Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Pierrot le fou (1965)
I love Godard--SPOILERS
What I love about Jean-Luc Godard is that he is honest, smart, and has no humility. He has no fear of taking chances, even when it is obvious that those chances won't work out. This causes each film he to be makes exciting, visceral, and ruthlessly demanding, even when they don't come together in the end. Pierre le Fou does come together in the end-even if it goes everywhere and nowhere before it does. The film stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as Pierre, a man who is getting tired of his drab life in a snooty upper-class society. Pierre meets Marianne (Anna Karina), who is being chased by hit men from Algeria. They hit the road together and travel from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea. Throughout all of this we get to meet Sam Fuller, who discusses a movie he is working on, we see some Godardishly over-the-top parodying of gung-ho Americana, we get some chapter introductions (they all say 'next chapter', suggesting that Marianne and Pierre live in such an erratic world that all that matters is what happens next, not what has happened before), and more and more blatant acknowledgements that we are watching a movie ('Who are you talking to?' 'The audience.' 'Oh.'). I love the genre-existentialist way that Pierre (and Godard) accepts that he will have his inevitable grand death scene and learns to take advantage of his life on the way. Belmondo is good playing a grubbier version of his character in Breathless; Karina is memorable as well. However, despite the film's wonders, I can't say that I felt the punch of wild intensity that I felt watching all of the other Godard films. I could see it up on the screen, but I couldn't feel it in my bones.
Jackie Brown (1997)
Jackie Brown is Quentin Tarantino's opera. Most critics and audiences were disappointed by the film, expecting another one of QT's bloodbath exercises.
I can't understand how a clever, empty style-fest like Pulp Fiction could've been praised as a masterpiece while others are actually disappointed to see that Tarantino has decided to slow down and focus on his characters. Here we have the same play on old 70's gangster clichés as in Pulp and Reservoir Dogs. However, it is done with depth (which critics didn't notice), flow (which bored critics), and refinement (which really made critics mad). I'm sad to say that those who are expecting Pam Grier to whip out a shotgun and preach the Bible will be disappointed. Here we have a story about what happens to gangsters in their old age, when they get worn out by an intense profession. That's not all it is about; each character in the ensemble has his own story. Grier, as Jackie Brown, is scared about the future, with a lousy job as an airline stewardess and a drug charge hanging over her head; she is also getting old and fears that her 'foxy brown' image might be wearing thin. Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson) is a gun dealer who wants to retire, but is such a megalomaniac that few of his friends actually trust him; the odds of him ever being able to comfortably settle down are slim to none. He is also concerned about his partner, Louis (Robert De Niro), who just got out of the joint and seems to have lost the street-smarts (and even the regular smarts) that he had before he went away. Bridget Fonda is Melanie, Ordell's mistress of sorts, whose life has slowed down; she spends her time doing drugs, watching TV, and scheming against Ordell. Max Cherry (Robert Forster) is a by-the-book bail bondsman who is fifty-six years old and is thinking about getting into a scheme with Jackie.
The only main character without too much depth is Ray Nicolette (played by Michael Keaton, who plays the same character in Steven Soderbergh's dazzling Out of Sight); Michael Keaton plays him memorably though. Grier gives a triumphantly good performance, blending her 70's funky (albeit tacky) style and wonderful charisma with great classic melodrama. Robert Forster is just as good in a subtler and more poignant performance; what is most likable about his character is that the two main reasons he starts thinking about scheming against Ordell with Jackie is that (a.) he loves her and (b.) he wants to get his young genre-cool back. Samuel L. Jackson drops his flashiness-for-the-sake-of-flashiness from Pulp Fiction and plays a sad, lonely man in a world filled with friends who hate his guts. He wants to trick everyone into thinking that he is Jules, from Pulp, and tries to justify his life in front of others. But, in the end, he is a toothless rat, threatening others in a feeble and desperate tone of voice.
De Niro and Fonda are both funny in a relationship that turns for the worse and ends in a way that reminds us how fickle a life the crook can lead, one where relationships can shift on the whim of one's viscera. Spike Lee and others were infuriated by Tarantino's constant use of the n-word in the film, mostly by Samuel L. Jackson. This criticism misses the point of what QT is trying to do: degrade the n-word. The characters use it, and re-use, until it is drained of its terrible power. It is the kind of wonderful liberation that a nihilist like Spike Lee could never understand. Based on Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard, Jackie Brown is packed with twists and with characters discussing their next betrayal to the extent that we are never sure who is being lied to. But each twist means something to each character, which makes the film great. Tarantino is famous for his dialogue, yet his dialogue is not the kind of clever crook-talk that someone like David Mamet delivers; it is funny without the characters knowing that it is funny (the kind of funny that Elmore Leonard has always loved). Tarantino is really an old-fashioned gangster filmmaker, like Raoul Walsh, who doesn't rely on clever lines as much as casual cheer (such as the scene in Walsh's The Roaring Twenties in which James Cagney stuffs a cigar in someone's mouth). He has a love for cynical movies in a humanistic and joyful way that makes him rise above the filmmakers he loves. He cares about every character in Jackie Brown and is sad when one gets killed.
Le mystère Picasso (1956)
Henri-Georges Clouzot's The Mystery of Picasso starts by announcing that we will have the pleasure of entering the mind of Pablo Picasso, seeing how he gets his creative inspiration; the film promises us that the only way to do this is to watch Picasso's hand. Picasso paints on paper that the ink bleeds through, putting the camera on the other side of Picasso's canvas and watching the a reversed version painting appear in a seemingly magical way. It becomes clear early on that Clouzot is not wholeheartedly trying to show us how Picasso gets his inspiration; that is a mystery. Clouzot wants to capture the joy of painting. That's what makes this film so entertaining: watching bizarre, beautiful images appear out of nowhere. Sometimes Clouzot uses jump-cuts to show us the different phases of a work in progress at a rapid-fire velocity and then reverses the painting in the same jump-cut technique, deconstructing Picasso's. This is all scored to fiery jazz music. We also see Picasso while painting, as his painting is timed. (Picasso has a great screen presence). Clouzot is equally concerned with deconstructing Picasso's work to understand what makes this fast-working artist tick, showing how impossible that task is, and wowing us all the way through. As far as wowing goes, Clouzot did a pretty good job, with scenes that ranged from unforgettable to pleasantly surprising.
Amores perros (2000)
A decent movie that could've been much better
The flaws in Alejandro González Iñárritu's Amores perros underscore a major problem in cinema today: the need for complexity and grandeur-not emotional complexity (the only complexity that deserves credit), mind you, just any kind of complexity. The complexity that is most appreciated is plot complexity. A movie with a few characters about issues of every day life is considered an insignificant film by the media. A great film is big: lots of characters, important problems, dozens of interesting locations. How else can you explain why Pulp Fiction-an endlessly complex film in terms of storytelling, but an emotionally empty one-is so hugely popular? How can you explain why a film like Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is considered a more relevant commentary on the war in Iraq than Errol Morris's The Fog of War, a much more complex and thoughtful film about when to engage in war? The reason is that Fahrenheit is on such a large scale; look at the ads: 'From the corridors of power to the streets of small-town America to the front lines!'-it sounds big, it sounds important, or more important than an interview with an old ex-politician in one small room. Does this have any bearing on how provocative Fahrenheit is compared to The Fog of War? Of course not. Anyway, the reason that this affects Iñárritu is that he can't simply tell a story about the responsibility it takes to love someone. To make the film more important, he must chop up the plot structure and make it sloppily non-linear. He did the same thing with 21 Grams and it ruined what could've been a good movie. Iñárritu is a talented filmmaker, a humanist with good dramatic taste and some effective stories to tell. Why can't he trust his material? Amores perros would be closer to being great if it wasn't so afraid of being good. The time I had to take piecing together the confusingly nonlinear plot cut into my ability to appreciate the characters.
The film follows an old hit man (Emilio Echevarría) doing one last job, a young man (Gael García) who has fallen in love with his sadistic brother's wife, and a superstar (Goya Toledo) who lost her dog under the floorboards. All three stories are compelling and the major performances are all great-Emilio Echevarría and Gael García Bernal are particularly excellent-and the dreadfully melancholic score by Gustavo Santaolalla is compelling. Also, there is a car chase scene filmed with an intensity, stemming mainly from skilled sound mixing, that is not matched by any other car chase scene. I'd see the film for the raw materials, even if they were chopped up pretty badly.
Barry Lyndon (1975)
A landmark of Kubrick's career...
With the telephoto lens freezing the characters to look as if they are in portraits in so many shots, and with the trite dialogue, one might consider Barry Lyndon to be at the peak of Stanley Kubrick's frigid meticulousness, but it isn't. In fact, this film might be considered one of the landmarks of Kubrick's career, his fullest realization of his artistic style. He has been considered unemotional but it is clear in Barry Lyndon that Kubrick is emotional with the same kind of gentlemanly refinement that the main characters of this film posses. He is emotional without flaunting it. He lets his emotions leak out at certain times in the first half of the film. But, when he lets a lot of emotion leak out in the second half of the film, it freezes like ice; he doesn't know how to show emotions to a melodramatic extent which causes the second half of this film to be a tremendous bore. The first half is something special, though. Based on the novel by William Mackepeace Thackeray, Barry Lyndon follows a young Irishman named Redmond Barry in 18th century Europe as he moves up to the top of the social latter.
The first half of the film has many hand-held shots of battle; pristinely composed shots that milk the telephoto lens expertly become more prevalent within the second half of the film. I'd see the first half of the film for the trite-but-enjoyable performance by Ryan O'Neal and Barry's delightful encounters with galleries of interesting and sometimes touching characters. The only reason not to check out at the 'Intermission' is the skilled performance by Murray Melvin and innovative cinematography by John Alcott, filmed with a lens made by NASA that allowed Kubrick to use natural light with interior shots.
"Taylor Hackford...has never been a storyteller..."
Taylor Hackford, director of The Devil's Advocate, has never been a storyteller. The scripts he directs are slapped together out of dusty formulas in which a two-year-old could predict what happens in the end. Yet they are always directed with such flabbergasting and elegant grandeur that they seem fresh and alive to the most skeptical movie audiences. Don't get me wrong, Ray, a new movie about singer/musician Ray Charles, is decently written by James L. White, who gives the a few somewhat new elements and portrays Charles with admirable depth and accuracy (without trying to make us forget about the illegal drugs and the marital infidelities), but the story is basically your typical 'rags to riches'/'rise and fall' tale. However, it's a firecracker. The scenes onstage are intense; the scenes offstage are powerful. Hackford cleverly refuses to foreshadow Ray's fall; he has had his rise and we know that the fall will come soon but we simply must sit uncomfortably in our seats, watching Ray walk into his next luxurious mansion (Hackford has a love of majestic sets), terrified that it will all go wrong soon. We see Hackford acknowledging the formulaic plot like he did in The Devil's Advocate, only here it is done with a great director's cunning. I'm sure, by now, you're wondering who plays Ray (if you've been living under a rock). It is Jamie Foxx and he is superb, playing the role with charm and tactful ambiguity. He knows when his character should add some depth and when he should knock us off our feat. We love his smile and his fitfully waving arms, but we feel that there is something empty inside. And Hackford and Foxx work together in the end, to show us where this emptiness comes from and to ask whether or not it really is emptiness. I'd see the movie just for the scenes on stage that are so kinetic that those who are unfamiliar with Charles' music start to love it within (literally) seconds. Of course, some of the credit must go to Mr. Charles himself.
I first saw Suspiria after someone told me that it was some kind of freaky, livewire must-see camp horror flick. When I saw it, I new that it was much more than that, though I didn't know what. I admired Dario Argento's way of constantly keeping the suspense building without allowing any kind of gory release of the tension-keeping the bomb under the table without letting it go off, as Hitchcock put it in is demonstration of the difference between surprise and suspense. After watching the film a second time, I realized that it doesn't merely keep us on the-it, literally, emotionally tortures us. Argento grabs our hearts with his clawed hand and tightens it, little by little. Of course, his visual style, with cinematography by the experienced Luciano Tovoli, is extraordinary because of its magical, music video richness in color and texture; the music, which was composed by Dargento along with a band called The Goblins, is haunting in its pulsating repetition and the monstrous voices singing along. This style is not window dressing; it makes the movie. The pace is purposely sluggish with so little being revealed until the end. Even the final revelation isn't that satisfying. But Argento doesn't want to satisfy us; he wants to terrorize us. This film is not the conventional, delightfully scary horror film; its designed to make you feel frightened, violated, and depressed. It succeeds flawlessly but do you really want to be terrorized, tortured, frightened, violated, unhappy?
Éloge de l'amour (2001)
One of Godard's most complex films...
Jean-Luc Godard is back in his most complex films, In Praise of Love, an exuberant satire of the media's affect on the cold real world. The film's sharp insights come from its self-containment, constantly posing questions as to the methods behind its filmic madness. Godard is one of the most intimidating modern filmmakers; I will have to watch this film again (and again (and again (and again))) before I can have a rich interpretation of it. But, to give you an idea of the first impression I got from the film, it brilliantly questions the mainstream media's attempt to give the cold world we live in a more romanticized appeal. The film starts in black-and-white as we learn about the hardships faced by members of the French resistance during World War 2; this part of the story is told in a dark, dreary way, giving us the real world, stripped of hope or joy. Later on we see some of the first color images in the film: we see a vibrant ocean but the sand is blue and the water is orange (it is a beautiful image
but it is not true to reality). This introduces us to the second part of the film-two years earlier than the first part-in which the characters who will later be in the resistance try to sell a story about their past to some Hollywood producers who will turn it into a glossy potboiler directed by Spielberg. Godard has been criticized for using Spielberg as a target but I would say that he is hardly meant to be a target. Spielberg-at the least in the 70s and 80s-made a dozen film that make the world we live in a more beautiful and innocent place; Godard is honestly trying to figure out whether Spielberg's way of looking at the world is the right way. In the end, however, he disagrees with Spielberg: You can make the world look more magical than it is but, sooner or later, the black-and-white world of sadness will come crashing down-often right after the happy ending. Footnote: As for the complaints about the films anti-Americanism
well, yes, the dialogue in which it is proved that our country has no real name (there are two other united states in America) is a bit silly, but it is simply in some (as far as I can tell) insignificant dialogue between two characters. It isn't as if Godard went out of his way to prove that our country has no name.
Monterey Pop (1968)
Without rubbing our face in visual gimmicks like split-screens, Monterey Pop captures the sweaty, bodacious force of a live rock concert-the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Director D.A. Pennebaker does not try too hard to increase the performances' liveliness; why would you try to increase the liveliness of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Mammas and the Poppas, and Simon and Garfunkel? Instead, he films them with a wonderfully gritty photographic style, zooms in to so we can see their perspiring faces, and then lets them do the rest. As for 'defining a generation', the film doesn't do so in the kind of exhaustiveness of Michaek Wadleigh's Woodstock but it does give us a feeling of the life of a sixties radical. If there is one problem with the film, it is Pennebaker's idiotic choice of showing us the confusion as to how the massive audience will be able to be fed. This behind-the-scenes moment shows Pennebaker trying to do what Woodstock did. He shouldn't. He shouldn't let the music stop at all; what is so marvelous about this film is not its ability to capture the feel of a generation through interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, but, rather, through the looks in peoples eyes when the music starts.
The Color Purple (1985)
Steven Spielberg is, ironically, the most unfairly underrated man in Hollywood. There are so many directors that are content to make blatantly unoriginal works but Spielberg is the most original and ethical crowd-pleaser in America. And yet he is considered one of the men who ruined cinema. People complain that his Jaws was so successful that it encouraged producers to make hackwork movies that will undoubtedly make millions (bringing Hollywood cinema to where it is today). First of all, George Lucas's Star Wars is more responsible for this. Secondly, who are we to blame Spielberg for the deeds of the producers/filmmakers who were (superficially) influenced by him? What annoys me even more than this is that so few people realize that his films keep getting better as his career goes on (with the exception of Schindler's List, Amistad, the Jurassic Park movies, and Saving Private Ryan). Jaws is probably his least impressive extremely impressive film he has made. The Color Purple, for example, which was made in the 80s, is one of his best films to date. It is so dripping with complexity and detail; it differs from Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan in the sense that, when you watch it, you don't think, 'Oh this is a movie about the life of an African American family in the early twentieth century.' 'Themes' and 'topics' fade away and the film just becomes
life. It is about people, not historical figures. Danny Glover plays Albert, a nasty man who marries Celie (Whoopi Goldberg). He is furiously disappointed with the fact that he did not get to marry Netti (Akosua Busia), Celie's sister. As a result, he beats Celie and, as a result of that, Celie becomes painfully quiet and unable to smile without putting her hand in front of her mouth. The relationship between Celie and Albert is hard-hitting, melancholic, and funny. Neither character is treated cartoonishly and both actors play their characters with fairness and delicacy. This is not a work of easy melodrama. It makes you think about subjects such as femininity, the black population's quest for independence at the beginning of the new century, and the eruption of violence in a relationship without ever cheating or faltering a single step.