Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Films That I Saw: September 2012



The fall season has finally started and this is where the real film-going season really begins. This is where the serious movies are out and the chance to see something that aren’t just award contenders but rather films that offer more bang for your buck. After a very dismal summer, the fall season is a chance for me to really make a list of the best films of 2012 as I finally saw a new movie that is currently a contender for the best film of 2012.

In the month of September, I saw a total of 48 films. 26 first-timers and 22 re-watches. A major improvement over last month as there was a lot on TV that month as well as the fact that I feel more relaxed and had more time to watch things. Plus, there were a few surprises along the way in the course of the month as I focused on a few films that related to certain franchises plus a couple of 2012 features and some shorts along the way. Here are the list of the 10 best first-timers that I saw:

1. The Master


2. Lolita


3. Vivre Sa Vie


4. Stolen Kisses


5. Martha Marcy May Marlene


6. Jean de Florette


7. Manon des Sources


8. Compliance


9. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy


10. Margin Call


Monthly-Mini Reviews:

Klitschko


A documentary from HBO sports explores the world of the two current heavyweight champions of the world in boxing in Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko. I’m a sucker for HBO sport documentaries and this one was really good as it revealed the unique relationship between these two men and how different they are when they approach the sport of boxing. There’s some humor about them along with some tender moments with the family including their late father as it’s clear that these Ukranian powerhouse brothers are definitely deserving to be more than just champions. They are a great example of what is to become the people’s champions.

A Thousand Words


Oh Eddie Murphy. You used to be so funny. What the fuck happened to you? This movie is clearly one of the worst things Eddie Murphy has done. It’s also one of the worst films I had ever seen. Murphy tries too hard to be funny and brash early in the film. Then when he’s silent, he’s not funny at all. Then the film just gets worse and idiotic as it delves into sappy sentimentality that ends in a very cheesy manner. This film is further confirmation that Brian Robbins is clearly one of the worst filmmakers working today.

The Monday Night War


I’m a pro wrestling fan for nearly twenty years and I enjoyed watching both WCW Monday Nitro and WWE Monday Night Raw during that period between 1995 to 2000. Although it’s a documentary that tends to favor more towards the WWE side of things since it was produced by the WWE. It does have some great ideas about how these two companies battled it out for ratings where WCW seemed to be on top until WWE came back with a vengeance in 1998. While it is quite flawed since there is a lot more that got left out, it is still something that fans of pro wrestling must watch.

Sweet Home Alabama-The Southern Rock Saga


A BBC documentary that I saw on YouTube about the creation and emergence of Southern Rock in the 1970s. It’s definitely a really enjoyable one that explore its roots and how a band like the Allman Brothers really made a difference for the South when things were tough at the time. Along with interviews from people like Charlie Daniels, Donnie Van Zant of .38 Special, and various associates of acts like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, the people of Capricorn Records, and former R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills. It’s just a very fun documentary to watch that will make anyone salivate for good tunes and some Southern fried cooking.

Re-Watches:

1. Lost in Translation


2. Chungking Express


3. The Tree of Live


4. Caddyshack


5. National Lampoon’s Vacation


6. Kicking & Screaming


7. Superman


8. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang


9. Forrest Gump


10. Vice Versa


Well, that’s it for September and what a good month it was. While I was planning to watch films by Samuel Fuller and Robert Altman, I decided to push that for November as I wanted to focus on something else for October. Throughout the month of October, I will be watching some horror and suspense films from the likes of John Carpenter and Roman Polanski along with other films from Europe and Asia. Also slated for October will be new releases like Looper, The Perks of Being a Wildflower, Argo, and a few others along with some Sergio Leone-related projects for my upcoming Auteurs series on him as well as some James Bond-related films as I reach the near-end of the Bond marathon. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off.

© thevoid99 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

007 James Bond Marathon: Die Another Day




Based on Ian Fleming’s stories, Die Another Day is the story of James Bond trying to find a betrayer within the British government who had him imprisoned for a year in North Korea as he gets help from an American agent. Directed by Lee Tamahori and screenplay by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, the film has Bond take on new foes as well as team up an agent who is considered an equal of his as Pierce Brosnan plays Bond for the fourth and final time. Also starring Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rick Yune, Rosamund Pike, Michael Madsen, John Cleese, Samantha Bond, and Judi Dench as M. Die Another Day is a film that has some fine moments but is hampered by its hackneyed script and nonsensical action sequences.

After a mission in North Korea goes wrong that left the rogue Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee) dead, Bond is imprisoned where he’s tortured for 14 months until he’s released by Moon’s father General Moon (Kenneth Tsang) as a prisoner exchange for Colonel Moon’s henchman Zao (Rick Yune). After being suspended for supposedly leaking information to the North Koreans, Bond escapes his hospital stay to go to Hong Kong where he meets Chinese agent Mr. Chang (Ho Yi) who tells Bond about Zao killing a few Chinese agents as Bond travels to Cuba. After getting some information from a cigar manufacturer in Raoul (Emilio Echevarria), Bond meets up with an American agent named Jinx (Halle Berry) as the two make separate missions to a secret island where Bond finds Zao who was trying to have surgery. Things go wrong until Bond finds some diamonds that belongs to a billionaire named Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens).

Bond decides to meet Graves at a country club in order to find out more about the diamonds as Graves invites Bond to a ceremony he’s having in Iceland. After regaining his 00 status from M who also wants to know more about Graves, Bond is sent to Iceland where Bond learns that Graves’ assistant Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) is a MI6 operative also investigating Graves. Jinx also arrives at Iceland to continue her mission as she and Bond make a discovery about not just Graves but who is he in league with. Also learning about the satellite that Graves created which is really a weapon, Bond decides to report this to M where he learns about the person that betrayed him to the North Koreans. With some help from Jinx, the two travel to South Korea to stop Graves from unleashing his weapon in order to start a war.

While the premise of the film has Bond taking on a billionaire who could be in cahoots with a North Korean terrorist in order to start a war is an interesting one. It starts off great in which Bond tries to infiltrate a meeting where he meets this rogue colonel and his friend that is involved with diamond smuggling where suddenly things go wrong as Bond is betrayed and sabotaged. Then the story starts to devolve into a premise where Bond has to share his time with another agent as they work together to find a terrorist and this billionaire where the results aren’t very good.

Part of the problem with film’s screenplay is that Gustav Graves as a villain isn’t very interesting at all. Sure, there is a twist about him that is revealed in the film’s second half that explains his motivations but it is handled with such silliness that he is just a villain who likes to have stupid gadgets around him to defeat his villains. The Zao character is a bit more interesting as a henchman but ends up becoming a second-banana to Graves by the film’s second half. It’s not just some of the characterization and situations that doesn’t work but also some of the dialogue where it’s not as humorous as it used to be while some of it feels forced in its delivery.

Lee Tamahori’s direction does have some engaging moments in terms of the way he builds suspense as well as the film’s opening prologue scene that establishes a lot of what is to come. Yet, Tamahori seems to be taken by the idea of creating a film that goes into a lot of locations like Iceland, Spain, and Britain as well as setting it in places all over the world. Since he couldn’t go everywhere, he has to utilize CGI backgrounds to create shots of Hong Kong and some places where it doesn’t very realistic. It’s not just that some of the set pieces and visual-effects driven moments don’t work at all.

Some of the film’s action sequences get into very silly moments where it’s not just the use of CGI that hampers these moments. Tamahori’s emphasis to give into the conventions of action-style editing and shooting styles ends up creating a film that is incomprehensive to watch at times. Notably with the twists that are later unveiled in some of the dramatic moments where Tamahori makes some editing decisions that really kills the impact that it should’ve had. Despite a few decent moments in the film, Tamahori ends up creating a film that is just a flat-out mess.

Cinematographer David Tattersall does nice work with the cinematography for some scenes in the exteriors including some lighting schemes in Graves‘ secret base scene. Editors Christian Wagner and Andrew MacRitchie do some OK work with the editing in the film‘s suspenseful and light-hearted moments but ends up playing to the rapid-cutting style of most action films where not much makes sense in the fights and action scenes. Production designer Peter Lamont, with set decorator Simon Wakefield and supervising art director Neil Lamont, does some fine work with some of the set pieces such as the MI6 offices but the ice-made hotel that Graves lives in easily the worst set piece of all of the Bond films.

Costume designer Lindy Hemming does very good work with the costumes in the dresses that Miranda Frost and Jinx wears to the tuxedos that Bond wears Special effects supervisor Chris Corbould and visual effects supervisor Mara Bryan do some decent work with some of the special effects but the CGI work is truly poor and shoddy. Sound editor Martin Evans does some terrific work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the action scenes as well as the party at Graves‘ ice palace. The film’s music by David Arnold is wonderful for some of the orchestral music that is played for some of the film’s action scenes though the electronic stuff isn’t very good. The title song by Madonna is truly one of the worst Bond theme song ever thanks to some bad production and the use of a vocoder that makes Madonna sound like Cartman.

The film’s ensemble cast is pretty good for the people that is hired as it features some notable small roles from Emilio Echevarria as Bond’s Cuban contact Raul, Ho Yi as Bond’s Hong Kong contact Mr. Chang, Michael Madsen as Jinx’s superior Damian Falco, Will Yun Lee as the rogue Colonel Lee, and Kenneth Tsang as Lee’s father. The worst small role comes in the form of Madonna as a fencing instructor named Verity where Madonna puts on a shitty British accent that makes her sound like a jackass. Bond regulars such as Colin Salmon as MI6 official Charles Robinson and Samantha Bond as Miss Moneypenny are very good while John Cleese is quite funny as Q. Rick Yune is terrific as the henchman Zao who tries to kill Bond while sporting a disfigured face while Judi Dench has some fine moments in her role as M.

Rosamund Pike is excellent as the MI6 agent Miranda Frost who is a skilled swordswoman as well as someone who isn’t keen on Bond’s charms. Toby Stephens is terrible as Gustav Graves due to the fact that Graves is a pretty lame villain who has to rely on an electric suit and swagger to get things done. Halle Berry is quite good as the agent Jinx as she is a woman who can kick ass and get things done as Berry does have chemistry with Pierce Brosnan. It’s just that she’s not given enough material to make her into someone really compelling as well as the fact that Jinx gets some pretty lame one-liners. Finally, there’s Pierce Brosnan in his final outing as James Bond where Brosnan maintains his sense of charm and wit to the role as well as a sense of grit but the script’s shortcomings really bog the character down as it doesn’t give Brosnan enough room to make Bond more engaging to watch.

Of the films in the James Bond series, Die Another Day is truly the weakest film of the entire franchise. Due to awful decisions from the part of director Lee Tamahori, misguided use of visual effects, a very weak villain, a lackluster script, and ridiculous action scenes that involves an invisible car. It’s a film that just puts James Bond into situations that are way too silly. While there are some moments that keeps the film from being a total disaster, it’s not enough to make it a worthwhile moment. In the end, Die Another Day is a terrible film from Lee Tamahori.

James Bond Files: The EON Films: Dr. No - From Russia with Love - Goldfinger - Thunderball - You Only Live Twice - On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Diamonds are Forever - Live and Let Die - The Man with the Golden Gun - The Spy Who Loved Me - Moonraker - For Your Eyes Only - Octopussy - A View to a Kill - The Living Daylights - Licence to Kill - GoldenEye - Tomorrow Never Dies - The World is Not Enough - Casino Royale (2006 film) - Quantum of Solace - Skyfall

Non-EON Films: Casino Royale (Climax! TV Episode) - Casino Royale (1967 film) - Never Say Never Again

Bond Documentaries: Bond Girls Are Forever - True Bond - Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007

© thevoid99 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Auteurs #15: Paul Thomas Anderson




Among one of the new American filmmakers to emerge in the mid-1990s, Paul Thomas Anderson brought new ideas to the world of film ranging from ensemble-driven pieces to visually-sprawling epics. In the late 1990s, he was among one of those who showcased a world that was different from the more stylish violence of Quentin Tarantino as he would later re-invent himself with each feature. In 2012, Anderson returns with his sixth feature film entitled The Master that explores the world of religious cults that is inspired by works of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology.

Born in Los Angeles, California on June 26, 1970, Anderson grew up the son of a voice actor named Ernie Anderson who would encourage his son to venture into the world of film. During those years as a kid where he would make all sorts of films, Anderson would discover the films of filmmakers like Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, and Stanley Kubrick as they would be influential with his career. In the late 1980s, Anderson made a short that would later become a feature film in the years to come as it was entitled The Dirk Diggler Story about a well-endowed 70s porn star.

During the late 1980s, Anderson worked as a production assistant for all sorts of projects in Los Angeles and New York City where he would eventually meet famed character actor Philip Baker Hall. It was his meeting with Hall where Anderson would create a short that starred Hall as it would later become a feature project. The short called Cigarettes and Coffee revolved around the lives of five people and a twenty dollar bill as it got the attention in short film festivals around the U.S. that led to Anderson being part of the Sundance filmmakers lab. With Michael Caton-Jones serving as his mentor during the lab sessions, Anderson would expand the ideas of his short into a full-length feature film.

Hard Eight



Following his period in making Cigarettes and Coffee and being part of the Sundance filmmakers lab, Anderson would use his limited experience to craft a story about an aging gambler teaching a man how to gamble and survive in the world of Nevada gambling. The project would be called Sydney as Anderson would have Philip Baker Hall play the titular character. During his time in Sundance, Anderson received a deal with Rysher Entertainment to create the film. It was a big moment for someone who hadn’t proven to be a capable filmmaker but Anderson had a lot of support to make the project.

With Hall slated to appear in the film, Anderson would also get a few up-and-comers for the project as it would include John C. Reilly as Sydney’s protégé John, Gwyneth Paltrow as John’s girlfriend Clementine, and Samuel L. Jackson as John’s friend Jimmy. The cast would also include small appearances from actors who would become regulars of Anderson’s future films, along with Hall and Reilly, that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Melora Walters, and veteran character actor Robert Ridgely. The actors Anderson worked with would help shape his project into something special as Anderson sought the influence of Robert Altman in how to work with actors.

The project would also include some other individuals who would be part of Anderson’s collaborative team as it includes cinematographer Robert Elswit and music composers Jon Brion and Michael Penn. Elswit would provide the visual style Anderson would want to shoot the nightlife of places like Las Vegas and Reno. Brion and Penn would create a low-key score that was considered unconventional in comparison to a lot of films. Notably as the music is often atmospheric with Brion’s arrangements of bells and vibraphones that is mixed in with the folk-jazz music of Penn.

In wanting to make a film that was different from films about gambling and violence, Anderson relied on a theme that he would explore throughout the entirety of his career. Leading the story is the character Sydney as he’s a man with a dark past as he helps a young man show the way and later become a father figure for this man and his hooker-girlfriend. There, they become this unconventional family as it’s led by this aging man who knows how to take care of these two young people who mean well but are also inept in handling situations. Even as Sydney is carrying a secret that very few knows about as Anderson would use dialogue and action to help tell the story where it would lead to this climatic moment of Sydney reverting back to the darkness he tried to run away from.

Following its completion in early 1996, the film was seen by the executives of Rysher Entertainment who were not happy with the film as they decided to re-cut it without Anderson’s consent. Still carrying a work print version of the film, Anderson submitted his version to the 1996 Cannes Film Festival in its Un Certain Regard section where it got a wonderful reception. Following its success at Cannes, Anderson was able to get his re-worked version of the film, now titled Hard Eight, released in early 1997 despite no promotion from Rysher. The film eventually received critical acclaim as it marked Anderson’s arrival into the world of films.

Boogie Nights



After the release of Hard Eight, Anderson decided to forge ahead with his next project that was based on his late 80s short The Dirk Diggler Story. Wanting to make a much more ambitious, ensemble-driven film, Anderson expanded his short into a story about a dysfunctional group of people who work together to make porno films in the late 1970s. Entitled Boogie Nights, Anderson would get the attention of New Line Cinema studio president Michael De Luca who read Anderson’s script and wanted to have the project in production. With the help of producers Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin on board, the project would definitely be made with Anderson having lots of control.

With collaborators like cinematographer Robert Elswit, music composers Michael Penn and Jon Brion, and editor Dylan Tichenor (who had served as a post-production consultant on Hard Eight) on board. Anderson would also expand his collective of actors that already consisted of people like Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Melora Walters, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Robert Ridgely as they each got to play key parts for the film. The expanded ensemble would include Burt Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, Don Cheadle, Nicole Ari Parker, Ricky Jay, Alfred Molina, William H. Macy, Luis Guzman, and Thomas Jane. The project would also include porno actors from the 1970s as Nina Hartley and Veronica Hart in small roles while Ron Jeremy served as a consultant for the project.

The project would be shot in Anderson’s native Los Angeles around the San Fernando Valley as Anderson would refine some of the visual traits of Hard Eight for something more stylish. Notably in the tracking shots that he would create such as the film’s opening sequence where Anderson wanted to introduce every character in a nightclub that would be important to the story. It would be this long, three-minute tracking shot that would be among the many stylistic touches that Anderson would put as he is interested in the characters that are being introduced as well as the world they live in. While it’s a world that is filled with sex, drugs, and disco music with these people who are quite dysfunctional and don’t have it together. It’s still a world that offers love and a chance for someone like Wahlberg’s Eddie Adams to become a star as he would rename himself Dirk Diggler.

Since the film is a period piece that is set in the late 70s and early 1980s, Anderson wanted to make sure that the film stayed true to those periods while emphasizing about the quality of the porno movies made in the 1970s. Driven by Burt Reynolds’ Jack Horner character, Anderson wanted Horner to be more than just porno filmmaker. He wanted Horner to be a man that strives to put substance into these porn films by incorporating a story and characters for audiences to enjoy. Helping him would be these people who are good people despite their flaws as he acts like a father figure for them while Julianne Moore’s Amber Waves characters becomes a mother for Dirk and the young porn star Rollergirl (played by Heather Graham).

Taking cues from the filmmakers he was influenced by, Anderson knew that the story would have to take a shift of sorts as he created this amazing scene in a New Year’s Eve party that would introduce a few characters like Philip Baker Hall’s Floyd Gondoli and Thomas Jane’s Todd Parker as their presence would set the wave for the changes to come. Anderson’s second half that is set in the 1980s is a much darker section where the family splinters and everyone is facing their own individual issues such as drugs, money, and dealing with prejudice for their association with porno. This would lead to a very climatic moment where Dirk, Todd, and John C. Reilly’s Reed Rothchild would meet up with a crazed drug dealer in Rahad Jackson (Alfred Molina) in one of the most chilling moments of the film.

The film made its premiere at the 1997 Toronto Film Festival where it was a major hit as it was later released to theaters in the U.S. a month later. The film would become Anderson’s breakout feature as it drew rave reviews as well as a being a hit in the box office. The film would also give Burt Reynolds a major comeback as he won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor while receiving an Oscar nomination for the same category. The film would also serve as major breakthroughs for Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, and Heather Graham as they would star in big time productions for the years to come. For Anderson, it would be the major start of a flourishing career.

Magnolia



The success of Boogie Nights allowed Anderson to have the chance to do anything he wants. For his next film, Anderson decided to take his ambitions one step forward into a much richer, more multi-layered project that revolves around a group of people on one particular day in Los Angeles. The project would be entitled Magnolia as Anderson was inspired by magnolia trees as he would aim for something that was grander and filled with multiple themes involving redemption, regret, and loneliness.

Taking place once again in the San Fernando Valley, the project would be driven more by the characters and their actions as the film would also revolve around people seeking some form of love around them. The cast would be bigger than Boogie Nights as many of them returned to appear in this project. Among them are Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, Melora Walters, and John C. Reilly in crucial parts of the film while others like Alfred Molina, Ricky Jay, Thomas Jane, and Luis Guzman would take on small appearances. Added to the cast in key parts of the film would be Jeremy Blackman as a young game show contestant, Jason Robards as an ailing old man, and Tom Cruise as a self-help guru.

The film would feature characters who have very little connection with one another as it revolves around many stories. A game show host who learns that he’s dying as he’s trying to reconcile with his estranged, self-destructive daughter. A man who was on that game show is trying to deal with being fired as he deals with loneliness. A boy who is about to be on a game show as he succumbs to pressure on the night of his big moment. A wife of an ailing rich man dealing with the fact that she married him for money as she asks to be taken off the will only to realize where the money will go. An old, dying man who asks his nurse to find his estranged son whom he wants to make amends to. A police officer trying to find a murderer as he later goes on a date. Finally, there’s a self-help guru who is interviewed by a reporter as she tries to break into his persona to find out his past.

The complexity of the screenplay would have Anderson find ways for these characters to interact with one another as everyone seems lost on a day that would test them. Notably in the film’s second act where the emotions start to creep in as everyone starts to face their troubles. Some of which includes scenes where Hall’s Jimmy Gator character is feeling tense about Blackman’s Stanley Spector not answering a question as he wants to go the bathroom. This would get inter-cut with numerous scene such as Cruise’s Frank T.J. Mackey character given hard questions as he sits in silence while Hoffman’s Phil Parma is trying to contact him through Mackey’s group of assistants.

This would lead to a big third act where characters would do things in acts of desperation such as Macy’s Donnie Smith character or Reilly’s Officer Jim Kurring character as he goes on a date with Gator’s daughter Claudia (Melora Walters). Julianne Moore’s Linda trying to kill herself as Frank finally meets his dying father in one of the film’s emotional moments. This would follow by one of the strangest moments in film as it relates to a prologue about coincidences. Even as it features an aftermath that has all of the characters just figuring out what is going on as they would connect with one another.

Adding to film’s emotional punch would be its music as Jon Brion provided a score that was much bigger than his previous work as it would incorporate his own sensibilities with lush yet broad orchestration. Contributing to the music would Aimee Mann as she provided many material that would play to the story as her song Wise Up would be among one of the film’s key moments as characters would sing a line to express the sense of loss they’re dealing with. Mann’s Save Me would be another moment for the film’s soundtrack as it would give Mann an Oscar nomination for Best Song.

The film was released in December of 1999 via limited release despite New Line Cinema’s issues with its length and marketing strategy. The film managed to do well in the box office while it was lauded by a lot of critics who praised Anderson’s ambition. The film got a wider release in January 2000 while a month later at the Berlin Film Festival, the film won the festival’s top prize in the Golden Bear. At the Academy Awards, the film garnered three Oscar nominations that included for Best Original Screenplay as well as a Best Supporting Actor nod for Tom Cruise. The film would elevate Anderson’s stature as one of the best filmmakers working in American cinema.

Punch-Drunk Love



After the success of Magnolia, Anderson took a break from feature filmmaking to work on smaller projects including directing music videos for then-girlfriend Fiona Apple. It was around that time that Anderson wanted to do something different as he wanted to scale back his ideas. While Anderson was an admitted film buff, he was also someone who had taste for mainstream films as he openly admitted to enjoy the films that starred comedy actor Adam Sandler. Anderson wanted to work with Sandler on a project as the two decided to collaborate on what would be Anderson’s fourth film.

While the film would feature appearances from regulars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Luis Guzman in small roles, it would be focused largely on Sandler’s Barry Egan character as Anderson wanted to tell the story of this lonely, troubled man who has anger issues as he falls for a mysterious woman. The film would explore loneliness in a more intimate setting as the film would be a love story but also a character study as it would revolve around this man. A man who feels lost in the world looking to connect and then find himself in trouble where he suddenly finds a reason to fight for the woman he loves.

The film would once again be set in Los Angeles as Anderson decided to aim for a very different look and feel to the film. With regular cinematographer Robert Elswit, the two devised a look where they went for something more grainy in underexposed light in order to create something that was almost dream-like. Notably in many of the film’s interiors and nighttime exteriors as it aimed for something that was a bit low-budget in its look.

Part of the film’s unique visual style would include interludes by artist Jeremy Blake that played to the dreamy aspects of the film. Even in scenes where Barry dwells into something that is dreamlike as he falls for Emily Watson’s Lena Leonard character. One piece of music that is played in a scene where Barry boards a plane to Hawaii is a remix of a Harry Nilsson-penned song He Needs Me sung by Shelley Duvall from the 1980 Robert Altman film Popeye. It’s a moment where Anderson becomes unafraid to create something that is romantic as well as establish something that could progress Barry’s love for Lena.

With Jon Brion providing the score for the film, Brion would also play a key role in contributing an idea to the film as one of the key elements to the film’s plot is a harmonium that Barry would find and care for. Brion would use the harmonium as a key part of his score as it plays to the sense of romance and whimsy that Anderson wanted for the film. Brion would also delve into lush orchestration for Blake’s interludes to add to the film’s romantic tone.

The film made its premiere at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival where it was well-received as Anderson won the festival’s Best Director prize. Despite the critical acclaim it received as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Adam Sandler, the film didn’t do well commercially. Yet, its reputation would grow in the coming years as many filmmakers like Judd Apatow named it as one of his favorite movies. The film would mark the last time Anderson would work with Jon Brion as well as the start of a five-year hiatus.

There Will Be Blood



After the release of Punch-Drunk Love, Anderson took a break from filmmaking as he maintained a private life with his then-girlfriend and future wife in comedy actress Maya Rudolph. In 2005, Anderson was asked by Robert Altman to be a backup director on what would be Altman’s final film in 2006’s A Prairie Home Companion. With Anderson used for insurance reasons, Anderson would help his mentor in creating a rich ensemble film that also starred a pregnant Rudolph as the film would be a critical and modestly-commercial hit for Altman. During Anderson’s hiatus from filmmaking, he had discovered the work of novelist Upton Sinclair as he approached writer Eric Schlosser about an adaptation of Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil!

After a script about feuding families went nowhere, Anderson turned his attention to Oil! as he wrote a screenplay that would extremely different from the novel as he later titled it There Will Be Blood. The story would revolve around a miner who turns into an oilman as he seeks wealth in the most brutal ways as he contends with a young preacher during the Southern California oil boom of the early 20th Century. The project would be a far more ambitious film than anything Anderson would make as it would revolve on larger themes on family, greed, faith, and morality set in a crucial time during the oil industry.

Realizing that the project would be a major departure from everything he had done prior, Anderson decided to forgo many of his tricks as well as his regular actors for something far more different. While he did retain collaborators like producers JoAnne Sellar and Daniel Lupi, cinematographer Robert Elswit, editor Dylan Tichenor, sound designer Christopher Scarabosio, and casting director Cassandra Kulukundis. Anderson decided to expand his collaborators by gaining the services of famed production designer Jack Fisk. Famous for his work with Terrence Malick and David Lynch, Fisk would help create sets for Anderson to play up the period of the early 20th Century.

For the role of Daniel Plainview, British actor Daniel Day-Lewis was chosen as he would portray a man consumed by greed and the pursuit of power in the oil industry. With Day-Lewis already set for the film where it was shot largely in Marfa, Texas, there were casting issues already made for the of the young preacher Eli Sunday. Actor Paul Dano, who was originally going to play the small role of Eli’s twin brother Paul, was immediately cast to also play Eli based on Day-Lewis’ suggestion. With Ciaran Hinds and Kevin J. O’Connor cast for small parts while young actor Dillon Freasier plays Plainview’s adopted son H.W., the film was underway.

Wanting to stray from his usual visual tricks, Anderson decided to aim for much bigger compositions with wide shots and moments to create something that was powerful. It was to present something that was grand that lived up to the character of Daniel Plainview as he pursues untold riches through oil. Scenes such as the oil well explosion that is later followed by a beautiful yet unsettling scene of fire establishes the kind of greed seen in Plainview. Yet, it plays into Anderson’s themes of men who likes to sell themselves in order to gain something. Another character who is similar to Plainview is Eli Sunday in the way he uses religion as he tries to become a big preacher. The two would have confrontations that is often dominated by Plainview. Notably in the film’s final moments where Plainview would do something to Eli in the same way Eli tried to humiliate Plainview at a church some years earlier. It would be a moment that is unsettling but also show a lot of truths about the corruption of men.

Another new collaborator that would join Anderson’s team is Radiohead guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood. Being a fan of Radiohead and Greenwood’s score work for the 2003 documentary Bodysong, Anderson asked Greenwood to create a score for the film. Greenwood took on the project as he would create an orchestral score that was unlike anything as it was filled with percussion breaks and menacing string arrangements. The score would play up to the world of greed as Greenwood unleashed music that lived up to what Anderson wanted.

The film was released during the Christmas holidays in 2007 as it drew outstanding reviews where it landed in many critics’ top ten list as well as winning top prizes from the Los Angeles Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics. The film would win 8 Oscar nominations where it won two Oscars for Robert Elswit’s cinematography and the Best Actor prize to Daniel Day-Lewis. The film also became a hit in the box office as it would raise Anderson’s stature as one of the great filmmakers working in cinema.

The Master



After another break following the release of There Will Be Blood, Anderson kept a low profile during his sabbatical as he staged a 70-minute play that featured wife Maya Rudolph and comedian Fred Armisen that also included live music by Jon Brion. It was during this time that Anderson was writing his next project as it was inspired by the founding of Scientology and its leader L. Ron Hubbard. News of the project was finally confirmed in late 2009 as Anderson was still writing the script for what would become The Master.

The story would be set in the aftermath of World War II as it followed a sailor by the name of Freddie Quell who finds himself lost in the world as he stumbles around a boat that leaves San Francisco Bay. On that boat is the leader of a newly-founded religion known as the Cause that is led by a man named Lancaster Dodd. Dodd would take Quell as his protégé as he teaches him his unconventional ideas about life and the universe. During the course of this time, both Dodd and Quell would struggle with themselves just as the Cause is starting to catch on during the early 1950s.

The project would once again have Anderson tackle the theme of family and men who sell themselves for a greater cause. Unlike some of the characters that Anderson had explored in the past, the Lancaster Dodd character would be very unique as he is a man that is trying to sell his ideas to the public at large yet comes under a lot of scrutiny when those dare to question him. Then there’s Freddie Quell who is a man that is completely a loose cannon who is obsessed with sex and likes to drink as an act of defiance. For these two men to come together, it would give them a chance to take Dodd’s teachings to new heights while giving Quell a place that he can belong to.

With the exception of regular collaborators in cinematographer Robert Elswit and editor Dylan Tichenor as both men were unable to participate due to other commitments. Anderson was still able to get production designer Jack Fisk, sound designer Christopher Scarabosio, co-sound editor Matthew Wood, costume designer Matthew Bridges, music composer Jonny Greenwood, and casting director Cassandra Kulukundis on board. Leslie Jones, who had edited Punch-Drunk Love came on board to co-edit the film with Peter McNulty while Anderson also hired Romanian cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. to shoot the film.

With Philip Seymour Hoffman reuniting with Anderson to play the role of Lancaster Dodd, there were several casting prospects slated for the film. Jeremy Renner was originally on board to play Freddie Quell while Reese Witherspoon was in the line to play Peggy Dodd. Instead, Joaquin Phoenix nabbed the part of Quell while Amy Adams got the part of Peggy. After difficulty in securing financing for the film with different studio attached to distribute, shooting finally began in the summer of 2011 around parts of California.

In the age where filmmakers were debating about the advantages of shooting on digital instead of film. Anderson decided to shoot the film in 65mm which was audacious for a filmmaker like him. With that announcement, it was clear that Anderson was siding on shooting his movie on film instead of changing with the times to go digital. The idea to shoot on a format as rare as 65mm would give Anderson the chance to widen his canvas even more as he wanted to create a film that was reminiscent of the epics made in the 1960s.

With the film slated for a fall 2012 release, Anderson held surprise screenings in late August on the 70mm format around parts of the country in order to create not just buzz for the film but to give a generation of filmgoers a chance to see a film in a rare format. The film made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival a month later where it won the Silver Lion for Anderson for Best Director and the Best Actor Volpi Cup to Philip Seymour Hoffman. Yet, the rules of the festival would not allow the film to win the festival’s top prize in the Golden Lion. Still, its special screenings and success at Venice and at the Toronto Film Festival has allowed the film to gain a lot of buzz as it would add to Anderson’s status as one of the world’s best filmmakers working today.

With another project in an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice slated to be his next project, Paul Thomas Anderson has already cultivated enough work to make a darling in the world of American cinema. Whether it’s films about a dysfunctional group of people who become a family, men who feel out of sorts with the world, or those that crave for something bigger only to lose sight of things. Only someone like P.T. Anderson could take on these stories and make it something that is very different from what a lesser filmmaker would do. That is why Paul Thomas Anderson is among the best working today and whatever project he’ll do next, there‘s always going to be a level of excitement as he‘ll create something filmgoers will be amazed by.

The Shorts & Videos of P.T. Anderson

© thevoid99 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Love on the Run




Directed by Francois Truffaut and written by Truffaut, Marie-France Pisier, Jean Aurel, and Suzanne Schiffman, L’amour en fuite (Love on the Run) is the fifth and final part of the Antoine Doinel story. The film explores Antoine’s search for love as he has trouble trying to navigate his journey prompting some of his former lovers to help him find his way. With Jean-Pierre Leaud playing his famous character for the final time along with Claude Jade and Marie-France Pisier reprising their roles as Christine and Colette, respectively. Also starring Dorothee and Dani. L’amour en fuite is an extraordinary film from Francois Truffaut.

On the day that Antoine Doinel and Christine Darbon finalize their divorce, Antoine has to take his son Alphonse (Julien Dubois) to the train station so that he can go to camp. This forces Antoine to cancel plans with his current girlfriend Sabine (Dorothee) who is upset by the news as she wants to break-up with Antoine. At the train station, Antoine notices his former girlfriend Colette as he boards her train where the two meet to discuss Antoine’s book and his life. Things start out fine until Antoine nearly causes trouble for Colette as he decides to leave the train. Returning to Paris where he works as a proofreader, Antoine meets a man from his past in Monsieur Lucien (Julien Bertheau) where the two have lunch and talk about Antoine’s mother.

The meeting would have Antoine come face-to-face with his own past as he tries to make amends with Sabine while Colette tries to pursue a bookstore owner named Xavier (Daniel Mesguich). After finding a picture of Sabine in her book that Antoine had accidentally dropped on the train, Colette wants to meet her as she bumps into Christine. The two have a conversation where they devise a plan for Antoine to get his life in order and find happiness.

Throughout the life of Antoine Doinel, here is this man who has been running all of his life trying to find something or someone as he often stumbles around and will often undo something that had been good to him. In this final chapter of the Antoine Doinel story, it is clear that here’s a man who is still immature and unable to come to terms with his own past despite the book that he wrote about himself. At this point, he’s at a crossroads where he just ended his marriage to Christine while his relationship with new girlfriend Sabine is a tumultuous one. An encounter with Colette and later on, her mother’s former lover would eventually force Antoine to look back even more as he would eventually find ways to win the heart of Sabine.

The screenplay is an intricate one as it has a narrative that does move back-and-forth where it incorporates many scenes from the previous films telling Doinel’s life. Particularly as its characters would often reflect on these moments where Doinel is forced to confront his own past including his own troubled relationship with his mother who he hadn’t seen as a child as well as the fact that he never had the moment to mourn her death. His meeting with Monsieur Lucien becomes a turning point in the film’s second act where Antoine is forced to realize why he had so many problems with women as it all relates to his mother. The third act reveals what event eventually broke up Antoine’s marriage to Christine as she reveals it to Colette who also reveals about her own life in a conversation that would lead the two to make some moves for Antoine.

Truffaut’s direction is very stylized in the way he incorporates footage from his previous films to help tell the story of Antoine Doinel and his search for happiness. While a lot of the present-day shots are very straightforward and engaging in the way Truffaut frames a scene. They also say a lot such as the divorce meeting between Antoine and Christine where it flashes back to their life as a married couple where they reflect on good times and bad times. There’s always scenes of Doinel running around Paris or whatever location he’s in as Truffaut captures these moments with a lot of wide shots. He also knows how to match the flashbacks with the present scenes to help tell a story that includes a key moment where Doinel finally comes to the conclusion about what he should do. Overall, Truffaut creates a very witty and fascinating that ends the Antoine Doinel story on a high note.

Cinematographers Nestor Almendros, Florent Bazin, and Emilia Pakull-Latorre do excellent work with the film‘s photography from the exterior locations in Paris to the interiors at the train and at the record store that Sabine works at. Editors Martine Barraque, Jean Gargonne, and Corinne Lapassade do brilliant work with the editing to create unique rhythms for Antoine‘s running scenes while utilizing stylish cuts for the film‘s flashback scenes. Art directors Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko, Pierre Gompertz, and Jean-Louis Poveda do wonderful work with the set pieces such as the press room that Antoine works at to the record store that Sabine works at.

Costume designer Monique Dury does terrific work with the costumes from the more proper dresses that Christine wears to the more stylish look of Colette. The sound work of Michel Laurent is very good for the atmosphere that is set in various locations to the intimacy in the scenes between Antoine and the people he meets. The film’s music by Georges Delerue is a delight to play to the sense of melancholia and humor that is displayed with its quaint, orchestral score. The title track sung by Alain Souchon is a lovely song that plays to the misadventures of love.

The film’s ensemble cast is remarkable for the appearances that are made as it features small performances from Rosy Varte reprising her role as Colette’s mother, Julien Dubois as Alphonse Doinel, Marie Henriau as the divorce judge, Daniel Mesguich as the bookstore owner Xavier, and Julien Bertheau as Antoine’s mother’s former lover Monsieur Lucien. Dani is very good in a small role as Christine’s friend Liliane who would help play a role into Christine’s split with Antoine. Dorothee is wonderful as Antoine’s current girlfriend Sabine who tries to deal with his old life as well as his immaturity as she becomes more unsure about the relationship.

Claude Jade is brilliant as Christine who tries to deal with Antoine’s post-divorce life as well as reflect on her time with Antoine as she later befriends Colette. Marie-France Pisier is great as Colette who meets Antoine after having not seen him for some years as she tries to understand more about him as she also deals with her own issues as she later meets Christine. Finally, there’s Jean-Pierre Leaud in a superb performance as Antoine Doinel as there’s a lot of energy to Leaud’s approach to the character as he’s always running while trying to deal with his own past and failings as a man.

While it is the weakest segment of the Antoine Doinel series, L’amour en fuite is a marvelous film from Francois Truffaut. Thanks to the winning performances of Jean-Pierre Leaud, Marie-France Pisier, and Claude Jade, it’s a film that explores the world of growing up and love in all of its complications. Largely through the eyes of one of cinema’s great unsung heroes in Antoine Doinel. In the end, L’amour en fuite is an excellent film from Francois Truffaut.

Francois Truffaut Films: The 400 Blows - Shoot the Piano Player - Jules & Jim - Antoine and 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 - Day for Night - The Story of Adele H. - Small Change - (The Man Who Loved Women) - (The Green Room) - The Last Metro - (The Woman Next Door) - (Confidentially Yours) - (The Auteurs #40: Francois Truffaut (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2))

© thevoid99 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Stolen Kisses




Directed by Francois Truffaut and written by Truffaut, Claude de Givray, and Bernard Revon, Baisers voles (Stolen Kisses) is the story of Antoine Doinel’s life as he becomes part of a private detective agency where he deals with his relationship with a young woman while falling for the wife of a man he‘s investigating. The film is the third part of the Antoine Doinel story as Jean-Pierre Leaud plays the character for the third time in this exploration of love and adulthood. Also starring Claude Jade, Delphine Seyrig, and Michael Lonsdale. Baisers voles is a marvelous yet witty film from Francois Truffaut.

After a dishonorable discharge from the army, Antoine Doinel struggles to return to normal life as he is desperate to find work and re-establish contact with his girlfriend Christine (Claude Jade). With the help of Christine’s father (Daniel Ceccaldi), Antoine gets a job as a concierge at a hotel where things seemed to go well until he lets a couple of men who were trying to break into a room. The incident left Antoine without a job as one of the men he meets in Monsieur Henri (Harry-Max) is a private detective. Antoine gets a job at the private detective agency where he works to tail people and make reports about those he’s investigating. While it does create some problems with his time with Christine, Antoine also has trouble trying to keep up with his work.

When he’s asked to investigate the a shoe sales manager (Michael Lonsdale), Antoine works as a stock boy for the investigation where he meets and falls for the manager’s wife Fabienne (Delphine Seyrig). Antoine tries to deal with his issues with Christine as he’s also being pursued by Fabienne where he goes into conflict over what to do. Eventually, trouble would arrive as Antoine ponders about his own place in the world as well as his feelings for Christine.

When a young man reaches into adulthood as he tries to find out the world of love and identity, it becomes a very confusing place to be in. For Antoine Doinel, it’s much more complicated as he had just find himself ousted from the army for not fitting in. After his post-military life, he deals with trying to find his place in the world as he also wants to pursue a relationship with a young woman he cares about but things aren’t going very well. Once he takes a job as a private detective as he’s investigating a shoe sales manager, he finds himself being attracted to the man’s wife as it creates more complications about his ideas on love and the world in general.

The screenplay explores the world of love and life as it is a film that is part-mystery and part-comedy as it continues Antoine Doinel’s misadventures into the world. The film starts off with Doinel at a military prison where it’s very clear that he seems out of place in that world as once he re-enters society, he has no idea what he’s doing or where he’s going. Even the hookers he encounters just after he leaves the military has him confused by their new rules. His relationship with Christine is a friendly one as they don’t really act upon their romance as she’s always out and he is naïve in trying to push their relationship forward. Upon his time working as a detective where he would meet Fabienne, it would give him a much broader understanding about love while he also goes into his own internal conflicts about his work. Francois Truffaut and his co-writers create a character who is just coming into his own as a young adult as he’s also aware that he still has a lot of growing up to do.

Truffaut’s direction is brilliant for the way he presents the story as he definitely aims for a sense of style as he would shoot scenes on locations in Paris while playing to the crazed world that Antoine is in. Truffaut does create some amazing shots with striking compositions to play out the sense of Antoine’s sense of confusion as well as the world of being a private detective. Even by utilizing hand-held cameras and wide shots to create the sense of mystery as there’s Antoine often tailing someone or a mysterious man (Serge Rousseau) following Christine.

The direction of the film also explores the world of love as Truffaut does create stylish montages to establish Antoine’s naiveté where the film’s second half as a looser feel. Even in a scene where Antoine’s boss (Andre Falcon) is fighting against a client where Antoine tries to intervene leading to all sorts of craziness. Antoine’s moments with Fabienne are tense and calm as it revels in Fabienne’s experience with love as Truffaut always has the camera fixated on Fabienne. The film’s final moments does have some revelations while it also reveals that Antoine has just taken some major steps into the world of adulthood. Overall, Truffaut creates a very compelling film about growing up.

Cinematographer Denys Clerval does excellent work with the film‘s colorful yet vibrant cinematography to capture the beauty of the Parisian locations as well as some of the interiors to display the different worlds that Antoine is encountering. Editor Agnes Guillemot does superb work with the editing by utilizing stylish cuts such as montages and jump-cuts to play with the film‘s rhythm and its structure. Production designer Claude Pignot does terrific work with the set pieces such as the shoe store and the detective agency that Antoine works at.

The sound work of Rene Levert is wonderful for the intimacy that is created in some sparse moments in some of the film‘s locations as well as the raucous world of the agency where there‘s a lot of calls and such. The film’s music by Antoine Duhamel is sublime for its serene and playful orchestral score to capture the energy of Antoine’s misadventures. The film’s soundtrack includes the song Que reste-t-il de nos amour? by Charles Trenent that opens and closes the film as it plays to the world of love.

The film’s ensemble cast is fantastic for the actors that are hired for this film as it features some notable appearances from Serge Rousseau as the mysterious man who follows Christine, Harry-Max as the private detective who shows Antoine the ropes to be one, Andre Falcon as Antoine’s agency boss Monsieur Blady, Catherine Lutz as the private detective Catherine, Michael Lonsdale as the insecure shoe sales manager Georges Tabard, Daniel Ceccaldi and Claire Duhamel as Christine’s parents, Jean-Francois Adam as Albert Tazzi, and Marie-France Pisier as Antoine’s former girlfriend in Colette Tazzi. Delphine Seyrig is amazing as the evocative Fabienne Tabard as she creates a radiant presence that is intoxicating to watch as she tries to seduce Antoine. Claude Jade is wonderful as the more reserved Christine who tries to deal with Antoine’s new life as well as trying to keep him at arm’s length over his attempt to woo her.

Finally, there’s Jean-Pierre Leaud as Antoine Doinel as he makes Doinel a much more confused person in trying to re-establish contact with society and love as there’s also a great sense of humor in Leaud’s performance. Leaud also adds a moment of restraint in the way Doinel tries to come to terms with his choices as he eventually reveals his frustrations about how Christine tries to push him away when all he wants to do is love her.

Baisers voles is a remarkable film from Francois Truffaut that features Jean-Pierre Leaud as Antoine Doinel. Along with amazing supporting work from Claude Jade and Delphine Seyrig, it’s a film that explores the world of early adulthood and the struggle to find an identity in that world. It’s also a film that explores Doinel’s fascination with love as he tries to ponder what to do as a man. In the end, Baisers voles is an extraordinary film from Francois Truffaut.

Francois Truffaut Films: The 400 Blows - Shoot the Piano Player - Jules and Jim - Antoine and Colette - The Soft Skin - Fahrenheit 451 - The Bride Wore Black - Mississippi Mermaid - The Wild Child - Bed and Board - Two English Girls - Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me - Day for Night - 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 Auteurs #40: Francois Truffaut (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2))

© thevoid99 2012