Saturday, January 27, 2007

January 27th Log

2006, Pedro Almodovar, Spain
Repeat Viewing, Theater

"There are so many widows". Volver opens with a stunning shot of a cemetery where we see women cleaning the graves of their husbands. Such is the world of this film, and such is the world of Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar. Almodovar is one of the most beloved filmmakers in all the world. He has been making films for over 30 years, but he is currently at the peak of his artistry and he stands as one of the most consistently reliable filmmakers in contemporary cinema. To me, Volver joins his previous two features (Bad Education and Talk To Her) as his best films to date. The opening moment is reflective of the entire film, which is essentially about the connection of life and of death. Volver translates as "to return" and Almodovar expresses this theme through visuals, surrealism, and characterization. Using metaphoric imagery of windmills that embrace the towns chaotic winds, Almodovar's visuals emphasize the theme of cycles (both of the dead and the undead). Volver is a film of womanhood and the importance and the need to for women to stay close emotionally, physically and spiritually. Even against the harshest winds and their own personal disagreements these women need each other. Of course, Almodovar handles them each with such care, compassion, and complexity that you easily fall in love with these women, who are in a world seemingly absent of men. The entire cast is exceptional, including Almodovar's trademark muses (Carmen Maura, Penelope Cruz, and Chus Lampreave). Cruz is especially brilliant in the role and performance of her career. She embraces the depth and inner essence of Raimunda with a performance that is captivating, funny, and strong yet fragile. Almodovar has such a mastery over the actresses and the visual details of the film that Volver becomes a cinematic blend of dark humor, and melodrama. His inventive storytelling is so dazzling that Almodovar magically transport the viewer into its vibrant combination of surrealism, neo-realism, and melodrama. The filmmaking is so alive and fresh with cinematic intelligence and creativity, and the characters and performance are so loveable. Volver is a masterful display of women's beauty, strength, spirit, growth, sensitivity, and togetherness.

1989, Cameron Crowe, United States
Repeat Viewing, Encore

Lead by the talented screenwriting of Cameron Crowe, Say Anything is one of my favorite scripts of all-time. Gone are the typical cliches you'd find in most teen movies, this film is about real people with real emotions and problems that are difficult to fix. The film centers around three maincharacters: Lloyd (a kickboxer "the sport of the future") who falls in love with Diane (determined, smart student), who has an open relationship with her caring Father. Basically the films focuses around the relationship of Diane and Lloyd, and Diane's wiliness to "say anything" to her father, who in turn has many hidden secrets he's never revealed to Diane. Say Anything also has some of the most romantically beautiful scenes of all-time (be it a teen movie or not). And of course the simple yet perfectly touched ending leaves the film with a feeling of romantic hope and redemption. This is an honest, touching movie that proves a film can be both sensitive and brilliant: a combination Hollywood rarely finds when dealing with teenage adolescence. This is the directorial debut of Crowe and while he’s made some really good films since, I don’t think he has ever topped Say Anything… There is something so lovable and perfect about this film that it stands among the truly great works of it’s generation!!

1994, John Dahl, United States
Repeat Viewing, Encore

"Anyone check you for a heartbeat recently?" The Last Seduction is a modern day film noir that fans of the classic genre will absolutely love. It's got all the elements (sexy femme fatale, betrayal, dishonesty, unpredictability, twists, psychology, etc), yet this film still manages to remain smart, fresh, exciting, and even original. Of course, it also has many freedoms that noirs of 1940's did not get through the Production Code of the Hollywood studios. The Last Seduction wraps the audience inside it's atmosphere from the very first moment and never let's up. As does Linda Fiorentino's astonishing performance. Much like gorgeous yet chilling Barbara Stanwyck in Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (the all-time great femme fatale), Fiorentino's motives are selfish and evil. She's a quick thinker and easily manipulates men with her beauty. The Last Seduction is a rather cynical film, yet it's made with almost an ironic sense of humor. What results is an absolute fun experience which can be seen through several perspectives upon repeat viewings. The Last Seduction is a highly recommended, sexy, and fun modernized cinema throw back to the classic noir genre.


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