Monday, June 27, 2016

Sleepers



Based on the non-fiction novel by Lorenzo Carcaterra, Sleepers is the story of four young boys from the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York City whose lives were changed when they were sent to a brutal juvenile hall as they endured sexual abuse by guards only to get revenge on them many years later as adults. Written for the screen and directed by Barry Levinson, the film is an exploration of men who deal with the abuse that had changed them as two of them go on trial for the murder of one with two of the men trying to find ways to mess the trial up as one of them is a prosecutor trying against them. Starring Jason Patric, Brad Pitt, Kevin Bacon, Minnie Driver, Billy Crudup, Ron Eldard, Brad Renfro, Joe Perrino, Jonathan Tucker, Geoffrey Wigdor, Bruno Kirby, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert de Niro. Sleepers is a chilling yet evocative film from Barry Levinson.

Told in the span of nearly 20 years, the film revolves around four boys living in the Hell Kitchen’s section of New York City where an act of theft just to eat hot dogs led to an accident that nearly killed a man. In response to what happened, the boys are sent to the Wilkinson Home for Boys where they would be abused physically and sexually by guards as the experience would haunt them as adults where two of them would finally get revenge on one of the guards as they’re tried for murder by one of the men who would mastermind everything to make sure he loses and his friends go free. It’s a film that is part of a revenge film but it’s also about abuse and what drove these men into trying to free themselves from this horrific experience. All of which is told by one of the men who is a journalist as he reflects on his childhood as well as what he wants to do where he even gets a local priest involved in the trial.

Barry Levinson’s script has a unique structure as much of the first half is set in the mid-to-late 1960s as it revolves around these four boys who were just regular kids that go to church, do small yet non-violent jobs for a local Mafia kingpin, and play stickball. Due to a prank where everything went wrong and be sent to this juvenile hall, their lives change thanks in part to this guard named Sean Nokes (Kevin Bacon) who would abuse them in the worst way with three other guards. The abuse becomes intense to the point that they couldn’t even tell their parents nor their priest in Father Bobby Carillo (Robert de Niro). The film’s second half takes place fourteen years later where the boys become adults as Tommy Marcano (Billy Crudup) and John Reilly (Ron Eldard) have become career criminals and discover Nokes eating a restaurant where they confront and later kill him. With the aid of assistant district attorney Michael Sullivan (Brad Pitt) being their prosecutor who wants to lose the case against them with help from the washed-up alcoholic attorney Danny Snyder (Dustin Hoffman) to represent Marcano and Reilly.

Yet, Sullivan and Lorenzo “Shakes” Carcatetta (Jason Patric) are aware that it’s not enough to help Marcano and Reilly be found not guilty as they would also mastermind revenge on the three other guards with the aid of the local Mafia boss King Benny (Vittorio Gassman) as well as longtime childhood friend Carol (Minnie Driver) as the latter would later learn about the abuse Carcatetta, Marcano, Reilly, and Sullivan endured as Father Bobby would also learn what happened. Yet, the film’s third act is about what Father Bobby is being asked to do by Carcatetta to help Marcano and Reilly as it does become not just a moral issue but also in seeing if Father Bobby could help these men he knew as boys.

Levinson’s direction does have an air of style in the way he presents 1960s Hell’s Kitchen as a place where things were innocent despite some of the dark aspects that surrounds the boys such as Carcatetta seeing his mother be beaten by his father or some of the things that King Benny does to keep his neighborhood clean. It’s as if Levinson recreates 1960s New York City as a time where things were enjoyable and had a bit of danger to it that still made it fun with the usage of the wide and medium shots. By the time the film moves upstate at the juvenile hall, it becomes a much tighter and more unsettling film as Levinson’s direction really maintains that haunting atmosphere. The scenes of abuse are never shown as Levinson is more concerned about what will happen before and its aftermath which just adds that sense of terror.

Once the film reaches its second half, it is set in a more modern world but one that is very dark in terms of its imagery but also in the impact of the violence. Notably the scene where Marcano and Reilly see Nokes and confront him as it is quite eerie as well as being very violent. Levinson’s direction would become stylish in the way Carcatetta and Sullivan would set things up as it includes a meeting between King Benny and another crime lord in Little Caesar (Wendell Pierce) as it relates to the latter whose brother was in the same juvenile hall the four boys were in. It’s a small scene but one that showcases an air of respect in the world of crime but also in the fact that some debts just can’t be paid with money as King Benny would learn the truth about what happened to boys he had cared about despite what he does for a living. The trial scenes are just as intense emotionally as well as in the climax as it involves Father Bobby’s testimony as it is one of the most chilling moments in the film. Overall, Levinson creates a mesmerizing film about four men getting revenge on those that had abused them at a juvenile hall.

Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the sunny and lively look of the film‘s first act in Hell‘s Kitchen to the eerie look at the juvenile hall that includes some de-colored film stock for a football sequence between the kids and the guards. Editor Stu Linder does nice work with the editing as it has bits of style in a few montages while also being straightforward in its drama and some light-hearted moments. Production designer Kristi Zea, with set decorator Beth A. Rubino and art director Tim Galvin, does fantastic work with the look of the juvenile hall as well as some of the places in Hell‘s Kitchen and the restaurant where Marcano and Reilly see Nokes.

Costume designer Gloria Gresham does terrific work with clothes from the look of the kids in the 1960s to the clothes the characters would wear as adults in the 1980s. Sound designer Richard Beggs and sound editor Tim Holland do superb work with the sound in capturing the vibrant energy of Hell‘s Kitchen to the tense and scary world of the juvenile hall. The film’s music by John Williams is amazing for its low-key yet heavy orchestral score that plays into the drama with its string arrangements as it carries a lot of weight into the story while the soundtrack features an array of music of the 60s like Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Beach Boys, Donovan, Spencer Davis Group, Love, Dusty Springfield, and Doris Day to music from the Gap Band, Soft Cell, and Everything is Everything.

The casting by Louis DiGiaimo is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from James Pickens Jr. as an African-American guard who doesn’t take shit from Nokes and protects the boys on their first day, Frank Medrano as a Hell’s Kitchen hood in Fat Mancho, Monica Potillo as the young Carol, Aida Turturro as a woman who witnessed Marcano and Reilly at the restaurant, Eugene Byrd as a tough African-American kid named Rizzo the boys befriend at the juvenile hall, Dash Mihok as a juvie who gets into a fight with Sullivan at the juvenile hall, Angela Rago as Shakes’ mother, and John Slattery as a kind English teacher at the juvenile hall. Other noteworthy small roles include Bruno Kirby as Shakes’ father who is strict but fair towards him and Wendell Pierce as the crime lord Little Caesar who is also Rizzo’s older brother as he learns the truth about what happened to him. In the roles of the three guards who abused the boys with Nokes in Jeffrey Donovan as the aspiring politician Henry Addison, Lennie Loftin as the corrupt Adam Styler, and Terry Kinney as Ralph Ferguson are superb in their roles as three men who are quite scary.

In the roles of the younger version of the boys, Joe Perrino as the young Shakes, Brad Renfro as the young Sullivan, Jonathan Tucker as the young Marcano, and Geoffrey Wigdor as the young Reilly are all amazing as they display an innocence to guys who live in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen as they’re unprepared for what they deal with as well as the abuse they’re too ashamed to unveil to their parents and Father Bobby. Vittorio Gassman is excellent as King Benny as a former bodyguard for Lucky Luciano turned local Mob king who learns about what happened to the boys as he does whatever to help them without leaning towards the world of crime. Minnie Driver is fantastic as Carol as a childhood friend who helps Shakes in trying to help Marcano and Reilly while learning about the truth about what happened to them as kids which made her very uneasy. Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup are brilliant in their respective roles as John Reilly and Tommy Marcano as two men who are haunted by their experience as they turn to crime where they finally get some vengeance upon seeing Nokes at a restaurant.

Dustin Hoffman is great as Danny Snyder as this alcoholic lawyer that is given a chance to defend Reilly and Marcano though he is largely unaware of the role he is playing other than getting a chance to become someone again. Robert de Niro is remarkable as Father Bobby Carillo as a priest who has been the one person the boys can turn to as he learns about what happens where he is put into a situation that goes against everything he’s been doing as a priest. Kevin Bacon is phenomenal as Sean Nokes as this abusive and sadistic prison guard who likes to beat up the kids as well as do things to them in his own perverse way of making them tough. Brad Pitt is marvelous as Michael Sullivan as an assistant district attorney who is masterminding the case as an act revenge as he tries whatever he can to lose convincingly while dealing with his own issues as it relates to the abuse he suffered as a kid. Finally, there’s Jason Patric in a tremendous performance as Lorenzo “Shakes” Carcaterra as a journalist who helps Sullivan in trying to get revenge but also is forced to tell Father Bobby and Carol the truth as he also reflects on his past that still haunts him.

Sleepers is an outstanding film from Barry Levinson. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a multi-layered storyline, and eerie yet compelling stories about sexual and child abuse as well as vengeance. It’s a film that is stylish but also manages to do a lot without being heavy-handed nor go too far into material that is quite intense. In the end, Sleepers is a magnificent film from Barry Levinson.

Barry Levinson Films: (Diner) - (The Natural) - (Young Sherlock Holmes) - (Tin Men) - (Good Morning Vietnam) - (Rain Man) - (Avalon (1990 film)) - (Bugsy) - (Toys) - (Jimmy Hollywood) - (Disclosure) - (Wag the Dog) - (Sphere) - (Liberty Height) - (An Everlasting Piece) - (Bandits (2001 film)) - (Envy) - (Man of the Year) - (What Just Happened) - (You Don’t Know Jack) - (The Bay) - (The Humbling) - (Rock the Kasbah) - (The Wizard of Lies)

© thevoid99 2016

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Ricki and the Flash





In Memory of Bernie Worrell (1944-2016)


Directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Diablo Cody, Ricki and the Flash is the story of a middle-aged rock singer who learns about her daughter’s divorce as she goes to see and help her while dealing with the family she left to pursue her dream as a rock star. The film is a simple family drama where a woman returns to her family to help her daughter as well as cope with the decision she made in abandoning them to pursue her dream. Starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, Audra McDonald, Sebastian Stan, Ben Platt, Nick Westrate, and Rick Springfield. Ricki and the Flash is an exhilarating and heartfelt film from Jonathan Demme.

The film follows a woman who abandoned her family to pursue her dreams to be a rock star as she finally returns home after hearing about her daughter getting a divorce. It’s a film where a woman not only deals with not just the decisions she made to pursue her dreams but also make an attempt to set things right again for herself and her family. Especially as she still wants to play music in California as she fronts a band called the Flash. Diablo Cody’s screenplay doesn’t just explore the world that Linda “Ricki” Rendazzo (Meryl Streep) lives where she plays at a bar with her band that includes her guitarist Greg (Rick Springfield) who has feelings for her. It’s also in the fact that Ricki is struggling to get by as she’s working at an organic supermarket and paying off her debts. The first half of the film is about Ricki returning to Indianapolis to see her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) and their daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer) as the latter has fallen apart because her husband left her for another woman.

Cody’s script also play into Ricki’s struggle with her family as well as the fact that the void she left was filled by Pete’s second wife Maureen (Audra McDonald) who did a lot for Julie as well Julie’s older brothers Joshua (Sebastian Stan) and Adam (Nick Westrate). The latter of which is gay while the former is about to get married to Ricki’s own surprise as she is also quite conservative in her views despite the music she plays. It adds a lot to the complexity of Ricki but also her own flaws as she is quite selfish as well as ignorant though she means well. Especially when she is confronted by Maureen despite what Ricki had done to help Julie as it would lead to this third act which revolves around Joshua’s wedding.

Jonathan Demme’s direction is quite stylish in terms of the looseness he creates for many of the scenes set in California while going for something that is more controlled and tight for the scenes set in Indianapolis as much of the film is shot in upstate New York. Yet, a lesser director would struggle with trying to create a balance in the two styles but Demme does find that balance where it never feels like two different films. Notably as the film features a lot of music from Ricki playing with her band as well as a scene where she plays a song to Pete and Julie. Demme’s usage of close-ups and medium shots for many of the scenes in Indianapolis are quite intriguing as well as playing into some of the family tension when Ricki sees her sons for the first time in years. The scenes at the bar where the Flash play is quite lively as it include some line dancing as well as moments that are quite raucous where Demme does use a few wide shots to capture the space of the bar. The film’s climax at Joshua’s wedding is a mixture of the different visual styles yet Demme does find a way for all of it to come together. Overall, Demme creates a touching yet entertaining film about middle-aged rocker coming home to help her daughter and mend old wounds with her family.

Cinematographer Declan Quinn does excellent work with the cinematography as it is very straightforward with some unique lighting for the interiors at the bar and the scenes set at night in both California and Indianapolis. Editor Wyatt Smith does nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few stylish cuts for some of the musical performances. Production designer Stuart Wurtzel, with set decorator George DeTitta Jr. and art director Patricia Woodbridge, does brilliant work with the look of the bar Ricki and the Flash play as well as the home that Pete and Maureen lives in at Indianapolis.

Costume designer Ann Roth does terrific work with the costumes from the stylish clothes of Ricki as well as the more straight-laced look of Pete and the mixture of both in Julie. Visual effects supervisor Luke DiTommaso does wonderful work with the minimal visual effects in the film as it‘s mostly a few set-dressing pieces for some of the scenes in Indianapolis. Sound mixer Jeff Pullman does superb work with the sound as it is straightforward as well as play into the energy of the concerts that Ricki and the Flash perform at. The film’s soundtrack features not just a lot of songs ranging from rock to pop music that Ricki and the Flash performs but also music from Spirit, the Feelies, and Electric Light Orchestra that is played in the background.

The casting by Tiffany Little Canfield and Bernard Telsey is great as it features cameo appearances from Adam Shulman as a customer at Ricki’s supermarket, Bill Irwin as a father at a donut shop who is annoyed by Ricki and Julie’s conversation, Charlotte Rae as Pete’s mother, Beau Sia as Adam’s partner Desmond, and Gabriel Ebert as Julie’s ex-husband Max whom Pete and Ricki confront during a night-out with Julie. In roles as members of the Flash, there’s legendary Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell as keyboardist Billy, famed session drummer Joe Vitale as the drummer Joe, and famed session bassist Rick Rosas as the bassist Buster (whom the film is dedicated to) as they all provide a great presence to their roles as the musicians. Hailey Gates is wonderful as Joshua’s fiancee Emily who is bewildered by Ricki while Ben Platt is terrific as the bartender Daniel who worships at the altar of Ricki and the Flash. Nick Westrate and Sebastian Stan are excellent in their respective roles as Ricki’s sons Adam and Joshua with the former not really fond of his mother accusing her of being a homophobe with the latter wanting to make peace but is unsure of inviting her to the wedding.

Audra McDonald is brilliant as Pete’s wife Maureen who had become the maternal void filled for Ricki’s children as she tries to make peace with Ricki as well as give her some truths that Ricki has to face. Mamie Gummer is amazing as Julie as Ricki’s daughter who has become a wreck following a divorce as she is quite funny in the way she does things as well as be someone who is very fragile. Rick Springfield is fantastic as Greg as the Flash lead guitarist who is in love with Ricki as he gives her some advice as well as tell her how important she is as a mother. Kevin Kline is incredible as Pete as Ricki’s ex-husband who tells Ricki about Julie as he copes with Julie’s mood as well as trying to maintain the peace in the family while admitting he still cares about Ricki. Finally, there’s Meryl Streep in a sensational performance as Ricki Rendazzo as this middle-aged rocker that is trying to reach her dream while helping out her daughter get back on her feet as it’s a lively and entertaining performance from Streep.

Ricki and the Flash is a marvelous film from Jonathan Demme that features a dazzling performance from Meryl Streep. Also featuring a witty script by Diablo Cody, a fantastic ensemble cast, and a killer soundtrack, the film is a heartfelt yet entertaining film that manages to be fun as well as state the importance of family. In the end, Ricki and the Flash is a remarkable film from Jonathan Demme.

Jonathan Demme Films: (Caged Heat) - (Crazy Mama) - (Fighting Mad) - (Handle with Care) - (Last Embrace) - (Melvin & Howard) - (Who Am I This Time?) - (Swing Shift) - Stop Making Sense - (Something Wild) - (Swimming to Cambodia) - (Married to the Mob) - (The Silence of the Lambs) - (Cousin Bobby) - (Philadelphia) - (Storefront Hitchcock) - (Beloved) - (The Truth About Charlie) - (The Agronomist) - (The Manchurian Candidate (2004 film)) - (Neil Young: Heart of Gold) - (Man from Plains) - Rachel Getting Married - (Neil Young Trunk Show) - (Neil Young Journeys) - (A Master Builder)

© thevoid99 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Auteurs #56: Bob Fosse




While his name maybe synonymous more with musical theatre and Broadway, Bob Fosse does hold an important place in the world of cinema. Despite only making five feature films and a TV concert special that was shot on film, Fosse’s contributions remain vital for its approach to choreography and how musical numbers are captured on film. Even as he would break the rules of what could be done in a musical as well as delve into elements of darkness that the genre wouldn’t venture into. Though it has been nearly 30 years since his passing, Fosse remains an important figure in the world of entertainment whether it’s through film, dance, or the musical theatre.

Born in Chicago, Illinois on June 23, 1927, Robert Louis Fosse was second youngest of six children to Cyril and Alice Fosse as he was raised in an environment surrounded by music. Upon meeting dancer Charles Grass where they formed a dance duo that played several theatres in Chicago, Fosse would later be recruited to dance for a variety show that played in military bases in the Pacific. After moving to New York City where he married dancer Mary Ann Niles, Fosse and Niles would be a dance duo in the city as they got the attention of the comedy duo of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin in 1950 where they would be part of Lewis and Martin’s act until a year later where Fosse and Niles divorced. In 1953, Fosse would sign a contract with MGM where he appeared in a few films as a dancer as well as choreograph one of the dances in the film Kiss Me Kate. Yet, Fosse didn’t enjoy his time with Hollywood as he took the risk of going back to theatre where he would choreograph the stage musical The Pajama Game to great success.

While getting work as a choreographer where he would work on George Abbott’s Damn Yankees, Fosse met dancer Gwen Verdon who would become his third wife as Fosse would later choreograph the film version of Abbott’s musical play. Despite getting work in both film and theatre as a choreographer, Fosse realized he wanted to do more as he would get the chance to direct a musical play in Redhead as he would also do the choreography. The play won five Tony Awards which includes Fosse for choreography and a Best Actress prize to Verdon. Throughout the 60s, Fosse was a big name in the world of stage theatre as he was also considered an innovator for fusing different dance styles into one as part of the choreography. Fosse also would use lighting as a tool in how to stage his production and dance numbers as it raised his reputation as the go-to man for lavish musical stage productions.

Sweet Charity



In 1966, Fosse directed and choreographed a musical stage production of Sweet Charity that was written by Neil Simon with lyrics by Dorothy Fields and music by Cy Coleman as it was based on Federico Fellini’s 1957 film Nights of Cabiria. The story revolved around a woman who works as a taxi dancer for a dancehall as she seeks love in New York City while enduring many trials and tribulations in her quest. The play was a smash both on Broadway and at London’s West End a year later where Fosse was offered the chance to make his feature-film debut as a director on a film version of the play. Fosse said yes though he knew he couldn’t have wife Gwen Verdon to play the lead role of Charity as Fosse would get Shirley MacLaine to play the role. While Fosse was able to get John McMartin to play the role of Oscar like he did in the play, Fosse would get a big ensemble in the likes of Ricardo Montalban, Chita Riviera, Barbara Bouchet, and Sammy Davis Jr.

Despite his inexperience in directing film, Fosse knew he didn’t want the film to be set too much into the confines of a soundstage as he would also shoot the film entirely in Manhattan which was considered risky. Even as he was given a $20 million budget from Universal where Fosse would shoot a different ending to appease them. Still, Fosse was able to get things his way in sticking with the film’s original ending as it plays into elements of reality as much of the film is about reality vs. fantasy just like in the play. Fosse also wanted to incorporate some of the visual elements of Fellini whom he is fond of as a way to give the film a unique look that was different from many of the musicals that were coming out at the time.

The film made its premiere in April of 1969 where despite some excellent reviews, the film was a commercial disappointment making only $8 million against its $20 million budget. Despite receiving a rousing reception at the Cannes Film Festival a month later and receiving three Oscar nominations for its art direction, score, and costume design. The film’s box office failure was something becoming common with the musical genre as it was in decline due to audiences wanting something more real. Nevertheless, Fosse was proud of the film as he went back to the world of theatre as he would do so whenever he isn’t making a film.

Cabaret



Having seen the Broadway musical play Cabaret, Fosse was interested in turning the play that was based on Christopher Isherwood’s short novel about a cabaret singer and her relationship with an American writer in 1931 Berlin in the early days of Nazi Germany. While he wanted to helm the film version of the play, many weren’t sure due to the commercial failure of Sweet Charity. Still, executives Fosse would be the right filmmaker as he teamed with screenwriter Jay Allen in turning the play into script while retaining the songs written by John Kander and Fred Ebb. During the pre-production, Fosse wasn’t happy with Allen’s script as he asked Hugh Wheeler to do re-writes though Allen would retain credit and Wheeler credited for research as the latter wasn’t a member of the Writer’s Guild of America.

While Liza Minnelli had been attached to the project before Fosse’s involvement, Fosse was excited to work with Minnelli while he also succeeded in getting Michael York to play the role of writer Brian Roberts while Minnelli played the lead of Sally Bowles. Joel Grey, who had played the emcee in the theatrical versions, would also be in the film as the cast would include Marisa Berenson, Helmut Griem, and Fritz Wepper. Fosse would receive the services of cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth to shoot the film as much of it was shot near Munich. Not wanting to make the film to bear many elements of the musicals of the past, Fosse decided to have the musical be sung live at the club where Bowles’ character would often sing at. There, Fosse would add some realism as well as a sense of danger to the choreography as it plays into this conflict of a club trying to stay alive during this emergence of Nazism in Germany.

The film made its premiere in February of 1972 where it drew rave reviews while also becoming a major hit in the box office grossing more than $42 million against its $3 million budget. The film’s success would be huge as it would win 8 Oscars for its art direction, sound, score, editing, cinematography, a Best Supporting Actor prize to Joel Grey, Best Actress to Liza Minnelli, and Best Director to Bob Fosse while also being nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. While the film did court some controversy over its content and sexually-provocative dancing, the film did prove that the musical was still alive as it needed a makeover in the era of New Hollywood.

Liza with a Z



With the massive success of Cabaret being big news, Fosse and Minnelli decided to create a special that was based on the latter’s talents as an entertainer with Fosse directing the production. Made as a TV concert special, Fosse would have the show be presented at the Lyceum Theatre in New York City with Minnelli singing sings as well as doing dance numbers with numerous dancers to Fosse’s own choreography. Having noticed that many TV concert special were shot on video, Fosse hired cinematographer Owen Roizman to shoot the special on 16mm film. Fosse hired film composer Marvin Hamlisch to be the special music coordinator as the concert was filmed on May 31, 1972. The special featured numerous dance numbers and witty monologues from Minnelli as it would be more than just a showcase of her talents.

The special made its TV premiere in September of 1972 on NBC where it was ratings smash as it would win Fosse two Emmys for its direction and choreography as well as two more as overall special and for its music. While the special would air a few more times during the 70s, it wouldn’t be seen for years until Minnelli, who had a copy of special, gave it a re-release in the early 2000s in a new remastered print as it drew rave reviews once again. Around the same year, Fosse directed a stage presentation of Pippin which won him two Tony Awards for its direction and choreography. In the span of a year, Fosse would become one of the most powerful and celebrated men in the world of entertainment.

Lenny



After a whirlwind year that had Fosse win nearly every accolade in entertainment, Fosse decided to take a detour from the world of musicals by going into another project that revolved around his fascination with the dark side of entertainment. Having seen Julian Barry’s play on the life of the controversial comedian Lenny Bruce, Fosse asked Barry to write a script that would be an unconventional bio-pic on Bruce. Especially as it plays into his work as a stand-up comic who would push the envelope on what could be said and the things he would talk about. Fosse and Barry both agreed that the narrative would largely be based on Bruce doing his standup as well as commenting on his own legal issues that would ultimately be his downfall as well as have the story told from his lover in a stripper named Honey.

With Dustin Hoffman cast as Bruce and Valerie Perrine cast in the role of Honey, Fosse knew that he didn’t want to go for something lavish as he chose to shoot the film in black-and-white film with cinematographer Bruce Surtees. It was to give the film a distinctive look that played more into classic cinema but also with a sense of grit. Notably in the scenes where Bruce does his standup as it’s never shown with a sense of polish as Fosse makes it direct and to the point. Even as Fosse wanted to play into that air of realism as it once again marked a recurring theme of fantasy vs. reality that had been prevalent in his previous films. After doing much of the shooting in early 1974, Fosse would take a break to act and choreograph The Little Prince for Stanley Donen where he would return to work on editing the film with editor Alan Heim who would become a key collaborator for Fosse throughout his film career.

The film was released in the U.S. in November of 1974 where it was well-received while doing modestly well in the American box office making more than $11 million. While it would receive six Oscar nominations including a Best Director nod for Fosse, it didn’t win anything. In May of 1975, the film played at the Cannes Film Festival where Valerie Perrine won the festival’s Best Actress prize. Yet, making the film as well as juggling other projects including another stage show for Liza Minnelli was starting to strain Fosse just as he was about to mount one of his most successful projects in a musical play called Chicago that some called one of his crowning achievements.

All That Jazz



Despite all of the success he’s garnered in film and theatre, Fosse was burned out as he would stage another musical production in 1978’s Dancin’ that won him another Tony for its choreography. Still, the experience of trying to stage Chicago and edit Lenny in 1974 forced him to create a project that would reflect not just his manic creativity but also his near-flirtation with death. Teaming up with writer Robert Alan Aurthur in creating a script, the film would be a mixture of fantasy vs. reality as well as the struggle to make art as it would revolve around a workaholic director trying to finish a film as well as a stage a musical production. There, he would have several encounters with the Angel of Death while living on the edge as he stubbornly tries to work as well as do other self-destructive habits that would eventually catch up with him.

While he retained a few of his collaborators in editor Alan Heim, music composer Ralph Burns, and costume designer Albert Wolksy as well as a few of his theatre collaborators in actors Ben Vereen and Ann Reinking as the latter was his girlfriend at the time. The cast would also include Leland Palmer, John Lithgow, Erzsebet Foldi, and Jessica Lange as the Angel of Death while the lead role of Joe Gideon was given to Roy Scheider. To shoot the film, Fosse brought in renowned cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno who had worked with Federico Fellini in recent years as Fosse cited Fellini as a key influence in the film. The production was ambitious though the budget of $12 million was small in comparison to the budget of his first film. Especially as it played into many of the things Fosse faced in his life as he was trying to slow things down.

Following another extensive post-production period, the film was finally released in December of 1979 where it drew rave reviews as well as grossing $37 million in the U.S. box office giving Fosse another hit. Months later, the film would win four Oscars for its costume design, art direction, music, and editing while receiving five more including Best Picture and Best Director for Fosse. In May of 1980, Fosse showcased the film at the Cannes Film Festival where it share the festival’s top prize in the Palme d’Or with Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha. While the film did maintain Fosse’s stature as a top figure in entertainment, the specter of death still loomed over him as another project relating to the film in a documentary about why people want to perform fell apart as it would be one of many Fosse would abandon.

Star 80



After a break between projects, Fosse decided to make another film that explored the dark aspects of fame and celebrity as he had been intrigued about the life and death of Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten who had been killed in a murder suicide by her husband/manager Paul Snider in August of 1980. Despite the fact that a 1981 made-for-TV movie was made about Stratten that starred Jamie Lee Curtis in the role, Fosse chose to adapt his own version based on Teresa Carpenter’s Village Voice article that won her the Pulitzer Prize. Knowing that certain legalities would prevent him from using certain names including filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich who had been involved with Stratten in her final days. Fosse still wanted to tell the story about Stratten as well as her troubled relationship with Snider.

With collaborators in editor Alan Heim, costume designer Albert Wolsky, and music composer Ralph Burns taking part in the production, Fosse received the services of the famed cinematographer Sven Nykvist to shoot the film as it would be set on location in Los Angeles and Vancouver as Stratten was from the latter. With a cast that would include Carroll Baker as Stratten’s mother, Cliff Robertson as Hugh Hefner, and Roger Rees in his film debut as a fictionalized version of Peter Bogdanovich. Mariel Hemingway was cast as Dorothy Stratten while Eric Roberts was cast as Paul Snider. With a $12 million budget, the film was presented in an unconventional narrative as it is told through flashbacks, interviews, and other events as it opens with a bloody Snider looking over Stratten’s corpse. Fosse wanted to play into the concept of jealousy and obsession as it relates to Snider being left out while Stratten would mature and find a happier life outside of his control that was unfortunately brief.

The film made its U.S. premiere in November of 1983 where despite excellent reviews including raves for Eric Roberts, the film was a commercial disappointment only grossing $6 million. Months later at the 1984 Berlin Film Festival that February, the film played in competition for the Golden Bear where it was well-received but didn’t win anything. The film would unfortunately be the last feature film Fosse would make in his lifetime as he was dealing with health issues in the remaining years of his life.

Unrealized Projects & Final Years



In 1986, Fosse would stage what would be his last Broadway musical in a production called Big Deal that was based on the 1958 Mario Monicelli film Big Deal on Madonna Street. The musical was well-received as Fosse another Tony Award for Best Choreography as well as four more nominations yet the show only lasted for 69 performances as Fosse was already considering about focusing more on films rather than musical theatres. While he had been attached to direct The King of Comedy, he passed on it despite its subject matter as he was also approached to do a remake of The Bad and the Beautiful but it never materialized. Other projects Fosse turned down was a film version of Dick Tracy and a bio-pic on cult actress Edie Sedgwick that was to star Michelle Pfeiffer in the role with Al Pacino as Andy Warhol.

Among the projects Fosse was interested in helming to the big screen was a bio-pic on the gossip columnist Walter Winchell as it played into Fosse’s fascination with the dark side of fame and celebrity. The other project that Fosse wanted to make into a film was a film version of his most celebrated musical Chicago just as it had returned to Broadway to great success. Sadly, neither projects would materialize as Fosse died of a heart attack on September 23, 1987 at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

It’s been 30 years since the passing of Bob Fosse yet his influence in theatre, dance, and film still remains just as the musical has been getting a resurgence in the world of film. Though his work in film is small, his contribution to the medium is still vital and important as he’s managed to influence so many not just in musicals but also other genres where filmmakers note his contribution and what it meant to them. Even as Fosse was someone that wasn’t afraid to go into dark places and make it entertaining as well as create something that is magical in an era where it was about pure entertainment. Even if it isn’t safe as Bob Fosse never played it safe as it’s a big reason why remains so important to the world of entertainment.

© thevoid99 2016

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Absolute Beginners




Based on the novel by Colin MacInnes, Absolute Beginners is the story of a young photographer who tries to deal with the changes in his life due to his girlfriend wanting to become a fashion designer while being lured by a businessman into a world that would cause trouble. Directed by Julien Temple and screenplay by Richard Burridge, Christopher Wicking, Don MacPherson, and additional dialogue by Terry Johnson, the film is a musical set in late 1950s London in its Soho district where young people deal with a changing world. Starring Eddie O’Connell, Patsy Kensit, James Fox, Anita Morris, Bruce Payne, Graham Fletcher-Clark, Sade Adu, Ray Davies, and David Bowie as Vendice Partners. Absolute Beginners is a dazzling yet flawed film from Julien Temple.

Set in the summer of 1958 in the Soho district of London during a youth boom, the film revolves around a photographer trying to live his life and impress his girlfriend only to lose her when she becomes a hit at a fashion show and be engaged to an aging fashion designer. In turn, he gets lured by an exploitive adman for his photographs where he becomes blind to what is happening in the streets of London as racial tension starts to occur from White Supremacists. It’s a film that is a young man trying to define himself as a photographer while hanging out with his friends and listen to jazz yet is unsure of what he has to do to impress his girlfriend who would unfortunately be part of a world that she would eventually not like.

The film’s script doesn’t just play into the world of the youth culture in the late 1950s but also into the conflict that its protagonist Colin (Eddie O’Connell) endures in trying to impress his girlfriend Suzette (Patsy Kensit) who wants to be a fashion designer. The film also has these characters who are willing to exploit the youth culture such as the fashion designer Henley of Mayfair (James Fox) and an adman in Vendice Partners. The latter of which is this eccentric yet charming man with a transatlantic accent who could convince anyone to sell out. The film’s third act becomes serious and changes its tone from being this whimsical and playful musical into a film about racial tension. While the first two acts would hint and reveal events slowly that would cause the tension, how it gets unveiled is clunky where it definitely feels like an entirely different film.

Julien Temple’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of the world he creates where it is largely shot at a studio to recreate the world of the Soho and neighborhoods in London. Featuring an intricate yet stylish tracking shot that goes on for several minutes early in the film, it does capture a lot of what was happening in Soho as Temple’s usage of wide and medium shots capture that vibrancy. Especially in the clubs where there is a lot of dancing as it was choreographed by David Toguri as well as moments where the dancing occurs in other sequences including the riots which is one of the odd moments in the film that doesn’t feel right. The scenes relating to the race riots, as it’s based on the real-life Notting Hills race riots of 1958, feels like it’s a different film where despite carrying similar visuals and compositions. It’s third act is quite problematic as it is clear Temple wasn’t sure what kind of film he wants to make but also is having trouble going back to just being an upbeat and lively musical despite its ending. Overall, Temple creates a messy yet enjoyable film about a young photographer trying to impress his girlfriend in late 1950s London.

Cinematographer Oliver Stapleton does excellent work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography in the way Soho was shot for the scenes set at night as well as its nightclubs along with the more lavish and brightened lights of people in London‘s high society. Editors Richard Bedford, Michael Bradsell, Gerry Hambling, and Russell Lloyd do nice work with the editing as it‘s very stylish in the jump-cuts, transitions, and other cuts to play into the energy of the film. Production designer John Beard, with art directors Stuart Rose and Ken Wheatley, does amazing work with the set design from the look of the clubs and posh homes to some of the musical numbers including the sequence where Partners wins over Colin by song.

Costume designers Sue Blane and David Perry do fantastic work with the costumes from the clothes that Henley creates to some of the suits of the men as well as the dresses that the women wear. Sound mixer David John does terrific work with the sound as it plays into the atmosphere of the clubs and parties that the characters venture into. The film’s music score by Gil Evans is wonderful for its mixture of jazz and early rock n‘ roll to play into that world of late 1950s Britain as the soundtrack itself would feature original songs sung by Ray Davies of the Kinks, the Style Council, Sade, Slim Gaillard, Tenpole Tudor, Smiley Culture, and three songs by David Bowie including its title track and a cover of Volare.

The casting by Leonara Davis, Susie Figgis, and Mary Selway is incredible as it features cameos from Robbie Coltrane as a shopkeeper, Sandie Shaw as a mother of a teen idol, Bruno Tonioli as a lodger at the home of Colin’s parents, Slim Gaillard as a singer at a posh party, and Smiley Culture as the reggae singer at the end of the film. Other notable small roles include Carmen Ejogo as Cool’s young sister Carmen, Julian Firth as the Misery Kid, Paul Rhys as the mod Dean, Joseph McKenna as Colin’s gay friend Hoplite, Chris Pitt as the young teen idol Baby Boom, and Sade Adu as the nightclub singer Athene Duncannon. Performances from Steven Berkoff as a supremacist leader, Edward Tudor-Pole as the Teddy boys leader Ed the Ted, and Bruce Payne as the supremacist enforcer Flikker are superb in their antagonistic roles while Alan Freeman as the talk show host Call-Me-Cobber and Lionel Blair as the pop impresario Harry Charms are fantastic as the men who would exploit the youth movement.

Eve Ferret and Tony Hippolyte are excellent as Colin’s friends in the flamboyant lesbian Big Jill and the jazz-trumpeter Cool, respectively, who deal with the chaos of their world. Graham Fletcher-Cook is terrific as Colin’s ambitious friend Wizard who is very cynical about everything as he does whatever he can to make money and align with anyone with power. Ray Davies and Mandy Rice-Davies are amazing as Colin’s parents with Ray as the neglected and melancholic father who wants a quiet life and Mandy as the mother who is very cruel to her husband. Edward Fox is brilliant as the snobbish Henley as this fashion designer who marries Suzette to help his business only to take her for selfish reasons. Anita Morris is wonderful as the gossip columnist Dido Lament as this woman who would exploit both Suzette and Colin but also would play a key part in helping the latter in its third act.

Eddie O’Connell is terrific as Colin as a young photographer that is trying to live his life to the fullest as well as dealing with the need to sell out in order to impress his girlfriend. Patsy Kensit is radiant as Suzette as a young woman that wants to make it in the fashion world only to realize what she had to do forcing her to make compromises that she doesn’t want. Finally, there’s David Bowie in a small yet spectacular performance as Vendice Partners as this adman with a transatlantic accent that is about selling dreams as he would convince Colin the way to succeed is to sell out as a form of motivation.

Absolute Beginners is a stellar yet messy film from Julien Temple. While it features a great cast and a phenomenal soundtrack, it’s a film that wants to be a lot of things but loses sight in its third act. In the end, Absolute Beginners is a terrific film from Julien Temple.

© thevoid99 2016

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: Seven Beauties



Written and directed by Lina Wertmuller, Pasqualino Settebellezze (Seven Beauties) is the story of an Italian soldier who escapes from the army during World War II only to be captured by the Germans as he reflects on his life while trying to survive imprisonment. The film is a study of a man dealing with his situation in a world where he deals with the many roles he has played in his life. Starring Giancarlo Giannini, Fernando Rey, and Shirley Stoler. Pasqualino Settebellezze is a gripping yet evocative film from Lina Wertmuller.

The film is told in a back-and-forth narrative about an Italian who has been captured by the Germans during an escape from the army as he tries to survive his time in a concentration camp. At the camp, he endures torment while he reflects on his past into the events that got him there when he killed one of his sister’s boyfriends who was a pimp and put her into prostitution. The journey that Pasqualino (Giancarlo Giannini) would take would be an arduous one as he started off as a charmer who demanded respect while working for a local don during Fascist-era Italy. Upon his troubles where he would be in trial, set to a mental institution, and later be forced to serve in the army in World War II. Pasqualino would endure moments that are inhuman as the film’s script plays into what he encounters but also the sense of horror inside the concentration camp as he tries to find a way to survive. While there’s moments in Pasqualino that aren’t honorable due to how he treats women including his sister as well as a patient at the hospital.

Lina Wertmuller’s direction is very entrancing not just for the compositions that she creates but also in how visceral the images and situations are throughout the film. The film opens with this chilling sequence filled with stock footage of the war that is filled with cities being destroyed and men being killed all to narration by a man who says these words accompanied to anachronistic music that just adds to its dark tone. The film then meshes with something that could feel like stock footage and then turn real as Wertmuller’s camera is always in the action for the scene where Pasqualino is running around the woods with only a fellow soldier to join him. The usage of hand-held cameras for those scenes early in the film along with close-ups and medium shots play into the sense of terror but also humorous moments in the first act where Pasqualino and Francesco (Piero Di Iorio) are trying to find shelter only to be captured by the Germans.

The scenes set in Naples are much looser with an air of comedy but also display a world that Pasqualino felt free in as he is oblivious to what is really happening under the role of Benito Mussollini and the Fascists at the time. Once the film’s second act partially takes place in the concentration camp, it takes on an entirely different look and tone. The usage of wide and medium shots along with some intricate tracking and crane shots adds to the vast look of the camp but also in how horrifying it is. Even in scenes of violence where Wertmuller pulls no punches as there’s a scene early in the film where Pasqualino and Francesco watch a line of people being executed by the Nazis while some of the moments in the camp are even more gruesome. There is also a very disturbing scene where Wertmuller creates this air of sexual dominance where Pasqualino tries to seduce the camp’s commandant (Shirley Stoler) who hates Italians and wants him to fuck her despite how ugly and obese she is. It’s a moment that would mark a major change in Pasqualino as it would display some of the inhumanity he encounters during a dark era of war as he would also take part in it. Overall, Wertmuller creates a harrowing yet majestic film about a man dealing with consequences and terror during World War II.

Cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography from the lush beauty of the interior/exterior scenes set in Naples to the more haunting and low-key lights for the scenes in the woods and the more stark tone of the camp. Editor Franco Fraticelli does excellent work with the editing as it is mostly straightforward with some jump-cuts and other striking transitions to play with the film‘s back-and-forth narrative. Production/costume designer Enrico Job, with set decorator Roberto Granieri and art director Veljko Despotovic, does fantastic work with the look of the sets for the scenes in Naples and at the prison camp along with the lavish costumes the women wear in Naples.

The sound work of Mario Bramonti is brilliant for the atmosphere it creates for not just some of the scenes set in Naples but also in mental institution and at the prison camp that just adds this sense of terror and discomfort. The film’s music by Enzo Jannacci is incredible for its usage of organs and rock-based instruments for the film’s opening sequence as well as some orchestral pieces for some of the dramatic moments in the film.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Barbara Valmorin as the commandant’s secretary, Francesca Marciano as Pasqualino’s fiancee, Mario Conti as the pimp whom one of Pasqualino’s seven sisters wants to marry, Lucio Amelio as a lawyer representing Pasqualino for his trial, Ermelinda De Felice as Pasqualino’s mother, and Robert Herlitzka as a Socialist prisoner Pasqualino would meet on his way to the mental hospital. Enzo Vitale is terrific as Don Raffaele who mentors Pasqualino into respectability and would help his family when Pasqualino is being sent away. Elena Fiore is wonderful as Pasqualino’s sister Concettina who would put her brother into trouble by wanting to marry her pimp and become a prostitute much to her brother’s dismay. Piero Di Iorio is fantastic as Francesco as a fellow soldier who escapes with Pasqualino only to endure some horrific abuse at the prison camp as he tries to rebel.

Shirley Stoler is excellent as the prison camp commandant as this very large woman who is so grotesque in her appearance as well as the things she would make Pasqualino do to save himself. Fernando Rey is amazing as Pedro as an anarchist prisoner who spouts ideas that are against all forms of Nazism and Fascism as he tries to create chaos at the camp. Finally, there’s Giancarlo Giannini in a phenomenal as Pasqualino Frafuso as an every man who starts off as a charming man that can get things his way only to commit murder and then have his life fall apart as he endures torment, humility, and anguish as it’s a performance for the ages from Giannini.

Pasqualino Settebellezze is a tremendous film from Lina Wertmuller that features an incredible performance from Giancarlo Giannini. It’s a film that explores not just some of chaos of World War II and the terror of concentration camps but also a man encountering some of the worst aspects of humanity. In the end, Pasqualino Settebellezze is a spectacular film from Lina Wertmuller.

Lina Wertmuller Films: (The Lizards) - (Let’s Talk About Men) - (Rita the Mosquito) - (Don’t Sting the Mosquito) - (The Belle Starr Story) - (The Seduction of Mimi) - (All Screwed Up) - Love and Anarchy - (Swept Away (1974 film)) - (A Night Full of Rain) - (Blood Feud) - (A Joke of Destiny) - (Softly, Softly) - (Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women and Crime) - (Summer Night) - (As Long as It’s Love) - (The Tenth One in Hiding) - (Ciao, Professore!) - (The Nymph) - (The Blue Collar Worker and the Hairdresser in a Whirl of Sex and Politics) - (Ferdinando and Carolina) - (Too Much Romance…It’s Time for Stuffed Peppers)

© thevoid99 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records




Directed by Colin Hanks and written by Steven Leckart, All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records is a documentary film about the record store chain that had made more than a billion dollars by the end of the 20th Century only to file for bankruptcy five years later. The film showcases how a little record shop from the 1960s in Sacramento went to be not just some record store but a place where its employees worked and had fun there. The result is a fascinating and touching film from Colin Hanks.

For anyone who used to buy music at a music store, it was quite obvious that Tower Records was the place where music fans would go to not because it was the place where they sold all kinds of music but offered so much more. It was a place where music fans could talk to each other about music as well as find imports, albums that aren’t sold at other music chains, and meet people who loved working at this place. Then all of a sudden in the mid-2000s, it was gone as the culture itself not only lost a big part itself but also a world that might not exist again in such a big way. Especially as retail chains sell music but also sell other things at a certain price and it doesn’t have a sense of community that Tower Records was about.

The film that Colin Hanks and writer Steven Leckart make isn’t about the chain’s fall but also how it began as this little store Russell Solomon ran next to his father’s drug store which was next to the Tower Theatre in Sacramento and it became a chain that unexpectedly became big. Especially in the people that Solomon would come across throughout the years including his son Michael, a few cousins, and such would be part of the store either as clerks or small-time employees who would later manage or be part of Solomon’s close circle. The people who worked in the store didn’t just treat their job with great care but also had a sense of joy in their job. Especially as they would party and travel as well as take risks to make the store into a big-time chain as well as launch one in a country like Japan which turned out to be a successful gamble.

The film also feature interviews with musicians such as Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Elton John as well as music executives David Geffen and Bob Urie who all sing the praises of the story. Urie, in particular, who shares a personal story of how generous Solomon was to him at a time when Urie was fired from his job and Solomon invited him to a Xmas party and later dinner. John talks about going to Tower Records at its famed Sunset Strip spot where he would buy records whenever he’s not on tour and be there once it opened. Solomon and several people who worked at Tower talked about the joy as well as what made the place so special including a mantra made by the Japanese chain which was No Music, No Life.

While its fall can definitely be attributed to the emergence and rise of Napster in 2000 where music was free. Solomon and several others at Tower reveal that it was a lot more than that as they also contributed to their own downfall in some respects such as not selling CD singles in favor of albums in the late 90s which they admitted was a mistake. Another issue that plagued the company was trying to have the place in markets such as South America where they didn’t understand the culture as the stores there didn’t make money. Along with price wars between large retail chains such as Target, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart and management issues that involved Solomon’s son Michael to briefly take over for his then-ailing father. Eventually, the company’s death knell came in the hands of outsiders who were more interesting in branding and restructuring the company only for it to go out of business for good.

Hanks’ direction is quite straightforward in the way he conducts the interviews with the aid of cinematographers Neil Lisk, Nicola Marsh, and Bridger Nielson as well as compile old footage and photos with editor Darrin Roberts. The film also features sound bits compiled by sound editor Richard B. Larimore that includes an audio clip of John Lennon telling Californians to buy his new album at the store. The film’s music by Bill Sherman is wonderful for its mixture of jazz and rock to play into the world of music as the soundtrack features an array of different music styles to play into the progression of popular music in the 20th Century.

All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records is a sensational film from Colin Hanks. It’s a film that doesn’t just explore one of the finest record chains in the world but also the people who worked and ran the chain as they did it with love for the music and love for the work. Especially as it showcases a culture that was vibrant and brought people together all because they love music. In the end, All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records is a phenomenal film from Colin Hanks.

© thevoid99 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

Gertrud



Based on the play by Hjalmar Soderberg, Gertrud is the story of an opera singer who goes on a journey to find love and fulfillment through a series of lovers following a breakdown in her marriage. Written for the screen and directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, the film is a study of a woman trying to find herself in a very personal journey through the men who play major roles in her life. Starring Nina Pens Rode, Bendt Rothe, Ebbe Rode, Baard Owe, and Axel Strobye. Gertrud is a haunting yet mesmerizing film from Carl Theodor Dreyer.

Set in late 19th Century Denmark, the film follows the life of an opera singer who decides to leave her husband for her lover but complications begin to ensue. Especially as it leaves the titular character (Nina Pens Rode) into a personal journey where she would encounter former lovers as it play into a sense of torment and uncertainty about where she’s going. Carl Theodor Dreyer’s script is largely driven by dialogue as there’s not many scenes that occur as it’s more about what Gertrud wants but also what she had in her life. Through the meetings she would have with her husband Gustav (Bendt Rothe), her current lover in pianist Erland Jansson (Baard Owe), a former lover in poet Gabriel Lidman (Ebbe Rode), and a longtime friend in Axel (Axel Strobye). Gertrud copes with the decisions she is making but also ponders the life she leads now and her hopes for a change.

Dreyer’s direction is very entrancing for not just its minimalist approach to the filmmaking but also wanting to not rely too much on style. Featuring less than 90 shots, Dreyer’s emphasis on wide and medium shots rather than close-ups add a lot to what he wanted to tell visually but also in having the drama be told very slowly. Especially where Dreyer would have the actors recite long monologues and dialogue with one another for several minutes that includes one notably scene that lasts nearly 10 minutes in a single take. The camera would move for a few tracking shots and pans but it is mostly about the conversations that are taking place between Gertrud and whoever she is meeting with. Even as the film becomes much crueler in what Gertrud would encounter as Dreyer showcases a world that she has trapped herself in and what she needs to do to escape. Overall, Dreyer creates a compelling yet evocative film about a woman’s personal journey to find herself.

Cinematographers Henning Bendtsen and Arne Abrahamsen do brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white cinematography to play into some of the gorgeous scenery in the few exterior scenes along with intricate lighting for the interiors as well as some heightened lights for the flashback scenes. Editor Edith Schlussel does nice work with the editing as it is very straightforward with a few fade-outs as transitional cuts along with a few rhythmic cuts for dramatic purposes. Production designer Kai Rasch does excellent work with the look of the home that Gertrud shared with her husband as well as the dining hall sequence where she, Gustav, and several friends celebrate Lidman‘s work. The sound work of Knud Kristensen is superb for its minimalist and sparse approach as it is more about natural elements in the dialogue and objects rather than create a mood for a scene. The film’s music by Jorgen Jersild is wonderful for its string orchestral-based score to play into the drama and some of the melancholic moments in the film while the songs/poems by Grethe Risbjerg Thomsen provide some of the material that Gertrud sings as an opera singer.

The film’s amazing cast features notable small roles from Vera Gerbhur as Gustav/Gertrud’s housekeeper, Lars Knutzon as a student paying tribute to Lidman, and Anna Malberb as Gustav’s mother who appears early in the film unaware of what is happening with her son’s marriage to Gertrud. Axel Strobye is fantastic as longtime family friend Axel who attends Lidman’s tribute dinner as he is concerned for Gertrud’s health at the dinner. Baard Owe is superb as Gertrud’s current over Erland Jansson as this concert pianist who is eager to have a life with her only for things about him are unveiled that would change things.

Ebbe Rode is excellent as the poet Gabriel Lidman who still carries a torch for Gertrud as he wonders why she left him as well as offering a chance to return to him. Bendt Rothe is brilliant as Gertrud’s husband Gustav as a politician that is given the chance for a big position as he still needs Gertrud’s support as he is aware why she’s leaving him but also wants her to stay with him. Finally, there’s Nina Pens Rode in an incredible performance as the titular character as this opera singer seeking a new life away from her husband as she then copes with the realities of her surroundings and the consequences of the decisions she’s made as it’s a performance filled with anguish and torment as well as being told with such restraint as it’s just astonishing to watch.

Gertrud is a phenomenal film from Carl Theodor Dreyer that features a sensational performance from Nina Pens Rode. It’s a film that isn’t just this rapturous study of a woman trying to find herself but also a film that explores a woman’s anguish over the men she’s been with for much of her life. Especially as it’s told in this very intoxicating visual style by Dreyer that is the antithesis for much of today’s conventional approach to cinema. In the end, Gertrud is a remarkable film from Carl Theodor Dreyer.

Carl Theodor Dreyer Films: (The President) - (The Parson’s Widow) - Leaves from Satan's Book - (Love One Another) - (Once Upon a Time) - (Michael (1924 film)) - (Master of the House) - (Bride of Glomdal) -The Passion of Joan of Arc - Vampyr - (Two People) - Day of Wrath - Ordet

© thevoid99 2016