Happy Monday everyone! Hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend.
I took a bit of a break from blogging this weekend, but this week has been pretty busy in terms of movie watching. It’s the last week of the MSPIFF 2014 and I saw three more films, one short of what I intended to see but fortunately there’ll be a press screening of Locke next Monday. As the film fest continues with Best of Fest screenings all week, there’ll be more reviews coming from both me and Josh 😉
Here are the three new movies I saw over the weekend:
I’ve blogged about All Things To All Men quite a while ago and finally it’s available on Netflix streaming. Remember how I always say some movies are well worth seeing just for the cast. Well, in this case, the ONLY thing worth seeing is the three actors: Toby Stephens, Rufus Sewell and Gabriel Byrne in that order [I’m having a serious crush on Toby, didn’t you notice?] Alas, the film itself left so much to be desired, and leaves me scratching my head why these actors signed on to do such a project. Did they lose a bet or something? I’m not sure I could even review it, but let me just say that unless you’re absolutely in love with any of the cast, I can’t exactly recommend it.
These two from MSPIFF, on the other hand, is well worth a look.
1,000 Times Good Night
Rebecca is one of the world’s top war photographers. She must weather a major emotional storm when her husband refuses to put up with her dangerous life any longer.
This is one of those dramas that at times play out like a thriller. Even from the first moments when the protagonist is witnessing a ceremonial custom of an Afghan suicide bomber being prepped for self sacrifice, it’s quite an emotional roller coaster all the way to the very last scene.
For Rebecca (Juliette Binoche), covering the war is not just a job, it’s her way of life. When she comes home injured from Afghanistan, it’s apparent that it’s just as tough for her family to deal with her dangerous job. It’s apparent that her husband Marcus is constantly worried sick for Rebecca and this incident puts him over the edge which compels him to give her an ultimatum. It’s her family or her job. At first I felt that it’s not fair of him to do so, but as the film progresses, we’re shown how her two young daughters are dealing with her absence whilst she’s away in a war zone. It’s a tricky dilemma that I find myself grappling with as I watched this film. I read that this film is semi-autobiographical as Norwegian director Erik Poppe was a war photographer himself. No doubt this story is quite a personal one for him.
The main quibble I have with the film is the slow pace. I don’t mind quiet moments on film, but at times it felt a bit too indulgent that it threatens to grind the film to a halt. The metaphor of Rebecca drowning/suffocating by her life dilemma also grows repetitive. But the cinematography is simply stunning, nearly every shot is like a work of art. It’s also very atmospheric and the conflict felt genuine. The sense of authenticity comes from a committed performance from the always-reliable Binoche, as well as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays her sensitive & caring husband. I’ve always been a big fan of Nikolaj from his short TV stint in New Amsterdam, long before he played Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones, and he proves himself once again to be a capable and versatile actor. Lauryn Canny as Rebecca’s eldest daughter Steph is also quite good. When they’re in Africa, something happened that was quite traumatic for Steph. Some of the most emotional scenes in the film feature the two of them.
The heart of the film is no doubt Binoche. She conveys so much even in scenes where no words are spoken. This is the first of two films I saw her in and she’s absolutely excellent in both of these. There’s a certain aura of mystique about her that seems unreachable, and she’s very convincing as an fiercely idealistic woman. There is a fine line between bravery and recklessness and I think this film often blurs that line. There is a hint at the finale where Rebecca is back in Afghanistan that perhaps she’s a changed person after what happened between her and Steph, but the film lets us interpret that for ourselves.
Words and Pictures
An art instructor and an English teacher form a rivalry that ends up with a competition at their school in which students decide whether words or pictures are more important.
Romance that’s sparked out of rivalry has been done many times before, but with the right cast, it can still feel fresh. The pairing of Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche is what intrigues me about this film and they’re still the reason to watch to movie.
Owen is Jack ‘Mr Mark’ Marcus, a gifted English teacher at an upscale prep school. His best days as a published author seems to be behind him and he’s got a drinking problem. Perhaps that’s a result of his disillusionment with his life, as he seems to have lost his mojo, as well as in danger of losing his job. Meanwhile, a renowned painter Dina Delsanto (Binoche) has just been hired at the school. Her nickname is icicle for obvious reasons, but her coldness seems to also stem from her disappointment that she can no longer paint as much as she did due to her server Rheumatoid arthritis.
The two couldn’t be more different from each other, but as they say, opposites attracts. It’s fun to watch Owen in a softer role like this where he’s not firing a gun every two seconds, but his intensity is still there as he bud heads with the school principal and board members. He’s a deeply flawed character and in the most vulnerable moments, especially between him and his estranged son, is where I enjoyed his performance most. I wish the film would focus more on these two characters, as all the drama with the students are not as intriguing to me, and they don’t really add much to the story. The whole school competition of Words vs Pictures is more of a personal *war* for Marcus and Delsanto, and though it’s predictable that they’d end up together, it’s still fun to watch their banters. I personally like the pairing of Owen and Binoche more than him and Julia Roberts in Duplicity, which I find rather contrived. The only other actor I like in this movie is Bruce Davison as one of the more sympathetic faculty members.
Binoche is lovely here and it’s a testament to her versatility that she is also very convincing as a painter. I didn’t know that she’s an artist herself but in the credits I noticed that the Delsanto’s work is by Binoche, wow! I think out of the two films I saw last week, her dramatic chops perhaps suits something like A Thousand Times Good Night better. I like the idea of two broken people finding each other and to see a romantic film between people over the age of 40. Alas, I think the ending is almost as rough as Owen’s unkempt stubbles. Even the finale of the competition just didn’t have the oomph needed to make the story soar. Overall it’s an enjoyable dramedy though, eons better than a lot of the rom-coms are churning out these days. If you’re a fan of these two actors, this one is definitely worth a look.
So what did you see this Easter weekend? Anything good?
37 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup & MSPIFF14 double reviews starring Juliette Binoche”
Hmm, not sure if I’m interested in seeing any of these films you saw there Ruth, maybe Words and Pictures since I’m a fan of Clive Owen. But he hasn’t done anything good in a long time, I hope some of the big named directors would hire him for their film soon. It appears that his window of becoming a big named star has closed, his last chance was the big budget King Arthur.
Did see anything over the weekend, just busy looking for a new place to live.
Hi Ted! If you like Owen then you should check out Words and Pictures. I like him in dramatic roles, I wish he’d do more of them. I think it’s good that he’s going the indie route, though I too wish prominent project is on the horizon for him.
Wish you well on your apt hunting, hope you’ll find a good place near Edina or St Louis Park.
Ha ha, I meant I DIDN’T see anything over the weekend. I’m actually looking for a house to rent, can’t fit my big screen in a tiny apartment. Also, I can’t turn up the surround sound if I live in a condo or apartment. And yes I’m looking in the Edina/Richfield/Bloomington areas, St. Louis Park would be my last option since most homes over there are old and many of them haven’t been upgraded in like 10 years and they’re quite expensive to rent!
Hi – Thanks Ruth for this fine review. I’ve been waiting for your review of Words and Pictures. I saw it more than a week ago at the Sarasota Film Festival. I gave it a 4.5 out of 5, so clearly I really liked it. I believe I labeled it Delightful.
I guess the differences in our ratings is that you gave the competition more weight than I did. You also took into consideration the ending which came quite easily for the two of them. The film ended, as expected, with Mr. Mark and Delsanto pairing up.
I was just swept along by this adult themed story. The side stories – the students, his job, his relationship with his son, his alcoholism, and Delsanto’s issues with her hands and joints yet there she is, still taking on the creative challenges.
To Ted – if you are a fan of Clive, then this is a film you should see.
Hi Mike! Y’know I was close to giving it a 4/5 but I felt that the ending was a bit disappointing. It kept it from being truly compelling but still delightful, like you said. I find the competition to be nothing but a plot device, esp that bit about the boy bullying the Asian girl. What I love is the relationship between two lost souls if you will, which both Owen and Binoche delivered in spades. So did you know about Binoche’s own work being used for the film? I thought that was cool!
So anxious to see the two Binoche films. We talked about her a bit earlier but she is always tremendous in whatever she is in. And then there is Clive Owen. I’ve always been a big fan of his and at one time he was quite popular. But he seemed to fall off the map for some reason. Really glad to see him and the pairing with Binoche has me really intrigued.
Good stuff Ruth.
Binoche is great in both. I think the first one where she plays a war photographer is a tremendous role for her and she’s perfect in it. I LOVE Owen in a dramatic role and he’s got a lovely chemistry w/ Binoche. Both are really worth your while, Keith!
Lovely, job Ruth. Clive is hot or cold for me, but Juliette Binoche always delivers. Both films seem intriguing enough.
Thanks Cindy! Which of Clive’s films that you didn’t care for? For me, it’s Shoot ’em Up, but fortunately that’s the only one so far. I haven’t seen too many of Binoche’s work but of the ones I’ve seen she’s lovely.
I was disappointed with him as Raleigh in Elizabeth II. He didn’t have enough ‘umph’ to create much chemistry with Cate Blanchett.
Oh really?? I was swooning over him actually. Sometimes he reminds me a bit of Gerry Butler and in Words and Pictures, because of his stubbles, he resembles him even more.
For the weekend, I saw Daisies, The Ten Commandments, Joe, and Under the Skin as it was a good weekend.
The Ten Commandments must’ve been popular this weekend. Wish they’d show Ben-Hur once in a while though. Still curious about Under the Skin but probably for rental.
Good reviews, Ruth. This weekend I watched Benny & Joon. It was just OK. I liked Johnny Depp, which hadn’t happened in a while, ha!
Ahah well Benny & Joon is pretty cute, surely better than Transcendence based on the reviews!
Yeah. That one’s been taking a beating! Bummer, since I expected it to be good 😦
Yeah but I’m not surprised tho, it’s such an ambitious film for a first time director. Pfister should start with something moderately-budgeted, I mean even Nolan started small before he made a blockbuster.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Binoche in something, the last movie of hers I watched was Cosmopolis but I see that she’s been a busy bee. Good reviews!
Binoche was in Cosmopolis? Wow I had no idea. Yeah I think she’s quite prolific, which is good as she’s so talented.
Well that seems like a good use of Nikolaj’s talent unlike this new Cameron Diaz movie Juliette Binoche sure seems busy, she is in that new Godzilla movie too, I think. A shame Clive Owen kinda fell off the radar lately, he has all those projects but they don’t seem to be getting much attention.
Yeah I know!! I refuse to watch The Other Woman, that rom-com w/ Diaz. Ugh, it’s painful to even watch the trailer. I might just rent it so I can just fast forward to Nikolaj’s scenes, ahah. I think since you’re a fan of his role as Jaime in GoT, it’d be a treat to see Nikolaj here.
Yeah too bad Owen fell off the radar but hopefully he’d make a come back soon. In the meantime, it’s lovely seeing him do dramatic roles like this though, instead of just vapid shoot-em-ups like Jason Statham.
Both of these sounds like good, watchable movies, thank you for reviewing them and bringing them to our attention. I agree with you ladies, I almost forgot Clive Owen was out there! For a moment he was the hottest thing. Hopefully he starts making some more movies. Also it is nice to see Coster-Waldau doing another serious role, considering he’s in that new corny movie with Cameron Diaz. I really hope he doesn’t turn into one of those types of actors… no!!!!!!!!
Coster-Waldau is such a good actor, wish he’d get a leading role in movies besides starring in GoT. Yeah, not really interested in The Other Woman tho my friend did say it was pretty funny.
You are right because everyone knows him from that, but if anything I think he is the type of actor who won’t get type cast. I just do not want him to make corny movies!!! Please please! Hopefully he won’t do what Matt McConaughey was doing for so long.
Hey Ruth, in your email you told me neither was great, but both were good. That’s what it sounds like reading these. Disappointing that the ending to the second wasn’t more satisfying. I do really like Binoche, (she won me over with Chocolat), so I’ll likely see both of them eventually. Great reviews!
Yeah she’s lovely in Chocolat. I think you’d like her in both of these, esp. the first one as she’s in it in nearly every frame.
Sorry for my absence of late, I’ve been quite happy to step back from the blogosphere of late. I’m only dipping in when I feel like it.
Interesting post, though. Two films I’ve heard very little about but I do really like Binoche so I’ll check them out.
Hello Mark! Always thrilled to see you stop by. Hey it’s totally ok to take a bit of break, we’ll be back reading yours whenever you’re ready to dip back in 😀
I think both of these would be worth your while, Mark, esp if you like Binoche.
I’m really looking forward to those Binoche films! 😀
This Easter weekend I ended up watching a slew of great 1993 films, such as Farewell My Concubine, In the Line of Fire, and Much Ado About Nothing, for my awards.
Your award thing is a cool idea, looking forward to seeing how that’s shaping up Josh.
Pingback: MSPIFF14: Third Roundup | jjames reviews
Excellent. You simply can’t go wrong with Binoche!
You got that right Mark!
Pingback: » Movie Review – Children of Men Fernby Films
Pingback: Thursday Movie Picks #33: All in the Family Edition – Mother-Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related) |
Pingback: Movies coming to Netflix in June – here are the ones I recommend & look forward to |