movies


Here is a very strange combination. Actually let me formulate this as a question. Can a team of film makers take a completely ridiculous ‘kaiju’ (Japanese monster) story, combine it with a sweet and teary romantic story, and make out of the combination of the two an entertaining movie? The answer is yes, the name of the film is Colossal, written and directed by the Spaniard director at his second film in the American studios.

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4680182

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4680182

 

Monster stories are usually laughable. This one is so unbelievable that I will not spend any time analyzing it. The script takes no pain in making it otherwise, and no efforts were made either for creating special effects that would be any better than the ones in the classical Japanese or American movies of the genre from the 60s or 70s. There is a romantic story here, about an alcoholic messy girl () returning twenty years or so later to her small, frozen in time childhood city, after breaking with her boyfriend in New York, meeting a former elementary school colleague, and trying to make sense of her life. And than, while she gets even messier and more drunk, strange things start to happen. None of these are bright and convincing, and yet the combination works.

 

(video source Movieclips Trailers)

 

What is the secret? It may be in ‘s acting, or maybe in her eyes, the biggest on big screens since Goldie Hawn. Her counterpart – as the bar owner Oscar who ends in a very different place than where he starts – provides also a nice acting performance. It may be in the touch of humor that makes the unbelievable seem … well … reasonable? It may be in the fact that there is a touch of humanity and emotion that is being added to all the incredible events taking place on screen. It may be to the fact that the rules of the horror genre are never taken too much in serious and that they are so barely and rudely exposed that they invite the viewers to understand that this is just another story about monsters made of clothes or paper and cities made of wrapping boxes. It may be the combination of all these, or something else, but whatever it is, the film is very watchable, odd, and funny.

 

 

 

Thanks to ARTE TV I could see now ‘s ‘film noir’ Tchao Pantin (or So Long, Stooge in its English version) starring in the lead role. The film was made in 1983, at a time when I was busy with changing the course of my life, and no wonder I missed it. It represents a milestone in the career of both Claude Berri who after this film took a three years break in order to create his two best known films – Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring – very different in subject and style, and also in the career of Coluche who assumes here a more ‘classical’ and fully dramatic role which could have been a changing point in his career. One year later however, Coluche will die in a motorcycle accident, and this film includes involuntarily kind of a premonitory coincidence as motorcycles and death play a key role in it.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086420/mediaviewer/rm4069560832

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086420/mediaviewer/rm4069560832

 

The story is quite a typical ‘film noir’ intrigue, with the key characters – a drunkard gas petrol pump seller who hides secrets of a previous tragic life and a loser type of small drug dealer of Moroccan origin who hides his own secrets among which a shelve full of books he claims to have read all, are getting together in a world were there is not much to attach to but maybe a peer similarly broken soul. There is also a girl in the film, a punk girl (we are in the early 80s, remember) but her role will become more clear only in the second part, after the younger character is murdered and the quiet and withdrawn older man engages on the path of finding the killers and revenging his friends. Typical intrigue, as I said, which has little chances to end otherwise than it ends.

 

(video source Criips Buldo)

 

As a reader of the ‘serie noir’ books since childhood I cannot avoid falling under the charm of such stories, especially when they take place in Paris, here a Paris of decrepit houses, or messy small flats, of dangerous streets and dubious bars where everything is trafficked. I was not that surprised to find out that the cinematography belongs to Bruno Nuytten the director of Camille Claudel which I have also seen and written about recently, a film that had an amazing cinematographic look. Coluche seems in this film like having taken inspiration from other Big Silent tough guys in the history of the French cinema, his role could have been played in other times and other periods of their respective careers by screen monsters like Michel Simon or Jean Gabin. I liked the performance of as the young punk girl whose profile and appearance seems to announce a quarter a century early the character of  Lisbeth Salander in the Scandinavian ‘Millennium’ saga. While the story has been played too many times before and after this film to surprise anybody nowadays, there are many good reasons to watch or watch again this movie.

 

 

Beyond the Black Rainbow is the only movie that I have found listed on IMDB as being directed by . As the film has been released in 2010 one may wonder what did the director do since then. He did not yet get a second chance, and part of the reasons may reside actually in this film.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1534085/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1534085/

 

The film is an interesting aesthetic exercise based on a sci-fi story that turns into horror. The focus of the director was not however on
telling the story, not on describing the psychology or motivation of his characters (which would have been quite interesting actually), and certainly not on entertaining. The pace is painfully slow, and what happens on screen or what the story is about are of little importance, the movie is about how the story is told. The idea is interesting – as the story is set in 1983, the cinematographic tools of that period were used: no digital film, no computerized graphics, a soundtrack that combines atmosphere music with distortions, even the quotes (and there are many quotes to science-fiction classics) are of films made before 1983.

 

(video source Movieclips Trailers)

 

The result is not easy to digest. About one third of the (not to many) viewers left the theater early. Those who stayed were rewarded with an ending that breaks the routine in the last 10-15 minutes, but with it also the strange spell this film creates, sliding into more conventional horror. I liked the fact that no ‘smart’ explanations were provided. I liked less the fact that I was served with a long video art work instead the feature film I paid for.

 

 

 

I seldom give maximal rating to a movie. So far on, IMDB where I record my impressions about the films that I see, I have given 10 rating to only 34 films, and this list includes classical films and those that have impressed me a lot for decades. My appreciation includes a combination of what I perceive to be the artistic level of the film, its message and its ability to create emotion. Yesterday I was happy to add a movie to this list: the German film VOR DER MORGENRÖTE (which means’ Before tomorrow ‘or maybe’ Before dawn tomorrow ‘) that received the English title’ Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe ‘. In fact, I have the impression that it has not been distributed yet in the US or England, and perhaps that explains the lack of echoes so far in relation to this film, exceptional in my opinion.
source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3397160/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3397160/

If you search the Internet ‘Stefan and Lotte Zweig’ you arrive pretty quickly at the photo where the two of them lie dead, hand in hand, in their bed, in February 1942, in Petropolis, Brazil, after having committed suicide. This photo appears reconstituted for a second or two in the epilogue of the film. The prologue and the four episodes follow the path that Stefan Zweig, one of the great writers of Germany and the world, traveled between 1936 and 1942, and each of the episodes describes part of the premises of the fatal act. Having been raised and having lived in a world of words and ideas, of respect for people and culture, of the dialogue as the only acceptable solution to conflicts resolution, Stefan Zweig saw his world destroyed by the Nazi brutality and ignorance. His attempt to resist by words, using the weapons of the pacifist intellectual, was doomed to failure. We can imagine him in that winter between 1941 and 1942, desperate about the progress and temporary victories of the forces of darkness, reproaching to himself his lack of courage and ambiguous personal positions in the face of evil, the fact that he was unable or unwilling to help those in deadly danger, sharing the complex of the survivors, and lacking the resilience and power to continue to live to see the victory of Good.
The director of the film is Maria Schrader whom I met as actor in one of the main roles, the Stasi spy manipulator in the excellent ‘Deutschland 83′ series. She manages to build on screen the personality and especially the human dimension of Stefan Zweig, with his dilemmas and weaknesses, helped by Tomas Lemarquis‘s master acting. I found excellent the description of Zweig’s attitude towards his two countries: Germany, in whose language and culture he never ceased to live, and which he could not condemn even when the Nazis became rulers, and Brazil, which sheltered him and which he idealized and flattered in one of its last books, perhaps too much, maybe a little because of opportunism or maybe only as recognition for saving his life.
Cinematography is not based on words alone. The prologue and the epilogue are two outstanding pieces of cinema. In the prologue we see Zweig taking part in a banquet given in his honor in Brazil in 1936, in which he speaks in praise of Brazil as a country of the future and exults its multiculturalism and the equality of all citizens of all colors. But all participants at the reception, and even servants, without exception, are white! The epilogue is a masterpiece, shot in a single frame, with multiple planes made with a mirror. After policemen, neighbors, friends understand the tragedy, investigate, say goodbye, someone says a Jewish prayer. Then in the deserted room, enters the maid, a black woman, and she says Pater Nostrum. And she leaves, obscuring the frame. Cut.
A movie of 10/10.

The year is 2017, Camille Claudel is back in town and she seems to go through a revival and reevaluation of her work and short artistic career. A museum dedicated to her life and art opened in March in the small French town of Nogent-sur-Seine, and the museum includes many of the works that survived the agitated 20th century and the destruction by the artist’s own hands. Books are being written about her, and art history starts to take her seriously into account. Before this however, there were the films, and especially this one  Camille Claudel  from 1988. It is not exaggerated to say, I believe, that the film prepared her comeback to the world of arts.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094828/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094828/

 

Camille Claudel deals more with the character of Camille Claudel, her love story with Auguste Rodin, her relationship with her brother Paul, one of the important French poets of the first half of the 20th century than with her art. Actually one of the few critical observations one may have about the visual part of the film is that there is so little art in it, and from the film we cannot make to ourselves an idea about how good she was. We see an artist fighting with her material, we see a woman fighting prejudice in a world and at a time when women were far from being recognized as equal professionally to men, even less in arts. We see the young woman and artist falling under the fascination of her master and being torn between love and admiration for him, and the need to express herself, to be herself. We see her falling down the spiral of vanity and then madness, and it’s up to us to judge whether the roots of her fall are in the social environment, in the attitude of her lover who may be a great artist but is also a womanizer and small human being in terms of relations, or in her own vanity and narcissism. Add to this the ambiguity of the relationship to her brother, and we can now understand the willingly or not, the focus of the script and director was on her personal path rather than on her art.

 

(video source Diego Correa)

 

For this was the first film as director, but he already had in 1988 a long career as cinematographer, including a few superb films by . Not everything works or better said, not everything stood the almost 30 years since the film was made. is superb, beautiful and ambitious, a fighter but fragile at the same time, turn between love and vanity. This is one of her best roles. is very fit to Rodin’s role, at that time his physical qualities were also perfect and added to his huge talent. The cinematography of the film (signed by Pierre Lhomme ) is excellent, and there are many scenes to remember – in the studio where Rodin and Claudel are shown fighting with the material from which they extracted their works, and out in the nature with clear allusions to the period of the Impressionists when this film is set. On the other hand the soundtrack is horrible. The use of violin music which would have been exaggerated even for a melodrama made in 1938, it’s simply a disaster for this film about art and artists made in 1988. Add to this the poor quality of the sound (at least in the copy screened by ARTE TV) which makes half of the dialog incomprehensible even when it is not covered by violins. Maybe digital sound re-working will sometimes in the future save this film. It is highly deserved.

 

For once the English translation of the Hebrew title of this film was quite inspired. In Hebrew it was screened as ‘lo po, lo sham’ (not here, not there) and ‘In Between’ reflects even better the state of mind but also the social status of the three heroins of this interesting film. It also is quite a rare (but not unique) production in the local film market, a film about the Palestinian Arabs in Israel, spoken almost entirely in Arab, dealing with the tensions and problems in the society and communities of the Arabs living in Israel. I need to mention also that the film was produced by Shlomi Elkabetz and is dedicated to the memory of his late sister , a wonderful actress and film-maker who passed away a year ago, and supported financially by several Israeli film funds and TV stations.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5974388/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5974388/

 

The three Arab young women in the center of the film live in the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv, a city which is liberal and permissive by any criteria. In Israel it is sometimes called ‘The Bubble’ because of the differences in style of life from the rest of the country – the gape between living in Tel Aviv and the rest of Israel is as large as the gape between living in Manhattan and the rest of the US, or Paris and the rest of France. These differences are even more accentuated for people coming from the Arab sectors society (which are much more traditional than the Jewish ones) and even sharper for women. Leila (), Salma (), and Nour () have each a different life story, try to cope differently with the social, professional, genre, and emotional problems, but at the end will share the same fate of being pushed aside and discriminated for several reasons – belonging to the Arab minority, being women, trying to adopt a style of life and exercise professions, making their own choices in the personal lives.

 

(video source LevCinema)

 

Such stories cannot have a happy end, and the final scene is almost a freeze-up on desperation, although we know that their fight continues. I liked the solidarity of the three women, the direct, almost rough way their stories are told, the way the three actress enter or better say live in their roles. I liked less the schematic approach of presenting the other characters, bad (mostly) or good. Script author and director seems to have borrowed many of the stereotypes of the Israeli films, and his approach in describing the Arab families as super-conservative and the Big City as a living hell populated with smoking, drinking, and drugs misses many other aspects of these complex worlds and situations even if it can be statistically close to reality. In Between could have been a much better movie in my opinion if these over-simplifications were avoided.

 

I was quite curious to see Manchester by the Sea which was considered one of the best movies of the year and received two Academy Awards. Overall I was quite disappointed (relative to the expectations and the fuzz) and I believe that the success of this film is due merely to the dry season that was 2016 for the American film industry, with a selection missing movies that were both ambitions and well made, and with criteria for promotion and selection as nominees dominated by non-cinematographic arguments.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4034228/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4034228/

 

There are certainly many reasons for the film to be interesting. The script is well written (director has authored several smart scripts beyond the ones of his own movies) and builds carefully the characters while gradually dissipating the fog around their past and the reasons they behave as they do with a mix of the progressing story and flash-back scenes interleaved in a clever manner. The atmosphere of the small town by the sea not far from Boston is well described, the characters that populate it are credible, and the cinematography is so poignant that it makes us feel the cold, the wind, the proximity of the sea. All these cannot however hide the thin content of the story – a mix of a tutoring story of a teenage boy orphaned by his father and of guilt caused by the responsibility of a terrible tragedy in the past of the uncle assuming the parenting. One way or another all characters in the story are marked bu grief – how they cope with it and what are the consequences of the disappearance and absence of the dear ones differs. The problem is that the story is thinner than the materials it is built from, and the characters are less interesting from the moment we understand their stories. I happened to see this film three days after 20th Century Women which was also bringing to screen a piece of life including the story of coming of age of a teen boy. What a difference between the characters in the two movies, between the rich and interesting universe of ‘ film and the dry and empty world of the world described by  !

 

(video source Movieclips Trailers)

 

What about acting? A lot was written and said about ‘s performance which earned him the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role Academy Award. I appreciate his acting of a man who hardly survives the grief, but there is nothing unexpected or interesting in the character. He is under shock, he has accesses of violence, he tries to do best to help his nephew, but is and will be forever marked by the tragedy of his life. All these are obvious. Are these worth an Academy Award? I doubt. Young provides actually a good counterpoint with some unexpected but well placed humor for a teenager who sometimes acts as the adult in the difficult relationship with his uncle. The rest of the cast does well, with being wasted talent in a film that is not bad, but is certainly overrated and in many moments simply boring.

The most unusual and violent scene in director 20th Century Women is the opening scene. A car suddenly bursts in flames in the parking of a supermarket. The year is 1979. Is this a violent act (not unusual for a period when racial and political clashes often turned so) or some mafia coup? It turns that it’s just an old car overheating. That’s the most extreme scene, the rest, even some fist-fight between teenagers, is just life. Real life, brought to screen with talent and emotion in one of the best films I have seen lately.

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4385888

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4385888

 

It could be the story of the coming to age of a 15 years boy with a rather intrusive and dominant single mother. It could be a film about a period of confusion in history, or better said the beginning of many consecutive periods of confusion, when values were eroding and the old generation of leaders were having too many doubts to be able to continue to lead. It may be the story of a single mother, born after WWI, raised during the Big Depression, who dreamed to become a fight pilot but WWII ended to early for her to fulfill this dream, who fell in love, gave birth to a child, got divorced, and raises her child as well as she understands, in the friendly and tolerant atmosphere of California ten years after the Flower Power era. It may be the story of three women at three different ages of their lives coping with loneliness and failed relations. It may be all these and more.

 

(video source A24)

 

The characters in 20th Century Women are weird because they are true. They are actually weird as in real life, weird as each one of us is. Fabulous acting helps to make these characters live persons which remain with you as viewer long after the screening ends. as the aging mother gives a performance which reminded me some of ‘s finest. acts literally since she was a toddler, and grows into becoming a formidable actress – this may be the role we shall remember years later of her as a growing and mature teens (but are not teen girls more mature than teen boys as a rule?). is a real revelation, she enters her messy character and makes it true. succeeds to be real, complex, and likeable – with him Hollywood has a new teenager idol, I hope it will not break but rather lunch his career. I do not know where director hid until now, but before I applaud his work I would like to praise script author  who wrote a story that lives on screen, moves the viewers and brings back the time when things started to go wrong but the emotions and kindness of the people prevailed which is always a reason to hope. The only objection I would have is related to the exaggerated use of quotes, this may have tried to convey a feeling of what the characters were reading and were influenced by, this seemed a little precious and verbose – too little shade however for a shining film experience.

 

Why is (or was) God silent is a key question for believers. Why was God silent when Christians were prosecuted and died for their religion in the 17th century in Japan? Why was God silent when Jews were prosecuted by the Catholic Inquisition and died for their religion at the very same time? Or when Christians fought and killed each other in the European religious wars in the same century? Or during the Holocaust? Or today when people are prosecuted, fly for their lives and die for their religion in so many parts of the Globe? Is (or was) God silent? Or maybe He did speak and we did not hear Him? Those are the questions asked in Martin Scorsese’s Silence. Are these questions asked in a generic manner, or just limited to his own faith, and to the specific period he deals with? Are the answers the film gives convincing?

source http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000217/

source http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000217/

 

The answer may depend on the viewer’s close or remote relation to faith. The story of the two Catholic priests who are traveling in AD 1640 in Japan at one of the most cruel periods of persecution of Christians, their encounter with the different culture and religions, their fight to help the devote local Catholics who were continuing to stick to their belief, their own personal fight with the doubts and the apparent silence of the Divinity, their dilemma the ultimate choice that they need to make between saving lives and their own soul, between martyrdom and apostasy – all these may speak a lot to believers in general and Catholics in particular. From that perspective, this is the story of Via Dolorosa with a different ending. What if as viewer one does not belong to either of these categories? These viewers are left with a film of exquisite cinematographic beauty but with a slow and unconvincing story telling, quite surprising for a master director as  is.

 

(video source KinoCheck International)

 

There is a secondary story here of the relationship between the priest father Rodrigues () and the local fisherman who helps and then betrays the two priests Kichijiro (). It’s an extension of the Jesus – Judah story, a continuation maybe of the relation between the two described in Scorsese’s 1988 The Last Temptation of Christ, and one more work that deals with the story of Judah, part of a trend of ‘rehabilitation’ of the character, at least in films and books. I liked this part, and the acting in general (not to forget who always fills any screen he is on). I liked less the long off-line monologue which becomes quite repetitive at some point, the ‘Deus ex machina’ off-screen voice that shows up at a key moment, and the odd epilogue that does not add too much to the story, is told in a different style and from a different perspective. Maybe it’s just Scorsese’s way of making sure that we place the story he is telling in the historical context? Did he really need this?

One of my friends wrote after reading the original version of my short review: ‘It is an experience more than a movie to watch.’ I agree with her. Seeing Silence is like visiting a church. Christians and non-Christians, believers and non-believers, everybody has a different experience, remarks and appreciates different things.

 

 

The second film we have seen at the Italian film festival was an entertaining comedy starring one of the most popular actors and singers in Italy nowadays. The title Quo vado? may send to serious philosophical and even Biblical connotations, but it’s actually a light-heart comedy about the Italy and Europe of today.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5290524/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5290524/

 

It’s probably good not to take this film too seriously, especially using the political correctness filter. The main hero is a mid-class, mid-age, bold type living with his parents and enjoying what seems to be a for-life bureaucratic public servant position in a small place somewhere in Italy. One sunny day the skies fall on his head, as his job is going to be terminated because of an efficiency campaign. He either should resign, pocket some termination bonus and give up the good life, or fight for his job – which means being sent to all extreme places to perform the extreme job an Italian clerk is supposed to perform. The hero is sexist, ethnic prejudices and stereotypes abound, and he undeservedly accommodates any place and gets the smart and beautiful girl at the end (who just happens to have three different kids of three different races without having evener been married. No-PC? Thanks, God! Funny? yes – most of the time. Original? Not really, but who cares as long as we have a good time.

 

(video source Vue Cinemas)

 

Director relies on a script that could be as well the skeleton of a theater comedy or musical show, and on his leading star actor who is apparently popular enough in Italy to assume the risk of lending his name to the hero. A few holy cows are tickled just enough not to cause too many waves and allow for the good spirit of comedy to prevail. It’s easy but not stupid entertainment, and with this state of mind many viewers will enjoy it, I believe.

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