Friday, May 31, 2013

The 20/20 Experience - Justin Timberlake

A former die-hard Prince-fan (and yes, there is something oxymoronic about that phrase) I have nothing but praise and respect for Timberlake's sources of inspiration.

However, I must point out, dear Trousersnake, that not even His Royal Badness at the height of his creative glory ever went so far as to releasing a whole album with almost exclusively sexy ballads. 
(Me, I was never one for the sexy ballads, but perhaps you had already guessed as much.)

Skilfully crafted music, indeed, but absolutely un-runnable.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Le Prénom - Patellière & Delaporte 2012

French sentimental comedies of this kind - starring a group of garrulous forty-somethings in a Parisian apartment, yelling at one another for two hours - are a dime a dozen.

Not all of them, however, display such playfulness and boisterous good humour even when the dialogue turns sour, as it inevitably does.

Can't help wondering , though, whether anyone ever actually hosts or visits tell-all, let-the-masks-fall dinner parties like this??

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

John Carter - A. Stanton 2012

Disneys assault on version of Tarzan's baby brother (Well, yes; Burroughs wrote this just after 'Tarzan') looked deeply disheartening on the movie poster, and then vanished suspiciously fast from the Theater Near Me.

In point of fact, this eccentric adventure story of a US Civil War Confederate Army captain unexpectedly landing on Mars (no less) eventually turned out to be a quite OK Friday night film, fully acceptable for 9-year-olds and for their exhausted, hence not too demanding parents.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I do realize this is not the most original stance I could have taken, but then again, I can't decently come down on genius just for the heck of it.

Dunham's series is groundbreaking at some levels, and 'merely' very Seinfeld-ish at others, which is no small feat, really!

Even the nude scenes, which I typically tend to find factitious and inordinately un-hot, somehow pass here, simply because Dunham's body despite being far from unique remains painfully under-represented on film.

That the storyline is thought-provoking and the dialogues savvy and flippant of course does the show no harm.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

Every once in a while, I need to re-read old favourites to check whether I and the book have evolved in different directions or not.

I have been putting off re-reading Salinger's classic since last summer, when I developed a crush on the narrating teenager of Chbosky's 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower'
Charlie reminded me a lot of 'The Catcher in the Rye' in question, Holden Caulfield, Salinger's erring anti-hero ; They are both articulate, warm-hearted and reflective teenagers in rebellion.

Conclusion : I'm still in love with Holden; his 1950s slang and his eager desire to do good and to protect all innocent life from the adult world.
And I think I also need to go over Sylvia Plath's 'The Bell Jar' again.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

This, I must confess, quite took me by surprise! 
I would be at a loss to determine exactly what I had expected, but it most certainly wasn't the pure 1970s disco-album it turned out to be, albeit in a somewhat updated version.

I'm having a hard time nailing down precisely to what extent it is brilliant. I'm leaning towards excellency, but can't say for sure just yet.

Les Frigos

Les Frigos (the fridges) is named after its origins; built in the 1920s as a cold storage warehouse and train station, it still contains an old steam train locomotive somewhere in its depths. Much to the sorrow of my 9-year-olds, the locomotive is no  longer open for visits.

Twice a year, however, the rest of the house is!
Since the 1980s, a number of various artists and craftsmen have taken over the building; many of them foreigners who both live and work there.

During the open house days, it is crowded, narrow, loud, visually spectacular and all in all a rather friendly venue.
The rest of the year, you can still visit, but will find most of the doors closed.

Even so, the dilapidated building is an eyeful, surrounded as it now is by towering, glassed-in office buildings.


Poetic 'Titanic' Trivia

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Rock of Ages - A. Shankman 2012

Notwithstanding my personal views on Tom Cruise as a person / celeb / actor (strangely, he is a very skilled actor although I find it extremely hard to believe he is also a real person) him playing Axl Rose in a corny rock musical could, theoretically, somehow, I suppose, have worked.

I do see a number of reasons why it shouldn't, but with a Baz Luhrmann behind the wheel, why not?

Adam Shankman, however, is the man behind 'Hairspray' (the 2007 film version; I don't mean John Waters..!) and 'Glee', which becomes embarrassingly obvious when viewing 'Rock of Ages'.

How on earth did this even get released??

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Joneses - D. Borte 2009

The pitch is astute : What looks like a united, affluent family in an idyllic suburb is in fact a team of commercials hired to perform live and direct product placement for the benefit of their neighbours.

The rest of the film isn't half bad, either! There is toying with stereotypes, a mockery of the western consumerist way of life and of course a little romance on the side.

The writer / director / producer is therefore someone to keep an eye on.
He hasn't released anything since, but has directed a film coming up this summer ('Stars').

The French poster, though, is awful. Who on earth is responsible???

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Great Gatsby - B. Luhrmann 2013

To cut a long story short I enjoyed the film - and probably more importantly, so did the students I was taking - although I must confess I'm finding it near-impossible to separate the film from the novel - especially as the film follows the book veeery closely.

The images are dazzling, and the themes developed in Fitzgerald's short but multi-layered classic - love, money, outsider-ship, the passing of time, the decline of society - are all present.

As a general rule, I don't see the point of turning novels into films.
It seems to me that the main asset of a good book, the beauty of the text, is bound to dematerialize on film. Luhrmann here uses mostly conventional means to preserve the text, yet somehow I think he's succeeded.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rust and Bone - J. Audiard 2012

Having given the matter some thought, I reckon I watched this film for two reasons :
1) The reviews were more than enthusiastic.
2) A friend of mine recently declared her intention to see it. (Hear me, Katharina; this is all your fault.)

Normally, I am no admirer of French intellectual films, and this love story between Cotillard's half-eaten killer-whale trainer and a combat fighter did not appear very promising at first hand.

Nor was it, on a closer look, really.
True, Audiard knows his stuff. However, despite frequent close-ups of Cotillard's leg stumps, an interesting take on our views of our own body and the fact that the characters evolve in a slightly different environment from the city lofts and large mansions we have grown used to on film, there was really nothing new under the sun, here. 

You have seen love stories develop the same way in hundreds of films already.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Iron Man - J. Favreau 2008

If not even this opus - clearly well-made and starring Robert Downey Jr - does it for me, then I reckon it is now safe to say I just don't like superheroes on film.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Somewhere - S. Coppola (2010)

The plot is sort of 'Three Men and a Baby' except that instead of Tom Selleck & co you have Dorff's decadent moviestar, the baby has grown into an angelic preteen (Fanning junior : brilliant) and an existential void has replaced the wholesome family fun of the 1987 film.

Obviously, Coppola steers clear of the usual cliché pitfalls, talented as she is.
Her drawn-out static shots and obsession with loneliness make for a certain poetry, even though this is far from being her best film.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Comedown Machine - The Strokes

Assuredly : Guitar riffs, garage-rock production, angry young men, an indie attitude.

And yet : Something is missing, but what on earth is it? Tunes? Talent? Or just a little old-fashioned joie de vivre..?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Les Légendaires - Patrick Sobral

My 9-year-old having spent a whole week deeply plunged into these books finally made me curious.
Have now therefore investigated the matter for you :
50% manga
10% old-fashioned dungeon role-playing principles
30% Lord of the Rings-ish inspiration 
10% Dennis the menace.

Yes, I can see the attraction.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Alice in Wonderland - T. Burton (2010)

No. Sorry. This just doesn't do it for me. Didn't like it at all, though I am at a loss to tell you why. 

Admittedly, I have never much enjoyed Lewis Carroll's psychedelic original text.

Admittedly, I am growing increasingly weary with Johnny Depp, perpetually made up as a clown, trading in Vanessa Paradis for some young blonde and multiplying pirate-films for Disney.

Still. Didn't like it. (The nine-year-olds did, though.)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cougar Town

Blessed be the mediocre, conventional TV-shows, for they inevitably make the good ones stand out.

Lately, I have had the privilege of watching so many of the second ilk, I had actually kind of forgotten this sort still exists.

PS : Onetime stunner Courteney Cox has turned into a walking anti-botox advert.

Watch these instead :

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ceux qui vont mourir te saluent - Fred Vargas

In need of a light read at a small seaside resort in Normandy, reluctant to discover what a translated Jo Nesbo might sound like, I finally opted for French Fred Vargas.

A light read - a classic whodunit, 200 modest pages long - it was indeed, but true to her habits, Vargas remains clever, articulate, well-read and as always offers multiple, knowledgeable references to historical and mythical events.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Haussmann - Jean des Cars

George-Eugène Haussmann was prefet de Paris from 1853 to 1870, and is largely responsible for Paris as we know it today, although the initiative came from Napoleon III.
Dark and narrow medieval streets were torn down, sewages were built to eliminate stagnating water (causing regular outbursts of cholera) while large avenues and parks were created. 

This biography was published in 1978 and so is understandably a bit old school, despite the author's ironic and distanced point of view.

I learnt a lot, though, about post-revolutionary France.
Moreover, as many of the Parisian rues, avenues and boulevards were named in the late 19th century - for the reason quoted above - reading about the people bearing their names was a little like taking a stroll around the city.
(Yes, ok. That last one was perhaps stretching it a bit...)


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Zoo de Beauval (Paris +30km)

Numerous, well-kept animals in fairly spacious, authentic surroundings; educational and ecological ambitions; strategically placed ice-cream kiosks and petting goats to feed with popcorn - What more could you possible want from a zoo??

Also : Tamarins, white tigers, two pandas, lemurs, koalas and heaps of irresistible cubs, ducklings, kids, kittens, calves, fawns and pups..!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Delta Machine - Depeche Mode

This is beautiful music.
Absolutely incompatible with running, I'm afraid.
But beautiful!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Hero - Z. Yimou (2002)

The narration is slow (which was perhaps as well, since it was also convoluted), the language of course incomprehensible to the poor European that I am, the action scènes innumerable and endur - and yet I couldn't take my eyes off the screen, mesmerized by the sheer perfection of the images.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Tintin et la toison d'or - JJ Vierne (1961)


The low-expectations principle helping, I found this film less appalling than apprehended.
Most remarkably, it was not so exceedingly dissimilar from Spielberg's blockbuster-version, at least at first sight. But then, that might actually mean praise to both films.
(I have a hunch a lot of people are going to differ on that one, which is fine.)

Truth be told, I have never really understood this craze for adapting books to film.
Why on earth should one medium be automatically transposable on to another??


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Parc Astérix, Paris

Roughly put, I would say juniors and seniors dote on Disneyland, whereas teenagers and more ride-oriented visitors will favor Disney's cheaper cousin, Parc Astérix.
At least, that is my experience.

Not being one for rides, I still opt for Parc Astérix, though frankly I am at a loss to tell you why.
Disney always makes me think of starving children in Africa, for some reason.