Monday, July 28, 2014

The Night of the Hunter




Based on the novel by Davis Grubb, The Night of the Hunter is the story of a reverend who has become a serial killer as he woos a widow and her two children in an attempt to steal money that the children had been hiding as it was stolen by their late father. Directed by Charles Laughton and written by Laughton and James Agee, the film is based on the real life story of Harry Powers who would do a similar crime and later be hanged to death in 1932. Starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, and Lillian Gish. The Night of the Hunter is a gripping and astonishing film from Charles Laughton.

Set in 1930s West Virginia, the film revolves a devious preacher who kills as he learns that his cellmate, who is to be hanged for theft, has hidden the stolen money with his children prompting the preacher to marry the man’s widow and terrorize the children into giving him the stolen money. It is a film that plays into the world of sin and temptation as it’s all driven by this preacher named Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) who believes he is doing God’s work as he marries lonely women and then kill them so he can collect their money. When he meets the widow Willa Harper (Shelley Winters), he charms and marries her so he can be close to her and his family. While the people in their small town think Harry is a nice man as does Willa’s young daughter Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce), only Willa’s son John (Billy Chapin) isn’t so sure about Powell where he and Pearl eventually learn the truth as they would do whatever it takes to hide from him.

James Agee’s screenplay, which featured re-writes by Charles Laughton, definitely plays into this idea of sin and doing what is right as the man driving these ideas is Reverend Powell who would get Willa to see sin in herself. Especially as she feels guilty for the death of her husband Ben (Peter Graves) who killed two men and stole $10,000 where he would be hanged for his crimes. Powell is an intriguing individual where he dresses up like a preacher and acts like a preacher while his right hand would have “love” tattooed on his fingers while the word “hate” is on his left hand. It’s an interesting duality that he brings yet it is one that is full of hate as he would bring terror to John and Pearl who would eventually flee from his clutches where they would eventually find the safety in an unlikely person in a woman named Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish) who is this no-nonsense person that can see through everything.

Laughton’s direction is definitely quite stylish as he definitely goes for an expressionistic style in the way he tells the story. Some of which involves some unique wide shots where it has elements of style while mostly focusing on medium shots and close-ups with some very stylish camera angles. Especially as it plays into the air of suspense and drama where Laughton’s framing is among the key moments in the film. He would infuse a lot of images into the frame such Billy telling Pearl a story where the shadowy image of Powell would suddenly come in as a sense of foreshadowing of what is to come. Even as Laughton would create moments in the film that are quite startling but also filled with such beauty in the images as it plays into the sense of duality of love and hate.

The direction would also feature expressionistic images set in the Ohio River as Laughton would create something that is quite somber to explore a world that is very dangerous and also unforgiving at times. When the film’s third act would introduce Rachel Cooper, there is that sense of the unknown at first yet Laughton would change the tone a bit since it adds a glimmer of hope to John and Pearl in their plight. Especially as the confrontation between Powell and Cooper come ahead as both would recite the words of God but it would play into who really stands for what is right and wrong. Overall, Laughton crafts a very chilling yet evocative film about a murderous preacher who kills for profit as he terrorizes two innocent children.

Cinematographer Stanley Cortez does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography with its use of shadows, distorted images, and lighting schemes to play out the film‘s expressionistic style as well as set an eerie mood for the suspense. Editor Robert Golden does excellent work with the editing to convey the slow-burn of the film‘s suspense as well as bringing some unique rhythmic cuts to bring in some bite for some of these moments. Art director Hilyard Brown and set decorator Alfred E. Spencer do amazing work with the set pieces from the home of Willa as well as the farm exterior where John and Pearl briefly hid at. The sound work of Stanford Houghton is fantastic for the way some of Powell‘s singing is heard throughout as it acts as a voice of terror while some of the sound effects help add to the film‘s suspense. The film’s music by Walter Schumann is superb for its chilling orchestral themes as well as some somber moments such as it plays into the plight and innocence of John and Pearl.

The casting by Mille Gusse is incredible as it features some notable small roles from Peter Graves as Willa’s late husband Ben, Gloria Castillo as Rebecca’s adopted daughter Ruby who is often a victim of temptation, Don Beddoe and Evelyn Varden as a couple of local shopkeepers who are friends of Willa and the children, and James Gleason as a river man that John is friends with as he would make a very chilling discovery. Sally Jane Bruce is wonderful as Pearl as this young girl who exudes innocence as she is confused by the presence of Powell. Billy Chapin is superb as John Harper as this young boy who is suspicious about Powell as well as the questions about the money as he knows about its whereabouts while dealing with the world of good and evil.

Shelley Winters is excellent as Willa Harper as this widow who is consumed with guilt over her husband’s death as she marries Powell unaware of his intentions as she later learns that there’s something about him that makes her uncomfortable. Lillian Gish is phenomenal in a small but memorable performance as Rachel Cooper as this old woman who adopts lost children as she is this stern figure that not only keeps John and Pearl in check but also knows a lot about the ways of the world as she is someone not to be trifled with. Finally, there’s Robert Mitchum in an absolutely magnificent performance as Reverend Harry Powell as Mitchum brings this dark charm to the role that makes him so engaging but it is balanced by this brooding presence that just sends chills as his character is, without question, one of the greatest villains in cinema as he is the epitome of absolute evil.

The Night of the Hunter is a tremendously haunting yet visceral film from Charles Laughton. Featuring an outstanding performance from Robert Mitchum as well as a strong supporting performance from Lillian Gish, exquisite cinematography, and a chilling score. The film stands as one of the key films of the film noir genre as well as an exploration into the idea of good and evil. In the end, The Night of the Hunter is a remarkable film from Charles Laughton.

© thevoid99 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lucy (2014 film)



Written, directed, and edited by Luc Besson, Lucy is the story of an American woman traveling in Taiwan where she unwillingly becomes a drug mule only for the drugs to get into her system which allows her to access the large capacity of her brain. The film is an exploration of a woman who arrives into Taiwan as a typical woman only to become less human as the effects of a mysterious drug has her access all sorts of things mentally while a professor tries to figure out what is going on with her as Scarlett Johansson would play the titular role. Also starring Choi Min-sik, Amr Waked, Analeigh Tipton, and Morgan Freeman. Lucy is an entertaining and captivating film from Luc Besson.

While it is believed that humans only have access to 10% of their brain’s capacity, the film questions about what happens if a human being exceeds that and goes to 100%. That is what the film dares to ask where it revolves around an American student in Taiwan who is forced to become a drug mule for a mysterious drug only for the drug to enter into her body where she is able to access the other 90% of her brain. Throughout her journey, she begins to have powers that goes beyond her mental capabilities as she would ask a famed researcher in Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) about his studies about what the human brain might be able to. While the premise itself does seem far-fetched, Luc Besson knows that even though it does dare to asks some big questions. Especially as he knows that he isn’t trying to do anything seriously at all with these questions except suggest about what might happen if a person would access their brain’s entire capability.

The film’s script does have a sense of humor in the way it asks all of these questions about life and what the human brain can do while it is more about a woman who realizes about these powers she’s having and what they can do. At the same time, she realizes she is becoming less human in the process as she would struggle with what she’s about to lose. Turning to Professor Norman in his research, the two would try to figure things out as Lucy would also gain the help of a French policeman named Del Rio (Amr Waked) to retrieve the three other mules carrying the drug. Still, Lucy and Del Rio would have to deal with the Korean gangster Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik) who wants to use the drug for profit as he and his gang would do whatever to stop Lucy unaware of the drug’s powers. While the script does play into conventions of what is expected from Besson in terms of action and such, he does manage to create a story that is willing to ask some big questions though it would have ideas that are quite ridiculous.

Besson’s direction is definitely stylish as he shoots part of the film in Taipei, Taiwan and in Paris with some bits of Rome and Berlin as it starts off in a comical manner where Lucy talks to a guy she meets about a job she doesn’t want to do. Some of it involves some unique shots and scenes that play into the idea of how someone would gain access to the human brain’s capacity. With Besson as the film’s editor, he would infuse a lot of montages that features images of nature and evolution to play into the idea of humanity itself just as Lucy starts to lose her own humanity to become engrossed with the knowledge that she’s accumulating. While Besson wants to infuse something that is intellectual as well as play into the themes of sci-fi, he does infuse some very spectacular action scenes that are quite entertaining to watch where Besson knows how to present the action and not make it chaotic. Though the overall results of the film is uneven where it wants to be all sorts of things. Besson still manages to make a film that dares to ask some big questions while not wanting to take itself very seriously.

Cinematographer Thierry Arbogast does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the way it captures the vibrancy of the nighttime exterior scenes in Taipei to the more naturalistic look of the scenes in Paris. Production designer Hugues Tissandier and set decorator Evelyne Tissandier do fantastic work with the look of Mr. Jang‘s penthouse as well as the lab where Professor Norman works at. Costume designer Olivier Beriot does terrific work with some of the clothes that Lucy wears in her many adventures.

Visual effects supervisor Nicholas Brooks is brilliant for the design and such that Lucy would see as well as some of the special effects that would revolve around her mind. Sound designers Guillaume Bouchateau, Aymeric Devoldere, and Shannon Mills do superb work with the sound effects in the film as well as in some of the sound montages that would play into Lucy‘s mind. The film’s music by Eric Serra is wonderful for its electronic-based score with some orchestral flourishes while the soundtrack would feature some electronic cuts and classical pieces for one major sequence in the film.

The casting by Nathalie Cheron is amazing as it features some notable small roles from Pilou Asbaek as a guy Lucy met a club and would put her in trouble, Julian Rhind-Tutt as a Limey, Jan Oliver Schroeder and Luca Angeletti as a couple of drug mules, Nicolas Phongpheth as Jang’s top henchman, and Analeigh Tipton as Lucy’s traveling companion in Taiwan. Amr Waked is excellent as the policeman Del Rio as a cop who is the first to see what Lucy can do as he would try to protect her while being the one person she can connect with from a humanity standpoint. Choi Min-sik is brilliant as Jang as this ruthless gangster who is hoping that the drug would make him money as there’s Min-sik has this very deranged quality that makes him a formidable villain.

Morgan Freeman is superb as Professor Samuel Norman as this researcher who realizes that Lucy is the key to the answers for everything he had been wanting to know about as well as the idea of what it might unleash. Finally, there’s Scarlett Johansson in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as this young woman who starts off as a typical American college student who is then put into a dangerous situation. It’s a performance that has Johansson display a lot of wit as well as this ability to be quite somber and eventually become less human as there is this eerie quality to her performance that just adds more weight to everything her character would endure.

While it is a very uneven film in tone, Lucy is still a stellar and fun film from Luc Besson that features an incredible performance from Scarlett Johansson in the titular role. While it is a film that dares to ask some big questions as well as be something that is entertaining though the overall results aren’t great. It is still an action that manages to be something different while showing that Luc Besson still has a few tricks up his sleeve. In the end, Lucy is a worthwhile film from Luc Besson.

Luc Besson Films: (Le Dernier Combat) - (Subway) - (The Big Blue) - (Nikita) - (Atlantis (1992 film)) - (Leon: The Professional) - (The Fifth Element) - (Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc) - (Angel-A) - (Arthur & the Invisibles) - (Arthur and the Revenge of Malthazard) - (The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec) - (Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds) - (The Lady (2011 film)) - (The Family (2013 film))

© thevoid99 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

2014 Blind Spot Series: The Maltese Falcon




Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon is the story of a private detective who finds himself dealing a troubling case that involves the search of a statue that everyone wants. Written for the screen and directed by John Huston, the film is a detective story that would be the inspiration for many ideas of what would become film noir with its unique take on language and character motivations. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet. The Maltese Falcon is a riveting and stylish film from John Huston.

The film revolves around a private detective who finds himself in the middle of a crazed search for a rare statue that everyone wants as he tries to find out who killed his partner who was tailing a suspect. It all plays into this statue called the Maltese Falcon where it is a statue worth lots of money as the detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) wants to know why he’s in the middle of this case where a woman named Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) asks Spade and his partner Archer (Jerome Cowan) to tail a man that would lead to the latter’s death. Yet, O’Shaughnessy is part of a scheme into retrieving this rare statue that a slimy man named Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and a determined collector named Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) want. With Spade falling for O’Shaughnessy and dealing with the case itself as he finds himself into all sorts of trouble with a lot of twists and turns as there’s very few people he can actually trust.

John Huston’s screenplay definitely plays up to the idea of suspense and language that Dashiell Hammett is known for as a lot of the dialogue is very stylized with its sense of rhythm and in the way the words are said. There’s also some exposition into a lot of the things that happen as well as the story of the Maltese Falcon as the statue itself is a plot device that would become known as the Macguffin. It’s the one thing that everyone wants where Huston knows how to weave the plot into these twists and turns where Spade is often at the center of this crazed search. There is also this conflict in Spade as he falls for O’Shaughnessy even though she is a suspect as his secretary Effie (Lee Patrick) is very suspicious of O’Shaughnessy as she is sort of Spade’s conscience and the one person that he can really trust.

Huston’s direction is very stylish with the way he sets the mood for much of the film where it has this air of suspense and intrigue that continuously looms throughout the film. Huston would use a lot of medium shots as well as some close-ups to play into the drama and suspense while infusing some bits of humor into the film. Much of it would include a few eerie camera angles to play into the sense of style in the way the suspense occurs as there is tension in the film such as the people that Spade would meet. There aren’t many moments of violence as Huston is more focused on just building the mystery as well as play into scenario about what to do when the Maltese Falcon is found. Overall, Huston crafts a very engaging and chilling film about a detective caught in a deadly search to find a priceless statue.

Cinematographer Arthur Edeson does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to create some unique shadows and lighting schemes for some of the film‘s interior and exterior scenes set at night that would be the basis for the look of film noir. Editor Thomas Richards does fantastic work with the editing as it has a bit of style in the transition wipes while keeping things very straightforward to play into the slow-burn of the suspense. Art director Robert M. Haas does amazing work with the look of Spade‘s office that he shared with his partner to the lavish hotel room that Gutman stayed at.

The gown designs by Orry-Kelly are exquisite for its sense of style as it plays to the looks and personality of the female characters. The sound work of Oliver S. Garretson is terrific for some of the sound effects that are created as well as how it adds to the air of suspense. The film’s music by Adolph Deutsch is wonderful for its for its brooding orchestral score that plays into the suspense along with lush themes for the drama.

The film’s incredible cast include notable small roles from Walter Huston as a police captain, Jerome Cowan as Spade’s partner Archer, Ward Bond as Detective Polhaus, Barton MacLane as Lt. Dundy, and Elisha Cook Jr. as Gutman’s henchman Wilmer. Lee Patrick is wonderful as Spade’s secretary Effie as she is often the one person who is a bit smarter than Spade as she doesn’t trust O’Shaughnessy. Gladys George is terrific as Archer’s wife Iva who thinks Spade killed her husband as she is a former lover of Spade as she isn’t sure what is going on as it plays into Spade’s own suspicions about everything. Sydney Greenstreet is brilliant as the larger-than-life collector Gutman who is eager to have the Maltese Falcon at any cost as he is full of charisma and a presence that is quite intimidating at times.

Peter Lorre is fantastic as the smarmy Joel Cairo as this very flamboyant individual who is very mysterious as Lorre brings that nice sense of sliminess but also charm that makes him so enjoyable to watch. Mary Astor is superb as Brigid O’Shaughnessy as this woman who is the archetype of a femme fatale as she is someone that is quite manipulative while never seeming to get her story straight as she tries to woo Spade into making her feel like a victim. Finally, there’s Humphrey Bogart in a marvelous performance as Sam Spade where Bogart has this intensity and wit to his role that makes him quite cool but also be quite tough as there’s no bullshit about his character yet he isn’t afraid to show some humility as it’s one of Bogart’s finest performances.

The Maltese Falcon is a sensational film from John Huston that features a remarkable performance from Humphrey Bogart. The film is definitely one of the standards in what a mystery should be while making it more about characters and the search for answers rather than action. In the end, The Maltese Falcon is a phenomenal film from John Huston.

© thevoid99 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story


Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 12/23/07 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.



Directed by Jake Kasdan and written by Kasdan and Judd Apatow, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is the story of musician who becomes a major star in creating some groundbreaking music while enduring all of the trials and tribulations such as drug addiction, buying strange animals, sleeping with millions of women, and being haunted by the sight of machetes. The film is a spoof into the world of music bio-pics where it lampoons all of the cliches and more as its titular character is played by John C. Reilly. Also starring Jenna Fischer, Kristen Wiig, Tim Meadows, plus Apatow regulars Paul Rudd, Martin Starr, Harold Ramis, Jane Lynch, and Jonah Hill, with appearances from Jack Black, Jack White, Jason Schwartzman, Justin Long, Frankie Muniz, Eddie Vedder, and many more. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is a whimsical, entertaining, and certainly hilarious spoof on the musical bio-pics.

The film is an uncompromising spoof in the world of music bio-pics where Dewey Cox reflects on his entire life in his first performance in 25 years as he is haunted by the death of his brother Nate (Chip Hormess) in a machete accident that would lead him to lose his sense of smell and his gift for making music. Along the way, he marries his 12-year old girlfriend Edith (Kristen Wiig) and create a bunch of songs while falling for his backup singer Darlene (Jenna Fischer) who would become his second wife. In his journey to stardom, Cox would create punk rock and dabble into many musical trends such as the variety show while becoming addicted to drugs due to his drummer Sam (Tim Meadows) in a life that quite crazy but also typical of many bio-pics based on musicians where it was bound to become a parody. It's a film that takes these cliches and amp it up to 11 as Cox's journey lampoons everything from Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Johnny Cash, and many others as it follows the scenarios of these stories and infuse it with humor. .

The script by Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow is definitely genius as it plays with the cliches while creating moments in the film that are downright funny from the repeated breakdowns of Cox to his drug use. A lot of the film's raunchy humor that included appearances from naked people is definitely Apatow in all of his glory. Kasdan's direction is very stylish from the colorful, over-lit look of Cox's early years to the grainy footage of Dont Look Back/Eat the Document period of Cox trying to be Bob Dylan. The whole film works overall in all of its humor and drama as it plays like a bio-pic and spoof. The only real major complaint about the film is that for its 96-minute running time, it's not long enough. Largely because some of the material that appeared in the trailer including Cox's sausages, more of the disco-variety show stuff, Patrick Duffy getting punched, Cox's third wife Cheryl Cox Tiegs, and additional scenes with the Beatles were left on the cutting room for its extended DVD. Overall, Kasdan crafts a very smart and witty film about the cliched life of a musician.

Cinematographer Uta Briesewitz does some wonderfully stylish photography to convey each different period from the colorful lighting in the 50s and early 60s sequence to the grainy black-and-white look of Cox as Dylan, to the slick look of the 70s. Editors Tara Timpone and Steve Welch do great work with the film's editing for its leisurely pacing and cutting style to show Cox's moments and triumphs that is very solid. Production designer Jefferson Sage and art director Domenic Silversti do excellent work with the film's varied period looks from the wooden, farm look of Dewey's childhood home to the 70s couches and such.

Costume designer Debra McGuire does great work with the varied period costumes of Dewey's world that is lovely to watch while showing Darlene in all of her sexy look in different period clothing. Hair stylist Michelle Payne and a team of makeup artist do great work with those different periods from the teddy-boy look to the Dylan fro and 70s long hair along with the aging for the film's third act. Sound designer Robert Grieve and editor Joel Shryack do great work with the film's sound to convey the world that Dewey is in. Visual effects supervisor Evan Jacobs does great work to convey the look of Dewey's vision of his ghostly family along with a hilarious animation sequence involving Dewey and the Beatles.

Then there's the film's music and soundtrack with a wonderfully upbeat score from Michael Andrews who is also one of the film's songwriters in the many original songs created. Contributing to the writing aren't just Jake Kasdan, Judd Apatow, and John C. Reilly but indie-pop legend Marshall Crenshaw, Mike Viola, Dan Bern, and many more as the songs range from country, folk, mariachi, punk rock, hip-hop, psychedelia, and a hilarious disco cover of David Bowie's Starman. All of the songs are sung by Reilly himself with Angela Correa as the singing voice of Darlene for Let's Duet. Many of the songs including various versions of Walk Hard performed by Jackson Browne, Jewel, Lyle Lovett, and Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan are hilarious with funny lyrics as the soundtrack is a real highlight of the film.

The film's cast assembled by Anya Colloff and Amy McIntyre Britt is pure genius as appearances from Deanna Brooks and Angela Little as lovely groupies, Jacques Slade as rapper Lil' Nutzzak who did a remake of Walk Hard, Chip Hormess as young Nate, Connor Rayburn as the young Dewey Cox, Rance Howard as a preacher, Paul Bates as a nightclub manager, John Ennis as the Big Bopper, Phil Rosenthal as Jewish talent agent Mazeltov, and Simon Helberg as Dredel L'Chai'm are funny. Cameo appearances from Jewel, Lyle Lovett, Jackson Browne, Ghostface Killah, the Temptations, and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder are fun to watch while Jack White of the White Stripes does a hilarious impression of Elvis Presley. Frankie Muniz is also funny as Buddy Holly but none of the cameos could ever top the casting of the Beatles whom are all funny.

Justin Long is a great George Harrison complaining about wanting to put more songs on the album while Jason Schwartzman is funny making faces and often commenting about writing a song about an octopus. Jack Black is a hoot as a huge Paul McCartney claiming he's the leader of the band while saying obscene things while Paul Rudd is pitch-perfect as John Lennon. Raymond J. Barry is funny as Pa Cox who has a great one liner, "the wrong kid died" while Margo Martindale is also great as Ma Cox. The appearances from Apatow regulars Jane Lynch as a reporter, Jonah Hill as the ghost of Nate, Craig Robinson as singer Bobby Shad Martin Starr & Harold Ramis as Jewish talent agents, and Kristen Wiig as Cox's first wife Edith are all funny in their memorable scenes with Wiig doing some funny drama with some great one-liners. Hill meanwhile, is another scene-stealer as he looks like a more attractive version of Tobey McGuire with the hair he's given.

David Krumholtz is great as Cox's manager Schwartzberg who convinces Cox to go on TV while Matt Besser and Chris Parnell are great as two of Cox's bandmates with Besser as the frustrated guitarist whose wife always sleeps with Cox and Parnell as the loving friend. Tim Meadows is a true scene-stealer for every scene he's in that involves drugs as he tells Dewey to not do them and such and then have this repeated line "you never paid for the drugs". Jenna Fischer is gorgeous as the sexy, hot, ravishing, exotic, and luscious Darlene who wows Dewey while conveying the sexual tension the two have as she becomes his shining light. Fischer's performance is very funny as she and Reilly have great chemistry both comedic and in dramatic performances. Finally, there's John C. Reilly in what is a long-overdue star-making performance as the title character of Dewey Cox. Playing the man when he's 14 to the present, Reilly gives a performance that is phenomenal as if he was born to play this fictional legend with a lot of witty humor and a singing voice that really showcases his range in ballads and such as it is really one of his great performances of his career.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is a remarkable film from Jake Kasdan featuring a riveting performance from John C. Reilly as the titular character. In an age where spoof films have become lazy, this is a film that not only gets it right in terms of the cliches that play into bio-pics but also with a story that is thoroughly entertaining that also include some amazing songs. In the end, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is a phenomenal film from Jake Kasdan.

© thevoid99 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Auteurs #35: Michael Cimino




One of the most controversial filmmakers to emerge from the New Hollywood era of auteur-driven films of the 1970s, Michael Cimino is a name that is synonymous with both success and failure. He rose high in the late 70s with the Academy Award-winning Vietnam War film The Deer Hunter, that is often regarded as a classic, only to gain notoriety and become a pariah with Heaven’s Gate a few years later as he was supposedly responsible for bankrupting United Artists. It has been nearly 20 years since he last directed a feature film just as his most infamous film is being re-discovered by a new audience. Known for creating films with striking visuals that paints wide canvas while containing subject matters that are very controversial and provocative. Cimino is a filmmaker who was very fearless as there are those who are wondering if he will ever return and be given one more chance to helm a film without compromise.

While there’s been conflicting background about his real age and collegiate background, it has been notified that Michael Cimino was born on February 3, 1939 in New York City as his father was a music publisher and his mother was a costume designer. While he was considered a prodigy in the private schools he was taught at where he graduated at the Westbury High School in Long Island in 1956. After a three-year period in Michigan State where he graduated with honors, Cimino was transferred to Yale based on his work in Michigan State’s school humor magazine where he continuously studied art and drama where he would get a BFA in 1961 and later a master’s degree two years later. It was during this time that Cimino was becoming interested in films as he was influenced by the films of John Ford, Akira Kurosawa, and Luchino Visconti in terms of their visual language and sprawling approach to storytelling.

More on this piece can be read through this link here.

© thevoid99 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bonjour Tristesse




Based on the novel by Francoise Sagan, Bonjour Tristesse is the story of a young woman whose life of decadence by the arrival of an old friend of her mother who wants to put an end to her father’s playboy’s lifestyle. Directed by Otto Preminger and screenplay by Arthur Laurents, the film is an exploration into the world of decadence and how a woman would intrude into that world to bring some order. Starring Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Jean Seberg, Mylene Demongeot, and Geoffrey Horne. Bonjour Tristesse is a dazzling and exhilarating film from Otto Preminger.

The film explores the carefree and decadent lifestyle of a playboy and his teenage daughter as a visit from an old family friend would cause some disruption and tension prompting the young woman to create a break-up with the help of her father’s flighty mistress. All of which is told from the perspective of the young woman Cecile (Jean Seberg) as she thinks about the summer where her late mother’s friend Anne (Deborah Kerr) makes an unexpected visit at the French Riviera as a guest of Cecile’s father Raymond (David Niven). It’s a film that has a unique narrative that moves back and forth with Cecile doing much of the narration as she is seen at parties in Paris where she spends much of the time thinking about the summer.

Arthur Laurents’ screenplay reveals much of what Cecile and Raymond do as they would often be joined by Raymond’s young mistress Elsa (Mylene Demongeot) in their parties. Yet, Anne’s arrival would change things as she wants Cecile to do so much more as well as show Raymond that there’s more to life than partying. It would eventually some conflict between Cecile and Anne as the latter just wants to have fun as she is also in love with a young law student in Philippe (Geoffrey Horne). When Anne and Raymond decide to marry, it would drive Cecile to do something to end the relationship where in the scenes in Paris. There is a sense of regret that looms Cecile where she is at these parties dancing and such but has lost a sense of joy.

Otto Preminger’s direction is truly mesmerizing for the way he presents an air of style in the film where the scenes set in Paris are shot in black-and-white while the rest of the film is shot in gorgeous Technicolor to display the beauty of the French Riviera. Preminger uses a lot of wide shots and elaborate crane shots for some of the film’s livelier moments to capture the locations as well as some of the parties the characters go to. Yet, he also maintains a sense of intimacy in his framing in the way the relationship between Raymond and Anne develops where there is that sense of Cecile in the background as she starts to become upset. Preminger knows when to heighten things up for the melodrama where its third act would showcase everything that Cecile had been planning with Elsa and Philippe. Yet, the presentation of a key moment in the film has Preminger focusing on what he isn’t showing which makes it more effective as it would play to the sense of regret that would loom Cecile in Paris. Overall, Preminger crafts a very poignant coming-of-age film where a young woman faces the reality of her empty life.

Cinematographer Georges Perinal does brilliant work with the film‘s different photography styles with the rich look of the black-and-white shots set in Paris with its use of lighting to set the film‘s somber mood to the use of ravishing Technicolor for the scenes in the French Riviera as it captures a sense of vibrancy and beauty in those locations. Editor Helga Cranston does excellent work with the editing with its unique approach to rhythmic cuts to play into the film‘s humor and melodrama. Production designer Roger K. Furse and art director Ray Simm do fantastic work with the set pieces from the lavish home that Raymond and Cecile live in as well as restaurants and such they go to. Sound editor David Hawkins does terrific work with the film‘s sound to play into the atmosphere of some of the locations as well as the sound of objects. The film’s music by Georges Auric is spectacular for its lush orchestral score to play into the sense of romance and melodrama along with some dance pieces in the film.

The film’s incredible cast includes some notable small roles from Eveline Eyfel as a trio of maids Raymond and Cecile often get confused by, David Oxley as Cecile’s date in Paris, Martita Hunt as Philippe’s mother, Walter Chiari as a South American playboy that Elsa meets, and the famed French singer Juliette Greco in a cameo appearance as a club singer. Geoffrey Horne is superb as Philippe as a law student who falls for Cecile as he just wants to be a good guy who wants to have fun but also be responsible. Mylene Demongeot is terrific as Raymond’s mistress Elsa as this vain and quite dim woman who cares about having fun as she doesn’t like Anne who is the exact opposite of her. Jean Seberg is amazing as Cecile as this young woman whose life of parties and living a carefree lifestyle is challenged by Anne’s presence as she would devise a plan to break up Anne’s relationship with Raymond only to regret it later on.

David Niven is fantastic as Raymond as this charming playboy who likes to have fun as the presence of Anne gives him a chance to lay back and be with someone close to his age as he tries to accept these new changes in his life. Finally, there’s Deborah Kerr in a radiant performance as Anne as this fashion designer who has accomplished a lot as she tries to show Cecile and Raymond a life that isn’t decadent as she tries to come to terms with their lifestyle and Cecile’s sudden cold behavior towards her as it’s a great performance full of humility and sadness.

Bonjour Tristesse is a phenomenal film from Otto Preminger. Featuring the outstanding performances of Deborah Kerr, David Niven, and Jean Seberg as well as the beautiful score by Georges Auric and Georges Pernal’s evocative cinematography. It’s a film that is filled with a lot of style as well as captivating story about a young girl coming of age and deal with the idea of change. In the end, Bonjour Tristesse is a remarkable film from Otto Preminger.

Otto Preminger Films: (Die GroBe Liebe) - (Under Your Spell) - (Danger-Love at Work) - (Kidnapped (1938 film)) - (Margin for Error (1943 film)) - (In the Meantime, Darling) - (Laura (1944 film)) - (A Royal Scandal) - (Fallen Angel (1945 film)) - (Centennial Summer) - (Forever Amber) - (Daisy Kenyon) - (The Fan (1949 film)) - (Whirlpool) - (Where the Sidewalk Ends) - (The 13th Letter) - (Angel Face (1952 film)) - (The Moon is Blue) - (Die Jungfrau auf dem Dach) - (Point of No Return (1954 film)) - (Carmen Jones) - (The Man with the Golden Arm) - (The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell) - (Saint Joan) - (Porgy and Bess) - (Anatomy of a Murder) - (Exodus (1960 film)) - (Advise & Consent) - (The Cardinal) - (In Harm’s Way) - (Bunny Lake is Missing) - (Hurry Sundown) - (Skidoo) - (Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon) - (Such Good Friends) - (Rosebud) - (The Human Factor (1979 film))

© thevoid99 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Six Degrees of Separation Blog-a-Thon




Nostra of My Filmviews has created another blog-a-thon based on the idea of six degrees of separation where it would be the idea for this new blog-a-thon. The rules are simple. Connect an actor/actress with the movies they’re in or a director who helmed that film with another actor/actress/filmmaker in six steps or less. Alex of And So It Begins... decided to choose me since I’m such a gamer for these things as he wanted to connect actor Stephen Dillane with the legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.

Alrighty then.


1. Stephen Dillane co-starred with Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty


2. Jessica Chastain is about to appear in the film Miss Julie that is directed by Liv Ullmann.


3. Liv Ullmann starred in Persona (and 9 other films) that were directed by Ingmar Bergman.



OK, now I pass the baton to Chris of moviesandsongs365 to connect Ingmar Bergman to Toshiro Mifune.

© thevoid99 2014