Thursday, July 05, 2007

Ah, Paree...

It is sort of ironic that on the Fourth of July, I spent the day watching films about France. Sort of.

"Ratatouille" (dir. Brad Bird, US, 2007, 110 mins.), Pixar's latest souffle about a brilliant little rat who takes over a Paris restaurant, is critic proof, thanks to a WHOPPER of a final monologue delivered by the incomparable Peter O'Toole! There is considerable voice talent: Janeane Garofalo is nearly unrecognizable in her voicing of the love interest, as is Ian Holme as the rat's evil nemesis. Curiously, our heroes voiced by Patton Oswalt (the rat, Remy) and Lou Romano (the chef Linguini, who the rat 'uses' to accomplish his culinary miracles) are the least memorable.

The film is gorgeous to look at! Thematically, I thought it stumbled a bit. However, whatever weakness the script might have in its moral, it is overwhelmed by the amazing technique of presenting what eating can be all about. Its climax is thrillingly produced and it is simply set at a dinner table. That moment (with the slight exception of a flashback out of "Willard"), and I don't want to go on TOO much about it, is worth the 100 minutes or so of fluff to get to. Just give it a whirl!

After that piece of fluff, I entered 'art'. "Paris, je t'aime" (dirs. 18 of them, France, 2006, 120 mins.) This is a 'collective film' directed by no less than 18 directors in 16 scenes, including some of my favorites! I had to see Tom Tykwer's inclusion, which was released at the Berlin Film Festival more than two years ago as "True" featuring Natalie Portman. Also, the Coen brothers are here (featuring Steve Buscemi as a discombobulated American tourist), along with Christopher Doyle (directing Barbet Schroeder!), Alfonso Cuarón (directing Nick Nolte), Wes Craven (?!), Alexander Payne, and the list goes on and on. The majority of the scenes are stunning, both visually as well as their pithy and effective screenplays. I can not think of a single piece that I would have cut out. The performances by the HUGE cast are at least good and, at times, brilliant. Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands (directed by Gérard Depardieu and written by Gena Rowlands) are incredible, as is Juliette Binoche (directed by Nobuhiro Suwa). Nearly each segment features an O'Henry twist to it that I find undeniably appealing! The scenes are all tied together by geographic references, Emmanuel Benbihy's cinematic transition pieces and the musical score by Pierre Adenot, Marie Sabbah and Tom Tykwer. It is thrilling, gorgeous and a lovely way to spend an afternoon! It is also available on R2-DVD in France, so I suspect it will become available here in some time!

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