Friday, May 4, 2007

May 4th Log

2007, Gregory Hoblit, United States

1st Viewing, Theater

Fracture is directed by Gregory Hoblit, who is most known for his often-discussed 1996 thriller Primal Fear, which is remembered for its surprising twist. With his latest film Fracture, Hoblit again seems to be working in similar territory and we are effectively setup for surprises along the way. However, with this film we are quickly aware that the character (played by Anthony Hopkins- in a performance that seems to channel Hannibal Lecter) is a murder, we are simply watching to see if he will get ware with it. Fracture delivers the twists and turns, but ultimately the film losses the momentum as it develops. Hoblit and screenwriters Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers have a strong background in Television and this very much plays out like a TV series. It is slick looking, and the performances really keep it absorbing. Hoblit has a history of casting high-profile lead actors and Fracture is no exception as the legendary Anthony Hopkins squaring off against recent Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling (in the Clarice Starling role). To be fair, this is not Silence of the Lambs or even Primal Fear, and it is inferior to both films. However the performances really pack a punch and the setup is promising. To me it seemed as though the film began to coast into the trap of formula and grew a little boring after the initial development.

1937, Jean Renoir, France
Repeat Viewing, DVD

This month I will be watching and rewatching the films from the great Jean Renoir- one of the most important and influential directors of all-time. The Grand Illusion is perhaps Renoirs most celebrated films. It's also one of the very best war (or anti-war) films ever made. Through long camera takes, Renoir powerfully reveals the meaninglessness of war. The film focuses on three French soldiers in a German WW1 prison camp, and the German commander who becomes friends with them. Regardless of language, class, or cultural differences the films details the wonderful humanity amongst the characters. The beautiful final shot of the invisible border summarizes Renoir's humane theme of the film. A very simple shot that speaks of endless meanings and depths. Incredible! The title is represented by the number of illusions throughout the film (which is the "grandest" is left open): The illusion that war is good or worthy? That war will end? That national boundaries do or do not exist? Or that World War 1was the "war to end all wars"? The Grand Illusion handles WW1 the way few films do: peacefully, friendly, yet disturbing.Along with Rules Of The Game, this ranks as one of Renoir's greatest achievements, which is more then enough reason this is a must see for anyone interested in cinema.

1934, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan

Repeat Viewing, DVD

Repeat viewings of A Story of Floating Weeds has really given me greater appreciation of it. I initially considered it one of my least favorite Ozu films, but have grown to appreciate the film as one of his pivotal achievements of his silent period. The film does mark a key movement that would later define his mastery. A Story of Floating Weeds is one of the earliest to examine not only the family, but the disappointment or deconstruction of the Japanese family. This would be a theme that would become definitive throughout his career. A Story of Floating Weeds is among Ozu's more melodramatic films, yet the melodrama is presented with irony and realism through Ozu's essential focus of character over plot. Everything comes together beautifully as Ozu sets up the emotional expectations before quickly changing them again to capture a realistic emotional response and the authentic feelings and cycle of living. For that the film is successful and remains and interesting early achievement of Ozu's career. However more then just its influence, the film embodies Ozu mastery way of taking a simple melodramatic narrative and subtly transforming it into something deeper and even more spiritual. By “floating” along the landscapes of Japan and through simple and quiet little details, Ozu transforms the film into one of feeling- a feeling that is both happy and tragic.

>>> More on A Story of Floating Weeds @ A2P Cinema's Yasujiro Ozu website HERE

>>> Here is a clip from A Story of Floating Weeds:


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