Ma Vie En Rose

France (1997)
Dir: Alain Berliner

Cast: Georges du Fresne, Michele Laroque, Jean-Philippe Ecoffey

Ludovic is a little boy who really wants to be a little girl, and it is clear to his family that something is "not quite right" when he habitually cross-dresses (and looks stunning!), plays with pink Barbies and wants to marry their neighbour's son when he grows up. It manages to be serious and light-hearted at the same time, and is generally very heartwarming all around as the hapless family learn to come to terms with their beloved little boy's chosen identity. Du Fresne is also simply outstanding as the little Ludovic.

Rating: 6.5

Made In Hong Kong

Hong Kong (1997)
Dir: Fruit Chan

Cast: Sam Lee, Yim Hui Chi

Moon, an edgy, restless and budding Triad thug, is the existentialist protaganist in this ambitious coming-of-age movie set in modern Hong Kong. We see the feckless Moon going about his criminal activities, collecting money owed to the Triad and threatening residents of a block of flats. He then falls for a young rebellous girl Ping whom he meets on one of his exploits, who then seduces him. However, witnessing a pointless suicide of a schoolgirl falling from a block of flats and recovering her anguished, bloodied letters seems to set him questioning his life, and slowly he learns the meaning of love - as Ping is suffering from a fatal kidney disease. Moon then ambitiously takes on an assassination "contract" to earn the money to save her, but as she ultimately dies, Moon then inflicts his rage on the callous adult world. This is a powerful movie depicting youthful nihilism (and idealism) that will shock and unsettle many.

Rating: 7.0

La Maman et la Putain

France (1973)
Dir: Jean Eustache

Cast: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Bernadette Lafont, Francoise Lebrun

Described as one of the classics of French New Wave cinema (and thankfully, among the last) and a critically acclaimed film that is over 3 hours long - this film is extremely demanding if only in terms of viewer stamina and endurance. The film self-indulgently revolves around Alexandre, a bohemian young aspiring "intellectual" who is involved in a an emotionally complex menage-a-trois with a maternal older woman and a young, somewhat licentious nurse. Conversations are opaque and pretentious, interminable and rambling, although there are some very funny moments. However, its appeal is definitely lost on me - it just seems like it is in desperate need of liberal editing. And much of the action takes place in cafes and on sordid mattresses in the protagonists' modest homes. And if you bother to sit through to the end waiting for some last-minute illumination, you might be disappointed - however this film might ultimately say a lot more about the viewers who stick it out than about itself.

Rating: 4.0 (if you can endure it all...)

Man Bites Dog

Belgium (1992)
Dir: Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde

Cast: Benoît Poelvoorde

If there was ever a film made for its sheer shock value, this might be it. Please don't tell me that this film "succeeded" in its objectives in any way by shocking and repelling its audience to the depths of their being; I think part of the repugnance lies in the breathtaking amorality of the film itself and its attempts to see itself as witty and humorous when it is in fact, nihilistic and sickening.

A man is videoed by a film crew as he goes around killing elderly people, postmen and other random people for no apparent reason, all the while murmuring his views on life, the universe and everything at the camera lens. The film is "seen" through the video in true amateur, hand-held camera style and we "witness" cold, detached killings and eventually a stomach-turning rape and murder that was frankly, too disgusting to watch. I'm sorry if people think this review is moralistic and missing the point, but I honestly don't think movies like this have any point at all. This is the only film I would ever walk out on.

Rating: 1.0 (repulsive)

Mrs Dalloway

Great Britain (1997)
Dir: Marleen Gorris

Cast: Vanessa Redgrave, Rupert Graves, Michael Kitchen

Based on Virginia Woolf's experimental novel set in the 1920s, this is an attempt to project a "stream-of-consciousness" inner dialogue onto the big screen, and one is not quite sure if it succeeds or fails.

Clarissa Dalloway is walking in a park, reminiscing and preparing for a dinner party she is hosting later that evening. During her walk, she meets Peter Walsh, an old flame who had just returned from India. This sets her on a train of thought about why she married her husband, Richard, as well as flashbacks of her past and memories an enervating sapphic dalliance with the vivacious Sally Seton. On her walk she also encounters a stranger, Septimus Warren-Smith who is undergoing his own flashbacks - a broken, shell-shocked ex-soldier, he goes through his own private nightmare that afternoon and is treated callously by Harley Street psychiatrists. He later commits suicide by jumping out a window and this piece of news is later conveyed casually to Mrs Dalloway. Their lives briefly meet, and later that evening at the party after his is ended, Mrs Dalloway reflects and seems to attain a vision.

This is a bold attempt but one that ultimately fails, I think, to recapture the spirit of the book in which Woolf clearly tried to encapsulate some of her personal experiences. However, Redgrave puts up an excellent performance as Mrs Dalloway - her casting was absolutely perfect.

Rating: 5.0

Muriel's Wedding

Australia (1994)
Dir: PJ Hogan
Cast: Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, Bill Hunter

One of the movies from Down Under that was largely responsible for the mid-90s ABBA revival, this manages to be very entertaining without resorting too much to tired Hollywood tactics. Muriel is a silly, somewhat bovine young woman from small-town Porpoise Spit, bored with her dull existence and convinced that there is a glitzier life out there ala ABBA songs, attainable only via a perfect marriage to her dream man. She steals some money, goes on an exotic holiday where she meets and befriends her spunky sidekick Rhonda and moves to Sydney in a wacky attempt to achieve her objective - find a husband and strut up the proverbial aisle. Instead, she finds that her life story is just a little more complicated than ABBA lyrics.

Rating: 6.5

My Own Private Idaho

USA (1991)
Dir: Gus Van Sant
Cast: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves

A very surreal movie filmed lavishly in technicolour, typical Van Sant-style, the story follows a narcoleptic drifter Mike through his hustling exploits with a fellow-hustler Scott. Mike seems to be detached from reality and has a vastly different background from Scott, but the two seem to drift through a seemingly inconsequential, decadent existence picking up a variety of clients and Scott later follows a female lover to Italy, while Mike lingers haplessly in the background, tormented by his unrequited love for Scott.

Rating: 5.5

Mystery Train

USA/Japan (1989)
Dir: Jim Jarmusch

Cast: Masatoshi Nagaso, Youki Kudoh, "Screaming Jay" Hawkins, Cinque Lee

Another of Jarmusch's famous interconnected stories with vignettes of seemingly unrelated people going about their daily lives on their various, separate paths. It is tied together all too soon - a young 50's-obsessed Japanese couple on holiday, an Elvis impersonator and some other insalubrious folks unwittingly check in for the night of their lives in a seedy Memphis hotel.

Rating: 6.5

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