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The Salt of the Earth (2014)
Le Sel de la Terre
The lines on his head were deep as the lines of the earth...
Wim Wenders' new masterpiece is a visually stunning lesson about our planet and our lives. We, the people, are both the salt and the scorch of the Earth...
Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wenders have made a thoughtful emotional journey through the life and work of the famous photographer Sebastião Salgado. Both his personal and professional journeys are depicted through the photographs of the talented humanist. The adventurous journey is becoming a discovery of the human nature and after that of nature's condition. A masterful revelation this picturesque travel envisions the marks which we leave on our planet and the traces which we imprint during our stay here.
It is important to note that the overall feeling of this movie is beautifully embodied by the soundtrack as well. And this feeling is surreal - a deep voyage into darkness and light - into the power of drawing with a camera. As a photographer too, I am once again amazed how a single picture can foretell, tell and commit to a certain topic. A person, a landscape, an overall feeling - this is what we get from this film.
Intricately constructed and simplistically presented, the meaning behind these shapes and colors is not ambiguous - we are the spice which could make the Earth both a better and worse place. It is very interesting to see this whole story told in French. I felt a certain feeling mystery and wisdom throughout the whole narrative. And although some scenes were striking, one can only feel humility watching this.
I strongly recommend that every photographer, who is striving to create, should see this movie. This documentary is very much a universal message of the ever repeating cycle of anger - despair - hope. This honorable look at the artist and his power which can transform people and nature is mesmerizing. As a conclusion I truly hope that we can learn from our mistakes and not repeat them all over again. Because when you immerse your soul into the soil, you cannot stay away from the imminent introspection which comes after that...
Professione: reporter (1975)
Across the sands of time there is little comfort for the identity of loneliness...
I've been willing to write about Michelangelo Antonioni's Masterpiece. It's just that when you sit down to describe and reflect upon such a monumental artwork, you need time and patience to be able to focus on the most important conclusions. For me it is always important to see the consequence of implications which you get from a movie. And I am pretty sure that "The Passenger" is indeed one of the best film I have ever seen.
The psychological drama about loneliness, alienation and the trouble of finding one's identity stars Jack Nicholson as a television journalist who assumes the identity of a dead arms dealer in Chad and then escapes his own identity and life cycle. We witness the typical 1970's movies feel of losing something real while trying to live the life. I am unsure if this film's intelligent script would've had the same impact if there were no such beautiful landscapes which complement the psychological transformation of the main character David Locke. The cinematography by Luciano Tovoli is distancing the characters of the film one from another. A deliberate alienation which represents a person's desire to escape oneself. Losing his identity Locke finds during his journey a soul mate - an architectural student in Barcelona (Maria Schneider). We witness their unconventional relationship and route through exotic and deserted villages and cities.
At the same time Locke's real life (represented by his unfaithful wife) tries to reach and find him. The main character is deliberately avoiding being found and desperately is trying to not go back to his original existence. France and especially Spain present us with both fascinating and haunting images of nature and architecture. It is very important for the viewer to notice Nicholson's character being "blown by the wind" from one deserted place to another. David Locke is a traveler through time and space who is attracted to his young female companion and spiritual soul mate, but ultimately is troubled only by his own escapade.
And although his new arms dealing identity finally takes its toll, he is presented as a newborn soul, freed from the constraints of his ordinary life. This alienated freedom provokes many viewers to try to find what is not right in their own lives and reflect upon how to change that. My feel about "The Passenger" is very similar to what I got from Antonioni's "Zabriskie point", "Blow-Up" and his trilogy "L'Avventura", "La Notte" and "L'Eclisse". A distant both haunting and beautiful cry about longing for a change and true meaning of one's life. It is very inspiring to see how a genius director can evoke true feelings in us with this enigmatic and intricate movie of possibilities. And there is no better example for this than the penultimate 7-minute tracking shot at the end of "The Passenger"...
The best chemistry between two leading actors within years...
I have been waiting to see this movie for such a long time and for that reason I am really sorry that I couldn't enlist it in my Top 10 films of last year. But now that I have enjoyed it I am pretty sure that it is in my Top 3, maybe just behind Birdman.
Why? Because of the perfect acting lessons displayed in it. Best supporting actor of the year no doubt. J.K. Simmons destroys Miles Teller's character and then builds him depending on Teller's inner talent to produce perfect music. I am really starting to think that most of all I enjoy the overall feel of a movie and then the actors' play. These two factors maybe are the two most interesting and inspiring aspects of a movie for me. And the music of course. Jazz is improvisation, polyrhythm and swing which we have a lot in this wonderful piece of movie history. I have no doubt that "Whiplash", "Grand Hotel Budapest" and "Birdman" will without a doubt find their dignified places in the history of cinema.
The intense play is inspired by the beautiful script showing human emotions as we rarely find them in movies. This brilliant acting lesson is a true revelation for both leading actors and the director Damien Chazelle. It is no wonder that the American critics love it so much. It advocates the true statement that no talent can emerge without tons of hard work and practice. But the more compelling storyline is the one which shows us how the character of a person can grow when confronted by a real catalyst - the mentor, the teacher, the challenger. This is what I really liked in this film - the human emotional development within a talented young person. And Miles Teller is such a young talented actor too. So the symbol is perfect.
For us Europeans it is really refreshing to see this psychological clash between the two main characters in this movie. All the more challenging is the setting - the stage seems like a gladiators' arena. It is by the end of the movie like a true battlefield! The hero of the story is challenged by this "villain" - his mentor. And he strives so hard, beyond the flesh and bone, to reach perfection, that he surpasses perfection by the end of this beautifully shot film piece.
And the music in this movie is performed so well that it accompanies the characters' journey through this immense psychological arena of "war". The interaction in some scenes is so intense that it is simmering with uncompromising sharpness. We are viewing not only the main character's growth, we are seeing our appreciation of hard work grow too. And in a country like Bulgaria this kind of a lesson (although lifelike obvious) should be much appreciated.
"Whiplash"professes the things that matter to us and more importantly - how we can achieve them. It is the uncompromising will of our own souls which can only bring us to success and peacefulness. Perfection is not a mirage, it is a state of mind, a focus so clear, that one can achieve only by working hard on his talents. Every day, every second and every way possible. Even beyond the possible...
I tried to avoid this movie, but after some serious recommendations I watched it in the end. And the result is mind blowing insight into every man's nature...
So let me explain again - I didn't want to watch this film at the very beginning, because it radiated darkness so much, that I felt it would definitely affect me. And I like my movies like my every other art form - to enjoy it when I am in the proper mood for it. I will always think that an art piece (no matter if music, movie, literature, painting, sculpture, etc.) has to be perceived when in the proper emotional condition. But after all I was impressed by the fact that so many reviewers who's opinion I value have recommended it. I have the similar case with the movie "Under the skin", but I will deal with that film later. So here's what I think of it...
First of all - I discovered Denis Villeneuve as a director. Wow! A great line of movies which will surely build up my expectations for his next works. Second - Jake Gyllenhaal is in a winning streak... I cannot remember if I have watched a "not so good" movie with him. Every single film he has done in the last years is almost perfect - Nightcrawler, Enemy, Prisoners, End of Watch, Source code, Love & Other Drugs, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Zodiac...way back to Donnie Darko - all of them are pretty decent to great, almost perfect movies! The script - amazing! Metaphors, Symbols, Analogues, etc. - almost every single stylistic device is used in this movie. Coming as an adaptation of the book "The Double" by José Saramago this movie is truly a masterpiece of cinema.
Maybe I didn't give it 10/10 only because the style of the atmosphere was not what I like most, but it truly fits the psychosis emotions of the main character(s). The music was also fitting - I really liked how Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans embodied the characters' emotional transitions between guilt, angst, rage, curiosity, depression, disappointment, relief and frustration. The conscious and subconscious war going on between Adam and Anthony is on purpose and leads indeed to a repetitive rejection and susceptibility to lustful yearnings. Yes, maybe the main character feels as if the spiders - his wife and his mother (maybe it all comes from her?) try to take his freedom, but the decision to keep the key at the end of the movie is all his farce.
And as we think - it is in men's nature to always be yearning, conquering and obsessive. So the solitary side of the main character is representing the man's will to set things right and not fall into the pit of desires. And the egoistic and hypocritical, always evasive, side is constantly interrupting, trying to prevail at any given chance and sign of hesitation.
Overall this movie is a very good character study and brilliant example of questions being asked directly to the viewer without being answered before that. This piece of cinematography is a genius acting lesson and an ideal example of the classical regret and shamelessness altogether. And is all this circle of dissatisfaction and regret sane? No, it's rather whimsical... After all it seems that men are whimsical even more than women. The process of interpersonal alienation has never been more accelerated than in the 21 Century.
The sad story about The Hobbit franchise
I have just watched the new video game "The Hobbit: The Battle of the five armies" at the theater and tried to stop myself from writing about it, because this video game does not deserve this attention, but I still am going to do this in memory of Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the rings" which was truly the reason why I gave the new trilogy a chance.
"Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for."
And this quote says it all...
But let me rephrase that. I have just witnessed how Peter Jackson (due to his own meanings or pushed by the new studio bossing around) has beheaded the little faith I had in him. The third Hobbit installment brought me to laughter, anger and almost to tears because of its outright stupidity and insipidness. And to stop generalizing, I'm going to put some points in front. First of all Peter Jackson has indeed committed crimes against the true story and characters from the children's book "The Hobbit, or There and Back Again". Too many people have seen this coming since we saw the first movie (which by the way was the least miserable from the three pieces). The imaginative character of Tauriel and the ludicrous relationship between the elf and the dwarf Kili is such a "gem" in this set of tragic mistakes that I must not say more. Mr. Jackson thoughtfully incorporated made-up parts in the story which didn't only made these movies look silly, but they destroyed his own credibility as a director loyal to Tolkien and to the fans. Yes indeed, three films will make much more money than one film. But this will never bring Jackson to the high place which he held in the hearts of the fans and in the minds of the critics. "The Return of the King" took all 11 Oscars for which it was nominated namely BECAUSE it was true to the books. J.R.R. Tokien's writings are true mirrors of the human nature and history and are indeed beautiful examples of how a person can relay humanity. None such occurred in at least the second and the third Hobbit films. I think that we saw a fantasy equivalent to the Avengers' stupidity. Still "The Avengers" was mostly true to its origins. Which is why "The Battle of the Five armies" cannot win the audience only with perfect character design, major battles, wonderful music and brief winks towards "The Lord of the Rings". The intended soul of the new trilogy - the friendship, the loyalty to comrades and keeping the given promise - were vaguely affecting the viewers back at the theater. Not only because the director and the actors did not meant what they were showing us, but also because it was NOT true. There is no such big emphasis in the book on these highlighted moments. Thus there is such a logical fiasco in front of us.
Maybe I am too harsh on this movie and on Peter Jackson. Maybe I am just a fan of Tolkien who feels hurt, because the book material of J.R.R. Tolkien was treated like a source of money. But I think that as Sam said before in The Two Towers - "Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why." And Jackson just had to do one movie true to the book. Nothing else. Maybe it would have been less successful than the previous trilogy. I think that it would have not earned any awards at all. But it would have been still an interesting piece to be seen and the true fans of Tolkien's work would have liked it. As a matter of fact I think that most of the people would have liked compared to the situation now. The true story is always emotionally overwhelming and mindfully compelling. So what am I holding onto? The good story? The loyalty to the book? No, I am holding onto the truth of creativity and artistry. There is some good in this world and it's worth fighting for!
I was expecting "Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance)" to be a blow up acting lesson, but it really surprised me with its completeness and universal message...
Alejandro González Iñárritu really did it well. He is a proved and delightful author and director already, but this movie can really bring an Oscar to Michael Keaton.
But let's start with the atmosphere. The set is New York - WOW! I am really impressed how they showed us The Big Apple's artistic district. The camera work is incredible - long shots, beautifully transferring from one scene to another. The moving of the camera is flawless and alive. The viewer really feels the vibrant life of the main characters. And the music is very clever and fitting. Especially the rhythm and the pacing of the action are exact and provoke our emotional reaction almost every time. The whole setting and scenery is creative and true to the Broadway style life.
I must say that the main character Riggan (Michael Keaton) and Mike (Edward Norton) play almost perfect embodiments of how the modern actor's behavior. This encyclopedia of decision making and emotionally hazard behavior is tempting the viewer to feel empathy for them. I completely enjoyed their acting and felt that after all the American acting school is not behind the European at all. Hollywood may produce tons of bullsh*t, but Fox Searchlight has proved again its record of good production choices. And the acts in this film are really classical in a way. The falling out of glory struggling Riggan is investing his career and sanity into the play What "We Talk About When We Talk About Love". And we can feel the thickness of tension which is building up on his head. The reference to Keaton's actual career is evident, so we feel true empathy to the main character in Birdman. His alter ego - the Birdman is constantly reminding us of the Ego of every actor who has received appreciation, but is craving for more. And Norton's character Mike is truly an expected surprise representing the actors' boldness and ingenuity. The supporting cast - Zach Galifianakis (just wow!), Naomi Watts (the usual delved into character personality), Emma Stone and Andrea Riseborough add to the constellation of stars shining on the stage and on the screen. I must say - with such a cast a good director such as Iñárritu has done marvels of wonder!
Maybe I am too exuberant in my rants about this film, but I feel that we're witnessing really a piece which is close to perfection. I really enjoyed it very much and the true reason for that is the script. The story's both particular and general view for modern acting and the current condition of the cinematic industry have really impressed me. Every line is on spot, the ideas are not new, but are presented very fresh. One can only reflect upon the true nature and signification of the theater, cinema and acting as a profession and way of life. Yes, way of life. Because after all, depending on the situation, we all tend to act and react. All humans are actors in a way. And as William Shakespeare has put it eloquently:
"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages."
"Feeling myself so strongly seduced by both the light and the darkness is something that I never want to forget..." - Yuki Urushibara, author of the Mushishi manga
The Japanese anime series "Mushishi" has a very special place in my heart, so I wanted to dedicate several lines about it since a long time. But it took me a second look at the old series and a fresh first view of the new series to be able to get to the point of writing about it. And now I reconnect with the real idea behind the emotion which pushed me to explore this beautiful and emotional piece of Japanese animation. The true mystery of life is life itself. Something inexplicable, something controversial, but still engaging and profound. The Japanese folklore is truly an amazing source of bright inspiration for the author Yuki Urushibara. And we can clearly feel why.
It is not important how we get it - it is interesting that no matter of our own level of perception, we all, the viewers understand emotionally every chapter, every episode of this journey through the people and their life between the darkness and the light. Each story is standing alone and is yet sufficient by itself. Each character doesn't need a prolonged back story. We see and hear and feel the sensation and connect to the human feelings presented to us.
Mythological creatures called Mushi represent the eons old human beliefs. We as a species have always, are always and will always try to explain the world around us through something magical and inexplicable. Each and every event and experience in our lives (no matter how bright or dark it is) is perceived not through the sense, but via the heart and the soul. The imagery is so simple..., but yet it is enchanting. We as viewers do not know how, but we feel sympathy to the heroes in each story, because they live like us and have experience so similar to the real life that we simply accept through out hearts.
And here we come to the conclusion that this both naturalistic and imaginary style of representing life is an elegant symbol of humanism. We all value the flow of life which sometimes really feels surrealistic. And this thought makes us feel more comfortable living it, doesn't it?
Interstellar feels sorry
This movie is so eloquently presenting us with our current problems that we have to be blind to miss the chance to change our main goals as species...
It seems that one has to eat a lot of corn to be able to produce such a concept as Interstellar. Or am I wrong? :) This sci-fi movie is dedicated to our eternal struggle to reach and research, to conquer and obtain. It strives to reach for Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey", but somewhere near the end of its run it lands below it. At the end of its 169-minute runtime one feels relieved that he has endured this emotional and transcending journey into space-time, gravity and physics. So much information and ideas float throughout this movie that we feel incomprehensibly lacking intelligence at some moments. That is because Mr. Nolan is giving us too much information in too short time.
That being said - the film is incredible and beautiful. And even more - practically a direct message to our hearts that it is up to us to decide what to do - concentrate on saving our planet and our species or on what we do best - survive no matter what. The constellation of actors is incredible - McConaughey, Hathaway, Caine, Damon, Chastain, Affleck - we see almost the best cast which one director can assemble these years. And they play very well. The viewer can feel and succumb into their emotions - fear, despair, happiness, hope and so on. The camera perfectly follows the circular journey of our main character (conqueror) Coop'. The special effects and the music are GIGANTIC. Hans Zimmer is truly offering us the feel of depth and infinity.
The drought and famine which are the problem of the future's Earth are our problem right now too. Climatic changes are bringing us to the same problems which are presented in the movie as a certain reason of our species demise. That is why this film is so necessary at this point of our development as a modern society. That is why I liked very much the way Mr. Nolan has expressed his views in this movie.
Also, please keep in mind that there are some VERY emotional and controversial scenes of confrontation between McConaughey and Hathaway, between McConaughey and Damon. There are some peaks of emotional strain which can offer you not only very good acting lessons, but also a perfect dissection of our human nature. This is what I liked best in this movie. And also - of course the topics about family relationships and love. It is very important that we always remember and understand that we as humans need to share with each other, to help and to remember each other. The the only gravity which transcends beyond time and connects us eternally is LOVE.
The Autómata after us
The generally favorable movie "Autómata" is a very good example how with a lower budget one can make a pretty nice film about the essence and the future of the human kind...
Life's goal is not to survive and exist at any cost. It is to live for the time being and to produce a trace behind it which will be in the future. Maybe to some of its viewers this movie will seem like a combination of good ideas taken from various books and older movies, but to me it FEELS like a very good sci-fi post apocalyptic message to us. Not only because it is shot in my country, Bulgaria, but also, because the plot is weaved smartly and leads to a vast net of interconnected ideas played beautifully by a very good cast of actors.
But more important is that, as we watch the struggle of the main character Jacq Vaucan, we couldn't help, but feel empathy towards the robots which are presented rather weak and helpless. The impression is that we as a modern society do not give enough support to the weaker members of our society - be they poor or old, or crippled or even female. This is a very complex problem to me at least - the morality of our modern sophisticated 21 century life is no more different than what we can read in many books about the ways of life at earlier stages of our development as a society. What I mean is that Automata is aimed directly at our own behavior problems which are caused by the inexplicable lack of care for every living thing. Yes, many of us are trying to save and help others and the planet as a living organism, but overall we are losing the battle with our rooted egotism.
It is very important that we can see how a person can change for the better - even when under enormous pressure (family, work, health problems, etc). I completely understand that our mortal nature is a very good reason to be selfish and to strive for personal success harder than it is necessary. But it is our moral obligation to see that we cannot continue to live the way we are used to. As a species the human kind is destined to transform. And this change might not happen in a peaceful way. And it may not happen for the better. The universe is truly limitless and we can achieve immortality beyond the survival instinct. Replication is not the best process I think. More important is to innovate through work and patience. The time is our main limit, but we have to overcome the other real obstacle - our internal egotism. This is the main lesson from the beautiful movie Automata.
Yes, beautiful - because I like very much the aesthetics of the design and musical ideas behind it. Just look at the simplicity and functionality of the robots. And yet they have specific human features which make them very sympathetic. Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith and Robert Forster show us very distinctive and weary acting which is nice for such a sci-fi. The "sandy" desert landscape and the "rainy" futuristic city are perfect environment for the ambient music which we enjoy throughout the movie.
After all the words here I recommend that you enjoy this movie and contemplate after that on your own actions - are you affecting the society and the world the way you should be, or the way you want to?
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
At the edge of a concept
I personally think that "Edge of tomorrow"is a very smart, funny and entertaining movie. But that's not its main value - the script is the best thing about it...
There are already many movies about time loops. And some of them are brilliant (remember "Groundhog day"?). So Edge of tomorrow had to be good to break through its predecessors. And it does in a very fresh and innovative way. The story is originally Japanese (of course!) - from Hiroshi Sakurazaka's "All You Need Is Kill". So they had a good start even before shooting this picture. But the transition from book to finished script is also very good. The new imported details are pretty decent, considering what has been presented to us in the recent years by the film industry. It took some 2-3 years to finish this movie and boy did Tom Cruise do a good job! It is incredible how Emily Blunt is incorporated in this movie as the second main hero. Both main characters are developed very well and I would like to add that they have incredible chemistry on screen. This should also mean that the director of this movie (Doug Liman) has done this time a what he should have done with "Jumper" before, for example.
Anyway, I should move on. I think that the graphics and the creatures' design are indeed cool and interesting for us viewers. Recently the aliens concepts in movies were rather dumb I should say. So a straight A goes to the designers behind this project. Besides - the camera is swinging perfectly between scenes and the colors and lighting are matching perfectly the mood you as a viewer have to feel. So from technical point of view - the film is incredibly entertaining.
About the whole structure of this sci-fi action movie - I think that many people will see it only as a very good entertainment piece. But the reason why so many viewers will like this movie has roots in the relationship between the main two characters and the interesting concepts of time repeat, life-death situations, the meaning of war, and of course the greatest concept of them all - inevitability. This word for me represents the reason why so many people relate to this film. That is because we all feel the same way as Tom Cruise's character in this movie at many moments in our lives. We all have this feeling of not being able to escape from certain situations or certain course of events. For good or bad, we as humans tend to believe that we have only one chance, only one life, only one true choice. But the truth is that we don't need to stiffen that much about this. If we do what we feel is right, the outcome will always be OUR outcome, no matter if it is what is expected or not.
So much like the feeling of fulfillment this film piece is giving us the sense of completion at the end of the movie. This is the same with every good movie.