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162 reviews in total 
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The Master (2012)
11 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
The Master takes the stage, 16 November 2012

Undeniably, the world these days loves a picture, which is smart in such a way that it stirs a never-ending debate about its inscrutable, mightily ambiguous meaning. More so in times when going to the cinema is strictly connected with low-class entertainment that lacks any deeper self-reflection. The Master's significance will rather easily remain a mysterious one, due to the fact that the film intentionally accumulates a huge amount of distinct themes and places them within the storyline without hinting at any apparent purpose. However, that really doesn't mean that the film is unwatchable in any way - quite the opposite. Being a thoroughly innovative and strangely mystic picture, The Master is able to move one's imagination, disturb and shock a little, and then astonish the audiences with its mind-boggling, often confusing declarations. While those contentious divagations aren't to be affiliated with any known theorems ad personam it's not hard to recognize them as somewhat ostentatious and ironical representations of authentic presumptions stated by some of the world's most-favorite cults.

The Master reluctantly aspires to be a confounding, cryptic and awe-inspiring creation that's not to be taken too seriously, yet - at the same time - it brings to the table an infinite amount of complex testimonies that might manipulate the viewer just as well as The Cause beguiles the main character of the film. Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), because that's his name, is a Naval veteran with a huge emotional baggage that's been thrown on his back during the World War II. Returning back to his homeland Freddie isn't certain of the future that awaits him there. Due to a number of horrifying experiences he became violent, socially awkward and has hard time finding a permanent job. However, on one seemingly peaceful night he decides to board an unknown ship. In one of the cabins he meets a cultivated, nonchalant, charismatic, yet mysterious man ludicrously called the master. With the gentleman's insistence Freddie embarks on a most- spiritual journey into his own psyche. His perception of the mind and its capabilities changes, and so does his attitude towards the reality that surrounds him. Through a series of rough brainwash sessions - it's hard to call them in any other way - the master makes people believe. Strange enough, because nobody is a hundred percent sure what's this 'thing' that everybody believes in so hard. It's a faith or sort yes, but what's the true purpose behind the whole quasi- spiritual movement remains unanswered towards the end of the film. And surprisingly, that works really fine - without any certain revelations the whole mysticism is harder to grasp.

Aside from the matters closely associated with cults and their actions, The Master discusses a considerable amount of topics and subject - some of them briefly, other more thoroughly. By looking at Freddie and what he's been through since he joined the Navy it's not difficult to observe how his behavior relates to the controversial notion of war-related traumas that haunt many soldiers around the world to these days. Overt or not - it's not important - there's a delicate homosexual subtext in the relationship between Freddie and Lancaster (thanks to the police the master's name is finally revealed). What's more, it often looks strangely one-sided. And that brings up another topic, this time connected with attachment and subservience. Freddie is the master's obedient marionette up to a point, but it's crucial to note how the relations change drastically after some time. The thin line between controlling and serving becomes blurry, as the characters and their dispositions alternate.

The film successfully conveys the vibrant atmosphere of the 50's, filling it with melancholic and attractive tunes. It seems as though the cinematographer applied a bunch of corresponding filters in order to give a somehow old-fashioned feel to all the images that the movie exhibits.

The list of interpretations is endless. Everyone will have a different opinion about this film. One thing that surely all the viewers can agree on is that Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman give one of the most captivating, stupendous performances of the year. Given his distorted posture and irascible behavior, Phoenix transforms himself into a man who's tired of life and it's as painful to watch as it is convincing. Seymour Hoffman, on the other hand, makes the philosophical and existential gibberish, that he tortures the audiences with, really believable and satisfying. Wandering for a moment from the substance of the movie, one should notice how the vibe presented by both of those actors creates an amazingly spellbinding aura, and that's definitely The Master's most indubitable quality.

Possessed (1947)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Joan Crawford was born to play this role, 15 November 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Possessed bases its gut-wrenching substance on a series of mind-boggling flashbacks, which systematically tells the story of a mentally ill woman. When the audience first sees her, she is walking almost unconsciously on the street shouting 'David! David!' to all the passersby. After a incident in a diner she is taken to a psychopathic section of a local hospital. When she's finally capable of forming understandable sentences, we embark on a tragic and pitiable journey, as the protagonist presents a story of deceit, murder, jealousy, all wrapped up in a strictly emotional package.

Obsessed with a man who doesn't reciprocate her feelings, Louise (Joan Crawford) forms an ingenious plan to lure him back into her arms. After the death of a sick woman (Mrs. Graham) she was looking after, Louise marries her husband Dean, a wealthy and sophisticated gentleman. In order to make David jealous she walks around town pretending to be fully in love. In the meantime, all the emotional instability and traumatic experiences cause her to become very ill. Her head hurts, she hallucinates, and sometimes isn't able to distinguish between what's right and what's wrong. What's more, her husband's pretty daughter becomes infatuated with David and a hearty romance soon takes place. Out of her own mind, Louise realizes that there's only one option which will allow her to change the way things turned out...

Possessed is a somber, very moody and dramatic visualization of an ill woman's darkest nightmare. She's psychotic, unbalanced, and as one doctor in the film clearly puts it: in a Biblical sense, we might say that such person is possessed of devils. The only way out of this insane state is the most extreme one. The film is sometimes too heavy and too uneven, yet Joan Crawford's marvelous role - also supported by other players' convincing performances - enhances the experience of watching the film enormously.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
When you talk about The Swimmer, will you talk about yourself?, 14 November 2012

On a beautiful, hot and sunny day we see a man diving into a swimming pool. He's handsome, masculine, well-built, and he's back to the district he used to live in once. He grabs a drink and starts a rather insignificant conversation with an old-time friend. He's an explorer, an adventurer, and it seems as though he's in desperate need of some new experiences. He discovers that there's a long line of pools in this suburban Connecticut neighborhood and suddenly decides to 'swim home'.

That's how his fascinating journey begins. And I assure you, it's neither an easy nor a pleasurable one. As the man moves from one pool to another we gradually begin to piece all the missing puzzles together. Through the interactions with many local people his life story begins to form. Some those people adore him, others loathe him, some are friends, others are long-time enemies. The swimmer takes a dip, says a few words, and then he's nowhere to be found. He's like the ghost of a person who previously inhabited his body. Though the conversations that he has seem realistic, they're actually very stiff, incomprehensible, and always unfinished. Yet they tell us more than we need to know about this shady persona. Slowly, we learn about the excruciating story of defeat and humiliation. Behind the swimmer's faked smile hides a grim and dark secret, connected to a troubled past and failed realization of dreams.

The film ingeniously moves from day to night and from youth to age, flowing through like a whole lifetime rather than a day. The Swimmer is a most-stylized and artistic film, and its meaning is unclear until the very last moments. It's not before the protagonist's final, most gut-wrenching encounters, when we discover the allegory hidden in the picture's seemingly vague substance. Behind the face of a pretty upper-class suburbanite hides a tragic hero. His heartbreaking life story exemplifies the failure of the so-called American Dream. Surrounded by many pretentious, emotionless characters the swimmer tries to find solace and redemption, but won't be able to. He's not one of them anymore, given his wretched state. While his former neighbors bathe in the sun and enjoy alcohol-filled parties, the swimmer roams around reminding them of a failed attempt at a glorious life. They seem appalled, frightened even, they are disguised by his sudden appearance. Once he found love in their arms, now all he gets is angry looks and accusations.

Based on an imaginative short story by John Cheever, The Swimmer comes as a mannerist, surrealistic, unsettling drama that is as steep as it is sharp. It's Burt Lancaster's most memorable performance. Wondering around the suburbia dressed only in swimming trunks, he portrays not only a cheerless and beaten man, but also an acute and penetrating representation of a destroyed life, where hopes and dreams are worth next to nothing.

Amour (2012)
88 out of 117 people found the following review useful:
French-language masterpiece of the year, 14 November 2012

The fact that Amour is an instant classic in the art-house world is as indisputable as the emotions presented by the protagonists of the film are bewildering. This picture is Haneke's minimalistic yet mightily expressive homage to love as we know it, showing the feeling's overpowering force and heartfelt, altruistic nature. While remaining a thoroughly unsentimental and provocative picture, Amour delivers a most-demanding portrayal of an elderly couple's last days together. Those cultivated, sophisticated characters need to evaluate their long-lasting marriage and come to terms with their own emotions, and, simultaneously, discover the true meaning of love in itself. Decisions need to be made, and some of them might be shocking to say the least.

It's a beautiful but considerable piece of filmmaking, where a sombre atmosphere and touching yet disturbing imagery permeate every scene. Haneke's steady and visionary directorial hand promises many moving and heartbreaking sequences, while still providing a poetic exemplification of a well- lived life's concluding moments. It's impossible to find neither a plausible sense of redemption nor an authentic touch of consolation, no. The film displays a marvelous character-driven narrative, where loving individuals diverge from the seemingly familiar path and start arguing with their own opinions and ideals, leading to some truly perplexing choices. In the most unexpected manner Amour touches the controversial topic of euthanasia, emphatically depicting how difficult it might seem to even consider such a harsh decision.

Amour is a tender, scrupulous, demanding, two-hour visualization of a romance well beyond boundaries, and through its difficult notions it shows human existence in its most intimate and most elegiac state. That death seems inevitable from the very first minutes is certain, but the way Haneke chooses in order to finally arrive at this intensely upsetting conclusion is an uneasy one. Amour is definitely a cinematic powerhouse, which will leave the audiences in a most pensive, quiet - even downcast - mood, still astounding with its ubiquitous beauty.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Obsession has many scary faces, 14 November 2012

Gene Tierney's tour-de-force in a role of a psychopathic, pathological woman (Ellen Berent) on the verge of insanity makes Leave Her to Heaven the most noir-ish of all noirs filmed in Technicolor. Tierney is indeed the archetype of all the demented women which graced the screen in years to come.

Cornel Wilde plays a successful novelist Richard Harland, who falls in love with Ellen during a train trip. Soon they get engaged, and only then is Richard able to grasp the madness that eats his wife from the inside. Her severely troubled state progresses, and when it does no relative is left unharmed. As the days go by, her enormous obsession leads to a bunch of horrible incidents and is the source of a grave misery for everyone who as much as talks to Harland.

Leave Her to Heaven is a film about love and there's no doubt about it, but the love portrayed by Gene is so harrowing and unnerving that it makes one reconsider what the feeling really means. It's an emotional bloodbath, and a nightmarish realization of a man's most fatalistic visions. Once Richard gets himself into this deranged ordeal of a marriage he isn't able to escape the cruel fate. His life is spiraling out of control as much as his willingness to live slowly decreases. The only person, who might help him is his wife's lovely younger sister Ruth, but she also becomes a victim of Ellen's sick scheme.

Leave Her to Heaven might come as an absurd melodrama for some, but its substance delivers many cringe-worthy moments, presenting one of those 'too good to be true' stories. It's as beautiful in its cinematography as it is frightening in its realization.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Nazi saboteurs are no match for Bogart and his entourage, 14 November 2012

All Through the Night might seriously be one of the most suspenseful and thrilling and - at the same time - most amusing and joyful comedy thrillers of the 1940's. It's a star-studded picture, which astounds with a noteworthy, most up-to-date, literate and fast-paced narrative. While the film storyline concerns a rather familiar topic of Nazi saboteurs in America during World War II, it gives an all-new, promising twist to the whole intrigue. All Through the Night makes great use of scrupulously-filmed on-location scenes, giving the audiences many spectacular and rewarding action sequences (i.e. speedy car chases on the streets of New York, or Central Park being in the center of a deadly gunfight between Americans and Germans).

A group of laid back Broadway gamblers - lead by the charismatic and always-elegant Humphrey Bogart - stumble onto an intriguing scheme, which starts off when a friendly baker turns up dead in his shop. Every clue brings them closer to danger, as they discover that the whole mystification might be connected with a deadly ring of enemy agents operating in the USA in order to gradually destroy the country right from its heart. Following a few deadly encounters, kidnappings, shoot-outs (and marvelously laughable situations) the boys finally realize what they've gotten themselves into. And in the third act it's Bogey's and William Demarest's (ingeniously called Sunshine) time to shine. Namely, they try to persuade - speaking gibberish for the great amusement of the audiences - a room filled with Nazis that they're actually two Germans from Detroit with an accurate report in their hands.

With clever and and faultless dialogues, adequate comedic interludes, fascinating plot and most- ravishing ending All Through the Night aspires to be a sharp, entertaining propaganda flick that is as dramatic as it is hilarious.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A terrific homage to Kurosawa, 14 November 2012

After the Rain is an endearing, exceptionally tranquil yet expressive samurai film based on a short story by Shūgorō Yamamoto. Akira Kurosawa, who wasn't able to finish the project due to a sudden death, wrote the script and was right in the middle of the production phase. Takashi Koizumi – one of Kurosawa's most prominent partners in the filmmaking business – promised to finish what his mentor has started. Looking at the final result it's perfectly safe to say that After the Rain is a mightily climatic and genuinely enthralling homage to the late director's unforgettable works. All it takes is just five minutes, and I'm sure that one won't be able to overlook many of the resemblances that emerge from the screen. As silly as it may sound, After the Rain looks at times as though Kurosawa directed it from beyond the grave.

The film, set in the Edo period, follow closely the adventures of a traveling ronin Ihei Misawa (Akira Terao). He has all the attributes of a true samurai, yet there's something very different about him. Namely, he stands out from the crowd of many anonymous sword-carrying warriors due to his overly joyful and helpful attitude towards those in need. During a heavy rain that floods the only way across the river, Ihei – wearing an enormously friendly smile – decides to invite all the locals, taking shelter in a nearby hotel, to a huge feast. Through his good deeds, unselfish behavior, and most-positive nature he quickly becomes a hero of sort for all the guests. When the rain stops and Ihei is finally able to roam further, he encounters a bunch of up-to-no-good swordsmen. Stopping the probably deadly fight and winning the approval of a passing officer leads to a surprising invitation from a local lord, Shigeki (a showy and exuberant yet graceful performance by Shiro Mifune, Toshiro Mifune's son). During their first meeting in the palace, Ihei reveals how – thanks to a most clever and fanciful plan – he got a hold of a huge amount of money: on his way to Edo (old Tokyo) the lone samurai visited many of the region's dojos and tricked their masters into payment by way of premature surrender.

Impressed and jubilant Shigeki decides to name him the Master-of-Arms of the fief. However, the decision meets with fierce criticism coming from the side of a resentful group of masters, whom Ihei previously ridiculed. Put to an ultimate test, the ronin is forced to pass the traditional demonstration, in which he needs to beat every opponent willing to prevent him from getting the respectable title. Everything goes smoothly until the moment when Shigeki himself challenges Ihei to a duel. Defeated and insulted, the lord's anger is indescribable, and soon he chooses to change his decision, making Ihei jobless once again. What's more, on his way back home the lone samurai is forced to fight a group of the aforementioned angry masters, in the film's only truly bloody scene.

After the Rain is a particularly feel-good samurai picture, which shows a very interesting insight into the protagonist's rich life, his relationship with a vulnerable yet loving wife (Yoshiko Miyazaki), and – at the same time – proves to be a fascinating lesson about the culture and customs that ruled Japan more than 200 years ago. Moreover, by cutting the movie abruptly without a certain finale Koizumi only increases the viewer's curiosity and anxiety concerning Ihei's unknown fate. Looking at After the Rain as a whole, I'm really convinced that Akira Kurosawa would've been proud of this picture.

Caché (2005)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Cache wants us to look and see the emotionless nature of humanity, 14 November 2012

Cache is a distressing masterpiece, which leaves you confused, clueless, empty. It's that kind of a film which asks some serious and problematic questions but doesn't give any rewarding answers in the process, and that's what distinguishes it from a number of many other pictures made these days. Without hesitation, Cache promises no relief, no happy endings and no emotional stability whatsoever. And that's what makes this movie so unbelievably convincing, so demanding, and so terrifically successful.

It start off with a long, seemingly ordinary shot of a peaceful neighborhood somewhere in Paris. It's not until five minutes later that we discover it's actually a mysterious video recorded by some unknown characters, now seen on the TV screen belonging to a frightened family. We hear worried people chatting, we observe how a set of fuzzy lines appear on the screen. This family - terrorized by a seres of troubling surveillance tapes - is gradually tearing itself apart.

The film shows how one shocking event leads to a bunch of another, even more harrowing revelations. Cache is also a trip into the main character's (Georges) disturbing past, revealing how an arguably childish incident brought an onslaught of difficulties into his life, changing it for ever not only for him, but also for his innocent wife and child (or is he?).

This is a film where no character is likable, and no emotions are spared. Its increasingly unfeeling aura only boosts the state of unbalance and merciful empathy. The picture is tranquil yet considerable in its atmosphere, graceful yet painfully expressive in its imagery. Cache forces the audiences to look, and what one sees might not be too comforting.

Conflict (1945)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Bogart is as ominous as the movie is disquieting, 14 November 2012

Conflict is definitely a disturbing and horrifying psychological thriller. With it's maliciously unnerving mood and heavy, dismal cinematography, the film aspires to achieve an all-new level of anxiety.

It's about a guilt-ridden man - Humphrey Bogart's arguably most sinister role ever - who gradually plunges deeper and deeper into state of a devastating mental illness. Hinting at a thorough psychological evaluation in the beginning, Conflict analyzes how a fearless and brutal man - convinced that he's just killed his innocent wife - is trapped in a vortex of clues, which might lead to a mightily shocking revelation. The more observant viewers might already be able to uncover the whole mystery in the first act, but for those who are in desperate need of a satisfying and suspenseful intrigue Conflict brings a genuinely captivating mystery.

Sydney Greenstreet - with his usual charm, sophisticated mannerism, and most-cheerful laughter - plays the psychoanalyst and a friend to Mr. Bogart. The manner in which he exhibits his impeccable intelligence is the film's most-promising quality. And Bogart, with all his devilish attitude and increasing fear is as convincing (and as stylish and graceful) as he was in Casablanca or The Maltese Falcon.

Conflict is a lesser-known film noir, but it's crucial to note that its mightily clever and disquieting premise - along with a bunch of twisted and deranged sequences - delivers a seriously thrilling melodrama that's not to be argued with.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The Razors' Edge is both a compelling drama and a most satisfying adaptation, 11 November 2012

Being an intellectually engrossing, enormously stylish, deeply emotional picture, The Razor's Edge is both the most captivating and the most satisfying adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's inspiring novel of the same title. Even though in its core subject the film has much to do with spirituality and self-realization, it also ponders such considerable topics as obsession, greed, alcoholism, war-related traumas, etc. Wrapped up in a neat package of astounding visuals and fascinating camera shots, The Razor's Edge proves to be a very successful collaboration between the director Edmund Goulding and the cinematographer Arthur C. Miller. Splendid performances by the stellar cast only confirm that The Razor's Edge is an irrefutable masterpiece of the Golden Era of Hollywood.

The literate and dramatic script gives a thorough psychological insight into all the character's minds. Tyrone Power plays Larry Darrell, the main character, who is about to begin a long and demanding search for the true meaning of life. Gene Tierney is his fiancée Isabel Bradley, a girl who tries to trap him into a marriage she wants, but ultimately realizes that she won't be able to. Clifton Webb is Elliott Templeton, a shallow, pompous, and supercilious uncle who – surprisingly so – turns out to be a rather likable and reliable old gentleman.

Larry goes to France and then to India, discovering many new facts about life and fulfilling his destiny as the passionate truth-seeker. In the meantime, Isabel marries Gray Maturin (John Payne), a man who's always been in love with her. Along with her uncle and a few relatives they move to a classy palace located in France and stay there until the heavy depression hits them really hard.

The turning point of the film comes when a long-time family friend Sophie MacDonald (devastating performance by Anne Baxter) loses her husband and child in a car crash and starts drinking in order to forget about this horrible accident. After a while, all the characters meet up in France at the most unexpected time. Though married, Isabel is still fully in love with Larry. He, on the other hand, decides to help poor Sophie and proposes to her instead. Thing turn ugly, as Isabel tries to cause Sophie's final fall into alcoholism and dejection, just to get Larry only for herself. As the obsessive behavior progresses, she realizes that many people, even those that she truly cared about, desert her.

Starting in the period ingeniously named the roaring 20's and following up to the difficult times of the Great Depression, the film exhibits – in an utterly realistic manner – how a social and economic situation in the USA shaped the way people corresponded to one another. Pretentious, shallow and greedy members of the aristocracy cared only about their own, mostly material, needs. However, after the horrible stock market crash in 1929 everything suddenly changed. It's perfectly exemplified in the way Isabel Bradley's closest relatives handled the loss of money, and how it actually lead up to the beginning of the respected family's end.

Undoubtedly, Tyrone Power's performance is the greatest force of this picture. Avoiding many clichés, he presents a man who is as confused as he is curious about life in general. Handsome and charismatic, it's not hard to see why Gene Tierney was so obsessed with his persona. Her awe-inspiring portrayal of a woman who can't distinguish between what's good and what's bad is as convincing as it is heartbreaking.

Exploring both an ill-fated love affair and a promising spiritual journey, the film is a 144-minute ode to effective and convincing filmmaking. Enhanced by marvelous supporting performances, The Razor's Edge cuts deep and uncovers a deeply sorrowful intrigue, promising neither second chances nor happy endings.

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