1990: 2 movies

posted on 2016 March 8

Conte de printemps
Written and directed by Éric Rohmer
Produced by Margaret Ménégoz
Cinematography by Luc Pagès
Editing by María Luisa García
Starring Anne Teyssèdre and Florence Darel

   It plays like a mystery. "Who took the necklace?" We are curious to find out, but the way the movie unfolds is the real gem. It's got a lot of dialogue, but during every new discussion, the characters move to a deliciously decorated new room, or onto a quaint street, or through a bustling party, or to a verdant country cottage. It's really a simple story but it's spread out in a way that makes it feel epic, and in the end we feel as if a journey has been travelled, a truth learned, and we wonder if the protagonist has made the right decisions or passed up on the correct opportunities. And so, we are treated to the ambiguity of life, and to the fact that the sweet surroundings are the real treasures.
   That sense of satisfaction we feel is the cinematic equivalent of a great painting, symphony, or novel. Its taste lingers long and subtly long after the viewing, and by "its taste", I refer to the thoughts and emotions that it conjures. The title translates from French to "Spring Story".

I Hired a Contract Killer
Written, directed, edited, and produced
by Aki Kaurismäki
Story by Aki Kaurismäki and Peter von Bagh
Cinematography by Timo Salminen
Production design by John Ebden
Art direction by Mark Lavis
Costumes by Simon Murray
Music and supporting role by Joe Strummer
Starring Jean-Pierre Léaud

   Maybe this time, we come to a Kaurismäki-movie not really excited to see another stylized drama, with the same stilted, freeze-frame acting. But this one catches us off guard. It starts out as a silent, with Jean-Pierre Léaud in a deep comic mode, an amalgamation of Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd. It's a great beginning as Léaud shines supremely amidst the bleak subject matter.
   Léaud brings to our minds the many French movies he's starred in, and then, when the English-language dialogue begins, we have almost completely forgotten whose movie we are watching. That it's the work of Finnish director Kaurismäki is surprising, and keeps us focused wholly on the unpredictable story-line, the bleak visuals and cartoon-like characters, rather than on deciding where this one falls in the spectrum of the director's filmography. The movie is a treat, and Leaud's tremendous talent seems right at home within Kaurismaki's funny world.
   One thing that is usual with Kaurismäki-movies, a shockingly good soundtrack, is also the case with this one, with the bonus that this one also includes a live Joe Strummer performance or two.

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