Archive for September, 2016

I liked many things in ‘Oblivion‘, actually more than I expected. I am no fan of computer games, certainly not of these that are dominated by machine guns and laser guns, by cars races and space-ships races – and there are plenty of those in the film directed by . I disliked many of the films that bring to screen heroes and action inspired by comics or graphical novels, and ‘Oblivion‘ is based on one written by the director. And I am not too sympathetic to the action heroes roles that picks almost exclusively lately, the main reason being that by doing this he buries in the past an excellent actor (hopefully just puts him to freeze). Despite all these wrong starting points, I liked a lot (but not all) in this movie.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1483013/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1483013/

 

The story conceived by director, script writer and games creator happens in an uncertain future. The world as we know it ended in 2017. Earth came under attack, Moon was destroyed and the nuclear weapons of Armageddon were used in self defense. Mankind won the war but lost the planet Earth now inhabitable, and will soon be moving to a new home, one of the satellites of Jupiter. It’s only that almost nothing of what we see in the first 15 to 30 minutes of the film is what viewers are actually made to believe. ‘Oblivion‘ starts like a very standard comics-inspired film, and as we got used to its world, something happens that is quite unusual in routine movies of its genre. Characters start to develop, they learn about themselves, they ask questions about their own identity. Eventually the movie will turn into the action thriller that it was advertised to be, but this will happen in a smart manner, and the heroes end by being something very different from our initial guesses.

 

(video source Movieclips Trailers)

 

A few words about acting. and are two names that do not need any introduction. Cruise gets more opportunities for an interesting role and deals with them honorably. Freeman has a much drier part and cannot make too much to enrich it. The real surprise is , not only fit to the action role, not only looking good, but also acting appropriately in a key role.

There are two interesting aspects in which ‘Oblivion‘ breaks the rules of the genre and helps being more than just another adaptation of a graphical novel. One aspect is that the viewers discover together with the heroes that the world where the action is located is something very different from what they thought it is. This complete change in their systems of reference and values doubles with a story line that has clear ecological and political references to the present, although the action takes place in a not very immediate future. The dangers of the new technologies like AI and cloning when they fall into the wrong hands are clearly articulated. The second aspect is that the graphics fit well the idea of the two intersecting and interchanging worlds. In the beginning the film has a very computer graphics game look which describes at perfection the apparently ordered world. Later the border between the artificial and idyllic worlds and the complex realities of the future begin to blur, we see the ‘monsters’ and realize that they may not be what they seem to be. There is also a political saying about a world where drones play such a central place from fighting the wars of the humans to protecting and saving their lives. ‘Oblivion‘ has many quantities that make if different from the crowd and is definitely worth a try.

 

Music documentaries can be fascinating in many cases. This is the case of The Music of Strangers, the documentary produced and directed by which tells the story of the wonderful musical adventure and inter-culture experience which is ‘The Silk Road’ ensemble and organization started in 1998 by the famous cellist .

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt3549206/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt3549206/

 

The documentary deals both with the initial phases of the project (based on filmed material from their first encounters around the year 2000) and its later evolution. While the value of the cultural interaction is quite well presented, there is less mention if at all about the novelty of the approach of gathering together artists with very different backgrounds and having them play music in a fusion mode that was maybe acceptable in jazz, but much less in classical music where many of them (including Yo-Yo Ma) came from. Actually Ma is a pioneer from this perspective, using his almost pop star reputation to bring classical music to the wider audiences, but also the music of people and peoples to the classical musicians world.

 

(video source Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films)

 

There is no central story telling in the film which mainly builds itself by the interleaved personal stories told by Yo-Yo Ma and a few of the musicians, their own perspective about the work in the the ensemble, the interaction with other musicals, and their philosophies about the scope and the benefits of the project. We have the opportunity to meet Chinese lute virtuous  and hear her speaking about the challenges of learning and making music in China immediately after the Cultural Revolution, and Spanish bagpiper  about building her path as a woman artist in a less developed area of Spain,  we see Syrian clarinetist  talking about his feelings about making music while his country is torn by war, and Iranian musician  telling the story of his family broken by the political situation in his country and by exile. Most of all we see their opening to dialog and artistic collaboration, their passion of talking and especially playing music. A few of the meetings, concerts, family reunions and activities of volunteering with refugees are caught also on record.Watching them is a fascinating and beautiful cultural and musical experience.

 

I know that it’s some kind of an unfair comparison, but so it happens that I have seen ‘s The Noonday Witch (the original name is Polednice - Midday) at the Czech film festival, and then ‘s Julieta in an interval of less than 24 hours. What do the two films – one the debut long feature of a young Czech director, the other the latest production of one of the best-known contemporary directors – in common? Well, there is actually a central theme to both – mother-daughter relationships as their are hit by the tragedy of the disappearing of the father but also mostly by the lack or incapacity of communication of the two principal characters. While there cannot be any doubt about which film is better (I liked immensely Almodovar’s film, one of the best I have seen in recent years) there are enough interesting elements also in The Noonday Witch which make it worth a look.

 

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4917700/

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4917700/

 

The story is one of falling into madness. A mother and her daughter return to the village were Thomas, the disappeared father and husband has grown up and lived. It’s a drought period and nature is threatening (similar background with the one in Schmitke, another Czech production that I have seen a few days ago, but in a different manner and palette), the small rural community have to face not only nature but also the presumed presence of magical forces around. This meddling of threatening nature and magic seems to be a recurring theme in the Czech cinema, as is the incapacity of the community to face threats through rational means, and overall their failure to communicate and get together. Lack of communication and the rebellion of the daughter against the mother who tried to protect her by hiding the truth is the source of the crisis and of the sliding into insanity of the mother.

 

(video source kviff)

 

Until now we have quite a parallel track with the story in Julieta. From here on it’s an execution problem, and the path that was chosen without too much effect is trying to build a magic thriller story. Maybe the problem is with the director having seen too many horror movies of the kind inspired by ‘s novels and short stories. He tries here (and on us viewers) all kind of old tricks and relies less on the assets at hand – the team of actors and especially the kids and the wonderful . Instead trusting her and her colleagues the director recycled all kind of ‘classical’ horror editing (flash images doubled by strong sound impact) and makeup (blind eyes) effects. The result is a very average horror movie, as not too much happens for the second half of the film. With some more daring and less cinematographic quotes this could have been a much better film.

 

I loved ‘Julieta‘. Pedro Almodovar’s 2016 production is one of those films that captivates the viewers during the whole duration of the screening because of the mastering of story telling and by using human emotions. Other directors may do the same thing by making recourse to thrills or horror or intellectual curiosity but it’s hard to keep the attention alive for the whole duration of a long feature film. It’s not the case here – as a viewer in a cinema hall I lived every moment of this story together with its (mostly female) heroes, and I keep thinking and caring about the characters hours after the screening finished. I believe that the conditions are met for the first 10 out of 10 grade on my IMDB scale in years.

 

www.imdb.com/title/tt4326444/

www.imdb.com/title/tt4326444/

 

Many of the previous films of Almodovar are about love and loss, about communication with and without words, about death and passion and the fragile border between them. What seems to be different in ‘Julieta’ is the more tender approach and also a message that seems to be more assertive that in many other movies of the Spanish maestro – there are dangers in being lonely and in not being capable to communicate with those you care about.

The social landscape where the film takes place is the same Spain in evolution from the democratic awakening of the late 70s and early 80s with its breaking of tradition and liberation of passions until the today with its cold and antiseptic kind of connections in the bourgeois or intellectual circles. The family cell is the one that seems to perpetuate not necessarily the traditions but also the cheating and domestic crises in a repetition that one can accept or revolt with all the risks taken. Julieta’s profession – a teacher of Greek and mythology, and a good one – puts her in the position to connect between the day to day banality of sentiments and the greater forces of destiny, but her problem resides mainly in the lack of communication with her daughter. Are the walls between generations unavoidable? Is it us who build these walls or is it just destiny that rises them in each generation? Can anything but time turn these walls down?

As in any great movies there are several levels of story. There is a story of relationship between mother and daughter, and of coming of age. There are threads about family relations that perpetuate for generations, about men who cheat, women who try to balance marriage, mothering, and their own realization, young maids who steal husbands, old maids who talk too much, social differences that can only be hidden but not erased. Death seems to be around the corner at many moments, so is physical incapacity and the pain of coping with the decay of the dear ones – these are some of the recurring themes in the movies of the Spanish master.

 

(video source patheuk)

 

As in many of Almodovar’s films its the women characters who share most of the load (although this film also features one sensitive man as a key supporting character). The two actresses that play Julieta at the two stages of her life – as a young woman, as her elder self are both superb in taking turns to tell the story of a woman who loves and fears, loses all and searches back to find her compass in life. The way the story is written we learn about many of the details and discover some of the hidden threads together with the character. This helps us feel and resonate with her. The elegant casting and direction help us understand that while guilt may pass in between generations, there is always hope, and reconciliation is possible sometimes when not too many questions are asked. Beautifully filmed, deeply moving, superbly acted – what else can we ask?