Thursday, May 31, 2012

10 Best Actors of All-Time Relay Race

For this blog-a-thon started by Nostra of My Filmviews, it’s about listing the 10 best actors ever where on person passes on that list to another where they can remove one actor in that list and insert a new one. It’s a simple contest but given that there’s so many actors, it’s a very difficult thing to do. Here’s what Nostra had to say about this blog-a-thon:

“So what’s the idea behind the relay? I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actors. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his/her own post. This blogger will have to remove one actor (that is an obligation) and add his/her own choice describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses to remove and add an actor. We will end up with a list (not in ranked order) which represents a common agreement of the best actors.

It will also mean that those who follow this relay race will get to know new blogs as well.”

Mette of Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions has chosen me for relay and here are the previous participants that has started way back since March:

The Actors
(listed alphabetically)

Amitabh Bachchan

Humphrey Bogart

Marlon Brando

Daniel Day-Lewis

Robert de Niro

Johnny Depp

Leonardo DiCaprio

Paul Newman

Jack Nicholson

James Stewart

A list of truly amazing actors, a lot of which are internationally revered and considered to be the best. How can anyone want to argue with a list of these great actors? Alas, someone has to go…

I bid adieu to…

Amitabh Bachchan

It’s nothing personal but having only heard of his name years ago from the film Slumdog Millionaire, I had never seen anything he has done. The rest of the actors in this list I’m very familiar with but Bachchan is someone I really have no clue though he is about to star in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Let’s just hope the film gives him a much bigger exposure outside of India.

My Addition 

Gene Hackman

Truly one of the great actors of American cinema and most of all, a guy who is always going to put in a great performance. Whether it’s in classics like Bonnie & Clyde, The Conversation, Hoosiers, and Unforgiven to even some bad movies like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. He’s a guy that just cannot suck. He knows how to elevate the material or rise above it. The man is simply one of the best. Especially in just creating layers into a character whether it’s Harry Caul in The Conversation, Coach Norman Dale in Hoosiers, or even a famed villain like Lex Luthor in the Superman movies.

While it’s been nearly 8 years since he’s made a movie in the very unremarkable Welcome to Mooseport. He did however create one lasting impression in his career with The Royal Tenenbaums which is probably the last great performance of his career. He is Royal Tenenbaum, flaws and all yet he makes that character so endearing that you couldn’t help but love the guy. There is no actor like Gene Hackman and one hopes he would return to give us film fans another great performance.

Well, that is my pick as I will now pass the baton to… David of Taste of Cinema

© thevoid99 2012

The Films That I Saw: May 2012

The summer film season definitely kicked things off with a bang thanks in part to a brilliant and entertaining film in The Avengers. Then came the Cannes Film Festival which turned out to be a bit underwhelming despite the line-up of films that were playing. There’s a lot of them that I am eager to see including the Palme d’Or-winning film Amour from Michael Haneke. I’ll just maintain lower expectations for these films.

The summer is now coming but there’s not a lot of films that I’m really excited to see other than The Dark Knight Rises, Brave, and Prometheus along with art house fare like Moonrise Kingdom and Beasts of the Southern Wild. To counter all of that, I’m going to be watching a lot of films at home for the summer since I don’t consider myself to be a very sociable person. I much prefer being at home as I’m also half-way finished with completing an outline for my next screenplay project.

Throughout the month of May, I did see a good number of films though not as much as April due to the Cannes Marathon I had been doing. In the month of May, I saw a total of 38 films. 22 first-times and 16 re-watches.

Here’s the list of the 10 Best First-Timers I saw for May:


4. Thirst

10. 3 Women

The Monthly Mini-Reviews

The Change-Up

This is the only new film I saw that was on TV and what a piece of shit it is. It tries so hard to be crassly funny that both Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds end up looking very silly. The script doesn’t do either actor any favors where even as they go against type, the material falls flat. There’s an air of sentimentality that is around that is really un-earned and just really makes the whole film very uneven. Then there’s the nudity and not only a lot of it is very fake but the fact that it was digitized nudity just makes it downright insulting. You expect someone to whack off to these women including Olivia Wilde and then realize, “those aren’t her tits?” From a guy standpoint, it’s a slap in the face. And then there’s the location itself which is set in Atlanta.

I may not be a social-active person but having lived in Smyrna for all of my life and coming to Atlanta so many times. The way its depicted is absolutely false. It’s not that pretty. Piedmont Park is often quite dirty. The photography just makes it too much of a postcard look including a climatic scene at the Phipps Plaza mall. It is just fucking awful. One of the worst films I had ever seen so far in my years as a cine-phile.

The Re-Watches

6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

8. Dick Tracy

9. Reagan

10. Thirteen

Well, that is all for the month of May. June will be the start of the long-awaited James Bond Marathon which I will release the details tomorrow about the marathon in its entirety. Alongside the monthly Favorite Film essay series that will be on Morvern Callar, I will be watching the films of Nicolas Winding Refn for my upcoming Auteurs piece on him for June. Along with new releases of films like Prometheus, Brave, and Moonrise Kingdom, I will take some time to watch a few films by Werner Herzog and Akira Kurosawa. The latter of which I will hopefully unleash my old reviews of his work in re-edited form along with some old reviews of films by Stanley Kubrick. Other things I’ll check out will Kevin Reynolds’ Hatfield & McCoy mini-series as well as various films old and recent. Until then, sayonara.

© thevoid99 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Barry Lyndon

Based on William Makepeace Thackery’s novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon, Barry Lyndon is the story of a how a common Irish man became an aristocrat through a series of misadventures where he rose high only to fall through misfortune. Written for the screen and directed by Stanley Kubrick, the film is an exploration into a man trying to his role into a world that is new to him as he tries to become a gentleman through any means as it’s told by an unreliable narrator played by Michael Hordern. Playing the role of the titular character is Ryan O’Neal as the film spans through nearly 40 years during the second half of the 18th Century. Also starring Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Gay Hamilton, Leon Vitali, Godfrey Quigley, and Steven Berkoff. Barry Lyndon is an exquisite and ravishing film from Stanley Kubrick.

A young man named Redmond Barry is trying to court his cousin Nora Brady (Gay Hamilton) in a small Irish village only to contend with a British captain named John Quin (Leonard Rossiter). Captain Quin represents everything Barry wants to be as he challenged him to a duel following a series of insults as Barry wins the duel but is forced to leave home and go to Dublin. After some trouble where he loses money during his journey, he decides to join the British army for money where he meets Quin’s friend Captain Grogan (Godfrey Quigley) who reveals about the true actions of his duel with Quin. Feeling trapped by his fate as the Seven Year’s War rages on, Barry gains some advice from Grogan about how to lead a different life where Barry deserts the army. Meeting with a Prussian captain named Potzdorf (Hardy Kruger), Barry is suddenly part of Prussian army where he saves Potzdorf’s life in a battle.

In return, Potzdorf offers Barry a chance to spy on a man known as the Chevalier de Balibari (Patrick Magee) where Barry meets the aristocratic man and confesses to him about what he’s doing. The Chevalier takes him in as a protégé before he flees Prussia where Barry gives a false report to Potzdorf. Barry’s work with the Chevalier has made the latter a successful gambler as Barry helps out in his gambling defeating the revered Lord Ludd (Steven Berkoff). At a lunch with the Chevalier at a palace, Barry is entranced by the presence of a woman named Lady Lyndon (Marisa Berenson) whom he courts as her husband (Frank Middlemass) is dying. Barry manages to win over Lady Lyndon much to the dismay of her 10-year-old son Lord Bullingdon (Dominic Savage) as his father dies and Barry becomes Barry Lyndon. With the help of Barry’s mother and a man named Graham (Phillip Stone) to handle Barry’s new wealth, Belle suggests that Barry should gain a title in order to maintain this new lifestyle with the help of the influential Lord Wendover (Andre Morell).

Still, Barry would find ways to undo things as he gains the ire of Lord Bullingdon as Barry later gains a son in Bryan Patrick Lyndon (David Morley) while the 18-year-old Bullingdon (Leon Vitali) has become more attached towards his mother as his hatred for Barry grows. After years of tension that finally boils, Bullingdon is forced to leave where Barry puts his full attention towards his son. Yet, financial mismanagement and Barry’s awful deeds behind the scenes as tragedy happens leaving Lady Lyndon in a state of shock. When the Lyndon family’s longtime advisor Reverend Runt (Murray Melvin) is dismissed, Runt would return with the exiled Lord Bullingdon who challenges Barry to a duel. For all that Barry had gained and lost, Barry would do something that would change the fates for everyone involved including himself.

The film is about a man who is trying to find his way to conform into a world that he is entranced by as he tries to figure out how to behave in this world despite his lack of intelligence and understanding about the way the world works. It’s a film that explores the life of a man who comes from humble beginnings to stumble his way into various places in the world and then become a man of great wealth. Just as he rose high through years of sheer luck, he would fall in a big way through his own doing. Infidelity, neglect, mismanagement, and foolishness would play part into downfall that would be furthered by tragedy only to find himself in a similar situation where his adventure begin.

Told through Michael Hordern’s narration that would reveal lots of back story and the fates that is to come for Barry Lyndon, it’s to establish what this man is trying to do in his path to become an aristocrat. A lot of Hordern’s narration delves into the lives of Barry and the characters he encounters as it’s told in third-person where Hordern would spoil things to unveil how Barry would screw things up for himself in his bid to gain a title. It would also unveil a lot of the fallout that happens as it would play into the fates of this man and the people he encounters.

Stanley Kubrick’s screenplay plays to the traditional rise and fall formula but it is told in a grand narrative where it’s about this slow rise to fortune and prestige only to fall in an even bigger way where Barry Lyndon would go full circle into his journey. The film plays into many themes that is explored such as conformity, desire, and will as it reveals how a simple Irish villager like Redmond Barry would become the aristocratic Barry Lyndon through the series of misadventures where he would serve in two different armies, meet people who would change his outlook in the world, and find a way to be part of this world that is so foreign to him. Of course, he would face forces that would prevent him from trying to be part of this world.

Through this narration that often has an air of melancholia, Kubrick seems to want to try and root for this simple Irish villager who manages to succeed by sheer dumb luck and stumbling his way into certain things. Once he has attained this aristocratic lifestyle, Kubrick then wants to tear him apart by exploring the things where Barry would completely find ways to ruin himself. In a way, the film is a character study of how a man would try to define himself to become a gentleman. In the course of these accidental encounters, Barry would observe the way a gentleman behaves as he tries to figure out how to do this in a certain way or how to do that. Yet, being a gentleman isn’t something that can be taught but rather for one to discover in the course of time. That is something Barry was unable to figure out until the very end but it would come at a great price.

Kubrick’s direction is truly exotic in the way he recreates 18th Century life in grand detail from the costumes to the homes and places that is created as if he goes back in time. From the wide compositions he creates to display the large number of soldiers that Barry would be a part of to the shots of the town and the opening duel. There is never a moment wasted where Kubrick is all about the great detail as if he is trying to recreate some old painting of those times and bring it to life. In creating this period, Kubrick allows the film to play out and maintain a pace that is more leisured where it will frustrate audiences at first because it feels quite slow. Yet, that’s because time moved much slower back then.

The direction is also quite intimate and intoxicating for the way Kubrick captures many of the scenes inside these mansions where the camera is always looking afar to capture the rooms the characters walk into or where they’re eating. The close-ups that Kubrick creates has him showing some restraint just so he can observe what this character could be feeling without the use of the narration. Still, Kubrick is interested in the story of this simple man who rises from humble beginnings to fall in such a grand way. Notably in how he creates a unique parallel to the duels that Barry would face in the beginning of the film against Captain Quin and Lord Bullingdon towards the end. It’s all about the fates that is set for a character like Barry where the first duel was just a set-up for everything he is about to embark.

It’s the last duel where the film reaches a huge climax where Kubrick definitely creates a lot of tension and suspense where it’s all about Lord Bullingdon reclaiming the family’s tarnished reputation against a man who has just lost everything. It’s this scene where it’s the culmination of everything Barry had been through. This time around, there’s no luck to help him nor is there a way he can stumble through. It’s all about this duel yet Kubrick would find a way to create an element of surprise. This element of surprise in this duel is where for the first time ever, Barry finally takes control knowing what his fate will be. It leads to a very sad aftermath but one that is poignant. What Kubrick does overall is create a very engrossing but also touching portrait of a man trying to fit in to a new world only to have a much bigger understanding on who he is.

The cinematography of John Alcott is definitely among one of the film’s many highlights in its technical field. With help from Kubrick’s expertise in lighting and the creation of some specific lenses by the late Ed Di Guillo, Alcott’s photography has a lushness for many of the film’s interiors where the look is very ethereal in its beauty while maintaining a natural tone that is unlike anything. The exteriors for all of the scenes shot on location in Ireland is very beautiful for its look and scope in many of its daytime scenes. Still, it’s the stuff inside such as the first scene where Barry meets Lady Lyndon for the first time with all those candles providing the light is among some of the most beautifully photographed images on film.

Editor Tony Lawson does excellent work with the film‘s editing to create some wonderful montages to establish some of successes of Barry as well as his downfall while maintaining a leisured pace for the film. Production designer Ken Adams, with set decorator Vernon Dixon and art director Roy Walker, does exquisite work with the film‘s art direction by going into grand detail to create the halls and furniture to recreate a place in time that seemed long ago. Particularly in the way the rooms are filled with paintings and all sorts of things where Ken Adams and his team create some truly amazing work.

Costume designers Milena Canonero and Ulla-Brit Soderlund do magnificent work into the design of the costumes that really gives life to the film‘s beauty. From the lavish details into the dresses that many of the women including Lady Lyndon wears to the clothing the men wear it all plays to their personalities and who they are. Adding to the look of the costumes are the wigs provided by Leonard of London that plays up to the extravagance of the film‘s look as well as a lushness to those costumes. The sound work of Robin Gregory and Bill Rowe is superb for the way it captures the atmosphere of the scenes inside the mansions to display its intimacy as well as the tense sounds of cannons and gunfire in the film’s battle scenes.

The film’s music soundtrack includes a wide mix of classical music and traditional Irish folk pieces that is performed by the Chieftans on the latter. Notably in the first act where its arrangement of woodwinds and acoustic instruments play out Barry’s Irish roots. Some of the film’s orchestral pieces that features original work from Leonard Rosenman who plays out some of the film’s tension that involves conflict including the moments between Barry and Lord Bullingdon.

The rest of the film’s soundtrack includes a wide array of classical pieces from composers like Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Franz Schubert. A lot of its to help convey the melancholia of the film as well as some atmospheric scenes where Barry walks in sync to the melody of Schubert’s Piano Trio in E-Flat, Op 100 (2nd Movement) just as he’s to kiss Lady Lyndon. It’s among the many wonderful usage of music to play things out as the overall music is another of the film’s technical highlights.

The casting by James Liggat is outstanding for the ensemble that is created as it features some memorable performances from Steven Berkoff as Lord Ludd, Diane Koerner as the German girl that Barry meets during his journey, Gay Hamilton as Barry’s cousin Nora, Leonard Rossiter as the dignified Captain Quin, Arthur O’Sullivan as the conniving Captain Feeney, Billy Boyle as Feeney’s son, Frank Middlemass as the ailing Charles Lyndon, Andre Morell as the revered Lord Wendover, and Patrick Magee in an exciting performance as the Chevalier de Balibari whom Barry idolizes. Other notable performances include Philip Stone as Barry’s financial advisor Graham, Marie Kean as Barry’s tough-minded mother, David Morley as Barry’s young son Bryan, Godfrey Quigley as the wise Captain Grogan, Murray Melvin as the sympathetic Reverend Runt, and Dominic Savage as the young Lord Bullingdon.

Hardy Krueger is great as the helpful Captain Potzdorf who teaches Barry the ways to become a gentleman as Barry sees him as a mentor. Leon Vitali is superb as the intense Lord Bullingdon who tries to deal with Barry whom he sees is ruining the family as he tries to confront him in many ways. Marisa Berenson is wonderful as the melancholic Lady Lyndon who is this exotic woman who doesn’t exhibit a lot of happiness as she seems trapped into the world that she lives in. Finally, there’s Ryan O’Neal in an incredible performance as the titular character where O’Neal displays a chilling restraint as a man who is naïve in his pursuit to find his role in the world where he is not part of. O’Neal displays a lot of great humility into his character as well as someone who is very flawed where it’s really the best performance of his career.

Barry Lyndon is a captivating and gorgeous film from Stanley Kubrick. Featuring a remarkable lead performance from Ryan O’Neal, it is a film that is a wonderful take on the rise-and-fall narrative that is told with great care and observation by Kubrick as the film is truly one of his most defining works of his career. Thanks to the great technical work made by Kubrick’s collaborators, the film is also a standard textbook on how a period film should look and feel like as a way to tell a story. In the end, Barry Lyndon is an enchanting yet evocative film from Stanley Kubrick.

© thevoid99 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Jason Lew, based on his play, Restless is the story of a death-obsessed young man who falls for a cancer-stricken young women as they her remaining time together. While the man also communicates with a World War II Japanese fighter pilot, who is also a ghost, he has to deal with the loss he‘s endured and is about to face. Starring Henry Hopper, Mia Wasikowska, Schuyler Fisk, Ryo Kase, and Jane Adams. Restless is a touching yet very off-beat drama from Gus Van Sant.

Following the death of his parents a few years ago, Enoch (Henry Hopper) is a teenager who no longer attends school as he spends most of his time conversing with a dead kamikaze pilot named Hiroshi (Ryo Kase) and going to funerals uninvited. At one funeral, he meets a young woman named Annabelle (Mia Wasikowska) where they become friends as they go to funerals and other places where she reveals she is dying from cancer and only has a few months to live. Enoch spends a lot of his time with Annabelle as their friendship grows into romance where he reveals why he lives with his aunt Mabel (Jane Adams) after his parents’ death. While the time becomes fruitful, Annabelle’s time is starting to run out forcing Enoch to come to terms with all that he’s lost as he’s about to lose the girl that he has fallen in love with.

The film is essentially a romantic story about two death-obsessed teenagers who fall in love with each other where one of them is set to die in a matter of months. There, the film explores these two people in the span of a few months where a boy is still trying to come to term with the death of his parents and his own near-death experience while falling for a girl that is very lively and exciting despite the lack of time she has left. While there’s a ghost who watches over this young man as he observes this blossoming relationship, the specter of death would loom as the inevitable is to happen as the character of Enoch would have a difficult time trying to deal with what is going to happen.

Screenwriter Jason Lew succeeds in creating characters who are very interesting in the way they deal with death as there’s also an innocence into the relationship between Enoch and Annabelle. Notably in the way they go to hospitals where they visit the morgue or attend funerals together as they’re often surrounding themselves with death. The character of Hiroshi is someone who is just observing these two people as only Enoch can talk to him yet he is someone who is probably in limbo where there’s moments of him all by himself writing a letter. While a lot of the structure of the screenplay is loose and very unconventional so that the story can explore this relationship. The only thing that doesn’t work entirely is how the melodrama is expected to arrive where it’s execution isn’t as thought out as it could’ve been. That’s the only draw back to a well-written script by Lew.

Gus Van Sant’s direction is quite straightforward for the way he plays out the story about young love. Yet, there are still compositions that are quite engaging for the way he explores this unconventional relationship between two young people. Notably the scene where they’re both lying on the ground with chalk markings around their bodies. There’s also some amazing moments such as the trick-or-treat scene where Van Sant makes the actors feel very comfortable while creating close-ups and wide shots to play out the romance that is happening as it’s set in his home of Portland, Oregon. While Van Sant keeps a lot of the unconventional aspects of the film restrained to observe this relationship, he finds something that is engaging in the story of these two young people while allowing the story to just play out. While the overall work might be considered minor Van Sant, it’s still a better film than what is expected in a film about young love.

Cinematographer Harris Savides does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the lush yet colorful scenes for some of its nighttime interior and exterior scenes to a much brighter yet evocative look for the daytime exterior scenes as well as the look in the hospital. Editor Elliot Graham does nice work with the editing where Graham creates some amazing montages to play out the blossoming romance while a lot of it is pretty straightforward. Production designer Anne Ross, with set decorator Sara Parks and art director Benjamin Hayden, does some very good work with the set pieces created such as the rooms Enoch and Annabelle have to the funeral places they attend.

Costume designer Danny Glicker does a wonderful job with the costumes from the black suits that Enoch wears to the more eccentric clothing including the white dress that Annabelle wears to contrast Enoch‘s character. Sound designer Leslie Shatz and sound editor Robert Jackson do brilliant work with the film‘s sound to capture the intimacy of the funeral halls to the broad atmosphere of the locations the characters encounter such as the train bridge. The film’s score by Danny Elfman is superb for its low-key orchestral score that features a take on Carl Orff’s Gassenhauser to play out the romance. The film’s music soundtrack is terrific for its mix of folk and indie as it features music by Sufjan Stevens and Nico in some parts of the film.

The casting by Francine Maisler is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it includes some memorable small roles from Chin Han as the very kind Dr. Lee, Luisa Strus as Annabelle’s somewhat-aloof mother, Jane Adams as Enoch’s caring aunt, and Schuyler Fisk as Annabelle’s concerned but open-minded older sister Elizabeth. Ryo Kase is excellent as the kamikaze pilot Hiroshi who follows Enoch along in this exploration of death while observing the growing relationship between Enoch and Annabelle. Henry Hopper is very good as the confused Enoch who is trying to come to terms with death as he visits funerals and such to be connected with it where Hopper has some charm to his character though isn’t fully able to pull off some of the film’s heavier, dramatic moments. Yet, he does however have some amazing chemistry with his co-star in Mia Wasikowska.

Mia Wasikowska is the film’s real highlight for the way she creates a character like Annabelle and make so enjoyable to watch. Filled with lots of quirks and charm, Wasikowska brings an understated quality to her performance as a young woman that is dying. Yet, she brings a lot to the performance whether it’s wearing unique clothing to funerals or talking about birds and organizing candy. It is definitely one of Wasikowska’s finest performances.

Restless is a stellar yet engaging romance from Gus Van Sant that features a radiant performance from Mia Wasikowska. Along with noteworthy performances from Henry Hopper and Ryo Kase, it’s a film that works for its exploration of young love and death where the latter is a recurring theme in some of Van Sant’s recent work. While it’s a film that doesn’t reach the heights of a lot of the great films Van Sant has done, it does offer something that his art-house fans and some of his mainstream fans can enjoy. In the end, Restless is a marvelous film from Gus Van Sant.

© thevoid99 2011

Monday, May 28, 2012

Paths of Glory

Based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb, Paths of Glory is an anti-war film about a group of French soldiers who are accused of cowardice during a battle as their colonel tries to defend them against these charges. Directed by Stanley Kubrick and screenplay by Kubrick, Jim Thompson, and Calder Willingham, the film explores war at its ugliest as it’s set during the first World War. Starring Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, and George Macready. Paths of Glory is a chilling anti-war drama from Stanley Kubrick.

It’s 1916 during World War I as the trench warfare between the French and Germans is reaching a breaking point where General George Broulard (Adolphe Menjou) of the French General Staff asks his insubordinate in General Mireau (George Macready) to lead the attack. Mireau accepts the job in hopes for a big promotion thinking it will succeed as he goes to the trenches to inspect where he encounters a few shell-shocked soldiers and its leader Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas). The two officers discuss their plan of attack where Dax is convinced taking that hill would be impossible as it will kill lots of men but Mireau remains convinced that the mission will succeed. The drunken Lieutenant Roget (Wayne Morris) heads a scouting report Corporal Paris (Ralph Meeker) and another soldier where things go bad when the soldier doesn’t return where Paris makes a discovery about what happened.

On the day of the battle, Dax leads the soldiers to attack and capture the hill but the results become extremely impossible as a regiment refuses to move outside of the trenches. Mireau is angered by this as he asks for artillery to fire on his own troops but gets into an argument with Artillery Captain Rousseau (John Stein) who wants a signed paperwork for the attack. The battle is over as Mireau wants punishment on what he believes is cowardice though Dax refutes the claim after what he went through in battle. Dax reluctantly asks his officers to get three different men to answer the charges of cowardice as Corporal Paris, Private Ferol (Timothy Carey), and Private Arnuad (Joe Turkel) are chosen despite their innocence. Dax defends them in their court-martial trial where he realizes that not even his passionate defense will help these men as they’re set to face execution.

With the execution happening as the soldiers are anguished over what is to happen, Colonel Dax’s discover Captain Rousseau’s reports over his conversation with Mireau. After reporting it to Broulard in hopes to save his men and expose Mireau, it isn’t enough where Dax realizes the games that Broulard is playing would undermine everything he stands for.

The film is about a colonel trying to defend three young soldiers from a general’s blunder where he realizes that the general might get away with it and three men will die for his mistakes. It’s a film that revels into the idea of war as it involves officers trying to create a positive spin on battle where they’re willing to risk thousands of soldiers into an impossible situation where they’re killed. Leading all of this is a staff general who is masterminding everything for the good what he thinks will be for the good of the country. Helping him is a general who really becomes a lackey for this officer because he thinks the success of taking that hill will get him a promotion and prestige. Then there’s this idealistic colonel, who was once a defense attorney, who knows more about his soldiers and what they’re dealing with as he is at the center of the battlefield trying to rally his soldiers into fighting only to face the impossible.

The screenplay that Stanley Kubrick, Jim Thompson, and Calder Willingham create explores the fallacies of war where there’s soldiers who are aware that they’re fighting something that is impossible. They know they’re going to get killed but they don’t want to die as cowards. Things get worse when Colonel Dax learns that they were going to be killed by their own guns during battle all because they wouldn’t move out of their trenches amidst a barrage of artillery fire. While the battle scenes and other combat-related parts of the film only takes a portion of the film. A lot of is set outside of the war ground where officers try to devise what to do or how to create damage control to not deal with public embarrassment.

By blaming three innocent soldiers for one general’s mistake, it’s up to Colonel Dax to defend them in a court-martial trial but is faced with power that is above him. There are things in the courtroom where all of these officers are listening to what Dax and these men are saying but they could care less where Dax would make a passionate monologue about the decision they’re about to make. That decision would unveil lots of harsh truths about the fate of these men as they’re really just pawns in an ugly game where they have no control of what they can do and their lives have no meaning to these men sitting in chairs inside a mansion. It displays a disgusting act of humanity in the part of these men as a colonel is the one trying to defy them where what he would get in the end would be a real insult. It’s a truly engrossing screenplay that suggests the fallacy of war in the hands of men who care about prestige rather than humanity.

Kubrick’s direction is truly entrancing for the way he creates tension and suspense in and outside the battlefield yet it is still focused on this theme of conflict. Notably a conflict on morals where men are forced to be put into positions driven by the mad desire of other men. There’s a lot of tension that goes in the trenches where Kubrick has the character of Mireau walking towards the camera as it tracks his movement inside these trenches where soldiers salute him. It’s among some of the more stylish shots that goes in the battlefield where there’s a chilling scene where three men are scouting at night to see what is happening where it’s all about the emotions and sense of fear that is happening.

There’s a lot of these terrifying shots of men trekking around the battlefield where they have to evade all of this gunfire around them and through this chaos. It is clear that these men are facing the impossible as there’s a lot of tension outside where Mireau is trying to talk to Captain Rousseau to fire at the group of soldiers not wanting to move but Rousseau refuses because what Mireau is doing is dishonorable in the game of war. Once the film moves out of the battlefield and inside these lavish German palaces where the top officers and generals are sitting comfortably in chairs and eating. It becomes a courtroom film of sorts but there’s a feeling that things won’t play fairly because it’s all about these men in great uniforms as they’re trying to deal with a colonel and his accused soldiers. For these soldiers, they’re picked for these accusation of cowardice where one is a social misfit, one is chosen randomly, and another is picked because of personal reasons. Kubrick has them inside a dark room where they’re all trying to deal with the fate that is set upon them.

There’s tension in the room as Kubrick has his camera capturing all of this drama while there’s a party going on inside the mansion. The film’s aftermath where Dax confronts Mireau and Broulard over what happened at the battlefield reveals far more harsh truths. The direction is very intimate but also telling in the way the fate of three innocent soldiers are played and how Dax is really one of them despite wearing a prestigious uniform. There’s an air of sentimentality that is followed where the film’s final scene is a sobering one because of the sense of loss that is happening. Particularly as Dax is watching this very powerful moment only to realize that a war is still going on but he says something that is quite sobering to end the film. That ending manages to work as it is an indication of the power Kubrick has as a filmmaker as he crafts a very majestic but visceral anti-war film that rings true about its horror and fallacies.

Cinematographer George Krause does incredible work with the film‘s very evocative cinematography from the gorgeous interiors with its shading to help set a mood for the film to the nighttime exterior in the scouting scene to help create an air of suspense. Editor Eva Kroll does fantastic work with the editing by creating intense rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s battle scenes as well as a few transitional dissolves to help the film move at a brisk pace. Art director Ludwig Reiber does excellent work with the set pieces such as the lavish halls in the mansion that the officers meet at to the more claustrophobic room that Dax lives in to establish their different personalities.

Costume designer Ilse Dubois does wonderful work with the costumes to establish the uniforms these men wear from the more ragged but still refined look of Dax to the more prestigious uniforms with medals for the characters of Mireau and Broulard. The sound work of Martin Muller is great for the way the sounds of gunfire is heard throughout the film‘s intense battle scene along with the sparse but atmospheric scenes in the court-martial trial where there‘s a great mix in the way Dax‘s voice is heard in the hall where he gives out his passionate monologue. The film’s score by Gerald Fried is superb for its military-driven score to play up the sense of war as well as low-key orchestral pieces for some of the dramatic scenes.

The film’s cast is brilliant as it features some memorable small roles from Fred Bell as a shell-shocked soldier, Emile Meyer as Father Dupree, Jerry Hausner as a café proprietor, Bert Freed as Staff Sergeant Boulanger, Wayne Morris as the drunken Lieutenant Roget, John Stein as Artillery Captain Rousseau, and Stanley Kubrick’s then-future wife Christiane as the German singer at the end of the film. Other noteworthy performances include Joe Turkel as the anguished Private Arnaud, Timothy Carey as the emotionally-troubled Private Ferol, and Ralph Meeker as the no-nonsense yet cautious Corporal Paris.

Adolphe Menjou is excellent as General Broulard who masterminds all of the things that is happening as a staff member while trying to spin things for the good of the military. George Macready is great as the immoral General Mireau whose mistakes has him trying to do things the wrong way while becoming a target for Dax as it’s a truly incredible role for Macready. Finally, there’s Kirk Douglas in a tremendous performance as the idealistic Colonel Dax who represents all that is good in humanity where he tries to save the lives of three accused men while dealing with both Mireau and Broulard for how they try to deal with things.

***Additional Content Written from 5/31/18-6/29/18***

The 2010 Region 1/Region A DVD/Blu-Ray release from the Criterion Collection presents the film in its 1:66:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0. Mono sound (uncompressed in its Blu-Ray release) in a newly restored high-digital transfer made with the permission of Stanley Kubrick’s estate. The film features an array of special features including its original theatrical trailer. The audio commentary track from film critic Gary Giddins about the film as he talks about Kubrick, actor Kirk Douglas, the cast, and the comparisons of the film and the book by Humphrey Cobb that Kubrick adapted with Calder Willingham and Jim Thompson. Giddins talks about a lot of the visual aspects of the film as well as what Willingham and Thompson contributed though it did lead to issues as Willingham claimed to have written almost the entire film which wasn’t true.

Giddins also talks about some of the actors as well as Kubrick’s collaboration with Douglas who was the producer in the film and hired Kubrick to get the film made. Though their relationship was contentious in their next and last collaboration in Spartacus, the two were friendlier in this film as they both wanted to make something different although Kubrick was looking for a commercial hit. Giddins also talked about why the film is often overlooked in comparison to Kubrick’s later films like 2001: A Space Odyssey as it refers to its sentimental ending which some critics disliked yet Giddins feels that it worked and still works many years later as he also talked about how the film presents a battle scene in comparison to a recent film in Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone in terms of editing as he states his disdain for Greengrass’ film due to its fast-cutting style. Still, Giddins’ commentary remains fascinating for its insight into a film that often never gets its due as it does have fans who are passionate about the film.

A two-minute audio excerpt of a 1966 interview with Stanley Kubrick has the director talking about the film as well as its reception in its initial release as well as tidbits on the film’s production as well as the fact that he met his wife Christiane on the film set as it would include pictures of the production. The 30-minute 1979 interview with Kirk Douglas from the show Parkinson that was aired on February 3, 1979 has Douglas talking with Michael Parkinson about his career and background. Douglas also talks about making Paths of Glory as it was a film he wanted to do because he read the script and talked about how difficult it was to get it made. Even as Kubrick wasn’t a big deal back then as he convinced United Artists to get the film made while the rest of the interview is just downright entertaining with Douglas being relaxed, charming, open, and making the audience laugh.

The nine-minute interview with Stanley Kubrick’s brother-in-law/executive producer Jan Harlan has Harlan talk about Kubrick’s career as well as his methods as a filmmaker. Harlan discusses many of Kubrick’s films and how they all relate to each other thematically as well as why his films took such a long time to make. Even as it relates to budget where a daily budget for a studio film would be equal to what Kubrick would use in a week’s time. Harlan also talks about Kubrick’s disdain for the word “genius” as he says that Bach hated that word saying that genius is 10% talent and 90% hard work which is probably true. The 21-minute interview with producer James B. Harris has Harris discussing his collaboration with Kubrick as well as the development of the film which did take a while. Harris also talked his role as a producer as he also did work as a cameraman for the shoot some shots in the battle scenes which was the last scene shot in the production. Harris also talked about some of the difficulty including an incident with actor Timothy Carey who had gotten in trouble with the authorities and was ousted from production because of his troubles.

The seven-minute interview with Kubrick’s wife Christiane Kubrick has Kubrick’s widow talk about her performance in the film and how she met Stanley who saw her on German television. She talked about not just the role she played but also the song she sang as she admits to not being a great singer but that was what Kubrick wanted. She also talked about Kubrick’s other films and the comments his film often gets for being cold and dark as she says that they aren’t entirely true. Even as she would reveal her own paintings that featured Kubrick in her work as it showed that she’s a unique artist in her own right. A three-minute TV piece on the real-life execution party that inspired the film that was shown on French TV in January of 1997 is a brief clip about the incident in 1915 and a widow’s 20-year attempt to clear her husband’s name and a student of that widow who would be the one to clear that man’s name as it is a fascinating piece of journalism as well as making things right for an act that never should’ve happened.

The DVD/Blu-Ray set also features a booklet that includes an essay by film scholar James Naremore entitled We Have Met the Enemy… which is about the film and its production as well as how it relates towards many of the other films Kubrick had done before and after. The essay has Naremore also talk about Kubrick’s background as a photographer which would give him unique ideas for what he wanted to do visually as a filmmaker. Naremore also talks about the story and some of the material that came from Humphrey Cobb’s book and what Kubrick did to retain some of the ideas but also struggled in wanting to make the film commercial. It’s a fascinating read into a film that is often overlooked in comparison by films Kubrick would do in later years.

***End of DVD Tidbits***

Paths of Glory is an outstanding anti-war film from Stanley Kubrick that features a remarkable performance from Kirk Douglas. The film is among one of the great films about war for the way it explores humanity and ambition in the face of war. It’s also very engaging for the way Kubrick captures the terror of war as well as the way war is conducted out of the battlefield. In the end, Paths of Glory is a chilling yet intoxicating film from Stanley Kubrick.

© thevoid99 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

2012 Cannes Marathon Post-Mortem

Well, another Cannes Film Festival has ended and it was a bit underwhelming to say the least.  Despite a great line-up of films that I was really excited to hear about and want to see where it started off nicely with Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom.  And then... things got a little crazy where new films by Matteo Garrone, Cristian Mungiu, Carlos Reygadas, Ken Loach, Jacques Audiard, Abbas Kiarostami, Alain Resnais, and several others either didn't receive great responses or got mixed reviews in the process.  The American films competing like Lawless by John Hillcoat and Mud by Jeff Nichols also received mixed reaction while Lee Daniels' The Paperboy got a notorious thrashing at Cannes though there were a few positives for that film.  David Cronenberg's highly-anticipated Cosmopolis also received mixed reviews.

I think my disappointment over this year's festival was that there wasn't a lot that stood out.  While there's a new Michael Haneke film called Amour that I heard some excellent reviews as it just won the Palme D'or.  I was more excited about the buzz for Leo Carax's Holy Motors for the fact that it was way out there.  That I'm probably more excited to see as I've only seen bits of Carax's Lovers on the Bridge as well as a short he did for the 2008 anthology film Tokyo that I really loved.  Yet, I'm surprised he didn't win anything for that film.

As I'm reading on what did win where I'm happy that Carlos Reygadas got the Best Director prize for Post Tenebra Lux as well as a Best Actor prize to Mads Mikkelsen for Thomas Vinterberg's comeback film The Hunt.  I was surprised that Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills got a couple of awards for Best Screenplay and a Best Actress prize to two of its female leads in Cosmina Stratan and Christina Flutor. I'm happy got the Jury prize while I'm excited that Beasts of the Southern Wild got the Camera D'or first film prize which is totally awesome.  Another surprise I'm reading through Indie Wire is that Matteo Garrone's Reality got the 2nd place Grand Jury Prize despite the mixed reviews it received.

If anything, the choices of who will win is often unpredictable which is what the Cannes Film Festival does.  I'm just disappointed over the fact there wasn't more fierce competition or an air of unpredictability to happen.  While I was excited about the bad reviews of The Paperboy that I really want to see just because I'm interested in seeing how bad it is.  There's a lot of films playing in the competition I'm eager to see and probably will but I think my expectations will be lowered.  Since it's likely that new films from Lars von Trier and Sofia Coppola are likely to arrive at next year's Cannes.  Let's just hope the festival brings von Trier back just so that things can get more exciting and dangerous.  After all, Lars von Trier puts asses in the seat including mine!

Now that the festival is over, there's a couple of blogs I think should be thanked for their coverage that made things worthwhile to read.  The first is Bonjour of Bonjour Tristesse whose coverage for the festival was a delight to read. The other is Marshall of Marshall and the Movies where he did something that is a blogger's dream. He actually went to the festival and his coverage is another great read to capture the experience of what it's like to be there. It just makes me want to go so bad. I want to have a shot to go to next year's and do some coverage on the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and I would want my first film to play at the festival and have a shot at the Camera D'or.

Now to the Cannes marathon itself. Well, not surprisingly, it was a step-down from last year as I had to make a few last minute changes and such. I think next year, I will have to choose the films more carefully but also make it more interesting. Still, there were some discoveries that I saw and enjoyed. I opened and close the marathon with two films I had seen before but never got to review as it started off with a bang with Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and closed with style with Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge. Then there's the 14 other films that I saw. A lot of which were amazing while one of them became what I think is the worst film I had seen since watching Southland Tales a few years ago in my experience doing the Cannes Marathon. So now, it's up for my versions of the Cannes Marathon Awards.

The Palme D'or for Best Film of the Marathon goes to... Silent Light.

This was the real surprise for me as I wasn't expecting anything other than an arty film with a lot of long takes. What I got was a whole lot more than that. I've been hearing about this film for years and I decided to finally just see it. I didn't expect this film to move at a nice pace for something that is filled with not much plot nor a lot of dialogue. It worked for some odd reason and I wasn't expecting to work at all. I was moved by the film's final moments and I was really entranced by what I was watching. If Post Tenebras Lux does get to play sometime later in the year or early next year, I will definitely do an Auteurs piece on Carlos Reygadas. This dude is for real.

The second place Grand Jury Prize goes to Andrei Rublev.

If it wasn't for Silent Light, this film would've won my version of the Palme D'or. It had all of the elements I expected in an epic but I was more into Andrei Tarkovsky's visual style that was truly seductive to watch. From the scenes in the forest with all of those trees to the more intimate moments. There is never a dull moment in that film as it just adds to my interest in Tarkovsky as I will do an Auteurs piece on him this coming August.

The third place Jury Prize goes to Thirst

What a film! This was easily the most entertaining film, aside from Moulin Rouge! that I saw in the marathon. It's the vampire film that I never thought would be exciting but also fun. I love Chan-wook Park's direction and how he created a vampire-romance film that wasn't schmaltzy or have stupid BEEEEELLLLL, SOOOKIIIEEE or EEEDDDDWARRDDDD, BBEEEELLLLLLLLAAAA! bullshit. It's got style, it's got great characters. Great fucking movie.

The Best Director Prize goes to Jim Jarmusch for Dead Man.

Very stylized yet it is truly a work of art in how Jarmusch is willing to deconstruct the idea of the Western. Some said that Jarmusch was trying to create a Tarkovsky western. Well, he was quite close as there's a lot of Tarkovsky visual touches in the film but also a lot of offbeat humor and compositions that Jarmusch is known for. It's really the work of a filmmaker who is very confident in what he tries to do where it's really one of the best westerns of the last 20 years.

The Best Actor Prize goes to Jack Lemmon for Missing.

There was a lot of actors in the films I saw that I was sure was going to create some competition. Then I saw Jack Lemmon's award-winning performance for Costas-Garvas' Missing and I realize early on that this was going to be tough to beat. Once the marathon was ending, I realized it was no contest. From the passionate monologues he gives to the heartbreaking scene in the stadium trying to find his son amidst a large group of people as he's speaking to them. The physicality in how he reacts to devastating news is the world of a master. I've seen Lemmon in some films, old and recent, but this is definitely one of his essential performances.

The Best Actress Prize goes to Gabourey Sidibe for Precious and Rita Tushingham for The Knack... and How to Get It (tie).

This was difficult as there's a slew of great performances from actresses like Kim Ok-bin from Thirst, Shelley Duvall from 3 Women, and Celia Johnston from Brief Encounter. Yet, it ended becoming a draw between Gabourey Sidibe and Rita Tushingham. Two very different performances in two very different films but both women give fantastic performances that are unforgettable. Sidibe in the more gritty Precioius is a debut that no one will forget for how she portrays a young African-American woman trying to find hope in a dreary world of abuse. Tushingham is the more comical performance as a confused woman from the country who arrives to Swingin' London in the 1965 Palme D'or winner The Knack... and How to Get It has Tushingham bring a lot of charm to her role including the film's very silly third act. Sidibe and Tushingham should share the prize as they both display incredible works in the art of acting.

The Best Screenplay Prize goes to Charles Wood for The Knack... and How to Get It.

Charles Wood's adapted screenplay, from Ann Jellicoe's play of the same name, is a truly whimsical screenplay that is very off-the-wall in its approach to narrative as it has a looseness rarely told on script. While it's a narrative that is about a group of three men trying to win the affections of a country girl arriving into Swingin' London. It's also a film that features a Greek chorus of middle-aged to elderly people commenting on this new world and how they believe that things will be bad. Woods' script would allow director Richard Lester to help play out the story's whimsical tone as it is a truly fantastic story that is a lot of fun to see.

The Technical Prize goes to Martin Hernandez and Sergio Diaz for Silent Light.

The sound work that Martin Hernandez and Sergio Diaz did in Silent Light is unlike a lot of the sound work that is expected in film. At times, it's very intimate and sparse for some of the exterior locations that is set to maintain a sense of silence. At times, it's very intoxicating for the way shoes sound on the ground and how the weather can set a mood such as a big scene outside in the rain. The film's climatic ending is sound work at its best because it's so low-key that it's small moments are very unexpected.

The Special Jury Prize goes to Sissy Spacek for Missing and 3 Women.

There's several actors who appears in more than one film in this marathon yet it's Sissy Spacek in two amazing performances in Costas-Garvas' Missing and Robert Altman's 3 Women is an indication of why she is one of the best American actresses out there. From her complex and hypnotic performance as the shy Pinky in 3 Women who becomes a much wilder, cold young woman to the concerned wife in Missing who tries to deal with her father-in-law in finding her husband in 1973 Chile where she manages to act with the likes of Jack Lemmon. Two thrilling performances from Spacek that is a must-see for anyone who know her recently for movies like The Help and Hot Rod.

And now here is the ranking for the 11 other films that I saw in the marathon:

Jim Jarmusch's entrancing black-and-white western is a true tour-de-force film that plays to a lot of its myth as it features a truly incredible performance from Johnny Depp as well as hypnotic score by Neil Young

Costas-Garvas' chilling film about a man and his daughter-in-law trying to find his son during the 1973 coup of Chile as it's a very engrossing drama that unveils the dark world of politics and abduction.

Richard Lester's charming and hilarious film about three different men who try to win the affections of a country girl in Swingin' London as it explores the world of male domination and how this young outsider manage to find her way in a new world filled with new attitudes frowned upon by the old.

Lee Daniels' adaptation of Sapphire's Push is a chilling yet stylized film about a 16-year old pregnant and obese African-American girl trying to find hope in her dreary life as well as escape the horrific abuse of her mother that adds to the harrowing melodrama of the film.

Robert Altman's surreal yet evocative story of identity features marvelous performances from Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek as two different women whose persona are changed due to strange moments where they each become different people.

Xavier Beauvois' exhilarating drama about the real life incident involving a group of monks trying to live a peaceful live during the 1996 Algerian Civil War as it is a wonderful tale of faith and humanity during a horrible moment in time.

David Lean's glorious adaptation of Noel Coward's one-act play Still Life is a melodramatic yet ravishing look into the world of extramarital affairs that features incredible performances from Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard.

Roberto Rossellini's landmark neo-realist film about Nazi-occupied Italy where a priest tries to aid the Italian resistance in this harrowing film about war and humanity.

Martin Scorsese's epic film about a young man's vengeance against his father's killer during a crucial period in 1860s NYC as it features magnificent performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Michael Winterbottom's chilling film set during the Bosnian War of the early 1990s as it revolves around a reporter trying to save an orphan during the war as he's also covering a war the Western world doesn't know much about.

14. Agora

Despite Rachel Weisz's charismatic performance, Agora is a truly bloated and messy film that relies too much on drama and romance and not enough on historical accuracy and intelligence as it's one of the worst films to every play at Cannes.

Well, that is for the Cannes marathon for 2012. Until next time, we'll meet again next year and please bring Lars von Trier back to Cannes!!!