Friday, May 31, 2013

The Films That I Saw: May 2013

The summer blockbuster season has begun and well, it’s going off to a nice start as I saw a couple blockbusters in Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby which were both pretty good. Yet, it’s also that time where the Cannes Film Festival is happening as I saw a lot of good films during the duration of my Cannes Marathon and I made some discoveries. This is among the reasons why I like doing the marathon is because not only do I get the chance to watch films by filmmakers I don’t know much about but also get the chance to watch some classic movies in the process. It’s something I love to do and I’ll do it again next year but I’m going to do something different for next year’s Cannes Marathon as I would like to focus on films that won the Palme d’Or that I haven’t seen.

In the month of May, I saw a total of 39 films. 28 first-timers and 11 re-watches. Slightly up from last month as I focused solely on new films as I was gearing up for the Cannes Marathon. Of course, one of the first-timers was my Blind Spot assignment in Lovers on the Bridge.

Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for May 2013:

1. Enter the Void

2. Behind the Candelabra

3. Happy Together

4. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

5. Certified Copy

6. Secret Sunshine

7. In the House

8. Le Fils

9. Lenny

10. Z

Monthly Mini-Reviews:

Snow White and the Huntsman

While the film had some nice moments as far as re-telling the story of Snow White with some good casting moments in Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman as well as Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan, Ian McShane, Nick Frost, and Ray Winstone as the dwarves. There were some issues in the film that included some parts of the story plus Kristen Stewart’s performance as Snow White which was quite flat as I ended up rooting for Charlize Theron evil queen character as she had some scene-stealing moments by going over-the-top.

The Five-Year Engagement

I like the people involved with this film and there’s some moments in that film that were very funny. Yet, I had some issues with this film. Notably the length as I felt that it needed more time in the editing room. Largely because there were scenes where the jokes ran for way too long while some parts of the third act also dragged things a bit when things get too serious. Still, there’s enough moments for me to recommend the film including a hilarious scene involving Emily Blunt and Alison Brie talking as Sesame Street characters.

The True Story of WrestleMania

Anyone who’s read my work know I’m a fan of pro wrestling although I’ve lately started not to watch it due to my frustrations with the WWE product as well as the fact that they don’t really do anything anymore. I saw this documentary on YouTube where even though they had some good content relating about its history. I felt they did a lot of revisionism with some of its history and there were a lot of things they skimped over such as the poor reception of WrestleMania IX, not much back-story on the Undertaker’s winning streak, and some of the other great matches in WrestleMania’s past. Plus, it was frustrating to watch considering how poor this year’s WrestleMania was as I felt I wasted my time watching it for free online.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Wings of Desire

2. Looper

3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

4. Moonrise Kingdom

5. The Patriot

6. I Love You to Death

7. Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation

8. Superman-The Mad Scientist

9. Don Juan DeMarco

10. Virtuosity

Well, that is it for May. Next month will be the start of a big summer in which I will be seeing and reviewing many films by Woody Allen as part of my Auteurs series on him which will be separated into four parts. Another recurring project that will be returning this summer is the Favorite Film series as I’ve finally started work on an essay for the next part. One project that will not happen this year that I’ve decided to postpone for 2018 is the LiT10 project due to creative reasons where I couldn’t think of a lot of ideas to do and I wanted to do much more on a visual scale so I’m pushing it for five years later though I still plan to do something to celebrate the 10th anniversary for Lost in Translation.

For the month of June, there will be some serious film-watching as I hope to see new theatrical releases like Frances Ha, Before Midnight, Monsters University, Man of Steel, and The Bling Ring. The last of which I’m excited to see as I will update my first Auteurs essay on Sofia Coppola. Aside from the Woody Allen stuff, there will be reviews of films by Richard Linklater, Noah Baumbach, Jean-Luc Godard, and John Cassavetes. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off.

© thevoid99 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What's Up Tiger Lily?

Directed by Woody Allen, What’s Up Tiger Lily? is Allen’s directorial debut in which he takes the Japanese spy film International Secret Police: Key of Keys from director Senkichi Taniguchi and re-dubbed the film with material that has nothing to do with the spy story. With dialogue written by Allen, Louise Lasser, Len Maxwell, Julie Bennett, Mickey Rose, and Bryan Wilson, the film is spoof into the world of spy films as well as an early example of Allen’s approach to comedy which he also stars with Lasser. What’s Up Tiger Lily? is a silly yet entertaining film from Woody Allen.

The film is essentially a spoof on the spy films where Woody Allen has taken over a Japanese spy film and re-dubbed the entire movie with music by the Lovin’ Spoonful and create new dialogue that had nothing to do with the original movie. In this re-dubbed film, the movie becomes a story about a spy who teams up with a couple of female spies to retrieve a secret recipe to make the perfect egg salad from two competing criminal figures. It’s all part of Allen trying to deconstruct the spy story by including a few things that had nothing to do with the film including performances from the Lovin’ Spoonful where the main protagonist is a spy who has an appetite for sex while being a spy that can kick some ass.

While there’s a few scenes in which Woody Allen appears to reveal why he re-dubbed the film including a break where someone asks him to stop the film so they can get a refresher on the plot. Yet, Allen is mostly focused on creating something is a spoof of sorts on the spy film with help from editor Richard Krown along with some upbeat yet offbeat music from the Lovin’ Spoonful to create something that is idiosyncratic. While there are moments where the schtick gets tiresome a bit, it does play into Allen’s unique approach to humor while creating something that is engaging but also enjoyable to watch.

What’s Up Tiger Lily? is a terrific film from Woody Allen though it pales in comparison to some of the films he would make in the years to come. It is still a fine debut that showcases his brand of humor as well as the fact that it would play into a few ideas that Allen would explore in the years to come. In the end, What’s Up Tiger Lily? is a decent and funny film from Woody Allen.

Woody Allen Films: Take the Money and Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love and Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - A Midsummer’s Sex Night Comedy - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - Radio Days - September - Another Woman - New York Stories-Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Alice - Shadows & Fog - Husbands & Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Don’t Drink the Water - Bullets Over Broadway - Mighty Aphrodite - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet & Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Melinda & Melinda - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra’s Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Whatever Works - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Midnight in Paris - To Rome with Love - Blue Jasmine - Magic in the Moonlight - Irrational Man - (Cafe Society)

The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4

© thevoid99 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Report (1977 film)

Written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami, The Report is the story about a Ministry of Finance civil servant being accused of taking bribes as he’s also dealing with a crumbling marriage. Starring Shoreh Aghdashloo, Kurosh Afsharpanah, Mehdi Montazar, Mostafa Tari, and Hasem Arkan. The Report is a captivating drama from Abbas Kiarostami.

The film is a simple story about a civil servant working for Iran’s Ministry of Finance as he spends a lot of his time doing work until he’s been accused of taking bribes where he’s suspended. Adding to his problem is a crumbling marriage as he often spend his time socializing with friends as she’s stuck at home while their rent is overdue and couldn’t get money for car repairs. Eventually, something has to give as the man is forced to face realities of his world and the issues in his marriage. While there’s not much plot to the story, Abbas Kiarostami plays into a man trying to do good but is often quite selfish at times while lets his pride get in the way of things. Even as he creates chaos in both his professional and personal life where the latter becomes far more troubling when his wife threatens to leave him and taking their baby with her.

Kiarostami’s direction is quite simple but also understated in the way he explores the drama. While he doesn’t go for a lot of stylish camera movements nor create scenes that is driven by dialogue. He does manage to create something where it is about a man striving to do right though he would often make bad decisions that would impact both his life and his job. Going for that realistic visual style that recalls elements of cinema verite, Kiarostami creates scenes that do play a sense of realism in the drama though there are moments where nothing happens and drags the film a bit. Still, there is that sense of emotional impact in the third act when it plays to a dramatic moment that finally unveils what this man is dealing with and the actions for some of his irresponsibility. Overall, Kiarostami creates an engaging drama that explores a man’s pride and the trouble that he endures.

Cinematographer Ali Reza Zarrindast does nice work with the film‘s cinematography where it plays into a very realistic look where it‘s shot on location in Iran while using low-key lights for the some of interior and exterior settings at night. Editor Mahtalat Mirfenderski does terrific work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts to intensify the drama. Set designer Ahmad Mirshekan does wonderful work with the look of the apartment of the man and his wife as well as the office building he works at. Sound engineer Yousef Shahab does superb work with the sound to capture everything on location including the intimate moments at home.

The film’s cast includes some remarkable performances from Mehdi Montazar and Mostafa Tari as a couple of co-workers in the building and Hasem Arkan as a man who made claims about the bribery. Kurosh Afsharpanah is excellent as Mahmad Firuzkui as a man who gets in trouble over his work as he is dealing with the turmoil in his life including his troubled marriage. Finally, there’s Shoreh Aghdashloo in a brilliant performance as Mahmad’s wife as a woman who feels constrained at home as she becomes upset over his irresponsibility as well as some of the trouble he endures that would lead her to make some drastic decisions.

The Report is a stellar film from Abbas Kiarostami that features a superb performance from Shoreh Aghdashloo. While it’s a very intriguing film that explores life before the 1979 Iranian Revolution as well as some of the drama that a man goes through. It’s also a film that plays into Kiarostami’s fascination with life itself as well as a man trying to overcome the difficulties of life. In the end, The Report is a very good film from Abbas Kiarostami.

Abbas Kiarostami Films: (The Experience) - The Traveler - (A Wedding Suit) - (First Case, Second Case) - (Fellow Citizens) - (First Graders) - Where is the Friend’s House? - Homework (1989 film) - Close-Up - Life and Nothing More… - Through the Olive Trees - Taste of Cherry - (The Wind Will Carry Us) - (ABC Africa) - (Ten) - (Five) - (10 on Ten) - (Shirin) - Certified Copy - Like Someone in Love - 24 Frames

© thevoid99 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Behind the Candelabra

Based on the book Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace by Scott Thorson and Alex Thorleifson, Behind the Candelabra is the story about Thorson’s affair with the famed pianist Liberace during the late 1970s where they endured all sorts of trials and tribulations to keep the affair a secret from the public. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and screenplay by Richard LaGravenese, the film is a look into the life of one of the great entertainers of the 20th Century and the secret life he had with a young man as Liberace is played by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson. Also starring Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Cheyenne Jackson, Rob Lowe, Tom Papa, Paul Reiser, and Debbie Reynolds as Frances Liberace. Behind the Candelabra is a majestic yet sensational film from Steven Soderbergh.

Liberace was known as a man of flamboyance and showmanship who loved to dress in lavish designer suits that is often very excessive while his piano designs play up to his personality. Yet, the man was an entertainer who believed that too much of a good thing is wonderful. Still, there is the private side of Liberace that the public didn’t really know about until after his death in February of 1987 where it was revealed that he was gay. What this film is about is Liberace’s love affair with a young man named Scott Thorson who wouldn’t just be Liberace’s assistant and chauffer in his shows but the relationship they had was loving but also tumultuous. Largely as Liberace would start to stray from the relationship making Thorson more insecure as he becomes addicted to drugs. It’s a story that is told in the span of a decade where the relationship would have its ups and downs though there was a real love between these two men.

Richard LaGravenese’ screenplay takes it time to explore how this relationship was formed with Thorson attended a show with another gay man in Bob Black (Scott Bakula) who knew Liberace as he would introduce Thorson to the man. Since Thorson was a young animal trainer who aspired to be a veterinarian, Liberace invited to his home to help tend one of his sick dogs as a love affair ensued though Thorson isn’t aware that he’s becoming one of many lovers Liberace has had previously that had come and gone including his protégée Billy Leatherwood (Cheyenne Jackson) and a butler named Carlucci (Bruce Ramsay). What wasn’t expected is that the affair would become much deeper to the point that Liberace would hire a drug-addicted plastic surgeon in Dr. Jack Startz (Rob Lowe) to make Scott look a bit like Liberace himself.

That would eventually play to some of the troubles of the relationship as Thorson begins to feel insecure as he is addicted to drugs while he isn’t taken seriously by some of Liberace’s personnel including manager Seymour Heller (Dan Aykroyd). Adding to the insecurities is the fact that Liberace likes to sleep with other men including a young dancer named Cary (Boyd Holbrook) which would eventually play to their split where Thorson would try to expose Liberace in the early 80s only to fail. While there are some dramatic liberties that LaGravenese does with his screenplay in order to dramatize the story, he does make sure that it is still a love story that has an element of camp but also drama. The dialogue is also quite stylish as it plays up to some of Liberace’s own campy personality on and off the stage as well as maintaining some realism over the intensity of the relationship between the two men.

The direction of Steven Soderbergh definitely plays up to that sense of excess that Liberace is known for where he utilizes a lot of stylish compositions but also keep things at a minimum to explore the complexity of this relationship between Liberace and Thorson. With the use of tracking shots, wide shots, and other camera angles, he creates a film that is about the secret life of a man seen from the perspective of a younger man. There are also shots that would mirror similar situations where Thorson is watching Liberace talking to younger men that also echoed a similar scene where Billy Leatherwood is shot in a close-up while Thorson and Liberace are blurred in the background though their dialogue can be heard quite clearly.

There are also moments in the direction where Soderbergh creates an element of camp that includes a very funny scene of Liberace and Thorson watching Johnny Carson where Liberace is aghast over how old he looks. Even the scenes of Liberace playing the piano in his stage performances maintain that sense of decadence where Soderbergh knows that excess is best. Through his very colorful yet lavish cinematography, under his Peter Andrews alias, where he uses lights to create a sense of atmosphere in the film’s humor and drama. Soderbergh also creates an element of drama in its third act where not only does Thorson deal with loss in a big way but also betrayal. Through his editing, under the Mary Ann Bernard alias, where Soderbergh creates some fantastic montages and rhythmic cuts to play up the drama that comes in that third act.

Even in some of the attention to detail where it reveals a moment in time when all of that excess would finally come to haunt Liberace in the end. It’s in these moments where Soderbergh does restrain things to create a sense of calm and normalcy where it definitely has a melancholia in the imagery that he’s conveying. Since the film is about Liberace, Soderbergh knows that he can’t end the film on a down note. It has to end in style and the way he chooses to end the film isn’t just about Liberace but also the love he had with Scott Thorson. Overall, Soderbergh creates a very heartfelt and engaging film about Liberace and his secret relationship with Scott Thorson.

Production designer Howard Cummings, along with set decorator Barbara Munch and art director Patrick M. Sullivan Jr., does brilliant work with the set pieces from the look of Liberace‘s home to his stage shows where everything is excessive and lavish that includes two of everything and little model pianos to play up Liberace‘s sense of generosity to those he love. Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick does amazing work with the costumes as they‘re always filled with style from the fur coats, the suits, capes, and everything else that is all a part of Liberace‘s world of decadence. The makeup and hair design work is also worth noting for the hair styles that play up the world of the late 70s and early 80s as well as Liberace’s own hair and how his face evolved through his plastic surgeries including Thorson who also looked a younger version of Liberace after his surgery.

Visual effects supervisor Thomas J. Smith does superb work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects such as the TV stuff that Liberace watches that he‘s in along with some backdrop dressing for some scenes in Las Vegas and Palm Springs. Sound editor Larry Blake does excellent work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the performance as well as some of the intimate moments between Liberace and Thorson as it would also play into their dissolution. The music adaptation by the late Marvin Hamlisch is fantastic for the piano pieces Hamlisch selects as well as some playful score music from the composer as he makes the music a major highlight that isn’t just about Liberace but also a great tribute to Hamlisch himself whom the film is dedicated to.

The casting by Carmen Cuba is marvelous for the actors that is assembled for this film as it features appearances from David Koechner as an adoption attorney, Josh Meyers as Liberace’s attorney in Thorson’s palimony suit, Jane Morris as Scott’s adopted mother Rose, Nicky Katt as the drug dealer Mr. Y, Cheyenne Jackson as Liberace’s protégée Billy Leatherwood, Bruce Ramsay as Liberace’s gay butler Carlucci, and Boyd Holbrook as a Young Americans dancer named Cary whom Liberace gets interested in as he would usurp Scott. Other notable small performances include Paul Reiser as Thorson’s attorney in the palimony suit, Tom Papa as Liberace’s head assistant Ray Arnett, and Scott Bakula as Bob Black who would introduce Scott to Liberace.

Debbie Reynolds is amazing as Liberace’s mother Frances where Reynolds looks unrecognizable as an old European woman who adores her son while is one of the few people who is very kind to Thorson as Reynolds steals every scene she’s in. Rob Lowe is hilarious as the freaky-looking plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz as a man who looks like he’s had too many facelifts while doesn’t really know what he’s talking about as he claims to know so much. Dan Aykroyd is superb as Liberace’s manager Seymour Heller who doesn’t have much of an opinion towards Scott as he’s very straightforward while being Liberace’s great protector from all sorts of things as he is also the guy who takes care of things.

The film’s best performances definitely go to the duo of Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in their respective roles as Liberace and Scott Thorson. Damon exudes all of the naiveté and frustrations of a young man who is caught up in Liberace’s world as he seeks to find himself while dealing with Liberace’s affairs with other men. Douglas is a real surprise as he plays up all of the charm that is Liberace while not being afraid to go camp as he can be funny but also quite dramatic. The two together make a fantastic duo in the way they play off each other in all of its moments whether it’s funny, romantic, or dramatic as they are key reasons for the film’s success.

Behind the Candelabra is a tremendous film from Steven Soderbergh that features outstanding performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. The film isn’t just a very genuine and compelling love story but also a look into the life of one of the great entertainers of the 20th Century and the secret life that he had. If this film is Steven Soderbergh’s final contribution to cinema, at least he goes out with a winner and in grand style. In the end, Behind the Candelabra is a fabulous and sensational film from Steven Soderbergh.

Steven Soderbergh Films: sex, lies, & videotape - Kafka - King of the Hill - The Underneath - Gray’s Anatomy - Schizopolis - Out of Sight - The Limey - Erin Brockovich - Traffic - Ocean's Eleven - Full Frontal - Solaris (2002 film) - Eros-Equilibrium - Ocean’s Twelve - Bubble - The Good German - Ocean’s Thirteen - Che - The Girlfriend Experience - The Informant! - And Everything is Going Fine - Contagion - Haywire - Magic Mike - Side Effects - Logan Lucky - (Unsane) - (High Flying Bird)

The Auteurs #39: Steven Soderbergh Pt. 1 - Pt. 2

© thevoid99 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

2013 Cannes Marathon Post-Mortem

The 2013 Cannes Film Festival is over and what a festival it was this year. Certainly better than last year’s as there was a lot of excitement and buzz that occurred. There were a lot of films I want to see that lived up to the hype like The Bling Ring, Venus in Fur, The Past, Nebraska, Only Lovers Left Alive, Jeune & Jolie, The Immigrant, and The Past. There was also some notoriety towards the new Nicolas Winding Refn film Only God Forgives that got some boos but it made me want to see the film even more.

The winners this year were a bit surprising considering the fact that the jury for the main competition was lead by Steven Spielberg. Yet, I applaud the jury’s decision for the winners they chose. I had never heard of Abdellatif Kechiche or any of his work but the fact that his new film is a three-hour lesbian drama called Blue is the Warmest Colour definitely has me interested and I’m happy it won the Palme d’Or while Spielberg also gave special mention towards its actresses in Lea Seydoux and newcomer Adele Exarchopoulos. I’m happy that the Coen Brothers got another prize in the Grand Jury prize for Inside Llewlyn Davis while I was marking out for the fact that Bruce Dern and Berenice Bejo won the acting prizes. I’m glad that Hirokazu Koreeda got the third place Jury Prize while Fruitvale Station received a special mention from the Un Certain Regard section.

I want to thank Bonjour of Bonjour Tristesse for the coverage of the festival while I want to give a couple of mentions towards Alex of And So It Begins… with his list of the films booed at Cannes and John of John Likes Movies for his list of the best and worst films opening the festival .

This year’s marathon was really good though it wasn’t as exciting in comparison to last year’s but there were no duds in the film that I chose this year though it was hard finding the time to watch all of them during its duration which began withWings of Desire and closed with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. So now, here are my picks for the Cannes Marathon Awards for this year.

The Palme d’Or for Best Film of the Marathon goes to… Enter the Void

I had been hearing about this film for years and I wanted to see it though I wasn’t sure what cut to pick as there’s been different versions of the film. When I regained access of the Sundance Channel and was able to DVR this film, I knew I needed to pick this film for the marathon. What I didn’t expect was how crazy it was as it was truly something I need to see again but on a bigger TV and in high-definition. This is definitely like no film that I had ever seen before as I praise Gaspar Noe for creating something that defies everything while he creates visual effects and other things that I think is on par with some of the groundbreaking work that had been done in films like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Now I need to get this film in DVD or maybe on Blu-Ray if I ever get a Blu-Ray player.

The 2nd Place Grand Jury Prize goes to… Happy Together

I’m a Wong Kar-Wai fan and I love what I’ve seen from him so far with the exception of My Blueberry Nights. This is among the films of his I’m eager to see as I finally saw it and was amazed by not just its imagery but also in how touching he’s managed to create a love story that is tumultuous yet engaging. It’s a film that is quintessential Kar-Wai as it is told with such style and beauty.

The 3rd Place Jury Prize goes to… Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

One of the things I love about doing this marathon is finding something that will surprise me. This film blew me away in terms of not just its themes on life and death but also how it was told with such simplicity while not being afraid to display its idea of spirituality. It’s a film that I think is truly deserving of the Palme d’Or it received at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival as I hope to check out more films from Apichatpong Weerasethakul in the future.

The Best Director Prize goes to… Abbas Kiarostami for Certified Copy

Abbas Kiarostami is a master filmmaker and certainly one of the best as he does things with film that makes him standout against everyone else. Yet, he seems to do it so easily where he make you watch something that is simple unaware that there’s so much more to this. The direction that he brings for this film is just truly potent in its imagery as well as the drama that he captures in the film. I’m eager to see more of what he can do.

The Best Actor Prize goes to… Olivier Gourmet for Le Fils

There weren’t a lot of standouts in the acting front with a few exceptions but once I came to see Le Fils, all bets were off. Olivier Gourmet’s performance is definitely a performance for the ages but not in a traditional sense. Notably as Gourmet is someone who doesn’t do a lot in his approach to acting as he keeps things low-key while conveying the sense of grief that his character is going through. It’s really the best thing that Gourmet has done in his work with the Dardenne Brothers.

The Best Actress Prize goes to… Juliette Binoche for Certified Copy and Jeon Do-yeon for Secret Sunshine (tie)

This was tough as there were some major performances from the actresses I saw throughout the duration of the marathon. In the end, it came down to two women who had both won Best Actresses Prizes at the festival. Juliette Binoche’s performance in Certified Copy is full of radiance in terms of a woman who is trying make her case about the concept of authenticity in art and humanity as well as someone who is feeling lost in her life. Jeon Do-yeon’s performance in Secret Sunshine was definitely something I couldn’t get out of my head for the way she displays her sense of grief and doubt in a woman that is lost as these two performances are something audiences should see.

Best Screenplay goes to… the Dardenne Brothers for Le Fils

The screenplay for Le Fils I think is one of the Dardenne Brothers’ finest work. Though they’re more regarded for their work as filmmakers, they are definitely masters in the art of storytelling. What makes this script standout are the big questions they dare to ask in not just about grief and vengeance but also forgiveness. Notably as it’s a story about a man who learns that the young teen who killed his son years ago is released and wants to become a carpenter that just raises the idea of what could happen.

The Technical Prize goes to… Christopher Doyle for Happy Together

Christopher Doyle is definitely one of the best cinematographers out there as his work in Happy Together is a prime example of his brilliance. Notably in the way he uses different film stocks and lighting schemes to create a sense of mood for the story and making Buenos Aires into a dream world. It is truly a work of art in what Doyle does in the way he uses color to express the melancholia of the story.

The Special Jury Prize goes to… Gong Li for Farewell My Concubine

One of the highlights of Farewell My Concubine was the performance of Gong Li. While the film may center around Leslie Cheung and Zhang Fengyi, it was Gong Li’s role as a prostitute who comes between the two leading men that stole the show for me. Here’s a woman who isn’t trying to come between these two men as it forms this uneasy triangle but she becomes the one person in the film that tries to keep things together amidst the turmoil of the times. It’s definitely a performance that is definitely overlooked that gives reasons into why she’s one of the best actresses in the world.

And now the ranking for the 10 remaining films that I saw in the marathon:

4. Certified Copy

Abbas Kiarostami’s film about the idea of authenticity is definitely one of his most accessible features that features amazing performances from Juliette Binoche and William Shimmel as they play two people spending an entire afternoon in Tuscany talking about authenticity in art and humanity.

5. Secret Sunshine

Lee Chang-dong’s drama is definitely a highlight of the marathon for the way it explores a woman’s grief in the wake of tragedy as goes to faith for help only to experience doubt as it is truly one of the finest films from South Korea.

6. Le Fils

The Dardenne Brothers are definitely among one of the world’s best filmmakers working today as Le Fils is confirmation of that where they take on the suspense genre in their own to tell the story of a carpenter who learns that one of his new students is the young man who killed his son years ago.

7. Lenny

Bob Fosse’s bio-pic on the famed stand-up comedian is definitely one of the most engrossing but also brash films that defies the idea of the genre while it features Dustin Hoffman in one of his great performances of his career.

8. Z

Costa-Garvas’ intense political drama is a stark yet entrancing film about the mysteries revolving around an assassination that features a brilliant Jean-Louis Trintignant as a magistrate who uncovers the truth about what happened.

9. Farewell My Concubine

The co-winner of the 1993 Palme d’Or is a captivating epic-drama that revolves around the lives of two Peking opera actors who endure many changes in the course of China’s history.

10. El Norte

Gregory Nava’s breakthrough film is a heartbreaking melodrama about two Guatemalan siblings who trek through Mexico during the Guatemalan Civil War to go to America is a very harrowing film that explores two people’s determination for a better life.

11. Somersault

The film that would introduce the world to Cate Shortland, Abbie Cornish, and Sam Worthington is a mesmerizing film about a young woman running away from home to find love in a small Australian town that plays into the world of growing pains for a young woman.

12. Japon

The feature-film debut of Carlos Reygadas is a hypnotic yet eerie film about a suicidal man seeking serenity in a small town that features some exotic images that would play into the idea of loss and isolation in the world.

13. Police, Adjective

Corneliu Porumboiu’s film about a police officer struggling with his role about busting a teenager for drug possession is a very sobering yet intriguing film that explores a world that is in a state of transition where a man deals with his role as a cop as it’s definitely a hallmark of the Romanian New Wave.

Well, that is it for the Cannes Film Festival Marathon for 2013. Next year, I’ve decided that the marathon for Cannes 2014 will be nothing but Palme d’Or winners that I have not seen. Until then, au revoir.

© thevoid99 2013

2013 Cannes Marathon: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas

(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the story of an eccentric journalist who goes to Las Vegas with his attorney where they aim to go after the American Dream through a haze of drugs. Directed by Terry Gilliam and screenplay by Gilliam and Tony Grisoni with credited contributions by Alex Cox and Tod Davies, the film is a wild look into the world of Hunter S. Thompson’s autobiographical journey that revolves around all sorts of crazy antics involving psychedelics, animals, Barbra Streisand paintings, and all sorts of weird shit. Starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a strange yet exhilarating film from Terry Gilliam.

The film revolves two men on a strange combination of drugs as they go to Las Vegas where a sportswriter named Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) is supposed to cover a motorcycle race nearby. Instead, he and his attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro) wreak havoc through a haze of drugs all over Las Vegas in search of the American Dream where a lot of crazy things happen. During the course of their stay in Las Vegas, they trash hotel rooms, harass tourists, threaten hotel staff members, defy authority, scare the shit out of a few people, encounter lizard people, create chaos, and do everything from acid to ether all in an attempt to bring the spirit of the 1960s to Las Vegas. Yet, they end up facing the harsh realities of the world around them as they start to lose control of their drug habits leading to some very troubling consequences.

The screenplay by Terry Gilliam and Tony Grisoni plays up to Hunter S. Thompson’s strange but freewheeling narrative as it is told from the perspective of Raoul Duke who is trying to write an article while causing havoc with Dr. Gonzo in Las Vegas. Yet, the screenplay also features these moments where reality and surrealism clash as the two men surround themselves with decadence while having the televisions on that display grim reports about the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Yet, it plays to the two men’s desire to bring the spirit of the 60s with its psychedelics and other substances to Las Vegas as they encounter all sorts of trouble where they would end up staying at the Flamingo Hotel during an anti-drug convention for narcotics officers.

There isn’t much of a narrative that happens in the script as it is more about this escalation of decadence where things get crazier and more surreal as it plays to Thompson’s experience in the form of the Raoul Duke character. The Duke character is the man who is trying to do something in the course of his stay in Las Vegas but he’s often distracted by his surroundings as he’s often under the influence of drugs as the things he see may seem real to him but to the people outside of him and Dr. Gonzo, nothing is happening. The Dr. Gonzo character is someone who can be the straight man but is also someone far more aggressive and violent as he carries a gun and a knife as Duke is the only person that can control him. Yet, they would be a menace to the people they encounter in the course of the film as it would include a TV news reporter (Cameron Diaz), a young girl (Christina Ricci) who likes to paint portraits of Barbra Streisand), a young hitchhiker (Tobey Maguire), and all sorts of people who would become victims of the duo or those that would freak those two out in their drug-induced state.

The direction of Terry Gilliam is very wild in the fact that Gilliam wanted to create something that was unpredictable as if the whole film was a drug trip. The direction is filled with a lot of slanted camera angles and some very low-level camera placements to create the sense of two men lost on drugs as they wreak havoc in Las Vegas. The city itself is a character of the film where it is shot on location where Gilliam wanted to maintain that sense of disconnect where Vegas is a world where people go there to relax and escape from the chaos of what was happening in America. Yet, having Duke and Dr. Gonzo bring that chaos to Vegas just adds something that is very comical but also scary at times because no one knows what they will do in their haze of decadence.

The direction also contains some moments of surrealism where the men are on drugs as they see things moving around them as if they’re on a drug trip while some of the places they go to like a circus. It’s as if Vegas is under the influence of drugs where the decadence goes from classy to just surreal as everything is becoming a mess as well as reflective of what is happening in America where Duke and Dr. Gonzo often have the American flag around them. The film does take a darker turn towards the end where Gilliam decides to pull back the craziness to reveal the outcome of the chaos the two men create. Even as it plays to Duke’s own disillusionment as he realizes that times are indeed changing but the period he had been a part of is truly over. Overall, Gilliam creates a very chaotic yet spectacular film about two men chasing the American Dream.

Cinematographer Nicola Pecorini does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the sunny look of the Las Vegas daytime exteriors to the use of stylish lights to play up that sense of craziness that is the city with its casinos and hotels. Editor Lesley Walker does amazing work with the editing to play up the sense of style with some jump-cuts and montages that captures the sense of craziness that occurs throughout the film. Production designer Alex McDowell, with set decorator Nancy Haigh and art director Chris Gorack, does fantastic work with the set pieces from the look of the hotel suites the men stay in plus some set pieces in the circus casino and other parts of Vegas.

Costume designer Julie Weiss does wonderful work with the costumes from the clothes that Duke wears that plays to the wild nature of Hunter S. Thompson to the more ragged look of Dr. Gonzo while the rest of the clothes are stylish to play that up world of the early 1970s. Visual effects supervisor Kent Houston does excellent work with the way the carpet moves at time to some of the backdrops that is created as well as the look of the lounge lizards the men encounter that is created by Rob Bottin. Sound editor Peter Pennell does superb work with the sound to capture the sense of chaos of the city as well as some sound effects to play up that world of surrealism. The film’s music by Ray Cooper is terrific for its mixture of rock and kitsch jazz to play up the world of Las Vegas in all of its craziness while the soundtrack features an array of music from the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Tom Jones, Janis Joplin and the Big Brother Holding Company, the Yardbirds, Bob Dylan, Three Dog Night, Buffalo Springfield, the Youngbloods, Debbie Reynolds, Perry Como, and a crazy cover of Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas by the Dead Kennedys.

The casting by Margery Simkin is phenomenal for the ensemble that is created specifically for this film. Notable appearances include Katherine Helmond as a hotel desk clerk, Christopher Meloni as the Flamingo hotel desk clerk, Jenette Goldstein as a Flamingo hotel maid, Verne Troyer as a waiter at the circus casino, Harry Dean Stanton as a judge in a dream sequence, Gary Busey as a highway patrol officer confronting Duke for speeding, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea as a hippie Duke encountered at the Matrix club, Michael Jeter as a convention speaker, Lyle Lovett as a road person, Penn Jilette as a carnie talker, Mark Harmon as a reporter covering the race, and Hunter S. Thompson as himself in a cameo in a scene at the Matrix club.

Other memorable small roles include Tobey Maguire as a freaked-out hitchhiker, Christina Ricci as a young woman who paints portraits of Barbra Streisand, Cameron Diaz as a TV news reporter Dr. Gonzo tries to flirt with, Craig Bierko as a crazy photographer Duke was assigned with, and Ellen Barkin as a shell-shocked diner waitress Dr. Gonzo threatens near the end of the film.

The film’s best performances definitely belong to the duo of Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro in their respective roles as Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo. In Dr. Gonzo, del Toro brings a craziness to his character as a very troubled man who can play straight when he’s not on drugs but is still very dangerous while he’s much more troubled under the influence. Depp does amazing work in channeling a lot of the attributes of Thompson in the Duke character as someone who is definitely paranoid while trying to comprehend everything that is happening around him. The two together make a fantastic combo of actors as they provide all sorts of humor and terror that allows them to create some of the best performances of their careers.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a fucked-up yet phenomenal film from Terry Gilliam that features outstanding performances from Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro. The film is definitely one of Gilliam’s great films as well as a very faithful yet crazy companion piece for Hunter S. Thompson’s book. While it’s definitely not a film for everyone, it’s a film that explores the world of the drug culture at its most decadent in the most decadent place in the world. In the end, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a crazy yet sensational wild ride from Terry Gilliam.

Terry Gilliam Films: Jabberwocky - Time Bandits - Brazil - The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - The Fisher King - 12 Monkeys - The Brothers Grimm - Tideland - The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - The Zero Theorem - The Auteurs #38: Terry Gilliam

© thevoid99 2013