Nymph()maniac: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2(2013)


Originally made as a single, long film, Nymph()maniac has Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) telling the story of her life to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard). She is a nymphomaniac, telling the story of her sexual adventures in chapters to this man. It did raise the question for me – why? Seligman found her injured in an alley and when she refused an ambulance, takes her home and she tells him this sexy story. And when I say sexy, it’s really a tragic story of a woman who has sexual urges that almost stop her from living her life.

Like many Lars von Trier films, it’s a hard watch. The characters are generally quite appealing although in this case, at least they are also quite self-aware. Despite the amount of sex in the film, it is actually a pretty unsexy film – perhaps because the audience is being told by Joe that she should be judged, yet we don’t want to judge her, but at the same time, it is almost impossible to not judge her. The films are part of the Trio of Depression (along with the wonderful Melancholia and Antichrist, which I’ve not yet seen). Possibly more interesting that the film itself are some of the methods they used to film it, including having body doubles having actual sex and using special effects to make it all work together. And all kinds of prosthetics.



I Do (2006) Film Review

I Do

I wonder whether France does have good romantic comedies. It seems that all that I have seen have been quite good, some less than good, but nothing great. This is another pretty good one; not great, but pretty good.

It goes that, after an early heartbreak caused by the meddling of his mother and sisters, Luis (Alain Chabat) has given up on love. Now, in his early forties, his sisters are sick of taking care of him and decide to set him up. This causes him much stress, and he decides to hire someone to pretend to be the perfect woman for him to get them off his back. In steps Emma (Chalotte Gainsbourg), the sister of his best friend. She plays the role, but it does not have the desired effect and the stakes are raised.

For a romantic comedy, there needs to be chemistry, and I felt no chemistry between Luis and Emma. In fact, I wanted Luis to get together with someone else, and Emma seemed pretty cool on her own. Still, it was great to see Charlotte Gainsbourg in a role I really enjoyed – many of hers seem so sad and intense, whereas Emma was a lot of fun – and with a good secret. It’s worth a watch, but I’m still searching for a fabulous French romantic comedy.

Melancholia (2011) Film Review



Lars von Trier

I remember promising myself after watching Dancer in the Dark that I would be very careful of watching films by Lars von Trier. It was such a difficult film, so incredibly painful and horrible. Melancholia is not as heart wrenching, but it is certainly an extremely emotional journey. If you let it be.

The film starts with a series of ultra slow, beautiful images which were wasted on my small television screen. Then we meet Justin (Kirsten Dunst) and her new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) in a stretch limo that is struggling to negotiate a narrow and windy road; it’s amusing, but seems like a very clunky metaphor for a failing relationship. Finally, they arrive at the party and everything seems fabulous. The bride and groom are laughing and socializing. There are awkward moments with her parents and boss, but it seems perfectly normal until it gradually becomes clear that she is suffering from some kind of debilitating depression and that their relationship is not all it is set up to be. Justine winds up staying with her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland).

On top of this, there is a mysterious new planet, Melancholia (the name being a  metaphor being one I appreciated a lot more than the stretch limo) which has been hiding behind the sun. It has emerged and appears to be heading toward Earth.

It is certainly a beautiful film that I wish I’d seen in the cinema; it is almost impossible to get a good sense of the beauty of the cinematography on a small screen. I often find that films with character such as these who are quite annoying and make poor decisions, I get very annoyed. But instead, with Melancholia, I was drawn in and wanted to know more.

I have become totally obsessed with the opening sequence. I find it totally hypnotising and mesmerising. I even found it on youtube to watch whenever I like. Here it is:

I’m Not There (2007) Film Review


Inspired by the life and times of Bob Dylan, I’m Not There follows a variety of storylines and characters that seem to be Dylan, or certainly are inspired by him. Christian Bale plays a young folk singer, Jack Rollins, whose rebellious folk music inspired a generation. However, when he plays electric guitar at a festival, his fans feel betrayed. He leaves the music scene and finds religion.

Cate Blanchett plays Jude Quinn, a folk/rock singer during the sixties who is living through drugs and identity crisis, fighting against stereotyping whilst trying to keep his voice.

Ben Wishall plays Arthur Rimbaud, a poet whose interjections are commas and fullstops to the rhythm of the film.

Marcus Carl Franklin plays Woody, a young boy who travels America, avoiding the law. He sings beautifully, songs of the depression.

Richard Gere plays Billy the Kid as an older man, a hermit in hiding after being shot by Pat Garrett. After discovering that Garrett is going to destroy Riddle County where he lives, he confronts Garrett and finds himself on the run again.

Finally, Heath Ledger plays Robbie Clark, an actor starring in the bio-pic of Jack Rollins (the character played by Christian Bale). We see him fall in love with Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who he marries. They have children, then split up.

There is so much in this film. I had expected that I would find it pretentious and annoying, especially having a woman cast as a male character. It all seemed ridiculous. Instead, I found it to be beautiful and poetic. It did not bother me that the stories mashed over each other, or that the key connection between the lot was the music. The hypnotic nature of the film lulled me in and took me over. The cast is incredible, with some of the top actors of this generation. I wonder how the film would have gone with unknown actors. I feel that it would have worked in much the same way, but perhaps with less acclaim.

Cate Blanchett was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for her performance in I’m Not There.

The Science of Sleep (La science des reves) (2006) Film Review



One of my favourite ever films is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I love the insanity of it, the pain, the romance and the magnificent cinematography. But I’ll write on that another time. The Science of Sleep is by the same director, Michel Gondry, and has a lot of similarities. Although where Eternal Sunshine is on memories, this is on dreams. Now, I’m predicting what you’re thinking – dreams in films are a tedious cop-out that leaves the audience unimpressed. Not when the director is Michel Gondry.

Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) has returned to Paris and to his (mostly absent) mother after his father’s death. He takes a job in a calendar company with a group of odd misfits but dreams of something more creative. After an accident with the moving of a piano, he meets his neighbour Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her friend Zoe (Emma de Caunes). Stephanie and Stephane both inhabit a mysterious artistic world. In the case of Stephane, not only does he live much of his life in dreams, but his dreams are somewhat real. Also, he invents amazing things, like a time machine that only works for one second increments, or 3D glasses that make 2D images come to life. He wants to pursue Stephanie, but his dreams get in the way.

It is beautiful, like watching any of Gondry’s music videos, however I started to grow tired of the story. There was so much information being thrown at me that by the end, I was exhausted. The film moved between French and English (and occasionally Spanish) which beautifully portrayed Stephane’s struggle with returning to Paris. I would still recommend it to anyone who loves beautiful films.

The Tree (2010) Film Review



A family live in the middle of rural Queensland; father, Peter (Aden Young) mother, Dawn (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and four children, Simone (Morgana Davies), Tim (Christian Byers), Lou (Tom Russell) and Charlie (Gabriel Gotting). When Peter dies suddenly, the family need to find their own way to get through their grief. Dawn falls to pieces. Charlie stops talking altogether. And Simone discovers that she can hear her father when she sits in the branches of the massive Moreton Bay Fig whose roots are tearing up the plumbing. The film plays out their grief, culminating in a natural disaster which forces them together.

It is a beautiful film in that Australian, rural, country beautiful way. Things are slow-moving, and there are a lot of shots of the magnificent landscape. I felt that it needed more; it felt like a short film which had been stretched into a feature rather than really occupying the full length. Charlotte Gainsbourg drove me nuts, playing an airy-fairy woman who was barely able to cope with life – although her grief was magnificent and heart-breaking. I wonder in her performance reminded me of the commentary of her own mother, Jane Birkin in Postcards of Serge, and that sent me up the wall. In all honesty, regardless of how you feel about the movie itself, it’s worth watching just for the tree. If you’ve never seen a Moreton Bay Fig, plan your next holiday to go see one. It’s worth it.

Gainsbourg by Gainsbourg (2011), Souvenirs of Serge (2011) MIFF Film Review


If you are a fan of Gainsbourg, then these films may well be for you. If, like me, you know very little about him, then they are not so interesting.  Watching these, I felt I needed context for what had happened in Gainsbourg’s life. I wanted some greater structure, perhaps to have some of the footage from these films combined with a more traditional documentary style so I knew what was going on.

In Gainsbourg by Gainsbourg: An Intimate Self-Portrait, we see Serge commentating over a lot of different footage from his life. Whilst it was quite interesting to have an insight in Gainsbourg’s mind, at times, it became very repetitive and I think there was a lot that could have been cut down. However, nothing like Souvenirs of Serge, which was a lot of quite delightful home footage of Serge with his then partner Jane Birkin and their children. The footage was mostly alright, at times even fabulous, but the commentary was drawn out and painful.

Perhaps, if you loved Serge, you too would love this. Perhaps.