Reviews written by registered user
|10 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Five days after seeing *George Washington* at the Chicago International Film
Festival, I still don't really know what to make of it. At times, the film
is reminiscent of Terence Malick's work with the use of narration,
beautifully evocative music, and mesmerizing shots of the landscape.
However, the film jolts you out of the meditative state such devices usually
inspire with bizarre turns in the plot and characters.
[A little spoiler here, so if you don't want to know anything about the film, check out here.] *George Washington* follows four young teenagers in the deep south as they lead relatively unsupervised lives. One day, when tragedy occurs, they are forced to come to terms with an adult world they had never really thought about. This is where the film gets perplexing and, I have to admit, I'm not sure if I get it exactly. I'm sure on repeated viewings, though, there will be a lot there to find.
This film is confusing, but it's confusing at its best.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Is it just me, or does it seem like Iran is producing the best films out
there right now? This story of women at three stages of life in Iran is
remarkable in its impact. [Minor spoiler here:] It may be easy to see the
first two stories (of women in childhood and young adulthood) as examples of
the restrictions placed on women and the third (of an old woman) as the
story of a woman finally free to do what she wants. However, if you look at
the way she uses her freedom almost selfishly, one begins to wonder if this
is truly a freedom at all.
A deeply thought provoking film which exposes the ways in which society and religion restrict the rights of women but also how women, themselves, are complicitous in their own limitations. Another example of how much talent there is coming out of the Middle East right now.
this film applies a simple approach to life, focusing on the small details of characterization rather than driven by plot. In particular, what drives this film is the performance of the lead, at times maddeningly stubborn but always with a childlike quality of hopefulness and optimism. This is a beautiful film whose ending leaves one pondering friendship, love, and the ups and downs of everyday life. That sounds corny when written down, but the film is anything but overly sentimental.
This is one of the most powerful and deeply affecting films I have seen.
Using non-professional actors from the region, Ghobadi is able to lay bare
the devastating hardships of life in Kurdistan on the Iran-Iraq border.
children are what make this film, though. In particular, Madi, the
handicapped brother, has an incredibly expressive face which makes his
plight all the more affecting. Also, the 12 year old head of the family,
Ayoub, shows his love and dedication to his family of brother and sisters
Powerful film and yet another indication that some of the world's best films are coming out of Iran these days.
I've decided that I like to be confused. When you don't know what you're
seeing, you can no longer rely on your preconceptions because they're of
help. You end up seeing things from a much newer and fresher perspective
than films which are easier to watch with clearly designated beginnings,
middles, and ends.
*The Hart of London* is a deeply confusing film. That's its strength. I found that I couldn't even guess at a meaning for what I was watching until a third of the way into the film. Then my hypothesis was challenged and revised at least three times more throughout the film. By the end, I came up with a theory for what I had just seen, but no definite conclusions. Of course, the best films are ones which leave you pondering long after the theater.
What starts out as a nature=good and city=bad film ends up exploring the difficult but somewhat hidden nature of life in both city and forest. The "heart" of the film actually ends up being quite a spiritual one (at least for me) with something profound to say about man's relationship to the world around him which is at once both beautiful and foreboding. The last third of the film was one of the most difficult but rewarding experiences I've had to sit through in a theater.
If you love to be confused as a way of experiencing something new, see this film.
It seems like most great directors take out time to make at least one film which focuses on the lives of children. *Pather Panchali* did it for Satyajit Ray, *Amarcord* for Fellini, *Where Is the Friend's House?* for Abbas Kiarostami. *A Summer at Grandpa's* seems to be Hou Hsiao-hsien's entry into this genre and it fits in with those other great films perfectly. Having just recently seen 6 other Hou films in a retrospective, this one does seem to be least like the others in terms of having a coherent narrative and fewer distancing effects. However, this IS like the others in terms of Hou's focus on everyday life, on how people live their lives during the periods when hugely dramatic things aren't happening. From shots like the one of discarded sunflower seeds on a train to the shot of a turtle trying to avoid a toy truck, this is a film about the little things in life from a child's perspective. What's so amazing about the film is that, while portraying small, every-day events, more profound issues about family and death are dealt with in such a complex and subtle way. The basic premise of the film (without giving away too much) is that two children go to their grandfather's house to live for the summer while their mother is sick in the hospital. Clearly the absence of Ting-Ting and Tung-Tung's mother is deeply traumatic for both. But, Hou gets at this sorrow and confusion without ever simply stating it. The best example of this is the relationship between Tung-Tung and a mentally retarded woman which is one of the most affecting and beautiful relationships I've seen on film (and it's all done without a word of dialogue). This is a hard film to find in the U.S. But, if you ever have the opportunity to see *A Summer at Grandpa's*, do see it. You'll get to experience one of the most deeply moving films about childhood that is out there.
I saw this on the big screen with live organ accompaniment (from the
original film score) last night and I'm glad I did. Most people don't know
Fritz Lang for anything before *Metropolis*, but this is a film which, to
mind, matches the best of what he has done. It's incredible to see what
they were able to do with the wild set design. The score was suitably
intense at moments. And the story was a pretty touching one about the fall
The scenes I was amazed by in particular are: the dragon-slaying sequence (which, at first, elicited laughs because of the obvious artificiality of the creature but then got sounds of pity as he lay slain with blood shooting from his torso); Kriemhild's dream sequence, which has to be the earliest example of animation I've seen (the animation and accompanying music are pretty dark and disturbed--they gave me the creeps); and the approach to Brunhilde (with an incredible sea of fire). What I've come away with is even more of an appreciation for what filmmakers were capable of in the silent period. It seems clear after a film like *Siegfried* that silent film was not an infant technology waiting for sound but was an artform of its own.
All in all, I'd say this is a must-see. It's clearly not just preparation for the "great" films of Lang to come (like *Metropolis* and *M*), but is on par with any of the best of his stuff. This and *Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler*, both Lang films which are rarely screened, should be caught if at all possible.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although this is not as immediately thrilling as it's prequel (*Die
Nibelungen: Siegfried*), I thought this film had an incredibly complex and
quite dark climax and ending. The film does not contain all of the
fantastical aspects of the first film, although the set design (especially
of the Hun's castle and village) was still pretty amazing. What I liked
most about the film, though, was the way in which there is no clear good
bad guy by the end. By now, we're all used to this sort of thing, but I
have to think that this was a much rarer and more risky endeavor in the 20s
than it is at the end of a century of film.
[There are probably going to be spoilers below, so if you haven't seen the film and want to without hearing all of the plot, don't keep reading on.] Some of the comments I've read about the film is that this is pretty pro-fascist film, citing the fact that this was one of Hitler's favorites. I can see how a quick reading of the film would elicit this response, but I really do think that it is much more complex than that. The loyalty Kriemhild's family shows to the hagen is at times portrayed in a very patriotic and positive light. At one point, the Huns demand the handover of the hagen in order to let the rest free and the Burgunds say, "You obviously don't know the Germans." They stand by their people through thick and thin and are referred to as heroes. And, when they finally die in the fire, most of the Huns are now against their death. This all would seem to say that loyalty to the homeland is honorable regardless of mitigating factors.
However, what are they being loyal to? Clearly, the hagen is an evil character. Not only does he kill Siegfried in the first film, but he also kills Kriemhild's defenseless child. There's not much honor there. Also, what is the result of the Burgunds' loyalty? Ignominious death by fire (they don't even die valiantly in battle). And so, yes, Lang is clearly trying to get us to question the ferocity of Kriemhild's lust for revenge. But, equally, Lang seems also to be saying that her family is just as blinded by their own sense of loyalty to stop the inevitable train of events. The tragic ending, then, becomes one which is not just caused by Kriemhild's rage, but also by the Burgunds' blind loyalty to something and someone who does not deserve it. After all, in many senses, Kriemhild's revenge is just (doubly so once her child is killed). No one comes out the hero by the end of the film.
So, a little slower than the first part. But, the philosophical issues which are raised by the end are well worth the wait. I honestly thought this was one of the deeper films I've seen in a while.
Of the Orson Welles films I have seen, this has to be the most fun to watch. "F for Fake" is about an art forgerer and his biographer who was a forgerer himself. (He faked a biography about Howard Hughes.) What's great about the film is that Welles constantly keeps you guessing at what's real and what's fake and why at all that might be important. I also give Welles credit for pulling the greatest plot twist I have ever not seen coming. And this is a documentary! There's not supposed to be a plot, is there? (wink, wink) Giving the surprise away would ruin all of the fun. What I can say is that you should find this somewhat rare film and watch it with a clock close by.
This has to be one of the strangest films I have seen and its sheer oddity is one of the reasons I enjoyed it so immensely. "Anatahan" is based on the "true" story of Japanese soldiers who were shipwrecked during World War II and refused to believe that the war had ended until six years after Hiroshima. On the island with them, the soldiers find a man and woman who did not leave with the island's former inhabitants and the movie's intrigue centers around the soldiers' murderous lust towards the woman. What is so odd about the film is that the actors only speak Japanese and the viewer is led through the story by an English-speaking narrator (Sternberg, himself) who variously refers to himself as "I" and "we" but never clearly identifies who that "I" might be. The narrative is further complicated by the fact that at several crucial moments the narrator admits that no one knows what happened while we watch those events occur onscreen. These constantly shifting levels of "truth" make this film always compelling as we are overtly challenged to question what it is we are seeing and hearing. Like Orson Welles' "F for Fake," truth and artifice interact to create a complicated web of meanings which--at least in my one viewing--never provided easy answers. "Anatahan's" brand of "truth" is a precursor to more recent films like "Fargo," whose truths are meant to be taken ironically rather than as literal fact. Although this film is hard to find, try to get your hands on it if only to see the final piece in a genius director's long line of work.