Reviews written by registered user
|121 reviews in total|
You rarely expect an actor, no matter how great, to simply ease into
the director's chair, especially not in her debut. The thing that
struck me the most is how daring she is in regard to composition and
style. This does not feel Japanese! In fact it moves almost like an
early piece from the French New Wave.
The strict composition of formality and form is nowhere to be seen. Instead of calculated and rigid Tanaka places the camera slightly to the side or slightly higher than Mizoguchi, Kinoshita (who wrote the scrips), Ozu, Naruse, Ichikawa and any of the other masters of cinema in 1950s Japan. The camera moves, a lot, especially on the streets, giving you the feeling of true cinema verité - thought is also clear that this is not an experiment, nor consistently forced, only used when it's natural for the story.
Breaking with the traditions of Japanese cinema does however fit perfectly with the movie itself, where it's characters also break away from the traditions, morals and standards of old. We follow Masayuki Mori, a broken returned soldier barely scraping by while supported by his younger brother. He has a longing. Upon meeting an old friend he gets into a business he had not thought likely - writing "love letters" to American GIs from their mistresses, often several GIs per woman (many of whom are also prostitutes).
One day the woman he has been longing for and searching for comes in for the exact same purpose. Though described as a melodrama, and yes the label may to an extent fit, Tanaka takes the harsh issues straight on and elevates it with her almost unbelievable prowess. What a natural!
Without a single death, and no genuine reason to expect harm to be
committed this became agonizing from the moment we enter the house. I
was genuinely feeling anxious, my heart beating in a way I have never
The way this sense of genuine dread, which is a way became claustrophobic, making me want to just look away, talk a walk, breath, was created in such an unbelievably easy, but thereby also genius way. You simply had to nudge the acting slightly off cue, stylizing it in such a way that it narrows the uncanny valley in the opposite direction.
Added visual cues, the music, and our focus point Will's slightly unbalanced state helps building upon this - but the fact that the world we are experiencing is just slightly off key, was all it took.
Gradually all of these factors become more and more exaggerated, but is a very slow pace, slow enough that you accept the world, believe it, and get a certain footing in it - which only makes the experience more unnerving. It feels like there is a ticking timer. that something will happen, that nothing is like it should be.
The only negative here is that despite all of these artistic successes, certain aspects make it feel like a directorial debut, something it is far from being, and I feel that both the very beginning and the end were lacking just a little in skill and thought.
The Innvitation is without a doubt an incredible work, but I feel that it would have been a true personal favorite with only a few slight changes.
The flow of films showing the hard lives of women, and the position
they are put in, were at their height in 1950s Japan, and this is
without a doubt a standout. Hideko Takamine and character actor Eijirô
Tôno are stunning as the kept and the keeper. She, accepting the role
of mistress, he, the hated moneylender, barely keeping the illusions
which made her accept.
Toyoda's direction is strong, and almost fearless. At times he goes even darker and deeper than most peers, leaving us to study "Otama", and see her self respect slowly fade away. The films only flaw is it's occasional lack of subtlety where it feels like the characters just "had to" voice what we should (and usually already are) feeling - but these occasions are luckily rare. I might also have enjoyed it even more without the introduction of a slight sense of hope, but it's harshness and melancholy is still very much there, in almost every moment.
In fact there is at most time a sense of crassness, especially when Tôno is on the screen. Each gesture, each act, each line. You can genuinely feel why he is despised by the people around him, and this without him ever being overtly cruel, something he brilliantly would be the first to point out.
Toyoda had a brilliant eye for detail, and managed to do things they sometimes even had a hard time doing, such as letting every single character, no matter how small, shine in their own way, and be truly worth remembering. Even more incredibly, no one steals the spotlight away from Otame. Each event, each character, they all reflect upon her story, and often adds a further layer to her prison.
Essentially every cut changed both time and context, while the
emotional plateau was built upon, and continued. Instead of telling
it's story in a straight forward, narrative fashion, it gives us
moments, which together creates an overarching emotional context, both
of the characters in question, and their relationships, but also to the
main motif. It feels as if Malick took the emotional storytelling of
Tree of Life, and purified it further, perfecting his new voice.
I do understand that this will be a film loathed by many, scoffed at by some, and frequently dismissed as a work of pretension. Malick's recent work has faced this charges, and this is certainly the film of his, so far, that has parted the furthest from the narrative so many need. Still, the last two Malicks are extremely close relatives, and love for these should make you see this masterpiece immediately.
It might hold less content for a personified bond than Tree of Life, but the film still has an incredible focus on relationship, connections and lack thereof. Presented in the form of chapters, usually pinning our lead up with one person, one bond, one relationship, some more pivotal than others. We are given incredible insight into the emotions at hand, and this is because our unique point of entry.
As the images flow, and context change, dialog will run over them. The scenes we are shown will rarely be the scenes were characters are actually talking. Such moments are rare, and when they occur they frequently become inaudible, and we see faces, tears, grimaces. This is a true example of when the traditional narrative is shown to not be superior, and that in fact, more can be told, more can be expressed, when you look away from it. Malick found such a path. It is raw, breathtaking and simply beautiful.
The film follows two orphans, a sister and her younger brother,
separated when the youngest is stolen for his magical ability to feel
gold, something which at the same time tortures the young boy. The
sister runs, looks, even sees him at a distance, but her struggles only
continues. Luckily she gets aide from a philosopher and healer, who in
many ways serves as the film's main comic relief, but his journey is
not a happy one either.
From the very beginning, as the camera closed in on the town, as the music played, as the colors exploded, I knew I would love this film. Almost every frame was perfect, and they drew up the magical world we are visiting in the most perfect way imaginable. This is a beautifully dark and twisted fairytale, in the way only Eastern Europeans can make them. It created it's own world with an amazing eye for details, and managed to be absurd and funny, at the same time as it told a very, very bleak story. It could be described as an odyssey, a tragic chase, a voyage into strange lands, and visions we will see.
And beyond it all, there is color. Nearly every image seems perfectly crafted. The full glory of soviet cinematography. It was so masterly directed and shot I bookmarked all films directed by Aleksandr Mitta, and even looked into other films by the cinematographer, Valeri Shuvalov. Two names I had never heard of before. This was a truly amazing discovery, and I can't wait to search out more.
Jauja is a poetical, mesmerizing and refreshingly quiet film. The
camera is content not to move unless necessary. Occasionally it follows
a character, but more often than people are allowed to walk out of
frame. The sound-picture is primarily bird twitter in a distance. To my
joy, we could observe the rider approaching, and it was not so
impatient to cut to the arrival.
This can of course only work if the visuals are strong enough to allow your eyes to rest on the details. It was easy be consumed by the moving images at hand, to stare, to slow down yourself and appreciate the beauty - while at the same time a suspense is created. This is a skill only certain masters, such as Tarkovsky and Melville, have mastered, and Lisandro Alonso and his cinematographer Timo Salminen (known for his work with Kaurismaki) managed to bring the same, rare eye. I was astonished.
Interestingly, though possibly a character flaw of my own, my mind could stop placing the film in the context of the Brazilian New Wave. The way the characters moved within the frame, and the atmosphere captured would have fit just as perfectly 45 years ago. The occasional moments of absurd but subdued humor would also have fit. This is in no way criticism or calling the piece unoriginal, but rather making the claim that Jauja is timeless.
Viggo Mortenson is at the center of the piece, he too subdued - but with powerful eyes. My mind drifting as it does I could not help to imagine Klaus Kinski, though Mortenson brings a far more mellow feeling. In his own way he drives the film, perhaps even to the same degree as the frame. His eyes and very being might haunt you. I still conjure up his posture in my mind even as I am writing this.
Co-written by poet Fabian Casas there are clearly more ambition in the events themselves, which I will not thoroughly discuss. The calmness, even under terror, makes it ripe for contemplation - and I believe last 20-30 minutes and particularly the ending itself will leave you with a lot to think about.
A radio reporter out to push the boundaries of his profession gets in
serious trouble when he attempts to stage a fake art heist. He wants to
capture the police's arrest on air - the one thing he had not planned
for was that a real burglary would take place - and such this
surprisingly polished and energetic thriller comedy begins to form.
What surprised me most were the apparent influences, and just how exciting this film would turn out to be. Particularly the early portions of the film seemed filled with the energy and charm that defined Ealing comedies at the exact same point of time in Britain, while also incorporating film noir aesthetics. But more so, they incorporated a great sense of suspense.
There is never a dull moment, and no sequence is without either comedy or suspense - typically both. And this is what surprised me the most: Just how well it managed to keep the suspense going. Two major chase sequences are particularly noteworthy - and how the suspense and humor fit together so seamlessly is nothing short of applause worthy.
No, the formula is not something new, and it is clearly made for mainstream appeal - but when it works as well as here this is hardly a negative critique. The film delivers a friendly, exciting, well-shot and just altogether ace package. The conclusion itself could have been handled slightly better - but I'm never the less sold. 8.5/10.
You never know what you are going to get when you turn on a Okamoto
movie, it can be nihilistic terror, slapstick comedy, straight up
action or even surrealistic yakuza breaking into song. It was therefor
not surprising that At This Late Date, the Charleston was all over the
map, in the best sense possible. Cops, assassins, a missing
multi-millionaire, a shady family, a group of eccentric elderly people
who have founded their own micro-country in the missing
multi-millionaires house, and an attempted rapist in the middle.
It's certainly a comedy, and a ridiculously convoluted one at that - but again, truly, in the best way possible. Going in I simply had no idea what I was expecting. I knew it set itself apart from all of Okamoto's films by having a large elderly ensemble, and that was a very interesting hook. Imagine my surprise then when we open up with a juvenile delinquent assaulting a young couple, and then attempting to rape the girl, featuring a comical chase played for as many laughs as possible: showing just how far removed Japan is culturally from the west.
At This Late Date, the Charleston does manage the incredible feat of gradually making the turn from unsettling to potentially being a charming feel good movie - which is certainly new for Okamoto. I don't want to say how the story pans out, but the focus is rightfully where I expected it to be - at the eccentrics and their lifestyle - a political statement against the violence of WW2.
But why is it working as well as it does? It is largely because it manages to balance the farce to the fullest, almost approaching Oh, Bomb in it's ridiculousness at points, but at the same time creating interesting characters and group dynamics portrayed humanely enough to get attached and care beyond the comedy. Every piece plays it's part, and the story actually manages to come together wonderfully well.
In this explosive, slow burning film Watkins infuriated both sides of
the political spectrum in Denmark - which is to the film's honor!
Evening Land is careful and disturbingly realistic near future sci-fi
that continues Watkins documentary inspired filmmaking. The film is an
incredible study in just how carefully it crafts it's world, and it's
done to such perfection that many people easily could be fooled by it's
The focus of the film is a large scale strike carried out by danish workers who refuse to construct submarines (and ships) that will (likely) carry nuclear weapons and a conference that might determine the future presence of nuclear weapons in Europe. At the same time "non-violent" terrorists strike, leading to full scale orchestrated panic, bad journalism, resurgence of the right and a continuing downward spiral into a bleaker and bleaker reality.
It's only true downside is that it can be a bit long-winded, particularly the early portions of the film were we mostly focus on the worker conflict, and we still seem to be in normative Scandinavia (I even had to check if this was in fact a documentary). Put the fact that the path to dystopia is painted by reality (or something dangerously close) only increases the value of the work.
The rhetoric used by the increasingly oppressive government is exactly the same you'd not only expect to hear today, but likely have heard many times before. You can also understand the rational of all sides, you can understand why the government and the factories want this, you can see why most people wouldn't even think this was a particularly big problem, and you can see how each event influence the next. 8/10.
There is something very special about the careful and intricate way
Stolen Death is made. With a visual flair, strongly reminiscent of film
noir and German expressionism, the film creates a bleak and cold world
- but not one without hope.
It's staunch and calculated rhythmic journey also has a flare of romanticism, that peaks through it's harsh exterior. This makes it harder to put in a box, as a movie of this kind could easily be a brilliant exercise of style, it feels far too human to simply fit this label - despite the minimalistic atmosphere at hand.
This is a slow burner, that gradually let's you into it's time and world, and requires your concentration. Set while Finland was still a part of the Russian Empire, we follow revolutionaries through some fiercely banal groundwork, from their publication, to the attempts to gain guns - all with the police, authority and other betraying dangers lurking in the shadows.
And the shadows truly come out in this movie, they almost become their own character in the early portions of the film, rendering most noirs to shame, and interestingly utilizes many techniques we'll later find among the later American wave - at the same time as there are clear Russian influences. At the same time it's atmosphere and progression feels more true to the contemporary Japanese filmmaking of the time - though this is likely a coincident.
While watching it my most frequent thought, not relating directly to the plot, was the extraordinarily surprising talent of Nyrki Tapiovaara. He utilizes a wide variety of shots, and techniques, that all deliver the emotion and atmosphere intended - and he makes it all come together seamlessly. This is a level of film-making equal to that of Lang and Ozu in this era. I will need to investigate more of his filmography. I believe we have an internationally forgotten master here! 8.5/10
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