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This is yet another incarnation of my personal blog. Here's where you can read about what I do when I'm not at work: hiking, seeing plays and other shows, eating, traveling, etc.

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Movie Reviews: Service Entrance, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, etc.

Posted by gck Friday, December 30, 2011

pussinboots catinboots
Puss in Boots
USA, 2011
Watched: in theater, Bella Botega
Rating: **** (out of 5)

This is one I would have watched on DVD years after its release, but when my brother found out (really late) that this movie existed and was rated well, he wanted to see it, and I was definitely willing to go with him. SO WORTH IT! They did a great job on this film and didn’t fall into the trap of making too many references back to the Shrek films. The animation was great and the movie was very funny, especially for people who love cats. There were so many cats! The story was great, too, a mix of fairy tale and adventure.

The Women on the 6th Floor
(also: Les femmes du 6ème étage, Service Entrance)
France, 2011
Watched: in theater, SIFF @ Uptown
Rating: ***1/2 (out of 5)

Yay for SIFF Cinema bringing back some of the SIFF 2011 films that I didn’t have time to catch during those weeks. I volunteered for this shift in Kirkland but the film ended up selling out, so I wasn’t able to see it. This is an upstairs/downstairs story of a man who begins to take an interest in the lives and concerns of the Spanish maids who live in his building when he hires an attractive young maid to replace his old French maid. The vivacious lives of the Spanish are shown in direct contrast with the uptight, restrained lives of the rich French. The acting is superb and I loved the aesthetic of the film, but I did expect it to be funnier than it was. And in the end, it leaves me with an unsatisfying thought: is it only because of a pretty face that men see things that they should see?

The Names of Love
(also: Le Nom des Gens)
France, 2011
Watched: on DVD
Rating: ***1/2 (out of 5)

SIFF 2011 films are tricking into Netflix availability, and this is one of them. It’s one of those “opposites attract” rom-coms, and it makes that point even more clear by starting off with alternating, contrasting cameos of the two characters’ lives and family histories. His name is Arthur Martin, as French of a name as you can get! Her name is Baya something-I-don’t-remember, and she’s the only person in France with that name! He does autopsies of dead birds for a living. She sleeps with right-wing people to convert them. He’s not that right wing, but he does wear a sport coat all the time. Underneath all of this, there are serious issues, such as racism and what it means to be French, Arab, or Jewish. I liked the movie, but I think I would have liked it a lot more if I’d watched it in a full SIFF theater. I think movies like this are funnier and more emotional when there’s energy from a crowd.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
France, 2011
Watched: in theater, SIFF @ Uptown (in 3D)
Rating: *** (out of 5)

How about “Film of Elevated Expectations”? I hadn’t seen any of Werner Herzog’s previous films, but I knew of Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World. I knew of Cave of Forgotten Dreams because it had screened at arthouse theaters in Portland and Seattle, and reviews were good. But I hadn’t made any plans to see it until Mike found out it was showing and said he wanted to go because he’d loved Encounters at the End of the World. Okay, then.

I knew a little about what the film was about before going in, but I thought that maybe the cave referred to Lascaux, prehistoric caves in the Dordogne region of France that I had come across when researching travel destinations. But no, it’s actually about Chauvet Cave, a more recently discovered and much older cave. It’s quite amazing to see those paintings and realize that they’re about 30,000 years old because their perfect preservation and relative sophistication make them look like they could have been painted yesterday. The cave itself is beautiful, too, with glittery stalactites and stalagmites, old foot/paw prints on the ground, and some well-preserved skulls. Since we’ll never get to go inside of this cave (France learned their lesson with Lascaux as black mold began to develop due to visitors and non-meticulous care), unless they build a replica as they have with Lascaux, this 3D experience is as close as we’re going to get.

Okay, let’s talk 3D. I hate 3D. Given a choice, I will always opt for the non-3D version of a film, but we didn’t have a choice this time. Herzog was also skeptical of the “gimmick” but was convinced to use it as a good way to give a real experience of the paintings, which used the bumps and curves of the cave. After filming, he has no plans to use 3D again. While it was cool inside the cave, there was plenty of footage outside of the cave where the 3D just felt distracting. On top of that, the glasses we had were really bad, showing rainbow colors anytime there were shadows. And, well, in a cave, there are a lot of shadows. It was a real strain on my eyes the entire time.

The cave footage was good, but the crew was working under severe restrictions for time, size of film crew, allowed lighting, and positioning. So there was only so much to show, and they really drew it out as long as possible, panning over the paintings slowly, then zoomed in, then zoomed out, then going from dark to light, etc. Mike noted that there was surprisingly little conjecture about why the people were doing these paintings or what they used the cave for. Finally, the end of the film went to a nuclear power plant and albino crocodiles. Listening to Herzog talk about the scene doesn’t make it any less weird:

“Are we truly the crocodiles who look back into the abyss of time?” WTF, no, we aren’t?



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