Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Can't get enough of this beauty
Wes Anderson is an acquired taste. I liked some of his movies and disliked others. However, there's no denying that what he has achieved here is pure magic.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is romantic literature meeting the perfect rendering of those turbulent and historically disturbing (or disturbingly historical) years of Central Europe when style and piercing intellectuality had to give way to preposterous dogmatism and relentless destruction of thousand-year-old values. I never would have imagined an American director could tap with this precision on those slight nuances that gave this region I call my homeland its uniquely playful charm and later an air of decay that still smelled of royal patina.
The architecture, the set design, the costumes, the mannerisms are so peculiarly Central-European, even though the playful colors and general satirical layer give a whole new texture to the movie, I can't stop contemplating how much time Anderson must have spent researching our history going as far back in time as the golden years of the Austrian- Hungarian Monarchy and a pre-WWII Germany and Switzerland. He, for sure, has done a great job. The desktops standing on legs made of antlers, the crystal chandeliers hanging enormously like the sun on the sky, and the way the 'old' Grand Budapest Hotel transitions to the one in the late 1960s - torn and worn by socialism - are baring witness to his quest for presenting extraordinarily faithful details. Like I was turning the pages of my grandfather's postcard collection from East- Germany, Czechoslovakia and Southern Poland.
Elaborate and entertaining characters, playful visual effects paying homage to basic animation techniques used 40-50 years ago, joyful color choices, and it is all spiced up with some of the most memorable lines of the year. My guess would be, a good dozen of them will stand the test of time.
Ralph Fiennes is brilliant as always. A relentless powerhouse, yet he delivers this force with utmost wantonness. Goldblum as Deputy Kovacs is the icing on the cake. The rest of the cast is like the all-star game of the year too. You cannot expect anything else but greatness from this ensemble. And that's exactly what you get.
This is a satire however, not a suspenseful crime drama. So, go see it if you want to celebrate life and not mourn it.
'There still are faint glimmers of civilization left in this Barbaric slaughterhouse once known as humanity.'
A nyomozó (2008)
Compelling, with a few truly unique moments
I had high expectations when going to see this film. It had quite unanimously garnered words of exultation from critics and movie buffs. And not undeservedly so, as I was about to find out in 90 minutes.
The Inspector is pure and unpretentious. A true crime story - the end of which keeps you guessing until the closing sequences - with a delicate touch of humour and outright wittiness. A black comedy, true to the heritage of Shallow Grave and Very Bad Things, that is also reminiscent by its purity of the classics of film-noir. Certain qualities make you think about Claude Chabrol and Francois Ozon, others about David Lynch, while it is apparent that it was Six Feet Under that had the most influence on writer-director Attila Gigor. The Inspector is the quintessence of the best attributes of great pieces of the past, yet unique and utterly ingenious. In some scenes the protagonist's thoughts are shared with the viewers through sublime dialogues or monologues of other characters (some already dead by then), which make the film all the more bravely experimental.
Although I can only praise this piece of work with pleasant and justifiably complimenting words there was something I lacked in it. Something that would make it easier for me to rate it a tener. Something that is very difficult to articulate. Perhaps the best word for that would be catharsis. Yes, that was what I did not feel no matter how hard I tried. It just did not come. Don't get me wrong, this is a must see nonetheless. Way better than average. Actually, no crime story have managed to make me wonder what the outcome would be in quite a while.
The Fall (2006)
Tarsem Singh, hands down, is one of the most gifted directors in today's Hollywood combining traditions of Eastern film-making with vital elements of the "movie picture Americana". But folks, why did it take eight years for you to recognize this? The Cell, his first feature-length movie, was just as perfectly crafted as The Fall. Both of them, with their unique color schemes, bold set and costume design, have since inspired innumerable visual artists, from fashion photographers to haut couture designers. And if I got started I would never get to the end of that list, believe me.
The Fall is the embodiment of visual perfection. Mesmerizing and blood curdling. The colors are complementing each other like never before in movie history. They are a treat to the eyes like Mozart chocolate is to the taste buds. Copycats might have followed, but this is the real thing. Or, was it The Cell where it all began? What better answer to find to this question than the fact that Tarsem is caught repeating himself a hefty number of times in The Fall - some frames are like they were direct outtakes from his previous work. The emerging head from the water, the dunes and the dried out desert lake, the horse-riding - I have seen them all in The Cell. However, this time, the twenty-something countries that had served as shooting locations are really making your jaw drop to the floor. All my respect goes out to the location scouts and location managers. Marvellous job! What an inconceivable logistic nightmare it could have been.
The plot, however, left a few question-marks in me. I saw a few loose ends left hanging in the air. Well, I did not seem to quite understand the role of the women in the story, in the first place. At times, it seems that everything revolves around them, then, all of a sudden, they become secondary to the revenge oath. I do not understand why Roy changes his mind about the fate of his Blue Bandit character either. It is inevitable, the change I mean, from our point of view - otherwise we would not be able to learn where all the characters originated from -, but it does not come naturally from his predicament. Also inconclusive is the act - in the first half of the film - of the five sworn men to free the slaves in the desert as well as the princess but leave her 10- year-old nephew behind to die.
All in all, this is a really spectacular movie of epic size, with a few minor inconsistencies. A must see for photographers, creative directors, fashion designers and all other visual artists.
Take off in a dull, grey winter, and land in an everlasting subtropic summer
Even though 21 constitutes of elements you can find in a lot of movies, I did not feel I was watching the thirty-fourth version of the poor, miserable kid getting rich and then losing it all again, so there can be a lesson learnt, that it is not money that makes our life but honest relationships and loyalty. All was there, in the script, for it to be a forgettable flick full of uninteresting characters, common places and shallow moralizing, but good pacing, nice photographing and a terrific Kevin Spacey made it a good past-time to sit it through. A heartfelt performance from Jim Sturgess was just another surprising add-on.
I am not a huge fan of cards, but this film has implanted an honest curiosity in me for blackjack. I know the system these kids follow is partly false - it has to be; I never endorsed a film teaching you to cheat, to build bombs out of household materials, to paralyze somebody by tapping on a hidden stress point -, still, it makes me wonder what stunts you can pull to enhance your chances of winning in card games.
The last action sequence, however, is too very reminiscent of the plots of cheap B movies and there also are some awkward moments - very unlikely situations - throughout the whole movie, nevertheless, I tend to like it. Regardless of how things conclude, it gives you back your childish hopes and dreams of once kicking it big time.
You too, like Ben Campbell, can get fooled by the fake facade of Vegas - the city that only comes to life when it is soaking in floodlight -, and the blinding contrast it shows with the grey, slushy winter streets of the traditional, WASP college cities of the Northeast.
Overrated? True. Worthless? It is not.
Wow, it looks like everybody's getting very political about this movie. I did not think being pro or against abortion was such a dividing and decisive issue in the States. But so it seems. However, I'd rather not take sides, if you don't mind.
Juno definitely is overrated. But is it any surprise to anyone? It is not a new phenomenon that movies, the merits of which are scarce or disputable pocket a swath of coveted awards. Being politically correct or articulating an opinion popular with those setting the rules can by itself be very fruitful. No elaborate plot, sophisticated camera movement, sublime dialogue or unforeseen twists are needed to get the collecting of statues and shiny artifacts of all sizes started. Juno is lacking most of the above qualities, but still I did not feel that deceived to have sat it through. Yes, it is cute, and it is not very likely that a 16-year-old, music channel led teen would own up to her situation this maturely, but I'd be lying if I said I did not enjoy Juno at all. A few lines of conversation are quite funny, Juno's cynical remarks are sometimes rather witty (and likable, provided you can put it aside that they are more likely to come from the mouth of a thirty-something intellectual), while the acting of Ellen Page is far better than average. She is a natural. You still can tell she is playing a role but given her age and her tendencies of always making the most of it, no great imagination is needed to predict she will be world-class very soon.
Juno would have made a funny, lightweight comedy even the most unrelenting, most critical, stone-faced film buffs could have enjoyed to a certain extent had it not been for the fragile and divisive issue it brings forth. 'Cause yes, it was meant to be a comedy. So don't tell me that Jennifer Garner's tears are about the only thing in its right place.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Are you people paid for rating this non-event a tener?
This is the biggest ridicule after George W. not being able to spell the word 'nuclear' right. It is simply beyond my understanding how hundreds of thousands of people could have rated this film even worthy of attention. Batman, The Dark Knight is a piece of cake. With capital letters.
OK, a huge fat turkey of a movie is not a new kid on the block. But no piece of trash has ever been so over-rated as this one is. I know that Heath Ledger's death came unexpected, and the guy was a solid actor, but you cannot praise something to the skies out of commiseration and loyalty. 'Cause however hard I am trying I am not able to find any other substantial reason why you would give Christopher Nolan's new embarrassment of an action flick six, seven, eight or nine points, let alone ten.
This movie is lacking a consequent plot, a cohesion of the myriad of action scenes it has been broken down into and a common sense to know when enough is enough. Besides, I really don't know which film those who said the acting was brilliant had watched, but what I see is that Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhal and Gary Oldman all lack conviction and had the end of the day - and probably the collection of money - in mind when they stood in position in front of the blue screen. Oh, and quite often I really got confused; from time to time I needed to be reminded I was not watching the new James Bond movie or Terminator CXXXVIII (the gadget scene, the plane escape scene are truly pathetic, as is the concept of (re)introducing the character of Two-Face, the guy who did not read the instructions manual of the microwave oven).
Since we are talking about a comic book adaptation I don't bother to mention how unrealistic action sequences are (try wiring a town hospital with all that security and CCTV cameras they got installed, or try buying - unnoticed - the oil reserves of a medium sized country to blow half of the city into the sky), but let me ask why nobody out of the immense crew that put this film together could pay attention to small details. Like when police forces storm the Hong Kong building to catch the bat-suit guy: 'Arigato, arigato!'- they wave each other up the stairs. Does this mean China needs to hire law enforcement personnel from Japan? OK, I am stopping there. I know I might already have made some enemies among comic book and action film lovers. This forgettable encounter with Batman however, reminds me again I am not one of them.
My Blueberry Nights (2007)
Take a break from your mundane daily routine and let your daydreams take over
My Blueberry Nights does not fall short of delivering that soft touch, that dreamy, bittersweet, spell-binding atmosphere we just love to sit in for a Kar-Wai movie for. We are floating on the waves of dark and lurid colours interplaying, moods changing from desperate to hope-inducing and from nostalgic to disillusioned. But the promise of something that will lead us back to the path of love turning round the corner the very next moment is never completely lost.
The fate of all relationships is present in the very first seconds of two people meeting each other, however, sometimes weeks, months, years have to pass by until they can own up to and live that predestination. Like in the case of Jeremy, an English restaurateur in New York and Lizzie, an undecided young girl from Illusionland". They both need to start out on their own journey either in a physical sense or, in Jeremy's case, emotionally to find their way back to where they started.
Kar-Wai's movie is, as always, slow-paced, very emotional every vibration of the spirit accentuated by the songs and lyrics of Norah Jones , with situations not very likely to occur in everyday life. But is this not what we daydream about every stolen minute of our lives? Stolen from the mundane, soul-killing, automatized routine of our days.
Norah Jones' acting is better than you would think, while Jude Law is great as always. Smooth and charming. Makes you believe that a cute English accent (contrary to what is stated in the film, his is not Mancunian) can get you real privileges in the States.
Intellectual and funny autobiographical animation. One of a kind
Marjane Satrapi's venture to present the chronicle of the Iranian Islamic revolution filtered through the eyes of a lively and cheeky, French-educated young girl is bold and ambitious. To do so by the help of strong-silhouetted, axe-carved, triangle-nosed cartoon figures is even more peculiar. Her powerful heroine Marjane, named by no coincidence after the creator however, spectacularly succeeds in replacing and emulating any possible real flesh characters. She is intellectual, witty, utterly impudent and very funny; the essential Euro-kid of the wild and untamed 1970s and early 1980s.
This brilliant movie serves as a study proving that animation is more powerful and potent than ever before no matter how unsophisticated and basic the visual elements are. And although the technique used in Persepolis has long been present it can be said that perfection has just been achieved.
Satrapi's work is so very French: wantonly intellectual, acrimoniously witty, utterly sarcastic and outrageously funny. However, even this masterpiece could not escape common places and is not without disturbing occurrences of generalization of characters and situations. Still, you will have a wide and genuine smile on your face coming out of the theater. Persepolis is per se unique and compelling with the ability to make you smile at the right moments - when tension has built up too much.
low budget: no time for research
Finally, I gave in and went to see Hostel, because it kept being referred to in daily conversation of the young and reckless. Now I know why I usually do not go to see light pieces like this one. It is because however intriguing the first sequels might be, after a few minutes the usual problems surface and keep bugging you even until after the end. Loose plots, fact-defying situations and conversations, and wrongfully chosen backdrops all boost the impression that low-budget also resulted in not taking the time to carry out the necessary researches on the subject, the location etc.
In Amsterdam a wily youth advises three backpackers from the US and Iceland to go to Slovakia if they want to hook up with nice chicks. The reason, he says, why so many easy girls can be found there is that there are no guys in that country because of the war. What?? Come on, the last time there has been a war on Slovakian territory was back in WWII. Eli Roth must have mistaken Slovakia for Slovenia. But there has not been a recent war in Slovenia either, only its neighbors, Serbia and Croatia were engaged fighting one another in the early to mid '90s.
When the backpackers arrive to Slovakia what they find is a run-down country out of the stone age. Not exactly what it is like in reality. I am not saying Slovakia is the European Dubai, but people not having more than three crooked teeth in their mouthes and driving around in cars you would not see anywhere else but in an industrial museum paying tribute to the ex-Soviet era's technological achievements is a bit of an exaggeration. Slovakians also drive Ford, Opel, BMW and Mercedes cars like everybody else in Europe. And they do have state-supported dentistry as well.
No care has been taken to try to find out what the location of the film is indeed like in reality. The sad truth is that the place you would find child gangs attacking backpackers in broad daylight is not Slovakia, but England and the disgraceful outer districts of Paris.
Either American movie makers do not know anything about Europe, or they think we are stupid enough to be depicted as we are in their films. Actually, the only character resembling a European is that of Oli, so why all the hassle to excuse the Icelandic president? And if you intend to make the central train station of Bratislava look like it was in Germany you could at least remove the coke ads written in Slovakian from the background, Mr Roth. I mean, this is what one sensible man would start with, is it not?
Athmospheric, but nothing else
We have seen Terry Gilliam at his best. He is creative and super-intelligent and has a more colorful imagination than all the Bronte sisters together. No doubt about that. But this time he is dazzling and pointless. I know I am risking being booed down but I do not feel that Tideland has a nicely elaborate and beautifully sophisticated hidden agenda, only a feeble concept of depicting how resilient and viable young kids are whatever ordeals they might have to go through. The little girl who has body-less doll heads playing her inner fears and conflicts out, her anachronistic, junkie rocker dad and his disillusioned, insane wife are hands down interesting characters, but not enough so to carry a movie on their shoulders when there is no genuine idea whatsoever to help fill 90 minutes with. Many a borrowed piece of thought and fraction of literary classics surface, still, I do not seem to quite catch the point of it. For a second I was so puzzled I contemplated the possibility Tideland is more meaningful than I can comprehend, but then I had to dismiss this option. The film does have a curious atmosphere though, thank in most part to the brilliant cinematography and the use of nice, soothing colors. In a modified state of mind, I presume, one can be sucked in by this Through the looking glass"-type of experience, but watching it after a Sunday supper is a hell of an endurance test.
colors saying it all
I tend to go and see quite many Spanish movies these days. There are more and more reaching the theaters of Budapest, which means the demand for them must have risen. No wonder, since they are very special in the aspect that they can deal with dramatic, sexual and tense situations with ease by always splicing a good deal of black humour, some playful and lovable credulity even into the darkest of plots. However, Darkbluealmostblack stays very stark and grave even with the efforts of trying to tune it down a little bit with a few honest laughters and gigs. A young, shy but capable adult having to take care of his crippled father from virtually no money while his brother is in prison trying to strike up a relationship with a female inmate who only needs somebody to have a baby with is just a little too much misery crowded in one tiny spot of the world. And this is just to start off with. Daniel Sanchez Arevalo took it way too seriously this time making the movie really turn from dark blue to black. It is definitely not going to light your day up. So, be careful with choosing your company for this one.
Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (2004)
The years of plenty have already begun for German cine-art
German movie-making is at its best. In the last 8-10 years a new generation of super-talented writer-directors and actors have emerged from the Harz mountains and Bavaria and took the world by storm. It all began with Tom Tykwer and his infamous Run, Lola, Run which showed the way for many a prodigal self-made movie-maker and put Germany back onto the map of world cinema. What is more, their peculiar take on timeless questions of existence and social awareness opened up a whole new perspective in audiovisual arts. They aspire to bring the viewer closer to understanding the nature of things by sticking to human scales, cutting down on special effects and avoiding false-sounding, pretentious dialogues and proclamations. One could say they are down to earth, although visual fantasy does shine through a good couple of times.
Hans Weingarten's Edukators however, is balancing on the edge of full-blown idealism and the realm of common sense, and finds the perfect solution to let ourselves be seduced by the sensible and sensitive combination of the two.
Jan, Peter and Jule are young souls worn out by the controversies of modern-day life. They try to play the role of the catalyst in a society which is only driven by money and economic interests: they break and enter rich people's homes to make them feel uncomfortable with all their excessive valuables. But one day - amid rather unwanted circumstances - comes the inevitable question the three have to ask themselves: Is what they do not as selfish as rich folks' habits to collect antique furniture or vintage cars?
Edukators is an exciting piece, dealing with the exact same existential problems most of us have to deal with. Although shot with digital technique it remains enjoyable to watch. The filming locations were picked with an utterly good sense - not many times do you get to see the wonderful glacier lakes hidden in the Austrian Alps -, while cinematography is pure and unpretentious. It is all capped by the warm emotions the three young adults bring to the screen, and a captivating soundtrack. Superb.
If you thought German films were an acquired taste, go see this one. Great feel-good movie for a quit night. It will not disappoint.
13 Tzameti (2005)
Pointless shocker: a shameful waste of time and money
Generally, I am very choosy when it comes to movies I do not watch pieces of which 12 are a dozen and that is all we can say about them , and that is with a reason. But this time I was not cautious enough. 13 Tzameti (which is one more than a dozen) aroused my attention merely by its title. Then, it started to play in my favourite movie theater, and that was when I did not question its predicted values. Well, I should have been more careful, because I was in for a great load of disappointment.
13 Tzameti is one of a kind, no question about that. But it is the most pointless, dullest piece of trash I have seen for a long time. I really cannot write much about it without giving away the plot. It tries to be utterly pure like some of Antonioni's or Claude Chabrol's movies, or from more recent times, those of Francoise Ozon, but ends up a meaningless waste of celluloid, time and money. It lacks a well-established context and is violent beyond comprehension. It is l'art pour l'art violence, there is no point in it, no intrinsic moral lesson, nothing. Even the worst thrillers and action flicks have some aspiration to convey some message, even if they fail to do so. They have a few twists and turns and a feeble attempt to entertain or to deter, but 13 Tzameti offers nothing. Director Géla Babluani thought it was going to be very stylish and artistic to shoot in good old black and white anyway, but it is rather pretentious instead. Outrageously so.
Sometimes negative criticism can be a good omen, but not in this case. Censorship can never be justified, but if you go watch this one you will wonder how it made it to movie theaters. Would my home-made pseudo-artistic shocker I shot with a 16mm I bought at the dime store also make it? Believe me, it is a fairly justifiable question here. But you do not want me to ask it for real, do you?
A moving legend created around a moving song
We have seen hundreds of portrayals of the horrors of the Holocaust. This bittersweet romantic piece however, does not revolve around it, but keeps a balance between a sensitively depicted threesome of one beautiful woman, a restaurateur and a pianist-composer and the historical background which influenced it and eventually sealed its fate. The film also creates a rather fictitious legend around how the infamously harrowing hit song Gloomy Sunday conceived and left its mark not only on music history but also on demography.
Gloomy Sunday is a very intelligent piece, co-production of Germany and Hungary with the best assets of the two diverse cinematic visionaries combined. It is realistic yet playful, bitter but hope-inducing. A good cast and nicely composed pictures are an extra value. Very well done. Get your handkerchiefs ready. It surely will move you.
Le grand bleu (1988)
Leaves you speechless, with a curious warmth in your heart
I can truly say The Big Blue has had a significant influence on my life, thus my sporadic conflicts with 21st century techno lifestyle. It made me calmer, more thoughtful, and more critical of materialism. In France the film was such a phenomenon that a whole generation of youth who saw it was renamed The Big Blue Generation. These people became more laid back and balanced in life, like it was an emotional revolution. Something that was quite the contrary of angry youths rioting on the streets in the 60s.
Jacques Mayol and Enzo Molinari are both world-class free-divers and lovers of the big blue sea. Everything they do revolves around it: they live in it, they dream with it every single day. They are like sea creatures, only without gills. They both grew up in the same Greek island but lost contact of each other after the tragic death of Jacques's father. Now, they are reunited in Taormina, Sicily to compete in the World Championships of free diving and really challenge one another. Their circles are subtly breached and stirred up by the arrival and intrusion of an American woman blindly in love with Jacques.
Luc Besson's masterpiece is both breath-taking and thought-provoking. What's more, it really inspired/-s (in its own, non-intentional way) conservationism by depicting nature's wonders as they are: beautifully and lachrymosely unique, tranquilizing and therapeutic. Had everybody seen this movie there would be no wars, but content and creative people aspiring to make this planet more cozy and livable. Or, at least, that is what I'd like to think.
Brilliant piece, though Pasolini does not seem so gory any more
Taxidermia is the goriest, most disturbing and most disgusting film I have ever seen, yet is one of the greatest feats in 21st century movie-making. It is dark and repugnant, but very deliberately so. It is not at all self-indulgent, although it might seem that at first glance. However, 30 minutes into the film one cannot help but realize that all this gore is meant with purpose, that this sickening texture of coherence is what gives this satire its peculiar authenticity. L'art pour l'art gruesomeness really gets my goat, but in this case everything falls into its right place. Although I got physically sick watching it, I have to admit I am an admirer of Taxidermia.
We see three generations of men from a strange family: an army orderly obsessed with one-sided sex, his son, an acclaimed speed-eater, and an animal preparator. They are all peculiarly abnormal in their own ways but so is everybody else in the twisted world Gyorgy Palfi has created. But we all know that however deviant a world is on screen it merely is a reflection of our even more deviant everyday life. What Palfi tries to put across is that in our society sick is not even sick any more, dementia is not dementia any more, and we are ready to accept any defect or corruption of mind as long as they serve the self right in his quest for creating something new, something with which he can stand out from the crowd even more. Search for the inner genius justifies everything.
No dialog, maximum catharsis
Hukkle is the first feature film of hyper-talented young director Gyorgy Palfi, and is a real masterpiece, the likes of which very rarely come out of the hands of a lively, extroverted 30-year-old. It is one of a kind, cannot really be compared to anything before it; you better judge it by itself. Hukkle does not have dialog or narration at all, what it has is pure rhythm. An old man who sits out in front of his country shack in rural Hungary starts hiccuping, thus setting the pace of the film. If one pays the attention Hukkle deserves, finds out that beyond the series of beautifully breathtaking pictures and unique sound effects the feature does have an underlying story unfolding. A murder mystery to be precise. Cinematorgaphy is at its best, while the mostly amateur cast makes the piece very documentary-like. This is wonder captured on film. A must see for all movie-admirers. It makes me very proud I once knew the guy who is to be credited for all this excitement.
Some will deny it, but most will find themselves in it
Elementary particles starts out as a quest for existence and what this word really means. Two brothers (half-brothers to be precise) realize their lives are not what kids dream about however much they seem to fit in the mechanism". One is having doubts about his devotion to chase his scientific pioneering while the other does not seem to find comfort in teaching literature any more while being constantly turned down by publishers and neglected by his wife. They both have to reach back to their roots to be able to find out where to go from here, though Bruno (Moritz Bleibtrau) does so amidst rather compulsive circumstances, in a clinic he ends up in. They have not been given much of a head-start in life with their capricious, self-indulgent, impulsive and utterly careless hippie mother who left them both with their troubled and lonesome adolescence. Life has taken no mercy either that is not the nature of things. Michael (Christian Ulmen) however, finds some inspiration to carry on in the shape of an old, more-than-friend girl pal, while Bruno has to rethink and reestablish his everyday needs and desires. He is living his second childhood a time without constraints but full of uncertainty and odd, unbalanced characters trying to escape his feeling of being redundant. Oscar Roehler's stark and thick drama seems a little exaggerating, a bit too much, nevertheless depicts life as it is: after stripped from all the fake Christmas wrappers, often desperate, pitiful at most times and forgiving only every once in a while.
A quest for purity through the filthiest bowels of hell
Tom Tykwer did not have to prove anything. He had already established himself as one of the greatest directors and innovative thinkers of 21st century cine-art. His first significant piece, Winter Sleepers had found its way to the heart of many a gourmet film buffs while his second feature film, the rapid-paced, multi-genre Run Lola Run had drawn curious attention to his highly-potent creativity and visual intelligence. And very deservedly so. With Perfume, Story of a Murderer he entered a new realm, that of the adaptation of acclaimed literary works. Formerly a writer-director, Tykwer had to find reasonable compromises between his own impulses and the guidelines of the original piece's author. He totally disposed of the genuine and unusual camera angles, the non-linear story-telling and clip-like editing that had become his trademark and abode the rules of more conventional movie making. His images though seem more sophisticated, more detailed than as in an average costume flick while he gives a sarcastic twist to his characters by trivializing their behavior. His take on 18th century France is very grim, we never have seen so sordid an Orleans and Paris in movie history as we see in Perfume. I very much like the naturalistic rendering of the era, which is closer than ever to what reality once could have been. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is filthy, ugly and has crooked teeth as everybody else in a pest-ridden post-medieval Europe except his virgin victims from whom he extracts the ultimate scent of Paradise. Parfume is both very realistic and very fable-like. This contradiction is very well reconciled and creates a truly unique and long-lasting cinematic experience.
Strong imagery, poor acting
I got to see Lajos Koltai's Fateless almost a year after it had first been presented in Hungarian movie theaters. I had much anticipation and high demands when I sat down to eventually watch it through. Soon I got a little disappointed though, and emerged from my seat after the end credits missing the cathartic realization of having seen a spectacular adaptation of a highly-acclaimed, Nobel-prize winning literary artwork. I have to say, hardly a bit of the original novel's conception came through. In the book the protagonist has a genuine, utterly sarcastic view of the tragic events of the Holocaust, whereas in the movie 16-year-old Marcell Nagy is struggling to show any authentic emotions other than the confusion he might have felt on the set of a film of this grandiosity. He simply does not have the intuition necessary to convey Gyurka's take on the inexplicable behavior of people infected by twisted ideologies. Other acting performances also fall flat discrediting Koltai's every effort to make Fateless a great piece. Photographying, however, is wonderful and sets nicely detailed and very authentic-looking. The faded, almost black-an-white images with the occasional occurrence of the color red is if I am trying to be careful with my choice of words very much reminiscent of Schindler's list though.
Szabadság, szerelem (2006)
Joan of Arc meets Die Hard 14
Children of Glory is supposed to render not just an utterly important event in Hungarian history but also how life tasted in an era of exasperation and unrest. Krisztina Goda's shameful piece succeeds in either of them. While watching the movie my feeling was that this could have been the feeble attempt of a low-rated American director to make a low-cost historical/action flick to be given away as extra DVD supplement of a cheap magazine. An attempt to make something he (or in this case she) has only read a few interesting columns about into a 120-minute feature film. It is also a shame on producer Andy Vajna to have discredited the suicidal courage of the revolutionists by applying his how-to-make-a-stupid-action-packed-blockbuster" kit while putting Children of Glory together. Sets are inexplicably false, lighting perversely attitudinizing and unrealistic. But what makes me want to cry out loud is that dailogs are entirely out of place, crammed with American common places and hip-hop age jargon that sound more ridiculous than a herd of hippos singing psalms to Billie Jane's melody. And they are cheesy. I am indignant. My only relief is Sandor Csanyi's reliable acting. Not much.
Hard Candy (2005)
little red riding devil
14-year-old Hayley, aka Thonggirl18, indulges in coquettish chit-chat over the internet and very consentingly gets seduced by a charming, young photographer who has apparently made something close to deservedly be called a fortune under the Hollywood signpost. He has the manner, the pedigree, the wits and a penchant for designer suits. She meets him in a candy shop and after a brief conversation full of static they end up in his stylish hillside apartment. But soon it turns out it is not her who has been sweet-talkingly picked by him, it is more like the other way round. Not long after she has been shown around the place he is about to pass out amidst rather strange circumstances. Even more frightening is his predicament he finds himself in when he comes to. He is strapped to a table confronted by an accusing, headstrong young girl in possession of a cluster of surgical tools. Hayley claims she knows what he has done to her missing girlfriend. What is more, she proclaims herself to be the avenging spirit of all sexually molested, wrongly abused gullible juveniles ever to have fallen victims to sexual predators and soulless pedophiles. It slowly sinks in for Jeff that his afternoon will only get more bizarre can he not talk his way out of the unpleasant situation. But the poor bastard does not stand a chance, because she is more of a smooth-talker than a pin-stripe suited Warren Beatty and more resourceful than all the US government agencies and the whole Ivy League combined together. David Slade's first notable feature film is way beyond provocative, it is revolting. It is very finely photographed, nicely paced but so unreal that at times it wrenched my hand into a fist. How could a 14-year-old continuously outfox a thirty-something intellectual she does not even know and con him into much unwanted things? What starts out as a realistic take on a sensitive subject turns into a pretentious, upsettingly obnoxious piece, communicating the wrong message to youths. Hayley's supercilious and self-indulgent behaviour and the way she conquers Jeff in every aspect could serve as a way of self-justification for unrespectful, antisocial teenagers who think the world is for them to extort.
masterpiece of silence
I was very much surprised when I first saw Gerry. It appeared to me that I was watching the latest work of Hungarian director Bela Tarr, a genius who had inspired not one independent filmmaker around the globe. But how come he could gather the money to shoot in the US with Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, I wondered. And then, in the end credits I found the name of Tarr among those who had indeed inspired Gus Van Sant while writing and making Gerry, this slow-paced, very pure piece of art. It is a masterpiece of suspense, things unfold (if at all) with the speed of a sedated snail. Damon and Affleck set out on an excursion we don't know where to and get lost in the desert. Camera movements, angles are very basic yet very effective, thanks in most part to the peerless beauty of the Nevada, Death Valley and Argentinian scene sets. It is obvious that this film is not for all tastes. Lovers of David Lynch, Bertolucci and Gus Van Sant's latest works like Elephant will definitely find pleasure in sitting through Gerry though. Whereas, a mainstream viewer might find it difficult to force himself to view this movie without wiggling his derrière in the seat, no matter how pure its elements are.
Lilja 4-ever (2002)
the real face of the ex communist block
I first reviewed this title 10 years ago when it became my favourite film of the new millennium overnight. Very sadly, not much has changed since then. Lilja 4-ever still is a gut wrenchingly faithful portrayal of what life in the ex Soviet Union and in some other countries of the ex Communist Block is like. Living from one day to the other with no hope, no illusion, no desire for a more humane, more livable life because this is the only one that people know. Bleak, grey towns, sordid streets, dilapidated buildings, rugs for clothes, homeless kids sheltering themselves in bus stops or against heat-conducting pipelines criss-crossing the gigantic labyrinths of housing projects.
Inequality in some of the countries of Eastern Europe and South-Eastern Europe is mindblowing. While streetwise, self-made 'businessmen' and their footsoldiers are cruising the streets behind the tinted windows of gas-guzzler SUVs, pursuing dubious trades, others eat from out of garbage cans or queue up for social welfare. All my respect goes to Lukas Moodysson who took the courage (and also managed) to show all this with no artistic exaggeration or soothing 'feel-good inserts' and 'elevator music'.
Ten years ago, the perfect set for this type of movie was 'somewhere in the former Soviet Union'. Today, the list of possible alternate locations just goes on and on. And yes, I have met girls, boys, young adults like Lilja, and I have met living conditions like hers, and I have met ghost-towns like the one she comes from. That is why I am saying it would be a mistake to state that what Moodysson addresses here is only human trafficking and sex slavery. There are a whole lot more layers to this movie. This was/is the true portrayal of a whole set of aspects of urban life in a low-GDP country east of Austria.
Lilja-4-ever is unpretentious in cinematography, editing, sound editing; almost entirely respecting the Dogma pact. I don't think the angel wing sequences are too much here. There needs to be a way to show that the only deliverance these people can count on - after innumerable betrayal of this life - is what comes in the afterlife.
I have not seen a better movie in the past ten years, which crowns Lilja's heartbreaking story as the best picture - in my virtual collection of the grands - of the 21st century.