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Posts Tagged ‘Mathieu Amalric’

Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh

“AT ETERNITY’S GATE” My rating: A-

110 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-12

Epically poetic yet aching personal, “At Eternity’s Gate” may be the best film ever about Vincent  Van Gogh.

For that matter, it is among the best movies ever made about a visual artist. Undoubtedly much of the insight and emotion radiating off the screen can be traced back to writer/director Julian Schnabel who was, of course, a famed painter long  before he began  making films.

Visually lush and aurally haunting, “At Eternity’s Gate” follows Vincent through the last year or so of his life.

It is told in fragmented fashion, with scenes built around a series of dialogues between Vincent (Willem Dafoe in the best performance of his career) and others: his supportive brother Theo (Rupert Friend), his combative fellow painter Paul Gauguin (Oscar Isaac), a fellow patient in a mental institution (Niels Arestrup), a disapproving priest (Mads Mikkelsen), a sympathetic physician (Mathieu Amalric).

And when he’s not talking, this Vincent is painting, creating before our eyes the colorful masterpieces that would not be appreciated until long after his death at age 37. A good chunk of “At Eternity’s Gate” is devoted to following Vincent on his nature walks, easel and canvasses strapped to his back, head shaded with a floppy straw hat.

This is a transcendental Vincent, a man who stands in the sunshine with his arms outstretched, smiling ecstatically at the light that bathes him.

Our first encounter with this Vincent, though, occurs in darkness. We can only hear his voice. He’s talking about loneliness, about how he feels set apart from the rest of humanity: “I just want to be one of them…I’d like them to give me some tobacco, a glass of wine, or even ask: ‘How are you?’…from time to time I’d make a sketch of one of them as a gift.”

The key to Dafoe’s inspiring, heartbreaking performance is the way in which Vincent’s almost religious love affair with the world’s beauty is undercut by his sad “otherness.”  Most people don’t like him. They make fun of him. His eccentricities, poverty and neediness bring out the worst in his fellow man. (An art dealer of my acquaintance once explained that “Everybody wants a Van Gogh in their dining room; nobody wants Van Gogh in their  dining room.”)

Thus he’s an apologetic mystic, aware that he rubs others the wrong way, but unable to escape the almost epileptic thrall into which he is forever being plunged by the beauty of the world around him.

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Quentin Dolmaire, Lou Roy-Lecollinet

“MY GOLDEN DAYS”  My rating: B- (Opens April 15 at the Tivoli)

123 minutes | MPAA rating: R

First love can be tough. If we’re lucky we can look back on it with fondness, even while acknowledging how we screwed it up.  Sometimes things go south and it’s really nobody’s fault.

Arnaud Desplechin’s “My Golden Days” is a sequel to his 1996 breakthrough film “My Sex Life,” in which he gave us his big-screen alter ego, Paul Dedalus (Mathieu Amalric), a young intellectual  juggling several women.

The new film opens with Paul Dedalus (Amalric once again) returning to France after living most of his adult life in Russia.  Before he can get into the country, though, must have a sit-down with a government security man (Andre Dussollier) about why according to passport records he’s been living the last three decades in Israel.

This leads to the film’s first flashback, a bit of mini-espionage in which the teenage Paul (Quentin Dolmaire) used a high school field trip to the U.S.S.R. to smuggle documents to Jewish refuseniks.  He even gave his French passport to a young Jew his own age, and that man used it to relocate to Israel.  This segment plays like The Hardy Boys Do James Bond.

Once that business has been cleared up and the middle-aged Paul is free to reenter France, the second and more substantial of the film’s flashbacks kicks in.  In this one Paul is a college student who on a weekend break to visit his family falls for one of his younger sister’s friends, the pouty/sexy Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet).

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"Zonad"...it's not another "Once"

“Zonad” (Now available)

Everybody who follows pop music has heard of the one-hit wonder.

Same thing can happen in movies.

A couple of years back Irish filmmaker John Carney had an international hit with “Once,” a modest mini-musical about a Dublin street busker who falls for an immigrant girl.

They end up making beautiful music together…so beautiful that “Once” won the Oscar for best original song.

I loved “Once”; thought it may have been the year’s most satisfying film.

But Carney’s followup, just out on DVD, suggests that “Once” was indeed a one-time-only deal.

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