Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Films That I Saw: January 2023


We’re almost at the end of the month of a new year yet it feels like a lot of the shit that has been happening for the past 7-8 years hasn’t changed. In fact, nothing has really changed as it is just further proof that no matter what steps we take to make things better. We end up going one step forward and five steps backwards as what happened in Memphis, Tennessee is an example of how little things have changed as a black man was beaten to death by the police who wasn’t even doing anything wrong. It does feel like nothing has changed while I’m now dealing with the flu that I got from my niece and nephew as the former is now running around like a fucking tornado. Still, that is life as I now have a new routine in driving 20 minutes from Smyrna to Mabelton to pick up my nephew who is in school at around 1:30 PM as he’s actually doing well in his new school as it’s given me some comfort despite my initial worries.

Things in the world of pro wrestling has started off terribly with the return of Vince McMahon to the board of directors in the WWE despite all of the allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment as he just brushed it off as if it was nothing. Ever since he departed this summer, things in WWE creatively were starting to go well as I became interested in the product but his return and a possible sale to some hedge-fund company in Saudi Arabia makes me nervous. McMahon’s return lead to his daughter and co-CEO Stephanie to quit as I can’t say that I don’t blame her for leaving despite my issues towards her though she has been really loyal to the company and its employees. I am more worried for HHH and his team but also some of the performers as the moment McMahon decides to go back on the creative side is fucking bad news.

This wasn’t the only thing in the world of pro wrestling that has made major headlines as the other big news is an unfortunate one in the passing of Jay Briscoe (real-name is Jamin Pugh) in a car accident on January 17, 2023 as he was driving two of his daughters to a cheer competition when a car drove into the wrong lane and both Briscoe and the other driver were killed. Though the daughters are alive, they’re still dealing with serious injuries as I’m hoping they get better while this death is just shocking as I haven’t felt a death like this for a wrestler since Scott Hall last year. Jay and Mark Briscoe weren’t just one of the greatest tag teams ever but they were also influential as their trilogy last year with FTR is probably one of the greatest wrestling trilogies ever as both teams put their bodies on the line to create that trilogy. I first heard about his death on a live chat watch-a-long with various subscribers on Solomonster’s podcast as we were re-watching the very first episode of Monday Night Raw is when the news broke.

I didn’t want to believe it but it did happen as tributes immediately poured in while AEW wanted to do something really special for Briscoe since Tony Khan is also the owner of Ring of Honor which the Briscoes work for. Sadly, he wasn’t able to do a tribute immediately because of a bunch of assholes from Warner Discovery refused to have the Briscoes on AEW TV because of a bunch of stupid homophobic things Jay said many years ago that he’s apologized for and has been forgiven by the LGBTQ wrestling community. It’s fucked up considering that these people at Warner Discovery have issues over what some guy said many years ago yet they still plan on doing business with Ezra Miller and Dana White as the latter got into some trouble for slapping his wife at a New Year’s Eve party as they still put on his stupid slap-fighting show after AEW Dynamite. Thankfully, Khan and the fans were able to call out on Warner Discovery’s bullshit as last Wednesday’s episode of Dynamite had a great main event between Mark Briscoe and Jay Lethal in tribute to Jay Briscoe.
In the month of January 2023, I saw a total of 26 films in 14 first-timers and 12 re-watches with 3 of those films director/co-directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. The highlight of the month has been my Blind Spot film in La Chinoise that I watched on MUBI. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for January 2023:

1. Everything Everywhere All at Once
2. Pinocchio
3. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
4. The Kingdom: Exodus
5. The Book of Mary
6. Hail, Mary
7. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
8. A Short Story
9. Tuesday
10. For Ever Mozart
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’ve Been Watching

A Short Story
A short I saw on MUBI by Bi Gan, as he has Long Journey’s Day into Night available on that streaming platform, revolves around a black cat encountering a bunch of people in its travels as well as robots. It is a surreal short that is filled with astonishing visuals as it has a nice 15-minute running time as it is something worth watching.

The Ballad of Nessie
An animated short film that was released theatrically to precede Winnie the Pooh in 2011 is this whimsical short about the Loch Ness monster and why she is really just an innocent creature who got pissed off because some asshole decided to build a golf park over her pond. Narrated by Billy Connolly, it is a short filled with humor and heart as it also play into how she ended up creating a lake that would bring her happiness and such as it is a joy to watch as it is available on Disney+.

Mr. Bean: Blind Date

A short film made in 1993 for Red Nose Day involves Mr. Bean being a contestant in the game show Blind Date hosted by Cilla Black in which he was the winner. One of the contestants Mr. Bean competes with is played by Alan Cumming as they try to win the heart of a beautiful young woman where they go away to a weekend at the country. Yet with anything involving Mr. Bean, some crazy shit happens as it is just downright fucking hilarious as it’s why I fucking love that character. He doesn’t give a fuck in the shit he does and how he hurts people just as long as he tries to get what he wants.

Another short I saw on MUBI is from Peter Strickland as it is mainly a music video of sorts for the band GUO4 which mainly involves two naked swimmers fighting in a locker room. It is an odd short to watch yet it also intriguing considering that it has a lot of gratuitous shots of penises including when they’re touching one another in this film as it is really homoerotic but for all of the right reasons. Ladies, boys, seek this shit out.

With the praise that’s been given towards Aftersun with its star Paul Mescal nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars, Charlotte Wells’ first film revolves around the day in the life of a teenage girl as she is dealing with loss as it is about how she is coping. It is a short filled with gorgeous imagery but also a lot of restraint in Wells’ direction as it a short that anyone who loves Aftersun should see as it is now available on MUBI and YouTube.

The Book of Mary
Another short film that I saw on MUBI as it actually came as part of a double-bill with Jean-Luc Godard’s Hail, Mary is a short by his partner Anne-Marie Mieville that revolves around a young girl dealing with her parents’ separation as it is an odd yet endearing film in the way this young girl copes. Starring Aurore Clement as the mother and Rebecca Hampton as the daughter, it is a short that is a real gem as it is better than the Godard film mainly for its innocence and offbeat humor.

Willow (season 1 episodes 3-8)
This is definitely an incredible series that isn’t just filled with a lot of adventure and excitement but also ends on a high note with an ending that definitely might make the second season really intense. It is a show that is funny while it also has some unique developments with the ensemble cast being a major highlight as I enjoy the performances that Warwick Davis, Tony Revolori, Ellie Bamber, Ruby Cruz, Erin Kellyman, and Amar Chadha-Patel have done as they have great chemistry and are always a joy to watch. Even as the guest appearances from Joanne Whalley and Kevin Pollak reprising their roles from the original film while a guest appearance from Christian Slater is a joy to watch. It has a killer finale that definitely opens up a lot of possibilities but also revelations as it relates to what Willow will have to face.

That ‘90s Show (season 1 episodes 1-7)
I was wary about this show as I was a fan of That ‘70s Show back in the late 90s/early 2000s for about six seasons with a messy seventh season and a final season many fans would rather not talk about. Seven episodes in so far and it’s managed to be a bit of its own thing with elements of nostalgia as it gave me reasons in why I don’t want to remember the 90s such the awful shows, awful haircuts, and awful clothes but the new characters are actually fun to watch. Eric and Donna’s daughter Leia is a bit like both of them while there’s also Jay Kelso who is the son of Kelso and Jackie as they make a brief appearance in the first episode as does Eric. The new kids are a bit like the cast from the series but the most interesting is the Asian kid Ozzie who is openly gay as he is just hilarious as I’m looking forward to the rest of the series and see if there’s a second one coming.

Wrestling Match of the Month: Bryan Danielson vs. Konosuke Takeshita-AEW Dynamite-1/11/23

With rumors that the main event for AEW Revolution coming in March for the AEW World Championship being MJF vs. Bryan Danielson in an iron-man match. MJF is making Danielson go through hurdles in fighting different array of opponents as it has given Danielson some great matches in this series with Bandido and Brian Cage so far with Timothy Thatcher coming next on AEW Dynamite this coming Wednesday. The first match of the series between Danielson and Takeshita is just pure technical wrestling as these two men just killed it with Danielson being this effective veteran and Takeshita as this newcomer who is getting over with the fans.

Now I haven’t seen anything from Wrestle Kingdom 17 as I’ve heard great things about the Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White match for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship and Will Ospreay vs. Kenny Omega for the IWGP U.S. Championship. They are in my watchlist as I’ve created a log of matches for the month and for what promotion to create a list for the end of the year that will be

Top 10 Re-Watches

1. National Lampoon's Vacation
2. The Kingdom II
3. Nature Boy
4. Live Aid
5. Of Miracles and Men
6. Jazzin' for Blue Jean
7. The Day the Series Stopped
8. Monty Python and the Holy Grail in LEGO
9. Geri’s Game
10. Waking Sleeping Beauty
Well, that is all for January. Next month, there will be a review of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania as well as some films that I have on my queue such as City of Women and Zama on MUBI. There’s also stuff on Netflix and Disney+ that I plan to watch though I still have my DVR box as it’s unlikely I’ll watch anything there as I’m trying to figure out what limited series to watch next while my next Blind Spot will be Buck and the Preacher. Before I leave, I want express my condolences to the families and friends of Jeff Beck, Tom Verlaine, Cindy Williams, Lisa Marie Presley, Bobby Hull, Annie Wersching, Lisa Loring, Sal Bando, Gina Lollobrigida, Robbie Knievel, Barrett Strong, and Tatjana Patitz. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2023

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Everything Everywhere All at Once


Written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once is the story of a Chinese immigrant who is being audited by the IRS where she finds herself in a multiverse as she deals with the chaos the multiverse as well as an evil force that threatens the entire multiverse. The film is a genre-bending film that follows a woman trying to save her family as well as meeting different versions of them. Starring Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., James Hong, and Jamie Lee Curtis. Everything Everywhere All at Once is a whimsical and exhilarating film from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.

The film follows the misadventures of a Chinese immigrant living in America running a laundromat with her husband as she is being audited by the IRS where a man who is an alternate version of her husband warns her about an event that threatens the multiverse as all hell breaks loose. It is a film with an offbeat premise that plays into the life of this women as well as these “what if” scenarios about the kind of life she could’ve had depending on the decisions she’s made in her life. The film’s screenplay by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert plays into the dysfunctional life of Evelyn Quan (Michelle Yeoh) as she is dealing with her elderly father Gong Gong (James Hong) who is visiting her for Lunar New Year while doesn’t want to tell him that her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is a lesbian with a girlfriend in Becky (Tallie Medel). Things for Evelyn and her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) aren’t going to great as Waymond is thinking about divorcing Evelyn feeling like he’s let her down as they’re dealing with the IRS as an auditor in Deidre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis) who is looking over the family’s taxes where things become strange due when a version of Waymond emerges into his body to warn Evelyn about something crazy.

It all relates to a multiverse that is being threatened by this evil figure from a universe known as Alpha with Alpha-Waymond being able to get into his own body to communicate with Evelyn as other alternate version are around including Deidre who would constantly fight Evelyn. Evelyn would also encounter these alternate versions of herself through her mind including an idea of “what if” as it plays into what if she and Waymond never married as well as other things in her life. Most notably her relationship with Joy as it is filled with a lot of issues leading to an Alpha version of her known as Jobu Tupaki who is wreaking havoc on the entire multiverse with Evelyn being its main target. It also adds to the stake where both Joy and Waymond would go in and out of being possessed by their Alphaverse versions as they also deal with an Alphaverse version of Gong Gong who believes that Joy, when she’s possessed by Tupaki, is a greater danger as it relates to her nihilistic views.

The direction of the Daniels is definitely stylish as it play into these ideas of the multiverse as much of the film is shot on location at Simi Valley in California. While much of the compositions are straightforward in its close-ups and medium shots, there is a lot style to the overall presentation as nearly half of the film is set at the IRS building where much of the action occurs. Notably as there’s some wide shots in the location while the scenes in the multiverse would have the Daniels use different aspect ratios including a sequence of Evelyn as a movie star and other elements that play into alternate realities and “what ifs” scenarios. Even as there’s bits of animation such a crude kids’ drawing in a brief moment as there are these moments of surrealism that occur throughout the film. Notably in the scenes set in Tupaki’s home base as it is a home to her nihilistic views with the symbol of it is shaped like a bagel as there are a lot of references to bagels including how the Alphaverse is suffering due to the death of cows which is the source for cream cheese.

The Daniels also use different film references such as the sequence of Evelyn as a film star as she meets a version of Waymond as it is told in a style similar to the films of Wong Kar-Wai. There are also these weird moments as it play into this element of absurdity such as people having hot dogs for fingers or a strange version of Ratatouille involving a raccoon. The film is broken into three parts as it play into the journey that Evelyn would take as she also wonders all of the things that are happening as it relates to her family and their own fragile relationship. Even as it forces Evelyn to make some changes and realize about the decisions in her life would make an impact as she ponders about what if she chose this scenario or that one yet it is Waymond who would be the one to realize what must be done as it would give Evelyn a reason to save her family. Overall, the Daniels craft an evocative and wondrous film about a woman trying to save her family and confront her own life decisions relating to the multiverse.

Cinematographer Larkin Seiple does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it play into the look of the rooms in the IRS building as well as being low-key in its presentation with usage of vibrant lights at the palace that belongs to Tupaki. Editor Paul Rogers does amazing work with the editing as it has elements of style in montage-style match cuts, jump-cuts, and other stylish cuts that play into the action and drama. Production designer Jason Kisvarday, with set decorator Kelsi Ephraim and art director Amelia Brook, does excellent work with the look of the laundromat as well as the IRS office floor and other sets to play into the different multiverses that Evelyn would encounter. Costume designer Shirley Kurata does fantastic work with the costume from the clothes that Deidre wears as well as the different kind of clothes that Joy wear in the many personas she would have as Tupaki.

Special effects makeup artists Jason Hamer and Hiro Yada do terrific work with the design of some of the props such as the hot dog fingers as well as some of the makeup that Tupaki would wear. Special effects supervisor Jonathan Kombrinck and visual effects supervisor Zak Stoltz do incredible work with the visual effects in creating the look of some of the visual effects and the machines that are used to track individuals as well as the design of the bagel at Tupaki’s world. Sound editors Brent Kiser and Andrew Twite does superb work with the sound in some of the sound effects created as well as the way rooms sound on location. The film’s music by the band Son Lux is incredible for its rich score that is filled with unique ambient textures, offbeat percussion arrangements, somber string arrangements, and other elements that play into the suspense, drama, and humor as it is a highlight of the film while music supervisors Bruce Gilbert and Lauren Marie Mikus cultivate a soundtrack that features more original music from Son Lux that include collaborations with David Byrne, Mitski, Nina Moffitt, Hanna Benn, Andre 3000, yMusic, Rob Moose, and Randy Newman along with music from Claude Debussy for a key moment in the film.

The casting by Sarah Halley Finn is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Michiko Nishiwaki as a kung-fu rival of Evelyn from an alternate universe, Andy Le and Brian Le as a couple of Alpha Trophy Jumpers that Evelyn and Alpha-Waymond deal with, Audrey Wasilewki and Peter Banifaz as a couple of RV officers working with Alpha-Waymond in a van, Sunita Mani and Aaron Lazar as actors in a musical that Evelyn often watches, Biff Wiff as a regular customer at the laundromat in Rick who is friendly with the family, Tallie Medel as Joy’s girlfriend Becky whom Evelyn thinks is a nice person but doesn’t approve of the relationship in fear of her dad, Harry Shum Jr. as a rival hibachi chef Evelyn deals with in an alternate universe as it reveals a big secret about what he does, and Jenny Slate in a superb small role as the customer known as Debbie the Dog Mom who always carries a dog and always talk while also plays an alternate version that Evelyn deals with.

Jamie Lee Curtis is brilliant as Deirdre Beaubeirdre as an IRS auditor who is trying to go after Evelyn’s family over their taxes while she also plays alternate versions of Deirdre as an antagonist force against Evelyn as well as being her life partner in an alternate universe. James Hong is excellent as Gong Gong as Evelyn’s father who is often demanding and disapproving of everything Evelyn does and doesn’t like Waymond while the Alpha-verse version is a more cunning individual who believes that sacrificing Joy would save the multiverse. Stephanie Hsu is amazing in a dual role as Joy and Jobu Tupaki where Hsu brings an angst and wit as Joy as someone that is trying to find herself and such while Hsu brings a lot of charisma as Tupaki as this oddball antagonist who wears weird clothes and such yet is such a joy to watch.

Ke Huy Quan is incredible as Waymond Wang as Evelyn’s meek husband who felt like he had let Evelyn down as he deals with the chaos of their marriage and family life while Quan also play alternate versions of Waymond as the Alpha-verse version is a cunning warrior with an offbeat sense of humor and a version of what if Evelyn never married him as it is a great performance from Quan. Finally, there’s Michelle Yeoh in a tremendous performance as Evelyn Quan Wang as a laundromat owner who is dealing with tax issues and a chaotic family life who finds herself in the middle of this event relating to the multiverse as she also deals with different versions of herself from alternate universes as well as a lot of “what ifs” scenarios as it has Yeoh display not just humility and great physicality but also in her comedic reactions as it is truly a career-defining performance for the actress.

Everything Everywhere All at Once is a magnificent film from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert that features a great ensemble cast lead by Michelle Yeoh with Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong, and Jamie Lee Curtis. Along with its dazzling visuals, quirky music score, its mixture of genres, and its story revolving around a woman having to save her family and their fates relating to the multiverse. It is a film that unconventional in its overall presentation as well as being this film that plays into the importance of family no matter how many versions they are in different universes. In the end, Everything Everywhere All at Once is an outstanding film from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.

Related: Swiss Army Man - (The Death of Dick Long)

© thevoid99 2023

Friday, January 27, 2023

2023 Blind Spot Series: La Chinoise


Based on the novel Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, La Chinoise, ou plutot a la Chinoise: un film en train de se faire (The Chinese, or rather, in the Chinese manner: a film in the making) is the story of five Maoist activists in Paris as they try to figure out their place in the world as well as hoping to change things through forms of terrorism. Written for the screen and directed by Jean-Luc Godard, the film is a political drama that explores a group of young people in their study of Maoism as a way to deal with the chaos of the world as the film marks a crucial trajectory for Godard in the films he would do later in the 1960s and in the 1970s. Starring Jean-Pierre Leaud, Anne Wiazemsky, Juliet Berto, and Michel Semeniako. La Chinoise is a provocative and riveting film from Jean-Luc Godard.

Set largely in a Parisian apartment during the course of the summer, the film revolves around five students from Parisian suburbs who have become Maoist activists as they try to figure out how to carry their ideals to the world with terrorism being a key suggestion. It is a film that explores a group of young people who are troubled by the state of their surroundings as they’ve been inspired by the actions of Communist China under the rule of Mao Zedong. It is a film with a straightforward narrative where Jean-Luc Godard uses the Dostoyevsky novel and set it in modern-day France during a tumultuous time of social disorder that would set the stage for the events of May of 1968. For these five people, they listen to Radio Peking and other Maoist propaganda in the hope they can achieve something in France but also deal with other factions relating to communism as they have different views. Even as the continuous studies and such would also create discord within the group about what to do.

Godard’s direction is stylish as it is set almost entirely in this apartment in Paris where there are five people who live there as they’re all idealists lead by the couple Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Leaud) and Veronique (Anne Wiazemsky) as they’re joined by the country girl Yvonne (Juliet Berto) and the student Henri (Michel Semeniako) as well as another figure known as Kirilov (Lex de Brujin) who would play a bigger role. Aside from a visitor in an African student in Omar (Omar Blondin Diop), the group remains isolated as Godard maintains an intimacy in the direction while also breaking the fourth wall at times to show a few crew members filming the actors. There are a lot of close-ups and medium shots that play into the intimacy such as the characters in a room that is filled with a lot of copies of the Little Red Book in the background as all of the characters carry a copy of that book with them. Godard does use some wide shots as there are shots of areas in France as well as parts of Paris that portrays a society that is being overtaken by ideas of the bourgeoisie which these students are opposed to.

The direction also has Godard create these moments where characters are carrying objects that transform into machine guns as well as make some commentary on the Vietnam War as well as their own opposition towards American foreign policy. Even as there are moments of Yvonne playing a Vietnamese woman being attacked by toy American jets to explain the chaos of the war as it also allude to their own disdain towards the Soviet Union’s idea of communism. By the time the film reaches its third act where members of the group diverge in ideals as the four principle characters do get a segment where they talk with Henri talking about what happened to him while a scene set in a train where Veronique talks about terrorism with political activist Francis Jeanson over his role in the Algerian war as he is troubled by Veronique’s views as it does play into the fallacies on revolutions. Overall, Godard crafts a compelling and gripping film about a group of political activists turning to terrorism to get their message through during a tumultuous time in France during the 1960s.

Cinematographer Raoul Coutard does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography in capturing the vibrancy of the color red throughout the film with many of its interior shots being straightforward yet colorful along with its exteriors in some of its greyer settings. Editors Delphine Desfons and Agnes Guillemot do excellent work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to play into the film’s unconventional presentation but also for dramatic effect. Costume designer Gitt Magrini does fantastic work with the costumes from the sweaters that Guillaume wears to the war cap that Veronique would sometimes wear. The sound work of Rene Levert does superb work with the sound in capturing the natural elements of the sound on some locations but also in creating sound effects for some of the playful gunfire. The film’s music consist of original music by Michel Legrand and Karlheinz Stockhausen as well as classical pieces by Pierre Degeyter, Franz Schubert, and Antonio Vivaldi as the original is a mixture of pop and orchestral music to play into the events of the time including a song celebrating Mao while much of the classical music is played for dramatic effect.

The film’s incredible ensemble cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Jean-Claude Sussfeld as a getaway driver for a key scene late in the film, Omar Blondin Diop as a black-French student who appears to do a speech about his views on the world, Lex De Brujin as Kirilov as a student who doesn’t engage much in the discussions though he does have views of his own that supports the idea of terrorism, and Francis Jeanson as himself as the controversial political philosopher who is against Veronique’s views as well as wanting to use terrorism as he is someone who goes into the fallacies of his own actions in the Algerian war as well as the flaws of revolutions. Michel Semeniako is fantastic as Henri as a student who is a follower of the Maoist ideals but then starts to question things as he would later comment on his own future but also the faults of Maoism.

Juliet Berto is excellent as Yvonne as a young student from the country who is hoping to use Maoist to help with plight of workers as she also the lack of progress that occurs in revolutions. Jean-Pierre Leaud is amazing as Guillaume as a student who is eager to play a role in the revolution as he then starts to disagree with Veronique later on as he also copes with the lack of progress in revolutions. Finally, there’s Anne Wiazemsky in a phenomenal performance as Veronique as a young student who is a fervent follower of Mao and his ideals as she realizes what is necessary despite the many faults of her views as she also copes with the fallacies of revolutions.

La Chinoise is a tremendous film from Jean-Luc Godard. Featuring a great ensemble cast, vibrant visuals, a riveting music soundtrack, and its focus on political ideals and the chaos that it would predict. It is a film that isn’t just one of Godard’s finest films during the French New Wave period but also a film that says a lot about young people’s fascination with terrorism and other acts of violence for the sake of change with its many fallacies. In the end, La Chinoise is a spectacular film from Jean-Luc Godard.

Jean-Luc Godard Films: All the Boys are Called Patrick - Charlotte et son Jules - A Bout de Souffle - The Little Soldier - A Woman is a Woman - Vivre sa Vie - Les Carabiniers - Contempt - Bande a Part - A Married Woman - Alphaville - Pierrot Le Fou - Masculin Feminin - Made in U.S.A. - Two or Three Things I Know About Her - Weekend (1967 film) - Sympathy for the Devil (One Plus One) - (Joy of Learning) – (British Sounds) – Tout va Bien - (Letter to Jane) - (One A.M.) - (Number Two) - (Here and Elsewhere) - (Every Man for Himself) - (Passion) - (First Name: Carmen) - Hail, Mary - (Soft and Hard) - (Detective) - (King Lear (1987 film)) - (Keep Your Right Up) - (Nouvelle Vague) - (Allemagne 90 neuf zero) - (JLG/JLG - Self-Portrait in December) – For Ever Mozart - (Historie(s) de Cinema) - (In Praise of Love) - (Notre musique) - (Film Socialisme) - (Adieu au Language) – (The Image Book)

© thevoid99 2023

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Thursday Movie Picks (TV Edition): 2022 Freshman Series


For the fourth week of the Thursday Movie Picks hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We continue into the subject of 2022 in freshman TV series. There are new shows that did make 2022 a joy to watch as well as shows that didn’t deliver but it did make the year interesting. Here are my three picks:

1. Ms. Marvel
From Marvel comes a show that isn’t just the best new show of the series but a crown jewel of the MCU as well as a top-tier entry in the current Multiverse Phase for the MCU. Based on the Marvel comic series, the show revolves around a Pakistani-American teenager who is a big fan of Captain Marvel as she gets a bangle from her grandmother that contains mysterious powers as she deals with not just these powers but also her own identity as Muslim-American living in New Jersey as the show also does great work in discussing the atrocity that was the Partition of India in 1947. It is a landmark show in many ways in not just bringing the world of Islamic-American life to Western audiences but also provide a series that can appeal to everyone.

2. Wednesday
From Netflix and Tim Burton is a series that focuses on Wednesday Addams character as she is sent to a prep school following an incident that has her getting revenge for her brother Pugsley. Starring Jenna Ortega as Addams, the show isn’t just this breakout series for her but it also gives audiences some new adventures and stories but also a character that everyone loves in Enid Sinclair that is played by Emma Myers as she is the total opposite of Addams yet is so loveable. It is a series that is filled with chills, thrills, and a lot of mayhem as there has to be a second season.

3. Andor
From Lucasfilms as part of the Star Wars franchise comes this prequel to Rogue One that focuses on the character of Cassian Andor and where he came from. Starring Diego Luna in the titular role, it is a show that plays more into character study, suspense, and politics as it play into the growth of the Rebellion during the age of the Empire. It is a show that has a lot of intrigue but also some amazing moments such as Andy Serkis’ speech about what is happening in the prison where Andor that would lead to the prison break is the closest thing to top anything that happened in the films. This is television at its finest and let’s see where this series will go in the future.

© thevoid99 2023

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Hail, Mary


Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Je vous salue, Marie (Hail, Mary) is the story of a teenage girl who finds herself pregnant despite the fact that she never had sex as she also deals with her taxi-driver boyfriend. The film is an exploration of an unconventional pregnancy as well as the role of faith trying to deal with this phenomenon. Starring Myriem Roussel, Thierry Rode, Philippe Lacoste, Manon Andersen, Malachi Jara Kohan, Anne Gautier, Johan Leysen, and Juliette Binoche. Je vous salue, Marie is a riveting and provocative film from Jean-Luc Godard.

The film revolves around a young woman in her teens whose encounter with a stranger who claims that she will be pregnant has that claim come true much to the shock of her taxi-driver boyfriend. The film is an exploration of this chaste and virginal woman in her late teens as she deals with this unexpected pregnancy with many questions about miracles, faith, and identity with a paralleling narrative involving a young woman having an affair with her professor as it play into the theories on extraterrestrial life. Jean-Luc Godard’s screenplay is largely straightforward as it plays into the plight of its titular character (Myriem Roussel) who is just a regular teenage girl who plays for her school basketball team and reads a lot of books while her college dropout boyfriend Joseph (Thierry Rode) works as a taxi driver who is having an affair with another student in Juliette (Juliette Binoche) that wants to take their relationship forward. The fact that Mary is a virgin and her encounter with this actor named Gabriel (Philippe Lacoste) who is accompanied by a young girl (Manon Andersen) adds to the chaos of Mary’s unexpected pregnancy with Joseph troubled by what he has to do.

Godard’s direction is offbeat for the fact that he shoots everything in a static shot where the camera rarely moves throughout the entirety of the film. Shot on various locations in Switzerland, Godard maintains a simplicity to the film as it is shot on a 1:33:1 aspect ratio as well as using long shots to play into the drama and only cutting when he needs to as there are some wide shots to establish the locations. Yet, much of the film is intimate in its overall presentation with the close-ups and medium shots as it play into not just the struggles that Mary goes into but also the paralleling narrative involving Eva (Anne Gautier) and a professor (Johan Leysen) as much of that narrative is told through medium and wide shots as it play into their beliefs of an extraterrestrial theory. There are a lot of Biblical references that Godard plays into this story that also includes Joseph’s own struggles over Mary’s pregnancy as he’s convinced he cheated on her as it play into his own contradictions into his own relationship with Juliette. Much of Godard’s direction also play into Mary’s struggles with her own body but also faith itself as she ponders what kind of role she is playing for God but also into why she has to be the one.

There are these shots of Mary nude including some medium-close-up shots of her bottomless where she asks Joseph to touch her but not physically based on Gabriel’s suggestion. It adds to this commentary on Mary dealing with her own sexuality and such but also how it relates to the spiritual while its third act is followed by birth but also the eventual aftermath of Eva’s relationship with her professor which also relates to Mary’s search for body and spirit in her own sexuality. Overall, Godard crafts a compelling and mesmerizing film about a young woman becoming a modern-day Virgin Mary.

Cinematographers Jacques Firmann and Jean-Bernard Menoud do amazing work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on luscious colors for the exterior daytime scenes in some of the countryside locations as well as maintaining a cold look to the scenes in the winter including for some interior scenes at night with some low-key lighting. Editor Anne-Marie Mieville does excellent work with the editing with its low-key approach to jump-cuts to play into some of the dramatic moments as well as keeping shots lingering for dramatic effect. The sound work of Francois Musy is superb for its natural approach to sound in capturing the atmosphere of the locations as well as its usage of music to drown out certain bits of characters conversing with one another. The film’s music soundtrack largely consists of classical pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonin Dvorak as it play into some of the drama but also in key moments that help play into Mary’s plight.

The film’s ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Johan Leysen as a professor who believes life comes from extraterrestrial beings as he has an affair with one of his students, Anne Gautier as the student Eva who has fallen for her professor and is intrigued by his ideas only to cope with the realities of the world, Manon Andersen as a young girl who accompanies Gabriel as a secretary of sorts as she would say some things to Mary that would haunt her, Malachi Jara Kohan as a young boy late in the film who would become this source of inspiration for Mary, and Juliette Binoche in a fantastic performance as a student Joseph is dating as she is eager to take their relationship to the next step while dealing with his feelings towards Mary.

Philippe Lacoste is excellent as Gabriel as an actor who makes a premonition towards Mary as he also is someone who is aware what is happening to her as he implores Joseph to support her. Thierry Rode is brilliant as Joseph as a college dropout who works as a taxi driver that is dealing with not just what happened to Mary but also the frustration but also his own affair with Juliette as it brings complication into what he wants in his life but also for Mary. Finally, there’s Myriem Roussel in a phenomenal performance as Mary as this young virginal woman whose chastity is shattered by this mysterious pregnancy as she deals with not just her own sexuality but also with the spiritual as she ponders her role in the world but also things about herself as a woman.

Je vous salue, Marie is an incredible film from Jean-Luc Godard featuring a great leading performance from Myriem Roussel. Along with its ensemble cast, ravishing visuals, and its study of womanhood, faith, and the mysteries of the world. It is a film that explores a mysterious pregnancy as a woman deals with this strange phenomenon that is happening in a modern world that forces some to question the spiritual but also the world of science. In the end, Je vous salue, Marie is a sensational film from Jean-Luc Godard.

Jean-Luc Godard Films: All the Boys are Called Patrick - Charlotte et son Jules - A Bout de Souffle - The Little Soldier - A Woman is a Woman - Vivre sa vie - Les Carabiniers - Contempt - Bande a Part - A Married Woman - Alphaville - Pierrot le fou - Masculin Feminin - Made in U.S.A. - Two or Three Things I Know About Her - La ChinoiseWeekend (1967 film) - Sympathy for the Devil (One Plus One) - (Joy of Learning) – (British Sounds) – Tout va Bien - (Letter to Jane) - (One A.M.) - (Number Two) - (Here and Elsewhere) - (Every Man for Himself) - (Passion) - (First Name: Carmen) - (Soft and Hard) - (Detective) - (King Lear (1987 film)) - (Keep Your Right Up) - (Nouvelle Vague) - (Allemagne 90 neuf zero) - (JLG/JLG - Self-Portrait in December) – For Ever Mozart - (Historie(s) de Cinema) - (In Praise of Love) - (Notre musique) - (Film Socialisme) - (Adieu au Language) – (The Image Book)

© thevoid99 2023

Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Kingdom Exodus


Based on the 1994 and 1997 TV miniseries by Lars von Trier, Riget: Exodus is the belated third season in which a sleepwalker returns to the doomed hospital where a lot of strange incidents occurred more than 25 years ago. Directed by Lars von Trier and written by von Trier and Niels Vorsel, the third season isn’t just a return to the haunted hospital in which a lot of chaotic elements occurred but also those who return seeking answers into their conditions. Starring Bodil Jorgensen, Mikael Persbrandt, Lars Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Tuva Novotny, David Dencik, and special appearances by Alexander Skarsgard and Willem Dafoe. Riget: Exodus is a terrifying, witty, and audacious TV miniseries from Lars von Trier.

25 years since the release of Riget II that ended with a conclusion that were left with more questions than answers into the fates of many of its characters. It was an ending that was widely considered unsatisfying and for the longest time, it looked like there were going to be unanswered since several actors from the first two mini-series have died. Death is a prominent theme in the third and final part of the mini-series yet it takes place 25 years after what happened as it revolves around a sleepwalker in Karen (Bodil Jorgensen) who is watching the finale of Riget II as she wakes up from her sleep as she walks into the Kingdom as she is given a mission to finish what Mrs. Drusse was trying to uncover. Like the two mini-series before, each episode opens with images of people washing clothes onto a swamp known as bleach pools is where the Kingdom would be built and it would end with Lars von Trier talking to the audience about what had happened on the episode as well as telling the audience to take the good with the evil. This time around, von trier only appears behind the curtains as a way to hide his current-self due to his Parkinson’s diagnosis with only his shoes appearing.

The teleplay by von Trier and Niels Vorsel does keep the same narrative structure like in the miniseries before except there’s a lot more chaos around from within as well as this conflict between the Swedes and the Danes with several Swedes working in a hospital as they all have to try and hide their identities with many of them converging into a group meeting known as Swedes Anonymous. There are five episodes in this season instead of four in the two previous seasons though each episode has a cold open with the first one entitled Halmar having Karen watching Riget II on DVD as the season has a lot of mentions and references to the previous show with complaints over its lack of realism and how they blame von Trier for ruining the hospital’s reputation. Several characters from the previous seasons such as Jorgen “Hook” Krogshoj (Soren Pilmark), Judith Petersen (Brigitte Raaberg), Rigmor Mortensen (Ghita Norby), Morten “Mogge” Moesgaard (Peter Mygind, Little/Big Brother (Udo Kier), Mona (Laura Christensen), the secretary Fru Svendsen (Birthe Neumann), Director Bob (Henning Jensen), and Camilla (Solbjorg Hojfeldt) do return as it play into their own fates and what had happened to them. Yet, von Trier and Vorsel chooses to focus on not just the new characters but also this growing chaos within the hospital that is coming out during the Christmas holidays.

In Halmar Stig Helmer Jr. (Mikael Persbrandt) arrives to the Kingdom from Sweden to oversee and observe the hospital’s operations if it lives up to standards similar to Sweden as he tries to not cause or bring trouble. Instead, he learns that Danes have managed to live up to standards but also with ideas that are confusing as its manager Pontopidan (Lars Mikkelsen) is trying to avoid conflict and chaos while also dealing with insomnia and the presence of Mortensen who annoys him whenever they meet in the elevator. Among the main people in the staff that Helmer has to deal with is the irritable Filip Naver (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), Mogge, and the Swedish nurse Anna (Tuva Novotny) whom he would be attracted to yet she would sue him for sexual harassment in the second episode entitled The Congress Dances where the two both go to the Swedish lawyer (Alexander Skarsgard) who does his practice in a bathroom like his father did before him in the second season where Helmer learns about his father upon meeting Mortensen. That episode revolves around a conference focusing on pain hosted by Pontopidan while Karen is aided by the attendant Balder (Nicolas Bro) to become a patient in the neurosurgery ward where she meets the nurse Camilla who is haunted by the presence of an evil figure who has arrived in the Grand Duc (Willem Dafoe) who learns what Karen is trying to do.

The third episode Big Brother relates to the character and his whereabouts along with the whereabouts of Mona and the remains of Mrs. Drusse at swamp underneath the hospital as Karen realizes her mission as they find Judith Petersen who is given a chance to redeem herself. Even as she would also get the antidote that Helmer’s father had to get Hook out of his cruel state as he had been banished from the hospital due to what happened at the end of the second season. Helmer meanwhile gets the ire of Naver following a surgery where it was performed on Karen instead of a different patient as Helmer endured an act of humiliation because of Denmark’s strange approach to justice that forces him to get revenge for himself and his father upon learning what happened to his father. The fourth episode Barbarossa is about Helmer’s plan for revenge with help from Anna, the computer technician/hacker Kalle (Ida Engvall) and the kitchen worker Bosse (David Dencik) in committing acts of terrorism through small means. Having saved Big Brother during a massive heart surgery, Judith reunites with her son while Karen brings in a box of blocks for Mona who finishes her message that unveils a massively shocking revelation for Helmer.

Its finale entitled Exodus is the culmination of everything as Helmer’s plan to take over failed due to this revelation with Anna being punished and humiliated forcing the two to quit the Kingdom. Even as Karen and Balder deal with their doppelgangers with Hook’s help in his own quest for redemption as they make some discoveries about the location of the Kingdom just as the Grand Duc does whatever he can to stop them. Even as chaos looms all over the hospital as the Grand Duc awaits the arrival of his master. It all plays into this event for the entire series as its ending is pure von Trier not just in this idea of death but also a cruel fate for a key character of the entire series.

The direction of von Trier is definitely stylish though it opens in a letterboxed presentation with full colors where Karen watches Riget II at home complaining about its ending only to later wake up and arrive at the Kingdom where the aspect ratio changes to a 1:66:1 aspect ratio with sepia-drenched colors to return to the look of the entire series. The direction, with additional work by Christian E. Christiansen, is presented with a lot of hand-held cameras with some slanted camera angles but also some unique tracking shots with its emphasis on wide shots to get a scope of the hospital as a whole along with shots of the locations with the bridge that borders Denmark and Sweden. There are also medium shots and close-ups that do play into von Trier’s vision including the scenes that mirror moments from the previous seasons including two characters in the dishwashers in the midget-like male dishwasher (Jesper Sorensen) and a female robotic arm (voice of Jasmine Junker) who both serve as a Greek chorus of sorts as, like their predecessors, are the smartest people in the entire building.

The direction also has von Trier play into many things that relates to the miniseries and himself such as a scene of Anna trying to seduce Helmer only to later sue him for sexual harassment in The Congress Dances as well as a humiliating event in the elevator in Barbarossa where Anna jumps over the sight of a snake with her pants falling down and Helmer catching her with many believing Helmer is raping her. It plays into many of von Trier’s own accusations in sexual harassment as Helmer is someone that doesn’t want to offend any woman or do the wrong thing but is often put in compromising situations that doesn’t make himself any better as he turns to the Swedish attorney as it is told with a lot of humor. The series has von Trier continuing many gags as it relates to director Bob trying to play Solitaire on his computer while dealing with warts, wasteful liquids, and issues with another hospital in Copenhagen that has a proton accelerator.

By the time it reaches the finale, there are these elements that doesn’t just play into Sweden’s issues with Denmark as it plays into this sense of superiority from the former towards the latter but also the fact that the latter have a weird idea of justice and such where those who are punished are put into the stocks and get kicked in the ass. It would add to not just Helmer’s hatred of the Danes as he would say the words that his father often said at the end of every episode from the past but he would gain an ally in Anna who too would be humiliated by the Danes. It all plays into locations where von Trier would use it for this major climatic moment but there are a lot of things as it relates to the hospital’s origins with the Grand Duc wanting to destroy all no matter who it is. All of which has him awaiting the arrival of his master who does unveil himself as it has this dark sense of humor while its final shot post-credit is also a form of humor as it plays into everything that had happened. Overall, von Trier crafts a fucking insane, horrifying, disgusting, and hilarious TV mini-series about a hospital where a lot of bad shit goes on with an old woman trying to uncover its mystery as well as deal with some bad people.

Cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro does brilliant work with the miniseries’ cinematography from the usage of stylish lights and colors for the first episode’s cold open to the sepia-drenched look of the entire series with its emphasis on available light including for many of the scenes set at night. Editors Olivier Bugge Coutte, Jacob Secher, Schulsinger, and My Thordal do excellent work with the editing with its usage of straight cuts, some jump-cuts to play into some of the chases and other bits that add style to the entire miniseries. Production designer Simone Grau Roney and art director Cecilia Hellner do amazing work with the look of the interiors as well as the designs of some of the new places such as the corridors that lead to the swamp and the rooms/offices of the doctors. Costume designer Manon Rasmussen does nice work with the look of the costumes from the refined look of Helmer to the more casual look of everyone else in the miniseries that also include Santa hats.

Prosthetics and makeup effects designer Love Larson does nice work with the look of a few characters with Big Brother being the most notable as well a few mysterious characters including the design of a discovery that Kalle and Balder found. The visual effects by Laurent Ravicini and Peter Hjorth is terrific as it play into some of the supernatural elements including the scenes in the swamp. Sound designer Eddie Simonsen does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations and in the rooms as well as the sounds of ghosts and natural disasters that would occur throughout the miniseries. The miniseries’ music consists of score pieces from the previous series by Joachim Holbek including its main theme as it also include some classical pieces and contemporary music with some of it played on location as well as a score piece performed by Eduard Artmeyev as a homage to the film Solaris.

The miniseries’ ensemble cast is great as it feature some notable small roles and guest appearances from Solbjorg Hojfeldt as the nurse Camilla who is haunted by words relating to the Grand Duc, Jesper Sorensen and Jasmine Junker as the dishwaters who serve as the Greek chorus for the series, David Dencik as a kitchen worker who is part of the Swedes Anonymous group, Peter Mygind as Morten “Mogge” Moesgaard as a doctor who works in the hospital though there’s questions about his fate at the end of the second miniseries, Soren Pilmark as Jorgen “Hook” Krogshoj who has been banished from the main hospital grounds as he’s been grouchy and disdainful until an anecdote brought him back to his old self as he would help Karen and Balder, Brigitte Raaberg as Judith Petersen as a former neurosurgeon turned cardiologist who laments over the loss of her son until she gets a chance to redeem herself and reunite with him, Ghita Norby as Helmer Sr.’s widow Rigmor Mortensen as a former doctor who annoys Pontopidan in the elevators while being amputated as she meets Helmer about his father, Birthe Neumann as the secretary Fru Svendsen who tries to keep things in bay as she endures the chaos that is going on, and Laura Christensen as a brain-damaged patient of Helmer Sr. in Mona who is in a swamp as she is eager to finish her message about Helmer Sr.

Henning Jensen is terrific as director Bob who deals with a lot of things as he hopes to be better than a rival hospital while trying to master Solitaire despite some difficulty. Udo Kier is superb as Big Brother as Judith’s deformed son who has been drowning on his tears as he is dying while he also copes with the terror in the hospital as it relates to where it was built. Alexander Skarsgard is fantastic in his small role as the Swedish attorney as he takes over his father’s practice by doing things in a bathroom as he deals with his clients but also his disdain for the Danes. Ida Engvall is excellent as the Swedish computer technician/hacker Kalle who also harbors disdain towards the Danes but is also someone who can get things done while Nikolaj Lie Kaas is hilarious as the irritable Naver as a surgeon who is often annoyed and lashes out while he also does something disgusting with his eye that disgusts people. Lars Mikkelsen is brilliant as Pontopidan as the hospital floor manager who deals with insomnia as he loves to sleep on a bag of peas while also coping with a lot of the chaos where he prefers not to be confrontational.

Willem Dafoe is incredible as the Grand Duc as this mysterious evil figure who is an agent of chaos as he does what he can to stop Karen while creating doppelgangers of her and Balder as a way to stop them with Dafoe also speaking Danish throughout the series. Tuva Novotny is great as Anna as a Swedish nurse who hides her background as she tries to seduce Helmer but through awkward means as she would sue him and such only to get into trouble of her own as well as trying to hold on to her pants. Mikael Persbrandt is phenomenal as Stig Helmer Jr. as a renowned Swedish surgeon who arrives in Denmark only to deal with a lot of things that upset him as he learns more about his father and why his father hates the Danes where he brings a lot of wit to his performance. Nicolas Bro is sensational as Balder as an attendant, who is called Bulder by many in reference to the character from the series, who helps Karen with her quest while dealing with the chaos at the hospital despite some of his clumsiness and such. Finally, there’s Bodil Jorgensen in a tremendous performance as Karen as a sleepwalker who also has a personality in which she speaks in another voice where she goes to the hospital to finish Mrs. Drusse’s mission where she learns about the hospital as well as the evil forces in the hope she can save it despite the many obstacles she goes through.

Riget: Exodus is an outstanding TV miniseries from Lars von Trier. Featuring a great cast, eerie visuals, a great mixture of suspense and dark humor, and giving audiences of the previous miniseries a fitting conclusion. It is a miniseries that doesn’t just play into the world of terror, hospital dramas, and other weird shit but it also a miniseries that all play into the world of death and the inevitable as it relates to death. If this miniseries is to become Lars von Trier’s final project due to his Parkinson’s disease, then what a way to go out. In the end, Riget: Exodus is a magnificent TV miniseries from Lars von Trier.

Lars von Trier Films: The Element of Crime - Epidemic - Medea (1988 TV film) - Europa - The Kingdom - Breaking the Waves - The Kingdom II - Dogme #2: Idioterne - Dancer in the Dark - Dogville - The Five Obstructions - Manderlay - The Boss of It All - Antichrist - Dimension (2010 short) - Melancholia - Nymphomaniac - The House That Jack Built - (Etudes)

Related: Favorite Films #3: Breaking the Waves - The Auteurs #7: Lars von Trier

© thevoid99 2023

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Pinocchio (2022 Animated Film)


Based on the novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi with illustrations by Gris Grimly, Pinocchio is the story of a wooden puppet who comes to life as he struggles with his well-being and winning the approval of his father. Directed by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson with a screenplay by del Toro and Patrick McHale from a story by del Toro and Matthew Robbins, the stop-motion animation film is set during the period of Fascist Italy as it plays into a man dealing with loss and a puppet trying to discover life during a period of chaos. Featuring the voices of Gregory Mann, David Bradley, Ewan McGregor, Burn Gorman, Ron Perlman, John Turturro, Finn Wolfhard, Cate Blanchett, Tim Blake Nelson, Christoph Waltz, and Tilda Swinton. Pinocchio is a rich and intoxicating film from Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson.

Two decades after the death of son during World War I, the film follows a man who drunkenly creates a wooden boy to cope with his loss as it comes to life where the boy struggles with not just winning his father’s approval but also what it means to live. It is a film that takes the premise of the story of a man who creates a puppet who turns into a boy as it is set in Fascist Italy at a time when conformity and playing to certain rules are in tow which is something that a puppet with no strings is trying to deal with as well as the idea of love and what it means to exist. The film’s screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and Patrick McHale is told largely by a cricket in Sebastian J. Cricket (Ewan McGregor) about the titular character (Gregory Mann) and how he had been created by this lonely carpenter in Geppetto (David Bradley) after having lost his son Carlo (Gregory Mann) during an aerial bombing in World War I as he had been ravaged by grief until he cuts down a tree where Cricket was living and turned it into a puppet. It is then where a fairy in the Wood Sprite (Tilda Swinton) would cast a spell for the puppet to come to life while asking Cricket to watch over and guide him.

While Geppetto’s initial encounter with Pinocchio has him confused and frightened as does Pinocchio’s appearance at the town’s local church. Geppetto does what he can to steer Pinocchio the right way but also him wanting to be like Carlo yet there is also pressure from the Podesta (Ron Perlman) who wants Geppetto to ensure that Pinocchio becomes part of the Italian Royal Army upon a major discovery they would have much to Geppetto’s horror. Even as Pinocchio would encounter the failing circus ringmaster Volpe (Christoph Waltz) who would get Pinocchio to sign a contract that would keep him out of the eye of the Podesta but also keep Pinocchio performing in order to keep Geppetto out of debt. It all plays into Pinocchio’s development and his conversations with Cricket as it has him thinking about not just wanting to live but also to find his own voice as he watches the abuse that Volpe has on his longtime assistant monkey Spazzatura (Cate Blanchett) as well as a closer look into the world of Fascist Italy upon being watched by the Podesta at youth training camp.

The direction of del Toro and Mark Gustafson is astonishing in its overall presentation due to the attention to detail that both men put into its look as it is created on studio locations in Portland, Oregon and Guadalajara, Mexico. With Gustafson and his team of animators doing much of the stop-motion work with production designers Guy Davis and Curt Enderle, with set decorators Jesse Gregg, Gillian Hunt, Samantha Levy, Molly Light, Laura Savage, and Zach Sheehan plus art directors Andy Berry, Karla Castaneda, Robert DeSue, and Juan J. Medina, helping to create much of the backdrops in the look of the forests and woods in such grand detail. Even with Davis also creating some of the creatures including Cricket, Spazzatura, and the sea monster for the film’s climax, there is a look that is del Toro in terms of its approach to death as well as horror with the former involving a sequence in which Pinocchio meets a death fairy (Tilda Swinton) in a surrealistic presentation of the afterlife. Since the film is also based on the illustrations of Gris Grimly, del Toro and Gustafson maintain this look that quite wobbly in its presentation as there is a realism to the animation as well as a physicality in how they take this story and set it into a world where there are elements of politics and existentialism in the mix.

Even in a scene where Pinocchio asks his father why people don’t like him but love this model of the crucifixion as it is among these things that Pinocchio would go into. The compositions that del Toro and Gustafson create add to the drama that Pinocchio goes through in the wide and medium shots in a location or in one of Pinocchio’s stage performances as well as close-ups that play into the characters as they cope with whatever situation they’re in. Notably in the climax as it plays into Pinocchio and Geppetto dealing with a sea monster as all of the lessons that Pinocchio would learn allows him to deal with the situations as well as an understanding of both life and death. Overall, del Toro and Gustafson craft an exquisitely moving and ravishing film about a wooden boy who comes to life and learns about existence and identity during the era of Fascist Italy.

Cinematographer Frank Passingham does incredible work with the cinematography as it helps the look of the film give it a sense of physicality in the lighting while helping to set mood to help bring more texture to the production design. Editors Ken Schretzmann and Holly Klein do amazing work with the editing as it is largely straightforward to play into some of the musical numbers but also in some of the dramatic and terrifying moments with its rhythmic cuts. Visual effects supervisors Cameron Carson and Aaron Weintraub do excellent work with the visual effects as it is mainly set dressing for some scenes involving war and fire as it help broaden the visuals. Sound designer Scott Martin Gershin does brilliant work with the sound in the way certain objects sound as well as the way an instrument sounds on a location or how bombs sound from afar. The film’s music by Alexandre Desplat is phenomenal with its rich orchestral score that has elements of lush strings and orchestral pianos themes along with some offbeat percussive-based themes while the soundtrack also feature original songs written by Desplat along with lyrics by del Toro, McHale, and Roeben Katz that add to the drama and humorous moments in the film that are sung by its cast.

The casting by Mary Hidalgo is great as it feature some notable small voice roles from Tom Kenny in a trio of voice performances as a sea captain, a right-hand for Mussolini, and the Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini as well as Tim Blake Nelson as a quartet of black rabbits, John Turturro as a doctor in the small town Geppetto lives in, Burn Gorman as the local priest, Finn Wolfhard as the son of the Podesta in Candlewick who at first bullies Pinocchio only to befriend him late in the film, and Cate Blanchett in a superb voice cameo as Volpe’s monkey assistant Spazzatura who talks through puppets where Blanchett brings unique voices as a monkey who is jealous of Pinocchio only to realize the good in Pinocchio. Tilda Swinton is fantastic in a dual voice role as the magical fairy known as the Wood Sprite and her sister known as Death where Swinton brings different tones to the two characters as they lament on the ideas of both life and death. Ron Perlman is excellent as the Podesta as a Fascist government official who sees Pinocchio at first as a freak only to see that he could become a symbol for the government in their rise while trying to raise his son as a perfect soldier for Fascist Italy.

Christoph Waltz is brilliant as Volpe as a former aristocrat-turned circus ringmaster who sees Pinocchio as a way to get him back into aristocracy as well as a chance to get in the good graces of Mussolini as he brings a charm to this evil character. Ewan McGregor is amazing as Sebastian J. Cricket as the film’s narrator and conscience-of-sorts who tries to steer Pinocchio onto the right path while dealing with being squished and such as well as trying to do what he can where he laments over his role. David Bradley is incredible as Geppetto as a woodcarver/carpenter who laments over the loss of his son as well as dealing with Pinocchio as he is someone ravaged by grief while trying to understand the many flaws of Pinocchio while trying to go on a search for him when Pinocchio joins the circus. Finally, there’s Gregory Mann in a sensational voice performance in the dual role of Carlo and the titular character as he brings an exuberance and innocence to the former as well as an energy into the latter as well as this vulnerability of someone who is just trying to understand the ideas of life and death where Mann brings a lot of life into both of these roles.

Pinocchio is a tremendous film from Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson. Featuring a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, ravishing art direction, its story of existentialism and identity, amazing character/creature designs, and Alexandre Desplat’s enchanting music score. It is a film that takes a tale told many times but bring something new to it and set it during a tumultuous time in world history as it help play into a wooden boy trying to find himself as well as a physicality that gives the film an edge in its stop-motion animation presentation. In the end, Pinocchio is a magnificent film from Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson.

Guillermo del Toro Films: Cronos - Mimic - The Devil's Backbone - Blade II - Hellboy - Pan's Labyrinth - Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Pacific Rim - Crimson Peak - The Shape of Water - Nightmare Alley (2021 film)

Related: (Pinocchio (1940 film)) - The Auteurs #10: Guillermo del Toro

© thevoid99 2023