Entries tagged with “John Malkovich”.


Giacomo Casanova, the great lover of the 18th century and maybe of all centuries does not stop to inspire creators. The first of them was of course himself, with the life he led and with the memoirs that he had wrote. Many other followed, starting with Mozart until the film makers of the 20th and 21th century. The latest is the 2014 Casanova Variations – an ambitious piece of art film co-written and directed by which looks at his last days. Was he tired of the endless search and conquests of women? Did he have any remorse concerning the broken hearts and broken lives that he left behind? Who was him after all? A genius turning love affairs into art, or one of the manifestations of evil?

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2614400

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2614400

 

You need not be concerned about Casanova Variations being too serious or too dry in dealing with these issues. It is actually conceived as a performance in a film, the staging of an imaginary opera called ‘The Giacomo Variations’ which is filmed and photographed live, describing the final days of the life of the great heart-breaker (), retired as a librarian in the Dux Castle in Bohemia to write his memoirs, and receiving the visit of a mysterious woman ( – maybe a forgotten lover, maybe a publisher trying to steal the manuscript which tells about his adventures. The story on stage triggers the rendition on screen of the story in the past, and the whole film alternates past and present, life and theater, music and acting, the real life heroes, the actors, singers, and the audience in the opera house. Actors and heroes become one big ensemble and the whole show an elegant dance of the imagination based on the music of Mozart (mostly). It’s entertaining, but this is not everybody’s kind of entertainment and part of the viewers of the film risk to be surprised and confused.

 

(video source Filmladen Filmverleih)

 

Any movie in which John Malkovich is on screen has the potential to become not only a movie with John Malkovich but also a movie about John Malkovich. Casanova Variations is no exception and the role of Casanova merges with the role of the actor who acts as Casanova on stage enabling the permanent games of transition between the two threads of action, between imagination and reality, between the heroes and the actors. In one memorable sequence the actor – singer seems to collapse on stage and a real physician in the audience jumps to help, just to discover that she herself became now part of the show. It’s just one of the many jewels that combine art and life in this film. I also need to mention Veronica Ferres who gives Malkovich a superb replica in a role that seems to gather the power and dangers in the many women Casanova knew in his life.Those who love film, theater, opera, history and the combination of these will find many reasons of joy in this film, which may not solve the mystery of Casanova but makes good refined entertainment out of it.

 

 

I must confess that one of my guilty pleasures is watching from time to time a movie like RED 2. I mean a movie that is made just for the purpose of entertaining, mixes action and comedy, brings to screen funny characters played by great actors, and is not shy about what it is meant to be. A movie that when watched feels like the actors and the team had themselves fun making it.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1821694/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1821694/

 

Such a film is RED 2, the second in a series which if you ask me can go on and on. Yeah, there is a story here which does not really follow the path of the logic as we may know it. The cold war may be over, but our retired (or pretending to be retired) hero-spies continue to fight it, and its aftermath, among other a non-detectable weapon of mass destruction of yesterday which risks to fall in the hands of the bad guys of today. No fortress, spy agency HQ, prison or government palace remains un-penetrable for more then 100 screen seconds. In any city they travel to they leave a pile of corpses and a trail of destruction that would have granted them centuries of punishments under any jurisdiction – no charges are ever pressed, of course, because this is the world of the action comedy which has its rules or lack of rules of its own.

 

(video source MOVIECLIPS Trailers)

 

I do not feel at all bad for this guilty pleasure of mine. Without any over-analysis I believe that I like these movies because they are sincere in their explicit intentions of entertaining – no more, no less – but actually this is very much. Then when well written and acted as it is the case here such films have a logic of their own. We actually do understand these retired spies and their run for thrill. The dialogs are well-written and funny in many moments, the situations follow well one after the other, and director Dean Parisot’s succeeds to make a film that does not look at all as the work of a prime timer.  All the big stars gathered on the same list of credits – Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins Catherine Zeta-Jones, Marie-Louise Parker – seem to enjoy themselves and this fact crosses the screen. If I am to recommend a fun and non-pretentious entertainment at the movies this would be one of them.

 

Gustav Klimt was a fascinating character. At a time when all modern art was going through one of the greatest transformations in history Klimt was slightly dislocated, or better said located at the wrong place. The elegant city of Vienna was living its last decades as the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and as much as it has been a center of music and refinement for the previous 150 years, it never was the home of great creation in plastic arts. The revolution was taking place in Paris, with strong resonance in the Netherlands, in Germany and even in Scandinavia. Vienna was adopting a more refined and processed version of the revolution and the art created here was still more targeting to please rather than scandalize les bourgeois.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0417871/

 

It is not very clear to me what director Raul Ruiz intended to show in this film. It does not seem to be about the artist Klimt, as we get very little feeling about what his art was about, where it came from, how it related to his character or with his environment. We are not even very clear about the character Klimt – we see him involved with a lot of women, trying to be a charmer just to fall under the charms (and mirror games) of the wrong woman (or maybe more than one). We get a mosaic image of the Vienna and Paris before the war, seen from the perspective of the dying Klimt and of his friend Schiele (Nikolai Kimski is excellent) – but overall the exercise seems to be pretentious and empty of content.

 

(video source AntoinedeLuna)

 

Or maybe it was about giving John Malkovich the opportunity to make another great role. He did not need it, and actually for the first time I felt the great actor to be a little bit tired. It was more 20 years after playing another big Austrian artist, and the reason was not only the age.

When actors who played spies in action movies get older they have an option. They can start playing roles of retired spies in action movies. At least the best and the luckiest of them. Same is true for westerns or for science-fiction movies, BTW.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1245526/

 

Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman are all among the good and lucky one. Some of them may have not even crossed the legal age of retirement in these times when the governments push the pensions limit higher for reasons I would not detail here. What counts is that all the members of this carre of aces are in good shape and have fun making us have fun in this story where the renegade and rogue agents are the active ones the the institution one should trust less than any other around is the government. Conspiracy is not a theory, it’s a fact of life whose credibility is not placed under question for one second in the script of the film directed by Robert Schwentke. who film after film builds to himself a name of one of the best action film directors in Hollywood and I expect him being trusted with one of more of the never-ending James Bond series entries sometimes in the future.

 

(video source trailers)

 

Did I forget somebody? Oh, yes – I should mention Richard Dreyfuss, one of the actors I mostly admired about three decades ago and who seemed to get lost into politics, to the point that I almost did not recognize him here in the retired villain role (sure, villains also retire). One could comment that only Willis is within his usual casting limits, while actors like Malkovich, Mirren, Freeman, or Dreyfuss could do more interesting things and certainly no Oscar was waiting for them behind the corner for the roles in RED, but, hey, this is entertainment, this is an action comedy, one of the genres Hollywood knows how to do well, the guys and the gal are having fun doing it, so get your popcorn and have some fun yourselves watching it.

There is one mis-perception that this film fixed in my mind – there are not really funny films about stupid people. Stupid people are … well … stupid, their behavior is by definition subject of easy jokes, so for smart and educated audiences laughing at stupid people comes together with a feeling of guilt. No fun.

What makes ‘Burn After Reading’ different then? I think that one of the reasons is that this is not only a comedy about stupid people, but more about a stupid people in a stupid system. The Coens attack, catch, and dissect a lot of holy cows of the American political system (the CIA, the government secrecy), morality (matrimonial fidelity), social habits (Internet dating, the gym) and national obsessions (the shrink, the divorce lawyer, the plastic surgery). Almost nothing that is a cliche in the average American behavior escapes becoming a victim of their cynical look.

While the script has certainly its role in the success of the comic experience, the story by itself does not try to be more than a funny chain of coincidences that hit a bunch of characters that act according to their immediate instincts and bad planning, something that brings us back to the time of the great comedies in the 30s and 40s of the past century. It would have been of no special effect without the master story telling skills of the Coen brothers, which pace their gags and laughs in the 96 minutes of screening (low figures well below recent Hollywood average).

Overall however the film succeeds through the perfect casting, and the brilliant manner by which the Coens succeed to bring the best out of their actors. John Malkovitch is an actor of all seasons, one of those that brings his personality in any role he does. Not here, where he melds into the alcoholic spy clerk, who loses his useless job and wife, hates the whole world and nobody cares about him, his life, or even about him losing the secrets he was supposed to have learned during his career. Frances McDormand who was the Coen’s unexpected heroine in ‘Fargo’ is back in the role of a gym clerk who does not hesitate to betray her country to finance plastic surgery, but worries even more being in time at her workplace after leaving the Russian embassy. Brad Pitt is her gym trainer companion, looking flat-minded and younger than in the teen years of his role as Benjamin Button.

And then George Clooney. I feel every time that I write about Clooney in the last few years that I need to apologize (to myself of course, as he does not read me or care) for having underestimated his talent and having considered him yet another TV actor and beautiful face. His work as a director and his last performances as an actor are better and better. Here he is superb, the happy husband who cheats his wife with Internet dates without knowing the reason, the involuntary and hysterical killer who associates with other stupid people in senseless actions.

Yes, it’s a cynical view of the world – but hey, this is entertainment, these are the Coen brothers. I am only worried a bit as I heard that the subject of their last film are the Jews!

More information about the film and reviews can be found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0887883/.