luni, 31 decembrie 2018

Green Book by Nick Vallelonga - Nine out of 10

Green Book by Nick Vallelonga
Nine out of 10

Green Book is one of the best films of the year, much superior to most of those selected for the Golden Globe awards – for example, in my humble opinion A Star is Born is not worth anything when compared with this excellent drama.

Viggo Mortensen, one of the best actors of the age and not just that, but one who decides to be engaged with projects that matter, have a meaning and would remain memorable, plays Tony Lip Vallelonga.
Mahershala Ali is outstanding, grandiose, sophisticated, majestic, towering, superior and human….exactly what his challenging part requires, the role of Doctor Don Shirley, a wonderful pianist

In the beginning, we watch Tony in his job at a nightclub, where he is a bouncer that takes out an annoying, insulting customer and beats him hard, but then he is out of a job, when the club is temporary closed.
This is very difficult for the hero and his wife, Dolores, and the American Italian has to take his watch to the pawnshop, to get forty dollars for it, given the financial straits in which he is.

When he refuses to work for dubious thugs, seemingly mobsters that wanted Tony to be engaged in illegal, violent activities, he receives an offer and has to go to meet with an unknown employer.
This is a strange character, dressed in the words of the simple Lip as “the king of the jungle”, sitting on a throne and offering the position of driver to the unemployed white man.

The money proposition is attractive, but when the sophisticated doctor mentions that he would have to take his luggage and shine his shoes, the proud bouncer stands up to refuse.
Before this meeting, we have seen two African American men in his house – he boasts about that in front of his prospective boss – but they were there to fix the plumbing or something else.
Even as he is financially stressed, the racist, intolerant Vallelonga takes the glasses the visitors had used and throws them in the trashcan, making more than plain his racial perspective.

The film is extraordinary as it follows the transformation of this uneducated individual and the dramatic change, from a man who could not use glasses after they had been in the hands of another race, into a very sensitive, good friend of the doctor.
As the rather primitive driver learns, Don Shirley is not a doctor in medicine, but he is the head of a trio, called the Don Shirley Trio, and he has organized a tour in the south, where he would perform as a special guest.

Since this is 1962, the Deep South still has segregation in place – indeed, as it would be explained by the Russian members of the trio, the main reason why Doc has taken this challenge is to make a point.
They are paid three times as much if they perform in the North, but Doctor Shirley wants to show bigoted, racist, rich men of the South that African Americans are not inferior, they are able to do things that white men cannot do.

The relationship between driver and pianist is more than difficult to begin with, given the lack of manners, education and any hint of style of the man who eats and throws trash on the road.
Doctor Shirley tries to educate the bouncer – granted, there is some precious advice coming the other way too – making him return to pick up the garbage, in a period when the norm was to care very little, if at all about that.

When they stop at a shop selling precious or semi-precious stones, jade and the like, Tony picks up one from near the stand, sitting on the ground and he is made to pay for it, which he does only after fierce opposition.
When the cultivated speaker of Russian, Italian and surely other languages sees the effort it takes the Italian American to write letters and the pale results, he helps with the composition.

The messages would have such a success that Dolores reads them to an audience of friends, husbands who are amazed at Shakespeare – this is what she would call the returning hero.
To his credit, Vallelonga is crucial in a few occasions, one when the Doc went to have a drink in a bar and he is beaten cruelly by white racists and is saved by the tough bullshit artist.

Another time, the pianist is caught having sex with another, white man and he is handcuffed and destined to be jailed, when The Lip talks to the police officers and bribes them.
True, the next time they have trouble with the law, it is because of the violent temper of the ex-bouncer, who is insulted by other racists, in uniform this time and he hits one of them.

From jail, the acclaimed musician, who has contacts at the highest echelons of power, but is abused, by local, racist cops and rich Southerners – they want to listen to his performance but want to make him use an outhouse and prevent him from eating in the restaurant where he would have to perform- calls Bobby Kennedy.
Green Book is a wondrous motion picture.

La Règle du Jeu aka The Rules of The Game by Jean Renoir


La Règle du Jeu aka The Rules of The Game by Jean Renoir

Another version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a masterpiece that some have listed at number one-

-          Best film ever made
-          Others have placed it just under Citizen Kane

It is surely a chef d’oeuvre.
Roger Ebert said that:

-          One cannot simply watch this, one needs to absorb it
-          It is so simple and so labyrinthine, so guileless and so angry, so innocent and so dangerous…

Indeed, there are a series of love affairs that mostly go wrong, but otherwise The Rules of the Games seem to involve everyone cheats on everyone else.
And yet it is so much more complicated than multiple, crossing love interests and the jealousy, envy, hate that can be involved therein.

Andre Jurieu opens the narrative with his crossing of the Atlantic, the record established and the consequent media frenzy to cover the story.
But he is very upset amidst his victory, because Christine de la Cheyniest, the woman he loves and for whom he has embarked on the perilous journey is not present there to welcome him and he feels betrayed.

Christine is an Austrian married to Le Marquis Robert de la Cheyniest, who had been involved in an affair with Geneviève de Marras, for three years before marrying his spouse.
To complicate matters in this complicated threesome that becomes a foursome and then more, Octave is a father figure who comes often to see Christine, he tries to protect her, but this affection becomes more complex.

These characters and guests travel to the chateau belonging to the rich marquis and Le Jeu is at its peak.
In this carnival of emotions, betrayal, love and deception we have servants that are involved: Lisette, her husband Schumacher and the would be lover Marceau.

Animosities become friendships, platonic relationships get close to being intimate and there is a Dance To The Music of Time, to refer to another masterpiece.
The Rules of the Game seem to refer also to social standards, etiquette and politeness, even if they appear ridiculous when opposed to real, all conquering love, such as in the instance when there is the question of running away:

-          C’est pas comme il faut- ok, but without going as far as saying the silly “all is fair in love and war”, it still appears that if they love each other, they should just run for it, especially since the other parties involved have been having their own affairs

I also thought about the strange perspective that the French have on their personalities and their shenanigans, like in the cases of Dominique Strauss Kahn, Mitterrand and many others, known to have had in cases outrageous behavior and excesses and yet hide them under a thick cover of fog, without a mention in the press.

The complexity of the intimacy, then the distance placed between personages made me also remember the classic:

-          Games People Play by Eric Berne

There is a hunt wherein many rabbits, pheasants and other game are killed, but there is also a chase for rivals and human trophies.
The rivals physically fight each other, in some instances try and shoot one another, but then they also become close, in a strange contradiction of the initial conflict.
 Just when we expect one hero to become blissfully happy, he ends up on the ground and the reverse is true for others that we thought will reach a nadir and arrive at the finish line walking on their feet and even smiling.

Jean Renoir was the son of the great Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste Renoir, whose other children became artists…indeed, one of the others was an actor playing Octave in this magnificent film.

Robert Altman said about La Règle du Jeu:

-          "I learned the rules of the game from 'The Rules of the Game,'„ and Roger Ebert said that this film “was not a million miles off from this plot with his "Gosford Park" -- right down to the murder.”

Arrhythmia, written and directed by Boris Khlebnikov - Eight out of 10

Arrhythmia, written and directed by Boris Khlebnikov
Eight out of 10

Arrhythmia is an excellent, great motion picture.

Although not as glorious as Leviathan, which is a landmark, a film that would remain in history, one of the best of the decade, if not the whole beginning of this century, it is still fabulous.
As opposed to the masterpiece Leviathan, it has less for the Russian censors to attack, but it is still interesting to see the malfunction of a major part of the system exposed, although it would be attributed to human error

Leviafan has exposed the completely rotten system, from the vile role of the church, which is patronizing and blessing devilish endeavors, to the politicians who abuse power and crush the modest man that stands for his property, to the place, who are there to defend the oligarchs and the apparatchiks and help put people in prison.
In another Russian film seen and noted on recently here - - the police attitude is exposed in a brilliant scene, where two cops try to hustle a woman that has come to the local prison to visit her husband – jailed for no reason – who is denied access and any information and decides to protest in front of the prison.

She is told she needs to take the next train out or else, the consequences would be more severe – most likely, she would be arrested – and while this vicious, corrupt official lectures her, some thugs beat a man until he falls to the ground and they still kick him and we can see that as it happens in front of the car where two cops deal with a peaceful protester.
The Police Professor walks pout to the attackers and we think well, at least now there would be some justice, but he looks negligently to the victim lying down, probably in a pool of blood and discusses very friendly with the attackers that we now know to be part of the entourage, in cahoots with the law and therefore above it.

Arrhythmia deals with other problems, those of the medical system mostly; the heroes both work in it, Oleg as paramedic and Katya, his wife, in the hospital emergency department.

The first few scenes are also funny, in that Oleg has to attend a case with his team – there are three working on an ambulance, the medic, his assistant and the driver –where an older woman is waiting.
She is known to call the emergency services on a permanent, if futile basis, whenever she feels like going to the hospital, for which she now has her luggage packed, aware of the drill.

This is however a waste of time. Resources and other much more seriously ill patients are waiting for help, while this figure is keeping trained medical workers attending to her hypochondria.
The hero envisages a way out of this familiar trap – taking a pretend victim to the hospital, wasting time with bureaucracy, traffic – and says he would take her, if she signs the new set of rules…

All patients need to have their hair shaved, to avoid infections, bacteria or something like that…

They can return to their duties, after the woman refuses to accept the loss of her hair, but she would register a complaint, as others do, including a Jehovah’s Witness who states that they did not take their shoes off…
The other reproaches are much more important, for the mother of this fundamentalist had a condition that required an immediate transfusion or else she would die within the next couple of hours.

We can think of The Children Act, a fabulous book by Ian McEwan – that has been adapted for the big screen – where a similar case is presented, with a teenager who is not of age, but who needs blood to survive.
Oleg takes charge and explains to the victim that she would die without the necessary intervention, he needs to take her to the hospital and the woman agrees, while her daughter opposes the move.

She is pushed and threatened by the paramedic, but this is all justified when the saving of a life is at stake, as is the case for some thugs who are handcuffed and transported to the emergency room.

Many other problems are presented, including the role of the bureaucracy, a new boss who wants patients to survive the intervention of his team, but they may die when others are in charge, he does not care.
A major role in the drama is played by the tension in the family, where Katya wants to stay away from her husband for a god while, even when they still share the same flat, where he has to sleep on the floor, in the kitchen.

This motion picture is wonderful although it will not resist the test of time in the same manner as the film that s better than most others made in the past 10, or twenty years…


duminică, 30 decembrie 2018

Murmur of the Heart aka Le Souffle au Coeur, written and directed by Louis Malle - Nine out of 10

Murmur of the Heart aka Le Souffle au Coeur, written and directed by Louis Malle
Nine out of 10

The epitome of the Oedipus Complex, Murmur of the Heart is a splendid coming of age story.

It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Story or Screenplay and the even more relevant Palme d’Or at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival and for other prestigious prizes.
The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list has included this film:

Benoit Ferreux is formidable in the title role of the fourteen-year-old Laurent Chevalier who is learning about life through books, from girls and a prostitute –sex worker in the present use of the term.
Above all, it is his love affair with his mother that seems to have a serious, ever lasting impact on the hero.

The teenager lives with his two brothers, the gynecologist father, Charles Chevalier, who has an affair with his employee from the look of it, and his mother, Clara Chevalier aka the fabulous Lea Massari.
The three brothers are provocative, nasty to their house cleaner – when they throw a party, they turn the place upside down and more serious for the devoted woman, a girl is kissing the innocent Laurent.

When friends visit them, the elder brother takes the rebellious behavior to an incredible level.
The family owns a Corot – which could be evaluated today at many millions of dollars – and they know the value of it.

The spoiled, rude brother asks the guests about the painting and then he states that it is not clean…

He takes to the tableau and pretends he wants to clean it, and then he is upset and says a painting is only worth the canvas and the value of the colors.
That is all there is to it and the rest is just capitalist, malignant speculation with a work of art.

Therefore…he takes a knife and starts cutting thorough the Corot, making guests and family irate.
In the background, France had fought a war in Indochina and various opinions are aired on the subject.

One acquaintance is on the right of the issue – the hero calls him a Nazi – and feels that a country that loses its colonies becomes irrelevant, giving the example of Great Britain.
The elder brothers take advantage of the absence of three parents one night, loan the car – even if they have not asked for it and they have no driving license – and take Laurent to a brothel.

A less happy, potentially traumatic experience involves Father Henri, portrayed by a legendary actor, one of the best in the world, Michael Lonsdale – titanic in the recent Des Hommes et des Dieux.
This cleric is teaching class, but apart from the useful information, the education of teenagers, he is a perverse individual –as is alas the case of so many priests – who grabs the hero.

When the health of the hero is weak, his mother takes him to a spa, where he is getting some palliative treatments.
Apart from showers with a pressure hose, they play tennis and people in the resort admire the mother.

Clara Chevalier tells the stories of her coming to France as a refugee, the death of her father who fought with the partisan, the marriage that took place when she was only sixteen.

One night, after she has too much to drink, the emotion is increased by a fight between a two men over who can dance with her; she is taken to her room, undressed and caressed by her son.
Their relationship has anyway been very outré, she said she is not prudish and walked around in underwear, they played with each other, he took baths with her watching and finally…they have sex.

Nonetheless, this is a sophisticated, erudite, philosophical film, with references to artists and geniuses like Proust and Camus…the latter is quoted with his haunting statement:

“There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”

The Four Feathers, based on the novel by AEW Mason - Eight out of 10

The Four Feathers, based on the novel by AEW Mason
Eight out of 10

The main character of this formidable motion picture is a very peculiar, valiant, intriguing young man – Harry Feversham.

Alas, we can say that about the fabulous, late actor that portrays him – extremely talented, but difficult to understand and bent on provocative, self-destructive behavior.
The hero is an officer in the British Army, in 1884, and he is enthusiastic about his relationship with Ethne Eustace aka Kate Hudson.

He confesses to her that he has gone out of the Army and all he cares about is his love for his would be wife.
As he tries to explain further his decision, the fact that they were about to be sent abroad and he did not want that, in fact, he only joined the army for his military father, a message come for him.

In the envelope received in a church, there is a message from his friends, colleagues in the same regiment…

There are Four Feathers!

These symbolize cowardice and the decision of the hero to avoid fighting is punished in this way.
When asked by another very strong, important personage about his presence in the desert and the reason why he had abandoned the British officer corps, the hero says it was mostly fear…

The Four Feathers have a traumatic, tremendous effect on the protagonist who would act in an astonishing manner.
Whereas he had refused to travel in an organized, much easier fashion to the Sudan, on the front, he now takes extreme pains to reach the same destination.

He pays a supposed guide to take him to the British forces fighting an insurgency of the Mahdi – was this the name of the rebellious tribes (?)
That man proves soon to be a vicious racist who beats and abuses an African woman that he deems as inferior to him as to allow him all manner of insults and then blows and disgusting behavior.

One may be tempted to say that fortunately this villain pays for it, albeit the ultimate price might be too much.
This is the moment when the hero joins Abou Fatma, a warrior of great skill, stature, pride, fidelity and valor, who is puzzled by the presence of this English in the middle of the desert and his quest for his own troops.

The British forces hire Fatma and Feversham, although they have no idea that the latter is not a native man.
Abou Fatma soon kills another man who had insulted him and he is taken prisoner by the Mahdi, who had occupied a camp of the British, took their uniforms and hanged and killed many.

The hero asks Abou, his new friend and ally, to travel to his friends and alert them on the imminent danger.
Instead of showing his gratitude, taking precautions and preventive measures, the commander of the forces, Tom Willoughby – one of the Four Feathers initiators – orders the torture of the messenger.

While Abou is whipped, the Mahdi attacks, then they pretend they retreat, causing the enemy to send a force of cavalry, only to fall into a first trap and then the tribes attack again.
They are dressed in the uniforms they had taken from those they had killed already and so make the English think they have allies to the rescue.

Castleton – another “Feather” – is killed, while William Trench – Feather three -aka Michael Sheen is taken prisoner.

Jack Durrnace is the last feather aka Wes Bentley and he is blinded by own defective rifle and is shipped home.
In a super human act of valor which makes one wonder as to why did he refuse to fight ion the first place, Harry Feversham decides to walk into the enemy camp and get into prison to be with his Feather Comrade!

The Four Feathers is a surprising drama; with a protagonist that starts by running away from the war, only to make incredible decisions later, showing a courage that make him…Superman.

sâmbătă, 29 decembrie 2018

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, based on the novel by Truman Capote - Nine out of 10

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, based on the novel by Truman Capote
Nine out of 10

Holly Golightly aka the aristocratic, fabulous, sophisticated, noble, outstanding Audrey Hepburn is one of the most delightful, serene, attractive, provocative, intriguing, sunny and seductive protagonists of a book or film.

The film has been appreciated; it won two Academy Awards and was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role – the splendid Audrey Hepburn – Best Writing and Art Direction and some other prizes, including two Golden Globes.
Holly Golightly is not just absolutely charming, she has a side that is less bright, given her superficiality, careless attitude, tendency to get involved in murky, subterranean arrangements – with Sally tomato – acceptance of 4 50 bills whenever she gets to the powder room and a rather immoral, materialistic, money orientated attitude towards life, in spite of the other side of her that ignores almost anything that happens around, including the manifestations of wealth and power.

When she accepts to visit the mobster – that would be proved to head a narcotics operation from prison – Sally Tomato at Sing Sing – with her acute sense of humor, Holly remarks upon the ironic name of the infamous jail – she insists it was the romanticism of the proposal, for the one hundred dollar bills she is paid after each trip to see the gangster is not justification enough, given the ease with which she gets fifty dollars whenever she walks to the lavatory.
In the first scenes, the heroine does not have the key for the front door and hence calls upon Mr. Yunioshi to open it for her – this character is played by Mickey Rooney and it has made history for the reason that the reputed actor has made a terrible decision in painting a repulsive stereotype, insulting for Asian people, a ridiculous depiction of a figure that speaks bad English and looks awful.

A writer moves in the apartment above, Paul Varjak, who has in turn to call upon Holly Golightly to open the front door for him, since he has received only the key to his apartment and nothing else – a place that is paid for and decorated by 2E Failenson, a married woman that seems to support the author.
Paul has written a book with seven stories that is now part of the collections in public libraries, as the heroine would discover when she visits one for the first, during a challenge to involve in first time events with her neighbor and new friend.

Nevertheless, the young, handsome writer has failed to create anything else, suffering from blockage, lack of inspiration and relying on 2E to provide money, up to the point where he finds he is in love.
Holly Golightly does lead an easy going life as her name makes clear – she has another name, Lulamae Barnes and her husband appears one day at the entrance of the building, explaining the situation to Paul, how he had married a girl that was not yet fourteen – amazingly, many states in America do not consider illegal a marriage where the girl is under age.

Doc Golightly wants his wife to return to Texas, where he is a veterinarian and has four children and cares for Fred, Holly’s or Lulamae’s brother – this is the reason why she calls her new friend Fred – but the young woman tries to explain that she is not the girl he used to know.
She is a wild thing and he should know better, given the experience he has had taking an eagle with a broken wing in and a wild cat.

Holly intends to marry one of the fifty richest men in /America, under the age of fifty, Rusty Trawler, but he turns out to be a super rat.
The heroine does receive many banknotes, but her free spirit, expensive habits leave her with no more than two hundred dollars in the bank account.

She then decides to partner with the handsome Brazilian Jose da Silva Pereira, a man who has problems with the law.
During the party where he has the chance to meet Holly, the always-aggravated Yunioshi calls the police.

The would be president of Brazil is so worried that he finds his escape through the fire escape ladder.
Furthermore, when Holly is under scrutiny and suspicion in her turn, because she had been visiting the mobster and the police think that she offered help in contraband with narcotics, Jose abandons the woman he claimed he wanted to take to his country.
The heroine was reading books about South America, listening to tapes to learn Portuguese and then she is disappointed.

She should have seen that she has the most deserving knight in writing armor near her, all this time.
Paul Varjak is much more deserving than any of the claimants, suitors, rich useless figures that populated the life of the protagonist.

She refuses to see the obvious, the light, the good, and the worthy and in a scene-taking place in a taxi, the hero is finally overwhelmed and disgusted by this permanent refusal and throws a ring down.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a rewarding, wonderful motion picture, a classic one could say with confidence.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, by and with Will Ferrell Seven out of 10

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, by and with Will Ferrell
Seven out of 10

Watching Will Ferrell in action is a pleasure…for most of the time, in the majority of his performances.

Indeed, it was surprising to find that he did not make the list of the highest paid comedians in 2018:

If we consider the other top actresses and actors that are part of the cast of Anchorman 2, then the expectations become ever higher:

Steve Carell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd and Kristen Wiig, to name just a few and not mention the small part played by Harrison Ford.

Nevertheless, the film is forgettable.
The only reason for watching it is to make the wrong yoga exercise – in the sense that in yoga they request one to eliminate all thoughts…

Which is what this comedy can help accomplish?
If we watch it with a critical eye, then we would not enjoy it.

The plot is not interesting, although Ferrell is amusing when he finds out his wife is promoted and he is fired.
They work at the same television station and their boss, Harrison Ford, decides to sack the man and keep the spouse.

A team of ridiculous, sometimes funny, often absurd men gathers to join a new Cable Television Channel…

GNN aka Global News Network

The jokes around the obvious reference to CNN are sometimes working.
When Ron Burgundy aka Anchorman laughs at the idea of a continuing, 24 hours per day News Channel we see how silly he can be…

Who would watch that?
Indeed, the whole world does, except for the fans of the silly orangutan, glued to Fox News.

Not on the level with Top Secret, Dr. Strangelove, Life of Brian, Airplane, Something About Marry, but amusing at times.

vineri, 28 decembrie 2018

The Comfort of Strangers, screenplay by Harold Pinter, based on the novel by Ian McEwan - Eight out of 10

The Comfort of Strangers, screenplay by Harold Pinter, based on the novel by Ian McEwan
Eight out of 10

All the premises are in place for this motion picture to be a brilliant, outstanding work of art…

The ultimate master, Ian McEwan, wrote the original material and it is a fabulous book -
Harold Pinter is the author of the screenplay that sends the novel to the big screen and he is the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature…

Need we say more?

Yes, there are other arguments in favor of The Comfort of Stranger, one of them referring to the director of the film, an accomplished writer of scripts for Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and Affliction among others.
Last but not least, the cast has none other than Christopher Walken, Academy Award Winner Helen Mirren, Natasha Richardson and Rupert Everett to take the feature to divine heights.

Alas, it does not happen!

First, Rupert Everett seems to confirm the serious misgivings expressed recently after watching his performance as an actor and his directorial blunders on the making of The Happy Prince

It is nevertheless hard to decide which acting affects more, in a negative way, the end result…
His or that of his partner, Natasha Richardson

Although a very beautiful, sensuous, apparently confident – maybe too much so? –probably talented actress, Ms. Richardson is too artificial, unfeeling, remote and unsuitable for the role of Mary.
The only remarkable, outstanding presence remains that of Christopher Walken as Robert.

If we jest, it could be argued that Christopher Walken does not need to make a special effort to handle the part of a maniac, abusive, playful, obsessive, stalking and murderous Robert.
Outré, bizarre personages are part of the immense panoply of the astounding, fabulous gigantic legend.

Think Deer Hunter for which he has won a well-deserved Oscar, Catch Me if You Can – surprisingly, only his second nomination for the coveted Academy Award Seven Psychopaths and Pulp Fiction
-          To name just a few memorable characters

Two lovers spend a vacation in Venice – a destination that is revealed in the film adaptation, but not mentioned in the original material – where the malignant Robert spies upon them.
The latter pretends that he wants to help Mary and Colin to have a meal late in the night, after they have lost their way and are invited to a bar where the bizarre stranger starts a long story.

This would be told at least in part three times, in the opening scenes, when the apparently hospitable man is at the table with the couple and then when he is requested to explain what happens, at the end.
He would invite the visitors to his house, where they meet the Canadian wife – part of the explanation for his excellent English – Caroline aka Helen Mirren – not overwhelming, but decent.

The tales told by Robert and his wife are more than eccentric, although they appear to fall somewhat flat in the movie – the book is strongly recommended though – and contain a story of rating on sisters who then take revenge by placing laxatives in the drink of the young Robert, then tie him up in the office of the monster father, where he shits over the carpet, walls and seemingly everything else.

The monstrous father is probably part of the reason for the viciousness of the don, who has such violent sex with Caroline that she becomes challenged, almost disabled, sharing in turn his liking for violence in a Sadistic and Masochistic relationship and furthermore, a psychopathic, morbid obsession with Robert.
One wall of the bedroom of the Venetian couple is covered with photographs of Colin, who should have known better – that goes for Mary too – when he was first invited at the residence and their clothes disappeared, then the host declared she had been in their bedroom and watched them sleeping for a long time…

Then there was the punch in the stomach…what more did they need before running away from these lunatics?

L’argent, written and directed by Robert Bresson, based on the short story by Leo Tolstoy - Eight out of 10

L’argent, written and directed by Robert Bresson, based on the short story by Leo Tolstoy
Eight out of 10

This film has benefited form an extraordinary positive critical acclaim – it has a Metascore of 95 out of 100, which is phenomenal.

It has also been nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival and this is nec plus ultra.
The Cannes Festival prize confirms the value of a film much more than the Oscars or Golden Globes. At least in the opinion of the under signed.

Robert Bresson, the writer – director of the motion picture has won, tied with Andrei Tarkovsky, the title of Best Director at the prestigious cinematic celebration.
Last but not least, L’argent is included on The New York Times ‘Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made List:

Nonetheless, the film that has made critics ecstatic and exuberant can leave an ordinary viewer less than elated.
First, one could object to the manner of acting, which seems to be outré, detached, artificial.

Most likely, it is intended to be exaggerated, probably the idea is to abandon the pretense that this is acting with the notion to make the audience believe the characters are “real people”
By underlining, the artificiality the cast – most probably instructed by the director – is meant to make a point.

Only in the case of this cinephile, it works backwards.

Instead of appreciating the plot, the idea after all comes from one of the greatest authors, Tolstoy, it puzzles and annoys.

To begin with, a young man pays at a shop with banknotes and one of them is a false one.
When they discover the fake, instead of taking the trouble to alert the authorities, the manager and owner of the shop just pass it on.

A young man unsuspectingly takes the false notes and when he tries to pay in his turn, the police take him into custody.
He explains he is innocent; he had no idea about the forgery and takes a detective to the shop where he was given the false notes.

Again, this is a chance for redemption of some kind, but instead of repentance, the clerk pretends not to know the accused.
Eventually, the suspect who has had only to lose from this incident, losing his job, is sent to prison.

As we very well know from research on this matter, life in prison makes things worse and once out on the street, former inmates use what they have learned in jail and that is how to become repeat offenders.
In the case of the protagonist, it would not be repeat; if we consider that his first alleged offence was in fact a case of injustice.

Once inside he is provoked into conflict and then he ends up in the most terrible of situations.
The message – better said art of the message – being that we can all fall from grace, given the circumstances.

Stan Lee, creator of Superheroes, has said, when asked what the ultimate super force is is…

If you have it, everything works.

In the case of the unfortunate hero of this story, it was an extreme case of bad luck, which has calamitous consequences.
Charged with something he has not done to begin with, he ends up committing atrocities.

Significance then might be that this was a rotten individual anyway, if not for the Forged Money, he would still show his true colors, sooner or later…

joi, 27 decembrie 2018

Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron - Nine out of 10

Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Nine out of 10

The poster of this extraordinary film has one of the most emotional, tense, dramatic scenes from the script and some quotes from reputable, established media organizations:

“The most exquisite and artistic film of the year” The BBC
The best picture of the year” – TIME, Rolling Stone, Variety, Vanity Fair

Furthermore, the Metascore – the average rating of the critics – is an astonishing 96 out of 100, a spectacular achievement that may have not been seen before, while the audiences have sent the feature to the list of Top Rated Movies, most popular of all time.
For the Golden Globes, Roma is nominated for Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language, Best Director and Best Screenplay.

The black and white film tells the story of a family and their house help, living in a neighborhood of Mexico City in 1970 and 1971, where tragedy strikes, an infant dies, a husband abandons his children and wife, while some violent men attack and kill civilians on the street and in shops.
Cleo seems to be the heroine of the motion picture, a modest, innocent – even if she is pregnant at one point – nice, kind, brave young maid that would run into the waves of the ocean when the children she has in her care and she evidently loves are in danger, although she cannot swim.

The house belongs to Antonio and his spouse, Sofia, and they have four children, two servants, and a dog and live a life almost without adversity, until the doctor travels to Quebec.
Up to that moment, he used to have a regular schedule, driving the car in the courtyard where their dog spends all his time, and defecates around, making the master of the house complain.

Antonio does not return from Canada.

His wife tries to keep the news away from the children, but the elder son is listening at the door, while his mother discusses the subject.
When Sofia comes out and sees the boy listening at the door, she first slaps him and then regrets it and asks forgiveness.

Anyway she shouts at Cleo, who has seen the child and did not know how to take him away, causing her employer to say in her anger that she should have prevented this and then to shout that she should be doing work in the house.
Cleo has a relationship with Fermin, a personage with an outré, bizarre behavior in the first place.

While they are in the same room, the naked man starts making martial arts movements.
He says that these exercises and the philosophy attached have saved him, for he had been drinking, losing his way and he would have died without his change in his existence.

Nonetheless, when he finds that his lover is pregnant, during a film at the cinema, he pretends he needs to use the rest room and disappears.
When Cleo traces him, he is joining training with more than one hundred other men, led by a man who is able to keep his foot in balance with closed eyes – an impressive feat that is used to measure biological age by scientists – and she approaches the father of the unborn baby, there is a scene.

The stupid, violent Fermin threatens his former partner, makes some martial arts moves and the runs away!
Later on, when the poor mother is in a shop with Seniora Teresa, a group of violent thugs enters the premises and they shoot dead a protestor, who has tried to find refuge inside, running from the demonstration taking place on the streets, where many others have been murdered.

Fermin is part of the band of killers…so much for the effect of martial arts on the new breath of life.

In order to allow Doctor Antonio to get “his things” from the house, the family travels to the coast, where they luckily take Cleo with them.
When Seniora Sofia walks to the house to prepare for the return journey the next day, the three elder children enter the ocean and disregard the rule to stay near the shore or they are simply carried by the waves, forcing Cleo to walk into the ocean and attempt to save the children who seem about to die for quite a few moments.

This is when the simple woman bursts into tears and confesses that she had not wanted her dead infant to be born.
The new populist Mexican president, AMLO, has organized an evening around the projection of what is indeed, one of the best motion pictures of the year.

miercuri, 26 decembrie 2018

Bad Times at the El Royale, written and directed by Drew Goddard - Eight out of 10

Bad Times at the El Royale, written and directed by Drew Goddard
Eight out of 10

This is a very interesting and probably underestimated motion picture, which the critics have largely rated as mediocre, with a Metascore average of 60.

The legendary Jeff Bridges portrays what seems to be a priest in the opening scenes, Father Daniel Flynn, but we would later understand that he is actually a criminal called Dock O’Kelly, arrived at the El Royale, a motel near Lake Tahoe, which has one side located in Nevada and the other in California, with different prices, even separated as they are by line drawn through the construction.
Father Daniel Flynn – as we know him early in the film – meets with Darlene Sweet aka the excellent Cynthia Erivo, an African American singer that has had to face serious adversity and is moving to start on a rather unattractive singing job at nearby Reno, even if she should get outstanding offers to match her incredible skills and voice.

The other guest waiting to get a room near the reception is Laramie Seymour Sullivan aka the forward Jon Hamm, who is outspoken to the point of being obnoxious and who also has a hidden agenda, given that he is in fact an FBI agent, Dwight Broadbeck, who is checking at the El Royale in an official, if undisclosed, capacity.
As he looks through the honeymoon suite he had insisted he must have, the agent discovers first a series of tapping wires, in the phone, the walls, the mirror and then he finds that a surveillance corridor is in use next to the rooms, where the mirrors are used to spy on clients and there is a camera to film what happens in one of the rooms and then blackmail victims.

As he walks the hidden corridor, special agent Broadbeck finds that in one of the rooms, the fourth guest to arrive that day, Emily Summerspring, who has signed the register with “fuck you”, has brought in an apparent victim of a kidnapping, a girl that is tied and placed on a chair.
When the FBI man talks with his superiors – J. Edgar Hoover himself – he explains about what he has found, that an abduction is under way in the place that has been budded by the owners and he is told to mind his own business, continue with his assigned task and “not to interfere”

Alas, Dwight Broadbeck disregards the orders – which we anyway wanted and perhaps expected him to do – and knocks at the door of the woman who seemed to be a violent, dangerous criminal.

He claims there is an emergency, then he kicks the door and knocks Emily Summerspring down on the carpet, near the bed and then unties Rose Summerspring – the public finds the stories of the different guest in the different rooms, then that of Billy Lee aka Chris Hemsworth.
The character of the special FBI agent is eliminated quite early, for Emily takes a shotgun, stands up from the floor, tells her sister – that is the connection that the unfolding of the tale reveals – to move away and blows a large hole into the chest of the man who had pretended to be a vacuum cleaner sales representative.

With that shot, she has also blown away the double mirror and into the corridor, she has injured Miles Miller aka the very good Lewis Pullman, the man who is receptionist, housemaid, bar tender and more importantly for the owners of the hotel, the one who operates the surveillance system and sends the films to an address where the vicious patrons take them and blackmail visitors with compromising material.
Meanwhile, Father Flynn drinks a lot at the bar where Darlene Sweet joins him, refusing in the first place to have drink, talking about her singing in the room, then accepting to have a whisky after the priest insists moves away and then smashes a bottle on his head, just as he was preparing to put narcotics into her glass.

The priest wakes up when Miles Miller comes at the bar and he wants a master key, escorts the receptionist – Man For All Seasons to look for it, and discovers the corridor, where the young man is severely hurt by the shot that killed the special agent and then is tied up by Emily Summerspring.
Darlene was trying to get away in her car, without success for Broadbeck had made the vehicles unusable for the purposes of his investigation, when she saw the killing of the agent, then she is faced by the priest who comes at her car.

Father Flynn explains that he is actually a criminal who has managed to take away a considerable sum, when they were cornered and has decided with his partners to come to this hotel and meet.
The agreement was to hide the money in a room at the El Royale, but he had been diagnosed with a deadly disease while in prison and he forgets things – indeed, at one point he forgets his own name.
Therefore, in the first instance, when asking for a room at the hotel, he forgot the correct number, the place where the money would be.

In the meantime, he knows that the room number was actually five and he needs the help of the singer to get the big prize.
Darlene would get half the money and that would represent a new start in life, if she believes the new story and accepts the proposal.

Things are evidently more complicated and another vile character enters the stage – Billy Lee aka Chris Hemsworth.
The motion picture is more than satisfying, although it was passed at the Golden Globes nominations and may miss on Academy Awards as well.

marți, 25 decembrie 2018

All That Heaven Allows by Edna Lee - Eight out of 10

All That Heaven Allows by Edna Lee
Eight out of 10

This remarkable film has been included on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list:

The message seems to be clear, simple and almost universally known and accepted, in the modern age at least.
Nevertheless, even if it works in this romantic drama, there is something to say in favor of relationships between men and women, same sex bonds as well, that are based on similar backgrounds, education levels and interests.

Yes, it is evident that we must decide based on class and other such artificial labels, but psychological and other studies have indicated that we get along best with others who share the same penchant for reading, to give one example.
If one likes to read a lot, the likelihood of his or her getting along with someone who makes a point to avoid reading – like the American simpleton who incredibly leads the world – is slim, to be optimistic.

In All That Heaven Allows, Ron Kirby aka the refined, excellent Rock Hudson is a gardener, working for Cary Scott aka Jane Wyman.
However, he is not an uneducated, unsophisticated blue-collar worker – a situation that I maintain that in most cases would not favor a relationship with another who has studied much more to further his or her education.

The man who cuts branches in the garden of the widow who has two grown up children aspires to a better status.
Although it is somewhat strange to see him always dressed – perhaps with the exception of the night where he has to punch a rude, abusing guest at a party – in a red chequered coat.
The hero invites the widow to a water mill, to see and learn more about trees, gardening.

This is when and where they realize that they share an attraction for each other and decide to meet again.
Nonetheless, the fact that Cary Scott belongs to the “upper class”, a better off community is a block for their bonding.

She invites Ron Kirby to come with her to a party where the guests and host are pretentious, arrogant and relatively wealthy people.
They snub their noses at the intruder, who is only a gardener and therefore destined to remain “inferior” to them.

When one of them sees the audacious Cary and the man she has brought along, he thinks this is a signal of her libertine concepts and he is offended that she had refused his advances.
This loathsome man tries again to force himself on the woman who must accept him, since she had come with someone so obviously less significant than he thinks he is, pushing and trying to kiss her.

Ron storms into the room when he sees the scene and promptly knocks the abuser, who seems to be in serious danger.
The rest of the party, instead of perceiving the reality and condemning the real perpetrator, concentrates on the one who is different, an outsider and hence blame him.

Alas, apart from this stupid, preposterous society, the family of the heroine is also against her penchant.
Both her daughter and son are aghast at the perspective of being close to such a humble man.

People in the town who claim her mother had had an affair with Kirby, even before her late husband was dead insult the girl.
Cary Scott is sure she has to give up her happiness for that of her children and thus separate from the man she loves.

Again, the idea that love conquers all could be the mantra of this good film, perhaps one of the best 1,000 ever made.
Nevertheless, it has not convinced the under signed that this is true, especially if we consider another psychological, perhaps two effects:

The Honeymoon Effect and The Coolidge Effect

The first one purports that at the end of a period of about two years of relationship, most bonds would face a challenge and even if one is married to one extreme beauty – the example of Hale Berry has been given – a wonderful human being, there is still the attraction, the impulse to have an affair with someone else – The Coolidge Effect – even if that is not necessarily what would happen…people remain married and in love with each other for decades, while others divorce…

The Guilty, written and directed by Gustav Moller - Eight out of 10

The Guilty, written and directed by Gustav Moller
Eight out of 10

The Guilty is a formidable film.

One of the most remarkable features is that this is a one-man show, for Jakob Cedergren is the only one that matters in the script.

He is police officer that has done something very wrong, indeed, terrible, as we would learn and has been sent to Emergency Services.
This is where he first gets a call from a man who had been mugged; his computer and wallet had been taken.

The way the hero handles this request already suggests that this is a complicated intriguing character.
On the one hand, the caller is somewhat obnoxious, but on the other, the fact that Asger Holm suggests leaving him to steam for a while appears exaggerated to some extent.

To say from the start, in a recent poll, it was discovered that the citizens of Denmark are the ones that like my compatriots the least in the European Union and that has created a bias.
I am not sure if I had loved them before – there are issues that have no place here, but can be checked by possible interested parties here - but after that poll was published, there is no affection lost for these rather superior men and women…

The man who calls to complain about the mugging was in the Red District and seemed to have been looking for paid sex, which at least in one Scandinavian country is illegal for the man, not the sex worker.
However, that country might be Sweden, not Denmark, which is the place where The Guilty is set.
The next call is much more serious and whereas in the first place it looks like a mistake, it then seems to be an abduction.

The crucial, main attraction of this feature is that although it has a familiar development for about one hour, there is an original, different path form that moment on.
A woman, Iben, is forced to talk without giving details, transported as she is in a vehicle by a man who has kidnapped her.

Asger calls for support in the region where the call is located, on a highway going north from Copenhagen and gives the details he has extracted by asking the caller to pretend to speak to her daughter.
The vehicle the police would be looking for is a white van, but when they stop one, they find it is not the man they are looking for, Michael.

The hero then calls the house of the woman and talks to her very young daughter, Mathilde, who relates the visit of the father who is separated from the wife, who had taken the mother and a knife.
Asger tries to talk to Michael and convince him to stop, convinced that this is The Guilty party and as he says at one stage –

“You should be executed”

We are certainly dealing with a complicated protagonist – we would slowly find that he had been involved in a very serious event and wants his friend Rashid to testify in his defense, telling a lie to support his claim and get his acquittal – although at a later stage he admits his Guilt and appears prepared to face the consequences.
To protect the children, he requires a police presence at their home and the officers dispatched discover the gruesome murder of the infant boy, brother of Thilde.

Illegally, Asger summons the help of his partner, Rashid, even when he finds that the latter has been drinking alcohol, four glasses.
He wants his friend to find information about Michael, breaking in his flat, to see what his destination might be.
Meanwhile, he has a communication with Iben, who is in the van and is instructed by the hero to put her seat belt on and seeing as the husband who drives the car does not wear one, to pull the hand brake.

She does that and then she is in the back of the van, where she is told by Asger to look for a weapon.
All she finds is a brick that the police officer insists she must hit her abductor with, when he stops the van.

Then there is an incredible twist to the story and The Initial Guilty One becomes the innocent and it all proves how easy it is to make a mistake.
Still, there is the question of what Asger Holm had done and his apparent philosophy that The Guilty must be punished very severely, killed if the blame is large enough…