Tag Archives: Charlotte Le Bon

In The Shadow of Iris

She is a seductress. So when you show up to put a spare tire on her car and she spontaneously asks you for more, you say yes. Her terms: pretend to kidnap her and keep the ransom money for yourself. Her banker husband is horrid, she says. Maybe she touches you for just a little longer than necessary. Leans in so you can smell her intoxicating skin, catch a glimpse down her low-cut dress.

download-2100-low_IRI-high1She is out to lunch with the banker. As he pays the cheque, she goes outside for a smoke. Two minutes later, she’s disappeared. The kidnap plot is in motion. A photo of her bound and gagged is texted to the distraught banker, a demand for cash is made. But something goes wrong at the drop-off: fake kidnappings are  more complicated than they seem. WAY more complicated.

This french-language movie is THICK with complications. Pea soup thick. Guacamole thick. Grandma’s cankles thick. Charlotte Le Bon, Romain Duris, and Jalil Lespert all put in stunning work; they are the beating pulse of this thing. In The Shadow of Iris is rich, compelling, fertile. The pacing is brisk. Lespert, also the director, pulls great performances out of his costars, necessarily since we don’t always have time for a buffer of motivation. But it’s smart and a little out of the way – a great Netflix find, if you ask me. Sex, money, intrigue, lots of naughty lingerie: what else do you want? No really. WHAT ELSE DO YOU FRICKING WANT?

TIFF: The Promise

History is written by the victors. Turkey has denied – or worse, refused to acknowledge at all – the Ottoman empire’s systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians. What better way to commemorate a genocide than with a bland and basic love triangle, amirite?

I don’t want to make light of this sad historical time, but I feel like that’s what this romantic epic does. Jeez Louise I feel dirty even writing that, and yet here we are.

THE PROMISE

It’s 1914. An Armenian druggist, Michael (Oscar Isaac), gets engaged to local girl Maral in order to afford medical school. Off he goes to Constantinople where a)he promptly falls in love with the beautiful Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) who’s of course already attached to a journalist, Chris (Christian Bale) and b)Turkey starts slaughtered Armenians, forcing both Ana and Michael to run for their lives.

This is the first big Hollywood film to be made about this atrocity, and it took years to get it made. It was financed by Kirk Kerkorian, whose family survived the genocide. To get The Promise just right, he brought in powerhouse writer, Robin Swicord (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Memoirs of a Geisha) and director Terry George (Reservation Road, Hotel Rwanda) and together they managed to water down a very powerful story in order to broaden its appeal. The genocide becomes the backdrop to a love story, and not a very compelling one. Even love takes a backseat when survival is at stake. Plus, it puts the promise-03viewer in an awkward position: in order to root for our two heroes to get together, Chris and Maral, who’ve done nothing wrong, will have to die. That seems excessive, doesn’t it?

It’s beautifully, lavishly shot, easily appreciated since the violence is somehow de-emphasized. You can almost see the compromises they’ve made – by aiming for a lower rating, they’ve effectively neutered the film. The acting, however, is its saving grace. All three put in amazing performances. Oscar Isaac has been so consistent lately, and here he even nails the accent.

Yes, it’s melodramatic. The music alone will convince you of that. But it’s a tolerable watch, and, I’d argue, an important one. Since little is known about this ugly chapter in the 20th century, our attention is overdue.

 

Anthropoid

It is all too easy to ignore atrocities that are occurring in other parts of the world.   Awful things are happening right now, in Turkey and Syria and Lebanon and dozens of other countries.  We rarely hear about them in our media and at least for me, it is all too easy to brush off the few stories that I do see as being just another bad thing that happened in an unstable part of the world, and then go on with my day.Anthropoid_(film)

Anthropoid is a story of one of those bad things in an unstable part of the world, and seeing the events on screen made me feel horribly insensitive about brushing anything off just because it happened somewhere else.  Set in Czechoslovakia, the movie opens just after Great Britain, France and Italy stood by and watched Hitler’s Germany assimilate the Czechs, the Slovaks, and everyone else who had the misfortune of living next to those German assholes.   Of course, once they took control, Hitler and crew then started rounding up and murdering people by the thousands. Overseeing the operation was Hitler’s third in command, Reinhard Heydrich. Operation Anthropoid was the displaced Czechoslovakian government’s response to the occupation: an assassination attempt on Heydrich.

Anthropoid methodically takes us through the operation from incursion to aftermath. None of it is enjoyable in the least. That is not in any way a criticism of the movie. This is a tale told well and told with respect. It is a tense affair from beginning to end, and we become sufficiently familiar with the resistance group to feel the loss every time one of them is taken down by the Nazis. There are a lot of losses in Anthropoid and taken together they are overwhelming.

thumbnail_24585There are few illusions to be found among the resistance about walking away after the mission is over.  That may be the most disheartening part of the whole affair. Everyone involved knows that assassinating Heydrich will not win the war; rather, it is a kick to the hornet’s nest that will likely escalate Germany’s killing spree.  But it is all they can do and so they proceed.  The resistance members’ bravery in the face of there being no winning outcome is well-portrayed.  There are several memorable moments along those lines, including a nicely-played theme as one of our heroes learns to cope with the terror that all soldiers must experience.

Do not go into Anthropoid expecting to be entertained, as you will not be. And that’s okay.  As a movie, Anthropoid is solid but not spectacular, but as a lesson in humility and awareness, Anthropoid is important and deserves to be watched.  I am glad I saw it.