All posts by One Guys Opinion

Dr. Frank Swietek is Associate Professor of History at the University of Dallas, where he is regarded as a particularly tough grader. He has been the film critic of the University News since 1988, and has discussed movies on air at KRLD-AM (Dallas) and KOMO-AM (Seattle). He is also the Founding President of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics' Association, a group of print and broadcast journalists covering film in the Metroplex area, and was a charter member of the Society of Texas Film Critics. Dr. Swietek is a member of the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). He was instrumental in the creation of the Lone Star Awards, which, through the efforts of the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Film Commission, give recognition annually to the best feature films and television programs produced in Texas.


Grade: C+

Audiences will be widely divided over Andre Techine’s new film. Some will find the moody, deliberately-paced piece, about the love between a beautiful violinist and a young man tormented by his upbringing, wonderfully mysterious and evocative. Others–no doubt the majority–will be put off by its halting rhythms, its willful obscurity, and its refusal to flesh out its characters. The fact is that one can respect the control and precision that Techine exhibits in “Alice et Martin,” but it remains, for all its elegance and good taste, a cold, remote picture, with moments of brilliance that never cohere into a satisfying whole.

The tale opens with a prologue introducing us to the adolescent Martin (Jeremy Kreikenmeyer), the illegitimate son of an imperious businessman (Pierre Maguelon) who goes to live with his father after spending his youth with his hairdresser mother. Abruptly the scene shifts ahead a decade, when we see Martin (now played by Alexis Loret) fleeing the house after Victor’s death. He makes his way to Paris, where he takes up residence with a gay half-brother, the aspiring actor Benjamin (Mathieu Amalric) and the latter’s lovely roommate Alice (Juliette Binoche). Martin, a blank but beautiful fellow, is soon transformed into a successful model, and after some initial uncertainty he and Alice fall in love. It soon becomes apparent, however, that he’s psychologically unwell, and his difficulties eventually lead Alice to investigate the circumstances of his father’s death and his strained links with the rest of his family.

Like Techine’s previous films, especially “My Favorite Season” (1993) and “Wild Reeds” (1994), “Alice et Martin” is basically about the tenuousness of relationships among emotionally damaged people, but while in those earlier works his graceful, allusive style brought ample rewards, here it seems forced and contrived. Most seriously, the two leads are never made sufficiently real to resonate with the viewer. Loret’s Martin is a particular problem: he’s certainly a good-looking fellow, but his performance is all on the surface, without the shading that would bring his troubled psyche into relief. A similar problem infects Binoche’s Alice: she too remains obstinately unrealized, despite the talented actress’ obvious efforts to bring her to life. The members of the supporting cast all offer occasional flashes of perception, but they too seem stranded in a narrative that, in the final analysis, is just too literary for its own good; one can imagine this material working better on the printed page, where motivations and deep-seated fears could be explored more fully than they are here.

There’s also a problem with the picture’s structure. After Martin’s collapse, the plot switches back so abruptly into the past, then lurching forward once more to deal with Alice’s researches into it, that the viewer is apt to lose his way. The sense of dislocation is doubtlessly intentional, forcing upon the audience the same feeling of uncertainty that both Alice and Martin experience, but many will find the effect less cinematically persuasive than merely confusing.

Slow, somber and emotionally opaque, “Alice et Martin” is a film that one can admire for the rigor with which its makers hold fast to their peculiar vision and approach, but which ultimately fails to generate the flash of human recognition that would make it the wrenching portrait of familial pain that it so obviously aims to be.


Grade: D

The number following the monster’s name in this twenty-third installment of the series starring Toho Studio’s venerable irradiated dinosaur is undoubtedly meant to refer to the calendar year of the picture’s release, but it could just as easily be taken to reflect the amount of cash expended on the movie’s special effects (in dollars, not yen). “G2000” looks just about like any standard episode of “Power Rangers.” What we get (just as was the case in the original 1954 flick) is still just a guy plodding around in a rubber suit, periodically lumbering into cardboard buildings and other miniature models or setting them ablaze with a fiery breath.

This is all supposed to be charmingly quaint, even campy, of course; and after the grotesquely overdone Emmerich-Devlin remake of 1998, it does possess a certain refreshing homeliness. But all the good will in the world can’t change the reality that “Godzilla 2000” is, by any reasonable measure, perfectly awful. It might appeal to the Japanese tykes who have come to cherish the beast over the course of the last 45 years, but almost everybody else will find him a frightful bore. The plot, if one cares to dignify the script by that name, is largely incoherent, having something to do with ‘Zilla rising from the sea once again to attack Japanese power plants (his distaste for things nuclear is about the only characteristic he’s retained throughout the series), only to be challenged by an alien creature apparently out to destroy humanity. The two beasties eventually have a showdown in Tokyo; it’s the Old Geezer against the New Kid on the Block for the right to smash human structures to smithereens, and you can guess who wins.

Meanwhile, an assemblage of superficially human figures watch the confrontation. Some belong to a private outfit called, ludicrously enough, the Godzilla Prediction Society; others are government and military wonks from the CCI (Crisis Control Institute) who are out to destroy the poor dino. The various roles are played, mostly stone-facedly, by an array of performers who, as you can tell from the listing above, are hardly big box-office names in the U.S. The best one can say about most of them is that they generally get through the thing without bursting out laughing or becoming intensely irritating. There are, however, two exceptions, both on the distaff side. Naomi Nishida is screechingly annoying as a reporter appropriately named Yuki (though it’s wrongly pronounced with a long “u”). Even worse is Mayu Suzuki, as the twelve-year old “genius” daughter of the Godzilla Prediction team’s leader (and obviously the picture’s intended stand-in for its kid audience); she’s so insufferable that if Godzilla were truly a friend of humanity, as he’s often portrayed in these pictures, surely he would gobble up the obnoxious little brat and spit out her bones in reel one.

Of course, no actors, however talented, could make anything of such material, the absurdity of which is accentuated by the deliberately poor dubbing job–another tradition handed down from 1954. Howlers predominate in the English dialogue (“Did you see that flying rock?” and “I’ve never seen Godzilla up so close” are especially memorable), and on those occasions when there’s an obvious attempt to wink knowingly at adult viewers by inserting lines that recall “Dr. Strangelove” or “Patton,” the effort falls flat.

We cannot close, however, without singling out the yeoman service of two members of the cast–Tsutomu Kitagawa and Makoto Ito. Kitagawa once again captures every nuance of Godzilla, endowing the old boy with an intensity and pathos that are truly remarkable, especially when his fins and tail light up preparatory to loosening a fiery breath. And Ito brings a sense of vulnerability and purpose to Orga, as his misunderstood outer-space foe is called. Together they make an exceptional pair. (I trust that sarcasm is still an acceptable crutical tool.)

Those who have grown up on the Toho Godzilla movies and treasure them for their cheesiness and imbecility may embrace the newest installment. But the unhappy truth is that, in its own chintzy, ostentatiously jokey way it’s every bit as boring and silly as the 1998 American retelling. We might be grateful that at least Matthew Broderick is absent from this tedious bit of nostalgia, but that’s not enough to make it any more watchable.