Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Susannah Grant, Erin Brockovich is the story of an unemployed single mother who works for a lawyer as she helps fight against a gas company for people who had been hurt by them. Based on the real life about the woman of the same name, it’s an unconventional bio-pic that has a woman trying to help people by using her sex appeal and street smarts as she’s played by Julia Roberts. Also starring Aaron Eckhart, Albert Finney, Marg Helgenberger, Tracey Walters, and Peter Coyote. Erin Brockovich is a sassy and phenomenal film from Steven Soderbergh.
The film is about this unemployed woman who has three children from two ex-husbands as she gets a job working for the lawyer Ed Masry (Albert Finney) who was handling her injuries claim case which they lost. In her job, Erin Brockovich learns about a real-estate files case that Masry had been working on as she makes some chilling discoveries about the Pacific Gas and Electric Company whose water was contaminated and many of the people in the small town of Hinkley, California were struck with a myriad of illnesses. In turn, it’s a film where this very unlikely woman and a small-time lawyer with a private firm go against a massive billion dollar corporation to help a bunch of people in a small town who had been conned by this corporation. What makes the film much more unique than it actually is its protagonist as she is this single mother of three kids who wears skimpy clothes and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.
Susannah Grant’s screenplay is unconventional at times but also very engaging for the way it presents Brockovich as this no-nonsense woman who is just trying to get work to raise her three kids as she has very little money in her bank account and little experience with anything. While she dresses in skimpy clothes that often shows her cleavage and has this sassy attitude, she is perceived as this unintelligent and trashy woman who gets by with having sex with men and such. Instead, Brockovich uses her sex appeal to dig deep into her discoveries where she impresses Masry. While the job gives her some respect from Masry, co-workers, and the people she talks to about what they’re dealing. She tries to balance that with being a mom as she gains the help and companionship of her new neighbor in a biker named George (Aaron Eckhart) who would struggle with her long working hours as does her kids yet they come around to see what she’s doing as she sometimes takes them for the ride.
Brockovich’s relationship with Masry is also unique as they become this unlikely duo where Brockovich is the one talking to the people and gathering all sorts of information as she was willing to get her hands dirty. Especially as she would get Masry to be more accessible to the people where he does have a scene at a community center talking to them about what is going to happen with this lawsuit the town has filed. It’s a moment where Brockovich watches in the back as she lets Masry let his guard down a bit so he can become someone the people can trust despite some of legal bullshit he has to handle. Even as Brockovich and Masry also have to rely on a more prestigious legal firm to help in the case where the two don’t get treated with much respect by their new partners.
Steven Soderbergh’s direction is pretty simple in some respects as he doesn’t go for anything flashy in some of the compositions he creates. Still, there are moments that has him creating a film that is a mixture of a comedy and drama while finding a balance to mesh the two genres. Even as he plays to the comedy in an offbeat way where he’s not afraid to use sexuality to drive the story though there’s no nudity that occurs in the film. It’s not overt but enough to bring some energy to the film while Soderbergh also creates moments such as how Brockovich is able to engage the people with just her charm as she’s just wearing regular clothes while a law assistant is struggling to connect with them as she’s just talking about all sorts of legal bullshit the people don’t really understand.
Much of the film is shot in Ventura, California with some of it shot in Los Angeles where Soderbergh uses the deserts and small-town locations to create something that makes it more than just a film in California. He gives the idea that something like this could be set in any small American town as the people themselves are just good folk who want to hear the truth and why they’ve been sick. His use of medium shots, close-ups, and wide shots give Soderbergh an atmosphere to help tell the story and engage the audience into these characters in the film. Especially as he would maintain that sense of drama and the stakes that is happening so that audiences can root for Brockovich and Masry to see if they can beat the Goliath that is the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Overall, Soderbergh creates a very rich and entertaining film about a woman who helps the people fight against a corporation.
Cinematographer Edward Lachman does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography by playing up the sunny look of California with its rich interior lighting schemes in the daytime while going for more stylish lights for the scenes at night. Editor Anne V. Coates does excellent work with the editing as she infuses some style such as jump-cuts to play with some of the film‘s humor and drama that adds to the unconventional tone of the film. Production designer Philip Messina, with set decorator Kristen Toscano Messina and art director Christa Munro, does amazing work with the set pieces from the look of Masry‘s office firm as well as Brockovich‘s home to play into their two different personalities.
Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland does nice work with the costumes from the skimpy clothing that Brockovich wears to the biker look of George. Sound editor Larry Blake does terrific work with the sound to play into some of the film‘s sound effects as well as the calmness of some of the locations in Ventura, California. The film’s music by Thomas Newman is fantastic for its score that is largely driven by keyboards and orchestral pieces that is upbeat at times but also eerie and somber while music supervisor Amanda Scheer-Demme brings in a soundtrack that features some low-key ambient music, bluegrass, and a couple of songs by Sheryl Crow.
The casting by Margery Simkin is incredible for the ensemble that is created for the film as it features cameos from the real Erin Brockovich as a waitress and Ed Masry as a diner patron along with small roles from Scotty Leavenworth and Gemmenne de la Pena as two of Brockovich’s older children, Emily and Julie Marks and Ashley and Brittany Pimental as the youngest of Brockovich’s children as it’s a baby in two different ages. Other small yet notable performances include Gina Gallego as a PG&E attorney, Veanne Cox as a paralegal who tries to do Brockovich’s job, T.J. Thyne as a waters department employee who is charmed by Brockovich, Conchata Ferrell as Masry’s secretary Brenda, and Peter Coyote as a top attorney who teams with Masry on the case yet has no clue in how Masry and Brockovich do their work.
Tracey Walter is terrific as a mysterious Hinkley local who attends the town meetings as he is suspicious of what Brockovich is doing while Cherry Jones is wonderful as another local who is wary about what Brockovich is doing as she thinks that no money will come from this case. Marg Helgenberger is superb as a Hinkley local who becomes the first person Brockovich talks to as she deals with her declining health and what her family might deal with. Aaron Eckhart is excellent as Brockovich’s neighbor George as this very nice biker who helps out by taking care of Brockovich’s children while dealing with her workload as he understands what she’s trying to do.
Albert Finney is brilliant as Ed Masry as this old-school and well-meaning attorney who reluctantly hires Brockovich to be in his firm while becoming aware of what he might go up against realizing the risks of what he might lose. It’s a performance where Finney plays the straight man for Roberts as well as bringing a complexity and accessibility into his role as a lawyer who often doesn’t connect with his clients on a personal level. Finally, there’s Julia Roberts in an outstanding performance as the titular character where it’s Roberts at her most brash and charming where she isn’t afraid to get a little dirty and be overtly sexual at times. It’s a performance that really has Roberts going all-out while also proving to be pretty sensitive where she has her characters listen to other people as it’s definitely Roberts at her best.
Erin Brockovich is a remarkable film from Steven Soderbergh that features a fantastic performance from Julia Roberts in the titular role. Along with some amazing supporting work from Albert Finney and Aaron Eckhart, the film is definitely one of Soderbergh’s finest films as well as one of his most accessible. Even as he creates a character as captivating as Brockovich that allows the audience to be engaged by her. In the end, Erin Brockovich is a spectacular film from Steven Soderbergh.
Steven Soderbergh Films: sex, lies, & videotape - (Kafka) - (King of the Hill) - The Underneath - Gray's Anatomy - Schizopolis - Out of Sight - The Limey - Traffic - Ocean's Eleven (2001 film) - Full Frontal - Solaris (2002 film) - Eros-The Equlibrium - Ocean's Twelve - (Bubble) - (The Good German) - (Ocean’s Thirteen) - Che - The Girlfriend Experience - The Informant! - And Everything is Going Fine - Contagion - (Haywire) - Magic Mike - Side Effects - Behind the Candelabra
The Auteurs #39: Steven Soderbergh: (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2)
© thevoid99 2014
Monday, March 10, 2014
Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 8/13/08 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.
Directed and starring Ben Stiller and written by Stiller, Justin Theroux, and Etan Cohen. Tropic Thunder tells the story of a Vietnam war film production gone horribly wrong due to a group of egomaniacal actors and an overly serious director as production is suddenly shut down. Through the suggestion of the film's deranged screenwriter, the director and five of his actors decide to into guerilla filmmaking to shot on actual locations until they're captured by a real Vietnam army as they decide to fight back. A spoof of sorts on egomaniacal, so-called "auteurs", method actors, and all sorts of things that go wrong in a big, Hollywood production. Stiller and his team decide to make a film that makes fun of all of these notorious Hollywood production while taking shots on everything and everyone including Stiller himself. With an all-star cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Steve Coogan, Danny McBride, Brandon T. Jackson, Nick Nolte, Jay Baruchel, Reggie Lee, Brandon Soo Hoo, Matthew McConaughey, & Tom Cruise. Tropic Thunder is an explosive yet witty comedy from Ben Stiller & co.
A Vietnam War film epic entitled Tropic Thunder is being made by first-time director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) with help from the man who wrote the book the film is based on named "Four Leaf" Tayback (Nick Nolte). The film stars fading action star Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) whose career is in the skids and is in desperate need to make a comeback following a disastrous portrayal in the critical and commercial bomb Simple Jack where he played a mentally-challenged farmhand. Speedman's co-star includes comedy actor Jack Portnoy (Jack Black) whose Fatties franchise has made him rich but with no respect as he's also gotten trouble for his dependency on heroin. Playing the role of the film's African-American platoon sergeant is critically-acclaimed, award-winning Australian actor Kirk Lazarus whose method-actor persona to play roles has reached new heights where he darkens his skin to portray an African American.
The film also stars a rapper-turned-actor named Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) and newcomer Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel) as Cockburn is overwhelmed with the actors' demands and such. With a month behind schedule, lots of money spent, and an accident involving pyrotechnics by special effects guru Cody Underwood (Danny R. McBride) has made Tropic Thunder a likely disaster. After a meeting with studio head Les Grossman (Tom Cruise), Cockburn fears that the film would be shut down until Tayback suggests to shoot the film on location in the jungles guerilla style. Cockburn, Tayback, Underwood, and the five actors go to the jungle as Tayback and Underwood watch from afar to work on the special effects. Yet, as Cockburn gets ready to shoot, something bad happens. What the actors and crew don't know is that they're nearby a group of drug farmers known as Flaming Dragon as everything becomes confusing except for Kirk Lazarus who believes that they're lost and in trouble.
With Sandusky being the only person able to read maps, Speedman is convinced that they're still shooting a film. Tayback and Underwood meanwhile, learn that something has gone wrong when they're suddenly captured by the Flaming Dragon as a secret is unveiled. Back in Hollywood, Speedman's agent Rick "Pecker" Peck (Matthew McConaughey) tries to get Speedman his TiVo as part of the contract when he learns that Speedman has been captured by the Flaming Dragon whose leader is a 12-year old kid named Tran (Brandon Soo Hoo) who has held him for ransom. Speedman is forced to be tortured while having to play the role of Simple Jack in front of the Flaming Dragon. Rick and Grossman contact the Flaming Dragon but Grossman has ideas of his own that would make him save money. With Portnoy now on withdrawal after his stash of heroin had been stolen by a bat, it's up to Lazarus, Chino, Sandusky, and Portnoy to save Speedman as they try to figure out what to do as they decide to act out as war heroes with Speedman, Tayback, and Underwood helping by as all hell breaks loose with some surprising help.
The film is essentially a satire on not just war movies but Hollywood itself. The film begins with a series of fake trailers and an ad for Alpa Chino's Booty Sweat drink to his song I Love Tha Pussy that makes fun of Hollywood, it's commercialism, and the types of films that are being made from bloated action films, low-brow comedy, and the Oscar-bait films. What Ben Stiller and his co-writers do is take a look at Hollywood and show audiences how bloated it is. How they can do stupid things while taking shots at studio executives, agents, directors, and actors. Stiller even makes fun of himself knowing that he too, has an ego since he's also the director of this film.
Stiller's approach to the film does work since that it's a big film with explosions and such as he creates something that's meant to be bloated like a war film set. Shot on location in Hawaii, the film does have a look that is like many war films. At the same time, it plays up like an action film. While not every joke Stiller creates is perfect, he does hit the funny moments right at its target largely due to the help of his actors and crew. Stiller even lets actors get loose into some comedic moments while the faux trailers he creates range from being really funny to something that looks extremely bad yet unintentionally hilarious. It's Stiller making fun of Hollywood as well as the things actors are willing to do for the sake of their art.
The character of Kirk Lazarus, who darkens his skin black to play an African-American might conjure up the idea of black-face. Yet, what Stiller does is to show how method actors are willing to take themselves way too seriously. Yet, there's an African-American character in that film who takes issue with Lazarus acting like an African-American as a commentary on how actors of color would get overlooked in favor of white actors. It's a dead-on commentary that Stiller and his writers make as does the portrayal of mentally-challenged people.
Now there were some groups that might have had some offense to portrayal of mentally-challenged individuals where the term "retard" is used. Those advocate groups and such are missing the point. What Stiller is trying to say is how far actors are willing to go to play mentally-challenged folks just so they can win an Oscar and such. It's really more about how low Hollywood is willing to cash in or claim glory for a group of flawed individuals. The conversation Speedman and Lazarus has about this issue is where Lazarus says "You never go full retard" as a point of how low actors are willing to play mentally-challenged people. Stiller is right on the money, why do you think Sean Penn didn't win for Best Actor for I Am Sam? And that movie fucking sucked! Overall, Stiller's direction and the script unveils at Hollywood at its most absurd as Stiller and his team is dead-on about all the things Hollywood is willing to do.
Cinematographer John Toll, famous for his work in Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line and Edward Zwick's The Last Samurai does excellent work with the film's war-like look with wonderful shading and such on the film's exterior sequences. Toll's work, though not up to par with his other camera work, is right for the film as he captures the look of war movies while getting the chance to mimic some of those great war scenes. Editor Greg Hayden does excellent work with the film's cutting that plays to its rhythm of action films while allowing the chance to slow down for some of the film's comedy scenes.
Production designer Jeff Mann with set decorator Daniel B. Clancy and art directors Richard L. Johnson and Dan Webster do excellent work in creating a set for film's war scenes, heroin farm, and all that stuff to create a look that looks like a war movie. In the Hollywood scenes, it's all filled with hi-tech gadgets and posh rooms with Matthew McConaughey playing video games and such. Costume designer Marlene Stewart does great work in creating the look of the soldier clothes as well as the look of the Flaming Dragon stuff to give the idea of a war movie. Sound editors Jim Brookshire and Craig Henighan also do great work with the film's sound in the layering of machine gun fire, explosions, and such. Special effects supervisor Michael Meinardus and visual effects supervisor Michael Owens do great work in the creation of explosions and falling helicopters for all the film's action sequences. The make-up design is great with Michele Burke and Barney Burman creating a great look for Tom Cruise as the fat, bald, flabby Les Grossman.
Music composer Theodore Shapiro creates music that is reminiscent of most war films that is often sweeping and bombastic while the film's soundtrack supervised by George Drakoulias is filled with classic cuts by the Temptations, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones, and other cuts of the late 1960s while the Mooney Suzuki and Crystal Method provide most of the newer music. The soundtrack overall, is excellent for that era of Vietnam while the new music adds a fresh, exciting approach to the film.
The casting by Kathy Driscoll and Francine Maisler is excellent with cameo appearances from Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jon Voight, Jason Bateman, Nsync star Lance Bass, Tyra Banks, Maria Menounos, Stiller's real-life wife Christine Taylor as a star in Simple Jack, and in the hilarious Satan's Alley trailer, Tobey McGuire. Notable small roles from J. Thomas & Jacob Chon as an Asian boy Stiller befriends while Reggie Lee and Trieu Tran are excellent as two of Tran's henchman. Bill Hader is good as studio executive Rob Slolom though isn't given much to do except play a foil for Les Grossman. Newcomer Brandon Soo Hoo is great as Tran, the 12-year old drug lord who manages to beat Tugg Speedman into submission while having a great fight scene with Jack Black.
Steve Coogan is excellent as first-time director Damien Cockburn who is trying to make a great war movie while dealing with all of the egos of his actors and production problems as Coogan's small role is definitely worth remembering. Danny McBride, riding high from his other comedic role in the Judd Apatow-David Gordon Green film Pineapple Express, is great as special effects guru Cody Underwood who likes to explode things while in awe of Four-Leaf Tayback as he gets a chance to live a dream despite some bad experiences on Hollywood sets. Nick Nolte is also great as Four-Leaf Tayback with all of his grizzled, psychotic war experience while sporting hooks until he seems what he isn't to be as Nolte is superb in this role. Matthew McConaughey, who fills in for Owen Wilson, is great as loyal agent Rick "Pecker" Peck who is trying to get Speedman his TiVo for while making sure his career is still going well no matter how bad it is.
In what has to be his best performance since Paul Thomas Anderson's 1999 film Magnolia, Tom Cruise delivers a hilarious performance as a foul-mouthed, balding, sleazy studio head honcho Les Grossman. Wearing a fat suit and all sorts of prosthetics, Cruise's appearances are some of the funniest moments as he dances and curses throughout the entire movie. Brandon T. Jackson is excellent as Alpa Chino (get it), a rapper-turned-actor who also carries a secret while trying to deal with Kirk Lazarus acting all African-American as he serves a great foil for Downey. Jay Baruchel is also great as Kevin Sandusky, a new young actor with combat training experience who is the straight man of the film while being the one guy who keeps his cool and point out every contradiction that the actors have.
Jack Black is wonderfully funny as Jack Portnoy, an actor that's a satire on latter-day Eddie Murphy as well as late, troubled comedy actors like Chris Farley and John Belushi. Black's performance is filled with some funny one-liners and antics that's typical of Black yet it works since he brings what he does. Ben Stiller is excellent in his role as the clueless yet egotistical Tugg Speedman, an actor whose star is fading as he's desperate for a comeback. Playing it straight while doing the typical Stiller antics known in most of his comedies, it's an excellent performance where Stiller makes fun of actors including himself. It's a fine one from a comedy actor who prefers to share the screen with other actors.
Finally, there's Robert Downey Jr. in one of his best performances to date. Riding high from his recent performance in Jon Favreau's Iron Man, Downey exhibits all of the craziness that method actors do as Downey stays in character throughout the entire film. Sporting a funny African-American accent, saying lots of slang, and a whole lot of stuff, Downey downplays all the stereotypes given for most African-American actors while saying the word "motherfucker" a lot. It's a performance that's truly Oscar-worthy as in a year of stellar to great performances, Robert Downey Jr. is truly at the top of his game.
Tropic Thunder is a funny, smart, and action-packed comedy from Ben Stiller as it's also his best work to date as a director. While some might prefer the zaniness and low-brow humor of Zoolander, Tropic Thunder works for its satire and a great collection of actors led by Robert Downey Jr. In a year where spoofs, parodies, and satires lose its touch, it's good to see a film that knows that it can take itself seriously and cannot. With additional kudos to Jack Black, Brandon T. Jackson, Jay Baruchel, Matthew McConaughey, Steve Coogan, Danny McBride, Nick Nolte, and Tom Cruise. Tropic Thunder is an all-out, laugh-out, explosive comedy that stands out as one of the year's best.
Ben Stiller Films: (Reality Bites) - (The Cable Guy) - (Zoolander) - (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013 film))
© thevoid99 2014
Sunday, March 09, 2014
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki from his manga, Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) is a fictionalized bio-pic about the life of Jiro Horikoshi as he was the man that designed the Mitsubishi A5M and its successor A6M Zero that played a key part in World War II. The film is a more dream-like portrait about Horikoshi’s life with some dramatic embellishments while not deviating too much from the real-life story. For the American-dubbed version of the film that is supervised by Gary Rydstrom, the voice cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, William H. Macy, Elijah Wood, Stanley Tucci, Mae Whitman, Mandy Patinkin, Jennifer Grey, and Werner Herzog. Kaze Tachinu is a mesmerizing film from Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki.
The film is fictionalized bio-pic about the life of Jiro Horikoshi that is presented in a dream-like fashion where it goes from Horikoshi as a young boy to becoming the man who would design the Mitsubishi A5M and its successor the A6M Zero that would become the key planes used in World War II. With a mixture of reality and a dream-like world, the film plays into Horikoshi’s desire to create the ultimate airplane that can endure wind resistance and not be intimidated by the advanced technology of other countries. Even as Horikishi (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) seeks the advice of the famed Italian plane designer Giovanni Battista Caproni (Stanley Tucci) in his dreams. Through Hayao Miyazaki’s screenplay, the film does have a conventional narrative in terms of structure that plays to Horikoshi’s life but he infuses with bits of surrealism and dreamy textures to make it much more interesting.
Notably as the film plays into key events that would mark Horikoshi’s development from his encounter at the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake as well as his trip to Germany to see how the Germans created their airplanes. These moments would drive Horikoshi to see if he can create a war plane for Japan that would define them as they endure the Great Depression and such. While there would be some failures along the way, Hirokoshi would eventually find more inspiration when he re-meets Naoko (Emily Blunt) whom he had met years ago during a train ride with her sister where they encountered the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. His relationship with Naoko would prove to be a major catalyst to Horikoshi’s development as a man and as an engineer where he would try to balance both roles and later deal with his what he’s achieved.
Miyazaki’s direction is definitely dazzling in the way he creates Japan in the early half of the 20th Century as it’s a world that is trying to catch up with the modern world. Especially as he infuses bits of surrealism into the dream sequences that Horikoshi would have as it features some vast scenes of planes flying around and all sorts of things. Notably in the designs of the planes and how imaginative they look as it plays to what Horikoshi would want to create. The look of Japan from its different backgrounds of mountains, forests, and cities are presented with such great detail as there’s aspects in the background that are just as mesmerizing to look at. Even in the design of the characters which have all of the quintessential elements that is expected in Miyazaki’s work as an animator.
With the aid of cinematographer Atsushi Okui to help in the lighting where much of the animation is in 2-D hand drawn animated style with some computer-based animation for some of the backgrounds. Miyazaki creates something that is truly rich in scope but also infuse it with such artistry in the way the planes are flown as well as the way nature is presented as if it has the feel of a live-action film. Even in some of the compositions and camera work where it has a sense of action but also some drama and humor that just adds to the beauty of the film. Overall, Miyazki creates a truly evocative and sensational film about a dreamer who would create one of the greatest designs for a plane despite the fact that it’s being used as an instrument of war
Editor Takeshi Seyama does amazing work with the film‘s editing in its approach to rhythm for some of its action scenes as well as the dream sequences as it features lots of jump-cuts and disjointed rhythmic cuts to play into that sense of surrealism. Sound designer Koji Kasamatsu and sound editor Gwendolyn Yates Whittle (for its English version) do fantastic work with the sound in creating some of the sound effects used in the film with Whittle providing some low sound textures for some of the English dialogue as background textures. The film’s music by Joe Hisaishi is brilliant for its mixture of lush orchestral pieces with some playful and offbeat music driven by accordions and string instruments.
For the film’s English-language version, the cast includes some contributions from Elijah Wood as a co-worker of Horikoshi, Jennifer Grey as Mrs. Kurokawa, Darren Criss as another worker in Katayama, Mandy Patinkin as one of Horikoshi’s top bosses, Mae Whitman as Horikoshi’s sister Kayo, Zach Callison as the young Horikoshi, William H. Macy as Naoko’s father, Edie Merman as Horikoshi’s mother, and Werner Herzog in a superb voice performance as a German tourist Horikoshi meets in a retreat in the famed Magic Mountains in Japan. Martin Short is very funny as the comical boss Mr. Kurokawa who provides some humor as well as some guidance for Horikoshi while Stanley Tucci is brilliant as the famed Italian plane designer Giovanni Battista Caproni as Tucci sports an Italian accent as he displays warmth and humor into the role of the man who would guide Horikoshi.
John Krasinski is excellent as the voice of Horikoshi’s close colleague Kiro Honjo who aids Horikoshi in some of the designs as he would create his own planes that would also revolutionize planes in Japan. Emily Blunt is wonderful as Naoko as this woman who Horikoshi would meet early on as a young girl and later as a woman who would provide an inspiration and drive for Horikoshi after some of the failures he had to deal with. Finally, there’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt doing fantastic voice work as Jiro Horikoshi as this young man who dreams of designing an airplane that would define Japan in all of its glory though he is aware of what they’re being used for as he hopes they can provide some meaning into his life.
Kaze Tachinu is a remarkable film from Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. It’s a film that is filled with rich images and a captivating story that manages to be wondrous as well as somber for what Jiro Horikoshi wanted to make. While it has some dark elements, it is balanced by the themes of being a dreamer which makes the story far more engaging. If this film is to become Miyazaki’s final contribution to cinema, he at least goes out with a winner. In the end, Kaze Tachinu is a phenomenal film from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.
Hayao Miyazaki Films: (The Castle of Cagliostro) - (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) - (Castle in the Sky) - (My Neighbor Totoro) - (Kiki’s Delivery Service) - (Porco Rosso) - (Princess Mononoke) - (Spirited Away) - (Howl’s Moving Castle) - (Ponyo)
© thevoid99 2014
Saturday, March 08, 2014
Directed by Rob Reiner and written by William Goldman from his own novel, The Princess Bride is the story about a young woman who is devastated by the loss of a stable boy she fell in love with as she is set to marry a prince only to be kidnapped and later meets a mysterious pirate. While the main narrative is set in medieval times in a fictional country called Florin, the film is largely told in present time as it’s a story read by a man to his flu-ridden grandson. Starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Fred Savage, and Peter Falk as the grandfather. The Princess Bride is a remarkable film from Rob Reiner.
The film is a genre-bender where it has adventure, comedy, drama, and romance which revolves around a soon-to-be princess and the stable boy she loved who was later supposedly killed by a notorious pirate. Upon being kidnapped by criminals who are hired to start a war for the prince she’s to marry, she later encounters the notorious pirate who supposedly had killed her true love. It’s a film that has a simple and unique premise but with characters that subvert the idea of caricatures as many of them aren’t exactly what they seem they are. All of which is told by a man reading a book to his grandson (Fred Savage) who is bed-ridden with an illness.
What makes the story so unique is the way William Goldman creates a script with characters and dialogue that doesn’t play into the conventions of a typical romantic-adventure. Especially as the protagonists in Buttercup (Robin Wright) and Westley (Cary Elwes) are atypical of what is expected in the roles of a damsel-in-distress/love interest and hero, respectively. What Westley and Buttercup have is true love that is shattered when Westley seeks to find fortune on a ship only to have that ship attacked by the infamous pirate known as the Dread Pirate Roberts. For Buttercup, Westley’s supposed death was the end for her as she reluctantly gets engaged to Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) who only wants her for his royal stature and later use her as a pawn to start a war with a rivaling country with the help of a trio of criminals.
The trio themselves deviate from what is expected in an adventure story as the master swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) is a kind man who is seeking for a six-fingered man who killed his father many years ago. The other two is a gentle and strong giant named Fezzik (Andre the Giant) with a gift for rhyming and a Sicilian mastermind named Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) who is a cruel taskmaster that constantly insults Inigo and Fezzik. Add the presence of Prince Humperdinck and his second-in-command Count Rugen (Christopher Guest), they become the kind of forces that Westley and Buttercup have to deal with as the grandfather tells his grandson this unique story where the grandson deals with the constant details about kissing as well as what he might thinks happen in the story. Instead, Goldman’s script has this sense of language and narrative that is very engaging but also that is very funny. Even in some of the dialogue that is playful and also very witty over the situations that occur.
Rob Reiner’s direction is very simple and understated at times but also full of whimsy that adds to the unconventional presentation of the story. Much of the film is shot in locations in Britain and Ireland in the countryside and castles where Reiner uses a lot of wide shots to play into the beauty of those locations along with some amazing shots of Westley and Buttercup kissing against the sunlight. There’s also some great use of medium shots and close-ups to play into the sense of drama and humor in the film as Reiner. Especially in the latter where it is very offbeat in the presentation that includes an albino (Mel Smith) who doesn’t play to the conventions of an assistant torturer and a clergyman (Peter Cook) who can’t pronounce “R”s and “L”s.
The sense of adventure includes an amazing sword duel between the mysterious Dread Pirate Roberts and Inigo where there’s an air of respect in the duel between the two which is different between the eventual duel that Inigo would have with the man who killed his father. There’s also moments of suspense such as the duel between Vizzini and Roberts where it’s a battle of wits. Much of the compositions that Reiner creates for these scenes and in the scenes between the grandfather and grandson are quite simple as he is going more for performances rather than gimmicks and such. Overall, Reiner crafts a very sensational and lively film about true love, sword fighting, and thrills told from a grandfather to his grandson.
Cinematographer Adrian Biddle does excellent work with the film‘s gorgeous look for many of its daytime exterior scenes to display a natural look while using some lighting schemes for some of the interior scenes. Editor Robert Leighton does superb work with the editing where it is straightforward while using some rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s action and suspenseful moments. Production designer Norman Garwood, with set decorator Maggie Gray and supervising art director Keith Pain, does brilliant work with the set pieces from the look of the castle interiors as well as the look of the Cliffs of Insanity.
Costume designer Phyllis Dalton does wonderful work with the costumes from the dresses that Buttercup wears as well as the clothes of Count Rugen and Prince Humperdinck. Makeup designer Peter Montagna does great work with the look of a couple of characters Fezzik and Inigo meets to help aid them for the climax. Sound editor Lon Bender does terrific work with the sound in some of the film‘s sound effects as well as some of the tone of the locations. The film’s music by Mark Knopfler is fantastic for its enchanting and touching score that features a lot of plaintive guitars and a mixture of playful orchestral music with old-school folk music while the song Storybook Love is a lovely song co-written by Knopfler and its singer Willy DeVille.
The casting by Janet Hirsheson and Jane Jenkins is incredible as it features some notable small role from Betsy Brantley as the boy’s mother, Willoughby Gray and Anne Dyson as the king and queen of Florin, Margery Mason as an ancient booer, Mel Smith as the quirky albino, Peter Cook in a hilarious performance as the clergyman, Billy Crystal as the miracle man Miracle Max, Carol Kane as Max’s wife Valerie, Fred Savage in a terrific performance as the grandson, and Peter Falk in a brilliant performance as the grandfather reading the story. Christopher Guest is excellent as the very dark yet calm Count Rugen who is proven to be a master of torturer with a machine that sucks life out of a person. Chris Sarandon is superb as Prince Humperdinck as this cowardice prince who tries to create plans to start a war against a rival country while not being able to fool Buttercup. Wallace Shawn is amazing as the very cunning and intelligent Vizzini who masterminds the kidnapping as he constantly says “inconceivable” whenever some things he planned don’t work.
Andre the Giant is fantastic as the gentle giant Fezzik as he has some of the best lines while proving that he’s a giant with a nice heart. Mandy Patinkin is brilliant as Inigo Montoya as a master swordsman who is trying to find the man that killed his father many years ago while being a key player into storming the castle in the film’s climax. In her film debut, Robin Wright is great as Buttercup as this young woman who reluctantly becomes engaged to a cruel prince as she deals with lost love as she proves to be someone that defies the convention of a princess. Finally, there’s Cary Elwes in a marvelous performance as Westley as this man of such kindness and generosity who truly loves Buttercup while also being a man of great skill as well as bringing in some witty banter.
The Princess Bride is a phenomenal film from Rob Reiner. Thanks to a top-notch ensemble cast, William Goldman’s witty screenplay, and Mark Knopfler’s lush score. It’s a film that has something for everyone and more. Especially as it bends genres and make it something of its own. In the end, The Princess Bride is an outstanding film from Rob Reiner.
Rob Reiner Films: This is Spinal Tap - (The Sure Thing) - (Stand By Me) - (When Harry Met Sally) - (Misery) - (A Few Good Men) - North - (The American President) - (Ghosts of Mississippi) - (The Story of Us) - (Alex & Emma) - (Rumor Has It…) - (The Bucket List) - (Flipped) - (The Magic of Belle Isle)
© thevoid99 2014
Friday, March 07, 2014
Based on the novel by Henri-Pierre Roche, Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent (Two English Girls) is the story of a love-triangle between a Frenchman and two English sisters in the course of twenty-years during the early 20th Century. Directed by Francois Truffaut and screenplay by Truffaut and Jean Grualt, the film is a very complex love story that explores a man and his relationship with two sisters. Starring Jean-Pierre Leaud, Kika Markham, Stacey Tendeter, and Sylvia Marriott. Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent is a ravishing and evocative film from Francois Truffaut.
The film is a simple love-triangle story involving a young Frenchman and two English sisters during the early 20th Century as it would be a relationship filled with anguish, confusion, and longing. Yet, there is a love that is undeniable as it is largely told by the trio as they would correspond through letters and all sorts of things as they ponder if they really love each other. Much of it is told from the perspective of Claude Roc (Jean-Pierre Leaud) who meets one of the sisters early on in Ann Brown (Kika Markham) during her trip to France. Smitten by her, he travels to her home in Wales where he meets her mother (Sylvia Marriott) and Ann’s younger sister Muriel (Stacey Tendeter). Claude not only falls for Muriel but he is also in love with Ann where his feelings for the two sisters would shift from one to the other in the course of 20 years. Especially as he would have a hard time juggling both of them while the sisters themselves try to Claude to fall for the other.
The film’s screenplay would feature Truffaut as an unseen narrator filling bits of exposition as well as unheard conversations and such to help move the story forward. Especially as Truffaut would incorporate voice-overs from the three principle characters to play into their anguish over this love triangle where Claude is in love with two sisters who are both similar in some respects but also very different. Ann is a very refined person who is very kind and not confrontational at times. Muriel is a more aggressive and moody young woman who suffers from blindness at times. The different personalities are probably reasons for Claude’s aloof attraction to both women where he would shift back and forth between the two for several years. Much of the film’s first half is set in Wales which plays to the innocence of the relationship.
Then a year-long separation between Claude and Muriel occur based on the suggestion of their respective mothers which would create problems where Claude finds himself in London not sure if he would see her. This would prompt Ann to see if Claude had been with other women only to for the two to have an affair of their own where there is a major conflict over whether to tell Muriel what is really happening or continue with this affair. Things would get more complicated as the often-demure Ann would start venturing into her own to find herself which would prompt to re-start his long-distance relationship with Muriel as this back-and-forth would happen for 20 years.
Truffaut’s direction is truly exquisite in not just the way he presents this love triangle set in the early 20th Century but also in the sense of restraint that it’s told. Notably as much of the film’s first half would be set in a French peninsula as Wales where it is a world that is free and natural. Truffaut would use a lot of wide shots but also some slow and gazing pans to display the beauty and the innocence of this love-triangle. The usage of close-ups would also have a feel that is entrancing where the actors talking at the camera to play into what they’re feeling and how the reader is seeing that person recite these letters. The film is also shot in other parts of France to play into the sense of the times as it also helps further the development of the characters.
The use of the closing iris and other stylistic shots do add a sense of energy to the film where it has an unconventional sense of pacing. Yet, it manages to help make the film not as long as it should be where Truffaut takes his time to not only develop the love triangle but also carefully develop Claude going from one sister to another through a series of small events. Even as the film’s third act would have Claude make some moves of his own to see what he can do to not just ensure his own happiness but the happiness of the sisters. Yet, it would be followed by things that would not only play into the sense of long he would have for those sisters but also the idea that the past can never be replicated. Overall, Truffaut creates a very sensitive yet rapturous film about a Frenchman who falls for two English sisters.
The cinematography of Nestor Almendros is truly a highlight of the film as his approach to interior and exterior lighting adds a sense of beauty to every image of the film while emphasizing on something that is very natural as opposed to going for filters and other stylistic shots. Almendros‘ work is just ravishing in every frame that he puts in along with the shots of the French peninsula location and the river home where Claude and Ann would have their affair. Editors Yann Dedet and Martine Barreque do excellent work with the editing where its usage of jump-cuts, dissolves, and fade-outs would have this air of style while playing to the film‘s unique approach to pacing. Production designer Michel de Broin does amazing work with the look of the country home the Brown sisters live in as well as the places that Claude lived and worked at along with the art studios he goes to.
Costume designer Gitt Magrini does wonderful work with the costumes from the clothes that Claude wears to the stylish dresses that the women wear that is completed by the lavish hair styles of the time that is created by Simone Knapp. The sound work of Rene Levert is terrific for the calmness of some of the locations as well as playing to the sounds of nature and parts of the cities that the characters encounter. The film’s music by Georges Delerue is just astounding for its lush and enchanting orchestral score that features some somber yet brooding string pieces to some majestic cuts to play into the sense of romance and longing as it’s one of Delerue’s best scores.
The film’s brilliant cast features some appearances from composer Georges Delerue as Claude’s business agent, Irene Tuc as an artist Claude meets, Mark Petersen as the Browns’ neighbor Mr. Flint, and David Markham as a palm reader the sisters meet later in the film. Other notable small roles include Sylvia Marriott as Ann and Muriel’s mother who is concerned about the way the love triangle is happening as well as Marie Mansart as Claude’s mother who also has her suspicions about the relationship. Philippe Leonard is terrific as an art publisher named Diurka whom Ann would fall for as he would later become a friend to Claude.
Stacey Tendeter is fantastic as the very moody and anguished Muriel as the younger of the two sisters who is stricken by blindness as she rarely goes anywhere as she tries to deal with Claude being away as well as her own sins. Kika Markham is amazing as Ann as this more prim and sophisticated woman who later finds herself as an artist as she tries to deal with her newfound sense of adventure while wanting to maintain her love for Claude. Finally, there’s Jean-Pierre Leaud in a remarkable performance as Claude as this young man who finds himself torn between two women whom he loves while being aloof over his situation. The three performances together are just fun to watch in not only for their love for each other but also for the fact that it’s a relationship that was very unconventional for its time.
Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent is a magnificent film from Francois Truffaut that features outstanding performances from Jean-Pierre Leaud, Kika Markham, and Stacey Tendeter. Armed with a sensational story, exquisite detail to the period, Georges Delerue’s rapturous score, and the enchanting cinematography of Nestor Almendros. The film is truly one of Truffaut’s finest films in the way it explores love and all of its complexities. In the end, Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent is a spectacular film from Francois Truffaut.
Francois Truffaut Films: The 400 Blows - Shoot the Piano Player - Jules & Jim - Antoine & Colette - The Soft Skin - (Fahrenheit 451) - The Bride Wore Black - Stolen Kisses - Mississippi Mermaid - The Wild Child - Bed and Board - (Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me) - (Day for Night) - (The Story of Adele H.) - (Small Change) - (The Man Who Loved Women) - (The Green Room) - Love on the Run - The Last Metro - (The Woman Next Door) - (Confidentially Yours)
The Auteur #40: Francois Truffaut (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2)
© thevoid99 2014
Thursday, March 06, 2014
Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 9/26/07 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.
Directed by Mike Judge and written by Judge and Etan Cohen, Idiocracy tells the story of an Army serviceman and a prostitute who both take part in an army experiment where more than 500 years later, they arrive to see that their world has become dumber as the man finds himself to be the smartest person alive. A satire about culture and the de-evolution of the world, Judge's sophomore feature film shows his knack for humor as well as the wittiness of his debut feature. Starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, Terry Crews, Justin Long, and featuring appearances from Judge associates Stephen Root and David Herman. Idiocracy is a witty satire on the world that is ravaged by stupidity.
The film is a satirical comedy set 500 years from the present time where the world has gone completely stupid where an Army serviceman named Joe (Luke Wilson) and a hooker named Rita (Maya Rudolph) are both awaken from a top-secret Army experiment where they supposed to be frozen for a year inside two pods. Instead, a series of unfortunate circumstances has Joe and Rita be the smartest people on Earth as the English language has deteriorated into a mixture of hillbilly, slang, valley girl, and grunts while the world drinks a drink known as Brawndo that claims to have electrolytes. For Joe, he must use his average knowledge to save the world from further stupidity where he would encounter things such as TV shows like Ow! My Balls!, a film called Ass, all brought to you by Carl Jr.'s, Buttfuckers with its big-ass fries, and all sorts of dumb shit.
Mike Judge's concept of the world gone stupid is definitely an ambitious one in comparison to his debut film Office Space. Yet, the story about an average man finding himself in a world where he's the smartest man alive is definitely one that is both downright hilarious and shocking at the same time. The comedy that includes some extremely funny, lowbrow dialogue where people would say "I like money", "Shut up! I'm 'batin", 'You talk like a fag", and "I like money" in a drawl that can be described in a hybrid of Hillbilly, Valley Girl, inner-city slang, and grunts. Another factor that is funny is how corporations are handled where a Costco would end up taking an entire city or Starbucks offering hand-jobs along with other places. Plus, Carl's Jr. would have a slogan that says "Fuck you, I'm eating" and Fuddruckers' had its named changed to Buttfuckers.
The result is a highly original yet funny vision of the future. What's more shocking is that it's also true in some ways. The script that Judge and Etan Cohen creates is filled with hilarious scenes and such yet underneath it is some social commentary on pop culture and people's obsession with it. Now, there's nothing necessarily wrong with watching a guy getting kicked in the nuts or watching a bare-naked ass farting. The problem is that it gets old after a few minutes. Not to the people in this film where the #1 grossing movie for the past few years that also one several Oscars is a movie called Ass. 90 minutes of a bare-naked butt farting maybe funny to some but for someone that has intelligence might find it funny for a while but not for the rest of the film.
Judge's direction of dystopian with CGI-imagery of a town gone horribly bad. Architecture looking very messed up, mountains of trash, and the Washington monument looking very slanted. His vision of the future is actually horrifying to watch because it might actually come true. What happen to the scientists in that film? Well, they end up looking for the cure of hair loss and such. The idea of de-evolution through Judge's camera is very haunting as is the narration by Earl Mann is to remind the audience of how dumb the world has become. Even mentioning that Brawndo has ended up replacing all the food groups and such.
Despite the film's high concept and commentary, it is flawed due to a few pacing issues when things aren't being funny. Plus, some of the humor isn't as good as Office Space but what Judge does is truly original. Especially since his dystopian vision is starting to come true unfortunately. Even with pop culture. Today, people have no idea who Ingmar Bergman, Marcel Marceau, Robert Altman, Andy Warhol, or even Afrikka Bambatta (he's still alive as of 2014) are or what have they done. Hell, it's amazing that ten years ago, some movies have gotten dumber by the minute.
Instead of people going to see a movie like Grindhouse or maybe something intellectual as Talk to Me, they go see something as dumb as Wild Hogs or Are We Done Yet? Plus, how have we gone from Smells Like Teen Spirit to My Humps? There's a line that Rita says about Albert Einstein, "Do you think Einstein thought the whole world was full of dumb shits?" Joe replies, "Maybe that's why he build the atomic bomb". This is what Judge seems to say about intellectuals and their stance on the world and sadly, it's starting to come true.
Cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt brings a grainy yet saturated look to the film's cinematography to convey the bleakness of the film with its dark, shady colors and sepia imagery. Production designer Darren Gilford and art director William Ladd Skinner do amazing work in some of the film's set designs with dirty-looking buildings and places covered in trash. Costume designer Debra McGuire's futuristic clothing is inspiring and also cheesy with everyone wearing shiny-like t-shirts and baggy pants where the future has also lost it sense of fashion. Editor David Rennie brings a nice, intense look to the film including some of the dramatic reactions to the film's dystopian tone. Sound editor Michael J. Benavente also plays to the atmosphere in bringing noise of explosions and grunts that work very well. Visual effects supervisor Kent Johnson's look of the future is amazing, even a shot of a bridge that's already broken and such. Composer Theodore Shapiro brings a score that's dominated by country-like acoustic guitar to play up the film's humor as well as a mix of music featuring metal and reggae.
The film's cast is unique in playing up to the film's comedy. Small appearances from director Mike Judge as the Army officer Collins, Bottle Rocket's Robert Musgrave as an Army sergeant, rapper Scarface as Rita's pimp Upgrayed, Sara Rue as a bimbo attorney general, Danny Cochran as the idiotic Secretary of Education, and in the roles of the unfortunate yuppie couple in the film's intro, Darlene Hunt and Patrick Fischler are funny. Cameo appearances from Stephen Root, David Herman, Thomas Haden Church, and Justin Long are very funny along with Luke's older brother Andrew in a great cameo as the flame-throwing gladiator Beef Supreme. In the role of the U.S. president, Terry Crews gives a hilarious, energetic performance as President Camacho with his long, heavy-metal wig and exuberance that makes him one of the most overlooked comedy actors.
Dax Shepard is extremely funny as the dim-witted lawyer Frito Pendejo. His last name in Spanish means stupid, which is even funnier. With his hillbilly accent, Shepard makes every moment worth laughing about in how he responds to situations, talk, and all sorts of hijinks. He along with Crews are some of the film's best supporting performances. Maya Rudolph is also funny in her role as Rita, a hooker who finds her old job becoming too easy while becoming aware that she too, is smarter than everyone except Joe. Rudolph does great supporting work as she becomes the only person that Joe can really talk to. Luke Wilson is great in his role as Joe, an average guy who is thrust into a situation as he ends up being the smartest man alive. Wilson's mix of subtle humor and drama proved to be the right tone as his remains one of the most overlooked performances of 2006.
While not as strong or as funny as Mike Judge's debut film Office Space, Idiocracy is still one of the funniest and smartest comedies of 2006 thanks to some great performances from Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, and Terry Crews along with Judge's high-concept. Fans of Judge's work will no doubt enjoy the film's humor and satire but for a general audience. It might seem too much or rather from their point of view, "very pompous & faggy". Intellectuals might think the film isn't serious enough or rather way too serious yet it's a film that is a mirror in the ways of how people have been dumbed down lately by pop culture such. In the end, Idiocracy is a must-see for anyone who wants smart satire that is also downright hilarious.
Mike Judge Films: (Beavis & Butt-Head Do America) - (Office Space) - (Extract)
© thevoid99 2014
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Written and directed by Rama Burshtein, Fill the Void is the story about an 18-year old girl who is pressured by her family in the Haredi Jewish community in Tel Aviv, Israel to marry her late sister’s husband following the death of her sister through childbirth. The film explores the life of a young woman in a strict community as she finds herself with very little options about what to do with her life. Starring Hadas Yaron, Chaim Sharir, Ido Samuel, Irit Sheleg, Yiftach Klein, and Hila Feldman. Fill the Void is a compelling and touching film from Rama Burshtein.
The film is a simple story about a young woman who is asked by her family to marry her brother-in-law following the death of her sister through childbirth. Much of it set in the Haredi Jewish community in Tel Aviv as this 18-year old woman is a pawn in an arrangement by her family who are hoping that Yochay (Yiftach Klein) would stay in Tel Aviv with his newborn son Mordechai as he’s been given a prospect to marry a woman in Belgium which the family doesn’t want. Much of the story is told through the perspective of Shira (Hadas Yaron) who had been taking care of Mordechai as she also deals with other future prospects for a husband but isn’t sure if she wants to get married. Though she likes Yochay, she isn’t sure about marrying him as well as she had no idea what to do while her family doesn’t want to put too much pressure.
Rama Burshtein’s screenplay not only explores the pressure that Shira has to deal with as well as the role that Yochay has to play. It is largely a family drama where Shira’s parents are aware of the obligations they have in their community as they’re still grieving over the death of their eldest daughter Esther (Renana Raz). At the same time, they realize that forcing Shira to marry Yochay would have some serious repercussions on both of them as they turn to an un-married friend of Esther in Freida (Hila Feldman) who is apprehensive about getting married though she thinks Yochay is a good man. It all plays to the sense of drama as a family deals with loss as well as losing the one thing they had left in the life of their late daughter.
Burshtein’s direction is very intimate in the way she portrays the life of a Haredi Jewish family filled with a lot of religious images in the background. Even as Burshtein uses a lot of close-ups and medium shots to go for something that isn’t stylized but rather a very simple portrait of a family and a young woman being pressured to fill the role that her older sister was supposed to play. The compositions that Burshtein creates are very entrancing in her close-ups as well as how she would fit two or three characters into a frame while playing to the intensity of the drama without the need to embellish or get heavy into melodrama. Overall, Burshtein creates a very evocative and touching film about a young woman finding herself to fill a role for her family.
Cinematographer Asaf Sudry does excellent work with the film‘s very understated cinematography from the way it plays to the film‘s intimate setting with its use of interior lights and such as well as a few exterior shots. Editor Sharon Elovic does nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward to play into the intensity of the drama as well as a few rhythmic cuts for some of the lighter moments of the film. Art director Uri Aminov does fantastic work with the look of the home that Shira lives in as well as some of the places in the community she and her family are in.
Costume designer Hani Gurevitch does amazing work with the costumes from the look of the hats and clothes that the men and women wear in part of the world they live in. Sound designer Aviv Aldema does superb work with the sound to play into the calm atmosphere of the film as well as some of the moments in the ceremonies that is held in the community. The film’s music by Yitzhak Azulay is wonderful for its mixture of orchestral music mixed in with traditional Jewish music to play into that world which includes some usage of the accordion.
The casting by Michel Koren is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it features notable small roles from Melech Thal as a head rabbi, Michael David Weigl as the family friend Shtreicher, Ido Samuel as the relative Yossi Mendelman, Yael Tal as one of Shira and Esther’s friends in Shiffi, and Renana Raz as Shira’s older sister Esther. Razia Israeli is terrific as Aunt Hanna who tries to press the family to get Shira to marry while Hila Feldman is wonderful as family friend Freida who becomes unsure about wanting to get married as she is unattached to anyone.
Chaim Sharir and Irit Sheleg are superb as Shira’s parents who become concerned for the fate of their grandson while wondering if Shira should take on the role that Esther was supposed to play. Yiftach Klein is excellent as Yochay Goldberg as Shira’s brother-in-law who grieves over the loss of his wife while trying to figure out what to do next for himself and his newborn son. Finally, there’s Hadas Yaron in a radiant performance as Shira Mendelman as a young 18-year old woman who finds herself in the middle of a family drama as she deals with the role that she might have to play as well as the decisions she has to make to ensure the future of her newborn nephew and the family dynamics.
Fill the Void is a marvelous film from Rama Burshtein. Armed with a great cast led by Hadas Yaron, it’s a film that is very touching and engaging for the way it explores a family and community trying to deal with death and a family’s future. Especially in a world such as a traditional Jewish community where there’s certain rules and expectations as a young woman is caught in this very intense world. In the end, Fill the Void is a rapturous and mesmerizing film from Rama Burshtein.
© thevoid99 2014