Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Good Wife (CBS 2009-2010)



The Good Wife a legal drama series set in Chicago is surprisingly good. It showcases how important good screen-writing is. Glossy yes, but deals with weighty issues intelligently and with panache. There is an ongoing story arc centering on big-city political and judicial corruption – very topical and compelling.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Inception (2010): Banal shoot-em-up


A disappointment. Apart from the technical wizardry, the direction and editing was pedestrian. Director Christopher Nolan wants to have his intellectual cake and eat it too: an essentially banal shoot-em-up with a thin veneer of pseudo-philosophical posturing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Before Sunset (2004) after Before Sunrise (1995)



Before Sunrise is romantic, as young lovers are, and thankfully there is no cynicism, but there is love and a cold reality. The camera towards the end returns to empty places where Jesse and Céline spent time together, and you the viewer bring the sadness to these scenes, of a special night that seemed liked it would last forever and is now ended and gone forever, with the lovers leaving no trace of their passage. Such is mortal life. Memory and regret have no refuge, they are lost in the brightness of the new day. This is truth and great cinema: beyond romance or the cynical.

Before Sunset is again about memory and time lost. The regret of growing older and deflated dreams. Fate is kind to Jesse and Céline. They are given a chance to recapture that night in a reprise of the new day after the night they last met. They are older but wiser, and now they can discover that mellow flavor of a love cellared and mellowed into a new sweetness and softness. As they approach Céline’s apartment they encounter Céline’s cat, and Céline tells Jesse envies her cat – each day everything is new again.

Marty (1955)



Directed by Delbert Mann from the screenplay/teleplay by Paddy Chayefsky, and starring Ernest Borgnine (4 Oscars in 1956).

Borgnine and his co-stars wonderfully inhabit their roles. Great in a simple way: 24 hours in the life of a lonely 34yo Bronx butcher from an Italo-American family told with empathy, pathos, and without melodrama. Coming from a similar background but growing up half a world away, I recalled what my dear late father used to say, “Tutt’il mondo e un paese [All the world is one country]“. From a tradition in film-making that finds universal truth in stories of simple humanity told with sincerity, respect, and affection, with a feeling for place and the wonderful nuance of character that shines in family life, the movie is also about the richness of language that develops from a transmigration of cultures. My favorite lines are when Marty’s mamma is talking to her sister about the girl Marty has just met, a shy school-teacher:

MRS. PILLETTI
Hey, I come home from your house
last night, Marty was here with a girl.

CATHERINE
Who?

MRS. PILLETTI
Marty.

CATHERINE
Your son Marty?

MRS. PILLETTI
Well, what Marty you think is gonna
be here in this house with a girl?

CATHERINE
Were the lights on?

MRS. PILLETTI
Oh sure. (frowns at her sister)
This girl is a college graduate.

CATHERINE
They’re the worst. College girls are
one step from the streets. They smoke
like men inna saloon. My son Joseph,
his wife, you know, she types onna
typewriter. One step from the streets,
I tell you.

(Mrs. Pilletti ponders this philosophy for a moment.)

MRS. PILLETTI
That’s the first time Marty ever
brought a girl to this house. She
seems like a nice girl. I think he
has a feeling for this girl. You
heard him sing. He been singing like
that all morning.

There is an interesting counterpoint in the screenplay where the unmarried guys talk about Mickey Spillane and how he depicts women. Not as savage a critique as Bezzeridis’ in Kiss Me Deadly, but quite witty:

JOE
…so the whole book winds up, Mike
Hammer, he’s inna room there with
this doll. So he says, “You rat, you
are the murderer.” So she begins to
con him, you know? She tells him how
she loves him. And then Bam! He shoots
her in the stomach. So she’s laying
there, gasping for breath, and she
says, “How could you do that?” And
he says, “It was easy.”

LEO
(without looking up
from his magazine)
Boy, that Mickey Spillane, boy he
can write.

[ ... ]

JOE
What I like about Mickey Spillane is
he knows how to handle women. In one
book, he picks up a tomato who gets
hit with a car, and she throws a
pass at him. And then he meets two
beautiful twins, and they throw passes
at him. And then he meets some
beautiful society leader, and she
throws a pass at him, and…

LEO
Boy, that Mickey Spillane, he sure
can write.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos 2009)

While there are flaws in the plausibility of the final resolution of the murder investigation, the film has a deep humanity and an existential sadness at its core that is quite profound. A powerful exploration of memory, the consequences of clinging to the past, the nature of justice and retribution, and the courage required to pursue love and true passion. What is the right course in the face of the state failing in the obligation to enforce justice?

The emotional embrace of the film in its totality leaves you overwhelmed.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Blind Side (2009): Beyond Political Correctness

Flaws aside, an honest and inspirational movie.  Saccharine and sentimental yes, but decent and honest.  The focus is on a relationship between two people, and it is true.  What is wrong with portraying a family life we aspire to? Must we contrive a story to fit an ideological imperative?  Is not the story as much about a woman doing something truly extraordinary as about a homeless black boy given a chance. That countless others do not get this chance is not  ignored, the film’s coda deals with this and reasonably. Bullock and the black kid are great. Don’t we know such women in our own lives – our own mothers and wives?

Sometimes cinema is not about artistry, but a celebration of what can be - of decencies that we can all admire and aspire to.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bresson's Pickpocket

Metropolis: Rare Paramount Poster

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Twin Peaks: Italian Style

42nd Street (1942): The Legs Have It

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Room in Rome (Habitación en Roma, Spain, 2010)

Written, directed and edited by Julio Medem (Sex and Lucia 2001)
Cinematography by Alex Catalán
Elena Anaya as ‘Alba’
Natasha Yarovenko as ‘Natasha’
Enrico Lo Verso as ‘Max’

‘Natasha, shah, shah…’

The camera in wide screen looks down on two young women on a narrow cobbled street in Rome late one summer night. They are strangers who are merry with wine and intoxicated with their company. One Spanish, the other Russian. A proposition, a tentative refusal, and then a timid acceptance. The girls leave the bottom of the frame, and the camera swoops up and retreats from the aged terrace of a darkened achingly elegant room in a small hotel, retreating into a corner after panning the interior, then waiting for the door to open. A key is turned, the door opens, the girls enter, and a lamp is switched on in the now even more ravishingly beautiful room bathed in a sensual claret light emanating from two Renaissance prints – one above the double bed and the other on the opposite wall. The camera has observed all this in one bravura take where it insinuates itself into every aspect of the room. Thus begins a night of sensuality, love, grief, laughter, and melancholy discovery.

The camera is not a voyeur but a meandering conspirator in a secret night of stolen bliss that ends with the ‘Alba’ of a sparkling new day atop the ancient rooftops of Rome. Their secret and the vanished night permanently recorded and visible beyond the earth a make-shift white flag waiting to billow under the summer breeze from a tiny balcony in the Eternal City.

Friday, May 7, 2010

2046: Night Train to Future Noir



2046 (Hong Kong 2004)
Entrapment of a  suave gambler turned pulp-novelist by his muses – femmes fatales all…

Director & Writer   Kar Wai Wong
DPs  Christopher Doyle & Pung-Leung Kwan
Original Music  Shigeru Umebayashi

Cross-posted at filmsnoir.net.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Contempt 2: Camille's Revenge

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Iggy Pop - Beside You (1993)

"a taste of delicious freedom amidst yawning pitfall" - Jim Clark

Directed by Mark Romanek

Your Ghost (1994): Kristin Hersh

"Your Ghost" is the first track from Kristin Hersh's debut solo studio album Hips and Makers (1994) featuring  additional vocals from Michael Stipe of R.E.M. The music video for the song was directed by Katherine Dieckmann and is an homage to Maya Deren's groundbreaking 1943 experimental film Meshes of the Afternoon.