There is a scene early on in Jesus of Montreal in which one of the characters performs a voiceover to a video depicting the Big Bang, and the inevitable end of the universe. The presentation is both scientific and philosophical, and all in all, quite moving. After he is done, the voice over artist turns to the sound technician and says, “Leaves a lot unanswered,” a question that not only addresses the cosmology at hand, but the nature of the human experience betwixt the beginning and the end. In many ways, the scene sums up the film: curious, introspective, and reverent towards scientific explanations and religious experiences.
The 1980’s was a time when style superseded substance; music, fashion, television and film all seemed more concerned about the way they looked- which is does not mean they had nothing to say. Granted, while some mediums of pop culture in this era were superficial, others used visuals to tell the story, but most were a little of both, and unabashedly so.
The “cinema du look” movement in France was a response to the French New Wave, in which filmmakers like Jean-Jacques Beineix, Luc Besson and Leos Carax favored experimenting with visual spectacle rather than with a film’s narrative. The result was the creative use of primary colors, lighting and mise en scene to create a world that spoke for itself. Amongst the first cinema du look films was Beineix’s Diva, which was made at the beginning of the decade and set the bar for the rest of the movement.
“Micmacs” is a French word similar to “knick-knacks”, as in “a little of this, a little of that.” In many ways, this describes Jean Pierre Jeunet’s latest film pretty well, as its made up of charming little ideas, yet doesn’t add up to anything all-too substantial.
Un Prophete, France/s entry to the Academy’s Best Foreign Film category, has been compared to The Godfather, a comparison that many will think presumptuous, undeserved or euro-centric. Though the film’s protagonist is no Michael Corleone, the rise of the film’s titular character is just as majestic and engaging as his Seventies, American counterpart.
Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) is a nineteen-year-old Beur (formal term for an Arab immigrant in France) living on the streets of France when he is arrested and given a six-year sentence. He has no family, no friends in or outside of prison and is illiterate. Needless to say, he has all the odds stacked against him.
Where does evil come from? A complex question with a number of debatable answers, no doubt, but in Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, the answer is simple: home sweet home.