Friday, January 31, 2014

Ursula Meier's SISTER: This updated 400 Blows is set, end of season, at a Swiss ski resort

With Home, and now her latest movie, SISTER, French filmmaker Ursula Meier has given us two very different but equally worthwhile films that deal with fractured families -- the first an odd but involving saga of location, the second a more standard yet affecting tale of class and need. In it a young-approaching-teenage brother and his adult sister fend for themselves, the latter doing odd jobs and usually getting fired, the former stealing possessions of wealthier families that frequent the nearby ski resort.

Ms Meier, shown at right, is a fine story-teller, wrapping us in the details of the lives of her charac-ters so well that we follow along gladly, even though the details are much stranger than usual (in Home) and sadder, as in Sister. That title itself takes on additional mean-ing as the movie progresses and we learn more about our siblings. The film-maker also has the ability to show us characters whose faults are many and great, yet so fully does she understand and elucidate these people that we come to feel for them all -- right down to the subsidiary folk in her films.

Though that superior young French actress Léa Seydoux (above right) plays the sister (and very well), the film belongs to the young boy, Simon, essayed by Kacey Mottet Klein (above, left and below, right) of Home and Gainsbourg), who is so consistently real and needy, while alternately strong and vulnerable, that he becomes as memorable, I believe, as was Antoine Doinel of Truffaut's landmark film.

How Simon interacts with his everyone -- from his sister to his "marks," from the kids and the adults to whom he sells his purloined goods, and especially his relationship with a kindly mother (Gillian Anderson, above, left) who takes a liking to the boy -- creates a marvelously multi-faceted character who, by film's end, does not easily let go of heart nor mind.

Meier draws fine performances from all her actors,  those mentioned above and Martin Compston (above, right) who plays a restaurant worker who tries to befriend our boy. Ms Meier understands wells how our motives are always mixed between our own needs and those of others, and she continually makes this clear throughout the film -- which leaves us, as well as her characters, duly chastened and somehow appreciative by film's end.

You can see this excellent movie, running 97 minutes, now on Netflix streaming, via Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.

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