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To Live (1994)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
One of the greats.., 31 May 2007

"To Live" (1994)

"To Live" is a Chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou in 1994, starring Ge You and Gong Li. It is based on the novel of the same name by Yu Hua.

Although not the grandest or most epic recall of 20th century China, (that honour would go to Chen Kai Ge's Farewell My Concubine) 'To Live' is the most intimate and touching tale of that dark period of Chinese history. We are taken through the Chinese Civil War, The Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, and never deter from the main focus of a couple who, from prosperity to poverty, struggle to keep a family together through these turbulent times. Masterfully made and matched with a beautiful score, To Live represents one of the finest moments in '5th generation' Chinese film-making.

The film opens in a gambling den, an ironic setting considering our characters are made to gamble with their lives time and time again. The destinies of Fugui and Jiahzen are determined by forces beyond their control, which was exactly the case for many peasant families of 60's China. The horrors of Mao Tse Tung's Communist ideology are present in so many moments; the massacre of Nationalist soldiers, the villagers ordered to give up all of their cooking utensils to make cannon balls, the death of daughter Fengxia due to lack of professional doctors (taken away for belonging to the Old Society). As Jiahzen repeats to her husband, "All I want is a quiet life together". And despite the devastating tragedies they face, the final scene gives us possibility that this may happen. What the masterful Zhang Yimou manages to do best is not be in any way manipulative and still honor the resiliency of Fugui and Jiahzen in the face of political change, bureaucratic incompetence, and personal loss.

'To Live' brings you so close to characters it feels like you can touch them, and as the closing credits roll you are left with such admiration for the brave souls that survived totalitarian rule. Beautifully crafted by a great tale, a remarkable score, and phenomenal characters, "To Live" is a must-see picture. 8/10

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A worthy finale.., 31 May 2007

The Godfather: Part III has met rigorous criticism, and although far from the colossal standard of it's predecessors, it remains a decent finale to the finest saga ever made. The final sequence is near-flawless, and Pacino's performance is superb. Add this to a bold plot, rich cinematography and a fine score, you get a creditable movie, which is certainly not brilliant but vastly underrated. The film packs a strong emotional punch and is a worthy ending to the tale of Michael Corleone.

The real problem with the picture, if I had to pick out one of the many reasons it doesn't match the earlier flicks, is that is lacks the significant images and lines that make the others not only great stories but profound and wise fables. There are less representations, and it is a less philosophical and bold narrative. Furthermore, in terms of practically every cinematic aspect, it is way behind that of Parts I and II, and doesn't have the effect they do.

However, it is still a good film; it tells us of an adequate ending to the Corleone chronicles, and it tells it well. The last minutes are surprisingly moving, and the movie as a whole would stand up strong on its own, should its high expectations be lifted.

3 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
One of the greats.., 31 May 2007

"Schindler's List" (1994)

Schindler's List is an Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Grammy winning 1993 movie based on the book Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally. Adapted by Steven Zaillian and directed by Steven Spielberg, it relates the tale of Oskar Schindler, a Sudeten-German Catholic businessman who was instrumental in saving the lives of over one thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust. The title refers to a list of the names of 1,100 Jews whom Schindler hired to work in his factory and kept from being sent to concentration camps, and falling victim to Nazi officer Amon Göth, a sociopath who perceives Jews as ''vermin''.

Whilst Steven Spielberg's breathtakingly superb masterwork Schindler's List contains a vast amount of stunning shots, the one that sticks in my mind the most is found about half the way through the picture, an image of Amon Göth and Oskar Schindler sitting atop a balcony over Göth's concentration camp. The shot captures the most prolific of contrasts contained in the film. Firstly, a man so sadistic we instinctively see him as a human embodiment of 'evil'. Then on the other side of the frame is a man caught between two extremes, gradually discovering who he is and the power of the individual. Usually of course, we don't have such roles, just simply 'the good' and 'the bad'. Although this is not this case here, as we are given characters built up imaginatively and yet realistically and as a result remain incredibly deep and complex personas throughout. The majestic depiction of power in this image is so significant that the viewer can sense the stench of sovereignty coming off these people- but the mastery of the two men differ drastically. We have one who relishes in the rewards of his immorality and the scale of his power and influence. And then we have our protagonist, if you can call him that at this point in the film, at war with his own conscience, giving us the centrepiece and motivation for one of the most exquisitely told tales in the history of cinema. A superb piece, which presents massacres as real events, not figures, and portrays a complete moral transition subtly and believably, as opposed to cliché smiles and corny montages.

Schindler's List works primarily on obvious aspects; it's ability to capture the Holocaust on a grand, monumental scale, it's glorious character study and it's staggering cinematography. But this you all know, or can decipher within your first viewing. This isn't to say these traits aren't spectacular, but we find several examples of greatness, such as the passionate directorial effort, the historical accuracy, the career-highlighting performances, the light- hearted comedic moments, the Schindler/Stern relationship and the film's emotionally stirring closing sequence, to name a few. At one point we are shown the interior of a Kraków church, which artistically transcends beauty- and yet, within seconds, we are shown the shady deals of crooks and hustlers in the rows of seats below, contrasting wonderfully. Another example is present in a a foggy shot of the Jewish ghettos, a visually stunning image, contrasted immediately by gunshots and killings. It is as if the literal contradictions mirror Schindler's moral conflict.

Schindler's character is, in a sense, the centre and heart of the movie. He is an example of good will, hope and ultimately help in a helpless situation. Despite this, Schindler is a womaniser, a gambler, greedy and out for himself- he isn't a leader, an idol or a superhero. He is a businessman. Midway through, a spot of colour is dashed onto the pallet, as a young girl sports a red coat, standing out immaculately over the black and white background. Does this mark Schindler's change of heart, his transcend to goodness, his epiphany? Of course not, such an occurrence wouldn't generate a total change of belief so suddenly. The image marks a realisation Schindler has about the horrors going on around him, perhaps even tapping into his conscience, but it is much later in the film that he actually acts on this in total selflessness. The motivation behind Schindler's decision is gradual, he is not a hero, nor does he wish to glorify his position as a saviour. He just truly wishes to help people, something portrayed in total realism, making it even more heart-warming. Such a pure character development creates not just a good film, but a powerful example of cinematic brilliance.

The film is shown on an epic scale, and admirably remains intimate and touching simultaneously. It is beautiful yet harrowing, heart-warming yet heart-wrenching, inspiring yet dismaying and all the way through displaying excellence. Schindler's List is undoubtedly a contemporary classic, and rightly so. It's ability to take us into the heart of darkness and capture the essence of hope is simply breathtaking. Whether granting lives or taking them away, brilliance is present in every shot. 10/10

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The greatest western of all time.., 31 May 2007

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (written December, 2006)

Eastwood, Van Cleef and Wallach finally face off in the macabre dance of death, the most intense, artistic and stylized shoot-out the western has ever known and just one of many qualities making this great visionary achievement the greatest Western ever. The film is a moving piece of artwork from start to finish, and the sequences are complete classics. The music score adds to the style and suspense beautifully, and the twisting, turning search for Confederate gold gives us a fantastic plot. I have viewed The Good, The Bad & The Ugly time and time again, and it never grows tiresome.

Casablanca (1942)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
The greatest.., 31 May 2007

Casablanca (written December, 2006)

Has there ever been more chemistry on screen than Bogart and Bergman? Has there ever been more individual character development in a single film than this? Has there ever been a Hollywood classic quite like Casablanca? This is cinema at it's very best, for all the reasons within the questions, and for a thousand other qualities; the luscious setting, the forever- memorable quotes, the beautiful cinematography and the timeless plot, its class, its intrigue, its legend and its, to name a few! Micheal Curtiz's Casablanca is sensational- it'll have you playing it again, and again, and again!

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The most magical movie ever.., 31 May 2007

It's A Wonderful Life (written December, 2006)

A film which undoubtedly receives the award for the most magical movie ever made, It's A Wonderful Life is a gem to watch on Christmas, and is a brilliant tale of life, hope, family and ultimately, happiness. It is without doubt the best movie to depict the importance of happiness, as the film actually captures happiness and gives it to us every time we are lucky enough to watch it. It is easily the most delightful, joyous piece of cinema ever, and also a fantastic story- it is truly a golden classic. I cannot praise It's A Wonderful Life enough- it is outstanding. I absolutely adore it, and all that it says to us and shows us. This is magic right here people! Frank Capra's absolute classic is, I repeat, the most magical, joyous and delightful film ever, and will remain a classic in every sense.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The greatest piece of cinema.., 31 May 2007

"Citizen Kane" (1941)

Citizen Kane is the ultimate movie. Ultimate in the sense that it achieves the most, in its cinematic innovation and its ability to remain timeless. It has been hailed worldwide as the greatest movie ever made, and although it is impossible to establish the world's favourite movie, Citizen Kane is certainly the biggest contender, topping endless polls and lists with its breathtaking visuals and unique essence. It's style, plot, tempo, cinematography, score and characters are all something to be treasured, and it's impact on cinema is something never matched to this day. It is a moving work of art, flowing with a flawless poeticality.

Accompanying it's sweeping visuals is a great tale. The concept of ''Rosebud'' is simply ingenious. Charles Foster Kane is a man forever yearning for a lost innocence, someone who has climbed the top of the mountain but dies with regret for not staying at the bottom. And yet the film is somewhat of a mystery, not just in the journalists quest but in the significance of ''Rosebud'' altogether. The burning sled gives us an answer not an explanation, it doesn't represent the meaning of ''Citizen Kane'', just a satisfactory feeling that nothing can be explained so simply. It serves as a philosophically profound essay on the unknowability of the human personally.

Orson Welles creates an absolute masterpiece here, a landmark of innovation and a fine example of cinematic perfection. Timeless. Classic. Call it what you want, Citizen Kane will undoubtedly remain the finest film ever made. 10/10