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Family holidays can be a tense affair at the best of times, Force Majeure focuses on a Swedish family off enjoying their skiing holiday in the Alps when an avalanche gets way too close to the restaurant they are eating at and they then have to deal with the fallout to unfortunate instinctive reactions.
Writer/director Östlund thankfully decides to mine this premise mainly for humour, pitch black humour and with great skill slowly builds a tightly wrought film. Every part of the film very feels very deliberately composed and planned out in order to squeeze the most out of every situation for all their worth. The two leads, Johannes Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli, pull off brilliantly judged performances and convey a nagging sense of unease and growing distrust with each other as they come to terms with the pretense of a happy family crumble around them.
The film also looks at increasingly ambiguous gender roles, be it within a marriage or relationship or within a family, particularly the role of protector, and also pokes fun at modern masculinity and male ego at every oppurtunity. Games of Thrones’ Kristofer Hivju turns up as Mats, a friend of the couple who gets dragged into their mess and ends up providing a good portion of the film’s laughs. The film also has one of the most interesting third acts I’ve seen in a while with a very curiously played out ending.
Country of Origin: Sweden/Norway/Denmark/France Duration: 118 minutes Cast: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren Writer-Director: Ruben Östlund Year: 2014
From the directors of the surprise worldwide hit, The Intouchables, comes the story of Samba Cisse (played by Omar Sy), an immigrant from Senegal who has been legally living and working in France for the last ten years and sending money home to his family. He is told his application for full time residency has been rejected. He seeks the help of a voluntary agency that helps immigrants deal with such issues and meets Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) an uptight newbie to the agency who tries to help him get everything he needs to stay.
Like the Intouchables, it’s a comedy that’s quite mainstream and sentimental but balanced with moments of drama and the audience I was with really went for it. Samba also has quite a few comments to make about the problems of France’s immigration policy and does so without hammering you over the head too much. The film caters for all of Omar Sy’s strengths, mainly his charm and his ability to deliver a gag well, but more surprisingly shows how funny Tahar Rahim (A Prophet, The Past) can be, he nearly steals every scene he’s in playing a fellow immigrant. The only real problem I had with the film is the ending which felt very rushed and a little out of tune with what went before it, but that’s only a slight snag and overall it was very funny and quite charming.
Writer-Directors: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano Year: 2014 Country of Origin: France Duration: 120 minutes Cast: Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tahar Rahim
Clouds of Sils Maria
Juliette Binoche plays an ageing actress, Maria Enders, who is asked to take part in a revival of a play that brought her fame years ago and initially hesitates because this time she’ll be playing the part of the older woman. Kristen Stewart plays Val, her personal assistant,who nudges her towards to doing it and when the two begin to work on the play running lines together suddenly their real life relationship is reflected to each other and becomes more clear. Grace Chloe Moretz plays the young Hollywood actress straight out of rehab who’s taking Enders’ old role, much to her chagrin.
The film is fine but felt overlong or stretched out in a lot of places and I personally didn’t really feel enough tension between the two leads and a lot of the conversations felt very stagey, which I know was intentional for the most part, but grated on me. I did enjoy the comments on Hollywood gossip sites and actors being judged on the roles they take, be it blockbuster or earnest dramas, but overall I couldn’t warm fully to the film unfortunately.
Writer-Director: Olivier Assayas Year: 2014 Country of Origin: France/USA Duration: 124 minutes Cast: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz
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