Friday, November 16, 2018

The Year of Living Dangerously

Based on the novel by Christopher Koch, The Year of Living Dangerously is the story of a group of foreign correspondents who report the chaos in 1965 Indonesia where two reporters engage into an affair during the event. Directed by Peter Weir and screenplay by Weir and David Williamson, the film follows the chaos of the events of September 1965 in Jakarta at a time during an attempted coup where foreign reporters try to understand what is going on. Starring Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hunt, Bill Kerr, Michael Murphy, and Noel Ferrier. The Year of Living Dangerously is a riveting and evocative film from Peter Weir.

Set during the events of 1965 in Jakarta amidst a growing division in politics, the film revolves around an Australian journalist who goes to the city to cover the events with the aid of a Chinese-Australian dwarf while falling for an assistant to a revered British official. It’s a film that play into a lot of drama that occurs in Indonesia during a tumultuous period of civil and social unrest where foreign correspondents try to understand what is going on as they’re aided by this dwarf who knows what is happening but is also trying to carry a sense of hope for Indonesia. The film’s screenplay by Peter Weir and David Williamson is told mainly from the Chinese-Australian dwarf Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt) as he lives in Jakarta and knows what is happening as he would be a guide for the Australian journalist Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) who is reporting for an Australian network.

Hamilton is just among a group of reporters trying to cover this chaos in Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia as they also try to find time to relax and enjoy the local scene that include parties at other foreign embassies. When he meets Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver) at the British embassy as she’s an aide for the diplomat Colonel Henderson (Bill Kerr), he is smitten by her where he turns to Kwan for help as he has information on everyone which makes Hamilton uneasy. Still, Kwan is able to get Hamilton contacts with those who are involved in this conflict but has a hard time trying to understand what is going on just as he’s being torn in his job and his growing love for Bryant. It would later get more dangerous for Hamilton as he gets a scoop that ends up being a major revelation about what is really happening in Indonesia.

Weir’s direction is definitely entrancing for many of the visuals that he is able to capture as well as setting during a tumultuous moment in time. Shot on various locations in Australia and the Philippines, Weir’s direction definitely captures an intimacy into the marches and protests that emerged on the streets as well as the scenes at the rural areas in the city or outside of the city. Weir does display that disconnect of how foreigners who live in comfortable hotels and posh embassies while the locals are struggling to get by as they live in decayed homes on the streets or near river canals with polluted water. Weir would use the wide and medium shots to capture the chaos of the protests as well as a look into the landscapes outside of Jakarta. Weir would also use the medium shots and close-ups for scenes involving the characters as they all talk about their assignment or relaxing at a party.

Even in some of the intense moments in the film where it play into that disconnect of what is happening in Jakarta and at these embassies where Hamilton and Kwan do get a closer look as the latter knows what is happening as there is an element of disillusionment that would occur in the third act. Even as the chaos really starts to come ahead forcing Hamilton to come to terms with what is really happening and face some harsh truths about the world’s influence in Indonesia. Overall, Weir crafts a gripping and haunting film about a foreign correspondent covering the chaotic events of Indonesia in the mid-1960s.

Cinematographer Russell Boyd does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it play into the naturalistic daytime exteriors of the countryside locations while maintaining something gritty and direct for the scenes set in the streets for the day and nighttime. Editor William M. Anderson does excellent work with the editing as it uses rhythmic cuts to play into the drama and suspense along with a surreal montage that plays into a nightmare sequence for Hamilton. Art director Herbert Pinter does fantastic work with the look of Kwan’s home in Jakarta to play into the wallpaper of pictures and such that is similar to the home of the locals which is a sharp contrast to the spacious and comfortable hotel rooms and suites that the foreign correspondents live in. Costume designer Terry Ryan does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual with the exception of the colorful shirts that Kwan wears that contrasts the more posh look of some of the foreigners including Bryant.

Special makeup effects designers Judy Lovell and Bob McCarron do amazing work with the look of Kwan in its attention to detail to make the character look manly but also full of life. Sound editor Andrew Steuart does superb work with the sound as it play into the intense atmosphere of the protests and marches on the streets as well as the eerie calm for the scenes in the countryside outside of Jakarta. The film’s music by Maurice Jarre does incredible work with the film’s score as it mixtures elements of orchestral music with traditional Asian string pieces to play into some of the suspense and drama while the music soundtrack consists a mixture of pieces ranging from classical, rock n’ roll, pop, and other music from Richard Strauss, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Vera Lynn, Vangelis, Gene Vincent, and Jimmy Reed.

The film’s wonderful cast include some notable small roles from Ali Nur as Hamilton’s driver, Mike Emperio as the Indonesian president Sukarno, Noel Ferrier and Paul Sonkkila as a couple of foreign correspondents in their respective roles in Wally O’Sullivan and Kevin Condon, Kuh Ledesma as a secretary working for Hamilton and Kumar, and Bembol Roco in a terrific performance as Hamilton’s assistant Kumar who is an Indonesian that has a full understanding of what is going on as he shows Hamilton the chaos of what is happening as well as his own political allegiance. Michael Murphy is superb as the American journalist Pete Curtis who is a rival of sorts for Hamilton as he is more interested in having a good time rather than do his job. Bill Kerr is fantastic as Colonel Henderson as a British diplomat living in Jakarta who is more concerned with maintaining a social status and ensuring Britain’s influence on Indonesian politics rather than help out the people of Indonesia.

Sigourney Weaver is brilliant as Jill Bryant as Colonel Henderson’s assistant who falls for Hamilton though not initially as she is also a friend of Kwan where she understands what is happening and tries to give Hamilton a scoop which would serve as a plot point for the film. Linda Hunt is tremendous as Billy Kwan that has Hunt play a Chinese-Australian dwarf who is a guide for Hamilton while having his own personal interest for the people in Jakarta where he deals with the chaos as well as the empty promises of those in power as it is a defining performance for Hunt. Finally, there’s Mel Gibson in an amazing performance as Guy Hamilton as an Australian reporter covering the events as he’s torn in his job and his love for Bryant where he is forced to see some of the realities of what is happening instead of providing an angle for those with influence.

The Year of Living Dangerously is a phenomenal film from Peter Weir that features great performances from Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, and Linda Hunt. Along with its gorgeous visuals, Maurice Jarre’s haunting score, and its look into an unruly conflict seen from outsiders trying to make sense of everything. It’s a film that play into the chaotic events of mid-1960s Indonesia and its attempt to stray from the influences of the Western world seen from those who unknowingly created that sense of civil disobedience. In the end, The Year of Living Dangerously is a sensational film from Peter Weir.

Peter Weir Films: (3 to Go-Michael) – (Homesdale) – (Whatever Happened to Green Valley?) - (The Car That Ate Paris) – Picnic at Hanging Rock - (The Last Wave) – The Plumber (1979 TV film) - Gallipoli - (Witness) – (Mosquito Coast) – Dead Poets Society - (Green Card) – (Fearless) – (The Truman Show) – Master and Commander: Far Side of the World - The Way Back

© thevoid99 2018

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

New York, New York

Directed by Martin Scorsese and screenplay by Mardik Martin and Earl Mac Rauch from a story by Rauch, New York, New York is the story of a jazz saxophonist and a saxophone singer who meet on V-J Day in 1945 as they fall in love where they endure a turbulent relationship onstage and off-stage. A tribute to the old Hollywood films from the 1930s to the 1950s, the film is a musical drama set in the aftermath of World War II where two people try to maintain a relationship through love and music. Starring Robert de Niro, Liza Minnelli, Lionel Stander, Mary Kay Place, Barry Primus, Frank Sivero, Dick Miller, and special appearances from Clarence Clemons, Casey Kasem, and Jack Haley as the master of ceremonies. New York, New York is a lavish though uneven film from Martin Scorsese.

The film revolves around a jazz saxophonist and a USO singer who meet at a party on V-J Day where they become a couple, join a big band jazz group, form a band of their own, and deal with all sorts of things in their tumultuous relationship. It’s a film with a simple premise that is told in the span of nearly a decade from 1945 to the mid-1950s as focus on this couple who bring out both the best and worst in each other. The film’s screenplay by Mardik Martin and Earl Mac Rauch does play into the elements expected in a romantic drama with music yet there is an element of intense drama as it relates to the relationship between singer Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli) and jazz saxophonist Jimmy Doyle (Robert de Niro).

Their relationship starts off with Doyle trying to woo and win over Evans as the two prove that they learn they were supposed to meet on a blind date and their relationship develops slowly. Yet, once Evans gets a gig singing for a band where Doyle would find and follow her. He becomes part of the band and eventually form his own band but tries to control Evans’ fate as well as her career. Even when he tries to be the one with the glory and talent while Evans is just the voice but who has so much more to offer. While Doyle prefers to play with other musicians who he felt could match his talents as well as socialize with. It is Evans who is poised for stardom as things get complicated when she becomes pregnant with Doyle’s child.

Martin Scorsese’s direction is definitely extravagant for the world he is creating as it’s set from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s to reflect a period of old Hollywood where musicals were the thing. Shot largely at the MGM soundstages in Hollywood as well as parts of New York City and Los Angeles, Scorsese would create a setting that is lavish and filled with a lot of grand set designs to play into a world that was rich and innocent. Scorsese would create some unique wide and medium shots to get a scope of the nightclubs and places the characters go to while using stock footage to create that world of post-war New York City. Scorsese’s compositions do have elements of style that play into the way Scorsese would frame Evans and Doyle in a scene and the few moments where they are equal such as a scene of the two rehearsing with the band as they both share critiques on the drummer as well as a scene of the two arguing with a couple who are trying to park who were interrupting their own argument. Still, Scorsese also play into the craziness of their relationship such as their first meeting of Doyle trying to use his pick-up lines on her only to fail constantly unaware that they’re each other’s blind dates.

For all of the visual tricks and compositions that Scorsese creates in the film, it is clear that Scorsese is trying to make a film that is a homage to old Hollywood as some of the set backdrops do have that sense of artificiality that was prevalent from the past. Yet, to match it with some of the drama and the infighting between Evans and Doyle for some reason doesn’t mesh. Even as the attempts to blend both end up meandering the film a bit at times while Scorsese would be able to create some entertaining musical numbers though its attempts to infuse some drama ends up feeling messy. Still, the film’s climatic musical number that involves Evans in this massive set piece with top-notch dance choreography by Ron Field is a joy to watch as it play into what Evans could achieve that Doyle couldn’t deal with. Despite the shortcomings in its attempts to blend genres as well as wanting to be a homage to classic Hollywood films of the 1940s and 1950s. Scorsese still manages to create an enjoyable but uneven film about a tumultuous romance between a singer and a jazz saxophone player in the post-war era.

Cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs does amazing work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of some stylish lights for some of the interiors including a hallway scene as well as creating moods for some of the exterior scenes in day and night as it’s a highlight of the film. Editors Irving Lerner, Marcia Lucas, Bert Lovitt, David Ramirez, and Tom Rolf do terrific work with the editing as it some elements of styles including transition wipes, montages, and a few jump-cuts. Production designer Boris Leven, with art director Harry Kemm plus set decorators Robert De Vestel and Ruby R. Levitt, does incredible work with the set design as play into the look of the nightclubs and homes of the characters including the backdrops for some of the exterior sets.

Costume designer Theadora Van Runkle does fantastic work with the period costumes of the times from the blue shirt Doyle wears in the film’s opening scene to some of the dresses that Evans wears. Hair designer Sydney Guilaroff does nice work with the different hairstyles that Evans would sport throughout the entirety of the film. Sound editor Kay Rose does superb work with the sound as it help play into the atmosphere of the clubs and venues that the characters go to. The film’s music by John Kander and Fred Ebb is brilliant for its big-band jazz score with some woodwinds and big sound along with songs that Evans would sing while music supervisor Ralph Burns would provide that mix of different jazz sub-genres as well as vocal pop and other styles of music that was around in those times.

The casting by Lynn Stalmaster is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Casey Kasem as a jazz radio DJ, Jack Haley as the master of ceremonies for the film’s big climatic number, Dick Miller as a club owner, Clarence Clemons as jazz trumpeter Cecil Powell, Adam David Winkler as Doyle and Evans’ son late in the film, Frank Sivero as Doyle’s friend Eddie DiMuzio, Harry Northup as an agent named Alabama, George Memmoli as a friend of Doyle in Nicky, Georgie Auld as the musician Frankie Harte, and Mary Kay Place as Evans’ replacement in Doyle’s band Bernice Bennett who later sings for another band. Barry Primus is superb as musician Paul Wilson who is a pianist for the band that Doyle is also in as he would later lead his own band with Bernice as the singer. Lionel Stander is fantastic as bandleader Tony Harwell who leads the band with Evans as the singer and Doyle as one of his saxophone players where he knows how talented both of them are but sees Evans as something special.

Robert de Niro’s performance as Jimmy Doyle has its moments where he displays a lot of charm and energy into the role as well as showing he can play saxophone. Yet, his character is unfortunately one of the vilest individuals on film as he doesn’t have many redeeming qualities often thinking more about himself where he can be possessive and selfish. He also tries to maintain his sense of pride and thinking he knows what Evans wants as it’s a performance that doesn’t give de Niro enough to show the good qualities in his character. Finally, there’s Liza Minnelli in a phenomenal performance as Francine Evans as a USO singer who falls for Doyle and sings for a band with Doyle as it’s a performance that is filled with a lot of comic timing and charisma. Although there’s moments that will make anyone wonder why she is still with Doyle as there’s moments where de Niro and Minnelli don’t really click. Minnelli still gives it her all when she sings and dances as she is the best thing in this film.

New York, New York is a good but messy film from Martin Scorsese. Despite its great visuals, amazing set design, incredible music soundtrack, and Liza Minnelli’s radiant performance. It’s a film that wants to be all sorts of things including this love letter to old Hollywood of the post-war era yet struggles to be intense and engaging yet it has a lot of faults in its execution. In the end, New York, New York is a terrific yet extremely flawed film from Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese Films: (Who’s That Knocking on My Door?) – (Street Scenes) – Boxcar Bertha - (Mean Streets) – Italianamerican - Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore - Taxi Driver - American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince - (The Last Waltz) – Raging Bull - The King of Comedy - After Hours - The Color of Money - The Last Temptation of Christ - New York Stories-Life Lessons - (Goodfellas) – Cape Fear (1991 film) - The Age of Innocence (1993 film) - (A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies) – (Casino) – (Kundun) – (My Voyage to Italy) – Bringing Out the Dead - (The Blues-Feel Like Going Home) – Gangs of New York - (The Aviator) – No Direction Home - The Departed - Shine a Light - Shutter Island - (A Letter to Elia) – (Public Speaking) - George Harrison: Living in the Material World - Hugo - The Wolf of Wall Street - (The Fifty Year Argument) – The Silence (2016 film) - (The Irishman (2019 film))

© thevoid99 2018

Monday, November 12, 2018

Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne

Based on the novelette Jacques le fataliste by Denis Diderot, Les dames du Bois de Boulogne (The Ladies of the Bois du Boulogne) is the story of a society lady who tries to create a scandalous affair between her former lover and a prostitute. Directed by Robert Bresson and screenplay by Bresson and Jean Cocteau, the film is a revenge story of sorts that has a woman trying to trick her lover by unknowingly get into an affair with a prostitute to destroy his social status. Starring Paul Bernard, Maria Casares, Elina Labourdette, Lucienne Bogaert, and Jean Marchant. Les dames du Bois de Boulogne is a rich yet riveting film from Robert Bresson.

A socialite is spurned by her lover as their relationship starts to cool prompting her to ruin him by setting him up with another woman unaware that she’s a prostitute. It’s a film with a simple premise as it play into a woman scheming her former lover by ensuring that he becomes ruined in his prospects to find a relationship that could fulfill him. The film’s screenplay by Robert Bresson and Jean Cocteau with the latter providing the dialogue doesn’t just explore the ideas of revenge but also those who become involved in this scheme who cope with the implications of hurting someone in this act of revenge. Helene (Maria Casares) is a woman that expects to have everyone fall in line with her while also having the freedom to spend time with other men. For Jean (Paul Bernard), he is devoted to her but admits that their love for each other isn’t what it used to be.

Feeling hurt, Helene wants to get back at Jean though remaining his friend yet she notices the cabaret dancer Agnes (Elina Labourdette) who works to support herself and her mother Madame D. (Lucienne Bogaret) as the latter knows Helene. Agnes had aspired to be a ballerina but struggles until Helene offers her and her mother a job where Agnes has to seduce Jean where Helene would pay off their debts. Agnes agrees to do the job as she isn’t impressed by Jean at first yet finds his determination to woo her fascinating where the two begin something much deeper where Agnes decides to not go with Helene’s plans only to deal with the financial implications of what will happen to her.

Bresson’s direction doesn’t emphasize a lot on any kind of style rather than some long shots to play into the drama. Still, Bresson would create some intoxicating compositions in some of the locations in and around Paris that play into the world of high society with the waterfall of Bois de Boulogne as its centerpiece is where all four main characters meet in one entire scene. It is presented in a wide and medium shot as much of the scenes of the characters interacting is used mainly in the latter setting to play into the drama as well as this growing romance between Jean and Agnes. Bresson would keep the drama low-key while playing into this air of intrigue and suspense in how Helene is trying to create chaos with Jean unaware of what is happening to him though he never thought he did anything wrong to Helene. Bresson wouldn’t use a lot of close-ups in order to play into the emotion of the characters as it adds to the intrigue which would climax with a key event for everyone involved. Overall, Bresson crafts a rapturous yet haunting film about a woman scheming to ruin her ex-lover’s life with the help of a prostitute.

Cinematographer Philippe Agostini does excellent work with the film’s black-and-white photography as its usage of lighting for many of the interior scenes as well as for the scenes set at night. Editor Jean Feyte does terrific work with the editing as it has a few rhythmic cuts for some of the drama as much of it is straightforward with the exception of transitional fade-outs. Production designer Max Douy, plus set decorators James Allan and Robert Clavel, does amazing work with the interiors of Helene’s posh apartment as well the small apartment that Agnes and her mother live in. The sound work of Robert Ivonnet and Rene Louge is superb for its natural approach to sound in making sure objects sound sparse without embellishing it. The film’s music by Jean-Jacques Grunenwald is wonderful for its orchestral score that is mainly driven by lush strings that play into the romance and drama.

The film’s fantastic cast include a couple of notable small roles from Yvette Etievant as Helene’s chambermaid and Jean Machant as Helene’s date in the film’s opening scene in Jacques. Lucienne Bogaert is excellent as Madame D. as Agnes’ mother who has a history with Helene as she takes Helene’s offer as a way to cover her debts only to become troubled by Agnes’ emotional state. Paul Bernard is brilliant as Jean as Helene’s former lover who feels like he hasn’t done enough to please Helene where he meets Agnes and falls for her though ponders what does she do unaware of being played.

Elina Labourdette is amazing as Agnes as a cabaret dancer/prostitute dealing with her financial strife as she takes Helene’s offer to seduce and woo Jean only to get to fall for him as she begins to have second thoughts about the job she’s being asked to do. Finally, there’s Maria Casares in an incredible performance as Helene as a socialite who feels spurned by her former lover as she seeks revenge while playing a game of manipulation on both Jean and Agnes that would cause a lot of trouble with Helene coming out on top.

Les dames du Bois de Boulogne is a phenomenal film from Robert Bresson. Featuring a great cast, a riveting story of revenge and manipulation, gorgeous visuals, and a sumptuous film score. It’s a compelling yet rich film that play into the awful deeds that some will do to hurt others as it’s one of Bresson’s early gems. In the end, Les dames du Bois de Boulogne is a sensational film from Robert Bresson.

Robert Bresson Films: (Les affairs publique) – (Les Anges du peche) – Diary of a Country Priest - A Man Escaped - Pickpocket - The Trial of Joan of Arc - Au Hasard Balthazar - Mouchette - (A Gentle Woman) – (Four Nights of a Dreamer) – (Lancelot du Lac) – (The Devil Probably) – L'Argent

© thevoid99 2018

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Filming Othello

Written, directed, and co-starring Orson Welles, Filming Othello is a documentary film about the making of Othello by Welles which he first released in 1952 in Europe and later in a slightly-shortened version in 1955 in the U.S. and Britain. The film has Welles chronicle the film’s production that was troubled but also show Welles in his element as the film would be the last completed release by the filmmaker. The result is a fascinating film from Orson Welles.

When Othello was released in 1952 in Europe where it premiered at that year’s Cannes Film Festival and would share its top prize, it marked a new era for Orson Welles where he would make films independently in Europe. More than 25 years later, Welles is standing above the moviola editing machine talking about that film from its troubled production to his own ideas about William Shakespeare’s play and its many interpretations. During the course of the film, Welles discusses many of the scenes of the film in his office as well as on the editing machine which include a dinner conversation with Micheal MacLiammor and Hilton Edwards who both appeared in the film as Iago and Brabantio respectively. Set in the middle of the film, the three men talk about their respective characters as well as other interpretations of the play including a version made by Laurence Olivier.

Much of Welles’ direction is straightforward where he would do commentary on scenes in the film where he talks about the fact that one key scene was shot at a fishing plant where they had to use incense for the atmosphere. Welles revealed many of the problems with the production related to money as an Italian producer who was funding the film suddenly went broke forcing Welles to take up acting jobs to get the film funded while he would pay the crew from his own pocket. With the help of cinematographer Gary Graver in shooting his discussions on the film and conversations with others and editor Marty Roth in gathering footage from his film.

Welles would later talk to people at a screening of his film as he answers questions while being quite calm and humble where he does dispel many of the personas that he had been called for years. Even as he also talk about the film at length and what he felt he could’ve done to improve it. With the film’s music by Alberto Barberis and Angelo Francesco Lavagnino that would play over footage of the film with its orchestral score, Welles would use the music to play into the footage he’s commenting on with a sense of nostalgia where despite all of the difficulties and issues he had with the production. He is still proud of what he created even though he admits that it doesn’t do enough justice to what William Shakespeare had created.

Filming Othello is an incredible film from Orson Welles. It’s a compelling documentary film that has Welles talk about one of his films and bring insight into what was trying to make as well as the difficulties in trying to tell William Shakespeare’s tragic story with the limitations he had. In the end, Filming Othello is a remarkable film from Orson Welles.

Orson Welles Films: Citizen Kane - The Magnificent Ambersons - The Stranger (1946 film) - The Lady from Shanghai - Macbeth (1948 film) - Othello (1952 film) - Mr. Arkadin - Touch of Evil - The Trial (1962 film) - Chimes at Midnight - The Immortal Story - F for Fake - (The Other Side of the Wind)

Related: (Orson Welles: One-Man Band) – (They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead) - (The Auteurs #69: Orson Welles)

© thevoid99 2018

Friday, November 09, 2018

The American Friend

Based on the novel Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith, Der amerikanische Freund (The American Friend) is the story of a con artist who convinces an ailing picture framer to take part in an assassination scheme. Written for the screen and directed by Wim Wenders, the film is an unusual noir film that play into a battle of wits that would eventually form into an unlikely friendship. Starring Dennis Hopper, Bruno Ganz, Lisa Kruezer, and Gerard Blain. Der amerikanische Freund is a riveting and intoxicating film from Wim Wenders.

The film revolves around an American con artist, whose work in art forgeries, has him traveling to Hamburg where he meets a dying picture framer who he believes can carry an assassination job for another man. It’s a film that plays into a man who is trying to create a scheme about an assassination he wants to take place with another man as he feels slighted by this picture framer he met at an auction. Wim Wenders’ screenplay follows the world that Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper) is in where he cons people into buying paintings for lots of money when they’re actually forgeries as he goes to Hamburg from New York City to sell a forgery where the picture framer Jonathan Zimmerman (Bruno Ganz) notices the painting is a forgery that people are over-paying for. Zimmerman knows who Ripley is as he refuses to shake his hand prompting Ripley to turn to a fellow criminal in Raoul Minot (Gerard Blain) to use Zimmerman as an assassin for a rival that Minot wants dead.

For Zimmerman who is dying from leukemia and is health is failing, he would receive news that his health is worsening where Minot approaches him about doing a job and would get certain health benefits and money in return. Yet, his wife Marianne (Lisa Kruezer) is suspicious about Zimmerman’s trips to Paris and Munich as the story progresses with the former having him going to a hospital where they would send Marianne false medical notes which Zimmerman had no clue about thinking he would be fine. Upon the job that Minot would have Zimmerman do, it does give Zimmerman a sense of life although things become more complicated when Minot wants Zimmerman to do another job without Ripley’s knowledge who is becoming fond of Zimmerman.

Wenders’ direction does bear some visual style reminiscent of suspense and film noir yet much of what he does is straightforward. Shot mainly in Hamburg, Germany with additional locations in Munich, Paris, and New York City, Wenders would play into a world that is vast as it relates to the kind of operation that Ripley is involved as he lives mainly in New York City but went to Germany for business knowing he can make serious money through forged paintings made by his friend Derwatt (Nicholas Ray). Wenders’ direction definitely emphasizes some simple compositions in his approach to the framing where he does use close-ups and medium shots to play into the interaction between characters as well as the scenes at the metro in Paris where Zimmerman is going after his target as it’s dialogue-free in order to play up the suspense. Even in the way Wenders would move the camera to see Zimmerman and his target move from one metro train to another as well as the sense of geography in the metro stations with some wide shots to get an idea of where Zimmerman can kill this man though there’s cameras at the station that can see what is going on.

Wenders’ direction also maintains that intrigue into what is happening with the suspense as well as Ripley’s visits to Zimmerman’s shop as the former wants the latter to create a picture frame for one of the forgeries. Even as it play into a growing friendship between Ripley and Zimmerman as the former is aware of the latter’s illness and wants to help him as he would be involved in this second assassination that Zimmerman is supposed to carry out. The film’s third act has Wenders take great advantage of the locations and its scope where it does play into a friendship that is growing but also revelations about Zimmerman’s ailing health and Ripley’s own involvement into these assassinations prompting the latter to take control as well as to try and make things right for Zimmerman and his family. Overall, Wenders craft a gripping yet somber film about an American con artist who gets an ailing German picture framer to carry out an assassination.

Cinematographer Robby Muller does brilliant work with the film’s colorful and ravishing cinematography as its usage of natural lighting for some of the daytime exterior scenes as well as available and stylish light for some of the interiors including the scenes at night. Editor Peter Przygodda does excellent work with the editing as it has elements of jump-cuts while mainly aiming for a straightforward approach with the rhythmic cuts to play into the suspenseful moments of the film. Art directors Heidi and Toni Ludi do fantastic work with the look of Ripley’s home as it has appliances that are covered while Zimmerman’s home doesn’t have much space though his son’s bedroom is full of cool toys and appliances.

Costume designer Isolde Nist does terrific work with the costumes from the denim-like look of Ripley with his cowboy hat to the more casual and reserved look of Zimmerman. Sound mixers Milan Bor, Max Galinsky, and Martin Muller do superb work with the sound in the way trains and ships sound from outside a building as well as what goes on inside the metro stations that help play into the suspenseful moments of the assassination sequence. The film’s music by Jurgen Knieper is incredible for its mixture of piano and strings that help play into the drama with its lush string arrangements that also add to the film’s suspense while its soundtrack features mainly music from the Kinks that is played in parts of the film.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles from Andreas Dedecke as Jonathan and Marianne’s son Daniel, Sandy Whitelaw as a doctor trying to help Zimmerman, filmmakers Samuel Fuller and Jean Eustache in their respective cameo roles as an American gangster and a friendly man on the train, Lou Castel as Minot’s associate Rodolphe who makes sure Zimmerman does the job, and filmmaker Nicholas Ray in a small yet terrific performance as Ripley’s paint forger named Derwatt. Gerard Blain is fantastic as the French gangster Raoul Minot as a man that wants Ripley to kill a rival gangster only to turn to Zimmerman for the job and later trying to get Zimmerman to do more of his dirty work.

Lisa Kruezer is brilliant as Zimmerman’s wife Marianne as a woman that is trying to understand where her husband is going believing something isn’t right upon getting messages from his doctor while is also suspicious about Ripley. Bruno Ganz is incredible as Jonathan Zimmerman as a picture framer who used to make forged paintings that is dealing with leukemia as he’s trying to cope with his illness as well as what he’s being forced to do where it’s a low-key yet somber performance that has Ganz sing a lot of British Invasion songs to deal with his situation. Finally, there’s Dennis Hopper in a phenomenal performance as Tom Ripley as this con man trying to get Zimmerman to kill as revenge for slighting him only to become fond of him as he later tries to help him as it’s an offbeat yet charismatic performance from Hopper.

Der amerikanische Freund is a sensational film from Wim Wenders that features great performances from Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz. Along with its ensemble cast, Robby Muller’s gorgeous photography, its study of manipulation and redemption, and its beautiful music score. It’s a film that doesn’t play with the conventions of suspense in order to study the motivations of two men who are connected by carrying out an assassination only to try to connect through the simple ideas of life. In the end, Der amerikanische Freund is a spectacular film from Wim Wenders.

Related: Purple Noon

Wim Wenders Films: (Summer in the City) - (The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty) - (The Scarlet Letter (1973 film)) - (Alice in the Cities) - (The Wrong Move) - (Kings of the Road) - (Lightning Over Water) - (Room 666) - (Hammett) - (The State of Things) – Paris, Texas - (Tokyo-Ga) – Wings of Desire - (Notebook on Cities and Clothes) – Until the End of the World - (Faraway, So Close!) - (Lisbon Story) - (Beyond the Clouds) - (A Trick of Light) - (The End of Violence) - (Buena Vista Social Club) - (The Million Dollar Hotel) - (The Soul of a Man) - (Land of Plenty) - (Don’t Come Knocking) - (The Palermo Shooting) - (Pina) - Salt of the Earth - (Every Thing Will Be Fine) – (The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez) – (Submergence) – (Pope Francis: A Man of His Word)

© thevoid99 2018

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks

For the 45th week of 2018 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer. The subject is political comedies as it’s something that is needed in this time of American turmoil with its politics as both Republicans and Democrats are both acting like assholes and morons. It’s an appropriate subject considering what is happening as here are my three picks:

1. Bob Roberts

Tim Robbins’ 1992 directorial debut is a witty satirical comedy that has Robbins play the titular character of a right-wing politician on a campaign run for the U.S. Senate as he’s also a folk singer hoping to get America back on track. Presented in a mockumentary-style, the film is an offbeat look into a campaign that has a man trying to present himself as a savior of America when he’s really just a big scumbag. Featuring an incredible ensemble that includes Alan Rickman as Roberts’ campaign chairman, Giancarlo Esposito as a reporter trying to expose Roberts, the trio of John Cusack, Susan Sarandon, and James Spader as news reporters, and Jack Black in his film debut as an overzealous supporter of Roberts.

2. Bulworth

From Warren Beatty comes probably one of the most underrated comedies of the 1990s that stars Beatty as a jaded senator who is on a race for re-election yet feels disillusioned with many aspects of his life where he would hire an assassin to kill him so that his daughter can collect the insurance money. Yet, things would change when he meets Halle Berry as an activist where he starts to tear down the many ideas of politics while exposing much of the corruptive elements that goes on in campaigning and on the job. It’s a film that is entertaining and filled with a lot of wit while Beatty displays humor in embracing hip-hop and African-American culture.

3. Head of State

From Chris Rock comes a film that was definitely ahead of its time considering that five years after its theatrical release, America would elect its first African-American president in Barack Obama. With Rock playing an alderman in Washington D.C. trying to help regular people, the film revolves a man suddenly becoming a last-minute replacement for a Democratic candidate who died in a crash as a way to lose the presidential election and get ready for the next one. Instead, Rock’s character starts to speak his mind about what Americans want and need as well as display a lot of the things that Americans should have. With an ensemble cast that include the late Bernie Mac, Dylan Baker, Lynn Whitfield, Tamala Jones, Nick Searcy, the late James Rebhorn, and Robin Givens as Rock’s former girlfriend trying to get back with him only to be pulled by security. It is a funny film that play into some of the absurdity of elections but also the kind of hope it can give if democracy works in favor of good.

© thevoid99 2018

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Boxcar Bertha

Based on the book Sister of the Road by Ben L. Reitman, Boxcar Bertha is the story of two train robbers/lovers who become fugitives when the titular character is charged with the murder of a gambler while they deal with the plight of railroad workers in the American South. Directed by Martin Scorsese and screenplay by Joyce H. Corrington and John William Corrington, the film is a low-budget crime drama produced by Roger Corman that play into the exploit of two lovers who rob trains while wanting to maintain a life without complications. Starring Barbara Hershey, David Carradine, Barry Primus, Bernie Casey, John Carradine, Harry Northup, and Victor Argo. Boxcar Bertha is an exciting and compelling film from Martin Scorsese.

The film is about a young woman who meets a union organizer as they fall in love and later rob banks with a couple of friends following the murder of a gambler. It’s a film that is a dramatic take of the real life criminal who gets involved with crime accidentally as she has a resentment of those who control the railroad and the rich who didn’t suffer as it all takes place during the Great Depression. The film’s screenplay by Joyce H. Corrington and John William Corrington is largely straightforward in its narrative and how the titular character (Barbara Hershey) was brought into crime after her brief encounter with the union organizer Big Bill Shelly (David Carradine) who helps her settle matters relating to her father while later meeting up with a gambler in Rake Brown (Barry Primus) as she accidentally kills another gambler in defending Brown. Bertha, Brown, Shelly, and a friend in Von Morton (Bernie Casey) would start a gang to rob trains and banks though they would get the unwanted attention of H. Buckram Santoris (John Carradine) who wants to stop the gang.

Martin Scorsese’s direction is largely simple in its approach to the direction while he would make some unique compositions throughout the film. Shot on location in Arkansas, the film does play into a period of time during the Great Depression in the American South where everyone is struggling as Scorsese uses a lot of wide shots to get a look at the surroundings that the characters venture into. Scorsese’s direction emphasizes more on close-ups and medium shots to get to know the characters and their situation while using some stylized moments in the compositions. Notably in some of the film’s violent moments where it has bits of style in the way characters are killed but there’s also a sense of drama into the situations that happen. Even in the third act where Santoris’ power starts to come into play where things get serious but there is also moments where Bertha endures not just loss but also uncertainty as she tries to figure out a life after crime and chaos. Overall, Scorsese creates an exhilarating and captivating film about a young woman who takes part in a series of robberies as a way to stick up for the railroad workers.

Cinematographer John Stephens does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward in terms of the visuals with its usage of natural lighting for many of the daytime exteriors with some low-key lighting for the interior/exterior scenes set at night. Editor Buzz Feitshans does nice work with the editing as it does have some stylish moments in a few jump cuts for some of the action while maintaining some rhythmic cuts for some of the drama. Sound mixer Donald F. Johnson does terrific work with the sound as it’s straightforward in capturing some of the atmosphere of the locations as well as the sounds of gunfire. The film’s music by Gib Guilbeau and Thad Maxwell is fantastic for its mixture of folk, blues, and country music to play into the period of the times as it has elements of traditional music and contemporary pieces.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Harry Northup as a gambler that Bertha and Brown encounter whom the former would kill, Victor Argo and David Osterhout as a couple of law enforcers trying to go after Bertha and her gang, and John Carradine in a wonderful performance as the lawman H. Buckram Santoris as a man who is trying to protect the financial interests of the railroad and uphold the law where he would have his own encounters with Bertha and her gang. Barry Primus is fantastic as the gambler Rake Brown as a gambler from the north who befriends Bertha as he is reluctant to take part in robberies only to see the financial benefits of the trade. Bernie Casey is excellent as Von Morton as a friend of Bertha who is loyal and cunning where he helps out Shelly in getting out of jail and take part in the robberies.

David Carradine is brilliant as Big Bill Shelly as a union organizer struggling to help the railroad workers as he endures abuse from the law prompting him to venture into crime while falling for Bertha whom he wants a good life with. Finally, there’s Barbara Hershey in an incredible performance as the titular role as a young woman who is trying to find her way following her father’s death where she finds herself becoming a criminal to support herself as well as go after those that was doing some injustice towards those trying to make a decent living.

Boxcar Bertha is a marvelous film from Martin Scorsese. Featuring a great cast, a compelling story, nice visuals, and a superb music soundtrack, it’s a film that has Scorsese exploring the world of crime but in a different setting while using the limited resources he has to stray from some of the conventions of the B-films that producer Roger Corman is known for. In the end, Boxcar Bertha is a remarkable film from Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese Films: (Who’s That Knocking on My Door?) – (Street Scenes) – (Mean Streets) – Italianamerican - Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore - Taxi Driver - New York, New YorkAmerican Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince - (The Last Waltz) – Raging Bull - The King of Comedy - After Hours - The Color of Money - The Last Temptation of Christ - New York Stories-Life Lessons - (Goodfellas) – Cape Fear (1991 film) - The Age of Innocence (1993 film) - (A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies) – (Casino) – (Kundun) – (My Voyage to Italy) – Bringing Out the Dead - (The Blues-Feel Like Going Home) – Gangs of New York - (The Aviator) – No Direction Home - The Departed - Shine a Light - Shutter Island - (A Letter to Elia) – (Public Speaking) - George Harrison: Living in the Material World - Hugo (2011 film) - The Wolf of Wall Street - (The Fifty Year Argument) – The Silence (2016 film) - (The Irishman (2019 film))

© thevoid99 2018