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Les égarés (2003)
A Story of Betrayal
Much has already been said by other viewers about the relationship of the characters in the movie. Viewers have rightly noted that the characters live in a world of chaos when everything seems to be falling apart: the everyday comfortable world, the family ties, the rules and inhibitions. But such circumstances bring out in people what they really are. People set aside social convention and struggle for survival, need of love, protection, in a desperate search for something to hold on to in this world. They build a small fragile world of their own, which may seem pretty strange, but the only one working at the moment. They form the most sincere primeval bonds, and these bonds shatter one day when the outer world reminds the isolated group of survivors (noble savages) of itself. Yvan gets caught, and the truth about his past becomes known, and it suddenly matters. Odile and the children betray Yvan, failing to claim him as one of their own, flinching from his identity and background. I think that that is the ultimate reason for Yvan's suicide: he can't stand this abrupt end to the only spell of happy life he must have known, he can't survive this betrayal. And the betrayal backfires on Odile and the children: their life in the refugee camp also debases them, the outer filth of the camp and thelack of freedom they used to enjoy in that forgotten country house is the price they pay for their cowardice and indecision at the most crucial moment. One white lie, making it possible for Yvan to gain time, to escape, and everything could have been different. I think they slowly start to learn their lesson, but the price paid for this lesson is too high, and the bitterest thing is that it's not they who pay it.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)
Much Ado about Nothing
So much ado in the world mass media about "Eclipse"! And - much ado about nothing.
"Summit Entertainment", please call back either Catherine Hardwicke or at least Chris Weitz! The franchise is getting from bad to worse. You're in danger of losing millions of viewers for "Breaking Dawn" if the trend begun by David Slade continues! If you don't care about quality movies, care at least about your profits. "Eclipse" is a cheap hack-work whose only aim is to make some easy money. It won't work twice.
David Slade has done the impossible - he managed to butcher the "Eclipse" novel altogether! Instead of the most dynamic book of the saga, which though possessing no literary qualities of big literature - is at least a page-turner, he produced an incredibly cheesy hash-dish of disconnected episodes, none of which is charged and coherent enough for the viewer to evaluate its meaning for the plot and character development. The film has no magic of Catherine Hardwicke's "Twilight" which concentrated on the phenomenon of first love with all shades of emotion, its tenderness and blunders. The colour gamut of "Twilight", the dialogues, the motivation of the characters, the pacing varying from slow to lightning speed everything was there to contribute to the magic. Chris Weitz, on the other hand, concentrated on the character of Jacob and on the film gathering momentum in the very end, when Bella goes to Italy. This break from the slow pacing of the time tedious for Bella to break-neck speed of the Italian part does the film credit. Though in comparison with "Twilight", Chris Weitz almost botches up Edward's character to save it at the last moment in the episode with the Volturi, both films have an atmosphere of their own. Not so the "Eclipse".
Slade and Rosenberg seem to have been intensely hating the book while filming it. How otherwise could they have created this this product (euphemism)? No coherent and consistent dialogue, no dialogue meaningful enough to give the actors at least SOME room for displaying their acting skills, no character motivation, no chemistry between the characters. The flashbacks with Rosalie and Jasper held some promise, but no, David Slade was very consistent in destroying their appeal, too. Both the stories lack some essential parts absolutely necessary for understanding the characters. On the whole, all the actors have to mumble through some nonsense lines which have to pass for dialogue. ALL of them seem to be there just because the franchise must plod on. Edward's repeated bleating about Bella marrying him obviously gets even on his own nerves. Action? Don't make my cat laugh. If this tiny part of vampires' training and a tiny fragment of real fighting lacking any gusto can be called action, then I'll eat my hat. I bet people expected much more than that bit of morning exercise, waving hands and raising legs. The only credits in this field go to Jasper and Emmett.
Acting? Godawful. It seems the main characters are suffering from various diseases and need medication real quick.
Edward is hanging about with the facial expression of one having chronic dyspepsia. It seems that each and every Bella's appearance on the set is nauseating for him and he's manly fighting this emotion to conceal it. Motilium and sickness medications, quick! It's not a progress in acting, but a step back. Edward was best in "Twilight", in "New Moon" it was slow deterioration, now it's a catastrophe. Edward must be changing, but - so? Edward seems to be turning into a willing slave of Bella and effacing himself completely. It's obvious that, on the one hand, the actor was left with no choices of his own and with not much of a role to play, on the other hand, he's tired of the franchise whatever he may be saying in public (and anyone would be tired of this film 'very DIFFERENT from the previous two'). By the way, we should do Mr. Pattinson credit, for he's honest he said that he feared nobody would come to see the film. He has definitely seen the pre-release copy. Next time I'll be more attentive to the messages he sends.
Bella. She's lost all the appeal of a young inexperienced girl caring for everybody, eager not to hurt, to bring together, a heart bleeding for everyone. Now we see an egoistic scheming wench not caring a fig about anybody, her only aim, as we learn in the end, was to sift through her motives and to make the RIGHT choice, and that's becoming a vampire, love is secondary here. Is she doing it for her shrink? Next time fetch your pocket calculator to draw up the balance, Bella. Bella's attempt to seduce Edward looks nauseating, so pre-planned it is. Where's love, where's sincerity, where's youthful impetuousness? Gone to the dogs. On the whole, judging by Bella's facial expression it's evident that the girl was dropped head down more than once in her infancy and now has difficulty comprehending what is being said around her. Acetazolamide may have helped, had it been taken earlier. Bella's also obviously a mouth-breather. Remove your adenoids, Bells. Before it's too late and you're too far gone.
Jacob. No progress in comparison with "New Moon", too few and too bad lines given, too little screen time.
Victoria. Rachelle Lefevre was voluptuous, lascivious, dangerous. Bryce Dallas Howard is emaciated, pitiful, heavily painted and timid. She can't touch Rachelle Lefevre. A very bad choice. The wig alone doesn't make the character. A bad mistake of "Summit".
Was there ANYTHING good? My thumbs up to Jasper, Alice, Emmett, Carlisle, Charlie, Riley (though Riley's part could have been made more dramatic and consistent, but not with the current wonder script, alas). Oh, yes, the landscapes were impressive.
Remember Me (2010)
searching for freedom
It seems interesting that in a number of his parts Robert Pattinson addresses the theme of freedom / absence of freedom. See for yourself:
1) Giselher in "The Ring of the Niebelungs". Giselher is a young prince, and, at first glance his life leaves nothing to be desired. But Giselher yearns for freedom. It's not by chance that he always wants to go beyond the walls of the castle, wants to go to battle, to see the world, to love without having to conceal the whole affair , but he may not do what he wants. If he makes some of his dreams come true, it's not due to his circumstances, it's notwithstanding them. Giselher is a wounded heart. He lost his parents in the same way Siegfrid did (by the way, the episode in the smithy leaves a good impression.) Pattinson copes with portraying a wounded person, a person unsure of himself, but a person ready to cast away conventionality and neglect all the bans.
2) Toby Jugg. This film echoes "Leg" (1992), metaphorically presenting physical and moral traumas, inflicted on a soldier by the war, touches upon the problem of admissibility of evil, limits of evil, obedience and disobedience, refusal to obey cruel orders or their acceptance, personal responsibility, also touches upon the problem of freedom and its absence, looking for the way out and beyond. Toby Jugg is locked within his crippled body, he's locked in his nightmares. Trying to fight his way out of all these, he comes to realize that the measure of evil he has inflicted is already done, and his freedom lies in executing himself, passing a verdict on his night air raid, and on the phonies around him who have distorted his vision. Pattinson copes very well with the psychological tension of this part. It's he who makes the whole film, where had the part been performed by some less talented actor, the film would have been reduced to a Sunday-night mediocre horror.
3) "Little Ashes". The actor convincingly addresses the theme of the freedom of an artist. What he does really well is showing the "evolution" of Dali. Dali, Lorca and many other artists are "people skinned alive", feeling and perceiving the world around them so acutely it's painful for them. All Dali's posing as a genius is just a mask to cover this vulnerability, a mask to hide this pain from himself as well, a form of autogenic training.
4) "The Twilight Saga". Many people reproach his Edward Cullen for his still face, absence of emotion. I should say that Edward Cullen is one of the least free characters portrayed by Robert Pattinson. Edward's emotions cannot be as lively and variegated in their visual manifestation as those of ordinary people. On the one hand, Edward has condemned himself as a monster, he sees himself as a castaway, soulless, doomed to empty existence. This gives him a horrible inferiority complex. On the other hand, he understands how breakable the world around him is, how imperfect; he fears to destroy his world and his love. And this is also the habit of secrecy he has had to practice for about a century. And don't forget the constant physical (the burning thirst) and moral pain he lives in. Edward finds limitations and walls wherever he turns. Would your emotions look lively and natural if you had been trained to practice total self-control and exercise constant analysis? No, this "slow response", this constraint speaks in favour of Pattinson's interpretation of this part. By the way, the actor himself named "aggressive humility" as the main trait of Edward's character and attitude. I think this definition hits the nail on the head.
5) In "Remember Me" the theme of freedom is also touched upon, though it might not be the main one in the film. Tyler's brother has died as a result of his being unable to exercise his freedom in choosing his career, his way in life. Tyler is very much affected by this death, and he can't help thinking about what freedom is for every man, and what necessity is.
To cut a long story short, these films analyze different aspects and manifestations of freedom / absence of freedom in different situations: in growing up, in love, in war, in art. A good choice of food for thought.
Why does Pattinson repeatedly address this theme? What is it for him personally? Anyway, his interest in the topic is consecutive and consistent.
We shall live and see what turns his acting career will take, but, in comparison with somewhat cardboard Cedric Diggory, Rawdy, Art, the actor has made great progress. It's evident he's analyzing, searching, working, perfecting. I believe he will never stop participating in commercial projects (and it's understandable), but, hopefully, will also take part in indie and art-house films, like so many good actors. This will certainly leave room for further professional growth. Anyway, he has all the makings of a very talented actor now, let him make good use of his talent.
Far North (2007)
Greek tragedy in Inuit
We are all used to the Ancient Greek tragedies like "Oedipus", the main idea of which is the inevitability of fate, and the main moral lesson is to meet this destiny looking it boldly in the eye and stoically doing what one still feels morally right to do. So here we've a got an inuit variation of the theme Saiva is doomed at the moment she was born. The shaman proclaims she will bring only death and disaster to everyone she comes in contact with. Raised in isolation from people, Saiva survives and defies fate. She tries to love (though the love affair ends tragically not of her own fault), she tries to raise another doomed child though not her own, she saves a man from freezing to death. The man's name is Loki, and, like his Norse namesake, a trickster he turns out to be. When the everyday routine crumbles around Saiva, she desperately longs to change her fate, to exchange it with another person. She actually tries on Anja's skin and life. To no avail. Fate cannot be fooled. Saiva is cursed and alone, demons of anger, jealousy, remorse eating her heart up, the trickster is gone never to return. The stranger will freeze to death, as he was destined to, Anja dead, the way she was meant to be about 20 years ago. Life resumes its unchangeable course, one can almost hear the icy cold, cruel laugh of the gods. Great camera work. The North as shown in the film is truly majestic and absolutely indifferent to the life of people. Eternal, cruel, beautiful, a true mystery. On the whole, I would say it's an underestimated film.
A really good story, spoiled only by the Hollywood curse of filling "bad Russians" in every hole. It's inconceivable how Russian soldiers should be wearing Nazi German uniform and tabs. Or are bad Russians a must to sell a film in the US?
2000-nen no koi (2000)
No new word in cinema, but a nice TV series
There are some episodes with too slow timing, some episodes are obviously tear squeezers, but on the whole the production is not sickeningly maudlin. It may not be the best TK dorama, but it's not the worst either.
Many details of the plot do not hold water. For example, Yuri Maroev seems to sound vaguely Russian (though the cinematographers stick to choosing nonsense names, God knows why when there’s so much info and databases on Russia available), Yuri and his father speak a stretch in Russian, and the Urals is a mountain chain dividing Europe from Asia and situated in Russia. It beats me how those supposed Russians look like the Japanese and behave like the Japanese, and nobody recognizes them as aliens in Japan. By the way, the other terrorists also look like people of clearly Japanese, Chinese or maybe Korean origin.
I also don’t understand why Yuri bears a Russian name, his brother Samile (Shamil?) a Chechen Moslem name, his mother Emily Rynn – an Anglophone name, and his younger brother and sister – Japanese-sounding names, e.g. Omoru. So we are dealing with a Eurasian country speaking Russian, but not possessing population of Russian origin? How did the Japanese get to the Urals in such quantities as to create a separate state there? Why did they take up Russian and forget their mother tongue?
Not to mention the fact that Russians (even quasi-Russians) again pose as bad guys, backing terrorism throughout the world. A cliché, and I won’t even mention that for people of Russia this isn’t a very pleasant and even offensive stereotype, which, like every stereotype, is rather a misconception. And not to mention the fact that the country run by Russians presumably MUST be totalitarian, cruel, poor and immoral. Then, why the Ural Republic? Are the Urals no longer Russian? What’s happened to my country, may I ask? Did it disintegrate (when? I’m unaware of the fact), was it taken over by somebody else? Does it still exist?
Only the fact that Yuri turns out to be strong-willed, persevering, but amiable and loving, torn and suffering, true and noble reconciles me with the plot to some extent.
What I liked – Miho’s tenacity in defending her love and her beloved, her resilience and strength of character. Yuri played by Takeshi Kaneshiro shows a varied emotional palette, and, as I said, is lovable. He alone saves the audience from branding all Russians as immoral scum and renegade spooks of the world. By the way, he honestly struggles through several sentences in Russian (and it’s a hard task for a person with the language background entirely different from Russian), and though it’s not his fault that these sentences are ‘dead’, sterile, ‘plastic’ (no one speaks in such artificial but grammatically correct sentences), and though the intonation is entirely wrong, he demonstrates a charming accent.
What I disliked – the things already mentioned, and the fact that there’s no ‘touch of nutmeg’ in TK’s acting. He’s emotionally rich, skillful in portraying the torment of his character, but there’s not a single ‘giveaway’ thing about him – nothing prompts that for Japan he is a foreigner, no gestures, facial expressions, tilts of head, mannerisms of Russians, no ‘devil-may-care’ fire in his eyes that appears in Russian eyes when we throw everything to the wind embarking on a desperate scheme – be it love or war. No abandon, no burst of fire, where there must have been at least one. Instead he’s as impenetrable and unreadable as a native Japanese when he faces a crisis. Not so with Russians, our faces are more tell-tale. On the whole, he certainly has the chemistry and the magic, he’s the main attraction of the film, an eye-candy as usual.
Obitaemyy ostrov (2009)
Those who have watched the film may remember the following episode – Guy and Rada are sitting in front of TV during the Entertainment Hour and goggling happily. What is entertainment on Saraksh is visions and dreams of ‘psychotic’ individuals.
It struck me that ALL the film industry the way we know it is projecting nothing but visions and dreams of certain individuals, too(and sometimes these visions and images are no better than those shown in ‘Obitaemyy ostrov’). And book fiction is the same. So what’s the difference between Earth and Saraksh in terms of culture then?
And the towers are here, too. Look around – here are the TV towers and radio towers. They project these visions and dreams to the same effect as on Saraksh. Scary, isn’t it? Where are we?
On the other hand, where would the world be without this day-dreaming and wool-gathering? Do culture and a sort of hypnotic suggestion go hand in hand? How free in our minds are we really?
When I sat down to watching it, I wasn't expecting much, because I had been reading reviews where the critics were down on the film. I was more than pleasantly surprised - the USA has turned out a VERY good film about WWII.
The pacing of the film, the feeling of growing tension,and even the colour scheme of the film are gripping. The impression that someone is after you, breathing down your neck, the impression of the suffocating surveillance is there, too. I am also very much surprised that the Americans have also produced something not along the usual lines - no soppy scenes, no lone hero that takes saving the whole world in casual stride between breakfast and lunch, no countless special effects blotting out the plot, no wallowing in gruesome episodes.
It seems to me that to some extent this film resembles Soviet films about WWII, at least I find a lot in common in the visual language, in the manner of presenting the material.
Tom Cruise does a very good piece of work. He's not just an eye-candy here, but a personality, and a very forceful personality to that. Thanks for making me (and I hope not only me) read more about Stauffenberg and WWII.
I wonder whether it is really so or whether it only seems to me, but the way I see TK’s Chiba prompts me the following interpretation: On the one hand, shinigamis are immortal themselves (at least there was nothing in the film to suggest the opposite), but this is a doubtful blessing – just remember the limbo where TK’s character and his dog have to spend their time in between ‘missions’. It’s a dreary grey space where nothing happens, where nothing diverts the eye, where the time stands still. I wonder whether shinigamis find this space restful, or boring, or maybe just treat it with no emotion – but (once again, it is very subjective) it seems to me that TK’s character finds it a lonely place, or at least grows to find it a lonely place, and not a very ‘justified’ place for him to be in, to that. What I mean is he played a shinigami that evolves, changes, becomes more and more human (just look at his mimics, listen to his intonation when he’s speaking). What I see is his silent revolt against this limbo, and a sad reconciliation to the facts – to each his own, a human being gets a shortish earthly life full of emotion, mistakes, discoveries, and a shinigami gets his sad uneventful immortality. It looks as if somebody has robbed the shinigamis of something very important that Chiba begins to feel and to look for. At the same time he knows he’ll never be able to break through this fabric of his destiny.
Actually I see the film not as a chain of interconnected episodes, and not as the life story of the girl who rises from an ordinary girl of the crowd to a celebrity and then sinks into oblivion again, gaining maturity and understanding of things. I see the film as two major stories (the girl’s and the shinigami’s) that, though they develop along different lines, lead the viewer to the same conclusion. What really matters is the ability to understand, to love, to forgive, to look at the world with one’s eyes and mind open, to care, to be thankful to life for all the challenges it presented, to hope. Just remember the scene where she and Chiba are standing and looking at the peaceful sunlit landscape – it needs no words, it’s like an awakening (satori?). I think it is not by chance that at this particular moment Chiba finally sees the sun he longed for, for him it’s like a short but a very meaningful breakthrough, moment of freedom.
There’s one thing more I’d like to mention. I wonder, why the dog? What I mean is Chiba gets his orders through a dog, the dog is like an intercom channel connecting Chiba and some other higher being (beings?). Does the dog symbolize the fact that gods are beyond all things human? Or does it symbolize the fact that THERE ARE NO GODS but just a blind law of life, blind to its purpose as all the world of nature (what a sad mockery!)? Or is the dog a symbol of loneliness? What also prompts itself to me is an unexpected and maybe far-fetched analogy between Chiba and Faust (Chiba is more or less like Faust who’s through to his goals – immortality, power, knowledge that would make him godlike; though Faust was craving for these gifts, and Chiba is shown as already possessing them, and not of his own free will). If you remember, when Faust first asks for all these, a black dog comes to his side. In the Christian tradition a black dog stands for the devil. It’s very unlikely that the scriptwriter did it on purpose, but for me the allusion is there, and very striking. By the way, the final episode that I’ve already mentioned, their standing together and looking at the world, brings to mind the words of Faust when he asks the time to stop at that most perfect moment, recovering the living soul with these words (and no dog by his side any more!). By the way, it’s not by chance that it’s a woman who makes Chiba see through to all this, like Faust’s Margaret. It seems to me that Chiba is a kind of Faust ideal reversed, working to getting back to being human.
By the way, in the European folk archtypes rain stands for death. If one dreams of those who passed away, they are often seen wet through in the dreams; so the dead in our psyche come from the rain. Remember that when Chiba comes to earth it’s always raining? And mind that it finally stops raining. A coincidence? Hardly ever.
I certainly won’t claim that the makers of this film use these ideas consciously. The film is also very Japanese at that (the categories of wabi, sabi, shibumi, karumi and fueki ryuko are there all right). But in my opinion a good film touches some strings of heart and draws analogies visible for people with different backgrounds, of different cultures, be it done consciously or not. A good film is rich in meanings, tints and hues. I believe “Shinigami-no Seido” has it and is one of such films.
Cyber Wars (2004)
Special effects have become available to everyone
Despite the fact that the film has been made very neatly, it is absolutely impossible to say what the film-makers wanted to say by this work. None of the characters arouses interest. Neither do they arouse compassion. Even in cyberpunk there MUST be vivid antagonists and protagonists. I strongly doubt that the film will enjoy box office success with the audience, as it appeals neither to the emotions, nor to the intellect. The film can boast of many special effects, but they contribute little to the atmosphere and the 'charm' of the film. The special effects are also a bit too common for the recent couple of years. There is a lot of rush and bustle, but it is not action. 2 out of 10 only because the crew DID work over it. Labour must be rewarded, anyway.
Les enfants de la pluie (2003)
Predictable, but in style
'Les enfants de la pluie' is very predictable (for a person with at least some experience in reading sci-fi it is easy to guess how the plot will develop and how it all will end). At the same time I liked the drawings, the style of cartoonists. As compared with, say, 'Les maitres du temps' it is regrettably less gripping, but it makes a bit more sense in the long run.