Children of Paradise (1945) had been on my “to watch” list for several years, waiting patiently for me to give it a chance. I knew it has been called both one of the greatest films of all time and the greatest French film ever, but I also knew it’s over three hours long. And in French.
I also know I am frequently an idiot.
But sometimes idiots take steps in the right direction. After watching the movie on FilmStruck recently, I posted on Twitter: “I just watched Children of Paradise (1945) on FilmStruck and my life will never be the same.”
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Produced by Saïd Ben Saïd and Michel Merkt
Screenplay by David Birke based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Djian
Cinematography by Stéphane Fontaine
Edited by Job ter Burg
In French with English subtitles
DVD – library (2:10)
“Fortunately I have faith. What’s it for if not to get through the tough times?”
These two lines come from two different female characters in two different scenes in Elle, a film that critic Sheila O’Malley at Roger Ebert.com calls a “demented and exhilarating experience” as well as “a high-wire act without a net.” A.O. Scott at The New York Times says “It’s a psychological thriller, a strangely dry-eyed melodrama, a kinky sex farce and, perhaps most provocatively, a savage comedy of bourgeois manners.”
After reading all that, you might wonder “Just what is this film?” Seemingly it cannot be any one thing. Elle comes from Paul Verhoeven, who’s delivered movies audiences typically either love or hate (RoboCop, Starship Troopers, Basic Instinct, Showgirls) and with Elle, he gives us yet another film that pulls no punches. No one is surprised that a Verhoeven film can be called disturbing, divisive, repugnant or offensive. Yet I think there’s something there – possibly several somethings – that deserve closer examination.
Mesrine: Killer Instinct (2008) Jean-François Richet
Music Box Films DVD, library (1:53)
Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (2008) Jean-François Richet
Music Box Films DVD, library (2:14)
In Mesrine: Killer Instinct we see the end from the beginning. In an opening that recalls the brief but unmistakable split-screen craze of 70s cinema, we see a man and a woman carefully exiting a Paris building, taking great care to make themselves aware of their surroundings. For several moments, these split-screen shots are photographed simultaneously from different angles, watching the characters’ every move, until an act of brutal violence ushers in what would normally serve as the finale of a crime film. Yet we’re just getting started. We never really understand why this split-screen technique is used until we arrive at the very end of the second film, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1, where we come full circle. In between these scenes lies one of the best crime films I’ve seen in a long time.