Friday, 11 November 2011

The Kid with a Bike (ordinal title: Le Gamin au vélo)

The basics   
‘The Kid with a Bike’ is a Belgium film that came out in 2011. It is a realistic drama that is set in Seraing, Belgium. (French spoken part of Belgium) and was written and directed by the Dardenne brothers (Jean-Pierre and Luc). This film is about rejection, parental figures, choices in life and the paths that we take when we make them.

What is this film about?

The film starts with the main character, Cyril a boy of only 11, repeatedly try to call his father’s on the phone from the children’s home where he is only meant to be staying temporary.  Everyone there is trying to explain to him that his father has left but in disbelief of this, he plans on escaping and running back to his father’s old apartment to see him and to get his bike. After a few attempts he manages to escape and get to his father’s old apartment block. As the children’s home workers find Cyril, and try to take him back, in his last attempt to stay there he holds on to a random woman with all he’s got, but eventually they break him free from her. To prove to Cyril the horrible truth they let him take a look around at his father’s apartment, only to find it empty.  

Later on back at the children’s home, Cyril gets a visitor and it’s the lady (Samantha) that he held in the apartments. She has come to drop something off for him, his bike which she brought off somebody who claims he brought it from Cyril’s dad. Still in disbelief that his father is would do something like that he presumes that it must have been stolen. Due to this act of kindness Cyril asks Samantha if he can stay with her on weekends and she says yes.  

My views on it

In all parts of this film (story, characters, editing etc.) there is something I like to call a beautiful roughness to it which makes the experience of this film feel more real and because of this it connects with the audience on a deeper level. For example the reason why Samantha fosters Cyril on the weekends is not explained. In most films this motivation would have been explained because they would want something to justify it, they would want A, to clarify B, so that everything is explained, Luc Dardenne comments on this in an interview ‘We were adamant that the audience would never find out why Samantha is drawn to Cyril. […] We didn’t want the past to explain the present.’.  So there are things in this film that are not explained, the editing is not really seamless, the camera is a bit shaky, but this creates that beautiful roughness. Due to this beautiful roughness it goes against most cinema norms (mainly Hollywood) and it almost stops feeling like you are watching a film and it becomes more of a gate way into these people’s lives. When you start viewing it like that the characters become more real to you and you can really connect with them. Because of this connection you have with the characters and the highs and lows they go through, this makes a film that really pulls at you heartstrings and for a drama that’s a good thing.

The acting in this film I must say is amazing. Cécile De France who plays Samantha is perfect for the roll and pulls it off ‘to the tee’ but the star of the film has to be Thomas Doret who plays Cyril. His acting quality surpasses his years and his portrayal of a kid going through this situation could not have been done better. It almost seems like the Dardenne brothers found a kid going through this and just put a camera in front of him without him noticing.  

I would recommend this film as it is moving, powerful and an emotional roller-coaster where you do not just watch it, you experience it. You can definitely see why this won Grand Prize of the Jury at Cannes.    
Favourite Quote 

Guy Catoul (Cyril’s father): ‘Don’t try to see me again’

Rating 4/5 stars  

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Midnight in Paris

The basics   

Midnight in Paris is an American film which came out in 2011. It is a romantic comedy which is set in Paris and was written and directed by Woody Allen. This film is about romance, art, writing, wanting to be born in a different time, Paris, and time travel.
What is this film about?

This film starts off with a wonderful montage of all the iconic places in Paris. In this montage we see Paris in the sun, the rain and at night and this set up one of the main questions of the film to the audience, what setting do you think Paris is at its most beautiful?
We get introduce to are protagonist (Gil) as he proclaims his love for this city and his wish to have been in Paris in the 1920’s with all the famous writers, artist and to be in the rain. Gil is an American who has spent his literature career writing for Hollywood movies but now wants to see if he is good enough to write his first novel. On a trip to Paris with his fiancée (Inez) and her parents, one night after some wine tasting Inez goes dancing with some of her friends and Gil takes a night walk around Paris to clear his head. After getting lost and sitting on some steps a bell chimes that it is midnight and Gil is picked up by an old fashioned car by people dressed from the 1920’s.

My views on it
American comedy at the moment seems to fall in to only three categories crude humour like ‘The Hangover 1 and 2’ , randomness like ‘Family Guy’ or popular culture references like ‘South Park’. So when I watched this film it was great to see humour that did not have to be crude, random or just a references to be funny. There are references in this film but it’s all to 1920’s artist and writers, not just whatever just happened in the news. So Culture references are used, so you can say that this element of modern American comedy is presented but since they are mainly used when the film is set in 1920’s Paris you are not really able to class this as being popular. The comedy in this film is very witty, subtle and clever and for a film that came out in 2011 this is very refreshing to see.

Two of the main things I like about this film are how clever and charming it is. For example Gil finds himself talking to Salvador Dalí, Man Ray and Luis Buñuel in a bar and he starts to talk about how he is from the future. They just seem to think its normal and Gil reply’s ‘Yes, but you're a surrealist! I'm a normal guy!’. Jokes like that make this film so clever and if you understand them they are really funny but if not, the film is so charming that it can get away with. I must say I know a bit about artist’s and writer’s in the 1920’s so I did get most of it, but there where a good few things that went over my head but I did not mine at all. If you look at the character Paul, he talks about art and history and he get it wrong every now and then. For me this reflects that we are not meant to know about everything we see in this film as it does not punish us for not knowing. Besides as you watch you start to learn more about this time and the artist anyways.
One of the most surprise things I enjoyed about this film is actually Owen Wilson for his acting. For the role of Gil I think that Owen Wilson was the perfect cast, as they needed a charming, classic romantic almost cliché American writer and he is great at this role.

Favourite Quote 
Ernest Hemingway: If it's bad, I'll hate it. If it's good, then I'll be envious and hate it even more. You don't want the opinion of another writer.

Rating 4/5 stars  

Friday, 4 November 2011


The basics   
Contagion is an American film that came out in 2011. It was directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Scott Z. Burns and came with a star studded cast including Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and more. This film is about outbreaks, fear, people’s lives, journalism and people just not washing their hands.
What is this film about?
The film starts on day two of the outbreak as we see Beth Emhoff, a business woman on a layover at Chicago airport as she has just came from Hong Kong and going to Minnesota. She seems to have flu like symptoms as she talks to her Chicago lover on her Phone as she waits for her flight. Next we get a slightly patronising montage scene with good long close ups of ill people all across the world touching things just so we know as an audience member that ill people still touch things and this is how a disease maybe spread.
After this we go to Minnesota and we see the disease spread as Beth’s son (Clark) gets pull out of school for being a bit ill like his mum. Then the family takes a turn for the worst as Beth start to have seizure and when she gets to the hospital she unfortunately dies, even though you would not be able to tell this by her husband’s (Mitch) reaction. It seems more like he just got told his car had been clamped not that his wife died. After this Mitch’s step son (Clark) dies and yet again Mitch’s reaction seems off, as he is a bit angry, but more like he just dropped his laptop, not that his step son just died. From here the infection spreads.
My views on it
Well at the start, besides some bad acting and being a bit patronising it had a lot of promise. The almost documentary style of filming was interesting and engaging at first as we follow people lives and how the disease spread. Also with the main protagonist (Beth) at the start of the film dying as well as her son it showed that this film was willing to be edgy and taboo. Sadly after this the film stops being good.
Due to the style of which the film was made (editing, cinamtography, ect), it started to grate on me after a while, it seemed like it did not know what it wanted to be. Part of it wanted to be a normal film and the other half wanted to be a documentary and this gets really annoying as the film drags on. As they tried to integrate these styles it did not seem to work. An example of this is when they are looking through some CCTV footage at a casino, they portray that they can see only what the cameras see, but the footage we see is a stylized version; as we see it like we are there in the casino and not the cameras on the celling. They should have just shown us the CCTV footage as it would have been and not make a stylized version of it for us; as that breaks the reality that the documentary style try’s to create.
After the beginning, the level of interest that this film sets up starts to decreases very quickly. This is because nothing interesting really happens and nothing is made to be dramatic. The pace of the film becomes very slow and as nothing is made to look really dramatic and it becomes monotone, just riding along on the same level of just ‘kind of interesting’. And that is what the film just become, just kind of interesting. Because it sticks to this one level for the rest of the film its gets really dull and it drags out. The film is only 1 hour and 46 minutes but it felt about 2 hours and a half. Even my friend John said after the film ‘that film was long, over 2 hours’.
As I am getting over my limit in the review I am just going to list a few over issues that I did not like, quickly for you.
*The film jumped from character to character all the time so you could not make a connection with them really.
*Acting was bad
*The disease itself was dull
*No twist
*The Ending was insulting and not needed
Favourite Quote 
Alan Krumwiede: It's a bad day to be a rhesus monkey.
Rating 1.5/5 stars