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Ireland v France is the box-office clash of the Six Nations

Back in the day many in England and France reckoned that their annual head-to-head in the Six Nations should be the final shoot-out on the last Saturday night.

It no doubt pleased French and UK TV executives that le crunch will again provide the finale on March 19th this year. Yet by rights this looks a more apt description for next Saturday’s clash between France and Ireland, and the pity is it has come so soon.

These are early days, for sure, but France went into the tournament as favourites, with Ireland second in the betting for the title, and those odds have hardened after each accrued bonus point home wins, with Ireland now rising to third in the world rankings above England and France in fifth.

Both teams will be sharper for those openers too. France looked rusty in biblical rain at the Stade de France against Italy on Sunday. But, typical of them, they came to life in telling fashion when they needed to, not least to outflank the blitz Italian defence with those lovely tip-on passes by Romain Ntamack and Damian Penaud for Gabin Villière to slide in for the first of his three tries. They have those strike plays in their locker.

Like no one else they can also conjure tries out of relatively nothing or, in the case of Penaud’s finish after his exchange of passes with Antoine Dupont, from a quick throw by Melvyn Jaminet – a reminder of the need to stay alert if the ball is not put into the crowd.

This was Dupont’s most influential contribution on a relatively off-colour day for the great man. But the French scrumhalf, talisman and captain had only played once for Toulouse since his star-of-the-match display away to Cardiff on December 11th, having suffered a leg infection and Covid in the interim.

Like his team-mates, Dupont will be better for that game. Besides, not too much can ever be read into French performances against Italy. Les Bleus expect to win this fixture, and overconfidence perhaps partly contributed to their only Six Nations defeats by the Azzurri, in Rome in 2011 and 2013.

Damian Penaud crosses to score France’s fourth try against Italy. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Damian Penaud crosses to score France’s fourth try against Italy. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

According to French sources, even in the build-up to last Sunday, their primary focus was on the Irish game next Saturday. They may well have slightly over-trained before Italy. Those nine Irish wins in a row demand respect, as does the third-place ranking.

Under Fabien Galthié and his assistants, and the new-found relationship with the clubs, every Top 14 player now wants to play for Les Bleus, which wasn’t always the case over the last decade. Likewise, the French rugby public have rediscovered their love for the team.

Title drought

However, France haven’t won a Championship title since 2010, their longest wait since their first outright triumph in 1959. After the last two near-misses under Galthié, this team desperately needs to end that drought. The weight of expectation on them is huge.

They freely acknowledge that they need a Six Nations title before hosting the World Cup next year, to legitimise their chances of lifting the William Webb Ellis Cup on home soil. As an aside, this will also be the last meeting between France and Ireland in Paris until a potential World Cup quarter-final.

Farrell has to consider restoring
Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw. 

Interestingly too, both Galthié and Andy Farrell appear to have similar selection posers, namely in the secondrow and at inside centre. Galthié opted to use Cameron Woki’s lineout skills and athleticism in the secondrow against Italy. But Woki could return to the backrow at the expense of Dylan Cretin, thus beefing up the secondrow by renewing Bernard le Roux’s partnership alongside Paul Willemse, the other South African-born lock who qualified through residency.

Jonathan Danty’s ankle injury against Italy is likely to rule him out of next Saturday’s match. The 21-year-old Bordeaux midfielder Yoram Moefana, born in New Caledonia, came on and made the initial break for that Penaud try, and is a likelier replacement than Virimi Vakatawa. The fit-again Matthieu Jalibert might also return to the matchday squad.

Similarly, Farrell has to consider restoring Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw. The former brings the required horsepower, although he hasn’t played in eight weeks and Tadhg Beirne maintained his superb form against Wales. Ditto Bundee Aki as regards Henshaw.

Home advantage

With the return of full stadia, home advantage will also be a big factor on Saturday night, as it was on opening weekend. It being England, the Calcutta Cup and the later kick-off, the Murrayfield crowd seemed particularly engaged. Although spending less than a minute in the English 22, Scotland deserved their win, if only for their defence, conjuring one superb try and forcing a penalty try through the pinpoint accuracy of Finn Russell’s consecutive crosskicks to his two wingers.

Quite why Luke Cowan-Dickie didn’t try to catch the ball rather than palm it into touch only he knows, but how did England’s defensive system end up with a reserve frontrow as their last three defenders when Russell kicked back to the right?

Will Andy Farrell retain Bundee Aki or bring in Robbie Henshaw on Saturday? Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Will Andy Farrell retain Bundee Aki or bring in Robbie Henshaw on Saturday? Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

It didn’t help that Joe Marchant, a centre on the wing, had been dragged across initially, or that Max Malins, a full-back on the right wing, had been beaten by Duhan van der Merwe. Eddie Jones is being beaten over the head for removing the new darling of English rugby Marcus Smith – although more significant factors were England’s selection and tactics, which mostly revolved around aimless kicking and one-off runners.

And Maro Itoje’s most notable contributions were to concede two needless penalties in that last-quarter implosion. Scotland celebrated wildly, but they’d have been kicking themselves if they hadn’t beaten such a poor English team who will, presumably, improve.

By stark contrast, not for the first time in the last year, much of Ireland’s performance, be it the solid foundations of set-piece and a defence that all the players clearly revel in contributing towards, or the intricate attacking play, suggested Farrell, his assistants and the players might be creating something special.

We’ll have a better idea by next Saturday night in Paris.

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‘Monkey Man’: Dev Patel makes directorial debut with a delicious stab at action cinema | Culture

Dev Patel has always had an intelligent glint in his eye. From his big screen debut in Slumdog Millionaire to his role as a journalist in Aaron Sorkin’s series The Newsroom, the British actor usually brings a sense of peace, calm and intelligence to his performances. Perhaps that is why it is no surprise that, at 32, he has made his directorial debut with a film in favor of social outcasts, which he also produces, co-writes and stars in. The surprise is its genre: Monkey Man is a fierce action and martial arts film, revolving around hand-to-hand combat, dismemberment and knife fights.

Patel returns to India, the land of his ancestors, for his story of revenge that is strengthened by the creative arsenal applied to its sequences — and not only those of combat. While there was a serious lack of design in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, one of the worst choices for Oscar for Best Film in Oscar history, Monkey Man has at its heart a physical and moral entanglement, involving a sadistic police chief, a luxury brothel that serves as home to both fornication and power, and a ragged young man who seeks to atone for the death of his mother through the most savage forms of violence.

Monkey Man is also set in a slum overrun by gambling and fights, with Patel earning a few rupees as an underground bare fist fighter wearing a crude monkey mask. With its colors and the camera’s handling of Bombay’s chaos, the movie has echoes of Brazil’s City of God.

Image from the movie 'Monkey Man.'
Image from the movie ‘Monkey Man.’Universal Pictures

A comparison can also easily be made with the John Wick saga, which has revolutionized commercial action and martial arts cinema in the past 10 years. Patel even mentions John Wick in one on-screen exchange. Yet, despite the similarities, the staging and editing of their spectacular fight sequences set them apart. In the four installments of the John Wick movies starring Keanu Reeves, the choreography regarding the confrontations is developed through a paradoxically harmonious staging of continuity, with general shots extended in time. The dynamics of their contenders and their movements are visualized with hardly any editing, almost like a classic fifties musical but instead of dances, there is physical destruction.

The action in Monkey Man, on the other hand, is not one of continuity, but of rupture. The cuts are incessant and move at an unrestrained pace; the shots come in quick succession, with barely a second or two between them. Patel’s handling of cinematic language is brutal. For a novice director, he displays a dazzling energy, cadence and expressiveness. This is demonstrated by three of the only four fights in the ring, each one based on a dynamic sense of space and narrative. The first is defined by the close-up shot, with the camera directed at the waist of the opponents or even lower — giving the viewers a sense of overwhelming closeness. The second offers a very different vision of the fight, which is both more poetic and exquisite. And the third uses surprise as the main exponent, and is raw and concise.

With rough textures, contrasting colors and ochre photography, reflecting the social mud in which most of the characters are stuck, Monkey Man only slips off kilter in the second half, when the Hindu demigod, Hanuman, assumes the tragic halo that envelops the protagonist. Although it gives him authenticity with respect to his lineage, the visualization is tinged with a somewhat tiresome messianic muddle of lyrical ambition.

Monkey Man

Director: Dev Patel.

Cast: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash, Sobhita Dhuliwala.  

Genre: Action. United States, 2024.

Duration: 121 minutes

Release date: April 12.

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Paramount Studio Prevails in Copyright Battle Over ‘Top Gun’ Sequel

Paramount & The Copyright Battle Over ‘Top Gun’ Sequel

The Voice Of EU | Paramount emerges triumphant from the legal showdown triggered by Maverick’s triumphant return to the big screen. A U.S. district judge swiftly shut down a lawsuit brought by the widow of the Israeli scribe who penned the piece inspiring the 1986 blockbuster, Top Gun. The heirs of Ehud Yonay alleged Paramount breached intellectual property rights with the sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, which soared to unprecedented heights in 2022, raking in over $1.5 billion worldwide. However, the judge decreed that numerous aspects of the sequel, including its narrative and dialogue, bore no resemblance to Top Gun. The sole shared element? Both narratives orbit the U.S. Air Force pilot training hub.

Judge Percy Anderson’s verdict laid bare that many of the claims raised by the Yonay clan failed to meet copyright criteria. In a 14-page ruling, he affirmed that the sequel’s themes, dialogue, characters, setting, and overall presentation diverged significantly from Yonay’s original article, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

Marc Toberoff, the legal maestro representing the Yonay lineage since 2022, swiftly vowed to contest the ruling. The estate had dispatched a cautionary missive to Paramount in May of that year, weeks before the sequel’s release, forewarning of potential copyright infractions due to the family reclaiming story rights in January 2020.

The judge’s decree solidifies that Top Gun: Maverick marches to its own beat, with little homage paid to its predecessor or Yonay’s source material, which meandered through life at Miramar Naval Air Station in a non-linear fashion, honing in on pilots Yogi and Possum. Instead, the latest installment, helmed by Joseph Kosinski, unfurls a linear tale set years later, spotlighting a fresh squadron at North Island Naval Air Station, also in San Diego.

With the lawsuit dismissed, the runway is clear for the trilogy’s third chapter, headlined by the indomitable Tom Cruise. Currently in pre-production at Paramount, the script by Ehren Kruger, architect of the sequel’s success, fuels anticipation. Talks are underway to enlist Kosinski’s directorial prowess once more, though industry pundits speculate production could hit turbulence if Paramount falls under SkyDance’s umbrella. The titans of entertainment are in deep discussions about the fate of Tinseltown’s venerable studio.

Regardless, Ehud Yonay’s legacy won’t grace the credits of the third installment, as Judge Anderson quashes any such notion.

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‘Ripley,’ The Best Treatment Of The Patricia Highsmith Classic That Sheds Light Onto The Cursed Human Condition

‘Ripley,’ The Best Treatment Of The Patricia Highsmith Classic

When faced with another adaptation of Tom Ripley, the character, the very human villain created by Patricia Highsmith, the writer who tried to understand the evil that nests in each one of us, one wonders what was the need for it? I mean, hadn’t Anthony Minghella nailed the idea of such a charming, queer criminal in The Talented Mr. Ripley, a luminously dark film that became an instant classic in the 1990s? You might ask if the present is so lacking in ideas. But let me tell you that it suffices to watch a few minutes of Steven Zaillian’s Netflix miniseries Ripley to think quite the opposite (Zaillian is also the creator of The Night Of). That is, one wonders why hadn’t anyone done this before, how Minghella could have stayed so far away, so much on the surface of the character, really?

The feeling that, from the beginning, Ripley has been much more than an apparently seductive guy, that he actually never was — for Highsmith, he was always a strange guy — who nevertheless managed to make others trust him because, by observing them, he gave them exactly what they wanted, at all times. What they wanted was attention, to feel understood. The sense that through Ripley the world and the human being — everything that someone is capable of doing to get what he wants, and what he wants is not necessarily a good thing, you will see why — can be explained and has been there from the beginning, but it would seem that what we knew about him was that he was a fake, a trickster, a perpetual mask. And why, how did he experience that mask, where did he leave the rest? Well, Zaillian answers all those questions one by one and raises a few more.

And Ripley does so thanks to a hypnotic and fascinating narration that brings back the best film noir, inhabited by a present in which subjectivity reigns. Thus, there is an excellent intention in the use of black and white — and not only because of the classic air it gives, the tribute to noir from high neo-noir — because there is no color in Ripley’s world, everything is governed by Good and Evil, and the nuance is painful because no one in the society of the time (1961) is seeing it. And it is also there in the third person who constantly becomes the first person — that is, the viewer is both outside and inside the character, because what he is seeing is not only what is happening, but how Ripley himself feels what is happening. And how does Zaillian achieve this? With the sublime use of sound and fixed shots, objects and an environment that only seems to stalk the protagonist. The calm before any storm.

Andrew Scott in an image from ‘Ripley’. Lorenzo Sisti

The way the crimes are told is the best example of that latent — and immersive — subjectivity that achieves what Highsmith set out to do, time and again, in her novels by telling how darkness, the damned, nestles in each of us: to empathize. They know the story. The writer’s recently divorced mother drinks a full glass of turpentine when she finds out that she is pregnant. And yet little Pat survives. And she grows up to become a writer who wants nothing more than to understand what her mother did. Her mother must have loved her; but she tried to get rid of her: did that make her horrible? It was through villains who were nothing more than ordinary guys with one foot on the edge of the abyss that Highsmith tried to understand her mother. And Ripley, her most perfect, her most polished, creation.

Remember the story. Tom Ripley (here, Norman Bates-like, played by Andrew Scott with a coyly sinister touch) is a small-time con man who lives by intercepting mail that isn’t his and forging identities to collect small sums. He is hired by a shipping magnate to bring his wayward son, Dickie Greenleaf (a magnetic and superb Johnny Flynn) home. Dickie lives in Atrani, a small Italian seaside town, with his girlfriend Marge (played by a cold and suspicious Dakota Fanning), where the two lead a small bohemian life. Ripley and Dickie are supposed to have been friends at some point — Dickie doesn’t remember him — and the attempt to convince him will turn into an impossible impersonation that Ripley painstakingly improvises as he goes along, criminally eliminating one obstacle after another.

Dakota Fanning as Marge Sherwood and Johnny Flynn as Dickie Greenleaf in ‘Ripley.’
Courtesy of Netflix

On screen, the subtlety with which Zaillian portrays the fine line that separates Good from Evil — or what we should not have done from what we have done — is drawn by the narrative’s attention to detail and symbols. There’s a narrative beneath the narrative we’re contemplating, which Minghella overlooked; here, they give the character abysmal depth. Those stairs that Ripley climbs, which are at first intricate, labyrinthine, and then cease to be so; they remind us of Sisyphus, in his repeated ascent, the effort, the awareness of the Evil that weighs heavier and heavier. The annoying, insidious clock that marks the race against time that we will never win. The oppressive silence. The silence of death. Ripley is alone with himself when he kills, and the viewer is inside him.

“Tom Ripley is nobody, and so he can be anybody,” Patricia Highsmith herself said of her character. “In that sense, he’s an impostor. He’s someone who gets under someone else’s skin, and so he reflects us a little bit because we’re all a mask in a way,” she added. Yes, Tom Ripley is a mask. He is an animal destined to be someone else, who survives by being someone else, and here each twisted monologue in front of Andrew Scott’s mirror takes another step toward some kind of abyss. Because, as we said, Ripley — and any Highsmith villain — is capable of doing anything to get what he wants, and what he wants is not always, as we also said, a good thing. Not even for him. And here’s the thing that every one of Highsmith’s creations hides: an imperiously savage desire to destroy his world. Zaillian’s miniseries — pure suspense, an intellectually superior suspense, you’ll see — shows that desire better than anyone else.

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