Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Q&A on August 10 releases

Q: If I had to pick one new independent film to see this weekend, what would it be?

A: That would be Julie Delpy's frequently funny debut as director and writer, 2 Days in Paris (Samuel Goldwyn, pictured). She and ex-boyfriend Adam Goldberg are a winning team in a movie that strips away the romance from the city, while revealing the battered, but still beating, hearts of the two protagonists, who find themselves romantically adrift. Delpy's real-life actor parents, and her cat, make memorable impressions in a film that recalls prime Woody Allen.

Q: At the end of the screening of which film was it when a disgruntled audience member stood up and shouted, "This movie is shit. Shit. Shit. In French, merde!"?

A: That would be Christophe Honore's Dans Paris (IFC Films), which isn't shit, but I wouldn't want to step in it. It's an homage to the spirit of the French New Wave that indulges in the stylistic flourishes but forgets to add a compelling storyline, about two very different brothers, one irresponsible, the other suicidal, to go along with it. The hommes, Louis Garrel (The Dreamers) and Romain Duris (Moliere), are France's leading go-to guys for quirky introspection, and it was nice to see Other Side of Midnight star Marie-France Pisier again, still looking good as their disaffected mother. I wouldn't make a ruckus about it either way.

Q: Do you think it's a bad idea for independent film distributors to release two films with the word "Paris" in the title on the same day?

A: Yes, particularly when a third film with the city's name in lights, Paris Je'taime, is still playing. Note to filmgoers: If your arthouse is playing all three, and you can't remember which is which, ask for "the old one," "the good one," or "the shit (in French, merde) one."

Q: What was the other film, something about...high school? Debates? Err, uh...

A: That would be...err, uh...let me find my notes...oh, yeah, Rocket Science (Picturehouse), the feature debut of Spellbound documentarian director Jeffrey Blitz. I can't say I was spellbound this time, over the angst and antics of a stuttering high school debater. It has some nice things in it. But on balance it's one of those ever-so-slightly twee and annoying movies in the vein of Wes Anderson pictures or Garden State, which feel as refreshing as a barefoot walk through the grass, until you find later that your ankles are itching from insect bites. Demerits for taking place in New Jersey, but being filmed mostly in Maryland.

Q: Anything else to say?

A: Well, The Bourne Ultimatum didn't live up to the hype. It felt rote this time, with a wan wrap-up and bummer cliche dialogue I was speaking in my mind as Matt Damon and Joan Allen said it on screen. The setpieces, which hark back to the earlier films, are exciting without being particularly new or different. Not at all bad but there's no reason to make it a quartet. I did like The Simpsons Movie, which by all rights should be unnecessary or redundant but wasn't. I didn't feel rooked, as Homer said I would at the outset, and it was fun to watch Springfield unfold in widescreen.

Q: If I had to see one film this weekend, what would it be?

A: If not Delpy's, then one of the four-star holdovers--the lovely musical Once, which evokes the happy days of 80s independent filmmaking, the searing Iraq documentary No End in Sight, a step-by-step assessment of the manifest war and reconstruction planning failures, or the unexpectedly delightful Ratatouille, which arrived just as I thought Pixar might be succumbing to animation sclerosis. Its soft, painterly palette is as much a balm to the eyes as its insistence on excellence is a comfort to the soul. It is the Paris of your dreams.

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