Friday, February 9, 2007

February 9th Log

2006, Guillermo del Toro, Mexico / Spain

1st Viewing, Theater

Directed by Mexican cult horror filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth is a childhood fantasy made for adults. It’s brutal and violent depiction of the aftermath of the Spanish civil war terrifyingly sets the backdrop of what it is fantasy full of imagination and wonder. Del Toro flawlessly blends reality and dreams, and we quickly discover that the nightmare of the story comes from the real world. Here the fantasy is developed as a means to escape the cruel reality of the world, but Pan’s Labyrinth is not a typical film of childhood innocence and ultimately the world of fantasy and reality converge in a haunting finale that is exquisitely executed by Del Toro. Pan’s Labyrinth expresses a haunting portrait of a child’s terror in a way that few films do. Ofelia (played by Ivana Baquero) handles both worlds and their villains, but as the troubles of the real world escalate and eventually converge with her imaginary creation, Ofelia must choose a decision that could impact either world. Pan’s Labyrinth is a film of terrifying cruelty, repression, and horror, yet is a film that speaks for the love of humanity. Del Toro creates a visionary film of wonder and imagination contrasted by brutality and violence while ultimately capturing the strength of human spirit and sacrifice. What is most effective is that Del Toro offers this through a film that completely original and deeply rooted with personal expression. This is a film I want to see again, but my initial thoughts are that Pan’s Labyrinth is a near masterpiece of filmmaking.

1969, Giulio Petroni, Italy

Repeat Viewing, DVD

For fans of 'spaghetti westerns' Death Rides A Horse (a classic title by the way!) is a must see. In ways it the definitive film of the genre's themes and style. And of course it stars Lee Van Cleef who is unquestionably the definitive spaghetti westerns actor. Here Van Cleef plays a criminal (Ryan) who is after a gang of robbers that owe him money. Also seeking this gang is Bill, who is out for revenge on the murders of his family, which he witnessed 15 years prior as a child. Bill and Ryan join forces and so is this film of inescapable revenge and death. The concept is simple, and recalls Sergio Leone's masterpiece Once Upon a Time In the West. However, Death Rides A Horse still has elements that stand own it's own as a quintessential genre film, including Van Cleef's memorable performance and the great Ennio Morricone's score. Perhaps not the mastery of Leone's greatest achievements, but Death Rides a Horse recalls much of the excitement, cleverness, style and fun that make the best spaghetti westerns so enjoyable.

1960, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan

Repeat Viewing, DVD

In Late Autumn Ozu shifts his most common relationship (father-daughter) into a relationship of a widowed woman (brilliantly played by Setsuko Hara) who is looking to remarry, and her daughter whom is offended that her mother would want to remarry. The mother is also pushing marriage onto her daughter (as do her best friend and three middle-age men who all wanted to marry her mother), yet she insists she is fine without a husband. Late Autumn certainly recalls Ozu's definitive 1949 masterpiece Late Spring, yet it is a bit more of a gentle, lighthearted comedy that still plays on many of Ozu's traditional themes and complex emotions. Ozu's use of composition acts as another character in the film and captures most of the expression and emotions of the film (most notably in the masterful use of color). Ultimately with Late Autumn Ozu captures the essence of life's simplicity and humans tendency to complicate it. At the core of all of Ozu's postwar films is the unavoidable sadness of life caused by change. The ending captures this in a perfectly bittersweet way as we see Akiko alone. She is sad that her daughter has left, yet is smiling as she accepts this sadness and is happy for her daughter. But again we wonder if they've conformed their simple life of happiness to fulfill the 'obligations' of life. Simple, humorous, warm, and deeply touching, Late Autumn is another masterpiece from one of cinema's true masters of filmmaking.

>> More on Late Autumn @ A2P Cinema's Yasujiro Ozu website HERE

>>> Here is a scene from Yasujiro Ozu's 1960 film Late Autumn. This is the final scene of the film. It is masterfully composed by Ozu in a trademark style, which perfectly expresses a sad but accepting detail of life's continuous cycle:


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