Entries tagged with “Ralph Fiennes”.


A few weeks back I wrote about Bridge of Spies and I was mentioning the fact that I expected more than an OK+ story about the Cold War from a script written by the  and brothers. This feeling was now enhanced by viewing Hail, Ceasar!. The trailer was so promising – the anti-establishment brothers made a film about the Hollywood.  as the drunken (not even, actually) star in the historic super-production.  as the blonde brainless starlet. The bigger the expectations, the deeper the disappointment, they say. The brothers seem to have ran out almost completely of ideas and spices.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0475290/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0475290/

 

Hollywood loves making fun of itself, but never forgets to mix a dose of nostalgia. This is what made The Artist such a huge success, plus of course the French charm. It’s 2016 however, and nostalgia should not be consumed in overwhelming doses. Yet, the Coen brothers seem almost to crawl in repentance to the big studios they succeeded to teach in the past a few things about digging for gold in the classical fabric of American stories. There is only one scene where the Coen spin and spirit succeed to remind the good old days – that’s the ‘ecumenical’ discussion in preparation of the Christ movie with the participation of Catholic, Easter-Orthodox and Protestant priests plus one rabbi. It looked and sounded like a good joke. The difference is that we used to have ten or more such good jokes in the Coen brothers films, now it was just one. The social content which is also present in many of their films is now reduced to a parody of the black-listing of the 50s combined with an incarnation of Communist hysteria (in a Malibu villa by the ocean of all places) which is maybe the second good joke in the film. Still insufficient.

 

(video source Universal Pictures)

 

In a season that was so deprived of comedies that The Martian got a nomination in the category at the Golden Globes, Hail, Ceasar! is still the funniest show in town, but it’s more by lack of competition. and looked genuinely bored in a film which should have been fun to make. is no comedy actor. The ones lucky to get more interesting parts are the amazing and who left me with the dilemma of guessing which film director he took revenge upon when building his character.

I am waiting for the Coen brothers to return.

 

 

Action films have a problem this fall. The reality of the crazy world we live in is not only rapidly closing in the horrors and destruction imagined by script authors, but it is overcoming it also at some moments. ‘Spectre’ the 2015 edition of the adventures of Agent 007 has a number of TV screens that bring to the world TV audiences information about terror attacks taking place in locations like Mexico City, London or Capetown. Unfortunately they do not look much mode dramatic than what we have lately seen on the news about Paris.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2379713/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2379713/

 

So what is left for Agent 007 in a film set (or at least made) in 2015 at the time the news on TV screen compete and overcome the horrors imagined by Fleming and his followers? Director Sam Mendes brings into the story some of the recurring themes from ‘Skyfall’ as well as a number of characters from the new generation of Bond’s companions.  is already comfortable in the role played in many episodes by Judy Dench, and the next generation of Q () and Miss Moneypenny () start to gain an air of familiarity.  continues to divide the fan base, bu then, was not this always the case with all Bonds since Sean Connery left the role of the Eyebrowed One? Action is more than reasonable, it is actually quite good in ‘Spectre’ but this is not something we should be surprised in a Bond movie. The only surprise is actually the lack of surprises.

 

(video source Zero Media)

 

With the new team taking control with good action, with a Bond widow () worth every second (there are not too many) spent on screen and a Bond girl () who seems here to stay at least for one more film why do I feel still so much missing in the new Bond? One of the reasons may be that the bad guys do not look so bad. It is not that  is a bad actor, but we do know that in 2015 most of the bad guys have very different ideologies than the politically-correct one brought on screen by ‘Spectre’. Old secret services configurations are outdated, and even the evil state surveillance does not seem too high a price to pay in a world dominated by terrorism. The no. 1 enemy of the new Bond film seems to be again reality.

 

Istvan Szabo is probably the finest Hungarian film director ever. I have seen and greatly enjoyed ‘Hanussen’ and  ‘Mephisto’ which both feature his preferred actor, the fantastic Klaus Maria Brandauer . The latest is nothing less than a masterpiece in my opinion, a strong parable about the relation between dictatorship and art, between power and the artist, and a meditation about the human character and the tearing dilemma of the artist who has to chose between being silent and being silenced.  What few people knew at the time the film was released was that in ‘Mephisto’ Szabo had spoken about his own life and choices.

I somehow failed to see until now ‘Sunshine’ which is a not less ambitious endeavor describing in a big epic film the story of one Jewish Hungarian family which is symbolic for much of the history of the Hungarian Jews in the 20th century.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0145503/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0145503/

 

They do not do such films any longer, some may say. ‘Sunshine’ is a saga spread over three generations of the Sonnenshein / Sors family – a family of Jewish origin whose story is followed since the last two decades of the Austro-Hungarian empire through the First World War, the Communist revolution of 1919, the inter-wars period, the horrors of the Second World War and of the Holocaust, the Communist terror that followed. The tradition of such stories is actually not rooted in Hollywood but rather in the solid novel sagas of writers like Thomas Mann or John Galsworthy. The main theme is the fate of the Jewish  family trying to find its identity first in the relatively liberal Austro-Hungarian empire, the tentative to melt its identity by ‘assimilation’ and conversion, followed by the cruel return to reality during the Holocaust, and the temporary illusion of salvation by adopting the principles of the internationalist Communism.

 

(video source VermeersGirl)

The 16 years that passed since the film was released make the demonstration of the futility of the identity hiding games played by Jews in Europe in general and Hungary in particular look somehow didactic on screen (but not in reality, as recent events show). Istvan Szabo had the bright idea of distributing Ralph Fiennes in the triple role of the three men in the three generations of the Sonnenschein / Sors family. Fiennes is a fine actor and this was one of his best roles, but the real strong and persistent character is the one of Valerie – wife, mother, and grandmother and more than all the survivor and the strong character that represents the moral and tradition compass of the whole family during the succeeding storms of the century. Two actresses – Jennifer Ehle and Rosemary Harris play this role at different ages. They are both wonderful.  The strength of the film comes however from the accumulation of facts and the building of the emotion that leads to the final rediscovery of the true identity of the character. As somebody once said: ‘Nobody can run away from the star under which they were born’.

 

 

 

Cakes made at the Mendl’s patisserie play an important role in this film. They are sweet round things, with an appetizing and improbable shape and pastel colors which emanate sugar. They are made by a sweet girl and delivered to the Grand and Imaginary Budapest hotel on the peak of the mountains of an Europe that ceased to exist, or maybe never existed but in the imagination of writer Stefan Zweig and later taken over, amplified and brought to screen and to us by director Wes Anderson. A reverence to a world of beauty and aesthetics, of culture and respect, of honor and pleasure of living which is crushed by history, same as the world of Jewish Austrian writer Stefan Zweig was in the events of the  second world war.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt2278388/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt2278388/

 

The story written by Wes Anderson freely develops the themes and atmosphere of Zweig’s writings without being specifically based on any one, in a fantasy which extends beyond the historic boundaries of the life and works of writer. Europe survived the war but could not recover its history, its style, it’s human quality. If buildings survived they are condemned to decay, if men survived they are reduced to their shady selves. What is left is to remember the world that was – now retreated back in a past that looks more and more like a fairy tale. And fairy tale is what we are served on the screen, albeit a very fun and entertaining ones, and there are many reasons to like this picture even without philosophizing too much about its deeper meanings.

 

(video source StreamingTrailer)

 

One of these reasons is of course the cast – one of these exquisite gathering of stars that usually get together only on the Academy Awards night. Shining over all is Ralph Fiennes in the lead role, and I will stop here but I ensure you that even if you recognize some of the faces you will find out that most of them do something different and in a different manner that you always knew (Edward Norton may be the notorious exception). Second is the amazing visual world created by Anderson which coupled with the camera work gives the viewers sometimes a 3-D feeling (although no special spectacles are involved), and in other cases seems to play with the dimensions of the rectangular screen extending them at will. Third and neither last nor least the settings contribute to passing to viewers the flavors of well-being of the times that went away.

Stefan Zweig did not survive the war. When the world he loved crumbled crushed under the boots of the Barbarians he committed suicide. This film can be read like some kind of revenge. At least in the fantasy space created on screen by Wes Anderson a world similar in feeling, manners, colors, smells and tastes to the one Zweig loved survives. A world like Mendl’s cakes. Almost poisonously sweet.

 

The century is the 21st according to one of the popular counting methods and ‘Bond, James Bond’ is still spoken from the screen by a man dressed in a tuxedo with a glass of a selected cocktail in hand. Yet, very many things are new in the last few films in the series (now at #23 if I am not mistaken) and the traditional casino scenes, the exotic locations, the gadgets and even the fabulous Bond girls, without being completely pushed to the back seats are secondary in the recently released ‘Skyfall’. It’s a new world, a world where the good guys in the service of Her Majesty are no longer fighting the bad guys on the other side of the Iron Curtain, as there is no longer any such Curtain.  Not only the enemy is no longer clearly defined by politics or nationality, but he can actually be one of ‘us’. Bond himself is no longer an infallible gentleman feeling no pain and encountering no failure, he actually fails, and falls, and is wounded – physically and psychologically. Daniel Craig is a completely different type of actor than the first (big) names who took the role, he is not only better, but also has a much more distinct human dimension. No longer a super-hero. Hardly a hero.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1074638/

 

Is the new James Bond better? I would say yes, but not much better. Certainly, the realistic touch brought by director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) is an interesting turn. For the first time maybe in a film in the James Bond series we are watching a Bond and an ‘M’ which are not only flesh and blood, but also complex human beings, with doubts and dilemmas that we can understand and resonate with. The question however for me is to what extent these human dimensions work in the context of a mega-action series whose rules are not only set from start but also known by almost anybody who chooses to come and see the film. This is a film I liked, but now, two or three hours after I watched it I can say that I liked it because of the same good all reasons that I liked all good James Bond films – for the fabulous action scenes (and there are a few memorable ones in the film), for the variations on the old familiar characters (and I loved the new ‘Q’) and for the balance between tradition and innovation. It is not for the psychological deepness of the characters that I (and many other fans) go to see a Bond film. The problem is not that the characters are not deep and real, but that these aspects of the film are too overloaded, and if the film seems to be a bit too long it is just because of these.

 

(video source SonyPictures)

 

Some of the acting is very much to the point. Judi Dench gives a great performance (possibly her last one in the series) which puts in shadow all other characters in what is probably the first Bond film without a real Bond girl to receive consistent screen time. Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and Naomi Harris mark the new generation that will probably take further familiar characters in the next 21st century installments, while Javier Bardem adds his name to the illustrious series of Bond villains. Times are achangin’ and so are slowly the Bond films. For good? We still are too see, but there are signs it’s the right direction. If we are to look back 50 years after, it’s only Her Majesty who did not really change since the series started!

 

I am no big fan of Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling’s novels are a combination of two literary genres that I am not fond off – the teenager adventures which I somehow left behind after reading Jules Verne when I was a teenager myself and the magic adventures stories which never really charmed me. Blame my scientific formation.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0926084/

 

Not having read any of the books I had to watch the films to get an idea what Harry Potter is about, and here again I did not fall in love.  I liked the characters at many moments but I was not fascinated by them. The permanent gallery of good and bad witches with professorial robes fighting each other until and sometimes beyond death ended by confusing me and I stopped watching them carefully from a point on.  If there is something that I really liked those were the computerized characters that seem to be benevolent, yet very ugly and very funny at the same time. Do not ask me their names.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1201607/

 

And now the end came. In two series spread over two years. I have seen them both in one evening, five hours of magic cinema thanks to the Jewish holidays. Again I could not help but admiring the impeccable camera work, the endless imaginary of the settings with a cool look, cool as they look very good and cool as in frozen as most of the action happens in winter. I also sensed the much darker treatment of the characters, after all round-spectacled kids grow up into round-spectacled teenagers and young men with a different problems, and of course little cued girls grow up into cued young women, and the process can be painful, as we know from our own experiences, or some of us even as parents. The good performances of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson made me by the end care about this gang.

 

(video source clevverTV)

 

I less cared about the apocalyptic battles in the last film, and not even Ralph Fiennes’ performance and the super bad guy could convince me that the end can be anything else but the sympathetic heroes wining the war and living happily together in one combination or another. The tendency of the big series from the TV ‘Lost’ to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and now Harry Potter to fight the end of world again each time becomes a little obsessional. The spectacular effects may be the ones attracting the audiences in the cinema theaters, they are not what the viewers remain with a day, a month, a year or a decade after they saw the film. It’s the round spectacles and the first exchange of looks between a boy and a girl (be they magician apprentices) that will survive better.