Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: The Nice Guys

(Played Out of Competition at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Shane Black and written by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi, The Nice Guys is the story of a down-on-his-luck private detective who teams up with an enforcer to find a missing young woman in 1977 Los Angeles amidst a world of corruption and pornography. The film is an offbeat neo-noir film that explores two mismatched men who work together to try and do good as they go into a wild adventure. Starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley, Matt Bomer, Keith David, and Kim Basinger. The Nice Guys is a thrilling and exciting film from Shane Black.

The film revolves the worst private detective who reluctantly teams up with a brutish enforcer to find a missing young woman as she is connected to the death of a porn star. It’s a film with a simple premise involving mismatched men who work together to find this young woman as they venture into the world of pornography and its relation to the world of crime. The film’s screenplay by Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi is a mixture of noir with some offbeat humor as it play into the two protagonists who aren’t part of the police force nor do they do anything conventional which makes them a perfect team. The enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a guy hired to beat people up as he would meet this loser private detective in Holland March (Ryan Gosling) during an assignment where he beats him up. When Healy is attacked by two thugs who is trying to find this missing young woman in Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley), he turns to March for help with March’s young daughter Holly (Angourie Rice).

It’s not just the mystery that is so interesting but it’s also the characters as Healy and March are guys who try to help people but they never reach their full potential until they work together. During the course of the film as they work together to solve this mystery, Healy and March learn more about each other as they become unlikely friends with Holly gaining a second father of sorts in Healy. When the two meet up with a high-ranking official from the Department of Justice in Judith Kuttner (Kim Basinger) who is revealed to be Amelia’s mother. The search for Amelia becomes more complex as it becomes clear someone is after her since she knows something as it doesn’t just relate to her mother’s disdain towards pornography but also something to do with the auto industry.

Black’s direction is definitely stylish as it play into the world of 1970s culture as it begins with a young boy (Ty Simpkins) sneaking under his parents bed to see a porno magazine when a car suddenly crashes into his home with the body of the same naked woman from that magazine. Shot largely in Atlanta and Decatur, Georgia with many exterior locations in Los Angeles, the film play into a world that is in disarray with a gas shortage as well as a smog pollution looming over Los Angeles. Black would use some wide shots to establish some of the locations as well as go into this world of decadence as well as it play into a period where everything is unruly but exciting. Black would use some medium shots and close-ups to focus on the characters as well as some of these offbeat moments such as Holly reading a book in a yard next to her home or these surreal moments as it relates to some of the things March sees whenever he’s drunk.

Still, it help play into the story and development of these characters as it is about these two mismatched men trying to do good in the world no matter how fucked up things are. Even as it leads to this very extravagant yet thrilling climax involving all sorts of shit where it proves that these are two guys that can get the job done. Overall, Black creates a fun and exhilarating film about two mismatched men trying to find a missing young woman.

Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot does excellent work with the film’s colorful cinematography with its usage of colorful lights for some of the scenes at night as well as some natural lighting for the scenes set in the day with the exception of the low-lit bars. Editor Joel Negron does nice work with the editing as it has some unique style in its usage of jump-cuts as well as using rhythmic cuts to play into the comedy and suspense. Production designer Richard Bridgland, with set decorator Danielle Berman and art director David Utley, does brilliant work with the look of the different houses and places the characters go to as it play into the world of the late 1970s. Costume designer Kym Barrett does fantastic work with the period costumes from the dresses and clothes the women wear as well as the suits that Healy and March wear.

Visual effects supervisor Josh Saeta does terrific work with the visual effects as it is mainly some set dressing to recreate the look of 1977 Los Angeles as well as some backdrops for some of the driving scenes at night. Sound designer James Harrison and sound editor Oliver Tarney do superb work with the sound in creating some unique sound effects as well as play into the atmospheres involving the parties and some of the violence. The film’s music by John Ottman and David Buckley is wonderful as it is a mixture of orchestral-based pieces with elements of funk and jazz to play into the feel of the 1970s while music supervisor Randall Poster creates a fun soundtrack that features music from the Bee Gees, Earth, Wind, & Fire, the Temptations, Kool & the Gang, Andrew Gold, America, A Taste of Honey, Climax Blues Band, Brick, KISS, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Al Green, and Rupert Holmes.

The casting by Sarah Finn is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Ty Simpkins as the kid who finds the dead body of a naked porn star, Daisy Tahan as Holly’s friend Jessica, Yvonne Zima as a porn princess, Jack Kilmer as a friend of Amelia named Chet, Murielle Telio as the dead porn star Misty Mountains, Beau Knapp as a thug known as Blue Face, Yaya DeCosta as Judith Kuttner’s secretary Tally, Keith David as a thug who teams up with Blue Face, Matt Bomer as a mysterious hitman named John Boy, and Lois Smith as an old lady who claims her niece Misty is alive. Kim Basinger is excellent as Amelia’s mother Judith Kuttner as a top official for the department of justice who is eager to find her daughter as well as be very ambiguous about her war against pornography as well as dealing with a case involving the auto industry.

Margaret Qualley is brilliant as Amelia as a young woman that is trying not to be found by anyone as she knows something that could cause a lot of trouble as she is full of energy as well as naiveté thinking she could do something when it’s really more complicated. Angourie Rice is amazing as Holly March as Holland’s daughter who is a lot smarter than her father as well as be the conscious of sorts as she brings a lot of energy but also some wit as she is the real standout in the film. Finally, there’s the duo of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Jackson Healy and Holland March. Crowe is the straight man of the two as someone that is cool with beating people up as he uses his street smart to get things done while also being very funny in a restrained manner. Gosling is definitely the funnier of the two as someone who is kind of a bumbling idiot that always screw things up despite his good intentions. Crowe and Gosling have a great sense of rapport together as they’re always fun to watch while bringing out the best in each other.

The Nice Guys is a remarkable film from Shane Black that features top-notch performances from Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. Along with a great supporting cast, nice visuals, and a fun premise, the film is definitely a neo-noir film that doesn’t take itself seriously while bringing in the things needed for an action-suspense film. In the end, The Nice Guys is an incredible film from Shane Black.

Shane Black Films: (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) - Iron Man 3 - (The Predator (2018 film))

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: Ballad of a Soldier

(Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Grigori Chukhari and written by Chukhari and Valentin Yezhkov, Ballad of a Soldier is the story of a soldier who is granted a leave to visit his mother as he gets a closer look at the devastation of war in his home. The film is a drama set during a war where a young man tries to find hope in the chaos of war as he would also fall in love with a young woman. Starring Vladimir Ivashov, Zhanna Prokhorenko, Antonina Maksimova, Nikolai Kryuchkov, and Yevgeni Urbansky. Ballad of a Soldier is a heartfelt and visceral film from Grigori Chukhari.

Set in World War II, the film follows a young soldier whose heroism has granted him a two-day leave to visit his mother as he goes on a journey via train where he is later accompanied by a young woman eager to visit her wounded fiancé. It’s a film with a simple story as it plays into a man getting a look at the chaos of what is going on outside of the battlefield as ordinary people struggle to survive during the time of war. The film’s screenplay explores this young soldier in Private Aloysha Skvortsov (Vladimir Ivashov who would take down two tanks with a gun as his general (Nikolai Kryuchkov) is impressed and gives him a two-day leave to see his mother and fix her leaking roof as he has to return to the battlefield.

During this journey that would take nearly two days, he would encounter various characters such as a wounded soldier returning home as he’s convinced his marriage is over and later this young woman named Shura (Zhanna Prokhorenko) who would stow away on the same train he’s boarding as she is eager to see her fiancé. The two would befriend each other as they go on a few stops including one to deliver a present for the wife of a fellow comrade as it play into many realities of what happens in war. At the same time, they try to do what they can to help others in the terror of war as well as raise morale.

Grigori Chukhari’s direction is definitely mesmerizing in terms of the dazzling compositions he creates from the opening sequence of Pvt. Skvortsov in the battlefield to the scenes on the train. Filled with some unique wide shots to capture the vastness of the locations as well as some entrancing close-ups and medium shots to get a look into the characters. Chukhari would create images that do have this very enchanting look but also play into something that is intimate such as the scenes of Pvt. Skvortsov on a train compartment with hay as he sees Shura for the first time sneaking onboard. There are moments with the tracking dolly-shots that are quite entrancing in the way Pvt. Skvortsov and Shura see rural parts of the Soviet Union as well as these camera angles that play into the duo helping people out as well as hear the news about the war. It’s also got some dreamy images as it relates to the journey that Pvt. Skvortsov is taking as it’s all about seeing his mother no matter how little time he has to return to the battlefield. Even as it is about the role he is playing for the world as it’s a role that would be of massive importance for those he’s fighting for. Overall, Chukhari creates an evocative yet ravishing film about a young soldier’s journey home to see his mother.

Cinematographers Vladimir Nikolayev and Era Savelyeva do brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography from the usage of sunlight for some of the interior/exterior scenes as well as the usage of lighting for some of the close-ups and scenes at night. Editor Mariya Timofeyeva does amazing work with the editing with the stylish usage of dissolves for a dream sequence as well as some rhythmic cutting to play into the drama. Production designer Boris Nemechek does fantastic work with the look of the hay bale train compartment as well as the hospital and the home of one of the soldier’s wives.

Costume designer Lyudmila Ryashentseva does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly straightforward to play into that period of the times. The sound work of Venyamin Kirshenbaum is excellent for the eerie atmosphere of what is going on in the cities and rural areas including a scene late in the film involving bombs. The film’s music by Mikhail Ziv is superb for its soaring orchestral score that play into the drama as well as the sense of longing that Pvt. Skvortsov has for his mother as well as Shura later in the film.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Valentina Telegina as an old woman truck driver, Gennadi Yukhtin as a fellow private in Pavlov, that Pvt. Skvortsov meets on his way home and gives him a present for his wife, Georgi Yumatov as a sergeant giving soldiers some soap, Vladimir Pokrovsky as Pavlov’s ill father, V. Markova as Pavlov’s wife, Marina Kremnyova as a neighbor of Pvt. Skvortsov from his home village, Aleksandr Kuznetsov as a soldier guarding the train, Yevgeni Teterin as a lieutenant inspecting the train, Yevgeni Urbansky as a wounded soldier, Elza Lezhdey as the wounded soldier’s wife, Nikolai Kryuchkov as Pvt. Skvortsov’s general who is impressed by the young private, and Antonina Maksimova in a wonderful small role as Pvt. Skvortsov’s mother who is waiting for her son’s return.

Zhanna Prokhorenko is incredible as Shura as a young woman who stows away on a train as she joins Pvt. Skvortsov on his journey as she copes with her role in the world while falling for the young private. Finally, there’s Vladimir Ivashov in a remarkable performance as Pvt. Aloysha Skvortsov as a nineteen-year old soldier whose bravery in battle allows him a two-day furlough to visit his mother as he deals with the journey he takes as well as falling for a young woman who would help him observe everything he sees.

Ballad of a Soldier is a spectacular film from Grigori Chukhari that features sensational performances from Zhanna Prokhorenko and Vladimir Ivashov. It’s a war drama that manages to bend genres as it focuses on people outside of the battlefield seen from a soldier just eager to see his mother for what could be the last time. In the end, Ballad of a Soldier is a tremendous film from Grigori Chukhari.

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, May 21, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: The Passionate Friends

(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, The Passionate Friends is the story of a love triangle involving a woman with another man as she reflects on the affair as she sees him for the first time in nine years. Directed by David Lean and screenplay by Lean, Eric Ambler, and Stanley Haynes, the film is an exploration of love affairs told through a series of episodic flashbacks. Starring Ann Todd, Claude Rains, and Trevor Howard. The Passionate Friends is an extraordinary yet mesmerizing film from David Lean.

The film follows a woman who arrives to Switzerland for a holiday as she hears the familiar voice of a former lover as she then reflects on the affair she had with this man she was in love with while being married to a powerful banker. It’s a film that explores the idea of affairs and longing as a woman find herself torn for her love for this man and her devotion to her husband. The film’s screenplay begins with Mary Justin (Ann Todd) arriving to Switzerland with her husband’s secretary Miss Layton (Betty Ann Davies) as hearing the voice of her former lover in Professor Steven Stratton (Trevor Howard) forces her to look back nine years earlier when they rekindled their affair as she is married to the powerful banker Howard Justin (Claude Rains). The first half is about the affair that is just innocent as Mary and Steven knew each other years ago but Howard’s discovery of it would end it. The film’s second half begins in Switzerland due to a chance meeting as the two don’t just cope with missing each other but also talking about what happened to them since.

David Lean’s direction is enthralling in terms of the compositions he creates in some of the locations in Switzerland including the Alps as well as some of the more simplistic scenes set in London. While there are some unique wide shots that would Lean would create including a New Year’s Eve party in the film’s flashbacks. Lean goes for something that is more intimate with the usage of close-ups and medium shots to play into the attraction between Mary and Steven as he would create images that are astonishing for the scenes in the second half of the film set in the Alps. Lean would also create moments of fantasy as it relates to the things that Mary and Steven want but it would often collide with reality. Especially in the third act where the story returns to London as it is about the reality of Mary’s encounter with Steven and what she faces due to the anger and heartbreak from her husband. Overall, Lean crafts a compelling yet evocative film about a married woman dealing with the presence of her former lover.

Cinematographer Guy Green does amazing work with the film’s black-and-white photography from the look of the interiors including the scenes at night at the London underground train stations as well as some of the gorgeous exterior scenes in the Alps during the day. Editors Geoffrey Foot, Clive Donner, and Jack Harris do excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some dissolves and rhythmic cutting to play into the drama. Costume designer Margaret Furse does nice work with the costumes as it play into the posh look of the characters to play into the world they live in. Sound recorders Stanley Lambourne and Gordon K. McCallum do terrific work with the sound in capturing the sounds of boat and train engines heard from afar that add to some of the drama in some scenes. The film’s music by Richard Addinsell is wonderful for its sumptuous orchestral score that play into some of the happier moments as well as using some heavy orchestration for the dramatic moments.

The film’s marvelous cast include a couple of fantastic performances from Betty Ann Davies as Howard’s secretary Miss Layton and Isabel Dean as Steven’s date at the New Year’s Eve party in Pat. Claude Rains is incredible as Howard Justin as a banker that is trying to be a good husband but feels threatened by the presence of Professor Steven Stratton as he tries to hold on to his love for Mary. Trevor Howard is remarkable as Professor Steven Stratton as a man who is in love with Mary as he is eager to give her a nice life but also is aware what he’s doing to Howard. Finally, there’s Ann Todd in a radiant performance as Mary Justin as a married woman who is forced to recall events of her affair with Professor Stratton as she copes with wanting to be with him but also be loyal to her husband as the sense of anguish and torment gives Todd a performance that has to be seen.

The Passionate Friends is a sensational film from David Lean. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous cinematography, a dazzling film score, and a riveting story on longing and affairs. The film is certainly one of Lean’s more intimate yet character-driven stories filled with amazing imagery as well as intriguing characters. In the end, The Passionate Friends is a rapturous film from David Lean.

David Lean Films: (In Which We Serve) – (This Happy Breed) – Blithe Spirit - Brief Encounter - (Great Expectations (1946 film)) – (Oliver Twist (1948 film)) – (Madeleine (1950 film)) – The Sound Barrier - Hobson's Choice -(Summertime (1955 film)) – The Bridge on the River Kwai - Lawrence of Arabia - Doctor Zhivago - Ryan's Daughter - (Lost and Found: The Story of Cook’s Anchor) – A Passage to India

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, May 20, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: The Holy Girl

(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival)

Written and directed by Lucrecia Martel, La nina santa (The Holy Girl) is the story of a young woman who meets a troubled doctor at a medical conference at a hotel where she hopes to help him from himself. The film is a multi-themed film that explores a young woman coming into adulthood as she discovers sexuality as well as dealing with aspects of her own faith. Starring Mercedes Moran, Carlos Belloso, Alejandro Urdapilleta, Juliet Zylberberg, and Maria Alche. La nina santa is a mesmerizing and provocative film from Lucrecia Martel.

Set in a hotel at the Argentine town of Salta, the film revolves a 16-year old girl whose encounter with a visiting doctor at a medical conference is hoping to save him as he copes with the work he has to do at the conference. It’s a film that isn’t just about a girl’s exploration with her sexuality but also with her faith as she goes to a religious school where she gets the idea to help this man after he had accidentally groped her when the two were watching a man performing music with a theremin. Lucrecia Martel’s screenplay doesn’t have much of a plot as it’s really more of a study of behavior and attraction with this young woman coming-of-age in not just through her ideas of faith but also becoming aware of her sexuality. Much of it is set in the hotel where this young girl Amalia (Maria Alche) lives at with her mother Helena (Mercedes Moran) and her uncle Freddy (Alejandro Urdapilleta) as they run the place which is struggling to remain afloat.

Martel’s script also play into this growing attraction towards Dr. Jano (Carlos Belloso) and Helena as the former is just a visitor for this medical conference as he is also married though is aware of his feelings for Helena. His encounter with Amalia is by sheer accident as he first thinks of her as a prostitute or something unaware that she’s Helena’s daughter. Adding to Amalia’s own growing determination to help Dr. Jano is her fascination with faith and sex is the exploration from her own best friend Josefina (Juliet Zylberberg) who has a boyfriend as she becomes intrigued by the idea of pre-marital sex as well as the idea of miracles after seeing a neighbor fall down from the second floor of their apartment naked and survive.

Martel’s direction is definitely entrancing for some of the compositions that she creates as much of it is set in this dilapidated hotel on location in Salta as well as additional locations near the town in the Salta Province of Argentina. While there are some close-ups that help play into Amalia’s own development in her fascination with sex and faith, much of Martel’s direction rely on medium and wide shots to capture the chaos that is happening with this medical conference as well as the sense of claustrophobia that they’re all in at these rooms in the hotel. There are also moments in the film that is quite offbeat yet intriguing as it relates to Amalia and Josefina’s own interest in miracles but also things that is typical with teenage girls. There aren’t a lot of camera movements in Martel’s direction as it’s more about a scene as it’s unfolding as well as the drama which includes the two first encounters between Amalia and Dr. Jano where they watch this theremin player as it’s just this innocent moment in the film.

Martel also creates moments that definitely play up the theme of sexuality and attraction but it’s only in very subtle moments as there isn’t even a lot of nudity other than a couple of full-frontal shots from men for brief moments. There are a few moments of sex as it relates to Amalia and Josefina with the latter having sex with a boyfriend but don’t reveal anything gratuitous. The dramatic climax which involves Helena and Dr. Jano doing a presentation is more about the tension that is looming between Dr. Jano and Amalia as well as outsiders about rumors involving a visitor and someone at the hotel. Yet, Martel is more about Amalia discovering herself as well as Helena dealing with the attraction she has towards the married Dr. Jano whose family had arrived for this conference. Overall, Martel creates an intoxicating and gripping film about a young woman’s fascination with sex and faith.

Cinematographer Felix Monti does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it’s very low-key to play into the many interiors and lighting for some of the scenes inside the hotel. Editor Santiago Ricci does brilliant work with the editing as it feature some unique rhythmic cutting to play into the drama as well as some of the dramatic suspenseful moments. Art director Graciela Oderigo and set decorator Fernando Brun do fantastic work with the look of the hotel rooms as well as the pool and the classroom where Amalia and Josefina learn about miracles.

Costume designer Julio Suarez does nice work with the clothes as it is mostly casual from the more conservative look of the adults to the looser look of the kids and teenagers. The sound work of Guido Berenblum, Marcos De Aguirre, David Miranda-Hardy, and Victor Alejandro Tendler is amazing for its intricate sound mixing to play into to the atmosphere of the hotels as well as some of the quieter moments in the pool. The film’s music by Andres Gerszenzon is wonderful for its low-key score that is a mixture of piano-based music and ambient-electronic music that adds to the drama while its soundtracks consists of the theremin music and pop music from Argentina.

The casting by Nicolas Levin and Natalia Smirnoff is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Monica Villa as Josefina’s mother, Leandro Stivelman as Josefina’s boyfriend Julian, Manuel Schaller as the theremin player, Marta Lubos as Freddy’s wife Mitra who runs the hotel kitchen, the duo of Arthur Goetz and Alejo Mango as a couple of visiting doctors for conference, and Mia Maestro in a terrific small role as Amalia and Josefina’s teacher. Julieta Zylberberg is fantastic as Josefina as Amalia’s best friend who is also fascinated with the ideas of sex and faith as she goes into her own exploration while keeping secrets for Amalia. Alejandro Urdapilleta is superb as Amalia’s uncle Freddy as a man who is trying to keep his family’s hotel afloat by inviting doctors for a conference as he also copes with the chaos happening at the hotel.

Maria Alche is excellent as Amalia as a 16-year old girl whose encounter with a married doctor has her eager to save him as she’s unaware of what really happened as she is caught between her own desires sexually as well as being loyal to her faith. Carlos Belloso is brilliant as Dr. Jano as a married man troubled by his own place in the world as he finds himself attracted to Helena while dealing with the chaos over the medical conference as well as Amalia’s presence. Finally, there’s Mercedes Moran in an amazing performance as Helena as Amalia’s mother who is dealing with her own loneliness and the state of her family hotel as she connect with Dr. Jano unaware of what is going on with her daughter as it’s this very restrained yet radiant performance from Moran.

La nina santa is an incredible film from Lucrecia Martel. Featuring a great cast and compelling yet provocative premise on faith and a girl exploring her sexuality, it’s a film that doesn’t play by conventions as it showcases what people will do to try and find salvation. In the end, La nina santa is a phenomenal film from Lucrecia Martel.

Lucrecia Martel Films: La Cienaga - The Headless Woman - (Zama)

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, May 19, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: Fantastic Planet

(Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the novel Oms en serie by Stefan Wul, La Planete Sauvage (Fantastic Planet) is the story of a planet where humans are enslaved by giant blue aliens as they revolt against their oppressors. Directed by Rene Laloux and screenplay by Laloux and Roland Topor, the film is an animated film set into a sci-fi world as it comments on the political and social turmoil of the world. Featuring the voices of Jennifer Drake, Eric Baugin, Jean Topart, and Jean Valmont as the film’s narrator. La Planete Sauvage is a ravishing and haunting film from Rene Laloux.

Set in a planet where giant blue aliens enslave tiny humans as pets, the film revolves around a human who would escape from his master and eventually lead a revolt against the aliens. It’s a film with a simple premise as it is largely told by this young man who has been kept as a pet for this blue alien until being neglected when she becomes a teen. However, the man known as Terr (Jean Valmont) would gain a lot of intelligence through a headphone his master Tiva (Jennifer Drake) would use to learn about her world. He would eventually take it and meet up with a female human as she would take him to her tribe where he’s reluctantly allowed to be in the clan despite the misgivings of its chief. Terr would also be the catalyst for rival human tribes to band together and revolt against the blue aliens who have tried to get rid of the humans only to see what the outcome is as the film definitely carries some political and social allegories as it relates to the plight of these humanoids known as Oms.

Rene Laloux’s direction is definitely stylish not just due to its animation style but also for the usage of surrealism in some of the drawings. With co-writer Roland Topor doing some of the drawings with Josef Krabt creating the look of all of the characters, Laloux’s direction definitely has something that is indescribable in the way these characters look as well as the situation they’re in. The moments that relate to what these aliens known as the Draags do are definitely strange yet whimsical to showcase how they meditate and build their civilization. Much of the film is told from Terr’s perspective as he is also its narrator as the direction also has Laloux create some unique compositions and imagery. Especially in the setting thanks in part to the contributions of scene animator Josef Vana as well as the lighting schemes by cinematographers Boris Baromykin and Lubomir Rejthar. Laloux’s direction also has these moments in the animation that are chilling but also mesmerizing for the way it play into the mysteries of the universe. Overall, Laloux crafts a hypnotic and eerie film about a group of humans standing up against their gigantic blue alien oppressors.

Editors Helene Arnal and Marta Lalalova do excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to play into the action. The sound work of Robert Pouret is fantastic for the sound effects and mixes that play into the action and sci-fi elements of the film. The film’s music by Alain Goraguer is brilliant for its mixture of funk, jazz, and orchestral music as it play into the bits of sci-fi but also into the action as it’s a major highlight of the film.

The film’s incredible voice cast feature some notable small roles from Jean Topart and Gerard Hernandez as a couple of Draag leaders who often discuss what they should do while Jennifer Drake is wonderful as Terr’s old master Tiva who is this blue alien that would care for him until she becomes a teenager. The voice performances of Eric Baugin and Jean Valmont in their respective roles as the younger and older versions of Terr is amazing for the way it expresses a boy dealing with his surroundings as well as using the knowledge he’s gained to deal with the Draags.

La Planete Sauvage is a phenomenal film from Rene Laloux. Featuring some gorgeous visuals in the animation as well as a compelling story and a ripping film score, it’s a film that play into the world where aliens are the alpha and humans are their slave and what it can do to cause chaos in the world. In the end, La Planete Sauvage is a spectacular film from Rene Laloux.

© thevoid99 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: Umberto D.

(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Vittorio de Sica and screenplay by de Sica and Cesare Zavattini from a story by Zavattini, Umberto D. is the story of an elderly man who is trying to keep his rented room as he faces eviction as he struggles to find people who would help him. The film is a look into the life of a man dealing with the post-war boom of Italy where modernism has took over. Starring Carlo Battisti, Maria Pia Casilio, Lina Gennari, Memmo Carotenuto, and Napoleone as the dog Flike. Umberto D. is a touching and rapturous film from Vittorio de Sica.

Set entirely in Rome during the post-war years, the film revolves an elderly man who learns he’s being kicked out of his apartment room by his landlord as he struggles to get help after learning about the state of his pension. With his dog Flike at his side, Umberto Domenico Ferrari (Carlo Battisti) copes with the little money he has as well as struggling to deal with the promises of the post-war as he’s unable to get work despite working with the government for 30 years. The film’s screenplay by Vittorio de Sica and Cesare Zavattini doesn’t just explore the journey that Umberto takes in as he copes with this post-war miracle in Rome but the downsides as men like him are being left out with no raise for their pension as the opening scene has these old men protest over this issue. For Umberto, he has very few people who can sympathy with his plight such as the young maid (Maria Pia Casilo) who likes his company and his dog as she comes to him for advice as she is pregnant.

Adding to Umberto’s plight is his failing health as he only has half of the money to pay the rent but the landlady (Lina Gennari) wants the entire amount or nothing at all. Especially as she has plans of her own in what she wants to do with her apartment building as she would let Flike wander off with no regard when Umberto had to go to the hospital for an illness. Flike would be found as it only add to the troubles Umberto faces as it is clear that men of his age are dealing with a future that is bleak or nonexistent at its worst.

The direction of de Sica is just intoxicating for not just the look of post-war Rome in this state of economic growth that some are getting something out of with others not getting much or nothing at all. Shot on location in Rome, de Sica would use some unique wide shots to capture the city coming alive but also with something that is unsettling as it relates to people living outside of the city or those who haven’t reaped the benefits of this economic boom. There’s an intimacy to de Sica’s direction in the way he films Umberto in his plight where there’s some close-ups but it’s in the medium shots and wide shots that says a lot. Especially in the former in his encounter with people as well as the dog Flike who is a major character in the film as he is one of the few reasons that Umberto is living. The film also has de Sica take a great look into the plight of the older generation who had been through war and everything as they are often wearing suits and a hat trying to look presentable but it’s not enough. Even as Umberto has to endure the indignity of having his room be used as a brothel for anyone his landlord would rent the room to. It all plays to a man being pushed to the edge as he is aware that his time is running out. Yet, de Sica does endure that no matter how bad things are for Umberto. There is some form of dignity that the character can hold on to. Overall, de Sica creates an enthralling yet heartfelt film about a man dealing with a new world he’s not a part of.

Cinematographer Aldo Graziati does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it captures the beautiful exteriors in the day along with some unique lighting schemes for the interior scenes as well as the scenes set at night. Editor Eraldo Da Roma does excellent work with the film’s editing as it is quite straightforward as it play into the dramatic elements of the film without emphasizing on style. Production designer Virgilio Marchi and set decorator Ferdinando Ruffo do fantastic work with the look of the apartment building that Umberto live in as well as the room he lives in as it would later be ruined for the landlord’s interior remodling. The sound work of Ennio Sensi is terrific as it is very straightforward to play into the sound of the trolleys heard from inside the house as well as the buses. The film’s music by Alessandro Cicognini is amazing as it has this somber yet enchanting orchestral score that plays into the plight that Umberto endures as it is a highlight of the film.

The film’s superb cast include a superb performance from Memmo Carotenuto as a man that Umberto meets at the hospital as well as a wonderfully slimy performance from Lina Gennari as the cruel landlord who wants to remodel her home for her own selfish reasons. Maria Pia Casilio is radiant as the young maid Maria who deals with her own plight as has an unwedded pregnancy as she turns to Umberto for help as well as be one of the few that helps him. The dog Napoleone is just incredible as Flike as this loyal companion that provides Umberto with a reason to care no matter how bad things are. Finally, there’s Carlo Battisti in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as this retired government worker that is dealing with the emergence of the modern world as he has trouble fitting in the world as he is being evicted as he also deals with the indifference he faces from modern society as it’s a powerful and touching performance from Battisti.

Umberto D. is a tremendous film from Vittorio de Sica. Featuring a great cast, a remarkable screenplay, gorgeous visuals, a hypnotic score, and a universal premise that is engaging. The film is definitely visceral in terms of what the character endures as the film is also a worthy introduction for anyone that wants to understand what Italian neorealism is. In the end, Umberto D. is a magnificent film from Vittorio de Sica.

Vittorio De Sica Films: (Rose scarlatte) - (Maddalena, zero in condotta) - (Teresa Venerdi) - (Un garibaldino al convento) - (The Children Are Watching Us) - (La porta del cielo) - (Shoeshine) - (Heart and Soul (1948 film)) - Bicycle Thieves - (Miracle in Milan) - (It Happened in the Park) - (Terminal Station) - (The Gold of Naples) - (The Roof) - (Anna of Brooklyn) - Two Women (1960 film) - (The Last Judgment) - (Boccaccio ‘70) - (The Condemned of Altona) - (Il Boom) - Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow - (Marriage Italian-Style) - (Un monde nouveau) - (After the Fox) - (Woman Times Seven) - (Le streghe) - (A Place for Lovers) - (Sunflowers (1970 film)) - (The Garden of Finzi-Continis) - (Lo chiameremo Andrea) - (A Brief Vacation) - (The Voyage)

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: Dream of Light

(Winner of the Jury Prize and FIPRESCI prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Victor Erice and written by Erice and Antonio Lopez Garcia, El sol del membrillo (The Quince Tree Sun or Dream of Light) is a half-documentary/half-narrative driven film about the artist Antonio Lopez Garcia and his attempt to paint the quince tree. It’s a film that explores Garcia’s process which is described as meticulous where the man also deals with his own sense of mortality and the drive to do this painting. The result is a rich and engrossing film from Victor Erice.

Shot from September to December of 1990 with additional shooting in the spring of 1991, the film is a simple exploration of Antonio Lopez Garcia’s attempt to paint the quince tree in his backyard. The film showcases his meticulous approach to painting the tree from the pegs on the ground where he would use it to maintain a certain position as he’s painting to the marks he would make on the tree to know the attention to detail of what he’s painting. With the usage of symmetry by tying strings on the tree and hanging a weight on it, Garcia would find a center of what to paint as the markings would also show where the position has changed during the days in his attempts to paint this tree. During the course of these four months, Garcia would have two attempts in painting this tree from the fullness in the early stages of autumn to succumbing to the cold winter and rotting fruit that would follow which include some of his markings.

With the aid of cinematographers Angel Luis Fernandez and Javier Aguirresarobe, director Victor Erice would capture Garcia as he attempts to paint this tree while also capturing Garcia’s life at home where his wife Marina Moreno, who is also an artist, is overseeing the remodeling of his home as they’re visited by their daughters as well as another artist in Enrique Gran. While Erice would shoot some of the conversations that Garcia is having with Gran who talks throughout while Garcia is painting. Chinese tourists arrive to meet Garcia as he goes into great detail into his process as he copes with trying to achieve a sense of realism into his paintings. Throughout the course of the film, Garcia goes into great detail to get the right look and tone of a leaf or a quince fruit as he would have something going until late October where he deals with a terrible storm in and around Madrid.

Erice’s usage of close-ups and wide shots doesn’t just capture the depth of this painting-in-the-works but also what Garcia would do to start over as it relates to the second attempt where it felt more like a draft of what he wants to do as he would start all over again during the film’s second act. With the help of editor Juan Ignacio San Mateo in assembling and capture the many hours of footage to showcase the evolution of Garcia’s painting through days and weeks into how it would come into fruition. The sound work of Ricardo Steimberg and Daniel Goldstein is excellent in maintaining something that is natural as well as the kind of music that Garcia plays in his radio along with the broadcasts that is happening in and around Spain. The film’s music by Pascal Gaigne is wonderful as it is mostly low-key with its string-based music to play into the determination that Garcia is in achieving absolute realism into his painting.

El sol del membrillo is an incredible film from Victor Erice. While it’s not an easy film to watch due to its slow pacing and can meander at times. It is still this fascinating film that is very unconventional in its tone where it may have the look of a documentary but it feels like a narrative-based film as it showcases what an artist does to try and achieve what he’s going for. In the end, El sol del membrillo is a remarkable film from Victor Erice.

Victor Erice Films: The Spirit of the Beehive - El Sur

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: The Renaissance

For the third week of May of 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We venture into the world of the Renaissance. A period during the 14th to the 17th Century where it moved out of the medieval age and into a period which of cultural advancement as well as the discovery of new worlds. Here are three films set in that period that showcases the best and worst examples of those times.

1. The New World

Terrence Malick’s dramatic interpretation of the Jamestown colony founding, depending on what cut of the film, is truly one of the finest films set in a historical period. Set in the early 17th Century, the film is a look of a world discovered by Europeans as they try to share and deal with the natives only for things to go wrong as much of it is told from the perspective of Pocahontas as well as Captain John Smith and Pocahontas’ future husband John Rolfe. Featuring the beautiful cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki as well as a top-notch cast, the film is definitely one of the finest films of the 21st Century so far.

2. Ivan the Terrible

Originally meant to be a three-part film on the life of the czar who ruled Russia from 1533 to 1547 as it explores a man trying to make Russia into an empire. Released in two parts, Sergei Eisenstein’s film explores a man’s willingness to unite a country despite the terrible deeds he does. With the first part released in 1944 and the second part in 1958 just ten years after Eisenstein’s death. It’s a film that explores a man trying to deal with the chaos in his country as well as the forces outside as it is this very unconventional yet daunting film.

3. Aguirre, the Wrath of God

From one of cinema’s great madmen in Werner Herzog comes the first of five fruitful collaborations with actor Klaus Kinski in this story of a conquistador trying to find a lost city of gold in the Amazon. It’s a study of madness and obsession as it is shot on location in the Peruvian Amazon with additional locations in Machu Picchu to give the film an authenticity that is kind of lacking with most period films. Kinski’s performance is definitely astonishing to watch as there is something about him that is fucking crazy yet it is also fascinating to see him be so determined. It’s a film that really captures the idea of men trying to enter a new world to find something only to succumb to their own follies.

© thevoid99 2017

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: Sicario

(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Taylor Sheridan, Sicario is the story of a FBI agent who is asked to join a government task force to take down a drug cartel where she finds herself dealing with the dangers of her new job. The film is an exploration of the drug world where a young woman with ideals is given a harsh look of reality into the new job she’s in. Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, and Benicio del Toro. Sicario is an eerie yet gripping film from Denis Villeneuve.

The film follows a FBI agent whose work in busting homes has gotten the attention of a CIA officer to be part of a task force to stop a drug cartel with the aid of mysterious man who knows a lot about the drug world. It’s a film that explore the war on drugs as it’s set entirely in the American Southwest as well as Mexico with the city of Juarez as the center of this drug trade. Even in the eyes of an idealist who is hoping to do what is right as she then copes with not just the dangers of this drug war but also some of the darkest aspects of what some will do to ensure the fall of the drug trade. Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay is filled with a lot of ambiguities as it relates to the war on drugs where it is told from multiple perspectives. Yet, it’s the protagonist in Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) who is just a simple FBI agent that goes in to bust houses of suspects and make sure people are OK. Still, she isn’t sure if she wanted to be part of this task force headed by the CIA agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) as he’s joined by his partner Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro).

The script’s first act is about Kate being part of this task force and seeing everything as an observer while the second act has her taking a fellow FBI agent in Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya) to an assignment where they get a very close look at what Graver and Alejandro does. Even as Kate realizes that she just can’t simply sit by idly and watch all of these happening as these guys in the task force are doing things in their own will. Though Kate does get some sympathy from Gillick as he is aware of her reluctance, he also tells her that she is now in a world that is very unforgivable. Sheridan’s script also showcase glimpses of a policeman in Mexico named Silvio (Maximiliano Hernandez) as someone who could be working for a cartel as it shows not just what some are willing to do to survive but also be part of this drug war.

Denis Villeneuve’s direction is definitely intoxicating in its beauty but also has something that is very unsettling due to the subject matter and the environment in which the story takes place. Shot on locations in Albuquerque, New Mexico and areas nearby as well as El Paso, Texas and various locations in Mexico, the film does play like a world where the drug trade is near the American suburbs but also has this feel of the West. Villeneuve’s usage of the wide shots play into the vastness of the locations where it is quite eerie. Even in scenes which includes a climatic raid through desert tunnels showcase the grandness of the drug war where it is also quite frightening where Villeneuve would also use some medium shots and close-ups to play into the suspense. There are moments that are quite violent such as the opening sequence which doesn’t really involve any major gunplay but it would have something that would play into the harsh world that Kate is in.

Villeneuve would also create some low-key dramatic moments as it play into not just the investigation but also the world of the drug war as there’s a scene of Kate on a rooftop looking at Mexico noticing the war between various drug factions at Juarez. There are also moments where Villeneuve would maintain a sense of ambiguity which relates to Gillick as he’s about to torture someone but it is never shown. He is also key to the film’s third act during its climax where it features usage of thermal and night-vision filters in those scenes. The climax would also showcase what some will do to keep the drug wars alive as it would definitely shape everything Kate believes in as it is all about the bigger picture in the war against drugs. Overall, Villeneuve creates a visceral yet harrowing film about a FBI agent being part of a dangerous task force to bring down a drug cartel.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins does incredible work with the film’s cinematography as it is a major highlight of the film with its usage of gorgeous exterior daytime lighting for the scenes in the desert as well as some of its interiors and the exterior scenes at night and in the morning. Editor Joe Walker does brilliant work with the editing as it utilizes some rhythmic cutting to play into the action and suspense as well as establishing what is going on without deviating into fast-cutting styles. Production designer Patrice Vermette, with set decorator Jan Pascale and supervising art director Paul D. Kelly, does amazing work with the look of the motels and homes where some of the characters live in as well as the base and offices of the government task forces. Costume designer Renee April does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual from the rugged clothes and camouflage of the task force as well as the clothes the characters wear outside of work.

Visual effects supervisor Alexandre Lafortune does terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects for a few scenes which include the scene of Kate witnessing a drug battle from afar. Sound designer Tom Ozanich and sound editor Alan Robert Murray do fantastic work with the sound as it help play into the intense atmosphere of the violence as well as in the moments of suspense. The film’s music by Johann Johansson is phenomenal as it play into the drama and suspense with its dark-ambient textures with droning bass sounds and eerie electronic arrangements while music supervisor Jonathan Watkins creates a low-key soundtrack filled with mostly country music for a scene at the bar and traditional Mexican music in Mexico.

The casting by Francine Maisler is great as it feature some notable small roles from Bernardo Saracino as a drug boss in Manuel Diaz, Raoul Trujillo as a drug hitman, Julio Cesar Cedillo as a mysterious drug lord, Jeffrey Donovan as an aide of Graver in Steve Forsing, Maxamiliano Hernandez as the Mexican cop Silvio, and Victor Garber as Kate’s boss Dave Jennings who tell her about what she needs to do in order to be part of this dangerous task. Jon Bernthal is terrific as a man named Ted that Kate meets in the bar during the film’s second act while Daniel Kaluuya is fantastic as Kate’s fellow FBI agent Reggie as a rookie-of-sorts who also shares Kate’s ideals while also know a lot more about the law.

Josh Brolin is amazing as Matt Graver as a CIA agent heading a drug task force to take down a drug cartel as someone who doesn’t reveal a lot into what he does as he brings some humor to his role as well as moments that play into the real ideas of the drug war. Benicio del Toro is incredible as Alejandro Gillick as a mysterious man who is part of the task force as someone who is quite ambiguous in what he does as he’s got no qualms in killing people while he understands Kate’s own reluctance into what they have to do. Finally, there’s Emily Blunt in a sensational performance as Kate Macer as a FBI agent who reluctantly volunteers to be part of task force to stop a cartel hoping she would make a difference where she realizes not just the things that has to be done but also the rules that need to be broken as it veers into the world of cynicism as Blunt is quite understated in scenes as well as knowing when to react into everything she encounters.

Sicario is a tremendous film from Denis Villeneuve that features great performances from Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin. Along with a strong ensemble cast, engaging themes on the war on drugs, and some incredible technical work by its crew. It’s a film that isn’t willing to play nice as well as showcase many of the dark aspects of the drug world and how both sides in the drug war try to engage one another. In the end, Sicario is a magnificent film from Denis Villeneuve.

Denis Villeneuve Films: (Cosmos (1996 film)) - (August 32nd on Earth) - (Maelstrom) - (Polytechnique) - Incendies - Prisoners (2013 film) - (Enemy (2013 film)) - Arrival (2016 film) - (Blade Runner 2049)

© thevoid99 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: Coming Home (2014 film)

(Played Out of Competition at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the novel The Criminal Lu Yanshi by Geling Yan, Coming Home is the story of a professor who is about to be released from prison during the last days of the Cultural Revolution in China as his wife struggles to remember her husband due to an accident that caused her to lose her memory. Directed by Zhang Yimou and screenplay by Zou Jingzhi, the film is an exploration of a family coming back together after years of being apart as they struggle to start over and recall aspects of the past. Starring Gong Li, Chen Daoming, and Zhang Huiwen. Coming Home is a touching and mesmerizing film from Zhang Yimou.

Set mainly in the 1970s during the final days of the Cultural Revolution in China and three years after it ended, the film revolves around a professor who had just been released from prison after an escape during his sentence where he returns home to find that his wife is unable to remember him since the day he had been re-captured. The film is an exploration of a man trying to reunite with his wife and daughter as copes with the fact that his wife has no memory into what he looked like as she continuously waits for him at the train station on a certain day of the month. Zou Jingzhi’s screenplay begins in 1973 where Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming) has escaped from prison during a prison sentence for his crimes against the government as he tries to meet his wife Feng Wanyu (Gong Li) as she hopes to see him again.

Yet, they’re reported by authorities that would put Lu back in prison while Feng is knocked on the floor with serious head injury. The film then picks up six years later where Lu is released as he’s picked up by his daughter Dandan (Zhang Huiwen) as he learns about Feng’s amnesia as he would live nearby trying to see if she can regain some form of memory about him. Dandan would help her father as she has been forced to live in a dormitory at the factory she works at as she carries some remorse over what happened to her parents as it relates to her ballet career where she lost the shot in being a lead dancer. Dandan would start to connect with the father she barely knew as it would also give her the chance to reconcile with her mother whom she’s had a very troubled relationship with since the accident. Even as she tries to help her father in regaining aspects of her mother’s memory where she thinks Lu is a former government official named Fang. Yet, Lu would often appear in front of his wife pretending to be a piano tuner or a letter-reader as a way to get close with his wife as she continues to go to the train station waiting for him.

Zhang Yimou’s direction is quite understated as it doesn’t go for anything that is overly-stylized which is often prominent with some of his films. Instead, Yimou aims for something very simple with this story that doesn’t revolve on vast locations nor anything extravagant as he shoots the film in rural areas in Beijing and Tianjin where it does feel like a world that is changing. With a lot of references to the Cultural Revolution that includes a performance of the Chinese ballet Red Detachment of Women in the first act. Yimou showcases that period in China’s history as well as some of its aftermath where it is a straightforward drama told in a very sensitive manner. Much of Yimou’s compositions include medium shots and close-ups to play into Lu’s attempt to reconnect with his wife which includes scenes of him reading letters he wrote to her or talking about simple things. Though there’s a few wide shots, Yimou is more about a family reconnecting no matter how complicated things are as it relates to Feng’s memory as she still waits for her husband to return. Overall, Yimou creates a compelling yet heartfelt film about a man trying to connect with his amnesiac wife.

Cinematographer Xiaoding Zhao does excellent work with the cinematography as it is straightforward but also very low-key for some of the nighttime interior/exterior scenes as well as the daytime scenes. Editors Peicong Meng and Mo Zhang do nice work with the editing as it is straightforward to play into the drama without anything that is stylized in its approach to cutting. Makeup designer Greg Cannom does terrific work with the makeup for some of the people in the ballet as well as a key scene late in the film. Sound editor Jing Tao does superb work with the sound as it is very straightforward with some big scenes involving a chase early in the film as well as moments in the streets. The film’s music by Qigang Chen is fantastic as it is very low-key for its orchestral score with a lot of string pieces to play into the drama.

The film’s brilliant cast include some notable small roles from Tao Guo and Ni Yan as a couple of government officials and Jia-yi Zhang as a doctor. Zhang Huiwen is amazing as Dandan as a young woman who initially wanted nothing to do with her father as she copes with some of the thing she’s done as she would later connect with him in trying to help her mother whom she’s have issues with. Chen Daoming is incredible as Lu Yanshi as a professor who copes with his time in prison as he finally returns home where he deals with his wife’s amnesia as he does whatever he can to reconnect with her as well as his daughter whom he barely knows. Finally, there’s Gong Li in an absolutely radiant performance as Feng Wanyu as this woman who hadn’t seen her husband in years until a chance to see him would cause her to lose part of her memories in an accident as it’s a very restrained yet evocative performance of a woman trying to remember as well as determine to see him again despite the fact that the man who is helping her is her husband.

Coming Home is a remarkable film from Zhang Yimou that features a magnificent performance from Gong Li as well as top-notch performances from Chen Daoming and Zhang Huiwen. Along with its simple yet engrossing story, the film is definitely one of Yimou’s more intimate yet touching stories that is really a love story. In the end, Coming Home is a sensational film from Zhang Yimou.

Zhang Yimou Films: (Red Sorghum) – (Codename Cougar) – (Ju Dou) – (Raise the Red Lantern) – (The Story of Qui Ju) – (Keep Cool) – Not One Less - (The Road Home) – (Happy Times) – (Hero (2002 film)) – House of Flying Daggers - Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles - Curse of the Golden Flower - A Simple Noodle Story - (Under the Hawthorn Tree) – (The Flowers of War) – (The Great Wall (2016 film))

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Deserts (Hot or Cold)

For the second week of May of 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We go into the world of deserts whether they’re hot or cold. Films set in places that are either the hottest parts of the world or the coldest. Here are my picks:

1. Walkabout

Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 film is set in the Australian outback where two kids get lost after their father had gone insane and killed himself where they’re saved by a young Aboriginal boy. Featuring outstanding cinematography and compelling themes of youth as well as growing into adulthood, the film is definitely a hypnotic film in terms of what Roeg does. Even as he is willing to explore the ideas of life outside of civilization and the fascination of sex as it relates to David Gulpilil’s character and the young woman played by Jenny Agutter.

2. Gerry

Based on a real-life event, the first part of Gus Van Sant’s Death Trilogy follows two guys named Gerry who go on a hike through the desert and then get lost. Starring Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, who both co-wrote and edited the film with Van Sant, in this very unconventional film that completely deviates from traditional plot. Yet, it features some of the finest photography captured on film courtesy of the late Harris Savides as well as images set in Death Valley as Van Sant paid tribute to the cinematic style of Hungary’s Bela Tarr for much of the film’s visual approach.

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

If there’s one film that definitely fits into the world of the desert as an unforgiving environment, it’s George Miller’s fourth entry into the world of Mad Max where it has this sense of total chaos in a post-apocalyptic world where water is scarce and young women are used as objects for an evil tyrant. The performances of Tom Hardy as Mad Max and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa is what makes the film so enthralling to watch as well as the action sequences which proves that practical effects are so much better than the visual effects that is often created by machines.

© thevoid99 2017

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The Flowers of St. Francis

Based on the novels Little Flowers of St. Francis and The Life of Brother Juniper, Francesco, giullare di Dio (The Flowers of St. Francis) is a film featuring a series of stories about the life of St. Francis and his followers doing deeds in their journey. Directed by Roberto Rossellini and screenplay by Rossellini and Federico Fellini with contributions from Father Antonio Lisandrini and Father Felix Morlion, the film is an exploration of faith and spiritual enlightenment that follows the teachings of St. Francis and his own journey into his devotion to God. Starring Brother Nazario Gerardi, Brother Severino Pisacane, Esposito Bonaventura, Arabella Lemaitre, and Aldo Fabrizi. Francesco giullare di Dio is a majestic and touching film from Roberto Rossellini.

Set around the 12th/13th Century, the film follows the life and works of St. Francis of Assisi (Brother Nazario Gerardi) who walks around the world with his disciples as they would perform small miracles and such during the course of their time at a village where they build a home. Through a series of short segments and vignettes, the film showcases what St. Francis and some of his disciples would do to help spread their word of peace and generosity. The film’s screenplay opens with St. Francis and his disciples walking around the rain as they find shelter where they eventually build a small house for themselves at a village. The segments which are introduced with intertitle cards as it play into moments of St. Francis and his disciples doing whatever they can to help out people whether it’s St. Francis comforting a man with leprosy, the adventures of Brother Ginepro (Brother Severino Pisacane) in his attempt to do good deeds including meeting a noted tyrant (Aldo Fabrizi), and other moments to play involving St. Francis’ teachings.

Roberto Rossellini’s direction is very simple as he doesn’t really go for anything stylistic in its compositions in order to create something that does feel real. Shot on location at the Italian countryside near Rome and Bracciano, Rossellini chooses to shot in places where it does feel like a world that is very simple whether it’s people farming or doing things in the country life during this period between the end of the 12th Century and the early years of the 13th Century. While there are some wide shots of the locations, Rossellini would favor more intimate shots in close-ups and medium shots as it relates to the plight of St. Francis and his disciples as they try to help anyone or resolve some form of conflict that is looming nearby. Even as the film opens and closes with St. Francis and his disciples going into places to find a home base or something as it all play into everything St. Francis wants to do to help anyone and remain humble about it. Overall, Rossellini creates an engaging and mesmerizing film about a man and his followers trying to do what is good for the world and help people during troubled times.

Cinematographer Otello Martelli does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography from the naturalistic look of the daytime exterior scenes in the sun to the scenes set at night with its usage of artificial light for its interiors. Editor Jolanda Benvenuti does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some transition wipes for stylistic reasons. Production designer Virgilio Marchi and set decorator Giuseppe Rissone do fantastic work with the design of the hut that the monks live in as well as some of the interiors of the houses of some of the locals.

Costume designers Marina Arcangeli and Ditta Peruzzi does nice work with the costumes from the robes of St. Francis and his disciples to the clothes that the nuns wear as well as the locals. The sound work of Eraldo Giordani and Raffaele Del Monte do superb work with the sound as it is mostly straightforward to capture the natural aspects of the location. The film’s music by Renzo Rossellini, with liturgical music chants by Father Enrico Buondonno, is wonderful as its usage of organs and string instruments play into the drama while the music chants add a serene yet evocative quality to play into St. Francis’ plight.

The film’s incredible cast which largely consists of non-professional actors include some notable small roles from Brother Nazareno, Brother Raffaele, and Brother Robert Sorrentino as a trio of monks, Arabella Lemaitre as a visiting head nun in St. Claire, and Esposito Bonaventura as an old man named Giovanni who would be a follower of St. Francis. Aldo Fabrizi is excellent in a small role as a tyrant whom Brother Ginepro tries to reason with while Brother Severino Pisacane is brilliant as the young Brother Ginerpo as a young monk trying to whatever he can to help people as well as deal with humility. Finally, there’s Brother Nazario Gerardi in a tremendous performance as St. Francis of Assisi as a monk who travels around the world in the hopes to spread messages of peace, love, and generosity to the poorest parts of the world as he maintains his humility as well as being humble knowing that he’s just a servant of God.

Francesco, giullare di Dio is a sensational film from Roberto Rossellini. Featuring a rapturous story told through a series of segments as well as powerful themes on faith and humanity. The film is definitely one of Rossellini’s finest films as it has elements of neorealism but without a sense of cynicism. In the end, Francesco, giullare di Dio is a phenomenal film from Roberto Rossellini.

Roberto Rossellini Films: (La Vispa Teresa) - (Desiderio) - (Paisan) - (L’Amore-Il Miracolo) - Rome, Open City - (Germany, Year Zero) - Stromboli - (Medico Condotto) - (The Seven Deadly Sins-Envie, L’Envy) - Machine to Kill Bad People) - Europe '51 - (We, the Women-Ingrid Bergman) – Journey to Italy - Fear (1954 film) - (Giovanna d’Arco al rogo) - (General della Rovere) - (Escape by Night) - (Viva l’Italia!) - (Vanina Vanini) - (Benito Mussolini) - (Ro.Go.Pa.G.-Illbatezza) - (The Carabineers) - (Rice University) - (Anno uno)

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