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Mr. Turner (2014)
Mr. Turner: the artist as a pig
A biopic that most critics have admired, but, in my opinion, except the beautiful photography and costumes what is presented to the spectator is an artist from which we'll just know his grin and grunt,and some grandiloquent phrases about painting. He and people around him are described grotesquely and only so. In one of the scenes a pig is prepared to be eaten and this perhaps is a summary of the life of Turner and the other painters in the story, according to Mike Leigh, who also wrote the script. He has built the film with a series of scenes which with some variations are essentially a repetition of the same behavior. Leigh has given to the natural landscapes more relevance than to the paintings by Turner,and it seems that the daily life of the artist was more interesting than his work. Two hours and a half are too much to suffer a wrong conception of one of the most talented British directors.
The union of horror and love
Horror is one of the unpleasant fellows of life in the films by Michael Haneke, and Amour is not an exception. But in this case horror is a characteristic of life more than a characteristic of human beings. With a theatrical pace that rarely has succeeded in bringing its quality to cinema like here, the director introduces the spectators to the tortured world of a couple at the end of their way, maintaining his camera at a suspected neutral distance. The movements of the actors, their voices, the light and shadows, the furniture, the pictures on the walls, the wrinkles in sheets, blankets and clothes create an atmosphere of inevitable decline that the two irruptions of the dove could not modify. The precise dialogs, the wise angles of vision, the long shots, the crude cuts of the editing, and sly management of the expected and unexpected, help to make Amour a film hard to forget.
A Tarzan's film spoken in Maya
This grotesque reconstruction by Mel Gibson of Maya civilization's decadence, exploits the modern technical devices of the cinema to tell a coarse story, terribly ingenuous,disquietingly perverse, and with a presumptuous attempt to be epic. The picture can only be arranged into the forgotten series of Tarzan's adventures,from which inherits the colonialist ideology of the author,the flat dimensions of the characters and the most conventional scenes of fight between the goods and the bads. It is added to this an unbearable exhibition of cruelty,killing and blood overflowing incessantly. The scenes of the pregnant woman and her little child in the pit and what is said at the end of the picture in front of the caravels are not the unique ones that could not be taken seriously. Also unbelievable up to the absurd is the long running of the wounded hero through the forest. We can accept incredible actions in some artistic genres, but here they wake up just laughter or indignation. Apocalypto is very expensive fiasco that could have been avoided.
Samuel Beckett refused to give Polanski the rights to film Waiting for Godot and so the director created with Gerard Brach a script with strong echoes of the famous play (and some by Harold Pinter). A mixture of Gothic horror picture, black comedy, and classic gangsters American pictures, Cul-de-Sac is a parody of all these genres and also a tragedy. Hopelessness, humiliation, perversion - constant motifs of his films -, are presented here below a thick veil of grotesque. The arrival to the castle of a wounded gangster who tries to be rescued by his boss, and his immediate physical and mental domain of the hostages, untie openly the woman's despise of her husband, the cowardice and vulnerability of him and both dependence on the intruder. The couple breeds chicken and the chicken seem fulfill the function that had the chorus in the Greek tragedy, Polanski is mocking in this way the solemnity of the serious genre that notwithstanding has adopted. Like in others of his films, the director remits to scenes of his former works and make also homage to some admired creators - Hitchcock's The Birds, for instance (when some birds descend on the courtyard of the castle in the manner of the mentioned picture, but without the expected consequences (another game of Polanski). The Godot of this story, Katelbach, like that of Beckett, will never appear and, in this case, shall leave a message exempting himself of any responsibility. Nobody expected shall come to rescue, the woman will escape with a new lover, the gangster is murdered by the landlord and the landlord will lament, sitting on a rock in the sea, his infinite misery. Counting with a suggestive photography by Gil Taylor, who plays smartly with shadows and lights, Polanski likes to pursue the spectators with sudden movements of the camera that show the characters withdrawing from or running over the spectators, who sometimes serve as the supposed mirror where the fictional creatures are looking at themselves. The formal perfection of many scenes could not dissimulate some serious downfall of rhythm and excessive stereotype of characters and not few dialogs. The film is perhaps too much long and repetitive, but this apparent fault contributes to intensify the atmosphere of obsession and dismay, which are considered principal marks of the director's pessimist vision of world.
Le Havre (2011)
Miracle and sadness in Le Havre
Like every fairy-tale, this film by Aki Kaurismaki is unbelievable, but this apparent fake doesn't hide a sad reality behind the good intentions of the simple people that help the illegal immigrant child to arrive finally to London, wherein we couldn't predict what kind of life waits for him. A slow rhythm, (some scenes seem like stills), and a brilliant and strong color that contribute to the atmosphere of unreality, the frustration to the normal expectations of the viewers that are carried to imagine the worst, and receive on the contrary the sudden impact of the best, don't prevent to bring to the conscience the images of the cruel world that surrounds the miracle of solidarity that saves, perhaps momentarily, just one of the hundred persecuted. The bad and the good boys are generally discovered by the camera, which leaves, significantly, in off the figure of the pitiless chief of policy, and introduces in darkness the figure of the denouncer. Le Havre is an optimist movie with a very dubious happy end.
Comédie de l'innocence (2000)
The Ghost of Reality in an Uncanny Comedy by Raoul Ruiz
The late director Raul Ruiz has declared that what interested him when making films was the middle ground between traditional narrative and experimentalism. His movie The Comedy of Innocence (2000) is based in a novel by futurist writer Massimo Bontempelli, The Boy with Two Mothers, and recreates as in an unstoppable nightmare the archetypal fantasy of the child that imagines that his parents are not the real ones. The family lives in a strange Parisian house besieged by the remembrance of a dead incestuous eternal grandfather. The father is frequently absent, and the mother- theater designer- is suddenly refused as such by his nine years old unique son. Another mother, the ideal one that in fantasy every child wants to possess, will appear "really" in the world of the movie and in the video that the child shoots in that world. He harasses alternatively the two mothers with his camera. On his side, the director, perversely too, plays the same game with the spectators, moving the camera menacingly. We are introduced into two houses abundant in statues, paintings, mirrors, that duplicate "reality", and revive in us the ancestral fear before images of resemblance (those obvious elements of cinema) and some inanimate objects that seem to earn life. Ruiz has said in an interview that all his features, and he shot dozens of them, have "film" as their theme. The child uses the camera not only for reproducing but for torturing, and the mothers are ready to collaborate providing that the child will choose just one of them ( see the last scene, for instance). The need of possession and the anguish of abandonment succeed in impregnating each one of the characters, driving them to incredible behavior. The supposed legitimate mother (if there is a legitimate identity in the world of this movie) not only tries to recuperate her son, but to become even the fantasized mother. Ruiz plays convincingly with the impossible until a denouement that dubiously gives resolution to mystery. Like the young nanny who when throwing the dice gets the same results, the picture doesn't cease astonishing the viewers.
Hearat Shulayim (2011)
Hearat Shulayim (Footnote): About a hard fight for introducing a noted foot in the Academic track
The film directed and written by Joseph Cedar brings to light some of the dirty clothes in the Academic world by making emphasis on the personal flaws of two professors of Talmud, father and son, ensnared by their attempt to seize "the word of the Authority" that will bestow them power, recognition, respect and, above all, satisfaction to their needs of self-assurance. In the story, those who are in charge of delivering to one of them the good news that he has won Prize Israel in his field, commit a tragic error owing to the fact that father and son have the same initials in their names. The misunderstanding reveals more than ever the envy, jealousy, and pitiless competition that reigns between the two, and not only between them. In the struggle for a prestigious place in the academic map, the ones that believe they are the best and the ones that are carried to believe themselves so, don't spare means to pull their rivals out of the way. A playful music and comic situations contribute to free the story from an expected somber atmosphere. In some scenes the rhythm of the movie is decaying due to excessive enlarged discourse. On the other hand, Cedar shows his virtues in the management of actors, choosing with the camera the adequate angles and distances for obtaining the most appropriate expressions and gestures from his excellent cast. The use of real sceneries of the Academy in Jerusalem City adds to the tone of authenticity of the story. The very old myth of father devouring his son returns in an Israeli representative version.
A film about passion and atonement
The four seasons of the year serve Kim ki Duk as a parallel of the time of human life, and like the boat in the peaceful lake, the camera follows the events slowly or stops totally, creating an adequate rhythm for the spectator's contemplation and reflection. According to the film, it seems that the fixed rolls of master and disciple will be always present in every season of the human age, invested by different performers condemned to a repetition that perhaps obeys to a stubborn design of the Unknown. Humans and animals are born, search for food and copulation, kill and die. Voluntarily or not, each one carries a burden at his back. Neither punishment nor exercise can avoid, except transitory, the inexorably hard itinerary of living. The pessimistic message that the film oozes out is compensated by a stunning record of a mute, isolated, notwithstanding extremely beautiful surrounding, where are imposed to both inhabitants rites, behavior, and visible and invisible barriers, that in some sense could be perceived as enough similar to those of any society in the past and also now. A statue of Buddha put by the monk at the summit of a mountain may play the judge and protector of men wrong doing and suffering. Kim ki Duk knows to interweave cruelty and compassion and to knock the spectator and fascinate him at the same time. In spite of its schematic ideology the film may strongly touch us by its visual beauty. Not strange that the director was also a painter.
Alice et Martin (1998)
Another attempt to redemption through love in Téchiné s film
Once a critic for Cahiers Du Cinéma, André Téchiné wakes generally high expectations from movie viewers, but he not always satisfied them. The interest for melodrama that distinguishes him from nouvelle vague predecessors returns in Alice and Martin which is not free from the thematic of dysfunctional family of others of his films. In this case the results are more unconvincing. At the beginning and for a long time we don't know what happens, and when we know, it does not matter enough. The disproportion between the elliptical and not few scenes of unnecessary diffuse dialogue does not contribute to go deep into the drama. Secondary characters like the tyrannical father, the mother, and the stepmother of the protagonist are delineated in the style of the stereotyped Spanish telenovela. The nicely photographed landscapes (a mark in Téchiné's pictures) add to the pleasure of the viewer but not fulfill the holes in the screenplay. The story, excessively charged with family quarrels, suicide, involuntary crime, tempestuous love, professional aspirations, madness, atonement, and final redemption, can't easily catch the spectator. Adam Gai
Vincent will Meer (2010)
A perspicacious story about syndrome, marginality and fragile recovery
Three disabled, two men and a girl, one, a Tourette's syndrome sufferer, the second, an obsessive, the third, an anorexic, run away from a rehabilitation center, and change at least temporarily their behavior, when togetherness obliges them to make a switch in their life. Even the hero's father and the psychologist, who are going after them, pass from a relation of enmity to a friendly one. Pop music, speed of vehicles, the impact of Alps panorama, and brilliant photography, contribute in moving spectators to share the enthusiastic but momentary deliverance of the characters in their journey to the sea. The rhythm of the film is built using a wise dose of humor and sadness, candor and cruelty, beating movements of the camera, and contrast through alternative sequences of pursuers and pursued, showing the mad side of the normal and the sane side of the sick. The unusual expression of emotions in the faces and in the gait of the characters produces a sense of fresh spontaneity. The five principal actors make an exact performance. An overall idyllic atmosphere attenuates the underlying tragedy. Incredibility of certain scenes (the trio at the top of the cross; Alexander, the obsessive, conducting an imaginary orchestra) paradoxically succeed in convincing us, due to their sublimity. Catharsis is here an issue of giving up the hope of complete recovery. It's a movie that moves you to see it.