A feature of Luc Besson’s is that he is never shy of portraying woman as powerful, strong willed and independent. Here in The Lady, Besson goes half-baked and skimmed the film real central issue of freedom and opted for a love story. To say Michelle Yeoh’s performance as good is rather underrated as she oozes with fine screen presence and created a character that is not only able to relate to the audience, but also carries the film with strong willed temperament. The Lady ultimate is a film of unfulfilled potential, it wrongfully focuses on a love story, rather than how freedom is so crucial to the people of Burma.
Michelle Yeoh brings her character to life and possesses an uncanny resemblance to the actual Aung San Suu Kyi. In fact Yeoh has aged well and in the process able to depict a person that is calm, collected, inspired and extremely strong willed mindset. There is no moment of doubt in the audience mind that Yeoh will not go through with what she believes in so strongly, despite the hardship and harsh moments along the way. It is probably Ms Yeoh’s best rounded performance in years. Likewise, her husband played by (David Thewlis) is extremely effective as the supportive partner and father of the two children. Although there is nothing flashy about the role, the manner he approached the character is a perfect complement to Yeoh’s determination.
All in all, The Lady is a without doubt beautiful to look at as with most Luc Besson’s films. However the film loses its focus by spending too much time on the love story rather than the political situation in Burma instead. It is a shame as far too often, there are scenes of Thewlis cooking and washing, when those minutes could either be cut or provide a little more insight into the brutal Burma’s military regime. Still, The Lady remains a fine piece of cinema, even if it is a little flawed…
By being the opening film of the 36th Hong Kong International Film Festival, Declaration of War is a film that touches the audience hearts, but more importantly it talks about real humans, real events, real emotions and real surroundings. For that alone director and main actress deserves a simple round of applause. It is not easy to go through a traumatic experience and come out strongly by telling her life story through films. This film works because the director never stray away from its core issue of a couple dealing with their child having a brain trauma and all the other issues that goes along with it – losing money, jobs, lifestyle, relationships and ultimately themselves. It should be complimented that the film yet is about to play with a sense of humor along the way.
Valerie Donzelli not only carries the film as the mother and wife, but directs a film that is so personal to her. It was my honour to meet such a strong lady at the festival. In the scene where she ran and ran in the hospital corridors until she collapses is a perfect example of originality in her camera work and her ability to depicts and communicate a difficult moment. Likewise her former partner Jeremie Elkaim excels in a role that compliments Valerie and two display amazing chemistry that cannot just be manufactured.
All in all, Declaration of War is very much a personal film, about how a child’s illness can affect almost everything in his parents life. Dealing with difficult times like these is never easy and often the wear and tear will stop any couple from living their lives. Points should be given to Valerie for being able to so convincing portray these emotions. Although the film seems raw at times, War is very much a perfect example of how an extremely personal film can still affect the audience. While the film may never be a masterpiece, Valerie have certainly created and shared something special…
“If you want to be an actress, you need to have something different…”
There is no point telling you how great this film is. It won the Oscar for god sake! The Artist is the most uniquely wonderful cinematic experience of the year. Perhaps the key underlying reason why this film is so successful lies in the notion of timing. Imagine if The Artist was released in the midst of the silent era of the 1930s. Such a film would be easily forgettable and lost amount the crowd. However, its existence being in the torrent age of 2012, it provides us with a perfect silence and beautiful juxtapositions to most films nowadays. Thus, it won the Oscar.
Jean Dujardin is a classic actor lost within the modern age. In fact he is wasted in films where he is unable to make use of his hugely expressive face. Like life, Jean Dujardin is able to portray the bottom barrel situation and his silent chemistry with fellow French actress Bérénice Bejo is undeniably amazing to endure. Bérénice Bejo possesses the rare 1930s feminine nature of a real lady. It is a natural quality that is difficult to replica. There is a moment in the film, when Jean Dujardin told Bérénice Bejo about the wise old Hollywood: “if you want to be an actress, you need to have something different.”
All in all, The Artist is this year’s masterpiece. Forget the 1930s; forget the silent era of Chaplin’s, this is the 2012. I always thought the films require words to touch and connect with the audience. However, this film proved me wrong and while it may well not inspire the modern to climb back into appreciating movies without the aid of a download button. The Artist is so silent that it is wonderful and yet it is the silence that makes the film something to cheer about after the credits depart us…
Neo rates it 10/10.
Writing about Asian and World cinema since 2004 (Member of Film Critic Circle of Australia and Australian Academy Cinema Television Arts)