Monday, May 25, 2015

2015 Blind Spot Series: Charulata

Based on the novel Nastanirh (The Broken Nest) by Rabindranath Tagore, Charulata is the story of a housewife in late19th Century India who tries to find love and herself through art. Written for the screen, scored, and directed by Satyajit Ray, the film is an exploration of a woman coming into her own during a period in pre-independence India where a woman copes with her unhappy marriage and the trappings of being a housewife. Starring Soumitra Chatterjee, Madhabi Mukherjee, Sailen Mukherjee, and Shyamal Ghosal. Charulata is a ravishing and enchanting film from Satyajit Ray.

Set in 1870s India during a Bengali Renaissance period, the film revolves around the titular housewife (Madhabi Mukherjee) who finds her own artistic voice following a visit from her husband’s poetic cousin as she would fall for him while dealing with her husband’s attempt to create a powerful newspaper for India. It’s a film that plays into not just some of the social changes that is emerging in India but also a world where there’s various people trying to find their voice in an era where they’re still being governed by the British. Amidst all of these political and social changes that is happening, it is this housewife of a newspaper editor that would find some change through meeting her husband’s cousin while dealing with the presence of her brother and his spoiled wife as the former is working with his brother-in-law.

Satyajit Ray’s screenplay doesn’t just explore Charulata’s desire to find her own voice and meaning in her life but also in a world that is changing as her husband Bhupati (Sailen Mukherjee) is hoping to give the Bengalis a newspaper of their own with a political voice. His work would definitely absorb him as he doesn’t mean to neglect his own wife because he feels like he is doing something that matters. Upon the arrival of his cousin Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee), Charulata is a little taken aback by his very lively and playful presence but is intrigued by his love of poetry and how talented he is. Through Amal’s encouragement, Charulata would find her own artistic voice through writing but also in her skill in sewing. While Charulata falls for Amal and vice versa, neither are willing to create trouble as the film’s third act plays to some misfortunate events that would affect Bhupati due to an act of betrayal of someone close Bhupati and Charulata.

Ray’s direction is very engaging not just in his approach to close-ups, zoom lenses, and compositions. It’s also in how he is able to create a drama that feels very contemporary at a time where it is about a country trying to forge its own identity. Ray’s direction has an intimacy as it plays into a typical life of an upper-class couple living in India as Bhupati uses his home as a place where he can work while Charulata would often spend time alone or with her spoiled sister-in-law. Ray’s usage of close-ups and medium shots would maintain that sense of intimacy while he knows where to frame his actors for a shot as it often used as an emotional tool. The direction also have these lively moments such as Charulata on a swing which captures everything in a close-up while there’s another shot of her in the background while Amal is lying on the ground in the foreground.

Ray also creates some dizzying imagery as it relates to Charulta’s own sense of artistic awareness in this element of surrealism that seems like it is from another memory. There are moments in the film where music help plays into the story as Ray is also the film’s music composer as he brings in some enchanting themes that would underscore much of the film’s drama. Even as he would put in songs by Baiju Bawra, Joyeb, Nidhubabu, Raja Rammohan Roy, Tansen, and the film’s original novelist Rabindranath Tagore into the mix as it help plays into the drama. Especially in its third act where betrayal and disappointment would emerge as Ray’s camera knows where to step back as well as present something where there’s an ambiguity for the film’s ending. Especially in the way he would approach the ending as it is told with such style. Overall, Ray creates a captivating yet engrossing drama about a housewife finding her voice in 19th Century India.

Cinematographer Subrata Mitra, with lighting by Satish Haldar, does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography with its approach to naturalistic lighting for the daytime scenes along with some low-key lights and moods for some of its nighttime moments including the key scene where Bhupati reveals to Amal about what happened to him. Editor Dulal Dutta does excellent work with the editing as it is mostly straightforward with the exception of a dizzying montage with its inspired usage of dissolves to play into Charulata‘s own artistic growth. Art director Bansi Chandragupta does fantastic work with the look of Charulata‘s home as well as Bhupati‘s office and printing press where he does his work. The sound work of Nripen Paul, Atul Chatterjee, and Sujit Sarkar is brilliant for the sparseness of the sound as well as the way wind sounds in some of the film‘s key moments.

The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from Bholanath Koyal as a house servant, the musician Joyeb as a party performer, Suku Mukherjee and Dilip Bose as a couple of colleagues of Bhupati, and Gitali Roy as Charulata’s bored and spoiled sister-in-law Manda who is also attracted to Amal. Shyamal Ghoshal is terrific as Charulata’s brother Umapada who is hired to manage and watch over the finances of Bhupati’s newspaper as he is someone that is very inexperienced while being someone that Amal doesn’t trust. Shailen Mukherjee is amazing as Bhupati as a newspaper editor who unintentionally neglects his wife as he is eager to make his newspaper mean something as well as hoping for some change for India despite being under British rule at that time.

Soumitra Chatterjee is brilliant as Amal as this young poet that is eager to make as a writer with his cousin’s help as he also inspires Charulata to find her voice as he struggles with his feelings towards her and his loyalty to his cousin. Finally, there’s Madhabi Mukherjee in a radiant performance as the titular character as this housewife who feels lonely and trapped by her surroundings as she meets and falls for her husband’s cousin which would inspire her to find an artistic voice as she also copes with not wanting to hurt her own husband once his whole world begins to fall apart as it’s an intriguing and complex performance.

Charulata is an astonishing film from Satyajit Ray that features top-tier performances from Madhabi Mukherjee, Soumitra Chatterjee, and Shailen Mukherjee. It’s a film that isn’t just an intriguing study of change and the need to say something in a world that is changing. Especially as it plays to India trying to find its own voice years after breaking away from Britain as it manages to be so much without the need to say something politically but rather emotionally. In the end, Charulata is a spectacular film from Satyajit Ray.

Satyajit Ray Films: (Pather Panchali) - (Aparajito) - (Parash Pathar) - The Music Room - (The World of Apu) - (Devi) - (Teen Kanya) - (Rabindranath Tagore) - (Kanchenjungha) - (Abhijan) - (Mahanagar) - (Two) - (Kapurush) - (Mahapurush) - (Nayak) - (Chiriyakhana) - (Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne) - (Aranyer Din Ratri) - (Pratidwandi) - (Sikkim) - (Seemabaddha) - (The Inner Eye) - (Ashani Sanket) - (Sonar Kella) - (Jana Aranya) - (Bala) - (Shatranj Ke Khilari) - (Joi Baba Felunath) - (Hirak Rajar Deshe) - (Pikoo) - (Sadgati) - (Ghare Baire) - (Sukumar Ray) - (Ganashatru) - (Shakha Proshakha) - (Agantuk)

© thevoid99 2015

Sunday, May 24, 2015

2015 Cannes Film Festival Marathon Post-Mortem

The 2015 Cannes Film Festival has just ended with a lot of pizazz and spectacle as the winners have been announced as the festival and this marathon is now over. First, I want to thank The Film Experience for their coverage as well as the Dissolve, Hitfix, and IndieWire for their coverage as well. I would have to say that this year's festival was a bit underwhelming. Not a lot of standouts this year as there were some good films but also some bad ones. One of the big disappointments that definitely scared me is Gus Van Sant's Sea of Trees which I had hoped would be a return-to-form of sorts for him due to its subject matter. Instead, it's being called his worst film to date as it got booed very badly. One of the films I'm anticipating for in Gaspar Noe's Love, like a lot of the films this year, received mixed reviews but I'm glad to hear that Noe isn't taking the criticism severely as I still want to see it.

Then there's the films that did get good buzz like Denis Villeneuve's Sicario, Matteo Garrone's Tale of Tales, Paolo Sorrentino's Youth, Justin Kurzel's adaptation of Macbeth and Joachim Trier's Louder than Bombs that has me excited while I still want to see Hirokazu Koreeda's Our Little Sister despite the mixed reception it received. Then there's the winners as I'm happy that Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster won the third place Jury Prize while I'm ecstatic that Todd Haynes' Carol got some major buzz plus a surprising Best Actress prize for Rooney Mara which she would share with Emmanuelle Bercot for Maiwenn's new film Mon roi

Other winners include Vincent Lindon for Best Actor for Stephane Brize's The Measure of a Man, Michel Franco for Best Screenplay for his film Chronic, and a Best Director prize to Hou Hsiao-Hsien who has returned after a long period with his wuxia film The Assassin that got excellent reviews. One of the films that I'm intrigued about that had been getting a lot of buzz is Son of Saul by Laszlo Nemes which won the 2nd place Grand Jury Prize as it's from someone new as I have no idea what it's about. Finally, there's the Palme d'Or winner in Jacques Audiard's Dheepan which I have heard about but wasn't sure if it was coming out this year. I'm happy that Audiard won as he is one of the finest filmmakers working today as this film once again plays into the struggles of outsiders.

Now that the festival and the prizes have been given out. The marathon has come to an end as I would say this year's marathon was a major improvement over last year as there were more diverse films this year as well as those that really stood out. Though I was originally going to include one of my Blind Spots for the marathon, last-minute changes forced me to whittle the marathon down to 14 films as I'm pretty tired at this point. It did start off well with Festen and ended appropriately with CQ with another re-watch in Gimme Shelter being a highlight of the marathon. Now it's time to announce the winners of the fictional prizes in my marathon.

The Palme d'Or goes to..... Mommy

After seeing this during the late moments of the marathon, there was no question that any other film in the marathon wasn't going to beat this one. I've become a recent convert of the cult of Xavier Dolan as I know now why he is so fucking awesome. It is truly an enthralling and powerful film that isn't afraid of making anyone uncomfortable nor was it afraid to present something in an odd film format. Xavier Dolan isn't even in his mid-20s yet is making the kind of films that lives up to the works of the masters. The performances of Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clement, and Antoine-Olivier Pilon are just astonishing as if I was the jury at the festival. I would give the Palme d'Or to all 3 actors and to Xavier Dolan. Plus, because of that film. I'll never get Oasis' Wonderwall out of my head.

The 2nd Place Grand Jury Prize goes to.... The Headless Woman

This was definitely one of the more entrancing and provocative films of the marathon as it is clear that Lucrecia Martel is among the group of female filmmakers who is definitely trying to change the game. It's a film that didn't need to very much but Martel manages to find a story about a woman unraveling emotionally and mentally because of a hit-and-run accident she might've caused. It's a film that plays into the social divide in Argentina into how a woman's family is trying to shield her from what she did as the incident took place near the canals of where the poor lived. It's a very intriguing film as Lucrecia Martel is someone that needs more exposure.

The 3rd Place Jury Prize goes to.... Force Majeure

This was definitely a film that didn't let go from the beginning and Ruben Ostlund's story of a family vacation goes horribly wrong due to a near-death experience is certainly compelling from start to finish. Especially as it plays into the reaction of human nature and what people should do in light of these situations. Armed with a great cast and inspired usage of the French Alps location, it's a film that manages to be so much more as it is as well as being a family drama that confronts the idea of what parents should do in these horrendous situations.

The Best Director Prize Goes to... Victor Erice for El Sur

Arguably the Spanish cinema equivalent to Terrence Malick in terms of making films infrequently and with such beauty, Victor Erice's work in El Sure is just astonishing. It's the work of a man that clearly knows how to frame an image and capture something that is very naturalistic and entrancing. Erice is definitely a master in the art of filmmaking as his sophomore feature really shows why he is needed so often and why it's frustrating he doesn't work very often.

The Best Actor Prize Goes to... Philippe Nahon for I Stand Alone

Nahon's performance in Gaspar Noe's film is definitely unforgettable. It's also one that isn't afraid to make anyone uncomfortable. While it's largely based on internal monologues, it's a performance that is frightening yet very uncompromising of a man that is just being cast aside from society in his attempt to find redemption.

The Best Actress Prize Goes to... Maria Onetto for The Headless Woman

Onetto's performance is key to the success of Lucrecia Martel's film as it is also surprisingly restrained and low-key. Even as it's a performance that is just very haunting in the way Onetto portrays a middle-aged dentist from a mid-upper class family who is trying to make sense of what is happening. There is this sense of internal anguish into the role as is just mesmerizing to watch.

Best Screenplay Prize Goes to... Garry Michael White for Scarecrow

Garry Michael White's screenplay was a major standout in Jerry Schatzberg's film as it was this very unconventional road movie. Notably as it paired two men who couldn't be very different from anyone else. Yet, it's a script that is full of wit and character study as it would allow these two men to rely on each other and grow with each other in their dream to find something that would give them a future.

The Technical Jury Prize Goes to.... Jose Luis Alcaine for El Sur

Alcaine's cinematography for the film is definitely gorgeous as it's usage of naturalistic and available light. It plays into what is expected in Victor Erice's work as it presents a world from the perspective of a young girl and her relationship with her father. It is some of the best photography that is seen to a film that isn't shown very often.

The Special Jury Prize Goes to.... Jacques Tati for Parade

Tati is definitely a master performer as his final feature film is definitely a celebration into the world of performance and mime. It's a film that is unquestionably entertaining where it's Tati at the center of it not just as a performer but also as the ringmaster in creating something that feels very lively while letting the spectators be part of the show.

And now, the ranking for the eight remaining films of the marathon:

4. El Sur

While it may not have been the whole film that Victor Erice had intended to tell, it is still one of the most gorgeous and touching films about a relationship between a father and his daughter. Even as it is presented with a sensitivity and a naturalistic tone that is just exotic and evocative.

5. Scarecrow

Jerry Schatzberg's 1973 Palme d'Or-award winning film is a very unlikely yet witty buddy-road comedy that plays into two very different men with the same dream to make something of themselves. Featuring top-notch performances from Al Pacino and Gene Hackman, it's one of the more underrated films of the 1970s as it is filled with unique character study and some hilarious moments.

6. I Stand Alone

Gaspar Noe's feature-film debut might not be as intense as the work he would do later on but it is still quite extreme in terms of its exploration of alienation and prejudice. Especially as Noe's film has a nihilistic edge into what Philippe Nahon's character would endure to get back on those that wronged him.

7. Parade

Jacques Tati's final feature film is definitely full-on entertainment. It's not just a film where the audience is part of the show but it's a film that is more about the celebration of performance no matter how silly it is. Even as a man getting chased by a mule manages to bring in some of the big laughs.

8. Sweet Charity

Bob Fosse's directorial debut in the world of film is a stylish yet lavish remake of Federico Fellini's Nights of Cabiria as it is a hell of a debut film. Especially with Shirley MacLaine in the leading role as she manages to put a lot of charm and vulnerability into her performance.

9. Miss Julie

Alf Sjoberg's adaptation of August Strindberg's play is an intriguing study of repressed love and desires as well as social and class divides. Especially as it's a film that manages to be a provocative story about people who have these expectations of who they are and what they're supposed to do as it plays into the conflict of their desires.

10. Othello

Orson Welles' take on William Shakespeare's play is a mesmerizing yet stylish take on the tragedy with Welles playing the lead role. Yet, it is Michael McLiammoir's performance as Iago that is really what makes the film so interesting in the way he deceives and plots his way to destroy the titular character.

11. Climates

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's study of a relationship disintegrating in the course of three seasons is definitely the most challenging film of the marathon. Largely due to its minimalist plot and unwillingness to play by the rules as it is not an easy film to watch but certainly an engrossing one.

Well, that is it for the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and its marathon. It was definitely fun though tiring as I've updated my Palme d'Or list of what I've seen so far. Definitely will change again maybe later this year or in next year's marathon. Until then, Au Revoir.

© thevoid99 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: CQ

(Played Out of Competition at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival)

Written and directed by Roman Coppola, CQ is the story of a young filmmaker/editor who is asked by producers to finish a sci-fi film for them as he would fall in love with the film’s leading lady. It’s a film where a young man is given the chance to make a movie while he copes with his own personal life and his own desires to make personal films. Starring Jeremy Davies, Angela Lindvall, Elodie Bouchez, Giancarlo Giannini, Massimo Ghini, Jason Schwartzman, Billy Zane, and Gerard Depardieu. CQ is a stylish yet exuberant film from Roman Coppola.

Set in late 1960s France, the film revolves around a young American filmmaker who is working as an editor/second unit director for a revered filmmaker into sci-fi story until he is eventually asked to take over and finish the film once the original director is fired. There, he becomes fascinated by the film’s leading lady while trying to make his own personal films based on his own confessions about his life as his relationship with his French girlfriend starts to fall apart. It’s a film that sort of spoofs sci-fi films but also plays into the world of 1960s film culture and studio politics as some of it is based on real-life incidents and battles of the film’s writer/director Roman Coppola’s father Francis Ford Coppola.

Coppola’s screenplay plays into the conflicts and desires of its lead Paul Ballard (Jeremy Davies) who is happy in taking the chance to work for the director Andrezej (Gerard Depardieu) on this sci-fi film called Codename: Dragonfly that is starring an American newcomer by the name of Valentine (Angela Lindvall). Yet, when Andrezej is fired from the production by producer Enzo (Giancarlo Giannini), Paul ponders about what to do as the film stock and cameras he borrows to make his own film which is a documentary about himself. Even as he is eventually asked to take over for Andrezej to finish the film as it would be the moment where he is given the chance to make a film. Yet, the script plays into Paul’s conflict about what he wants to do as well as honor the intentions of the man whom he has replaced. Even as he copes with studio politics and his own personal life along with a saboteur who is trying to stop Paul from finishing the film.

Coppola’s direction is quite stylish not just in his varied approach to the films that were being made at the time but also in displaying the idea of what it was like in the world of films in the late 1960s. Notably as he would model much of the ideas of the sci-fi movie based on other film as it does pay tribute to films like Barbarella while Paul’s own film is definitely inspired by the French New Wave. Coppola brings in a lot of unique camera angles and compositions to the film while much of it is shot in Paris with some of it shot on location in Rome. Coppola’s usage of close-ups and medium shots are evident with a few wide shots that is used as he plays into the world of filmmaking as well as a man coming to grips with his own life. Even as his relationship with his stewardess girlfriend Marlene (Elodie Bouchez) is at a crossroads as she would raise questions about the film he’s making. It plays into Paul coming to terms with what he wants as a filmmaker but also as a person as he also deals with the blurring between reality and fantasy. Overall, Coppola creates a very witty yet engaging film about a young man getting the chance to make a film.

Cinematographer Robert Yeoman does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography as it is very colorful for some of the scenes made for the film-within-the-film as well as its usage of lights for some of the interiors and nighttime exterior scenes. Editors Leslie Jones does brilliant work with the editing as it is very stylish with its jump-cuts, slow-motion cuts, and other moments that play into Paul‘s point-of-view as an editor. Production designer Dean Tavoularis, with art directors Luc Chalon and Oshin Yeghiazariantz and set decorator Philippe Tulure, does fantastic work with the design of the Dragonfly character‘s spaceship and the set of the film as well as the apartment Paul and Marlene live in and other sets to play into the world of film.

Costume designer Judy Shrewsbury does excellent work with the costumes to create that look of late 1960s cinema as well as the clothes of the Dragonfly character. Sound designer Richard Beggs and sound editor Michael Kirchberger do superb work with the sound in some of the sound effects created for the film-within-a-film as well as what goes on during a production as well as the sound of old cameras. The film’s music by the French electronic band Mellow is wonderful for its playful and 60s-based score with elements of electronic and pop music in the mix while music supervisor Brian Reitzell brings in a fun soundtrack consisting of Euro-pop songs from Claude Francois, Jacques Dutronc, Paul Piot, Francesco Pennino, and Antonello Paliotti.

The casting by Blythe Cappello, Beatrice Kruger, and Juliette Menager is great as it features small appearances from Romain Duris as a young filmmaker, production designer Dean Tavoularis as a viewer of the unfinished film Andrezej is making, Sofia Coppola as Enzo’s mistress in Rome, L.M. Kit Carson as a fantasy critic observing what Paul is making, Natalia Vodianova as a model-girlfriend of filmmaker Felix de Marco, Silvio Muccino as an editor friend of Paul in Pippo, and Dean Stockwell in a terrific one-scene performance as Paul’s father who visits him at an airport where he talks about a dream that would relate to a possible doppelganger of Paul. John Phillip Law is wonderful as a corporate figurehead in the movie as he would hire Dragonfly to retrieve a weapon while Billy Zane is superb as that movie’s antagonist Mr. E as a revolutionary trying to bring peace and love back to the world.

Jason Schwartzman is hilarious as the kitsch filmmaker Felix de Marco as he is a character that is sort of based on Roger Corman as a young filmmaker who makes cheesy B-movies. Massimo Ghini is excellent as the producer Fabrizio who is convinced that Paul can save the movie as he is the more reasonable producer who knows talent. Giancarlo Giannini is fantastic as the producer Enzo who is not happy with Andrezej’s initial rough cut as he is full of life as he is based on the producer Dino De Laurentiis. Gerard Depardieu is amazing as the filmmaker Andrezej who believes that his film will be revolutionary until his ideas of how he wants to end it has him fired as some of his antics is based on other filmmakers including Roman Coppola’s father Francis Ford Coppola.

Elodie Bouchez is brilliant as Paul’s girlfriend Marlene who copes with Paul’s obsession with his own film as well as feeling neglected due to Paul’s work. Angela Lindvall is radiant as the actress Valentine who plays the lead role of Dragonfly in the film as she has a striking sensuality for the role while showing someone who is really just a normal American woman. Finally, there’s Jeremy Davies in a remarkable performance as Paul Ballard as a young filmmaker trying to make his own personal film while given the chance to become a filmmaker in finishing this sci-fi film as he copes with his own personal issues and desires as Davies brings a quiet humility into his role.

CQ is a phenomenal film from Roman Coppola that features a great cast led by Jeremy Davies and an ode to the world of 60s cinema. It’s a film that isn’t just exciting and full of humor but it’s also a film that showcases cinema at a crucial time as it goes from the world of studio-based films to the more personal work that would occur in the 1970s. In the end, CQ is a spectacular film from Roman Coppola.

© thevoid99 2015

Saturday, May 23, 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: The Headless Woman

(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival)

Written and directed by Lucrecia Martel, La Mujer sin cabeza (The Headless Woman) is the story of a middle-aged woman who has an emotional breakdown following a hit-and-run incident that leaves her guilt-ridden and questioning if she really did do something drastic. The film is an exploration of a woman falling apart by something she committed as she starts to wonder what she had hit as the film is also an exploration on mental illness. Starring Maria Onetto, Claudia Cantero, Ines Efron, Cesar Bordon, Daniel Genoud, Guillermo Arengo, and Maria Vaner. La Mujer sin cabeza is an eerie yet engrossing film from Lucrecia Martel.

The film is a simple story about middle-aged woman from a mid-upper class environment who committed a hit-and-run accident as she has no clue what she hit as she starts to unravel in the days following this event. It’s a film that doesn’t have much of plot as it plays into a woman coming apart as she starts to lose her memory while wondering if she did kill someone or something on the way home. During the course of an entire week, the woman named Veronica (Maria Onetto) copes with not just what she had done but also her surroundings as the people around her try to comfort her and such. It’s a film that doesn’t play into a traditional structure other than its first act which establishes who Veronica is and what happened on this day driving from the country into the city where she is from.

After the accident where she seemed to only have a minor head injury, things start to go wrong as she would unravel quietly. Even as her family either doesn’t notice or deny that she even did anything in an attempt to keep things normal. It’s in these moments where the film sort of becomes a mystery but it’s really a drama as writer/director Lucrecia Martel is more concerned about Veronica’s state of mind and her surroundings as it relates to the social divide of where she lived and in the country near the canals where the accident took place. It adds to Veronica’s own sense of questioning about what had happened and if she really did something as her emotional and mental state becomes more troubling. Though the people around her such as her family aren’t bad people, their actions into making Veronica believe that she didn’t do anything wrong really does a disservice to a woman that is falling apart.

Martel’s direction is very low-key and restrained as it is more about a woman that is teetering on the edge as Martel’s approach to framing her actors in a scene and the compositions are more in tune with minimalist filmmaker rather than something more stylish. There are very few moments of style in the film as Martel aims for something that is more intimate and engaging as much of composition are presented in close-ups and medium shots with a few wide shots. Still, Martel is more concerned with what is going through Veronica as she would shoot scenes inside a car as if she was a passenger or focus on something where Veronica is at the edge of the frame while something is happening in the background as she listens. The drama also has Martel play into some of the social divide that occurs as there’s scenes where Veronica is in the car while watching where the working class and the poor live in as it plays to how detached she is.

It is a moment where Veronica wants to do something but she is often forced to go back to her world of comfort and luxury. Martel doesn’t really want to say anything heavy-handed or make some kind of huge social commentary with these scenes. Instead, it plays into the awareness of a world that is very real to Veronica and how the people around her are trying to shield her from any kind of responsibility over her actions despite their good intentions. Overall, Martel creates a very

Cinematographer Barbara Alverez does amazing work with the film‘s very low-key yet colorful cinematography with the approach to interior lighting where it‘s about naturalistic lights as well as some of the nighttime interior/exterior scenes where it maintains a mood into how in the dark Veronica is with her surroundings. Editor Miguel Schverdfinger does nice work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward with a few stylish cuts as it plays more into the sense of guilt and uncertainty in Veronica as much of it involves a lot of long takes and methodical pacing. Art director Maria Eugenia Sueiro does excellent work with the look of Veronica’s home and the quaint home of her relatives as well as the places she and her relatives go to.

Costume designer Julio Suarez does terrific work with the costumes from the posh yet casual clothing that Veronica wears as well as the look of her family and the working-class people who do things for her. The sound work of Guido Berenblum, Paula Dalgarando, and Mariano Rosa is brilliant for the sparse textures of the sound in the locations as well as the scene of the hit-and-run which comes out in a very unexpected way. The film’s music by Maria Ainstein is wonderful as it’s very low-key in various parts of the film as it’s just mostly ambient textures while much of the music in the film is played on location as it ranges from pop to folk music of Argentina.

The casting by Natalia Smirnoff is fantastic as it features notable small roles from Maria Vaner as Veronica’s aunt Lala who often muses about dead relatives, Ines Efron as Veronica’s youngest daughter Candita who is a bit spoiled and moody, Daniel Genoud as her lover Juan Manuel who tries to shield her from what happened, and Guillermo Arengo as her brother Manuel who would fill in for her work as a dentist and to try and cover things up for her. Claudia Cantero is superb as Veronica’s cousin Josefina who would spend time with Veronica while either being oblivious or in denial over what Veronica did. Cesar Bordon is terrific as Veronica’s husband Marcos who is quite caring despite all of the work he has to do as he would use his connections to shield Veronica over what happened. Finally, there’s Maria Onetto in a radiant performance as Veronica as a middle-aged dentist whose life and mental state would unravel following a hit-and-run accident that she possibly had committed as it’s a very eerie and restrained performance of a woman questioning what is happening to her and everything that surrounds her as it is a very chilling performance.

La Mujer sin cabeza is a remarkable film from Lucrecia Martel that features an exhilarating performance from Maria Onetto. The film isn’t just a provocative story of a woman anguished by guilt that would have her lose sight of her world but also it plays into a woman coming to grips with her life and the social divide around her. In the end, La Mujer sin cabeza is a phenomenal film from Lucrecia Martel.

Lucrecia Martel Films: La Cienaga - (The Holy Girl) - (Zama)

© thevoid99 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: Parade

(Played Out of Competition at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival)

Written, directed, and starring Jacques Tati, Parade is a film in which Tati serves as the ringmaster and as a clown in a circus where it plays into the interaction between audience and performers. The film serves as a testament to the world of entertainment as it also shows these performances from the perspective of the audiences. The result is an exciting and exuberant film from Jacques Tati.

Shot on location in Sweden as it was filmed for Swedish television in 1973, the film is essentially a circus performance where audience and performers come together to do a show led by Jacques Tati. It is there where Tati not only celebrates the art of mime and performance which he largely based his work on but also allows an audience of young and old to see it in a modern fashion. With the aid of many acrobats, mime performers, gymnasts, jugglers, artists, and musicians, Tati puts on a show that isn’t just whimsical but also heartfelt as it plays into his love of mime and performance. Tati would do some of his own solo performances in the show while letting others do their acts. At the same time, the audience would participate as a middle-aged man would try to get an opportunity to ride a donkey with hilarious results.

Since there’s not much of a script, Tati allows the film to be presented in various formats such as video, 16mm, and 35mm where it has a look that is quite colorful and energetic. Even as Tati would shoot scenes behind-the-scenes where he would converse with his performers on what to do next as the audience themselves are watching. It’s a moment where the fourth wall is broken as it allows the audience to be part of the show as Tati always have the camera focused on two young kids who start off being either disinterested or unsure of what to think of the show. Yet, they become engaged by what is happening as there’s a lot of silliness and exuberance that occurs in these performances. Notably as there’s performers who pretend to be musicians and do silly gymnastic stunts along with jugglers and musicians that add a lot of excitement to these performances.

Tati’s direction also displays a fluidity to the camera work as it was shot in these multiple formats by cinematographers Jean Badal and Gunnar Fischer. Even as Tati knows when to shoot the audience and see their reaction to the performance while having cardboard black-and-white figures also play the role of the audience. It has this blur over what is real and what is fiction as the audience themselves could also be playing fictional roles. With the aid of editors Sophie Tatischeff, Per Carlesson, Siv Lundgren, Jonny Mair, and Aline Asseo, Tati is able to keep things lively as it manages to be straightforward in its approach to cutting. Sound recordist Bengt Nordwall does excellent work in capturing not just the excitement of the audience but also in the sounds that occur in the performances. The film’s music by Francois Bronett is a joyous mix of orchestral dancehall, brass, flamenco, and some rock music to help present the diversity of the performances that occur in the film.

Parade is a spectacular film from Jacques Tati. It’s a film that manages to be thoroughly entertaining as well as bring in some big laughs to anyone from a child to an adult. It’s also a film that doesn’t just celebrate the world of mimes and circus but also allows the audience to be part of the spectacle. In the end, Parade is a dazzling film from Jacques Tati.

Jacques Tati Films: Jour de Fete - Monsieur Hulot's Holiday - Mon Oncle - Playtime - (Trafic) - (The Auteurs #49: Jacques Tati)

© thevoid99 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: Othello (1952)

(Co-Winner of the Palme d’Or w/ Two Cents Worth of Hope at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the play by William Shakespeare, Othello is the story of a Moorish general whose life unravels by the deceit of a jealous captain who is eager to destroy him. Directed and starring Orson Welles with a script by Welles and Jean Sacha, the film is an interpretation of the tragedy that plays into a man whose life of success and praise is destroyed by a man whose jealousy would undo many things. Also starring Micheal MacLiammoir, Suzanne Cloutier, and Robert Coote. Othello is a riveting and entrancing film from Orson Welles.

Set in Venice, the film revolves around a Moorish general who would succeed in the eyes of leaders as he would marry a senator’s daughter only to spur the jealousy and anger of an ensign who believes he had been passed over as he decides to destroy the life of Othello. It’s a film that isn’t just about deceit and hatred but also paranoia as the character of Othello would unravel by these lies created by the man who is jealous of him in Iago (Micheal MacLiammoir). The film’s screenplay by Orson Welles, with additional work from Jean Sacha, wouldn’t just explore Iago’s motivations but also in helping his friend Roderigo (Robert Coote) who is angry that Othello has managed to wed Desdemona (Suzanne Cloutier) whom Roderigo had feelings for. By making Othello believe that Desdemona is having an affair with his lieutenant and close friend Cassio (Michael Laurence), Iago would set all of his plans in motion in ruining Othello’s life.

Orson Welles’ direction is quite stylish not just in its look and approach to compositions with the usage of slanted angles. It’s also in how he would present the drama as it was set in a large stage where he would use many locations such as Venice, Morocco, Rome, and Tuscany since it was filmed sporadically for three years. The film opens and ends with a funeral procession that is shot with a large degree of style as it relates to the tragedy of what would happen to Othello as it sets the everything in motion. Shooting on these different locations, Welles is able to make something that does feel quite grand on a visual scale while maintaining something that is intimate with his close-ups and medium shots. The way he would direct his actors in a setting would add to the theatricality of the film where he knows where to put them in the frame or how they would act out in a situation.

While there are elements in the film that are quite chaotic since it does relate to the sporadic shooting schedule due to financial reasons. It does have some charm into what Welles was trying to do as it has a sense of energy to the story. Even as there are flaws in the film such as the post-production sync where some of the dialogue that is spoken doesn’t match entirely with what the actors are saying. It plays into not just the film’s odd eccentric tone but also into the drama as it would intensify into its third act as it involves the full extent of Iago’s deceit that would eventually lead to Othello’s own downfall. Overall, Welles creates a very intoxicating and engrossing film about a man betrayed and deceived by a jealous man.

Cinematographers G.R. Aldo, Anchise Brizzi, George Fanto, Alberto Fusi, and Oberdan Troiani do amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white cinematography with its approach to lighting in the interiors and be able to match many of the different locations to make the film feel like it‘s in one place for the most part. Editors Jeno Csepreghy, Renzo Lucidi, William Morton, and Jean Sacha do superb work with the editing to bring in some stylish cuts from the usage of still images and other odd rhythmic cuts to play into the drama and the messiness of the production. Production designers Luigi Scaccianoce and Alexandre Trauner do fantastic work with the set design of the home of Othello and some of the characters to play into the intense period of the time as well as the castle where Othello runs his army.

Costume designer Maria De Matteis does nice work with the period clothes from the dress that Desdemona wears to the clothes of the men with their tights. The film’s music by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino and Alberto Barberis is brilliant for its mixture of string-based folk instrument to play into some of the drama to the orchestral elements in the film that helps intensify the drama that occurs in the film.

The film’s phenomenal cast include some notable small roles from Doris Dowling as Cassio’s mistress Bianca, Hilton Edwards as Desdemona’s father Brabanito, Nicholas Bruce as Desdemona’s cousin Lodovico, and Fay Compton in a terrific performance as Iago’s lover and Desdemona’s caretaker Emilia who would have a scene-stealing moment in the film’s third act. Michael Laurence is superb as Cassio who is a loyal friend of Othello that becomes a victim of Iago’s deceit. Robert Coote is excellent as Roderigo who joins Iago in the plot against Othello in the hopes that he could claim Desdemona though much of his dialogue is dubbed by Welles.

Suzanne Cloutier is wonderful as Desdemona as Othello’s wife who is unaware of what is happening to him as she tries to convince him that she didn’t do anything wrong. Micheal McLiammoir is brilliant as Iago as an ensign who is angry that he’s been passed over as he would deceive and destroy Othello any way he can as MacLiammoir brings some charm and determination into his role. Finally, there’s Orson Welles in an amazing performance as Othello where Welles brings in that bravado and larger-than-life persona of the character but also has him display some humility to convey the vulnerability in the character.

Othello is a remarkable film from Orson Welles that features great performances from Welles and Micheal MacLiammoir. It’s a film that doesn’t just present one of William Shakespeare’s play into this study of tragedy and deceit into something that is very stylish. It also plays into Welles’ interest in man and how one could fall through petty jealousy and hatred. In the end, Othello is a sensational film from Orson Welles.

Orson Welles Films: Citizen Kane - The Magnificent Ambersons - The Stranger (1946 film) - The Lady from Shanghai - (Macbeth (1948 film)) - (Mr. Arkadian) - Touch of Evil - The Trial (1962 film) - (Chimes at Midnight) - (The Immortal Story) - F for Fake - (Filming Othello) - (The Other Side of the Wind)

© thevoid99 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: Mommy (2014 film)

(Co-Winner of the Jury Prize w/ Goodbye to Language at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival)

Written, edited, costume designed, and directed by Xavier Dolan, Mommy is the story of a widow who is trying to raise her teenage son as she seeks the help from her neighbor where things improve but only for a brief moment. The film is an examination into a relationship between a mother and her teenage son who is very outgoing and rebellious. Starring Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, and Suzanne Clement. Mommy is an astonishing yet intense film from Xavier Dolan.

The film revolves around a widowed mother who is trying her best to raise her ADHD son who is known for being violent and very troubled as they move in to a new place where they get the help of a neighbor who would bring the best in both of them. It’s a film that isn’t just an exploration into a troubled relationship between a mother and her teenage son but also a film that plays into a mother trying to get her own life but also wonder if there’s hope for her son. The film also plays into their situation as it relates to a fictionalized law that would play into what Diane “Die” Despres (Anne Dorval) would have to do for her son Steve (Antoine Oliver-Pilon).

Xavier Dolan’s screenplay doesn’t exactly follow a traditional structure as it is very loose with its narrative as it is more of a character study between Die and Steve’s relationship. Die is a woman that is still trying to hold on to her youth through the clothes she wears as the film begins with her in an accident where she loses her car and is in even worse debt. Adding to the chaos is Steve who has been kicked out of an institution over an incident that he caused that would later haunt both of them as mother and son are forced to start over. In this quiet suburb where the uncontrollable Steve and the overwhelmed Die live, they meet a new neighbor in Kyla (Suzanne Clement) who is a schoolteacher on break as she also has a terrible stutter. Kyla’s presence not only makes things easier but also add a new dynamic to the family as she would be Steve’s teacher and be able to control him while Die would work.

The relationship of the two women and a teenage boy would be an intriguing one as Kyla is someone that is in need to feel alive again even though she has a family. Yet, she remains haunted by something in her family life that doesn’t allow her to connect with her family as the presence of Die and Steve would help her. Die would feel easy with Kyla around to watch over Steve as it would give her the chance to find some work as well as live her own life. Yet, one notable flaw about Die is that she can be irresponsible and selfish as she is also trying to be young. For Steve, he is someone that is very troubled as it is clear that not having a father has affected him to the point where he’s acting out. Yet, he’s not really a bad kid but someone that is in need of attention as there’s a key scene in its third act where Steve is pushed to the edge as he is just trying to do something fun without harming anyone. Yet, it’s a moment that would force Die to ponder not just her own future but also Steve’s future if is ever going to have one.

Dolan’s direction is very unique not just for the intimacy that he creates but also in the aspect ratio in which he would create for this film. Shot in a 1:1 aspect ratio which is similar to what is often presented in cell phone video cameras through social media. It’s a format that is very entrancing on a visual scale where it does a lot to bring a lot of coverage to some of the film’s close-ups and medium shots. It’s also used a visual tool to display some of the emotional moments as it relates to Die and Steve’s relationship. Even as it has something that feels very claustrophobic in its framing where it plays into something that is unsettling and also scary due to some of Steve’s violent outbursts. Most notably a scene where he buys his mother groceries and a gift as Die is convinced that he stole those things as the two have a fight.

There’s a couple moments in the film where the film is presented in a traditional widescreen format as it plays into not just the happy moments involving Die, Steve, and Kyla but also in a sequence as it plays into what Die hopes for Steve to have in the future. The frame would open and close in these moments as it would intensify by the film’s third act as it relates to not just an incident that Steve caused early in the film but also the pressure for Die to make sure that her son doesn’t get into serious trouble. Also serving as the film’s editor and costume designer, Dolan maintains that sense of energy as it relates to Steve where he does use some fast-cuts but also knows when to slow things down as he does put in a lot style into the editing. As for the costumes, it also adds to the film’s visual tone as it shows who these people are where both Die and Steve are eager to look and feel young while Kyla is more conservative to play into her shy personality.

Still, Dolan maintains something is lively but also wondrous as it plays into this turbulent and complicated relationship between a mother and son as well as this outsider who tries to bring the best in both of them. Even as someone like Die is trying to balance what she wants in her own life and the hope that she has for her son while knowing that if things don’t go her own way. There is this law Overall, Dolan crafts a very chilling yet exhilarating film about a mother trying to help and ground her already troubled son.

Cinematographer Andre Turpin does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography to play up the film‘s very colorful and entrancing look from its locations in Quebec to the usage of lights for some of the film‘s interior settings. Art director Colombe Ray and set decorator Jean-Charles Claveau do fantastic work with the look of Die and Steve‘s home which is a bit of mess as it plays into their turbulent relationship. Makeup designer Maina Militza does nice work with the look of Die’s hair and some of the makeup she wears to look young. Sound designer Sylvain Brassard does brilliant work with the sound to capture some of the chaotic moments that occur in the drama along with some of the livelier moments in the film. The film’s music by Noia is excellent for its somber yet enchanting ambient score that plays into the drama while the soundtrack features a diverse array of music from Sarah McLachlan, Celine Dion, Dido, Counting Crows, Beck, Lana Del Rey, Andrea Bocelli, Simple Plan, Oasis, and many others as it’s one of the film’s highlights.

The film’s cast includes some notable small roles from Michele Lituac as the institution chief who would release Steve to his mother, Isabelle Nelisse as Kyla’s daughter, Patrick Huard as an attorney Die would go out with in the film’s third act, and Alexandre Goyette as Kyla’s husband Patrick who would watch some of Kyla’s time with Die and Steve from afar. Suzanne Clement is incredible as Kyla as this woman with a stutter who befriends Die and Steve as she would bring a great sense of balance into their lives as well as being able to defuse some of the tension as it’s a very understated yet intoxicating performance.

Antoine-Olivier Pilon is remarkable as Steve as a young, hyperactive teenager who is trying to please his mother while being very violent and troubled as it’s a performance that is quite complex as he brings a lot of layers to his character. Finally, there’s Anne Dorval in a phenomenal performance as Die as this woman that is trying to retain her youth as well as be a responsible mother where Dorval brings a sense of charm and energy to her performance as she also be just as intense as Pilon as it is really one hell of a performance.

Mommy is a magnificent film from Xavier Dolan that features top-notch performances from Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, and Suzanne Clement. The film isn’t just one of Dolan’s more accessible features but also an engaging story about a tumultuous yet wild relationship between a mother and her son. Even as it manages to be told with such style as well as not being afraid of making the audience feel very uncomfortable. In the end, Mommy is an outstanding film from Xavier Dolan.

Xavier Dolan Films: I Killed My Mother - Heartbeats - Laurence Anyways - (Tom at the Farm) - (Juste la fin du Monde) - (The Death and Life of John F. Donovan) - (The Auteurs #46: Xavier Dolan)

© thevoid99 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: Gimme Shelter

(Played Out of Competition at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin, Gimme Shelter is a film that chronicles the final weeks of the Rolling Stones’ American tour in late 1969 which would culminate in the disastrous Altamont Free Concert. The film documents the band on the road just as they were about to end a period in time for the band but it would end on a very dark note that would become infamous. The result is one of the most lively but also unsettling films about the Rolling Stones’ encounter with tragedy and chaos.

The film revolves around the Rolling Stones’ American tour in late 1969 just a few months following the death of founding guitarist Brian Jones who was replaced by Mick Taylor. To celebrate the tour’s success, the Stones planned to have a free concert in San Francisco which was supposed to take place at Golden Gate Park but circumstances forced plans to change where the Stones and their staff choose the Altamont Speedway as their final location for their free concert on December 6, 1969 with the help of Woodstock concert organizer Michael Lang. What would happen wouldn’t just end the 60s on a very dark note but it would also haunt the Stones for many years as they would embark into a very troubling period.

While the film isn’t just about the band’s tour and the infamous concert at Altamont, it is also about the band taking time to record material for what would become their 1971 album Sticky Fingers. Much of it is seen by members of the Stones with the Maysles Brothers as they’re reviewing all of the footage in the editing room. Much of the film’s direction by the Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin not only have singer Mick Jagger and drummer Charlie Watts review the footage but also see and hear things about what had happened. Most notably where Jagger watches the press conference of the band announcing the free concert where a journalist asked if Mick is satisfied not just sexually but also philosophically and financially. At the conference, Mick would say yes but his response from watching his own answer is “rubbish”.

Much of the direction of the film, where the Maysles serve as their own cinematographers, is very direct as it’s shot with hand-held cameras to play into every moment that is happening. Even as they would capture not just some of the performances of the Stones but also a performance of Ike and Tina Turner doing Otis Redding’s I’ve Been Loving You for Too Long during a show where they were opening for the Stones as Mick would watch that performance in the editing room. The performances of the Stones are very lively as the Maysles capture something that the band is famous for as it’s set in a controlled environment as opposed to what would happen at Altamont.

The film would move back-and-forth from the Stones watching the footage to the events that was happening in late 1969 which would culminate with the show at Altamont as performances from the Flying Burrito Brothers and Jefferson Airplane would show the two bands performing as the latter would be ravaged by chaos. Even as Airplane vocalist Marty Balin would try to stop a fight only to get knocked out. What happens is not just a lack of control that is emerging but also fear as Maysles brothers and several camera operators (including George Lucas) would show some of the things that are happening as it’s the opposite of what the 60s are about. There’s elements of violence and unruliness where it would culminate with the Stones’ performance as they’re trying to get people to cool out.

With the aid of editors Ellen Giffard, Robert Farren, Joanne Burke, and Kent McKinney along with a large number of sound crew including Walter Murch, the film captures not just through some of the brilliance of the performance but also the sense of dread that emerged into the Stones’ performance at Altamont. Most notably the scene where Jagger asks David Maysles to reveal the footage of Meredith Hunter being killed as it is revealed that he was holding a gun. There is also a scene early in the film where Watts listens to a recollection from a member of the Hells Angels biker gang that did security for that concert as it also a dark moment into the mistake that the Stones made for that concert.

Gimme Shelter is a terrifying yet outstanding film from the Maysles Brothers and Charlotte Zwerin. It’s not just one of the finest films about the Rolling Stones in a period in their career but also one of the most eerie documentary films ever made. Especially as it captures a very dark moment that ended the decade on a very tragic note. In the end, Gimme Shelter is a spectacular film from Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin.

Related: Grey Gardens - Crossfire Hurricane

© thevoid99 2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: Scarecrow (1973 film)

(Co-Winner of the Palme d’Or w/ The Hireling at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Jerry Schatzberg and written by Garry Michael White, Scarecrow is the story of an ex-convict who teams up with a former sailor on a road trip to start a partnership. The film is an unconventional road movie that pairs two very different men who bond during a road trip as they each look to find something for themselves. Starring Gene Hackman, Al Pacino, Eileen Brennan, and Richard Lynch. Scarecrow is an offbeat yet engaging film from Jerry Schatzberg.

The film revolves around two very different men who are both going east as they team up to form a partnership where they deal with their different personalities and desires in life. It’s a film that doesn’t play by the conventions of a road movie since the two leads in this temperamental ex-convict and an energetic ex-sailor who don’t know each other as they meet on a road as they’re both trying to go east. Along the way, the two go into a series of misadventures and stops in a few cities where they both deal with their disparate personalities and goals. For the temperamental Max (Gene Hackman), he is eager to start a car wash business as he had been planning for years. For the former sailor Francis (Al Pacino), he hopes to go to Detroit to meet the child he had just discovered as he joins Max on the journey while hoping to work with him washing cars.

Garry Michael White’s screenplay doesn’t just play into the different personalities of Max and Francis but also these two guys who are likely to be the last group of guys that should work together. Yet, they come together due to the fact that they have no one else to work with as Max is a man who likes to plan things and needs to go to Pittsburgh to get the money that he needs. For Francis, Max is someone he can latch on to as he is someone that needs an older brother figure while Max realizes he needs Francis to control his temper as he often gets into fights which is why he went to prison for six years. Francis has spent a lot of years in sea as he is often carrying a box where it’s a gift to the child he has never known as he hopes to meet the kid and do the right thing. Though there’s moments where the friendship is tested, the two realize how much they mean to each other as they hope to reach the dream of doing something good for themselves.

Jerry Schatzberg’s direction is quite simple as it plays into two guys going on the road from the American west to the east as it’s an offbeat road film where two guys travel by being passengers in other cars or ride trains from city to city. It’s a film where Schatzberg does use a lot of wide shots for some of the film’s locations that is set in places like Detroit and Denver while maintaining something that is intimate with its usage of close-ups and medium shots. The film also has a looseness as it relates to the humor where there’s a scene of Max talking to a woman while Francis is trying to carry a door as he would slip. Schatzberg would also maintain some tension as it relates to the second act where Max and Francis are in prison where the latter befriends a fellow convict where things eventually go very wrong. Yet, it plays not just into the development of the two men as individuals but also as friends where they do whatever it takes to help each other. Even when they’re both directionless while yearning to reach the dream for a better future for themselves. Overall, Schatzberg creates a very witty yet enchanting film road film about two different men going on a journey to find a better life.

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography as it is filled with gorgeous colors and lighting for some of the interior scenes in the bars as well as scenes set at night along with some naturalistic images for the daytime exterior scenes. Editor Evan Lottman does nice work with the editing as it‘s quite straightforward while featuring some rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s intense moments such as Francis‘ encounter with a fellow convict. Production designer Albert Brenner does excellent work with the look of the home of Max’s sister as well as the prison he and Francis would go to following one of their antics.

Costume designer Jo Ynocencio does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s very low-key and casual to play into the personalities of the two characters. Sound editors Edward Beyer and Robert M. Reitano do superb work with the sound to play into some of the chaotic moments involving the two men at bars and other places they go to. The film’s music by Fred Myrow is wonderful for its mixture of folk and country to play into the humor as the soundtrack includes pieces from Aretha Franklin and Mike Nesmith of the Monkees.

The film’s amazing cast includes some notable small performances from Richard Hackman as a prison officer, Rutanya Alda as a woman in a camper that gives Max and Francis a ride, Eileen Brennan as a woman Max gets into a tiff with at a bar, Dorothy Tristan as Max’s sister Coley, Ann Wedgeworth as a friend of Coley who flirts with Max, and Penelope Allen as Francis’ ex-wife whom Francis is trying to reach as she finally appears late in the film. Richard Lynch is terrific as a convict named Riley who would befriend Francis in the middle of the film as well as gain the ire of Max.

Finally, there’s the duo of Gene Hackman and Al Pacino in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Max and Francis. Hackman brings an aggression and quirkiness to his role as Max as someone that is easily antagonized while trying to get things through. Pacino brings a childlike quality to Francis, who also has a nickname in Lion, as well as someone eager to grow up as Pacino brings a lot of humor to his role. Hackman and Pacino also have this chemistry together that is just fun to watch as they both bring unique personalities into their roles while creating something that is more of a brotherhood than a friendship as they are among the film’s highlights.

Scarecrow is a remarkable film from Jerry Schatzberg that features top-notch performances from Gene Hackman and Al Pacino. It’s an odd yet exhilarating road film that manages to be engaging and very funny thanks in part to Garry Michael White’s script and the gorgeous visuals of Vilmos Zsigmond. In the end, Scarecrow is a marvelous film from Jerry Schatzberg.

© thevoid99 2015