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Les Milles (1995)
A subtle and sober movie about resistance based on a true story with the fine French touch.
At the launch of WWII in France, Germans, Austrians and axis allies living in France are sent to the concentration camp of Les Milles by the French government. In this camp, people from all background are forced to live together, may they be Nazis, spies, diplomats, visitors and refugees being artists, Jews, political dissidents, intellectuals or anyone in disagreement which fled the oppressing Nazi regime after Hitler's accession to power.
Based on a true story, the movie is a fiction which brilliantly and modestly portrays the camp everyday life and its intricacies if not open conflicts when the prisoners are bound to be confronting their views. The camp at Les Milles really existed and is located near Marseille. It happened to welcome a certain number of famous figures such as artists, writers, and scientists. In the movie, they happened to attract the attention of an American journalist, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, only concerned about getting an interview with them and later saving their lives.
Jean-Pierre Marielle plays a "more than true" captain Charles Perrochon who happens to be incapable to fight the war on the front against the Germans since, during WWI, he lost a lung as the result of gazing. He is then given the command of Les Milles. The movie is very efficient at rendering the hardships of keeping together a concentration camp with inadequate resources when not trained for this kind of duty. There are even scenes which show the director's ability to bring funny tones in this situation which surely had its share of awkward moments. Funny scenes have brought some energy to this slow paced movie which surely resembles concentration camp life and will displease people wishing an action packed war movie with a lot of haemoglobin or explosions. It is somehow more philosophical and intelligent since violence rarely erupts in the movie but interesting discussions do occur now and then.
However, as the German continue to conquer France rapidly, the French government does not show honour and pride in their compromised bargaining when it comes to the fate of people considered undesirable by the Nazis, and the movie will show a disillusioned General wishing to save himself, excellently played by Philippe Noiret, which will accept to return the prisoners to the French police, meaning sending several people to their sure deaths as traitors to the Nazi regime.
But, maybe this what this movie is all about, a bunch of people running around to save their lives as the "debacle", the rapid conquest of their country by the German army, approaches. Only a few keep their true sense of values in the face of danger and this maybe a very honest discussion telling us about ourselves.It is interesting to note that a higher percentage of Jews survived in France than in any other German-occupied country.
However, there is the, often overlooked, other side of the medal where a large number of ordinary people remained faithful to their values and became heroes. The film shows us how normal, undistinguished Frenchmen, military personnel, who retained a sense of decency in the face of loosing a dreadful war becoming a human disaster. We can see how Perrochon's sense of human dignity called by his military code of honour led to disobedience to official Army orders to surrender their prisoners and ultimately to true heroism sheltering many lives, by organising the Freedom Train against all odds, rules and regulations. With the help of his reluctant officers, the commandant requisitions a train in a desperate attempt to shuttle his prisoners to Bayonne, where hopefully a freighter will take them to free Morocco. Moreover, access to freedom will not only be secured to a few selected elite as wished by the journalist but to all men seeking refuge thereby showing a universal sense of human dignity.
The movie finds a much more active pace with suspense in the second part when the train journeys through France trying to stay away from all perils and trying to reach destination where a ship awaits for taking the runaways to Casablanca.
I really think that this movie shows that the French have a lot to look at with pride when it comes to the fate of the people in danger during that very ugly war.
The Scarlet and the Black (1983)
A true story of Christian generosity during wartime
A impressive cast of characters with excellent acting bring us a powerful historical WW2 movie. One of my favourite movies. A movie based on a true story and very accurately portrayed which shows how difficult it was for genuine Catholics to stand against Nazis. This movie shows the result of fraternity which was fully endorsed by so many to help save so many lives at the risk of their own. This movie shows who the braves are and what true heroism is. A must see and I hope that Jewish families see that movie and then remembers those who saved their elders' life. This true story ends with an impressive optimistic tone since it seems possible to turn any monster into a human again, perhaps a proof that God exists and what it means to be almighty.
La vie et rien d'autre (1989)
A subtle masterpiece about humanity
When I saw this movie at the Montreal Film Festival, I was impressed by this contemplative movie. Like any contemplation, it sees everything about human nature and subtly refers to it. No flash, no gadgets, no lectures, just the plain vision of things as they are. He just lets you to be the judge of things. Then, I became a great fan of Tavernier's movies. This movie occupied my mind for ever after and never left me. This movie also confirmed how useless and dreadful this war was, and maybe how ridiculous most wars are. Perhaps my favourite movie ever. Anyway, a must see.
This movie has a sequel called Captain Conan which also shows Tavernier's prowess in making art and intelligent cinema where a lot of characters are involved and seem so natural.
A very funny story with a cast of excellent actors.
This movie is adapted from a play and is the kind of high paced funny movies where one joke follows the next one. The text is excellent which is rare in comedies which tend to be vulgar. None there. The cast, as far as I am concerned Louis de Funes is in great shape but he is surrounded by even better comedians like Bernard Blier which I really enjoy so much in almost all his movies. The soundtrack reaches levels that would have made it good enough for a James Bond movie.
This movie is full of intelligence and highlights the quality of those great comedies, made in France, that were so common in those days.
I really laughed when I saw it in one Montreal's theatre when it came out and I still laughed as much recently watching it again.
Now, lets hope that this movie gets a DVD release soon.
Mediocrity, the Hollywood way
This movie does not event reach the level of a B movie. Why do we need need for so much display of army power.
The movie is very noisy and difficult to listen to. The special effects are of very poor quality. The plot sounded promising at the beginning with an alien coming to warn the human race that they will be exterminated if they do not change their attitude of spoiling their planet. But it falls short and then all resulting actions are related to serious inconsistencies.
The US army holds an alien against his will and does not tell any other powers like France, Russia, UK, Canada, etc. What a pity ! The plot reveals a general attitude among US people which is a disgrace : that sense of superiority and lack of respect of the others. I hope that this is not how the soldiers are trained to react to an encounter of the third kind. I hope that soldiers will never have control of such events.
Why is it that the ET lands in New York again ? They could have selected Geneva.
Among inconsistencies, here are just a few. The contact (Keanu Reeves) has incredible powers but cannot even communicate with his spaceship. Why did he not fulfil his mission of giving his speech to the United Nation ? Why did the ETs commenced humanity destruction before they get an official response from them ? Why is the US army acting so stupidly by attacking first when the main spaceship does not pose a threat ?
The final is horribly stupid since the ETs are going to leave without asking mankind to evolve. This movie is like the ETs in it : no sense of purpose. How low can you go ? This is the feeling I get seeing that movie.
Do not waist your time on this one and I suggest you rent the Classic from 1951.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Improved but could be better
James Bond movies are in a class by themselves. Among others, their flair comes from their incredible car races which usually keep you riveted to your seat. In this movie, the starting sequence shows you two Alfa Romeos almost dominating JB's Aston Martin and it would have been stunning if properly filmed.
The same criticism can be stated for action scenes which happen to be very fast but difficult to watch.
I really liked the complex scenario where we see the CIA about to strike a deal with the villain for desperate political control. If you know about the Middle East, you will see it true. This seems more realistic and closer to reality with almost Ludlumesque intensity where the hero is caught in a serious imbroglio where even his own government will not support mission completion (except the well played M of course).
This movies seems to be moving away from propaganda where the world is portrayed no longer as two sides where everyone is spread between the good and the bad. Now, this movie brings shades of grey which at last makes these movies closer to real espionage.
I am still not sure if I like Craig in James Bond or not. But, we can now appreciate a strong man who goes into a lot of fights.
But one can see some goofs here and there such as why there were so many hydrogen bottles in that building in the middle of the desert.
This movie could have been better, much better.