It’s a toss-up as to what’s cruder in Men, Women & Children: the “ribald” humour of the film’s first half or the icky melodramatics and moralising of its second. Jason Reitman’s latest dud moves from cheap smut to even cheaper sentiment, its trajectory recalling that of last year’s Don Jon directed by (and starring) Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The movie’s subject matter recalls that of Don Jon too, for Men Women & Children is another attempt to explore the effects of the Internet on interpersonal relationships. I say an “attempt”, because the movie sadly fails as comedy, drama or truly insightful exploration of the digitisation of communication.
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With his “rape-revenge” thriller debut Katalin Varga (2009) and its Giallo-horror tribute follow-up Berberian Sound Studio (2012), Peter Strickland immediately announced himself as one of the more distinctive, and certainly one of the most self-consciously “European”, of contemporary British filmmakers. He’s a cine-literate auteur conversant in arcane as well as popular modes and genres, and one who’s able to twist those modes to his own particular ends.
If neither Katalin Varga nor Berberian Sound Studio came out totally satisfying in the end, both pictures nonetheless demonstrated Strickland to be a daring filmmaker capable of giving the at present fairly conservative British industry a much-needed shake up.
Elements of crime drama, unrequited love story and mother/daughter melodrama add up to an oddity in French Riviera (L’Homme Que L’On Aimait Trop), the latest work from André Téchiné, which reunites the veteran director with one of his actrices fétiches, Catherine Deneuve. Silver-haired here and as subtly compelling as ever, Deneuve plays Renée Le Roux, a casino-owner in ‘70s Nice who’s fending off business propositions from seemingly unscrupulous rivals.
The closing ceremony and prize-giving of the 39th Gdynia Film Festival took place on Saturday night on the Main Stage of the city’s Musical Theatre, the site of many of the memorable screenings and premieres held across the festival’s jam-packed, exhilarating six days.
Punctuated beautifully by live orchestra performances of Wojciech Kilar film scores (as a tribute to the iconic composer who died last December), the slickly-staged two-hour event proved most delightful. Not all of the decisions made by the international jury were what I would have hoped for myself. But the results certainly reflected the panel’s intention to reward as wide a range of films as possible: an appropriate approach, perhaps, in a year which yielded no one masterpiece but rather a selection of diverse, interesting and sometimes provocative works, from the traditional to the wildly experimental.
The Main Competition selection at this year’s Gdynia Film Festival has been highly diverse, with films ranging from the low, low-budget (Aleksandra Gowin and Ireneusz Grzyb’s disarming Little Crushes); Krzysztof Skonieczny’s disturbing Hardkor Disko) to the super-lavish (Warsaw 44).
More towards the latter end of the scale are Wladyslaw Pasikowski’s Jack Strong and Waldemar Krzystek’s The Photographer, two highly enjoyable, polished mainstream thrillers which also probe Polish-Russian relations in intriguing ways.