Film Club Of The Air: ‘Biutiful,’ ‘Marwencol,’ ‘The Illusionist,’ ‘Inspector Bellamy’
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
The Oscar nominations are in and they include some of the films we'll be talking about today, including Biutiful, the animated French film The Illusionist. We'll find out about an indie documentary called Marwencol and the latest from French director Claude Chabrol.
The Oscar nominations are in and they include some of the films we'll be talking about today, including Biutiful, the animated French film The Illusionist. We'll find out about an indie documentary called Marwencol and the latest from French director Claude Chabrol.
Beth Accomando is the KPBS film critic and author of the blog Cinema Junkie.
Scott Marks is the author of the film blog Emulsion Compulsion.com. He joins us by phone in Los Angeles.
Anders Wright is the film critic for San Diego CityBeat.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. The 83rd annual Oscar nominees were announced on Tuesday, and once again, there are a lot of them. Ten best picture nominees, this could be considered a lot in a year that many critics, including the KPBS film club thought was a bit lack luster. But many on that list were praised on this program, along with a number of performances nominated by the academy this year. We'll be talking about the Oscar contenders, and about several films opening here at San Diego. I'd like to welcome my guests, Beth Accomando is the KPBS film critic and author of the blog cinema junkie, good morning Beth.
ACCOMANDO: Good morning, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Scott Marks, author of the film blog, Emulsioncompulsion.com, is on the phone from Los Angeles today. Good morning Scott.
MARKS: I keep telling you, it's Burbank. The city of hope. Bob hope. Good morning everybody.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Good morning. Anders Wright is film critic for San Diego City beat. Anders, good morning.
WRIGHT: Good to see you, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We'd INVITE OUR listeners to join in. What do you think about the nominees? Who did the Oscars miss this year? Give us a call at 1-888-895-5727 well, as I said, you know, ten nominations -- again this is the second year in the best picture category for those extra nominations, I'm pretty sure not many people in this group were enthusiastic about that idea last year. Do you feel the same way, Beth, about the ten best picture nominations.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, especially this year. Because this year it felt like a weak year and to stretch it to ten, and if you look at the films, I mean they all tend to be this kind of mainstream Hollywood or they call some of these independent films but they're independent films that come from sister studios to the big mainstream studios of it's not a real exciting list. I mean, I think the most interesting film that I see on that list is winter's bone. Otherwise it's a lot of formula style -- and black swan. I would say those two are the best interesting ones.
WRIGHT: I don't personally -- I agree with you about the quality of the list. I don't want personally have an issue with the extended list. Extending it to ten because in theory, it should allow some smaller films to get a little more attention. But I sort of look at this list, and it's kind of ho-hum, there's no real surprise. Winter's bone, it's great to see it end up on this list.
MARKS: But it's almost like when you put ten films like this on there, you're rubbing our faces in the fact that it was really a lousy year for American films.
ACCOMANDO: It just feels so diluted. Of.
MARKS: And the fighter? And Beth is right, how is the fighter an independent production? How is black swan an independent production.
ACCOMANDO: They consider a lot of those, king's speech, you know? The definition of independent film has gotten so loose now. It's just anything that's not really big budgeted, mainstream, yeah.
WRIGHT: But be that as it may, whether or not these are independent or studio films, it's sort of in some ways besides the point. What the real issue is that you look at this is and there's no film that you sort of say, like, wow, that's tremendous. And there are no films where you're like, what is that? Oh, I'm curious. How did this get recognized without being under the radar?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Scott, I know sort of everybody liked toy story three. But nominated for both best picture and best animated film? That's rather overkill, don't you think?
MARKS: Yeah, it's kind of like filler. It's like they came up with nine titles, and they're, like, we can't come up with another one. And everyone seems to love Toy Story 3. I'm kind of surprised. Why don't they stick one of the better documentaries in there? Why can't a foreign film make the crossover? I think we were all surprised to learn that I am love is nowhere to be seen. I think I got a costume design award.
ACCOMANDO: Costume. How bad they overlook Tilda Swinton's performance? That's just so wrong.
MARKS: There's one that I think is even worse, and I'm drawing a blank on her name. Another year.
WRIGHT: Lesley Manville.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, yeah. Supporting actress.
MARKS: This is like the performance of the year for me.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Mike Lee's film, another year. Soap that was a major thing that the Oscars overlooked for you, Scott, then, huh judge?
MARKS: Huge, huge.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And any surprises about the acting awards for you, Anders?
WRIGHT: The -- I think I would have liked to have seen Andrew gar field get a nomination for the social network, and I was sort of surprised that Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis were overlooked for the black swan.
MARKS: Really? Mila Kunis? Really?
ACCOMANDO: Also Vincent Casal was so great in Mesrine, the two French films.
WRIGHT: Well, the point being, you sort of look at these lists, and all of the list, and they're just sort of fairly underwhelming.
ACCOMANDO: It's a really ho-hum list. The thing about the ten nominations is, yeah, winter's bone made it, but it's really not that interesting and a list. And all the nominations have this kind of mainstream feel of it's all the films that have been topping the critics' list, and they're films that are getting fairly well played of there's no, like -- something fun and exciting one surprise for me is actually Javier bar den for beautiful, a Spanish language film, which we'll talk about later today. But that's a pretty big coo to get listed in there.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But considering the year that this was for film, and you all agreed it wasn't stellar, and considering the academy, what they usually choose for best picture, is the fact that this is not en exciting list, is that a shocking thing, Scott?
MARKS: Not this year. No, it's not. I saw these movies. No, it doesn't shock me at all. We were talking before about ten films, and Beth is right. I was hoping that somehow this would have opened up the field for a few more independent pictures to come into play. For me, after Lesley Manville, the biggest shock that was dog tooth got a nomination.
ACCOMANDO: But a positive shock.
MARKS: I can't believe that the Academy went out on a limb to nominate this film, which to me is the most scathing assault on the nuclear family since Pink Flamingos.
ACCOMANDO: That they vote on it differently than the other categories. You have to see all the nominated film -- I mean, you have to see all the submitted films in order to vote for the films that get into the shorts list.
MARKS: Have you seen dog tooth yet?
MARKS: Are you not shocked that the academy watched that film with that subject matter and gave it a nomination?
ACCOMANDO: But, again, it's because of the way they vote on foreign films nominations and winners. And it can go either way. Because it's a much smaller pool of people voting, it can be just, like, the odd taste of that particular group.
WRIGHT: But then I think what often happens is you get sort of a crazy list of nominees, and then the winner tends to be fair mainstream because more people are seeing.
ACCOMANDO: And the other thick for foreign women is each country is only allowed to submit one film. So there's a lot of this politicking going on in some of these countries that have multiple films.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Just let me add, I believe dog tooth is from Greece. Has it played here in San Diego?
MARKS: Yeah, it played for a couple of weeks at the Gas Lamp. I was there a couple of times, and the four people in the audience there with me seemed to like it. It's just not a film that -- I hope somebody's gonna bring it back. I tell you, there's gonna be one, there's always one huge acting surprise. And I'll bet the farm this year it's gonna be Jacky Weaver as best supporting actress in the animal kingdom.
ACCOMANDO: You really think she can win?
MARKS: Yeah, yeah.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, God, I would hope so.
MARKS: They're gonna see this incredible performance, topped only by Lesley Manville who they ignored 67 unless they go with Melissa Leo, but Melissa Leo is doing a cartoon character.
WRIGHT: But people love that movie, and she was so good in that film a couple of years ago, where she got the nomination and didn't win.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Frozen river?
WRIGHT: Frozen river, yeah.
ACCOMANDO: And she was good in two other films this year too.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How closely do you think the academy follow the golden globes? Do you think in the directing category that the academy is gonna follow that and just go with David Fincher and go with the Social Network?
ACCOMANDO: Actually, it seems like the broad cast film critics have in some ways been a better predictor of what the Oscars are gonna go to. The golden globes is an odd little organization in itself. It's a small organization of the Hollywood Foreign Press, and they've always had kind of odd choices.
WRIGHT: Well, this year there's this whole payola thing going on.
ACCOMANDO: Well, they've had that all the time.
WRIGHT: Yeah, but people are suing over it.
ACCOMANDO: But I mean, the broadcast film critics, it's critics, they're very tightly tied into, I think, studios, and the studios have been looking more towards that as a predictor. Because they're pushing very hard for a broad cast film nominations now in a way that they weren't doing before. So in some ways, that might be as good a predictor as the golden globes.
MARKS: I think the academy looks down its nose at the golden globes and I don't think they like the fact that they're encroaching on their territory by having the awards now on network television, by having the awards so close to a, you know, the academy awards now. I don't think they like the golden globes at all.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, from what you have been saying, that the biggest snubs that I've been hearing is Tilda Swinton in I am love, and les me Manville. Any other snubs.
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, Venicio del Torro as the wolf man!
WRIGHT: I think the fact that I am love did not get a best foreign language film nomination film sort of jumps out too.
ACCOMANDO: Well, I mean, I don't think he necessarily deserved it. I think the fact that Christopher Nolan didn't get nominated for inception would be considered a snub. Ed academy tends to get in these sweep modes where, I'll vote for this film, and everything, every category I'll put somebody in. And king's speech, I think, is a very good film. I enjoyed it a lot. I enjoyed it because of the script and the performances. I think it would badly directed. There's no way that Tom hooper deserves a directing nomination. So I think people will look at that and say, hey, here's Christopher Nolan who, whether you like the film or not, he's a good director, and he put a lot of work into it.
WRIGHT: I think when you look at this list, you basically -- it basically is just gonna be a showdown between the social network and the king's speech. And nothing is really gonna get in between the two of them.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's talk about the screen play categories for just a minute. Adapted and original. The kids are all right is in this category, as well as best picture. Of I don't remember, I think most of you liked that movie; is that right?
MARKS: Which one?
ACCOMANDO: Kids are all right. It was a well performed film. It wasn't a bad movie.
WRIGHT: But is it best picture material?
ACCOMANDO: It's not best picture material. One interesting thing about the writing nominations is that a film like Another Year was deemed ineligible by the Writer's Guild for their guild awards. And so sometimes that makes it tough for a film to get an Oscar nomination. But it's nice to see that.
MARKS: Maureen, I think your memory is failing. The kids are all right. I think it's a terrible firm.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: No, I couldn't remember whether you liked it or not.
MARKS: And I think the script is terrible. It takes the best character of the film, Mark Ruffalo, lose him three quarters of the way through the film to make this dumb lesbian power statement. That belongs on cable. No, I can't wait to see the look on Annette Benning's face when they cut to her after Natalie Portman wins. Not since Lauren Bacall with --
ACCOMANDO: Oh, come on. Do you really think she's expecting to win? I don't think so.
MARKS: Yeah, I do.
ACCOMANDO: I don't think she's expecting to win.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have a caller on the line. Gena is calling from Clairemont. Good morning, gena, welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: I have permission to ask this question.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: All right!
NEW SPEAKER: And it has to do with the fact that out of all the pictures, I did see one, because I don't see pictures in the theatres. I did see I am love.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.
NEW SPEAKER: And it was quite interesting. I adore Tilda Swinton anyway.
ACCOMANDO: She's wonderful.
NEW SPEAKER: Yes. Now, I think it has to do with the bottom line.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How much a movie makes?
NEW SPEAKER: Yes. How much they want to encourage the public to go to films and they think the public are gonna be interested in. But a lot of people don't like foreign films because they're -- they have a problem. Of.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, gena, thank you.
NEW SPEAKER: With language and with reading the what do you call its?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The subtitles.
WRIGHT: You know, I think though that if you look at the other women who were nominated for best actress, they tend to be fairly small movies of they're not huge films by any stretch. So --
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, but I think the whole fact that they expanded the best picture nominations to ten is a reflection of fact -- it's two things. Of one, the ratings for the TV viewing were dropping and they felt by expanding it, they might get some bigger -- some more mainstream films on the list that people might be more interested in watching. But the other thing is, they are looking to the bottom line in the sense that I that want to help some of these films by getting them a nomination, get a little extended life in the theatre, and most of these are studio films. This is the industry patting itself on the back for awards. It's basically most of the members are from Hollywood or from the west coast. So having them vote for their own product in the best picture category and some of the main categories is not that surprising. I mean, they want to see the products that they work on make more money. And it does. If you get an Oscar nomination, your film might stay in the theatres all the way through the academy awards. Or it might get a little extra push when it's out on DVD.
WRIGHT: Yeah, it's something you can put in the DVD box.
ACCOMANDO: So there are financial benefits to be reaped. On the other hand, sometimes with the foreign films, sometimes a foreign film is waiting for a nomination just to get released. You know, a studio won't gamble on it, and it'll say, okay, if it gets a nomination, we'll give it a distribution, but if it doesn't, we don't feel like it has enough push behind it to make it worth marketing.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Any response on that, Scott?
MARKS: Everyone once in a while, they're gonna stick in a film -- it seems that every year they stick in at least one huge blockbuster. Didn't Star Wars get a nomination? I mean, films like that. Every once in a while, one will even win like Avatar or Titanic. But I think they almost feel compelled to make concessions at least once in a while to the big blockbusters as well.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So it's time for predictions. Scott, what are your predictions for the academy awards this year?
MARKS: Yeah, it's David Fincher's year.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay.
MARKS: Yeah, social network. He's gonna win, it's gonna win best screenplay. Jesse Eisenberg won't win because Colin Firth has a lock on it. Natally Portman's gonna win, and Shutter Island was nominated for nothing.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Not even best costume?
M1ARKS: The worst movie got a nomination, and Shutter Island didn't get a nomination. Oh, brother.
WRIGHT: I also think Christian Bale is pretty much a lock to win best supporting actor. I don't necessarily agree with that, but I'm fairly sure he'll take a walk too.
MARKS: You're probably right.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And anything that you want to disagree with, Beth?
ACCOMANDO: I think king's speech may pull away for best picture.
WRIGHT: I think there's a possibility there, yeah.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. So we'll check in with you and see whether or not you were right.
ACCOMANDO: I'm always wrong at predicting the winners. I always lose the Oscar pools.
MARKS: And if you're not saying Jacky Weaver for best supporting actress, who do you guys say?
WRIGHT: It's a tough call, honestly. You look thea -- I think they could give it to Melissa Leo, certainly. They also don't mind going younger. Haley Stein if he would.
ACCOMANDO: Younger people have been winning more of the award it's -- especially in the supporting actress. Juliette Binoche, I think, won over -- was that the year that she won over Lauren Bacall? And then --
ACCOMANDO: And Gloria Foster from Titanic, everybody was thinking she was the sentimental favorite to win, and I think it was a much younger person who won at that point.
WRIGHT: But if there is some sort of a King's Speech sweep, you could see Helena Bonham Carter getting it as well.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, we're gonna move on now, and we'll see whether your predictions come through. The 83rd annual academy awards will take place in Sunday, February 27th. When we return, we'll talk about some of the new movies coming out in this San Diego. It is the KPBS film club of the air. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.
I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, you're listening to These Days on KPBS. And this is the KPBS film club of the air. My guests are Beth Accomando, Scott Marks, Ander Wright, and we're moving on to movies opening near San Diego. If you would like to tell us and comment about the Oscars, please go on-line, it's KPBS.org/These Days. The movie we're going to look at now is Biutiful, Javier Bardem stars as a low level mobster in Barcelona who with runs interference between sweat shop owners and the police of but it's his personal life that is really challenging. His ex-wife is mentally ill and he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. So his last weeks of life become a mission to stash away as much money as he can for his two kids. Now, this premise, Anders, sounds pretty darn gloomy. Is it a sad movie?
WRIGHT: It certainly was for me. I felt like it was kind of relentlessly grim. Javier Bardem is really, really good in this film. Of and the movie looks terrific. But, you know, he sort of has his fingers in all sorts of different pies of he's working with sweat shop workers and Senegalese street vendors, and everything that he touches, things are just a downer for him basically, and he's dying. And he's terrified of dying, and he's terrified of the world he's gonna leave his kids behind in. And every once in a while, it feels like something good is happening, and more often than not, it seems to back fire in a way that makes things exponentially worse.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Scott, you really liked Biutiful. Why?
MARKS: One, I don't find it sad in the least. This is not a film that I would look at as a weepy in any way shape or form. What the director does, he has this knack for turning human tragedy into a means of unification and redemption. And I don't find any -- the sentimentality for me stops in the title. Biutiful, it's misspelled purposely, it's a note that his daughter leaves on the refrigerator for him. That's the only trace of sentiment I find in this film. What I liked in this film, and what Anders and I were talking about after seeing it was the sheer aggressive nature of the film. Most film makers would stop halfway and not see this kinda dark vision all the way through to its tragic conclusion. And I think that's what Enurito does. And that's why I liked this film. I like the fact that it's relentless and it's aggressive. And here is a film that does wind up having a tremendous body count. But I don't want to turn people away from seeing this movie, because I think the film also displays a tremendous degree of sensitivity. There are some very, very playful moment. I've never seen a film where they colored the subtitles where whites Chinese, you know, whatever -- I don't remember the colors now. So there are some playful moments in there as well.
ACCOMANDO: I don't know if I'd call that playful. It's more informational.
MARKS: No, but I mean to sit there and put it in different colors? There was no need to do that.
ACCOMANDO: You didn't like the different colored subtitles in Slum Dog Millionaire.
MARKS: You know, I pushed that film out of the back of my head. Okay. I just find this film so relentlessly depressing and filled with despair that in a crazy way, it entertained me. And I applaud the man for seeing his convictions all the way through to the end.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Beth, what do you think of Biutiful.
ACCOMANDO: I had real mixed feelings about it. I thought Javier Bardem's performance in it was amazing. And there are scenes and elements of the film that I really liked, but at the end, I just somehow disappointed by it. Part of it may be on a certain level, Enurito, I feel like he's doing this kind of multistranded plot, this is it a little more stream lined and a little more focused but I feel like he's kind of relying on certain gimmicks and methods of story telling that I wish he would try something a little more different but there are some wonderful elements on it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is this the sort of a movie where the performance is so compelling that it completely dominates the movie? And even if perhaps you're not compelled by the story, it's the performance that's gonna --
ACCOMANDO: Yes, I wouldn't say that it dominates it in the sense that it's a negative thing. I think that his performance carried you through, so even if there are places or elements of it that you might have problems with like I did, I didn't have any problem watching it. I felt compelled to see it all the way through to the end. And I think there is this sense of a strange kind of redemption at the end for him. But his performance is wonderful. And it was interesting because when I had actually seen this film, it was closer to the time that kitchen here after was coming out, which was the Clint Eastwood film. And in this film too, his character speaks with the dead, but in a very different way than the Matt Damon character did in here after. And in this film, I thought it was much more powerful. And in fact, that was the kind of the element in the story line that interested me more. The way this guy kind of copes with this gift that he has and what he tries to do with it and how it's a burden to him.
MARKS: And he puts in just enough of that to make it work. Where it doesn't dominate it. It isn't like a hoodoo film, and there's one stylistic moment in this film that I couldn't wait to get home and pop in the DVD to see it with my own eyes to make sure that it was real. That's a scene where he's going to someone's house, and he bangs on the door, and no one's home. And as he walks away from the door, his reflection in the door changes. It doesn't match it. It's a computer generated effect. And it's a great visual statement, a great visual way to show where this guy is coming from at this particular time in the movie. And it is so subtle to be almost imperceptible, and when you watch it again, this is how to use computer generated imagery. Not to blow people up, not to graft someone's head on the body of a penguin. This is the way to use it. And I looked at that shot ten times and I -- you hook at it, and it's like, how did you do this? It's just terrific. And the film has a lot of little stylistic choices. So I think it's 23409 just his performance that kept me going, I think it's the direction too.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Anders, you already mentioned that you were heavy that Javier Bardem was nominated for an Oscar in this film. What makes him so good?
WRIGHT: Well, we know he's a terrifically talented actor. We've seen him do so many interesting things over the years. And he won an Oscar a couple of years ago for no country for old men. I feel like his character, Uxbal, has so much to deal with in terms of all of the jobs, in terms of his terror of dying, and knowing what the after life holds because he has this odd little side job of a guy who talks to dead people. In knowing how crazy his ex-wife is. And he really is someone who is able to take all of these things in, and express all of those incredible frustrations of fears, and at the same time being an interesting, believable character. He makes this guy real.
ACCOMANDO: But he also doesn't play it over the top. He's a very naturalistic actor. And like you said, it's very real. I feel like this is a very real character that you're watching. And you feel a lot of compassion for him because he does make you empathize with what he's going 32. But he does it in a kind of subtle way. He his out bursts and he has anger, but even there, there's this nice sort of, I think, under playing that he does.
WRIGHT: One thing that I love that he does in this, anybody who has kids knows that you'll sacrifice anything for your children, but you have moments where you get incredibly frustrated with them [CHECK AUDIO] and he has all of that. And you can also see just how frustrated he is with himself for getting frustrated with that situation. And it's small, and it's subtle, and it feels like real life.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to let everyone know that --
WRIGHT: No, it is not opening there.
MARKS: It's not? They canceled it?
WRIGHT: It's not opening there.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So that would be fashion valley. Let's move on to Darwin call, it's a documentary about the unique technique used by mark Hogencamp after his traumatic brain injury. He created a village of dolls, Barbies and GI Joes, and meticulously decorated it all to resemble a World War II Belgian outpost. And then he began to his photograph his village called Marwencol, the art world discovers his work in this film, and we discover many levels to Mr. Hogencamp. We have a clip from Marwencol, this is where mark Hogencamp introduces us to one of his dolls.
(Audio Recording Played).
HOGENCAMP: This is my mom, my mother. This is from the movie Gold finger 007, Pussy Galore. Was her name. But anyway -- yeah, right? But it looks just like my mom. My mother came to visit, I said, mom, mom, look! There's you! You're attending bar. I said gee, yeah, okay. Didn't even look. Just walked right past it. You know? So it's like -- but that's my mom, you know? So I -- I gotta have my mom in here, in my town.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's a little clip from Marwencol, a new documentary. And Beth, mark Hogencamp turned to assembling this village after a devastating injury. And we're told about it very early in the film. What happened to him?
ACCOMANDO: Well, he was beaten into a coma, essentially, by five men outside of a bar. And it was, you know, after being in a coma for nine days, he came out of it, and he had -- he basically had to relearn almost everything. And in fact his mom holding up her pussy galore doll is introduced to us ask starts talking about the fact that it's really difficult to see your 30 something year-old son.
WRIGHT: A great deal of brain damage.
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, relearn how to speak and how to walk and motor skills. And that's why he turned to these dolls. And I think it was originally, he started by building model kits, and he went to a hobby shop, and it was focussing on these very small details and putting these very small things together. And learning how to steady your hand, and learning how to paint something and put something together. And it was helping him to regain those motor skills. And it started as physical therapy and turned into kind of an emotional therapy afterwards.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Scott, you know, the reaction to this documentary has been almost universally enthusiastic. What is it about Marwencol that you liked?
MARKS: I'll be honest with you, I found the interplay between his dolls more fascinating than anything in the king's speech. This is one of those bits of -- I don't know if this is good film making. Is this someone -- is this a film maker who happened upon a subject who has such of a unique and strong visual style that he's basically aping this -- you know, his subject's art? I don't know of it's too early to tell. I'm gonna have to see another couple of films by the director. But this thing was so compelling to watch and filled with so much compassion that -- I couldn't help but be won over by this film.
ACCOMANDO: Well, I think it is a good director who at least -- I don't know if he's gonna be a great director. But I think he's smart enough to know how good his subject matter is and how to stay out of the way and how to present it. It's nice that he introduces each of these character, each of the real people in mark's doll with their doll, with their ator ego from Marwencol. And that's nice. That's a choice he made.
MARKS: No, there's no question about it. But any documentarian can't help but be influenced by their subject. There's no denying that.
WRIGHT: But I think what you're saying is, he uses a lot of the still photographs that Hogencamp has taken of the town as part of the film, but I think you have to. Because honestly it's his work that's really so incredible. These photographs are amazing. And what he also does, Hogencamp has created this narrative, this World War II sort of movie hero narrative that goes on in this town that stars him as the hero. And he sort of acts out these -- these scenarios, these stories with all these different characters and photographs them out. And the stories themselves allow him to gain access to the frustration that he has, the anger that he has, all of these feelings, and he documents them. Of but through this entirely different medium.
ACCOMANDO: But also it's what the director chooses to look at in terms of how Hogencamp is working with these dolls. There's a point at which I think he's dressing and undressing a doll and creating clothes for it. And it's -- the attention to the detail kind of the awkwardness he has in putting the clothes on and what he's talking about as he's doing, and those are all directing choices how you film him, what you choose to ask him, what you choose to show. But he does. He works out his own emotional problems through this World War II narrative.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Scott, you know, just so that people know, some of these photographs of this doll village, when they're blown up, if you don't know if it's a doll village, it can fool you, it looks like an actual photograph.
MARKS: The way in which he poses these characters, there's one shot where all the dolls are in a box. And they're all looking at the camera except a couple, and it is just -- I mean, I froze that shot, it was just amazing to look at. This is one thick I want to bring up. The film has a secret. A surprise. And I'm not gonna give it away. But in the press notes, it says it refers to a sensitive aspect of mark Hogencamp's personal life. And they don't want anybody to reveal it because it risks turning off audiences who are inclined to make snap judgments and who might benefit from seeing the film. If you tell an audience ahead of time that there is a secret in the film, doesn't that somehow spoil the secret? Doesn't the audience sit there and just lose concentration on the film waiting for the secret? I mean you saw it with the ying game.
ACCOMANDO: Did you just ruin this film?
WRIGHT: I think we just -- yeah.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I don't think we did because, you know, the way that the revelations in this film keep on coming out while the documentary continues is a deliberate story telling method of the director. And I'm wonder, Anders, do you think that works?
WRIGHT: I feel like by the time we sort of got to that part of things, I guess I understand what those press notes mean. You get a better sense of who this guy really is and why his life has gone down this particular path. But in many ways, it's postscript. We've really spent the bulk of the film sort of watching him do this project. And he's a really fascinating and terribly tragic character. Because he's lost so much and now he's almost exclusively sort of right brained in the way he operates. He's got very little organization in terms of getting through life. But he's clearly just lonely and unhappy. And this is an outlet for him that allows him to be around other people. Be around women. And to actually sort of a hero instead of being somebody who was -- who had all of his -- who had everything taken away.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have to take a short break. We'll have closing remarks with Marwencol and talk about our other films as the film club of the air continues on These Days on KPBS.
Welcome back, I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. It's the KPBS film club of the air with my guests, Beth Accomando, Scott Marks, and Anders Wright, and we're just finishing up some comments on Marwencol, the documentary about a man who created a village of dolls and photographed them and created some very interesting art in the process. And I was just mentioning that I thought there was a direct sort of contrast between this documentary, and the celebrated documentary, exit through the gift shop, which knot an Oscar nomination. And that is, exit through the gift shop seems to be all about ironic art. Whereas this film seems to be about a man who [CHECK AUDIO] there was just that contrast for me, and I know that you wanted to point out, Beth, that you originally saw Marwencol at Comicon.
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, I was able to see it. Comicon has an international film festival that they run. And I wish more people would go to the films that they show there. Because every year I've seen some amazing work, especially in the documentary category. I was really happy that last July I was able to see this. It won not only best documentary, but it won best in show. And I'm really happy that Redding cinemas, at the gas lamp, was willing to show it. I talked to them, and I pointed out, you know, this won at Comicon, it played once at -- or, no, it played twice at Comicon. Didn't have a very large crow there, I said it would be great to have it play down here. And they were really open to the idea because one of their other theatres I think in Dallas was showing it. So I'm just really happy that it's gonna have a chance to get an audience here.
WRIGHT: We were talking in the last film club about the best films of the year. And right now, we're kind of in this golden age of documentary, because they're so much easier to make than they ever have been. And people are coming up with some terrific films, and this is absolutely worth checking out when it gets here.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Scott, final word.
MARKS: The one thing that disappointed me, [CHECK AUDIO] they said he constructed a town, and I kept awaiting an aerial pull back for this enormous almost, like set. But they're basically dioramas that he photographs much the same way that a comic book artist was sketch panels of it's a great film, it's a compelling film and it's one that -- this is a terrible time for movies unless you want to see all the awards nominees, and Redding is kind of like the antidote to that, they're bringing in a lot of films so check those local listings, folks.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Marwencol opens at the Redding Gaslamp theaters February 11th. We move on to the illusionist, it's a French animated film, not to be confused with the 2006 film of the same name starring Edward Norton. It's based on a short story by acclaimed actor and director, Jacques Tati, and the story follows a midcentury magician who was coming to the end of his career. His world of music hauls and vaudeville is fading but he finds a bright spot in the gloom with a relationship with a young film.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Anders, which was -- the Triplets of Bellville, can you see any similarities between these two films? Well, they're both animation.
WRIGHT: Sure, and they both have that sort of old school, hand withdrawn film to it. I think the other thing is that neither of them have very much dialogue in them at all. It's mostly pantomime and sounds that approximate words. He's really trying to get across what he's trying to say without using dialogue, and I think that's clearly become his signature.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Beth? You liked this film.
ACCOMANDO: I really enjoyed this film. I thought last year was a rather weak year for animation, and the main reason for that is eight of Hollywood animation is forced to sit at the kid's table. And they're kind of forced to stay with story telling that's aimed directly at kids. And I just like the fact that, for one, this was more hand drawn animation, and it wasn't just aimed at kids. And it had this, just lovely quality to it. I just really enjoyed watching it. There are some lovely moments in it. There's one scene where a couple of young lovers are standing in front of a story window where there are naked manikins behind them, and it was just amazing and charming.
WRIGHT: And we should say this actually did get one of the three best animated film nominations.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Scott, I know you're a fan of jack that tee, and this has sort of been [CHECK AUDIO].
MARKS: Was a French film maker. When I think of visually inventive film directors, Buster Keaton, [CHECK AUDIO] injury Lewis, and Albert brooks. There's your history right there. This guy is one of the best. He made silent films long after sound came to be. And not silent. There are moments of dialogue, there are sound effects, but it's also basically incidental to the visuals. This guy is one of the great comedic visual story tellers. And you also have this sense of that tee's relationship to the physical world that is just so fascinating to watch of here's a guy who always knows where his body is going to be positioned in the frame to get the maximum amount of information and laughs. I didn't find any of that in the illusionist. I think the illusionist is just kind of a sentimental soft ball film. And frankly, the fact that they used that tee's likeness is kind of offensive. Because he's saying I really love Jacque Tati, but I don't think that Chomet really understood what made Tati great and that's why I was bored out of my mind by this movie.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, tell us a lot bit, Anders about the relationship between the Tati character and Alice, the surrogate daughter in this movie.
WRIGHT: To me, this movie sort of gets to some of the parent daughter -- the parent child relationships that I talked about in Biutiful as well. [CHECK AUDIO] and moves in with him, and he essentially sacrifices everything for her just to keep her clothed and fed and supported. And she's generally unable to see what it is that he is doing for her. Even though, you know, she's very sweet, she's very kind, and he clearly has nothing but affection for her. But he basically will take on anything he must do, in order to keep her going.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There seems to be a split on this film. Some people think as you do, Beth, that it's charming and it's sentimental, and it's really good to look at. Other people, like Scott, and there have been another -- there are critics basically saying it's a cliche ridden, it's overly sentimental. I'm wondering where do you stand on it, Anders?
WRIGHT: I didn't find it as charming as Beth did, and I didn't find it as sentimental as Scott did, I guess. I wasn't overly impressed, but there were moments that I really enjoyed.
ACCOMANDO: I think it's a little long. I think they stretch it a little thin. But I think it's just enchanting. Of and the other thing is, it's caused some controversial in France because it's based on one of Jacque Tati's unproduced scripts and it's supposed to be based or inspired by his daughter. But he had two daughters. One who was a legitimate daughter, [CHECK AUDIO] so there's some controversy, was this inspired by the daughter that he completely ignored or the daughter that he left to go do work. I don't think that affects how you enjoy the film or not, or that it's something behind it. But talking about it being sentimental and kind of light weight, I don't think this is giving away anything, but there's a point at which the character who is a magician leaves the young girl a note that says magicians do not exist. [CHECK AUDIO] but on a certain level, magic does. And I think it makes that point without hitting you over the head with it, and I think it's quite charming in doing that. Of and I do think that the animated character captures some of the Jacque Tati's qualities, not as well as he was. And there's a charming scene where he walks into a theatre and sees himself, essentially, on the screen in a live action shot of Jacque Tati. But he physically looks like him, and he has -- there's a scene that I think captures jack Tati's sense of visual comedy which is they're standing in the middle of a secrete, with cars rushing by, and you see what looks like a car coming straight at them with two headlights, and it turns out to be two motorcycles that pas by on both sides leaving them unharmed. And that's very much his sense of visual comedy and visual sensibility where he's [CHECK AUDIO] the modern world and technology as something that Jacque Tati's characters didn't frequently comprehend. They were always a little bit befuddled.
WRIGHT: I always think, what would you think of this film if you were completely unfamiliar with Jacque Tati.
ACCOMANDO: I think you would still enjoy it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Scott, one final quick word, I'm wondering what you thought about the animation itself.
MARKS: I'm used to it. This kind of bare bones, limited animation. I've gotten used it to it.
ACCOMANDO: How can you call it limited and bare bones? It's beautiful to look at.
MARKS: You didn't like tangled, I didn't like this. I think tangled is complex visual imagery, I didn't see that in this.
ACCOMANDO: Well, no, I thought tangled looked beautiful. I had a problem with its narrative and its story teller.
MARKS: You didn't like the songs.
ACCOMANDO: Well, that's definitely true. But I thought it was the best 3D we had last year.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The illusionist is playing at Hillcrest cinemas. I hate to caught you off. But [CHECK AUDIO] who died last year. Gérard Depardieu plays Bellamy, a detective whose family holiday in the country is interrupted by a case of murder. Now, Claude Chabrol directed over 70 movies and TV shows. This is his 50th film. Scott, tell us something about him.
MARKS: All right, we got a few minutes of I gotta talk fast the. Claude Chabrol started out as a critic for [CHECK AUDIO] cinema, the ground breaking French film magazine and became a director. He's been called the French Hitchcock, but you know, after 50 films and 20 television shows, I think the guy can stand -- his representation can stand on its own. This is a brilliant film. You watch this film and everything else pales in comparison. His direction in this film is absolutely flawless. It's another one of his moral inquisitions, and this one is directed at a very leisurely pace, and it invites you to observe everything in the frame. [CHECK AUDIO] here is a textbook example of how to do this. Each one of the sets that these characters occupy comment on their personality, their lifestyle, everything about them. You go into the interior decorator's home, and you see how hideous the decor is, that tells you so much about this character. And the film is just loaded with the points like that. He gets the killer's phone number and he writes it down on the same page that he's doing a cross word puzzle like it's another puzzle to solve. And I love it in the beginning when he says to his wife, Bellamy sees all. And it's true. You watch [CHECK AUDIO] except the one inside himself, that five minutes before the film ends in 3 or 4 sentences of exposition, his entire character motivation is explained. This is a brilliant piece of film making if you like detective film, suspense films this is for you. You gotta see this movie.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. Anders and both, we have a very limited time period.
MARKS: Sorry folks.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So if you could tell me, do you agree?
WRIGHT: Well, there's so much that I like here. But not the least of which is Depardieu's performance of he has grown --
ACCOMANDO: He's twice the man he used to be.
WRIGHT: Literally --
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh, fat jokes.
WRIGHT: But he's so charismatic and holds the screen completely. I was not particularly interested in the case he's trying to solve as I was in his own life because so much of what he seems to be trying to do is avoid what's actually going on in himself.
ACCOMANDO: I liked it too. I wish that a film like Merci Pour le Chocolat, or the Bridesmaid were his last time. I liked those better because they had a lot more of the perversity that I enjoy from him.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Some reviews that I read said, you know, if he had to have a last film, this really wasn't his best. But I know, Scott, that you do not agree with that. Of.
MARKS: No, I think Claude Chabrol, when you look back at his career, who would have thought that he would be the one to have the longest and most fertile career? This guy was pretty much directing up until the day that he died. [CHECK AUDIO] there was just something about the energy and the vitality that this man brought to a film at the age of 80 that is just so -- and a maturity, when it comes to knowing how to tell a story with a camera that is just absent in contemporary Hollywood film making.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Inspector Bellamy is currently playing at the Redding gas lamp theatres. I want to thank Beth Accomando, Anders Wright, Scott Marks, come back, and be with us next time. All the way from Burbank. And if you would like to comment, please go on-line, KPBS.org These Days. You've been listening to These Days on KPBS.