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138. Trois Couleurs: Rouge (Three Colours: Red) – Bastille Day 2019 (#246)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Phil Bagnall, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours: Red.

The third installment in the landmark Three Colours trilogy focuses on a strange relationship in mid-nineties Geneva. Valentine is a young student model trying to find direction in her life, who stumbles into the life of a voyeuristic retired judge. The two strike up a strange relationship, discovering just how interconnected their lives are despite the gulf that seems to exist between them.

At time of recording, it was ranked 246th on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the best movies of all-time.

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Non-Review Review: A Little Chaos

Perhaps what is most remarkable about A Little Chaos is how deftly the film blends stock romantic comedy tropes with the trappings of a loftier period piece drama. A Little Chaos fictionalises the construction of the gardens at Versailles, undertaken at the behest of King Louis XIV. However, A Little Chaos uses this historical event as the backdrop for a series of quirky romantic misadventures. Matthias Schoenaerts plays André Le Nôtre, the stickler for order who is forced to take on some hired help to ensure that he meets the assigned deadlines.

Kate Winslet is Sabine De Barra, who is hired to design one of the garden’s fountains. Whereas Le Nôtre advocates for order, De Barra argues for a little randomness. The two are introduced at loggerheads, their philosophical positions made clear when De Barra presumes to move a single potted plant in a sequence arranged by Le Nôtre. Inevitably, attraction blossoms as the two find themselves working harder and harder to meet the targets set by the sitting monarch.

Another feather in her cap?

Another feather in her cap?

For all the promise of the title, A Little Chaos packs very few surprises. The formula is quite clearly honed, and it is easy enough to plot the various character arcs and dynamics across the movie’s runtime. Indeed, A Little Chaos might even have benefited from some tightening, feeling quite stretched across its two-hour runtime. At the same time, Alan Rickman has assembled quite the cast for his second film as director. A Little Chaos can count on a superb ensemble – both above and below the title – to carry it when things get a little indulgent.

A Little Chaos is not as fun or as playful as it might be. On the other hand, it looks and feels very impressive, with an occasionally clunky script brought to life by a talented array of actors.

Long live the king!

Long live the king!

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Non-Review Review: Suite Française

Suite Française is the name given to a planned series of five novels written by Irène Némirovsky during the Second World War. Living in France during the conflict, Némirovsky was Ukrainian and Jewish descent. She completed the first two novels in the series (Tempête en Juin and Dolce) and had outlined the third (Captivité) before she was arrested as a Jew in 1942. Némirovsky was detained at Pithiviers, before she was transferred to Auschwitz. She died in Auschwitz in August 1942.

The two novels were undiscovered for more than half a century; her daughter – Denise Epstein – only discovered the novels in the nineties. They were written microscopically inside journals. The 140 pages that Némirovsky had written expanded to more than 500 printed pages. There is some evidence that even the two “completed” manuscripts were not quite finished. Notes suggested that Némirovsky was considering revisions to Dolce so as to change the fate of a featured character. More than six decades after her death, Suite Française was eventually published in 2004.

An officer and a gentleman...

An officer and a gentleman…

Adapting any novel for the screen is tough job, let alone a sequence of five novels – only two of which were ever finished, and published posthumously. Part of the intrigue of Suite Française was the fact that these were novels depicting incredible historical events as they actually occurred. It is impossible to quite convey that sense of urgency and vitality after decades of storytelling about the Second World War. Although it is an adaptation of a novel published only a decade earlier, Suite Française has the weight of considerable expectations baring down on it.

Even allowing for the difficulties with this particular adaptation, Saul Dibb and Matt Charman’s script still feels quite clumsy in execution; despite excising most of Tempête en Juin, the finished script feels curiously over-written. Monologues tend to meander and wander, as if the script doesn’t trust the cast to convey deep emotion through their performances, as if the writers are afraid the audience might miss the key philosophical or moral points of the script. This is a shame, as Suite Française is beautifully acted and looks quite wonderful.

The good German...

The good German…

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The X-Files – Piper Maru (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Piper Maru and Apocrypha continue a pretty clear thematic throughline for the show’s third season mythology episodes.

As with The Blessing Way/Paper Clip and Nisei/731, Piper Maru and Apocrypha tell a story about how we relate to the past. In particular, in keeping with the rest of the third season mythology, it is a show about the legacy of the Second World War. The X-Files is a show that is sceptical of the decisions made by the American government towards the end of the Second World War, particularly as those decisions shaped and moulded the present. In many ways, The X-Files is a show about history and legacy, trauma and consequence.

A fish out of water...

A fish out of water…

Piper Maru and Apocrypha are less direct about this connection than the earlier mythology episodes. They aren’t about the war criminals given safe habour after the Second World War in return for scientific knowledge or tactical advantages. Instead, Piper Maru and Apocrypha are shows about dredging up the past and confronting the consequences of past actions. These two episodes are not only steeped in American popular history, but also in the show’s internal continuity. The majority of what happens here is driven by events we’ve seen in the show.

At the same time, Piper Maru and Apocrypha represent an attempt to boldly expand and push the mythos forward in the same way that Colony and End Game did at this point in the second season. The result is an intriguing two-parter that feels a little muddled and messy, an example of the show stumbling slightly as it tries to grow outwards. Although the mythology is still working a lot more efficiently than it would in later seasons, there is a sense of clutter beginning to filter in.

The eyes have it...

The eyes have it…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Family (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

He’s still out there. Dreaming about starships and adventures. It’s getting late.

Yes. But let him dream.

– Robert and Marie try to figure out what all this “Star Trek” milarky is about

Starry, starry night...

Starry, starry night…

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Non-Review Review: A Long Way From Home

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014.

A Long Way From Home is a fairly simple story about a mid-life crisis by a British and Irish couple who have retired to France. Elevated by a bunch of wonderful central performances from Brenda Fricker, James Fox and Natalie Dormer, along with director and writer Virginia Gilbert’s willingness to embrace the story’s simplicity, A Long Way From Home is a slow-moving character study and mood piece. Containing little in the way of surprises or twists, it’s an endearingly sweet glimpse at a marriage threatened by the fifty-year itch.

alongwayfromhome2

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Non-Review Review: The Family

I can’t tell you what The Family is. Not because of omerta or anything as cliché as that, but because it seems like The Family itself doesn’t know. I can describe what happens in the film, taking you through the events as they unfold on screen. I can describe the set-up. I can talk about its obvious influences. But I can’t tell you what exactly Luc Besson’s latest film actually is, because it seems like Besson himself can’t make up his mind.

Is it an action film with a quirky and unconventional set-up? Is it a gangster comedy about a former crook trying to go straight? Is it a fish-out-of-water comedy of manners about Americans arriving in northern France? Is it a pitch black comedy about a self-justifying sociopath attempting to carve out his own place in the world? Is it a high-stakes thriller about a family putting their lives on the line? Is it a weird coming-of-age drama? The Family is all of these things at various points, but it never commits to any of them.

Instead, it uses these elements to just keep circling until the running time is over.

Family values...

Family values…

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