Friday, July 13, 2007

July 13th Log

2007, Brad Bird, United States

1st Viewing, Theater

Pixar is quite probably the most reliable and proficient company currently working in Hollywood. They have produced eight feature films since breaking grounds with 1995’s Toy Story. Each of their releases have been good to excellent and the steady production and success leads to inevitable comparisons. I have loved or liked every Pixar film to date, and to me Ratatouille rates just behind Monsters, Inc and The Incredibles as the studios finest. Of course the film is cowritten and directed by the wonderfully talented Brad Bird. This is Bird’s third feature film and his second for Pixar (he directed The Incredibles in 2004). I don’t know if there is a better animation filmmaker working in American cinema today. Here Bird gives us a film that is incredibly imaginative, morally centered, cleverly ironic, and highly entertaining. Bird has the subtle touch of a poet and he gives his film both a dazzling visual depth, and a touching emotional heart that you can deeply feel. There is also some surreal and dreamlike qualities that make this a truly rare experience and one that can be equally enjoyed by children and adults (be it from the clever irony of the idea, the magical beauty of the animation, or the simplicity of the films messages). You can feel and more importantly smell this film and it’s appreciation and importance of food. The voices and characters are all terrific, but it is Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O’Toole) that steals the show as the cynical food critic known as “The Grim Eater” (the moment when he bites into the food and returns to his childhood is a beautifully poetic and transcend moment of gold!). Ratatouille is a great, great film that I hope to revisit very soon. I can imagine after repeat viewings, this could move into the class of Monsters, Inc as my very favorite Pixar film!

2004, Shunji Iwai, Japan

1st Viewing, DVD

Hana and Alice is the fifth feature film I have seen from Shunji Iwai, one of the most celebrated filmmakers of contemporary Japanese cinema. While I wouldn’t consider this a masterpiece, I think I enjoyed this one more then the other Iwai’s films I’ve seen. His visuals are always effective and Iwai has a simplistic approach in which most of the emotions and expressions are hidden underneath the surface of the film. Hana and Alice is no exception, and the real strength of the film comes out of the characters. Iwai presents them in a way that you understand and deeply connect with their friendship (heightened by terrific performances from Anne Suzuki and Yu Aoi).

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 clip from the final scene of Late Autumn:


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