Ma's View:

We saw this movie some time ago but were not inspired to write about it at the time.  Certainly it has a lot to say about morality and the almost impossibility for modern man (so dependent on creature comforts) to maintain this in the face of extreme adversity when it becomes "every man for himself".  On a more dramatic scale, it is Lord of the Flies revisited.

The movie is based  on the Pulitzer prize winning novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy - unfortunately we had not read the book which may have enriched our viewing somewhat.  Australian director John Hillcoat has produced a sombre portrayal of a post-apocalypse world where nothing grows and everything is in a state of destruction and chaos.  It is a 'dog eat dog' world where every kind of brutality is rife - violence, looting, rape, even cannibalism.  Through this hell, The Man and The Boy (no names are given for they are "everyman") try to make their way to a better life supposedly to be found in the south.  These characters are powerfully played by Viggo Mortensen (who starved himself in preparation) and  Australian child actor, Kodi Smit-McPhee (Romulus, My Father).

The most interesting aspects of the film are not derived from the dramatic and horrifying attacks the two face but from the examination of the relativity of morality - how do you teach a child right from wrong in such a world? how can he learn about beauty, music, nature, love?  when it comes to the crunch, could you kill someone in order to protect your child?  could you kill the child in order to protect him from a worse fate?  how can you teach him to kill himself if the necessity arises in the inevitable event you are no longer there?  Appropriately, it is the Boy who teaches the Man, for in his innocence, he maintains a trust and spontaneous generosity, almost recognising instinctively when some one is "one of the good guys".

Clearly, there are religious overtones and the movie is meant to depict man's road to salvation.  The father explains to the boy that they are the "good" guys because they carry "the Fire" within.  They will never do harm to another in order to survive; it is more important to preserve that inner purity.  You would not think that such a theme would lend itself to Coca Cola product placement, would you?  We found it profoundly offensive that it did!

The journey is long and arduous and so is the movie.  It is not for the faint-hearted and not for those who want it to be logical!  Why does the "saviour" follow them for weeks waiting for the Man to die?  How come he has a dog when they have all been eaten?  Where has he been finding his food to feed a family and a dog as well?  Where does he get all his ammunition?  I guess if we had been completely absorbed by the story, these questions would not have occured to us - but by then we had had enough!

My Score:  7/10

Pepe's View:

Yes we saw this movie more than a month ago and I wasn't going to write a blog as I disliked the movie so much but Ma insisted!  I am afraid the inconsistencies and illogicality in the movie just made me annoyed and I couldn't ignore them once I had started seeing them.  As Ma said, if the movie had grabbed us more we wouldn't have noticed these inconsistencies.  As for the Coke product placement - it was all the more obvious as it was the ONLY commercial product seen in the movie.  The man and boy discovered a drink machine in the ransacked city and the man pulled it apart to find the very last can of coke (in the world?).  The boy had not seen or tasted coke before and didn't know what it was and given that he was supposed to be about 10 or 11 years old we were left to believe that the apocolypse occurred some 8 years ago.  However, there were still major fires burning (for cinematic and dramatic effect rather than any logic!) all around.  I found it difficult to figure out if the disaster occurred in one big bang - nuclear war? or  society fell apart following a smaller event.  There were cars left in the middle of the viaduct as if abandoned but still intact which would indicate a major event but some houses were still standing and perfectly habitable.

All in all "Lord of the Flies" for adults but I felt it missed its mark by a long shot and any moral for me was lost in the unlikely dramatic structure of the movie.

My Score:  4/10


Pepe's View:

Welcome is another French movie being given a general release.  We saw this movie on 29 March at a World Cinema Screening which was a full house.  This film is extremely confronting, both because it deals with the issue of refugees in France that we are ignorant of, and because the issue resonates with our own refugee policies here in Australia.  The title "Welcome" is ironic as refugees passing through France and ending up in Calais trying to get across the channel to England are anything but welcome.  Although this film has caused much controversy in France as the French people are made aware of the treatment of these refugees, the director has indicated in interviews that his portrayal is in fact understated of the real situation.  The treatment of the refugees is reminiscent of both Nazi Germany and of the Stasi in East Germany. 

The movie involves a young boy, and Iraqi Kurd, who has travelled 4000km to France intending to get to England where his girlfriend is already.  He finds himself one of the 60000 or so refugees who have been in a similar situation since 2004 - unable to get across the channel except illegally by paying 500 Euros to people smugglers to hide them in trucks crossing to England. These trucks are the subject of intense searches at the border and almost all of the stowaways are caught and returned to Calais where they are left to live on the streets.  The people of Calais are prosecuted by police if they are seen to be assisting these refugees and volunteers who provide food and clothing are tolerated but treated with great suspicion by authorities.  Even shops refuse entry to the refugees so even if they can afford to buy food, they are excluded from doing so - similarly, they are excluded from the local swimming pool where they could at least get a shower.

The main protagonists of this movie are Bilal, played wonderfully by first time actor Firat Ayverdi, and a local swimming coach  Simon, played again very convincingly by Vincent Lindon.  Bilal decides that the only way to reach England and his sweetheart is to train at the pool so he can swim across the channel.  Simon is slowly drawn into helping and even more, caring for Filal, and all the refugees despite previously being ambivalent towards them.  Simon himself is going through a divorce from his wife, Marion, who is a school teacher who has been motivated to assist with the food kitchens set up by volunteers for the refugees.  It would seem that one of the isues between them is their involvement with the refugees and when Simon gets involved with Bilal, Marion finds new respect for him and is concerned for his safety.

Simon has been able to live in Calais while turning a blind eye to the suffering of those around him until he is confronted by a real person and then he finds he cannot ignore the plight of this person.  This is so true for most of us - we can ignore the plight of millions suffering around the world and in our community but will do anything to help a neighbour needing a hand.  We find it impossible to ignore the plight of a real person but can easily ignore the plight of a group.

This film is beautifully written and filmed.  It has beeen nominated for Best Director, best Film and Best Actor (Vincent Lindon) for the 2010 Caesars in France and deservedly so.  An extremely thought provoking film which makes us uncomfortable while entertaining and doesn't allow us to slide into escapism.

Score:   8.5/10

Ma's View:

Yes, Pepe has summed it up perfectly - the audience is confronted with the common humanity we share with these suffering "clandestines" to the very end of this superb drama.  Their dreams and aspirations are simple and exactly the same as ours - to lead a peaceful, happy life with their loved ones.

The dynamics of the relationship which develops between the 2 lead characters is central to the strength of this movie.  It is a study in developing recognition of a shared humanity; across the divides of culture and age, the swimming coach comes to care for the Kurdish teenager like a son, respecting his spirit and determination to swim the channel to reach the girl he loves.  Their common bond is that each is separated from the woman he loves, one by distance, the other by a fractured relationship on the point of divorce.

Filmed with almost documentary style realism in the cold, wet streets of Calais, the hardships of this tide of desperate people are depicted vividly, as is the brutally impersonal efficiency of the border guards who prevent their escape and prosecute locals who give them so much as lift in their car.  It crossed my mind that Britain must be financing this operation big-time to have French officials spend so much energy on it!

A wonderful film - in my mind's eye, I can still see young Bilal, a tiny scrap of humanity in the dark Channel among the tossing waves as a giant tanker bears down towards him - a symbol of how the cards are stacked against people like him.

My score: 9/10


Pepe's View:

We have been seriously slack about keeping up with movies and writing blogs.  We even missed writing  a blog of "The Road" probably partly because of the fact that I for one disliked it so much that I couldn't get motivated to write about it.  We even missed all the films from the French Film Festival due to other commitments.  We did however, catch up with two of them when they were given a cinema release following the festival.

"Mic Macs" we saw at a preview screening on 27 March and immediately regretted not making more of an effort to see  French films at the festival.   What is it about the French Film Industry that coninues to produce captivating, interesting and genuinely funny films in such a quietly understated way.  Mic Macs (I will leave the translation of the title to Ma) concerns a serious issue -namely the influence and unscrupulousness of arms manufacturers in the modern world.  However, this theme is given a bizarre almost Pythonesque treatment which in my opinion accentuates the issue.  The film involves a man - played beautifully by Dany Boon  - who loses his father to a land mine in a war (WW2? )  and then becomes collateral damage himself when he is accidently shot at work by a passing motorcyclist and because of his long recovery period in hospital loses his job and so finds himself busking/begging on the streets.  He has inherited a piece of the landmine which blew up his father showing the manufacturer's logo and has been given the shell from the bullet that remains logged in his body again showing the manufacturer's logo.  Pure chance brings him to a street where these two rival arms giants have their factories (across the road from each other) and he embarks on a plan to get revenge.

He meets up with a group of misfits that support each other and live in a cave fashioned from a pile of junk.  They spend their days gathering and recycling rubbish and helping each other.  They insist on helping our hero plan his revenge.  The revenge plan involves the two rival CEO's each thinking the other is sabotaging him and so they escalate their own payback. 

The movie is full of small scenes of brilliant and inventive film making  - the original scene when Dany is shot by the passing motorcyclist,  the scenes of him attempting to busk in the streets,  the scenes when the CEO of the arm's company addresses his shareholders, the scenes of the CEO at home with his son - the list goes on.

This is a great film - funny, eccentric with a clear but underplayed message.  It could be seen that the group of misfits are symbols for society at large (everyman) and the arms manufacturers are the power brokers who control our lives and fate.  There is something appealing, particularly to Australians, to see the underdog cause the power brokers to get their cum uppance.

A thoroughly enjoyable film which is extremely well written and directed by Jean - Pierre Jeunet.

Score:  8.5/10

Ma's View

There is very little more that I can add!  Except to explain the title - and I had to contact a French friend for that!  Mic Macs in French means "mish-mash" or "chaos" which is what the group of misfits create when they take on the arms dealers.  They also do it using a mish-mash of recylclables - often dodgy and unreliable!  The second part of the title "a tire-larigot" is classic French idiom meaning "to an excessive degree" and usually used in reference to drinking.  Even my friend had to research the origin - now completely remote from present usage!  So, in other words, the underdogs mess up the big guys "big-time"!

Having thoroughly enjoyed Juenet's "Amelie" and also the more thought-provoking "Delicatessen", I was looking forward to Micmacs immensely and was not disappointed.   Juenet could be accused of being simplistic as the characters of the avenging misfits are lovable, quirky and eccentric while the bad guys are thoroughly detestable and unredeemable evil.  The complex plot winds its way through a series of absurd and ingenious assaults on the arms dealers, ending in a most satisfying conclusion.  It is more like a fairytale where good triumphs over evil - at no stage are we fearful of the outcome and (Brecht-lik) at no stage do we forget it is a movie we are watching; the protagonists even ride past a billboard advertising this very movie!

My score:  9/10