Reviews written by registered user
|477 reviews in total|
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I am surprised to read that this has an "awesome look", with details "as exact as it was back then". Being Robert Eggers an art director and costume designer, one of the things that struck me is that the wardrobe looked as if coming directly from a tailor shop or laundry (starch included), that it was not aged as much as needed, and that it looked too clean for working peasants (especially for the father who was the farmer). And to say that things looked "exactly" as they did in the 17th century is a silly sacrilege, a most fitting word for the occasion, when one decides to write a few lines about a motion picture that narrates a folk tale dealing with religion, and loaded with terror elements. I think that if writer-director Eggers had circumscribed his screenplay to folklore with its natural horror edges (a bit in the line of the wonderful 2000 Czech film "Kytice"), "The VVitch" would have been a better movie. There is also a more realistic approach to the tale, within the frame of a psychological drama with supernatural elements (in the line of the fine 1961 production "The Innocents"): superstition and religious belief erodes the basis of an English family that has migrated to North America, and the story slowly builds to tragedy. But Eggers fell into the traps of tired formulas of new American horror films, including omnipresent music, false build-ups of tension through music and sound (as if a tsunami were coming!) that lead to nothing for dramatic purposes, evil represented by a botox-ridden woman with low cleavage, a bit of pedophilia, and silly special effects the ending is the best example, from the moment the main character takes her bloodstained dress off and sits at the family table, to the gratuitous final witch dance and ascent. In the end it seems a bloody, stupid way to recruit a new witch: was that entire massacre necessary to add a new girl to the coven? Let's hope that next time Robert Eggers decides to make things simpler, asks someone else to write the script, and a composer that knows when to stop, for Eggers shows a good hand for directing actors, and a good eye for composition and framing.
An observational journey, bordering with experimental cinema, but still with a minimum of narrative, this "Zone" offers interlocking portraits of a few characters who confront life, death, loss and mourning, within a frame in which all human beings are weaved together with the flora and fauna as in a symbolic act of continuity and life through nature. Filmmakers as Aguilar try to find a more profound connection between life and film art, distancing themselves from the traditional Aristotelian narrative of causality, and build their films following the lack of strict connection in our daily life, as when we go from a dialog to a gaze, ordinary actions without heroics, from boredom to the sudden irruption of change, good luck, rupture, joy or birth. Admittedly, not for all tastes, but worth a look.
"Delay in Marienborn" was a surprise: an effective 1963 Cold War drama
that during its day capitalized on the tense relations between the
Soviet Union and the United States in divided German territory. Not
surprisingly it won several awards, including best screenplay from the
film industry of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Youth Award
at the Berlin Film Festival for the Best Feature Film Suitable for
Young People. The film was a call to tolerance and understanding
between world powers, but most importantly a reflection on the value of
discipline and adherence to codes among the military, in a time when
ethics apparently seemed more clearly defined by ideologies. Based on
Will Tremper's book "Aufenthalt in Marienborn", that recounts a true
incident, the film tells a charged and moving tale: a nurse (Nicole
Courcel) helps Banner (Hans-Joachim Schmiedel) to defect from the
Democratic Republic of Germany, by allowing him to get on board an
American-commanded train crossing the territory under Soviet control.
Although most conversations are led between high officers of each side,
the final decision of what to do with Banner is left to lieutenant
Novak (Sean Flynn) who is in command of the train. Both the lieutenant
and the defector are 24- year old men. They are not portrayed as heroes
of action films or stereotypes of propaganda movies, but as two humane
and vulnerable young men, facing a crisis beyond them, ruled by world politics. Others on board include a journalist (José Ferrer, who received first credit but had a secondary role), a US diplomat, a newlywed couple, a female sport team, and other assorted characters. The best part of the surprise though was Sean Flynn. I did not expect to ever watch him in a dramatic role, to give an effective performance and to hear him in English, after watching several films where he was dubbed in Spanish, Italian and German. Also providing good performances in an international cast, Jess Hahn is featured as Flynn's assistant; Yossi Yadin plays the Soviet officer, while actor-author Edward Meeks plays an American captain with a clear idea of what has to be done. Recommended.
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An interesting complex attempt to tell two stories with similar problems and motivations and with the same faces, in different milieus and economic standings, within the frame of a crime melodrama, which also touches aspects of social climbing and professional advancement. What I feel "Crack in the Mirror" lacks is the impact of the crime itself: although a couple of times women react with disgust at the description of the details, we the spectators need that visual representation of the murder and mutilation of the victim to believe it is truly a sensational case for the press. The story is sensual enough and it is quite explicit and daring for 1960, but the authors preferred to go for a chauvinistic final reflection on old men being replaced by ruthless women who want younger lovers. All three leads have little space to develop their characters, and the film belongs to Dillman and Greco who do not have Welles' histrionic scope to cover all the emotional range of the two parts each plays. Although it is very hard to find, it is worth a look.
I recently finished Peter Hutchings' book on Terence Fisher, where the author studies the work of the British filmmaker, and avoids forcing him into the boundaries of the auteur theory, concentrating on his skills for delivering effective motion pictures. Unfortunately he did not pay too much attention to this funny title in Fisher's filmography, which has suffered from quick, unfair evaluation probably based on the presence of singer Pat Boone as the American leading man who is trapped in the big, dark, old house of his British girlfriend's family. Surprisingly this is a far better movie than what I had read about, if admittedly of the "silly" almost infantile kind of comedy, and Boone proves to be a more than adequate comic actor. I even had a big (silly) laugh when Boone so unexpectedly started to sing the title song, which is more a cultural joke than the obligatory Boone song in all his movies. Conceived as part of a double bill with Don Sharp's horror drama "Witchcraft", there is nothing original about the plot of "The Horror of It All". At first it resembles Richard Matheson's adaptation of "The Fall of the House of Usher", but it is just the beginning: the screenplay by Ray Russell also takes elements from other horror films and comedies, from "Frankenstein" and "The Old Dark House", to Oscar Wilde's "The Canterville Ghost", frequently making little jokes about Boone's nationality. All the members of the cast seem to enjoy what they are doing, especially Andrée Melly as the resident vamp lady and Jack Bligh as Uncle Percy, an inventor completely out of his time in reverse. Fisher was an efficient director and here he proves it once again, handling everything in an adequate manner and never pretending he was making anything grand. If as Terence Fisher you take it for what it is, "The Horror of It All" works just fine.
I've decided to write a positive comment about this movie, not because I was part of it -actually I only re-wrote part of it and worked as AD during the first phase of the shoot, which was stopped for a while because Daddy Yankee had previous singing commitments--, but because I feel the ratings are a bit unfair, and because I enjoyed its viewing. During the break DY won a Grammy and became even more popular. But the first day I arrived on the set I had no idea who this guy with such a silly name was. Raymond (as he asked me to call him) was playing a character with my name, which he did not like, and decided to call his character "Edgar Money", so we were even in that respect. Then I discovered he was highly creative and easily grasped directorial suggestions. After I saw the final product (which did not include everything I re-wrote, like a pretty ending featuring him backed by the Children Chorus of San Juan in a huge stadium, singing a powerful composition written by a talented young man, which did not make the final cut), I thought it was fine, and I still think so. It is a popular movie, made for the people, especially DY's admirers, and I believe that in the end it delivers what was expected by its producers. Daddy Yankee as well as the scriptwriters-producers knew what they were talking about, as well as many of the cast members, reggae-ton singers themselves: a few were on parole or on "country arrest" (as Maestro in the first case, or César Farrait who had an offer to co-star in an American TV series, but could not leave the island and had to decline). Considering the extra problems director José Ivan Santiago, his production manager Leslie Colombani and first assistant director Colleen Comer had to deal with --including (most coincidentally with the plot) members of the cast and crew stoned more often than not-- what finally reached the screen was beyond my hopes: a honest and sincere social drama written by ordinary people who knew many tricks in the book. And more important, the Puerto Rican people enjoyed it very much. You may say that this is not a critical parameter... but I guess Daddy Yankee could not care less.
This could well be the film with the longest title ever. I have submitted it to a few databases, based on what I see/read in my copy (a compilation of Fernando Birri's oeuvre was edited in Argentina, with all his films, except "Org"). A few moderators asked for proof to accept it, and when I submitted video captions it was finally listed as an "alternate title" or simply deleted. In any case, the long title means "True story of the first foundation of Buenos Aires, as well as of several navigations to many unknown places, kingdom islands, and also of many perils, fights and skirmishes, on land and by the sea, that have never been described in other stories or chronicles, extracted from the book «Travels to the River of La Plata», an original by German soldier Ulrico Schmidl, member of the expedition captained by Don Pedro de Mendoza, who for the first time published these memoirs, properly written down for the public good in the city of Francfort in the year 1567".
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I saw good and interesting films in 2015, including Sorrentino's "Youth" and Ariel Kleiman's "Partisan", but my supreme cinematic experience of the year was Ciro Guerra's masterful motion picture "El abrazo de la serpiente". There were no technical boasts, no shining sets, costumes or props, no explicit sex, Asian exoticism, European gloominess, no populism of middle-America or stylized violence, that could surpass this marvelous journey, full of strength, mystery and fascination, in search of a curative plant, a symbol of the values of the indigenous cultures of America (the continent), which have been trampled by conquistadors and their successors up to this day, all embedded in governments and all possessing the lands that the natives originally owned and lived in before they were displaced and robbed. Today those root people are exterminated, ignored and mocked by white and mestizo societies, so it comes as a pleasant alternative to see this tale narrated in two times of the same indigenous man (first as a young warrior, later as a wise old man), who in different stages of his life met two white foreigners searching for the healing plant, most probably with the plan of taking it and benefit from its commercialization (as in the medicine industry of today). On their way to find it they meet different persons, some in the verge of madness, until a final resolution points to the harmonious way of life between the natives and nature, leading to enlightenment. Thank you, Ciro Guerra, you give topmost dignity to our inner America and its cinema.
I was revising today two copies I acquired of "The Day the Fish Came Out": a Greek copy with the 20th Century-Fox logo at the beginning, and a download with the International Classics logo instead. I remembered that when I watched it for the first time in 1967, as a 16-year old homosexual man I liked the film a lot, but I could not figure out what was going on. I had never heard of fish poisoning, the destruction of villages and nature by tourism and nuclear weapons, I guess I was a chaste Catholic boy, lol. And today when I was checking both copies, I was somehow surprised at how clever director Mihalis Kakogiannis had been by 1967, and I wondered if he was consciously making a film about menaces to ecology, both chemical and human, and the opening of sexual orientations. If he was doing so, Mr. Kakogiannis was a true visionary. I have to watch the film again to answer my own question, but it is interesting how he had a vision of future society. Check today: waters poisoned, nature destroyed, the lost paradisaical spots in islands and remote places, and the opening of many homosexuals (although the acceptance of different options by the majorities is still a closed subject). I do not think there are more homosexuals today than before, but there are more self-assertive persons with this sexual orientation, more people are willing to try a homosexual act at least once (since "one swallow does not a summer make"), and homosexual presence is now more obvious in all spheres, politics, religion, entertainment, you name it. Fashion, well, it has always been strongly designed or ruled by homosexuals, even the most striking hetero garments. In the end director Kakogiannis' strategy resembles many other homosexuals', who have conceived artistic canvases where their sexual orientation rules, from Cukor to Almodóvar. And it is their right. By the way, the Greek copy looks much better, and the colors are brighter. Still the movie deserves a better DVD release.
Pablo Larraín's "El club" (2015) is a well-made film, but in the end it seems like a crowd pleaser for culture-freak cinéphiles. Not only did I find the subject a little trite (effects of sexual abuse of boys by priests) and gruesome, for all the situations that I witnessed that were truer, and sometimes as excessive and pathetic as the case shown here, during the 12 years I spent in a school ruled by Augustinian Recollects; but I also found there is a lack of compassion in its treatment of behaviors and the story, and a bit sensationalism and rudeness without necessity, when in cases like this of all sexual orientations, the most adequate keyword seems to be compassion. But in the end everybody has the right to make personal interpretations of such matters, although I still insist that there are too many stereotyped traits in the exposition of the victim and the victimizers. I do not know if what we see are consequences of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorial regime, but there is something crudely realistic, in morbid and sordid ways, in the characters and situations of the four films by Larraín that I have seen, in which we do not perceive the (also clichéd, if you will) joy of living that we all need to go on. And it's one film after the other, in which -- in spite of the masterful execution-- when they end, one would rather be dead and gone!
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