Saturday, March 21, 2009


Trust Movies has fallen down on the job of late. He apologizes for this and promises to start doing a better job covering new DVD releases of note -- which was, in fact, how he began his reviewing career some years back. The opportunity to cover new films and interview their directors seems to be presenting itself more often. This can be awfully enticing, but as the economy continues to tailspin, with jobs disappearing and money growing tighter, there'll be more DVD watching and less venturing out to cinemas for most of us. So here's a heads-up on a couple of just-released movies worth your consideration.

The French don't attempt big-budget sci-fi all that often -- or, if they do, we certainly don't get to see the results over here, which, for this reason alone, makes CHRYSALIS worth a look. That the film is pretty good (and sometimes much better than that) is the gravy. Now, when I say "big-budget," I'm fairly certain that the cost here comes nowhere near Hollywood standards, yet director/co-writer Julien Leclercq and his excellent cinematographer Thomas Hardmeier turn blues, grays, whites and metallics into something futuristic and quite beautiful throughout. The movie begins with a mother/daughter chat in an auto, then cuts to a police chase taking place in what appears to be a rather "upscale" sewer in the Paris of a decade hence. Memory and identity are two of the film's concerns, and its pacing is nicely varied -- fast and furious to quiet and calm.

An ace cast is on hand, too -- including leading man Albert Dupontel (from Avenue Montaigne and A Very Long Engagement, shown in the first two photos, top) looking more buff and sexy than I recall from previous films. On the basis of Chrysalis, he could have a new career as an action star. It's nice, as well, to see Marthe Keller again, plus rising star Mélanie Thierry (above, left). And in Alain Figlarz (below, right, with Dupontel), the movie has a terrific villain (Figlarz also choreographed some good fight scenes). The director -- or perhaps his casting person, Franck Jouard -- has done a memorable job of bringing us actors with great faces. Notice in particular, the actress who plays Clara, Estelle Lefébure (above, right). Everywhere you look, there's someone riveting to capture your gaze.

Chrysalis is not a great film by any standards, but it worth a watch from sci-fi buffs and those who appreciate fine cinematography, a decent story, and good performances -- not to mention Leclercq's creative, if bizarre, use of the classic duet from Delibes' Lakmé. He couples this gorgeous music and song to holographic, technological images, and the result is something as original as it is beautiful.

Also worth viewing is NOBEL SON, the older film from Randall Miller that, for some reason, received a more recent theatrical release than did his later and immensely pleasurable Bottle Shock. "Son" received short shrift from many critics upon its theatrical opening a few months ago, but don't let that stop you from renting this "fun" ride from Mr. Miller, who, on the basis of these two movies seems happy to provide us with what might be called "entertainments" -- diversions, distractions -- for our debauched age.

Nobel Son combines genres as diverse as the kidnap-thriller, heist comedy and family drama, with events occurring around the themes of paternity, parenting, and learning what you're really good at. As wild as the story gets (quite, in fact), and although the director/co-writer (with Jody Savin) tosses in everything including the kitchen and two bathroom sinks, the movie manages to coalesce and grow richer as it progresses. Late in the game, there's a scene around a dinner table during which the film's title suddenly takes on immense resonance. For moments like this (and many more), I'll look forward to whatever else Mr. Miller may offer us. And while I could have used a few less stylistic "flourishes" (such as his speeded-up camera work), I think his efforts on the later Bottle Shock shows that he's learned to calm down.

How the filmmaker works out the manner in which everybody gets (or not) what and whom they deserve is clever indeed. "Everybody," in this case, includes of some of my and perhaps your favorites: Alan Rickman, Mary Steenburgen, Shawn Hatosy (who's terrific here), Danny DeVito, Eliza Dushku, Bill Pullman and -- the young man who was so good in Prime -- Bryan Greenberg.

Nobel Son

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