Monday, December 27, 2010

Vengeance is Mine, by Shoei Imamura (1979)

   A japanese man runs away swindling and killing people. His days of running away until incarceration and execution are presented in this excelent movie by the super-original Shoei Imamura.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nuts in May, by Mike Leigh (1976)

   Life can be simple. Or can't it?

   Keith picks up Candice-Marie and they go camping. They have most of what's necessary for bucolic happiness: a tent, vegetarian food, musical instruments, guides. And they have planned everything, from the sightseeing trips to the proper shoes for each hiking situation.

   The problems are always with the others, though. When a neighbor camper turns on his radio, or a couple arives in a motorcycle, Keith and Candice-Marie's peace is disturbed, to funny consequences.

Viva Cuba, by Juan Carlos Malberti (2005)

   A beautiful love and friendship story between a young boy and girl in Cuba. The boy's parents and girl's mother don't go along.

   Her mother wants to move with her abroad and sends a lettler to request permission to the father, who lives in the farthest point on this special island, employed as caretaker for the lighthouse.

   Facing the prospects of separation, they decide to packs their school backpacks and reach her father before the letter arives. This gives the audience the possibility to follow their adventures and admire the ladscape.

   Their beautiful cuban accent is delightful to hear. And it's great to see that even a movie for a wider audience as this one, don't fall into the trap of a simplistic ending.

Monday, December 20, 2010

All my Good Countrymen

Rashomon, by Akira Kurosawa

   Rashomon is one of these films that are worth by itself and for the movies that it inspired. The idea of the same story told by different people and the truth for each person beeing so different is really influential in cinema.

   Kurosawa based this movies' story in two short stories by Akutagawa, 'In the Grove' and 'Rashomon'.

Singularidades de uma rapariga loira, by Manoel de Oliveira (2009)

   Amazing adaptation of a story with the same name, by Eça de Queiroz. The movie's story was addapted to the current times, but as the dialogues didn't change much and the style of filming makes it even more interesting than the original story.

   Taken in these days of economic meltdown, and loose ethics, the story acquires a different broader meaning.

   The image is simple, but amazing. Almost every frame looks like a paiting. Returning to a broad take of Lisbon, at different times of the day is so beautiful!


Tron: Legacy, by Joseph Kosinski (2010)

   The sequence to the first Tron, a science fiction movie from the 80's. I dont recolled the details of the first one, that I saw at the movie theater.

   Very entertaining. I don't see this genre of movies much these days, but I found the movie entertaining. It's not only for the aging old fans, the aesthetics will probably attract the young movie going audicence.

   I wonder how much Ducati paid to have their motorcycles as part of the movie...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Taste of Cherry, by Abbas Kiarostami (1997)

   Kiarostami won the Cannes prize with 'Taste of Cherry'. I have seen it at theaters when it was relased first. And some other times afterwards.

    A man, drives his Range Rover on Tehram, talking to people on the streets, looking for someone to cover his body with sand in case he succeeds to kill himself at a specified point in the outskirts of the city.

   He talks to a young kurdish recruit, to an afghan watcher at a cement factory, to an afghan seminarist, and to a turkish taxidermist that finnaly accepts his request.

   He then returns home and at night is driven by a taxi to the place where his 'accomplice' should find him.

   A storm is forming above the man, while he enters the hole, supposedly after taking an overdose of sleeping pills. His eyes look tired, flashes of the storm lighten his face and this is the last we will see in this context.

   [image is cut to a more granular camera image]
   On the same region, we see soldiers training, and hanging out. We see the director and his crew. We see the main actor.

   What does it mean? Obviously, you will need to make it up by yourself.

   One option: Mr. Badii died and he met God, or the director of the movie...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Walkabout, by Nicholas Roeg (1971)

   Here I find Nick Roeg again. My first was 'The man who fell to Earth'. I was a teenager, and the movie completelly changed my idea of what can be done in a science fiction story. The feeling of isolation of Bowie in this strange planet was as harrowing as can be. Second was 'Bad Timing', with this blast of an ending, with no words beeing said, but so much information.

   On Walkabout, Roeg does it again. Here he stretched the reach of cinema language. The images of Autralian nature, the harship of life in the wild and the relationship between city life and natural life is shown as it is - complicated and destructive. The cuts between hunting scenes and a butcher cutting meat, or the girl and boy playing in the tree with the aborigine while an aborigine family was playing around the remains of the car. 

Pigs and battleships, by Shohei Imamura (1961)

Intentions of Murder, by Shohei Imamura (1964)


Monday, December 6, 2010

Salvatore Giuliano, by Francesco Rosi

   In Sicily, after the second war, separatist movements used the help of criminals against the central italian forces.

   The leader of one of the separatist groups, Salvatore Giuliano, was particularly difficult to track. The movie starts with presenting his dead body shot in a street in Sicily, and back to the motivations for the murder, and who commited.

   The way this movie was made is very special. The director uses a jornalistic style, or documentary, but he doesn't present a final version of truth. Some pieces of the story are obscure, and he leaves these pieces that way.

   The scenes for the judgment are very original. The movie looks fresh even though it was released on 1961. It has set the tone for subsequent political movies, like Z, by Costa-Gavras, or The battle of Algiers, by Gilo Pontecorvo.

Stranger than Paradise, by Jim Jarmusch

   The movie is divided in three pieces:

[the new world]
   A young man of hungarian descent recives his cousin straight from Hungary in his tiny New York apartment. Their communication is hard and she's stranded there for ten days before she can go to Ohio.

   Her discovery of America is very far from meeting a dream land. her cousin is not very receptive and their attempts to communicate are hard. At some point she asks where does the meet in his TV dinner comes from, to answer something like: Well, this is America, we don't know where food comes from.

[one year later]
    The two boys get some money with their card tricks and borrow a car to drive to Ohio and visit the girl. Their aunt, at whose house the girl is staying, is a relly funny character, mumbling in Hungarian.

    They run away from the cold Ohio and drive to Florida. Florida is not very different from New York or Ohio. The boys lose on dog fight and win on horse races. She is not allowed to follow them, but money comes miraculously if you're using the right hat!

    She runs to the airport to get a ticket back. They all end up going to different places.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wanda, by Barbara Loden (1970)

   Loden directed only this movie, where she also acted the major role.

   A woman leaves her husband and two kids and we first meet her crashing at her sister's couch. The arives late at the audience to wield the guard of her children to her husband and we follow her to bars and quick adrift encounters with people that would pay for her beer and for a roof where to sleep after some quick sex.

   She arives at a bar after a thief has stollen the place. She hangs out with him and they eventually get to work together. He plans a bigger crime than the ones he had been making and this looks like some possibility of her to progress somehow. To prove she's more than a 'good for nothing'.

   The plans don't go that well, he's not competent or lucky enough to succeed. He's shot at the bank. And she's left back adrift, running away and taking help from strangers.

   I like the final scene, where she had to run away and runs into a bar and she's back to the old trap of drinking and dissipation. And we look at her through a granulated image, and conclude that no transcendence is possible here.

Grand Ilusion, by Jean Renoir (1937)

   The Camaraderie among POWs in the first war concentration camps. The movie takes the french prisoner's standpoint. It shows a sort of idealized camaraderie among the frenchmen and the ruling Germans.

   The camp is run by a character player by Eric von Stromhein. Jean Gabin plays the good guy, and very well at that.

   The movies' mood looks too good to be true, or accurate. But the amazing long shots and camera sweeps, are the work of a master. OK, it's all  a big lie, but it looks really nice and fun...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The spirit of the beehive, by Víctor Erice (1973)

   In a small, isolated, village in spain, on the early forties, the life of an eight year old girl changes after seeing a Frankenstein movie on an improvised cinema room.

   The movie was directed at a time when Spain was under the dictatorship of Franco. Much was said about the politics of this movie, but it stands even disregarding the political interpretations.

   The young girls discoveries and strength are amazing. As is the final scene, when she faces the supernatural...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Yi-Yi, by Edward Yang (2000)

   Life of a family is modern Taiwan.

   The father finds some old love, while his wife in in a budhist retreat. His daughter is dealing with her first romance. His son is exploring the world around him. The  group picture is build in a beautiful and patient way. Encounters and discoveries.

The Traveller, by Abbas Kiarostami (1973)

   A young boy in Iran is psyched about soccer. He reads soccer magazines, plays it with his friends. He can't focus on school, as his mind is fixated on the game next day in Tehram.

   He does anything to collect money money for the bus fare and game tickets. And stealing from his mother is the least of his crimes to collect it.

   He finally gets to reach the stadium only to find that tickets where sold out. He buys it on the black market. He finds a good seat. Finally, after all the little crimes, that will give him a hard time, when he returns, he will get to see his heroes playing the important match. Or will he?

   This was the first movie by Kiarostami, who would get to direct important movies like 'Taste of Cherry' and 'Close Up'.

Woman in the Dunes, by Hiroshi Teshigahara (1964)

   [Sounds of civilization off screen]

   A school teacher and amateur entomologist is looking for insects in the sand dunes, in Japan. Missing the last bus to return to civilization, a men finds him a place to stay for the night - The house of a young woman that lives in a pit in the sand, reacheable only through a whole. On the next day, he tries to return, only to find that he was trapped there.

  Now he is in a trap himself...

  This movie is based on a book with the same name, written by Kobo Abe. The spcreenplay was also authored by Abe.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Cyclist, by Mohsen Makhmalbaf

   A man's wife in dying at the hospital. He's an illegal immigrant in Iran, and he needs to pays for his wife's hospital bills. He tries to do this by digging wells with the help of their son, but work opportunities are erratic and the wages for an illegal worker are minimal. He won't make it.

   He used to be a cyclist back in Afganistan when he was young. Through the help of an acquaintance, and financed by some of the town's crooks, he accepts a challenge. If he can ride the bike non-stop for a whole week, her hospital bills will be paid.

   There is a whole business build around his riding. Competing groups bet on the result and try sabotage. Poor people pay to see him trying. Different groups have self serving interpretations for the event.

   He feels weaker and weaker near the end of this harsh week. He needs to hold his eys open with matches. When he finally made it, he just can't stop his bike. Music gets louder, and the beautiful arabic characters roll on the screen.

   It's a beautiful movie, filmed in a really rudimentary way. A little bit too melodramatic. But a really interesting story.

La Haine, by Mathieu Kassovitz

   "A man is falling, and while he falls he says to himself: It's all good so far, it's all good so far. But the important in not the fall, it's the landing..."

   [Bob Marley sings Burnin' and Lootin' while you look at the images of police fighting with people in france]

   This is a story of a day in the life of three young man living in the suburbs of Paris. Hubert is black, from central african origin. Vinz is a jew. And Said is north african.

   Even though this is a recent movie, it's shot in black and white.

   After a violent demontration with burned cars around and a friend of them in the hospital, Vinz finds a gun. He promises to kill a cop if his friend dies.

   The friends have an eventful day in Paris. The city of lights is not shown as a glamorous place as in other movies. They are at a loss there. At some point, Said and Hubert are held by police and the cruelty and arbitrariety of the police is quite shocking.

   They eventually get to return to the suburb and there again have an encounter with police. With stronger repercussions...

   Amazing movie by a young director. It's great to see a really original french movie, not inspired by the old succesfull formulas of their cinema. The french slang is really accurate and fun if you get to understand some of it. The influence of american cinema is also very noticeable. Vinz tries to learn to act as a gangster by immitating  DeNiro's Taxi Driver character.

The Social Network, by David Fincher (2010)

   It's interesting to hear all the fuss around this movie among the tech people and among the huge number of Facebook users. Some are really fast to demonize the company's young and controversial creator.

   I loved the movie. It flows in a really fast pace and there is a lot of information to absord. But the viewer's curiosity is hold by following the creation of the business and following the hearings for the lawsuits by a former associate and by the twins that had hired Mark to build their Social Networking site and where surprised to see another site created by him offering what they claim to be the same service, stealing the idea.

  The creation of FB is shown as an act of revenge after the site creator was dumped by his girlfriend. The return to this theme at the end of the movie was lovelly and enigmatic, with Mark dully reloading a webpage with the FB invitation from his exgirlfriend, as if asking himself what to do with this? How to deal with these emotions?

   There is an interesting profile of Zuckerberg on New Yorker magazine - The Face of Facebook, by Jose Antonio Vargas. 

Fados, by Carlos Saura (2007)

   Fados is the last part of a music trilogy directed by Saura, and also including Flamencos, and Tangos. This is a collection of songs and dance performances and not a documentary.

   The author has only a short background presentation on the origins of the musical style and we move to dance performances and a selection of musicians and their interpretions.

    Interesting to see the number of brasilians singing the music that is usually associated mostly with portugal.

   It was a great choice to have Chico Buarque singing Fado Tropical. And it's a joy to see a music DVD that follows the music with nice music and dance, not imposing too much unecessary narrative. I'm looking forward to see his Flamencos and Tangos.

Fado Tropical, by Chico Buarque and Ruy Guerra

Oh, musa do meu fado
Oh, minha mãe gentil
Te deixo consternado
No primeiro abril
Mas não sê tão ingrata
Não esquece quem te amou
E em tua densa mata
Se perdeu e se encontrou
Ai, esta terra ainda vai cumprir seu ideal
Ainda vai tornar-se um imenso Portugal

Moro no Brasil, by Mika Kaurismäki (2002)

   We follow the finnish director on his discoveries of brazilian music. He visits Pernambuco, Bahia and Rio de Janeiro.

   In Pernambuco, he shows côco, maracatu, embolada. He visits small towns and goes to the public street market in Caruaru. He interview the players of pífano and the instrument makes. He interviews a young musitian that has been bringing traditional music to a younger audience, as part of the mangue beat movement.

   In Bahia, drums percussion from the slums and the amazing voice of Margareth Menezes and the trio elétrico music on the street of Salvador.

   In Rio, we visit Wilson Alfaiate and the Velha Guarda da Mangueira. The samba school and the modern touches on the samba receipe. Seu Jorge gets nice attention and we get to learn some more on Ivo Meirelles and Funk'n'lata and hear their music.

   Overall nice music for the short time and richness of the theme. But the presence of the author and his anoying english accent is fairly unecessary.



Monday, November 8, 2010

When we were kings, by Leon Gast (1996)

   The movie follows Muhammad Ali and George Foreman to the historical fight for the heavyweight championship help on October 30, 1974, in Zaire.

    The movie includes footage from the time of the fight and current interviews about the fight. Actually the movie was only put together twenty two years after the fight, due to disputes on copyrights.

    Spike Lee talks about Ali's legacy and importance, and describes him as "handsome, articulate, funny, charismatic, and kicking ass, too."

    Foreman is not as exuberant. He doesn't speak that much, even though he already holded the heavyweight title at that point.

    Many musicians, including BB King, and James Brown gave concerts in Zaire, attracting a lot of attention to this fight. Many of the interviews with Ali and entourage mention race issues.

    Financed by Zaire's infamous dictator - Mobutu. The deal for the fight was coordinated by Don King, who is presented as an astute oportunist.

    Norman Mailler, was there as a young reporter and provides his recollections and livelly descriptions.

    Amazing documentary. It deserves the prizes it received and looks as fascinating now as ever.


Solo Sunny, by Konrad Wolf

   Sunny, a young singer, is part of an itinerant group of musicians in Germany. It's hard to get a career started, from city to city and singing at restaurants and bars.

   A substitute saxophone player attracts her attention. She sleeps with him. He is a philosopher. He thinks about death. He composes a song for her. Around the same time, she is kicked out of the band. She finds him in bed with another woman. She sleeps through her attempt to kill him.

   "... Not forgetting is not letting go...", he says at some point about her. This phrase resonates at the movie's final scenes.

   In an act of despesperation, she takes too many alcohool and pills and is taken to the hospital. She returns to her old factory work. Talking to a friend from the factory, she recollects something an early singing teacher had told her:

   "You will either land on the bottom, or you'll be special."

   At this point of the story, she hesitates. She looks quite desperate. Would she make it?


   She is seen confidently walking throught the snow. She wears a fox around her neck. She enters a room where a band is rehearsing. We understand the band is looking for a new singer. She introduces herself: "I'm blunt, sleep with whoever I want, The Tornados dropped me, I'm Sunny."
   Close up to her face. She looks radiant while play her theme song. She doesn't sing. There is no more words necessary. The camera shows outside of the building and the white skyline. The movie is over.

Solo Sunny
Blue - the dawn is growing blue
a dream is coming true
when you will come away
some sweet day.

Red - the sun is rising red
and all my love you'll get
when you will come and stay

Refrain: Let me sing that song
of the golden girls
and the men so strong -
merry old song.
When ev'rybody else is gone
of the golden girl
and the men so strong -
that old song.

Green - the grass is growing green
and in my dreams I've seen
a snag nest in the height
some sweet day.
White - the sort of tears is white
and black's my lonely night
when you will go away

Refrain: Let me sing that song
of the golden girls
and the men so strong -
sad old song.
When ev'rybody else is gone
of the golden girl
and the men so strong -
that old song.

Blue and red and white and green
and ev'ry you between -
"She's Sunny" they will say

Chungking Express, by Wong Kar-Wai

   This movie follows stories of two young cops 223 and 663 getting in love, or searching for it in Hong Kong on the early nineties. The stories are connedted more by location than by theme. And I don't see much of what one stories completes the other.

   On the first story, we follow a woman organizing drug traffic and killing her ex partner. She connects with 223 while he is waiting his ex-girlfrind to contact him. He marks the time buying pineaple cans with the same expiration date.

   The second story is more interesting. A cop is attached to a flight attendant. While he waits for her returnt, he meets another young woman. She gets his apartment keys from a letter sent by the stewardess, and starts visiting his place and changing things. A number of funny scenes show his embracing of these changes. And  his discovery of her presence in his apartment. Based on some absurd misunderstanding, they're appart for an year. On this time she turned into a stewardess herself and he is now in charge of the food place where she used to work.

    I love this movie. It has a lot of what makes movies special. The visual metaphors are fresh and spontaneous, reminding the early Godard (as in Breathless). The relationship the characters have with food are really funny, and also their relation with inanimate objects.

Days of Wine and Roses, by Blake Edwards (1962)

   Jack Lemmon plays a young alcocholic that gets in love with the secretary in his new public relations job. By his influence, she also starts drinking. The movie shows the destructive impact of the addiction on their lives.

   After a number of false starts, he finally can keep sober for an year and seems to be keeping good care of their daughter. Alcoholics Anonymous provides him a good support, but she never joins the support group. They are separated for some time when she comes to visit.

   The final scene is very moving. She comes to visit. She's been sober for a couple of days. They love each other. She really can't stop drinking. She wants

   ... "things to look prettier than they are" ...

   ... "If we only had it back as it was" ...

   She leaves and he looks at her walking out of the building. The neon sign at the bar next door reflects at his window. She walks by the bar. For how long?  

   Don't miss Edwards' comments included on this DVD. He has been sober for forty years and he is very straightforward about his alcoholism. His comic touches made this bleak story more palatable, without making it didactic or trite.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Office Space, by Mike Judge

   "Yes. We are in very, very deep shit.", nowhere else this phrase has been so funny as in Office Space. It's said by Samir, a Software Engineer that after beeing laid off associates with some coworkers to steal money from the company.

   If you've worked as a programmer (or any kind of office employee!) in corporate america, many of the jokes will have some bitter sweet flavor. But the movie is hilarious and relies on a really clever script.

   This is one of these movies that people will meet to see again and again and get to know the lines by heart. And if you start hearing about Initech and TPS reports and don't know what people is talking about, 'why don't you go ahead' and netflix the movie?

Monday, November 1, 2010

The grim reaper, by Bernado Bertolucci

   The first movie directed by Bertolucci, when he was 21 years old. The screenplay was written by Bertolucci, based on a story by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

   A prostitute is found dead near a park. The movie follows the interrogation process of the people that had been around the park at the night of the assassination. The interviewees aren't motivated to tell the truth, given their own misgivings.

   The story is told in a very poetic way, and Bertolucci had already published a prized book of poems when the movie was released.

Trouble in Paradise, by Ernst Lubitsch

   It's amazing that a movie directed in Hollywood in 1932 could be so daring in the themes.

Close-up, by Abbas Kiarostami


Tyson, by James Toback

   Documentary based on interviews with Mike Tyson. The great boxer is shown more intimatelly than you would expect in a documentary about a box player. There is no easy heroics on this movie.

   Tyson is very straighforwad on his life's twists and on how he has spoiled many oportunities. It's sad to see the effect of the imprisonment at the top of his career. It's moving to see this big man losing his voice's strenght and display some candor.

   He never expected to survive until his 40s. But he did.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In the Mood for Love, by Kar Wai Wong

   Hong Kong, 1962. A newspaper editor and the wife of an executive move at the same day to bedrooms on adjacent apartments. Their spouses are always off abroad and they eventually discover their halves to be having an affair.
   The two live in a really confined space and the movie shows this with amazing beauty. Her colorful perfectly fit dresses are amazing! But they resignantly stick to the decision of not acting as their spouses, and only meet to work on writting a serial martial arts publication together.

   I am looking forward to see other of Wong's movies, specially Chungking Express, also released on the Criterion Collection.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Prophet, by Jacques Audiard

   Amazing movie by the same director of 'The beat that my heart skipped' (De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté).

   A 19 year old arabic man is put in jail for agressing a policeman. Most of the movie is his 'education' process to turn into a big criminal. His first crime - the assassination of another prisoner - is a quite strong scene, where he hides a razor blade in his mounth and the execution way less clean than he planned. He, then, gradually gets more protection from the big corsican mobster that rules the prison.

   A really interesting feature of this film is the care the director took in making the protagonist to be perceived as someone the audience can 'like', given the crimes he is commiting. His conciliation with the arabic origins and his relationship with his dying friend and family ane used to that effect.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sweetie, by Jane Campion

   Beautiful family story filmed in Australia. This is the first movie by Jane Campion. A young couple is strugling to start a life together, when the girl's sister and boyfriend arrive to give them a hard time. Her parents eventually join and we start to understand what is going on between this people.

Kicking and Screaming, by Noah Baumbach

   This movie is part of the selection from Criterion Collection. These are usually amazing movies.

   But... Kicking and Screaming is probably more interesting for an american audience than it was for me.

   Some dialogues are interesting and the idea of young people delaying their important life decisions and hanging around school after graduation is something many people might connect to.

The Royal Tenenbaums, by Wes Anderson

   Nice looks, really good actors (I love Gene Hackman and Angelica Huston), beautiful image, but not a very engaging movie.

   I migh try another Wes Anderson - The Fantastic Mr Fox - maybe?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sunset Boulevard, by Billy Wilder

   Billy Wilder is one of my favourite directors and Sunset Boulevard is among his better accomplishments. The screenplay is very elaborated and deserves beeing read after seeing the movie.

   In Los Angeles, a screenwriter in a crisis, not able produce work that enables him to pay his debts and is threatened to lose his car. While running away from his debtors, he runs into an old rich house, where he hides and discovers a new connection with the movies. The house is inhabited by an old actress from the silent movie era and her waiter.

   The way the story is told, from the dead writer's standpoint, is very powerful. If there is a better movie about movies than this one, let me know. I haven't seen it!

   Some phrases on this movie are part of movie mythology. [TODO: Copy some of these phases from my notebook]

Crumb, by Terry Zwigoff

   Amazing documentary on Robert Crumb and his brothers. Terry Zwigoff, was intimate with the graphical artist during the long recording of this movie and this makes a lot of difference on the depth the story is told.

   Insanity runs wild in the Crumb family. The fact that Robert has had a successful carrer doesn't free him from its spell. One of his brothers has never left his mothers' home and the other is shown swallowing a piece of chord and lives out of begging. One has the impression we are seeing a number of parallel possibilities for the same person, as they share interests and obsessions.

   It's revealing to see Crumb relating to women and compare with his prolific drawings of them. Same comment is valid for his family. He seems lost in a world he can't grasp the meaning of. So he draws what he sees.

   At the end, Robert leaves America to live in France, where he drew his - recently released - 'Genesis'. Beginnings.



Nixon, by Oliver stone

   Really complicated and long movie (more than three hours!) about Nixon's last days at presidency.

   Anthony Hopkin's interpretation was amazing. I feel the author -  Oliver Stone - took a lot of liberties on the characters and dialogues and that he simpathizes more with Nixon than other movie depictions of this controversial character and complicated epoch.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sólo con tu pareja, by Alfonso Cuarón

   Hillarious first movie by mexican director Alfonso Cuarón.

   A Don Juanesque character gets in love with his gorgeous new neighbor, a stewardess. She is already engaged, to a pilot, obviously. Through a plot set by one of his affairs, a nurse, he believes erroneously he has HIV and wants to kill himself. Great timing, as the stewardess, after catching her beau flying in other company, has the same plans for herself...

   This movie's color palette is amazing. And the timing and composition of the story remind me of old comedies from the time comedies where fun (like Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, ...). On the extras the director and his brother (author of the screeenplay) mention Blake Edwards and Lubitsch, other masters of the genre.

   The same pair worked in Y tu mama también, a movie with more exposure than their first. But not as successful in my humble opinion.

A serious man, by the Coen Brothers

   Amazing movie where the life of an university Physics professor starts taking more turns than he can cope with.

   His wife is meeting Al Silberman and asks for divorce. His daughter just cares about washing her hair, and going to 'The Hole'. His son's bar-mitzvah is around the corner. He's waiting for a tenured position. His brother depends on him, and so on.

   There are 'quantum connections' between his actions and other events. Like his simultaneous car accident and death of Silberman.

    The story finishes when he takes the action of accepting a bribe and changing a student's grades from 'F' to 'C-'. While he marks the minus sign, his doctor calls to report the results of his recent X-ray exam. Are the brothers insinuating this is another 'quantum connection'?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Raising Arizona, by the Coen Brothers

   Raising Hell, Raising Arizona

   A seven-eleven thief - Hi - falls in love with the policewoman - Ed - that takes his pictures in the many times he's been taken to jail. They marry. They strugle with little money and maried lifestyle. They desire to have a baby. She can't have babies. Why not stealing one of the recently born quintuplets from the wealthy Arizona family?

   This is what gets this beautiful movie going...

   And after lessons are learnt, Hi has this dream foretelling great possibilities of maturing and building a family.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Homicide, by David Mamet

   Joe Mantegna plays a detective trying to catch an important drug dealer, while beeing assigned to another case, the assasination of an old Jewish woman.

   This last crime leads him to pay more attention to his jewish ascendence and will build up the conflict of this movie. Actually, the scene when he needs to face his identity as a jew is worth the whole movie. Something only cinema can show, not any other art form...

   I liked the way the question of cultural identity is presented on this movie. Blacks, Jews, Irish are in the same NY trying to come up with ways to survive. And all of them will be playing dirty tricks to accomplish that.

Make 'em laugh: the funny business of America (documentary)

   This is a PBS documentary in six parts of one hour or so about humor in America. Focus is on TV and early movies.

   There are some interesting comments on W. C. Fields, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Buster Keaton, Mel Brooks, Richard Prior, Charlie Chaplin, ...
   The interviews with Seinfeld and Larry David don't bring much new information on Seinfeld series.

   More recent developments are not covered.

   Overall, and interesting, but not great, documentary.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

... And the pursuit of happiness, by Louis Malle

   This is one of Malle's five documentaries released by the Criterion Collection.

   The director patches short sketches of lives of foreign immigrants in America. He, himself, an immigrant at the country, Malle speaks interviews or narrates in voice over with his strong french accent.

   As these stories unfold, the immigrant experience in the 80's America is shown as more and more complex. The film finishes with an american-born black women très à l'aise singing russian-jew music.
   How to call that?

   Reimmigration? Malle asks...

The White Ribbon, by Michael Haneke

   Space: A village in Austria;

   Time: before the events that precipitated into World War I.

   Strange events happen where people is hurt or die, and the children in the village seen to be involved somehow. Evil is around everywhere. Intollerance is one of its signs.

   The viewer won't know that really happened. But this won't block him to try to understand, Haneke-trapped once again...

   The movie's B&W image is amazing. The rigid camera angles reflect the contrived life of these characters in a beautiful way. And gives the story the look of a fable.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Piano Teacher, by Michael Haneke

    The movie is based on a novel by Nobel prize winner Elfriede Jelinek. Haneke adapted the screenplay and, based on his interviews, has changed the behavior of some characters.

   There is some judgment of value in this movie's title. By calling the pianist a piano player, the author seems to be referring to the frustrated career of the teacher as a piano soloist.

   A Piano teacher gets involved in destructive sexual games with one of her students. She takes special pleasure in torturing him and on trying to force him into a masochistic relationship. The origins of the teacher's behavior relate to her very destructive relationship with her mother. And the story can, in some sense, be considered a love triangle. The interaction with the teacher makes the student more and more frustrated, and at some point, he beats and sexually violates her.

   As she has already been shown mutilating herself, it might be that the relation with the student has just precipitated in her something that was innevitable. The final scene, where she quietly stabs her heart, and is shown leaving the building where she would play the piano and out of the picture is of extreme beauty. The story can't be resolved, the viewer is left with questions hanging. Some of my questions are:

   "Could anything have saved this woman?"
   "Given our life histories and different expectations on relationships, can love be possible?"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Elephant, by Gus van Sant

   You've been there. The cruel world of adolescence. And you've also seen this world depicted on movies. Usually melodramatized. But not on Elephant, Gus van Sant's movie inspired by the Columbine shootings.

   The movie presents one "normal" day at school as we follow students through their routine. The camera switches from one student to the other and sometimes comes back to the same encounter through another angle, following someone else.

   There is John, son of an alcoholic. There is a young couple. There are three girls and the throwing up after lunch looking so banal. There is a photographer trying to make sense of the images around him. And there are two young friends, one plays fairly well the piano, the other plays a violent shooting game, and they have big plans for that day.

   We can see it coming slowly. After breakfast the boys receive an automatic weapon from mail and get ready for the shootings. While one of them is taking shower, the other joins him and they kiss.

   John is leaving school and crosses his fellow students in shooting apparel. He understands something is bound to happen and tries to dissuade people from entering the school. Not much can be done at this point, and the two boys will go on with the killing. One of them will kill the other and we are left with the remaining killer choosing between the couple, who's the next victim.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hidden (Caché) by Michael Haneke

   What are you hiding?

   A hidden camera films the front door of an affluent french couple's house. Videos of this camera's image are sent to the couple played by Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, wrapped in a childish drawing of a children with a cut neck and lots of blood flowing. A quest to try to understand the origin of these tapes begins the flow of a movie that will surprise you many times as it unfolds.

   Ironically, the American DVD release reads on the cover: "Like Hitchcock, but creepier." I can't really compare this movie with anything from the old master. Here the spectator can't really distinguish himself from the characters, a comfort that Hitchcock allows us.
   Repercussions of colonialism is one of the hidden issues. The character of Juliette Binoche seems to be hiding her meetings. The final meeting of the son's of Daniel Aulteuil and Majid is kind of hidden (how many people really see it?). The young son is clearly not telling the whole truth to his parents. What is the reationship between the two sons?

   And in a sense a reflection on movies. The fact that we hide, spying this people on the flickering screen. And hide ourselves and hide things from ourselves. This movie stands beeing seen again and again. I love the idea that the truth of this story is hidden. We don't have the closure of finding out what really happened.

   Some other movies resonate with Hidden: Coppola's The Conversation, for the idea of spying. Argent, by Robert Bresson, for the detached way of telling the story. Bresson, actually, can be considered a stylistic precursor of Haneke.