onsdag 30. april 2014

"An Authentic Medieval Festival"


Year: 1967

Country: Czechoslovakia 
Language: Czech, German
Director: Frantisek Vlácil 
Starring: Josef Kemr, Magda Vásáryová, Nada Hejna, Jaroslav Moucka

Although the Czechoslovakian New Wave was in full march during the sixties there were still directors who did not make films that criticized the communist regime. Frantisek Vlácil's medieval epic Marketa Lazarová pretty much follows communist policies, opposite of what the young rebellious filmmakers were doing. Regardless of that, Marketa Lazarová is a well crafted film and just as experimental as the new wave films. Marketa Lazarová is based on Vladislav Vančura's novel from 1931. It is set during the Middle Ages when Christianity made its march towards the pagan Slavic tribes in Eastern Europe. Marketa, the daughter of the Christian feudal lord Lazar is kidnapped and raped by the bandit king Kozlik and his men. The same gang also kidnapped the son of a Saxon bishop, who along with his Crusaders have taken one of Kozlik's men as hostage.

This is a strong, emotional and reverence masterpiece. The film feels very authentic as if it were filmed in the Middle Ages itself, from costumes to locations. Although this is an anti-religious film, there's a few effective religious overtones, and particular from mother nature herself, for example in a scene where a flock of black wolves are circling around in the woods like devils, accompanied by doomsday music that really brings out the dark medieval superstition. But the most beautifully executed aspect of the film is the majestic cinematography by Bedrich Bat'ka. Assuming that Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey is number one on a top ten list of the best photographed film ever made, Marketa Lazarova is definitely number two on this list. It's so majestic that it even overshadows the negative aspects of this film.

The film's structure may seem rather cumbersome and sometimes it's hard to keep track of all the characters and events. It has the same structure as a medieval novel, where the action of each chapter is presented with a straightforward text for each chapter, as done in the novel Don Quixote. In that sense, this structure might help the movie get the right medieval atmosphere. My conclusion about Marketa Lazarová is that it is arguably one of the most beautiful films ever made and therefore deserves to be called a masterpiece, even though at times it is a bit cumbersome in its plot, plus all the different characters. Marketa Lazarová is nevertheless a spiritual experience out of the ordinary. Thumbs up.

Rating: A-

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mandag 28. april 2014

"I Want My Money Back!"


Year: 1983
Country: France
Language: French
Director: Robert Bresson
Starring: Christian Patey, Vincent Risterucci, Caroline Lang, Sylvie Van den Elsen
Cannes: Best Director, Golden Palm

Robert Bresson's L'Argent is actually the first film I will consider as a soulless one. It's the story about a gas man named Yvon who's being payed in counterfeit money, but when he uses it, it is him that's being convicted and not the actual criminal. Yvon goes to jail and looses his job, and is by that thrown into the world of crime.

I'm perfectly aware that Bresson is widely known for his use of non-professional actors, or "models" as he calls them. I had no issue with that in his other films. But this time it's way too obviously shown. The actor's eyes, specially the amateur that plays Yvon is in wrong place in a way that makes him look like he's blind. There's no realistic tendencies in any of the performances. It's like they have been given instructions not to act, nor act naturally. And the ridiculous on-the-nose dialogue makes it look obviously staged and mechanically shallow.

Even though I'm not found of the use of full length narration, which Bresson is famous for, I now regret criticizing Bresson for his use of it, because without it every characters in his movies becomes lifeless zombies that I don't really care about (in the case of Baltazar, I accept the lack of narration because donkeys can't talk). Zombies needs narration to really make me sympathize with him, because one cannot relay on their facial expressions, which are none.

I have always wondered what a soulless movie looks like. Well, here I have the answer, unfortunately. This was a total bore, and had I watched it in the theaters I would certainly asked for my "L'argent" back. The reason I'm not giving it zero stars is because of the unpredictable ending (which I don't wanna reveal) that gave me at least one thrill during the whole bore fest. Thumbs down.

Grade: D+

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lørdag 26. oktober 2013

"A Step up from Quatum"


Year: 2012
Country: United Kingdom/United States
Language: English
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes
Oscar wins: Best Song, Best Sound Editing
Oscar nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing

Finally it's here, the 23rd James Bond movie, Skyfall. And it's released on the 50th anniversary of the whole James Bond franchise. Skyfall is the right way to celebrate, because after the disappointing vengeful Bond in Quantum of Solace, James Bond is finally back in his original form as he was in Casino Royal, plus with some delightful references to the good old fashion Sean Connery films of the sixties. I'm not the conservative type when it comes to genres and conventions. But the James Bond movies has become a genre on it's own, these film are meant to be entertainment, he's suppose to be all men's role model. And after years of CGI bull crap and character changes, James Bond finally goes back to his roots.

This time, Agent 007 AKA James Bond (Daniel Craig) is being hit by a bullet from another MI6 agent was suppose to shot the guy Bond were fighting, and Bond falls from a moving train into a waterfall. Bond were chasing after a guy who have a hard drive with secret information about NATO agents, and their identities. Bond officially dead, but he's survived and is enjoying his life as dead in a tropical location. But after a computer virus that caused a gas explosion in the MI6 headquarters, Bond returns from the dead and his mission is to find the hacker who is responsible for this.

I really enjoyed this Bond film. It is thrilling, good action scenes, exhilarating fighting sequences in high speed with a gentle touch of comedy that is essential to every Bond film. And not to give a way the plot, but the last half hour was truly one of the best moments in the whole franchise. Bond's mojo is also back, the true gentlemen who knows how to treat the ladies, and this time the hot and sexy Bérénice Marlohe. It's like Quantum of Solace never happened, and to even bring more comfort by adding references from the older Bond movies that I probably don't need to mention because you gonna recognize them easily.

But Skyfall is also more modern, in that sense that the biggest threat now these days is hacking, a field that is most familiar among young people. That's the reason why this time Q is played by the 32-years-old Ben Whishaw, and that shows us that James Bond is relevant today, although Die Hard did this five years ago. But what I liked the most about this film, is the relationship between Bond and M (Judi Dench) when her trust is set on trial, both by Bond because she ordered the shot that hit him. And also the government starts to think that she's to old, and even questions the existence of MI6. It is without a doubt dark times for the MI6 which is quiet unusual, and which creates the right thrilling atmosphere.

But there were some dull moments, and I'm not so sure when it comes to the Bond villain, Silva played by Javier Bardem was a very good choice. He's not by any way unforgettable, and seems not to be very dynamic in his choice and often waits to long to get things done, just for the sake of the plot, and his motivations for his action is often very weak. And why does he have blond hair? The positive I can say about him that his crazy enough to be a villain that you just have to respect that, it was a good performance, just not the right character.

My conclusion of the 23rd James Bond film is that it's a great contribution to the whole franchise. It was if Quantum of Solace never happened and it seems like things truly are back to normal, and that Daniel Craig have a golden age ahead of him. Thumbs up.

Grade: B+

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fredag 27. september 2013


Good news everyone, the newest edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, are finally released. The big difference this year is that the book has been redone, a new layout and everything. The new list does not only contains movies from 2012, but also movies from as long back as 1924. It's a total of 49 new films.

The United States have 23 films, United Kingdom 7, France 4, Italy 2, Afganistan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Senegal and Sweden have one filme each.

Afganistan is making its debut.

Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003)

Amour (2012)
Argo (2012)
Bowling for Columbine (2003)
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)

Christ Stopped at Eboli (Cristo si e fermato a Eboli) (1979)
The Consequences of Love (Le conseguenze dell'amore) (2004)
Dead Ringers (1988)
The Devils (1971)
Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988)
Diva (1981)
Django Unchained (2012)
The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)
The Eagle (1925)
Elephant (2003)
The Exiles (1961)
The Exterminating Angel (El angel exterminidor) (1962)
F for Fake (Verites et mensonges) (1973)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Fireworks (Hana-Bi) (1997)
The Goddess (Shen nu) (1934)
The Great White Silence (1924)
The Hired Hand (1971)
The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Les Miserables (2012)
Life of Pi (2012)
Limite (1931)
Lincoln (2012)
Local Hero (1983)
The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
Mary Poppins (1964)
Moolaade (2004)
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Oklahoma! (1955)
Osama (2003)
Peter Ibbetson (1935)
RoboCop (1987)
Skyfall (2012)
Sleeping Dogs (1977)
Some Came Running (1958)
Summer with Monika (Sommaren med Monika) (1953)
A Throw of Dice (Prapancha Pash) (1929)
The Towering Inferno (1974)
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Wake in Fright (1971)
Wall Street (1987)  

lørdag 21. september 2013

"The French Foreign Odyssey"


Year: 1999
Country: France
Language: French, Italian, Russian
Number: 946
Director: Claire Denis
Starring: Denis Lavant, Michel Subor, Grégoire Colin, Richard Courcet
Berlin: Berliner Zeitung 

Claire Denis' Beau Travail is actually loosely based upon Herman Melville's Billy Budd. But instead of a british naval vessel in the 18th century, Beau Travail is set in modern day Djibouti where we follow the French Foreign Region. It's the story about the former sergeant Galoup (Denis Lavant) who reminisce about his days in Djibouti and his fellow soldiers and his despite for lieutenant Bruno Forestier. It is a tough army life. As Galoup says "Your life is the region".
Beau Travail is a great film, a truly poetic one, with plenty of male erotism, with all the soldiers being photographed like greek gods, the same poetics structure as in Jean-Luc Goddard's Le Mépris. It's like Denis is doing the same thing as every other male director have done with women. She does a great job in portraying men as beautiful and vulnerable, with the same platonic friendship as females.
The film features some marvelous performances, specially Denis Lavant's misanthropic performance as the former sergeant who knows how to dance, exquisitely shown in one of the greatest dancing scenes ever. The cinematography are also breathtaking and extraordinary. There's no yellow sand, it's either grey or white. It's like walking on the moon, an unknown territory that makes all the characters and the time weightless. A wonderful poetic weightless motion picture. Thumbs up.
Grade: A-
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mandag 2. september 2013

"A Journey Through Italy"


Original title: La meglio gioventù
Year: 2003
Country: Italy
Language: Italian
Number: 1019
Director: Marco Tullio Giordana
Starring: Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Jasmine Trinca, Sonia Bergamasco
Cannes: Un Certain Regard Award

Marco Tullio Giordana's The Best of Youth is a six hour long epic about two brothers named Nicola and Matteo, two baby boomers whom we follow in course of five decades from 1966-2003. In the summer of '66 they both planned to take a trip to Norway, but before that they both tried to save a young girl named Giorgia from an abusive sanitarium that didn't gave her the right treatment. They tried to convince her father to take her back, but he refused, and the two boys decided to keep her, but they lost her, and they saw no other choices then to continue their journey. But Matteo have change his mind and Nicola must travel alone, while Matteo enlist in the army. From then on the two brothers have gone their separate ways and both experience two quite different lives.
The Best of Youth is an extraordinary film that follows two individuals and how they both are effected by Italy's resent history, like the rebellious sixties and the uncertain seventies. But the two brothers have their own different way of dealing with history, and it's much because of Giorgia. Nicola, the youngest one tries to change history by fighting for all the disabled people's rights to a decent life instead of being locked up in a dark cellar. While Matteo have a more resigned world view, and decided to be a part of the system itself, and he once even worked as a policeman beating up demonstrators in a demonstration in which Nicola participated.
Besides from their careers, they both have a tough private life. Nicola falls for the left-wing activist Giulia, whom he have a child with. But Giulia is more committed to her fight against capitalism then her own daughter. Matteo have commitment issues and is basically just committed to his work as a policemen. But there's some episodes in which he can't hide his anger towards society, and we know that this was not the life he intended.
But that's how real life is. It's unpredictable, like the first hour alone isn't enough to show us how it will end, like many other movies do. And some of the events are shocking and most important unexpected. Relationships come and goes, so do other people's life. And yes we can always ask us self "What if" when it comes to the outcome, but we don't question the motivations behind their actions, because of the political system they are living in.
The late Roger Ebert always used to say "No good movie is too long, just as no bad movie is short enough". I could have watched this movie for six more hours, because of its epic scale and a whole bunch of interesting characters I would have been more than happy to follow all the way to their graves. But the movie had to stop sometimes, just like life itself have to stop sometimes, and I must say they picked the right ending. It's indeed one of this centuries best movies, with a superb cast and a masterminded epic story that shows us real people living real unpredictable life. Thumbs up.
Rating: A+
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fredag 19. juli 2013

"Melancholic Beauty"


Original title: Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini
Year: 1970
Country: Italy/West Germany
Language: Italian
Number: 522
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Lino Capolicchio, Dominique Sanda, Helmut Berger, Fabio Testi

Oscar wins: Best Foreign Language Film
Oscar nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay
Berlin: Golden Bear, Interfilm Award

Vittorio De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis is based on the historical novel by Giorgio Bassani that are partially based on his own experiences of being a Jew in the town of Ferrara in the thirties and forties, during Mussolini's fascist dictatorship, where the Jews was counted as third class citizen and was later deported to the concentration camps. This film follows a group of teenage friends, both Jewish and Non-Jewish, and how the political situation is effecting their lives.
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis is a good and melancholic history drama, pretty similar to Bertolucci's The Conformist. It's also as beautifully photographed, with all it's naturalistic colors and the leafs on the trees blowing in the wind, which symbolizes death. I also love all the different personalities and how they act under pressure, and some even don't see the point of living a joyful life, because of the political situation. A great war drama. Thumbs up.
Grade: A-
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onsdag 17. juli 2013

"Constructed Realities"


Year: 1979
Country: United States
Language: English
Number: 643
Director: Albert Brooks
Starring: Albert Brooks, Charles Grodin, Frances Lee McCain, J.A. Preston

In 1971 PBS decided to make a television documentary called 'An American Family'. a documentary about a real ordinary american family. They followed them around every day for many months, but what they got was the real turbulence and scandals that unfortunately happens in every families. Albert Brooks' comedy 'Real Life' is spoofing 'An American Family' where Brooks is playing a fictional version of himself trying to direct a similar TV show, where the chosen Family, the Yeagers would have been better off without cameras following them around every single day.
Real Life is a good comedy that some what displays what would actually have happened in a satirical way. Because most of their worries are what everyone else will think about them, and how Brooks is trying his best to make the things better for the Yeagers, while the psychiatrists urge him not to interfere in any way. Brooks might be a bit too crazy sometimes, but he's the unfunny clown that we feel sorry for. But it's Charles Grodin and Frances Lee McCain as Mr. and Mrs. Yeager who are able to pull it off with two realistic performances. Overall, It's an alright good dark comedy with some over-the-top moments and with a good story. Thumbs up.
Grade: B-
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lørdag 13. juli 2013

"A Family of Surfers"


Year: 2007
Country: United States
Language: English
Number: 1059
Director: Doug Pray
Starring: Dorian Paskowitz, Juliette Paskowitz, David Paskowitz, Navah Paskowitz

Surfwise is a documentary about a former physician named Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, who in the late fifties gave up every material goods to dedicate his entire life to surfing, travelling from different places in his caravan along with his wife and his nine children, eight boys and one girl, who all knows how to surf. They later start a surfing school. This documentary follows all the Paskowitz' and each tells their stories about how their upbringing was, the advantages and the disadvantages of not living the conventional life. None of the children went to school, which made it impossible for some of them to follow their actual dreams.

Surfwise is a good documentary that gives you most of the important aspects of a non-material life and how difficult it is, and what price you have to pay. The film doesn't argue about which way of life is the best, but it's a clear lecture of what a free life is. There's also the psychological aspects, like Doc being hot tempered and violent, and the lack of school which makes it impossible for most of his children to follow their dreams. But what brings the whole family together is their religious passion for surfing, and some of the kids have followed in their father's footstep and even became world champions. But all of them agree's that they wouldn't have had it any other way, and that's probably the case for the rest of us, no matter how dark our life is. A wonderful documentary about life itself. Thumbs up.

Grade: A-

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"Everything is Lost"


Year: 1998
Country: United States
Language: English
Number: 934
Director: Vincent Gallo
Starring: Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Ben Gazzara, Anjelica Huston

The multi-talented artist Vincent Gallo is known for his flexibility between different art forms such as music and films, both when it comes to composing, writing and performing. But he will always be best remembered for his indie classic Buffalo 66' which he directed, wrote and starred in. And it's also set in his own home town, Buffalo, New York.

Buffalo '66 is the story about Billy Brown (Gallo) who returns to his home town, Buffalo, after five years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. All that time he has lied to his parents (Anjelica Huston and Ben Gazzara) that he worked for the government and was married. But Billy kidnaps the first and best girl, a dancer named Layla (Christina Ricci) who must pretend to be his wife. But when we finally meet his parents it's certainly a shock to see how little they care about anything but football. They hardly remember anything about their son.

Buffalo '66 is a good melancholic indie film, with its small town post Reagan America. Gallo give us a great performance and a great character, a realistic haunted irritated individual. Christina Ricci's character, Layla is more interesting because while we know so much about Billy, we don't know anything about Layla. And it's also the fact that Billy often treats her like dirt, but no matter how cruel he is, Layla sticks with him, she probably got a tough life of her own.

The most surreal thing about this film is Billy's parents and how apathetic they are towards anything but football, specially his mother, who gave birth to Billy the day the local football team Buffalo Bill lost the Super Bowl of 1966. And she often says that it was Billy's fault for being born that day. He once decided to bet ten grand on the Buffalos winning the Super Bowl, but looses and he thinks he's forever doomed. Overall, Buffalo '66 is a good little film about the apathetic small town american with a surreal world view. Thumbs up.

Grade: B+

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