Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Films That I Saw: April 2013

The summer film season is about to begin but there is also an end of sorts that is happening as I’ve decided to put my music blog The Void-Go-Round on indefinite hiatus due to lack of enthusiasm and ideas I’m shutting it down for an in-determined amount of time. Largely because I just don’t really care to write about music again even though I have been listening to some new records that I like. Even as I’m taking the time to discover other elements of classic hard rock like Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, and several other acts just to fill my time and add something to my music catalog.

For me, April was a pretty good month though the past couple of weeks had me decided to slow things down as I was feeling a bit tired and wanted to save some energy for next month. I saw a total of 38 films, 20 first-timers and 18 re-watches. Definitely down in comparison to last month as one of the things I saw was a 7-part TV mini-series. Still, I think I did pretty good though I felt a little burned out in the last few weeks. Notably as I found a major highlight of the year in my Blind Spot assignment in Floating Weeds.

Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw this month:

1. Trance

2. The Place Beyond the Pines

3. A Matter of Life and Death

4. Red Road

5. To the Wonder

6. Top of the Lake

7. Wuthering Heights

8. I Know Where I'm Going!

9. Ruby Sparks

10. A Canterbury Tale

Monthly Mini-Reviews:

American Reunion

I enjoyed the American Pie films (not the bloody awful straight-to-DVD films) though I wasn’t sure about seeing this. It was on TV and I decided to check it out where it wasn’t as bad as some people said it is but it’s not as interesting. Sure, characters like Stifler and Jim’s dad are fun to watch as well as seeing that 18-year old neighbor of Jim who’s got a very nice pair of tits. It was just that some of the humor didn’t work while some of the people in the film like Mena Suvari was underused.

Dark Shadows

The trailer for this film when it was about to come out looked like Tim Burton was going back to his comedy roots. Yet, the lukewarm reviews did worry me as I decided not to see it in theaters. Now that it’s on TV, it was OK but a lot of it revealed that Tim Burton really needs to stop using CGI, certain color palettes, and really strip things down again. Despite some good performances from Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Bella Heathcote, and Eva Green, it got to silly while things definitely went out of control towards the end.

Ric Flair: Unemployed to Undisputed

A YouTube-made documentary about a crucial period in the career of one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all-time. It’s a very well-made documentary that showcased a period in time in which Ric Flair had left NWA/WCW due to a contract dispute and other reasons (which were stupid from WCW’s part) where he went to the WWE from the fall of 1991 to early 1993 though the film chronicled Flair’s arrival in the WWE to the moment in January 1992 where won the Royal Rumble to become the undisputed WWE Champion. It’s something wrestling fans must see which featured some rare footage and moments where Ric Flair proved to be the Man in pro wrestling for a brief moment in time.

The Watch

This was excruciating to watch from start to finish. It was bad enough that some of it was shot in areas where I lived including my old high school football stadium and the parking lot at my local Costco. What pissed me off about this film was that it tried too hard to be funny and instead, it came off as just embarrassing and dull. Jonah Hill’s creepy schtick doesn’t work while I think it’s time for both Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller to just simply retire because these old dinosaurs aren’t funny anymore. Definitely one of the worst films I had ever seen.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Blade Runner

2. Ghostbusters

3. Rocky

4. Strictly Ballroom

5. Flight of the Navigator

6. The Rocketeer

7. Born on the 4th of July

8. Rookie of the Year

9. October Sky

10. A Life Less Ordinary

Well, that is it for April. Next month will be the start of the summer film season as well as the Cannes Film Festival where I will be doing my marathon as I’ve selected 15 films to watch for the duration of the festival. Before that, there will be a mini-marathon of films by Francois Ozon that I had never seen along with two new theatrical films in Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby where the latter will coincide with the next Auteurs piece on Baz Luhrmann. Until then, let’s make this summer our bitch.

© thevoid99 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013


Directed by John G. Avildsen and written and starring Sylvester Stallone, Rocky is the story of a club fighter who is down on his luck as he is given a shot to fight the heavyweight champion of the world. The film is the first of a series of films that explores the trials and tribulations of Rocky Balboa as he is a kind-hearted man that is trying to make it in the only thing he knows how to do. Also starring Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, Burt Young, Tony Burton, and Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed. Rocky is a heartwarming and sensational film from John G. Avildsen.

The film is a simple story about a club fighter named Rocky Balboa who is a good, kind-hearted man with little prospects as he is given a shot to fight the World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed. Yet, the film follows the life of this guy who knows how to fight while he spends part of his time collecting money for a loan shark just to make a living. Still, it’s not enough as he’s considered a bum by most people living in the urban neighborhood in Philadelphia while a gym owner named Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith) is convinced that Rocky is wasting his potential by working for a loan shark. When opportunity arises to fight Apollo Creed all because of his nickname in The Italian Stallion, it becomes one of many things that help Rocky’s life as he also falls for a shy pet store clerk named Adrian (Talia Shire). While he is considered a long-shot to win the fight, Rocky would do something to surprise everyone in his climatic fight with Creed.

Sylvester Stallone’s screenplay reveals a lot of the struggles of a man just trying to get a break in life as he wants to do good yet he isn’t given many opportunities to do so. Particularly as he is someone who is street-smart but had to give up school as a teenager making life much tougher for him. The only friend he has is an alcoholic meat-packing plant worker named Paulie (Burt Young) who is also Adrian’s older brother. Adrian becomes the one person in Rocky’s life that shows him a world with love as he would help her come out of her shell more as she eventually stands up to the abusive tirades of her brother. The opportunity to fight Creed isn’t just something that Rocky needed to help his life but also prove to the people that he’s not a bum. Even as he turns to Mickey for help as Mickey had been reluctant in the past but knows Rocky needs someone who can help him.

The Apollo Creed character is based on some of the more outrageous fighters of the 1960s and 1970s as he’s a man that needed to fight a fighter as his original fight fell through. By giving an unknown a shot at the title on New Year’s Day in 1976, it would give Creed the publicity that he craves for as a man who is generous with the people. What he doesn’t know is that his opponent is training for the fight a little more seriously as it does lead to this fight. There’s a moment in the third act before the fight where an admittedly-scared Rocky knows that he couldn’t beat the undefeated Creed. Yet, he doesn’t want to go out there and lose like a bum where the fight would have Rocky do the unthinkable in that fight.

John G. Avildsen’s direction is quite understated for much of the film in terms of creating the sense of drama as it has this sense of looseness in the way things play out. Even as it features scenes of Rocky walking around place in Philadelphia where the place itself is a character in the film. While a lot of the dramatic moments are shot with some simplicity, the scenes involving the fights are more stylish. Notably in the way it shows Rocky’s training methods like hitting meat in a meat locker or running around the streets of Philadelphia. Avildsen also creates some amazing training montages where the shots of Rocky running in training featured one of the most early uses of the Steadicam that would also include the shot of Rocky reaching the top of the steps of Philadelphia Museum of Arts.

The climatic fight scene is presented with such degree of style where Avildsen does use some stock footage for the crowd scenes as while having the camera be in and outside the ring to capture the intensity. Even as it reveals what the crowd is seeing as there’s a lot of drama in the fight including some moments where both Rocky and Creed put their bodies at great risk. Overall, Avildsen creates a very gripping yet powerful film about a fighter getting the opportunity to do good and fight the champ.

Cinematographer James Crabe does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography by using very simple lighting schemes for some of the film‘s interiors and exteriors while creating a sense of style for the film‘s fights with some unique uses of lighting. Editors Scott Conrad and Richard Halsey do great work with the editing to use more simple but effective cuts in the dramatic portions while creating some amazing montages in the training sequence as well as some rhythmic cuts in the climatic fight. Production designer William J. Cassidy, with set decorator Ray Molyneaux and art director James H. Spencer, does nice work with some of the set pieces along with the lavish look of the climatic fight.

Makeup designer Michael Westmore does terrific work with the makeup for the film‘s climatic fight to showcase the brutality the two men put upon each other. The sound work of Bud Alper, Lyle J. Burbridge, William McCaughey, and Harry Warren Tetrick is wonderful for the atmosphere that occurs in the gym and in the fights along with the intimate scene of Rocky and Adrian at the ice skating rink. The film’s music by Bill Conti is brilliant as it features some soaring orchestral music including the theme Gonna Fly Now along with some plaintive piano pieces to express Rocky’s melancholia.

The casting by Caro Jones is fantastic as it features some notable appearances from famed fighter Joe Frazier as well as performances from Joe Spinnell as the loan shark Tony Gazzo, Thayer David as the promoter George Jergens, and Tony Burton as Creed’s trainer Tony “Duke” Evers. Carl Weathers is great as the flamboyant fighter Apollo Creed as a man who is full of charisma and skill only to realize that the opponent he picked isn’t some bum. Burt Young is excellent as Rocky’s friend Paulie who tries to help Rocky out while being very cruel towards his sister claiming she’s making his life difficult. Burgess Meredith is superb as Mickey as a former boxer who is aware of Rocky’s potential as he helps trains for the fight. Talia Shire is wonderful as Adrian as a shy pet store clerk who falls for Rocky as she helps him deal with the doubts he has. Finally, there’s Sylvester Stallone in a magnificent performance as Rocky Balboa by displaying a man who is very good to people though doesn’t get appreciated while being a tough guy with heart as it’s definitely a true breakthrough for Sly.

Rocky is a tremendous film from John G. Avildsen and its star/writer Sylvester Stallone. The film isn’t just one of the great sport movies but also an inspirational story of how an underdog can overcome the odds. Even as it’s a film that started one of the great franchises in films while finding a character in Rocky Balboa for the people to root for. In the end, Rocky is an outstanding film from John G. Avildsen.

Rocky Films: (Rocky II) - (Rocky III) - (Rocky IV) - (Rocky V) - (Rocky Balboa) - Creed (2015 film) - (Creed II)

John G. Avildsen Films: (Turn on to Love) - (Guess What We Learned in School Today?) - (Joe) - (Cry Uncle!) - (Okay Bill) - (Save the Tiger) - (The Stoolie) - (Fore Play) - (W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings) - (Slow Dancing in the Big City) - (The Formula) - (Neighbors) - (Traveling Hopefully) - (A Night in Heaven) - The Karate Kid - The Karate Kid Part II - (Happy New Year) - (For Keeps) - (Lean on Me) - The Karate Kid Part III - (The Power of One) - (8 Seconds) - (Inferno)

© thevoid99 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

Directed by Derek Cianfrance and written by Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder from a story by Cianfrance and Coccio, The Place Beyond the Pines is a multi-layered story about two different men who cross into each other’s paths leaving way for their sons to meet many years later. The film is an exploration into the sins of a father and how it would play into the life of their sons. Starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen, Ben Mendelsohn, and Ray Liotta. The Place Beyond the Pines is a mesmerizing and sprawling film from Derek Cianfrance.

When a child arrives into the world, the one thing that their fathers hope to do is to make sure they raise their children better than their fathers did in the previous generation. The film is a story that spans 20 years as it revolves two very different men whose paths would cross each other as they would later set a troubling fate for their sons many years later when they meet not knowing what they have in common. The film has a very unique narrative where it has a traditional three-act structure yet it plays into the fates that would come into play as it all takes place in Schenectady, New York. Notably as the first two acts is about the two different men whose fates would cross each other and the impact it would have as its third act revolves the lives of their sons as teenagers.

The screenplay’s three acts are about these four different men as the first act is about a motorcycle stuntman named Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling). The second act is about a good low-level cop named Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) and the third is about their two sons whose paths would meet each other many years later. The first two act show these two men who both have very good intentions for what they want to do in life as well as set good examples of their sons but they would encounter things that would set the fates for their sons to follow. Notably as Glanton would turn to crime to provide for his son while Cross finds himself in a world of corruption as he turns snitch in order to move up in the world. The paths these two men take would have some uneasy consequences the two would make as well as create a sense of guilt of the path that they take as it would cause trouble for their sons.

The third act showcases a modern world in which Avery Cross has reinvented himself as a politician but one who is still carrying the guilt over his encounter with Glanton as he is also troubled by the antics of his son AJ (Emory Cohen). When A.J. meets a teenager named Jason (Dane DeHaan) who is has no knowledge that Glanton is his real father, their meeting would not only cause a lot of trouble but also unveil the secrets that Avery Cross had been carrying his whole life. While the film is largely about father and sons, there are women who are present in the story as Luke’s former girlfriend Romina (Eva Mendes) is hesitant about having Luke in her life as some of the events that happen forces her to not tell Jason about her father. Avery’s wife Jennifer (Rose Byrne) may not have much time as Romina but she is still crucial as a woman who is forced to see her husband move away from her and the family to do right as he becomes more uncomfortable being called a hero.

Derek Cianfrance’s direction is quite stylish in not just the way he presents Schenectady, New York as an interesting area that is a mixture of a modern world clashing with nature but also a place where it’s a small microcosm that is quite uneasy. With some very interesting tracking shots such as the opening shot of the camera following Luke Glanton around the fairground just as he’s to perform his stunt. There is an air of grain to the look of the film as if it’s meant to create a sense of atmosphere and nostalgia as much of the film takes place somewhere in the 1980s or 1990s. Particularly in the first act as Cianfrance places an air of grit with some hand-held cameras to intensify things as well as placing the cameras for some very stylish chase scenes.

Things cool down during the second act where the framing and camerawork is more controlled as it is dramatic but also filled with some suspense as it revolves around Avery Cross’ encounter with corruption. There are scenes that play into a sense of danger but also melancholy as Cross begins to alienate himself from his family to battle corruption. The third act becomes a mixture of both preceding acts but it has an air of tragedy as it relates to the events in the preceding two acts and how both Avery Cross and Luke Glanton would set up this very troubling fate for the meeting of their sons and how it all comes back to the past. Overall, Derek Cianfrance creates a very compelling and intense film about fathers and the sins they unknowingly create for their sons.

Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt does brilliant work with the film‘s photography where he infuses some grainy camera work into the picture as well as maintaining something very naturalistic for many of the film‘s exteriors as well as placing some lights for some stylish moments of the film. Editors Jim Helton and Ron Patane do excellent work with the editing by using some stylish cuts for some of the film‘s chase scenes as well as some more slow-paced yet methodical cuts for the dramatic moments. Production designer Inbal Weinberg, with set decorator Jasmine E. Ballou and art director Michael Ahern, does wonderful work with the set pieces from the trailer and auto shop that Luke lives in to the home of Avery Cross to represent the two different worlds they live in.

Costume designer Erin Benach does terrific work with the costumes from the ragged clothes of Luke as well as the more youthful clothes that Romina wears in the first act to the more casual look of Avery Cross in the film‘s second act as he becomes a more refined man in the third. Sound designer Dan Flosdorf does amazing work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the fairgrounds as well as the chase scenes and some very intense moments in some of dramatic portions of the film. The film’s music by Mike Patton is superb for its very haunting use of ambient textures and vocal choirs as well as some low-key orchestration to create dramatic moods for the film. Music supervisor Gabe Hilfer creates a fantastic soundtrack that includes a wide array of music ranging from classical pieces from Avro Part and Gregorio Allegri as well as contemporary music from Bruce Springsteen, Hall and Oates, The Cryin’ Shame, Ennio Morricone, Suicide, Bon Iver, Salem, and Two Fingers.

The casting by Cindy Tolan is incredible for the ensemble that was used as it includes some notable small performances from Gabe Fazio as Cross’ fellow officer Scott, Olga Merediz as Romina’s mother, Robert Clohessy as Cross’ chief, Harris Yulin as Avery’s father, Bruce Greenwood as a district attorney who questions Cross about the corruption in the force, and Mahershala Ali as Romina’s boyfriend Kofi who would become the one father figure Jason would have in his life. Ray Liotta is excellent as a corrupt officer who takes Cross around to show him the benefits which makes Cross uneasy while Ben Mendelsohn is terrific as the auto shop owner Robin who aids Luke in the bank robberies. Emory Cohen is very good as Cross’ son AJ as a young city kid who is forced to live with his father as he tries to rule the town.

Dane DeHaan is brilliant as Luke and Romina’s son Jason as a young loner teen who meets AJ as he becomes troubled by the revelations about who is father is as well as the fact that his mother has been carrying a secret about his father. Rose Byrne is superb in a small role as Avery’s wife Jennifer as a woman who tries to deal with the new fame her husband has as well as the things he does that has her alienated from him. Eva Mendes is great as Luke’s old flame Romina who deals with Luke’s return as well as what he tries to do as she later becomes a bitter woman trying to carry a secret that she doesn’t want her son to know about.

Bradley Cooper is marvelous as Avery Cross as a good man who finds himself entangled in the world of police corruption as he seeks to do something right only to drive away his family as he becomes consumed with guilt over his actions and how his son has turned out. Ryan Gosling is phenomenal as Luke Glanton as an intense man wanting to do right for his ex-girlfriend and their son as he turns to crime to provide for them only to set things in motion for the sense of confusion his son would endure in the years to come.

The Place Beyond the Pines is an outstanding film from Derek Cianfrance that features top-notch performances from Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. Along with a great supporting cast, amazing technical work, and Mike Patton’s chilling score. The film is definitely a very captivating look into the world of fathers and the sins they place into their sons as well as the theme of redemption. In the end, The Place Beyond the Pines is a remarkable film from Derek Cianfrance.

Derek Cianfrance Films: (Brother Tied) - Blue Valentine - (Cagefighter) - (Metalhead)

© thevoid99 2013

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Life Less Ordinary

Directed by Danny Boyle and written by John Hodge, A Life Less Ordinary is the story about a disgruntled Scottish janitor who kidnaps his boss’ daughter as they conspire to get a ransom unaware that angels are trying to get them to fall in love. The film is a romantic-comedy of sorts with a bit of an edge that revels in a bit of violence but also fantasy. Starring Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, Delroy Lindo, Holly Hunter, Dan Hedaya, Tony Shalhoub, Maury Chaykin, Stanley Tucci, and Ian Holm. A Life Less Ordinary is a witty yet off-the-wall film from Danny Boyle.

When true love is involved, fate comes into play to ensure that true love does happen while anything else that prevents that from happening have to be pushed aside. The film is about a couple of angels who arrive to Earth to make sure that an enraged Scottish janitor named Robert (Ewan McGregor) and a spoiled rich girl named Celine (Cameron Diaz) get together where if they don’t succeed, the angels will be forced to stay on Earth forever. Yet, the angels in O’Reilly (Holly Hunter) and Jackson (Delroy Lindo) do whatever it takes to make sure Robert and Celine together as the former decides to kidnap Celine for a ransom after he was fired by her father (Ian Holm) who replaced him for a robot. Though Robert is inexperienced in the idea of kidnapping, Celine helps him so she can collect some of the ransom money after realizing that her father decides to cut her off.

John Hodge’s screenplay definitely plays to the schematics of love where Robert and Celine are two people with very different views as the former is a dreamer who wants to write a novel as he’s going through a string of bad luck. The latter is a rich young woman who likes to do dangerous things and live a certain lifestyle as she had been through too many bad relationships to even consider the idea that there’s such a thing as true love. Because of the idea that true love is hokey, it causes problems up in Heaven where Gabriel (Dan Hedaya) is overwhelmed as God told him that he’s making new rules about to deal with the failure of love not happening. Hodge’s script isn’t just filled with some elements of black comedy as well as a bit of satire into the idea of the rom-com. He also allows the script to have some funny dialogue that plays into the idea of love while giving Robert and Celine reasons into why they should be with each other.

Danny Boyle’s direction is definitely engaging as well as stylized in some of the framing he creates as well as just letting things be much looser. Notably as Boyle incorporates a bit of the musical in the form of a duet between Robert and Celine to Bobby Darin’s Beyond the Sea. While it is a romantic comedy, Boyle is also aware that he wants to infuse the film with other genres such as crime and black comedy. Though the results can be a bit of a mess, Boyle does enough to make sure that the story is still there where he adds some suspense and moments to keep things light-hearted and fun. Overall, Boyle creates a very exciting and heartfelt film about love and fate.

Cinematographer Brian Tufano does excellent work with the film‘s photography where a lot of it is straightforward for the exteriors set in Los Angeles and parts of Utah while using some more stylish lights in some of the film‘s interior scenes. Editor Masahiro Hirakubo does nice work with the editing as it‘s very stylized to play up some of the humor and action as well as some dazzling moments in Robert‘s fantasy scenes. Production designer Kave Quinn, with set decorator Marcia Calosio and art director Tracey Gallacher, do great work with the look of Heaven where it’s all white and looks like a police station while keeping things more simpler for the scenes set on Earth. Costume designer Rachael Fleming does terrific work with the costumes from the more casual clothing of Robert to the more stylish clothes of Celine to display their personalities as well as bringing some styles to the clothes of O‘Reilly and Jackson.

Animation director Michael Mort does fantastic work with a claymation epilogue that reveals more into the fate of the film‘s characters. Sound editor Andy Kennedy does terrific work with the sound to capture some of the funnier moments of the film as well as some of its action scenes. The film’s music by David Arnold is superb for its playful use of electronic music to capture some of its humor and romantic elements. Music supervisor Randall Poster creates a very fun soundtrack that features music from Diana Ross & the Supremes, R.E.M., Ash, Elastica, Underworld, Oasis, Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Sneaker Pimps, the Prodigy, Beck, Orbital, the Shirelles, Gladys Knight, Luscious Jackson, Faithless, the Folk Implosion, and the Cardigans.

The casting by Donna Isaacson is brilliant as it features some notable small roles from K.K. Dobbs as Robert’s former girlfriend, Timothy Olyphant as a hitchhiker, Ian McNiece as Celine’s father’s bodyguard, Tony Shalhoub as a bar owner Robert later works for, Maury Chaykin as a cabin neighbor Robert and Celine befriends, and Stanley Tucci as a former prospect of Celine who would briefly help them out only to try to flirt with Celine. Dan Hedaya is excellent as the archangel Gabriel who gives O’Reilly and Jackson the mission while realizing that he might have the power to play into the fates of Robert and Celine. Ian Holm is superb as Celine’s very greedy and smarmy father who would rather keep the money than pay Robert’s ransom causing more dissent from his daughter.

Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo are great in their respective roles as O’Reilly and Jackson as two angels who pose as bounty hunters who are doing whatever it takes to get Robert and Celine together even if it hurts or kills them. Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz are remarkable in their roles as Robert and Celine as two people brought together by circumstances as they deal with their differences. Notably as McGregor brings a comical approach to his character who is sort of a dimwitted dreamer while Diaz is more cool as a jaded spoiled rich girl who doesn’t believe in love where the two are also very fun to watch.

A Life Less Ordinary is a stellar yet enjoyable film from Danny Boyle that features top-notch performances from Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz. Armed with a wonderful supporting cast and a kick-ass soundtrack, it’s a film that doesn’t take itself seriously while wanting to give the audience something that is something different and fun in comparison to some of the more darker and intense films of Boyle’s other work. In the end, A Life Less Ordinary is a fantastic film from Danny Boyle.

Danny Boyle Films: Shallow Grave - Trainspotting - The Beach - 28 Days Later - Millions - Sunshine - Slumdog Millionaire - 127 Hours - Trance - Steve Jobs (2015 film) - T2 Trainspotting - (Yesterday (2019 film))

© thevoid99 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

Strictly Ballroom

Directed by Baz Luhrmann and written by Luhrmann, Andrew Bovell, and Craig Pearce from the play of the same name, Strictly Ballroom is the story about a young Australian ballroom dancer who decides to defy the rules by taking an ugly duckling as his partner while finding personal fulfillment in the paso doble. The film is a mixture of satire in the world of ballroom dancing as well as story of a young man trying to find personal fulfillment in dancing while dealing with the chaos of his family who are hoping to succeed in the world of ballroom dancing. Starring Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Gia Carides, Pat Thomson, Barry Otto, Peter Whitford, and Bill Hunter. Strictly Ballroom is a dazzling and heartfelt film from Baz Luhrmann.

The world of ballroom dancing is a place where dancers compete one another to display their sense of discipline, showmanship, and footwork under a strict guideline of rules where the prize is being a champion. The film is about a young ballroom dancer who is tired by the restrictions he has to bear as a dancer in a desire to find artistic freedom where he teams up with a beginner at his family’s dance studio as they eventually choose to dance the paso doble. The news would only cause chaos not just in the dancer’s family but also the Federation President Barry Fife (Bill Hunter) who holds all the cards for what is the future of ballroom dancing as he sees this young man being a threat of everything he’s believed in. It’s all taking place in this world of ballroom dancing where the idea of defying the rules just to express oneself can lead to trouble or it will the chance to change things.

The screenplay that Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce create explore isn’t just a young man’s artistic desire but also to find meaning as a dancer. While Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio) is someone who has trained to become a champion at the Pan Pacific Grand Prix since the age of six under the tutelage of his mother Shirley Hastings (Pat Thomson) and longtime family friend Les Kendall (Peter Whitford). There is this enormous pressure to win the Pan Pacific under all of the rules set by the dancing federation while having to compete with the more revered but over-the-hill dancing champion Ken Railings (John Hannan). By teaming up with this young ugly duckling beginner in Fran (Tara Morice), it gives him the chance to find some fulfillment in the dance steps that he wants to do while she would introduce to paso doble steps. The introduction of the paso doble through Fran and her family of Spanish gypsies wouldn’t just give Scott the artistic fulfillment he needs but also the chance to dance without compromise while showing that it could do more than just win the audience over.

The Barry Fife character is a very unique individual who was a great ballroom dancing champion and considered a God in the world of ballroom dancing. Scott’s defiance not only causes trouble where many in the ballroom dancing community fear that change is coming but it would press Fife to tell Scott some secrets that relates to his father Doug Hastings (Barry Otto) who was once a ballroom dancing champion. The Doug Hastings character is a man who has become a very meek individual who does maintenance chores in the studio while secretly dancing his own steps when no one is around. He is treated with disdain by his wife where the film’s climax in the Pan Pacific reveal not just some truths about what happened to them but also what kind of man Barry Fife really is.

The direction of Baz Luhrmann is very energetic in not just the way some of the more upbeat dancing is presented but also in some of the humor that he creates in the film. Notably as the film features an early sequence where many of the film’s principle characters talk directly to the camera as if it was a documentary to reveal what went wrong when Scott Hastings decides to break the rules and do crowd-pleasing steps. The film then becomes more straightforward while having an air of style such as the very dramatic outbursts of Scott’s former partner Liz Holt (Gia Carides) as well as Luhrmann’s zoom close-ups to play up the sense of dramatic tension. Style is part of Luhrmann’s forte as a filmmaker in not just the way he presents the world of dancing but also how he frames the actors in a scene or to play out something funny that can be natural or just off-the-wall.

There’s also moments where Luhrmann just wants to keep thing simple in not just some of the dancing but also in the dramatic moments. Particularly as Luhrmann wants to use the frame to tell a story while playing up the romance between Scott and Fran where it builds slowly not just in their dancing but the way they bond outside of dancing. The dancing definitely proves to be a major high point of the film as Luhrmann gets the help of choreographer John O’Connell and flamenco trainer Antonio Vargas as the latter plays Fran’s father. Even in the film’s climax where it is about Scott and Fran not just showing that rules are made to be broken but also to emphasize that it’s all about the dance and what joy it can bring to people. Overall, Luhrmann creates an exhilarating and enjoyable film about love and dancing.

Cinematographer Steve Mason does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the look of some of the exterior scenes as well as some of the lighting in the interiors scenes including some of the dancing competition scenes. Editor Jill Bilcock does brilliant work with the editing as it plays to not just to the rhythm of the music and dancing but also in some of the crazier moments such as a few montages and some slower moments in the dramatic scenes. Production designer Catherine Martin and art director Martin Brown do great work with the set pieces from the studio that Scott’s mother runs to the ballroom dancing arenas as well as lovely sequence about Scott’s father.

Costume designer Angus Straithe does fantastic work with the costumes from the lavish clothes the dancers wear for the competition to the more casual clothes they wear outside of the dancehalls. Makeup designer Lesley Vanderwalt and hair designer Paul Williams do terrific work with the look of some of the characters in the makeup and hair design for some of the ballroom dancing competition as it‘s meant to play up that sense of extravagance. Sound recorder Ben Osmo does nice work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the dancing competitions as well as the more intimate moments in the dancing such as the sound of the paso doble steps. The film’s music by David Hirschfelder is wonderful for some of the music that is played in the dancing competition while also creating a soundtrack filled with pop songs to not only play out some of the romance that includes a duet of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time by Tara Morice and Mark Williams.

The casting by Faith Martin and Fiona McConaghy is superb for the ensemble that is created that features some memorable small roles Lauren Hewett as Scott’s young sister Kylie, Steve Grace as Kylie’s partner Luke, Pip Mushin and Leonie Page as Scott’s fellow dance friends Wayne and Vanessa, Kris McQuade as Fife’s longtime associate Charm Leachman, Sonia Kruger as the famed ballroom dancer Tina Sparkle, Todd McKenney as Tina’s old partner Nathan Starkey, and John Hannan as the revered but alcoholic ballroom dancer Ken Railings. Armonia Benedito and Antonio Vargas are terrific in their respective roles as Fran’s grandmother and father who help Fran and Scott how to dance the paso doble. Peter Whitford is wonderful as Scott’s longtime mentor Les who tries to make sure Scott takes on the right path to success as he’s trying to deal with Scott’s sense of defiance.

Gia Carides is funny as Scott’s former dance partner Liz who feels upset that Scott doesn’t want to do things the old way as she briefly become Ken Railings’ partner. Pat Thomson is excellent as Scott’s mother Shirley who is hoping that Scott would finally succeed to capture the elusive dream of becoming a Pan Pacific champion only to realize that he doesn’t want to do things their way. Barry Otto is great as Scott’s meekly father Doug as a man who carries a secret about himself as he is awakened by his son’s desire to dance his own way. Bill Hunter is brilliant as ballroom dancing president Barry Fife as he brings charm to a man who is quite devious but also intent on making sure no one rebels against the old rules. Tara Morice is remarkable as Fran as a young woman who wants to dance with Scott while helping him to find freedom in his dancing. Paul Mercurio is fantastic as Scott as a young dancer eager to find some fulfillment in dance while wanting to show that you can do something new and get some rewards.

Strictly Ballroom is a marvelous film from Baz Luhrmann that showcases the world of ballroom dancing. Armed with a great ensemble cast, a fun soundtrack, and some dazzling moments, it’s a film that does more than just entertain while creating an engaging story about following dreams and doing what one feels is right. In the end, Strictly Ballroom is an enchanting film from Baz Luhrmann.

Baz Luhrmann Films: William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet - Moulin Rouge! - Australia - The Great Gatsby (2013 film) - The Auteurs #23: Baz Luhrmann

© thevoid99 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Time to Leave

Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 12/4/06 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.

Written and directed by Ozon, Le Temps qui reste (Time to Leave)is the story of a young, successful fashion photographer who learns he is about to die from a brain tumor. Alienating everyone in his life including his boyfriend, he turns to his old grandmother and a waitress for help on reflecting his own life. The film is an exploration into the world of death as a young faces what is inevitable. Starring Melvil Poupaud, Daniel Duval, Marie Rivere, Louise-Anne Hippeau, Christian Sengewald, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi and Jeanne Moreau. Le Temps qui reste is a harrowing yet poignant film about death from Francois Ozon.

When death is becoming certain, it always reveals a certain reaction into how one deals with it. In this film, a photographer named Romaine (Melvil Poupaud) learns that he has a malignant brain tumor with very little time to live. Despite the suggestion to do chemotherapy, Romaine decides not to as he starts to push everyone around him including his family, his boyfriend Sasha (Christian Sengewald), and those closes to him leaving the family upset and Sasha heartbroken by Romaine's decision to end the relationship. The only person that Romaine decides to tell is his ailing grandmother (Jeanne Moreau) while he also meets a waitress named Jany (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) who is desperate to have a child with her husband Bruno (Walter Pagano). In these final moments, Romaine decides to settle everything in his life including doing some things for Jany and Bruno as an act of generosity.

What Francois Ozon does with his screenplay is studying the world of death from the view of a 31-year old man. Instead of creating a high, melodramatic, woe-is-me kind of drama, Ozon goes for a realistic yet cynical study of a young man dealing and accepting his fate. It also reveals that Romaine still hasn't changed early on in the film once he is already aware that he's going to die. Ozon could've made him into a full-on, tragic character but instead, he goes for someone that is like everyone. A character that is flawed like everyone who goes into an emotional, existential journey dealing with who he is and everything.

It's in Ozon's screenplay that allows the audience to give their own interpretation about Romaine's behavior and his melancholic state as he recalls childhood flashbacks and how he takes pictures of things around him including his sister, grandmother, Sasha, Jany, and everything else that surrounds him. The pacing that Ozon takes is deliberate to convey the fact that once someone faces certain death, time slows down. The elliptical pacing won't be for everyone, even for a film that has a running time of 77-minutes. It's something that Ozon chooses to do just to give that atmosphere in his directing. Ozon's directing is more fluid than every with every scene and composition, notably the film's final moments where Romaine begins to accept his fate fully. It's by far some of the most beautiful and harrowing shots composed in film.

Helping Ozon in his visual presentation is longtime cinematographer Jeanne Lapoirie whose photography is as crisp and elegant in many of the film's exterior settings while the interior shots are wonderfully lit to convey the mood of Romaine in his final days. Art director Katia Wyzkop does wonderful work in creating the different places that Romaine goes from the vast, colorful garden house of his grandmother to the posh world that his parents live. Longtime costume designer Pascaline Chavanne does some amazing costume work for Romaine's mother and grandmother as well as the clothes of Romaine that reveal his descent. Editor Monica Coleman does some wonderful jump-cut and freeze-frame cuts to give the idea that Romaine is taking pictures while the slow, elliptical pacing is deliberate for what Ozon wanted. The sound work by Brigitte Tallandier, Aymeric Devoldere, and Jean-Pierre Laforce do wonderful work in giving the moment of silence to convey Romaine's feelings with the sound of the last scene playing through the credits. The music is filled with classical, orchestral cuts to convey the melancholia while it's largely dominated by the piano pieces of Avro Part.

The film's cast is wonderfully assembled with the performances of minor characters like Ugo Soussan Trabelsi as the young Romaine, Alba Gaia Kraghede Bellugi as the young Sophie, Henri de Lorme as Romaine's doctor and Walter Pagano as Bruno. Marie Reverie and Daniel Duval are also excellent as Romaine's caring parents who are unaware of his fate while dealing with his temperamental attitude. Louise-Anne Hippeau is also good as Sophie, Romaine's suffering, fragile sister who is trying to find some care from Romaine. Christian Sengewald is very good as Sasha who is hurt by Romaine's neglect only to be forced to go into his own as he finally finds some acceptance from Romaine.

Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi is wonderful as the sweet Jany who seeks Romaine to give her a child as she sees him as someone who is nice and beautiful where she is unaware of how important she becomes in his final days. The legendary Jeanne Moreau gives a wonderfully understated performance as Romaine's grandmother who understands that her time is now fleeting as she provides the only sense of comfort and wisdom for Romaine. Moreau remains to be an enigmatic beauty and graceful figure that though she's only in the film for about five minutes, her moment is very lasting. Melvil Poupaud is wonderful as the complex, troubled Romaine where he starts out with an arrogant, indifferent attitude only to develop on what he's going to lose and everything only to gain a sense of self in the end. Poupaud, who looks like Eric Bana, definitely takes risks by making himself physically worn out towards the end of the film as he gives a brave performance.

The 2006 Region 1 DVD of Time to Leave presents the film in widescreen with DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound as it's in English subtitles. The special features of the DVD includes the film's original theatrical trailer as well as several trailers including Gregg Araki's brilliant Mysterious Skin from the Strand Releasing company. Two other special features are featured where the first is 18-minutes worth of deleted scenes including a 30-second conversation between Romaine and his father, three extra minutes of Romaine's grandmother talking about his grandfather, a strange meeting with Bruno, a childhood flashback, Romaine discussing depression with his doctor, an alternate scene involving Sophie's letter, a church scene where Romaine talks about faith and how he felt God abandoned him, and an extended take on the film's final sequence.

The second big special feature is a 76-minute making-of featurette. The special features Ozon with his crew including Jeanne Lapoirie, Pascaline Chavanne, and Katia Wyzkop figuring out everything to shoot. Ozon is hands-on a technical director always looking into the camera while directing his actors to try and act natural while in one sequence, he tells Christian Sengewald about a shot where Ozon replied, "Yeah, you suck". One of the most interesting moments in the making-of is with Jeanne Moreau whose experience and wisdom was in awe of the crew and cast while she helped Ozon cut a few lines to make the dialogue flow better. Moreau talked about working with Ozon since she saw his work as a short-film director and was glad how he can direct her without being intimidated. Melvil Poupaud discusses the joy he worked in Ozon in how he wanted to create such a unique character while discussing how hard it was to become very thin for the part. It's a great making-of featurette that reveals Ozon as a director.

Le Temps qui reste is an entrancing yet enchanting film from Francois Ozon that features a chilling yet brilliant performance from Melvil Poupaud. It's a film that explores the world of death with a very low-key style while channeling all of its complexities in the way one reacts. It's also one of Ozon's most mature features that showcases a once-known cinematic bad boy growing up and taking a heavy subject matter by presenting with such delicacy and care. In the end, Le Temps qui Reste is a remarkable film from Francois Ozon.

Francois Ozon Films: See the Sea - Sitcom - Criminal Lovers - Water Drops on Burning Rocks - Under the Sand - 8 Women - Swimming Pool - 5x2 - Angel (2007 film) - Ricky - The Refuge - Potiche - In the House - Jeune & Jolie - (The New Girlfriend) - (Frantz (2016 film)) - (Double Lover) - (By the Grace of God) - Summer of 85 - (Everything Went Fine) - (Peter von Kant) - The Auteurs #33: Francois Ozon

© thevoid99 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Directed by Francois Ozon and written by Ozon and Emmanuele Bernheim, 5x2 is the story about the life of a couple from how they met and how they dissolved told backwards in five different parts of their lives. The film is an exploration into the world of love and marriage on how it fell apart and how did they get together in the first place. Starring Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi and Stephane Freiss. 5x2 is an entrancing yet captivating drama from Francois Ozon.

There is always a scheme whenever love comes into play. Boy meets girl. Boy marries girl. Then comes a baby and later a family. Then they either grow old together and die or they get divorced and find someone else. In this film, it’s about the end of a relationship told backwards in five different settings as it involves Marion (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) and Gilles (Stephane Freiss) as it begins with the two finalizing their divorce and spend one final day together as it’s clear that it’s over. The subsequent episodes of Marion and Gilles’ life reveal not just some of the aspects of their dissolution but also the question of where they right for each other to begin with?

What Francois Ozon and co-writer Emmanuele Bernheim do is take five moments of the life of Marion and Gilles told backwards to discover not just where the root of their dissolution but also how they met in the final episode of the film. The three episodes in between the film’s beginning and ending not only reveal moments where their marriage starts to fall apart but also the reasons into why they never should’ve been together in the first place. The screenplay plays into many themes of marriage including infidelity and family where is it all worth it to get married. Yet, Marion and Gilles would face many challenges in their marriage including on their wedding day where Marion’s encounter with an American tourist (Jason Tavassoli) would continue to add these questions that the film raises.

Ozon’s direction is very entrancing for the way he explores these five different moments as a lot of it is very bleak and unsettling from his approach to framing the actors in a scene to the way he presents these intimate moments with such subtlety and restraint. Even in the drama as it is very low-key and minimalist while it does have some moments of brutality that makes things very uncomfortable. Each segment Ozon brings is told in 20 minutes where he allows enough coverage to unveil the events that caused this relationship to be doomed as some of its told unconventionally while its final segment is definitely the most conventional which is quite different from the rest of the film as it unveils some happy moments. Overall, Ozon crafts a very provocative and intriguing look into the world of marriage and its drawbacks.

Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography that includes some very stark colored schemes for most of the film‘s first half to more gorgeous lighting schemes in the wedding scene. Editor Monica Coleman does great work with the editing to help create this unique structure for the film as well as using rhythmic cuts to play out some of the film‘s drama. Production designer Katia Wyszkop does excellent work with some of the set pieces from the look of the wedding reception to the home of Gilles and Marion that reveal some of the bleakness of the film. Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne does fantastic work with the costumes to showcase the sense of de-evolution into the characters as their clothes start from being cold to more light-hearted as the film progresses.

The sound work of Jean-Pierre Duret, Benoit Hillebrant, and Jean-Pierre Laforce is terrific to play out some of the dark intimacy of the film as well as some of the more raucous moments in the wedding reception and the first meeting between Gilles and Marion. The film’s music by Philippe Rombi is wonderful for the melancholia that is created in its low-key piano score to convey that sense of doom while its soundtrack consists of music ranging from Italian pop ballads, techno, and contemporary music including the Platters’ Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.

The casting by Antoinette Boulat is terrific for the ensemble that is created as it features some small roles from Jean-Pol Brissart as the divorce judge, Yannis Belkacem as Gilles and Marion’s son Nicholas, Jason Tassavoli as the American tourist Marion meets on her wedding night, Geraldine Pailhas as Gilles’ girlfriend in the final segment of the film, Antoine Chappey as Gilles’ gay brother Christophe, Marc Ruchmann as Christopher’s boyfriend Mathieu, Francoise Fabian as Marion’s domineering mother, and Michael Lonsdale in superb performance as Marion’s more quiet and insightful father.

Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi and Stephane Freiss are remarkable in their respective roles as Marion and Gilles. Freiss brings a chilling performance to a man who seems lost in his marriage as he becomes far more despicable as he later shown to be a much kinder and more enjoyable man before he meets Marion. Bruni-Tedeschi showcases a more complex performance as a woman filled with bitterness over how things went wrong while she seems to be someone who tries to hold on to everything but does things that will play into their dissolution.

***DVD Content comes from the Original Review at Epinions.com that was Written and Posted on 6/2/06***

The 2005 Region 1 DVD from Thinkfilm and Lions Gate shows the film in a wonderful widescreen format with an excellent 5.1 Dolby Digital sound in French with English subtitles. While the DVD is more superior to what Focus Feature had done for his previous feature, Swimming Pool, they both leave fans wanting for more. The special features of 5x2 includes preview trailers for other films like Kontrol, an auditions feature, a making-of special, lighting tests, and deleted scenes. The auditions feature done in late 2002 features Stephane Freiss and a dark-haired Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi acting out a scene from a movie not by Ozon but from another film. The audition revealed the strong chemistry Freiss and Bruni-Tedeschi had while the two looked relaxed and having fun at the same time. The lighting test is a one-minute clip of Ozon photographing his actors to get the right light as the two were looking very comfortable.

The 16-minute making-of featurette is really the making of the wedding scene which reveals more of Ozon's working style. While Ozon, like most directors, uses monitors, he also goes behind the camera looking for the right shots as he directing his stand-ins to dance the waltz with music in the background. This special shows how talented Ozon is as director as he can direct two to many more while trying to get the timing right and the actors to feel comfortable as the scene shows how much fun they were having. It's a true delight for fans of the director.

The 18-minute deleted scenes section reveals five clips that got cut from the film where it was obviously for pacing issues or plot reasons. The first is a prologue sequence of Marion waking up in her apartment with Gilles sleeping as he wakes up which leads to the two to make love and then cuts to the first scene of the film. The second scene involves an extended party sequence with Christophe where Gilles reveals his depression and his unemployed status. The third deleted scene is an extended sequence that involves Marion's encounter with the American which opens up more interpretation to the audience. The fourth deleted scene is the first meeting of Marion and Gilles in an office which shows more of Marion's youthful energy as opposed to the relaxed behavior of Gilles. The final scene is merely an outtake of Marion doing synchronized swimming which is really one of the funniest outtakes of the film.

While the Region 1 DVD is great, the Region 2 special French 2-disc DVD edition that contains more features. One is a Venice Film Festival feature, where Bruni-Tedeschi won a Best Actress prize, and audio commentary from Francois Ozon himself, in French obviously. On that DVD includes a different version of the film called 2x5 which Ozon shows the film in its exact, chronological order with some re-editing and new perspective that's only available in France. While American fans might want the Region 1 DVD, they'll have to pay a lot more the Region 2 French version.

***End of DVD Content***

5x2 is a marvelous film from Francois Ozon that features brilliant performances from Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi and Stephane Freiss. The film isn’t just one of Ozon’s great triumphs but also one of the most compelling films about the world of marriage told in an unconventional fashion. It’s also an intriguing film for the fact that it uses its backwards-storytelling gimmick to be effective to raise questions about how things went wrong. In the end, 5x2 is a fantastic film from Francois Ozon.

Francois Ozon Films: See the Sea - Sitcom - Criminal Lovers - Water Drops on Burning Rocks - Under the Sand - 8 Women - Swimming Pool - Time to Leave - Angel (2007 film) - Ricky - The Refuge - Potiche - In the House - Jeune & Jolie - (The New Girlfriend) - (Frantz (2016 film)) - (Double Lover) - (By the Grace of God) - Summer of 85 - (Everything Went Fine) - (Peter von Kant) - The Auteurs #33: Francois Ozon

© thevoid99 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2013 Blind Spot Series: Floating Weeds

In Memory of Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu, Floating Weeds is a remake of Ozu’s 1934 silent film A Story of Floating Weeds that explores an aging actor who arrives in a small town to visit his former mistress and his illegitimate son. Written by Ozu and Kogo Noda, the film is a simple story about a man trying to do right to the son he barely knew while his current lover becomes jealous about the other life that he has. Starring Ganjiro Nakamura, Machiko Kyo, Ayako Wakao, Hiroshi Kawaguchi, and Haruko Sugimura. Floating Weeds is a tremendous film from Yasujiro Ozu.

In this remake of Yasujiro Ozu’s 1934 silent film as it is presented in color and with sound, the story remains the same though Ozu and co-screenwriter Kogo Noda do make a few changes to update the story a bit. Still, it is about an aging actor of a traveling acting troupe who arrives at a small town to visit a former lover and his illegitimate son who only knows the man as his uncle. The actor’s time towards the son he barely knows causes jealousy in his current lover who hires a young actress to seduce the man’s son only for things to get complicated. It’s all part of Ozu’s exploration to see a man trying to reconnect with the family he abandoned while the current family he has in his acting troupe are starting to get lost without him.

Even as the script allows Ozu and Noda to take more time to not just explore the other actors of the troupe but also the prominent characters that are embroiled in a world full of secrets. While Komajuro (Ganjiro Nakamura) and Oyoshi (Haruko Sugimura) maintain the secret about who Komajuro really is just to protect their son Kiyoshi (Hiroshi Kawaguchi) from the shame of having a poor actor as a father. For Komajaru’s mistress Sumiko (Machiko Kyo), the news about Komajuro’s other life is a shock for her as she is jealous thinking she’s the most important thing he has. By goading the younger actress Kayo (Ayako Wakao) to seduce Kiyoshi, she would hope she would get Komajuro back but things not only get complicated as well as creating more trouble for Komajuro’s troupe that is already going through financial trouble and neglect from the manager that was supposed to help them.

The direction of Ozu is very understated and simplistic in terms of the compositions that he creates as well as the drama that is played out. In that style where he never moves the camera nor utilizes any close-ups, Ozu uses a lot of medium and wide shots in a full-frame setting to capture a world that is intimate but also full of life. Notably as Ozu maintains a point of view where it’s seen by the audience whether it’s a stage presentation from the acting troupe or some of the more intimate moments between the many characters in the film. Shot on a low-tripod stance, Ozu manages to create a lot of coverage in his framing while knowing where to position the camera to capture these little simple moments that cay say a lot by doing so little. It’s part of Ozu’s unique approach to minimalist filmmaking while letting the drama play out naturally though keeping the actors in certain places to be in the frame. Overall, Ozu creates a very mesmerizing and exquisite film about family, regrets, and the desire for redemption.

Cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa does amazing work with the film‘s lush and colorful cinematography from the exteriors set in a small seaside town with its gorgeous colors to the some of the film‘s interiors including the stage scenes that includes some wonderful lighting by Sachio Ito to help enhance the film‘s beauty. Editor Toyo Suzuki does nice work with the film‘s editing where it maintains this slow yet methodical pace while doing a few rhythmic cuts to play out some of the drama. Production designer Hideo Matsuyama and art director Tomoo Shimogawara do great work with the set pieces from the bar that Sumiko runs to the stage house the actors stay in.

Sound recorder Takeo Suda does terrific work with the sound from the intimacy that goes on in the stage scenes to the more broader moments for the exterior scenes including the beaches and streets. The film’s music by Kojun Saito is brilliant as it features an array of themes that are just wonderful to listen to with its mixture of orchestral textures and folk music to play up the drama and some of the film’s light-hearted moments.

The film’s cast is excellent as it features a noteworthy ensemble that is filled with some memorable small performances from Chishu Ryu as a theater owner, Hitomi Nozoe as a girl working at a barbershop, Mantaro Urabe as an elder actor of the troupe, Mutsuko Sakura as a waitress, and as the trio of young actors looking for something to do in the town, Haruo Tanaka, Yosuke Irie, and Hikaru Hoshi. Another small performance that should be noted is from Koji Mitsui as one of the older actors of the troupe as he played the son in the 1934 silent film A Story of Floating Weeds. Ayako Wakao is wonderful as the young actress Kayo who is asked by Sumiko to seduce Kiyoshi only for things to become complicated as she has no idea what to do. Haruko Sugimara is terrific as Kiyoshi’s mother who is carrying Komajuro’s secret to protect everyone while dealing with the chaos that is happening around her.

Hiroshi Kawaguchi is amazing as Kiyoshi as a young postal clerk with an ambition to go to college as he is suddenly wooed by a young woman unsure about the path he’s taking as well as deal with the man he’s called his uncle. Machiko Kyo is remarkable as Sumiko as a woman who is envious of the other life Komajuro has where she schemes to ruin it only for things to get even worse as Kyo brings an element of heartbreak and anger to her role. Finally, there’s Ganjiro Nakamura in a brilliant performance as Komajuro as a man who is hoping to succeed as an actor to make his son proud while dealing with all of the chaos of maintaining his secret and not bring shame to his son as it’s a really mesmerizing performance to watch.

Floating Weeds is a magnificent film from Yasujiro Ozu. Armed with a great ensemble cast, beautiful cinematography, and a fantastic score, the film is definitely one of Ozu’s greatest triumphs. It’s also one of the most compelling pieces of cinema that explores the idea of family and the desire to find redemption in the wake of shame. In the end, Floating Weeds is an incredible film from Yasujiro Ozu.

Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) - (Days of Youth) - Tokyo Chorus - I Was Born, But… - (Dragnet Girl) - Passing Fancy - (A Mother Should Be Loved) - A Story of Floating Weeds - (An Inn in Tokyo) - (The Only Son) - (What Did the Lady Forget?) - (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) - (There Was a Father) - Record of a Tenement Gentleman - (A Hen in the Wind) - Late Spring - Early Summer - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) - Tokyo Story - Early Spring - Tokyo Twilight - (Equinox Flower) - Good Morning - Late Autumn - The End of Summer - An Autumn Afternoon

© thevoid99 2013