Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Night with Spies - OSS 117 and Spy(ies)

Friday night was arguably the best night at COLCOA this year with its mix of gangsters and spies.
Mesrine (read the Mesrine review) was screened in its entirety (part 1 and 2 were shown successively) while 2 different kinds of spies movies were featured, each of them being successful in its own genre.

The spy spoof OSS 117 Lost in Rio, which is the follow up of the highly successful OSS 117 proved to be as hilarious as its predecessor, its charming kitsch being this time transposed in the exotic surroundings of the Brazilian city. The writer director, present for a Q&A afterwards, brought a welcome note of sarcasm answering unintinteresting questions from the audience and from that annoying pompous critic from a well known publication.

A couple days after the highly disappointing and messy Secrets of State, Spy(ies) proved that French cinema can deliver smart and sharp movies about spies, without losing its soul to provide some entertainment. Focusing on highly flawed characters, the film was an effective psychological thriller supported by a strong cast.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Secrets of State

Somewhat aiming at being a spy movie with a French touch, Secrets of State leaves you with the feeling that you just watched a - post-Syriana - Hollywood movie set in France, rather than a French movie, which is mostly due to the fact that co-writer/director Phillippe Haim seems to be working hard at channeling Tony Scott and, to some extent, his brother Ridley.

By editing and shooting his film like an edgy and flashy piece of filmmaking, the writer greatly undermines his screenwriting's attempt at constructing a serious tale about the war between intelligence services and terrorists. While his film is captivating at times, whether it's during a couple action sequences or when it comes to describing in details how this world works, the central message he's delivering here is so heavy handed that it looses its impact once it becomes redundant: did we really need 3 references to understand that secret agents are prostitutes working for their country? Probably not, especially after watching Paul Verhoeven's Black Book.

COLCOA Opening Night Gala

COLCOA kicked off with a gala filled with the usual fine food, drinks and guests, from filmmaker Costa-Gavras to actresses/directors Josianne Balasko & Zabou Breitman.

The film opening the festival, Someone I loved, which was directed by Ms. Breitman and starred Daniel Auteuil was more problematic. Not only is this a minor - though entertaining - film that does not have the caliber to open a film festival - Mesrine (Mesrine review) or even OSS 117 would have been better choices - but its abrupt changes in tones, from pathos to a cliched romance, made it look like a work that is constantly questionning its own identity and purpose.