Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
We Come as Friends (2014)
anti-hegemonic documentary that provides a clear picture of the current state of Africa
The most-used narrative scheme in American documentaries, which has influenced many other national trends in that genre, is to drive the point home by repeating it, often ad nauseam. Hubert Sauper wisely uses a different tactic, showing as much sides to his subject as possible. Many perspectives are shown in a neutral way, the moral evaluation, problem definition and causal interpretation is left to the viewer.
The contextualisation that is used to introduce the subject emphasises this; we, the western audience, are alien to the concrete situation in South-Sudan. Every bit of information we receive through the media is filtered and framed is such a way that we have no clear view on the state of neocolonialism in Africa.
Instead of the standard, Western political-economic discourse (mainly the exploitation of Africa by so-called 'helping' investors), Hubert Sauper also presents the results of religious rifts (the main ones are foreign imports, i.e. Christianity and Islam), the Chinese political-economic views on both Africa and the USA, the views of local civilians and leaders, the ecological effects of the exploitation and, most importantly, the forced adaptation of the English language (and Western culture in general) to be taken serious and be able to communicate with the Western World.
To conclude, Entente Cordiale (We Come as Friends) is a good documentary, as it criticises our limited knowledge of and view on African culture after we wrongly deemed them to be freed from colonial forces.
Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Teenagers as viewed by the American public anno 1955
1955, the year that Nicolas Ray showed America the alienated teenagers and consequences with Rebel Without a Cause, quite similarly to this film. Yet, Rebel without a cause approaches the subject through the eyes of the teenagers, Blackboard Jungle talks about the problem as experienced by the adults, immediately making it much more patronising and judgmental.
Warner Bros. pictures, the studio behind Rebel without a Cause, has always been a more working class studio, which gives them more authority to handle problems of the public.The fact that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the most middle- class American of the big studios made this film contributes to the mocking character of the film. Especially the beginning text, stating that 'America needs to know about these problems or else the United States are doomed!'
As it stands, the film begins with this air of superiority and never recovers from it. The inclusion of 'Rock around the Clock' in addition to great performances of Glenn Ford and Sidney Poitier could be considered saving graces if you were able to look past this systematic flaw, I was not.
Umimachi Diary (2015)
In one of the most paternalistic countries in the world, one film aces the Bechdel test.
The adaptation of a graphic novel to film may seem more easily attainable than other media, it can still suffer from the same problems. Hirokazu Koreeda, with his attention to details, did a marvellous job with this film. I noticed many cabiria- movements throughout the film, I suppose mimicking the movement of the reader's eyes.
Koreeda was also a good fit for the subject of the story, his last film Like Father, Like Son also handled relations between reunited family members. This time the most defining aspect is the role of the female in Japan, still a very paternalistic country, yet as the film shows they have no difficulty living on their own. Every film is an image of its time and Our Little Sister shows that times have changed, this case for the better.
The cinematography was very beautiful, to the point were I would recommend trying to watch Our Little Sister on the big screen. The long-shots of natural views are breath-taking. Furthermore, the script and the film feel very precise, no doubt the outcome of Hirokazu Koreeda writing the screenplay, directing and editing the film.
Boruto: Naruto the Movie (2015)
Nostagia hits hard
The animation is spotty at times; it is evident that the greatest amount of effort was spent on the opening and ending fight sequences, leaving all scenes in between at a lower level of quality.
Furthermore the adaptation of the novel had caused a loss of nuance, making this inferior to the original source. Technology was not really (there were instances that it was) present in Kishimoto's original manga, now that it is he uses a popular motive of the Japanese New Wave, namely the idea that technology is taking over the life of man and this should be adverted as it is a regression. It comes over rather forced and blatant in the film as in the novel.
Yet, despite these flaws I cannot help but like this film; nostalgia hits, hard. I have grown up with the Naruto series and this is the end point. If nothing else, it really works as a closer, making me want to read it all again, which I probably will in the future.
Meeuwen sterven in de haven (1955)
Seen as the first artistic Belgian film
Seen as the first artistic Belgian film A film containing Dutch (Flemish and even more specific an Antwerp dialect), German, French and English, you cannot get more Belgian than this on a language level.
1955 was the year the French, German, English and Italian national film production had resurrected and this was infectious for neighbouring European countries, even those were no film culture had resided. Belgium is a special case (as it is in many, if not most, aspects) for Seagulls Die in the Harbour is the "first artistic endeavour in the art of film in Flanders and even Belgium" (Erik Martens, head of division 'verspreiding filmcultuur' VAF, 2015) and after it, Belgium had to wait eleven years, until The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short for a film to reach the same standards.
There was no government funding for Seagulls Die in the Harbour, Bruno De Winter had to search for sponsors, who had an impact on the esthetics of the film as they demanded Antwerp and its harbour to be shown in all its glory. This is most present in the flashback, as various famous (maybe I am not the best judge, as I grew up in Antwerp) touristic landmarks are shown. The absence of a government system subsidising Flemish film production is the major cause of the complete dearth of quality films between 1955 and 1966.
Of the three directors Rik Kuypers was the most able to handle a camera, and even he was just an amateur, Ivo Michiels and Roland Verhavert had been film journalists up to that point. The binding factor of these three men was their cinefilia, which is reflected in the esthetic of the film; Meeuwen sterven in de haven (Seagulls Die in the Harbour) possesses a film-noir, expressionistic atmosphere, reminiscent to The Third Man.
The film handles a sensitive subject for most Flemish in the post-war era, namely the sense of guilt felt by the Flemish nationalists and even sympathisants, as the Flemish nationalist party had collaborated with the Third Reich in hope to acquire independence. It would last until the seventies before Flemish nationalism recovered from that fatal blow, but even today people still easily use the word 'fascist' when they speak about the NV-A (the new Flemish Nationalist party).
The protagonist in the film, played by Julien Schoenaerts (yes, he is the father of that one Belgian actor), has a strong sense of nostalgia and melancholy to the times before the war, before the people were physically, but more so mentally destroyed. He cannot live in a country were everyone despises him. This sense of shame is a motive in the works of all the three directors, all held Flemish nationalist ideologies.
The relation between Gigi (the girl of six years old) and the protagonist has only one function, to convince the audience that he has a heart of gold an is in fact a 'good' guy. It would go to far as to purely describe it as an act of revisionism, but it does play a factor.
Yet, for all the importance of this film, historically, esthetically and symbolically, purely as film it is not great. Most of the actors had only acted on stage before, the three directors all made their debut with this film and the film suffers from identity crisis in its effort to portray the beautiful side of Antwerp to please the sponsors, display the shame of the Flemish nationalist and the fact that he in fact is not bad.
The benefit of this identity crisis is the room for different interpretations, as can be seen by the success Seagulls Die in the Harbour attained in Russia; communist could read the role of the American liberators as the primary force of all consequences in the film and anti-communist saw a protagonist rebelling against his government.
Because of this it is likely that more Russian have seen the film than Belgians, because even we almost never care for Belgian films, then and now.
Prince Valiant (1954)
Even in the fifties Hollywood was adapting comic books? Thankfully the film was unsuccessful, otherwise the comic book film craze Hollywood has institutionalised now would have originated in those times. According to Aubrey Solomon and the Variety weekly it did not break even at the box office, with a budget of 2,970,000$ and an estimated total earnings of 2.6 million dollars. Hollywood was still protective of their films, so it did not earn anything outside of the theatres.
Henry Hathaway did not lose his love for fast cutting he displayed in Rawhide, even in the early CinemaScope era. This is further proved by the aspect ratio of 2.55 instead of 2:35:1; the time before the put magnetic sound and optic sound on each film version, reducing the space for the picture itself. You could say the fast cutting style was determined by Robert L. Simpson, the film editor for both films. However Robert L. Simpson has shown to be willing to have long takes, as is shown in As Young as You Feel, Call Me Madam and The Best of Everything. So I think it is fair to credit the fast pace, especially for an early CinemaScope film, to Henry Hathaway. He did conform to the early CinemaScope standard consisting of heavy use of long shots and very long shots.
You can really tell this was adapted from a comic book for kids, I had my suspicions, which were later fulfilled by the acknowledgment of my nostalgia-filled parents. There are many scenes that look like they were picked out of a random 'adventures of Valiant'. In my opinion they did not translate well to the big screen, especially for the epic spectacle it fruitlessly tries to be.
Another problem was the combination of the early Bausch and Lomb anamorphic lenses and Technicolor, this required enormous amounts of light for the camera to capture the film. Quite a problem then, when the apotheosis of the film occurs in the dead of night; maybe it was better on the big screens in those times, but I could barely follow the action.
Robert Wagner is a very limited actor in his role, he reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Hercules in New York (yes, that bad). It is evident he was casted for his physical feats and not his acting chops. I am also not fond of the performances of Janet Leigh and Debra Paget, both overacted horribly.
To conclude, I do not recommend this film, even if you happen to be a fan of the old comic books.
Sharp commentary of the conservative, egotistical ideology of the United States
Warning, this review contains criticism on the United States of America, reader discretion is advised.
Firstly, the film is well made. On the one hand it starts out slow and some of the acting is sketchy, especially the mother and the reverend brother. Were I more optimistically inclined I would say his portrayal was religious satire, but being realistic, I exclude this point of view; it is hard enough to find religious satire in contemporary Hollywood productions, accordingly the presence of it in Hollywood in 1931 is highly unlikely. On the other hand the technical aspects are great for a production of its time, namely apt use of camera movement and good sound editing for such an early 'talky'.
The film is commendable to any viewer who wants to explore the golden age of Hollywood, the early spoken films and the start of the prison genre.
Now my take on the content of the film, which as previously stated contains some criticism on the ideology and working of the United States, in particular the 'Bible belt' states. The southern states, having lost their right to hold slaves after the ending of the civil war (which did not mean the slavery system was abolished in all forms in the years following the death of Abraham Lincoln), have found a new, just as profitable, way to exploit human beings. This is the only description I can give to the system of the chain gangs.
The scene which conflicted most with my sense of justice was the defense of said chain gang system; a desecration of human rights and glorification of egotistical capitalism. How can a land be 'of the free' if capitalism is more important than individual rights; the effect of the economisation of all aspects of society, while also pretending Adam Smith was right about the free market (the economical crisis of 2008 proved otherwise, as did the one in 1973 and 1929). 'Land of the brave'? Yes, I can definitely see the people who opted to stay in the United States as brave.
Chelovek s kino-apparatom (1929)
All of Vertov's film theory and techniques in one film
Vertov utilises the whole array of available camera and montage techniques to portray a normal day in Russia, while also showing how it is made; fast motion, slow motion, stop-motion, freeze-frame, thawed-frame, playing film backwards, double exposure, etc. A part of the film comes over as a documentary of how a film is made, namely the balance of focus and the daring stunts of early cameramen.
What is being filmed is typical for the 'agitprop', i.e. everyday life of the proletariat, here sometimes put in contrast with the lavish lifestyle of the bourgeoisie. Vertov put some dialectical elements in the montage, most notably the diagonals in the earlier parts of the film, other times he draws parallels, e.g. between the working class and the cameraman/director (in my opinion Vertov did this to assert he and other filmmakers belonged to the same group) or between the washing of a woman and the washing of the city.
Other communist elements are also present, the one that stood out the most was the glorifying of machines and the relation between man and machine (the total opposite of Japanese New-wave). For the most part the film escapes explicit propaganda, mostly due to the non-narrative form (it is easy to see why Stalin stopped this kind of cinema, as propaganda it did not work for many did not understand the meaning behind the dialectic montage).
I needed to acclimate to the normal way of viewing movement after the film had ended, being made strangely aware of the similarities and differences between my eyes and the 'eye' of the camera. It had an hypnotic, psychedelic effect.
To conclude, I would recommend this film, but only to those who have some background information on the Russian constructivism, as otherwise this could come over as too nonsensical and pointless (like all those purely structuralist films, e.g. Wavelength).
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
That was last year. This year I'm trying to earn a living.
I have always had a soft spot for films about filming, and another for Hollywood satires, so is it any wonder I thoroughly enjoyed Sunset Blvd.?
Other than the personally-compelling story, there were some great shots in the film, most notably the shot of the body from inside the pool (in 'Sunset Blvd.: A Look Back you can learn that is was shot with a mirror while keeping the temperature of the water at 40° to keep the distortion to a minimum). The sets are great and really shine in the deep-focus cinematography that reminded me of Citizen Kane.
Gloria Swanson plays her role with authenticity, it was a version of herself she played, as her last great role stemmed from the thirties. The fragment shown in the film is Queen Kelly, directed by Erich Von Stroheim, another actor whose role was close to reality.
Above all Wilder showed a cynicism far ahead of its time, sure it was already present in films such as The Life and Death of 9413: a Hollywood Extra in the late twenties, but such films were not made by the great directors of Hollywood itself. This sharp depiction of the darker sides of Hollywood, i.e. the corruption, the exploitation of people, the Machiavellian attitude towards personal gain, is a big part why this film did not win the Oscar for best film in 1950. The reasons why the academy disliked it are the same reasons why I love it.
I can finally see why David Lynch referenced this film in the beginning of Mulholland Dr..
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
The Racism cannot be excused
Film is an art, and Griffith was the pioneer of this vision, he saw himself as a great genius and the 'father of narrative cinema'; when he left American Biograph after his film Judith of Bethulia he went to Hollywood and put an advertisement for himself in the paper that contained a list of all his previous films, he was certain a studio would recruit him.
This complacency is also on show in the very first shot of the film, namely the trademark outline for the text, containing Griffith's name in the upper-right and -left corner and his initials on the bottom. It is quite evident he loves himself very much.
I see a lot of reviews here trying to justify the racism in the film by saying that in 1915 everyone was racist. Then how come the film immediately sparked protest after its release? The NAACP was successful in removing some of the racists parts of the film; it was cut from 1544 to 1375 shots. Because Griffith made the film without a script and those cut scenes were destroyed, we can only guess what other ghastly things were on them -the fact that the extremely racist South Carolina Parliament scene was not cut, does make me wonder just how bad those removed takes were.
In typical Griffith vanity, he felt attacked and violated for the public had stained his genius and masterpiece. He went to make a whole three-and-a-half film to vindicate the 'Intolerance' of those who opposed his racist depictions. The audience did not like this unsubtle message and Intolerance became one of the biggest flops in Hollywood history (the fact that it was such a complicated film for the time was also a big factor, but just let me believe in this delusion of poetic justice).
It the sneering tone or the rating did not convey it yet, I absolutely loathe this film. The depiction of Afro-Americans as uncivilised, alcoholics, rapists and other depictions you would assign to the concept of untermenschen, makes my blood boil. There is a big difference between denigrating a group of people (as the Indians have been subject of in many Westerns) for the sake of the narrative and the way Griffith denigrates a whole social group (believing in the separation of the human race in 'sub-races' is in itself racist). The only time Afro-Americans are portrayed as sympathetic is when they are submissive; Griffith states this as 'the Aryan birthright' of the white South.
The worst part of Griffith's film is the revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States, he has Afro-American blood on his hands. This fact in itself is enough for me to give this the lowest rating possible. I do not care for this 'encyclopaedia of what film was capable on a technical level', if Griffith had not made this film another director would eventually have mode a similar film, one I would have actually been able to enjoy.