Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An Electric Blanket Named Moshe

An Electric Blanket Named Moshe (1995)
Director.........: Assi Dayan
Country..........: Israel
90 min

This Israeli black comedy is the second entry in Assi Dayan's trilogy that began with Life According to Agfa (1993). The story centers around the lives of three down and out people who played bit parts in the first film. They are Malka, an aging whore who dreams of being a singer, Levy, her self-destructive pimp, and Moshe, a homeless old man who dreams of owning an electric blanket. Fragmentary scenes from their dreams comprise the beginning of the film; Malka is also seen hawking her body on the outskirts of town. Later the three are badly beaten by rival pimps and they must go to the ER for treatment. They are next seen entering the bar where Agfa is being filmed. They talk the director into giving them small parts. In the end they are seen, as if appearing in an earlier film, discussing philosophy on a park bench.
About the Trilogy:
Life According to Agfa, shocked Israeli audiences as it used a Tel Aviv pub and its neighborhood to portray a self-destructive Israeli society tearing itself apart. When Dayan, the enfant terrible of Israeli cinema one, followed "Agfa" with the chaotically existentialist and intentionally foul-mouthed "Electric Blanket Syndrome," even his most devoted followers were taken aback, some arguing it was intentionally horrifying, others rejecting it as hopelessly vulgar.
Assi Dayan wrapped up the trilogy on his personal "accidental philosophy of life" (which started with "Agfa,") with "Mr Baum," the story of a man who is told in the first sequence of the film that he has 92 more minutes to live; and he indeed dies some 90 minutes later, in the last sequence. This third episode states that everything, including life itself, is an accident, that every man is an island and no one gives a damn about the rest of humanity, though they all pretend to. Don’t believe your father and mother, wife, children, friends or relatives, it’s all one to them whether you live or die, as long as it does not affect their personal comfort.

La princesse de Montpensier (2010)

La princesse de Montpensier (2010)
Director:Bertrand Tavernier
Country: France | Germany
Runtime: 139 min

Bertrand Tavernier is in top form with this gripping, superbly mounted drama set against the savage Catholic/Protestant wars that ripped France apart in the 16th century. Based on a novella by the celebrated Madame de Lafayette, the action centers on the love of Marie de Mezières for her dashing cousin Henri de Guise, thwarted when her father's political ambitions force her into marriage with the well-connected Philippe de Montpensier, who she has never met. When Philippe is called away to fight, she is left in the care of Count Chabannes, an aging nobleman with a disdain for warfare, and soon becomes exposed to the sexual and political intrigues of court.

The Last of the Crazy People(2006)

The Last of the Crazy People
Director: Laurent Achard
Country: France
Runtime: 94 min

A stark corrective to the tradition of lyrical Frenchfilms about the tender joys of growing up in the country, Laurent Achard's Dementedis a Gothic but soberly-executed melodrama about childhood as hell. Based on anovel by Canadian writer Timothy Findley, Achard'sfilm gives us a child's-eye view of an adult world that seems irreparablydamaged, while maintaining a controlled stylistic distance that keeps us, likeits young protagonist, guessing at the nature of what's really going on.

The film's control andintelligence more than merit Achard's best directoraward in Locarno, and should put him on the map (hislast film was Rotterdam Tiger winner PlusQu'hier, Moins Que Demain in 1998). Goodpress and word-of-mouth should help the exports of a subtle piece that isn'teasy to encapsulate in a brief hard-sell pitch, while festivals will latch ontoit as one of the year's most clear-headed art-house statements. The Englishtitle, however, is more suggestive of B-movie shlockthan thoughtful Euro fare and could be a disadvantage.

The story focuses on 11-year-oldMartin (Cochelin), a gauche, unprepossessing lonerwho lives with his family on a run-down farm. When school breaks up, a grimholiday seems to lie ahead of the boy. At home, no-one seems too happy to seehim around, expect for the house's Moroccan domestic Malika,the nearest Martin has to a mother figure. Martin's grandmother (veteran Cordy) has an icy, unforgiving presence, while his mother (Reymond) lives behind locked doors, the ebb and flow of hermental condition keeping her husband in a state of nervous anxiety.

The boy has an uncertainally in his big brother, a mercurial arty type in a volatile state of psychicand sexual meltdown, who has never recovered from a schoolteacher failing torecognise his apparent genius as a poet. With family stability crumbling, andthe farm on the verge of being sold to wealthy neighbours, things come to aconclusion that Achard executes with coollyunderstated shock effect.

Much of the film's effecthinges on the inscrutable presence of young Cochelin,who at first seems oddly vacant, but whose blank manner turns out to provide anuninflected conduit for the traumas that surround him. Among the familymembers, Dominique Reymond (Will It Snow For Christmas'), whose presence in French films isinvariably a positive sign, has a magnetic presence as the much-feared,too-little loved mother - and a single long close-up of her calm, implacablestare is perhaps the most terrifying sight that recent cinema has had to offer.

Without laying on anydramatic rhetoric or expressionist effects, Achardhas succeeded in making a film that functions brilliantly as a psychologicalhorror story - although, this clan's extremity notwithstanding, the horror atissue is simply the standard one of childhood solitude and the approach toadolescence.

Achard and co-writer Natalie Najemastutely maintain a balance between the viewer's sense of a world out of kilterand a sense of Martin's own partial view of things, while dangling intimationsthat all may not be right with the boy either. Sober, classically framedphotography make this a visually handsome film too, providing just enough ruralprettiness to appeal to admirers of French ruralism -who will quickly realise that Cold Comfort is the name of this farm. (screendaily.com)