Sunday, January 31, 2016

Films That I Saw: January 2016

I hate 2016 and it’s barely been a month since the New Year began. It’s not because of what is happening personally which I’m fine on the contrary. It’s the fact that a lot of good people have died in the past month. Glenn Frey, Alan Rickman, Jacques Rivette, Paul Kanter, Celine Dion’s husband, and her brother. Death is very sad to deal with whether it’s someone you know personally or someone that you idolized. David Bowie’s death really floored me as I first heard about it on Twitter the night of the Golden Globes thinking it was a hoax. Once it was confirmed by his own son, I lost it. It was just a total shock and I couldn’t really do anything as I went to bed crying in my sleep. I spent the next day grieving as reading tributes and such were making me cry which forced me to write my own tribute.

While I’m sure that myself and many fans of Bowie are still processing and coping with this loss. It is worth noting that his music can be used as a sense of healing while discussing his music with other fans through forums and such was also helpful. At the Nine Inch Nails fan forum called Echoing the Sounds, there’s a lot of NIN fans who are also Bowie fans where a project celebrating his music was discussed as I made an announcement about this project that I’m going to do. It will be to not just chronicle every piece of music he made but also to uncover alternate versions of songs as well as rarities and material that many people probably haven’t heard of. For me as a fan, this is something I feel like I have to do as a way to cope.

In the month of January, I saw a total of 34 films. 15 first-timers and 19 re-watches. The highlight of the month wasn’t just one film but an entire trilogy in the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray which I believe are essential in the world of cinema. It’s one of the many reasons why I chose Pather Panchali, Aparajito, and Apur Sansar as part of the Blind Spot series. Here are the top 10 First-Timers of January 2016:

1. The Revenant

2. Bernie

3. Night and Fog

4. Thesis

5. Dear White People

6. The Avengers: Age of Ultron

7. All the Boys are Called Patrick

8. Charlotte et son Jules

9. Riley’s First Date?

10. Nobody Walks

Monthly Mini-Review

Riley’s First Date?

I saw this on YouTube as it is one of Pixar’s best short films as it’s a fitting sequel to Inside Out. Especially as it plays into the idea of parents fearing that their daughter might date while the emotions in their head try to figure out what is going on. It’s definitely one of Pixar’s funniest shorts where it explores what Riley’s parents are thinking where Riley’s mom tries to talk cool only to baffle Riley with Disgust just couldn’t take Riley’s mom’s cool talk. Yet, it’s the people that’s in the head of Riley’s friend that is funny as one of them is Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Safe

2. The Untouchables

3. The Force Awakens

4. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

5. Casualties of War

6. The Prestige

7. Face/Off

8. 9 to 5

9. A Knight's Tale

10. Superbad

Well, that is all for January. Aside from the 29 Days of Bowie, February will be a month that will feature a few Oscar winners as well as films from the past few years. Aside from upcoming Auteurs pieces on Alejandro Amenabar and Steve McQueen, some of the films I will see in February will include a few from Spike Lee and others in my never-ending DVR list. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2016

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

Directed by D.A. Pennebaker, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a documentary concert film that chronicles David Bowie’s final show as Ziggy Stardust on July 3, 1973 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. Featuring footage from the show as well as backstage material where Bowie would wear different costumes throughout the entirety of the show. The film also showcases Bowie’s final performance with the band that were part of the Spiders from Mars in guitarist Mick Ronson, bassist Trevor Bolder, and drummer Woody Woodmansey. The result is a powerful and evocative concert film from D.A. Pennebaker.

On July 3, 1973 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, David Bowie would play the final show of his world tour that promoted 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and 1973’s Aladdin Sane. The show was to be a triumphant moment for the British superstar who a year ago had changed the landscape of popular music in Britain by pretending to be an alien rock star from Mars. The show itself would be not just one of Bowie’s greatest concerts but also a defining moment in his career where he would kill the character of Ziggy Stardust once and for all as it would also mark the last time he would play with his backing band in the Spiders from Mars.

Shot entirely in 16mm film, D.A. Pennebaker creates a film that doesn’t just capture the concert from the view of the audience and what is happening on the stage. Pennebaker also shows footages of what is happening backstage where Bowie would change costumes between songs or during a major instrumental break. Some of the backstage footage would show Bowie not only putting makeup on with some staff but also conversing with Ringo Starr who is at the show watching backstage. Along with cinematographers Mike Davis, Jim Desmond, Nick Dobb, and Randy Franken, Pennebaker maintains a hand-held style with a lot of close-ups and medium shots to capture the performance and the audience’s reaction. While the lighting may seem a little low for what was presented in the concert as it’s largely red lights and such. It does play into something that is unlike anything that was happening in 1973.

With the aid of editor Lorry Whitehead, Pennebaker gathers a lot of footage while creating some unique cutting of Moonage Daydream being performed while it’s heard in the background while Bowie is doing another costume change. It’s among these fine moments in the editing as well as showing how the audience reacts to songs where they sing along or just be enamored with the visuals. The performances themselves are just incredible not just of what Bowie was doing on the stage with mime and other aspects in his role. It was also the interaction he had with the audience and how he would share the spotlight with his band as Mick Ronson was a guitarist that was unlike anyone at the time who was doing guitar hero poses and moments that were just amazing. The rhythm section of Trevor Bolder and Mick “Woody” Woodmansey were just as great where Pennebaker gave those three men a chance to shine. Also in the performance were additional music that featured another of Bowie’s key collaborators in keyboardist/pianist Mike Garson as well as percussionist/backing vocalist Geoff MacCormack, guitarist/vocalist John Hutchinson, and saxophonists/flutists Ken Fordham and Brian Wilshaw.

Helping to make the music sound just as big as well as providing a nice balance in the mixing with the music and audience is Bowie’s longtime producer Tony Visconti who would help supervise the mix for the film’s 2002 re-release and remastering. The look of the film would be more crisp where Pennebaker would also maintain that raw look of the 16mm film while cleaning some of the footage up a bit.

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a phenomenal film from D.A. Pennebaker. Not only is it one of the finest concert films ever made but it’s also a fascinating document into the world of 70s glam rock as well as a period in the life and career of David Bowie where he was probably Britain’s biggest star then. In the end, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a spectacular film from D.A. Pennebaker.

Related: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (album)

© thevoid99 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Written and directed by Alejandro Amenabar, Regression is the story of a detective who investigates a sexual abuse case made by a 17-year old girl against her father who has no recollection of what had happened. The film is an exploration into the world of child abuse as well as fact vs. fiction over what really happened as it relates to Satanic cults. Starring Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Thewlis, Aaron Ashmore, Devon Bostick, Dale Dickey, Lothaire Bluteau, Peter MacNeil, and David Dencik. Regression is an intriguing yet extremely messy film from Alejandro Amenabar.

Set in 1990 at a small town in Minnesota, the film revolves around a detective who investigates the sexual abuse of a 17-year old girl who claimed to have been sexually abused by her father. In the course of the investigation with the aid of a local psychiatrist, Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) learns that some of the abuse involve Satanic rituals as the case becomes complicated with Kenner getting too close. It’s a film that plays into a man trying to see what had happened while he interrogates this girl’s father to see if he really did anything. Once Kenner asks Angela Gray (Emma Watson) about what had happened and some of the things she revealed, Kenner would start to see things as if there is a Satanic cult in this small town.

Alejandro Amenabar’s script does create some compelling ideas about sexual abuse and regressed memories but once the story begins to include these ideas of Satanic rituals. It starts to lose focus on what is really going on and the aspects of the suspense and mystery starts to lose itself. Especially when Kenner and Professor Kenneth Raines (David Thewlis) begin to interrogate members of Angela’s family including her father John (David Dencik) who turned himself in to the police claiming he did something to his daughter. Once other members of Angela’s family such as her grandmother Rose (Dale Dickey) is questioned about her possible role in Satanic rituals, things definitely become confusing about what is truth and what is fiction. Especially as the most rational character in the film in Professor Raines begins to be sort of a Greek chorus of sorts about what is really going on and wonders if any of it is true.

Amenabar’s direction definitely has a unique sense of atmosphere in terms of its setting while it is shot largely in Toronto and other parts of Canada. Even in his approach to compositions as it plays into the dramatic elements such as the conversations between Kenner and Raines where they try to make sense of everything. Amenabar would also use some close-ups and medium shots to create some intimate moments as well as some scenes that play into Kenner talking to Angela and getting her to talk. The scenes which involve these Satanic rituals are meant to be scary but a lot of it ends up being very silly. By the time the film moves into its third act, more questions get raised as it relates to the hysteria of these accusations of Satanic rituals which does lead to a twist in the third act that doesn’t just kill whatever intrigue the film had. It also leads to an overdrawn ending as it related to regressed memories as well as how faith can distort reality. Overall, Amenabar creates an interesting but very troubled film about a sexual abuse case with elements of Satanic rituals.

Cinematographer Daniel Aranyo does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its usage of bluish imagery for many of the film‘s daytime exterior scenes along with some intricate lighting for scenes set at night. Editor Carolina Martinez Urbina does some fine work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts though its attempt to create suspense with its fast-cuts don‘t really work as it makes it too obvious. Production designer Carol Spier, with set decorator Friday Myers and art director Elinor Rose Galbraith, does nice work with the look of the Gray family home as well as the church where Angela is staying at. Costume designer Sonia Grande does terrific work with the clothes as it’s mostly casual with the exception of the black robes the Satanists wear.

The visual effects work of Carlos Adarraga and Ezequiel Larru is good for some of the scenes in the Satanic ritual sequences as it plays into this blur of reality and fiction. Sound designer Gabriel Gutierrez does superb work with the sound to help play into the suspense and drama as well as scenes of horror. The film’s music by Roque Banos is pretty good for some of the orchestral-based music of the film that delves into the drama and suspense though it feels overdone at times.

The casting by Jina Jay and Jason Knight is amazing for the group of actors that are assembled though many are either caricatures or aren’t given much to do. Notable small performances from Adam Butcher and Kristian Bruun as a couple of local cops and Aaron Abrams as a detective named Farrell have their moments while Aaron Ashmore is alright as a cop who is accused of being part of the Satanic cult. Peter MacNeil is terrific as the local police chief who tries to deal with the attention over what is happening though he is severely underwritten. Devon Bostick is good as Angela’s older brother Roy who has been estranged from the family for mysterious reasons as he is confronted by Kenner and Raines where he would reveal some eerie family secrets. Dale Dickey is fantastic as Angela’s grandmother Rose as a woman who may be in denial over what happened as she copes with the chaos that is surrounding her family.

David Dencik is superb as Angela’s father John as a man who turns himself in to the police at the beginning of the film as he becomes unsure of what he did as he is consumed by guilt over his actions. Lothaire Bluteau is alright as Reverend Murray as the local religious leader who has taken Angela in as he also confides in Kenner and Raines to rely on faith which annoys the latter. David Thewlis is brilliant as Professor Kenneth Raines as a psychiatrist who is trying to analyze Angela’s family as he believes something isn’t right while being the smartest guy in the film. Emma Watson is wonderful as Angela Gray as a 17-year old girl who claims to be sexually abused as well as revealing that her family is part of a Satanic cult where Watson has this air of innocence to her but the script doesn’t really do much for her which hinders some of her performance as well as her motivations in the film. Finally, there’s Ethan Hawke in a stellar yet flawed performance as Detective Bruce Kenner as a detective who gets too close into the case where Hawke overdoes it at times in someone who is determined to get things right while also making himself look foolish due to the demands of the script.

Regression is a very disappointing and messy film from Alejandro Amenabar. Despite an interesting subject on regressed memories, it’s a film that wanted to say a lot of things but ends up being very convoluted and idiotic at times with characters that end up looking foolish. In the end, Regression is a terrible film from Alejandro Amenabar.

Alejandro Amenabar Films: Thesis - Open Your Eyes - The Others - The Sea Inside - Agora - The Auteurs #51: Alejandro Amenabar

© thevoid99 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Based on the comic series by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Avengers: Age of Ultron is the story of a group of superheroes who fight to save the world as they meet their greatest challenge in an artificial intelligent android who is bent on global destruction in his view of bringing peace. Written for the screen and directed by Joss Whedon, the film plays into the team known as the Avengers as they deal with fear but also in being forced to face an enemy who knows how to tear them apart. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Linda Cardellini, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Bettany, and James Spader as the voice of Ultron. The Avengers: Age of Ultron is a thrilling and exhilarating film from Joss Whedon.

The film revolves around the superhero team known as the Avengers who are tasked with stopping evil forces including Hydra from unleashing terror into the world where a peacekeeping initiative in the form of an artificial intelligent being known as Ultron has threatened to destroy the team and bring global destruction in an act of bringing peace to the world. While it is a plot that is simple in terms of good guy vs. bad guys, it is much more complex considering that Ultron was created by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) with the aid of Dr. Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) as a program to help save the world after seeing a dark vision which was brought to him a young woman in Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) during a raid on Hydra by the Avengers. Wanda and her twin brother Pietro/Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) would both aid Ultron in destroying the Avengers where the team would become very vulnerable with Stark trying to make sense of what he created.

Joss Whedon’s screenplay does have a more traditional structure as it sort of plays into a rise-and-fall scenario of sorts for the Avengers. The first act pertains to the Avengers having their first encounter with the Maximoff twins and Stark’s intentions in creating Ultron. The second act plays into Ultron’s plans with the Maximoff twins aiding him where Pietro’s speed is his power while Wanda is telekinetic and can manipulate people’s minds as she would be able to make the Avengers, with the exception of Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), vulnerable. Yet, the Maximoff twins aren’t exactly antagonists as they are essentially people who have a legitimate grudge towards Stark but they also display some humanity which makes them more intriguing. By the time the film’s third act emerges as it relates to a mysterious gem inside Loki’s scepter and a project Stark was involved in which could be the one thing that could save the Avengers and the world.

Whedon’s direction is definitely sprawling in terms of the world that is created as well as the fact that there is a lot at stake in what the Avengers are doing. Shot in various locations such as South Africa, South Korea, Bangladesh, New York, Italy, and some studio-based shots in London, the film does have a more global feel where it is about the Avengers trying to protect the world from evil as it would begin in Eastern Europe when the team takes down one of the last Hydra plants in the continent. While there are some great usage of wide and medium shots in the film to establish certain locations as well as play into what is happening when the team isn’t fighting the bad guys or each other. Whedon also finds way to create an intimacy as well as bring humor into the fray as it relates to Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) who has issues with the team saying profanity or the growing attraction between Banner and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) as the latter is the one person who can calm the Hulk down.

The direction also has this air of nihilism as well as the many complexities and flaws about humanity as it relates to Ultron’s view of things. He sees humanity as Neanderthals who are unwilling to evolve as well as create chaos in an attempt to restore order and such. In some ways, he is right but he would take his views to the extremes which wouldn’t just prompt the Avengers to finally pull themselves back up and fight the fight. Even as they do whatever they can to even save the innocent and prove that humanity can be worth saving no matter how bad things are. Overall, Whedon creates a very exciting and compelling film about a group of superheroes and fighters who try to save the world from an android hell bent on destroying the world.

Cinematographer Ben Davis does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography in creating some unique moods and lighting schemes for many of the film‘s interiors such as the Avengers‘ main base as well as some scenes set at the Maximoff twins‘ home country in its exterior settings. Editors Jeffrey Ford and Lisa Lassek do nice work with the editing in creating some unique montages for some of the dreams and flashbacks for some of the characters under Wanda‘s mind manipulation as well as some rhythmic cuts to play into the action and drama. Production designer Charles Wood, with supervising art director Ray Chan and set decorators Chris “Flimsy” Howes, Sheona Mitchley, and Richard Roberts, does amazing work with the design of the Avengers home base as well as the quaint safe house that belongs to Barton where the team would regroup as well as the lab where Ultron sees the next step into his evolution. Costume designer Alexandra Byrne does terrific work with the costumes as much of it is casual for the gang when they’re not working.

Hair/makeup designer Jeremy Woodhead does fine work with the look of the characters from the hairstyle of the Maximoff twins to the look of the mysterious being known as Vision. Visual effects supervisors Geoffrey Baumann, Huseyin Caner, Michael Mulholland, Katherine Rodtsbrooks, Ben Snow, Alan Torres, and Christopher Townsend do brilliant work with the visual effects in the design of Ultron in his evolving state from being one android and then another to the look of the Hulk as he rampages everything around him. Sound designer David Acord, with sound editors Christopher Boyes and Frank. E. Eulner, does superb work with the sound in the way some of the gunfire is heard along with sound effects that play into the action and suspenseful moments in the film. The film’s music by Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman is brilliant as it is this great mix of bombastic orchestral music with some electronic textures as it play into much of the action and drama that occurs in the film while music supervisor Dave Jordan provide a soundtrack that mixes old-school band music, classical pieces, and operatic pieces as it‘s a piece that Banner uses to soothe the Hulk.

The casting by Sarah Finn and Reg Poerscout-Edgerton is incredible as it features appearances from Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Don Cheadle as Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine, Thomas Krestchmann as a Hydra leader in Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, Henry Goodman as Dr. List who was doing experiments on the Maximoff twins, Kerry Condon as the voice of Stark’s new AI protocol named F.R.I.D.A.Y., Julie Delpy as Romanoff’s Red Room headmistress Madame B. in a flashback, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter in Captain America’s dream sequence, Idris Elba as Thor’s friend Heimdall in a dream sequence, Andy Serkis as an arms dealer in Ulysses Klaue who provides Ultron some formulas he needed, and Claudia Kim as the geneticist Dr. Helen Cho who is a friend of Stark as she is also key to the thing that Ultron craves for and would be the catalyst to save the world.

Linda Cardellini is fantastic as Barton’s wife Laura as a woman who would provide the Avengers a safe house as well as be the person who can ground Barton and give him a reason to stay alive. Cobie Smulders is excellent as Maria Hill as a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who works for the Avengers in planning everything that is happening while being the one person she can bring Nick Fury in to help them. Samuel L. Jackson is brilliant as Nick Fury as the former leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. who tries to rally the Avengers to get their wind back after their huge defeat while revealing exactly more of what Ultron is trying to do. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is terrific as Pietro Maximoff as a man who can run very fast at impossible speed while Elizabeth Olsen is amazing as his twin sister Wanda as this young woman who is very dangerous with her telekinetic powers that can destroy anything in her path and having the power of mind control.

Paul Bettanny is superb in a dual role as Stark’s old AI companion J.A.R.V.I.S. and later the mysterious being known as Vision who is the key catalyst that could help the Avengers in the war against Ultron. James Spader is phenomenal as the voice of Ultron as an AI creation who sees Stark’s ideas for peace as something worse where he is filled with some dark humor as well as being someone that is dangerous in what he could unleash on the world. Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans are marvelous in their respective roles as Thor and Steve Rogers/Captain America as two heroes who are both powerful but become vulnerable as the former copes with visions he had relating to his home planet as the latter deals with the idea of what could’ve been if he hadn’t been frozen for 75 years.

Robert Downey Jr. is astounding as Tony Stark/Iron Man as the billionaire/scientist who tries to do good in creating Ultron only to realize what went wrong as he tries to shield the blame on himself though is aware that he is at fault. Mark Ruffalo is tremendous as Dr. Bruce Banner/the Hulk who finds a balance in being himself and the Hulk until his encounter with Wanda has him succumb to fear and uncertainty. Jeremy Renner is great as Clint Barton/Hawkeye as the great sharpshooter who is the glue of the team as he would be the one to carry them as everyone becomes vulnerable while revealing another life he has that few know about. Finally, there’s Scarlett Johansson in a radiant performance as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow as the skilled assassin who is also expressing feelings for Banner while becoming vulnerable by her own flashbacks where she copes with the fact that she too is a monster in some ways.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is a sensational film from Joss Whedon. Featuring a great cast, an intriguing premise, compelling themes, and lots of exhilarating action and suspense. The film is definitely a blockbuster film that manages to be a lot of things but also provide some substance to have audiences talk about the ideas of war and peace. In the end, The Avengers: Age of Ultron is a spectacular film from Joss Whedon.

Joss Whedon Films: Serenity - Much Ado About Nothing (2012 film) - Justice League

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Infinity Saga: Phase One Films: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers

Marvel Phase Two Films: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Guardians of the Galaxy - Ant-Man

Marvel Phase Three Films: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Thor: Ragnarok - Black Panther - Avengers: Infinity War - Ant-Man & the Wasp - Captain Marvel - Avengers: Endgame - Captain Marvel - Spider-Man: Far from Home

Multiverse Saga: Phase Four: Black Widow (2021 film) - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsEternalsSpider-Man: No Way HomeDoctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessThor: Love and ThunderWerewolf by Night - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Phase Five: Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3The Marvels – (Deadpool 3) - (Captain America: Brave New World)

Phase 6: (Thunderbolts) – (Blade (2024 film)) - (Fantastic Four (2024 film)) – (Avengers: The Kang Dynasty) – (Avengers: Secret Wars)

Related: MCU is Cinema: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3Pt. 4 – (Part 5) – (Part 6) – (Part 7) - The MCU: 10 Reasons Why It Rules the World

© thevoid99 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: Apur Sansar

Based on the novels of Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) is the story of a young man coping with being a writer as well as becoming a family man while struggling with himself. Written for the screen and directed by Satyajit Ray, the film is the third and final film of a trilogy films that plays into the life of Apu Ray as he becomes an adult as he deals with responsibility and identity as he is played by Soumitra Chatterjee. Also starring Sharmila Tagore, Alok Chakravarty, and Swapan Mukherjee. Apur Sansar is an extraordinary and rapturous film from Satyajit Ray.

The film plays into Apu becoming an adult as he deals with finishing his studies and desires to become a writer as he later copes with tragedy and strange circumstances where he also learns about being a father. It’s a film that has Apu not just trying to find himself as a man but also see what he could as a husband and father. Satyajit Ray’s script doesn’t rely on plot but does have plot-points where the first act is about Apu struggling to find work while continuing to make something of himself as a writer. When he’s asked by a friend to attend the wedding of his cousin, Apu reluctantly goes where certain situations happens and Apu is the one that ends up being married to a beautiful young woman in Aparna (Sharmila Tagore). While the marriage starts off with some hesitation, it does give Apu more to do as well as provide Aparna a broader view of the world as their marriage is shown for its second act. By the film’s third act, tragedy occurs that would force Apu to do drastic things as it relates to not just loss but also identity as he ponders more about himself and what to do with his life.

Ray’s direction is definitely engaging for not just where the film picks up from its predecessor but also what has changed as the film is set during the period of World War II. Shot in location in Calcutta as well as parts of rural India, the film plays into a world where Apu is trying to make it in the city but is still entrenched into his rural roots. Ray’s usage of wide and medium shots capture the vast beauty of the locations but also have something that showcases a world that is ravishing in its sense of tradition but also one that is changing in what is happening in Calcutta. Ray’s usage of close-ups do play into Apu’s own sense of grief and loss in its third act while there is an intimacy for the scenes with Apu and Aparna when they arrive at Apu’s apartment. There are also bits of humor in the way the two begin to fall in love as it Ray showcases that glimpse of happiness Apu would encounter but also what would lie ahead.

The direction also plays into this sense of struggle in what would happen to Apu in the film’s second half as he tries to make it as a writer while finding work in order to provide for his family. The element of tragedy would play into this third act where Apu wanders off as if he has no clue where he is going nor what is he going to do. Ray’s compositions become much richer for scenes where Apu looks at the sun while being on a mountain as it plays to not just everything Apu lost but also wonders if the freedom that he’s gain from these losses in his life brought any meaning to them. Especially as it relates to his own son whom he had very little clue about as it forces him to ponder what role he would play for this boy. Overall, Ray creates an exhilarating yet evocative film about a man coming to terms with loss and identity.

Cinematographer Subrata Mitra does incredible work with the film‘s black-and-white photography in capturing the richness of the locations whether it‘s the rainy look of Calcutta to the more ravishing look of the mountains and jungles as well as some of the film‘s interiors. Editor Dulal Dutta does excellent work with the editing in utilizing dissolves and montages to play into the drama as well as the evolution into Apu and Aparna‘s marriage. Art director Bansi Chandragupta does brilliant work with the look of Apu‘s apartment in Calcutta to the home of his friend where he would meet Aparna. Sound recordist Durgadas Mitra does terrific work with the sound from the raucous sound of the railway station that Apu lives nearby to the calm and atmospheric sounds of the mountains and rivers. The film’s music by Ravi Shankar is amazing for its sitar-driven score that plays into the dramatic elements of the film along with some string and woodwind-based pieces that play into some of the somber and upbeat moments of the film.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Abhitjit Chatterjee as Aparna’s brother, Dhiresh Majumdar and Sefalika Devi as Aparna’s parents, Dhiren Ghosh as Apu’s landlord in Calcutta, and Tusar Banerjee as the man Aparna was supposed to marry on her wedding day. Alok Chakravarty is fantastic as Apu’s son Kajal who would be raised by Aparna’s parents as he has very little idea who his father is as he acts out to the chagrin of his grandfather. Swapan Mukherjee is brilliant as Apu’s friend Pulu who looks over Apu’s work as a writer to see if it’s good for publishing while being the one to introduce him to Aparna who is his cousin. Sharmila Tagore is amazing as Aparna as a young woman who reluctantly marries Apu after her first attempt in an arranged marriage falls apart where she copes with his poor lifestyle but eventually realizes his worth as she falls for him. Finally, there’s Soumitra Chatterjee in a remarkable performance as Apu as this man coping with trying to find himself while dealing with new responsibilities in his life where he later endures loss and uncertainty.

Apur Sansar is a phenomenal film from Satyajit Ray. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous images, a riveting story, and Ravi Shankar’s incredible score. The film is truly an engrossing study into the world of adulthood as well as loss and identity as it is also a fitting conclusion to a great trilogy of films. In the end, Apur Sansar is a tremendous film from Satyajit Ray.

Satyajit Ray Films: Pather Panchali - Aparajito - (Parash Pathar) - The Music Room - Devi - (Teen Kanya) - (Rabindranath Tagore) - (Kanchenjungha) - (Abhijan) - The Big City - Charulata - (Two) - (Kapurush) - (Mahapurush) - Nayak - (Chiriyakhana) - (Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne) - (Aranyer Din Ratri) - (Pratidwandi) - (Sikkim) - (Seemabaddha) - (The Inner Eye) - (Ashani Sanket) - (Sonar Kella) - (Jana Aranya) - (Bala) - (Shatranj Ke Khilari) - (Joi Baba Felunath) - (Hirak Rajar Deshe) - (Pikoo) - (Sadgati) - (Ghare Baire) - (Sukumar Ray) - (Ganashatru) - (Shakha Proshakha) - (Agantuk)

© thevoid99 2016

Thursday, January 21, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: Aparajito

Based on the novels of Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhahyay, Aparajito (The Unvanquished) is the story of a young boy who comes of age as he copes with loss as well as growing up where he goes to the big city with big dreams to become a writer. Written for the screen and directed by Satyajit Ray, the film is the second part of a trilogy of films that relates to the life and growth of Apu Roy as he copes with living in a new village and the modern world as he is played by Pinaki Sen Gupta and Smaran Ghosal in their respective personas as a boy and as a young man. Also starring Kanu Banerjee, Karuna Banerjee, Ramani Ranjan Sen, Charuprakash Ghosh, and Subodh Ganguli. Aparajito is a riveting yet enchanting film from Satyajit Ray.

The film would revolve Apu coming of age as he adjusts to his new surroundings where he encounter not just some life changes but also going into different places where he tries to find himself. It’s a film that plays into the life of a boy where he becomes a man and tries to take advantages of the opportunities he is given. Yet, he is torn in his devotion to make something of himself and be there for his mother (Karuna Banerjee) who is still reeling from loss and loneliness. Satyajit Ray’s script is plot-driven as it plays into Apu’s evolution as a boy and as a young man as the first half is about Apu as a boy adjusting to his new living environment in Varanasi near the Ganges River and then moving to the more rural Mansapota village. The second half has Apu becoming a young man where his growth in his formal education gives him the chance to go to Calcutta to study science despite his mother’s plea to become a priest like his father (Kanu Banerjee). Still, Apu has to endure not just being away from the environment he knew but also would learn to grow up in order to survive in the city.

Ray’s direction is very intoxicating to watch in the way he shoots the different areas in India as it is clear that it is a bigger film with visuals that recalls elements of what was happening in European cinema. Much of it involve some gorgeous wide shots of scenes set in Varanasi near the Ganges River as well as shots of the sky with birds flying in the air for the film’s first act. The usage of medium shots and close-ups would play up the intimacy of the world of Varanasi where Apu and his parents live in an apartment where they had to share with other lodgers. At times, it feels a little cramped but Ray plays off this feeling of a family still trying to find their footing but events would change things forcing Apu and his family to live at the home of Sarabajaya’s uncle Bhabataran (Ramani Ranjan Sen) and eventually move to the rural village of Mansapota.

The look of the scenes in Mansapota are more intimate with its close-ups and medium shots where it plays a world that is sort of cut-off from modern society while it also has something that attracts Apu as an individual. Most notably the idea of going to school and learn something where it is clear that he is a gifted student that has so much to offer than being a priest. By the time the film is set in Calcutta, it is this very modern world where Apu is confused but also homesick as it his this very first full-on encounter with the modern world as it’s really cramped but also has some wide scenery where Apu looks at the River Ganges again. Its ending isn’t just another end to a phase in Apu’s life but also the end of Apu as a child and him becoming a man whose roots he has to break away from. Overall, Ray crafts a very evocative yet rapturous tale of a boy becoming a man.

Cinematographer Subrata Mitra does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from the beauty of the exteriors set in the River Ganges that has this pristine yet naturalistic look to some of the scenes set at night that features some unique lighting with its usage of candles and oil lamps. Editor Dulal Dutta does excellent work with the editing in utilizing some stylish dissolves and rhythmic cuts to play into the drama as well as a few montages that play into Apu‘s progress as a student. Art director Bansi Chandragupta does fantastic work with the look of the village home in Mansapota as well as the interiors of the homes Apu would live in during his time in Calcutta and at Varanasi.

Sound recordist Durgadas Mitra does superb work with the sound in capturing many of the atmospheric moments in the Mansapota village to the raucous sounds that happens in Calcutta and Varanasi. The film’s music by Ravi Shankar is amazing for its traditionally-based Indian music filled with ferocious sitar playing and string arrangements along with layers of percussion instruments that play into key moments of the drama along with more somber pieces in the quieter moments.

The film’s phenomenal cast includes notable small roles from K.S. Pandey, Meenaski Devi, and Chadruprakash Ghosh as fellow neighbors in the apartment building, Moni Srimani as a school inspector who is impressed with the young Apu’s reading, Hermanta Chatterjee and Anil Mukherjee as a couple of Apu’s Calcutta schoolteachers, Kalicharan Roy as Apu’s boss at a printing press, and Subodh Ganguli in a superb performance as Apu’s headmaster at the Mansapota village school who sees the potential in the young Apu. Ramani Ranjan Sen is fantastic as Sarbarjaya’s uncle Bhabataran who would help Apu and his family find a home after a life-changing event in Varsani.

Kanu Banerjee is excellent as Apu’s father Harihar who returns to his job as a priest as he also tries to keep spirits high while coping with the demands of his job. Karuna Banerjee is amazing as Sarbarjaya as Apu’s mother who doesn’t just deal with the new living situations but also loss and loneliness where she and Apu bond during their time in the village despite the fact that she couldn’t bear the idea of him leaving to Calcutta. Finally, there’s Pinaki Sen Gupta and Smaran Ghosal in remarkable performances in their respective roles as the young and teenage Apu with Gupta providing a sense of energy to his role as the 10-year old Apu who deals with not just loss but also big changes while Ghosal brings a determination but also a sadness as the teenage Apu who is torn with being with his mother and broadening himself to become a man.

Aparajito is a sensational film from Satyajit Ray. Featuring a great cast, beautiful cinematography, a premise that is heart wrenching, and a sumptuous soundtrack. The film is definitely a coming-of-age story that manages to be very realistic but also engaging. In the end, Aparajito is a spectacular film from Satyajit Ray.

Satyajit Ray Films: Pather Panchali - (Parash Pathar) - The Music Room - Apur Sansar - Devi - (Teen Kanya) - (Rabindranath Tagore) - (Kanchenjungha) - (Abhijan) - The Big City - Charulata - (Two) - (Kapurush) - (Mahapurush) - Nayak - (Chiriyakhana) - (Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne) - (Aranyer Din Ratri) - (Pratidwandi) - (Sikkim) - (Seemabaddha) - (The Inner Eye) - (Ashani Sanket) - (Sonar Kella) - (Jana Aranya) - (Bala) - (Shatranj Ke Khilari) - (Joi Baba Felunath) - (Hirak Rajar Deshe) - (Pikoo) - (Sadgati) - (Ghare Baire) - (Sukumar Ray) - (Ganashatru) - (Shakha Proshakha) - (Agantuk)

© thevoid99 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: Pather Panchali

Based on the novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) is the story of a young boy living in rural Bengal with his poor family as he endures poverty, social changes, and tragedy in the course of his young life. Written for the screen and directed by Satyajit Ray, the film is the first of a trilogy of films that follows the life of a boy named Apu who would grow up in the years living in India. Starring Subir Banerjee, Kanu Banerjee, Karuna Banerjee, Uma Dasgupta, Chunibala Devi, and Tulsi Chakrabarti. Pather Panchali is a tremendous yet heart-wrenching film from Satyajit Ray.

The film is a simple coming-of-age story about a young boy named Apu (Subir Banerjee) from his birth to encountering death, hunger, poor living conditions, and everything else in a small rural village in Bengal where his family struggle to make ends meet. Satyajit Ray’s script doesn’t really have much of a plot despite a traditional three-act structure that plays into Apu’s growth as a boy and his relationship with his older sister Durga (Uma Dasgupta) who would be a maternal figure of sorts for him. While Apu’s mother Sarbajaya (Karuna Banerjee) and father Harihar (Kanu Banerjee) deal with mounting debts, lack of resources, and having to care for Harihar’s aging cousin Indir (Chunibala Devi). It adds to a family dealing with little of what they have with Harihar struggling to find work as he often has excuses about not doing this or that which adds to a lot of frustration for Sarbajaya. Other issues include accusations from the family’s neighbor over Durga stealing fruit from their orchard which she often gives to Indir while Apu is just a child just trying to understand everything around him.

Ray’s direction is very mesmerizing for not just the beauty of the locations but also in creating something that feels very real in a world that is very different. Shot largely on location in Boral near Calcutta, India, the film does play into this world of rural India where it is poverty-stricken as well as being sort of removed from modern society. Especially a scene in the fields where Durga and Apu look at these towers with wires as it indicates it’s near a railway as the train is a glimpse into the modern world which they’re removed from. Ray’s compositions definitely range with its intricate usage of wide and medium shots to not just capture the location but also create some intimacy such as a typical night in the life of this family where despite their social status. They are together and always doing something together no matter how little money or food that they have.

Ray’s usage of close-ups are also evident as it plays into how everything is being seen from Apu’s perspective as this young boy who is coming of age as he is surrounded by trees and living a home that is often falling apart. Ray would also infuse things that play into a boy’s own sense of innocence as he, like any child, is someone that wants sweets and to participate in things that every other child is doing or seeing. Notably as he would encounter things that might be too complicated for a child to understand such as some of the events in the third act when his father has to go to the city to find work and is away for months. It has this air of realism of what Apu would see and what his mother would be doing but also the tragedy that he would encounter as the film’s ending marks the end of not just his innocence but also the end of a certain moment in his life. Overall, Ray creates a very compelling yet rapturous film about the life of a family in Bengal from the eyes of a young boy.

Cinematographer Subrata Mitra does incredible work with the film‘s black-and-white photography as it has this air of naturalistic quality into the lighting for many of the scenes set in the day while the scenes at night also has something that is real where Mitra would use some additional lights to play into the beauty of those scenes. Editor Dulal Dutta does excellent work with the editing by using some dissolves and rhythmic cuts to play into the dramatic moments of the film as well as some of the very intense moments. Art director Bansi Chandragupta does fantastic work with the look of decayed home of Apu and his family from the brick wall that is full of holes to the shacks that look like they‘re going to fall apart that is in contrast to the home of their neighbor which looks like it‘s been taken care of with numerous repairs.

Sound recordist Bhupen Ghosh does amazing work with the sound to capture many of the moments in the film‘s location from the sounds of nature to the sounds of the train in the train scene. The film’s music by Ravi Shankar is brilliant for its traditionally-based Indian music filled with sitars and various percussions along with some string-based pieces that includes additional music by the film’s cinematographer Subrata Mitra.

The film’s superb cast features notable small roles from Hardihan Nag and Binoy Mukherjee as a couple of village elders, Kshirod Roy as a priest, Harimohan Nag as the village doctor, Roma Ganguli as Durga’s friend Ranu, Haren Banerjee as a sweets seller, Tulsi Chakraborty as Apu’s schoolteacher, Aparna Devi as a kind and helpful neighbor who offers to help Sarbajaya, Reba Devi as the mean neighbor who is always angry at Durga stealing a fruit from her orchard, and Shampa “Runki” Banerjee as the young Durga. Chunibala Devi is excellent as the elderly Indir as a woman who could barely walk as she is someone that craves fruit and often encourages Durga to steal while being a nuisance to Sarbajaya.

Uma Dasgupta is brilliant as Durga as a young teenager who would be the maternal figure for Apu as she helps him get food and such while showing him the ways of the modern world as she also copes with growing up. Kanu Banerjee is amazing as Apu’s father Harihar as a kind-hearted man that means well but his unwillingness to take advantage of opportunities and desires to become a writer only to take action in order to provide for his family. Karuna Banerjee is fantastic as Apu’s mother Sarbajaya as a mother who copes with her surroundings and trying to keep the house afloat only where she becomes frustrated by the lack of progress in her home. Finally, there’s Subir Banerjee in a phenomenal performance as Apu Roy as a young boy who deals with his surroundings and the events in his life as it’s a very lively and innocent performance that is very natural but also full of wonderment considering what the child goes through as he comes of age.

Pather Panchali is an outstanding film from Satyajit Ray. Armed with a great cast, a powerful story, and amazing technical work, the film is truly a coming-of-age tale that manages to be so much more as it plays into the world seen from the eyes of a young boy in India. In the end, Pather Panchali is a magnificent film from Satyajit Ray.

Satyajit Ray Films: Aparajito - (Parash Pathar) - The Music Room - Apur Sansar - Devi - (Teen Kanya) - (Rabindranath Tagore) - (Kanchenjungha) - (Abhijan) - The Big City - Charulata - (Two) - (Kapurush) - (Mahapurush) - Nayak - (Chiriyakhana) - (Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne) - (Aranyer Din Ratri) - (Pratidwandi) - (Sikkim) - (Seemabaddha) - (The Inner Eye) - (Ashani Sanket) - (Sonar Kella) - (Jana Aranya) - (Bala) - (Shatranj Ke Khilari) - (Joi Baba Felunath) - (Hirak Rajar Deshe) - (Pikoo) - (Sadgati) - (Ghare Baire) - (Sukumar Ray) - (Ganashatru) - (Shakha Proshakha) - (Agantuk)

© thevoid99 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Thesis (1996 film)

Directed and scored by Alejandro Amenabar and written by Amenabar and Mateo Gil, Tesis (Thesis) is the story of a student who is writing a thesis on violence as her research leads her into a murder mystery involving snuff films. The film is a thriller that plays into one’s fascination with death as well as the culture of snuff films. Starring Ana Torrent, Fele Martinez, Eduardo Noriega, Xabier Elorriaga, and Miguel Picazo. Tesis is a provocative yet entrancing film from Alejandro Amenabar.

The film revolves around a college student who is trying to work on a thesis on audio/visual violence and humanity’s fascination with it as she becomes engrossed in the culture of snuff films following the death of her professor where she is aided by a film student who believes something is up about these films. It is a suspense-thriller that revolves around the culture of snuff films as a young woman deals with not just these mysterious deaths of these women but also who are involved with filming and keeping them secret. The film’s screenplay by Alejandro Amenabar and Mateo Gil doesn’t just explore a woman’s fascination with violence despite her disdain for it but also this subculture where violent acts and deaths are being filmed for the pleasure of some. While the protagonist Angela (Ana Torrent) is interested in watching these films for her thesis as her professor recommends one of his students in Chema (Fele Martinez) to show some films to her.

Once her film professor in Figueroa (Miguel Picazo) dies mysteriously after supposedly watching one of these snuff films, Chema would watch it himself as he would make some big discoveries about not just some of the details but also the kind of cameras that were used. While there are suspects such as a former classmate of Chema in Bosco (Eduardo Noriega), Angela finds herself attracted to Bosco which confuses her while she is also confronted by her new professor Castro (Xabier Elorriaga) about the motivation of her thesis. Especially as Castro is someone that is telling his students about the idea of giving in towards commercialism instead of individual artistic pursuits to help the film industry in Spain. It adds to this conflict of sort that is happening throughout the story about what these snuff filmmakers want to provide but also to see if the public at large would want to see this in this twisted form of voyeurism.

Amenabar’s direction definitely plays with the conventions of suspense and drama while adding bits of humor into the film. Shot largely in Madrid at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, the film does have an intimacy into some of the compositions where some of it features medium shots as well as a few wide shots to capture the space of the classrooms. Amenabar also creates some unique compositions from the scene where Angela and Chema first look at each other as they’re both listening to different music as it showcases how different they are. Yet, their interest in film is what brings them together though Chema is someone who is more of a guy that loves horror and gratuitous violence. The usage of video cameras and the look of the snuff films definitely add something that is quite gruesome as Amenabar plays off into the element of suspense as it includes a chase scene but also moments that blur the lines of reality and fiction. Even in scenes that play into a sense of terror such as the scene where Angela and Chema go into the school library and find this secret room.

Amenabar’s score would help play into the suspense and drama such as his piano-based themes that would be featured prominently in the chase scenes while he would create some low-key orchestral moments for the drama including the film’s climax. Especially as it features many twists and turns into who has been killing these women and is there more than just one killer where Angela is caught in the middle as she plays the Final Girl persona that is so prevalent in horror/suspense films. Yet, she is key into not just solving this mystery but also cope with the aftermath as it relates to her thesis and what she had been intending to say. Overall, Amenabar creates a thrilling yet captivating film about a woman’s study on violence and her introduction into the world of snuff films.

Cinematographer Hans Burman does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of lights for many of the interior scenes such as the boiler room and hallways where the secret tapes are at as well as some of the scenes set at night and the grainy look of the digital video that was used for the snuff films. Editor Maria Elena Sainz de Rozas does amazing work with the editing with its usage of fade-outs and jump-cuts for some of the suspenseful and dramatic moments as well as creating some offbeat cuts in some of the snuff films. Production designer Wolfgang Burmann does excellent work with the look of Chema‘s apartment home that is filled with horror posters and all sorts macabre imagery as well as the look of the secret place where the snuff films are hidden.

Costume designer Ana Cuerda does nice work with the costumes from the casual look of Angela to the more grungy look of Chema and the more refined look of Bosco. The sound work of Ricardo Steinberg is superb for the sound work that is created in some of the snuff films as well as scenes that play up into the suspenseful moments of the film.

The film’s fantastic cast include some notable small roles from Teresa Castanedo as a news broadcaster, Olga Margallo as the young woman shown in the snuff film, Paco Hernandez and Rosa Avila as Angela’s parents, Miguel Picazo as Angela’s old professor Figueroa, Nieves Herranz as Angela’s younger sister Sena, and Rosa Campillo in a wonderful performance as Bosco’s girlfriend Yolanda who reveals to Angela about the workshop that was part of the snuff films. Xabier Elorriaga is excellent as Professor Castro as the new head of the film department who tells his student to make films and give the audience what they want while being very suspicious about what Angela is wanting to say in her thesis.

Eduardo Noriega is brilliant as Bosco as this very good-looking student who is quite creepy as it plays into his own intentions but also someone who knows about what goes on in these workshops. Fele Martinez is amazing as Chema as a horror/action film buff with a love for violence who makes some key discoveries into the snuff films while being somewhat antagonistic towards Angela in her lack of knowledge on film violence. Finally, there’s Ana Torrent in a remarkable performance as Angela as this college student trying to finish a thesis on audio/visual violence as she finds a snuff film that her professor watched where she finds herself entangled in a murder mystery where it’s a performance that has Torrent display a restraint but also a unique interpretation of the Final Girl persona.

Tesis is a phenomenal film from Alejandro Amenabar. Featuring amazing performances from Ana Torrent, Fele Martinez, and Eduardo Noriega as well as a thrilling premise and exploration into the world of snuff films. The film is a thriller that manages to very gripping but also with a sense of wit. In the end, Tesis is a sensational film from Alejandro Amenabar.

Alejandro Amenabar Films: Open Your Eyes - The Others - The Sea Inside - Agora - Regression - The Auteurs #51: Alejandro Amenabar

© thevoid99 2016

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Revenant

Based on the novel The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke, The Revenant is the real-life story of American frontiersman Hugh Glass who was buried alive following an attack by a bear as he goes after those who had left him for dead. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and screenplay by Inarritu and Mark L. Smith, the film is an exploration of survival and vengeance set in 1823 South Dakota and Montana with Leonardo diCaprio playing the role of Glass. Also starring Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Forrest Goodluck, Will Poulter, Brendan Fletcher, and Lukas Haas. The Revenant is a chilling and visceral film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

It’s 1823 in the Rocky Mountains where a group of men are collecting fur and pelts while evading the Arikara tribe who has been pursuing them. The film revolves around Hugh Glass’ expedition in that world with his son where he is attacked by a grizzly bear and later left for dead by his men where he goes on a quest for vengeance. While it is a simple story about vengeance and survival during a harsh winter, it is a film that plays into Hugh Glass coping with loss as well as trying to do what is right where he is trying to survive near-death experiences and evade this tribe that is trying to find a chief’s daughter who had been kidnapped. The film’s screenplay by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Mark L. Smith does follow a simple structure in terms of its narrative which play into Glass and Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) trying to survive the attack and then the former’s attack from a grizzly bear where he is left to dead by the trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).

The narrative is very straightforward yet it is more of a minimalist script that doesn’t rely much on plot but rather character motivations and what Glass is trying to do to survive. Even as he reflects on his own past and his reasons to live as he was accompanied by his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) on this hunting expedition. After the attack from the bear and being cared for by Hawk and a young trapper in Bridger (Will Poulter), Glass’ life hangs on the balance where Fitzgerald would make some decisions as he is a man driven by greed and thinking only for himself. For Glass who would be left for dead and buried alive, the actions of Fitzgerald would only make him determined for revenge but has to endure something more treacherous which is the cold and bruising weather, his damaged body, and the Arikara tribe who spare no one.

Inarritu’s direction is definitely sprawling in terms of not just the visual palette he creates but also in the atmosphere that is set which adds to the film’s very dreary tone. Shot largely on location in mountain and forest locations in Alberta and British Columbia provinces in Canada as well as some of it in Argentina, the film has this sense of physicality in what Inarritu is going for. The forest and the mountains are definitely characters in the film as it play into what Glass and the men in the film are trying to do in this terrible conditions of not snow but also winds and blizzards in the mountains. Inarritu’s usage of wide and medium shots would bring so much to the location as well as what these men have to do to get in this fort and be safe despite another presence from the Arikara tribe who will kill everyone including a group of Native Americans living outside of the fort. It adds to the tense tone of the film as well as elements of surrealism as it relates to Glass’ past and the sense of longing and loss that looms over him.

Inarritu would create something that is a bit dream-like but also moments that are filled with dazzling visual imagery in some of the intense action scenes along with some close-ups that play into the suspense and drama. Inarritu would also create this idea about death as it play into Glass’ own sense of grief and loss as it includes a flashback of him looking into this small hill filled with skulls. It adds to Glass’ determination to go after Fitzgerald where the two would have this climax where it’s not just a battle of wits but also a battle of will with the cold mountains and harsh weather conditions being their surroundings. Overall, Inarritu crafts a very gripping and evocative film about a man’s determination for revenge and survival in the Rocky Mountains.

Cinematographer Emmuanel Lubezki does incredible work with the film‘s cinematography with its naturalistic yet intoxicating approach to much of the lighting for many of the scenes set in day and night with the latter using natural lighting things such as fire and lamps as it is a major highlight of the film. Editor Stephen Mirrione does brilliant work with the editing in creating some unique jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to play into the film‘s offbeat rhythms as well as using fade-outs to structure the story. Production designer Jack Fisk, with art directors Laurel Bergman, Michael Diner, and Isabelle Guay and set decorator Hamish Purdy, does amazing work with the design of the ferry boats, the fort, and some of the smaller things that are created in the forest including the little tents that Glass would make in his journey.

Costume designer Jacqueline West does fantastic work with the costumes from the look of the clothes that the Native Americans wear as well as the array of furs and such that many of the trappers and frontiersmen wear. The hair/makeup work of Sian Grigg, Duncan Junman, and Robert Pandini do excellent work with the look of Glass from the beard and hair as well as the bruises and scars on his body as well as the look of Fitzgerald. Visual effects supervisor Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith, and Cameron Waldbauer do terrific work with the visual effects from the look of some of the animals including the bear that would attack Glass as it look and felt real.

Sound designers Lon Bender, Martin Hernandez, and Randy Thom, along with sound editor Victor J. Hernandez, do sensational work with the sound from the way the wind sounded as it creates a sense of unease in the locations as well as the sounds of arrows, gunfire, and all sorts of naturalistic sounds that is captured throughout the film. The film’s music by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, and Bryce Dessner is superb for its mixture of discordant string arrangements and bombastic percussions with an air of ambient textures while music supervisor Lynn Fainchtein would provide some traditional music pieces that were played during those times.

The casting by Francine Maisler is phenomenal as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Lukas Haas, Brendan Fletcher, Paul Anderson, and Kristoffer Jones as fellow trappers and soldiers who work under Captain Henry in hunting pelt while Fabrice Adde is terrific in a small role as head French trapper team named Toussaint. Other noteworthy small roles include Grace Dove as Glass’ late wife, Melaw Nakehk’o as the captured daughter of the Arikara chief, Arthur Redcloud as a Pawnee Indian Glass meets during his journey who would heal him, and Duane Howard as the Arikara chief Elk Dog who leads his tribe to find his daughter and kill whoever stands in his way. Forrest Goodluck is fantastic as Glass’ son Hawk as a young man who aids his father as he copes with Fitzgerald’s insults as well as the situation his father is in. Will Poulter is excellent as Bridger as a young trapper who deals with the severity of Glass’ situation where he tries to help him while understanding what Fitzgerald is doing and what kind of person he is.

Domhnall Gleeson is brilliant as Captain Andrew Henry as a military leader who is the leader of the expedition as he is someone that trusts Glass as he does whatever he can to help him while wondering about what Fitzgerald is about. Tom Hardy is incredible as John Fitzgerald as a trapper who is a man that is in it for himself and make a lot of money while seeing that carrying the injured Glass is a waste as he decides to leave him for dead without any remorse. Finally, there’s Leonardo diCaprio in a tremendous performance as Hugh Glass as this frontiersman that tries to survive as he gets attacked by a bear and then left for dead where it’s a performance from diCaprio that is astonishing in terms of how little he speaks and how determined he is to survive as the physicality of what he does is just eerie to watch in what is one of his finest performances to date.

The Revenant is a spectacular film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu that features great performances from Leonardo diCaprio and Tom Hardy. Along with a strong supporting cast, dazzling visuals, high-octane sound, a thrilling soundtrack, and a harrowing story of death, survival, and vengeance. It’s a film that manages to be engrossing in its locations as well as what is going on during a time where hunting was natural and survival was key to living. In the end, The Revenant is a magnificent film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu Films: Amores Perros - The Hire-Powder Keg - 11'9'01-September 11-Mexico - 21 Grams - Babel - To Each His Own Cinema-Anna - Biutiful - Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - The Auteurs #45: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

© thevoid99 2016