Saturday, April 19, 2014

Batman Returns

Based on the DC Comics by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Batman Returns is the sequel to the 1989 film in which Batman faces a new foe in the Penguin who teams up with a business tycoon to take down the Batman while a mysterious vigilante in Catwoman also creates trouble. Directed by Tim Burton with a screenplay by Sam Hamm and Daniel Waters from a story by Hamm, the film is a darker story than its predecessor as Bruce Wayne/Batman deals with his new foes as Michael Keaton reprises his role with Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and Danny Devito as Oswald Cobblepot/the Penguin. Also starring Pat Hingle, Michael Gough, Michael Murphy, Cristi Conaway, and Christopher Walken as Max Shreck. Batman Returns is a superbly thrilling film from Tim Burton.

The film is an exploration into Bruce Wayne adjusting to his role as Gotham’s peacekeeper as new enemies emerge during the Christmas holidays to wreak havoc on the city. Among them is a deformed man known as the Penguin who wants to take over Gotham where he kidnaps the industrialist Max Shreck as the two team up to control Gotham. Adding to the chaos is a woman named Selina Kyle who was a secretary of Shreck as she was pushed out of a window and fell many stories to the ground. Kyle would survive the fall as she becomes Catwoman as she becomes a vigilante of her own as she causes problems for Batman where she briefly aligns with the Penguin. Yet, Kyle’s life is more complicated when she falls for Bruce Wayne unaware that he’s Batman and vice versa as it would lead to a very troubling climax.

The film’s screenplay by Sam Hamm and Daniel Waters, with additional work by Wesley Strick, doesn’t just explore Bruce Wayne being this hero for Gotham but also encounter these new forces. The real villain in the film is Max Shreck as he is this industrialist that wants to create a new power-plant for Gotham when the city doesn’t need it. When Kyle accidentally learns what Shreck is doing, Shreck tries to kill her as he would use the Penguin to usurp Gotham’s mayor (Michael Murphy) to become the new mayor so Shreck can build his power plant. Though Penguin had his own plans to create chaos in Gotham, he teams up with Shreck for power while trying to discredit Batman with the help of Catwoman. One of the aspects of the script that is unique is the fact that it’s a film about identity as it relates to Batman, Penguin, and Catwoman.

Whereas Bruce Wayne tries to cope with his dual role as he is also seeking some balance as a man where he wouldn’t need to keep secrets. Though he accepts his role as Gotham’s hero, it’s not one that he easily accepts as he has few allies in the city. The Penguin maybe an antagonist but not a conventional one as the film begins with his birth as he arrives as a deformed baby his rich parents would dump into a sewer just days after his birth. In being this outcast, he wants to destroy Gotham only to become a pawn in Shreck’s plans that forces him to become more determined for Gotham’s end. Then there’s Selina Kyle who starts out as this timid secretary who lives with a cat as her near-death experience in the hands of Shreck has her becoming this unstable woman that not only wants to get revenge on Shreck but her encounter with Batman would create a very complicated relationship as their real-life personas are in love with each other while there’s a strange attraction between the two in their other personas. Catwoman isn’t a villain nor a hero but a true anti-hero who is only in it for herself.

Tim Burton’s direction is definitely more extravagant in some respects but also very offbeat in its mix of dark humor, action, and suspense. Yet, there’s a looseness to the story where Burton is able to make all of these elements fuse together though not all of these moments work. Still, he is able to create some exotic scenes and action sequences that are very exciting as it includes a very memorable moment where Catwoman introduces herself to Batman and the Penguin. The use of close-ups, wide shots, and medium shots gives Burton some room to breathe in the way he creates some of these moments while being able to explore the complexity of identity in the film in shots that are much more simpler. Especially in the romantic attraction between Wayne/Batman and Kyle/Catwoman as there’s an element of sensuality in that attraction.

The direction is also stylish in the way some of the action scenes and in some of the humor that is presented though a lot of its very dark. Especially in the film’s climax as it involves Batman, the Penguin, Catwoman, and Shreck as it features extravagant set pieces as well as a lot of penguins where some of it is real and some are robotic. The usage of animals do add some style to the film where they would aid whoever is needed as its climax is both enthralling but also somber where it would play into Batman/Wayne’s struggle to find a balance in his dual role. Overall, Burton crafts a very exciting and stylish film about Batman coming to terms with his identity and the new foes he faces.

Cinematographer Stefan Czapsky does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the look of the exteriors of Gotham as well some of the lighting in the sewer home of the Penguin and his army as well as the shadows in the Batcave. Editors Chris Lebenzon and Bob Badami do nice work with the editing as it‘s pretty straightforward with some stylish cutting for some of the film‘s action scenes as well as some of its humorous moments. Production designer Bo Welch with set decorator Cheryl Carasik and supervising art director Tom Duffield, does amazing work with the set pieces from the look of the city square in Gotham to the Batcave as well as the Penguin‘s lair, and the apartment Kyle lived in. Costume designers Bob Ringwood and Mary E. Vogt do fantastic work with the look of Catwoman‘s costumes as well as the clothes of the Penguin and the suits that Max Shreck wears.

Makeup designers Stan Winston, Ve Neill, and Ronnie Specter do brilliant work with the makeup design of the Penguin as well the look of his band of freaks that he leads. Visual effects supervisor Michael L. Fink does terrific work with some of the visual effects that includes some early ideas of CGI as well as the use of miniatures in some of the action sequences. Sound editors Richard L. Anderson and David E. Stone do superb work with the sound to create some layering of sounds in the action scenes as well as some of the scenes set in Gotham. The film’s music by Danny Elfman is incredible for its mixture of bombastic orchestral pieces to some more serene and enchanting pieces to play into some of the melancholia as the film’s soundtrack also includes a few Christmas pieces and a collaboration with Siouxsie & the Banshees for the song Face to Face.

The casting by Marion Dougherty is great for the ensemble that is created as it features cameo appearances from Jan Hooks as a PR assistant, Vincent Schiavelli as one of the Penguin’s henchmen, Anna Katarina as the poodle lady who works for the Penguin, and in the role of Penguin’s parents, Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger who had appeared in Burton’s first film Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Other notable small roles include Andrew Bryniarski as Shreck’s son Chip, Cristi Conaway as the Ice Princess who lights Gotham’s Xmas tree, and Michael Murphy as the city’s mayor. Reprising their roles from the first film, Pat Hingle and Michael Gough are terrific in their respective roles as Commissioner Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth where Gordon becomes one of the few men who trusts Batman while Pennyworth helps Batman/Wayne in uncovering some of the mysteries relating to the Penguin.

Christopher Walken is brilliant as the very manipulative and power-hungry Max Shreck as Walken has this charm that makes him a very unique villain that doesn’t have any personas but is willing to use people for his own means. Danny DeVito is fantastic as the Penguin as a man who learns about his family as he becomes manipulated into becoming a politician only to realize that he is who he is as he wants to destroy Gotham and its hero Batman. Michelle Pfeiffer is phenomenal as Selina Kyle/Catwoman as this woman who despises Shreck for his plans and later trying to kill her as she becomes this very unstable woman that wants to create chaos as she also falls for Wayne/Batman. Finally, there’s Michael Keaton in a superb performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman as Keaton displays more aggression in his role as Batman while still being a bit brooding as he showcases Wayne’s struggle to balance his dual roles as he also has some great chemistry with Pfeiffer in their different personas.

Batman Returns is an excellent film from Tim Burton that manages to be a worthy sequel to its 1989 predecessor. Armed with an amazing cast as well as dazzling set pieces and Danny Elfman’s sumptuous score that includes a song by Siouxsie & the Banshees. While it is a darker film than its predecessor, it is still an engaging one for the way it explores identities and one man’s desire to balance his role as a man and crime fighter. In the end, Batman Returns is a marvelous film from Tim Burton.

Tim Burton Films: (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) - (Beetlejuice) - Batman - (Edward Scissorhands) - (Ed Wood) - (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)

Batman Films: (Batman (1966 film)) - (Batman Forever) - Batman & Robin - Batman Begins - The Dark Knight - The Dark Knight Rises

© thevoid99 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Day for Night

Directed by Francois Truffaut and written by Truffaut, Suzanne Schiffman, and Jean-Louis Richard, La nuit americaine (Day for Night) is the story about a filmmaker trying to make a film where a lot of things go wrong. With Truffaut playing the director, it’s a film that chronicles the turbulent world of filmmaking and what goes on during a film production. Also starring Jean-Pierre Leaud, Jacqueline Bissett, Valentina Cortese, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Dani, Nathalie Baye, Jean Champion, and Alexandra Stewart. La nuit americaine is a whimsical and engaging film about the world of filmmaking.

The film is about a filmmaker, his actors, and his crew trying to make a film called Meet Pamela where the director Ferrand learns he only has seven-weeks to shoot the film while his leading English actress has not arrived on set due to her melancholic state. Adding to the chaos is an aging diva who boozes up as she can’t remember her lines while her co-star is a former lover while one of her younger co-stars is dealing with his girlfriend’s infatuation with other crew members. It’s a film that explores a filmmaker trying to make this romantic love-triangle with all of the pressures that goes on as it relates to funding and all sorts of things. All of which is told in a very whimsical manner where Francois Truffaut pokes fun at the world of the studio system but also pays homage to it as the film is also a tribute to cinema itself.

The film’s screenplay has a lot of jokes that relates to cinema where Truffaut even pokes fun at himself as some of the characters he creates are composites of some of his collaborators and actors he worked with. Yet, Truffaut treats them as real people as the aging actor Alexander (Jean-Pierre Aumont) tries to keep things calm and be professional as he often takes trips to the airport. The aging diva Severine (Valentina Cortese) deals with aging as she has a hard time remembering her lines while reflecting on the days when she and Alexander made films in Hollywood. The young actor Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is a variation of the many characters that Leaud had played in Truffaut’s films as he’s hung up on his girlfriend Liliane (Dani) who gets hired as a script girl as she is more interested in other men. Then there’s the young English leading lady Julie Baker (Jacqueline Bissett) who has just got married to an older man (David Markham) yet is still reeling from depression.

It all plays to the craziness that goes on as Ferrand and his producer Bertrand (Jean Champion) try to make sure that things don’t go wrong as crew members start to sleep around and do crazy things. It plays into the sense of pressure that goes on as Julie is uninsured in case things go wrong as Ferrand just tries to film while he would have recurring dreams featuring a kid. The script also has a lot of commentaries about film itself and what it means to people as it adds to the sense of reality and fiction blurring.

Truffaut’s direction is quite stylish for not just the way he presents the film-within-a-film in Meet Pamela but also in the realness that he creates when he’s trying to make a film as if there is a bit of a cinema verite feel to it. Much of the direction about Ferrand making the film has a lot of style from wide shots to display a crew shooting where there’s some elaborate crane shots to some close-ups that are on display for the film. The scenes for Meet Pamela is presented as a typical melodrama with a lot of cinematic references to some of films that Truffaut has made in some of the visuals. There is a lot of humor that goes on but it’s very subtle as it doesn’t go too far into whimsy.

There’s also moments where there’s an idea where the fourth wall might be broken as there’s a famous scene where a woman who is shown often in the background as she finally states her opinion about cinema. Even as the film’s American title relates to what filmmakers do to shoot scenes in the day for nighttime scenes as it plays to some of the absurdity of cinema as there’s a famous scene of two crew members watching a game show where the questions relates to films that starred Jeanne Moreau. Overall, Truffaut creates a very exciting and funny film about cinema and a man trying to make something cinematic.

Cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its unique approach to lighting as well as displaying some tricks into how some of the film‘s interiors are lit for the film-within-a-film sequences. Editors Martine Barraque and Yann Dedet do fantastic work with the editing as it includes some montages and jump-cuts as it plays to the film‘s humor and some of its melancholia. Production designer Damien LanFranchi does brilliant work with the set pieces as well as the way sets are displayed as well some of the offices and hotel rooms the crew and actors stay in.

Costume designer Monique Dury does wonderful work with the costumes from the stylish clothes that Julie and Severine wear to the some of the costumes the actors wear for the film-within-a-film. The sound work of Rene Levert and Harrik Maury is terrific for its sound from the way sound is created on set to the recording of the characters in the film-within-a-film. The film’s music by Georges Delerue is amazing for its very soaring and upbeat score that plays into the humor along with some somber pieces that includes a cut that he did in Two English Girls.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable appearances from author Graham Greene as an English insurer, Christophe Vesque as the boy in Ferrand’s dream, Xavier Saint-Macary as Alexander’s companion, David Markham as Julie’s much-older husband, Zenaide Rossi as crewmember’s wife who is always on set, Nike Arrighi as the makeup girl Odile, and Bernard Menez as the prop man who is frustrated by some of the film’s troubles. Nathalie Baye is wonderful as Ferrand’s assistant director Joelle who tries to keep things organized while Jean Champion is terrific as the film’s producer who tries to get everything intact while being the one to accompany Julie when she arrives. Dani is terrific as Alphonse’s girlfriend Liliane who enjoys being on set while flirting with other men. Alexandra Stewart is excellent as the secondary actress Stacey who arrives to the set where Ferrand and his crew make a major discovery that would cause more trouble for the production.

Francois Truffaut is amazing in playing Ferrand where he’s sort of playing himself as a filmmaker trying to get the production going while dealing with all of the troubles that happens. Jean-Pierre Aumont is great as the aging actor Alexander who tries to ensure that things go well while being the most professional despite his frequent trips to the airport. Jacqueline Bissett is radiant as the troubled English actress Julie Baker who tries to cope with her depression while doing her job in playing the ingenue. Jean-Pierre Leaud is fantastic as the young actor Alphonse as he deals with his relationship issues while asking numerous questions about women as it relates to his own aloofness. Finally, there’s Valentina Cortese in a remarkable performance as the diva Severine as this woman trying to cope with aging as well as a fading career as Cortese brings a lot of life and exuberance to her performance that hides the sense of insecurities that she carries in her character.

La nuit americaine is an incredible film from Francois Truffaut. Armed with a great cast and many tributes and allusions to the world of cinema, the film is definitely one of Truffaut’s most accessible and compelling films of his career. Particularly as Truffaut makes fun of himself as well as show some realism into the world of filmmaking. In the end, La nuit americaine is a sensational film from Francois Truffaut.

Francois Truffaut Films: The 400 Blows - Shoot the Piano Player - Jules & Jim - Antoine & Colette - The Soft Skin - (Fahrenheit 451) - The Bride Wore Black - Stolen Kisses - Mississippi Mermaid - The Wild Child - Bed and Board - Two English Girls - Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me - (The Story of Adele H.) - (Small Change) - (The Man Who Loved Women) - (The Green Room) - Love on the Run - The Last Metro - (The Woman Next Door) - (Confidentially Yours)

The Auteur #40: Francois Truffaut (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2)

© thevoid99 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Batman (1989 film)

Based on the DC Comics by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Batman is the story about a mysterious vigilante who battles corruption in Gotham City as he deals with a former mob enforcer who would become the Joker who is set to wreak havoc on the city. Directed by Tim Burton and screenplay by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren from a story by Hamm, the film is an origin-story of sorts of how Bruce Wayne deals with the loss of his parents in the hands of the man who would become the Joker while falling for a photojournalist. In the role of Wayne/Batman is Michael Keaton while playing the role of the Joker is Jack Nicholson. Also starring Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Tracey Walter, Billy Dee Williams, Jerry Hall, and Jack Palance. Batman is an adventurous yet stylish film from Tim Burton.

The film is about Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego in Batman as he tries to save Gotham from chaos as its bicentennial is approaching. In this role of a vigilante who isn’t accepted by the police, Batman would spread fears into the criminals as he would fight the mob where an encounter with the enforcer Jack Napier at a chemical plant would have some repercussions where Napier falls into a chemical waste as he would survive and become a more psychotic killer in the Joker. The Joker would wreak havoc on Gotham forcing Batman to try and stop him while Wayne would deal with the trauma over his parents death as he falls for the photojournalist Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) who is helping a reporter in covering a story on Batman. It’s a film that isn’t a traditional origin-story but rather an interpretation into what drives Bruce Wayne into becoming Batman as well as coming to terms with his loss and the man who killed his parents when he was a kid.

The film’s screenplay does subvert a lot of the ideas of the origin story in order to make it a film in not just Jack Napier’s transformation as the Joker but also in how he would get Batman to emerge out of the shadows and save Gotham. When Wayne isn’t Batman, he acts as this reclusive and eccentric billionaire who is sort of aloof to the public including Vicki Vale and her journalist friend Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) as it’s just a cover for the fact that he is trying to stop corruption in the hands of mob boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance). Yet, Grissom would try to kill Napier who had been having an affair with Grissom’s mistress as it would force Napier as the Joker to kill Grissom and take over all of the operations. Yet, the Joker just wants to create chaos and destroy the Batman so he can rule Gotham. This would force Wayne to not only step up against the Joker but also deal with the wounds and trauma so he can gain some peace.

Adding to the dramatic elements of the story is the presence of Vicki Vale as she helps Knox try to find the identity of Batman as she gets close to Bruce Wayne where she and Knox eventually learn about Wayne’s past and his parents death. She would eventually become an object of desire for the Joker who would try to woo her in the most insane ways as it adds to some of the film’s dark humor.

Tim Burton’s direction is very extravagant in some of the set pieces he creates from the Axis chemical plant to the city of Gotham itself as it becomes a playpen of sorts for him. With its emphasis on miniatures and other special effects, Burton creates a film that does have a look that is quite dark but also very offbeat. Much of the staging of the fights and action sequences that is shot at Pinewood Studios in England has Burton going for a world that definitely seems to have a bit of a comic-book look but also a bit of realism. The compositions that Burton creates for those scenes are vast and powerful as it includes the climatic showdown between Batman and the Joker as well as an earlier confrontation at a museum.

The dramatic and humorous scenes are also interesting in the way Burton maintains a certain intimacy in his direction. Especially in the latter as the humor is very dark yet somehow manages to be very funny. There’s an energy to those scenes while the dramatic moments including a flashback scene of the death of Wayne’s parents are quite eerie but also somber in how Wayne tries to cope with that loss. That balance of humor, adventure, drama and suspense somehow manages to create a film that doesn’t have all of the attributes of a great blockbuster film but also something more. Overall, Burton creates a film that does more than what it needed to be while also being a whole lot of fun to watch.

Cinematographer Roger Pratt does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its use of shadows and such for some of the film‘s interior scenes at night as well as the elaborate lighting schemes for the parade and some of the exterior settings in Gotham. Editor Ray Lovejoy does brilliant work with the editing with its approach to rhythms that allows each moment to shown while slowing things down in the more dramatic portions of the film. Production designer Anton Furst, with set decorator Peter Young and supervising art director Leslie Tomkins, does fantastic work with the set pieces from the look of Gotham City as well as the places such as Wayne Manor, the Axis Chemicals factory, and other places in Gotham while Keith Short does superb work in the design of the Batmobile.

Costume designers Bob Ringwood and Tony Dunsterville do terrific work with the design of the costumes from the suits of the Joker as well as the costume that Batman wears. Makeup designer Nick Dudman does wonderful work with the design of the makeup that the Joker wears. Visual effects supervisor Derek Meddings does nice work with some of the visual effects that includes some animation and miniatures in some of the designs of the places in Gotham. Sound editor Don Sharpe does some fine work with the sound to create some of the film’s sound effects as well as the chaos that goes on in Gotham. The film’s music by Danny Elfman is great for its bombastic orchestral theme to play into some of the adventure and drama that occurs in the film while the soundtrack features an album of original songs by Prince that plays into the film‘s humor as it‘s mixture of funk and soul music with a bit of rock adds a unique flavor to the film.

The casting by Marion Dougherty is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small appearances from William Hootkins as the corrupt Lt. Eckhardt, Lee Wallace as Gotham’s Mayor Borg, Tracey Walter as Jack’s right-hand man, David Baxt and Sharon Holm as Bruce’s parents in the flashback scene, Charles Roskilly as the young Bruce Wayne, Hugo E. Blick as the young Jack Napier, and Jerry Hall as Carl Grissom’s mistress Alicia. Jack Palance is excellent as Jack’s boss Carl Grissom who tries to have Jack whacked only to deal with the more psychotic Joker. Billy Dee Williams is terrific as the new district attorney Harvey Dent while Pat Hingle is superb as Commissioner James Gordon. Alfred Gough is wonderful as the very resourceful Alfred Pennyworth who helps Bruce in all sorts of things. Robert Wuhl is brilliant as the reporter Alexander Knox as he says some funny things while being the guy trying to get Vale not to get too close.

Kim Basinger is pretty good as Vicki Vale as this determined photojournalist who falls for Bruce Wayne while becoming the unwilling object of affection of the Joker. Jack Nicholson is magnificent as Jack Napier/the Joker as a mob guy who likes to take care of business only to become this very strange psychotic who always has some funny things to say while being a complete psychopath as it’s definitely one of Nicholson’s best roles. Finally, there’s Michael Keaton in a marvelous performance as the titular character/Bruce Wayne as Keaton brings this very restrained performance that has this brooding quality to both personas as well as a bit of aloofness in his approach to Wayne while being the badass as Batman.

Batman is a remarkable film from Tim Burton that features outstanding performances from Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Along with a strong supporting cast and great set designs, it’s a film that definitely serves as a standard-bearer for many superhero blockbuster films while it’s also a film that is very fun to watch. In the end, Batman is an incredible film from Tim Burton.

Tim Burton Films: (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) - (Beetlejuice) - (Edward Scissorhands) - Batman Returns - (Ed Wood) - (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)

Batman Films: (Batman (1966 film)) - (Batman Forever) - Batman & Robin - Batman Begins - The Dark Knight - The Dark Knight Rises

© thevoid99 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Hustler

Based on the novel by Walter Tevis, The Hustler is the story about a small-time pool hustler who wants to prove himself to be the best pool player in the U.S. as he goes after a legendary pool player. Directed by Robert Rossen and screenplay by Rossen and Sidney Carroll, the film explores a man’s desire to be the best at any cost as he would hustle his way into being the best as the character of “Fast Eddie” Felson is played by Paul Newman. Also starring Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, and Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats. The Hustler is a chilling yet captivating film from Robert Rossen.

The film is an exploration into the world of pool-hustling as a young hustler named “Fast Eddie” Felson wants to become the best and dethrone the king of pool hustling in Minnesota Fats. The two would play a 25-hour marathon where Felson had Fats beaten but ends up losing more than just money as he drowns his sorrows with an alcoholic writer whom he would move in with. Just as opportunity comes in to get himself back up, more setbacks would emerge as it would drive Felson to be more determined to be the best and beat Fats once and for all but with a heavy price. It’s a film that plays into a man who arrives rich and eager to be the best but for all of his talent, he lacks character and to know when to quit.

The film’s screenplay by Robert Rossen and Sidney Carroll create a script that takes great use with its structure as the first act is about the Felson and Fats’ game while the second act is about Felson dealing with his loss and trying to get himself back up. The third act is about him taking an opportunity that would later cost him more than money as it would involve him working with a seedy gambler in Bert Gordon (George C. Scott). Yet, the one person that Felson would bring into his life is Sarah Packard (Piper Laurie) as she is this writer trying to make it as she is in need of help as does Eddie where the two are drawn together by their troubles. When Felson takes her for the ride to see if he can score some money, things become troubling where the film’s dialogue definitely becomes very powerful into the troubles that Felson would deal with.

Rossen’s direction is quite engaging for the way he explores the world of pool-hustling as it’s a world where hustling is the key to survival. Much of the direction is quite intimate in the way Rossen presents the scenes of men playing pool where it’s a game of wit and skill. The camera is always gazing down at the pool table where it’s a world that is very unique where smoke is also a key proponent to the atmosphere of the pool hall. In the non-pool scenes, Rossen does maintain that intimacy in the relationship between Eddie and Sarah where some of the compositions in the way Rossen places the actors in a frame is very unique. Even as the characters in the background add some importance as it plays to the drama of the film where the film’s third act would become more dramatic as it plays to the way Felson leads his life and what is important to him. Overall, Rossen crafts a very mesmerizing and intelligent film about the world of pool-hustling.

Cinematographer Eugene Schufftan does fantastic work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from the way smoke is captured in the pool halls to the shadows and shading for some of its interior and exterior scenes. Editor Dede Allen does brilliant work with the editing with its stylish use of dissolves for the pool montages as well as some very seamless cutting techniques to play into the drama of the film. Production designer Harry Horner and set decorator Gene Callahan do excellent work with the look of the pool halls as well as the hotel suite Eddie and Sarah stay at with Bert in the film’s third act.

Costume designer Ruth Morley does nice work with the costumes from the suit that Fats wears to the clothes that Sarah wears. Sound editors Edward Beyer and Jack Fitzstephens do superb work with the sound to play into the atmosphere of the pool hall as well as the party that Eddie, Sarah, and Bert go to. The film’s music by Kenyon Hopkins is just great for its jazz-based score to play into the atmosphere of the pool hall while it also includes some somber moments for the film’s melodramatic scenes.

The film’s cast includes a cameo appearance from Jake LaMotta as a bartender as well as notable small roles from Murray Hamilton as the rich hustler Findley and Myron McCormick as Eddie’s partner Charlie. George C. Scott is excellent as the very smarmy yet smart gambler Bert Gordon as man who tells Eddie that he’s a born loser as he’s willing to make money off of him any way he cans. Jackie Gleason is great as Minnesota Fats as a very skilled pool player who knows how to endure marathons as he welcomes Eddie’s challenge as Gleason has this very low-key subtlety to his performance that makes him so complex.

Piper Laurie is amazing as Sarah Packard as this alcoholic writer who falls for Eddie as she deals with his willingness to hustle as she wonders if she’s being hustled. Finally, there’s Paul Newman in a tremendous performance as “Fast Eddie” Felson as this very skilled hustler who has the tools to be a great player but his arrogance would become his downfall as it’s a performance that has Newman display a lot of emotional weight and complexity to his character as it’s one of his best.

The Hustler is a remarkable film from Robert Rossen that features an iconic performance from Paul Newman. Along with a strong supporting cast, a cool music score, and some amazing technical work, it’s a film that isn’t just a compelling piece into the world of pool-hustling but also in how people risk their lives in the game of life. In the end, The Hustler is an incredible film from Robert Rossen.

Related: (The Color of Money)

© thevoid99 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Million Dollar Baby

Based on the short stories Rope Burns by Jerry Boyd in his F.X. Toole pseudonym, Million Dollar Baby is the story of a boxing trainer who reluctantly trains a young woman to become a top boxer with the help of a friend as she seeks her dream to fight. Directed and starring Clint Eastwood and screenplay by Paul Haggis, the film is an unconventional boxing film in which a gym owner/trainer deals with setbacks as well as his own demons while finding some redemption in the young woman he would train. Also starring Hilary Swank, Jay Baruchel, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, Brian F. O’Byrne, Margo Martindale, and Morgan Freeman. Million Dollar Baby is a rich yet enthralling film from Clint Eastwood.

The film is an exploration into the world of boxing but from a different spectrum as a young woman in her 30s is eager to succeed as it’s the only thing she wants to do while working part time as a waitress. In seeking the help of a gym owner/veteran trainer who often finds himself in situations where he doesn’t take chances that could’ve helped his fighters. Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) does manage to sway Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) to train her as she also gets help from Frankie’s friend Eddie “Scrap-Iron” Dupris (Morgan Freeman) who was once a great fighter only to lose his eyesight in one of his eyes. With Frankie helping Maggie to work her way to become a viable contender, Frankie also deals with the wounds in his life as it relates to the family he’s become estranged with as well as the bad decisions he’s made. Yet, the two would find something to fill the void they needed in their lives.

Paul Haggis’ screenplay does have a traditional structure where the first act is about Frankie dealing with the unanswered letters he sent towards his estranged daughter and becoming out of touch with the potential he has for his fighters. Often turning to Father Horvak (Brian F. O’Byrne) for guidance, Frankie doesn’t get the answers he needed until the presence of Maggie showing up to the gym trying to learn to fight forces him to be involved despite his own reluctance. The second act is about the growing bond between Frankie and Maggie in a father-daughter relationship of sorts as Maggie would use her success to give her family from Missouri a good home and money but instead, she gets berated for her generosity by her mother (Margo Martindale). The rejection from her mother would only strengthen Maggie’s relationship with Frankie as he would help her reach the top of the welterweight women’s division.

One aspect of the screenplay that is unique is the fact that is largely narrated by Eddie who watches everything that happens while he looks at the other fighters in Frankie’s gym into whether or not they have the potential to be any good. Eddie’s narration is key to the story where it fills in a few tidbits on the characters while talking about the art of boxing. While the film would be a boxing film for much of the film’s first two acts. It would have a major change in tone into something more dramatic for its third act.

Clint Eastwood’s direction is very low-key and intimate in the way he presents the scenes as he doesn’t go for a lot of wide shots. Instead, he keeps things simple and to the point while creating some unique compositions with medium shots and close-ups to help tell the story. Much of the drama is presented with a sense of simplicity while the boxing scenes do have a flair for style in the way the fights are choreographed and how engaging they can where it would allow the audience to root for Maggie in those fights. Even as it would have shots set outside of the ring to get the reaction from the people watching as well as Frankie watching from his corner as it has this fluidity in the way Eastwood presents the scenes.

While it is largely a drama as it would delve into elements of melodrama in its third act, Eastwood does inject some humor into the role as it is told with such subtlety that includes a scene of Frankie and Eddie talking about the latter’s socks with holes. Eastwood’s approach to balancing humor and drama does add something to the film that where it makes it more than a boxing drama as it it’s also a film about a man finding the void he lost with his own daughter as well as a woman finding the father figure she never had. Overall, Eastwood crafts a very poignant and compelling film about a man helping a young woman become a boxer.

Cinematographer Tom Stern does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it has this air of style with tinted-bluish colors while creating some unique lighting schemes in its shadows and such. Editor Joel Cox does brilliant work with the editing where some of it is straightforward while he plays into a lot of cutting styles for the fight scenes. Production designer Henry Bumstead, with set decorator Richard C. Goddard and art director Jack Taylor, does fantastic work with the look of the gym as it‘s a bit grimy as it plays to the world that Frankie and Eddie live in.

Costume designer Deborah Hopper does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual while creating some very lovely robes for Maggie to wear when she gets ready for a fight. Sound editors Lucy Coldsnow-Smith and Alan Robert Murray do superb work with the sound from the way punches sound to the sound of people cheering in the boxing halls. The film’s music by Clint Eastwood is amazing for its eerie yet plaintive score as it is mostly low-key with its emphasis on acoustic guitars and lush string arrangements as it includes additional pieces by Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens.

The casting by Phyllis Huffman is incredible as it features some notable small roles from Mike Colter as a fighter Frankie trained who would leave him for a shot at the title, Michael Pena as a fighter who often trains at the gym, Anthony Mackie as a brash fighter, Riki Lindhome as Maggie’s white-trash sister, and Lucia Rijker as a German fighter Maggie goes after as she is known for her brutish style. Margo Martindale is excellent as Maggie’s mother who is only more concerned about living on welfare and take whatever money she has from Maggie than supporting her. Jay Baruchel is terrific as a young wannabe fighter in Danger Barch as a kid who has a lot of enthusiasm despite his lack of talent. Brian F. O’Byrne is superb as Father Horvak as a priest who doesn’t really like Frankie yet gives him some advice on the issues he’s dealing with.

Morgan Freeman is marvelous as Eddie “Scrap-Iron” Dupris as a former boxer who watches over the gym with Frankie while being the conscious of sorts in the film as he also looks at fighters who he felt could have potential including Maggie. Hilary Swank is remarkable as Maggie Fitzgerald as a woman in her 30s who just wants to make it as a boxer and win fights while wanting to get the approval of her mother only to find a father-figure in Frankie as Swank has great rapport with Eastwood. Finally, there’s Clint Eastwood in a tremendous performance as Frankie Dunn as man dealing with many issues as he finds the spark of life in Maggie who would give him the chance to find some redemption as he becomes troubled with his own estranged relationship with his daughter.

Million Dollar Baby is a phenomenal film from Clint Eastwood that features absolutely superb performances from Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman. Not only is it a boxing film with substance but also a drama that explores a man finding a lost void in a woman who would become a daughter to him. In the end, Million Dollar Baby is a spectacular film from Clint Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood Films: (Play Misty for Me) - High Plains Drifter - (Breezy) - (The Eiger Sanction) - (The Outlaw Josey Wales) - (The Gauntlet) - (Bronco Billy) - (Firefox) - (Honkytonk Man) - (Sudden Impact) - (Pale Rider) - (Heartbreak Ridge) - (Bird) - (White Hunter Black Heart) - (The Rookie) - (Unforgiven) - (A Perfect World) - (The Bridges of Madison County) - (Absolute Power) - (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) - (True Crime) - (Space Cowboys) - (Blood Work) - (Mystic River) - (Flags of Our Fathers) - (Letters from Iwo Jima) - Changeling - (Gran Torino) - (Invictus) - (Hereafter) - (J. Edgar) - (Jersey Boys)

© thevoid99 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

Zero de conduite

Written, edited, and directed by Jean Vigo, Zero de conduite (Zero for Conduct) is a forty-four minute short film about a group of boarding school kids rebelling against the authority in their school as a commemoration day is approaching. It’s a film that explores the world of kids dealing with authority as a young kid becomes part of a small group of misfits who would rebel against their masters. Starring Jean Daste. Zero de conduite is a dazzling film from Jean Vigo.

The film is a look into a group of kids who would make plans to upstage their headmaster and other authority figures at a French boarding school. Among these kids is a young boy named Tabard (Gerard de Bedarieux) who is new to the school as he befriends the small group of misfit kids as the only authority figure the boys like is the new teacher/schoolmaster Huguet (Jean Daste) as he is young and likes to Charles Chaplin impressions. The film’s screenplay that features dialogue by Charles Goldblatt has a realness to the way kids deal with authority though the authority figures aren’t entirely bad. It’s a very simple film that explores kids dealing with school and detention as they want to fight back against oppression.

Jean Vigo’s direction is very lively as well as entrancing in the way he presents life at a boarding school. Some of the film is shot in the room where the kids sleep as well as in the classroom. Vigo’s compositions play into that sense of repression but maintain something that has this sense of anarchy in the presentation. Notably in scenes where the kids create some trouble as Vigo’s editing with its use of slow-motion cutting, dissolves, and early ideas of jump-cuts would add to the sense of style and energy of the film. Vigo is able to create something naturalistic in the performances of his young actors with Gerard de Bedarieux being the standout while Jean Daste is excellent as the schoolmaster Huguet as well as Delphin as the miniature headmaster. Overall, Vigo creates a very sensational and enthralling film about rebellion at a board school.

Cinematographer Boris Kaufman does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography where there‘s some grainy images but also some that are rich in some of its exteriors. The sound work of Royne-Bocquel is superb for the atmosphere its created as way as how certain objects are captured through sound. The film’s music by Maurice Jaubert is amazing for its playful score that includes some upbeat orchestral pieces and some cadence-based pieces for some of the moments of the film.

The Region 1 2-disc DVD/Region A 1-disc Blu Ray from the Criterion Collection set known as The Complete Jean Vigo presents the film in its 1:19:1 aspect ratio which was a format for newsreels as it is shown with a new high-definition digital transfer and a remastered Dolby Digital Mono sound in French with English subtitles. The film features a commentary track by Vigo biographer Michael Temple who talks about the film which is Vigo’s most autobiographical. Temple also discusses Vigo’s father who was a famous anarchist that was rumored to be killed by the government as the film represented Vigo’s anarchist politics. Temple also talks about the production and why it got banned in its initial release as it’s a very engaging commentary piece from the biographer.

The DVD set also includes a 44-page booklet that features essays on Vigo and his work as Brooklyn video-maker and writer B. Kite writes an essay on Zero de conduite entitled Rude Freedom. Kite’s essay talks about the film and its importance to Vigo’s career as well as French cinema. Particularly as he talks about the film’s story and the portrayal of his characters that is so different from what is usually portrayed in films. It’s a very insightful essay from the writer.

Zero de conduite is a remarkable film from Jean Vigo. Though it’s only 44-minutes, it’s a film that manages to make all of its running-time and images worth it. Especially for its sense of anarchy that young audiences can relate to. In the end, Zero de conduite is a sensational film from Jean Vigo.

Jean Vigo Films: A propos de Nice - Taris - (L’Atlante) - (The Auteurs #34: Jean Vigo)

© thevoid99 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Raid 2: Berandal

Written and directed by Gareth Evans, The Raid 2: Berandal is a sequel to the 2011 Indonesian film in which a cop goes undercover into the Jakarta crime syndicate while discovering corruption within the police. The film sort of picks up where the first film left off as Iko Uwais reprises his role as Rama from the first film. Also starring Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Tio Pakusadewo, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, and Cecep A. Rahman. The Raid 2: Berandal is an intense and gripping film from Gareth Evans.

The film sort of picks up just a few hours after the events of the first film where Rama is being asked by an investigator to go undercover. In going undercover, Rama has to infiltrate a revered Jakarta crime organization as things become more complicated as police corruption and an ambitious self-made boss is involved where the latter wants to start a war with all of the organizations in Jakarta. For Rama, his mission becomes more troubling as he is asked by a boss to watch over his son who has become bloodthirsty and eager to succeed his father. Especially as that young man in Uco (Arifin Putra) is making a deal with the self-made gangster Bejo (Alex Abbad) who is only interested in creating anarchy and take complete control of Jakarta.

Gareth Evans’ screenplay is quite ambitious for not just the way he explores the world of the Jakarta crime scene as two bosses try to maintain peace but also in how a young boss wants to undo this peace. Yet, the film begins with the death of a major character from the first film in the hands of Bejo which would set everything up for what Rama needs to do as the only person he trusts is Bunawar (Cok Simbara) who is an anti-corruption task force leader eager to bring down both the Bangun family and the Goto family as the latter is from Japan. He also wants Rama to look into the works of Bejo as things get more complicated by the involvement of corrupt officers under the supervision of its commissioner Reza (Roy Marten). The sacrifices that Rama would make to go undercover as he wouldn’t see his family for years would take a toll on him as he starts to get close the Bangun leader (Tio Pakusadewo) who would take Rama, under an alias, and treat him better than his own son Uco.

The presence of Bejo into Uco’s world would complicate things as Bejo is a very different antagonist whose interest in chaos and wanting to rule Jakarta makes him a formidable foe as he would force Uco to become more erratic. Though Uco’s motivations is to take over for his father as he feels he is ready, Uco doesn’t have the experience to do that as his father is already looking towards his right-hand man Eka (Oka Antara) to take his place. Uco’s alliance with Bejo would have this repercussions that would include Bejo sending his deadliest assassins to wreak havoc. Among these assassins include a man (Cecep Arif Rahman) who carries kerambits as well as a woman (Julie Estelle) who carries claw hammers while her brother (Very Tri Yulisman) is deadly with a metal baseball bat. They would become the kind of forces that wouldn’t just threaten the Goto family but also Rama as he becomes aware of what is happening as he would have to do whatever it takes to save himself and for the good of Jakarta.

Evans’ direction is definitely much broader in comparison to its predecessor in not just its scope but also in the violence and action. With its emphasis on grimy locations as well as some set pieces such as the prison where Rama would be in. Evans creates something that is much darker where it’s a very different world that Rama is in as it’s far more unforgiving as he arrives in prison as an enemy while he has to fight many men in the mud on a rainy day as he would gain Uco’s loyalty. There’s moments where Evans’ direction is entrancing in the compositions he creates that has him not just maintain a sense of dramatic tension but also play into a world that is about to come undone. Even as some of the locations include some gorgeous set pieces such as the place where Bejo conducts business.

Evans’ approach to the action is far more visceral in its presentation where he doesn’t just go for some very shaky and gripping hand-held cameras but also in the way the violence is presented. With help from fight choreographers Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, and Larnell Stovall, Evans creates a fluidity to the fighting as it is about not just the rhythm but the power of the punches as well as how the weapons are used. Forgoing the use of CGI blood, the violence is definitely bloody as well as has some elements of gore. There is a mixture of ugliness and beauty into the images as it would lead to this very bloody and intense climax where Rama has to go against the odds for the state of good. Overall, Evans craft a very mesmerizing yet unsettling film about a man going against the crime world all by himself.

Cinematographers Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono do amazing work with the film‘s cinematography with the look of the green fields as well as some of shots set at night to the lighting in some of the interiors such as Bejo‘s barroom as well as the penthouse that Rama would stay at. Editors Gareth Evans and Andi Novianto do fantastic work with the editing as it plays to some very unconventional rhythms with its jump-cuts while the most interesting aspect of the editing is in the fight-sequences where some of it involve long takes as it‘s an idea on when not to cut. Sound editor Jonathan Greber and sound designer Ichsan Rachmaditta do brilliant work with the sound as it plays to the atmosphere of some of the locations with some layering of sounds in some places as well as the way some of the fights are presented.

The film’s music by Joseph Trapanese, Aria Prayogi, and Fajar Yuskemal is great for its mixture of dark-ambient with some pulsating, percussive-based music that adds to the action while the soundtrack includes some pop music, a classical piece, and a couple of instrumentals from Nine Inch Nails from their 2008 instrumental double-album Ghosts I-IV.

The film’s cast is just incredible as the ensemble includes some notable small performances from Fikha Effendi as Rama’s wife, Roy Marten as the corrupt police commissioner Reza, Kenichi Endo as the crime boss Goto, Ryuhei Matsuda as Goto’s son Keiichi, and Kazuki Kitamura as Goto’s advisor/right-hand man Ryuichi. Other memorable small roles include Very Tri Yulisman as the very-deadly Baseball Bat Man who would also hit a baseball to kill his enemies while Julie Estelle is just fantastic as the very silent but lethal Hammer Girl who is a total badass with two hammers. Cecep Arif Rahman is excellent as Bejo’s unnamed assassin who kills with no remorse as he is a man that carries these kerambits that play into his personality. Yayan Ruhian is great as the Bangun’s most loyal assassin Prakoso as a man who is the eyes and ears of Bangun as he is also a very skilled killer with a machete.

Cok Simbara is terrific as Rama’s superior Bunawar who is the only contact Rama has to the outside world as he ensures him of the danger that Rama is facing. Tio Pakusadewo is amazing as the crime boss Bangun who just wants to keep the piece with the Gotos as well as deal with his son. Oka Antara is brilliant as Bangun’s advisor/right-hand man Eka who watches over some of the business while looking into Rama’s activities. Arifin Putra is wonderful as Bangun’s son Uco who tries to impress his father only to make an uneasy deal with Bejo to create a war. Alex Abbad is phenomenal as the very slimy and evil Bejo as he walks with a cane while being this epitome of nihilism and ambition. Finally, there’s Iko Uwais in a remarkable performance as Rama as a man who goes undercover to infiltrate a crime syndicate as he struggles with his new role as well as the things he discovers as he is forced to fight the Bejo and the mob all by himself.

The Raid 2: Berandal is a tremendous film from Gareth Evans. Featuring a great cast led by Iko Uwais as well as gripping and exciting action sequences. It’s a film that isn’t just a worthy sequel to its predecessor but also raises the bar of what can be done with martial-arts action films as well as inject with some substance in terms of its storytelling. In the end, The Raid 2: Berandal is a magnificent film from Gareth Evans.

Gareth Evans Films: (Samurai Monogatari) - (Footsteps) - (Merantau) - The Raid: Redemption - (V/H/S/2-Safe Haven)

© thevoid99 2014