Friday, November 30, 2018

Films That I Saw: November 2018

Now about a month away from the end of another year and it’s been crazy to say the least. This month has been no exception with all of these wildfires happening in California and our dictator still in denial or just too ignorant over the concept of climate change and global warming. Here in Georgia, the election here turned out to be a mess as I knew it was going to happen as the governor’s race ended up having a lot of controversy with one of its candidates eventually conceding but not happy as it’s been revealed that a lot of the voting machines were either weren’t working or weren’t being sent. That is democracy. It doesn’t matter who you vote for as it can get bought or changed proving that you vote doesn’t fucking matter in whatever environment you’re in. I’m sure it would matter in some places as I do see semblances of hope in states like New York but you’re not going to get that here in the South as it’s still the meet the new boss, same as the old boss mentality.

This month has been trying as well as sad as the passing of people like Stan Lee, William Goldman, Nicholas Roeg, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Stephen Hillenburg has definitely been a big loss. Five men who were just artists and created art no matter in what form it has been. Goldman was probably one of the best screenwriters ever as I’m sure there’s people that will quote something from The Princess Bride. Hillenburg gave the world SpongeBob SquarePants as it was a cartoon that was so weird yet it managed to appeal to all sorts of people from kids to even adults. Bertolucci and Roeg helped change the idea of what cinema could be as they also proved to be an inspiration for all kinds of filmmakers. Then there’s Stan Lee who created a world that could never be matched as it wasn’t just comic books he created but also gave people heroes that they can connect with. Heroes who didn’t just have these powers but also had something human about them. These are five men who will be missed and they should be thanked for making the world a very interesting place to be in.

In the month of November, I saw a total of 31 films in 20 first-timers and 11 re-watches with two of the first-timers directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. A decrease from last month but still solid due to the numerous films I saw this month as one of the highlights this month has been Wim Wenders’ Road Trilogy as part of the Blind Spot Series for this year. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for November 2018:

1. Widows

2. Suspiria

3. Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne

4. The American Friend

5. They'll Love Me When I'm Dead

6. Funny Games (2007)

7. The Other Side of the Wind

8. The Year of Living Dangerously

9. Boxcar Bertha

10. Filming Othello

Monthly Mini-Reviews

Billionaire Boys Club

This was terrible. A remake of TV movie made in 1987 starring Judd Nelson who appears in this film as Ansel Elgort’s father. It’s a film about a bunch of guys in the 1980s who would create a Ponzi scheme as they get rich but also get themselves into a lot of shit involving drugs, women, murder, and other kinds of shit. While it features some solid work from Nelson, Taron Egerton, Cary Elwes as Andy Warhol, and Bokeem Woodbine. It’s a film that is style over substance with Elgort being a very bland lead while the film also features Kevin Spacey in what might be one of his last performances that the world will see from him for a while as he overacts and never brings anything new in a film that is dull from start to finish.

Red Sparrow

From Francis Lawrence comes a film that had the look and the premise of an interesting thriller but that is as far as it can go. It has a nice look and some solid performances from Charlotte Rampling and Jeremy Irons as they were probably there to collect paychecks and show everyone how it’s done. Yet, the film rest largely on Jennifer Lawrence as a ballerina who helps her uncle in doing a job for money where she is later trained to be a spy and capture an American spy in Russia. It’s a film that doesn’t have a lot of twists and the suspense is underwhelming while Lawrence’s performance is just terrible while she sports one of the worst Russian accents ever.

Bridget Jones’ Baby

I will admit to having a soft spot for the Bridget Jones movies despite my opinion on Renee Zelwegger as she’s hit and miss. Yet, she is really good in this film as it is about the titular character reaching her 40s and trying to figure out what to do next in her life after breaking up with Mark Darcy. Yet, a reunion with Darcy and a tryst with an American billionaire would lead to questions as it is a heartwarming and funny film that play into a woman reaching the next phase of her life but also wanting to be ensured that she’ll never be lonely again.

Pacific Rim Uprising

I would be interested in this film if it had any direct involvement from Guillermo del Toro as I was fond of the original film. Yet, the sequel not only doesn’t feature any real involvement from del Toro as it’s a film that is more of a typical blockbuster film with no real heart. It was good seeing Rinko Kikuchi and Burn Gorman reprise their roles along with Charlie Day yet despite the performances of John Boyega, Jing Tian, and Cailee Spaeny. It’s just a dull while it has some lame twists and a bland performance from Scott Eastwood as Boyega’s former partner.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Frances Ha

2. Inside Out

3. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

4. Analyze This

5. Taken

6. Born on the 4th of July

7. Monsters University

8. You’ve Got Mail

9. Analyze That

10. Necessary Roughness

Well, that is it for November. Next month will be focused mainly on 2018 releases as well as recent films and others that is on the never-ending DVR list along with theatrical releases like The Favourite, If Beale Street Could Talk, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and maybe Aquaman. The Auteurs piece on Orson Welles will be published in December as it will be the last Auteurs piece for the year as it’s definitely one of the most challenging pieces I’ve written as I’m nearly half-done and might split it into two parts. Along with the final film in the Blind Spot Series in Satyajit Ray’s The Hero, I will make the announcement of the 2019 Blind Spot Series as well as plans for 2019 as I’m going to push the Auteurs piece on David Lean for next year. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off… And go Atlanta United! Bring that MLS Cup home!

© thevoid99 2018

Thursday, November 29, 2018

2018 Blind Spot Series: Kings of the Road

Written and directed by Wim Wenders, Im Lauf der Zeit (Kings of the Road) is the story of a film projector repairman who saves the life of a psychologist from an accident as the two travel through Germany from one rural movie theater to another. The film is the third and final film of a thematic trilogy set on the road as it play into two men bonding in the course of their journey while finding solace in cinema. Starring Rudiger Volger, Hanns Zischler, Lisa Kreuzer, Rudolf Schundler, Marquad Bohm, Dieter Traier, and Franziska Stommer. Im Lauf der Zeit is a ravishing and exhilarating film from Wim Wenders.

Traveling through small villages and towns in West Germany, a film projector repairman meets a depressed psychologist who crashed his car into a river as they both travel and deal with their lives. It’s a film that does take a simple premise of two men traveling as they stop at cinemas to repair movie projectors as well as ponder about the world around them. Wim Wenders’ screenplay largely focuses on the journey of these two men where the film projector repairman Bruno Winter (Rudiger Volger) is traveling village to village to fix projectors at small cinemas in these villages where he watches psychologist Robert Lander (Hanns Zischler) crash his car into a river in a half-hearted suicide attempt as he’s reeling from his break-up with his wife. Lander joins Winter on the trip through West Germany from village to village as they go to cinemas to fix film projectors as the cinemas are a place of importance for these small towns still dealing with the guilt of war. Along the way, the two would meet individuals while also going on a separate path where Lander visits his father (Rudolf Schundler) while Winter meets a cinema cashier in Pauline (Lisa Kreuzer).

Wenders’ direction is definitely astonishing in terms of the locations he sets the film at where it’s in these small villages in West Germany where its destination is towards the East Germany border as the country was divided during the Cold War. Shot around the summer to the early fall, Wenders would emphasize this air of simplicity in these small towns that are definitely disconnected from the modernist big cities that have moved away from the past. The locations would add to this world that hasn’t progressed much yet have films as an escape from modern-day society where Winter would talk to a cinema owner early in the film about films while Winter is fixing a projector. Once Lander joins him, the two would look into their surroundings while meeting people on the journey as it play into not just loneliness but also loss which would force Winter and Lander to go on a separate path where they would rejoin each other during the film’s second act.

Wenders’ direction also has this looseness in the compositions he creates in the usage of the wide and medium shots to get a scope of the locations while creating this amazingly rich sequence of Winter and Lander riding on a motorcycle. There are some close-ups in the film but Wenders is more about creating these striking images of these two men being one with their surroundings as well as play into their own melancholia about their lives. Even in the third act where they’re in a shack just near the East-West German border as it adds to the sense of the unknown but also the realization that these two men are both dealing with a loneliness in their lives as their trip is about to end. Overall, Wenders crafts a riveting and evocative film about two different men who travel through West Germany to see a world that is changing and unable to keep up with the modern world.

Cinematographers Robby Muller and Martin Schafer do amazing work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography to play into the gorgeous look of the daytime scenes with its approach to natural lighting along with low-key lights for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Peter Przygodda does excellent work with the editing with its usage of dissolves, transition wipes, and jump-cuts as it help play into journey on the road as well as the low-key moments during a few stops in the journey. Production designers Heidi Ludi and Bernd Hirskorn do fantastic work with the interior of Winter’s van as well as the interiors in some of the cinemas that Winter and Lander go to.

The sound work of Martin Muller and Bruno Bollhalder is superb for its sound as it play into the natural elements as well as how a film project has to sound like. The film’s music by Axel Linstadt is incredible for its blues-based score with elements of folk and country as it adds to this energy and wonderment of the road while the soundtrack features music by Chris Montez, Heinz, and Roger Miller as it is one of the film’s highlights.

The film’s wonderful cast include some notable small roles from Wim Wenders as a film viewer, Patrick Kreuzer as a young boy Lander meets late in the film, Franziska Stommer as a cinema owner that Winter converses with in the film’s beginning, Dieter Traier as a garage owner, Michael Weidermann as a schoolteacher, Peter Kaiser as a film projector who is more concerned masturbating to the film than showing the film properly, Marquad Bohm as a man who lost his wife as Lander helps him, Rudolf Schundler as Lander’s father who works at a printing press as he laments over the loss of his wife, and Lisa Kreuzer as a cashier Winter meets in town whom he spends the night with as they deal with the declining world of cinemas in small villages in Germany. The duo of Rudiger Volger and Hanns Zischler are phenomenal in their respective roles as Bruno Winter and Robert Lander as two men who go on the road as they deal with loneliness and lack of companionship as well as their surroundings with Volger as someone who loves cinema as well as his work despite the decline of cinemas in small villages while Lander is more low-key as a man dealing with depression as well as his own issues as both Volger and Zischler are major highlights of the film.

Im Lauf der Zeit is a tremendous film from Wim Wenders that features incredible performances from Rudiger Volger and Hanns Zischler. Featuring a brilliant ensemble cast, beautiful photography, a minimalist story, a killer music score and soundtrack, and gorgeous locations through rural West Germany. It is a film that play into the idea of traveling on the road to see a world that is having a hard time adjusting to change while being an adventure that is more about personal than physical. In the end, Im Lauf der Zeit is a magnificent film from Wim Wenders.

Wim Wenders Films: (Summer in the City) - (The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty) - (The Scarlet Letter (1973 film)) – Alice in the Cities - Wrong Move - The American Friend - (Lightning Over Water) - (Room 666) - (Hammett) - (The State of Things) – Paris, Texas - (Tokyo-Ga) – Wings of Desire - (Notebook on Cities and Clothes) – Until the End of the World - (Faraway, So Close!) - (Lisbon Story) - (Beyond the Clouds) - (A Trick of Light) - (The End of Violence) - (Buena Vista Social Club) - (The Million Dollar Hotel) - (The Soul of a Man) - (Land of Plenty) - (Don’t Come Knocking) - (The Palermo Shooting) - (Pina) - Salt of the Earth - (Every Thing Will Be Fine) – (The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez) – (Submergence) - (Pope Francis: A Man of His Word)

© thevoid99 2018

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

2018 Blind Spot Series: Wrong Move

Based on the novel Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Falsche Bewegung (Wrong Move) is the story of a writer who leaves his hometown where he meets other travels to seek some inspiration as well as trying to create a new identity. Directed by Wim Wenders and screenplay by Wenders and Peter Handke, the film is the second film of a trilogy of road movies where a man tries to find new adventures on the road. Starring Rudiger Volger, Hanna Schygulla, Hans Christian Blech, Ivan Desny, Marianne Hoppe, Peter Kern, Lisa Kreuzer, and introducing Nastassja Kinski. Falsche Bewegung is an entrancing yet somber film from Wim Wenders.

Trying to find inspiration as a writer, the film follows a man who decides to leave his hometown where he travels through Germany where he meets other travelers during his journey as he questions his own existence. It’s a film with a simple yet minimalist premise that doesn’t have much plot yet it is more of a study of isolation and a journey to find meaning through traveling across the country. The film’s screenplay by Wim Wenders and Peter Handke follows the writer Wilhelm Meister (Rudiger Volger) who is hoping to create something yet feels stuck living with his mother (Marianne Hoppe) where he decides to go on a trip around Germany for ideas.

The script does have a structure as it play into Meister’s trip as the first act is him meeting fellow travelers in an actress Therese Farner (Hanna Schygulla), an aging Olympian in Laertes (Hans Christian Blech), and his teenage mute companion in Mignon (Nastassja Kinski). They’re later joined by an Austrian in Bernhard Landau (Peter Kern) where the second act has them staying at the home of an industrialist (Ivan Desny) who is grieving the loss of his wife while the third act is set in Frankfurt as it would play into Meister’s sense of isolation with a world that is becoming modernized.

Wenders’ direction is definitely intoxicating for the compositions he creates throughout the course of the film. Notably in the usage of the wide shots where it opens with a helicopter shot of Gluckstadt as it’s raining to play into a world that is quaint and has a traditional look which isn’t an environment for Meister to find some sort of inspiration. The usage of the wide and medium shots doesn’t just play into the moments of traveling where Meisler travels to Bonn via train with Laertes and Mignon but also in this mixture of a world that has old traditional buildings mixed in with something that is new yet retaining its forests and natural settings. Notably in a scene where Meister, Farner, Laertes, Mignon, and Landau are all walking on a roadside mountain looking at the surroundings where Wenders would create these gorgeous images that has Meister and Laertes conversing in the foreground in a medium shot while everything else is happening in the background in a wide shot.

Wenders’ direction also uses the medium shots and close-ups for the scenes set inside the train as well as some of the moments where the characters interact including a scene with the industrialist who talks about his own sense of loss. These conversations and intimate scenes that include a strange encounter with Mignon add to Meister’s fascination with humanity as he tries to write things down. Particularly his conversation with Laertes who is a mysterious individual who ran at the 1936 Olympics while also having a darker past which would disturb Meister who becomes troubled by how Laertes uses Mignon. The film’s third act set in Frankfurt has Wenders showcase a world that is different from Bonn and Gluckstadt which is chaotic and filled with lots of people living in this rapid-pace society that would overwhelm Meister to the point that he questions his existence and worth. Overall, Wenders crafts a ravishing yet haunting film about a man’s journey through Germany in an attempt to find inspiration and an identity.

Cinematographer Robby Muller does amazing work with the film’s colorful cinematography as it captures the beauty of the locations in the exterior settings including the city lights at night along with low-key lights for some of the interiors. Editors Peter Przygodda and Barbara von Weitershausen do brilliant work with its usage of jump-cuts and dissolves to help play into the sense of wonderment that occurs throughout the film. Wardrobe by Heidi Ludi does nice work with the costumes with Mignon being the most fashionable from her colorful sweater and overalls that she wears every day as well as what she wears at a house. The sound work of Martin Muller and Klaus Peter Kaiser is superb for its natural approach to sound as how noises sound from afar to the sounds of the city. The film’s music by Jurgen Knieper is brilliant for its low-key yet plaintive score with its mixture of strings and guitars to play into the melancholia while the soundtrack features bits of classical music and a rock song from the Troggs.

The film’s wonderful cast include a few notable small roles from Marianne Hoppe as Wilhelm’s mother and Lisa Kreuzer as Wilhelm’s girlfriend Janine. Ivan Desny is terrific as the industrialist as a man living in a castle that is in ruins as he deals with loss while welcoming the idea of people at his home for a day. Peter Kern is superb as Bernhard Landau as an Austrian traveling in Germany as he hears Meister recite poetry as he wants to be a poet where he joins them on the journey through the country. Hans Christian Blech is fantastic as Laertes as a former Olympian with a dark past as he works as a con artist where he copes with his ailing health and the changes around the world. 

Nastassja Kinski is brilliant as Mignon as a teenage mute street performer who never says a word yet manages to do a lot in terms of her physicality as well as display a complex innocence to her character. Hanna Schygulla is amazing as Therese Farner as an actress traveling through Germany as she is returning home to Frankfurt while dealing with the demands of her job. Finally, there’s Rudiger Volger in an excellent performance as Wilhelm Meister as an aspiring writer trying to find inspiration through this trip through Germany where he deals with his surroundings as well as questioning his work and identity as it’s one of his finest performances.

Falsche Bewegung is an incredible film from Wim Wenders. Featuring a phenomenal cast, entrancing visuals, an intoxicating music soundtrack, and themes of identity and loneliness on the road. It’s a film that explores a group of people traveling through Germany as they deal with themselves and their environments on a trip to the unknown. In the end, Falsche Bewegung is a remarkable film from Wim Wenders.

Wim Wenders Films: (Summer in the City) - (The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty) - (The Scarlet Letter (1973 film)) – Alice in the Cities - Kings of the RoadThe American Friend - (Lightning Over Water) - (Room 666) - (Hammett) - (The State of Things) – Paris, Texas - (Tokyo-Ga) – Wings of Desire - (Notebook on Cities and Clothes) – Until the End of the World - (Faraway, So Close!) - (Lisbon Story) - (Beyond the Clouds) - (A Trick of Light) - (The End of Violence) - (Buena Vista Social Club) - (The Million Dollar Hotel) - (The Soul of a Man) - (Land of Plenty) - (Don’t Come Knocking) - (The Palermo Shooting) - (Pina) - Salt of the Earth - (Every Thing Will Be Fine) – (The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez) – (Submergence) - (Pope Francis: A Man of His Word)

© thevoid99 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018

2018 Blind Spot Series: Alice in the Cities

Directed by Wim Wenders and written by Wenders and Veith von Furstenberg, Alice in den Stadten (Alice in the Cities) is the story of a German journalist driving through America struggling with his assignment as he later meets a young girl whom he takes back home to Germany. The first film in a trilogy of films relating to the road, the film is an exploration of a man exploring his surroundings while dealing with the loneliness of traveling. Starring Rudiger Vogler, Yella Rottlander, Lisa Kreuzer, Edda Kochl, Ernest Boehm, Sam Presti, Lois Moran, and Didi Petrikat. Alice in den Stadten is an evocative and rapturous film from Wim Wenders.

The film is about a German journalist’s journey from America and returning home to Germany with a young girl as his traveling companion after her mother had abandoned her when they decided to return to Germany. At first, the journalist and young girl aren’t fond of each other but then become friends as they try to find the home of the young girl’s grandmother. It’s a film with a simple premise that play into a man trying to connect with his surroundings for his job only to end up with nothing as he decides to go back home. The film’s screenplay by Wim Wenders and Veith von Furstenberg follow the trip that journalist Philip Winter (Rudiger Volger) is taking through America as he finds the whole trip unfulfilling where he misses hid deadline and decides to return to Germany.

While stopping in New York City to meet with his editor, Winter meets a woman in Lisa (Lisa Kreuzer) and her daughter Alice (Yella Rottlander) who both are trying to return to Germany but an air controller strike forces the three to take a flight to Amsterdam. Unfortunately, Lisa stays behind to deal with a lover claiming she would meet them in Amsterdam where Winter and Alice both realize that she isn’t coming to Amsterdam. This prompts Winter and Alice to travel from Amsterdam to Germany to drop Alice at the home of her grandmother where the journey has the two travel knowing each other with Winter finding fulfillment and Alice finding someone she can rely on.

Wenders’ direction is definitely intimate as the film is largely shot on black-and-white 16mm film while it would have something that is loose in its presentation as it is shot on various locations in America and Germany including New York City, Wuppertal, Ruhr, and Amsterdam. Wenders’ direction would have him create simple compositions to play into Winter’s own sense of isolation in America as he’s driving around the country to find a story that he can be enamored with. Wenders’ direction for the scenes on the road has this element of the unknown and bewilderment where Winter would shoot something on a Polaroid camera as a way to find something extraordinary in something ordinary. The usage of the wide and medium shots help play into the vast locations that occur in the film while also adding a sense of wonderment to the journey that Winter and Alice take upon their arrival to Amsterdam and later Germany. Wenders’ usage of close-ups and medium shots do play into the interaction as well as scenes inside a car or in a hotel room where they gaze into the world they’re in. Even as Winter and Alice find something in their journey that doesn’t have any planning or no sense of direction that makes it an immersive experience. Overall, Wenders crafts an intoxicating yet somber film about a journalist and a young girl taking a trip from America to Germany to take the latter home.

Cinematographer Robby Muller does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white 16mm photography as it has a sense of grit into the scenes at night as well as a beauty for many of the exterior locations in the film. Editor Peter Przygodda does excellent work with the editing as it does have bits of style in the jump-cuts and fade-outs while much of it is straightforward. The sound work of Martin Muller is terrific for its natural approach to sound in the way trains and cars are heard outside of a room. The film’s music by Can is superb for its low-key yet plaintive folk-based score with elements of electronics while the music soundtrack on the film is presented in a diegetic form as it features music from Chuck Berry, Deep Purple, the Drifters, Canned Heat, the Rolling Stones, Count Five, Domenico Modungo, and Stories.

The film’s wonderful cast include some notable small roles and appearances from Chuck Berry as himself in a concert footage where Winter goes to his show, Lois Moran as an airport attendant, Edda Kochl as a friend of Winter in New York City in Angela, Sam Presti as a car dealer in New York City, Ernest Boehm as Winter’s publisher, and Didi Petrikat as a friend of Winter in Frankfurt. Lisa Kreuzer is brilliant as Alice’s mother Lisa as a woman wanting to go home yet is still enamored with the man she broke up with as she stays behind to try and repair that relationship. Yella Rottlander is amazing as Alice as a young girl who deals with being abandoned by her mother and dealing with being on the road and traveling where she finds some comfort in Winter whom she eventually grows to like. Finally, there’s Rudiger Volger in an incredible performance as Philip Winter as a journalist who is disillusioned by his trip to America prompting him to return home where his journey back home with this young girl would make him find the things he’s been searching for as well as find joy in his life.

Alice in den Stadten is a phenomenal film from Wim Wenders. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a minimalist yet engaging story, and a superb soundtrack from Can. It’s a road film that play into the sense of wonderment by the environment two people are in as they try to return home while finding something else entirely along the way. In the end, Alice in den Stadten is a sensational film from Wim Wenders.

Wim Wenders Films: (Summer in the City) - (The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty) - (The Scarlet Letter (1973 film)) - Wrong Move - Kings of the RoadThe American Friend - (Lightning Over Water) - (Room 666) - (Hammett) - (The State of Things) – Paris, Texas - (Tokyo-Ga) – Wings of Desire - (Notebook on Cities and Clothes) – Until the End of the World - (Faraway, So Close!) - (Lisbon Story) - (Beyond the Clouds) - (A Trick of Light) - (The End of Violence) - (Buena Vista Social Club) - (The Million Dollar Hotel) - (The Soul of a Man) - (Land of Plenty) - (Don’t Come Knocking) - (The Palermo Shooting) - (Pina) - Salt of the Earth - (Every Thing Will Be Fine) – (The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez) – (Submergence) - (Pope Francis: A Man of His Word)

© thevoid99 2018

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Widows (2018 film)

Based on the British TV series from 1983 to 1985, Widows is the story of a group of women whose husbands had been killed in a botched heist forcing the women to carry out a heist of their own to pay back the money their husbands had stolen. Directed by Steve McQueen and screenplay by McQueen and Gillian Flynn, the film is an unconventional heist drama that involves the widows of a few men as they learn in pulling a heist as they deal with all sorts of forces in the world of politics and crime. Starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Carrie Coon, Jacki Weaver, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson. Widows is a gripping and eerie film from Steve McQueen.

A group of women, whose husbands had been killed following a botched heist, learn they owe a man who is running for office $2 million forcing them to embark on a heist to pay him back as they only have one month to do the job. It’s a film with a simple premise that play into a trio of women whose husbands had been killed in a heist while one of the widows chooses to not be involved as none of them have an idea of how to carry out a bigger heist to owe this man the money their husbands had stolen. The film’s screenplay by Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn has a straightforward narrative with some flashback sequences that play into the events of the botched heist and the life of one of the widows in Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis) who is still in shock not just over what her husband Harry (Liam Neeson) did but also the fact that they lost a son a decade earlier.

Being caught in the middle of a contentious election race for alderman at a small area in Chicago between Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) and a crime boss in Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) as the latter is trying to become legitimate. Veronica realizes that Harry and his crew had stolen $2 million from Manning who confronts Veronica in wanting his money back with his brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) keeping an eye on her as he’s also his brother’s enforcer. Left with just a book of all of Harry’s plans for the heists including one that was supposed to be the next heist, Veronica decides to contact the other widows that include clothing store owner Linda Pirelli (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice Gunner (Elizabeth Debicki) as neither women nor Veronica have a clue in trying to plan a heist as they are willing to learn from Harry’s book. While Linda and Alice are given assignments in to get certain things despite their lack of knowledge, they do see the bigger picture with Alice feeling resentful towards her late husband for putting her in debt knowing what he did.

Alice however wasn’t sure about what her husband did as she reluctantly becomes an escort as she and Linda both help Veronica with the heist as Linda would bring in her kids’ babysitter Belle (Cynthia Erivo) who discovered a key connection between the botched heist, Mulligan, and Manning at the beauty shop she works at. The screenplay doesn’t just play into the motivations of these women but also this underbelly of corruption from both Manning and Mulligan as the latter is trying to fill in the role that his father Tom (Robert Duvall) had been sitting at as he’s trying to maintain his own ideals into his son. It raises questions into the heist that Harry and his crew were involved in as did they know it would involve this contentious political race? This forces the widows to answer these questions themselves as well as deal with all of the chaos and loss they had to endure.

McQueen’s direction is definitely intense in terms of the tight visuals and compositions he creates as well as that air of suspense that occurs for the heist scenes in the film. Shot on location in Chicago, McQueen uses the location to create this air of social divide from the spacious and comfortable penthouses and posh homes that Veronica, the Mulligans, and Alice lived in to the more working-class and poor environment that Linda, Belle, and Manning is at. McQueen would use wide shots to play into the locations as well as some intricate tracking and long shots for scenes that establish some of the drama such as an off-screen conversation between Mulligan and his campaign manager Siobhan (Molly Gunz) as it is presented in one take. It’s one of the more unconventional elements McQueen would create as it adds to this drama over the idea of ambition and who it would impact for all of the wrong reasons.

McQueen’s usage of close-ups add to the drama as it relates to loss which include a few flashback scenes involving Veronica as it relates to her marriage but also events that impacted her marriage to Harry such as the death of their son Marcus (Josiah Shefee). It’s not just Veronica that feels lost but also Linda and Alice where the former meets a man asking him about a building blueprint as he had just lost his wife as it’s a moment of two people who are both coping with loss. For Alice despite being in an abusive relationship with her husband, she is defined by being in a marriage and has a need for companionship but has to come to terms that she needs to live for herself. McQueen does maintain this need for feminism in the film as it is clear that they’re living in a world driven by men though Mulligan’s duty for campaigning is really masterminded by Siobhan.

McQueen’s approach to the violence is unsettling such as a scene of Jatemme confronting a couple of young men over the film’s opening heist scene which is told with a sense of immediacy. The scene has McQueen present everything in one take as he knows when to pull the trigger and then some as it is shocking while the film’s climatic heist is more about location and timing rather than violence. Still, it is followed by an aftermath about who runs the show in terms of the heist but these are women who aren’t from the world of crime and they don’t play by the rules since they don’t know nor care about the rules of the underworld. Even as it involves powerful forces who are trying to maintain some idea of power yet those who are impacted by this play of power would eventually reap from what they sow. Overall, McQueen crafts a rapturous yet astonishing film about a group of widows who plan a heist to pay back the money their husbands stole from men of power.

Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography for its usage of dreamy yet naturalistic lighting for some of the daytime exterior scenes at Veronica’s apartment as well as the usage of low-key lights for some of interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Joe Walker does amazing work with the editing as its usage of rhythmic cuts and montages help play into the drama as well as in some of the suspenseful moments where it doesn’t emphasize too much on style in favor of something more controlled in its execution. Production designer Adam Stockhausen, with art directors Gregory S. Hooper and Heather Ratliff plus set decorator Elizabeth Keenan, does fantastic work with the look of the homes of the widows as well as the home office of Manning and the posh home of the Mulligans. Costume designer Jenny Eagan does nice work with the costumes from the posh clothes that Veronica and Alice wears to the more casual look of Linda and Belle.

Special effects supervisor Michael Gaspar and visual effects supervisor Lars Andersen do terrific work with some of the film’s big effects as it relates to the film’s first heist scene as well as a key moment during the film’s climax. Sound editors Paul Cotterell and James Harrison do superb work with the sound as it captures the atmosphere of the violence in the opening scenes as well as some of the crowd moments and the conversation between Mulligan and Siobhan in their car off-screen. The film’s music by Hans Zimmer is excellent for its low-key yet eerie score that feature some heavy string arrangements as well as some ambient-based pieces while music supervisor Ian Neil provides a soundtrack that is mostly diegetic as it include songs by Nina Simone, W.A.S.P., Al Green, Michael Jackson, Procol Harum, and a few others plus a song by Sade that is performed in the film’s final credits.

The casting by Francine Maisler, Mickie Paskal, and Jennifer Rudnicke is great as it feature some notable small roles from Alejandro Verdin and Bailey Rhyse Walters as Linda’s kids, Bailee Brewer as Belle’s daughter, Adam Wesley Brown as an auction guy helping Alice find a van, Philip Rayburn Smith as a grieving man Linda meets about blueprints, Josiah Sheffie as Veronica and Harry’s late son Marcus, Matt Walsh as a securities man that Veronica blackmails, Adepero Oduye as a hair salon woman who is Belle’s boss, Jon Michael Wheel as a reverend Manning tries to win over, Molly Kunz as Mulligan’s campaign manager Siobhan, Coburn Goss as one of the thieves in the heist who is married to the fourth widow that is not involved, Jon Bernthal as Alice’s husband Florek, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Linda’s husband Carlos, Kevin J. O’Connor as a friend of Harry who provides Veronica some information about her husband, Lukas Haas as a real estate developer Alice would sleep with for money, and Garrett Dillahunt in a terrific small role as Veronica’s driver Bash who offers to help Veronica with the heist. 

Liam Neeson is superb in a small role as Veronica’s husband Harry Rawlings as a master thief who has organized everything yet is mysteriously killed believing that he’s been set-up. Robert Duvall is fantastic as Mulligan’s son Tom as a government official who is forced to step down due to health issues while trying to maintain some of his old ideals where he finds himself not agreeing with his son who has bigger ideas.  Carrie Coon is excellent as Amanda Nunn as a widow whose husband was killed in the heist as she has no interest helping Veronica in favor of her own safety while also carrying a secret about the heist. Jacki Weaver is brilliant as Alice’s mother as a woman who is trying to instill Alice ideas of being a housewife as well as suggest Alice to become an escort. Brian Tyree Henry is amazing as the crime boss Jamal Manning as a man that is eager to enter politics to be influential and have power. 

Daniel Kaluuya is incredible as Jamal’s younger brother and enforcer Jatemme as a man that is watching over what Veronica does while taking of things that need to be taken care of with ruthless aggression. Colin Farrell is marvelous as Jack Mulligan as a politician who is taking over his father’s position as he is reluctant to be involved with politics yet realizes that it would give him a lot of power of wanting to make change in his ward.  Cynthia Erivo is remarkable as Belle as a hairdresser who also works as a babysitter for Linda who also takes part in the heist after a discovery she made about Mulligan and what he’s trying to do proving that she’s a formidable ally. 

Michelle Rodriguez is great as Linda Perelli as a clothing store owner who loses her business because of her husband’s dealings prompting her to join Veronica while dealing with her own grief as well as the difficulty of understanding what needs to be done. Elizabeth Debicki is sensational as Alice Gunner as a housewife who is initially reluctant to take part in the heist as she is someone used to being abused only to realize that things will get worse as she starts to help out. Finally, there’s Viola Davis in a phenomenal performance as Veronica Rawlings as a woman ravaged by grief as she is aware of what will happen to her as she decides to take action after finding her husband’s book prompting her to lead a heist with a few other women despite their inexperience as it’s a performance that has Davis show some strength and determination making it a career-defining feat for her.

Widows is a magnificent film from Steve McQueen. Featuring a great ensemble cast, haunting visuals, a chilling music score, intense editing, and a riveting story about ambition, power, and its impact on those who become directly involved. It’s a film that is an exploration of women dealing with the world of men that takes advantage of them forcing them to carry out a heist that many believe they couldn’t pull off as well as showing who has the power in a world that is corrupt and unruly. In the end, Widows is an outstanding film from Steve McQueen.

Steve McQueen Films: Hunger (2008 film) - Shame (2011 film) - 12 Years a Slave - Small Axe - (Uprising (2022 film)) - (Occupied City) - (Blitz) - The Auteurs #52: Steve McQueen

© thevoid99 2018

Saturday, November 24, 2018

They'll Love Me When I'm Dead

Directed by Morgan Neville, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is the story about the making of Orson Welles’ 1970s comeback film The Other Side of the Wind as well as the film's troubled production and attempts to finish it before Welles' death in 1985. The film explore the difficulty in making the film which had a sporadic six-year shoot that ended in 1976 only to be followed by more challenges relating to its post-production and Welles’ death. Featuring interviews from two of the film’s stars in filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and Welles’ artistic/life partner Oja Kodar as well as many others plus narration by Alan Cumming. The result is an intoxicating and entrancing film from Morgan Neville about a film that became a legend for not being released or finished until now.

In the 1970s following a near-two decade period of exile from Hollywood, Orson Welles had plans to make what he hoped to be his comeback film at a time when New Hollywood was up and running where filmmakers were making new and exciting films that felt personal rather than commercial. For Welles, it felt like the right time to return to Los Angeles to make this new film entitled The Other Side of the Wind which was to be about a filmmaker’s final day where he celebrates his 70th birthday at his home where he hosts a screening party for his new film while lamenting over the lack of funds he needed to finish the film. It’s a film that would play into the many themes that Welles had explored for much of his career from man’s determination to create something to the element of betrayal which Welles would endure professionally and personally.

The film is about the making of Welles’ attempted comeback film told by those who worked on the film such as filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, co-writer/actress/Welles’ life partner Oja Kodar, film producer Frank Marshall who was the film’s unit production manager, actress Cathy Lucas, comedian Rich Little, actor Bob Random, and several others including actress Cybill Shepherd, filmmaker Henry Jaglom, Welles’ daughter Beatrice, and John Huston’s son in actor Danny Huston. With the exception of Kodar and a few others who appear via audio, many of the people interviewed are presented in black-and-white by director Morgan Neville and cinematographer Danny Grunes as they talk about the film’s troubled production.

The reason it took so long wasn’t just financial issues as Welles had those interest in funding his film including Mehdi Boushehri who was the brother-in-law of the Shah of Iran during the 1970s. It was also for the fact that Welles would write the script on production and make things up as he went along. Rich Little was cast as Brooks Otterlake during the 1973-1974 production period but his inexperience in acting as well as scheduling conflicts forced him to be replaced by Bogdanovich who had filmed a different part during the film’s early filming stages in 1970 and 1971 as a boom operator. John Huston came on board for the production in 1973 when Welles had difficulty trying to find someone to play the lead role of J.J. “Jake” Hannaford as he and Welles were good friends where Danny Huston shared the similarities into their issues with Hollywood. Other issues that plagued the production was its lack of progress with crew members waiting to get paid while Welles’ cinematographer Gary Graver had to do porn films to pay the bills where Welles did edit a scene in one of those films.

Neville’s direction doesn’t just play into the events of the production as well as the important contributions Kodar and Graver (who died in 2006) had done for the film but also in the interviews by the collaborators as they all sit in a room and talk about the film. Alan Cumming's narration is definitely a highlight of the film as he narrates the film on a soundstage surrounded by rows of moviola editing machines that is created by production designer Jade Spiers with costume designer Raina Selene Mieloch Blinn providing the suit that Cumming would wear. Cumming would present the events that happened including the troubling moments after filming completed in 1976 such as the 1979 Iranian Revolution which impacted the financing as well as the post-production for the film. Adding to the problems of money that Welles owed was that he was unable to have access to material he had shot which was locked in a vault in France.

With the help of editors Aaron Wickenden and Jason Zeldes along with sound designer Peter Mullen, Neville would gather footage of Welles’ doing interviews and such about his film including the 1975 appearance at the American Film Institute in his honor where he presents a couple of clips from the film as a way to get funding which he received none. By the 1980s, Welles’ attempt to finish his film through whatever footage he had made him melancholic where Bogdanovich revealed that events would mirror the film as it’s shown on a late-night talk show hosted by Burt Reynolds talking to Welles that had him say bad things about Bogdanovich. Welles would apologize but their relationship wasn’t the same.

Visual effects supervisor Chris Holmes would provide some effects for some of photos shown on the film. The film’s music by Daniel Wohl is wonderful for its low-key ambient score that play into the melancholia and chaos that went on through the production while music supervisors Jody Friedman and Jennifer Lanchart provide a soundtrack that mixes classical, rock, punk, and other music from Yes, Suicide, the Buzzcocks, and Ludwig Van Beethoven.

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is a phenomenal film from Morgan Neville. Not only is the film is a fitting companion piece to the just-released The Other Side of the Wind but it’s also a riveting film about the attempt to make a film that would become legend for not being released with the world finally getting a chance to see it. It’s also a documentary film that doesn’t play by the rules as it also play up into the myth that is Orson Welles and dispel many of those myths to show a man that was driven to create something that is out of the ordinary. In the end, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is a spectacular film from Morgan Neville.

Morgan Neville Films: (The Cool School) – (20 Feet from Stardom) – (Best of Enemies) – Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Orson Welles Films: Citizen Kane - The Magnificent Ambersons - The Stranger (1946 film) - The Lady from Shanghai - Macbeth (1948 film) - Othello (1952 film) - Mr. Arkadin - Touch of Evil - The Trial (1962 film) - Chimes at Midnight - The Immortal Story - F for Fake - Filming Othello - The Other Side of the Wind

Related: Orson Welles: The One-Man Band - The Eyes of Orson Welles - The Auteurs #69: Orson Welles: Part 1 - Part 2

© thevoid99 2018

Friday, November 23, 2018

Orson Welles: The One-Man Band

Directed by Oja Kodar and Vassili Silovic and written by Silovic and Roland Zag, Orson Welles: The One-Man Band is a documentary film about the numerous unfinished and unreleased films made by Orson Welles from 1965 to his death in 1985. Told mainly by Kodar who was Welles’ artistic and personal partner, the film chronicles the many films Welles was unable to finish including his attempted comeback film The Other Side of the Wind which was completed in 2018 just 23 years after the release of this documentary. The result is a mesmerizing and engrossing film from Oja Kodar and Vassili Silovic.

Throughout the career of Orson Welles as a filmmaker, he had only released 13 completed features in his lifetime yet there were many projects that he made that were either unfinished or unreleased. The most notable being his attempted comeback film The Other Side of the Wind as production began in 1970 and shooting completed in 1976 as attempts to finish had been mired by legal, financial, and political issues. The film is about the numerous projects that were unfinished and unreleased from the 1960s to his final year in 1985 as they’ve been compiled and kept by his collaborator and life partner Oja Kodar in Los Angeles. Kodar would be interviewed throughout the film as she would show co-director Vassili Silovic and others some of the footage and such of the films that Welles was unable to finish including early snippets of The Other Side of the Wind before its eventual completion in 2018.

With narration by Francois Marthouret in French who would provide insight into the many projects that Welles would make during his lifetime that were either unfinished or unreleased. Among them was a trailer for F for Fake which was a nine-minute presentation of the film for its American release but was rejected by its distributor as it wouldn’t be seen until the 2000s when the trailer was released as an extra for the film’s DVD/Blu-Ray releases. Other projects that Welles had been unable to finish include a comedy short called One Man Band that had Welles in sketches playing various parts as it kind of represents his one-man idea to create the films by himself and with whatever he had as it would include appearances from Charles Gray. Another project with Gray that Welles did was a TV film version of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice that had Welles play Shylock in the film yet it widely considered an unfinished film due the fact that some of the footage is missing and was unreleased in its unfinished form until 2015 when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival that year.

Kodar and Silovic would maintain something straightforward through the scenes of the former discussing many of Welles’ unreleased work in scenes where she’s driving around Los Angeles or at the homes Welles previously owned in Los Angeles and Spain with cinematographer Thomas Mauch at the helm shooting the interviews. The scenes also include shots of editing machines showing many of Welles’ unreleased work including a suitcase that he would carry whenever he traveled that included a camera, some film stock, a picture frame, and an editing machine. This was something Welles would do often as it included an attempted film version of Moby Dick that had Welles recite many of the passages from Herman Melville’s book as well as the long-decade work on Don Quixote that remains unfinished.

Editors Edward G. Norris and Marie-Josephe Yoyette along with Sound editor Hans Kunzi would compile many of the clips of Welles’ unreleased work as the reason many were unfinished and unreleased were due to financial reasons while another project in The Deep that starred Welles, Kodar, Jeanne Moreau, Laurence Harvey, and Michael Bryant which was meant to be a commercially-based film from Welles. Yet, the reason it remained unfinished and unreleased was due to Harvey’s death in 1973 forcing Welles to abandon the film. Projects such as a follow-up to Filming Othello in Filming the Trial and The Dreamers as the latter was based on the works of Karen Blixen which had Welles and Kodar do the film at Welles’ home. The film’s music by Simon Cloquet is wonderful for its lush orchestral score that play into the mystique that is Welles as well as the melancholia into the projects he had been unable to finish yet leaving behind a legacy that is unmatched.

Orson Welles: The One-Man Band is a remarkable film from Oja Kodar and Vassili Silovic. It’s a film that fans of Orson Welles must see as it relates to the many films he left behind that weren’t finished as well as those he never got to release properly told by the woman who was his muse. In the end, Orson Welles: The One-Man Band is a marvelous film from Oja Kodar and Vassili Silovic.

Orson Welles Films: Citizen Kane - The Magnificent Ambersons - The Stranger (1946 film) - The Lady from Shanghai - Macbeth (1948 film) - Othello (1952 film) - Mr. Arkadin - Touch of Evil - The Trial (1962 film) - Chimes at Midnight - The Immortal Story - F for Fake - Filming Othello - The Other Side of the Wind

Related: The Eyes of Orson Welles - They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead - The Auteurs #69: Orson Welles: Part 1 - Part 2

© thevoid99 2018

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Non-Linear Timelines

For the 47th week of 2018 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer. We venture into the subject of non-linear timelines as Jean-Luc Godard said it best about narrative in “There’s a beginning, a middle, and an ending but it doesn’t have to be in that order”. Here are my three picks:

1. Rashomon

From Akira Kurosawa comes a film about a rape and murder told from four different perspectives with a priest and a woodcutter trying to figure out what really happened. It’s a film that is really a game-changer in a lot of ways in terms of how to tell a story as well as showing many angles of what might’ve happened. Even as a ragged peasant would be involved to figure out what happened that relates to a bandit, a murdered man, his wife, and a spiritual medium which prove that not everything is as it seems.

2. 5x2

From Francois Ozon comes a film about a marriage and its eventual dissolution told backwards. The concept itself seems un-original yet Ozon manages to capture a marriage that seem doomed from the start where Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi and Stephanie Freiss are first seen at a divorce hearing and it ends with how they first met. The seeds of their broken marriage would emerge through some moments yet it also reveals that it started off innocently upon their first meeting yet it ponders what would happen if they knew they were to get married and later hate each other.

3. Love & Mercy

Bill Pohlad’s bio-pic on the legendary Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson is definitely the kind of bio-pic Hollywood wants to avoid. Notably as it doesn’t play by the rules where Pohlad focuses on two different time period in Wilson’s life from the mid-1960s when he quits touring and focuses on recording and in the late 1980s where he is under the care of a cruel therapist until a car salesman saves him and gets him back in touch with the world. Featuring Paul Dano and John Cusack in their respective roles as the younger and older Wilson, it’s an astonishing film that touches upon a man who got lost in his fragile state of mind and eventually return to the world.

© thevoid99 2018