The breezy doc Faces Places follows co-directors Agnès Varda and JR as they travel from village to village photographing the villagers and plastering the large photographs on variety of places including homes, farms, a train and a huge rock on a beach. JR, a street artist, had met Varda in 2015 and the two of them immediately hit it off despite having very different personalities. As the saying goes, opposites attract. Their chemistry as well as some of their friction grounds the film in humanism. They're both just as charming as the film itself. There are some outragously funny and witty moments. One particular highlight of hilarity is when Varda attempts to sing during her road trip with JR in his van. You'll have to see it to believe it. The images of the large photographs of the villagers plastered on walls are delightfully amusing. The closest that Faces Places gets to any kind of dark territory is when the toxic relationship between Jean-Luc Godard and Varda rises to the surface as Godard doesn't show up to a meeting with them as planned or when one of JR's artworks plastered onto a rock gets washed away by the tide. Around the hour mark, the doc starts to feel a little repetitive, but it effectively coasts by on its charms and forms of humanism alone. Cohen Media Group opens Faces Places at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Quad Cinema.
Blade Runner 2049
City of Rock
The Florida Project
I Can Speak
Jules (Christian Duquesne), a French-Nazi officer interrogates Olga (Yuliya Vysotskaya), a French Resistance fighter, who's been captured by the Gestapo. He accepts her offers of sexual favors in exchange for a lighter sentence, but she nonetheless ends up in a concentration camp. He former lover, Helmut (Christian Clauss), happens to be at the camp as well and the two of them reunite after 10 years since they've last seen each other.
Writer/director Andrei Konchalovsky and co-writer Elena Kiseleva interrupt each of the three protagonists' stories with each of them addressing the camera as though they were being interviewed. Although well-acted, those interview segments prove to be rather distracting from the film's momentum when the characters stories have enough going on within them without the need for anything on top of that. It seems like unneccesary filler that makes the film rather exhausting. No comic relief or any other kind of levity also don't help matters. There've been quite a number of films this year that clocked past the 2 hour mark, but not all of them felt long. Throughout Paradise, though, you can feel the weight of its running time, and the leisurely pacing doesn't help. The screenplay itself isn't particularly moving or profound; the poignancy derives from the convincingly moving performances.
Paradise lacks the potency of Son of Saul as well as the palpable suspense of Black Book. It's shot in the Academy aspect ration of 4:3 in stark black-and-white which enriches the film a bit, but it's not nearly as mesmerizing as the black-and-white cinematography in Ida or Schindler's List. At a running time of 130 minutes, Paradise is stylishly shot in black-and-white, well-acted, and unflinchingly grim, but it's exhausting, overlong, and ultimately underwhelming.