Friday, January 31, 2014

The Films That I Saw: January 2014

The new year has officially begun and so has a new year to watch all sorts of different films and also to do some different things outside of the world of film. So far, it’s started off alright despite the snowstorm that is rampant in Atlanta though I think it could’ve been much worse. Though it did change some of my plans for the weekend, at least I have some films to watch for the weekend and stay at home. After all, I prefer to be safe than deal with the cold and be stranded on a road and the highways. Besides, there’s a lot of things that I have to write about not just in the world of film but also in the world of professional wrestling as I finally found that outlet in my new blog called Wrestling with theVoid.

The reason I started the blog wasn’t because of my love for professional wrestling but also my frustrations and discontent with the current WWE product. This entire week for me in professional wrestling is certainly the craziest but also one of the most sobering in not just the ways things are going but how bad they’re becoming. 2013 was an awful year for me personally as far as being a wrestling fans and rooting for guys like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Dolph Ziggler. Based on what might be coming and some of the stuff that’s happened in the past few days. It looks like 2014 will be even worse. I know I haven’t gotten a lot of readers at this moment which is fine but for those who have read my blog including my review of the 2014 Royal Rumble. Thank you.

For months, I’ve been contemplating about giving up watching WWE wrestling altogether because of my disillusionment with the product and the direction things are going. With the recent rumors that CM Punk has left the WWE for good and for some reasons involving backstage politics and the way things are going. If Punk’s reasons for leaving are true, I don’t blame him. It just feels like I’m watching WCW circa-1999/2000 all over again and for anyone who has been through that awful period. It looks like things are just going to get worse. It pisses me off as a fan who not only likes Punk but also wants to see Daniel Bryan at the main event of WrestleMania and there’s rumors that he won’t be doing that and it showcases how disconnected the WWE is with its audience and if they do have Batista vs. Randy Orton for the WWE World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans as the main event. Then WWE will lose not just money but also the audience that had been sticking with them for so many years. If they do decide to do that and not put Bryan where he belongs, I fucking walk out and never return.

OK, back to the world of cinema. In the course of January, I saw a total of 38 films. 24 first-timers and 14 re-watches. Five of which were wrestling pay-per-view events. Not a bad start as I concentrated mostly on silent films as it would play into my Blind Spot assignment in The Birth of a Nation. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for January 2014:

1. Her

2. Limelight

3. Upstream Color

4. Safety Last!

5. The Past

6. The Gold Rush

7. The Kid

8. Shoot the Piano Player

9. Monsieur Verdoux

10. Land Without Bread

Monthly Mini-Reviews:


The concept of the film is very interesting and it could’ve worked. It had a nice look as well as a thrilling score from M83. The cast was also good but there were a lot of things about the film that didn’t work. It felt like a typical sci-fi film that didn’t take any chances nor carried a lot of stakes. Another problem with the film is Tom Cruise where it’s obvious that he’s playing the same role that he’s done with most of the films he’s been in for 15 years. He doesn’t really do anything and it just ends up being a very mediocre film.

Top 10 Re-watches:

1. Being John Malkovich

2. The Incredibles

3. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

4. Tootsie

5. Strange Days

6. The Rocketeer

7. Adaptation

8. Ocean's Twelve

9. The Patriot

10. Cloud Atlas

Well, that is it for January. My focus on February will be on some 2013 releases like Short Term 12, This is The End and a few other films currently nominated for the Oscars as well as 2-part predictions list on what films will or should win the Oscars. The only theatrical releases I’ll be covering are Labor Day and Monuments Men as the former will be part of the next Auteurs profile for Jason Reitman. Other films I plan to cover will be more films by other Auteurs subjects like Pedro Almodovar, Steven Soderbergh, Terry Gilliam, and Francois Truffaut as well as a continuation of my 30 Years of WrestleMania series on my wrestling blog. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off.

© thevoid99 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pepi, Luci, Bom

Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar, Pepi, Luci, Bom, y otras chicas del monton (Pepi, Luci, Bom, and Other Girls on the Heap) is the story about the friendship of three different women who live very different lives as they try to help each other. The film marks the feature-film debut of Pedro Almodovar as it is all told in a comedic style that would become a definitive trademark of Almodovar’s early work. Starring Carmen Maura, Eva Siva, and Olvido “Alaska” Gara. Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del monton is a weird yet exciting film from Pedro Almodovar.

The film explores the lives of three different women in Madrid during the post-Franco La Movida Madrilena period in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The three women come together as part of a revenge scheme against an abusive police officer as they would later be part of a new and exciting world in Madrid where they delve into drugs and all sorts of excitement. What makes the film so unique are the different personalities of the women in the story. Pepi (Carmen Maura) is an independent woman who wants to become an artist as she grows marijuana plants in her apartment. Luci (Eva Siva) is the masochistic housewife of a corrupt policeman who enjoys beatings as she is seeking an escape from her dreary home life. Bom (Olvido “Alaska” Gara) is a young punk singer eager to make it as she falls for Luci where the two have a strange relationship.

Pedro Almodovar’s script is very loose where there isn’t much plot other than Pepi wanting to seek revenge on Luci’s husband (Felix Rotaeta) for raping her over her marijuana plants. Bom would help Pepi in the revenge scheme but things don’t go well over a case of mistaken identity as Luci becomes involved where her relationship with Bom becomes this unconventional masochistic relationship. In the course of the film, a lot of partying as well as Pepi getting a job in advertisement, after her father cuts her finances, would play into the lives of these women finding themselves as women and as individuals.

Almodovar’s direction is pretty loose as it’s shot on 16mm film blown-up into 35mm where it does have a unique style that recalls the style of John Cassavetes as well as the colorful look of Federico Fellini. That approach to loose filmmaking where it feels like it’s shot entirely in the urban areas of Madrid and in the actual city where it has a verite style in some respects but also an element of camp to play into this this very lively post-Franco period of Spain. The campiness just doesn’t play into some of the ideas that Pepi would create in the commercials but also in some of the misadventures the three women encounter. There’s also elements of very bawdy behavior and gross-out moments that is obviously inspired by John Waters as it plays to the masochistic relationship between Luci and Bom which amps up the film’s humor. Overall, Almodovar creates a very flourishing and lively film about three women living in a new world in post-Franco Spain.

Cinematographer Paco Femenia does nice work with the film‘s colorful yet grainy 16mm look of the film for much of its daytime and nighttime exterior scenes. Editor Jose Salcedo does excellent work with the editing by emphasizing on style with some jump-cuts and a few inter-title cards to play into the film‘s structure. Costume designer Manuela Camacho does fantastic work with the lavish look of the film to play into the women and the new world they‘re in as opposed to the more conservative look of Luci‘s husband.

The makeup work of Juan Farsac is wonderful as it plays into that lavish world the women are in. The sound work of Miguel Angel Polo is terrific for some of the sound effects that is created as well as some of the post-dubbing voices to play into its humor. The film’s music by Alaska y los Pegamoides is superb as it plays into that world of new wave and punk that often dominates the film along with some flamenco and classical music in the film.

The film’s cast would include and appearance from Almodovar as a host of a penis-erection contest along with other future Almodovar collaborators like Cecilia Roth as a commercial actress, Julietta Serrano as a theater actress dressed like Scarlett O’Hara, Kiti Manver as a singer/model the ladies meet late in the film, and Fabio McNamara as a transvestite named Roxy. Concha Gregori is terrific as Luci’s neighbor Charito who has feelings for Luci’s brother-in-law Juan whom she has never properly met while Felix Rotaeta is wonderfully slimy in a dual role as Luci’s very abusive husband and his very innocent twin brother.

Olvido “Alaska” Gara is excellent as the very abrasive yet determined punk singer Bom who falls for Luci while becoming unsure about the sadomasochistic relationship. Eva Siva is brilliant as the masochistic housewife Luci who finds pleasure in being beaten as she falls for Bom while being part of a new and vibrant world that she is unaware about. Finally, there’s Carmen Maura in a dazzling performance as Pepi as this very independent woman seeking to find herself in a new world she’s glad to be a part of while helping out her friends find their own direction as it’s truly a fun performance from Maura.

Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del monton is a stellar yet lively film from Pedro Almodovar. Thanks to its cast and campy presentation, it is a film that plays into that world of post-Franco Spain and the emergence of freedom that was emerging for all sorts of people. In the end, Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del monton is a dazzling film from Pedro Almodovar.

Pedro Almodovar Films: Labyrinth of Passion - Dark Habits - What Have I Done to Deserve This? - Matador - Law of Desire - Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! - High Heels - Kika - The Flower of My Secret - Live Flesh - All About My Mother - Talk to Her - Bad Education - Volver - Broken Embraces - The Skin I Live In - I'm So Excited - Julieta - Pain & Glory - (The Human Voice (2020 short film)) - (Parallel Mothers)

The Auteurs #37: Pedro Almodovar Pt. 1 - Pt. 2

© thevoid99 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

L'Age d'Or

Directed and edited by Luis Bunuel and written by Bunuel and Salvador Dali, L’Age d’Or (The Golden Age) is a film that explores the world of modern society in all of its craziness through bourgeois society and in the Roman Catholic Church. Presented in Bunuel and Dali’s idea of surrealism, it is a film that showcases the growing decadence that is emerging in Europe. Starring Gaston Modot and Lya Lys. L’Age d’Or is a strange yet fascinating film from Luis Bunuel.

The film doesn’t really much of a plot as it essentially explores the meeting between a man and a woman in Rome as they engage in bawdy behavior in their bourgeois surroundings. Much of it is told through all sorts of images that play into Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s idea of surrealism. The film opens with a story about scorpions as it would be one of many loosely-connected vignettes that all play into this meeting between this man (Gaston Modot) and woman (Lya Lys) where the man was from a ragged group of men disconnected from the world until the bourgeoisie arrive onto the island where these two people fall in love. Though that is the main story, it would feature some strange images that Bunuel would put into the film like a cow on the girl’s bed, fly on a guy’s face, and all sorts of things.

Bunuel’s direction definitely adds to that element of surrealism where it would feature an array of rich images as it would include some inter-card text for exposition and scenes of dialogue. Yet, Bunuel is more concerned with pushing the boundaries of what can be presented in cinema where there’s a moment where the girl is sucking on a religious statue’s toe as it was definitely shocking for its time. Bunuel’s approach to editing also plays up to the film’s offbeat tone with its rhythmic cutting as he would use this to subvert the images that happen as if it would allow the audience to get a double-take in what they had just seen. Bunuel would also use text from Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom to end the film as it plays into that world of decadence. Overall, Bunuel creates a very bizarre yet intriguing film about decadence.

Cinematographer Albert Duverger does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography where its grainy camera-work does manage to convey a richness into the images that are shown in the film. Production designer Alexandre Trauner and set decorator Pierre Schild do fantastic work with the set pieces from the house where a big party is gathered to the final scene based on de Sade‘s book. The sound work of Peter Paul Brauer is amazing for its mixture of sound and sound effects to play into the scenes where nothing is at it seems in its idea of surrealism. The film’s music by Luis Bunuel and Georges van Parys is superb for its array of classical-based music with serene string arrangements to play into its drama and offbeat humor.

The film’s cast mostly consists of friends of Bunuel as it includes Duchange as the conductor, Josep Llorens Artigas as a governor, and Max Ernst as a cottage leader who tries to rally against the bourgeoisie. The film’s best performances definitely go to Gaston Modot and Lya Lys as the boy and girl who fall for each other where they both give very expressive performances as well as do some amazing reactions towards the surreal elements they encounter.

L’Age d’Or is a remarkable film from Luis Bunuel and co-writer Salvador Dali. While it’s not a film for everyone, it is still a very entrancing film for the way it explores the ideas of surrealism and its take on the world of decadence that was emerging in 1930s European bourgeois society. In the end, L’Age d’Or is a sublime film from Luis Bunuel.

Luis Bunuel Films: Un Chien Andalou - Land Without Bread - (Gran Casino) - (The Great Madcap) - Los Olvidados - (Susana) - (La hija de engano) - (Mexican Bus Ride) - (A Woman Without Love) - (El Bruto) - (El) - (Illusion Travels by Streetcar) - (Wuthering Heights (1954 film)) - Robinson Crusoe - (The Criminal Lives of Archibaldo de la Cruz) - (El rio y la muerte) - (Cela S’apelle l’Aurore) - (Death in the Garden) - (Nazarin) - (La Fievre a El Pasao) - (The Young One) - Viridiana - The Exterminating Angels - Diary of a Chambermaid - Simon of the Desert - Belle de Jour -(The Milky Way) - Discreet Charms of the Bourgeoisie - (The Phantom of Liberty) - (That Obscure Object of Desire)

© thevoid99 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2014 Blind Spot Series: The Birth of a Nation

Based on the novel and play The Clansman by Thomas Dixon Jr., The Birth of a Nation is a film that explores the lives of two families from the North and South during the Civil War and the Reconstruction period. Directed by D.W. Griffith and screenplay by Griffith and Frank E. Woods, the film is a controversial look into the lives of families as well as the founding of the Ku Klux Klan as it was film lauded for its cinematic innovations but remains controversial due to its racial context. Starring Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall, Miriam Cooper, Ralph Lewis, and George Siegmann. The Birth of a Nation is a sprawling but very disturbing film from D.W. Griffith.

The film is a two-part story in the life of two families during the American Civil War and the Reconstruction period. Most of which plays into this sprawling story about the Stonemans of the North and the Camerons of the South as they were friends before the Civil War as the young men of those families would later fight each other in the Civil War. Two of those young men from different families would survive to see the period of Reconstruction in the South as Austin Stoneman (Ralph Lewis) would be part of the Radical Republicans who want to punish the South for the Civil War as he left his mulatto protégé Silas Lynch (George Siegmann) to take control of the small town of Piedmont where whites would lose power in favor of blacks prompting the young Colonel Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall) to form the Ku Klux Klan. It’s a film that is very controversial not just in how they portray the Ku Klux Klan as heroes but also in its depiction of African-Americans.

The film’s screenplay does have a unique structure in exploring the relationship between the Stonemans and Camerons as they were longtime family friends who just wanted to have a good time as Ben Cameron has fallen for the picture of Elsie Stoneman (Lillian Gish) whom he would carry for the Civil War. Ben would survive the Civil War as he would meet Elsie as she is a nurse as his life was spared from war crimes when his mother (Josephine Crowell) plead to Abraham Lincoln (Joseph Henabery) who would let Ben go as the Camerons would see Lincoln as a beacon of hope in the aftermath of the war. Instead, Lincoln’s death and Austin Stoneman’s plans for Reconstruction would take charge with Silas Lynch being its leader.

What would happen in the film’s second half is that Lynch would try to go after Elsie as she is already in love with Ben Cameron. It would create a sense of tension as Lynch would abuse his power and let uncivilized blacks run rampant while they treat their former owners in such abusive ways. A tragic incident in the Cameron family would prompt Ben Cameron to take action where he would later gain an ally in Elsie’s brother Phil (Elmer Clifton) who is in love with Ben’s older sister Margaret (Miriam Cooper). The formation of the Ku Klux Klan would lead to a climatic battle that is sprawling and epic but its idea of history and portrayal of the KKK as heroes does make the story seem not just ridiculous but also discomforting.

The direction of D.W. Griffith is very sprawling not just in the way he stages the battle scenes but also in the drama. Much of the direction in the drama is intimate with a lot of soft lenses and close-ups that are truly gorgeous in its compositions. There’s few moments where the camera moves but most of shots have the camera remain still with some amazing wide shots that showcases a depth-of-field in some of the film’s battle scenes where it has a sense of something that would create an idea of what an epic film should be. Along with some shots at night where Griffith uses a red palette to play into that chaos, he does create something that is truly memorable. For all of the film’s technical work and some ideas in his approach to the drama. Not everything in that film works as it relates to its depiction on African-Americans.

For African-Americans watching this film, there is no question that the depiction of their own race in the film is blatantly racist. Not just in they’re portrayal but also in the fact that much of its cast is played by white actors in blackface. The way Griffith believes they talk in the inter-title cards and how they behave once their free is very terrible. It seems like Griffith wants to say something into how ignorant and dim-witted they are once they’re free while the character of Lynch and a black soldier named Gus (Walter Long) showcase them as animals who are vile. It’s the aspect of the film that isn’t just offensive but really makes the film hard to appreciate for all of its technical brilliance and story. Overall, Griffith creates a fascinating but unsettling film about two families living during the Civil War and the Reconstruction period.

Cinematographer G.W. Bitzler does amazing work with the film‘s photography with its use of tinted colors such as the use of red to convey the chaos in some scenes set at night as well as other colored palettes in its black-and-white look to create something that is chilling. Editors D.W. Griffith, Joseph Henabery, James Smith, Rose Smith, and Raoul Walsh do excellent work with the film‘s editing with its use of rhythmic cuts and match-cutting as well as creating ideas that would be the basis for a lot of action films in the years to come. Costume designers Robert Goldstein and Clare West do nice work with the period costumes from the dressed the women wear to the uniforms the men wear. The film’s music by Joseph Carl Breil is fantastic for its flourishing score with its use of traditional American instrumental themes like Dixie and The Star-Spangled Banner while going for some broad string arrangements to play into its drama and action where the latter would feature Ride of the Valkyries in the film’s climax.

The film’s cast is remarkable for having actors play such real-figures at the time like Raoul Walsh as John Wilkes Booth, Donald Crisp as Ulysses S. Grant, Howard Gaye as Robert E. Lee, and Joseph Henabery as Abraham Lincoln. The performances of Walter Long as Gus, Tom Wilson as Stoneman’s servant, and Mary Alden as Stoneman’s mulatto housekeeper Lydia are very discomforting to watch since they’re played by white actors in blackface which adds to the sense of racism that is prevalent in the film as does the performance of Jennie Lee as the Cameron family maid as she is portrayed as a stereotypical black woman of those times. Other notable small roles include George Beranger and Maxfield Stanley as Ben’s older brothers, Robert Harron as Elsie’s brother Tod who would die in the war, Josephine Crowell as Ben’s mother, and Spottiswoode Aitken as Ben’s father who was once a man of importance until losing it all in the war and in the Reconstruction period. Miriam Cooper is wonderful as the eldest Cameron sister Margaret while Mae Marsh is superb as Ben’s youngest sister Flora who was full of energy as she hoped for Elsie to marry her brother.

Elmer Clifton is good as Phil Stoneman as a man who falls for Margaret as he realizes the severity of his father’s plans where he would help the Camerons in dealing with the carpetbaggers. Ralph Lewis is excellent as Austin Stoneman as a Senator who would lead the group of Radical Republicans only to realize he created a monster in Lynch. George Siegmann is alright as Silas Lynch in how crazed and demonic he looked but the fact that he’s playing a mulatto just makes the performance discomforting to watch as it’s also a form of blackface. Henry B. Walthall is fantastic as Ben Cameron as a man who adores his world as he tries to save his land from Lynch as he forms the Ku Klux Klan. Finally, there’s Lillian Gish in a radiant performance as Elsie Stoneman as a young woman who falls for Ben but is torn towards her loyalty towards her father and her devotion to Ben while being pursued by Lynch.

The Birth of a Nation is a remarkable film from D.W. Griffith although it’s a film that will definitely spark a lot of discussion over its racial context. While it’s a film that film buffs and historians need to see for its technical innovations. It’s a film that will definitely rub people the wrong way over its depiction of African-Americans. In the end, The Birth of a Nation is a superb yet terrifying film from D.W. Griffith.

© thevoid99 2014

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Past

Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, Le Passe (The Past) is the story of an Iranian man who travels to Paris to finish divorce proceedings with his soon-to-be ex-wife as he notices his new life with a new man as well as the strained relationship between his wife and her daughter. It’s a film that explores the end of a relationship as well as a man dealing with the new life his wife is making with another man as he becomes concerned about the new family dynamic. Starring Berenice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, and Ali Mosaffa. Le Passe is a chilling yet mesmerizing film from Asghar Farhadi.

The film is an exploration into the emergence of a new family as a man who was once part of that family starts to watch this new change while realizing that not everything is going well. Especially at it concerns the relationship between his ex-wife and her teenage daughter who doesn’t approve of her mother’s relationship with her fiancee who is still married to a woman who has been in a coma. For Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) who only came to Paris from Iran for just a few days, he finds himself in the middle of a family drama that is just boiling. Though he is not the father of these two girls as he is just the third man that Marie Brisson (Berenice Bejo) had married. The 16-year old Lucie (Pauline Burlet) and the adolescent Lea (Jeanne Jestin) do consider him the closest thing to a father. Even as he is also there for the boy Fouad (Elyes Aguis) whenever Fouad’s father Samir (Tahar Rahim) is working.

The film’s screenplay doesn’t just explore a troubled family dynamic seen from an outsider but also the source of this strained relationship between Marie and Lucie. For Ahmad, he would be the one to talk to Lucie as he tries to figure out why she is so angry at her mother as it relates to Marie’s relationship with Samir. What Lucie reveals wouldn’t just play into the Marie and Samir’s relationship but also what might’ve caused Samir’s wife into a comatose state. Ahmad is the film’s conscience in some respects as he just tries to figure out how to defuse things while he also figures out what is going on. Even as he knows that putting him and Samir in the same room wouldn’t be so good yet both men try not to make things worse. Samir is a very complex individual who tries to not make things more troubling as it is yet he has to deal with his son and his work. Even as it concerns his comatose wife as he has no clue if she will ever get better.

Then there’s Marie as she is this woman who had been through three marriages as she is about to embark into another one while her relationship with Ahmad is quite cordial though there’s still some issues the two have. Yet, she deals with the chaos her daughter has created but also has to face facts about what role she might’ve played into the trouble she caused in Samir’s marriage. Even as the third act is about Marie and Samir finally confronting the past over the events that caused Samir’s wife to commit suicide as it left her in a coma. The result would not only have the two face realities about the past but also the fact that it will be impossible to let go.

Asghar Farhadi’s direction is very simple and understated as far as the compositions are concerned where he doesn’t rely much on any kind of visual style. Instead, it is about the drama and how he creates scenes to play into that sense of tension that is boiling. Farhadi’s use of framing in the way he puts actors into a frame is pretty engaging as well in the way he uses that framing to play into some of the tension that is looming. Though it is shot entirely in Paris, Farhadi avoids famous landmarks as he goes for some very small locations in the city and its suburb to show a world that is diverse but also crumbling as it plays to the world that Marie is in with her ex-husband and her fiancee.

The direction also plays into some intense moments which involves Marie and Lucie as Farhadi also has the camera focusing on the other characters who are observing these arguments and such. Immediately, many questions come into play in the third act as well as the people involved. A lesser filmmaker would use flashbacks to play into these events but Farhadi doesn’t go for that and instead uses dialogue to help piece the puzzle over all of the guilt that will emerge in the characters in the film. Overall, Farhadi crafts a very captivating yet haunting film about a woman dealing with her past and the uncertainty it will have into her future.

Cinematographer Mahmoud Kalari does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from its use of natural light for some of the film‘s daytime interiors to its use of low-key lighting schemes and such for some of the film‘s nighttime interior scenes and much of the film‘s exterior setting. Editor Juliette Welfing does fantastic work with the film‘s editing with its use of rhythmic and methodical cuts to play into the film‘s drama as well as some of its most intense moments. Production designer Claude Lenoir does nice work with the film’s set pieces from the restaurant run by a friend of Ahmad to Marie’s home.

Costume designer Jean-Daniel Vuillermoz does terrific work with the film‘s costumes as it‘s mostly casual in terms of the clothes the characters wear. Sound editor Thomas Desjonqueres does superb work with the sound to play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as some of the sounds in the background. The film’s music by Youli and Evgueni Galperine is wonderful as it is rarely played in the film as it’s mostly low-key as in an ambient piece in one scene and a plaintive piano piece in the film’s ending.

The film’s remarkable cast includes some notable small performances from Babak Karimi as a friend of Ahmad who runs a restaurant Ahmad used to go to, Valeria Cavalli as that restaurant’s chef who remembered Lucie as a child, and Sabrina Ouazani as an employee of Samir’s launderette who tells Lucie and Ahmad about Samir’s wife as it is clear she might know more than what really happened. Elyes Aguis and Jeanne Jestin are excellent in their respective roles as Fouad and Lea as two kids who watch the chaos that is surrounding as they have no clue how to react as they would get in trouble as they find a sympathetic figure in Ahmad. Pauline Burlet is wonderful as the troubled Lucie as a young teenage girl who disapproves of her mother’s engagement to Samir over what she thinks plays into the suicide of Samir’s wife as it’s a very haunting performance from the young actress.

Tahar Rahim is brilliant as Samir as a man trying to deal with the chaos of moving in and deal with Ahmad’s presence as he also tries to come to terms with his own troubled marriage to his comatose wife and what he might’ve caused. Ali Mosaffa is fantastic as Ahmad as Marie’s soon-to-be ex-husband who observes everything that is happening as he’s sort of the film’s conscience as he tries to get everyone to be calm while he rarely raises his voice as it’s definitely a fascinating performance. Finally, there’s Berenice Bejo in a tremendous performance as Marie Brisson as a woman troubled by her strained relationship with her daughter as well as some of the trouble she might have caused for herself as it’s a performance that has Bejo being very un-likeable at times but also someone who realizes her faults.

Le Passe is a phenomenal film from Asghar Farhadi that features superb performances from Berenice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa, and Tahar Rahim. While it’s not an easy film to watch due to its themes on guilt and secrets about the past. It is still a very engaging film that explores a couple trying to start a new family only to confront the past with the help of a woman’s ex-husband who tries to piece everything that has happened. In the end, Le Passe is a marvelous film from Asghar Farhadi.

Asghar Farhadi Films: (Dancing in the Dust) - (The Beautiful City) - (Fireworks Wednesday) - (About Elly) - A Separation - The Salesman - (Everybody Knows (2018 film))

© thevoid99 2014

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Written, directed, and starring Charles Chaplin, Limelight is the story of a washed-up comic who meets a young dancer as he hopes to give her the break that she needed to make it into the big time. The film is an exploration into a man who has been through everything in the world of entertainment as he hopes to help a young woman who feels hopeless in her chance to succeed. Also starring Claire Bloom, Nigel Bruce, Norman Lloyd, Wheeler Dryden, Sydney Earle Chaplin, and Buster Keaton. Limelight is a ravishing film from Charles Chaplin.

Being in the spotlight can give anyone the chance to succeed but there’s also failure as the comedian Calvero (Charles Chaplin) knows that too well as he is washed-up and unable to draw an audience. After meeting a suicidal ballerina in Thereza “Terry” Ambrose (Claire Bloom) whom he saved from a suicide attempt, he decides to help her succeed as she had a lot to live for. It’s a film that is about the old generation helping the new one in some respects but it’s also a love story where Terry falls for Calvero despite his age as he is baffled into why someone so young would fall for him. Calvero would serve as a beacon of confidence for Terry but Calvero himself comes into his own issues as he’s reluctant to return to the stage in fear of failing. At the same time, he’s not sure if he wants to be successful since he’s already done so much and just wants to perform without any kind of pressure.

Chaplin’s screenplay is filled with some very strong dialogue to play into this relationship where Calvero helps Terry to get her hopes up as well as some commentary on fickleness of fame. Notably as there’s scenes of Calvero reflecting on his days when he was a success but finds himself facing a reality when his act that includes him singing and doing things with fleas aren’t captivating audiences like they did back then. Calvero reluctantly accepts that reality as he resigns himself to getting drunk until he smells gas as he finds Terry passed out early in the film as he saves her from death. Terry is a young woman who has experienced a lot of disappointments and such that plays into her despair as she would be unable to walk due to her low self-esteem.

Once she does become a star with Calvero watching from behind as he would play a clown in one of her ballets. He prefers to stay away so she can have her moment in the limelight yet she wants to share with Calvero which he politely refuses. Especially when it involves the presence of a young composer Terry met some years ago when she was working in a store as that man has become successful. The character of Neville (Sydney Earle Chaplin) is a man, who like Terry, also suffered from low self-esteem but success as a composer has made him confident yet still pines for Terry. Terry is unsure about Neville due to her devotion for Calvero but realizes that she has to do things for herself since Calvero won’t be around for long despite the temptation of making a major comeback.

Chaplin’s direction is pretty simple in terms of its compositions yet he manages to create something that is very engaging in his approach to humor and drama. Notably in the way he presents the drama with some very entrancing close-ups and medium shots to convey the unique relationship between Calvero and Terry. Even as much of that relationship is set in Calvero’s apartment where it is filled with posters of Calvero when he was a star as the film is set in the 1910s. The use of flashbacks early in the film is crucial to Chaplin’s vision in not just how good Calvero was but also a brief glimpse into Terry’s life and the moment she first met Neville. The film’s second act begins six months after Calvero and Terry had met where they strive to succeed where Terry gets her break while Calvero is just happy to get a job.

The presentation of the ballets that Terry is in are truly exquisite with Chaplin employing some wide camera angles to present the beauty of her dancing (as it’s performed by dancing-double Melissa Hayden). The film’s climax not only involves Calvero getting one last chance at greatness but it’s also a moment where Chaplin brings in one of his great film rivals in Buster Keaton as Calvero’s partner for this extremely hilarious sequence in their stage performance. It’s a real highlight in the film where Chaplin not only brings in the elements of the past that has made him famous but also to showcase that he can still manage to create something that is still touching no matter how much the times have changed. Overall, Chaplin creates a truly delightful yet heart-wrenching film about two people working together to succeed in the entertainment business during changing times.

Cinematographer Karl Struss does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography for its intricate use of shadows and shading in the scenes in the stage to convey the sense of a world that is changing that Calvero couldn‘t be a part of. Editor Joe Inge does excellent work with the editing in not just creating some stylish dissolves but also use some transitional fade-outs and rhythmic cuts to play with its humor. Art director Eugene Lourie does fantastic work with the look of the apartment as well as some of the stage setting for the ballets. Costume designer Riley Thorne does dazzling work with the film’s period costumes from the suits that Calvero wears to the dresses that Terry wears.

Makeup artist Ted Larsen does nice work with the makeup work in the look of Calvero when he‘s on stage as well as Terry‘s makeup in her ballet performances. Sound editor Harold E. McGhan does terrific work with some of the film‘s sound effects as well as capturing some of the natural sounds in some of the film‘s different locations. The film’s music by Charles Chaplin is exquisite with its rich and delightful orchestral score that ranges from being comical to being somber in order to convey the many different moods in the film.

The film’s cast is marvelous as it includes appearances from Chaplin’s young children including Geraldine Chaplin as the kids Calvero runs into early in the film. Other notable small roles include Wheeler Dryden as the doctor who checks on Terry, Norman Lloyd as Calvero’s agent and Nigel Bruce as the very jovial impresario Postant. Sydney Earle Chaplin is excellent as the composer Neville who has always pined for Terry as he becomes aware of her relationship with Calvero. In a small yet fabulous role, Buster Keaton is hilarious as Calvero’s partner where he gets some funny lines late in the film yet it is the musical duet he has with Chaplin that is just truly unforgettable in its humor that showcases a performance from two great comedy actors that will never be seen ever again.

Claire Bloom is just radiant as Terry as this very troubled young woman who is unsure if she is to succeed as she finally does gain success but wants to share with Calvero as she is determined to become the devoted love of his life no matter how old he is. Finally, there’s Charles Chaplin in a very touching performance as Calvero where Chaplin brings a great sense of humility and wisdom to a man who faces the truth about his career while dealing with changing times as it’s Chaplin showcasing his range as a dramatic actor while also being very funny as he brings element of the Tramp to the performance as it’s certainly one of his most moving performances.

Limelight is a rapturous yet heart-wrenching film from Charles Chaplin that features one of his finest performances along with an outstanding one from Claire Bloom. The film is truly one of his great works not just in terms of its humor but also in the drama that it conveys. The film also features a moment where Chaplin and Buster Keaton show what they can do together as the two rivals create something that is magical. In the end, Limelight is a spectacular film from Charles Chaplin.

Charles Chaplin Films: (Twenty Minutes of Love) - (Caught in the Rain) - (A Busy Day) - (Her Friend the Bandit) - (Mabel’s Married Life) - (Laughing Gas) - (The Face On the Bar Room Floor) - (Recreation) - (The Masquerader) - (His New Profession) - The Rounders - (The Property Man) - (The New Janitor) - (Those Love Pangs) - (Dough & Dynamite) - (Gentlemen of Nerve) - (His Musical Career) - (His Trysting Place) - (Getting Acquainted) - (His Prehistoric Past) - (His New Job) - (A Night Out) - (The Champion) - (In the Park) - (A Jitney Elopement) - (The Tramp) - (By the Sea (1915 film)) - (His Regeneration) - (Work (1915 film) - (A Woman) - (The Bank) - (Shanghaied) - (A Night in the Snow) - (Burlesque on Carmen) - (Police (1916 film)) - (Triple Trouble) - (The Floorwalker) - (The Fireman) - (The Vagabond) - (One A.M. (1916 film)) - (The Count) - (The Pawnshop) - (Behind the Screen) - (The Rink) - (Easy Street) - (The Cure (1917 film)) - (The Immigrant (1917 film)) - (The Adventurer) - A Dog’s Life - (The Bond) - Shoulder Arms - Sunnyside - A Day’s Pleasure - (The Professor) - The Kid - The Idle Class - Pay Day - The Pilgrim - A Woman of Paris - The Gold Rush - The Circus - City Lights - Modern Times - The Great Dictator - Monsieur Verdoux - A King in New York - (A Countess from Hong Kong)

© thevoid99 2014

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Land Without Bread

Directed and edited by Luis Bunuel and written by Bunuel, Rafael Sanchez Ventura, and Pierre Unik, Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (Land Without Bread) is a 27-minute documentary short film about an obscure land in Spain that is wracked by poverty. The film isn’t just a look into this land but also a surreal portrait into a world that is removed from the outside world. Through the narration of Abel Jacquin, the result is a harrowing yet engrossing documentary from Luis Bunuel.

The film is an exploration into a land north of Spain that is surrounded by mountains where it lies some poor villages where its inhabitants live in a horrific world of poverty. Some of which involve orphans who have no family and those who have to work in the most dire conditions. Though Luis Bunuel would exaggerate some of the events that occurs in the film, there are moments that do have this sense of realism that is just terrifying to watch. Especially when it concerns children who die from illness that includes a dead infant. There’s also images of goats walking on the narrow mountains where a goat would fall to its death.

Under the black-and-white photography of Eli Lotar, Bunuel creates images that are just filled with dire realism in the way he shoots the children as he opens the film with a village that is very lively and not so far removed from the outside world. Yet, those images early in the film that includes a rooster being hung upside down so that someone on a horse can try to grab its head as part of a wedding ceremony seems so strange in comparison to the events that happens in these remote villages. Through Bunuel’s own stylized editing with its use of dissolves and Jacquin’s narration that plays into that sense of despair. The film also includes pieces by Johannes Brahms and Darius Milhaud to emphasize the film’s tone while not being too overbearing.

Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan is a fantastic film from Luis Bunuel. While it’s a film that isn’t easy to watch, it is still fascinating to showcase a world that was in absolute terror over its poverty in 1930s Spain. Especially in the way these people had to live in these poor conditions with so little resource at a time when Fascism was emerging in the country. In the end, Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan is an extraordinary film from Luis Bunuel.

Luis Bunuel Films: Un Chien Andalou - L’Age d’Or - (Gran Casino) - (The Great Madcap) - Los Olvidados - (Susana) - (La hija de engano) - (Mexican Bus Ride) - (A Woman Without Love) - (El Bruto) - (El) - (Illusion Travels by Streetcar) - (Wuthering Heights (1954 film)) - Robinson Crusoe - (The Criminal Lives of Archibaldo de la Cruz) - (El rio y la muerte) - (Cela S’apelle l’Aurore) - (Death in the Garden) - (Nazarin) - (La Fievre a El Pasao) - (The Young One) - Viridiana - The Exterminating Angel - Diary of a Chambermaid - Simon of the Desert - Belle de Jour - (The Milky Way) - Discreet Charms of the Bourgeoisie - (The Phantom of Liberty) - (That Obscure Object of Desire)

© thevoid99 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cool Hand Luke

Originally Written and Posted at on 11/6/08 w/ Additional Edits.

Based on the novel by Donn Pearce, Cool Hand Luke tells the story of a prisoner who defies authority in a harsh Florida prison. Directed by Stuart Rosenberg with a script written by Pearce and Frank Pierson, the film features Paul Newman in the title role as Luke Jackson. A man who just won't conform to whatever the system tells him to do as he proves to be an inspiration to the fellow prisoners around him. Also starring George Kennedy, Strother Martin, J.D. Cannon, Luke Askew, Dennis Hopper, Clifton James, Harry Dean Stanton, Joe Don Baker, and Morgan Woodward. Cool Hand Luke is a tremendous film from Stuart Rosenberg.

After doing some drinking and destroying some parking meters, Lucas Jackson is sent to a prison in Florida. Under the supervision of its captain (Strother Martin), Jackson along with three other new convicts including Tramp (Harry Dean Stanton) are given rules to live in the prison. Joining several other men including Dragline (George Kennedy), the men plow the fields, create ditches, and pave roadways. Yet, Lucas has managed to prove to be a guy not willing to give in to the system. After a fight with Dragline where he refused to stay down, he gains the respect of his fellow inmates as well as a few men running the prison. After meeting his mother (Jo Van Fleet) when she visits, he's given a banjo as he continues to be an inspiration.

Dragline befriends the young new convict whom he named Cool Hand Luke as Luke proves to be a real tough guy by eating 50 eggs in an hour. After causing some intimidation in the sunglasses-wearing Boss Godfrey (Morgan Woodward), Luke proves to be powerful until he receives news over the death of his mother. Yet, Luke decides to try and break out of prison with the help of a few prisoners. After two attempts where he nearly succeeded, notably the second one. He is sent back as the captain tries to break his spirit. With the prison bosses making him dig a big ditch and prisoners looking on. The captain wonders if he has broken Luke's spirit but Luke has other ideas with Dragline in tow.

The film can be described as inspirational due to the idea that Luke is described as a Christ-like figure. A man who brings so much inspiration and hope to his fellow prisoners while proving that he can't give in to authority. Attempts to break the spirit of someone like Luke is hard, even when his mother dies and the time he gets captured again and abused. Even at the lowest point, it seems like Luke is willing to give up but this a man that can't really be broken. Even to someone as tough and hardened like Dragline who becomes his confidant and at times, a father figure. Dragline teaches Luke about surviving the prison and its confines while gaining hope in that he too, can escape and yearn for freedom. The script by its novelist Donn Pearce and co-writer Frank Pierson is filled with moments of humor as well as drama and action as it keeps on getting interesting right to the end.

Stuart Rosenberg's direction is truly superb in its compositions and presentation of key scenes. From the way the film opened to its last sequence, it's done with great style that is reminiscent of what American films were doing at that time against the traditional style of the past. There's scenes where Rosenberg captures a great moment of action with his fluid camera and scenery while one sequence in which Luke is beaten, reveals the perspective of all of the prisoners in a rich composition. Yet, Rosenberg's approach to the drama is all in a theatrical style with intimate settings to reveal the kind of tension and comradery between the prisoners and a few of its guards. The film's thematic tone about authority and conformity reveal something power around the time of the mid & late 1960s. The result is a powerful film about individuality and the refusal to conform from the mind of Stuart Rosenberg.

Cinematographer Conrad Hall bring exquisite camera work to many of the film's exterior sequences, notably the skylines and shots of the roads filled with great blue skies and beautiful shots of the river. Hall's interior work, notably the prison house is filled with wonderful lighting setups to create a unique sense of intimacy and atmosphere for those scenes. Even the exterior nighttime scenes are done with wonderful shades and tone to bring for those scenes. Hall's work is truly brilliant in exemplifying in why he's one of American cinema's most renowned cinematographers. Editor Sam O'Steen does great work in creating a fluid style of editing that's traditional but with jump-cuts and rhythmic cutting to emphasize a new style of editing that was cutting edge at the time. Yet, the editing works to capture the moment of action and drama with such precision and in the creation of smooth transitions from scene to scene.

Art director Cary Odell and set decorator Fred Price do excellent work in the look of the rural prison and the house for its convicts as it's given a real, Southern look and style for its intimate setting. Costume designer Howard Shoup also does excellent work in the look of the convicts uniform along with the prison guard suits to show the contrast between authority and those forced to give in. Sound recordist Larry Jost does excellent work in the sound of rain, chains, rakes, and other things to create something intimate and real. Music composer Lalo Schifrin creates a unique film score that is a mix of traditional, orchestral pieces for some of the film's dramatic moments and a Southern, string-inspired piece with guitars and banjos for some of the film's comical and light-hearted moments. Even music from Harry Dean Stanton who sings in a few tracks is filled with Southern values that plays true to the tone of the film.

The cast is truly superb with early appearances from actors like Harry Dean Stanton, Dennis Hopper, Anthony Zerbe, and James Gammon as fellow convicts where they each have memorable moments. Other memorable character actors like Clifton James and Joe Don Baker are great as the two men who run the prison house with Lou Antonio in a memorable role as the convict Koko. Joy Harmon has a memorable appearance as the girl washing her car bringing a lot of excitement to the convicts while Jo Van Fleet is great as Luke's mother who knew that he was trouble but always brought some excitement into her life. Luke Askew is excellent as one of the prison bosses while Morgan Woodward has a more memorable appearance as Boss Godfrey, a man who doesn't talk and wears sunglasses but is a good shooter. Strother Martin is brilliant as the Captain, the prison's warden who has a great complexity in being someone who might be helpful or he can be a mean son-of-a-bitch. It's a brilliant performance with a great Southern drawl that proves he can be intimidating while carrying a unique charm.

George Kennedy, in his Oscar-winning performance as Dragline is brilliant as the prison's convict leader who provides wisdom in showing how to live in the prison while being impressed by Luke's spirit. Kennedy's performance filled with humor and a father-like persona is truly amazing as it's a very memorable performance as a man who finds a new lease on life while trying to keep everything cool that goes with the prisoners. Finally, there's Paul Newman in an iconic role as the title character of Cool Hand Luke. An anti-hero who isn't a real hero but one that won't back down from authority or anything is a guy that is inspirational and can bring a unique spirit. Newman also proves that for a guy that's very beautiful, he can also be tough as hell where he won't be backed down. Filled with a lot of charisma, vulnerability, and tenacity as he's just a guy trying to figure out his role in the world and why he's being pushed down. It's a phenomenal performance from the legendary actor.

Cool Hand Luke is a magnificent film from Stuart Rosenberg that features powerful performances from Paul Newman and George Kennedy. This film isn't just one of the finest films in American cinema ever made but also a film that dares to question the idea of authority. Especially in a character like Luke that can only be played with such power by Newman. In the end, Cool Hand Luke is an outstanding film from Stuart Rosenberg.

© thevoid99 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Safety Last!

Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor and written by Taylor, Hal Roach, and Tim Whelan, Safety Last! is the story of a small-town guy who goes to the city to make money for a new life with his girlfriend only to find difficulty in this new world. The film explores the world of ambition and desire to succeed in the city as its leading character is played by Harold Lloyd as the country bumpkin who is trying to succeed in this new world. Also starring Mildred Davis, Bill Strother, Noah Young, and Westcott B. Clarke. Safety Last! is an extraordinary comedy from Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor.

The film’s premise is very simple as it is about a small-town guy trying to impress his girlfriend by working in the city as he pretends to be the head of a department store when he’s really just a clerk. It’s a film that doesn’t require much plot as it does explore a man wanting to make promises to his beloved in the hopes they can get married but finds himself struggling with a world that is fast and chaotic. Especially when his girlfriend makes a surprise visit that complicates matters where he realizes the only way he can get a big payday and pay for the wedding is to climb the department store building so he can generate publicity for that building. Though his friend was supposed to do the stunt, more complications forces the film’s protagonist to do the stunt as it raises questions into why would he do these things for his girlfriend? It all plays to the idea of promises as well as a man’s foolishness to do these things when it doesn’t really matter since she does love him in the first place.

The direction of Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor is very extraordinary in not just the way they set up the comedy but also make it feel natural. Especially as much of the framing and compositions are very engaging for how much of the comedic moments are set-up with some wide shots of an office to showcase everything the film’s protagonist tries to do to impress his girlfriend. It also showcases the sense of craziness that goes on the city where everything is moving as it includes a sequence shot in a speeding ambulance where the film’s hero is trying to get to his job. That sense of craziness would heighten with the film’s most famous sequence in which the hero is climbing a 12-story building where he’s dangling on a clock. It’s a moment in the film that mixes all sorts of slapstick humor with suspense as it would be a moment that is just unforgettable. Overall, Newmeyer and Taylor create a very compelling and entertaining film about a guy trying to impress his lady through a crazy stunt.

Cinematographer Walter Lundin does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to play into the vast look of the city as well as the use of soft-lenses for close-ups. Editor T.J. Crizer does fantastic work in creating some nice rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s suspenseful and comedic moments along with the sequence in the ambulance. The film’s music by Carl Davis, from its 1990 restoration, is brilliant for its jazz-inspired score to play into a lot of the film’s comedy as well as some orchestral pieces for the film’s suspenseful and somber moments.

The film’s cast is great as it features some notable performances from Westcott B. Clarke as the snooty floorwalker whom Harold Lloyd has to work for and Noah Young as a police officer that is always looking for Lloyd’s friend Limpy Bill over some antics that Bill and Lloyd caused. Bill Strother is terrific as Limpy Bill as Lloyd’s roommate who finds himself in trouble with a cop as he manages to escape his clutches by climbing up a building. Mildred Davis is wonderful as Mildred as the woman who surprises Harold by coming to the city as she is oblivious to the fact that he’s just a clerk at a department store. Finally, there’s Harold Lloyd in a magnificent performance as the boy who is trying to make it in the city as Lloyd’s approach to physical comedy and slapstick is just fun to watch as well as the crazy stunts he pulls to entertain an audience as it’s one of his defining performances.

Safety Last! is an outstanding film from Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor that features an unforgettable performance from Harold Lloyd. The film is without question one of the great silent comedies of the early 20th century as well an example into why Lloyd was a big star in those times. In the end, Safety Last! is a phenomenal film from Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor.

© thevoid99 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Auteurs #29: Kathryn Bigelow

A woman who works within the Hollywood system yet marches to the beat of her own drum. Kathryn Bigelow is the kind of filmmaker that most filmmakers in the action film world wish they could be as she displays not just a sense of style into her films but pump them up with strong actions and compelling characters that are above the norm of what is expected in the genre. In 2010, Bigelow made history as the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for her 2008 film The Hurt Locker. Though her win doesn’t change much for women’s role in the film industry nor level the playing field of having women taking control on the set of films. Bigelow has managed to be part of a small group of women filmmakers who can say something in an industry often plagued by sexism.

Born on November 27, 1951 in San Carlos, California, Bigelow was the daughter of Ronald Elliot and Gertrude Kathryn Bigelow. Though film wasn’t among her early interests, it was in painting where she found her creative outlet early on where she enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute in late 1970. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree two years later, she moved to New York where she was part of the Whitney Museum’s Independent Art studies where she met avant-garde composer Philip Glass. Her friendship with Glass through renovating apartments for real estate ventures introduced her to film where she studied at Columbia University under the tutelage of such figures as Susan Sontag, Vito Acconci, Lawrence Weiner, and Sylvere Lotringer.

More can be read here on Cinema Axis.

© thevoid99 2014