Posted on 9/20/11 06:08 PM
Such passion, such hatred, such pain. Those are the feelings that haunt Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), the protagonist and tortured hero of Amadeus. The film begins with a man (Salieri) screaming, he is begging for forgiveness for killing Mozart. When his servants enter the room they see him attempting to commit suicide by cutting his throat. Next you see Father Volger (Richard Frank) walking into a mental hospital and he meets Salieri in his room, at first Salieri wants nothing to do with the Father, but he quickly opens up and tells him his confession. He was just a man with one dream: To be able to dedicate his life to and make great music. As a child Salieri is plagued by his strict father who wants his to get into business. His father chokes and dies during a meal, an event that Salieri calls a "miracle", with his father dead he is taken to Vienna and able to fully dedicate himself to music. Next the films jumps to him being an adult, also he is a court composer for Holy Roman Emperor Joeseph II (Jeffrey Jones) which he is content with being. Next is the arrival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce), a praised young composer who Salieri is a major admirer of. But when Salieri finds Mozart to immature and "vile" for his taste the loathing begins.
How does a three-hour film (180 minutes precisely) about a virtually unknown composer who has a violent jealousy of the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart work? After I finished this film I took a little time to myself and thought that question over. What thrived most for me in this film is two different things: 1. The magnificent job Abraham and Hulce did at portraying their fascinating characters. That was a people simple reason. 2. The music!! Oh, the music!! Never has music taken over a film so much. Amadeus features more music than a musical with the music being from one of the greatest composers ever. That mix itself could create greatness, but Milos Forman wouldn't make the music work all alone. Milos Forman's masterpiece is widely considered One Flew Over The Cuckoos' Nest (1975). The film won 5 Oscars and is considered one of the great classics of films. I must respectfully disagree, One Flew Over The Cuckoos' Nest is a very, very good film but what keeps it from being a classic is the constant comparison it will get with the book of the same name by Ken Kesey. If it wasn't a book the film would easily be a classic, but since it is a book and you must always compare a film with the book and the book is so much greater. Ken Kesey's classic novel allows much more insight that the film, his book is able to have much deeper meanings that the film just didn't have the abilty to reveal.
Milos Forman's beautiful direction is perhaps and even stronger part of the film than Abraham and Hulce's performances. Forman is able to work with a time period thats beauty has a mind of its own. The outfits are outrageous, the women are gorgeous, and most of all the music was at a level that has never been matched. Fans of plays and musicals with be at home with Amadeus, Forman doesn't leave out any of Mozart's great work, he risked the film being too long so that he could rightfully direct the at times lengthy operas and that decision is one of his greatest. Amadeus features actual opera stars who are featured in the musical numbers, and how great those numbers are. Never have I ever had much interest in attending operas, maybe plays, but not operas. Now thanks to the great direction of Forman and the revolutionary music of Mozart I have finally been shown the truth about how wonderful operas can be when they feature such great music.
Mozart is one of the most known and praised composers of all time, his music is loved with such intensity worldwide. Never has his music left the world, its featured in movies, plays, and adapted into the ever changing music of today, but what most people know nothing of is Mozart's appearance or personality. His appearance and personality are nothing to remember, it is music that took him to immortality. As Amadeus rightfully shows us Mozart was a small man, thin and pale with a high-pitched obnoxious laugh. It is Mozart's laugh that truly haunts Salieri the most, it would haunt me also if I had to hear it continuously. My point is that unlike so many other films, plays etc. Amadeus doesn't portray Mozart as this handsome ravishing man who had no flaws, but instead shows how he appearance and personality had many flaws. Never has Mozart's music been used so wonderfully, Forman uses care and his love for the music to create a film that does nothing but good for his subject's music. The world can thank Milos Forman for helping bring Mozart and his music back into the spotlight, adding to his never fading popularity.
Tom Hulce as Mozart is a match made in film greatness. Yes, it is F. Murray Abraham as Salieri that gets all the attention (Abraham won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance). It is Tom Hulce that had the challenge of portraying Mozart, the man, the myth, the legend. What Hulce does with his character is remarkable, he makes him outrageous, but without being goofy or awkward feeling. Most of all he shows Mozart's passion and dedication us a the viewer are able to see what Salieri never is able to throughout the film. We see his endless working and love for the music he makes. Hulce also received an Oscar nomination for his performance, but it just wasn't meant to be. Although, just like the film his performance has aged very well, everyone that I know that has seen the film-- with is just about everybody-- absolutely loves the performance. The easiness and joy in his performance works very well with the dark, tortured performance by Abraham.
Now on to the performance that remains one of the most respected even 27 years later. F. Murray Abraham is Antonio Salieri, a man who is tortured by his mediocrity compared to the greatness of Mozart. Throughout most of the film we see Mozart from Salieri's point of view, his hatred for both the success and lifestyle of the young genius. Salieri is a passionate believer in God and God's ways. Us a viewers can relate to Salieri, because most of us are constantly trying to understand His ways, when wonderful things happen in our lives it is almost second nature for us to thing that God, in some way, made it happen. Maybe I am just thinking that my mind is like every one elses, but that is how I see most people's minds working. Abraham shows us Salieri's painful obsession with such sympathy that it i hard not to sympathize with him. Films run on being able to evoke strong emotions about their characters, ironically what makes Abraham's portrayal of Salieri is the lack of strong emotions. Salieri's plots against Mozart and his obsessions would usually make a viewer frustrated or maybe just make them consider him an insane man. If that happened viewers would not look into his character anymore and with his character being the heart of the film that would have hurt Amadeus tremendously. We know that none of that happened, Abraham does a wonderful job showing Salieri's obsessions while also showing him as a person, as a man who is a good person tortured by evil thoughts.
I know I have done some terrible rambling on the two star performances, but that is for very good cause. Both performances deserve endless praise, but I will take some time to talk about a couple smaller roles that had such a great effect on this film. Not much is known about Constanze, the beautiful, dedicated wife of Mozart. She was with him through all the ups and downs of his life and career. She is portrayed with care by Elizabeth Berridge. Her character loves Mozart to no end, none of his vast amounts of flaws ever strain her love for him. Constanze is the one character who has gotten a look at the true Salieri, she knows about his very hidden darkness. Jeffrey Jones as Emperor Joseph II is a minor role that has such an importance for the film. He is the authority figure over both Mozart and Salieri. He is the cause for both joy and anger on both of their parts. Jones' performance as the Emperor is both agressive and understanding. Lastly their is a performance that went unnoticed, but to me had a major impact on the flow of the film. That performance is Richard Frank as Father Volger. He has very few speaking lines and is only on screen for a few minutes total, but it is his facial reactions to the confession of the older Salieri that are a very powerful part of the film. Those reactions of a young religious figure hearing a story that would shock the world. That mere performance shows us how the smallest of roles can have such a powerful impact on a film. Acting in Amadeus is so wonderful that I am tempted to call it perfect, but I won't because I tend to get ahead of myself. When or if you finally see this film every part will touch a little something inside you, but the acting is what allows you to truly feel and understand those vast feelings.
If you are intimidated by the 180 minute run-time don't be. With two fascinating characters, great direction, and entrancing operas the time quickly drifts away. This is more of an opinion, but of the two main characters of the film it is Mozart--portrayed by Tom Hulce--that fascinated me the most. Unlike everyone else who just adored Abraham's role, don't get me wrong his performance is wonderful, very much worthy of the Oscar. But Amadeus is one of those rare films where both there lead actors deserved an Oscar, it got all the awards it deserved but the one that should have gone to Tom Hulce. Maybe that's why his performance took over me so much more, he didn't win the Oscar and is much overshadowed by Abraham. Ironically it's the complete opposite in the film. Milos Forman has some God given talent to be able to show such great beauty in such dark themes. Amadeus should be required viewing for film makers, there is not one flaw in the entire film. Milos is able to show each emotion from each character in its whole not just in limited points of views, but in ways where you can truly know the characters feelings. Amadeus stars like it will just be solely in the view of Salieri, but instead you see both Salieri and Mozart in ways where you get to truly understand and connect with them. Very loosely based on the lives of Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, historical accuracy is not of any real imortance. No Salieri did not murder Mozart, the risks this film took are miraculous, Milos Forman shows why he is a legend to the industry. Each scene in the film is acted to perfection, not a scene is put in without purpose. This si the film that has solidified Forman has a directing great. He had had some rough times since One Flew Over The Cuckoos' Nest, but now he has two films that are among the most celebrated in film history. F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce have great unforgettable performances, while Milos Forman's direction is considerate to the characters and passionate.
Posted on 9/20/11 05:36 PM
A heartbreaking story of truly forbidden love. Enis del Mar and Jack Twist fall in love, but a ignorant world makes them fear and hide their love. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal give two of the greatest performances in the last twenty years. Brokeback Mountain is about two gay cowboys, that statement alone will turn many heads and cause many offensive comments. But Brokeback Mountain is much more than a film about gay cowboys. It is a film about a struggle, the struggle two gay men are faced with. The love between Jack and Enis is pure. Their love is so true and so powerful, but because they are gay they must hide in the shadows. Ang Lee's direction is emotionally haunting. Viewers that are able to see this movie for what it truly is will understand how wonderful this film is. Brokeback Mountain is an film filled with A-list actors like, Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and Michelle Williams. Each one of the young stars in this film have performances that will forever be remembered.
Brokeback Mountain is a fearless look into the 20 year love affair/struggle of two gay men spanning from the early 60s to the early 80s. The film is set mostly in Wyoming, an area that has always been a very anti-gay area. The film references the shockingly violent reactions to homosexuality in the area, and how it affects Jack and Enis' relationship. People spend their whole lives, and many ultimately fail at finding true love. Jack and Enis find true love but because it is with each other, it is forbidden, and their lives turn into a constant battle with their emotions.
Ang Lee gained worldwide acclaim for his sensational directing in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Brokeback Mountain is a complete 180 degree turn from those days, but is also a whole new achievement. One of the most beautifully shot films in the last 20 years. But a film cannot run completely of emotionally powerful direction, for a film to be great it needs strong acting. Highly emotional viewers please beware Brokeback Mounting is a emotional freight train. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall as the leads become household names. Both Ledger and Gyllenhaal gain recognition from very memorable, and entertaining performances. Ledger rose to fame as a result of his rebellious performance in 10 Things I Hate About You. Gyllenhaal gained international fame from his lead performance in the dark Sci-Fi thriller Donnie Darko. Ledger and Gyllenhaal have grown a lot since then, and in Brokeback Mountain their performances are two of the greatest ever.
Enis del Mar (Heath Ledger) is a ranch hand, and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a rodeo cowboy. They are hired by Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid) to herd his cattle on Brokeback Mountain. Both Enis and Jack develop a very emotional relationship during their time on Brokeback Mountain. Their trip is cut short. Ennis marries his long-time fiancee Alma Beers (Michelle Williams) and fathers two children. Jack marries and starts a family with rodeo rider Laureen Newsome (Anne Hathaway). When the two meet again two years later they realize that they still have very strong feelings for each other. The decide to not keep a secret relationship. As the years go on their love becomes more and more of a struggle.
While its plot was controversial that did not keep people from flocking to see Brokeback Mountain when it came out. The film was a box office success making over 150 million worldwide. With Brokeback Mountain drawing in that many viewers, that definitely showed some significant maturing on our part. But controversy kept the film banned in many theaters across the U.S. and in various parts of the world. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture. Unfortunately it was upset by the also controversial film Crash, that referenced modern day racism. Brokeback Mountain did win three Oscars, including Best Director for Ang Lee.
A wonderful adaptation of Annie Proulx's short story by the same name. Brokeback Mountain was nominated for over 70 awards winning over 50. It gained worldwide acclaim, and there is no denying the shear emotional power in this film. Emotion is needed in any great film, and many have suffered because of its lack. Each and every person involved in this film went out of their comfort zone and had to go to emotional extremes to play their parts. Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway were both known for their smaller and more comedic roles before this film. With Brokeback Mountain, they both were able to show off they acting talents, showing the world they have endless talents and range. I could ramble and gawke over the acting power and direction, but the experience is what will truly let the viewer understand the significance. Ang Lee's direction captures the emotion, but it is Ledger and Gyllenhaal that made Brokeback Mountain one of the most unforgetable emotional experiences.
Posted on 9/20/11 05:23 PM
An anonymous flasher exposes himself to shoppers in the Forest Ridge Mall parking lot. The head of mall security, Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen), makes it his mission to catch the flasher. He is helped by Charles (Jesse Plemons), Dennis (Michael Pena), and the Yuen twins (John Yuan and Matthew Yuan). Ronnie's dream girl, Brandi (Anna Faris) is frashed the next day, and she becomes hysterical. Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) comes and takes over the situation, this makes Ronnie very angry. Ronnie decides to take the case into his own hands.
A incredibly disgusting film where Seth Rogen is at his funniest, but a great performance by Rogen cannot save this crewd film. Observe and Report is a very dark and unpleasant experience. A cliche thing to say, but I found myself looking at the clock waiting for this film to end. Besides for Rogen Observe and Report has very few laughs. The perfect example of why you can't base and entire films laughs on dirty humor. Some of the most unfortunate, and unwanted nudity I have even had to sit through. Jody Hill tries to shock and awe viewers will dark humor, and a unique storyline, but instead creates and unfortunate film. The most suprising thing about this film is that even while the film is very tough to sit through, Rogen's performance still almost carries the film.
Jody Hill is the co-creator and executive producer of the HBO series Eastbound and Down. Eastbount and Down has dark humor and a very outrageous plot as like Observe and Report, but Observe and Report is not able to link together as well. Hill's first film The Foot Fist Way was seen by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell who bought the distribution rights. And also developed a cult following. Hill was allowed on the set of Knocked Up, and he fell in love with Seth Rogen's acting style. He became even more of a Rogen fan after the release of Superbad. Hill both directed and wrote the script for Observe and Report. Unfortunately it just didn't have as great of an effect as his previous work. Observe and Report's script is very poorly made. Hill's direction is well done, but the film is an absolute mess.
Seth Rogen's performance is one of the best and hilarious performances from a comedy since probably Steve Carell's in 40 Year Old Virgin. Besides for Rogen there are no other performances worth mentioning. Anna Faris as Brandi is a very untalented performance. Ray Liotta as Detective Harrison is nothing special, no lines or scenes worth mentioning. One performance does not keep a film in motion. Each time Rogen is off the screen this film just crashes and burns.
Observe and Report only grossed about 25 million in the box office, one of the lowest grossing films that Rogen has stared in. This film had plenty of hype. Rogen as the lead, the co-creator of Eastbound and Down as the director, and also starring Ray Liotta. But like soo many comedy films, it dissapointed. It seems like each year there are more and more gross-out comedies that are released. Hopefully this film will help people realize that these films very rarely work, but probably not. The amount of awful nudity in this film will make you have to check and make sure you are not at a Jackass film. Observe and Report is a film you need to brace yourself to sit through. A film Rogen fans will want to pass on, and if you are a Jody Hill fan you too will be disappointed.
Posted on 9/20/11 05:19 PM
Stylization at its finest, Suspiria is a horror film with all the right stuff to live on forever. But will it? Well as a recent viewer watching this film thirty-four years later I can say that it doesn't feel like the classic is was formerly considered as, but Suspiria hasn't lost very much of its flair or effect. Witches in film is not something that tends to receive much success or popularity, and for all the right reasons. Films about witches tend to be films that try to use the mythology of them to mess with the viewers mind rather than have any real substance or scares rightfully achieved. My love for film fills my heart when I am able to see a film that isn't afraid to attack the stereotypes that are given to specific genres of films and shed a new, wonderful light and change the thinking of us all. Suspiria does that. A witch has never seemed more terrifying, not riddled with the cliche maniacal laughing or the broomstick, and not even the casting of spells. Instead witches as portrayed as purely evil women who commit acts of violence to maintain a negative energy. Who in their right mind could tell me that Suspiria's view of witches isn't incredibly more chilling than the shameful portrayals in just about every other film with even the slightest hint of them. Roman Polanski's thriller Rosemary's Baby (1968) is one of the few exceptions, like this film Rosemary's Baby keeps much of the story a mystery until a shocking ending makes everything come together wonderfully. What makes this film in ways better than Rosemary's Baby though is that Argento uses his directing wizardry to create intense scares rather than mind burning inner thoughts.
An American ballet student, Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) arrives in Munich, Germany in the midst of a major storm. She heads to a prestigious academy of dance in Friedburg, but is unable to gain access. While trying to get inside she sees a panic stricken student, Pat Hingle (Eva Axen). She is saying something, but the storm drowns out her words. Later that night Pat is brutally murdered by a mysterious man. The next day Suzy is able to get into the academy, and is introduced to Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) and Miss Tanner (Alida Valli). As she gets settled into the academy there are some very mysterious events that occur, and she slowly begins to realize that there is something horribly wrong going on.
Horror films are usually received with the harshest criticism and when a great one comes along they tend to be the quickest to drift away. So it is usually up to us a viewers and fans of film to keep they popularity a spirit alive. The Oscars and all of the major film festivals don't usually even consider horror films worthy of being mentioned, I guess that's why there have been numerous festivals dedicated solely to the horror genre. It pains me to admit this, but the cliched and sickening excuses for horror films that have come out, mainly in the last ten or so years have not done any good for the worldwide feelings about the genre. The pointless and continuous use of certain story lines and the over use of gore and nudity have made it to where even the greatest horror films seem painfully aged. But alas, Suspiria is one of the films that has been able to survive the onslaught that the genre has faced and to many it still remains a classic.
To end the saddening talk about horror cliches I will touch the subject of bad acting. Now we have reached something that not even this film was able to escape. Acting in Suspiria is not very good at all, actually the acting is very tolerable compared to most films of the same type. Too much emotion that is distracting, and dialogue that tries to be more clever than it needs to. That is what plagues this film, little things that are barely noticed thanks to the powering music that charges the suspense to levels out of this world. Italian rock band Goblin composed most of the musical scores for the film. A use of music to drown out much of the pointless stammering is one of the great successes for the film. I have never had any desire to hear non-stop screaming or begging for mercy; it works best in intervals. If given the choice to hear loud music with violent mumbling and terrifying chanting or the crying and screaming of an actress trying too hard, I would chose the the former every single time. Dario Magento co-wrote the script with Daria Nicolodi, the script keeps the premise very engrossing, but does not allow the actresses/actors (very few actors) to make anything of their performances. The best performance by far is by lead actress Jessica Harper. Now don't expect any memorable lines or deep charecterization, but her success comes from her use of emotion. Not false emotion like most young actresses trying to make a name for themself, but real emotion that viewers will be able to feel.
Italian director Dario Argento made a name for himself by showing his talents of making films in Giallo genre-- thriller and mystery. His popular successes came from the films, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971), Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972). He then took a bit of a break and went into Italian TV for awhile. But when he returned, he returned with his best, Deep Red (1975). Deep Red by many is considered Argento's best film and it received instant acclaim. His use of mysterious direction that keeps the most fascinating secrets from the viewer all the way up to the end of the film. Also he is known as one of the few thriller directors who works just as hard on his scripts as on the scares in the film. Each of Argento;s film feauture true film making care and passion that shows itself on the screen, that's just the reason why he is one of the most respected thriller directors of all time with major cult followings.
Suspiria's concept is derived from the popular work of literature Suspiria de Profundis. In a section from Suspiria de Profundis entitled "Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow", which references that there are three Fates, Graces, and three Sorrows. Much of the work is somehow or another added into the film. Ballet academies will for now on always bring a hint of fear into me. Argento uses vivid colors and constant moving direction to both enhance the scares and keep the attention of the viewer contiuously. Althogh, excluding Jessica Harper as the lead. Suspiria tends to get its best performances from the actors with the least lines (a blind man and a mute are the two of mention). Argento's script is weaker than his previous films, but his direction hits an all time high level. Gore fans will leave satisfied, the number of scenes are few, but the build up and effect work so well together that waiting will not feel like a task. Acting coaches will have a field day on Suspiria, but Argento's mastery is overwhelming.
Posted on 9/20/11 05:15 PM
Never has someone's face stirred up such emotions in me like Renee Maria Falconetti's painful portryal of Joan of Arc. The film is based on the the records of her trial and depicts that last day of her life. The Passion of Joan of Arc is one of the few silent films that would not gain at all from the addition of sound. While various silent films-- most notably Nosferatu: The Symphony of Horror-- have been remade with great success with sound, no such attempt has been made for this film, and rightfully so. Such emotion takes you breath away, when the tears run down Joan's face it will tear you apart inside. Set mostly either inside a courtroom, Joan's prison cell, or in a torture chamber there is not much moving around or vast sets in which the film is set. Passion uses only the essentials: powerful performances, meaningful dialogue, expressive direction, and breathtaking passion.
Nineteen year old French army leader Joan of Arc (Renee Maria Falconetti) is brought to trial. She is agressively interrogated by the Judge (Michel Simon) and other English religous men. Joan claims to be the daughter of God and states that she was visited by Saint Michael. Instead of believing her the Judge and other attendees dismiss her and call her a spawn of Satan, but there are very few that do consider her a saint. Her pain and extraordinary determination is made evident in this film. They can break her body, but they will never break her spirit.
It isn't known how many films Maria Falconetti was in total, and the stories of her being discovered by director Carl Theodor Dreyer never seem to end. But what is a known fact is that Falconetti was never in anything big after this film, and no one has ever been able to match her greatness in this performance. To remember silent films the image that will always stay in our minds is the innocent and tortured face of Maria Falconetti. Dreyer was able to use Falconetti's unique face and wonderfully acting to a perfection with endless closeups and angles that would allow viewers to be able to see the struggle of Joan, one of the true martyrs. Even today the average viewer will be shocked to see how powerful this film from 1928 is. Besides for the obvious qualities of this film using no sound or color there seem to be shockingly few differences from the films of today. Unlike today's film where the art of film has all but vanished, Passion is more art than film. Instead of having some outrageous plot that is only appealing to simple minded people Passion uses a very straight forward plot that uses art to make this film a masterpiece. It is Maria Falconetti that brings the true beauty and it is her that is the passion of The Passion of Joan of Arc.
This is how the story basically goes: Carl Theodor Dreyer goes to a play and he falls head over heels for a young actress who has a face the shows true torment. With seeing her face he ultimately decides he will make a film about the trial of Joan of Arc and that this young women by the name of Renee Maria Falconetti with be his Joan. And the rest is history. That would be the end of the story for just a regular fan of movies, but not for me and all the other film fanatics out there, nope for us there still are the details of how Passion became such a great film. At this point in his life Dreyer was already a respected filmmaker with back-to-back well recieved films-- Thou Shalt Honor Thy Wife (1925) and Bride of Glomdal (1926). Instead of making a film with a large budget and using well known actors,-- like most directors were doing at the time-- he instead used a small budget and unknown actors.
Amazingly the records of Joan of Arc's trial were kept in good condition and were even more amazingly accurate. Many historians even said they were close to being exactly perfect. Once Dreyer got his hands on the trial he became obsessed and knew that he had to make this into a film, but like so many great films he had plenty of trouble in the production of this film. Though once the production problems had passed he mas able to work his magic. He saw no need for large sets or lots of camera work. Instead he used a very small set and almost the entire film is in closeups on the characters faces. With doing that you are able to see real emotions, not fake emotions just referenced. Viewers are forced to see the ignorance and hatred in the faces of Joan's captors, accusors, and her persecutors. Passion is a true depiction that knows what it is trying to do and will do whatever possible to portray it to the very fullest.
Now the rest truly is history. The Passion of Joan of Arc became and instant classic and was immedietly considered one of the greatest films ever. With saying that I don't intend to leave out the criticism that this film predictably was going to face. I will start with the most obvious scene: Joan being burned on the stake. That very quickly stated scene is one of the most powerful scenes ever. Feautring 1920s style violence Joan's death is portrayed as it should have been. Joan is shown with a fixed face of determination and approval of her death. The only time her face changes is at the slight moment when the fire begins to hit her, but it doesn't change for long. Real greatness comes from the reactions of the citizens, the citizens are shown to be crying and appalled at Joan's execution. And once she has died they start an all-out riot. That isn't the point thoug because even though the citizens seemed to truly care it wasn't until 1856, twenty-five years later, that Pope Callixtus III pronounced her innocent and declared her a martyr. With Dreyer's considerate direction and Falconetti's masterful peerformance The Passion of Joan of Arc is a classic that will never fade away just like the stories of the women it portrays.
Mood-O-Meter: 100% or 5 stars
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Posted on 9/20/11 05:13 PM
Extreme dissapointment is what I felt when Monsters ended.One of the most unfortunately anti-climactic endings I have ever had to witness. This is just one big tease of a film. The premise is very interesting, full of tension and suspense. I have always been a bit of a sucker for sci-fi apocalyptic films, and I probably always will be. It's highly doubtful that I'm the only person who finds a film that just keeps you waiting for something major and shocking to happen, only to find out that there is barely anything of the sort. Most audiences going to see films like this are expecting loud explosions, tons of violence, and a outrageous amount of "monsters" (at least a handful is needed). So it doesn't suprise me at all that Monsters earned barely 3.5 million dollars worldwide. Using subtlety to power an emotional relationship in hard times, but not utilizing its setting or tension well. Monsters gets an A+ for how interesting it is, but relationship studies and sci-fi dramas do not mix well.
Acting is not a problem for this film, both Scott McNairy and Whitney Able do good jobs as the two leads. However two good performances don't do a film that much good unless the performances are mezmerising (which they sure aren't) and the characters are iconic (Hell no). Scott Mcnairy plays Andrew Kaulder, a photographer who is accompanying his bosses' daughter Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) back to the U.S., when Samantha misses her boat both her and Andrew must travel through a quarantined zone to get her home. Struggling to survive in the apocalyptic world makes their relationship fascinating to watch. McNairy and Able's chemistry is very nice and will appeal to young couples, but when the leads aren't sharing passionate talks or cuddling even easily amused teenagers with not be able to keep interest.
Newcomer Gareth Edwards make his feature fill directing debut in Monsters which is a sci-fi, travel drama. Edwards' directing skills show promise, starting a career with an apocalypse film is always a way to get your name out there. However it is also Edwards that wrote the script for the film, but I highly doubt his mediocre script writing will do him much harm in the long run. What Edwards attempts in Monsters is to create a newer look for the apocalyptic genre, I guess that isn't saying anything because it's safe to say just about every film maker is trying to create a new look for just about every genre they choose to work with. Something I should add is that Edwards shows real promise with how risky and intriging his story of love and survival in a barren world is. In order to combine both alien invasions with love is to have to leave out major aspects of one, and that is something that just will not work out. Edwards also did the cinematography and how he creates a chilling atmosphere is impressive, he just didn't seem to use it to full effect, For alien invasions you need violence and creepyness, but for survival romance you need chemistry and emotion. Better luck on your next film Mr. Edwards, with Monsters you bit off quite a bit more than you could chew.
An arguement that most fans of Monsters with throw out to the critics is the alien invasion/apocalytic genre needed a film that wasn't just about cheap violence and endless cliches. In a way that is true, but Monsters takes that idea and doesn't do too much with it. For a genre to truly adapt it needs time and will take various attempts. I guess this is just one of those various attempts, and I wholeheartedly hope that this film will inspire other films to try something new. Although it's not right to give a film to much praise for potential, Monsters sure does have plenty of that and for progress to be made to there always needs to be potential. Director Gareth Edwards and his two leads Scott McFairy and Whitney Able all will have nice futures, and when they all look back on their career Monsters will bring back mixed memories with dissapointment, but plenty of potential.
Posted on 8/22/11 09:58 PM
The crew of Monty Python's first film feature is one to cherish. Made between their third and fourth seasons, they were given much more freedom with this film after the success of their sketch complication film And Now For Something Completely Different (1971). It is known that there was many creative differences between directors Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, but in a way it helped this film. Each scene could be shown as its own individual sketch, their brand of humor is so original, so blissfully stilly that even there stupidity comes off seeming smart. Based loosely on the legend of King Arthur who is played with an understanding of how to make the material work gloriously by Graham Chapman. Gilliam's now legendary animation is perfect form working perfectly with the live-action; some real gems created from his animation is a representation of God who is made to almost identically resemble W. G. Grace, then there is the terrifying Black Beast of Aaargghhhh. Getting one to two really good laughs out of any comedy is always something impressive, the real reason to watch a comedy is for light-hearted fun, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is as light-hearted a film as you will ever see with a delightfully silly humor with its fair share of impressively smart social and political satire. Each Python member graduated from a respected college with Terry Jones being an Oxford graduate, so they know how to be intelligent with their stupidity. This film is not as known for its daring satire as their later films, most notably The Life of Brian (1979), but their comedic talents are just as good and truly something in a league of its own.
Posted on 8/22/11 07:12 PM
For a plot with so much tension Steven Soderbergh's vital indie film "sex, lies, and videotape" moves at a very slow, uninterrupted pace. Opening with timid housewife Anne Millaney (Andie MacDowell) telling her psychiatrist her fears and odd obsessions of the day. She does not think much of sex. Telling her psychiatrist, and trying to convince herself, that she would rather spend her time worrying about the real troubles of the world like starvation and the over supply of garbage than about such a minor part of life like sex. No matter how many times Anne convinces herself that sex in only a minor, unnecessary, part of life she still will not be able to avoid just how much of an impact sex alone with have on her life. At around the same moment Anne's lawyer husband John (Peter Gallagher) goes through a regular routine of ditching major clients to have an affair with Anne's sister, Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo).
The 4th member of this very fascinating love-square (oh, how I humor myself) is John's college friend Graham Dalton played in a new role type by James Spader. Graham and John have gone very different paths in life and are not shy to admit that they are no longer friends. John thinks Graham is "weird" and Graham thinks liars are the second lowest form of human being, lawyers being #1. Graham limits his belongings as much as possible, but his most prized possessions are what will change all 4 members lives tremendously.
Anne is drawn to Graham's uniqueness and Graham's curious nature gets her to reveal some of her inner feelings while the direction of the conversation leads to Graham admitting that he is impotent when in the presence of another person. This discovery makes it very unsurprising to learn that as a "personal project" Graham videotapes women talking about sex. This generation with all its endless supply of internet-porn will not bat an eye at this "discovery" but in the late 80s before home-media took over, a sexual hobby like that was unorthodox to say the least. Looking at it in that point-of-view makes Anne's disgusted reaction rightfully justified.
Each character's sexual life is shown completely; we see multiple meetings between John and Cynthia as well as the detached sexual relationship between John and Anne. It was only a matter of time until something went wrong and everything came to a head, Graham becomes their connector.
4 acting careers were simultaneously started, and, or given more serious depth in this one film. Peter Gallagher and Laura San Giacomo are strong in their limited roles, it is their character's steamy sexual relationship that leads to some very sexual moments. Also starring Andie MacDowell, who was a Vogue supermodel with very little screen experience. She gets the most screen-time and is given a challenging role. She isn't a scene controller, but her strong acting talents work well as sexually deprived Anne who masks her sexual displeasures by worrying about problems she can't control. What we are treated with is a performance from James Spader who takes a role that could so easily have been distasteful or perverted and slowly lets it become something special. Once the hidden truths about his character are known a real sadness takes place.
At the ripe age of 26, Steven Soderbergh uses the most basic filmmaking techniques to create simple situations that enhance the effect of his smart, emotionally knowledgeable script. Soderbergh's first big break came when he directed Grammy-nominated video 9012Live for the rock band Yes in 1985. Every film lover has heard of the stories about how he wrote the script for "sex, lies, and videotape" in 8 days during a cross country road trip, with being filmed on a budget of barely 1 million. And the rest is history. Soderbergh went on to become the youngest director to win the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and his film went on to become very successful overseas -- grossing nearly its entire 24 million in Europe. The "Indie Film" Movement of the 90s was made possible from the success of films like this along with other late 80s independent films like Cinema Paradiso (1988) and My Left Foot: The Story of Cristy Brown (1989). Many die-hard indie film fans credit Soderbergh's film with starting the indie movement, which I won't argue with, but I do believe that even if this film was never made the indie boom, that has never really ended, would still have started on schedule.
Watching this film with a modern point-of-view I could see how it could be overlooked. Today about half of marriages end in divorce and many of those divorces are due to cheating. So, a plot like this just may not seem special to many, but I loved how it took such a simple situation in todays standings and let it did deeper into the causes of the "sex" and "lies." For a film about sex it is really impressive that this film has no shown nudity. While nudity in film can be enjoyable (yes, it is true) most of the time is seems forced with little reasoning other than drawing people's attention.
Steven Soderbergh's film is one of the most significant indie films ever made, and it's that simple. Although its content may be a little too reserved and patient for modern audiences though a film like this is not meant to be viewed by routine moviegoers. A low-budget film like this can't resort to the cheap thrills that a large-budget allows. I find it a really thrilling experience to watch a film like this where you can just imagine the hard work a talent that was needed for its creation, something you can cherish. Soderbergh is now an Oscar winner thanks to his film Traffic (2000), he is one of the most respected names in Hollywood, with all that said "sex, lies, and videotape" is the film I respect most.
Posted on 8/21/11 05:03 PM
Jean-Pierre Melville creates a new world of crime in each of his films. His worlds are controlled by criminals who view their work like a corrupt politician desperate to not get caught while working right in broad daylight. Even an off-road coffee shop looks as beautiful as many fine-dinning restaurants anywhere else. Films like Le Doulos (1962), Le Samourai (1967), and now with Le Cercle Rouge make life look like one endless glamorous moment, even with crime and murder as a key element. I would be surprised if Melville ever considered the making of any of his films actual work. Everything always flows so easily, when I watched one of his films it makes me feel like I could make something just like it, but as we all know he was a master. Le Cercle Rouge is not powered by any one performance and Melville has created more lasting characters in his previous films, but what is does here is make characters that work perfectly with a plot that shows him reach plotting greatness.
There is plenty of build up to the much anticipated heist sequence that has become quite legendary. First we are gradually introduced to the players in this crime game with whom we get to know their tendencies and the way they view their work. At the film's opening we see straight-headed intimidator Commassaire Mattei (Andre Bourvil) escorting instinctive criminal, Vogel (Gian Maria Volonte). Then there is quiet code-driven Corey (Alain Delon), who is the creative genius of the film. By pure chance and uncontrollable events these men's lives come together. Corey is released from prison, that same day Vogel makes a great escape from Mattei, showing just how instinctive he is, fleeing the countryside from an army of pursuing policeman. By chance he arrives at the same diner that Corey is eating at and hides in the trunk of his car.
Corey and Vogel quickly warm up to each other with their own reserved form of mutual respect, but since Corey has taken up the run-away criminal, he now has Mattei on his back. Now with a desperate accomplice, Corey is able to bring back an idea for a major heist that was given to him by a former prison guard. As added help Vogel enlists formed cop and battling alcoholic, Jansen (Yves Montand). These three men are professional in aspect of this plan, Vogel says he isn't a professional criminal, but he isn't fooling anyone.
Surprisingly it isn't any of the criminals whose performance I found the strongest, in fact it was Andre Yourvil's performance as hard-nosed cop Mattei. A menacing man who doesn't think twice about abusing people's civil rights to get them to inform for him. Being a career-policeman, and dealing with so many criminals have left their mark on him emotionally and professionally, along with having a superior who says that "every man is guilty" with the elaboration "men are born innocent, but it doesn't last" Like in Le Samourai (1967), Alain Delon has yet another very quiet role that relies on his presence and raw acting abilities. With him in a similar role is Gian Maria Volonte who gives us one of the finer performances of his career.
Melville really lets his talents do all the work. Revealing just enough to momentarily satisfy us, while leaving us expecting more, then taking his sweet time to give us that ultimate satisfaction. His film Le Doulos (1962) was a very character and dialogue-driven film that relied heavily on the deceptive performances of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Serge Reggiani. There is not much dialogue in this film, and rightfully so. Here is a plot that would have made a great silent film, what becomes its best qualities are the ways it shows the most powerful scenes in reserved ways. Take the scene where Corey is taken deep in the woods and put at gunpoint by two cops, one he had beaten up earlier, then right before they shoot him Vogel, who was still in the trunk, appears. At last, in an obviously professional manner, Vogel shoots one cop then uses that cop's gun to kill the other. There we know that Vogel has paid his dues to Corey, but instead of saying "hey, we are even" they both say nothing. These men know each others type, they understand each other and watching there interaction does much more than a quotable line.
Once the chains-of-motion start running on the heist nothing can stop it. There are no stops or pauses, the professionals do their preparation work and get to business. When I realized just how long the heist sequence takes -- roughly thirty minutes -- I was surprised, it is so perfectly paced along with being meticulously detailed. From Corey and Vogel's journey through the buildings to the site and ending with each man's un-rushed, even though the alarm is set off, departure.
The title is taken from a falsified epigraph said to be by Buddha, when in fact it was created by Melville himself. Pretty much says that when men are, knowingly, to meet one day they will come together in a red circle. There are endless ways that could be interpreted with even more endless ways that it could have been shown in the powerful finale of Le Cercle Rouge. Straining your mind too much to figure out just what Melville meant or what he intended is pointless; Melville was a man with a mind to create ideas and stories along with the fantastic ability to portray those ideas and stories in film. If he wasn't a filmmaker he definitely would have made a great author. A heart attack cut his life tragically short in 1973, but his legacy will live on with his films that seem to get even better with time.
Le Cercle Rouge is one of Melville's final films and one his greatest. Featuring all the usuals; noirish narrative style, colorful characters, even if reserved, and dialogue to be remembered even if it doesn't control the flow like it did in his earlier films. I will definitely say that his plot structure is something to be revered, and it truly is. If I was to be a criminal I would want Melville to be my guide and watchful eyes, he was able to create a world with such unique methods and techniques. With Le Cercle Rouge, Melville once again is able to use the qualities that have made him one of the most lauded French directors to ever live, and use them all in some of his most audacious forms to make a crime film that sucks us into its world.
Posted on 8/21/11 05:03 PM
Through Army of Shadows, Jean-Pierre Melville takes the mystique of French Resistance during World War II and shows it for what it really was. Opening in October of 1942 and ending a year later. During that year, we follow various members of the French Resistance as we get a very exclusive inside look at their missions and all the risk and terror that comes with fighting against Nazi-occupation at a time when Germany was still in control of much of Europe. Melville does not glamorize their duties, there are no elaborate heists or professional looking killings. A rescue attempt that has the build-up to compare with the heist scene from his style-drive crime-drama, Le Cercle Rouge (1970), quickly evaporates with a sequence of events that is very tragic and real.
Based on Joseph Kessel's book of the same name that was published in 1943. His books mixes his own experiences with fictionalized versions of Resistance members. Realizing that much of this plot is based off real life experiences is not surprising. Running on a very slow-paced narrative that is a lot less glamorized that Melville's other notable films was a very noticeable difference. To appreciate a film that does not resort to cheap tricks, but instead uses time -- 144 minutes -- and effort to give us a realistic image of the French-Resistance and also a very real look at human nature with all its corruption.
Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura) is a civil engineer with contacts that intimidate the Nazis. We are not told exactly why he is arrested, but since it is 1942 and the Germans are his captors we can assume it is because they find his influence threatening. He is transferred to the Gestapo and showing why his police report describes him as "instinctive" he escapes. Once free, him and his partners Felix Lepercq (Paul Crauchet), and "Buffalo" (Christian Barbier) find the man who informed on Gerbier to the police. They take him to an abandoned apartment, where newcomer "Mask" (Claude Mann) is waiting, to kill him which turns out to be one of the most shocking, and most lasting, moments of the film and their first real act of violence. From then on they are in for good, and their fates quickly become evident.
Other members of their group are Jean-Francois Jardie (Jean-Pierre Cassell), a daring former pilot, Mathilde (Simone Signoret), a genius planner who disguises herself from her family as a housewife, and then Luc Jardie (Paul Meurisse), a detached scholar. Through their eyes we witness a world of terror and looming hopelessness; a feeling that we all share and understand.
There are some very distinguished faces in this film. Italian actor Lino Ventura guides us as the extremely hard to read character, Philippe Gerbier. He can be remorseless though he sees the tragedy of the entire situation him and his partners are in. Jean-Pierre Cassell is the father of Vincent Cassell who has become one of the best actors working today, Paul Meurisse is best known for his role as the vindictive headmaster in the 1955 film Diabolique. Simone Signoret's performance as the planning genius, Mathilde, who becomes one of the many tragic figures whose life is ended by the very people she had saved, is both wonderful and unexpected since Melville has always been known for having a great lack of female performances in many of his films. Much of the time they play parts that have the single duty of adding a female sex-appeal to his male dominated films, it takes the wonderful Mrs. Signoret to bring a woman's emotional understanding to a very dark a menacing film.
Army of Shadows keeps us in an endless state of suspense. Giving off the feeling that at any moment something terrible will happen, by doing that Melville makes us feel what his characters feel. In this kind of work, they risk being caught or killed every moment of every day. None of Melville's films have ever had that much violence and each one of his crime film's body counts can be counted on one hand, it is how he builds up each major moment to the boiling-point. Almost every moment of "violence" is implied, when Felix and Jean-Francious are captured we never see them actually get beaten, just the gruesome aftermath of their tortures. I admire filmmakers who can put their characters in situations that constantly risk their lives while never feel the need to make a shoot-out or elaborate murder that modern movies feel are so essential.
Melville makes this film eloquently slow-paced. How can a slow pace be eloquent? Well, I regularly found myself being entranced into the most simple scenes. The most powerful scene of the film is when Gerbier finds out that Mathilde was captured and that she gave away information because they had threatened her family. Gerbier comes to the conclusion that she must be killed which is received in furious dismay by Buffalo and Mask, and rightfully so because she had saved all of their lives on various occasions with her escape-planning. A violent confrontation is avoided when Luc Jardie makes a very risky "hypothesis." Battling ideals that attack the morality of everyone are constant strugglees each character must face and ultimately fail at handling.
Since its initial release came in the wake of the largest general strike ever, which left Army of Shadows commercially unseen and critically attacked for "glorifying" Charles de Gaulle, who led the Free Frech Forces during World War II and was also the first president of the French Fifth Republic. Those colliding events along with Melville's popularity made it only a matter of time until enough people fought for its re-release -- restored editions by both StudioCanal and the Criterion Collection -- and it even was brought back to theaters in 2006. So, in many ways a sort of legend follows this film and Melville is just the director to live up to all the hype of a film that is historically honest and daring. Without a doubt one of the great visions from Melville, resulting in one of the most important French films.