FNC 2016 Review of Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph)

Victor Ezenfis, Natacha Regnier, Fabrizio Rongione in Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph).
Victor Ezenfis, Natacha Regnier, Fabrizio Rongione in Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph).

Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph) opens with scenes of Paris, people walking around, etc. Then we see two boys trying to torture a caged rat. I did wonder what kind of film I’d walked into. But those guys are just the idiotic classmates of Vincent, one of the main characters, and we don’t see much of them again. Just as well.

Teenage Vincent (Victor Ezenfis) lives in Paris with his single mother (Natacha Regnier), who’s an almost saintly nurse. In his bedroom he has a poster of Caravaggio’s 1603 painting, The Sacrifice of Isaac. Kinda gruesome!

Vincent’s mother has always refused to tell him who his father is, and on this particular day he is so enraged about it one wonders how his mother put up with him for so many  years.

After rummaging through a rolltop desk, Vincent finds a letter that reveals his father’s identity. You’d think, if he was so determined to know, that he would have found that letter years ago, but never mind, I won’t argue about it.

Vincent bluffs his way into a book-launch party, meets some ditzy and pretentious characters on the literary scene, and gets a glimpse of his father, Oscar Pormenor (Mathieu Amalric) a man so monstrous he can’t even remember how many children he had with his wife. “Details bore me,” he says.

With his red tie, red scarf, wealth, scorn and libidinous attitude, Oscar Pormenor made me think of Donald Trump. (Sorry!) The more Vincent learns about him, the more horrified he becomes. He hatches a plan which is unwise, not to mention illegal, immoral, etc.

On the plus side, Vincent meets Joseph (Fabrizio Rongione), Oscar’s brother and pretty much his polar opposite. Joseph is a really great guy, even if he’s not a success in the business world. More likely he’s a great guy precisely because he’s not a success in the business world.

The people in Son of Joseph speak in a very stilted, serious and unnatural way, almost like. . .inexperienced actors. Of course, the actors are not inexperienced at all, declamation is just part of director Eugène Green’s style. (Apparently, Green has a cult following, just like Hong Sang-soo, whose film Yourself and Yours will be playing at the same time today, just a few blocks away. Both films are on the schedule of the Festival du nouveau cinéma.) At first I found this way of talking rather strange. I got used to it, though I never stopped noticing it, and it made the funny parts funnier still.

Son of Joseph is about serious things, like how to be a good person, the longing for family, connection, and acceptance, but it also offers beautiful Parisian scenery and many laughs as well.

Almost all the interior scenes take place in very old buildings with creaky wooden floors. My congratulations to the sound people for picking up (or maybe recreating) all those creaks.

Coffee and Films was the production company for Son of Joseph. Isn’t Coffee and Films a great name?

Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph)
France, Belgium | 115 Minutes
In French with English subtitles
Written and directed by Eugène Green
With Victor Ezenfis, Natacha Regnier, Fabrizio Rongione, Mathieu Amalric, Maria de Medeiros, Julia de Gasquet, Jacques Bonnaffe

Sunday, Oct.16, 2016
Program #281 15:15
Cinéma du Parc 2, as part of the Festival du nouveau cinéma.

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FNC 2016: Review of Hong Sang-soo film Yourself and Yours

Lee You-young, centre, as Minjung, with two of her drinking buddies, in the Hong Sang-soo film Yourself and Yours.
Lee You-young, centre, as Minjung, with two of her drinking buddies, in the Hong Sang-soo film Yourself and Yours.

Yourself and Yours, the latest film from Korean director Hong Sang-soo, looks at relationships in a way that’s insightful and hilarious. (Well, I thought it was hilarious.) I guess someone who has recently broken up with a significant other might feel differently.

After hearing gossip from a friend, Youngsoo (Kim Joo-hyuck) accuses his girlfriend Minjung (Lee You-young) of drinking with other men. Quite apart from the jealousy angle, he is upset because she had promised him to cut way back on her drinking.

An offended Minjung denies the accusations and suggests “taking a break.” Self-righteous Youngsoo replies (approximately) “You’re in the wrong and you’re upset with ME?”

Later, Youngsoo regrets his behaviour; he misses Minjung and when he can’t reach her, he fears that “taking a break” is her way of saying “break up.”

Youngsoo starts moping around pathetically. He tells his friends how much he loves Minjung, how special she is, that others don’t understand her, etc. All this might come from genuine love and regret, though I suspect it comes from loneliness or a feeling of having lost control of this situation, and his life in general. Who knows, really? Seeing her had  probably become a habit for him, as well, and habits are notoriously hard to break.

There are several scenes of Minjung, or someone who looks just like Minjung, drinking with other men. When they first speak to her, they claim to know her from some other occasion. Some of them are rather agressive in their insistence that they know her; it verges on creepy. She says that she never saw them before, but does agree to drink with them now.

Minjung seems more humourous and interesting to know than Youngsoo is. Her daring, if slightly rude habit of telling men exactly what she thinks of them is not something we see too often in Korean films; it’s still a patriarchal place.

It’s likely that many of these scenes, maybe all of them, only take place in Youngsoo’s unsettled dreams or waking imagination. That would be consistent with Hong Sang-soo’s style, but I have other reasons for thinking so, too. Sharing those reasons might constitute “spoilers,” though, so I’ll keep them to myself for now.

You could have lots of fun dissecting those scenes, and the film in general, with friends after the film, maybe over a meal at a Korean restaurant. Have some soju! Sadly, you aren’t likely to find the milky alcoholic beverage ( 막걸리 makgeolli, makkoli, makgeoli, etc.) in Montreal restaurants. That’s the stuff that the characters in Yourself and Yours drink from metal bowls, when they’re not having beer or soju.

A little laugh of recognition for people who follow Korean pop culture: At some point, Minjung talks about her “ideal type.” In interviews, Korean singers and actors are always being asked about their ideal type. They usually name other singers and actors and then their fans have fun discussing these choices on the Internet.

I’d read several enthusiastic reviews before seeing Yourself and Yours, and assumed that I would enjoy it, but It actually surpassed my expectations. For those who have heard of Hong Sang-soo, but haven’t seen his work yet, Yourself and Yours would be an excellent place to start. His Montreal fans have probably bought their tickets already.

http://www.nouveaucinema.ca/en/films/yourself-and-yours

Yourself and Yours, directed by Hong Sang-soo, with Kim Joo-hyuck, Lee You-young, Kim Eui-sung.

At the 2016 Festival du nouveau cinéma,
Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016
Program #284 15:00
Cinéma Impérial
1430 Bleury

FNC 2015: Festival du nouveau cinéma presents North Korean version of The Tale of Chun Hyang

A scene from The Tale of Chun Hyang. The popular Korean folk tale has been told in films and on television many, many times. The Festival du nouveau cinema in Montreal is showing a verion made in North Korea in 1980.
A scene from The Tale of Chun Hyang. The popular Korean folk tale has been told in films and on television many, many times. The Festival du nouveau cinema in Montreal is showing a version made in North Korea in 1980.

Some of the films being shown at the Festival du nouveau cinéma will go into general release here in Montreal within the next few days weeks or months. But others fall into the “now-or-never” category. Unless you are a cinema scholar or have good connections, chances are you won’t be able to see them again. The Tale of Chun Hyang, being shown just once, on Saturday Oct.10, 2015, is one of these “now-or-never” films.

The Tale of Chun Hyang is a Korean folk tale that has been put on film many, many times. (Two thousand times according to the FNC program!) So far, I’ve only seen the one directed by Im Kwon Taek, in 2000. (Guess I’m a slacker!)

But the version being shown at FNC was made in 1980, in North Korea. While that country makes many films, we can’t see them very often.

Im’s film was visually stunning, so I’m wondering how this North Korean version, directed by Yun Ryong-gu and Yu Won-jun will play out.

The Romeo and Juliet story is often invoked when describing The Tale of Chun Hyang to Westerners. It’s only a rough approximation though. (SPOILER: Chun Yang has a much happier ending.) The conflict here is not so much between families as between classes. Many nobles and officials do what they please with the country, its assets and the people lower down on the social scale than they are. And women have the worst deal of all, as happens so often in fairy tales. See The Tale of Chun Hyang with your friends and you could probably have some interesting arty and political discussions afterwards.

Chun Hyang is the beautiful daughter of a woman who became the second wife of an official.
Mongryong, the young, handsome, honest decent son of an official falls in love with her and marries her in secret. Then he has to go away to study for his career advancement and he cannot take Chun Hyang with him. She suffers greatly in his absence. When she refuses to become the mistress of a newly arrived official, she is thrown into prison and threatened with execution, but she values her love and loyalty more than she values her own life. (A topic for further discusion, as well.)

The Tale of Chun Hyang
Directed by: Yun Ryong-gu and Yu Won-jun
Screenplay: Kim Sung-Gu, Paek In-Jun
Cast: Kim Yong-Suk, Choe Sun-Gyu, Yong Suk-Kim

In Korean with French subtitles.
Saturday, Oct.10, 2015, 5 p.m
Program #88
Salle Fernand Seguin of the Cinémathèque Québécoise, 355 de Maisonneuve Blvd. E.
Click to read more about The Tale of Chun Hyang on the FNC web site.

You can buy a ticket online here.

Click to read more about the other North Korean films on the FNC program. The Festival du nouveau cinema runs until Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015.

FNC 2015 Review: Love by Gaspar Noé

In this scene from Gaspar Noe's film Love, Electra (Aomi Muyock) and her boyfriend Murphy (Karl Glusman) relax in their Paris apartment. New neighbour Omi (Klara Kristin) can be seen through the window.
In this scene from Gaspar Noe’s film Love, Electra (Aomi Muyock) and her boyfriend Murphy (Karl Glusman) relax in their Paris apartment. New neighbour Omi (Klara Kristin) can be seen through the window.

 

“Well, that’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back.” It’s not a very original complaint (sorry!) but that’s what I was thinking, long before Love, the latest film from Gaspar Noé, was over.  I wasn’t able to appreciate it. And it’s actually two hours and 14 minutes long, strictly speaking.

The film is called Love, but “Clueless Jerk,” might be a more apt title.

The main male character is an American in Paris named Murphy (Karl Glusman). His girlfriend, dark-haired Electra (Aomi Muyock), left him because he got another woman pregnant.

The film opens with Murphy and Electra having sex. Is that Murphy’s dream in the present day, or is that Noé telling us that they used to be a couple? Could be either, I guess. His phone rings and Murphy wakes up. He is in the same room (though it has different decor now) and the woman in the bed beside him is blonde. It’s New Year’s Day and the call is from Electra’s mother. She has not heard from her daughter for two or three months and she’s worried. Does Murphy know where she is?

There’s lots of voice over as we hear Murphy’s thoughts, which are not very interesting and (when it comes to the blonde, the mother of his child), quite rude and crude.

As the story unfolds we see that Murphy behaved very badly on many, many occasions. He  wishes he could turn back time, though there’s no indication he would have behaved differently.  In his mind, he declares his love for Electra, over and over. I was not convinced. Is he even serious about that, or is it just a story he’s telling himself, now that something bad might have happened to Electra, and she might be permantently out of his reach?

There are so many sex scenes in Love. I hear that you can see that kind of thing on the Internet, at home, for free. No need to go to the cinema! There isnt much laughter between this couple, though. What kind of relationship is that?

Love is in 3D, which added nothing to the experience for me, except for a scene where Murphy blows smoke rings, which was cool for a few seconds.

If you are already a Gaspar Noe fan, Love might be for you, especially since he will be in town to present the film.

LOVE, 134 Min, VOSTF

Written and directed by Gaspar Noé

Cast: Aomi Muyock, Karl Glusman, Klara Kristin, Juan Saavedra

Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015 at 8 p.m.

Concordia University, Alumni Auditorium (H-110), Hall Building, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., Montréal, QC

Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, 1:30 p.m.

Cinéma du Parc 2, 3575 Ave. du Parc

Read more about Love on the FNC web site. www.nouveaucinema.ca/en/films/love
The Festival du nouveau cinema runs from Oct. 7 until Oct. 18, 2015