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Le scaphandre et le papillon (2007)
This Film Teaches You to Appreciate Your Life, and Beauty
Say what you want about the failings of the French, beautiful sounding language, good food, open-hearted human cinema, and simply enjoying life with all its flowers, colors, emotions and varied forms of love are not among them.
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY is a French celebration of all of the above.
Julian Schnabel's film is a true story, about enjoying life and coming to terms with death.
Mathieu Amalric plays Jean-Dominique(Jean-Do) Bauby--and so do you, the viewer, because Schnabel's film is shot mostly from the point of view of the main character.
(If you ever wanted to know what it would be like to be paralyzed and yet have a great attitude and imagination, this film is your answer, spelled out in cinematic love letters.)
Jean-Dominique Bauby was the bon vivant editor/director of the French version of Elle fashion magazine.
At age 42, he had a stroke which left him so completely paralyzed that he could only blink his left eyelid. A woman therapist used a letter-card to allow Bauby to communicate by blinking.
By doing this, for the first time in human history, Bauby communicates what it's like to have had a stroke and to be almost completely imprisoned within one's body. (Locked-In Syndrome)
Incredibly, he wrote the book this movie is based on entirely with his left eyelid.
Bauby's life turns into an appreciation of thoughts and memories of his past life, and his wild imagination, and his present outings with his children, who he says must see him as a "zombie."
(But of course they don't. As with Christopher Reeve, any father who can communicate words of sincere affection and love and encouragement to his children is not dead or useless, no matter his physical condition. The father who cannot do these things is probably dead and useless while he lives.)
This film is now on my short list of favorite movies of the last five years.
Even though the film was directed and financed by Americans, it is subtitled in French. Please do not let this fact prevent you from renting this experience on DVD.
(You can try the excellent English audio track, if you like, but I recommend hearing the French. The film moves at such a pace that reading the subtitles is not hard, and actually quite enjoyable. It was made with subtitling in mind from the beginning, maybe that is why it's so good in this respect.)
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY is not at all a depressing film, but rather a deeply moving one which encourages you to enjoy life more. (What a great thing if a film has the power to do that.)
Wasn't much of the film cinematically gorgeous?
This is a film that is in the category of my idea of "true cinema": using characters, emotion, dialogue, light and color, editing and pacing as the most important elements of film-making.
Most films today that hit the big screen are all about the one big special effect at the center of the film.
As people get older, they often lose interest in films because most movies are aimed so strongly at the youth audience.
Not this film.
Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski is a masterful painter of light. He crafts dream-visions without digital post-production effects, and in real time.
On the back of the DVD case, film critic David Denby of The New Yorker says that this film is "nothing less than the rebirth of the cinema."
If it were seen by enough people, I would agree.
This movie is visual poetry and literature, combined.
Some of my favorite scenes are:
* Max von Sydow, speaking French, "talking" to his son after his stroke for the first time, over the phone. It is by far the best and most realistic piece of acting I have seen from von Sydow. Very emotional. (Compare the utter realism of this character with the very effective but comic- book-like tyrant he played at the center of MINORITY REPORT.)
* The scene at night with Bauby walking though the colorful and brightly-lit city shops is gorgeous, (It looks very similar to a favorite scene of mine from CODE 46.)
* The scenes of the man floating in the diving bell.
* The tilted camera shots at the end, foreshadowing the stroke Jean-Do will have in the car.
* The love the father shows for the son in the car, at the end.
* The final Alaskan glacier-falling scenes in reverse-motion symbolizing a restoration of Bauby's life through memory, and perhaps through death.
The sound design is excellent throughout.
* The fact that Bauby died just ten days after his book, " The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" was published.
Are you living in the present, at a high level of consciousness and feeling alive? If not, maybe this movie can help you. Really.
One question for you to ponder: who loved Jean-Do the most: his ex-wife, his nurse, or his lover, and why?
Three words on this movie:
review of DVD extras:
The approximately 20 minute Charlie Rose interview with director Julian Schnabel is worth watching.
This is one of those movies that you suspect there is a lot more in there than you noticed.
You might be right...
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The Happening (2008)
Jesus and M. Night Shyamalan
This last movie may have been the last time I ever get excited at the advertisement of a new M. Night Shyamalan picture. (Unless reviews of future films are stellar.)
Other people have enjoyed Shyamalan's output even less than me. I very much enjoyed his THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE, and, to a lesser extent, SIGNS.
Most people I've talked with hated THE VILLAGE and the LADY IN THE WATER--or whatever it was called. Awful movie.
To make a comparison, like the music of the group Counting Crows, the films of Shyamalan have gone steadily downhill--each one worse than the last.... but still watchable and somewhat enjoyable.
If Shyamalan doesn't reinvent and improve his screen writing skills quickly, his movies will soon dip under the box office waterline to become exclusively direct-to-video releases.
Certainly we now know that Shyamalan is not the cinematic modern-day equivalent of Hitchcock that he was touted to be just a few short years ago.
Another reason that he may soon be no longer a fixture at the Cineplex is that he has shown himself to be an adherent of the new extremist religion: the anti-Christian pro-Environment "Green" cult.
"THE HAPPENING" is a terrible title for a movie, I was thinking, as I paid for my ticket to the Christie Digital Presentation at the Carmike Cinema box office. (Powers and Pulsar Drive.)
I went out to the movies alone last Monday afternoon, and I was the only one in the theater until, a couple minutes before the show started, three women, maybe in their thirties, walked in.
If you've read the book "Hollywood Worldviews," by Brian Godawa, then you know where I'm coming from as I analyze this film.
The premise of the film is as insulting to humans in general, as it is transparent: the Environment, (specifically trees and vegetation), takes its revenge on a mostly non-Environmentally friendly humanity by exuding a deadly virus into the air that causes people to commit suicide in spectacular ways. (Our "heroes," the Environmentalists, are granted immunity by their "God," The Environment, of course.)
Yes, I find this an aggressive and offensive and politicized premise, indeed.
I have just described the entire film, whose main source of suspense and fear is wind blowing in the tall green grass. Very ineffective. (But very pleasing, I am sure, to the studio execs counting the cost to make this film.)
To add to the offensiveness that something like a TWISTER never had, Shyamalan makes the only really creepy, mean and villainous character in the movie a Christian woman who has a wall in her house covered in Christian crosses and paintings of biblical scenes. After Shyamalan shows a wall full of her Christian art, this evil creepy Christian woman smashes her head into the windows of the house repeatedly, killing herself. To me, this was the very image of Shyamalan's contempt for Christianity.
Yes, believe it or not, I find that offensive.
(In the fairly recent film, SUNSHINE, the villain aboard the spaceship is also a fanatical man who believes in God.)
The strong believers in God are almost always the bad guys in films nowadays.
Certainly in the Christian world, there are crazies and hypocrites and televangelists (no wait, I repeat myself), but, mostly, religion and faith, looked at socially, are positive elements in people's lives.
The is no real suspense, drama, or other deep meaning in THE HAPPENING.
I'd avoid it like you would avoid a flesh-eating virus...
Unless, of course, you enjoy that sort of thing.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
To me, Star Wars is a live action concept.
The Clone Wars is a fairly cool animated product aimed at a younger audience.
Some of the backgrounds are very cool.
But it's not Star Wars.
There was no scrolling of letters at the beginning, telling the story.
There was no John Williams authentic orchestral music.
See? It's not the real Star Wars.
Well, I'm jaded. The real Star Wars died when I was 17 years old, when I graduated high school in 1983.
Half of Return of the Jedi was good, and that was the end of the real Star Wars.
The real intergalactic story is that after making American Graffiti and Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, an evil alien presence took over the body of George Lucas.
This new George Lucas was no longer interested in creating movies that would last almost forever, but rather he seemed to be interested in making as much money as possible (for what purpose, I do not know. He will not live forever, and other than three of his early films, neither will his movies.
In an ancient interview, a long time ago, George said his reason for making movies was to make money to make more great movies. He seems to have forgotten that last part...
The original George Lucas also said that his intention was to use Star Wars profits to enable other talented filmmakers the opportunity to put truly original and fresh visions out there.
He reneged on this promise as well.
It seems that our hero George has become a villain and the embodiment of greed and lack of creativity in the galaxy.
I can hear his breathing wheeze now...
Why? Doesn't he have enough money already? Why not tell a completely new stories that have nothing to do with Star Wars?
Why did the genius creative filmmaker become a mere businessman working for the dark side?
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The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight
This is the best of the Batman movies.
Christian Bale is the most realistic of the Batmen.
Christopher Nolan is an excellent director, but I think this may not really be his type of film.
This is also the darkest of the Batman films.
Basically, the greatest special effect about a Batman movie would be a really good story. That would create realism and positive critical review.
About 45 minutes of this film could have been edited, as well as all of the scenes with Alfred and the Morgan Freeman character. (I love Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, but their scenes, as well as all of the "talking" scenes, were completely unnecessary and redundant.)
Of course, the Joker was the best thing by far about this movie, and that assessment has nothing to do with the fact that Heath Ledger is no longer with us.
His performance alone is worth the price of admission.
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Code 46 (2003)
CODE 46 movie review
CODE46: The Greatest Movie Ever Made? The first time I saw this movie, about two years ago, I thought it was kind of cool, and it seemed to imitate BLADE RUNNER a little.
I later came to realize that it was one of those rare films that would leave an indelible impression on me. I was thinking about it and remembering it long after I saw it.
Now, after watching it seven more times in the last couple of months, I think it is the greatest movie ever made--no joke.
So what happened between my first viewing of the film and my seventh viewing? I was drawn to watch it again and again because it had a certain visual and emotional appeal that intrigued me. It also had certain indefinable qualities that I couldn't explain right away.
I believe that this film is the CITIZEN KANE of today and that very few people have noticed the major cinematic innovations in this film.
CODE46 is an amazing work of art.
It is at once completely realistic and cinematically artistic.
But why do I feel that it is the greatest movie ever made, so far? Let me count the ways...
CODE46 is a science fiction romance with virtually no special effects, except natural reflections and in-camera filters.
There were no Hollywood sets--it was all filmed on location in London and ultra-modern Dubai.
One thing to think about is why the moral failure at the center of the story may have happened.
Please realize that this is a very well thought out film, and if some things seem not to make sense--you might have fun thinking about them again a little more, or even watch the film again.
CODE46 is a futuristic story of an investigator who is searching for a person who is making fake passports--"papelles." The futuristic world of this movie has all of society segregated into either high-tech cities or deserts. You need a papelle to get into the cities--or out of them.
One of the reasons you need a papelle is that a huge IT database, The Sphinx, monitors the actions of all people to protect them from health risks.
One of the health risks concerns the then widespread practice the IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), and cloning. Many people are genetically related to one another without knowing it.
To avoid genetic problems, people are required to check with The Sphinx to find out if they can have sex or marry or have children. So the "Big Brother" in this movie is not portrayed as being all bad--The Sphinx often saves people's lives.
The investigator, played by Tim Robbins, has a job whose objective is to find out who is counterfeiting the papelles.
He takes an "empathy virus" in order to read the minds of potential suspects.
When he finds the guilty person, he decides to protect her from prosecution because he has fallen in love with her.
It is a tale of doubly-forbidden love.
Make that triply-forbidden, now that I think of it.
At the end of the film, it is the viewer who must decide if their sin was punished or not, and whether there was something right about it, despite it's obvious wrongness.
Or possibly whether, in the future, there might be something wholly legitimate and good that could come out of it.
I must mention that there is one graphic nude shot in the film that lasts for about five seconds.
The love scenes in CODE46 are not Hollywood-glamorous nor are they pornographic. The love scenes are warm, human, and real.
There is no violence in this film, and I don't remember any profane language.
The main reason I love this movie is that it is about human empathy: people loving people just as they are, and for who they are: a theme that is rarely shown in movies.
In that sense, it is the healthiest movie I have ever seen.
There is one very innovative thing about this film. Something very subtle. Something I have never before seen in a movie. Something that is almost taboo in movies: the characters are actually, and extremely subtly, and continually, looking at you.
Little glimpses here and there--in rear view mirrors. When they enter the room. As they are looking around. As they are thinking and talking. Very quick. Very subtle.
After a while, you strangely begin to feel that somehow the characters are aware of you. They know that you are there. This is a very unique connected emotion to experience while watching a movie.
This was so subtle, I couldn't figure out how the director achieved this effect of making me feel like I was a character in his movie! I had to use slow-motion to slow down the action to see what was happening.
The director, Michael Winterbottom, has an amazing empathy for his characters and a marvelous cohesiveness in his visual storytelling.
The contemplative and heart-felt music by The Free Association is wonderful, and the voice-overs by Morton are emotionally intimate.
There are so many ideas (scientific, moral, spiritual, political, relational), sounds, humorous touches, editing combinations, subtle verbal cues and gorgeous visuals in this movie that it overwhelms you and just starts to wash over you.
The movie is so layered and multifaceted, you can watch it probably five times before you become aware of even the basic things that director Winterbottom is doing.
CODE46 is my favorite film. I have never seen anything like it.
I hope you enjoy this movie as much as I do.
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