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Procès de Jeanne d'Arc (1962)
What you see is what you get
Judging by the movie (and Bresson as a person) Jean d'Arc has obviously been a really inspirational person to Bresson. That's basically the constitutive problem with this picture. All of the humaine virtues that are most significant to him, are combined in this historical character: The willpower, the faith, the moral persistence...
The movie's an ode to a role model of his - a moral statement. There's nothing wrong with being political or making a statement, just as long as it's all part of the dramaturgical entirety, and not the dramaturgical entirety. Sadly, in this case, that's just what's happened.
The other main problem with the movie, is it's structure. All of the court dialogues - which concist about 90% of the whole picture - are reenactments of the inquisition, based on the actual found documents from the trials. There's very little dramatization, as the whole picture could be seen more as a documentary of these historical events, than a self-reliant piece of storytelling.
The storyline, nor the characters, do not develop due the course of the movie. There's very little aspects presented of the main character, and it leaves very little room for interpretation. Basically, what you see is what you get.
Comet in Moominland (1992)
Profound sentiments in a cute and furry package
This movie has so many brilliant attributes, it's ridiculous. It has depth in so many levels, that after about 14 years of intense watching I still seem to keep finding new aspects from it.
The characters aren't the colourless and tasteless plastic ones they usually try to underestimate kids with. They're multidimensional. They're warm. They're funny. They're complex. They have their own distinctive personalities with their own ups and downs. There's Sniff the greedy but kindhearted hedonist. There's Little My the little boyish feminist who wants to tear down all the barriers between the male and the female sex. There's Moominpappa the hopeless romantic and poet who's struggling trough a midlife crisis trying to get more meaning to his life with adventures and boheme lifestyle...
There are the profound philosophical views on life, which are presented in such a down to earth way that even the smallest children may enjoy them just as well as the more mature audience. There are the environmental and social adumbrations to our modern life... The list goes on.
Still the thing that really makes moomin's so unique in todays children's programming is the way the characters and their everyday lives are presented. Usually there's the strict line between good and bad. The ones who have any imperfections of any kind in their personalities and behaviour are the "bad ones" and the "good ones" who never even feel tempted to do anything morally questionable are the ones who straighten the "bad ones" out. Like life would be that black and white. Tove's characters all have their little imperfections that annoy each another at times. Even the most "naughty" ones are still sympathetic and fragile little creatures deep down.
Eagle vs Shark (2007)
A modern day Peter Pan
Eagle vs. Shark is a love story of two lonely people, who're socially distant - to say the least - from 'normality'. But what is normality anyways? Is it necessarily something that one should reach for? That's one of the main questions that Taika Cohen raises, and also the very thing that makes this piece quite extraordinary in its own way. It's like a reformed version of Peter Pan.
Though Eagle vs. Shark is a love story and a comedy, romantic comedy isn't a very good word for it. It actually has a lot of tragical aspects to it, and it isn't all that lighthearted one might assume. It's a tragicomical story of two social misfits - one of which has stuck in a childlike behaviour because of all of the trauma he has faced in his past, and the other one who feels like a total outcast of the society, because of all of the rejection she has faced in her social life.
Eagle vs. Shark has often been compared to "Little Miss Sunshine" and it does have - besides the somewhat similar type of humour - one major similarity in it's themes - the importance of family. It is the route and solution to all of their heartaches and traumas. Having one might drive you in to madness, but not having one is just twice as awful. This is also at the same time the strongest, and the weakest link of Eagle vs Shark. Since the family issues are thematically the whole core of the movie, it should have concentrated more on those issues. It passes the whole subject too hastely - thus sadly never reaching such depth in it's characters that it could have reached.
Eagle vs. Shark manages not to fall in to any of the typical romance clichés. It goes by it's own heartwarmingly peculiar ways from the beginning to the end, balancing between comedy and drama the whole way. It's almost impossible to even categorize it in any way. Even though I wouldn't cinematically call it a masterpiece or anything, it still is really a one of a kind.
Nefes: Vatan Sagolsun (2009)
The unspoken aspects war
I was browsing the reviews of "Nefes", and since there was only a handful of reviews by non-Turkish IMDb users - since it hasn't been screened much outside Turkey - I felt that I had to give my effort to it. Having said that, I feel that it's been badly misunderstood by many people. Many reviewers judged it as "propaganda" or "morally corrupted" etc. I couldn't disagree more.
To me it wasn't even political, even less morally corrupted - disturbing and even revolting - yes. Corrupted - not even remotely. I might even call it pacifistic. The story is a deep and humane view in to the persona of a soldier. I don't say Turkish soldier, because the moral issues of it are so universal - basically the story could be placed in any war throughout the modern history.
**Minor spoiler* Most of the critic on IMDb were about the parts were the Turkish special forces (the main characters) were shown doing unjustified violence to their unarmed prisoner. That's the "morally corrupted propaganda" part I guess. The way I see it, it's as anti-propaganda as it gets. It puts the main characters to same line as their enemies. It doesn't try to glorify or justify either sides part on the situation. How's that propaganda? **
In a nutshell: Nefes is a visually sublime look in to the social and emotional aspects that drive young men to sacrifice their lives and futures for something as dreadful as war. It's about the brutal effects of violence to ones psyche. And mainly - It's about the endless amounts of everyday tragedies that drive so many of these emotionally fragile young men to see the war as their only option in life.
The Limits of Control (2009)
Jim, next time you get a midlife crisis, buy a Harley like the rest of us
I think I can somehow imagine what Jarmusch was trying to deliver with this - some sort of an existentialistic feeling of being abandoned in this world, and how arts and music etc. reflect our world-view and life in general. May have worked in theory, but definitely not in practice. To me, Jim Jarmusches works are all about cutting the technical nonsense to the minimum, and replacing it with powerful inner depth, such as interesting and multileveled characters - this one seemed to be the other way around.
The whole thing smelt like new wave and Godard ten miles away, with the whole style, and all the references to it (for example the Spanish girl holding the gun to Bankolé's face was almost exact reference to Godard's Made in U.S.A.) - and I didn't like the scent of it one bit. It was superficial, and didn't evoke any feelings in me. It was like Jarmusch was trying to speak with a language that wasn't his own. And the whole anti-capitalist "black James Bond" theme came as just naive to me.
About the only things that left me a good taste in my mouth, was the feeling of loneliness and emptiness that it delivered, plus John Hurt's short appearance with his monologue with the Kaurismäki- reference. That's about it, and even the mood was almost ruined by the two-pence Neil Young that kept on howling on the back.
Never would have believed to say this about a Jarmusch movie, but it was a huge disappointment.
Katok i skripka (1961)
A dress rehearsal for Tarkovsky's later works
Tarkovsky has said that Ivan's childhood was his first "real movie" - meaning, a movie which he put his heart and soul into, and a movie which defined to him if he got what it took to be a director or not (needless to say the answer). So I think it's justified to say that this movie actually is more of a dress rehearsal to his later works.
In "Sculpting In Time" Tarkovsky presents very strong, even extravagant opinions on the use of colours-, on the structure-, on the use of music etc.- in cinema, which shows best in this picture in it's strange visual look. The strong and flashy colours make it look almost like a colouring book - it's not the most visually brilliant Tarkovsky, but you can clearly see the experimentalism, and how he was trying those theories in practise while making this, which to me, as a Tarkovsky fan, was very interesting to see.
Overall, not a masterpiece - good human description (as expected), good actors, nice cinematography, but nothing too mind blowing. I think you get most out of this if you have a bit wider understanding about Tarkovsky's works, which allows you to see this as a gateway to understanding how Tarkovsky became Tarkovsky.
Like a breath of fresh air
There was a big speculation of Moodysson being a total sell-out, doing a major picture in America, but that obviously wasn't the case. It isn't Moodysson quite like you've seen before, but definitely not in a bad way. He innovated his style into new directions, without compromising his vision.
Gael García Bernal has proved himself to be one of the greatest actors of this generation in Iñárritu's pictures, and Mammoth comes as no exception. In fact I feel a little Iñárrituish vibe in the movie; the whole theme is pretty similar with Babel.
Somebody commented earlier here, that Moodysson was just "teethless" with his society critic in Mammoth, but I really have to disagree. I wouldn't even use the word "critic" in Mammoth's case - I don't see Moodysson as a preacher, but as an objective lens, which allows us to see the world differently. It's art people, not politics; pointing fingers isn't the point.
L'albero degli zoccoli (1978)
Has it's virtues, but not for 3 hours worth...
L'albero degli zoccoli definitely has it's virtues. Acting, especially when taking to consideration that the actors are all amateurs, is superb, just as the cinematography. The script has it's moments, but overall, it's way too slack to hold up the whole 3 hours.
Alltough it's fiction, it still feels more like an over-sized historical document. There's like an hour worth of unneeded material, which do not bring practically anything crucial to the movie. Most important of all, the characters do not develop during the whole time in any direction. It just jams on and on, without bringing any new aspects to the characters. It has some fantastic scenes, but in the end, they drown in to it's enormous amount of material.
So why the seven stars? Well, like I said, the acting is superb, not to mention the filming. With a lot harsher touch on the cuttingboard, it would have been worth 8, or even 9 in my books.
"There's nothing supernatural about war..."
First of all, You have to give points for pulling off using humouristic elements as brilliantly as this, to describe something as dreadful as war. There aren't many movies that have achieved that without feeling constrained, or more or less morally repulsive. Kubrick and Coppola were masters of that section, and Veli-Matti Saikkonen doesn't come far behind with his interpretation of Veijo Meri's classic novel.
Manillaköysi has an endless list of classic one-liners, but it's still not based on cheap laughs or anything like that. The whole humouristic aspect of it comes from describing the absurdity of war, and the whole military system, by looking it with the eyes of a simple man, who's thrown into it, and who simply doesn't give a rat's ass of it all.
The tone of it isn't overly preachy or moralizing. If I would have to describe it with one word, it would be: unglamourizing. The main point of Manillaköysi is pretty much compressed in one of the most famous quotes of it: "There's nothing supernatural about war, it's just work like anything else."
Another bastard of the 60's new wave
Milo is a great director, and I have a lot of respect for him. Now that that has been said, I must say that this movie was a big disappointment to me.
I've never understood the whole new wave concept... I don't care if it's Godard or Milo or whoever, for me it seems just pointless. This movie has all the typical new wave aspects: an almost non-existent storyline, which evolves slowly enough to make Ozu's movies look like damn express trains, the whole point of the movie (describing the common life of amateur musicians with more ambition than skill) is an interesting one, but to me the handling of the subject was just way too shallow (especially when taking to consideration Forman's cinematic abilities).
So all in all, the movie had some highlights that kept me interested for the first 30 minutes or so, but after that, when I realized that the storyline wasn't going to evolve anywhere from there, I simply decided not to waste any more of my time with this.