“Allied”

Blowing sand doesn’t usually stir one to coitus, but even one reviewer could not help getting confused with French actress’ Marion Cotillard surname. ” Coitillard” is easy to explain away. Yes, it is the sex scenes between Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard that we will remember. Reminiscent of the torrid Burt Lancaster and  Deborah Kerr surf embrace in the 1953 movie “From Here To Eternity,  director Robert Zemeckis does his own magic with hot, swirling sand.

Most of the action takes place in 1942-45 war-weary London, yet there are the  sweeping sand ridges of French Morocco to broaden the scene. Director Zemeckis, a Chicago  native of Polish descent, is superb at fresh visual takes on  superimposed North Africa. We initially hear the sound of a single prop plane, see day break on the horizon , and then as we are settling in, we are startled at  the dangling, booted-legs  of Max Vatan. The  intelligence officer  is in front of us like a deus ex machina.

Brad Pitt is the sumptuous Max ready for his orders. Unlike Lawrence of Arabia, his feet crunch the sand and his garb blends with the tawny taupes  of  desert espionage. Screenwriter, Steven Knight, provides almost campy dialogue as Max is handed a wedding band from his driver and told that his wife “..will be wearing  a purple dress” ,and ” Look for the hummingbird.” Casablanca, here we come.

If French resistance fighter, Marianne Beausejour, ( love the soap opera-like  names) is to be ” the beauty of the day” , her night-time allure overshadows. Marion Cotillard has never looked more worthy of the ” classy hot ” label. Her clothes are worth the price of admission. A rose-gold,shoulder bedazzled, charmeuse  gown being my favorite, though there are many others. Lace negligees and silk robes, too. The stars shine brightly, and carry dialogue like, ” Heard a lot about you around the circuit” with aplomb.

Our couple, Max and Marianne, ally and machine-gun-down a German ambassador and a few friends at a dinner dance. The violence is not as difficult to watch as the hand to throat strangulation of a German interrogator in a phone booth. Again, the corny dialogue doesn’t hit you when you are enthralled with star-power. Cotillard’s, “I keep the emotions real.” and, “If we are dead tomorrow, no one will know.” Along with Pitt’s, “We are both alive. Come with me to London and be my wife”, are all permissible in the land of romance and adventure.

As an espionage/thriller, “Allied” is suspenseful. And, oddly, we are not certain if trust matters in this love scenario. It is two against the world, with a baby thrown in for added intensity and eventual succor.

Enjoy Pitt’s poker shuffle, ” that was in the cards” puns, and the sandstorm love-making. The set design and details are lovely: the Nazi ‘s Monte Blanc fountain pens, the English countryside mushroom-picking, the breezy  Moroccan rooftops, the Graham Green in-bed reading.

The realism of a baby born amid bombings and the internal workings of the military “rat-catchers” not so true or lovely. I enjoyed the lesbian sister and Max’s trust in her, as well as Max’s whispering in baby Anna’s ear, “It will be okay; it is not true.”

Wounded war veterans are given sympathetic screen time and more allusions to “Casablanca” piano playing layer the rather predictable story arc. New recruits fall when self-interest confuses protocol. Military superiors make humane concessions in the  land of “yes, sir” and “no, sir”. If “marriages made in the field rarely work” , at least this tear-jerker steams up the screen with enough complexity to leave you emotionally shaken. Cotillard’s fear, remorse,and resoluteness  is absolutely stunning.

“MacBeth”

The first major film adaptation of Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” since Polanski’s in 1971 is not exactly Christmas red. Ambition quickly morphing into murder is filmed using a blood red filter for many of the images. When the “hurly- burly is done” we are left with visual poetry and a Scottish heavy metal score interspersed with cello and whale-like calls. I was driven to re-read the play  even while empire -building is not my thing.

Director Justin Kurzel and brother Jed ,who mined the score,  bring a candle-lighted ballet of blood flow. Slow motion is used amid the thrusts and pounds. Battle ready thunder is white fogged and the soldiers are young. Children are used not as innocents,but as a means of perpetuating man’s meaner traits. Guilt seems to play a secondary role to “the heart knocks on my ribs” of  tyrannical power enfolding.

A visual feast of  staged vignettes, of groups waiting,  are interspersed between major soliloquies. Michael Fassbender aces MacBeth ‘s vaulting ambition with piercingly purposeful, glinting  eyes. The two sex scenes were power-laden yet tender. A hard mix, that. As Lady MacBeth, Marion Cotillard   shows love for MacBeth in a way I never read with Shakespeare. She plays not a cold, braided beauty, inspired by greed and status,but rather an instrument to her husband’s climb. Her eyes show bold and resolute, but they also mirror tenderness and remorse,practicality and madness. Their deeds drain them. “The wine of life is gone”.

Whale song music dredges the  emotional depths and both King and Queen  literally pale in a  blue- hazed whiteness. There is no jovality in any scene. Even the banquet desolves without communion or repast. There is no feasting. ” My mind is full of scorpions” has MacBeth toy with a knife on Lady MacBeth’s stomach, a very uncomfortable scene,as was the face of the boy  who watched his father being  knife-ribboned.

“So steeped in blood I can not sleep” leads MacBeth to  night-shirted  and bare-footed  horseback riding and more glorious cinematography from Adam Aarkapaw.

The fiend of Scotland finds bone marrowless: life is “Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” Lady Macbeth does not have a death scene in this adaptation. Her repetition of ” to bed, to bed” and “tomorrow, tomorrow” leave her dead in bed.

Now, MacBeth calls on Satan for his flesh to be hacked in battle. ” Give me my armor. I have lived long enough.”Again, a battle ballet rolls with thrusts and spurts, hand to hand crunches and witches’ stares. Death is given like a gift. This is not the  merry red of Christmas, but a flaming and interesting adaptation to be sure.

 

“Two Days, and One Night”

No one looked forward with more anticipation than I when I saw the post card with Marion Cotillard’s  doleful face advertizing her next film. I took two and used one as a bookmark and set one in a place of prominence near my calendar. The film’s  premise  was so intriguing and so uncapitalistic and communal in theme that I knew I was going to love it. Now, woe is me. This film did not work even with a masterful performance by one of my favorite actresses and a storyline that should have opened up debate on  what is central to our lives. A greater understanding of depression and a deeper empathy for this suffering would have been a bonus. This film could have been great.

Instead of philosophical debate or intellectual questionings or even fresh insight being stimulated, I found myself  bored with the straightforwardness of following Sandra (  Cotillard) ringing doorbells and phoning co-workers in an attempt to  retain her factory job. So bored in fact that my mind wandered to her various bra strap colors. I was so disappointed in this film that I wished to “take to bed”,too.

The script details may have been at fault. Never did this family seem like they were “nickeled and dimed”  or going on the dole. Purchasing bottled water and ice cream cones, buying sandwiches for her children’s  school picnic, using laptops and cell phones with abandon, baking fruit tarts and standing in her bathroom amongst products galore never weighed in as desperate. Her children were bright and  helpful,her husband concerned and working, extended family and friends apparent and supportive.

Sandra ‘s depression is being treated with Xanax. In one scene, we hear her pop plastic packaging endlessly as one by one these pills are freed to do their damage. On hearing from her husband that another colleague had agreed to support her, she confesses her overdose. In the hospital, she asks for food and when a tray is immediately delivered, she chooses to drink only the soup. Why aren’t we made to root for this woman more ? Could she make other choices like look for another job? When she does salvage half of the 16 votes needed for her reinstatement, she is back where she started. Another Sisyphus myth to ponder?

The award winning Belgian brothers, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne may not be at fault. Maybe Belgian’s poor are the U.S.’s middle class. Certainly, the question of why we let an unbridled system control us is a question central to my core. Somehow the guilt felt by half of Sandra’s co workers seems less brutal than the responses I hear too often from our political parties.I wanted to love this film,but in its foreign realism it did not touch my mind or my heart.Sandra has it pretty good.