Tell No One aka Ne de lis a Personne

Tell No One is a French mystery/thriller from 2006. The film is directed by Guillaume Canet who also co-wrote the screenplay with Philippe Lefebre adapting the Harlan Coben novel of the same name. It has its moments of high excitement and danger, as well as times when it moves slowly.  It plays like a Hitchcock film with the lead accused of a murder.

We hope that he is not responsible, we don’t think he is, but doubts begin to creep into our minds.

As the film begins a man and woman drive deep into the country to a rustic country house. Then later in the evening they go skinny dipping in a small lake.

The wife has to go back to the cabin to let the dog out. The husband, still on the raft, hears his name called out, shots fired, and then a scream. He dives off the raft, swims to the dock, climbs out, and is knocked unconscious by unknown parties. Flash forward 8 years and we learn that his wife was brutally murdered that night.

Who killed her is the main plot line that the rest of the film will be concerned with. Almost immediately following the wife’s murder, the police suspected the husband, the pediatrician Alexandre Beck. But they couldn’t make their case against him, so he was freed.  We don’t see this as we have flashed forward the 8 years.

Dr. Alexandre Beck and Mrs. Margot Beck

But in the present, two other bodies were discovered in the same area, so the police have decided to re-open the case of the murdered wife, Margot Beck. They ask for permission to search Beck’s property and for a DNA sample. He readily agrees.

Left to Right: Nathalie Baye as the attorney, Marina Kind as Beck’s Sister, and Kristin Scott Thomas as Helene Perkins

But the complications from the earlier case keep simmering.

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Hemingway & Gellhorn

HBO Films’ Hemingway & Gellhorn

I suppose you could give this film a secondary title like Ernest ‘Papa’ Hemingway and Mrs Martha Gellhorn Hemingway Go To War. That would be correct in both the literal sense as well as the figurative.

It seemed like bombs were bursting from the moment they first laid eyes on one another in 1936, at Hemingway’s favorite Key West haunt, a bar called Sloppy Joe’s, then continued through the Fascists shelling of Madrid’s Hotel Florida during the Spanish Civil War, and from there, even more bombs were falling around them during the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, China.

As Gellhorn said, “We were good in war, and when there was no war, we made our own.” You see the film was as much about their globe-trotting years of living dangerously, as it was about their conflicts as man and woman.

Directed by Philip Kaufman and starring Clive Owen as Ernest Hemingway and Nicole Kidman as Martha Gellhorn, HBO premiered its Hemingway & Gellhorn for those in attendance at the Cannes Film Festival recently, then unveiled it for the rest of us on TV a few nights ago.

The film utilizes a framing device of having an elderly Gellhorn tell us about her life and times with Papa Hemingway. The opening image is a stark closeup. You know Kidman is in there, somewhere, beneath the makeup, prosthetics, the serious mien, and a gray wig, but it is hard to see her. In fact you can’t see that it is Kidman. This framing device of Gellhorn talking about her adventures appears intermittently through the film, and only at the end do we come to realize that she’s being interviewed.

Let’s have a look. Clive Owen as Hemingway is fresh off the boat, so to speak. He’s just back from an open water fishing bout with a huge marlin, and he looks suitably unkempt. But Gellhorn is no shrinking violet. She can handle a flirt even one who is the epitome of macho such as Mr. Hemingway. Nothing much happens past introductions and a certain sizing up done by each of them. He’s a world renown author, and she’s also an author, with press clippings to prove it.

We rejoin them in Spain. The Spanish loyalists are at war with fascist Franco and his supporters. Hemingway and his friends which included John Dos Passos played by David Strathairn, famed photographer Robert Capa played by Santiago Cabrera, and the Dutch film director Joris Ivens have decided to cover the war by shooting a documentary film about it. It would serve as a rallying cry for the Spanish loyalists. Into their midst arrives war correspondent Martha Gellhorn who is covering the war for Colliers Magazine.

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Cooking With Stella

If you read my posts regularly then you know I have a fondness for films that are about restaurants and or cooking. I’ve had pretty good luck dealing with films or an occasional TV series from Japan that fit into this genre. So when another film in this niche popped onto my radar – I couldn’t resist it.

This time we are looking at a Canadian/Indian made film that was set in Delhi, India, and was directed by Dilip Mehta. Dilip and his older sister, Deepa Mehta co-wrote the film. Deepa is herself a noted film director, most widely known for her series of three dramatic films entitled Earth, Fire, and Water that are about the nature of human relationships.

This time out, a Canadian diplomat has been posted to the Canadian Embassy in New Delhi, India. You will be surprised to discover, only moments into the film, that the diplomat is the wife, and her spouse is a house-husband who is also a chef. They arrive, as do most flights from the West very early in the morning which provides us with the first of many visual treats – the drive into town through the morning mists.

They’ve taken housing within the Embassy compound, and are pleased to discover that their condo includes the services of a cook/housekeeper named Stella. Now Stella has worked for the Canadian High Commission for 30 years, serving different families who have accepted the diplomatic postings to New Delhi. The film is entitled Cooking With Stella, and indeed, she is a superb cook.

You bring apple pie. Why would I do that? Because white people like Indian pudding and Indian people like apple pie …

However, that’s not all she is – but, for the moment –  I’ll leave that thought on the side, and get back to it.

The film is set in the present (2009) and was filmed on location in both New Delhi as well as Delhi. We are treated to the beautiful visuals of New and Old Delhi like the Rajpath, the India Gate, the Jama Masjid Mosque, and the Indian government and administrative buildings with their distinctive Edwin Lutyens designed, Rajput styled architechture.

We also visit various parks and some of the shopping bazaars likely in the Old Delhi area near Connaught Way, and everywhere we go, the colors are beautiful, the lighting is absolutely perfect and the film will dazzle you visually.

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Anthony Zimmer

So did you see the Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie ‘thriller’ called The Tourist back in 2010. I did and I didn’t think much of it. My review is here. Well, The Tourist was the remake of this film called Anthony Zimmer.

Zimmer is an international criminal. He’s been on the wanted list of the French police for some time. He not only steals money from the Russian mafia, but he’s a professional money-launderer as well. Needless to say, the police as well as the Russian gangsters are after him.

But Zimmer has gone to ground, and after extensive plastic surgery, he not only looks completely different but sounds different as well. Which basically means that neither the police nor the gangsters will have a clue as to what he now looks like.

There’s one narrow way to capture him. Tail his girl friend. Because she is so special, the police assume that Zimmer would never be able to walk away from her. At least not forever. But she won’t know what he looks like either.

There’s your set up. This film is a stylish thriller in the sense that chases, gunplay, and mysterious identity switches are always fun. Hitchcock did it with great success in North By Northwest in 1959. The Tourist came out in 2010 and was met with mostly negative reviews by the critics. Lodged between those films both in time and in merit is Anthony Zimmer which was written and directed by Jerome Salle.

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Good Night, and Good Luck

Good Night, and Good Luck is not only the title of the film, but it was also famed journalist and TV newsman Edward R. Murrow’s signature sign-off at the conclusion of his broadcasts.

The film begins at an industry dinner to honor Murrow. In 1958, Edward R. Murrow, speaking at the Radio-Television Directors Association annual meeting, said that television should and could produce important journalism.

“To those who say people wouldn’t look; they wouldn’t be interested; they’re too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: there is, in one reporter’s opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose?

“Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

“This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box.”

It is safe to say that television has progressed beyond being just lights and wires in a box. Forty seven years after that speech was made, in 2005, George Clooney brought that speech back to life in his film Good Night, And Good Luck.

That’s Clooney standing on the left, Strathairn seated in the back, and Robert Downey Jr seated on the far right.

Clooney starred as CBS TV-News Producer Fred Friendly. David Strathairn portrayed Murrow. Together they took on the junior Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy who, while claiming to be protecting the United States from the insidious Communist scourge which was infesting the country, was really creating an atmosphere of suspicion, fear, hysteria, and paranoia. It was the classic example of the medicine being worse than the disease. It was the era of McCarthyism where a smear tactic has as much impact and effectiveness as a bullet.

David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow talking to his countrymen during a broadcast of his show, See It Now

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

In India, there is a saying – Everything will be all right in the end… If it’s not all right, then it is not yet the end …

That’s just another way of saying, have patience, things will get better. However if you are getting on in years, and you’re in your retirement, then you will of course be of the mindset that you have less time ahead of you than most.

But rather than dwell on how little time is left, a group of British retirees decide to make the most of those remaining years by living them out in India. More accurately – they’re about to try and see if living out those years in the beautiful region of India that contains the city of Jaipur, Rajasthan, India is possible.

Long ago films like Gandhi, Heat and Dust, and the TV series The Jewel in the Crown were set (in part) in this part of the world. This time we have Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, and Celia Imre heading out to Jaipur. Directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), a delightful adventure to the unknown awaits them as well as us.

This film begins as a variation of the old ‘fish out of water’ theme. These folks will definitely be out of their element once they reach The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which is not only the name of their retirement home, but is also the title of the film.

To give you an idea about how far ‘out of the water’ they are, try these out:

You mean [India] it’s sort of like the Coast of Florida?
Yes, only with more elephants.

Or this one:

If I can’t pronounce it, then I’m not eating it.

When they arrive, of course the Best Exotic Marigold is nothing like what they expected. This is not the world-famous Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur – which we will see later on in the film. In fact it is nothing like what the brochures lead them to expect (thanks to Photoshop). Under the care of their young hotelier, Sonny Kapoor, played by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) things appear a bit unsettled when they arrive, maybe even distinctly unsettled is a more apt description, but things will improve.

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Kahaani: A superb top notch thriller!

You’re a London-based housewife. Your husband took an overseas job but because of the internet tools like email, video messaging, Skype, and inexpensive inter-country phone service, communication is not only possible, but is also convenient as well as inexpensive. All seems well until the communications stop. You can’t raise your husband by phone, or by email, or even by landline. A few days become a few weeks, and not one word is coming forth. So you must travel nearly 5000 miles or nearly 8000 kilometers in search of your missing husband. To a city you don’t know, as well as to a place where you do not know anyone. By the way, you’re in the 7th month of your pregnancy.

When we first see her, Mrs. Vidya Bagchi, she’ll be approaching the exit of the Arrivals terminal in the airport in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

So begins the story of Vidya Bagchi, a pregnant woman searching for her missing husband. This is one of the finest thrillers I’ve seen this year, or any other year. Actually when we meet her for the first time we have already witness a terrorist attack on a Kolkata Metro train. A deadly poisonous gas was released on a crowded train, and a few hundred people died. This event predates the main story of the film by two years.

Vidya and Sub-Inspector Satyoki aka Rana

The film was co-written, directed, and produced by Sujoy Ghosh. He worked with a shoe string budget of 8 Crore Indian Rupees which is the equivalent of $1.6 Million in US dollars. But despite the relatively miniscule budget by our standards, this is not a small or inexpensive looking film. In fact, you’d have no idea that it had been made for so little money.

Vidya Bagchi is played by India’s leading film actress at this time: Vidya Balan. She brings an inner strength, a resolve to the character that is ideal. You can’t take your eyes off her. She ‘s a stranger in a strange land. Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, is a large city with a population above 4 million. Count the outlying districts, metropolitan Kolkata’s population exceeds 14 million. But she’s undeterred by the heat, the noise, the dirt, and by the fact, which is at the heart of the film, that she’s only a pregnant woman.

This emphasis is not my opinion; instead it is a point made repeatedly in the film. No one is worried about a pregnant woman. I mean there are secrets to be hidden or discovered, and there might be conspiracies working against her, but Kolkata is a male dominated society. Men deal with her, often with a twinkle in their eye, as if to say to their fellows, “watch how I handle her”. Of course there are always fellows around. Privacy is hard to come by in a crowded city.

But Vidya Bagchi persists. She shows a picture of herself and her husband on their wedding to the hotel manager. This man did not stay at this hotel. Well then, let me see your records. Are these your records? Nothing is computerized. Madam, computers are at five-star hotels. We are a zero star hotel.

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Answers to Nothing

Answers to Nothing is an ensemble drama that weaves multiple characters with seemingly unrelated story lines together. The setting is Los Angeles but the location is indicative of nothing special. It could have been set anywhere. Matthew Leutwyler not only directed and edited the film, but he also shared writing credits with Gillian Vigman for the script.

After appearing in the Woodstock Film Festival  in September 2011, and then the Hollywood Film Festival in October of 2011, they searched for a distributor.  Roadside Pictures opened the film in limited distribution on December 2nd, 2011 and did hardly any box office business at all. You could say that this film shared characteristics with Crash, but that would be under just the flimsy construct of ‘ensemble’. While Crash made nearly 100 Million world-wide – Answers gross was just in the thousands.

However, the DVD is out, and is offered by Netflix so you can see it under your monthly plan.

A case of a missing 7-year-old child is at the core, and I think that rather than walking you through the plot, I’ll have a better chance of getting your interest by describing the characters.

Ryan – a psychotherapist, is played by Dane Cook who is more widely known for acting in comedies than dramas. Here he is a philandering husband. Besides cheating on his wife, he’s not particularly nice to his girl friend either.

Dane Cook as Ryan

He walks around, not with a chip on his shoulder, but in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction because he’s unable to commit to his wife or his girlfriend.

Kate is Ryan’s Wife – played by Elizabeth Mitchell

Kate – Ryan’s wife. She’s desperate to get pregnant. But it isn’t happening. She’s attractive and she’s an attorney. She has a few secrets that we are made aware of – but her problems stem from not facing reality. It’s not as if she lives in a fantasy world, but buying clothes for a young child even before you’re pregnant is but one of her flights from reality. Elizabeth Mitchell has the role.

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It’s not so much that Battleship is bad, it really isn’t. I’s not like Director Peter Berg was not given enough money to work with – $200 million is more than enough. And you won’t be demanding your money back for the rotten performances by the actors – every one in the film has at least a moment or two where you’ll buy into what they’re offering.

Hasbro Games, in their infinite wisdom, decided that a film could be built around that old sea dog of a game that I played as a kid with paper and pencil – hence we have Battleship, the film. They went in with the idea that unless it was pathetically bad, they’d make a mint off of it. And they will. But not nearly as much as they hoped for.

At the beginning of the film, we read a crawl which describes a certain Beacon Project. We also meet the film’s lead, Taylor Kitsch, most recently seen in John Carter, as guy without much going on for him except the ability to drink and get into trouble.

One night, in a bar, he and his older brother, an officer in the United States Navy are throwing down shots when a stunning blonde walks in and tries to order a chicken burrito.The kitchen is closed says the barkeeper. Kitsch, as Alex Hopper, decides to impress this woman, and says, “Give me five minutes…”

Off he goes to the convenience store across the street, which has just closed. So he breaks in. He gets the burritos, even pays for it by leaving money on the counter, but he gets busted. The store had one of those built in alarms, so when he came out, the police were waiting for him. His brother said – It’s the Navy or jail.

Taylor Kitsch as AlexHopper

Fast forward, I don’t know – five years – it would have to be that long because Alex is not only in the Navy, but he now is a Lt. Commander, and his older brother is now a captain. The blonde? She turned out to be the Admiral’s daughter, and they’re together only not married.

Kind of a weak beginning.

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