Few actresses rack up the attentive camera time that French star Audrey Tautou gets in her movies, where the anticipation of pixie-ish adorableness -- an angry pout! something amused her! -- becomes a uniquely sexless spectator sport. The new film "Delicacy" is no exception, though Tautou may have met her match in the Quirk Wars in costar Francois Damiens.
After losing her loving husband, widowed Nathalie (Tautou) swears off personal relationships with workaholic resolve until she plants a kiss on sweet-natured office worker Markus (Damiens), a big, goofy Swede. Sibling directors David and Stephane Foenkinos, adapting a novel by David, focus the second half of the film on their hesitant courtship, which must overcome a jealous boss, bewildered friends and, for audiences' sake, a cloying song score of drippy romance-pop.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, April 07, 2012 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
"Delicacy": A review of "Delicacy" in the April 6 Calendar section listed Laemmle's Royal Theatre in West Los Angeles as one of the theaters where the movie is playing. It is not screening there.
When darker emotions are required, Tautou hints at deeper reserves of performance -- she's much more interesting as a peeved ladybug than an Everywaif -- but it's Damiens' soulful portrait of a self-possessed, huggable nerd that puts the film on equal magnetism footing with the "Amelie" star's bag of mugging tricks.
"Delicacy" isn't going to set anybody's psyche on fire with its insights into grieving and emotional recovery, but as a crepe-thin romantic snack, it has its moments.
"Delicacy." No MPAA rating; in French with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes. At Laemmle's Royal Theatre, West Los Angeles; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Edwards University Town Center 6, Irvine.
Service in a time full of distrust
During World War II, an estimated 3,000 Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) fought as part of a secret U.S. army against their ancestral homeland -- sometimes even battling family members -- as their fellow Japanese Americans were being relocated to FDR-mandated internment camps. Still, defending America was perhaps the best way for young Nisei men and women to prove their loyalty to a nation that no longer trusted their patriotism.
This dichotomy and its lasting effect on these former soldiers is detailed in "MIS: Human Secret Weapon," the third documentary in Junichi Suzuki's significant series about the Japanese American experience in World War II.
While the war stories told here by a raft of MIS (Military Intelligence Service) veterans, many of whom are now well into their 90s, are historically involving and often quite emotional, an excess of talking heads and, at times, interchangeable testimony dilutes their inherent power. The accompanying trove of archival footage and photos, however, helps break the occasional monotony; the juxtaposition of these elderly vets with snapshots of their 1940s-era, uniformed selves is always affecting.
Suzuki goes on to cover America's occupation of postwar Japan and the Niseis' key role in the devastated country's reconstruction. But that section too would have benefited from some judicious editing and better narrative framing.
"MIS: Human Secret Weapon." No MPAA rating; in English and Japanese with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. At Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood.
Shakespeare goes to school
Alex Rotaru's engaging if uneven documentary "Shakespeare High" showcases the 90th annual DTASC (Drama Teachers Assn. of Southern California) Shakespeare festival, a competition that once hosted such high school hopefuls as Kevin Spacey, Mare Winningham, Val Kilmer and Richard Dreyfuss. Although these starry alumni are all interviewed here about their nascent years attending the contest, it's the current crop of featured neophytes that proves far more compelling.
The film's first half introduces an eclectic array of Southland teens -- from poor, working-class and more privileged environs -- as they prepare to competitively perform stripped-down, creatively reconfigured scenes from "Macbeth," "Othello" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Rotaru largely eschews process for results). Whether it's the charismatic, football-playing twins whose father killed their mother and grandmother, the streetwise ex-gang members, the ebullient son of former skinheads or the many unabashed "drama geeks," these students offer tales of newfound focus, confidence and passion, courtesy of the Bard, that are enormously inspiring.
Unfortunately, the often confusing presentation of the showdown itself, with its dizzying myriad of kids, categories and performances, overly densifies what should have emerged as a tenser, more fast-paced face-off. Still, it's impossible not to root for these driven, high-spirited participants -- and for the longevity of this invaluable program.
"Shakespeare High." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.