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Friday, November 13th, 2009

Time Event
2:27p
"9"
Tuesday night, the 10th, we caught up with "9" at a local budget
theatre. We would have been willing to pay regular prices, but just
couldn't fit it in during first run.

The beginning of the plot has some parallels with one of those stories
where the protagonist wakes up amnesic and has to figure out what's
going on. The fact that there's a dead man in the room when "9" comes to
fits right in with a Mickey Spillane thriller, except that 9 is a
foot-tall robot who's just been activated and there's no obvious cause
of death for the mysterious dead man on the floor.

I'm going to assume that, by now, everyone who is reading this who cares
to has probably already seen the movie, so I won't bother with a plot
synopsis. Suffice to say that, as an action-adventure movie set in a
"Mad Max"-like post apocalyptic junkyard world of rust and dust, it is
better and more exciting than most. The plot has some genuine pathos
and sentiment, although there are significant plot holes and other
anomalies. For example: 9 and the others are robotic in nature, with
(mostly) metal skeletons and electrical elements, so why are they
"injured" by damage to their rag-doll outer coverings, and why does
sewing them up make them all better? One could speculate about the
semi-mystical nature of their activation serving to integrate all their
parts into a whole, but the scientist responsible for them only leaves a
brief legacy message and doesn't go that far into hand-waving.

Like many other SF films, this one is heavily influenced by
"Metropolis," both in scene design and in theme: "The mediator between
the head and hands must be the heart," could have been found in this
script. The ending also follows that of Karel Capek's famous play
"R.U.R.", which is at least a fairly rare source to borrow from.

I don't want it to seem as though the film is terribly derivative, as it
isn't really. It's hard to put together a totally new work, and the
elements used here are combined in a fresh and interesting fashion. The
scene and character designs are effective, striking, and scary where
called for. Voice acting was capable, as it should be considering the
star-studded cast, although in fact Christopher Plummer as "1" was
really the only one that had a recognizable voice. (I was surprised not
to have picked out Martin Landau as "5", but he is more of a character
actor than people give him credit for--). There are some distinct
similarities between the roles of 9 and Frodo Baggins, but Elijah Wood
could have been any young male with a sincere delivery in the part.

Assessment: Enjoyable if light; worth seeing perhaps more than once to
catch background details and references. Despite the "cute" designs of
the robots, the 'evil' machines are scary and action intense, so
probably not suitable for the very young.
9:01p
Coco Before Chanel

Tuesday night, the 3rd, we went to the Downer Theatre to see “Coco Before Chanel,” (“Coco Avant Chanel”) to see the new biopic starring Audrey Tautou as the iconic modiste in her early years.

As the film opens, we see two sisters, Gabrielle (“Coco”) and Adrienne being left off at a convent run orphanage from a farm wagon, as casually as dropping off two bags of groceries. Only later do we figure out that the driver, who never looked back, was the girls’ father, never to be heard from again. It is implied, though never stated, that this callous abandonment shaped Coco’s sometimes harsh, but always fiercely independent, character.

Next we see the grown Gabrielle (Tautou) and Adrienne (Marie Gillain) on their own, augmenting their seamstress’ salaries by singing in a café and passing the hat. They have hopes of getting a “gig” as we would call it, in Paris, but the plan falls through when Adrienne goes to live with an admirer, “her Baron”, in hopes they will marry.

(Rather spoileriffic discussion follows--)

<lj-cut text="Read more">

Coco tries auditioning on her own with no success. Instead of returning to the provinces I defeat, she shows up on the doorstep of her own follower, Étienne Balsan (Benoît Poelvoorde), and essentially invites herself to stay. Shortly, she becomes the mistress of Balsan, a wealthy man of leisure, and the stay becomes long-term. It is from this section of the film that I think criticism of the film that it is “slow” arises. I think the average viewer might be impatient to see how Chanel actually gets into the business of fashion and builds her empire—but that is not what the film is about. Instead, during her up and down relationship with Balzan, who is alternately charming and crass, we see the subtle development of tastes and influences that would shape her later style: borrowing men’s tailored clothes and pajamas, the boat-neck jersey, the “boyfriend” sweater; eschewing corsets; inventing the “little black dress.” Her dislike of belle époque fru-fru gets her a foothold in the fashion world, designing more streamlined and elegant hats for Balzan’s friends such as actress Emilienne d'Alençon (Emmanuelle Devos), and her second lover, Arthur “Boy” Capel (Alessandro Nivola), sets her up as a milliner when Coco declines to follow him to England and life as a mistress following his marriage to an English noblewoman.

This is a remarkable, if low-keyed, acting job by Tautou, who currently owns the “gamine” franchise. She can look pinched or pretty (depending on how hollow her cheeks look--) and her eyes sulky or sultry with equal ease. She is well supported by Poelvoorde, who portrays a frivolous and shallow man who nevertheless has real sentiment, cares deeply for Coco, and suffers her loss to Capel with a philosophic sportsmanship that is uniquely French. Costuming and sets are of course very carefully done, and the movie is peopled with a characterful supporting cast. As with most biopics, facts have been changed for dramatic purposes, but, from what I can tell by comparing with easily available biographical material, not overly much.

(Note: Probably not coincidentally, Audrey Tautou is the current “spokesmodel” for perfume Chanel No. 5, following such stars as Marilyn Monroe, Catherine Deneuve, and Nicole Kidman.)




9:02p
"9" (the animated movie)
Tuesday night, the 10th, we caught up with "9" at a local budget theatre. We would have been willing to pay regular prices, but just couldn't fit it in during first run.

The beginning of the plot has some parallels with one of those stories where the protagonist wakes up amnesic and has to figure out what's going on. The fact that there's a dead man in the room when "9" comes to fits right in with a Mickey Spillane thriller, except that 9 is a foot-tall robot who's just been activated and there's no obvious cause
of death for the mysterious dead man on the floor.

I'm going to assume that, by now, everyone who is reading this who cares to has probably already seen the movie, so I won't bother with a plot synopsis. Suffice to say that, as an action-adventure movie set in a "Mad Max"-like post apocalyptic junkyard world of rust and dust, it is better and more exciting than most. The plot has some genuine pathos
and sentiment, although there are significant plot holes and other anomalies. For example: 9 and the others are robotic in nature, with (mostly) metal skeletons and electrical elements, so why are they "injured" by damage to their rag-doll outer coverings, and why does sewing them up make them all better? One could speculate about the
semi-mystical nature of their activation serving to integrate all their parts into a whole, but the scientist responsible for them only leaves a brief legacy message and doesn't go that far into hand-waving.

Like many other SF films, this one is heavily influenced by "Metropolis," both in scene design and in theme: "The mediator between the head and hands must be the heart," could have been found in this script. The ending also follows that of Karel Capek's famous play "R.U.R.", which is at least a fairly rare source to borrow from.

I don't want it to seem as though the film is terribly derivative, as it isn't really. It's hard to put together a totally new work, and the elements used here are combined in a fresh and interesting fashion. The scene and character designs are effective, striking, and scary where called for. Voice acting was capable, as it should be considering the star-studded cast, although in fact Christopher Plummer as "1" was really the only one that had a recognizable voice. (I was surprised not to have picked out Martin Landau as "5", but he is more of a character actor than people give him credit for--). There are some distinct
similarities between the roles of 9 and Frodo Baggins, but Elijah Wood could have been any young male with a sincere delivery in the part.

Assessment: Enjoyable if light; worth seeing perhaps more than once to catch background details and references. Despite the "cute" designs of the robots, the 'evil' machines are scary and action intense, so probably not suitable for the very young.

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