Film

There Is Beauty in 'Thérèse' But No Passion

Audrey Tautou is too internal an actress to make us feel her character's passionate quest for meaning.


Thérèse

Director: Claude Miller
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Gilles Lellouche
Distributor: MPI
Rated: NR
Release date: 2013-11-19

After starring in the critically acclaimed, box office hit Amélie, Audrey Tautou became an overnight sensation and one of France’s most popular actresses. From César nominated roles in Jean-Pierre Jeunet films, to starring opposite Tom Hanks in the blockbuster The Da Vinci Code and playing the legendary Coco Chanel (in a performance that earned her a BAFTA nomination), Tautou pretty much became France’s most celebrated young actress.

But the truth is that despite her popularity, she has never been a particularly interesting actress to watch.

In Claude Miller’s Thérèse, she proves this as she plays a bored housewife who is so passive and serene that we are left wondering why she was cast in a role that had the possibility of brimming with salaciousness. Based on the eponymous novel by Nobel Prize winner Francois Mauriac, Thérèse centers on the character played by Tautou, a woman living in the region of Landes who marries into the wealthy Desqueyroux family out of a promise she made.

Her husband, Bernard (Gilles Lellouche), is a proud, arrogant man who seems to care little about anything other than himself, he’s the kind of character who believes the world is a better place because he’s in it. “Eleven thousand acres when we’re married” he suggests to his future wife about the size of his land increasing once their union is formalized.

She confides to her future sister-in-law Anne (Anaïs Demoustier), that she will find solace in marriage because it will put her back on the good path. “When I’m married my ideas will go back in order. I don’t know what order but an order” she says, while the idealistic Anne reminds her that finding peace isn’t interesting.

The film has a severe rhythm problem because time flies by (according to title cards) but we feel like we barely know these people at all. From a hurried marriage straight to maternity, we’re supposed to perceive how much the heroine has changed because everyone around her talks about it, but the actress playing her has little to show for it.

Tautou is perhaps a too internal actress who spends her time turning her character’s dilemmas into complex internal monologues, and while that probably makes for some interesting intellectual discourse, it makes for very poor drama. Trying to figure out what the actress is thinking is frustrating because as audience members we feel completely out of the loop. “One can talk to you, talk about important things” says Jean Azevedo (Stanley Weber) about Thérèse, when she meets with him to see if he can convince him to stop his affair with her sister-in-law. Azevedo is a Portuguese Jew disliked by the elitist Desqueyroux family and once again we are left wondering why he thinks that and why he eventually confides in her.

Watching the film most of the time feels like reading a book that doesn’t completely click with us. It’s easy to understand why the story’s moral center is so fascinating and why the novel is so beloved, but the execution of said ideas is done in a way that is both handsome and dull. With stunning cinematography, costume design and art direction -- not to mention the handsomeness of its cast -- the film should at least be pleasurable to the eye and senses, but when we are reminded that its protagonist is also a self acknowledged hedonist who seeks to enjoy the pleasures in life but represents them with such lack of conviction, we feel like she’s betraying the film itself.

Thérèse turned out to be director Claude Miller’s very last film and as such, one can’t help but wish to be more reverential to it, but the more you think about it, the more impenetrable the film turns out to be. Lellouche turns in the most committed performance as he finds the good in his Bernard, where a lesser actor would’ve turned him into a run of the mill villain, Lellouche takes his time to turn him into a man so complex we understand why he would drive Thérèse to a point of quasi-insanity. He doesn’t play him like a villain or a saint and in a film where everything else seems over calculated to the point where it loses its power and becomes uninteresting to watch, his work feels like a welcome breath of fresh air.

This DVD edition of Thérèse is presented by MPI Pictures with a great transfer that highlights the film’s beauty and truly Gerard de Batista’s work with frames and lighting is astonishing to watch. The film is presented in its original language with optional English subtitles. There are no bonus features included other than a trailer for the film and previews of other coming attractions.

5

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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