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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Road Movie > Murder > Spanish > Comedy > French > Thriller > Teens > Food > Documentary > Sex > 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/

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)


Picture: C (Plans: C+)     Sound: C+     Extras: C/B-/C-/C-/C/C-/C-     Features: C+/B-/B-/C/B-/C+/C+



Foreign 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.


Murilo 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.


This has 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.


Daniele 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.


The 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.


Josiane 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.


Then she 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.


Balasko 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 eons.


Abel 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.


The Chris 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!


Catherine 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 results.


Everyone 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 totally believable.


Finally we 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.


The 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.



The 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.


Extras 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


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