Thursday, May 23, 2013
(Winner of the Palme D’or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival)
Written and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is the story about a man recalling his past in the final days of his life as he even sees though who had already departed. Inspired by the book A Man Who Can Recall His Past Lives from the monk Prha Sripariyattiweti, the film is about a man surrounded by family as he looks back while facing the idea of life after death. Starring Thanapat Saisaymar, Jenjira Pongpas, and Sakda Kaewbuadee. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is an enriching yet fascinating film from Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
The film revolves around the last few days of a man who is visited by his sister-in-law and his nephew as they later receive a visit from the man’s dead wife and his son who had disappeared some years ago. In the course of the film, the family surround themselves with this man who knows he’s going to die as he recalls about his past in different parts of his life not really sure where he’s going next. Even as he is spending his final days in the Thailand countryside with a Laotian farmer as his very spiritual family also have to deal with questions over the disappearance of the man’s son where the mystery is solved. While the film’s screenplay doesn’t have much of a plot, it does play into the man known as Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar) thinking about his life while coming to terms with what he’s lost as well as what he’s going to leave behind to those who are close to him. Notably as he thinks about the events in his life that made an impact as he’s set to go into the afterlife.
The direction of Apichatpong Weerasethakul is quite simplistic in some of the imagery he conveys that recalls some of the minimalist visual style of the legendary Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu. The only major difference is that Weerasethakul shoots his scenes on a standing tripod with very little movements except in a few scenes where some things are moving including a shot in a small lake. Still, the compositions that Weerasethakul creates that are filled with gorgeous images of the northern Thailand countryside with its jungles, mountains, and caves. Even scenes at Boonmee’s home are just filled with beauty where the camera just stay stills and let things play out where there are some moments that do play into this world of death with the appearances of Boonmee’s late wife Huay (Natthakarn Aphaiwong) and his late son Boonsong (Jeerasak Kulhong).
There aren’t any flashback scenes as far as how they’re told conventionally though there is a sequence where Boonsong reveals what happened to him and why he looks the way he is after his disappearance. It has this air of mystery but also something that is entrancing where it would play into Boonmee’s decision as it’s third act becomes this very evocative moment where he and his family trek through the caves. It plays into Boonmee’s decision about what he’s going to do in his final moments where it’s aftermath has his family returning to Bangkok where things are different but still has this air of spirituality. Overall, Weerasethakul creates a mesmerizing yet powerful film about life and death.
Cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, with additional contributions from Yukontorn Mingmongkon and Charin Pengpanich, does amazing work with the film‘s very colorful yet naturalistic photography that is shot in 16mm film where many of its daytime scenes are exquisite while the nighttime scenes are more stylized to convey that sense of death. Editor Lee Chatametikool does excellent work with the editing as it‘s low-key except in a few rhythmic cuts to play out the drama. Production designer Akekarat Homlaor does nice work with the look of Boonmee’s home that is quite simple to play out the world he lives in
Costume designers Chatchai Chaiyon and Buangoen Ngamcharoenputtasri do terrific work with the costumes as most of it is casual with the exception of the princess one of Boonmee‘s stories about his past. Sound designers Akritchalerm Kalayanamirt and Koichi Shimizu do fantastic work with the sound to capture the essence of the countryside locations with its minimal approach to sound while capturing whatever music that is played in the background including a rock song at the end of the film.
The casting by Sakda Kaewbuadee and Panjaj Sirisuwan is wonderful as it features some noteworthy small roles from Wallapa Mongkolprasert as the princess and Sumit Suebsee as the soldier where they both appear in a story about one of Boonmee’s past lives while Kanokporn Thongaram is very good as Jen’s niece and Samud Kugasang is excellent as Boonmee’s Laotian farmer friend Jai. Natthakarn Aphaiwong is terrific as Boonmee’s late wife who appears to the family as a ghost while Jeerasak Kulhong is superb as Boonmee’s late song Boonsong who also makes an appearance revealing what happened to him when he disappeared.
Sakda Kaewbuadee is amazing as Boonmee’s monk nephew Thong who aids his uncle in his final moments while Jenjira Pongpas is brilliant as Boonmee’s sister-in-law Jen who is trying to understand the mysteries around them while getting to know the man who had married her sister. Finally, there’s Thanapat Saisaymar in a remarkable performance as Uncle Boonmee as a dying man trying to spend his last moments being alive whether it’s farming or recalling about his past as he is the heart and soul of the film.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a magnificent film from Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The film is an entrancing yet thoughtful film about life and death as well as what might lurk ahead in the afterlife. It’s also a very ravishing film that plays into the idea of spirituality and how it surrounds humanity. In the end, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a phenomenal film from Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul Films: (Mysterious Object at Noon) - (Blissfully Yours) - (The Adventure of Iron Pussy) - (Tropical Malady) - (Syndromes and a Century) - (Mekong Hotel)
© thevoid99 2013
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
(Winner of the Best Actress Prize to Juliette Binoche at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival)
Written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami, Certified Copy is the story about a British writer and a French antiques dealer who meet in Tuscany as they get to know each other while talking about the concept of authenticity. The film is an exploration into what is real as well as the concept of art as it is told by led by two people in the course of a day. Starring Juliette Binoche and William Shimmel. Certified Copy is a rapturous yet provocative film from Abbas Kiarostami.
The film is a very simple story about a writer (William Shimmel) who meets an antiques dealer (Juliette Binoche) where they spend the afternoon in Tuscany talking about the idea of authenticity in not just art but in humanity and such. During the duration of the afternoon, their discussions become more passionate to the point that it raises questions about everything including themselves as the woman is also the mother of a nine-year old. They would encounter various people along the way including young couples getting married as their discussion gets more heated about the idea of romance. It’s all part of a world in which Abbas Kiarostami questions the idea of authenticity in not just art but also humanity and the idea of romance.
While there isn’t much of a script that Kiarostami has created, it does raise a lot of questions into these ideas of what is real and what is forgery where he asks about these two people. Do they know each other or are they attracted to each other as both of them couldn’t deal with the reality about themselves? They are the many questions Kiarostami delves into while the writer has written a book about the idea that there might not be the idea of originality once it gets re-printed and forged. Even in the idea of humanity where the writer thinks that marriage is destined to fail though the antiques dealer disagrees thinking there could be hope.
Kiarostami’s direction is quite engaging in its simplicity as he doesn’t really do a lot of visual trickery with the exception of a shot of the two in a car while the front window is reflecting these gorgeous images of the buildings. Still, Kiarostami maintains something that is still engrossing about the conversations that are unfolding between two people and some of the people they encounter as he does create some beautiful compositions where he also puts something in the background to add a sense of interest. Even in the way he places the actors in a frame while having them in a certain location in Tuscany that adds something that is quite intoxicating to watch. The location itself is a character of the film where it plays to that sense of romance that is around the characters but it also plays into the idea that it could be a fantasy or a reality the characters don’t want to face. Overall, Kiarostami creates a very delightful and captivating film about authenticity in art and humanity.
Cinematographer Luca Bigazzi does excellent work with the film‘s very evocative cinematography to capture the beauty of the Tuscan fields and its small towns as well as some nice low-key lighting schemes for some of the film‘s interiors. Editor Bahman Kiarostami does wonderful work with the editing as it doesn‘t play into any particular style while keeping things low-key for some of its long takes while using a few rhythmic cuts to capture the drama. Production designers Giancarlo Basili and Ludovica Ferrario do nice work with the set pieces from some of the cafes the characters attend to the wedding halls they encounter. The sound work of Olivier Hespel and Dominique Vieillard is terrific for the sound work where it has this nice layer of being naturalistic but also with the mixing to combine these layers of effects that is happening in the locations including the music that’s played in the background.
The film’s cast largely consists of some small performances that includes Adrian Moore as the woman’s son, Gianna Giachetti as a café owner the antiques dealer talks to, Filippo Troiano and Manuela Balsimelli as the marrying couple the characters meet, and Agathe Natanson and famed screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere as an old couple the main characters meet at the town square. William Shimmel is amazing as the writer as a man who tries to explain his thoughts of authenticity as well as humanity itself as it’s quite remarkable to watch him act with someone as revered as his co-star Juliette Binoche. Binoche’s performance is definitely full of radiance and energy as a woman who has a very keen opinion on art as well as life as she is also enchanted by what she sees while dealing with her own personal drama surrounding her son as well as the fact that his father isn’t around much as it’s Binoche at her most exquisite.
Certified Copy is a tremendous film from Abbas Kiarostami that features brilliant performances from Juliette Binoche and William Shimmel. The film isn’t just one of the most intriguing films about art and life but also the idea about the ideas of authenticity. It’s also one of Kiarostami’s more accessible features where he can bring something different in a world outside of Iran but still be engaging over what he presents and the questions he wants to ask. In the end, Certified Copy is an incredible film from Abbas Kiarostami.
Abbas Kiarostami Films: (The Experience) - The Traveler - (A Wedding Suit) - (The Report) - (First Case, Second Case) - (Fellow Citizens) - (First Graders) - (Where is the Friend’s Home?) - (Homework) - Close-Up - (Life and Nothing More…) - (Through the Olive Trees) - Taste of Cherry - (The Wind Will Carry Us) - (ABC Africa) - (Ten) - (Five) - (10 on Ten) - (Shirin) - (Like Someone in Love)
© thevoid99 2013
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
(Winner of the Best Actress Prize to Valerie Perrine at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival)
Directed by Bob Fosse and written by Julian Barry from his own play, Lenny is the story about comedian Lenny Bruce who pushed the envelope on the concept of stand-up comedy with obscenities as he rose high and later fell hard. The film is an exploration into the life of a man who tries to be outrageous to his audience only to succumb to drugs as the pressures of the authorities start to get to him. Also starring Valerie Perrine, Jan Miner, and Stanley Beck. Lenny is a riveting yet uncompromising film from Bob Fosse.
Lenny Bruce’s work in comedy wasn’t just shocking in the subjects he talked about also the way he talked about it where there was this sense of fearlessness in his work. While it garnered him praise from audiences as he is later considered one of the greatest comics ever. He was considered to be too obscene for his language as he would be arrested for these obscenities were the piling of arrests and legal issues along with his escalating drug abuse led to his downfall and his death of a morphine overdose in 1966. What this film does is tell Lenny Bruce’s story from not just his standup performances as he is also talking about his legal issues in one of his final standup shows. His story is also told from those who were closest to him in his life.
Julian Barry’s screenplay has a unique narrative that cross-cuts throughout the film where even though it is told chronologically from the time Lenny meets his future wife in a stripper named Honey (Valerie Perrine) to his death. Though the script would feature moments where Bruce is talking about his life in his last stand-up show, it is Honey as well as Bruce’s mother Sally Marr (Jan Miner) and his agent Artie Silver (Stanley Beck) that would talk about Bruce as they’re being interviewed. What they would reveal is just some of the attributes of Lenny that were good as he could be a kind, loving person who wants to do right while wanting to tell the truth to his audience. Yet, there are aspects about Bruce that is quite despicable as he is a junkie who can be cruel. He’s willing to sleep with other women and do all sorts of things while he can be very confrontational.
A lot of the story about Bruce’s life is told from Honey who would also endure her own trials and tribulation as she also became addicted to drugs where she would be in prison for two years forcing Bruce to take care of their daughter as he’s managed to do a good job. Still, the two struggle to be clean until Bruce finally becomes a success through his unique stand-up comedy as he’s getting paid lots of money but it also brings trouble. Notably in the third act in which Honey is released from prison as they both relapse where Bruce does a show that would mark the beginning of the end where his fall shows a man facing his troubles as he is desperate to do right again.
The direction of Bob Fosse is very entrancing for not just the way he presents the film but also give it an air of style where some of it is shot in nightclubs while having this feel where the film is sort of a documentary. While the look of the film as a whole is polished, there is an air of grittiness to the stand-up comedy scenes where things feel awkward at first but once Bruce finally finds his footing, there is something that is engaging where Fosse shows a reaction shot from the audience as well as Bruce himself. There’s an energy to the comedy act that occurs where it can be very risqué and confrontational but it’s also very funny since Fosse knows that Bruce is a satirist.
The direction maintains that air of risqué content in some parts of the film outside of the comedy with some striptease shows where if one was to see it from a present point-of-view, it’s really tame but it has an elegance that is lost in today’s stripping culture. There are also moments where Fosse shows that world of Bruce’s home life that is very dark where Honey is subjected into things that was considered taboo at the time while the drug scenes showcase that sense of detachment in Bruce’s life. The trial scenes have Fosse not only treat it with a sense of realism where sometimes it can be funny but also dramatic in the way Bruce tries to defend himself as the framing is quite startling to see Bruce on his own trying to prove to the court that he isn’t doing anything wrong. Overall, Fosse creates a very engrossing yet unsettling film about the life of Lenny Bruce.
Cinematographer Bruce Surtees does great work with the film‘s black-and-white cinematography to create a timeless look of the film as it is set from the 1950s to the 1970s in the interview scenes as it features some evocative lighting schemes in the clubs. Editor Alan Heim does excellent work with the editing to help structure the story by moving the interviews and the events back-and-forth while creating some rhythmic cuts for some of the audience reaction towards Bruce‘s act. Production designer Joel Schiller and set decorator Nicholas J. Romanac do amazing work with the set pieces from the look of the nightclubs to some of the look of the buildings from the 1950 and 1960s to play up a world that is unraveling through Bruce‘s act.
Costume designer Albert Wolsky does wonderful work with the costumes from the lavish stripper clothing of the 1950s to the more grimy, casual look that Bruce goes for in the 1960s. The sound work of Dennis Maitland is terrific for the atmosphere of the stand-up comedy scenes as well as some of the raucous moments in the trial scenes. The film’s music by Ralph Burns is superb as it is largely a jazz-based score with some up-tempo pieces to some more somber pieces for its drama as the soundtrack also includes some pieces by Miles Davis.
The casting by Marion Dougherty and Beverly McDermott is brilliant as it features some notable small roles from Rashael Novikoff as Bruce’s mother and Gary Morton as old-school entertainer Sherman Mort who tries to guide Bruce into what he should do. Stanley Beck is excellent as Bruce’s agent Artie Silver who tries to ensure Bruce’s financial future while being very loyal to him. Jan Miner is wonderful as Bruce’s mother Sally Marr who encourages him to succeed with his act while being troubled by his fall. Valerie Perrine is phenomenal as Honey Bruce as a woman who falls for Lenny and becomes a drug addict like him where Perrine just doesn’t exude sexiness but also vulnerability and a weariness as her character is being interviewed. Finally, there’s Dustin Hoffman in an incredible performance as Lenny Bruce where Hoffman brings a bit of sensitivity and vulnerability to the role but is also willing to be outrageous and confrontational as he captures all of the manic energy of Lenny Bruce.
Lenny is a remarkable film from Bob Fosse that features marvelous performances from Dustin Hoffman and Valerie Perrine. The film is definitely one of Fosse’s finest works as well as one of his darkest films that explores the world of humor and how one man was eager to push the envelope. The film is also an intriguing look into the life of Lenny Bruce and his reasons to create comedy with no rules. In the end, Lenny is a fantastic film from Bob Fosse.
Bob Fosse Films: (Sweet Charity) - (Cabaret) - (Liza with a Z) - All That Jazz - (Star 80)
© thevoid99 2013
Monday, May 20, 2013
(Co-Winner of the Palme D’or w/ The Piano & Winner of the FIPRESCI Award at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival)
Based on the novel by Lilian Lee, Farewell My Concubine is the story about the life of two Peking actors who endure many events in the course of five decades as they watch China change through the years. Directed by Chen Kaige and screenplay Lilian Lee and Lu Wei, the film explores the relationship between two men who are bounded together by their love for Peking opera as they endure all sorts of things where they watch the history of China change from afar. Starring Leslie Cheung, Gong Li, and Zhang Fengyi. Farewell My Concubine is an engrossing yet heart-wrenching drama from Chen Kaige.
The film explores the lives of two revered actors of Peking opera who would encounter through many events in the history of China from 1924 during the days when warlords ruled the country to the post-Mao period of China in 1977. Though the story begins in 1977 when these two men in Cheng Dieyi (Leslie Cheung) and Duan Xiaolou (Zhang Fengyi) are practicing the opera known as Farewell My Concubine that would recall how they met when Cheng was known as Xiaodouzi (Ma Mingwei) as he was accepted to the school after his mother cuts off an extra finger where he is later protected and befriended by Duan who was known as Xiaoshitou (Fei Yang). Both boys would endure harsh punishments in their training to be actors which would pay off as men where they would have success but Duan’s attraction towards a prostitute in Juxian (Gong Li) while Cheng is courted by an opera patron named Yuan Shiqing (Ge You).
The screenplay by Lillian Lee and Lu Wei not only uses the opera as a way to help tell the story about the fates of these two men but also the events they would endure such as Japan’s occupation of China in the 1930s, the end of World War II, the Chinese Civil War, and the Cultural Revolution. While they have a relationship that can be tumultuous at times, there is still love between these two men though Duan treats Cheng like a brother though Cheng’s feelings for Duan is more than just brotherly. The presence of Juxian would threaten that relationship as she would have an uneasy relationship with Cheng though she would become one of the few people in his life who would care for him. Even as she would help him face against accusations of treason in the aftermath of World War II or being usurped by his protégée Xiaosi (Lei Han) before a performance. The events that these two men and the people close to them would encounter wouldn’t just test their relationship but also would force them to do things they aren’t proud of.
Chen Kaige’s direction is very mesmerizing in the way he explores the world of two boys who grow into men in the span of five decades. Notably as he shoots some of the early scenes set in 1924 in black-and-white and then into color to express a period in time that is chaotic where children don’t have much prospects. Kaige also showcases the sense of realism into what boys have to do to become Peking opera actors where the training is very punishing but also has this sense of discipline that is just fascinating to watch. Though there are moments that are unsettling that would include tragedy, it would play into the development of Cheng and Duan as well as strengthening their bond. The former becomes intent on being a great actor after seeing the Farewell My Concubine play. The latter acts as the older brother who is aware of Cheng’s determination as he would help out. Both would become these revered actors with a troupe that acts as a family where the direction is straightforward in some parts of the film such as the close-ups and medium shots.
The scenes of the Peking opera is a major highlight of the film not just how the story is told but also in how the relationship between the two men play where things definitely become more chaotic as the events in China would reflect that. Notably in the third act where the relationship between Cheng and Duan is quite strained as there’s some courtroom dramas as well as dealing with Communist party over comments from the past and such. There is also a sense of disconnect that the two deal with as Duan is eager to have a simple life with Juxian while Cheng wants to play the role that he has done for all of his life. The outcome like the play itself would be tragic but also fitting to everything these two men endure. Overall, Kaige creates a very sprawling yet exhilarating drama about the lives of two actors and their encounter with history.
Cinematographer Gu Changwei does excellent work with the film‘s colorful cinematography with some of its early use of black-and-white to some of the colored lighting schemes and use of lights to play up some of its drama and its opera scenes. Editor Pei Xiaonan does brilliant work with the editing to play up some of its drama through rhythmic cuts while structuring the film with some fade-outs. Production designers Yuhe Yang and Zhanjia Yang, with art director Huaikai Chen, do fantastic work with the set pieces from the opera presentations to the training houses and places the characters encounter throughout the course of the film.
Costume designer Chen Changmin does amazing work with the costumes from the clothes the actors wear during the performance to the use of more casual yet simpler clothing to play out the sense of changing times. Makeup artists Fan Qingshan and Guan Rui Xu do terrific work with the makeup to create the personalities of the characters during their stage performances. The sound work of Jing Tao is superb for the atmosphere that is created in the opera scenes as well as the more raucous moments during the protests and such. The film’s music by Zhao Jiping is wonderful for its mixture of soaring orchestral music with Chinese folk music to capture the drama that occurs throughout the film.
The film’s cast is great as it features some notable small roles from Lu Qui as the boys’ master Guan, Li Dan and Yang Yongchao as the boys’ classmate Laizi as a child and later a teen, Li Chun as the teenage Xiaosi, Ying Da as the actor’s troupe manager Na Kun, Yidi as the Eunuch Zhang whom the teenage Cheng would meet, and Lei Han as Cheng’s young protégée Xiaosi who would later usurp him as a way to humiliate Cheng while taking part in the Cultural Revolution. Ge You is excellent as the opera patron Yuan Shiqing who takes an interest in Cheng as he is also a fan of Peking opera only to get into some trouble regarding his involvement with the Japanese.
Gong Li is tremendous as Juxian as a prostitute who later becomes Duan’s wife as she tries to deal with all of the turmoil they endure as well as Cheng’s fall from grace as she would try to help him despite her reservations towards Cheng. In the role of Duan Xiaolou, there’s Fei Yang as the child version of Duan brother while Zhao Hailong plays the version of Duan as a teenager where they both maintain that sense of protectiveness towards Cheng. For the roles of Cheng Diyei, there’s Ma Mingwei as the child version of Cheng and Yin Zhei as his teenager counterpart where both boys play up that air of androgyny in Cheng. In the adult roles of Duan and Cheng, Zhang Fengyi and Leslie Cheung are incredible in their respective roles with Fengyi being the more aggressive and testosterone approach of Duan while Cheung is more sensitive and dramatic as Cheng as the two are just fantastic to watch in the way they act together.
Farewell My Concubine is a phenomenal film from Chen Kaige that features the brilliant performances of Leslie Cheung, Zhang Fengyi, and Gong Li. The film is definitely one of the most compelling stories about an ever changing world told from the eyes of two Peking opera actors trying to keep the Peking opera alive. It’s also a film that explores the bond between two men in the span of five decades as they endure all sorts of trials and tribulations during China’s tumultuous history. In the end, Farewell My Concubine is a rapturous film from Chen Kaige.
Chen Kaige Films: (Yellow Earth) - (The Big Parade) - (King of the Children) - (Life on a String) - (Temptress Moon) - (The Emperor and the Assassin) - (Killing Me Softly) - (Together (2002 film)) - (The Promise (2005 film)) - (Forever Enthralled) - (Sacrifice (2010 film)) - (Caught in the Web)
© thevoid99 2013
Sunday, May 19, 2013
(Winner of the Best Director Prize to Wong Kar-Wai at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival)
Written and directed by Wong Kar-Wai, Happy Together is the story about a tumultuous romance between two men as they travel from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires where they endure more trouble as they make up, break up, and do all sorts of things. The film is a look into the world of love and its complications told from the perspective of a man overwhelmed in his troubled relationship. Starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Leslie Cheung, and Chang Chen. Happy Together is a rich yet exotic film from Wong Kar-Wai.
The film is about a relationship between two different men as they travel to Argentina in hopes to visit the Iguazu Falls. Instead, they get lost on their way as they get separated only to meet again in Buenos Aires to resume their relationship but it becomes back-and-forth as one becomes frustrated while the other becomes very selfish. As much as Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) and Lai Yui-fai (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) have their differences in personalities and drive, they definitely love each other but there comes the question about whether or not they are right for each other? Ho is a very volatile individual who likes to party, get into fights, and be very controlling though he is often apologetic for his behavior but gets into that dangerous cycle again. Lai is a more responsible and sensitive man who is willing to help but doesn’t feel appreciated for what he does for Ho.
The film’s screenplay does have a structure of sorts though it’s very loose as Wong Kar-Wai is more interested in this very tumultuous relationship where it begins with the two arriving in Argentina where they attempt to travel to the Iguazu Falls by car but things don’t go well aside from the fact that the car is a piece-of-shit. Ho and Lai split up where the latter has to find work in order to raise money so he can return to Hong Kong while Ho just wanders around partying with various people and getting into fights where one fight has him coming back to Lai. The two end up being together in Lai’s apartment but the cycle of chaos and selfishness returns where Lai has to work to buy cigarettes and make food for Ho while Ho would blow the money gambling and such. It then raises questions into why does Lai put up with Ho’s selfishness? Another question is why can’t Ho just step up and actually do something for Lai other than teach him tango?
A lot of the film is told from the perspective of Lai as he tries to deal with his relationship with Ho while the narrative would later introduce another character in a Taiwanese immigrant named Chang (Chang Chen) who is definitely the kind of person that Lai needs in his life. While Chang is also someone trying to raise money to return to Taiwan, he’s an individual that is embarking on a journey of his own though his voice-over narration doesn’t reveal whether or not that he’s gay. Chang just adds a new dynamic for Lai’s character development though it also increases his sense of melancholia over how troubled his relationship with Ho is where things finally reach a breaking point.
The direction of Wong Kar-Wai is just intoxicating to watch with its hypnotic imagery and stunning approach to presentation. While it plays to a lot of the visual styles that Kar-Wai is known for that includes slow frame-speeds towards lingering images and motifs that includes lots of references to the Iguazu Falls such as the lamp Ho bought for Lai. It is told with a sense of restraint for the scenes in Lai’s apartment that is a bit cramped but also comforting though it would devolve into chaos once Ho stays there. There is an intimacy to those moments though Kar-Wai would maintain some energy to the scenes where Lai has to cook in the kitchen at his apartment building where it’s always chaotic and then walk up the stairs to his apartment carrying food.
For the scenes in Buenos Aires, Kar-Wai makes the city a character onto itself where it does have this strange yet ethereal quality for what happens in night such as tango dances and what goes on in the city. Notably a sequence where the Obelisco de Buenos Aires shown in the middle of the frame while the frame also contains the clock showing what time it is as it time moves forward. It plays into that world where Lai starts to feel lost as he is obsessed about going to the Iguazu Falls. The direction has Kar-Wai playing up that sense of frenetic style as the film is shown in this heightened yet grainy black-and-white film stock early on before going into full-on color where it plays up that mood of melancholia. Even in the end where once again the colors have this sense of style but also the fact that it plays about the outcome of this relationship as well as Lai’s journey to find strength in himself. Overall, Wong Kar-Wai creates a truly evocative and riveting drama about love gone wrong.
Cinematographer Christopher Doyle does phenomenal work with the photography from the use of grainy black-and-white to play up the turmoil of Ho and Lai‘s relationship to the use of colored lighting schemes to heighten that mood with the use of blue to showcase the images of the Iguazu Falls as well as some of the scenes in the morning as Doyle‘s work is a major highlight of the film. Editors William Chang and Wong Ming-lam do amazing work with the film‘s very stylized editing with its use of jump-cuts as well as playing around with frame-speeds to create these exotic images that play up some of its melancholia.
Production/costume designer William Chang does excellent work with not just the look of Lai‘s small yet quaint apartment but also the Chinese restaurant he and Chang work at as well as the Cantina the two go to while the costumes are mostly casual with some style to play up the different personalities of the three men. The sound work of Chi-Tat Leung and Du-Che Tu is brilliant for the atmosphere is created in some of the film’s locations including Iguazu Falls plus some of the moments at the places the characters encounter. The film’s soundtrack is wonderful for its intoxicating mix of music that features elements of tango-based music from Astor Pataleon Piazzolla as well as ballad by Caetano Veloso plus some frenetic music by Frank Zappa and a cover of the Turtles song Happy Together by Danny Chang.
The film’s small cast consists a lot of interesting appearances from the people in the film though it really belongs to its three principle actors. Chang Chen is great as Chang as a man who is intrigued by Lai’s presence in the restaurant they work as he is eager to go to the lowest point of South America where he would become the one sense of hope in Lai’s troubled life. Leslie Cheung is remarkable as the volatile Ho as a man who wants to party and do crazy things as he often takes advantage of Lai’s kindness while he also tries to apologize to him unaware of how valuable Lai is. Finally, there’s Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in an incredible performance as Lai as a man lost in a trouble relationship as he tries to pull away only to come back as Leung displays that sense of vulnerability and despair as a man who is unsure about who he is in a land that is foreign to him.
Happy Together is a magnificent film from Wong Kar-Wai that features superb performances from Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Leslie Cheung, and Chang Chen along with some amazing technical contributions from Christopher Doyle and William Chang. The film is definitely one of Kar-Wai’s finest films in terms of its visual style and exploration into the world of troubled relationships. It’s also a film that dares to ask questions while not giving any answers into this relationship that is very chaotic but also very loving. In the end, Happy Together is an outstanding film from Wong Kar-Wai.
Wong Kar-Wai Films: (As Tears Go By) - (Days of Being Wild) - Chungking Express - Ashes of Time/Ashes of Time Redux - (Fallen Angel) - In the Mood for Love - 2046 - (Eros-The Hand) - My Blueberry Nights - (The Grandmaster) - (The Auteurs #28: Wong Kar-Wai)
© thevoid99 2013
(Played at the Un Certain Regard Section at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival)
Written and directed by Cate Shortland, Somersault is the story of a 16-year old runaway who travels to Jindabyne from Canberra in Australia where she meets a young man who is unsure of his identity. The film is an exploration into the search for identity between two young people who are both in the trenches between childhood and adulthood. Starring Abbie Cornish, Sam Worthington, Erik Thomson, and Lynette Curran. Somersault is an ethereal yet enchanting coming-of-age film from Cate Shortland.
The film is a coming-of-age tale in which a 16-year old girl runs away from home after making out with her mother’s boyfriend as she lands in Jindabyne Lake in hopes to start a new life. Though she eventually gets a job and a place to live, she befriends the son of wealthy ranchers who is going through a sexual identity crisis of his own as the two have a relationship though neither are unsure if it’s love or just sex. It’s all about a girl who is in this state of transition of girlhood and adulthood where she can be mature at times and can fend for herself but she’s also hung up on things like partying and making scrapbook collages filled with unicorns and glitter. Even her name in Heidi (Abbie Cornish) is somewhat girlish though she doesn’t seem to act like a girl.
Cate Shortland’s screenplay doesn’t carry much of a plot in order to explore Heidi’s sense of wonderment as she travels from the suburbia of Canberra to the ski town in Jindabyne Lake early in the film. Heidi is this girl who wanders into every situation as she can be quite going but also very introspective when she isn’t surrounded by large groups of people. In Joe (Sam Worthington), Heidi finds someone she thinks who can love her and be with her but Joe isn’t very sure as he likes to wander around to. Even as he starts to have feelings towards his neighbor (Erik Thomson) who already admits to being gay. Though Heidi would befriend a co-worker in Bianca (Hollie Andrew), she has no clue how to befriend someone who is quite different from her as Bianca lives a very careful life with a little brother suffering from Aspberger’s Syndrome.
Shortland’s direction is definitely stylish in the way she presents the film as she incorporates a lot of dreamy images to the scenes that play out including moments where Heidi wanders around this small town through its pubs and such. While a lot of the compositions and framing is straightforward with some close-ups and wide shots, Shortland infuses a lot of strange camera movements to create this sense of dream world where a girl can wander around as it includes a lot of slow-motion shots and exotic images in the snow and rain. Even as the camera would create frames that are filled with these moments of surreal images to play up the sense of emotions of Heidi. Overall, Shortland creates a very mesmerizing yet captivating drama about a young girl growing up.
Cinematographer Robert Humphreys does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful and entrancing cinematography filled with gorgeous usage of blue filters to play out the sense of dreaminess that Heidi encounters. Editor Scott Gray does amazing work with the editing as it has this array of style from jump-cuts and exotic frame speeds to play up Heidi‘s wonderment. Production designer Melinda Doring, with set decorator Glen W. Johnson and art director Janie Parker, does nice work with some of the set pieces such as the apartment flat Heidi stays at to some of the pubs and clubs that she and Joe frequent.
Costume designer Emily Seresin does terrific work with the costumes from some of the clothes that Heidi wears including the red mittens she buys at the BP where she later works at. Sound designer Sam Petty does superb work with the sound as it features some layers in the sound mixing for some of the parties and clubs along with the intimate moments in the more natural surroundings. The film’s music by Decoder Ring is fantastic as it’s largely low-key with its dreamy, ambient-based music while the soundtrack consists a mixture of pop and rock music in the clubs the characters encounter.
The film’s cast is excellent as it includes some notable small roles from Nathaniel Dean as Joe’s fellow ranch worker Stuart, Olivia Pigeot as Heidi’s mother, Damien de Montemas as the boyfriend of Heidi’s mother, Hollie Andrew as Heidi’s BP co-worker clerk Bianca, Erik Thomson as Joe’s neighbor Richard, and Lynette Curran in a wonderful performance as the hotel owner Irene who lets Heidi stay at her incarcerated son’s flat. Sam Worthington is superb as the sexually-confused Joe who is a young man that befriends Heidi as he isn’t sure if he’s in love with her or is just using her to fulfill his sexual needs. Finally, there’s Abbie Cornish in an exhilarating performance as Heidi as this young woman who is trying to find herself in a new town while dealing with her own identity as she is caught between the world of childhood and adulthood as it’s one of Cornish’s finest performances.
Somersault is a phenomenal film from Cate Shortland that features a brilliant breakthrough performance from Abbie Cornish. The film is definitely a visually-exotic as well as an evocative film that explores a young woman coming of age while meeting a young man who is also trying to find himself. It’s also a film that explores two people’s fascination with sex and its implications as they transition into adults. In the end, Somersault is a remarkable film from Cate Shortland.
Cate Shortland Films: (The Silence (2006 TV film)) - Lore
© thevoid99 2013
Saturday, May 18, 2013
(Winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival)
Written and directed by Corneliu Porumboiu, Police, Adjective is the story of a police officer who questions his role after busting a teenage boy caught smoking hashish. The film is a look into the life of a young policeman who is conflicted over what to do as a man and as a police officer. Starring Dragos Bucur, Vlad Ivanov, and Ion Stoica. Police, Adjective is a chilling yet powerful drama from Corneliu Porumboiu.
The film is about the few days in the life of a policeman in Bucharest, Romania as he is eyeing a young kid who is rumored to be a hashish dealer. While he doesn’t think the kid is going to do anything wrong as laws about hashish/marijuana possession are likely to be changed. He knows that if he arrests the kid, he’ll ruin that boy’s life as he’ll be put in prison for some years even if he only carried a few grams of the substance. The film definitely follows this man named Cristi (Dragos Bucur) who is conflicted over what to do as he is told by his captain (Vlad Ivanov) about what to do though he claims the kid will get a reduced sentence.
Corneliu Porumboiu’s screenplay doesn’t have much of a plot as it is more about an officer dealing with his role while trying to see if there’s any valid evidence to arrest this young teenager. Even as Cristi is aware that the world is changing as he and his new wife had just returned from a honeymoon in Prague where he had seen people smoking hashish and is aware of the laws that are happening in Czech Republic. Still, he is faced with opposition in the police force about his conflict while things aren’t any easier as his young informant Alex (Alexandru Sabadac) doesn’t reveal anything that can be incriminating.
Porumboiu’s direction is quite simple in terms of the compositions he creates with a lot of wide and medium shots with some movements in the camera. Yet, he does infuse his scenes with a lot of long takes to establish some key moments of the story including playing out the drama in real time. There are no big moments in the film but rather smaller ones from the way Cristi arrives to his office and do his reports as well as come home at night where either his wife is making dinner or dinner is being made. Yet, it is all about Cristi trying to see if there is anything bad happening where he would follow a few people from afar so he wouldn’t raise suspicions while looking out at the home of this kid who could be the dealer. One key scene that is very engaging is the penultimate sequence where Cristi delivers his report to the captain as it’s a very powerful moment that plays into the conflict that Cristi is dealing with. Overall, Porumboiu creates a very haunting yet eerie film about doing what is right.
Cinematographer Marius Panduru does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it‘s mostly straightforward while using a few lighting schemes for some scenes at night. Editor Roxana Szel does nice work with the editing only to create a few rhythmic cuts to intensify some of the drama as a lot of it is quite methodical. Production designer Mihalea Poenaru does terrific work with the set pieces from the look of the police station to the quaint apartment that Cristi lives in with his wife. Costume designer Georgiana Bostan does some fine work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual. Sound recorder Christian Mike Sugar does wonderful work with the sound as it’s mostly low-key and atmospheric with the exception of a scene in Cristi’s apartment where his wife is listening to a Romanian pop ballad.
The film’s cast is brilliant as it mostly features small roles from Alexandru Sabadac as Cristi’s informant, Radu Costin as the supposed dealer, Irina Saulescu as Cristi’s wife Anca, and Ion Stoica as Cristi’s fellow officer Nelu. Vlad Ivanov is excellent as Captain Anghelache who tells Cristi what a cop should be as he later tells him about what the law means as well as some of its fallacies that adds more conflict for Cristi. Finally, there’s Dragos Bucur in a marvelous performance as Cristi as a young man who knows what it means to be young while he knows that he’s a cop but doesn’t want to ruin a young man’s life for something that he would later not be in trouble for.
Police, Adjective is an intriguing yet riveting drama from Corneliu Porumboiu. The film is a captivating look into the world of what the police does as well as the conflict into serving justice while things are becoming complicated. Notably in Romania where it plays to a cop who is aware of things changing around him outside dealing with the guilt that he might face. In the end, Police, Adjective is a superb film from Corneliu Porumboiu.
Corneliu Porumboiu Films: (12:08 East of Bucharest) - (A Nine Minute Interval)
© thevoid99 2013
Friday, May 17, 2013
(Winner of the Jury Prize & Best Actor Prize to Jean-Louis Trintignant at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival)
Based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos, Z is a loosely-based story on the assassination of Greek left-wing activist Gregoris Lambrakis as a murder is covered up by the government prompting a magistrate to finally uncover the truth. Directed by Costa-Garvas and screenplay by Costa-Garvas and Jorge Semprun, the film is a political thriller set during a tense period of civil unrest as well as exploring a world that is in absolute chaos. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Yves Montand, Irene Papas, and Jacques Perrin. Z is a provocative yet intriguing film from Costa-Garvas.
The film is a look into the assassination of a left-wing activist (Yves Montand) who is assassinated during a troubling period in Greece as many around him question about the murder. A government magistrate (Jean-Louis Trintignant) leads the investigation where he uncovers a lot of unsettling things including secret government extremist groups and other things as witnesses to the incident are being targeted as well. It’s all part of a world in which a government is trying to protect themselves from scandal that would ruin the reputation of this country yet a magistrate begins to learn that not only is he working for the bad guys but that the people he’s working for are committing atrocities that forces him to try and do the right thing.
The screenplay has a very unique structure that is traditional but is more about the element of suspense that occurs. The first is about this left-wing activist who arrives to find a place to hold a meeting and on that night of the meeting, he is attacked by mysterious men and eventually given a fatal hit in the head with a club as his personnel try to help him. The second act is about the government covering up while a photojournalist (Jacques Perrin) is trying to conduct his own investigation as he meets up with the activist’s wife (Irene Papas) who ravaged with grief and confusion over what happened. The third act relates to the magistrate’s investigation as well as his own discoveries with the help of the photojournalist about this secret group of right-wing extremists and the people they’re targeting.
It’s not just the structure and the dialogue that makes the screenplay interesting but also the characters as the activist is a man who wants to ensure a world that can be peaceful as he is a major threat to this right-wing, military-driven government. The activist is also a flawed man who is going through his own personal issues relating to his wife as once she arrives following the assassination, she is upset by what happened but also display mixed feelings over what happened. The magistrate is a man who lurks in the shadow for most of the film’s first two acts as he finally comes to his own in the third act as he talks to a few witnesses and doctors where he eventually comes to the conclusion that what happened was a murder as he starts to look towards the people he’s working for.
Costa-Garvas’ direction is very engaging for the way he captures a world of civil unrest in one of the most crucial periods in Greek history. Though it was shot in France and parts of Algeria while the language is spoken in French. The direction still has this element that an incident like this could happen anywhere in Europe where a lot of social changes are happening. There is an element of cinema verite in the way the direction is played out for the protest scenes as well as the assassination scene.
There is also some very entrancing compositions and stylistic shots for some of the film’s drama and suspenseful moments where Costa-Garvas aims for something that adds an air of mystery. The film also features some very intriguing ideas about the world at large as well as an epilogue that is really more in tune with how hard it is to change the world. Overall, Costa-Garvas creates a very intense yet chilling film about government conspiracy and one man’s attempt to do things right in a troubling world.
Cinematographer Raoul Coutard does amazing work with the film‘s photography from the sunny exteriors of the locations to more stylish lights for the scenes in night in its interior and exterior settings to create some dark moods for the film. Editor Francoise Bonnot does brilliant work with the editing as it‘s very stylized with jump-cuts and some flashback montages as it is truly a highlight of the film. Production designer Jacques D’Ovidio does excellent work with the set pieces such as the film‘s hospital operating room as well as the scenes in the hotel and halls where some of the protestors meet.
Costume designer Piet Bolscher does nice work with the costumes as it is a mixture of casual clothing along with military uniforms to present the military men. Sound editor Michele Boehm does terrific work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the protests and meetings as well as some eerie moments in some of the film‘s intimate moments. The film’s music by Mikis Theodorakis is fantastic for its mixture of intense Greek folk music with its string instruments to some bits of rock music as it helps create a chilling mood for the film as it’s another highlight of the film.
The film’s cast is superb as it features some notable small performances from Georges Geret as a witness got attacked, Magali Noel as that witness’ right-wing sister, Marcel Bozzuffi and Renato Salvatori as two assassins, Francois Perier as the public prosecutor, Clotilde Janno as a personnel of the activist, Charles Denner as the activist’s lawyer Manuel, and Pierre Dux as the general whom the magistrate suspects. Jacques Perrin is excellent as a determined photojournalist seeking to show the truth in any way or form as he hopes to do things right. Irene Papas is wonderful as the activist’s wife Helene who is trying to come to terms with her loss as well as all of her feelings towards her husband. Yves Montand is great in a small yet memorable performance as the activist trying to create peace in a period of civil unrest while eager to do things right for everyone including his family. Finally, there’s Jean-Louis Trintignant in an incredible performance as the magistrate as a man who starts off as an observer and then becoming someone trying to do what is right as he is aware of the consequences that he might face.
Z is a phenomenal film from Costa-Garvas that features brilliant performances from Jean-Louis Tringtignant and Yves Montand. The film is a masterfully-crafted thriller that explores the world of government cover-ups and conspiracies as well as a look into one of the most chaotic periods in the history of the world. In the end, Z is a remarkable film from Costa-Garvas.
Costa-Garvas Films: (The Sleeping Car Murders) - (Shock Troops) - (The Confession (1970 film)) - (State of Siege) - (Special Section) - (Womanlight) - Missing (1982 film) - (Hanna K.) - (Family Business (1986 film)) - (Betrayed) - (Music Box) - (The Little Apocalypse) - (Mad City) - (Amen.) - (Le Couperet) - (Eden is West) - (Le Capital)
© thevoid99 2013