Thursday, 26 March 2015

La Femme Nikita (1990) | Film Review

La Femme Nikita, dir/wr. Luc Besson, st. Anne Parillaud, Jean Hugues-Anglade, Jean Reno, Tchéky Karyo, Jeanne Moreau

The irony is, of course, in Raphaël Bassan's pejorative labelling of Besson's artfulness as cinéma du look, an aesthetic that favours form over content, that his 1990 movie La Femme Nikita, slick and glossy as it is, still moves and elicits more than the routine cardio-thrills typical of its genre. That is pretty much down to its extraordinary cast - an ensemble who commit way beyond the film's limited parameters. From Reno's laconic cleaner (a character enhanced and softened for Besson's Léon: The Professional four years later), to Moreau's graceful and sophisticated government governess Amande, who schools Nikita in the deadly art of seduction (Moreau's presence also smartly bridges the cultural cinematic gap between the nouvelle vague and Bassan's so-labelled movement - a kind of nouvelle nouvelle vague), and Bob (Karyo) and Marco's (Hugues-Anglade) intoxication for Nikita herself, the former torn between governmental duty and admiration at her revolutionary spirit, and the latter's gentle affections at how she might catalyse his ambition and desire for fully-invested intimacy. But obviously, it is Nikita herself whom we must fall in love with. Parillaud never found the same kind of success after Nikita and it's no doubt a great shame. Her character arc may be something lifted plainly from a fairytale, but her journey from junkie, to naive killer, to realist is articulately conceived with much skill and genuine resonance. A foregone conclusion then that Besson's kinetic set-pieces push all the right buttons, as ever his art director's eye never failing genuinely arresting lighting and framing decisions, but Nikita has real soul too, not least a heroine who is neither overtly sexualised nor androgynised to the point of anonymity, but rather is allowed to run the full gamut of complex femininity.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Trust (2010) | Film Review

Trust, dir. David Schwimmer, wr. Andy Bellin, Robert Festinger, story by David Schwimmer, st. Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis, Liana Liberato

It's always difficult to cite lack of narrative cohesion as reasoning to why a movie doesn't quite work when the filmmaker in question is in possession of specialised knowledge pertaining to the film's thematic content. Here, the filmmaker is David Schwimmer, whose involvement with the Rape Foundation spans eighteen years, and who's served on its board of directors for fourteen. For the seven years leading up to Trust's release in 2010, Schwimmer researched the specific crime documented in his film - that of the online grooming of teenagers by sex offenders. Liberato plays fourteen-year-old Annie Cameron, who on her birthday takes possession of a new MacBook from her loving parents Will (Owen) and Lynn (Keener). Via a chatroom, Annie makes contact with Charlie, ostensibly a high-schooler, with whom she shares an instant rapport. Charlie, however, is soon incrementally and confessionally bumping up his age in line with the pair's increasing intimacy, their IMs appearing as onscreen text over the action, and whatever suspicions Annie has are overridden by their growing closeness and her flattery at Charlie's investment in her. Eventually, the two meet and inevitably and excruciatingly, the predator preys. Trust is very much a film of two intertwined halves; there's Schwimmer's evidently meticulously-researched, instructive and cautionary tale, acted with preternatural ferocity by Liberato, and the cause-and-effect fallout experienced by the parents, with Will's character pursuing a near-vigilante storyline that threatens to derail the film's coasting authenticity. Ultimately, a good film is about more than just a nobly delivered and worthy message. Ironically, I've long-moaned about the irritating propensity to sex-up documentaries with various cinematic trickery, but here, Trust seems stuck in a no-man's-land of competent docu-drama. The subject matter is certainly sobering however, and Schwimmer knows how to handle the delicate material with the right amount of sensitivity and shocking revelation.