Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Films That I Saw: April 2024


Well this has been a crazy month as Dookie Tank is now in trial while also getting destroyed by Jimmy Kimmel to our enjoyment. Things between Israel and Gaza Strip has gotten worse with Israel also beefing with Iran after blowing their embassy in Syria. Pro-Palestinian protests are now emerging in college campuses in the U.S. though some are claiming this is a form of anti-Semitism (it’s not) while Old Fart Joe Biden is definitely losing support because he’s a fucking pussy. Even though I like to keep in touch with what is going on in the real world, I much prefer to keep myself distracted with other things such as film, games, sports, and pro wrestling. Yet, being a pro wrestling fan is a complicated thing as much as I want to support AEW. Tony Khan is definitely not a boss as he tends to say stupid shit and also does some stupid things including airing the infamous backstage brawl between CM Punk and Jack Perry from AEW All In last year that led to the firing of the former. That was a move that pissed me off as I didn’t watch AEW for a week as that was the kind of shit that reminded me why I stopped watching WCW in early 2000 as that company would be gone a year later.

This has made AEW look bad as it was a stupid rating stunt as rating still went down the week after as well as the fact that they’re going through declining attendances and interest while WWE is still going strong following the events of WrestleMania 40. While AEW does succeed with their pro wrestling matches including the match between Will Ospreay and Bryan Danielson at AEW Dynasty is already considered one of the best matches of the year. Great matches isn’t enough as AEW needs to do better to get a wider audience but also maintain their own identity. They should be lucky they’re not the NWA as they’re just a section on an app for the CW network due to a stupid stunt last October that cost them a lucrative TV deal.

Being away from the chaos that is reality is something I need to do as I’ve been dealing with terrible allergies that has now affected my mother terribly as I had to take her to Urgent Care this past weekend. This year’s pollen season has been horrible as it is why I didn’t go out very much this month even though I still have things to do at home. Especially as I had some news recently that is going to be helpful for me this year as I’m now set to get a brand new laptop much sooner than I realized. Even as it’s going to help me fix a few things in the house as well as getting some things that will give me more access to films. The timing of it is weird but it’s still made me happy as I’m currently writing on the laptop I bought back in 2017 that’s in decent-good condition though there’s a few buttons that I have to press harder in order to write. Once I get the new laptop, I will sell the one I’m using right now after I finish transferring all of my personal data.

If there’s one thing as a blogger who likes to write about films that is frustrating. It’s when you have things planned for a certain time as you’re about to get ready only for things to not go your way. Ever since I completed my Auteurs piece on Kelly Reichardt last December as it had been dormant for four years, I had spent months making preparations for what was supposed to be the next subject in J.C. Chandor but then news about his upcoming film Kraven the Hunter as it had been delayed multiple times with plans set to be released this coming August. Well, that is not going to happen as the film is being pushed to December as that ruined my plans as he’s now being pushed to next year. Instead, I have decided that Michael Mann will be the next subject as I hope to have that ready for the summer followed by David Lean and then Damien Chazelle for the rest of the year with Chandor and Robert Eggers set for next year.
In the month of April 2024, I saw a total of 25 films in 15 first-timers and 10 re-watches with six of these first-timers being films directed/co-directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. One of the highlights of the month has been my Blind Spot in Greed. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for April 2024:

1. The Turin Horse
2. The Ballad of Narayama
3. Age of Panic
4. Pinball
5. A Song of Love
6. Life is the Greatest Odyssey
7. Visitation
8. The Night
9. El Doctor
10. Spirit Emulsion
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’m Watching

El Doctor
The first of three shorts by Suzan Pitt that I saw on MUBI as part of a retrospective on her work in showing seven short films she’s done in her lifetime as this one is among one of her most inventive and offbeat. Notably as it is this 24-minute short in which an alcoholic doctor works in a Mexican hospital where he uses methods that are unorthodox while also engaging with the surrealism. It is a weird short that shows a man who feels disgust with his profession while getting some inspiration from the spiritual world as it’s among one of Pitt’s best shorts.

The second of three shorts by Pitt that I saw this month is easily the darkest that she’s done as it revolves around the concept of death as a man deals with his impending fate. It is told through rich yet macabre animation as it plays into the thoughts of a man as if these would be his final minutes of his life as it is really this eerie portrait of death.

The final short film that Pitt did in her lifetime is this 7-minute kaleidoscopic animated short that is truly out there as it’s also probably the best short she’s ever done. With the music of George Antheil’s 1952 revision of Ballet Mecanique accompanying the images, it is a short that doesn’t have a narrative but it doesn’t need one as it’s all about the images. It is dizzying yet intoxicating in everything that is happening as this is truly a piece of art.

The Night
This 20-minute short by Tsai Ming-Liang is about a typical night in Hong Kong as it is told largely through some static shots as it alludes to an old Chinese pop song. It is a short that is about simplicity as there is something dream-like in what Ming-Liang is telling as it’s just through these simple images.

A Song of Love
For those who don’t know about Jean Genet, he is a French novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and political activist that was quite controversial from his time as he was known for being a homosexual at a time when it was still taboo. He only made one film in his entire career in this 26-minute short film as it is probably one of the most shocking films ever as it is something that would still cause a stir in today’s world even though it was released 70 years ago. It is set in a prison where prisoners try to contact each other despite being apart through prison walls with a guard who is repressed for his feelings for another prisoner. It is definitely not for the faint of heart and this is definitely a film worth seeking out as it is HOT!

AI is definitely something that has been in discussion as of late as it’s definitely scary. This film is about a detective who gains an AI android who looked like his late wife as he hopes to use her as a companion yet she begins to realize who his wife is as they’re idyllic world is nothing as it seems. Even as this detective is trying to kill these rebel AI figures as it’s a film that tries to be a lot of things but doesn’t have much going for it other than Elena Kampouris’ performance as Jonathan Rhys-Meyers’ late wife and new android wife. The film is undone even further through a twist in its third act as it only makes the film much worse than it is despite Kampouris’ performance.

Autobiographical Scene Number 6882
From Ruben Ostlund is this very fascinating 8-minute short film set on a bridge where a group of people are celebrating midsummer’s eve as a young man wants to jump off a bridge to end the celebration. It plays into this sense of chaos of how people react to this and what would happen afterwards. It is a funny short but also one filled with danger as it is worth seeking out.

Life is the Greatest Odyssey

Although it is mainly a commercial for Hennessy’s XO cognac, this seven-minute ad directed by Damien Chazelle is still a lively and inventive one. It is mainly a short in which a man travels through many periods of his life as he walks from one set to another as it is just filled with so much life and imagery. Even as he is carrying a cello throughout the course of his journey as it’s a short fans of Chazelle should see.

Notes on a True Story

This five-minute short film by Luchino Visconti made in 1953 about the life of a small town near Rome where a young girl was murdered as it is about the aftermath in which a town tries to move on from this tragedy.

Spirit Emulsion
A short I saw on MUBI as part of the Whitney Biennial 2024 program is this mesmerizing short by Siku Alloollo that mixes Super 8mm film and digital photography as it plays into a woman reaching out to her mother through spiritual means. It is a short filled with gorgeous imagery as it is a woman trying to say thank you to the woman who gave her life. It is worth seeking out as there’s several shorts including one from the 1960s/1970s by Penelope Spheeris as part of the program.

This film from the Philippines by Joel Lamangan about a family whose matriarch dies as the father immediately gets remarried to his late wife’s nurse as his sons conspire to destroy the marriage as an act of revenge towards their mother. Yet, it is a film that isn’t sure what it wants to be as there’s this story in which the farmer is trying not to sell his farm against Chinese-owned corporations as he also owes money to other businessman while his youngest son has fallen for his new stepmother as it’s a real mess. It’s only worth watching for anyone that wants to watch Nathalie Hart naked but would be troubled by the film’s twist towards the end.

Dark Side of the Ring (season 5, episodes 5-8)
This season is a bit more different as it does play into some well-known figures but also some lesser-known figures as the episode on Chris Colt is about someone I didn’t know about but man. That was one nutty episode as it is about someone who never made it to the mainstream as he wrestled from the 1960s to the 1980s while he is also gay and did drugs while he wrestled. Even as there are moments including this story of a giant spider climbing onto a cage as Colt ran out of the venue as that bit scared the fuck out of me. The episodes on both Harley Race and Sensational Sherri Martel are both sad and tragic as the former was this tough figure who won the NWA World Heavyweight Champion 7-8 times in the 1970s and early 1980s yet he is derailed by injuries and this reputation in being this tough man even though he remains revered.

The one on Sherri is also tragic as she is a woman who wasn’t just a great wrestler but also a great manager but years of pain in the ring lead to an addiction to Somas that would ruin her career. Even as it would lead to her own death in the mid-2000s as it is a tragic death as Jake “the Snake” Roberts is on the episode as he was close with Sherri as he’s still shocked that he’s still alive considering the substance abuse endured. The episode on “Gentlemen” Chris Adams is interesting as he is the man that trained “Stone Cold” Steve Austin even though Adams never trained as a wrestler. He was a British wrestler popular in the 1980s in Dallas but was also a bully and quite destructive as Adams’ former girlfriend/Austin’s ex-wife Jeannie Clark was interviewed as well as Kevin Von Erich and Adams’ daughter are interviewed. Yet, the man who would kill Adams in William Brent “Booray” Parnell talks about what happened as the most shocking thing about him is that he looks like George Mizanin aka Miz’s dad. It is a fucked up episode as there’s only two more left in the season as it will about the Sandman and its season finale on the infamous Black Saturday incident.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Poor Things
2. Snowpiercer
3. Lady Bird 7. Sing Street
8. Aladdin 9. Burrow
10. Saludos Amigos
Well, that is all for April 2024. Next month will be largely devoted to the Cannes Film Festival as I will be doing a Cannes marathon of sort for the month while my next Blind Spot will be East of Eden. I hope to do Challengers and Furiosa next month as far as theatrical releases are concerned as these will all be written in the new laptop. Before I close, I want to express my condolences on those who have passed this month with Eleanor Coppola being among the most important as she is the matriarch of the Coppola family who has done so much in the world of film but also has been this great support to her husband Francis as well as being the stable force as a mother to her children in Roman, Sofia, and the late Gian-Carlo as well as other relatives in Talia Shire, Jason and Robert Schwartzman, Nicolas Cage, and Gia Coppola.

Also who have passed this month and will be missed are Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues, Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers Band, filmmaker Laurent Cantet, American independent wrestler Billy Reil, actor/writer Brian McCardle, Zack Norman, Robin George, Marla Adams of The Young and the Restless, Margaret Lee, Terry Carter of Battlestar Galactica, art director Ray Chan, Hana Brejchova, Philippe Laudenbach, filmmaker Michael Verhoeven, Harold “Bobby” Davis of the Sensations, MC Duke, Mandisa, baseball legend Carl Erskine, Barbara O. Jones, baseball legend Whitey Herzog, Pooch Tavares of Tavares, baseball legend Larry Brown, music producer Rico Wade who helped introduced the world to Outkast and the Dirty South, Peter Higgs, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Cole Brings Plenty, music producer Keith LeBlanc (thank you for your work on Pretty Hate Machine), Michael Ward of the Wallflowers, and Joe Flaherty. JACKASS!!! I will miss you Joe.

Then of course, there’s O.J. Simpson who also passed away but unlike those that have passed this month. Motherfucker can rot in Hell as there’s 2 things I hope he’s enduring right now. Getting his ass kicked by his ex-wife Nicole and Ron Goldman and jokes by Norm MacDonald. We miss you Norm. This is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2024

Sunday, April 28, 2024

2024 Blind Spot Series: Greed (1924 film)


Based on the novel McTeague by Frank Norris, Greed is the story of a dentist who marries a woman that wins a lottery ticket that would eventually cause trouble in their lives as they become consumed with greed. Written for the screen, co-edited, designed, and directed by Erich von Stroheim, the film is an epic silent drama that explores the idea of greed in how a man’s fortunes would rise and fall only to lead to terror and death. Starring Gibson Gowland, ZaSu Pitts, and Jean Hersholt. Greed is an astonishingly gripping and evocative film from Erich von Stroheim.

Set in the early 20th Century, the film revolves around a man who comes from a mining town and later become respected as he meets and falls for his best friend’s cousin as he would marry her as she would later win a lottery ticket for $5000 as it would tear them apart. It is a film that is really a study of greed and how it consumes people as it is told in a grand style by Erich von Stroheim who also uses text from its original source by novelist Frank Norris in the intertitles. It is a script that also has subplots that includes a story of a junkman and his Mexican girlfriend as the latter was the woman who sold her lottery ticket to one of the protagonists while another revolves around elderly boarders who share the same apartment but have never met as they both would have their encounters with money. Yet, von Stroheim does put a main focus on its narrative as it relates to the character of Dr. John McTeague (Gibson Gowland), his friend Marcus Schouler (Jean Hersholt), and Marcus’ cousin/McTeague’s eventual wife Trina Sieppe (ZaSu Pitts).

Dr. McTeague started off as a young miner who leaves the mine to become an apprentice for a dentist and later starting his own practice at Polk Street in San Francisco where he meets Marcus as they become friends. Marcus would introduce Dr. McTeague to his cousin Trina whom Marcus hopes to marry as Dr. McTeague falls for her but doesn’t want to jeopardize his friendship with Marcus except that Trina would fall for him despite the fact that neither of them come from money like Marcus. When Maria Miranda Macapa (Dale Fuller) sells Trina her lottery ticket that would prove to be worth $5000. The friendship between Marcus and Dr. McTeague falls apart as the former had given the latter his blessing to marry Trina but didn’t realize that some serious money would come in. The tension between the two would come to ahead for years until Marcus leaves San Francisco to become a rancher as he would find ways to ruin Dr. McTeague with Trina becoming stingy as she refuses to spend the money they won leading to chaos and tragedy.

The direction of von Stroheim is truly vast in terms of the vision he had intended to create as the original cut of the film was somewhere between eight to nine hours long when von Stroheim first showed the film in early 1924. Yet, due to a merger between two studios that would become MGM with producer Irving Thalberg being in charge of post-production. The film would then be recut with a 140-minute running time against von Stroheim’s wishes as it would be poorly received upon its initial release. Yet, the film would find a new life in the years to come as attempted reconstructions of the film closer to von Stroheim’s vision had been in the works since the late 1950s as the version that is the closest to what von Stroheim wanted made its premiere at the 1999 Telluride Film Festival with a near four-hour running time featuring still images of the film from books by Jacques-G Perret in 1968 and two versions by Joel Finler and Herman G. Weinberg as the latter also had 400 still images from the film that was never shown as it would be the source for the 1999 reconstructed version.

The 1999 reconstructed version would showcase the usage of actual locations in California including San Francisco, Placer County as the film’s opening scenes in the mine where McTeague came from, and the film’s climax in Death Valley. While there aren’t any movements in the camera, von Stroheim does manage to create some unique compositions in the wide and medium shots where he does a lot to frame a certain shot as well as doing what he can for close-ups. Even as it plays into the drama as the film progresses where Trina would unravel physically where von Stroheim would also create these surreal elements of imagery as it play into the idea of greed. Notably in the subplot involving Maria and her lover in the junkman Zerkow (Cesare Gravina) with the latter claiming there’s plates of gold as there’s recurring images of bone-thin arms holding on to these gold coins with gold being shown in color.

There are also some usage of colors to help maintain a mood whether it is purple for a few scenes at night or multiple colors for a key still shot as it relates to the old couple in their subplot. Even as von Stroheim would create some unique camera angles with these still shots as it play into a much bigger story in what von Stroheim wanted to tell. The film’s climax is shot on location in Death Valley as it plays into McTeague’s fall as he is desperate to become rich yet he has also disgraced himself as von Stroheim’s direction becomes much more vast in its compositions. The final images are among some of the most striking ever captured on film as it doesn’t just play into the fallacies of greed but also how it affects human nature. Overall, von Stroheim crafts a rapturous yet unsettling film about the lives of three people and being consumed with greed.

Cinematographers Ben F. Reynolds and William H. Daniels do amazing work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its approach to low-key lighting for some of the interiors as well as the usage of filters for some key scenes including the usage of yellow in the Death Valley scenes. Editors Erich von Stroheim, Frank Hull, Rex Ingram, and Grant Whytock, with additional edits by June Mathis and Joseph W. Farnham plus Glenn Morgan and consultation by Carol Littleton for the 1999 restoration, do excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward as it helps plays into the drama, suspense, and some of the lighter moments in the film along with some stylish montages that play into the journey of the characters. Art directors Richard Day and Cedric Gibbons do fantastic work with the look of some of the props such as the giant gold tooth for McTeague’s business as well as the interiors of the apartment he stays in as well as the home where Zerkow lives in.

The visual effects work of Sasha Leuterer and Chad Mielke, for the 1999 restoration version, is terrific for enhancing some of the colors including some of the candle lights and sparks from the mine scenes. The film’s music by William Axt, with additional music by Robert Israel in its 1999 restoration, is incredible for its orchestral score with its soaring string arrangements, heavy woodwinds, and rumbling percussions as it plays into the drama and suspense as it is a major highlight of the film.

The film’s marvelous ensemble cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Erich von Stroheim as a balloon maker, Jack McDonald as a sheriff in pursuit of McTeague in its third act, James F. Fulton as a prospector named Cribbens that McTeague meets in the desert, William Barlow as the minister who marries McTeague and Trina, Chester Conklin and Silvia Ashton as Trina’s parents, Jack Curtis and Tempe Pigott as McTeague’s parents, Joan Standing as Trina’s cousin Selina, Max Tyron as Trina’s uncle Oelbermann who helps her with her finances, Erich von Ritzau as the dentist Dr. “Painless” Potter who takes McTeague as his apprentice, Frank Hayes as the veterinarian Charles W. Grannis as an elderly man who lives in the same apartment with McTeague and many others, and Fanny Midgely as Grannis’ neighbor Miss Anastasia Baker who had never noticed Grannis as they would later have their own encounter with a large sum of money but show a direct contrast to the way Trina and McTeague deal with it.

Cesare Gravina and Dale Fuller are excellent in their respective roles as the junkman Zerkow and his wife Maria Miranda Macapa as two people who live in a shanty house with the former claiming there’s gold plates somewhere that would make them rich with the latter being someone who is fooled by her husband’s claims while also dealing with the fact that she sold Trina the lottery ticket that could’ve given them $5000. Jean Hersholt is brilliant as Marcus Schouler as an upper-middle class cousin of Trina whom he hopes to marry as he starts off as a friend of McTeague until money and McTeague’s love for Trina would destroy their friendship as he would later start a life of his own but also still holds a grudge towards McTeague. ZaSu Pitts is amazing as Trina Sieppe as a woman who is from a lower-middle class family as she buys a lottery ticket from Maria that would win her $5000 but becomes obsessed with not spending it as it would lead to ruin as well as deteriorate mentally and emotionally. Finally, there’s Gibson Gowland in an incredible performance as Dr. John McTeague as a miner who leaves his small town to become a dentist’s apprentice and later a dentist as someone who never came from money as he deals with having money but is unsure what to do as he starts to unravel over Trina’s stinginess as well as dealing with failure and loss as it is this chilling and haunting performance.

Greed is a magnificent film from Erich von Stroheim. Although it is very unlikely that audiences will ever see the intended version of what von Stroheim wanted for this film. The 1999 restored version is at least the closest version that audiences will ever get as it is filled with gorgeous imagery, immersive sequences, an exhilarating music score, and captivating themes of what greed can do to a few people. It is a film that 100 years since its original premiere only to endure a troubled history of re-cuts and almost be ignored as it still has the power to shock and provoke. In the end, Greed is an outstanding film from Erich von Stroheim.

Erich von Stroheim Films: (Blind Husbands) – (The Devil’s Pass Key) – (Foolish Wives) – (Merry-Go-Round (1923 film)) – (The Merry Widow) – (The Wedding March) – (Queen Kelly) – (Hello, Sister!)

© thevoid99 2024

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Ballad of Narayama (1983 film)


Based on the book Men of Tohuku by Shichiro Fukazawa, The Ballad of Narayama is the story about a practice in which young people carry the elderly towards a mountain upon they reach the age of 70 so they can die as an old woman tries to find her son a wife to be with. Written and directed for the screen by Shohei Imamura, the film is the study of a traditional practice in Japan as a man copes with saying goodbye to his mother but also dealing with a new life he must take part in. Starring Ken Ogata, Sumiko Sakamoto, Takejo Aki, Tonpei Hidari, Seiji Kurasaki, Kaoru Shimamori, Ryutaro Tatsumi, Junko Takada, Shoichi Ozawa, Nijiko Kiyokawa, and Mitsuko Baisho. The Ballad of Narayama is a ravishing and haunting film from Shohei Imamura.

Set in 19th Century Japan in a small rural village, the film revolves around an old woman who has just turned 69 as she spends the last year of her life to arrange her affairs for her son and others in her family before she is to be carried towards a mountain where she is to die. It is a film that revolves around an old woman who realizes that she is about to reach an age where she can’t be useful despite the fact that she’s still in good health. Shohei Imamura’s screenplay is largely straightforward in its narrative as it plays more into a family of farmers trying to maintain their livelihood in the course of a year as their matriarch Orin (Sumiko Sakamoto) realizes she’s set to turn 70 in a year as her eldest son Tatsuhei (Ken Ogata) is a widower with three kids including a baby that needs a mother. Her eldest grandson Kesakichi (Seiji Kurasaki) is already having an affair with a young woman in Matsuyan (Junko Takada) who is from a family of suspected thieves while her youngest son Risuke (Tonpei Hidari) is an oddball known for smelling bad and is still a virgin who is desperate to get laid.

The script also plays into the family coping with poverty and bad luck despite the fact that Tatsuhei would get a wife in a woman named Tamayan (Takejo Aki) from another village as they also deal with politics within the village as well as gossip about the woman’s husband who had disappeared and was ignorant towards the tradition at the village about carrying those who turn 70 to be sent to the mountain top where it would be their final resting place. The script also plays into this village with odd traditions in the way they deal with thieves but also what they do to children when they die because they couldn’t feed it as it has some odd traditions with no sense of logic other than being traditional. Yet, there are also odd things such as a recent widow in Oei (Mitsuko Baisho) who would sleep with other men as a prostitute yet refuses to sleep with Risuke. It would all add to this sense of chaos that forces Orin to settle everything with Tatsuhei having to carry her to the mountain.

Imamura’s direction is definitely entrancing for the way he presents the film in this natural setting as the locations are key to the film as they’re shot on the Niigata and Nagano Prefecture regions in Japan with its vast mountains and fields being its centerpiece. Imamura uses a lot of wide and medium shots to play into the locations but also maintain an intimacy as it relates to the characters at their home no matter how small it is as well as close-ups of the characters but also animals. Imamura would often shoot animals to play up this sense of naturalism as well as an environment that is also unforgiving similar to the way villagers are towards those who threaten their livelihood. Shots featuring snakes eating rats or owls eating a mouse are often shown while Imamura also uses some unique tracking shots to play into how vast the landscape is as much of the film’s first two acts take place in the village and areas around it.

The film also plays into some intense sexuality in the way men crave for it as Risuke is someone that is in need of it despite the fact that he never bathes. Some of it goes into near explicit territory as it plays into the sexual politics of the villagers although the women do have some sense of control when it comes to running the household as it would be something Orin would pass upon towards Tamayan before she goes to the mountains. The film’s third act is about the journey Orin and Tatsuhei as well as revelations about Tatsuhei’s father that the latter reveals as he had been the source of all of the bad luck Orin and her family endured. The journey towards the mountain is a treacherous one as Tatsuhei has to carry Orin on his back as there are elements of surrealism, spiritual imagery, and realism that play into this journey with revelations into what Tatsuhei would have to endure when his time is coming. Overall, Imamura crafts an intoxicating yet wondrous film about a woman settling matters before her son takes her to a mountain where she would die.

Cinematographers Hiroshi Kanazawa, Shigeru Komatsubara, and Masao Tochizawa do incredible work with the film’s cinematography as its emphasis on natural lighting for many of its exterior settings including the usage of low-key artificial lighting for a few of the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editors Toshihiko Kojima, Fusako Matsumoto, Hajime Okayasu, Yoshiko Onodera, and Matsahito Watanabe do excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward in its rhythmic cuts while using some stylized slow-motion and odd frame-speeds for some of the surreal and haunting moments. Production designer Goro Kusakabe, along with art directors Hisao Inagaki and Tadataka Yoshino plus set decorators Senki Nakamura and Mitsuto Washizawa, does amazing work with the design of the home that Orin and her family live in as well as the village and the look of the mountaintop for the film’s climax in its eerie detail. Costume designer Kyoto Isho does fantastic work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with the robes and such that the men and women wear with some of it being ragged as it plays into the struggle the villagers in their environment.

The special effects work of Yoshio Kojima is terrific for some of the film’s minimal effects work for a few scenes in the mountain as it plays into its mystique and ghost-like atmosphere. The sound work of Kenichi Benitani is brilliant for its sound design in the way nature sounds from their locations as well as the usage of natural sounds on location including some eerie moments that play into the suspense and drama. The film’s music by Shin’ichiro Ikebe is phenomenal for its immense music score filled with low-key string and percussive arrangements along with elements of synthesizers and electric bass to create a mood that adds to the sense of the unknown as it relates to spirits along with natural elements that occur throughout the film as it is a major highlight of the film.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Norihei Miki as an elderly salt dealer that Orin knows who tells him about Tamayan, Akio Yokoyama as a neighbor who is suspected of theft, Sachie Shimura as the neighbor’s wife also suspected of theft, Ryutaro Tatsumi as an old neighbor, Kaoru Shimamori as Tatsuhei’s young son Tomekichi, Shoichi Ozawa as a village elder who is the head of the village, Niijiko Kiyokawa as female villager whom Orin bargains with as it relates to Risuke, and Mitsuko Baisho as a recent widow in Oei who had been frustrated with her husband as she chooses to become a prostitute. Junko Takada is superb as Matsuyan who is in a relationship with Kesakichi as she would become part of his family though Orin feels she is crowding things as she is associated with a family accused of theft. Seiji Kurasaki is fantastic as Tatsuhei’s eldest son Kesakichi as a young man who is in love although he is pondering her role for the family.

Tonpei Hidari is excellent as Tatsuhei’s younger brother Risuke as a virginal villager who smells terribly as he is also desperate to lose his virginity while being this oddball in the community. Takejo Aki is brilliant as Tamayan as a widow that Tatsuhei would marry as she helps the family out while also learning a secret from Orin that would help the family. Sumiko Sakamoto is amazing as Orin as the family matriarch who is about to turn 70 as she decides to settle all of her business before she goes to the mountain as well as deal with gossip and stories about her as there’s a gracefulness to her performance. Finally, there’s Ken Ogata in an incredible performance as Tatsuhei as Orin’s eldest son who is trying to run the family household while also aware of the role he has to play for his mother while also dealing with issues relating to his late father whom he wasn’t fond of as well as the terror of his journey at the mountains.

The Ballad of Narayama is a tremendous film from Shohei Imamura. Featuring a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, a grounded setting, a study of loss and facing death, evocative sound work, and a rich music score by Shin’ichiro Ikebe. It is a film that explores a family having to let their matriarch go with her eldest son doing a task that is deemed traditional as he is forced to face his own journey. In the end, The Ballad of Narayama is a spectacular film from Shohei Imamura.

Related: The Ballad of Narayama (1958 film)

Shohei Imamura Films: (Stolen Desire) – (Nishi Ginza Station) – (Endless Desire) – (My Second Brother) – (Pigs and Battleship) – (The Insect Woman) – (Unholy Desire) – (The Pornographers) – (A Man Vanishes) – (The Profound Desire of the Gods) – (History of Postwar Japan as Told by a Bar Hostess) – (Karayuki-san, the Making of a Prostitute) – (Vengeance is Mine (1979 film)) – (Eijanaika) – (Zegen) – (Black Rain (1989 film)) – (The Eel) – (Dr. Akagi) – (Warm Water Under a Red Bridge) – 11’09”01-September 11-Japan

© thevoid99 2024

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Turin Horse


Directed by Bela Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky and written by Tarr and Laszlo Krasznahorski, A torinoi lo (The Turin Horse) is the story of the aftermath of an event in which a horse being whipped in Turin as it is rumored to be the cause of Friedrich Nietzsche’s mental breakdown. The film is an unconventional drama that plays into the effects of a horse being abused as a farmer and his daughter deal with its consequences as well as being possibly involved in Nietzsche’s mental breakdown. Starring Janos Derzsi, Erika Bok, Mihaly Kormos, and narration by Mihaly Raday. A torinoi lo is a rapturous and haunting film from Bela Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky.

On January 3, 1889 in Turin, Italy, Friedrich Nietzsche would have a mental breakdown as he tried to calm down a horse being whipped by the carriage driver leading to a period of health issues that would plague for the next eleven years until his death. The film is about the carriage driver who whipped the horse following this incident as it is told in the span of six days in which he and his daughter endure a period of isolation in their desolate home as they cope with heavy winds, a horse that refuses to eat, and events that play into their state of despair. The film’s screenplay by Bela Tarr and Laszlo Krasznahorski is largely straightforward though it opens with narration in black about what happened to Nietzsche as it would then cut to the man who was meant to be Nietzsche’s carriage driver in Ohlsdorger (Janos Derzsi) who is taking his horse home through the Great Hungarian Plain as he deals with heavy winds and dust wind upon arriving home.

For the six next days, Ohlsdorger and his daughter (Erika Bok) live in a stone hut doing the same daily routines while checking on a horse that refuses to eat as they also eat the same meals and look out the window. On the first day, the daughter wakes up to get water from a well to boil the potatoes as well as tend to the fire and help her father get dressed as it is part of a daily routine where they also check on the horse. The second day would be much of the same except they get a visitor in Bernhard (Mihaly Kormos) who makes claims about the nearby town being destroyed as it would play into this sense of dread where Ohlsdorger and his daughter get a visit from gypsies the next day as it would lead to all sorts of trouble.

Tarr’s direction is definitely stylish in its own way as it consists of 30 shots for a film with a 156-minute running time with shots averaging up to 5 minutes as it is shot on a valley in Hungary. The film wouldn’t have any dialogue for the first 22 minutes other than Mihaly Raday’s narration as it plays into the events leading up to the film as well as commentary on the events around the protagonists including a book that the daughter reads upon her encounter with the gypsies. There are some close-ups and medium shots that occur throughout the film but Tarr and co-director/editor Agnes Hranitzky would often utilize wide shots as well as these gazing images that would linger onto something for more than a few minutes. There would also be these intricate tracking shots including some Steadicam shots such as the daughter opening the front door with a couple of pails to get water from the well as the camera would follow them. There is also this sense of repetition in how a daily routine would begin as Tarr and Hranitzky would shoot the same routines but would then place the cameras in a different position to get a different perspective as it adds a unique feel to the way a day is portrayed.

With Hranitzky providing some straightforward cutting as well as some unique fade-to-black transitions for a few moments, Tarr would also play into this idea that a world is ending as he would include text written by Krasznahorski as it plays into the philosophies of Nietzsche. It adds to the bleak tone of the film as the fifth day would be this key moment late in the film as it plays into the sense of despair but also uncertainty into a world that these two people don’t know at all. Especially as the aftermath of all of that showcases this sense of accepting whatever fate they have to endure as well as the fate of the horse that was affected by this incident involving Nietzsche. Overall, Tarr and Hranitzky craft a somber yet harrowing film about a horse carriage driver and their daughter dealing with their surroundings following an incident that played into Friedrich Nietzsche’s mental breakdown.

Cinematographer Fred Keleman does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its stark imagery in many of its daytime exteriors to the usage of natural lighting and lanterns for many of the interior scenes in the day and night as it is a highlight of the film. Production designer Laszlo Rajk does excellent work with the look of the home that Ohlsdorger and his daughter live in as well as the small house for their horse to live in. Sound editor/mixer Gabor Erdelyi does incredible work with the films’ sound in the way the wind sounds in all of its intensity in the exterior scenes as well as some sparse sounds from the inside as it is a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Mihaly Vig is amazing for its somber string-based score that only appears in certain parts of the film as it plays into the sense of dread and despair.

The film’s ensemble cast is largely small other than a group of uncredited extras as Romani gypsies that stop at Ohlsdorger’s water well as well as Mihaly Kormos as their neighbor Bernhard who asks for brandy as well as what is happening nearby and the horse Ricsi as the horse who refuses to eat while pondering its own existence. Erika Bok is fantastic as the daughter who would cook and grab water while also pondering her own existence as she is quiet yet riveting in the way she sees things as well as the sense of despair around her. Finally, there’s Janos Derzsi as Ohlsdorger as the horse carriage driver who copes with what happened as well as the world around him as he is unsure of what to do while also realizing that his place in the world might come to an end.

A torinoi lo is a tremendous film from Bela Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky. While it is not an easy film to watch due to its lack of a strong plot, slow pacing with not much dialogue occurring throughout the film, and its bleak tone. It is still an entrancing watch in how it explores two people dealing with their place in a world that is changing and with them not being part of it as well as coping with an incident that played into Friedrich Nietzsche’s mental breakdown. If this is truly the final film from Bela Tarr, then he goes out with an outstanding statement. In the end, A torinoi lo is a magnificent film from Bela Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky.

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

© thevoid99 2024

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Age of Panic


Written and directed by Justine Triet, La Bataille de Solferino (Age of Panic) is the story of a cable news reporter who is covering the French presidential elections as she deals with the chaos in her life. The film is an exploration of a day in a woman’s life in one of the most tumultuous days of France’s history in a contentious election as she also deals with her ex-husband, two young kids, a lawyer, and all sorts of shit. Starring Laetitia Dosch, Vincent Macaigne, and Arthur Harari. La Bataille de Solferino is a riveting and exhilarating film from Justine Triet.

It’s May 6, 2012 as the second round of the French presidential elections, the film revolves around a news reporter who is late for work as she is dealing with a lot in her life including her ex-husband who has arrived a day late for visitations, a novice babysitter watching their two young kids, a needy boyfriend, and all sorts of shit during a tumultuous and historical day for France. It is a film that plays into a day in the life of a woman yet the day itself is one of historical significance as she has to cover the events that is happening as it couldn’t come at a worst time as she hires a novice babysitter to watch her two young daughters while her ex-husband is trying to see them because of court order. Justine Triet’s script is largely straightforward yet its narrative moves back and forth into the actions of the news reporter Laetitia (Laetitia Dosch) and her ex-husband Vincent (Vincent Macaigne) as the former is reporting at the Rue de Solferino in Paris where the socialist candidate Francoise Hollande has his home base. Yet, Vincent’s attempts to see his children is thwarted as he turns to a neighbor in Arthur (Arthur Harari) to settle the matter leading a full-on tumultuous day for all involved.

Triet’s direction definitely has a sense of realism where Triet shot everything on that day as the element of cinema verite definitely comes into play due to Triet’s own background in documentary filmmaking. While the scenes outside of these events are largely straightforward in its compositions although there aren’t a lot of close-ups with the exception of shots when Laetitia is on a motorcycle going from one street to another. Much of Triet’s direction emphasizes on medium shots in some of the film’s intimate moments or something as chaotic whenever there’s a big crowd scene at a campaign rally. There are also some wide shots of these events as it plays into the frenzy that is happening where Laetitia talks to Hollande’s supporters but also supporters of the opposing candidate in Nicolas Sarkozy as it does play into something that feels real.

Triet’s approach to everything involving Laetitia’s personal life is straightforward as there are moments that play into the chaos including Vincent trying to meet Laetitia who is on assignment after noticing the babysitter and a friend of Laetitia with their kids as it leads into trouble for Vincent. Yet, Triet would also maintain a sense of looseness in the scenes at Laetitia’s apartment where the babysitter is with the kids as he also has to endure Vincent’s phone calls. Triet also maintains a sense of dramatic tension as it relates to Laetitia and Vincent with Arthur being in the middle during the film’s third act as he is trying to be the mediator. While Vincent does have a valid case due to a court order, he is unfortunately a day late while Arthur also reveals some things that could go against him but is also trying to help him knowing how complicated the law is. It all plays into this sense of a woman just dealing a hell of a day filled with so much as that is going on a historical day for France in the 21st Century. Overall, Triet crafts an exhilarating film about a day in the life of a news reporter who tries to juggle her responsibilities during a historical day in France.

Cinematographer Tom Harari does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward for much of the film’s daytime/nighttime exteriors along with a few stylish lights for some of the interior scenes at night. Editor Damien Maestraggi does brilliant work with the editing as it has elements of jump-cuts as well as a few other stylish cuts to play into the film’s energetic presentation. Production designer Regis Blasy does nice work with the look of Laetitia’s apartment in its interior setting as it plays into the chaos in her life. Costume designer Mariette Niquet does fantastic work with the costumes in the clothes that Laetitia wears as well as the ragged clothes that Vincent wears.

Sound editor Olivier Touche does superb work in capturing the sound as it is largely straightforward in the way crowds sound as well as some quiet moment in the more intimate scenes. Music supervisor Thibault Deboaisne does terrific work with the film’s soundtrack as a lot of it is diegetic in the usage of classical music played in rooms with a piece by Dead Man’s Bones played during the motorcycle scenes.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Zine-Zine Sidi Omar as a police investigator, Colin Ledoux and Chloe Lagrenade as a couple on a bridge that Laetitia meets, Jeane Ara-Bellanger and Liv Harari in their respective roles as Laetitia and Vincent’s young daughters in Jeane and Liv, Maxime Schneider as Laetitia’s motorcycle driver who takes her to different locations to Paris for an assignment, Emile Brisavoine as a friend of Laetitia who helps the babysitter watch the kids as they’re in the crowded streets, Vatsana Sedone as a neighbor of Laetitia who is asked to watch out for Vincent in case he tries to get into the apartment building, Virgil Vernier as Laetitia’s boyfriend who is fond of the kids but is often needy to be around her, and Marc-Antoine Vaugeois as the babysitter hired to watch over Laetitia’s kids as he is new to the job as he becomes overwhelmed with Vincent trying to see him and the chaos that is happening in the day.

Arthur Harari is excellent as Vincent’s friend Arthur who is a law student who is trying to help Vincent with his case but also try to mediate things between Vincent and Laetitia in the film’s third act. Vincent Macaigne is brilliant as Vincent as Laetitia’s ex-husband who shows up a day late to his court-supervised visit as he is eager to see his daughters while it is clear he is mentally-troubled but also an asshole despite his love for his daughters. Finally, there’s Laetitia Dosch in an incredible performance as Laetitia as a news reporter who endures one hell of a day as she brings in this complex performance of a woman that is dealing with so much in an entire day as well as having to cover something historical as it is gripping performance that captures a woman in one insane day.

La Bataille de Solferino is a phenomenal film from Justine Triet. Featuring a great cast, a simple yet effective premise, setting it at a real-life event, and it simple yet engaging visuals. The film is definitely an unconventional yet exhilarating film that plays into a woman dealing with so much as she has to cover a historical event in France as it becomes this hell of a day for this woman. In the end, La Bataille de Solferino is a sensational film from Justine Triet.

Justine Triet Films: (In Bed with Victoria) – (Sybil (2019 film)) – (Anatomy of a Fall)

© thevoid99 2024