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Another Day in Paradise (1998)
Familiar but worth a look
Larry Clark's (KIDS) second film, ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE features an explosive performance by James Woods as a "professional" thief/junkie, who along with his girlfriend (a well cast Melanie Griffith) adopt two young lovers (Vincent Kartheiser and Natasha Gregson Wagner) and hit the road in search of drugs and money. Mel (Woods) and Sid (Griffith), who see Rosie (Wagner) and Bobbie (Kartheiser) as younger versions of themselves, teach them the ropes of criminal life.
It is a familiar story, and there is no doubt the characters' vision of paradise shown in the beginning of the film, with its endless supply of drugs and feeling of family, is quickly going to deteriorate into violence and death. I am reminded of the superior DRUGSTORE COWBOY, which also follows a "family" of junkies who rob to pay for their habits, but fine performances by the four leads, especially Woods, make PARADISE worth a look.
Clark's cinema vérité style of direction (a la KIDS) supplies the feeling of uneasiness throughout the film and heightens the impact of the jarring violence. The soundtrack of great soul tunes effectively mirrors the contradictory feelings of despair and hope that plague the characters. The film is not without flaws but recommended to fans of the road/lovers on the lam movies like BADLANDS, TRUE ROMANCE etc.
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)
Hypnotic and exquisitely photographed
Werner Herzog's version of Murnau's classic NOSFERATU is a captivating experience. Klaus Kinski is perfect as Count Dracula. He brilliantly conveys the loneliness and sadness of a creature who longs to be human. Count Dracula is the victim in this film, he does not enjoy his immortality and wants only to live, love and die like a human. Isabelle Adjani's ethereal beauty punctuates her ghostlike performance as Lucy, and Bruno Ganz turns in another solid performance as Jonathan.
Like other Herzog films, NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE is exquisitely photographed, eliciting an almost transcendental experience. Jonathan's journey to Dracula's castle, the dancing of the plague-ridden townsfolk, and the final scene are prime examples.
Once again, using the compositions of Popol Vuh and Wagner, Herzog creates an effective amalgamation of images an music.
One drawback to the film is that it is so beautiful to look at, it is not especially frightening. This may discourage some Dracula fans, but to those who want a hypnotic, smart vampire film, this is the one to see.
Knockout performance by Rourke
BARFLY, written by Charles Bukowski, is a semi-autobiographical account of Henry, a talented poet/writer that is content to spend all of his time drinking himself into oblivion. Henry (Mickey Rourke in an incredible performance) hangs out in a run down bar where no one likes him and he constantly picks fights (and loses) with the night bartender, played by Frank Stallone. After finally winning one of the brawls, Henry hooks up with Wanda (Faye Dunaway), another "Barfly" who has her own reasons for consuming too much alcohol. They develop a special bond, much like the relationship between Nicholas Cage and Elisabeth Shue in LEAVING LAS VEGAS. Two individuals who genuinely care for each other and accept each other for what they are.
Meanwhile, a rich literary agent is pursuing both Henry and his work. Through her he can change his life around if he so chooses. What the agent does not understand is the way he lives his life is the reason he can write such powerful words. Rourke's portrayal of a loser/genius who sees the world differently than most is a knockout. Highly recommended.
Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972)
Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes is a beautifully filmed, unforgettable account of power hungry Don Lope de Aguirre's (Klaus Kinski) search for the mythical city of El Dorado. Kinski's performance as a man who believes he is invincible and slowly goes insane when he realizes he has taken on more then he can handle, is one of his best. Don Lope's journey into a strange land reminds me of DELIVERANCE, only more terrifying.
Herzog would continue the man vs nature theme he establishes here in later films, including FITZCARRALDO. The cinematography is breathtaking with amazing shots of the Andean highlands. The music composed by Popol Vuh, which was also used in Herzog's GREAT ECSTASY OF WOODCARVER STEINER is used to tremendous effect. Everyone should see this film.
Aronofsky's vision of a madman/genius teetering on the brink of insanity is superb. This highly stylized film combines top notch direction and editing with striking visuals. Clint Mansell's atmospheric score beautifully adds to the turmoil going on inside Max's head. I hope Aronofsky continues the pattern he has established with this unique film. Highly recommended.