Ma's View:

This delicate love story unfolds to the tempo of the wistful violin music played by the leading character.  It is told by slow degrees through the glances and the silences of the two main characters.  Vincent Lindon (the swimming coach in Welcome) plays a happily married builder who picks up his son from school one day and then finds himself little by little falling in love with his son's teacher, played by Sandrine Kiberlain.  The chemistry between these two characters is palpable from the start - perhaps because they have been an off screen couple previously!  The plot seems simple enough - the man is caught in a dilemma; he has a son, a sweet, newly pregnant wife and an elderly father who requires his son's assistance for his most basic needs.  The teacher is lonely, far from home, clearly somewhat estranged from family and, as a professional, tries not become involved with the father of a pupil.  It is a tribute to the acting that we the audience feel every bit of their pain and don't know at the end whether we hope he goes with her or stays to fulful his obligations to his family.  This is a typical French movie - no unnecessary dialogue, excellent camera work, wonderfully evocative music and great acting on all fronts subtly engaging the viewer in the lives of these ordinary folk.

My Score:  8/10

Pepe's View:

Another beautifully crafted French movie - the second in two days.  The director Stephane Brize has assembled an incredibly talented cast and asked them to do the impossible - portray  real people in a real dilemma with mimimal dialogue.  No long expository, no corny arguments, and no contrived conversations - just silences filled with the most beautiful score and glances, looks and then a look away, and the smallest flicker of understanding and longing in the eyes.
I found the sexual tension between Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain so real that I felt I could touch it.  Just one example of Sandrine Kiberlain's difficult task can be seen in the scene at the end of the movie when she says to Jean in reply to his question as to whether she cares for her mother "Our family doesn't do that" - one sentence to portray the wish that she did in fact care for her mother, the sadness of her family life as well as her envy of Jean's family.
Similarly Jean's wife (played convincingly by Aure Atika) showed us just by subtle flex of facial muscles her feelings when she realises her husband's attraction to the teacher.  The director resisted the huge confrontation or the overblown big scene so common in the usual romance movies.

I enjoyed that the technique the writer (Stephane Brize and no doubt the novelist before her) used to initially have Jean visit the teacher in her small appartment was to replace her window - in so doing Jean had a window opened in his simple world as he discovered the beauty of music.
A lovely romantic film that is so beautifully written, acted and filmed.

My Score - 8/10


Pepe's View:

The Hedgehog ( Le herisson is the French Title) is a beautifully crafted, filmed, written and performed French movie.  I can only hope that I can capture some of the subtlety and beauty of the film itself in this blog.
Firstly, the acting - the character from the title, Josiane Balasko played to perfection by Renee Michel, is the concierge of an appartment block in Paris.  The appartments are all owned by wealthy Parisians in one of those beautiful old Parisien buildings. Josianne, it is revealed little by little through the movie, has always been a conceirge and as such lives the life expected of her - be ignorant, introverted but efficient. 
Living in the appartment is the young daughter of  a politician (Paloma) who has decided to kill herself on her 12th birthday and has drawn a calendar on the wall,each square representing the days leading to her death.  In these squares she draws black and white patterns representing the important events of that day to her. She is observing life around her and in particular the adult lives which she sees as futile and like living in a gold fish bowl.  There is beautiful use of imagery around this concept - the appartment in which she lives is designed so that each room can be seen from the others and it seems to be so designed that her mother spends her day moving around and around it talking to her plants mindlessly as if she really is a goldfish.  Only her father escapes this bowl on a daily basis  to return at night to the meaningless innane conversation of the family. Paloma reflects on the life of a goldfish seeing that it spends all its life in a bowl except for one day a week when the cleaner moves it to the kitchen sink while she cleans the bowl or it will drown in its own excrement - like Paloma's father perhaps?  Paloma is using an old movie camera of her father's to video her last months and recording the lives of all those around her much to her sister's and mother's irritation.  Paloma is played beautifully by Garance Le Guillermie and it is she who has nicknamed the conceirge "The Hedgehog" because she realises that, like a hedgehog, Josiane has a prickly tough exterior which hides a gentle exquisite creature beneath.
Of course Paloma makes friends with "The Hedgehog" and begins to realise that her suspicion of there being more to the humble conceirge than the prickly exterior would indicate is correct.  When a single Japanese man moves into one of the appartments he also realises that "The Hedgehog" is not what she appears and realises that she is well read and cultured.  He gives her a copy of Anna Karenina by Tolstoy because he had a hunch that she was a fan of Russian authors.  From this beginning a friendship blossoms between the two and we see "The Hedgehog" allow someone else past her hard exterior.
So much is revealed by the silences, looks and especially by the cinematography which although filmed entirely within the appartment building, except for one scene towards the end of the movie, manages to convey the concept of living in a goldfish bowl and needing a place to hide.  "The Hedgehog" finds her place in a room filled with books - a place known only to her - while Paloma finds her place to hide behind the camera ironically looking at everyone else.
The involvement of the Japanese ten-nant into the movie suddenly makes sense of Paloma's black and white patterns on her calendar which are reminiscent of Japanese calligraphy and even the ironwork on the edges of the doors to the complex take on a similar appearance by judicious framing of the shots by the director.
This film is satisfying on so many levels and has so many levels of theme that it is a film that will stay in my mind for many days to come.  I won't spoil the ending but suffice it to say that typical of French cinema it ends satisfactorily if not happily.  As Paloma says - it is not dying that is important but what you are doing at your moment of death. 

My Score: 9/10

Ma's View:

There is not a lot that I can add to Pepe's analysis of this movie;  it was great on so many levels.  It reveals the shallowness of the lives of these rich society people to whom the concierge is virtually invisible, a non-existent person - except when they want something.  Their mindless conversations are contrasted to her tight-lipped quotes from the great Russian authors she reads, just as their pretense at culture is shown up by the truly cultured new Japanese tenant.  Young Paloma, highly intelligent and incisive, can see through the whole sham and concludes that human life has no more meaning than that of a goldfish in a bowl.  Another typically French movie dealing with the big issues!

My Score:  9/10



I was very happy that we got free tickets to this movie and that we went to see Hedgehog before it so our outing was not entirely wasted!  That is perhaps a bit harsh but it is hard to find good things to say about this movie which is basically a soapie story set in India.  Certainly the Indian background is exotic and evocative with all the mystery and spiritualism the culture engenders in visiting Aussies.  Director, Claire McCarthy, evidently knew her stuff in this area but not so, on the international adoption scene.  For starters, this mismatched couple would never have passed the stringent and invasive investigation that adoptive parents face just to be considered - i.e  of their relationship (very shakey), job situation (she is a workaholic lawyer and he is an ex-muso with no visible means of support) and medical history (he has suffered from depression and has a history of taking drugs!).  On top of which they are doing it for the wrong reason - to bolster up their faltering relationship.  It is not enough to express some pretty facile sentiments on video cam (to show baby later), you actually have to have something to offer as a person.  Unfortunately, neither of the main characters really won our hearts and minds from the start.  Radha Mitchell, as the mother to be, is lovely to look at and the costume department took full advantage of this.  She certainly has heaps more potential than Joel Edgerton, her screen husband, whose performance was only adequate.  Then there was the plot which simply see-sawed between their on-again, off-again relationship and the frustrating delay in actually making contact with their baby.  This gave the director every opportunity to show as many aspects as possible of Indian culture - shrines, street processions, water rituals, funeral rites, a wedding as well as lost baggage, diarrhoea, snakes and garbage - it was all there.  For a moment, I thought there was going to be some cultural clash when their Indian friend, played very well by Samrat Chakrabarti, suggested that only the gods could decree that a woman become a mother, implying disapproval of the adoption process... but this was never pursued.

I am sure there will be people who will love this movie but I'm sorry to say that it just did not reach me!

My Score:  6/10

Pepe's View:

I totally agree - although I think Ma is being a little generous.  Australians make some very good movies when we focus on stories about real people, events or places.  We make very bad movies when we simply try to copy the American film culture.  This film I feel is trying to capture the cinema going audiences who love a good soapie but I am afraid it won't even interest this audience.  For a start, the movie is too long - way too long.  It isn't actually any longer than most, but it certainly feels like it as the director has tried to show every aspect of Indian culture.  One very great concern I had with the movie was the mostly derogatory way India was portrayed - lost lugggage and the Indian official simply says in reply to entreaties for him to do something " This is India".  Joel Edgerton gets "jelly belly" as soon as he arrives (incidentally his wife doesn't ), they are almost attacked by a snake, and  there are lots of shots of ugliness and dirt especially in the country.  A travelogue encouraging us to visit India it isn't!
Radha Mitchell , the leading lady, although losing her luggage, always seemed to have plenty of attractive outfits to wear - she was obviously cast as the eye candy  - and never had a hair out of place.   Joel Edgerton as the weak "hippy" husband also failed to convince.  For this plot to work we had to actually care about these people and their desire for a child but unfortunately I could not wait for it to be over.  There were so many threads which could have been explored but weren't and of course it ended happily ever after.

The best part of the movie - the free tickets.

My Score:  4/10


Ma's View:

I LOVED this movie!!  We saw it over a month ago before setting off on a trip to Western Qld, hence the late entry of this blog.

Of course, any historical or literary drama gets me in but this has the added dimension of authenticity - set in 1910 pre-revolutionary Russia, tracing the final months in the life of Leo Tolstoy as recounted in the novel by Jay Parini, but obviously recorded originally in word for word detail by his devoted followers.  Director Michael Hoffman has assembled an all-star cast - Chriostopher Plummer makes a venerable, ironic and humourous Tolstoy while Helen Mirren is superb as his beloved and embattled wife, Sofya, at various times imperious, hysterical, dignified and delightfully seductive.  Their tumultuous relationship is central to the story and the drama of the situation;  Tolstoy is torn between his beliefs that he should renounce all worldly possessions and his wife's firm commitment that he should NOT sign away the family's inheritance, especially as she had worked collaboratively with him on so many of his  early masterpieces.  Clearly theirs has been a long-term and passionate relationship (she has born him no less than 13 children!) and the conflict that develops between him, his wife and his devotees is rivetting.  Paul Giamatti is excellent as Tolstoy's  chief advisor and devotee, Vladimir Chertkov, trying to out-manoeuvre Sofya, even to the point of placing a new secretary to Tolstoy expressly to spy upon her.  Played by James McAvoy with somewhat overdone gaucheness and devotion, this young secretary, Valentin Bulgakov, comes to feel sympathy for both husband and wife.  The dilemma he finds himself in is somewhat similar to that of the viewers - should the works of this great man remain forever the property of the Russian people or should they simply be part of Tolstoy's (seemingly already substantial) estate and be passed to his children?  It is a tribute to the performance of both the main protagonists that we find these questions hard to answer.  For myself, I was very relieved to read that the document signed so clandestinely in the forest was overturned some years later and the ownership of his works was returned to the family!

I should add that the film was visually very pleasing as well - filmed in Germany, it captures the lush and leisurely world of the period.

MY SCORE:  9/10

Pepe"s View:

I agree with all Ma has said although I didn't enthuse as much as she has over the movie.  True it is based on real life events, true the almost impossible relationship between Tolstoy and his long suffering wife makes for rivetting viewing and of course the cinematography is wonderful and evocative of the time, the situation and the seasons.
However, what diminished the film for me was the assumption that I lready knew Tolstoy's theories and beliefs.  The lines in the movie where he says to his disciples, when they question him on something he said in the past and on which they have based their belief system, that "I have said a lot of things in my life" would have been more meaningful if it wasn't left to us to guess at what exactly Tolstoy wrote. The movie assumed we already knew Tolstoy's writings intimately.
The title of the movie refers to the fact that Tolstoy died in rooms in a train station as well as the fact that that was the last stop in his life's journey - an almost too cute concept.
The acting was fantastic - Christopher Plummer was rivetting as Tolstoy as was Helen Mirren as his wife. 
A great movie - wonderful cinematography, fantastic acting and a very interesting screenplay and I guess I am being a little over critical to find fault - but the movie just didn't grab me.

MY SCORE: 8/10


Pepe's View:

We saw this movie almost a month ago at a preview screening with the World Cinema Club but due to other commitments and just being generally slack we are only just now getting around to writing a blog.
Harry Brown, directed by Daniel Barber from a screenplay by Gary Young, is basically a vigilante movie.  Harry Brown (played by Michael Caine) and his friend live in a housing estate in South London which is controlled by thugs and warlords who are largely immune to any actions by the police.  When Harry's friend is killed by some of these lawless thugs (although it must be said that the friend was armed and determined to "teach these lads a lesson") Harry decided to become a one man posse to revenge the murder.  Enter the police (led by policewoman Inspector Alice Frampton played by Emily Mortimer) whose bumbling attempts to find the murderers and clean up the area only make matters worse.  There are some rather graphic scenes of violence and the movie works well as a thriller but lacked humour and I found it difficult to feel any real sympathy for any of the characters.  Michael Caine was as usual good as the super cool although aged vigilante with the usual array of tough guy lines.  However, he was not at all convincing as the innocent harmless old man living in the estate. 
Emily Mortimer as the police inspector was totally unconvincing in the role and at times made me cringe with embarrassment.
As the plot developed the action became more and more far fetched until the final shootout and showdown during which all was revealed left me in a state of disbelief and I found it difficult to follow all the intricate connections.
I have no doubt that housing estates like this exist throughout England (and many other countries) but this movie degenerated into a "them and us" story and of course the good guys won in the end without ever really investigating life from the "bad guys" perspective.
This movie has been likened to "Grand Torino" - also with a celebrated actor in the lead as a vigilante seeking revenge.  In my opinion however Harrry Brown lacked the humour, human interest and subtlety of the Clint Eastwood film and as a result lacked the entertainment value.

Score:  5/10

Ma's view:

I have to agree with Pepe on this one - altogether a disappointing movie, full of violence and lacking the human touch.  Michael Caine plays the tough guy role well but it is more a case of excellent casting than acting!  As the heart-broken husband and loyal friend, he was less convincing.

And it is surprising that the English police force is not up in arms about the way they are portrayed - completely ineffective and downright incompetent!  Which I am sure they are not, any more than the gang members are such out and out villains with never a redeeming quality.  All in all, somewhat cliched and sterotypical.

My score:  5/10