Film Reviews


Set in pre-pandemic Madrid, Parallel Mothers, by veteran Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar, marks the high point in his collaborations with Penélope Cruz. 

“Janis” (Cruz), 40 years old, and “Ana” (Milena Smit), 19-ish, are on the verge of giving birth. Strangers, they share a room in a maternity ward. Her kindhearted motherly instincts compel Janis to help Ana with the emotional and physical pain of labor. Ana’s own mother is less attentive, preoccupied with her own late-blooming career as a stage actor. A bond is forged between Janis and Ana. They agree to stay in touch after they’re discharged. Soon, baby “Cecilia” and little “Anita” head home with Janis and Ana, respectively. 

A subplot here deals with missing bodies—some of Janis’ ancestors and others—victims of the fascist forces of Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. The scenes in which Janis is aided by a renowned archeologist in finding and excavating a mass grave are well-integrated in the overall film, if lacking somewhat in depth. Also notable, the score by Alberto Iglesias—modern, classical, unmistakably Iberian, and beautiful in its own right—evokes appropriate suspense and nuanced moods.  

Almodóvar shows a love for human beings that’s almost peculiar in its authenticity, delicate depth, and insight. His steadfast muse, Cruz, is miraculous in her ability to exude emotional pain, fragility, resilience, strength, and vulnerability (the list goes on indefinitely) making characters like Janis utterly real. Thus does she allow us to really fall in love with them. Together, writer/director and actor might be today’s greatest filmic depicters of platonic and romantic love. 

the international CRITIQUE rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Film Reviews


French director Leos Carax (Holy Motors, 2012) has staged a new film—a comical, magical, rollicking, sprawling rock opera—chosen as the opening night feature at Cannes 2021. 

Annette, written by American pop duo Sparks (Ron & Russell Mael), offers sharp twists amidst a comedy of egos in meta mode. “Henry McHenry” (Adam Driver) is an entertainer—two-thirds stand-up comic and one-third performance artist. “Ann Desfranoux” (Marion Cotillard) is a fast-rising star of world-class opera. They meet in a heady whirlwind of paparazzi and favorable reviews. Youthful, successful, and accelerated, they’re soon married. Baby Annette arrives. Now parents, Henry and Ann begin to change in strange ways. The father, in particular, seems to lose his footing. His grasp on morality loosens. 

Director Carax is a master of perspective—of camera, yes, but also of dialogue—moving quickly from first person to second to third. The benefit therefrom is a pleasantly jumbled feel that amplifies Henry’s stream-of-consciousness self-absorption particularly well. Perhaps flowing from the fact that Henry and Ann both perform on stage to live audiences, compositions and staging throughout evoke live theater; an off-Broadway musical, one might say. Carax keeps the story moving along quickly, without sacrificing detail, insight, or mood. 

Both lead actors perform phenomenally, but Cotillard’s skills are subtler. Driver’s Henry is the tour-de-force of his career. As the arrogant comedian losing his marbles on stage, Driver single-handedly performs an argument between Henry and his wife. It’s a magnificent feat of acting, alternating between the overflowing emotions of the two characters. 

Ultimately, the film satisfies in myriad ways, not the least of which are Sparks’ clever lyrics and catchy music. Annette is also a cautionary tale for young lovers who might beget a child only to treat her/him/them as a marionette. The turpentine tears will flow, as Saint Geppetto is my witness. 

the international CRITIQUE rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Documentary Film Reviews

Quick Look: PRAY AWAY

Coming off a Tribeca Film Festival Best Documentary Feature nomination in 2020, director Kristine Stolakis’ Pray Away has quickly become the definitive film on the dangerous and phony religious practice of attempting to “cure” people of being gay. 

While it doesn’t catalog the (many) suicides subsequent to immersions in anti-gay “conversion therapy,” Pray Away doesn’t shy away from showing the pain and damage done by the arrogant leaders of these misconceived programs. 

The historical and ever-draped veil of the church facilitates all kinds of abuse, of course. Through Stolakis’ focus on the Orlando-based, Christian interdenominational entity branded Exodus International, we see pastors and other congregation members practicing psychology—more accurately pseudo-psychology—without licenses or training. Their motivations are older than scripture: money, power, and sex. 

Access-wise, the filmmakers impress with interviews of six former Exodus executives. All have renounced their former organization and its practices. Their voices convey the fascinating dynamics by which they went from passionately promoting conversion therapy to adamantly advocating against it. 

The documentarian’s strategy of building the film around the half-dozen ex-Exodus leaders is a wise one. What else could set the two sides in contrast clearer than the stories of those who have converted away from conversion? 

the international CRITIQUE rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Film Reviews

Film Review: Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Screen Dream

by Andres Solar

What cinephile can possibly resist a bonafide, direct-from-Cannes sensation? In Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Guizhou-ren writer/director Bi Gan’s 2018 Un Certain Regard selection, no one is excepted from devastating yearning and the hopeful, haunting dreams it spurs.

Luo Hongwu is a stoic, 40ish, former casino manager returning to Kaili, China (his and Bi’s own hometown) for his father’s funeral. After 20 years grinding in the gambling world abroad, he finds himself longing for the life and people he loved in his youth. More specifically and most intensely, Luo pines for Wan Qiwen, his lost love of many summers ago.

He starts in on an ad hoc investigation to find out where Qiwen might be today, and along the way we learn that he’s a somewhat hardened person, willing even to brandish a gun as an exclamation point. So Bi balances Luo’s rough-hewn personality with the titular “journey into night” where the protagonist will face his deep desires and vast vulnerabilities.

Enter the celebrated 59-minute, multi-scene, long take—perhaps cinema’s most accurate ever visual depiction of a dream. As Bi now pumps hydrogen into the film’s mysterious wings, it becomes both a thrilling display of startling realism and a swirling montage that feels like it’s emerged from your very own REM sleep.

Ultimately, even though there do exist probably a dozen other movies (not a whole lot in the panoply of cinema) that deal with dreams on a more emotional or impressionistic plane, this sequence is satisfying and richly rewarding. Bi seems to invite you to the fun with a title card that asks you to “join the protagonist” in putting on 3D glasses at the same time Luo does, in a scene where he goes to a movie. Though a technical marvel of virtuosic cinematography and lithe, adroit directing, it always feels—more than anything else—like a genuine product of Bi’s imagination and vision for the story.

Among cineastes and academics, much will be said about Bi Gan’s long take for a long time to come, and rightly so. Which is why I’m okay with saying little more about Long Day’s Journey Into Night than It is a masterful achievement by miraculous talents. And the whole trip is an awfully good time.

4 of 5 stars

Documentary Film Reviews

Film Review: Monrovia, Indiana

Children of the Corn

Documentarian Frederick Wiseman delves into the heart of the “heartland”
by Andres Solar

“In thee, O Lord, do we put our trust in days long past,” says a member of Monrovia’s Masonic lodge, reading an invocation at an induction ceremony in director Frederick Wiseman’s new documentary. The prayer goes right to the foundation of this small Corn Belt community. Almost nothing is brand new or challenging, and history (the proverbial “days long past”) is king.

The Boston-native Wiseman’s wise, sprawling portrait of rural America even includes footage of a high school class on the school’s own… history of athletics (?), I suppose would be the name of it. Here, the director contrasts a middle-aged, male teacher’s extended excitement about a teen basketball player from 30 years ago with a shot of an unapologetic yawn from a female student.

So, as we take this trip to south-central Indiana, we are rewarded with humorous fragments like that, and always with something upon which to meditate. Like the still photographer who captures images that pique their curiosity—though they might not know exactly why—Wiseman shoots first and asks questions later. That there is something to the footage is enough, and there always is.

Things that you just don’t hear in the city, like “This is a place that could benefit from some population.” Declared by a growth-and-development leader at a town council meeting. We attend a handful of these gatherings of uptight locals, and the absurdity of some of the proceedings is ponderous. Wherein they deal with questions like, “Who’s responsible for building the missing piece of road into and out of the new development?” and “When is a fire hydrant not really a fire hydrant?”

In producing and directing over 40 feature films to-date, Wiseman (Ex Libris: The New York Public Library [2017]) has become a specialist in demonstrating that no place on Earth is boring. His holistic, patient, expositionally quiet approach allows any conflicts, curiosities, quirks to emerge organically.

We witness the values of a White town of less than 2,000 people: fear of God, fear of encroachment, football, football history, the local high school, tribalism, White males over 40. Also, apparently, since the invention of the internal combustion engine, Monrovia has never been the same—or different. The murmur of a gasoline motor or the clatterracket of a diesel is never more than a minute away.

Partly because the community is so grounded in the past, and partly because the director chose not to shoot inside any homes, Monrovian citizens sometimes seem on auto-pilot. There’s a “going through the motions” demeanor with some, and with others a mild confusion, like “I don’t know what to make of this… situation, sermon, carnival, etc.” It adds up to a lack of soul, not in the filmmaking, but in what Wiseman depicts. We do see some joy, on the faces of a couple of gossiping teens, and we admire the spirit of the tractor auctioneer: “C’mon, let’s sell some combines!” he shouts, thus earning the “Most Boisterous Character” award.

At another council meeting, about the road to the new development of “151 homes,” it’s fascinating how some of the members talk about their fear of Black people moving in, using code words exclusively. “Negative police runs” really means “rising crime.” “Population density attracts…” really means “Black people will move in.” “Had an effect on our schools” really means “desegregation.” This is pro-level dog-whistling, folks!

One thing that can definitely be said about Monrovia, Indiana is that they don’t talk openly about race in public when a camera’s rolling. Now, the question is: Why are these “ordinary citizens” seasoned experts on how to sound perfectly innocent while they discuss keeping Black people out of their town? Generation after generation of training in the skill?

A transporting film, sporting an easy sense of humor, Wiseman’s existential exploration of rural America is as thought-provoking as it is insightful. It’s an observational, unusual documentary that rewards the discerning viewer especially.

In the end, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve been to this town. It feels like a weekend visit to Monrovia, but exactly how the editor-director fits it into just under two and a half hours is remarkable for its subtlety. One sees so much in so little time, that it seems like some clever sleight of hand, but the artist’s special sense of time feels real.

When Wiseman takes you somewhere—a diner, a wedding, a street fair—he always takes a look back at the place when you’re leaving. That is part of what makes the experiences feel complete, thereby giving the impression that you entered, saw and heard what was to be seen and heard, and then left. Repeated dozens of times, the sense is that you really have visited a lot of places and seen a lot of people. The insights you gain as you go are of the rarest kind.

4 of 5 stars

Film Reviews

Film Review: Gabriel & the Mountain

by Andres Solar

The story Brazilian filmmaker Fellipe Barbosa wants to tell is an excellent one. But it’s one better suited to verbal storytelling—at a bar, a memorial service, or even a lecture hall. A feature film is much too big a medium for it.

It’s the true story of the director’s friend, Gabriel Buchmann, to whom the film is dedicated in the opening title card. Barbosa tells of his college-freshman-age pal who embarked on a year-long adventure to “see the world” with more than a fair share of brio and hubris in tow. As the film depicts in its first scene, the trip doesn’t end well. Much of Gabriel and the Mountain is what you might expect from a director who is too close emotionally to his subject.

At the outset, Gabriel is presented as a Christ-like figure. The children of the Kenyan village where he is staying run towards him, smiling and wanting to touch him. They cheer the mzungu (White person). He pays his local hosts and travels “sustainably” as a “non-tourist” (his own words). Someone truly immersed (also his word) in a culture wouldn’t feel the need to boast about it. At dinner, asked by a daughter of his host to sing a song from his homeland, Gabriel does, and then, ever so “thoughtfully,” he asks the child to sing a song, too. These moments are saccharine and they feel bogus and forced.

Barbosa’s intermittent honesty about his late friend’s foibles is the most refreshing thing in the film. When the director is in that mode, the bittersweet stumbles of Gabriel are unflagging. As an expression of the writer-director’s anger at his compatriot, the sequences where the man behaves foolishly are admirable. Yet, Barbosa’s manipulative efforts to get the audience to love his friend like he does—especially noticeable in the first act—while sweet and certainly understandable, do not make for good cinema. Tonally, then, the film is scattershot.

João Pedro Zappa (Gabriel), a moderately experienced television and movie actor, struggles with the tone throughout, except in the climactic final scene where the dramatic notes are fairly obvious. It’s telling that these are the most emotionally effective and subtly powerful minutes.

But Barbosa, who previously directed one narrative feature and one documentary—and here delivers something in between the two—flatly hangs Zappa out to dry in about a dozen scenes. The film plunges into “comically bad” territory, mostly during sequences where Gabriel interacts with locals. Though, last year, Gabriel and the Mountain won the France 4 Visionary Award at Cannes, I could almost hear the notoriously tough audiences there heartily booing these awful scenes.

And, again, any ridicule must be tempered out of respect for a young director and his young friend. The youthful exuberance of both filmmaker and subject can be forgiven, while also noting that Barbosa is almost 40, not 20.

The director’s production strategy was a clever one, though it lacked imagination. He simply retraced the last 70 days of Gabriel’s trek through eastern Africa, documentary-style, adding a handful of actors to the cast of African non-actors who play themselves. The physical settings lent themselves to some beautiful, sometimes breathtaking, cinematography, but artistically the pictures are little more than what you’d see in any well-shot documentary on the region.

Experiencing Gabriel and the Mountain is an exercise in ambivalence. What cannot be circumvented, though, are the privileged places from which its story comes. How many mature adults, never mind recent high school graduates like Gabriel, can afford to take a year-long trip around the world? What’s more, he—and to some extent the film itself—shows the typical obnoxious behavior of the privileged and immature Westerner.

The film asks that we suffer a fool, which is to share in Barbosa’s own suffering. In the end, because of the filmmaker’s honesty and because of Gabriel’s heightening humanity, all is forgiven in this peculiar—if complex, fascinating, and marginally lovely—tribute.

3 of 5 stars

Film Reviews Movie Reviews

Film Review: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot


Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot is based on cartoonist John Callahan’s autobiography of the same name. Directed by Gus Van Sant, who’s known for indie films such as My Own Private Idaho (1991) and Drugstore Cowboy (1989), we get what feels like an indie/documentary-style film that doesn’t quite reach the level to which it aspires. Van Sant’s style of storytelling focuses on the humanistic side of life; the ordinary individual struggling with inner demons while trying to find their way through life.

The film starts out promising enough. Van Sant utilizes tight close up shots, “rack focus” (going in and out of focus) and that grainy look that makes you think he is actually shooting on film. This gives the audience that sense of his indie/documentary style, but as the film progresses and our protagonist begins to evolve, the film takes a turn into the long, boring fare of the type you might find in your dad’s 1970s VHS collection. I have to say though that the writing, the dialogue, and the cast of actors are superb.

Joaquin Phoenix as Callahan plays the quadriplegic cartoonist flawlessly. Phoenix takes his method acting to a new level, diving into the role with such finesse that you forget the actor is bipedal. But Van Sant must have lost interest in his own film somewhere along the way, and Phoenix loses some of his finesse when his character finally reaches an emotional climax towards the end of the film. Phoenix falls completely flat, as John finally understands the reason for his drinking. Flat to the point that I was unable to connect with his performance at that point.

It’s a shame because right around then, Jonah Hill who plays Donnie, a rich homosexual alcoholic and John’s sponsor, gives a performance that has never before been seen in Hill. Jonah reaches deep for this scene, when he tells John why he stopped drinking. It is at this moment that the audience finally gets a feel for his character that has been one dimensional right up to this point. It is a breath of fresh air to know that Jonah Hill’s acting has matured and he has finally outgrown his former dumb-witted characters.

The movie doesn’t lack for intrigue. If you like humanistic films, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot is one you’ll enjoy: the true story of John Callahan, Portland-based musician and cartoonist who overcame his drinking after his life altering experience that left him paralyzed and unable to fend for himself.

Jack Black plays Dexter; His performance is mediocre at best. His character, though important to the storyline, is forgettable. Rooney Mara plays Annu, a character who’s also forgettable, as Van Sant breezes through John’s life in snippets. The remainder of the cast includes Udo Kier as Hans, Ronnie Adrien as Martingale, and Kim Gordon (bassist and singer for the rock group Sonic Youth) as Corky. Beth Ditto as Reba, despite minimal lines, gives the best performance of the bunch.

My only real dislikes here are that the running time is just too long, and you lose interest near the end.

3 of 5 stars

Film Reviews

Film Review: En El Séptimo Día (On The Seventh Day)

"Flowers are born in the desert today; Which is stained by our tears, by our blood; Our pain, our sweat; This cold that burns is freezing my cry." -Zenen Zeferino Huervo, from his song "Flores en el desierto."


Realist writer-director Jim McKay (Everyday People [2004]) delivers a delicious dish of a film in En El Séptimo Día (On The Seventh Day). The U.S.-based filmmaker with deep roots in the American South brings his community sensibilities to a charming, penetrating, and simple story set in present-day Brooklyn, New York.

José (Fernando Cardona) is a Mexican-American man in his twenties who came to the United States, it appears, not more than a decade ago. A bicycle deliveryman for a popular restaurant, he lives in a small apartment with several compatriots from the Mexican mountain town of Puebla.

Top of their agendas is keeping jobs to pay the bills, improve their lives, and perhaps bring a loved one or two up to the “promised land.” McKay makes it crystal clear that, to that end, they work their asses off six days a week. On the proverbial, titular seventh day, they don their Puebla jerseys and set off to Sunset Park for spirited contests in the world’s most popular sport: futból.

That En El Séptimo Día credits no production designer or art director hints at the type of film artist Jim McKay is. His narrative work is often described as having a “documentary feel,” and to a small degree that’s true here.

The director and his cinematographer Charles Libin (Remote Control [2013]) have made sure, though, that this film is a pleasure to look at. Beautifully composed shots of Brooklyn streets fade in often and provide contrast to the more purposeful angles in and around the restaurant kitchen and views of the city’s less picturesque locales. One gorgeous wide angle in particular—at dusk from the top of a hill, depicting a twinkling Manhattan skyline in the distance—will leave anyone with an appreciation for photography shaking their head in awe.

The writer-director began his career in the Athens, Georgia art and music scene that gave us visual artists including Jem Cohen (Museum Hours [2013]) and Jim Herbert, as well as The B-52’s and R.E.M.

Combined, Cohen and Herbert directed 15 videos for what would become the rock-n-roll cash cow R.E.M., led by Michael Stipe, their visual-arts-loving singer. For his part, McKay directed the concert documentary Tourfilm: R.E.M. (1990) and the music videos “Half A World Away” (1991) and “Every Day Is Yours To Win” (2011).

The band didn’t mind spreading its wealth and also made videos with future feature directors Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris and Spike Jonze, among others. Its emphasis on  preserving its small-town character, a tradition of strong community participation, and the incredible talent per capita continue to make Athens a fascinating and supportive breeding ground for the arts.

In keeping with McKay’s experience in, and vision of, integrated community, he respectfully subtitled both the Spanish and English dialogue here, thus creating something rare: a bilingual film that non-Spanish-speakers and non-English-speakers can experience together. The superior writing and natural dialogue are bolstered by faithful translations.

En El Séptimo Día doesn’t shy away from commenting on the plight of immigrants in the U.S. in the 21st Century. In fact, it does so in an unusually subdued way that’s thus more subversive. The movie makes you feel the verve with which these men have taken to their adopted country, rat-race and all. But it also bracingly burrows into the business machinations and personal workplace dynamics ever at play across our nation. The ones that, if we’re not careful, turn us into 60-hours-per-week, workaday zombies; the real “walking dead”!

But McKay accomplishes this, masterfully, in an observational style that evokes calm atmospheres and mellow moods. A soccer match at Sunset Park sounds and feels like a pleasant, leisurely Sunday evening. Cutaways to non-actors in the periphery, from a little boy enjoying his paper cup of ice cream to elderly men gesturing casual disapproval of their preferred team’s play, show simply lovely moments in time.

The director indicates no interest in intensity of characters, of conflicts, or of plot. Instead, he opens his lens to a flow of relaxed, placid realism that’s no less impressive. This, combined with the aesthetically pleasing photography, might give rise to the question of whether this work is more idealistic than realistic. It’s a fair question, though a fairly cynical one.

McKay’s Mexican-American perspective on a diverse Brooklyn neighborhood isn’t idyllic. Instead, he shows us a picture of supportive cooperation among Americans of a hundred demographic categories. What we see is entirely feasible, and therefore realistic. If En El Séptimo Día betrays optimism in its creator, we can hardly fault him for that.

5 of 5 stars

Film Reviews

Film Review: Pope Francis – A Man of His Word


Director Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire [1987]) makes a tough task look easy in his new documentary Pope Francis: A Man of His Word. The task is no less than capturing the essence of a man.

Wenders’ wisest choice here is breaking the fourth wall, a technique that allows the individual in front of the lens (the subject) to look directly into the camera and address the viewer. This is exactly what happens when Wenders interviews Pope Francis. The effect draws the viewer into the story and makes one feel as if the Pope is directly talking to you. It is an ingenious method for certain documentaries, as it touches each viewer personally and allows them to be absorbed by the story. In this case, you also draw near to the words and messages of a man who speaks with candor, love, and truth.

One has to wonder, What is Wenders’ objective? Is it the man behind the robe? As we watch, we begin to understand that this film is not just about Pope Francis’ life. It only glimpses his past through archival footage, that of the man previously known as Jorge Bergoglio, an Argentine Jesuit. Instead, Wenders concentrates on the present and the papacy.

Pope Francis’ papacy begins at the retirement of the last pope in 2013, and the film opens recounting the life of St. Francis of Assisi in a shot of the Umbrian village of Assisi. The birthplace of the patron saint of the poor and sick. This is the man after whom Pope Francis was named and, more importantly, the saint who he has devoted his life to following.

This is evident in Pope Francis’ vows, rejecting the offerings of the papacy. We also see that his home is less extravagant than the official papal residence in the Apostolic Palace. He travels in a small electric car to meet heads of states. So, the film focuses on Pope Francis’ humbleness, compassion and, most of all his love for mankind, in keeping with the lifework of St. Francis.

Wenders does occasionally turn his lens toward subjects the Catholic Church for years has not wanted advertised, such as its positions on homosexuality, its plague of sexual abuse spread by priests, and the cover-ups thereof. Pope Francis’ answers to difficult questions reveal a man who is empathetic to each cause differently. He issues no criticism on homosexuality by answering, “Who am I to judge?” He feels that the Church needs to repair the wrongdoings of sexual abuse, and shows support of civil proceedings against defendants formerly of the Church.

In truth, Pope Francis is the pope of the people. He is just a man who recognizes that he has been given a gift to share with all who will accept and listen to his message of love. Wenders’ film will make you feel good about yourself. Leave you to feel warm and accepting of what it means to be an individual.

3 of 5 stars

Film Reviews

Film Review: Godard Mon Amour (Le Redoubtable)


Celebrated contemporary French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius (Best Picture Oscar winner The Artist [2011]) has delivered his “valentine” to the godfather of the French New Wave in Godard Mon Amour. While it might have come genuinely from the heart, as a work of cinema, its pulse is weak.

A film always says something about its creator, and one gets the sense that Hazanavicius’ story is also being told. Like Jean-Luc Godard, he lives the life of a French filmmaker and he’s married to a younger, beautiful actress (Bérénice Bejo, who starred in The Artist and appears here in a supporting role). The fragility of the artist (no pun intended) works as the film’s main theme.

I can see where making Godard Mon Amour could serve as a form of therapy for Hazanavicius, perhaps exorcising any of the demons that his titular director calls cliché: jealousy; the balance of individualism and attachment in relationships; the fear of becoming irrelevant, etc.

But the screenwriter/director assigned himself too many tasks to attend to. There are the biographical, historical, and political angles. There are the drama of Godard’s self-doubt and the comedy of his fumbling rebellion. The complex relationship with his wife. Every one of these aspects spread too thin.

Godard was prone to homages early in his career, so it make sense that Hazanavicius would want to pay homage to Godard but, especially in the third act, they are simply too many. Perhaps he felt it a playful approach, but I think “toying” is a better word for it. For a moderately accomplished—and certainly talented—director, getting to the low point of simply toying with his own film is unbecoming and feels almost banal.

Here again the multiple layers of irony in this film reveal themselves. Has Hazanavicius made a film of the sort Godard despises? In a slyly comic, real-life twist, Godard himself, hearing of the project in development, said that this was a “stupid, stupid idea.” Hazanavicius and the U.S. distributor sportingly made a poster with Godard’s proclamation in giant red letters.

However, the mere possibility that the elder might be right must have weighed on the younger director. Bravo to him, though, for daring to open the can of worms he must have known the telling of this story (based on an autobiography by Godard’s late former wife Anne Wiazemsky) would be. And, again, perhaps he felt he must do it for his own well-being.

One also gets the feeling much of Hazanavicius’ clever language gets lost in translation. Even with my limited, beginner’s, high school French, I could tell the translator took liberties every so often, summarizing a dialogue rather than trying to match any poetry in the original verbiage. At one point, the Godard homage involves the characters speaking to each other as subtitles of what each person is actually thinking flash where standard subtitles do. Well, the U.S. release being in French with English subtitles results in this particular scene having two sets of subtitles running at the same time. A bit of a mess.

At its funniest, Godard Mon Amour plays a lot like a good Woody Allen movie. One where Woody Allen plays himself, basically: the bespectacled, clumsy, neurotic filmmaker and his star-crossed love affair. Allen’s Bananas (1971) comes to mind, with its satire of Marxist politics and the clownish, clueless outsider who so dearly wants to be part of the revolution.

At its best, we glimpse Wiazemsky’s heartbreak as she realizes her husband is becoming another person at the expense of their marriage. Their quarrels ring true, especially due to Stacy Martin’s intelligent, subtly intense portrayal of Godard’s young wife. Louis Garrel, as Godard, also succeeds in his comedic turns, while perhaps a little less so in the serious sequences. He must contend with a script that repeats itself regarding the beloved filmmaker’s frustrations with, well, just about everything.

The film also repeats itself in depicting Godard’s boorish behavior. Here’s where Garrel’s Godard becomes tiresome not just for Anne, but for the viewer. Most disappointing is seeing Hazanavicius repeating his own, previously successful shots. In The Artist’s climactic, thrilling moment Peppy (Bejo) and George (Jean Dujardin) complete a ravishing dance number, both look directly in to the camera, and *spoiler alert* you can hear the actors breathing for the first time. It’s sheer brilliance, and the director makes it feel easy. On the contrary, as he struggles through Godard Mon Amour, he takes several actors’ asides to no avail, comedic or otherwise.

Michel Hazanavicius set a high bar for himself when he (along with Bejo and Dujardin) charmed our socks off with his ode to Hollywood and silent film. For his efforts, he went home with an Oscar (and Bérénice) one night in 2012. The talent is most certainly still there. He needs only to find the right story and to rediscover the free spirit that informed his masterpiece, and he’ll be ready to charm all over again.

3 of 5 stars