Saturday, May 26, 2007

May 26th Log

2006, Clint Eastwood, United States

1st Viewing, DVD

Letters From Iwo Jima shares many of the emotional themes and filmmaking tactics of Flags of Our Fathers (as well as the obvious fact that both are centered around the opposing sides of the 36-day battle for the island of Iwo Jima). While similar, Iwo Jima stands as the far superior film. Flags of Our Fathers was well made and well-intended but felt as though it was dull or without a heartbeat. Made on a $55 million budget Flags of Our Fathers seemed to epic-scaled for Eastwood gifts as a filmmaker. In contrast, Letters From Iwo Jima was made at $15 million, and the result is an emotionally powerful war film that his made with an intimate presence of mood and in Eastwood-fashion a sense of doom. The film is really at its best in the first hour, as we find the Japanese soldiers preparing for a battle with little hope. The films second hour is not as intimate but remains equally powerful. The battle scenes are handled with skillful direction. This is a great war film in the mode of Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One, or Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. Told in a classic style, Letters From Iwo Jima ends with an image that binds the emotional core of the two films together, as we see a both a Japanese and American solider lying together on a hospital bed. With these films Eastwood and his writers question the essence of war on both sides. Letters From Iwo Jima is an extremely well made film and one of the great American war films of recent years.

2006, Guillermo del Toro , Mexico / Spain
Repeat Viewing, DVD

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. I wouldn't call this a masterpiece, but it is a very good film and one that will solidified itself as a classic of its era.


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