Two Days, One Night
The Dardenne brothers are good directors but mediocre writers. Their idea for “Two Days, One Night” is a political provocation with limited dramatic potential. Sandra (Marion Cotillard), who has been on medical leave from work, learns that she will lose her job unless a majority of her co-workers vote to forego their bonus to defray the expense of her salary. She has the weekend to persuade them to side with her cause against their own financial advantage. The set-up provides a platform for debate on the complex issues of personal gain versus social obligation, but the script offers little more than a series of repetitive scenes that restate one of two positions, never penetrating the moral density of the dilemma. Were it not for Cotillard’s lively performance as the desperate worker, the film would be dreary indeed. but she brings something new to each encounter, even when the writers do not. The film has a colorful, upbeat look that contrasts with its theme, and turns a dreadful nightmare of financial ruin into summertime lark. Yet the seriousness of Sandra’s predicament stays with us long after the movie is over, and we are left to ponder whether management has a right to cut corners by downsizing its work force, and if workers have an obligation to sacrifice that new paint job in order that a fellow worker may continue to make ends meet.
This Danish crime thriller is so tediously drawn out that by the time the case is solved you might have forgotten what the crime was. It is the second theatrical feature from longtime television director Mikkel Norgaardme, and hopefully his last. His work is more suited to a medium that gives one the option to change the channel.
Memories of Matsuko
In 2005, I was delightfully surprised by “Kamikaze Girls.” Here is my review from the Seattle PI:
This exuberantly cute tale of the unlikely friendship between a frilly Harajuku girl and a tough Yanki biker crosses girlie-girl goofiness with post-modern nihilism. Momoko (pop singer Kyoko Fukada), inspired by an art-history class on Versailles, makes long train journeys to Tokyo to shop for expensive baby clothes. While trying to raise extra shopping money by hawking her gangster father’s counterfeit Versaces, Momoko meets Ichiko, (rock singer Anna Tsuchiya) , a spitting and swaggering delinquent who rides her customized bike with the Ponytails gang. They become friends after Momoko embroiders Ichiko’s kamikaze coat with bravado slogans. Unlike the self-conscious posing of Western pop singers when they appear in movies, these Japanese idols dive into their roles with the glee of adolescent girls playing dress-up. Fukada captures the stubborn individualism of a girl who embraces an unpopular lifestyle, while Tsuchiya exposes a meek conformity beneath her rebel attitude. “Kamikaze Girls” is the perfect cup of bubble tea for those struggling with philosophical issues such as “What is happiness? Making clothes or wearing them?”
It has been ten years since “Kamikaze Girls,” and I have finally had the chance to see director Tetsuya Nakishima’s follow-up, 2006’s “Memories of Matsuko.” I am sure that it is a fine film in its own right, but my expectations killed it. None of the qualities of the earlier picture are in evidence here, and by the last half hour of its exhausting 130 minutes, I was watching it on fast forward. This is why I like to go into a film knowing nothing about it. I went into “Kamikaze Girls” with no expectations, and it blew me away. Some day I hope to return to “Memories of Matsuko” with the same open mind. For now, all I have to say is that it is no “Kamikaze Girls.” Perhaps it is something much better.
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