F.I.L.M. of the Week (June 30, 2016)

30 06 2016

Mood IndigoMichel Gondry’s name is among the rarefied few that can serve as an indicator of sophisticated whimsy and off-center delights. Be that in his seriocomic collaboration with Charlie Kaufman with “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” or even working within the Hollywood machine to produce a film adaptation of “The Green Hornet,” he puts an indelible stamp on anything he touches.

Yet even though Gondry made a film that many experts consider among the best of the 21st century, his film “Mood Indigo” hit a bit of snag in the United States. Despite opening in the director’s native country in April 2013, the film took another 15 months to wash up ashore here. And when it did, courtesy of Drafthouse Films, roughly 35 minutes did not make the voyage over.

Normally, I would not complain about a movie getting shorter; many auteur-driven projects could use some fat-trimming. But I would (and likely will) sign up for more of “Mood Indigo.” The film is a playground for the imagination staged within the confines of a beautiful, touching love story. Think of this “F.I.L.M. of the Week” as what might spring from the meeting of the minds between Jacques Tati and the Pixar brain trust.

This is a world where the fancy-free Colin (Romain Duris) can occupy his time trying to make the perfect “pianocktail” – a drink made and refined by how finely he can play the tunes on a grandiose piano set. Where he can float over the city of Paris in a cloud-like Ferris Wheel booth with the girl that catches his eye, Chloé (fittingly played by Audrey Tautou of the charming “Amélie“). As their tragic love story progresses, Gondry never wastes a moment to take our breath away. Virtually every frame is packed with some kind of gadget, gizmo or trick that reminds us of the ingenuity behind the film. Perhaps others could have told this tale of star-crossed lovers, but I remain unconvinced that anyone could make it more of a marvel than Gondry.

REVIEW: The Green Hornet

15 01 2011

The Green Hornet” is half-heartedly “Iron Man,” half-heartedly “Kick-Ass,” but wholeheartedly a moronic waste.  It’s already begun to fade into the white noise that is the superhero movie genre, which seems to churn out a new entry with every passing minute, thanks to its reliance on the recently popularized “not-so-super” hero.  With a director fully capable of creating something of great artistic merit, writers fully capable of spinning familiar formula into fresh comedy, and stars fully capable of entertaining, the movie is a letdown simply for settling.

The typical stoner/slacker combo that is Seth Rogen remains unflinchingly true to form as Britt Reid, the heir of a media empire thanks to being the son of an incredibly successful newspaper man (Tom Wilkinson).  When his father’s death leaves him a twenty-something orphan, he’s more than a little confused as to how he can reconcile the party and the business.  Britt discovers the incredible hidden talents of Kato (Jay Chou), who can do quite a bit more than make coffee.

Together, they become a crime-fighting team with Britt known as the Green Hornet but Kato doing all the actual fighting.  They masquerade as villains but act as heroes, and their clueless escapades only get attention because Britt uses the newspaper to overhype them.  Otherwise, they would be about as legitimate as the movie’s script, which in its eagerness to take the classic heroes to a new level winds up as a cheap imitation of them.

Christoph Waltz, so frightening as the treacherous Hans Landa in “Inglourious Basterds,” abandons what won him the Oscar for a Snidley Whiplash, cartoonish approach to villainy.  His Chudnofsky fits in well with the ridiculous background of the movie, but it sure leaves one heck of a stain on his filmography.  And while most people would not say this is the first strike against Rogen, it’s the first time that I’ve found his routine getting old.  The same old schtick might be refreshing in a superhero movie had it not been so overdone in his raunchy comedies first or if “The Green Hornet” were released a few years earlier before real actors transformed stock characters into complex ones.

The movie is also a waste of Michel Gondry, who brings his auteurist vision and impressionistic flair to the table.  He does craft some really cool scenes that popcorn-munching multiplexers aren’t accustomed to seeing.  The movie’s visual panache is striking, yet it needed to be overwhelming to atone for all the movie’s jokes that fell flat.  Without a decent script to back up Gondry’s artistic sensibilities, “The Green Hornet” becomes about as worthwhile to watch as a Stanley Kubrick directed episode of “Jersey Shore.”  C