Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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Itâs a film one has to stick with unless you have a natural interest in Flamenco (I do not). Literally, all I knew about the film going into it was that it was part of a trilogy concerning Flamenco. This, combined with the fact that it was released by Criterion, was enough to pique my interest. I figured I might as well try something I was totally unfamiliar with if it had the Criterion stamp of approval. I was not disappointed by the end. The film just gets better and better as the dancing gets better and better. There are portions near the end when it is virtually impossible not be fully engaged with and focused on the dancers. It is a very simple and natural style of filmmaking that serves it well. I only hope the others improve upon this and I suspect they will be a bit more elaborate and polished in nature.
2.5: I'm reasonably certain this is the only film I've ever seen from Chad, apart from a couple shorts. As the director says in the special features interview, it's a part of the world that is usually forgotten and overlooked, or if it is mentioned, it will be due to issues like poverty, war, or the mysterious continent. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun largely ignores these typical trappings imposed by outsiders and simply gives a us an all-too-common and touching story of a broken family. As he explains in the commentary, the disappearance of a father is very common in Chad. Here it ends up changing the course of his boys lives forever, as would likely be the case in just about another country as well. It isn't a great film, but it works and it proves once again that a simple story told well can be effective no matter its origins.
3: Very solid samurai picture, but not quite up to the standards set down by the master: Kurosawa. The story seems remarkably familiar both from samurai and western films, but this is exactly as it should be when dealing with this kind of genre picture. The sword fighting leaves something to be desired and it feels almost like a B-version of Kurosawa at times. The direction, music, fighting, cast, etc are all a bit less than. Still, fans of the genre will not be disappointed.
3.5: It seems strange to see Toshiro Mifune playing a samurai at such a young age and in color no less. I can already start to see why the novel upon which the film is based is called Japan's Gone with the Wind as well. I get the sense that it will be an epic romance. I've rarely seen Mifune look this young, but he had something special even at this age. The Criterion Blu-ray release looks wonderful as well. It seems strange to think that most or all of Mifune's/Kurosawa's films could have been in color. I'm definitely curious what happens in the next two sections of the trilogy, but I'm also betting my predictions concerning these events will be pretty accurate.
3.5: Nicholas Ray was definitely a bit of an iconoclast. On Dangerous Ground starts out a bit like a hard-boiled detective noir picture, but we can always sense there's something a bit off. The protagonist, Robert Ryan, seems like the anti-hero through the first act. He seems to be buckling under the psychological pressure of dealing with the seedy underbelly of society on a daily basis. I suspect there were more than few WWII verterans, not to mention city dwellers, that could identify with his pain and frustration. The picture takes and abrupt and unexpected shift in the second and third acts though. It's almost like a different film the change is so sudden. Ward Bond's character's reaction to the death of his daughter is similar to Ryan's reaction the city. Both become blind to the world while dealing with circumstances out of their control and out of the norm. For Ward Bond, it takes the recognition that his enemy is a simple child to change him. For Ryan, a beautiful, trusting, and kind blind woman is his window into a world removed from violence and crime. He's calmed by returning to the wide open plains of the country and a simpler life of companionship. Both worlds are photographed wonderfully and quite uniquely. It reminded me a bit of Carol Reed's The Third Man in that sense, but on a less virtuoisic and remarkable scale. The angles and camera movements were very uncharacteristic of most other Hollywood pieces of the era. In some ways the popularity of noir allowed for less commercial filmmakers to still work successfully in the commercial realm. It's obvious why the French nouvelle vague and Cahiers du Cinema crowd loved Ray so much. His films are unique and immediately identifiable as comeing from a particular perspective. He was concerned with specific emotions, types of characters, and issues and approached them from a singular perspective. He also seems able to get his actors to give some of the best performances of their careers time and time again. Ryan, Bond, and Lupino are all excellent here. This is the kind of noir every fan of the genre should see. I'd like to sit down at some point and watch all the noir pictures I have over a set period of time (certainly over a hundred, but I'd have to count to be sure). I suspect it would a bit overwhelming.