Carmo Hit The Road (2009/First Run DVD) + Change Of Plans (aka Change
Of Code/2009/IFC/MPI DVD) + A French
Gigolo (aka Cliente/2008/IFC/MPI
DVD) + High Lane (2009/IFC/MPI DVD)
+ Kings Of Pastry (2009/First Run
DVD) + Leaving (2008/IFC/MPI DVD) + Unmade Beds (2009/IFC/MPI DVD)
(Plans: C+) Sound: C+ Extras: C/B-/C-/C-/C/C-/C- Features: C+/B-/B-/C/B-/C+/C+
language releases do not always guarantee that we will be taken to a place or
time or anything that differs from Hollywood
product, though it was not always that way.
The following seven releases (mostly from France) show how this does and does
not work today.
Pasta’s Carmo Hit The Road (2009) is
yet another road movie with some aspirations to be slick like a Sergio Leone
film and anything else that fits as the title character (Mariana Loureiro) does
what she can to get out of the dead-end Brazilian town she lives in and proves
this when she meets a wheel-chair bound numbskull names Marco (Fele Martinez)
who is up to smuggling a huge load in his old truck. As they move along, they find nothing but
trouble and it gets worse and worse for all around them and themselves.
some good moments, but too much of it is everything we have seen in crime films
and road films that have already been done, so there is not much original here,
though the actors and locales are interesting and the idea of Marco being in a
wheelchair has its own angle. Too bad
they can’t make something new of this and the ending is lame.
Thompson’s Change Of Plans (aka Change Of Code/2009) is the one
surprise of the bunch here. With a large
cast of really good actors (including Emmanuelle Seinger and Dany Boon) is an
ambitious, often successful drama/comedy about the lives of several couples and
their related families. Though the film
centers early on an invitational dinner event where not everyone knows each
other, they let down their guard somewhat at the dinner, but this lands up not
completely being so and the combination of anger resurfacing and some
relationships being damaged for good, Thompson throws away the phony sentiments
of the Crash era and comes up with
some much closer to Robert Altman, if not always as complex.
performances are impressive all around as this covers over a year of the lives
of the characters and much more space in a rich 100 minutes. Dialogue is smart throughout, the exchanges
palpable and believable, the results sadly as unfortunate as it often is in
fragile situations. I think the original
title even makes more sense and this one is worth going out of your way for.
Balasko’s A French Gigolo (aka Cliente/2008) turned out to be almost
as good, with Nathalie Baye (Godard’s Detective,
Truffaut’s The Green Room) is once
again impressive, this time as a very successful host of a hit TV show named
Judith who is also trying to find happiness.
She is not totally miserable and is even happy her sister whop works
with her might find some happiness finally.
Judith is also seeing young male hookers on the side which does not
always make her happy.
meets construction worker Marco (Eric Caravaca) who is different to her
somehow, someone she finds more interesting and a guy who has his act together
in a different way. It turns out he is
married and that is not even his real name, but his wife, family and friends
have no idea that he is up this either and Judith is suddenly interested in
seeing him on a more steady basis, playing well for his company.
also co-stars in what is somewhat of a character study of the people,
situations and what people do and do not want.
Though some of this is familiar and i6t is not easy to end, I liked the
writing, directing, some of the humor and chemistry throughout. Approaches that are different work, as do the
locations and there is no doubt many of the results are as realistic as the
sometimes dysfunctional, toxic behavior, yet the characters are likable. This is also one of Gaumont’s best films in
Ferry’s High Lane (2009) has a good
cast wasted in what turns out to be yet another tired “teens who go out to have
a good time hiking must die” mess as a hike turns into a trip none of them (or
us as viewers) should have taken. Acting
and locations are good, the script and bad formula writing are no better than
thousands of lame low budget U.S.
releases that should not have been made.
This French wreck comes from Gaumont and is a bore.
Hegedus/D.A. Pennebaker documentary Kings
Of Pastry (2009) is my second favorite work here, showing how complex and
serious the pastry competition is in France, especially as a few chefs
battle it out for the “MOF” certification (Meilleurs Ouvriers de France) that
makes them one of the greatest pastry makers in the world. Far above the phoniness of “reality TV”, much
is on the line here and this means much more than something petty. Those involved are serious and really are
putting themselves on the line for something special they really believe in,
which we rarely see anywhere. Don’t
watch this one hungry!
Corsini’s Leaving (2008) is a good
drama that offers a triangle of a different sort as the Kristin Scott Thomas
plays a married woman who finds out how unhappy she is in her marriage to a
successful doctor (Yvan Attal) when she falls for the laborer (Sergi Lopez) she
has hired to fix part of their house.
They have two teen children, but even that starts not to matter when she
starts an affair after a few incidents that turn out to have more than innocent
here has issues and flaws, we see class division involved and other issues that
are not seen enough in any such drama anywhere.
Unfortunately, the ending may have impact, but it does not add up or
work in any real space. This is often
impressive, but misses the boat when it cannot totally find a way to resolve
itself. Still, the performances are
have Alexis Dos Santos’ tricky and sly Unmade
Beds, a 2009 film that wants to be like a Jean Luc-Godard film and uses the
same title of a 1976 Amos Poe film that was also trying to be like a Godard
film. That makes it a few generations
down from an original idea and hurts it in the long run, especially since it is
still part of the tired mumblecore cycle of would-be youth films that do not
seem to know what youth is about.
A mix of
English, Spanish and French, the film concerns a drifter of sorts named Axl
(Fernando Tielve of Pan’s Labyrinth)
sleeping from place to place, wanting to find his biological father and maybe
himself in the process in modern-day London.
He meets some people who befriend him instead of stabbing him in the
back and this includes Vera (Deborah Francois) who he finds particularly
interesting. She likes taking photos and
is into art, then they get involved with each other and others.
subplot involving Axl finding his father is good, but not necessarily realized
and the use of music is mixed at best (Axl is introduced with a Rock song and
his name, a reference to the fallen lead singer/owner of the once great Guns N
Roses, which is never used to any effect in the film, unlike what Godard might
have done). It is competent and the
actors are good, but it misses the mark one too many times, partly by the
restrictions it sets on itself.
anamorphically enhanced image on all the releases (save Plans) including 1.78 X 1 on Carmo
& Beds, 1.85 X 1 on Gigolo & Leaving and 2.35 X 1 on Lane
are surprisingly soft and problematic as the 1.33 X 1 on Pastry, which is shot on low def digital video. The gutted color and motion blur are boring
and if it is not that, it is color that is simply not reproducing as well as it
could or should. Plans was shot in 35mm film (here in 1.85 X 1) and is the easy
champ of picture playback with good color, some depth and even some detail,
though the transfer is inconsistent, yet it is the only one I could see getting
a Blu-ray release.
Pastry and Carmo are here in passable Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo presentations,
while the rest offer Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes and they might as well all be 2.0
Stereo with the limits of the soundfields they offer. Lane
occasionally has some good surrounds and Plans
has some good ambiance (there is no DTS despite the logo on the back of the
case), but these are a sonic wash otherwise.
include trailers on all the discs save Pastry
(with Chocolate fashion Show where clothes are made with chocolate (!),
Interview with Filmmaker & Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer Creates a Chocolate Sculpture)
and Carmo (with stills, brief
filmmaker bio and four trailers for other First Run releases) and Plans adds three behind-the-scenes
featurettes including Cast/Crew Interviews, Dany Boon Interview and Making Of pieces that should be seen
after seeing the film.
- Nicholas Sheffo