Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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In a dystopian structure, out of time and place as it is timeless and ubiquitous the humans' ferocity against each other, a tower with hundreds of levels houses a vertical prison, where people are sentenced to serve their time or end up for a free choice, as happened to the protagonist Goreng or to the former administrative clerk Imoguiri.
This Vertical Self-Management Centre has a cell with two inmates on each level, the top floor being level 1, and a platform is lowered from top to bottom every day with food for all, a food of exquisite quality and appearance that would be enough for everybody, but only if everybody would take only what they really need for survival.
The prisoners have only few minutes to eat all they want, or rather what has been left over by the higher levels. Each month, without any apparent logic, the inmates are moved to another floor, with all that it means for food availability.
Once the non-rules are accepted, there is no difference between the convict and those who have chosen to enter; all attempts to introduce some sort of humanity and a very basic social cooperation scheme, which would solve the food distribution problem to the benefit of all, fail and not even the ultimate effort to enforce it through force is able to effectively change the relationships and the fate of the inmates.
Emblematically, the movie ends on the floor level, level 333, that in numerology represents the spiritual guide that helps those in distress, even though the final message, embodied in a girl apparently born in captivity, does not look so hopeful.
The Platform premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was bought by Netflix, where it has become soon one of the top-watched movies in 2020.
And rightly so!
Based upon a theatre screenplay but heavily re-written, the movie is the first direction of Basque director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia and it is not easy to watch, but for those who will have the stomach to endure the savagely violent and disturbing footage there will be a terrible yet sophisticated and intellectually rewarding parable on the imperfection of the human beings and on their animal instincts, shot with a remarkable visual style and plenty of clever references, to movies, above all Peter Greenaway's for the food elaborate preparation, to literature, with Dante's Comedy and his trip to Hell, as well as socio-political doctrines, with open criticisms of both liberal and socialist systems.
Good and effective also the actors' performances, that the director has cannily chosen in some case from actors usually cast on comic, lighter roles.
Bearing in mind that some scenes might be disturbing for some viewers, the movie is highly recommended for its artistic value and style and represents a bold choice, therefore to be praised and recognised, for Netflix, which is usually very popular but not necessarily associated with art movies like this one.
Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Darkest of Them All?
The Last Seduction represents the peak of the short but interesting directing career of John Dahl who, after his excellent second movie, Red Rock West, in 1994 released this new film noir that has made a lasting impact for its new, and more extreme, depiction of the archetype of the dark lady, a Linda Fiorentino that lends to the lead role not only a breath-taking body but also the joyous and boundless aggressiveness of a true predator, who enjoys the evil she spreads around her not only for the material benefits she gains but also for the pure and sheer pleasure of manipulating, dominating and destroying another human being, preferably a weak man; a female character most likely not seen earlier on screen!
Deprived of an almost certain Oscar as best lead actress due to the early cable release of the movie, Linda Fiorentino, like also John Dahl, would not reach anymore the heights and intensity of this film; after her good performance in Scorsese's After Hour, it could have consolidated her position as a rising cinema star but that it actually proved to be, at only 36 years of age, her swan song, as none of her subsequent roles was able to sustain a career that, after The Last Seduction, seemed very promising.
Well supported by both Bill Pullman as her husband, in more than one way the victim of a lethal wife, and Peter Berg, the clueless, sacrificial and sacrificed lamb, succumbing to the main character's blunt spider strategy, for whom the viewers cannot avoid feeling a resigned compassion, Linda Fiorentino as Bridget Gregory/Wendy Kroy has been able to surge to the position of the darkest lady of all, the most ruthless and happily scrupleless, not only of the classics of the ‘40s and ‘50s but also of the new noir revival of the ‘80s and ‘90s, pushing well beyond the boundaries already stretched by Kathleen Turner with Body Heat; and it is worth noticing the homages paid by The Last Seduction to both Double Indemnity, mentioned in the script, and Body Heat, with the ending almost identical to Lawrence Kasdan's movie.
The Last Seduction remains, even with the passing of time, an interesting and highly enjoyable movie, with a well structured plot and a script cynic enough that, while orienting the viewers' immediate and more external empathy towards the losers and abused like the husband and the lover, inevitably attracts above all for the deeply rooted and irredeemable protagonist's evil, a sensual devil in stockings that unavoidably mesmerises even when the victim is aware that the only outcome is an eternal perdition.
An unwatchable The Last Seduction II in 1999 luckily didn't have a further episode nor took away anything from John Dahl's best movie, a modern jewel of the noir genre, where, like in Body Heat and unlikely in the apparently more moral, and particularly subject to the Heys Code, classic noirs of the ‘40s and '50s, evil and crime do pay, and handsomely!
The Big Complication.
The Big Sleep, regarded as one of the greatest noirs of movie history, had a production almost as complicated as the its plot, adapted, and softened in order to meet the draconian censorship of the Hays Code, from the 1939 Raymond Chandler's novel with the same title, that gave birth to the Philip Marlowe character.
Finished in 1945, then subject to major reshooting to give more depth and breadth to Lauren Bacall's character and, particularly, to her romance with Humphrey Bogart, The Big Sleep was eventually released in 1946, conveniently few months after the wedding of its two leading actors.
As widely known, the plot is baroque to say the least and Hollywood legend has that the very Raymond Chandler, asked by director Howard Hawks about some of the story's nexuses, was not able to explain them!
However, the crafted direction of Howard Hawks is able to keep the viewer's attention always alive, subtly moving the centre of gravity of the movie from the developments of the criminal story to the developments of the attraction between Vivian Rutledge, played by Lauren Bacall at her fourth movie after her debut, still a teen-ager and under the direction of her Pygmalion Howard Hawks, in To Have and To Have Not, where she met the man, twenty five years older, at his third marriage and already a bright star, with whom she will form one of the most legendary Hollywood couples, in life and on screen, and that here plays Philip Marlowe, another sophisticated performance of Humphrey Bogart, as usual unrivalled in blending an abrasive harshness with an irrepressible empathy.
The movie, although interesting for its multi-leads narrative built as a sort of matrioska of crime and rotten humanity, does not hide, even from its launching trailers, how much it is focused on the two leading actors and it banks on their close-ups and their intense, sexually charged, bickering, most often a truly witty and lively dialogue, without paying too much attention to clarify, not even at the end, what really happened: in the original version a scene where Inspector Bernie Ohls, a good Regis Toomey, and Philip Marlowe go together over the facts, explaining them for the benefit of the most likely still puzzled audience, has been sacrificed in the final cut to make more room for Lauren Bacall and her relationship with Bogart.
Notwithstanding these patent commercial tricks, the movie had undoubtedly represented a milestone
In the history of the classic film noir: while the film is not particularly innovative, neither in the structure nor in the camerawork, the performance of Bogart, already a big star in Hollywood, creates another icon of the private detective character, cynic yet deeply human: even if others have played both Sam Spade and Philip Marlow, The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep have linked them unavoidably to Humphrey Bogart's facial expression.
A movie that every film buff should watch and that, even after many years, has aged very well and has been able to remain interesting and filmically attractive, well beyond the advertised romance of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
A Searing and Sweating Movie.
Body Heat was the launchpad for both director Lawrence Kasdan and the lead characters, Kathleen Turner, that with her debut film became overnight the prototype of the sensually perfect dark lady, and William Hurt, who after the good reviews for Ken Russell's Altered States the year before, rose to a sex-symbol and stardom status that propelled him to the well-deserved Oscar for Kiss of the Spider Woman four years later.
Graced with excellent supporting roles by Ted Danson and Mickey Rourke and a sensually evocative soundtrack by John Barry, Lawrence Kasdan's first direction, after a solid screenwriting apprenticeship, is an open and devout tribute to the noir movies of the '40s and '50s, most of all Double Indemnity, of which it follows the structure as well as the use of a legal twist, though it cannot be plainly considered a remake.
Bearing in mind the almost forty years elapsed between the two movies, Body Heat contains some aspects that are even more interesting than its source, in particular for the different connotation of the two main characters: Kathleen Turner, both for her physicality and her sulky voice, later memorably lent to Jessica Rabbit, looks more convincing and irresistible than Barbara Stanwick and William Hurt is definitely less self-assured than Fred MacMurry but at the same time more defenceless and exposed, unable to come to terms with the end of his distorted dream even when faced by an unmistakable reality. Moreover, the immoral ending, where evil boldly triumphs, gives the film a deep bitterness that Double Indemnity in the ‘40s most likely could not have because of the times ,but that makes Lawrence Kasdan's movie even more real and resounding.
But what stands out in Body Heat is the physical presence of the weather in which the story unfolds; Body Heat is not only a movie to watch and listen, is also, in a very rare way, a film to "sweat", for the constant, intrusive and pervasive presence of the Florida's searing heat that becomes a further, and dominant, character in the movie's developments, unavoidably carrying the protagonists to their pre-written destiny.
Maybe only Bogart's films like The African Queen or Key Largo were able to reach such interpenetrating mix, and this is to be seen as an additional merit of Lawrence Kasdan, who was one of the most interesting directors of the ‘80s (The Big Chill, Accidental Tourist) before getting somehow lost in the ‘90s, till almost disappearing after unassuming films like The Dreamcatcher and Darling Companion.
A Modern Day Fairytale.
Two years before taking Hollywood by storm with Parasite, the first non-English speaking movie to bag an Oscar for Best Film, South Korean director Bong Joon Ho presented in 2017 at Cannes Okja, his second American movie after the promising Snowpiercer in 2013 and a remarkable series of good film made at home.
Originally booed at Cannes because a Netflix production, hence without cinema release, the delicate yet aggressive modern fairytale of Okja was able to make an impact for its good storytelling, something nowadays not always found, and that was able to touch the heart of many viewers.
Mixing elegiac moments, particularly in the first part set in Korea and focused on the delicate relationship between the "beast" Okja, the genetically modified superpig produced by ruthless capitalists, and the "beauty", the young girl with a big lion-heart, with other sof pure action, like the beautifully filmed truck chase through the streets of Seoul, echoing 007 and M:I movies, Okja succeeds in keeping a good narrative balance, solving within the fairytale the problems represented by an excess of leads, interesting but not always properly developed, particularly for some of the Animal Liberation Front characters, and some up and down performance of both Tilda Swinton and, even more so, an usually much more composed Jake Gyllenhaal, that in some scenes look like a Wes Anderson's film waste.
Maybe Okja is not an exceptional movie but it is surely interesting and never banal, even when touching on potentially obvious topics like the juxtaposition between animal rights activists and the foodstuff industry. Indeed, it is a movie worth watching for its crafted narrative, the simple originality of the story and the ability of the director, patently confirmed by Parasite, to master at the same time different tones, like fairytale, comedy, drama, social criticism, making sure that oscillating from one to the other, even when not very linear, never looks forced or imposed. In addition to sprinkle the movie with some hidden quotes for the film buffs, Bong Joon Ho ends the movie with an interesting and open ending, where on purpose there is not a clear winner and the question of who really won the battle, and even more so who will win the war, remains sadly open.