THE INTOUCHABLES — In this based-on-a-true-story, a charming, self-taken ex-con from the projects is hired to take care of a charming but strong-willed disabled French aristocrat. What seems to start out as a formulaic French movie about two people from different worlds coming together for some life-changing experiences soon broadens into a highly humorous story wherein all the characters’ captivating stories (UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS anyone?) come to the fore. Moving beyond a film about a household task the film turns into an unpredictable adventure in the streets and countryside of Paris involving the upturning of preconceptions about life as well as class distinctions. As Mrs. Video proclaimed at the end: The Intouchables is unforgettable!
THE BAY — This is an eco-horror film that Barry Levinson (DINER, THE NATURAL, TIN MEN, GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM, RAIN MAN, BUGSY, SLEEPER, WAG THE DOG) directed with the producing help of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise producers. What’s “paranormal” here, however, is not ghosts but the environment, specifically that of the Chesapeake Bay in his beloved home state of Maryland, where Levinson grew up (see his affecting drama LIBERTY HEIGHTS) and many of his films are set,
Apart from CLOVERFIELD, CATFISH and THE LAST EXORCISM, I never did much care for that BLAIR WITCH PROJECT–Paranormal Activity sub-genre (which is almost always horror) where the entire film is seen through shaky, hand-held video or found footage of digital devices such as cell phones, security cameras and webcams. The style is supposed to make the film seem more real; to me the reality is simply low budget and not much else. But it’s a new world we’re in and nothing should be dismissed out of hand, though I do believe it takes a certain director (and writing!) to do this sub-genre well. Barry Levinson, it turns out, is that man.
The film is a montage of found footage put together by a then highly unseasoned young reporter who had reported on the events for a local TV station of the weekend in question three years ago. Conscience ridden, stealthy and now seasoned, she has decided to expose a three-year governmental cover up of a major environmental disaster that happened back then.
The ironic occasion of that earlier footage, honoring the independence and happy times of our nation, is a July 4th celebration in the quaint bayside town of Claridge: flags, parades, families, and a crab eating contest whose participants will soon all be throwing up.
Before you can say “lobster bib” an epidemic of blisters and boils and worse strikes many of the citizens. A woman wanders hysterically across suburban lawns, bleeding from every orifice. One witness’s initial response is to “run in to get my camera.” Talk about first responder.
Both horrifying and parodic, Levinson makes his faux found footage work with canny and clever camerawork, mounting suspense, and inadvertent humor interspersed with shocking images as overwhelmed local hospitals and the Center for Disease Control race to discover the source of this sudden and unprecedented epidemic.
These elements, along with good writing rather than the mostly silent footage of the Paranormal series, proves that Levinson does this sub-genre better than his producers have done with their own Paranormal series.
He doesn’t quite know how to bring it to a conclusion. But then, it’s still going on.