Friday, February 28, 2014
The Films That I Saw: February 2014
Well, this has certainly been a very morose year so far. A lot of great actors and individuals have passed away this year so far as two of them have definitely affected me on a personal level. The deaths of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Harold Ramis are losses that are just astounding and sad since these were two very talented men who gave the world so much. Hoffman’s death was devastating because here is an actor that I adored and he was just giving everything into every performance he’s in. He is going to be missed. Ramis’ death is much more personal to me because of the films he made from 1980 to 1984 as they were movies that I grew up with.
I can’t think of a world without Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Stripes, and Ghostbusters as they were in my opinion the cornerstones of classic 80s comedies. Ramis was the straight man in those films but the perfect straight man as Jason Reitman’s comments about his death is pretty spot-on. It’s like losing one of the Beatles since Ramis did so much for the art of comedy as films like Groundhog Day, Analyze This, and the very underrated The Ice Harvest were just great examples of his work as a filmmaker. Yet, I will say that Vacation is his best film as it’s one that grew up watching over the years and it’s one that my family just loves where if it’s on TV uncut and uncensored, they’ll stop everything and just watch the film. That’s the power of cinema. So to Philip and Harold, thank you very much and let’s hope Heaven is a much more fun place to be around.
Death has been very prevalent this month as another passing has emerged this month in a place that was close to me for a decade. Yet, this death was inevitable and a long time coming as I am rejoicing over its fall. That is the death of Epinions.com. While I am a bit saddened that the place where I spent 10 years honing my craft and becoming a writer is gone as well as the fact that people I was once friends with won’t have an outlet to write. I’m mostly relieved over the fact that ten years of contributing more than 1600 pieces from July 5, 2000 to July 20, 2010 led to very little not just financially but also for the value of how much I contributed to the site. That final year, coupled with my severe bout with depression, put me in a very bitter place over how I was treated and the lack of passion that was given from other writers towards their work.
When I quit to go into my own, I knew that I wasn’t going to make much money anymore and the fact that I was going to start all over. Fortunately, I was able to bounce back while I still had plenty of reviews from the site to gather for this blog and actually use it and do some re-work on those old reviews. During these past few years in making Surrender to the Void what is today, I would come back to Epinions from time-to-time to retrieve my reviews while looking into what else was happening as I’ve noticed the big sense of decline that was emerging in not just the quality of the writing from other writers. It was also over the fact that people were leaving little by little which is a big factor to the site’s death. I think the politics of the site and trying to reach new people through social media also contributed to its death. I made one final post at one of its message board stating my rejoice over its passing as I’m sure I’ve upset the people there. Well, that’s fucking good as I hope to visit its gravesite and piss on it.
In the month of February, I saw a total of 36 films, 24 first-timers and 12 re-watches. Two of which were WWE pay-per-views as one of them was the Elimination Chamber as the review of that pay-per-view is currently on hold because I missed a match due to streaming issues. The month tally is sort of down from last month though it’s not surprising. Yet, a recent blog piece from James at Cinema Sights was really interesting about how we approach to watch films and write about it. Sometimes, it does feel like work where I did get a bit tired during the month as I had family over and all sorts of things. Still, I’ve managed to watch some films and get things done including my Blind Spot assignment in Pandora's Box. Here are the 10 best first-timers I saw in February of 2014:
1. Gray's Anatomy
2. The Act of Killing
3. Short Term 12
5. A propos de Nice
6. West of Memphis
8. Mississippi Mermaid
9. Upside Down: The Story of Creation Records
10. This is The End
This was on Starz! as I was curious to see how bad this was. Well, it wasn’t as bad as The Happening nor The Last Airbender but that’s pretty much the only good thing about this piece of shit that needed to be said. M. Night Shyamalan isn’t totally at fault in this as the real culprit is Will Smith. In making a film that he would play a supporting role while having his no-talented son Jaden who spends most of the film looking very sad and talking incoherently as all I can here is “blah-blah-blah” in a bunch of different accents. It is truly a horrendous film with bad visual effects, a story that could’ve worked but was badly executed by Shyamalan as it’s another failure from a director who was called the next Spielberg. What a load of bullshit.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
I like films about magic but this was kind of a let-down. Especially in the amount of talent involved in the film as the stuff that Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi did is alright yet the real scene-stealers were Alan Arkin and Olivia Wilde as I was quite impressed with the latter. There was also an excellent appearance from the late James Gandolfini but the film had problems with its script. Yet, the one thing in the that didn’t work at all is Jim Carrey as this extremist magician which goes way over-the-top and it feels like Carrey is just phoning it in.
Top 10 Re-Watches:
1. Trois Couleurs: Bleu
3. The Place Beyond the Pines
5. Million Dollar Baby
6. The Spy Who Loved Me
7. Top Gun
8. Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
9. About a Boy
10. Superman II
Well, that’s it for the month of February as there’s going to be a lot of activity for March. Aside from the next Auteurs piece on Andrea Arnold, there will be a mini-marathon of films by Merchant-Ivory in relation to one of the Blind Spots for the year. I will also do some films relating to a few Auteurs subjects for the year as it would include some films from Pedro Almodovar from the early 80s and some early 70s film from Francois Truffaut. Along with some 2013 releases that I missed out, I will also seek out some new releases such as The Wind Rises, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Noah as I plan to do some updating on two of my past Auteurs pieces on Wes Anderson and Darren Aronofsky. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…
© thevoid99 2014
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Directed by Godfrey Reggio, Koyaanisqatsi is a non-narrative documentary that explores a world that is ever-changing where humans become dependent on technology at a rapid pace. With the film’s title defined as life out of balance, it’s a visually-entrancing film that explores a world that is becoming lost by modern society that destroys old and peaceful environments for something new and discomforting. The result is one of the most groundbreaking films that redefines the idea of documentary and cinema itself.
The film is a non-narrative piece that explores the world shot in the span of a few years about the modern world becoming more engrossed by technology and such to the point that humanity becomes somewhat more machine-like as the sense of natural orders and such cease to exist. Even as time starts to move much faster at a pace that is dizzying where some people couldn’t even keep up that speed. It’s a world that director Godfrey Reggio is stating as the film’s title translation is life out of balance in the Hopi language. What he states definitely has a lot of truth as he begins the film with images of old cave drawings and images of mountains, lakes, and landscapes that have such beauty as it is a world that isn’t in need of any change.
Through the entrancing cinematography of Ron Fricke who co-edit’s the film with Anton Walpole, the film would start out as this calm and serene with these images of clouds moving and sunlight beaming on the landscape. With the help of Philip Glass’ ominous score that is a mixture of operatic, orchestral bombast with eerie and dense electronic music. With additional music from Michael Hoenig, the music would intensify to play into the chaotic moments of the film such as the images of a modern world working at a rapid pace as Fricke and Walpole’s editing has a sense of style through the cutting to showcase images where everything is fast though there’s shots of people moving slowly as they’re either oblivious or unable to keep up with the world around them.
The image of life in the cities of New York and Los Angeles moving at such a rapid pace all in the span of 24 hours showcase some entrancing images through Fricke’s camera as there’s a richness but also an ugliness to these images. Images that includes a shot of the beach where the camera would move back to showcase a power-plant in the background. There’s also a lot of visual metaphors about the way people work and walk through escalators and such in contrast to the way hot dog wieners and Twinkies are moving around in assembly lines. All of which play to a world that is ravaged by this chaos where things are moving too fast as they’re disrupting some of the natural environments around them. Overall, Reggio creates a truly mesmerizing and astonishing film about a world troubled by modernism and humanity losing it sense of balance.
Koyaanisqatsi is a tremendous film from Godfrey Reggio. Not only is it one of the most visually-entrancing films of its kind as it re-defines the idea of what a documentary can be. It’s also a film that showcases that not relying on a narrative or any kind of structure that is akin to cinema can happen if done properly if all that is needed is just striking images and captivating music to help tell the story thanks in part to cinematographer Ron Fricke and music composer Philip Glass. In the end, Koyaanisqatsi is a magnificent film from Godfrey Reggio.
Godfrey Reggio Films: Powaqqatsi - Naqoyqatsi - (Visitors (2013 film))
© thevoid99 2014
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
The Auteurs #30: Jason Reitman
One of the most fascinating filmmakers to emerge in the world of cinema in the past decade, Jason Reitman is someone who likes to march to the beat of his own drums to explore unique individuals who deal the realities of their life in very different ways. The son of famed comedy filmmaker Ivan Reitman, Jason Reitman would utilize his own idea of humor while meshing it with drama to explore characters who have a hard time with themselves. With his most recent film in Labor Day showcasing a major departure of sorts from the filmmaker. It is clear that Reitman is someone who is willing to films that are engaging no matter what kind of story it is.
Born Montreal, Quebec in Canada on October 19, 1977, Jason is the first of three children his father Ivan and mother Genevieve Roberts would later have two girls in actress/film critic Catherine in 1981 and Caroline a few years later. In the late 1970s and into the early 1980s, Ivan Reitman was becoming a major name for Canadian production as he helped springboard the career of Canadian horror filmmaker David Cronenberg while Reitman himself would make Bill Murray into a major film star with films that Reitman directed in 1979’s Meatballs and 1981’s Stripes. In the early 1980s when the Reitman family moved to Los Angeles where Ivan would go on to forge a highly-successful career as a comedy filmmaker. Jason would appear in many of his father films in small roles during the late 80s and early 90s as he would also become a production assistant where he would learn the trade in becoming a filmmaker.
More can be read at this link at Cinema Axis.
© thevoid99 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
This is The End
Based on the short film Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse by Jason Stone, This is the End is an apocalyptic comedy in which a group of celebrity friends have a party until the Apocalypse emerges as the small group of survivors try to stay home at James Franco’s house as tension and such emerge as they all try to survive the end of the world. Written for the screen and directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, the film is a raunchy comedy where many of the actors in the film play fictional versions of themselves as they all try to survive the Apocalypse. Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, and Emma Watson as they all play themselves with a cast that includes many other people. This is the End is a hilarious and extravagant comedy from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
The film revolves around an apocalyptic event during a party at James Franco’s house where many celebrities have died during the party while Franco, Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride all stay at Franco’s house trying to survive with what little supplies they have. In turn, all sorts of things happen where much of the focus is about the strained relationship between Rogen and Baruchel as the latter arrives in Los Angeles visiting Rogen in the hopes to repair their friendship. Instead, the party at Franco would only further the strain as tension would also increase between the six where McBride is portrayed as a very greedy and selfish individual, Franco as a pretentious movie star who is attached to his old film props, and Hill as an overly-nice diva. All of which have the actors play exaggerated versions of themselves while there’s moments in the film that would test their friendship as well as how to survive the apocalypse.
The film’s screenplay by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg starts off as a nice, raunchy comedy where everyone but Baruchel is having a good time at Franco’s house where some of the wild moments involve Michael Cera doing cocaine and getting a blow-job. Once things start happening where people die and a sinkhole emerges in front of Franco’s house where chaos ensues and no one is sure what to make of it. With Baruchel thinking it’s the Apocalypse happening where Robinson would believe him, everyone else isn’t sure until all of the tension and such starts to emerge. Even as Baruchel is accused of being self-righteous and Rogen is accused of being a sell-out where Robinson is sort of the film’s conscience. All of which would play into these guys trying to survive the Apocalypse and face whatever is out there.
Rogen and Goldberg’s direction is very ambitious and lavish in terms of their idea of what might happen in the Apocalypse. Much of it involve some very hazy exterior scenes where it’s a world that is reminiscent of hell as the Hollywood Hills is being engulfed in flames while demons emerge wreaking havoc. The direction would feature some simple moments in the compositions as well as a lot of lively humor that is filled with spontaneity. Even as some of it is crass and confrontational where Rogen and Goldberg maintain that intimacy in Franco’s home as well as going very broad for many of the scenes set in Los Angeles. Even as it would involve these crazy moments while beams are shot up from the air taking people to somewhere unknown. Overall, Rogen and Goldberg create a very engaging and funny film about six friends trying to survive the Apocalypse.
Cinematographer Brandon Trost does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its use of yellow-lights and smoke to play into a look of ruin and terror for some of the film‘s exteriors and lights in the interior scenes. Editor Zene Baker does fantastic work with the editing where it plays into all sorts of styles including a few montages of the guys partying while creating home-made sequels to some of their films. Production designer Chris L. Spellman, with set decorator Helen Britten and art director William Ladd Skinner, does amazing work with the look of James Franco‘s house that includes some paintings and art work that surrounds the house to play into Franco‘s sense of arrogance.
Costume designer Danny Glicker does nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual to play into the personality of the characters involved in the film. Visual effects supervisor Paul Linden does brilliant work with some of the visual effects such as the exteriors of Los Angeles engulfed in flames as well as the look of the demons the characters have to deal with. Sound designer Michael Babcock does superb work with the sound from the way the monsters sound to some of the chaos that occurs in and out of the house The film’s music by Henry Jackman is wonderful for its suspenseful-based orchestral score to play into some of the terror in the film while music supervisor Jonathan Karp brings in a fun soundtrack that consists of music from Black Sabbath, Cypress Hill, M.I.A., Whitney Houston, the Backstreet Boys, Dr. Dre, Snoop Lion, and other acts to play into the party atmosphere of the film.
The casting by Francine Maisler is incredible for the array of people that appear in the film as themselves such as Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Rhianna, Martin Starr, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Aziz Ansari, and David Krumholtz as party guests. Michael Cera is hilarious as a very debauched version of himself doing cocaine, getting blow-jobs in bathrooms, and slapping Rhianna’s ass. Emma Watson is amazing as herself as she briefly appears in Franco’s house during the Apocalypse carrying an axe. Danny McBride is great as himself as he brings his Kenny Powers character to the mix as this overly-selfish and greedy person. Craig Robinson is excellent in a much more calm and softer version of himself as he sort of plays the film’s conscience.
Jonah Hill is superb as this overly-nice and sensitive version of himself as he wears an earring and wants to be peaceful yet secretly hates Jay for being self-righteous where he gets to be very funny later in the film. James Franco is fantastic as this even more smug version of himself who likes to keep his props while trying to maintain order only to create more tension in the group. Jay Baruchel is brilliant as the loner of the group who tries to make sense of everything while creating some misunderstanding during the chaos. Finally, there’s Seth Rogen in a terrific performance as a more subdued version of himself who is insecure about his man-titties while trying to include Jay into the gang though he is also trying to maintain his friendship with Franco.
This is the End is a flat-out hilarious apocalyptic comedy from Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. Thanks to a great cast, a unique premise, and a fun soundtrack, it’s a film that pokes fun of celebrity and the idea of how they would survive the Apocalypse. Even as they would turn against each other and do all sorts of crazy things in an event like this. In the end, This is the End is a remarkable film from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
© thevoid99 2014
Monday, February 24, 2014
Little Miss Sunshine
Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 9/4/06 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.
Directed by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris and written by Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine is the story of a family who go on a road trip to take their young daughter to a beauty pageant as it includes a drug-addicted grandfather, a suicidal gay uncle, and a son who hasn't spoken in months. The film is a unique road film of sorts that explores a family and their dysfunctions as they all deal with setbacks while getting a young girl to a beauty pageant in California. Starring Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, and Alan Arkin. Little Miss Sunshine is a phenomenal film from Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris.
The film is a simple story about a family from Albuquerque, New Mexico who go on a road trip to California that a young girl named Olive (Abigail Breslin) can compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Yet, not everyone is on board as Olive's father Richard (Greg Kinnear) is trying to score for a book deal for an idea he has as a motivational speaker. Adding to the chaos is Richard's stepson Dwayne (Paul Dano) who hasn't spoken in nine months in a vow of silence as he's obsessed with the work of Nietzsche while Richard's brother-in-law Frank (Steve Carell) is recovering from a suicide attempt due to a break-up with his boyfriend who left him for his rival. It would take Richard's wife Sheryl (Toni Collette) and Richard's father Edwin (Alan Arkin) to rally the family to go on this trip where a lot of major setbacks involving the family ensue. Much of it would play into the idea of failure that is prevalent around them where upon their arrival to California for Olive's pageant, some of the family fear that Olive will endure the same kind of humiliation and devastation they had been through.
Michael Ardnt's script takes it time to explore many of the dysfunction of the family as Edwin is a heroin addict who got kicked out of his retirement home as he would be the one teaching Olive how to dance for the upcoming pageant. Ardnt's approach to the script does have a lot of tropes and conventions that is expected in a road film but adds a lot of layers into the idea that a family might face failure and the whole trip would've been for nothing. Even as characters like Frank and Dwayne are individuals who are on the brink of depression as the latter is hoping to become a pilot by going into this act of silence. Adding to the tension is Richard as he has this theory about being a winner yet his thoughts would rub the family the wrong way as it would play into Olive's insecurities until her grandfather has this great monologue about what being a loser really means and says that Olive is none of those things because at least she's trying. Much of Richard's ideas would be ironic as he would put his own family finances and such into great danger as the third act is about Olive at the pageant. It's a moment in the film where it tests the sense of hopelessness of the family and what they might face as Olive is clearly the underdog against a bunch of young, sexualized girls in the pageant.
Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris help create that spontaneity of the road film by adding a lot of situations like a family pushing the van while running after it to get in or the repeated honks of it. They also give each character something to do while dealing with their own situations as when they together, it works. When it comes to the comedy, it's very natural and often deadpan from the likes of Carrell and Dano who play the more miserable personalities dealing with their own situations. Then when the third act comes for the world of young little beauty pageants. It shows a world that can be very discomforting, even with the recent event concerning the Jon Benet murder 10 years ago. Still, Dayton & Faris don't exactly make fun of it nor take it totally serious as they show what it is and how people react to it. Overall, they created a wonderfully funny, heartfelt film that brings in a lot of caring moments and huge laughs.
Helping out Dayton/Faris in their visual presentation is cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt whose color schemes of yellow highlight the American Southwest of its vast deserts while the interiors have some nice, grainy shades of blue as the film is wonderfully shot to convey the vastness of the road. Production designer Kalina Ivanov along with art director Alan E. Muraoka and set decorator Melissa M. Lavender do great job in capturing the realism of the dysfunctional family home while doing a great job on the design of the pageant in all of its cheesy glory. Costume designer Nancy Steiner does great work in presenting the bland clothing of the adults with the exception of Alan Arkin's character while giving Paul Dano some cool t-shirts to wear while the real standout in the clothing goes to Abigail Breslin from the headbands, the boots, and everything including her costume.
Editor Pamela Martin does some great work in the editing playing to the rhythm of a road film with some jump cuts and perspective cutting to convey what the characters feeling while giving time for a specific scene. Sound editor Stephen P. Robinson and mixer Steven Morrow also do great work in conveying the humor of the film, particularly the honking of the van-bus which makes everything funny. Composer Mychael Danna along with the group Devotchka create a whimsical, offbeat score that also includes music by Sulfjan Steven and some beauty pageant music that is cheesy with the exception of an 80s funk classic.
Finally, there's the film's great cast that includes some funny small performances from Geoff Meed as a biker, Dean Norris as a state trooper, Robert J. Connor as the pageant host, Mary Lynn Rajskub as a pageant official, Julio Oscar Mechoso as a mechanic, and the incomparable Beth Grant in a very funny performance as a pageant official. Other notable minor roles from Bryan Cranston as Richard's agent, Stan Grossman and Justin Shilton as Frank's ex-boyfriend Josh are excellent in their brief appearances to convey the problems for the respective characters of Richard and Frank.
Of the main cast, no one conveys the showiness of comedy better than Alan Arkin as the grandfather. Arkin brings all of the troubling and discomforting innuendos of a drug-addict grandfather who says all the wrong things that disturbs the family while being very supportive of Olive as he teaches her to dance as Arkin brings all the right humor. Paul Dano gives probably his best performance to date as the moody Dwayne where in the film's first half, Dano brings a lot of humor with the things he writes in a notepad while not saying anything. When Dano breaks down, he channels a lot of angst while he has great chemistry with Steve Carell.
Steve Carell proves his comedic genius by going into minimalism as he plays a moody, quiet suicidal professor who brings a lot of funny moments by doing so little and not saying much. Carell, like Bill Murray who was considered for the role, proves that showiness doesn't have to be the only way to be funny as Carell brings a lot of depth to a character who is going through a lot of troubles and frustration as its one of his best performances. Greg Kinnear also proves his brilliance as an actor in comedy and drama as a man filled with irony as someone who talks about winning but is really a total loser. Kinnear brings a lot of struggle and depth to a man who tries his best for his family but ends up saying the wrong things and tries to find ways to do right as Kinnear proves himself to be a very versatile actor.
If Dano and Carell brings misery, Arkin brings misogyny, and Kinnear brings a straightforwardness, Toni Collette is the glue that brings everyone together. The Australian actress who knows how to pull off an American accent is great as the maternal figure of the family who tries to get everyone back on their feet while dealing with frustration of their dysfunctions. Collette also shines in being the normal one of the family as she stands out with her comedic talents and drama as she brings out another great performance. If Collette is the glue that keeps the cast together, it's the young Abigail Breslin who is the heart of the movie. Breslin steals the show as the optimistic Olive whose chance to compete for a beauty pageant comes true. Breslin brings a lot of depth to a young girl wanting to have her family on her side despite their dysfunctions while dealing with her own physical features as it's the family that supports her. Breslin is the real breakthrough as she proves her worth in every scene, especially her dance in the competition as she knocks everyone dead.
Little Miss Sunshine is a phenomenal film from Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris as it features a great cast, an amazing script, and strong themes about family. It's a film that is very accessible to families while not being afraid to say crass language and such that is controversial. Yet, it plays true to what families go through and not matter the obstacles they face. They always come together to beat the odds. In the end, Little Miss Sunshine is a tremendous film from Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris.
Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris Films: Ruby Sparks - Battle of the Sexes (2017 film)
© thevoid99 2014
Sunday, February 23, 2014
2014 Blind Spot Series: Pandora's Box
Based on the Lulu plays by Frank Wedekind, Die Busche de Pandora (Pandora’s Box) is the story of a woman’s downward spiral as she went from being a vivacious and sexually provocative showgirl whose effects on man would have a devastating impact on those she encounters. Directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst and screenplay by Ladislaus Vajda, the film is a look into a woman whose innocent persona would lead her to trouble as well as a dark fate as the character of Lulu is played by Louise Brooks. Also starring Fritz Kortner, Francis Lederer, Carl Goetz, Krafft-Raschig, Alice Roberts, Daisy d’Ora, and Gustav Diessl. Die Busche de Pandora is an exquisite and enchanting film from G.W. Pabst.
The film is the story about a woman who is known for her entrancing sexuality and winning smile as she would fall from grace following a series of circumstances. Especially as she was a showgirl who is adored by patrons and stage directors yet is also the mistress of a revered middle-aged newspaper editor who is worried about his reputation. While she would charm her way to get what she wants, it would come at a terrible price as Lulu deals with not just her actions but the men she’s seduced and charmed as they would use her to great ruin. All of it is told in eight acts in the life of Lulu through Ladislaus Vajda’s screenplay as it explores Lulu’s rise as a woman who wears lavish clothes and lives a very posh lifestyle only to fall into places such as working in a ship and eventually become destitute.
While Lulu is a woman who dreams of having a great life where she can perform on stage and wear the finest clothes. She is also her own worst enemy as the men she seduces such as Dr. Ludwig Schon (Fritz Kortner) is a man troubled by his affair as he finds himself engaged to another woman (Daisy d’Ora) whose father is an Interior Minister for the German government. Lulu would seduce Dr. Schon into marrying her but it would be one of many things that would get her in trouble as Dr. Schon’s son Alwa (Francis Lederer) has fallen for her while she has a patron in Schigolch (Carl Goetz) and a stage director Rodrigo Quast (Krafft-Raschig) who would all use her. The only person that seems to admire her and not use her is a costume designer named Countess Augusta Geschwitz (Alice Roberts) as her admiration suggests some lesbian feelings between the two women.
G.W. Pabst’s direction is truly mesmerizing for the way he creates the shots and mood he sets in some of the moments in the film. Much of it would involve some beautiful close-ups to play into Lulu’s beauty as her smile is among one of these things that dazzles the film. It’s not just the way Pabst displays Lulu and her sexuality which is crucial to the story as it’s risqué but not overtly sexualized. He also sets an atmosphere that is very discomforting at times during the film’s fourth to sixth act where she meets a train passenger (Michael von Newlinsky) who would use her to work at an illegal gambling ship. It’s a moment that just doesn’t play into Lulu’s descent but also the air of suspense over the people that surrounds her as they all plot ways to betray her. The last two acts set in London play into that despair yet Pabst maintains that innocence in Lulu as she would unknowingly play to the fate that is set for her. Overall, Pabst crafts a very evocative film about a woman and her fall from grace.
Cinematographer Gunther Krampf does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to play with some of the film‘s lighting for many of the scenes set at night in its exterior and interior scenes along with dazzling looks for some of the daytime interior scenes. Editor Joseph Fleisler does superb work with the editing with its use of rhythmic cuts and fade-ins to play into the structure as well as the drama in the film. Art directors Andrej Andrejew and Gottlieb Hesch do fantastic work with the look of Dr. Schon’s home as well as the ship that Lulu would work at as well as the stage show held by Quast. The film’s music consists of many themes arranged and conducted by Gillian Anderson for the film’s 2006 reissue as it is largely classical with string arrangements and piano pieces all playing to themes written by the different composers in the film.
The film’s amazing cast include some notable small roles from Gustav Diessl as a man Lulu meets in the final act, Daisy d’Ora as an important woman Dr. Schon was supposed to marry, Sigfried Arno as a stage manager for the stage show early in the film, and Michael von Newlinsky as the very sly but greedy Marquis Casti-Piani. Krafft-Raschig is terrific as the stage director Rodrigo Quast who is eager to work with Lulu only to get greedy by the film’s second half. Alice Roberts is wonderful as the very androgynous costume designer Countess Augusta Geschwitz who definitely adores Lulu with very little interest towards men. Carl Goetz is excellent as Lulu’s old patron Schigolch as a man who hopes to get Lulu back on top yet conspires to do things that would play into the downfall of the characters in the film.
Francis Lederer is superb as Dr. Schon’s son Alwa as a man who is secretly in love with Lulu as he tries to write the best music for her play while dealing with the consequences of everything he had been through with her. Fritz Kortner is amazing as Dr. Ludwig Schon as a revered newspaper editor hoping to get himself up in the social game while having a very sick obsession towards Lulu. Finally, there’s Louise Brooks in a ravishing performance as Lulu as Brooks is really the star of the film with her bob haircut, her entrancing sensuality, and her winning charm as her smile is full of life while displaying a vulnerability and despair that adds to the weight of her character as it’s really an iconic performance.
Die Busche de Pandora is a remarkable film from G.W. Pabst that features a supremely delightful performance from Louise Brooks. Not only is the film one of the finest films of silent German cinema but also one that manages to not play by the rules. Especially in its approach to sexuality as it was quite risqué for its time yet also being playful. In the end, Die Busche de Pandora is a phenomenal film from G.W. Pabst.
G.W. Pabst Films: (The Treasure (1923 film)) – (Countess Donelli) – (Joyless Street) – (One Does Not Play with Love) – (The Love of Jeanne Ney) – (The Devious Path) – Diary of a Lost Girl - (The White Hell of Pitz Palu) – Westfront 1918 – (Scandalous Eva) – (The Threepenny Opera) – (Kameradschaft) – (L’Atlantide) – (Adventures of Don Quixote) – (High and Low (1933 film)) – (A Modern Hero) – (Street of Shadows) – (The Shanghai Drama) – (Girls in Distress) – (The Comedians) – (Paracelsus) – (Der Fall Molander) – (The Trial (1948 film)) – (Mysterious Shadows) – (Call Over the Air) – (Voice of Silence) – (Cose da pazzi) – (The Confession of Ina Kahr) – (The Last Ten Days) – (Jackboot Mutiny) – (Ballerina (1956 film)) – (Through the Forests and Through the Trees)
© thevoid99 2014
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Directed and edited by Jean Vigo, Taris, roi de l’eau (Jean Taris, Swimming Champion) is a 10-minute documentary exploring the life and accomplishments of Jean Taris. Told in a very stylized format that would re-define the ideas of cinema, the film wouldn’t just blur the ideas of documentary as it would be the second of the four films Vigo made in his brief lifetime. The result is an exhilarating film from Jean Vigo.
The film is essentially a portrait into the accomplishments of French swimming champion Jean Taris who tells his own story as well as how he swims. Much of it is presented in an array of visual styles with its use of close-ups, underwater shots, and all sorts of things to play up into his achievement as a swimming champion. Through Jean Vigo’s direction, the film creates many images that are just entrancing from the way Taris dives as well some slow-motion shots of him swimming on water as the beauty of the images is just understating it. With the help of cinematographers Boris Kaufman, G. Lafont, and Lucas Procede, the look of the film is grainy and shot in a ratio that is reminiscent of the newsreels.
With the sound work of Gaumont Petersen-Poulsen, the film maintains this idea of what it’s like to be in the water while Vigo incorporates footage of Taris’ swim meet that is inter-cut with him swimming in a different pool as if he’s racing. It’s all told in this style that is just engaging as the overall result is a truly enchanting film.
The 2-disc Region 1 DVD/1-disc Region A Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection set known as The Complete Jean Vigo presents the film in its original 1:19:1 aspect ratio which was the common form for newsreels with a new high-definition digital transfer and remastered Dolby Digital Mono sound. The film features a commentary track from Michael Temple who wrote a biography on Vigo in 2001. Temple’s commentary reveals that the film was made as a commission piece for the government where Vigo didn’t get final cut as some filmmakers from the production did get other filmmakers involved. While Vigo wasn’t pleased with the results, Temple did reveal that many of the visual techniques Vigo did present were considered innovative for the time including the use of slow-motion and other editing tricks as it’s a very enjoyable commentary.
Taris, roi de l’eau is an extraordinary film from Jean Vigo about Jean Taris. Filled with gorgeous images and unique editing tricks, the film is truly a work of art in the way it plays with the idea of a documentary film. In the end, Taris, roi de l’eau is a rapturous film from Jean Vigo.
Jean Vigo Films: A propos de Nice - Zero de Conduite - L’Atalante - The Auteurs #34: Jean Vigo
© thevoid99 2014
Friday, February 21, 2014
Short Term 12
Written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, Short Term 12 is the story about a young foster-care facility supervisor for young teens as she deals with her own issues in her life while becoming attached to a troubled young girl. The film explores the world of parentless children who are trying to find a family as it’s told from the perspective of a young woman who was also a foster child as she deals with the world that these young kids are going into. Starring Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Stephanie Beatriz, and Melora Walters. Short Term 12 is a touching yet powerful film from Destin Daniel Cretton.
The film is a simple story about a young woman who supervises a foster-care center for young kids as she deals with her own issues as well as a new arrival in a young girl whom she connects with. While she has a boyfriend who also works at the place as he does the same thing she does while showing a new employee how to do things. The two also deal with a kid who is about to turn 18 as he is reluctant to leave the facility as he becomes angrier. All of which plays into a woman trying to be there for these kids as they’ve been abused, abandoned, or somewhere where they don’t have a home to go to. All of which is largely told from the perspective of its protagonist Grace (Brie Larson) who knows what these kids go through as she and her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) both were raised in foster care.
Destin Daniel Cretton’s screenplay does contain a lot of dialogue including a few funny monologues that Mason has whenever he’s trying to prepare his new co-worker Nate (Rami Malek) about what to expect and how to connect with these kids. Especially as Nate has to be careful about what he says which would relate to the very moody Marcus (Keith Stanfield) who is set to leave but doesn’t want to. When Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) arrives as she is only supposed to stay briefly until her father can return from a business trip. Grace is connected to her as she learns about Jayden and her moodiness as Grace seems to know what Jayden is going through which relates to Grace’s own past which she is trying to not to reveal to anyone including Mason. It all plays to the drama as it starts off as something light-hearted with some heavy drama while the third act becomes more intense as it relates to Grace’s past as well as how much she cares for the kids.
Cretton’s direction is very simple in the way he presents the film as it’s mostly shot on location with a few sets in California. Much of it has Cretton going for a hand-held style which is very engaging as the film opens with Grace and Marcus running after a boy who constantly runs away only to get captured. Cretton does go for some unique framing devices in the way he maintains an intimacy between characters that includes some striking medium and wide shots. Even the use of close-ups are intriguing in the way Cretton tells the story as it all plays to the drama as well as the sense of restraint that Grace is holding on to as she eventually becomes ravaged by her past and her attempts to repress it. All of which play into the film’s third as the direction becomes more intense in the drama while not going overly sentimental or into very heavy melodrama. Overall, Cretton creates a very captivating and mesmerizing film about a young woman trying to help young foster-care kids deal with the world.
Cinematographer Brett Pawlak does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography in maintaining a very naturalistic look for many of the film‘s day interior and exterior scenes while using some lights for the film‘s nighttime interior and exterior scenes. Editor Nat Sanders does fantastic work with the editing where it is straightforward in some cases while has a flair of style in its use of jump-cuts, montages, and some slow-motion shots to play into some of the drama. Production designer Rachel Meyers and art director Grace Alie do amazing work with the look of the facility Grace and Mason work at with different decorations for the look of some of the kids who live at the place.
Costume designers Joy Cretton and Mirren Gordon-Crozier do wonderful work with the film‘s clothes where it‘s mostly casual to play into the world the characters live in. Sound designer Onalee Blank and co-sound editor Braden Spencer do superb work with the film‘s sound from the way things sound at the facility as well as some of the places outside of the facility. The film’s music by Joel P West is terrific as it’s mostly a mixture of indie-folk and ambient music to play into some of the drama that occurs in the film.
The casting by Kerry Barden, Rich Delia, and Paul Schnee is brilliant as it features some notable small roles from Diana-Maria Riva as a nurse Grace meets early in the film, Frantz Turner as Grace and Mason’s boss, Lydia Du Veaux as a young orphaned girl named Kendra, Alex Calloway as the boy Sammy who constantly runs away and likes to play with small dolls, Kevin Hernandez as the teenager Luis, Stephanie Beatriz as the supervisor Jessica, and Melora Walters as Grace’s therapist Dr. Hendler. Keith Stanfield is excellent as the 17-year old Marcus who is reluctantly to leave the facility as he starts to lash out. Rami Malek is terrific as the new facility worker Nate who is trying to learn how things work where he eventually connects with the kids through a very simple act.
Kaitlyn Dever is fantastic as the troubled teenage girl Jayden who didn’t want to go to the facility as she would act out and only express herself through her drawings where she would find someone to talk to in Grace. John Gallagher Jr. is superb as Mason as a fellow supervisor who always talk to the kids as he’s always got something funny to say as he is very close to Marcus whom he can be very trusting to. Finally, there’s Brie Larson in an absolutely phenomenal performance as Grace where Larson puts in a lot of energy as well as emotional weight to a young woman who understands these young kids as she can talk to them while dealing with her own issues as it’s really a total break-out performance for Larson.
Short Term 12 is a remarkable film from Destin Daniel Cretton that features a tremendous break-out performance from Brie Larson. Along with an excellent supporting cast and strong stories about taking of care of orphaned children. It’s a film that explores a world where children can confide in people who know what they’re going through as they reveal that some adults have a hard time figuring things out as well. In the end, Short Term 12 is a sensational film from Destin Daniel Cretton.
Destin Daniel Cretton Films: (I Am Not a Hipster) - (Glass Castle) - Just Mercy - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
© thevoid99 2014
Thursday, February 20, 2014
A propos de Nice
Directed and edited by Jean Vigo and Boris Kaufman and written by Vigo with photography by Kaufman, A propos de Nice is a silent documentary film that explores the social inequalities and daily routines of the people in the city of Nice in France. The film is a 24-minute short is the first of four films by Vigo who was widely considered to be one of the key figures of French cinema. The result is one of the most gorgeous films of the silent era that would redefine the idea of what documentary and film can be.
The film is about a day in the life of Nice in France where a lot goes on where the rich enjoy the beach as there’s parties and such. Yet, there’s also a side where the poor struggle to live day-by-day as it expresses the social inequality that is happening the city. All of which is told through images that are very striking by Jean Vigo and Boris Kaufman as the latter does the film’s black-and-white photography where he captures images where beauty just simply understates its description. Even in scenes where it is shot in the slums and factories in the city have this quality in the image that are just entrancing to look at. Throughout the film, there’s images of parades where women are dancing as Vigo and Kaufman shoot from below where they get a lot of good up skirt shots.
One aspect of the film that is unique is the editing as it’s very stylized that includes matching dissolves of a man watching a woman sitting on a chair looking at the beach as she wears different clothes and then appears naked. It’s part of the world that Vigo and Kaufman wants to create where it has this element of fantasy of a world where there’s a lot happening but the rich and privileged seem oblivious or indifferent to what’s going on in the streets away from the beaches and dancehalls. Even as the direction has images and compositions that are offbeat with shots of the city from above or the camera being somewhat slanted to convey that sense of style and beauty of the city itself. Adding to the film’s unique tone is Marc Perrone’s score from its 2001 reissue as it’s playful at times but also somber as it’s largely dominated by an accordion and an organ.
The 2011 2-disc Region 1 DVD/1-disc Region A Blu-Ray of a collection of Vigo’s films called The Complete Jean Vigo features A propos de Nice is a new high-definition digital transfer that was restored for the collection in its original 1:33:1 full-frame theatrical aspect ratio. The special features for the film includes an audio commentary track from author Michael Temple who wrote a book on Vigo. Temple’s commentary talks about the film and Jean Vigo as well as parts of his life. Even as he briefly appears in his own film which Vigo did for fun in his partnership with Boris Kaufman at the time. Notably as Temple talks about Vigo’s politics and the things he wanted to say with his first film as it’s a very fascinating commentary. The 22-minute alternate edited version of the film by Vigo is essentially a version that features a few extended sequences as well as some extra shots of the beach and the city though it doesn’t feature any music.
A propos de Nice is a majestic film from Jean Vigo & Boris Kaufman. The film is a unique interpretation of what would become the documentary as well as a film filled with dazzling images that blurs the line between reality and fiction. Especially for the way it deals with social inequality and life in the city of Nice. In the end, A propos de Nice is a sensational film from Jean Vigo and Boris Kaufman.
Jean Vigo Films: Taris - Zero de Conduite - L’Atalante - The Auteurs #34: Jean Vigo
© thevoid99 2014
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The Brothers Grimm
Directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Ehren Kruger with rewrites by Gilliam and Tony Grisoni, The Brothers Grimm is the story of how the two men who would create fairy tales when their work as con-artists have them encountering with a real-life fairy tale curse. The film is a fictional portrait of Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm with some exaggerations as they’re played respectively by Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. Also starring Lena Headey, Jonathan Pryce, Peter Stormare, and Monica Bellucci. The Brothers Grimm is an enjoyable yet messy film from Terry Gilliam.
Set in the early 19th Century in French-occupied Germany, the film is about the Brothers Grimm who are tasked to take on an ancient curse that has captured young girls in a small German town despite the fact that they’re really con-artists doing tricks for money. It’s a film that is largely fictional and exaggerated in how Wilhem and Jakob Grimm came up with the many stories that would be told for ages. Especially as it showcases these two different personalities with Wilhem being the more selfish and realistic of the brothers and Jakob as the more imaginative and helpful. Due to their antics, they reluctantly team up with the Italian torturer Mercurio Cavaldi (Peter Stormare) to deal with this curse as they also get help from the huntress Angelika (Lena Headey) whose sisters had also disappeared. Yet, what they deal with is something much more troubling as it relates to an ancient story about a queen (Monica Bellucci) whose beauty was ravaged by the plague as she seeks the blood of 12 girls to reclaim her beauty.
The film’s screenplay does have an interesting concept, along with references to the stories of the Brothers Grimm, but it’s often bogged down by lots of exposition about the ancient curse and all sorts of things that makes the story very messy. Especially in tone where it wants to be a fantasy film with humor and action but never finds a way to really mesh itself. Though it’s clear that Terry Gilliam and Tony Grisoni try to improve Ehren Kruger’s script by meshing these genres. The emphasis on exposition is a major flaw in the script though the characterization of the Brothers Grimm, Angelika, and Cavaldi do manage to make things work. Even as Cavaldi is an antagonist working for the French yet becomes fully aware that the forces that he, the Brothers Grimm, and Angelika are facing is much more troubling.
Gilliam’s direction is definitely lavish in terms of the set pieces that he creates as well as the sense of style in the compositions he creates. Notably as he manages to create some unique shots to play into the world of the Brothers Grimm as much of the production is set in the Czech Republic as 19th Century Germany. Many of the scenes that Gilliam creates is definitely playful and offbeat such as the torture room and castle that Cavaldi’s superior in General Vavarin Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce) lives in to the tower where the aging queen lives. Gilliam does infuse a lot of humor into the action along with some sequences that require some visual effects to play into that world of fantasy though not every moment with visual effects work. Still, there’s a messiness that occurs in the film as it plays to its climax where the Brothers Grimm face off against the queen which has some good moments but also some not-so-good moments. Overall, Gilliam creates a pretty enjoyable film despite some of the issues with its script and its emphasis on exposition.
Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, with additional work from Nicola Percorini, does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its use of yellowish lighting for some of the film‘s exteriors with some blue for some scenes at night while putting on some displays of lighting for many of the film‘s interior scenes. Editor Lesley Walker does nice work with the editing where it does emphasize a lot on style with some rhythmic cutting for the film‘s action and humor as well as in its suspenseful moments. Production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, with set decorator Judy Farr and supervising art director Keith Pain, does fantastic work with the set pieces from the look of the tower and castles as well as the village the Brothers Grimm go to. Costume designers Gabriella Pescucci and Carlo Poggioli do brilliant work with the costumes from the uniforms that Cavaldi and General Delatombe wears to the lavish dress the queen wears.
Makeup designer Christine Beveridge and hair designer Vera Mitchell do superb work with the makeup and hair design in the look of the queen as an aging crone to what she would look like in her prime. Visual effects supervisor Kent Houston does some good work with the visual effects from the look of the moving trees and other strange creatures though some of it is a bit wobbly at times. Sound editor Ian Wilson does terrific work with the sound to create some sound effects and such to play into the world of fantasy the characters encounter. The film’s music by Dario Marianelli is wonderful as it is largely orchestral in its playful arrangements with some moments of suspense as well as being more brass-based to play into the period of the times.
The casting by Irene Lamb is amazing as it features some notable small performances from Roger Ashton-Griffiths as a town mayor duped by the brothers, Mackenzie Crook and Richard Ridings as sidekicks of the brothers who aid them in their schemes, Tomas Hanak as Angelika’s father who told her the story about the queen, and Monica Bellucci in a terrific performance as the mysterious mirror queen. Jonathan Pryce is excellent as the very cruel General Delatombe who forces the Brothers Grimm to deal with the incident over disappearing girls or else he will have them executed. Peter Stormare is superb as Mercurio Cavaldi as a torturer who watches over the Brothers Grimm in their activities while realizing that something isn’t right as he also deals with General Delatombe’s cruelty towards him.
Lena Headey is brilliant as Angelika as a huntress who is considered a pariah in her village as she reluctantly helps out the Brothers Grimm as she wants to find her sisters who had disappeared while realizing that the story her father told is actually real. Finally, there’s Matt Damon and Heath Ledger in delightful performances in their respective roles as Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm where the two bring a lot of energy and determination to their role. Damon is the funnier of the two as he’s always got some funny things to say while being very bossy while Ledger is more reserved while yearning for some moment of fantasy as he’s constantly writing ideas that would become basis for the stories he and his brother would create. Damon and Ledger have great rapport together which does liven things up in the film as they’re major highlights of the film.
While it is a flawed film, The Brothers Grimm is still a pretty good film from Terry Gilliam. Thanks to its cast led by Matt Damon, the late Heath Ledger, Lena Headey, and Peter Stormare as well as wonderful references to the stories of the Brothers Grimm. It’s a film that is entertaining though very messy considering what Terry Gilliam had to deal with due to the constant interference from the Weinstein brothers. In the end, The Brothers Grimm is a terrific film from Terry Gilliam.
Terry Gilliam Films: Jabberwocky - Time Bandits - Brazil - The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - The Fisher King - 12 Monkeys - Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas - Tideland - The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - The Zero Theorem - The Auteurs #38: Terry Gilliam
© thevoid99 2014
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 6/7/07 w/ Additional Edits.
Based on the Greek tale Orpheus & Eurydice, Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) is a modern-day version of that greek story about an ill-fated love affair between a trolley-car conductor/samba dancer and a young woman in late 1950s Brazil during Carnival. Directed by Marcel Camus and screenplay by Camus, Jacques Viot, and Vinicus de Moraes that is based on de Moraes' play Orfeu do Carnaval, the film is a vibrant re-telling of the Greek tragedy filled with bossa nova and samba music as the result is a spectacular film from Marcel Camus.
It's the time of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro as a young woman named Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn) arrives. Accompanied by a crowd of people in shops and such, Eurydice finds herself inside a trolley-car as it is run by a man named Orpheus (Breno Mello). After taking everyone to their stops, Orpheus finishes his shift as Eurydice wonders on how to get to the hills. With help from Orpheus' boss Hermes (Alexandro Constantino), she takes his directions in order, to meet her cousin Serafina (Lea Garcia). Orpheus meanwhile, meets his possessive fiance` Mira (Lourdes de Oliveira) to get ready for their upcoming wedding as well as Carnival where she's the leading lady in the parade float that he's organizing. During a meeting with a clerk for a marriage license, the clerk notices Orpheus' name and mentions the Greek mythology of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Eurydice finally meets Serafina, who is surprised to see that Eurydice has arrived. Eurydice claims that someone is after her which is why she wants to hide in Rio. Serafina is also getting ready for Carnival as she is a friend of Orpheus where he learns that her cousin's name is Eurydice. Hoping to avoid Mira, Orpheus spends time with Eurydice and Serafina while taking two young boys named Benedito (Jorge De Santos) and Zeca (Aurino Cassiano) who learned that Orpheus has his guitar back from the pawn shop. Orpheus claims that whenever he plays guitar late at night, the sun will rise. During the night when rehearsal for the Carnival as Eurydice reluctantly gets involved much to the anger of Mira. Then all of a sudden, a man dressed in a skeleton (Ademar Da Silva) costume claiming to be Death stalks Mira as Orpheus tries to help her.
Spooked by Death, Eurydice is suddenly comforted by Orpheus as an attraction develops with Serafina's boyfriend Chico (Waldemar De Souza) arriving later on. Love blossoms as Orpheus continues to avoid Mira whom eventually learns that Orpheus is falling for Eurydice. With final preparations for the Carnival, things get underway as Mira's jealousy nearly undermines it. With Eurydice wearing Serafina's costume in disguise, Orpheus and Serafina knows who’s in it as suspicion arrives for both Mira and Death. Eventually, trouble brews as Death knows what's going on. With Orpheus trying to help Eurydice, he eventually goes into an eerie journey where he meets a janitor in an abandoned building and later a voodoo ritual as Orpheus ponders his own fate and love for Eurydice.
While it's based on the Greek mythology, director and co-writer Marcel Camus's modern re-telling doesn't fall into the cliches of most modern-day adaptations. Instead, he goes for a different location, take the story, and even reference the mythology to move the story forward. The result is a wonderful love story that features the same tragic consequences like the protagonists in the original story deal with.
A major difference is in the film's time period as well as the events of Carnival. Carnival represents an event filled with life and celebration. Amidst these joyous moments, there's chaos due to the hands of Mira and Death. The character of Death is interesting since he doesn't say anything but rather wears a costume, in which the audience knows what he represents. When he's around, it's obvious something is going to happen.
The structure of the script is excellent in how the love story is built in the first and second act. By the third act when Orpheus goes into this strange journey to find out what happened to Eurydice. It's very strange yet is very faithful to the original mythology. While the film's ending confirms what happens in faithfulness to the original ending of the mythology. The aftermath that includes a shot of Benedito playing guitar and Zeca sitting beside him as a little girl dance. There, the mood of the film's ending shifts to something more hopeful.
It's Camus' wonderfully energetic direction that really captures what is Brazil. Even the compositions he creates on those mountains are just breathtaking. Camus' direction also shows the differences of cultures in Rio de Janeiro where from the merchant lot where Eurydice arrives to the actual city and the hills show a vast difference of culture and what was going on in Brazil at that time. There's a lot that Camus captures yet he does it with a lot of energy and color where the spirit of Carnival is evident throughout the film.
Cinematographer Jean Bourgoin's exquisite photography captures the vast beauty that is Rio from the mountain shots overlooking the city to the sunrise/sunset shots in a few sequences. Bourgoin's photography is one of the film's real highlights for its colorful photography that captures the spirit of Carnival. Production designer Pierre Guffroy does wonderful work in creating the float of the Carnival and costumes that plays an important part of the film. Editor Andree Feix does some excellent work in the editing to capture the energy of Carnival as well as the chaos that goes on in the film's second half. Sound editor Raymond Pierre Lemoigne does excellent work in the film's sound to convey the atmosphere of Carnival as well as the chaos in the film's harrowing third act.
The film's music is a real important part of the film and it's captured in great form by Luiz Bonfa and bossa nova legend Antonio Carlos Jobim. Whenever the music is on, the film just raises up any scene as the energy of the music with its percussions and everything else just captures the spirit. Even some of the guitar music that is played is wonderfully plaintive while being a nice reference to the film's original mythology. Overall, the film's soundtrack and music is really the heart of the film.
The film's cast is great with the use of amateur actors to give natural yet realistic performances. Along with a cameo by Marcel Camus, the notable minor performances from Waldemar De Souza as Chico, Ademar Da Silva as Death, Alexandro Constantino as Hermes, and the two little boys played by Jorge De Santos and Aurino Cassiano. Those small roles are very memorable as they each play an important part of the story.
Lourdes de Oliveira is excellent as the domineering, jealous Mira who definitely acts like an overbearing, superficial diva. Lea Garcia is great as the sweet, maternal Serafina who is really the one person who sees what good comes out of the relationship between Eurydice and Orpheus. American actress Marpessa Dawn is wonderful as the sweet, shy Eurydice who is spooked by Death as she finds love and joy through Orpheus. Breno Mello is amazing as the joyous Orpheus who finds true love only to become a more desperate, troubled person towards the end of the film as he is forced to believe about his own tragic consequences.
Orfeu Negro is a phenomenal film from Marcel Camus. Armed with a great cast, beautiful locations, and a magnificent music soundtrack. The film is truly one of the most majestic and sensational adaptations of Greek folklore as well as one of the definitive foreign films of the 20th Century. In the end, Orfeu Negro is a dazzling yet enchanting film from Marcel Camus.
© thevoid99 2014
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