Today is 14th July and it is Bastille Day or La Fête Nationale in France, which means it is time to celebrate French films and French directors. Below I present a number of French films I reviewed on this blog, and this includes films from Jean Renoir, Robert Bresson, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jean-Jacques Beineix, Julia Ducournau and François Ozon, as well as three French-produced animations:
There are so many great French films out there, including the works of René Clément (Jeux interdits), Claude Chabrol (Les Cousins), Jean Cocteau (La Belle et la Bête), Louis Malle (Ascenseur pour l’Échafaud), Agnes Varda (Cléo de 5 à 7), Jean-Pierre Melville (Le Samourai), Jean-Luc Godard (À bout de souffle), Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) and Claire Denis (Beau Travail). Do you have a favourite French movie?
As some of you already know, today is the National Classic Movie Day and I am participating in the 6 Films 6 Decades Blogathon hosted over at Classic Film & TV Cafe. The aim is to list 6 favourite films from 6 different decades, and my choices are:
The 1920s – Metropolis
Truthfully, I can’t be too original in this category because I have not seen many films from the 1920s decade, but, from all those that I have seen, Metropolis is a definite stand-out. This German expressionist film by Fritz Lang is a sci-fi masterpiece made before any visual effects were even there to help underpin the futuristic concept introduced. Wonderfully acted and brilliantly directed, it tells of a wealthy magnate, Joh Fredersen (the master), who has a rift with his son Freder, who, in turn, feels uneasy about the oppression of people in his city. Meanwhile, a “mad” scientist proposes the unthinkable to the master just as Freder falls in love with a girl from the working class segment of the population. A very creative design of the film, its ambition and dramatic passages are just some of the highlights as the film also introduces a take on the Romeo & Juliet story, and works magically on both the hearts and minds of the audience. “The mediator of the head and the hands must be the heart!“
This week is the NationalClassic Movie Day (on 16th May), but because I am already committed to do a classic film blogathon on that day, I thought I would share today my own pre-celebratory post, listing all the classic (or just pre-1970s) films that I reviewed on this website. Click on the titles to see full reviews or tell me which classic film is your favourite.
Since my previous post was about Russian animations, I thought I would share this 2006 animation coming from Russia. My Love, based on a novella A Love Story  by Ivan Shmelyov, tells of a sixteen year-old boy’s sexual awakening one summer in the nineteenth-century Russia. Longing for a “spiritual union” and “pure love”, the boy becomes torn between a young and pretty servant girl Pasha and an older and richer woman living next door. There are themes in this beautiful animation of the innocence of first love and the dangers of pursuing unreachable ideals. The animation comes from Aleksandr Petrov, previously known for The Old Man and the Sea, and uses the same wondrous paint-on-glass-technique. Aleksandr Petrov’s work especially shines in the presentation of images that fuse reality and fantasy.
Directed by Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven , Carol ) and based on a magazinearticlethat tells of a true story of one corporate lawyer who challenged a multi-billion chemical empire, Dark Waters focuses on Rob Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) who travels to his home town in West Virginia to discover evidence of gross environmental damage caused by a huge corporation, DuPont. His neighbour’s cattle is dying, water is turning dark and people have health problems in the area. Bilott picks up a Tennant case, thinking it will be over in a matter of months, but the case snowballs over the years as more horrific secrets are uncovered. The concerned lawyer, who is always supported by his wife Sarah (Anne Hathaway), is passionately searching for answers and explanations as the corporation first refuses to admit responsibility and then makes it difficult for numerous victims to seek justice and restitution.
Rabbits is a series of short surreal films with the overall running time of forty minutes. It features three humanoid rabbits (two female and one male) in one single room. They sit on a sofa, enter and go out of the room, talk to each other and recite poetry. Through eerie music, rabbits’ nonsensical dialogue and strange visions, the viewers may discern that something truly unsettling has happened, is happening or is about to happen. Rabbits is a good example of a minimalist experimental short which uses the lightning, music and the theme of inexplicability to create feelings of uneasiness and barely perceivable fright. Here, inexplicability is key. Uneasiness lies in the inexplicability. Watching the film, the viewers may start pondering: “what is that?”, “what is happening?”, “what is the meaning of all this?” The meaning just about escapes us, even though we definitely sense that the three rabbits are being terrorised by something. The precise cause of what is going remains unclear and the underlying fear is transmitted to us through the specific “trigger words and phrases”, including “coincidence”, “a man in a green suit”, “I hear someone”, “It was red”, “We’re not going anywhere” and “I’m going to find out one day”. These words and phrases stand for some hidden distress. David Lynch proves once again that inexplicability and strangeness alone will sustain the interest.
Today (8th of March) is the International Women’s Day, and I think it is perfect time to celebrate female directors and their achievements. Therefore, I am taking this opportunity to present 10 films by 9 great female directors which I previously reviewed on this website. There is a lot of talent when it comes to women directors, and I am glad that this year the following women are receiving their recognition: Regina King (One Night in Miami), Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) and Kelly Reichardt (First Cow). Some of my favourite female directors also include Jane Campion, Claire Denis and Sofia Coppola, and I previously made posts on Maya Deren and Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here). This year, I am also planning to draw attention to the following female directors on my blog: Penny Marshall, Chinonye Chukwu (Clemency) and Lucile Hadžihalilović (Evolution).
Directed by Joseph Losey, The Servant is considered by some to be one of the finest British films. It tells of Tony (James Fox), a flamboyant member of the upper class, who has just moved in to his central London residence after a period spent in Africa. He immediately hires a man-servant for himself, demure, respectful and knowledgeable Hugo Barrett (Dirk Bogarde). Hugo not only knows how to cook and take care of a house, but he is also an expert interior decorator and has been a gentleman’s servant for many notable Lordships. This tale of a friction between the upstairs and the downstairs reaches the zenith of tension when Hugo introduces “his sister” (Sarah Miles) to the household and when Tony’s own fiancée (Susan Stewart) decides to make the house her own dominion. The Servant works delightfully as a satire on class differences and servitude, showing a thin line that often separates usefulness from a nuisance, and kindness from submissiveness. This tale of hidden corruption has a frightening change of dynamics.
I got an idea for this post through winst0lfportaland his animation tag post. Borrowing some questions from it, I created my own tag. I love animations, and am a supporter and promoter of international animations (see my previous posts on Russian, French, Chinese and Japanese animations).
1.Favourite Disney animation?
“Beauty and the Beast” (1991).
2. Favourite non-Disney animation?
It is tempting to say “Spirited Away” (2001), but I have a soft spot for “Howl’s Moving Castle” (2004) and would like to make one day an in-depth comparison between it and “Beauty and the Beast” (1991) (a fun one since both are based on other source materials). I also love the works of Satoshi Kon and Makoto Shinkai.
3. Criminally-underseen animation you recommend to everyone?
“The Illusionist” (2010) is a lovely, heart-warming animation from Sylvain Chomet (“Les triplettes de Belleville” (2003)). In “The Illusionist”, a French illusionist finds himself unemployed and travels to Scotland. There, he meets a young girl and their destinies collide.
I would like to wish all my followers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! (Let 2021 be a happier and less stressful year for all of us!) Below I am presenting some of my favourite alternative film posters, which also includes a poster to Home Alone, a quintessential Christmas film. See also my previous posts – “Minimalist” Film PostersandMovie Directors’ Styles Reinterpreted As Architecture. Do you like “film art”? What are your favourite alternative film posters?
I. The “House Architecture” Posters
These are some of my favourite alternative film posters and they often get quite intricate. They work best when a story in a film revolves around one house, but also when there are “layers” to a film story, as in the case of Inception below.
Chinese director Zhang Yimou tells in his film, which is based on the novel Wives and Concubines by Su Tong, the story of a beautiful nineteen-year-old ex-university student Songlian (Gong Li) who decides to become a concubine in the 1920s China. After her decision, Songlian finds herself in the palace of “red lanterns” which has “four houses” for her husband’s four mistresses. She soon gets acquainted with the elderly and indifferent first Mistress, with the friendly and seemingly happy second Mistress and with the still young and beautiful, but jealous third Mistress. All is well, or is it? The palace’s strange, centuries-old traditions and customs first bewilder Songlian and then force her most shameful qualities out, as her husband randomly shifts the power between the four houses. Songlian soon finds herself in a miniature society and under the patriarchal dominance which she has never imagined to exist, with her husband employing arbitrary and complex policies of rewards and punishments to keep the mistresses in line. In this dangerous game, Songlian realises that she must learn to handle not only the three previous jealous Mistresses, but also her hostile maid Yan’er and the realisation of a lifetime imprisonment. Raise the Red Lantern is a psychologically-intriguing film about one oppressive world where the competition for power, hopelessness, despair and the weight of guilt all mingle as the palace changes people and makes them into forms it desires and the master has planned in advance. With the exquisitely beautiful cinematography (by Zgao Fei), Raise the Red Lantern is one of the most important films of the 1990s. 10/10
I missed writing the kind of posts where I preview films to be released at some future date (I previously wrote only three such instalments, one in 2015, one in 2016, and one in 2017). Now, I am talking about three films I am excited to watch in 2021, and all three of them are based on books – Paul Greengrass’s News of the World, Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel and Adrian Lyne’s Deep Water.
News of the World (2021)
Story: Based on a novel by Paulette Jiles, this film tells the story of Captain Kidd (Tom Hanks) who, in the year of 1870, travels across the US, spreading “the news of the world” to people. When he comes across a little girl, who has recently been an Indian native and is now left abandoned and homeless, he decides to take charge of her and return her to her real family in South Texas. The issue for the Captain, though, is that Johanna still considers herself a Kiowa, an Indian native, and, as the two travel together, they soon discover many things that bond them in the increasingly hostile and threatening world around them.
It was with great sadness that I heard yesterday of the passing of Sean Connery, a Scottish actor and one of the film legends. He was a man of incomparable charisma whose acting and screen presence were always distinguishable and memorable. Possessing innate smoothness, gentleness and his very own recognisable sense of masculinity and vigour, he emanated the persona of a true gentleman and a real action hero on screen and both at the same time, inspiring warmth and a sense of awe in others. If there ever existed an actor or just a human being working in a film industry who personified the word “class”, it was Sir Sean Connery.
Sean Connery won his Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his role in The Untouchables , but most people remember him as being the world’s first ever James Bond, which was also his breakthrough role. And, Sean Connery will always be the James Bond in my eyes. Gallant and almost too nonchalant, but caring, romantically-involved, but objective, Connery was the most perfect cast for Fleming’s famous Agent 007. With his incomparable screen presence, he could get everyone following his character, no matter the location or the plot. Dr. No  and From Russia With Love  were good films, but my favourite James Bond film with Sean Connery has to be Goldfinger . I think it was Alec Baldwin who put it best in his obituary article of the great man, saying that Connery had a “trifecta dynamic” and he knew [instinctively] “where masculinity, sensitivity, and intelligence intersected“. There had been other handsome actors before and after Connery, but I think it was Connery’s delicate combination of “masculinity, sensitivity and intelligence“, as well as his skill of presenting himself and his character’s actions as immersively as possible, that helped make him into a star.
Meshes of the Afternoon is a 1943 experimental film by Maya Deren. It is known for its sense of unease, eeriness and mystery – all accomplished using a minimum number of objects and a single location. In this 14-minute film, the most commonplace and everyday objects take sinister contours as the director plays impressively with dream and reality using repetition, silence, innovative camera angles and unexplained sequences. Meshes of the Afternoon undoubtedly influenced such directors as David Lynch (Mulholland Drive(2001) and Roman Polanski (Repulsion(1965)), and was definitely a film ahead of its time.
The Red Shoes is about the rise to stardom of a dancer Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) who falls under the strict control of one charismatic, but elusive and mysterious company director Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook). Page becomes truly famous after appearing in Lermontov’s ballet “The Red Shoes”, but soon finds herself torn between her new love – composer of “The Red Shoes” – Julian Craster (Marius Goring) and her professional life. The film is brilliant in terms of cinematography, camera-movements and visual impact. The beautifully-designed production and the ballet, that incorporates a story of one girl whose red shoes take control over her life, are memorable. The film also makes certain observations on the creative process of a theatre/ballet production, and on art and artistic input. It asks – what price a person will be willing to pay for the sake of artistic glory and full professional realisation in theatre/ballet? The story of one girl whose red shoes control her (a Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale) mirrors the story of Victoria Page who, ultimately, has to choose between her romantic interest and her blind devotion to the demands of the man behind the “The Red Shoes” genius – Boris Lermontov.
“Anton was a dream” (Jeremy Saulnier, director of Green Room (2015)).
This is a moving documentary that explores the life of actor Anton Yelchin (Star Trek (2009), Green Room (2015), Thoroughbreds(2017)), from his birth in Russia to the champions of figure skating to his last films made. This is an engaging and respectful feature that aims to pay tribute to a person of outstanding acting ability who was taken too soon (died on 19 June 2016 when he was crashed between the brick wall and the fence when his car rolled back on him in his own parking space at home in Los Angeles). Through his own footages, as well as the interviews conducted with his parents, close friends and co-workers, we find out what kind of a person Anton really was – extremely devoted to his loving parents, loyal to his friends, kind, generous, curious, intellectual, funny, goofy and passionate about many aspects of life. He possessed great charisma and acting skills, having started acting at a very young age and then later acting alongside such stars as Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams, Albert Finney, Jodie Foster and Willem Dafoe, to name just a few. It is safe to say that,given his talent, he was just on the brink of “breaking through” in his career and just needed that one very successful and big movie that will escalate his career much further, a movie that, sadly, will never now come. By recognising him as an absolute star now, we can at least pay tribute to this potential, to the person who was so passionate about acting and films (trying his hand at directing too!) and whose kind, curious and sparkling personality will always be remembered. Continue reading “Recently Watched: Documentaries: Love, Antosha (2019), Tower (2016) & 13th (2016)”→
Christmas is getting nearer, and I hope everyone is excited! People are probably also excited about Disney’s Frozen II, and, for those who do not know, I want to draw attention to the plagiarism case below, concerning the Frozen (2013) teaser trailer (the first video below) and the short animation titled The Snowman by independent animators Kelly Wilson and Neil Wrischnik (the second video below – access by following the link since it is imossible to watch it on wordpress)). This case was settled out of court in 2015. I previously talked in my review of Frozen how the animation relied heavily on the conceptual story and character vision from Hans Christian Andersen’s tales (which is fine), as well as on the romance from Anastasia (1997) (which is also ok), but it seems that, from the very beginning, the Frozen franchise was off to a start that involved blatant stealing and zero acknowledgement. At the preliminary hearing, Judge Chhabria ruled that “the sequence of events in both works, from start to finish, is too parallel to conclude that no reasonable juror could find the works substantially similar“. With the world’s most creative brains at Disney/Pixar headquarters, they still could not come up with their own concept for a teaser trailer. The similarities are painfully evident, and if Disney did not think so, they would have battled it in court, rather than settling for an undisclosed sum to be paid to Wilson and Wrischnik. And, Wilson and Wrischnik were paid by Disney.
“Late Afternoon” by Louise Bagnall is this year’s Academy Awards nominee in the category of “Best Short Animation”. I somehow prefer it over other nominees, and the frontrunners for the award are considered to be Pixar-produced animation “Bao” and Pixar-related short “Weekends“. Other nominees are touching “One Small Step” and the hilarious and witty “Animal Behaviour“. Normally I enjoy intricate, detailed animations, but, in the case of “Late Afternoon“, I somehow appreciate the simplicity and like how the animation incorporates the concept of memory. Have you watched this year’s nominees yet? Do you have a favourite?
Paul at Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies hostedThe Meg Ryan Birthday Blogathon to celebrate the birthday of Meg Ryan, and this is my belated post containing some thoughts on “Prelude to a Kiss” (1992). I love so many Meg Ryan films, including her “feel-good” romantic comedies “You’ve Got Mail” (1998) and “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993), and her more “serious” movies, such as “When a Man Loves a Woman” (1994) and “In The Cut” (2003).
Prelude to a Kiss (1992)
“…Must have been my kiss(es), all I can think, drives men wild…” (Rita/Julius).
The movie is based on the 1988 play of the same name by Craig Lucas, and, although most plays-to-films do not agree with me, for example, see “Marjorie Prime“ (2017) and “Carnage” (2011), this movie seems to work, maybe because it does not have this feeling of being contained in one location. The story may appear absurd, but it is actually quite entertaining and amusing. Rita (Ryan) and Peter (Baldwin) meet at a party and instantly establish a connection. After some lovely courting (which takes the movie some 40 minutes to get right), the couple move on with their wedding, and, from then on, its a roller-coaster of delights and sorrows. During the wedding, Rita somehow manages to swap her body with that of an old grumpy man through a kiss, and Peter, noticing that something is wrong with his new wife, sets on the course to put things right. And, Rita really does not seem like the old Rita to her husband at all. If before she could not get enough sleep, now she sleeps like a baby, and, if before she drank alcohol (she worked as a barmaid), now she does not even want to try a cocktail in Jamaica.