#23 Let Me In

Dear Rache,

Q: What’s the perfect way to waste good money and time?

A: Watch Let Me In!

Earlier today, I was out with a good friend of ours. Let us call her TG. And because she likes watching movies, we agreed to watch one. The problem was she wanted to see Let Me In, while I was thinking of watching Unstoppable. You know I don’t like scary movies, much less those about vampires. They suck. But because I made her go to High Street, I thought it was only fair to make her decide.

The movie was boring. I am the biggest coward on earth, and I was NOT scared. What the hell is wrong with this movie? I could have slept while watching it had it not been for TG talking to me. So yes, TG talks while watching.  Do not sit beside her while watching movies. JUST KIDDING, TG!!! =)

As I was seated there, in my mind, I kept blaming TG for making me watch this bad movie. On second thought, maybe I did tell her out loud that it was her fault we had to watch that. I love Chloe Moretz (I’m a Hit Girl fan) and I didn’t hate the others in this movie (I did sympathize with Owen, the bullied kid), but to the writer and the director of this “horror” film: YOU FAILED BIG TIME. You failed to scare the biggest chicken on earth. You failed to make the crowd scream of fear. Heck, you failed to make the audience react. You failed in your idea of a vampire. You failed when you made Chloe Moretz say the line, “I’m 12. But I’ve been 12 for a really long time.” It’s like you’re begging the audience to hate you and your movie.

But you did succeed in some things. If you wanted Chloe Moretz to be a blond Gollum on screen, then congratulations. If you wanted to waste good talent (Chloe Moretz, et al.), congratulations! If you wanted the audience to sleep or just talk to each other for the duration of the movie, then congratulations again. If you wanted to be hated for wasting good money, then congratulations!!!

The movie, by the way, is about a bullied boy, Owen (Kodi Smith-McPhee), who befriends Abby (Moretz), who turns out to be Gollum a vampire. She then kills the bullies (Hence the “She will protect you” tag on the movie poster.). That is my bad summary of this bad movie.

The only time I felt any emotion while watching was when Owen was bullied. Those kids should not be called bullies. They are TERRORISTS! They make you love the “bullies” in our school. They make you realize how the kids in our school are so much more secure.

I asked TG if we could NOT finish the movie and just go out. But we suffered through the end anyway. And the moment the credits rolled, as we were making our way out of the cinema, TG and I never even talked about the movie.

I hope the original movie (Let the Right One In (2008)) is way better than this.

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#22 You’ve Got Mail

Dear Rache,

Every time I get a long break (e.g. sem break, Christmas break, summer break, in-between jobs break, or in our case, a 4-day weekend), I make sure to re-watch my ulitamtest favoritest movie: You’ve Got Mail. I guess I could describe the feeling of watching it as homey. It’s just like going back to my younger years, going back to the phase in my life when it was okay not to have a job, and going back to the time when I could believe in dreams and such. So, yeah, I really really love that era.

I do not feel the need to post the summary of the movie here, because nobody born in the wonderful decade of the 80’s should NOT have heard of this Nora Ephron film, which btw, is an adaptation of the 1940’s Ernst Lubitsch film The Shop Around the Corner. And nobody should be deprived of seeing this romcom, with its charming lead characters Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (who, according to one review, should win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry), its witty and catchy lines [heck, Kathleen Kelly’s (Meg Ryan) “What will NY152 say today, I wonder?” line used to be my alarm tone], its wonderful portrayal of New York in all 4 seasons, its distinctly 90’s soundtrack, its reference to my all-time favorite novel Pride and Prejudice, and Joe Fox’s (Tom Hanks) hilarious impersonation of The Godfather.

Watching the movie sure made me feel warm and giddy, but that wasn’t all. Think of the time when Joe and Kathleen have yet to know that they are NY152 and shopgirl. It was distressing, Rache, that I knew their online identities, and they didn’t. I wanted to tell them! I wanted to e-mail them that Kathleen Kelly was shopgirl, and that Joe Fox was NY152!!! But I couldn’t, and so I helplessly watched along. And when Joe Fox found out that shopgirl, the girl who if “turns out to be even as good looking as a mail box, [Joe] would be crazy not to turn [his] life upside down and marry her,” was Kathleen, he was heartbroken. And I felt it, Rache. My soul died just a little for Joe. I’m telling you, this movie is the ultimate “are you human?” test. If you don’t feel the movie tugging at your heart strings, then you do not deserve to live. Just kidding! 🙂

This movie has influenced me in more ways than one. I believe that it is because of this movie that
1. I would like to have my own bookstore/coffee shop (although I have not yet decided whether to pattern in after the Shop Around the Corner or the Fox Bookstore)
2. I love the smell of freshly-sharpened pencils although I use a tech pen (because let’s admit it, tech pens are more convenient)
3. whenever I go to a coffee shop I am reminded of the Starbucks quote (see ‘favorite quotes’ below), and tell myself that I am not one of those people with no decision-making ability. I just happen to love coffee.
4. I am more in love with Mr. Darcy. Because of Elizabeth Bennet and Kathleen Kelly love him, then why shouldn’t we?
5. We should have caviar as a garnish (haha) at our long overdue wine & cheese party.
6. I love to banter or talk in a bantering tone. Because bantering brings out your wit. And Rache, I think you are one of the wittiest persons I know. 🙂

There is just so too much to say about this movie, Rache. Have you heard of Joe’s knock knock joke? I am tempted to say it, but I want you to watch the movie first! An the chat scene, when NY152 catches shopgirl online, and they start talking about Kathleen’s business going down. That scene is urresistably cute, that someone made a YOU’VE GOT MAIL Redux (an edited version which depicts netspeak). Watch it!

I also find the coffee shop scene (of course, there was bantering there) absolutely necessary. When Kathleen said, “If I really knew you, I know exactly what I’d find: instead of a brain a cash register, instead of a heart a bottom line,” that has got to hurt. And when she unwittingly went on by saying that “…no one will ever remember you, Joe Fox… You are nothing but a suit,” Joe just said “That’s my cue” and left. 😦 I’m telling you this is the real romcom deal!

Finally, this movie gives people (false) hope (depending on your POV), and advises them not to give up on love, because…

Imagine, the guy you sit next to in the shuttle could be your Joe Fox!!! The movie ends with “Over the Rainbow” in the background, and NY152 and shopgirl meet at point where the garden path curves, and Joe finally admits to knowing Kathleen was the shopgirl by saying, “Don’t cry, shopgirl,” and Kathleen says “I wanted it to be you,” my soul soared.

Favorite lines:
From Kathleen Kelly
“What will NY152 say today, I wonder. I turn on my computer. I wait impatiently as it connects. I go online, and my breath catches in my chest until I hear three little words: You’ve got mail. I hear nothing. Not even a sound on the streets of New York, just the beating of my own heart. I have mail. From you.”

“What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s *personal* to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?”

From Joe Fox
“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.”

“And the answer to your question is ‘Go to the mattresses.’ You’re at war. It’s not personal, it’s business. It’s not personal it’s business. Recite that to yourself every time you feel you’re losing your nerve. I know you worry about being brave, this is your chance. Fight. Fight to the death.

From Frank Navasky (Greg Kinnear)
“You are a lone reed, standing tall, waving boldly in the corrupt sands of commerce.”

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#21The Magnificent Ambersons

Dear Rache,

It is during rainy mornings like this one that I find myself fantasizing about Orson Welles, one of the two loves of my life (the other being, of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald). The first time I fell head over heels in love with Orson Welles was when I first watched Citizen Kane (1941), of which he was the director, writer, and lead actor. It went on to become the undisputed greatest film of all time. He was very young then and Citizen Kane was his first movie. Now, I would be a fool not to fall in love with a genius like that.

The genius at work

The second time I fell head over heels in love with Orson Welles was this morning, when I watched his second film, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), which chronicles the decline of the aristocratic Amberson clan. The movie first introduces us to the very beautiful and very rich Isabel Amberson. Wild, handsome, and less-moneyed Eugene Morgan is madly in love with her, but she marries boring Wilbur Minafer instead. Decades later, Eugene Morgan returns to town with his beautiful daughter Lucy. He is now a successful automobile maker, immensely rich, and widowed. He woos Isabel again, and this time she is receptive. However, Isabel’s spoiled son, George, resents this, and does everything to sabotage their affair. To complicate matters further, George finds himself smitten by Lucy. In the end, George receives his comeuppance “three times filled and running over.”

When The Magnificent Ambersons premiered in 1942, the audiences were less receptive. Some predicted this as the start of Orson Welles’ decline. The movie was regarded as a failure by many. I, however, beg to disagree. The Magnificent Ambersons may be unappreciated in ts own time, but it fits right into ours just perfectly. It is, in every way, an equal of Citizen Kane, in that it is undeniably brilliant. Ten seconds into the film, I was already enraptured– the movie is just so beautiful in every way. Every word uttered by the actors is teeming with profundity. Every frame has a message to say. I admire how the movie’s cinematography affects the essence of the entire story. (For instance, every now and then, snapshots of the Amberson mansion is flashed on the screen, like the house is also a member of the cast, an integral character in the film. In the end, when George becomes destitute and bids adieu to the now dark and abandoned mansion, I cannot help but grieve– a character has died.) Characteristic of Welles’ films, the characters in this movie are very complex and humanized that I cannot help but feel sympathy and not hate toward George, the antagonist. It’s the kind of movie that haunts you, the kind that you never forget.

My only complaint is the ending, which is optimistic and therefore not in keeping with the sinister theme of the rest of the film. True enough, essays about the film reveal that an hour’s worth of reel was cut from The Magnificent Ambersons, and the ending’s not quite how Welles intended it. I ache to get my hands on the lost footage. For now, I will seek comfort in his other films. I will watch The Lady in Shanghai next, and I shall tell you all about it.

Quotable Quotes:

Lucy: What are you studying at school?
George: College.
Lucy: College.
George: Oh, lots of useless guff.
Lucy: Why don’t you study some useful guff?
George: What do you mean, useful?
Lucy: Something you’d use later in your business or profession.
George: I don’t intend to go into any business or profession.
Lucy: No?
George: No.
Lucy: Why not?
George: Well, just look at them. That’s a fine career for a man, isn’t it? Lawyers, bankers, politicians. What do they ever get out of life, I’d like to know. What do they know about real things? What do they ever get?
Lucy: What do you want to be?
George: [fatuously] A yachtsman!

Rating: Gripping. Absolutely gripping. I dared not turn my head away from the screen even for a moment. Please watch it; it will change how you view cinema.

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#20 Speedy Scandal

Dear Rache,

Here is a movie familiar to all of us. One of the many reasons that made me love this movie is its effect on us as a team. I believe that through this movie, we’ve all become closer, as we found out our liking for that cute kid, that kind of humor, and that movie genre.

Speedy Scandal tells an unusual story of a selfish radio personality in his late 30’s who lived like a bachelor, until he receives a radio caller whose life story makes his radio program rack up in ratings. He unwittingly weaves himself into the life story of the radio caller by giving her advice, and things become complicated when he realizes that he is the main source of the caller’s problem, as he is the long lost father the caller (a young single mom) has been trying to get in touch with. This makes him a grandfather when he’s not even 40, and Nam can’t live with that as he thinks he is a radio star, and his reputation is very important to him.

Rache, this will be the first time we ask you to respond, just for us to know if you’re really reading this blog. Here’s the instruction: I am going to write my 5 favorite moments in this movie, and you will respond by typing your own 5 in the comments section.

#1: The opening credits – how I wish I lived in his house, where everything is organized and functional. And how I wish I thought of and made that opening credit. Now it makes me want to make one for our lip dub.

#2: Ki-dong acting as a spy who eavesdropped on the principal, in order to get to know her better. He then passes the info to Nam, and in return, Ki-dong gets whatever he wants.

#3: The first night his daughter and grandson stayed in his condo – Nam didn’t listen to his daughter Hwang Jeong-nam when she said that her son Hwang Ki-dong sleep walks. Nam had to learn it the hard way when Ki-dong sleep walked on him in the kitchen one silent night.

#4: Nam and Ki-dong playing Go-Stop – when Nam wanted so desperately to win over Ki-dong, he resorted to cheating. And when Ki-dong caught him, pshhhhhh!


#5: The ending – who doesn’t like singing at the end of a comedy film? Especially if the song is Katrina and the Waves’s “Walking on Sunshine”? And we see how the whole family is musically inclined, with Nam on lead guitar, Jeong-nam on vocals, and Ki-dong on keyboard. All in all, it’s not a bad ending for a light hearted film.

Laughter is the best medicine, they say. And in your down moments, you can depend on this movie to lift up your spirit. I mean just look at this face, really. 🙂

P.S. Now go write your own 5 moments 😉 

Posted in Comedy | 3 Comments

#19 The Social Network

Dear Rache,

Now here is the movie that will set all our pecuniary concerns to rest. The Social Network (2010) lets us in on the secret on how to strike it really rich– that is, through audacity, audacity, and more audacity.

The Social Network is the story of how Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) founded Facebook while he was still a Harvard undergrad, and quickly became the world’s youngest billionaire. If the movie has taught me anything, that will be that in order to fulfill our dreams, we need to really, totally, unconditionally believe in ourselves. Zuckerberg, you see, is no doubt very smart, but what catapulted him to success was his in-your-face self-confidence, scathing arrogance, and hauteur. He takes everything- getting dumped, lawsuits, etcetera- in a stride. He is annoyed- because these things waste his time- but he is never daunted.

There are many great things about this movie– the snappy editing that makes the film never boring, the snazzy musical score that makes computer programming look like the coolest thing on earth, the engaging script (many have compared the storyline to that of the classic film, Citizen Kane), the casting (Justin Timberlake was spot-on as the spineless, verbose founder of music website Napster). I have to hand it to director David Fincher– he makes dorkiness look really, really good. He made Mark Zuckerberg a rockstar.

Rating: A must-see! We have much to learn from Mr. Zuckerberg, Rachey, if we intend to get rich.

Posted in Comedy | 5 Comments

#18 Four Rooms

Dear Rache,

Today, I will tell you about Four Rooms (1995). Now there’s a quirky movie.

It’s New Years Eve and bellhop Ted Bishop (Tim Roth) is making his rounds through four rooms, each with its own assortment of eccentric inhabitants. In exchange for tips, he finds himself giving in to the guests’ scandalous requests.

Room #1: Ted meets a group of beautiful and sultry witches. They force him to have sex with one of them so that they may get his semen—the missing ingredient in their New Year’s Eve ritual.

Room #2: Next, he walks into a couple in the middle of a violent spat. He is soon forced to make love to the wife at gunpoint.

Room #3: Ted baby-sits for a macho Latino’s children in exchange for $500. The children look harmless enough, but, as the cliché goes, looks can be deceiving. He thinks he has finally gotten the kids in bed (by putting vapor rub on their eyelids), but then they scheme their way out, unearth a dead body under the mattress, and light the room on fire.

And, lastly:

Room #4: He meets the Man in the Penthouse, played by Quentin Tarantino himself. Tarantino invites Ted to gorge on champagne and, in exchange for money, chop someone’s finger off.

Four Rooms is by the same people who brought us the brilliant, critically acclaimed film Pulp Fiction: Anders, Rockwell, Rodriguez, and Tarantino. Like its predecessor, Four Rooms is fun and audacious in every way—cinematography, editing, production design, and script. On the surface, the film looks like it is all about outrageousness and nothing but. An asset of the film, after all, is that it looks as if its creators had a tremendous lot of fun making it, but I think Four Rooms is more than that. In a very real way, it tells us about the things people will do in exchange for a fistful of money. There is a Ted Bishop in all of us.

Rating: Four Rooms is for when you feel like watching something weird and over-the-top!

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#17 Annie Hall

Dear Rache,

I have set a goal for myself, and that is to present you with at least five Woody Allen movies. Last week, I gave you Crimes and Misdemeanors. Today, I give you Annie Hall—the movie considered by many as Allen’s best. If you ask me, I like his other film, Manhattan, better, but that is a movie for another time. Let us not digress!

So, where were we?

Prior to Annie Hall, which came out in 1977, Woody Allen’s oeuvre was composed of just slapstick farces a la Buster Keaton’s movies and The Three Stooges. When Annie Hall came out, everyone was in awe. It was precocious in terms of script, which was highly cerebral. It had cinematography so beautiful each frame was a work of art. Its editing was superb—non-linear and peppered with dream sequences but still very much cohesive. I especially loved it that once in a while, the characters would stop in the middle of a scene to stare into the camera and address the audience, or to watch their younger selves do a scene. The movie is literally a one-and-a-half-hour conversation between the main characters and the audience, and sometimes the viewer cannot help but answer back (I know I did, at one point, and I ended up looking very silly.). When Annie Hall premiered, everyone agreed that the movie’s spectacular in every way. No wonder it won 4 Academy Awards that year, including best picture and best director.

Here’s an embarrassing little secret I would like to share with you: I like to re-watch Woody Allen’s films every now and then because I like to gauge my intellectual capacity according to how much I comprehend his movies’ dialogue. I know the idea sounds very stupid- and it probably is- but allow me to explain myself. You see, Allen’s movies are overflowing with literary, political, and sociological references that the viewer constantly finds himself fumbling for the pause button and consulting the dictionary. His movies, like I said, are highly cerebral. Mothers and sons argue about the reality of the expansion of the universe, people discuss the similarities between Groucho Marx and Freud, everyone listens to Wagner and watches Ingmar Bergman, and lovers’ idea of a movie date is watching a Nazi documentary. In Allen’s movies, everyone appears to have at least an MA degree. When the day comes when I can already understand every single word uttered in his films, I believe I may already consider myself smart. Every time I watch his films, I cannot help but fantasize being just like his characters. Never mind that they are psychotic, I love it that they have ridiculously high IQs. Annie Hall is especially close to my heart because it features Woody Allen’s greatest character—himself.

Annie Hall is semi-autobiographical. Its leading man, Alvy Singer, is based on Woody Allen, which explains why the character is terribly insecure, anti social, passive-aggressive, and hopelessly obsessed with death. Allen’s then off-screen lover Diane Keaton plays Annie Hall, the leading lady. Annie Hall is based on Keaton and is in fact the actress’ real name. The movie chronicles the birth, growth, and dissipation of Annie and Alvy’s love affair, from the moment they first meet at the tennis courts to their first fight (Alvy forces Annie to take college courses in an attempt to make her smarter), to their bland, anti-climactic breakup. In the middle of the movie, right after the couple breaks up for the first time, Alvy, in his frustration, voices his disbelief to a random street person. The old lady, full of wisdom, replies, “Love fades,” and that pretty much sums up the message of the film. Relationships do not end abruptly. From the moment Alvy and Annie first meet, their relationship is already on its way to its death, slowly but surely. Annie Hall is a very personal film (It has revealed more about Woody Allen than all of his other films combined.), but it is, nonetheless, a very realistic portrait of human relationships in general. “Love fades.”

Quotable Quotes:

Annie: “Do you love me?” Alvy: “Love is too weak a word. I lurve you.” (Rache, this made me wonder if Woody Allen coined “lurve.” What do you think?)

Annie to Alvy: “You only give me books with death in the title!”

Alvy twice quoted Groucho Marx: “I would not like to belong to any club that would have me for a member.”

Rating: It’s one of the greatest films of all time—and that is not just according to me!

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#16 Perhaps Love

Dear Rache,

Tonight, I am recommending to you – a Chinese musical.

Why? Well, why not?

Here’s why Perhaps Love should be promising enough:

1) It’s directed by Peter Chan – who directed the superb weepy Comrades: Almost A Love Story, the only film in our Asian Cinema class  that received a thunderous round of applause when the screen faded to black.

2) Its cinematography is by Christopher Doyle – Wong Kar Wai’s long time collaborator, the man responsible for the lush, garish, moody lighting in Wong’s films.

3) It’s set in Shanghai (the beautiful and historical Bund street), and Beijing (flashbacks of the main characters’ love affair are done in sad, wintry colors)

4) It’s choreographed by a Bollywood guy – ooh, imagine the explosion of sight and sound with this Bollywood touch!

And last, but certainly not least…

5)  It stars Takeshi Kaneshiro – my boyfriend.

Posted in Comedy | 3 Comments

#15 Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

Dear Rache,

Remember whe you told me you wished you hadn’t seen Adventureland because there were so many weed scenes they made you want to smoke weed? Well, this movie has that as well. But I bet you wouldn’t want to do druges after watching this movie, because this movie is a cautionary tale of the stubborn and stupid Kumar who tried to use his bong on the plane. Unfortunately, a paranoid old woman thought him a terrorist, and his bong a bomb. Kumar, along with Harold, was then arrested. To make things worse, the Secretary of Homeland Security went fishing (or something), so the anormally racist deupty secretary had to take over their case. It was then decided that the two were from a joint Al-Qaeda and orth Korean terrorist group, so Harold Lee and Kumar Patel were detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Here begins the cross-country adventure- from wherever they’re from to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, to Florida, across the southern states until they reach Texas, where thei former colleague Eric, and Kumar’s former girlfrend Vanessa, were set to wed. Oh, and yeah, Kumar also had plans of breaking up the engagement.

Dear Rache, other than stoner humor and overly racist deputy, you will also hate the unnecessary nudity in this movie. How crazy is it? Well, have you ever seen a bottomless party? That’s right. And NPH. You won’t miss his sometimes misogynistic humor in How I Met Your Mother. Of course, this genre will always have a trip to some whore house. And you wouldn’t want to see what goes on in there.

 I wish the actors were better looking. But I guess that physique is a requirement in comedy.

So all in all, Rache. Watch at your own risk. You’ve been warned. I got a few laughs from it, and it’s really sad how I enjoy such senseless and mindless humor.

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#14 8 Femmes

Dear Rachey,

Here’s yet another reason why the French rock: their movies are always, always, refreshing. Let’s take 8 Femmes (2002) for example. The movie centers on the inhabitants of a mansion tucked away in a town in France. One day, the man of (and only man in) the house, Marcel, is suddenly found dead. The phone line has been cut, all forms of transportation has been made impossible, and heavy snowfall has made leaving the house out of the question. It is up to the eight women in the house- Marcel’s mother-in-law, wife, two daughters, chambermaid, cook, and sister- to discover the identity of the murderer. All they know is that the murderer is among them. Everyone has a motive, and everyone is a suspect. In their quest for the truth, skeletons in the closet come pouring out.

At first, I thought 8 Femmes was your typical whodunnit movie like the mystery classic Gosford Park, but I should have known better. The French are incapable of producing “typical,” how could I have forgotten?

For one, only the French can turn a murder mystery into a musical comedy. Auteur Francois Ozon has skillfully made a movie that is all at once thrilling and funny. In many ways, 8 Femmes is like a Hitchcock film. Everyone looks like they belong in the pages of Vogue. The perfectly coiffed hair and the haute couture are highly redolent of Grace Kelly in Rear Window and Kim Novak in Vertigo. The shocking turn of events (They are never quite what you expect!) are reminiscent of the handicraft of the master of suspense as well– the grandmother is discovered to have murdered her husband years ago, the dead man’s wife is having a torrid love affair with her husband’s nemesis, the sultry chambermaid has been the dead man’s bedfellow for five years, the dead man has impregnated his own daughter.

Then there’s the element of comedy. Just when you think you can no longer take the suspense, the cast bursts into a song and dance number, making you laugh so hard you get a serious case of bellyache. The dialogue drips heavily with sarcasm, but the actors deliver their lines so effortlessly you wonder if the French really talk that way. Clues are disclosed and ravaged like juicy gossip. Asinine twists, like the disabled suddenly walking and then nonchalantly attributing this event to a Christmas miracle, will surprise you. Also, amidst death in the family, everyone either gets a makeover or is liberated sexually.

Quotable Quote: “Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux.” (There is no happy love.)

What I like best about the film: (1) The set looks like a theater stage, creating the illusion that you are watching a play. (2) Catherine Deneuve and Emanuelle Beart are luminous! (3) The ending, which I think is very French.

Rating: 8 Femmes is often absurd, but I think it is precisely this absurdity that makes it a genius of a film. It is what makes it singular in its beauty. There is really quite nothing like it.

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