Just a Quick Thought

'Joy of Man's Desiring' movie posterIt’s time for another Quick Thought, because I don’t know how else to make this announcement. I just want to make all of my readers aware that my contributions to Mr. Rumsey’s Film Related Musings indeed continue, although it has been a while since my last piece. I thought I would direct your attention over to that site, where you will find my latest contribution, a review of Canadian documentarian Denis Côté’s most recent offering The Joy of Man’s Desiring, best summarized by IMDb’s quasi-plot ‘summary:’

An open-ended exploration of the energies and rituals of various workplaces. From one worker to another and one machine to the next; hands, faces, breaks, toil: what kind of absurdist, abstract dialogue can be started between human beings and their need to work? What is the value of the time we spend multiplying and repeating the same motions that ultimately lead to a rest — a state of repose whose quality defies definition.

While I personally did not get a lot out of the watch, I can certainly vouch for the “absurdism” and the “abstraction,” as Joy uniquely bridges the gap between drama and documentary. But does an overload of static shots and half-mumbled dialogue make for a compelling watch though?

Find out here. 


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Photo credits: http://www.allocine.fr 

The Grand Seduction

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Release: Friday, May 30, 2014 (limited)

[Theater]

The theater where I went to see this film didn’t serve nearly the appropriate amount of my favorite lager. They also failed to carry appropriate beer-drinking mugs. So, making do with what I had, I found myself toasting the events on screen with a luke-warm plastic cup filled with a swill of Coors Light.

The Grand Seduction is one of those films whose infectious spirit is so great you won’t notice yer actively participatin’ in the singin’ an’ drinkin’ an’ dancin’ ’til yer bein’ forcefully removed from the theater because of the racket ya be causin’.

Unfortunately, the above wasn’t an anecdote; at no point in my moviegoing career have I ever been escorted from a cineplex. (Have any of you?) Point is, there’s little you can really do to avoid being seduced by this eccentric little film. Its hooks will be in deep thanks to charming performances delivered across the board. Spearheaded by the great bearded Brendan Gleeson — whose Irish heritage will likely have you confused about where this film is supposed to be set on more than one occasion — the cast’s efforts certainly help overshadow a story that is largely lacking in originality or plausibility.

The French film La grande séduction debuted at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival to such a warm reception that an English language version was immediately suggested; it’s popularity all but demanded it. After several setbacks including directors dropping in and out of the project, the current film finally was fleshed out with an appropriately eclectic talent pool in Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch, Gordon Pinsent, Liane Balaban, and Mark Critch.

In a brisk hour and forty minutes we are stolen away to the remote harbor of Tickle Head, a place so insignificant Newfoundland barely even wants it. It’s an extreme northern locale whose downtrodden appearance and sparse human population is frequently mined for comedy, often very successfully. But the movie lies within Gleeson’s Murray French, a man whose joviality belies a spirit slowly crushed by lifelong hardship. When the town mayor abandons his post for better job prospects on the mainland, Murray starts spinning a web of lies in order to make Tickle Head a more attractive place for the young Dr. Paul Lewis (Kitsch).

Why, pray, does this little outcropping home to barely more than 100 need a good-looking, wealthy townie for a doctor?

Well it’s all a part of the deal Murray’s trying to secure with a major oil conglomerate that has tentative plans to bring a factory to the area. The good people of Tickle Head sure could use the work. Instantly Murray sets about fabricating a number of stories and overhauling the community to the doctor’s liking — he even requires everyone to embrace the sport of cricket, and suppress their passions for a real sport, like hockey. Finding a scene this year that’s more intrinsically hilarious than watching a group of disoriented old men in white and pink linen attempt to master this obscure skill by the edge of a sun-dappled cliff is going to be a real challenge.

As Murray continues to stage his grand seduction for the doctor, who continues to struggle with being away from his wife and familiar surroundings, the lies become more significant, eventually posing something of a moral conflict for Murray and they start to spiral out of control. It’s a tipping point for the credibility of the script, as well, unfortunately. How much of this are we really meant to take seriously? At times the silliness swells to a point where its understandable that the entire production need not be taken seriously, though this is not entirely the case. There are a few moments of genuine human drama peppered throughout this farce, though it’s easier to take The Grand Seduction at face value as a straight comedy.

Despite it’s tendency to venture into cliche territory, this adaptation has a huge heart. Good luck not cracking a smile, at the very least. And remember, for a film like this its always a good idea to bring a frosty mug from home. The people of Tickle Head openly invite you into their homes, and it would be rude not to bring offerings. Just sneak them into the theater in your pockets or something.

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3-5Recommendation: I recommend this film with the simple assumption that you enjoy laughing at movies, and laughing at a lot of different things. Humor runs the gamut from rib-tickling slapstick to dialogue that’s at once self-aware and self-depricating. A film based in such a remote location usually always feels like a “refreshing” experience, and this certainly proves to be a byproduct of watching this one. Although it’s a fictional place, Tickle Head feels as real as any small community you’ve ever traveled through or spent time in. Come get to know these people, they’d love to meet you. And I almost guarantee you won’t regret meeting them.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 113 mins.

Quoted: “Who here has a case of creeping Athlete’s Foot. . .? Frank?!”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Starbuck

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Release: Friday, March 22, 2013 (U.S.) (limited)

[Theater]

Although the title might mislead (no, this actually isn’t about the expensive coffee….), what this film offers is nonetheless a hearty and warm mixture of comedy and paternal love. Starbuck, featuring charming performances from Patrick Huard, Antoine Bertrand and Julie Le Breton, is an uncommonly smooth cup-o-Joe.

It’s also been a while since yours truly has seen a foreign film (rather, a film where none of the dialogue is in English), and having to split my attention between reading the subtitles and what was happening at the time was actually refreshing. I suppose it helps having a script that is both hilarious and heartwarming as well. And French-Canadian Ken Scott’s new film possesses more of these qualities than I’ve seen in a good number of films as of late.

A bit farcical, the film centers around 40-something David Wosniak (Huard) who is quite an amiable fellow but has yet to really get his shit together. More importantly, what you need to know about David is that in his earlier years he was quite the prolific sperm donor, making frequent visits to the clinic annually under the alias ‘Starbuck.’ One day a representative of this clinic walks into David’s life with the news that he is being sued. . . . .and that there are 140-plus plaintiffs to face.

Then he’s reminded of his previously puerile lifestyle, and of the quality of his sperm samples — David’s inadvertently become father to 533 children, of whom 142 are interested in meeting their father. By going through the legal system, these kids hope for the chance to finally know his identity. Of course, David is at first reluctant to step forward, in knowing how weird the story will play out publicly. And somewhat predictably, yes when the news gets out about the lawsuit, the name ‘Starbuck’ instantly becomes a nefarious term to throw around. In fear of having ruined his own life forever, David decides he wants to become actively involved with these kids  — he’s tired of being a screw-up and wants to change his fortunes, once and for all.

While he’s strangely floating through the lives of his kids, the tension fueled by media and the public outrage at such a situation begins to wear on David and he’s ever reluctant to reveal his identity. Especially since he’s trying to rekindle lost love with his former girlfriend, Valerie (Le Breton). When she tells him she is now pregnant, our lovable but scatterbrained Starbuck finds himself more conflicted than ever.

The film’s tone might be misconstrued as being a bit sappy or too pat, but if anything, those seem to be general misjudgments on the part of anyone who strictly defines ‘family’ based on the mother-father-and-three-kids blueprint. Certainly, we’re dealing with extremes here in Starbuck, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less enjoyable. In fact, the extremes are what makes the film such a treat to watch.

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3-5Recommendation: Interestingly enough, an American version is slated to be released late 2013, possibly early ’14, and will star Vince Vaughn as the ‘David’ of this version. Originally going by the same name, this new release is now titled Delivery Man. Now, I’m going to make a bold prediction and say that even with the same director behind the camera, it will fall short of the heartfelt schmucky-ness found in Starbuck (which, by the way, was actually first put out in 2011 to Canadian audiences). With all that said, I fully recommend experiencing this version. . . at least, before you see Vince Vaughn trying on the role for size.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 109 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com