When Michalik was ready to produce the film, he had no one to back him up.
Before he gave up trying to find the money, he traveled to London - where he saw the play version of the 1998 Best Picture Oscar winner “Shakespeare in Love.” Then, he decided to adapt his film script to the theater. “Cyrano, My Love” becomes one of the biggest hits in French theater history. The play is still running in Paris for more than three years.
Thanks to the success of his comedy in the theater, Michalik was able to direct his first feature.
Unfolding in the world of Parisian theaters in 1897 - “Cyrano, My Love” chronicles the frantic struggle of young playwriter Edmond Rostand to deliver an entire play in verse named, ‘Cyrano de Bergerac.’ The problem was that Edmond only had the title and nothing else.
Actor Thomas Solivérés is magnificent, playing Edmond Rostand. His histrionic characteristics have the potential to reach up to the level of the great Buster Keaton. Solivérés' elegant performance connects with the audience rapidly. The young and talented French actor also worked in other transcendental French films such as “The Intouchables,” continuing his ascendant career with “Les gorilles,” “The Tournament,” “Love at First Child,” and “Honey Bunny.”
In the story, Edmond must leave behind his previous flops, jealous wife, and two children and move on to something bigger-than-life to fulfill his destiny. He only needs divine inspiration, a muse, a pal, or an event that could ignite his passion for writing. The luck will be on his side – he will have more of what he bargains for in a series of fun-to-watch trials and errors.
The task of writing a brilliant piece won’t be easy the constant pressure of the legendary performer Constant Coquelin, magnificently played by the prolific actor Oliver Gourmet (“Conviction,” “Madame Bovary,” “Violette,” and “Black Venus”).
Coquelin challenges Edmond to have the play done as soon as possible. In the mise-en-scene, the ambition of the Corsican producers has no limits. They impose an elderly diva for the female lead.
Everyone’s reputation and prestige are in peril without a script. They also need the theater’s permits, another necessary point to accelerate the pace and to have the promised play ready for the Holidays,
Edmond Rostand was satisfied with the first and second acts in the writing process. Feeling motivated, he continues adding three more to this masterpiece - written in rhyming couplets and Alexandrine verses.
Cyrano de Bergerac is the fascinating story of the tragic hero with a long nose who wants to gain the love of his cousin Roxanne. In literature, to be considered a “Tragic Hero” is a character who must arouse pity from the audience, have a downfall, and possess admirable traits.
Alexis Michalik’s passion for theater started when he was three-year-old. In “Cyrano, My Love,” he mixes accurate historical facts surrounding the life of such a talented writer and actors with some literary liberties that make this piece enjoyable and fun to watch.
For Michalik, the most challenging part of making the film was to adapt the screenplay to the stage because theater has other specifications and arrangements for actors to deliver their lines. He had to place on hold the movie he had in mind due to the lack of interest of the potential producers. The talented director added. “It was an excellent experience to do the play before the movie because everyone involved in the film saw how the story evolves in the theater.” - Both a considerable successes.
“Cyrano, My Love” was shot entirely in the Czech Republic, said Alexis Michalik in a Q&A after screening his U.S. Premiere during the 2019 COLCOA French Film Festival. For Michalik, acting and directing his first feature film was easy. Michalik considers himself an excellent auto-critic even though, sometimes, he is too harsh to himself.
“Cyrano, My Love” is a highly gratifying romance to watch. The farce and the entanglements are funny - not only for the talented actors who played their parts stunningly but for audiences worldwide who fell under the spell of Cyrano and his pursuit of love.
“Parasite” is the most outstanding, hilarious, intense, and politically diverse movie of the year.
After “Mother” and “Snowpiercer,” Korean director Bong Joon-ho presents another class-consciousness magnum-opus 2019 Palme d’Or Cannes winner.
In “Parasite,” Joon-ho shows no mercy in picking out the differences between the rich and poor. Joon-Ho’s humanistic approach is undeniable, maintaining a high level of respect for his characters regardless of their economic status or true intentions – since none of them are genuinely evil by nature or utterly uncorrupted by the system.
The South Korean story takes epic proportions resembling an authentic Greek-tragicomedy thru a Universal theme of class struggle and life irony. The symbolism of this film has a truthful meaning accordingly to their social status. For a wealthy family, the rain represents a natural way of cleansing and abundance. For the poor, it is a catastrophic chain of events that can wipe them off the face of the earth – it is almost like fumigating “parasites.”
Parasite still courtesy of Neon
The incredible journey of trickery and scams begins with Kim Ki-woo, performed by the young and talented actor Woo-sik Choi (“Okja,” “Set Me Free”). The sneaky college dropout takes the opportunity to work as an English tutor at the Park’s residence.
As is usual, poor people’s ambition has no limits. It is like rich people; they can’t stop working because they desire more wealth. Ki-woo also sees the chance to have his sister Kim Ki-Jung (So-dam Park) tutoring art to a disobedient preschooler interested in surreal self-portrait painting and American Indian wildness.
Parasite French poster. Cannes 2019.
Kim’s family’s determination to take over the house causes another critical park staff member to be fired.
The patriarch of the Kims, Ki-taek, is played exceptionally well by the renowned actor Kang-ho Song (“A Taxi Driver,” “Thirst,” “The Host”). He enters the house as the chauffeur. Aware of not crossing the line, his body odor of poor people causes wealthy families’ aversion.
The rich and poor can’t get that close because of the odor in the real world. The smell reveals social status, job type, food quality, and behavior. In South Korea, people responded to the sense of smell right away. We can’t talk about the scent in public, but it is an inherent characteristic of all human beings.
The idea of making “Parasite” came out in 2013, during the post-production of “Snowpiercer.” While Joon-Ho worked as a college tutor, he met an impoverished young student employed in a wealthy family’s house. The director went over, the student took him upstairs, and he couldn’t believe how proud the guy was working in somebody else’s house. This anecdote and other personal experiences motivated him to write his magnificent piece.
The Oscar® hopeful director admits with a good sense of humor. He is not a “control freak” but likes to control everything. During the pre-production, he did the entire storyboard, which was a big help for this linear story.
Like many wealthy South Korean families, the Park’s house has a bunker in its basement in case of an atomic attack by the North Korean leader “Little Rocket Man,” Kim Jong-un. By the way, the jokes about the North Commander are part of the hilarious political satire.
The art department's work is monumental; they built the interiors and some streets inside the studio. That includes well-controlled epic rain flooding. The shooting took seventy-four days, three times more than an average film schedule of twenty-four days.
After a screening in West Los Angeles, during the Q&A, the director spoke about his film candidly. He said: “In most cases, microaggression towards the dignity of the underprivileged damages our society.” He continued: “When we watch the news, media and audience won’t dig a little bit more into the case - what are the motives, the necessities, or genuine intentions of people implicated.”
At that time, I asked Mr. Joon-Ho
to describe the genre of his extraordinary piece. When he
writes a script, he is never aware of a specific style because he lets
the story take the direction itself without boxing it into one particular
category. Everyone can classify his film accordingly to their
Bong Joon-Ho worked with the same actors in his previous films. They have known each other for a while and feel more comfortable for actors to give a perfectionist director an authentic performance.
The performances in “Parasite” are exquisite and natural. The entire cast shines on the screen for long-lasting delight.
“Parasite” is an intimate film, not necessarily a movie with special effects. For that reason, Bong Joon-ho achieved the same Dolby Atmos sound quality as Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar® winner, “Roma,” emphasizing the difference between classes – noisy for the poor, quiet for the rich.
Funny but true, Kim’s mother quotes: “It’s such a luxury to be kind. If I were rich, I would be kind.” The director says it’s not morally correct, but it’s straightforward.
In society, the essence of family is to stay together. In “Parasite,” the punishment is to end up scattered away. The audience cannot hate the Kim family because they have their charm. The spectators rule for the poor, making the Kims a likable antihero.
The morality of the film doesn’t justify the act of killing and is open to interpretation. Remember, none of the characters are criminals; circumstances bring them together – but the calamity reaches all.
Some people may see “Parasite” as socialist propaganda, but I see it as a masterwork reproducing reality in a divided society.
It is trendy for Latin filmmakers to make a movie about their childhood. We saw it with Hector Babenco in “My Hindu Friend” last year in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” and a year before in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Endless Poetry.” In this semi-autobiographical work, Pedro Almodóvar presents “Pain and Glory,” an intimate portrait of himself, his infancy, and his midlife crisis.
Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory. Photo: courtesy of Sony Classics.
At a certain age, the symptoms of loneliness, depression, and physical agony dent the creativity of the genius filmmaker Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas). Salvador submerges himself in the middle of a tranquil swimming pool where nothing happens, only the memories we see in vivid flashbacks of his infantile years.
Penélope Crúz in Pain and Glory. Photo courtesy of Sony Classics
When Salvador was a child, he conflicted with his beautiful mother (Penélope Crúz) over his future studies in a Catholic seminary. At that time, Spain didn’t have other options for higher education for a kid with a prodigious mind.
Religion has been a theme for many Spanish filmmakers. In the opening narration, Mallo recalls: “The days I feel many excruciating aches, I pray to God. The others, when I feel only one little twinge, I’m an atheist.” Like a famous Luis Buñuel phrase: “Thanks to God, I’m an Atheist.”
Culturally speaking, “Pain and Glory” is a Spanish movie, although Almodóvar goes global. His universal approach is in the film's dialogs, music, and images. Enhancing the cinematic experience, the movie mentions some notable Hollywood stars, such as Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor. The characters listen to Chavela Vargas while drinking tequila, evoking a passage of his life in Mexico. Images from Lucrecia Martel’s “The Holy Girl/La niña santa” are present while getting high. Those images represent the lover who went back to Argentina and broke his heart in pieces. Finally, the infatuating song “Come Sinfonia” is courtesy of the extraordinary Italian singer Mina.
After a casual encounter with an actress Zulema, played by Cecilia Roth (“All About My Mother,” “Talk to Her”), Mallo reconnects with his early years as a filmmaker. The National Cinematheque is doing a premiere of Mallo’s restored first feature.
The movie event is an excuse to put to an end to an unsettled account with Alberto Crespo, Asier Etxeandia (“Velvet,” “Ma ma”). For both Mallo and Crespo, shooting that film was painful, and Crespo fell into a drug addiction. Now, Crespo visualizes his comeback to the stage in a solo performance using one of Mallo’s most personal writings.
Mallo’s health condition worsens due to heroin addiction. He portrays himself as a junkie with dignity. He remembers his conservative mother with love and admiration; she only wanted a better future for her gifted son. His only regret was that he could “come out” to her at the end of his mother’s life and not earlier.
“Pain and Glory’s” extraordinary soundtrack is haunting, revealing, and inspiring. Longtime collaborator Alberto Iglesias (“The Skin I live in,” “Volver,” “The Constant Gardener”) composed the music - emphasizing the dramatic moments without being melodramatic. The cellos, piano, and Spanish guitar made the transitions seamless and stimulating.
Suppose you are young enough not to know all the work of this prolific director. In that case, you may miss important clues about the true meaning of Almodóvar’s passions and desires and how the director reached that level of creativity and glory. I suggest starting to watch “Law of Desire/La ley del deseo.”
If you are old enough to know Almodóvar’s body of work, the sentiment of nostalgia for the 1980s is right there. The evocation of lost love will leave you yearning for more time to amend the past.
In Almodóvar’s films, nothing is casual – one circumstance takes you to the next one, making the most of every element, symbolically speaking.
In “Pain and Glory,” Almodóvar pulls all strings together to resolve in a conciliatory tone the disagreements with his mother, religion, desires, homosexuality, drug addiction and sex, and the love of his life.
More than melancholia, “Pain and Glory” is a brilliant piece of life, nostalgia, and reconciliation - a catharsis from the tormented soul who will heal and shine again, poetically speaking.
“Pain and Glory” is an intimate masterpiece written and executed with honesty and grandiosity that only directors of the level of Pedro Almodóvar can accomplish.
The President of the Jury, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, congratulates Antonio Banders for his Best Actor win in Cannes: Photo: Cannes 2019