the kid with a bike follows a nice, bicycle-based tradition of european cinema, which at least dates back to de sica’s classic the bicycle thief.
it tells the story of a rebellious, full-of-beans kid whose dad has abandoned him. he goes to an orphanage but believes, beyond hope, that if he can only get home, or find his dad, that everything will be better.
as a kid who grew up believing not just in the intentions of an absent father figure but also in bicycles, i found this disjointed, abstract film quite moving. i found it so moving that i watched it weeks ago and only am now sitting down to write about it after a lot of time and several drinks.
the kid in this film is…. powerful. not just emotionally, but physically. he is hard to restrain. i related to this quite deeply, as it is/was my own experience. he is resolute. no social worker or foster mom is going to convince him otherwise. through sheer force of will he tracks down his dad. as gently as is possible, he gets rebuffed. his dad is working in a restaurant, he is fucking the lady who owns it, the kid can mess this all up, and on and on. after this, the kid turns to some neighborhood thugs and a gang, looking for that father-son dynamic.
unlike myself, he learns a lesson early on and is spared further embarrassment.
this most accessible of the dardenne brothers films is a bit like a sweet fairy tale. it’s happily ever after. the kid finds a home, people are left with a sense of acceptance and peace – essentially everything that eludes those of us who have faced a similar struggle in our adolescent lives with absent fathers.
the kid finds a woman who becomes his family. he moves beyond the hurt and inequity of the past. he truly rides (with her) on his bike off into the sunset.
the film, albeit french, is purely hollywood in it’s approach and in it’s outlook. it fine and it’s endearing.
this is a strange and interesting premise for a movie.
a girl is 10 years old. she has this short haircut and, upon moving to a new place, is mistaken for a boy. as it turns out, she is perhaps taken with the girl who makes this mistake. and through the heat of the summer days she cannot bring herself to come out with the truth.
of course, eventually everything is tragically revealed. it’s touching, sad and a little spooky.
the lead is plaed by zoe heran, and she is mesmerizing in this role. i don’t know what it is about french child actors but every time i see a movie with one they are so complete in their characterizations it gives me chills. her performance here is amazing. i venture that if this were an american film, and the actress played the role as deftly as zoe does here, an oscar nomination would be a given.
although, given the way the material is frankly handled and the subject matter in general, i doubt a film as layered and brutally honest as this could get made in the united states. we are so strangely puritanical.
the film was written and directed by celine sciamma, who is an exciting film maker already, although this is only her second feature. her first film, water lilies (2007), also revolves around the lives of young girls and seems very strong, too. i can only say ‘seems’ because the version i have is in french with no subs so i’ve only watched a third of it. i felt like i wasn’t picking up enough information. i’ll probably review that film when i find a subbed version because i’m intrigued by this french film maker’s vision and clarity.
as i reflect on it, though, i think the movie meant much more to me than it ought to have. you see, it reminds me of a running event in my family for some years. i had an aunt who, because my grandparents has 8 kids, ended up being only a couple years older than me. she often would masquerade as a boy. i don’t know if it was because she knew she was a lesbian early on or because it was a defense mechanism in response to some horrible abuse she suffered. it started around 10 years old and was intermittent.
she would have brief periods where she would say there was a boy she liked, but then would get caught using the phone, for hours on end, calling some girl from school, convincing her she was a boy, oddly named “guy”.
this is where it got strange and interesting. this started as young as fifth grade. and at this time she still was girlish in appearance for the most part. so… when it came time to come meet certain of these ‘girls’, i would get pressed into service and i would have to go and be ‘guy’, for the meeting.
i don’t remember much about these meetings except a couple of innocent kid kisses, and much discussion about how i didn’t sound like i did on the phone.
my aunt would be inside the library, or across the street watching. i guess this was just her way of working up to actually approaching girls. i think the things that happened to her and the closed minded nature of where we lived in florida, made it nearly impossible for her to voice her real needs and who she might be. i think all this compounded the damage that the abuse she endured early on had done to her.
as we got older, i moved to the next town. i was a bit out of reach and chasing my own girls. she kept up the boy imitating stuff off and on. every once in a while there’d be a yelling, tearful blow up when some girls family would learn the truth and get upset. then as she got older and found like souls, she settled into a couple of normal, same sex consensual relationships.
i don’t talk to her that much but when we see each other it’s warm. she’s got a good heart and up till now has had a hard life. she’s my family and i love her, no matter what. there’s a lot more to her and my story and some adventures we got into later that i think i’ll tell as a story in a separate blog entry some time. writing this made me think about her deeply, which i haven’t done in some months.
so much for reviewing this film, which is very worthwhile and compelling.
i know i should just rate this film based on what it is but i just re-watched all three films of the milennium series books recently so they are fresh in my mind. i’ll try to give a bit about this on it’s own, and tie it in with what i think of it compared to the film already made.
the story of the film is that a swedish journalist (daniel craig) has been found guilty of defamation, which in sweden is also a criminal offense. spared jail time, he is fined a huge sum and disgraced. the investigative magazine he runs, called milennium, is left in a precarious position.
then he gets a call. one of the patriarchs of one of the richest families (christopher plummer) in sweden wants him to come meet him, ostensibly to work on his memoirs. he reluctantly agrees, because he’s in a hard spot and needs the money.
once there, he finds he is being asked to solve a 40 year old disappearance of a niece of the old man, instead. so he begins digging. he finds more dirt than you can imagine.
along the way he asks for a research assistant, and one is suggested (rooney mara) who is very good. she is the girl with the dragon tattoo of the title. she is a chain smoking, goth looking young girl with an emotionless facade, a motorcycle and a mysterious past.
they work well together and, after becoming somewhat romantically linked, uncover a history you didn’t expect and an outcome you probably couldn’t have guessed.
that’s the plot of both films and the first book in stieg larsson’s trilogy.
the film is smartly made and tightly edited. there is a level of detail here that is almost too much, but it’s paced well and fed to you in digestible spurts. overall the film doesn’t really have a ‘look’ or a ‘feel’ to it but it’s solidly made and very well acted.
particular standouts are stellan skarsgard as martin, and christopher plummer as henrik.
the leads also do a fine job. ronney mara spends more time having sex and generally being topless in this film than does naomi rapace in the originals, and yet still if i had to choose i’d say i prefer rapace’s more subdued and less verbal personification.
daniel craig is believable, but i always have issues with his accent in movies. sometimes in this i think he’s trying to be swedish. then he sounds british again.
american actress robin wright plays his co-editor at milennium, and she comes off well, the whole time speaking english with a solid swedish accent.
still, it’s weird to me when a movie will portray people as being from a different country and yet they all speak english. instead of using the language of the country they live in, they use an accent. i don’t know why they bother. i get that everyone is in sweden. let them speak how they speak naturally. i don’t need the added trickery of voice manipulation. maybe it’s just me but i find the accent distracting.
film is illusion. if i’m sitting there watching it, i’m willing to buy into any fiction you can artfully sell me. i know daniel craig isn’t mikael blomquist. i know he isn’t swedish. if you let everyone speak normally i’ll still get that it’s taking place in sweden, not that it matters where this particular story is taking place.
going in, i wholly expected this movie to be set on cape cod or somewhere in new england, not sweden. i was surprised that the location for both stories stayed the same.
compared to the original swedish film, this film is more intricate, better produced and more keenly directed. but like most american films of the past 5 years, it’s also overlong – two hours and forty minutes long. it takes great pains to spell out certain details, but this pays off for the viewer who might have missed something while watching the original film. still, i don’t know how necessary these details are.
there are only a few particular instances in which the film deviates from the original, and i don’t know how both differ from the books. the points are not small, but giving them away will spoil the movie so i’ll not go into them.
in short – if you saw and loved the first film, you will enjoy this movie. if you never saw the first film, you will probably like this movie. if you only read the book, you will probably hate any movie because everyone who reads the book first always think the movie doesn’t match up.
as i’ve said before, i think comparing a book to a movie is like comparing a painting to a song. but i’m starting to think that comparing a movie to a remake is much the same type of problem. maybe i’ll stop doing it.
first off, this is in spanish. so if you go in because you see antonio banderas’ name thinking he’ll be speaking english and being charming and dashing as in a lot of his american films, or that he’ll be cute like the nasonex bee, you’ll be let down.
secondly – this is a challenging movie. i’m struggling with not giving too much away because each act of this movie has a horribly shocking turn.
let me say that banderas plays a very skilled doctor who is working on a new, advanced way to repair damaged skin. he has a devoted housekeeper and often works with patients in his home. he is a gifted and brilliant doctor but he is also a very flawed man. he is damaged both by his past and probably by just bad wiring, too. he’s not the most ethical of doctors and his most significant, long term patient can attest to it. that’s about all i will say about the plot because almost every detail leads to some atrocity.
the film doesn’t share an american sensibility so i think a lot of american viewers will be put off both by the pacing and the odd turns the story takes. the characters aren’t justified or explained really in any way, save for some expository stuff which i still shouldn’t reveal.
there is a little bit of violence in it. it is awkwardly staged, perhaps deliberately so. there’s some sexual content. it is deliberately explicit. so be prepared for that.
what is this movie trying to tell me? i can’t say for sure. maybe it’s saying that we are often not who we seem to be? but, that’s a cliche and almodovar is much more interesting than that.
maybe it means to say that we can’t recreate what we’ve lost in the past, and trying to do so leads not just to certain and utter failure but perhaps to a loss of your own humanity? perhaps. maybe it’s just saying you have to let your past go and not try to ‘fix’ it – accept it, learn from it and move on. i honestly don’t know.
a lot of people tell me that after reading my reviews here they can’t tell if i actually liked or disliked a movie. this is an example of a movie that i can’t answer one way or the other.
some movies can be called a mind fuck but almodovar is one of those auteurs who is quite often guilty of mind rape. this film is a creepy, meandering example of it. but it’s not without it’s rewards.
in anticipation of the upcoming david fincher film the girl with the dragon tattoo, which is coming in december, i thought i’d revisit the original trilogy of swedish films directed by niels arden oplev (the first one) and daniel alfredson (the second two) which are based on the stieg larsson books called the millennium series.
maybe i’m getting ahead of myself already. ok – so first off, there are three films in the series: the girl with the dragon tattoo, the girl who played with fire and the girl who kicked the hornet’s nest. they go in that order.
they tell the story of lisbeth solander, a goth looking, chain smoking female computer hacker who we learn in a typical roundabout film fashion was once in a mental hospital for trying to set her abusive father on fire after he beat her mother. in the first film, she works with a disgraced journalist to try to find who might have killed a girl 40 years earlier among a very wealthy family. that is essentially the plot of the first book/film.
in the second film we find out her father was a russian spy who defected to sweden. he is politically connected and involved in a lot of dirty dealing and has never forgiven lisbeth for trying to kill him. she spends a good deal of the second book/film running from various political factions who want to kill her. all the while her journalist friend is trying to clear her name for some crimes (and murders) that happen along the way. this film ends in a harrowing climax i won’t give away.
the third film concerns itself mainly with her trial and the journalists writing of a lengthy exposé and working with non-corrupted government officials to bring down all those who have conspired against lisbeth.
the books were written by stieg larsson, a swedish journalist. the books were all published after his death. he had an unexpected heart attack. in his journalistic work, he was critical of both racism and right wing extremism in his country. this caused him to be under constant threat. these elements are in his millennium books, of course.
at 15, he supposedly witnessed the gang rape of a girl. this event did two things. it filled him with a sense of shame for not doing more to help the girl, and it gave him a life long fascination with women’s issues, especially with respect to sexual violence. through the artifice of his novels he was able to create a character who, although she has great injustices done to her (sexual and otherwise), she is able to fight back, claim her self hood and more importantly, get revenge. these are really the themes of the millennium books.
and while the books are essentially just boilerplate detective thrillers with a feminist twist, they are interesting in that the protagonist is an often unsympathetic seeming female, which is a nice turn. she is emotionally cold and often seems detached. she is cynical and sexually ambiguous, although in the first film she has willing sex with both a man and a woman, in separate encounters. she is also brutally raped by a male ‘guardian’ in the first book/film, an event she has the luck (if you want to call it that) to have videotaped.
in the second film she reconnects with a female partner from her past, and that is really the only emotional component she ever is allowed to reveal in all three films. although even in this scene, she doesn’t really express much emotion outwardly. even when she triumphs at the end of the first and third films, we don’t get the impression that she is relieved, or happy. it’s just a plan working out. she doesn’t smile. this was part of the plan, and onto the next thing.
the films are quite different from each other. the first film, the girl with the dragon tattoo, is really the only one that feels like a proper film. the second two films feel like mini-series or soap opera. they feel made for tv. the 2nd film, the girl who played with fire, picks up right where the first film left off and just plows forward without establishing a new mood, scenario or bona fides, much like episodic television would. the recent twilight film did the same thing. yes, i saw the new twilight film.
the first film establishes a look, a pace and and approach to the material that the other films follow closely. but after re-watching them all in succession, little of the second two films stick in my mind, although several scenes and images from the first film do.
what the two follow-up films do is to tell lisbeth’s (and the books’) story faithfully. even if they aren’t great films, it’s good watching. these films were broken up and shown in mini-series form in 2010, and i can see how that would work. perhaps the films were designed to flow that way.
i would liken watching them in order at once just like watching 6 episodes of any show you like in order where the plot flows directly from one to another. there are even clean breaks right around the one hour mark to make this possible.
i guess i should say whether or not i liked these movies. i’ve been told from people that i often say so much on both good and bad sides in these reviews that it’s hard to tell whether i liked something. i often have a hard time recommending anything, although i find just about everything i see to be interesting.
s0 … yes – i do like these movies. noomi rapace is gritty, dark, sexy and interesting as our heroine, and michael nyqvist is a great journalistic attack dog who stays loyal to his friend who he is probably in love with, though she will never be able to show it back to him. the first film is complete and unto itself and worth seeing. and if you really like the characters, then go ahead and bother yourself with the other two films, because even if they aren’t as smartly made, they are entertaining simply because you like the people involved and care about what happens to them – just like any good hour-long drama on cable you might like.
above is the nude teaser poster for the upcoming david fincher version. what a strange bit of marketing, to have the girl appear topless. david fincher movies always have some twist in their ad campaigns. i am not sure as of this writing if they are planning to remake the whole trilogy here in america, although imdb does show a 2013 release of the girl who played with fire in pre-production. this site is known for it’s errors and omissions with respect to films not yet in actual production, so i guess time will tell.
below are trailers for the films. they go in order of release, with the extended trailer for the upcoming david fincher film at the bottom.