Monday, April 30, 2007

April 30th Log

1943, Ernst Lubitsch, United States

Repeat Viewing, DVD

Heaven Can Wait is the first film Ernst Lubitsch made in color. Released in 1943 it is perhaps his last great film. Heaven Can Wait is unusual of the quintessential Lubitsch films of the early 1930s, late 1920s in that it was made under studio and production code rules. It is a unique film both of its time and of Lubitsch, yet his trademark “Lubitsch touch” fully emerges and ultimately this becomes one of his defining masterworks. Made with such a light and simplistic touch, Heaven Can Wait is a film full of expressive details, witty humor, and undercurrent depth. Telling the story of a ladies man (played by Don Ameche), who ponders upon his life with the devil in the afterlife. Heaven Can Wait is a film about death, and is a reflection of society, life, and love and family, yet above all is a celebration of spirituality and of humanity in all of its flaws, its grace, and its beauty. Using colors and set designs, as well as period details expressively Heaven Can Wait is gorgeously shot with the look and feel of a dream. Don Ameche seems just right in here as the spoiled disobedient ladies man who is often acting younger then his age and is always under the control of a woman (even if he appears to be the smooth-talking Casanova). Gene Tierney plays his beautiful (that always goes without saying with her!) wife who has a far better grasp of the world. The supporting roles are just as fitting and memorable (by Charles Coburn, Marjorie Main, Spring Byington, Signe Hasso, Allyn Joslyn, Eugene Pallette, and Laird Cregar as the devil). Heaven Can Wait is a film ahead of its time by an influential filmmaker who was ahead of his time. The depth of his vision is not easy to fully grasp as lightly and playfully as the tone of his films would suggest. Heaven Can Wait may not be the very greatest and most quintessential Lubitsch achievement, but somehow it is one of his most perfect and essential films. Elegant, witty, funny, charming, romance and equally light and dark, Heaven Can Wait is a beautiful film.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

April 28th Log

1931, Rene Clair, France
Repeat Viewing, DVD

The premise couldn't be much simpler: A poor painter winsthe lottery but losses his ticket in the jacket his fiancee gave away, and everyone goes on a mad search for it. Simplisticas it may be, Le Million remains a wilding charming and imaginative film that is a joy to watch. Even today, much ofit's joy and charming appeal remains unaffected. French filmmaker Rene Clair was one of the early masters of bothsound and musicals, and Le Million represents his mastery of each. Also (as in Clair's Under the Roofs of Paris) Le Million features some remarkably beautiful set designs. Le Million is a perfect film from a time of difficult transition. Simple, light-hearted, fun, inventive and romantic as it may be, Le Million also rates among the most important films ofthe early "talkie" era. A Must see for fans of early cinema.

2003, Richard Linklater, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Its gonna be a really tough project, you're gonna have to use your head, your brain and your mind too.” School of Rock is a joyous film so full of energy and humor it's impossible to resist. While the script is rather formulaic, it still manages to be incredibly clever, fresh, and highly effective! Above all, the humanity of the film is what makes it such a wonderful masterpiece. There's alot to find within the films themes (whether it's about finding yourself, following your dreams, or simply "sticking it to the man!"), but ultimately is just a joy to experience. The strength of the film lies in the wonderful characters. School of Rock shows both originality and compassion for each of its characters, and the performances are all fantastic. The young kids, who are all real musicians, are deeply charming, but Jack Black and Joan Cusak really shine. Cusak is a great comedic actress that is often overlooked and this is one of her finest roles and performances (“I've just been informed that all your children are missing”). Of course it is Black who is the particular standout performance of the film. He gives one of the most energetic and hilarious comedic performances I have ever seen in a film. Black is absolutely brilliant and perfectly casted as a man who has an undeniable belief and passion for the art form of Rock and Roll music, and he wants to spread the joys to others. Black's performance will have the viewer in tears with laughter, not so much for what he says and does, but how he does it. There are so many memorable moments and dialogue in this film, which I often find myself consistently quoting. Richard Linklater is one of contemporary American cinemas great filmmakers. An artist who can work successfully both inside and outside mainstream Hollywood studios. Here he has teamed with writer Mike White (who also co-stars) to create a highly entertaining mainstream film, without compromising a personal expression of the artist. The ending may be predictable, but that never discredits how incredibly effective it is. It will surely tug at your heart, and leave you smiling at the same time. Really, all 108 minutes of School of Rock will have you smiling. Clearly Linklater understands the power of music and uses this films formulaic premise as a source for this expression. And it is done so with an intelligent, subtle, and compassionate style of filmmaking resulting in a film that is equally charming and fresh. A great and memorable film for all to enjoy. It Rocks!

Friday, April 27, 2007

April 27th Log

1936, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Yasujiro Ozu's first talkie film was made well after the development of sound and in many ways the emotions of the film are expressed like that of a silent film (which is mostly through images over dialogue). This is one of Ozu's most melodramatic films and thematically it is very definitive of his most well known family relationships (in this case mother and son). The Only Son is an incredibly moving and bittersweet film as Ozu again details the inevitable disappointment of life and his general philosophy of acceptance towards it. The film does leave hope and certainly you can see that the Mother has great reason to be proud of her son. Yet in Ozu fashion the Mother and Son hold back their feelings. The mother is very proud of her son, but she is still left sad and possibly regretful only because she is concerned that her son is not happy. The Only Son is an early Ozu masterpiece and among his most emotionally involving. The Only Son captures much of the mastery of simplistic and poetic visual composition, as well as an effective use of "pillow-shots", and also a beautiful homage to the 1933 German film Lover Divine. Powerful and insightful Ozu's transition into the sound era stands as an unforgettable achievement.

>>> More on The Only Son @ A2P Cinema's Yasujiro Ozu website HERE

>>> Here is a clip of the poetic final sequence from The Only Son:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

April 26th Log

1950, Roberto Rossellini, Italy

1st Viewing, DVD

One of the greatest aspects of The Flowers of St. Francis is the unforced rhythm, and pace at which it is made. The narrative is presented in vignettes with chapters of St Francis and his disciples in an search for inner peace. Shot almost completely outdoors the film moves with an effortless flow. The cast is entirely non-professional actors, in fact they are monks from the Nocere Inferiore monastery. The film is directed by Roberto Rossellini, who stands as one of the key innovators in the groundbreaking Italian neorealist era. Rossellini Developed the story and co-wrote the film with several collaborators including Federico Fellini, who also co-directed his debut feature film that same year (Variety Lights). Told with compassion and simplicity The Flowers of St. Francis emerges as a universal and timeless tribute of humanity, kindness, friendship and faith. With a graceful touch, the film observes the beauty of humanities connection with nature and with spirituality. By celebrating the joys and disappointments of life The Flowers of St. Francis is a masterpiece tribute of universal faith. It is an remarkable achievement of simplicity and perhaps Roberto Rossellini’s greatest film.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

April 25th Log

1946, William Wyler, United States
Repeat Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

William Wyler's award-winning, The Best Years of Our Lives is an honest, deeply moving American landmark that is worthy of all it's praise. Told as a straight-narrative of the lives of three unique WW2 Veterans, it's a classic film that manages to fully engage the viewer throughout it's entire 3 hours. Wyler, who was known as a perfectionist, succeeded in creating a flawless film. From the leagendary Gregg Toland's beautiful deep focus Black and White cinematography, to the incredible acting from the entire ensemble cast, to the touching, dramatic screenplay. The Best Years of Our Lives is ambitious and powerful from the opening longing to return home scene through it's heart-warming finale. The characters and visual details of the film contain rare depth and complexity. Toland collaborated with Wyler on 7 films (more then he did with any other director), and this is truly the finest of them all. In fact, this ranks among the greatest displays of cinematography ever created! Really, The Best Years of Our Lives is perfect in every aspect of filmmaking. A absolute classic, and so much more. Few films offer as much emotional drama as this memorable masterpiece, which stands as one of the truly greatest films of Hollywood's magical era.

2006, Stephen Frears, United Kingdom / France / Italy
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Directed by versatile director Stephen Frears The Queen is a film that succeeds on many levels. Obviously the performance of the always reliable Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II is the driving center of the film. She is absolutely terrific and will undoubtedly be remembered during the awards season (I will go on record as saying she is a lock for at least an Oscar nomination as Best Actress). However, not to be overlooked is the wonderful script of this film (written by Peter Morgan), which delves into many insightful levels ranging from psychological, social, and political. The film uses archive events surrounding the death of Princess Diana as the new Prime Minister Tony Blair (solidly played by Michael Sheen) uses the mass media to mourn the "people's princess". Blair's modernized methods contrast those of the royal family, who's values are held much differently (and ultimately they lose the support of a grieving county). It is this generation divide that lies at the center of this film, which succeeds mostly in its impartial views. Blair is essentially left feeling sympathetic (or is it guilty) for the Queen, and even though she is forced to conform against her will, she never lets her belief and values change (even if her country has). The film examinations a new era of "global modernized", and a society imprisoned or obsessed with celebrities and tabloids. The performances effortlessly capture the emotional essence and they deserve to be highly applauded, but the intelligence and awareness of the material, makes this an important and honest film.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

April 24th Log

1937, Sadao Yamanaka, Japan
1st Viewing, DVD

Made one year prior to his tragic death, Sadao Yamanaka’s 1937 masterpiece Humanity and Paper Balloons remains just one of three surviving films he has made (despite completing 27 in total). Humanity and Paper Balloons marked Yamanaka’s final film and it stands today among the most groundbreaking and important films in the history of Japanese cinema. One of the key aspects of the film is the way in which Yamanaka details the connection between environment and people. This is expressed through the related opening and closing sequences in which we find the residents within the quarters (both scenes are centered around a suicide). Yamanaka presents the world within the gates in contrast to that outside. Humanity and Paper Balloons is a film that takes a conventional narrative structure and approach, while going against conventional clichés and ideas. The ensemble performances are wonderful by the entire cast. Each actor works perfectly alongside Yamanaka’s minimalist style, in which the most complex emotions are expressed with a subtle touch through gestures and hidden feelings. Yamanaka was a close friend to Yasujiro Ozu and the similarities between the two are evident in style and techniques. Like Ozu, Yamanaka uses minimal approach and indirectly details the context of narrative or emotion through a nearly absent plot. Humanity and Paper Balloons is a somber film that will remain with you. Even after 70 years, the film remains as powerful and timeless today. Sadly Yamanaka was a tragedy of war just one year after the films completion. Japanese cinema lost a great filmmaker at the earliest peak of his artistry, but this film remains a celebrated masterwork and one of the great achievements in film history.

>> Here is a clip of the opening sequences from Humanity and Paper Balloons:

Sunday, April 22, 2007


The A2P Cinema Network has launched a new website...

Just launched this weekend… Profane Angel is a website entirely dedicated to Hollywood actress Carole Lombard, who reigned as one of the biggest stars in the 1930s and early 40s before her tragic death at the peak of her career. A versatile and incomparable actress, Lombard was most remembered for her roles in screwball comedies.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

April 21st Log

2001, Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan / France
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Tsai Ming-liang's 2001, What Time Is It There? is a masterpiece of pure brilliance. As original, exciting, andbeautiful a film can possibly get. As with all of Tsai's films the camera consists of long, extended takes and isolated framing to enhance the alienation of the characters as well as create a claustrophobic atmosphere. There are also many moments of dialogue free silence. Tsai wants the viewer to absorb the film, to participate in it, and emphasize with the characters situations and emotions. It truly creates a challenging and thus a deeply rewarding cinematic experience. There are so many levels, meanings, and recurring themes ranging from separation, loss, loneliness, but it's ultimately about humanities connection and coincidence both with each other and between the living and dead. It's a calm, sometimes humorous, and always poetic film of the human soul's longing for love. The lovely (and mysterious) ending quietly arrives as the three main characters are shown sleeping and alone after having just failed to emotionally or sexually communicate. The final shot can be interpreted several different ways, but ultimately represents one of the films themes (the connection of thedead and living). To me, this film is unbelievably powerful and haunting. It's images beautiful and few films capture loneliness more effectively. Tsai is truly a genius and gifted filmmaker, and this may be his finest masterpiece. What Time Is It There is an absolute work of art, and among my all-time favorite films!

1997, Kasi Lemmons, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

"Memory is a selection of images, some elusive, other sprinted indelibly on the brain. The summer I killed my father, I was 10 years old." Through it's atmospheric visuals (beautifully shot in the New Orleans bayou), poetic dialogue, and complex characterization, Eve's Bayou is a haunting, mysterious, magical and powerful film. The performances are brilliant, most notably by the two young actresses (Jurnee Smollett and Meagan Good). The film is the feature filmmaking debut of writer-director Kasi Lemmons, and here she displays the skills of a veteran. The characters are each beautifully in-depth and the viewer will certainly connect emotionally to them. Above all, Eve's Bayou is so engaging for it's visual atmosphere, which includes symbolic imagery and beautiful composed cinematography and scenery. Eve's Bayou is a forgotten gem of the 1990's. The absorbing atmosphere and mood of this film is (like the voodoo within the film) haunting and spellbinding.

Friday, April 20, 2007

April 20th Log

1952, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan
Repeat Viewing, DVD

With Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice, Ozu uses his traditional simplistic filmmaking methods with a blend of some complex camera work including detailed tracking shots (usually in transitions of scenes). Overall the film is absolutely breathtaking on a visual level and different from the standard Ozu style. Of course Ozu is a mastery of subtle aesthetics, and even though he implores some variety of techniques or camera movement, Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice is at its most emotionally powerful and poetic when the camera is static (such as in the unforgettable sequence that finds Taeko on the train alone reflecting or escaping the imagined happiness of her marriage). The emotional connection is also evident as here Ozu presents the relationship of a middle-aged husband and wife who are losing interest in their arranged marriage. Like his 1937 comedy What Did the Lady Forget?, this often recalls the tone of Ernst Lubitsch influence in its playfulness. The film is certainly among Ozu's most light-hearted films and still contains much of the subtle sad melodrama he was accustomed for. The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice is a touching and hopeful film of the strength and revival of love. Ozu expresses sympathy for the husband but does not judge or condescend the husband or the wife, rather detailing the relationship of an arranged married couple with conflicting interests and lifestyles. The opening scenes set the playful tone, as both the husband and wife are seen by lying, or perhaps they are just hiding their true feelings from each other and from themselves. The wife seems to get a revelation of her own selfish and understands that what she thinks she despise about her husband could actually be what she loves. In the end there is hope and Ozu closes the film with a playful tracking shot that embodies the Lubitsch-touch tone of the film. With Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice Ozu slightly alters his traditional postwar style while keeping the lasting emotional depth and themes, and ultimately the result remains as universal as his greatest masterworks.

>>> More on Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice @ A2P Cinema's Yasujiro Ozu website HERE

>>> Here is a short but memorable clip of Taeko on the train after just arguing with her husband:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

April 19th Log

1974, Robert Altman, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

Thieves Like Us opens with a lyrical long tracking shot that sets the tone for the entire film. It is indeed a film by Robert Altman, and was is made during his incredible streak of films from the 1970s. Thieves Like Us was made after The Long Goodbye (one of his greatest films) and before California Split. The film is typical of Altman from this era in that he re-imagines genre. By focusing less of plot details and more of characters, Altman gives us a film that is equally touching, charming, and poetic. Altman uses the American Depression and the future hope of “The New Deal” as an ironic backdrop. Using period details and beautiful (even when “ugly”) cinematography, Thieves Like Us flows at a pace that seems to capture a dream within reality. Perhaps it is simply the Altman trademarks, but everything works here and the casting selections seem perfect. A couple Altman-regulars from the 70s Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall are terrific as the innocent young lovers, and John Schuck is especially memorable as Chicamaw. Thieves Like Us is a remake of Nicholas Ray’s masterful 1948 noir They Live By Night, but is more specifically a second adaptation of Edward Anderson’s novel. Like Ray’s film, Altman seems centered on the young member of the gang and his lover. However Altman’s film is lighter and less expressive in capturing the romantic depression then Ray did with They Live By Night. Thieves Like Us is perhaps an inferior film to the 1948 noir and it probably would not rate among Altman’s very finest work of the innovative decade, yet it remains such an endearing film for its definitive Altman-esque qualities.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

April 18th Log

1960, Kaneto Shindo, Japan

1st Viewing, DVD

The Naked Island opens with a series of titles cards reading “Plough and reach to the sky. The dry soil. The difficult land.” So begins a film that takes us through the cycle of human experience. Directed by internationally acclaimed Kaneto Shindo the film is perhaps best described in the filmmakers own words by describing that it was made “as a cinematic poem to try to and capture the life of human beings struggling like ants against the forces of nature.” Telling the story of a small peasant family (a married couple and their two children) struggling to survive in an isolated island. The island is void of 20th century technology and most importantly is void of fresh water. Through a minimalist filmmaking style, The Naked Island captures the repetitive cycle of the daily chores, most notably the process of acquiring fresh water from the mainland. The film is not silent, but it is completely without dialogue. Rather then used a device Shindo uses silence as a rhythmic form of expressing the endless cycle of daily duties. Shindo masterful sense of editing and narrative flow make the film one that is equally poetic, simple, and powerful. It is a deeply moving film of human struggle but one that ultimately becomes a spiritual reflection through understanding and acceptance of existence. This is the film that gave Shindo the world recognition which lead to his long-standing career of unique and versatile work. The Naked Island is one of his most celebrated films, and it stands as essential viewing of Japanese cinema.

>> Here is a scene from The Naked Island:

Zhang Yimou, China / Hong Kong

1st Viewing, DVD

Zhang Yimou is one of the most internationally (if not the most) acclaimed Chinese filmmakers in the world. The Curse of the Golden Flower finds him finally reuniting with actress Gong Li, his former girlfriend who starred in seven of his films in the 80s and 90s (which essentially propelled both her and the director to international acclaim). While Zhang has made some very good films since his spilt with Gong, there is no doubt his masterpieces came with her. The re-collaboration is a sort of a dream come true for fans of Zhang or Gong. The end result to me is disappointing only if compared to the Zhang and Gong films of years past. If there are flaws they do not extend to the lea performances, especially that of Gong. She is in full “diva” mode here and has complete control over the performance. She really is remarkable. However, the film suffers from what many of Zhang’s recent work has in that it is overblown with style. Zhang has always had a great eye for visuals and colors and the film is undeniably spectacular on levels of visual and technique achievement. However it lacks the heartfelt emotional power simply because it seems at times overtly staged and artificial. This his Zhang’s third attempt with the epic CGI/digital action spectaculars and it may just be the least effective (or perhaps a notch above Hero). There is still much to admire in the way of visuals and Gong Li’s performance is captivating every step of the way. If for no other reason see this for Gong Li. If your looking for a dazzling film from Zhang I personally prefer House of Flying Daggers, but most of all I’d recommend his earlier, more emotionally intimate masterworks (To Live, Raise the Red Lantern, Ju Dou).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

April 17th Log

2006, Kevin Macdonald . United Kingdom / United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

The Last King of Scotland begins with a young Scottish doctor looking for adventure, who decides to spin a globe to decide where he will go. After first landing on Canada, he spins again and lands on the more "exotic" Uganda. So begins the film, which is said to be based on a true story and adapted from a novel by Giles Foden. This opening moment presents a key metaphoric message of the film, which ultimately uses the main character (Nicholas Garrigan, played by James McAvoy) as a metaphor. Films with metaphoric use of characters can often be forced, but this films strength is the wonderful intelligence it conveys. Using the terrifying real life figure of the evil, brutal, yet personally charming Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (played with brilliance by Forest Whitaker), the film blends the fictional character who represents a symbol of Western imperialism. A key moment comes when Amin tells Nicholas he has come to Africa to "play the savior white man". It is this subtle understanding of ignorance and power that make The Last King of Scotland an intelligent and effective film (the script is co-written by Peter Morgan, who also wrote the highly insightful script of The Queen). Aided by a cast of solid performances (including the always under appreciated Kerry Washington- who needs to start getting some major roles in films!) The Last King of Scotland is a very well made film, particularly for it's meaningful examinations underneath the surface of the story.

1946, Charles Vidor, United States
Repeat Vieiwng, Turner Classic Movies

Tuner Classic Movies has been featuring Rita Hayworth every Tuesday night in April and since I watched the previous weeks, I had to once again see her defeinetive performance in what is to me a masterpiece noir, 1946's Gilda. Though it comes almost 20 minutes into the film, Rita Hayworth's first appearance on screen remains the embodiment of both the film and her wonderful career. It's a moment that is quite simple, but deeply effective in portraying one of cinema's most memorable screen beauties. The flirtatious look, beautiful smile, and of course gorgeous hair display everything we need to know about Gilda the character and Hayworth the "Love Goddess." To me, Hayworth is undoubtedly among the most beautiful and talented actresses to ever live. There's never been and will never be another like her, and Gilda stands as one of her defining performances. It's easy to forget, but the this film does have more qualities aside from Hayworth's energy and presence. The black and white cinematography is lusciously shot. Lighting and shadows are symbolically used throughout as a technique in paralleling good and evil. Director Charles Vidor finelydirects a strong script, which actually involves heavy sexual undertones (both heterosexual and bisexual). Obviously Production Code limitations prevented the film from going as far as it could have. However, Gilda remains an effective melodramatic film noir romance that examines an unusual love and hate connection. But the undeniable force of the film is that of Hayworth's glamorous and unforgettable performance. "Put the Blame on Mame!"

Monday, April 16, 2007

April 16th Log

2006, Arin Crumley / Susan Buice, United States

1st Viewing, DVD

Avant-garde of the YouTube generation! Four Eyed Monsters is a fresh and imaginative real life recreation of the relationship between the New York filmmakers: Arin Crumley a wedding videographer and artist/waitress Susan Buice. The film documents how they met each other online. Both are lonely and creative artists looking for to avoid the “typical” romance so they meet each other and agree to avoid talking. Four Eyed Monsters offers a lot of honesty and truth while at the same time capturing the imaginative feeling of a dream. Incredibly all this is done with a simplistic touch even despite the fact the the film pulls out a variety of cinematic techniques. Ultimately the film works as a love story, and experimental project, and a documentary all at once. There is a charming romance story here but at the same time you wonder if they have feelings for each other or is it simply the process of their creativity? Perhaps it is both as the film expresses a deep feeling of understanding, and that is where the beauty of Four Eyed Monsters lies. If there is a flaw it may be the films final stretch in which it takes us through the process of the films premier. However, Four Eyed Monsters is highly original and a such a playful film that it remains a joy to watch.

2002, Paul Thomas Anderson, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

There is no question this is one of my favorite films of all-time!! There is so much I take from this perfect little film, but I guess essentially Punch-Drunk Love displays the power and joy of finding and falling in love against a society of pressures and of conformity. Through love, Barry finds redemption and strength to break through the repressed emotional and physical “window” he has been trapped into. Love gives him the strength to break out of this “window” and we see this towards the end as he walks out of The Mattress Man building by “breaking” through the front doors, which like the rest of the building, is made of glass. Next Barry must find Lena, redeem the mileage, play the harmonium, and “so here we go….”

>>> For those interested, I have dedicated a website to the expressive details of Punch-Drunk Love:

Sunday, April 15, 2007

April 15th Log

2004, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, France / United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

After marveling at the performance of the wonderful Marion Cotillard gave in La Vie En Rose I needed to see something from her again. I remembered her brief but enjoyable supporting role in A Very Long Engament a film I have not seen since the theater, so I decided to give it another viewing. A Very Long Engagement is a re-collaboration of the magical team of the irresistible 2001 film, Amelie: director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and star Audrey Tautou. While I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as that film, I commend Jeunet for his ambitious filmmaking achievement. While dealing with a much more grim subject (World War I), A Very Long Engagement at it’s heart (and strength) is surreal, comic fantasy full of Jenuet’s charm and humor which shares many of the qualities of Amelie. It does have a lot to offer and many levels, layers, and subplots which do slightly effect Jeunet’s strengths as a filmmaker. It’s aiming very high and is very ambitious as it follows two separate intertwining narratives centering around the romance of Manech (Gaspard Ulliel) and Mathilde (Audrey Tautou). We are shown the perspective of the World War I setting (most notably the events surrounding the trench of Bingo Crepuscule). The other story is Mathilde’s search for answers to the fate of Manech, whom she knows in her heart is still alive. Jeunet is one of France’s most gifted filmmakers working today, and his technique skills and emotions are on full display. Contrasting images of the horrors of the World War I trenches with the colorful beauty and unique comedy of home life. The battle sequences are graphic and startling, but Jeunet shines when dealing with the surreal or bizarre moments of humor (ie. the background of the 5 condemned soldiers, or the montages of the postman, etc). In pretty much any film, Tautou is always an adorable leading lady (sort of a French Mary Pickford I guess) and here she plays Mathilde with likable (and at times touching) charm. The supporting characters are equally wonderful and give the Mathilde-Manech romance a heart and emotional connection… It’s great to see Jodie Foster in her first French role, and of course Marion Cotillard is especially memorable as the sexy and vengeful Tina Lombardi (even if her role makes the narrative a bit uneven it works because she is so engaging to watch). Despite all that is happening, the narration and charm of the characters make it pretty easy to follow. Though the ending is expected it’s portrayed beautifully and will certainly move you. I am not so sure I’d rate Jeunet in the class of a master filmmaker, but he makes entertaining films, and while not his best, A Very Long Engagement has its qualities.

2001, Todd Field, United States
Repeat Viewing, IFC

Todd Field acclaimed 2001 drama, In the Bedroom, is moving on many levels (both in terms of filmmaking and emotional impact) and leaves the viewer with much to ponder and remember. Field presents the film in a mysterious emotional way through rhythmic pace and symbolic imagery. What it ultimately effects is the final moments which raises thought-provoking ideas upon the entire film (while also completely shifting the tone of the film without an ounce of forced melodrama). There are moments that are calm and quiet, while exhilarating within a flash. In the Bedroom is essentially divided into a multiple character-study and the deteriorating grief of tragedy they are living with. This is the rhythmic flow that Field has so excellently created with this film. Of course one of the keys of the dramatic force is undeniably in the reliance of the performances, which are top-notch all the way. Field's background began in acting and his sensible understanding of the dramatic performance is evident when watching him director these actors (Tom Wilkinson is particularly outstanding, especially in the previous mentioned conclusion of the film). This is the type of film that leaves a greater impact with more thought and with repeat viewings. I like the enigmatic sense of direction Field gives this otherwise straight-forward drama (which examines depths of tragic loss, grief, and anger). In the Bedroom is a powerful film and a great feature filmmaking debut.

2001, Baz Luhrmann, Austrailia / United States
Repeat Viewing, AMC

Moulin Rouge is a stylish visual feast of a film, and it's a ton of fun to watch. Moulin Rouge takes everything you have seen and love about musicals and turns it on its head. The result is one of the most energetic films you’ll ever experience!! The storyline is very basic, but Baz Lurhmann broadens it with an imaginative blend of eye-candy. beautiful people, bright colors, eccentric costumes, trendy (and even modern!) music, and wonderful sets fill the screen with energy. The energy is also created through Luhrmann's traditional amounts of cuts. Though I personally don't usually like a film that over-cuts, it works perfectly with this film. Also, the performances (particularly that of Nicole Kidman) are very good, which can be difficult to notice with a film of so many quick cuts, and fast-paced editing. One of the films great joys is that the stylish visuals and energy are supported by the wonderful compassion and feelings the film, and most specifically its characters, carry. Bottom line, Moulin Rouge is a wonderfully creative, visually bold, sexy, romantic, and joyous film. There really isn’t much to say about this film, but rather it is one that loudly speaks for itself when watching it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

April 14th Log

1927, F.W. Murnau, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

"This song of the Man and his Wife is of no place and every place; you might hear it anywhere, at any time." And so begins one of the very greatest artistic achievements in film. What an amazing film this is! Simply in terms of artistic vision, Sunrise was decades ahead of it's time. As was it filmmaker, F.W. Murnau, who with such masterpieces created a cinematic language for the art form to expand upon. Sunrise is so impressive and so timeless it's mesmerizing. Ultimately, it's a film of images more so then plot. What results is a film that connects with both the characters and viewers subconscious. The performances are outstanding by the cast in capturing the emotions and feelings of Murnau's imagery. Their is not a single flaw, as each and every moment stands as pure brilliance (particularly the scene in which the married couple reunite their love and dream as they walk in each others arms through the crowed streets, oblivious to the city's congested surroundings). Using a free flowing camera, superimposed images, and very little title cards, Sunrise has a tone and style rarely seen in silent films. It's a multi-layered drama / tragedy / love story of psychological human emotion and behavior. While the tone and atmosphere is one of darkness, Sunrise is a film of warmth, hope, compassion, and love. The title can be viewed as a metaphor for the film: Even through the dreariest of storms the sun will always rise eventually. Such a lovely and hopeful film. Sunrise speaks of universal themes and timeless themes of love and the loyalty, betrayal, and redemption within love. But above all, this is a film of poetry and of images and dreams of the mind. Watching Sunrise is a magical, poetic and enriching cinema experience that exists as one of the art forms legendary achievements. I deeply love this film, and easily consider it among the greatest ever made!

Friday, April 13, 2007

April 13th Log

2007, Olivier Dahan, France

1st Viewing, Theater

To watch La Vie en Rose is to watch the performance of Marion Cotillard. She completely inhabits the role and gives a lovely and worthy tribute to the beloved French singer Edith Piaf. This is the role of a lifetime and Cotillard truly gives on the very best screen performances imaginable. Besides portraying the flawless psychical aspects (including gestures, movements, posture, as well as the aging process) Cotillard captures the essence of the emotional core of the film (which is primarily Piaf’s various addictions be it her music, her love life, her drugs, or herself). Cotillard has been one of my favorite actress for awhile now, but she has never been given a role to shine, but this should undoubtedly change that. Her performance really can not be understated here. Besides Cotillard the films appeal lies of course in the Piaf’s music. Director and co-writer Olivier Dahan tries to give this film something different then the standard biography picture by shuffling the linear timeline of the narrative. For the most part the film is success but at nearly 2 and half hours the film becomes a little uneven (particularly in the scenes dealing with the World Boxing Championship). Of course the concert sequences are the highlight of the excitement and Dahan stages them quite effectively with the aid of strong production design and cinematography (not to mention the music and performance- which is heightened in the skillful uses of close-ups). The films opens with Piaf performing in New York near the end of her career. La Vie en Rose again is a bit uneven in dealing with Piaf earliest days of birth, but it eventually settles in under the performance of Cotillard, who plays Piaf from teen-ager to her death in 1963 at the age of 47 (though she looked much much older). The films film scene is a fitting and powerful one. La Vie en Rose may not be a masterpiece of filmmaking, but it is a wonderful tribute to a great artist, who is portrayed in a breathtaking and unforgettable lead performance.

1935, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan
Repeat Viewing, DVD

An Inn in Tokyo is Ozu's last and perhaps greatest silent film. The film is very reminiscent of the later Italian Neorealist films of the 1940s (notably Vittorio De Sica's masterpiece The Bicycle Thief) as well Ozu's 1933 film Passing Fancy) in it's simplistic yet powerful examination of the human condition amongst the struggles of the Depression (in this case pre-war Japan). Using a decaying Japanese environment as the visual surrounding, Ozu captures the very essence of human struggle, centering around a poor widowed father with two sons as well as a friend who is a widowed mother with a sick child. Faced with a moral conflict the man must make a decision that could effect his family. Equally beautiful and heartbreaking An Inn in Tokyo is a masterpiece.

>>> More on An Inn in Tokyo @ A2P Cinema's Yasujiro Ozu website HERE

>>> Here is a scene from Ozu's last (and perhaps greatest) silent film An Inn in Tokyo (1935). Set against the backdrop of an isolated landscape the scene contrasts a dreamlike quality with the harsh realities of the depression and human struggle.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

April 12th Log

2006, George Miller, Australia / United States
1st Viewing, DVD

What a wild trip of film this one is! But I mean that in a good way, I think. I know one thing at least, I sure had a lot of fun watching this film. Happy Feet is a strange as you’d expect a film that centers around a penguin who is born different because of his unique love of dancing and lack of singing (something all the other penguins of his tribe excel at). When abandoned by his tribe, he seeks to find the “aliens” that are causing the shortage of fish and ultimately learns that his dancing will be his means of communication and hope. Yeah it is that strange, but coming from director George Miller (most known for Babe: Pig in the City and the Mad Max trilogy), Happy Feet is an imaginative ride of excitement. Of course there are a whole lot of parallels related to a much more important social issue of our environment and Miller certainly uses this film as a reflection of humanity. The film even takes on levels of religion and government making this “family” animation one that is as haunting as it is funny and entertaining. Miller is defiantly a visionary filmmaker and he has made a unique film with Happy Feet. The script (which was written by Miller and three other collaborators) is a bit messy, but I guess it goes with the chaotic spirit of this fantasy, musical, sci-fi, political animated feature.

1919, Mauritz Stiller, Sweden
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Swedish filmmaker Mauritz Stiller is one of the most under-forgotten master filmmakers of the silent era. Sir Arne's Treasure is his masterpiece and one of the most remarkable films in history. Stiller's previous film (Saga of Gosta Berling- which introduced the world- or more specifically Hollywood to a young Greta Garbo) was a bit mixed with me, but I love this film. Both are adapted from major Swedish novelsby Selma Lagerlof. This film is told in five acts. It's a deeply moving story telling the tale of a young woman who is haunted by the death of her sister and who's innocence has her fall in love. Ultimately she is in love with the wrong man and the tragic result reaches it's climax when she is used as a human shield. The film ends with a beautiful final image. Stiller gives the film dazzling visual imagination and camera movement reminiscent of F.W. Murnau, and Mary Johnson is a radiant presence as the innocent Elsalill. I have not seen many Swedish silent films, but this has to be among the greatest achievements of the era. A masterpiece!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

April 11th Log

1990, Tim Burton, United States
Repeat Viewing, Encore

There are few films I have seen more then this one. It was one of the first to ever connect with me on a deeply transcendent level, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. Beautiful, hilarious, sad, dark, romantic, and absolutely lovely. There is so much I adore about this film and seeing it so many different times gives new perspectives and developments. This particular viewing I was again thinking how Winona Ryder’s Kim Boggs portrays elements of a femme fatale in a film noir. While a dark film, Edward Scissorhands is not really a film noir, and Winona Ryder’s Kim is certainly not the prototypical femme fatale. She is not the seductive, heartless, motivated, and evil character most common in noirs, but she has an innocent femme fatale quality in the way Edward falls for her, and ultimately dooms his fate with an ignorant society by falling in love with her. She has a spell on him and he will do anything for her which inevitability turns their relationship tragic. Plus the fact that Ryder is wearing a blonde wig also gives the femme fatale aspect a little more validation. Of course this can not take away from the fact that this is a great love story. Kim truly does love Edward. The relationship is tragic because she truly loves him and sacrifices her love by leaving him where he is safe. Her feeling of love will never be lost and she will always have the snow to remind her of him. I really can't describe the beauty and joy this film gives me, as words truly do the film no justice. Filmmakers and films like this are reason cinema is such a joyous experience. Edward Scissorhands holds and very special place in my heart. I love this film, "and sometimes I still catch myself dancing in it."

2004, Nobuhiro Doi, Japan
1st Viewing, DVD

Be With You is a sweet and romantic tale of a tragic love story and the sacrifices of love. However the film suffers from dull filmmaking and performances. Be With Me is full of nostalgia and sentiment, but its biggest problems are how formulaic everything is. Be With Me just lacks the passion and emotional attachment that similar Asian melodramas have. Just as the story begins to emerge on an emotional level with the characters, the film takes a narrative turn. On a visual level, Be With You is beautifully shot and thoughtfully composed of vibrant interior and exterior shots. Some of the poetic images are unfortunately left without an impact from the story which never fully embraces the viewer. I can’t say the film is unwatchable, but it is very typical. Hollywood has purchased the rights to this film and are planning on remaking it for a 2008 release.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

April 10th Log

1947, Orson Welles, United States
Repeat Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

All month (on Tuesday Nights) Turner Classic Movies will be featuring the films starring Rita Hayworth. Her being one of my all-time favorite Hollywood actresses, I decided to rewatch a couple of her most memorable performances. The first being her only ever collaboration with one-time husband Orson Welles. As strange as it is, The Lady From Shanghai remains a truly great film. The film is packed with Orson Welles' usual cinematic visual style and editing techniques. Initially, The Lady From Shanghai (much like Welles' Touch Of Evil, which I believe is his greatest film) was not well received with American audiences. However, it was praised in Europe and with time has grown appreciation as one of Welles most notable works. Rita Hayworth, who in real life had just divorced Welles prior to shooting the film, gives an absolutely memorable performance as the controlling and seductive Elsa Bannister. Hayworth is one of (if not the) most gorgeous actresses to ever grace the screen, and here she gives one of her finest dramatic performances in the femme fatale role. Orson Welles stars as Michael O'Hara, a man who desperately wants to believe and love Elsa, yet ultimately is a victim of falling into corruption. Elsa (perceived) innocence, beauty, and charm easily has Michael falling for her. In terms of cinematic technique, there are some great visual sequences, but the climax is truly fascinating. Perhaps influenced by a scene from Charlie Chaplin's brilliant 1928 film The Circus, Welles uses a fun of mirrors fro the films final moments. It's a deeply effective scene in portraying the films deceptive themes and capturing emotions (both visually and physically). The Lady From Shanghai is a film that requires several viewings to fully appreciate. It's multi-themed, and unique film noir (and at times even slapstick) style may not connect immediately. However, this is great filmmaking (every shot is finely detailed and composed), and features the incomparable Rita Hayworth at her most seductive (and blonde). To me, this is one of Welles' best films.

1944, Charles Vidor, United States

Repeat Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

To me, Cover Girl ranks among the most unforgettable Hollywood musicals of the 1940's. Driven by it's star, the incredible Rita Hayworth, but strengthened by a smart and witty script. There are many funny and memorable moments (of course most notably the musical numbers by Jerome Kern, or Gene Kelly dancing with an imposed image of himself). There's some interesting characters (of which including the supporting roles- like the memorable performance by Eve Arden, who gives the films humor a biting edge) and wonderful set designs. Cover Girl is a magical and glorious production that represents a true beauty in musicals: enjoyable escapism entertainment. In 1944, Cover Girl was considered innovative and ahead of it's time. It also uses it's musical numbers as part of the narrative. But the force of the film comes from the incomparable Rita Hayworth, who easily ranks among the greatest actresses of all-time. Not only and absolutely gorgeous "Love Goddess", Hayworth was an exceptional performer (and dancer!). She completely lights the screen with each and every moment. Cover Girl is definitely an intelligent and elegantly produced musical that remains a must see for both fans of the genre or of Hayworth.

Monday, April 9, 2007

April 10th Log

2006, Gary Winick, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

I was disappointed with the 1973 animated version of the classic children’s tale, but this live action version is a treat. Far more faithful and imaginative, this adaptation does not disappoint any age group. The story is a rightful classic on universal themes of friendship, life, prejudice, sacrifice and ignorance. This film succeeds where the animated version failed in that it never pushes the content with forced sentiment (though it certinaly does not completely avoid sentiment). The result is a charming and compassionate film that takes on the magical qualities of its original source. There are so many valuable lessons to to this film and it is one that should be endeared by all ages. The voice-over work of the animals is strong for the most part (though I imgine there are better options for Charoltte then Julia Roberts). Steve Buscemi may be a bit type-cast as Templeton the Rat, but he is memorable. Dakota Fanning doesn’t always work for me, but she gives Fern just the right children-like charm without the overstuffed “cuteness”. Charlotte's Web is a wonderful tale and this film is a surprisingly wonderful adaptation of it. If Charlotte were to capture the qualities of this film on her web with one word my suggestion would be: sweet. This is a very good family film!

1941, Josef Von Sternberg, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Tell me. Who is that wonderful looking creature over there," says a character in Josef Von Sternberg's 1941 film The Shanghai Gesture. Then quickly the camera dolly's directly to the eyes of Gene Tierney!! A beautiful creature indeed!! In fact, one of the most beautiful to ever grace the screen. Tierney's performance is truly captivating as a rebellious and spoiled daughter who easily (and willingly) falls into a world of corruption, greed, and evil. Von Sternberg's direction is flawless. Much like with his favorite actress, Marlene Dietrich, Von Sternberg consistency films the frame with close-ups of Tierney's face. Also the atmosphere is grand and engaging. Using luscious and glorious sets, huge sweeping tracking and overhead shots throughout the casino, and hundreds of extras, The Shanghai Gesture is epic filmmaking. The script is brilliant. There's alot of depth and it remains unpredictable. The Shanghai Gesture is a hypnotic and magical film featuring skillful techniques and filmmaking, and above all a fascinating and seductive performance from the gorgeous and unforgettable Gene Tierney.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

April 8th Log

2001, Jun Ichikawa, Japan

Repeat Viewing, DVD

"I'm not that lonely. I kind of like being by myself." Tokyo Marigold is a beautifully understated film. Loosely based off a novel by the great Mariko Hayashi (“One Year Later”) this film is written and directed by Jun Ichikawa, who’s films always contain a complexity underneath the quiet and subtle style and narrative. Tokyo Marigold is a film that just works. To me it is near perfection. I love how the richness of the emotions or more specifically of the character emerge from the simplicity. The film is centered around Eriko, a lonely self-absorbed woman living without direction through a life in which she seeks happiness an meaning. Perhaps persuaded by expectations or the pressure of conformity, Eriko discovers the emotions of falling in love and disappointment. Ichikawa uses the metaphor of the marigold as an emotional backdrop or connection to the story, as it is a flower that blooms only during the season before an inevitable decay. Ichikawa never forces the issue with the film and as we look closer it becomes apparent that the essence of both the film and the characters is what is hidden. This realization comes to Eriko in a fitting ending as she watches herself on a TV commercial. Tokyo Marigold is a film of such rich complexity, most of which lies within the character of Eriko. Eriko is wonderfully played by Rena Tanaka. Tanaka gives an endearing performance that flawlessly works with the understated beauty of Ichikawa’s direction. Told with a quiet simplicity, and shot with radiant color patterns, Tokyo Marigold has the stylish tone of a lyrical dream. I love this film!!

>>> Here is a scene from Tokyo Marigold:

Friday, April 6, 2007

April 6th Log

2004, Katsuhito Ishii, Japan
1st Viewing, DVD

What a fun film this is. Filled with quirky charm and inventiveness The Taste of Tea is an imaginative blend of genre. This is the third film from Japanese writer-director Katsuhito Ishii, and what he does is frees the film of a serious tone while remaining sincere. What results is a film that is a refreshing comedy centered around an eccentric family and the many characters, landscapes, visual imaginations within their lives. The film is strange and wild, yet at its core is truly touching (capped off by an incredibly sweet and moving scene when the family discovers their grandfathers collection of animated books he made for each family member). There are some wonderfully crazy visuals elements and characters and it is often the minor little quirks that make them so charming (the manga artist who is wearing bandages from being beaten up by his co-worker; surreal man-eating sunflowers; mud men; etc). However, the heart of the film lies in the family and they are each developed with such sincerity and warmth that you can not help but want to take part of it. While the Taste of Tea plays with genre, ultimately it is free of any conventions and the beauty is that the film never takes the narrative to any contrived or preachy levels, focusing on the characters and their behaviors a narrative message or conventional conclusion. At once funny and touching, bizarre and gentle The Taste of Tea is a charming and heartfelt film of family or more specifically of people.

1933, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan

Repeat Viewing, DVD

With Passing Fancy Ozu place a sense of heartwarming comedy amongst the setting of a Tokyo slum. In the most thoughtful and beautifully realized expression, Ozu captures the essence of a father-son relationship. The setting of this film was a change from Ozu's earliest work. While his previous films dealt more with subjects of youth and college, Passing Fancy became a transition into the working world. Passing Fancy was the first of an eventual thematic trilogy of sorts about Kihachi, a stubborn everyday man with a good heart. In these films (which also include A Story of Floating Weeds and An Inn in Tokyo), Kihachi is played by Ozu-regular Takeshi Sakamoto. Through Ozu's open, unpredictable, and simplistic narrative style, as well as Sakamoto's incredible performance, a deeply complex emotional texture is revealed within this character as well as his son (who is played with equal brilliance by Tomio Aoki). The film opens with a remarkable sequence that details Ozu's mastery of comedy and visual expression. Passing Fancy is a masterpiece of silent cinema, and a film that stands among the most pivotal of all Ozu's work.

>>> More on Passing Fancy @ A2P Cinema's Yasujiro Ozu website HERE

>>>> Here is a clip of the opening moments from Ozu’s heartwarming 1933 silent film Passing Fancy (Dekigokoro). The opening moments establish the films tone of poverty, community, and family while also detailing Ozu’s mastery of visual comedy and Takeshi Sakamoto’s natural performance:

Thursday, April 5, 2007

April 5th Log

2006, Robert De Niro, United States

1st Viewing, DVD

The Good Shepherd begins right in the thick of the story instantly taking us into its underground world of the CIA before taking us back to its earlier developments. The two stories are parallel each other in non-linear timeframe, but are essentially the same narrative centered around Edward Wilson, a Yale student who gets recruited by the CIA during World War 2. While the film settles in as it goes much of this left me occasionally confused to its full details. Perhaps that is the intentions as a reflection of the CIA being viewed from the outside as complicated and difficult. What results is an intelligent film that is well made but distanced and hallow of emotion. The dramatic elements are the film (such as the conflict of loyalty to his country and his family) come across less inspiring and the film begins to feel overlong at nearly 3 hours. Matt Damon gives a strong and understated performance under the direction of Robert De Niro (who is making his second feature film as director).

1954, Vincente Minnelli, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

It's the hardest thing in the world to give everything. Though it's usually the only way to get everything." I admit it… Cyd Charisse has a spell on me!! It's truly captivating and irresistible. Even though Brigadoon may not rate among the greatest musicals, or even among the very greatest films of it's filmmaker and actors, it remains a wonderfully magical film. It's a film of enchantment and fairy-tale beauty and romance. Adapted from a Broadway hit, much of Brigadoon is theatrical, but in the hands of the brilliant Vincente Minnelli it manages to becomes an exciting and lively film of style and grace. Minnelli mastered the musicals, and though he's not in top form, there are some fabulous sequences. Minnelli was also a brilliant master of using colors and visual detail. Even though much of the film is theatrical and held within a sound stage, Minnelli gives the film an additional style and manages to add a cinematic depth (particularly within the films brilliant ending). Charisse's beauty and charm is indeed a presence to behold and of course her dancing abilities are pure elegance in motion. Gene Kelly is not at his best here, but his dancing and chemistry works well with Charisse. Also, Van Johnson gives an amusing performance of one-liners in the comedic role. Brigadoon may not be in the class of the Minnelli-Charisse masterpiece The Band Wagon, but it does have an enchanting escapism quality which make musicals so fascinating.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

April 4th Log

1975, Stanley Kubrick, United Kingdom
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Barry Lyndon may very well be the most forgotten or overlooked film of the brilliant Stanley Kubrick's many masterworks. To me, this film rates among his very best, and perhaps his most perfectly made film. It's pretty obvious where the strength of master Barry Lyndon lies; in the breathtaking cinematography (provided by John Alcott) and overall visual imagery. In fact, I'd say Barry Lyndon is easily among the most beautifully eye pleasing cinematography in cinema history. Kubrick perfectly recreates the details, look and mood of the 18th Century like few films ever have. Every frame of Barry Lyndon is like a painting: full of spectacular details. Through a heavy use of slow zoom-outs, Kubrick calmly glances upon a variety of palaces, woods, streams, gardens, pools, building, and rooms. At just over three hours long, the film is very slow paced, but it never becomes to boring, and builds in suspense to an unforgettable duel. Adding to the emotional atmosphere is the use of beautiful classical music (including Bach and Mozart) which is quintessential Kubrick. It's a rare experience, and like most Kubrick films unsuited for a particular genre. The stunning imagery of the film is truly unique from anything else I've seen in a film (as Kubrick had a special customized lens used for most of the film). To me Barry Lyndon rates among Kubrick's finest films, which remains a truly breathtaking accomplishment of filmmaking and also one of the masters most personal films. There are many dark human depths to be found within the beauty of the films imagery. Barry Lyndon is a cinematic work of art from a filmmaker who has mastered the combination of images and sound. To see this film is to experience it. The finest and most emotionally involving moments may come in those without dialogue (such as the remarkable scene when Barry first approaches Lady Lyndon), as Kubrick captures the essence of silent cinema through visuals and music to absolute perfection. Much like an art gallery, Barry Lyndon will certainly absorb the viewer into it's 18th Century world of remarkable visual beauty. An absolute masterpiece!!

2006, Larry Charles, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

While I’m still not sure that I like this film as much as many others, I also must say that I don’t think I give it enough credit. Borat (or as the full title goes Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) is a very funny film. I'm not calling this the funniest movie ever, but such a claim is ridiculous anyway (no matter what film it is referring to). There really is very little plot to this film, but perhaps that is where the charm comes from. In his first real cinematic showcase Sacha Baron Cohen shows a real talent for comedy as he takes offensive, gross-out humor to a new level of political and social satire. He has a skill at bringing out the worst in people, no matter where the location or what the situation. More then anything however, you have to give him credit for his Andy Kaufman-commitment to his jokes and willingness to stay in character. From the opening moments in “Kazakhstan”, Borat is stupid, yet ultimately genuinely intelligent in its meaningful explorations of world and national culture (and how different, yet how surprisingly alike they can be). Even though much of the films humor is generated through Kazakhstan and its culture, there is also a sense of capturing American ignorance and misunderstanding that make Borat such a clever film.

>> As a side note I have to admit how brilliant the marketing strategy is behind the DVD release of Borat. As prankingly playful as the films tone the DVD is made to look as if it is a burnt copy. Below is a capture of the Borat DVD. Very clever and hilarious marketing!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

April 3rd Log

1939, Howard Hawks, United States

Repeat Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

Pioneer American filmmaker Howard Hawks was a master in characterization and narrative. Maybe not the poetic or artistic visionary such as Hitchcock, Orson Welles, or John Ford, but Hawks is the great master of narrative and perhaps the best “storyteller” in American cinema history. His versatility is matched by almost no one and it further establishes Hawks mastery of narrative and character. Simply put, his films are straight-forward, flawlessly paced, and well told films that could easily be placed within genres… and Hawks made them all! Without the visual style of many of his peers of the era, and with heavy-focus on narrative, Hawks still made films with a strong artistic and personal expression, much of what can be discovered underneath the surfaces of his narratives. There is a sense of adventure and energy that emerge from Hawks’ detailed examination of his characters decisions. Hawks characters tend to hide their true feelings either through silence or endless talking (such is the case in the non-stop dialogue of his screwball comedies). The center of most of Hawks narratives are characters that need or grow and believe in one another, and Hawks’ films follow this development through both feeling and thought. Though often not referred to as his greatest film, Only Angels Have Wings may be the quintessential Hawks film in capturing his themes and characterizations. The story follows a group of fliers (lead by Cary Grant) who pilot mail across a dangerous mountain in South America. It's an intelligent and at times philosophical film which blends comedy, romance, tension, adventure, and morality. The performances and on screen chemistry of Cary Grant and the always charming Jean Arthur is perfect. Also making an appearance is a young Rita Hayworth, who's presence alone is always worth attention. The film moves along at a pitch-perfect pace before reaching its lovely closing moments. Hawks has made better films, but Only Angels Have Wings is a definitive in many ways, and stands as a shining example of his versatile skills as a master filmmaker of the studio era.

Monday, April 2, 2007

April 2nd Log

2006, Gabriele Muccino, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

Is The Pursuit of Happyness as sentimental as the marketing promotions would have you believe? Yes, but that does not necessarily make this an unenjoyable film. This is based on the life of Chris Gardner and this type of predictable story has been made in Hollywood many times. Far from ground-breaking, The Pursuit of Happyness is inspiring even if predictable. As the title suggest the entire film is a struggle for happiness against failure. Will Smith gives a very convincing performance as the man who faces his failures head-on with the determination of the “pursuit of happiness”. So what is the deal with “happiness”, well that is quickly established early in the film and as goofy as that title may appear, it somehow seems like a nice touch. The film does take its perception of failure a bit overboard to make its point but the end result is effect as both inspiring and tear jerking.

2003, Thomas Trail, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

The premise of this film is more promising the end result, but overall Klepto is not a bad film. Meredith Bishop who has developed a cult fan-base from her various commercial performances (my brother is among her supporters) plays Emily Brown, a women who is addicted to shoplifting and the thrill of nearly being caught. She eventually meets up with a mall security detective and they begin to develop a relationship. The film intertwines both of their stories all while being told through the perspective of Emily talking to her psychiatrist. The film has some charming moments and is at its best when in a more light-hearted and playful tone. However,. The film starts to delve into more serious drama towards the last act, as the security detective fights to save his life from some mobsters. Jsu Garcia gives a good performance and for the most part so does Meredith Bishop (she needs to improve on the “reacting” portion of acting). Overall this is a well made film that goes off track towards the end. There is however a great one shot at the films climax “heist” scene as the camera tracks in front of Emily as she walks into the mall, up the elevator through the store and towards the bag. From a technical standpoint it is the highlight of the film.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A2P Cinema April Feature Film

Otto Preminger . 1952 . United States
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