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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
The Big Lebowski (1998)
It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners."
In "The Big Lebowski" (1998) a weird, nutty, outrageously funny and deliciously twisted movie, the brothers Ethan and Joel Coens, known for their unique dry and humor, sit back, laugh out loud, and have fun. Big Lebowski is IMO one of the top 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.
I've read many reviews that call Big Lebowski a mess, saying that the story is convoluted, call it misfire and deranged, 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" Viet Nam 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 only 17 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 should not be missed - they all are clever, darkly funny, and beautiful without being pretty pictures. In short, they are first class entertainment. There are only two working directors whose movies I always see upon release in the theater, preferably, during the first weekend - Woody Allen and the writing/directing team, Ethan and Joel Coen.
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".
To Rome with Love (2012)
Woody Allen's Roman Holiday
During Woody Allen's European vacation, he has made four stops in London, visited Barcelona, dropped for a short visit to New York City, spent one summer in Paris, and then he had Roman Holiday last summer. All the tourist attractions of the Eternal City are in full display in Allen's film and they are spectacular: the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, the Coliseum, and panoramic views of the city from above, the rain at night, and outdoor cafés. Like in Paris' movie before that, Darius Khondji's camera finds unexpected and hidden angles of famous Rome beauty. The sound of wonderful melodic Italian songs and arias are heard everywhere -and what is Italy or Rome without music? Four different stories in which the Romans and the visitors are involved play against this joyous background of Rome glowing under summer sun. It seems that Allen created a mini Decameron. The stories do not overlap, but they have in common Rome and love in Rome to Rome.
Comparison with last year Allen's film about Paris certainly arises, but as Paris and Rome are two very different cities, even though both are famous, beautiful and often serve as a background or even an important character in the movie ("Fellini's Rome," and "Paris, I Love You", for example), so the Allen's movies about Paris and Rome are quite different. The Roman film, in my opinion, lacks rare magic and brilliance of "Midnight in Paris." The reason seems to be in switching from one story to another, and there are, as I've mentioned, four of them. Each is funny and attractive in its own way, but as the whole they failed to produce magic. As the rule, all stories in an anthology can't be on the same level. The story of Leopoldo, for instance, had intriguing premise but then just lost some of its steam.
Definite plus - for the first time in the last six years, Allen is in front of the camera as well as behind it. Allen knows a secret of physical comedy. He can simply stay in the frame, even in the background and keep silent, and his face will express a range of feelings and emotions, the predominant being a mixture of confusion and dumbfoundedness. Some might say that we've seen it all before but I don't mind. Allen is a good comedian who always makes me smile and laugh. And the same can be said of his Roman film. Allen does not do anything new here but the movie is good. For example, the idea of introducing a singer with the great voice who can only sing in the shower was original and smart. The film is funny, witty, beautiful, bright, and very light, feather-light. Its creator is 76 years but you hardly believe it when he sends us on Roman holiday.
My conclusion - any Allen's movie, even average comparing to his best work, is worth watching. If you are a die-hard fan like me, you've seen it already. I've said many times before and I repeat again - even the average Woody Allen's movie is better than most cookie-cutter comedies released by big studios. If you are not a fan, give "To Rome with Love" a chance, you may fell in love with it. This is the first anthology by Allen for many years and I'm sure you'll like if not four by some of the stories. I am personally delighted by the story of the owner of the funeral home, who sang like Caruso and Pavarotti, but only in the shower, to the sound of pouring water while lathering his back. Or, perhaps, you'll like a surreal story of a simple Roman office employee, who one sunny day out of sudden became insanely famous and popular. Moreover, he could not figure out what actually happened and what exactly he did or did not do? Real celebrities and the crowds of the journalists all listened to his every word as the highest wisdom. Or you may click with the story of Jack, a young American architect -student, his girlfriend, and her best friend - a heart-breaker, of Jack's inner voice played by Alec Baldwin. Well, if you cannot stand Allen, I'll let you in on a secret, if you do not know by now. There is also Penelope Cruz in the role of Anna (I think Woody bowed to Anna Magnani's "Mother Rome" and Sophia Loren - Filomena from "Marriage: Italian Style") and it is impossible to take the eyes off her. Anna - is the character from the fourth story which is about newlyweds who came to Rome for a honeymoon from the small town and the cheerful confusion that occurred when the young bride stepped out of the hotel and got lost in the maze of the Rome's streets. If the presence of Cruz in her second Allen's film is still not enough for you, well, then I do not even know what to say. Only that you should choose for your Roman holiday another Rome, not the one that Woody Allen created.
Life of Pi (2012)
Furious Tiger, Brave Boy
I saw "Life of Pi" last night and absolutely loved it. I still feel so overwhelmed by it, its visual splendor and the moving story that kept me involved for the whole time. The latest Ang Lee's film is beauty itself, and everyone involved in creation of such sparkling intelligent and classy entertainment deserves the highest praise and admiration for the work they've done. I am sure that in two days, "Life of Pi" will receive majority of Oscars it is nominated for. It deserves them.
I hesitated to see it because I did not think that the movie about a boy and a tiger stuck together in the middle of the ocean for months after the horrible shipwreck on the drifting lifeboat which the ferocious tiger first claimed as his territory and a makeshift inflatable raft chained to it which was Pi's fragile shelter would be so compelling and gripping but it was. Roger Ebert said that Life of Pi is "a miraculous achievement of storytelling and a landmark of visual mastery". I gladly agree with that. I simply can't find anything wrong with "Life of Pi." It is beautiful, profound and adventurous story of survival and understanding life with all it offers or throws at us. It is life affirming even though it takes us along with Pi Patel through unspeakable hardship, losses, and deadly danger of indifferent and indomitable forces of nature's elements and wild creatures. And it manages to say a lot about faith and God without being over-simplistic, preachy or shoving religion in your face. It may help an atheist to understand the believers better or at least to try. It also turns itself in unexpected direction when we thought we were in the end of the journey, reflects on the darkest corners of human nature and leaves the viewers asking questions on what they really want to believe and whether they are open to the possibility of miracle in life, in their lives. It is up to the viewers to choose the answer only they would be satisfied with.
Peaceful beauty of Pondicherry, former French colony in India that surprisingly for me looked like a charming small French town, totally enthralled me in the beginning of the film that started as a typical coming of age story. Well, it is coming of age story but amazing on so many levels, spiritual, ethical, physical, religious, humanistic, testing the limits of what a human being can deal with and how it would shape him, his life, and his perception of life. This is an experience, both movie watching and afterthought that will stay with me. What else can I ask for in a movie? I've always respected and admired Ang Lee and found his movies exquisite. But "Life of Pi" is without doubt his best work. Furious tiger, brave boy, magic journey, fascinating story - amazing movie.
Holy Motors (2012)
"Being an actor is the loneliest thing in the world." James Dean
Enter at your own risk. This movie is quite capable of confusing you and making you angry. It could delight or overwhelm you, win you over or enrage you. It could make you feel like cursing and truly hate all art- house in general, French art-house in particular, and Leon Carax, and his collaborators, specifically.
For me, "Holy Motors" is very interesting, unpredictable, shocking and ever-changing. It is my kind of movie in which the writer/director expresses his admiration for cinema as an art form. I've always felt a deep respect for the filmmakers who use in their original and unpredictable pictures the references, allusions, and direct calls to the other movies and to film creators who inspired them. "Holy Motors" is one of those pictures about film and film-making.
Our life is a (movie) theater, and we are actors in the movie that plays in the theater. For me, it is the first thing to keep in mind when you try to make sense of what is actually going on and what "Holy Motors" is about. I see it as a dedication to all movies and the genres. Here they are, the Umbrellas of Cherbourg and deadly struggle of the character and his doppelganger in the gangster movie. There are also the references to beauty and the beast, not Disney's version nor Jean Cocteau's, but shockingly funny monster of Walerian Borowczyk's La Bete (1975) aka The Beast. Still gorgeous Edith Scob (Celine, limo driver and Monsieur Oscar's business partner), puts on a mask in the latest episode of the film - direct reference to the classic horror, Georges Franju's film "Eyes Without a Face" (1959), where she played her most famous role in the film, which defined the whole genre. And, perhaps, "Holy Motors" is an update version of Celine and Julie that looks at the story or many stories from different angles and plays with them. Could it be Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" in Paris, with limousine - sort of Charon's boat plying between the worlds of the living and the dead, reality and illusion, film and audience, between the actors and their characters? Or maybe this is Un Chien Andalou / Andalusian Dog for our time with the script by Charlie Kaufman - open doors to the irrational; do not try to explain the unexplainable. Maybe Carax could say just like Luis Buñuel, "You need an explanation? I do not have any." Just look closely at images and metamorphosis and try not to search for the meaning in them. They may not have a special meaning at all but would it make the movie any worse? Would the movie affect you any less if you can't grab its meaning? Perhaps the meaning in the words by Monsieur Oscar as father to his teenage daughter in his most realistic role: "You are punished by being just yourself all your life." Isn't it sad never let the world of imagination, illusion and fantasy pull you beyond reality, where you are just you? ... But can one only exist in a world of illusion and change masks one by one and forget what the real face is?
Denis Lavant, director-screenwriter Leos Carax's alter ego, works wonders here, changing into nine personalities during the course of movie. His face is fascinating the face of Socrates, and satyr, murderer, and wise tired clown. Of modern actors, John Malkovich and Malcolm McDowell have such impressive faces... And so, Lavant's hero or, rather, heroes travel all day long with Celine, the driver, passing striking views of Paris, impersonating different personalities, who are on the weird, shocking, crazy, unbelievable missions, ordered by someone unknown, captured on the camera by someone unseen but always present.
I read somewhere that idea of Motors came from Carax interest and curiosity in very long limousines, obsolescent powerful toys, whether messengers of the past in the future, or, on the contrary, from future in the past, sort of motorized brontosaurs. What's inside, who is inside? The size is such that it is possible to live ... or to prepare for the transition from one life to another, and then, third, and more. And to appear in every life in a completely different roles a killer, a victim, a beggar, a millionaire, a monster named Monsieur S**t, a caring father to a shy, awkward teenage girl , then the futuristic creature having sex with the elastic beauty covered in red plastic And then he returns home Or does he?
And maybe Holy Motors is not just about us looking at stretched limousines, but about them looking at us and gossiping about us and their future in hushed silence and darkness of the company "Holy Motors"' night garage.
But what Holy Motors is for sure - the message that was sent beyond our world - "Katya, this is for you" - the last frame of the movie with a picture and dedication to Leos Carax's muse and beloved, Ekaterina Golubeva (1966-2011).
Then I saw it..
".. I saw a mom who would die for her son, a man who would kill for his wife, a boy, angry and alone, laid out in front of him the bad path. I saw it and the path was a circle, round and round "
I wanted to see "Looper" (2012) written/directed by Rian Johnson as soon as I read the first reviews about it. It intrigued me for several reasons. The critics and viewers praised it. The first two Johnson's films were interesting and original and I wanted to see his new work. I am a fan of the time travel genre. Where else does the hero sit at a table in a roadside diner facing himself, either thirty years older, or thirty years younger - depending on which side he is sitting? Or where else rather clichéd phrase "he was in a deadly conflict with himself" means just that? And more. What does a man feel at gun point, with himself holding the gun, either thirty years older, or thirty years younger?
Another reason for me was Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the main character Joe, the looper. He is a convincing versatile young actor, one of the most interesting of his generation. For Rian Johnson, Gordon-Levitt is kind of mascot. Johnson made all three movies with him, and Joseph was a leading man in two. An interesting feature of Gordon-Levitt's role (Joe "closes the loops of time" working as an assassin for the Mafia) is how he based Joe on young Bruce Willis. He plays young Willis' on- screen tough guy persona that we so get used to identify with and root for, and he does it very good. Bruce Willis also plays an important role of aged Joe. If you guessed that Willis would be saving the world that got into a serious trouble you may be right. This is what Willis does in the movie well: saves lost children, city, country, planet, and the universe. In "Looper" Willis plays retired hit man, whom his crime bosses sent with a bag on his head from the future, 2074 to the past 2044, to get rid of him with no trace. What happens to him when he arrives to the past, who meets him, how will he try to change the past to save the future - it's all in the loop, tied by Rian Johnson.
By Johnson's words, despite the fact that "Looper" was a time travel film, he was more interested in creating the human characters, in choices they make in a situation that was caused by travel from future to past. This film is about making difficult choice, the possibility of one person to change the course of history, and how far he'd go for it. Dedicated to the paradox of time, "Looper" mixes futuristic science fiction and dark noir known for biting dialogue and off-screen sharp voice in Humphrey Bogart's movies style. Johnson adds the stories of love, not the least the love between a child and his mother. As befits a film about the possibility of time travel, the focus centers on whether it is possible, knowing exactly how the future will turn, to change something fundamentally important in the past, to correct it, and how this change will affect the lives of everyone involved. It would seem that nothing new, original and exciting can come out of the time travel genre after Terminator 1 and 2, 12 Monkeys, The Butterfly Effect, and their granddaddy, Le Jetee that started them all? But Johnson did it and even without a big budget, not trying to make a future in his film looking like a futuristic super modern giant metropolis. On the contrary, not so far removed future of 2044 looks more like the abandoned and gloomy suburbs of big city, shaken to its foundations by deep economic crisis, where the power is already in the hands of large criminal groups that control the time travel and use it to effectively get rid of the enemies sent from the future.
Using the elements of the time travel genre, Looper goes beyond the borders. It asked interesting questions, and gave different answers. Rian Johnson, writer/ director, does not mind to break the rules of genres in his films. His films are more of stylizations, pastiches of genres he likes and interested in. The elements of genres are the building blocks, the bricks for him which he makes his films from. No wonder, his first film was called "Brick" (2005).
To create a smart, interesting, original stylization, a game of mind - is not an easy task, and Johnson has the gift for it. His first two films, "Brick" and "The Brothers Bloom", were both intelligent, curious, but, rather, cerebral variations of films and books that Johnson likes. "Looper", his third, is also clever and gripping but what makes it the best of three, it's got heart in the right place. "Looper" affected me on a deep emotional level. "Looper", in my opinion is one of the best independent American movies of 2012. Being an independent filmmaker, Johnson is able to assert his creative ideas, but without super-budget. But I am glad that "Looper" did not look flashy and glamorous. It is more than just an eye-candy. It has a plot, intrigue, and the loop that it will close in a truly original, searing manner. While closing this loop, the film will answer the most important question - can you destroy the source of evil, which will bring tragedy and death to the future, if you look at it right now, this minute and "you see it. You see a mom who would die for her son, a man who would kill for his wife, a boy, angry & alone, laid out in front of him the bad path. You see it and the path is a circle, round and round..." Would you change it?