Nowhere in Africa (2001)
When I heard about The Home Sweet Home Blogathon, I knew I had to participate. Homes and families have always been such an important theme in films, and it is one of my favourite topics. I previously talked about the meaning of homes in my post “Housing Films: 99 Homes (2014) and House of Sand and Fog (2003)”, and this is another opportunity to focus on families in films, the loyalty that binds them together despite hardships they endure. Directed by Caroline Link, Nowhere in Africa is a German-language film and a winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It is perfect for this blogathon because it focuses on a family reunion and separation, on familial misunderstandings and hope, as well as on finding home in a new place. It is based on a memoir by Stefanie Zweig that tells of a life of one Jewish family that had to emigrate to Kenya in 1938 because of Nazi persecutions in their native Germany. The family, mother Jettel (Juliane Kohler), father Walter (Merab Ninidze) and their small daughter Regina (Lea Kurka), settle on a farm and soon make friends with their cook Owuor (Sidede Onyulo). They initially have very few ideas of what really lies in store for them on the new soil. This film, which has beautiful production design and a feel of a real life lived daily, is something much more than one’s usual story of a new settler or a story of the WWII told from a perspective of someone living in Africa. The adaptation is a touching tale of a family enduring frightful separations and hopeful reunions through the years, staying true to their family bond despite immense hardships. It is a film about the meaning of home and identity, an important story to tell about the need to welcome and to cherish people’s differences.
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Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films and Jay from Cinema Essentials are hosting The World War II Blogathon, and I am happy to participate (check out film reviews from Day 1 here). Some of the world’s best films were about the World War II and events related to it, including Schindler’s List (1993), Life is Beautiful (1997) and The Pianist (2002). This time, I am talking about Clint Eastwood’s Japanese-language film Letters from Iwo Jima, a film which Eastwood produced after his patriotic Flags of Our Fathers (2006). Both of these films depict the Battle of Iwo Jima, in which the US army landed on the island of Iwo Jima and battled with the Japanese in 1945.
Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
Letters from Iwo Jima does not merely portray another battle in the World War II. When US army (navy and marine corps) landed on the island of Iwo Jima (an island of immense strategic importance) on 19 February 1945 (after air bombardment prior to that), they thought the battle would last five days, but it lasted for over a month. It has been called the bloodiest fighting in the Pacific, and the Japanese, under the command of fearless General Kuribayashi (played by Ken Watanabe) demonstrated unexpected smartness (tunnels, strategy, etc.) and courage. All the odds were against the Japanese in this battle, but, looking at the fierceness of the battle, as well as the number of American casualties, one may even assume the opposite. Masterfully directed and brilliantly acted, Letters from Iwo Jima showcases compellingly the horrors of the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective, the desperate situation in which Japanese soldiers found themselves in, and the instances of both good and evil found on both sides of the battle. Also, coming from an American director in particular, Letters from Iwo Jima could also be said to be a very special film: a respectful one that honours another culture, tradition and point of view to the point of being completely “selfless” and “compassionate” in its purpose. In many ways, this is an anti-war film that underlines our common humanity no matter on which side of a war we find ourselves at any given time. We are all humans with an innate need for happiness, peace and understanding. Given the above, Letters from Iwo Jima is not merely a film that makes a powerful statement – the film is a powerful statement in itself. Continue reading “The World War II Blogathon: Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)”
Debbie at Moon in Gemini is hosting The Greatest Film I’ve Never Seen Blogathon, which is a fabulous idea since it is an opportunity for everyone to discover or re-discover classic and “must-see” films, or even find hidden gems. I have chosen to write on Robert Bresson’s “Pickpocket” because it is considered one of the greatest of films (at least in some circles). It is a definite achievement of Robert Bresson, an acclaimed film director, and the film is ranked as one of the greatest films by the Sight & Sound magazine (the 2012 poll). Moreover, Roger Ebert, the late popular film critic, once included it in his “Great Movies” list. And, “Pickpocket” is great, just not in a conventional way. This is because Bresson is a French director who practices some form of austerity in his films, and his films do have a minimalistic quality, even though all the philosophical observations in his movies more than make up for the understated presentation or plot.
This film is Bresson’s debut as a scriptwriter for his movie, but it is also fair to say that he was in some way adapting Dostoevsky’s novel “Crime and Punishment” (1866) to make this film because “Pickpocket” more or less follows the stages of Dostoevsky’s novel and has similar characters. Like in the classic novel, Bresson is preoccupied with fear, guilt and redemption in his story as we follow Michel (Martin LaSalle), a recently released thief, who struggles to get back to his “job”. Michel is reclusive and apathetic, but he does make friends with Jeanne (Marika Green), a young woman and his mother’s neighbour, and has a friend called Jacques. Bresson conveys to the screen the intrigue of the trade which is called pick-pocketing, as well as its dangerous, claustrophobic and lonely nature. What works best in the film is the portrayal of Michel as a societal outsider who tries inwardly to come to light and good. The main character becomes quite sympathetic, maybe even more sympathetic than in “Crime Punishment”, because the crimes of Michel are less horrendous than the murders of Raskolnikov. Continue reading “The Greatest Film I’ve Never Seen Blogathon: Pickpocket (1959)”
Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema and Emily at The Flapper Dame are hosting The 4th Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon to honour Grace Kelly, the icon of beauty and elegance. She was a terrific actress, who worked most notably with Alfred Hitchcock (see “Rear Window” (1954) and “To Catch a Thief” (1955)). In “Dial M for Murder“, Kelly is Margot Wendice, the wealthy wife of an ex professional tennis player Tony Wendice, played by Ray Milland. She is to become the centre of the plot whereby the husband hires a hitman to kill the wife. Kelly’s character (that wonderful lady in red, and then in blue) comes off as a beautiful, brave and stoic woman who wants personal happiness, and would have stolen the show completely if not for the intricate, clever and psychologically-interesting plot and the cunning personality of Tony Wendice, played brilliantly by Milland.
Dial M for Murder (1954)
You know you are in for a treat when a film you are about to see is made by Alfred Hitchcock, and “Dial M for Murder” does not deviate from this rule. In the midst of it is a cleverly-constructed plot whose entangling may cause some to pause and ponder. Hitchcock is basing his movie on a screenplay by Frederick Knott and is concerned with the proving of guilt, rather than with the usual whodunit mystery. “Dial M for Murder” starts with the blackmail and the deceit by the wife of her husband, but it ends in an unexpected area. The interesting thing about this movie is that we know from the beginning who is the (attempted) murderer, and we follow every step to the conclusion, but we are still in for some surprises. Initially that is because the murder of Margot, as planned by her husband Tony, does not exactly go according to plan. Continue reading “The 4th Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon: Dial M for Murder (1954)”
There is nothing like snowy and wintery films to cool us all down in the middle of this summer, and Debbie at Moon in Gemini hosts The Winter in July Blogathon for that very purpose. For this fun blogathon, I chose to write on animated films “Frozen” (2013) and “The Sword in the Stone” (1963). While “Frozen” is, essentially, the winter animation, there is also some winter scenery at the very end of “The Sword in the Stone“. These are both Disney-productions, with some fifty years separating the two, but one is computer-generated, while the other one is hand-drawn. My arguments will be that there are good enough animations, but they both fell short of their desired mark. While “Frozen” has great visuals, some music and concepts, the animation’s plot and characters can be criticised. Equally, while “The Sword in the Stone” relies on a fascinating legend and is entertaining, its visuals sometimes leave much to be desired and its episodic plot is uninspiring. My first post will be about “Frozen“, and because I critique it in depth, I am also warning about spoilers!
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The Birds (1963)
Maddy at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films hosts a second blogathon in honour of Alfred Hitchcock and his films, and I am writing, as they say, on his most terrifying film – “The Birds” (1963). The film takes inspiration from a story by Daphne Du Maurier (“Rebecca” (1940)) of the same name, and it is about a strange behaviour of birds in Bodega Bay, California. The centre of the story is Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), a wealthy socialite who romantically pursues a lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), whom she has just met. While we watch all the romantic tensions and a love triangle developing, the birds in the area start to attack people, and what initially looks like a light and intriguing romance story takes a sinister turn and we are confronted with unimaginable horrors. Complex and technical to film, “The Birds” represents one of Hitchcock’s most admirable accomplishments. Here, an intriguing romance story with thought-provoking elements meets an original take on horror and the result is a classic, “must-see” film.
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Movie Movie Blog Blog hosts a blogathon that celebrates movies originating in 1961, and Michelangelo Antonioni’s “La Notte” is one of those movies I decided to write about. Like Antonioni “L’Eclisse“, which followed a year after, “La Notte” concerns itself with the existential theme of personal alienation in the world which becomes busier and more progressing. In such a place, finding right answers to contradictory feelings are often hard, and the apparent artificiality of modern living and its construction is even more obvious as one experiences too human feelings of futility and claustrophobia. “La Notte” may not be the most packed-with-action or fast-paced film there is, but it still represents a one of a kind achievement by its director to lay out some very complex philosophical ideas so clearly on screen.
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The Handmaid’s Tale (2017)
“There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.” (Atwood, 1985:34)
“Humanity is so adaptable, my mother would say. Truly amazing what people can get used to as long as there are a few compensations.” (Atwood, 1985:283)
The 2017 dystopian web TV series is based on an award -winning novel of the same name written by Margaret Atwood in 1985. It is about a young woman, Offred, who recounts her time living under the totalitarian regime of Gilead, where women have few rights and their main function is to reproduce in a controlled environment. Pronounced “a TV sensation” overnight, “The Handmaid’s Tale” had 10 episodes (although there is still Season II to come!), and starred such recognisable names as Elisabeth Moss (“The Square” (2017)) and Joseph Fiennes (“Shakespeare in Love” (1998)). I will review the series paying special attention to its faithfulness to the original novel and to the philosophical ideas behind the story.
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Silver Screenings and Wide Screen World are co-hosting the Time Travel Blogathon, and my contribution is the review of “Edge of Tomorrow“, a fantastic science-fiction film directed by Doug Liman and starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson. Relying on the now fabled “Groundhog Day” concept, “Edge of Tomorrow” is about a Major (Cruise) who is doomed to relive one particular day of the invasion battle with aliens until he is forced to find a solution to the infinite time loop and save the humankind from the destructive alien force.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
“The empires of the future will be empires of the mind” (Winston Churchill).
“What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge” (Sun Tzu, The Art of War).
“Edge of Tomorrow” is based on a 2004 Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. In near future, as Earth is being invaded by aliens, William Cage (Cruise), a Major with no combat experience, is ordered to go to fight the enemy as part of a landing operation in France. Cage is killed during the battle, but, surprisingly, finds himself again alive and well back on the day before the battle. The time loop then repeats itself, and every time Cage is killed, he again starts the day of the battle anew. Trying to get to the bottom of the situation, Cage makes an acquaintance with a Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski or the Angel of Verdun (Blunt). Together they try to piece together the time conundrum and devise a method to defeat the enemy. As a time-travel movie, “Edge of Tomorrow” is simply great and it is fascinating to watch Cage waking up each day with the hope to make that particular day the one where he will be able to vanquish the aliens.
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It’s Only the End of the World (2016)
This is my second post for the amazing O Canada! Blogathon hosted by Ruth of Silver Screenings and Kristina of Speakeasy (check out some of the amazing entries here).
“There I was…after twelve years of absence, and in spite of my fear, I was going to visit them. In life, there are a number of motivations…that force you to leave, without looking back. And there are just as many motivations that force you to return. So after all those years, I decided to retrace my steps. Take the journey…to announce my death.” Such are the thoughts of a young man named Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) as he takes a plane journey to visit his estranged family after twelve years of absence. Louis suffers from a terminal illness, which means that death is at his doorstep. Few directors working today can convey the depth of emotion through a cinematic lense as masterfully as Xavier Dolan can, and “It’s Only the End of the World” is yet another film which is a proof of that statement. In this movie, Dolan demonstrates that he can exercise visual restraint, but “It’s Only the End of the World” still ends up being as potent, emotionally-moving and convincing as his previous work.
Continue reading “The O Canada! Blogathon: Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World (2016)”