Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2017 Blind Spot Series: The Lady Eve




Based on the story Two Bad Hats by Monckton Hoffe, The Lady Eve is the story of a con artist who boards an ocean liner to con a rich heir only to fall for him. Written for the screen and directed by Preston Sturges, the film is a screwball comedy that is set in an ocean liner where a woman is torn in her feelings for this heir as well as doing the job. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, Martha O’Driscoll, Melville Cooper, William Demarest, Janet Beecher, and Eric Blore. The Lady Eve is a whimsical and delightful film from Preston Sturges.

The film follows a woman who is part of a trio of con artists with her father and a friend of her father’s as they target the heir of a popular ale brewery who is socially-awkward due to his fascination for snakes rather than women. It’s a film with a simple story as it explore a woman pretending to fall in love with this man only for things to not go her way as she becomes conflicted in her feelings to do her job as well as falling for him. Preston Sturges’ screenplay explores not just who Charles Pike (Henry Fonda) is as this man that just arrived from South America to an ocean liner in carrying a rare snake. He’s also this man who is quite na├»ve and shy around women until a woman accidentally trips him in Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck) who woos him as she is really targeting him for his money. Jean pretends to be a rich woman with her father (Charles Coburn) pretending to be a colonel yet Pike is accompanied by his minder/valet Muggsy (William Demarest) who is suspicious towards Jean and her father.

Sturges’ script would be filled with some stylish dialogue that is very playful as well as carry the story as much of the first is about Pike’s attraction to Harrington as well as the growing conflict in Harrington as she is on the ship. The film’s first half mainly takes place on the ocean liner from South America to New York City as the second half takes place in parts of the city as well as the countryside where Pike lives with his rich father Horace (Eugene Pallette). It is where the film takes a bit of a change in tone where it would become funnier once Harrington would take part in another con game as it becomes something extremely comical with Pike being the cuckold all of a sudden.

Sturges’ direction definitely has some elements of style though much of the compositions he creates in the film are quite straightforward. Shot mainly in soundstages, Sturges would play into some of the light-hearted moments that goes on throughout the film as he would use some wide shots for scenes involving big crowds or for a party scene during its third act. Yet, he would emphasize mainly on medium shots with some close-ups to play into the moments between Pike and Harrington as they get to know each other or be involved in something comical. Sturges would also allow these scenes to play out in a few minutes for some shots so that it can focus on the actors reciting dialogue and not show too much or cut immediately during a conversation. For the film’s third act revolving around a party, Sturges would create gags that are very inventive as he knows where to show the joke and moments that do bring in big laughs. Especially as it relates to Pike dealing with the situation he’s in as it relates to Harrington as well as the con he is being roped into with Harrington becoming more torn over her love for Pike. Overall, Sturges creates a witty yet heartfelt film about a beautiful con artist falling for her mark in a socially-awkward ale brewery heir.

Cinematographer Victor Milner does excellent work with the film’s black-and-white photography in the usage of lights for many of the interior scenes including the party scene in the third act. Editor Stuart Gilmore does brilliant work with the editing as it is very straightforward in playing up to the humor and some of the dramatic moments it would use some rhythmic cuts for some of the funnier moments of the film. Art directors Hans Dreier and Ernst Fegte do fantastic work with the look of the sets such as the dining room in the ocean liner to the interiors at the Pike family mansion.

The costumes of Edith Head does amazing work with the look of the suits that Pike wears as well as the dresses and gowns of Harrington. The sound work of Harry Lindgren and Don Johnson do terrific work with the sound as it is quite straightforward with the exception of a few created sounds for the ship and cars. The musical direction of Sigmund Krumgold is wonderful as it features an array of music from different composers as the music ranges from some light-hearted orchestral pieces to bits of jazz and the pop music of the times.

The casting by Robert Mayo is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Luis Alberni as Pike’s chef, Robert Grieg as Pike’s butler, Martha O’Driscoll as Pike’s maid, Janet Beecher as Pike’s mother, Melville Cooper as Mr. Harrington’s associate Gerald, and Eric Blore as a fellow con artist who claims to be a royal in Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith. William Demarest is superb as Pike’s minder/valet Muggsy as a man whose job is to watch out for Pike as he is suspicious about Harrington and her father as he provides some very funny moments. Eugene Pallette is terrific as Pike’s father Horace as a man that is trying to make sure his son finds the right woman while providing some big laughs such as a scene about the whereabouts of his breakfast.

Charles Coburn is fantastic as Mr. Harrington as a man pretending to be a colonel in an attempt to swindle Pike from his money as he wonders what his daughter is doing being aware of her own internal conflict. Finally, there’s the duo of Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Charles Pikes and Jean Harrington. Fonda provides this very low-key approach to his performance as someone that is quite shy and awkward where it his reactions that are funny while he proves to be adept in performing physical stunts. Stanwyck’s performance exudes charm as she says some of the funniest lines as well as be quite seductive and cool where she is a joy to watch. Fonda and Stanwyck together display have some great chemistry and comic timing as they are the highlights of the film.

The Lady Eve is a spectacular film from Preston Sturges that features incredible performances from Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck. Along with its witty script, dazzling comic sequences, and top-notch visuals, it’s a film that is a fun romantic comedy that play with the conventions while providing moments that are funny. In the end, The Lady Eve is a rapturous film from Preston Sturges.

Preston Sturges Films: (The Great McGinty) – (Christmas in July) – Sullivan's Travels - (The Palm Beach Story) – (The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek) – (Hail the Conquering Hero) – (The Great Moment) – (The Sin of Harold Diddlebock) – (Unfaithfully Yours) – (The Beautiful Blond of Bashful Head) – (Vendetta (1950 film)) – (The French, They Are a Funny Race)

© thevoid99 2017

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The King of Comedy


(In Memory of the Kings of Comedy in Dick Gregory (1932-2017) and Jerry Lewis (1926-2017))



Directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul D. Zimmerman, The King of Comedy is the story of a stand-up comedian trying to get his big break as he decides to kidnap a late-night talk show host to do so. The film is a study of obsession for celebrity as well as the need to be famous as it explore many of the ideas of fame and what some will do to become famous. Starring Robert de Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard, Diahnne Abbott, Shelley Hack, and Tony Randall as himself. The King of Comedy is a witty and whimsical film from Martin Scorsese.

The film follows a wannabe standup comedian who is trying to get the attention of a renowned late-night TV talk-show host to appear in his show and become his friend only for things to not go his way where he and another fan kidnap the man. It’s a film that explores a man’s obsession to be famous and what he’s willing to do to achieve that as he loses touch with reality and becomes very invasive towards the life of this talk-show host. Paul D. Zimmerman’s screenplay follows the character of Rupert Pupkin (Robert de Niro) as a guy that really thinks he has what it takes to be a successful stand-up comedian. Pupkin also wants to impress his girlfriend Rita (Diahnne Abbott) who isn’t convinced he would succeed as he would meet the talk-show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) by saving him from a deranged fan during the film’s opening sequence as Rupert thinks he has a chance to get his foot in the door.

Pupkin is a very offbeat character as someone who is definitely living a fantasy life as he imagines a conversation he would have Langford at a restaurant while Pupkin is in his room imagining this conversation. It adds to how deranged he is as a person where he would continuously try to meet Langford again by sending him an audition tape to be on the show. Yet, Langford is aware of how far Pupkin is willing to be on the show as there’s a moment in the second act where Pupkin goes too far leading to the third act where Pupkin turns to the deranged fan Masha (Sandra Bernhard) for help in the kidnapping plot. It’s the moment where it showcases Pupkin’s own craziness but he still wants to be nice and friendly to Langford though Langford knows what he has to do as the people working on his show scramble on what to do as it lead to what could be Pupkin’s big moment.

Martin Scorsese’s direction is quite straightforward in terms of the compositions and not delving too much into style. Shot entirely on location in New York City, Scorsese would use some wide shots for a few scenes including a look into Pupkin’s room in his family home as well as a few scenes in some of the exteriors of the city. Yet, Scorsese would maintain something that is a bit more intimate and to the point where he would use some hand-held cameras for some scenes including a long tracking shot for a chase scene of sorts where Pupkin tries to find Langford in the latter’s office. Still, much of Scorsese’s direction has this element of fantasy vs. reality as the scenes where Pupkin is in his room doing his routine or his imaginary conversation with Langford just add something that is dream-like and filled with dazzling visuals in comparison to the element of reality that Pupkin is facing.

Especially in the third act where Scorsese would infuse bits of style in the scenes where Langford has been kidnapped as Masha would try to seduce him as it’s darkly comic in what she’s trying to do. The presentation of Langford’s TV show is definitely presented in that TV format as it would include everything Pupkin imagine it would be as it would climax into the moment he would get his chance to make America laugh. The film’s ending is ambiguous as it relates to that air of fantasy vs. reality where it never really reveals what is really happening as it all plays into the idea of fame. Overall, Scorsese creates a compelling and satirical film about a comedian trying to become famous by kidnapping a late-night TV talk show host.

Cinematographer Fred Schuler does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of lights for many of the exterior scenes at night as well as some of the scenes in the TV studio and at the home of Masha with its candle lights for her dinner with Langford. Editor Thelma Schoonmaker does brilliant work with the editing in playing up to some of the film’s humor with its stylistic jump-cuts and some montage cutting that add to the blur of fantasy vs. reality. Production designer Boris Leven, with set decorators George De Titta Sr. and Daniel Robert plus art directors Lawrence Miller and Edward Pisoni, does amazing work with the look of Pupkin’s room at the home he lives with his mother as well as the look of the TV studio set and the interiors of Masha’s home and Langford’s home.

Costume designer Richard Bruno does fantastic work with the costumes from the stylish suits that Pupkin wears as well as some of the clothes that Masha wears. Sound editor Frank E. Warner does superb work with the sound from the way many of the exteriors of New York City is presented to the sparse moments at the homes of some of the characters. Music producer Robbie Robertson creates a terrific soundtrack that feature some cheesy TV music scores from Bob James while the soundtrack features a mixture of music from the Pretenders, Talking Heads, B.B. King, Van Morrison, David Sanborn, Rickie Lee Jones, Ric Ocasek, Ray Charles, and a cut by Robertson himself.

The casting by Cis Corman is wonderful as it feature several cameo appearances from singer Ellen Foley and three members of the British punk band in the Clash as street punks at Times Square, Cathy Scorsese as a young woman wanting Langford’s autograph, Charles Scorsese and Marik Mardin as two men at a bar, Catherine Scorsese as the voice of Pupkin’s mother, Lou Brown as the talk show band leader, Ed Herlihy as the announcer, Martin Scorsese as the TV director, Kim Chan as Langford’s butler, Margo Winkler as the receptionist at Langford’s office building, Frederick de Cordova as Langford’s producer, Edgar Scherick as the network president, Victor Borge and Dr. Joyce Brothers as themselves who are guests at Langford’s show, Shelly Hack as Langford’s secretary, and Tony Randall as himself who would fill in for Langford during a broadcast.

Diahnne Abbott is superb as Pupkin’s bartender girlfriend Rita who doesn’t believe Pupkin would succeed as she becomes more suspicious about what he does as she becomes more bewildered by his behavior. Sandra Bernhard is fantastic as Masha as an obsessed fan of Langford who would secretly work with Pupkin as she hopes to have Langford all to herself. Jerry Lewis is phenomenal as Jerry Langford as a late-night TV talk show host who is trying to run a show as he becomes uneasy by Pupkin’s presence and determination as it’s a very low-key and restrained performance from Lewis that has him be funny when he’s on TV but be more serious when he’s not on TV. Finally, there’s Robert de Niro in an incredible performance as Rupert Pupkin as this wannabe stand-up comedian who is trying to get his break as he is quite deranged and obsessive as it is one of de Niro’s finer performances in terms of his energy, sense of humor, and willingness to balance kindness and madness all into one.

The King of Comedy is a tremendous film from Martin Scorsese that features great performances from Robert de Niro and Jerry Lewis. Along with its fantastic supporting cast, a cool soundtrack, amazing technical work, and a riveting study of obsession and the desire to be famous. It’s a film that explore the fallacy of these desires as well as how a man can lose touch with reality in order to pursue his dreams. In the end, The King of Comedy is a magnificent film from Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese Films: (Who’s That Knocking on My Door?) – (Street Scenes) – (Boxcar Bertha) – (Mean Streets) – (Italianamerican) – Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore - Taxi Driver - (American Boy: A Profile on Steven Prince) – (New York, New York) – (The Last Waltz) – Raging Bull - (After Hours) – The Color of Money - The Last Temptation of Christ - New York Stories-Life Lessons - (Goodfellas) – Cape Fear - The Age of Innocence - (A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies) – (Casino) – (Kundun) – (My Voyage to Italy) – Bringing Out the Dead - (The Blues-Feel Like Going Home) – Gangs of New York - (The Aviator) – (No Direction Home) – The Departed - (Shine a Light) – Shutter Island - (A Letter to Elia) – (Public Speaking) - George Harrison: Living in the Material World - Hugo - The Wolf of Wall Street - (The Fifty Year Argument) – (Silence (2016 film))

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, August 21, 2017

Hell or High Water




Directed by David Mackenzie and written by Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water is the story of two brothers who decide to rob banks to save their family ranch as they are being pursued by two Texas Rangers. The film is a crime thriller set in West Texas as it play into a battle between brothers and the two men trying to go after them. Starring Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Gil Birmingham, Marin Ireland, Katy Mixon, Dale Dickey, and Jeff Bridges. Hell or High Water is a rapturous yet gripping film from David Mackenzie.

A series of robberies in West Texas prompts an aging Texas Ranger and his new partner to investigate these robberies as they’re unaware that the two robbers are brothers trying to save their family ranch by robbing the banks that is taking away the ranch. It’s a film that play into a world that has two brothers becoming desperate over a reverse mortgage as the family ranch is about to foreclosed as the timing of it is bad since their mother had passed three weeks earlier. They would rob banks and go to Indian casinos to use the money to gamble and then use that money as a check to the banks they stole the money from. Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay is definitely play into the motivations of Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and his older ex-con brother Tanner (Ben Foster) as the latter wants to help his younger brother save the ranch as Toby is aware of how rich the land is and wants to pass it on to his sons.

While Tanner is definitely more experienced in robberies as he would do all of the yelling and intimidation tactics, it is Toby that remains quiet and makes sure things go quietly as he knows what he has to do for his sons and his ex-wife Debbie (Marin Ireland). Being aware of these robberies is Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) who is days away from retirement as he is joined by his new partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) as they drive around various small town in Texas wondering where the next bank will hit. Sheridan’s dialogue and portrayal of characters is key to the film in the way he portrays the Howard brothers as well as Hamilton as men who carry old ideas of the west where Hamilton does say politically-incorrect things toward his half-Native American/half-Mexican partner as well as the fact that he believes these robbers are robbing these specific banks for a reason. Especially as Parker says something about what is happening as there is a hint of irony into what the brothers are doing as it relates to how the Native Americans lost their homes except that things are much darker and more complicated.

David Mackenzie’s direction is definitely ravishing in the way he captures this feel of the American West in not just its vast beauty but also for being this area that is disconnected by the major cities of America where many of these small towns become stricken with poverty and almost become some short of ghost town. Shot on various locations in New Mexico as West Texas, the film does play as this idea of the West in a modern setting where Mackenzie would use wide shots to capture the beauty of these locations from the shots of the deserts and mountains. The locations don’t just play to this decline of the West due to modernism but also for the fact that the old ways are gone as it’s something the Howard brothers seem to fight for as it relates to their ranch. Mackenzie would use some close-up and medium shots to play into the characters interacting with each other as well as some long shots to capture the action as it plays out.

Even as Mackenzie would create elements of tension and dark humor in the film as some of the violent moments are restrained until the third act. Notably as there is an element of suspense and terror that looms throughout the film as Hamilton and the Howard brothers never interact or see each other. It just adds to this air of suspense as a showdown is inevitable but also play into the idea of what had been lost in the West prompting these two forces to finally meet and see what it’s all about. Overall, Mackenzie creates a gripping yet haunting film about a Texas Ranger trying to capture two brothers who are robbing banks to save their family ranch.

Cinematographer Giles Nuttgens does brilliant work with the film’s gorgeous cinematography to play into the sunny and dream-like look of the Texan skylines as well as the usage of unique lighting for some of the interiors including some of the scenes in the casinos and natural lighting for a restaurant Hamilton and Parker go to. Editor Jake Roberts does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense. Production designer Tom Duffield, with set decorator Wilhelm Pfau and art director Steve Cooper, does fantastic work with the look of Howard family ranch as well as some of the places that the characters go to.

Costume designer Malgosia Turzanska does nice work with the costumes from the cowboy-like clothes of the Howard brothers to the Texas Ranger uniform that Hamilton and Parker wear. Sound designer Frank Gaeta does amazing work with the film’s sound as it play into the suspense and some of the natural elements of the locations. The film’s music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is incredible as its mixture of eerie strings and keyboard music play into the drama and decline of the West as it is a major highlight of the film while director David Mackenzie and editor Jake Roberts supervise the film’s soundtrack that mainly features a mixture of country, rock, and blues.

The casting by Jo Edna Boldin and Richard Hicks is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from screenwriter Taylor Sheridan as a cowboy getting his herd of cows out of a field fire, John Paul Howard and Christopher W. Garcia as Toby’s sons, Amber Midthunder as a young bank clerk, Melanie Paplia as a hooker trying to flirt with Toby, Alma Sisneros as a hotel clerk that Tanner woos, Dale Dickey as a bank employee who is taken hostage in the film’s opening sequence, Katy Mixon as a restaurant waitress that tries to woo Toby, and Marin Ireland as Toby’s ex-wife Debbie. Gil Birmingham is fantastic as Alberto Parker as Hamilton’s new partner who bears the insults that Hamilton gives him while dealing with the severity of the case as well as bringing his own insights about the ways of the world. Ben Foster is brilliant as Tanner Howard as the eldest of the two brothers who has been convicted for robberies and such as he knows how to rob banks as he’s a little unhinged but is also someone that is vulnerable as it relates to his own troubled relationship with his parents.

Chris Pine is amazing as Toby Howard as the younger of the two brothers who is also a father as someone who is levelheaded as he laments over the situation he’s in as well as making sure his sons don’t go through the struggles he went through as a child. Finally, there’s Jeff Bridges in a phenomenal performance as Marcus Hamilton as a Texas Ranger who is about to retire that takes on this case as he doesn’t just deal with the area he’s in but also the changes of the landscape that haunts him as well as his own ideas of why these robberies are happening.

Hell or High Water is a tremendous film from David Mackenzie that features great performances from Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Ben Foster. Along with its brilliant ensemble cast, Taylor Sheridan’s riveting script, the chilling score of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, dazzling visuals, and top-notch suspense. The film is definitely an unconventional yet evocative suspense-thriller that also acts as a true western. In the end, Hell or High Water is a spectacular film from David Mackenzie.

David Mackenzie Films: (The Last Great Wilderness) – (Young Adam) – (Asylum (2005 film)) – (Hallam Foe) – (Spread) – (Perfect Sense) – (You Instead) – (Starred Up) – (Outlaw King)

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Toni Erdmann




Written and directed by Maren Ade, Toni Erdmann is the story of a woman who gets an unexpected visit from her father as he tries to reconnect with her by pretending to be a life coach for a CEO she’s trying to do business with. The film is an exploration of a father-daughter relationship in which a man returns to the life of his estranged daughter who wants little to do with her father as she’s trying to go for her own ambitions. Starring Peter Simonischek, Sandra Huller, Ingrid Bisu, Michael Wittenborn, Thomas Loibl, Lucy Russell, and Vlad Ivanov. Toni Erdmann is an offbeat and engaging film from Maren Ade.

The film follows a man who spontaneously decides to visit his businesswoman daughter from his small German home to Bucharest, Romania where she is not happy with the surprise business just as she’s trying to finish a business deal. During his time with her, he would create a persona by pretending to be a life coach for a CEO by sporting a wig and false teeth creating chaos wherever he is at. The film’s screenplay by writer/director Maren Ade doesn’t just explore the diverging lifestyles of Winifried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) and his daughter Ines (Sandra Huller) but also Ines’ own ambition in being a consultant in this outsourcing project in the oil industry in Bucharest. Her work leaves her little time to be with family as well as having a life of her own to socialize or do anything spontaneous. When Winifried arrives to Bucharest following the death of his dog unexpectedly, Ines is in shock as she reluctantly has her father accompanying her where things don’t go well.

Much of the first act is about Winifried and Ines as the former accompanies the latter who is trying to get a deal going while the second act is about the persona that Winifried has created in a life coach called Toni Erdmann. Erdmann’s presence would baffle and annoy Ines as he would charm not just some colleagues but also those she’s trying to deal with. Even as she is forced to deal with aspects of her own life that is unfulfilling and often predictable as it would come into play during the film’s third act. Though some of scenes that Ade creates in the script can be overly stretched due to the exploration of the characters as it can meander. It does help show this unique relationship between father and daughter that is problematic but also filled with love.

Ade’s direction for the film is offbeat in terms of her approach to the humor and drama as she would create things that are odd but also moments that are simple. Shot partially on location in rural parts of Germany as much of the film is shot mainly in and around Bucharest. Ade plays into this world that is very modern which Ines is a part of as it’s confusing for someone like Winifried who used to be a hippie that teaches part-time to school children. Much of Ade’s compositions are straightforward as there’s a few wide shots as Ade would favor the usage of close-ups and medium shots while she knows what to do to create something that feels chaotic and spontaneous. Much of it has Ade taking her time where it would lag in certain parts of the film while there are moments that show what Winifried would do as Erdmann does break away from some of the monotony in Ines’ life.

One scene where Ines is having dinner with friends as Erdmann is in the background trying to move his table closer as it is quite funny while the scene where Erdmann and Ines visit a Romanian family on Easter show Ines starting to come out of the shell she had created. Especially in the third act where Ines is forced to see the lack of freedom in her life with her father still just trying to be there for his daughter. Overall, Ade creates a witty yet compelling film about a man trying to bring some chaos into his daughter’s overworked life.

Cinematographer Patrick Orth does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it’s straightforward for many of the scenes in the daytime along with some lighting for some of the scenes at night including a few parties and such. Editor Heike Parplies does nice work with the editing as it is straightforward with very little stylistic cuts in favor to play into the drama and some of the humor. Production designer Silke Fischer, with set decorator Katja Schlomer and art director Malina Ionescu, does fantastic work with the look of the hotel room that Ines lives in the city as well as her apartment as well as the messy house that Winifried lives in.

Costume designer Gitti Fuchs does terrific work with the costumes as it mostly casual with everyone wearing business suits or designer dresses as the big highlight comes in someone wearing this Bulgarian kukeri costume. Sound editor Fabian Schmidt, with sound designers Erik Mischijew and Matz Muller, does superb work with the sound as it play into the different locations and how they’re presented via sound as much of the music in the film is played on location with the exception of the Cure’s Plainsong for the film’s final credits.

The casting by Viorica Capdefier, Nina Haun, and Amanda Tabak is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Vlad Ivanova as a Romanian local living near an oil well that Winifried befriends, Hadewych Minis as a Romanian woman Winifried meets as he attends her Easter party, Victoria Cocias as a friend of Ines, Thomas Loibl as Ines’ boss Gerald, Trystan Putter as a colleague and sometimes lover of Ines in Tim, Lucy Russell as a friend/colleague of Ines in Steph, Michael Winttenborn as a CEO named Hennenberg that Ines is trying make a deal with, and Ingrid Bisu as Ines’ young assistant Anca who tries make everything goes to plan for Ines as well as deal with Winifried. 

Sandra Huller is brilliant as Ines as a business consultant trying to deal with the chaos in her work life as well as the lack of free time for herself as she is annoyed by the presence of her father as it forces her to see how predictable and dull her life is. Finally, there’s Peter Simonischek in an amazing performance as Winifried as a former music teacher who deals with the death of his dog and lack of contact with his daughter as he decides to surprise her as it’s a calm though offbeat performance for the most part until he becomes the titular character where he is just full of life and absolute chaos.

Toni Erdmann is a marvelous film from Maren Ade. Featuring great performances from Peter Simonischek and Sandra Huller as well as captivating story of a man trying to reconnect with his overworked daughter. It’s a film that explores the idea of spontaneity in life as well as the need to not have everything in control though the film does go overlong in some bits. In the end, Toni Erdmann is a remarkable film from Maren Ade.

Maren Ade Films: (The Forest for the Trees) – (Everyone Else)

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Elle (2016 film)




Based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Dijan, Elle is the story of a woman who has been raped as she decides not to tell her incident to the police in favor of handling the matter herself. Directed by Paul Verhoeven and screenplay by David Birke, the film is an exploration of a woman dealing with the aftermath of a rape as well as the need for justice on her own terms. Starring Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling, and Virginie Efira. Elle is a gripping yet haunting film from Paul Verhoeven.

The film follows a businesswoman who had been raped in her home as she tries to find the man who raped her as she doesn’t want to report the incident to the police due to her previous experiences with the police. It’s a film that explores a woman not just dealing with what happened to her but also being very cool about it as she would tell a few friends over what happened but mostly keep it to herself for others while carrying on with her life. David Birke’s screenplay follows the character of Michele Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert), who runs a video game company with her friend Anna (Anne Consigny), who ventures into this investigation to see who raped her and why as she also copes with the turmoil in her family life as her son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) is in a relationship with a domineering woman in Josie (Alice Isaaz) who is pregnant and possibly unfaithful. While Michele is still friendly towards her ex-husband Richard (Charles Berling), she is having an affair with Anna’s husband Robert (Christian Berkel) that proves to be unfulfilling while having a crush on her neighbor Patrick (Laurent Lafitte).

Michele is a very offbeat character where she acts quite passive at times who will often make some very darkly humorous comments as it relates to the fact that she had a troubled past as a child. It’s among the reasons why she and her mother Irene (Judith Magre) have an uneasy relationship as the latter is spending her time with younger lovers while wanting Michele to make contact with her estranged father. Yet, Michele isn’t an easy person to like as she can be bitchy in a cool and calm way while she would say things that would offend people. It all play into the fact that she hiding things about herself as some of Birke’s dialogue show how she can make darkly-comic comments as a way to mask herself from any kind of danger. Still, she has to contend with the fact that she’s been raped as she has her suspects and their possible motives but would also wonder if she brought this on herself.

Paul Verhoeven’s direction is definitely riveting from the way he opens the film with Michele being raped as it is her cat that is watching it not knowing what to do. It is a very odd way to open the film yet Verhoeven doesn’t mince anything into what is happening and then follow Michele in the days after the rape. Shot on location in Paris as well as areas near the city, Verhoeven creates a film that plays into a woman dealing with being raped as she tries to maintain her day-to-day activities. While there are some wide shots in the film, Verhoeven would go for more intimate shots with the close-ups and medium shots to play into the world that Michele is in as well as the idea of fantasy and reality colliding. Notably in the former as there’s a recreation of the moment in which Michele is raped where she would kill her rapist as well as other moments relating toward her attraction to Patrick. Verhoeven would also show another perspective of that opening sequence as it started off as any typical day until Michele’s attacker comes in as Verhoeven would use a Steadicam shot to capture the incident from this other perspective.

Verhoeven would also inject moments of dark humor as it relate to not just Michele’s own reaction to her rape and bits of her life. There is a scene at her work place where an animation of a monster raping a female character with Michele’s face is on display as it add some intrigue to who Michele thinks is her rapist. There are also these tense moments in which Michele is saying things that would upset people but also indicate how detached she is from those who care about her. The film’s third act isn’t just about the reveal of her rapist but also her own reaction to that man’s identity as it adds an ambiguity that does feel odd. Even as the rapist would be around her socializing as if nothing had happened with no one but her knowing his identity as it just adds this air of dramatic chaos in which Michele is forced to confront what happened to her and make sense of the choices she’s made in her life. Overall, Verhoeven crafts a very eerie yet evocative film about a woman trying to find the man who raped her.

Cinematographer Stephane Fontaine does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the array of lighting for many of the interior/exterior settings at night including the Christmas lights at Patrick’s home to the naturalistic look of the scenes set in the day. Editor Job ter Burg does brilliant work with the editing as it does have some stylistic moments in the jump-cuts while much of it is straightforward. Production designer Laurent Ott and set decorator Cecile Vatelot do fantastic work with the look of Michele’s home as well as her work place and some of the homes and places she goes to. Costume designer Nathalie Raoul does nice work with the costumes as it’s mostly straightforward aside from some of the clothes that Michele wears in social gatherings.

Visual effects supervisors Philippe Frere, Hugues Namur, and Nicholas Rey do terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it mostly involve a sequence of Michele driving in the woods. Sound editor Alexis Place does superb work with the sound as it play into some of the suspense as well as the drama including a scene involving strong winds and another scene that play into Michele’s own suspicions around her. The film’s music by Anne Dudley is amazing for its haunting orchestral score that help play into the suspense and drama without the need to be heard in some scenes while music supervisor Elise Luguern provide a soundtrack filled with some classical and opera music from the likes of Serge Rachmaninoff and Ludwig Van Beethoven to contemporary music from Iggy Pop and Roxy Music.

The casting by Constance Demontoy is wonderful as it features some notable small roles from Raphael Lenglet as Irene’s much-younger lover, Arthur Mazet as programmer named Kevin who works secretly for Michele to uncover some of the hacking at the work place, Lucas Prisor as a game designer named Kurt who dislikes Michele, Vimala Pons as Richard’s new girlfriend Helene, Alice Isaaz as Vincent’s pregnant yet angry girlfriend Josie whom Michele doesn’t like very much, and Judith Magre as Michele’s mother Irene as a woman who is trying to maintain her youthfulness despite her testy relationship with Michele. Jonas Bloquet is terrific as Richard and Michele’s son Vincent as a young man trying to get his apartment as he deals with his girlfriend Josie as well as the revelations in being a father. Virginie Efra is superb as Patrick’s wife Rebecca as a woman who is always kind as well as serve as a figure of goodness that is rarely in Michele’s world as well as being a figure of faith.

Christian Berkel is excellent as Robert as Anna’s husband who is quite perverse in his flirtations with Michel as he is someone that is creepy as well as making Michele feel loathsome. Anne Consigny is fantastic as Anna as Michele’s longtime friend/business partner who is concerned about Michele’s well-being as she feels that Michele should report the rape to the police. Charles Berling is brilliant as Michele’s ex-husband Richard as a man who is also concerned about Michele as well as Vincent’s relationship with Josie and his own life where he just want to have Michele’s blessing. Laurent Lafitte is amazing as Patrick as Michele’s neighbor who is quite helpful to Michele as well as be Michele’s object of desire as he has feelings for her but doesn’t want to cheat on his wife. Finally, there’s Isabelle Huppert in a phenomenal performance as Michele as a businesswoman who had been raped as she tries to find the man who raped her while dealing with the many things in her own life as it’s a performance filled with restraint as well as some very offbeat dark humor as it is definitely one of Huppert’s career-defining performances.

Elle is a tremendous film from Paul Verhoeven that features an incredible leading performance from Isabelle Huppert. Filled with a witty yet eerie script, subtle yet gripping suspense, a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, and a sumptuous music score. It’s a film that plays with the convention of a suspense-drama while being a character study of a woman dealing with being a rape victim that adds to her already troubled life. In the end, Elle is a spectacular film from Paul Verhoeven.

Paul Verhoeven Films: (Business is Business) – (Turkish Delight) – (Keetje Tippel) – (Soldier of Orange) – (All Things Pass) – (Spetters) – (The Fourth Man) – (Flesh and Blood) – (Robocop) – (Total Recall) – (Basic Instinct) – (Showgirls) – (Starship Troopers) – (Hollow Man) – (Black Book) – (Tricked)

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tokyo Twilight




Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and written by Ozu and Kogo Noda, Tokyo Twilight is the story of two sisters who reunite with their mother after she had abandoned them when they were children as they both deal with their own lives. The film is a look into the life of a family as they cope with this sudden reunion as well as changes in their lives. Starring Setsuko Hara, Ineko Arima, Chishu Ryu, Isuzu Yamada, Kamatari Fujiwara, Nobuo Nakamura, and Haruko Sugimura. Tokyo Twilight is an evocative and touching film from Yasujiro Ozu.

The film follows the life of a banker in Tokyo who has two adult daughters as the eldest had just moved in with him with her two-year-old daughter due to her unhappy marriage where she and her younger sister learn that their mother has returned to Tokyo having been presumed dead for years. It’s a family drama that explores a family life that goes into chaos though there are several things the two women in the family are both dealing with as the eldest sister in Takako (Setsuko Hara) is taking care of things at her father’s home while her father Shukichi (Chishu Ryu) continues to work at the bank as he is dealing with the death of a colleague. The script by Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda also explores the private pain that Takako’s younger sister Akiko (Ineko Arima) is dealing with as she is pregnant as her college boyfriend Kenji (Masami Taura) wants nothing to do with her.

During a search to find Kenji, she goes to a mahjong parlor that is run by a woman name Kisako (Isuzu Yamada) where she claims to know Akiko as she doesn’t tell her that she’s her mother. When Shukichi and Takako invite Shukichi’s sister Shigeko (Haruko Sugimura) that she saw Kisako as Takako learned about what Akiko had been doing though she is unaware of Akiko’s pregnancy. The screenplay would show this meeting between Takako and Kisako as it is filled with tension with the former displaying some resentment over what Kisako had done. Yet, it would set the stage for the emotional journey that Akiko would endure not just her own pregnancy but also revelations about the woman at the mahjong parlor she met.

Ozu’s direction is understated as well as being simple in terms of the compositions he creates and the need to delve into anything stylistic. Shot on location in Tokyo, Ozu would devoid himself of camera movements for the film including no tracking shots or anything of movement. Instead, he just aims a simple static shot to play into the image that he presents where he would use some wide shots for some of the locations in and around Tokyo. Yet, much of what Ozu shoots is with medium shots for much of the film as there’s very little close-ups in order to capture the intimacy and interaction between the characters. Much of is to not dwell too much into the melodrama as it would increase by the film’s third act as it relates to the Takako, Akiko, and Kisako. Ozu would maintain his simple approach to visuals as well as know where to create some offbeat shifts in the story that would seem abrupt but also play into the drama. Especially into what would happen as Ozu is aware of the bleakness that is prevalent in the story but is also aware that life has to continue. Overall, Ozu crafts an intoxicating yet tender film about two women dealing with the re-emergence of their estranged mother.

Cinematographer Yuhara Atsuda does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography to capture the beauty of some of the daytime exteriors in Tokyo as well as use some lighting for the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Yoshiyasu Hamamura does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward with very little elements of style for something more direct. Art director Tatsuo Hamada does fantastic work with the look of the home of Shukichi as well as the mahjong parlor that Kisako runs. The sound work of Yoshisaburo Senoo is terrific for being very simple and natural without the need to embellish as it very understated and to-the-point. The film’s music by Takanobu Saito is amazing for its orchestral-based score that feature some somber string arrangements to play into the drama while the music also feature some traditional Japanese music and contemporary music played on location.

The film’s phenomenal cast include some notable small roles from Seiji Miyaguchi as a police officer, Kamatari Fujiwara as a noodle shop owner who lets Akiko drink at his restaurant during the third act, Kinzo Shin as Takako’s estranged husband who visits Shukichi early in the film, Nobuo Nakamura as Kisako’s new husband Sakae Soma, Masami Taura as Akiko’s cruel college boyfriend Kenji, and Haruko Sugimura in a wonderful performance as Shukichi’s sister Shigeko who would tell her brother and niece in her encounter with Kisako. Isuzu Yamada is fantastic as Kisako as Shukichi’s estranged ex-wife Kisako as a woman who has re-emerged in Tokyo with a new life as she recognizes Akiko though doesn’t tell her who she really is as it’s an understated performance that shows a woman trying to start over.

Chishu Ryu is excellent as Shukichi as a banker who is dealing with the death of his family as well as Akiko’s late arrivals at his home wondering what is happening with his family. Ineko Arima is brilliant as Akiko as a young woman trying to deal with an unwanted pregnancy and a troubled relationship with her boyfriend as well as the revelation about the woman she met at a mahjong parlor. Finally, there’s Setsuko Hara in a radiant performance as Takako as a woman who is separated from her husband as she’s trying to run her father’s house and take care of her two-year old daughter while learning about the re-appearance of her mother as she tries to make sure Akiko doesn’t get herself into any trouble as well as getting her mother to not see Akiko ever again.

Tokyo Twilight is an incredible film from Yasujiro Ozu. Featuring a great cast, a compelling story, evocative visuals, and a somber music score, the film is definitely one of Ozu’s finest films in its exploration of family and middle-class life. Especially as it play into two women dealing with the unexpected return of their estranged mother whom they had believed had died. In the end, Tokyo Twilight is a sensational 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) – Record of a Tenement Gentleman - (A Hen in the Wind) – Late Spring - Early Summer - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) – Tokyo Story - Early Spring - (Equinox Flower) – Good Morning - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - (The End of Summer) – (An Autumn Afternoon)

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Rescue




For the third week of August 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We go into the theme of rescue as they’re often the kind of films that are always fun to watch as it follow a simple formula that involves the protagonist trying to save someone and do whatever he/she can to kill the fucking bad guys. Here are my picks:

1. Commando



It is one thing to kidnap a young girl from her commando father and force him to kill someone or else the young girl gets killed. Yet, if that commando is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and his daughter is Alyssa Milano. Jabroni, you’re going to need a shitload of body bags. This is an absolutely no-holds-barred, in-your-face action film that isn’t afraid to be cheesy nor provide anything other than just explosive action and some great one-liners that any immigrant coming to America can say and learn. After all, who better to show them the way to the American Dream than a man from Austria who says, “I eat Green Berets for breakfast and right now, I’m very hungry”.

2. The Missing



From Ron Howard is an underrated western in which Cate Blanchett teams up with her estranged father, played by Tommy Lee Jones, to retrieve her daughter who had been kidnapped by some evil Apache warriors. It has Blanchett and Jones along with Jenna Boyd travel on horseback to the Mexican border as it’s an adventurous film that features Evan Rachel Wood as Blanchett’s eldest daughter who is kidnapped along with Elisabeth Moss. Ron Howard is often known for making middling, middle-of-the-road Hollywood films but this is one of his better films.

3. Taken



The film that made Liam Neeson an unlikely action star in which he plays a former CIA operative whose daughter had been abducted by some human traffickers who would sell her to sex slavery. It’s a film that has Neeson telling his daughter’s kidnappers in a very quiet voice that he will hunt them down and kill them. The people who kidnap Neeson’s daughter don’t take his threat very seriously and what happens is that they really fucked up. After all, he’s got some very special skills and will use them.

© thevoid99 2017