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I start the list with all the Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated actors-turned-directors…for 'Best Directing' of course, then for 'Best Picture'.
Then all the 'Best Foreign Language Film' Oscar winners by actors-turned-directors.
And then all the A-festival winning (Palme d'Or, Golden Bear, Golden Lion for Best Film) actors-turned-directors.
Suggestions for updates are very welcome !
Check: Was William Shakespeare not an actor, too ? Did he direct his own plays ?
PS: Check out also this list, with more & other names:
"Actors turned film directors." https://www.imdb.com/list/ls053021740/
"Actors/Actresses who became Directors" https://www.imdb.com/list/ls056716703/
Articles: Some have more names
PPS: Directors like Spike Lee, Martin Ritt, John Houston, David Cronenberg, Carlos Reygadas, Jia Zhangke, Gus van Sant, Alex Holdridge, Jules Dassin, Martin Scorsese, Abel Ferrara, Lynn Shelton and others started acting after making their first films, therefore I won't count them.
-- Roger Deakins directed 2 films at the very beginning of his career according to this site, but they are missing on IMDB: http://www.cinematographers.nl/PaginasDoPh/deakins.htm
PS: I don't count here filmmakers, who became novelists/writers AFTER they already were established directors, for example Oliver Stone, David Cronenberg, Alan Parker, Michael Cimino, Doris Dörrie, Ethan Coen, Werner Herzog, Maximilian Schell, Brian de Palma...and some more.
Please provide a credible source.
Thank you !
You know more?
check: French rapper, who won at Berlinale a few years ago? based on his novel?
Smart B-movie with suspense, visual elegance and a satirical edge
I've seen nearly all of Brian de Palma's features and I read about the big problems he had on this production, so I expected something awful - and was pleasantly surprised. This is a small De Palma picture, but it's good overall, if you are willing to look beyond the obvious flaws, which Brian couldn't correct himself because of budget issues. But "Domino" is nothing to be ashamed of: I would compare it to minor films by Alfred Hitchcock, who himself didn't always create masterpieces, but made many interesting B films similar to this one.
The sequence where a female Muslim terrorist attacks a film festival gala is maybe one of the best things De Palma has ever directed: It's totally bizarre, funny and shocking, but sadly more timely than the filmmakers could have ever known, when they made the picture. And the long and big showdown, played for over 5 minutes without any dialogue and only music and sound effects, is beautifully designed: Thrilling and very cinematic. The acting is O.K. and the cinematography is always stylish and precise. It's a short 80 minutes movie, but full of visual ideas and not a wasted shot. It's a shame, that I only could see "Domino" on DVD, because the detailed master shots were obviously designed for the big screen.
What makes "Domino" unusually interesting is its moral ambiguity and satirical tone: The CIA (represented by a sinister Guy Pearce) seems just as evil as the crazy Muslim terrorists. De Palma's view of the CIA-world-police is dark, but it also shows Muslim terror in all its viciousness, so no one gets away clean. Even countries like Belgium, where a secret CIA black site is hidden in a pretty suburb, and Denmark, where the local police seems to answer directly to the Americans - they all are satirized and the caricatures are closer to life than you might know.
What is "Domino" about ? It's about weaponizing images. The best analysis I came across was from Michael Kienzl's review: "The terror and also the fight against him lead...to a showdown over who produces the more threatening images." Everyone has become a filmmaker or image-maker now - including the CIA and ISIS - and they are all in a perverse 'film competition' who produces the scariest images. If you see the story this way, it even makes perfect sense, that one of the terror attacks happens at a film festival...
Could it have been better ? Sure. Especially the first action sequence on the roof doesn't work: It doesn't make any sense that the hero would jump on the roof. Why didn't he go downstairs and tried to catch the bad guy on the ground ? It's illogical and so old-fashioned, almost like from an early Hitchcock flick. If De Palma would have gotten the budget he needed and if they re-shot some stuff, this could have been a great little film, but it's still good and more intelligent than most people give it credit for.
Usually, I would rate this film only a solid 7/10, but because there is some kind of negativity campaign going on against "Domino" here, I'll give it a 10/10...
You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Stylish art film damaged by lazy writing, choppy editing, boring music and an incomprehensible plot
I was very much looking forward to see this film, because I like Lynne Ramsay's work and was waiting for her masterpiece. In spite of the hype created by the critics after the Cannes 2017 screening and the 2 awards it won, this is actually one of her weaker films and - I hate to say it - it doesn't really work. Did the Cannes audiences see a different and better version? It was shown there as a work-in-progress, I read, but I don't know what was changed before the release.
Seriously, how could this win 'Best Screenplay', if the story is nearly incomprehensible and suffers from lazy writing in some spots ?
I understand, that Ramsay tried to tell her B-plot in an abstract and elliptical way, but this is no excuse for presenting us a basic plot, that is so far-fetched and so hard to understand, that I still have no real idea why all the murders happened. It's something about perverted politicians trading their young daughters like sex slaves and killing each other by using police units - or whatever. I didn't read the novel its based on. Wikipedia only offers a movie plot description that contains an obvious mistake, so that writer didn't understand it either...
But it's not only the plot, that doesn't really make sense or satisfy in a dramatic way. The main character's actions don't follow any logic sometimes: He is characterized as a professional hitman with experience and an eye for detail at the beginning. He cleans up the blood and mess carefully and is very suspicious of everybody, because he doesn't want to get caught. So far so good. But why does he throw then his murder weapons and other evidence right outside of his room into a cleaning woman's garbage bin ? Because he's such a pro and so careful ? It doesn't make any sense. This pattern of stupid behavior, that no intelligent hitman worth his money would engage in, also happens later, when he is rescuing a young girl from a brothel. How does he do it ? He just buys a new hammer, doesn't care at all for the surveillance cams, doesn't use different clothes and doesn't even try to hide his face - he just walks in and hits multiple tough guys on the head and walks out with the girl. That's it. So, why should we believe that this man, who was characterized as a careful pro, would ever behave in such a foolish way ? And what was the purpose of the surveillance cams, if nobody tried to stop him ? Nothing of this makes sense and it's not justified through the character himself.
Apart from these serious plot and story problems, the editing is so choppy in the violent scenes, that the movie appears like a censored version of a much longer and much more brutal film that had to be cut down by an inexperienced editor. The cuts are sometimes jumpy, harsh and irritating. The editing doesn't succeed in creating an organic flow of images. The music is equally choppy and doesn't help in creating a film that feels like one coherent piece. The music styles and instruments are all over the place, but only some of it is compelling. The electronic music is uninspired and a boring cliché now. It's like Ramsay was trying to appeal to the same crowd that loved the 80's style of the overrated, but much more satisfying "Drive".
Without the strong, but not perfect, cinematography, the creative sound design, the intense lead performance by Joaquin Phoenix and some poetic moments, this movie would be a total failure. It doesn't really work as a character piece or a thriller or a drama or an experimental art film, because it tries to be all of it at once, but is not really interested to explore anything of it in depth. The main character and story stay enigmatic, but not in a fascinating and satisfying way like in David Lynch's "Blue Velvet", which is an obvious reference point for Ramsay's painterly style. This film just feels unfinished and rough like a student work.
I never 'bought' the criminal underground world that Ramsay showed us, because it doesn't look detailed and gritty enough. Comparsions with "Taxi Driver" are ridiculous, because this movie has none of that authenticity or realism. It seems to me that Lynne Ramsay either didn't do any research on her subject or simply wasn't too interested in a realistic portray of today's sex trade underworld. Older films like Neil Jordan's "Mona Lisa" or Paul Schrader's "Hardcore" offer much more gritty realism.
Even the crude make-up effects look as unconvincing as in a student film. I can't remember the last time, I saw movie-blood looking like strawberry marmalade. Or slashed throats like they were created by a school theatre group. It's sub-par work and took me out of the story.
All in all this was not a very entertaining experience and I can't imagine any audiences loving this movie. It has a few impressive qualities and plays in its best moments like a visual poetry clip, but it fails so totally as dramatic storytelling, that it could be used in film schools as an example of the limits of coherence, when you want to tell your story in more abstract ways. Similar movies like "Léon, the Professional" or "A Walk Among The Tombstones" are more traditional, but they work, while this is unfortunately just a failed attempt to create high-art out of pulpy material.
D'après une histoire vraie (2017)
Maybe the worst feature of Roman Polanski's career - Rushed, trivial, unsatisfying and pointless.
I've been a long-time admirer of Polanski's films and like his classicist directing style and unique blend of paranoia and the absurd. I read a few books about him, but none of them were too impressive, especially the Taschen one is basically a promotion tool without much analysis. Sure, I know that he's a rapist, but usually I can distinguish quite well between the art and the artist. Since I followed his career, seen all of his works - including his short films - and the important ones multiple times, I feel competent enough to judge this film in relation to his whole oeuvre, but also on its own merits.
Let's start with the elements that work. Emmanuelle Seigner gives the best performance in the film and I was surprised what a good and subtle actress she has become. She was acceptable in "Frantic", "Bitter Moon" and the misguided "The Ninth Gate", but in "Venus in Fur" and in this film she's seriously good and very well cast. I expected Eva Green to steal every scene she's in, but her performance is uneven and bizarre, which might have been intended, but it doesn't fit in well. Polanski highlighted only the Eva Green we already know from Tim Burton's films, but since we never quite understand her character or her motivations - or if she even exists - she comes across more like a troll than a fully formed character. The rest of the cast is nice, but they barely appear or make an impression. The widescreen cinematography is fine and stylish, just what I expected from Pawel Edelman. Colors are well chosen and the visuals flow quite nicely. The direction creates a little suspense through Polanski's trademark use of focusing on the limited perspective of the protagonist. The first half still offers promise and you are willing to look beyond the flaws, but then...
The story goes nowhere. Sadly, it's only a poor man's/woman's version of Stephen King's "Misery" crossed with Chuck Palahniuk's "Fight Club", which tries to make some sophisticated commentary on the relationship between art and life, but it fails. Do we really need to know, that art is inspired by life and that life imitates art sometimes ? Sorry, but this is trivial and no excuse for telling such a poor story. Even Francis Ford Coppola's "Twixt" (2011) - another stylish failure about a troubled and fantasizing author looking for new inspiration to write - was a little bit more original and personal than this much bigger waste of a good cast and crew, money and time.
Some defenders of this sophisticated-looking, but ultimately hollow film, might defend it on the ground that it's 'ambiguous' and that this in itself is a quality that makes it worthy. But the ambiguity is never in the service of something worth your attention. Good ambiguity illuminates and creates interesting complexities, while bad ambiguity only creates pointless confusion. Since the original version that Polanski presented at Cannes was about 10 minutes longer than the final version, this film was shortened, which might explain why the story feels rushed and no real atmosphere or connection to the characters develops. Is this film a victim of panicked re-editing ? Maybe, but the original version had the same disappointing ending and overall pointlessness, I read in the early Cannes reviews. The whole affair is now just shorter, but probably more confusing and even worse than before ?
They should have removed a few scenes with bad dialogue that not even Olivier Assayas as a director could have turned into gold. And they should have cut down the infamous scene where Eva Green trashes a mixer. This could have been directed by a blind man - it really hurts the credibility of the story, because her character's anger is not justified in that moment and it looks ridiculous. But even the most competent editor probably can't safe the life of this movie, because it has too little heart and brain. My only explanation for this disaster is, that screenwriter Olivier Assayas wanted to sabotage Roman Polanski's career by serving him with the worst possible screenplay. But since Polanski has enough experience and is credited as the co-writer, I'm afraid he has to take full responsibility.
Roman Polanski's worst films according to my opinion - and popular opinion - are ""What ?" (1972), "Pirates" (1986), "The Ninth Gate" (1999) and "Oliver Twist" (2005), but "Based on a true story" (2017) is maybe worse than all of them, because it fails to tell its basic story in a satisfying way. Even Polanski's lesser movies can be appreciated as mildly entertaining spectacles. Even they have a few attractions or a few outstanding scenes. "Based on a true story" is only a talky domestic drama, that has not much substance and you will leave the cinema asking yourself: "Why did Polanski even bother to make this movie ?"
The 'true story' of "Based on a true story" is probably, that it was only made, because the book was a bestseller and Polanski needed a job after his project "D" was delayed. Nobody cared about this story or this film as a work of art, because it's only designed to rip-off the book's readers and Polanski's few supporters left alive. Don't pay for this movie, you will regret it.
Touch Me Not (2018)
A humanistic masterpiece - Inquisitive, sensitive, inclusive, transgressive & innovative
I saw Adina Pintilie's "Touch Me Not" at the world premiere and I saw nobody leaving the sold out Berlinale Palace. There was also a huge applause by the audience at the end. No one was booing or screaming. It was a nice, pleasant evening with a rather unusual audience: A mix of high-profile cultural figures, some transvestites and transsexuals, some disabled people and many ordinary folks like myself, who were just happy they could get a ticket.
There have been a few false reports, where I could read to my surprise, that "masses left the screenings" etc. but in fact this happened ONLY at the very first press screening before the world premiere. Some press people obviously thought they didn't need to watch this, because at the beginning you get to see a little unsimulated sex. I also read, that the part of the press, that decided to stay until the end, applauded the film. So, the few dozens of journalists, who were so 'shocked' by a little tasteful sex and artful nudity, that they had to run away and get therapeutic help, DO NOT REPRESENT the whole audience. They only represent the awful state of film journalism, because - honestly - how do these lazy people want to write now a review of a film they didn't even see ? They should be fired.
I liked the movie, because it was formally different, thematically interesting and in-your-face-radical in a rather entertaining way. It's not a boring experimental film about things you don't care about - on the contrary it makes you think about sexuality, bodies, norms, intimacy, trauma and the possibility of therapy. Last but not least, it's a beautifully made film with striking cinematography, inventive editing, immersive sound design and dissonant music by avant-garde band "Einstürzende Neubauten" - it all looks and sounds very distinct and fascinating, a true art object.
In some of the few 'shocked' reviews I read - f.e. by the shallow snob Peter Bradshaw or the crazy Susanne Ostwald - you really get the feeling, that these so-called critics don't do their work. They don't try hard enough to understand what an artist like Pintilie was trying to do. Especially the ridiculous accusation of 'exploitation of disabled people' can't be taken seriously. Christian Bayerlein and the few other disabled or unusual people appearing in "Touch Me Not" are only limited by their bodies, but have an articulate mind and interesting things to say. It's possible, that you will see so-called 'handicapped people' in a totally new light after watching this film - and that's a good thing.
Critics like the incredibly ignorant Susanne Ostwald scare me, because she appears to feel threatened by a progressive film like this, which tries to include people out-of-the-norm in our popular culture by taking their needs seriously. Why does she feel so disturbed by a fascinating man like Christian Bayerlein, who happens to be disabled, but still loves to enjoy his sex life with his wife Grit? Does it hurt her sense of 'beauty'? Every group has a need to be represented in popular culture, even if Ms. Ostwald doesn't like them in her entertainment. Nobody forced her to see "Touch Me Not": She can rent a copy of the latest Zac Efron rom com or "Bridget Jones" anywhere, if she is in the mood for some 'sexy time' with the 'men of her dreams'. But disabled people don't have their rom coms. Fortunately many of the other critics agree with me, that "Touch Me Not" succeeds at creating more empathy for different and disabled people and they see nothing 'exploitative' about casting them in a film. Christian Bayerlein is now a new hero of mine.
I'm not surprised that President Tom Tykwer and the high-profile jury at the Berlinale decided to give their top award to "Touch Me Not", because it's challenging in ways that only few films are today. Tykwer himself showed in his work, that it is possible to go beyond the norms, even if you work in the mainstream: F.e. in his short "True" (2004) and in his feature "The Princess and the Warrior" (2000) the actor Melchior Derouet - who is blind since birth - was cast as a supporting character. And he was a fine actor. Is that 'exploitation', too?
This is a film best enjoyed with an open mind and curiosity for other people. It's great that the jury could appreciate such an experimental film, because it might inspire more daring cinema. Adina Pintilie's innovative film shows that cinema can still be a truly humanistic experience.
Darkest Hour (2017)
Expressionistic Churchill portrait with brilliant cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel
It's a very good film, that sometimes touches greatness.
I think most people who expect a conventional historical biopic misunderstand the film, when they only focus on 'realism' and how correct 'the facts' are represented and so on. "Darkest Hour" is stylistically the polar opposite of "Dunkirk". Joe Wright gave the story an expressionistic telling, while Christopher Nolan went for impressionism.
Joe Wright wants the audience to feel, what it felt like to be Winston Churchill for a specific month in 1940, when the fate of the world was decided. To achieve this 'going inside Churchill's mind' effect, Wright uses all the elements that are possible in cinema - and only in cinema - like editing, lighting, framing, music, sound design in a poetic and operatic way. In the first hour, this a thrillingly cinematic film, so rich and detailed, that it demands several viewings to fully appreciate its beauty. Especially in the scenes, when Churchill is more and more isolated and doesn't know what to do, the cinematography by the always-inventive French master Bruno Delbonnel perfectly translates his loneliness into images. You just feel like you are with Churchill in his 'darkest hours'. This is not an easy thing to achieve - and most historical epics fail at it - therefore the film should get more praise for its cinematic qualities. It mostly succeeds at giving you a feeling of the times and Churchill's situation.
It's a very entertaining film and it works not only because of Gary Oldman's masterful performance, but because of the whole approach. It's like Weimar Cinema or German Expressionism adapted for British historical drama, far more inventive and artful than "The King's Speech" for example. This is as far away from the realism of Ken Loach movies as you possibly can get - and I find that approach exciting and fresh.
Unfortunately it's not a flawless film. Many critics had a problem with the Shakespeare-inspired scene, where Churchill speaks to 'the British people' in the tube to better learn what they expect from him, just like "Henry V". The writing and direction in this important scene - which tries to illustrate the difference between a democratic mind and a dictator like Hitler - is so off, that it tuns into near-self-parody. I bet, that most critics, who dismissed this film, simply couldn't accept this big flaw, for example Mark Kermode. While I understand them, it didn't ruin the film for me, even if it is sad to see a masterpiece-in-the-making not reaching its full potential.
My question would be: Why did the very experienced producers Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan not insist on re-shooting this scene ? Too expensive? Too little time ? It's a shame, because it probably will cost them the 'Best Picture' Academy Award. If they could have made this scene work and fixed a few other flawed moments, this would have been one of the strongest contenders this year. Only because of this scene, the otherwise well-written, suspenseful and funny screenplay didn't get any award nominations. Only because of this scene Joe Wright's exciting direction was totally ignored. But it you are able to look beyond this one failure of artistic judgment, then you still have a rich, funny and beautiful film, that might become a small classic.
The cinematography, the make-up and Gary Oldman should win Oscars.
Aus dem Nichts (2017)
Thriller-esque dramatization of a real-life murder case with good cinematography - but it's too populist to reach its full potential
Before Mr. Akin scored with "Head On" (2004) and won the Golden Bear, he was regarded as an entertainer with limited artistic ambitions - he even called himself a "commercial filmmaker" in an old interview. But the big award and the media frenzy suddenly made him 'the next hope of German cinema'. Since then Akin has struggled to live up to these ultra-high expectations, because he's only a populist filmmaker at heart, who likes to entertain. Nothing wrong with that.
Akin's cinema is usually more cinematic and emotional than the work of other German filmmakers. In his best moments, Akin was able to create gritty drama about the migrant experience in Germany. But in his worst moments Akin's writing is poor and his films become vulgar. "In the Fade" contains both his strong and weak sides.
His screenplays and direction always were inspired and informed by other filmmakers, for example in "Short Sharp Shock" (1998) he used Scorsese's "Mean Streets" (1973) as the model: One scene is even an exact replica of a scene in Scorsese's film. "The Edge of Heaven" is a multiple-stories feature inspired by Iñárritu's early work. For the thriller-esque "In the Fade" Akin has probably studied Brian DePalma's films carefully: The cinematography reminded me often of DePalma, not only because Akin decided to use DePalma's 'trademark' split-focus lenses for specific shots, too. The style works well. Rainer Klausmann's gritty, but precise cinematography looks good and the film gains a poetic quality through it without sacrificing realism.
Much has been made out of the performance of Diane Kruger - and she's intense in the part. But why did Akin cast a former top model like Kruger and marries her to a Turkish ex-con? It was too hard for me to suspend my disbelief. With better cast leads and with a less annoying 'cute' kid as their son, this would have been so much better...
There are other credibility problems, for example the rather poor dialogue. It didn't sound real to me. There was plenty of opportunity here for good and serious dialogue, but you don't get much beyond crude genre lines and profanities.
The direction - especially in the courtroom scenes - is uneven and some over-the-top performances are slightly misjudged. A few times, I had to laugh, but I'm pretty sure, that was not Akin's intention, was it? It's not the actors' fault, but a case of a director who often doesn't know when 'too much' is really too much.
Mr.Akin made the same mistake here of pressing important political subject matter into old genre formula like in "The Cut" (2014), which dealt with the Armenian Genocide. Except there was little in "The Cut", that gave you an idea, that what happened in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire was the carefully planned and executed mass murder of 1,5 million Armenians by the Turkish rulers. The result was an epic designed like a John Ford 'western' that - while made with good intentions and worth seeing - pleased and educated only few people.
At least, "In the Fade" is not boring: The committed performance of Diane Kruger and the beautiful formalism of Rainer Klausmann's edgy and elegant cinematography save this populist piece of cinema from its more vulgar side, but this subject deserved a better film.
Maybe next time, Mr. Akin.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
The 65mm cinematography is marvelous, but Sidney Lumet's 1974 version is still superior
The only reason, why I write a review for this rather mediocre film is the stunning 65mm cinematography.
I've seen it on a big screen, sitting in the center close to the screen and it was visually very impressive: The amount of detail you get with 65mm is astonishing and a reminder of how poor many digitally shot movies look today compared with 'the good old days'. The actors' skin looks organic, the highlights are not 'blown out' and you see a great richness in color and contrast. Because the movie demands for splendid production design and costumes, the 65mm can shine in its full glory.
Like Kenneth Branagh's update of "Sleuth" before, this is an inferior and misjudged version of well-known source material. In this case, Branagh was a victim of the Baz-Luhrmann-school: The direction forces a comical style on the material, that's too over-the-top even for Agatha Christie's rather artificial murder mysteries. No, I'm not only talking about the now infamous mustache of Poirot, which is so absurd-looking, that it distracts from the story, but everything else is slightly off, including the good cast, which does not compare to Lumet's 1974 ensemble. Lumet's film is a small masterpiece of direction and ensemble acting, where every element is in its place and the plot works. I still remember how much fun it was watching it on TV as a child. And it was so well told, that I understood the rather complicated plot then, but now - even as an adult who knew the story - I found it hard to follow. You really get the feeling, that neither the screenwriter nor the director are especially interested in the mystery aspect of the story. They focus instead on grotesque behavior, funny accents, racism in 1930s Europe and all looking 'postcard good'. And it does, but people who see this expect some excitement and elegant storytelling, too.
Sure, some people already know the ending and the movie is easy to spoil, but a huge part of the young audience didn't read the novel or saw the other versions, so there would still be the possibility of a great mystery. I don't understand, why they cared more for comic effect than suspense and surprise. The audience is smarter than that and deserves better...
Reading Agatha Christie and seeing Lumet's adaptation is like assisting Hercule Poirot in solving a crime. That's the fun of it: You usually get all the information you need to participate and it usually plays fair with the logical conclusions, even if it's far-fetched. But in this movie the mystery is told so fast, that there is no chance of participating - and therefore no suspense. This movie fails at understanding the appeal of Agatha Christie novels. It was never the mustache.
And the few inventions by the screenwriter, that are not part of Agatha Christie's novel as far as I remember, are trying to make Hercule Poirot's character 'more complex', I think, but that's not the point of Christie. Poirot is only an avatar for the audience who wants to assist in solving an exciting mystery. Poirot is not the center, therefore all additional scenes to give him a 'character journey', to introduce him in Jerusalem and give him a 'big dramatic speech' at the end are distracting additions, because it all takes away from the mystery-solving-fun. The storytelling is out of balance. I'm pretty sure, Agatha Christie would have hated this one.
Recommended mostly for the 65mm imagery and the production design and costumes, but don't forget to see Sidney Lumet's superior version, too.
The Square (2017)
Abstract, multi-layered satire about sociological topics told in the surreal fashion of Luis Bunuel
After reading some reviews by professional critics, I start to lose confidence in their ability to 'read' a film...
"The Square" is harder to 'read' than most films, but director & writer Ruben Östlund gives you many clues what his intentions are and even repeats it a few times in the film.
It's about the problems all modern societies face: Migration, poverty, social stratification, gender trouble, battle of the sexes, inequality, social injustice and a general loss of community and trust in each other.
As the central metaphor Östlund presents in his film an art work called 'The Square' - created by an artist and sociologist - which represents an ideal society, where trust, pro-social behavior and trust among people is the norm. But the film "The Square" itself presents a (Swedish) society, that is far, far away from this utopia, almost the opposite. Östlund illustrates these abstract topics through dreamlike episodes from everyday life: The main protagonist becomes a victim of confidence men at the beginning, which triggers morally questionable actions by him and his friends, which result in other people losing their confidence in society, too.
If you understood this, you have a chance at getting something out of this movie, but - be warned - it gets increasingly complicated and wild.
It's also about the loss of trust between men and women, the borders of tolerance and inclusion in society, the stupidity of modern art, the mad cacophony of the media & the animalistic nature of man, who still might be only an advanced ape looking to find a better society to live in.
Östlund uses episodes, metaphors and leitmotifs instead of a conventional plot, always dancing around his subjects in surprising ways, more like in a novel. The surrealistic touches, which often seem to come out of nowhere, because the film looks hyper-realistic most of the time, make the interpretation even more demanding, because everything we see could also be 'explained' as a nightmare by the hero. But even nightmares reflect our social reality in bizarre ways.
Last but not least, 'The Square' is also the shape of the projected film in the cinema. You could interpret this as Östlund's way of saying, that cinema is one of the central social spaces where trust and community can be created today.
I understand people, who don't like this movie or see it as flawed, but it works and is never boring. Maybe it's a little too simple in it's 'solution' for the difficult questions it asked at the beginning and maybe it doesn't end in a satisfying way and maybe it's too moralizing - but few films are this ambitious and demanding these days and that should be praised.
I haven't seen such a film since Luis Bunuel's "The Phantom of Liberty" (1974), which is similar in satirical tone, realist style, episodic structure and surrealist approach. Another influence might be Roy Andersson's dry, comic surrealism, but it's still its own thing.
It's too rich for one viewing. I need to see it again.
The Snowman (2017)
Borderline incoherent, incomprehensible & one of the worst-edited films ever
What happened to this movie ?
That's a much more interesting question, than anything this destroyed artifact has to offer
Everything about this project looked so good: World class cast, director, cinematographer, editors, producers, writer, all based on a bestselling thriller: I couldn't wait to see it.
Executive producer Martin Scorsese even wanted to direct it himself years ago, so it couldn't possibly be bad, because that man knows his stuff, right?
I didn't read the novel and avoided any plot description because I wanted to enjoy a good thriller without knowing too much. But if anyone tells you, that he 'understood' the plot and character motivations of this mess, then you know he's lying or he's talking about the novel.
The director Tomas Alfredson - who did such a fantastic job on "Tinker, Tailer, Soldier Spy", which was hard to follow sometimes, too, but did make sense - said in an interview, that 10-15 % of the screenplay were not shot. No joke. And these were pretty important pages, it seems, because the lead characters sometimes behave in incomprehensible ways. What the motivation of the killer was, is still an enigma to me.
Because key scenes were missing, the producers probably thought: "Hey, we'll just hire the best editors and they'll solve the problem somehow!" Thelma Schoonmaker and Claire Simpson are indeed two of the best editors in the world, but if not even they could construct something like a story out of the footage, then something went deeply wrong during the shoot.
The footage itself looks great. Oscar winner Dion Beebe is at the top of his game here and every shot is artfully composed and feels just right: Cold, sinister, grey, realistic, but still beautifully stylized. We are talking here about award-worthy cinematography, no less.
The acting is good, too, especially the beautiful Rebecca Ferguson and Michael Fassbender, who is too young for this part, but gives a decent performance.
Yes, there are some ridiculous scenes, especially the idiotic showdown, where Harry Hole survives and catches the killer by pure coincidence, but good producers could have fixed this through re-shoots. They didn't even try, it seems. They just gave up, because it was a lost cause.
How could the producers, screenwriters and director destroy a project that had so much going for it ?
This is one of the worst films of the year & one of the strangest film artifacts ever released in cinemas. It could serve as an example for filmmakers how NOT to edit a film or how NOT to tell a story.
I only gave it 2/10 because of the cinematography & I felt sorry for the actors.
A crime against cinema.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Misjudged, far too long & feels more like a sequel to "Oblivion" than to "Blade Runner"
Denis Villeneuve is a good director, but none of his Hollywood films are masterpieces, because the screenplays somehow all lack. He has a style that's hard to define - it's a dry, serious and operatic realism with some added existential weight. After the acclaimed "Arrival", Villeneuve could do what he wanted, but if "Blade Runner 2049" is his pure vision, than he's even more overrated than I thought.
Why is this not nearly as good as Ridley Scott's work of genius "Blade Runner"(1982) ?
a) It's far too long for the rather minimal plot. I like slow movies usually, but Villeneuve goes beyond the breaking point here. I simply lost track of the causalities and motivations, because it was too static. Scenes with great potential - like the Las Vegas casino fight between the holograms - lose their power because they play like in slow motion. If they would have cut down every scene a little bit - without sacrificing one second of the fantastic city vistas - it could have been 20 minutes shorter easily. And more powerful. It feels too slow, self-important, bloated and empty like it is.
b) This is often science fantasy, not science fiction: The imagined forms don't follow any clear function or logic. The technologies and designs look operatic, but not believable sometimes. They are more like New Age eye candy, not a believable part of a future world. Compare this to Kubrick/Spielberg's "A.I." and the original "Blade Runner" and you'll know what I mean. For example the 'replicant woman birth scene': It looks artful, but it's not believable. These slimy high tech creatures just fall from the heaven ? Did the stork deliver them in one piece ? I would have liked to see, how they are made. But this looks comical in its simplicity.
c) It's too talky. Some critics called it "prose, not poetry" and that's pretty much it. They should have cut down some of the dialogue, especially of some supporting characters.
d) It looks and feels closer to Joseph Kosinski's "Oblivion" (2013) than "Blade Runner" (1982), because Villeneuve decided to go against the iconic constant-darkness-while-it's raining-environment of the original "Blade Runner" & he added vistas of the California and Nevada desert, just like in that Tom Cruise film. Drones and an 'underground army' appear here, too, similar too the Cruise flick. Roger Deakins' cinematography has not the poetic, mysterious and dark qualities that made Jordan Cronenweth's groundbreaking work so unique. Yes, it's beautiful, but it isn't really "Blade Runner" and some scenes - I hate to say it - don't look very interesting, while others are calling visually too much attention to itself. Sometimes you feel the studio and the sets, which destroys the suspension of disbelief. It still looks good, but it's not right for this film.
e) Ryan Gosling is a fine actor, but I'm afraid he wasn't a good choice for this, because there is something in his face that rather makes me smile than feel existential drama. I just couldn't take him seriously in this context. And the whole dynamic between Ford and Gosling doesn't feel right. It's like a theater work shop, where they improvise a little and crack up sometimes. Bradley Cooper would have been a better choice for the lead. And Ford's acting should have been more restrained, not in his usual 'action hero' mode.
f) The unforgettable score by Vangelis is repeated at the very end. And it's still moving in a way, that Hans Zimmer's electronics are not. The new score by Zimmer is nothing special and it doesn't improve the images like the operatic Vangelis score did. You will forget Zimmer's compositions when you are out of the cinema pretty quickly. Not his strongest work.
What I liked best about "Blade Runner 2049" is the love story sub plot with the 'hologram' of the beautiful Ana de Armas. That was very well done, had the most poetic cinematography and was kind of emotionally touching. But even this concept - falling in love with an artificial being - has been explored in "A.I." (Spielberg), "Her" (Spike Jonze) and other films before, so it can't claim to be original. But it's still a worthy addition. If the rest of the film would have been as good as all the scenes with Ana de Armas,it would have been great, but it's not even close to the quality of those few scenes.
"Blade Runner 2049" will probably get Academy Award noms for Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Sound, Best Sound Mixing and maybe Best Visual Effects, but - to be honest - it doesn't deserve to win any of these against the superior "Dunkirk".
Maybe Villeneuve will create a masterpiece one day, if the material, screenplay, cast and edit is right, but this ain't it.
At least "Blade Runner 2049" confirms what too many people denied too long: Ridley Scott is a genius and his "Blade Runner"(1982) was a singular achievement, that can't be replicated.
Outstanding on many levels & with a more radical narrative structure than "Pulp Fiction" has...
It's a film about one historical event, covered with three 'short stories', which are told from three distinct POVs, each processing on a different timeline with a different 'time compression' rate...
Sounds strange? It is, but it works.
You won't even notice most of the time, that there is something odd about the storytelling until you suddenly understand it.
Not even "Pulp Fiction" - which was a similar collection of three linked short stories told out of chronological order - dared to go as far in terms of experimental representation of time.
The main reason it works is, I think, that the audience is used to see 'time compression' strategies in movies all the time and has learned to accept them: Storytelling is simply the art of the ellipsis. Very, very rarely we see movies in 'real time'. Even rarer are movies which use different 'time compressions' next to each other to tell the story. It's so rare, that only Michael Haneke's "Code Unknown" (2000) comes to my mind. But "Dunkirk" goes even further - it's the first movie I've ever seen that combines three distinct 'time compression' rates with three distinct POVs.
The miracle is, that it doesn't feel forced like a formalist experiment, but it all comes together naturally through the event itself: a) A Spitfire's time in the air was only about an hour. b) Crossing the channel by boat and going back home took a day. c) The soldiers waiting on the beach of Dunkirk to get home took sometimes a full week.
All these POV's have a different time line or time cycle and Nolan decided to represent that through his storytelling. The rules are established quickly at the beginning.
Nolan compresses the time for each perspective differently, with the 'spitfire in the air' storyline being more-or-less in 'real time'. The three story lines/perspectives seem to have a similar running time in the film, but they cover and represent three timelines of very different length. All POV's cross each other at some point in the film, so there is at least some common part of all three timelines, where they overlap. It totally works and feels more organic to the story than in "Pulp Fiction", where it was more of a 'meta device' to make the pulpy content more interesting.
The screenplay is a masterpiece: One suspense sequence after another, people facing impossible choices at a propulsive, terrifying pace, not a wasted minute, every line of dialogue counts. Nolan is a master at misleading the expectations of the audience and then surprising them with something totally unexpected.
The writing is so TIGHT and the story offers so many surprises, that you'll see a different movie the second time, because you'll see scenes and characters with different eyes than before. The characters are nuanced and complex: People who seem to be 'heroes' suddenly are cowards or crazies, the terror of war shows anyone what he's truly made of and everyone makes the terrifying experience that he's willing to compromise his humanism to save his own life. It's a surprisingly dark film, that won't make you feel too good about humanity.
It avoids most clichés successfully. It feels different than any other war film. It's an epic that avoids everything you expect from an 'epic historical film', including a long running time, and makes it feel like you are there.
"Dunkirk" is much closer to films like the Hungarian Oscar winner "Son of Saul" and the Russian classic "Come and See", than to any war film Hollywood has ever produced.
I saw "Dunkirk" 3 times now and every time I discovered something new and it became an even stronger experience. Most complaints I read about the movie don't hold up to scrutiny and it's close to perfect.
"Dunkirk" will win Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Directing, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Music, Best Sound and Best Sound Mixing.
I hope they'll build a giant 70mm IMAX cinema and play it forever.
PS: Just in case you'll miss it - Yes, at the beginning it's suggested that the soldier wipes his ass with the "You are surrounded" leaflets. So, there's some good humor in "Dunkirk", too.
The Beguiled (2017)
Don Siegel's version is much better, but this one is visually more beautiful
I saw Don Siegel's version many years ago on TV and thought it was great: A surprising, slightly subversive tale of a macho killed by sexually repressed women. I knew nothing about the story before and expected a Clint Eastwood western, but it was something else, something much better: It's like a Southern Gothic Tale told by Ingmar Bergman.
It has similarities to Bergman's masterpiece "Cries and Whispers" (1972) - the closed setting in a house and many women in psycho-sexual conflicts - but "The Beguiled" (1971) was written and shot earlier than Bergman's popular art house hit. Don Siegel's film is simply a timeless chamber piece about the war of the sexes in a highly symbolic war setting. It offers strong drama, nasty fun and uncommon psychological realism.
I was curious to see Sofia Coppola's version, because of the so-called 'feminine touch': Would it really make a huge difference to the material if a woman was the screenwriter and director? In what way? Would it result in a more realistic portrait of the women? Better female psychology? A better film?
I saw the movie today with the expectation that the answer would be "Yes!", but to my surprise, this was not the case. As a piece of dramatic storytelling it doesn't work as good as Don Siegel's version, which made more out of the dramatic scenes at the end. In Coppola's version we never quite understand the psychology of the women as well and sometimes it even appears like whole scenes are missing, because the women suddenly do things that are not clearly motivated.
Like getting shagged by Colin Farrell on the floor after he threatened to shoot them. If a male director would have made that scene, people would cry: "Such a cheap male fantasy! Women don't get aroused by violent men!" But when Sofia Coppola does this kind of far-fetched scene, it seems to be O.K.? For me, it didn't work. Some people laughed, because it appeared ridiculous in the context.
It might not be a popular thing to write, but in my opinion, the artist who understood women better and showed them in a more plausible way, was Don Siegel - yes, the director of "Dirty Harry" - not the ultra-sensitive Antonioni-esque Sofia Coppola, who is mostly concerned with visual design anyway, not story, psychology and character.
But what visual design! Every shot is exquisite and some scenes are crafted to perfection. Cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd deserves at least an Academy Award nomination for his work. The sound design and minimalist score are very effective, too. All of this is the result of careful direction - no doubt - but Sofia Coppola doesn't succeed where Don Siegel had his strongest points: The characters and the storytelling. So, is this the 'feminine touch' ? I doubt it has much to do with gender.
The distributor and some reviewers will try to sell you this movie as the 'feminist version', but it isn't. It's the same story, but not told as well and with less insight into the women. But don't dare to say it too loud - the feminists will get angry at you, because their cliché ideas of the superiority of 'the feminine touch' ain't true.
Another problem of this version is that Sofia Coppola erased the slave woman character, who had a purpose and function in the original story. Even if she was only a supporting character, it reminded the viewer of the past slavery and other forms of inequality beyond gender: Racism, class and access to education. It made the story richer and added to the theme of unequal power struggles within society. It's a poorer screenplay without her and it smells of historical revisionism and artistic cowardice not to deal with a subject like slavery in this kind of historical setting. The 'Good Old South' was not only a horror to rich white women, right?
All in all, it's still worth seeing, at least for the great visuals, good actors and some fine moments.
In my opinion it's only a 6 out of 10, while Don Siegel's minor classic is at least a 9/10.
Manipulative & morally troubling art film that shouldn't be confused with accurate journalism
"Risk" is interesting as a work of art, because Laura Poitras has a cinematic style that uses the suggestive power of images and sounds. The eerie avant garde music by newcomer Jeremy Flower dominates the soundtrack like in a thriller. It's a documentary that tries to be 'exciting' and 'complex', which is good for every work of art.
But "Risk" wants to be journalism, too. It's about real people with real problems. It's more than entertainment. My biggest problem with the film is, that it simply doesn't deliver here, which is sad, because Laura Poitras had a unique access and probably has 200 hours of footage at home.
The WikiLeaks lawyers wrote a long complaint about this film and they are right, I think.
REPRESENTING WIKILEAKS LIKE A CULT
Why do we never see an interview with Sarah Harrison or the other women at the center of WikiLeaks ? What about Gavin MacFadyen, Vaughan Smith or other key people?
By marginalizing the WikiLeaks women, and excluding all the other contributors, Poitras creates the impression, that Julian Assange is as dominant as a cult leader. The gender relations are characterized - in a non-verbal way - as unequal and the women as nearly submissive, always working like bees to 'please' their sinister 'master' Julian. The portrait that Laura Poitras paints of WikiLeaks follows the old stereotype, that it's an ideological sect dominated by one power-hungry man, who knows no limits.
I'm sure, that the women, staff & contributors would have told a very different story of why they do what they do, but Laura Poitras only asks Assange a few questions - and nobody else. This is highly manipulative.
CREATING AMBIGUITY INSTEAD OF REPORTING NECESSARY FACTS
Why did Laura Poitras remove the whole section of WikiLeaks' triumph at the United Nations, where top Human Rights lawyers decided that Assange's treatment was unlawful? By not showing this surprising victory - Sweden dropped the whole investigation now - Julian Assange appears much more ambiguous. Poitras clearly wants to create as much ambiguity concerning WikiLeaks as possible, which is O.K. for art, but not for journalism.
It's the same with Jacob Appelbaum, who comes across like a 'guilty' person, even if the facts don't really support the view of Laura Poitras: While it's true, that there were allegations against him, most of them have been refuted by journalists and no official complaints exist. But Poitras still included them, because she has personal reasons: In the V.O. she says that Appelbaum "was abusive to someone close to me", which seems to be some kind of 'proof' for her. But we don't get a name or any information what kind of "abuse" Appelbaum committed, only the vague impression that he's a bad, bad guy. What did he do? Did he kick Laura's dog? Or did he tease her cat?
Sorry, but that's not journalism or responsible filmmaking, because neither Mr. Appelbaum nor the audience can verify or refute an empty statement like that. It's simply a manipulation of the audience.
LAURA KNOWS WHAT?
Laura Poitras asks the audience to always trust her, because 'Laura knows', but this is childish.
Why should we trust Laura Poitras to always tell the truth - if she even has access to it - when she sometimes doesn't even get small facts correct and manipulates reality for her storytelling like it pleases her?
A beautiful example for the problem of manipulation-by-editing is a short sequence in a Berlin S-Bahn near the end, where we see Sarah Harrison. Everybody who knows Berlin can see, that the editing creates an impossible continuity: First we see the station 'Hackescher Markt', then we hear a voice announcing the station 'Berlin Hauptbahnhof' and at last we see her driving by the station 'Alexanderplatz'. The editing creates a nonsensical and physically impossible trip in this sequence, but only people who know Berlin will even see this.
If Laura Poitras doesn't care about these details - that she obviously knew were wrong, since she lived in Berlin - then how much did she care about accuracy in other parts of her movie, where she asks us to simply 'trust' her ?
Poitras also mentions in one sentence - like it doesn't matter - that Appelbaum used to be her boyfriend in 2014. That's all the info we get, despite the big credibility problems this creates for an observational documentary. To have sex with your subjects while you pretend to create an objective 'journalistic film' is ridiculous. Does Appelbaum come across as 'guilty' in her film, because Ms. Poitras wanted to take revenge on Appelbaum, who left her for a younger woman?
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
The life of Jacob Appelbaum is more or less destroyed after this film, but Laura Poitras and her distributor try now very hard to win another Academy Award for this 'achievement' - this is obscene.
She needs to simply present more credible evidence before she represents people as bad guys in her 'thrillers', otherwise it becomes unethical and morally troubling filmmaking.
It certainly didn't made me appreciate Laura Poitras as a journalist, because she does care more for her art & drama than accurate & balanced journalism.
VISUAL JOURNALISM HAS NOT THE SAME LIBERTIES AS ART
I'm all for trying new ways of reporting on real-life stories: Laura Poitras' "Field of Vision" project wanted to explore 'visual journalism' and it sounded exciting to me.
But "Risk" is regressive in it's ignorant approach and does a disservice to the credibility of her 'visual journalism' project and the documentary form itself.
More visual reporting and data visualization in journalism is good, but it has to be accurate, balanced, fair and based on legit methods & credible sources otherwise it becomes a work of art & fiction, that can't claim any journalistic value.
Poitras' "Risk" definitely crossed the line.
Incompetent direction ruins a promising B-picture
Let me start by saying that I like gritty neo-noir thrillers, Jamie Foxx and dramas that are set in a compressed time frame. The trailer to "Sleepless" promised all of this and I was sold. I didn't expect anything outstanding, but something a little bit like Mann's "Miami Vice" or "Collateral".
The digital cinematography by the talented Mihai Malaimare Jr. ("The Master", "A Walk Among The Tombstones", "Tetro") is better than this kind of movie deserves and creates a moody, but still realistic Las Vegas setting using grey, black, blue, green and purple color tones. No color is there only by coincidence. The frame is always beautifully composed. Some of the action footage looks spectacular.
So, why doesn't it work?
The screenplay by the Oscar-nominated Andrea Berloff is very conventional and full of cliché, but so are other good B-pictures with a less stellar cast. It's surprisingly flat and without any originality at all. You've seen every twist before in better movies. But it's not as bad, that it needs a Razzie nomination. It might have worked if directed by some talented guy, but...
The direction is a mess. It's not only weak directing, but incompetent directing, because Baran bo Odar makes mistakes you usually only see in student films, where the filmmakers don't really care about realism too much. Some of the actions of the characters don't make any sense and are staged in an unbelievable manner. My favorite example is the moment when one of the bad guys aims with his gun at Jamie Foxx. He could easily kill him now, but what does he do? He walks a few steps back. Then suddenly Foxx' son in the movie drives into him with his car, without making any noise first, so the bad guy is surprised by his death. Another big thing that bothered me was the son: Why didn't he leave the building after his unrealistic-escape-by-coincidence ? No, he prefers to stay in the disco. Really? These things would not happen in real-life, only in movies, where the director is not able to block and stage a scene in a believable manner. Or he simply doesn't care for realism or logical actions by motivated characters. The whole showdown is ridiculous and unintentionally funny because of the bad direction and the mediocre writing. Maybe good editing could have fixed some errors and save the movie from its ridiculousness, but even then it would still be only an uninspired B-picture.
What we have here is proof of disregard for the audience and intelligent storytelling. Maybe Baran bo Odar once showed some promise at the beginning of his career, but based on "Sleepless" I would never hire this guy for anything except maybe a car commercial.
I only give it 4/10 because of stylish cinematography. A waste of talent.
T2 Trainspotting (2017)
By far the worst film of Danny Boyle's career...just shockingly bad.
I loved "Trainspotting" and like most of Danny Boyle's work, even if I always suspected that he was overrated, because once in a while he suddenly created garbage like "A Life Less Ordinary" or "Trance". But this is a new low here. Even "The Beach" had more of a story and at least some good scenes. This has nothing except one of the worst soundtracks in film history, songs so bad and uninteresting, I couldn't believe my ears. The screenplay makes no sense: No motivation by any character makes sense, plot development is not logical, the whole movie has no real point or even a reason to exist. And it's far too long. The genius of the original film was the great editing and pacing, which is totally gone now at 2 looong hours. Instead of fast-paced fun we get endless nostalgia and flashbacks to the original film, which makes the badness of the new film even more visible, because the original had so much greatness to offer. I really can't understand people who like this. It was one of the worst films I've ever seen. Since it didn't play more than 2 weeks in my town, I'm not the only one, who didn't get what he hoped for...I only gave it 2/10 because of some inventive cinematography. Don't bother. Don't pay for this shite. Danny, why? What's wrong with you, mate?