Thursday, November 30, 2023

Films That I Saw: November 2023

 

We’re one month into the new year and it’s usually my favorite time of the month as I just love the Xmas holidays as my mother and I have already put our Xmas tree along with decorations inside the house as my niece and nephew are also excited. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that not everyone is going to have a happy Xmas holiday as there’s so much happening as well as chaos in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. Even as it’s become a subject that some aren’t willing to talk about so that they wouldn’t upset anyone as there’s so much shit that people tend to get pissed off. It is what the world has become as I’ve become numb to the point where I don’t want to get into it. With Univision becoming MAGAvision as my mother refuses to watch that shit while there’s other things that we don’t want to deal with.

Of course for anyone that has read this blog and know that I’m a wrestling fan would want me to talk about CM Punk returning to WWE and honestly. I really don’t want to as I don’t give a fuck about him returning to WWE and I don’t give a fuck about what he has to say. I don’t care anymore because why would I want to listen or talk about whiny, hypocritical, salty bitch who believes in his own bullshit. Besides, I have other things to watch and I’m glad I don’t have cable as I haven’t watched USA in almost a decade. Yes, there’s fanboys and Stans that every fan has to deal with and honestly, fuck them. I’ll stick to AEW and New Japan and what else is good as long as it’s not NWA as that company is a fucking joke.
In the month of November 2023, I saw a total of 21 films in 11 first-timers and 10 re-watches with four first-timers being films directed/co-directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge as I’ve past that pledge so far by 10 films right now. One of the highlights of the month has been my Blind Spot pick in Eight Hours Don't Make a Day. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for November 2023:

1. Petite Maman
2. Priscilla
3. Long Day's Journey Into Night
4. Vortex
5. Now and Then: The Last Beatles Song
6. Good Thanks, You?
7. Yuki’s Sun
8. The Marvels
9. The Smile-Wall of Eyes
10. Marvel Studios Assembled: The Making of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’m Watching

Now and Then: The Beatles Last Song



I remember when I first heard about The Beatles’ Anthology series as it was to include new songs based on demos that John Lennon created as only two songs were created in Free As a Bird and Real Love. I did hear about a third song that was meant to be created but it was never finished as I thought it wasn’t going to happen. This 12-minute documentary short is about Now and Then as into why this song was never finished back in the mid-1990s because the quality of Lennon’s cassette wasn’t good as it got shelved. Thanks the A.I. based technology that Peter Jackson created as Lennon’s voice is finally heard in full form as the final song itself is just beautiful. There’s elements in the song that moved me including Paul McCartney’s sliding guitar solo that sounds like something George Harrison would’ve created as it is the Beatles back for one last moment of triumph. I wished my dad was alive to hear this song in person as he would’ve loved it.



Yuki’s Sun
One of two short films from MUBI that I watched as this short is one of the earliest shorts that Hayao Miyazaki made as it was originally intended to be a TV pilot relating to a young girl and her adventures while trying to find her birth mother. It is a short that has a lot of what Miyazaki would be known for as well as being this lively four minute short that every fan of his needs to see.

Good Thanks, You?
The second short from MUBI that I saw is from Molly Manning Walker in this short film about the aftermath of a rape. It plays into a woman who has been silent over what had happened to her as she is uncomfortable telling people as she isn’t sure if the authorities would do anything about it. It is a chilling 13-minute film that features a phenomenal performance from Jasmine Jobson as she exhibits the anguish as it plays into a woman dealing with what has happened to her.

Marvel Studios Assembled: The Making of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
The documentary that came out this past summer was something I had in my watchlist on Disney+ as I decided to watch it as it is good documentary though I still have no desire to re-watch Quantumania. Still, I think the work of the production crew including the makeup team, the costume designers, and art directors is solid as they really did a lot of work into the film. The documentary also revealed how Kathryn Newton was cast into the film as Cassie Lang as she originally auditioned to be in Hawkeye as Kate Bishop as there’s an audition she did with Jeremy Renner as it is a good audition though Hailee Steinfeld was the right person to play Bishop. Still, it is something worth watching as the cast and crew interviews are a joy to watch despite the fact that the final film was a disappointment.

The Smile-Wall of Eyes



The Smile is set to release a new album next year as they released a new single and a video directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The video features Thom Yorke in a surreal moment as there’s a bunch of versions of Yorke as the video is strange yet entrancing to watch. Notably as it plays into some of the textures of the song as the Smile has become this amazing project Yorke and Jonny Greenwood has created with Tom Skinner of Sons of Kemet as they’re an amazing band. Still, I do ponder the status of Radiohead as I do hope they return to make a new album and do that dream double-bill tour with Nine Inch Nails.

Loki (season 2, episodes 5 & 6)
The last two episodes of the season might also be the last episode of the series as it relates to Loki’s own adventure to not only save the Sacred Timeline but also for the fact that he’s become someone that actually cares. Especially with the people he has befriended while also dealing with things are complicated as Tom Hiddleston does give a career-defining performance as the titular character who does make a major sacrifice in its finale in a role that he is willing to take but also with a price that he has accepted as it’s all part of his idea of glorious purpose. The second season is incredible as it not only creates some new twists and turns into what these characters have to deal with but also who they were before they were taken by the TVA forcing them to make some serious changes as it relates to the multiverse. If this is really a series finale then it is a damn good one though it does make me sad that we might not get that family reunion between Thor and Loki.

Wrestling Match of the Month: Swerve Strickland (w/ Prince Nana) vs. Hangman Adam Page in a Texas Death Match – AEW Full Gear – 11/18/23



I’ve seen some violent matches in my lifetime as there’s some that was from Lucha Underground that I don’t want to re-watch as it left me squeamish along with some of the stuff that is happening in GCW with their death matches. This match between Swerve Strickland and Hangman Adam Page went far and beyond what a Texas Death Match should be as violent is just understating what these two men did. This was a personal match as it relates to Strickland trying to push Page’s buttons to the point that he broke into Page’s home and went into his baby’s room as that was reason for Page to want to go to war. Both men put a lot into this match as well as some moments that are just goddamn disgusting as it would involve cinder blocks, barbed-wire wrapped chairs, staple guns, broken glass, barbed-wire wrapped tables, and chains. This is not a match for everyone and certainly not for the faint of heart but goddamn it. This is what hardcore wrestling should be as this is already a match of the year candidate in a sea of great wrestling matches this year.

Top 10 Re-Watches

1. Ratatouille
2. When Nirvana Came to Britain
3. Frozen II
4. Somewhere in Dreamland
5. Sofia Coppola’s the Little Mermaid
6. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
7. Riley’s First Date?
8. Tarzan
9. Why You’ve Never Met the 4th Haim Sister
10. Santa’s Workshop
Well, that is all for November. Next month, there will be some films I hope to catch up on as well as some new films with The Seduction of Mimi being the final Blind Spot for the year as I’ve finalized the list for next year’s Blind Spot Series. I also want to make note that I have updated and expanded my Auteurs piece on Sofia Coppola as it has now given me the boost to hopefully finish my Auteurs essay on Kelly Reichardt which I hope to have done before the end of the year.

Before I leave, I want to express my condolences towards those who have passed away this month in the following such as Henry Kissinger, Rosalynn Carter, Frances Sternhagen, Joss Ackland, Scott Kempner of the Dictators, Geordie Walker of Killing Joke, Marty Krofft, Terry Venables, visual effects artist Marc Thorpe, Green Bay Packers player Jim Carter, former Atlanta Braves player Preston Hanna, saxophonist Mars Williams, Peter Spellos, Suzanne Shepherd, singer Sandy Farina, Spiros Focas, astronaut Frank Borman, Janet Landgard, Evan Ellingson, original Stone Roses bassist Pete Garner, Wei Wei, and earlier today, Shane McGowan of the Pogues. This is thevoid99 signing off…



© thevoid99 2023

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

2023 Blind Spot Series: Eight Hours Don't Make a Day

 

Written and directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Acht Stunden sind kein Tag (Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day) is the story of a working-class family living in Cologne, West Germany where a young toolmaker copes with his world as well as his tumultuous life with his family, co-workers, and girlfriend. Commissioned by the WDR, the five-part TV miniseries is an exploration of a working class family as it explores the many trials and tribulations of this family with its young man at the center of it. Starring Gottfried John, Hanna Schygulla, Luise Ullrich, Werner Finck, Anita Bucher, Wolfried Lier, Christine Oesterlein, Renate Roland, Kurt Raab, Andrea Schober, Thorsten Massinger, Irm Hermann, Wolfgang Zerlett, Wolfgang Schenck, Herb Andress, Rudolf Waldemar Brem, Hans Hirschmuller, Peter Gauche, Grigorios Karipidis, Karl Scheyedt, Victor Curland, and Rainer Hauer. Acht Stunden sind kein Tag is a majestic and rich TV miniseries from Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Episode 1: Jochen and Marion

It’s a birthday celebration for the family matriarch (Luise Ullrich) as her grandson Jochen (Gottfried John) goes out to buy more champagne for his annoying aunt Klara (Christine Oesterlein) is when he meets Marion (Hanna Schygulla) who is trying to buy pickles from a vending machine. The two immediately fall in love as Jochen introduces her to his family as she would later befriend Jochen’s sister Monika (Renate Roland) who is trying to find a friend to talk to due to her strained marriage to Harald (Kurt Raab). The episode also has Jochen dealing with problems at his job working at a factory making tools where he comes up with a plan that he hopes would help the workers only for their bonuses to be pulled. It all plays into this man falling in love and trying to do good for everyone he works including a middle-aged foreman in Kretzschmer (Victor Curland) who sympathizes with the workers.

Episode 2: Grandma and Gregor

Grandma and her new boyfriend Gregor (Werner Finck) go apartment hunting throughout the city as they discover not just the high prices for the apartments but also places with terrible locations. Upon discovering a place that they feel is suitable for them despite its expensive yet fair price, they see that a local library is shutting down as they decided to turn the place into a kindergarten for the neighborhood children to play despite being unable to get a permit to hold such a place. Yet, it would take mothers from the neighborhood, Jochen, Marion, and several of Jochen’s co-workers to help out. The episode also play into Jochen and Marion’s growing relationship as her little brother Manni (Thorsten Massinger) would attend the kindergarten along with Monika’s daughter Sylvia (Andrea Schober). Another subplot involves Franz (Wolfgang Schenck) trying to become the new full-time foreman with the support of Jochen and other co-workers.

Episode 3: Franz and Ernst

The episode revolves around Franz trying to pass a foreman exam despite the fact that he’s not very good at math and the company has already hired a new foreman from another company in Ernst (Peter Gauhe) despite a promise to Franz that he would get the job if he passed his exam. Jochen and Marion help out as does his fellow co-workers while Jochen’s best friend Manfred (Wolfgang Zerlett) gets to know Ernst as he learns more about him where a stunt to get Ernst fired backfires only for Ernst to take action to the surprise of everyone. The episode also includes a subplot in which Jochen’s father Wolf (Wolfried Lier) is unhappy at how quiet his apartment has been until Grandma comes up with an idea for him to quarrel with someone as things don’t work out.

Episode 4: Harald and Monika.

Gottfried and Marion take a huge step into their relationship though Gottfried’s first encounter with Marion’s mother (Brigitte Mira) is awkward leading to Marion’s mother being disapproving of the relationship. The two discuss the future of their relationship as they go to family and friends for advice as they both make a decision that would impact everyone. The episode also play into the disintegrating relationship between Harald and Monika as the latter turns to Gottfried, Marion, her parents, and her grandmother for help as she wants a divorce but Harald wants custody of their daughter leading to many issues. It would all culminate at a wedding party for Gottfried and Marion where a lot happens including the resolution over Marion and Harald with the unexpected help of Klara.

Episode 5: Irmgard and Rolf.

When news that a new factory is to be built at the other side of town that would force workers to be relocated making things for them including Gottfried difficult just as he and Marion bought a new apartment. It also makes things worse for Marion’s friend/co-worker Irmgard (Irm Hermann) who had just began a relationship with one of Gottfried’s co-workers in Rolf (Rudolf Waldemar Brem) as they met at Gottfried and Marion’s wedding party. Gottfried, Franz, and the other workers come up with a plan they would hope that would benefit them as they turn to the factory’s head manager Dr. Betram (Klaus Lowitsch) who reads their proposals and takes it into consideration. The episode also plays into Manfred’s longing for Monika who embarks into a relationship with a man that is trying to pull her into a scheme. Gottfried and Marion concoct a big plan as it relates to the apartment that Gottfried’s parents would own as a way to plan for their future with Rolf and Irmgard living with them as they would succeed but Marion laments over the role of working people as it relates to everything Gottfried is working for.

The TV miniseries follows the lives of the Epp family as they live in Cologne, West Germany as they deal with many social and political changes that occur in their lives. Yet, for all of the chaos and dysfunction that looms within the family is a lot of love no matter how much they annoy each other sometimes. Even as various individuals in the family would embark their own lives with Gottfried and Marion being in the center along with Gottfried’s grandmother and her boyfriend Gregor being this support system for Gottfried, Monika, and Marion. Even as Marion’s younger brother Manni and Monika’s daughter Sylvia become friends at the kindergarten that Grandma and Gregor would run. Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s script play into the many schematics that would occur throughout the family as well as the people that surround them including Gottfried’s co-workers who often help out with Gottfried also helping them out as well.

Fassbinder’s direction is engaging for the way he portrays the life of a working-class family in Cologne as each episode opens with the notable locations of the city and the closing shot would be of a factory next to a canal as a canal boat would pass by. The city would be a key character in the film with Fassbinder using certain locations and such to play into this world that these characters live in as it is this world that is vibrant for many involved despite the fact that there’s also things that the working class doesn’t have. While there are some wide shots to play into some of the locations, much of Fassbinder’s direction remains intimate with its usage of close-ups and medium shots. Even in scenes where conversations occur as he would pan the camera from one area to another or to use a dolly-tracking shot to circle around a table. Yet, Fassbinder would also play into this world that is the factory that would include bits such as a wide shot of all of the men showering with glimpses of full-frontal nudity along with other quirks that add to miniseries relating to humor and drama.

Fassbinder also plays into the family dynamic as Wolf always likes to get into arguments and such with his wife Kathe (Anita Bucher) always trying to get him to calm down and make him see reason. Yet, whenever there’s a party and he’s drunk. He is this jovial and lively person that wants to dance with every woman in the party but also be extremely loving towards Kathe as it plays into a man who has a hard time dealing with reality unless he gets drunk and not worry too much. Fassbinder also play into a lot of things such as the fact that Grandma and Gregor likes to eat at a restaurant surrounded by pet birds while Gottfried and Marion often hang out at certain places they like with American and British music in the background. Fassbinder maintains this atmosphere that does feel loose but also has this element of socialist ideals in the way Gottfried, Marion, Grandma, and Gregor approach things in wanting to help people though it is about getting paid fairly for Gottfried and Marion while Grandma and Marion want to help out. The series’ ending at five episodes, instead of the original eight that Fassbinder had intended to, is about everything Gottfried and Marion had worked for but also this realization into the way the world works with Grandma and Gregor seeing a hopeful world for everyone around them. Overall, Fassbinder crafts a heartfelt and whimsical film about the life of a working class family in Cologne, West Germany.

Cinematographer Dietrich Lohmann does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on low-key yet colorful natural lighting for some of the interiors along with the usage of available light for some exterior scenes at night. Editor Marie Anne Gerhardt does excellent work with the editing with its approach to jump-cuts as well as some straight cuts for some dramatic and humorous moments. Production designers Manfred Lutz, Kurt Raab, and costume designer Gisela Rocken do amazing work with the look of the homes that the characters live in as well as the office that Marion works at with Irmgard as well as the factory that Jochen works at and the kindergarten that Grandma and Gregor run with Rocken creating some unique clothing of the times including some of the dresses that Marion and Monika wear.

The sound work of Gerhardt Trampert is superb for its natural approach to sound as it plays to everything that is happening as well as some unique sound effects that add to the film’s humor and drama. The music by Jean Gepoint is wonderful for its playful score with its usage of woodwinds and folk instruments as it play into this working class environment these characters live in with a soundtrack that includes various German pop tunes of the times as well as music from Janis Joplin, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Ennio Morricone, Spooky Tooth, the Drifters, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, the Rolling Stones, Paul Anka, the Everly Brothers, Bobby Darin, Paul Anka, and the Velvet Underground .

The film’s marvelous cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Eva Mattes as a cafĂ© waitress, Ulli Lommel as Marion’s ex-boyfriend Peter, Margit Carstensen as a woman who used to run the library that would become the kindergarten that Grandma and Gregor would run, Klaus Lowitsch as the factory manager Dr. Betram who is willing to listen to the workers for their demands knowing what good could come from it, Brigitte Mira as Marion’s mother who doesn’t approve of Gottfried at first until she gets to know him and his family, Ruth Drexel as Franz’s wife, Katrin Schaake as a landlady, Christine Oesterlein as the bourgeois aunt Klara who is a drama queen to the family, and Hans Gromball as a man Monika meets after her divorce in the fifth episode who tries to get her and Grandma into a money investment that Grandma is suspicious about. In the roles of various co-workers that Jochen works with in the factory include Victor Curland as the old foreman Kretzschmer as a man that everyone likes, Rainer Hauer as supervisor Gross, Karl Scheydt as Peter, Grigorios Karipidis as the Italian immigrant Giuseppe, Peter Gauhe as Kretzschmer’s replacement Ernst who didn’t want the job as he would help Franz in getting the job, Hans Hirschmuller as Jurgen, Herb Andress as the often cynical Rudiger who dislikes Giuseppe because he’s a foreigner, El Hedi ben Salem as another immigrant worker in Arbeiter, and Rudolf Waldemar Brem as Rolf whom Irmgard would meet at a party and fall for.

Wolfgang Schenck is terrific as Franz as a kindly man whom the workers like as they vouch for him as a foreman despite his poor math until Ernst helps him. Andrea Schober and Thorsten Massinger are superb in their respective roles as Monika/Harald’s daughter Sylvia and Marion’s younger brother Manni as two adolescent kids who befriend each other at Grandma and Gregor’s kindergarten with the latter helping the former over her issues with her dad. Wolfgang Zerlett is fantastic as Manfred as Jochen’s best friend who often pines for Monika as well as be a friend to the family. Kurt Raab is excellent as Sylvia’s father/Monika’s husband Harald as a man that is all about discipline and order as he is also cruel while Renate Roland is brilliant as Monika as a woman eager to have some freedom in her life but also some happiness in her life while finding a friend in Marion. Irm Hermann is amazing as Marion’s best friend/co-worker Irmgard as a woman who is quite cynical at times yet finds herself feeling happier upon meeting Rolf.

Anita Bucher and Wolfried Lier are incredible in their respective roles as Jochen and Monika’s parents in Kathe and Wolf with the former as this woman who is trying to keep things calm and be supportive as well as be calm towards the latter who is often frustrated with the world yet is a far kinder person when he gets drunk. Werner Finck ad Luise Ulrich are great in their respective roles as Gregor and Grandma as the former is a widower who falls for Grandma and helps out her in her ideas while the latter is this energetic slice of life who has ideas while is also full of love in the people she helps out as she is a major standout of the film. Hanna Schygulla is radiant as Marion as a young woman who works for a newspaper as she falls for Jochen while is also a woman with her own mind as she helps out Jochen’s friends and family. Finally there’s Gottfried John in a phenomenal performance as Jochen Epp as young man who works in a factory as he does what he can to help out his co-workers while also falling in love with Marion as he starts to think about a life of his own while dealing with the dysfunction within the family.

Acht Stunden sind kein Tag is a tremendous TV miniseries from Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a compelling story that explores a family dealing with many life changes, lovely visuals, and a fantastic music soundtrack. It is a TV miniseries that follows the life of a family as well as explore the ideas of a socialist world clashing with ideas of capitalism. In the end, Acht Stunden sind kein Tag is a spectacular TV miniseries from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Films: Love is Colder Than Death - (Katzelmacher) - (Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?) - (Rio das Mortes) - (The American Soldier) - (Whity) - (Beware of a Holy Whore) – The Merchant of Four Seasons - The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant - (Jailbait) - World on a Wire - Ali: Fear Eats the Soul - (Martha (1974 film)) - (Effi Briest) - (Fox and His Friends) - (Mother Kuster’s Trip to Heaven) – (I Only Want You to Love Me) – Satan's Brew - (Chinese Roulette) - (Germany in Autumn) - (Despair) - (In a Year of 13 Moons) – The Marriage of Maria Braun - (Third Generation) - (Berlin Alexanderplatz) - (Lili Marleen) – Lola (1981 film) - Veronika Voss - Querelle

© thevoid99 2023

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Long Day's Journey into Night (2018 film)

 

Written and directed by Bi Gan, Long Day’s Journey into Night is the story of a man who returns to his hometown to attend his father’s funeral while going on a search for a former lover whom he remains haunted by having not seen her for many years. It is a film that explores a man who had ventured himself into the world of crime as he hopes to make amends with the woman he had loved for so many years. Starring Tang Wei and Huang Jue. Long Day’s Journey into Night is a ravishing and evocative film from Bi Gan.

The film follows a man who returns to his hometown of Kaili to attend his father’s funeral as he thinks about a former lover whom he hadn’t seen for many years. It is a film with a simple premise though it has a very odd structure as its first half is a non-linear film that plays into flashbacks as a man laments over his past as well as returning home as so much has changed. Bi Gan’s screenplay doesn’t have a conventional structure as its first act is set in various parts of Kaili as it play into Luo Hongwu (Huang Jue) who returns home as he thinks about his past as a young man who had lost his best friend and has engaged into an affair with his best friend’s girlfriend Wan Qiwen (Tang Wei). Throughout its first half, Luo thinks about his time with Wan but also his encounters with a gangster whom his best friend had gotten into trouble to as well as why he left Kaili only to return many years later for his late father as well as a few other things including a picture he found in his father’s clock. Its first half is this journey for Luo to find Wan as it relates to her disappearance while its second half marks a massive narrative shift that is even more mysterious.

Gan’s direction is entrancing in the way he captures a man’s journey into dealing with his past and confront the world he’s re-entered to. Shot on location in Kaili, Gan would create some unique compositions of the locations that include some mining hills, lakeside restaurants, and ruined places including flooded homes as it adds to the atmosphere of the film. The usage of wide and medium shots do play into the richness of the locations as well as these recurring images of water and cigarettes as well as images of green that includes the green dress that Wan wears. There are also some close-ups and unique camera angles that Gan has to play into some of the dream-like imagery that also include some unique and intricate tracking shots in the film. That’s all in the film’s first half and before the film’s title card would emerge as that moment would occur when Luo would walk into a porno theater wearing 3D glasses to watch something as it suddenly changes.

The film’s second half is this 59-minute sequence that occurs in unbroken continuous shot where the camera moves along endlessly only to stop when some dialogue happens. Yet, the shot is never broken as Gan utilizes all sorts of visual language to keep things going and moves whenever the scene calls for it. It is where reality and fiction blur as it play into Luo going on this journey to see if Wan is alive as it largely takes place in this small village where they’re having karaoke. There are moments that are surreal and dreamlike yet Gan doesn’t reveal what is exactly going on as he lets everything play out through the wide shots or in a close-up. There is a lot happening through in what Gan is presenting as it feels like something is unfolding while it never reveals itself into whether this is a dream or reality. Overall, Gan crafts an intoxicating and rapturous film about a man’s return to his hometown in search of his long-lost lover.

Cinematographers Yao Hung-I, Dong Jinsong, and David Chizallet do phenomenal work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of natural lighting for many of the scenes in the film’s first half as well as low-key colorful lighting for the scenes at night while emphasizing on neon and vibrant lighting for many of the scenes in the film’s second half as it is a highlight of the film. Editor Qin Yanan does excellent work with the editing with its usage of straight-cuts and a few rhythmic cuts for much of the film’s first half along with some low-key invisible cutting for the film’s second half to maintain that continuous presentation. Production designer Qiang Liu, with set decorators Yonghua Li, Dong Li Wang, and Changhua Wu, does brilliant work with the look of the old home that Luo lived in as well as a hotel that Wan used to stay in as well as the village in the film’s second half.

Costume designers Hua Li and Chu-Chen Yeh do fantastic work with the costumes with some of it being casual with the exception of the gorgeous green dress that Wan wears as well as some other stylish clothes the women wear including a woman that Luo meets in its second half. The sound work of Danfeng Li and Zhonglin Si is amazing for its mixing and sound design in maintaining an eerie atmosphere into its locations and how sound is presented from afar and up close as it is a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Lim Giong and Hsu Point is incredible for its mixture of ambient textures with western-style guitars and somber electronic pieces with a soundtrack filled with Asian pop music.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles from Ming Dao as a traffic cop who gives Luo a message from a prisoner, Yanmin Bi as a prisoner who used to know Wan, Chun-hao Tuan as Wan’s ex-husband who runs a hotel, Chloe Maayan as a pager who runs a club, Yongzhong Chen as a crime boss named Zuo that terrorizes Luo and Wan, Hong-Chi Lee as Luo’s childhood friend Wildcat in the film’s flashbacks, and Sylvia Chang in a dual role as Wildcat’s mother that Luo meets and a mysterious red-haired woman that carries a torch as she is considered insane by the locals at the small village.

Huang Jue is incredible as Luo Hongwu as a man who returns to his hometown for his father’s funeral as he reflects on his past as well as his memories of Wan as it is this restrained and somber performance of a man haunted by the past as well as dealing with what he could remember as well as this reality that he contends with though he isn’t sure with what he’s encountering is real. Finally, there’s Tang Wei in a sensational performance as Wan Qiwen as this mysterious yet beautiful woman who was Wildcat’s lover as she engages into an affair with Luo as it is a performance full of intrigue and restraint though her character only appears in the film’s first half while Wei would appear as a completely different character in the film’s second half that is a little more fiery.

Long Day’s Journey into Night is a tremendous film from Bi Gan that features two great leading performances from Tang Wei and Huang Jue. Along with its haunting music soundtrack, ravishing visuals, offbeat narrative structure, and its exploration of memories and desires. It is an unconventional film that plays into a man’s lament over a former flame and ponders her existence in a world that has changed. In the end, Long Day’s Journey into Night is a magnificent film from Bi Gan.

© thevoid99 2023

Friday, November 17, 2023

Petite Maman

 

Written, costume designed, and directed by Celine Sciamma, Petite Maman is the story of a young girl who travels to her mother’s childhood home following the death of her grandmother where the girl meets another young girl as it plays into grief and a girl trying to understand who her mother is. The film is a fantasy drama that follows a young girl who tries to deal with her mother’s distraught state as well as make a discovery about this young girl she meets. Starring Josephine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Nina Meurisse, Stephane Varupenne, and Margot Abascal. Petite Maman is a ravishing and intoxicating film from Celine Sciamma.

The film explores a young eight-year old girl who travels to her mother’s childhood home following the death of her beloved grandmother where she spends a lot of time in the woods where she meets a young girl who comes from another world. It is a film that explores grief as this young girl in Nelly (Josephine Sanz) travels to the home that her mother (Nina Meurisse) has lived in as a child as she is ravaged with grief where she would leave the house for a time leaving Nelly and Nelly’s father (Stephane Varupenne) to clean out the house. While spending time in the woods, Nelly meets a young girl in the same age named Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) as they spend time playing and building a hut yet Nelly makes a discovery about the home that Marion lives in as it is similar to the home she and her dad are cleaning out. It adds not just a lot of intrigue into what Nelly is encountering but also to try and understand more about what her mother is going through as well as the similarities between her home and Marion’s home.

Celine Sciamma’s direction is mesmerizing for not just its simplicity and setting but also for telling a story in a 72-minute running time. Shot on location in areas near Cergy, France, Sciamma aims for something intimate in its overall presentation yet she would use some unique wide shots to play into the scope of some of the locations including a key scene late in the film as it would be the only scene in the film to also feature music. Yet, much of Sciamma’s direction emphasizes on close-ups and medium shots as it opens with Nelly helping an old woman with the crossword puzzle as she says goodbye to her and then saying goodbye to other old ladies in a single tracking shot that goes on for a few minutes until she and her mother leave an empty room. Sciamma does put in some unique visual styles yet would also do things that blur the line between reality and fiction as it relates to the house that Nelly’s mother used to live in as well as the home that Marion is in as there’s a lot of attention to detail in the way the hallway, rooms, and kitchen are shot.

Sciamma’s direction also maintains this air of minimalism throughout the film as it utilizes much of the same locations in every attention to detail including the rooms that both Nelly and Marion are staying in. Even in the clothes the two girls wear as they come from different periods as Sciamma is also the film’s costume designer where she brings a lot of detail into the clothes both of these girls wear. Even when they play as something else where it says a lot about these two girls where Nelly would meet Marion’s mother (Margot Abascal) who has a cane that is also similar to the one that Josephine’s grandmother had as it adds more intrigue. Notably as Sciamma does reveal things yet let everything play out as it also plays into Marion getting ready for an operation that would be prevent her from getting the illness that is ailing her mother. For Nelly, Sciamma manages to allow the character to gain an understanding of loss and why it affected her mother so deeply. Overall, Sciamma crafts an astonishingly tender and intoxicating film about an eight-year old girl dealing with loss by meeting another eight-year old girl from a mysterious world.

Cinematographer Claire Mathon does brilliant work with the film’s colorful and naturalistic cinematography as it utilizes natural lighting for many of the daytime exterior scenes in its autumn setting as well as its usage of low-key lights for some of the interior scenes at night. Editor Julien Lachery does excellent work with the film’s editing with its emphasis on being straightforward in knowing when to cut and when not to cut as there’s a lot of straight cuts with a few jump cuts in a few bits. Production designer Lionel Brison and set decorator Daniel Bevan do amazing work with the look of the house that Nelly’s grandmother lived in as well as the home that Marion lives in as there’s a lot of similarities and a lot of attention to detail in each room as it is a highlight of the film.

Sound editor Valerie Deloof does superb work with the sound in the sound as it plays into the natural elements of the locations as well as sparse sound effects in the film. The film’s music by Jean-Baptiste de Laubier in his Para One pseudonym is incredible for its lone synth-pop based music in one entire scene late into the film as it is this exhilarating and adventurous moment filled with wonder.

The casting by Christel Baras is remarkable as it feature a trio of notable small roles from Guylene Pean, Josee Schuller, and Flores Cardo as a trio of old women Nelly says goodbye to at a retirement home. Margo Abascal is terrific as Marion’s mother who often walks with a cane as she is fascinated by Nelly while also coping with her illness that she hopes Marion doesn’t get. Stephane Varupenne is fantastic as Nelly’s father who watches over her while her mother is gone as he does reveal why he and Nelly’s mother are reluctant to talk about their own childhood while there’s a great moment of the two bonding when Nelly helps her dad shave his beard off.

Nina Meurisse is excellent as Nelly’s mother as this woman who is coping with the loss of her mother as she is also distant where she leaves the home for some time as it plays into her own sense of melancholia. Finally, there’s the duo of real-life sisters Josephine and Gabrielle Sanz in tremendous performances in their respective roles as Nelly and Marion. The Sanz sisters both bring in this sense of whimsy as well as an innocence into their roles as eight-year old girls who are both dealing with recent events in their lives as with Josephine bringing a lot of curiosity as Nelly with Gabrielle providing a wonderment as Marion where the two radiate a natural chemistry with one another as they are a major highlight of the film.

Petite Maman is a spectacular film from Celine Sciamma. Featuring a great cast, a touching exploration of grief and a child’s understanding of loss, ravishing visuals, and its minimalist presentation. It is a film that isn’t just this enchanting yet heartfelt fantasy-drama but a look into the sense of loss and trying to figure out the world in an intimate setting that knows how to use its small running time. In the end, Petite Maman is a tremendous film from Celine Sciamma.

Celine Sciamma Films: (Water Lillies) – (Tomboy (2011 film)) – Girlhood (2014 film) - Portrait of a Lady on Fire

© thevoid99 2023

Monday, November 13, 2023

The Marvels

 

Based on the Marvel Comics series, The Marvels is the story of Captain Marvel who finds herself dealing a new conflict but also a wormhole that allows to swap places with two others through using their powers in both Monica Rambeau and Ms. Marvel as the trio team up. Directed by Nia DaCosta and screenplay by DaCosta, Megan McDonnell, and Elissa Karasik, the film is a sequel to the 2018 film in which Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers not only teams up with her late best friend’s daughter but also a young teenager who also has powers of her own to deal with a major threat that wants to destroy the universe over something that Danvers did as Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers is once again played by Brie Larson with Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau and Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. Also starring Zawe Ashton, Park Seo-joon, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Saagar Shaikh, Gary Lewis, Lashana Lynch and Samuel L. Jackson returning as Nick Fury. The Marvels is an exhilarating and extremely fun film from Nia DaCosta.

Set years after an event on the planet of Hala in which Carol Danvers destroyed the Supreme Intelligence, the film revolves around a new Kree extremist who has found a bangle that can allow her to create wormholes in the hope of gaining resources from other planets to save Hala after a civil war had left the planet barren while also hoping to destroy Danvers. It is a film that has Danvers deal with not just the consequences of her actions against the Kree but also having to team up with two others in stopping this person from destroying the universe. Even as it also forces her to deal with other things in her life while also making discoveries that would allow her to make some serious changes. The film’s screenplay is largely straightforward as it opens with the new Kree leader Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) who had found a Quantum Band as she is confronted by Danvers only for something to happen in which she gets entangled with both Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan who all switch places for due to Danvers’ encounter with Dar-Benn.

Throughout the script, there is tension hinted between Carol and Monica as it relates to the fact that they hadn’t seen each other in years as well as the fact that Monica is still dealing with the loss of her mother Maria (Lashana Lynch). Yet, it is Kamala that would help them sort their issues out as both Carol and Monica would meet Kamala’s family as does Nick Fury who would take them to the S.A.B.E.R. space station as it would add some humorous moments between Fury and the Khans. For a film that does have some serious stakes as it plays into Dar-Benn’s quest, the script does manage to not take itself seriously as it plays into some of Danvers’ other lives in other planets including one called Aladna where its citizens talk through singing as Carol is very famous in the planet. It is among some of the odd and hilarious moments in the film as the script does try to balance the tone of seriousness and humor though some of it isn’t perfect but there is still a lot of weight into the story.

Nia DaCosta’s direction is stylish as it does blend into many genres such as comedies, drama, action, suspense, hand-drawn animation in a brief sequence by senior animator Josh Janousky and lead animator Nicholas St. Clair, and Bollywood-inspired musicals as it plays into these different worlds that Danvers, Rambeau, and Khan would encounter. Shot largely on various studios in the U.K. as well as additional locations in Tropea, Italy and Los Angeles, DaCosta does create something that feels loose in its presentation as well as otherworldly considering the many places the characters go to. There are some wide and medium shots that play into the scope of the different planets and places these characters go to yet DaCosta grounds the film with its emphasis on family as well as playing to what is at stake. Notably as it involves a flashback in which Dar-Benn witnessed Danvers destroying the building where the Supreme Intelligence is held as it plays into her own legit grudge as it lead to Hala in a barren state with a civil war emerging. Danvers’ actions towards Hala do lead to consequences as well as why she and Monica became estranged where the two and Kamala would go to a Skrull colony where things go wrong due to Danvers’ involvement.

While the film is uneven in its approach to its different genres, DaCosta does however keep things exciting as well as knowing when to be serious as well as not to be serious. Most notably a subplot in which Fury takes the Khans to his space station where something serious does happen as it relates to Goose and the many people at the space station when it gets threatened by Dar-Benn. Its third act does take place around Earth as it relates to what Dar-Benn wants and what she can get with the quantum band that Kamala has gotten from her grandmother. Yet, the eventual confrontation between Dar-Benn and the Marvels has a lot at stake but it comes with an aftermath which forces Carol to confront her mistakes as well as realize what is more important. Even as it would also play for a couple of key events in one post-credits scene and an ending that would involve something big. Overall, DaCosta crafts a compelling and exciting film about a trio of women with superpowers who team up to save the universe from a Kree extremist who wants to save her home planet by any means necessary.

Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its vibrant usage of colors in the way scenes on Earth and Aladna are shot along with low-level lighting for the scenes in Hala and parts of outer space. Editors Catrin Hedstrom and Evan Schiff do excellent work with the editing with the usage of split-screens, jump-cuts, and other stylish cuts to play into the humor, action, and suspense. Production designer Cara Brower, along with set decorators Jille Azis, Fergus Clegg, and Naomi Moore plus supervising art directors Andrew Bennett, Ben Collins, and Andrew Palmer, does amazing work with the look of the film from the different planets the characters go to as well as the interiors of the S.A.B.E.R. space station, as well as the home of the Khan family. Costume designer Lindsay Pugh does incredible work with the film’s costumes from the suits that the Marvels wear as well as many clothes that the citizens of Aladna wear including a special dress Danvers wears as well as the uniforms the people at S.A.B.E.R. wear.

Hair/makeup designers Sian Wilson and Wakana Yoshihara, along with special makeup effects designer David White, do fantastic work with the many different looks of the alien creatures including the Kree and Skrulls as well as Carol’s own different hairstyle during her time at Aladna. Special effects supervisor David Watkins, along with visual effects supervisor Tara DeMarco and Sarah Eim, does terrific work with the special effects in the way some of the powers from the Marvels are displayed as well as the look of outer space in other parts of the film along with the design of some of the Flerkens that would appear in one of the most hilarious sequences ever on film. Sound designer Tim Nielsen, along with sound editors Addison Teague and Katy Wood, does superb work with the sound in the way Dar-Benn’s weapon sounds when it lands on the ground as well as other sound effects to play into the action and suspense along with some natural sounds for some of the humorous moments in the film.

The film’s music by Laura Karpman is phenomenal for its mixture of orchestral flourishes with Bollywood-inspired pieces as well as themes that are full of bombast along with some somber pieces and choir pieces in which is a key factor for the scenes in Aladna as it is one of the standout cuts in the film’s music score. Music supervisor Dave Jordan creates a fun music soundtrack as it features a diverse array of music from M.I.A., Skrillex with Missy Elliott and Mr. Oizo, the Beastie Boys, James Murphy, a couple of score pieces by John Ottman, and a hilarious usage of Memory sung by Barbra Streisand.

The casting by Sarah Halley Finn is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Leila Farzad and Abraham Popoola as a couple of S.A.B.E.R. officers working directly with Fury, Daniel Ings as the Kree scientist Ty-Rone, Gary Lewis as the Skrull leader Emperor Dro’ge who runs a Skrull colony until he is threatened by Dar-Benn, the cats Nemo and Tango as Carol’s pet Flerken Goose, Lashana Lynch in a flashback scene as Monica’s mother Maria during a memory entanglement with Carol, and Tessa Thompson in a special appearance as Valkyrie who helps Carol out after a serious event involving the Skrulls. The trio of Saagar Shaikh, Mohan Kapur, and Zenobia Shroff as Kamala’s family in their respective roles as her older brother Aamir, father Yusuf, and mother Muneeba are a joy to watch as a family who would have their own dangerous encounter with a couple of Kree soldiers while traveling to space where they help Fury as they add a lot of humor to some of the chaos that occurs in the film. Park Seo-joon is superb in a small role as the Prince of Aladna in Yan as a leader whom Carol knows as he helps out as he provides a lot of charm and humor though it is a very small role that is fun to watch as it needed more of him.

Samuel L. Jackson is great as Nick Fury as the head of S.A.B.E.R. who works closely with Monica while he deals with this new threat to the universe as he also has some funny moments in his encounter with the Khan family as well as Goose where he gets more than he bargains for with what is happening with Goose. Zawe Ashton is excellent as Dar-Benn as the new Kree revolutionary who has a legitimate grudge towards Danvers after witnessing the event that lead to Hala into a civil war as she is determined to save her planet with the help of the Accuser hammer. While it is a character that isn’t fully-fledge in the writing, Ashton does bring in a lot of emotional weight to her performance as someone who is desperate to save her world by destroying other planets.

Finally, there’s the trio of Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, and Iman Vellani in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau, and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. Vellani’s performance as the 16-year old Pakistani high school student from Jersey City is full of delight and charisma as someone who is a total fangirl of Danvers while also is aware of the seriousness of what is happening as she brings in a sense of joy but also someone who knows how to keep everyone together. Parris’ performance as Rambeau, whose late mother was Danvers’ wing-woman in the air force as Danvers was also considered to be her aunt, is full of complexities as someone that isn’t eager to deal with Danvers over some personal issues while is also still trying to figure out her own powers.

Larson’s performance as Danvers is fascinating as someone still trying to regain lost memories but also has become distant in some ways where she also deals with her actions from the past. Larson also displays some humor and wit into the performance as well as facing revelations of her own faults as it relates to Dar-Benn. Larson, Parris, and Vellani together make this tremendous trio that all bring in the best of each other as they are the highlight of the film.

The Marvels is a marvelous film from Nia DaCosta that features a trio of great performances from Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, and Iman Vellani as the titular group. Along with its supporting ensemble cast, colorful visuals, high stakes, its humor, and an exhilarating music soundtrack. It is a film that knows when to not take itself seriously and know when to be serious though the overall results aren’t perfect yet DaCosta does manage to craft an entertaining and engaging film about three ladies saving the universe. In the end, The Marvels is a remarkable film from Nia DaCosta.

Nia DaCosta Films: (Little Woods) – (Candyman (2021 film))

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

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

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

Multiverse Saga: Phase Four: Black Widow (2021 film) - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - Eternals - Spider-Man: No Way Home - Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - Thor: Love and Thunder - Werewolf by Night - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

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

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

© thevoid99 2023

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Vortex (2021 film)

 

Written and directed by Gaspar Noe, Vortex is the story of a couple living out their final days as they deal with various health issues where they begin to drift apart. The film is an experimental psychological drama that explores an elderly couple as they deal with things beyond their control as well as embark on their own individual journeys into the afterlife. Starring Dario Argento, Francoise Lebrun, and Alex Lutz. Vortex is a haunting yet somber film from Gaspar Noe.

The film is the simple story of the final days of an elderly couple as they both cope with health issues as well as their deteriorating conditions along with the fact that they’re drifting apart. It is a film that follows the lives of this couple as they spend their days together with the husband (Dario Argento) is finishing up a book about films and dreams while his wife (Francoise Lebrun) is tending to the home having retired from her work as a psychologist. Yet, a recent event where she was supposed to go to the pharmacy only to get lost at a market raises concerns among other things as it is clear the wife is suffering from dementia while the husband is dealing with heart issues. Adding to the chaos are incidents relating to the wife’s dementia that only makes the husband go into panic mode as their son Stephane (Alex Lutz) would make a few visits with his own son Kiki (Kylian Dheret). Gaspar Noe’s screenplay is largely straightforward in its narrative yet he would do something on a visual level that would make the story far more unconventional.

Noe’s direction opens with the husband and wife having a lunch at their Parisian apartment balcony as they look outside and relax as it then cuts to a performance of Francoise Hardy singing Mon Amie la Rose as it plays into this blissful feel as it is shot on full-frame ratio and it then goes into a 2:40:1 widescreen aspect ratio after 7 minutes where the screen suddenly splits into two. Much of the action that occurs between the couple separately takes place in real time as well as their own individual activities with the husband often talking on the phone to a publisher or lamenting his thoughts on a former lover in Claire (Corrine Bruand). During a moment when he’s on the phone, the wife is crushing pills for some medication for him to take though Stephane suggests that she’s trying to poison him as there’s a lot of ambiguity into what she is doing or does she really know what she’s doing.

Much of Noe’s direction utilizes largely some long shots as well as close-ups and medium shots to maintain a sense of intimacy including a conversation between the husband, wife, and son over an incident involving the oven. It’s a scene that goes on for minutes yet the camera never moves in its two different angles as it is shot on real time where Noe plays into this growing deterioration between the husband and wife. It adds to this minimalist approach that Noe does in order to capture a family coming undone as it is often told through perspective of the husband and wife. In the film’s third act, it also goes into Stephane’s perspective as someone who is struggling raising his own son as well as having his own problems that prevents from being there for his parents. Its third act is expected in what Noe explores in these final days of this couple yet its final images are more startling into a life that was once so vibrant and loving only to deteriorate due to things beyond their control. Overall, Noe crafts a heartbreaking yet intoxicating film about the final days of an elderly couple.

Cinematographer Benoit Debie does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it aims for a naturalistic look for many of its interior settings at night as well as some exterior scenes at night where Debie aims for something straightforward rather than something stylish. Editor Denis Bedlow does amazing work with the editing in its unconventional usage of jump-cuts to help bring some abrupt rhythms to some long shots as well as give the film an offbeat pace in some parts of the film. Production designer Jean Rabasse, with set decorator Nathalie Roubaud and art director Anna Prat, does excellent work with the look of the apartment that the old couple live in that is filled with books, film posters, video tapes, and all sorts of things as it is messy yet is full of life. Costume designer Corrine Burand does terrific work with the costumes as it is largely casual that also include the robes that the elderly couple wears and a few other bits that play into the world they’re in.

Visual effects supervisor Pierre Buffin does nice work with a lot of the film’s minimal visual effects with the scene of the screen splitting into two being a key moment along with a few bits of set-dressing for some of the long shots. Sound editor Ken Yasumoto does superb work with the sound in maintaining a low-key and naturalistic atmosphere in the apartment as well as how music is heard from a stereo or from a location outside of the apartment. Music supervisors Steve Bouyer and Pascal Mayer do wonderful work with the film’s soundtrack that is largely a mix of music ranging from electronic pieces, indie rock cuts, score music from films including a few by Ennio Morricone, and a song from Francoise Hardy as much of the film’s music is presented on location.

The film’s remarkable ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Corrine Bruand as a former lover of the husband whom he meets at a dinner with other writers, Kamel Benchemekh as an attorney that appears late in the film, Nathalie Roubaud as a junkie that Stephane meets, and Kylian Dheret as Stephane’s son Kiki. Alex Lutz is excellent as the son Stephane as a man who is trying to help his parents though he is also someone struggling to maintain his own finances and such as well as doing what he can to help his parents. Finally, there’s the duo of Dario Argento and Francoise Lebrun in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as the unnamed husband and wife. Argento brings this sense of awareness of a man that realizes something isn’t right as well as coping with his own health while Lebrun has this sense of wonderment of a woman who doesn’t know what she is doing as well as having trouble remembering due to her growing dementia. Argento and Lebrun bring in a chemistry that is key to the film as a couple who love each other but are both increasingly ill with the old man dealing with his health and the old woman unsure of who this man is as they are the highlight of the film.

Vortex is a sensational film from Gaspar Noe that features great leading performances from Dario Argento and Francoise Lebrun. Along with its ensemble supporting cast, somber visuals, its minimalist approach to storytelling, and unconventional presentation. It is a film that doesn’t aim for melodrama in favor of something far more eerie in its exploration of a couple’s final days as it also plays into this idea of death looming and there’s no way to avoid it. In the end, Vortex is a phenomenal film from Gaspar Noe.

Gaspar Noe Films: Carne - I Stand Alone - Irreversible - Enter the Void - Love (2015 film) - Climax - (Lux Aeterna) – The Auteurs #48: Gaspar Noe

© thevoid99 2023

Saturday, November 04, 2023

Priscilla (2023 film)

 

Based on the memoir Elvis and Me by Priscilla Presley and Sandra Harmon, Priscilla is the story of the life of the woman who would become the wife of Elvis Presley as she deals with being this object of affection for the King of Rock N’ Roll and later his wife to eventually divorcing him in 1973 in order to find herself. Written and directed for the screen by Sofia Coppola, the film is a bio-pic of sorts that explores the life of this teenage girl stationed in West Germany when she meets Presley as she would later become his wife and mother to their only child while also watch him be lost in the need to be this icon to many as Cailee Spaeny portrays Priscilla Beaulieu and Jacob Elordi as Elvis Presley. Also starring Dagmara Dominczyk, Rodrigo Fernandez Stoll, Raine Monroe Boland, Emily Mitchell, Dan Beirne, Dan Abramovic, R Austin Ball, and Evan Annisette. Priscilla is a rapturous yet evocative film from Sofia Coppola.

From late 1959 the day Priscilla Beaulieu met Elvis Presley at a house party to their divorce in 1973, the relationship between Elvis and Priscilla has always been a fascinating relationship as they were two people who fell in love and wanted a life together. Yet, being the wife of the King of Rock N’ Roll was anything but a fairytale due to the constant demands of Elvis’ career both in music and film as well as an addiction to drugs, affairs with other women, surrounding himself with friends who have nothing better to do with lives, and Colonel Tom Parker’s iron grip into controlling many aspects of Presley’s career and personal life. For Priscilla, it was a tumultuous life as she is forced to watch from afar reading tabloids about Elvis’ affairs and not being allowed to have a say into his career and such. What Sofia Coppola does isn’t just showcase the rollercoaster relationship between Elvis and Priscilla but also show it from the perspective of the latter from the night they met when she was only 14 and he was 24 years old at the time.

Coppola’s screenplay does follow a straightforward narrative yet it doesn’t aim for anything conventional in playing into this relationship between this young girl whose stepfather in Captain Beaulieu (Ari Cohen) is stationed in West Germany where an air force officer offers Priscilla to come to a party to meet Elvis. It is in that party where this 14-year old military brat meets Elvis who is stationed in West Germany due to the draft as he is happy to meet someone younger who is from America. Though the idea of a 14-year old girl and a 24-year old man is definitely a bad idea for its time then and now. The fact that these are two young Americans who connect because they’re homesick while Elvis is also still grieving the loss of his mother while Priscilla definitely acts a lot more mature than most young girls. Another aspect of Presley that is unique is that he does ask the permission of Captain Beaulieu and Priscilla’s mother Ann (Dagmara Dominczyk) as he doesn’t force himself upon Priscilla as well as being gentlemanly towards her. There is a structure to the script as its first act is set from 1959 to the early 1960s when Priscilla arrives at Graceland and eventually moves there though Elvis is on-off at the house.

Its second act plays into their life at Graceland but also Priscilla changing her look to please Elvis as well as other things that proved to be chaotic and it lead to their wedding in 1967 that would be followed by the birth of their only daughter Lisa Marie. The third act is about the events afterwards as well as the dissolution of their marriage. Yet, it is largely told through Priscilla’s perspective as she is welcomed to Graceland with the love and care of people but it is also shielded from knowing things about Elvis’ business and providing any input into his career and such. The one time Elvis asks for her opinion on the songs he’s given, she is met with a near violent moment that Elvis quickly apologizes for. Coppola does showcase Presley as a seriously flawed individual who is also trying to create a fantasy of the life he would want with Priscilla but the demands of his career eventually would take a toll on everything. Especially for the fact that Priscilla is someone that wants to be there for him but he keeps pushing away to the point that she would find herself as well as make a decision about their lives.

Coppola’s direction definitely echoes a lot of the visual style she’s known for in terms of not just the compositions she creates as well as this sugar-coated, candy-colored atmosphere that the titular character lives in. It’s also in the fact that it is a film that is about a young woman trying to connect with this iconic figure in who he really is other than what the world sees him. Shot largely on location in Toronto due to budgetary constraints with some second unit work at Memphis, Tennessee for the exteriors of the Presley home known as Graceland. Coppola aims for a minimalist visual approach as it is shot largely on digital with some 8mm film footage relating to home moves that Elvis and Priscilla had shot during their marriage. There are some wide shots in the film including scenes in and out of Graceland including a shot of Elvis leaving to go on tour as the shot becomes a wider shot of Priscilla and Lisa Marie waving bye to Elvis. Yet, much of Coppola’s direction is intimate with the usage of medium shots and close-ups as the film opens with images of objects on the floor including a young Lisa Marie with painted toe nails.

Graceland is a major character in the film as it is this home that is idyllic in some respects with its lavish bedrooms, large dining rooms, big living rooms, and an office where a couple of women run Elvis’ fan club that intrigues Priscilla as she wants to help but Elvis’ father Vernon (Tim Post) says no. For all of its beauty from within, Graceland is also this place that is suffocating where not a lot happens whenever Elvis isn’t at home as it add to this sense of isolation and disconnect that Priscilla deals with. Notably as she can’t bring outsiders to Graceland including classmates at a Memphis Catholic high school that she attends for her senior year while whatever time she has with Elvis on a social level. However, that would include the Memphis Mafia and whatever girlfriends they’re with as a lot of them are in their 20s going into their 30s with Priscilla not even reaching 18 at that point as she would later marry Elvis at the age of 21 and lose her virginity to him at that time. Coppola plays into this sense of isolation that Priscilla goes through while her time with Elvis is a rollercoaster as he could be the sweetest person in the world but he is also a child sometimes and would do things that does make him a horrible person. Still, Coppola’s treatment of Elvis isn’t to make him a monster but rather a flawed individual who is caught in a world that demands so much from him while he does little for his life at home.

The film’s third act has Coppola not only playing with structure as it begins with Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding and the birth of Lisa Marie but also this major shift in their lives following Elvis’ 1968 TV comeback special. Whereas much of the film’s first two acts play things out slowly, things become much faster in the third act due to Elvis going on the road and doing shows in Vegas as there’s few glimpses of Elvis performing with Priscilla watching from afar and being a mother as she also to deal with tabloids about his supposed affairs. There is this sense of burnout that Priscilla goes through but also it is where she begins to find herself from the shadows of Elvis as she also sees up close of the world he is in that he cannot escape. Coppola’s approach to the ending is more about the decision that Priscilla makes for herself and Lisa Marie but also a decision that would play into Elvis’ own demise. Overall, Coppola crafts a ravishing and compelling film about the life of a young woman who would become the wife of the King of Rock N’ Roll.

Cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd does incredible work with the film’s luscious cinematography with its emphasis on low-key lighting for many of the film’s daytime/nighttime interior scenes including some soft lighting for some scenes in Graceland as there’s a lot of low-key colors and soft lighting that play into the atmosphere with some low-key yet natural lighting for some of exterior scenes except in the scenes set in California. Editor Sarah Flack does brilliant work with the editing as it has this sense of fluidity in its montages but also in some stylish jump-cuts that add to the sense of energy in the film as well as some straight cuts that allow shots to linger for a bit. Production designer Tamara Deverell, with set decorator Patricia Cuccia and art director Danny Haeberlin, does amazing work with the look of the homes in West Germany that Elvis and Priscilla were living in as well as the many interiors for the rooms in Graceland. Costume designer Stacey Battat does excellent work with the costumes in many dresses and clothes that Priscilla would wear throughout the years as well as some clothes that Elvis wears which were designed from Valentino.

Hair designer Cliona Furey and makeup designer Jo-Ann MacNeil do fantastic work with the look of Priscilla in different periods of her life from the natural, girlish look in Germany and her early days in Graceland to the black hair and makeup during the film’s second act to a more subdued, naturalistic look towards the end of her marriage towards Elvis. Special effects supervisors Michael Innanen and Simone Quinlan, along with visual effects supervisors Kayla Cabral and Brannek Gaudet, do terrific work with some of the film’s visual dressing in some scenes including some exteriors in Las Vegas as well a key scene where Elvis and Priscilla try LSD for the first time. Sound designer Stephen Barden and sound editor Nelson Ferreira do superb work with the sound in the way gunshots sound on a location or how music is heard from afar as the atmosphere in the sound help play into the world that Priscilla is in.

The film’s music soundtrack that is supervised by the band Phoenix, along with Randall Poster, doesn’t feature any actual music by Elvis Presley other than a few performances by noted Elvis impersonators due to rights issues. Instead, Phoenix and Poster create a soundtrack that is intentionally anachronistic yet it somehow adds to the mood of the film as the soundtrack features some original score music by Sons of Raphael that include instrumental takes on some of the songs that are made famous by Presley. Along with music from that period such as Frankie Avalon, Brenda Lee, T.L. Barrett and the Youth Choir Chorus, the Little Dippers, the Soul Stirrers, Speedy West, the Orlons, and the Righteous Brothers. Some of the anachronistic music include a cover of the Ronettes’ Baby I Love You by the Ramones as well as music from Tommy James and the Shondells, Santana, and Alice Coltrane. There’s also some indie-rock/electronic-based music by Spectrum, Porches, Dan Deacon, and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith as well as some instrumental covers of songs from the 1950s/1960s by David Mansfield as well as a song by Dolly Parton as the film’s soundtrack is a major highlight of the film.

The casting by Courtney Bright, John Buchan, Nicole Daniels, and Jason Knight is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Daniel Lipka as Priscilla’s younger half-brother Don, Evan Annisette as Elvis and Priscilla’s karate instructor Mike Stone, Olivia Barrett as Elvis’ cook Alberta, Lynne Griffin as Elvis’ grandmother Dodger, Luke Humphrey as the air force officer Terry West who introduces Priscilla to Elvis, Deanna Jarvis as West’s wife, the duo of Raine Monroe Boland and Emily Mitchell in their respective roles as the 3-year old and 5-year old versions of Lisa Marie Presley, R Austin Ball as Elvis’ spiritual advisor Larry Geller who tried to introduce Elvis to Eastern philosophies, and Tim Post as Elvis’ father Vernon who shields Priscilla from aspects relating to his son’s business affairs. Ari Cohen and Dagmara Dominczyk are superb in their respective roles as Priscilla’s stepfather Captain Paul Beaulieu and mother Ann Beaulieu with the former hesitant for Priscilla to go out with Elvis while the latter is a little more open upon realizing that Elvis has honorable intentions.

In roles of members of the Memphis Mafia, the performances of Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, Dan Beirne, and Dan Abramovic in their respective roles of Alan “Hog Ears”, road manager Joseph Esposito, and talent agent Jerry Schilling as Elvis’ close friends who are fond of Priscilla while also helping Elvis out with everything that he needed. Jacob Elordi is incredible as Elvis Presley as Elordi captures the voice of Elvis as well as someone who is vulnerable due to the loss of his mother and the need to be with someone as pure as Priscilla. Elordi also brings in that sense of anger and anguish as a man who loves Priscilla but he also succumbs to his vices as well as the demands of a career that takes away from things that are really important to him.

Finally, there’s Cailee Spaeny in an outstanding leading performance as the titular character as she showcases nearly 15 years of Priscilla’s life from being a teenage girl to being a woman where Spaeny showcases the complexities of her character as well as someone who goes from being this love struck teenager to a woman that feels neglected, lost, and trapped in a world that expects a lot. It is a true break-out performance for Spaeny as she displays not just someone who is full of innocence early on but also someone who also gets frustrated as well as eventually finding her own voice in her role as a wife and mother. Spaeny and Elordi do have amazing chemistry as this couple who are considered royalty in American popular culture in the way they’re fond of each other but also play into the events that would cause their dissolution.

Priscilla is a spectacular film from Sofia Coppola that features a magnificent break-out performance from Cailee Spaeny. Along with an amazing supporting turn from Jacob Elordi as Elvis along with its ensemble cast, riveting character study, luscious visuals, and an incredible music soundtrack. It is a film that doesn’t play by the rules in exploring the life of a woman who is married to the King of Rock N’ Roll but also a study of a rollercoaster life in which a woman is a spectator while also yearning to connect with her husband and herself. In the end, Priscilla is a tremendous film from Sofia Coppola.

Sofia Coppola Films: Lick the Star - The Virgin Suicides - Lost in Translation - Marie Antoinette - Somewhere - The Bling Ring - A Very Murray Christmas - The Beguiled (2017 film) - On the Rocks

Sofia Coppola Soundtracks: Air-The Virgin Suicides OST - The Virgin Suicides OST - Lost in Translation OST - Marie Antoinette OST - (The Bling Ring OST) – (Priscilla OST)

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