Intense, claustrophobic, gripping – a middle-class Syrian family are barricaded in their second-floor Damascus apartment as the civil war rages around them.
Every sound and movement outside the apartment is enough to cause panic. With her husband unreachable somewhere in the city, a deeply impressive Hiam Abbass (Lemon Tree, The Visitor) controls the household, consisting of her three children, father-in-law, the boyfriend of one of the daughters, the maid and a young couple with their baby, displaced from a top floor apartment in the building.
Director Philippe Van Leeuw (The Day God Walked Away) poses pertinent questions in light of extreme situations and limitations of reason and emotion as the family look to survive.
Screened in the Melbourne International Film Festival.
Extraordinarily, Marguerite is a second film based on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins (see previous posting here), dubbed ‘the worst singer in the world.’
This French version is ‘inspired’ by true events and takes considerable liberties. A wealthy French comtesse in the 1920s, Marguerite Dumont is certainly a terrible singer surrounded by sycophants and hypocrites. And a misconceived public recital leads to her death. But that’s about it in terms of following the life of the heiress and the plot of the ‘other’ film.
Directed by Xavier Giannoli (The Singer, In the Beginning), Marguerite is placed in the context of the emerging Dadaist art movement, lauded by some, abhorred by the establishment of which she is a part. Her obsession, bordering on madness, is superbly realised by award-winning Catherine Frot (The Page Turner, Haute Cuisine), oblivious as she is to the mutterings of her ‘friends’ to her off-key voice.
Marguerite is a celebration of the music beloved by the comtesse. She may murder it, but others around her do not. The film itself outstays its welcome and slips dangerously close to farce towards the end, but its sumptuous telling of the story and superb performances outstrip anything offered up its ‘competition’.
Stilted and stagey with no natural flow of rhythm or narrative realism. Emma Bovary may well have been in a stultifying marriage but it did not mean we had to sit through a stultifying film.
In spite of a powerful cast, including Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are Alright), Paul Giametti (Sideways, Cinderella Man) and Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spiderman, Anonymous), Madame Bovary is a major disappointment.
A superior slice of ‘everyday experience’, Two Days, One Night draws us into the debate unfolding on the screen. It’s another feather in the cap of the Belgian auteurs, the Dardenne Brothers, whose trademark exploration of social conscience results in natural and unsentimental features.
Given a weekend to save her job rather than a bonus payment to the 16-strong workforce, Oscar-winning Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose, Midnight in Paris) once again gives a powerfully convincing central performance.