Review- The Kid with a Bike

The Kid with A Bike is the latest film by the acclaimed Dardenne brothers, a tandem whose films I do have to see more of, however, in seeing this film one can see why it is they are acclaimed for it does some truly special things indeed. The overwhelming quality of it all is that it makes its world small such that is story will be big and can be seen and appreciated by all, which plays to the fairy tale aspect they discuss in a Film Comment interview but I’ll touch on that again later.

To illustrate how it keeps things small and fairly naturalistic, one of the key scenes is one wherein Cyril (Thomas Doret) is playing with a faucet in Samantha’s hair salon, he allows it to continuously run avoiding her questions and refusing to talk or stop. The first thing that strikes me is one axiom I heard about acting really is true: having business immediately connects an actor more strongly to a scene. Doret is transfixed by the water, being defiant, yes, but also avoiding reality and losing himself because it’s too much. The business also fascinating how small a thing is necessary. It also factors in later as he is burdened by a secret that perhaps he wants to tell; he messes with a refrigerator handle but Samantha doesn’t really notice, only tells him to stop and makes no attempt to coax information out of him.

Much of the tale is concerned with Cyril trying to locate his father and gain his acceptance; his father on the other hand wants to wash his hand of the child. Samantha (Cécile De France) is a woman he comes upon by chance as he’s chased on one of his investigations but runs into her, he holds on to her for dear life and she protects him, not knowing anything and with little other information offers to put him up on the weekend when the home can’t have him there. The film is rather isolated and insular, as such we remain focused entirely on the situation the characters are in and how they behave in their environment and it begins to lend gravitas to all of their actions.

There is a nearly musical quality to the way this film flows, several key sequences are punctuated by pieces of source music (all cues are classical arrangements not original compositions and they fit perfectly).

Cyril himself is in motion a lot, chasing or being chased, riding his bike or running seeking information or acceptance. Despite all that happens he longs for his father’s acceptance to a fault. If you see the trailer you’ll note what one of the major plot points is and the sequence wherein the antagonist/corrupter recruits him is rather convincingly done. There is a longing in Cyril but there is also one in Samantha.

Samantha becomes the mother figure as Cyril’s father is not only and absentee but uncaring. She gets no history, the only facts in the film relate to Cyril’s case. It’s noted and it’s absolutely fine. She still has her reason and her motivations and makes a dramatic choice but she knows and I as an audience member knew she knew. This speaks to the subtlety of the film, which doesn’t try to over-explain. Some things we understand later and some things need not be addressed at all. This one of the former and the film is stronger for it.

The film nearly plays like a fairy tale sometimes or like a tragedy at others but always within a real and small realm and always refusing to be entirely the aforementioned things and stays rather true, yet towards the end still built a fair bit of suspense.

It’s a film carried by two actors Cécile De France and Thomas Doret, who has a most impressive debut, which also was discussed in the New York Times piece on outstanding child performers. His performance is one of physical commitment to all moments and not a dialogue-driven one, whereas Cécile De France is one of presence and aura and at one point heartbreaking empathy.

The Kid with a Bike for all its tough and dramatic moments is a one that is about needing to be loved and needing a chance for redemption. It’s ultimately an uplifting film, made more so for all the obstacles that need to be overcome to reach that point.

8/10

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61 Days of Halloween- Amityville II: The Possession

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Amityille II: The Possession

Jack Magner in Amityille II: The Possession (Orion)

While it may have been very tempting after the great flashes to tell the tale that made the Amityville house infamous on this occasion the result is comically bad and it was a tale better left untold at least the way it transpires here. There still is potential here that is completely untapped.

Now while in the first installment you could draw comparisons to The Exorcist there was definitely a tenuous but definite line of delineation separating the two. Mainly being that the priest was never heavily involved in the families plight and couldn’t be. Oh yeah, that and there was no exorcism performed.

There are other issues though. One of the talking points of the original film was about how the patriarch of that family looked like the previous assassin. Now this film doesn’t establish any prior history with the house so we are left to assume, especially by the construct of the family and who the killer is, that this is a prequel. So not only are the actors poorly cast in terms of appearance and ability but it totally changes the series by having someone trying to save his immortal soul.

So you have all that going against this film as if the idea of combining a haunted house film and an exorcism plot in a bifurcated tale wasn’t hard enough to pull off. You also lose the subtlety that the first film had and you wonder why the family spends even one night there.

There is also not one character who remains likable through the whole film and but one scene where the struggle of our protagonist/antagonist is truly felt. There’s also a random incident of incest.

To continue listing this film’s faults would be pointless except to say that it is a painful and nearly interminable experience. If you make it through to the end you’ll find some very humorous effects work that was likely not intended that way, other than that it is best avoided.

2/10

61 Days of Halloween- Teeth

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Teeth

John Hensley and Jess Wexler in Teeth (Roadside Attractions)

Teeth is an interesting little horror film, which deals with the uncomfortable myth of vagina dentata. It is clearly the kind of subject that can not be dealt with on film without a little gore, though perhaps more was in order at times not to give too much away and it is to be forewarned it is not for the squeamish. Similarly it is not the kind of topic that can be dealt with without some humor and it does that as well.

It does set itself up slowly albeit perhaps too slowly. It starts with a little episode with two little kids, those who end up being our protagonist and antagonist. What’s great is that this little teaser directly influences the film and is referenced cleverly later on. The way this episode influences these two characters is also interesting. Dawn becomes an abstinence advocate and Brad has very particular proclivities.

What does become interesting is that Dawn does have a bit of a transformation she goes from being fearful of her own sexuality and abnormality and in typical genre fashion comes to embrace it in a very twisted way. In a tale of this nature it is clearly a male nightmare but it does manage, to an extent, to examine a woman’s fears and does play to both sides a little which is unusual.

If you can deal with some gruesomeness you find there’s a little more than meets the eye in this film and what’s better is that not everything is blatantly obvious in this film and we are allowed to glean a few things. While it does take a little bit to get going and some things aren’t handled as crisply as they could be but it’s still worth it.

7/10

61 Days of Halloween- Masters of Horror: Pick Me Up

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Masters of Horror: Pick Me Up

Michael Moriarty in Pick Me Up (Starz Productions)

In this series of films I have already chronicled both films in the Masters of Horror series and Larry Cohen, in The Stuff. However, this film is a little different for both parties which is part of the point of starting this series was to find, or reveal, works in the horror genre that are worth profiling.

What separates this film is that it truly does focus on the antagonist more than the protagonist and what’s more is it concerns itself with a cruel twist of fate in which there are two psychopaths covering the same area.

While this film does have Cohen’s typical blend of humor the production values are way up from their usual standard and furthermore it does get pretty darn creepy more than once as this unique scenario is allowed to be investigated almost to its fullest. Aiding in that journey is the fact that the screenplay has been adapted by the author of the short story David J. Schow.

The film is further elevated by the fact that it features yet another brilliant performance by Michael Moriarty, a Cohen regular, who always seems to be a completely different character.

What makes it compelling is not only do you realize early on that these two characters are on a collision course but when they meet you even wonder if they are working in tandem. When you find they are not it still remains interesting as you hear the differing philosophies behind their psychoses. Yet even with all that there is a twist in store that catches you, which is all the more surprising.

Of all those in the series I’ve seen this is the one I’d put at the top of the list for the conventional horror fan to see first. If you’re familiar with Argento obviously see Jenifer but this is likely the most accessible and successful title to date.

9/10