Days and Clouds (February 26/11)
Three Dramas from Film Movement
Well intentioned yet utterly dull, Days and Clouds follows well-to-do married couple Michele (Antonio Albanese) and Elsa (Margherita Buy) as they're forced to radically adjust their lives after Michele loses his job - with the movie subsequently detailing the pair's efforts at coping with the change and holding their marriage together. Filmmaker Silvio Soldini has infused Days and Clouds with a gritty, down-to-earth feel that proves instrumental in initially capturing the viewer's interest, with the strong work from the two leads - as well as from Alba Rohrwacher, cast as Michele and Elsa's feisty daughter - perpetuating the movie's palpable vibe of authenticity. And although Soldini, working from a script cowritten with Doriana Leondeff, Francesco Piccolo, and Federica Pontremoli, does a nice job of peppering the proceedings with a few genuinely compelling sequences - ie Michele attempts to collect on a debt owed by a close friend - Days and Clouds quickly devolves into an endless series of scenes in which the protagonists are either bickering about their circumstances or attempting to find (and keep) low-paying jobs. There is, as a result, little doubt that the viewer's interest slowly-but-surely starts to wane as time progresses, with the repetitive atmosphere effectively preventing one from working up any real sympathy for Michele and Elsa's situation. The end result is an admittedly relevant drama that is simply (and ultimately) unable to live up to its intriguing premise, with the film's various problems exacerbated by a pace that's often agonizingly deliberate.
Helena from the Wedding (February 26/11)
Written and directed by Joseph Infantolino, Helena from the Wedding follows several friends as they gather at a cabin in the woods for a New Year's Eve celebration - with the unexpected arrival of the title figure (Gillian Jacobs) immediately setting the characters on edge for a variety of reasons (ie Lee Tergesen's Alex, married to Melanie Lynskey's Alice, clearly harbors a crush on Helena). It's a subdued premise that's employed to pervasively underwhelming effect by Infantolino, as the filmmaker has infused the proceedings with a distractingly low-rent feel that's reflected most keenly in the shot-on-the-cheap visuals. Far more problematic, however, is Infantolino's ongoing difficulties in transforming the characters into figures worth caring about and rooting for, with the emphasis on improvisatory, frustratingly pointless conversations effectively holding the viewer at arm's length virtually from start to finish. Helena from the Wedding's pervasive lack of compelling elements ensures that it grows increasingly tedious as time progresses, and it certainly goes without saying that the film's drugs-and-booze-fueled third act comes off especially poorly - as it's impossible to care about the characters' respective problems or their myriad of issues with one another. The movie's failure is especially disappointing given its promising subject matter, yet the documentary-like presentation is ultimately unable to hide the artificiality within Infantolino's script.
Wolves in the Snow (March 1/11)
As Wolves in the Snow opens, Lucie (Marie-Josée Croze) has decided to confront her husband (Antoine Lacomblez's Antoine) about his suspicious behavior as of late - with the argument that ensues eventually prompting Antoine to admit that he has been cheating on Lucie for months. Lucie, in a fit of jealous rage, kills Antoine with a heavy sculpture and immediately stashes the body in the bathtub, with the film subsequently detailing the chaos that ensues after Lucie discovers that Antoine had been involved with a whole host of exceedingly shady characters. Director Michel Welterlin, in kicking off the proceedings with the aforementioned (and quite engrossing) fight, does a superb job of immediately capturing the viewer's attention, with the decidedly vicious nature of the couple's argument heightened by Croze's expectedly stirring turn as the central character. It's only as the movie segues into its confusing and wholly uninteresting crime-oriented narrative that one's interest begins to wane, as Welterlin, along with cowriters Antoine Lacomblez and Michel Monty, is simply unable to transform either the protagonist or the myriad of supporting characters into wholeheartedly compelling figures - which, in turn, ensures that Wolves in the Snow adopts an increasingly tedious feel that persists right through to its entirely anticlimactic finale.