ETERNAL BEAUTY – movie review

Samuel Goldwyn Films
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Craig Roberts
Writer: Craig Roberts
Cast: Sally Hawkins, David Thewlis, Billie Piper, Penelope Wilton, Alice Lowe, Robert Pugh, Morfydd Clark
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 8/22/20
Opens: October 2, 2020

Eternal Beauty Movie Poster

“How are you?” says the psychiatrist (Boyd Clark). “Fine,” replies Jane (Sally Hawkins). “Fine or good?” “Good.” This dialogue occurs session after session as the doctor examines the patient, diagnosed twenty years back as schizophrenic. Later, Jane, recalling her sessions with the shrink asks a photographer, “How are you?” “Normal,” he says. “Boring,” says Jane. Her sister had told her that being normal is difficult. So this movie is about how schizophrenics can have more fun than people who are considered everyday-normal, and mirabile dictu, by the end of the film, you are convinced that Jane, notwithstanding an upbringing by a mean-spirited mother Vivian (Penelope Wilton) and passive father Dennis (Robert Pugh) is happier than most of us. Or at least the most of us who are normal.

In his sophomore offering writer-director Craig Roberts whose “Just Jim” portraits the relationship of a Welsh teen with an American neighbor possesses the soul of a person not content to knock out a normal movie but more interested in the inner life of a schizophrenic, in no way dangerous or likely to be mumbling, homeless, on a New York City street. The surrealism is tailor-made for Sally Hawkins, who, in one of her crowning roles in “The Shape of Water” as Elisa Esposito, a janitor in a research facility with a special relationship to a giant laboratory fish, evoked the joke by a TV film critic, “Are men so bad nowadays that a woman has to date a fish?”

Playing the role chiefly as often zonked but as a woman with the vivid imagination of a mentally unbalanced person, Jane appears in virtually every scene, though often as the younger, twenty-something girl (Morfyedd Clark) whose diagnosis takes place at about the time she was stood up at the altar. We can understand that twenty years later, the voice she hears in her head most prominently is that of the boyfriend Johnny (Robert Aramayo), without an explanation for his caddish treatment but now expressing deep love and a desire to see her again.

One day in the hospital, she meets fellow unbalanced Mike (David Thewlis), and voilá, too nuts “find” each other. Leave it to Jane’s mean sister Nicola, just suffering from the loss of a rich boyfriend Lesley (Tony Leader), to try to ruin Jane’s relationship, driving her back to the hospital.

Perhaps the funniest scene occurs at a Christmas gathering with her sisters Alice (Alice Lowe) and Nicola (Billie Piper). Jane distributes gifts which as usual nobody likes. She presents receipts and expects them to pay her back.

This is a frothy comedy about people who look laid-back, but with spurts of enthusiasm like those of the excitable Michael, expecting to get a gig and pay Jane back for staying at her digs. Director Roberts plays up the surrealism by showing Michael on stage singing with his electric guitar and by repeated images of the younger Jane in her wedding dress clueless about what will soon come. The expertly done color palette mirrors Jane’s feelings throughout as does a multiplicity of Sally Hawkins’s facial expressions. Hawkins is in her oils.

Kit Fraser films in various locations in Wales.

94 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B


DEERSKIN – movie review

DEERSKIN (Le daim)
Greenwich Entertainment
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Quentin Dupieux
Screenwriter: Quentin Dupieux
Cast: Jean Duojardin, Adèle Haenel, Albert Delpy, Coralie Russier, Laurent Nicolas, Marie Bunel, Pierre Gommé
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 3/14/20
Opens: May 1, 2020

Melbourne International Film Festival 2019 Review – Deerskin

Near the opening of “Deerskin,” Georges (Jean Dujardin) checks into a cheap motel in a one-horse town asking to stay for one month because he wants to be alone. But Georges may have been alone before the check-in but he is not a single person any more. He had purchased a deerskin jacket, willing to buy it with a dated movie camera thrown in, because he considers it the most beautiful jacket in France. In fact to prove he is not alone, when he is in the motel room, he talks to the jacket, and lo, the jacket talks back in Georges’s own voice. So this is not a film so bizarre that the writer-director wants you to think that the jacket is really alive, but it’s bizarre enough. And no wonder. Its regisseur, Quentin Dupieux, is credited with “Réalité,” about a director who wants to hire a person who can deliver a groan worthy of an Oscar. Even more off the beaten track, literally, his “Rubber” follows the exploits of a homicidal tire obsessed with a mysterious woman in the desert.

For his part Jean Dujardin, whom you may remember from the boldly original silent film “The Artist” in which he takes second billing to a Jack Russell Terrier, is virtually unrecognizable under his thick beard and some weight he either put on since “The Artist” or had the make-up person bulk him up artificially. His character Georges is convinced by his deerskin jacket that the article of clothing should be the only one in existence; meaning, not just the only deerskin in existence but the only jacket. To fulfill the jacket’s plan he sets out to film a movie with his newly bought camera, offering euros to several people if they would remove their jackets and put them into his car trunk. When they do so, he takes off. Later it becomes difficult to con people into the donations, and that’s where the film turns to dark comedy.

The principal attraction of “Deerskin” is the relationship between Georges and Denise (Adèle Haenel)—whom movie buffs will quickly recall for her startling lesbian role in “Portrait of a Woman on Fire.” Denise serves in a bar with only one or two customers but her passion is to edit movies. (That’s a new one: not a desire to act or direct!) Georges picks up on this, hires her as an editor, gets her to cough up money which she withdraws from an ATM. She proceeds to put his spontaneous film takes into an editing machine, and before you know it, her obsession with cutting film matches Georges’ preoccupation with his jacket.

Dupieux knows not to overstay his welcome as the film has barely enough material for a short. Denise congratulates herself with an interpretation of the jacket as “we all hide behind a shell,” which Dupieux may have thrown in to satirize the predilection of serious moviegoers to find meaning where symbolism does not exist. Look, the guy is simply obsessed with a deerskin jacket which, Georges thinks, feels anger that other jackets exist in France. This is a kooky picture, but not difficult or “artsy.” It exists largely to have us feast on the talents of the always imposing Dujardin.

77 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

SORRY TO BOTHER YOU – movie review


Annapurna Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Kartne
Director: Boots Riley
Screenwriter: Boots Riley
Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Terry Crews, Steven Yeun, Omari Hardwick, Jermaine Fowler, Danny Glover
Screened at: Dolby88, NYC, 6/13/18
Opens: July 6, 2018

Boots Riley’s “Sorry To Bother You” is an Orwellian kick in the groin of capitalism with one scene sending up a form of communism that has a labor force working and sleeping in the same dormitory, China style. In other words, it’s a satire like that combines the contradictions of communism in “Animal Farm” with a caustic look at a modern “1984.” The first two-thirds, which constitute a clever look at the job of telemarketers selling print encyclopedias (encyclopedias? In 2018?), which is imaginative enough even while looking Kafkaesque yet rooted in reality, while the final segment, which turns to full-blown surrealism, is surprisingly the less interesting part.

Rapper Boots Riley, the picture’s Chicago-born African-American director and screenwriter, unfolds his freshman feature with a focus on Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), an out-of-work dude who gets along just great with his significant other, Detroit (Tessa Thompson—who you’ll remember for her role as Samantha White in Justin Simeon’s “Dear White People”). However he might question whether his Afro in 2018 would make him a hit with potential employers in corporate settings. However, as a telemarketer, with Regalview, he need not be groomed for success, though he is advised by the gent in the next cubicle (Danny Glover) to use a white voice.

All is under the supervision of his manager (Michael X Sommers), who reminds the workers to STTS (Stick to the Script), an unusual request given that “Sorry to Bother You” does not stick to any script familiar to rank and file filmmakers. Though his name sounds like “Cash is Green,” he needs a job badly as he is in debt to his uncle (Terry Crews) with four months’ rent due on his garage that serves as his living quarters. Regalview comes across as just the thing to get him out of the poorhouse when he turns into a crack salesman, but he is about to sell out to his working-class stiffs when Squeeze (Steven Yeun) organizes a strike just as Cassius is promoted to the upper level where the big boss, Steven Lift (Armie Hammer), lets him on a secret: the company uses telemarketers as a front. Its real goal has nothing to do with pushing encyclopedias but is engaged in a revolutionary system that will find its stock soaring through the roof.

Riley uses special effects that are usually the purview of more experienced filmmakers. For example, when Cassius phones a potential customer, he does not stay in his cubicle but crashes (surrealistically) into the homes of the people who are more disturbed by his in-person pitch than you have ever been when you have the option of hanging up the phone.

As the film progresses, strikes are called, cops are brought in to break through the picket lines, and Cassius must regularly go through the line to get to his upper floor where he is free to sniff Steve Lift’s coke (though the big boss has increased strength of the white powder to strange effect), listen to the Man’s convincing talk on why he must continue with his new job, and is promised a salary of one hundred million dollars if he goes with a five-year contract. Steve Lift must be hallucinating with the coke or giving young Cassius the job of a lifetime—or over one hundred lifetimes.

When the movie goes gonzo, boredom may set in and scripter Riley’s train does not only threaten to go off the rails but turns somersaults and lands upside down. But a demonic imagination is at play in a film that may be this year’s biggest challenge to more formula-bound film releases, egging them to ditch the tried-and-true in favor of trippy hallucinations.

Unrated. 111 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B