Entries tagged with “Sean Penn”.


I had this film recorded on my cable TV memory device for quite a while. I was quite curious now to see it with my own eyes, after the dust of the extreme reception it enjoyed settled. Some of the critics I mostly admire declared it no less than a masterpiece. Among them the late Roger Ebert, although I must say his review deals a lot with similitude of the story and heroes with his personal experience. The film was also decorated with awards. Yet, many other reviews seem to incline of the other side. Mine included.

 

source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tree_of_Life_%28film%29

source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tree_of_Life_%28film%29

 

The story in ‘The Tree of Life’ is about the childhood and coming of age of a young boy in the Mid or South of the United States in the 50s or 60s. It is a little strange to say ‘the story’ as director  seems very little interested in story telling. What we see developing is a very Oedipal relation between a strict father (), and the elder of three brother kids, with the mother () becoming the moderating and caring member of the family, and an object of interest in the growing pains of a rebel teenager. I have no problem with story telling in different than chronological order, I have seen them all in movies – personal perspective, reversed chronologies – but in this case the logic was hard to grasp, and some details remained obscure to me. Did both younger brothers die? One drowning as a kid, the other at the age of 19 (his death is announced in the starting segment). If so, why does the first dead brother appear again and again after his death on screen? Are these supposed to be events that happened before his death? Or does the director intent to say that his presence continue to be with his family even after his death? All this is left in fog, and I am not sure what higher purpose this ambiguity serves.

There are two more plans in the film. One of them shows the elder brother many years later, remembering his young years, still in guilt and in an uneasy relation with his father (not clear if still alive either). ‘s  character seems somehow disconnected from the rest of the film, and from his young incarnation (huge performance by ). The most talked segment is the one that shows the origins of the Universe – it’s beautiful video art on Gregorian songs music, but I failed to be very impressed for two reasons. First, it’s not extremely original, the association with Kubrick‘s ‘2001, A Space Odyssey’ that was often made shows this, but what made sense in a space saga is less fit to a mid-America family drama. The disconnect of the three plans, or four plans if I count the after-days final is the principal problem of this film. Its length, the story telling style, the lack of logic made the experience quite boring to me, despite of the beauty of the cinematography.

 

(video source Clevver Movies)

 

On the positive side I need to mention the good acting. Brad Pitt is at his best in the role of the tough but caring father, mirrored in his son with the same failure to communicate beyond the strict rules of American fathering. Jessica Chastain provides a strong emotional counterpart, with delicacy and  femininity. None of the two talk much, but they are real and alive characters in a dead (but colored) setting.

I read that at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the screening of ‘The Tree of Life’ was met with both boos and applause. The film ended by winning the Palme D’Or. I am afraid that if I were in the audiences, I would have been among the protesters.

 

A few days ago I have seen the brand new ‘Black Mass’ which is also a mob story made in Hollywood and enjoying the participation of a fine cast. I was not enthusiastic. ‘Gangster Squad’ directed by has the few ingredients that I was missing in that film, which make the genre ‘mob story inspired by real characters’ much more enjoyable to me. It does start with ‘inspired by a true story’ (or ‘true characters’), inserts the inevitable ‘true crime’ photos, and ends with the even more unavoidable text and pictures about the years spent in jail by the surviving bad guys, and the years happily spent fighting crime and raising kids by the good guys (those who survived, of course). In the middle it does better.

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1321870/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1321870/

 

The story of ‘Gangster Squad’ is set in the post-war LA, and this certainly helps as the place and the period seems to gather interests because of the classical ‘noire’ thrillers that it inspired followed by a number of successful movies (starting with The Maltese Falcon, of course, set and filmed in 1941). The despicable bad guy’s name is Micky Cohen and his overtaking of the city could not (at least according to the script) be fought but by unconventional vigilante methods, because most of the police and judicial system was corrupted by hum. Find the right cops, motivated enough by having fought and survived WWII in order to build a world worth being lived by their kids, add the necessary dose of romantic, get a stunt master and a good choreographer for the fights and chases, and success is almost ensured.

 

(video source Movieclips Trailers)

 

The story may be more remote from the truth than in ‘Black Mass’, the capabilities of the squad in fights and shooting may seem overrated, but at the end of the day the result was more enjoyable for me. It certainly helped to have on board such a fine team of actors, including as the ultimate bad guy, ‘can’t do wrong’ , and beautiful who always seems to create around her a fascinating touch of mystery very appropriate in this movie. ‘Gangster Squad’ is a mob story that works and succeeds to be an entertaining film.

This Must Be the Place is one of the weirdest Holocaust movies ever made. So weird and so different that I doubt that it will find place in the usual re-programing of the TV stations on such commemorative moments as the Holocaust Day. Yet it is at the same time one of the most human and moving film on the theme of the second generation, the one of the children of the Holocaust survivors that I have ever seen.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1440345/

 

Sean Penn‘s Cheyenne is an aging Gothic rocker, whose greatest success dates two decades back, but was enough to grant him a life of luxury for the rest of his days, and even some fame when walking the local Irish malls. No doubt, he looks like an aging rock star, and Penn’s creation makes me wonder how could the Oscar avoid him this year (and I am not a registered fan of Penn, believe it or not). Something happens and this is his father’s death, and the trip to the New York Jewish area meets him back with the family he left, maybe he ran of, the life he quit, and the history of the family. This history hides something he was not aware about – the suffering and the humiliation that his father experienced during the Holocaust. What makes out of Cheyenne a Nazi hunter, what causes him to engage in a trip that reminds Jim Jarmusch‘s Broken Flowers across America to catch and revenge his father’s tormentor remains a mystery. It is not the only mystery of the film, but all becomes credible and makes sense not on the logic but on the emotional plan. It’s more then just emotion, it is resonance. Penn’s character fills not only the screen, it follows you after the end credits, with his straight and naive logic and belief in truth, with his strange but yet so human way of talking and behaving.

 

(video source indieculturebox)

 

There are several beautiful and memorable scenes in this film. The relation of Cheyenne with the younger girl, older woman and her missing son which is never completely explained. The meeting with another old rocker and the concert by David Byrne (in a cameo appearance). The guitar piece with the kid he meets on the road. The confrontation with his father’s tormentor and the almost human justification of the later. Director Paolo Sorrentino, as well as his cinematography, sound, musical teams do a fine and discrete job. A film to search for and to watch.