Controversy swirled around Blue is the Warmest Color almost as soon as the film’s existence came to light. This almost three-hour, NC-17-rated love story about two females — one of whom is 15 years old when the story begins — features what may be the most graphic (and lengthy) sex scenes ever shot for a non-pornographic film. The motives of French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche were called into question, first because he’s a heterosexual male and later after his two lead actresses (Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos) complained bitterly to the press about difficult on-set working conditions. The film also won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the top prize at the world’s most prestigious film festival. Led by none other than Steven Spielberg, the Cannes jury took the extraordinary step of giving the award to three people — the film’s two young stars in addition to the director. Can the movie possibly measure up to the drama of its own real-life back-story?
It’s not drama but raw human emotion that allows Blue is the Warmest Color to rise above all the chatter. Eighteen years old at the time of the shoot, Adele Exarchopoulos plays the younger of the two women and delivers an unhurried, utterly realistic portrayal of an adolescent girl becoming an adult over the course of several years. (Director Kechiche effectively named the film — translated literally from the original French as “The Story of Adele, Chapters 1 & 2” — in her honor.) Early scenes in which Adele’s teenage friends publicly humiliate her for the suspected romance with older art student Emma (Seydoux, a major star in France) are shocking in their cruelty. But the film’s main triumph is found in the way it moves beyond issues of sexual orientation and develops a remarkably intimate and universal love story. Shot mostly in close up, the film never drags despite its length, which is an achievement in itself.
The film’s sex scenes are not for the easily offended, and will undoubtedly continue as a source of controversy. Others may be troubled by the way Kechiche’s camera dwells on the bodies of his beautiful stars even when they’ve got their clothes on, almost as if to invite accusations of exploitive intent. But the couple’s physicality is essential to the story of youthful passion. Surprisingly, the film spends as much time in the classroom as the bedroom, as the only thing Adele knows she wants from life is to become an effective teacher of young children. The film celebrates meaningful vocation almost as much as it does sensuality. Making an authentic hero of a classroom teacher may be an even more daring act for a filmmaker than portraying graphic lesbian sex. Controversy is in the eye of the beholder.
Blue Is the Warmest Color start today, Friday, November 15, exclusively at The Theatres at Canal Place.
As noted here, John Goodman will speak at Loyola University Monday, Nov. 25. Details for the screening of his new film Inside Llewyn Davis have been announced. The film screens at 3:15 p.m. Monday at Louis J. Roussel Performance Hall. Goodman speaks at the Music Industry Forum from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free, but tickets must be reserved online or at (504) 865-2074.
Inside Llewyn Davis chronicles a young folk singer in the 1960s. The film won the Grand Prix award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
Open Screen (as in "open mic") is a phenomenon happening across the globe that allows filmmakers to show their short works to an audience of fellow artists and film fans in a public setting. A production of local organization CInema Reset, the first New Orleans Open Screen will take place this Friday, November 15, at 8 p.m. at Hey! Cafe, 4322 Magazine Street. Films can be no longer than 10 minutes and must be in MP4, H.264, or DVD formats, although celluloid is allowed if you bring your own projector. All types of film are welcome. Filmmakers will be allowed time to introduce their work and lead a brief discussion afterwards. Arrive 30-45 minutes early to sign up. More info here.
A film so indie that writer-director Marcus Markou had to self-distribute it in his native England, Papadopoulos and Sons nevertheless has all the the family-friendly charm Hollywood strives for but seldom achieves. The story is nothing new: wealthy entrepreneur Harry Papadopoulos (Stephen Dillane) overextends himself to build a massive real estate development and loses everything — almost — in a sudden economic crisis that looks an awful lot like 2008. The only thing that survives the creditors’ onslaught is the long-abandoned fish and chips shop he and his wayward and free-spirited brother Spiros (French actor Georges Corraface) ran together when they were young. Can a family reunion and a return to happier times be far behind?
The film’s low-key but recognizable depiction of corporate greed makes its predictability much easier to swallow, rendering a too-familiar story surprisingly fresh. Though it possesses the warm, burnished look of a full-scale Hollywood production, the film’s low-budget origins sometimes peek through, especially in an awkward and cheap-looking photomontage that seems included mainly to save on film stock. But no matter — by that time, Papadopoulos and Sons has already established itself as a great restorative for anyone having a bad day. The movie’s central theme says that it’s never too late to figure out what’s really important in life. Sometimes simple truths manage to overcome cliché, and even bear repeating.
Papadopoulos and Sons begins a one-week run tonight at Zeitgeist Movies. More info here.
It’s hard to imagine a more natural subject for a biopic than Sal Mineo. The Bronx-born son of an immigrant coffin-maker, Mineo earned two Oscar nominations — alongside mentor James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause when he was 16 years old, and five years later for Exodus — and had a brief but successful career as a pop star in the late 1950s. Mineo was also among the first major film actors to come out as gay in the late ’60s. That openness didn’t help his career, and neither did Hollywood’s persistence in typecasting him first as a troubled teen and later as an unhinged criminal. In the throes of yet another attempt at a comeback, Mineo was murdered by a stranger in the alley behind his West Hollywood apartment in 1976.
Actor-turned-director James Franco’s film Sal focuses not on Mineo’s lifelong personal struggles but on the last, largely uneventful day of the actor’s life. In addition to movies, modern-day Renaissance man Franco makes everything from fine art to literary fiction to Motown-inspired music, and he has taught filmmaking at New York University and the University of Southern California. Remarkably, Sal is full of seemingly random and ineffective camera work in scenes that meander aimlessly and do little to illuminate Mineo’s storied life. Stage and indie-film actor Val Lauren is convincing enough in the title role to make you wish he had better material to work with. You have to admire Franco’s fearlessness, but with Sal he’s made an art film that’s just not very artfully done.
Sal begins a one-week run tonight at Zeitgeist Movies. More info here.
Following its world premiere at the 2013 New Orleans Film Festival, local filmmaker Jessy Williamson's documentary A Warehouse on Tchoupitoulas premieres Thursday, Nov. 7 on WYES-TV.
The film follows dozens of stories from the landmark music venue, which opened in 1970 and hosted countless rock 'n' roll legends, including opening night acts the Grateful Dead and Fleetwood Mac as well as Bob Marley, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan and dozens others. It also was the venue where The Doors performed for the last time with Jim Morrison. The Allman Brothers were the "house band," performing at the venue no less than twice a month in its early years. The Talking Heads headlined the venue's final gig in 1982. (Read the Gambit cover story looking back at the venue as it approached its 40th anniversary.)
The Warehouse was founded by Bill Johnston, a New Orleans native who wanted to replicate the experience of New York's Fillmore East in his hometown. His Warehouse became a go-to venue for touring acts throughout the '70s. Johnston, who is interviewed extensively in the film, died earlier this year.
The film follows the venue's rocky early days and the offbeat characters in its pot-heavy scene, with anecdotes from roadies, staff members, popular 'zine In Your Ear founders, and frequent sideman Deacon John Moore.
A Warehouse on Tchoupitoulas airs 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, and 9 p.m. Nov. 28.
Charitable Film Network and Press Street continue their Nola Japanese Cinema Series tonight, Monday, Nov. 4, with a free screening of Akira Kurosawa's late-career masterpiece Ran at 7:00 p.m. at Cafe Istanbul inside the New Orleans Healing Center. Loosely based on both Shakespeare's King Lear and the life of 16th century feudal ruler Mori Motonari, Ran is widely lauded for its creative use of color (most of the Kurosawa canon was shot in black and white) and was the most lavish Japanese film ever made upon its release in 1985. It was nominated for four Oscars and has gradually earned a place alongside Kurosawa classics like Rashomon and Seven Samurai. More info here.
Not much has been revealed about the new documentary JFK: A President Betrayed beyond a trailer. But those behind the film claim to have uncovered previously classified details on JFK's presidency that reveal him to have been a far more progressive leader than previously believed — and identify forces within his own administration that worked in secret to thwart him. Of course, this also leads to new speculation about Kennedy's assassination. The film gets a one-time showing in New Orleans, tonight, November 4, at 7:30 p.m. at Zeitgeist Movies. TIckets are $8 general admission, $7 for students and seniors, $6 for Zeitgeist members. More info here.
It’s easy to see why Orson Scott Card’s science fiction novel Ender’s Game has remained a favorite among young readers over the last 28 years. The story takes place in the not-too-distant future after humanity has barely survived an alien invasion. With the looming prospect of another intergalactic war, it is somehow decided that a new military leader must be found among the preteens of Earth, presumably because they’re all so good at multitasking and using computers. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is the ace 12-year-old who must save humanity with his tactical genius and knack for video games. All of which confirms the suspicions of preteens everywhere that adults aren’t as smart as they think they are. What’s not to love?
The inherent silliness of the Ender’s Game premise poses no serious problem for writer-director Gavin Hood’s long-awaited film adaptation. It revels in the book’s high-tech fantasy world, cuts to the chase by compressing the six years covered in the almost 400-page initial tome down to one decisive, action-filled year, and leaves the door open for unlimited sequels to match the dozens of Ender’s Game novels, short stories, and comic books currently found on the shelves. The movie is well crafted and the kids will surely love it. The rest of us can deal privately with its muddled politics and the troubling sight of world-weary elders — played by Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley, no less — training gifted children as soldiers. Ender’s Game is surprisingly entertaining as long as you don’t think about it too much.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP...
Chalmette Movies has announced an "odd filmmaking contest that should hit very close to the home of all of its patrons." Entries must express personal aggravation resulting from the closure of the Judge Seeber Bridge — widely known as the Claiborne Avenue Bridge — over the last couple of months. The bridge, of course, connects Chalmette with the nearby city of New Orleans. There's no entry fee, and aspiring filmmakers don't have to be from St. Bernard Parish. The total running time should be 3 to 5 minutes and submitted on DVD (no Blu-rays). The winner will get a six-month movie pass and see their work posted to the theater's website. Mail your entry to Chalmette Movies, 8700 West Judge Perez Drive, Suite D, Chalmette LA 70043.
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