Saturday, 30 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Belle (2013)

Belle (2013)
Director: Amma Asante
Writer: Misan Sagay
Notable Actors: Tom Wilkinson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Emily Watson, Tom Felton

As I have said before, I unashamedly enjoy a good 'period drama:' lush costumes, locations, romance, a bit of intrigue, relationships (not just romantic ones). Put that in a film and there is a good chance I will like it. When Belle came out to positive reviews, I knew I would one day watch it. And now I have; so did I enjoy it? I did.

The acting, as with many of these types of films, is very good, particularly from Gugu Mbatha-Raw; she captures the confusion Dido Belle would have experienced beautifully. The scene where she sits in front of her mirror and claws at her skin is performed perfectly. I especially enjoyed the contrast in the story between Dido and her 'cousin' Elizabeth, with whom she grew up. Dido, though illegimate, was recognised by her father and left a decent fortune, therefore attaining a level of indepdence; Elizabeth was basically ignored by her father and left to rely on kindness from her family, and live of the hope she would marry well.

My one issue with the film is the romance between Dido and a young apprenticed lawyer, John. The behaviour of the two didn't quite fit in with the rest of the film, or the etiquette rules of the 18th century. That is not to say the two didn't have chemistry (or that Sam Reid's deep voice isn't a pleasure to listen to), but it felt clunky compared to the rest of the film.

Apart from that, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Asante is a very good director, she clearly knows how to get the best from her actors. The film also looks beautiful; however, unlike many period dramas that don't refer to the source of wealth for many in Britain at the time, Belle constantly reminds its audience of the ugly practices of slavery.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Another Year (2010)

Another Year (2010)
Director: Mike Leigh
Writer: Mike Leigh
Notable Actors: Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen

This is the second Mike Leigh film I have seen; the first was Vera Drake. From these two films it is clear that Leigh is a director who is interested in tight, intimate dramas portrayed by some the best actors in Britain (and arguably the world). There is no clear protagonist in this film. Tom (Broadbent) and Gerri (Sheen) appear to be the centre of the story: the events occur largely in their house and to their friends and family. However, they don't really change: they have a strong, stable marriage and are generous and kind throughout. In fact they act as the ballast for everyone else's lives, particularly their friend Mary (Manville). Mary eventually emerges as the protagonist of the film, as she experiences much emotional turmoil.

The structure follows the various seasons of the year, beginning in spring and ending during winter. The seasons match the emotional state of Mary: at the film's beginning she is hopeful about the future, planning many things (though with a large dose of uncertainty in the mix). At the film's end, during winter, Mary appears to be in the grips of depression, all her previous hopefulness lost.

The whole story is very well acted, with plenty of subtext: characters rarely say what they are really thinking, allowing facial expression and tone to create tension with their words. This is a lovely film about friendship, family and aging.

I've Just Seen: Orpheus (1949)

Orpheus (Orphee) (1949)
Director: Jean Cocteau
Writer: Jean Cocteau (from 'Orpheus' legend)
Notable Actors: Jean Marais

I absolutely love Cocteau's special effects, particularly his use of reverse motion. I wish directors still used this technique in films; though it is clearly not real, there is something highly compelling about watching people move in reverse. It looks dream-like and even hypnotic. It is used beautifully in La Belle et la Bete and again in Orphee. These two are the only Cocteau films I have seen, but have thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

This film plays with the 'Orpheus' legend, making mirrors the gateways to the Underworld. Much is not explained, which again is good; exposition often removes the 'magic' from the story. The relationships between characters were far more complex than in the original story: Orpheus loves his wife and Princess Death, and at one point I was certain he was going to throw his wife over to spend forever with Death.

I felt like I was often floating along with this film, simply following where Cocteau took me. It is not as great as La Belle et la Bete, but definitely essential viewing for film lovers, particularly those of us who enjoy interesting special effects.

Monday, 25 May 2015

I've Just Seen: The Blue Angel (1930)

The Blue Angel (Der blaue Engel) (1930)

Director: Josef von Sternberg
Writers: Carl Zuckmayer, Karl Vollmoller, Robert Liebmann, Josef von Sternberg (from Heinrich Mann's novel Professor Unrat)
Notable Actor: Marlene Dietrich

There are two versions of this film: I saw the German language one. Apparently the English language version has some subtle differences; I won't be rushing to see it. That is not to say that this film is terrible, it is not; I am glad I saw it. But I was not grabbed by the film, though the ending was very good. This is the film that propelled Marlene Dietrich into the international consciousness, so it is significant in that respect. It is curious to see her so young; in popular representations of her she is older and deeper voiced. In The Blue Angel she is youthful and her voice slightly screechy at times.

I quite enjoyed seeing/ hearing different lyrics to the famous 'Falling in Love (Can't Help It),' (in German), which talk about being ready for love from 'top to toe' and being 'programmed' for love. Apart from Dietrich, Emil Jannings gives a very good performance as a besotted fool, and his hummilation is painful to watch.

To modern audience there is not much new storywise, and it is very simple. As I said, I wasn't grabbed until the very end, which was not enough for me.

Friday, 22 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Galaxy Quest (1999)

Galaxy Quest (1999)

Director: Dean Parisot
Writers: David Howard, Robert Gordon
Notable Actors: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell

Good old local library, supplying me with a constant stream of eclectic films. I saw this on the shelf this week and grabbed it. I knew a bit about this film: it seems to have been on hard rotation on one of the TV channels in Australia. I didn't expect it to be so relevant. The fan behaviour depicted has only intensified in recent years.

Though the film clearly references Star Trek, the presence of Reigning Queen of Sci-Fi Sigourney Weaver also brings films like Alien/s to mind; one of Weaver's best lines is 'Ducts? Why is it always ducts?' There are many in-jokes for people who watch lots of TV sci-fi: the guy who appears in one episode to die (here called 'Guy'); the random hallway with a fatal obstacle course ('This makes no logical sense!); the apparently cute creatures that are actually deadly.

This film was clearly made by people with an immense amount of love for fans; they are the ones who get to save the day. Galaxy Quest is not without flaws and a few plot holes, but is really funny, particularly if you have any knowledge about fan culture (and these days it is hard not to).

Thursday, 21 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Ida (2013)

Ida (2013)

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Writers: Pawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz

I had been looking forward to seeing Ida; not only had it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, it had good reviews, and the clips I had seen looked beautiful. And it is absolutely beautiful to look at. The black and white cinematography is cold and stark, yet also has a gentle glow at times, particular when close-up on Agata Trzebuchowska's face; her sharp, dark eyes peer out of her serene soft features. The framing of shots was also interesting; many times characters were placed in the bottom right quarter, leaving the rest of the frame empty of action or movement. The two central characters, Ida and her Aunt Wanda were very well acted by the two Agatas.

You may have noticed I have said nothing about the actual story. I was left wanting to know more about the characters, and not in a 'good' way; I felt that we didn't really know much about characters inner lives. Considering the film's short running length (around 80 mins) I thought that more time could have been taken to delve a bit deeper; particularly when Ida meets her aunt and learns a secret about herself. Because I didn't feel completely connected to the characters, the story's revelations were not as breath-taking as they may have been. This distance is deliberate (I think), and the film's only real flaw; but for me it is a big one.

Ida was this week's film choice at my 'local' film club. I am glad I got to see this film on a large screen. Definitely see it, particular if you appreciate the beauty of black and white cinematography.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Children of Men (2006)

Children of Men (2006)

Director: Alfonso Cuaron

I like films that don't explain every single detail; the reason is because it allows the audience some participation in composing the story being presented. Cuaron does this brilliantly in Children of Men. It also makes sense: Clive Owen's Theo is thrust into this world he doesn't know anything about, and not everything is explained to him. And really, there is no time for exposition. I also love a good dose of symbolism, and this film had plenty of it: the barn, Theo and Kee being part of the refugee crowd (a la Mary and Joseph in the Bible), the 'fishes,' the constant cries of 'Jesus Christ.' 

The long shot technique is one of my favourites in all of film; Kubrick and Steven McQueen are masters of it, and I can now add Cuaron to that list. The car scene is the most remarked upon scene from this film (and with good reason), but for me the refugee camp scene in the third act was the best: we were as exposed as Owen's Theo and were denyed a 'breath' from the relentless bullets and explosions with a shot change.

This goes straight to my list of 'Great' films. Wonderful.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

I've Just Seen: The Princess of Montpensier (2010)

The Princess of Montpensier (2010)

Director: Bertrand Tavernier
Writers: Jean Cosmos, Francois-Olivier Rousseau, Bertrand Tavernier
Notable Actors: Melanie Thierry, Lambert Wilson, Gaspard Ulliel

I enjoy a good historical romp. Lavish costumes, handsome men on horseback, young women trying to navigate their way in a man's world, a dash of political intrigue: put those things together and I will (usually) go with the film. This is certainly the case with The Princess of Montpensier. It is rather ridiculous (everyone is surprisingly clean and beautiful), but I don't want exact historical verisimilitude in every film I see. Sometimes a story of romantic intrigue amongst the 16th century French aristocracy is what one wants.

Though period costume dramas often get a bad wrap, they are one of the few film and TV genres out there that acknowledge the female gaze: handsome men on horseback, with their open shirts flapping in the breeze is what some women want. (Equality of objectification, huzzah!).

I was reminded of the Danish film A Royal Affair, though this is far lighter in tone. That film dealt better with the idea of the personal being political. This is enjoyable and beautiful to look at.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

I've Just Seen: In the Mood for Love (2000)

In the Mood for Love (2000)

Director: Wong Kar-wai
Writer: Wong Kar-wai
Notable Actors: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu Wai

My second Wong Kar-wai for the week. I can see elements of Days of Being Wild, but he has tightened his storytelling, delivering one of the best 'almost romances' in cinema history. Cheung and Leung are great; they wear the beautiful costumes well, have wonderful chemistry, and are both masters of saying much with tiny facial movements. The music is superb, both the songs and the main theme, a melancholic waltz matched to the actors' movements in slow-motion.

Wong Kar-wai's decision not to show us Mr Chan and Mrs Chow except only from the back, was a clever idea, heightening the isolation their spouses feel. The 'rehearsal' scenes were deliberately disorientating; their relationship is blended in with their own marriages and their spouses adulterous one. I really enjoyed this, and am liking my experience of Wong Kar-wai so far.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Paths of Glory (1957)

Paths of Glory (1957)

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, Jim Thompson
Notable Actors: Kirk Douglas

Kubrick is one of my favourite directors; I love 2001, Dr Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, and enjoyed large parts of Full Metal Jacket, The Shining, The Killing and Spartacus. Lolita was a solid adaptation, but without much of Kubrick visual techniques, and I was rather underwhelmed by Eyes Wide Shut. So where does Paths of Glory belong? Well, I loved it. The cinematography was beautiful, particularly in the cavernous, gilded halls of the commanders' chateau; contrasted well to the dirty, claustrophobic trenches of the army. The sound, as with any Kubrick film is masterful: at the (mock) trial, Colonel Dax's impassioned speech reach General Mireau's ears as echoing noise; not to mention the barrage fire all but drowning out the artillery commander's conversation about firing at their own troops. The acting was grand, particularly from Douglas and the three innocent troops.

This again was another film that drew mositure to my eyes, particularly in the execution scene. Kubrick gives it to us straight, no sentimentality. This is what makes it so powerful. I seem to have a low tolerance for obvious emotional manipulation and sentimentality, which is probably why I like Kubrick's often clinical approach. I get more choice about how to feel, instead of being told 'This is sad. You should feel sad now.'

I have seen many (anti)war films, particularly modern ones. For me though, this and All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) are the best.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Umberto D (1952)

Umberto D (1952)

Director: Vittorio De Sica
Writer: Cesare Zavattini

Like many people, seeing animals in peril in films makes me very nervous. In this film Umberto's canine companion Flike finds himself in two such situations: a harsh dog pound and, even sadder, the arms of his beloved owner. Flike's future and his master's are indistinguishable: no one wants them around, nor really care what happens to them. The only exception is Maria, who has her own problems (pregnant and unmarried, with two potential fathers of her baby). These three characters are all powerless: a dog, a retired man on the pension, and a young pregnant girl. They try to help each other, but sadly it is not enough.

I was moved by this film. The previously mentioned dog pound scene was full of uncomfortable suspense and saddness, all presented in De Sica's unsentimental way. Watching a cage of dogs being loaded into the machine that kills them was particularly sad, made even more so by Umberto desperate glances searching for Flike. While the ending appears sweet, it is only a brief moment of happiness in an uncertain future. The Bicycle Thief was perhaps more heartbreaking, but this was more melancholic.

I've Just Seen: Days of Being Wild (1990)

Days of Being Wild (1990)

Director: Wong Kar-wai
Writer Wong Kar-wai
Notable Actors: Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, Andy Lau

One of Wong Kar-wai's first films, and part of the 'informal' trilogy with In the Mood for Love and 2046. The film looks quite beautiful, with pearly lighting and green-blue colours. The actors are all very good in their roles, as their characters' lives intertwine with one another. The story felt slightly directionless; this could be a reflection of main character York's own directionless character, or a writer-director still figuring things out. None of the storylines are clearly resolved; the brief voiceovers by the characters throughout tell us how they remember this part of their lives.

However, one can see the talent of Wong Kar-wai; he is very good at directing actors, and many shots are framed in interesting ways. In the Mood for Love will be one of the next films I watch; Days of Being Wild has been a good taste of what is to come.

I've Just Seen: Double Indemnity (1944)

Double Indemnity (1944)

Director: Billy Wilder
Writer: Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler
Notable Actors: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson

This was a rewatch for me. It is still utterly perfect. And really, how could it not be? Stanwyck is one of my favourite actors of all time; Billy Wilder one of my favourite directors of all time; Chandler is one of my favourite writers; and its genre, film noir, is another favourite of mine. This film was basically made for me.

Everything works: the lighting is wonderful (Venetian blinds have never looked so sinister), the story unfolds at a perfect pace, the writing is gorgeous and occasionally sexy (the first exchange between Phyllis and Walter is one such example), and the cast is wonderful. Though many have balked at Stanwyck's wig, it deliberately highlights her insincerity and cheapness, matching her obvious anklet. The connection between murder, commodities and money is symbolised in the supermarket scenes, where Phyllis and Walter discuss bumping off her husband among 10c cans of food.

Films don't get any better than this!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Marnie (1964)

Marnie (1964)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: Jay Presson Allen (from Winston Graham's novel)
Notable Actors: Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery

Hitchcock makes the grubby and the criminal look incredibly stylish and sexy. The acting in the film is rather unsubtle, with Hedren going from ice queen still to hysterical child in the blink of an eye. However, when you consider all the problems Marnie has, the emoting becomes more understandable: her thievery, her relationship with her mother, her fear of the colour red and her distaste for sex (and men). Poor woman! At times I wondered how everything was going to be tied together, though it is not hard to guess what has happened. The relationship between Mark and Marnie is very unhealthy: he tries to understand her, but in an infamous scene forces himself on her. He also treats her as a problem to fix, not a person who needs help.

As with many Hitchcock films the way it is filmed is fabulous. The camera angles, often looking down on the actions of the characters and tracking their movements, creates a sense surveillance and observation. There is a wonderful, suspenseful shot of Marnie in a room, stealing from the safe, unawares of the cleaner in the next room. Superb! The shot of Marnie hiding in the lady's toilet is also now one of my favourite shots in cinema history.

The film as a whole is uneven, but certainly a must-see for film lovers.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Enough Said (2013)

Enough Said (2013)

Director: Nicole Holofcener
Writer: Nicole Holofcener
Notable Actors; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette

It is refreshing to see a film about burgeoning love that is not about two Hollywood attractive twenty-somethings. Holofcener gives us a story about two likeable and believable people who are contemplating life after their teenage daughters go to college. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini are great together; they have that all-important chemistry that is crucial to the romantic comedy genre. Dreyfus' relationships with the female characters (Keener and Collette) are also well done, contrasting each other just as much as they contrast with her relationship with Gandolfini.

As I said in a previous post, I used to never tear-up in films. It now happens very frequently, and in the most unexpected places: Enough Said is one such example. When Dreyfus' Eva says goodbye to her daughter Ellen as Ellen leaves for college I found myself welling up slightly in the eye department.  Holofcener presents the characters' emotions in an honest way, making us care for them, warts and all. A great addition to the oft-derided romantic comedy genre.

Friday, 8 May 2015

I've Just Seen: In the Cut (2003)

In the Cut (2003)

Director: Jane Campion
Writers: Jane Campion, Susanna Moore (from Moore's novel)
Notable Actors: Meg Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Jason Leigh and an uncredited Kevin Bacon

My enjoyment of Jane Campion's films varies. I really liked An Angel at My Table and Sweetie, thought Bright Star was beautiful looking if not as deep as I expected, and felt largely underwhelmed by The Piano. In the Cut is uneven, with some good performances, particularly from Leigh and Ruffalo. Meg Ryan was an interesting choice, but ultimately I didn't get a handle on what her character wanted. Sub-plots were not really wrapped up, and I was not entirely sure what Kevin Bacon was doing here.

The cinematography was deliberately in and out of focus throughout the film, emphasising the shiftiness of many of the characters. The colour palette was washed out browns with occasional splashes of blood. The sex scenes are not really salacious, and its is only seeing Meg Ryan playing against type that makes them remarkable. If you want to see an erotic crime thriller, watch Basic Instinct; it is more bonkers, and more enjoyable as a result.

I've Just Seen: The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

Director: Karel Reisz
Writer: Harold Pinter (from John Fowles novel)
Notable Actors: Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons

I have not read the novel this film is based on, but after watching it my interest has been piqued. The two stories blend together, drawing comparisons between Victorian and modern approaches to sexual morality, and the different risks associated with following your heart. The reflexivity of the film (they are filming an adaptation of Fowles' novel in this film) was not referred to as often as I thought it would be; large passages of the Victorian plot would occur before a modern scene happened. I think it could have been used more throughout the film, asking questions about why 'cinema of quality' is so popular.

Streep and Irons are great together, relishing the opportunity to play two different roles against each other (surely an actor's dream!). The film reminded me of books more than other films: Edith Warton's novels, particularly The House of Mirth, and A. S. Byatt's Possession (which Wikipedia tells me was written in light of Fowles' novel. Don't know if that makes me smart or obvious.). I liked this as an intelligent historical romance (a film type I often enjoy), with a twist.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Director: Amy Heckerling
Writer: Cameron Crowe
Notable Actors: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, plus appearances by Forest Whitaker, Nick Cage

This reminded me of many John Hughes films, George Lucas' American Graffiti and obviously Heckerling's Clueless. Hopefully this comes across as high praise: this is the type of teen film that is not really made any more. Fast Times, though very funny, treats its characters' problems seriously and without judgement. Stacy, who spends the film thinking about what boys want, comes to realise that what she wants ('romance' and a 'relationship,') is just as legitmate (and might lead to better sex!). Her brother, Brad wants to feel important and respected; Mark sweetly wants Stacy; Mike's self-confidence gets rocked; Linda wants to be in a mature relationship; and Jeff just wants 'some tasty waves, a cool buzz' and he's fine.

Crowe's script is great, full of good lines; Heckerling's direction is impressive as a debut, managing to keep all the threads together. Teen films can run the risk of dating quickly; fortunately Fast Times has not, with many of the themes and 'issues' still ringing true for many of today's teenagers. It is a very well observed slice of teenage life, focusing on characters rather than cliches. It's totally awesome, man!

I've Just Seen: Two Days, One Night (2014)

Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit) (2014)

Directors: Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne
Writers: Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne
Notable Actors: Marion Cotillard

Marion Cotillard really is one of the best actors of modern cinema. Here her performance is understated yet powerful as a woman dealing with depression and being laid off at work. With the help of colleagues and her supportive husband she goes around asking fellow workers to choose to keep her at work over receiving a one-off bonus.

Until recently I was not one to tear-up in films. During the 95mins of Two Days I felt the telling tightening of the throat several times, the first only 10 mins in. Like Taste of Cherry this is a small film that addresses universal ideas: here it is the love of your fellow human being and the importance of having a sense of community. Social Realism can risk becoming politically preachy: Two Days avoids this through its compassionate representation of the other workers who want to choose the bonus. I won't spoil the ending, but I will say that it is perfect. Go, watch, now!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Taste of Cherry (1997)

Taste of Cherry (Ta'm e Guilass) (1997)

Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Writer: Abbas Kiarostami
Notable Actors: Homayon Ershadi

This reminded me of the parable of the Good Samaritan: a man, who is in distress, encounters three different people on his journey; each reacts in a telling manner to his predicament. Mr Badii, the protagonist, wants to commit suicide, and needs someone to come and see if he succeeds. The first, a young man doing his National Service, is utterly scared and runs off. The second, a man studying at a seminary, refuses to help because it goes against his beliefs. He does say he is sympathetic, but offers no more support than to say what Badii wants to do is against God. The third agrees to help Badii, but also attempts to talk him out of it, arguing in favour of the small pleasures of life being worth living for. The title refers to this idea: the taste of mulberries is what changed the third man's mind about ending his own life. He asks Badii to imagine never tasting a cherry again.

This is a quiet film, and not to everyone's taste. But I found it rather compelling, and have been thinking about it a lot since watching it. It is shot in an unflashy way, letting the landscape of outer Tehran slowly glide across the screen. This is contrasted with medium close-ups of the characters inside Badii's car, emphasising the universality of this specific tale.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Back to the Future Part II (1989) 

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: Bob Gale
Notable Actors: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd

I watched the first film a few months ago and really enjoyed it. Wary as I am about sequels, I approached this with some concern. I shouldn't have been worried; this is solid sequel, and manages to capture much of the first's charm and fun. The 1980s image of 2015 is even funnier than I imagine it was when the film first opened; I do wish hover skateboards were a thing!

There was more time travelling than in Part I, and missed having an important B-plot: Marty and his younger mum and dad's romance, which drove much of the first instalment action, and provided great comedy. This is solid, better than most sequels, and a great deal of fun.

I've Just Seen: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Director: Arthur Penn
Writer: David Newman, Robert Benton
Notable Actors: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman
A great example of the American New Wave; you can see the French New Wave influence. This is not a typical biopic, and it certainly felt more 1960s than 1930s (especially Faye Dunaway's hair). However, what makes the film great is not historical accuracy, but its fresh approach to storytelling in American cinema. There is not real plot: the characters are not pursuing any overall goal, except eluding capture and enjoying their infamy. The many photographs in the film draw attention to the degree of fame these two garnered in their lifetimes. Even the police and witnesses of their crimes are shown basking in the notoriety.

The relationship between Bonnie and Clyde is interesting: Clyde is attracted to Bonnie, and clearly cares for her, but is impotent. Bonnie is far more open about her wants, hoping for a life of adventure and love. She is frustrated at Clyde impotence, as well as his intruding family. One gets the feeling she was hoping it would just be the two of them on the road. The movie was famous for its violence and it is easy to see why; there's a lot of blood from gunshots, something many modern action films don't show in such detail. The final scene is one of the best edited scenes from film: we see Bonnie and Clyde realise what is about to happen, and the last thing they do is to look enigmatically at each other.

Monday, 4 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Notable Actors: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman

I watched this film yesterday and I am still not sure what I think about it. Adam Sandler is very, very good as the repressed Barry Egan, who has spent his life being put-upon by his seven sisters. His simmering anger is well delivered. I would never have thought to pair him with Emily Watson, but it does strangely work.

The film as a whole is rather elliptical, with things simply happening with no real explanation for them. While this is probably more realistic (life rarely offers clear reasons for things), it does prove to be slightly alienating. P.T. Anderson is an intriguing filmmaker, and I do want to see more of his work, but I haven't been captured by one of his films yet.

I've Just Seen: The Blues Brothers (1980)

The Blues Brothers (1980)

Director: John Landis
Writers: Dan Aykroyd, John Landis
Notable Actors: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Carrie Fisher, and many, many more

I have apparently been in a musical mood the last few days: Umbrellas, Pitch Perfect and now this. Like Pitch Perfect the musical numbers are worked more naturally into the plot than many other musicals, as Elwood and Jake, on their mission from God, get the band back together. Each musical number was even better than the previous one; I didn't think anything could beat Aretha Franklin singing 'Think', and then Ray Charles did 'Shake a Tail Feather.' Brilliant. As is Dan Aykroyd's dancing in the big concert. 

The film as a whole felt like a Warner Brothers cartoon for adults; the violence was cartoonish, and Carrie Fisher's Mysterious Woman reminded me of Wile E. Coyote trying to kill the Road Runner. This film is a huge amount of fun, and if you don't have a smile on your face at the end, then I can only assume you are allergic to the music.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

I've Just Seen: Pitch Perfect (2012)

Pitch Perfect (2012)

Director: Jason Moore
Writer: Kay Cannon
Notable Actors: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Elizabeth Banks, and many others

It is funny watching this after The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. In some respects this is a far more traditional type of musical movie, with characters simply bursting into song at any moment; the plot is also made to work these into the action. Bu because it is about university a cappella groups, this is less surprising than it might be. I found it to be very funny, despite my usual distaste for gross-out comedies (though I am certainly not above bawdy humour). Rebel Wilson was the standout, but all the women held their own. The singing was rousing, from all of the cast, and very impressive considering most are not known for their singing abilities.

It is great to see a film with a diverse cast of women, in both look and character, who are all given the opportunity to be funny. The film doesn't ignore their relationships with the men, but the main conflict at the film's centre is Beca trying to get on with this group of women, confessing near the film's end that she was never one of those girls who had heaps of female friends. Bechdel test well and truly met! I now want to see the sequel, so clearly this was a winner for me.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

A Slight Change of Plan

I have tended to only write long pieces on this blog that are not restrictly reviews of films, but more an analysis of them (or at least my own amateur musings on them). But only doing such things is slow, as it takes time to write them. And, since I started this blog to write about film, I am altering my approach slightly. I will continue to write my longer analyses, but will also do short pieces on the films that I watch. I usually watch a film a day, so expect many more posts.

These posts will go something like this:

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg ( Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) (1964)

Director: Jacques Demy
Writer: Jacques Demy
Notable actors: Catherine Deneuve

I love a good musical, and Umbrellas lived up to, and exceeded my expectations. It was romantic and sweet and very beautiful to look at. The singing was different to most movie musicals, making it feel fresh and different, despite it being 50 years old. My favourite moment was Genevieve and Guy at Cherbourg station, singing 'Je t'aime' and 'Mon amour' to each other, unable to say anything else as Guy leaves for war duty. The colours in the film are gorgeous in their brilliancy, from the sets to the costumes. Guy's home has blues and greens, Genevieve's pinks, purples and blues, while she sports a similar wardrobe.

Why umbrellas? Well, firstly it is the name of Genevieve and her mother's shop (guess what they sell). Symbolically, the umbrellas are similar to the marriages Guy and Genevieve make. They are protection from misery, allowing them to continue on with their lives, helping to block out the pain of separation and loneliness. Or it's just the first one, take your pick.


So, dear readers, these reviews will be light on plot explanation, though not without spoilers. I shall leave it to you to decide if you read them. Feel free comment and agree completely and wholeheartedly with my opinions. Or abuse me for my ignorance and stupidity. Whichever suits you.

Was anyone else charmed by this film?