Perestroika is the new film directed by Slava Tsukerman who made the cult film Liquid Sky in 1982 and hasn’t done many films since. It’s about a physicist (Sam Robards) who left Russia under Communist rule and returned years later after the USSR fell. His marriage is in a shambles, he drinks too much and he has writer’s block in his efforts to use physics to prove the existence of God. There are some interesting scenes comparing pre- and post-Communist life (a few excellent ones where his colleagues all publicly and vociferously denounce him for his desire to immigrate then turn up at his apartment a couple of days later to celebrate his birthday as if nothing of any significance had happened) and Robards and Ally Sheedy are excellent, though most of the other actors are hampered by the dubbing. But the film fails to connect emotionally, possibly because when all is said and done, though the author wants you to think it’s about a man’s existential impasse, it’s really just a Philip Roth type story where you’re supposed to feel sorry for the central character because four women are after him.
Tokyo! (to distinguish it from Tokyo; or Tokyo :-)) is an omnibus film made up of three shorts. The first called Interior Design, written and directed by Michel Gondry, is about a woman who turns into a chair because she has lost her purpose in life. It has some interesting moments, but it’s hard to tell what the moral of the story is. The second film, Merde, written and directed by Leos Carax, is about…I have no idea; try as I might, I can’t remember a single thing about it. The third, Shaking Tokyo, written and directed by Joon-ho Bong (who did The Host) is the most satisfying. It’s about a compulsive obsessive agoraphobe who one day meets the eyes of a female pizza delivery person and falls in love. He finally takes his first step out of his home in years, only to find out that everybody else has become agoraphobic. It’s filled with creepy scenes in the tradition of many Asian horror films where the effects are suggested rather than CGI’d.
Paris 36 is not Children of Paradise, though at times it seems to try to be. It’s also not 42nd Street, which is also resembles at times. It’s not really a lot of anything except a mish mash of plots from a lot of different films. It starts out well enough, but about a third of the way, it all starts derailing. There’s no real logic to much of it and it all seems rather haphazard, as if the authors Christophe Barratier (who also directed), Pierre Philippe, and Julien Rappeneau were making it up as they went along. This is perhaps one of the few times a movie would be improved by reading a book on screenwriting.