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I lived in Moscow on the Hudson, Manhattan, New York, New York Once Upon a Time in America. While dodging Bullets Over Broadway and A Shot in the Dark on Mean Streets - Sunset Blvrd, Lost Highway, and Mulholland Dr I am looking through The Mirror with Eyes Wide Shot and Smiles of a Summer Night during Modern Times and Radio Days In a Company of Men, Women in Love, A Fish Called Wanda, Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes, Hamlet, King Lear, Barry Lyndon, and Alexander Nevsky. Taxi Driver will take us to Fellini's Roma where we will spend Enchanted April and Summer with Monica, while Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind will shed Winter Light on City Lights. We will listen to The Magic Flute, Autumn Sonata, and to Witness for the Prosecution (O Lucky Man!) who testifies against Crimes and Misdemeanors that result in Death in Venice for Rocco and 8 1/2 of His Brothers during White Nights. After we say Au Revoir Les Enfants du paradis, we would engage in Forbidden Games and ......to be continued (maybe) [laugh]
Confessions of a Movie Lover (Not a 'Movie Buff') : Why do I love Movies? I don't consider myself neither a film critic nor a film buff - I simply love movies, have loved them since I was 5 and my grandmother took me to the theater for the first time. She later told me that she had been afraid that I would've became bored, restless, and started to cry - it never happened. I was so charmed and fascinated by the miracle of the film that I sat not even moving, mesmerized and not uttering the single sound. I am always ready for the miracle to happen again. I expect every new (for me) movie to be great; I want to love, to cherish and to adore it. When it happens and the movie becomes mine, I am the happiest person in the Universe. I am ready to tell the whole world what they are missing and invite everyone to join me in the joy and fun. When it happens...The movie does not need to be a well known masterpiece with the long and great reputation - it is a masterpiece for me, and that's what I care about. I do enjoy all types of movies, there are a lot of "skeletons in my closet" - the obscure movies, the bad ones, the rightfully forgotten ones. The movie does not even need to be a perfect piece of art but it should genuinely move me or tell me something so personal that would open a hidden door in my heart and let me re-live the moments of the past that have gone forever but are still alive in the vaults of my memory. It does not happen often but when it does, it is like the lightning - that how I would feel if traveling back in time ever becomes reality. When and only when that happens, I'd rate the movie YES. I don't watch the movies to find the flaws, I watch them because I want to feel - as long as I can feel, as long as I can await for the miracle to happen and be prepared for it - I am alive and young.
The IMDb Top 250 Films Directed by Women
Last updated on December 4, 2010
Top 13 Top 14-28 3 Women (1977) (500) Days of Summer (2009) 8� (1963) � bout de souffle (1960) About Schmidt (2002) After Hours (1985) Adagio (2000) �ge d'or, L' (1930) �ngel exterminador, El (1962) Angst essen Seele auf (1974) Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972) Akahige (1965) All the President's Men (1976) Alye parusa (1961) Amadeus (1984) Amarcord (1973) American Beauty (1999) American Splendor Andrey Rublyov (1969) An Angel at My Table (1990) Ang�lique, marquise des anges (1964) Annie Hall (1977) 27 May 2009 Another Woman (1988) Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) Atalante, L' (1934) Aventuriers, Les (1967) A zori zdes tikhie Bal, Le (1983) Barry Lyndon (1975) Becket (1964) Before Sunrise (1995) Before Sunset (2004) Being John Malkovich (1999) Belle noiseuse, La (1991) Beloe solntse pustyni (1970) Beregis avtomobilya (1966) "Berlin Alexanderplatz" (1980) The Big Lebowski (1998) Birdy (1984) Bitteren Tr�nen der Petra von Kant, Die Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom (2003) Broadway Danny Rose (1984) Bullets Over Broadway (1994) Burn After Reading (2008) Cabaret (1972) Carmen Syuta (1970) Carmen (1983/I) C�line et Julie vont en bateau (1974) Charme discret de la bourgeoisie, Le (1972) Chicago (2002) A Clockwork Orange (1971) Corbeau, Le (1943) Conformista, Il (1970) Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) The Crying Game (1992) The Dead (1987) 15 June 2009 Dead Ringers (1988) Dekalog, dziesiec (1989) (TV) Devchata (1961) Diner (1982) Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) Dokument Fanny och Alexander (1986) Double vie de V�ronique, La (1991) The Draughtsman's Contract (1982) Enchanted April (1992) Ensayo de un crimen (1955) Ehe der Maria Braun, Die (1979) Enfant sauvage, L' (1970) Enfants du paradis, Les (1945) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Eyes Wide Shut (1999) Fanny och Alexander (1982) Fant�me de la libert�, Le Fargo (1996) "Fawlty Towers" (1975) A Fish Called Wanda (1988) Fitzcarraldo (1982) Five Easy Pieces (1970) Forrest Gump (1994) Le Grand blond avec une chaussure noire (1972) Gattopardo, Il (1963) Goodfellas (1990) The Godfather Part II (1974) "The Golden Girls" (1985) -TV Gran Torino (2008) Grizzly Man (2005) Groundhog Day (1993) Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) Hester Street (1975) Homme qui plantait des arbres, L' (1987) H�stsonaten (1978) Idi i smotri (1985) Ikiru (1952) Inception (2010) Inland Empire (2006) Ivanovo detstvo (1962) In einem Jahr mit 13 Monden (1978) Jane Eyre (1983) (mini) Jane Eyre (2006) (mini) La Jet�e (1962) Journal d'une femme de chambre, Le Jules et Jim (1962) Jungfruk�llan (1960) Kostnice (1970) Korol Lir (1969) Das Leben der Anderen (2006) Letyat zhuravli (1957) Living in Oblivion (1995) Lola (1981) Lost Highway (1997) Majo no takky�bin (1989) Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) Manhunter (1986) Matrimonio all'italiana (1964) Mikres Afrodites (1963) Mimino (1977) Montorey Pop (1968) Morte a Venezia (1971) Moznosti dialogu (1982) Moya lyubov (2006) My Cousin Vinny (1992) My Fair Lady (1964) Myst�re Picasso, Le (1956) Narayama bushiko (1983) Nazar�n (1959) Ne goryuy (1969) Nightwatching (2007) North by Northwest (1959) Northfork (2003) Notes on a Scandal (2006) Notti bianche, Le (1957) Notti di Cabiria, Le (1957) N�z w wodzie (1962) O Lucky Man! (1973) The Old Man and the Sea (1999) Olvidados, Los (1950) Paper Moon (1973) Parapluies de Cherbourg, Les (1964) Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, La (1928) P�p� le Moko (1937) Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) Persona (1966) The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2005) Play It Again, Sam (1972) Powaqqatsi (1988) Pulp Fiction (1994) The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) Radio Days (1987) Ratatouille (2007) Rok spokojnego slonca (1984) Roma (1972) Roman Holiday (1953) Romeo and Juliet (1968/I) Russian Ark (2002) Samoura�, Le (1967) The Sandpit Generals (1971) Sans toit ni loi (1985) Saraband (2003) (TV) Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007) Scener ur ett �ktenskap (1973) Schultze Gets the Blues (2003) The Secret Lives of Dentists (2002) Seppuku aka Harakiri (1962) "Seinfeld" (1990) A Serious Man (2009) Seven Beauties (1975) Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989) Skazka skazok (1979) Skazka stranstviy (1982) Smultronst�llet (1957) Sommarnattens leende (1955) Snatch. (2000) 19 June 2009 Spiklenci slasti (1996) Stardust Memories (1980) Straight Time (1978) Sunshine (1999) Sweet and Lowdown (1999) Synecdoche, New York (2008) The Tales of Hoffmann (1951) The Tango Lesson (1997) The Third Man (1949) Tma/Svetlo/Tma (1989) Tokyo monogatari (1953) Tonari no Totoro (1988) Trading Places (1983) Trollfl�jten (1975) Triplettes de Belleville, Les (2003) Tystnaden (1963) Ugetsu (1953) Ukigusa (1959) Ukigusa monogatari (1934) Un chien andalou (1929) Vals Im Bashir (2008) Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) Vitelloni, I (1953) Vincent (1982) Vincent & Theo (1990) Viridiana (1961) Vargtimmen (1968) Vokzal dlya dvoikh (1982) Voyna i mir (1968) Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995) Werckmeister harm�ni�k (2000) When Harry Met Sally... The White Ribbon (2009) Witness for the Prosecution (1957) A Woman Under the Influence (1974) Women in Love (1969) Wonder Boys (2000) Ya shagayu po Moskve (1963) Yellow Submarine (1968) Zelig (1983) Zerkalo (1975) - #1 Zolotoy telyonok (1968) Zolushka (1947)
My favorite actresses:
My Favorite Actors:
Max von Sydow
Daniel Day Lewis
House of Sorrow and Hope
"Water" (2005) that was written and directed by Deepa Metha, the Indian- born Canadian film director and screenwriter, is a final part of her Elements trilogy, Fire, Earth, and Water. Each film deals with serious and often unknown outside of India problems that the country has inherited over its long history of religious traditions that always played highly important role in all aspects of Indian society. Water, a heart breaking tale of Indian widows, is set during the early 1940s and tells the compelling story of an eight-year-girl who learns that she became a widow. Her parents married her when she was an infant to an unknown man but were taking care of her until she was old enough to become a wife to the husband she never met. After his death, according to the holy laws the little girl had only three choices in her life: to burn with her husband on the funeral pyre, to marry his younger brother or to become untouchable and spend the rest of her life in an ashram - a shelter for widows at the temple, on the banks of the great river.
Delicately beautiful and colorful film introduces the viewers to several unfortunate widows of different ages who whose families have abandoned them forever. The women have to live together and use any means possible for surviving. Pain, grief, loss, sacrifices are the essential parts of their daily struggles. Deepa Metha deserves every praise and award she has received for her memorable and passionate film which may shock the viewers who would not imagine what choices were available to a woman - widow back in the days and even now in some rural parts of India. But the film also praises the beauty of nature, joy of friendship, and eventually, it brings hope for better future for those women and their country.
Not only is Water an exquisite work of art, it is an important social statement. So important, indeed, that the Indian government interfered with the production process, canceled the funding of the film, restricted Metha to shoot in India, and did not stop the fundamentalists' riots that threatened the physical violence toward the female director and the members of the crew.
If the things have improved in India, as the officials proclaim, why the government hated so much just the idea of the film and caused all kinds of obstacles for Deepa Metha and her crew?
Magic in the Moonlight (2014)
Not much magic under this moon
For the 46th time, the viewers who came to see the latest Woody Allen's picture are greeted with his familiar calling card, the black screen with elegant white subtitles that is a portal to the new world created by the tireless workaholic whose motto is - no single year without a movie. This time, he takes us to Europe of the late 1920s, at the end of the short lull between two most devastating wars of the 20th century. After brief stop in Berlin, the plot moves to the luxurious villa on the seaside of French Riviera where the owners, their guests and neighbors are all excited about otherworldly and supernatural phenomena inexplicable by science.
Do Cassandra's and Sybil's really exist among us? Can they foresee the future and read the past, based on the mental images that are projected directly into their consciousness? Are they really a medium between the material and spiritual worlds? Famous circus magician, skeptic and atheist Stanley (Colin Firth) responds scornfully: "No!" And he is ready to expose one such Sybil, red- haired and green-eyed young American woman Sophie (Emma Stone). Acrimonious and sarcastic,Stanley has no doubts that he will immediately uncover the impostor, but to his utmost surprise he realizes that Sophie knows his hidden secrets, weaknesses, regrets and unfulfilled dreams he never admitted to anyone. Maybe, unknown and hidden forces exist after all?
The picture is beautiful to look at. Shot by Darius Khondji, who has worked on three Allen's films of lately, the French Riviera arises from a dream, wrapped in beauty, serenity and luxury. The problem was, first and foremost, a colorless screenplay which subject Allen might have borrowed from one of his recent London pictures. There is nothing wrong with re-using one's own ideas, and it was Allen who once said: "Steal from the best". But he wrote the script for Magic in the Moonlight without a drop of inspiration or magic. Easily predictable movie drags in the middle hoping for magic to move it towards the final black screen with the white letters adding up to the word "End". What could have been charming romantic period piece/comedy turned bland, devoid of originality and sadly did not allow talented actors Marcia Gay Harden and Jackie Weaver to shine in the supporting roles. This is unfortunate because in Allen's movies even inanimate objects can give exciting performance.
Another problem was director's decision to make a romantic comedy, which, by definition, must end with the close-up of two heroes either lost to the world in an endless kiss or looking into each other's eyes with tenderness that softly melts the screen. Stanley and Sophie share no spark, no "chemistry" that would make the viewers believe in the possibility of romance developing between them. Much more "chemistry" has arisen between Sophie and pretty dresses in the fashion of the late 1920s that were created for her by the talented costume designers. One of the cheerful dresses, white with a big red collar, clings to her gently, hugging her slender figure and highlighting unusual shade of her red hair. And perky black beret, holding on her pretty head at an impossible angle, may well qualify for an Oscar for best supporting role.
Perhaps, none of the modern actors can play a cocky and arrogant English snob better than Colin Firth what he has proved repeatedly. This time, though, he went so deeply into the character that when he had to switch to falling in love mood, the transition was sharp, sudden and not convincing.
With all this said, even pedestrian Woody Allen comedy is more elegant, polished and pleasant than most of the rom- coms produced by the big studios but vagueness, haste and not plausible final act weakened the magic of moonlight. It lacks the enchantment and spell of Paris at midnight that Allen created with light touch and inspiration three years ago.
La graine et le mulet (2007)
Long waiting for couscous
Film director Abdel Kechiche became so involved with the footage for the picture La Graine et le Mulet (The Secret of the Grain) which tells the story of a big dysfunctional family of Tunisian immigrants in the southern French port town of Sete that he could not part with a smallest parts of it. He dedicated the film to his father, and I would not be surprised to find out that the film characters with their traditions, everyday problems, struggles, hopes, and losses were written by Abdel Kechiche from his own family, and the story he tells was inspired by his own growing up. The Secret of the Grain is compelling and personal movie but Kechiche either should have taken another editor or let them use the scissors without reservation. The movie is long with many scenes practically begging of being significantly trimmed. It does not apply to all scenes. Some are amazingly acted, and I would not miss a second of the scene where young Rym (Hafsia Herzi) is trying to convince her mother Lilia to go to the big party in the final part of the film. A newcomer Hafsia Herzi is a born actress, and a good one. She is without a doubt a very promising talent with huge potential but her endless belly-dancing in the final was just that - endless and boring. I get the purpose of the scene but its length and the camera peering at Hafsia's belly for what seems hours, totally kills it.
Kechiche shot the film in Cinéma vérité style, and while it works and lets us actually get to know the characters, overlong monologues and conversations often made me feel like watching a reality talk show which is a completely different genre altogether. The emotional and powerful monologue of Julia, the long-suffering wife of one of a male characters, would have been ten times more powerful had it been twice or even trice shorter. Yes, perhaps in reality the neglected young wife and mother would cry and complain even longer than the scene in the film lasts but we the viewers are grownups, we understand, we get it - don't hit us over the head.
The film is a recipient of many Awards including four César Awards (Best Film, Best Directing, Best Writing, and Most Promising Actress for Herzi) and it was nominated for Best Editing which really surprised me. I think Kechiche deserved to be recognized and rewarded but I hope that he will be more critical with his future films. The film creator should not be afraid of cutting of all unnecessary parts of his work to let a hidden masterpiece inside it breathe freely.
The Bank Job (2008)
Big Trouble on the Baker Street
While watching The Bank Job (2008) by Roger Donaldson I could not help thinking how much it felt like a Guy Ritchie's movie, the best that he did not direct. The Bank Job is fast, smart, and so well made that I can only agree with Richard Rupert of At the Movies with Ebert& Rupert, "The most entertaining heist movie I've seen in years". It is based on the true story of the Baker Street robbery that involved a robbery of the safe deposit boxes at a branch of Lloyds Bank on the corner of Baker Street and Marylebone Road, London, and the following political scandal that the content of some of the boxes might have caused. The robbers were never arrested, and the cash, jewelry and the documents were never recovered. I am not sure how much truth is in the film but it works fine recreating the atmosphere of the 1970s with its political corruption, sex scandals that link to the highest circles, and the police incompetence.
I mentioned Guy Ritchie above, and it seems that the colorful characters from the different layers of society that inhabited London in The Bank Job might have come directly from his early movies. The most decent and sympathetic turned to be the petty thieves led by Terry Leather (the role fits Jason Statham like a glove) while the owners of the stolen safe deposit boxes are mostly corrupt and despicable. Among them the members of the parliament who like to visit the fashionable London brothel, the leader of Black Power organization who keeps the compromising pictures of a member of British Royal Family in the coveted deposit box 118, and the porn-king of Soho (David Suchet) who makes the note of his every payment to the bent cops of London in the special book. Sushet, known to millions as a master of gray cells, the world famous Hercule Poirot, is here on the other side of the law. Perhaps, you won't remember this movie for its outstanding photography and spectacular scenery but as far as the level of entertainment and thrills goes, it is certainly a hit. And the big one.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners."
Looks like while making "The Big Lebowski" (1998) weird, nutty, outrageously funny and deliciously twisted movie, the brothers Ethan and Joel Coens, known for their unique and dry humor, sat back, laughed out loud, and had fun. "Big Lebowski" turned as one of the funniest comedies ever made. It is funny because of the incredibly off-beat characters, their weirdness, flaws, their interactions, the surreal situations they found themselves in, and perfectly written and delivered hilarious dialogs. There is the story, of course, which is based on the case of mistaken identity with the following kidnapping, villainous nihilists, vanguard erotic flying painter, the bowler named Jesus but the story is truly secondary to the delicious craziness of the movie.
Some reviewers call Big Lebowski misfire and deranged mess, saying that the story is convoluted with the characters we would not care about a bit. It was also interesting to read the reviews that were written upon its release and compared it to Coens' "Fargo" that had been made a year earlier than the adventure of Jeffrey "the Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges)."Fargo" could be Coens' masterwork but it does not make Lebowski any worse. It was dismissed as the inferior film and was predicted not to stand the future re-watch. The time has proved the predictions wrong. "The Dude" Lebowski - middle-aged pot smoking, White Russian drinking, bowling enthusiast ex-hippie, and his friends, Polish Catholic converted Jew, "more Jewish than Tevye" Vietnam veteran Walter with anger management problems (John Goodman) and timid, little slow, "sweet prince" Donny (unusually quiet Steve Buscemi) have become the cult figures, the beloved characters, for millions of film lovers of different generations, not only the baby- boomers.
The Coen Brothers have made twenty films, and all of them are treasure, including their contribution in the 2006 anthology, Paris, je t'aime. I've seen all their films and I want to repeat the title of my review on their latest, "Burn after reading" - The Coen Brothers don't make bad movies, because they don't know how. Their films, Including the cult favorite, Big Lebowski, should not be missed. They are clever, darkly funny, and beautiful without being pretty pictures. In short, they are first class entertainment.
Hit the Road: India (2013)
Invitation to the adventure
I found out about this independent adventure documentary from one of its creators and started with watching the 3 minute long trailer which instantly grabbed my attention. Tight, dynamic, even suspenseful thanks to well-chosen soundtrack, the trailer was a great introduction to the film.
I liked the 80 minutes long movie and given that it was the first picture by the Baghdasaryan brothers, they deserve respect and praise for making an engrossing and intriguing film. The subject of the movie was new for me because I did not know anything about The Mumbai Xpress, one of the most extensive and demanding routes of The Indian Auto rickshaw Challenge, the race across India on the auto-rickshaw or tuk- tuk that covers almost 2000 km. Extremely popular in the urban areas due to their simplicity,efficiency and low cost, driving Auto rickshaw across the huge continent with diverse landscape during the rainy season presents a real challenge. That's why the participants, the teams of two or three drivers from different countries, called the rally 'an amazing race for the clinically insane'. But the madness of the brave deserves a film made about it, and that's exactly what Baghdasaryan brothers did. Technically, their film deserves praise. They were able to create a mood of the travel. Shot during the rainy season, the movie is soaked in rain and leaves impression of danger waiting on the every turn of the treacherous roads. The soundtrack, superimposed on the images of long and often grueling journeys between the cities, helps to feel excitement as well as fatigue and frustration that the participants inevitably and regularly have to deal with.
Of several international team-participants, the Baghdasaryan chose the Team US/ Canada team, which included Rick, a Chicago Realtor, and Keith, a Canadian Chef to follow in their adventures during Mumbai Xpress. Rick and Keith, despite their far from extreme occupation back home (or, perhaps, because of it), were ready for excitement and unexpected turns on the treacherous roads during the tropical never ending rain. It was fun in the beginning to follow them on the trip where the problems with their tuk-tuk happened all the time but somewhere in the middle of the road following their team only became a little repetitive and monotonous. I kept thinking of the others teams and how they were handing the long trip. Especially, I wanted to follow the only female team participants and to experience the rally from their perspective. Another slight quibble I have to the film, it was hard to distinguish one city or town on the way from another. I am not sure how the footage should have been edited to pick the most interesting and memorable signs of each new place but there is something for the creators to improve during the work on the future projects. Now, after few weeks since I saw the film, I think that the trailer was the best part of the experience. But as I mentioned above, Hit the Road: India is quite good as a debut in documentary and I am sure that it is a beginning of the long and successful road for the Baghdasaryan Brothers.
Secrets of the Dead: Ultimate Tut (2013)
Beyond the Valley of the Kings
Ultimate Tut, a special two-part documentary in the popular educational PBS series Secrets of the Dead, is an exciting account of historical-scientific investigation that might have brought us closer to the solving of one of the most fascinating ancient mystery - the short life and death of the Egyptian boy-pharaoh Tutankhamen (Tut) of the 18th dynasty. Tut has become the most recognizable figure of the ancient Egypt after his intact tomb with the priceless golden treasures, Tut's mummy, and the strikingly beautiful golden mask of the young ruler were discovered in 1922 in Egypt's Valley of the Kings by the archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter.
The two hours long documentary is made as the investigation undertaken by Egyptologist Chris Naunton who has been haunted by the obvious differences in the way the 18-years-old King of Egypt was prepared and sent to the eternal life comparing to the rest of the pharaohs whose tombs were also discovered in the Valley of the Kings. Why Tut's was the only tomb that has survived the millenniums with almost all its treasures in place and never been raided by the grave-robbers? Why was the young king buried in a hurry and interred in the tomb that was not prepared properly? Why his body was brutally deformed and the crucial inner parts were missing? Why was embalming of his body performed in the manner that was not appropriate for such important person? Why were the name of Tutankhamen as well as the names of his father, Akhenaten (formerly Amenhotep IV) and his successor, Ay, missing from the list of all pharaohs, Abydos King List? Finding the answer to one of these questions would immediately bring Naunton to the next, and would take him further on the exciting journey all over the world, from Cairo and Luxor to Liverpool University in England, to Getty Center, Los Angeles, California, USA, and back to Egypt. He enlisted the help of the lead scientists, forensics specialists, doctors, historians, archaeologists, geologists and art historians to find the answers and their scientific proof. Two hours long investigation into the mystery that goes back 3000 years turned to be one of the most gripping, compelling, and fascinating documentary thriller I've ever seen. It is entertaining, educational, and is highly recommended to these who love to follow the mysteries of the past and who appreciates excellent documentaries.
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Jasmine's blues and the face of Woody Allen's nightmares
All 45+ movies directed by Woody Allen start identically, first, with the black screen for few moments, and then white-on-black credits, placed with the perfect symmetry in the Windsor typeface, and set to jazz music. The empty black screen in the beginning is like Malevich's black square that can content anything behind it. Watching it for few seconds before the movie starts is for the Allen's fan the sweetest moment of anticipation the new work from the favorite filmmaker. Where will he take us this time? Following the fallen celestial being named Jasmine from the Mt. Olympus on Manhattan to the lowland of San Francisco Bay area, Woody Allen and Cate Blanchett have created the special treat for the movie lovers.
I don't know what took Woody Allen and Cate Blanchett so long but finally the match that was meant to be blessed by the movie gods took place and produced one of the strongest ever Woody Allen's dramatic films with what could be the best single performance in his movie, and that tells a lot.
Woody Allen and Cate Blanchet use the familiar setting of the great classical American play by Tennessee Williams "The street car named desire" but re-invented it by moving plot to the modern days of the post 2008 financial crisis and the collapse of the largest Ponzi scheme in the history of the USA. The film takes place in San Francisco and in flashbacks goes to the posh Manhattan apartment, trendy restaurants, five stars hotels, and Hamptons summer house where Blanchett's character, Jasmine Francis used to lead the life of the elegant socialite, the wife of the Wall Street financial wizard, Hal (Alec Baldwin effortlessly effective as a smooth-talking charming silver- tongued rascal who made his fortune by ruining millions of people with his ruthless machinations). "Blue Jasmine" is a very dark comedy or rather tragicomedy and it concerns two very different sisters, Jasmine (Blanchett) and Ginger (Sally Hawkins.) Andrew Dice Clay gave a moving performance as Augie, Ginger's bitter ex-husband whose dream of investing $200K lottery winning was shattered by Hal. Sally Hawkins as Ginger is admirable. Ginger's live has never been easy or glamorous but she accepts whatever good it has to offer, she does not expect much and she is able to keep her sanity, reason, and good spirits which can't be said about Jasmine.
When Jasmine's life collapses along with the fall of her husband's financial empire, she loses everything including her grip to reality and is forced to turn to her working class sister. Moving from NYC to SF, staying with her sister and her two sons in a small "homey" apartment and trying to move on with her life, Jasmine in Blanchett's performance is unforgettable . She is selfish, delusional, weak, depressed, classy, charming, scared, confused, and feverish at the same time. She is ashamed of herself, of what she became, of how low she has fallen, while she believes that she is entitled to the finest things in life. There is obvious guilt she carries with her. She tries to adjust to the real world but she has no skills for survival in it on her own. With one gesture, one look, one change of facial expression, Blanchet takes Jasmine from hopes to turmoil to despair, from glitz and glamor of the recent past to the uncertainty and fear of present, and watching her impetuous sudden transformations is heartbreaking. I've been Cate Blanchett's fan for many years and I treasure every role I've seen her in but in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" she is more than superb or excellent. She is beyond any superlatives. There is no single false note in her performance. I did not want to feel sorry or sympathize with Jasmine. Comparing to Blanche Dubois with whom a lot of critics and viewers identify her, Jasmine was guilty of at least one act of deliberate cruelty which is unforgivable, and she knew it. But, differently from Blanche, by the time the movie starts, Jasmine is not on the verge but beyond a nervous breakdown and watching her trying to deal with it, helping herself with vodka martinis and Xanax while having delusions of superiority and fading hope of somehow be able to move on, to pull herself through, and bursting in the sudden agitated talking to herself on the streets, on the park benches, on the plane sit, makes the viewers to feel for her against their best instincts. You simply can't take your eyes off her for a second. This is a master class in acting, authenticity, and humanity by Cate Blanchett, the most talented actor (of both genders) of her generation in the best serious film by Woody Allen.
"Blue Jasmine" is beautiful to look at. San Francisco and NYC, two cities-antipodes look marvelous under the Javier Aguirresarobe's camera but the best visual treats come from the seamless flashbacks that added so much to the story of paradise (with plenty of snakes lurking ) lost. Whatever flaws the film might have, like using some characters or their convenient appearances in the right time in the right places as merely plot devices, don't matter much in presence of greatness whose name is Cate Blanchett.
But let's imagine for a second that the movie was as much about one woman's loss of her fairy tale life and about class differences in the modern society as it was about some of Woody Allen's own life experiences: his memory of being in the eye of public disgrace and scandal, his own son's refusal to have anything to do with his father, and his perception of the greatest disaster of all - being shut off from the only thing in life that matters to him, which is making movies. In this case, Allen gave the face to his own nightmares, disasters, and regrets, and that is Jasmine's face in the final scene of his latest, dark and great film.
Bodas de sangre (1981)
"The weeping of the guitar begins "
I've wanted to see the first film in the Carlos Saura -Antonio Gades' flamenco trilogy, Blood Wedding(Bodas de sangre), 1981, for many years, after I saw and was fascinated by the second entry in the trilogy, Carmen (1983). Bodas de Sangre has impressed me as much as Carmen. The film chronicles one day of the Gades's dancing company which members gather for the dress rehearsal of the ballet based on the drama by Federico Garcia Lorca and performed in flamenco style. First twenty minutes or so depict the dancers arriving to the theater and preparing for the dress rehearsal. Saura's camera follows the performers while they apply the make- up and change the clothes for the stage costumes. In this part of the film, Antonio Gades shares his memories of becoming a dancer and of the artists who had influenced him.
Then, we are transported to the past, on the day of the fateful wedding that would change forever the lives of three people, the Bride (Cristina Hoyes), her Lover Leonardo ( Antonio Gades ), and the Groom (Juan Antonio Jimenez) and these close to them, forever. The powerful, intense, passionate yet restrained, the ballet choreographed by Antonio Gades is excellent. The tragic story of two ill-fated lovers first told by Lorca and then re-told in the language of uniquely Spanish art of flamenco that combines Guitar music, dance, and singing, passionate yet restrained. The dancers express the deepest emotions and burning desires in perfectly fluid neat movements that are captured by the camera of great film director, Carlos Saura.
The unforgettable film seems very simple on the surface because it never leaves the rehearsal studio. There are no elaborate set decorations or stunning visuals. The costumes are simple and the color black dominates with the one exception only, the white color for the Bride's wedding gown, her shoes and stockings. The strength of Saura's vision is in following the performers closely and making the viewer a participant of the tragic story that happens in front of us. The final scene of the film is quite extraordinary considering that there were no special effects used during the filming. The duel on the knives between the groom and the lover takes place for as long as 6 minutes in slow motion in silence. Maybe it was so slow because both men knew that in the end of it there will be death and the time stopped for them. How the performers could maintain the perfect movements, bending in the impossible angles and expressing the powerful emotions in that almost impossible to imagine slow tempo -is a great secret and a stunning achievement of the performers, the choreographer who staged the scene, and the director who had captured them.
Nurse Betty (2000)
Three is a charm, and it certainly was for Neil LaBute - his first three films (of In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors, and this one) were fresh, original, darkly funny, had personality and insightful, not clichéd look inside his characters' hidden desires and motivations. What he saw often was not pretty but always honest. Of three, Nurse Betty is the best - deliciously multi-layered, full of twists and turns, making fun of the TV obsessions and turning upside- down many genres. What is the film? A sort of a cinematic onion that reveals its layers one by one. It's a black comedy and a thriller, a road movie and a modern version of the girl Dorothy's adventures in the Wizard of Oz. It is very detailed clinical description of post- traumatic stress disorder and the parallel story of two dreamers who in the same fashion created in their imagination the ideal lovers that were so far removed from reality as Kansas from Oz. And the awakening was truly shocking.
Renee Zellweger in a Golden Globe-winning performance has never been better, before or after Betty (Chicago came close). Morgan Freeman has never been as romantic and so much in love at the same time being a cold-blooded and meticulous hit-man. Greg Kinnear as a man from Betty's dreams, "so handsome that a bit more and it would be a crime" was perfectly cast and funny as the shallow TV star. The presence of Aaron Echhart and Crispin Glover did not hurt the film, either. But the real star is the script, so rich and unpredictable that it was pleasure following all its turns and twists. Underseen and underrated indie film that has only became better since I saw it first time soon after its release, it is a rare treat. This is a very funny and very dark film. It is dreamy, and it's one of the movies that make me happy just to know that it exists. Definitely recommended for repeat viewing. The ending is beauty itself.
There is another "never" I have to add -Neil LeBute has never done anything as fresh and enjoyable since "Nurse Betty".