A Night At The Opera (1935/Wood) ***
hilarious!!! doesnt this beat any musical and Titanic?
The Marx Brothers into Sing and Dance and Food.
Memorable scenes: Groucho & Chico contract clauses talks, Groucho's tiny stuffed cabin, The moving beds in Groucho's NYC room, Harpo's stage chase.
The Night of the Hunter (1955/Laughton) ***
the movie could have been excellent if it wasnt so much axed on easy laughs. Mitchum's performance is overplayed, he doesnt impersonate the character he's supposed to represent. he's passive, emotionless, fearless, and innocent.
no need to say the underlaying moral is very basic and the murders of parents are almost uneventful... i find those poor children very resilient or brain dead.
i understand it was working for that time, and the comedy is ok, but it's dated.
The Night of The Iguana (1964/Hutson) ***
the whole first half of the film is a boring and ridicule sitcom, with setup catchline and running gags (much like The Night of The Hunter). but the genius of Tennesse Williams turns it into a real sensible drama with insights and a not so expected ending. i guess the play was good enough, i dont see the point to make it a static "studio" movie...
Sue 'Lolita' Lyon is very cute, but only the trio Burton-Kerr-Gardner is convincing. Richard Burton being the stand up comedian, Deborah Kerr the only character with consistancy, and Ava Gardner, unfortunately, only a supporting role to fill the holes.
La Niña Santa (2004/Lucrecia Martel/Argentina) ++++/PRO
I largely prefered Martel's piece for better content and cinematography. I didn't really buy into Kim's gimmickal setup... too absurd. It's funny you would argue about minor plot elements in The Holy Girl but don't question the exagerated abstract plot of Samaria, and its "incoherent" variation in style in each part.
I found the "tangential offshoots" profoundly clever and subtly feeding th characters lives. Regarding the call to Chile, if you remember there was one in The Swamp, and it appears again in Whisky too... I can't affirm but they fit as a common behavior part of the latin america culture (immigration, work abroad, cross country marriage...) which seem to be big issues.
I agree the ending is frustrating and a let down, but I never use my emotional reaction to appreciate the filmmaker's intention. Actualy I like when there is a bold risky move like this to challenge the audience. Ultimately a conventional ending wouldn't suit this new narrative form. So we are left with all our questions and the filmmaker remains exterior to the resolution of this crisis, so are we. It was only a brief peek into this slice of life, instantly thrown into the action without exposition scene, and as rapidly removed from their universe. Contrary to Samaria the subject is not overtly dramatized with sex scenes, murder and blood to make a point. If anything The Holy Girl compares best to the last episode of Samaria, quiet, suggested through indirect scenes (like the stone removal from under the car wheel, or the driving lesson)
I never heard of a theremin before, didn't even know it existed... I first thought it was a prank to attract the crowd. Maybe that's why this metaphor totally escaped me. Your interpretation is dead on, even more powerful than the "aquarium analogy". ;)
Although this "molestation" isn't as tragic as everyone seem to make it... Even if she's underaged, Amalia is terribly attracted to Dr. Jano and is ready to sleep with him. What's interesting is how this trivial "cloth contact" in the crowd builds up to monumental proportion both in Amalia's and Jano's mind, as well as in the people who hear about it, because of the taboo about this pervertion, the age difference and the social/religious correctness. Obviously the quick affair between the drunk Dr. and an hostess is ludicrous to our standards... as we know it happens all the time in these conventions. Maybe the strong catholic frame of Argentina makes it a bigger issue for his reputation. at the end of the day, nothing serious really happened in this hotel. All we witnessed was extrapolation of potential escalation in people's mind, who imagined to take further something that never happened : men or women fantasizing adultary, young girls imagining sexual behavior between adults... What the uneventful reality can initiate and develop in people's mind is exponential and has dreadful consequences on behaviors when it gets virtualy out of control, while nothing happened yet.
No Man's Land (2001/Bosnia-Herzegovina/Slovenia/Italy/France/UK/Belgium)
Danis Tanovic +++
-won Cannes 2001 Best Screenplay
-won OSCARS/Golden Globes 2002 Best foreign film
A bitter cynical anti-war stance revealing and denouncing all the underhanded manipulations of the powers involved in the war : UN, chain of command, multinational language/cultural barriers, media show...
Bosnia-Herzegovina war, 1993. Ciki, bosnian, and Nino, serb, 2 enemy soldiers wind up in the same trench right in the middle of the no man's land between the serbo-bosniac front. This theatrical premise and the following events alternating the dominance balance on one another because of a gun, a grenade or the surrounding forces, make this black comedy very critical about the involvement and responsability of both sides. The bosnian director doesn't blame it on Serbia alone, his script endorses the crimes of the bosnians and most specificaly point the finger at the coward indifference of the UN. A french blue helmet (FORPRONU peacekeeper) will ignore ordres and decide to intervene by himself. The situation is more absurd and comical as the film goes, the status quo has frozen the front line, and nobody can kill anybody without endangering his life and the honor of his side. So we are looking at unarmed serbian soldiers, bosnian soldiers, UN blue helmets, a bomb disposal expert, journalists, all traped in this tight space for their own reason and unable to move or to help solving the deadlock. Mistrust and plots, all characters have reasons to question what they are being told. Each having their own interpretation of the conflict and political theories about right and wrong, notions that are clearly too messed up to be sorted out during a state of war. The conclusion is particularily unfortunate and thought provokating.
Nobody Knows (2004/Kore-Eda Hirokazu/Japan) CANNES 2004 - Best Actor
Based on a true story. Four siblings live happily with their mother in a small apartment in Tokyo. In fact, the children all have different fathers and have never been to school. The very existence of three of them has been hidden from the landlord. One day, the mother leaves behind a little money and a note, charging her oldest boy, Akira, 11 yold, to look after the others. And so begins the children's odyssey, a journey nobody knows about.
This is only the premise of their story, their whereabouts, their maturity, their discipline, the way they take care of themselves, day after day, is impressive. The slow progression/awarness of their abandon is studied in the smallest details of a child's point of view. The film denounces how such thing can happen in the hyper-industrialized Japan: irresponsible parents, disfunctional family, single-parental family, then zero-parental family, carelessness of the neighbors, ignorance of the shop owner...
Careful observation of these children with realist close ups. The spontaneity and docility of these kids is admirable! Akira plays credibly (despite a few giggles), but I wonder how bad were all other male performers at the Cannes festival... I guess it was a way to reward the film as a whole.
My second Koreeda after Distance (which I loved) and I find here the cinematography much more enjoyable and aesthetic (which was my main complaint with Distance). The slow minimalist narration is ultimately redeeming of a heartbreaking shock once we got in touch with these figures became real.
Idleness, greed, fun aren't a worry when you're starving. I know they are children and only think about playing... but keep in mind this life is all they know about existence, their upbringing was in jail. They cannot imagine what is out there, or compare to other children's toys and activities (like you do). Even Akira probably has a fainted idea of what is a "normal life" for a kid of his age.
The only reactions surfacing seem to be instinctive, opposed to a standard educated consumerist attitude.
Yes it's amazing how quiet, disciplined and resilient they are for kids of their age on tehir own! They have been conditioned and inhibited by the rules of their mother. They probably didn't see much of a father either. Their behavior is abnormal, we cannot relate them to our own experience. Kore-eda creates a relationship between the pace and the audience's reaction. The contemplative editing does convey a near real-time impression of the kids' longing and desperation, making us share physically part of what they endure.
The Northerners(NDL/1992) Alex van Warmerdam ****
a small community lives in a typical 60ies street-shaped housing in the middle of nowhere since the masterplan for the city of the future was aboarted. the mailman is their only contact with the outside. conflict and rivalry, love and sex affairs, spying and pervertion. a stranger arrives, suspected to be a felon... the plot strangely ressemble Dogville, but treated in a more realistic way.
Northfork (2003/Polish) *** pro
i wonder what went wrong with this movie... the photography is splendid. the cinematography is original and refined. the sets are awesome. the cast is very good. the content should have been a great idea for a surreal experience, and the directors are up to it. but it doesnt click.
to turn off the sound would help a great deal: the dialogs are so bad, as if witty one liners were dictating images and scenes. but even this could but a minor quibble if the actor directing was pertinent.
because this is the main problem : there is no acting direction! i dont know if the scenes were filmed separately with individual actor or if it was pure impro slayed by a very strict cinematography composition... the characters either didnt understand anything to the project, or didnt feel into it.
this is the exact same failure syndroma found in Thomas 'Festen' Vinterberg's It's All About Love. so i say the same : it's a good looking sketched out sneak preview of what could become a cult movie, with some deeper work to tough it up.
it's slow paced and not very speechy, and all too much disconnected like from different films. the tone of the film is hesitant between a witty comedy, a surrealist fable, and a humanist drama, none gives a strong support to the film's universe, and are each underdevelopped.
anyway, if the film's fantasy totally fails to project us into the limbos between life and death, the unnamed world of angels and orphans, the cynical comparison with an obscur federal agency, all this around the crazy story of the Northfork's dam (that i assume is historical), the film is a beauty to look at, and there are very funny moments. Nick Nolte fares the best performance, without outstanding success. and worthy "cameo" roles of Kyle MacLachlan and Claire Forlani!
just watch it for the gorgeous aesthetism.
Nos Enfants Chéris (France/2003) Benoît Cohen
3 young couples (parents or not yet) confronting their views of life, in the middle of their 30ies crisis. Martin meets his ex-girlfriend, Constance (who he left in tears 5 years earlier) in a shopping mall and they decide to spend the summer holidays together, without agreement of their significant others. little secrets between friends and little lies within the couple...
very funny and touching family comedy centered around various portraits of 30 yold people with opposing ideals and priorities in life. based on straight forward dialogs, arguments and blunders.
Mathieu Demy (Martin) and Romane Bohringer (Constance) are especially enjoyable.
Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens / Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror
(F.W. Murnau, 1928) Germany
i had never seen it entirely before. most of the character exposition is overly melodramatic, especially the romance scenes... but the few scenes with Max Schreck are priceless! the most famous scenes alone are fantastic!!!
- the scene where Nosferatu enters against a black background under an archway, to Hutter's bedroom. since he climbs stairs, his backlit silhouette grows from half of the door size to ultimately completely fit the door shape, slowly without a violent move or scary violons *hint hint*, just with a face expression and his long nailed hands hanging in the air.
- another similar scene later, from the window across the street when he calls Ellen (Hutter's wife) at night, and hold the windows frame in his hands and make funny moves, looking in her direction with insistance.
- onboard of the ship, when he raises all stiff from his coffin.
i didnt know that the blue tint of some sequences was a convention in the silent era to mean these scenes shot in daylights take place at night (because there was no film able to process dim light at the time)
the experiments with reversed images, accelerated footage, stop-motion special effect is very effective and powerful to convey a fantastic atmosphere.
the original insight brought before us by the historian of cinema present at the projection was the parallel between the vampires and the middle section featuring a scientist class teaching about cruel/voracious plants and animals. the inserts are actually footage from the german scientific cinema of the time, and not shot by Murnau himself. according to this guy, the moves of Max Schreck (in the second memorable scene cited above) are strangely similar to the ones of this microscopic jellyfish. the whitish pale light against a black background are typical to scientific films.
this parallel means to tell vampires are a disease carried by microscopic viruses, assimilated to the brown plague, which decimated millions of people at the time (19th century) across europe. Murnau associates his vampire with rats, and a weird assistant who eats insects, is emprisonned in a psychiatric hospital, and incidentaly works as a real estate.
many critics analyze the film as a premonition of the antisemitic crisis in europe between the 2 world wars. to impersonate the greatest terror film through plague and a caricatural vampire that disturbingly reminds the racist discriminatory portrayal of jews in germany is terribly significant with the hindsight of history.
i dont know if Murnau was racist or only manipulated popular/traditional fears and hatred in his creation, but the reaction of the population terrified by plague, when they chase around the vampire assistant, lynch him, is scary. (Hitler was elected in 1933 btw)
Murnau didnt get the rights to useBram Stoker's original story, so he had to change the names, Dracula turns into Orlok, London into Bremen, and the late 19th century time frame to early 19th century. but the core structure remains faitful to Stoker's myth of the notorious vampire.
Murnau's interpretation of the classic legend is most inspired and almost re-invents all the, now famous, figures of Dracula with an exceptional actor who totaly fulfills his character with his soul.
side note about Elias Merhige's Shadow of the vampire (2000), a kool fictionous making-of documentary on Nosferatu, where John Malkovich plays a great Murnau and Willem Dafoe impersonates an excellent Max Schreck!!!
Novo (Switzerland/France/Spain/2002) Jean-Pierre Limosin **
very original idea: the love/sex life of a man with memory issues. is it a problem or very convenient to seize the day and forget everything after 15 minutes? some abuse him, some acept to live without being remembered and go through the hassle/excitment to re-discover eachother everyday. is it a medical study or a metaphore for our casual sex behavior?