Death be­dev­ils a su­per guy

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Stephen Romei

MOR­TAL­ITY lies at the heart — quite lit­er­ally in one es­pe­cially san­guinary scene — of The Wolver­ine, the sixth in­stal­ment in the X-Men film se­ries based on the Mar­vel Comics char­ac­ters.

The ac­tion takes place some time af­ter the pre­vi­ous film, X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), in which Wolver­ine’s some­time ro­man­tic in­ter­est Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) dies at his lethal hands. She ap­pears in dream se­quences in the new film.

So Lo­gan/Wolver­ine (Hugh Jack­man) is even more of a lone lu­pus than usual, and while this film is in one sense a se­quel it can be seen as a stand-alone fea­ture cen­tred on this re­mark­able char­ac­ter.

We start with a flash­back to the atomic bomb­ing of Na­gasaki in 1945. Lo­gan, a pris­oner of war, uses his body, with its mu­tant pow­ers of re­gen­er­a­tion, to save the life of a young Ja­panese of­fi­cer. We move swiftly to present-day Canada, the Yukon re­gion, where a Ne­an­derthal-look­ing Lo­gan walks into a bar to bait some hunters who have killed a bear. I am a fan of such scenes — nude Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger walk­ing into a red­neck bar in Ter­mi­na­tor 2 is the bench­mark — and this one is up there with the best.

Lo­gan’s pur­suit of jus­tice for his ur­sine friend is dis­rupted by a samu­rai sword­wield­ing Ja­panese woman, who shows the red­necks a trick or two.

Yukio (Rila Fukushima) has been look­ing for Lo­gan on be­half of her dy­ing em­ployer Mr Yashida (Hal Ya­manouchi), head of the tech­nol­ogy con­glom­er­ate that bears his name. He is also the young of­fi­cer Lo­gan saved in 1945.

And so Lo­gan and Yukio head to Tokyo, where they are soon im­mersed in an all-out war in­volv­ing Yashida’s fam­ily (he has de­cided to leave his for­tune to his beau­ti­ful grand­daugh­ter rather than his ruth­less son), the Yakuza, a mys­te­ri­ous group of samu­rai war­riors and, just for good mea­sure, the tox­in­im­mune mu­tant known as Viper (Svet­lana Khod­chenkova).

It is Viper who does some­thing to Lo­gan that un­der­mines his su­per­hero pow­ers, mak­ing him not just vul­ner­a­ble but pos­si­bly mor­tal, a de­vel­op­ment about which his feel­ings are am­biva­lent.

Jack­man brings a win­ning la­conic tough­ness to a role he clearly en­joys play­ing. He also spends most of the film shirt­less, a wardrobe de­ci­sion sure to have wide ap­peal.

The Tokyo set­ting adds an ex­cit­ing di­men­sion to the ac­tion and there are some stun­ning set pieces — a pitched bat­tle at a wed­ding, a fight on a bul­let train — that show di­rec­tor James Man­gold ( Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, Girl, In­ter­rupted) can mix it with the block­buster set. The re­sult is a thor­oughly en­ter­tain­ing ac­tion thriller. THE funny, clever and thought-pro­vok­ing French film What’s in a Name? is dif­fi­cult to re­view at length be­cause it’s like an onion or a set of ma­tryoshka dolls: there are lay­ers within lay­ers and to re­veal too many of them would spoil the sur­prise.

In­deed the film that popped into my head as I watched was that mar­vel­lous Lau­rence Olivier-Michael Caine two-han­der from 1972, Sleuth, di­rected by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and adapted by An­thony Shaf­fer from his award­win­ning play. Both films ex­cel at pro­duc­ing rab­bits just when you are con­vinced the hat fi­nally is empty.

So it was pleas­ing to learn, on do­ing some read­ing, that Sleuth was one of the films co- di­rec­tors Matthieu De­la­porte and Alexan­dre de La Patel­liere stud­ied in prepa­ra­tion for this pro­ject. I also learned that, like Sleuth, What’s in a Name? is based on a play, writ­ten by De­la­porte and de La Patel­liere (I like to watch films with as few pre­con­cep­tions as pos­si­ble, so do the re­search af­ter see­ing them).

The film opens with a pizza de­liv­ery man zip­ping through the streets of Paris on a scooter. He ar­rives at an apart­ment block and has a be­wil­der­ing con­fronta­tion with one of the res­i­dents, who is out­raged at the price of the piz­zas. His con­fu­sion only grows when it emerges he is at the wrong flat and the man at the door has not or­dered pizza.

The man at the door is Pierre (Charles Ber­ling), a Mon­taigne-wor­ship­ping pro­fes­sor of lit­er­a­ture, a thinker who puts his faith in words and for whom ‘‘ cor­duroy is like a sec­ond skin’’. And it is at the book-crammed flat he shares with his wife, Elis­a­beth (Valerie Ben­guigui), a high school teacher, that this film’s delightful con­fu­sion reigns.

Elis­a­beth’s brother Vin­cent (Pa­trick Bruel), a hand­some, suc­cess­ful real es­tate agent, ar­rives for din­ner. He comes bear­ing fine wine and ul­tra­sound im­ages: he and his young wife, Anna (Ju­dith El Zein), are ex­pect­ing their first child. Anna ar­rives a bit later.

Also present is Claude (Guil­laume de Ton­quedec), a pro­fes­sional trom­bon­ist who has been Elis­a­beth’s best friend since child­hood. He was taken in by Elis­a­beth and Vin­cent’s mother, Fran­coise (Fran­coise Fabian), who looms large late in the film, and raised as part of the fam­ily.

Vin­cent is all charm and good­will, sweettalk­ing Elis­a­beth and rib­bing Pierre and Claude. The scene is set for a con­vivial evening of fam­ily, friends, food, wine and laugh­ter. Then Vin­cent drops a bomb­shell: he in­tends to name his son Adolphe.

At first the oth­ers think it’s just one of Vin­cent’s jokes, but when he con­vinces them

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