Film Review : Maelstrom (2000)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 80%

Directed By – Denis Villeneuve
Staring РMarie-Jos̩e Croze, Stephanie Morgenstern, Klimbo, and Jean-Nicolas Verreault

After plunging her car into a river, a woman encounters a man who helps her come to terms with her life.

So…after seeing “Enemy” last week I decided that I needed to explore the back catalog of French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve who is quickly becoming one of my favorite up and coming directors. As I wrote last week, “Incendies” is one of my favorite films ever and “Prisoners” and “Enemy” entertained the shit out of me. I’ve heard interesting things from “Maelstrom” and interestingly enough, it so happened to be near the front of my Netflix queue so I push it to the top and here we are. Honestly, I wasn’t floored with the film like I was floored with his other work but I have my reasons for both sides of the argument. I will also note that this review will be brief as I do not enjoy giving out too many details of the plot, which in the case for the film was all over the fucking place. This wasn’t a bad thing by the way.

So that description above the previous paragraph? Yeah, you can go ahead and forget that. The story is really about the life of Bibi, the daughter of a famous French fashion designer that is going through a bit of a life crisis. The film opens up with her getting an abortion and the fun times just start pouring out after that. Poor Bibi. She just couldn’t catch a break, mostly because she’s kind of an idiot but she’s our protagonist so we’ll give her some slack. Bibi goes on to make a few bad decisions and by the middle of the film, has a great deal of guilt racked up on her shoulders. Did I mention we have a talking fish as our narrator? I didn’t? Silly me. Not only is he a talking fish, but he is many talking fish who are getting cut up as the story progresses. The film had a thing with fish. Water, the color blue, fisherman, TALKING FUCKING FISH…you can see the theme here. It was like Villeneuve watched the Three Colors Triology and a shit load of David Cronenberg and decided to write and film this movie. For good measure, he added a bunch of creepy spoken word tracks from Tom Waits, you know, you jazz it up a bit.

So it seems like I’m bashing the film. I’m not doing that. I am just in a weird mood and the sarcasm is leaking from my fingers. Truth is a ended up liking the film. Sure it had flaws. This is one of the first major features of a young director. Have you ever seen the first films of some famous directors? Some are horrid. Some are funny. Some are like this where you can see the originality oozing from the screen but the final product just isn’t as polished or coherent as you would like. I think this is either because young filmmakers have had an entire lifetime of film ideas to put into their first one that they over do it a little. Take Alfonso Cauron for instance. The man just won Best Director at The Oscars but if you go back to his first film, “Love in the Time of Hysteria”, which I reviewed on this site by the way, you’ll notice a film that is far from the quality of his more acclaimed films. It was a funny film but that’s about all. “Maelstrom” on the other hand was able to deliver some emotional scenes backed with some gorgeous camera work. The story was a bit muddy at points and seemed to skip around leaving unresolved questions but it was an experiment and an entertaining one at that.

Seriously, there’s a talking fish in this movie. He’s got a cool accent. I don’t know what his purpose was but it made me laugh.


Suggested Viewing – Three Colors Trilogy, Naked Lunch, The Sweet Hereafter, Incendies, Head – On

Film Review : Leviathan (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 78%

Directed by – Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel

A documentary shot in the North Atlantic and focused on the commercial fishing industry.

Part of the reason I started this website was to let some of you people into my world of weird films I come across. As of let, I really haven’t been watching many bizarre or less seen films. It’s Oscar season and I’ve been busy getting out to the theater as much as possible to get in my viewings of some of this years award chasing films. My Netflix dvd queue is now at the point where I’m starting to get some of the films that have been backlogged that are a bit more obscure or challenging. This is one of them.

As you can see by the vague synopsis brought to us by IMDB, Leviathan is a documentary about the fishing industry. One view of the trailer tells you that we’re not going to be watching a run of the mill doc narrated by Mike Rowe. Leviathan is a visceral experience. Comprised of no dialogue besides a few strewn sentences muttered by the crew at times that are barely audible, the film shows us what happens on a fishing vessel. A real one. No producers. No rewrites. No jump cuts. Twelve cameras were strung across nets, fastened onto bodies, and tossed in and out of water. What we see is a completely raw look at life on the ocean, for man and for fish. I’ll tell you this. It is not pleasant. It is gruesome and ugly but necessary for your fish tacos at Chipotle. They serve those there right? I think they do.

There’s a “scene” that I don’t mind describing as there is no real plot to spoil which involves one of the few steady shots in the film. A crewman, tired and exhausted, is in the kitchen watching TV. He is defeated. Sagging eyes and heavy breathing accompanies the sound of “The Deadliest Catch”. Yes, he is watching a show about fishing after he just spent a whole day fishing. The show goes to commercial and we here an ad about an energy drink. “You ever get the 2:30 tired feeling? You know where you just want to go to sleep?” It’s funny. The people on the commercial had a tough tennis workout and want a nap. This guy has just spent 18 hours hauling rigging and cutting the fish off heads and this is the inane commercials he’s watching. The dude falls asleep. Deep shit here guys.

That last line seemed a bit negative. I enjoyed the film. It is a one of kind look at whats it’s like battling the ocean day in and day out and what it takes for your fish sticks to become lunch. It’s not a political statement but just a raw visual experience. I don’t know if I’ll watch it again, but it was a one of a kind viewing.