Friday, October 24, 2014

Prince of Darkness




Written and directed by John Carpenter, Prince of Darkness is the story of a priest who hires a professor and his students to investigate a canister where he believes that inside this large canister is the spawn of Satan. The film is an exploration into the concept of the underworld and whether a group of people can prove that Satan exists. Starring Donald Pleasence, Jameson Parker, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun, and Lisa Blount. Prince of Darkness is a riveting and chilling film from John Carpenter.

The film explores the idea of Satan if he exists as strange things happen where a priest asks a professor and his students to study this mysterious canister which he believes has the spawn of Satan inside. Along the way, the professor and his students not only uncover some of the mysteries inside the canister but also the strange behavior of inhabitants outside of this church who seemed to be entranced by the powers of this canister. Eventually, characters get either killed off or become part of this emerging cult due to their encounter with this canister forcing those to survive and fight off this mysterious thing that is happening.

John Carpenter’s screenplay, under the Martin Quartermass alias, doesn’t really go for any kind of traditional narrative structure but rather build up the sense of mystery as things start to unravel while most of the students and people inside the church are either dead or under the control of this mysterious substance. Even as fear begins to emerge in the priest (Donald Pleasence) who starts to gain doubt about his role while the professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) tries to make sense of everything. Yet, the priest and Birack do agree that whatever is in that canister is evil where the two and the remaining survivors try to deal with this awful situation. Even as a few of these students in Brian Marsh (Jameson Parker), Walter (Dennis Dun), and Catherine Danforth (Lisa Blount) each try to figure things out as well as observe what is going on around them.

Carpenter’s direction is pretty straightforward in terms of compositions and the atmosphere he creates as it largely takes place in an old church in Los Angeles. Much of Carpenter’s direction is about mood as the opening credits sequence plays into establishing the key characters and what they’re about to get into as the priest deals with the secret he now has to carry. Yet, Carpenter would include a few things of what to expect as they do come in head-on by the time the story takes place in and outside of the church where a lot of strange things happen.

Among them involve ants, beetles, and worms as they would add the sense of terror that would emerge. Even as little things become a big deal where characters who would encounter the mysterious canister start to act strangely as it involves characters being killed in the most gruesome ways. Even in a few scenes as it plays to a chilling climax involving the arrival of Satan’s spawn where the survivors have to take action or else be killed. Overall, Carpenter creates a very eerie yet engrossing film about a group of people trying to see if evil does exist.

Cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the way he creates some lighting schemes and mood for much of the film‘s interior setting on day and night as well as the grainy video footage that many of the characters would dream about. Editor Steve Mirkovich does amazing work with the editing to create some unique rhythmic cuts to play into the film‘s suspense and terror. Production designer Daniel A. Lomino and set decorator Rick Gentz do brilliant work with the look of the church with a lot of crosses inside of the place as well as the design of the canister.

Special effects makeup artist Mark Shostrom does fantastic work with some of the makeup effects including the look of the seed of Satan. Visual effects supervisor Robert Grasmere does superb work with the visual effects that includes some minimal moments that plays into the world of the supernatural. Sound editors Michael Hilkene and Val Kulkowsky do terrific work with the sound effects as well as some of the mixing and sound texture to play into its suspense. The film’s music by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth is wonderful for its eerie, electronic-based score that plays into the film’s suspense as the soundtrack also includes a song from Alice Cooper heard from a character’s walkman.

The casting by Linda Francis is phenomenal as it features some notable small roles from Alice Cooper as a street schizophrenic, Peter Jason as Birack’s colleague Dr. Leahy, Susan Blanchard as Catherine’s friend Kelly, Anne Howard as the radiologist Susan who would start the chain of events that occur in the film, Ann Yen as the Latin translator Lisa, Dirk Blocker and Ken Wright as a couple of students, Jesse Lawrence Ferguson as the student Calder who becomes troubled by his encounters with those who had previously encountered the canister, and Robert Gasmere as a student who tries to leave only to find himself in serious trouble. Dennis Dun is amazing as Walter as he is the film’s comic relief who is upset that he is forced to cancel a date to take part in this project as he says some of the film’s funniest lines.

Lisa Blount is fantastic as Catherine Danforth as a student who deals with the chaos that goes on as she is also a math theorist who becomes befuddled by the theories she’s presented. Jameson Parker is superb as Brian Marsh as a student who has a crush on Danforth while trying to make sense of what is happening as he is also a theorist in his own way. Donald Pleasance is excellent as the priest who invites Professor Birack to investigate the phenomenon with great reluctance and regret as he becomes to feel doubt over what might happen. Finally, there’s Victor Wong in a marvelous performance as Professor Howard Birack as this unconventional professor who tries to make sense of the phenomenon while dealing with the fact that it could be pure evil.

Prince of Darkness is a remarkable film from John Carpenter. Featuring a great cast as well as captivating stories about the idea of evil, the film is definitely one of Carpenter’s more underrated films in terms of what is expected in horror as well as what evil could do. In the end, Prince of Darkness is an extraordinarily scary film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: (Dark Star) - (Assault on Precinct 13) - (Halloween) - (Someone’s Watching Me!) - (Elvis) - (The Fog) - (Escape from New York) - The Thing - (Starman) - Big Trouble in Little China - They Live - (Memoirs of an Invisible Man) - (Body Bags) - (In the Mouth of Madness) - (Village of the Damned) - (Escape from L.A.) - (Vampires) - (Ghosts of Mars) - (The Ward)

© thevoid99 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014 Blind Spot Series: El Topo




Written, directed, set/costume designed, scored, and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky, El Topo is the story of a Mexican bandit who goes on a journey in search of enlightenment in a strange, surreal world. The film is a mish-mash of genres ranging from westerns to spiritual driven films inspired by Eastern philosophies and Christian symbolism as Jodorowsky plays the titular role. Also starring Brontis Jodorowsky, Mara Lorenzio, David Silva, Paula Romo, and Jacqueline Luis. El Topo is an off-the-wall yet extremely spectacular film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

The film explores the journey of a Mexican bandit who travels through the desert to find enlightenment as he deals with the drawbacks of his journey and his search for meaning in a world that is very troubled. It’s a film that doesn’t play by any rules where its first half is largely a surreal western where the man known as El Topo (the mole) is a master gunslinger who goes into this journey where he would eventually battle four masters to prove that he’s the best. Yet, it’s a journey fraught with doubts and decisions that has El Topo question that journey. The film’s second half plays into the aftermath of that journey where El Topo becomes an outsider living with a group of dwarves and people with deformities as he and his dwarf wife (Jacqueline Luis) look at a nearby town and see its ugliness.

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s screenplay doesn’t go for any kind of traditional structure as it’s more about a spiritual quest to find meaning as El Topo is being pushed to do things to become a legend only to gain doubt in his mission. While he is a skilled gunslinger who knows how to kill, he gets seduced by a woman named Mara (Mara Lorenzio) and he’s later joined by this mysterious woman in black (Paula Romo) who speaks with a man’s voice. Part of the unique aspect of the script is El Topo’s development as his mastery as a gunslinger gives him the belief that he’s a god. After his battle with these four different masters, he would later declare himself in the film’s second half as a man, not a god. Especially as the story shifts to several years later as he realizes where he is and what has happened to him. Even as he deals with all sorts of regrets and try to find redemption.

To describe Jodorowsky’s direction as strange and weird is really understating exactly what he presenting. While it is based on surrealism, there’s also a lot of spiritual symbolism that is prevalent in the film with images of crosses as well as dialogues involving spiritual ideas. Much of the film has Jodorowsky use minimal dialogue in favor of action and images to help tell the story as it is shot in a full-frame 1:33:1 Academy ratio. Still, the locations set in Mexico are full of wonders as it adds to the touch of surrealism from its deserts to the places that El Topo goes to. Serving as the production/costume designer with help from art director Jose Duran and set decorator Jose Luis Garduno, Jodorowsky uses a lot of ideas that plays into the world of West but one that is very warped as among the early images in the film involves a man (Alfonso Arau) eating or shooting women’s shoes that look like the come from the 20th Century rather than the century before.

The usage of close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots add to the beauty of the film while Jodorowsky’s approach to its look in its set and costume design create something that is very offbeat. Even his music score play to that approach of psychedelia that roams in the film with its use of playful Mexican folk music to hypnotic, organ-based music. Yet, Jodorowsky is aware of what he is trying to say as the film’s second half plays into the way faith becomes manipulated for something that isn’t very spiritual. Notably as it would prompt a young priest (Robert John) to find salvation following an incident that makes him seek some meaning again with the help of El Topo. Overall, Jodorowsky creates a very sprawling yet mesmerizing film about a man’s search for spiritual meaning in a very troubled world.

Cinematographer Raphael Corkidi does brilliant work with the film‘s very evocative cinematography to capture the beauty of the Mexican deserts and locations as well as some of the lighting in the cave scenes for the film‘s second half. Editor Frederico Landeros does amazing work in creating some unique edits such as jump-cuts and montages to play into the film‘s surrealistic tone as well as its offbeat humor. Sound editor Lilia Lupercio does fantastic work with the sound to create some chilling sound effects to convey some of its terror as well as the moments of surrealism.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable small performances from Alfonso Arau, Jose Luis Fernandez, and Alf Junco as a trio of bandits El Topo encounter early in the film, David Silva as a tyrannical colonel, Robert John as a priest who turns to El Topo for guidance, and Brontis Jodorowsky as El Topo’s young son early in the film whom he would regretfully abandon. In the roles of the four masters that El Topo would face, there’s Hector Martinez, Juan Jose Gurrola, Victor Fosado, and Agustin Isunza in terrific performances as these four men who each represent a different philosophy that El Topo would learn from. Mara Lorenzio is excellent as Mara as this woman who would fall for El Topo and urge him to face the masters.

Paula Romo is fantastic as this mysterious woman in black who has a man’s voice as someone who would be a pusher as well as seduce Mara. Jacqueline Luis is amazing as El Topo’s dwarf wife as she is someone who would take care of him as well as help him in his attempt to free the outsiders he had been living with. Finally, there’s Alejandro Jodorowsky in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as a man who has a lot of charm but also anguish in his journey as it’s one full of humor and energy but also a sense of danger as it’s truly an unforgettable performance.

El Topo is an incredible film from Alejandro Jodorowsky. While it’s a film that definitely isn’t for everyone in terms of its surrealistic tone and refusal to be defined as a typical genre film. It is a film that is still very captivating to watch to showcase a man searching for spiritual enlightenment in a troubled world that is truly strange. In the end, El Topo is a remarkable film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Alejandro Jodorowsky Films: (Les tetes interverties) - (Teatro sin fin) - (Fando y Lis) - (The Holy Mountain) - (Tusk) - (Santa Sangre) - (The Rainbow Thief) - (The Dance of Reality)

Related: Jodorowsky's Dune

© thevoid99 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ed Wood




Based on the biography Nightmare of Ecstasy by Rudolph Grey, Ed Wood is the story about one of cinema’s worst filmmakers as he struggles to find success through his offbeat yet cheaply-made films while forging a friendship with his idol in film actor Bela Lugosi. Directed by Tim Burton and screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the film explores a period in Wood’s life where he tries to succeed through film that would culminate with the release of his most infamous film in Plan 9 from Outer Space as the titular role is played by Johnny Depp while Martin Landau plays the role of Bela Lugosi. Also starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette, George “The Animal” Steele, Lisa Marie, Jeffrey Jones, and Bill Murray. Ed Wood is a witty and enchanting film from Tim Burton.

The film explores the life of a young artist named Edward D. Wood Jr. as he is eager to become a filmmaker like his favorite director Orson Welles where he later meets his idol in Bela Lugosi who would take part in Wood’s films. The film explores Wood’s life from the early 1950s where he is trying to get his film career off the ground and climax with him making Plan 9 from Outer Space which he became very famous for but for all the wrong reasons. Along the way, Wood struggles through personal relationships that fall apart as well as trying to get funding for his films like Glen or Glenda and Bride of the Monster where they would be reviled by critics and audiences. Yet, Wood has this optimism that is so compelling in his belief that he will become a great filmmaker while helping out the man he worshipped in Lugosi who is struggling with his own addiction to morphine.

The film’s screenplay is quite straightforward in its narrative but also filled with lots of humor in the way Wood often tries to succeed with his pals and his girlfriend Dolores Fuller (Sarah Jessica Parker) early in his career. Wood’s meeting and friendship with Lugosi is the heart of the story where Wood hopes to revive Lugosi’s career by putting him in his films despite everyone’s claims that he is washed up. However, Lugosi feels revitalized despite his issues where Wood would receive the support from a young woman in Kathy O’Hara (Patricia Arquette). Other aspects of the film includes Wood’s love of transvestite as he likes to wear women’s clothing which made him want to take part in a film version about the Christine Jorgensen story which he convinces a producer to create his own version of the story that would become Glen or Glenda. The script also explores the group of friends that Wood has where they’re a group of eccentric people as it’s this band of misfits trying to make a name for themselves.

Tim Burton’s direction is definitely a homage of sorts to the works of Ed Wood as well as being this film that plays into Wood’s attempt to find success as a filmmaker. Burton showcases a lot of what goes in the world of film where Wood had to use limited resources and such in order to make his films where his limitations and lack of funds often contribute to the poor quality of his films. Most of which is played for laughs but Burton is very sympathetic to Wood’s determination as he believes he is trying to make something good. Much of the direction has Burton go for simple compositions while giving the film a very old-school feel that recalls the period of the 1950s as it’s shot on location in Los Angeles. Burton’s approach to recreating some of Wood’s films do play into its low-budget aesthetics as well as wooden and terrible acting which adds the sense of joy into the film. Even in the scenes involving Wood and Lugosi where it’s humorous but also full of heart as it showcases how important their friendship is. Overall, Burton creates a very heartwarming and very funny film about the film career of Ed Wood and his friendship with Bela Lugosi.

Cinematographer Stefan Czapsky does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to give the film a very old-school look to play into the period of the 1950s with some unique lighting schemes for some of its interiors and shots in its nighttime scenes. Editor Chris Lebenzon does excellent work in creating a straightforward style for most of the film including some stylish dissolves to play into Wood‘s own enthusiasm as a filmmaker. Production designer Tom Duffield, with set decorator Cricket Rowland and art director Okowita, does fantastic work with the set pieces from the set design of some of Wood‘s films which were quite terrible to the scary mansion ride where Wood and Kathy would have their first date at. Costume designer Colleen Atwood does amazing work with the clothes from some of the women‘s clothes and angora sweater that Wood would wear as well as the clothes of the other characters to play into their eccentricities.

Makeup designers Rick Baker, Ve Neill, and Yolanda Toussieng do superb work with the makeup from the look of some of the characters as well as Bela Lugosi as this old man often forced to live in the past. Visual effects supervisor Paul Boyington does nice work with some of the visual effects to play into the cheesy low-budget aesthetics of Wood‘s films. Sound editor John Nutt does terrific work with the film‘s sound from some of recreation of sound effects to the sounds that goes on in some of the film‘s locations. The film’s music by Howard Shore is wonderful for its orchestral score that features some lush string arrangements in its dramatic moments plus some light-hearted pieces in its comical scenes.

The casting by Victoria Thomas is great as it features some notable small roles from G.D. Spradlin as a preacher who would fund Plan 9, Ned Bellamy as Kathy’s chiropractor who would fill in for Lugosi in Plan 9, Max Casella and Brent Hinkley as two of Wood’s friends in their respective roles as notoriously bad actors Paul Marco and Conrad Brooks, the real Conrad Brooks as a bartender, Mike Starr as the exploitation film producer George Weiss who is reluctant to work with Wood, Juliet Landau as the actress Loretta King whom Wood mistakes an heiress as she would be a cause into Wood’s split with Dolores, and Vincent D’Onofrio as Orson Welles whom Wood would meet late in the film. Other noteworthy small roles include Lisa Marie who is wonderful as the TV host Vampira whom Lugosi likes as she would later work with Wood, George “The Animal” Steele in a terrific performance as the wrestler Tor Johnson, and Jeffrey Jones in a superb performance as the TV psychic entertainer Criswell who helps Wood get funding despite being wrong very often with his predictions.

Sarah Jessica Parker is excellent as Wood’s girlfriend Dolores Fuller who is often supportive but becomes frustrated by his lack of success as well as being a transvestite. Patricia Arquette is fantastic as Wood’s future wife Kathy O’Hara who not only accepts Wood for who he is but proves to be one of his biggest supporters. Bill Murray is hilarious as Wood’s openly-gay friend Bunny Breckenridge who often finds transvestites for Wood’s films as well as appear in them. Martin Landau is incredible as Bela Lugosi as he brings in a lot of energy into the role as well as being very foul-mouthed over Boris Karloff while trying to regain some attention as it’s Landau at his best. Finally, there’s Johnny Depp in a remarkable performance as the titular character as this very upbeat man who is eager to succeed while being a weirdo who likes to wear ladies’ clothing as it’s Depp in one of his quintessential performances.

Ed Wood is a phenomenal film from Tim Burton that features a great performance from Johnny Depp as the titular character as well as Martin Landau in an amazing performance as Bela Lugosi. The film isn’t just one of Burton’s best films but also a captivating story of a filmmaker trying to make it despite his lack of talent as it is a love letter to Wood but also a heartfelt story about Wood’s friendship with Lugosi. In the end, Ed Wood is a sensational film from Tim Burton.

Tim Burton Films: (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) - (Beetlejuice) - Batman - (Edward Scissorhands) - Batman Returns - (Mars Attacks!) - (Sleepy Hollow) - (Planet of the Apes (2001 film)) - (Big Fish) - (Charlie & the Chocolate Factory) - (Corpse Bride) - (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) - (Alice in Wonderland (2010 film)) - (Dark Shadows) - (Frankenweenie) - (Big Eyes)

© thevoid99 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

North by Northwest




Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by Ernest Lehman, North by Northwest is the story of a man who is being pursued by government agents of a microfilm he might be carrying as he is mistaken for being a spy. The film is a thriller where a man is on the run as he is mistaken for someone else as he tries to prove his innocence in a journey all over America. Starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau, and Jessie Royce Landis. North by Northwest is a thrilling film from Alfred Hitchcock.

The film explores the world of mistaken identity where an advertising executive finds himself mistaken for a spy by a group of corrupt government agents as he later accused of murder where he goes on the run from authorities and the people that put him into this position. It’s a film that isn’t just a suspense-thriller where this man in Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) wonders why he is mistaken for being a spy as his attempts to clear his name become troubling as he gets the help of a mysterious woman named Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) whom he would be attracted to as she knows why he’s a fugitive as more complexities emerge. Especially in her association with the man in Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) who was the person that put Thornhill in this situation.

Ernest Lehman’s screenplay doesn’t just emphasize on this idea of mistaken identity where Thornhill is baffled for being involved something like espionage over some mysterious microfilm that had been stolen. Some of the situations and Thornhill’s reactions are quite humorous as it adds to the film’s suspense as Thornhill is often baffled for being mistaken for a spy. Still, Lehman takes his time to flesh out the characters as Thornhill is just an advertising executive who is devoted to his work as this case of mistaken identity forces him to live a little dangerously but also realize that he must take drastic action into these situations. The character of Eve is a complex one as she is revealed to be a mistress of Vandamm as she would tease and flirt with Thornhill while becoming aware that he isn’t a bad guy. Especially in someone like Vandamm who is someone that wants to cause trouble as he’s a character that isn’t fully realized but rather someone that is just a villain who is sort of weak and hungry for power.

Alfred Hitchcock’s direction is quite stylish from the opening title credits sequence created by Saul Bass to play into the sense of thrill that Hitchcock would create. Much of which involves some darkly comic moments such as Thornhill driving drunk since he was forced to drink an entire bottle of Bourbon. Much of the film is shot on studio sets as it would recreate some locations in New York City and Chicago plus the climatic scene at Mount Rushmore. Hitchcock’s usage of close-ups and medium shots are quite engaging including the way the relationship between Thornhill and Eve develops with some subtle references towards aspects of that growing relationship. Even as sex is implied where it used with subtlety in lieu of the production code of those times.

Hitchcock’s approach to suspense and thrills definitely showcase a master at work such as the very famous scene of Thornhill being chased by a crop duster in the middle of a plain fields near Chicago. Hitchcock also uses some humor in a notable scene at an auction house where Thornhill decides to make an ass out of himself so he can get the attention of the authorities as he’s being watched by Vandamm’s henchmen. The film would then lead to the climatic moment at Mount Rushmore where a lot of revelations occur as well as Thornhill’s decision to really take action against Vandamm and his goons. Overall, Hitchcock creates a very sensational and engaging film about a case of mistaken identity.

Cinematographer Robert Burks does amazing work with the film‘s colorful cinematography with its use of wide shots for some of the film‘s locations as well in some of the lighting interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor George Tomasini does brilliant work with the editing with its stylish use of dissolves as well as some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the film‘s humor and suspense. Production designer Robert F. Boyle, with set decorators Henry Grace and Frank R. McKelvy and art directors William A. Horning and Merrill Pye, does fantastic work with the set pieces such as home of Vandamm near Mount Rushmore as well as the estate where Thornhill meets Vandamm.

The special effects work of A. Arnold Gillespie, Lee LeBlanc, and Doug Hubbard is terrific for the backdrops in some scenes set in cars as well as the climatic showdown at Mount Rushmore. Sound editor Van Allen James does nice work with the sound from some of the sound effects that occur including the crop dusting plane as well as some scenes where sound plays key to the story. The film’s music by Bernard Herrmann is incredible for its thrilling orchestral score with soaring string arrangements to play into its suspense and terror along with some lush themes for the dramatic moments.

The casting by Leonard Murphy is superb as it features some notable small roles from Adam Williams and Robert Ellenstein as a couple of Vandamm’s goons who would kidnap Thornhill, Josephine Hutchinson as Vandamm’s housekeeper, and Malcolm Attenbury as a man Thornhill meets at the crossroads. Leo G. Carroll is terrific as a mysterious professor Thornhill meets in the film’s third act as he is aware of Thornhill’s innocence while Jessie Royce Landis is very funny as Thornhill’s mother who believes that her son is just screwing things up as usual. Martin Landau is fantastic as Vandamm’s right-hand man Leonard as this very creepy guy who manages to take care of anything Vandamm does as it’s a very chilling role from Landau.

James Mason is pretty good as Phillip Vandamm as this antagonist who displays a sense of charm in his demeanor although he’s sort of weak as a villain where he just commands and rarely takes action into his own hands. Eva Marie Saint is brilliant as Eve Kendall as this woman who is intrigued by Thornhill as she seduces and charms him for Vandamm while eventually falling for him as it’s a role full of beauty and grace. Finally, there’s Cary Grant in a remarkable performance as Roger O. Thornhill as this advertising executive who becomes a victim of mistaken identity as he deals with his situations as there’s some humor in his performance as well as the ability to be quite tough in handling his situations.

North by Northwest is a marvelous film from Alfred Hitchcock that features great performances from Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. The film definitely features some Hitchcock’s finest moments in suspense as well as unique approach to humor. Especially in his exploration of mistaken identity and a man’s unique reaction to his situations. In the end, North by Northwest is a tremendously exhilarating film from Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Hitchcock Films: (Number 13) - (The Pleasure Garden) - (The Blackguard) - (The Mountain Eagle) - (The Lodger) - (A Story of the London Fog) - (The Ring) - (Downhill) - (The Farmer’s Wife) - (Easy Virtue) - (Champagne) - (The Manxman) - (Blackmail) - (Juno and the Paycock) - (Murder!) - (The Skin Game) - (Mary) - (Lord Camber’s Ladies) - (Rich and Strange) - (Number Seventeen) - (Waltzes from Vienna) - (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 film)) - (39 Steps) - (Secret Agent) - (Sabotage) - (Young and Innocent) - The Lady Vanishes - (Jamaica Inn) - (Rebecca) - (Foreign Correspondent) - (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) - (Suspicion) - (Saboteur) - (Shadow of a Doubt) - (Lifeboat) - (Spellbound) - (Notorious) - (The Paradine Cage) - (Rope) - (Under Capricorn) - (Stage Fright) - Strangers on a Train - (I Confess) - (Dial M for Murder) - (Rear Window) - (To Catch a Thief) - (The Trouble with Harry) - (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 film)) - (The Wrong Man) - Vertigo - Psycho - the Birds - (Marnie) - (Torn Curtain) - (Topaz) - (Frenzy) - (Family Plot)

© thevoid99 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Possession (1981 film)




Directed by Andrezj Zulawski and written by Zulawski and Frederic Tuten, Possession is the story of a woman who starts to behave very strangely after asking her international spy husband for a divorce. The film explores a marriage coming apart as well as a woman unraveling amidst the decision to end her marriage. Starring Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill. Possession is a terrifying yet provocative film from Andrezj Zulawski.

A spy returns home from a mission as his wife asks for a divorce as she starts to behave erratically as he wonders what is wrong with as their marriage starts to crumble. It’s a film that plays into questions about how a marriage can fall apart as questions of infidelity come into play but things become more complicated due to the behavior of the wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani) who becomes neglectful towards her son Bob (Michael Hogben) as well as being unkempt and goes away for long periods of time. For the husband Mark (Sam Neill), he wonders what Anna is up to as he asks her friend Margie (Margit Cartensen) and a lover of Anna in Heinrich (Heinz Bennent) as they don’t really know. Eventually, the answer that Mark finds would force him to question to his own devotion to his own wife.

The film’s screenplay starts off with Mark returning home as it showcases that his life as a spy is an ambiguous one where not much is revealed as his home life isn’t great either due to his numerous absences as he desires to stay home. Upon this decision, his life would unravel as he sees his marriage fall apart where Anna would leave for days as her decisions become questionable to the point that he would give her space until the realization that he couldn’t leave her. In some ways, the film is a love story of a man trying to prove his devotion to his wife who wants nothing to do with him as well as some revelations about how their marriage disintegrated. Even as Mark is tempted move on from his marriage after meeting Bob’s schoolteacher Helen (Isabelle Adjani) who is the exact opposite of Anna. Still, Mark is eager to help Anna who starts to unravel as he hires private detectives to find out what she is doing as it would involve some extremely dark aspects relating to Anna’s odd behavior.

Andrezj Zulawski’s direction is very stylish in not just some of the tracking shots he creates that are very elaborate. It’s also in some of the intimate moments between Mark and Anna where it showcases a lot of dramatic tension and quieter moments that showcases their disintegrating marriage. Notably a scene at a restaurant where Mark makes a scene as it showcases some of the film’s manic tone where Zulawski uses a lot of hand-held cameras to capture the action along with some long takes. Even the tracking shots that are created go on for a while to play into the world the characters are in as it’s set in West Berlin near the Berlin Wall where Mark often sees guards looking at him from the Wall. The use of the locations has Zulawski play into something where it serves as a metaphor for where Mark and Anna are in their life and marriage.

The sense of maniacal terror definitely looms once it becomes clear into why Anna has become quite secretive as it includes this eerie flashback scene of a meltdown in a subway tunnel that is just fucked up beyond recognition. It’s a moment in the film where it’s very primal and visceral where Zulawski’s use of hand-held cameras and the location itself adds to that sense of terror that looms. Even as the film progresses where this mix of horror, drama, and suspense come together where it plays into what Mark wants from Anna. Overall, Zulawski creates a truly mesmerizing yet haunting film about a man’s attempt to save his marriage.

Cinematographer Bruno Nuytten does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its use of grayish colors to play into the dreariness of the locations and its tone of horror. Editors Marie-Sophi Dubus and Suzanne Lang-Willar do fantastic work with the editing with its use of jump-cuts from a film that Mark watches about Anna to some of the rhythmic cuts in the film‘s suspenseful moments. Art director Holger Gross does amazing work with the look of the apartments the characters look including the apartment that Anna lives in all by herself.

Costume designer Ingrid Zore does terrific work with the costumes from the blue dresses of Anna to the more white dresses that her doppelganger Helen wears. The sound work of Norman Engel and Karl-Heinz Laabs do brilliant work with the sound from some of the effects it play into the film‘s horror as well as the mixing to convey some of its suspense and ominous moments. The film’s music by Andrezj Korzynski is superb for its very chilling use of pianos and discordant string arrangements as well as sound textures that play into the sense of terror that looms in the film.

The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from Carl Duering as a private detective hired to follow Anna, Shaun Lawton as the detective’s partner, Joanna Hofer as Heinrich’s mother, Maximillian Ruthlein as an associate of Mark from the spy service, and Michael Hogben as Mark and Anna’s son Bob who wonders about his mother’s many absences. Heinz Bennent is terrific as Anna’s lover Heinrich who is a very strange man who claims to love everything as he is also a skilled fighter as he is someone that tests Mark. Margit Cartensen is wonderful in a small role as Anna’s best friend Margie whom Mark doesn’t like very much as she is aware that something about Anna isn’t right as she helps Mark in looking after Bob.

Sam Neill is great as Mark as this spy who returns home to see his marriage unraveling as it’s a performance that is terrifying at times in terms of Mark’s devotion to Anna as he also displays a darkly comic sense of charm to his role. Finally, there’s Isabelle Adjani in a performance for the ages in the dual roles of Anna and Helen. In the latter, there is a sweetness to the character of Helen as she represents everything that Anna isn’t while being offbeat in her look due to the green eyes she has. In Anna, Adjani goes all out as it is over-the-top at times but also a performance that is just visceral and frightening to watch. Most notably the scene at the tunnel where Adjani is like a wild animal coming apart as it’s a performance that is unquestionably one of the scariest performances captured on film.

Possession is a phenomenal film from Andrezj Zulawski that features a very terrifying and unforgettable performance from Isabelle Adjani. The film is without question one of the most intriguing films about marriage as well as being a smart genre-bender that refuses to define itself into one genre. Even as it has something for everyone including horror fans in how it can go to great extremes. In the end, Possession is a magnificent film from Andrezj Zulawski.

Andrezj Zulawski Films: (The Third Part of the Night) - (Diabel) - (The Most Important Thing: Love) - (The Public Woman) - (L’Amour braque) - (On the Silver Globe) - (My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days) - (Boris Godunov) - (Szamanka) - (Fidelity)

© thevoid99 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Jodorowsky's Dune




Directed by Frank Pavich, Jodorowsky’s Dune is the story about French-Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to create a film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel Dune to the big screen in the 1970s. The documentary reveals many of Jodorowsky’s ideas that really paved the way for a lot of the future sci-fi films to come and how the project fell apart as Jodorowsky reveals what happened. The result is one of the fascinating stories about one of the greatest films that never got made.

The film explores Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to transform Frank Herbert’s novel Dune into a feature film as Jodorowsky had gained some success as a cult filmmaker with two out-of-this-world film in El Topo and The Holy Mountain. The success of the latter gave him carte blanche to create anything he wanted as Jodorowsky wanted to do Dune with the help of French producer Michel Seydoux. The ambitious ideas that Jodorowsky had for the film were beyond anything imaginable as the documentary showcase many of the ideas that Jodorowsky. With the contributions of the late artist Jean “Moebius” Girard and the late visual effects designer Dan O’Bannon as well as artist Chris Foss, the visual ideas that Jodorowsky would have were grand.

Even the ideas for the film’s music were bold as Jodorowsky wanted the French band Magma and Pink Floyd to contribute while the casting was also insane as it would include Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, model Amanda Lear, Orson Welles, David Carradine, and Jodorowsky’s son Brontis in the lead role of Paul Atreides. Frank Pavich would do many of the interviews in a very simple and direct way while letting the film clips from other films as well as animated storyboards to showcase what Jodorowsky wanted. Many of the drawings that Moebius, Foss, and the late H.G. Giger created weren’t just ahead of its time but through the animation of Syd Garon and 3D animator Paul Griswold. It showcased something that would’ve changed cinema itself.

With the help of cinematographer David Cavallo, editors Paul Docherty and Alex Riccardi, and sound editor Jesse Flower-Ambroch, Pavich would create a documentary that didn‘t just explore a lot about what Jodorowsky wanted but how the people who would collaborate with him were in tune with what he wanted. Filmmakers Richard Stanley and Nicolas Winding Refn revealed that Jodorowsky was so ahead of his time as many of the ideas he put in towards the film would set the seeds for many ideas in the years to come as Refn believed that everything with modern sci-fi begins with this unmade film. Refn also believes that the reason the film was never made because Hollywood was afraid of Jodorowsky and what he wanted to do.

Of the people interviewed, Jodorowsky is clearly the star as his enthusiasm is really fun to watch as it proves that age is nothing but a number. With the film’s music by Kurt Stenzel that is largely an electronic-based score to play into the sci-fi tone of the film. Pavich creates something that has a lot of energy but also some melancholia since Jodorowsky never got the chance to make his dream film though he was pleased to see that he did make an impact as it led to a reunion between himself and Michel Seydoux for 2013’s The Dance of Reality which was considered a comeback film for the director.

Jodorowsky’s Dune is a phenomenal film from Frank Pavich about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to make Frank Herbert’s novel into a true cinematic event. It’s a documentary that showcases what could’ve been as well as the impact the unmade film would have on many films as well as Jodorowsky’s own reaction to the eventual film version by David Lynch. In the end, Jodorowsky’s Dune is a spectacular film from Frank Pavich.

Alejandro Jodorowsky Films: (Les tetes interverties) - (Teatro sin fin) - (Fando y Lis) - El Topo - (The Holy Mountain) - (Tusk) - (Santa Sangre) - (The Rainbow Thief) - (The Dance of Reality)

Related: (Dune (1984 film))

© thevoid99 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tideland




Based on the novel by Mitch Cullen, Tideland is the story of a young girl who goes to her grandmother's house with her father following her mother’s death as she embarks into a fantasy world to escape her dreary life. Directed by Terry Gilliam and screenplay by Gilliam and Tony Grisoni, the film is an exploration into the life of a young girl as she seeks to create a fantasy world amidst the chaos of her troubled family life. Starring Jodelle Ferland, Brendan Fletcher, Janet McTeer, Jennifer Tilly, and Jeff Bridges. Tideland is an enchanting but very flawed film from Terry Gilliam.

The film follows the life of a young girl who goes to Texas with her drug-addict musician father following her mother’s death as she retreats into a world of fantasy with her doll heads. It’s a film that plays into this world of death as this young woman named Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland) is someone with a vivid approach to imagination as she surrounds herself with doll heads while meeting eccentric characters during her stay in this house in the middle of the Texan fields. Especially as her imagination finds her drifting further away from reality as well as what is really happening to her father and who the people she meets really are. The film’s screenplay follows much the life of Jeliza-Rose as she lives with her drug addict parents where her father Noah (Jeff Bridges) was a once famous musician whose career is all but washed up as they both have to tend to Jeliza-Rose’s lazy mother (Jennifer Tilly) until she dies of an overdose.

Upon going to Texas where Jeliza-Rose retreats to her fantasy world, she meets a mentally-challenged young man named Dickens (Brendan Fletcher) and his strange taxidermist sister Dell (Janet McTeer). The story becomes weirder where it would meander at times as it often follows Jeliza-Rose’s world of imagination and her time with Dickens as it sometimes go on for a little too long. Especially as the story becomes less plot-driven and much looser as it would slow the story down though there are moments where Terry Gilliam and Tony Grisoni try to infuse a lot of humor. While the relationship between Jeliza-Rose and Dickens is quite creepy and discomforting, it plays into the weird aspects of the film as it showcases how removed Jeliza-Rose is with the real world.

Gilliam’s direction is very stylish in the way he creates a film that is a fantasy but from a much smaller scale. Shot largely in Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada as Texas, the film does have this sense of beauty in its location where Jeliza-Rose can roam around by herself. Even as the location has a bit of fantasy where it feels very removed from the dark world that Jeliza-Rose lives in as her grandmother’s house is a place of ruin and abandonment. Much of Gilliam’s compositions involve a lot of slanted angles to play into the weird tone of the film with his use of close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots. While there are some fantasy sequences that occur, Gilliam is unable to really keep things going due to the looseness of the story where some of the moments in the film tend to drag on for too long. Even in the actions of Dell and Dickens as it sometimes get too weird for its own good. Overall, Gilliam creates a worthwhile but troubled film about a young girl escaping into her world of fantasy.

Cinematographer Nicola Percorini does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the naturalistic look of the exterior locations to the usage of stylish lighting schemes for the interior scenes in day and night. Editor Lesley Walker does superb work in the editing in creating a few montages while playing to the film‘s offbeat tone with some stylish cuts. Production designer Jasna Stefanovic, with set decorator Sara McCudden and art director Anastasia Marano, does fantastic work with the look of the home that Jeliza-Rose and her father lives in as well as the house that Dickens and Dell live in.

Costume designers Mario Davignon and Delphine White do amazing work with the stylish clothes of the characters including the costumes that Dell wears. Visual effects supervisor Richard Bain does nice work with the visual effects such as a few fantasy scenes involving Dickens‘ submarine and the doll heads of Jeliza-Rose. Sound editor James Mather does terrific work with the sound work from the sound of the squirrel to other sound effects that play outside of the house where reality would creep in. The film’s music by Jeff and Mychael Danna is wonderful for its orchestral-driven score as it feature some somber, piano-based pieces to more offbeat cuts to play into the film’s humor.

The casting by Deirdre Bowen is brilliant as it features a few notable small roles from Dylan Taylor as a farm boy who brings food to Dell, Wendy Anderson as the voice of the squirrel that Jeliza-Rose encounters, and Jennifer Tilly in a very wild performance as Jeliza-Rose’s trashy, chocolate-eating mother. Brendan Fletcher is terrific as Dickens as this mentally-impaired young man who intrigues Jeliza-Rose in their love of imagination as he fears a monster that often lurks around. Janet McTeer is fantastic as Dell as this woman who is blind in one eye as she is a very eccentric figure who dresses like a witch as it’s a role that is both comical and terrifying.

Jeff Bridges is excellent as Jeliza-Rose’s father Noah as this musician whose time has come and gone as he resigns himself into his addiction to heroin while helping Jeliza-Rose in any way he can. Finally, there’s Jodelle Ferland in a remarkable performance as Jeliza-Rose as this girl with a great sense of imagination as she tries to retreat into her fantasy world while dealing with some of the dark encounters of reality as Ferland also voices the doll head friends she has.

Tideland is a pretty good though flawed film from Terry Gilliam. While it has a great cast and some amazing technical work, it’s a film that tries to be a lot of things but ends up being a bit flat in its approach to being weird. Still, there’s moments in the film that showcases Gilliam’s fascination with imagination and its battle with reality. In the end, Tideland is a terrific but messy film from Terry Gilliam.

Terry Gilliam Films: Jabberwocky - Time Bandits - Brazil - The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - The Fisher King - 12 Monkeys - Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas - The Brothers Grimm - The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - The Zero Theorem - (The Auteurs #38: Terry Gilliam)

© thevoid99 2014