Saturday, July 31, 2021

Films That I Saw: July 2021


Less than half of the people in this country have been fully vaccinated and yet, the idea of another pandemic happening all over again really added to the growing sense of despair that I’ve been dealing. Much of it is my own fault as nearly 20 years of downloading illegally through torrents have finally caught up as my mother got into some trouble but we were fortunate to at least settle things though I’m the one that is paying. Yet, I was forced to delete a lot of things I had over the years as I’m upset about it but I’m kind of over it but I’m still angry. Notably at my sister and her husband for being not just vague of what not to download but also never being clear with me and often keeping me in the dark on what should I delete or not delete as I just don’t want to talk them for the moment. They tend to be know-it-alls and often maintain an act of superiority yet my mother and I are the ones taking care of their kids while they’re working or sometimes going out unexpectedly.

The other thing that really pisses me off is how my sister treat our mother for not catching up with technology as we got these 2 new fireTVs last month as she doesn’t know how they work. She’s in her 60s and usually watches YouTube on her iPad as I’m trying to be patient with her on how to watch YouTube on the fireTV as we’re still waiting on a new couch. It is an end of an era to download films and music illegally though I haven’t been doing much on the latter because there hasn’t been a lot of interesting music at the moment. The sad part is that there’s a bunch of movies that are unavailable at streaming services or in physical form that I’m not going to have access to as one of the films I deleted was one of my Blind Spot assignments as I tried to find it on DVD/Blu-Ray but only available on different regions and are fucking expensive. They’re not available at streaming services in the U.S. but I was able to find it on YouTube this month and watched it but they changed the music score to avoid legal issues and that kind of ruined the film for me.

Still, the best way to watch a film in my opinion has always been in the theaters but my most recent theatrical experience in seeing Black Widow, which I had been waiting to see for more than a year, was a terrible one. I enjoyed the film but when you go to a screening and the projector gets fucked up not once but three times. It definitely kills whatever enjoyment you had and that sucked even though I was able to get a free ticket as I will use it for the next movie I see. With the chaos of that and the events that happened at this year’s Euro Cup in which England football fans got upset over three young black men missing their penalty kicks at the finals against Italy. Well, I’m glad Italy won and they deserved it as they been respectful including their own fans but the English football fans are atrocious. Calling an adolescent German girl a slut as she cries over Germany’s loss is obscene while attacking Italian footballs fans after the finals is just horrendous. Then to say racist thing about those three young men for missing penalties just said it all about what is going on and yeah, England is racist.

For all of those years of them wanting football to come home to England based on a shitty song that was made as a joke back in 1996 has me wanting to say this. Football is never coming home to England and here’s another thing I want to say to every vile English football fan and I am going to take this to my grave when I kick the bucket:

USA will win the World Cup before England wins a second one.

With the Olympics already happening as I could barely give a fuck about it at this point as less than half of this country has been vaccinated including myself and my family but there’s still a bunch of dumb-fucks out there. One of them now is Eric Clapton and honestly, Clapton can go fuck himself. He’s not God and he never was. I don’t put him in my top 25-40 favorite guitar players of all-time right now. He won’t play to a discriminated audience. OK, Eric. Don’t play to vaccinated people, go play to your dumbfuck audience and get a bottle of moonshine where we can you do racist rants again like you did in the 70s and how you stole George Harrison’s wife with a song and yet cheated on her more than George you aging has-been. OK, rant over.
In the month of July, I saw a total of 22 films in 15 first-timers and 7 re-watches with five of those films/TV shows directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge as it was a decent month but the plans for my Cannes Marathon didn’t go as planned. Then again, when you spend time watching a hyperactive two-year-old and a four-month old baby. You don’t have much time to watch films and your energy is already sapped. Still, I saw some good stuff as one of the highlights of the month was my Blind Spot Series choice in Werckmeister Harmonies. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for July 2021:

1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
2. American Honey
3. Cold War
4. 24 Frames
5. Pain & Glory
6. Death in Venice
7. Mahler
8. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
9. Okja
10. Black Widow
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’ve Been Watching

The Good, the Bart, and the Loki
Another exclusive from Disney+ that was released on the day the final episode of the first season of Loki was released is another crossover between Marvel and The Simpsons in which Loki is banished to Springfield. Yet, he creates chaos and mischief with Bart at his side and things definitely go wrong. It is a fun episode though it does bear reminder that The Simpsons is still around even though many have stopped watching the series a long time ago.

Loki (episodes 5 & 6)
The last two episodes of the MCU series on Disney+ are definitely high-water marks for not just Marvel but what TV series could be as it does end with a bang. The fifth episode gives audiences a proper introduction to these many Loki variants that include Kid Loki, Boastful Loki, Classic Loki, President Loki, and everyone’s favorite Loki. Alligator Loki. The fifth episode is full of ambition but also a lot of humor with Richard E. Grant’s performance as Classic Loki being a major standout as the one who copes with his own identity and the fallacies of being a Loki where Loki himself starts to get over himself through these variants that never seem to change with the exception of Sylvie, Classic Loki, Kid Loki, and Alligator Loki. The sixth and final episode of the season is filled with major revelations due to the appearance of Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains. Majors’ performance is full of charisma as his character is really someone who controls time but is tired of his role where he holds the key to opening the multi-verse as well as an evil variant of himself known as Kang the Conqueror.

While I think WandaVision is the best of the three MCU series so far, Loki is a close second as its strength in character development, character study, visuals, and music score really make it stand on its own. The performances of Tom Hiddleston, Sophia Di Martino, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, and Owen Wilson really make the show unique of its own as its ending does lead to a lot of major events of not just setting up what will happen for the next season but also for the MCU as it’s just entering into its 4th Phase and new saga.

From 30 for 30 is an episode about the career of WNBA star Maya Moore and how she abruptly ended her career in her prime to help out a man in Jonathan Majors who was sent to jail for something he didn’t do as he lived in prison for more than 20 years. It is a compelling story that shows a revered athlete taking the time to not only free the man who would become her husband but also people from her family and people who are friends her family all taking part into the freedom of this man and show the many injustices he was dealing with.

Top 5 Re-Watches

1. Moonlight
2. Beverly Hills Cop
3. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
4. The Devil Wears Prada
5. Ted
Well, that is all for July 2021. Next month, I will be watching new releases like The Green Knight and hopefully Annette as well as whatever else is coming out as well as watch films on various streaming services. I am currently in the midst of changing cable/internet providers again as hopefully this will be the last cable service I will take part in. Along with a few DVD/Blu-Ray releases including the last film of the Cannes Marathon and a post-mortem relating to the Cannes Film Festival. I will continue with the Blind Spot series as I’m now fortunate to have my remaining films on the series on DVD/Blu-Ray.

Before I bid adieu, I want to express my condolences to the families of Dusty Hill of ZZ Top, Joey Jordison of Slipknot/Murderdolls, Biz Markie, Mike Howe of Metalchurch/Heretic, John Hutchinson who played with David Bowie in the late 60s/early 70s, Jeff Labar and Gary Corbett of Cinderella, and Robby Steinhardt of Kansas. That is a great collection of musical talent that is probably diverse and unmatched in terms of talent as the idea of these individuals taking part of some jam session is a cool idea that came from former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnay though he didn’t mention Hutchinson. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, July 29, 2021

2021 Blind Spot Series: Werckmeister Harmonies


Based on the novel The Melancholy of Resistance by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, Werckmeister harmoniak (Werckmeister Harmonies) is the story set in a small Hungarian village during the era of communism and in a cold winter where a mysterious circus arrives from a neighboring town bringing concern to the locals. Directed by Bela Tarr, with additional direction from Agnes Hranitzky, and screenplay by Tarr and Krasznahorkai, the film is the study of a village dealing with a phenomenon as it serves as an allegory for many of the social and political turmoil the country was going through at that time. Starring Lars Rudolph, Peter Fitz, and Hanna Schygulla. Werckmeister harmoniak is a rapturous and enchanting film from Bela Tarr.

Set in the span of nearly two days in a small Hungarian village during the era of communism, the film revolves around a town during a cold winter as they get an unexpected visit from a mysterious circus whose showcase involves a giant whale and a mysterious figure. It is a film that explore a community of people who are baffled by this massive attraction in the town square as a local is intrigued by what is going on as it only leads to trouble and chaos within the town. The film’s screenplay by Bela Tarr and its novelist Laszlo Krasznahorkai, with additional dialogue from Peter Dobai, Gyuri Dosa Kiss, and Gyorgy Feher, is largely simplistic as it follows a newspaper-delivery man in Janos (Lars Rudolph) who often spends his time talking about the universe and its mystique to drunken patrons at a bar as he’s mystified by this large container arriving into the town square by a tractor as it’s revealed to be a circus with a large whale inside and an appearance from a man claiming to be a prince.

The town’s reaction is also one of intrigue but also a reaction that hasn’t made everyone excited where Janos also deals with family drama involving his composer uncle Gyorgy (Peter Fitz) and aunt Tunde (Hanna Schygulla) as the latter has gained political and social connections through her affair with the police chief (Peter Dobai). Janos finds himself in the middle of social unrest as the town is dealing with problems that is only escalated by the presence of this circus as well as the hype over the appearance of this prince who is never seen as it just adds to a lot of trouble with Janos watching it all.

Bela Tarr’s direction is definitely entrancing as it play into this period in time that is possibly set around the 1980s as it showcases a town that starts to unravel as it is shot on location in Baja, Hungary. With the aid of editor Agnes Hranitzky as the film’s co-director, Tarr would maintain a style that is simplistic where shots would linger for a long time as the film only contains 39 long-standing shots throughout the film’s 145-minute running time. Many of these shots often go on for minutes as it play into the settings and places that Janos go to as the opening shot that goes on for 10 minutes has Janos dancing with drunken patrons to explain the mystiques of the universe as the camera often showcases everything through a wide and medium shots during the course of this scene. With Hranitzky’s editing as she would create abrupt yet straightforward cuts to transition one scene to another, Tarr maintains that minimalist approach where the camera is often following characters through tracking shots including Janos walking around the town as he observes everything around him including the second act where this growing unrest at the town square starts to escalate.

Tarr also play into this idea of who the prince is as he’s an unseen character that is considered a radical who spouses rhetoric that leads to this 12-minute sequence in 2 shots with nearly 8 minutes devoted to the action in a psychiatric hospital where the locals just go nuts and destroy everything including assaulting hospital patients until they’re stopped by something that is indescribable as it forces these people to come to their senses. It is followed by events where Tarr showcases a world that is becoming undone with Janos in the middle as he sees horror and some revelations about what is happening that he had been oblivious to. Its ending with a 5-minute running time for its final shot is a reflection of the chaos that occurred with this whale being a symbol of disruption but also sadness of what this whale could’ve brought if people were more understanding instead of following some drunken fool. Overall, Tarr crafts a majestic yet harrowing film about a Hungarian town unraveling by the presence of a mysterious circus.

Cinematographers Milos Gurban, Erwin Lanzensberger, Gabor Medvigy, Emil Novak, Patrick de Ranter, Rob Tregenza, and Jorg Widmer do incredible work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its usage of shadows and lights for many of the exterior scenes at night as well as the usage of available light for the scenes in the day as it adds to this element of nostalgia but also bleakness to the film. Set decorators Sandor Katona, Zsuzsa Mihalek, and Bela Zsolt Toth do amazing work with the look of the bar in the film’s opening scene as well as the container where the circus is presented that includes the giant whale designed by Ivan Poharnok that is massive and almost life-like. Costume designer Janos Breckl does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual and ragged as it play into the period of the winter time.

Sound designer Gyorgy Kovacs does brilliant work with the way much of the recorded sound is presented including the hospital scene as the layer of sounds just add to the sense of terror in the film. The film’s music by Mihaly Vag is incredible for its rich and somber orchestral score with some melancholic piano themes that play into the air of intrigue of the whale but also the despair that looms throughout the town.

The film’s superb ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Peter Dobai as the drunken police chief whom Tunde is having an affair with, Ferenc Kallai as the circus master who presents the whale to the people and claims of a prince to emerge, Alfred Jarai as Janos’ cobbler uncle Lajos, Iren Szajki as Lajos’ wife, and the trio of Janos Derzsi, Doko Rosic, and Tamas Wichmann as the three drunk men who take part in Janos’ universal dance. Hanna Schygulla is fantastic as Janos’ aunt Tunde as Gyorgy’s estranged wife who has gained political and social connections as she does what she can to clean things up but also with some ulterior motives for herself as it would later cause problems.

Peter Fitz is excellent as Janos’ uncle Gyorgy as a music composer and musicologist who wants nothing to do with politics as he’s aware of his estrangement from his wife where he finds himself having to be involved as it relates to Janos. Finally, there’s Lars Rudolph in an amazing performance as Janos as a newspaper deliveryman who is fascinated by the mysteries of the world including the universe and God as he deals with the chaos around him as he also ponders about the presence of this circus that is at the center of everything.

Werckmeister harmoniak is a tremendous film from Bela Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky. Featuring ravishing visuals, a minimalist presentation, haunting performances, an eerie music score, and allegories on political and social turmoil that bears a lot relevance to events in the 21st Century. It is a film that explores a small town that unravels by the presence of something mysterious that eventually play into the worst aspects of themselves during a tumultuous period in the era of Communist Hungary. In the end, Werckmeister harmoniak is a spectacular film from Bela Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky.

Bela Tarr Films: (Family Nest) – (The Outsider (1981 film)) – (The Prefab People) – (Macbeth (1982 TV film)) – (Almanac of Fall) – (Damnation) – Satantango - (The Man from London) – The Turin Horse

© thevoid99 2021

Monday, July 26, 2021

2021 Cannes Marathon: Cold War


(Winner of the Best Director Prize to Pawel Pawlikowski at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival)
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski and screenplay by Pawlikowski and Janusz Glowacki with additional contributions from Piotr Borkowski, Zimna wojna (Cold War) is the story of a musician who discovers a young singer as they embark on a relationship for 15 years amidst the many changing social and political elements following the end of World War II in Europe. The film is a love story set in the world of jazz during a tumultuous time in Europe as it is based partially on the life of Pawlikowski’s parents and how they met. Starring Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc, Agata Kulesza, Cedric Kahn, and Jeanne Balibar. Zimna wojna is a majestic and rapturous film from Pawel Pawlikowski.

Set from 1949 to 1964 in Europe, the film revolves around two people who fall for each other as they embark on a tumultuous relationship as they deal with the growing social and political changes in their home country of Poland. It is a film that explore this relationship between these two people who have a love for music as they would later become collaborators yet they would often separate due to political forces beyond their control. The film’s screenplay has a straightforward narrative as much of its first act is set during 1949 Poland where a musician in Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) is traveling through the country to record a lot of the folk music with his colleague Irena (Agata Kulesza) where they would discover a singer in Zula (Joanna Kulig), who has disguised herself as a peasant to get an audition, who is on probation after assaulting her abusive father. Wiktor and Zula become attracted to another as it gets the attention of an official in Kaczmarek (Borys Szyc) who has them take part in pro-Stalinist performances that Wiktor doesn’t like.

The second act play into Wiktor and Zula’s separation with the former having made a career as a musician in Paris while Zula lives in Poland only going to other places due to permission from Kaczmarek as they spend part of the mid-1950s trying to get together in Yugoslavia and Paris despite being with other people. When Zula marries an Italian man as a way to get a visa and see Wiktor, their love affair resumes but things become complicated due to the other lovers they have while Wiktor tries to create a singing career for Zula. The script play into these two people who love each other yet it also showcases a world that is often complicated not just in Paris but also in Poland as it showcases two people who are often hampered by many things around them.

Pawel Pawlikowski’s direction is definitely stylish in its approach to the story as it is shot in black-and-white and in 1:33:1 aspect ratio on various locations in Poland as well as parts of Paris, Berlin, and Croatia with the latter playing the role of old Yugoslavia. Through the usage of the full-frame aspect ratio, Pawlikowski maintains this air of nostalgia into the images of Poland coming out of World War II during its post-war period as there are wide shots including scenes of some of the music presentation from the Polish theatre troupe that Zula is a part of as was Wiktor early in the film. Much of Pawlikowski’s direction does emphasize on intimacy and mood through medium shots and close-ups as well as these striking compositions of a certain location or the way he places his actors in that location. Pawlikowski does create these moments that include some lingering long shots as well as a few tracking shots as a way to capture the atmosphere of these scenes.

Pawlikowski also play up this sense of political and social tension as the film’s second act that sets largely in Paris play into not just Zula’s own sense of alienation as she prefers to be in Poland but also the fact that she had the chance to leave with Wiktor but ended up staying in Poland when they both were in Berlin the night Wiktor chose to leave Poland that ended the film’s first act. The film’s third act doesn’t play into this sense of longing but also some of the faults of the world that Wiktor had chosen to live in as it showcases the decisions he’s making as it is all based on love. Even as he and Zula are forced to make compromises to be together as it showcases the many complications and forces that puts two people in the middle of the Cold War. Overall, Pawlikowski crafts a ravishing and evocative film about two Polish people who maintain a tumultuous relationship amidst the backdrop of the Cold War.

Cinematographer Lukasz Zal does phenomenal work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it adds to film’s gorgeous look as well as how it uses shadows and light for the interior/exterior scenes at night along with some interior scenes in the day as it’s a highlight of the film. Editor Jaroslaw Kaminski does brilliant work with the editing as it is largely straightforward while creating these abrupt straight-to-black cuts as a way to play into transitions as it gives the film its episodic tone. Production designers Katarzyna Sobanska and Marcel Slawinski do amazing work with the look of some of the places in Poland that Zula and Wiktor go to as well as the latter’s Parisian apartment and the nightclub where plays in a jazz group.

Costume designer Waldemar Pokromski does fantastic work with the costumes from the peasant costumes in some of the stage shows that Zula is a part of as well as the more jazz-like clothing that she and Wiktor would sport when they’re in Paris. The sound work of Maciej Pawlowski and Miroslaw Makowski is superb as it play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as how jazz music sounds in a club or how a grand music presentation for the government is presented in a ballroom. The film’s music soundtrack largely consists of folk, orchestral, and jazz music as it all play into the world that Zula and Wiktor encounter.

The film’s casting by Estelle Chailloux and Magdalena Szwarcbart is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Adam Woronowicz as a consul in Paris, Adam Ferency as a minister in Poland, Cedric Kahn as a film producer in Michel who gives Wiktor work in film scores but also takes an interest in Zula as a singer, Jeanne Balibar as a lover of Wiktor in Juliette who is a poet and writes the lyrics to the songs that Zula sings, and Agata Kulesza as Irena as a colleague of Michel who helps him find folk music and singers as she also choreographs the stage presentation. Borys Szyc is incredible as the political official Kaczmarek as a career-driven man who watches over Wiktor and Zula’s activities as he would take hold on the latter while being cautious yet friendly towards the former as he isn’t a total villain but a man of ambition.

Finally, there’s the duo of Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot in tremendous performance as Zula and Wiktor. Kot’s performance as the musician/musical director who finds singers and musicians to present for the government where he deals with the many changes that stifles his creativity where Kot provides this air of restraint as a man that just wants to make music but also fall in love as he deals with the chaos of the politics and social climate of the times. Kulig’s performance as Zula is filled with a lot of energy but also a melancholia of a woman that is just eager to be loved and feel included yet contends with the turmoil of the politics of Poland and the social circles in Paris as it adds to this alienation as she is forced to choose one instead of the other to maintain her love for Wiktor.

Zimna wojna is an outstanding film from Pawel Pawlikowski that features great performances from Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot. Along with its supporting cast, ravishing visuals, its look on the social and political changes in Europe following World War II, and a rich music soundtrack. The film is a fascinating and riveting love story that plays into two people who are dealing with a chaotic world around them and their desire to be with one another. In the end, Zimna wojna is a magnificent film from Pawel Pawlikowski.

Pawel Pawlikowski Films: (Last Resort (2000 film)) – My Summer of Love - (The Woman in the Fifth) – Ida (2013 film)

© thevoid99 2021

Saturday, July 24, 2021

2021 Cannes Marathon: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)


(Winner of the Palm Dog Award to Einstein at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival)
Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is the story of a group of adult siblings who cope with their failings as they continue to live in the shadow of their famous father. The film is an exploration into family dysfunction as siblings all reunite to celebrate their father despite their own issues as they deal with the many faults of their father. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Elizabeth Marvel, Grace Van Patten, Adam Driver, Candice Bergen, Judd Hirsch, Rebecca Miller, and Emma Thompson. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a witty yet riveting film from Noah Baumbach.

The film follows the lives of a family whose patriarch is a famous sculptor in the twilight years of his life while his fame and modest success has managed to overshadow his three children who all cope with their own disappointment towards themselves and not living up to his fame. It’s a film that takes a simple premise of family dysfunction as three adult siblings cope with their own lives as they all have to tend to their father who is starting to go through health issues but also unruly behavior in the way he reacts toward certain things. Noah Baumbach’s screenplay has a structure that does focus on these three siblings but also one of the sibling’s kids who has just entered college as it showcase not just trying to cope with the family patriarch but also themselves. The eldest in Danny (Adam Sandler) had just split up from his wife as he’s in New York City taking his 18-year old daughter Eliza to Bard where she is planning to study film while Danny is moving in with his father in Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman) and hippy stepmother Maureen (Emma Thompson).

Also at the home is his younger sister Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) who is spending time to help out her father following an injury he suffered involving the dog while Maureen often goes away for seminars only to come back drunk. Danny and Jean are upset to learn that Maureen is planning to sell the family home as well as some of Harold’s art work with their younger half-brother Matthew (Ben Stiller) handling all of the finances. The unemployed Danny and Jean agree to create a retrospective at the Bard for Harold following an event for Harold’s old friend L.J. Shapiro (Judd Hirsch) where Danny reunited with his childhood friend in Shapiro’s daughter Loretta (Rebecca Miller). Yet, that event would prompt some issues from Harold who is jealous towards Shaprio’s success claiming that Shapiro is mediocre compared to himself. The section on Matthew who visits New York City from Los Angeles where he is starting his own accounting business deals with the fact that his own success doesn’t really impress his father as it also causes resentment from his half-siblings whom he is convinced are damaged because of their father. When Harold becomes ill due to the injuries he had sustained some time earlier, the siblings and Eliza deal with the possibility of his impending death as the script also showcase dialogue where Baumbach often have characters talking over one another as it play into the dysfunction of themselves and relationship with one another.

Baumbach’s direction does have some style yet much of his compositions are straightforward as much of the film is shot on location in New York City as well as areas upstate with Sarah Lawrence College playing the role of Bard. Baumbach does use wide shots that do play into some of the locations but much of his compositions emphasize on close-ups and medium shots to play into the interaction between the characters in the film. Notably as there are these elements that feel loose such as the first scene of Danny trying to find an open parking spot as he and Eliza are about to meet Harold as Baumbach also play into some of the awkwardness that is happening that includes some of the strange cuisine that Maureen has created. Baumbach’s approach to humor doesn’t play into these sexually-provocative student films that Eliza has created for her film class but also in the way the siblings react to a situation involving their father such as a scene of Matthew trying to go after a man who had mistakenly taken Harold’s coat.

Baumbach also plays into these moments of tension as it relates to Matthew’s absentee presence as it showcases a man who is still dealing with the fact that he has issues with his dad while his mother Julia (Candice Bergen) who was Harold’s third wife feels guilty over the way she treated Danny and Jean. The scenes in the second half as it relates to Harold being hospitalized and the idea of him dying does come into play where Jean does reveal a harrowing story of what happened to her as a teenager in relation to a friend of Harold a long time ago. It is followed by a moment of comical bonding for Danny and Matthew yet it would be followed by the two going to their father’s retrospective with Jean and Eliza as it showcases the pain that their father caused towards them. The film’s chapters emphasize on Danny, Matthew, Harold’s health, Jean’s story, and a final chapter on Harold’s fate but also the future that is Eliza. Yet, its ending is about these three siblings as they try to cope with their father’s shadow and how they would break out of it. Overall, Baumbach crafts a funny yet somber film about a family coping with the disappointments of their lives and the emotional chaos laid upon them from their father.

Cinematographer Robbie Ryan does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography to capture the autumn-like season of New York City and areas upstate including Massachusetts for the scenes at the hospital while maintaining some low-key lights for some of the interior scenes at night. Editor Jennifer Lame does excellent work with the editing as its usage of jump-cuts help play into some of the film’s emotionally-intense scenes along with some stylish cuts for Eliza’s student films. Production designer Gerald Sullivan, with set decorator Kris Moran and art director Nicolas Locke, does fantastic work with the look of the home that Harold and Maureen have in the city as well as Maureen’s country home upstate as it is filled with all sorts of things including the former’s art work. Costume designer Joseph G. Aulisi does amazing work with the costumes from some of the clothes that Eliza wears to the strange and hippie clothing of Maureen.

Special effects supervisor Jeff Brink and visual effects supervisor Andrew Lim do terrific work on some of the film’s minimal effects that mainly is featured in some of Eliza’s student films. Sound editor Paul Hsu does superb work with the sound in some of the sound effects that are created for Eliza’s student films but also in being straightforward of the way a gathering sounds like or how things sound in a location such as Matthew talking to his son on the phone while at a gas station. The film’s music by Randy Newman is wonderful with its low-key yet piano-based score that plays into some of the film’s melancholia with some string-based pieces in some of the dramatic moments while Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham provide some offbeat music pieces for Eliza’s student films. Music supervisor George Drakoulias creates a fun soundtrack that features music from Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force, Cameo, Prefab Sprouts, and a few classical pieces and some original songs written by Adam Sandler and Noah Baumbach.

The casting by Douglas Aibel and Francine Maisler is incredible as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Sigourney Weaver as herself at Shapiro’s retrospective, Josh Hamilton as a friend of Loretta at the Shapiro retrospective, Danny Flaherty as Eliza’s boyfriend Marcus, Sakina Jeffrey as Dr. Malina Soni who watches over Harold, Gayle Rankin as the nurse Pam that also watches over Harold, Jerry Matz as an old friend of Harold in Paul whom Jean dislikes, Mickey Sumner as an attendee of Harold’s retrospective at Bard that Matthew becomes attracted to, Matthew Shear as Matthew’s colleague Gabe who tries to help out in handling Harold’s financial situations, and Adam Driver in a terrific one-scene performance as a client of Matthew’s in Randy who trying to get his dream apartment made despite the lack of finances he has. Candice Bergen is fantastic in her one-scene appearance as Matthew’s mother and Harold’s third wife Julia who hadn’t seen Harold in years while laments over the way she treated Danny and Jean feeling she only made things worse for them.

Judd Hirsch is excellent as L.J. Shapiro who is an old friend of Harold who is the embodiment of what Harold could’ve been if he wasn’t much of a prick yet Hirsch is someone who often praises Harold and his work feeling that Harold should’ve gotten more recognition. Rebecca Miller is brilliant as Shapiro’s daughter Loretta who is also an old childhood friend of Danny as the two reminisce about their childhood and being the children of artists as it prompts Danny into wanting to renew a relationship with her. Emma Thompson is amazing as Harold’s fourth wife Maureen as an alcoholic artist who often wears hippie-like clothing and cooks strange feasts as she is someone who believes she has a lot in handling Harold’s financial and health situations despite the fact that she’s kind of a flake though she does mean well.

Grace Van Patten is incredible as Eliza Meyerowitz as Danny’s daughter who is about to go to Bard to study film as she creates these sexually-provocative student films while lamenting over the idea of she can make it as an artist like her grandfather. Elizabeth Marvel is remarkable as Jean Meyerowitz as a woman who works for Xerox as she never showed any ambition while spending much of her time taking care of her father while eventually sharing a secret when she was a teenager that would shock her brothers and becoming a muse for Eliza. Dustin Hoffman is marvelous as Harold Meyerowitz as moderately-successful artist who laments over his lack of major success but also has this attitude where he thinks he’s better than many yet he is a fucking prick when it comes to his kids where he does make them feel terrible as it is one of Hoffman’s great performances.

Ben Stiller is great as Matthew Meyerowitz as the youngest of Harold’s three kids and half-sibling to Jean and Danny as someone who has found success through business and accounting while dealing with the fact that his success doesn’t mean much to his father and often brings a lot of insecurities towards his siblings whom he felt never had the chance to connect with. Finally, there’s Adam Sandler in a phenomenal performance as Danny Meyerowitz as the eldest of the three siblings as an unemployed man that was once a gifted musician but quit due to his insecurities as he copes with an unresolved limp and trying to take of his father as well as the lack of connection he has with his siblings as it is a somber yet charming performance from Sandler.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a sensational film from Noah Baumbach. Featuring a great ensemble cast with standout performances from Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel, Grace Van Patten, and Emma Thompson, insightful and witty observation on family dysfunction and art, gorgeous visuals, and a terrific music score from Randy Newman. It is a rich and compelling film that explores family dysfunction as well as the idea of a family who are dealing with man’s legacy who is filled with complications and their own shortcomings but also themselves as they try to find ways to be together. In the end, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a spectacular film from Noah Baumbach.

Noah Baumbach Films: Kicking and Screaming (1995 film) - Highball - Mr. Jealousy - The Squid & the Whale - Margot at the Wedding - Greenberg - Frances Ha - While We're Young - Mistress America - De Palma - Marriage Story - (White Noise (2022 film)) - The Auteurs #41: Noah Baumbach

© thevoid99 2021

Friday, July 23, 2021

2021 Cannes Marathon: 24 Frames


(Played in Special 70th Anniversary Events Section at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival)
Written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami, 24 Frames is an experimental film that bridges Kiarostami’s love of film and photography into one explore the images he had captured for much of his life. The film is a look into Kiarostami as an artist as the man himself showcases the work that gives him life in what is the filmmaker’s final film which was completed after his death in July of 2016 with the aid of his son Ahmad. The result is an evocative and exquisite film from Abbas Kiarostami.

The film is essentially 24 stills based on the photographs of Abbas Kiarostami where it showcases what happens before and after where each shot is presented for four-and-a-half minutes as they come to life. It is a film that takes a simple premise of Kiarostami’s love of photography and digital filmmaker as it meshes into one where these 24 shots play into that love as if the photos come to life. With the exception of the first shot of the film in a recreation of Pieter Brueghel the Eldger’s painting Hunters in the Snow, the 23 other shots in the film are all recreations of sorts of Kiarostami’s own photographs through animation and visual effects. The recreation of Hunters in the Snow shows exactly what to expect as flurries of snow emerged with animals in the painting starting to move, smoke coming out of chimneys, and a dog is sniffing around the tree. Many of the images that Kiarostami presents are essentially landscapes set either in the snow, the ocean, or on a rainy day.

With the aid of cinematographers Dariush Gorji Zadeh, Peyman Solhi, Delaram Delashob, and Yousef Khoshnaghsh as well as the work of visual effects supervisor Ali Kamali, Kiarostami creates these scenes of nature with some hand-drawn animation of animals or in digital animation where it helps play into the beauty of what one does in taking a photograph. There are also actors that would appear such as a shot of a family looking at the Eiffel Tower as they would stand still while people are walking in the foreground including a musician singing a song. The sound work of Ensieh Maleki adds to the atmosphere of these images as it play off on natural soundscapes in those environments as well as the way animals sound. There are some music that is played as the soundtrack largely consists of classical and operatic pieces along with a folk piece for the Eiffel Tower section.

The emphasis on minimalism and simplicity is what makes the film interesting to watch as each shot ends in a fade-to-black with the exception of sorts for the final shot of the film. It all play into Kiarostami’s idea of what he sees in a photograph or in an image and how much life it has. Even in something like a group of sheep huddling together around a tree or cows walking on the beach while one of them is lying on the sand. Much of the shots are presented in black-and-white with a few in color as it adds to the beauty of the visuals but also ideas about the simplicity of life. Even in something that could be considered banal but for four-and-a-half-minutes of these 24 frames, Kiarostami creates something that is fitting about his views on life and tells it with such grace and beauty.

24 Frames is a sensational film from Abbas Kiarostami. It is a film that doesn’t try to be anything but a straightforward experimental film that plays into the meshing of film and photography to display about the joys and simplicity of life. As a final piece of work for Kiarostami, it is a fitting way for the filmmaker to go out on his own terms and in a somber and graceful manner. In the end, 24 Frames is an incredible film from Abbas Kiarostami.

Abbas Kiarostami Films: (The Experience) – The Traveler (1974 film) - (A Wedding) – The Report (1977 film) - (First Case, Second Case) – (Fellow Citizens) – (First Graders) – Where is the Friend's House? - Homework (1989 film) - Close-Up - Life, and Nothing More... - Through the Olive Trees - Taste of Cherry - (The Wind Will Carry Us) – (ABC Africa) – (Ten (2002 film)) – (Five (2003 film)) – (10 on Ten) – (Shirin) – Certified Copy - Like Someone in Love

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Summer Break


For the 29th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the theme of summer break as summer is the time for family vacations and a need to get away from the insanity of life. Here are my three picks:

1. Summer Rental
From the late yet great Carl Reiner and starring the much-missed and legendary John Candy is a 1980s comedy that is widely considered essential when it comes to genre. Starring Candy as an overworked air traffic controller who takes his family on a vacation to Florida, the film has Candy deal with a smug sailing champion who often puts Candy and his family into bad living situations by renting a decrepit home while Candy endures a leg injury and later befriending a band of misfits to challenge that smug piece of shit sailing champion to at least get free rental and such. It is an entertaining and fun film that does feature amazing supporting work from the late Rip Torn as a local restaurant owner and the late Richard Crenna as that asshole sailing champion who tries to fuck Candy over and over again.

2. One Crazy Summer
Savage Steve Holland’s summer comedy starring John Cusack, Demi Moore, Bobcat Goldthwait, Joel Murray, Curtis Armstrong, William Hickey, Joe Flaherty, Mark Metcalf, Rich Little, and Jeremy Piven is a hilarious comedy about a high school graduate, his buddy, his buddy’s little sister, and her injured dog go to Nantucket where they meet a struggling musician trying to save her grandfather’s house from a bunch of rich assholes. Sailing is once again in the mix for the film’s climax yet it is a film with funny scenes but also some notable life lessons. One, never bury yourself in a sand or else some fat guy eating chili is going to sit above you and fart on your face. Two, when you’re trying to win money in a radio contest. Make sure you have a cordless phone but if that guy fucks you over for money. Get the bazooka. Three, if you’re some rich kid who likes to bully people and hit some mischief’s little brother. Boy, you’re going to fucked as you will have no idea what that man will do to your fucking car.

3. White Water Summer
A lesser-known 80s summer film that was shot by the legendary John Alcott who would unfortunately pass before the film’s release stars Kevin Bacon as a wilderness survival guide who convinces rich parents to send their teenage son in Sean Astin to go to the woods and have a wilderness trip. Yet, danger and hilarity ensue where Astin gets a harsh dose of reality but also proves to be a challenge to Bacon’s character as he tries to get other young kids to tough it out in the woods. It is an underrated film with some intense moments but also some notable moments that showcase the unique chemistry between Bacon and Astin.

© thevoid99 2021

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

2021 Cannes Marathon: American Honey


(Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival)
Written and directed by Andrea Arnold, American Honey is the story of a teenage girl who joins a crew of traveling sales people on a road trip through America as she encounters love, chaos, and life lessons. The film is a road movie set in the American Midwest where a troubled teen from a dysfunctional family joins this group of misfits hoping to find some adventure in her life. Starring Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, and Riley Keough. American Honey is a riveting and compelling film from Andrea Arnold.

The film revolves around the journey of an 18-year old woman who lives in a poor and dysfunctional family with kids whom she isn’t related to until she meets a young and charismatic salesman who is part of a gang of misfits selling magazines to people all over the country as she joins them on the road. It is a film with a simple premise as it explores this young woman from a poor and abusive environment who takes this job to go on the road and sell magazines with a band of misfits who are also from poor environments as a way to make money and have a good time. Andrea Arnold’s screenplay, which is based on a New York Times article by Ian Urbania, explores this culture where these kids are dropped off in sections of rich neighborhoods trying to sell magazines and make some money while displaying their sales to a boss who is only concerned with making money.

The main character named Star (Sasha Lane) is someone that lives in a home with two kids who are her half-siblings to a father who is sexually abusive as they barely can live through scraps. During a dumpster dive to find food and get a few things at a nearby Kmart, Star encounters this group of young kids wreaking havoc as they’re lead by this young man named Jake (Shia LaBeouf) who offers Star a chance to go on the road with him. She meets an assortment of people as she rides on a van where they’re taken to a destination and running the whole thing is Krystal (Riley Keough) who oversees all of the sales and slips as she has Jake take Star under his wing to train her. Yet, an attraction between Star and Jake start to unfold due to the former’s approach to getting a lot of money made yet Krystal is wary about this relationship as it starts to affect the work of the latter. The script also play into these locations that is the American Midwest and areas that are rich and poor where Star is selling magazines as she would make money through her own ways but also do things that would create tension between her, Jake, and Krystal.

Arnold’s direction is entrancing for the way she captures the world of the American Midwest as it is shot on various locations in Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and North Dakota with some of its cities such as Kansas City and Omaha being major locations in the film. Shot on the 4:3 full-frame aspect ratio, Arnold maintains intimacy through the framing while playing to the visual splendor of these different locations that these characters are venturing into. The usage of hand-held cameras is prevalent throughout the film while Arnold knows when to use wide and medium shots for these scenes set in certain locations. The aspect ratio also plays into the claustrophobic and cramped tone of the van’s interior where many of the young kids including Star often ride in from location to location as there is an air of excitement of this next location as kids sing along to songs that is on the radio and such. Arnold’s direction also has this sense of looseness through the usage of hand-held cameras as well as a realism as everything is done on the fly in the way Star would interact with people and how she would get a sale made.

Some of which would involve having her do things she’s not comfortable with but there are moments that prove to be heartfelt where she converses with a truck driver (Bruce Gregory) as it shows that Star isn’t willing to compromise her humanity to make a sale like everyone else has to do. Despite the money she makes, she still gets disapproving looks from Krystal while Jake becomes possessive towards her as some revelations occur during the film’s third act as it relates to Jake’s role that makes Star uneasy. It all plays into a cycle for these young kids who all play a role for a young woman who does what she can to make money as the third act also show how low Krystal would push her crew to make sales. Its ending is an open-ended one as it play into not just Star’s future but also these kids who don’t know what is going to happen to them as they all do what they can to just live. Overall, Arnold crafts a rapturous and intoxicating film about an 18-year old girl joining a band of misfits on a road trip to sell magazines and much more to live the American dream.

Cinematographer Robbie Ryan does incredible work with the film’s cinematography as its emphasis on natural lighting and using available light for scenes at night add to the film’s realistic tone while maintaining a sense of beauty into the photography. Editor Joe Bini does amazing work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts to play into the energy of some of the music heard on location as well as play into the chaos of the lifestyle of these kids. Production designer Kelly McGehee, with set decorator Graham Wichman and art director Lance Mitchell, does excellent work with the look of the van as well as some of the motels and homes the kids would live in as well as the homes of some of the people they try to deal with. Costume designer Alex Bovaird does fantastic work with the costumes as it has a sense of style that play into the lives of these young kids as they largely wear baggy or skimpy clothing depending on how they present themselves to the people they’re trying to sell magazines to.

Makeup designer Anouck Sullivan does nice work with the look of Star and Krystal with the former looking natural and sometimes putting stickers on her face while the latter is often seen sporting lots of makeup as a form of power play. Sound editor Nicolas Becker does brilliant work in capturing much of the recorded material as well as the way conversations would sound inside the van or how music is played on location. Music supervisor Simon Astall does superb work with the film’s music soundtrack as it largely features a lot of the music of the late 2010s that kids listen to ranging from hip-hop and country as it features music from Juicy J featuring Wale and Trey Songz, Quigley, Rhianna with Calvin Harris, MadeinTYO, Sam Hunt, Lee Brice, Kevin Gates, Jeremih, E-40, Ciara featuring Ludacris, Rae Sremmund, Carnage featuring Migos, Lapsley, OG Maco, Raury, and Lady A as well as pieces from Steve Earle, Mazzy Star, Bruce Springsteen, and the Raveonettes.

The casting by Lucy Pardee and Jennifer Venditti is marvelous as it features an ensemble cast of non-actors, unknowns, and up-and-comers in some notable small roles that include Johnny Pierce II as Star’s sexually-abusive father Nathan, Brody and Summer Hunsaker in their respective roles as Star’s step-siblings Rubin and Kelsey, Chastity Hunsaker as Rubin and Kelsey’s neglectful stepmother, Bruce Gregory as a truck driver that Star befriends and sings a Suicide song covered by Bruce Springsteen, Laura Kirk as a Christian housewife whose daughter is doing sexually-provocative dance moves in front of Jake and Star during a sale, and Will Patton as a man that Star wins over to buy her magazines. The performances of the following in Veronnikah Ezell, Christopher David Wright, Shawna Rae Moseley, Dakota Powers, Isaiah Stone, Raymond Coalson, Kenneth Kory Tucker, Garry Howell, Chad McKenzie Cox, Crystal B. Ice, McCaul Lombardi, and Arielle Holmes are incredible as these young kids who become friends with Star as they have this charisma and energy about them as it adds to the realism of their performances as they are a highlight of the film.

Riley Keough is excellent as Krystal as the business manager and organizer of this rag-tag group of kids trying to sell magazines as she is someone that knows a lot on what to do but is also cruel in what she does to the young kids at times with a bigger disdain towards Star who she sees as a threat in getting Jake’s attention. Shia LaBeouf is brilliant as Jake as a veteran salesman with a rattail hairstyle that play into his unconventional presentation yet is someone that has charisma but also a dark side to him in the way he becomes possessive towards Star as well as be someone that is immoral at times in the way he tries to sell magazines to people. Finally, there’s Sasha Lane in a phenomenal performance as Star as an 18-year old kid from the white trash area of Oklahoma trying to find herself and meaning in her young life as she goes on the road with this band of misfits where she learns how to be salesperson but also find ways to make some good money but also maintain some morality and dignity. Lane also maintains this air of tenderness but also someone that is always having fun but also can do so much when she doesn’t say anything as it is a tremendous breakthrough performance from Lane.

American Honey is a tremendous film from Andrea Arnold that features an incredible discovery in Sasha Lane. Along with its ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, an emphasis on realism and grit, an eclectic music soundtrack, and its themes of trying to find identity and hope in the idea of the American dream. The film is truly an astonishing portrait of the American life as it explore a group of people who live on the fringes of society trying to do things their own way but also deal with this sense of the unknown in a world that is often ever-changing. In the end, American Honey is a magnificent film from Andrea Arnold.

Andrea Arnold Films: Red Road - Fish Tank - Wuthering Heights (2011 film) - Cow (2021 film) - (Bird (2024 film)) – The Auteurs #31: Andrea Arnold

© thevoid99 2021

Saturday, July 17, 2021

2021 Cannes Marathon: Portrait of a Lady on Fire


(Winner of the Queer Palm and Best Screenplay Prize to Celine Sciamma at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival)
Written and directed by Celine Sciamma, Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) is the story of an 18th Century painter who arrives to create a portrait for a woman that is to be wedded to a man only for the painter and woman to have a taboo affair. The film is a period drama between two women who fall for each other in an isolated seaside estate as they deal with their feelings for one another and what they must not do. Starring Noemie Merlant, Adele Haenel, Luana Bajrami, and Valeria Golino. Portrait de la jeune fille en feu is a majestic and rapturous film from Celine Sciamma.

Set towards the end of the 18th Century, the film revolves around a painter who is taken to a remote island in France to paint a portrait of a woman that is to be wedded only for the two to embark on a secretive relationship. It’s a film with a simple premise as it plays into the ideas of art and temptation as well as this sense of longing and sisterhood in a world where men often is at the control of fates. Celine Sciamma’s screenplay opens with the painter Marianne (Noemie Merlant) at an art school teaching her students as she talks about one of her famed paintings where the film’s title refers to her time at the island of Brittany where she’s asked to paint a portrait for a countess (Valeria Golino) whose daughter Heloise (Adele Haenel) is to be married to nobleman from Milan. Upon her arrival to the island, Marianne notices that Heloise is very resistant to marrying a man she doesn’t know as there’s a lot of revelations into why this marriage has been arranged and Marianne is another of a series of painters to come in and try to paint a portrait of Heloise. Marianne understands what happened in those many attempts while understanding Heloise’s own feelings about being painted and what she wants.

Sciamma’s direction is definitely entrancing as it play into this idea of what art is and what it means for someone including the person that is to be painted. Shot on location at Saint-Pierre-Quiberon at the island of Brittany as well as locations in the La Chapelle-Gauthier at Seine-et-Marne, Sciamma makes the locations a character in the film as it plays into this world of isolation as the island is remote while the rare moment of Marianne and Heloise going out of the chateau with the house maid Sophie (Luana Bajrami) where they would encounter a group of women at a bonfire. It is in that moment where Marianne would get the idea for her famed painting as the film goes into great detail into Marianne’s methods and how she sketches things and then turn it into a painting. The usage of close-ups into the way Marianne paints show Sciamma’s approach to who Marianne is as an artist that includes creating a small sketch of Heloise as the two begin their affair. Sciamma’s direction also has this unique approach to framing and compositions through the wide and medium shots as if she’s creating a painting on her own in where the characters are as well as a certain piece of furniture.

There are also these amazing shots during scenes in the beach involving Marianne, Heloise, and Sophie as they’re trying to find plants as it relates to a subplot of Sophie learning that she’s pregnant as it is a moment in the film that has these women bonding. Sciamma also showcases some straightforward compositions in the way she positions the camera to get coverage of her actors without doing a lot of movement in some scenes as well as maintain this air of intrigue into what is not being shown. Sciamma also creates this air of tension about the final painting of Heloise’s portrait as a lot of the painting is done by Helene Delmaire who also did all of the other paintings in the film as it says a lot of what Marianne is feeling. Even towards the end as it play into the inevitable but also an aftermath that returns to the film’s opening scene and what would follow as it relates to the ways of the world then and how its final shot of the film just says so much about the cruelty of the world. Overall, Sciamma crafts a ravishing and intoxicating film about a painter who falls for her subject in a woman who is reluctant to become a portrait for a man she doesn’t want to marry.

Cinematographer Claire Mathon does incredible work with the film’s lush and colorful cinematography as it is a highlight of the film in terms of the attention to detail of the landscapes with the way the beaches look as well as the cliffs along with the usage of candle lights for the interior scenes at night. Editor Julien Lacheray does brilliant work with the editing where it has a sense of rhythm to play into the drama as well as bits of humor while often knowing when to let a shot linger as it doesn’t aim for anything stylish. Production designer Thomas Grezaud does amazing work with the look of the chateau’s interiors as well as the look of the living room with its fireplace and the studio where Marianne creates Heloise’s portrait. Costume designer Dorothee Guiraud does excellent work with the costumes in the dresses from the dark-red dress that Marianne wears, the dark-blue/black dresses of Heloise and the countess wears, and the green dress that Heloise wears for her portrait.

Special effects supervisor Benoit Talenton, with visual effects supervisors Alain Carsoux and Jeremie Leroux, does terrific work with a few of the film’s special effects as it relates to an image that Marianne would see as it foreshadows the reality of what she has to deal with. The sound work of Julien Sicart, Valerie Deloof, and Daniel Sobrino is superb in capturing the atmosphere of the locations as well as the sound of heels walking on wooden floors as it adds to the film’s quiet yet hypnotic tone. The film’s music by Jean-Baptiste de Laubier and Arthur Simoni is fantastic as it only features one score piece during the bonfire scene of a group of women sing and clap as it is this haunting music piece that adds to the dramatic tension while the only other music piece in the film are variations of Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons that appears twice.

The film’s casting by Christel Baras is wonderful as it feature some notable small appearances from Armande Boulanger as a student of Marianne in the film’s opening scene, Guy Delamarche as an art gallery enthusiast late in the film, and Clement Bouyssou as Heloise’s future husband late in the film. Valeria Golino is brilliant as the Countess as Heloise’s mother who hires Marianne for the job while being someone who understands her daughter’s reluctance but also is hopeful that her daughter will find happiness despite the tragedy they’ve both endured. Luana Bajrami is incredible as the housemaid Sophie as a young woman who becomes pregnant as she becomes this figure that helps Marianne and Heloise bond while assisting the former with the portrait as she proves to be a competent ally for both women.

Finally, there’s the duo of Noemie Merlant and Adele Haenel in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Marianne and Heloise. Merlant brings a realism to a woman that has been in society while also understands what it takes to create great art as she feels challenged by Heloise as well as entranced by her while coping with what is inevitable. Haenel’s performance is restrained in her approach to melodrama as a woman that is expressing her anger and sadness in the role she is to play yet Haenel also provides this aura that adds to her complexity as a woman that is afraid to reveal her true identity. Merlant and Haenel together are just exquisite to watch in the way they play off each other and then express their own longing for one another as they are a massive highlight to the film.

***Additional Content Written from 6/30/22-7/3/22***

The 2020 Region 1/Region A DVD/Blu-Ray release from the Criterion Collection presents the film in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio in a 4K video presentation with 5.1 Surround Sound on DVD (uncompressed on Blu-Ray). Among the special features presented for its release include a thirty-two minute conversation between filmmaker Celine Sciamma and film critic Dana Stevens where they discuss the film and how it is Sciamma’s first period-piece film following a trio of films set on modern times as part of a thematic trilogy. Sciamma talked about wanting to do something different but also with a bit of political themes as it relates to those times. Sciamma and Stevens also talked about some of the visuals where Sciamma also infused a few modern ideas in terms of its visuals while also discussing some specific ideas she wanted. In regards to the casting as Sciamma wanting to work with people she had never did a film with other than regular collaborator Adele Haenel as she was excited to work with Valeria Golino as they both talked about their own ideas of directing since Golino is also a filmmaker.

Sciamma also talks about her approach as well as how to move the camera for tracking shots where she has specific ideas as if she’s a music composer in how many steps a character should walk and where to position an actor in a frame. Even in the music soundtrack as she didn’t want to have a lot of music except in a few specific scenes including its ending and the bonfire scene. Sciamma also talks about the abortion scene as well as how the film reference the story of Orpheus and Eurydice as it relates to the story between Marianne and Heloise. The 18-minute interview with lead actors Adele Haenel and Noemie Merlant has the two talk about the film and their characters with the former talking about her collaboration with Sciamma going back to 2007’s Water Lilies as Haenel also talks about just discovering her character through the script and not approach things expected in a period film. Merlant is new to Sciamma as she auditioned for Sciamma as she also talked about her views on her character. Both actresses talk about the sex scene and its intention as well as straying from the conventions of what sex scenes are meant to do.

The 18-minute interview with cinematographer Claire Mathon at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival has the photographer talk about her approach to the cinematography as well as her collaboration with Sciamma as they did a lot in trying to understand the visual approach to the film. Even in the way to film paintings and capture the richness as the film was shot on 4K digital where Mathon also talks about her approach to lighting and how she had shoot natural light without having to use filters or electric light. Notably in scenes involving candles and using certain lenses to get a distinctive look for the film. The 12-minute 2019 interview with artist Helene Delmaire who was discovered by Sciamma as Delmaire is an artist in her own right and had an understanding of what Sciamma wanted but also know the flaws in copying old paintings from the past. Delmaire talks about her own methods into the painting of the film but also in how color would shape things as well as other little things that go into making a painting. Even in paints that are unable to be used for public health reason yet Delmaire was given access to use them aware of its dangers as she’s been able to use it safely in her own work. In the filming, Sciamma and Mathon had to shoot 27 minutes for one entire session with Delmaire wearing a costume as Merlant’s double.

Also including in the DVD/Blu-Ray set is a booklet that features an essay from Lyssaria website director, film critic/curator Ela Bittencourt entitled Portrait of a Lady on Fire: Daring to See. Bittencourt talks about the film’s plot but also some of its social and gender politics as it is set in the late 18th Century in France at a time when women don’t have much of a role to play. The character of Marianne is this representation of a woman who kind of does thing on her own and her arrival at this house to paint Heloise’s portrait. Bittencourt also talk about how the film fits in with Sciamma’s previous films in terms of its thematic study of the female gaze and female identity as well as the sense of sisterhood between Marianne, Heloise, and Sophie once Heloise’s mother leaves the house for a bit as there’s also this equality that is considered taboo considering the different social classes they’re in. There’s also a lot of references to Orpheus and Eurydice both in Marianne and Heloise’s love story but also as a book that is read throughout the film including a painting by Marianne under her father’s name shown late in the film as the essay is a great piece of text that talks about the film’s brilliance.

***End of DVD/Blu-Ray Tidbits***

Portrait de la jeune fille en feu is a magnificent film from Celine Sciamma. Featuring a phenomenal ensemble cast, ravishing visuals, a gripping and entrancing screenplay, incredible art direction and paintings, and a haunting music soundtrack piece. The film is definitely an evocative and wondrous film that explore a woman tasked to create a portrait of a woman that doesn’t want to marry as it play into many taboos but also a need to create art, sisterhood, and companionship in a world that refuses to change its way. In the end, Portrait de la jeune fille en feu is an outstanding film from Celine Sciamma.

Celine Sciamma Films: (Water Lillies) – (Tomboy (2011 film)) – Girlhood - Petite Maman

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, July 15, 2021

2021 Cannes Marathon: Mahler


(Winner of the Technical Grand Prize at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival)
Written and directed by Ken Russell, Mahler is a bio-pic about the life and works of the Austrian-Bohemian composer Gustav Mahler. The film is an unconventional bio-pic that explores a man as he reflects on his life while being on a train with his wife as they deal with their crumbling marriage with Robert Powell and Georgina Hale respectively playing the roles of Gustav and Alma Mahler. Also starring Lee Montague, Gary Rich, Dana Gillespie, Miriam Karlin, Rosalie Crutchley, and Richard Morant. Mahler is a whimsical yet fascinating film from Ken Russell.

The film is an unconventional bio-pic about the life of Gustav Mahler as he’s on a train to Vienna upon his return to Europe from America as he’s joined by his wife as he reflects on his life as well as his marriage that is crumbling. It’s a film that explores a man and the events of his life as he looks back but also have these dreams and nightmares that play into his life and the music that created. Ken Russell’s screenplay has a back-and-forth narrative as it play into Mahler’s life and his marriage to Alma as it often showcase his neglect towards Alma and her talents but also the struggle to achieve greatness while also having strained relationships with his family. Even as Alma is having an affair with another man who is also on the train where Mahler is dealing with illness and issues as he loses interest in this homecoming where he would meet the people from his home.

Russell’s direction is lavish as it opens with a hut being burned with rock carvings of Mahler’s head and a woman freeing herself in a cocoon as it sets up the tone of what Russell would create in this mixture of a dramatic bio-pic with elements of surrealism. Shot on location in Austria and Britain, Russell maintains this air of style as the scenes at the train are largely straightforward where he plays into the claustrophobic tone of it through its close-ups and medium shots with some bits of Mahler looking out that includes this riff on Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice early in the film where Mahler looks at that film’s main character gazing upon a young boy with Mahler being disgusted. There are moments of humor and absurdity in the scenes in the train yet Russell chooses to keep it restrained and dramatic as it play into Mahler’s own frustration about his return as he looks back on his life.

Some of the film’s flashback sequences are a bit straightforward as it plays into Mahler’s own childhood yet much of it emphasize a lot on surrealism and extravagance such as Mahler’s own dream about his wife dancing on his tombstone while her lover Max (Richard Morant) looks on with glee as he’s wearing a Nazi uniform. Much of these sequences are shot in a wide or medium shot with these elaborate presentation including statues, lavish costumes, and set pieces that play into Mahler’s own Jewish background as well as a metaphorical dream about him rejecting his Jewish background and convert to Catholicism. Russell also bring in some elements of anachronisms as it relates to Nazi imagery as it all play into how Mahler’s music is used while there’s scenes at the hut on the lake that are intimate but also full of style as it plays into Mahler’s own isolation and growing neglect towards his family and his wife’s own talents where Russell also showcase a man just wracked with regret and uncertainty. Yet, its ending is about Mahler just making sense of his life and work upon his arrival to his home country. Overall, Russell crafts a wondrous and exhilarating film about the life and work of one of classical music’s great composers.

Cinematographer Dick Bush does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its naturalistic imagery for the scenes in and out of the train as well as some unique lighting for some of the fantasy scenes as it adds to the visual splendor of the film. Editor Michael Bradsell does excellent work with the editing as it is stylized with some montages, jump-cuts, and other stylish fast-cuts to play into the manic dreams that Mahler would have. Art director Ian Whittaker does incredible work with the look of the train compartments the Mahlers would stay in as well as the hut on the lake, their home in Austria, and some of the design of the statues and places that Mahler would dream about. Costume designer Shirley Russell does amazing work with the costumes from the early turn of the century clothes the Mahlers wearing on the train to the lavish clothes that Mahler sees others wear in his dreams including some stylish Nazi uniforms.

Hairdresser James Joyce and makeup artist Peter Robb-King do fantastic work with the look of the characters including the different looks of Alma in the flashbacks and in some of the dream sequences. The special effects work of John Richardson is terrific for some of the film’s dream sequences including the film’s opening scene. Sound recordist Iain Bruce does superb work with the way sound is used on location including the scenes on the train as well as in some of the dream sequences. The film’s music soundtrack features not just the music of Gustav Mahler but also Richard Wagner is used wonderfully as it help play into the many of the dramatic elements of the film as well as moments of suspense as the pieces also provide an interpretation into what Mahler is dealing with when he created a certain piece of music.

The film’s marvelous casting feature some notable small roles and appearances from Elaine Delmar as a princess riding the train, David Collings as the rival composer Hugo Wolf, Claire McClellan as the sculptor Glucki, Otto Diamant as Professor Sladsky who realizes how gifted the young Mahler is, Peter Eyre as Mahler’s troubled brother Otto who also aspires to be a composer, Dana Gillespie as the opera singer Anna von Mildenburg, Andrew Faulds as a doctor on a train, Miriam Karlin as Mahler’s aunt Rosa, Angela Down as Mahler’s sister Justine, Arnold Yarrow as Mahler’s grandfather, Gary Rich as the young Mahler, and an un-credited cameo appearance from Oliver Reed as station master on the train. Ronald Pickup is terrific as Nick as a musician who watches over the young Mahler as he realizes the boy’s gift for music while also helping him broaden his gifts. Lee Montague and Rosalie Crutchley are excellent as Mahler’s parents in their respective roles as Bernhard and Marie Mahler with the former being a man who brews beer for a living as he’s upset by his son’s academic shortcomings while the latter is more supportive towards the young Gustav.

Richard Morant is superb as Alma’s lover Max as a military officer who boards on the train to resume their affair while also appearing in Mahler’s dreams as this man trying to rid of Mahler and claim Alma to himself. Antonia Ellis is fantastic as Cosima Wagner as the wife of Richard Wagner who appears in one of Mahler’s dreams to get him to become a Catholic as she dances around in Nazi uniforms and helmets as it is this memorable appearance. Georgina Hale is amazing as Alma Mahler as Gustav’s wife who struggles with the role of being a housewife and mother to their children as she’s eager to express her own artistic interests while also having an affair with another man that is already having problems. Finally, there’s Robert Powell in a brilliant performance as Gustav Mahler as the famed Austrian composer who copes with his impending homecoming while having dreams, flashbacks, and nightmares about his life and work while dealing with a strained marriage, illness, and disappointments in his own life.

Mahler is a spectacular film from Ken Russell. Featuring a great cast, lavish art direction, its unconventional yet entrancing screenplay, and its offbeat approach to classical music. The film is an unusual yet extravagant film that doesn’t play by the rules on the bio-pic as it prefers to celebrate the life and work of one of the great visionaries in classical music. In the end, Mahler is a sensational film from Ken Russell.

Ken Russell Films: (Peep Show (1956 short film) – (Amelia and the Angel) - (John Betjeman: A Poet in London) – (Gordon Jacob) – (A House in Bayswater) – (Pop Goes the Easel) – (Elgar) – (Watch the Birdie) – (Bartok) – (French Dressing) – (The Dotty World of James Lloyd) – (The Debussy Films) – (Always on Sunday) – (Don’t Shoot the Composer) – (Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World) – (Billion Dollar Brain) – (Dante’s Inferno) – (Song of Summer) – (Women in Love) – (Dance of the Seven Veils) – (The Music Lovers) – (The Devils (1971 film)) – (The Boy Friend) – (Savage Messiah) – (Tommy) – Lisztomania – (William and Dorothy) – (Valentino) – (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) – (Altered States) – (The Planets (1983 film)) – (Vaughn Williams: A Symphonic Portrait) - (Crimes of Passion) – (Gothic (1986 film)) – (Aria-Nessun Dorma) – (Ken Russell’s ABC of British Music) – (Salome’s Last Dance) – (The Lair of the White Worm) – (The Rainbow (1989 film)) – (Women & Men: Stories of Seduction) – (The Strange Affliction of Anton Bruckner) – (Whore (1991 film)) – (Prisoner of Honor (1991 TV film)) – (The Mystery of Dr. Martinu) – (The Secret Life of Arnold Bax) – (The Insatiable Mrs. Kirsch) – (Lady Chatterley (1993 TV film)) – (Alice in Russialand) – (Mindbender) – (Ken Russell’s Treasure Island) – (Dogboys (1998 TV film)) – (The Lion’s Mouth) – (Elgar: Fantasy of a Composer on a Bicycle) – (The Fall of the Louse of Usher) – (Trapped Ashes) – (A Kitten for Hitler)

© thevoid99 2021