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SHORT TAKES ON FILM
Ben Nyce | Via Latina

 

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Paris is the city of love. Right? In “Le Weekend” this cliché is demolished. Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) have gone there to celebrate their anniversary but their marriage comes close to unraveling. Nick is monogamous and needy. He’s also lost his job and hasn’t told Meg until their weekend. Meg is restless and alternatively hostile and affectionate. They’re both in their sixties and they carry the aging remnants of the rebellious ‘60s. (The film has several clips of Godard’s “Band of Outsiders” which seems to be a kind of mantra for them.) Their resources are slender yet they book a suite in an expensive hotel and go to pricey restaurants, the tab from one of which prompts them to run out on the bill. He “decorates” their sitting room with photos and writes on the walls, and the hotel goes after them for damages which prompt them to walk out the door leaving passports and a credit card.

They are rescued from their self-destructiveness by one of Nick’s old friends, Morgan (Jeff Goldblum) a genial fellow who admires Nick enormously from their days at Cambridge. The script has designed Morgan to underline Nick’s probity, for Morgan is a successful sellout who has skillfully adapted to the role of public intellectual. He has a lavish apartment on the Rue de Rivoli, a beautiful pregnant young wife and a new successful book. It’s odd that we don’t see him speak any French to his French dinner guests. One of the guests (a Proust specialist) makes an immediate play for Meg which she welcomes. Nick’s response to Morgan’s fulsome toast to him is an agonizing recital of his own failures. It’s a speech full of honesty as well as self-pity. When Morgan asks them to stay with him while he works out their difficulties with the hotel he may have taken on more than he bargained for. “Le Weekend” is worth seeing for its examination of a complex, troubled marriage in which the partners engage in wildly irresponsible behavior in their heightened expectations of what Paris can accomplish. It’s absorbing to see such recklessness acted out by usually stable people.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a light, airy confection with Wes Anderson’s usual whimsy. Its aftertaste is evanescent, at least for this reviewer. Ralph Fiennes plays Gustave H., the concierge of a great hotel which flourishes between the world wars. He is as fussy and punctilious as the film itself, coddling rich dowagers and bedding some (Tilda Swinton in heavy makeup). The framing of the images and the pacing of the shots is as measured as a metronome. Underneath this regularity is the suggestion that Gustave’s world is about to crumble – a major subject matter of Stefan Zweig on whose novels the film is based. This undercurrent gives some weight to Anderson’s rose-pink depiction of a vanished world.

Nyce taught literature and film at USD and is author of “Satyajit Ray” and “Scorses Up Close.”

 

 

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