Εμφάνιση αναρτήσεων με ετικέτα film critique. Εμφάνιση όλων των αναρτήσεων
Εμφάνιση αναρτήσεων με ετικέτα film critique. Εμφάνιση όλων των αναρτήσεων

Τετάρτη, 16 Μαρτίου 2016

The Lobster (2015)

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writers: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
With: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman, Ben Whishaw
Duration: 118'
Production: Ireland | UK | Greece | France | Netherlands | USA

People tend to call "weird" what they cannot understand, what they fail to fit into their structured perceptions. Many might have introduced this film to you as the "strangest" they have watched and critics might have written about how absurd and unique it is. Very few people will actually tell you what the film is really about, because very few people will manage to put aside their cinematic conventions and dive into this world. 

The Lobster is more than a strange film; it is pure and instinctive, it awakens those places in your soul you didn't even know were there. In the world Lanthimos built with his images, people who are incapable of finding a partner are sent to The Hotel, an actual hotel where possible partners can be found. People are given a room number, identical outfits and 45 days to find their ideal partner, someone with whom they share a particular natural characteristic, being blind for example. If they fail to do so, they turn into an animal of their own choice for the rest of their lives. 

The residents need to attend the hotel's events, but also be prepared for hunting. That includes going to The Woods, loading tranquilizer weapons and hunting down Loners, people who managed to escape this structured world and live on their own in the wild. If the residents succeed in immobilizing loners, they earn extra days at the hotel. 

The film that won the Jury Prize in Cannes this year, Lanthimos first English speaking film, is dealing with a subject cinema loves to visualize; that of pure love. But through a different perspective. How could the world be structured if being alone was a crime? In a society where the inability to find a lover would be punished and the talent to kill lonely people would be rewarded? It must be hard to imagine, but look what Lanthimos has created so far; a seemingly cynical and exaggerated version of reality, where love is the only thing making sense. 

Lanthimos has the unique ability to create realities that make us uncomfortable, just because they dare to tell us honestly what we'd rather ignore. In this case, he visualizes the fear of being lonely, the love that flourishes in any circumstance, the obsession humans have on trying to change each other. His images look structured and senseless at first glance, but they unlock a greater depth on how love is perceived. His vision is simple and decisive, his cinema is more liberating than weird and in its unorthodox form it breaks all conventions, expressing universal truths. 

Κυριακή, 29 Μαρτίου 2015

The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)

Director: Felix van Groeningen
Writers: Johan Heldenbergh (play), Mieke Dobbels (play)
With: Veerle Baetens, Johan Heldenbergh, Nell Cattrysse
Duration: 111'
Production: Belgium, Netherlands

I always find it hard to write down my thoughts when it comes to films I love. "The Broken Circle Breakdown" is one of them. This intense Belgian drama took over my consciousness for many days. For its strong narrative and storyline are breathtaking and every shot vibrates out of real life. 

Nominated at the 2014 Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film for Belgium, this film made an intense impression worldwide because of its inner strength to narrate a magnificent love story between two earthly creatures. 

Didier is a musician, specified in the banjo. He sings and plays for a bluegrass band. Elise is a tattoo artist with her own tattoo shop. They fall in love instantly. Their shared love for American music and culture will bring them even closer. Soon their life together begins and they have a daughter. The girl is diagnosed though, with an aggressive type of cancer and their lives change dramatically. We follow the course of their relationship by reversed narration. Pieces of their life appear in front of our eyes in order to understand the depth of their love and all those incidents leading to the present. 

The characters evolve gradually through the unfolding of their story, making you fall in love with them without even trying. They have a natural coolness, they way they fall in love, the way they live, singing together on stage, raising their daughter as free as possible. They live absorbed by their strong feelings for each other, a love that seems to grow every day. But cancer decomposes little by little that bond. Suddenly what drew them together sets them apart. 

Where once was deep love is now replaced by enormous confusion. Didier, a strong-minded atheist finds it difficult to suppress his opinion about the world and religion, while Elise has found a shelter and comfort through it. Their differences in how they see the world have enlarged through their daughter's illness. Elise, a woman full of temperament has found her soulmate in Didier and he feels exactly the same. But how can you fight life's struggles when the ego stands in front of you building a stiff wall?

"The Broken Circle Breakdown" is an intense elegy on true love between two different people who merged their lives and created a new one, a better and happier one. But their shared life is cracked and smashed from life's cruelty and harshness. The remains of their love are falling apart and they are losing each other along with their own selves. It takes a lot of courage to just go on even when you feel you have lost everything. 

Felix van Groeningen has created, through magnificent storytelling, a heartbreaking love story, presenting the true power of love. He has adapted skillfully the play "The Broken Circle Breakdown Featuring the Cover-Ups of Alabama" by Mieke Dobbels and Johan Heldenbergh, who is playing the role of Didier. 

With an amazing bluegrass soundtrack (performed by the protagonists themselves), inspiring performances and a great story, "The Broken Circle Breakdown" will make you laugh, hope and love, but mostly will make you want to live a full life/ With no regrets, no mistakes. Just a life filled with love. Can you handle it?

Δευτέρα, 2 Μαρτίου 2015

Turist (Force Majeure) (2014)

Direction: Ruben Östlund
Writer: Ruben Östlund
Stars: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren
Duration: 120min
Production: Sweden, France, Norway

Set in the cold and unfriendly environment of the French Alps, a Swedish family will try to find peace at their ski vacation. The work-addict father, the loving mother and their two young children. After facing an avalanche at lunch, their seemingly strong family bonds will be shaken to their core, leaving them all numb and doubtful. 

Tomas and Ebba seem to be very close to each other and their lovely family. They decide to escape in the French Alps to share some quality time with their two children, Harry and Vera. An incident at the ski resort, an unexpected, uncontrolled avalanche, will shake up their relationship. Ebba will remain speechless and terrified while the avalanche crosses them leaving everyone unharmed. But Tomas, at an attempt to survive, will flee the scene, avoiding helping his family and his screaming son, leaving only shreds of doubts behind him. 

"Turist" has an unprecedented tension, but not in the way you expect. It is subtle, hidden, almost invisible tension that changes slowly and gradually the nature of this family's bonds. Disappointment comes with doubt, but mostly with anger when the patriarch of the family denies his own actions, trying to avoid, not only the confrontation with his wife, but also with himself. By facing Ebba's feelings, through the couple's social meetings with friends at the ski resort, Tomas will feel bewildered and falsely accused, trying to bury the incident in an attempt to avoid dealing with his wife, but mostly the truth. 

It is absolutely fascinating how the roles between the couple change. At first and just after the incident, Ebba acts and feels like the victim, abandoned and mocked by the man who is supposed to protect his family no matter what. But then it all changes. She accuses Tomas of being a liar and gradually makes him the victim, the one who acted on the wrong instincts and fled, the one who denies everything, the one who failed. She puts him in the corner and strips him up, trying to make him understand the seriousness of his non-actions. And from strong he becomes weak, from leader he becomes a follower. 

This deep family drama evolves quite unpredictably in the idyllic, but terrifying set of the snowy Alps, with an elaborate script from director Ruben Östlund that manages to elevate the damaged relationship skillfully. Accompanied by small doses of classic music, the tension builds throughout the film and grows unevenly till it breaks into small pieces and get scattered everywhere. The collateral damage of this collision are the kids, who sense their parents' distinct separation and close themselves into their own shelter. 

Ebba and Tomas will collide harsh, talking endlessly with each other, fighting, trying to find a solution for themselves and their family. You may already think how heavy of a drama this might be, but here is the awesome part of it; its comic and witty cocoon in which everything happens is inevitably amazing. The reactions, the words, the scenes, all are dominated by this tragicomic feeling that raises the film into one of my favorites of 2015. Ruben Östlund's direction is magnetic, cool colored, alienated and engaged at the same time, managing to convey this family's emotional roller coaster with wit and mastery. 

The essence that this could happen to anyone and the fragility of human relationships in environments like this kept creeping up with me. How would I react, I think. How would he react, I wonder. And how would we get over such a small fraction which grew only to be a humongous gap between us. I wonder. 

P.S.: you gotta love the redhead bearded friend of Tomas --

Δευτέρα, 12 Ιανουαρίου 2015

Whiplash (2014)

Director: Damien Chazelle
WriterDamien Chazelle
StarsMiles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist

This is not a film about music. It is a film about pure ambition, hard work, perseverance and raw determination. It is magnetic, radical and profound. And thousands of people are delirious about it. I don't blame them. 

Let's start from scratch. This is the story of Andrew, a 19-year-old ambitious drummer attending one of the most prestigious music schools in the country. He is talented and smart and he knows it. But Andrew has no idea how to socialize. He spends his free time practicing with his drums or watching films with his dad. His only worry is to become the greatest of the greatest. 

Fletcher is the most infamous teacher of the school, tough and constantly angry, he coordinates a band where only the best enter. Everyone is scared to death for him, he pushes students physically and mentally to the edge, he is fearless but most of all he is necessary for anyone who dreams a career in music. He is the connection, the one who can make it happen. 

Andrew knows about Fletcher and knows that endless possibilities unfold when it comes to his band. He would do anything in order to enter. And he does. But the pressure is too much. Fletcher follows humiliating practices towards anyone who either disobeys him or makes one mistake during practice. His methods can be described as at least barbaric. 

But somehow this works. Especially with the band. They keep on participating in big contests and working as hard as ever. Maybe it is the fear of the students that keeps them going without complaining or probably the fact that he pushes a person till he gets the best out of him. Either way they are aware of his power on them. One word and their possible career is over. They only obey. And the worst? He knows it more than anyone. And he abuses this power. 

Andrew creates a unique relationship with Fletcher. He is submissive to his remarks and abuse but soon he will start resisting. He will stop obeying. Till the guy finally notices him. Till Fletcher finally recognizes his worth. This seemingly endless kind of game has its ups and downs. When you think it is going good between them, something happens and f***s up your brain and everything turns to the raw fragility of the beginning.

"Whiplash" opens a constant and very intense conversation about surpassing any kind of obstacles or difficulties but mostly yourself and your limits in order to accomplish your goals. It is full with competitive attitude, the one necessary for achieving. It is testing your limits like Fletcher is testing his students'. 

Even though it is Damien Chazelle's debut, he has already shown a craft and ambition that I personally salute. The rigorous rhythm of the film focuses on Andrew and Fletcher's relationship, cutting out all the others, revealing through tight close-ups extraordinary performances by both of his leading actors. J.K. Simmons has just won the Golden Globe award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for his supreme performance and along with Miles Teller they are marching towards this year's Oscars. 

Andrew and Fletcher's relationship is purely poisonous and stimulating at the same time. Andrew is craving for Fletcher's recognition, he wants to be the next great jazz drummer and this is his greatest motivation; he desperately needs Fletcher's acceptance. Fletcher sees Andrew's potential and helps him, but with his perverted methods he only play games with him, aiming exclusively to push him harder to the very edge, to his own best. 

Through constant drumming, a tempo fury and unexpected events rising up to a pure catharsis, "Whiplash" does make the difference. It winks violently at you proving how a big dream is never big enough and no matter the mistakes and disappointments, the delays and drawbacks, if you share this flaming perseverance and determination anything - ANYTHING - is possible. Thank you, Damien Chazelle, for reminding us that. 

Τρίτη, 6 Ιανουαρίου 2015

Deux jours, une nuit (2014)

Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Writers: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Stars: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salée
Production: Belgium | France | Italy
Duration: 95min

It is Friday noon. Sandra discovers that she has been "released" by her duties in her work. Unless she manages to convince her fellow colleagues to give up their annual bonuses, at the end of the weekend she will be dismissed. She has "two days and one night" exactly in order to go on this unusual quest. The results can be destructive or constructive. 

But Sandra is not feeling so good. She has been absent from work a couple of days due to "sickness". All this proves to be extremely hard for her. This cruel dilemma that was put upon all workers is causing her extreme stress. To who wouldn't either way? Standing at people's doors and asking for a chance to keep her job feels like begging to her eyes. With the help of her beloved husband she finds slowly the necessary courage to pursue what she deserves.

The Belgian Dardenne brothers, known for their usual Cannes presence, having won two times the Palme d'Or (Rosetta - 1999, L'enfant - 2005) and being nominated a couple of times for it - the same for the Grand Prize of the Jury - , including this year for Deux jours, une nuit (2014), they have shown a consistent line of work that is acclaimed but mostly impressive. 

Their cinema is raw and intense. It always focuses on realism and the socially underprivileged. It is not happy or shiny, it is how life is below the surface, where financial struggles and social absence are everyday obstacles. You never see something overdone or over-shown in their films. No extra sentimentalities, no extra drama. You only see how life really is with its passions and defeats.  

This nerve-wracking dilemma being put by the boss causes different reactions to people. Some understand, some doubt, others react. It is understandable. What would you do if you were in their position? Would you give up a bonus that would help you pay some extra expenses, would you sacrifice someone's life for that? Maybe there is no need to do that. Maybe you have already decided. 

Here, we become witnesses of a society and its broken ethics. Many of those people are also not so privileged, others need the money to get through the year, others to extend their houses. Sandra is kind and submissive. She understands and doesn't put up a fight. Even asking for their vote is already overwhelming for her. But this action, knocking on 10 different people's doors, reveals a full profile of the average modern European. Solidarity is tending to disappear or was it ever there (?) and today's ethics have been shuttered under the enormous burden of the social and financial crisis. 

Sandra might be psychologically weak, but she demonstrates a huge capacity of perseverance, even if she needs to be pushed. She takes small steps towards the accomplishment of her difficult task and understands gradually the importance of defeat. There is the necessity to win this fight, but ultimately it means only one thing; it doesn't matter if you lose or win, you have at least tried. And it seems that Sandra has already given up before this journey even begun. Now she is learning the importance of getting through it. And Marion Cotillard keeps proving her vast acting talent. Her vulnerability and strength at the same time are imposing. 

Through the unstable movements of the camera, Sandra's unstable state is intensified. However there is no character development. We never learn what happened to cause her anxiety and depression. But this is not important. The Dardenne brothers don't care for that. They care about the decadence of today's world, this moral decay and absence of personal principles we experience today. No judging or blaming, this is left to you to do. 

Πέμπτη, 4 Δεκεμβρίου 2014

My week in movies #3

Winter has definitely arrived here in the Netherlands and what is the best way to get through it? Yes, you got it, movies. So, a nice film, some warm chocolate (probably wine) and good company are the basics you need for this winter. Here, I have a list of some of the films I managed to watch the past week(s). This list can be used as a suggestion for a film when you don't know what to watch and as an informative critical piece about films you might have already seen or planning to – either in the cinemas or at home.

(You can find detailed plots through each title linking to Imdb)

The following reviews are from my Letterbox profile.

Based on the novel of Jack Kerouac, this film unfortunately failed to keep up with the expectations it raised. It is a road movie (?), but the constant drunk and sex scenes dominate the meretricious beat narration. The actors, along with the story, are trapped in nice shots and seemingly meaningful narration. It tried too hard to represent the beat generation and to follow that sense of life. OK, the beats were using drugs and were experimenting in all levels, but this film wanted to show too much of it, becoming that way something very 'small' in the film world. Sex and drugs were something new back then, but today they have become obsolete. And what really matters today is the beat generation's literary heritage.

Two guys are working on a remote highway road, having to deal - except for the solitary challenges of this construction job - with mostly each other. Alvin is the oldest and seemingly the wisest and Lance the youngest, ignorant one. Alvin is maintaining a relationship with Lance's sister, something that complicates their relationship even more. They don't like each other, but they do need each other. To work, to survive, to get over anything that seems to trouble them from their previous urban lives.

The multiple gaps in the story and the many information we never learn about the character's background, are the main disadvantages of this film. It really lacks in content. Some beautiful shots in the remote Texan nature are not enough to elevate this film from a below medium position to a decent one. It is funny at times and the actors show their potential, but again they stumble on the weak narration and the almost absent story. We don't see any character development, anything to prove that there is a story. Only their relationship is shown with long shots and funny lines. But is there really anything more to it?

What can I say for a movie when thousands of reviews and articles have already been written for? Nothing more than my humble and honest opinion. It really amazed me with how much love and dedication Nolan made this film. He didn't do anything at random. He wrote a story, dealing with the exploration of time travel, black holes and gravity, that has a deep human base: love.

He took the logical scientific facts and put them in a frame of purity and tenderness about the essence of our nature. He really knows how to make high quality cinema that also becomes a sensation selling thousands of tickets. But this doesn't really say anything to me. What does is his devotion to his vision, his profound intelligence and his talent to dive into space with total conscience of his abilities, his restrictions, his imagination and most of all his modest humanity.

Space is vast and is mostly depicted with fear and awe from humans. The fact that we haven't discover all its secrets makes it even more dark and mysterious. Nolan managed to unlock - even if it is not completely scientifically correct - this big chest of those mysteries and explore the deepest of our imagination and potential. The key he used to open this chest, the key with which he gave meaning to all the uncertainties of our universe is our own human nature. Our love and affection moves around our existence. Our emotions and memories are the fuel that keeps us moving, that makes us who we are, that makes us humans.

An extremely powerful story about a middle aged woman and a 17 year old boy, who shared a passionate love affair in Post-WWII Germany. After the abrupt ending of this relationship, the - now law student - boy discovers that the woman he fell in love with, almost 10 years ago, is on trial for war crimes.

A deep and emotional film with three different narration points and an extraordinary Kate Winslet giving the performance of her life (she won the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Oscar in 2009). I really found this a breathtaking story that blew me away. And when you like a movie so much instantly, you tend to ignore some faults in direction or in narration that might have occurred. To me, it made perfect sense exactly how it was made, even if my critical thinking tries to remind me at times of all the flaws.

I am still amazed of how this proud woman overflows with guilt about her past and actions and prefers to carry the burden of her illiteracy all by herself. Her strength is proving to be her greatest weakness. All those contradictions of her character make sense only though the filter of true love. Because she was (and still is) loved. So intense and so deep by a young ignorant boy that everything else seems trivial. 

This boy will later also be torn apart by this awful burden of guilt because of his choice to turn his back to his one and true love. The tragedy of the story finds peace somehow to its core. Their true love. Because they both shared that in their lives. At least they had the chance to experience each other's love.

I found this film enormously funny and enjoyable. Bill Murray was made for this role. He took it and made it his. Vincent is a filthy old drunk, completely rude and hateful towards everyone he meets. He is bitter with life and sarcasm is his second nature. He soon dries up from money and realizes he can be the baby-sitter of his neighbor's son, when one day the kid gets bullied and with his keys stolen he asks Vincent for help. It sounds like the typical story of bad-grumpy old guy meeting young kid and becoming good again, but here something is different.

Vincent doesn't seem to change and it becomes clear enough that he always had a good heart, he just needs to be reminded of it. The young boy, Oliver, enters his life abruptly and becomes something like the son Vincent never had, somebody to show the filthy world we live in, somebody to trust. Even if Vincent doesn't really trust anybody.

One of the last scenes of the film is one of the most touching- like ever. Oliver is presenting his assignment about a saint he knows, revealing to the crowd that saints are endurable, tough people who are not afraid to be themselves and make a difference in the world. And his saint is Vincent of course.

The story has a lot of ups and downs. A lot of stuff is being revealed about Vincent and his past, the possible reasons behind his behavior. Generally the film contains a lot of info about him, leaving the other characters under his shadow. But we don't care about that, because we only think of him and we subconsciously consider of our own Vincents, or even better, our own Vincent side.

This is an honest film with loads of awesome funny moments, especially if you are a fan of Murray. Let your heart go with it and you will realize its true magic, even if not everything in it is perfect. Just like Vincent himself.

Τετάρτη, 26 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Stories We Tell (2012)

Director: Sarah Polley
Writers: Sarah Polley, Michael Polley (narration)
Stars: Michael Polley, John Buchan, Mark Polley, Harry Gulkin
Production: Canada
Duration: 108'

This is a story of a family and their mother, whose personal life affected everyone around her. She is the mother of the director, Sarah Colley, an acclaimed Canadian filmmaker who decided to dive into her own past, her family's history in order to create one of the most breathtaking and deepest documentaries of our times. 

"Stories We Tell" talks about Diane, a young ambitious actress whose energy and vitality is contagious to the people who know her. One day, at a play she was participating, she met a young guy named Micheal who was meant to be her husband. With him she lived a happy shared life, along with their four children - two from a previous failed marriage of Diane - when Sarah was born. Their life didn't change that much, not until Diane passed away from cancer, when Sarah was still quite young. 

The youngest and most different of all, the director herself, gives the necessary space to her interviewees to unfold their own side of their family story, revealing - what started as a joke in the beginning - the possibility that Sarah might be the result of an short affair her mother had. After searching, Sarah will discover that her mother had indeed an affair when she played in a play years ago. What will she come across after this revelation that changed everybody's life? Who is the father and what will happen to Micheal if he finds out?

The unfolding of the many stories is not necessarily narrated with that order. What starts as a portrait of Diane and a family, slowly turns into a deeper and stronger story. Nothing is what it seems in the beginning and Sarah knows that. The interviews she held with her brothers and sisters, her father and friends of Diane, are revealing, through the powerful effect of the editing, a magnificent story about family bonding and love. 

The main story is being narrated by Micheal, Sarah's father, as a monologue that he wrote himself. He talks about his life and his relationship with Diane with pure honesty, displaying only particles of the stories we are being told. Sarah takes over the narration at times, leaving many of the protagonists to tell their own. Along with the interviews we see real footage of Diane through the years, but also reconstruction of her life with actors. Those glimpses of memory lost in time provide a melancholic and nostalgic tone to the film, like all these are happening to somebody else, anyone in this world, like those images are part of anyone's life. 

The way this personal documentary is filmed and edited is the main core of its importance. How she put the fragments together and how she managed to build this tension and this depth - without even trying to be sentimental - it is remarkable. Pieces of personal stories come together and create a mosaic that talks further from the obvious. It is not just a personal story anymore. Because the stories of each and everyone's lives are a mere reflection of our own current self. 

Sarah manages to talk about her own life with such an objectivity. She magnificently unfolds the stories of her own life without even intervening. It is like she is letting us do the judgment on either what is being told or the characters and their actions. The fact that we don't really see her clear point of view shows only the artistic and cinematic magnitude of her existence. Nobody could ever do this more successfully than Sarah Polley. 

While the stories unfold, we see how Sarah gives equal narration space to both of her fathers - the biological and the one who raised her. This decision does not minimize the importance of the story and it exalts the director even more. Michael is the father who raised her and loved her. A man who put his family first, neglecting at times his wife, is a lonely person with immense wit and humor. The biological father, a drifter who stares now at the past and the life he could have had, is someone quite different and yet a bit the same. The sure is they have one thing in common: their daughter. 

"Stories We Tell" is an immense proof of pure cinematic art and human influence. It changed the way personal stories are told by making the "my story" into an "our story", by making it universal. This documentary talks bravely about true love and life itself. How the course of our lives is so closely connected with the one of our families and our friends. This documentary is about us all, and not Sarah alone. It is about our own stories and the way they influence our very own future. This humanity and universality you discover here is and will be beyond comparison. 

Δευτέρα, 17 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Gone Girl (2014)

Director: David Fincher
Writers: Gillian Flynn (screenplay), Gillian Flynn (novel)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens
Production: USA
Duration: 149'

It's been three whole years since Fincher's last (average for my taste) film "The girl with the dragon tattoo", but we had the pleasure to see him work for television in the addictive "House of Cards" Netflix series, unfortunately only in two episodes! Well, he is an executive producer, so we guess he soon will be joining the directors chair again. 

David Fincher has returned to his good old ways with some slight changes - towards perfection, let me add - in the way he sees human relationships and the evil that surrounds them. The story comes from the novel of Gillian Flynn - who also wrote the screenplay - and talks about Nick, an average guy, who wakes up one morning only to discover his wife Amy missing. 

Nick is supposed to be in distress, instead he is acting detached like an observer and while he is trying to figure out what the heck is going on, the basic narrative splits up in two revealing Amy's voice, who talks like a ghost from the past through the diaries she left behind. We suddenly witness two different lines of narrative that build up the story with great drama and suspense. You have Nick's side of the story and Amy-from-the-past story. Nick is frustrated and has to deal with both the police, who intensively suspect him, the parents - famous snobby writers - and the media - hungry for indecency. 

Nick is in the spotlight and he hates it. What has he done to deserve this? He lingers in memories and good  old feelings from when they met, when they married and when they both imagined a happy shared life. Amy is helping on that with her narrative. But something went wrong during those years. Or perhaps something was already wrong from the beginning. 

Ben Affleck manages to convey both the detachment and the fear of the character, but also to create a purely doubtful profile. Rosamund Pike has this delicate face and performs as she was waiting to play this character all her life. Raw and dark performances, just how we like it in Fincher's universe. 

The media of the country hunt him down and Nick becomes suddenly part of a media frenzy he can't avoid. A criticism on today's media for the continuous crave for the obscene is one of Fincher's points in this film. It is the obvious one. The other one is much more disturbing. How all of this attraction to obscenity derives from human nature. This is what he claims here. He puts our nature in the spot and acknowledges how drawn we are by the deepest and darkest parts of it.

Through the split narrative and the flashbacks in time, a mosaic of baffled circumstances is created about Amy's disappearance and possible murder, making the whole story even more intriguing, even more complicated. Multiple questions ran through your brain and you are struggling to find the answers that might reveal the reasons of those people's actions. 

This slow-boiling thriller displays an intense and raw direction from Fincher, who is considered the master of twisted turns in the stories he deals with and who knows very well how to deal with his characters. Amy knows all of Nick's secrets, thoughts, moves. He is exposed. Nick understands very deeply his wife. Do they really know  each other? Do they trust each other? The depth of their disturbed relationship emerges to the surface with amazing perplexity. 

Fincher knows extremely well how to manipulate a story and how to create real feelings for the characters. How their behavior is so contagiously affecting and how you as a viewer enter so deep into their reality. You get lost and confused by the ardent actions of those people. You become part of their story whether you like it or not. You can't escape. This is what Fincher does to you. 

One of the greatest things of this movie, in which you don't expect anything less than an absolute mind-fuck, is the fact of misconception and how in a glimpse of an eye, everything changes. Nothing is what it seems. Unfortunately I can't say more, because I will ruin the film experience for you, but one thing I can say is the  supreme greatness with which Fincher deals with his material and how he achieves this deep connection with the characters, so at the end you actually like those bastards, those sociopaths, those weirdos, those nasty nasty people. 

When you see this movie, be prepared to dive into a world of mischief and games. Games that can reveal more than you ever thought about the people around you, but mostly about yourself. 

Κυριακή, 7 Σεπτεμβρίου 2014

Noah (2014)

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writers: Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel
Stars: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson
Production: USA
Duration: 138'

Darren Aronofsky is an artist. He is an artist because he defies his own production company, he tries to stay true to his vision and he really has the need to deliver what he feels he must. He always did that and always will. For me, he hasn't completely succeeded this time. Maybe because he chose a story that was too ambitious. But I understand why he did it. The need to retell Noah's story in a different, totally unexpected way, gave him the freedom to express his own beliefs about religion, nature, humans, wildlife, choices, dreams, family, community and so much more. 

Noah can be read in many ways. It can be read through the clean Christian way and then you can be mad (if you accept it as part of your religion) or it can be read as a new story - based on Noah - giving another meaning in "saving the world from the Creator's fury". But either way I never really understood why Christians opposed so harsh to this movie and the director himself. This story, as all the stories in the Bible, are fairy-tales that carry deep meanings important for Christianity. And this particular one is one of the cruelest. A man is talking with God and decides to build an ark to save only his family and the wildlife of the planet, leaving everyone else outside. Every human being left to drown. Aronofsky showed this cruelty and does not offend in any way any religion. Let's clear that. 

He decided to take this biblical story and turned it into a very glorious project that created a lot of fuzz and made, to most of the crowd, no impression after all. His attempts are worthy of respect, but his script has indeed many flaws. He decided to narrate this story by changing its base elements, keeping the important ones in though, like some names and the plan of saving humanity by building an ark. 

The astonishing first part gives its turn to a totally different second part, where the roles are changing and the narration is weaker. You get a little bit confused, because your mind drifts away back to the "original" story. But wait a minute; Aronofsky already knew that right? And he expected all the negativity - especially from an audience like the American one - but his ambition somehow loses its grip in the movie. There is too much to digest and to accept if you are a Christian and on the other side, there is a whole new story for you to discover. The weakness lies in the fact that he couldn't really separate those two. He tried to escape from the biblical story, but somehow he failed to do that. Either way the result is magnetic. 

The astonishing special effects, the lyrical depiction of Noah's visions, the landscape, the atmosphere, Clint Mansel's gorgeous score, all are harmonically put together. What I love to rediscover is the decline of the characters - it happened so abrupt in the second part - and how Noah from a trusted wise leader turns into a madman, obsessed with his own - imaginary? - Creator inspired visions. Noah and his intentions are in the center. He sees and he decides. What he sees, he interprets it his own way and the rest of the people just watch and obey. But until when?

People around him act differently than the people we know today. They talk differently, they react differently. They share a rare connection with Earth, one that we have lost long ago. They respect and live harmonically with it and they will protect it no matter what. But along goodness and pure purposes, there is always evil hidden, madness, jealousy, revenge. And in the ark the roles ARE changing. The peaceful environment turns into a prison nobody can escape from. 

Aronofksy's creation is ambitious yes, but it also has a deep meaning. Its aggressive environmentalism is for many people hostile and extreme. But I do believe in the kind of art he represents (he is one of my favorites after all) and respect the way he sees the world. He tried to state something truthful through this story. He tried to create it his own way even if he had to stand against his own production company and a very wide - narrow-minded - audience. 

Τετάρτη, 9 Ιουλίου 2014

Castaway on the Moon (2009)

Director: Hae-jun Lee
Writer: Hae-jun Lee (screenplay)
Stars: Min-heui Hong, So-yeon Jang, Jae-yeong Jeong
Production: South Korea
Duration: 116 min
Imdb score: 8,2

I found out about this film from some friends and from the moment they described the story, I have to tell you I was hooked. I wanted to watch it very badly. Based in South Korea, the first scene introduces us to a heavy atmosphere. A man is on a bridge calling with his bank. They inform him that he ows a great amount of money and that reassures him about his decision to commit suicide. But the story doesn't end here, it has actually just begun.

Some hours later, he will find himself in an island into the city itself, a deserted place, where all his attempts to find help go futile. Soon, he will discover the beauty of it all; he is a castaway on a place where nobody can find him and suddenly all this sounds very appealing. His daily attempts and struggles to find shelter and food give him exactly what he needed, hope. 

Min-hee Hong appears to be weak and vulnerable in the beginning of this story, but experiencing this intense and unique trip through loneliness and survival, he proves to be more than persistent. During his struggles he will get a strange message from an even stranger observer. Of course somebody would see him, he is after all castaway in his own city. The mystery person will follow his every step and will want to help him after all. But the stubbornness he has developed and the need for hope are stronger than any kind of external help. Soon he will realize how necessary the procedure of survival is to him, but also the communication with this strange person. 

The mystery person is being introduced to us in the beginning as something different. You keep wonder what has this girl have to do with our story, but soon you realize how roughly connected she is to our castaway. A young girl trapped in a virtual world, locked into her own universe, suddenly sees some light in her dark room when the image of this weird "alien" - as she calls him - enters her extra macro lens from her tall window. 

Through the direction of Hae-jun Lee that lingers between deep drama and light comedy, the film's atmosphere is being intensified with sorrow and grief by the long, slow face shots of the two characters. Hope and salvation though, are intelligently hiding behind every dialog or scene, only to re-appear in times when most needed. This unique story speaks truthfully, enslaving anyone that decides to walk in its path. Mesmerizing and incomparable!

Strong and soft, this movie touches your heart unexpectedly via its emphasis on human relations. How we have become ignorant of our need to be around people and to live free of society conventions. How this internet-based, information-bombarded and careless world has made us into human-machines who need to work all day, be on their computers and ignore everything else. How have we become like that? Loneliness is our constant friend and we are afraid to be ourselves around people, sheltered from our own insecurities, blocked by our cyber-addicted brains. 

But wait, there is more. There is freedom even when you walk in darker paths, there is salvation from yourself and there is, purely and truthfully, Hope in its best form. This is what this movie is all about. A reminder that we people are tightly linked with each other and that we can change the course of our future by taking our own lives into our hands. Love is, after all, the answer to everything. 

You never really know where Hope will be hiding, the only thing you need to do is find and grab it!

Τρίτη, 1 Απριλίου 2014

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Director: John Lee Hancock
Writers: Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith
With: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman
Duration: 125'

Production: USA, UK, Australia

Saving Mr. Banks is a movie talking about a hard woman, a character so stiff and difficult, you might think it is all fiction. But it is not. It is the story of P.L. Travers, stage name for the acclaimed writer Helen Lyndon Goff, writer of Mary Poppins. 

Walt Disney's daughters always begged him to make the famous children's book series about the magical English nanny Mary Poppins into a movie. He was unsuccessfully trying to convince P.L. Travers to sell to him the book rights. After what seems to be 20 years and due to lack of money, Mrs Travers will eventually succumb to Disney's will to make a deal, being though immensely difficult in terms of the adaptation of her books on screen. 

What begins as a light and funny story of this extraordinary woman, who beneath this dominant attitude she in nothing more than a disappointed from life human being, soon evolves into a serious drama about the hard childhood she suffered, living in Queensland, Australia. 

Her father was a banker who above all loved to live and made everything nice and beautiful for his children. A man who found it hard to devote his whole self into work, instead he preferred playing around with his children, showing them how magnificent life is. In his long attempts to synchronize with his tough work reality, he enslaved himself to alcohol, which made him eventually lose his job. He died of influenza a couple of years later. 

All these aspects of her life we see via flash - backs in her early years, while at the same time she arrives at Los Angeles to talk through the adaptation of her book. In the movie we see that she hasn't sold the rights to Disney yet, something that really helps the plot go on, but in reality she had already done it. In what seems to be a period of some weeks, she, from a harsh, dominant personality and almost disgusted towards Disney, will eventually yield to his will to make a musical with actors and cartoons, even if she never really liked it. 

The extreme loneliness this woman felt all her life begins to unravel while she works with Disney's team through the film script. She keeps remembering the true story behind what inspired her, a story that is not funny or even a musical. Even if the direction shows in parts this tension, we still found ourselves locked into her tough past, something that helps us understand her strictness towards people. 

She never really reveals to the Disney team the real aspects of this story or for the matter the real Mary Poppins, a harsh lady that arrived one day to help her mother with the house and raise the children. A personality that seems Mrs Travers evolved to. She holds inside her the real Mary Poppins and in order to make her life less tougher than it was, she used her talent and imagination and created the character in the book. So that all this burden would finally get off her shoulders. 

P.L. Travers loses herself in her own thoughts. The people around her can see, in the course of time, that she is nothing more than a hurt little girl who just wants to be truthful to her vision of her own life and work. She remembers her drunk father as a loving man who did his best for his family, she evolved him into Mr. Banks, the character in her book. 

He was her life and inspiration for years and even till the end she refuses any changes the studio is planning to make on him. She lives her life dictated by her past, but the past she chose to remember. She made it better, nicer and even more wonderful through her books, only to be able to live through it. 

The movie doesn't really know where to stand. Is it a comedy using Travers' attitude towards people in order to be hilarious? Is it a drama about the life of this family who beneath all the sadness kept hidden the golden beautiful treasures of love and real life meaning? At the end it doesn't really matter, because "Saving Mr. Banks" talks about the life of this woman, her travel through her past and the -what it seems- settlement with her present. 

Emma Thompson seems to be the best choice, since she can perform with absolutely perfectness a role that requires both humor and depth. Even if she wasn't nominated in the Oscars after all, what I believe was extremely unfair, it doesn't really matter. Her work and depiction of the hard, strict, complainer P.L. Travers is amazing. She managed to reveal the human side of hers, her creativity, her talent and her deep love for her father. 

The relationship we see unravel in the movie between Travers and Disney was much more problematic in real life. She hated the final movie and never accepted any of the songs or cartoons participating in it. After the premiere, they never talked to each other again. 

She was devoted to her personal vision till the end of her years and never made more adaptations. However in the movie, she appears to be touched from the immense talent of the Sherman's brothers, something that needed to be screened, in order to depict how creativity is evolving as a process and how the people behind the scenes deserve more of the spotlight. 

As a viewer I would love to see more aspects of her real life, more evidence of how she became such a tough woman, of why she never had children, of how she really managed to transform her past. In this semi-biographical film, the vision and work of P.L. Travers revives in order to show us how some really hard things in life can be transformed into something so unique and beautiful. 

She will be remembered for many years to come and through "Saving Mr. Banks" so will her constant attempts to protect her family, the father she loved so much and the Mary Poppins who helped her get through it all.