Reviews

23 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Jude Law plays the first American Pope in Paolo Sorrentino's "The Young Pope."
11 October 2016
Viewed by Larry Gleeson. Writer/director Paolo Sorrentino unleashed a pilot of the first two episodes of a new, fictional, ten-part series titled, "The Young Pope," at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival.

Jude Law plays the central character, Lenny Belardo, aka Pius XIII, the first American Pope in history. Young and charming, his election seems to be the result of a simple yet effective media strategy on the part of the College of Cardinals. But appearances can be deceptive. Above all, in the place and among the people who have chosen the great mystery of God as the compass guiding their existence. That place is the Vatican and those people are the leaders of the Church. And Pius XIII proves to be the most mysterious and contradictory of them all. Shrewd and naïve, ironical and pedantic, primeval and cutting-edge, doubting and resolute, melancholy and ruthless, Pius XIII tries to cross the endless river of human solitude to find a God he can give to mankind. And to himself.

Sorrentino is bound to shock the sensibilities of some of his Catholic viewers with the imagery in the opening sequence. He opens with a baby in a dimly lit St. Peter's Square crawling over a sea of other babies until we see a man emerge from beneath the pile. A cut is made to Lenny awakening from a sleep and donning the attire of a Catholic Pope. As Lenny leaves his dressing area Sorrentino makes effective use of slow motion as he shows Lenny gracing the Vatican personnel with his presence. He glides across screen from left to right with non-diagetic music to the admiration and respect of the on-lookers until sitting upon his papal chair. He embodies a pious pose while envisioning a lovely topless blonde sitting in a green pasture as he presumably, as a young boy, looks on. He comes to and makes his way to the Papal Balcony where a deafening roar is heard from a rain-soaked crowd waiting to hear his Holiness. The rain stops, the clouds clear and the sun shines forth and again the crowd roars. Lenny as Pius XIII begins a most dynamic and appropriate speech on how he serves God and how he serves the audience before switching it up telling the audience to indulge in forbidden pleasures and desires including masturbation, gay marriage and a free and liberated lifestyle. At this point, his Secretary of State tells Pius he is not the Pope, that the Secretary of State is Pope and that Pius XIII is excommunicated. A cut is made to Lenny awakening from a sleep. From here Sorrentino takes the viewer on a wild ride as he delves into the psychological state of the young pope through moments of Belardo's introspection and through his interactions with his subordinates.

Cinematographer Luca Bigazzi creates a plethora of luscious visuals throughout the seamless shown. Laura Rosenthal and Annamaria Sambucco have complied a stellar cast. The cast does look the parts with thanks to the work of Carlo Poggioli and Luca Canfora. The musical score by Lele Marchitelli keeps pace with the action. The production design is exquisite and is handled by Ludovica Ferrario. The editing is seamless. Cristiano Travaglioli is credited with editing.

All in all, the Young Pope proved to be highly entertaining. Law brings style and swagger to the role of Lenny. Silvio Orlando brings to life the machinations and cajoling of Secretary of State, Cardinal Voiello and Cecele De France adds nicely to the film's rich cinematography in close ups as the Vatican Marketer Sofia Dubois. Last and certainly not least, Diane Keaton solidly depicts Sister Mary adding a much needed grounding presence as Sorrentino is not pulling any punches with his attempts for humor. Nevertheless, it is a delightful production with interesting dialogue and a dark, ominous and foreboding first Papal Speech.

My recommendation is don't miss a chance to see 'The Young Pope.' Go for it! God willing...

The Young Pope is a joint Sky, HBO, CANAL+ production and will be broadcast on Sky Atlantic in 5 countries: in Italy from October 21st, in UK, Germany, Ireland and Austria from late October, and in France on CANAL+ from late October.
67 out of 90 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Gigola (2010)
7/10
Gigola, a woman coming into her own in the Parisian nightlife of the 1960's..
11 October 2016
Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Gigola, directed by Laure Charpentier is a French film with subtitles set in the early 1960's Paris containing themes of adult sexuality and gender issues. The film made it's debut at the Cannes Film Festival. From there Gigola was shown at the Hamburg Film Festival in Germany and finished out the year at the Paris Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, in Paris, France. The mise-en-scene is in Gigola is remarkable. The costumes, make-up, and lighting are spectacular conveying images reminiscent of "That's Entertainment (1974), and "Moulon Rouge" (2001).

The film opens with a teenage school girl named George, played by Lou Dillon, as a young and slender coming of age debutante, and her teacher, an attractive mid 30ish woman. Playful background music provides energy for a highly sexually charged sensual transaction between George and her teacher.

Charpentier jumps ahead to 1963 Paris nightlife scene. George's boy friend has committed suicide. George has decided to withdraw from school and announces to the night-time partiers that she has flunked out of medical school seemingly intentionally.

Next time we see George she is in a Parisian bistro and we are introduced to a Carol Channing like character. George has reinvented herself.

A comment is made to George, "You look like a gigolo." George coolly replies, "Gigola." We now see George as Gigola, the name she has given her new self. A well-to-do matron comes to the bistro and Gigola is into action. Dressed in a black tuxedo, Gigola escorts the matron onto the dance floor for a spin. Soon the pair leave the bistro together and head to the matron's estate. With grace, elegance and a touch of class Gigola seduces the matron in an erotic bedroom scene with a snake-headed cane and white gloves.

Gigola, if nothing else, knows what she wants and she goes after it. She threatens to leave her new found matron unless she receives more money. The matron has already given Gigola a signet ring and a red MG convertible. The matron capitulates handing over to Gigola a large cache of currency. We now witness Gigola expanding her "business" with new girls working under her discretion.

Meanwhile, Gigola's father, an opium addict, is squandering away the family's estate as he cogently leads the life of a Parisian gentlemen. Eventually Gigola confronts her father brandishing a loaded revolver after repeatedly warning her father to stay away and, in turn, pleading with her mother to cut him off.

After an attempted suicide, Gigola finds herself under the care of a psychiatrist who bears a striking resemblance to her former teacher. She suggests having a baby to Gigola. Gigola is less than optimistic but the psychiatrist is able to connect with Gigola. Never one to miss an opportunity, Gigola deftly makes clear her intentions to the attractive psychiatrist. When the psychiatrist makes a "house call" Charpentier uses a wrestling take down move to portray the mixed emotions the psychiatrist has - she is attracted to Gigola but she is married and lives according to her principles as a married woman - a defining characteristic of the times. The psychiatrist cares about Gigola and they have dinner together where she tells Gigola that Gigola needs to let go.

Again without missing a beat Gigola moves deeper into the nightclub scene in Paris meeting a Mr. Tony Pasquale, a Sicilian. The two gain a mutual respect for each other and Tony ends up impregnating Gigola. Gigola has the baby and it seems as though Gigola has accepted normalcy and is conforming to societal norms. Gigola has left and George has come back.

However, before a sigh of relief can be expressed, in tromps the cast from the bistro. A raucous scene ensues in the hospital room with Gigola consenting to have her locks cut - a symbol of Gigola's re-emergence.

The film closes with Gigola adhering to her somewhat circular, misguided idealism. She has turned over the care of her child to her mother and she is shown in tuxedo walking down a Parisian cobblestone alley way with her back back to the camera just before sunrise.

Amazing film for the right audience.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Arrival (II) (2016)
9/10
Arrival is a science fiction thriller dealing with human survival on the brink.
10 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Viewed by Larry Gleeson during the Venice Film Festival.

Canadian Director Denis Villenueve's (Sicario, Prisoners, Incendies) new science fiction drama, Arrival, is based on Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life." Alien ships have landed across the globe without explanation communicating only a Sanskrit word for war.

The film opens in a reflective voice-over coupled with powerful sound effects and strong camera work to create a feeling of pandemonium. Supersonic jets blaze across the screen as 12 unidentified flying objects descend from the sky and land across the globe. The aliens attempt to communicate with written words and phrases in a never seen before language. Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist played by Amy Adams (Man of Steel, American Hustle, The Fighter), is charged with communicating with the alien intelligence. Artist Martine Bertrand designed the aliens written language. The Sanskrit word for war is delivered to Louise at her university teaching office for translation. At first she balks. However, the opportunity to put to use all she has learned in a lifetime of study and academia and the mourning she's gone through over the loss of her daughter provides her the impetus to join the effort.

Initially, Dr. Banks appears anxious. However, she quickly is brought up to speed by the US military. Captain Marks, played by Mark O'Brien, informs the team on what is known about the alien landings. One of the first translations the group deciphers is "language is weapon." Soon however, the process is stalled. Intelligence about the alien space ship reveals that their doors open every 18 hours granting an opportunity to board the craft. After dialogue and heated conversation, Dr. Banks is granted clearance to board the craft with the team. With the team in position to board the craft, Villenueve amps up the sound effects and music including some very heaving breathing from Dr. Banks as the team waits, attired in Cybex hazmat suits, for the alien ship to position itself to allow boarding. With the ship's entry encapsulated in smoke combined with some abstract visuals and the surreal effect of slow motion the team boards the alien vessel.

In the end, Dr. Banks proves she's up for the task and begins the communication process with the aliens but not without difficulty. An interesting reference is made to the Sapir-Whorf theory that once a person starts to learn a language the person will start to dream and think in it. However, when the aliens begin writing a thought one hand begins the thought while the other hand ends it simultaneously. Louise's mind has difficulty comprehending this and she begins to experience highly vivid, visual flashbacks of her daughter. She begins to wonder why. Once the team members managed to board the ship and attempted to understand and communicate with the aliens they were enlightened with insight into their own human nature. In the end this appears to help Louise move on with her life finding closure to the cancer that took her daughter's life.

Seemingly, a large part of the film's aesthetics is augmented and carried out by sounds. Dave Whitehead created the whirrs and clicks of the alien language while Supervising Sound Editor Sylvain Bellemare created the sounds the ships made when moving. Composer Johann Johannsson created the film's musical score.

Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Legacy, American Hustle) plays Ian Donnelly, a physicist who attempts to solve the alien communication through mathematics. And is the sidekick to Adams Louise. Donnelly comes across as highly intelligent, energetic scientist who adds warmth and light to the team's dynamic. Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, Lee Daniels' The Butler) plays Colonel Weber, Military Intelligence, who's responsible for coordinating the communication process. Weber needs Louise and Ian to succeed and it's his job to see that they do. Weber pushes the two to do more and to get more from the aliens. Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire, Men in Black III) plays CIA Agent Halpern who's responsible for reporting to the government the team's actions.

Arrival is a well-constructed film with a stellar cast and talented crew. Notably, Amy Adams is superb as Dr. Louise Banks. The costuming provided by Costume Designer Renee April and the production design provided by Patrice Vermette were excellent as were Carlos Huante's alien visual effects. In addition, the sound design and musical score brilliantly augmented and sophisticatedly created the atmospheric for the film's mis-en-scene. Executive producer and screenwriter Eric Heisserer adapted the short story to screenplay. 21 Laps and Film Nation received production company credits along with producers Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen, Dan Levine, and Aaron Ryder. Bradford Young served as Cinematographer capturing delicate moments with sensuality along with the massive "rainy day" science fiction scenes.

Arrival is one of the year's most important films about life and death and the reality between the two. It also speaks volumes on humility within the parameters high stakes, foreign communication . Highly recommended.
9 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
A fun, action-filled, end-of-summer blockbuster. Technically a remake of a remake!
7 October 2016
Viewed by Larry Gleeson during the Venice Film Festival.

Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer) presented his latest work, The Magnificent Seven, as the Closing Night Film for the 73rd Venice International Film Festival.

In 1960, Director John Sturges made the original Magnificent Seven, starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, as an American Western. Sturges based his work on legendary Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa's classic Seven Samurai. So in addition to being an end-of-summer blockbuster, Fuqua's Magnificent Seven is a remake of a remake. Like Seven Samurai a good portion of Fuqua's work takes place indoors and is evidenced by low-key lighting, heavy shadows and blackness.

This was Fuqua's first attempt at a western although he claims to having had an affinity for them having watched many during his formative years. So when Metro Goldwyn Mayer approached him about making a western, Fuqua jumped at the opportunity. However, he wanted to make this his film with a theme to resonate with today's audience. He didn't have to look far to find a strong actor to lead up his core group of seven. Fuqua proposed Denzel Washington for the film's lead, bounty hunter Chisolm, having worked with Washington on Training Day and The Equalizer. Washington won an Oscar for Best Actor for his Training Day role and his on-screen partner, Ethan Hawke, received a Best Actor in a Supporting Role nomination. Like Fuqua Washington had never done a western and looking back at the success the two have had together quickly came on board. Chris Pratt was identified to play gambler Josh Faraday, Chisolm's sidekick and first to join the seven. Pratt, too, leaped at the opportunity to play a cowboy.

Soon Fuqua had an idea for his version of The Magnificent Seven as he and Washington performed research into the Old West. They discovered a wide-range of nationalities including Russians, Mexicans, and Irish. Fuqua wanted his seven to reflect this so he collaborated with screenwriters Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk to create an authentic cast of characters utilizing a diverse group of young actors in addition to Washington and Pratt: Ethan Hawke plays Goodnight Robicheaux; Vincent D'Onofrio plays Jack Horne, Native-American Martin Sensmeier plays Red Harvest; Mexican-American actor Manuel Garcia-Rulfo plays Vasquez; and South Korean headliner Byung-hun Lee plays Billy Rocks.

The film is set in the town of Rose Creek where a ruthless industrialist, Batholomew Bogue, played convincingly by Peter Saarsgaard, is attempting to roust the entire town with threats, murder and mayhem for his own personal gain. The desperate town folk are at wits end when a woman, Emma Cullen, played by a tough Haley Bennett, reaches out and convinces the seven hired guns to protect and defend them from Bogue's army of mercenaries. The men come together and find within themselves not only the will to fight and win but also the moral fortitude to do something because it is right.

Interestingly, like Kurasawa, Fuqua employs a number of camera techniques to highlight his film's narrative. Many of his Hollywood closeups are shot just below the chin emphasizing the actors' strong jawlines. Mauro Fiore is credited as the Cinematographer. In addition, impressive, expansive panning landscape shots are used to introduce the film with a non-diagetic score started by the iconic film score composer James Horner. Horner had over 75 projects to his name, along with two Academy Awards, and worked with Hollywood heavyweights like James Cameron, Oliver Stone, George Lucas, Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg. Horner did not live to see the completed product before his untimely death in June of 2015. However, he did manage to complete seven themes based on the film's script and his conversations with Fuqua. Composer Simon Franglen finished the film's impressive score in a manner and style of James Horner as a tribute to Horner.

Throughout The Magnificent Seven Antoine Fuqua attempts to comment on today's society and what he sees as overt acts of tyranny as he keeps with the Kurosawa thematic element of programming a film with societal mirrors and a political undercurrent,. And while Kurosawa used the unemployed samurai to form his seven, Fuqua finds a group of fringe characters with diverse backgrounds and nationalities. Still, both film's characters do what is right and help those in need in spite of their own self-interest. My hat goes off to Director Fuqua for a valiant and noble effort. The Magnificent Seven is a fun film, well done with plenty of action and color, and is made in a similar vein as a world cinema masterpiece. Highly recommended.
3 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Acclaimed director Terrence Malick brings to light consciousness and what it means to be a human being in the present moment.
6 October 2016
Viewed by Larry Gleeson during the 73rd Venice International Film Festival at the Sala Darsena Theater.

Acclaimed director Terrence Malick (Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line, Badlands) is bringing to light consciousness of the universe and what it means to be a human being in the present moment in his latest production, Voyage of Time: Life's Journey, produced by Dede Gardner, Nicolas Gonda, Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Sophokles Tasioulis, Brad Pitt and Grant Hill. Paul Atkins served as the Cinematographer while Dan Glass handled special effects. Keith Fraase and Rahman Ali provided editing. Cate Blanchett narrated this version.

Director Malick reached out to a Harvard Professor of Natural History and the author of Life On a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years and Biology: How LIfe Works, Andrew Knoll, and said he wanted to make a picture about natural history and the cosmos grounded in science. Malick had long been an admirer of natural history films drawing inspiration from earlier films such as Cheese Mites, a 1903 landmark film by British cinema pioneer Charles Urban and zoologist Francis Martin Duncan, depicting the microbial world inside a piece of Stilton cheese, and George Melies' 1902 Le Voyage Dans La Lune. Knoll had seen Malick's recent film at the time, Badlands. Having enjoyed the film, Knoll agreed to be a part of it. Little did he know of Malick's appetite to thoroughly investigate and devour subjects and correlating theories.

An ambitious project in the making for over two decades, Voyage runs the gamut of time from the first cells splitting and foraging their way in and through their vacuous environment to the land of the dinosaurs and Tyrannus Rex to the dawn of man up to today and into the future with sweeping visuals and spectacular effects sure to encapsulate and stimulate the mind's imagination of time and place.

The result is a journey uncovering what shape and form time has given and what shape and form that time has taken. From the early Primordial III stars that ushered the first sparkles of light to the universe and the Tiktaalik fish that came out of the oceans to walk on land.

Special Effects Supervisor Dan Glass provided wide-ranging special effects from an Austin, Texas photographic laboratory called Skunkworks, a techie and industry term connoting radical innovation in research and development in conjunction with a variety of scientists and artists who collaborated to give representation to abstract images. While chemical experiments were conducted, a myriad of liquids, solids, and gasses were filmed at high speeds to generate a spectrum of effects as the team produced an array of stunning images.

In addition, sublime photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA's interplanetary space probes, the Solar Dynamic Observatory - a satellite observing the sun, as well as adapted supercomputer simulations and electron-microscopy are added to the production's visual cornucopia of images.

Long time cinematographer Paul Atkins was charged with assembling a series of forest and desertscapes as well as seascapes to provide backdrop for the computer generated imagery of long-lost species. To provide contrast and to remind viewers of the ebb and flow of existence - and its future- , contemporary images of humankind were collected from lo-fi Harinezumi cameras Malick handed out to people across the globe that produced warm and fuzzy, colorful images.

Sound designer Joel Dougherty created and meshed in natural and speculative sounds of the universe. Meanwhile, Music Supervisor Lauren Mikus working closely with Malick selected instrumental pieces to evoke the swirling, swelling and creative energy at both ends of the magnitude scale.

To watch Voyage of Time is a journey unto itself. Malick tells his story in a non-linear fashion allowing the viewer to create meaning from what's being shown and from what's being seen. The film opens with an establishing shot of clouds and blue skies. The shot is juxtaposed with a cut to a dystopian futurist refugee camp with fires burning. Then, a jump is made to what appears to be plasma. Cate Blanchett's voice-over begins with a soothing quality as she vocalizes, "Light giver. Light bringer. Who are you?" Blanchett continues with some pretty heady questioning throughout the rest of the film's narrative:

"What brought me here? Where are you leading me? Who am I to you? Will we always be together? Where are you? Mother, does your goodness never fail? Will you abandon me? Did love make me?" If you like stunning visuals and mind-boggling questions, I would hallucinate that this is a film for you. Recommended.

Voyage of Time will be released in two differing formats. One a 90-minute poetic foray full of open questions narrated by Cate Blanchett and the second a 45-minute giant screen adventure for all ages narrated by Brad Pitt.
24 out of 39 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Chuck (2016)
8/10
The Bleeder is a period piece of the 1970's. In addition, it is also a strong narrative of the trials and tribulations of Chuck Wepner's life.
6 October 2016
Philippe Falardeau, the acclaimed director of The Good Lie and the Oscar nominated Monsieur Lazhar comes forth with a period piece of New Jersey in the 1970's with a new film, The Bleeder, a drama, starring Liev Schreiber, known for his television role as Ray Donovan in the series "Ray Donovan," and as Marty Baron in last year's Oscar-winning Best Picture, Spotlight. Schreiber portrays boxer Chuck Wepner, the heavyweight champion of New Jersey, and often known more colorfully as the Bayonne Bleeder.

When he wasn't in the ring, Wepner was a liquor salesman on the mean streets of New Jersey who managed to last 15 rounds in a professional boxing match with the greatest fighter of all-time – Muhammad Ali. Legendary boxing promoter Don King wanted a race fight and sought out a white fighter to get into the ring with the Champ, Muhammad Ali.

Wepner seemed to be a good choice to be Ali's punching bag. Wepner had a reputation for being able to take a punch. And, true to King's intention, Wepner took a beating. Not as though it was anything new for Wepner. In his ten years as a boxer he had his nose broken eight times, had 133 stitches, suffered fourteen losses and two knockouts. He was once pummeled so badly by Sonny Liston suffering both a broken nose and a broken cheekbone that required extensive stitching to heal.

Yet, Wepner had managed to put together a string of good fights and began to believe and have faith that his dream of getting a title shot was in reach. While not a great fighter, Wepner was known for his big heart, his ability to take a beating and come back for more. As a matter of record, Wepner became the first man to knock Ali off his feet inside the ring during a title fight. A furious Ali got back up and pulverized Wepner without mercy culminating in the fight ending 19 seconds into the 15th round. Sylvester Stallone based his Rocky franchise on Wepner's life.

Director Falardeau exquisitely turns what might easily have been another boxing movie into a relationship piece illuminating Wepner's most difficult moments outside the ring. He depicts the 1970's much like Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver – seedy, wild women, drugs, booze – along with exceptional highs and disastrous lows.

After Rocky became the hit of 1976 garnering ten Oscar nominations and three wins for Best Picture, Best Director and for Best Editing, Wepner began letting the world of New Jersey nightlife know he was the real life Rocky and to many he was. Jim Gaffigan plays, John Stoehr, Wepner's best friend and loyal steward who is shown as mostly living vicariously through Chuck. A most telling scene occurs when Cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc takes the audience down inside the clubbing world of the honky-tonk, disco era of the 1970's with the fur coats, gold chains, silky rayon tops, sequined gowns, costume jewelry and the dance music of the Bee Gee's. Here Wepner not only succumbs to the temptation of the drugs, booze and casual sex, he ultimately seems to confuse his own life with the screen life of Rocky Balboa as John looks on in giddy bewilderment.

Soon Wepner decides to confronts Stallone about Rocky. Stallone, played by Morgan Spector, seems genuinely flattered and invites Wepner to audition for a real-life role in Rocky II. A drug infused, boozed up Wepner, blows the audition as his life is now in a virulent downward spiral. Finally, after he shows up late and misses his 2nd grade daughter's Parents Day, his wife, Phyllis, played by Elisabeth Moss calls it quits. Wepner knows he's falling. Yet, he finds a glimpse of hope with a local bartender, Linda, played by Schreiber's real-life wife, Naomi Watts. The two hit it off with some playful banter before the bottom drops out for Wepner and he's sent to prison for drug trafficking. This becomes Stallone's impetus for his 1989 film Lock Up. Wepner is called upon to be a consultant and is shown in shackles and prison garb. Yet, when he sees Stallone staging the story, he realizes his life is not Stallone's version. This is the turning point of the film and for Chuck Wepner. He reconciles with his brother John, played sharply by Michael Rappaport and eventually marries Linda and the two spend the rest of their lives together in close relationship.

The Bleeder, full of rich costuming and fine cinematography, is at its core a period piece of the 1970's including the role boxing played in the public domain. In addition, it is also a strong narrative of the trials and tribulations of Chuck Wepner's life. It's a life affirming story as Wepner goes the distance and gets the girl in the end. Warmly recommended.
42 out of 49 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Nocturnal Animals is a tale of redemption, revenge, love and cruelty.
26 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Fashion Designer and Film Director Tom Ford premiered his new film, Nocturnal Animals, at the Sala Grande Theater during the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. Nocturnal Animals received this year's Silver Lion – Grand Jury Prize (generally considered runner-up to the Golden Lion – Best Film). This was Ford's second feature film. His first film was the critically acclaimed, A Single Man (2009) starring Colin Firth. Firth receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his efforts.

Nocturnal Animals is a tale of redemption, revenge, love and cruelty. Ford opens the film with a strong musical score to reveal rotund, morbidly obese girls dancing topless upon pedestals seemingly pretending to be debutantes. Adding to the fanfare special effect confetti drops down and through the frame. All-American girls showcasing their goods and talents. Bordering on the macabre, the tone for the film has been set.

Hollywood A-lister Amy Adams plays a real-life West Texas debutante, Susan Morrow, who lives an unfulfilling life of daunting privilege with her handsome husband, Hutton Morrow, played by Armie Hammer. As Hutton prepares for yet another last-minute weekend high-finance business meeting in New York relationship fissures widen. A pensive Susan reflects on the state of her union with Hutton after a 'not-so-discreet' phone conversation from Hutton's elevator as he is arriving at a penthouse suite amid feminine gaiety as she opens a plain, white, mail shipping box. Susan opens the box to a black and white manuscript titled, "Nocturnal Animals," by Edward Sheffield, Susan's former husband and first true love.

In dramatic fashion, Ford begins a journey into the past yet grounded in the present as the manuscript opens up a world fictional, yet etched within Susan's consciousness. Using parallel story lines, present and fictional coupled with flashbacks to when Edward and Susan first met and the ensuing courtship and short-lived marriage. Laura Linney, plays Susan's West Texas Republican mother, and delivers some of the film's more memorable lines during a martini lunch where she unleashes lambasting Susan for even considering a marriage to "weak' Edward. Notwithstanding, however, the real storytelling takes place within the pages of the manuscript. Self-reflective and dramatic the narrative is full of conflict and escalating tensions as a husband and wife, Tony and Laura Hastings, played respectively by Jake Gyllenhaal and Isla Fisher, travel at night across rural West Texas with their teenage daughter, India, played by Ellie Bamber. Without even as much as a lit billboard, out of a pitch dark blackness a vehicle approaches the family's suburban mid-sized car at a high-rate of speed. The car is driven erratically and its occupants are behaving wildly as they pass. Not too much to worry about until they decide to force the Hastings car off the road. Mayhem ensues as the hellions carjack the Hastings vehicle with the women inside leaving Tony on the side of the road in the dark by his lonesome. Soon a vehicle returns to pick up Tony. He's informed he gang leader wants to make amends and that Laura and India want Tony brought to where they are being held hostage. Fearing the worst Tony manages to escape and eventually makes his way to a law enforcement office to make an abduction/missing persons report to lawman Bobby Andes, played by Michael Shannon. Susan is shocked and awed at the power of Edward's writing and the visceral strength of Edward's character, Tony. By the end of the manuscript, Susan's life perspective has shifted as she and Edward make plans to meet.

Unquestionably, Ford delivers an emotional and psychological thriller with Nocturnal Animals. Superb acting, exquisite production values and strong storytelling are the film's hallmarks. Shane Valentino (Straight Outta Compton) handled the film's production design. Seamus McGarvey (Godzilla, Atonement, The Avengers) provided the cinematography. Costuming was assembled by Arianne Phillips (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Walk The Line, 3:10 To Yuma). Abel Korzeniowski (A Single Man, We) orchestrated the music. Along with directing Ford takes a screenplay writing credit along with Austin Wright, the author of "Tony and Susan," for writing the novel the film is based on. Nevertheless, the Casting Director, Francine Maisler (The Revenant, Birdman, The Big Short, 12 Years a Slave) and performances by the actors are above and beyond. This is a Don't Miss film waiting for Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences nominations - The Oscars.
126 out of 250 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Paradise (IV) (2016)
Paradise tells the story of three individuals, Olga, Helmut and Jules as their paths cross amidst the trials and tribulations of WWII during the reign of the German Nazis..
25 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Russian Director Andrei Konchalovsky premiered his latest work, Paradise, at the Sala Grande Theater during the 73rd Venice International Film Festival Paradise tells the story of three individuals, Olga, Helmut and Jules as their paths cross amidst the trials and tribulations of WWII during the Hitler regime. Olga, played by Julia Vysotskaya the real-life wife of Director Konchalovsky, is an aristocratic Russian woman and a member of the French Resistance arrested during a surprise Nazi police raid for hiding Jewish children. As part of her punishment she is sent to jail where her path crosses with Jules, a French-Nazi investigator, played by Phillipe Duquesne, who has been assigned to investigate her case. Olga pumps up her feminine wiles with what appears to be some success to get Jules to lighten her punishment. However, events take an unexpected turn and Olga is sent off to a dark and dirty hellish concentration camp. While managing to survive and stay alive, Olga catches the eye of Helmut, a high-ranking German SS officer, played by Christian Clauss, who oversees the camp's operations with an auditor's acumen. Helmut had previously fallen madly in love with the upper-class Olga and still feels the yearnings of love. Slowly and with the utmost care initially, the two embark on a tumultuous and destructive relationship leading to a break in Olga's mental state of what constitutes paradise as an impending Nazi defeat looms.

Throughout Paradise Konchalovsky takes the viewer on a compelling journey into the past utilizing what appears to be archival footage and documentary style interviews from the three main characters. He sets the film in 1942 early with the use of a text overlay during the film's prologue and quickly introduces the audience to the world of Olga as a high-class, fashion editor for Vogue magazine. With the blink of an eye, the tone of the film is changed irrevocably as Olga is shown being grilled all night long about why she would hide Jewish children and lie to the police about it. And, Kochalovsky doesn't stop there. He enters into power relationships via sexual manipulation, eavesdropping, concentration camp internment and the visceral art of kapo survival.

In the end the paradise unveiled falls into a similar vein to the spiritual realities of war and the fight for what is right displayed in Laszlo Nemes' Academy Award nominated Son Of Saul. Also, like Son Of Saul, Konchalovsky's Paradise has gotten an Oscar nod for Best Foreign Language film. This comes on the heels of Konchalovsky garnering a Silver Lion with Paradise for Best Director at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival.

Along the way Konchalovsky pays tribute to Russian cinema history in Paradise, shown in black and white with reflexive characteristics of early filmmaking reels unwinding on the big screen hearkening back to the days of Dziga Vertov's Man With the Movie Camera. Furthermore, Paradise editor Ekaterina Vesheva scoured through scores of wartime newsreels in search of the film's soul while keeping an authenticity to resonate within documentary sensibilities.

In line with his vision of achieving a dramatic authenticity, Konchalovsky wanted unknown actors audiences wouldn't recognize from well-known projects to play the lead roles. Not an easy task for a casting director to find three actors with Russian, German and French language abilities who could carry out the characters monologues with maximum believability. Consequently, casting was carried out simultaneously in three countries with Elina Ternyaeva as the Russian Casting Director, Uwe Bünker was in Germany and Constance Demontoy worked in France.

Konchalovsky's attention to detail continued with copious research into character development and environmental factors of female camp internment. Purportedly, he handed a compulsory list of 40 books for Clauss, which he graciously accepted, to read in preparation for his role as Helmut as a triangle of trust was being created between director, actor and audience. Julia Vysotskaya, a prominent television presenter, wife of Director Konchalovsky and working stage actress shaved her head, lost significant body weight and endured the rigors of the film's highly intense, emotional scene work. Adding additional depth to the Paradise mise-en-scene and furthering the look and feel of the 1940's war era with authentic costuming and set objects were the efforts of Costume Designer, Dmitry Andreev, and Production Designer, Irina Ochina.

While the list of Halocaust films continues to grow, Konchalovsky submits a rare twist in Paradise with its exquisite aura and emotional expressions. A highly recommended selection for film lovers. Artistic, informative and transcendent, Paradise permeates more than one metaphysical level.
20 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Audrie & Daisy tells a story about two girls who were sexually assaulted by boys they thought were their friends.
28 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Viewed by Larry Gleeson at AFIDOCS 2016.

Audrie & Daisy, a new documentary co-directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, takes an in-depth look at the effects of cyber bullying following the aftermath when two teenage girls are sexually assaulted. The girls went to parties, drank alcohol to excess and were then sexually assaulted by boys and young men they believed were their friends. The shame and scorn the girl were subjected to resulted in a suicide of a Saratoga, Georgia high school student, Audrie, who believed her reputation was beyond repair. The culprits in the assault eventually reached a plea agreement so the young men could graduate from high school. The agreement included an admission of guilt and a public apology as well as a 45 minute videotaped interview. In the case of Audrie, a Missouri resident in the small town of Maryville in Nodaway County, all charges were dropped in a highly publicized news reported court judgement.

Cohen and Shenk open the film with a slow pan of empty desks in a classroom as a voice over about the Audrey case begins. A cut is made to a high school football practice with the diagetic sounds of grunting, helmets and pads colliding and thudding with the sounds of whistles chirping. An audio deposition of Jon B., not the perpetrator's real name, is heard as an image shows the critical information of what is occurring in a black and white frame as the film's narrative is slowly opening. In a taped 2015 interview, Audrey's mother and father, Larry and Sheila Pott talk candidly about Audrey while pictures of Audrey range from the time she was a baby up into her high school years. Sheila reminisced how she and Audrey cooked together while they watched the food network together. Audrey's best friend from the time of middle school, Amanda Le, opened up about their experiences together through adolescence. Le remembers Audrey developed early physically and by high school was well developed. A group of boys from junior high began a Yahoo! group where they shared nude pictures of their classmates. Le stated Audrey received a lot of requests for pictures, however, as Audrey was quite self-conscious she didn't provide any pictures. Audrey was popular and had many friends. One night at a party Audrey drank too much. In a deposition, her "friend" stated her carried Audrey upstairs and laid her on a bed. Two other young men entered the room and closed the door. With Audrey, unmoving on the bed, the three boys stripped her naked. They took turns sexually assaulting her with their fingers. They painted half her face black and placed indelible lewd comments on her body. Photographs were taken and videos were recorded while Audrey laid defenseless.

Through the use of textual overlays from conversations Audrey initiated with her "friend," Cohen and Shenk create a sense of real-time. Audrey does not recollect what happened and pleads with her friend and others to tell her what happened. Her "friend" tells her it will blow over in a week. Yet, when Audrey gets to school, she comes to a realization that everyone in school is aware of what happened and the images of her assaulted naked body have made their way online. Shamed and humiliated, Audrey feels her reputation is beyond repair and commits suicide.

Daisy Coleman, a perky blonde-haired, blue-eyed freshman, and new to the small town of Maryville, Missouri also is subjected to shame, humiliation and ridicule following her sexual assault. Daisy and her 8th grade friend who according to an official police investigator looked about eight are invited to a "party." While at the party held in the basement of one of the three older high school males present, both girls are raped while incapacitated. The following morning Daisy is found on her home's lawn with her hair frozen to the grass. What unfolds in Daisy's story is the difficulty is prosecuting an assault without hard evidence. None of the males were over 17. A video was recorded and shared and subsequently deleted without means of retrieval. Consequently, all charges were dropped.

Nevertheless, the maelstrom created by Daisy coming forth had severe repercussions for Daisy on social media. Slowly diminishing in spirit, Daisy began sinking further and further into the rabbit hole when a young woman who had endured and survived a similar sexual assault reached out to Daisy via social media. Delaney Henderson heard about Daisy and used the Facebook chat feature to tell Daisy she understood the feelings and what Daisy was going through. The two young women have started and joined a survivors' group facilitated by a professional counselor. In a Q & A following the screening, it was revealed Daisy Coleman received an athletic scholarship to Mountain Valley College. Daisy stated with strength and conviction, "I'm done with being mad. I finally wanted to move on. I'm not forgetting the past. I'm forgiving the past." High in production values complete with traditional interviews, archival news footage, original evidence-gathering investigation-room interviews, panning location shots, photographs as well as masked caricatures of the depositions, Audrie & Daisy, is a must-see documentary.
15 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Newtown (2016)
Newtown is a documentary detailing the emotional aftermath of community members after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
24 June 2016
Newtown is a riveting new documentary detailing the trauma and tribulations of families and community members dealing with emotions and life after the massacre of 20 children ages 6-7 years old and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut by 20 year-old Adam Lanza. Lanza had murdered his own mother before driving to Sandy Hook and opening fire with an XM-15 military style M4 carbine rifle. Lanza fired 154 rounds with multiple magazine changes from high capacity 30-round magazines to 15-round magazines. The rounds reverberated over the school's PA system.

Newtown was directed by Kim A. Snyder. Snyder is a New York based filmmaker known for I Remember Me, One Bridge To The Next and Welcome To Shelbyville.

The film opens in a slow-motion sequence of a parade with children in cheer leading uniforms riding in convertibles in what could be any middle-lass suburb and provides a rather visceral idyllic sentiment of a happy childhood. In a rather seamless fashion, the film cuts to live footage from what appears to be a police vehicle's on-board camera while a voice over from a 911 call is heard. Immediately, the mood of the film changes. Something has happened. Black and white aerial footage of the school and surrounding area, including a nearby evacuation location, a volunteer fire fighting house culminating in live news coverage of the massacre is shown as details are slowly revealed.

Snyder effectively incorporates the interview into her narrative throughout weaving testimonies into the film's narrative interspersed with sweeping scenes of the natural beauty of the area. The Sandy Hook School Nurse, Sally Cox, described her feelings hearing the shots being fired wondering when they would stop. A Connecticut State Trooper refused to discuss the graphic details of what he saw at the crime scene focusing on the emotional impact instead. And this theme drives the film.

Snyder artfully uses text overlays with Newtown neighbors communicating with each other during the immediate aftermath. The first text reveals safety for one child and then the news of a child, Daniel Barden, who died. An emotional medium close up framed interview of Daniel's father, Mark, as he laments not knowing his son's final moments takes the film's mood to a deeper level. Additional interviews of the Barden's close neighbor recounting the Friday "after school pizza parties" and the bonding between the two families keep the emotional roller coaster going. An adept point-of-view tracking shot of the community's pastor as he solemnly makes his way to the church altar to prepare for the upcoming funeral masses opens up a massive void that no one has wanted to talk about. The feeling there is no way to prevent this from happening again surfaces.

Snyder reaches back and adds more archival footage of Congressional hearings with testimony from Newtown's Dr. William Begg, Emergency Room Services Director. Dr. Begg testifies to the impact assault bullets have on little bodies and the possibility of survival when the bodies have been riddled with anywhere from three to eleven assault rounds. Another clip shows President of the United States, Barack Obama, praising the Connecticut's sweeping new gun law legislation as he urges Congress to follow suit.

"The number 12/14 has become a defining moment for many members of the community," reveals a Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher. Here Snyder inserts stunning cinematography starting with a ray of light shimmering through autumnal leaves. Quickly apples are revealed and soon a hand and footage of a family apple-picking event foreshadow the Barden's decision to conceive another child.

As time passes questions are being asked on how can the community honor these children and what can be done to help as the community searches for answers. The grieving process has begun following the massive trauma and shock they have experienced.

As the film moves toward its conclusion, a community event including a challenging obstacle course draws the survivors together as they attempt to overcome the difficulties imposed. As participants struggle to make the finishing line cheers and support are given. Another powerful metaphor Snyder wields with grace and finesse. And again, she reaches back into her tool kit and uses text overlays as the community shares their grief online as they move forward after 12/14/12.

Admittedly, Newtown is an emotionally draining film. Snyder's direction slowly draws out the emotional strings while transfusing hope and a call to action of "we are all in this together." Indeed.
39 out of 94 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Art Bastard (2016)
10/10
Art Bastard is a new documentary celebrating the extraordinary life and work of painter Cenedella.
24 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Yesterday, I had the good fortune to meet Robert Cenedella, the subject of a heartfelt, insightful documentary, Art Bastard. Open and candid, Mr. Cenedella has a message about the state of today's business of art: "It's not what they show, It's what they don't show." Art Bastard is a new documentary produced by Chris T. Concannon, Concannon Productions, in association with Cavu Pictures, and celebrates the extraordinary life and work of painter Cenedella. Ten years in the making Concannon doggedly pursued the project rifling through directors until meeting writer and director, Victor Kanefsky.

In a Q & A, following last night's Los Angeles special screening before Opening Night, Concannon quipped "in two days with Victor (Kanefsky) I accomplished more than I did with any other director in two years." In taking on the project, Kanefsy painstakingly poured through the hundred plus hours of film and pensively scoured the transcripts to reveal the truth of Robert Cenedella, the Art Bastard. Utilizing telling interviews with family members, New York power brokers, art students, art critics, museum curators and Mr. Cenedella himself, Kanefsky takes the viewer on an adventure through the Andy Warhol Pop Art era into the present day with Cenedella reflecting on his body of work as well as his current role as mentor and teacher at the Art Students League of New York.

What is revealed is an intimate portrait of the heart and soul of a young man who, upon being expelled for penning and distributing a satirical expose on the mundane routine of his high school's Atom Bomb Drill, discovers himself and comes to terms with life on life's terms through his commitment to his art. On more than one occasion, Cenedella mouths his mantra "I have a moral obligation to my artwork." Editor Jim MacDonald and Director of Photography Douglas Meltzer combine forces in presenting a dazzling array of shots zooming into the paintings of the Art Bastard mesmerizing the audience as minute details become postcard portraits unto themselves punctuated by Mario Sprouse's musical score. And behind each painting lies a story.

A variety of Cenedella's artwork is featured throughout Art Bastard including "Impeachment Off The Table" (2008), "Southern Dogs" (1965), "Heinz 57" (1963), "The Balcony" , "2001 – A Stock Odyssey" (1986) , "Santa Fe Rider" , "The Death of George Grosz" (1962) , the highly controversial "The Presence of Man" (1988) and the widely popular "Le Cirque – The First Generation" (1998). Other artists included are Warhol, Jackson Pollock, George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Reginald Marsh, Rembrandt, Raphael, El Greco and Hans Holbein the Elder. In addition, works by his Art Student League mentor George Grosz, whom Cenedella credits with forming his technique and claims he was the first adult he ever respected, are illustrated, presented and intertwined with the telling of the Art Bastard's journey.

Cenedella lays claim to being "the most widely written about unknown artist in America." Not for long, however. As the Art Bastard navigates the festival circuit, awards are being bestowed upon the filmmakers as they have garnered three 2016 winners, including Best Documentary at the Manchester Film Festival, Best Documentary at Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema, and Best Director, Documentary at Idyllwild. These follow the 2015 Focus On Art Award from the Orlando Film Festival and the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Creativity at the Utopia Film Festival. Furthermore, Art Bastard was named an official selection for the Santa Fe Film Festival, the Big Apple Film Festival and the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Art Bastard opened June 3rd in New York and is scheduled to open this weekend, in Los Angeles, Calif., at the Laemmle's Monica Film Center followed by Q & A's with Robert Cenedella, The Art Bastard, after the Friday, June 17th 7:30 P.M. show and on Saturday June 18th after the 2:30 P.M., 5:00 P.M., and the 7:30 P.M. shows. His art exhibit will also be featured at the theater. The Los Angeles opening will be proceeded by a June 24th opening in Pasadena and Orange County.

Highly recommended.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Nosferatu (1922)
10/10
Nosferatu accompanied by German pianist Markus Horn
17 March 2016
Viewed by Larry Gleeson at San Luis Obispo California State Polytechnical University's Spanos Theater as part of the 22nd Annual SLO Film Fest, formally known as San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.

The complete 2006 digitally restored version of Nosferatu the surreal German Expressionist classic silent film by renowned director, F.W. Murnau, served as the Opening Night film for the 22nd SLO Film Fest with a new piano soundtrack performed live by German composer and pianist, Markus Horn. Most recently, Horn has performed his musical talents to another silent German film, Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang. Interestingly, Horn created this composition in the Spanos Theater specifically for Nosferatu .

Nosferatu, is similar in a stylistic vein to the classic example of German Expressionism, the 1922 silent film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with its use of unusual, odd-looking characters, geometric mise-en-scen and its abundant use of light and shadows in its storytelling. A storied production, Nosferatu, an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's "Dracula," was shot in 1921 and released the following year in 1922. It is very similar to "Dracula," retaining its core characters of Jonathan and Nina Harker and the Count while omitting some of the secondary characters.

Interestungly, a court ruling ordered all copies of the film destroyed after Prana Film, a short-lived, silent-era German film studio was unable to get the rights to the novel, was sued Bram Stoker's widow and eventually declared bankrupted in defending itself from copyright infringement. A few copies of the film survived as the studio undauntedly had gone forward with the production changing names and details from the original novel. For example, Count Dracula became Count Orlok, played brilliantly by Max Schreck (Schreck in German translates to terror, fitting for the roles Max Schreck undertook throughout his acting career) and the term vampire became nosferatu. In addition, Count Orlok doesn't create new vampires. Instead he killed his victims with the town folk blaming the deaths on a black plague. And, while Count Dracula was weakened by sunlight, Orlock sleeps by day as any exposure to sunlight would cause his death. In the end, Count Orlok meets his demise in drinking the blood of a young maiden, Mina, who sacrifices herself by allowing Orlok's copulation while enticing him to do so into the day's sunrise culminating in Orlok's death.

Director Murnau prided himself on utilizing various angles in his productions and Nosferatu's cinematographer, Fritz Arno Wagner, delivers. Several shots capture the eye including a film ending low angle shot of a castle in ruin representing the demise of Count Orlok. In addition, several shots on board the ship of stacked wooden coffins and the frenzied scrambling of ship rats as a coffin is opened and its contents spilled become etched in memory.

All this withstanding, the evening belonged to Markus Horn, as he mesmerized the audience with a soundtrack that brilliantly matched the photographic score in creating a dream like atmosphere for the minimalized intertitled narrative. Horn's intense symbiosis of film and music culminated in a rousing, standing ovation by an enraptured audience at the film's end.

This version of Nosferatu with the Markus Horn accompaniment and a run-time of 94 minutes left the audience wanting more. Much more. An exceptional opening film. Highly, highly recommended.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A sensational follow up to the mesmerizing "Nostalgia For The Light," by Renowned Chilean writer and director, Patricio Guzman.
30 November 2015
"The Pearl Button," is the follow up work by renowned Chilean writer/director and documentarian, Patricio Guzman. Much like his mesmerizing 2010 documentary, "Nostalgia for the Light," "The Pearl Button," starts out showcasing the brilliance and natural beauty of the Chilean night sky. Only this time Guzman juxtaposes it against the cool, sensual freshness of the land's natural, cascading waterways. Gently, Guzman shifts gears and slips in interviews with the indigenous Chileans and learns of a cosmic edifying way of life through the eyes of the elder Kawesqars, the ancient water nomads of Patogonia. Romantic stories of 600 mile journeys along the coastal seascape in miniature paddle boats were relived as if they emanated from another time and space that couldn't exist today. And for all intents and purposes, it doesn't, except in the minds and lore of the elder Kawesqars. Due to modern shipping lanes and commercial fishing rights, the boat people are no longer allowed to freely travel. Many younger members would hardly know how. It seems the modern generation is so busy surviving that they have forgotten how to live.

The film comes in at a fast moving eight-two minutes. It is shot in color with minimal color correction that deftly enhances the strong cinematography provided by Katell Djian. Unsurprisingly, the look and feel of the shooting is similar to Nostalgia for the Light, as Djian worked both. Yet, there is more to both films than gorgeous night sky spectacles and rich, ripe waterways or vast, barren deserts. Both films call attention to the brutality of the Pinochet regime. Nostalgia for the Light, provides a beautiful segway into the search for disappeared bodies much like the Chilean government searches the sky for disappeared stars. In "The Pearl Button," Guzman connects the cosmos and the essence of life to water calling to mind that humans ultimately evolved from aquatic life forms. And, the aquatic life forms sprang forth from a cosmic impulse detonated from a massive energetic collision resulting in the first precursor of life, water, entering into the planetary environment. Water is the essence of life. And it remembers.

However, as colonialism began to encroach, a new way of life emerged that was far different that the life the cosmos had revealed. Here Guzman indulges himself in a little Chilean lore of the legend of Jemmy Button. Jemmy Button was the representation of an ordinary indigenous Chilean. He was taken under the protection of a British naval officer in exchange for a fancy pearl button. The officer took Jemmy back to Britain and learned Jemmy the ways of a British gentlemen. Jemmy attended the finest school and was dressed accordingly and even given a respectable haircut. After a year Jemmy was returned to his family and community. He never fit in again and lived the rest of his days as an outsider.

Much can be made of the plight of Jemmy Button as Guzman uncovers and delivers another horrifying example of Pinochet's brutal attack on dissidents. Unnervingly and in a manner akin to a medical coroner, a recreation of how a body, not necessarily a corpse, would be disposed of seemingly without a trace. True to most crimes, however, an error occurred in the process and a body washed a shore eventually revealing another episodic disappearance of dissidents. Most estimates agree that somewhere between 12,000 to 14,000 bodies were disposed into these once life giving waters. Nevertheless, Guzman finds optimism and hope for the future. During reclamation efforts, one of the instruments used to hasten the drowning and to keep the body submerged, was recovered without the typical barnacles attached. It was recovered with a pearl button attached.

Guzman, once again, proves himself a gifted, master storyteller with both earthly and cosmic sensibilities. Highly recommended.
10 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Dheepan (2015)
The story of a displaced Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger
18 November 2015
Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed during 2015 AFI FEST.

"Dheepan," is the latest work by director Jacques Audiard. Audiard has to his credits the critically acclaimed and well nominated films "Rust and Bone"(2012), and "A Prophet"(2009). "Dheepan," is written by Audiard, Thomas Bidegain and Noe Debre', and tells the story of a Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger, called Dheepan. Dheepan is played by Indian actor, Antonythasan Jesuthasan.

Winner of the coveted Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, "Deephan," is a visual feast beginning in the jungles of Sri Lanka and the ensuing shots depicting Dheepan's cultural transformation in the night streets of Paris. Epinine Momenceau provides the cinematography in a compelling manner along with a nicely done soundtrack by Nicolas Jarr.

As the film opens we see Dheepan and fellow Tamil warriors placing dry palm branches over a funeral pyre. Dheepan place his military fatigues on top and lights the fire. Sri Lanka is mired in a bloody civil war. Dheepan along with an unknown woman called Yalini, played by Kalieaswari Srinivasan, and a young orphan girl, Illayaal, played by Claudine Vinasithamby, decide to flee the strife together and set out for a new life in the suburbs of Paris posing as a displaced refugee family. With the inventiveness of a well versed interpreter, Dheepan and Yalini pass their social services interview and find employment as caretakers of a not so well-to-do housing project and one of it's incoherent inhabitants.To complicate matters, Illayaal is having difficulties at school, Dheepan is contacted by a Tamil warrior who insists Dheepan continue the fight for freedom, and Yalini is becoming attracted to the gang leader nephew of her incoherent charge. This is all on top of the deeper humanistic component of three strangers living together as a family in a small apartment in an entirely foreign culture.

Soon, however, Dheepan and his refugee family begin to pull together as they experience renewed forms of violence. Their challenging suburban life becomes increasingly dangerous due to drug activity and an ensuing turf war that hits too close to home. Dheepan, working primarily as an janitor, takes a stand and declares a no-fire zone between his apartment building and the adjacent housing project much to the disbelief and chagrin of the well-armed gang members. As the turf war breaks out and spills over into the "safe zone," Dheepan shifts gears and his switch is flipped. He becomes an uber-soldier defending and protecting what has become his. This is an extraordinary transformation as he resorts to survival skills presumably developed as a Tamil freedom fighter. The action sequences heightens the drama in its fragmented and rather hazy segments as Dheepan's deep and powerful emotional chords propel him through the violence and chaos until victory is his.

All in all, I found "Dheepan," to be a very moving film with its riveting action sequences contrasting with its earlier tender, more human sequences. Audiard takes a very timely topic, the displaced refugee, and embodies him and her, with very human characteristics. Highly Recommended.
11 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
45 Years (2015)
9/10
" 45 Years" AFI FEST 2015 Premiere Review
16 November 2015
Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed during 2015 AFI FEST.

On November 11, 2015, "45 Years," made its US premiere at the American Film Institute's 2015 AFI FEST film festival at the TCL Grauman's Chinese Theater. The evening began with a full-on Red Carpet for the film's two stars, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. Once inside and seated, the audience was treated to a montage of the pair's cinema work followed up with a Q & A. During the Q & A the two commented on their work and dialogued between themselves exchanging playful jabs while an enraptured audience peered inside the couple's cozy working relationship.

Based on David Constantine's short story "In another Country," "45 Years," is set in the lush countryside of Eastern England during the preceding days before the couple's planned celebration, a semi-chilling tale of a couple about to celebrate forty–five years of marriage when a letter arrives informing the husband, Geoff Mercer, played by veteran British actor, Tom Courtenay, his first love, Katya, has been found frozen during in a thaw in the Swiss Alps after nearly fifty years. This sets off a maelstrom of emotions in Geoff as his wife, Kate, played brilliantly by Rampling, begins questioning their marriage. Rampling's emotive range from peaceful tranquility as she walks her dog, to playful confidant riding into town with her gal pal. Kate soon discovers Geoff had gone hiking with his love when she fell down into a crevice and upon questioning Kate discovers Geoff would have married Katya had she not disappeared. Additional questions are asked as the stakes are being raised and soon we are left wondering if the marriage will even survive for the couple's upcoming celebration.

The film was adapted and directed by Andrew Haigh, known for his contributions to Ridley Scott's "Gladiator," and for his directorial in "Weekend." The film's rich cinematography was handled by Director of Photograpy, Lol Crawley. Crawley has among his credits, "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom." The sounds were provided by Joakim Sundstrom, a well-known sound supervisor. Production design was handled by Sarah Finley. Jonathan Alberts is credited for editing and casting was made by Kathleen Crawford. The film's producers included Rachel Dargavel, Tristan Goligher, and Richard Holmes.

Overall, I found the film to be an introspective piece. The camera lingering in scenes allowed an intimate view of what it is like to get old and what some of the challenges might be within a childless relationship. "45 Years," is by no means a "feel good" film of the year. Quite the contrary. It pulls at the emotional chords as this older couple, Kate and Geoff Mercer, live their lives. Kate enjoys walking the dog. Geoff loves Kate and gives a heartfelt toast at the anniversary celebration leaving Kate in a state of exorbitant bewilderment at the man she has known and loved for the past forty-five years. They enjoy quiet dinners together, lovemaking and fighting. In many ways, the film is posing questions about what might have been and the choices we have made that have led us to where we are. Warmly recommended.
4 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Big Short (2015)
9/10
Four "outsider" Wall Street entities capitalize on an impending financial collapse of the US financial system.
13 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed during the AFI Filmfest 2015.

"The Big Short," directed by Adam McKay, based on the book by Michael Lewis, was adapted by McKay and Charles Randolph and made its world premiere Thursday, November 12, 2015 at the historic TCL Grauman's Chinese Theater as the closing night film for the latest edition of the American Film Institute's AFI FEST film festival.

The film's narrative is driven by four cynical, fringe Wall Street entities disgusted with the large banking institutions' overriding greed for profits. They make the decision to capitalize on the ensuing housing market calamity and the financial meltdown of 2008 upon discovering the market frenzy is being driven by worthless collateral debt obligations.

McKay chooses to inject a significant dose of humor in the early scenes to condition the audience receptors for what they are about to experience. Utilizing the Martin Scorsese docudrama style in a similar setting with "Wolf of Wall Street," a strong narrative voice dominates particular moments. Several of these deliberately break the 'Fourth Wall" in the style of "Wolfie," Jordan Belfort, as the characters, including a hilarious cameo by Selena Gomez, speak directly into the camera to explain the complexities of Wall Street finance. The overall effect adds additional humor and adds another layer in creating a sense of authenticity and truth about the film's subject matter.

After a rather lengthy dizzying, yet delightful, character introduction, the film picks up pace as the drama begins to unfold. Dr. Michael Burry, an eccentric financial analyst, with complete autonomy of an investment fund, uncovers variables in his economic forecast indicating a massive housing market collapse. He informs his higher up, Lawrence Fields, played convincingly by Tracy Letts, of his discovery and creates a financial prospectus. In essence, he creates a commodity of selling short on bundled mortgages.

The bankers laugh as they willingly sell Burry all the "insurance" he wants. Word quickly spreads of Burry's perceived madness in a after-work cocktail scene. With interest piqued upon overhearing the Wall Street gossip of the day, Jarred Bennett, portrayed by Ryan Gosling, scoops up the essence of Burry's move. Soon, he sells a group led by Steve Carell's all-too-human, Mark Baum to buy in.

As the debacle is in full free-fall, Baum struggles with disbelief as he and his group have bet against their own umbrella entity, Morgan Stanley. The final team that has uncovered the impending financial crisis, made up of two Wall Street neophytes and veteran Ben Rickert, played by one of the film's producers, Brad Pitt, also struggles with the imploding financial system caused by corporate greed and indifference.

With a mammoth cast, McKay draws on a plethora of talent in the likes of Hollywood A-listers including Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Selena Gomez, Christian Bale, Karen Gillan Steve Carell, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo and Finn Wittrock. McKay and Randolph create characters with witty dialogue coupled with complementary cinematography provided by Barry Ackroyd. The soundtrack carries a similar tone of "Wolf of Wall Street," with a compilation of classic rock anthems. Nicholas Britell widely recognized for his work on Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave," where Britell composed on set the on-screen violin performances, work songs, dances and spiritual songs rarely misses a beat this time out. Much like another AFI FEST 2015 film, "The Clan," Argentina's official entry to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Best Foreign Language Category for Oscar, "The Big Short," musical score is often in juxtaposition to the the narrative and mies-en-scene adding a deeper visceral quality to the viewing experience.

In its most basic essence, "The Big Short," builds on the visceral truth of Scorsese's "Wolf of Wall Street." It depicts a not-so-long-ago present where a noble ideal, making home ownership a reality for Americans, is bastardized by the indifferent market forces of capitalism. Probably not what Adam Smith had in mind when he penned his treatise, "The Wealth of Nations." Warmly Recommended.
152 out of 190 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Gulls (2015)
8/10
Chaika (The Gulls) provides a glimpse into the world of Kalmykia through a remote fishing community on the Caspian Sea.
12 November 2015
"Chaika" or "The Gulls," written and directed by Ella Manzheeva, depicts a harsh and difficult climate for Elsa, played by model Evgeniya Mandzhieva, in her first big-screen appearance and Dzhiga, played by Sergei Andianov. Elsa teaches piano to small children in the town center while Dzhiga is a burly fisherman and small-time criminal. "The Gulls,",is a visual feast of the small village of Lagan, Kalmykia (a remote Russian republic bordering the Caspian Sea). Stunning aerial shots of its waterways and icy ocean fronts set the tone for this chilling tale of life and in Kalmykia.

Kalmykia is primarily a fishing community. The culture is Buddhist. The area has cell-phone coverage. And the locals line up to see the town's fortune-teller to find out what is waiting for them. Elsa comes to see the fortune teller with the rest of the women only to be turned away as the fortune teller refuses to see her. The only people Elsa is able to engage are the wife of the local crime-boss and her husband Dzhiga's younger brother. Together they seem to exude hidden chemistry.

Dzhiga, on the other hand, doesn't seem to know any strangers. He has his fishing buddies over to discuss a illegal fishing excursion so he can add to a marriage dowry. Dzhiga's mother is not happy with Dzhiga as Elsa has not provided any children. During a family gathering an elder sings the traditional songs of the Kalmyk. It's a haunting rendition adding credence and complementing the local folklore - the gulls represent the souls of the community's departed fisherman.

Throughout "The Gulls," the cinematography catches unique aspects of the Kalmyiran culture. In addition, to the aerial shots and the misty, gray outdoor shots, Director of Photography, Alexander Kuznetsov, has plenty of colors and designs for his indoor shots . Art Director, Denis Bauer, provides a plethora of pastels and bright primary colors to create a vivid backdrop with a decidedly Buddhist accent.Composer Anton Silaev provides a unique soundtrack utilizing natural sounds to great effect.

For her first time out Mandzhieva holds her own. She exudes a fragility presumably from the harshness of the environment. When Kuznetsov gets her indoors, her natural beauty and grace illuminate the frames. It's easy to visualize her on the runway for a fashion shoot. One particular shot of Elsa's beautiful, long, sleek, black hair captures the imagination as she sleeps. As if in a dream state a dissolve into fireworks completes the shot.

Her emotives are not overwhelming as her character is accommodating not wanting or desiring to provoke anyone. She goes along to get along. Yet, hearing her unborn baby's heartbeat, Mandzhieva emotes appropriately. Her facial features flush and her eyes become expressive as a tear of joy glides over and across her nose then gently rolling off the opposite cheek.

"The Gulls," may not receive a mainstream distribution. Nevertheless, this isn't the last time we'll see this gorgeous regional cinema. The film received the support from the Russian Ministry of Culture. Manzheeva is gaining attention with this her first feature film after studying the High Course of Screen writing and Directing in Moscow. and Mandzhieva is honing the craft in Moscow. No. This isn't the last we'll hear from this region. It's just the beginning. Recommended.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
A telling documentary of Siamese twins in the entertainment industry
16 November 2013
Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed at the AFI Fest 2012 on November 2nd, 2102, Chinese Mann Theatre. Bound by Flesh, directed by the affable Leslie Zemeckis, tells the story of conjoined twins who were fused at the hips and buttocks, shared circulation but shared no major organs yet, shared almost every conceivable aspect of their lives together from birth to marriage and finally even death. The girls, often referred to as the "Hilton twins" were sold by their mother/guardian into the entertainment industry and thus began a long eventful and full life as the girls were hugely successful in vaudeville, somewhat successful in burlesque and not quite so successful in film. The girls were quite attractive and had stage presence and attracted large audiences with a minimal of talent. The girls knew how to entertain. Yet, despite their huge success as performers the girls wound up pretty much penniless and at the kindness of church members at the end of their lives due to managers taking advantage and exploiting the girls for financial gain. The girls fought back as girls will do and won an emancipation lawsuit and were awarded $100,000 in their attempt to have normal lives. They were successful in court and began to manage their own affairs. Unfortunately, while the girls knew how to entertain, they didn't understand the business of entertainment and fell into several business deals that bore no fruit. Despite themselves, the girls continued to entertain and began performing at supermarket openings and at community events. While, their earnings fell off markedly, the girls ineffable spirit of being together always shone forth much like the spotlight from their younger years performing together in vaudeville.

Zemeckis tells the Hilton twins story in a mostly compelling manner. During the conversation following the viewing , Zemeckis revealed her three state, fifteen day whirlwind shooting schedule. Her flawless use of present day interviews revealed as much about the characters being interviewed as it did about the girls and the time period in which they performed. With her exquisite use of the interview of primary sources I felt as though I ad taken a step back in time as I watched playwright, John Bramhall of "Daisy and Violet" provide a testimony of the girls dynamic stage presence with long mutton chops and an Old West medallion placed on his breast giving a spit'n'image of lawman Wyatt Earp. In addition to the primary interviews, Zemeckis added recorded sound bites of the girls in their youth, a multitude of black and white photographs, and eye pleasing modern day graphics. I thoroughly enjoyed the Zemeckis documentary, Bound by Flesh and recommend the film to any film buff and to anyone interested in the history of vaudeville and burlesque. Zemeckis knows how to tell a story and not just on the screen.
6 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Sound City (2013)
8/10
Foo Fighter Dave Grohl discusses the legendary Neve
16 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Viewed at the Metro IV on January 30, 2013, during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at 10:20 P.M. Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. "Sound City," a documentary by Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, former Nirvana band mate, delivers an upbeat up-tempo roller coaster ride through the legendary Van Nuys Studio City started in 1969 by Joe Gottfried and Tom Skeeter. Studio City would come to serve as the launching pad for the commercial rise to stardom of Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana, Credence Clearwater Revivial, and Rick Springfield to name just a few and would come to its subsequent obsolescence as the digital age was ushered in with great fanfare. A vital point is made along the way that while yes music can be engineered solely from a software program it can't allow for the soulful expression of the musicians who actually play musical instruments to create a product. Sound City was a hole-in-the-wall studio that became home to legendary rock-n-roll bands from Bachman Turner Over Drive to grunge rockers Nirvana due in no small measure to a massive hand made mixing board console, one of four in the world. The sheer size and scope of the Neve is impressive and in some respects it's a major force of the film. I liken it to Kubrick's monolith in his ""2001: Space Odyssey." Those who were in touch with the monolith evolved spiritually and, in my opinion, the same case can be made for those musicians who played together and were recorded with the Neve. Those interviewed for the film often felt their time there was very special and that digitizing music lacks the more soulful, human approach to live studio recording with your band mates. It's not to say that digitizing music is the Armageddon. It's more to say that solely digitizing music sets it apart from the original source. The film touches lightly here the more commonplace reaction is Mr. Grohl being full of himself telling the story of the Neve from his personal viewpoint and for not being a little more objective. But really, his story is history. He also recorded on the Neve with Nirvana and breathed life back into a decaying Sound City before it's ultimate demise. Hhe eventually purchased the Neve, restored it and invited musicians to come and play with his band, The Foo Fighters, including Sir Paul McCartney. In some respects I felt privileged to sit and watch Grohl's story of the Neve unfold. He used a plethora of archival material including rare footage, telling photographs and present day testimonial from former Studio City employees and from rock legends Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood and Neil Young. Springfield met his future wife there while others left a piece of their heart there. And, along the way Grohl, provides some fundamental rock-n-roll basics about the drummer's role as the backbone of any given band and the acoustical effects Sound City provided to accentuate this. The film closes with Grohl housing the Neve in his own studio jamming. Curiously, an outtake comes across the screen with no sound with a memorial tribute. I felt this choice quite unnerving and called to mind the cut-throat win at all costs music business and the sometimes fatal outcomes for those who pursue the Muse. Warmly recommended especially for those who have a cursory interest in the music business and the history of rock-n-roll.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Masterful rendition in making of Shakespearean art
16 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Viewed at the Lobero Theatre on January 28, 2013, during the Santa Barbara International Festival at 11:00 A.M. Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. "Caesar Must Die,"a masterful rendition of a filmed play, a narrative and a documentary all seemingly rolled into a one of a kind colossal piece of work in a "quick" seventy-six minutes. The film is directed by the Taviani Brothers who choose to begin the film with what appears to be a filmed play as we see a staged play in color and an up-roaring applauding audience paying great respect to what they've just witnessed. And, just as quickly as the audience applauded, the film cuts to black and white and thus begins the feel of a documentary as we discover what we're seeing are prison inmates going for auditions in a Roman prison.

The casting agents request the actors who all seem to e Italians with a natural dramatic flare built into their genetic make-up,to recite personal data – name, birth date and place of birth, pre-incarceration city or town of residence – first emotionally distraught and then again defiantly angry with surprising results of great intensity and with subtle humor. Here overlays provide their convictions and the lengths of their sentences and we become privy to the fact that these are hardened criminals. For those who are familiar with the original "Dirty Dozen" a resemblance can be ascertained. Much like the stockade soldiers being sent behind enemy lines to carry out a dangerous mission, our inmates are volunteering to take part in a pilot program to introduce art into the Roman prison system.

Interestingly enough, the theater director allows the men to speak in their native dialect and to find within their respective life experience as common ground with the character they are portraying. The character of Julius Caesar is played by Giovanni Arcuri with swagger and determination. Brutus is played by, in my opinion, the most interesting cast member, Salvatore Striano. Pardoned of his crimes in 2006, Striano took up acting and returned to the prison to participate and work in this production.

Furthermore, watching the inmates rehearse and run lines within the prison added an unbefore seen experience of Shakespeare for me. What at first appeared as a lifeless existence being incarcerated, I watched these inmates become re-animated performing daily routines and mundane chores.

The reality of the inmates being returned to their cell in the evening and hearing the closing and latching of their cell doors was a powerful reminder of the seriousness of their existence. A telling affect the experience had on the inmates shouts loudly in a mild-mannered tone as the inmate Rega serving a twenty year stretch breaks the fourth wall and comes right into the theater screening stating, "Since I have known art, this cell has become a prison." Indeed, the power of dramatic art to form and shape and experience can be so profound. I took a chance on this viewing with a large group of retired Rhodes scholars and I feel I was handsomely rewarded. Highly recommended to theater and film buffs alike.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Valeri Vaughn presents the story of mural art in Ireland.
16 November 2013
"The Art of Conflict" was seven years in the making including several visits to the Emerald Isle. Numerous interviews and many hours of footage later a very real piece of art began to emerge as the peace process began showing real aspects of progress evidenced by thematic changes in the mural landscape. Some of the changes were a concerted effort by the two primary opposing groups, the Catholics and the Protestants, as they tried to peacefully co-exist and as they tried to allow the peace process to provide some relief from the tensions of a real war carried out in their respective neighborhoods and business establishments.

It seemed that the Irish Nationalists, predominantly Catholic, wanted peace a bit more. I don't believe the Vaughns' depiction of the conflict was tilted towards either side. A point was made during the Q & A that every effort was made to ensure the piece was as balanced as possible. With the long history of repression, to me it stands to reason, that the Catholic Nationalists would want peace more as they have fought for rights historically back to the Land Use Agreement.

Literally, Vaughn very well could have produced a Burnsian documentary detailing the conflict and its origin. On one hand, it's remarkable she didn't; while on the other hand what she did do is fairly remarkable.

She captured a very unique time in history using wall murals as an impetus for further inquiry. She delves into the major events and characters of the times and bars no holds eschewing historical photographs, archival footage and present day interviews in telling the story of a bloody, soulless conflict pounded home by the murals and their shapelessness and faceless depictions. It appears Ms. Vaughn has embarked on a journey of storytelling here that is just beginning.

Wholeheartedly recommended.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Final full-length feature film from Hayao Miyazaki
16 November 2013
The Wind Rises (Miyazaki, 2013): Japan Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed at the AFI Filmfest 2013.

"The Wind Rises," is a new animated, full-length, feature film from legendary Japanese animation director, Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki announced at this year's Venice Film Festival this will be his last film. In 1997 his "Princess Mononoke," was the highest revenue grossing film in the history of Japan at the time of its release and it also received the Japanese equivalent of an Academy Award for Best Film. Miyazaki is also well known for the films "Spirited Away," (2001) and "Howl's Moving Castle," (2004) In 2003 Miyazaki received an Oscar for Best Animated Feature for the film "Spirited Away," His films have garnered international acclaim from critics and have provided Miyazaki public recognition within Japan. His films are known for compelling characters, engaging plots and eye-catching animation. Remarkable by today's standards his films allow no more than 10% of the footage to come from computer animation.

In "The Wind Rises," Miyazaki tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, a real-life aeronautical engineer who designed fighter aircraft in Japan during WWII. The film opens with the young Jiro fantasizing of his plane flying above his hometown. As I watched the scene unfold, a rather powerful ominous feeling surfaced as I was reminded of Leni Riefenstahl's opening scene from the Nazi propaganda documentary, "Triumph of the Will." Nevertheless the early moments of the film are very heartwarming as Miyazaki chooses to highlight Jiro's youth as an older brother to a delightfully spirited younger sister in a single parented household run by their kind and caring mother.

Jiro's passion throughout the film is making good airplanes. Jiro's daydreaming, which he does a few times during the story's arc. Admittedly, several of my favorite moments are Jiro's imaginings with Count Caproni, a larger-than-life mustachioed Italian airplane designer who mentors Jiro with playful and good natured ribbing, and provide insight into Jiro's creative passion. Jiro finds his inspiration through such moments and Miyazaki makes space for them throughout the film.

The story is partially based on Tatsuo Hori's 1938 novelette, "The Wind Has Risen." Miyazaki's animation provides beautiful plush scenery with Monet-like backdrops and landscapes providing striking visuals while creating a powerful nostalgia for a simpler time lightly brushing over the complications of war and economic depression. With such a breathtaking mise-en-scene it's no wonder a young Jiro falls in love with the young woman he saved during a traumatic, historic earthquake a few years before (the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake). In direct juxtaposition to this frantic and rather manic scenario in the aftermath of the earthquake, young Jiro finds himself vacationing in a rural setting enjoying the greenery and the soft "rising" winds complete with majestic and billowing, flowery clouds when he coincidentally crosses paths with the beautiful girl he saved from the earthquake as she paints poetically on a hillside overlooking the spectacular countryside.

"The Wind Rises," is a very light-hearted film, entertaining film. The film focuses pretty much exclusively on the protagonist, Jiro as an idealistic engineer whose primary purpose in life is to make planes. Granted, he falls in love and rubs elbows with German plane builders during WWII. Yet, WWII and the social unrest after the Great Kanto Earthquake are left virtually untouched. Tellingly, Jiro's concern at the end of the war was over the planes that didn't come back. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly recommend the film for children and for adults with a penchant for Monet-esque visuals.
9 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
a spell-binding, psychological thrilling techno experience within a tension-filled cockpit
13 November 2013
Interestingly, the film "Charlie Victor Romeo," evolved from an award-winning play created in 1999 by Daniels, Berger and Gregory. The play captured two Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Unique Theatrical Experience and Outstanding Sound Design and received recognition from Time Magazine in 2004 as Best Theatre Top Ten plays. The 1999 theater version eventually was videotaped and the Smithsonian Aviation Museum reviewed it. Shortly thereafter, the aviation community picked it up and incorporated it into its repertoire of training tools for its pilots' Crew Resource Management. After its 1999 opening at Collective:Unconscious in New York City, the played toured internationally and nationally until 2008.

The film version of "Charlie Victor Romeo," is a collaborative effort between Collective:Unconscious and 3LD Art & Technology Center. The production was filmed at 3LD Art & Technology Center as part of its new 3LD/3D+ program, a cross-platform for distribution and production of experimental work and made its West Coast premiere on Saturday, November 9th, at the AFI Filmfest 2013. Following the second viewing at the Filmfest on November 11th, the cast of Patrick Daniels, Irving Gregory, Noel Dinneen, Sam Zuckerman, Debbie Troche and Nora Wooley hosted a Q & A. Producer Catarina Bartha was also in the house to support her cast.

Berger, when asked what was the motivation behind the project, conveyed that it wasn't anything political that it was simply trying to make something of interest to an audience.

In its most basic sense, "Charlie Victor Romeo," dramatizes the human intensity that surfaces during the distressed descents of six airline crashes culled from dialogs taken from the surviving black box transcripts. In introducing the affected flights overlay schematics display the failed mechanical parts of the air crafts.

The team of screenwriters, Berger, Daniels and Gregory, scoured the typed transcripts of scores of airline emergencies and crashes, finally settling on the six presented. The criteria used in choosing which emergencies to dramatize the team wanted scenarios with enough emotional intensity that they could perform the scenes dramatically. They also wanted situations that illuminated the aviation perspective. And, finally, they wanted material that allowed their performances to create a bridge for the audience between professional aviation and their art in portraying the human aspect of handling an aviation emergency while in in-flight when things go horribly wrong. All the flights selected had issues due to mechanical failures.

"Charlie Victor Romeo," creates a spell-binding, psychological thrilling techs experience within a tension-filled cockpit as the flight crews provide testament to the ability to live life to the very last second while deftly providing insight into who the people are that we entrust our lives to during airline flights and what they do when things go horribly wrong. Furthermore, the conscious decision to use 3D technology enabled the troupe to help bring the reality of being in the cockpit directly to the audience consciousness during the catastrophic experience as the pilots fight to save their passengers and themselves from an impending disaster.

In my opinion, "Charlie Victor Romeo," pushes boundaries proving stereoscopic lensing is no longer the exclusive d0main of the epic major studios productions. But more than that, "Charlie Victor Romeo," takes real-life aviation emergencies and brings them into the mainstream consciousness in a very humanistic way. Recommended.
14 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink

Recently Viewed