By Anne Brodie
But first, lately, I’ve become obsessed with the late Diana Vreeland, iconoclast and longtime editor of Harper’s Bazaar and later Vogue, who then turned the staid Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on its head. Prime Video has the 2011 doc Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel a heady, spicy, and utterly joyous experience, offering up many of Vreeland’s most famous bon mots in narration, archival interviews with her, and her ultra-famous friends who found her amusingly quotable. Her first column “Why Don’t You ..” seems silly in retrospect, advising women to wear violet velvet gloves with everything, and dye their children’s hair with champagne “as the French do”, a nice idea but some were real stretches. Her vision was global, endless and insatiable. She’s reported to have shipped 50K orchids to Alaska for a shoot. Her global point of view brought readers to remote corners of the world and introduced us to indigenous peoples in the monthly fashion spread which was ramped way up for each December issue. She created model stars like Verushka, Twiggy and Penelope Tree, and their photographers – David Bailey, and Richard Avedon who called her the only genius editor. Born to elites in Paris, where she developed her taste for high style (fin de siecle) then they moved to Park Avenue NY, NY, where she attended a Russian school and fell in love with the country’s renowned Ballet Russe. All these factors coloured and shaped the vastness of her imagination. Speaking of colour her apartment was richly decorated in deep red, her “garden in hell”. Vreeland invented the term “youthquake” in the 60s, hung with rock stars, actors and the Factory folk, feasting on their vitality. She adored rock and roll. This hardly begins to describe the film which is guided by her spirit and strength of will, and oh so entertaining. Also to note – a great soundtrack opening with Vreeland’s exotic magazine images flashing to the Rolling Stones She Comes in Colours and ending with the elegiac Lady Grinning Soul by David Bowie. It’s an immersion in style, sass, reaching for the moon and the massive culture-changing influence she exerted.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance takes a pattern and repeats it ad infinitum – a seduction, the acts and the act – arrays it in explosive lighting and music and loops it for two hours. Sure the costumes change and sometimes it rains inside but in essence, that’s the movie, unsubtle, muscular, astonishing in its physicality and control, the old one-two endlessly. Risible dialogue and a thin plot drag down what should have been a joyous, energetic, final body-con adventure. Fortunately, Channing Tatum’s easy charm gives us something to work with as he gyrates and flops and whathaveyou. He’s Mike (third and final time) who impossibly winds up directing a male strip show in London with Max, Salma Hayek Pinault’s wealthy, shrewish divorcee who won a theatre in the settlement. He and Max have a business-based “emotional affair” following a night in Miami when he gave her a lap dance to cheer her up. The show is to be her revenge on her ex-husband and a big payday for cash-strapped cater waiter Mike. Women have been sexualized dancing since Muybridge made photos move in the 1870s; his male subjects were sexualized playing sports. The men in MMLD get their time in the spotlight in what should really be a recognized sport – strip dancing – to the raucous accompaniment of cheering women. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Not one of his best. In theatres.
Léa Seydoux, without makeup, dressed in easygoing pandemic wear, hair cropped close to her head is Sandra, a single mother caring for her fading father and working as an interpreter in Mia Hansen-Løve One Fine Morning. Sandra experiences a whirlwind of difficult experiences in a short span of time, relying on necessity and fortitude to get through. Her sister, mother, and others share the load with her philosophy professor father (Pascal Greggory) and she’s fortunate that her daughter (Camille Leban Martins) is well-adjusted, and a sunny presence. Sandra runs into an ex-lover Clement (Melvil Poupaud), and they resume a one-time passionate affair. He’s married and unwilling to leave his wife and repeatedly breaks it off only to keep painfully reappearing. Seydoux’s performance is a miracle of subtlety and naturalism, holding it together as she deals with burdens, such grace and compassion for others. Clement brings an unkind emotional imbalance and it comes crashing down on Sandra while she keeps the family together. She carries it with dignity, a strong sense of self, and love for her daughter. The end isn’t really the end given her history. A provocative and stirring portrait of a woman keeping the universe in balance as we try to do. At Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox and Vancouver’s Vancity.
Prime Video‘s Somebody I Used to Know features a sly new twist on a leading lady in a romantic movie. Alison Brie (Ally) who co-wrote the film with her husband and director Dave Franco, has just had word that her L.A. cooking show has been cancelled. She flees to her mother’s home in the small-town USA. There she’s miserable and avoids her mother. She spies Sean (Jay Ellis), an old flame in a bar and shes smitten, even as she tries to cool her response. Turns out, he’s about to be married to Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons) a fiercely independent musician. Cassidy reminds Ally of her younger self but plots to block her and steal Sean back for herself, even though she hasn’t thought of him in years. Ally is relentless, and this is where she differs from standard rom-com dram roles; she’s out for herself at all costs. Ally will steamroll, gaslight, fake befriend, and plant seeds of doubt in Cassidy while coming on strong, suddenly in bodycon outfits, gunning for him and his family. The wedding is the following day. Ally isn’t just the anti-hero, she’s the villain. Then she learns her show is being re-upped requiring her to go back to LA. Hers is an extraordinarily self-absorbed character who nonetheless manages redemption in this ballsy romcom. Brie is terrific and nicely multi-layered and carries it.
The four-movie anthology The Love Club follows four women each with her own movie, as they encounter the travails and triumphs of love ten years after vowing to see one another through romantic emergencies. Nicole (Brittany Bristow), Sydney (Lily Gao), Lauren (Chantel Riley), and Tara (Camille Stopps) met at a college New Year’s Eve party, each nursing her own romance wounds when they come up with the idea. And boy, will they need each other. Each film focuses on whatever love hardship the lead experiences whether it’s an unhappy time in a marriage, a refusal of love, unrequited love, or putting intense pressure on herself in order to win someone’s love. Who wouldn’t want pals like that who immediately jump on planes and come to support a girl in a jam? It’s fun, light, sunny, and a winter antidote. Don’t expect readings from Emmanuel Kant, but settle in for harmless eye candy fun. Each movie stands alone and the four binge well. Starts tonight on W Network and STACKTV, and on-demand on STACKTV.
Netflix‘ docuseries Gunther’s Millions exposes a problem I didn’t know the world had – a multi-millionaire dog and his shady staff. There is a bloodline of German Shepherds named Gunther, after the son of the late German mucky muck Countess Carlotta Von Liebenstein. Young Gunther died young by suicide so it is her tribute to him. The Countess bequeathed her fortune to the initial dog Gunther and provided that there will be a steady stream of Gunther dogs till the $400M trust runs out. They live in villas, mansions and magnificence in multiple countries. So the schtick is that he/they are the world’s richest dog/dogs, but what do they care, nice steaks and caviar and boats, planes, and people who fawn over them… while a staff of 27 run Gunther’s world and the cash. We meet the lawyer, the spokesperson, the trustee, the PR folks, the fake bands, and stage acts put together (i.e. The Burgundians) by Gunther’s staff. The casting requirements for the entertainment enterprise are that men and women be beautiful, and fit, and the women have “jaunty” rear ends and represent scientific and genetic perfection. Well, the Burguindians failed big time, and that led to a more sexualized experience, for sale, and rumours of a cult. Filmmakers Emilie Dumay and Aurelien Leturgie follow the dogs and the money around the world, capture revealing hot mic moments, and interviews, and are present when paying foreign hosts learn the dog they’re fawning over isn’t the Gunther – its a substitute. Well, the whole thing starts to stink. And the poor little rich dog isn’t any the wiser.