This time around I actually have a couple of movies I can recommend. One of them I can recommend strongly. We also have the return of the ridiculously misleading Amazon Prime posters for foreign films.
Dolls and Angels (2008, dir. Nora Hamdi) – Ah, ha! The return of the poster to make you think it’s a lesbian movie. They went further this time than that poster for 9 1/2 Dates. First off, only one of those girls on that poster is a main character. The other one is just her friend. Her friend played by none other than Léa Seydoux. She also gets top billing on that poster while the actual two main characters are listed after her. You may know Léa Seydoux from Spectre (2015) or The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). I know her from somewhere else. I wonder what they were trying to confuse people into thinking this movie was like?
Yep, only one of the most well known and lauded lesbian/bi-sexual/fluid sexuality love stories of the past few years. I’m telling you, one of the most fun things about watching these movies is to see these posters. Makes me think of when they retitled the Sylvester Stallone porno The Party at Kitty and Stud’s (1970) to The Italian Stallion after Rocky came out. They even made this incredible bullshit trailer.
Here is a realistic poster for Dolls and Angels.
That trailer is even misleading. Not because it doesn’t lay out the actual characters and give you an idea of what is going on, but that it’s way better made than the movie itself. This is one of the worst directed, edited, written, and shot movies I’ve sat through in a while. The closest is David A.R. White’s film Redeemed (2014), which is a mess. I think this movie even beats it.
Oh, and as for that talking that is played over things actually happening in the trailer. Yeah, that is in the movie, but all we see is the tomboy-ish girl frantically writing or walking around a roof while an incessant and annoying voice over plays with a little musical accompaniment. Ugh! The director also wrote the book and the screenplay. I get the feeling she didn’t know how to adapt some of her internal monologues that are common in books to the screen where they rarely belong or if they do, sparingly and kept short. A good example of this type of thing done right is The Hunger Games (2012). The book has a bunch of Katniss’ thoughts, but when they adapted it for a film, they transferred it to the visual medium instead of having us hear all those thoughts via a voice over. This feels like Nora Hamdi thought if Godard did it all the time, then surely it will work here. It doesn’t. If the editing and other things weren’t worse, then this would be the thing that made me the angriest while watching this film.
This movie even made a mistake that is so simple that I rarely see it done. It’s when you don’t make it clear a character has left the movie or will come back. Yet, they are gone long enough that the viewer is left wondering if they missed something. You are wondering if the character will come back, or if they are really gone now. Not because you should be, but because the movie is confusing and thus, unintentionally frustrating for the viewer. Then sometimes they suddenly reappear to say, “Hi! Yeah, I’m still in the movie,” only to possibly disappear again.
It wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the film had a single protagonist, but this one doesn’t. When you have only one person, then the world of the film is created around that character. Where they go, we follow. To modify a very tired cliche: If the character isn’t in the forest to see the tree fall, then the tree doesn’t make a sound. If the character hasn’t been to the forest at all, then the forest itself doesn’t exist.
However, when you have multiple protagonists that you switch between, then you no longer have a world being created by a single character as they travel through it. Now you have a living world in which your multiple protagonists exist. When you do that, then you can’t be unclear about things such as whether a character is no longer part of the world of the film. This is also true in TV Shows. That’s why they usually make it quite clear whether a character has truly left the world of the show or not. You actually can have a character disappear for a long period of time, but there needs to be a reason, and/or a payoff. Not just a, “Oh, they are still here. I almost forgot they were part of this movie.”
I guess I need to talk a little bit about the plot now.
The movie is about two sisters named Lya (Leïla Bekhti) and Chirine (Karina Testa). They are ethnically Persian and live in the projects of France. It was funny to actually see a character named Chirine in a movie. I knew a girl in college named Shirine who was also ethnically Persian. But enough of me reminiscing about someone that is both way more beautiful and smart than this movie.
The trailer tries to play up that the father, mother, and the youngest daughter are part of the story, but it’s not really true. What you have are two sisters that take opposite directions after being given a Barbie doll as kids. Lya became introspective, tough, and kind of a tomboy. I say “kind of” because I knew an actual tomboy in elementary school. Lya is just a girl that doesn’t doll herself up all the time. She leaves that to her sister Chirine who went in the opposite direction and tried to become that doll.
Chirine tries to get into modeling, but she really just gets stuck with a guy who claims to be an agent, but is rather shady. While that is going on, Lya is doing her own thing. The next movie was so good that it kind of obliterated my memory of this one. Lya just mainly battles with her identity in various ways. Sometimes it’s the annoying voice overs, and other times it’s actually trying to do what her sister does, but quickly finding out it doesn’t work for her.
No recommendation here at all. Next!
Girlfriends/Les autres filles (2000, dir. Caroline Vignal) – This is not to be confused with the TV Show that started the same year. In fact, if you are going to look this movie up on IMDb, then you are better off typing in the French title. If you type in Girlfriends, then it won’t show up in the results. If you click on “More title matches”, then it still isn’t in the list. Only when you click on “Exact title matches” does it suddenly show up.
I love that poster! First off, I’m quite sure neither of those girls are characters from the film. Secondly, notice there are no actor’s names listed. That’s probably because Julie Leclercq who plays the main character Solange, and the supporting character of Gary played by Benoîte Sapim never went on to do anything else. Lucky for them, it’s a very good movie. In fact at this point, out of the 167 films I’ve seen this year, it’s the best so far that I’ve watched. I don’t tear up easily, but I did. It takes a fair amount to get me to tingle, but this movie did it. Here’s the realistic poster for the movie.
Despite what that horrible poster makes you think, this is not a movie about two fun loving girlfriends who like to party. Although, the line “How was your first time?” does have something to do with movie. It’s about a teenage girl named Solange that is learning how to be a hairdresser. Think of those dental school type things where you can get the work done free or cheap because you are helping the students to learn. It’s like that where Solange and other girls are learning by working on actual people under the supervision of a teacher. The film is Solange coming of age in numerous facets.
Let me explain this in a couple of parts. First is what is in the title. Solange thinks that at her age she should have already had sex. She calls a radio show similar to Loveline in order to ask about losing your virginity. She even nearly loses it to a random guy who backs off as soon as he realizes just how young she is, and that she is a virgin. Even he has standards, and that means he can’t bring himself to make this girl’s first time be a random fuck in the grass no matter whether she wants it or not. She does eventually lose it, but at that point she has also undergone a drastic transformation in several ways. So much so that her losing it really isn’t that important at that point. It’s more of a capstone on her actual coming of age.
The second part of this is that the movie sends a bunch of hints at you to make you think she might be a lesbian, bi-sexual, or even transgender. Honestly, I think she’s probably bi-sexual and transgender, but the film will never actually confirm it. She starts off even more of a tomboy then the girl in Dolls and Angels. By the end of the film, she dresses more masculine and has cut her hair very short. She also carries herself in a more masculine manner. That is partially tied to her greatly increased confidence, but I believe there’s more going on there. Especially because the guy she ends up having sex with is shown wanting to cuddle while she just gets up, gets dressed, and leaves like that dumbass guy in a movie who goes off, then wants to get out of there as soon as possible.
The last part is hard to put my finger on. It’s just done so well throughout the movie in every respect. I would be lying if I said it was flawless. I’m not one of those people who buys all the crazy hype around Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), which is the same hype that once surrounded The Dark Knight (2008). Both of those movies have flaws, and so does this one. However, just like those movies, this is still very good. I actually enjoyed it more than Mad Max: Fury Road to be honest. That’s probably because I went into this movie not expecting anything. Going into Mad Max: Fury Road, I expected the moon based on what people were saying. As a result, I kept seeing the flaws. I need to see it again so I can just enjoy it for what it actually is rather than what people say it is. The big flaw I would say is that the shift in her character near the end felt a little sudden. Enough that I mention it, but not nearly jarring enough to be an issue.
Two special mentions here. The acting is excellent. In particular, the performance from Leclercq. The second thing is the scene that got me tingling. There is a scene when she cuts a guy’s hair. It was one of the most erotic things I’ve seen a long time, and it was just Solange cutting his hair. It sent a warm feeling through my body like I haven’t felt in a long time.
I can’t recommend this movie enough right now. Maybe I’ll end up seeing something better this year, but right now, it’s easily the best. If you are doing that 52 films directed by women thing that’s going on this year and want to go off the beaten path, then check this one out.
Just Sex and Nothing Else (2005, dir. Krisztina Goda) – Wow! “Young, Single, Ready to Mingle”. I wonder where that film is because if by young, they mean people in their early to mid 30’s playing like they are closer to their late 30’s/early 40’s, then sure. They are single. That’s true. As for being ready to mingle, that’s pretty misleading.
Even this poster is misleading. That poster says love triangle between the good girl, the bad girl, and a guy who seems like he wants to be with the good girl, but wouldn’t mind a little bad girl once in awhile. That’s not the movie. Oh, and yes. This is another Hungarian film. So is the next one. For some reason that’s a thing now for these posts. Every four of them, there is now at least one movie from Hungary. Over the course of this experiment so far, I’ve seen five Hungarian movies. Jeez!
Here’s is the trailer. Although, it’s dubbed into German you still sort of get an idea of the kind of movie you are in for. Even if it does leave out a pivotal character altogether.
Not Ali (Antal Czapkó), the nice Turkish baker who turns out to also like doing exotic dancing. He’s prominently featured in the trailer as he should be. He’s pretty great in this movie. No, the character that is very important in the movie, but totally missing from the trailer is Péter played by Zoltán Seress. Or as I like to call him: The Hungarian Patrick Norton.
If you are a techie and maybe from the Bay Area, then he needs no introduction, but for everyone else. Patrick Norton is a prominent tech journalist and tech show host. The two most well known being The Screen Savers, from when TechTV was a thing, and Tekzilla on Revision3. Although, he’s all over the place.
Back to the movie. You can think of this movie as one part Hallmark romantic comedy. It’s got the girl looking for love. There’s a right guy and a wrong guy. The difference is that this movie makes them both good guys, and never delivers a brick to your head to tell you who she should be with. The other part is Samantha from Sex and the City if she were completely all over the place about what she wants.
The movie has four main characters. Dóra played by Judit Schell is the never knowing what she wants Samantha type character. Zsófi played by Kata Dobó has a lot of sex, but only appears to be happy. She’s part advisor to Dóra and part female counterpart to Tamás played by Sándor Csányi. He also has a fair amount of sex, but the unhappiness part never really completely overtakes him, and only starts to catch up with him when Dóra comes into his life.
The way Dóra comes into his life is rather humorous. We see her walk past four road workers who definitely take notice of her, and she seems to like it. However, she goes right to the obviously married guy who she doesn’t know is married. When his wife shows up he quickly puts her out on the balcony of his office with only her panties on. Tamás lives in the same building, notices her, and tells her she’s better off coming across to get out through his place. If nothing else, as he puts it, because if she doesn’t, then the four workers will never be done fixing the road.
Don’t ask me how this part comes together, but here it is in two parts. First, Dóra and Tamás are putting together a production of a Dangerous Liaisons type play. Yeah, I know. Two Hungarian movies in a row with ties to that novel. Weird. The second part is Dóra trying to figure out what she really wants. Does she want stability with the real good guy Péter? Does she just want sex like Zsófi and Tamás seem to enjoy having a lot of? Does she just want to get pregnant? She really bounces around quite a bit here. Actually, that’s the main flaw with this movie. She bounces around so much that it starts to stop being funny, and starts to feel like a chore following her around. It never ruins the film, but it started to get to me.
In the process, we get the usual speed dating scene that is always in these kind of movies. The only thing noteworthy about it is that one of the guys is a trans man. He’s actually the sanest appearing one of the lot, but at that point she wants to get pregnant so that rules him out. Also, it was probably not the best idea for him to open with a line about how after he has bottom surgery it will work just like the real thing.
We also get the fun, nice, but quirky guy we know she won’t end up with, but we like having around. That’s Ali in this movie. He’s a Turkish baker who is really nice. She actually goes to him at one point, but he has to go back to Turkey for a couple of weeks. That’s until he figures out a way to make it work anyways and shows up at her door. He then drops his pants to reveal leopard print briefs and starts doing a little dance. I love the old lady across the hall who sees it, and Ali tells her to stop looking cause it’s not a peepshow. Of course, he does end up coming back only to fail once more with Dóra, but not with the old lady. After Dóra closes her door, she puts her hand out with some money to pay Ali to dance for her. He accepts it. You can tell, I really enjoyed Ali in this.
Overall, I’d say this is a reasonably fun romantic comedy. It looks like it might be getting a remake in the United States. If you type in the title on IMDb, there’s another film with that same title listed as being “in development”. It wouldn’t surprise me. I mean My Sassy Girl went from being a South Korean film to a Japanese mini-series, and was remade in the US the same year, which was 7 years after the original film. It could happen.
Also of note, the ending made me think of the Boombox Serenade scene from Say Anything… (1989) except she does it with her own voice instead of Peter Gabriel’s.
What Ever Happened to Timi/The Good, The Bad, and The Pretty (2014, dir. Attila Herczeg) – Yes, yet another Hungarian comedy. This one really can’t make up it’s mind poster wise. That’s the poster that is on Amazon Prime. Here is another one.
And here is yet another one.
I have to be honest here. I had almost no idea what was going here. Thank goodness there is a short plot summary available on Amazon Prime: “When a soon-to-be-married good guy has a one night stand with a beautiful former high school classmate, they think it’ll just be a quick fling. But the class bad boy has other plans.” There’s also a trailer.
Basically, what you have here is a Hungarian sex comedy that I really can’t recommend. But I probably should elaborate a little. The movie starts off with a high school prom dance. The narrator was there and slightly bumped his crotch against his dream girl’s butt. Very slightly, but it was enough that he went to the bathroom and jerked off. That tells you something about this guy right away.
Now we cut to the high school reunion where we think the two guys and a couple of girls are our only main characters, but none of the voices match the narrator. The narrator is actually a supporting jackass character. Sex happens here, and our scumbag narrator films it, then uses it to blackmail the other guys into getting him laid by the girl he had a crush on as a kid. That’s it really.
I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the characters. I really did find it confusing. I didn’t like story. I didn’t like the resolution. Oddly, I could have gone for a movie that just followed the douchebag around. He’s reasonably funny, interesting, and isn’t just a stock character like the others came across to me as being. I could have gone for something that actually did put him at the center rather than this film that actually teases you about that and says that the film is never about a guy like him. Why not? I might have actually enjoyed that movie.
Definitely check out Girlfriends and for some laughs Just Sex and Nothing Else. Avoid the other two.
For those of you who waded through all of that. Here is the Joker from a 1991 Batman movie from the Philippines.