Tag Archives: Nouvelle Vague

I Don’t Know How She Does It (2011) or livewithfilm broadens its horizons and suffers the consequences…

31 Oct

In the spirit of wider filmic know-how, livewithfilm decided to take the plunge. Don’t fret though, more horror fun will follow shortly!

Laughably labelling itself as a romantic comedy, Douglas McGrath’s I Don’t Know How She Does It remains an insufferable vision of entrenched sexism. Besides regarding itself in a falsely noble light, the film misses every opportunity for feminism or fun and merely affirms a phallocentric vision of working life. Sarah Jessica Parker once again struggles to find a role suited to her small screen strengths in busy mother Kate Reddy. Managing to juggle childcare with a high-flying financial role, Kate is applauded by all and sundry. Yet when business guru Pierce Brosnan threatens to whisk Kate away on global business trips, the heroine must choose between family and her job.

While bungling a hackneyed plot that adds little to a genre already saturated with sub par entries, McGrath instils a trying patronising streak tohis filmwhich marvels at the female capacity to work. Using its first act to shoehorn in its inquisitive title at every opportunity, the film positions Kate as an oestrogen fuelled totem for male compatriots to gawk at in wonder. Even though Pierce Brosnan’s jet-setting silver fox can happily undertake a full time job, Sarah Jessica Parker’s workload is constantly signposted as a cause for contention. Concluding that a woman must choose to either be suppressed housewife or power-suited breadwinner, I Don’t Know How She Does It reinforces tired gender roles unsuited to the Carrie Bradshaw era rom-com. Woefully out of touch with contemporary enlightened thought, even Mad Men’s exceptionally powerful Christina Hendricks is sidelined amongst an ensemble of underdeveloped female characters.

Having shown his capacity to support complex plots and career defining performances in overlooked Truman Capote pic Infamous, McGrath’s mishandling of narrative sense in I Don’t Know How She Does It seems all the more disheartening. Apropos to nothing, the film decides to indulge in vérité straight to camera interludes which only resurface during the final scrabble for a conclusion. While McGrath could be applauded for seeking to add something unexpected to his film, the director doesn’t have the conviction to use this tool for any real means. It is as if the self aware artistry of the Nouvelle Vague has been filtered down into an empty, time wasting gesture. Yes the fourth wall is shattered, but the film’s foundations are taken with it.

I Don’t Know How She Does It has nothing original to say, in fact only undermining a genre previously adept at envisioning powerful female leads. While causing a solitary laugh at the expense of its banking protagonists, the film is awe inspiringly unfunny. Jokes don’t simply fail they are nonexistent, sucked into a bland black-hole of thumb twiddling tedium. Adding to the woe, the real comic talents of Sarah Jessica Parker, Kelsey Grammer and Saturday Night Live regular Seth Meyers go entirely to seed. The real question to be answered remains: I don’t know why they made it.

Breathless (1960)

13 Dec

Livewithfilm is in a bind. Whilst the idea of watching and writing about a variety of films first seemed akin to an exposé of cinema, an intriguing journey into celluloid, the interests of livewithfilm has left the blog in an odd position. Each film chosen by livewithfilm has been, quelle surprise, one that livewithfilm has desired to see. The task of constantly watching and writing about films would be far more strenuous if all that this blogger chose was dross. Yet in conforming to such logical intentions, livewithfilm has managed to report on a series of enjoyable and pleasing movies. There have been misfires: Taffin was no masterpiece for sure; The Devil Rides Out and 3:10 To Yuma were flawed yet compelling watches. However, the films chosen have been nearly universally liked. Maybe livewithfilm is overdue a painful watch. This all occurred to the blogger after having chosen Godard’s Breathless, a film well loved and admired by many. Livewithfilm has been looking forward to watching this Nouvelle Vague classic for some time but perhaps it should be the final ‘classic’ that the blog chooses. To experience the highs, must livewithfilm endure the lows?

Jean-Luc Godard’s Parisian thriller-come-love-story sees Michel Polccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) on the run after stealing a car and shooting a policeman. Travelling to the capital, Michel meets past sweetheart Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg). Unsure whether to travel toItaly, Michel and Patricia begin to reignite their adoration for one another.

It is frankly a miracle that livewithfilm managed to squeeze out this much of a plot from Godard’s elusive and intangible piece. For what is meaningful in Breathless is in fleeting conversation, passing remarks and intriguing images. Nothing is as literal as it first appears which can be infuriating. Even though Livewithfilm found Breathless less wilfully obtuse than Vivre sa Vie and with fewer unintentional moments of hilarity than Jules et Jim, Godard’s film often seems difficult to a near pretentious standard. Had livewithfilm failed in the filmmaker’s eyes when it did not issue a droll French guffaw with the character who stated that his life’s goal was ‘to become immortal and then die’? But reader do not fear, Breathless did not fly completely over your blogger’s head. The quick interchanges between Patricia and Michel are hypnotic, effortlessly breaking down all ideas of romantic love. Key to its success, Breathless exudes cool. The sight of Michel glancing his shaded eyes over a newspaper, cigarette coquettishly held and hat irreverently balanced, is as smooth and graceful as cinema comes. So another livewithfilm recommendation then…