Archives for posts with tag: femme fatale

Two Days One Night

Deux Jours, Une Nuit is a dreary and mundane French “art” film directed by Belgium’s Dardenne brothers. Marion Cotillard, whom American audiences may remember as the femme fatale Miranda in The Dark Knight Rises, stars as Sandra, a working mother whose poor psychological health has kept her at home and away from her job for some time. In her absence, her boss has given her coworkers an offer they find hard to refuse: either take Sandra back at their present wage rate, or agree to terminate her in exchange for a raise for everyone else. Due to irregularities in the circumstances of their initial decision, which has (unsurprisingly) gone against her, the workers are to be given a chance to hold a second vote. Sandra now has one weekend – the two days and one night of the title – to locate and approach each of her coworkers to convince them to take her back and forfeit the promised raise.

Nothing about Sandra, who suffers from depression and spends most of the movie moping, despairing, and gobbling Xanax tablets, is particularly interesting, and one suspects that this is intentional; she stands for the common person who is too often forgotten. Scenes of her intermittently breaking down and being encouraged by her sensitive husband (Fabrizio Rongione) to persevere and not to give up on her peers and their dormant capacity for selflessness are, unfortunately, somewhat repetitive, and not the strongest material to support an entire feature film. What ultimately saves and elevates Two Days, One Night above the level of tedium is the earnestness of the film’s key performances.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Two Days, One Night is:

6. Anti-American. The selfish Julien (Laurent Caron), a collaborationist co-conspirator with the workplace management, wears a “USA” patch on his shirt, perhaps signifying his sympathy with neoliberalism.

5. Anti-marriage. Sandra’s coworker Anne (Christelle Cornil) determines to leave her husband after years of being bullied.

4. Anti-drug. Sandra’s abuse of Xanax is worrying to her husband, whose concerns are shown to be warranted when she attempts suicide with an overdose.

3. Pro-union. The filmmakers, in an interview featured on the Criterion Blu-ray, say that their intent was to illustrate the “savagery” of companies whose workforces are not unionized. “We thought that with a nonunion company, we’d be closer to the raw truth of the social situation people experience today.”

2. Ostensibly anti-capitalistic, with workers pitted against each other by capital.

1. Dysgenic, pro-immigration, and crypto-corporate. Two Days, One Night is fundamentally disingenuous and misleading in framing the plight of the western worker as an individual rather than a national-racial dilemma. People are, of course, individuals on one level of their experience; but the inundation of European and European-descended peoples with Third World undesirables is precisely what has suppressed the typical worker’s wages and standard of living. In the end, when the tables are turned, and Sandra has the option of taking her job back on the stipulation that Alphonse (Serge Koto), an African, will be terminated, viewers are expected to be inspired that Sandra, playing the good goy, makes the wrong decision and sacrifices her own livelihood to save the congoid. Two Days, One Night goes out of its way to depict non-white immigrants as gentle, helpful souls and credits to their new communities, and even includes an African doctor (Tom Adjibi) who saves Sandra’s life after her overdose. To this extent, then, the film promotes a de facto corporate-state agenda.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Board to Death B

Board to Death is Dammie Akinmola’s miniature (15-minute) film inspired by a short story, “Death by Scrabble” by Charlie Fish. The movie’s title, framing ennui and death wish as a game, signals a playful attitude toward its dark subject matter. Joshua Exposito, an odd choice of leading man whose voice, accent, and moody stare recall Highlander‘s Christopher Lambert, plays the jealous husband of quintessential femme fatale Victoria Ashford in this neo-noir black comedy.

Wasting no time getting to the grit, the film opens with the insane protagonist staring across a Scrabble board at his smug, smoking wife and giving voice-over narration in the conventional hardboiled fashion. “I’ll break the bones of anyone who touches her, anyone who lays eyes on her,” her swears. “I’ll crack their skulls and smash their teeth on concrete. They’ll suffer till their lights go out.” He then proceeds to live up to this bloody vow.

The black-and-white cinematography is gorgeous, and director Akinmola, also a composer, has wisely opted to use music sparingly, so that Exposito’s crazed whisper commands every inch of the viewer’s attention. One only wishes to see Board to Death expanded into a full-length feature, as too many characters are crammed into its too-brief running time for the audience to have any satisfactory sense of the meaning of each character’s deserts. If nothing else, the short format and compressed storyline prevent the viewer from ever becoming bored – let alone to death.

Board to Death

4 out of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Board to Death is:

8. Anti-feminist. The wife is a monster who cruelly enjoys her husband’s suffering and the murders he commits. Women’s empowerment has complicated and corrupted male-female relations, maddening men and discombobulating their moral compass. She “can’t be trusted” because she is “far too strong”.

7. Arguably anti-Christian. The murderous maniac protagonist is a churchgoer.

6. Pro-tobacco. In classic 1940s fashion, cigarette smoking is code for sex.

5. Multiculturalist. Peaceful non-white Britons sit with attentive gazes during a Christian service, suggesting that they are positively assimilated participants in Western Civilization.

4. Pro-miscegenation. A mixed-race couple (Carl Muircroft and Latifah Parara) appear to have a healthier and more normal relationship than the leads.

3. Media-critical. In one blatantly postmodern and self-referential scene, Exposito picks a fight against the backdrop of the poster for Board to Death, the very film in which he appears at that moment. Is this to suggest that the character’s diet of violent entertainment has shaped his insanity, desensitized him, and incentivized his antisocial behavior? Judging from Akinmola’s admission on the movie’s website to admiring Quentin Tarantino and his (flippantly ultraviolent) attitude toward life, one can only assume that this critique is unintentional.

2. Anti-gun. A bartender (Cristinel Hogas) keeps a shotgun under the counter, but finds it worthless as protection when the jealous husband seizes it from him and pummels him.

1. Anti-marriage. The husband alleges that his wife is “a demon, a succubus sent to tempt men.” Among his final utterances are the words, “Wife. Liar. Killer. Husband. Possessive. Paranoid. Dead.”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy (1953) ***1/2  The first of many French films in which American actor Eddie Constantine portrays hard-drinking, quick-fisted, womanizing FBI agent Lemmy Caution, Poison Ivy is an amusingly rakish contribution to hard-boiled crime cinema, with Caution coming across as a fairly lighthearted detective as far as the genre goes and giving the viewer an easy hero to like.

The story involves a sidetracked shipment of American gold in Morocco and an accumulating tally of corpses connected with the caper.  Caution is assigned to sort things out and even finds the time, naturally, to teasingly romance mysterious nightclub singer Carlotta de la Rue, “the Poison Ivy Kid” (Dominique Wilms), who inconveniently happens to be the girlfriend of Rudy Saltierra (Howard Vernon, a familiar face from the horror and sexploitation films of Jess Franco), the sinister figure at the center of the gold and murder intrigues.

Wilms is as sexy as femmes fatales get, Vernon is a natural-born villain of distinction, and craggy-faced Constantine is the personification of 1950s tough guy charm as Lemmy Caution, a character who must surely be some kind of alcoholic considering how much liquor he pours down his throat before getting around to beating the bad guy and inevitably winning the girl.  Audiences today might find Poison Ivy‘s pace a bit casual, but the film is a good time if given a chance, and benefits considerably from location shooting in Morocco.  Recommended to open-minded admirers of things hard-boiled, Poison Ivy earns 3.5 of 5 stars.

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