I wanted to take it easy for my third day of the Milwaukee Film Festival. I was coming off a hectic Saturday still tired from the previous night, probably because I hadn’t managed to sleep until about 3 in the morning. But I prepped for another day, anxious to see a few French films during the fest. I’ve been a lover of the France’s language and cinema since high school, and thankfully, there was one playing at the Avalon. So today, it was off to South Kinnickinnic Avenue.
The Avalon Atmospheric Theater & Lounge is not just a theater, but an experience. It has a main house that’s bigger than the Fox Bay and smaller than the Oriental, and the ceiling is arrayed with lights imitating a starry sky. Surrounded by old-fashioned columns and balconies, and featuring the most comfortable lounge chairs, it’s a place that’s special to me. The atmosphere reminds me of being in the presence of a classical Roman orator about to tell a story of Hercules or some other grand tale under a glittering night. Add a connecting bar next door to unwind and some of the best popcorn I have ever tasted in a Milwaukee theater, and you have a place that is a gem of the film community.
My badge in hand and thoughts of another great French film (along with some of that delicious popcorn), I entered the Avalon’s main house and prepared to experience what I thought would be a rockers’ dream.
Let’s face reality: getting old sucks. We want to experience youth for as long as we want, without having to age and earn creaky bones or a more stiff back. This is how Guillaume Canet (as himself) feels in Rock’n Roll, a French comedy written, produced, and starring himself. On the set of his next big role as a loving father, Canet is fond of his female co-star with whom he jokingly mentions he would like to have sex. But after she indicates that he is too old-fashioned and not much of a “rock ‘n roll” bad boy, he is left devastated. Couple that with his eerily punctual arrival at home to be with his son and eccentric girlfriend Marion Cotillard (as herself), and you have a man who is desperate to feel young again and become hip with the millennials. Thus Canet begins a series of undertakings in order to rekindle his youthful spark.
As part of Tresor Productions, this film is a mockumentary that is focused on poking fun at Canet and the production house itself. In fact, there are a few scenes where Canet actually “visits” Tresor after getting in some trouble on his film set. There’s a funny series of inside jokes throughout the film and it’s an interesting take on comedy. The situations Guillaume finds himself in are quite hilarious, like trying to snort cocaine or getting some plastic surgery to appear younger, but only making his appearance more shocking and comical in the process. However, the performances here are standard and not very distinctive, even from an actress like Cotillard, who the film makes into a simple housewife supporting Canet in his antics and providing some funny banter. The last half of the film also goes in a strange direction and puts Canet a bit over-the-top in his appearance as he tries to obtain youth. But despite these issues, the lighthearted nature of the film does make the experience bearable and will have audiences chuckling away. While not bringing sexy back in facing his mid-life crisis, Guillaume Canet’s Rock‘n Roll takes a solid, likable, and whimsical trek down the inner workings of the film industry and into the hearts of viewers.
Coming back to the Oriental in the late evening, I was relieved that the pandemonium of yesterday’s Love Jones screening was gone and replaced by a pleasant familiarity. After my last film, I was interested in seeing this one police documentary that captured the law enforcement perspective on police brutality and scandals currently present in the U.S., especially with the cases of recent police shootings still fresh on our minds. So I entered the smaller theater, wondering how this would turn out. But man, I really wished I was able to get some more popcorn from the Avalon for this one.
These are turbulent times we live in. High rates of homicides, mass shootings, and destructive weather conditions have rocked our world continuously. However, police brutality and racial profiling continue to be some of the major hot topics within the United States. With the 1991 Rodney King incident still looming and the deaths of black citizens Trayvon Martin and Dontre Hamilton, social unrest is exploding and police accountability (or the lack of it) is being heavily scrutinized. The Force is a documentary that focuses on the Oakland Police Department’s recognition of this after several years of police corruption and misconduct. By bringing in newly-appointed Police Chief Sean Whent, the film follows the department for two years as the officers, the mayor’s office, and the community try to work together to reform the negative image of law enforcement and bring order back to the streets.
For starters, there has been a major emphasis on public opinion of the police through protests, riots, public forums and debates that have lit up our television screens and social media feeds. At the same time, this type of coverage has demonized the image of the law enforcement community, even though there are good officers who diligently do their jobs. By taking a look at the inside of Oakland’s department, this film shows that these officers have just as much of an issue as the public does. From graduation in the academy to being thrown headfirst into the field, the viewer follows these officers as they lead discussions, implementations of policies, and comprehensive training to keep themselves safe and the public in order. And under Chief Whent’s lead, there is a good initial effort made with excellent camera work and hard-hitting, immersive scenes that keep viewers inside of the action. Unfortunately, the department’s struggles do take an unexpectedly sharp turn that may put some viewers off, and the tone of the film dramatically shifts due to some questionable events. The men and women in blue may have a hard time in this agitated society, but The Force shows that some departments are trying to change amid the social tension.
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