In next month’s Vanity Fair, Angelia Jolie reveals that “[Acting]’s a luxury…. But I don’t think I’ll do it much longer.” That’s great. I don’t know if I have to take the literacy test again, but there’s either an insinuation or a truncation from other websites that makes me think that because of her influence, Brad will stop acting too.
See this face? This is a face that ages like wine. I’ve always liked him above everyone else in his generation, him and Russell Crowe. Let’s look at his generation. Johnny Depp is permanently in costume while Tom Cruise, Nicholas Cage and Russell Crowe are all in different wavelengths of crazy to be stars again. Brad Pitt’s also lucky to have pissed off half of the female populace and live to tell the tale. And he’s just gonna go out like that? Hell no.
Also, it’s surprising how the Pitt-Blanchett movie coupling works out. Would you ever set up a Southern goofball and a regal Aussie together? It’s like a ‘she gives him class and he gives her sex’ kind of dynamic. And $161 million in revenue and four Oscars later (one acting nom for Pitt in Button). Someone put these two in movies forever.
Sorry this was late. Peggy: yay or double yay? ph. zxfactor/ Burgundy Shoes
Wong Kar-Wai’s In The Mood For Love is on at the Harbrourfront at 9 tonight as part of Longo’s Free Flicks about food. Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) is a writer and asks Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) to act out roles about fictional love affairs. If you’re able to scroll down and see a review, that’s because I wasn’t able to see the movie for a second time. I still can’t resist telling you how Maggie Cheung’s performance is what makes it a classic. Nonetheless, see you there!
Other critics have written about the curiously interesting film making techniques that Nobuhiko Obayashi has used in his feature debut, Hausu, which makes me question my sobriety until this moment as I’m writing this post. But I’ll talk about how marriage-obsessed this movie is. A female gym teacher’s having an arranged marriage, and audience members can deduce that the marriage had to be arranged because she didn’t have the volition to look for a man herself. A high school student, Gorgeous – seriously that’s the character’s name – is angry because Daddy’s getting remarried. Gorgeous and her friends are staying with her aunt for the summer. On the way, a poster tells then “Stay at the countryside. Get married.” The aunt’s lover died in the war but stubbornly waits for him forever, and eats young women so that she CAN wait forever.
Hausu is a part of the Japanese horror/Noh/kabuki tradition like its more coherent predecessor, Ugetsu Monogatari, since both have haunted houses with ghostly female hosts trapping new guests, national metaphor, yadda. Hausu is also a part of horror tradition in general because it kills of the useless ones. Who will survive? How many? Will it be Gorgeous, the young woman who might inherit her aunt’s house? Fantasy, the observant one, doting and waiting for her male teacher? Prof, the one who reads while cats with laser eyes – Andy Samberg oughta be sued – is attacking her and her friends? Kung Fu, her name being self-explanatory, although she presents herself as another obvious enemy against the house? Melody, who shares the aunt’s interest in the piano? Sweet, the one who cleans the house? Or Mac, the one who gives the aunt a watermelon? You have two more days, today till Thursday. Go see it!
I do like these girls, walking through the countryside like that. Girls today would be too conscious that they might be watching their pedicures while treading on their impractical Louboutin heels. Or maybe that’s just me being sexist.
I wasn’t scared in a way that I wasn’t jolted by the movie, but it’s creepy and that’s good enough for horror. Enjoy this movie.
Cameron Bailey announced the TIFF lineup highlights. I saw 11 last year, I would like to see 11 this year. But I only have at the most 80 bucks on my checking now. I get paid on Thursday, but most of that is going to OSAP.
Here’s a long list. I listed 22 because I believe in a .500 batting average. Foreign films jump to the front of the line. I love Americans, but I can wait to watch them by Christmas. Indicated in bold are stuff I really wanna see.
ph. TIFF/ TWC
Barney’s Version, Richard J. Lewis, Canada/Italy
Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky, USA
Casino Jack, George Hickenlooper, Canada
The Conspirator, Robert Redford, USA
The Housemaid, Im Sang-Soo, South Korea
The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper, United Kingdom/Australia
Little White Lies Guillaume Canet, France
Potiche, François Ozon, France
Another ,Year Mike Leigh, United Kingdom
Biutiful, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Spain/Mexico
Blue Valentine, Derek Cianfrance, USA
Brighton Rock ,Rowan Joffe, United Kingdom
Cirkus Columbia, Danis Tanovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina
It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden, USA
L’Amour Fou, Pierre Thoretton, France
The Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen Andrew Lau, Hong Kong
Love Crime, Alain Corneau, France
Miral Julian Schnabel, United Kingdom/Israel/France
Norwegian Wood, Tran Anh Hung, Japan
Rabbit Hole, John Cameron Mitchell, USA
Tamara Drewe, Stephen Frears, United Kingdom
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Woody Allen, United Kingdom/USA/Spain
I’m trying to be nicer to this movie because what Roger Ebert and Liza Schwarzbaum and one other critic I can’t find have said about this movie are valid. Girls like sisters Elena, 15 and the titular fat girl Anais, 12, or at least adolescents, can be cruel to each other and then hug and comfort each other the next morning as if nothing happened. And yes, what happened in the ending can happen. You can’t blame the mother (Arsinee Khanjian) for making her choice because motels are just as creepy.
But there’s three things that bugged me during the movie. First is the mother’s thin characterization Her blase response to her husband’s question that “young people meet” makes her a passive accomplice to Elena and Anais’ sexual misadventures. Elena flirts with law student Fernando while Anais is the same room, while the parents are in the same house. Fernando and Elena opens doors, they converse, the smoke cigarettes, Elena has anal sex with Fernando for the first time. The first thing on that list should have woken the parents up. Then when Fernando’s mother reveals the relationship, both mothers are shocked as if nobody knew what was going on.
Second, that Elena is stupid enough to fall for Fernando’s lies. Anais is Elena’s foil in that she’s smarter and more jaded about sex despite being a virgin. She represents the contemporary adolescent, in theory smarter than their predecessors. Elena’s smitten by Fernando, and she really wants the experience. But she doesn’t even listen to reason, even from Fernando. When I was watching this movie, the future parent in me came out in full fury.
Lastly, there were parts when I felt there wasn’t enough of Anais. She is the fat girl in the title, why can’t she have her own misadventures? And the ending doesn’t count as one.
TCM, as part of their Akira Kurosawa’s 100th birth month anniversary last April I think, was showing Kagemusha at 2 in the morning. It’s the story of an aging warlord who hires a beggar to impersonate him, or something like that. I remember the scene when a messenger runs through soldiers sleeping on the grounds outside the palace, their flags rising as they’re woken up. It’s like Riefenstahl but with a little sense of irony.Then I dozed off after ten minutes. TCM really needs to stop showing good movies so late at night.
Kagemusha‘s gonna be screening at the Cinematheque today. I gotta go to a baptism in the border of East York and Scarborough at 2, then mission downtown by 4, which is when the movie’s showing. The film’s MUBI profile hints on some intense studio lighting. Squee!
Screw the Sopranos series for a while. Here’s Abed as Don Draper via SUNNY1 from Jezebel.
Have fun watching Mad Men tonight at 10 on AMC! And boy did Peggy’s hair change.
Hausu is screening at the Bloor tonight at 9:15. It started playing yesterday and is gonna be on until Thursday. I don’t know if it’s my cup of tea but there’s a lot of good visuals in it as far as I’ve heard. Don’t miss it!
TIFF via Craig from LivinginCinema released their 100 essential films. I’m only doing this post so that I can push back the other stuff I’m already working on/done. Lists like this are supposed to make me feel inferior, but as I’ve watched 48 of these already I kinda feel good about myself. But then, you know, I’m the only douchebag that wrote down a number, and tomorrow someone’s gonna say 72, or 81, or 90.
These are the ones I haven’t seen and will hope to see. This list and post also exists for the purpose of telling the four or five people who read this blog who actually know me in real life and telling them what I’ll be doing for the rest of the year, unless hindered by unexpected circumstances like bankruptcy, or worse, Rob Ford shutting down government institutions that supports the arts.
1 THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (Carl Theodor Dreyer) Seen parts in TCM.
3 L’AVVENTURA (Michaelangelo Antonioni)
5 PICKPOCKET (Robert Bresson)
7 PATHER PANCHALI (Satyajit Ray)
11 ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
13 BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (Sergei Eisenstein) Clips in film class.
15 TOKYO STORY (Yasujiro Ozu)
19 L’ATALANTE (Jean Vigo)
20 CINEMA PARADISO (Giuseppe Tornatore)
21 LA GRANDE ILLUSION (Jean Renoir) Parts at TCM.
23 PERSONA (Ingmar Bergman) Saw THAT part.
27 VOYAGE IN ITALY (Roberto Rossellini)
29 CITY LIGHTS (Charlie Chaplin) Parts
31 SHERLOCK JR. (Buster Keaton)
32 RULES OF THE GAME (Jean Renoir – 2)
35 L’ARRIVÉE D’UN TRAIN À LA CIOTAT (Frères Lumiere Louis Lumière and Auguste Lumière)
37 LA JETÉE (Chris Marker) (parts on TCM)
39 NIGHT AND FOG (Alain Resnais)
47 SALÓ, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (Pier Paolo Pasolini) August 3!
48 THE SEVENTH SEAL (Ingmar Bergman – 2) Parts.
49 LE VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE (Georges Méliès)
53 VIRIDIANA (Luis Buñuel)
54 LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (Roberto Benigni) Saw the ending.
55 THE SORROW AND THE PITY (Marcel Ophüls)
57 THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE… (Max Ophüls) Parts on TCM.
59 THROUGH THE OLIVE TREES (Abbas Kiarostami)
60 LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS (Marcel Carné)
63 JOHNNY GUITAR (Nicholas Ray)
65 MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea)
67 SCORPIO RISING (Kenneth Anger)
69 DUST IN THE WIND (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
70 SCHINDLER’S LIST (Steven Spielberg) Saw ‘Look at the snow!’
71 NASHVILLE (Robert Altman)
72 CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (Ang Lee) Seen enough of it.
73 WAVELENGTH (Michael Snow)
75 CHRONIQUE D’UN ÉTÉ (Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch)
77 GREED (Erich von Stroheim)
79 JAWS (Steven Spielberg – 2)
81 THE BIRTH OF A NATION (D.W. Griffith) Can’t wait for the picketing!
82 CHUNGKING EXPRESS (Wong Kar Wai – 2)
87 ANDREI RUBLEV (Andrei Tarkovsky)
90 WRITTEN ON THE WIND (Douglas Sirk) Saw the beginning. Betty?
91 THE THIRD MAN (Carol Reed) TCM has been dicking me on this movie.
94 BREAKING THE WAVES (Lars von Trier) Parts.
95 A NOS AMOURS (Maurice Pialat)
96 CLEO DE 5 A 7 (Agnès Varda)
97 ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (Pedro Almodóvar)
99 OLDBOY (Park Chan-wook) My cousin Antoinette’s favourite.
100 PLAYTIME (Jacques Tati)
Sam Mendes‘ sophomore outing Road to Perdition is gonna be on the History Channel Canada at 9 tonight. This movie’s both underrated and over-appreciated. It was released in the summer with decent box office revenue but met with little recognition by the Academy. It’s overrated because, well, It’s Sam Mendes. Watch it to see Tom Hanks do one of his most difficult roles in his long and admittedly monotonous career.
There are a few flaws, like the dated hopeful musical score by Thomas Newman and the CGI. The rest of it is gritty captured with an ‘opposites complement’ clean cinematography by the late Conrad L. Hall, making this movie a career best for Mendes.
There are large expository gaps within the musical numbers in Milos Forman’s adaptation of Hair, as first pointed out by a Variety staff writer. I haven’t seen the musical on stage so I haven’t seen it done better. The songs in the film seem like a part of the conversation but director uses the songs to create one set piece after another. What he did to ‘Aquarius’ was awesome but it’s a song that no one can mess that up.
But with my second viewing, I discovered songs that I didn’t pay attention. In ‘Walking in Space,’ the song doesn’t perfectly match with the visuals, but I like the effort within the metaphor. The actress sings the song well. I don’t think it’s the best cast musical (the movie settled with actors who can kinda sing and kinda act, sometimes singing the most passionate songs with the deadest eyes I’ve seen in people), but there’s a little magic in the film when the vocals can sometimes hint on the pathos and beauty of the song they’re singing. It happens in this number.
Also, ‘Claude’s (John Savage) going to the Army’ is established in the beginning of the film instead of making it a shocking twist in the end. At least the movie has a story now instead of it being two hours of hippies – is that a pejorative? – dancing in Central Park. But with a little narrative, the audience lost the sincerity of the activist movement in the late 1960’s. Sheila (Beverly D’Angelo) stumbles into the hippies instead of being already a part of them. The film portrays guys like Berger (Treat Williams) as beggars, hustlers and apathetic deadbeats. Sure, there were probably a lot of beggars, hustlers and apathetic deadbeats within the movement, but they could have at least had a cast member who knows about the issues. Despite my limited knowledge, Hair is the most eloquent, articulate, incendiary, explosive musical I’ve listened to and this movie didn’t fully tap into those great qualities.
I hate watching movies that I used to like in high school, because the spark of rebellion I saw in those movies fade away.
Word vomit on the film’s context – there were a lot of movies in the ’70’s that tackled the ’60’s as the subject, like a nation took ten years to finally talk about the collective destruction and trauma. Most of those films were Vietnam War films, articulating the multiple deaths in a generation of men. But some focused on the counterculture and its battles fought at home, like Serpico, a film that portrayed a man’s limitless access to information and culture. Or Shampoo and Carnal Knowledge, about the feelings hurt during free love.
(p.s. I also forgot about Norman Jewison’s Jesus Christ Superstar, although it’s ambiguous as to which decade or time in history that the film is representing.)
As part of my celebration in welcoming the new season of Mad Men this Sunday, and because I’m lazy and this will give me content for the next 12 days, I’m gonna be screen capping the Sopranos episodes that Mad Men creator Matt Wiener has written.
And since this is a movie blog, here’s a Sopranos film reference. Spoiler!
Speaking of Citizen Kane, the female gaze on a man’s descent is fucking hilarious.
I realized how well April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) is photographed in Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road. She’s often wearing white or bright colours. Summer colours, like she’s on a permanent summer vacation in the Hamptons, or stuck in heaven. Or more than likely sitting or standing near a window. Frank Wheeler (Leonardo di Caprio) has a beautiful wife and so did director Sam Mendes, and the latter wanted to show that off. And it’s like there’s light within her but, as per the movie, I have the feeling that that light in her is clamped down.
Revolutionary Road is gonna be screening at the Revue Cinema at 7 tonight, with an introduction and post-screening discussion led by Toronto critic Geoff Pevere. I’m still wondering whether I’m going or not. I don’t particularly wanna slit my wrists tonight. I also don’t wanna see couples masochistically watching the movie and coming out talking about the performances, because they don’t wanna talk about Frank and April’s relationship. I also think about the numerous casting possibilities if this movie have been greenlighted earlier (Paul and Joanne, Mia and Robert, Jessica and William, Julianne and Dennis). I’ll give the movie another shot, and hopefully, so will you.
Ran – a movie about an aging Japanese warlord Lord Hidetora “Tora” Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai), patterned after the Shakespearean tragedy King Lear – stayed on the grassy hilltops for twenty minutes. I would like to think that I can bear with long scenes with just dialogue but maybe this movie might prove that I just can’t. Is it Kurosawa’s meditative pace again, or the language barrier?
The film’s galvanizing point is when Tora’s ex-right hand man Tango tells him that the latter’s eldest son Taro barred the villages from serving him rice just after he ordered to burn said villages for being presumptuous in their ‘charity.’ He also hears Tango’s interpretation of the third son Saburo’s actions after the latter’s estrangement. His actions alienates the villagers just as it does to his sons. The movie becomes a great one with that scene and every other scene that follows that.
I was also utterly disappointed with the replacement of daughters with sons. The only Kurosawa film I know that has the most/best female characters is his adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. I’m not an expert of Japanese culture so I wouldn’t know what would have happened to Tora’s daughters, or he married off those daughters, or if he had to made his wife and concubines suffer to produce three sons. I concede that I like the characterization of the sons. Taro is ambitious,disrespectful and affected. Jiro is weak. Saburo is coarse yet loyal. I vaguely remember Shakespeare’s characterization of Regan and Goneril, except for evil and more evil. From what I remember, Regan asks “What need one [attendant for Lear],” which can either be interpreted as cruel or cowering. She shares one or two more bitter arguments with Lear than Goneril did. And Cordelia’s, you know, silent. Back to the film, this was a wasted opportunity for Kurosawa to explore female characters.
But fine, Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada) is an audience favourite. Having read a lot about her explosive, gutsy performance from Sarah Boslaugh, Harada impresses when she reveals her hatred against Tora. I kept wondering where she was through the stretches of bloodshed that the men have committed. Then she lunges at Jiro. She closes the doors to the Lord’s room while she laughs, not caring if anyone in the palace might hear her. She blackmails Jiro, tears her own kimono with a knife, then kisses Jiro and the wounds she gave him. It’s an extraordinary scene and it feels like watching something demonic for the very first time.
Kaede, then, is Goneril and Regan lumped into one, having to marry to satisfy the lord of the household and therefore appease a patriarchal society, conniving herself from husband, finally owning her family’s castle for at least a short while. She’s also one of the characters that remind the audience of the Shakespearean tragedy’s worldview. Nothing that the hero or anti-hero owns is rightfully theirs, that any property has a lengthy history of thefts, and that just as many wars have conquered nations and killed kings, vengeance after vengeance will come. She’s also a Lady MacBeth in a sense that she’s chosen to become this evil and ruthless to survive the society that would otherwise spit her out. Lady MacBeth because Ran has a Lady MacDuff in the form of Lady Sue, the latter being pure, forgiving and altruistic even if she goes through the same thing as Kaede. The film has one great female character and her foil, but there could have been more.
Unlike Lear and the Fool, Tora and Kyoami have a strained relationship. Tora hits him. Kyoami’s the only person who calls Hidetora ‘Tora.’ At first, Kyoami is able to joke about Tora’s madness, but frustration sets in. Tango and Saburo are loyal to Tora, but it’s like Kyoami’s the only person who actually loves Tora. He wants to leave but can’t. Tora’s death devastates Kyoami while Tango’s stoic. Kyoami’s adrogyny – and Tora’s ghostly concubines – lets him emote unlike the other male characters in the film and puts a bit of subtext to the relationship, if you’re looking for one.
Almost every shot in this movie is a painting.
This was pretty badass.
I guess beginning the film in grassy hilltops makes sense. We drink in the scenery. In the end all we have are red crags, where Lady Sue’s blinded brother is stranded. He gets his land back but it feels more like limbo instead of a vindicated end. He’s a footnote in this land’s bloody history.
Christopher Nolan’s Inception has garnered a lot of discussion, mainly about ‘is it real or is it a dream’ by Brad Brevet. The film made me think about other categories, and I’ll go with the most coherent. Spoilers ahead. (p.s. And fine, just in case don’t wanna read everything, just scroll down until you see Joe Levitt’s picture.)
So does Inception pass the Bechdel test, a test that Nolan’s earlier works like “The Dark Knight” or ‘The Prestige” have failed?
Inception has a reputation of becoming inscrutable, or most critics believe this. What most hyped, inscrutable films can legitimately be criticized about is its depiction of gender, since women in films are underrepresented after the era of Julia Roberts. Nolan could do a lot better in writing roles for women, since they’re mostly at the back seat, but I’m grateful enough for what he’s given us. From “Memento,” Natalie (Carrie Ann Moss) avenges her husband’s death by playing cruel tricks on Leonard (Guy Pearce). In “The Prestige” are Sarah (Rebecca Hall) and Olivia Winscombe (Scarlett Johannson), well-written polar opposites of tragedy and survival (p.s. Actually, let me retract that. If Sarah was gonna kill herself, at least show her relationship with her child and nephew before she does so. Or at least show said relationships more blatantly. Great performances though. I’ll defend Scarlett’s performance but not with my life). His two Rachel Dawes have either given us tough love or sunshine.
But before we put check marks on the Bechdel test, let’s now discuss the characters in question.
There’s Mal (Marion Cotillard), Dom Cobb’s (Leonardo di Caprio) wife who commits suicide, believing that doing so is just another kick up from the dream world back up to reality. And as Mr. Pattern Ramin Setoodeh has pointed out, this is suicidal wife number 3 for Leo.
(p.s. As Cobb says, Mal as a femme fatale is his projection, man’s projection. Cobb incepts an idea within Mal’s head that her world isn’t real, an idea that she carries through the dream levels then up to the real world. If we take the plain interpretation of the film, the negative ideas the female might have and the consequences of said ideas is because of man’s doing. Mal That either makes men monsters or women passive or both, take from that what you will.
Here’s Bilge Ebiri‘s piece that reminded me of the ideas within the paragraph.)
Another theory about Mal’s presence in Cobb’s dreams – she functions as Cobb’s antibodies, separating Cobb’s subconscious from the subconscious of his marks. She prevents him from stealing Saito’s (Ken Watanabe) ideas. She stabs Ariadne (Ellen Page) for breaking the rules. She shoots Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy) so Cobb won’t do an inception on him like the latter did hers. In essence, she’s protecting Cobb from himself. If this is correct, Ariadne’s plea to Cobb to forget Ariadne might have been the wrong move.
With the IVs involved with sharing dreams, it might just be biologically possible that Mal with her own free will actually exists within Cobb’s head. As Cobb tells his father(in-law?) Miles (Michael Caine), Mal is powerful enough to interfere with Cobb’s work and ability to structure other people’s dreams.
And we go to Ariadne, Miles’ student in architecture. I’ll go out of my way to say that Ellen Page’s performance is more geared towards reaction instead of original action, as written for her role. Nonetheless, Nolan beautifully misdirects us with Ariadne, since I viewed her inquisitiveness with suspicion. Red from Brad’s discussion, among others believe that she’s Miles’s spy. Cobb opens up to her, she’s genuinely concerned about his mental well-being, there’s a bit of sexual tension between them that thankfully didn’t get more blatant. She uses the information to hustle herself into Cobb’s team and as far as we know, hasn’t told any other character within or outside the crew.
In Devin Faraci‘s ‘Inception as metaphor of filmmaking’ post, he posits Mal as the muse and Ariadne as the screenwriter. As I said earlier, Ariadne adapts this predilection of telling Cobb what to do, in a sense, directing him. Ariadne and Cobb both feed off each other – he exposes, she regurgitates, he practices what she preaches.
Mal is Cobb’s conscience since she stops him for what he shouldn’t do or Ariadne is his conscience for telling him what to do, or if you believe Virgil in Brad Brevet’s site, Mal and Ariadne are the same person. Under this interpretation, the female’s function is to help the male, no matter how much Cobb tries to make it look like the other way around. Nathaniel Rogers uses the phrase ‘window dressing,’ and I’m seeing that in other reviews too.
Now that that’s over. Check one – Mal and Ariadne have names, overtly symbolic ones and no family names but names nonetheless. Check two – They meet three times. The last time is in the fourth dream level, where they don’t even talk to each other. The second time they meet is in Cobb and Mal’s dream basement/anniversary suite and talk. Their conversation, check three, is where it gets complex, especially since there’s no script/DVD of this movie that’s readily available to me. I don’t recall either of them saying Cobb’s name nor a masculine pronoun. If we take the plain interpretation of the film, it’s obvious that they’re talking about him, and even struggling to have him on their respective side. I don’t wanna sound like an apologist but they’re talking about themselves too, a battle between Mal, the dream world and Ariadne, a detached, outsider symbol of reality.
Then there’s the aspect that they always meet in someone’s dream, whether Cobb’s or Fischer’s.
Lastly, Mal stabbing Ariadne is the first time they meet. If that’s not interaction, I don’t know what is.
In the film about a scorching day and racial tensions in the Bedford-Stuvyesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, each character is capable of cruel acts, big or small. But they are nice too in their own volition. Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) places flowers on Mother Sister’s (Ruby Dee) window. Sal (Danny Aiello), an owner of a pizzeria, has a passive-aggressive rapport with his employee Mookie (Spike Lee) and a more flirtatious one with his sister Jade. Mookie, a dysfunctional dad, does his best when he’s visiting the Tina (Rosie Perez), the mother of his child.
So I don’t feel hatred towards Sal when he destroys Radio Raheem’s boom box. I also feel the same when Mookie turns against his boss. I’m not condoning these actions by any means, however. Spike Lee’s characters have these opposites within them, or more particularly, a hidden anger within a communal love. And when they act out and when the simple-minded rioter puts a picture of MLK and Malcolm in a wall previously occupied by pictures of Italian Americans, it doesn’t seem like a victory. He changed up a wall on a burning building.
This movie’s also about a community that is constantly learning about its inner rules, or at least is in eternal limbo. Who’s allowed to live or to set up a business in the neighborhood? There are no set boundaries in this neighborhood but every character feels trespassed. Yet no one leaves. The conflict also isn’t about race as much as it is also inter-generational. Da Mayor tells the teenagers that knows their parents didn’t raise them to act disrespectfully. It’s the business owners and the two elders communicating with the young, or attempting to do so. Familial connections are made between characters who might be throwing stuff at each other in a few hours.
I only have three small issues with this movie, one bleeding into my issue with Spike Lee. First, the acting isn’t that solid, but then I’m talking about the bit roles who have to speak in a Toni Morrison-esque cadence. And a director who doesn’t care about his bit players is just like every other director before 1967. Besides, he can direct the hell out of Danny Aiello, and the rest of his main cast. Second, the garish look and red lighting of the film that makes it look like it was shot in a studio, but that only shows how he can get better in time. Third and most distracting of all, he can’t make a prologue and epilogue to save his life.
This is my second time doing this. And this was the second thing distracting me during that little movie Al was in. I keep drawing from the well, aren’t I?
I hope I get this posted before actual negotiations between real people happen, and no matter what happens in the real level, and I hope they do a better job than I do, my fantasy Lear will always exist in my head and on the internet.
Lear – Al Pacino. Nothing we can do about that yet.
France – Guillaume Canet. I saw L’Affaire Farewell and he can stand his ground with someone like Al.
Burgundy -Ben Whishaw. I want someone younger for Burgundy but has good chops. And he’s played the not so smart young’n in Layer Cake, which is not the same thing but it’s a type.
Cornwall – Mark Ruffalo. He’s gonna be as explosive in this as he was in that one scene in You Can Count on Me.
Albany – Ewan McGregor. Like Ruffalo, he can interpret his character as either villainous or a goof. As long as the direction doesn’t make the characters too extreme.
Kent – Ray Winstone. He’s played the bad best friend, and Kent is a bit like that, getting into fights to prove his loyalty.
Gloucester – Jeremy Irons. He’s just a little younger than Pacino and they’ve worked together for The Merchant of Venice.
Edgar – Paul Bettany. He’s played benevolent characters before. And Edgar’s gonna be misunderstood, and Bettany can make Edgar duplicitous if he wanted to.
Edmund – Cillian Murphy. He’s known to make a lot of out secondary roles and he’ll be good as a juicy little villain and seducer. And there’s something in his eyes that makes him look like Bettany’s brother.
Fool – Diane Keaton. Emma Thompson’s played Fool against Michael Gambon’s Lear. And this will be a reunion and this will be fun.
Goneril – Kristin Scott Thomas. If there’s anyone who knows how to confront men, it’s her.
Regan – Olivia Williams. She was the perfect ice queen in The Ghost Writer, and I can’t wait to see her do another femme fatale.
Cordelia – Keira Knightley. She’s learned the silent defiance in Atonement and can bring Cordelia’s pain to screen without making her look like a weeper.
The Talented Mr Ripley is playing at the Toronto Underground Cinema today at 6:45, followed by Amadeus at 9:30. This part of their Seven Deadly Sins Film Festival. Today we get to the fourth sin, Envy.
Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith – the same author who wrote “Strangers on a Train”- the centre of class-based resentment and guilt resides within our anti-hero, Tom Ripley (Matt Damon). He wears a Princeton blazer for a performance for rich folks on a rooftop facing Central Park. He is mistaken for a rich boy’s college friend, the rich boy being Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law). Dickie’s parents then ask Tom to get Dickie home from the latter’s self-exile in Montebello, Italy.
Tom’s a quick study, as Freddie Miles (Philip Seymour Hoffman) would say. He is an all American boy who’s always wanted things he could never have. He can crack jokes that can amuse Dickie and his girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow). He tells Dickie that his talents include ‘telling lies, making forgeries.’ He tries to like the same things and live the same lifestyle as Dickie, a premise as dangerous as it sounds. Tom a classical fan, sees Dickie, a jazz fan. He wants to like the same things Dickie likes and to become Dickie. And he can charm women like Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett) and convince her that he is Dickie.
Anthony Minghella is probably the closest our generation will get to a golden age Hitchcock. The movie doesn’t oscillate with valleys of Hitch’s thriller side nor the peaks of his surprisingly cheerful Grace Kelly side. We get both fear and harmless beauty at the same, evenly mixed concoction. Minghella here is trying to beautify and exoticize the Italian beach country as well as the diasporic upper class Americans living there. Minghella dresses the gang in New Look outfits and summer whites. There’s a lot for Tom and for the audience to covet, and the coveting is what helps the cloud of intrigue to come in.
Despite of the embarrassment of riches that the characters have, the actors playing them give unflashy performances. I’ve applauded Blachett’s interpretation of her character in a previous post. There’s also Damon, whom Courtney Young praised for standing up to the same levels as Jude Law. This movie was my introduction to Hoffman, who plays someone opposite his characters. Gwyneth Paltrow also amazes in her final scenes, although some critics like Amy Taubin don’t like her performance here.
I’ve posted images and plugging the movie’s last screening at the Bloor Cinema. Finally saw it, and this is what I think of the movie.
The film’s about sexual fantasy. Really. The longer version is that the film’s about sexual fantasy and the male gaze in the context of a small Italian town in 1939 – I know it’s 1939 because of the “Beau Geste” references, but anyway. The film does start with the town’s air full of puffballs, a sign of springtime, which is itself a sign of youth and sex. I make it sound so dry. Don’t worry, boys, there’s a lot of well proportioned women in this movie, and there’s lots for the men to choose from. One of those women is Gradisca, the hairdresser in red. There’s Gina, a servant who gets touched in the behind by one of her old bosses. There’s the well stacked lady who own the tobacco shop. There’s Volpina, a prototype of the town crack whore, yet the men don’t reject her because she has the same energy as them. Not even the women are blatantly shown in telling her to slow down.
As Andrew O’Hehir writes, the film’s obviously sexist. It has the same, shallow comedian’s understanding of gender – men want sex and most women just wanna settle down and have children even if they have to entertain a million toads to find a prince. I know I’m gonna sound like an apologist by writing this, but the women come out better than the men because of Gradisca’s monologue.
Besides, promoting these sex-driven thinking also mean that there’s no guilt involved. Sexual fantasy is a communal experience, and a boy’s allowed to share his feelings to his peer group and to trusted elders, like a priest. By confessing to a priest, the boy technically feels like a sinner, but he doesn’t try to make the label stick and there’s no judgment nor hellfire. It’s in the typical Southern Catholic attitude when the average person has to do penance but he can totally party the night before. Conversely, Uncle Teo’s the only one who seems more perverse while shouting for his need for a woman atop a tree in a farm. The audience can blame his depravity to his isolation.
Speaking of fantasy and community, there’s also scattered twenty-five minutes worth of the film spent on portraying fascism. The film shows most of the town’s citizenry as optimistic under Fascist Italy, a country of hope and idolatry. Even Gradisca succumbs to fainting orgasms when talking about Il Duce. This lack of guilt nor remorse shown in the townsfolk is refreshing and realistic compared to other texts tackling the material. It is possible that the citizens of a country under dictatorship do not know about the oppression and cruelty that its government enacts towards minorities or outsiders until a later time. Sounds familiar. It’s something that they believed in even though they knew nothing about it. The depiction of the fascist element adds to the complexity and surprising maturity in Fellini’s later work.
The Merchant Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster’s Howards End has its Murnauesque tendencies. A drama about property, class, and family, the film’s first four minutes have no dialogue, as Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave), owner of the titular house, walks ghostly outside in the garden. She looks in while her husband Henry (Anthony Hopkins), the rest of her family, and a guest, Helen Schlegel (Helena Bonham Carter) are inside having a party. The film evokes a poetic atmosphere within the English suburbs, with the grass and wisteria and trees and the moon. Helen lightly blames the moonlight for her short engagement with one of the Wilcox son, Paul.
Helen’s poor friend Leonard Bast gets enthralled by his environment as well, and thus gets his silent sequences. They meet after a lecture on Beethoven’s Music and Meaning, showing his intellectual side despite his poverty. She steals his umbrella, he walks in the rain to get it back. He goes on walks because of a book he’s read, much to the chagrin of his wife Jacky. He also has a strange recollection of his first meeting with Helen, the gates close on him but she looks back, smiling.
Howards End is a movie of many tones, but I don’t mean that it’s uneven. There’s the comedy of errors tone, when the other Wilcox son Charles (James Wilby) drives the Schlegel aunt to the house. She confuses him for Paul and a row ensues. Helen and Margaret (Emma Thompson) are pretty funny characters themselves, calling themselves chatterboxes, the Schlegel children critical of their outspoken ways.
Then there’s the elegy, represented by Ruth. If you’ll indulge me in overreading, Ruth is also after a Biblical figure of unwavering loyalty and standing by her family. She was born in Howards End, Howard being a prominent name in some noblemen, a family plagued by tragedy. She’s kind of fragile, most of her children have grown up and married. and her husband tends to leave her in the house for business. She symbolizes permanence, shocked by the notion that Margaret has to move from the house where the latter was born. She has bursts of energy now and then, thanks to Margaret’s friendship, and there’s an implication that Henry and her family bring her down. This role’s part of the roles Redgrave has been getting in her later years, a woman haunted by her past.
There’s also a sense of urgency in the film’s drama, culminating in the forty minute mark, with Margaret becoming the protagonist. She’s like sunshine to this movie, her early moments especially with Ruth, we see her smiling and accommodating. Ruth’s last wish is that Margaret would inherit Howards End, Henry eventually asks Margaret to marry him. In Ruth’s last moments, she inadvertently passes the torch to Margaret, her silence replaced by Margaret’s protestations. Thompson made leading roles out of being the elder sister or friend with the voice of sanity, and her Margaret is still that archetype to Helen. But here in Howards End, she’s stuck between Helen’s idealism and Henry’s ruthless prejudice. Her last fight with Henry is one of the riveting arguments I’ve seen in a British period film and perfectly encapsulates Forster’s liberal stance.
There’s no need to say that Anthony Hopkins is amazing in this film. He plays his character with charm, ruthlessness yet repressed humiliation, opposite yet same from the cannibal that won him the Oscar. It’s reminiscent of other actors doing something different after their Oscar-winning or infamous roles. Like Marlon Brando dabbling in musicals after winning for “On the Waterfront,” or Denzel Washington becoming a sensitive shrink after becoming a psychotic cop, or Jack Nicholson playing a wounded playwright after playing a homicidal novelist, or John Wayne playing fatherly after playing racist.
Amacord has been showing at the Bloor Cinema since yesterday, and since I’m bored and procrastinating, I’ve posted screen caps of the movie.
Anyway, kinda wish I didn’t catch screen caps before watching the movie because it ruined the surprise. Thank God I can’t understand Italian. I’m actually watching it today at 7. See you there!