a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Paris’

“Bernhardt/Hamlet” She’s great. The play is not.


A theater goddess walks among us. Clearly, British actress Janet McTeer is one of the greats. Anyone who saw her “Doll’s House” back in the day can attest to this. Anyone who sees Theresa Rebeck’s half-baked “Bernhardt/Hamlet” will wonder why this acting colossus is attempting this pygmy play.

And of course, the answer is “There are no great parts for women.” Or few great parts as the play makes abundantly clear. Over and over and over again. Pedantic, didactic and I agree with playwright Rebeck’s conclusion. And frustration. But the means she uses to execute her thesis, and this is a thesis play. Collegiate. If she were in college, and she wrote this at the time she was in college, say roughly the 1970s, it may have seemed like something sparkling and new, but as “Bernhardt/Hamlet” as presented on Broadway by the redoubtable Roundabout, it is trite, trite, trite.

However the sublime Janet McTeer makes you almost forget all these things. Almost. If  Hamlet was a vivacious housewife who just solved her servant problem.And she is surrounded by some of the best young actors working today. Dylan Baker, Matt Saldivar, Nick Westrate and main among them, Jason Butler Harner. And they are all defeated by this mediocre material that the Roundabout is trying to foist on us as a silk purse, when it’s really the sow’s ear. Or in this case, the entire sow.

McTeer is a gargantuan presence. She is six-foot five at least, with the deepest and most resonant of voices. She has played many, many male roles herself, recently a remarkable Petruchio, in the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park’s all female “Shrew” a few seasons back. And on-screen she was the transvestite lover of Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs.” So she is no stranger to cross-dressing. Nor, evidently, was the diminutive  Bernhardt, who was barely five feet.

Considered to this day, the greatest actress of the 19th century, she was a dyed-in-the-wool eccentric. She slept in a coffin. She had a leopard for a pet, and wore a hat made out of bats’ wings. The only way we non-time-traveling mortals can experience her greatness today is by reading about her in the many, many books and biographies of “La Divina” as she was known. And the contemporary reviews of her critics. Don’t forget the critics! George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde both adored her and wanted her in their plays.

None of this is in “Bernhardt/Hamlet.” Rebeck the writer makes her seem smaller than life and seems to have tailored this play as simply as a vehicle for the dynamic McTeer. Who deserves to have plays written for her. Just not this one.

She seems like a socialite, a gad-fly, someone who likes to have a beer and pal around with the guys, rather than sleep with them. She had many, many lovers and yes, McTeer kisses Butler Harner (As Edmund Rostand) again and again and again. As if to prove some kind of heterosexual point.

The great French playwright wrote “Cyrano de Bergerac” for her, but the part of Roxanne is hardly what you remember Cyrano for. And she chastises him, but he doesn’t make the part any better, and she still continues her affair with him. And yes, they kiss and they kiss and they kiss at every opportunity. Rebeck even presents us with Rostand’s wife,(Ito Aghayere) who in a very bizarre scene, seems to condone the affair, but that’s about as eccentric as this earth-bound Berhhardt is allowed to get.

Rebeck  has made the great Bernhardt seem very everyday as an actress. She seems remarkably superficial, constantly complaining the Shakespeare’s greatest play had too many words  in it. And constantly going “up” (forgetting her lines) in rehearsals, which this Bernhardt seems to treat as a schlog and a joke.

Ah! But then McTeer is allowed to do “Hamlet” straight on, it is just wonderful. And a great gift to those who witness it. There are only TWO niggardly moments that Rebeck allows her to play Hamlet at full throttle..

At the beginning of Act Two, she gets to do the entire “What a piece of work is man” scene with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. And she and Dylan Baker play the Ghost scene as if it were a love scene and it works. (pictured above^)How it works! These two moments really are worth the price of admission. I just which we had a chance to see the great Janet McTeer do ALL of the real Hamlet and not just this shoddy imitation.

And would that the witty and wonderful late playwright Wendy Wasserstein was still with us. SHE would’ve made Bernhardt scintillating, rather the mundane feminist Rebeck leaves us with.

Elizabeth Williamson, new Associate Artistic Director, Hartford Stage

It is my great pleasure, dear readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of theatre to introduce you to the very exciting and dynamic Elizabeth Williamson, the newly appointed associate artistic director of the Hartford Stage. Elizabeth has studied in London under Mark Wing-Davey, who is now the Head of NYU’s great Grad Acting program, and also at L’Ecole Jacques le Coq theatre in Paris, as well as being the Dramaturg at the Hartford Stage under the direction of Darko Tresnjak.

Elizabeth was the dramaturg and very involved with the development of Matthew Lopez’ new play “Reverberation” which I liked so much when I saw it in Hartford earlier this year. Her parents were both poets and she has a very bright future in the American Theater in front of her.

Of Two “New” French Musicals on Bway, “Gigi” Bubbles to the Top

Gigi 1Of the two “brand new” French musicals on Broadway, “Gigi” is by far my favorite of the two. If I had to pick. And I do. This being theater awards season and all.

I just loved “Gigi” more than I did “An American in Paris”. Both opening inexplicably within days of each other on the Great White Way. And both based on the Oscar-winning movie musicals, both set in Paris, both directed by the great Vincente Minnelli, and both films starring the ever-soignee Leslie Caron.

I was utterly captivated by this “new” “Gigi” now starring the tiny little Disney starlet perky Vanessa Hudgens. I was really ready to not like what this revival of “Gigi”, one of my favorite films of all time, portended. A French “High School Musical” which is Ms. Hudgens’ prior claim to fame.

But it completely captivated me.  Why? Well, it was almost like discovering a new Lerner and Loewe musical from when they were in their prime.

“Gigi” was based originally on a novella by the great French writer Collette, which was then turned into a play(without music) starring the young and then-unknown Audrey Hepburn. It was a hit in 1951 and launched Hepburn’s career..

Then Vincente Minnelli and Lerner and Loewe decided to musicalize it  this time as a movie, and voila! It won NINE Academy Awards including Best Picture, and was an international hit movie(as was “An American in Paris” also a superb film, but more on that later.)

THEN, in a little-known side-bar to American Musical Comedy history, it was made into a Broadway musical adding in more music in the early ’70s with Alfred Drake and Agnes Moorehead and it flopped. Taking with it some wonderful songs “Paris is Paris Again”. “A Toujours”, “I Never Want to Go Home Again” and more.

Not to be heard again, until now. This current “Gigi” has got a lot of very good things just right. It’s got a je ne sais quoi adaptation  by Heidi Thomas, who has captured the great elan this souffle MUST have. She has retained all the famous numbers, but er, re-arranged them all over the place.

Giving songs that were sung by Maurice Chevalier, for instance, “Thank Heavens for Little Girls” to the non-pareil Tony Winner Victoria Clark. Clark is having ANOTHER great Broadway moment as Mamita, the role made famous in the movie by legendary British comedianne Hermione Gingold. Clark, also scores with a solo that was formerly Gigi’s, “Say a Prayer.” Her role as Gigi’s gran-mere is emphasized here and her golden soprano used to perfection. This version of “Gigi” seems to be being told from the grandmother’s very sympathetic point of view.

Of course, you really have to squint in the  delightfully dark Belle Époque settings of Derek McLane ( atmospherically lit to perfection by Natasha Katz, who also has lit “An American in Paris”!) to see that “Gigi” is the story of a young girl being raised by her grandmother and aunt to be a high-class prostitute. The Disney-i-facation is apparent here, because it’s so subtle, so INFERRED. A tween Hudgens fan, might rightly assume the Gigi’s gran-mere is overly concerned with getting Gigi a very nice apartment.

Victoria Clark is mightily aided in this dramatic re-interpretation by the delicious Dee Hoty as Gigi’s Aunt Alicia, and Clark’s sister-in-crime. In fact, they BOTH sing “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” the first time we hear it. And we hear it a lot. It is to their vast credit that “Gigi” is as witty and insouciant this time around. The duo never cease to delight and surprise.

Keeping up the male end of things is the incredibly agile, incredibly young and incredibly short Gaston of Corey Cott. Ms. Hudgens, as I said, is quite tiny, too, so they seem made for each other. Playing a world-weary bon-vivant is a bit of a stretch for youngster Cott ( a 40-something Louis Jourdan played him so memorably in the movie), but Cott is just right here in joining in the joie de vivre of Mamita and Gigi as they (and then all of Paris) celebrate “The Night They Invented Champagne.”

Cott also hits a dramatic high-point, this time on a moonlit park bench, with the title song “Gigi.”

Far less successful is the unfortunate Howard McGillin, who has to fill Chevalier’s huge Gallic shoes. His & Mamita’s “Yes I Remember It Well” is sung with an umbrella in a rain shower. It was all wet. He seems to be apologizing for his performance every time he steps onstage.

But McLane’s setting, Katz’ ever-versatile lighting and Catherine Zuber’s exuberant costumes carry along youngsters Cott and Hudgens til, yes, we watch them grow up right before our eyes, as they become the stage stars they have to be to make this “Gigi” work. That’s not the original Collette’s plot, but it is enjoyable nonetheless.

I love Old Fashioned Book Musicals, with characters rather than concepts,and heavenly music that bubbles you out the door, and if you do, too, “Gigi” is the new-old musical for you.

Mesmerzing”Maigret” French TV series now out on MHz DVDs!

Rarely, have I ever stumbled upon a new fictional detective that has totally mesmerized me. Full disclosure, I’m sort of obsessed by Agatha Christie and her great detectives Hercule Poirot and esp. Miss Marple. At last I’ve found some one new, who is quite  obsession-worthy  It is the late great French writer(Belgian born) Georges Simenon and his legendary police commissaire detective Jules Maigret. New to me, but well-known to millions of readers and viewers, esp. in Europe.’

Out now in a marvelously entertaining DVD set released by MHz videos, it features “Maigret” as played by the late great French actor Bruno Cremer, who is well into his 70s when he shot this wonderful series that ran for more than a decade on French TV. And how lucky the French are to have such a high quality TV series running regularly! Most American Network TV is a vulgar joke by comparison.(I’m not counting the excellent work now done on Cable. Like for instance, “Breaking Bad.” But it’s Cable and I don’t get AMC!! )

The Maigret novels have been filmed many, many times  in Europe on TV and in film, but I can’t imagine any of these incarnations beating Cremer’s Commissaire and this flawlessly executed, beautifully filmed TV series.

Subtitled, mais oui, it is always a brain teaser, and very atmospheric, as it takes you back in time to 1950s Paris, where Maigret, a very dogged police inspector, who does everything by the book ( if he can ) plies his trade, pursuing criminals of all social strata and bringing them to justice. As boring as this methodology seems, “Maigret” is never dull pour une instante!

Oui, he’s a for-real policeman, le vrai chose, and Simenon celebrates the French gendarmes at every turn. His Maigret is not a private detective like Poirot or Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe or Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade or an amateur sleuth like Miss Marple. Maigret is actually a commissaire or commissioner of the Paris “Brigade Criminelle.” There are no flatfoots or bumbling gum shoes here, as there always are in Agatha Christie. Policemen are shown to be intelligent, hard-working, admirable and relentless in the pursuit of crime. Simenon shows them as objects of great respect and not derision.

And Maigret, who simply smokes a pipe throughout almost every episode, is the most intelligent and sterling of them all. Like the also pipe-smoking Sherlock Holmes, like all classical detectives, he’s observant and diligent to a fault. Nothing and no one escapes his seemingly casual glances. So you have to be truly as on your toes when you watch it, as he is, watching and listening carefully to everything. And what a Gallic joy that is!

Seventy-five novels and twenty-eight short stories about Maigret were published between 1931 and 1972. Georges Simenon wrote over a hundred novels and is considered one of France’s greatest and certainly most prolific writers of the last century, but Inspector Maigret was by far his most famous and widely beloved creation. There is a statue to George Simenon, mais oui, bien sur, in France, and also a statue to Maigret in Belgium! Are there any statues to Hercule Poirot lurking about the English countryside? Not that I know of.

Like Christie, each mystery is its’ own perfect stand-alone box of tantalizing puzzles. And one of the delights of this TV incarnation is its’ setting in ’50’s Paris. In  Parisian environs we don’t usually see in French films, so it all feels wonderfully classic and also refreshingly new at the same time.

Each episode of “Maigret” is like its’ own little movie, and the mysteries are almost always impenetrable to all but Commissaire Maigret.

Bruno Cremer’s height and girth and his low, rumbling, grumbling voice are perfectly suited to Maigret. He lumbers when he walks, has a police office that is notoriously untidy and has a distinct dislike of stairs. All traits I found impossibly endearing. His Maigret like all iconic roles in a great, perfectly cast performer’s hands is mesmerizing and you keep wanting to go back to him and see MORE. And MORE!

And with this new series of DVDs from MHz Networks you can! There is also now an MHz TV station in many cities. Check your local listings.

I’ve watched many of the MHz” Maigret”episodes twice. Indeed, the stories are so complex and the characters so deftly drawn,marvelously performed  and thoroughly French that you can’t wait to go back to them as see them re-watch again.  And warning, they’re addictive. They’ll grow on you.

All the actors were new to me (and I watch a lot of French movies!) very talented, and perfectly cast. One in particular whose intriguing name was Remi Martin, was notably good in “Seven Little Crosses”, as a distraught father of a missing child.

As Maigret and the entire Parisian police force, track the little boy as he runs about Paris breaking the glass on police call boxes, another peculiarly French anachronism, the sound of a person running and breathing heavily, is then slowly followed upon by shots only of the school boy’s feet running, running…Classy, eerie, as is the marvelous sound track by  Laurent Petitgirard.

It is a sweltering August Bank Holiday in pre-air-conditioned Paris. And is Maigret on vacation? Non! And he makes sure his entire staff is out sweating and tracking the murderer of old ladies who live alone. Who seems to be a prototypical serial killer.

Another episode that I enjoyed was “Maigret at L’Etoile du Nord” a hotel near the Gare du Nord train station. This time it’s Christmas and it’s snowing. And Maigret isn’t taking off for une Joyeux Noel. As he says, “Murderers don’t take off for the holidays.”

Another favorite quote, Maigret grumbles “I hate solving murders in hotels. You never know where to start!”

And he’s invariably calling the always unseen Madame Maigret, his wife, and apologizing for missing his train.

But don’t miss this delightful series of classic French thrillers!

And newsflash! “Maigret” and many other international crime-soliving TV series can be found on http://www.mhznetworks.org! Stay tuned, dear readers, dear cineastes, for the latest updates on these marvelous European TV series that I like and you might, too!

Video

Brady Corbet & Director Antonio Campos talk sex scenes in “Simon Killer”, Pt.2

As Brady Corbet & his director Antonio Campos talk about the many and varied sex scenes in this chilling erotic thriller”Simon Killer”, guess what? The interview heats up, too!

Interview with “Intouchables” co-director/writer Olivier Nakache

The Intouchables” the first Weinstein Co. Oscar seeker is out in theaters this week and “The Intouchables” French film director/writer Olivier Nakache was in town to talk about its chances, his heavily buzzed Senagelese star Omar Sy and its’ incredible box-office triumphs all across Europe. It’s the highest grossing film in French cinema history. Will the same lightening strike in America? I sat down with him and a translator to talk about it in the Weinstein Co.’s offices in Tribecca in French and in English, bien sur.

Stephen Holt: In The New York Times, film critic Stephen Holden said that there was going to be an Oscar campaign for Omar Sy? (pronounced “See”) Is that true? Is this happening?
Olivier Nakache: Yeah. Maybe. (SH laughs) It depends.
Translator(translating from his French): It’s in the process of being decided.
ON: Yeah, yeah. But I think, yes. I think maybe the Weinstein Company wants to play the game of the Oscar with Omar. But last year you have already all these French guys. I think the French cinema is in great shape. Great shape.
SH: Pourquoi?
ON: Because now you have a new generation of French directors.
SH: Exactement.
ON: And we are very close. Because…Michel Hazanviscius, we are very close.
SH: I interviewed him, too, and I told him he was going to win the Oscar and he was like “Quoi??” He didn’t know what hit him. And I was right!
(Both laugh)
ON:Yeah, can you imagine? But if I told you one year ago the subject of our movie, if I told you – OK, I’m Michel and “I want to make a movie in black and white about American movies, with no dialogue.” I said, “Are you crazy? It never works!” And if I told you that I wanted to make a comedy about a quadreplegic man(Francois Cluzet and a man from the ghetto(Omar Sy), a comedy. (you would say) “Quit! Buy a bakery and stop! Quit the cinema!”(SH laughs) Je crois que l’audace payee.
Translator: The audacity pays off.
SH: Oui, d’accord.
ON: It’s original. It’s new. It’s not Number Two, Number Three or a sequel or a prequel, you know what I mean? It’s new. It’s Fresh air.
SH:Unique.
ON: Oui. It’s unique. It’s fresh. It’s fresh. And for “The Intouchables,” I think that people are touched by the fact that it’s a tough subject, a deep subject, but we put humor on it so il fait le subject a peu legee.
Translator: It makes those issues lighter.
ON: Lighter, but (pounding his fist) strong!
SH: D’accord, encore une fois. So, the sucess of this film in France and all across Europe, it’s incroyable!
ON: C’est incroyable. C’est vraiment le mot, incroyable. Terrific. Amazing. Unexpectable. Y’know, because we knew that we got something special for the movies. Because we made in France, and I think the same thing in the U.S., we made a big tour before the release to –
Translator: To start fires everywhere.
ON: En francais, aussi, la bouche a oreille. Do you know this expression?
SH: Non, non.
ON: La bouche a oreille.
Translator: Word of mouth. From mouth to ear.
ON: Mouth to ear. And you can imagine, for this movie, c’est tres important.
SH: And also, the challenge is unique, because he can’t move. Francois Cluzet’s character can’t move. He’s a quadreplegic millionaire in a wheelchair. So you have perhaps a very stationary, static situation, for a film. It’s more like for a play. But you never think of that in this movie.
ON: Of course. But we want to show this comedy like a drama, and we thought how can we be –
Translator: How can we pace the film?
ON: The rythmn is really important, (Snapping his fingers) because he won’t move. And around him, there is great, great movement
.
SH: Yes. It never stops.
ON: That’s why when Phillipe hire(s) Driss(pronounced “Dreees”) in the scene in the office at the beginning of the movie, Omar moves. He moves a lot. Move. Move. We don’t want just a scene with two people –
SH: Sitting down, yes.
ON: During all the movie, we knew that we (snapping his fingers) have a fast edit, movements, music, to create movement around somebody who can’t move.
SH: I just missed your directing partner, who just took off for the airport. We have to mention that you just didn’t do this film by yourself. And his name is -?
ON:My partner? Eric. Eric Toledano.
SH: Do you do certain parts of the film, and he does others? How does that work? Is it difficile? Simple?
ON: To make a movie, it’s difficile.
SH: Oui, oui. C’est vrai.
ON: We learn together. We began together. And we move forward together. We write the script together. It’s our fourth movie.
SH: Wow.
ON: So it works. It works. I think maybe one day, one will want to do something alone, but the other (one of us) will not be far.
SH: Formidable.So, you both discovered this very strange topic, and it’s based on a true story?
ON: Yeah, yeah.
SH: And you discovered it together on French television?
ON: Yeah, exactly ten years ago, I saw a documentary. Very tres tard de la soiree.
Translator: Very late at night.
ON: Very late at night. And I text to Eric, “Put your TV on, please.” And we saw this documentary “A La Vie, A La Mort “and I phoned to him “Do you think what I’m thinking?” And he said ” Yes, I am thinking what you’re thinking. It’s a great story for a movie.” But we were too young. We were not mature. We, at this time, we never make a feature film. We just make short movies.So we wait to learn the tools of the cinema. We wait –
SH: To grow up.
ON: To grow up And also, we met Omar
.
SH: He’s incredible.
ON: We wrote the script for him.
SH: Oh! Ah, vraiment.
Translator: And if he told them, “I am not interested, they would not have made the movie.”
SH: RIght. Wow! Wow. Is he an established actor? Is he known in France?
ON: Not as a actor. He’s known. He’s really, really famous as a comedian.
SH: Like Jean Dujardin is.
ON: Not really Not really not like Jean Dujardin, because Omar has got his own TV show.
SH: Oh!
ON: But a tiny TV show. Really tiny ten minutes each day. It’s a daily show. With a partner. It’s a duet.
SH: Doesn’t Jean Dujardin do that with his wife? Also? A ten minute comedy show each day?
ON: Ah! Kind of. But not really. Not really.
SH:Let me tell you an interesting story about the Rendez-vous (with French Cinema. In March) I was interviewing everybody and I was very involved with Jean Dujardin and I loved “The Artist” and this was right after it and Jean won the Oscars, and all the other actors there, the big French stars, they were so jealous. The men. They were tres jaloux. And they were like “But he is just a comedian! He is not an actor!” And again, this is the success of another French comedian in America. Omar, I mean. It’s looking like it.
ON: A lot of actors come from Saturday Night Live here.
SH: That’s true. OK.
ON: It’s exactly the same for Omar. Omar is a kind of Saturday Night Live. Because it’s not like Jean Dujardin, because his show, it’s like a fiction. With a woman.
SH: It’s a sketch comedy show, Jean Dujardin’s show. With his wife.
ON: Yes, a sketch. Omar talks directly to the camera, to the people, about politics, about the scene.
SH: What’s the name of Omar’s show by the way?
ON: It’s difficult to say in English.
Translator: Customer Service. Post-Sale Service.
SH: (laughs) That’s so funny.
ON: He critiques the other TV (shows), the politics, and what is happening in the world. So he can talk about Obama, and he creates characters. It’s very different.
SH: What is the racial situation like in France? Since America is so hung up on race. The racial situation I think historically in France for black actors, like for instance Josephine Baker in the ’20s. There was no prejudice, nothing. It’s different.
ON: But you have to know that in France, I hope I am clear. In France, you have the immigrants, les emigres et les francais. In America, you have black people and Americans. Mexicans and Americans. In France, that is the same group. You know what I mean? They don’t live in a special community. They don’t live in a special part of Paris. They live in the housing projects.
SH: There’s no ghettos, in other words.
ON: It’s ghettos, but not for one community.
SH: It’s for all foreigners?
Translator: All foreigners. It’s like a melting pot. Where they’re all together.
SH: In these ghettos.
Translator: Projects.
SH: Projects, yeah. There are black and Hispanic and Asians all mixed in here in the projects, too. Americans will sort of go to, relate to the black and white theme here, too.
ON: The black and white thing. We have not the same history that you have. In France, we have emigre people.
Translator: Immigrants.
ON: And the French. The second generation,like me, because my parents were born in Algeria and Eric’s parents were born in Morocco, but we are French.
SH: So you have a very,very deep connection with this topic.
ON:We have a special history in France. We have the colonization. My parents were French, because Algerians were French. But for us, we call us les jeunes de banlieue.
Translator: Young people from the projects. It’s a social group.
ON: A social group. Banlieue. The suburbs. The housing projects.
Translator: Banlieue translates as suburbs.
ON: You know in the real story (that this film is based on), it’s an Arabic person, Abdel, the real character.
SH: Yes, I noticed that at the end of the picture. You showed the real people this film was based on, Phillipe Pozzo di Borgo and his caretaker, Abdel.
ON:But for a French audience, it’s exactly the same. Driss is from Senegal, but it’s exactly the same. It’s les jeunes de banlieue. Omar’s got the same past as Abdel. Omar came from the same type of housing projects.

Heat Wave in New York continues. Dangerous to even go outside!

The stiflingly hot record heat wave continues to suffocate New York City, and most of the rest of the country, making it too hot to even go outside. Just stuck therefore INSIDE, where the air-conditioning is.

I can’t ever remember it being so hot that going outdoors was dangerous. It must’ve been over 110 degrees in the part of town I live it. The last time I was able to go out, and live to talk about it was several days ago when it was ONLY in the 90s.

The air was like breathing poison. The pollution of a thickness it was almost liquid. You could smell it and taste it. Awful.

Have had to cancel nearly all appointments.

I did however see TWO movies at Press Screenings on Thursday, the last time I ventured out. “The Whistleblower” and “Gun Hill Road” both of which I thankfully liked. So it was worth the trek through the crowded mid-town streets.

But yesterday, Friday, and now today, Saturday, it’s just frighteningly hot. Even crossing the street seems impossible.

The power grid, as they keep referring to it on the TV, is pushed to the max. The TV weather says it’s “ONLY” in the 90s today. Ugh! I’m a prisoner of Zenda, as the old saying goes.

I’m reading David McCollough’s entrancing “The Greater Journey” about the Americans who traveled to Paris in 1830-1900 and the immense impact Paris had on their lives. LOVE IT!

And am preparing via email and phone for my own great annual journey to the Montreal Film Festival in about a month or less. It’s earlier this year, which means I’ll be going to Montreal and then coming back to New York. Then having a break from I head to the Toronto Film Festival in September.

I keep projecting forward, thinking of those wonderful COOLER places in Canada, where I’ve gone now for 12 straight years. CAN NOT WAIT! Wish I was in Canada NOW! It’s got to be cooler up there, right?

This heat seems never-ending.

I see “Midnight in Paris” for the SIXTH time!!!

I can’t help myself! I can’t believe it! I never see movies more than once, usually, but SIX times! This amounts to an obsession. But a lovely one.

“Midnight in Paris” is so entrancing, so enthralling I keep going back to see it again and again and again. And again and again and again.

Why am I doing this???

As I bought my ticket yet again(also something I NEVER do, being a film critic, if I don’t see it at a press screening, I usually don’t catch up with it til it’s on DVD) and I was a little late, and I told the woman that that was Ok, because I’d already seen the movie five times. And she said “Is it THAT good?” Absolutely astonished.

Yes, it’s THAT good.

It’s also just not me who’s seeing it in this monumental terms. People all over the world and flocking, making it on track to be Woody Allen’s greatest grossing movie of all time, but also, perhaps, too, SONY PICTURES CLASSICS greatest grossing movie of all time.

And the Academy is certainly going to take notice of this, as I’ve said before.

Could it win Best Picture for Woody? Who hasn’t had a Best Picture win since “Annie Hall” way back in the deep, dark ’70s….

Could the Woodman score again?

With these numbers(and yes, I admit to driving them up, but if I’m going back to see it again and again, others must be, too) With this immense popularity(it’s playing in theaters a Woody Allen film has never played in. EVAH!) Oscar can’t really ignore it.

But more pertinently, what may it be up against in the final show down in November/December?

There’s Stephen Spielberg’s upcoming movie version of the Tony winning Best Play “War Horse” and there’s also David Fincher’s remake of the Swedish movie, a classic to some(me included) “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

I think Woody’s feel good “Midnight” might actually beat these two, if it keeps going the way it’s going. And yes, it is STILL going.

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was the other top grosser that Sony Pictures Classics has that “Midnight in Paris” has to unseat and it looks like it’s going to.

CTHD got nominated for Best Picture, too, that year, but didn’t win.

Frankly, it’s charms eluded me. I’m not that into Kung Fu, or whatever it was they were doing in that movie.

Though I liked the first Kung Fu Panda.

But “Midnight in Paris” is a delightful film. Delight. A very, very rare commodity these days. And charming. And well, even exceptionally acted.

Sony Pictures is going to do an Oscar campaign for leading actor Owen Wilson, and he just may score a nomination. Yes,even for a comedy. He shows Cary Grant-like chops in this movie. Sublime comic timing, and a character every one in the West Coast dominated Academy can relate to, a surfer dude-like sell-out.

Leading men who can carry a spritely comedy like this and pull it off so delightfully(there’s that word again) are rare, rare, rare in H’wood these days.

He’s made many,many movies. Has a multi-billion dollar franchise at Number One right now. “Cars Two” (and no, I’m not rushing to see it). So he’s everywhere this year.

But back to repeat showings. Rachel MacAdams’ family and she herself become more and more genuinely loathsome upon repeat viewings. And Marion Cotillard grows in beauty each time.

At one point, I think it’s the great Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein, who says in one of the pivotal scenes in the film, “She has one of the great faces” and she does.

Bates’ Stein is berating Picasso, who has painted a ridiculous abstract portrait of Adriana, Marion’s character, and says he has not grasped the essence of her beauty. She says in French that it is “plus subtle” and Picasso has made her look like “a whore in the Place Pigalle.”

Seeing “Midnight in Paris” so many times means it becomes like seeing an old friend. It’s comforting. It makes you happy, as good friends ought to do. And also a continued inspiration.

I just love it to pieces and I bet the Academy is going to, too.

“Midnight in Paris” FOUR Times now!

Dear Cineastes, dear readers, dear theatrelovers of literature, yes, it’s true, I’ve seen “Midnight in Paris” four times now! And I’m cautiously looking forward to a fifth! As a film critic, I NEVER see movies more than once, especially movies that I’ve liked and this one, actually, loved. “Midnight in Paris” is a runaway hit at the box-office and it has run-away with my heart *sigh*

Will it prevail at the Oscars? Well, one indication, besides the ENORMOUS box-office it is now doing is that my webmistress Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone over at the only-place-to-be-on-the-Internet www.awardsdaily.com has put “Midnight in Paris” up on her awards tracker in the Best Picture category, as well as Best Director and Best Original Screenplay categories! This is serious, but of course, wonderful!

Why is this significant, at this early a stage, you may well ask?

Well, initially Sasha, who was famously, marvelously in Cannes for the second year in a row, this time with her daughter Emma (NOT the actress Emma Stone of “Easy A”) saw many, many films there and was more impressed with many of those other films to the extent that she wasn’t writing much about “Midnight in Paris.” But NOW SHE IS!?! Just like I am!

So her latest post which is as lovely and evocative as the picture itself, is now up, where in she posts a podcast of an extended interview Woody himself gave to Scott Foundas, David Edelstein & co. She accompanies this marvelous chat with a very forthcoming Woody, with a gallery of stunning stills from the film.

I so tech-tarded I have not yet learned how to bring those lovely pictures here. But they are so beautiful, this may motivate me to finally figure out how to do it.

Each time you see a movie that you’ve previously seen is pretty much a different experience.

And when you see “Midnight in Paris” with an audience that gets the jokes, the references, it’s just heaven. But if they don’t and they don’t laugh, then it’s another experience entirely.

One late night showing, they didn’t laugh at THOSE jokes, but they did laugh at other spots. Like for instance the future in-laws, the Tea Party Republicans, and Inez (Rachel McAdams) and the relationship jokes, THAT they got. Mimi Kennedy, as the prospective mother-in-law is particularly hilarious as she keeps looking Owen Wilson’s character right in the eye and dead-panning some of the films funniest lines, like “Cheap is cheap.”

But check out that podcast at Sasha’s. Particularly interesting is his description of Owen Wilson, his lead this time, and he goes on and on and on about him. Oscar hopes for a Best Actor nom? He treats him like he’s one of the great screen actors around today. And in Woody’s hands in “Midnight in Paris” He is.

He also mentions “the young actor who plays Hemingway” But doesn’t name him. But all you dear cineastes who keep reading this blog, even though I STILL don’t have pictures of the movies to go with it, know that Hemingway, who is clearly a stand-out in the Supporting cast, is Corey Stoll. An NYU Grad acting grad.

And Woody refers to him as “very charming” even though he thought basically that Hemingway was a “boor, a bully” and a general all around awful person.

Strangely he doesn’t mention ANY of the magnificent actresses in “Midnight in Paris” which is really odd, though he does mention the character of Zelda Fitzgerald, but again, not the actress, Allison Pill, who plays her so beautifully.

“I don’t know if she was as crazy as I made her moment to moment,” he says. He also notes that he was writing about the popular perceptions of these characters rather than anything like researched materials. It seems he’s done none of that. It’s all his emotional response to movies about Paris which as he describes it is “The City of Love.” But doesn’t name which movies inspired him, although “An American in Paris” is obviously a major influence. Oh wait a minute! No. He DOES mention “Gigi” and the era of La Belle Epoque. And how these were times “You would not want to have a burst appendix and go SLOWLY to the hospital in a horse-drawn carriage!” And they all laugh. Woody can’t help being funny, even when he’s deadly serious.

Seeing it so many times, you start to notice the rich, rich detail of the superb art direction of Annie Seibold. Like in Gertrude Stein’s(Cathy Bates, another Oscar slam-dunk for a nod, I think, and even a possible winner. In Harvey Weinstein’s hands, she would FOR SURE be nominated a win!) In Gertrude Stein’s famous salon, there ARE those famous Picassos on the wall behind her, including his portrait of her.

And Alice B. Toklas? Well, she opens the door to Hemingway, who brings Gil(Owen Wilson) to Stein’s salon for the first time and Hemingway exclaims heartily “ALICE!”

Then Alice disappears from view, played by an unknown French actress, she doesn’t have any more lines, but she is seen with someone of indeterminate gender knitting in the background of another room, as Bates’ Stein intones one of the great speeches in the film about art.

I could go on and on and on. And I probably will. It’s a long way to the Oscars, but “Midnight in Paris” is going there. Just ask Sasha.

Woody hasn’t had a Best Picture nomination since the ’70’s and “Hannah and Her Sisters” which garnered many nominations but landed a double win in the Supporting Categories for Dianne Wiest and Michael Caine!

Corey Stoll you better get your tux ready and Cathy Bates, your gown, madame! I know you already have an Oscar for Best Actress for playing the pyschos of pyschos in Stephen King’s “Misery” but get ready, milady, you may be going to do it again!

Woody Allen’s Masterpiece “Midnight in Paris” Sublime! Sublime! Sublime!

I cannot remember dear cineastes, dear readers, dear theater lovers of literature, when I have been so completely, so  madly, so deliciously transported by a new film. And that film is the much hyped Cannes opener “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen, 77 and now at the absolute height of his immense creative powers. “Midnight in Paris” left me gasping with delight. It’s his latest masterpiece and may simply be the best film he’s ever made.

It’s so delicious, so delightful, so funny, so superbly acted, and brilliantly written and directed. It’s the first film that I’ve seen since “The King’s Speech” that transports you to an absolute height of cinematic euphoria. And Oscar’s gonna go there, too.

I am so sure that the little Golden Guy is going to be happily boarding that magic carpet ride in the form of a 1920’s roadster that whisks our hapless hero, a frustrated screenwriter and Woody stand-in(natch), Owen Wilson, who turns out to be at the height of HIS career as an actor,  in this film, too. Oscar will clamour aboard that flying flivver and happily take it right to the Kodak Pavillion next February, which is where this film is surely going to end up.

With nominations galore. A comedy winning anything from the Academy is always going to be a fight.

However, the Academy has always loved Woody and they’re going to REALLLLY love “Midnight in Paris”. Woody is such Oscar catnip, it’s almost ridiculous.Oscar considers Woody in a class by himself, so many of his films have been nominated and won! Well, no, that’s not true. I think the only time he won Best Picture was for “Annie Hall” decades ago.

But his actors have continued to wrack up Oscar after Oscar, most notably and most recently Penelope Cruz, in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” which this film resembles. “Midnight in Paris” is shot entirely and beautifully in Paris in the daytime and at night, and France and specifically Paris has seemed to have had the same wondrous effect on Allen’s creativity that Barcelona and Spain did with “Vicky Cristina”

“Midnight in Paris” is just suffused with the golden glow of romance that is true love  (in this case, the love of France and all things French) that is so palpable, it seems like it was shot through a lens covered with honey. And written in a Proustian fever dream. But a reverie only of all things light and sweet.

It’s such a charming  love poem to the City of Lights, it’s irresistible. It sends you into a Rapture.

And what a cast! And How many Oscar winners are there in this one film! ? It’s like the word went out and Allen got the dream cast of his career!

Oscar winner Marion Cotillard has never been lovelier or sexier or more captivating. She plays the love object, the muse of Picasso, Modigliani and nearly every other artist of the past two hundred years, and Mlle. Cotillard, so so sensual and intriguing,completely vulnerable, effortlessly enchanting, but so mysterious, you can see that, yes, she could easily have inspired all these great artists that the film claims she has.

Her incredible character named Adriana is one of Allen’s greatest creations. And in writing a love poem to Paris, he’s embodied that romance in one woman, Adrianna, and Cotillard is so delightful, and endearing and sublime, you just can’t wait til her character comes back onscreen and into the story once again.

It’s one of the most challenging roles that Allen has ever written for a woman and the most complex, and Cotillard meets every challenge stupendously. She has to, for the romance of the film to work. She is Paris. Paris is love. So therefore the glowing Cotillard is Paris personified.

She is WOMAN. All the women who have inspired the greatest of artists, and Cotillard shows you quite simply and quite beautifully that yes, she is all that. She’s certainly inspired Allen to heights he’s never really hit before. A great film maker meets the great screen actress in the best role he’s ever written for a woman. Will Oscar take note? I think so. I hope so.

You come out of the film raving about Cotillard as if she were the essence of all the best in French art and culture, and in this film, she is!

Her only petite problem is that she’s won so recently for “La Vie En Rose” playing an indelible Edith Piaf.

Acting in her own language, it seemed impossible that she, an unknown French actress, would win the Oscar for Best Actress. But I predicted she would. Could her Adriana do the magic hat trick of another win? Depends upon whom she’s up against, but I would be shocked if she wasn’t in the running, dismissed as simply a great beauty playing a great beauty.

Wilson, too.

Owen Wilson is so good in this film that you can’t believe it’s Owen Wilson.

But he is and he’s just terrific, and perfectly cast as a WASP neurotic from Pasadena. Wilson’s West Coast-ness takes away any of the memories of the many previous iterations Allen has wrung upon the character of the hung-up writer. This time a dissatisfied, but commercially successful screenwriter, with an even blonder fiancee, who’s a bit of an hysterical bitch, played by of all people, Rachel MacAdams, also at the top of HER game. She, too, is a revelation.

Oh, and did I forget to mention how funny all these characters are? And yes, they are. Very, very funny. You’ll be quoting the laugh lines for the rest of the season.

Academy Award Winner Adrian Brody does this best work since “The Pianist” as of all people Salvatore Dali! In a very brief cameo, he keeps repeating. “Dali! I’m Dali!” and when Wilson’s Gil explains his time-traveling problems, Brody as Dali quips, “It’s perfectly normal. You are from another century, yet you live in this century.” And Luis Bunuel, who’s sitting with them, mais oui, says to Dali, “Of course you think it’s normal, you’re a Surrealist!”

And Marion’s Adrianna is restless, perpetually bored with Paris in the 1920’s. “There are too many Americans here!” or exasperated with Pablo, “Picasso is impossible! He will never have a successful relationship with a woman!”

Hallucinating Wilson keeps having his big blue eyes popping out of his head, like some great silent screen comedian, as he channels, Chaplin, Oliver Hardy, Harold Lloyd…amazingly…yes, it’s the VERY unlikely Owen Wilson, making us laugh and moving us so magically. He’s playing straight man as it were to Cotillard’s muse, MacAdams’ bitchy fiancee and a supporting cast of unparalleled splendor.

Main among them, as I’ve noted in a previous post, newcomer Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway, who just about walks off with the film, and probably an Oscar nomination. And so to may Kathy Bates as a marvelously sensible, warm-hearted Gertrude Stein. “Our house is open to every artist! All are welcome here!” she intones with such bonhommie, you want to move right in to 23 Rue de Fleurus and never leave, which clearly Allen wants to do.

Who but Woody Allen would make Gertrude Stein the most reasonable and warm center of a filmic masterpiece. Which is what “Midnight in Paris” is.

I see Nominations for Best Picture. In a field of ten, a sure bet. Best Director, possibly, for Allen. FOR SURE a Best Original Screenplay and this is it’s almost sure WIN. Yes, I’m saying it now.

They’ll nominate the living daylights out of this magnificent cinematic achievement. Starting with Darius Khondji’s marvelously seductive, luminous cinemtography of the City of Lights, the stunning production design by Annie Seibel that is literally out of this world (and several others) and the sumptuous costumes by Sonia Grande, who makes Mlle. Cotillard comme il faut tous le temps, but it’s the hilarious, moving, beautifully written screenplay that really does leave you gasping with astonishment and delight. Woody Allen redeems himself mightily in “Midnight in Paris” and the many, many Oscars it will get nominated for, this astoundingly simple, but complicated and FUNNY screenplay is the most likely place it will be rewarded.

Also both Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard might be nominated for Best Actor and Actress. It depends on who they are up against. And if they are not dismissed ~ for being in a comedy.

And as I said previously the one with the most buzz out of  the Cannes Film Festival, which it opened, was Corey Stall as Hemingway. That would be in Supporting. And previous Oscar winner Kathy Bates could score ANOTHER Supp. Actress nomination for her lovable lesbian Gertrude Stein.

Gertrude Stein, lovable? Only in Woody Allen’s wild world!

Mesdames and monsieurs, les envelopes, s’il vous plait!

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