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Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

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This book has dual time frames told in alternating chapters:

In 1985 in Chicago – and across the United States – AIDS has devastated the gay community. The story starts with a group of friends mourning the AIDS related death of their friend Nico. These chapters are largely told from the point of view of Yale Tishman and through Yale, we witness the ongoing crisis, and it’s effects.

In 2015, Nico’s sister Fiona, now in her early 50s, has gone to Paris to track down her estranged daughter Claire. Through these chapters we learn about the fates of various characters in the earlier timeline, and understand what Fiona went through, watching not only her brother, but so many of their friends die at the hands of a virus which the government at the time seemed largely unbothered about.

This is without question my favourite book that I have read so far this year – and I’d put it into at least my top 10 of all-time favourites. I absolutely adored Yale, and appreciated that Makkai drew so many believable and distinct characters which made up his friendship group and other acquaintances. She does not portray heroes and villains, just incredibly ‘real’ characters, who I felt like I genuinely knew and cared for. I do feel that the early timeline on its own would have made for an interesting and wonderful novel, but the 2015 story added to it, in that we could see what an effect Fiona’s experiences had had on her as an adult.

I could write about this book all day, and good luck to anyone who asks me about it – you’re going to need to set aside a few hours while I wax lyrical! However, I don’t think I could do it justice. It is a beautifully written, heartbreaking, uplifting, thought provoking novel, and I recommend it to literally everyone.

 

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This Woody Allen directed contemporary musical, which boasts a star-studded cast revolves around the love lives of an extended family, and takes place in Manhattan, Paris and Rome.

I only really wanted to watch this film because Tim Roth is in it, and I wasn’t sure whether I was going to enjoy it – I’ve not actually seen many Woody Allen films – but in fact it is utterly charming and really rather lovely.

The story is narrated by Djuna (known to everyone as DJ, and played by Natasha Lyonne). She starts by introducing the viewers to her family – stepfather Bob (Alan Alda), mother Steffi (Goldie Hawn), step-sisters Skylar (Drew Barrymore), Lane (Gaby Hoffman) and Laura (Natalie Portman) and step-brother Scott (Lukas Haas). Not forgetting her actual father Joe (Woody Allen).

While Holden (Edward Norton) and Skylar get engaged, Joe is bemoaning the demise of his latest relationship, and DJ decides to set him up with Von (Julia Roberts) the patient of DJ’s friend’s psychiatrist mother! Von is in an unhappy relationship, and Joe is determined to win her over.

Meanwhile, Lane and Laurie are both in love with the same young man, Bob is distraught that son Scott is turning into a young conservative, despite have extremely liberal parents, and DJ is busy falling in love with various young men. Things get even more complicated when recently paroled prisoner Charles Ferry (Tim Roth) turns up!

The cast mostly sing all their own songs (Barrymore is dubbed) and all the songs are well known musical classics. Obviously these actors are not professional singers, but for the most part they hold their own pretty well – in fact Goldie Hawn and Ed Norton apparently had to be told NOT to sing as well as they were able, as they were not believable as the characters randomly bursting into song which they were meant to be portraying.

There is also some quite amazing dancing, with lots of extras (obviously professional dancers) being used – and this film also contains probably the happiest funeral scene you will ever see! There is also a quite stunning dance towards the end of the film, featuring Goldie Hawn and Woody Allen – it is very cleverly and beautifully done.

The whole cast shines, but I would give special mention to Alan Alda and Goldie Hawn, and also to Tim Roth, who has a great time with his own relatively small role. Edward Norton is also terrific in a role that is very much unlike the kind of parts we are used to seeing him play.

Overall, if you are looking for a film that will make you laugh and feel warm and happy inside, I would strongly recommend you give this one a go. I loved it.

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Year of release: 1996

Director: Woody Allen

Writer: Woody Allen

Main cast: Alan Alda, Natasha Lyonne, Goldie Hawn, Edward Norton, Drew Barrymore, Woody Allen, Julia Roberts, Tim Roth, Gaby Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Lukas Haas

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This adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel seems to have attracted some negative reviews, but I liked it.  This may be in part due to the fact that I haven’t read said novel (horror is not really my genre), and neither have I seen the acclaimed 1968 film adaptation, starring Mia Farrow (because, well…horror is not really my genre).  I only watched this latest adaptation – released as a two-part mini-series (four parts in the UK) because it starred Jason Isaacs, who I always find to be a very talented and versatile actor, but I enjoyed the production on its own merits too.

Briefly, the story – which apparently does have some differences to both the novel and the 1968 film – revolves around a young woman named Rosemary Woodhouse (Zoe Saldana), who moves to Paris with her husband Guy (Patrick J. Adams), after suffering a devastating miscarriage.  They become friends with a wealthy and influential couple named Roman and Margaux Castavet (Jason Isaacs and Carole Bouquet respectively), and suddenly their lives seem to take an upward turn.  However, when Rosemary falls pregnant again, matters take a sinister turn…

I thought the cast were all very good, although the stand-outs were definitely Jason Isaacs and Carole Bouquet, who both had just the right mixture of charisma and menace.  Zoe Saldana was great as Rosemary (and looked incredibly beautiful), and Patrick J. Adams did a fine job as Guy.  I also particularly enjoyed Olivier Rabourdin as the Police Commissioner, who Rosemary enlists for help.  Christina Cole was good (as ever) as Rosemary’s friend Julie, although she did not have as much to work with as some of the other characters.

Paris was the perfect setting for this mini-series (although I understand that the neither the novel nor the 1968 film were set there).  The dark atmospheric filming made it both creepy and beautiful, and on a personal  level, I am very fond of Paris and always enjoy looking at it and seeing it in films or television shows.

Having read other reviews, it seems that this series was better received by people who are not familiar with the book or earlier film, so if you haven’t read/seen these, I would definitely recommend that you give this production a go.  The only thing that let it down slightly for me was that a few plot points in the last hour felt a bit rushed, but overall I liked this a lot.

Year of release: 2014

Director: Agnieszka Holland

Producers: Zoe Saldana, Mariel Saldana, Cisely Saldana, Andrew Balek, Robert Bernacchi, Joshua D. Maurer, Stephane Sperry, David A. Stern, Alixandre Witlin, James Wong, Tom Patricia

Writers: Ira Levin (novel), Scott Abbott, James Wong

Main cast: Zoe Saldana, Patrick J. Adams, Jason Isaacs, Carole Bouquet, Christina Cole, Olivier Rabourdin

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Everybody knows the story of The Three Musketeers and their friend D’Artagnan, right?  Well, if you’re like me and you were basing your knowledge  upon the various screen adaptations of the story, then you may be amazed by how much of the story – and the characters – that you don’t know.  D’Artagnan, a young man from the Gascony area of France, who goes to Paris with the aim of joining the King’s Musketeers.  After a few initial misunderstandings, he becomes firm friends with the melancholy Athos, the rambunctious Porthos, and the foppish Aramis.  The book follows their adventures as they become embroiled in trying to stop the evil machinations of Cardinal Richelieu, who is determined to bring down Queen Anne, wife of King Louis XIII.

The book was a delightful and action packed adventure, full of humour, fighting and romance.  I was surprised that there were chunks of the storyline that didn’t actually feature D’Artagnan or the musketeers, and also by the fact that, unlike the screen adaptations, the four servants of the main characters featured almost as heavily as the main characters themselves, and were very instrumental in the musketeers’ plans and actions.

The plot moves on very quickly, and there are LOTS of twists and surprises, but despite this, Dumas still found time to establish each main character’s personality.  It’s fair to say that at times they act in a less than gentlemanly manner, but despite this, I still found myself regarding each character with affection.  It is also, in parts, a very funny story (there is one particular scene where D’Artagnan visits Aramis, who is constantly planning to leave the musketeers to become a man of the cloth, and finds him in consultation with a curate and Jesuit superior, which had me laughing out loud all the way through).

The seductive but evil Lady de Winter, and Cardinal Richelieu are a substantial part of the story, playing the two main villains, with ‘MiLady’ always trying, and often succeeding to stay one step ahead of the musketeers who seek to bring her down.

Overall, this is a hugely entertaining romp through Paris, and I believe that everybody should read it at least once.  For me, it’s a keeper, and one I intend to re-read at some point.

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Click here for my review of the 1993 film, based on the novel.

Click here for my review of the 1973 film, based on the novel.

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I can’t emphasise this enough – if you are wondering what DID happen six months after the events of the preceding film Before Sunrise, and whether or not Jesse and Celine did meet up as planned, then DO NOT read this review until after watching this film.  It is pretty impossible to review this film without talking about what happened in the nine years between events of Before Sunrise and events of Before Sunset.

So as mentioned, Before Sunset takes place nine years after Before Sunrise (both in the story, and in real life; the first film was made in 1995, and this was made in 2004).  In Before Sunrise, Jesse and Celine meet on a train in Europe, and end up spending the evening together, walking around Vienna, discussing everything they can think of, and gradually falling in love.  At the end of the film they decide to meet again in six months, at the train station in Vienna.

The sequel is set in Paris, and starts with Jesse, who is now a published author, having written a novel about an American boy and a French girl who meet on a train and spend a night together in Vienna – sound familiar? – giving an interview in the Shakespeare and Co. Bookshop.  (Note: This is a REAL bookshop in Paris.  I have visited there, and would recommend…in fact insist…that if you are a book lover and are ever in Paris, you MUST visit this shop.  Really.  It’s incredible – you literally spend all day there, reading, browsing, shopping, talking.)  Anyway, at the end of the interview, he looks up and sees Celine in the shop.  They decide to spend the time before Jesse’s flight home, walking around Paris, and catching up – because, as it transpires, they did not meet up as planned six months after meeting on the train.  It’s clear that there is still a connection and an attraction between the two, but with Jesse now married with a child, things are not as simple as they were nine years earlier.

I loved Before Sunrise, but I definitely preferred Before Sunset.  It’s a sadder film in a way – both characters are older and wiser; they have both been bruised by life, and have realised that things don’t always turn out the way you want or expect them to.  Jesse is in a loveless marriage, and Celine has been in a number of unfulfilling relationships.  They have lost hope to some extent, that life will always be good in the end.  Both of them regret not meeting up when they had arranged to (it is quickly revealed that Jesse did go to the meeting place, but Celine couldn’t as her grandmother died a few days earlier, and she was at her grandmother’s funeral).  In fact, life’s disappointments seem positively etched on Jesse’s face.  It has to be said that Ethan Hawke does not look well here because he’s just so scrawny, but somehow that fits his character who is disillusioned with his life, and cannot forget the beautiful French girl he met years before.  But for all that, there is optimism too.  As Jesse says, his problems are much bigger now than before, but he is better equipped to deal with them.  Celine is harder, more brittle, but still vulnerable and emotional.

As in Before Sunrise, the acting is wonderful.  There are other people in the film, but for the vast majority of it, it’s just Hawke and Delphy exploring Paris, and talking, reconnecting.  It plays out almost in real time (the film is just 80 minutes long, as Jesse has about that much time before he has to leave to catch a flight home), and the conversation seems so natural.  It was scripted, but it feels unscripted.  And very real and believable.

And of course, there’s Paris itself.  They don’t visit the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe for example, but instead go to perhaps lesser known places – after all Celine lives there, and Jesse isn’t really interested in sight-seeing, and it really works.  It still shows Paris off as the beautiful city it is, while leaving you free to concentrate on the two main characters.

The ending is again ambiguous (to me anyway – many viewers think that it is not so).  It doesn’t wrap things up in a neat package, but almost lets you decide for yourself what happens – at least until last year, when the third film, Before Midnight, came out, which again picks up their story another nine years later.

This is just a beautiful, romantic film, laced with poignancy and regret, as well as the anticipation that the two feel upon meeting each other again after having such an effect on each other.  If you like films with more talk than action, that make you really feel like you are there in the moment watching two people getting to know each other again, then I would definitely recommend this.  But watch the first one beforehand!

Year of release: 2004

Director: Richard Linklater

Producers: Richard Linklater, John Sloss, Anne Walker-McBay, Isabelle Coulet

Writers: Richard Linklater, Julie Delphy, Ethan Hawke, Kim Krizan

Main cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delphy

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Click here for my review of Before Sunrise.

Click here for my review of Before Midnight.

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Richard Benson (William Holden) is a screenwriter who is due to deliver his latest script in two days time, but hasn’t even started it yet.  He hires Gabrielle Simpson (Audrey Hepburn) to type the script, and she ends up helping him write it.  As they work, they imagine themselves as the characters in the screenplay, and envision each other acting the scenes out.

This was Audrey Hepburn’s least favourite of her films, and it’s fair to say that it probably is one of worst of both her films and William Holden’s films, but that is partly because they both made some truly wonderful films during their respective careers.  By all accounts, this was quite an ordeal to make, because Holden, who was in the grip of his alcoholism, tried to rekindle his previous relationship with Hepburn, but by this time she was married, and therefore not interested.  Holden was hospitalised for his drinking during filming, which probably didn’t help matters.  There’s a bittersweetness to watching this because the character Richard Benson also drinks too much alcohol; also, I think Paris When It Sizzles is the movie where you can start to see the damage that alcoholism has caused to Holden’s good looks.  He looks tired and drawn, and it’s sad to see.  Audrey, as ever, is beautiful and radiant, and just adorable.

However, the film itself is actually quite a lot of fun, despite being a flop when it was released, and being critically panned.  Hepburn and Holden were both fantastic actors (two of my favourites), and do a good job here.  The script is contrived in places, but I kind of thought that it was supposed to be – this is a hack screenwriter doing a rush job, after all.  There are quite a few in-jokes or references to other films, including some of Audrey’s, and plenty of familiar plot devices are used – but that’s kind of the point.  Tony Curtis has a very small role in the film – he agreed to do it when Holden went into  hospital, in order that the crew could keep working – and he certainly makes the most of it.  His scenes are actually some of the funniest in the film.  There is also a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Marlene Dietrich, as herself.  Additionally, when Benson says that the name of his screenplay is The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower, and Frank Sinatra could sing the theme song, Sinatra’s voice is actually heard singing a few lines, including the title itself.

I would say that the film is lightweight, but still enjoyable, and is also quite clever in parts, with a few digs at the Hollywood film industry.  I’d recommend it to fans of Hepburn and/or Holden.

Year of release: 1964

Director: Richard Quine

Producers: George Axelrod, Richard Quine, John R. Coonan, Carter De Haven Jr.

Writers: Julien Duvivier (story ‘La fete a Henriette’), Henri Jeanson (story ‘La fete a Henriette’), George Axelrod

Main cast: William Holden, Audrey Hepburn, Gregoire Aslan, Noel Coward, Tony Curtis

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Married couple Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward play opposite each other in this frothy comedy from the 1960s.  After watching it, I read a few reviews and was quite surprised to see some of the vitriol directed towards this film, with it being described in some places as Newman’s worst film.  I suspect there are a few reasons for such animosity; (1) Anyone who thinks this is Newman’s worst film has clearly not seen The Silver Chalice – which Newman himself was not a fan of! (2) Paul Newman was in some iconic and wonderful films, and any that fall somewhat short of those standards may receive short shrift, and (3) Admittedly, this film is not very Newman-esque.  Anyway….I liked it quite a lot more than I expected to.

Woodward plays Samantha (Sam) Blake, a buyer for a clothes store, who is constantly being mistaken for a man, due to her short haircut and masculine clothes.  She travels with Paris with her boss and colleague in order to look at the new fashions, so that her store can copy them.  Newman is Steve Sherman, a womanising sports journalist who disgraces himself with his boss’s wife, and gets sent to Paris, basically so that he is out of the boss’s way!  They meet each other, and there is an instant antagonism between them.  When Sam has a makeover, Steve fails to recognise her and mistakes her for a call girl, who he decides to interview in order to write a column about her profession.

It’s a nice little comedy, with both stars seeming to have a lot of fun with their roles.  The storyline is pretty bonkers, and not particularly credible, but I’m not sure that it’s supposed to be.  Actually the film reminded me a lot of some of the comedies from the 30s and 40s.  There were plenty of witty lines, and it was colourful and fun, and Thelma Ritter provided excellent support.  I did think that Woodward looked FAR more attractive before her makeover – and whatever the script said, she did not look like a man at all – but the story still kind of worked, because she could not have been mistaken for a call girl before the makeover.  I’m not sure what that says about makeovers – probably, just be careful where you go for one!

Strangely, there was not a whole lot of chemistry between Newman and Woodward, unlike in The Long Hot Summer, where their chemistry was positively sizzling.  However, this may have been because they were antagonistic and untruthful to each other for much of A New Kind of Love.  The ending was somewhat predictable, but no less fun for that.

Ultimately, it is a forgettable film, but it is fun and well worth watching.

Year of release: 1963

Director: Melville Shavelson

Producer: Melville Shavelson

Writer: Melville Shavelson

Main cast: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Thelma Ritter, Eva Gabor, George Tobias

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