“Paris Can Wait”

Seeing an 81 year-old female director in her film debut was one impetus for seeing “Paris Can Wait”. Seeing a woman listened to, appreciated, and romanced old-style was another. A “chick flick” for the over-fifty-set this may be, but Diane Lane brings her character, Anne, to the forefront. She is a woman, who has stepped back, has often been stepped over, but has never been stepped on. Yes, she is financially privileged, used to fine service, and is loved by her second husband, played briefly by Alec Baldwin. Anne has lost a baby son, and raised a loving daughter, owned a dress shop, and dabbles at photography. There is nothing remarkable about her.

Using the structure of a road trip, director Eleanor Coppola
sets up a temptation for Anne. Will she or won’t she succumb to the wiles of our dapper Frenchman, Jacque?

Jacque is played deliciously by Artaud Viard. Flirty, warm, attentive, he is a charmer who understands that his colleague, Anne’s husband, prioritizes his work over pleasure. Their marriage often plays as afterthought. Anne is not discontent with Michael, but she enjoys the attention of the irrepressible sensualist, who seems to have a coterie of women fawning over him. He takes the time to savor all the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes and touches. Anne is intrigued and rather awkwardly beguiled.

Here, Lane is perfect as the a woman: unstartled, practical; and yet, instinctually imaginative. In this imaginary land, she is enjoying the wandering, and to a point, we do to. Some sequences of road travel do seem to over dally.

Scuptuous food platings and river walks below Roman ruins fill the screen. There is a capricious picnic amid car troubles, and metronomic flattery amid confidences shared. The atmosphere is light, but possibly transformative. French “joie de vivre” is the tempo.

Some of the most knowing intimacies of a twenty-year-old marriage are humorously portrayed. Michael lets a phone call interrupt kissing his wife, and he depends on her for the details of his inseam measurements and his sock pairings. Business calls during their meals have Anne explaining that she knows it is rude behavior, but she is used to it. Jacques tells her that she should not be. And the game is on.

The game is about romancing. Mozart, truffle season, heaps of roses, creamy chocolates and Jacques’ famous, ” Let’s pretend we don’t know where we are going, or who we are?” He gives Anne the pet name, “Brulee”. Creamily, creme de la cream, evocative!

There are hints of mean testosterone in Jacque when he discloses an indiscretion of Michael’s, and we wonder who will pay for all the cheese, fruit, wine, and watercress. Even a little jealousy is tried as Jacque introduces Anne to Martine, who tells her that “You will never forget your travels with Jacque. Trust me!”

This is an easy summer flick to take your husband to when “you are not used to feeling this way”…meaning romanced!

“Concussion”

Two trends I have noticed in film this year: a penchant for one word titles and a sound track that begins before the first image hits the screen. Peter Landesman’ s ” Concussion” is a bio-opt that is worthy of a few accolades while following these trends.

Will Smith is incredible, the best I have ever seen him. As Dr. Bennet Omalu he speaks like a Nigerian and mimics a facial expression I have seen on a Nigerian friend, a sort of disbelief.  I was in awe at how effortlessly Smith became Dr. Bennet Omalu. Smith’s accent coach may have a different story, but wow. Once he  addresses the corpse and begins  his  work as coroner, we never see the movie star again. The almost saintly character of this Ibo chieftain’s son inhabits the screen.

His story needs telling not only for the brains  and lives lost by protein damage or CTP (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) ,but for the future players of  football to know the risks. His story needs telling because it is an immigrant story. This brilliant and  multiple-degreed Nigerian became a U.S. Citizen in February, 2015. He does exemplify everything it should mean to be a liberal American: curiousity, idealism, passion in the pursuit of truth, kindness, yet stubborn persistence in attaining goals, and a willingness to share knowledge for the benefit of the community. His religious faith  and his African wife, Prema,  (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) bolster him and direct his values.

It is a story for our age. He says that America was right under heaven in his childish hierarchy of nivirnas. What Omalu finds is something quite different.  We can learn from this. Ormalu’s final ” Forgive them; forgive yourself” brought tears to my eyes.  A scientific saint for our times who adjusts his desires and his ego !  His speech to the NFL (National Football League) spoke of “the beauty, grace and power of the game.” ” It is a mindless, violent game, and then it is Shakespeare.” He said that “the dead had given him the dangerous gift of knowing. A football player does not know that he can lose his mind.” Roger Godell, the NFL  President, hears Ormalu’s “by dying they speak for the living.” The cadences of his sentences are reminiscent of Achebe’s masterwork “Things Fall Apart”.  Other cultures have much to teach us. To only “follow the money ” is crassly counterproductive, and sadly too American.

Albert Brooks brings a wise, yet comedic air to  his character, Dr. Cyril Wecht. As Ormalu’s  superior, he apologizes for not doing enough for him. The loyalty given to him by Ormalu’s proves differently. The FBI ‘s abuse of power is scary.

David Morse shows his acting prowess as  the retired  Steeler’s football player, Mike Webster. It is hard to watch his suffering, which sets the stage for three others’ pain and violence to follow. And Alec Baldwin seems perfect for the team doctor, Jullian Bailes. When he calls Ormalu ” a righteous son of of bitch” , we know that changing sides may not offer him enough redemption for his hasty signatures. It is true tribal knowledge that if you know, you must speak.

“History laughs at those who deny science” is the real theme of this film. Burden of proof and controlled studies and harassment and scare tactics are tabs in the outline. See Landesman’s film for fine acting and a modicum of suspense,and for an examination of American consciousness. This film had my attention and the science is as cool as the scientist  Doctor Bennet Ormalu. I needed this film to boost my faith in mankind. And as Dr. O reminds us, ” Need is not weak. Need is need.”