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Some Films Are Only for Filmmakers
Do I believe that some films are only for filmmakers? Yes! This is a film only for the absolute lover of cinema. Not for those who proclaim loudly, "I love movies!" but have never seen a film by Ingmar Bergman, Luis Bunuel, and Federico Fellini. In fact, if you have never heard those three names, or if you have only heard those names but are not familiar with their work (and are not interested in their work), then you are not a lover of cinema and The Round Up is not the film for you!
The Round Up is directed by Miklos Jancso (pronounced "Yahn-cho") who is considered to be one of the first stars of the Hungarian New Wave. Jancso had studied law (holds a doctorate), ethnography, and art history before he entered the Budapest Academy, from which he graduated in 1950. The style for which Jancso would become famous- a style of extended long takes sustained by rhythmic tracking movements of the camera and optical traveling through the zoom lens- was displayed to the world at Cannes in 1966.
Incidents of historical events from the Hungarian past are the focus of many Jancso films, and is the focus of The Round Up. It is a film about the political police of the Austro- Hungarian monarchy as they attempt to unmask Sandor Rozsa, the chief of a Rebel army group during the 1848 Revolution, which was led by Lajos Kossuth, who is now operating as a local bandit. The police round up hundreds of prisoners who are mostly peasants, herdsmen, suspected outlaws, but most of them innocent civilians. From then on the viewer gets to see scenes of interrogation, torture and political terror to force inmates into mutual betrayal.
This is a film that is aesthetically stark and visually stunning. The mise en scene camera work will impress most filmmakers, but their is no linear three act structure storytelling here. This is another reason why I say this is a film only for cinema lovers. What you get from this film is great visual style, not a manipulated emotional connection to the story. Yes, it is horrific to see scenes of torture, but because you don't get to truly know and identify with one or a few characters emotions don't resonate.
This film is only to be watched to observe a director with great visual style. The Round Up demonstrates that Jancso was a master of the Hungarian New Wave aesthetic whose cinematic structure was dependent upon widescreen composition, the long take, and the zoom lens.
Introduction of Jancso's mature personal symbols and stylistic obsessions are put forth in this film, they include: the use of nudity to signify humiliation, the totally impersonal depiction of cruelty and violence, the menacing image of incessantly circling horsemen on the empty spaces of the plain; the balletic choreography of the camera and groups of actors within the frame; the replacement of characterization through dialogue with bureaucratic jargon, slogans, and songs; and a densely interwoven music track combining folk and classical melodies with incidental sound.
To sum up, this is a work for those only interested in seeing great artistic visual style!
Works Cited: Cook, David A. "A History of Narrative Film, Third Edition" 721-722 Emory University: W.W. Norton and Company 1996
What is the point?
I saw this film last week, and I couldn't put into words what I saw. This film was so mortifyingly awful that I needed time to find words to really describe it. The words I came up with are insane, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, gratuitously violent, and not at all entertaining. I thought to myself that this will be the film viewed by a disturbed teenager who plans on doing the next Columbine type of murder.
Not only is the story bad, but I also hated the fact that I felt like I was looking at a Playstation video game for two hours. Every scene was filled with this flat, boring, dreary-looking copper-color. The music is so cliché that I could have hummed it in my sleep. I rolled my eyes every moment the opera-like singing started.
The viewer is suppose to be rooting for the Spartans, but because they come across as blood-thirsty psychopaths who were only put on earth for battle, I found myself rooting against them. Yes, war and violence are apart of life, but the realistic human emotions that are a result of war makes movies about the subject matter fascinating (i.e. Braveheart and Gladiator, two great films). This film cares nothing about story and human emotions. All this film cares about is showing spears go inside and then back out of a human body with blood splattered about and cliché dialogue in between. Even be-headings are played out as if the only result the filmmaker is going for are the three words "that was cool!"
I didn't understand why the leader of the Persian side, the mascara and piercing faced Xerxes, had to come off as a mix between Rupaul and Bam Bam Bigelow. The reverberated voice that they used for the character was distracting and unnecessary. Also, I kept wondering why Xerxes kept using the words "kneel in front of me," to the leader of the Spartans, and in one scene Xerxes places his hands on the leader of the Spartans in a way that seemed sexual. It was just plain weird and unnecessary!
From the casting, the viewer thinks that the enemy Persians are nothing more than effeminate Asians and other dark people of the earth that are trying to bring down the tough and ripped bodied white male Spartans that are outnumbered.
The one woman in the film came across as a fool that is so easily deceived (and deceived into having sex!) that her only salvation is to stab her enemy with a sword. Of course, her enemy conveniently carried around Persian coins that fell all over the place when he was stabbed, this conveniently showed us in a spoon-fed way that this guy is a trader. No thinking allowed in this movie!! The only other use for the female character in this film is a ridiculous soft- core sex scene.
Instead of this movie just coming off as a fantasy, it takes itself way too seriously and as a result I kept shaking my head at the blatant stupidity. In Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino plays out a scene with Uma Thurman defeating a bunch of ninjas in a way where the viewer is disconnected from reality but is in awe of the cinematic technique of the film. In 300, when the 300 Spartans are defeating a gazillion enemies, you could almost hear the director saying, "These guys are so tough that this could REALLY happen.... until the end of the movie, that is."
Actors are not necessary for this film. It is as if the casting director went to Gold's Gym for the casting. Pectoral muscles get the screen time that isn't taken by spears and blood. Even the stale jokes told by the Spartans seem like the brainless banter of a stereotypical gym rat.
300 is an experiment in digital pop-art cinema gone wrong! Unlike pop-art cinema like A Scanner Darkly that advances visual aesthetic by saying something about the human condition through its story, 300 is a let down via story and visually. The entire outcome of the film leaves the viewer asking in a confused tone, "What was the point of that?"
My Brother (2006)
Quiet and subtle moments don't exist in this sloppy cliché riddled film that blatantly exploits the developmentally disabled. The subject matter of the developmentally disabled is developmentally disabled. It is never truly dealt with and explored and this is my reason for saying that it is exploited. We only get a scene of the developmentally disabled character James getting beat up by his peers when he's a kid, and one other scene with his mother (played by Vanessa Williams) telling his older brother, Isaiah "James is slow," with James right there in the room laying beside her. I guess the filmmaker forgot that James can hear!
We never get a sense of what life is like for James at work or socially. I went to school with a guy who was developmentally disabled who had friends and was never beat up. Did James not have any friends? Does being developmentally disabled bar James from having friends? We would never know from watching this film.
We never get to see why Isaiah and James get frustrated with each other, how they live together, etc. We do hear that James has a routine that he likes to follow, but not once do we get to see this routine. Instead the writer/director chooses to focus on a generic Sopranos like story that has many plot holes and is extremely unconvincing.
In one scene Isaiah is getting beat up by these mobsters and then he is a witness to one of the mobsters killing an innocent man. Then we see Isaiah at the apartment packing a bag and telling James that he has to go away. Of course, when Isaiah leaves the mobsters come to the apartment and attack James, even smearing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in his face (which I thought was over-the-top and ridiculous). Now, Isaiah witnessed one of these guys killing an innocent man. Would he really be that stupid to think that these guys (Who know where he lives) would not go after his brother? Give me a break!
Also, another unconvincing and inconceivable sub-plot involves a character played awkwardly by Tatum O'Neal who meets Isaiah at a diplomats party. It seems that in the span of one day she has fallen for Isaiah so much that she has a scene where she must cry over him. Although I didn't buy it, I tried to give the film a benefit of the doubt that this woman in her 40's may be interested in Isaiah who is in his 20's. I even tried to give this film the benefit of the doubt when Isaiah takes the Tatum O'Neal character to a crowded club where people are bumping and grinding to loud rap music, but what ensues in the club's ladies restroom is so unbelievable and so sadly plays into a stereotype of the angry black woman is so appalling that I let out a gasp in the theater.
One of the actresses in the scene was at the theater tonight when the film was shown, and she even expressed embarrassment with the scene. There was no reason for Tatum O'Neal's character to even be in the film. She served no purpose to the overall story. It's as if the director is a friend of hers and just wanted to put her in front of the camera. What a waste.
Not only is the story awful, but the cinematography and sound is sloppy. The lead character Isaiah, who is played by a dark skin actor, never had a consistent skin tone throughout the film. I believe that this is due to the fact that the cinematographer did not light for him. A competent cinematographer would know that he should light for actors with darker skin tones, especially when he is the lead, because darker skin tones are going to absorb more light. This is basic cinematography. Unfortunately, in some of the most important scenes we couldn't see Isaiah's facial features as a result of sloppy visuals (lighting and camera work).
On more than 4 occasions their was a problem with the sound not being synced to the visual. This is distracting and totally throws the viewer out of the story.
The only compliment I can give this film is the smart choice of casting Vanessa Williams. She is a real presence on screen and gives her cliché role all of herself. Her eyes and body language are true to her character in every single frame she is in. However, it is a pity that her character is written as a one-dimensional preachy saint that has to deliver some of the worst dialogue that has ever been put on paper.
I really, with all of my heart, wanted to like this movie, but the bad writing, horrible look and sound of this piece made it impossible to like. So far, this is the worst film I've seen this year. I dread the day when I see something worst.