PopMuse: Film http://popmu.se Musings of stuff en-us Copyright 2007-2019 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ Fellini's Roma http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2017/01/fellinis-roma.html http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2017/01/fellinis-roma.html Thu, 26 Jan 2017 00:05:54 UTC at DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog Fellini’s episodic romp through the space and time of the eternal city at the time of its release might have felt like an indulgent recycling of his usual cinematic themes hung on a disorienting episodic documentary-like narrative. And yet with today’s eyes, in the context of Fellini’s body of work, it’s an essential part of his filmography, a visual essay of Fellini’s lifetime of experience with the city, told as a typically brilliant choreographed dance of motion, light, and music.Fellini’s Roma (1972) dir. Federico FelliniStarring: Peter Gonzales, Fiona Florence, Pia De Doses, Renato GiovannoliBy Alan BacchusDuring one of the sequences, in which we follow a camera crew around town photographing a hippie student rally, we watch a group of bystanders discuss with Fellini himself their desire for the director to depict Rome with a modern sensibility. Fellini candidly admits he can only make a film from his point of view with his own unique peculiarities. Thus Roma feels like his final chapter of self-reflection after his notable pictures La Dolce Vita and 8 ½ .The opening chapter takes place in the pre-War 1938, depicts a teenaged Fellini arriving in Rome for the first time and observing the strange and wonderful characters in the tenement housing community of his family. The episode is anchored by a stunningly visual sequence of the community preparing for and indulging a group meal on the evening streets. It’s a sequence featuring a hundred or so actors and background players choreographed with the hypnotic, trance-inducing thrill only Fellini can create.Two other mesmerizing sequences stand tall in Fellini canon. First, a journey underground into a subway construction project, wherein Fellini and his crew get a glimpse of the massive engineering project next to newly discovered artifacts from ancient Rome. When the crew discover a lost chamber they are forced to stop digging to investigate. Unveiled is a pristine room full of wall frescos which upon exposure to the exterior atmosphere degrades and fades never to be viewed in his former condition again. It’s an astonishing sequence. A papal fashion show and an early brother sequence showcases Fellini’s indulgence in garish pomp, but his scenes of brilliantly choreographed movements recall the cinematic elegance of 8 ½. In particular the final sequence which follows a group of motorcyclists through the streets and roundabouts of the city is gorgeous and supremely cinematic.Fellini’s Roma is available on Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection   http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ Best of 2016 http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/12/best-of-2016.html http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/12/best-of-2016.html Mon, 09 Jan 2017 13:58:41 UTC at DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog This year's Best of List includes familiar awards contenders, such as Moonlight and Manchester By the Sea,�strange head scratchers such as Neighbors 2 and�criminally unrepresented pictures such as Terence Davies' Sunset Song and Operation Avalanche. �Unfortunately I couldn't lift one or more of these out of the pack to formulate a true 1-to-10 list of top films in descending order, so here they are alphabetically.AGE OF SHADOWS�(dir. Kim Jee Woon)Kim Jee Woon (I Saw the Devil) directs this Untouchables/Inglorious Basterds-like spy thriller with the highest level of execution. Set in 1920’s Korea, at the time of Japanese occupation, the allegiance of a Korean officer, working for the Japanese is put to the test when he’s tempted by the resistance movement. Astonishing set pieces executed with high production value (and some of South Korea’s biggest stars) meet the bar of Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino. GREEN ROOM�(dir. Jeremy Saulnier)After Blue Ruin, Green Room serves as the second half of an awesome one-two punch. As with the Blue Ruin Jeremy Saulnier constructs a terrifying predicament for his heroes, and orchestrates an intense adventure of escape within his pre-constructed scenario. In Blue Ruin it was the quid-pro-quo acts of revenge against two warring families, here it’s the more intimate and constrained scenario of a punk band under siege in a neo-nazi compound. Saulnier’s innate feel of realism puts the audience effectively in the moment-to-moment thrills of the characters.JACKIE�(dir. Pablo Lorrain)The thrill of this picture is the unconventional stylistic take on a what probably seemed on paper a conventional script. As written by Noah Oppenheimer, the story of Jackie, tells like procedural events of Jackie Kennedy in the days after the JFK assassination. Some non-linear segments, flashforwards and flashbacks can give the appearance of an unconventional film, but everything we would need to see from this period of time we do see. For this reason, the film is thoroughly satisfying. But it’s Pablo Lorrain’s vision which elevates the material into something more than a good script. Lorrain’s work in recreating period detail and merging different media and archival footage elegantly in the Oscar nominated film No is applied directly to Jackie. The visual and auditory design of the film is stunning and transports the audience to 1963 with ease and grace.LA LA LAND�(dir. Damien Chazelle)The familiar is made fresh from the hot Damien (Whiplash) Chazelle. The thrill of Whiplash was Chazelle’s claustrophobic intensity and laser-specific focus into the mind of his artist-alter ego. La La Land is the largest canvas he could possibly play on. Treading in the musical genre taking place over several years, against the backdrop of Hollywood, the music industry, and Los Angeles the city of dreams. The familiar ground is the artistic pressure of the Hollywood lifestyle. All About Eve, or A Star is Born seem more appropriate comparables than the traditional Hollywood musical. The anchor of the picture isn’t necessarily the musical set pieces, which admittedly still don’t ever match up to the best of Hollywood’s past. Gosling and Stone try their best, but they are no Rogers/Astaire, Garland/Rooney or Kelly/Caron. The picture succeeds because of the agonizing frustration which results from the strain on their idealized relationship and resonates on a level rarely achieved even by the best of Hollywood musical standards.MANCHESTER BY THE SEA�(dir. Kenneth Lonergan)Tragic and devastating. Kenneth Lonergan’s original script, directed with working class humble honesty, puts his ordinary characters through the ringer. Weirdo Casey Affleck is perfectly cast as the unlikeable and reluctant social misfit forced into become surrogate father to his nephew, and in the process is forced to reconcile his own tragedies of his past. The heavy loaded drama admirably mixes in disarming comedy resulting in a perfect concoction of palatable tragedy.MOONLIGHT (dir. Barry Jenkins)Barry Jenkins’ already massively-celebrated impressionistic memoir of his own youth is as graceful and moving as proclaimed by most critics. Jenkins eschews narrative convention at the same time retooling familiar elements of coming age stories. Jenkins’ hero Chiron grows up in Miami amidst the temptation of drug lifestyle and frustrated by his mom’s own crack habit. An unlikely mentor arises in a drug dealer to become his surrogate father. The evolution of character from child to youth to adult immediate recalls Boyhood. The gentle approach to the often grim subject sparkles with inspiration and innovation in every frame, even when the Jenkins is forced to rely on those familiar coming of age tropes.NEIGHBORS 2 (dir. Nicholas Stoller)This delirious and inspired sequel to the 2014 hit film enriches the beautifully conceived characters of the first film. Seth Rogan and company already had perfect comedic concept to work with in the first film – an anxious couple with a new baby moves into a new house only to discover their neighbour is a raucous frat house. Here, the same characters are back, except the frat house is a sorority helmed by a trio of misfit students eager to create the same kind of college experience as their male counterparts. The chemistry of Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne carries through in this sequel, same with the valuable b-player presence of Ike Baronholtz and Carlo Gallo as their dufus best friends. The trio of Chloe Grace Moretz, Kersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein make admirable comic adversaries, but this picture is Zac Efron’s whose comic chops blossom like never before. OPERATION AVALANCHE�(dir. Matt Johnson)Matt Johnson’s scrappy fake moon landing movie bristles with low budget ingenuity. While the production tales of the filmmakers sneaking into the real NASA to film segments of the film under their own noses tends to lead the discussion of the picture, the film is an impressively complex arrangement of thriller-genre elements, deceptively clever character development and truly awesome combination of reenacted period detail and archival footage. THE RED TURTLE�(dir. Michael Dudok de Wit)The story of a shipwrecked man on an South Pacific deserted island and the strange but life affirming relationships he forges while on the island. This French/Belgian Studio Ghibli-influenced animated weeper submits itself to the constraint of having no dialogue. The film elegantly lifts itself from the self-conscious to something magical and enchanting, however desperately the filmmakers strive for this effect. You have to give to the filmmaker for effective pulling the heartstrings of the audience so effortlessly. SUNSET SONG�(dir. Terence Davis)The release of a Terence Davies film nowadays has the same of privileged anticipation we used to get from Terrence Malick. Despite claims in the media of Davies as the great living British filmmaker, he’s relatively unknown, even within cineaste circles. Sunset Song is Davies’ biggest film, based on the revered Scottish novel by Cedric Gibbons which depicted the 20 year journey of a lowly farm girl making a life for itself amid the hardships of rural working class life. For those familiar with the Davies-style, all the visual and narrative hallmarks of the master are in play and elevated to mythic cinematic heights. Comparisons to the work of John Ford are front and centre, but it’s no doubt a gorgeous Terence Davies picture furthering the already impressive body of work of the master.Honourable mentions: It was tough to exclude Hell or High Water, a crackjack heist thriller which deceptively turns into a thought-provoking and tragic family drama. Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals was a loony thriller playing in the David Lynch world of visceral violence and eccentric quirky humour. Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some, deceptively proclaimed to be a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused only to reveal itself another type of metaphysical slacker comedy without a beginning, middle, or end. The morbid curiosity surrounding the story of Christine Chubbock, who committed suicide on camera in the 1970’s was enough to make Antonio Campos’ intense biopic Christine a guilty pleasure. Although barely released theatrically Karyn Kusuma’s The Invitation was an invigorating nail biting chamber drama. Clint Eastwood’s Sully, honoring the humble working class nature of the hero of the Miracle on the Hudson, was effective in its own clinical modesty. Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World adds even more flare to his already impressive filmography of stylish suburban shouting matches. And the new franchise starter, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was surprisingly effective at transplanting the style, tone and thrill of the HP universe to 1920's New York. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ Akira Kurosawa's Dreams http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/12/akira-kurosawas-dreams.html http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/12/akira-kurosawas-dreams.html Thu, 29 Dec 2016 03:15:50 UTC at DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog 'Dreams' is pure cinema, an intoxicating assembly of images, sound and thought-provoking existentialism that only cinema can provide. Kurosawa’s confidence in his ability to hold the audience’s attention through a series of narratively disconnected and peculiar episodes is remarkable.Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (1990) dir. Akira KurosawaStarring: Akira Terao, Mitsunori Isaki, Chishū Ryū, Mieko Harada, Martin ScorseseBy Alan BacchusThe last picture from Akira Kurosawa is an unlikely departure from the late career work of the master which often feature stories of big spectacle. Here the impressionistic anthology film or sorts tells eight deceptively simple stories derived from Mr. Kurosawa’s own dreams over the year. It’s a swan song no less remarkable than the heady epics of Ran or Kagemusha, and arguably better and more profound.The first segment establishes its peculiarity, depicting Kurosawa as a child, who delinquently leaves his house to partake in an old Japanese legend, a wedding of foxes, in the forest. The boy watches the elegantly formal ceremony of marching forest-dwellers dressed in animal costumes parading through the forest. When he returns home he’s scolded by his mother, in such extreme fashion, the only way to boy may atone is either to commit suicide by knife or set off and beg forgiveness from the foxes. Kurosawa’s Dreams mix the mystical, as above, and more direct overt commentaries on historical and political concerns. A derelict infantryman confronting the ghosts of dead WWII soldiers marching toward the infinite is arguably the centerpiece episode. Kurosawa exercises his skills with suspense, tension and some action, elegantly shot, evoking power and pathos with extraordinary simplicity. The third segment, The Blizzard, is also an impressive feat of tension and action depicting a mountaineering foursome battling a storm while being entranced by a mystical female guide. Kurosawa blatantly comments on the nuclear threat to Japan, the world and the intimate human experience with Mount Fuji in Red, a post-apocalyptic theme which recalls Kurosawa’s lesser-seen 1956 film I Live in Fear.Each of the segments fits into the same concept – a simple predicament/story journey of Kurosawa’s cinematic alter ego, depending on the age, sometimes the same actor. The only disruptions to the majestic splendor of the experience is the handful of Western intrusions - Martin Scorsese, in particular, cast as Vincent Van Gogh, while a clever connection to another revered cinema master, feels unnecessarily shoehorned in; same with the overextended and now dated ILM special effects, perhaps pushed on Kurosawa by Hollywood champions George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. In the tradition of the best of anthology films, and even the best Twilight Zone or Night Gallery episodes, each segment is punctuated by something profound and thought-provoking that thematically connects to something greater than its whole. Dreams is no exception. Here we’re served up an ultimate cautionary tale of frailty of our planet, and the appreciation of the sanctity life itself. By the final episode you’ll yearn to cherish the pleasures of the simple, organic and authentic life.Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams is available on Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ Short Cuts http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/12/short-cuts.html http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/12/short-cuts.html Tue, 20 Dec 2016 18:11:17 UTC at DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog Robert Altman’s deliriously-intricate LA mosaic is just about the last word in ensemble film. With effortless style, Altman’s observational approach to the collection of Raymond Carver writings used to inspire this film creates a uniquely disarming melodrama which starts out as a light satirical farce, then sharply turning into dead serious emotional powerhouse.Short Cuts (1994) dir. Robert AltmanStarring: Tim Robbins, Anne Archer, Julianne Moore, Lily Tomlin, Fred Ward, Andie McDowell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Penn, Matthew Modine, Jack Lemmon, Peter Gallagher, Madeline Stowe, Lyle Lovett By Alan BacchusThe work put into plotting out the movements and crossovers of the two dozen characters which circle the city of Los Angeles in the 48 hours or so of this movie is mind-boggling. The core stories which carry most of the weight is Finnegan Family whose son is hit by a car and is hospitalized much to the distress of their parents (Andie MacDowell and Bruce Davison). Typifying the fine line between tragedy and comedy in the picture is Lyle Lovett’s character, as a baker who torments the couple through crank calls to their home phone for not picking up the birthday cake ordered for the child. Secondly, there’s the trio of Fred Ward, Buck Henry and Huey Lewis who, while on a fishing trap discover a dead body floating in the water. Instead of calling it into the police, the men continue their vacation unfazed by the murder only to report it after the trip. Like the Finnegan predicament Altman deftly turns the grisly discovery into a situation darkly comedic. This segment famously turned up as a separate filmic adaption in Ray Lawrence’s 2006 drama Jindabyne. The two films, while based on the same source material, couldn’t be more dissimilar.Other memorable characters such as Lily Tomlin as a waitress who’s ogled by the trio of fishermen, but also becomes the one who hits the Finnegan’s child with her car; Tim Robbins, who then appeared in many of Hollywood’s memorable films of the era, as an adulterer/policeman who takes his own self-absorbed jealously of his wife out on the family dog; and breakout newbie Julianne Moore and Matthew Modine as another bickering, philandering couple who distract themselves from their own malaise by partying and drinking heavily in their Hollywood Hills home. Of course these snippets only scratch the surface of the intricate plot machinations which run its course over the picture’s breezy three-hour running time. Despite over 20 years between M.A.S.H. and Short Cuts Altman’s well-honed cinematic techniques still feel fresh and innovative. The observing style of Altman which famously uses overlapping dialogue tracks to move the audience’s point of view between characters and storylines becomes raison d’etre of the film. Same with the then-unfashionable zoom lenses which elegant complement the audio techniques. What emerges organically from the stylized plotting, myriad of characters and overt production techniques is Altman’s cutting indictment of middle class triviality. By the time the imposition of the citywide Earthquake unifies his characters – an act of God famously recreated as a shower of frogs by Paul Thomas Anderson in Magnolia – we come to pity each of the characters and revile them for their self-absorption. But we’re saved from the bleakness of Anderson’s Magnolia, the audience of Short Cuts can always take pleasure in our superiority to the vacuum of Altman’s characters. Short Cuts is available on Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ McCabe and Mrs. Miller http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/11/mccabe-and-mrs-miller.html http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/11/mccabe-and-mrs-miller.html Fri, 02 Dec 2016 20:48:38 UTC at DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog For those new to 'McCabe and Mrs. Miller' it can be hard to relate to its reputation as the anti-Western that shook up the genre. Today, a non-traditional film like this would be common place, but in 1971, at the beginnings of the New Hollywood movement Altman’s shaggy Hippie Western was as strange an anomaly as could be. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) dir. Robert AltmanStarring: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Keith Carradine, Ren� Auberjonois, Shelley Duvall, Michael MurphyBy Alan BacchusAdmittedly I only saw this film for the first time recently, despite being acutely aware of its importance in cinema history. Watching a Robert Altman film can be an intimidating proposal, especially for someone not lovingly attuned to his distinct style. The Player is an excellent film bar none. But Nashville and many of his other lauded films, for all their greatness, can be an acquired taste. But I also loved Vilmos Zsigmond, who arguably defined the look of the 1970’s with this film, and so I always wanted my first experience of McCabe and Mrs. Miller to be the best visual experience I could get. Having missed a few local Cinematheque screenings in town over the years, the opportunity came with the recent Criterion Collection release. Having unboxed the (usual) magnificently-designed burnt umbra-hued packaging, I finally got to devour all pleasures of the film. It is still a film not-for-all tastes. Looking with the eyes of a 1970’s movie-goer you can see how radical and unconventional the picture was. Liner notes discuss Altman’s attraction to the Western Rockies setting, far away from the dusty locals of Monument Valley, there’s barely any gunfire in the film, very little bravado or heroism, and a foppish swindling hero who barely takes any stand at all. The genre convention Altman does revel in are the prostitutes and brothels which dominate the setting. While Peckinpah westerns portray prostitute in subservient positions of inferiority compared to the dominant males, Altman’s prostitutes feel like products of 60’s liberalism, feminist capitalists owning their bodies and exploiting the base desires of inferior men. The nude bathing scene for instance is typically Altman, and reminiscent of the hippie tone of M.A.S.H’s naughty sexual behavior. Warren Beatty admirably turns in a consciously affable anti-heroic performance as the opportunistic gambler who stumbles into the North Western brothel town and becomes its primary business owner. He wears a marvelous fur coat in his introduction, engulfing him like a animal draped across his shoulders. But the most notable aspect of his performance was his mumbling and awkward indecisiveness, either purposefully mocking his own stardom or striving to achieve a Brando/Dean style of hero-attraction. Julie Christie commands the screen with the most confidence. Her appearance is held back for dramatic purposes until 20-30mins into the film. As the Madame, Constance Miller, who partners up with Beatty to run the high class brothel Christie allure is at maximum effect. On the Criterion video extras Keith Carradine describes his sex scene cut out of the picture in order to preserve Christie’s hard-to-get unattainability. Miller is also a heroin user, but treated by Altman with a common sense reality, again, a product of film’s drug-friendly psychedelic era. As mentioned, Altman admirably uses guns sparingly. There are very few gunshots in the film, but when they come, their impact is dramatic, in particular Keith Carradine’s death, a powerful confrontation between the easy-going Carradine and a deceptively psychotic youngster who seems to take advantage of the carefree passiveness of the town. The gunfights feel like violent encroachments of the genre conventions Altman was consciously avoiding. The final battle between the mining company assassins and the fleeing McCabe is also unheroic and unconventional but thrilling and tense. And then there’s Vilmos Zsigmond who should take as much authorship of the film as Altman. His fog-filtered look is remarkably distinct it would influence cinematography for the rest of the decade and beyond. And has snow fall ever been depicted more effectively than here?Lastly Leonard Cohen (rest in peace) who composed the memorable folk songs and help defined the tone of the film feels like just another piece of unconventionality which neatly ties this film together.McCabe and Mrs. Miller is available on Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ Sully http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/11/sully.html http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/11/sully.html Fri, 18 Nov 2016 20:39:19 UTC at DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog The humble workmanlike nature of pilot Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger who flew the Miracle on the Hudson plane into the Hudson River in Jan 2009 sets the tone for Clint Eastwood’s no frills dissection of the events following the famed event. There’s no doubt this is a film about a hero, but Eastwood’s emotionally-detached approach plays against heighten state of action which belies other recent conservative-value hero films of late ('Deepwater Horizon', 'Captain Phillips', 'Lone Survivor', or even his own 'American Sniper'). 'Sully' is the best of these pictures. Sully (2016) dir. Clint EastwoodStarring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Mike O’Malley, Anna GunnBy Alan BacchusYears down the road after Mr. Eastwood has either passed on, or quit making movies (which is unlikely to ever happen), we might just look back on Sully as the quintessential Clint Eastwood movie. Sure Unforgiven, admirably contextualizes Clint’s history with the western genre, and sure he won another Oscar for the triumphant-then-tragic boxing story Million Dollar Baby, but arguably no other picture better captures the conservative politics of the famed director, the calm simplicity of Eastwood’s filmmaking method, and the introspective nature of the typical Eastwood hero wound up in a slick Hollywood package.Arguably if this picture were made 25 years ago Clint Eastwood would have played Sully Sullenberger. Instead he casts the only person who could match his own tempered steel-eyed qualities of American conservatism, Tom Hanks. We first see Hanks in a sequence piloting his plane through Manhattan crashing it into the buildings in a ball of fire. Of course it’s a dream, signifying what could have happened to the US Airways plane if anyone else had piloted the aircraft that day, or, as we would learn later in the film, if he followed the instruction of the plane’s computer systems. As scripted by Todd Komarnicki, the film takes a non-linear approach the events, immediately drawing us away from the drama of the actual flight. As reported by the media everyone in the world sees Sully as a hero (although humbly refused), with the exception of the airline and its insurance company. Eastwood spends most of his time after the landing, procedurally depicting the investigation of the incident and eventually attempting to twist Sully’s heroism around to recklessness and bad judgement. Sully learns about the computer’s simulations could have seen the plane landing safely at the nearby LaGuardia or Teterboro airports. Sully and his co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles (Eckhart) can only use gut instinct and Sully’s decades of experience to explain their reasons for landing in Hudson. Outwardly Sully stands by his gut but inwardly his self-doubt painfully eats away at his soul. At stake is Sully’s career, as well as an awkwardly shoehorned website business venture which is threatened by the proceedings. But its Sully’s reputation and love of flying evocatively expressed through effectively-incorporated flashbacks which lands with us hardest. Eastwood approach is clinical purposefully avoiding melodrama and anything resembling false drama or creative license. I don’t know if everything in the movie happened exactly as Eastwood portrays it, but we believe it does. Eastwood ends the picture with a ‘trial’ of sorts. It’s a hearing wherein the battle between the human factor and the computer factor is fought, but it’s essentially dramatized like a legal trial. Again Eastwood admirably avoids the milquetoast qualities of courtroom drama and quietly validates and vindicates Sully as satisfyingly triumphant as any other hero picture. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ Christine http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/10/christine.html http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/10/christine.html Wed, 02 Nov 2016 15:51:39 UTC at DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog A horror film of a completely different kind, Rebecca Hall is mesmerizing in Antonio Campos’ sobering cinematic rendering of the true story or Christine Chubbock, a Sarasota FL news reporter who committed suicide on air in 1974. Campos lets the audience’s own morbid curiosity and fascination with death and violence create the unique and extremely uncomfortable psychological journey.Christine (2016) dir. Antonio CamposStarring: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracey LettsBy Alan BacchusChristine admirably fit into the modus operandi of the Borderline Films collective of Antonio Campos (Simon Killer), Josh Mond (James White) and Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy Mae Marlene)- intensely focused character studies of psychologically damaged heroes of the American middle class. Campos focuses his lens on the once sensational, now vaguely remembered true story of Christine Chubbock.While most of the other Borderline films, such as Campos’ previous Simon Killer, Campos admirably applies considerably less style to the Chubbock story. Anything less than quiet realism would have been seen as exploiting or romanticizing the tragic events. Even with a conventional visual approach, Campos has made Christine supremely cinematic.Hall rarely leaves the screen, and thus we’re forced to go through the agonizing downward spiral from the promising and seemingly put-together local journalist to a depressed and lonely introvert highly susceptible to the pitfalls of being a career-woman in a ‘man’s world’. This is the 1970’s after all, and however absurd there is a thematic connection between the Sarasota TV news department and Anchorman’s San Diego scene. Watching Chubbock subtly play second fiddle to the uber-males in her office enlightens us to the bullseye Anchorman hit with its satirical spear. Michael C. Hall fits the polyester suit well as the confident WXLT newsman, George Peter Ryan. As the object of Christine’s affection as well as the symbol of career goals, Hall’s performance subverts our expectations. A lesser depiction of the character could have seen Ryan solely as a bombastic masculine foil. Instead Hall, Campos and writer Craig Shilowich bury the sexism with an even more frustrating passive-aggressiveness. I don’t know the exact details of the events, but Campos’ aesthetic precision creates a feeling of authenticity. The creative embellishment Campos’ does use is the near perfect selection of pop music tracks which populates the otherwise quiet soundtrack. Soft rock and candy-coded hits such as Laughing by the Guess Who, Everything I Own by Olivia Newton-John and other tracks from Sonny and Cher, Tommy James and John Denver, counterpoint the sobering drama unfolding.Otherwise, the uncompromising attention to detail make it feels like everything happened just the way we see it. Campos assumes the audience knows the story and where it’s going, and he confidently uses this anticipation to build suspense and sustain tension. And when the tragic event does happen, it’s an electric hyper charged scene, punctuating an event and film never to forget. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/10/the-story-of-last-chrysanthemum.html http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/10/the-story-of-last-chrysanthemum.html Wed, 02 Nov 2016 15:50:22 UTC at DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog Often regarded as revered Japanese master Kenji Mizoguchi’s first masterpiece, this pre-war picture personifies the poetic elegance of the ‘Mizoguchi-style’. An epic/tragic romance of a struggling actor and his supportive lover, Mizuguchi crafts a melodramatic love affair strained by the pressures of finance, class, family expectations and the demands of artistic life.The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum (1939) dir. Kenji MizoguchiStarring: Sh�tar� Hanayagi, Kakuko Mori, K�kichi Takada, Gonjur� KawarazakiBy Alan BacchusSet in the late 1800’s, Kiku (Hanayagi) is the adopted son of a famous theatre actor Kikugoro – a man so revered he rules over his local company of actors like a despotic King Lear. Sadly, Kiku is a considerably lesser actor, who, because of his lineage, never receives the required criticism to improve, only jeers and giggles from behind his back. In a society so devoted to manners, the ridicule is excruciating for Kiku. Enter Otoku (Mori ) the wet nurse of his father’s new child, who courageously criticizes Kiku’s latest performance. Ironically he is smitten with Otoku’s candor as much as her beauty. They fall in love against the family wishes, eventually forcing Kiku to leave Tokyo and his family. Kiku’s grand arc is the stuff great narrative drama. Think of the journeys of cinema’s greatest characters: Michael Corleone changing from an innocent kid reluctant to join the family business to a stone cold killer; T.E. Lawrence who starts out as an ambitious patriotic soldier on duty for his country to a near-mad zealot of the Arab peoples; or Charles Foster Kane, the idealistic newspaper baron, turned emotionally-inert egomaniac who longs for his lost childhood innocence. Mizoguchi’s compelling hero Kiku begins as a sad sack actor, belittled for his poor acting abilities, and dismissed in favour of his father’s new child by blood. In the second act, Kiku admirably turns the tables, estranging himself from his family embarking on a quest to achieve greatness in his art only to sell out his devoted wife and assimilate back into the arrogance of his father’s theatre, where he began. The sublime Kakuko Mori doesn’t the let the prominence of Kiku’s character trump the importance and visibility of Otoku. The journey of Kiku is as much about Otoku’s honourable devotion to her husband. It’s a supremely tragic arc for her, capped off by the film’s moving climactic scene - on her deathbed with her family while Kiku parades his triumphant theatre troupe outside her window.This is the stuff of great melodrama, but visualized with the highest level of cinematic/visual complexity. Mizoguchi was famous for his long takes, and in this picture there are number of hypnotic shots which elegantly and invisibly draw the viewer into the scenes. We can also point of Mizoguchi’s unique eye of composition, frequently placing his camera to frame in the corner of the room as the background instead of a flat wall. This enhanced depth of field predates the lauded Gregg Toland Hollywood pictures from ‘40/’41. But it’s the emotional journey of poor Kiku and Otoku which makes this picture one of the greatest statements about the burden of artists and sacrifices required to succeed and be loved.The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum is available on Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ A Taste of Honey http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/10/a-taste-of-honey.html http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/10/a-taste-of-honey.html Tue, 25 Oct 2016 19:50:08 UTC at DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog One of the seminal British kitchen sink dramas of the 60’s, A Taste of Honey, resounds today on the strength of Rita Tushingham’s delightful screen debut and author Shelagh Delany’s taboo-confronting script which looks at interracial romance, homosexuality and teen pregnancy with delicate earthy realism. A Taste of Honey (1962) dir. Tony RichardsonStarring: Rita Tushingham, Dora Bryan, Robert Stephens, Murray MelvinBy Alan BacchusBefore Doctor Zhivago, The Knack… and a host of other British classics of the decade Rita Tushingham burst into our consciousness with her role of Jo, a plucky 17 year old burdened with an irresponsible and emotionally erratic mother Helen (Dora Bryan). With Guilietta Masina-like adorableness Jo wanders through the stone jungle of industrial Manchester with a kind of imperviousness to her lifelong working class plight. When Jo meets Jimmy an attractive black transient sailor, a love affair ensues. As quickly as it came, it goes, leaving Jo alone and pregnant. Enter Geoffrey, a quiet design student, unstated homosexuality who provide Jo with the comfort she desperately needs. Jo's bratty mother re-enters the fray when her loathsome male companion abandons her. But the threesome of Geoffrey, Jo and Helen are an unmerry bunch, and bicker to the bitter end in the manner of the best British kitchen sink films.With today's eyes it's not hard to marvel at the stark industrial beauty of Walter Lassally's black and white cinematography. Richardson, Lassally and his design team are careful to place Jo, Geoffrey and Jimmy in the exterior as much as possible allowing the iconic landscape of the city to blanket the characters.�But film resounds strongly today's for the topical themes of the socio-political issues above. While present and important to the motivations of the characters, the film is not about homosexuality or racism, as a heart-on-sleeve Stanley Kramer film might have been. Writer Delany treats her issues as matter of fact components of modern life.A Taste of Honey is available on Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ Woman in the Dunes http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/08/woman-in-dunes.html http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2016/08/woman-in-dunes.html Fri, 07 Oct 2016 18:27:44 UTC at DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog 'Woman in the Dunes', the third film from Japanese provocateur Hiroshi Teshigahara, is an indefinable film for genre and full of glorious Japanese strangeness, a captivating two-hander about a man imprisoned in a sand dune with a woman with no means of escape. Both a thriller, and meditative art film - �"Knife in the Water" meets "L'Avventura"- the film also has the distinction of receiving a Best Director Oscar nomination – then a rare feat for a foreign language film.Woman in the Dunes (1964) dir Hiroshi TeshigaharaStarring: Eiji Okada, Ky�ko KishidaBy Alan BacchusThe film begins with Niki Jumpei, an entomologist catching bugs in the desert. He misses his bus home, and he asks a group of labourers for a place to stay for the night. Niki is brought to a one shack home located a deep sandpit in the desert. A kind young lady is the housekeeper and she is polite and accommodating. But in the morning when it’s time to leave, Niki can’t escape, the ladder which brought him down is gone. The men are gone as well, and the inclined slopes of sand which surround him are impossible to climb. The woman reveals that she and, therefore, him are victims of an act of criminal torture and blackmail to sift and extricate sand from the pit to the labourers that kidnapped them in exchange for food and water and thus, their lives.Niki has trouble believing such a ridiculous notion. A battle of attrition ensues between Niki and his captors. And as the days go by he realizes the gravity of his situation and accepts his dilemma. As the weeks and months go by, Niki starts looking at the woman differently. He gazes at her naked sleeping body and unexpectedly, a carnal attraction is born. Not out of love, but mutual desperation.The film masterfully uses symbolism to convey the ideas of fate and destiny. In the opening scenes Teshigahara teases us with metaphorical close-ups of the bugs. Niki captures them, and pins them to his miniature diorama of cardboard and sand. Later when Niki is imprisoned in the dunes we realize the sad significance and irony of his predicament. Niki, himself, is imprisoned, exactly like his bugs, on display to his captors. Woman in the Dunes immediately strikes the viewers as a modern parable of the Greek story of Sisyphus, the prisoner who was tasked with rolling a boulder up a steep hill only to have it continually roll down to the bottom. Or maybe it’s the guinea pig cage metaphor, which the animal runs and runs on the spinning wheel without going anywhere. Niki's task is a similar unconquerable act of frustration.Structurally Woman in the Dunes suffers from some overindulgence common in lengthy Asian films. At the 1hr 40mins mark, the film appears to rise to its climax, when Niki escapes his prison via a handmade rope. It's a masterful sequence of method and procedure. Niki escapes and after a lengthy chase he's caught again and lowered back down into the pit. At almost the 2-hour length it seemed like the natural point to end the film, but in fact, the film continues on for another 45mins which arguably is less intriguing than the beginning.Teshigahara also leaves many essential plot elements unclear. In the myth, it was Zeus’ punishment for Sisyphus’ betrayal of him. What did Niki do to deserve such maddening servitude? Who are the villagers and why do they need the sand, when itseems so abundant around them? Do they torture Niki and the woman because they are sadistic? And who exactly is the woman in the dunes? Is she there voluntarily? I didn't require these questions answered to enjoy the film, but they were continually in my mind.Woman in the Dunes is a film of texture, subtext, metaphors. Because of the parallel with Sisyphus, it should be viewed more as a fable – like Grimm Fairy tales - than a structurally coherent genre film. It’s visual storytelling at its best. Teshigahara’s images construct the conundrum with a multitude of closeups of moving sand, naked body parts and intercutting of all these elements creates a uniquely erotic and frightful experience. Enjoy.Woman in the Dunes is available on Blu-Ray and DVD via the Criterion Collection http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/