Friday, June 14, 2019

Medium Cool

Written, directed, and shot by Haskell Wexler, Medium Cool is the story of a TV news cameraman who goes right into the center of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago as he deals with what to film making him question about what to tell where news media becomes more scripted. The film is a dramatic interpretation of the events of 1968 in Chicago as it showcases a world that is unraveling as it’s told in an in-your-face cinematic style to comment about what is shown and what isn’t shown. Starring Robert Forster, Verna Bloom, Peter Bonerz, Marianna Hill, and Harold Blankenship. Medium Cool is a gripping and evocative film from Haskell Wexler.

The film follows a cameraman trying to get some good stories to tell in Chicago just months before the Democratic National Convention where he deals with the chaos of the year including assassinations, the Vietnam War, race riots, and all sorts of shit. It’s a film that play into the world of media coverage where a cameraman is trying to find some meaning through what he sees yet he finds himself being told what to shoot and create an angle just as the world is going into disarray. Haskell Wexler’s script is loose in its presentation as it blurs the line between fantasy and reality where the main narrative revolves around the cameraman John Catselas (Robert Forster) as a man just trying to find some idea of what is really going on as he’s joined by his soundman Gus (Peter Bonerz).

During this time to search for compelling stories including one about a cab driver who found an envelope with $10,000, Catselas finds himself at odds with bosses over what to tell as they’re interested in gathering footage and sources for the FBI. It adds to Catselas’ own emotional turmoil as his relationships with some people falter just as he’s befriend a woman named Eileen (Verna Bloom) who had just moved from West Virginia to Chicago with her son Harold (Harold Blankenship) while her husband is away at Vietnam. Eileen represents someone who had lived in a part of the world that is sort of disconnected from the chaos of what is happening right now as she has trouble adjusting to her new environment.

Wexler’s direction is engaging and confrontational in its blur of reality and fiction where it aims for this hand-held documentary style in capturing real events that are unfolding throughout the film but also with the dramatic narrative. Shot on location in Chicago, Wexler who serves as the film’s cinematographer and one of many camera operators aims for this realistic approach to this story of a man trying to find meaning in the news just as the news itself is becoming compromised and scripted. While there’s some wide shots in the film, much of the direction is intimate with its usage of close-ups and medium shots as it play into the action that is going on while Wexler also use audio and video clips of the events that are unfolding in 1968 playing into this air of chaos that is on the rise. The direction also has this loose tone where Wexler showcases the life that Catselas had before meeting Eileen and questioning his role as a cameraman as the film opens with him and Gus on a highway where they find a wounded woman lying out of her car following an accident.

Wexler’s direction and photography maintains an air of realism in the visuals including scenes at a night club where Catselas and Eileen watch a band play as well as dance to the music. It would culminate with the real-life events in and out of the Democratic National Convention where Wexler and his team of camera operators just film what is going on while Eileen is walking around trying to find her son. The sense of chaos, violence, and danger add to this air of realism where reality and fiction would blur as it play into these events where some news outlets refuse to report this riot but others realize there is something important happening as it relates to what Catselas is trying to do as a news cameraman. Overall, Wexler crafts a riveting and haunting film about a news cameraman trying to find a story for the world to know in a media that’s been compromised.

Editor Verna Fields does excellent work with the editing in its usage of jump-cuts and some montages to capture the action and chaos that occur throughout the film. Art director Leon Erickson does nice work with the look of the apartment that Eileen lives that is a total contrast to the more spacious apartment loft that Catselas lives in. Sound editor Kay Rose does fantastic work with the sound in capturing all of the sound clips from news reports as well as the chaos that is happening outside of the Democratic National Convention. The film’s music by Mike Bloomfield is amazing for its mixture of folk and rock that play into some of the dark humor of the film with some instrumental pieces by the Mothers of Invention and Love.

The film’s superb cast feature some notable small roles from Peter Boyle as a gun clinic manager, Christine Bergstrom as a news staff member/lover of Catselas in Dede, and Charles Geary as Harold’s father in flashback scenes. Marianna Hill is wonderful as Catselas’ lover Ruth who spends time at his loft while questioning about his ideals towards the news. Harold Blankenship is fantastic as Harold as Eileen’s son who is dealing with his dreary situation as well as wondering when his dad is going to come back home. Peter Bonerz is terrific as Gus as Catselas’ sound man who accompany him to the assignment as he is also concerned about where the news media is going. Verna Bloom is brilliant as Eileen as a former schoolteacher from West Virginia who has moved to Chicago as she deals with her new surroundings while befriending Catselas as she ponders about her husband who is in Vietnam. Finally, there’s Robert Forster in an amazing performance as John Catselas as a news cameraman who is dealing with the growing turmoil in the news media as he wants to capture real stories that mean something as it starts to affect his personal life as he finds solace in Eileen.

Medium Cool is a sensational film from Haskell Wexler. Featuring a great cast, a commentary about news media in the late 1960s, haunting visuals, and a riveting music soundtrack. It’s a film that explore a moment in time that would prove to be not just a turning point in American history but also its exploration of a man wanting to capture the truth and be part of it despite the compromise he has to endure in his line of work. In the end, Medium Cool is a spectacular film from Haskell Wexler.

© thevoid99 2019

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks: Undercover

For the 24th week of 2019 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We delve into the subject of undercover as it gives people a chance to be somebody else all for the good of the law as well as explore some form of corruption from within. Here are my three picks:

1. New Jack City

Mario Van Peebles’ 1990 film is one of the most quotable films of that decade as it explores a renegade detective who teams with another hot-shot detective to bust a drug lord roaming the streets of New York City. Featuring an incredible performance from Wesley Snipes as the drug lord Nino Brown, Ice-T steals the show as Furious Styles as the man who goes undercover to Brown’s drug syndicate in the hopes of taking him down not just to stop drugs from going into the streets but also for personal reasons. “This isn’t business, this is personal. I wanna shoot you so bad, my dick’s hard”.

2. Undercover Brother

Malcolm D. Lee’s cop-comedy is an ode 1970s Blaxploitation as well as spoofing popular culture and race relations. Starring Eddie Griffin in the titular role, it’s a film that has the character don a few disguises including having to act white to infiltrate the man’s world of capitalism and turning the world white. Yet, Undercover Brother has to endure wearing corduroys, eat mayonnaise, and sleep with white women which doesn’t make black women very happy. Add the antics of Dave Chappelle and Neil Patrick Harris as the white intern in a black spy syndicate. It’s one of the funniest films of the 2000s.

3. BlackKklansman

Spike Lee’s 2018 film isn’t just a return to form narrative film for Lee following a period of lackluster-received films but it’s also a film that feels right for the times as it tells the true story of an African-American police officer who goes undercover and infiltrate a local branch of the Ku Klux Klan with the help of his Jewish partner as the face of his persona. Starring John David Washington as Ron Stallsworth, it’s a film that showcases some of the dark aspects of racism as well as a man who goes deep inside into the world of one of the biggest hate groups around the world and makes a fool out of them.

© thevoid99 2019

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Loveless (2017 film)

Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev and written by Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin, Loveless is the story of a disillusioned couple who are forced to work together after their son had disappeared over anger due to his parents’ hostile relationship towards one another. The film is an exploration of a loveless couple whose bitterness over their marriage force them to deal with the neglect of their son as they try to find him as he had gone missing. Starring Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Marina Vasilyeva, and Andris Keiss. Loveless is a haunting and riveting film from Andrey Zvyagintsev.

Set in 2012 near Leningrad, the film follows a divorcing couple whose hatred for one another lead to the disappearance of their 12-year old son as they’re forced to work together to find him as it leads to more trouble between the two. It’s a film that explore two people who hate each other and want nothing to do each other only to focus on the fact that their only child has disappeared with the two confronting each other and themselves about their neglect towards him. The film’s screenplay by Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin has a unique structure that plays into a family just coming apart with a young boy stuck in the middle of this nasty divorce between two people who really don’t give a fuck about the boy’s feelings over this divorce nor what they want to do with him once the divorce is final.

The first act is about this extremely dysfunctional family where Zhenya (Maryna Spivak) is selling the apartment she shares with her future ex-husband Boris (Aleksey Rozin) and their 12-year old son Alyosha (Matvey Novikov) as she and Boris fights while they both lead different lives with their respective lovers in the middle-aged Anton (Andris Keiss) and Masha (Marina Vasilyeva) as the latter is pregnant with Boris’ child. The second act is about the realization that Alyosha hasn’t returned home as Zhenya reports his disappearance to the police where a detective (Sergey Borisov) and a search and rescue team leader named Ivan (Alexey Fateev) both lead the investigation. Yet, the search for Alyosha would also lead to more tension and revelations about Zhenya and Boris and why they got married in the first place that just adds to the drama and growing sense of loss for the two.

Zvyagintsev’s direction doesn’t go for anything stylistic other than in maintaining some simplistic compositions as well as images that do play into this air of mystique and ambiguity over the situation that is happening throughout the film. Shot on location in areas near Moscow, Zvyagintsev does use wide shots to not get a scope of the world that is Russia but also use close-ups to get so much attention to detail as it relates to a few things that might play into the mystery and suspense into what happened to Alyosha. The usage of close-ups and medium shots also add to the dramatic tension whenever Boris and Zhenya are in a room together while theirs is that one shot where they’re in the background on a wide shot and in another room in a medium shot is Alyosha crying as it displays exactly what he’s going through. It is a moment that play into this air of neglect where Zvyagintsev shows Alyosha’s parents being more concerned with their own lives than Alyosha as examples include Zhenya with Anton or often looking at her phone in some parts of the film. Boris would either be at work or with Masha not really thinking about Alyosha either though and Zhenya would talk about him to their lovers as if he was mistake and are uncertain about what to do with him.

Zvyagintsev also create these mesmerizing images in the compositions where he would put the actors into a certain spot for the shot but it also in displaying this air of realism such as the scene of Boris and Zhenya meeting the detective who name numerous possibilities about the kid while observing the both of them as he reveals to be a tough yet fair individual who is willing to get to the bottom of Alyosha’s disappearance. One scene that is chilling and disturbing is when Boris, Zhenya, and a police officer go to the home of Zhenya’s mother (Natalya Potapova) as she represents this old idea of what Russia was as she blames her daughter and Boris for Alyosha’s disappearance where Zvyagintsev definitely display some political and social metaphors as it relates to what had happened as well as this disconnect from morality in modern-day Russia. Overall, Zvyagintsev crafts a gripping and eerie film about a divorcing couple dealing with the disappearance of their 12-year old son.

Cinematographer Mikhail Krichman does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with its stark and desolate look with its usage of white, grey, and other colorless imagery for many of the exterior scenes while using some low-key lighting and such for the scenes set at night. Editor Anna Mass does terrific work with the editing as it is largely straightforward that allow shots to linger for more than a minute with a few rhythmic cuts for dramatic purposes. Production designer Andrey Ponkratov does fantastic work with the interior of the family apartment including Alyosha’s room as well as the apartments that Anton and Masha live in. Sound designer Andrey Dergachev does superb work with the sound as it help play into the intense atmosphere of some of the locations including the sparse sounds of nature and sirens heard from afar. The film’s music by Evgueni and Sacha Galperine is wonderful for its low-key piano-based ambient score that appear briefly in parts of the film while the soundtrack include a classical piece from Avro Part and a music appearance from Bring on the Horizon on Boris’ car radio.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles from Vavara Shmykova as a police officer who help Boris and Zhenya break into the home of Zhenya’s mother and Natalya Potapova as Zhenya’s mother who is this cold and cruel woman who wants nothing to do with her daughter or her grandson believing they are a burden to her. Sergey Borisov and Alexey Fateev are superb in their respective roles as the detective and the search/rescue leader Ivan as two men who are both good at their jobs while also going through numerous possibilities about Alyosha as well as do whatever they can to find the boy. Marina Vasilyeva and Andris Keiss are fantastic in their respective roles as Boris’ pregnant lover Masha and Zhenya’s middle-aged lover Anton as two people who are concerned with what is happening as Masha believes she is being neglected while Anton becomes concerned about Zhenya though has no real issues with Boris. Matvei Novikov is excellent as Alyosha as the 12-year old son of Boris and Zhenya who is dealing with his parents’ divorce as well as them fighting and saying things about him that would eventually lead to a breakdown and the idea that he ran away.

Aleksey Rozin is brilliant as Boris as a businessman that is concerned with keeping his job while dealing with the chaos of his marriage and the new life he wants to have with Masha as he also copes with Alyosha’s disappearance as well as being unsure about what to do with him once the divorced is finalized. Finally there’s Maryana Spivak in an amazing performance as Zhenya as a mother who is trying to get started on her new life while filled with a lot of bitterness about her marriage to Boris as she deals with what happened to Alyosha as she is in denial that she is at fault for what happened to him.

Loveless is a tremendous film from Andrey Zvyagintsev. Featuring a great cast, its themes of neglect and family, and stark visuals, it’s a film that explore a divorcing couple who try to find their son as well as deal with themselves as it also serves as a metaphor for the declining sense of morality in modern-day Russia. In the end, Loveless is a spectacular film from Andrey Zvyagintsev.

Andrey Zvyagintsev Films: (The Return) – (The Banishment) – (Elena (2011 film) – Leviathan (2014 film)

© thevoid99 2019

Monday, June 10, 2019

River of Grass

Written and directed by Kelly Reichardt from a story by Reichardt and Jesse Hartman, River of Grass is the story of a couple who find themselves involved in a shooting incident as they try to flee South Florida but deal with the lack of funds to do so. It’s a film that explore a bad night where two people with an incident that they may or may not have been involved in as they also deal with their own issues in their lives that stop them from fleeing trouble. Starring Lisa Bowman, Larry Fessenden, Michael Buscemi, Greg Schroeder, Santo Fazio, Dick Russell, and Sheila Korsi. River of Grass is an offbeat yet compelling film from Kelly Reichardt.

A married woman with children meets a man at a bar as he had recently gained a lost gun where they go to someone’s home to swim in that person’s pool only to accidentally shoot the gun as they believe they had killed someone. It’s a film that has this simple premise with not much of a plot as it play into two directionless individuals who find a gun and then try to leave South Florida after they believed they had killed someone. Yet, leaving South Florida with little money and lack of direction is part of the problem as Kelly Reichardt doesn’t aim for a traditional narrative as it play into this air of uncertainty for these two people. Notably as Cozy (Lisa Bowman) is a woman with children she has no emotional attachment to while her husband is often away at work where much of the film is told from her perspective through voice-over narration. Upon meeting Lee (Larry Fessenden) at a bar, they drink and have fun until they go to someone’s house with a gun that Lee found. What neither of them know is that the gun belonged to Cozy’s father Jimmy (Dick Russell) who had lost it after chasing someone at another bar.

Reichardt’s direction is largely low-key while it does have bits of style in the film in terms of the compositions that she creates. Shot on location in small towns in both Broward and Dade County in Florida including parts of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, Reichardt definitely play into this air of realism into the locations while it also add to the suspense and drama that Cozy and Lee are going through. Even as they don’t have a lot of money and do whatever they can to get money where Lee would go to his grandmother’s house and steal things including records and his mother’s shoes only to get nothing. Reichardt would use some wide shots of the film’s locations though it is shot on a 1:33:1 full-frame aspect ratio where Reichardt uses the format to play into the intimacy between the characters in the close-ups and medium shots including scenes inside the car.

Reichardt’s direction also goes into great detail of the locations of where the gun is first found as well as certain places the characters go to where even though South Florida is quite vast with its cities and beaches including glimpses of the Everglades. The fact that characters would encounter each other without knowing who they are or not see them properly as it add to the intrigue of Jimmy’s search for the missing gun as well as who accidentally shot a gun. Reichardt’s direction also play into this air of uncertainty as it relates to the realism of what Cozy and Lee are going through that include this climatic scene at the tollbooth where it is about finding a quarter to pay the toll. That air of realism but also a sense of loss about how life never turns out the way some wanted it to be adds to the heaviness of the drama where Reichardt doesn’t make it heavy-handed. Instead, she reveals the severity of their situation and their inability to deal with the real world and take both the good and bad in what they have. Overall, Reichardt crafts a mesmerizing yet unconventional road drama about a couple who get into trouble and escape South Florida.

Cinematographer Jim Denault does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it has this sort of grainy look in the photography yet maintains something that is natural in the daytime exteriors and usage of available light for some of the interiors at night. Sound designer/editor Larry Fessenden does terrific work with the editing and sound as the former is presented in a straightforward manner with a few jump cuts while the latter is also presented in a straight approach with some sparse sounds of the locations including how music is presented. Production designer David Doernberg does nice work with the look of Lee’s room at his grandmother’s house as well as the home that Cozy lives in. Costume designer Sara Jane Slotnick does wonderful work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward to play into the summer heat of Florida. The film’s music by John Hill is brilliant for its usage of jazz music as well as a soundtrack that features an array of music from jazz, alternative rock, and country music.

The film’s superb cast feature notable small roles and appearances from Sheila Korsi as a depressed woman at a bar, Greg Schroeder as Jimmy’s detective friend Bobby, Santo Fazio as Jimmy’s dickhead superior, Michael Buscemi as Lee’s friend Doug, and Stan Kaplan as Cozy’s husband J.C. Dick Russell is fantastic as Cozy’s father Jimmy as a jazz musician who works as a detective as he laments over his lost gun and Cozy’s sudden disappearance where he focuses on a case relating to a shooting accident. Larry Fessenden is excellent as Lee as this guy who copes with being unemployed and uncertain about his life as he is locked out of his grandmother’s home only to find a gun but has no clue what to do where he and Cozy go on the run as he struggles to figure out what to do. Finally, there’s Lisa Bowman in an amazing performance as Cozy as a mother/housewife who feels disconnected from her family life as she is eager to get out upon meeting Lee as it leads to trouble but also this need to make a new life but deal with the harsh realities of their situation.

River of Grass is a marvelous film from Kelly Reichardt. Featuring a great cast, superb images, a wild music soundtrack, and themes of trouble and wanting a new life but unable to deal with reality. It’s a film that play into a couple who get into trouble unaware of what happened and then panic over their inability to escape due to their lack of resources. In the end, River of Grass is a remarkable film from Kelly Reichardt.

Kelly Reichardt Films: Old Joy - Wendy & Lucy - Meek's Cutoff - (Night Moves (2013 film)) - Certain Women - (First Cow) – (The Auteurs #72: Kelly Reichardt)

© thevoid99 2019

Sunday, June 09, 2019

The Duchess

Based on the biography Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman, The Duchess is the story of the life of Georgiana who gets to William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, as it leads to a troubled marriage as well as uncertainty into the role of her life where she’s expected to do so many things for her husband. Directed by Saul Dibb and screenplay by Dibb, Jeffrey Hatcher, and Anders Thomas Jensen, the film is a study of a woman’s role in British aristocracy as she tries to find friendship and love in that world that is restrictive as the character of Georgiana Cavendish is portrayed by Keira Knightley. Also starring Ralph Fiennes, Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper, and Charlotte Rampling. The Duchess is a riveting and compelling film from Saul Dibb.

Set in the late 18th Century Great Britain, the film follows the life of Georgiana who is betrothed to the Duke of Devonshire in William Cavendish (Ralph Fiennes) as her task is to give him a male heir and be his wife as she copes with the role she’s given as well as his affairs and her own feelings for an old friend. It’s a film that play into a woman trying to play a role but also come out of it to express her views and such but also her own desires in life. The film’s screenplay by Saul Dibb, Jeffrey Hatcher and Anders Thomas Jensen follow Georgiana’s life as the first act is about her friendship with Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper) and then being married to Cavendish and the role she’s playing as well as deal with the affairs he had with maids. Notably as one of those maids he slept with would borne a child named Charlotte whom Georgiana would care for along with her two daughters in Harryo and Little Georgiana six years after she and Cavendish are married much to Cavendish’s dismay that Georgiana hasn’t produced a male heir.

The script doesn’t just to play into Georgiana’s relationship with Cavendish but also her friendship with Lady Elizabeth “Bess” Foster (Hayley Atwell) who would be a closest ally though their friendship is briefly tarnished by Foster’s affair with Cavendish whom she’s fallen for and bargained with as Cavendish would get her three sons to live with them. It would also explore Georgiana’s relationship with Grey whom she sees as someone who share the same ideals of bringing change to Great Britain yet Cavendish’s position in power can undo all of Grey’s plans. For Georgiana, her marriage to Cavendish isn’t just one about power and status but also this air of importance that she had to play in royal and political society.

Dibb’s direction is largely straightforward yet it does have some element of style while the compositions also says a lot about what is happening without needing to say a word. Notably in scenes during a breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the dining room between Georgiana and Cavendish with Bess later being part of this triangle where Dibb’s wide shots would showcase not just this air of disconnect between Georgiana and Cavendish with the former trying to get to know the latter but also it would also later lead to tension between the two with Bess being in the middle either as a source of disdain from Georgiana or as a mediator between the two. Shot largely at Twickenham Film Studios with exterior locations shot on various locations in England, the film does play into a world that is quaint and reserved though disconnected from some of the realities of what was happening to Britain during that time. Notably as much of Dibb’s direction is shot in palace halls, dining halls, opera houses, and these posh venues while there a few scenes of the streets where Grey is doing a speech with Georgiana’s supporting by his side as he’s talking to the regular people.

Dibb’s direction also uses close-ups and medium shots to play into the interaction between characters including a scene of Bess showing Georgiana the art of seduction and pleasure as it relates to the latter’s feelings towards Grey. The close-ups also add to the anguish that Georgiana is facing during the film’s third act as it play into her love affair with Grey and what Cavendish threatens to do. Yet, it also play into the role she has to play publicly as there is a scene in the film that is shown off screen that even Bess is repulsed by what is happening. Dibb would maintain that role that Georgiana had to play and the sacrifices she makes but also to ensure that she at least she had some impact into Britain’s future while making peace with those in her life. Overall, Dibb crafts a ravishing film about the life of a young duchess and her journey of self-discovery and the role she had to play in late 18th Century British society.

Cinematographer Guyla Pados does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its natural usage of lights for the exteriors as well as candle lights and other low-key lighting for the interiors set at night. Editor Masahiro Hirakubo does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the drama as well as some nice matching cuts in some of the film’s compositions. Production designer Michael Carlin, with set decorator Rebecca Alleway and art director Karen Wakefield, does amazing work with the set design from the look of the rooms, dining halls, and many of the interiors as well as a few exterior sets including the town square where Grey speaks to the people. Costume designer Michael O’Connor does fantastic work with the costumes as the design of the dresses and men’s clothing is a major highlight of the film.

Hair designer Jan Archibald and makeup designer Daniel Phillips do terrific work with the design of the wigs and the lavish makeup for some of the parties that Georgiana host for the people in royal society. Special effects supervisor Mark Holt, along with visual effects supervisors Adam Gascoyne and Charlie Noble, does some fine work with some of the film’s minimal effects as it relates to a dramatic party scenes as well as a few scenes of exterior set dressing. Sound editor Catherine Hodgson does superb work with the film’s sound as it help play into the atmosphere of the parties as well as the sparse and uncomfortable silent moments in the film including a key scene off screen where the action is heard in a disturbing presentation. The film’s music by Rachel Portman is incredible for its lush orchestral score that play into the period with some themes that help define a few characters including its approach to the music of the times.

The casting by Lucy Beavan is great as it feature some notable small roles from Georgia King and Bruce Mackinnon as actors at a play that Georgiana, Cavendish, and Bess watch, Emily Jewell as a nanny, Richard McCabe as Sir James Hare, Sebastian Applewhite as Sir Augustus Clifford, Poppy Wigglesworth and Eva Hrela in their respective roles as the young and younger versions of Cavendish’s daughter Charlotte, Emily Cohen as Georgiana’s eldest daughter Harryo, and Mercy Fiennes Tiffin as Georgiana’s youngest daughter in Little G. Aidan McArdle and Simon McBurney are superb in their respective roles as political figures in Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Charles James Fox as two men who befriend Georgiana whom she engages in political and social discussions with as they also become political allies.

Charlotte Rampling is fantastic as Georgiana’s mother Countess Georgiana Spencer who reminds her daughter of the role she has to play but also sympathizes with the anguish that her daughter is dealing with. Dominic Cooper is excellent as Charles Grey as the future prime minister as a man whom Georgiana knew before her marriage as he is someone that is an idealist hoping to make some changes for Britain while having feelings for Georgiana leading to an affair that would bring trouble to his future possibilities. Hayley Atwell is brilliant as Lady Elizabeth “Bess” Foster as a woman that Georgiana meets as she would become her best friend until she falls for Cavendish as she later copes with her actions and what she had to do where she would later be the mediator between Georgiana and Cavendish as well as be the former’s closest confidant.

Ralph Fiennes is amazing as William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire as this royal official who is a complex individual as someone that is flawed and cold where he would do awful things to Georgiana but is someone who doesn’t like to show his emotions and his warmth to anyone believing it would make him vulnerable as it’s a remarkable performance from Fiennes. Finally, there’s Keira Knightley in a phenomenal performance as Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire as this young woman who is forced into marriage for social reasons where Knightley displays an air of charisma and anguish into a woman who is forced to play a role for society but is also someone eager to say something for herself as it’s one of her finest performances to date.

The Duchess is a sensational film from Saul Dibb that features an incredible performance from Keira Knightley. Along with top-notch supporting performances from Ralph Fiennes, Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper, and Charlotte Rampling plus amazing costumes, set designs, cinematography, and a fascinating screenplay that focuses on character study and themes of social and political behaviors. It’s a period film that explores a woman dealing with the role and obligations she has to fulfill only to find her own voice in the role she chooses to play. In the end, The Duchess is a spectacular film from Saul Dibb.

© thevoid99 2019

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks: Babysitters & Nannies

For the 23rd week of 2019 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We venture into the subject of babysitters and nannies as those who are there to take care of other people’s kids where there’s something good happening or something stupid. Then there’s those films that are just really fucked up. Here are my three picks:

1. Adventures in Babysitting

From Chris Columbus is a film that definitely lives up to the adventure namesake where a young woman is stood up from her date as she takes a babysitting gig only to drive the kids she’s taking care of to Chicago to retrieve a friend who has ran away from home. Featuring a winning performance from Elisabeth Shue, it’s a film that is a fun and entertaining while a young girl gets to meet an early version of Thor played by Vincent D’Onofrio as they all get into some crazy shit in Chicago.

2. Mr. Nanny

Excuse me… if I’m going to talk about this piece of shit film. I’ll need to get in character.

Let me tell you something brothers! This movie brother is one of the best movies that I ever did brother! It has me as a former wrestler dealing with demons as he does a favor for Mr. Jefferson brother. I take care a couple of these kids brother including a young girl brother who would turn out to be extremely jacked and hot like my daughter Brooke brother. I also have to deal with that guy from some band that never made it big brother like the time I auditioned to play bass for Metallica brother! He had a hit with some song in the 80s brother but it wasn’t as big as the time I slammed Andre the Giant in front of a million people inside the Silverdome brother! It’s a great movie brother as it would’ve put me on top and made me bigger than I am brother! Oh brother, brother, brother!

3. The Nanny Diaries

From Robert Pucini and Shari Springer Berman comes an adaptation of Emma Laughlin’s novel that is OK but tries too much to be a light-hearted comedy but also a study about the nannies. It has its moments and some funny moments from Scarlett Johansson including her scenes with Chris Evans before they became part of the MCU!!!! Yet, it is a film that is inconsistent in tone and some of the dramatic approach to the editing and direction doesn’t really pay off as it ends up being manipulative in the worst kind. It’s not a bad film but it’s not a great film.

© thevoid99 2019

Tuesday, June 04, 2019


Based on the novel Querelle of Brest by Jean Genet, Querelle is the story of a Belgian sailor who goes to a brothel following a betrayal on a fellow dealer as he deals with his sexuality and other things happening in and around this brothel. Directed and co-edited by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and screenplay by Fassbinder and Burkhard Driest, the film is an exploration of a man dealing with his identity following a murder he committed as the film would Fassbinder’s film released months after his death of a drug overdose. Starring Brad Davis, Franco Nero, Laurent Malet, Hanno Poschl, and Jeanne Moreau. Querelle is a ravishing and provocative film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

The film follows a Belgian sailor whose ship stops at a small French port town known for its seediness where he enters a brothel where he would engage in his first homosexual affair with its bartender leading to a journey of murder, deceit, and self-exploration for the titular character (Brad Davis). It’s a film that is about this small town filled with sailors, drug dealers, steel workers, and all sorts of people engaging in all sorts of decadence with this sailor who also works as a dealer as he kills another sailor over a deal. The film’s screenplay by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Burkhard Dreist with translated text of Jean Genet’s words and other text by Catherine Breillat is filled with a lot of different stories yet it centers around a murder of a sailor that Querelle committed but no one knows if he killed that man.

Querelle deals drugs including opium as he would also meet his brother Robert (Hanno Poschl) who is the lover of the brothel manager Lysiane (Jeanne Moreau). Lysiane’s husband Nono (Gunther Kaufmann) runs and tends the bar as he would get Querelle to play a game of dice where if Querelle wins, he would sleep with Lysiane but if Nono wins. Nono gets to fuck Querelle as the latter does happen where Querelle finds himself entranced by his encounter with Nono. Yet, things become troubling as it relates to Querelle’s relationship with his brother as Lysiane is fascinated by Querelle while Querelle is seen from afar by his superior in Lt. Seblon (Franco Nero) who pines for him. After killing the sailor Vic (Dieter Schodor), Querelle hangs around while a construction worker named Gil (Hanno Poschl) is the main suspect after a fight with another worker as it leads to suspicion but also Querelle trying to spin a web of lies and deceit around everyone. The script doesn’t just feature these storylines involving multiple characters that Querelle meets but also dialogue that is stylish as it also play into this air of intrigue as the film is partially told through an unseen narrator.

Fassbinder’s direction is definitely stylish where it is shot inside a studio to play up this sense of artificiality and fantasy that is prevalent throughout the film. The direction is filled with a lot of symbolism and attention to detail where Fassbinder makes no bones about the homoerotic content in the film from the phallic statues on the balcony, glimpses of shirtless sailors swabbing the deck in the background, glass paintings of sexual imagery at the brothel, and the gazing of men’s crotches throughout the film. The usage of close-ups help play into the emotional elements of the film but also this idea of identity as it’s presented in a stylish and expressionist approach with some medium shots for some shots to play into some of the dramatic tension. Fassbinder’s approach to the wide shots help play into the attention to detail into this small port town as there is this artificiality that surrounds the location but it also play into this idea of a gay man’s paradise.

With the aid of co-editor Juliane Lorenz, Fassbinder’s editing does have bits of style as it play more into the emotional and melodramatic elements of the film. Notably in a scene where Querelle and Gil meet to discuss a partnership as it play into the former’s need for control. Fassbinder also displays that air of style in a fight scene between Querelle and Robert as it play more like a dance than a knife fight. The direction also play into this sense of intrigue and desire while nothing overtly explicit is shown where Fassbinder instead aims for something emotional. The air of suspense as it relates to the murder does have Fassbinder sort of play with the conventions of the detective film as it reaches this climax that is more dramatic than suspenseful as well as revelations about Querelle’s own journey. Overall, Fassbinder crafts an intoxicating yet entrancing film about a Belgian sailor’s exploits in a small French port town and brothel.

Cinematographers Xaver Schwarzenberger and Josef Vavra do amazing work with the film’s overtly stylish cinematography with its usage of artificial lighting for many of the film’s exterior and interior setting with its usage of yellow and orange along with blue lights for a few key scenes as a form of moonlight. Production designer Rolf Zehetbauer and art director Walter E. Richarz do brilliant work with the look of the port city as well as the interiors of the brothel and some of the places including the phallic statues. Costume designers Barbara Baum and Monika Jacobs do fantastic work with the look of Lt. Seblon’s uniform, the sailor uniforms, the leather uniforms of the police, and the lavish clothing of Lysiane.

Makeup artists Ingrid Massmann-Korner and Gerhard Nemetz do terrific work with the look of Lysiane in her lavish makeup as someone desperately trying to regain a sense of her youth. The sound work of Hartmut Eichgrun and Vladimir Vizner do superb work with the sound as it help play into the atmosphere of the brothel and some of the places outside of the buildings. The film’s music by Peer Raben is incredible for its mixture of jazz-like pieces including a couple of songs that Lysiane sings as well as some eerie electronic-based pieces that play for dramatic effects and some lush orchestral pieces as it is a highlight of the film.

The film’s marvelous cast include notable small roles from Neil Bell as Gil’s lover Theo, Dieter Schidor as the sailor/dealer Vic Rivette, Burkhard Driest as the corrupt police officer Mario who is attracted to Querelle, Laurent Malet as a young sailor who observes some of the action, Roger Fritz as a police official, and Gunther Kauffmann as the brothel bartender Nono who sort of runs the brothel and other things as he would decide Querelle’s self-exploration fate.

Hanno Poschl is excellent in his dual role as Querelle’s brother Robert and the construction worker Gil where he displays a sense of torment and anguish in the former as someone who has some issues with his brother while he is a more charismatic figure as the latter as someone that is in love but is also dealing with trouble when he’s been accused of killing Vic. Franco Nero is fantastic as Lieutenant Seblon as a naval officer who pines for Querelle from afar as a man who records his thoughts on a tape recorder while is also concerned for Querelle’s well-being. Jeanne Moreau is amazing as Lysiane as the brothel owner who also sings as she is someone that is entranced by Querelle but is also concerned about what he might bring to the brothel. Finally, there’s Brad Davis in an amazing performance as the titular character as this sailor/drug dealer who murders a fellow dealer and later encounters his first homosexual experience as he deals with his sexuality and role in life while trying to manipulate and control everything as it’s a sleazy yet charismatic performance from Davis.

Querelle is a phenomenal film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder that features great performances from Brad Davis, Jeanne Moreau, Hanno Poschl, and Franco Nero. Along with its gorgeous visuals, rapturous music score, and themes of sexual identity and dominance, it is a film that display this idea of fantasy, reality, and longing but also a world that is dark with a young man trying to control everything. Even as it is shown in grand display without any kind of compromise which is a great way for Fassbinder to go in his final film. In the end, Querelle is a sensational film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Films: Love is Colder than Death - (Katzelmacher) - (Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?) - (Rio das Mortes) - (The American Soldier) - (Whity) - (Beware of a Holy Whore) - (The Merchant of Four Seasons) - The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant - World on a Wire - Ali: Fear Eats the Soul - (Martha (1974 film)) - (Effi Briest) - (Fox and His Friends) - (Mother Kuster’s Trip to Heaven) - (Chinese Roulette) - (Germany in Autumn) - (Despair) - (In a Year of 13 Moons) - (The Marriage of Maria Braun) - (Third Generation) - (Berlin Alexanderplatz) - (Lili Marleen) - (Lola (1981 film)) - (Veronika Voss)

© thevoid99 2019