Sunday, March 31, 2024

Films That I Saw: March 2024


Spring has arrived yet it still feels like winter in some respects as it’s cold here in Georgia while my dreaded enemy in pollen has also arrived but thank goodness for rain. Yet, the world remains fucked up as Haiti is a state of civil unrest due to gang warfare while the continuous conflict between Israel and Gaza has definitely gotten more chaotic as I’m now getting the idea that history will not look very fondly on the former. Say what you want about the actions of Hamas in Gaza but Israel’s actions under Benjamin Netanyahu however has not given them a lot of supporters. Once again, there’s no winners in this conflict as I think the best solution for the U.S. is to just stay away and don’t get involved.

I do believe that reading the news is the best way to keep in touch with what is happening with the world though I don’t like to read too much of it as not having CNN or any news network is one of the great things into why I’m glad to be rid of cable. I just read what I can get and hopefully get some facts as I’m reading about what happened in Baltimore as the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed due to a collision as it got hit by a container ship. Why was there a ship on that river and how did it lose control? I hate reading shit like this as I know people probably have died and such as that is sad but it makes me wonder why these things happen.

Getting in touch with what is happening does keep me grounded but it also frustrates me which is why I choose to watch other things as I’m grateful for YouTube channels such as Kim Justice’s Wrestling Road as it’s a channel I’ve been obsessed with. It teaches me about the history of Japanese pro wrestling as well as a look into All Japan Pro Wrestling’s glory years in the 1980s and 1990s with the latter decade having four of its best wrestlers known as the Four Pillars of Heaven in Toshiaki Kawada, Kenta Kobashi, Akira Taue, and the late, great Mitsuharu Misawa. I also learn a lot about that period as well as why the company fell apart following the death of their founder in Giant Baba that led to a company exodus in 2000 led by Misawa and many others as they would form Pro Wrestling Noah which would help pro wrestling in Japan during the 2000s as it was a dark time with AJPW losing their TV deal and a lot of interest while New Japan Pro Wrestling was in a decline due to founder Antonio Inoki’s interest in MMA and trying to fuse with pro wrestling with disastrous results in a period known as Inokism.

I like watching stuff like that as I also discovered a video about the controversial casting of Sofia Coppola in The Godfather Part III and it was shocking as I was fucking pissed over one critic who called her “homely” as I wanted access to the nuclear codes and nuke that motherfucker. It was a very compelling video into what Francis Ford Coppola was thinking but also a look into Sofia’s time as an actress but only in very small parts in films for her dad. She was casted into that film without warning and preparation as it was last minute as she was absolutely out of her element to the point that her aunt Talia Shire begged Francis to pull out of the film knowing she wasn’t right for the part and trying to protect her niece. It also showed into Francis Ford Coppola’s mental and emotional state at the time he was making the film as he was still reeling from the loss of his son Gian-Carlo a few years ago as the video also made insight into why he collaborated with Sofia in writing Life Without Zoe for the 1989 anthology film New York Stories as it’s a segment that really serves more as a preview of the kind of films Sofia would make.
In the month of March 2024, I saw a total of 33 films 23 first-timers and 10 re-watches with 9 of those first-timers being films directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. A solid month as there was a lot of good things to see with one of the highlights of the month has been my Blind Spot choice in Mikey and Nicky. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for March 2024:

1. That Most Important Thing: Love
2. Dune-Part Two
3. Phoenix
4. Two Ships
5. Joy Street
6. 20 Days in Mariupol
7. Asparagus
8. Medicine for Melancholy
9. 27
10. Jefferson Circus Songs
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’m Watching

The Voyeurs
Sydney Sweeney is white-hot right now due to the success of Anyone But You, getting good reviews for her most recent film Immaculate, surviving the shit-storm that was Madame Web, and being a funny host on Saturday Night Live recently. In her first collaboration with Immaculate director Michael Mohan comes this film that she did a few years ago as it’s not a great film but it does have some nice moments. Even as it doesn’t require a lot of expectations for anyone wanting a nice erotic drama despite some of the flimsy elements in the plot and its twist in its third act. Of the four main actors, Ben Hardy is definitely the weakest link in the film as he’s just bland while Justice Smith as Sweeney’s husband and Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Hardy’s wife definitely pull in some strong performances. Yet, it is Sweeney that is the star of the film as she does provide a lot of wit and depth into her character while also has a funny moment as it relates to the fact that she does go nude in the film as she says, “yeah, those are my tits” in a deadpan reaction.

Au Revoir Chris Hemsworth

From Simon Pegg and Pom Klementieff is a music video of sorts directed by the former yet is sung by the latter as a challenge towards Chris Hemsworth as part of a fantasy league competition. Singing a song by Serge Gainsbourg, Klementieff brings in a lot of personality and charm while also revealing the people in her fantasy league team in Pegg as well as a couple of co-stars from the most recent Mission: Impossible film.

I Am the Beauty of Your Beauty, I Am the Fear of Your Fear

The 27th entry in Miu Miu’s Women’s Tales anthology short film series is from Tan Chui Mui as it explores a group of women including a Chinese woman who are in Malaysia as they deal with their issues as they get ready to take part in an underground fight. Many of the women in the short would wear these Miu Miu track suits as they all look good in them while also proving to be fucking badasses as it is definitely another winner in the film series.

Lost Girls & Lost Hotels
If I do have a bucket list, going to Tokyo would be one of them as it is hard to make that place look bad. Sadly, the only thing film has going for it is its cinematography and that is it as it’s just a fucking dull erotic drama that doesn’t really have a lot of sexiness. It had a decent premise on paper in this story of an American woman trying to teach budding Japanese stewardesses in how to speak English as well as take part in having sex with men in these love hotels. Yet, it never really does anything as Alexandra Daddario suffers from many of the script’s shortcomings as does her co-star in Takehiro Hira who plays a Yakuza member as he is given little to do. The film also wastes Carice Van Houten as a European visitor who does nothing but get drunk and parties as the film also suffers from its soundtrack as it’s barely audible at times.

One of several shorts that I saw on MUBI is an animated short by Flora Anna Buda as it plays into the anxieties of adulthood as it plays into a woman who has just turned 27. It is a film that really plays into this woman trying to find some connection whether it is emotional or sexual. It is a film filled with wondrous animation as it showcases the many difficulties in becoming an adult as it is a short that people need to see.

Jefferson Circus Songs
One of the seven short films that is part of a retrospective for animator Suzan Pitt from MUBI is this strange mixture of animation and live stop-motion animation. Notably as it plays into a woman riding on a train as she watches kids perform in a circus as it is this weird collage of sorts where children are in loop in this live action presentation while it is the animation that is watching the live action. It is truly a marvel to watch.

The 2nd of four shorts that I saw from Suzan Pitt on MUBI revolves around a couple ready to have sex while there are all of these things happening. Even as their child would interrupt them wanting some water as there are things floating around this couple while they’re fucking. It’s not a short for children to watch but the animation is so full of imagination.

The Spider Within

From Sony Animation and Jarelle Dampier is this seven-minute short made last year as it was meant to be a prequel short to Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse as it plays into Miles Morales’ growing anxieties in not just being Spider-Man but also as himself. It plays into this kid just dealing with so much and having a hard time talking about this even though his dad is at the apartment who is concerned and is offering to help. It’s an excellent short film that fans of the animated film series should see.

Two Ships
Having just won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with her husband/co-writer Arthur Harari, Justine Triet is definitely hot right now as three of feature films are currently streaming on MUBI with Anatomy of a Fall now available on Hulu as I’m planning to do a mini-marathon of her films. This 31-minute short film from 2012 that she made is proof that she is for real as it something anyone interested in her work should see. It revolves around an artist who is broke who goes to a party where he meets a struggling actress who is also going through personal issues as they connect through their mutual personal issues with their families. The performances of Laetitia Dosch and Thomas Levy-Lasne are phenomenal as well as music soundtrack that sounds similar to Kraftwerk as it’s a must-see.

The third of the four shorts on MUBI that I saw from Suzan Pitt is among one of her best in this 17-minute opus as it plays into a woman’s world as it is abstract in its imagery while also showing a sense of identity that is quite liberating. Even as the images of asparagus add to this visual tone as there are moments that is definitely not for kids. From some of the opening minutes to the film to some of its final moments. Still, this is truly a short that many need to see.

Whitney Commercial

Another piece from Suzan Pitt though it’s not on MUBI is a surreal animated commercial that revolves around a machine asking for donation to the Whitney Museum. This 3-minute short is filled with wondrous editing in the way it plays into the demand for donations as it’s another winner from Pitt.

Joy Street
The fourth and final short of Pitt that I saw on MUBI is probably her best one that I’ve seen so far as there’s only 3 more to watch I will see next month. This 24-minute piece revolves around a woman’s despair as she does a suicide attempt while a mouse from her ashtray comes to life and bring her back to life. It is filled with all of these dazzling images and a fun jazz-like soundtrack by Roy Nathanson that features a closing song sung by Debbie Harry. It is definitely a great short to watch as it Suzan Pitt is truly a filmmaker worth seeking out.

Dark Side of the Ring (season 5 episodes 1-4)
The fifth season of Vice’s documentary series on pro wrestling returns with more new subjects with five more coming in April and one more in May on the infamous incident known as Black Saturday. The two episodes on John “Earthquake” Tenta and Terry “Bam-Bam” Gordy are definitely among the saddest as these are two men who have both died through tragic circumstances. Tenta was famous for his work in the early 1990s in WWE while also gained the respect of many in the industry during a wrestling match in Japan in 1991 when Koji Kitao tried to shoot on Tenta who wouldn’t take any of Kitao’s bullshit as the event would prove to be disgraceful on Kitao. Tenta was known as a good man who would tragically die of cancer while Gordy’s story was equally as sad as someone who was a devoted family man but also loved to party as he was part of the Fabulous Freebirds with Michael “P.S.” Hayes and Buddy Roberts in the 1980s while going to All Japan Pro Wrestling in the early 1990s with a lot of success both as a singles wrestler and as a tag wrestler with his partnership with “Dr. Death” Steve Williams being the best as they were dominant. Then in 1993, Gordy’s life changed when he nearly died of an overdose on a flight to Japan as he was never the same wrestler as he would later die in 2001.

The other two episodes are less tragic though the most recent one on Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake did have its share of tragedy as it relates to the moment in 1990 when his face was smashed into pieces because of a parasailing accident. His face would be repaired yet his career struggled through the 1990s despite his close friendship with Hulk Hogan but Beefcake revealed that he and Hogan lost money in the early 2000s which affected Beefcake while the two later had a falling out in the late 2000s/early 2010s as Hogan didn’t like Beefcake’s wife. Then there’s the episode on Marcus Alexander Bagwell aka Buff Bagwell as it is the most entertaining with a lot of what the fuck moments.

Bagwell isn’t a bad person but he’s also full of shit as he was a star in WCW in the 1990s due to the people he was associated with as he was also part of the now faction in the late 1990s. Yet, his wrestling career wasn’t the same in 1998 after a tag match in which his neck broke during a botched move from Rick Steiner as he could’ve become a sympathetic babyface only to remain a heel. It is entertaining although there were things I wish I didn’t need to hear including a story about what former WCW referee saw involving Bagwell’s mother Judy in what she was doing for her son.

Top 10 Re-Watches

1. Manchester by the Sea
2. Young Adult
3. Lick the Star
4. Fernando Nation
5. Black Book
6. Romeo & Juliet
7. Luca
8. Nimic
9. A Pure Spirit
10 The Princess and the Frog
Well, that is all for March. Next month, there will be a focus on films by Justine Triet and Mia Hansen-Love as well as whatever stuff I have pre-written for review. My Blind Spot film choice for next month will be Greed as it is available on YouTube for free as it now on public domain. As for theatrical releases, I’m not sure what I’ll watch though Civil War might be the most likely film I’ll see as there hasn’t been a lot of films I’m eager to see other than films by noted auteurs as I kind of prefer to stay home.

Before I bid adieu, I want to express my condolences on those who passed this month in such noted individuals such as Eric Carmen, Louis Gossett Jr., M. Emmet Walsh, songwriter Mark Spiro, casting director Dianne Crittenden, Fairport Convention/Jethro Tull/Cat Stevens percussionist Gerry Conway, sculptor Katsura Funakoshi, film producer Paula Weinstein, Ron Harper, Steve Harley, screenwriter David Seidler, Emmet Bergin, John Blunt of the Searchers, Robyn Bernard, Karl Wallinger of World Party & the Waterboys, Steve Lawrence, Chance Perdomo and Akira Toriyama. We will miss you all. This is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2024

Sunday, March 24, 2024

That Most Important Thing: Love


Based on the novel La nuit americaine (Day for Night) by Christopher Frank, L’important c’est d’aimer (That Most Important Thing: Love) is the story of a B-movie actress who falls in love with a photographer despite the fact that she’s married as they keep their feelings for one another amidst the chaotic scene that is show business in France. Directed by Andrzej Zulawski and screenplay by Zulawski and Frank, the film is an exploration of a love affair as they try to do something together amidst many obstacles including her husband. Starring Romy Schneider, Fabio Testi, Jacques Dutronc, Claude Dauphin, Roger Blin, Michel Robin, and Klaus Kinski. L’important c’est d’aimer is a gripping and evocative film from Andrezj Zulawski.

The film revolves around a photographer who crashes into a softcore porn film set where he catches the eye of its star as they would long for each other even though she is married to a photo collector whom she’s morally obligated to as she is given a chance to be in a play. It is a film that doesn’t have much of a plot as it’s more about two people in the entertainment industry who are both at a point where they’re unsatisfied and want to do something great. The film’s screenplay by Andrezj Zulawski and its original author Christopher Frank is largely straightforward in its narrative yet it is more about this idea of love as it relates to these two people who are in love with each other but can’t really express it as they have obligations to other things and other people. The photographer Servais Mont (Fabio Testi) would crash a film set to get some photos while he makes money shooting pornography for his benefactor Mazelli (Claude Dauphin) while tending to his father (Roger Blin) who doesn’t have a home as well as visit his mentor Raymond Lapade (Michel Robin) who is dealing with his ailing health.

Upon meeting the B-movie actress Nadine Chevalier (Romy Schneider) whose career has waned to the point that she’s doing softcore porn films is fascinated by Mont and his photography as she is eager to do something other than the movies she’s making for money as well as to fund the photography collection of her husband Jacques (Jacques Dutronc). Mont meets up with the German actor Karl-Heinz Zimmer (Klaus Kinski) and a play director in Laurent Messala (Guy Mairesse) in creating an adaptation of Richard III from a script by Lapade as Mont would give them the money he borrowed from Mazelli in the hopes it would revive Nadine’s career as long as no one knows where the money came from. Yet Jacques would notice something as well as it would play into some troubling events as well as revelations towards his wife and her feelings for Mont.

Zulawski’s direction is stylish in the way he captures the sense of melodrama between two people as it is shot on location in Paris though Zulawski chooses to avoid many of the city’s landmarks. While there are some wide shots in the film, much of Zulawski’s direction involve some unique tracking and hand-held camera shots with a lot of emphasis on intimacy through the close-ups and medium shots. Notably in scenes in hallways as well as restaurants, cafes, and other places where there is this sense of energy that is happening but also a lot of chaos. It also plays into this world of art as Nadine and Jacques’ bedroom is filled with film posters and film memorabilia though there’s no bed except for a mattress on the floor. Zulawski also plays into this world that is also full of debauchery as the pornography that Mont shoots isn’t just filled with a lot of homosexuality but also things that push him to the edge as he ponders if there’s any kind of infatuation or emotion involved in these sexual exploits he’s watching. In Nadine, Mont sees someone who isn’t that kind of extreme but a woman that is desperately need to be loved although Jacques does treat her well.

Zulawski would also play into this unconventional presentation of Richard III that features samurai costumes with Zimmer being this charismatic and intense figure who would help Nadine. Yet, the response to this play isn’t what anyone expects as it leads to this third act where a lot of emotions come into play. Notably as Zulawski’s compositions become more and more invasive to see Mont, Nadine, and Jacques unravel in some way with those associated also realizing their own sense of futility. Even as Mont becomes distant following some personal losses as well as realizing Jacques’ own intentions in relation to Nadine as she becomes this prize for these two men yet neither are interested as she has become troubled over what has happened while also believing that love doesn’t exist. Still, Zulawski would play into this sense of melodrama that looms throughout as it plays into these people who are entangled into a world of desire in both the personal and emotional. Overall, Zulawski crafts a rapturous and exhilarating film about a photographer’s infatuation with a fading B-movie actress.

Cinematographer Ricardo Aronovich does amazing work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on heightened lighting in some scenes to play into the look of a photo shoot or a film set as well as some colorful yet natural lighting for many of the film’s interior settings. Editor Christiane Lack does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a rhythmic cuts while along shots to linger and only cut for dramatic effect. Production designer Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko does brilliant work with the look of the homes of Mont and the Chevaliers as well as the look of some of the photo sets as well as the theater presentation. Costume designer Catherine Leterrier does fantastic work with the costumes as a lot of it is casual with the exception of the flamboyant clothes that Zimmer wears as well as the stylish dresses that Nadine wears.

Makeup artists Didier Lavergne and Massimo De Rossi, along with hairstylist Jean-Max Guerin, do nice work with some of the makeup that the characters wear whether it was for the play or to play into their flamboyance personalities. The sound work of Jean Neny, Maurice Laumain, and Jacques Gerardot is terrific as it is largely straightforward as it plays into the natural atmosphere of the locations as well as how cafes sound when it is busy. The film’s music by Georges Delerue is phenomenal for its soaring orchestral score filled with themes that play into the drama with its usage of string arrangements that also add to the sense of longing and melodrama as it is an absolute highlight of the film.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Nicoletta Machiavelli as Lapade’s wife Luce, Katia Tchenko as a whore that is part of Mazelli’s pornographic presentations, Jacques Boudet as a friend of Jacques in Robert Beninge, Gabrielle Doulcet as Mazelli’s wife who is fond of Mont, Guy Mairesse as the play director Laurent Messala who is a flamboyant individual that had unconventional ideas for the play, Roger Blin as Mont’s father who crashes at his son’s home as he laments over his own failures in life, and Michel Robin in a superb performance as Mont’s mentor in writer Raymond Lapade who wrote an adaptation for Richard III while dealing with his ailing health. Claude Dauphin is excellent as Mazelli as Mont’s benefactor who also makes Mont shoot pornographic photos for his own joy as well as be this slimy figure that likes to run things as if it’s a criminal organization with some awful people.

Klaus Kinski is incredible as Karl-Heinz Zimmer as this once revered actor desperate to have a comeback as he also helps out Nadine as Kinski is this intense figure who is openly bisexual as well as be someone who refuses to take criticism as it is one of his finest performances. Jacques Dutronc is brilliant as Jacques Chevalier as a photo collector that is hoping to get some financial opportunities in his wife’s attempted comeback as he is this eccentric individual who is quite funny at times but is also ruthless whenever things don’t go his way as it is this offbeat yet engaging performance. Fabio Testi is amazing as Servais Mont as this photographer who is tired of shooting pornography as he falls for Nadine while funding a play in the hope he can revive her career from afar while still be infatuated with her. Finally, there’s Romy Schneider in a sensational performance as Nadine Chevalier as this once-revered actress now doing B-movies and softcore porn films as she deals with a fading career but also her feelings for Mont but also loyalty towards Jacques as there is this sense of anguish and angst as it is truly one of her most defining performances in her illustrious career.

L’important c’est d’aimer is an outstanding film from Andrezj Zulawski that features a spectacular leading performance from Romy Schneider. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, its study of longing and passion, and Georges Delerue’s intoxicating music score. It is a film that explores two people at a point in their lives and career who want to move forward while also longing for one another despite the turmoil around them. In the end, L’important c’est d’aimer is a magnificent film from Andrezj Zulawski.

Andrzej Zulawski Films: (The Third Part of the Night) – (The Devil (1972 film)) – Possession (1981 film) - (The Public Woman) – (L’Amour braque) – (On the Silver Globe) – (My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days) – (Boris Godunov) – (The Blue Note (1991 film) - (Szamanka) – (Fidelity) – (Cosmos (2015 film))

© thevoid99 2024

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

2024 Blind Spot Series: Mikey and Nicky


(In Memory of M. Emmet Walsh 1935-2024)
Written and directed by Elaine May, Mikey and Nicky is the story of two small-time mobsters who have become estranged as one of them is hiding from a boss after stealing money as he seeks the help of his estranged friend. The film is a crime drama that explores two former friends who deal with their estrangement as well as the trouble they’re both in as it is told in the span of one entire night as the titular characters of Mikey and Nicky are played respectively by Peter Falk and John Cassavetes. Also starring Ned Beatty, Rose Arrick, Carol Grace, William Hickey, Sanford Meisner, M. Emmet Walsh, and Joyce Van Patten. Mikey and Nicky is a gripping and rapturous film from Elaine May.

Set in Philadelphia in the span of an entire night, the film follows a small-time mobster who calls his estranged best friend for help after being in hiding over a theft as he’s also pursued by a hitman. It is a film that is about male friendship between two lifelong friends as they spend an entire night on the run from a hitman while trying assess the situation created by one of them who has become paranoid and unruly. Elaine May’s screenplay is largely straightforward as it is told in the span of 12 hours where Nicky is hiding in a hotel as he knows there’s a contract for his head as he’s stolen money that left someone dead as the boss Dave Resnick (Sanford Meisner) wants Nicky dead with the hitman Kinney (Ned Beatty) in pursuit. Mikey gets the call from Nicky after years of not getting anything from him as he tries to help yet the two would go on the run throughout the city as they also cope with their estrangement as Nicky acts erratic as well as changing plans much to Mikey’s frustrations for much of the night.

May’s direction is quite unique for the fact that much of the film is shot at night and has a looseness in the way she approaches a crime film involving two men who are on the run. Shot on location in Philadelphia as well as Los Angeles, May creates a film that is filled with tension as it plays into these two estranged men who both have families yet Mikey is the one that is devoted as he would call his wife Annie (Rose Arrick) a few times telling her that he’ll be late as she knows something is up. There are some wide shots that May would create to play into the tension and looseness as much of the dialogue feels improvised. Yet, May chooses to be more intimate in the way the titular characters interact with one another through medium shots and some close-ups that includes scenes of Kinney waiting in a car to do his job.

May also plays into this sense of chaos that Nicky would put Mikey through such as a meeting with a hooker in Nellie (Carol Grace) whom Nicky treats terribly and convinces Mikey to try and have sex with her. It is among these dark moments in the film that would lead to its third act as it shows why these two men have been estranged with Nicky becoming more erratic and abusive despite the seriousness of his situation. May also infuse some humor as well as dark humor in how Nicky reacts to things as well as to liven things up as it would be this distraction of him avoiding the issues he is facing. The film’s third act is definitely filled with a lot of dramatic suspense with Mikey making a decision for himself as it also plays into this ending that not surprising but heartbreaking. Overall, May crafts a compelling and riveting film about two estranged friends who are on the run from a hitman as they deal with their estrangement and the severity of their actions.

Cinematographer Victor J. Kemper, with additional work from Lucien Ballard, Bernie Abramson, Jack Cooperman, and Jerry File, does excellent work with the film’s cinematography for using low-key lights for many of the exterior scenes at night as well as some stylish lighting with Ballard bringing a softer look for the film’s final sequence. Editor John Carter, with additional work by Sheldon Kahn, does nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward that does include some rhythmic cuts to play into the dark humor and suspense. Production designer Paul Sylbert and set decorator John P. Austin do brilliant work with the look of Nell’s home as well as the home where Mikey lives with his family and a few places they go to.

The sound work of Christopher Newman and Larry Jost is terrific for the sound as it is largely straightforward in the way music is played in a bar or the way things sound from afar or up-close outside in the streets. The film’s music by John Strauss is wonderful for its jazz-like score that plays into the drama and suspense while its soundtrack include music from the O-Jays, the Andrew Sisters, and standards performed by Strauss.

The film’s superb ensemble cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from M. Emmet Walsh as a bus driver who gets into a fight with Nicky, Sy Travers as a hotel clerk, Danny Klein as Mikey’s young son Harry, Virginia Smith as Nicky’s mother-in-law, William Hickey as a mob figure in Sid Fine, Sanford Meisner as the mob boss Dave Resnick whose money was stolen by Nicky, Rose Arrick as Mikey’s wife Annie who would learn more about Nicky and Mikey’s issues with him, and Joyce Van Patten in a fantastic one-scene performance as Nicky’s estranged wife Jan who reluctantly helps Nicky despite her disdain for him over his erratic behavior and lack of remorse for his own actions. Carol Grace is excellent as Nellie as a prostitute who is a lover of Nicky yet proves to be far more engaging in the view of Mikey as she is treated horribly by Nicky who only wants her for sex and to slap around.

Ned Beatty is amazing as the hitman Kinney as a man who goes on the pursuit of Nicky as he becomes frustrated in his search and having to wait around as he drives throughout the city as it is a bit of a comical performance but also dark in what he had to do. Finally, there’s the duo of Peter Falk and John Cassavetes in great performances in their respective roles as the titular characters. Falk as the more sensible Mikey is someone that is respectful as he tries to help Nicky yet is constantly frustrated while is put into situations that get him into trouble as he would be pushed to the edge. Cassavetes’ performance as Nicky is a lot more energetic to convey the paranoia and erratic behavior as a man that knows he’s going to be killed as he tries to kill time in order to avoid Kinney. Falk and Cassavetes together have a unique chemistry in the way they play off one another with Falk being the straight man and Cassavetes being the wilder of the two as they also have a looseness into their performances as they are a major highlight of the film.

Mikey and Nicky is a phenomenal film from Elaine May that features tremendous leading performances from Peter Falk and John Cassavetes. Along with its supporting cast, gritty visuals, its exploration of male friendship, and a fun music soundtrack. It is a crime drama that doesn’t play by the conventions while also exploring a man facing death and his friend to save him despite his many frustrations towards him. In the end, Mikey and Nicky is a sensational film from Elaine May.

Elaine May Films: (A New Leaf) – (The Heartbreak Kid) – (Ishtar) – (Mike Nichols: American Master)

© thevoid99 2024

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Dune-Part Two


Based on the novel by Frank Herbert, Dune-Part Two is the sequel to the 2021 film adaptation that follows Paul Atrides forming an alliance with the Fremen along with his mother and others from House Atrides to fight back against the forces of House of Harkonnen for the control of the planet Arrakis while there is some scheming behind the scenes from political forces in the universe. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and screenplay by Villeneuve and Jon Spaihts, the film follows the second part of Herbert’s epic novel as it plays into a young man accepting his fate and role as a leader in order to free the people who had been enslaved in their own home planet. Starring Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, Charlotte Rampling, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Souhelia Yacoub, Florence Pugh, Lea Seydoux, Stellan Skarsgard, and Christopher Walken as Emperor Shaddam IV. Dune-Part Two is an astonishing and gripping film from Denis Villeneuve.

Following the fall of House Atrides on Arrakis in the hands of House of Harkonnen, the film follows the aftermath in which Paul Atrides (Timothee Chalamet) and his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) join the Fremen in an act to reclaim the planet with other allies while also uncovering a conspiracy involving the Emperor Shaddam IV as well as revelations about Paul’s roles for the Fremen. It is a film that explores a young man who doesn’t just deal with loss but also a role that he is unprepared for as some see him as a messiah that would help the Fremen but the forces that oppose him become more uneasy as the Emperor as well Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard) deal with what he might bring. The film’s screenplay by Denis Villeneuve and Jon Spaihts definitely plays into Paul Atrides’ reluctance to be the messianic figure but also visions that he keeps seeing as he struggles with what might bring and such with his mother believing in this prophecy about Paul as she is also pregnant as she would rise into power of her own.

The first act plays into the Atrides being invited to the Fremen by its leader Stilgar (Javier Bardem) despite the fact that they’re outsiders yet Stilgar sees Paul as someone who could be this figure that could lead the Fremen into reclaiming control of Arrakis based on a prophecy that he believes in as Lady Jessica chooses to play into it when their ailing reverend mother is asking Jessica to replace her. Upon drinking the Water of Life, Jessica awakens her unborn daughter Alia whom she would communicate with as they decide to play into the prophecy and win over skeptics giving Stilgar more allies despite the skepticism of Chani (Zendaya) who believes that the prophecy is a lie created by religious fanatics. Still, Chani helps Paul in teaching him the way of the Fremen as they become lovers though Paul remains troubled by visions about him being this messianic figure while he helps in the rebellion against the Harkonnen who would be overwhelmed once Paul’s mentor Gurney Helleck (Josh Brolin) joins the fold having become a smuggler.

The second act serves as an introduction to the baron’s nephew Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) whom the baron would bring in to replace his older brother Glossu Rabban (Dave Bautista) who had failed to keep spice production going on due to the Fremen. Feyd-Rautha is a psychotic figure that proves to be just as dangerous as both his brother and uncle as he is observed by a Bene Gesserit maiden in Lady Margot Fenring (Lea Seydoux) for the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling). It is in the second act where Gurney is re-introduced as he would learn about Paul’s actions as he joins the Fremen despite not believing in the prophecy as Paul becomes more troubled by the expectations of the Fremen just as the conflict with them and the Harkonnens intensify due to Feyd-Rautha’s new leadership. Paul would learn about the Emperor’s involvement as Princess Irulan Corrino (Florence Pugh) believes that Atrides is alive as she begins to question her father’s motives into the attack of House Atrides. It would all lead to revelations in its third act as well as a lot of political scheme and fanaticism with Chani becoming more troubled into the role that Paul has to play.

Villeneuve’s direction is grand in the way he presents this world of intergalactic conflict with a planet filled with sand as spice being the center of the universe as well as the source of this conflict. With scenes of Arrakis shot on location in Jordan and Abu Dhabi with additional scenes shot on location in Budapest, Villeneuve opens with Princess Irulan narrating about the events in her journal as she sees her father becoming troubled by what happened although the princess believes that Paul Atrides is alive. Much of Villeneuve’s direction includes a lot of wide and medium shots to play into the scope of the locations as well as maintain a sense of intimacy in scenes involving character interaction. Yet, the caverns, mountains, and cliffs do serve as major characters as it is a place where the Fremen live in hiding with a pool of water filled with the Fremen who have died. Villeneuve brings a sense of intrigue as well as the world that explore those who believe in this prophecy that Lady Jessica would exploit upon drinking the Water of Life as her unborn daughter would help play into this exploitation as she would later appear as an adult in one of Paul’s visions.

The dreams that Paul would have are these abstract and surreal visuals that showcase not just Paul’s fears of the future but also what it could be as it all plays into his reluctance into being this messiah for the Fremen. While Lady Jessica would able to get the reach of fanatical fundamentalists to support Stilgar’s cause against the Harkonnens and the emperor, Villeneuve does reveal a whole lot more as it plays into the fallacies of power with the emperor becoming someone who is losing influence on all of these houses as it becomes a source of contention he would have towards House Atrides. Villeneuve also plays into this sense of thrill as it relates to the sandworms that the Fremen are known for riding as it is something Paul would master and gain the respect of the Fremen as he would also learn how to travel towards south of the planet as it is a place that the Harkonnens couldn’t reach because of its sandstorms. Villeneuve also plays into this intrigue into the introduction of Feyd-Rautha as well as the Harkonnens’ home planet where it is shot largely in black-and-white as it is a stylistic choice but one that showcases why the baron favors him.

The film’s third act is about this eventual confrontation between the Fremen against the Harkonnens and the forces led by the emperor as the latter two would be unprepared for what they would face. Yet, there is a lot more happening as the Harkonnens meet with the emperor as there is not only this power struggle between the two but also other things that the princess would discover that would make her uneasy over this conflict. Even as the climax that involves Paul confronting his enemies as it would also lead to some uneasy compromises that would affect many as it also plays into what power corrupts and how those who engineer schemes and conspire are forced to watch their own fallacies but also face the actions of something much bigger that they unknowingly played a role in. Overall, Villeneuve crafts a riveting and astronomical film about a young man seeking revenge as well as becoming a messianic figure for a group of people in reclaiming their home planet.

Cinematographer Grieg Fraser does incredible work with the film’s cinematography from the stylish usage of black-and-white for the Feyd-Rautha fight at the Harkonnen’s home planet to the usage of sunlight for many of the exteriors and scenes in the cave along with usage of available light for some of the scenes in the morning as it is a highlight of the film. Editor Joe Walker does brilliant work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts, slow-motion, and rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and action as well as some of the surreal montages in the film. Production designer Patrice Vermette, with supervising art director Tom Brown plus set decorators Zsuzsanna Sipos and Shane Vieu, does amazing work the look of the water pool inside the Fremen’s cave as well as the home of the fundamentalists and the design of the places at the Harkonnen home planet. Costume designer Jacqueline West does excellent work with the costumes from the ragged and sandy clothes that the Fremen wears as well as the clothes that Lady Jessica wears when she becomes a Reverend Mother for the Fremen and the clothes of Princess Irulan.

Hair/makeup/prosthetics designer Donald Mowat does fantastic work with the look of the Harkonnens in their pale-white skin as well as the makeup that Lady Jessica wears as the Reverend Mother. Special effects supervisor Gerd Nefzer and visual effects supervisor Paul Lambert do sensational work with the visual effects in the design of the sand worms in using prosthetics and CGI as well as the design of some of the weapons used in battles as well as the devices for Baron Harkonnen as he floats. Sound editor Richard King and sound designer Dave Whitehead do phenomenal work with the sound in the way some of dialogue is presented in Paul and Lady Jessica communicate in silence as well as the effects for some of the devices as well as the way the sand worms emerge as it is a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Hans Zimmer is tremendous for its usage of bombastic orchestral arrangements along with synthesizers and snarling guitars as it adds to the sense of chaos throughout the film that also include these wailing vocals that features work from Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance while music supervisors Peter Afterman, Deric Berberabe, Alison Litton, and Carmen Murlaner add some ambient and electronic pieces as the whole music soundtrack and score is another highlight of the film.

The casting by Francine Maisler is superb as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Roger Yuan and Babs Olusanmokun reprising their roles as two House Atrides officers who are forced to fight Feyd-Rautha as well as Souhelia Yacoub as Chani’s friend Shishakli who is also a skeptic over the prophecy, Dave Bautista in a superb role as Feyd-Rautha’s older brother Glossu Rabban who becomes overwhelmed by the Fremen attacks, and Lea Seydoux in a terrific small role as a Bene Gesserit nun in Lady Margot Fenring who seduces Feyd-Rautha in order to observe him in the hopes he can take down the Fremen. Christopher Walken is fantastic as Emperor Shaddam IV as the leader of the universe who was one of the figureheads in the attack of House Atrides as he copes with his fading leadership but also new threats as Walken is surprisingly restrained considering that the character could’ve been a bit more camp.

Charlotte Rampling is excellent as the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam who is also a mentor to Princess Irulan as well as someone who has played a key role in the attack of House Atrides as she sees Paul as major threat as well as displaying a sense of ambiguity over what is to come. Stellan Skarsgard is brilliant as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen as the head of House Harkonnen who is eager to take advantage of controlling Arrakis yet becomes troubled by the Fremen rebellion as well as who is leading them. Josh Brolin is amazing as Gurney Halleck as Paul’s mentor and former military leader for House Atrides as he had become a smuggler as he would aid Paul in this rebellion yet is not fond of this religious fanaticism but chooses to stay silent as an act of loyalty towards Paul. Javier Bardem is incredible as Stilgar as the Fremen leader who sees Paul as this messianic figure based on a prophecy as he becomes a mentor and later be someone who would gather many allies believing that it would help the Fremen.

Rebecca Ferguson is sensational as Lady Jessica Atrides as a Bene Gesserit nun who becomes a Reverend Mother for followers in Arrakis as she would help gather many followers in playing up this prophecy as she brings an ambiguity into someone that would gain power but also at the extent of her son’s well-being and humanity. Austin Butler is great as Feyd-Rautha as Baron Harkonnen’s youngest nephew who is this psychotic figure that is beloved by the people in his planet as a skilled fighter as well as someone who is eager to prove him to himself as a leader where he finds a formidable opponent in Paul as Butler definitely brings a lot of nuances to the character but also an unexpected humanity that makes him unique. Florence Pugh is tremendous as Princess Irulan Corrino as the emperor’s daughter who records in her journal over what happened at Arrakis while believing that Paul is alive as she begins to question into what had happened and why where she also questions the motives of both her father and her mentor in Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam.

Zendaya is spectacular as Chani as a Fremen rebel who is becomes Paul’s lover while is also troubled by people making him into a messiah as she is the film’s moral compass as someone who gets to know Paul as a human being but also is forced to watch him accept a role he doesn’t want but needs to play. Finally, there’s Timothee Chalamet in an astonishing performance as Paul Atrides as the son of that late Duke Leto Atrides who is eager to get revenge over what happened to his father but also learn about the ways of the Fremen. Chalamet’s performance also has a complexity of a man that becomes conflicted into the role he is asked to play where he also has to deal with surreal dreams and sacrifices where he would accept this role of rebellion but would also facing a future of immense uncertainty over what he might do.

Dune-Part Two is a magnificent film from Denis Villeneuve. Featuring a tremendous ensemble cast, ravishing visuals, a story of rebellion and the struggles of being a messiah, Hans Zimmer’s visceral score, and immense technical work. It is a film that isn’t just this great follow up to the 2021 film but also help book end the novel both films are based on as well as create a sci-fi epic that is willing to challenge audiences as well as showcase a world that is astonishing. In the end, Dune-Part Two is an outstanding film from Denis Villeneuve.

Denis Villeneuve Films: August 32nd on Earth - Maelstrom - Polytechnique - Incendies - Prisoners (2013 film) - Enemy (2013 film) - Sicario - Arrival (2016 film) - Blade Runner 2049 - Dune-Part One - (Dune: Messiah)

Related: Dune (1984 film) - Jodorowsky's Dune The Auteurs #68: Denis Villeneuve

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Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Phoenix (2014 film)


Based on elements from the novel Le Retour des Cendres (The Return from the Ashes) by Hubert Monteilhet, Phoenix is the story of a cabaret singer who returns to Berlin just after World War II ended to find her husband to see if he was the one who informed her to the Nazis and sent her to Auschwitz. Directed by Christian Petzold and screenplay by Petzold and Harun Farocki, the film is an exploration of a woman trying to find answers as she also has a reconstructed face following a serious bullet wound making her unrecognizable. Starring Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf, and Imogen Kogge. Phoenix is an entrancing and haunting film from Christian Petzold.

Set in the events after World War II had ended, the film follows a woman who returns from Auschwitz, with a destroyed face due to a serious bullet wound, as she has her face reconstructed where she goes on a search for her husband to see if he was the one who sent her to Auschwitz. It is a film with a unique premise as it plays into a woman trying to reclaim her identity but also deal with what happened to her and if her husband had betrayed her. The film’s screenplay by Christian Petzold and Harun Farocki is loosely based on its source material as it explores a woman who copes with having lost her face but also her identity the moment she finds her husband who doesn’t recognize her at all. Yet, he would rope her into a scheme where she would pretend to be his wife in order to get her family inheritance with her getting a small cut. It would play into this conflict that the main character of Nelly Lenz (Nina Hoss) would endure as she is still in love with her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld) although her friend Lene (Nina Kunzendorf) discovers a shocking truth while trying to find information about Lenz’s family whether they survived the Holocaust or not.

Petzold’s direction is definitely mesmerizing as it opens with Lene driving Nelly towards a hospital in the U.S. sector as Nelly is forced to show her deformed face to a guard though Petzold doesn’t show anything. Shot in various locations in Germany and parts of Poland, Petzold does play into this world of post-war Germany in which a country is coming to terms with loss, regret, and reconstruction as it sort of serves as a metaphor for what Nelly is facing as she’s first seen covered in bandages realizing that she might not regain her old face. While there are some wide shots of some of the locations, much of Petzold’s direction is intimate in its usage of close-ups and medium shots to play into not just the evolution of Nelly’s face but also in moments where she obscures it as if the scars are still there though they’re barely shown after the surgery. Yet, Petzold does maintain this ambiguity when Nelly walks into this nightclub wondering if Johnny works there as she sees him but he doesn’t recognize at all as she was sporting a few bandages and such.

Petzold’s approach to ambiguity also plays into Johnny’s scheme upon meeting Nelly who pretends to be another woman in Esther as she would only tell about this plan to Lene who is aghast over this as she really wants nothing to do with Johnny. Still, Nelly plays along to Johnny’s scheme as she wonders if he cares about Esther where she believes she had reclaimed her identity but questions about what happened the day she was arrested start to come in. Petzold would play into this air of dramatic suspense where Nelly would learn about Lene’s discovery as it adds a lot more intrigue into its ending which plays into Johnny’s scheme. Even as the climax is this scheme that would involve old friends who have no idea what is going on as if they’re about to meet Nelly for the first time in years but it is in the final scene as it relates to their past life. Overall, Petzold crafts an intoxicating and rapturous film about a woman who returns from Auschwitz with a new face to find her husband and find out the truth on the day they were separated.

Cinematographer Hans Fromm does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with some of the stylish lighting for the nighttime interior/exterior scenes of the Phoenix nightclub where Johnny works at as well as some of the usage of low-key natural lighting at the home where Nelly lives with Lene. Editor Bettina Bohler does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the drama as well as a few moments of dramatic suspense. Production designer K.D. Gruber, with set decorator Christin Busse and art director Merlin Ortner, does amazing work with the home that Nelly and Lene live in that is spacious that is a direct contrast to the small apartment basement that Johnny lives in while the interiors of the Phoenix night club is also cramped yet lively. Costume designer Anette Guther does fantastic work with the costumes including the red dress that Nelly used to wear as it would be a key piece of clothing that she would wear for Johnny’s scheme.

Makeup artists Barbara Kreuzer and Alexandra Lebedynski do incredible work with Nelly’s evolving look from being covered in bandages to wearing little bandages as she’s recovering where it plays into her development as the makeup work is a highlight of the film. Special effects supervisor Bjorn Friese does terrific work with some of the film’s minimal special effects that include bits of set dressing as well as a few bits in the film’s opening scene. Sound designer Dominik Schleier does superb work with the sound in the way a room sounds when it is quiet or how a nightclub is when it is loud as it help plays into the drama that occurs throughout the film. The film’s music by Stefan Will is wonderful for its somber jazz-orchestra score that plays into the drama and suspense as the music soundtrack also feature some standards of the times including renditions of songs by Cole Porter and the duo of Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash.

The casting by Simone Bar is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Eva Bay and Valerie Koch as a couple of cabaret performers at the Phoenix club, Uwe Preuss as a club goer that tries to flirt with Nelly, the quintet of Frank Seppeler, Daniela Holtz, Kathrin Wehlisch, Michael Wenninger, and Claudia Geisler-Bading as old friends of Nelly and Johnny whom the latter is trying to scheme on, and Imogen Kogge as Lene’s housemaid Elisabet who runs the home that Lene and Nelly live in while also being disapproving over Nelly meeting Johnny. Nina Kunzendorf is incredible as Lene as a longtime friend of Nelly who retrieves her from Auschwitz as well as working for the Red Cross who makes a chilling discovery about Johnny as she wants nothing to do with him while is also disapproving over Nelly’s pursuit to reunite with him.

Ronald Zehrfeld is phenomenal as Johnny “Johannes” Lenz as Nelly’s husband who is trying to create a scheme in getting Nelly’s inheritance believing she had died unaware that Esther is really Nelly where he does what he can to make sure she’s like his wife where he later becomes conflicted as he starts to fall for Esther. Finally, there’s Nina Hoss in a spectacular performance as Nelly Lenz as a Jewish woman who was sent to Auschwitz only to survive despite a serious bullet wound to her face as she deals with her new face as well as a loss of identity where she tries to reclaim it through her reunion with her husband only to realize that he doesn’t recognize her. It is this multilayered performance from Hoss that showcases a woman that is blinded by love but also troubled by revelations into what he did to her as well as the fact that he thinks she’s someone else as it is this ravishing performance from Hoss that remains haunting following its last shot.

Phoenix is a sensational film from Christian Petzold that features great performances from Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld and Nina Kunzendorf. Along with its story of loss and longing, gorgeous visuals, and a somber music score. It is a film that explores a woman’s desire to reunite with her beloved despite the loss of her face but also deal with dark truths about the night her life changed as well as realizing that the past can’t be replicated. In the end, Phoenix is a tremendous film from Christian Petzold.

Christian Petzold Films: (The State I Am In) – (Wolfburgs) - (Ghosts (2005 film)) – (Yella) – (Jerichow) – (Barbara (2012 film)) – (Transit (2018 film)) – (Undine) – (Afire)

© thevoid99 2024

Saturday, March 09, 2024

20 Days in Mariupol


Written, directed, and co-shot by Mstyslav Chernov, 20 Days in Mariupol is a film in which Chernov and his colleagues spend 20 days under siege in Mariupol following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022. The film showcases journalists covering a worldwide event as well as showcase the horrors of war as a country tries to defend itself against its invaders. The result is a terrifying and harrowing film from Mstyslav Chernov.

On February 24, 2022, Russia under the claims they’re to be attacked by the neighboring country of Ukraine would send troops, tanks, and forces to the country where the port city of Mariupol that is near the Russian border. For 20 days under siege in the city, Ukrainian journalist Mstyslav Chernov along with colleagues including still photographer Evgeniy Maloletka would cover the events of Mariupol for the Associated Press as they would stay in the city evading snipers, ground troops, and such during the course of these 20 days. The film is about Chernov’s coverage of Mariupol being under siege as well as him and his colleagues surviving 20 days as they cover the events and release them to the press against many odds.

Through the usage of phones and video cameras, Chernov and his colleagues capture the sense of silence that is happening before the war as Mariupol looks like any normal city with houses and buildings but it would be gone within months after the Russians have taken it with supposedly more than 25,000 civilians killed including women and children. Yet, Chernov and his crew would showcase the many atrocities that the Russians committed under the supervision of its president in Vladimir Putin and his propaganda team as they claim that the footage Chernov had released to the public is fake news.

Still, Chernov reveals the emotional and mental toll of the people including the police, firemen, and medical staff who do their best to help and save lives with its police chief doing what he can to help Chernov and his crew while also making a speech about what is happening in Mariupol. Chernov and Maloletka keep things realistic in terms of its visuals as they would also shoot from afar as the most dangerous day in Day 16 where they’re on the 7th floor of one of the remaining hospitals as a Russian tank arrives just close by. There is this sense of danger while there’s another tense moment where a sniper has shot a nurse (who lived) as others are trapped prompting Ukrainian soldiers to try and take out the sniper as one of the lead soldiers is trying to make sure that the civilians are safe.

With the aid editor Michelle Mizner in cultivating many of the footage that wasn’t presented to the news as well as footage from Chernov’s other films as he laments being away from his family who are also Ukrainian though they were able to flee the country. The sound work of Jim Sullivan is superb in capturing not just the many sounds that were recorded but also in the audio of the people who are troubled by what is happening around them. The film’s music by Jordan Dykstra is wonderful for its somber electronic score as it plays into not just the horror but also in the tragedy of war with some of the starkest imagery emerging including a mass grave made for all of those who died including children.

20 Days in Mariupol is a tremendous film from Mstyslav Chernov. It is a documentary film that doesn’t shy away from the atrocities of war as well as capturing the terror that civilians are dealing with as their home is being besieged by a tyrannical forces with false claims of being threatened. It is also a film that showcases what journalists had to do to cover the war as well as showcase the truth no matter how horrifying it is. In the end 20 Days in Mariupol is a sensational film from Mstyslav Chernov.

© thevoid99 2024

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Medicine for Melancholy


Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, Medicine for Melancholy is the story of two people who wake up from a one-night stand as they walk around San Francisco trying to remember what happened the night before. The film is a romantic drama that is told in the span of an entire day as two people try to figure out who they are as well as being one of the many few African-Americans living in San Francisco. Starring Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins. Medicine for Melancholy is a rapturous and compelling film from Barry Jenkins.

The film revolves a day in the life of two people who met at a party and had a one-night stand as they would spend the entire day walking around San Francisco where they fall in love but also talk about who they are including being among the few African-Americans living in a city that is largely white. It is a film that explores these two people who met at this party as they don’t know each other until circumstances occur where they meet again as they would spend the rest of the day together to see the city riding on bicycles as well as talk about all sorts of things with race being a big issue. Barry Jenkins’ screenplay is largely straightforward in its narrative as it doesn’t have much of a plot yet it does play into these two people in Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Joanne (Tracey Heggins) as they deal with the aftermath of this one-night stand and how to spend the rest of the day as they get to know each other. At the same time, they deal with being black in a city that is predominantly white where people from poor areas are being pushed out in favor of the upper class as Joanne is in a relationship with a white man who is currently out of town.

Jenkins’ direction is mesmerizing for the fact that it is shot on location in San Francisco with a small budget of $11,000 as every scene is shot on location with a film that is shot in desaturated style with little resemblances of color except for one small sequence. Much of Jenkins’ direction is intimate as there are a few wide shots in the film yet Jenkins emphasizes largely on close-ups and medium shots to get a scope of the tiny apartment that Micah lives in as well as the more spacious apartment that Joanne lives in. The direction also play into this sense of the African-American identity where they visit the Museum of the African Diaspora as it’s a place that Joanne never knew about while Micah has a poster on his wall that features a document about the city’s development with the word “lies” covered over it. It plays into Micah’s own issues with a city he has a love-hate relationship for as well as wonder why 7% of its population is filled by black people.

Jenkins also plays into this lack of black identity in San Francisco in a brief scene in which a bunch of white activists talk about gentrification as well as the effect it has on various areas in the city such as Castro Street and East Bay as the latter has people being pushed out for more upper class residents. It is a brief moment that shows it’s not just African-Americans who are affected by gentrification but also the poor as it plays into Micah’s own sense of alienation. Even though he and Joanne would go to a party where it is largely filled with the white indie/hipster crowd, Jenkins reveals that there is still this disparity into the city’s small African-American population as it plays into Micah’s desperation to be with Joanne though she has a different view of the way she sees race but understands Micah’s own problems. Overall, Jenkins crafts an evocative and somber film about two African-Americans who deal with their identity and their surroundings following a one-night stand.

Cinematographer James Laxton does brilliant work with the film’s desaturated cinematography with its emphasis on little colors as well as aim for something gritty to play into this sense of mood and lack of diversity in San Francisco as it would become more desaturated at times as it is a highlight of the film. Editor/sound designer Nat Sanders, along with sound mixer Nikolas Zasimczuk, does amazing work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts as well as other stylish cuts to play into the drama while his approach to the sound plays on natural locations and how music sounds in a room and such. Music supervisor Greg O’Bryant cultivates an incredible music soundtrack that largely features indie music of that time including lots of unknowns in acts such as Tomlab, Ivana XL, Yesterday’s New Quintet, Total Shutdown, Tandemoro, Gypsophile, the Changes, Au Revoir Simone, White Denim, Canoe, Oh No Oh My, Bloodcat Love, the Octopus Project, the Answering Machine, and Casiotone for the Painfully Alone with the Donkeys plus more well-known music from Igor Romanov and Tom Waits.

The film’s ensemble cast largely consists of real people and non-actors as the main highlight of the film are its two leads in Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Micah and Joanne. Cenac’s performance is the more outgoing as someone who has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to racial identity as well as being someone who feels alienated by his surroundings. Heggins’ performance is more reserved as someone who doesn’t see race yet begins to realize the lack of African-Americans in San Francisco yet tries to find a more hopeful outlook on things. Cenac and Heggins together are a joy to watch in seeing these two people who had only met the night before at a party as they deal with their one-night stand as well as being among the few blacks in a city that is predominately white.

Medicine for Melancholy is a sensational film from Barry Jenkins that features great leading performances from Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins. Along with its commentary on racial identity, the film’s offbeat yet entrancing visuals, and a killer music soundtrack. It is a film that explores two people who meet in the aftermath of a one-night stand as they deal with who they are in a world where there are part of a small minority as they cope with their identities and views of the world. In the end, Medicine for Melancholy is a phenomenal film from Barry Jenkins.

Barry Jenkins Films: Moonlight (2016 film) - If Beale Street Could Talk - (The Underground Railroad (2021 Limited TV Series) – (Mufasa: The Lion King)

© thevoid99 2024