Words: Rob DeStefano

Two Days, One Night (2014)

Two Days, One Night (2014)

Two Days, One Night (Deux jours, Une nuit)
The Dardenne Bros did not arrive at their current success by creating easily digestible characters. Their camera stalks said subject, keeping the audience at an uncomfortably close vantage point. Like Cyril in The Kid With A Bike, Sandra (another winning performance by Marion Cotillard) is two parts alienating, one part sympathetic. Her world comes to a sudden hault – she seems to have faced a similar crisis in the past – when she learns her employment is contingent on an office vote: distribute company bonuses or layoff Sandra. Empowered by her devoted husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) and a package of Xanax, the mother of two visits her co-workers over the course of a weekend to solicit their support. 

Two Days, One Night is a stark experience, relying so heavily on Cotillard’s restless energy. I cannot think of a scene where the camera leaves her side, nor can I think of one where she isn’t perfect. The Dardennes infuse such a simple conceit with deep humanity. Who would have thought following a door to door “salesman” for 95 minutes could prove thrilling. Each employee she confronts offers a new story and a new perspective. It’s an incredibly relevant experience.

Banksy Does NY
Exactly what its title suggests. For those who missed out on Banksy’s month long NY residency, this doc takes you on a daily scavenger hunt to exhibit the provocateur’s latest street art. Director Chris Moukarbel seamlessly navigates through a web of archival footage while playing to both arguments: is the artist prolific or simply a rascal?

My favorite stunt consists of a hired, elderly man selling Banksy art among a maze of ordinary sidewalk vendors. Unsuspecting customers purchased what they believed to be either stock paintings or cheap imitation for $60 a pop. They were informed the next day that the pieces were in fact signed and commissioned originals, each with an appraisal of $250K. Banksy Does NY highlights these games and their implied intent. This seems to be essential viewing for fans of his work – you can catch its premiere November 17th on HBO.

Clouds of Sils Maria
If anyone deserves special recognition here, it’s the location scout and Kristen Stewart. (K-Stew gave two solid performances in this year’s festival submissions. It’s amazing what one can do when she steps away from Twilight.) I was led into this movie expecting a modernized All About Eve, and I left the theater feeling drowsy and deceived.

Most of the film is consumed by Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche), a celebrated international actress, rehearsing with her assistant, Valentine (Stewart). The two find seclusion in an Alps town to practice Maria’s upcoming role, and it’s here that she begins to recognize her fleeting youth, now inhabiting the play’s older character; the younger part, which made her famous twenty years prior, has now been given to juvenile wildcard Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloe Grace Moretz) – the role screams Lindsay Lohan, down to its TMZ outbursts and British stage attempt.

I normally find Binoche indisputably captivating, but her drunken giggles grow more irritating as her character fails to develop. Maria struggles to accept that she is past her prime, then she struggles some more, never breaking any new ground. The dialogue is heavy with fictitious film nods – Oh, that Jo-Ann Ellis is sleeping with Hilary Chocolate’s man! Oh, I won’t play Nemesis in the BetaHydroxy franchise anymore! All these play like a series of in-jokes, none of which the audience is privy to. There is a quiet, repressed psychosis to the film that gives some resonance and highlights Maria’s sadness (enough to entice me to revisit this film a long time from now), but it’s just not enough to mimic substance. Maria and Valentine take a nap one late afternoon – the outdoor photography does give us moments to savor – and awake to find a little goat traipsing about. I wish Olivier Assayas could have found some way to incorporate little goat into the rest of the film. I prefer the version of Clouds of Sils Maria where Kristen Stewart adopts little goat and the two make a life of their own.

[Day 4 notes will include Foxcatcher, Iris, and Still Alice]

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