Tag Archives: Vicky Krieps

Scenes from Another Marriage

Bergman Island

by Hope Madden

A lot can go wrong when a filmmaker toys with meta-filmmaking. The movie can become cloyingly clever, it can lose the audience in its self-indulgence, it can become more of a trick than a film.

While Mia Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island is arguably as self-indulgent a film as you will find, she risks all these trappings but falls to none.

Her movie follows two filmmakers, Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth), who leave their daughter with Chris’s mom so they can devote themselves to some solid writing time. They travel to Fårö island, where Ingmar Bergman lived, worked and shot some of his most famous films.

Bergman Island feels extremely personal in the way that it mirrors, to what degree it’s hard to know, Hansen-Løve’s real-life relationship with filmmaker Olivier Assayas and their devotion to the work of Bergman. There’s also a very intimate sense of the way one filmmaker’s inspiration from the same source can look so very different from another’s. And, of course, there is a kind of dreamy link between generations of filmmakers.

Most importantly, though, this is the story of a couple. Casting is one of Hansen-Løve’s greatest strengths here because, without the committed and vulnerable performances she draws from Krieps and Roth, the film could easily have folded in on itself. It does not, not for a moment.

Roth’s distance as a partner speaks not only to Tony’s ego and insecurity but to his support and understanding – Tony recognizes that this process will be prickly and leaves as much room as he thinks his partner may need to create.

This subtlety becomes a sly maneuver, as you begin to understand the story Chris works on.

The entire tale unfolds on the breathtaking island, where Chris’s stories — her real-life story with Tony, as well as the story within a story she writes — benefit from the windswept beauty of the island.

Bergman Island tells you a lot but leaves it to you to decide what it’s saying. Whatever tale you decipher, your time on the island is well spent.

I See Old People

Old

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

The last 20 some odd years have been somewhat odd for M. Night Shyamalan.

There was the meteoric rise, the faceplant fall, and the unexpected rise again. The writer/director’s highs (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Split) have been clever, crowd-pleasing and well crafted, while the lows (The Last Airbender, After Earth, The Happening) became self-indulgent, condescending misfires.

Old, Shyamalan’s first since the disappointing Glass two years ago, may not rank among his best, but there is enough here to hold your interest while it delivers an earnest message about precious time.

Guy (Gael García Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) are ready to separate, but want to enjoy one last dream vacation with 6 year-old Trent (Nolan River) and 11 year-old Maddox (Alexa Swinton) before breaking the news.

Shortly after getting a VIP welcome at their tropical resort, the family is offered access to a private beach paradise, just a short drive away. Once there, they find a few other guests have also gotten the invite to the pristine beach surrounded by majestic and imposing walls of rock.

But of course, there is a price to be paid for this privilege: time. Trent and Maddox are suddenly years older (and now played by Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie), while the rest of the group (including Rufus Sewell, Abbey Lee and Aaron Pierre) also begins to feel the effects of a rapidly increased aging process.

Shyamalan’s camerawork – usually a plus – is again nimble and expressive. He’s able to fuel a feeling of confusion and disorientation on the ground, while frequent overhead shots provide the unmistakeable suggestion that this group is being watched.

His pace is also well-played, fast and frantic (with one very effective visual fright) in the early going, then a bit more measured to reflect cooler heads trying to plan an escape.

But while Shyamalan’s script is an adaptation of the graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre-Oscar Lévy and Frederick Peeters, dialogue can still trip him up. It’s too frequently both silly and obvious, yet almost always rescued by a talented ensemble that never shrinks from selling every word of it.

This is a Shyamalan film, though, which will lead many to expect a humdinger of a twist. Don’t.

There is something waiting beyond the clearly defined metaphor about appreciating every day. But like the film, the resolution of Old is more tidy than revelatory, as easy to digest and appreciate as it is to forget.

Paint By Numbers

The Last Vermeer

by Hope Madden

Who doesn’t like a story about swindling Nazis?

There’s something festive in that notion, and Dan Friedkin’s The Last Vermeer does what it can to keep the mood light as one of Holland’s unsung artists is accused of consorting with Nazis to help Goering purchase a painting by Dutch master Vermeer.

The film is set shortly after the end of WWII. Claes Bang, who seems to only make films about art (Burnt Orange Heresy, The Cube), plays Captain Joseph Piller. A former member of the resistance with a strained family life, Piller is part of an operation that finds said Vermeer, Christ and the Adulteress.

The problem with this movie is that Friedkin treats it like a mystery. Mysteries are cool, and the reveal here is certainly interesting, but there very are few clues to follow. And following those few clues are characters far less interesting than Han Van Meegeren, played here with fanciful, libidinous panache by Guy Pearce and someone’s joke of a pair of eyebrows.

Van Meegeren’s crime, if he did collaborate with Nazis to move a masterpiece from Holland’s greatest artist, is a capital one. Not that you’d know that from Pearce’s flashes of eccentricity and decadence. He seems to be enjoying himself. His character—and, indeed, Van Meegeren himself—commands attention.

Too bad Friedkin and his slew of scriptwriters decided to bury the lede. In one of those Hollywood moves, this film chose to sideline its main character—the real life figure who could face a firing squad—in favor of a safe, blandly attractive hero we can all root for.

Yawn.

Worse still is the criminal underuse of The Phantom Thread’s Vicky Krieps as the attractive but honorable assistant.

The Last Vermeer is one of those hopelessly manipulated true histories. It looks good, although nothing about the direction seems inspired. Instead the film delivers a competently made, by-the-numbers historical recreation when it could have been art.

There Will Be Stickpins

Phantom Thread

by Hope Madden

Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) sews little treasures into the gowns he makes for the most upper of crusts in 1950s London: little notes, wishes, secrets. It is a connection between the creator and the creation, existing regardless of the audience.

In many ways, Woodcock could be a stand-in for writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, a filmmaker whose work is genius (few would argue) even if there are things about each creation we may not entirely grasp.

Phantom Thread may be his most exquisite and least accessible film. Every frame, every elegant sweep of the camera, every jaunty note from Johnny Greenwood’s score says classic glamour. And at the center of this controlled, rhythmic beauty is Daniel Day-Lewis.

Hard to go wrong there.

Day-Lewis entirely inhabits this character, as you, of course, expect. His Woodcock oscillates between childlike charm and parental dismissiveness, and it’s a beguiling creation: narcissistic but tender, spoiled and selfish but dignified, the epicenter of his universe and yet frighteningly dependent.

The conflict here is subtle. While your eyes will not leave Woodcock and his glorious gowns, the remarkable Lesley Manville refuses to escape your notice. Manville plays Woodcock’s sister Cyril, the business brains to balance Reynolds’s creative genius, yin to his yang, Alpha to his Omega.

Manville is chilly perfection, her every gesture and expression a conundrum of thoughts and emotions. She keeps this man, this art, this world working. There is one scene in particular—Reynolds loses his temper when his breakfast solitude is broken and Cyril reminds him with clarity and authority exactly who is in charge here.

Which brings us, slowly and quietly, to the film’s actual conflict. Woodcock tires of the muse/model/girlfriend living with him, leaves Cyril to remove the problem and heads into the country for a rest. There he meets his next muse, the lovely German waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps).

What follows is an interesting, deeply human, beautifully acted and quite surprising battle for Alpha. And of course, it’s a great deal more than that. Namely, it is a meditation on creation and recreation, on the tricky nature of inspiration, on an artist’s obsession, on the surprising intimacy between creator and creation.