Opening Doors to strange world
Published 04/07/2010 | 05:00
When You're Strange
WHEN it comes to the history of rock, few bands can claim as seminal an influence as American west coast outfit The Doors. Featuring rare exclusive footage and constructed from hours of home videos and archival material, director Tom DiCillo's rockumentary When You're Strange delivers a fascinating insight into the band.
Their music was limited to a short period during the late Sixties and early Seventies, but memorable contributions to cultural phenomena as diverse as Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now and The Simpsons have helped ensure its impact has endured down the decades.
The band comprised keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore but the film's main focus is on the band's charismatic lead singer, Jim Morrison. Equal parts Adonis and Achilles, Morrison exuded a mesmeric stage presence that was often mimicked but rarely matched.
The band was formed in 1965 after a meeting of minds between Manzarek and Morrison. Manzarek was bedazzled with Morrison's aura and is on the record as believing Morrison might have been some sort of "shaman". Their rise was meteoric, and while Morrison's drug- and alcohol- abuse resulted in an inevitable dip in quality prior to his premature death in Paris, those who know their music will recognise a certain greatness in their best work.
Johnny Depp's admittedly overwrought narration has triggered some dismissive reviews in the States, but the last word is probably best left to Morrison's admiral father. Having, at one stage, urged his son to recognise his talent limitations and retire, he stated after his death that Morrison was possessed of a "unique genius that he expressed without compromise". On the evidence of this absorbing work, only the uninformed would argue otherwise.
It's been 23 years since Vanessa Paradis first appeared as the 14-year-old who sang about Joe Le Taxi. She's been busy enough since, singing, acting, modelling, and having children with Johnny Depp. Now here she is again, doing romcom French style, shabby chic on the Cote d'Azur, suitably far-fetched and reminding the world how well romantic comedies can work.
Heartbreaker's French title, Arnacoeur, translates as "heart swindler" and this is more accurate, because Alex Lippi (Romain Duris), his sister and her husband run a business saving women from unsuitable relationships. The women might think they're in love, but where their friends and family believe the lover undeserving, in swoops Alex, the James Bond of romance, whose charms raise romantic hopes and get the women to ditch the undesirable.
His latest contract is Juliette (Paradis) who is about to marry the nice but drippy Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln), Alex has a week to make her see sense, but she is slower to fall than the previous contracts and there are added complications, naturally.
A first film for TV director Pascal Chaumeil it is unlikely to be a last. It looks lovely, the cast is great, the chemistry convincing, the soundtrack boppy, it's often funny and plays well off the French stereotype and the fact that although cute, Alex isn't exactly strapping. Subtitles can be offputting but romcom fans would do well to look beyond the titles for beneath lies a very enjoyable film.
Now showing at the Lighthouse and selected cinemas Tetro
The name Francis Ford Coppola has long been synonymous with cinema at its most cerebral and he's back on familiar ground for his latest magnum opus, Tetro. You don't actually need post-graduate qualifications in Freudian analysis or German literature for proper appreciation of this flawed but rather fabulous feature starring Vincent Gallo and Alden Ehrenreich, but they're likely to come in useful.
Shot mostly in black and white and set in Buenos Aires, Gallo stars as Tetro, an enigmatic New Yorker who departed for the Argentine capital a decade earlier on a "writing sabbatical". For reasons that are not initially revealed, he never returned and currently describes himself to his live-in partner Miranda (Maribel Verdu) as "divorced" from his family. Though his literary aspirations seem to have come to nothing, he does operate the spotlight at the local theatre where his friends produce avant-garde shows.
Enter Bennie (Ehrenreich), the half-brother Tetro abandoned when, as Bennie describes it, "he just took off". Bennie idolised his brother and has arrived looking for a degree of psychological closure. Though initially livid that the past he sought to bury has resurfaced, Tetro allows Bennie to stay. Naturally, it isn't long before the family skeletons start to tumble out of the cupboard as flashbacks reveal all.
Tetro is a work of epic lyrical beauty that will reward those who place a premium on quality cinema. Gallo delivers, while newcomer Ehrenreich makes the sort of impression last seen by a young Leonardo DiCaprio. The last 30 minutes meander and the ending lurches towards the melodramatic but the visual thrills sustain engagement for the duration and compensate for a slight lack of dramatic realism.
Whether a little confined by convention, or just typecast, English-born Kristin Scott Thomas appears more confident in French, the language of her adoption. Perhaps her age too is contributory for she seems to be living one of the richest periods in her career, as reflected in Partir/Leaving. Written and directed by Catherine Corsini, in one way the story defies logic, why would Suzanne (Scott Thomas) an apparently happily married, wealthy, middle-aged woman, with a lovely home, pleasant husband (Yvan Attal), reasonable teenagers and nice job throw everything away for an unemployed Catalan labourer (Sergi Lopez)?
But that defiance of logic is the point of the film, passion, just because. Scott Thomas does a wonderful job embodying that passion, explaining without ever explaining what quite a few long-time attached people might well understand.
Partir raises issues, about the meaning and rights of happiness, the meaning of love and possession, and the value of confession, but all by the way -- the film doesn't discuss them as such, just puts them out there.
Partir opens in the Lighthouse and selected cinemas on July 9