, with all its inherent engagement, and triples it. Three times the things going wrong and the characters having to figure out new, CG-aided solutions.

Another smart move is making it a future movie without any future stuff. By never explaining Inception’s dream science, Nolan doesn’t have to create a reality. He doesn’t have to worry about having any real characters or human emotion. Much of his cast seems trapped in adolescence–Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page–so it’s a smart move. When Gordon-Levitt shows attraction towards Page, it’s like they’re playing dress-up.

Inception, for all its Nolan pretension, is just a blockbuster. Nolan’s gimmick is to make stupid populist entertainment appear smart and thoughtful. Inception excels at it, making me think Nolan knows exactly what to sell to general audiences (like Shyamalan used to).

Technically, Nolan’s direction is solid. Wally Pfister’s lighting occasionally makes it look good quite good (usually outside the dreams–inside it’s too claustrophobic). Hans Zimmer’s score is sublime.

Great performances from Tom Hardy (he’s amazing), Cillian Murphy and Ken Watanabe. DiCaprio effectively imitates Brad Pitt. Gordon-Levitt embarrasses himself. Page is weak. Marion Cotillard is awful. Michael Caine dodders about.

Nolan blended Vanilla Sky and The Matrix, added one pinch each Dreamscape and Memento, then an abbreviated Shyamalan ending. Hurray for him.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan; director of photography, Wally Pfister; edited by Lee Smith; music by Hans Zimmer; production designer, Guy Hendrix Dyas; produced by Emma Thomas and Nolan; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio (Cobb), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Arthur), Ellen Page (Ariadne), Tom Hardy (Eames), Ken Watanabe (Saito), Dileep Rao (Yusuf), Cillian Murphy (Robert Fischer), Tom Berenger (Peter Browning), Marion Cotillard (Mal), Pete Postlethwaite (Maurice Fischer), Michael Caine (Miles) and Lukas Haas (Nash).


Taxi 3 (2003, Gérard Krawczyk)

Taxi 3 starts with a superior set-up, a James Bond-esque chase scene through Marseilles, the good guy on a bicycle, running from the bad guys (on rollerblades). It’s goofy and funny–the best part being the bad guy running into a plexiglass (being carried on the street, a riff on the standard glass) and bouncing off it. It’s nothing spectacular, but it seems to show Taxi 3 is at least going to keep with the rest of the series in terms of diverting attention. Then the good guy reveals himself–and it’s Sylvester Stallone and Taxi 3 all of a sudden skyrockets in potential. After the intro’s done, there’s a beautiful Bond opening title riff. It seems like it’s going to be superior.

And then it all comes crashing down. Given the series always seems like Luc Besson writes the scripts on napkins at breakfast–a ninety minute diversion, some laughs and impressive driving, solid performances–it’d be hard for it to be a complete failure. But with such a strong opening, Taxi 3 sets itself up for a fall.

The script is at fault. The dialogue’s fine, but the plot’s lame. Besson’s greatest influence for these movies seems to be Beverly Hills Cop II (the emphasis on the villains elaborate and illogical heists) and this one’s no different. Klutzy cop Frédéric Diefenthal is after a gang who dresses up like Santa Claus–the story’s set at Christmas, which initially seemed like it would provide some good material, but it doesn’t. He’s so obsessed with the case–in the film’s weakest joke–he can’t tell girlfriend Emma Wiklund is eight months pregnant. Besson’s reasonably adept at finding comic moments for these characters, but that revelation scene is painfully unfunny. Samy Naceri finds out girlfriend Marion Cotillard is similarly with child (though she’s only just found out herself). Besson handles that situation far better, with an amusing driving scene where Naceri can’t pay attention to the road in order to monitor Cotillard’s condition.

It seems like Besson needed to accommodate Wiklund’s actual pregnancy and just figured setting up Cotillard would give him something for Diefenthal and Naceri to talk about in their handful of scenes together. They meet up around the halfway point, when Diefenthal drags Naceri into the plot. It’s forced and awkward, like it’s impossible to imagine the two hanging out when there isn’t a movie going on.

Besson uses Bai Ling as the main villain, which is stupid and predictable. She’s not bad, but she’s annoying.

Bernard Farcy is funny as Diefenthal’s moronic boss. Edouard Montoute is a solid police sidekick to Diefenthal and gets some of the edgier material. Apparently, black cops in Marseilles get run over all the time….

Krawczyk’s direction is decent, certainly suggestive of greater potential than Taxi sequels.

At the end, it picks up a little, since there is a twenty minute chase sequence (earlier, there’s a long and boring one, played for laughs, which definitely hurts the film). It’s a mildly diverting ninety minutes… which is the point. But the opening certainly suggests it could have been more.

Maybe I’m just upset Stallone never showed up again.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Gérard Krawczyk; written by Luc Besson; director of photography, Gérard Sterin; edited by Yann Hervé; music by DJ Kore and DJ Skalp; production designer, Jacques Bufnoir; produced by Besson, Laurent Pétin and Michèle Pétin; released by ARP Sélection.

Starring Samy Naceri (Daniel Morales), Frédéric Diefenthal (Émilien Coutant-Kerbalec), Bernard Farcy (Commissaire Gibert), Bai Ling (Qiu), Emma Wiklund (Petra), Marion Cotillard (Lilly Bertineau), Edouard Montoute (Alain) and Jean-Christophe Bouvet (Général Edmond Bertineau).


Taxi 2 (2000, Gérard Krawczyk)

Taxi 2 is a sequel in the least artistic, but possibly most admirable way. It picks up an indeterminate time after the first movie, doesn’t deal with the first movie’s conclusion (Samy Naceri becoming a race car driver), and doesn’t really have a story. Instead, it opens with a car chase, then some humor, then throws Naceri into an awkward dinner with girlfriend Marion Cotillard’s parents. It plays more like a reunion than a sequel (or continuation).

Luc Besson’s script takes place over a day and a half, with the half taking place mostly in the third act, so it’s all very fast. Once Naceri and Frédéric Diefenthal are reunited, Taxi 2 just goes. Besson fills the movie with references to the first (a pizza delivery guy, Diefenthal’s driving instructor), but also mimics it. Cotillard has even less to do in this one than the first, just waiting around for Naceri to show up. It wastes her, but given the movie’s practically a slapstick comedy… it doesn’t seem like it would have ever used her well.

Because the present action is long stretches of real-time, whether car chases or action sequences, and it only runs eighty-eight minutes, Naceri doesn’t run away with the movie like he did the first. Besson’s plot is overflowing, this time with a lot of cheap–but funny–laughs, like Diefenthal ending up in the trash again and again. There’s also Bernard Farcy’s bigoted police commissioner–and this time, the Japanese government is visiting, so he’s got a lot of great scenes. But Besson actually throws in a dog poop joke. It makes no sense (the dog poop is on the middle of an airport runway), but it’s absurdly dumb enough to be funny.

Actually, absurdly dumb and funny describes Taxi 2 well–Naceri’s taxi has wings this time and there’s a parachuting scene and a wonderful pile-up of police cars. Director Gérard Krawczyk does a mediocre action director job here, though he handles the humor rather well. His car chases, besides the beautiful Parisian backdrop, lack much excitement. Competent, but not compelling.

Inexplicably, I think the movie uses one of the familiar themes from one of Tarantino’s firsts. I can’t remember which film, but it certainly is recognizable and it seems odd. I mean, Besson’s been around longer than Tarantino. The music worked well, I guess.

It’s a fine enough time killer, with the ending even amusing enough to suggest it’s a better movie.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Gérard Krawczyk; written by Luc Besson; director of photography, Gérard Sterin; edited by Thierry Hoss; music by Al Khemya; production designer, Jean-Jacques Gernolle; produced by Besson, Laurent Pétin and Michèle Pétin; released by ARP Sélection.

Starring Samy Naceri (Daniel Morales), Frédéric Diefenthal (Émilien Coutant-Kerbalec), Marion Cotillard (Lilly Bertineau), Emma Sjöberg (Petra), Bernard Farcy (Commissaire Gibert), Jean-Christophe Bouvet (Général Edmond Bertineau), Frédérique Tirmont (Lilly’s Mother) and Shimizu Tsuyu (Yuli).


Taxi (1998, Gérard Pirès)

Taxi benefits greatly from its length–eighty-six minutes–and from Besson’s general understanding of how to amuse an audience. He does it to some success in his American films (a rather limited one, but he manages to create likable characters and not bore the viewer), but with Taxi, he does a lot better. The main selling point of the movie, besides the car chases–filmed from helicopter, they’re the antithesis of a Bourne Ultimatum chase, rather interested in creating something cool to see–is lead Samy Naceri. Naceri–a quick wikipedia search reveals–is a lot of trouble, which might explain why he’s never immigrated to Hollywood… because Naceri runs the movie all himself. He’s charismatic and engaging and it doesn’t hurt Besson’s script makes him not just the protagonist, but the character the others all look up to….

He’s like a French George Clooney in one of the Ocean’s movies.

The scenes with Naceri are boring cop scenes, even if the captain is a raving bigot who can’t stop referring to the Germans as Nazis–which is funny, but it’s only a gag and it functions as well as one. There’s also the dumb romance between secondary lead Frederic Diefenthal (who’s probably 5’4″) and Emma Sjoberg (who’s 5’9″)–the height difference is supposed to be funny, get it? Besson’s humor is always very obvious and works real well when the joke punchlines and then goes away, because the joke’s done. When he keeps coming back to it (height difference, Nazis)… it’s a mess.

However, the romance between Naceri and Marion Cotillard is quite nice, because Besson plays the scenes out in a contained, limited environment, to great effect. Situation, difficulty, resolution. Taxi is far from art, so having a lame Freitag triangle for all its plots and subplots is perfectly fine. I mean, if it ran ninety-seven minutes… no. But any modern movie able to run eighty-six minutes and be entertaining for a large majority of them can be shallow. It gets a pass on depth requirements.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Gérard Pirès; written by Luc Besson; director of photography, Jean-Pierre Sauvaire; edited by Veronique Lange; music by Akhenaton; production designer, Jean-Jacques Gernolle; produced by Besson, Laurent Petin and Michele Petin; released by ARP Selection.

Starring Samy Naceri (Daniel Morales), Frédéric Diefenthal (Émilien Coutant-Kerbalec), Marion Cotillard (Lilly Bertineau), Manuela Gourary (Camille Coutant-Kerbalec), Emma Sjöberg (Petra), Bernard Farcy (Commissaire Gibert) and Georges Neri (Joe).


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