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February 11, 2020

The Trouble with You

trouble with you.jpg

En Liberte
Pierre Salvadori - 2018
Kino Lorber R1 DVD

The trouble with The Trouble with You is that it tries too hard to be funny. The film begins with a police bust. The apartment door bursts open with a big explosion, and the lead cop finds a few seconds between shooting the felons to take a selfie with his phone. Beaten, bruised and knifed, this unstoppable cop is able to leap from the window of the tall apartment building straight into a convertible directly below him. It's then revealed that what we've seen is a version of the cop's adventures as told by his wife to their wide-eyed young son.

The cop, Santi, has been dead for two years, and his wife Yvonne, a police lieutenant, discovers by chance that the man whom everyone thinks of as heroic has actually been on the take. A jewelry store hold-up from 2009 was not only an inside job, but the person convicted was an innocent employee, Antoine. Yvonne decides to make it her mission to rehabilitate Antoine who has just been released from prison. The problem is that Antoine has decided to embark on a life of petty crimes and anti-social behavior.

Filmed around Marseilles, the story takes place in provincial town that's quirky enough to include a well-furnished S & M brothel, and a mild-mannered murderer who totes around the remains of his mother. Santi's police force partner, Louis, is so infatuated with Yvonne that he's oblivious in the presence of the felon he's suppose to be hunting. There are several moments of violence that are brutal enough to undercut writer-director Salvadori's overall comic tone.

Best known as the muse in Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Adele Haenel starred in this earlier film. While mostly known for dramatic roles, Haenel previously showed off her comic chops in Love at First Fight as a young woman showing off her survivalists skills against a would-be boyfriend. Haenel is especially sweet in the scenes with her onscreen son, as well as expressing her dismay at discovering the truth about her husband. Audrey Tautou, a previous collaborator with Salvadori, appears in a supporting role as Antoine's very patient girl friend.

Much like the those moments of tonally ill-fitting violence, The Trouble with You is a bit heavy-handed with some of the gags when whether in scenes of action or comedy a lighter touch would do.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 07:42 AM

February 07, 2020

The Lodge

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Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala - 2020

Five years after their feature debut, Goodnight Mommy, the Austrian team of Franz and Fiala have made returned with an English language film. The Lodge has been described as slow burn, but slow freeze might be more accurate. The most basic of elements are shared in both films - two siblings, a female adult, an isolated house.

Teenage Aiden and his pre-teen sister Mia are both still in mourning for the death of their mother, who committed suicide. Their father has long planned to marry Grace, the daughter of a man who lead a religious cult. The small cult became notorious for the death of all the members except for Grace. Aiden and Mia are uncomfortable with the idea of Grace becoming their step-mother having read about her in an internet search. Their father, who has no qualms about Grace's past, leaves the three together in a remote house during Christmas vacation, where they are promptly snowed in.

One of the things I like about the two films by Franz and Fiala is that they show and understand how siblings interact and support each other independently of their parents. Mia is almost always seen with a doll, the kind that looks like a miniature adult such as "Barbie". Aiden pulls out the arm of a doll Mia is holding, which Mia reattaches. It's the kind of action that if done by someone else might be malicious, but is intuitively understood as part of the playfulness and private humor between siblings. That the loss of the mother has still not been fully processed is indicated in the scene of the Thanksgiving dinner where the father and two children are sitting at a table with a setting for four.

There is also the visual repetition of people barely seen through frosted windows, or as reflections on glass or mirrors. As in Goodnight Mommy, nothing is necessarily as it appears to be. Where The Lodge perhaps requires a more subjective understanding is with its religious themes of guilt, sin and redemption. What does work is the general atmosphere of creepiness, the sense of loss of control.

Adding to the sense of unease is the atonal string score by composing team of Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans. As Grace, Riley Keough continues to impress taking a role that may not be entirely sympathetic, and hey, Alicia Silverstone, nice to see you again, if briefly. Lia McHugh as Mia gives the older actresses competition with the most emotionally visceral performance.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 07:09 AM