Tag Archives: Lea Seydoux

Bloody Well Write

The French Dispatch

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Who’s ready for Wes Anderson’s most Wes Anderson-y movie to date?

It feels like we say that every time he releases a new film, but The French Dispatch is absolutely the inimitable auteur at his most Andersonesque.

The French Dispatch is a magazine — a weekly addition to a Kansas newspaper covering the ins and outs of Ennui, France, the town where the periodical is based. The film itself is an anthology, four shorts (four of the stories published in the final edition) held together not by the one character each has in common, editor Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray), but by Anderson’s giddy admiration for France and The New Yorker.

Boasting everything you’ve come to expect from a Wes Anderson film — meticulous set design, vibrant color, symmetrical composition, elegance and artifice in equal measure, and a massive cast brimming with his own stock ensemble — the film is not one you might mistake for a Scorsese or a Spielberg.

Expect Anderson regulars Tilda Swinton, Mathieu Amalric, Lea Deydoux, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Frances McDormand and newcomers Benicio Del Toro, Timothee Chalamet and Jeffrey Wright. And those are the big roles (although truth be told, no one is on screen all that long).

Blink and you might miss Saoirse Ronin, Willem Dafoe, Henry Winkler, Elisabeth Moss, Ed Norton, Christoph Waltz, Liev Schreiber and Jason Schwartzman.

In the segment filed under the “Taste and Smells” section, Dispatch writer Roebuck Wright (Wright) turns in a sprawling profile on master chef Nescaffier (Steve Park) that – to Howitzer’s chagrin – contains merely one quote from Nescaffier himself. As with the other pieces of the anthology, the many tangents of the piece are explained through Anjelica Huston’s narration, which can’t replace a truly emotional through line and holds the film back from resonating beyond its immaculate construction.

Anderson’s framing of symmetry and motion has never been more tightly controlled, and the film becomes a parade of wonderfully assembled visuals paired with intellectual wordplay and an appropriately spare score from Alexander Desplat.

As a tribute to a lost era of journalism and the indelible writers that drove it, Anderson delivers a fascinating and meticulous exercise boasting impeccable craftsmanship and scattershot moments of wry humor. But the layer of humanity that elevates the writer/director’s most complete films (Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel) never makes it from page to screen, and The French Dispatch ultimately earns more respect than feeling.


Shaken and Stirred

No Time to Die

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Daniel Craig’s had a good run. As Bond, he delivered a much needed transformation for the Brit spy series, shouldered the best film in the entire franchise (2012’s Skyfall), and allowed considerable nuance to seep in to the characterization.


He needed a bold and fitting final film to cap his time with MI6, and 2015’s disappointing return to the old guard Spectre wasn’t it. A global plague pushed his finale back nearly two years. Luckily, No Time to Die was worth the wait.

Craig’s retired agent is lured back to the game (of course he is) by a global threat (of course it is) involving an old nemesis (natch), a new rival (sure) and the beauty who broke his heart.

Yes, but wait, because co-writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation) takes these familiar elements in new directions, thanks mostly to Craig’s wearily vulnerable performance.

Bond is a tough gig for an actor because there has generally been so little actual acting required – or allowed. And while Craig shows us a wizened soul with humor, longing and vulnerability to spare, Fukunaga surrounds that performance with a story worthy of his send off.

Since the Craig era began, his Bond has always seemed more determined to exist in a more relatable world with more universal stakes. Here, Craig’s final outing speaks often of love, legacy, sacrifice, and precious time, against the threat of human contact itself becoming fatal. And while there are still plenty of moments to suspend disbelief, this film again benefits from the move away from the parody-ready version of 007 that reigned for decades (cheekily emphasized here by Bond’s brief adventure with Ana de Armas’s rookie agent, Paloma).

Mysterious new villain Safin (Rami Malek) shares a tragic past with Bond’s love Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), while the legendary Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is still able to pull deadly strings from inside maximum security.

Bond’s old friend Luther (Jeffrey Wright) and an over-eager newbie (Billy Magnussen) recruit Bond for the CIA, seemingly pitting him against M”s (Ralph Fiennes) MI6 team and its new 007 agent, Nomi (Captain Marvel‘s Lashana Lynch). Can Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) sit this one out and remain neutral?

Not bloody likely.

Opening with a tense and expansive 26-minute prologue, Fukunaga unveils thrilling set-pieces and gorgeous visuals that beg for a big-screen experience. Aided mightily by a soaring, throwback score from Hans Zimmer, Fukunaga infuses NTTD with a respectful sense of history while it marches unafraid into the future.

The one-liners, callbacks and gags (like Q’s multi-piece tea set) are well-placed and restrained, never undercutting the nearly three-hour mission Fukunaga clearly approached with reverence.

Where does James Bond go from here? Hard to say, but this 007 doesn’t care. Five films in 15 years have changed the character and the franchise for the better, and No Time to Die closes this chapter with requisite spectacle and fitting emotion.

Unforgettably Explicit


by George Wolf


Make no mistake, though the sex depicted in Blue Is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adele) is explicit enough to earn an NC-17 rating, it is the way the film is emotionally explicit that makes it one of the very best of the year.

The focus is Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos), a French teenager nearing the end of high school who loves literature and has designs on a future teaching career. Her blasé interest in a new boyfriend is forgotten when she passes the blue-haired, twenty-something Emma (Lea Seydoux) on a city street. Instantly captivated, Adele is left confused by her new feelings, and by the newfound pleasure that her fantasies of Emma can bring.

In adapting the source comic book by Julie Maroh, director/co-writer Abdellatif Kechiche has created a completely engrossing drama, one that totally immerses you in the romantic arc between Adele and Emma. Kechiche doesn’t follow a by-the-numbers narrative, choosing instead to present sketches of the the two women’s lives – both together and apart.

Kechiche’s camera lingers on nearly every moment, and though this results in a full three hour running time, the film, almost miraculously, never feels self-indulgent. Rather, the pace seems a necessity, as Exarchopoulos and Seydoux slowly allow us to develop a bond with their characters that is deep enough to share in their joys and heartaches.

The film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and though this has historically been a prize for directors exclusively, the jury made an exception this year, choosing to also honor the two lead actors. Indeed, their performances go beyond fearless, reaching a point of emotion so raw you begin to feel self-conscious for intruding.

Exarchopoulos, in particular, is mesmerizing. She invites you into Adele’s journey for fulfillment, never once allowing a crack in her authenticity. If there has been a better performance on screen this year, I haven’t seen it.

A film this sexually frank will inevitably attract attention, especially when a male director is presenting girl-on-girl sex scenes with this much intensity and duration (one nearly ten minutes long). It is a fact that is not lost on Kechiche.

Throughout the film, lessons from Adele’s literature studies are deftly woven into the story, with one character remarking how seldom art ponders female sexual pleasure. While this is clearly not the case here, Kechiche gives the sex scenes (including one between Adele and her early boyfriend) a messy, natural quality, devoid of swelling music or rampant romanticism.

Lust is a major part of Adele and Emma’s relationship, and though Kechiche certainly presents it in a powerful way, he doesn’t employ empty titillation in the process.

Look beyond the distractions, and Blue Is the Warmest Color becomes a love story that nearly explodes with a timely urgency, one told with such depth, humor and humanity it simply cannot be ignored.