miercuri, 28 februarie 2018

Le Redoutable, based on autobiography by Anne Wiazemsky, written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius

Le Redoutable, based on autobiography by Anne Wiazemsky, written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius

Le Redoutable has been nominated for the Palme D’Or and this means it is one of the best films of 2017

Furthermore, the writer of the screenplay and director of the motion picture is Michel Hazanavicius, the winner of the Oscar for The Artist, a phenomenon that not only won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but also caused a thunderstorm with the other Academy and multiple prizes it won.
The hero and at the same time antihero of this provocative, thoughtful, worthwhile, difficult film is Jean-Luc Godard.

Recognized as a Deity of the New Cinema, a genius with quintessential art works like Contempt, based on the consummate novel by Alberto Moravia, Breathless, Pierrot Le Fou, Godard refutes all this at one stage.
This is the archetypal case of the genius who descends into a big depression, if an authoritative artist, he is also an obnoxious, rude, impossible, loathsome and despicable human being.

If one only considers his political views, his “revolutionary stand” and that would be enough to reject the personage completely, even if he would find so much to argue in favor of tyrants, mass murderers like Stalin and Mao, the latter is so present in the conversation, quotes and on the walls of the apartment of Godard.
On the set of La Chinoise, the director becomes infatuated with the actress Anne Wiazemsky, who would later write the autobiography on which this excellent motion picture is based.

La Chinoise was not well received by a good number of critics and the communist Chinese that the filmmaker so cherished, who refuses his request to visit China, even going as far as to state that, were it up to them, they would make Godard change the title of his bourgeois, putrid feature that they hate.
The media is excited by the marriage and they insist on finding the details and keep asking about the ceremony, when the subject of the press conference is actually La Chinoise and one representative of the film festival is so upset that he starts referring to the film as “La Tonkinoise” and this results in further jokes, the spiritual Jean-Luc Godard rectifies the mistake, then corrects the official, even when he has the correct title and then changes the name of the man…

However, if the director can be affable, he is very often rude, insults people in a restaurant, talks dismissively about Truffaut and his romantic movies, he even rejects…Godard, saying I am not this Godard, he is dead.
This “new”, unlikeable Godard is not interested in making “middle class features”, not anymore, for he wants to depict, film fares about the revolution and keeps quoting the heinous –in this cinephile’s view- Mao and Che Guevara.

Che said that we have to create an “interior Vietnam” and that stupid quote is repeated at least twice and Jean-Luc Godard is repellent when, during one of the few marches he attends, one couple approaches him and the woman talks about the need to see felicitous films, since life is so “moche”.
The hero almost kicks these people, as he does with some others, including one working for Publicis, who has attacked the idol, deity of the stupid-in this matter- Godard.

Paradoxically or not, this ultimate revolutionary, adept of Che and every other damn killer in the name of communism, is rejected by some fired up student as in the same category of consumerism symbols as- anathema- Coca Cola…
He even understands them and he has a clash with his young wife, who is flabbergasted by his lack of response when so viciously insulted, and the director says that he hates “vieux cons „and as he becomes one, he despises himself.

Jean-Luc Godard, as described by his wife is unbearable, with his obsessive fight against the bourgeoisie and anything destined for its consumption, insistence on revolutionary attitudes- he even rejects Anne’s suntan and he gets a funny response:  Lenin did not have a suntan, but Che Guevara surely did.
In terms of films, the man turned antihero rejects all his works and everything the others did, with some strange exceptions like…Jerry Lewis, The Marx Brothers…he attacks viciously Renoir and his “bourgeois films”, provoking an intense fight in the car, as they travel 800 kilometers to reach Paris.

When Anne is invited to act in a modern film, the husband is appalled by the script which has the protagonist naked throughout and rejects the project, only to accept it when the screenplay is changed, but he still insults and abuses his spouse when he arrives at the filming location, where he is jealous of the partner…by the way, he once calls all actors stupid, they only know to do what you tell them…

Jean-Luc Godard has another fight, he is a dedicated, serious combatant in this later part of his life, with Bernardo, whose work he destroys, as he does with everything except some aforementioned productions.
“Pezzo di merda, vaffanculo…c’est tout de la merde” these words are shouted with incredible frequency and they indeed might point out to mental failure and a serious depression which could explain some of the behavior and the extreme acts committed by this troubled artist, who just wants to be a “Maoist, communist and revolutionary” in his sad, loathsome part of his life.

The question posed in the later works is if Godard should make films or revolution, for films with the revolutionary message are hard to make, as he tries to have collective decisions on the making of features, with people voting on what should be and could not be in, the atrocities committed against Native Americans…but do we have the money to include that? You pay for it Godard, if you want them…the crew appearing to vote the director out of his ideas …if it a revolutionary film, it still needs to be a film…n’est pas…

Focus, written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

Focus, written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

Focus has interesting, worthwhile moments and insight into the workings of the human mind, psychology disclosures.

At the same time, the film can be dismissed as preposterous, over the top, too inventive and artificial.
                Margot Robbie is more than a revelation.

This superb artist is nominated for her role in the outstanding I, Tonia, for one Academy Award at the ceremony that will take place in just four days, 2018.
Margot Robbie has a memorable contribution as the once celebrated and then loathed ice skater Tonia Harding, a champion that went from glory to disgrace when she played a part in the serious injury of one of her American competitors.

In Focus, she plays Jess, with aplomb, skill and dedication, albeit she may also push boundaries a bit.
A biased opinion would have the more famous Will Smith responsible for this, with his own exaggerated acting.

Some may even laugh at his efforts at looking concentrated, pained, and affected by the serious betting he has to do.
On the other hand, it is also true that Will Smith has to play a con man, Nicky Spurgeon, who also has to act in the film, a sort of role within a role, with a man who is a confidence trickster and therefore he pretends for most of time to be an honest amateur better, or an employee of a formula one race team and so on.

The insight into how these people operate is interesting and ranges from the basic information one gets on the Discovery or National Geographic Channels, to the sophisticated knowledge of psychoanalysis.
Take the simple art of stealing and the advice given by Nicky to the less versed Jess and one can learn how to get a wallet by distracting the attention from one hand by pointing, doing things with the other.

The Nobel Prize Winner, Daniel Kahneman, considered the most influential living psychologist, explains in his fundamental, quintessential work Thinking Fast and Slow the two systems that we use when…thinking.
For instance, when driving and taking an especially difficult curve on the road, we are unable to do even simple math calculations, indeed, even when we walk and someone asks what is twelve times thirty, most of us would stop walking to be able to use the “slow system „in order to answer the question.

Imposters use the inability of the human mind to analyze the information faster in order to distract and then take advantage and appropriate everything, watch, bracelet, wallet, and rings with tremendous speed.
Swindlers are of course very skilled prestidigitators and one could think of…Bobby Deerfield, where a magician explains how he makes things appear and disappear with a very impressive, fast moving of a coin through all the fingers of the hand, operation that is impossible to perform for ordinary people.

Nicky and Jess work together in order to make money from various bystanders at a special event, but there seems to be a connection, a romance developing between them, only after intimate moments and apparent emotions, the insensitive, loathsome, cold, ruthless Nicky discards his partner without ceremony.
The wounded woman meets him again in Buenos Aires, on the side of a major Formula One race, where Nicky is trying to make millions from his usual illegal occupation, enticing one team to maneuver against another.

The idea seems preposterous and unbelievable, for it purports that Mercedes for instance, would pay three million to get a device that makes Red Bull go faster and use it then on its cars, it looks absurd.
Whereas the moving of wallets, rings and jewels in the first major scoundrels action, the one with the car race did not fly, especially when it suggests that all teams would just kill for such a thing, that is apparently not allowed and can easily be detected by supervisors of these races and the punishment is severe.

Anyway, the stealing, selling, marketing of this technology might be the sideshow, for we have a renaissance of the feelings between Nicky and Jess, with various Games that People Play, as in the definitive psychology work by Eric Berne.

There are many twists in the plot, which is actually to be expected, with one individual appearing to work for this team, only in reality to be hired by the competitor, some supposed humorous variety of explanations given by the last character that one would believe- Nicky of course, with his always-suffering face in this feature.
One could take great pleasure, if Smith is not closely watched, with his exaggerated, artificial face contortions, in the scene of the big bet, which ends up in a win of gargantuan proportions and the Conditioning of the target and especially its subconscious, with the figure Five, placed everywhere on its route, chandeliers, buttons, doormen, handkerchiefs and everything else…

Margot Robbie aka Jess shows in this motion picture that she has enormous talent, abilities that will give audiences the chance to admire her in the role of the complex, although uneducated, at times villainous, but also hard working, inventive, winning Tonia Harding.

marți, 27 februarie 2018

American Made by Gary Spinelli

American Made by Gary Spinelli

Even if one is not a fan of Tom Cruise, one would probably enjoy this overlooked, entreating action drama.
Of course, this road has been taken before multiple times and examples of similar plots abound:

Blow is so close that, during the screening of American Made this cinephile was thinking if Depp’s character has not met Barry Seal aka Tom Cruise somewhere on the runaway in Columbia, or at an Escobar shindig.
What makes the viewing of the motion picture ever more rewarding is the knowledge that it is based on fact.

Indeed, there are inserts from the news on television, including the acclaimed Ronald Reagan, mentioning the cocaine traffic, the contras, the Sandinistas and so many other protagonists in this excellent feature.
Barry Seal is an airline pilot, working for the now defunct TWA, when he is approached by a man who talks about his breaking the law, with the Cuban cigars he was smuggling from Havana and a new proposal.

The government would like the civilian pilot to get involved in a game that they are playing in Central America, where the cartoons used to make the plot more accessible are absolutely splendid, from the Russian bear fighting the American eagle, to the hilarious misrepresentation of Nicaragua- they first point to Honduras and then say, wait, this is not where the Sandinistas sell their communist fare…
Barry has to think about the proposal and this is another excellent scene, where he is in the cockpit, going through the tedious motions of checking brakes, lights and so many more items on the crucial checklist, including…windows- shut, and the hero thinks this is not his calling and he just walks out of the plane…

Barry will deliver arms to the contras, fighting, or just pretending to, the communists, but this will be challenging, for those on the grounds are more interested in his boots, sunglasses and clothes than the weapons.
Later on, when the CIA brings hundreds of the contras to the US to train them, these are just keen to run from the camp and become illegal immigrants, waiting all for the Donald and his “beautiful, big wall” probably.

Barry Seal is then approached by some men from Columbia who offer to pay him $ 2,000 per every kilo of cocaine that he would deliver to the Miami airport, where their partners would be waiting.
First, what is a kilo (2.2 pounds) and then the protagonist accepts the offer, considering in the process that he has had expenses with his wife, another baby, medical and other expenses that the CIA did not cover.

However, the “runaway „is just a short dirt alley in the middle of the forest and the Columbian partners in crime want to fill the plane to the roof and on top of that to send a hatchet man to protect their merchandise.
Even if the excellent pilot refuses to both get cocaine to the roof and transport the bodyguard with him, the plane barely lifts off and hits a few trees on the way to Louisiana, where he throws the packages in a swamp.

At the peak of the business, the machine guns are not sent to Nicaragua, but transferred to the Columbian cartel, in exchange for drugs, which reached the biggest market, the United States, where Barry had more money that he knew what to do with.
At that stage, he kept trying to find new places, the barn, various cupboards, under the ponies, only to have other bags with cash, that he obviously forgot about, flowing on his head, even when he was digging in the yard, he did that only to find other stashes of bills already hidden in there…

Meanwhile, Ronald and Nancy Reagan were on television, talking about how bad the drugs were.
JB, Barry’s brother-in-law makes some mistakes that nearly bring the whole operation to a stop and the few planes that the drug trafficker now needed to transport a quantity bigger than a single airplane could take.

JB looks like he is always intoxicated by drugs or alcohol and finds one or a few of the suitcases with cash that are piled all around the property and takes one to the town, with bills overflowing, where he is seen and arrested by the sheriff.
Pablo Escobar and the Medellin interfere in the heinous, violent manner that characterized them and Barry is taken into custody by…multiple agencies, all competing in his operational headquarters, shouting: DEA, State Police, FBI and some other abbreviations…

However , when confronted with the self-assured state prosecutor, who swears the criminal, offensive will spend all his life in jail, a call comes through from the governor and, after all parties leave the room and the suspect offers all present a Caddie for their service, the prosecutor comes out to…release the defendant.
What is also exceptional at this movie is the finale, which is not the usual fare and has some provocative challenging questions included.

How much is artistic license and what is the known truth, given that the protagonist has recorded tapes with the details of the operation, chapters on Columbia, the CIA, the contras, but they are taken by one of the agencies at the end.

La Pazza Gioia aka Like Crazy, written and directed by Paolo Virzi

La Pazza Gioia aka Like Crazy, written and directed by Paolo Virzi

                Like Crazy has won no fewer than 29 awards.

                Yet, it is not a glorious, sensational, virtuoso, spectacular feature.
                This is the story of two women who escape a mental institution and try to avoid being taken back.
                Beatrice Morandini Valdirana is the mastermind, the one most responsible for the Great Escape…
She is a resident of the facility for the mentally challenged, if this is near the proper name we need to use today.

Her manner could be perceived as obnoxious, overbearing or, if one has compassion, one could see her as a distressed, not crazier than most person, if we compare her with The Donald who just claimed, yesterday, that he would be the one to run, with all that weight around him, and get the shooter in Florida with…his bare hands.
In other words, both heroes of this sometimes-endearing narrative are saner than the leader of the free world.

Evidently, they have issues to deal with, as we all are, and at times, it feels like they are made to suffer more, just because they had been forced to deal with extreme adversity and trauma and suffered from
                Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

When young Donatella Morelli arrives at this sanatorium, Beatrice is curious and looks into her file.
As she is caught, the “patient” starts talking about the fact that the building belongs to her family and it is very hard at times to distinguish between what is real and what has been fabricated, but that is a familiar philosophical, existential question:

                What is real?

Beatrice walks along the corridor, when newly arrived Donatella asks her for some information.
The latter is very proud to have been mistaken for a doctor and of course, she gives expert advice to the young woman.

When they run away, the women encounter a pony-tailed man, with many pornographic magazines in the glove compartment of his small utility vehicle, willing to become very intimate with the apparently available strangers.
Only, he is the one trapped, as Donatella drives the car away and leaves the libidinous character out in the cold, until at a later stage he recuperates his vehicle, from the parking lot of a fancy restaurant, where the two heroes have just had a meal that they cannot pay for and are chased out of the door.

Following this unhappy incident, the always intrepid Beatrice arrives at a bank, where with distinguished, self-assured, amusing, possessed manner she asks to have money given to her, on account of her being a notable, respectable noble, rich woman – or was it a deity she claimed to be?-who has so much money, but not with her today.
When they call the manager and he refuses to condone and provide the demanded sum, the woman is in rage and she attacks these ignoble, ruffians, despicable men that will have to pay for this…she only asked for a few thousand euros and they cause such a kerfuffle…wait and see what will happen to them!

This is an amusing narrative, but there is much to feel emotional, compassionate about, even to cry.
Donatella has a very sad story to tell.

She has a child and when she went with the baby to show him to his father, the latter not just rejected him, but made such a violent, ugly, atrocious scene in public, when he accused the woman of being a “puttana” and threw her some money with disgust and protesting that this cannot be his child.
Donatella is devastated, ravaged by the astonishing reaction of the father of the baby and keeps mumbling that he never even looked at his child and after this she feels there is nothing left to live for…
This is a moment when crying follows laughter and jocular moments and the result of the breakdown will not be delved into here.

Pazza di Gioia is distributed with the title Like Crazy, but without knowing Italian, one could argue that the original title is much better, even if the women are not exactly Crazy with Happiness, perhaps on the contrary.
Yes, there are many moments when the two heroes love their Getaway and it feels like they are in Flow, in the Zone, when watching the stars near the beach, having a meal in that lavishing restaurant, riding in the car of the sex offender and in so many other instances of their magical escape.

However, it is also true that they are not Crazy with Joy, but have been rendered mad- not as crazy as The Donald, obviously- by the extreme unhappiness in their lives in the “normal, healthy „world that has rejected them.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), written and directed by Noah Baumbach

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), written and directed by Noah Baumbach

The Meyerowitz Stories are intriguing, funny (when selected), charming (sometimes) and appreciated
Indeed, this film has received the most illustrious nomination of all…, which is not the Oscar for this cinephil:

The Palme D’Or

To conclude early on: there are endearing scenes and characters and we have material that is puzzling.
Dustin Hoffman is the actor at the center of this narrative and his presence does not make the film more appealing.

It is not just more recent accusations…the once super star was a difficult artist to work with and we find details about that in one of the most distinguished, informed, fair, insightful works on the film industry:

Adventures in the Screen Trade

The author of this definitive, extraordinary, authoritative, quintessential and exhilarating work is William Goldman.
The writer has won two Academy Awards and other reputable prizes, for films like Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and All The President’s Men.

On his work for Marathon Man, William Goldman writes about Dustin Hoffman and his repellent attitude.
In one scene, Hoffman had to reach for a flashlight, in a drawer by the bed, as his brother in the feature is coming late at night into his room, after being fatally wounded and barely reaching Hoffman’s place.
Only the conceited Hoffman would have none of that and insist on asking one question after another, rejecting the move and keeping Roy Scheider at the door, all this long time while the supercilious Dustin did his show.

                What was the meaning of all that?
                The guess is that the hubristic actor did not want his fans to think him less of a macho man, looking for a flashlight when he actually can see in the dark, face any danger, eliminate any nemesis and be a Superman.

In short, a reader of Adventures in the Screen Trade would have that image in the mind, whenever Hoffman is performing and especially so when he has the role of an obnoxious, over bearing, condescending individual.
Harold Meyerowitz, the patriarch of the clan is exactly the type of personage that can make this viewer leave the cinema hall.

Harold is self-absorbed, a father that has neglected children and is not on the level of Tolstoy so that we could forgive to some extent the man, for the masterpieces he gave humankind, although we learn from Intellectuals by Paul Johnson what monsters Leo Tolstoy, Hemingway, Rousseau, Ibsen and others could be.
A recurring theme is that of a sculpture that Harold has created and the story he tells about it, which includes Matthew aka Ben Stiller in the process of making the art work, the child giving the tools and suggesting forms, only to talk about the year of the object and therefore annulling the pride Matthew felt, because he could not have been the one, it had been erected before he was born…
                Then this means it was your brother, Danny!

This scene could be dismissed as a sign of weakening memory, but the fact is that it can also symbolize the character, or lack thereof, the selfishness, the carelessness with which Harold married four women, estranged his children and ultimately caused irreparable harm to family members who have issues.
On the other hand, a more amenable movie buff would insist on other, more endearing scenes, the amusing side of the sculptor who is appreciated by some, even if not an undeniable celebrity in the art world.

For instance, at one point, Matthew has lunch with his father, or more exactly they are trying to eat, as the parent is undecided and horrified by the prices on the menu, until his son says that he would pay the bill, statement which instantly changes the lack of appetite of the artist and he makes a gourmand order, with stake, wine, potatoes and so much more, only to get annoyed by the man sitting next, who places a glass, then something else on their table, ending up with a few items and finally taking Harold’s coat with him.

Father and son chase after the tourist and they insist that they need to exchange coats, since the foreigner had taken the wrong one, and when the man rejects the idea, insisting on keeping the his property, which makes Harold cry that the stub for a theater play proves the ownership and when the man is puzzled by the name of the feature, the sculptor explains the plot, talks about seeing it and we realize that it is actually his own coat and nobody made a mistake… except for him
There is also the insistence on the meeting with Sigourney Weaver, which only took a couple of seconds, but has inebriated Harold, the artistic references (Artsy maybe?) to Stroszek by the wondrous Werner Herzog and the character Bruno from the film, which gives the name to the (ugly?) dog that causes his owner a commotion…

There are scenes to like and many moments that can infuriate- “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” Hamlet.

luni, 26 februarie 2018

Cemetery Junction, written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant

Cemetery Junction, written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant

                There is a lot to like and enjoy about Cemetery Junction…

It is written and directed by the famous, creative, amusing, intelligent couple: Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.
                Cemetery Junction has an outstanding, virtuoso, formidable cast:

                Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant…

Yet, this film and others created by Ricky Gervais do not have the success of his comedy series The Office.
His stand up work is also extremely appreciated, but Cemetery Junction, The Invention of Lying and other long features, if they have not completely tanked, they have not broken any box office records either.

One possible conclusion is that the inventive comedian is much more comfortable when he is not constrained by various limitations and he likes, if not absolute, at least extreme liberty, like at the Golden Globe ceremonies…
Nevertheless, Cemetery Junction is a lovely, endearing, amusing, meaningful if not ecstatic comedy.

Cemetery Junction may stand for all dead end towns, where inhabitants have little to no chance of achievement.
This is one way to look at the story, the other of course is that it does not matter where you live; you make your own life and success.

Three friends are the heroes of this story, with Freddie Taylor, as the more prominent of the three and more likely to escape a dead end, given that he appears more driven and determined to succeed.
Success, prosperity are not metaphysical issues, but if most people think that this means money, flashy cars, trophy and serial wives, huge mansions it is still does not mean that they are correct…

Prosperity and success actually mean something else, being satisfied and grateful with decent wages and a comfortable home, insisting on the close circle of family and friends, as the happiest people do- what they have in common, at the peak of the happiness scale is not money and wealth, but a strong social support.
Freddie tries to become an insurance salesman and he learns the ropes of the business, which means he sees how people have to be deceived into giving up holydays, which by the way are recommended by happiness studies more than material goods that involve hedonic adaptation.

Ricky Gervais plays the rather dumb, racist, isolationist, Brexiteer for sure, anti-immigrant father of Freddie.
Snork and Bruce are Freddie’s friends, the former working at the railway station and the latter in a factory.

Ralph Fiennes aka Mr. Kendrick and Mike Ramsay appear to represent success and achievement.
Mr. Kendrick is owner of the insurance company where Freddy works and he is a rich, rather powerful man, although he actually represents the epitome of failure, with his arrogance, mistreatment of his wife that he neglects to the point where he does not even see her anymore and says nothing whenever she gives him a cup of tea or does anything.

Freddy sees all this, manifests an incredible high Emotional Intelligence and warns Kendrick’s divine  daughter, Julie aka splendid Felicity Jones, that she will have the same ignoble fate as her destitute mother, if she marries the infatuated, self-absorbed, ruthless carbon copy of her father Mike Ramsay.
Julie wants to be a professional photographer, but in her sexist house and for her sexist fiancé, this is just not acceptable, even if Mike deceives her into thinking that, they will concentrate on her career, once she will have consolidated his.

Snork and Bruce have their own issues, the former is a gifted singer, but his jokes and stories with white and black bread are not vey alluring, they actually annoy most girls and the latter has a conflict with his father that the son despises as having been too weak when his mother left the home with another man.
Finally, Bruce learns from the local policeman the true story of his mother having abandoned her son and the father coming out on the street with a baseball bat and asking the officer to keep him in jail for the night, as to not compromise his son’s future.

Julie trusts her fiancé until she tries to see if he does ignore her, in the manner in which her parent ignores his wife and then she may to leave Cemetery Junction with the perspective of caring for her own life, her career as opposed to being a sort of slave in a house where the man is a sort of unannointed emperor…

Cemetery Junction is a good film.

A United Kingdom, based on the book by Susan Williams

A United Kingdom, based on the book by Susan Williams

The Darkest Hour is celebrated this year (2018), together with the hero within, Winston Churchill.

Yet, A United Kingdom exposes another side of the politician who is applauded as one of the greatest role models of all time.
                Winston Churchill is one of the villains in A United Kingdom.

This good film is based on the book by Susan Williams, which tells the story of the Prince of Bechuanaland and his wife, the politics involved in the exile, the submission to South Africa’s interests and more.
The intense, severe, excellent David Oyelowo, the artist in the marvelous leading role in Selma, plays Prince Seretse Khama.

Prince Seretse is studying in London, when he meets and falls in love with beautiful Ruth Williams.
                They want to and they marry.

However, if this sounded as the innocent, admirable, wonderful union of two young people, it is in fact reason for turmoil.
                Uncle Charles, the regent opposes this union.

Furthermore, most other parties involved are against this matrimony, which is upsetting the status quo.
The rules of the time were racist and the marriage between two people of different color was anathema.

However, about the only people who accept this matrimony are the ones least expected to…the “subjects”.
The would be king talks to an assembly and makes his case to the representatives of his people.

He explains that he loves his wife, there is no harm in that and color of skin should not be a reason to discriminate.

His uncle wants Seretse to be the king, but only if he renounces his white wife that he sees as a serious affront to the rules.
For hundreds of years, the ancestors of Seretse Khama have been admired as rulers, but this may end now.

Surprisingly, the assembly votes in favor of the prince, only the British representative says that the colonial power has to assess the situation.
A report is prepared, trying to analyze the “tribal conflict” in the territory called at that time Bechuanaland.

And the result is that Britain decides to…exile the would be king for five years and send him to Jamaica.
Enter the stage the great Winston Churchill, who is in opposition but affirms that once in power, he will allow the prince to return.

Only once in office, something outrageous happens.
Under Winston Churchill, not only the banishment is not overturned, but on the contrary, it is…extended.

Prince Seretse Khama is exiled…for life

However, some people in Great Britain support the cause of the hero and that of his country.
They obtain the report and they provoke a minister into admitting that mineral rights belong to the people of what would soon become Botswana.

The report states clearly that the prince is a decent man, worthy of ruling his people, but South Africa, where apartheid is the official policy opposed the matrimony and therefore, Britain applied “Realpolitik” and surrendered to this point of view, more interested in the riches provided by the segregated South Africa.
In an astonishing coup de theatre, the Prince campaigns for the abolishing of the monarchy- what prince ever did that?

Seretse Khama is a hero triumphant on all aspects of life.
He is loyal to his people, becomes the leader of a democracy that he had advocated for their benefit, he stays married to the woman he loves and that loved him in return, in spite of the adversity and trauma he had to suffer for his ideals.

Stagecoach, based on story by Ernest Haycox

Stagecoach, based on story by Ernest Haycox

                Stagecoach is a classic.

                However, on the other hand, it is in a few ways passé.
Not because of the special effects, the probable suffering inflicted to the horses involved in the production…

Although many things have changed in the seventy-nine years since this western has been released.
Regarding animal wellbeing, We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by the marvelous Karen Joy Fowler states that the pretense made in most movies that no animal has been harmed during the filming of this motion picture might be technically correct, but only because the animals have been beaten…Before the production.

Almost all the chimpanzees we see in various features are babies, because once they grow a little, they are too powerful to control.
Furthermore, most animals are treated heinously, tortured with bats and sticks and when they are shown one on the set, they are terrified.

Besides, the photos where chimpanzees seem to smile from one ear to the other point to another emotion, not ecstasy, but tremendous fear and when they were sent into space with that wide grin, they have actually been horrified.
In Stagecoach, the good people from the prairie wagon shoot and fight what were then called…”Indians”.

After such a long time, history begins to have a different look at the celebrated Columbus and the oppressed Native Americans.
Only in this film, Geronimo and his people, the rightful owners of America, are portrayed as villains.

This may make one think of…

Mark Twain

The now banished Louis CK was talking in his stand up acts about the politically incorrect prose of Mark Twain.
Isn’t this an absurd paradox?

Louis CK complains about the fact that Twain writes about “Nigger Jim” and the former has an excellent criticism on this issue, but some time later, we find the comedian accused of outrageous acts that he has confessed to.
In Stagecoach, the plot is rather simple; we have a group of people that travel through dangerous territory.

At that time, they did not consider the moral and the fairness aspect of taking land from the Native Americans.
The cavalry escorts the group, but only for the first part of the journey, after which they need to vote to see if they continue and when they do, they are vulnerable to attacks, which are rightful is we look at who was the rightful owner of that and other portions of America.

There are some intriguing characters in the wagon, maybe the most memorable is portrayed by the ultimate western actor, the most loved artist for decades in the US, John Wayne aka The Duke, who is Ringo Kid in this picture.
One woman is pregnant and treated with respect, while sexist, retrograde men disconsider the other.

The likeable, amusing, friendly, if drunkard doctor is a pleasure to watch and Thomas Mitchell has won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for this film.
Stagecoach has been nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Art Direction, and Film Editing and won another prize for Best Music.

The feature is mentioned in Cinema History and documentaries about filming, such as American Cinema
Orson Welles has been watching this film many times, in order to learn about how to direct action scenes.

One learns from Who the Hell’s In It by the celebrated Peter Bogdanovich about the relationship between John Ford and John Wayne.
The latter owes a lot, if not the whole career to the phenomenal director, but there have been tensions between the two.

John ford would not talk to John Wayne for some years and never said what, if anything was wrong.
In the same book, you can find many anecdotes, including one with the Duke, Henry Fonda and…a giant snake…

Read the book and watch Stagecoach, but root for the Native Americans.

duminică, 25 februarie 2018

The English Patient, based on novel by Michael Ondaatje, screenplay and directed by Anthony Minghella

The English Patient, based on novel by Michael Ondaatje, screenplay and directed by Anthony Minghella

The English Patient might be one of the rare cases where the motion picture is better than the original material.

The film has won an unbelievable umber of Academy Awards, BAFTAs and surprisingly only two Golden Globes…
                The English Patient has won nine Oscars for:

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Costume Design, Best Music, Best Cinematography and more
Of course, the movie has detractors and this cinephile can understand that, considering the novel did not thrill him…

“[Elaine and Peterman are watching "The English Patient". Elaine is about to freak out of boredom]
Elaine Benes: [quietly] No. I cannot do this anymore. I cannot. It is too long.
Elaine Benes: [yells] quit telling your stupid story about the stupid desert, and just die already! DIE!
J. Peterman: [surprised] Elaine, you don't like the movie?
Elaine Benes: [shouts] I hate it!”

In addition, maybe this amusing character from Seinfeld even said: “die already” if that is not a case of bad memory.
The story is complicated, beautifully filmed, with superb costumes, fantastic shots of the desert…

Ralph Fiennes is memorable as The English Patient aka Count Almasy, the epitome of the romantic hero.
At the start of the film, he is incapacitated and about to die after a plane accident in which he was severely burned.

Hana is the nurse who feels pity for him and decides to stop in a monastery to reduce his suffering in his last few days.
She may even have to euthanize him, but the fate of the patient aka hero is clear from the very start.

What is not evident, in the early scenes is who this burned patient is, because he suffers from amnesia, on top of all his other ailments.
Gradually though, a story of love, betrayal, collusion with the enemy, romantic expeditions are revealed.

Count Almasy fell in love with Katharine Clifton aka Kristin Scott Thomas, married to Geoffrey aka Colin Firth.
Many adventures make this film so rewarding and sophisticated, with the present and past moving their narratives in parallel frescoes.

Caravaggio aka this year’s nominee for an Academy Award- Willem Dafoe appears on the stage, with Kip, Madox, Major Muller and other personages that are involved in turn in horror scenes, like the one where David has his thumbs cut off, or when Geoffrey crash lands a plane and many romantic moments, during the sand storm, or in the bath, when the lovers exchange information on what they like or hate most…
A man who has suffered because of his decision to join the Nazis wants the English Patient.

However, his choice appears to be more of a fateful disaster that falls upon the man who has to abandon his love in the desert.
Not in the sense of just walking away from her, but trying to bring in help, only to be denied it and resorting to the only alternative left, since all he cares for in the world is in a cave and the rest of the planet may go to pieces without her…

This can remind one of a short story by Thomas Mann, wherein a character is sure that love and friendship exist only in literature- there were no films at the time- and even if men and women keep saying…

I love you…there are no words to express that…the personage says that in fact these words have a meaning with no correspondent in real life…only in the art world…
We could think of this ultimate romantic hero…Almasy, who would go to the end of the earth for his lover.

The English Patient is a phenomenal masterpiece.
PS- there is also the beautiful Caudales and Gyges story inside…

Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears, written and directed by Vladimir Menshov

Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears, written and directed by Vladimir Menshov

Moscow does not believe in tears…wow…what a true statement…indeed, Moscow believes in…Vladimir Putin.
And that means this and other Russian cities are not emotional, tender, soft, weak and vulnerable…

Or are they?
Since they believe in a tyrant and his fake promises and lies…like we never had soldiers in the Ukraine…

This film has won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Picture and one wonders why.
On the other hand, when it was presented for a new viewing on local television the other night, it was included in the segment dedicated to masterpieces and fundamental works of art, which this fare is not.

Of course, there are many good parts and even something we used to call “lizards” which meant small truths inserted in art.
Since the censorship would not allow criticism of the supreme leader, politburo or other such untouchables, creators would struggle to insert something remotely dissident, which in turn caused uproar in audiences…

One character said he is hungry…that would cause a tremor, a small earthquake in the theater room, because we were all hungry, due to those soviets that are so great in this fucking movie…this is the unconscious crying out for revenge and an attempt at a joke, for the poor workers had little to do with the destruction of my country and other lands…of course, filmmakers did their share.
One way to look at Moscow does not believe…is to find the small lizards and be in awe that they are in there.

This cinephil thinks that is exactly what he did, decades ago, when he first saw and appreciated this movie.
Only after so many years, the feeble attempt to speak about the small wages that the heroine has, or the snobbishness of some characters pales in comparison with the celebration of workers, one of whom becomes the general manager, because Soviet Union is the land of real opportunity…wasn’t it?

The likes of Jeremy Corbin, Melenchon, Even the too much-celebrated Bernie Sanders would probably agree.
However, for those who lived in this Workers Paradise this is “de la merde, kisama” and the film brings out these repressed emotions.

There are of course many good scenes and worthwhile themes that can even be funny, like the insistence of some characters that television would replace everything: going to the movies, theater, books…all would disappear in twenty years…

Then, twenty years later, one of these personages repeats the prophecy, which is an oxymoron since this period had passed and all those mentioned were still around, albeit culture does suffer a lot…
So maybe serious, paramount forms of art might become obsolete with time, due to the permanent obsession with smart phones…who knows?

Lyudmila is a determined woman, willing to lie in order to ascend in society and here we may have a truth about communist society, which escaped the censors.
In reality, to get to the top one may need to marry into a family who has it all and pretend in the process, even if the career of her honest friend, Katia, is a fulminant rise from the position of worker to CEO…

Ultimately, it all depends on how one chooses to interpret what is going on in the film, but for this movie addict anything that depicts Soviets, communism with favorable images is disgusting and there is so much that praises this criminal system here.
The liars lose, which was not the case, it was the ultimate system within which the false prophets reached the very top.

Lyudmila, with her effort to pretend she is a psychiatrist and therefore entice an important man, seduce him so that they have a baby and then become a housewife and in practice trap him, loses this game.
In opposition, honest, hardworking, good communist, inventive, dedicated Katia reaches the top.

Because communism is all about that, isn’t it?
“All animals are equal! …or was it the other way round?

Some animals are more equal than others!
Besides, to make some parts of this film ever more disagreeable and outright revolting, Katia accepts the position of woman slave, dominated by the ultimate alpha male who is the master in his house.

Women have second place and absurdly, Katia is so crazy about this sadist, perhaps because she is a masochistic hero, a reason why she triumphs in the communist society that she does so much to advance…

Honey Bunny aka Mon Poussin, written by Frederic Forestier and Romain Protat

Honey Bunny aka Mon Poussin, written by Frederic Forestier and Romain Protat

                Mon Poussin is both charming and silly.

Not at the same time, but there are some good moments, followed by preposterous, artificial moments.
Anyway, this light comedy does not belong to the long list of French masterpieces, but it can be enjoyable…

Some times

                Vincent Peletier is the young hero of this film.
                He is in love with Elina.

                That was very good, for as long as it lasted.
Only, at the beginning of the film, we learn that the love story is over.

Vincent is funny in his desperation, as he keeps crying with “helicopter parents” roaming over him.
They keep saying he has to get over it:

“You loved her, she loved you…now you love her and she does not…she does not even care about you…”
This is the way of life Mon Poussin…

By the way, Poussin means:
“A chicken killed young for eating.”

When the boy does not get over the infatuation and keeps crying and moaning over his lost love, parents take action.

First, they decide to fake a robbery so that they can empty the room of the suffering boy of memorabilia.
All the pictures of the infamous girl that has broken his heart and then left him must disappear.

They are caught because they have no experience and they claim the intruder came in through a window.
However, that bathroom window is excessively small to give anyone access, unless he or she is five years old.

Or…working in a circus.

They then try other, more radical treatment, which involves a rejection of the girl and what better than…, calling her names?
You think she is so splendid, formidable, superb, a deity, seraphic, tremendous, superb, ecstatic?

Elina is “une pute, connasse, putaine, etc.”
Now repeat!

Vincent is also taken to group therapy, where each individual is expressing his rejection of his problem:
Each says in turn:

Drugs are “de la merde”, alcohol is “de la merde”, marijuana is “de la merde”, and sex is the same “merde”.
Only the young man in love cannot bring himself to say that Elina is “de la merde” and he abandons this outré therapy.
The next silly step is to take the boy to Strasbourg, where he had such a good time with his then girlfriend.

In way, they try the training used with dogs and other animals…
The famous Pavlovian Conditioning: the bell rings and that means there will be food, only here the association must be in reverse…

You had a good time here?
Sex in this place?

As is evident by now, this is not the clever comedy in a line with Some Like It Hot, Top Secret or History of the World by Mel Brooks.
However, if you Condition yourself, who knows? Maybe you enjoy it…