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Terribly flawed in any language
It is a testament to this film that it leaves enough of the voice and actions of its protagonist, that you can see another way of looking at the man, underneath this film's message. At the level of craft, this film is also quite strong with cinematography and especially, soundtrack which stand out, and could be used as an example in film class.
Ultimately however, this film fails in that it is a biopic, but one that places us almost in the shoes of its protagonist, without at all attempting to look at things through his own eyes.
As an example of this, when Andreotti walks about in the city normally even though there is security accompanying him, rather than riding in a motorcade, this is treated as if he is caged in misery, rather than Andreotti simply being used to the situation, and not paying much mind to the security, or for that matter, considering that perhaps he enjoys the power of an armed entourage.
Now here I want to be very careful, because it is perfectly possible that Andreotti did regard the security as a burden, but this very same approach is taken with every other distinctive characteristic of Andreotti's, including his own personality.
Andreotti was famously straight faced and calm in his demeanor, but famous for his clever and witty remarks. Instead of treating him as interacting with others as a "straight man" like Oliver Hardy or Bob Newhart, Andreotti is portrayed as being entirely expressionless, trapped inside a mask.
Indeed the actor playing Andreotti plays the man as being ENTIRELY expressionless, and adds to the artificial effect by hunching and walking in a spastic way. This effect is impressive in its consistency, but entirely fails to seem natural, even to the point of being the believable gait and demeanor of an injured or disabled person.
This same approach, where the emotions and priorities of a person decidedly not the protagonist are projected upon him, utterly shapes what is shown in political terms as well. Andreotti was a devoted retail politician, who loved to meet with constituents and solve their problems or provide help. The film is good enough to show us a trace of this, with Andreotti doing constituent service every weekend, but overall, the focus is on good or evil actions as an almost abstract exercise of power. Since the abstract use of power was not at all what Andreotti was focused on, or motivated by, the content doesn't connect.
Whether one knows Italian politics or not is not a key to deciphering the film; rather one needs to understand Italian politics ahead of time because what is being shown to us has very little cause and effect relationship.
Altogether, there is a great deal of talent on display, but the effort seems to be wasted. Many people saw Andreotti as a sort of enigma, and this film seems to have attempted to preserve that impression to leave a "realistic" image of Andreotti based on only superficial impersonation.
Who Killed Nancy? (2009)
Informative and engaging, if a touch amateurish
This film is structured around the question of who killed Nancy Spungen, companion to Sid Vicious. The weakness of the film is that the filmmakers have not structured the film in a rigorous way to make their case questioning the conventional wisdom on the matter.
The actual effect of this lack of strict focus, is paradoxically, a masterpiece in capturing the character and spirit of both the people involved, and of the music scene that they came from.
Punk was, and is, purposely confrontational, and many punk documentaries are effectively impaled on these clashes; stuck on the 'spikes' of punk, and never really capturing a complete image of either the people or the scene. In setting out to chronicle a death, this film has actually captured that life.
It would probably be foolish to imagine that any film can actually tell you all about punk; who has seen a documentary that actually even had all of the important bands in it? This film is not all of punk by any means, but it is one of the best documentaries to have come out of it, and that is what really matters.
If you are focused on the film from the perspective of the mystery however, this film is still a great success, at least if you would like to make up your own mind. Most films of this sort would have the filmmaker smacking away with remark after remark, all up and down the length of the film, like a cook tenderizing a piece of meat. In this case, it seems like such remarks had to be pasted onto the end of the film, but since both sides of the evidence are presented relatively naturally along the course of the film, the effect is to create overall, an unusually unbiased presentation. This documentary is rough around the edges, but it is great.
Hitler - eine Bilanz (1995)
Rather long winded......
There are two notable strengths about this documentary about Hitler, as compared to others. First, it has very good access with its interviews, talking to many people who are not commonly seen elsewhere. Secondly, it similarly has very good access to original footage.
The problem with this is that much of the original footage is in fact propaganda footage, and this series, while reversing the evil message, does not give one as much historical information as would be desirable for so long a program.
Basically these shows are making a great point of showing you that Hitler is bad. Perhaps this is very useful for less informed people in Germany, but for well informed people outside of Germany the effect is repetitive, long winded, and while true enough, propagandistic.
It is reasonable, as a historic matter, to mention Hitler's repetitive schedule for example, and it is reasonable to surmise that this reveals something about the character of the evil dictator. Nonetheless, it seems somewhat ridiculous to use horror movie *shock/reveal* music scoring when one is describing a breakfast of toast etc., no matter how often someone eats it.
This series has a paradoxical combination of drawn-out footage that would be interesting to someone out of Germany only if they are very interested in the subject, but a message and information density that is aimed at someone with little knowledge of the subject. The combination will not appeal to everyone, and many history buffs will want to explore other documentaries on the subject first.
Historical drama in the spirit of Die Hard
This is a film that aims to create action entertainment, with great historical costumes to be sure, but it is not a "serious" historical drama. Broadly speaking, the action is not less realistic than say, many of the James Bond movies, and it is not intended to be. The hero protagonist and his "ethnic" sidekick really draw on cop buddy films as much as anything else, and it is modern action/adventure films with which this movie should be compared.
There are not an enormous number of films with which this movie compares, but in general, if you wouldn't like Zorro, you wouldn't like this one.
I would argue that where this film really excels is in its use of tragedy and the mystical/magical. Neither of these elements are dominant, but the elements are well done, and they add weight and a touch of meaning to an otherwise light film, without desecrating religion or the folk traditions of Russia.
If I was a person who normally watched this sort of film, I would rate it higher, but as a matter of taste, I am simply giving it a 6, meaning that I think it is objectively, a bit better than average.
The crucial point about whether you should watch this film is really whether or not you like fairly light entertainment of this sort. This is a movie that has the costumes, but not the spirit or atmosphere of the average American or British costume drama.
A Rainha Diaba (1974)
More accurate in its setting than entertaining to watch
As mentioned by other reviewers, "A Rainha Diaba" is striking in its visual design, costumes, and sense of place. These elements are one of the film's clear strengths.
Another great strength is in the film's understanding and depiction of the underworld. A vast percentage of the world's film and television is based on crime drama, but very little is realistic in portraying the social dynamics of crime. "A Rainha Diaba" is a great exception to this, and is realistic and believable in building society.
There are two big problems with the film as well however.
In the first place, the plot of the film is basically not compelling, and fails to engage the viewer. The ending in this regard is particularly unsatisfactory, being both emotionally unsatisfying, and unrealistic.
In the second place, much of the acting is unconvincing and fails to engage the viewer. Some people may be able to overlook these flaws, but those looking for a great story or absorbing entertainment should look elsewhere.
Once Upon a Time in Norway (2007)
Doesn't capture the atmosphere of Black Metal, but informative
Once Upon A Time In Norway is one of a few films that try to address the history and meaning of Black Metal.
This film is not a masterpiece by any means. Any definitive film about Black Metal would have to address the meaning behind a movement that was substantially aesthetic in its philosophical tendencies. The "just the facts" approach taken in this film is arguably unfair to Black Metal, and unfair to the audience in that they will not necessarily understand WHY; the film arguably trivializes the whole scene.
Nevertheless, this film is very useful when viewed with better known documentaries on the same subject, like "Until the Light Takes Us (2008, which failed to give any real idea of the actual history of the Norwegian Black Metal scene.
A good film to show someone with little military knowledge
Reading reviews of this film, I noticed a lot of extreme praise, lauding this documentary as being perhaps, the "best war documentary ever made". With the praise so high, it is tempting therefore to look for the film to be the most dramatic, or visually compelling sight ever.
Looking at the film that way, it is quite possible that you will be disappointed. This is not because the film is bad, far from it, but rather, is because the film has distinct and particular strengths.
One of those strengths is paradoxically, the reasonably low casualty rate of of the protagonist unit, and reasonably low level of "blood and guts." Holding down the level of gore is very important because a lot of people watching war documentaries become too shocked and revolted to be able to draw much meaning from the film. This documentary shows enough for someone with little experience in such matters to be able to "get it" without being so shocked that the horror overwhelms everything else.
The second strength of this film is in its being in the right places at the right time to capture a good sense of events. In contrast to some reviewers, I cannot say that the photography is absolutely the best; an experienced war photographer might be able to film things better in combat, but the camera is at least, generally in the right place, and the confusion of war becomes something understandable to the audience.
The third big strength of this film is in capturing the way that morality for someone fighting a war is often experienced differently than a person who is not in that situation would expect. This is the outstanding feature of this documentary, and I am aware of no other that comes close to explaining this situation to a civilian or person unfamiliar with conflict.
The fourth strength of this documentary is in its capture of the boredom and frustrations of military service.
The upshot of all this is that "Armadillo" is a very informative film, and one that does a great deal to bridge the gap between civilians and the military. For all those guys who have been in the military, and who are frustrated by the fact that other people just don't "get it", this could be very useful.
Cleopatra's Palace (1998)
A documentary focusing on underwater archeology
During the Roman occupation of Egypt a tidal wave swept away portions of Alexandria.
Cleopatra was the last of the Ptolemy dynasty to rule an Egypt free of Roman rule, and many of the buildings in use in Egypt under Cleopatra were still in use at the time of the tidal wave. These buildings included a palace near the harbor, believed to be used by Cleopatra herself.
Underwater archaeologists are attempting to locate and map the portions of Alexandria which the tidal wave took into the sea, particularly Cleopatra's palace. This documentary tells the story of that search in the murky harbor, and uses reenactors to put the archaeological discoveries in perspective.
My rating of "5" is intended to be a neutral rating in between the top and bottom. This documentary is neither better or worse than a standard television documentary of this type, and people with a particular interest in Cleopatra, archeology, or scuba diving might find it interesting.
Chasseurs de dragons (2008)
A timeless fairy tale
Many reviews of this film seem to weigh the mass of content and the quality of the animation.
A better way to evaluate this movie is to consider the quality and purpose of the story elements and characterization, and the artistic vision and mood of the story and its environment.
What is different about the story and characterization of this movie, is not that it tells a tale that is thoroughly unique and surprising, but is rather that a classic and simple quest tale is executed in what you could call an artistically minimalist fashion.
Many animated films aimed at the family market are operating like a three-ring circus, containing a story for the children, veritably bulging with overripe characterization to distract us from the boring or poorly plotted story, and last, but certainly not least, containing a never-ending series of distractions for parents and adults who desperately do not want to be watching the film.
The mass of all this material can give such a film a cluttered appearance, and the swarm of pop-culture references stuffed in the film as jokes are doubly anachronistic, not fitting with the content of the film, and serving as a subtle irritation by constituting either yet another reference to tabloid-not news, or if the film is old enough, being simply altogether out of date.
Dragon Hunters is very different. You have to be able to appreciate a fairy tale; this film will not give you a variety show to go along with the fairy tale that you do not really want to see, but that story is beautifully and cleanly laid out.
In many cases, when evaluating an animated film; the latest Pixar release for example, we marvel, or at least listen to other people marvel, at the quality and sophistication of the animation.
What stands out about Dragon Hunters is not that film looks like it could only be made in a top-secret laboratory on the world's largest computer. This is not to say that the animation is backward either; the film is up-to-date, but what stands out about Dragon hunters is how well the tools of computer animation are used for artistic effect.
The overall look of the picture for example, is very well done, providing plenty of detail, yet lending a somewhat dreamlike quality to the movie that is very appropriate to a fairy tale. Having done a good job, the filmmakers also take their achievement in stride, and do not hobble the production with scenes that only serve to celebrate their own achievement.
Finally, I would note how this production stands out not so much in introducing a brand-new special effect, but rather in that the tools, the 'brushes' as it were, of computer animation, are wielded with verve and to artistic effect. All animated shows are affected by the fact that the characters in their world move in a particular way, which does not wholly conform to reality. In the Dragon Hunters, you feel more like you are watching a skilled marionettist, and less like you are seeing a great special effect that wasn't quite good enough.
So to sum up, Dragon Hunters is a minimalist story, and is a great one as long as you are able to accept that choice. The animation is of good quality, but more importantly, is artistically done within the level of technology in use. Like the Disney film "Snow White" Dragon Hunters is likely to retain its value after technology permits more spectacular effects, unlike say "King Kong" which can only be appreciated if much is ignored. The result, is a classic and timeless movie.
Running with Arnold (2006)
A crude hatchet job. Not worth your time, even if you hate Schwarzenegger.
My expectation of this documentary was that it would cover Arnold Schwarzenegger's run for governor, or political career in traditional "fly on the wall" style.
This was not the case, which would be perfectly all right, but for the fact that this so called 'documentary' doesn't actually appear to have any original research put into it at all. A better title would be 'A Tabloid History of Arnold" with the movie (if I can call it that) being laid out not in the order that the events took place, but rather, being shown in the order that unflattering material was brought to light in the press.
I suppose that it is possible that the revelations are revealed in true documentary style, in the order that the maker found them, but if this is the case, then this film is a history by the California Democratic Party's opposition research department. In fact, the 'documentary' is narrated and constructed like one long and painfully drawn out political ad, and the perspective laid out is so limited and blatantly political that the hyperbole is occasionally the most interesting/amusing thing about it. My favorite narrator quote: "Unlike today, back at the turn of the century (meaning the late 1890's & early 1900's), the 'Golden State' was swimming in corruption".
It isn't necessary to have even the slightest amount of sympathy for Schwarzenegger to be annoyed by this silly production. The omnipotent narrator rants and rants, and even a series of weirdly irrelevant 'talking head' quotes by comedians cannot inject life into this dull and pedantic piece.
Needless to say, the film is not really fair to Arnold, suggesting for example that the only reason that he would oppose banning nutritional supplements was that the makers of some of them advertised in bodybuilding magazines that he edits (as if you could find any bodybuilder who is opposed to nutritional supplements) but bias is by no means the most important criticism of this film.
A highly opinionated documentary can be a good thing, but this is an unoriginal and crude bit of political hackery, and nothing more. It is quite possible that the majority of criticisms in this production are factually true, if for no other reason than that it appears that the filmmakers actually discovered none of them, but any facts found in this film are so smothered in crude invective that its hard to rely on this film for either information or entertainment.