Friday, April 28, 2017

And the Ship Sails On

Directed by Federico Fellini and screenplay by Fellini and Tonino Guerra with operatic texts by Andrea Zanzotto, And the Ship Sails On is the story of a group of aristocrats who board an ocean liner on the eve of World War I to scatter the ashes of a beloved diva. The film is a stylized portrait of a period of time just before the world is thrown into chaos where a group of people go on board on a ship to say goodbye. Starring Freddie Jones, Barbara Jefford, Victor Poletti, Peter Cellier, Elisa Mainardi, Norma West, Paolo Paolini, Pina Bausch, and Sarah Jane Varley. And the Ship Sails On is a majestic and grand film from Federico Fellini.

Set just days before World War I is to happen and on an ocean liner during a journey to the island of Erimo, the film revolves a large group of people consisting of opera singers, statesmen, artists, aristocrats, and a journalist all traveling from Naples to Erimo to say farewell to an operatic diva who had just passed away. It’s a film that follows a moment in time on an ocean liner as if it represents the end of an era where the journalist Orlando (Freddie Jones) is there to observe everything as well as be the film’s narrator. The film’s screenplay by Federico Fellini and Tonino Guerra doesn’t just explore the life of these rich and aristocratic individuals but also coping with loss as well as the fact that they’re sort of disconnected with reality. Especially as there’s a young duke (Fiorenzo Serra) onboard as he really has very little clue on what to do while many of the opera singers and performers are just mourning this diva they admire. Adding to the turbulent journey is a lovesick rhinoceros who hasn’t been bathed and Serbian refugees who later join the ship during the second half as it play into what is happening in the world outside of the ship.

Fellini’s direction definitely relies largely on style from the fact that it is shot entirely at Cinecitta Studios in Rome where it’s full of artificiality from the sea where it definitely looks plastic to the exterior backdrops which is also fake. It adds to the world that Fellini has created as the ship itself is a character where it also displays its sense of artificiality where it kind of represents this world of fine cuisine, posh rooms, and other rich things that is quite disconnected from the realities of the world. While the film opens with this rich sequence shot entirely in a sepia-like film stock with no sound to recreate the feel of newsreels and silent cinema. After a number of minutes, the film turns into color once the ashes of the diva arrives in this lavish carriage with all of the passengers boarding on the ocean-liner as Fellini’s usage of wide and medium shots are rich with detail. Even in the way he would place his actors into a frame for a wide shot and have them positioned in the shot to display how they’re reacting or what are they looking at on the ship.

The direction also has an air of melancholia and nostalgia that looms throughout the film as it is in display through some of the music which features a lot of classical and operatic pieces with some opera singers singing these pieces. One particular scene late in the film as it relates to the Serbian refugees who aren’t exactly welcomed by the other passengers has them observing the music the refugees are playing where it is clear that they have something in common to bond with regardless of class, social standing, and cultural differences. It does have this sense of what the world could be despite what is happening outside of the sea as that reality would come into play. Still, it has something that is offbeat in the way Fellini would tell the story as well as showcase what these people would do to keep their head high despite the inevitable of what their world would become. Overall, Fellini creates a whimsical yet evocative film about a voyage at sea for a deceased diva.

Cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of grainy-sepia film stock for the opening sequence to the lavish usage of lights and colors for many of the scenes set on the ship to play into its different moods. Editor Ruggero Mastroianni does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward with very few stylish cuts as it play into the drama and some of the humor. Production designer Dante Ferretti, with set decorators Francesca Lo Schiavo and Massimo Tavazzi as well as art directors Maria-Teresa Barbasso, Nazzareno Piana, and Massimo Razzi, does incredible work with the design of the ship as well as the artificial look of the sea and rooms in the ship as it is a major highlight of the film.

The costumes of Maurizio Millenotti is fantastic for the look of the suits and dresses that the characters wear to play into their posh look and the contrast to the look of the Serbian refugees. Sound mixer Fausto Ancillai does terrific work with the sound as it is very straightforward to play into the atmosphere of the ship as well as how music is presented in some scenes. The film’s music by Gianfranco Plenizio is wonderful as it is mostly low-key in its orchestral setting where it is playful at times but also dramatic while much of the music soundtrack features an array of classical and operatic pieces that is mostly from Giuseppe Verdi with additional music from Franz Schubert, Claude Debussy, and Camile Saint-Saens.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Janet Zusman as the ghost and picture of the deceased opera singer Edmea Tetua, Philip Locke as a prime minister, Antonio Vezza as the ship’s captain, Maurice Barrier and Fred Williams in their respective roles as the opera singers Ziloev and Sabatino Lepori, Roberto Caporali and Franca Maresca as Dorotea’s parents, and Linda Polan as the opera diva Ines Ruffo Saltini. Pasquale Zito is superb as a young conductor whose room is a shrine to Tetua while Fiorenzo Serra is terrific as the young yet slightly-obese Grand Duke. Pina Bausch is fantastic as the Grand Duke’s blind older sister that is having an affair with the prime minister while Paolo Paolini is excellent as an artist who is a conductor and dancer. Sarah Jane Varley is radiant as Dorotea as a young woman who has this angelic look as she infatuates the journalist Orlando. Victor Poletti is brilliant as the opera performer Aurelio Fuciletto whose voice can do wonders as he shows it to a kitchen staff. Peter Cellier and Norma West are amazing as the couple Sir Reginald Dongby and his nymphomaniac wife Lady Violet as a couple that is just going through marital problems due to the former’s stuffy behavior.

Elisa Mainardi is remarkable as the opera singer Teresa Valegnani as a woman dealing with the loss of a friend in Tetua while Barbara Jefford is incredible as Ildebranda Cuffari as a rival opera singer trying to understand what made Tetua so great as she copes with the loss of someone she despises. Finally, there’s Freddie Jones in a tremendous performance as the journalist Orlando as a man who observes everything around him as well as be the narrator of sorts often talking to the camera as it’s a very witty and lively performance from Jones.

And the Ship Sails On is a spectacular film from Federico Fellini. Featuring a great ensemble cast, grand production values, an amazing music soundtrack, and a captivating theme on loss and dealing with the end of an era. It’s a film that explores a group of people who are saying goodbye as they also cope with a world that is changing into something much darker. In the end, And the Ship Sails On is a rapturous film from Federico Fellini.

Federico Fellini Films: (Variety Lights) – The White Sheik - (L’amore in Citta-Un’agenzia martimoniale) – I, Vitelloni - La Strada - (Il Bidone) – Nights of Cabiria - La Dolce Vita - (Boccaccio ’70-Le tentazoni del Dottor Antonio) – 8 & 1/2 - Juliet of the Spirits - Spirits of the Dead-Toby Dammit - (Fellini: A Director’s Notebook) – Fellini Satyricon - (I Clowns) – Roma - Amarcord - Casanova (1976 film) - (Orchestra Rehearsal) – (City of Women) – (Ginger and Fred) – (Intervista) – (The Voice of the Moon)

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks (TV Edition): Police

For the fourth and final week of April of 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We venture into the world of television in shows about cops where audiences follow the police on the streets catching bad guys while having some fun. Here are my picks:

1. Miami Vice

Definitely one of the most popular TV shows that defined the 1980s as it was shot on location in Miami and definitely changed the game about TV shows that revolve around cops. Sure, Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs didn’t wear police uniforms but they did look cool in those suits. It was one of the finest shows where it had a good five season run where it had a look of its own in terms of its setting as well as employing some of the music of the times to help give it its own distinct flavor.

2. New York Undercover

For a lot of shows in the 1990s that seems to never get its due, this one from FOX is probably the one TV show about cops that is never in the conversation. It is a very different show that revolved around New York undercover cops that didn’t have white actors being the leads as the two leads were played by an African-American and a Hispanic-American. It played into the world of drugs and gangs where two guys from the streets try to do what is right but also have issues at home as it has a realism that was lacking with most TV shows. It had a great run for its three seasons but once Michael de Lorenzo’s character was gone for the fourth and final season. It wasn’t the same show.

3. NYPD Blue

Definitely one of the most popular show of the 1990s, it was a show that drew some controversy for featuring bits of profanity and nudity including the bare ass of Dennis Franz. It’s a show that was quite risky for network television but it definitely made for interesting television as it was willing to push the edge of what could be done as it did give the show some realism. Plus, it had some interesting stories about what cops do in and out of the job while also showing how stressful their job is.

© thevoid99 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hour of the Wolf

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, Vargtimmen (Hour of the Wolf) is the story of an artist who goes on a retreat to an isolated island with his wife as he recalls around memories of his past. The film is a psychological horror-drama that explores life-long trauma and terror as it is set entirely in an isolated island. Starring Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Gertrud Fridh, Georg Rydeburg, Erland Josephson, and Ingrid Thulin. Vargtimmen is a chilling and intoxicating film from Ingmar Bergman.

Set in a remote island near Sweden, the film revolves around a man and his pregnant island on a retreat where the former starts to recall dark memories and strange images in his head as he becomes very distant. It’s a film that opens and ends with the wife Alma (Liv Ullmann) talking about what had happened during this holiday where things start off fine but then her husband Johan Borg (Max von Sydow) starts to unravel due to his insomnia and claims that he is seeing people who could be imaginary. Even as they’re invited to a party at a nearby castle by a baron where the events become very strange as it would lead to Johan unraveling even more. Ingmar Bergman’s screenplay starts off with a claim that the story is real as Bergman says he got the story from a diary given to him by Alma as it would be the basis for what is to be told. Though much of the narrative is told by Alma through flashbacks, it is layered as it relates to the memories and fears that Johan endures which includes the appearance of a former lover.

Bergman’s direction is quite intoxicating in its approach to compositions and framing as well as emphasizing on surrealism to help tell the story. Shot on location at the island of Baltrum in Sweden, the film does play into this world that is quite isolated where a man is desperate to get better and relax but he is slowly undone by his demons and bad memories. While there are some unique wide shots that has Bergman take stock in the location as well as putting actors into a frame for a wide shot. Much of it is very simple with its usage of medium shots and close-ups as it play into the drama as well as the moments of surrealism which includes one eerie sequence. A sequence involving Johan and a child that play into the dark past that Johan is dealing with while the scenes at the castle for the film’s climax are just as strange as it adds to this blur of reality and fiction. Especially as it involves Alma who would be forced to watch this blend come to life while trying to come terms with what she saw. Overall, Bergman creates a haunting yet visceral film about demons and dark pasts.

Cinematographer Sven Nykvist does incredible work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it is rich in its look as well as playing to its sense of atmosphere in the naturalistic daytime lighting as well as the interior scenes in day and night for its usage of shadows. Editor Ulla Ryghe does excellent work with the editing as it has some style with its usage of jump-cuts and some eerie montages which play into the drama and suspense. Production designer Marik Vos-Lundh does brilliant work with the look of the house that Johan and Alma live in as well as some of the interiors inside the castle as some of it is very scary. Costume designer Mago does nice work with the costumes as it is very quaint for the clothes that Johan and Alma wear at home in contrast to the more posh look of the people in the castle. The sound work of Lennart Engholm and Per-Olof Pettersson is terrific for the atmosphere it creates for the scenes inside the castle as well as in some of the film’s surreal moments. The film’s music by Lars Johan Werle is superb for its chilling score that play into the suspense including the horrifying sequence involving Johan and a child while the film also features classical music for a puppet show.

The film’s amazing cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Gertrud Fridh as the baron’s wife who flirts with Johan, Erland Josephson as the baron who invites Johan to his home with some strange intentions, and Ingrid Thulin in a radiant performance as a former lover of Johan who would haunt him in his dreams. Max von Sydow is remarkable as Johan Borg as an artist who is dealing with an illness as it worsens to the point that he starts to unravel and wonders if the reality he’s seeing is real which would haunt him. Finally, there’s Liv Ullman in a radiant performance as Alma as Johan’s pregnant wife who is trying to understand everything her husband is dealing with as well as reading his diary as she wonders if she really knows him at all.

Vargtimmen is a phenomenal film from Ingmar Bergman with great performances from Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman. It’s a film that explores madness and demons as it relates to Bergman’s exploration of the mind and what drive people to lose it. In the end, Vargtimmen is a spectacular film from Ingmar Bergman.

Ingmar Bergman Films: (Crisis) - (It Rains on Our Love) - (A Ship to India) - (Music of Darkness) - (Port of Call) - (Prison) - (Thirst (1949 film)) - (To Joy) - (This Can’t Happen Here) - (Summer Interlude) - (Secrets of Women) - Summer with Monika - Sawdust and Tinsel - A Lesson in Love - Dreams (1955 film) - Smiles of a Summer Night - The Seventh Seal - (Mr. Sleeman is Coming) – Wild Strawberries - (The Venetian) - (Brink of Life) - (Rabies) - The Magician (1958 film) - The Virgin Spring - The Devil's Eye - Through a Glass Darkly - Winter Light - The Silence (1963 film) - All These Women - Persona - (Stimulantia-Daniel) - (Shame (1968 film)) - (The Rite) - (The Passion of Anna) - (The Touch) – Cries & Whispers - Scenes from a Marriage - (The Magic Flute) - (Face to Face) - (The Serpent’s Egg) – Autumn Sonata - From the Life of the Marionettes - Fanny & Alexander - (After the Rehearsal) - (The Blessed Ones) - (In the Presence of a Clown) - (The Image Makers) – Saraband

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, April 24, 2017

Cherish (2002 film)

Written and directed by Finn Taylor, Cherish is the story of an eccentric young woman who is a major suspect in a hit-and-run manslaughter case as she is on house arrest while wondering where her stalker is as he was the one that put her in the situation. The film is a genre-bending film as it mixes suspense, romance, and comedy as it revolves around a woman trying to find the real killer as she gets help from a parole officer. Starring Robin Tunney, Tim Blake Nelson, Lindsay Crouse, Liz Phair, Brad Hunt, Nora Dunn, and Jason Priestley. Cherish is a charming and delightful film from Finn Taylor.

The film revolves around this shy and quirky woman who goes out one night only to be held hostage by a mysterious stalker in which she kills a cop in a hit-and-run as she is put on house arrest. It’s a film with a simple premise yet the character of Zoe Adler (Robin Tunney) is an odd protagonist as she is this computer animator with a lack of confidence as she is unaware that she is being stalked by a mysterious man who would later put her in trouble. Even as she is someone that escapes through music of the 70s and 80s where it would help her cope with being in house arrest as she would befriend this deputy named Bill (Tim Blake Nelson) who comes in occasionally to check on her bracelet where he would eventually help her. Finn Taylor’s screenplay doesn’t just explore Zoe’s eccentric behavior but also having her be determined to find the stalker who ruined her life. Even as she also copes with loneliness where she is also able to befriend neighbors and other people in the apartment she is forced to stay in.

Taylor’s direction definitely has some elements of style such as an intricately-filmed opening credits sequence at the building that Zoe works at with its usage of crane shots. Still, Taylor opts for something more simplistic to play into Zoe’s quirky personality with playful shots as well as compositions to showcase her sense of isolation and the need to connect. There are some usages of close-ups and medium shots to play into Zoe’s sense of intimacy while there are also some creative wide shots to play into the scope of the apartment she’s living in as well as the locations as a lot of it shot in San Francisco and places in the Bay Area. The film’s third act would change in tone where it does become a suspense film but it adds to a sense of growth to Zoe in her quest to find the man who ruined her life. Yet, Taylor would create a climax that is quite engaging as it play into everything that Zoe had been through and her determination to prove her innocence. Overall, Taylor creates an exhilarating yet lively film about a woman coping with isolation as she tries to find the stalker that ruined her.

Cinematographer Barry Stone does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward with some grainy film stock for some of the fantasy scenes shown from the stalker’s perspective. Editor Rick LeCompte does brilliant work with the editing as it emphasizes a lot on style from jump-cuts, montages, and other moments that play into its humor and suspense. Production designer Don Day, with set decorator Lisa Clark and art director Guy Harrington, does fantastic work with the look of the condo Zoe had early in the film to the apartment she is forced to stay at. Costume designer Amy Brownson does nice work with the costumes from the quirky clothes that Zoe wears to the more straight-laced look of Bill.

The visual effects work of Adrian Dimond is terrific for some of the minimal moments such as a few time-lapse sequences and some of the fantasy scenes involving the stalker. Sound editor David Nelson does superb work with the sound in the way it’s mixed and how music is presented as well as other moments that play into the world that Zoe is in. The film’s music by Mark De Gil Antoni is wonderful for its mixture of jazz and electronic music that play into the suspense and humor while music supervisor Charles Raggio an incredible soundtrack that features an array of music from the late 1960s to the early 1980s from acts such as the Association, Hall & Oates, Terry Jacks, Human League, Modern English, Soft Cell, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, America, 10cc, Maze, the Turtles, Togetherness, the Style Council, the Flamingos, the Impressions, and the Climax Blues Band plus more contemporary music from Noe Venable.

The casting by Joseph Middleton is remarkable as it feature some notable small roles from Ricardo Gil as a paralyzed-dwarf neighbor named Max, Kenny Kwong as a teen Zoe befriends in Yung, Kelvin Han Yee as an officer who often accompanies Bill, Nina Pescheke-Koedt and Daniel DeShara as Eastern European neighbors living above Zoe, Phil LeMarr as a yoga instructor, and Lindsay Crouse as Zoe’s therapist early in the film who analyzes Zoe’s own loneliness. Nora Dunn is terrific as Zoe’s attorney who tries to get Zoe a reduced sentence while Liz Phair is superb as Zoe’s very bitchy boss who doesn’t really care about her. Jason Priestley is excellent as Andrew as a hunky co-worker of sorts that Zoe meets at a bar and dances with on the night her life would go to shit.

Brad Hunt is brilliant as the voice of a DJ that Zoe listens to in retro music that he plays. Tim Blake Nelson is amazing as Bill Daly as a deputy who puts bracelets on criminals as he sympathizes and befriends Zoe where he would help as well as put some joy into his very mundane life. Finally, there’s Robin Tunney in a phenomenal performance as Zoe Adler as a shy and eccentric woman whose life changes by a fatal hit-and-run she was unfortunately involved in as she copes with her loneliness by looking at the world around her and try to find her stalker as it’s a very charming performance from Tunney.

Cherish is an incredible film from Finn Taylor that features a mesmerizing performance from Robin Tunney. Along with a strong supporting cast, an intriguing premise, and a fun soundtrack, the film is definitely a fascinating portrait of loneliness as well a woman’s determination to reclaim her life. In the end, Cherish is a marvelous film from Finn Taylor.

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Le Plaisir

Based on the short stories of Guy de Maupassant, Le Plaisir is a film that tell three different stories of life in late 19th Century France involving ballrooms, a painter’s studio, a countryside retreat, and bordellos. Directed by Max Ophuls and screenplay by Ophuls and Jacques Natanson, the film revolves around the world of 19th Century France in all of its trials and tribulations. Starring Jean Gabin, Simone Simon, Danielle Darrieux, Daniel Gelin, Claude Dauphin, Gaby Morlay, Madeleine Renaud, Ginette Leclerc, Pierre Brasseur, and Jean Servais as the voice of Guy de Maupassant. Le Plaisir is an evocative and exuberant film from Max Ophuls.

Set in the late 19th Century just years before the 20th Century, the film tell three different stories all based on the theme of pleasure in all of its fallacies. While it is presented as an anthology film, they all play into that theme with the middle section in Le Maison Tellier being the most dominant of the three while the opening story Le Masque and the closing story Le Modele both are given smaller time yet manage to provide enough to play into its theme. Le Masque is set in the world of ballrooms where a man in a mask (Jean Galland) arrives to dance with a young woman (Gaby Bruyere) only to pass out as a doctor (Claude Dauphin) makes a discovery and wonders why this man wears a mask. Le Maison Tellier revolves around a bordello madam (Madeleine Renaud) who takes her fellow prostitutes to the country where her niece is having her first communion while her brother (Jean Gabin) falls for one of the prostitutes in Rosa (Danielle Darreiux). In Le Modele, an artist (Daniel Gelin) falls for a model (Simone Simon) who would be his muse as their relationship starts off as idyllic only to turn into total chaos.

Max Ophuls’ direction is definitely exquisite not just for the setting that he creates but also in the intricate camera work that approaches for all of the stories. The scenes in Le Maison starts off as very extravagant with everyone going into the ballroom but once the man in the mask faints and falls ill. The tone of the story changes where it becomes more intimate with Ophuls maintains an intimacy in the medium shots and close-ups as opposed to the more lavish scenes in the ballroom where Ophuls would use tracking shots and some crane shots to play into the grandness of the ballroom. For Le Maison Tellier, the segment starts off at night in the city where it’s raucous while the scenes in the country are quainter and peaceful which makes the madam and her prostitutes a little uneasy as well as the sense of purity during the community scene as it is too much for Rosa to bear.

Ophuls’ approach to the scenes are more intimate but also has a mixture of long tracking shots as well as some slanted camera angles. In Le Modele, Ophuls would return to broader compositions as it relates to the world of art but it also has some style as it relates to the world of the artist and the model as they’re at odds with each other. Ophuls’ usage of slanted angles and some wide shots play into the tension while the rest of the film would feature moments that are somber. Notably in Le Maison Tellier where bordello regulars learn that the bordello is closed for a small period of time as the men are in a park trying to figure out what to do or what to talk about. It’s a moment that is presented with a simplicity as Ophuls isn’t aiming for style except in the film’s narration by the voice of Guy de Maupassant who would voice his thoughts on the story from time to time. Overall, Ophuls creates a majestic yet compelling film about the lives of different people and their encounter with pleasure.

Cinematographers Christian Matras and Philippe Agostini do brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography with the latter shooting many of footage for Le Modele while the former would create some extravagant lighting for the ballroom scenes in Le Masque and the more naturalistic daytime exteriors in Le Maison Tellier. Editor Leonide Azar does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward where it doesn’t go for any kind of style with the exception of a few rhythmic cuts here and there. Production designer Jean d’Eaubonne and set decorator Robert Christides do fantastic work with the design of the ballroom as well as the bordello and the artist’s studio to play into the world of extravagance.

Costume designer Georges Annenkov does amazing work with the design of the costumes from the dresses that the women wear to the costume of the masked man. The sound work of Louis Haller is terrific for its simplicity as it plays to the raucous world of the ballrooms and bordello to the calm atmosphere of the church during the communion scene. The film’s music by Joe Hayos is wonderful for its orchestral-based score that is largely based on the music of the times including the music that people danced too at the time.

The film’s incredible ensemble cast an array of noteworthy performances with Jean Servais in a superb performance as the voice of Guy de Maupassant. From the Le Masque, the performances of Jean Galland as the masked man, Claude Dauphin as the doctor, Gaby Bruyere as the masked man's dance partner, and Gaby Morlay as an old woman taking care of the masked man are all great in displaying the anguish of youth and aging. From Le Modele, the performances of Daniel Gelin and Simone Simon in their respective roles as the artist and the model are remarkable in displaying a love affair that starts out right only to become tumultuous. Much of the film’s ensemble that appears in Le Maison Tellier are fantastic with the small performances from Jocelyne Jany as the madam’s niece, Antoine Balpetre as a patron at the bordello, Rene Blancard as a mayor who is also a regular patron at the bordello, and Henri Cremieux as another rich patron of the bordello.

In the role of some of the prostitutes, there’s Mathilde Casadesus, Ginette Leclerc, Mila Parely in wonderful performances as a trio of prostitutes who have a hard time with the air of silence during the night during their country stay. Pierre Brasseur is very funny as a traveling salesman who tries to sell garments to the prostitutes where he does something very wrong. Jean Gabin is brilliant as the madam’s brother who falls for a young prostitute as he tries to deal with getting his daughter’s first communion to go well. Danielle Darrieux is sublime as Madame Rosa as a young prostitute who is in love with her boss’ brother as she becomes moved by the communion procession as well as the sense of purity in the country. Finally, there’s Madeleine Renaud in a radiant performance as Julia Tellier as a brothel madam who goes to the country to see her niece’s first communion as she doesn’t just cope with life in the country but also how her prostitutes react to a very different environment.

Le Plaisir is a sensational film from Max Ophuls. Featuring a great ensemble cast, amazing camerawork, dazzling art direction, and captivating stories on life’s pleasures and their flaws. It’s an intriguing film that tell three different stories of late 19th Century life and the many complexities of what people will do to find happiness. In the end, Le Plaisir is an incredible film from Max Ophuls.

Max Ophuls Films: (The Bartered Bride) - (The Merry Heirs) - (Liebelei) - (A Love Story (1933 film)) - (Everybody’s Woman) - (The Tender Enemy) - (The Trouble with Money) - (Yoshiwara) - (The Novel of Werther) - (Sarajevo (1940 film)) - (The Exile) - (Letter from an Unknown Woman) - (Caught (1949 film)) - (The Reckless Moment) - La Ronde - The Earrings of Madame de... - (Lola Montes) - (The Lovers of Montparnasse)

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Suicide Squad

Based on the DC comic series by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru, Suicide Squad is the story of a group of supervillains who are tasked to stop a major threat to the world in exchange for reduced prison sentences. Written for the screen and directed by David Ayer, the film is an unconventional superhero film of sorts where it is focused on the bad guys who are given the chance to do good while dealing with their own faults as individuals. Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Adam Beach, Karen Fukuhara, Scott Eastwood, Ike Barinholtz, Jim Parrack, and Viola Davis. Suicide Squad is an intriguing but extremely messy film from David Ayer.

Following some catastrophic events around the world, the film revolves around an intelligence officer who wants to create a task force filled with supervillains to stop any major threat available as they would team up with a military officer to kill an evil witch-goddess known as the Enchantress who has inhabited the body of an archeologist named Dr. June Moone (Cara Delevingne). It’s a film that has some of worst of the worst that include a hitman, a pyromaniac, a mutant, a bank robber, and a former psychiatrist who later became the girlfriend of the Joker (Jared Leto). They’re given the chance to do good and save the world in exchange for a reduced prison sentence as they reluctantly do the job with Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) leading the team. It’s a concept that has a nice idea but writer/director David Ayer unfortunately doesn’t go all the way with its execution.

While he does manage to establish who are the members of this team known as the Suicide Squad in Floyd Lawton/Deadshot (Will Smith), Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), George “Digger” Harkness/Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Chato Santana/El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and Waylon Jones/Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Some of these characters are either underwritten or under-utilized while the script falters very highly as Ayer tried to cram so much into the story but never finds a way to create a balance for everyone involved. Even the stakes in trying to stop the Enchantress and her brother Incubus (Alain Chanonine) doesn’t have much weight or motivation for the Suicide Squad to stop other than death if they don’t do the job. The character of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is a mysterious individual who holds the fate of the entire squad as she is an antihero that is unique as she is one of the most interesting characters in the film.

The story about Harley Quinn’s relationship with the Joker is definitely not given more to be engaged into as it’s really one of several subplots in the film as the character of the Joker is someone who isn’t really used for the main plot other than to try and retrieve Harley back into his life. It’s a storyline that could’ve been fleshed out more but it’s often seen in flashbacks where there is little of the Joker in the main storyline. Another issue in the film revolves another member of the Suicide Squad in Christopher Weiss/Slipknot (Adam Beach) where he’s only in the film for a few minutes and doesn’t really do anything.

Ayer’s direction is where the film really suffers as it not only tries to cram so much into a two-hour film but also do it with some constraints to appeal to a wide audience. While Ayer would create some exciting sequences that does help tell the story and is filled with a lot of action. It tries too hard to be all things where it does have moments that are funny and moments that are exciting but it never finds that balance to bend all type of genres where it is very messy. Though there’s some good compositions that Ayer makes in the medium and wide shots to establish the locations as well as some close-ups. It is all very stylized and sometimes it would be style over substance where Ayer is doing whatever he can to try and make it enthralling. Yet, the emphasis largely on visual effects and wanting to create something big tends to overwhelm the story as it kind of loses of focus on what it wanted to be. Another aspect of the film that is problematic is that underneath all of these storylines, sprawling action scenes, and comedy is that there is a good film somewhere.

It’s obvious that given that this is a studio film that Ayer must have consulted with the executives at Warner Brothers in giving them what they want. Yet, this interference from people who aren’t involved in the process of filmmaking are the last group of people who understand what an audience wants. Sometimes, it’s best to not give them what they want as this film unfortunately tries to do so many things but giving the character of the Joker a small amount of time in the film as well as not providing a backstory for Killer Croc and a volunteer in Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana (Karen Fukuhara) definitely would baffle the audience. The climax is also kind of lacking in something bigger as it ends up being very conventional as it never really has the chance to become something of its own in favor of trying to be like every other superhero film. Overall, Ayer creates a decent but extremely inconsistent and underwhelming film about a group of bad guys teaming up to save the world.

Cinematographer Roman Vasyanov does some nice work with the cinematography with its array of colors and lighting schemes for much of the scenes set at night as well as the usage of desaturated colors for some of the daytime scenes. Editor John Gilroy does some fine work with the editing as it is very stylized where it relies a lot on fast-cuts but does provide enough footage to establish what is going on despite the constraints of what the film would suffer in its final cut. Production designer Oliver Scholl, with set decorators Beauchamp Fontaine and Shane Vieau as well as supervising art directors Brandt Gordon and Brad Ricker, does excellent work with the set design from the prison cells of the members of the Suicide Squad as well as the look of some of the cities and buildings they go into. Costume designer Kate Hawley does superb work with the costumes from the clothes some of the members of the Suicide Squad wear as well as the stylish clothing of Harley Quinn.

Hair/makeup designer Alessandro Bertolazzi and creature/effects designer Steve Newburn do brilliant work with the look of some of the characters such as El Diablo, Harley, Killer Croc, and the Joker where they’re given distinctive looks. Visual effects supervisor Jerome Chen does some good work with the visual effects in creating some mystical effects relating to the Enchantress though it does get overwhelming at times as the design of her army is kind of weak. Sound editor Richard King does fantastic work with the sound in creating some sound effects and in some of the broad moments in the action sequences. The film’s score by Steven Price is wonderful as it’s mainly a mixture of orchestral music with some electronics as much of the music that is assembled by music supervisors Gabe Hilfer and Season Kent that features an array of music from the likes of AC/DC, Rick James, Eminem, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Lesley Gore, the White Stripes, Black Sabbath, Kanye West, K7, Norman Greenbaum, the Rolling Stones, and the Animals.

The casting by Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu is brilliant despite some of the issues involved due to the interference of studio executives as it feature some notable small appearances from Jim Parrack and Common as a couple of the Joker’s henchmen, Alain Chanonine as the Enchantress’ brother Incubus, Ike Barinholtz as a prison guard, Scott Eastwood as Col. Flag’s right-hand man GQ Edwards, David Harbour as a government official, Shailyn Pierre-Dixon as Deadshot’s daughter, Grace Santana as El Diablo’s wife in flashbacks, and Adam Beach in a very wasted performance as Slipknot. Karen Fukuhara is fantastic as Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana as a volunteer who is deadly with a samurai sword as she helps the Suicide Squad while Cara Delevingne is alright as Dr. June Moone in displaying her fears and vulnerability but isn’t very good as the Enchantress who is just this lame villain.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is terrific as Waylon Jones/Killer Croc as a reptilian-like mutant who can do things underwater and kick ass though he is very underutilized and underwritten. Joel Kinnaman is superb as Col. Rick Flag as a Special Forces officer who leads the Suicide Squad into battle while trying to hide the fact that he is personally invested in this mission to stop the Enchantress. Jay Hernandez is excellent as Chato Santana/El Diablo as a pyromaniac who is reluctant to help out as he is afraid of unleashing his powers knowing how bad it can become. Jai Courtney is fun as George “Digger” Harkness/Captain Boomerang as a bank robber with a deadly boomerang who is quite tough but also has some weird fetishes.

Jared Leto’s performance as the Joker is a mixed bag where not only is it a very small role where he’s not given much to do for the story while his performance is funny at times but also over-the-top for the wrong reasons. Viola Davis is brilliant as Amanda Waller as an intelligence officer creating a plan to help the world in the face of a threat as this is a no-nonsense character that is quite ruthless but also very determined to do whatever it takes to save the world. Will Smith is amazing as Floyd Lawton/Deadshot as a hitman/assassin that is good at what he does yet is also complex as he’s got morals despite the fact that he’s a bad guy as Smith brings some charm but also some weight as a man who knows what is at stake. Finally, there’s Margot Robbie in a phenomenal performance as Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn as a former psychiatrist who goes insane and falls for the Joker as she is this odd yet insane woman often speaks her mind and does crazy things as it’s the real standout performance in the film.

Suicide Squad is a decent but uneven film from David Ayer. Despite some action sequences, intriguing premise, and a great ensemble cast, it’s a film that suffers from trying to do so much only to bring in so little. In the end, Suicide Squad is just a very disappointing and underwhelming film from David Ayer.

David Ayer Films: (Harsh Times) – (Street Kings) – (End of Watch) – (Sabotage (2014 film)) – (Fury (2014 film)) – (Bright (2017 film))

DC Extended Universe: Man of Steel - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - (Wonder Woman) – (Justice League)

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

La Ronde (1950 film)

Based on the play by Arthur Schnitzler, La Ronde is a collection of stories involving infidelity where one person meets this person and that person meets another person. Directed by Max Ophuls and screenplay by Ophuls and Jacques Natanson, the film is an exploration into what makes people fall in love and commit adultery in the most whimsical of ways. Starring Anton Walbrook, Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani, Simone Simon, Daniel Gelin, Danielle Darrieux, Fernand Gravey, Odette Joyeux, Jean-Louis Barrault, Isa Miranda, and Gerard Philipe. La Ronde is a witty and delightful film from Max Ophuls.

Set in 1900 Vienna, the film follows a series of infidelities where a man meets a woman and that woman meets another man who would be with this woman who would be with this man and so on. It’s a film with a simple premise as it’s largely told by a narrator (Anton Walbrook) from the modern world who would tell these stories involving people falling in love. Among them is a soldier who meets a prostitute as he would later fall for this chambermaid who falls for the son of the people she’s working for as he would have an affair with a married woman. That is the narrative in a nutshell as it is largely told by this narrator who would often break down the fourth wall or appear in a story as a supporting character. It’s a very unique approach to the narrative as it covers one affair after the other as the characters that are in this merry-go-round of love affairs prove to be very interesting and why people would fall in love with this person or that person.

Max Ophuls’ direction is definitely intoxicating to watch from the way he recreates 1900 Vienna as well as not be afraid to break the fourth wall. Shot largely in a soundstage as Vienna, Ophuls would use the setting to create some intricate camerawork with the tracking shots and some crane shots where it would often last for minutes rather than shoot something for less than a minute. Ophuls’ usage of close-ups and medium shots would maintain an intimacy for much of the film while he would also use some slanted camera angles for stylish reasons to play into a character that is in a transition from one lover to another. There are some wide shots in the film as it’s more about the romances and relationships while the narrator would often be seen driving a merry-go-round or do something that relates to the story where he would hold a reel of film and cut it out and back to a certain part of the story. Overall, Ophuls creates a whimsical yet splendid about people falling in love with this person and that person.

Cinematographer Christian Matras does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its usage of shades and shadows for some of the interiors along with some unique lighting for some of the exterior scenes set at night. Editor Leonide Azar does excellent work by creating some unique cutting styles including a few transitional wipes and some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the comedy and conversations. Production designer Jean d’Eaubonne does fantastic work with the set design from the different homes of some of the characters to the design of the merry-go-round. The costumes of Georges Annenkov are wonderful for its stylish look in the dresses the women wear as well as the suits that the men wear. The sound work of Pierre-Louis Calvet is superb for the natural elements of the sound as it doesn’t try to go for anything artificial. The film’s music by Oscar Strauss is amazing as it is this very lively orchestral score that play into the humor and romance with some songs sung by the narrator.

The film’s incredible ensemble cast feature performance that are just fun to watch starting with Anton Walbrook as the film’s narrator/game master who leads the audience to the story and break the fourth wall at times while taking on small supporting roles as an outsider as he’s a joy to watch. From the side of the men, we have Gerard Philipe in a superb performance as a young count who is in love with the actress while he would lament over his own love affairs. Jean-Louis Barrault is terrific as a poet who is in love with a young grisette named Anna as well as the actress while Daniel Gelin is excellent as a young man who would have an affair with a maid and a married woman. In the role of the young soldier, Serge Reggiani is fantastic as the soldier who would start things off in his tryst with a prostitute and later the maid. Fernand Gravey is excellent as the husband of the cheating wife who is having a relationship with a young grisette as he laments over his marriage.

From the women, we have Isa Miranda in a wonderful performance as a stage actress who is having an affair with a poet and a young count while Odette Joyeux is brilliant as a young grisette who spends her time with this married man but is in love with this poet. Danielle Darrieux is amazing as this married woman who is in love with this young man that she’s having an affair with yet still has love for her husband despite their passionless marriage. Simone Simon is radiant as a young maid who is dating this young soldier yet manages to fall for this man whose parents she works for while Simone Signoret is great as a prostitute who starts the entire story with her brief liaison with a soldier as she would start a chain of affairs for everyone involved.

La Ronde is a phenomenal film from Max Ophuls. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a witty story about infidelity, and an unconventional approach to its narrative. It’s a film that manages to be something fun as well as provide some unique ideas about infidelity in a humorous way. In the end, La Ronde is a spectacular film from Max Ophuls.

Max Ophuls Films: (The Bartered Bride) - (The Merry Heirs) - (Liebelei) - (A Love Story (1933 film)) - (Everybody’s Woman) - (The Tender Enemy) - (The Trouble with Money) - (Yoshiwara) - (The Novel of Werther) - (Sarajevo (1940 film)) - (The Exile) - (Letter from an Unknown Woman) - (Caught (1949 film)) - (The Reckless Moment) - Le Plaisir - The Earrings of Madame de... - (Lola Montes) - (The Lovers of Montparnasse)

© thevoid99 2017