Strong Female Leads (4)

Elle + Julieta= Who needs Hollywood?

Elle (French for “she” or “her”) “is a 2016 psychological thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by David Birke, based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Djian. Djian’s novel was released in 2012 and received the Prix Interallié (National Literary Award). The film stars Isabelle Huppert as a businesswoman, Michèle Leblanc, who is raped in her home by an unknown assailant and plots revenge.

The film is Verhoeven’s first feature since 2006’s Black Book, and his first in the French language. It premiered in competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival where it received critical acclaim.Elle won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Foreign Language Film; it was also selected as the French entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but was not nominated. At the 42nd César Awards, the film received eleven nominations.

Huppert’s performance was widely acclaimed, considered to be one of the finest of her career and she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also won several awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress, the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, and the Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Actress.”

Wow a fantastic return to form for neglected filmmaker Paul Verhoeven. Originally conceived as a Hollywood production, Verhoeven and writer Dijan shopped the script around L.A.but were turned down by every major actress. So the pair turned to Europe and when financing came through Verhoeven was to have to rise to the challenge of working in an unfamiliar language: French.

However the turn of events seems to have been a good turn really.

With the aid of stellar actress Isabelle Huppert and a fine supporting cast, Verhoeven weaves Dijan’s story into an intricate neo-noir infused with unexpected developments and a strong flavour of black humour.

Complimented by a haunting score from Anne Dudley ,as well as inventive editing and cinematography, Elle turns out to be perhaps the best film of Verhoven’s career and a top work in the rather extensive credits of Isabelle Huppert.

So who needs Hollywood, really? As the Oscars proved  once again…

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Julieta “is a 2016 Spanish film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar based on three short stories from the book Runaway by Alice Munro. The film marks Almodóvar’s 20th feature and stars Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte as older and younger versions of the film’s protagonist, Julieta, alongside Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta, Darío Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner and Rossy de Palma.

The film opened on 8 April 2016 in Spain to generally positive reviews. It made its international debut at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, where it was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or, and was released across the world throughout the remainder of 2016. Julieta has grossed over $21 million worldwide.

It was selected by the Academia de las Artes y las Ciencias Cinematográficas de España as the Spanish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards, but did not make the shortlist.[2] It was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language in addition to receiving 4 nominations for European Film Awards and 7 nominations for Goya Awards.”

This new flick left me pleasantly surprised. I will admit to not being the biggest fan of director Almodovar so I went into this screening as an aside really. But what unfolded was a  wonderful film chronicling the life of Julieta, with all it’s trials and tribulations.

Based on the writings of Canadian author Alice Munro- this is a understated and engaging woman’s story(s) , with some nourish elements woven in . Women are at the focus of this film and its greatest strength.

Julieta is one of the best films  Almodovar has directed , and another strong European feature that exists outside of the mainstream American industry

The Zookeepers Wife+Toni Erdmann= pedestrian filming in a rapid era

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The Zookeeper’s Wife “is an upcoming 2017 British-American war drama film directed by Niki Caro and written by Angela Workman, based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Diane Ackerman. The film stars Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Michael McElhatton and Daniel Brühl.

The film is scheduled to be released on March 31, 2017, by Focus Features.
A true story about the Warsaw Zoo keepers couple Jan and Antonina Żabiński, who saved many human and animal lives during World War II by hiding them in animal cages.”

I had a chance to see this at a preview screening at the TIFF Lightbox theatre in late January. Jessica Chastain is shooting a film in Toronto and was invited to screen the film and chat about it (and her career) . Unfortunately the audience was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but hopefully enough time has elapsed, for me to comment?

This was a big disappointment, based on a very interesting and real story from WWII Poland. Bland, predictable, simplistic filmmaking. And the Polish characters all spoke English in some strange faux-Eastern European accent which really took away from the screening.

Fans of the book may enjoy this but it’s a miss for me I am sorry to say.

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Toni Erdmann is a “2016 German-Austrian comedy-drama film directed, written and co-produced by Maren Ade. It stars Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller.

The film, which premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival,[5][6] was named the best film of 2016 by Sight & Sound and other respected cinema magazines.[7][8][9]

It has been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards.[10] It won five awards at the 29th European Film Awards: Best Film (a first for a film directed by a woman), Best Director, Best Screenwriter, Best Actor, and Best Actress.[11] It also won the European Parliament LUX Prize.[12]”

I was underwhelmed by this film- it had some very funny moments but seemed stilted and awkward to me. A 2 1/2 hour running time for a one note film is a little rich I would say as well:) Not much of a work of cinema, Toni Erdmann had a very plain and MOW look and feel to it… the German film from the previous year Phoenix, was a far superior film.

Really don’t get the accolades, did I miss something?

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