Wednesday, March 14, 2007

March 14th Log

2006, Martin Campbell, US / UK / Germany / Czech Republic

1st Viewing, DVD

Quite the body count you’re racking up”. This is a moment of dialogue told to James Bond nearly 40 minutes into the latest addition to the Bon series. It is a revealing line for a film that might be the most brutally violent Bond film yet. With a new actor (Daniel Craig) playing the lead the series undergoes a much needed re-imagining. Craig seems to be the right choice for this tougher Bond, and director Martin Campbell (who directed the 1995 Bond film GoldenEye) creates a nice sense of action without going overboard. Obviously with a Bond film you need to suspend disbelief, and this offers everything you’d expect: action, suspense, cold-blooded killers, and sexy women. The ambition level seems to be even higher here, as early as the opening sequence- a bloody sequence shot entirely in black and white. The film thrives in the second half with the arrival of Eva Green (who was last remembered as the French cinephile in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers). Green is stunning here and see is given a classic Bond-girl entrance (nearly an hour into the film she arrives by telling Bond “I’m the money”). This sequence with Green on the train may be the films peak, but it remains sparkling whenever she is on-screen. Beautiful, intelligent, and independent Green is a rarity for Bond. She has him under her spell and he is willing to give up everything and settle down for a life with her. Of course, Casino Royale pulls us back in (with many different twists and turns) and leaves no notion of the series ending, as the film closes with a clear indication the Bond series has a whole new start and it is here to stay. I’m not the biggest Bond fan, but I did like this very much. I wouldn’t say it is even the best of the Bond films, but Casino Royale seems to understand it’s place among the Bond series in a way that is ambitious breaking new ground yet remaining respectful. For that and for the casting of Daniel Craig and especially Eva Green, Casino Royale makes for great entertainment.

1952, Mikio Naruse, Japan
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Mother was a film that Mikio Naruse considered his “happiest film” and it remains a beloved Japanese classic. The film is a touching one of bittersweet melodrama, but in trademark Naruse fashion, it is made with a minimalist touch and without sentiment. The screenplay was written by Yoko Mizuki, who based the story off of an essay written by a teenager about her mother. As such the film takes on the view of the teenager (played with delicate sweetness by Kyoko Kagawa) in what is her tribute to her mother, a widow of three children that she struggles to support. Poverty forces the mother to make a sacrifice in order for her family to live a future life of happiness. Mother is a film that is constantly alternating between sadness and happiness. While the family is left with illness and poverty the film reveals hope through moments of joy (such as the town festivals or the visit day at the park and on the rides). Through it all the mother perceives and this is captured with subtle perfection by the great Kinuyo Tanaka. As seen through the eyes of her daughter, the film observes a feeling of understanding and knowing that there will always be a divide and a desire to connect the child and the parent. Mother is presented with a sense of the everyday life of this lower class family (emotionally, physically, and spiritually). We see the struggles to maintain life, but we also see the joys it has to offer. This is best expressed in Naruse’s masterfully poetic and touching final moments. Heightened by a lyrical voice-over and remarkable performances from Tanaka and Kagawa, Mother ends with a feeling of beautiful optimism and compassionate humanity.

>>> Here is a clip from Mother. Notice the end of the clip just before it fades into the family eating together, Kinuyo Tanaka pushes her hair back. This gesture is captured again in the beautiful final shot of the film:


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