Classic Movie Review: La Jetée (1962)

Title: La Jetée
Release Date: February 16, 1962
Director: Chris Marker
Production Company: Argos Films

Working my through lists of all-time greatest movies means watching lots of very long movies, so I was relieved that this one is only 28 minutes. The joke was on me though, because this is an intense 28 minutes of experimental film set in a post-nuclear war Paris. The movie is almost entirely made up of a montage of still images.

The plot involves scientists researching time travel and finding a man (Davos Hanich) who has a strong memory from his childhood of a young woman (Hélène Châtelain) standing on the observation platform (“la jetée”) at Orly Airport.  The post-apocalyptic setting, time travel, and even the significance of an airport reminded me of the 1995 movie 12 Monkeys, so it was no surprise to find out that La Jetée was a credited inspiration for that movie.

La Jetée is a chilling but surprisingly beautiful film, with sound effects and music carrying a heavy load and Hanich and Châtelain expressing a lot of emotion and nuance in their acting (or perhaps more accurately, “posing”).

Rating: ****

ScaryMovie Review: A Quiet Place (2018)

For Halloween week, I’m watching and reviewing highly-regarded horror films that I’ve never seen before.

Title: A Quiet Place
Release Date: April 6, 2018
Director: John Krasinski
Production Company:  Platinum Dunes | Sunday Night Productions

When I saw The Last Jedi in 2017, it was preceded by a trailer for A Quiet Place that Freaked. My. Kids. Out!  While I still think that was inappropriate trailer placement, I was curious to see the film (on my own, when the kids weren’t around). The film depicts a family in rural New York trying to survive in a world where alien creatures with an acute sense of hearing hunt any animals that make loud sounds.  Director John Krasinski stars with real life wife Emily Blunt as Lee and Evelyn Abbott, the parents of three children striving to live an ordinary life while avoiding being killed by the monsters.

Their eldest daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf and knowledge of American Sign Language allows the family to communicate when speaking is deadly. The lack of dialogue and minimal use of music in the film is very effective and emphasizes the ambient sounds in this world.  At times sounds drops out entirely to show Regan’s point of view.  Noah Jupe plays the middle child Marcus, and Cade Woodward plays the youngest child with an unfortunate affinity for an electronic Space Shuttle toy.

If raising kids in a post-apocalyptic world where noises are verboten (my family would be totally dinner in the first days, I’m sure) is hard enough, Evelyn becomes pregnant. The family prepares for labor and an an infant by creating a soundproof basement and adding an anesthetic gas to the baby gear.  Of course, despite all their preparations, things go very wrong.

Horror films generally conclude in one of two ways: either the evil is defeated and normal life resumes, or the protagonists are defeated and evil prevails.  This film ends on a moment of discovery, which is both cathartic and, of course, sets up a sequel that was recently announced.  A Quiet Place is a well-acted, structured, suspenseful, and downright terrifying film!

Rating: ****

Book Review: Find Me by Laura van den Berg

Author:Laura van den Berg
TitleFind Me
Publication Info: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015.
This novel is the story of a young woman named Joy, an orphan raised in various foster homes, who becomes a test subject in a remote hospital when she is found to be immune to a deadly disease sweeping the United States.  The disease has the effect of causing people to lose their memories and the book uses the disease to symbolically explore memory and identity.  Joy’s first person narrative switches between flashbacks to her life as a foster child and the increasing despair of living in the prison-like hospital with people dying around her.  About 2/3’s of the way of the novel Joy escapes and ventures out to try to find her birth mother (this is written on the dust jacket so it’s not really a spoiler). From this point on it feels like a lot of the characters are there just to serve a symbolic role in Joy’s life rather than seeming like realistic characters.  I’ll say this is an interesting premise and mostly engrossing book with an unsatisfying ending.
Recommended books: Flu by Gina Kolata
Rating: ***

Book Review: The Walking Dead: March To War (vol. 19) by Robert Kirkman

Author: Robert Kirkman
TitleThe Walking Dead: March To War (vol. 19)
Publication Info:Image Comics (2013)
ISBN: 9781607068181

As noted in my review for volume 18, The Walking Dead series too often forces the drama by having the survivors in violent conflict with one another and all too often with a sadistic bully who is using the zombie apocalypse as an excuse to make a personal fiefdom.  I think there are more possible stories to be told of survival and adapting to the new world, but here we have a whole volume with preparation for war, with the upcoming two volumes dedicated to the war itself.  Sigh.  I guess in a way, The Walking Dead shows the post-apocalyptic world is a lot like our own after all.
Rating: **