Brittany Runs a Marathon
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
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This is a beautiful film, with fine location shots and beautifully dressed sets. Again, it's disconcerting to start a scene outside Chantilly, walk through a door, and find yourself at Maisons-Lafitte; still more to go from one room to the next and find yourself at the Hotel de Toulouse--now the Banque de France. And of course no modern film can convey 1 percent of what it was to be at the court of Louis the Great. And there's not one single thing in this screenplay that doesn't come straight out of Nancy Mitford's The Sun King. Still, it is worth seeing--a kind of photo album of one's childhood days. And they did have sense enough to cast a young, good-looking man (Julian Sands) as Louis XIV, and to take a chance by casting the totally inexperienced Irish poet Murray Lachlan Young as Monsieur, the king's brother. All things considered, very well worth seeing.
People should know Gilbert and Sullivan better; their operas are intelligible and accessible, if challenging to the idiocracy. That means that you have to actually know something about Western literature, music, and history to get all of the jokes--and most of all you have to be able to think logically to follow Gilbert's topsy turvy, which is perfectly logical, but on its own terms. Every twist and turn in the plot is rigorously logical, but the characters always end up in the position of a dog that has, quite rationally, chased the squirrel all the way up the tree. Anyway, the music is as funny as the libretto, and first rate just as composition, too. Beautiful. So you need to get some G&S, and study to understand it fully. It'll brighten every single day of your life, from there on out.
Now, as to our movie. It's pretty good. One of the two best cinematic treatments of what it is to be a writer. And in the single closeup of the moment at which the answer occurs to Gilbert, Jim Broadbent packs more acting than you get in most performances honored by the Academy.
It only recently occurred to me that this is--ah, what do they call it--The Brotherhood of the Wolf.
The wolves of old Europe were bigger than the little gray jobs that they give you nowadays, great hulking beasts that, if memory serves, prowled into the streets of Paris as late as 1720. These are the wolves of fairy tales with which French parents used to terrify their children, wolves as big as bears but faster, fiercer, and accustomed to the taste of human flesh, when other game ran thin. Reading true accounts of wolf attacks in those days, you get to wondering about some of those pre-Revolutionary French parents.
This movie recounts, and embellishes, the history of a gigantic wolf that terrorized the province of Gevaudan (today the Dept. of Lozere) back in the 1760s. Some have thought that it was an imported hyaena or something, but it's more likely to have been some mutant or glandular freak; it was reportedly the size of a cow, covered in red fur--but you can look all of that up for yourself. Whatever it was, the terrors that it wrought were so fantastic that the King himself got interested, which is to say that all of Europe was talking about it. Preferring women and children, it would outrun them and, often, bite off the head. It killed at least a hundred people all over the province, but didn't seem much interested in eating them.
Louis XV sent down two of the wolf hunters he kept on staff, Jean-Charles-Marc-Antoine Vaumesle d'Enneval and his son, to get the thing. They killed an immensely large wolf, although not quite so large as a cow, stuffed its skin with straw, sent it to Versailles, and rested on their laurels. The killings continued.
Finally, a local huntsman by the name of Jean Chastel killed an even bigger wolf, which he claimed approached him quietly as he sat in the woods resting during a hunt, reading his Bible and praying. The fact that the beast didn't attack a lone and off-guard man made some people think that Chastel had been keeping the animal or had trained it to kill, but nothing could be proved.
This fictionalized account follows the facts of the story but improves them. Samuel Le Bihan stars as a government naturalist and martial-arts expert, sent down by the Crown to figure it all out, along with his trusty sidekick Mani, economically played by Mark Dacascos, master of the side kick. They play off several self-interested local nobs and officials, particularly a local nabob played by Vincent Cassel. Love interest is supplied elegantly by Emilie Dequenne, who shows you how beautiful a girl of merely ordinary prettiness can become when she dresses smartly and carries herself with some self-respect, and learns how to speak French properly. There's also the regal Monica Bellucci (Mme. Vincent Cassel, by the way), who doesn't have to say a word. When she does it's even better.
There are anachronisms, and howlers, but they don't count here because this is a fantasy-martial-arts-mystery-costumer that makes its own sense, and has its own beauty. And it is very beautiful. Still, it's always disconcerting, to anybody who grew up in pre-Revolutionary France, when they establish a shot with an exterior of Versailles and then cut to an interior at Vaux-le-Vicomte; but then Vaux is for rent, so we must make allowances. And it includes rather more closeups of the technique of eighteenth-century taxidermy than I thought I needed.
Apart from some nudity and explicit sex, there are only two cautions to convey, neither of which has to do with the film itself. On the DVD the sound is bad; background music and fight scenes are loud enough to blast your speakers, while the spoken parts are far too quiet. And the English subtitles were written by somebody who, not surprisingly, did not know the period meaning of some words, some of which are kind of important. Just turn the subtitles off and go with the French. The best jokes don't translate at all, anyway.
In short, this is a wonderful film, a logically consistent chain of one surprise after another, oddly easy to follow yet challenging, a perfectly clear sequence of causes that result in effects far afield, witty and terrifying at the same time. See it.
Another recommendation by a friend of a movie that skidded by beneath my radar. A nice evening's entertainment. It changed--well, it modified my opinion of Adam Sandler.
Another Oedekerk masterwork. Say that three times real fast. Another good example of what a fine writer can do when allowed to direct--but here, I think, the money kept him on a fairly short leash. Somebody did, anyway; O works best that way, it seems. The result is a perfect little movie with a tight plot, continuous laughs, and timing that they use to set the clock at the Naval Observatory. Unfortunately the kids can't see it, as it is peppered with obscene language; but even that is done precisely. It's what you would hear from those people in those situations. Not a word is gratuitous. Neither of the stars ever equalled his work in this film, either, I don't think. See this.