Two months into the New Year and already things are a fucking mess. What is happening in East Palestine, Ohio is scary along awful weather here in the U.S. as well as the war between Russia and Ukraine heating up. A shipwreck near the coast of Italy left a bunch of migrants dead while a flood/landslide happened near Sao Paolo, Brazil. Publishers deciding to re-edit books by Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming to make it less offensive to children when these people who are easily offended should just go fucking kill themselves since they can’t handle the word “fat” or anything that seems offensive so they can fuck off and die. That’s a lot of shit that had happened in the span of a month as things aren’t go so great in 2023 as it hasn’t been good to me either as I’ve contracted bronchitis again. I’ve been ill for a month due to a flu that I’ve contracted from my niece and nephew which they got from their mother who got it from a bunch of kids at the school she works for. My mother is also sick as she too now has bronchitis and it fucking sucks. I was forced to cancel plans I had in watching some films as I ended up re-watching Ted Lasso in anticipation for the new season coming March 15.
The one thing I hate about winter isn’t just the cold weather but getting sick yet it is these climate changes that has made things even worse. I hate having to cough in public as I’ve been wearing my mask again which doesn’t make things easier as well but for my mother. This is something she hasn’t experienced as she really hates this as it just takes much of her time with her work doing alterations for a few cleaners while also having to take care of her grandchildren during the weekdays as I’m helping out in picking up and dropping off alterations but this illness is making it nearly impossible. I’m more worried about the spring as that is my least favorite season though being at home has managed to help me do other things aside from watching my niece and nephew as I’ve started work on my LiT20 project which will come slowly but hopefully be ready in late August.
In the month of February 2023, I saw a total of 22 films in 11 first-timers and 11 re-watches with five of those first-timers being films directed/co-directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Not bad despite my illness as one of the highlights of the month has been my Blind Spot film choice in Buck and the Preacher. Here is the top 10 first-timers that I saw for February 2023:
A making-of documentary film on the making of the 1983 comedy Yellowbeard is a fascinating doc that explores not just the silliness that went on during the production. It also showcases the mixture of different comedic styles that were present in the film as there was Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, and John Cleese of Monty Python, Madeline Khan, Peter Boyle, and Marty Feldman from the Mel Brooks films, Cheech and Chong, and many others. The cast interviews are fun with David Bowie being a fun surprise as it explains how he got to do a cameo all because he was on location in Mexico having a vacation. Even seeing someone like a revered actor in James Mason having fun and goofing around is a joy to watch though the eventual film is a mess but a good mess.
A short film by Emilija Skarnulyte that revolves around the sea as it is this great mixture of documentary and fiction set in the deep sea. It goes into places that are rarely explored with its imagery is ravishing with jellyfishes, crabs, and other creatures make the film something that feels otherworldly as it is worth seeking out on MUBI.
Assembled: The Making of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
A new entry in Marvel’s documentary series is not just one of the best but also a look into the immense work that Ryan Coogler, cast, and crew did with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. It is a documentary that showcases not just the impossible in creating a film without Chadwick Boseman but also the amount of research they did in wanting to expand the world of Wakanda as well as go into deep in exploring Mesoamerican culture. Water is a key factor in the film as they used not just accomplished swimmers and stunt people to help the actors with holding their breaths and swimming under water. It also play into this sense of peace and purity while showing how scenes were filmed without water and underwater as it plays into Coogler’s determination as a filmmaker.
A Wild Patience Has Taken Me Here
Another short that I saw on MUBI by Erica Sarmet revolves around a biker who catches a glimpse of young women as she realizes that things have changed but for the good as she is a lesbian. It is a short that is a celebration of the lesbian lifestyle as it is rich in imagery as well as showcase what was it like in Brazil during the 1960s/1970s for lesbians who had to hide their sexuality in comparison to what is happening in the present as it is a short worth checking out.
Another short film that I saw on MUBI that is by Naila Guiguet focuses on trans DJ/actress Dustin Muchuvitz who plays a woman at a rave that is dealing with a crumbling relationship and other issues in the course of one night. It is a film that studies this woman that is trying to have fun for her night as it also feature other trans actor/actresses that appear in films that Muchuvitz was also in that are also available on MUBI.
Genesis: Live at Bataclan
A 1973 concert film that was originally filmed in 16mm at the Bataclan venue in Paris has been given a recent 4K restoration that gives the small concert short film a presentation that isn’t just visually beautiful but it also sounds incredible. Featuring songs from that time period with the classic line-up of vocalist Peter Gabriel, guitarist Steve Hackett, bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford, keyboardist/guitarist Tony Banks, and Phil Collins on drums/backing vocals. It is something fans of Genesis should see despite the lack of shots for Hackett’s guitar solos as he is continuously underappreciated for his contributions.
That ‘90s Show (episodes 8-10)
This show was better than I thought it would be as the last three episodes of the first season definitely has me enjoying these new characters as they were able to show some personalities while not trying to be like its predecessor. It also has me anxious for the second season as well as what would come the season finale does sort of end on a cliffhanger as it relates to Leia returning to Chicago as it is clear she is confused with her feelings for boys but also is going to miss the friends she had made. I look forward to the next season as well as Eric Forman’s reaction to the 1997 special-edition versions of the original Star Wars trilogy and the eventual meltdown he will have for The Phantom Menace as he might be even worse than Red.
Wrestling Match of the Month: Bryan Danielson vs. Timothy Thatcher-AEW Dynamite-2/1/23
The build-up for the upcoming pay-per-view event AEW Revolution has admittedly been lackluster as last week’s major announcement about a new reality TV series for AEW was considered a let-down as audiences were more concerned about the state of the Ring of Honor tag team titles or maybe a new TV/streaming deal for the company or anything that could help AEW. Still, the news is good for the company in the eyes of Warner-Discovery as it relates to TV rights negotiations though the only other positive thing about the show is that it will hopefully replace that stupid Power Slap show hosted by Dana White. Despite some of the lack of buzz for AEW, the wrestling remains strong as the match between Bryan Danielson and British wrestler Timothy Thatcher is a true technical powerhouse. Notably as it’s a match that Danielson had to win in order to face MJF at the main event of AEW Revolution in a one-hour iron-man match for the AEW World Heavyweight Championship. It was a punishing and brutal match that gave American audiences to see not just Thatcher and mixture of technical prowess with the bruising British strong style. It also showcase what Danielson could do with an opponent like Thatcher.
Well, that is all for February. Next month, I’m not sure what theatrical release I’ll watch next month as I will focus on films that are available on the streaming services I have while I anticipate the new seasons for both Ted Lasso and The Mandalorian. For my Blind Spot, it is likely I’ll do The Quiet Man since it will be March as I hope it will still be on Amazon Prime. Before I bid adieu, I want to express my condolences to the friends and families of those who have passed such as Raquel Welch, Stella Stevens, animator Burny Mattinson, Gordon Pinsent, basketball legend Terry Holland, Richard Belzer, Barbara Bosson, Patti Love, George T. Miller, Chuck Jackson, pro wrestling legend Jerry Jarrett, film producer/Telluride Film Festival co-founder Tom Luddy, cinematographer Oliver Wood, Hugh Hudson, Burt Bacharach, and Lanny Poffo aka the Genius. May all of you enjoy the afterlife as until then, this is thevoid99 signing off.
Directed and co-starring Sidney Poitier and screenplay by Ernest Kinoy with a story by Kinoy and Drake Walker, Buck and the Preacher is the story of a wagon master who teams up with a pistol-packing preacher to deal with white bounty hunters while they’re on a journey towards West with emancipated slaves. The film is a western set years after the American Civil War where two different men work together to get freed slaves to a new home and deal with white bounty hunters with Poitier and Harry Belafonte playing the respective titular roles. Also starring Ruby Dee, Cameron Mitchell, Denny Miller, Enrique Lucero, Julie Robinson Belafonte, Clarence Muse, and Lynn Hamilton. Buck and the Preacher is an exhilarating and riveting film from Sidney Poitier.
Set years following the events of the American Civil War, a wagon master who helps lead wagon trails to the West deals with white bounty hunters who are trying to get the former slaves back to the South where the wagon master in Buck teams up with a man known as the Preacher to deal with these evil forces. It is a film based on real-life events for African-Americans who decide to move west on a wagon trail of their own as they had to deal with white bounty hunters in an attempt to get things back the way they were. Ernest Kinoy’s screenplay play into these groups of African-American people on a wagon trail as they were former slaves who want to move to the West to find a new world yet they’re hired by former plantation owners to get them back to Louisiana in an attempt to restore the old ways. Many of these travelers turn to Buck, who is a former soldier, as he would help them in their travels yet has to deal with these men lead by Deshay (Cameron Mitchell) while a man in Reverend Willis Oaks Rutherford aka the Preacher is offered $500 to capture Buck yet he realizes what Buck is doing as he too would cause trouble for Deshay and others.
Even as African-American settlers would be ambushed with women and children being killed by Deshay and his men with money also stolen from them that they needed to buy seed, supplies, and other things they need for their journey with Buck being paid to help them reach their destination. The Preacher sees what is going on as he is reluctant to help Buck but is aware that the people are the ones in need of help as he and Buck would come up with ideas to not only get their money back but also ask the help of the Native Americans who have their own issues with the white men.
Sidney Poitier’s direction definitely has elements of style in the film while retaining many of the hallmarks expected in a western as it is shot on location in Durango, Mexico. Though it was initially helmed by Joseph Sargent who would then be replaced by Poitier a few days into production due to Sargent’s lack of understanding towards the African-American experience. Poitier would infuse not just a lot of the imagery of African-Americans trying to go into the West to find a new home where there’s an old man in Cudjo (Clarence Muse) who would perform old magic with bones to give him a message. It plays into this sense of danger that African-Americans had to deal with as a young woman in Sarah (Lynn Hamilton) had to hide dollar bills around her body from the white bounty hunters. Poitier doesn’t shy away from the severity of the violence though it isn’t graphic but rather the aftermath of wagons being burned and destroyed as well as tents and such where men are digging a hole to bury the bodies including a child. Poitier’s usage of close-ups and medium shots don’t just add to the suspense and drama but also the desire of two men trying to think in how to deal with Deshay and his men that includes his young nephew Floyd (Denny Miller) as they’re both lawless, racist individuals.
Poitier also creates some unique wide shots as the locations are key to the story including some of the mountains, rivers, and valleys that the wagon trail and other characters venture into as well as small towns where Buck and the Preacher would concoct a plan with the aid of Buck’s wife Ruth (Ruby Dee) as it relates to getting the money Buck is owed as well as the money that was stolen from the wagon trail. Poitier does create some moral ambiguity for Buck and the Preacher though they don’t intend to kill innocent people nor do they want to cause trouble while a local sheriff (John Kelly) who wants to capture Buck and the Preacher for what they did as it relates to Deshay is someone who does uphold the law as he doesn’t like what Deshay and Floyd do in harassing African-Americans. The film’s climax is a shootout yet it is all about location and what Buck and the Preacher do to get the posse away from the wagon trail where Poitier doesn’t just get these great wide shots to showcase the point of view of where Buck and the Preacher are against this posse but also the Natives who watch from afar. Overall, Poitier crafts a gripping yet captivating film about a wagon master and a gun-slinging preacher trying to help their people reach a new world away from evil white racist bounty hunters.
Cinematographer Alex Phillips Jr. does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with the opening usage of sepia-drenched filters for the film’s first few minutes to the vibrant colors of the daytime exterior settings and low-key lighting for the scenes at night. Editor Pembroke J. Herring does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts for the action and some of the film’s comedic moments. Production designer Sydney Z. Litwack, with set decorators Ernest Carrasco and Ray Moyer, does fantastic work with the look of the tents and shacks that the settlers live in as well as the town that the white people mainly stay in. Costume designer Guy C. Verhille does terrific work with the costumes from the black suit and hat the Preacher wears to the ragged look of Buck. Sound mixer Tom Overton does superb work in capturing the sounds of gunfire, horses running from afar, and other natural sounds to help maintain a tense atmosphere for the film’s suspenseful moments. The film’s music by Benny Carter, with additional music from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, is incredible for its offbeat score with elements of traditional folk and blues that is filled with some offbeat string instruments and other tidbits to play into not just the suspense and drama but also in some of the film’s humorous moments.
The casting by Billy Gordon is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Lynn Hamilton as a young woman in Sarah who helps hide the money for the freed slaves that she would carry around her body, Nita Talbot as a brothel madam in Madame Esther who would invite Deshay and his men for a good time only to get into some trouble of her own, John Kelly as a local sheriff who would go on the hunt for Buck and the Preacher for breaking the law yet wants no part of Deshay’s posse in killing African-Americans, Clarence Muse as an elderly African-American in Cudjo who uses old magic to get answers, James McEachin as a young African-American who turns to Buck for answers on what to do, Enrique Lucero as a Native American tribal chief who wants no trouble yet is fair to Buck, Julie Robinson Belafonte as a Native American woman who interprets for her chief as she helps relay the message for Buck and the Preacher, and Denny Miller as Deshay’s nephew Floyd who wants to help his uncle in turning the African-Americans back to South as he has little regard for the law.
Cameron Mitchell is excellent as Deshay as a bounty hunter who is hired by plantation owners to get former slaves back to the South as he sees it as a way back to the old ways while he is also aware of Buck whom he isn’t fond of. Ruby Dee is brilliant as Buck’s wife Ruth as a woman who is eager to go to Canada as she later takes part in Buck and the Preacher’s plan to rob a stationary/bank while also lamenting over Buck’s weariness in helping out the people. Finally, there’s the duo of Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte in tremendous leading performances in their respective titular roles with Poitier being this former soldier who leads a wagon trail as he deals with the dangers of the Wild West as well as Deshay where he also admits to being weary but is willing to do what he can. Belafonte brings a lot of charm and energy to his character as he often preaches the gospel while also bringing some back story about the clothes he wears as he is also someone that becomes aware of what is at stake as he helps out Buck. Poitier and Belafonte together are a joy to watch as they’re two different personalities all with the same goal as they also prove to be a duo that can’t be messed with.
Buck and the Preacher is a phenomenal film from Sidney Poitier that is led by the great performances of Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Along with its supporting ensemble cast that includes Ruby Dee plus, gorgeous visuals, a playful music soundtrack, and its exploration of post-American Civil War racial tension. It is a western that doesn’t just bear the elements that are crucial to the genre but also infuse it with the African-American struggle as well as bringing voice to those people who just wanted a new home. In the end, Buck and the Preacher is a sensational film from Sidney Poitier.
Sidney Poitier Films: (A Warm December) – (Uptown Saturday Night) – (Let’s Do It Again) – (A Piece of the Action) – (Stir Crazy) – (Hanky Panky (1982 film)) – (Fast Forward) – (Ghost Dad)
Based on the Marvel Comics series, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the story of the titular heroes along with a few family members enter into the quantum realm where they don’t just deal with new evil forces emerging but also a man who wants to destroy all in Kang. Directed by Peyton Reed and screenplay by Jeff Loveness, the film explores the world of the Quantum Realm as they’re getting ready for a war while the heroes also meet this mysterious figure known as Kang the Conqueror who doesn’t just want to destroy the world but every universe and multiverse along the way as he is portrayed by Jonathan Majors. Also starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, William Jackson Harper, Katy O’Brian, with Bill Murray, and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a visually-astonishing yet clunky film from Peyton Reed.
The film revolves around titular heroes and a few of their family members who create a device to make contact with the Quantum Realm only to be sucked in as they deal with not just a growing rebellion but also this evil figure known as Kang the Conqueror. It is a film that has a lot happening as it plays into a family not only dealing with this evil figure but also what he plans to do with the multiverse. Jeff Loveness’ script does do enough to establish some of the characters as well as insight into what Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) had been doing in the Quantum Realm for 30 years. It unfortunately gets bogged down by not just a lot of exposition but not enough urgency into the stakes over how dangerous Kang the Conqueror is where Janet would unveil her own fears towards Kang. A key sequence during the film’s second act about Janet’s first encounter with Kang does play into why Janet never told her husband Hank and their daughter Hope/the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) about her time in the Quantum Realm. Yet, it features a lot of exposition into Kang’s true motivations but also something much bigger though it ends up being clunky while there’s not enough weight into this rebellion towards Kang and his empire.
Still, the script does focus on Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) who hasn’t done much since the Battle of Earth as he’s written a memoir and sort of became a celebrity but hasn’t done enough to bring attention to his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) who has become an activist. Yet, it is an invention she had developed during the Blip with Hank’s help that would suck everyone into the Quantum Realm where she and Scott would meet these people in the Quantum Realm who are rebellion against Kang where Cassie wants to help them. The script unfortunately doesn’t do enough to establish these people living in the Quantum Realm where Lang and Cassie not only deal with Kang but also a mysterious being known as M.O.D.O.K. who is someone that Scott and Cassie knew. There is also a lack of humor throughout the film as some key characters from past films doesn’t appear in the film but are barely mentioned as the few moments in the attempt of humor is uninspired and forced at times. Notably a scene where Lang tries to retrieve an object for Kang where he meets multiple versions of himself that is suspenseful but its attempt to be funny doesn’t work.
Peyton Reed’s direction does have some incredible moments in terms of the visuals and world-building though he is bogged down by its clunky script. Shot largely at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire in Britain with additional shots set in San Francisco and parts of Turkey, Reed opens the film with Janet’s time in the Quantum Realm and how she first met Kang which then cuts to what has Lang done since the events of the Battle of Earth. While a lot of Reed’s compositions are grand in the way he presents the Quantum Realm with its wide and medium shots, Reed does maintain some intimacy in the close-ups to play into the character interactions as well as their reactions to their surroundings. Reed does manage to infuse energy into the action scenes along with some moments of suspense as it relates to Kang in his initial meeting with Lang. Yet, the need to try and infuse humor in some of these moments don’t work as it gives the film an inconsistent presentation where it wanted to be all of these things only to not find balance in blending all of these genres.
Reed’s direction does suffer from not just the exposition that does drag the film in bits of the film as there isn’t enough weight into the stakes of what Kang wants and how he used Cassie to force Lang to retrieve this energy source that he needed for his own personal mission. While Reed does provide enough back story into Kang but also revealed how he came to meet Janet, the fact that there isn’t enough urgency into defeating him other than Janet’s own warnings doesn’t give the film that intensity that it needed. Though its third act with its grand set pieces allow Reed to go all out where there are a few funny moments but also some intense ones. Its aftermath is clunky where Reed isn’t sure how to end things since Kang is a much bigger threat than everyone realizes while there’s also this sense of confusion into whether the good guys have won or they just created something worse. Overall, Reed crafts a wondrous but undercooked film about a two superheroes and their families dealing with a new threat in the Quantum Realm.
Cinematographer William Pope does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its approach to stylish lighting for many of the exterior scenes set in the Quantum Realm as well as its approach to natural lighting for the scenes on Earth. Editors Adam Gerstel and Laura Jennings do terrific work with the editing as it does play into some fast-cutting for some of the action scenes but also in some stylish moments when the characters are sucked into the Quantum Realm. Production designer Will Htay, with set decorator Richard Roberts and supervising art director Nick Gottschalk, does amazing work with the look of some of the places the characters go into at the Quantum Realm as well as Kang’s home base. Costume designer Sammy Sheldon does fantastic work with the costumes from some of the clothes that the Van Dyne/Pym clan would wear in disguise as well as the super-suits that Lang, Hope, and Cassie would wear.
Hair/makeup designer Jan Sewell does nice work with the look of the characters such as Janet’s hair during her time in the Quantum Realm and her white-hair look following her return from the Quantum Realm. Special effects supervisors Paul Corbould and Noah Meddings, along with visual effects supervisors Axel Bonami, Cristian Camaroschi, Jeff Campbell, Alex Cancado, Jesse James Chisholm, Russell Earl, Roy Malhi, John Mangia, and Malte Sarnes, do excellent work with the look of not just some of the creatures and people in the Quantum Realm but also the look of it as it is a major highlight of the film. Sound designer Kimberly Patrick does superb work with the sound design in not just creating sound effects in some of the weapons, vehicles, and creatures at the Quantum Realm but also in the way natural sound would be presented in the Quantum Realm. The film’s music by Christophe Beck does wonderful work with the music as its usage of orchestral bombast help play into the action and suspense that include some soaring themes that relates to Kang while music supervisor Dave Jordan provides a low-key soundtrack as it features John Sebastian’s theme song to the 1970s show Welcome Back Kotter.
The casting by Sarah Halley Finn is incredible as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Randall Park in a cameo as FBI Agent Woo, Gregg Turkington as Lang’s old boss at Baskin-Robbins, and Ruben Rabasa as a coffee shop attendant who mistakes Lang for Spider-Man. William Harper Jackson and Katy O’Brien are terrific in their respective roles as Quantum Realm freedom fires in the telekinetic Quaz and the warrior Jentorra who both meet the Langs while doing what they can to fight Kang’s forces. David Dastmalchian is superb as the slime-like creature Veb who is fascinated by holes while proves to very powerful during the film’s climax. Bill Murray’s performance as a Quantum Realm governor in Lord Krylar is pretty much a waste as he is an old friend of Janet that works for Kang where he doesn’t really do anything in the one big scene he’s as it is a real waste of Murray. Mark Weinman’s on-set performance as M.O.D.O.K. is quite funny at times though it is the reveal of its identity that provides laugh as a guy who has a grudge towards the Langs yet is also forced to face his own faults.
Kathryn Newton is fantastic as Cassie Lang as Scott’s daughter who has become an activist in her time in her desire to help people have created something she had hoped would’ve gotten her father back years earlier where Newton does provide some humor but also a lot of weight as someone who does feel responsible for her actions and wanting to make up for it as she would become her own superheroine in Stature. Michael Douglas is excellent as Dr. Hank Pym as the scientist who created Pym Particles who doesn’t just deal with the chaos of what is happening but also discovers something that happened around him during the moment he and his family got sucked into the Quantum Realm that would play a key part in the film’s third act. Evangeline Lilly is good as Hope Van Dyne/the Wasp as Lang’s partner who doesn’t just deal with the chaos of the Quantum Realm but also the stakes though Lilly’s character doesn’t really get much to do but react and take action while sporting an awful haircut. Paul Rudd is brilliant as Scott Lang/Ant-Man as this superhero who can shrink himself as the size of an ant who has chosen to not really do anything until he’s in the Quantum Realm where he deals with what is happening as he is trying to protect Cassie but also deal with the evil force that is Kang.
Michelle Pfeiffer is incredible as Janet Van Dyne as Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother who had been in the Quantum Realm for 30 years as she is eager to not return only to get sucked in with her family and the Langs as she is forced to reveal a terrible secret while also being cunning in trying to save her family from this terror that is Kang. Finally, there’s Jonathan Majors in a phenomenal performance as Kang the Conqueror as a man who is eager to destroy everything including variants of himself in the hopes to just conquer and destroy those who oppose him as Majors has this commanding presence that is chilling to watch as he just owns every moment he is in.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a good yet underwhelming film from Peyton Reed. While it is a film that does feature some entertaining moments, incredible visuals, and stellar performances with Michelle Pfeiffer and Jonathan Majors being the major standouts. It is a film that unfortunately tries to be a lot of things but doesn’t deliver in terms of its stakes while also lacking a lot of the humor that made its predecessors enjoyable to watch. In the end, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a fine but lackluster film from Peyton Reed.
Based on the novel by Antonio di Benedetto, Zama is the story of a magistrate living in a remote Argentine outpost as he awaits word from Spain for a transfer as he deals with the chaos of his situation and his environment. Written for the screen and directed by Lucrecia Martel, the film is the study of a man dealing with his situation in the late 18th Century as well as the fallacies of colonialism as he copes with being homesick but also the temptation in the land he is encountering. Starring Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Lola Duenas, Matheus Nachtergaele, and Juan Minujin. Zama is an intoxicating and riveting film from Lucrecia Martel.
Set in the 18th Century in Argentina at the Fermosa province, the film revolves around a magistrate who is awaiting word from Spain for a transfer to a nearby town in the hopes he can return home as he deals with political scheming, issues on colonialism, and other things. It is a film that follows the life of a man in Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) who had spent a few years in this outpost in Argentina as he hopes to return home as he feels stuck in the assignment he is in as a magistrate. Lucrecia Martel’s screenplay doesn’t have much of a plot as it often involve Zama in situations whether it’s doing odd assignment to get his transfer or win over anyone to get what he wants. There is a structure to Martel’s script as the first act has him dealing with the gossip over a criminal in Vicuna Porto which he ignores while trying to win over the Spanish noblewoman Luciana Pinares de Luenga (Lola Duenas) by doing favors for her. Still, he contends with his assistant Ventura Prieto (Juan Minujin) as they have a brawl over the ideas of colonialism when Zama decides to help a family in dealing with natives with Prieto criticizing Zama over the situation.
The second act involves Zama dealing with a new governor as it makes Zama’s own life difficult as he was forced to move from his home to something much smaller with an illegitimate child and the child’s mother joining him as well as a young official whom Zama befriends. It plays into Zama being forced into a conflict to get his transfer but it comes with a sense of humility that becomes too much for Zama. Even in its third act set years later where he joins on a hunting expedition to find Porto with some men lead by a soldier in Gaspar Toledo (Matheus Nachtergaele) through the jungles and swamps where many of the natives live in. It is in this expedition where it doesn’t just play into Zama’s own fall from grace but also someone who has become desperate to return to Spain where he also endures some intense moments and other secrets relating to this journey.
Martel’s direction is definitely entrancing in terms of not just the compositions she creates but also in its locations as it is shot on location at the Fermosa province in Argentina near its border with Paraguay with locations set on riverside beaches, jungles, and swamps. The film begins with this wide shot of Zama standing on a beach while native women are washing themselves with mud which he would gaze at later on as he was on the beach awaiting the arrival of an old friend. It would then go into a shot of a child who is the son of the friend with a monologue relating to a specie of fishes who are swimming in water that doesn’t play into their favor as they spend their lives fighting in the waters they’re swimming in. It is this tale that serves as a metaphor for what Zama goes through where Martel uses a lot of wide and medium shots to play into his sense of isolation and disconnect with the locations he’s in while there are close-ups that play into his anguish and confusion. Whether it is him trying to comfort a landlord’s daughter or attempting to connect with the family he initially didn’t want as it play into a man who is meant to be someone of importance yet he starts to become more disheveled as the story progresses.
Martel also puts in some odd elements into the film whether it is small details such as men wearing painted fingernails, Africans wearing these dusty coats, and Shepard Tone sound bites that would appear in rare moments that would sometimes drown out conversations. It is among these moments that play into Zama’s isolation and confusion as he is someone that is a colonizer as he would then see the many fallacies of colonialism as the film progresses as well as the fact that his role in colonialism has him taking orders to do this with little results. The third act where he would join Toledo to find this mysterious criminal in Porto as the location itself is this change of scenery with its palm trees, watery swamps, and other mysterious things including blind natives walking at night. There are also these surreal moments that feature these encounter with the natives while its final image plays into that monologue about fishes and how it plays into Zama and his own fate as he deals with the futility of his role in the scheme of colonialism. Overall, Martel crafts a rapturous and mesmerizing film about a magistrate dealing with the fallacies of colonialism in 18th Century Argentina.
Cinematographer Rui Pocas does incredible work with the film’s luscious cinematography with its emphasis on natural lighting with many of the scenes shot in the day with available light with bits of low-key stylish lighting for scenes at night as it is a highlight of the film. Editors Miguel Schverdfinger and Karen Harley do brilliant work with the editing with its stylish approach to jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to play into the drama with a lot of it also being straightforward in its presentation. Art director Renata Pinheiro does excellent work with the look of the house Zama was living in during the film’s first act as well as some of the places he goes to as well as the small shack he would move in for the film’s second act. Costume designer Julio Suarez does fantastic work with the costumes from the dresses that Luciana wears to the clothes that Zama wears that would deteriorate as the film progresses.
Special effects makeup artist Sebastian Molchasky does nice work with the look of some of the natives as well as a scene in the third act involving natives and paint. Visual effects supervisors Santiago Svrisky and Hans van Helden do terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects for the scene with the fishes as well as some set dressing for some of the locations. Sound designer Guido Berenblum does amazing work with the film’s sound in the usage of the Shepard Tone as well as the usage of natural sounds to help create a mix that is just intoxicating in its presentation. The film’s music soundtrack largely consists of offbeat folk music that appears sparingly to play into Zama’s own misadventures where it has elements of humor but also to play into the drama as it is a highlight of the film.
The casting by Natalia Smirnoff and Veronica Souto is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Milo Alberto Gutierrez as Zama’s illegitimate son, Vicenzo Navarro Rindel as the son of Zama’s friend the Oriental, Carlos Defeo as a friend of Zama known as the Oriental, Gustavo Bohm as the governor in the film’s first act, the trio of Dolores Ocampo, Carla Diaz, and Paula Grinzpan as the landlord’s daughter whom Zama is fond of, Mariana Nunes as a black maid of Lucia, Daniel Veronese as the governor in the film’s second act who makes Zama’s duties difficult, and Nahuel Cano in a superb performance as a young government official in Fernandez whom Zama befriends because of his aspirations to be a writer despite gaining the ire of the second governor in the film. Juan Minujin is fantastic as a young magistrate assistant in Ventura Prieto who disagrees with Zama’s views on colonialism as he would manage to use his scheming to get favor from government officials and others to advance his career.
Lola Duenas is excellent as Luciana Pinares de Luenga as the wife of a Spanish nobleman who is someone Zama is fond of and hopes to woo in order to get some clout from her as she has this unique presence that is full of beauty but also power that allows her to win favors for the Spanish government. Matheus Nachtergaele is brilliant as a soldier named Gaspar Toledo who would help Zama in the film’s third act in trying to find this mysterious criminal as he is someone that knows a lot about the jungles and its natives while carrying a secret of his own. Finally, there’s Daniel Gimenez Cacho in a phenomenal performance as Don Diego de Zama as this Spanish magistrate who is waiting to be transferred and return home as he endures setbacks, humiliating assignments, and other things where Cacho brings that sense of gravitas as a man who thinks he is important only to then realize that he’s just a pawn in the scheme of things bigger than him with ideals that are outdated and obsolete.
Zama is a tremendous film from Lucrecia Martel that features a sensational leading performance from Daniel Gimenez Cacho. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, an unconventional take on colonialism and ennui, offbeat music soundtrack, and intoxicating sound design. The film is a fascinating look into the world of colonialism and how a man who seems to support these ideas only to realize its many fallacies as well as his own role in that idealism that ends up being a bunch of bullshit. In the end, Zama is a spectacular film from Lucrecia Martel.
For the sixth week of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves as the month of February focuses on romantic tropes. We focus on the Cinderella plot in which a woman is swept off her feet by a wealthy man as it is a common trope that often play into certain clichés and such but also moments that can be fun. Here are my three picks:
1. If the Shoe Fits
A modern-take on the story set in Paris revolves around a shoe designer trying to get the attention of famous fashion designer. Starring Jennifer Grey and Rob Lowe, anyone who was a child in the 80s would probably remember this film as it has Grey in the Cinderella role as she would look glamorous whenever she wears these shoes with Lowe being baffled. It’s not a great TV movie but it still has some charm.
2. Ever After
The late 1990s take on the fairy tale starring Drew Barrymore is definitely a much more feminist take of sorts as Barrymore makes the character a much stronger individual who didn’t take a lot of shit. Even from Anjelica Huston playing her cruel stepmother as it is a film with a lot of gorgeous visuals, set/costume designs, and being faithful to its period. It is also hilarious as it includes this great wedding scene in which the prince is to marry the princess of Spain who is crying her fucking eyes out as it is a scene as his parents are like “and we thought we had problems”.
3. Ella Enchanted
Starring Anne Hathaway as a young woman cursed with the gift of obedience who catches the eye of a prince as they travel around the land to meet with the people of the land he rules as he learns what he must to do as king. It is a film that sort of takes a piss on the fairy tale scenarios as well as giving Anne Hathaway a witty performance that has be funny but also play off the many clichés and make fun of it. It is a silly film but it’s also fun to watch.
Directed by Sara Dosa and written by Dosa, Shane Boris, Eric Casper, and Jocelyne Chaput, Fire of Love is the story about the life and career of volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft who spend their lives studying the world of active volcanoes. The film chronicles how they met and their life studying volcanoes that lead to their untimely death during the eruption of Mount Unzen in 1991 as it is narrated by actress/filmmaker Miranda July. The result is a rapturous and evocative film from Sara Dosa.
The film follows the lives and work of Katia and Maurice Krafft as they were renowned volcanologists who would travel around the world to explore the world of volcanoes and what makes them active as well as the dangers of their destruction. Since their meeting in 1966 at the University of Strasbourg, the two had a fascination for volcanos with Katia being a chemistry/physics student and Maurice studying geology. Yet, it is their encounters with volcanoes as children that bonded them as they would marry in 1970 and had their honeymoon at Stromboli, Italy which Maurice had been to when he was 7 as they studied the volcano that was still active. This would lead to them traveling all over the world to go to various active volcanoes whenever they would erupt or start to erupt as they would do everything to study. Even by taking photographs and filming them with the former used for books and the latter for documentary films as a way to make money.
The film would largely use archival footage from the Krafft family estate even though Katia and Maurice never had children but also footage from French television and other bits with text written by the Kraffts that are spoken through French actors. Director Sara Dosa uses all of the footage and text from their books to have them tell the story with Miranda July providing narration as it play into ideas of how they met and what is Katia and Maurice thinking when they’re together or apart. Even as there is footage of them from various volcanic events such as trips to Zaire at Mount Nyiragongo in 1973 and 1977 with the latter having them explore the severity of its eruption as well as one of them in 1979 in Indonesia where Maurice wanted to study more on its sulfuric acid despite Katia’s protests. Then there’s the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption as it would be this turning point for both of them in wanting to know more about volcanoes that shoots up ash instead of lava as they feel they’re more dangerous than the ones with lava.
Dosa would use some hand-drawn animation by Rui Ting Ji and Lucy Munger to help explain their theories on volcanic activity with Katia traveling to Armero, Colombia in November of 1985 following its own volcanic event after authorities ignored warnings from her and other volcanologist about its impending eruption that left 25,000 people dead. A warning that the people in the Philippines followed in 1991 during the volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo. Dosa uses not just archival footage and scientific diagrams and such to showcase everything that the Kraffts have unveiled but also their own views on humanity as they admit to have issues in understanding humanity which is why they preferred volcanoes. Editors Eric Casper and Jocelyne Chaput would do a lot in not just cultivating much of the footage that Maurice shot in the documentaries but also in Katia’s pictures for some montages including the last footage of the Kraffts alive on June 3, 1991 at Mount Unzen, Japan before they were killed by the pyroclastic flow from that volcano’s eruption.
Sound designer Patrice Leblanc would cultivate all of the audio from their audio interviews and such including in some of the documentaries they did that would narrate the power of volcanoes. The film’s music by Nicolas Godin of Air is a mixture of offbeat orchestral music, electronics, and ambient music with bits of rock while its soundtrack is a mixture of French pop, classical, and music from his band Air as well as a piece by Ennio Morricone.
Fire of Love is a tremendous film from Sara Dosa. It is a film that isn’t just this unique documentary about two volcanologists and their fascination with volcanos but also a love story about two people who share two loves for themselves and volcanoes. It is also a film that shows the great lengths Katia and Maurice Krafft would go to explore volcanoes and tell a story of their importance to the world. In the end, Fire of Love is an outstanding film from Sara Dosa.
Directed by Lars von Trier and written by von Trier and Niels Vorsel, Dimension is an unfinished gangster film made from 1991 to 1997 that was an experimental project that was to consist of four-minute segments that was to be shot in a period of 33 years. It is a project that explores von Trier’s desire to experiment with a group of actors on something that was to be unique but never to be due to the deaths of a few actors as the result is a 27-minute short of what could’ve been. Starring Jean-Marc Barr, Stellan Skarsgard, Udo Kier, Katrin Cartlidge, Ernst-Hugo Jaregard, Baard Owe, Birgitte Raaberg, Jens Okking, and Eddie Constantine. Dimension, in its unfinished form, is a fascinating and inventive experimental short film by Lars von Trier.
The film follows events in what was meant to be the course of 33 years as it followed the many journeys of various people in the world of crime. It starts with a man (Eddie Constantine) who arrives via helicopter to make a delivery to two gangsters (Jean-Marc Barr and Udo Kier) as he would then sell his horse one year later to a Swedish businessman (Ernst-Hugo Jaregard) where things later get problematic following that man’s death. Even as the two gangsters go on the run as they hide at the home of one of the gangsters’ uncle (Jens Okking) who lets them in but with a catch as they’re later hunted by a hitman (Baard Owe) forcing the two gangsters to go to a woman (Katrin Cartlidge) for information. She would later reluctantly help the hitman and another gangster (Stellan Skarsgard) to retrieve a parcel only for things to go wrong as usual. It all play into the schematics of what is expected in gangster films but also with an absurd sense of humor.
Lars von Trier’s direction is stylish as it is set on various locations in Sweden, the South of France, and Denmark as it starts off in a straightforward yet stylish manner though it is largely presented in a raw form that had been cultivated by Hanne Palmquist. Throughout the course of the film, von Trier’s style went from being somewhat technical in its compositions with straightforward static shots in the wide and medium shots for the locations while becoming looser in the close-ups as they’re shot on hand-held camera. Notably in the scenes involving the two gangsters and one of their uncles as they go grocery shopping as they have to buy him a feast in exchange for temporarily staying with them. Even in the scenes with Katrin Cartlidge’s character as it is shot mainly in the winter as she is jogging where the usage of hand-held cameras become evident including in her scene meeting with the Swedish businessman. The fact that it’s only 27-minutes long showcase an idea that had a lot of potential but given the fact that two of the three actors died during its production with Cartlidge dying in 2002 forced von Trier to shelve it five years after he had stopped film to pursue other projects.
The film’s ensemble cast features a cameo appearance from Birgitte Raaberg as a jogger who passes by the two gangsters and the woman during a jog as well as Baard Owe as the hitman who is pursing the gangsters and the parcel. Stellan Skarsgard is superb as another gangster working with the hitman while Katrin Cartlidge is excellent as a woman who knew the two gangsters from the film earlier in whom she is reluctant to give them information. Jens Okking is fantastic as an uncle of one of the two gangsters who gives them a place to crash on the condition they buy him a feast while Ernst-Hugo Jaregard is brilliant as a Swedish businessman buying a horse. Jean-Marc Barr and Udo Kier are amazing as the two gangsters who go out in hiding following some bad decisions as they deal with the chaos of a deal they made a long time ago. Finally, there’s Eddie Constantine in one of his final film performances film just before his death as a man who delivers the gangsters a parcel and later becoming this ailing man who sells his best horse to the Swedish businessman.
Dimension is an excellent project from Lars von Trier in its unfinished form. While it showcases an idea that is unique and imaginative. The fact that it is left unfinished due to the deaths of Ernst-Hugo Jaregard, Eddie Constantine, and Katrin Cartlidge does showcase the potential that von Trier had for a unique gangster film. In the end, Dimension is a superb yet unfinished film from Lars von Trier.
For the fifth week of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves as the month of February focuses on romantic tropes. We go into the subject of travel romance where people go to a different place to find love as it is a common trope but one that is fun. Here are my three picks:
Based on the novel by Paul Nowles, Bernardo Bertolucci’s adaptation is one of his weaker films although it does have a lot of the elements that made his films work such as Vittorio Storaro’s photography and noteworthy performances from its ensemble as it is about a couple in late 1940s North Africa traveling as they try to save their marriage as they deal with temptation and existentialism. It is a flawed film largely due to how dense the source material is yet it is still worth watching for the leading performances of John Malkovich and Debra Winger.
From Eleanor Coppola is a film that revolves around an American woman traveling in France as she joins another traveler to discover the country while her producer husband remains at Cannes for its film festival before he rejoins her in Paris. Starring Diane Lane as this woman who travels with Arnaud Viard where she gets a closer look at the small towns and culture of the country as she falls for the journey as it is a gem worth seeking out not just its simple story told with such elegance by Coppola but also for Lane’s performance.
Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’ novel about a young woman with cannibalistic tendencies who meets another young cannibal as they travel all across America to find her mother. It is a film that is this unconventional love story set on the road in 1980s America as it features not just great leading performances from Taylor Russell and Timothee Chalamet but a tremendous supporting performance from Mark Rylance that is just scary to watch as he plays a fellow cannibal. It is not a film for everyone but certainly worth checking out.