Chico & Rita (2010)
Before La La Land (2016), there was Chico & Rita, an adult Spanish animation which was nominated for an Academy Award and won the prestigious Spanish Goya Award for best animation. It tells the story of two star-crossed lovers, Chico and Rita, who meet and quickly fall in love in Havana, Cuba, and whose turbulent professional journeys make their love a real torment. Chico is a talented pianist with high ambitions and Rita is a stunning beauty with a voice of an angel and a desire to make it big. Pursuing the dreams of fame, both do not even realise how far from each other their destinies could take them. Even if crudely-drawn and sometimes frustrating to watch, Chico & Rita is still a charming story worth watching. Paying tribute to Afro-Cuban jazz and imbued with the nostalgia for the past, this animation is as much about trials of love as it is about passion for music.
I. The Red Shoes (1948)
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.
The Shape of Water (2017)
“Words lie, but looks don’t…When you fall in love, you fall in love, absolutely, all at once, all-in. It’s a miracle” (Guillermo del Toro).
“Unable to perceive the shape of You, I find You all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with Your love, It humbles my heart, For You are everywhere” .
This tale of unlikely love between the Princess without Voice or Elisa and the creature from the Amazon has been nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and there are good reasons for this furore. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)) has finally made the movie he wanted to make for a long time. Del Toro merges different cinematic genres (fantasy, drama and romance), while paying tribute to black-and-white Hollywood musicals and B-movie monsters, to produce a movie which is almost faultless in its directional execution, acting and emotional content. The director draws on a number of sources to tell the unlikely love story which, among many other things, portrays and sympathises with the lives of the “underdog” minority, and engagingly sets out the high-pressure conditions of living in the times of the Cold War.
Ruth of Silver Screenings and Kristina of Speakeasy are hosting the O Canada! Blogathon to celebrate all things Canada in film and TV, and I thought I would contribute because Canadian cinematography is close to my heart. It has always tried to be different and often experimented. Xavier Dolan, my choice for this blogathon, is no different. He is a Montreal, Quebec-born film director who produced his first major film “I Killed My Mother” (2009), that received numerous awards, at the age of 20, and who then went to direct five other award-winning films with his seventh film “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” (2018) currently being in production. I will focus on two of his films: “Laurence Anyways” (2012) and “It’s Only the End of the World” (2016).
Laurence Anyways (2012)
Xavier Dolan writes unusual films with equally unusual presentations, but his stories are always full of much humanity and bare human emotion, and, thus, they are always very relatable. “Laurence Anyways” is one of those movies. It is a beautiful and daring French-language film about the enduring power of love that trespasses the boundaries of societal conventions.
Little Women (1994)
It is Christmas eve, and while I want to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas, I thought I would also review one of the films that could make Christmas all the merrier. In 1993, Gillian Armstrong (“Oscar and Lucinda” (1997)) directed just yet another, as everyone then thought, adaptation of the famous novel by Louisa May Alcott “Little Women”. Based on the true-to-the novel script by Robin Swicord (“Wakefield” (2016)), the film stars such great names as Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Gabriel Byrne, Kirsten Dunst and Christian Bale. The story is about four girls of the March family and their modest, but interesting lives in times of the Civil War in the US. A very much Christmas movie, Armstrong’s “Little Women” perfectly conveys the heart-warming camaraderie of the four girls, telling of their lives’ ups and downs as they try to find their way in the world torn by hardship.
Speakeasy and Silver Screenings are presenting The Food in Film Blogathon, and I thought I must participate since food in films has always fascinated me. Food can be used sensually in a movie, as in “Como Agua Para Chocolate” (1992), in “I Am Love” (2009) or even in “The Lunchbox” (2013), or it can be used morbidly, as in “Rope” (1948), among other purposes and expressions. But, in many films, it seems to inexplicably connect main characters, and my choice of a film is exactly the one where food functions as such. In the Italian-language film “Facing Windows“, food does not play a leading role, but it does provide a point of connection between the main characters, becomes one of the components of a hidden passion, and symbolises the idea of remaining true to oneself, one’s origin and one’s beliefs.
Facing Windows (2003)
In this film, Giovanna (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) and her husband Filippo (Filippo Nigro) stumble upon an amnesiac man, Simone (Massimo Girotti), while out, and take him to their home. Simone only remembers a name “Simone” and a particular neighbourhood in Rome. While Giovanna gets entangled into Simone’s mysteries, she also becomes infatuated with the neighbour whose windows are just opposite hers, handsome bachelor Lorenzo (Raoul Bova), and the duo soon pursue the mystery behind Simone’s true identity together. Coming from Turkish director Ferzan Ozpetek, this film is a gem of the Italian-language cinema. It is an emotionally-moving, mystery-filled film, which also provides an in-depth character study. While the story here is interesting and poignant, the film is also beautifully presented, with aesthetically-pleasing shots and a very memorable, melancholy-inducing soundtrack, most of which is written by Andrea Guerra (“Hotel Rwanda” (2004)).
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and The Flapper Dame are hosting the Duo Double Feature blogathon, and this is my contribution to this amazing and fun cinematic race. The blogathon showcases pairs of stars who made only two films together, and my choice is Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, who were in both “Pretty Woman” (1990) and “Runaway Bride” (1999). The onscreen couple consisting of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere may not be the most “homogeneous” of couples ever (for example, because the individual differences still show), but, in this case, it is the case of opposites attracting. The result is the onscreen chemistry which is palpable and undeniable, and which seems very “genuine” and moving, with its quirky and fun moments. This means that while Roberts and Gere’s iconic pairing in “Pretty Woman” might have been quite unforgettable, their chemistry in “Runaway Bride“, nine years after their first film, was still as solid.
The Discovery (2017)
“The Discovery” is a film which had its first premiere at the Sundance Film Festival 2017, but, arguably, it deserves more attention than it eventually got. Here, Will (Jason Segel) and Isla (Rooney Mara) meet in the strangest of times. It has been scientifically proven that the afterlife does exist, and this fact alone spiralled millions of suicides around the world, with people almost desperate to “get to the other side”. The scientist Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford) is behind the new discovery, and he has another trick up his sleeve: he thinks he can also show what the afterlife looks like before people take their lives. After all, who would not want to look at a holiday brochure before committing to their holiday destination? Although the film’s narrative slops and the chemistry between Segel and Mara is lukewarm, the film is atmospheric, raises some fascinating issues, and has a strong ending.
Match Point (2005)
As some of my readers will know, especially those based in the UK, last Sunday was the men’s final of the Wimbledon Championships 2017, the oldest and, certainly, most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. This got me thinking about films which reference tennis, and I decided to review Woody Allen’s “Match Point“. In this film, Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), an ex tennis pro, comes from humble background, but slowly makes his way to the society’s upper class by dating and then marrying the sister of one of his students at a posh tennis club in London. However, this is all far from being a plain-sailing feat for Chris, because along the way he gets entangled with a seeming femme fatale and a starting actress Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), who may as well bring his undoing. If I did not know that this was Woody Allen’s film, I would never have guessed. This film not only plays like a dull TV soap opera for most of its time, it is also filled with pretensions and clichés regarding the lives of upper classes in London; has a list of totally unlikable characters; and is devoid of humour.
“A Ghost Story” (2017) reunites director David Lowery with Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. I gave a very high score to the director’s previous film “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” (2013), involving these actors, because it won me over with its embedded poeticism and creativity alone; see my review of “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints“ here, and/or read a fair take on “A Ghost Story” by Film Blerg below:
Films about ghosts are usually scary, jumpy and spine-tingling. David Lowery’s latest feature, A Ghost Story, carefully avoids boxing itself within the horror genre by proving itself an elusive poem on topics as various as life and death, time and perception, and the purpose of human and universal existence. Without doubt, it is one of…
via Film Review: A Ghost Story (2017) — Film Blerg
Debbie at Moon in Gemini is hosting the “No, YOU’RE Crying!” Blogathon, and I thought I would be part of that amazing film race. It is great when a film is so powerful emotionally that it makes you cry, even though there may not be many films out there who possess this enviable quality. Of course, some films are heart-breaking in themselves, such as “Life is Beautiful” (1997), but there may also be others, which do not immediately make you weepy, but which through their moving ending or the heartfelt relationship/chemistry between characters, make you also want to cry. “Head in the Clouds” is such a film for me. It is a very underrated romantic drama set on the eve of the WWII, telling of a rich heiress Gilda Bessé (Charlize Theron), who refuses to face reality while being surrounded by her friends Guy (Stuart Townsend) and Mia (Penélope Cruz).
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Martin Scorsese once said that “The Age of Innocence” was the most violent film he had ever made. He was undoubtedly referring to the emotional torrents in the film, and, even though the film does not comes off as this totally perfect and touching romance, it still has many things to recommend it. Adapted from novel by Edith Wharton, the film pictures the 19th century New York’s delicate high society where manners and appearances take prime considerations. In the midst of it, lawyer Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) falls under the spell of the Europeanised and “exotic” Madame Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), finding himself in a love triangle, because he is soon to be married to the society’s belle, May Welland (Winona Ryder). Violent passions raging within the high-fenced societal constraints, almost tearing apart the delicate rules of order and innocence, is the film’s main theme.
“Indignation” is a directional debut of a screen-writer and producer James Schamus, known for adapting the script of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) and being the producer of “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). Adapting the book by Philip Roth, in “Indignation”, Schamus presents the life of Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman), a bright lad who, while working as a butcher in his father’s store in New Jersey, receives a prestigious scholarship to attend a college in Ohio. What follows is the depiction of Marcus’s troubles of fitting into his new college environment as he simultaneously tries to deal with his socially-unacceptable abhorrence for organised religion and with the confusion of his sexual-awakening. Schamus’s film is a particular kind of a film which is heart-breaking in individual scenes and bitter-sweet in its overall presentation, and the director manages to convey the story masterfully, paying particular attention to the character presentation and dialogue.
The Handmaiden (2016)
“The Handmaiden” is an award-winning erotic psychological drama directed by Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy” (2003), “Stoker” (2013)). Based on/inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” (2002) by Sarah Waters, the film centres on a young maid, Sook-Hee, who arrives to the estate of an affluent book-lover, Kouzuki, to be a servant to his niece Lady Hideko. However, nothing is as it seems, because Sook-Hee’s main employer is actually a conman, self-named Count Fujiwara, who made a deal with the young maid to con Lady Hideko out of her inheritance. Fiercely intelligent and provoking, “The Handmaiden” does three things brilliantly: it toys cleverly with its audience’s imagination, and challenges its formed beliefs and visual interpretations; touches a sensitive nerve with its poetic and erotic imagery; and provides a stunning cinematic experience.
La La Land (2016)
Universally acclaimed, “La La Land” is the kind of a film which could melt the most cynical and toughest of critics. As romantic as it is visually stunning, the main charm of the film lies in its simplicity: a guy, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), and a girl, Mia (Emma Stone) both dream of professional success in Hollywood, and first find true happiness in each others’ arms before the practical realities of their chosen star professions separate them. With an uncomplicated plot and an absolutely stunning soundtrack, “La La Land” has all the appeal of an old musical, while keeping things interesting and original with notes of modern music, the showcasing of modern technologies and with the demonstrations of a competitive side of today’s Hollywood business. In “La La Land”, Damien Chazelle (director) shows that, in the 21st century, it is still possible not only to make a financially successful old-school musical-comedy, but also to produce a real gem of a movie capable of leaving the audience breathless with its heart strings’ pulling and sheer inventiveness.
Your Name. (2016)
Makoto Shinkai’s latest animation feature “Your Name” is rapidly gaining international recognition, and has already grossed over 10 billion yen ($98 million), becoming the first ever anime film not produced by Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki to gross this sum at the Japanese box office. This critical acclaim is unsurprising. “Your Name” is as close to perfection as any anime can get. Showcasing Shinkai’s talent for presenting emotional connections, fully-fledged characters and breathtakingly beautiful, detailed animation, “Your Name” is a romantic story of an accidental body-swap between a country girl Mitsuha and a city boy Taki, who, in reality, have never met. Both are high-school students who experience the usual teenagers’ problems and daily ups and downs. However, one day they start to switch bodies back and forth between each other through dreams. Through this experience, Mitsuha and Taki learn many interesting things about themselves, the opposite sex and human, emotional connections.
La Corrispondenza (2016)
“La Corrispondenza” or “The Correspondence” is a new film by renowned director Giuseppe Tornatore, the mastermind behind cleverly crafted “La Migliore Offerta” (2014), beautiful “Malena” (2000) and critically-acclaimed “Cinema Paradiso” (1988). The movie, with music from Ennio Morricone, is about an astrophysics student, Amy Ryan (Olga Kurylenko) and her infatuation with an older professor of astrophysics, Ed Phoerum (Jeremy Irons). When circumstances put a distance between them, the couple is determined to resort to any channel of communication to continue being “in touch”.
Queen of Katwe (2016)
“…in chess, the small one can become the big one…” (from the trailer “Queen of Katwe”).
Story: The movie is the upcoming Disney-produced drama based on the real story of Phiona Mutesi (played by newcomer Madina Nalwanga), a 10-year old Ugandan chess prodigy, who, against all odds, becomes a Woman Candidate Master after the World Chess Olympiads. Brought up in the slums of Katwe, an area in the city of Kampala, Uganda, young Phiona endures a daily routine of trying to survive when she discovers a game named “chess”, which turns her life upside down. Encouraged and supported by her mother (Lupita Nyong’o) and couch (David Oyelowo), Phiona quickly becomes a young chess sensation in her country, participating in international competitions abroad.
Tale of Tales (2015)
Directed by Matteo Garrone, best known for his raw crime drama Gomorrah (2008), “Tale of Tales” or “Il Racconto dei Racconti” is a fantasy horror film which comprises three main stories seemingly running in parallel. The first story starts with the Queen (Salma Hayek) and King (John C. Reilly) of the kingdom Longtrellis, desperately wanting a child but who are unable to have one, thereby resorting to extreme clandestine measures of killing a sea monster and consuming its heart to have a son, whose identical twin is also the son of a servant woman. Another story tells of the King of the kingdom Highhills (Toby Jones) arranging a tournament to wed his only daughter Violet (Bebe Cave) by making participants guess the large creature whose skin is on the display – the skin is that of a flea. The third story centers on two elderly sisters who live calmly away from the public eye only for their peace to be shuttered when one of the sisters becomes bewitched and transformed into a young beauty (Stacy Martin) who, in turn, becomes the centre of affection for the lustful King of the kingdom Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel).
Chinese Puzzle (2013)
‘Chinese Puzzle’ is the final film in Cédric Klapisch’s travel trilogy (other films are ‘L’Auberge Espagnole’ (2001) and ‘Russian Dolls’ (2004)). The film presents Xavier (Romain Duris (‘Populaire’ (2012)), a French writer who leads a confused and stressful life in Paris. When his girlfriend of 10 years, Wendy (Kelly Reilly (‘Flight’ (2012)) leaves him for another man and moves to New York, Xavier follows her to the Big Apple to be closer to his children. In New York, Xavier’s adventures begin as he rekindles romance with his ex-girlfriend, Martine ( Audrey Tautou (‘Amélie’ (2001)), marries a Chinese-American to get a US green card and becomes a surrogate father to his lesbian friend, Isabelle (Cecile De France).