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Not a very good film, to be honest... For your pleasure it is a propaganda film, if you enjoy that or double standard. Due to its origin, it is full of "patriotic" speeches disguised as dialogues, exaltation of the American notion of democracy, dark portraits of Soviets' Western allies, warnings of the "Red Menace" that sound insolent when you see how light-heartedly the H-bombing of Japan is assumed, and so on... William Wellman directs all the tension-filled action with his usual skill, and actors are rather restrained in their Soviet portraits, but in the end not even the self-righteousness of the project can hide its true political agenda.
I think it helps a lot to be an old man to fully appreciate "Gerontophilia" in all its affective and humane dimension. In a situation as old age, in which we become invisible (something Mr. Peabody expresses in one scene), if invisibility does have its advantages at times, in others it becomes very dramatic because our dilemmas seem to have no space in the young people's perception and, as the evaluation given to this motion picture demonstrates, they only perceive half of its implications. A lovely little movie, maybe quite necessary, in which a young Canadian man who works in a geriatric clinic discovers his attraction to very old men and that it is not only a sexual attraction, but that he is capable of feeling love for them. A rarity in audiovisual production from all over the world and a highly welcome one.
"Life and Death of a Porno Gang" is a major work full of pain and despair, about the destiny of a torn apart nation, from a specific part of the world, but whose tragic existence can be found anywhere in these times of major transition in all spheres. It has the same fetid smell of the best films of Harmony Korine, Lars von Trier, John Cameron Mitchell or Jonathan Caouette, although director Mladen Djordjevic cleverly introduced humor all over his motion picture, as in those other filmmakers' products. It is just cultural differences that detract some people from the Serbian images. In "Life and Death of a Porno Gang" it is not easy to turn the head the other way, because Djordjevic avoided giving us a hint of the "nice side of Serbia ", and that is his right, in order to build the morality tale that is the result. Here you do not find the carefree indifference of blank young girls during spring vacation, the cannibalistic crisis of the bourgeois couples or the narcissistic defense of our LGBT bodies with our LGBT backs turned on the misery of other people's lives (and bodies), very characteristic of rich societies, living far from war, bombs and the smell of a pile of dead bodies. This is a rich work that makes you reflect (well, if you care about the film, anyway, or if you can see through its strong images) about the validity of ephemeral art, about the lack of ethics in all strata, the lack of information of people living in the inner country, the devaluation and depreciation of life, the exaltation of death and its cult, and (if you are curious of what happens beyond your national borders) it also urges you to find a bit of information about Serbians, Croatians and all the struggles they have been involved in the recent past. And perhaps above anything else, it makes you think about the validity of cinema today and if we really need the products that are being made. Here, Marko, a young film graduate, wants to direct his first feature, and ends up making snuff films. Cinema has gone a long way: once it was entertainment and, more importantly perhaps, it was an ensemble of many windows to the worlds beyond ours. There were no other lookouts but movies, to go, see, be informed, learn. That mission was fulfilled but now it has to be shared, and television and internet have mostly taken that role. Now we have multiple possibilities. But usually we have to see what the media companies want us to see. So cinema still has a place to fulfill, but those works are not being made. I believe that nobody needs a very high percentage of the movies made today. We get sex, violence, death, "action", fights, and so on, to anesthetize us But we learn very little. I know some think they learn now a lot from Tarantino and a few others, as they did from Kubrick before. But in my time there were better sources of knowledge than Kubrick, and those movies are seldom talked about... Or they are called "pretentious". And then we wake up. But please do not follow the final example of Marko. Open your mind, watch better films and not the usual dose of crap, domestic, provincial movies, dressed up in special effects and syrupy music to make you believe you are a highly sophisticated "cinéphile", when you are just an Oscar follower.
Two years after his international hit «Kynodontas», Yorgos Lanthimos released «Alpeis», which is as good as the previous, winning the Best Screenplay award at the Venezia film festival, as well as other distinctions in Sydney and Sofia. However the film was unjustly appreciated: as people say, "comparisons are unfair" and the reception of «Alpeis» proves it, as audiences and film critics were expecting another portrait of canine confinement. This time the filmmaker opted for theatricality, games of appearance and perception, he opted for a tale that fluctuates between drama and comedy, inclined to the absurdist aspects in the representation of reality. «Alpeis» is more realistic than its predecessor, but not because of this it lacks images expressing "artistic flights". On the other hand, Lanthimos touches death, a subject that frequently frightens people, when it is one of the few things we humans can have for sure. The story though does not present descriptions of demises, but a group called "Alpeis" that offers a peculiar service to mourners: a temporary substitute for the deceased, with a fixed fee, while the grievers adapt to the loss of their loved ones. Their varied clientèle includes the parents of a young tennis player, a blind and cuckolded old lady, a local man that communicates in English, a naval officer At the same time the same personnel conforms a small group of gymnasts and trainers that gather in a sports hall. However the plot is built around a young nurse (played by splendid Angeliki Papoulia, who was the older sister in «Kynodontas»), her tribulations and twisting. The social and economic crisis of the country does not have a central place in Yorgos Lanthimos' cinema, as in the movies of other of his compatriots, but for the stories he tells Lanthimos vividly suggests that something is rotten in the state of Greece.
In 2009 Greek Yorgos Lanthimos deeply affected planet Earth with his film «Kynodontas», prompting Hollywood to nominate it as Best Foreign Film. By then the movie had already won prizes and nominations by tens in Cannes, Montreal and Sitges (where Lanthimos won the «Citizen Kane» for Best Directorial Revelation, though he had already proved his worth among the connoisseurs with «Kinetta» in 2005). «Kynodontas» as much as people try to sell it as a simple portrait of family dysfunctionality, is more than that. It is a terrifying metaphor of Greek reality, embroiled for more than a decade now in an extremely grave economic, social, ethical and political crisis, preceded of its isolation from the European evolution for more than a century. Above anything else it is a portrait of the Greek bourgeoisie that lives indifferent and perhaps ignorant of that drama, but broken inside, devouring itself, and when it projects itself to the outside world mutilating anything that may threaten the continuation of its privileged status. This social traits and the metaphorical tone of the plot make «Kynodontas» different from the first film that comes to mind while watching it, Arturo Ripstein's «El castillo de la pureza», but otherwise they are much the same, as Ripstein's offers his diagnosis of the cancer consuming a lower middle class family, shut up in an old house in México City, where a fanatical father wants to preserve the integrity, pulchritude and morality of his wife, daughter and son, without realizing that the surrounding world is pulverizing and sinking along with México City. In «Kynodontas» realism does not matter. From that universe, alternatively funny and frightening, where words have different meanings (a zombie is a flower and a vagina is a lamp, for example), and where family members play weird games (as inhaling chloroform and winning the first who wakes up), there is no escape. For no one. The mother, two daughters and son defend home like dogs and behave as such: there is a really horrific shot, in which three of them (literally) bark to the exterior, as trained dogs, deprived of their sense of free movement, incapable of trespassing the front gate of the "fortress" where they live. When that order breaks is the adventure you as spectator are invited to experience. Do it.
Apnea is the voluntary suspension of breathing, the basis of underwater fishing and free-diving (also known as apnea), which requires training and concentration, among other requisites. Dimitris, the young leading character of the Greek film "Apnea" can stay underwater for five minutes, and he does it as part of his training to participate in international swimming competitions. However since Dimitris has a natural tendency to lose himself, he enjoys apnea perhaps a bit too much and sometimes he puts his life in danger, beyond his limits. This motion picture has a more simple and conventional narrative than other Greek films with complex stories and formats, although it breaks up its plot in different time frames, as it is the result of several of Dimitris' apnea immersions during which he evokes his relationship with Elsa, the daughter of a middle class dental surgeon and an environmental activist. But as other Greek contemporary movies that are alert to their surroundings, "Apnea" also reflects the financial crisis of the country, and it does not lack references to situations of instability and lack of opportunities. In his working class home Dimitris' sports activity is questioned by his father, who is deep in debt, has yet to see any gain in his 23-year old son's training and would much welcome a bit of economic support to face the family's situation. Besides this pressure Dimitris also has to cope with the sudden disappearance of Elsa, who is involved in the cause of a scientist, a man who fights in defense of dolphins but who can be indifferent and even cruel to other people's sufferings. Dimitris' apnea serves as leitmotiv and as the transitional image of different time sequences, until it reaches a dramatic moment with and open but nonetheless tense ending: when the swimmer emerges from the deep after a long immersion, the last meters can be dangerous It is interesting to know that both director Aris Bafaloukas and actor Sotiris Pastras were swimming champions. Being younger than Aris, Sotiris' professional career was affected by the crisis of his country. His amazing dexterity is seen in the film and inspires one of Elsa's lines: "You swim like a dolphin". Indeed he does.
Don't let the ugly poster of "The Small Fish" (aka "Stratos") fool you. It is an intense and dramatic portrait of contemporary Greece, seen through the eyes of Stratos, a contract killer who works during the day in a bakery, where he silently and passively witnesses the exploitation of workers. But his life acquires another meaning when he is behind his car wheel, with a gun in his pocket and a mission to accomplish. But do not think that the movie is executed in correspondence with the dramatic intensity of his criminal life. Not that "The Small Fish" is a bland film either. The point is that director Yannis Economides opted to tell the story from the other side of Stratos' personality. It is really a problem for Stratos, that he has a very soft heart: he is giving all his money to Yorgos, the brother of a guy called Leonidas, who once saved his life, so that Yorgos can execute a plan to free Leonidas from a maximum security prison; and Stratos also sees after a family that lives across his apartment building, that includes a dying grandfather, a little daughter, a disabled father and a very young prostitute mother -who in fact could be the little girl's sister too, but who knows... everything about Stratos' concerns is dark or faint, while those who surround him are screaming, bullying or abusing everybody, including him, of course. He has a violent past and after many years in jail two mob factions want his services. This is just an idea of the main plot elements but there are more that complicate the proceedings, and it takes 133 minutes to reach a fine resolution. Without pointing out the national crisis, unemployment, breaking of moral codes, or unethical actions, "The Small Fish" gives a rich panorama of what a great empire as Greece has become in the 21st century, which should also serve as a warning to the empire of the day and its citizens. And yes, the Greek title "To mikro sari" (that is, the small fish) refers to the popular saying, "Big fish eat small fish".
This motion picture defines the word "artsy". A film about a young and pretty porcelain painter who falls in love with a shy and melancholic poet (played by Sun Honleig), it aims to be a poetic work, but what you get is lots of ralenti shots to the point of saturation, piano and strings music, pretty landscapes enshrouded in fog, trains entering and exiting tunnels and Gong Li... In the past Miss Gong inspired true poetic films, as those directed by Zhang Yimou, but this movie is not one. Tony Leung plays another suitor, a sympathetic veterinarian with a welcome sense of humor, too materialistic to understand romantic love and literary inspiration, and wise to keep a distance, but not enough to balance this melodrama, with too much emphasis on sad love. I love trains, but this trip is on the boring side.
Titling a film "Luton" after a town in the South of the UK and referring to it in passing during one scene (besides having a film poster with an image that evoke the Luton Football Club logo) may be one of the high points in the history of this small and apparently uneventful town, but as far as the film goes it could have been called "Momotombo" of "Limbo". It is a catchy title anyway and intriguing too, just as scene after scene we are invited to contemplate the everyday life of three persons for more than an hour: a high school student, a woman lawyer and a shop owner. As it has become the norm in observational cinema, watching is believing, watching is learning and discovering too. After an image stays with you for more than 10 times the average shot length of you common action movie, it becomes something else: what it "turns into" is a personal thing, for it is a subjective experience: you may infer drastically different interpretations than any other viewer, but that is precisely the pleasure of watching without explanations. And then bang! The last minutes turn upside down all your preceding conjectures. It is true that it is not a new strategy: it has been done before. The one that came to my mind was the Spanish film, "The Hours of the Day", only that this time the proposition is more complex. The three characters, each determined by his/her different milieu, each different from the other, they finally reveal that life is a mirror that reflects similar inner fears, no matter the differences of age, sex, social class. There is also a sociological and maybe political reading that should be easier to make for a Greek spectator, but as it is, as a panorama of life in the beginning of a new era (of 2000 years each) or (worst) the ending of an age, when life as we know it is coming to an end, "Luton" is a powerful expression of how demoniacally unethical we have become. A welcome applause for Michalis Konstantatos's first feature.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Verbose, old-fashioned, studio bound and highly theatrical court- room melodrama, due to director-playwright Clifford Odets, who wrote the screenplay and provided mostly dialogues and plot points, but no cinematic flight. Being a man of letters, his best film work was as screenwriter of films like "Humoresque", "Notorious" and "Sweet Smell of Success". As a director, here Odets does not even take the camera out of the sound stages for a single moment, and in spite of having James Wong Howe as cinematographer it is neither an attractive wide-screen black and white film in the tradition of "The Innocents", "Sons and Lovers" or "Rapture": in fact, this movie should have been in color. But somehow it works, in spite of our desperation for the long, endless interrogations (especially those conducted by Sanford Meisner). It works for obvious reasons: first, for pure cinematic connection, only appreciated by cinéphiles, as we watch the post-Orson Welles career of an aging Rita Hayworth, as if Gilda had been lost for many years and resurfaced on page one as a murderous adulteress; and then, for several very good performances by the other ladies in the cast: Mildred Dunnock and Katherine Squire, plus the lovely presence of Myrna Fahey, just a few months before achieving film immortality as "Madeline " in Roger Corman's version of "The Fall of the House of Usher". The men are fine too (Franciosa, Young, Meisner, Griffith, Adler and the rest) but this is a woman's picture.
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