Camille: “Can I come during the day, from 5 to 7?”
Marcello: “The magic hour for lovers.”

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Simon Cinema (Michel Piccoli) isn’t doing too well, confined to his mansion-museum with his butler (Truffaut/Duras vet Henri Garcin) and best friend Marcello Mastroianni (as himself, sort of). Film student Camille (Julie Gayet, the girl with the giant gag vase in My Best Friend) is hired to talk with Simon about movies for 101 nights, and her boyfriend (Mathieu Demy) takes advantage of her position to cast the legendary Mr. Cinema in his student film.

Michel and Marcello:
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Garcin and Gayet:
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But the plot is just an excuse for some fun. Every star of French cinema shows up, major films are mentioned (nothing is discussed in any depth – no time). Anouk “Lola” Aimée, Catherine Deneuve and Robert De Niro take a boat ride. Sandrine Bonnaire appears as both her Vagabond self and Joan of Arc. Piccoli drops the Simon shtick and the white wig for a minute and compares cinematic death scenes with Gérard Depardieu (“that old devil Demy!”) before a poster of their co-starring Seven Deaths film…

Gerard and Michel:
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Sandrine d’Arc:
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Hanna Schygulla (Fassbinder films, Passion) and Jeanne Moreau (Jules and Jim, The Lovers) play Simon’s ex-wives. There are seven dwarfs. There’s a conspiciously Bonheur-looking sunflower shot. Alain Delon arrives by helicopter (reminiscent, though it maybe shouldn’t be, of the out-of-place helicopter in Donkey Skin).

Gayet with Alain Delon:
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Jeanne and Hanna:
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It’s all very light and playful. I’m sure I missed a thousand references, but it keeps many of them obvious enough to remain accessible (if you didn’t catch the meaning when a bicycle is stolen outside the mansion, someone cries “italian neorealism strikes again!”).

Mathieu Demy meets Fanny Ardant:
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The credits list how many seconds and frames were used from each featured film – impressive – and also all the stolen music cues.

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tour bus guy: “Glad to see you on form.”
Simon: “Form of what?”
“Why, you seem content.”
“Form and content, a debate even older than I am.”

At Cannes:
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NY Times: “While covering so many bases, Ms. Varda never makes more than a glancing allusion to anything, and at times the film is such an overloaded grab bag that it grows exasperating. Or even baffling; for unknown reasons, Stephen Dorff turns up in a pantheon of great Hollywood stars.”

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LA Times: “Michel Piccoli plays Monsieur Cinema, who embodies the history and spirit of film, and in particular, that Fabulous Invalid, the French motion picture industry itself. (Since Varda is such a playful director, Piccoli is sometimes simply himself.) Monsieur Cinema may have been inspired by the director of the landmark Napoleon, the late Abel Gance, whom Piccoli resembles when he puts on a long silver-white wig.”

Lumiere brothers:
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Doctor Belmondo and Jack Nance:
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Zowie, a pip of a western, and not at all a sequel to A Fistful of Yojimbo like I’d feared. Thrilling action with all the close-ups and wide-shots, Morricone twang and badass tough guys we’d expect.

Clint, eight years before facing off against Briggs:
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Clint is a steely young bounty killer out for heaps of money.

Lee, some six years after Ride Lonesome:
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Lee is a steely older bounty killer out for revenge. Of course we do not know he’s out for revenge until the very end when it’s revealed that the music-box portrait chain he carries around belonged to his sister who was long ago killed by super-thug El Indio.

Gian Volontè of Hercules and the Captive Women, later in Le Cercle rouge and Sacco & Vanzetti:
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The meaning of this musical/emotional prop is withheld until the final showdown, almost exactly like Charles Bronson’s harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West. Lee and Indio are shown to be excellent long-range shooters. Lee, however, is the Fastest Man In The West (making the outcome of the climactic shootout a foregone conclusion). I think Clint’s special skill is a supernatural awareness of his surroundings, knowing exactly where/who to shoot. Awesome movie, anyway.

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I watch all of Clint Eastwood’s recent movies and I always feel they are High Quality Films, but that’s not always my thing. They are oscar-friendly, but not really affecting (exception: Million Dollar Baby) and don’t have anything fascinating to contribute in content (exception: Flags of Our Fathers) or form. But I definitely like ’em enough to keep watching (possible exception: Gran Torino).

We’ve got a true-story historical drama here, with awesome period street scenes of 1928 L.A., nice cinematography, great music (by Eastwood himself!) and very good acting. In her first good movie role since Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, A. Jolie plays Christine Collins, a mom whose kid disappears. She reports him missing among mass public distrust in the L.A.P.D., a mistrust led by crusading radio preacher John Malkovich, using his staccato vocal delivery to good effect. Police find kid, but it’s the wrong kid, then when Jolie reports it they intimidate and finally imprison her in a sanitarium to keep people from finding out the truth. Malkie helps get her out, and meanwhile a kid escapes from a rural psycho-killer and reports the murder of twenty kids. Jolie and Malkie lead court fight against the cops, simultaneously kid-killer is prosecuted, she wins, cops go down, killer is found guilty, two years later she watches him hang still unsure whether her own kid was killed or not. In postscript scene, mother of another kidnapped kid finds her son returning home after seven years away, but Jolie still never gets her closure. Saaaad movie.

Manipulative cops include Colm Feore of Titus and TV’s Jeffrey Donovan. Oscar-nom Amy Ryan, who I often see but never recognize, is a prostitute imprisoned with Christine in the sanitarium. Writer J. Michael Straczynski kept me entertained in the 80’s with episodes of He-Man and The Real Ghostbusters, and moved up from there to sci-fi channel to showtime to oscar-nominated films. Good going there, guy.

A better movie than Flags of Our Fathers? Yes.

Most Famous Current Japanese Actor In Hollywood Ken Watanabe is the new commander on Iwo Jima and commands the troops to entrench in the mountain instead of the beaches, so they can blast the Americans from above when they roll in, a decision that made the island much harder to capture (as seen in the hit film Flags of Our Fathers). His horse-riding bud Baron Nishi (star of Gamera: Guardian of the Universe) is in charge of the mountain while Ken is stationed elsewhere making big decisions.

But most of the story is told through the eyes of Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya from Pika*nchi Life Is Hard Dakedo Happy), a regular guy who gets drafted and has no particular allegiance to the war, just wants to survive and see his wife again. Saigo is the “regular guy just caught up by circumstance” who all the film critics are cheering for putting a human Japanese face on a Hollywood depiction of WWII. True dat, but his “war is hell” attitude of just wanting to get home is almost pro-American in how little he seems to care about his own side… would’ve been nice to get more of a balance within one character. I mean, the two elder traditionalists have both dealt with Americans before, and respect them, so there’s a little of that, but during the actual battle they are all-out willing to die for Japan, and our Saigo all-out refuses to die at any cost. So there’s little internal struggle.

It’s still a very good, well-done war movie, and an interesting twist for a Hollywood (Clint Eastwood!) flick. But as I was saying to Katy (who missed the whole Eastwood saga), after The Thin Red Line, it’s not enough to just make a capable war movie. That one set my standards unreasonably high.

Flavor-of-the-last-couple-years Paul Haggis (Million $ Baby, L.A. Crash, Walker Texas Ranger) helped write these flicks, Spielberg produced, and Tom Stern, Clint’s only cinematographer since Blood Work, shot ’em.

Famous Ken:
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Our hero:
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White man:
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From the writers of Planet of the Apes remake, Unfaithful remake, Casino Royale remake and The Last Kiss remake…

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An okay movie. Story of the guys who raised the flag on day five or six of the 30-40 day battle for Iwo Jima in WWII. Flashes back and forth at fucking random, but at least once it’s flashed, it stays on a single story for long enough to get a sense of what’s going on. Someone’s narrating about his dead father here in the present, the three surviving flag-raisers are out on a promotional tour, and meanwhile the war’s still on and they’re still in it. Oh and after the whole promo thing raises lots of money in war bonds, our guys are forgotten and left to crap jobs and suicide. But they were never heroes anyway, just some guys fighting for their buddies who got asked to put up a flag. War is stupid. And the US shits on american indians, that’s another theme.

This land is… my land?
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I never did figure out who’s who in the war scenes because all soldiers look the same, but maybe after Jesse Bradford (My Sassy Girl remake) and Adam Beach (Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things remake) get all famous, I’ll be able to watch this again and tell them apart from Ryan Phillippe.

Already famous: T-1000 formed his liquid metal body into the shape of a Colonel in the early scenes, I somehow missed recognizing Jamie Bell in any scene, Neal McDonough from Ravenous was Captain Severance (heh), and Barry Goodboy Pepper got blown up by friendly fire.

The high hat:
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Clint Eastwood wrote the music, which sounds a lot like “Hey Jude” and the cinematographer wants to remind us of the old photo at Iwo Jima by making the whole movie look like an old photo. Nice. Spielberg produced, whatever that means.

Katy didn’t watch it, but if she had, she probably would’ve paid better attention and then talked about stuff I missed and I’d pretend like I was following her.

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