January 16, 2020No Comments

Lonely Are the Brave, David Miller, 1962

Lonely are the Brave has an interesting piece of trivia on imdb. 

It reads: 

Kirk Douglas intended to call the film “The Last Cowboy” but was overruled by the studio. Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo gave his final version of the screenplay the title “The Last Hero”.

The film has a most beautiful end of the world feeling surrounding it. It reads like the last western story that ever happened. It’s centred around the same old archetype: the drifter. Only it’s the drifter’s last days. We meet him riding a horse he loves - named Whiskey, and soon enough, in the film’s first few minutes we’re presented with the most touching inciting incident. We’re in the 1960, and our cowboy must cross a highway, on horseback. Later, the narrative evolves into the film’s main story - Douglas’s character escapes from jail (where he got in just on purpose, just to meet and convince an old buddy to run away with him) and he’s being hunted by the cops, making use of helicopters, along the ridge of a rocky mountain. He escapes, only to…

Boy, I love this film.

January 27, 2017No Comments

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan, 2016

Manchester by the Sea, with its European-vibe of a title, is narrative drama at its best. (No wonder to discover the likes of Matt Damon & gang behind its production team)  A perfectly crafted low key script that packs a punch - nothing like a good ol’ family story, right?

- A timeline that integrates time jumps, back and forwards, in a very rewarding, non-dramatic way. Employing direct cuts, the jumps are confusing for a long time, as there’s no visual cues to make the job easier on the spectator. Yet it’s confusion of the “good kind”, the one that keeps you alert, mentally putting pieces together, assembling the story parts.

This becomes the film’s form, but only for the first part, thus subtly defying public’s expectation and keeping it on its toes.

- Patiently designing and building characters is extremely rewarding. And this film excels at it. From main character (Casey Affleck - even if quite inexpressive, embodies a very rich and “3D” character, authentic and believable) to supporting roles, everybody’s worked-on, developed, individualised, relatable. 

Putting this in the same bucket with La La Land for Best Picture at the Oscar’s shows just how robust American exceptionalism still is. Just kidding.  

January 27, 2017No Comments

Your Name, Makoto Shinkai, 2016

Here it is, the animation film to make you feel old and obsolete beyond recycling. Your Name is a racing experience from top to bottom, a charge of intense visual and aural elements (of the “never before seen” caliber - made in Japan style).

On top of the sensorial rush, lies the actual story, that for the most part needs a hand map to follow.

We’re following two teenagers who:

- dream of each other;

- literally swap between each other’s bodies;

- love each other obsessively;

- are part of a planetary event where parts of a comet (yep) come crashing on Japan;

- time travel IN DIFFERENT moment while body swapping.

Confusing as it is, the film delivers pleasure - you giggle at its insane details and colours.

January 27, 2017No Comments

Pirates, Roman Polanski, 1986

The sorest pirate film like EVER. 

Despite having attached Walter Matthau’s superbly expressive face and Roman Polanski’s name, Pirates is the sorest pirate film, like EVER. Nothing stands, the story’s turning points are a slow drab, the disparate elements mingle with genre conventions and feel shattered on the board.

How is such a thing possible? 
This bit of wiki from imdb could bring some insight:

“Roman Polanski first wrote the screenplay for this picture in 1974, but couldn’t get financing for about a dozen years. While in development at Paramount Pictures, the original budget for the film had been $15 million. Over the 12 years it was stuck in “development hell,” the budget ballooned in excess of $30 million, which was a very large movie budget in the 1980’s. It was finally made as a French-Tunisian co-production, financed by wealthy Tunisian Tarak Ben Ammar. Beginning in 1984, the movie was filmed in Tunisia, Malta and the Seychelles (which are a set of remote islands off the coast of East Africa).”

That sort of settles it.

January 27, 2017No Comments

Eyes Wide Shot, Stanley Kubrick, 1999

This one’s special. 

Eyes Wide Shut is my go-to Christmas movie. It evokes a universe rich in lust, luxury, jealousy and danger, inside the City, thus becoming a deranged personal fantasy of how I wished my life would turn out - a stroll on a line between the good and the bad (but cowardly comfortably, never too good or bad).

Because for all it’s menace, at all times we are safe inside this universe, a feeling that probably comes from the sensation that no bad thing can ever happen to the 1%, that the characters’ naturally belong to. Especially during Christmas. 

This one’s special. The good doctor’s character is sickeningly relatable. 

I started this blog with a post referencing Eyes Wide Shut.

January 21, 2017No Comments

Blue Velvet, David Lynch, 1986

Blue Velvet is by all means a cultural landmark of sorts. At its best moments, it manages to bring to the screen that flickering inner space we call sub-conscience, filled with the fermentation of life’s two engines, sex and death. It is the genesis, the trial grounds for David Lynch’s later works. It is blatantly silly in some other aspects, as its caricatural portray of small American town and the characters inhabiting it. But boy, the moments where it plunges are breathtaking - that is all the scenes involving Isabella Rossellini and Dennis Hopper.

American writer David Foster Wallace spoke numerous times about Lynch and his art. Here’s a quote:

You almost never from a Lynch movie get the sense that the point is to “entertain” you, and never that the point is to get you to fork over money to see it. This is one of the unsettling things about a Lynch movie: You don’t feel like you’re entering into any of the standard unspoken and/or unconscious contracts you normally enter into with other kinds of movies. This is unsettling because in the absence of such an unconscious contract we lose some of the psychic protections we normally (and necessarily) bring to bear on a medium as powerful as film. That is, if we know on some level what a movie wants from us, we can erect certain internal defenses that let us choose how much of ourselves we give away to it. The absence of point or recognizable agenda in Lynch’s films, though, strips these subliminal defenses and lets Lynch get inside your head in a way movies normally don’t. This is why his best films’ effects are often so emotional and nightmarish. (We’re defenseless in our dreams too.)
This may in fact be Lynch’s true and only agenda - just to get inside your head. He seems to care more about penetrating your head than about what he does once he’s in there. Is this good art? It’s hard to say. It seems - once again - either ingenuous or psychopathic. It sure is different, anyway.

January 18, 2017No Comments

Paterson, Jim Jarmush, 2016

Paterson is an atypical proposal. It lacks a proper story engine, there’s no conflict what so ever that propels the plot forwards. One might argue that it’s precisely that which drives the film, and I’d partially agree. But what I believe pushes the film forwards is its cyclical form, the unity given by the daily routine starting on a MONDAY is due to come to a closure a week later. 

Several things make Paterson a very attractive film:

  • its plotlessness. Because nothing really happens in our lives as well, right? By betting on this, Mr. Jarmush takes a spin from traditional storytelling (yes, not the first one to do it) which places emphasis either on the exceptional or on the depth of detail, and brings to front a regular week in the life of a bus driver…
  • which happens to write poetry in between. (So, character design) He’s neither overtly good at it, nor silly, and he’s at ease enough with himself and mature enough to see things for what they are. Plus, Adam Driver is hugely rewarding to look at. Much has been said about the man’s face and voice, one that let us read his thoughts, as if.
  • Tone. All of the above to say that Paterson’s cinematic language, its tone is soothing. There’s a lot of comfort in waking up seven times along this film’s characters.

The ending brings so much subtextual light and the low key kind of hope that only some artists know how to provide. Mr. Jarmush is one of them.

Winking Easter Egg bringing together Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, of Moonrise Kingdom fame.

I’m not too happy with the female character design as well, but could be explained by observing a poet’s way of creating his own kind of muse. Laura is by no means a realistically portrayed character, so we shouldn’t judge it likewise. 

January 16, 2017No Comments

Man Without a Star, King Vidor, 1955

Turning 101 this year, Kirk Douglas plays the charming drifter in Man Without a Star, a 1955 classic western. He arrives by train wagon at the farm of a rich and charming single lady, waists no time in smooching her around, becomes the head of the HR by throwing some strategic punches at the personnel around and looks to train his younger protégée into shooting from the hip. Complications arise when the neighbouring farmers demand to restrict access to the lands over the winter - for fear of no more food left for the cattle in the spring. 

Sit back and enjoy the smirks of Kirk Douglas and let the film’s silly narrative carry you to sleep. There’s comfort and peace in the experience.

January 12, 2017No Comments

Into the Inferno, Werner Herzog, 2016

So does the world spin. 50 years into his career, Werner Herzog finally receives his “From legendary director…” introduction in a film’s trailer. And Netflix payed the cash, which is an indicator that maybe, finally, Mr. Herzog gets his fair share of the pie and that his, for lack of a better word, legacy, is connected to the future. 

Into the Inferno is Herzog’s 3rd film made in 2016! Can you believe it, the man is on fire! This explains maybe the reason for why we can’t see him throughout the film in person, but only through voice over commentary. This is my sole grudge with this piece. As with all his docs, they have become part about the subject itself, part about WH, or rather his way of seeing the subject. Which, as always is different that yours and mine.

So, here’s a doc about volcanos. What you get is:

  • gorgeous flyby footage of raging volcanos over a soundtrack of Russian choir;
  • an anthropological visit to the islands of Vanuatu, tribes, mythologies;
  • usual apocalyptical WH reflections on the loneliness and insignificance of human beings;
  • a Christian church in Indonesia, in the shape of a chicken (inside which a soap opera was shot);
  • a visit to Ethiopia where we meet a crazy-impassioned scientist scraping for pre-historic human remains;
  • a visit to Island and some reflections on the poetic Eddas;
  • the strangest visit to North Korea, a people that believes that it was formed in a volcano;
  • the exploration of an island-cult worshipping the American GI John Frum, who is to return to bring good things to the island tribe;

January 11, 2017No Comments

Mon Oncle, Jacques Tati, 1958

Monsieur Hulot lives in the old neighbourhood, in a lost-paradise version of his French town, an idealistic vision where buildings need a new coat of paint, dogs roam the streets, old ladies buy vegetables while the salesman drinks at a terrace nearby, where horse-ridden carriages roam the streets. (Yes, indeed, like modern day Romania, come to Romania, you Tati lovers, like now.) To get to his apartment, Mr. Hulot climbs up and down a labyrinth of stairs.

His nephew, the son of his sister and her industrialist husband, live in a state of the art, modern architecture house. When visitors arrive, the lady has a ritual. Before pushing the button which opens the door to the courtyard, she pushes another button that makes water come out of a giant state of a fish, in the garden-fountain. A true symbol of phoney social status.

In Mon Oncle, Tati pokes fun at modernity and its silliness by designing the house as a character in itself - which ends up bringing to their owners more trouble than comfort. When walking the garden, they hop-on from tile to tile as to not ruin the grass. When cooking there’s a tricky sequence of buttons that have to be pushed. The automated garage door traps the adults inside. 

When his nephew escapes to the real side of town, the idealisation kicks in, he’s having “good old fun” with the other boys, he eats from street vendors, etc.

+ most inspired scene, when the 2 round shaped windows of the 1st floor of the modern house turn into rolling eyes, when the couple inspect what’s going on outside at night.

Less riddled with great gags than Playtime, which would follow almost 10 years later, Mon Oncle feels like a training ground, and acts as a heart softener. 


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