In his bookTrue and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor, David Mamet writes about how he's seen actors adopt the neuroses of the characters they play -- because, as Mamet puts it, "our suggestibility knows no limits."
Director/co-writer Philippe Le Guay's comedy "Cycling with Molière" has some low-key fun with this observation.
The film introduces us to an actor named Gauthier (Lambert Wilson). Gauthier is the wealthy star of a "House"-like TV series, but he's looking to recapture some of his early theater cred. So he travels to Brittany's Île de Ré to try and lure an actor pal named Serge (Fabrice Luchini) out of retirement to perform with him in a stage version of Molière's "The Misanthrope."
The challenge is that Serge -- in a real-life "Misanthrope" move -- quit showbiz in disgust, and is now holed up in a crumbling house, having sworn off acting and most human contact. But soon they're rehearsing Molière in Serge's house in a sort of trial run. They also tangle with a free-spirited porn star (Laurie Bordesoules) and a blunt Italian divorcé (Maya Sansa).
In a not-terribly-shocking development, the visit starts to echo "The Misanthrope"'s comedy of manners. Luchini (Le Guay's frequent star, who also co-wrote and apparently inspired the idea for the film) imbues Serge with shades of Molière's misanthropic character Alceste. Meanwhile, Gauthier, the crowdpleasing company man, vaguely resembles Alceste's more politic pal Philinte. This adds an extra spark to Wilson and Luchini's dramatic readings -- particularly when they furiously rehearse arguments between Alceste and Philinte, then switch roles and continue the argument with a reversed dynamic. The rehearsal scenes are easily the best part of the film, a pas de deux between two seasoned performers, one slick, one surly, neither stupid.
The rest of the film is pleasant, but far less substantial. A few forays into slapstick are fairly lame -- this movie seems to think it's hilarious when people fall off their bicycles -- but the overcast off-season island setting has a melancholy loveliness, and a romantic subplot pads out the narrative well enough while underscoring the loose "Misanthrope" riff. ________
The Oregonian asked me to send them a list of "summer movies" I'm excited to see. They added a few of them to their May 9 "Summer Movie Preview." Here's the full list I e-mailed them.
"Boyhood" -- From 2002-13, Richard Linklater would periodically re-assemble the same cast (including Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) to film the story of a boy (Ellar Coltrane) coming of age from first grade through high school. Linklater put his chips on a child actor aging gracefully, and it worked: Early festival reviews are over-the-moon for the film, which checks in on Coltrane on various days of his life between ages 7 and 18.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" -- Marvel Studios' latest looks like "Mos Eisley Spaceport meets 'Firefly': The Movie." It co-stars a talking gun-toting raccoon whose best pal is a giant walking tree. And it's helmed by indie-geek director James Gunn, of "Slither" and "Super" fame. It looks utterly bananas and I can't wait to find out if it connects.
"The Double" -- I really enjoyed "Submarine," director (and British comedy treasure) Richard Ayoade's deadpan-comic 2010 feature debut. Now he's adapting Dostoyevsky's tale of an office milquetoast who meets and competes with his exact lookalike. Jesse Eisenberg plays both characters, backed by a cast that includes Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn and a murderer's row of smart British comic actors.
"Godzilla" -- Director Gareth Edwards had a $500,000 budget and a crew of five when he made his first film, the art-house creature flick "Monsters." His second film resurrects cinema's most famous giant firebreathing lizard with a $160 million budget, a crew of hundreds, an all-star international cast, and of course the ugly memory of the last time Hollywood tried to make its own big-budget "Godzilla" movie. No pressure! Early buzz suggests Edwards rose to the challenge.
"Jupiter Ascending" -- The Wachowskis refuse to stop making heady, loony, expensive sci-fi flicks, damn the box office. Their latest cinematic cliff-jump features Channing Tatum as a genetically modified assassin with wolf-ears who tells a janitor (Mila Kunis) that (a) Earth is actually just one piece of real estate in a larger interstellar land war and (b) she's actually the Queen of the Universe.
"The Trip to Italy" -- A sequel to "The Trip," with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon once again embarking on an all-expenses-paid odyssey of eating, arguing and comparing their Michael Caine impressions.
"Lucy" -- A Luc Besson Euro-action flick in which Scarlett Johansson accidentally ingests a drug that boosts her intelligence tenfold, essentially giving her psychic superpowers. It's the trashy fun version of "Transcendence," I hope, and I also hope Morgan Freeman is playing the same character in both movies.
"They Came Together" -- If you're part of the "Wet Hot American Summer" cult fanbase, you'll be happy to hear that co-writer/director David Wain is back -- and this time he's applying his gift for bizarre genre deconstruction to the Hollywood romantic comedy, with help from stars Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler.
"22 Jump Street" -- If you had told me before the release of "21 Jump Street" that Channing Tatum was a gifted comic actor, or that directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller could mine as much comedy as they did from this particular TV remake (and, later, from Legos), I wouldn't have believed you. So this particular sequel gets every benefit of the doubt.
"The Rover" -- "Animal Kingdom" writer/director David Michôd returns with an action drama about a desolate Australian near-future that's been described as "Mad Max" as it would actually play out (i.e., without the cool cars and stylish punks). Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson star.
Bill and Annie invited me back on the "Boy Howdy Podcast" (along with the delightful Conley Smith and Jimmy Presler) for a riotous multi-generational discussion of all things "Star Wars." From the show description:
[UPDATE: When the lads ended their podcast in 2015, they took their entire podcast site down almost immediately, so you can't listen to the episode any more. But all the other links should work.]
So this week I had a mini-reunion with Cort Webber and Bobby Roberts on their new podcast "Welcome To That Whole Thing." Great (and a little weird) to be back in that studio again a year-and-a-half after the end of "Cort and Fatboy."
The lads' assigned discussion topic was a big one: "creativity" -- how I work, along with any Deep Additional Thoughts we might have on the topic.
On the morning of the taping -- in an attempt to get my game face on and wrap my head around a concept I frankly found a little nebulous -- I sent Bobby an email that slapped together a few lessons I've learned (usually the hard way) about doing creative stuff -- particularly as it applies to writing/drawing and trying to get paid for it. We got to some of it on the show. An edited/expanded version of the whole email is after the jump. There will be no test later.
From 2009 to 2012, I drew “live comics adaptations” of Portland Opera productions -- speed-sketching the major story points as they unfolded onstage, then turning the drawings into little comics. “Opera, Drawn Quickly” collects them all. And now you can download it as a free 79-page ebook.