Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Silence (1963 film)

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, Tystnaden (The Silence) is the story of two different sisters who travel together with the young son of one of the sisters as they deal with their own tense relationship as their country is on the brink of war. The third and final part of Bergman’s trilogy on faith, the film is an exploration about two different women who challenge each other with their ideas on life as well as daring questions on faith and sexuality. Starring Ingrid Thulin, Gunnel Lindblom, Birger Malmsteen, Hakan Jahnberg, and Jorgen Lindstrom. Tystnaden is a chilling yet enthralling film from Ingmar Bergman.

Set in a fictional European country where war is about to emerge, the film explores a day in the life of two sisters who are traveling on a train with the young son of one of the women as they would spend most of the day in a hotel at an unnamed town. It’s a film that explores not just this troubled relationship between these two very different sisters but also in the young boy who finds himself caught in the middle. For the eldest Ester (Ingrid Thulin), she is this intellectual translator who has fallen ill as she spends part of the day bed-ridden while medicating herself with vodka and cigarettes. For her younger sister Anna (Gunnel Lindblom), she is a woman who uses her sensuality to get by as she takes her young son Johan (Jorgen Lindstrom) on the trip where they would live with relatives in this state of war. Ester and Anna are two women in very different paths as Anna is young enough to meet with people and have her way in a sexual way while Ester is often alone where she usually spends her time working and dealing with her illness.

Ingmar Bergman’s screenplay doesn’t go into any kind of conventional ideas of storytelling nor does it play into any traditional plot schematics. Instead, he strips everything down to the barest essentials as he wants to focus on this growing estrangement between two sisters as Anna is reluctant to care for Ester as she would often go into spasms and other aspects of her illness. While Johan would explore parts of the hotel where he would encounter a group of performing midgets and a very kind night porter (Hakan Jahnberg), he is reluctant to watch over his aunt yet eventually manages to be a source of comfort for her. Anna would go into her own journey where she would meet a bartender (Birger Malmsteen) whom she would later sleep with. During her journey, she would deal with a world that she is entranced by but is also a bit repulsed as it serves as a reflection of sorts of who she is. Though the theme of faith is only told minimally, it does become very prevalent in its third act as it relates to Ester’s struggles with her illness.

Bergman’s direction is quite intoxicating in the way he presents this very intimate and minimalist drama where much of it is set in this hotel. The direction has Bergman going for some very stylish yet evocative compositions in the way he would put his actors into a frame or how would have something happen in the background though the story is being told in the foreground. Still, Bergman is about telling the story where he would also find ways to be provocative but not overtly in the way he approaches sexuality. Whereas Anna uses sexuality to get what she wants, Ester is someone who is tempted by it as it would create this schism between the two sisters as it’s one of many things they would clash about. Especially as Anna has managed to use her words and sensuality to power over Ester who uses her intellect to try and reason with Anna. Ester would eventually realizes that it may not work as she tries to connect with her no matter how cold Anna could be.

The direction also has Bergman use some low-angle and slanted angles to play into some of the film’s emotional aspects of the film while some of the sexual content is quite intense as it would play to Anna’s own sense of passion but also the conflict within herself. Things do intensify in the third act as it relates to Ester’s desire to connect with Anna but there’s a lot of things that complicates everything where faith starts to come into play as Ester tries to deal with her illness and the concept of death. Especially as she would reach out to Johan whom she had started to connect with as he begins to question the actions of his own mother. Overall, Bergman crafts a very engaging yet harrowing film about humanity and faith.

Cinematographer Sven Nykvist does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to play into some of the film‘s eerie tone with its entrancing lighting schemes for some of its interiors along with its use of shadows to play into its sense of despair. Editor Ulla Ryghe does excellent work with the editing with its very methodical yet low-key approach to editing as it avoids conventional cutting styles in order to play into the film‘s emotional tone. Production designer P.A. Lundgren does superb work with the film‘s set design from the look of the hotel hallways as well as the room that Ester, Anna, and Johan would stay in. Costume designer Marik Vos-Lundh does nice work with the costumes it showcases the two different world of the sisters from the more sensual look of Anna to the more prim look of Ester.

The makeup work of Borje Lundh is terrific for some of the look that Anna would wear as she goes out. The sound work of Stig Flodin, Bo Leveren, and Tage Sjoborg is amazing for the atmosphere it creates in the hotel rooms and hotel halls as well as some of the moments in the theater including the sex act that Anna would see. The film’s music consists of pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, Robert Mersey, and Ivan Renliden as it is played on location to play into the world that Ester wants to be in as she is desperate to connect with someone.

The film’s fantastic cast includes notable small roles Birger Malmsteen as a bartender that Anna hooks up with and Hakan Jahnberg as a kind waiter who is the one person that Ester and Johan seem to be comfortable with. Jorgen Lindstrom is incredible as the boy Johan who tries to deal with his mother’s neglect as well as watching over his aunt Ester as he starts to get to know her. Gunnel Lindblom is amazing as Johan’s mother Anna who is reluctant to accompany her sister as well as she is eager to live her life yet finds herself compromised by her identity and age in a world that is changing as she tries to hold on to her youth. Finally, there’s Ingrid Thulin in a phenomenal performance as Ester as this woman of great intelligence tries to deal with her illness and the growing estrangement she has with Anna as well as the flaws of humanity in her search for answers about God and if he ever listens.

Tystnaden is an outstanding film from Ingmar Bergman. Filled with great performances from its cast as well as Sven Nykvist’s entrancing photography and captivating themes on faith and humanity. The film isn’t just one of Bergman’s quintessential films but also a fitting end to his trilogy of faith in the way it explores people trying to find answers at their most desperate. In the end, Tystnaden is a rich yet spectacular film from Ingmar Bergman.

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

© thevoid99 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Auteurs #36: Leos Carax

One of the group of new filmmakers from France to emerge in the 1980s, Leos Carax was someone who marched to the beat of his own drum. While he was a student of the French New Wave, Carax would infuse his own sensibilities to create films that often explored the ideas of love in very strange ways. Especially in different genres while displaying his own love for cinema. Though he only has made a small number of films so far and often make them infrequently due to their lack of commercial potential. He is a filmmaker that is an absolute original in an age where cinema tries to repeat the ideas of the past.

Born Alex Oscar Christophe Dupont in Suresnes, Hauts-de-Seine near Paris, France in November 22, 1960, Carax was born to an American mother and a French father. Through his interest in cinema, Dupont would call himself Leos Carax in an anagram of his names Alex and Oscar. Through his writing as a film critic, Carax’s interest in the world of cinema was marked by the films of the French New Wave from the 1960s as he was influenced by the works of Jean-Luc Godard. Especially in Godard’s approach in playing with narrative and creating stories that were very unconventional and offbeat. In 1980, Carax made a short called Strangulation Blues that would explore many of the ideas he would create in his later films such as the ideas of love and some of the dark elements that it would have.

More about this piece can be read here at Cinema Axis.

© thevoid99 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Fisher King

Directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Richard LaGravenese, The Fisher King is the story of a once famous radio shock-jock who seeks to find redemption when he meets a man whose life he ruined and tries to help him. The film is the first of an unofficial trilogy set in America from Gilliam as it explores not just the world of fantasy but also in finding hope in the bleakest forms of reality. Starring Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer, and Michael Jeter. The Fisher King is a dazzling yet heartfelt film from Terry Gilliam.

Three years after being responsible for the deaths of a group of people by a madman who later killed himself, a radio shock jock meets a strange man whose wife was killed at that restaurant who seeks the Holy Grail and the love of a shy woman as the shock jock decides to help him in an act of redemption. While it is a simple tale of redemption, the film is also a mixture of adventure, fantasy, and romance as it would play into the world of Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) who lost so much through his own actions as his encounter with this homeless man named Parry (Robin Williams) would play into the chance to become a better person while help this lost man regain something that he had lost following his wife’s death. In the process, Jack would also reluctantly help Parry in his quest to find the Holy Grail in the home of a rich architect as Parry believes in this legend of the Grail.

Richard LaGravenese’s screenplay definitely has this air of fantasy and romance but it is also balanced by this world of cynicism as the film opens with Jack as this very arrogant and snide radio shock-jock who talks a lot of shit and has everything until he is responsible for prompting a man to go after a waitress that unfortunately led to a killing spree where Parry’s wife was among the people who were killed. Jack loses his fame as he is wracked with guilt where he would live with a video store owner in Anne (Mercedes Ruehl) who would prompt Jack to do something as she would also help him to Parry back on track. Especially as it relates to Parry’s attraction to this shy publishing accountant in Lydia (Amanda Plummer) through the craziest means.

One aspect of the script that definitely succeeds isn’t just the stories but how fully-realized the characters are as Parry was also a man who had everything only to lose it because of a tragedy as those reminders would come to him in the form of a red knight that only he can see. Especially as it would prompt Jack to realize the greater task that he needs to retrieve the Grail with Parry as well as getting the chance to prove that he can be redeemed no matter how many times he says that he is a fuck-up. The unlikely teaming of Jack and Parry isn’t just one aspect of the story that is so compelling but it’s also one where a man tries to help another and vice versa as they both would try to deal with the demons that had been haunting them.

Terry Gilliam’s direction is truly astonishing not just in its sense of style but also in the fact that he is able to mix a sense of realism with fantasy as it’s set entirely in New York City. The film has Gilliam infusing a lot of unique camera angles including some slanted shots and elaborate crane shots. Even in some of the intimate moments where the sense of style is very evident but not very distracting. Gilliam does go for something simple in the way he presents the drama as it relates to Jack’s own life as he struggles with his guilt and what his life has become despite the support of Anne. There are scenes that do feel quite unsettling and real such as the homeless places near the Brooklyn Bridge as well as some very exhilarating scenes at Central Park where Parry tries to convince Jack to lie naked in the middle of the park to watch the moonlight.

The direction also has Gilliam play with the world of fantasy though it’s more restrained in comparison to his other films such as this lavish waltz scene in the middle of Grand Central Terminal as it plays to Parry’s own sense of fantasy. The scenes involving the Red Knight also play into that sense of fantasy but as a form of reality that Parry wants to avoid as Gilliam would go for something that feels very dizzying. Even as some of the wide shots and compositions would have something that feels like a world that is very different. All of which would play into this climax in this very odd journey to get the Holy Grail as it seems like this strange task but one that would help Jack and Parry find hope in their troubled lives. Overall, Gilliam creates a sensational yet touching film about a man finding redemption in helping another man who was destroyed by tragedy.

Cinematographer Roger Pratt does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography as it is very straightforward but also stylish in some of the lighting schemes that Pratt creates for some of the nighttime exteriors as well as some of the interior scenes. Editor Lesley Walker does incredible work with the editing as it‘s very stylized with some jump-cuts, montages, and a stylish use of transition wipes for a dinner scene with the four principle characters. Production designer Mel Bourne, with set decorator Cindy Carr and art director P. Michael Johnston, does amazing work with the set pieces from the video store that Anne runs to the accounting firm and hospital rooms as well as the castle where the Grail is.

Costume designer Beatrix Aruna Pasztor does terrific work with the costumes from the ragged look of Parry in his homeless clothes to the white suit he would wear in his date with Lydia. The visual effects work of William Cruse and Kent Houston do nice work with some of the effects as it’s very minimal including the design of the Red Knight. Sound editor Peter Pennell and sound designer Bill Kates do superb work with the film‘s sound in some of the sound textures to play into the sense of terror that Parry would endure as well as the sounds of radio broadcasts that Jack used to do. The film’s music by George Fenton is excellent for its broad and operatic score as it has some very lush orchestral themes to play into the sense of romance as well as bombastic pieces for the adventurous moments. The film’s music soundtrack includes a mix of music ranging from pop standards and modern music like Ray Charles, Chill Rob G, and Harry Nilsson.

The casting by Howard Feuer is great as it features notable small roles from Kathy Najimy as a crazed video store customer, Tom Waits as a disabled veteran, Harry Shearer as a TV star that Jack despises, Lara Harris as Jack’s girlfriend when he was famous, and David Hyde Pierce as Jack’s agent Lou. Michael Jeter is fantastic as a homeless cabaret singer Jack and Parry would meet as they would help him to reach a message to Lydia. Amanda Plummer is amazing as the very shy and socially-awkward Lydia who has her own quirks and insecurities where her date with Parry would bring her hope about her own life. Mercedes Ruehl is phenomenal as Anne as this no-nonsense woman who hopes to be more than a friend to Jack as she would also help Lydia and Parry as it’s a truly touching and powerful supporting performance.

Jeff Bridges is brilliant as Jack Lucas as this man who had it all only to be undone by a tragedy that he unknowingly caused as he tries to find redemption where it’s Bridges showing some humility as well as an ugliness but also a role that has him be sympathetic as he wants to right the wrongs in his life. Finally, there’s Robin Williams in a magnificent performance as Parry as this very troubled man who has lost himself as he becomes homeless and seeks the Holy Grail as Williams brings a sense of energy in his humor as well as sense of warmth and vulnerability. Especially in his moving monologue to Lydia about what he wants to do as it showcases Williams’ power as an actor where he can blend comedy and drama and do it so easily.

The Fisher King is a remarkable film from Terry Gilliam that features great performances from Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, and Mercedes Ruehl. The film is definitely Gilliam’s most accessible work in its blend of romance and fantasy as well as a compelling story on redemption. Even as it features moments that are quite crazy that is balanced with stories about characters trying to find hope again. In the end, The Fisher King is an outstanding film from Terry Gilliam.

Terry Gilliam Films: Jabberwocky - Time Bandits - Brazil - The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - 12 Monkeys - Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas - The Brothers Grimm - (Tideland) - The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - (The Zero Theorem) - (The Auteurs #38: Terry Gilliam)

© thevoid99 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Written and directed by Richard Linklater, Boyhood is the story of the life of a young boy as he comes of age from the first grade to the twelfth grade. Shot in the span of 12 years, the film is an exploration into the world of childhood and the world of a boy growing up with his mother and older sister as well as endure the sporadic appearances of his father. Starring Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, and Ellar Coltrane. Boyhood is a tremendously transformative and exhilarating film from Richard Linklater.

The life of a child is a unique one where it is the years where children learn about the ways of life as well as the idea that the world isn’t perfect. Especially as it concern their own parents who aren’t perfect as they would struggle in raising their children to do well and prepare them for adulthood. The film is about these situations as it relates to a young boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) who would endure many changes in the entirety of his young life from being a child to becoming an 18-year old aspiring photographer. Especially as he would go through these changes with his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) in the span of twelve years with sporadic appearances by his father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke). In the course of the story, Mason and his family would live in various places all over Texas as Olivia struggles to find stability in her life through marriages and other setbacks. Especially as the film’s story revolves around growing pains that Mason and Samantha would go through as well as having to move every few years and the visits from their father.

Richard Linklater’s screenplay doesn’t really play into any kind of traditional structure as it really plays more into Mason’s coming-of-age as a boy who would go through many things in the course of twelve years. Among them would be arriving into different schools, take part in the trends of the time, and all sorts of things that kids and teenagers would go through. Especially as the film’s second half showcases Mason as a teenager where he would face the pressure of fitting in and be part of something as there’s one notable scene where he lies about being with girls and such which is often very common with teenage boys. Yet, Linklater makes sure the story is very simple as it relates to Mason’s own growth as a person where many of his experiences would come into play as a man as well as learning about love and such. Even as he would get some advice from his own father, who does reveal why things with him and Mason’s mother didn’t work out, in the ways of love and all sorts of things.

Linklater’s direction is very evocative in the way that he presents the film where he manages to capture the growth of a child and his family in the span of 12 years without any kind of tricks, visual effects, or something that could’ve been told in a conventional fashion. Instead, Linklater would do something where he would capture a moment in time in these twelve different years to capture not just a sense of evolution in the growth that Mason and Samantha would endure but also in their surroundings in the state of Texas. Shooting on location in various locations of the state including cities like Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and other small towns. The film maybe a Texan film but it has this otherworldly tone where it could’ve been set anywhere in America as it adds to Mason’s experience in his growth as a young man. While many of the compositions such as the close-ups, medium shots, and some unique camera angles are presented in a very simplistic manner, Linklater uses that approach in order to create something that feels real.

That approach to realism helps the film maintain something that feels natural in its development where the characters of Olivia and Mason Sr. don’t use makeup to age themselves but rather show it naturally as does the look of Mason and Samantha. Especially in the latter where Mason and Samantha would endure many different looks in the course of the year in order to showcase the tone of the times or what was trendy in that year. Linklater builds up the evolution of the story in a very slow yet methodical way rather than say it happens in this year or that year. Especially in the final years of Mason’s life as a high school kid as he becomes aware of entering adulthood where there is this mixture of excitement and dread. Overall, Linklater crafts a very mesmerizing yet extraordinary film about a boy’s life coming of age from childhood to adulthood.

Cinematographers Lee Daniel and Shane Kelly do excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it‘s very colorful with its naturalistic approach to lighting in the many locations in Texas along with some of the interior lighting schemes at night including the Harry Potter book party for the sixth book. Editor Sandra Adair does brilliant work with in the editing where it‘s very straightforward with some bits of stylistic flairs along with some offbeat transitions to play into the film‘s unconventional structure. Production designers Rodney Becker and Gay Studebaker, with set decorator Melanie Ferguson, do fantastic work with the set design from the different look of the homes that Mason would live throughout his entire childhood.

Costume designer Kari Perkins does nice work with the costumes to play into the evolution of the clothes that the four principle characters would wear in the course of twelve years. Sound editor Tom Hammond does terrific work with the sound work to play into the way music sounds on some of the locations along with other moments that happen in the key parts of Mason‘s childhood. Music supervisors Meghan Currier and Randall Poster is amazing as it features an array of music that plays into the many years that Mason and Samantha would encounter from Coldplay, the Flaming Lips, Britney Spears, Paul McCartney, Phoenix, and all sorts of musical styles from hip-hop, country, pop, rock, indie, and folk as it is a highlight of the film.

The film’s incredible cast includes notable appearances from Charlie Sexton as Mason Sr.’s musician friend Jimmy, Libby Villari as Olivia’s mother, Jenni Tooley as Mason Sr.’s new wife Annie in the film’s second half with whom he would have a child with, Richard Andrew Jones and Karen Jones as Annie’s parents who would give Mason some gifts for his 15th birthday, Richard Robichaux as Mason’s boss in his teenager years, Barbara Chisholm as a friend of Olivia in Carol, Zoe Graham as Mason’s high school girlfriend Sheena, Brad Hawkins as Olivia’s third war-veteran husband Jim, Marco Peralla as Olivia’s second husband in a college professor Bill, Jamie Howard and Andrew Villarreal as Bill’s children, and Roland Ruiz as a laborer Olivia would meet and give advice to in the film’s second half.

Lorelei Linklater is brilliant as Samantha as Mason’s older sister who would endure not just her own growing pains but also venture into trends and such as she brings a lot of complexity into the role of an older sister. Patricia Arquette is amazing as Mason’s mother Olivia who does her best to raise her children while enduring financial and romantic woes as it’s a very engaging performance to display a mother trying to bring stability to her family. Ethan Hawke is fantastic as Mason’s father who is this exuberant yet cool man-child of sorts who is sort of irresponsible yet manages to become a mature parent who often displays a lot of wisdom for his children in the ways of the world. Finally, there’s Ellar Coltrane in a remarkable performance as Mason who would encounter many changes of his life as a young boy into a young man from all sorts of things that is very common with growing up while gaining an understanding of the ways of the world as it’s a truly astonishing performance for the actor.

Boyhood is an absolutely one-of-a-kind film from Richard Linklater that transcends the idea of what film could be. Armed with a great cast and a premise that is truly powerful, it’s a film that not only captures the experience of childhood into adulthood. It is also a film that allows an audience to possibly reflect about themselves in those years as it is really unlike anything in contemporary American cinema. In the end, Boyhood is a magnificent film from Richard Linklater.

Richard Linklater Films: (It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books) - (Slacker) - (Dazed & Confused) - Before Sunrise - subUrbia - The Newton Boys - Waking Life - Tape - School of Rock - Before Sunset - (Bad News Bears (2005 film)) - A Scanner Darkly - Fast Food Nation - Me and Orson Welles - (Bernie (2011 film)) - Before Midnight

© thevoid99 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Queen (2006 film)

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/28/07 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.

Directed by Stephen Frears and written by Peter Morgan, The Queen is the story about Queen Elizabeth II dealing with new Prime Minister Tony Blair as they try to deal with the death of Princess Diana in a car accident in Paris. The film is a dramatization into Queen Elizabeth II's reaction to Diana's death as the world waits for her own public response as Blair is trying to modernize Britain in this second part of Morgan's trilogy about Blair's rise as he is played by Michael Sheen while Helen Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth II. Also starring Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Helen McCroy, Alex Jennings, and Sylvia Syms. The Queen is a riveting film from Stephen Frears.

The film is an exploration into the arrival of Tony Blair as Prime Minister of Great Britain after 18 years of Conservative rule as he would meet Queen Elizabeth II where they would meet again a few months later following the tragic death of the former Princess of Wales Diana Spencer in a car accident in a Parisian tunnel. For the Queen and her husband Prince Philip (James Cromwell), they want a private funeral but Blair's statements about Diana as the People's Princess brings pressure to the Royal Family as Prince Charles (Alex Jennings) thinks Blair is on the right path. Eventually, the Queen gives in to Blair's ideas and the public scrutiny but it would come at a price for would come for Blair just as his popularity would soar.

Though it's more of a dramatic account of what might’ve gone on inside the monarchy and through Blair’s camp, Stephen Frears and screenwriter Peter Morgan does manage to bring a film that reflects on that week where the world watched. Really, the film is about Queen Elizabeth II trying to attain her role as a public figure and remaining true to her role of tradition and her own thoughts of Britain. Frears and Morgan deserve credit for portraying the Queen as well as other characters as figures who try to figure out what to do in this time of crisis concerning the death of Princess Diana. The result is a very strong, very cerebral film with a few entertaining moments courtesy of Frears' observant direction and the amazing screenplay by Peter Morgan.

Morgan's script is truly superb in how the characters are portrayed as well as the script's structure. The first fifteen minutes of the film is on Blair's arrival and his first meeting with the Queen and the last twenty-minutes is about the aftermath of the Diana funeral two months afterwards where Blair meets the Queen once again. Morgan comes up with some funny one-liners, particularly from the likes of personalities like Alistair Campbell (Mark Bazeley), the Blairs, and the Queen Mother (Sylvia Sims). The humor comes very naturally not only in the words those characters say but also in how they feel. Particularly Cherie Blair's known disdain for the monarchy about her curtsy. There's a lot of fine detail from Morgan's script about what might've gone on and it's truly an amazing screenplay. Especially through Frears' direction where despite a few moments where the film drags, the direction is spot-on through every moment of the film.

Cinematographer Affonso Beato does wonderful work in several of the film's interior settings to create the tense atmosphere of the palace where it's a bit surreal while the exteriors scenes are wonderfully shot. Particularly in the Scottish countryside where it's just amazing while giving the feeling that we’re in that area. Production designer Alan MacDonald with art directors Matthew Broderick (not the actor) and Franck Schwarz in creating the wonderful look of the castle and Buckingham Palace. Costume designer Constola Boyle does great work in the film's costumes with the suits and kilts of the men as well as the clothing of the Queen from her pink bathrobe to the suit she wears in her televised presentation. Makeup artist Daniel Phillips also does great work in bringing the look of both the Queen and Tony Blair where compared to their appearances in real-life, the actors in the make-up look eerily like the characters they're playing.

Editor Lucia Zucchetti does some great work in the editing, particularly using the archival TV footage from around the world including coverage of the funeral and the responses from world leaders as the film plays to a strong historical drama. Sound editor Paul Davies does excellent work in the sound, especially a scene where Charles goes to Paris and sees the body where the sound is turned off. Not only is it a smart decision by Frears but Davies as well for not including any sound. Composer Alexandre Desplat brings an amazing film score filled with chiming, melodic arrangements filled with a large orchestra to convey the sense of drama and movement of the times as Desplat's work is truly one of the best scores of the year.

The film's cast is wonderfully assembled with notable small roles from Douglas Reith as the chaplain Lord Airlie and Tim McMullan as Stephen Lamport. Mark Bazeley is excellent as the snide Alistair Campbell while Roger Allam is superb as the cautious yet loyal Robin Janvrin who advises Blair on how he should approach things. Helen McCrory is wonderful as Cherie Blair with her criticism of the monarchy and her own opinions just like the real Cherie Blair. Sylvia Syms is really good as the Queen Mother, who is the old traditionalist unaware of the new changes as she has a few funny one-liners about how no one tells her anything anymore. Alex Jennings is excellent as Prince Charles in portraying the prince as a father trying to comfort his boys and struggling with his own role in the public eye. James Cromwell is brilliant as Prince Philip, notably for just playing an old wanker who has a disgust towards Diana and the public response. Michael Sheen gives an amazing performance as Tony Blair with his hopes to modernize Britain and his unexpected support of the monarchy as a man who is unaware of how big his role is only to learn, much later on, on what the Queen told him.

Finally, there's Helen Mirren in what has to be one of the greatest performances captured on film. There are times in the film that the performance is strong, we're forgetting that it's Helen Mirren playing the Queen. Yet, Mirren brings a lot of restraint and dignity to the role, it almost becomes a documentary of sorts on whom the Queen might really be like. Mirren is very commanding in every scene she's in as she allows the Queen to be human and have a few funny lines including a scene involving her driving a car through the Scottish highlands. In the end, Mirren brings a performance that is worthy of being called regal and it's a must-see to show the talents and experience of this acclaimed British actress.

The Queen is a remarkable film from Stephen Frears and screenwriter Peter Morgan that features a magnificent performance from Helen Mirren in the titular role. Along with a great supporting cast led by Michael Sheen as Tony Blair, the film is definitely one of Frears' finest films as well as a poignant historical drama about Tony Blair's rise to prominence. In the end, The Queen is an incredible 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) - (Cheri) - (Tamara Drewe) - (Lay the Favorite) - (Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight) - Philomena

© thevoid99 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mrs. Doubtfire

Based on the novel Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine, Mrs. Doubtfire is the story of an out-of-work actor who poses as an elderly British nanny so he can see his kids following the divorce from his wife. Directed by Chris Columbus and screenplay by Randi Mayem Singer and Leslie Dixon, the film is a light-hearted comedy where a man tries to be with his children as well as deal with the dissolution of his own marriage as the titular character and the role of Daniel Hiller is played by Robin Williams. Also starring Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Lisa Jakub, Matthew Lawrence, Mara Wilson, Harvey Fierstein, and Robert Prosky. Mrs. Doubtfire is a charming and entertaining film from Chris Columbus.

The film is a simple story of an out-of-work voice actor who gets divorced from his wife as he couldn’t see his three children as he decides to take on the role of a British nanny by the name of Mrs. Doubtfire when his wife needed a nanny to watch over the children. It’s a film that explores not just the concept of divorce where the children are caught in the middle but also a man who is put into a corner where he is only allowed to see his children for a small amount of time and has to get a steady job and a new home. By becoming Mrs. Doubtfire, Daniel Hiller not only becomes a better person but also realizes the mistakes he made in the way his marriage ended. At the same time, he finds himself having to contend with the presence of his ex-wife’s new boyfriend Stuart Dunmire (Pierce Brosnan).

The film’s screenplay creates not just a story that is compelling with bits of realism but also has a sense of charm and characters that audiences can relate to. While Daniel maybe sort of a man-child who never disciplines his children nor orders them around as he likes to have fun with them. It would be in the form of a birthday party for his son Chris (Matthew Lawrence) that would be the catalyst for the breakdown of his marriage to Miranda (Sally Field) who constantly works as she realizes how chaotic Daniel makes things prompting her to file for divorce. Upon the things he had to do in order to see his kids, Daniel would work at a TV station and live in an apartment that isn’t suitable for anyone at the time being as he can only see his kids for a few hours on a Saturday. At the same time, he would have to receive visits from a court supervisor (Anne Haney) to see if he can create a suitable home for his children. With the help of his makeup artist brother Frank (Harvey Fierstein), Daniel would take on the role of Mrs. Doubtfire.

One aspect of the script that makes it very interesting is how complex the characters are where Mrs. Doubtfire is this very unconventional British nanny as she maybe this big woman but also full of warmth and understanding as she would win over the kids including the eldest Lydie (Lisa Jakub). In this role, Daniel would find ways to better himself as he would eventually surprise Miranda during one visit late in the film. At the same time, Daniel would get a big job opportunity when he meets the TV station boss in Jonathan Lundy (Robert Prosky). The character of Miranda might seem like a woman who is just this workaholic who decided to end her marriage and create problems for her children. Yet, she is really just someone who wants to be happy as she has this great conversation with Doubtfire about what happened with her and Daniel where she does become more sympathetic. The character of Stuart could’ve been a villain but he is someone who manages to be a really nice guy that adores Miranda and the children as he would be an antagonist for Daniel.

Chris Columbus’ direction is very simple in terms of the compositions he creates as he would shoot the film largely in San Francisco. Much of it would include some close-ups and unique medium shots while Columbus would also create moments that play into a sense of energy of who Hiller is as an actor. Some of it would involve some crazy montages as well as lively moments that definitely crossed the line between innocent humor with a bit of bawdiness. One aspect of the film that Columbus succeeds is balancing humor with some drama as it relates to the concept of divorce. Though there are elements of sentimentality, Columbus manages to not overdo it and know to hit the right notes. Especially towards the end as it plays into what children have to deal whenever parents divorce. Overall, Columbus crafts a very entertaining and heartwarming film about a man trying to spend time with his children by pretending to be a British nanny.

Cinematographer Donald McAlpine does nice work with the film’s cinematography as it is very simple in the way many of the locations in San Francisco is presented along with the lighting in some of the film’s interior scenes. Editor Raja Gosnell does terrific work with the editing as it is straightforward with some inventive montages of Daniel’s voice impressions. Production designer Angelo P. Graham, with set decorator Garrett Lewis and art director W. Stewart Graham, does wonderful work with the look of the home Miranda and the kids lived as well as the apartment were Daniel would live in. Costume designer Marit Allen does excellent work with the costume design from the many different clothes that Mrs. Doubtfire would wear.

The makeup work of Greg Cannom, Ve Neill, and Yolanda Toussieng are phenomenal in the way they would create the look of Mrs. Doubtfire in every bit of detail. Sound editor Gloria S. Borders and sound designer Gary Rydstrom do superb work with the sound from the way some of the parts of the film‘s locations sound as well as some moments in the climatic restaurant scene. The film’s music by Howard Shore is amazing for its very light-hearted and low-key score with its orchestral arrangements that would also include some somber pieces while its soundtrack would feature music from James Brown, the Four Seasons, Frank Sinatra, House of Pain, B.B. King and Albert Collins, and Aerosmith.

The casting by Janet Hirshenson and Jane Jenkins is excellent as it features some notable small performances from Martin Mull as Miranda’s co-worker Justin, William Newman as a tired and dull TV show host, Scott Carpuro as Frank’s partner Jack, and Anne Haney as a court supervisor who would make a visit for Daniel’s apartment as she would meet Mrs. Doubtfire in a humorous scene. Robert Prosky is superb as a TV station boss whom Daniel meets as he catches Daniel’s act and realize that his station could be saved. Harvey Fierstein is fantastic as Daniel’s brother Frank who would create the mask and look of Mrs. Doubtfire. In the role of the children, Lisa Jakub is brilliant as the eldest child Lydie who deals with not seeing her father as she would warm up to Mrs. Doubtfire. Matthew Lawrence is amazing as Chris as a teenage boy who enjoys playing soccer with Mrs. Doubtfire while Mara Wilson is a total delight as the youngest Nattie who loves to be around Mrs. Doubtfire because she reads stories to her.

Pierce Brosnan is great as Stuart Dunmire as an old friend of Miranda’s who comes back into her life as he proves to be a nice guy that cares about the children though he serves as an antagonistic figure for Daniel. Sally Fields is incredible as Miranda as this frustrated working mom who is trying to find happiness in her life after years of a marriage that didn’t work as it’s Fields being quite calm and also very tender. Finally, there’s Robin Williams in one of his most iconic performances as the titular character and Daniel Hiller. It’s a performance that has Williams be at his funniest where he provides a lot of manic energy and improvisational ideas towards his humor as well as showing a sense of sensitivity and warmth once he plays the role of Mrs. Doubtfire as it’s really a performance for the ages.

Mrs. Doubtfire is a glorious film from Chris Columbus that features a tour-de-force performance from Robin Williams. It’s a film that isn’t just a family film that brings in a lot of laughs and heartwarming moments but also a film that manages to be so much more. Especially as it plays into the idea of family and what people go through with divorce as a man pretends to be a woman just so he can be with his children. In the end, Mrs. Doubtfire is an extraordinarily rich film from Chris Columbus.

© thevoid99 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Invisible Woman (2013 film)

Based on the book by Claire Tomalin, The Invisible Woman is the story of Charles Dickens’ affair with a younger woman that lasted several years before Dickens’ death. Directed by Ralph Fiennes and screenplay by Abi Morgan, the film is an exploration into the secret affair that Dickens would have with a stage actress in Nelly Ternan as she is played by Felicity Jones with Fiennes starring as Dickens. Also starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Scanlan, and Tom Hollander. The Invisible Woman is a mesmerizing though flawed film from Ralph Fiennes.

The life of Charles Dickens is a compelling one as the film is about his affair with the stage actress Ellen “Nelly” Ternan as she was 18-years old when the two first met during a stage performance of one of his plays. Yet, the story is told from Nelly’s perspective as she thinks about the time she met Dickens and their eventual affair that would last for several years until his death in 1870. While Abi Morgan’s screenplay does have a unique approach to the narrative as it is told largely from Nelly’s perspective. The script is one of the key faults of the film where there’s parts of the film that is told from Dickens’ perspective in the way his marriage is dissolved as well as certain parts of his affair with Ternan is sort of glossed over. Especially as the first two acts is about the building of Dickens’ relationship with Ternan that starts out as friends that would destroy Dickens’ marriage. Once the affair starts to happen, it occurs in the third act where there is no sense of when the affair happens other than a few key moments that would shape their secretive relationship.

Ralph Fiennes’ direction is quite simple and understated as he does play true to the period setting of the mid-to-late 19th Century in Britain as the story spans nearly 30 years. Fiennes does maintain some unique compositions in the wide-medium shots as well as some unique close-ups and framing devices to play into this affair between Dickens and Ternan. Though he is hampered by some of the film’s issues with the script as it relates to the back-and-forth narrative of Nelly recalling her affair with Dickens. Much of the film is shot in parts of Kent and London as well as the British countryside to play into that feel of the period as well as some scenes on a beach where Nelly does much of her walking as she reflects on that crucial part of her life that she is reluctant to share with anyone in her life after Dickens. Overall, Fiennes creates an engaging but uneven film about Charles Dickens’ secret affair with Nelly Ternan.

Cinematographer Rob Hardy does excellent work with the film‘s very lush and evocative cinematography for some of the gorgeous interior lighting schemes as well as some scenes set in the exterior locations. Editor Nicolas Gaster does nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward with few stylish touches including a key scene involving a train in the film‘s third act. Production designer Maria Djurkovic, with set decorator Tatiana Macdonald and supervising art director Nick Dent, does amazing work with the look of the homes that the characters live in as well as the stage plays that Dickens would stage.

Costume designer Michael O’Connor does brilliant work with the costumes from the design of the dresses and gowns the women wear as well as the suits and hats that Dickens would wear. Hair/makeup designer Jenny Shircore does fantastic work with the look of the hairstyle the women wear as well as the beard and hair of Dickens. Sound editor Matthew Collinge does superb work with the sound from the way some of the location sounds come into play as well as the sound of the stage plays. The film’s music by Ilan Eshkeri is wonderful for its orchestral score with some lush, somber pieces to some more ominous and dramatic pieces to play into Nelly’s reflection of her past.

The casting by Leo Davis is incredible as it features some notable small roles Amanda Hale and Perdita Weeks as Nelly’s older sisters, respectively, in Fanny and Maria, Tom Burke as Nelly’s husband George in the 1883 scenes, and Michael Marcus’ as Dickens’ eldest son Charley. Michelle Fairley is terrific as Wilkie Collins’ mistress Caroline Graves who would reveal the ideas of a secret affair while Joanna Scanlan is fantastic as Dickens’ wife Catherine who is aware that something is going on as she is this woman of radiance who would warn Nelly about what might be at stake in an affair that hasn’t happened yet. John Kavanagh is excellent as Reverend Benham who is intrigued about Nelly’s knowledge of Dickens’ work where he would ask questions about her life with Dickens.

Tom Hollander is superb as Dickens’ collaborator Wilkie Collins who would write some of the stage plays with Dickens while informing Nelly about what to do with her possible affair with Dickens. Kristin Scott Thomas is amazing as Nelly’s mother who is anxious about Dickens’ attraction toward her daughter as well as some revelations about Nelly’s talents as an actress. Ralph Fiennes is brilliant as Charles Dickens as a man who is quite playful but also very caring as he falls for Nelly as he treat her with great care while balancing his family life and public persona. Finally, there’s Felicity Jones in a phenomenal performance as Nelly Ternan as this young woman who is an admirer of Dickens’ work as she falls for him yet deals with the anguish over what could hurt his public persona as their affair would later haunt her following his death as it’s a very entrancing performance from Jones.

The Invisible Woman is a stellar film from Ralph Fiennes that features amazing performances from Fiennes and Felicity Jones. Despite some of the film’s issues with its screenplay over its narrative, it is still a worthwhile film that explores the life of Charles Dickens and some revelations about his work. In the end, The Invisible Woman is a pretty good film from Ralph Fiennes.

© thevoid99 2014