June 6th, 2011


Wednesday, June 1st, we went to the Oriental Theatre to see the new French film, "Potiche". We were very interested when we heard about this movie, which stars Catherine Deneuve as a woman who is the wife of a man (Fabrice Luchini) who manages a French umbrella factory.

Robert (Luchini) was given part ownership and management of the plant as his wife’s dowry, and his don’t give an inch management style is proving harmful in a number of ways. When a labor dispute over working conditions turns into a wildcat strike, Robert loses control, assaults a worker, is taken “hostage” by the strikers, attacks his own son who tries to mediate, and eventually suffers a mild heart attack, which takes him out of the management of the plant for his health. By the time he has recovered and is ready to take up the reins again, he finds that Suzanne (Deneuve) has, with the assistance of the Communist party Mayor and Deputy Babin (Gerard Depardieu), settled labor issues, turned the old dingy plant into a clean bright workplace, and, with the assistance of her son and daughter, expanded the firm’s markets and product offerings. Robert wants his old job back, but Suzanne isn’t ready to relinquish it, which sets off a power struggle that unearths a lot of hidden past for the characters.

The title, “Potiche,” literally translates as a “vase”, but the term “trophy wife” is used in the subtitles. This is a bit different meaning of the phrase than we are used to: in this context, “potiche” means something that is put on the shelf and looked at, but not used. It is this sort of life that Suzanne breaks out of: she has convinced herself that managing her home, enjoying her grandchildren, and writing poetry are ample compensations for the loveless and sexless state of her marriage.

“Potiche” is a comedy and comes out with a positive ending, but it is striking how much of the theme and situation is shared with Tilda Swinton’s tragic “I Am Love.” There is a great deal of story in this film, as we work out the relationships between Robert, Suzanne, their children, Babin, and Mlle. Nadege (the factory secretary and Robert’s mistress, played by Karin Viard), with a number of surprises and twists. Very enjoyable all around.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/185143.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

On Saturday, June 4th, we took in the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise: On Stranger Tides. This movie adapts plot elements from the Tim Powers novel "On Stranger Tides," which impressed me, since I was rather surprised anyone in the Hollywood movie world would even be familiar with Power's work. Altough Powers is a well-respected writer, his novels are almost uniformly grim, dark, and take comittment to read--not exactly commercial or light family fare. However, given the frequently creepy elements of the last couple of "Pirates" film, the graft took.

PotC: On Stranger Tides brings back Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), and Gibbs, Sparrow's long-suffering mate (Kevin McNally), adding a new cast of characters including Ian McShane as "Blackbeard, the pirate all other pirates fear," and Penelope Cruz as his daughter, Angelica. Add to this a mixture of scruffy pirates, imperious Spaniards, sinister voodoo men, and man-eating mermaids, and you have a typical, but fun, Pirates thrill ride. The first portion of the movie is almost entirely composed of one fight or chase after another, glued together with just enough plot to keep it together. Once the parties get started on the three-way race to the Fountain of Youth (foreshadowed at the end of "PotC:At World's End") the movie settles down into a bit more sedate storytelling, allowing the audience to enjoy both the fantastic setting and the special effects.

Depp, Rush, and McNally give us what we have come to expect: the feckless but lucky Sparrow, leering Barbossa, and stalwart Gibbs. McShane as Blackbeard is a more human version of Davy Jones, set not on being evil just for the sake of it, but on avoiding the prophecy of his true death. Cruz is Blackbeard's long-lost daughter, who appears to have conceived a feeling for her parent far fonder than that she has for Sparrow, her one-time seducer. A nice little sub-plot is allowed to develop involving Philip (Sam Clafin), the good man Blackbeard keeps around to torment, and "Syrena", the young mermaid captured by Blackbeard. There are enjoyable cameos by Richard ("Vernon Dursley") Griffiths as a sporting King George II, and by Dame Judi Dench as a lady whose carriage ride is interrupted by the irrepressible Captain Jack, which add to the fun.

If you liked Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3, you'll like number 4. if you didn't--you won't.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/185410.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

HBO; "Game of Thrones"

Sunday the 5th, we got together at the residence of Tim Kozinski to view the first five episodes of HBO's "Game of Thrones," the television adaptation of the first volume of George R.R. Martin's unfinished epic, "A Song of Ice and Fire." (Tim gets HBO and has the shows bookmarked on his DVR--.) We were very pleased with what we saw. Comparisons that we have heard saying that this is to television what "The Lord of the Rings" was to cinema may be apt.

Production values are very high. Everything looks undefineably right for a world like ours but not ours, with a history going back thousands of years, but which has not progressed beyond a high medieval culture due to periodic setbacks--decades-long winters and mad rulers among them.

Casting is, in our opinion, superb. Sean Bean is the big name in the cast so far and he is very fine as Eddard "Ned" Stark, but the real gems are the Lannisters, Lena Headey as Queen Cersei, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jamie the Kingslayer, and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion, "the Imp." They are all marvelously good. Headey is beautiful and treacherous; her character lies as naturally as breathing and makes you believe that she believes it while she is saying so. Dinklage is perfect as Tyrion; he delivers the barbed wit given him by the screenwriters with naturalness, spontanaety, and irony. Coster-Waldau's lopsided grin clues the viewer that Jamie is just as great a mocker as Tyrion, but more dangerous since Tyrion hides nothing, but Jamie hides what he is from everyone around him except his sister. This is important since the Lannisters are some of the longest-surviving characters in the novels so far and it's good to know the parts are in good hands.

The other long-term survivors are the Stark children, Sansa (Sophie Turner), Arya (Maisie Williams) and Bran (Issac Hempstead-Wright); Jon Snow (Kit Harrington; and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke); and all these young people seem to have the next generation well in hand.

Basically, everyone we have seen so far looks good, acts well, and is well turned-out. "Adult language" and blood and gore are used sparingly. The sex scenes are a bit gratuitous although brief--a bit eyebrow raising in that a) all the prostitutes are uniformly young and good-looking, and b)a particular position seems to be the default everywhere from Winterfell to the Dothraki Sea, but that may be intended to point up that this isn't our world.

Definitely worth watching (for adults). We look forward to seeing more.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/185625.html. Please comment there using OpenID.