Monday, March 31, 2014

The Films That I Saw: March 2014

The 2014 film season has begun and already, there’s three feature films in my list as it’s already a pretty good year. Yet, it’s also a bit tiring at times as there’s days where I don’t want to watch anything. I just want to turn my brain off for a bit and chill. Lately, I decided to watch old episodes of Beavis & Butt-Head as it was show that I loved watching in the 90s and it was the show that introduced me to Nine Inch Nails. I’ve only seen 2 minutes of the new series and it fucking sucks. It’s just not the same show and a further indication that MTV should just fucking die. After all, I need something to cool out after watching a bunch of high-brow movies.

In the month of March, I saw a total of 39 films, 25 first-timers and 14 re-watches. Three of the re-watches were WWE WrestleManias. A definite improvement over last month as the highlight of the month was easily my Blind Spot assignment in A Room with a View. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for March of 2013:

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

2. Two English Girls

3. Through a Glass Darkly

4. Howards End

5. Erin Brockovich

6. Maurice

7. Sound of My Voice

8. Dark Habits

9. The Wind Rises

10. Noah

Monthly-Mini Reviews

Now You See Me

I thought this was an alright film. I liked the twist and turns it took as well as the cast. I’m not high on Louis Letterier’s work as a filmmaker but this was still quite entertaining. Especially in its idea of magic and how Morgan Freeman tries to expose the Four Horsemen magic team with the help of Michael Caine and Mark Ruffalo but ends up going wrong. It’s also pretty funny at times.

John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown

I’m a big John Leguizamo fan as I love his work on the stage as this one is definitely one of his best. Notably in how he discusses his acting career and the struggles he had with himself over his plays and all sorts of things. Some of the funniest moments involves the films he did like Casualties of War, Carlito’s Way, and most of all, Executive Decision where he takes a massive shit at Steven Seagal. Yes, Seagal runs like a bitch. Plus, he also talked about his short-lived TV show House of Buggin’ that I did see when it was on TV. I still love it.

Grown Ups 2

Why? Why do I put myself into watching bad movies? I do have this sick perversion of torturing myself in watching bad movies just to see how much I can take it. This however, was far worse than that. In fact, it’s not a bad movie. It’s insulting to call it a film or a movie because it’s really trash at its lowest form. Not once did I laugh but instead, I found myself to be very offended by watching this as it had no sense of entertainment value. It had nothing profound to say. It wasn’t even trying to be anything as all it was essentially is this. OK, let’s have a deer urinating on Adam Sandler and Salma Hayek. Let’s have Kevin James burp, sneeze, and fart continuously. Let’s have David Spade inside a monster truck tire where it roams around the street where he vomits. Let’s have Shaquille O’Neal and Stone Cold Steve Austin act like morons. Let’s have women degrade themselves in every sense of the word. If that’s Adam Sandler’s idea of entertainment. Then I hope he fucking rots in hell as I felt like I died from watching this piece of shit.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Trois Couleurs: Blanc

2. The Godfather

3. The Princess Bride

4. Stripes

5. The Fifth Element

6. Big

7. Walk the Line

8. Night Shift

9. Nine Months

10. Roll Bounce

Well, that’s all for March. In theatrical releases, the new Captain America along with Transcendence will be in line along with some art-house films like Enemy, The Raid 2, and Under the Skin. Another new release I hope to watch though I want to watch its extended cut is Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac as it was the #1 film I wanted to see last year. Also slated for next month are a few films by the Merchant-Ivory team and Francois Truffaut plus films by Steven Soderbergh, Michael Cimino, and other filmmakers that I plan to profile in the Auteurs series for the year as April’s profile will be on Francois Ozon. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off and getting ready for the dreaded period that is pollen season.

© thevoid99 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Noah (2014 film)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky and written by Aronofsky and Ari Handel, Noah is a dramatic re-telling of Noah’s Ark in which Noah sees an apocalyptic vision as he decides to build an ark with his family before a great flood emerges. The film is a grand vision of the Noah’s Ark story where it plays into a man trying to save his family and animals from a world that is being ravaged by terror and the fault of mankind. Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, Ray Winstone, and Anthony Hopkins. Noah is an extravagant yet intense film from Darren Aronofsky.

The story of Noah and his ark is a story that’s been told for ages as this film is a dramatic interpretation of that story where Noah (Russell Crowe) builds an ark to save his family and animals. Yet, it’s a film that explores a world where humanity has taken advantage of the world they live in as Noah and his family try to live in peace until Noah sees a vision of a world where humanity is wiped out. Once Noah builds his ark with his family and a small group of fallen angels who became stone-like creatures called the Watchers. Noah has to contend with the presence of Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) who only sees the cruelty of the Creator as he would try to sway Noah’s young son Ham (Logan Lerman) into giving in towards temptation. What Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel do is tell the story in a dramatic form while playing into the myth of Noah and where he’s descended from.

The film begins with a story of Adam and Eve and the three sons they created in Cain, Abel, and Seth. Tubal-cain is a descendant of Cain while Noah is a descendant of Seth as the latter would seek guidance from his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) who would also help the rest of his family. While the screenplay does take some liberties into the story where it would only focus on Noah, his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), their three sons, and adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson). It would play into the internal struggles that Noah deals with as he becomes confused about whether to save the rest of humanity as those he had encountered including Tubal-cain are filled with sin and temptation that had destroyed the world and ravaged the things that the Creator has made.

Aronofsky’s direction is truly vast in not just its scope but also in the way he presents the world that is coming apart by temptation and cruelty where only Noah and his family are the few who have been good towards the Earth and its surroundings. With much of the location set in Iceland with scenes of the ark construction set in upstate New York, Aronofsky goes for something that could’ve been set anywhere in the world while he does utilize visual effects for some dazzling sequences where Noah plants a seed where trees are created for the wood he needed for the ark. Much of the direction has Aronofsky go for a lot of spectacular wide shots and massive scenes involving crowds and such to play into the dark world that Noah needed to protect his family from.

The direction also includes scenes where it is set on the ark as Aronofsky wanted the ark to look as realistic as possible where it’s a place where animals and plants can be salvaged while Noah’s family can be safe and look for some message of hope after the rain dies down. Yet, there’s also a sense of tension that occurs over Noah’s sense of hopelessness and doubt as the element of suspense and drama is raised where Naameh and Ila become much more prominent in trying to get Noah to see reason. Especially when he completes his task and deals with what was gained and what got lost. Overall, Aronofsky creates a very compelling yet glorious film about the story of Noah and his ark.

Cinematographer Matthew Libatique does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its use of natural lights for some of the exteriors with some usage of grey in the rainy scenes along with some low-key lighting schemes and sepia tones for the scenes inside the ark. Editor Andrew Weisblum does incredible work with the editing with its use of montages, jump-cuts, and other stylistic cuts to play into the suspense and drama that occurs in the film. Production designer Mark Friedberg, with supervising art director Dan Webster and set decorators Nicholas DiBlasio and Debra Schutt, does amazing work with the set pieces from the design of the ark in its interior and exteriors to the tents that Noah and his family lived in.

Costume designer Michael Wilkinson does nice work with the costumes as it plays the ragged look of the characters as it plays into a world that is in its infancy. Visual effects supervisors Ben Snow and Joe Takai do terrific work with the visual effects for the look of the flood and the design of the creatures and Watchers though some of it does look a bit wobbly at times. Sound editor Craig Henighan does superb work with the sound from the way some of the action in the locations sound to the sounds of people screaming during the flood where Noah and his family are listening from inside. The film’s music by Clint Mansell is fantastic for its bombastic orchestral score and serene pieces to play into the drama and sense of adventure as the soundtrack includes performances by the Kronos Quartet and a closing song sung by Patti Smith.

The casting by Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu is great as it features voice work from Mark Margolis and Kevin Durand as a couple of Watchers, Nick Nolte as the leader of the Watchers, and Frank Langella as the voice of a Watcher who immediately recognizes Noah as a human to trust. Other notable small roles include Gavin Casalegno, Nolan Goss, and Skylar Burke in their respective roles as the younger versions of Shem, Ham, and Ila along with appearances from Marton Csokas as Noah’s father Lamech, Madison Davenport as a refugee that Ham meets, and Dakota Goyo as the young Noah. Anthony Hopkins is superb as Noah’s grandfather Methuselah as a man who often gives Noah and his family some guidance while providing some bits of humor in his craving for berries. Leo McHugh Caroll is terrific as Noah and Naameh’s young son Japheth who watches over the birds he cares for.

Douglas Booth is excellent as Noah’s eldest son Shem who tries to deal with his love for Ila and watch over the family whenever Noah does other things. Logan Lerman is fantastic as Noah’s middle son Ham who becomes lost in the idea of being alone after the flood as he becomes tempted by Tubal-cain about the realities of humanity. Ray Winstone is amazing as the very cunning Tubal-cain as a man who tries to talk to the Creator as he deals with the chaos and despair of the world where he goes after Noah and later manipulates Ham. Emma Watson is brilliant as Noah’s adopted daughter Ila as a young woman who deals with the fact that she can’t have a child as she also would later cope with some of the decisions Noah would make.

Jennifer Connelly is remarkable as Naameh as the wife of Noah who is also the voice of reason as someone who tries to get Noah to look closer at his surroundings as she knows what he’s dealing with as she also thinks about her family and their future. Finally, there’s Russell Crowe in a marvelous performance as the titular character as a man who realizes what is going to happen as he tries to salvage all that is good in the world while becoming lost over his task and what it all means as it’s a performance that has Crowe being tough but also display a sensitivity that doesn’t get seen much from him.

Noah is a phenomenal film from Darren Aronofsky that features amazing performances from Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, and Ray Winstone. While it does have a few flaws, it is still an engrossing story that manages to bring a lot of humanity and stakes into a story that’s been told so many times. Especially as Aronofsky infuses it with a lot of visual spectacles and ideas that will captivate a wide audience as well as bring something to religious audiences. In the end, Noah is an incredible film from Darren Aronofsky.

Darren Aronofsky Films: Pi - Requiem for a Dream - The Fountain - The Wrestler - Black Swan - mother! - The Auteurs #2: Darren Aronofsky

© thevoid99 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Maurice (1987 film)

Based on the novel by E.M. Forster, Maurice is the story about a homosexual relationship in the 20th Century set in a university in Britain. Directed by James Ivory and screenplay by Ivory and Kit-Hesketh-Harvey, the film is an exploration into the world of homosexuality in early 20th Century Britain where two men try to deal with it in a time when homosexuality was taboo. Starring James Wilby, Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves, Denholm Elliott, Simon Callow, Billie Whitelaw, and Ben Kingsley. Maurice is a touching and mesmerizing film from James Ivory.

Set in the early 20th Century at a university in Cambridge, the film is an exploration into the world of homosexuality in those times as two men fall in love with each other while keeping the relationship a secret. While the two men would play very close friends around their respective families, things would become complicated when a friend is arrested for his homosexuality as their friendship and romance would start to fall apart as the two diverge into different directions. It’s a film that plays into a world where homosexuality was taboo and also considered to be obscene as it is largely set in this Edwardian-period where two men from different class backgrounds have to play into the rules of society in order to get ahead.

The film’s screenplay has a very unique structure where the first half of the film is set in Cambridge where the titular character (James Wilby) meets and falls for the more upper-class Clive (Hugh Grant) as they have this very secretive yet platonic relationship. The second half is set a few years later where Maurice and Clive are in two different worlds of their lives where the former tries to deal with his homosexuality as well as feelings for the latter’s young gamekeeper Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves). Add some very stylized dialogue that plays with the period of the times as well as the world of upper-class aristocracy, there’s a story that plays into some aspect of emotional repression as well as the desire to fit in with the confines of a society that is in a new century but with some old rules intact.

James Ivory’s direction is very simple and understated in the way he presents early 20th Century Britain where much of the film’s first half is shot on location in Cambridge with the second half shot in Wilbury Park. Much of it involves some close-ups and medium-shots along with a few wide shots where Ivory create some dazzling compositions while play into a certain rhythm and tone to that pre-World War I period in Britain. Most notably in its pacing where for a film that’s nearly two-and-a-half hours, Ivory makes it feel a bit shorter in the way he conveys much of the drama as well as some suspenseful moments over the way Maurice deals with his feelings for Clive and later Alec. Even as Maurice would go to all sorts of help where an unconventional American doctor in Lasker-Jones (Ben Kingsley) would offer various suggestions over what he should do. Overall, Ivory crafts a very captivating film about homosexuality in early 20th Century Britain.

Cinematographer Pierre Lhomme does excellent work with the film‘s lush photography from its use of natural light for its exterior scenes as well for some low-key lighting schemes for the interior and nighttime exterior scenes. Editor Katherine Wenning does brilliant work with the editing in creating something that is straightforward in some cases but also with a flair of style that includes a very rich dream sequence. Production designer Brian Ackland-Snow, with art directors Peter James and Brian Savegar, does splendid work with the set pieces from the look of the different homes of Maurice and Clive as well as some of the places they go to during that Edwardian period.

Costume designers Jenny Beaven and John Bright do fantastic work with the costumes from the clothes the men wear to the lavish dresses the women wear. The sound work of Mike Shoring is superb for its intimate approach to sound in the way dinners are conducted to some of the outdoor activities that Maurice and Clive do. The film’s music by Richard Robbins is amazing for its low-key yet elegant orchestral score that has some moments of suspense but also some serene moments in its drama and humorous moments.

The casting by Celestia Fox is phenomenal for the ensemble that is created as it includes a cameo appearance from Helena Bohnam Carter as a guest watching a cricket game as well as notable small performances from Peter Eyre as the very nosy Reverend Borenius, Kitty Aldridge and Helena Michell in their respective roles as Maurice’s sisters Kitty and Ada, Catherine Rabett as Clive’s sister Pippa, Patrick Godfrey as Clive’s family butler Simcox, Barry Foster as Clive and Maurice’s college dean who is bewildered by their behaviors, Mark Tandy as a fellow classmate of the two in Lord Risley, and Phoebe Nicholls in a wonderful performance as Clive’s na├»ve yet well-meaning wife Anne whom Maurice likes. Denholm Elliott is terrific as Maurice’s family doctor Barry who tries to deal with what Maurice is going through as well as a sublime performance from Simon Callow as Maurice’s old schoolteacher Mr. Ducie who only appears briefly in the film where he would tell a young Maurice about what to expect in puberty.

Billie Whitelaw and Judy Parfitt are superb in their respective roles as Maurice and Clive’s mothers who both bring their own opinions over their friendship while being unaware of the secret relationship they have. Ben Kingsley is great as the very unconventional Lasker-Jones who examines Maurice when he knows what Maurice is and offers him some very insightful advice. Rupert Graves is excellent as the young gamekeeper Alec Scudder who knows what Maurice is as he tries to prompt him into being in a relationship despite the rules of society. Hugh Grant is marvelous as Clive as this upper-class man who falls for Maurice as he tries to prompt to go into a relationship until circumstances forces him to play by the rules of society. Finally, there’s James Wilby in a fantastic performance as the titular character as a man trying to find himself in this new world while dealing with his own feelings in an attempt to fit in as well as becoming lost in his repression.

Maurice is an exquisite yet compelling film from James Ivory and the Merchant-Ivory team. With a great cast and some amazing technical work, it’s a film that showcases how a period film can do so much more than just be a film with window-dressing and such. Especially in how it tackles the world of homosexuality in pre-World War I Britain where the risks of exposing something like that was very severe. In the end, Maurice is an incredible film from James Ivory.

James Ivory Films: The Householder - (The Dehli Way) - Shakespeare Wallah - (The Guru) - Bombay Talkie - (Adventures of a Brown Man in Search of Civilization) - (Savages (1972 film)) - (Autobiography of a Princess) - (The Wild Party) - (Roseland) - (Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie’s Pictures) - (The Five Forty-Eight) - (The Europeans) - (Jane Austen in Manhattan) - (Quartet (1981 film)) - (Heat and Dust) - (The Bostonians) - A Room With a View - (Slaves of New York) - (Mr. & Mrs. Bridges) - Howards End - The Remains of the Day - (Jefferson in Paris) - (Surviving Picasso) - (A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries) - (The Golden Bowl) - (Le Divorce) - (The White Countess) - (The City of Your Final Destination)

© thevoid99 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

The East (2013 film)

Directed by Zal Batmanglij and written by Batmanglij and Brit Marling, The East is the story about a young woman hired by a private intelligence firm to infiltrate a group of underground eco-terrorists. The film is an exploration into the world of anarchists where a young woman tries to see what they’re about and whether they’re doing something that is very noble. Starring Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, and Patricia Clarkson. The East is a chilling yet gripping film from Zal Batmanglij.

The film is a suspense-thriller where a young woman who works for this private intelligence firm is hired to infiltrate an underground eco-terrorist group that has been attacking many corporations who have been known for their corruption. Upon infiltrating this group known as the East, Jane (Brit Marling) finds herself drawn to their cause as she realizes that their intention is to hurt these leaders and face the consequences of their actions. For Jane in her Sarah alias, she falls for the leader Benji (Alexander Skarsgard) as she learns more about his background as well as his associates in Izzy (Ellen Page) and Doc (Toby Kebbell). Particularly their motivations into being part of this group as Jane would report everything to her supervisor Sharon (Patricia Clarkson) but find herself in conflict with everything else she’s doing.

The film’s screenplay not only explores the conflicts that Jane/Sarah would deal with but also the sense of danger she is going into as she knows she’s getting too close to targeting Benji and the East. Yet, she realizes that the people they’re after are individuals who are responsible for ecological disasters that have killed or harmed innocent people through chemicals and such. Especially as Benji, Izzy, and Doc have been affected in some way over what has happened by these corporations as Jane becomes confused in helping them or helping Sharon who knows exactly what Jane is going through which adds an ambiguity to her character as she isn’t presented as a typical antagonist.

Zal Batmanglij’s direction is quite entrancing in the way he presents some of the attacks the East does where it’s very underground and secretive though their intention is to never kill anyone but rather hurt them. Much of the direction involve some hand-held shots as well as scenes where it adds to some of the elements of suspense where it’s shot around Shreveport, Louisiana to play into a world that is low-key but also has cities and such where Jane can go back to. Some of the compositions involve close-ups and medium shots where Batmanglij plays into the drama and suspense that includes a chilling moment in the film’s second act which involves Izzy and her motivations as it becomes a key turning point for Jane possibly wanting to help the East more. Overall, Batmanglij creates a very compelling and intoxicating film about an undercover agent who goes into deep into the world of an underground eco-terrorist group.

Cinematographer Roman Vasynov does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of low-key lights for some of the scenes at night to some of the more natural setting in some of the forest scenes that is contrast to the lighting in the building that Jane works at. Editors Andrew Weisblum and Bill Pankow do amazing work with the editing with its usage of montages for the film‘s opening sequence to other array of stylish cuts to play into the film‘s suspense and drama. Production designer Alex DiGerlando, with set decorator Cynthia Slagter and art director Nikki Black, does superb work with the set pieces from the ruined house the East lives in to the more polished office and homes that Jane lives in when she‘s not undercover.

Costume designer Jenny Gering does nice work with the costumes from the polished clothes the East wears when they go undercover to the more ragged look when they‘re back at their secret home. Sound editor Andrew DeCristofaro does terrific work with the sound from the atmosphere of some of the antics the gang do to the quietness of the forest locations and where Jane lives. The film’s music by Halli Cauthery, with score themes by Harry Gregson-Williams, is wonderful for its mixture of electronic music and orchestral music to play into the film‘s suspense and drama.

The casting by Ronna Kress includes some notable small roles from Hillary Baack as a deaf-member of the East that Jane/Sarah befriends, Aldis Hodge as an aggressive member of the East, Han Soto as Sharon’s assistant, Jason Ritter as Jane’s husband, and Julia Ormond in a superb performance as a corporate official who deals with the same side effects that she’s been given during an attack by the East. Toby Kebbell is excellent as a doctor named Doc who deals with his illness as well as give reasons into why he became ill and his thirst for vengeance. Shiloh Fernandez is pretty terrible as the East member Luca as he looks like he just got out of a emo concert with too much eyeliner as he sometimes over acts in some intense scenes or looks like he’s about to take a shit.

Patricia Clarkson is amazing as Jane’s boss Sharon who keeps tabs on what Jane does while offering advice about getting to close and such. Ellen Page is fantastic as Izzy as this young woman who is wary about Jane joining the group only to have moment in the second half which reveals her reasons for being in the East. Alexander Skarsgard is brilliant as the leader of the East in Benji as a man who is determined to bring down corporations as there’s more to him than just some ragged, charismatic leader as Skarsgard brings this sense of humility and brooding persona to his role. Finally, there’s Brit Marling in an incredible performance as Jane/Sarah as an undercover agent trying to join the East and see what they’re up to as she becomes conflicted in doing her job as well as helping the East as it’s a role that is very understated yet engaging from Marling.

The East is a fantastic film from Zal Batmanglij that features remarkable performances from Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, and Patricia Clarkson. While it does have some conventional elements that is expected in a suspense-thriller, the film does offer some key insight into the world of eco-terrorism and their motives while adding some human elements into the story. In the end, The East is an extraordinarily powerful film from Zal Batmanglij.

Zal Batmanglij Films: (The Recordist) - Sound of My Voice

© thevoid99 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dark Habits

Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar, Entre tinieblas (Dark Habits) is the story about a cabaret singer who finds refuge in a convent filled with eccentric nuns. The film is an exploration into the world of the Catholic church as well as growing sense of moral bankruptcy that is emerging in Spain as it’s all presented in a satirical form. Starring Cristina Sanchez Pascual, Julietta Serrano, Carmen Maura, Chus Lampreave, Cecilia Roth, and Marisa Paredes. Entre tinieblas is a ravishing film from Pedro Almodovar.

The film is this very offbeat story about a cabaret singer who seeks refuge at a convent following the drug overdose death of her boyfriend. At this convent that is going through financial trouble, it is run by nuns who each carry bad habits as they try to help others redeem themselves while struggling with their own habits. Leading the pack is a Mother Superior (Julietta Serrano) who is a lesbian that likes to do cocaine and heroin as she lives in the convent with a chaplain (Manuel Zaro) who likes to sew elaborate robes with a nun named Sister Snake (Lina Canalejas). Other nuns include the neat-freak Sister Damned (Carmen Maura) who has a pet tiger, a former murderess who likes to cook and do LSD occasionally named Sister Manure (Marisa Paredes), and an aging nun named Sister Sewer Rat (Chus Lampreave) who secretly writes smutty novels. It’s all part of a world that is removed from society as these women try to maintain some semblance of faith in a changing world.

Pedro Almodovar’s screenplay doesn’t just explore a sense of moral bankruptcy in Spain but also a world where the Catholic Church seems to find ways to maintain some relevancy in a new world but there are those that prevent some nuns from trying to be a part of the new world. Mother Superior and her convent knows what is going on yet they’re dealing with their old General Mother Superior dying as well as the possible clothing of their own convent. By taking in the singer Yolanda (Christina Sanchez Pascual), it gives the nuns a chance to help someone yet Yolanda and the Mother Superior share an affinity for cocaine and heroin. One aspect of the script that serves as motivation for the nuns to try and save their convent involves dealing with their late benefactor’s wife (Mary Carrillo) who has no interest in saving the convent until Mother Superior would gain information about the woman’s late daughter that she would use as blackmail.

Almodovar’s direction has this air of style that recalls the works of such filmmakers as Robert Bresson, Luis Bunuel, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Federico Fellini, and Douglas Sirk in not just his approach to melodrama but also in the way he is willing to provoke ideas. Notably in the way he has the nuns behave in a casual manner that is very offbeat as well as create something that is akin to the melodramas of Sirk and Fassbinder. The direction also has Almodovar create some intoxicating imagery that is rich with dazzling colors and lighting schemes to play into this strange world the nuns live in that seems to reflect some of the craziness that goes on in Madrid. With its approach to tracking and dolly shots along with some high and low camera angles, there is a fluidity to what Almodovar wants to do as well as create something that is low-key yet sensationalistic in a climatic party that the nuns hold for Mother Superior that would have face her new superior. It would be a moment where the fate of Yolanda and the nuns would come into play as it would be told in the form of classic melodrama. Overall, Almodovar crafts an evocative and powerful film about a convent of nuns trying to find themselves in a new world.

Cinematographer Angel Luis Fernandez does phenomenal work with the film‘s gorgeous and colorful cinematography from the exotic vibrancy of many of the film‘s daytime interior scenes to some of the scenes set at night to play into the richness of the colors with additional help from some unique lighting schemes. Editor Jose Salcedo does amazing work with the film‘s editing with its use of jump-cuts, montages, and dissolves to play into a sense of style that has an element of surrealism in some parts of the film such as Sister Manure‘s acid trips. Production designers Roman Arango and Pin Morales, with set decorator Antonio Lopez, do fantastic work with set pieces from the look of the room that Yolanda stays in to the main hall of the convent as well as the decorations for the climatic party scene.

Costume designers Francis Montesinos and Teresa Nieto do brilliant work with the costumes from the look of the nun uniforms to the lavish robes that the Chaplain and Sister Snake create that Yolanda would wear. The sound work of Armin Fausten and Martin Muller is superb for the intimacy that occurs in the convent as well as the sense of vibrancy in the party scenes. The music by Cam Espana is wonderful for its mixture of somber orchestral pieces to the use of sentimental pop songs that Yolanda and the Mother Superior love.

The film’s cast includes some noteworthy small performances from Marisa Tejada as a drug dealing-friend of Mother Superior, Eva Siva as Sister Sewer Rat’s rich sister, Will More as Yolanda’s boyfriend at the beginning of the film, and Cecilia Roth as a former lover of Mother Superior who briefly returns due to trouble. Other notable small roles include Berta Riaza as the new General Mother Superior who appears late in the film, Mary Carrillo as the benefactor’s wife who isn’t interested in funding the convent, Manuel Zaro as the convent’s Chaplain who loves to sew and watch old films, and Lina Canalejas as Sister Snake who is a master at sewing as she tries to keep the peace within the convent.

Chus Lampreave is amazing as the very comical Sister Sewer Rat as this aging nun who tries to keep her secret writing life a secret while doing odd things. Carmen Maura is excellent as Sister Damned as this very eccentric neat-freak who likes to feed and play bongos to her pet tiger whom she refers to as her son. Cristina Sanchez Pascual is terrific as the very troubled cabaret singer Yolanda who deals with the death of her boyfriend as well as her addiction as she tries to find redemption. Marisa Paredes is brilliant as the very troubled Sister Manure as this very destructive woman who likes to walk barefoot on broken glass, cook, and drop acid as she is someone trying to atone for her own sins. Finally, there’s Julietta Serrano in a marvelous performance as the Mother Superior as this drug-taking lesbian who falls in love with Yolanda as she tries to help her as well as do whatever it takes to save her convent as it’s a pretty wild performance from the actress.

Entre tinieblas is a remarkable film from Pedro Almodovar that features brilliant performances from his group of regular actresses in Julietta Serrano, Marisa Parades, Chus Lampreave, and Carmen Maura. The film is definitely stylish in terms of its colorful imagery and set pieces as well as being provocative in the way it takes a few shots at religion and society. In the end, Entre tinieblas is a gorgeous and sensational film from Pedro Almodovar.

Pedro Almodovar Films: Pepi, Luci, Bom - Labyrinth of Passion - 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, March 26, 2014

Three Colors: White

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski and written by Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Trois Couleurs: Blanc (Three Colors: White) is the story of a Polish man who is dumped by his French wife as he returns to Poland to gain revenge on his wife after a series of humiliating moments. The second part of a trilogy based on the themes of the French flag where the white color represents equality as the film is a black comedy about a man trying to get even with his wife. Starring Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Janusz Gago, and Jerzy Stuhr. Trois Couleurs: Blanc is a witty and insightful film from Krzysztof Kieslowski.

In marriage, it’s a concept where man and woman become equal partners in relationship as this film is an exploration into the theme of equality in an ironic and comical perspective. Notably as a Polish man named Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) marries this beautiful French woman named Dominique (Julie Delpy) but the marriage fizzles as Karol is unable to consummate the marriage as it leads to a series of humiliating situations and moments. Upon his return to Poland after meeting a mysterious man named Mikolaj (Janusz Gago), Karol conspires to get even with Dominique for humiliating him in the hopes she feels the same way he felt when she decided to leave him.

While the film in some respects is a revenge story, what Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz create is something more as the film is an exploration into the world of equality set in two different countries. The first act is set in Paris where Karol is a foreigner who can barely speak French which is a detriment to his divorce hearing as he loses his French residency, his means of support, his money, his property, and everything as he becomes a beggar wanting revenge over what Dominique did to him. Upon meeting Mikolaj, Karol gets the chance to return home to Warsaw where he lives with his older brother Jurek (Jerzy Stuhr) as the film’s second and third act are set in Warsaw where Karol schemes his revenge.

Whereas the first half of the film is this story of a man feeling humiliated by his wife which would play into his desire for revenge, the second half does become a revenge film of sorts but in an unconventional way. Notably as Karol would embark in this new post-Communist world of Poland that is driven by capitalism as Karol would take advantage of that. It would play into this third act where Karol would try to get Dominique to come to Warsaw in some way in order to become equal to her as part of his thirst for revenge. While some of the actions that Dominique does in the film’s first half were quite cruel, she isn’t a totally bad person but someone who was disappointed and needed to be with someone else where her arrival in Warsaw would reveal how she really felt about Karol.

Kieslowski’s direction is very understated in his approach to black humor and how he plans ever part of Karol’s elaborate scheme to get revenge on Dominique. Much of it would involve a lot of visual motifs such as birds and objects as it would play key parts in the film such as a 2 franc coin and the suitcase that Karol had brought with him from Poland. Upon his arrival to Paris, Karol’s day would be the worst where the first sign of this bad day is when a bird shits on his coat as it’s the sign of these to come. It’s among these moments that Kieslowski creates to play into the humor while using very brief flashback scenes of Karol and Dominique’s wedding day to express that there was love in that marriage yet it’s in sharp contrast to their divorce that left Karol humiliated. There’s also a lot of ambiguity in some of the scenes that Kieslowski creates such as repeated images of Dominique walking into a hotel room where it does play to Karol’s obsession towards her which adds to his own sense of conflict.

The direction also has Kieslowski use a lot of wide and medium shots to play into the look of Warsaw in the winter time where it’s a world that is starting to move out of Communism and into their own idea of capitalism where one of the frequent statements is that you can buy anything in Warsaw. It adds to some of the dark humor in the film as well as something that feels very loose in the direction where Karol and Mikolaj are enjoying themselves in their home country by taking advantage of this new world of capitalism. Even as its ending would have some ambiguity over everything Karol had done towards Dominique but also reinstate the theme of equality. Overall, Kieslowski creates a very smart and entertaining film about a man’s determination to be equal with the woman he loves.

Cinematographer Edward Klosinski does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography from the gorgeous look of white snow and low-key colors for many of the exterior scenes in Warsaw as well as some of the more colorful look in Paris as well as some of the rich lighting in the interior scenes. Editor Urszula Lesiak does fantastic work with the editing with its use of rhythmic cuts, montages, and some chilling moments to play into some of the dark humor of the film. Production designers Halina Dobrowolska and Claude Lenoir, with set decorator Magdalena Dipont, do brilliant work with the set pieces from the hair salon that Jurek owns as well as some of the places in Warsaw and the hair salon that Karol and Dominique owned until their divorce.

Costume designers Elzbieta Radke, Teresa Wardzala, Jolanta Luczak, and Virginie Viard do terrific work with the costumes from the clothes that Dominique wears to the evolution of clothes from ragged to refined suits that Karol would wear in the film. The sound work of Jean-Claude Laureux and mixing of William Flageollet is superb in the way it captures the sound of the metro stations as well as some of the locations in Paris and Warsaw. The film’s music by Zbigniew Preisner is phenomenal for its orchestral-driven score as it features some somber themes driven by woodwinds to some serene and light-hearted pieces to play into its humor.

The casting by Margot Capelier and Teresa Violetta Buhl is great for the ensemble that is created as it features cameos from Juliette Binoche and Florence Pernel in their respective roles from the previous film Trois Couleurs: Bleu along with some notable small roles from Jerzy Nowak as a farmer, Jerzy Trela as Karol’s driver, Aleksandr Bardini as a notary lawyer, and Cezary Harasimowicz as an inspector. Jerzy Stuhr is excellent as Karol’s brother Jurek who helps him get back on his feet in Poland while aiding him in his scheme. Janusz Gajos is superb as Mikolaj as a Polish man Karol meets in Paris who would help him get back to Poland while helping him in his schemes. Julie Delpy is amazing as Dominique as this French woman who is disappointed by Karol after their marriage as she wants nothing to do with him only to show a really tender side to herself in the film’s third act. Finally, there’s Zbigniew Zamachowski as Karol Karol where he brings in a lot of low-key humor as well as a humility that makes him so engaging in his performance.

The 2003 Region 1 DVD from the Trois Couleurs box set from Miramax presents the film in its 1:85:1 theatrical aspect ratio for widescreen that is enhanced in 16x9 televisions as it includes its original French and Polish language with English subtitles and Dolby Digital Surround Sound. The DVD special features includes an audio commentary track from Kieslowski historian Annette Insdorff who talks about the film and many of its ironies along with some insight into some of the people that appeared in the film who had also appeared in some of Kieslowski’s previous films. The seven-minute and twenty-five second featurette entitled A Look at Blanc features interviews with Insdorff, film critic Geoff Andrews, collaborator/filmmaker Agnieska Holland, editor Jacques Witta, and actress Julie Delpy as they all talk about the film and the changes that were happening in Poland during production.

The documentary Kieslowski: The Later Years features interviews with many of the people interviewed in the DVD along with Juliette Binoche, Irene Jacob, cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, cinematographer Piotr Jaxa, and actor Phillippe Volter all talk about the years Kieslowski was making The Decalogue as well as his subsequent works as well as another trilogy that Krzysztof Piesiewicz were creating before Kieslowski’s death in 1996. The 18-minute featurette on working with Kieslowski has many of his actors and collaborators talking about working with the director and his approach to filmmaking where they all reveal Kieslowski’s desire to get input from his collaborators on how to tell the story.

The five-minute conversation with Julie Delpy has the actress discuss her collaboration with Kieslowski as she also does a select scene commentary where she talks about some scenes in the film as well as some technical tidbits on the film. The 10-minute cinema lesson segment from Kieslowski talks about how he times his approach to comedy as he cites the bird-dropping scene as a key example as well as Karol’s return to Poland. Producer Marin Karmitz’s interview has him talking about what Kieslowski wanted in the production as well as Kieslowski’s intention for the film. The DVD also includes a 16-minute behind-the scenes documentary on making the film where Kieslowski and his crew had to deal with the cold conditions in Warsaw which did make things difficult.

The set would also feature a trio of early student short films by Kieslowski during his days as a student at the Lodz Film School. The first is a five-minute short called The Office that explored the downside of Communism where Poles tried to get work at the time. The second is Tramway (or The Trolley) as it’s another five-minute short with no sound as it’s a very simple and understated short film about a man who meets a young woman. The third and final short called The Face that Kieslowski also acted in as it’s a thriller with music about a man who is haunted by a face he saw in paintings. The DVD also features trailers for the other two films in the trilogy plus the 2002 film Heaven that Kieslowski wrote with Piesiewicz that is directed by Tom Tykwer.

The 2011 Region 1 DVD/Region A Blu-Ray from the 4-disc DVD/3-disc Blu-Ray Criterion Collection release for the trilogy presents the film in its original theatrical ratio plus a remastered 2.0 Surround Sound in French and Polish with English subtitles as the film is given a new high-definition digital transfer. The DVD special features retains Kieslowski’s cinema lesson and the making-of documentary featurette as it would also include some new interviews and such for the DVD release.

The first is a 22-minute video essay by film critic Tony Rayns who talks about the film and its theme of equality. Most notably in relation to Kieslowski’s home country of Poland where the country in the early 1990s after the fall of Communism was trying to catch up with the rest of Western Europe. Rayns reveals a lot of ambiguities and some metaphors of what Kieslowski wanted to say about Poland and its relationship with France as it’s a very compelling video essay from the renowned film critic. Notably as Rayns also talks about how the film fits in with the rest of the trilogies and its relations to Kieslowski’s previous films such as The Decalogue.

New interviews with co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz and actors Julie Delpy and Zbigniew Zamachowski appear for this release. The 21-minute and twenty-three second interview with Piesiewicz has him talking about his friendship with Kieslowski and their collaboration which began with 1985‘s No End as they had met a few years earlier during a crucial period in Kieslowski‘s life and career. Piesiewicz also discusses the trilogy and his interpretations of what they mean as well as some personal stories he had about his friendship with Kieslowski in a truly fascinating interview. The 18-minute interviews with Delpy and Zamachowski have the two talking about the film and working with Kieslowski as Zamachowski had previously worked with him in the 10th episode of The Decalogue. The two also talked about Kieslowski’s approach to direction while Delpy revealed how helpful Kieslowski was in guiding her into her own career as a filmmaker by taking to seminars as it’s a very enjoyable interview from both actors.

The DVD/Blu-Ray box set also include a 78-booklet that features many essays and text pieces relating to the trilogy. For Blanc, there’s an essay from film critic Stuart Klawans and an interview with cinematographer Edward Klosinski. Klawans’ essay entitled The Nonpolitical Reunifications of Karol Karol explores not just many of the political metaphors in the film but also Kieslowski’s approach to humor. Klawans also discusses some of the aspects of the narrative while admitting that the character of Dominique is the weakest of the three female protagonists because there’s not much detail about her yet she does serve as an integral part to the film as it relates to the character of Karol. Even as it would play to the unification of not just their marriage but also the relationship between Eastern and Western Europe. Klosinski’s interview has the cinematographer not just talk about their collaboration but also in how they approached the cinematography. Even as Klosinski revealed that very few hand-held shots was used in Blanc in favor of tracking shots while he also revealed some technical tidbits into his ideas on lighting.

Trois Couleurs: Blanc is a majestic and delightful film from Krzysztof Kieslowski. Thanks to the remarkable performances of Zbigniew Zamachowski and Julie Delpy along with Edward Klosinski’s potent cinematography and Zbigniew Preisner’s intoxicating score. It’s definitely the most fun film of the entire trilogy as it offers some witty political commentary and humorous anecdotes on capitalism and revenge. In the end, Trois Couleurs: Blanc is a spectacular film from Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Krzysztof Kieslowski Films: (Personal) - (The Scar) - (Camera Buff) - (The Calm) - (Short Working Day) - Blind Chance - (No End) - (A Short Film About Killing) - (A Short Film About Love) - The Decalogue - The Double Life of Veronique - Trois Couleurs: Bleu - Trois Couleurs: Rouge

© thevoid99 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Captain America Blog-A-Thon

Andy of Fandango Groovers created this blog-a-thon that has a very interesting concept. With the upcoming release for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Andy came up with an idea of what 10 films would you show to Steve Rogers aka Captain America from 1943 in the year that he was frozen to 2011 when he wakes up to discover that he’s slept for 70 years. Well, it’s a unique idea but definitely tough since picking 10 movies from 1943 to 2011 is definitely a challenge.

For my list, I decided to go with films that are different from one another as it would have a mixture of gritty realism in some cases but also films that have entertainment value and offer something different. I could’ve gone with my favorite films or anything that’s classified as classics. Yet, I went with something that has something for everyone but also the kind of films that are willing to challenge ideas and such. Here are the following 10 films:

1948-Bicycle Thieves

If anyone wants to know what was going on in post-war Europe, this film is a perfect example of the harsh realities Italians had to face. Especially as it tells the story between a father and his young son trying to retrieve a stolen bicycle that the father needed for work as it’s a film that is heartbreaking and features one of the most heartbreaking endings in cinema.

1954-The Seven Samurai

Japanese cinema is a must for anyone who has been frozen for 70s and who better to represent Japanese cinema than Akira Kurosawa. Here’s a film that exemplifies all of the brilliance of what it means to fight back and have it be filled with action and drama as it features magnificent performances from Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura.

1956-The Searchers

Westerns is as American as apple pie as who better to bring that than John Ford and John Wayne. Especially as it would play into the dark world of a man trying to find his lost niece and deal with the sense of prejudices that he’s been carrying inside. It’s a film filled with a sense of adventure and gorgeous imagery as it’s a touchstone of what a western should be.

1966-The Battle of Algiers

The world becomes much more complicated in the late 1950s and 1960s as this film is a perfect example of the idea that there’s really no such thing as good guys and bad guys. It’s a film that showcased what Algerians were trying to do and what the French were doing in this conflict that killed millions of lives as it would play into a world that is starting to unravel.


Federico Fellini is a must as this film displays the idea of the good times of what it was like being a child coming-of-age in a small village. It’s definitely one of Fellini’s more accessible films that is filled with imagery and bawdy humor that only he could tell it. Yet, it’s one that also has a lot of heart and whimsy as it plays to the joys of childhood.

1975-The Mirror

Andrei Tarkovsky’s film that is based on his own life is certainly the most unconventional film in this list as it doesn’t have a traditional structure while it plays with the ideas of dreams and realities. It’s a film that is about memories told from a man that is about to die as it’s filled with evocative imagery that manages to become far more rewarding with repeated viewings.

1983-National Lampoon's Vacation

If there’s a film that exemplifies American optimism and family values at its most insane, it’s this film. A film about a guy driving his family cross-country from Chicago to Los Angeles so he can take them to an amusement park features an iconic performance from Chevy Chase as the eternal optimist as it’s definitely one of the greatest comedies ever.

1995-Strange Days

A film that really bends genres as it’s a sci-fi film and a crime thriller all rolled into one that is helmed by Kathryn Bigelow as women directors need to be represented in this list. It’s wild and full of bravado yet it’s a film that is really driven by a woman as Angela Bassett’s character is an absolute bad-ass and not afraid to play the straight woman for Ralph Fiennes.

1998-The Thin Red Line

Terrence Malick’s adaptation of James Jones’ novel is unlike any war film out there yet it’s one of the most powerful anti-war films ever created. Set in the Guadalcanal campaign in 1943, it’s a film that features images that is unlike anything out there but with an unconventional story that plays into the sense of terror about war as well as the sense of humanity and inhumanity that occurs in the battlefield.

2000-In the Mood for Love

Love is a complicated thing, especially when two people find out that their respective spouses have been having an affair with each other. That is the premise of Wong Kar-Wai’s ravishing film as it explores the complexities of love as well as loneliness and heartbreak as it’s told with such beauty and care. It’s definitely a film that has the audience rooting for Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Maggie Cheung to get together but there’s things that would complicate everything.

10 other great films to see between 1943 and 2011:

1. The Red Shoes 
2. The Wages of Fear 
3. The Apartment 
4. Once Upon a Time in the West 
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey 
6. Nashville 
7. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown 
8. Ratcatcher 
9. Lost in Translation 
10. WALL-E

© thevoid99 2014