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Movie Review: INCENDIES (2011)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • January 28, 2011 • Start the Discussion!


The Elegance and Dread of an Equation

Nawal Marwan is dead. She is survived by her twin children Jeanne and Simon, both in their late twenties and living in Montreal. They sit before the notary Jean Lebel (Rémy Girard) who had employed Nawal (Lubna Azabal) as his secretary for years. He has always considered them all to be a part of his family. The room is still and unbearably quiet. As he reads Nawal’s final will and testament aloud, Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) are disturbed by their mother’s final request. She wants to be buried naked facing the ground without a headstone to identify her. Where did this self-loathing come from? Jeanne keeps her composure and listens. Simon goes berserk over how cold and insane their mother was. He will not respect her wishes.

Professionally bound to secrecy about Nawal’s mysterious past, Jean emphasizes how grave this situation is: “Childhood is a knife stuck in the back of your throat. It cannot be easily removed.” Nawal will only accept a dignified burial on the condition that Jeanne and Simon accomplish a mission to redeem her. Two sealed letters lie on the notary’s desk. One is addressed to their estranged father whom they’ve thought was dead. The other one is news, a long-lost brother who was named “Nihad of May”. Their task is to find and then deliver their letters to them. Simon refuses to participate. After some soul-searching, Jeanne sets off to discover what regrets her mother had kept silent.

We cross back and forth between the divide of Jeanne’s daunting search and Nawal’s past. It is striking how much the two women resemble one another. Their determination and resolve is matched by their ethereal, solemn beauty. Their paths are separated only by decades as Jeanne follows her mother’s footprints in Lebanon from the North to the horrors in the South. For every startling chapter that closes on Nawal’s life, Jeanne comes much closer to solving the mystery. The question of ever figuring it out turns into another one supplemented by a great reluctance akin to rolling over a rock to expose the maggots underneath.


Scene to be Seen: LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • August 06, 2010 • Start the Discussion!

In light of Roger Ebert’s latest inclusion of Sofia Coppola’s masterpiece Lost in Translation (2003) into his Great Movies archive, I have selected one of its best scenes with dialogue I hadn’t understood completely. Until now.

No, it is not the inaudible whisper before the movie’s end. I don’t ever want to know what Bob (Bill Murray) said to Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) before they parted ways. That is between them and it is none of my business.

The scene in question is the awkward taping of the “Suntory Time” commercial. Like Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt before him, Bob Harris is one of many American actors being paid big bucks for promoting a product strictly for Japanese television. Not knowing a word beyond “saki,” Bob is at the mercy of a hyperactive director (Yutaka Tadokoro) and his kookily incompetent interpreter (Akiko Takeshita). The director passionately delivers lengthy instructions while the interpreter summarizes. This is serious business, but their struggle to communicate is as funny as a misunderstanding between Abbott and Costello. They’re all floundering, but there is no condescension. The human comedy works because the characters are sincere. We really feel for them and laughter alleviates the tension.


Movie Posters: LIFE DURING WARTIME (2010) and Other Films by Todd Solondz

Written by Christopher Beaubien • June 27, 2010 • Start the Discussion!

Todd Solondz is one the most distinct filmmakers we have working today. Like watching one minute of a random movie by either Neil Labute or David Fincher without warning, you know it is by Solondz when you see one of his. My high anticipation for his new film Life During Wartime (2010), which premiered last year at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festive), is matched by seeing what its movie poster will look like — and for good reason. Over Solondz’s career from Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996) to Palindromes (2004), the posters of his films have been consistently inspired and in tune with each other. Their designs and illustrations(!) convey the sweet and sour qualities of his controversial themes, which engage and then subvert our expectations.  Whether it is Solondz’s direct influence or just what each different advertising company happens to come up with when facing his material, the results in style are remarkably alike.

Illustrated movie posters have been a dying breed for the past quarter of a century. Most of Todd Solondz’s films have kept that art on the respirator starting with Daniel Clowes’ take on Happiness (1998) and then what Kathryn Rathke ran with in Palindromes (2004). Life During Wartime (2010) continues down that illustration path – it’s very appropriate since Life is the sequel to Solondz’s Happiness – but not before some photographed design comps were made. Before unveiling the illustrated version, I will take you through how it evolved starting with the international poster made for the film.

LIFE DURING WARTIME (2010) International Poster


Cinelaton: Redesign

Written by Christopher Beaubien • April 27, 2010 • Start the Discussion!

At last I am pleased with the look of the site. Being a bloody perfectionist is a torture for me. Nothing ever feels truly done. My head whispers incessantly, “It is never enough.” What’s worse about internal complaints are the echoes. With a blast of relief, I can look at Cinelation and not squint over a detail too inane for most to notice. Actually, I am more than pleased with the result. It really does look wonderful now. The joy of being a bloody perfectionist!

In the Spring of 2008, I began writing for a modest movie blog with only promises of being paid for all my work – once it became profitable. One year later, those promises turned more transparent as fewer e-mails about compensation were returned. This was after I went up and beyond to get their website promoted on the Synecdoche, New York DVD without so much as two nickles to rub together. I am a genuinely faithful man, but my patience went from creaking to dilapidation. This couldn’t be avoided any further. I would have to build my own website to house my reviews.


Polish Movie Posters of “The Decalogue” (1988-90) and Other Films by Krzysztof Kieslowski

Written by Christopher Beaubien • February 14, 2010 • Start the Discussion!

“The Decalogue” (1988 – 1990)

Illustration (27.8” x 39.4”)
Krotki Film O Milosci
A Short Film About Love (1988)
Illustrator/Designer: Andrzej Pagowski