Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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The combination of Elliott's top-tier monotone and a backstory with laughably sincere elements provides a great contrast to the brilliantly whacky B-movie premise. The film succeeds in how somber it is despite its poor pacing and overtly insane plot, a combination that will be entirely hit-or-miss with audiences but is at least original. I mean, we're talking about a film where a somber war veteran is plagued by memories of his lost love taken from him due to commitments to his country that were ultimately futile in his own eyes, but also where Bigfoot projectile vomits into Sam Elliott's face. (3.5/5)
It has the faces of the French New Wave, and some substance for them to chew on, but I don't think this late entry in the movement deserves to be considered among the best. Radical in its "immoral" exploration of a rapidly changing culture, particularly its treatment of sexuality, La Maman et la Putain is still three and a half hours of a pseudointellectual bum trying to get laid with two different women; it's in black and white, is exceptionally dialogue-heavy, and has an avowed dedication to tedium. Its treatment of romance, full of flowery language and unprompted speeches, discussion of societal ills, and a range of partners feels painfully, almost stereotypically French. For the first hour or so (before the characters begin to have greater weight than a helium balloon), the film feels like a pretentious mess. Gradually, a greater value in its take on this dynamic period in 20th century French culture comes to be revealed, particularly in its sincere treatment of the feminine perspective and the lampooning of Léaud's archetypical Alexandre and Lebrun's extraordinary final tirade (the latter of which singlehandedly elevates the film), but the unnecessarily unwieldy length and lack of surface-level engagement renders it unlikely to lend itself to frequent repeat viewings. More like a "I've checked that box, at least"-type film. (4/5)
A Man Escaped, this is not. The actual detention and escape attempts are clearly secondary to Renoir's attempts to present themes regarding the dynamic social changes of the early 20th century, underlying humanity among combatants in a more general sense, and to draw parallels to the current events that would culminate in World War II (even presciently touching on antisemitism), rather than to subjectively portray the Great War. The commentaries comparing class and nationalism are very interesting, presenting the social transition in which those of shared aristocratic status maintained a closer relationship in the prewar era than those of shared nationality, a balance that was enitrely shaken in the tumult of the post-Victorian Era. While certainly thematically daring, especially as a French production in the shadow of the emerging Nazi state, there are a few clear technical weaknesses with the film, particularly in editing; there are some unusual cuts, often characters rapidly undergo what should be introspective moments with only a few seconds of actual runtime. Perhaps the most obvious of these occurs in the very beginning of the film, in which Fresnay's Boëldieu and Gabin's Maréchal go from talking about a reconaissance mission in one scene to an immediate hard cut in which their flight and capture are brielfy recounted from an external perspective and the two pilots immediately appear in enemy captivity; even if avoiding any depictions of actual combat plays into the thematic explroation of the futility of war, it feels very rushed and inorganic. Still, an important antiwar film made all the more remarkable by its timing and circumstances. (4/5)
I don't think it's an exaggeration to call Spirit of the Beehive a fundamentally perfect exploration of its subject matter and a masterpiece of cinema. The biggest question is: how did the film make it past the censors of Franco-era Spain? The film is intensely allegorical, focusing on the brutality of the regime in a literal and subjective manner, but also puts forth a compelling exploration of a dissolving family; every character has some relevance to a social or political entity, and it would have been painfully easy to craft a narrative in which the political climate was the sole factor contributing to the demise of an otherwhise wholesome family. However, Erice does not prusue this path (in part due to practicality to avoid censorship), instead opting for a genuinely flawed (and thus, more interesting and more realistic) group to convey his thematic vision. The integration of the Frankenstein subplot as an underlying thread and Ana's youthful (but not clumsily immature) perspective is fasinating. The early introduction of the honeycomb windows flooded with yellow light, in conjunction with the title and initial showing of the beehives themselves, virtually scream at the audience to be on the lookout for additional symbolism and visual cues, a very nice touch. (5/5)
A blend of old-fashioned '80s action style (including an excpetionally slow and immensely powerful grenade) and '90s scriptwriting, The Long Kiss Goodnight is entertaining and original, even if it presents some irregularities and is far from watertight. Despite failing to be really clear-cut in attributes, Davis really shines in the role, particularly in her transformation to the cool Charly, unsarcastically one of the best female action leads of the '90s. Jackson's Henessey is in a similar position, offering plenty of charisma, some quality lines, and fulfillling his sidekick role in the narrative, but never really nailing down the character's identity. I wish that Cox wasn't killed off so quickly, his few interactions with Jackson were among the best parts of the film. Still, an often-overlooked action standout that overcomes its dated components; not really a gem, but semiprecious at least. (3.5/5)