Monday, December 09, 2013
Based on a 1992 article from The Dallas Morning News by Bill Minutaglio, Dallas Buyers Club is the story about the drug-addicted and homophobic rodeo cowboy Ron Woodruff who is diagnosed with AIDS as he seeks to find medicine to help himself and the new allies he gains in gays and transsexual. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee and screenplay by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, the film is an exploration into a period where a hustler tries to find illegal medicines to help himself and those suffering from AIDS as Woodruff is played by Matthew McConaughey. Also starring Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn, Dallas Roberts, and Denis O’Hare. Dallas Buyers Club is fascinating yet tremendous film from Jean-Marc Vallee.
The film is based on a true story about a rodeo cowboy named Ron Woodruff who is notorious for his drug abuse and sexual appetite for women where he finds himself as he is later diagnosed with AIDS. After being prescribed the AZT drug which didn’t make him any better as he was only given 30 days to live. He travels to Mexico where he finds a slew of FDA-unapproved drugs that would manage to help him long. The film explores Woodruff’s desire to stay alive as well as organize a club for himself and other AIDS-stricken individuals to get the help they needed as he is aided by transvestite named Rayon (Jared Leto) and a kind doctor named Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) where the latter is trying to understand what can help AIDS patients. In turn, Woodruff gets the attention of the federal government who wants to shut him down but Woodruff’s resilience and hustling skills would manage to keep those with a short death sentence a chance to live a little bit longer.
The film’s screenplay does play into Woodruff’s life from the moment he is diagnosed to his fight against the FDA as this homophobic rodeo cowboy becomes this unlikely ally for the gay community in Texas. The first act is about Woodruff’s discovery of his condition and his willingness to stay alive despite the prejudice he receives from old friends who is convinced he’s become gay which is untrue. In meeting the stern though sympathetic Dr. Saks and later one of her patients in Rayon, Woodruff realizes he has to do things and get the help from unlikely people to not just help himself but those with AIDS. Woodruff and Rayon starts a secret club where people pay $400 a month to get these unapproved prescriptions that Woodruff had to get from places around the world.
Though Woodruff and Rayon have a somewhat testy relationship as Woodruff isn’t fond of gays and Rayon isn’t fond of Woodruff’s attitude. The two become an unlikely pair that manages to be one of the script’s highlights. Even as they have to face homophobes, the government, and business-minded doctors who are trying to prevent from getting the help they need. While the activities that Woodruff does is illegal where he even helps out an old friend, he’s only doing something in the hopes that he and many others can just simply stay alive during this horrific plague that was happening in the late 1980s. Particularly in a world that is strange and filled with different extremes like the state of Texas.
Jean-Marc Vallee’s direction is very engaging from the way he opens the film with Woodruff having sex with two women at a rodeo show which represents the life he leads as he’s a man of danger and recklessness. There is something that at first feels laid back but it then becomes this serious drama where Woodruff is diagnosed with AIDS as he is given a 30 day death sentence. Yet, Vallee keeps a sense of liveliness going to play into Woodruff’s denial with the use of hand-held cameras that aren’t very shaky as well as close-ups to showcase the truth that is Woodruff doesn’t want to face. Since it is a film that only takes place in the span of a few years in the 1980s starting with the announcement that Rock Hudson had AIDS where Woodruff boasts that Hudson is an idiot for turning down all of that fine pussy. It is a film that is also about a particular moment in time and in a place like Texas where AIDS is considered a largely homosexual disease or for those who are drug addicts.
The direction becomes more stylish by the film’s second act where Vallee loosen things up as well as inject some humor into the film for many of the moments between Woodruff and Rayon. There’s also moments where the direction is also quite playful to showcase Woodruff’s approach to hustling as he would return from trips all around the world to relax in Texas in an attempt to regain some humanity. Once Woodruff has to face foes who are proven to be far more cruel than he was to gays while having to deal with the realities of his disease. The film does get more dramatic where Woodruff becomes determined as Vallee uses some unique sound design to play into Woodruff’s growing illness.
Yet, there is a payoff that occurs in the end where despite the fact that Woodruff would eventually die from the disease in 1992. Vallee manages to create something that is unique as well as find an unlikely protagonist for audiences to root for while delving into some of the history of the AIDS epidemic. Overall, Vallee creates a very powerful and mesmerizing film about a man’s desire to stay alive and help those who are also suffering from the cruel disease of AIDS.
Cinematographer Yves Belanger does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its use of low-key lights for the scenes at night in its interior and exterior settings along with some very vibrant shots for some of the film‘s daytime exterior scenes. Editors Martin Penza and Jean-Marc Valle do amazing work with the editing where it does play into a sense of style from its use of jump-cuts, abrupt transitions, and montages to play into the impact of the disease as well as Woodruff‘s determination to hustle. Production designer John Paino, with set decorator Robert Covelman and art director Javiera Varas, does fantastic work with the set pieces from the motel rooms where Woodruff and Rayon run their operation to some of the buildings and hospitals the characters go to.
Costume designers Bart Mueller and Kurt Swanson do terrific work with the costumes from the cowboy clothes of Woodruff to the more flamboyant look of Rayon. Makeup artist Melanie Deforrest does wonderful work with the look of Rayon in his drag persona as well as the look of Rayon and Woodruff in their physical declines. Visual effects supervisor Marc Cote does some fine work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects such as the backdrops of cities that Woodruff travels to. Sound editor Martin Pinsonnault does brilliant work with the film’s sound to convey some of the atmosphere of the locations as well as the ringing sound in Woodruff’s head as he is dealing with the disease he is suffering. The film’s soundtrack largely consists of a mix of country music as well as some dance-pop at the gay clubs while the rest of the soundtrack is dominated by the music of T.Rex whose leader Marc Bolan is someone that Rayon is fond of.
The casting by Kerry Barden, Rich Delia, and Paul Schnee is just incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small appearances from Deerhunter vocalist Bradford Cox as Rayon’s lover, James DuMont as Rayon’s father, Michael O’Neill as a FDA official who keeps trying to ruin Woodruff’s business, and Griffin Dunne as an eccentric doctor living in Mexico who would help supply Woodruff with FDA-unapproved medicine. Steve Zahn is terrific as the cop Tucker who is an old friend of Woodruff who becomes aware of what he’s doing but decides to keep Woodruff’s activities a secret. Dallas Roberts is pretty good as Woodruff’s friend David Wayne who later pushes Woodruff away because of AIDS only to get confronted when Woodruff defends Rayon. Denis O’Hare is excellent as Dr. Saks’ boss Dr. Sevard as a man who leads the AZT drug trials while becoming suspicious of Woodruff’s activities as well as Dr. Saks’ involvement.
Jennifer Garner is amazing as Dr. Eve Saks as this very kind doctor who wants to help people while is also someone who isn’t afraid to speak her mind as Garner makes her very engaging and complex while not preying into the typical female supporting characters tropes that is often expected. Jared Leto is marvelous as Rayon as this charming transvestite who doesn’t take shit from anyone while proving to be a very capable individual who can get Woodruff to connect with the gays while some of the most startling moments that Leto does is the scene where his character meets his father in the most shocking way that shows how far Rayon is willing to help Woodruff as it’s definitely a career-defining performance for Leto.
Finally, there’s Matthew McConaughey in an outstanding performance as Ron Woodruff where McConaughey brings in that Texan charm that he’s known for with a kind of swagger what makes him an enjoyable presence. Yet, he balances that with a sense of grit and humility as a man realizing that he’s going to die as he is determined to find a way to live his life without a death sentence hanging over his head. The scenes McConaughey has with Leto are just fun to watch as well as the fact that both actors did some serious efforts to look ragged while McConaughey also has some nice chemistry with Garner to showcase a man finally being grounded and cool as it’s definitely McConaughey at his finest.
Dallas Buyers Club is a magnificent film from Jean-Marc Vallee that features an astounding performance from Matthew McConaughey. Along with strong supporting performances from Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner, it is a film that explores a man’s willingness to survive during the AIDS epidemic with the help of some unlikely people and becoming a better man. Especially as he also fights against strong foes who were trying to prevent him from getting better and doing things that were really wrong. In the end, Dallas Buyers Club is a sensational film from Jean-Marc Vallee.
Jean-Marc Vallee Films: (Black List) - (Los Locos) - (Loser Love) - (C.R.A.Z.Y.) - (The Young Victoria) - (Café de Flore)
© thevoid99 2013
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith, Philomena is the story about Sixsmith’s friendship with Philomena Lee as he helps find the son that she was forced to give up 50 years ago. Directed by Stephen Frears and screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, the film is a dramatization about a journalist trying to help a woman find where her son is as well as learning about her life story as Coogan plays Sixsmith with Judi Dench as the titular character. Also starring Mare Winningham, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Michelle Fairley, and Barbara Jefford. Philomena is an extraordinary film from Stephen Frears.
The film is a simple story about Martin Sixsmith who decides to help Philomena Lee find her son whom she was forced to give up her son 50 years ago during her time at a convent for getting pregnant as a teenager. While it is a simple story, it is one that is still very interesting where Sixsmith is trying to figure out what to do after losing his job as a government advisor to Tony Blair where he meets Philomena’s daughter Jane (Anna Maxwell Martin) at a party who had just learned what her mother told her. After convincing Sixsmith to take the story so he can do something as a former journalist where he and Philomena travel through Ireland and the U.S. to find out about her son Anthony (Sean Mahon).
The screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope does have some unique moments in the narrative along with some very witty dialogue to play into the interaction between Philomena and Sixsmith. Especially as the former is still a Catholic who prays every day while the latter is a former Catholic who has become quite cynical about the idea of religion. Though Sixsmith tries to be patient with Philomena who becomes fascinated by America, he is willing to help her in the search where it would lead to some very big revelations about Anthony. The script also has flashbacks about Philomena’s life as a young woman (Sophie Kennedy Clark) in how she conceived Anthony and the life she had living in the convent where she endured a lot of cruelty. Especially in the third act where she returns to Ireland to meet one of the surviving nuns in Sister Hildegarde (Barbara Jefford) who had put her through some of the worst years of her life.
The direction of Stephen Frears is quite straightforward in the way he presents the drama where he infuses some light-hearted humor that involves a scene in the airport where Philomena tells Sixsmith about a book she just read. Much of the compositions are simple and to the point for the scenes set in London, Ireland, and Washington D.C. Still, Frears does manage to convey some engaging moments like some of the close-ups for some of the film’s dramatic moments where the sense of guilt and loss that Philomena has suffered is shown in her face. Even where the drama can bet heavy but Frears finds a way to not delve into melodrama where he would find a balance between humor and drama. Especially in its climax where it plays into the idea of faith where even through the most terrible circumstances, there is a way to move and find forgiveness. Overall, Frears creates a very compelling film about a woman’s search to find the song she was forced to abandon many years ago.
Cinematographer Robbie Ryan does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with the look of London and Ireland in its low-key colors including some scenes set in the winter to the more light-colored look of the scenes set in Washington D.C. and other places in the U.S.. Editor Valerio Bonelli does fantastic work with the editing where it‘s pretty straightforward with the exception of some flashback montages and such to play into the drama. Production designer Alan MacDonald, with set decorator Barbara Herman-Skelding and supervising art director Rod McLean, does terrific work with the set pieces from the hotel rooms in Washington that Sixsmith and Philomena stayed in to the convent where the young Philomena stayed.
Costume designer Consolata Boyle does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly low-key and casual with the exception of the flashback scenes in the 1950s. Visual effects supervisor Adam Gascoyne does some fine work with some of the minimal visual effects such as the backdrops for a few scenes in the U.S. Sound editor Oliver Tarney does superb work with the sound for some of the atmosphere in the locations as well as the intimate moments at the convent. The film’s music by Alexandre Desplat is brilliant for its flourishing orchestral score filled with chiming riffs and melodies as it is another of his triumphant pieces.
The casting by Leo Davis and Lissy Holm is amazing for the ensemble that was created as it features some notable small performances from Simone Lahbib as Sixsmith’s wife Kate, Cathy Belton as the convent’s new manager Sister Claire, Wummi Mosaku as the young nun in the modern scenes, Charlie Murphy as the young Philomena’s friend Kathleen who also lost a child to adoption, Sean Mahon as Philomena’s son Anthony, and Peter Herrmann as a friend of Anthony who gives Philomena some vital information. Mare Winningham is wonderful as Anthony’s adopted sister Mary who reveals some tidbits about Anthony while Michelle Fairey is terrific as Sixsmith’s editor who pushes him to get a juicier story. Anna Maxwell Martin is excellent as Philomena’s daughter Jane who would be the person to introduce her mother to Sixsmith as she helps out early on.
Barbara Jefford is great as Sister Hildegarde as this old-school nun who would be very cruel to the young Philomena while she maintains a low-key presence in the scenes set in the early 2000s. Sophie Kennedy Clark is superb as the young Philomena as this young woman who has committed a sin as she tries to redeem herself only to watch her child be taken away from her. Steve Coogan is fantastic as Martin Sixsmith as Coogan brings a more low-key approach to his humor as this cynical and bitter journalist who is just trying to get himself back on track while dealing with this old woman and the story that she’s lived through. Judi Dench is just remarkable as the titular role as she has this very lively woman who is so full of charm only to balance that with a sense of guilt where Dench shows restraint in her dramatic approach as she is a major highlight for the film while having some fun chemistry with Steve Coogan.
Philomena is a marvelous film from Stephen Frears that features incredible performances from Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. The film is truly an engaging story that features a woman trying to find the son she was forced to abandon as well as explore into some of the cruelty of the Catholic church without being too critical. Even as Frears manages to infuse some witty humor courtesy of Coogan and co-screenwriter Jeff Pope. In the end, Philomena is a rich and enchanting film from Stephen Frears.
Stephen Frears Films: (Gumshoe) - (Afternoon Off) - (Bloody Kids) - (Walter) - (Walter and June) - (December Flower) - (The Hit (1984 film)) - (My Beautiful Launderette) - (Prick Up Your Ears) - (Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door) - (Sammie and Rose Get Laid) - (The Grifters) - (Hero (1992 film)) - (The Snapper) - (Mary Reilly) - (The Van (1996 film)) - (The Hi-Lo Country) - (High Fidelity) - (Liam) - (Fail-Safe (2000 TV film)) - (Dirty Pretty Things) - (The Deal (2003 TV film)) - (Mrs. Henderson Presents) - (The Queen (2006 film)) - (Cheri) - (Tamara Drewe) - (Lay the Favorite) - (Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight)
© thevoid99 2013
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 9/1/08 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni with a script he co-wrote with Tonino Guerra, Elio Bartolini, and Ottiero Ottieri. L'Eclisse tells the story of a literary translator who meets a young, energetic stockbroker where for the summer, they engage in a passionate romance. Afterwards, the two try to go for a steady relationship that comes into conflict with their individual lifestyles. Starring Antonioni regular Monica Vitti along with Alain Delon, Francisco Rabal, and Louis Seigner. L'Eclisse is an eerie yet engaging film from the late Michelangelo Antonioni.
After breaking up with Riccardo (Francisco Rabal) after a tumultuous relationship, Vittoria (Monica Vitti) decides to leave him pondering what she does next. After trying to tell her mother (Lilla Brignone) about the break-up, she meets a young stockbroker named Piero (Alain Delon) who is trying to get some stock for Vittoria's mother. Despondent over the break-up, she gets the attention of neighbor Anita (Rosanna Rory) where they decide to hang out with Marta (Mirella Riccardi), who shows her things and objects from Africa. After a wild night where Vittoria dressed up and darkened her skin to look African, dogs go loose where Vittoria ponders her newfound loneliness. She decides to go with Anita on a trip.
Back in Rome, the stock market takes a dive as Piero tries to help Vittoria's mother with her losses as he's overwhelmed with all that he has to deal with. Vittoria watches in how the people are losing their stock as she has a brief chat with Piero that leads to an attraction. After a night of dealing with stock losses, Piero decides to go to Vittoria's apartment to chat with her as he waits outside where a drunk (Cyrus Elias) steals his car as it's later plunged into a nearby lake. The next day, Piero and Vittoria check out the scene as they walk and chat as an attraction ensues. Yet, Vittoria is resistant of Piero's advances but when she tried to call him, she's unsure. The next day, they meet again as they go to Piero's apartment as she sees his rooms filled with rich things and a quiet town as their affair begins. Yet, the affair is doomed due to Piero's devotion to his work and Vittoria's mood swings as changing times also affects them and the people around them.
The theme of alienation, that is prominent with several of Michelangelo Antonioni's films, is key to what the film is about. Yet, it's also about loss. For Vittoria, a relationship comes to an end for her prompting her to engage in various mood swings where at times, she's happy but most of the time is feeling depressed. For Piero, a young man driven by gambles and making money for himself and everyone else loses control when the stock market takes a dive as his world of materialism becomes unhinged. The two protagonists engage in an affair yet their own different environments and personalities is what keeps them in having a relationship. What the film is really about is two people, lost in their own worlds, getting together only to realize how different they are. Antonioni and co-screenwriter create a film that's essentially a study on isolation. Not just emotionally but also physically.
The physicality of the theme of isolation is largely due to the eerie, mesmerizing direction of Antonioni. With very little dialogue, lots of sound work, and atmospheric compositions, Antonioni also sets the stage of what might happen as the world changes. There's scenes where the physical locations and objects like a water barrel or Rome itself sets up the sense of loneliness as the two protagonists are desperate for some kind of connection. The film's final sequence that involves a series of images of the physical locations to emphasize the film's theme while adding to the fate of Vittoria and Piero's relationship.
Antonioni's direction is something not everyone will enjoy as the film starts off slow (like a lot of his films) yet often come out very rewarding in its second and third act. There's a scene in the film where Vittoria is doing an African pantomime but with darkened skin that might conjure up the idea of black face. Now, it's a scene that will make audiences uncomfortable. It again reveals the troubled mood swings of Vittoria as she tries to make herself happy until one of her friends at the party tells her to stop. Antonioni isn't trying to imply anything racist but is more interested in what this woman is trying to do in order to keep her mood upbeat. Yet, it's followed by a scene of dogs running around a road where her mood goes down once again. What those scenes and many other confirms is the genius of Antonioni and how he's willing to study the themes of loss and isolation.
Cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo does spectacular work with the film's black-and-white look with wonderful interior, nighttime shading and the exterior look of the film where at night. The night lights in those scenes are very exquisite and adds a moodiness to emphasize the film's title. Even the final sequence with shots of grey colors are wonderful for its mood as Di Venanzo's work is wonderful to watch. Editor Eraldo Da Roma does excellent with the film's slow yet methodical pacing to allow the audience to interpret in what's going on as it's rhythm works to convey the moodiness Antonioni wanted.
Art director Piero Poletto does excellent work with the set design in the look of Marta's home filled with African artifacts while the home of Piero is more posh and materialistic to convey his unique personality. Costume designers Bice Brichetto and Gitt Magrini do great work with the costumes from the slim yet gorgeous skirts that Monica Vitti to the suits that Alain Delon wears. The sound work of Renato Cadueri and Claudio Maielli is amazing for its haunting approach to the capturing of the winds, the frenzy of the stock market, and the ghost-like feel to the locations the protagonists are in. The music of Giovanni Fusco is mostly filled with dark yet subtle arrangements as it plays to the film's eerie mood of the film.
The small yet amazing cast is wonderfully assembled with small performances from Cyrus Elias as a drunk who steals Piero's car and Louis Seigner as an old yet wise advisor of Piero. Rosanna Rory and Mirella Riccardi are good as two of Vittoria's friends who try to help raise Vittoria's mood with Rory as Anita is a character dealing with her marriage with Riccardi as the more adventurous Marta. Lilla Brignone is excellent as Vittoria's mother, a woman driven by gambles and the stock market until the crash as her money and livelihood becomes threatened. Francisco Rabal is very good as Vittoria's bland yet good-natured boyfriend who is desperate to want to remain together despite their problems.
The film's leading performances from Monica Vitti and Alain Delon are a major highlight of the film. Vitti displays an intoxicating beauty mixed in with troubled emotions as her character is intriguing to watch as a woman dealing with mood swings and trying to fit into a world that she doesn't really know much about. French actor Alain Delon is great as the energetic Piero, a man driven by gambles and success until the crash as he ponders if there's more to a world of gambling and materialism. The chemistry between Vitti and Delon is wonderful to watch with their banter and attraction to each other as it's filled with sex appeal and restrained emotions.
L'Eclisse is an incredible film from the late Michelangelo Antonioni thanks to the superb performances of Monica Vitti and Alain Delon. While fans of Antonioni and Italian cinema might see this as essential, it's a film that is also essential to the world of art-house, international cinema. Though mainstream audiences might be turned off by its slow pacing and lack of a traditional plot. It's a film that is more in tune with emotions and atmosphere as it conveys Antonioni's themes of loss and isolation. In the end, L'Eclisse is an engrossing yet harrowing film from the late, great Michelangelo Antonioni.
Michelangelo Antonioni Films: (Story of a Love Affair) - (I Vinti) - (The Lady Without Camelias) - (Le Amiche) - (Il Grido) - L'Avventura - La Notte - (Red Desert) - (Blow-Up) - (Zabriskie Point) - (Chung Kuo, Cina) - The Passenger - (The Mystery of Oberwald) - (Identification of a Woman) - (Beyond the Clouds) - Eros-The Dangerous Thread of Things
© thevoid99 2013
Friday, December 06, 2013
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and written by Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, and Ennio Flaiano, La Notte (The Night) is the story about the day in the life of a married couple whose marriage is disintegrating as they spend the night confronting the state of their marriage. The second part of Antonioni’s alienation trilogy that was preceded by L’Avventura and later followed by L’Eclisse. The film is an exploration into marriage and how people fall out of love in the course of one night. Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, Monica Vitti, and Bernhard Wicki. La Notte is an entrancing yet eerie film from Michelangelo Antonioni.
Told in the span of 24 hours, the film explores the life of a married couple where their marriage is in a state of disintegration where they later attend a party one night as it becomes clear how far apart they’ve become. It is a film that plays into the idea of a couple falling out of love but it is set in modern Italy in the city of Milan where things are changing radically. Not just in the way where the places that Giovanni (Marcello Mastroianni) and Lidia Pontano (Jeanne Moreau) once used to frequent are disappearing but also other things in their life emotionally and socially. Giovanni is a renowned author who feels like he has reached the peak of his career as people ask him endless questions about how to be a great writer. Lidia is a woman who is just frustrated by the state of her marriage as she is unsure of where she is at in her life. All of which plays into this party where Giovanni and Lidia each frequent into their own adventures while dealing with their sense of alienation in themselves and in each other.
The film’s screenplay has this very unique structure where its first half is set in the day and the evening yet the second act is spent largely at night at this party. Notably as its first half showcase the growing division between Giovanni and Lidia where they spend the day together visiting their ailing friend Tomasso (Bernhard Wicki) at the hospital where Giovanni later has a strange encounter with nymphomaniac patient as they later attend a party for Giovanni’s new book where Lidia wanders around Milan. Lidia’s journey and Giovanni’s encounters with strange things including the adulation he receives both would have some serious repercussions for the two as they decide to have a night together going to a nightclub and later attend the party. It’s this party that drives the film’s second half where it’s clear that even though they attend the party as a couple. They’re both in very different worlds based on the way they behave at the party and the people they encounter.
Though Lidia is wracked with grief and sentimentality, she does meet a man named Roberto (Giorgio Negro) whom she dances with but it’s only she spends time with after Giovanni would meet the party host’s daughter Valentina (Monica Vitti). Lidia’s observation at the party only showcases how lost she is where despite the fact that she’s well-dressed and being treated graciously by the hosts. She doesn’t feel like she’s fitting in where she later becomes more depressed until she meets Roberto where she considers having a brief fling. Giovanni’s encounter with Valentina would be playful but also would have Giovanni face some revelations about himself as Valentina is this intriguing young woman who has ambitions but is also uncertain about herself. Yet, it just adds to Giovanni’s own sense of confusion as he’s often asked by many about his work and such where he doesn’t have the answers while Valentina’s father (Vincenzo Corbella) would offer him a job which surprises Giovanni who admits that he doesn’t need the money. The course of the night would lead to Giovanni and Lidia coming together where they are forced to face the realities about themselves and their marriage.
Michelangelo Antonioni’s direction is very exotic in the way he presents the film as this very intimate yet haunting portrait of alienation. Notably as he opens the film with images of Milan from an elevator as it’s going up and down to showcase a world that is definitely changing. It’s a world where Giovanni and Lidia don’t seem to recognize as it could be stated as a visual metaphor for their own disintegrating marriage. Notably as the long sequence of Lidia wandering around Milan from the city to its outskirts where she witness a fight and later witnesses young men shooting rockets off to the ground near the old home that she and Giovanni lived in when they first got married. Giovanni would be alone at the apartment he and Lidia lived in where the images that Antonioni creates showcase a man at a crossroads in his life as he’s looking out at the city and other buildings around him.
Antonioni’s direction is filled with these striking compositions and images that has some of the actors be placed into the edge of the frame or use something like the mirrors at the villa to express a sense of detachment that is happening around them. Notably the film’s second half where Giovanni and Lidia both go into their own adventures as Antonioni uses the wide and medium shots to showcase their growing alienation amidst this era of decadence where people are having a good time. Though Giovanni would have fun at first and later Lidia, both definitely feel lost as the film progresses where Giovanni’s time with Valentina would be playful but also filled with some dramatic moments as Valentina would have this monologue to state about the idea of being the other woman.
Even as she would also have a moment with Lidia where two women just talk as it would play to Giovanni’s own sense of isolation. It would all come to this final scene as it is told with such simplicity but also a moment that is quite intense dramatically about how far Giovanni and Lidia have come in the course of an entire day. Much of it has Antonioni gazing at the camera with these shots that are quite long where many of what he does won’t be for everyone yet it expresses the sense of loss that is prevalent throughout the film. Overall, Antonioni creates a very chilling yet ravishing portrait of a couple falling out of love.
Cinematographer Gianni De Venanzo does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography with its use of shadows to convey that sense of loneliness as well as many of the interior and exterior lighting schemes to help set a mood that includes the scenes set at night. Editor Eraldo Da Roma does excellent work with the film‘s editing where it is quite straightforward in terms of its cutting while it spends most of its time not wanting to cut for some of the film‘s most entrancing moments. Production designer Pierro Zuffi does fantastic work with the set pieces from the look of the villa where the party is held to the apartment home where Giovanni and Lidia live in.
The sound work of Claudio Maielli is brilliant for its mixing and array of sounds to play into the sense of loneliness and growing modernism that is prevalent throughout the film. The film’s music by Giorgio Gaslini is superb for its jazz-based score that is played on location at the party scenes along with a very moody, ominous piece at the film’s opening credits scene.
The film’s incredible cast includes some notable small performances from Giorgio Nergo as the man Lidia meets in Roberto, Vincenzo Corbello and Gitt Magrini as Valentina’s parents, Roberta Speroni as an old friend of Lidia’s at the party, and Rosy Mazzacurati as a fan of Giovanni’s work who keeps asking him questions about writing. Bernhard Wicki is excellent as Giovanni and Lidia’s ailing friend Tomasso who is happy with their presence though he would cast a haunting presence on Lidia who is really close to him. Monica Vitti is amazing as Valentina as this very charming young woman who woos Giovanni yet is uncertain about becoming a married man’s mistress.
The performances of Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau are remarkable in their respective roles as Giovanni and Lidia Pontano as a couple falling out of love. Mastroianni has this presence that is full of charm and wit but also a sense of humility and uncertainty as a writer who thinks his brains can’t really offer enough importance to the world as he is also troubled by his lust for other women. Moreau is far more entrancing in the way she conveys this woman as a frustrated wife who feels lost in her world as everything from her past is going away as she is also trying to see if there’s any future. Mastroianni and Moreau create this chemistry that is quite interesting to display this sense of detachment that is lurking around them as they just add that sense of emotional weight to bring this couple falling out of love.
The 2013 Region 1 DVD/Region A Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection presents the film in 1:85:1 theatrical aspect ratio under a new digital restoration from a 4k film transfer and Dolby Digital Mono sound with English subtitles. The DVD includes a few special features that relate to the film and its filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni. The 27-minute interview with film critic Adriano Apra and film historian Carlo di Carlo about the film and Antonioni. Apra dominates most of the interview as he talks about the film and its themes with di Carlo talking about Antonioni and his approach to the film. Both of them dwell into many of the visual traits of the film as well as its theme on alienation as it is truly an engaging little featurette about the film.
The 31-minute interview with Harvard professor Giuliana Bruno about the architecture of the film. Bruno plays into a lot of the visual style that Antonioni wanted with the buildings of Milan that was to present something that seemed abstract and metaphoric. Notably to convey the sense of something that is happening and Antonioni’s fascination with that world. Bruno also reveals the importance of the use of the mirrors and glasses in the film that helps adds to the visual style as it’s a very compelling piece that explores Antonioni’s visual style. The DVD also includes a 3-minute trailer that presents the film in an offbeat way.
The DVD/Blu Ray set also includes a booklet that features two pieces of text relating to the film. The first is an essay entitled Modern Love by film critic Richard Brody of the New Yorker. Brody’s essay talks about the film and its approach to abstract art as well as play into its theme of alienation in tune with the disintegrating marriage between Giovanni and Lidia. The second piece of text is from the late Michelangelo Antonioni which is an article he wrote for a French newspaper to coincide with the film’s release. Antonioni talks about the inspiration for the film and small tidbits about the development for the film as both text pieces are wonderful accompaniments to the film and its DVD extras.
La Notte is an enchanting yet exotic film from Michelangelo Antonioni. Thanks to its ravishing yet abstract visual style and the performances of Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, and Monica Vitti. It’s a film that explores alienation at its most haunting as well as the idea of love fading away. While it’s not an easy film to watch due its lack of strong plot and slow, methodical pacing. It is still a film that captures the idea of the end of a marriage. In the end, La Notte is a phenomenal film from Michelangelo Antonioni.
Michelangelo Antonioni Films: (Story of a Love Affair) - (I Vinti) - (The Lady Without Camelias) - (Le Amiche) - (Il Grido) - L'Avventura - L’Eclisse - (Red Desert) - (Blow-Up) - (Zabriskie Point) - (Chung Kuo, Cina) - The Passenger - (The Mystery of Oberwald) - (Identification of a Woman) - (Beyond the Clouds) - Eros-The Dangerous Thread of Things
© thevoid99 2013
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Directed by Wong Kar-Wai and written by Kar-Wai and Jeffrey Lau, As Tears Go By is the story about a small-time gangster trying to go straight while keeping his friend out of trouble as the visit from his young cousin also complicate things. The film is a gangster film of sorts that mixes Kar-Wai’s romanticism that would be prevalent in his later films. Starring Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, and Jacky Cheung. As Tears Go By is a brilliantly stylish crime-drama from Wong Kar-Wai.
The film is a simple story about a small-time gangster who takes in his second-cousin to stay at his place where he falls for her while dealing with the chaos his best friend has created against rival factions. It’s a film that recalls elements of Martin Scorsese’s 1973 film Mean Streets that has a similar premise about a small-time hoodlum wanting to go straight while trying to get his friend out of trouble. Yet, Wong Kar-Wai infuses that premise with something much more as the character of Wah (Andy Lau) is dealing with his role as a hoodlum who works for the biggest boss of Hong Kong in Uncle Kwan (Ching Wai) while the arrival of his second-cousin Ngor (Maggie Cheung) has him thinking about a life out of that world. Still, he is devoted to his best friend Fly (Jacky Cheung) who is eager to make a name for himself but manages to cause trouble as well as conflict with another small-time hoodlum in Tony (Alex Man).
The script by Kar-Wai and Jeffrey Lau does have a lot of typical aspects that is expected in the crime drama where it is about these small-time hoods trying to climb up the ranks so they can lead their own gang and become a top boss. Wah doesn’t have that ambition as he just wants to do his job and get paid but his friendship with Fly causes issues as Fly has the ambition but not the professionalism to do so. Especially when Uncle Kwan is looking for someone to do a big job in killing an informant so that he wouldn’t go to prison. Wah’s encounter with Ngor has him wanting to leave the life as he becomes aware of how fleeting it is as the time he has with Ngor becomes far more fulfilling. Yet, he becomes conflicted with his love for Ngor and his devotion to Fly that would lead to some trouble consequences.
Kar-Wai’s direction is definitely full of style from the way he presents some of the film’s violent moments but also finds something that is entrancing in the way it plays out. Notably as he plays with frame-speeds to create some intense moments while adding a sense of flair to the way some of the violent moments and the meetings between hoods and bosses happen. Kar-Wai knows where to place the camera in these moments while creating something that is loose and also unpredictable in the way the violence occurs. Kar-Wai would add something similar to the romantic elements of the film where it is played with these gorgeous images and compositions where there’s bit of humor but it is largely romantic. Though it is sort of uneven in tone, Kar-Wai does find way to play into that conflict that Wah has to deal with that does lead to this very intense climax about what he has to do for himself. Overall, Kar-Wai crafts a very sensational yet ravishing film about a man trying to leave behind his life of crime.
Cinematographer Wai-keung Lau does amazing work with the film‘s colorful cinematography that plays into Kar-Wai‘s visual style with its vibrant colors for some of the exterior scenes at night as well as its use of lighting for some of the interior scenes. Editors William Chang and Bei-Dak Cheong do fantastic work with the editing with its use of jump-cuts and frame-speeds that would also play into Kar-Wai‘s presentation while Chang also does the production design for some of the clubs the characters go to as well as homes that Wah and Ngor live in. The film’s music by Danny Chung and Teddy Robin Kwan is excellent for its mixture of moody synthesizer-based music with some raucous guitar tones for some of the suspense while its soundtrack includes a lot of Asian pop music of the time that includes an effective cover of Berlin’s Take My Breath Away.
The film’s superb cast includes some notable small roles from Ching Wai as triad leader Uncle Kwan, production designer/co-editor William Chang as a doctor friend of Ngor, and Ronald Wong as Fly’s protégé Site whose encounters with Fly’s troubles has him wanting to leave the life for something normal. Alex Man is terrific as the very antagonistic hoodlum Tony who likes to goad Fly into fighting while maintaining his status as a hoodlum who is eager to be next in line as top boss. Jacky Cheung is fantastic as Fly as he is someone full of energy as this small-time hood eager to make a name for himself as Cheung is fun to watch as it would include some moments where he deals with humility.
Maggie Cheung is just radiant as Ngor as this young woman who arrives to Wah’s home to stay for a few days for a medical checkup as she has this understated quality to someone who could steer Wah into something more as it’s definitely one of her finest. Finally, there’s Andy Lau in a marvelous performance as Wah as this very reserved yet dangerous man who deals with the bleakness of his future as he’s also conflicted into helping Fly or go into a far more safer life with Ngor where he and Cheung definitely have some chemistry as they’re one of the film’s major highlights.
As Tears Go By is a remarkable debut film from Wong Kar-Wai that is highlighted by the incredible performances of Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, and Jacky Cheung. While it is a bit uneven in its tone, the film is still an engaging one for its evocative imagery and its unique approach to crime and drama. Especially in the way Kar-Wai would match all sorts of things like music and image to create something special. In the end, As Tears Go By is a rapturous film from Wong Kar-Wai.
Wong Kar-Wai Films: (Days of Being Wild) - Chungking Express - Ashes of Time/Ashes of Time Redux - (Fallen Angels) - Happy Together - In the Mood for Love - 2046 - Eros-The Hand - My Blueberry Nights - The Grandmaster - (The Auteurs #28: Wong Kar-Wai)
© thevoid99 2013
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Written, edited, and directed by Jonas Cuaron, Aningaaq is a seven-minute short film about Inuit fisherman who talks to an astronaut stranded in outer space through a two-way radio. The short is an accompanying piece to the 2013 film Gravity that Jonas co-wrote with his father Alfonso as it features the voice of Sandra Bullock with Orto Ignatiussen as the titular character. The result is a fascinating short from Jonas Cuaron.
The film is essentially a scene where an Inuit fisherman is fishing at a fjord where he tries to communicate through a two-way radio for help only to finding himself talking to the stranded astronaut Ryan Stone (the voice of Sandra Bullock). It’s a scene that showcases the point of view of Aningaaq who is just a simple fisherman as he has no idea what Stone is talking about yet they manage to communicate in this very poignant scene. It’s a simple piece that is directed with such simplicity by Jonas Cuaron that showcases a moment that is happening from the other side as it features the same voice and dialogue that the Stone character is talking to as she is stranded alone in outer space trying to survive.
Through Cuaron’s methodical yet understated editing and his gazing camera where he creates some unique compositions. It’s a short that is just full of these tender yet touching moments that is also captured with such beauty by cinematographer Alexis Zabe as well as the evocative sound design of Pablo Lach that would underscore Steven Price’s music in the background. Even as the film features some low-key yet effective visual effects by Kyle McCullough and Raul Prado to help play into the film’s story. Yet, the film really belongs to Orto Ignatiussen who is full of charm in this very understated performance. Overall, Jonas Cuaron creates a truly mesmerizing short film in Aningaaq that serves as a fitting companion to his father’s film Gravity.
© thevoid99 2013
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and written by Ozu and Kogo Noda, Early Summer is the story about a woman who gets a visit from her uncle who thinks she should get married as her family tries to find a good prospect for her while she deals with issues in her own life. The film is an exploration into the changing ways in postwar Japan as well as the rise of women taking their own roles with their lives. Starring Setsuko Hara, Chishu Ryu, Chikage Awashima, and Kuniko Miyake. Early Summer is a glorious yet touching film from Yasujiro Ozu.
The film is about the life of a family living in suburban Tokyo where they all support each other when they get a visit from a relative. There, the man suggests that it’s time for his 28-year old niece Noriko (Setsuko Hara) to find herself a good husband as the family tries to find men who is worthy of her yet Noriko isn’t so sure about getting married. Even as she is a modern woman with friends who had gotten married but aren’t happy about it while times are also changing in Japan prompting the family to face reality of what is happening. It’s all set in a postwar Japan where the country is coming into its own again economically though the social traditions is still in tact. Yet, there’s this emerging sense of modernism that is prevalent where the ideas of tradition might fall by the wayside as Noriko is someone who represents this conflict as she wants to make her own decisions but doesn’t want to upset her parents and older brother Koichi (Chishu Ryu).
The film’s screenplay by Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda take its time in the dynamic of this family where Noriko and her brother Koichi live in a home with their parents Shukichi and Shige (Ichiro Sugai and Chieko Higashiyama, respectively), Koichi’s wife Fumiko, and their sons Minoru (Zen Murase) and Isamu (Isao Shirosawa) as Noriko is a secretary and Koichi is a prominent physician. The visit from their uncle (Kokuten Kodo) who keeps asking about why Noriko isn’t married raises a lot of questions as Noriko is often asked by her boss Satake (Shuji Sano) about meeting a friend of his whom Koichi would see if he’s good enough for his sister. Yet, Noriko is confused as her friend Aya (Chikage Awashima) who is unmarried as she is also unsure if she wants to play into tradition. Then there’s Noriko and Koichi’s childhood friend Kenkichi Yabe (Hiroshi Nihonyanagi) who is a widower with a child as he lives with his mother (Haruko Sugimura) as he also helps out though he’s got moments in his life that is changing where it would also complicate things.
The script also revels in this world that is changing where Noriko’s parents are aware that having Noriko getting married would also cause a splinter in the family as they would live with Shukichi’s brother while Koichi and Fumiko would stay at the house with their kids. It would lead to this third act about the decision that Noriko would eventually make yet it becomes clear that it’s not going to be an easy one. Yet, her eventual decision doesn’t just play into this conflict about traditionalism and modernism but also about what Noriko wants in her life. Of course, the family’s reaction isn’t just mixed but also a bit shocking as they have no idea what to think but it’s also clear that there’s some things that traditionalism can’t deal with as times are changing.
Ozu’s direction is definitely wondrous in the way he captures the life of an ordinary family in Tokyo. Notably as it plays to that very evocative yet simplistic approach to the way he presents a scene. Much of it is shot in a single, static shot where the camera doesn’t move as it’s positioned in a wide or a medium shot to display what is going on in the scene. It all plays into this world that this family live in as there’s an intimacy that is prevalent throughout in some of light-hearted moments but also in some dramatic moments such as scene where Minoru and Isamo are upset that their father brought home a loaf of bread instead of the train tracks they wanted. Even in the way Ozu positions the camera for a dinner scene with Noriko, Aya, and their married friends is unique to showcase not just a sense of division that is emerging but the sense of the fact that times are changing.
Much of the way Ozu presents this conflict is told very subtly where he doesn’t do a lot of movements with the camera with the exception of a few dolly shots in a scene where Noriko’s parents are watching a play with Shukichi’s brother as well as a shot where Noriko and Fumiko are walking on the beach. Still, Ozu maintains something that is quite simple and poignant where he knows where to put the camera in a scene and to play out a certain reaction shot. Much of it has him not wanting to use a lot of close-ups by focusing more on a conversation scene as he knows where to put the actors into a frame. Especially for the film’s eventual scene where Noriko makes her decision as Ozu’s framing and the way he puts the actors into the frame becomes crucial for the film’s dramatic climax. Overall, Ozu crafts a very exhilarating yet engrossing film about a family dealing with changing times as well as dealing with a young woman’s future.
Cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography with the low-key look of the scenes at the beach and some of the daytime interior and exterior settings to the scenes set at night with lighting by Itsuo Takashita to help set the mood. Editor Yoshiyasu Hamamura does nice work with the editing where it‘s mostly straightforward to play out the drama and some of its humor while using fade-outs to help structure the film. Art director Tatsuo Hamada and set decorator Shotaro Hashimoto do amazing work with the set pieces such as the home the family lives in that is quite spacious but also quaint in its look.
Costume designer Taizo Saito does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly straightforward with the exception of the robes that Noriko‘s parents wear. Sound recorder Yoshisaburo Seno does superb work with the sound to capture the intimacy of what goes on in the house as well as some of the scenes set in Tokyo and in the train stations. The film’s music by Senji Ito is just exquisite for its serene yet somber orchestral score to play into some of the drama without embellishing it as it is one of the film’s major highlights.
The film’s brilliant cast includes some notable small yet effective performances from Haruko Sugimura as Kenkichi’s mother who ponders about her son’s life as he is still a widower, Shuji Sano as Noriko’s boss Satake who suggests to Noriko about meeting a friend of his as a potential prospect, Kokuten Kodo as Shukichi’s brother who brings up the subject of marriage, and Chikage Awashima as Noriko’s friend Aya who ponders about the idea of marriage as she isn’t sure after learning from friends on the downside of it. Zen Maruse and Isao Shirosawa are terrific as Koichi and Fumiko’s young sons Minoru and Isamu, respectively, as they’re two boys obsessed with trains as they test the patience of their elders. Hiroshi Nihonyanagi is excellent as Koichi and Noriko’s childhood friend Kenkichi as a fellow doctor who helps the family with some problems while dealing with his own circumstances in his career.
Ichiro Sugai and Chieko Higashiyama are amazing as Noriko and Koichi’s parents in Shukichi and Shige, respectively, as they carry a sense of warmth and wisdom as two parents who want what’s best for Noriko while dealing with the fact that times are changing as it would play into Noriko’s eventual decision. Kuniko Miyake is wonderful as Koichi’s wife Fumiko as the observer of sorts in the family as she also voices her opinion on a few things while wondering the effect of Noriko’s eventual decision. Chishu Ryu is fantastic as Noriko’s older brother Koichi as a doctor who tries to see if the prospect that Satake suggests is any good while dealing with his own family as well as up holding a sense of tradition in that family. Finally, there’s Setsuko Hara in an incredible performance as Noriko as a 28-year old woman dealing with the ideas of old and new ideas as she is eager to make her own decision but wants to respect the wishes of her family as it’s a truly mesmerizing performance for the actress.
Early Summer is a majestic film from Yasujiro Ozu. Thanks to its cast and touching portrait of a family going through changing times while finding a prospective husband for their daughter. It’s a film that is truly engaging for the way it explores tradition clashing with modernism as well as the life of a family that is truly universal for an audience to relate to. In the end, Early Summer is a remarkable film from Yasujiro Ozu.
Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) - (Days of Youth) - (Tokyo Chorus) - I Was Born, But... - (Dragnet Girl) - (Passing Fancy) - (A Mother Should Be Loved) - A Story of Floating Weeds - (An Inn in Tokyo) - (The Only Son) - (What Did the Lady Forget?) - (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) - (There Was a Father) - (The Record of a Tenement Gentleman) - (A Hen in the Wind) - Late Spring - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) - Tokyo Story - (Early Spring) - (Tokyo Twilight) - (Equinox Flower) - (Good Morning) - Floating Weeds - (Late Autumn) - (The End of Summer) - (An Autumn Afternoon)
© thevoid99 2013