2019/04/17

Mediocre: On My Way

On My Way (2013)
Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot
Written by Emmanuelle Bercot, Jérôme Tonnerre
Produced by Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier, Christine De Jekel
Starring Catherine Deneuve, Némo Schiffman, Gérard Garouste, Camille, Claude Gensac, Paul Hamy, Mylène Demongeot, Hafsia Herzi, Séréphin Ngakoutou Beninga

One would be in less danger
From the wiles of the stranger
If one's own kin and kith
Were more fun to be with.

--Ogden Nash, Family Court

Her iconic visage and surname have adorned innumerable advertisements; upon fairly few as this dull drama's theatrical posters and billboards has it been so conspicuously, necessarily engrossed, for she's prime among its few assets. When her relationship with a unfaithful lover sours simultaneous to the seizure of her eatery for arrearage, Deneuve's restaurateur and whilom Miss Brittany is opportunely at liberty to attend a reunion of regional rivals for the title of Miss France (c.'69), and escort her bedevillingly bratty grandson (Schiffman) to the rural residence of his gruff, agnatic grandfather (Garouste) while her dyspeptic daughter (Camille) pursues an internship. Bercot slavishly observes the bromidic burden and stale scenario of archetypically post-feminine road movies, in most of which a protagonist abandons her responsibilities and their collateral cumbers to embrace personal, imperative intangibles as she "finds herself." If her perdurable leading lady's unshakable credibility and idiosyncratically perfect performance buoy this production to the surface of mediocrity, it's still weighted there by the cliches and contrivances of its directress's bourgeois quasi-progressivism: every independently enterprising bachelor (Hamy, a smarmy chapman of smuggled cigarettes) is a lascivious sleazebag, yet cantankerous politicians of the mainstream left (Garouste's socialist mayoral candidate) are catches; the sole black stranger (Beninga, as an affable security guard) is nobly empathetic; crabby careerists unfit for motherhood aren't portrayed as negligent in their life's most significant undertaking, and their equally, obnoxiously waspish children are to be deemed adorable. A few scenes suit their star's charm, as when she confabulates with an elderly farmer who laboriously rolls her a cigarette during the first act, participates in a united photoshoot with her peers in the second, and enjoys romance and rapprochement in the third, but these vignettes seem intervallically inharmonious with the peeving postmodernism of the whole. Withal, Bercot's nepotism bears mixed results: her partner and DP, Guillaume Schiffman, lenses vividly idyllic scenery alfresco contributing to the pastoral ambience and beauty complementing her scanty story, but their son's unendurable as the miffing stripling. Naturally, Deneuve and the cast's contemporary boomers outshine their junior co-stars. Despite Bercot's basic capability, her script co-written with Tonnerre is comprised of fluff exceeding substance, plodding at the velocity of a crippled snail. Rufus Wainwright's maudlin whine and typically twee tunes by Sufjan Stevens and The Divine Comedy render two crucial scenes and conclusive credits plainly exquisite. This is only, scarcely recommended for Deneuve's devotees; even when it flails, she shines.

2019/04/02

Execrable: Battle Royale II: Requiem

Battle Royale II: Requiem (2003)
Directed by Kenta & Kinji Fukasaku
Written by Kenta Fukasaku, Norio Kida
Produced by Kenta Fukasaku, Kimio Kataoka, Shigeyuki Endo, Hikaru Kawase, Masumi Okada
Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ai Maeda, Shugo Oshinari, Ayana Sakai, Haruka Suenaga, Yuma Ishigaki, Riki Takeuchi, Miyuki Kanbe, Masaya Kikawada, Yoko Maki, Maki Hamada, Yuki Ito, Michiho Matsumoto, Natsuki Kato, Aja, Seiichi Ebina, Ayumi Hanada, Mika Kikuchi, Takeru Shibaki, Gou Ryugawa, Chisato Miyao, Kenji Harada, Yuuko Morimoto, Ryoji Fujihira, Shoko Sato, Yasutake Yuboku, Aiko Moriuchi, Kayo Nayuki, Kouta Yamada, Musashi Kubota, Minami Kanazawa, Kazuki Yamamoto, Makoto Sakamoto, Asuka Ishii, Takeshi Kitano

"The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerilla wins if he does not lose."

--Henry Kissinger, The Vietnam Negotiations

Is any entertainment of every medium so apt to failure or destined for disappointment as the common sequel? Whether so or not, Fukasaku's satirically slaughterous classic deserved far better than his son's cornball chaos of diminished impact, political pretensions and execrable enactment. Two skyscrapers felled by terrorists prompt the Japanese government to temporize, so a class of twoscore and twain is conscripted from a school for delinquents to storm the offending cell's insular compound and assassinate its jefe (Fujiwara), one of the preceding pic's surviving twosome. Alas, Kinji Fukasaku expired after shooting a few scenes, and as Kenta lacks the clairvoyance, scrupulous eye and decades of experience evidenced in his father's best productions, this blatant mistake presents its audience with violence as prosaic and drama as overheated as that of any vehicle starring Steven Segal or Jean-Claude van Damme unintended for theatrical release. Every fifteen to twenty minutes, corny confrontations, maudlin monologues or needlessly expositive flashbacks punctuate the mingy plot to worsen a plodding pace, and combat wherein hammy hysterics abound is nearly as dreary as intervals during which the principals merely mope about. Unlike this forgettable fodder, more than half of the first flick's fatal, photogenic freshmen were memorably individual for their esprit, and this contradistinction's as attributable to poor performances as deficient characterization. Sullenly stoic Maeda plays the daughter of Takeshi Kitano's dead pedagogue without a trace of her junior sister's charm, Fujiwara's too cute to be believed as a hardened terrorist, and while the overt delivery twitched and snarled by clamant rebel Oshinari and glowering teacher Takeuchi are amusing while the students are geared, it's at best tiresome thenceforth. Kitano, Aki Maeda and Sonny Chiba are wasted in cameos, as is one clever idea: with the inducted yet raucous students numbered in yoked pairs, the lethality of their explosive collars is extended; detonations are avoided by obedience and constant progress, but now also the compliance, proximity and survival of either partner. Naturally, this escalated threat is literally defused rather than exploited early in the second act, after which mushy melodrama and trite, insurrectionary postures dominate an hour's longueur. Politically, this denunciation of American imperium is tenable, and identification of its protagonists with Al-Qaida daringly provocative for a major motion picture produced in the early aughts, but Fujiwara's preachments betray this particular anti-imperialist creed as no more sensible or sophisticated than a T-shirt printed with Che Guevara's portrait, worn by a pampered Ivy Leaguer endowed with a fulsome trust fund. Likewise, anti-American sentiment isn't terribly convincing in an overwrought, overscored movie replete with doleful schmalz, cheap CG and hideous chromatic filters; Fukasaku's flop rails against the United States' foreign policy, yet mimics so many of Hollywood's worst trends. The bracing pace, striking suspense, black hilarity, sociosexual insights, devastating tragedies and slick style of its predecessor is all but forgotten in this unmitigated clunker, perhaps the longest 134 minutes in cinematic history. Even if he'd stepped into his father's shoes without stumbling, Fukasaku couldn't overcome the verity that sinks his foray: adolescent war against adults is as stupid a concept as a planet where apes evolve from men.
Instead, watch Wedlock/Deadlock, Cyber City Oedo 808 or Battle Royale.