Thursday, May 26, 2016

Love & Mercy

Directed by Bill Polhad and screenplay by Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner from a story by Lerner, Love & Mercy is the story of the Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson told in two parallel narrative that focuses on Wilson in the mid-1960s where he was considered an eccentric but gifted music genius and in the late 1980s as a shell of his former self under the abusive of his therapist until a Cadillac saleswoman saves him. The film is an unconventional bio-pic that explores Wilson’s rise and descent into madness and mental illness and later be saved when he is at his most vulnerable as Paul Dano and John Cusack play the role of Wilson in the 60s and 80s, respectively,. Also starring Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti. Love & Mercy is ravishing and touching film from Bill Polhad.

The name Brian Wilson isn’t just synonymous with not music that would stand for eons but a man who was gifted yet troubled where he would succumb to mental illness and depression only to re-emerge a survivor and an icon. The film is about not just Wilson’s time in the mid-1960s where he would create the landmark album Pet Sounds as well as his attempts to make the album Smile. It’s also about the man 20 years later as he is under the control of therapist until he falls for a Cadillac saleswoman in Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) who would later become his savior. All of which is told in a parallel, back-and-forth narrative style that reflects on Wilson’s mental descent in the 1960s as well as emerging out of that dark cloud of abuse and confusion in the 1980s.

The film’s screenplay by Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner create this narrative that plays into the highs and lows that Wilson would endure as a co-founder of the surf rock band the Beach Boys who were considered the American rivals to the Beatles in terms of creating top-notch pop songs. The film does give a brief insight into the Beach Boys’ rise where the bulk of the 1960s narrative begins with Wilson’s breakdown in an airplane that would ultimately keep him out of the road. Being grounded, Wilson would find a sanctuary at the studio where he would have all of the time in the world to create songs at his own pace while would wait for the band to return from touring to contribute vocals. That strand in the narrative shows not just the exuberance that Wilson had but also the emergence of his mental descent which was due to a lot of things such as drugs as well as his strained relationship with his father Murry (Bill Camp). The script also reveals the tension between Wilson and the band that ultimately led to the shelving of Smile.

The 1980s narrative which would inter-cut with the 60s narrative shows Wilson as a middle-aged man where it begins with him looking for a car to buy where he would meet Ledbetter who has no clue the man she was talking to is Brian Wilson. Yet, she somehow finds herself going out with Wilson, despite the presence of his therapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), where she gets to know the man and see someone who is a good person but also in need of help. Especially as he had been disconnected from his family including two daughters, his ex-wife, his mother, and his band that includes his brother Carl and cousin Mike Love under Landy’s supervision as Ledbetter gets to know more of the real Wilson but also observe what Landy does. One key scene involves Ledbetter coming to Wilson’s home to bring food where she hears Landy screaming at a heavily-medicated Wilson during a songwriting session as Ledbetter learns from Wilson’s maid Gloria (Diana Maria Riviera) about the extent of Landy’s abuse. It’s a key sequence in the film that would have Ledbetter take a stand no matter what kind of dirt Landy could dig up on her. Though there are a few dramatic liberties that Moverman and Lerner do for dramatic reasons, they don’t stray too far from the real story nor do anything to exaggerate things other than show a very fragile man in need of saving.

Bill Polhad’s direction definitely has an air of style as it play into not just the world Brian Wilson was in but also in somewhat Hellish-existence he was living in under Dr. Landy’s abuse. Due to the film’s complex narrative, Polhad definitely aims for different visual styles as it relates to tone of the times as well as Wilson’s own state of mind. The 1960s narrative definitely owes a lot to style in terms of its usage of different film stock which help play into the Beach Boys rise and Wilson coming into his own as a producer and songwriter. Many of the compositions are quite simple in its usage of close-ups and medium shots where it would play into what Wilson is doing as he hears ideas in his head that would unfortunately morph into voices of doubt from his father and cousin Mike (Jake Abel). There is a bit of usage in the hand-held cameras yet Polhad prefers to keep things simple while also create elements that play into Wilson’s encounter with psychedelic drugs that were helpful at first only to turn on him towards his mental descent. The 1980s narrative has Polhad go for something much simpler but also with a look that is a bit more polished as it play into a world that is sort of modern but one that Wilson seems detached from.

While many of the compositions are a bit more detached in some aspects as it relates to Wilson’s mental state, it does play into a man trying to get back into the world through Ledbetter. One sequence in which Ledbetter spends the night with Wilson has this unique tracking shot where Wilson becomes paranoid that someone is watching as he begs Ledbetter to leave but still be with him as it is a heartbreaking scene that shows how scared Wilson is. Another sequence in the film’s third act is this strange montage that has the older Wilson confront his past in flashbacks and hallucinations as it relates to the voices in his head where the two Wilsons do see each other as it play into what he lost and what he could gain. Overall, Polhad crafts a mesmerizing and riveting film about the life of Brian Wilson through all of its trials and tribulations in two different time periods.

Cinematographer Robert Yeomen does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography from the way many of the Californian location exteriors look to play into that sunny environment that inspired the music of the Beach Boys to some of the lush interiors inside the recording studios and the look of Wilson‘s two homes in the 80s that has this very lovely but unsettling look. Editor Dino Jonsater does brilliant work with the editing as it does play into the film‘s unique narrative style with its smooth transition cuts as well as some stylish montages and other cutting styles to play into some of the exuberance and dark moments in the film. Production designer Keith P. Cunningham, along with art directors Andrew Max Cahn and Luke Freeborn and set decorator Maggie Martin, does fantastic work with the home Wilson had in the 60s with its piano on top of a sandbox and the recording studios as well as the homes he had in the 1980s that are very sparse but also empty. Costume designer Danny Glicker does wonderful work with the costumes from the look of the 1960s clothes that many wear to the more casual look of the 1980s with the exception of the clothes that Ledbetter wore.

Makeup effects designer Tony Gardner does nice work with the look of some of the characters in the way they evolved in the 1960s as well as the comical yet terrifying look of Dr. Landy. Visual effects supervisor Luke T. DiTommaso does terrific work with some of the film‘s visual effects as it relates to Wilson‘s first acid trip that play into his desire for a new sound and some of its purity as well as a flashback sequence that relates to the story about how his father damaged his right ear. Sound designer Eugene Gearty and sound editor Nicholas Renbeck do excellent work with the sound in the way Wilson would hear things including a dinner sequence that would scare him as well as the more sparse moments during the scenes in the 80s where Wilson tries to deal with his mental state. The film’s music by Atticus Ross is incredible as it is largely a mixture of ambient sound textures as well as a collage of the music of the Beach Boys as their music is prominently featured along with a new song by Brian Wilson and other music that is played on the film from Dusty Springfield, the Moody Blues, Kenny G, and Heart.

The casting by Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee is great as it features some notable small roles from Oliver Polhad as the adolescent Brian Wilson in the flashback sequence, Morgan Phillips as Dr. Landy’s son Evan who watches over Wilson and Ledbetter during a boat trip, Erik Eidem as one of Wilson’s caretakers in Doug who becomes concerned of Dr. Landy’s treatment of Wilson, Joanna Going as Wilson’s mother Audree in the film’s flashbacks, and Diana Maria Riviera in a terrific role as Wilson’s maid Gloria who would help Ledbetter in saving Wilson. Other noteworthy small roles as members of the Wrecking Crew session players in Teresa Cowles as bassist Carole Kaye, Gary Griffin as keyboardist Al de Lory, and Johnny Sneed as drummer Hal Blaine along with Mark Linett as engineer Chuck Britz, Jeff Meacham as Pet Sounds lyricist Tony Asher, and Mark Schneider as Smile lyricist Van Dyke Parks as they play into the people who are in awe of Wilson’s gift as an artist.

Nick Gehlfuss and Graham Rogers are terrific in their respective roles as Beach Boys members Bruce Johnston and Al Jardine who both express a bit of reservation into what Wilson is doing. Bill Camp is excellent as Wilson’s father Murry who isn’t keen on what his son doing feeling it is straying from the formula as well as being this domineering figure that would continuously haunt Wilson for much of his life. Brett Davern is superb as Wilson’s younger brother Carl as one of the few who likes what his brother is doing while becoming concerned for his mental state of mind. Kenny Wormald is fantastic as Wilson’s youngest brother Dennis who likes what Wilson is doing while having a few reservations about its commercial prospects. Erin Darke is wonderful as Wilson’s first wife Marilyn who expresses concern about her husband’s mental state as well as trying to form the family that he would unfortunately become estranged to.

Jake Abel is amazing as Wilson’s cousin/Beach Boys vocalist Mike Love who expresses concern of not just what Wilson is doing musically but also for the fact that Wilson is straying from what made their music so popular. Paul Giamatti is marvelous as Dr. Eugene Landy as Wilson’s therapist during the 1980s who is trying to take care of him but his methods become abusive where he would even try to threaten Ledbetter as it’s a monstrous performance. Elizabeth Banks is phenomenal as Melinda Ledbetter as the woman who would become Wilson’s second wife as this former model-turned Cadillac saleswoman who befriends Wilson only to fall for him where she would also be the person that would save him and get back in touch with what was good in the world.

Finally, there’s John Cusack and Paul Dano in outstanding performances as Brian Wilson where both men provide unique aspects to the man. As the middle-aged Wilson in the 1980s, Cusack displays that sense of confusion and anguish into a man lost in a haze of medication as well as trying to find some good despite the paranoia he carries as it relates to Landy. As the young Wilson in the 1960s, Dano provides the exuberance to someone who realizes the power of his creativity as well as an innocence that he would eventually lose due to drugs and demons. Both Cusack and Dano create something that allows so many layers to the Brian Wilson myth but also ground it with a humanity and fragility that nearly destroyed the man.

Love & Mercy is an incredible from Bill Polhad that features the amazing dual performances of John Cusack and Paul Dano as Brian Wilson. Featuring an inventive narrative by screenwriters Michael Alan Lerner and Oren Moverman, a ravishing score by Atticus Ross, and Elizabeth Banks’ graceful performance as Melinda Ledbetter-Wilson. It’s a film that doesn’t play by the rules of the bio-pic genre while creating a unique study of a man/artist struggling with demons and his desire to create great music. In the end, Love & Mercy is a magnificent film from Bill Polhad.

© thevoid99 2016

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Auteurs #54: Spike Jonze

Among the small group of filmmakers who successfully built their careers from the world of music videos to feature films, Spike Jonze is someone that hasn’t just successfully put his own stamp into the world of films from his experience in music videos. He is also someone that is able to create stories that are very weird and strange yet manage to find them appealing to a wide audience. From his collaboration with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman to the more personal films he had been creating that ranges from the world of skateboard culture to mediations on loneliness. Jonze has managed to find a sense of innocence in a world that is often misunderstood or to complicated to some.

Born Adam Spiegel on October 22, 1969 in Rockville, Maryland, Jonze was the son of Arthur H. Spielgel III who was related to the famed Spiegel family who were famous for Spiegel clothing brand and its catalog. While the family would earn money from the brand, Jonze’s family that would include his brother Sam and sister Julia would forge their own paths like their parents did as their father was a consultant manager and their mother Sandra L. Granzow was a communications consultant for developing countries as one of many jobs she had. At the age of 18, Jonze moved to San Francisco to attend its art institute where he immersed himself into the world of skating and BMX culture serving as a photographer. It was around that time he was given the name Spike Jonze as a pun of sorts to the famed bandleader Spike Jones.

Jonze started making music videos in the early 1990s for bands like Wax and Sonic Youth. His approach to the videos he directed were different from a lot of the mainstream music videos of the time. His style quickly gained a following and he found himself working with The Beastie Boys, The Breeders, Weezer, Dinosaur Jr., R.E.M., Bjork, Fatboy Slim, Elastica, the Pharcyde, and Daft Punk, to name a few.

How They Get There/Amarillo Morning/Torrance Rises

While honing his craft with music videos, Jonze made three distinct short films. where he spent much of the late 90s creating a trio of different shorts. The first one, How They Get There, was a simple comedy about a man who begins to mimic the movements of the woman he sees across the street. As the pair copies each other, the film evolves into something that is both tragic and funny. The other two short film saw Spike Jonze try his hand at documentary filmmaking. One film was Amarillo Morning, which followed two teenagers, who wanted to be cowboys, around for the afternoon. Shot on video, the film showed how the teens’ desire to be cowboys was not always reflected in the music they listened to.


The third short, Torrance Rises found the director collaborating with Lance Bangs on a mockumentary about the dance troupe who appeared in the Fatboy Slim video Praise You, which Jonze also directed with his then brother-in-law Roman Coppola. The humorous film focused on the group’s rehearsals for their appearance at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards. Torrance Rises ended up being a cult hit and helped Jonze to get noticed by many prominent figures within the film industry.

Being John Malkovich


Around the time Spike Jonze was making short films, he received the script for Being John Malkovich from his then father-in-law, and renowned filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola that was written by a TV writer named Charlie Kaufman. The odd script revolved around a puppeteer who takes a job on a mysterious floor of a building only to discover a portal that leads into the mind of actor John Malkovich. Jonze worked closely with Kaufman to develop the film, and brought in a couple of collaborators, cinematographer Lance Acord and editor Eric Zumbrunnen, who had worked on his music videos and short films. Aided by David Fincher’s production company, Propaganda Films, and a production company co-founded by R.E.M. vocalist Michael Stipe, Jonze received the funding he needed for the quirky film.

With Malkovich on board to play himself, the primary cast included John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, and Catherine Keener along with supporting roles from Orson Bean, Mary Kay Place, and Charlie Sheen as himself. With a $10 million budget, shooting began in July 1998. With K.K. Barrett handling the production design duties, Jonze also brought in Philip Huber to provide some crucial puppetry work. The puppetry was key to the film as it emphasized the power struggle the magical realism in the film.

Being John Malkovich premiered in the U.S. in late October of 1999 and was given a limited release by USA Films (later Focus Features). The film received rave reviews from critics for its originality and did modestly well at the box office in the U.S. before eventually getting a worldwide release. Receiving three Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay to Kaufman, Best Supporting Actress to Keener, and a Best Director nod to Jonze, the film’s success surprised some as many studios had not realized the film’s potential when they passed on it years earlier.



Having struck up a friendship with Charlie Kaufman, Jonze next film, Adaptation, explored Kaufman’s own troubled experience while trying to adapt Susan Orleans’ The Orchid Thief into a film for Jonathan Demme. Kaufman’s script not only touched on his writing process, but also in how he had written himself and his fictional twin brother Donald into the story. With Nicolas Cage playing both Charlie and Donald Kaufman, rest of the principle cast included Meryl Streep, playing Susan Orleans, and Chris Cooper, as the horticulturalist John Laroche. The supporting roles were filled out by Tilda Swinton, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cara Seymour, and Brian Cox.

The film itself took place during the production of Being John Malkovich, with members of that film’s cast making cameo appearances, which gave Adaptation a unique sense of surrealism to the proceedings. Jonze further added to this by bringing in filmmakers Curtis Hanson and David O. Russell to play fictional characters. These moments helped to emphasize the struggles that come when attempting to make art. Frequently blurring the lines between fiction and reality, Adaptation, once again showed that Jonze could masterfully create films that were both inventive and playful, while still connecting with audiences on an emotional level.

Though originally scheduled for a late 2001 release, Adaptation was delayed due to the amount of post-production work need. The film finally came out in late 2002 to excellent reviews and a healthy showing at the box office. Chris Cooper won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in the film, while Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep received Oscar nods for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Charlie Kaufman also received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, which he shared with his fictional twin brother. While the film was a success, Jonze’s personal was unraveling as he split with wife Sofia Coppola in December of 2003. Taking time to get his personal life in order, Jonze spent the next several years producing projects including the MTV show Jackass.

Where the Wild Things Are


During his long hiatus from films, where made music videos, commercials, skateboard videos, and shot a concert film for the post-punk band Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jonze produced films for director Tarsem Singh and Charlie Kaufman’s debut film Synedoche, New York. It was in this time, he was approached by writer Maurice Sendak about helming a live-action adaptation of his famed children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. The story focused on a boy who retreats into an imaginary world where he becomes king. Receiving support from actor Tom Hanks and producer Gary Goetzman, Jonze was able to raise the funds needed to get the film into production.

Working with budget of $100 million, Where the Wild Things Are was Jonze’s most expensive film to date. Shooting began in 2006 in Melbourne, Australia with production designer K.K. Barrett and cinematographer Lance Acord helping to bring the fantastical world to life. Max Records was cast to play the lead role of Max with Catherine Keener playing Max’s mother. The supporting cast was a who’s who of talent. Mark Ruffalo had in a small role as the boyfriend to Keener’s character, while Lauren Ambrose, Paul Dano, Catherine O’Hara, Forest Whitaker, Chris Cooper, and James Gandolfini all provided the voices for the monsters Max encounters.

During the post production, while Jonze worked on the film’s score music with Carter Burwell, he asked Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ vocalist Karen O to contribute some originals for the film. Where the Wild Things Are was finally released in the fall of 2009, where it was well-received by critics, but just barely recovered its $100 million budget. Despite its disappointing commercial reaction, Jonze felt proud of the excellent response he received from children who were able to connect with the film.

Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak


While trying to get Where the Wild Things Are developed, Jonze’s frequent meetings with Sendak prompted him to make a documentary with the aid of friend Lance Bangs. Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak was shot sporadically over the course of five years, and featured Spike Jonze and Catherine Keener interviewing Sendak about his work and views on the world. In the conversations Sendak opened up about his own personal life as well as memories he had as a child. Memories that were very influential work, and explained why he refused to cater to trends in the world of children’s literature.

I’m Here/To Die By Your Side


After the release of Where the Wild Things Are, Jonze once again embarked into a series of small projects, including a few music videos and a short film called Once We Were a Fairytale with rapper/producer Kanye West. Another short Jonze made, I’m Here, was funded by Absolut Vodka and told the of about two robots in a futuristic Los Angeles society where humans and robots co-exists. Featuring the voice work of Andrew Garfield and Sienna Guillory, the short film featured costume work from Alterian Inc. who were famous for designing the suits worn by the French electronic duo Daft Punk. The short was well-received when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2010. The short can be seen here.


Taking time to create a short film for the band Arcade Fire, which served as a promotional clip for the group’s album The Suburbs, Jonze made another short co-director with Simon Cahn. The six-minute film, To Die By Your Side, offered a mixture of live-action and animation and was set largely in a French bookstore. The premise involved characters from different book covers falling in love and going on a strange adventure. The short can be seen here.



Inspired by his recent shorts, Spike Jonze wrote Her, a story about a man who falls in love with an artificial intelligent operating system named Samantha. The film explored the themes of loneliness and love in an age where technology governs connections. To bring his $23 million budget bring his sci-fi romance to life, Jonze casted Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role of Theodore Twombly and filled out the ensemble with Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde, and Rooney Mara.

Samantha Morton was initially cast as the voice of Samantha, and was brought in to interact with Phoenix in certain scenes. However, Morton was replaced in post-production by Scarlett Johansson whose voice and performance was more in tune with what Jonze had envisioned for the character. Jonze also brought in the Dutch-Swedish cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema to shoot the film, which aided in the film’s futuristic feel.

Another key aspect to the film was the music. Jonze asked the Canadian art-rock band Arcade Fire and experimental artist/occasional Arcade Fire contributor Owen Pallett to create a score. Karen O also helped out by writing the original song Twombly and Samantha sing. Her made its premiere at the 2013 New York Film Festival and was a smash hit. The film went on to gross $47 million worldwide and drew rave reviews from critics. Her ended up receiving Oscar nominations for its score, original song, K.K. Barrett’s production design, and Best Picture. The film also garnered Spike Jonze his first Academy Award as he won for Best Original Screenplay.

With four films, a handful of shorts, and several acclaimed music videos under his belt, Spike Jonze is a figure in cinema that consistently thinks outside of the box. Whether it’s about exploring the world of oddballs, artists, or children, Jonze manages to find something in them that audiences can relate to. Spike Jonze is a unique individual in American cinema who is not afraid to find the beauty and emotion in the oddities of life.

Related: The 25 Essential Videos of Spike Jonze

Very Special Thanks to Courtney Small for his editing on this piece

© thevoid99 2016

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: Yi Yi

Written and directed by Edward Yang, Yi Yi: A One and a Two is the story of a year in the life of a middle-class family in Taipei, Taiwan where an engineer copes with a lot of things including the re-emergence of an old flame while his children both deal with growing pains. The film is a tale of a family’s life through three generations where a lot happens in the span of an entire year. Starring Nianzhen Wu, Elaine Jin, Kelly Lee, Jonathan Chang, and Issey Ogata. Yi Yi: A One and a Two is a dazzling and touching film from Edward Yang.

Set in the course of a year in Taipei, the film is about the life of a family where an engineer struggles with his job while dealing with all sorts of things in his family including his comatose mother and a wife who is being treated for depression. At the same time, an old flame returns to his life while his 8-year old son and 13-year old daughter both go into growing pains. It’s a film that goes through a lot where it begins with a wedding and ends with a funeral as it play into the many trials and tribulations of this family led by its patriarch in NJ (Nianzhen Wu). NJ is a man that tries to live honestly as he can not just at home but also at work where he is aware of the financial problems of his company as he wants to do things right.

Edward Yang’s screenplay is multi-layered in not just following NJ’s life but also his teenager daughter Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee) and eight year old son Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang) who both go into their own adventures. Even NJ’s brother-in-law A-Di (Xisheng Chen) who gets married in the beginning of the film would have an arc as he deals with not just marriage but also an old flame and money troubles. All of which play into this family that isn’t just coping with changes but growing pains where NJ would go through a journey of his own while his wife Min-Min (Elaine Jin) would be away for treatment. Ting-Ting’s journey relates to being a go-between for her friend and her boyfriend where she finds herself falling in love for the latter while Yang-Yang becomes a troublemaker in school where he would discover a love for photography.

Yang’s direction is definitely understated as well as maintaining something that is quite very simple. Shot largely on location in Taipei with some shots set in Tokyo and towns near the city, Yang creates a film that is like a family portrait told in the span of a year. The first sequence is this wedding for A-Di and his bride Xiao Yin (Shushen Xiao) as it is quite lavish and lively where a lot happens during the reception. Even as it would introduce a lot of the characters in the film including NJ’s old girlfriend Sherry (Suyun Ke) who is at the hotel by pure coincidence as they hadn’t seen each other in 30 years. Much of the direction doesn’t include a lot of close-ups but rather a lot of medium and wide shots since there’s a lot of people that NJ and many of the characters would encounter including this Japanese software mogul named Ota (Issey Ogata) that NJ would have a personal connection with.

The direction also has Yang create scenes that parallel the journeys of characters such as NJ in Japan with Sherry where they look at the sites and then be inter-cut with Ting-Ting on a date with Fatty (Yupang Chang). It’s a sequence in the film’s second half that showcases the similarities between father and daughter while there are also moments that display an innocence as it relates to Yang-Yang. Yang would just let things play out naturally where it also showcases a family just trying to adjust as they’re also taking care of NJ’s comatose grandmother. Much of the drama is quite restrained as well as some of its intense moments while Yang would also inject some humor into the film where it all plays into how families deal with one another. Overall, Yang creates an intoxicating yet heartfelt film about the life of a family in the span of a year.

Cinematographers Weihan Yang and Longyu Li do brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography as it has this sense of natural yet evocative look for many of the scenes set in the daytime as well as in some of the interiors while many of the scenes at night have a stylish flair in its look while maintaining something that feels real. Editor Bowen Chen does nice work with the editing as it is mostly straightforward with some stylish cuts such as the sequence that parallel NJ and Ting-Ting‘s own outings as well as a few jump-cuts. Sound designer Duzhi Du does excellent work with the sound to capture the energy of the scenes at the wedding reception along with some of the moments that occur around the city. Production designer/music composer Kaili Peng, with art director Zhengkai Wang, does fantastic work with not just the look of the home of NJ but also the look of the reception and the Japanese restaurant that NJ eats with Ota. Peng’s score is amazing as it’s just mainly a somber piano with elements of blues-based guitars as it says a lot to film’s understated tone.

The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from Ruyun Tang as NJ’s comatose mother whom Ting-Ting is fond of, Adrian Lin as Ting-Ting’s friend/neighbor Lili, Michael Tao as NJ’s co-worker/friend Da-Da, Shuyuan Xu as Lili’s mother who would cause some serious trouble for her family, Yupang Chang as Lili’s boyfriend Fatty who would fall for Ting-Ting but also has feelings for Lili, Shushen Xiao as A-Di’s bride Xiao Yan who has a hard time being married to A-Di as well as being pregnant, and Xinyi Zeng as A-Di’s former girlfriend Yun-Yun who would help A-Di deal with some debts despite being treated with disdain by Xiao Yan. Suyun Ke is wonderful as NJ’s former girlfriend Sherry Chang-Breitner as a woman NJ hadn’t seen in three decades where they re-establish a friendship where Ke displays an anguish and heartbreak over the fact that she still loves NJ. Xisheng Chen is superb as NJ’s brother-in-law A-Di as this young man coping with marriage as well as money problems where he is reluctant to turn to his brother-in-law for help.

Issey Ogata is fantastic as the Japanese software mogul Ota as a man who is about principles and doing what is right as he proves to be someone that NJ can work with as well as trust in the very devious world of business. Elaine Jin is excellent as NJ’s wife Min-Min as a doctor who has been taking care of NJ’s comatose mother until she has a nervous breakdown that would put her temporarily out of action for much of the film. Jonathan Cheng is brilliant as Yang-Yang as this 8-year old boy who takes an interest in photography despite being mocked by the school principal as his curiosity and energy makes the character a delight to watch. Kelly Lee is amazing as Ting-Ting as a teenage girl who copes with her grandmother’s illness as she also experiences love for the very first time as it is presented with a natural and understated performance. Finally, there’s Nianzhen Wu in a tremendous performance as NJ as a father who tries to bring the family together while dealing with the chaos of his professional life as well as the appearance of an old flame where he admits to still have feelings for her but also loves his family as it’s a performance that is restrained but also touching.

Yi Yi: A One and a Two is a magnificent film from Edward Yang. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous images, wonderful music, and compelling themes on family and growing up. It’s a film that manages to be more than just a family drama as it offers so much in the way a family’s life is told in the span of one year. In the end, Yi Yi: A One and a Two is an outstanding film from Edward Yang.

Edward Yang Films: (In Our Time-Desires/Expectations) - (That Day, on the Beach) - (Taipei Story) - (The Terrorizers) - (A Brighter Summer Day) - (A Confucian Confusion) - (Mahjong)

© thevoid99 2016

Monday, May 23, 2016

2016 Cannes Film Festival Marathon Post-Mortem

Well this was certainly an exciting festival this year as a lot of crazy shit happened. Yet, this is among the reasons why I love Cannes as this year was no exception. Especially as a lot of films came out and stirred up some crazy shit. Personal Shopper, It's Only the End of the World, and The Neon Demon certainly created a lot of trouble with boos and polarizing reactions yet those are the films that are very interesting because of the notoriety. I would like to thank the people at The Film Experience for their coverage as well as the A/V Club, Variety, and Indiewire for their work in capturing a lot of what had happened. I'm disappointed however at the fact that there wasn't any word about Alejandro Jodorowsky's new film Endless Poetry which played at the Director's Fortnight as there haven't been any reviews on the film out.

It is disappointing that some of the films that played in competition like Loving by Jeff Nichols and Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann didn't walk away with any big prizes despite the rave reviews it got while Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon, Chan-wook Park's The Handmaiden, Pedro Almodovar's Julieta, Paul Verhoeven's Elle, the Dardenne Brothers' The Unknown Girl, and Jim Jarmuch's Paterson (as well as Stooges' documentary Gimme Danger) received some good notices. I was also happy to see that Sean Penn got the ass-kicking of a lifetime for his new film The Last Face not only receiving the festival's worst reviews but also a bad screening as anyone saw the photo calls, the press conferences, and red carpet ceremony for that film know that Penn and one of the film's stars in Charlize Theron are being cold to one another. I guess this is what happens when someone's activist ideals are put into a very bland film and gets bitten in the ass for it. So Sean, go back to Hollywood in your expensive mansion and shut the fuck up. No one wants to hear about your bullshit liberal politics and ideas about what to do while your sitting in that expensive house of yours with whatever lame starlet who is probably grossed out in having sex with your old, wrinkly ass.

Now to those who won as the real surprise was who won the Palme d'Or as Ken Loach is once again in that small list of filmmakers who have won the Palme d'Or twice as his film I, Daniel Blake was the surprise winner as it's once again rumored to be his last film. Despite the lukewarm reviews it had received, Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World did walk away with the Grand Jury Prize as it is a big fuck you to its critics as well as another achievement for the Canadian wunderkind. Andrea Arnold's American Honey wins the Jury Prize while Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman walked away with 2 prizes for its screenplay and Best Actor to Sahab Hosseini making Farhadi a real premier filmmaker. Jaclyn Jose was a surprise winner for Best Actress for her work in Ma Roas while a tie was made for the Best Director Prize to Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper and Cristian Mungiu for Graduation.

Now that the festival is over until the next year. It is time for the marathon itself as it was quite fun as I saw a lot of great films though the scheduling of it in the course of 11 days was tough as I think I might have to scale down things a bit for next year's marathon. It's only because there's other things in my life that is happening as it's hard to watch 12 films in the span of 11 days. I was going to include one of my Blind Spots for the marathon but I ended up seeing it for the last day of the festival. Now it is time to give out some fictional prizes and rankings:

The Palme d'Or goes to.... Love and Anarchy

For years, I have heard of Lina Wertmuller but her films rarely play on TV as this film was made its premiere on TCM back in October as I recorded it and saved it for the marathon. It's a film I had no idea what I was getting myself into but it is really unlike anything I had ever seen. It does bear elements of Federico Fellini in terms of its visuals but it is more grounded and also very violent at times. Yet, it is a film that plays into the idea of a world that is in control by those who want things their way where a farmer tries to take up the cause of a friend only to contend with the idea of love despite his duty for a better future. Giancarlo Giannini's performance is astonishing as he really displays that anguish into a man coping with possible failure but also death as Wertmuller really does a lot to explore many of the political aspects in the film including sexual politics where it's the women that are really in charge in this brothel that Giannini's character stays at. It's a film that many should see in the hopes that will create some renewed interest in the works of Lina Wertmuller.

The 2nd Place Grand Jury Prize goes to... The Dance of Reality

Alejandro Jodorowsky's comeback film is something really special as it is also a real surprise considering Jodorowsky's reputation as this surrealist filmmaker who doesn't play by the rules. Yet, what makes this film exceed so many expectations is that it is very personal as it relates to Jodorowsky's own life as a child in a small Chilean coastal town. With his son Brontis playing his own grandfather, it is a film that has a lot happening but also display that mixture of innocence, surrealism, drama, and humor. Yet, never loses sight of its exploration of the life of a family as it is a film that is very touching but also manages to be something of its own.

The 3rd Place Jury Prize goes to... Salaam Bombay!

Mira Nair is a master filmmaker and her feature-film debut shot on 52 locations and 52 days is really one of a kind. The story of a boy trying to raise money to return home as he struggles to do all sorts of things in the chaotic city of Mumbai. It is a film that is really an experience as it captures a world in India that is really unlike anything. It's not just the look of it but it's also the atmosphere where it even has smell that is indescribable. Nair's approach to cinema verite doesn't just have this sense of realism in the film but it also manages to say a lot in a world that is quite cruel. Still, the film also display a story that has some semblance of hope no matter how hard things are as it is a crowning achievement from Nair.

The Best Director Prize goes to... Andrey Zvyagintsev for Leviathan

Andrey Zvyagintsev's work in Leviathan is nothing short of brilliant in not just creating a modern-day re-telling of the Book of Job. It is also for the fact that it is told in a very accessible way that audiences can relate to while providing some commentary about the current state of the Russian government and its growing corruption that also involves its church. It has these amazing visuals that could be set anywhere in the world but it remains grounded in a country where the everyman who is just trying to do something good gets pushed aside for someone else's bullshit and then have his life unravel in the worst ways. Zvyagintsev's direction is key to the film for not just creating that sense of drama but also in those eerie final moments that play into what was lost and also about Russia as a whole.

The Best Actor Prize goes to.... Mads Mikkelsen for The Hunt

For anyone that has heard of Mads Mikkelsen knows that he can play dark characters but that's just a handful of roles he's played as everyone who had seen other things he's done including his collaboration with Nicolas Winding Refn know the man is more than capable than playing a villain. In this role as a kind kindergarten teacher whose life is ruined by a lie, Mikkelsen doesn't really go for anything that is showy nor powerful in ideas of what other actors would typically do. Instead, it's a performance that is full of sensitivity and care where Mikkelsen provides some sympathy into his role as he tries to let the truth be unveiled. Even as he is eventually pushed to the edge where he does lash out but does it in such a cool way as it showcases why Mikkelsen is one of cinema's great actors.

The Best Actress Prize goes to... Yoon Jeong-hee for Poetry

A performance where someone deals with a disease is often the kind of performances that screams awards-bait unless someone finds a way to stray from that sense of vanity. Yoon Jeong-hee is an example someone not playing for the awards but rather create a performance that is realistic but also enchanting. Especially as she creates a character who is filled with curiosity over the idea of poetry and taking her time to create one as well as deal with implication of a young girl's suicide that her grandson might be involved in. Jeong-hee maintains a restraint but also a liveliness to her role such as the brief moment where she is singing karaoke as it's really a performance many should check out.

Best Screenplay Prize goes to... Paul Laverty for Jimmy's Hall

Paul Laverty has been Ken Loach's best kept secret for 20 years as he would provide Loach with stories that many in film wouldn't tell. In this simple story about Jimmy Gralton's return to Ireland during the Great Depression where he re-opens a community hall as he tries to do things peacefully. The script doesn't just play into a lot of Ireland's troubled past as it relates to British loyalists and landowners but also in how common people try to survive during the Depression as well as foresee what is happening in Europe. It's a film that says a lot to Gralton's attempt to revive the hope of common people that would also led to his deportation from the country he was born in.

Technical Jury Prize goes to... Hiroshi Segawa for Woman in the Dunes

Hiroshi Segawa's black-and-white cinematography is among the many wonders that is shown in Hiroshi Teshigahara's film about a man living in the sand dunes with a woman in a mysterious village. The photography captures every bit of detail in not just the lighting but in the sand. The usage of the close-ups and the imagery that is captured in these dunes are just some of the most beautiful images ever presented on film. Segawa also creates some startling images that adds a lot to the film's eroticism where it isn't about showing nudity but rather the feel of sensuality at its most natural as his work needs to be recognized.

The Special Jury Prize goes to... Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribiero Salgado for The Salt of the Earth

The work that Wim Wenders and Julian Ribiero Salgado did in providing the latter's father in the fame photographer Sebastiao Salgado is amazing. More importantly, it is also capturing the depth of Salgado's photography and the things/people he profiles. It also shows what the world could be again as it relates to the Salgado family farm which had become ravaged by drought and neglect only to be resurrected with trees and forests being rebuild. The work of Wenders and Salgado is incredible for giving an artist his due as well as providing the idea of hope in a complicated and modernist world.

And now the ranking for the 9 remaining films of the marathon:

4. Leviathan

Andrey Zvyagintsev's modern re-telling of the Book of Job is an entrancing study of loss and the ills of humanity in a world that is increasingly corrupt. Featuring a great cast as well as some very insightful commentary on the current state of the Russian government and its affiliation with the church. Even as it is a story where a man is just trying to save his home from being destroyed by its greedy mayor.

5. The Hunt

Thomas Vinterberg's story of a man's life destroyed by a lie is definitely a major return-to-form from one of the founders of the Dogme 95 movement of the late 90s. Featuring a career-defining performance from Mads Mikkelsen, it's a film that explores a small town's hysterical reaction over a man possibly sexually-abusing a young girl when it wasn't really true. Especially when the young girl had no real clue of what she did which only made things more interesting as she is the daughter of Mikkelsen's best friend.

6. The Salt of the Earth

The documentary profile of Sebastiao Salgado helmed by his son Juliano Ribiero and longtime friend Wim Wenders definitely stray from many of the conventions of what a documentary is. It's not just about a man's body of work and the subjects he shoots through his camera. It's also in the fact that he was able to rebuild his family farm for a forest sanctuary that led to the resurrection of an entire forest that was later given to the government as an example of what the world can be again.

7. Woman in the Dunes

Hiroshi Teshigahara's film about a man who is lured into the sand dunes of a mysterious village and to live with a woman in the dunes is one of the strangest yet evocative films of the 1960s. It's a surrealistic film that doesn't have much of a plot as it's more about images and situations. It is a film that is really a landmark in the world of Japanese cinema as it led by its gorgeous visuals and Toru Takemitsu's haunting score.

8. Lost River

Ryan Gosling's debut film is definitely a strange one but it's a film that is just too entrancing to ignore. Set in a fictional small town near Detroit, it is a film that explores a family trying to survive where a mother would work in this macabre club while her teenage son tries to evade the presence of a deranged crime boss. While it's a film that owes a lot to the works of David Lynch, Nicolas Winding Refn, and Terrence Malick, Gosling manages to create something that is his own and showcase someone who does have something to say outside of his work as an actor.

9. Jimmy's Hall

Ken Loach's story of Jimmy Gralton's return to Ireland in 1932 during the Great Depression is a unique study of a place in time where Ireland finds itself in conflict over the ideals of the old world order and the new world order. Featuring a great cast led by Barry Walton as Jimmy Gralton as well as a great script and views about what was happening in the country. The film is a unique study of a man's attempt to find a place for the people despite his Socialist views as well as trying to get those in the world of the Catholic church to face their own crimes where they are unprepared for the emergence of a much darker world that is coming out of the Great Depression.

10. Poetry

Lee Chang-dong's drama about a woman suffering from Alzheimer's and dealing with the chaos of a young girl's suicide is a haunting yet mesmerizing tale that is told with such sensitivity thanks in part to the radiant performance of Yoon Jeong-hee. A film that could've gone into sentimental or melodramatic territory, Chang-dong aims for something that is very simple and filled with natural imagery as well as maintain a tone that is understated making him one of South Korea's premier filmmakers.

11. Young Torless

The debut film from Volker Schlondorff is a unique study about life in an Austrian boarding school during the early 20th Century. In this adaptation of Robert Musil's autobiographical novel, the film is a unique study of conformity as well as abuse and power in the hands of schoolboys where one of them is forced to watch another be punished severely. Even as it indicates into a world that not many can belong to as it sort of serves as a reflection to the way modern society acts towards those who don't fit in with the rest of the world.

12. Friendly Persuasion

While William Wyler's Civil War family drama is a fantastic film that features great performances from Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire. The fact that it won the Palme d'Or at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival over more regarded classics like Nights of Cabiria by Federico Fellini, Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped, and The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman is baffling. It's a fine film but it's not the great film some will claim it to be.

Well, that is it for the Cannes marathon. It was a lot of fun as it will happen again next year. Until then, au revoir.

© thevoid99 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

2016 Cannes Marathon: The Hunt (2012 film)

(Winner of the Vulcan Prize, Ecumenical Jury Prize, & Best Actor Prize to Mads Mikkelsen at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg and written by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm, Jagten (The Hunt) is the story of a kindergarten teacher who is accused of sexually abusing one of his students as his life unravels. The film is a look into a man whose simple act gets him in trouble all because of a misunderstanding as a small town goes into a mass hysteria over something he didn’t do. Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Alexandra Rapaport, Thomas Bo Larsen, and Annika Wedderkopp. Jagten is a mesmerizing and gripping film from Thomas Vinterberg.

Set in a small Danish town just before and around the Christmas holidays, the film revolves around a kindergarten teacher who is accused of sexual abuse after one of his students made a claim unaware of what she’s done. Immediately, the life of Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) unravels as he was living a good life despite going through a divorce where a simple kiss from a little girl would ruin everything. Especially as the girl is the daughter of his best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) who isn’t sure what is going on as a series of misunderstanding happens and no one is sure what is true. It’s not just Lucas who becomes ostracized but also his teenage son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom) during a visit as he is one of the few who believes his father where he is treated with disdain by people who knew him.

The screenplay by Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm is set in the span of two months where the first act is set in November, the second act in December, and the climatic third on Christmas Eve. Yet, Lucas is a man that everyone knows as he is part of a local hunting society and drinks with the guys. He’s also someone that people could trust as Theo’s daughter Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) likes Lucas a lot as she also likes to play with his dog. Her action which was really just innocent would cause a lot of problems because of these misunderstandings. Especially as Klara would eventually tell the truth but Theo’s wife Agnes (Anne Louise Hassing) isn’t sure if Klara really understand the idea of the truth. There aren’t any villains in the film but there are people who do make some very bad decisions in the film’s second half where they would do things that are very evil where Lucas becomes a victim for all of the wrong reasons.

Vinterberg’s direction is very engaging for not just the simplicity that he maintains for much of the direction but also in its moments of restraint. Shot in rural areas in Denmark including some of its forests and mountains, Vinterberg doesn’t use a lot of wide shots in favor of something that is very intimate in its usage of medium shots and close-ups. Notably as Vinterberg keeps things lively in the way Lucas interacts with the children at the kindergarten building where he does play their games but also knows that he is still an adult. During a scene where Klara is questioned by the kindergarten building’s supervisor Grethe (Susse Wold) and a child psychiatrist named Ole (Bjarne Henriksen), Vinterberg maintains that intimacy but also create a tone that is unsettling where it raises a lot of questions abut the girl and what is happening to her. Though Grethe and Ole aren’t trying to create a bad situation, it’s the way they handle things that would be cause for a lot of what is to come. Even as Lucas has no idea what he’s done where Vinterberg would have the camera follow him with some handheld work but in a restrained fashion.

The film’s second half feature moments that are quite intense where it has elements of violence in not just Marcus lashing out his father’s friends but also in how Marcus is being ostracized. Notably in the third act on Christmas Eve as Lucas is all alone and needs to do shopping but how he is treated from locals to even the market’s manager show some of the darkest aspects of humanity. It’s a moment where it shows how far a lie can do things and push a man to extremes where it would be witnessed by some key characters. Even as it is followed by this climatic moment where Lucas unleashes his anger over what has happened where even Theo is forced to question what is really going on as he is one of those who had ostracized Lucas. The film’s ending doesn’t just play into Lucas’ isolation but also in the fact that he will never shake the lie that ruined him. Overall, Vinterberg creates a haunting yet visceral film about an innocent man’s life being destroyed by a lie.

Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography in the way many of the exteriors look in the day including some scenes set in the autumn and winter along with some interiors where it looks natural with some lights for some of the scenes set at night. Editors Anne Osterud and Janus Billeskov Jansen do brilliant work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some jump-cuts to play into some of the emotional moments in the film. Production designer Torben Stig Nielsen and set decorator Rasmus Balslev-Olesen do fantastic work with the look of Lucas‘ home as well as the kindergarten place that he works at. Costume designer Manon Rasmussen does nice work with the costumes as it’s mostly casual for the look of the characters in the film.

Hair/makeup designer Bjorg Serup does terrific work with the look of Lucas following a beating he would receive in the third act as it play into all of the trouble he has endured. Sound designer Kristian Eidnes Andersen and co-sound editor Thomas Jaeger do superb work with the sound from the way some of the drunken meetings sound early in the film to the quieter yet tense moments in the film such as Klara‘s interrogation scene. The film’s music by Nikolaj Egelund is wonderful as it is very low-key where it only appears in its ending as it is just this plaintive, folk-based piece while other music is played on location.

The film’s amazing cast features some notable small roles from Bjarne Henrikson as the child psychologist Ole, Anne Louise Hassing as Theo’s wife Agnes, Susse Wold as the kindergarten organizer Grethe, and Lars Ranthe as Lucas’ brother Bruun who is one of the few that believes Lucas as he would also be there for Marcus. Lasse Fogelstrom is superb as Lucas’ son teenage Marcus as this kid who is trying to understand what his dad did as he is one of his father’s few defenders where he tries to fight back at even those he knew as a kid. Annika Wedderkopp is fantastic as Klara as a little girl who has no clue of what she did or why as she displays this air of innocence of a girl that has very little understanding of the world. Alexandra Rapaport is brilliant as Lucas’ Swedish girlfriend Nadja who at first doesn’t believe the accusations towards Lucas only to be more confused once she is forced to deal with other parents a she also works with Lucas at the kindergarten.

Thomas Bo Larsen is excellent as Theo as a longtime friend of Lucas who isn’t sure what is going on as he believes his own daughter while also wanting to hear Lucas only to reluctantly ostracize him. Finally, there’s Mads Mikkelsen in an incredible performance as Lucas. It’s a performance that isn’t just full of restraint but also with a sensitivity as it has him being a guy that people could trust and hang out with only to then be ridiculed and ostracized. Yet, Mikkelsen maintains a calm demeanor for much of the film until the third act where he is pushed as well as feeling a sense of rage that has been building up as it is truly one of his defining performances.

Jagten is a phenomenal film from Thomas Vinterberg that features a tremendous performance from Mads Mikkelsen. Featuring a great supporting cast as well as the idea of how a lie can ruin a man’s life, it’s a film that manages to be a lot of things and more as well as display a sense of innocence in a world that is often very cruel. In the end, Jagten is a sensational film from Thomas Vinterberg.

Thomas Vinterberg Films: Dogme #1-Festen - (It’s All About Love) - (Dear Wendy) - (Submarino) - (Far from the Madding Crowd (2015 film))

© thevoid99 2016

Saturday, May 21, 2016

2016 Cannes Marathon: Love and Anarchy

(Best Actor Prize to Giancarlo Giannini at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival)

Written and directed by Lina Wertmuller, Love and Anarchy is the story of an anarchist who stays in a brothel as he attempts to assassinate Benito Mussolini in Fascist-era Italy before World War II. The film is an exploration of Fascist Italy and how a man tries to stop it while he deals with his surroundings where he falls in love with a prostitute at the brothel. Starring Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato, Eros Pagni, Pina Cei, and Lina Polito. Love and Anarchy is an entrancing yet gripping film from Lina Wertmuller.

Set in 1930s Fascist-Italy under the rule of Benito Mussolini, the film revolves around a farmer who decides to take up the cause of a friend to kill Mussolini as he travels to Rome and meets his contact at a brothel. There, he deals with a world that is very foreign to him as he also finds himself falling for a young prostitute where he copes with what he has to do as he is torn between his duty and love. Lina Wertmuller’s script doesn’t just explore the conflict that Antonio “Tunin” Soffiantini (Giancarlo Giannini) faces but the fact that he is just a simple farmer that has never experienced life in the city as well as having very little clue in what to do in his attempt to kill Mussolini. Even as he would ponder many possibilities into what might happen but also its aftermath as he becomes troubled. In meeting the young prostitute Tripolina (Lina Polito), Tunin wonders if there is a future but he is still courted to carry out his mission by his contact in another prostitute in Salome (Mariangela Melato) who has her own motives in wanting the mission to happen as it relates to a lot that is going on in Italy.

Wertmuller’s direction is very intoxicating for not just the way she presents Italy during that period but also in this growing sense of disconnect and struggle that looms in the country. The film opens and ends with the image of a desolate location in rural Italy where it looks like a land that has been flooded where a man is being chased by the police in this brief but thrilling tracking shot. Wertmuller’s usage of the wide shots for these locations including some ravishing moments in some of the exterior shots in Rome including a few of its landmark play a lot into this strange world Tunin is in as well as some of the people encounter. Most notably a man named Spatoletti (Eros Pagni) who is this brash member of the secret police that Salome knows as Tunin thinks the man is just a fuckin’ asshole. Especially as Spatoletti is a man that is very disconnected from the realities of the world as he has no idea what farmers go through and thinks he lives in a better environment.

Wertmuller would also a maintain an intimacy and energy in the way the brothel is where it is quite lavish and it has something that feels modern during its time period. It is also a place that has this air of escapism against what was happening in Italy where Wertmuller maintains a tone where it’s the women that are in charge and the men are just these eager customers wanting to get laid. Wertmuller’s usage of close-ups and medium shots not only capture that intimacy but also in the way the character gaze into what they’re seeing. Especially Tunin where Wertmuller’s close-ups would capture every bit of detail into his face and the anguish he deals with what he has to do. Especially in the third act where it is about these final moments before the assassination but also what happens on the day of the event as it is emotionally-charged and filled with a lot of these very intense moments. Especially in the aftermath as it says a lot about the rule of the Fascists and how it affected the country that nearly went into ruins following World War II. Overall, Wertmuller creates a haunting yet riveting film about an anarchist’s attempt to kill Benito Mussolini.

Cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno does incredible work with the film‘s gorgeous cinematography to the way many of the daytime interiors at the brothel look with its approach to low-key lighting and colors along with some of the scenes set at night including a long sequence set in the streets of Rome at night. Editor Franco Fraticelli does nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with bits of stylish flair to play into some of the humor and the intensity of the drama including its climax. Art director Gianni Giovagnoni does fantastic work with the look of the brothel and the rooms of its characters as well as the house where the assassination was to take place and the farm that Tunin used to live in.

Costume designer Enrico Job does brilliant work with the costumes as it has this air of style in the way many of the characters looked from the overly-stylized clothes of the prostitutes to the look of the high fashion the people of Rome wear. Sound effects editor/foley artist Italo Cameracanna does terrific work with the sound in the way some of the sound effects are presented as well as some of the raucous moments in the brothel. The film’s music by Nino Rota and Carlo Savina is amazing for its mixture of Rota’s orchestral-based score that play into some of the drama and lively moments of the film to Savina’s more ominous score with its string instruments that says a lot to the dark aspects that were happening in Fascist-era Italy.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Roberto Herlitzka as the original assassin who is a friend of Tunin, Isa Bellini as a fellow prostitute named Zoraide, Elena Fiore as a brothel organizer in Donna Carmela, and Pina Cei as the brothel mastermind Madame Aida. Eros Pagni is excellent as the very brash Spatoletti as this police official who takes Tunin, Salome, and Tripolina to the country where he mocks the poor as well as display ideas that really upsets Tunin. Lina Polito is fantastic as the young prostitute Tripolina who catches Tunin’s eye as a ball of energy and life as she would also give Tunin an idea of a possible future. Mariangela Melato is amazing as Salome as a prostitute who is Tunin’s contact where she provides some instructions but also motives of her own as it relates to the assassination. Finally, there’s Giancarlo Giannini in a phenomenal performance as Antonio “Tunin” Soffiantini as this simple farmer who decides to finish a job for a friend unaware of what he’s doing and where he is going as it’s a very somber yet riveting performance as a man dealing with his task as well as a lot of conflicts as it is really one Giannini’s quintessential performances.

Love and Anarchy is a tremendous film from Lina Wertmuller that features an incredible performance from Giancarlo Giannini. It’s a film that doesn’t just explore life during Fascist Italy but also the ideas of anarchy and a man’s struggle to do his duty but also dealing with love during a dark period in history. In the end, Love and Anarchy is a spectacular film from Lina Wertmuller.

Lina Wertmuller Films: (The Lizards) - (Let’s Talk About Men) - (Rita the Mosquito) - (Don’t Sting the Mosquito) - (The Belle Starr Story) - (The Seduction of Mimi) - (All Screwed Up) - (Swept Away (1974 film)) - (Seven Beauties) - (A Night Full of Rain) - (Blood Feud) - (A Joke of Destiny) - (Softly, Softly) - (Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women and Crime) - (Summer Night) - (As Long as It’s Love) - (The Tenth One in Hiding) - (Ciao, Professore!) - (The Nymph) - (The Blue Collar Worker and the Hairdresser in a Whirl of Sex and Politics) - (Ferdinando and Carolina) - (Too Much Romance…It’s Time for Stuffed Peppers)

© thevoid99 2016