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Drama

Personal Shopper (2016)

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A personal shopper in Paris refuses to leave the city until she makes contact with her twin brother who previously died there. Her life becomes more complicated when a mysterious person contacts her via text message.

Genre : Mystery/Drama
Country : France/Germany/Belgium

Cast :
Kristen Stewart : Maureen
Sigrid Bouaziz : Lara
Nora von Waldstätten : Kyra

Director :
Olivier Assayas

My opinion on “Personal Shopper”

“For me, Lewis was someone deeply intuitive of others.
He understood things that went unspoken.
Maybe because he knew he was going to die.”

Are you suffering from a sleep disorder lately so you always get up with giant bags under your eyes? Or are you hyperkinetic due to an overdose of cola during a night of “binge watching”? No problem. Simply start the movie “Personal shopper” and these problems have been solved without any doubt. If there would be a Oscar category called “Most boring film of the year“, this film would have won it easily. In short: The whole movie you’ll see Maureen (Kristen Stewart) do some shopping for a high-society model named Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten), driving around in Paris on her moped, meditate while smoking lots of cigarettes and sending a whole series of messages on her iPhone. And she’s also waiting for a sign of life (how ambiguous) of her recently deceased brother Lewis. Apart from some ectoplasm and flickering light phenomena, there’s nothing ghostly to see. A sleep-inducing performance. And even the few scenes in which Stewart walks around half-naked and even masturbates, won’t help. Her cup size is of the same caliber as this film. Meagre.

Personal Shopper

Did she use a different facial expression now? Uh … nope ….

Maybe I’m a bit biased, because I’m immensily annoyed by the person Kristen Stewart. On the other hand. You need a film character who doesn’t feel good about herself and who’s constantly in a melancholic mood, she’s surely the right candidate. If there’s an actress you can admire a whole movie without showing one sincere smile and a face that seems to be dipped in starch, then she’s definitely the one. I still remember this quote : “Kristen Stewart is like my refrigerator, no matter what I put in it (milk, soda, eggs, vegetables, meat), it’s always a refrigerator. And so is she“. I really can’t understand why she’s being praised by everybody. And every time I read about her, superlatives like “authenticity” and “subtle” are being used. Well, you can also say that about the Scarlett Johanssons, Saoirse Ronans, Dakota Fanningsen and even the Jennifer Lawrences in Hollywood. The only difference is that these actresses show some variation in their facial expressions.

Personal Shopper

An arthouse movie about the art of fashion.

Personal Shopper” is once again an arthouse creation. And the artificial world of fashion fits extremely well with it. Both the film and the world of fashion have the same irritating effect on me. They create an artificial product that is reasonably pretentious and targets the group of the happy few. The arthouse film lovers are those happy few who are able to see the abstract meaning and the symbolisme behind such an intellectual film. In the fashion world, the happy few are those who can afford an exclusive sewn together piece of confection. And after a certain time they’ll loudly proclaim that this expensive piece of cloth is out of fashion. By the way. Who can explain to me the usefulness of such a wire-shaped corset that Maureen wears at a certain moment? The connoisseurs will most likely scream bloody murder and call me a retard who doesn’t understand fashion. I hope for myself that that it’ll remain like that.

Personal Shopper

What’s the hidden message?

Which subject this film tries to tackle, is not so easy to interpret. On the one hand there’s the spiritual issue and the connection of the living with wandering souls. On the other hand there is the subject of materialistic thinking and the impersonal world in which we live. The primordial conversation between Maureen and the unknown (the bouncing dots and plopping sounds really started to get on my nerves after a while) is also a reference to the contemporary impersonal conversations among individuals. So how to interprete this movie? I guess you could explain it in many ways. Best you fill in the gaps yourself after watching this movie. Keep in mind that Maureen waits for the unknown person in a hotel room and shortly thereafter you’ll see doors open automatically without seeing anybody. That puts the whole in a completely different perspective. Or not? If not, then I think that the very last bang is a clear statement. But you had need endurance to sit out this long ride and witness this slightly intense moment. Ending with Maureen looking straight at the camera. Emotionless. Trust me. Me and Kirsten Stewart. That’ll never work out.

My rating 3/10
Links : IMDB

Comic Book Movies

Joaquin Phoenix Stares Into Your Soul As The Joker Via “il venerdì di repubblica” Cover

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“Cinematic achievement on a high level.”

Director Todd Phillips has gone on the record stating, his film is going to piss off hardcore comic book fans. The upcoming ‘Joker’ movie will not follow any comic book plot lines or continuity for the villain, and will in fact be its very own stand alone film. With that being said, the movie is already garnering praise from select audiences. Cameron Bailey, co-head and artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival, went on record with Toronto Sun, hailing the film as “Cinematic achievement on a high level.” Bailey continued on, saying:

“First of all it’s terrific. So it should play on our largest stage. But it’s a really original take on comic book movies and on the Joker character in particular. It’s not based on an existing story, it has one of the greatest actors in modern cinema, Joaquin Phoenix, in the lead, and Robert De Niro is in it as well, one of the best actors that has ever lived.”

Bailey, also went on to say, the film is “Very cinematic,” for a low budget feature.

“Has an interesting tone and approach to it. It’s set in the late ’70s, early ’80s and it feels like it was made then. It’s gritty in its look, it has references to Martin Scorsese’s filmmaking and it feels like a cinematic achievement on a high level. Although it’s working with very populist material, it has great ambition. That’s why it’s a Gala.”

Check out the newest ‘Joker’ magazine cover via il venerdì di repubblica.

‘Joker’ hits theaters October 4, 2019

 

 

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Drama

Bullitt County – A Film About How A Pleasant Situation Can Turn Quickly And End In A Tragedy

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Anything buried out there,
is meant to stay buried.

Bullitt County” isn’t really an easy film. To be honest, I had to control myself not to give up after half an hour. It wasn’t very exciting, so to say. On the contrary. It was painfully slow and meaningless. The story is situated in the 70s as you can see from the colorful printed shirts and the Woodstock-like attributes. A reunion of grown-up school friends who wanted to break the monotonous existence as a responsible citizen. A trip to Kentucky is planned where they’re going to recreate a pub crawl past their favorite distilleries. The only person who isn’t voluntary participating is Gordie (Mike C. Nelson) who’s about to get married. He’s being kidnapped, thrown in the suitcase and taken to the destination. Apparently, this is his bachelor party.

 

Bullitt County

 

A dark secret.

It is only when Gordie hears there’s a hidden treasure, the “Bullitt Treasure”, in these regions, the pace is going up. Apparently, it’s a considerable sum of money (profits from illegal moonshining) that the Bullitt family has hidden in the local forests during the Prohibition. At the same time, it turns out that their favorite bar has been taken over and the new owners turned it into a wine bar. So the plan of a boozing trip is pushed aside. Also, Gordie appears to be a recovered alcoholic who has not drunk a drop for 10 years. So nothing prevents them from entering the woods, armed with spades and camping equipment. So they’re off on a treasure hunt. Apparently a very cozy venture, which in turn leads to impressions of four aged hippies who, while playing guitar, smoke a few hash cigarettes and consume quite a bit of liquor. Not really fascinating, but there’s already this slight feeling that something sinister is coming to the surface. A secret that this close circle of friends has been dragging along for years. And apparently, no one feels the need to bring it up again.

 

Bullitt County

 

And suddenly it’s a different movie.

The moment they are invited by a friendly couple to eat something in their cabin, my expectations regarding the film was already low. “Bullitt County” won’t be more than a psychological drama in which a cozy getaway leads to emotional outbursts which bring out deeply hidden traumas from the past. And then all of a sudden hell breaks loose. And before I realize it, I am watching a completely different movie. A movie about survival, cheating, blame, and guilt. Slowly it becomes clear that Gordie’s emotional backpack gradually got heavier. Not only has he successfully got rid of an alcohol problem. He’s also a Vietnam veteran and didn’t go through this war completely unscathed. This results in a person plagued by PTSD who can’t control himself during confrontations. And then there’s an event in the past that weighs the most. It’s being revealed through some flashbacks as the film progresses.

 

 

Splendid acting by Nelson.

Robin (Jenni Melear), Keaton (David McCracken) and Wayne (Napoleon Ryan) were also involved in this incident but apparently processed it. Gordie also blames them for that at a certain moment. The indifference makes him mad. I also noticed that caring about others isn’t their strongest side. Who goes on a pub crawl with an ex-alcoholic? What follows is a burst of pent-up frustration that degenerates into a nerve-racking and bloody denouement. Mike C. Nelson plays a terrific role. The way in which Gordie’s personality (also thanks to a momentary relapse) changes from a good-natured person with issues into a revenge-taker driven by madness and rage, is simply wonderful to see. A solid piece of acting. The share of Dorothy Lyman and Richard Riehle was short but powerful.

 

Bullit County

 

A successful low-budget indie.

No, “Bullitt County” isn’t a memorable movie. And maybe it would have been better to shorten the intro where we meet those four characters. And the number of sudden twists in the story was a bit overwhelming. And have we not seen that one twist in another movie before? Anyway. The film managed to pleasantly surprise me when the second half of the film announced itself. A film about how a pleasant situation can turn quickly and end in a tragedy. “Bullitt County” shows how someone goes through life, marked by guilt feelings and what impact this has on his personality. Despite Gordie’s mistakes and aggressive behavior, you still feel compassion for him. In short, a successful low-budget indie. Just the way I like them.

 

 

My rating 6/10
Links: IMDB

 

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Crime

The Outsider – The Only Thing That Tries To Break Through This Darkness Is The Sometimes Bright Neon Lights

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When you dishonor your boss
and you want to show remorse,
you give your finger.
It’s called otoshimae.
I see you’ve got all your fingers.

Even though I don’t have any affinity with Japanese culture as such and mostly ignore Asian films, I couldn’t resist giving “The Outsider”  a chance. Not only because of the fact that Jared Leto is playing in it (a colorful actor who reminds me of Johnny Depp and because of his role as The Joker in “Suicide Squad” can join the club of quirky Hollywood actors), but also because of the central theme of the Yakuza families. I wondered if this could be another successful Netflix original.

I don’t know much about Japanese culture. Only the term Yakuza is known to me. You can see it as the Japanese version of the Italian Mafia. The only difference with their Italian counterparts is that the Yakuza members are an epitome of inner calmness and adopt an intimidating attitude by using ice-cold, angry looks and a threatening, non-loud tone during their conversations. Quite different from the Italian mafia members, who usually want to make an impression by shouting and intense gesticulating while making their point, after which a rival gets a concrete pedestal and they dump him in some Italian river. So I prepared myself for a Japanese-colored “Godfather“-like movie.

 

The Outsider

 

Extremely slow pacing.

The first thing you could criticize is the pace of the film. “The Outsider”  is extremely slow at times, indeed. But doesn’t that suite the entire Japan concept? After all, members of the Yakuza families themselves use a certain pace in their conversations by using impressive silences between sentences. On the one hand to show respect. On the other hand maybe also to increase the impact of used words. Have you ever seen a Geisha passing by? They aren’t exactly a paragon of speed. And to be honest, if this movie had lasted an extra hour, I wouldn’t have minded that either. And that’s because of the other positivities you can find in “The Outsider” .

 

The Outsider

 

A white Yakuza member. Possible or not?

First of all, I thought the acting of the entire cast was marvelous on all fronts. The mix of authentic Japanese who speak their own language for most of the film instead of constantly using broken, bad-sounding English and the acting of Jared Leto was simply stunning. How Nick Lowell ended up in an Osaka prison, remained a mystery to me. He’s the only English-speaking prisoner and is surrounded by mainly Yakuza gang members. Rescuing the Yakuza Kiyoshi (Tadanobu Asano) from a perilous, life-threatening situation gives him a ticket to freedom. And that’s when he chooses to gradually integrate into the Yakuza family. Not an easy task since the members of this Yakuza family aren’t really hospitable and are rather resentful towards white strangers (a Gaijin). However, I wonder if, in reality, a Westerner would get a chance to be included in such a Yakuza-family. I doubt it.

 

The Outsider

 

Sublime cinematography.

The used cinematography in ‘The Outsider’ was also generally sublime. Maybe a little too dark at certain moments, such as the prison scenes, for example. But in general, the setting in this post-war Japan is really impressive. A mysterious metropolis with dark, narrow alleys, clubs where Sumo wrestlers compete and smoky night clubs. The only thing that tries to break through this darkness is the sometimes bright neon lights.
Expect some violent scenes too. You can’t do without it in a gangster movie, I guess. There are quite a few victims. Lots of gunshots and knives carving around. Even a self-mutilation scene where a few fingers are sacrificed isn’t missing.

 

The Outsider

 

The acting of Jared Leto was superb.

My limited knowledge of Asian film material and Japanese customs made sure everything came across as fairly authentic to me. Others, who immersed themselves in this matter, may have noticed imperfections. And perhaps the content has all been done before. I even read somewhere that there was a lot of fuss about casting Jared Leto. And the term “whitewashing” came up. Didn’t we have the same discussion about Matt Damon’s contribution to “The Great Wall“? By the way, I thought Jared Leto was suitable for this role as the silent (probably because he doesn’t speak the language), cold-blooded and emotionless Nick. He reminded me a bit of Keanu Reeves in “47 Ronin“. Only the speed with which he was accepted in the Shiromatsu Yakuza clan, seemed greatly exaggerated. And the emotional relationship between Nick and Miyu (Shioli Kutsuna) felt like a mandatory item.

 

The Outsider

 

But just as I scoured the internet for information about “The Zodiac Killer” after watching the movie “Zodiac“, I couldn’t resist consulting Wikipedia about the Yakuza phenomenon. That means this film also left an impression. If slow crime movies about the Mafia interest you, and this in a Japanese environment, then I can definitely recommend this movie to you.

You can watch The Outsider on Netflix now!

My rating 7/10
Links: IMDB

 

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