Posts Tagged ‘“Marguerite”’


109 minutes | No MPAA rating

“MADRE” (Spain, 19 minutes)

In this gripping nail biter form Spain a young mother (Blanca Apilanez) receives a call from her 6-year-old son, Ivan, who is vacationing with his father. (The couple are divorced or separated.)

Little Ivan is using his dad’s cell phone to report that he’s alone on a beach. He doesn’t know his location. His father left him there and hasn’t returned.

Mom keeps the boy calm; no doubt her ex will soon return.  But the situation quickly escalates when Ivan reports the appearance of a strange man who starts chasing him…

The direction by Rodrigo Sorogoyen and Maria del Puy Alvarado is like a precision watch wound to the breaking point; the tension generated by this setup is almost unbearable.

In fact, the pure storytelling is so overwhelming that it takes a while for viewers to discover that, incredibly enough, the bulk of the film is one uninterrupted shot  unfolding in Mom’s apartment.  The logistics of pulling off this tour de force are daunting. But “Madre” delivers.

“FAUVE” (Canada, 17 minutes) B

Two boys are roughhousing in what looks like an abandoned strip mine.  For several minutes they dare each other to do dangerous things, wrestle and climb over rusting equipment.

But then they find a manmade lake. It looks enticing…until they discover to their horror that the muddy banks are the consistency of quicksand and can quickly pull a child to his doom.

Jeremy Comte and Maria Gracia Turgeon rev up the tension and fear and leave us with a haunting depiction of a young life all but ruined.

“MARGUERITE” (Canada, 19 minutes) B+

The elderly Marguerite (Beatrice Picard) lives for the daily visits by her caregiver Rachel (Sandrine Bisson). But when she learns that Rachel is in a relationship with another woman it triggers Marguerite’s own memories of a stymies girl-on-girl romance from long ago.

This film from Marianne Farley  is a study in gentle revelation, a heartbreakingly tender look at the life that its protagonist might have had.

“DETAINMENT” (Ireland, 30 minutes) A-

Based on a 1993 murder case that rocked Great Britain, “Detainment” is a docudrama zeroing in on the police interrogations of two 10-year-old Liverpool boys who eventually were convicted of killing 3-year-old James Bulger, whom they kidnapped from a shopping mall.

The dialogue in Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon’s film was drawn almost entirely from the recordings of the police sessions with the boys, and what emerges is one of the most harrowing 30 minutes of cinema imaginable.

The young killers — interrogated separately but in the presence of their stricken and disbelieving parents — pose a perplexing contrast.

Jon (Ely Solan) is terrified and panic stricken, weeping helplessly in his mother’s arms. He paints himself as a victim of his partner’s malignancy.

Robert (Leon Hughes) is, by contrast, a psychopath in training, a defiant little shit who lies nonstop and uses mind tricks to try to derail the cops as they build their case. He says it was all Jon’s idea.

In all probability neither could have done it alone, but together the boys proved a lethal mix.

As ghastly and off-putting as this tale is, there is no question that Masters Hughes and Solan deliver two of the most amazing performances by child actors ever captured on film.

“SKIN” (USA, 20 minutes) B

The first moments of Guy Nattiv’s “Skin”  offer a touching display of family warmth.  A young boy, Troy (Jackson Robert Scott), is getting a front-porch haircut from his doting dad, Johnny (Jonathan Tucker). Then, with Mom (Danielle MacDonald), they drive out to the country with friends for a day of shooting up old cars.

Little Troy proves a crack shot with a rifle, much to his father’s delight.

Just one problem with this cozy scene.  Johnny and his pals are virulent racists.   We’d know that just from their tattoos, but that night upon returning to town they nearly beat to death a black man in front of his wife and children.

The friends of the victim seek revenge, not through violence (though they do kidnap Johnny right in front of his distressed son) but by using ink and a tattoo needle to turn the racist into that thing he hates so much.

With its emphasis on irony “Skin” plays a lot like an updated episode of “The Twilight Zone” or “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Its melodramatic elements almost go too far, but the performances keep it all in check.

(Interestingly enough, the short “Skin” is a companion piece to a feature film by Nattiv also called “Skin.” In the feature Jamie Bell portrays a real-life skinhead who rejected his racist upbringing and systematically had all his hateful tattoos removed.)

| Robert W. Butler

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Catherine Frot

Catherine Frot

“MARGUERITE” My rating: B+

129 minutes | MPAA rating: R

You can approach “Marguerite”  as a cruel joke, a satire of a wannabe opera singer who doesn’t realize just how awful her voice is.

Fine. Come to laugh. But you’ll leave in a much more sober and contemplative frame of mind.

Xavier Giannoli’s lush period film is set in the early 1920s and was inspired by Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944), an American socialite who despite a total absence of vocal talent forged a career as an operatic soprano. She became a minor celebrity based on the entertainment value of her off-key recitals.

Giannoli’s fictional “heroine” is Baroness Marguerite Dumont (a spectacular Catherine Frot), who as the film begins is hosting a charity concert on her estate outside Paris.  The highlight of the event will be a rare performance by the Baroness.

A tone-deaf, music-mangling performance, as it turns out, one marked by grandiose theatrical gestures and much caterwauling.

The members of the Mozart Society, which runs mostly on donations from the Baroness, applaud furiously. Others in the crowd — like Lucien (Sylvain Dieuaide) and Kyrill (Aubert Fenoy), two young artistic radicals who have crashed the party — are simultaneously appalled and delighted.

Kyrill declares the performance — and Marguerite’s total lack of self-awareness — a daring new art form (“She’s so sublimely off-key”).  Lucien critiques the concert for a Paris newspaper, parsing his words so carefully that it can be read either as a ringing endorsement or a devastating pan.

The ever-hopeful Baroness takes the review as proof that she should move her career out of the parlor and onto the world’s great concert stages. The plot of “Marguerite” is about her determination to share her “gift” with the world, and the efforts to prevent that great embarrassment.


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