For Reel


Two Days, One Night (2014)
December 8, 2014, 8:30 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
3.5 Stars
Two Days, One NightThe impressive filmography of the Dardenne brothers is populated with small, ethical fables about the working class in Belgium. They’re intense, panicked works about lives in distress. Two Days, One Night is perhaps their most accessible work–not only by casting a star of Marion Cotillard’s caliber (although Cécile De France was the brothers’ first foray in working with movie stars), but by virtue of the linear, almost mechanical plot. In following Cotillard from co-worker to co-worker in an attempt to convince them to reconsider her firing, the picture takes on a fairly repetitive narrative structure. Rarely in a Dardenne picture is the obstacle and solution so apparent. But what is effective about the tedium of the plot’s progression is that it allows the audience to be made aware of subtle differences in the responses from the co-workers. As humanist filmmakers, they focus on mostly inherently good people who are confronted with a sacrifice that they may or may not be able to make. Those who are unable to aid our heroine aren’t judged, rather empathized with as characters of their own stories. Furthermore, although the ethical dilemma isn’t quite as sizable as those they’ve worked with previous (on the surface, nothing is being said other than, “people have a tendency to look out for themselves instead of others”), it’s a nice exploration of depression and the importance of vulnerability. Cotillard often comments that she feels like a beggar. Coming off of a depression and still struggling with anxiety, the film is an effective play on her own self-awakening–her understanding of not only the importance of having the courage to ask for help, but to have the self-esteem to consider herself worthy of reconsideration by her peers.



The Kid with a Bike (2011)
April 20, 2012, 12:52 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne – the Belgian filmmaking duo with two Palme d’Ors to their name – have established an uncompromisingly naturalistic visual aesthetic over their six features since 1996’s La Promesse. Each picture could also be said to involve a significant moral burden, ultimately culminating more often than not with a hopeful, redemptive note. Great as each of their films are, one grows suspicious that their world is so specific that they risk self-parody. The Kid with a Bike, their latest, while utilizing the familiar handheld camera work and telling a story subjectively through a pair of distinct points-of-view, comes as a bit of a departure. The kid of the title – dressed in bright reds and blues – is, relatively speaking, visually flamboyant, and their occasional use of music is startling. While these aesthetic differences are slight, it is the film’s sense of the world – it, as the Dardennes themselves have put it, is reflective of a “fairy tale structure” – that most distinguishes it from their previous, better efforts. The convenience of the plot is not necessarily a hindrance. After all, every one of their narratives involves a fairly contrived set-up. What is frustrating, however, are its compromises in character by way of broad generalizations – it dwells in the cliches of the guardian woman, the wayward son, the absent father. Although there is the occasional moment of surprise – Cécile de France nearly gives up on the boy after a pivotal scene – nowhere is the dynamism of The Son, for instance, in which the characters didn’t correspond with the genre-defined traits that one might expect them to fulfill. As much as one can admire the way that the brothers so adeptly skirt sentimentality – and they quite often dwell in cute, idyllic moments before complimenting them with dread-inspiring sequences – their simplifications of what made them such exciting voices comes as a great disappointment.