Movie Reviews: A Paris Mismatch & A Dangerous Perch

To beat the heat yesterday Susan and I adjourned to the Sunset Laemmle 5 (in the crapalicious mall they tore down Schwab’s for) to see Julie Delpy’s Two Days In Paris largely because Susan and I spent two days in Paris (actually three) last May, and I gotta say that any of the two-day combinations of our three days there totally kicked ass over the two days Delpy and costar Adam Goldberg spent there.

The movie started off striking a memorable chord, opening with the somewhat unlikely but loving couple stuck at the same taxi stand outside the Lyon train station we were stuck at upon our arrival. Goldberg goes on to elaborate about how picky Paris cab drivers are in regards to what fares they’ll accept, i.e.: if your destination’s too close they’ll refuse to let you into the car. He speaks the truth: trying to get a cab to the relatively close (par voiture) Hotel du Notre Dame where we stayed was a relative nightmare and ultimately cost us an extra 10 euros to some shady taxistand dude who “arranged” one for us.

But back to the movie, the first half or so of which for me was enjoyable enough for its quirkiness of “plot” and “characters” (and I use those terms loosely because there isn’t really much of either). Getting over the fact this was increasingly proving to be a vanity production (Delpy literally did everything and put her family in the film too) the other bothersome aspect was that the camera was always way too close to the actors as they spoke. Call us sentimental but for a film set in Paris, Susan and I were hoping to see a bit of the place, but other than Jim Morrison’s grave we couldn’t because all these giant talking heads kept getting in the way. And by the third act when the inevitable yet ultra-weird break-up occurs even the oddity of having an eco-terrorist come out of nowhere to set Goldberg’s character straight (before setting fire to a fastfood restaurant) falls flat and the movie soon wraps up with a reconciliation as ill-fitting as it is depressing.

And speaking of depressing: the aptly titled Darwin’s Nightmare. This 2004 documentary is a very difficult film to watch and has certainly generated controversy because of its alleged one-sidedness in sensationalizing the negative impact of globalization. Centering on the the Tanzanian town of Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria where the invasive and ecologically devastating Nile Perch fish is processed, the place is shown to be literally rampant with glue-sniffing orphans, prostitutes and abandoned men and women all of whom seemingly must desperately subsist on the rotting carcass leftovers dumped by the fish-packing plants that ship the fillets off to hungry Europeans and Russians.

The other edge of the sword — at least among those who consider the Nile Perch beneficial — is that the plentiful predator is actually a cash crop that has brought a lot of money to the region… but for how much longer?

From the Nile perch wiki page:

The Nile perch was introduced to Lake Victoria in East Africa, in the 1950s, and since then it has been fished commercially. It is attributed with causing the extinction or near-extinction of several hundred native species, but as Nile Perch stocks decrease due to commercial fishing, at least some of them are making a comeback. Initially, the Nile perch’s diet consisted of native cichlids, but with decreasing availability of this prey, it now consumes mainly small shrimps and minnows.

The fish’s introduction to Lake Victoria, while ecologically negative, has stimulated the establishment of large fishing companies there. In 2003 Nile perch earned 169 million Euros in sales to the EU. The long-term outlook is less clear, as overfishing is now reducing Lates niloticus populations.

Regardless of what side of the fish debate you might be on or what you might believe are the causes of such a degraded way of life, the film showed me a level of destitution and hopelessness among the local population that left me feeling entirely helpless.