Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Director Retrospectives: Sergio Leone


Sergio Leone held the title of my favorite director for quite some time, until the man who inspired most of his work and then a Russian man (whom you may have heard of) took the top spot in succession. Not only that, but I still hold two pieces of the man’s work within my top 5 favorite films of all time to this very day, and it was three, for a long, long period of time beforehand. 

Sufficed to say the guy has played a huge part in shaping my cinematic journey, for better or- no. For BETTER- So here is my tribute to him. I realize he has done other films outside of these, but his Italian works, whilst oft interesting- aren’t truly worth listing among his best, and I am not counting primarily co-directed pieces here either. 

So now then, shall we dance?

A Fistful Of Dollars – 1964

Not technically his first film, but his first work really worth watching, Fistful lies among the most iconic Westerns ever made, and it’s not hard to see why.

Stripping the town social stage to its barest bones, and in doing so lifting (the most polite term I could use here for blatant plagiarism) Kurosawa’s story from Yojimbo and setting it in the American Old West. Whilst the eastern picture is vastly superior, one cannot deny the artistic flair, comic validity and essential style of Leone’s first hit. Fistful is no masterpiece, no meditation on morality or man- merely another pulpy Western from the 60s. No- wait I got that wrong. The pulpy Western of the 60s. 

Beginning one of the most equally integral trilogies in filmic lore (all across the board), and one that would only continue to grow over the next few years- A Fistful Of Dollars changed everything we knew and love about the western- and for that- at least- it deserves to be remembered. 

Favorite Moment:
“Get three coffins ready”
Eastwood slinks away. 
Mule insulted. Guns drawn. Men die. 
Eastwood slinks back.

“My mistake. Four coffins.”

B

For a Few Dollars More – 1965

Imagine a Fistful Of Dollars, but with better character introductions and Lee Van Cleef. 

Few More follows the two Western stars’ hunt for a notorious bandit, and does so in immediately spectacular form. Not having the strength of superb  *ahem* ‘source material’ to base it off this time, Leone did remarkably well, plastering this film between one that relied more on its sprawling story-line and one based on a Japanese action masterclass with relatively strong narrative focus. 

Of course, the focus itself is still on the shooting, the trademark detached violence and stylistic integrity, but Leone’s second Western project, taking into consideration its foundations in Yojimbo, improved upon Fistful and introduced a man who would once again become a western icon- The man in black- Angel Eyes- Colonel Mortimer. Whatever you want to call him, it’s his playful, morbidly flirtatious fencing with Eastwood that truly makes the flick.


Favorite Moment: Another badass Eastwood line; in fact Im pretty sure “Now we start” ranks among my favorite lines in movies, in general. The climax, of course, working as a enticing entre for what would come to cap off the trilogy… 

A

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly – 1966

What really is there to be said? A film that will, thankfully, last forever not only as a vast- gorgeous, well characterized adventure film- but as the very epitome of cool. 

I really couldn’t decide whether this was an A+ or an A. I simply couldn’t. Next time I watch it- perhaps it will creep even higher. One thing’s for sure- the final- brilliant standoff sequence is inarguably worth the highest ranking I can give. Oh and don’t get me wrong- despite the ranking- I adore this film.

Favorite Moment: I love Angel Eyes’ introduction- but my favorite moment outside of the aforementioned battle to become ultimo hombre occurs in the fight in the town. Cannons are going off, Blondie and Tuco vs 5 baddies. Tuco is left alone, and, just as he is about to be downed when the shooter is killed- Blondie resting lackadaisically on the broken skeleton of a house, the man responsible, grins at Tuco. Tuco smiles. The music cues. The third and final act of this 3 hour journey kicks into motion and we are more than fucking ready.

A+

Once Upon a Time in the West – 1968
Best Western ever made...?

Another film who’se reputation really does proceed itself; OUATITW (as well as being quite a mouthful) follows four people and their struggle to survive the last days of the old west. Fonda trapped by the times as an old, deadly gunslinger, Robards as the haggard but lovable bandit, Cardinale as the finest woman in western canon (a triumph considering how Leone was originally going to introduce her in the film) and finally Bronson. Charles Bronson. Not an actor, more a guy who would stand where a director put him and look badass- the man does exactly that by (by my estimate) exceeding Eastwood as the steely but simultaneously charming Harmonica. 

Speaking of the Harmonica- was there ever any better music in a movie like- ever? Ever? Arguably Morricone’s best score- and arguably Leone’s best work- which, in both cases, is saying a lot. 

The first of two Leone films that have held a place in my top 10 ever since I first saw them, this film in fact held the top spot for quite some time- though the current illustrious achiever of that accolade remains a mystery… ;)

Favourite Moment: I have a few. Here they are.

“Hehehe. Looks like were- Looks like were shy one horse”
“No. You brought two too many.”
That music cue.
I can’t even. 

That fucking cue as Fonda’s men stalk out of the brush following the McBain massacre. The chills, man.

Henry Fonda, as you never have seen him before and never will see him the same again, sitting unrecognisable in a chair in his second scene. Seriously- I barley recognise the man.

Fonda riding down the road for the final showdown. That shot kills me every time- Sweeps me right away. 

The final- utterly impaling cue as the camera rises above that arch- revealing to us something we could never have expected- and yet made so much sense. 

Duck, you Sucker! – 1971

Suffering greatly (in that it has disappeared from general consciousness) by being sandwiched between the man’s best works, Leone’s 70s fair is a very different film from the last 3 (and certainly proceeding one) he made. 

Following an Irishman and a Mexican’s odyssey through a revolution (a cause embodied in a superb opening quote) this Zapa Western reeks of charm and echoes Fistful more than any other piece the man made, though holding a more comedic air than his other works. 

As well as flexing his comedy muscles, the brilliant contrast of the many hundreds of explosions that fight an orchestral battle in the background create a superb canvas for Leone to paint yet more masterful compositions on. 

Its gratuitous, it’s not as smart (on the surface), nor as tight as his other films- and it only just slides in above Fistful and Few More, But Duck, You Sucker! Is a rare breed of Western that really is to be cherished, something that embraces its campy, shallow mould it was cast in whilst weaving in remnants of something magical that defined Leone’s Dollar’s trilogy- as well as some real emotion from its actors.

Perhaps I just want it to have a little more attention, and that’s why it scored as it did, but regardless, it remains another essential part of a vital- vital filmography.

Favorite Moment: Im torn between the opening carriage ride, and it’s hilarious, marvellously vengeful twist- and the lighting of the last firecracker. Both are great.

B+

Once Upon a Time in America – 1984

You remember when I said there was two Leone films that have rested in my top 5 favourites for quite some time now- and that OUATITW was perhaps his best film, and perhaps Morricone’s best score? Say hello to the best film he ever made, and my choice for the best film Morricone ever scored.

A story that, despite spanning four hours and surprisingly even more decades, is something that truly has to be seen to be believed. Following De Niro’s Noodles’ stint through the prohibition, as well as the memories and regrets of his past and future (?) respectively, this is a film that can make me cry- whenever. No matter how simple, or silly, the moment may seem, it simply does. 

A film I can watch on repeat, as many times a day as I deem possible, which, considering it lasts over 240 minutes, says all I need to say about how fucking legendary it is. The real question is not: was it all a dream? The real question is: Why aren’t you watching it right now? 

Favourite Moment: Again- here are just a few.

Old Noodles talking to Fat Moe just outside the bar, unable to do it face to face.

“I’ve been going to bed early.” Poor bastard. 

The scene on the stairs with the cupcake. You may not think it, but if you’re looking for what really personifies the real theme of the film- it’s this. 

Morricone’s haunting cue sealing poor little Dominic’s fate, as well as the death of the boy’s innocence.

As unbearable as it is (particularly with the effective silence of the score), how brutally real and [in a very sad, unbearable way] necessary the rape scene was. Noodle’s whole life was characterised by greed and power, he was the only one to resist. Leone masterfully builds up his problems with girls throughout the film, and the resultant scene is one of the hardest things to sit through I have perhaps ever seen- but an utterly vital part of the man’s arc, particularly considering we know him after it happens, before it does. 

That smile. God. What a way to end it.

The fact that, only after seeing the film many, many times, did I stumble upon the possibility that none of this could be real.

6. A Fistful of Dollars
5. Duck, you Sucker!
4. For a Few Dollars More
3. The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
2. Once Upon a Time in the West
1. Once Upon a Time in America

Rear Window levels of suspense...

Im currentley working my way through Renoir's rules of the game for the first time- ever.
Never seen a film of his before and this one's reputation has left me tense as all hell going into it.
Wish me luck :)


What is going to start 40's month? Well- a little film by the great disruptor- of course...

Monday, 29 June 2015

Silver Age Reviews Finale 1: Intolerance


In response to countless negative allegations concerning his previous film: Birth Of A Nation (a film that, along with Triumph Of The Will, is one you [hopefully] only watch once)- Griffith presented not only a startling rebuttal to the muted mortality of his previous picture- but one of the most impressive films ever made.

Intolerance, simply put- is epic. I hate the word, because people now tend to think scale connotes quality, which, as we should know, it does not- but much like Lean’s historical epics decades later, Griffith creates several living, breathing- frankly terrifying world that beat with the pulse of the times they mimic, with insane accuracy. This truly is Love’s Struggle Through The Ages, and the startling assuredness of the project really proves the man as a cinematic innovator for the ages. To think that something this massive, in narrative as much as spectacle, could be achieved before dialogue- hell- in the 1910s- is baffling to say the least.

D.W Griffith expertly crafted a smorgasbord of rich and luscious worlds, if ones that I would hate to live in- and in doing so created one of the most aesthetically integral and long lasting films of all time- as fine a silent film as there has ever been made, as well as my favourites of the time. Lang’s M was the best film I reviewed for this cycle of the Silver Age, but Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Through The Ages- is far from the worst.

A+

Next month, it’s the 1940s- the ‘Golden Age’, and I’ll try to shift them out a little better throughout July (BIRTHDAY TAIME!). Capping off the first month of the blog. Hope anyone reading as enjoyed- and will continue to follow :D It’s been great, and I can’t wait to bring you more.



Five (Of Many) Great Jump Cuts

The first of many posts recounting some great jump cuts. YES- some of them are match cuts and other cuts or whatever. I love em. You love em. That’s what matters.

The Departed
Talkin' Bout' My Generation

There are a lot of fantastic things about Scorsese’s Best Picture (FINALLY- Despite a little film I covered recently being more deserved of the accolade) winning crime drama, and its jarring but oh-so-right jump cut right near the opening holds the pace of a film that was already immaculately paced right up to the 25 minute mark before we get our first real breather. Essential and excellent, in every way. 

Lawrence Of Arabia
The Trick

What is arguably David Lean’s best work spends its first few minutes outside of the desert. Suffice to say a film equally renowned and infamous for its use of sand lacking any at all in its opening is pretty polarizing, coupled with the death of the main character (something so abrupt I actually missed it the first time around)- can begin to instil a little apprehension in a viewer the first time around. Another scene. Another scene. Another scene. It’s a long movie, and the complete lack of the world it totes so proudly mounts up. In one, Lawrence blows out a match. A tiny, insignificant match. Then- BAM.

Cut to the sun, rising over the land we were promised and frankly gasping for this whole time, set to an enveloping score and instantly, in a few frames, building this MASSIVE world we are more than ready to explore. Lean engineered one of the best opening shots in cinematic history- by making Lawrence of Arabia into LAWRENCE OF FREAKING ARABIA in a split-second. Sublime. 

2001: A Space Odyssey
Running from Everything – Everywhere to Run

This is the one. The one that will live forever. Not really too much to say, other than to address those who question Kubrick’s status as an artist: I have already made my position clear on how many view his ‘cold’ nature (here) – but to those who doubt his validity as a cinematic visionary- try taking the space epic to end all space epics- starting it with 20 minutes of monkeys, us, then- BAM

Cutting to FOUR-THOUSAND-YEARS later. One single cut- from humanity’s most primitive tool: the bone- to the spaceship, and the very end of our cycle. Pure genius.

The Leopard
Viva La Revolution/The Leopard

First off- we begin the Leopard, a film renowned for its depiction of revolution- in a palace. A quiet, calm day. Nothing, not even the news of the uprising, wavers the cool atmosphere built up in the place. Just as the nobles were, we are placed in a false sense of security, where the problem is so distant that we cannot even fathom what it might look like- and thus almost entirely ignore. Then- BAM

Cut straight to the front lines of the conflict. Endless extras and harrowing wartime scenes extend on for just as long as the opening, a seemingly infinite carpet of war descends over the world we knew before. The true genius behind this cut is the harsh juxtaposition, that elevates the former’s tension and latter’s utterly piercing presentation of the battle of Palermo ever more every time I see it. Just one superb moment from 180 minutes of superb film.

Second is another excellent example of juxtaposition. The film’s famous 45 minute ballroom scene (which feels like nothing- another example, much like that of Nostalgiha, of how proper pacing benefits longer sequences) constructs a complex, almost brooding, but comfortable and frankly gorgeous world, where one man feels out of place- The Leopard himself. Then- he disappears for a while. We forget about him, becoming lost in the changing times, a mirage-like mystery descends over the whole place and it becomes a dreamscape, a kaleidoscope of wonderful colour and music. Then- BAM

Cut to HIM. The man who has faded out of the party, as he has from the history he strived so hard to create. It’s very hard to make a person today emote for a noble, a man from a time where we scorn those who exploited and oppressed the lower classes and indeed did so for all their life- very hard for us not to be elated as the little, private world he built for himself fractures at his very fingertips- but I will never not be moved by that frame. Never.


Sunday, 28 June 2015

A Treatise On Art- And Its Inception...

A little short I just wrote. This is the one and only time I will discuss my views on popular films I don’t like (for that purpose alone) on this blog. It’s, being as polite as I can be- pretentious, but I didn’t give you anything new this Sunday, and had no-where else to put this so- why not? Enjoy ;) ...


I ask a person, any person I knew for five years now, what they thought of Inception- and they said it was “art”. Then I ask them: “How many times have you seen it?” The resounding response was “once or twice.” If there is one thing I have learned, over all the years I have seen and loved films, it is that you must never- ever- unchangeably judge a film solely on the first, second, sometimes even third viewing. Taking a simple fleeting glance at a picture, one that catches your eye with its mirage of vibrant colours and pretty frame, will only give you a taste, your view on it is incomplete. It is not art- not yet. Standing there and basking in it, truly taking in everything, will reveal its true form. You will begin to discover flaws. As great a masterpiece as something is, as profound an artist that crafted it- there will always be something. Along with ‘epic’ and ‘cerebral’- ‘perfect’ is a word I loathe- simply put: because it is a complete and utter impossibility. Man has tried and failed to attain it since our… inception. Now look at a film like Inception. Take a Good. Long. Look. Several times, in fact. Now look at the entire span of human creation, from the first cave paintings and invention of the wheel to the space age and advances of the present. Is this film worth as much as any of this? Perhaps you will say yes. If so-
Fair enough.

You have seen it many times; you have valued it against the very finest works our race has ever crafted- and you have actually listened to me, sort of. That is enough to not only earn my praise, but also my respect- even if I disagree with you.

For me? Movies I would take to that insurmountable height? The Thin Red Line, Apocalypse Now, Seven Samurai and Andrei Rublev. The only four films that, as far as I have seen, deserve to be in the running for the finest ever created. Loving Inception as you do- I hope you visit these works someday also. Perhaps then, we can all finally agree that- no matter what excessive fires of rage it may spark in some of us- we share at least one thing in common:

We love film.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Look: Babel

The Look
Babel

A simple look can, in reality as much as the world of film, mean as much as any amount of words a person can muster. It’s an incontrollable, primal response untainted by decency or restraint, rather revealing what we truly feel. The simplicity of a flicker in our eyes speaks to each person that witnesses it entirely differently, so this series will probably not be relatable or truly understandable for those who read it. Much like Blood Of The Beasts, your reaction is entirely down to the very core of your individuality. I just needed to write about the looks that have made my life with film that much more worth living, and this, considering my current spotlight on Iñárritu’s film, would be the best place to start.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Scenes To Die For: Babel


Less of a scene and more of a sequence, my second favourite moment of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel is an entire segment of Chieko’s arc, one that follows her literal trip under the influence and through a nightclub in the city.

The primary reason I had to include the entire sequence is the necessity to praise Prieto’s photography in its first act. Watch this scene where Chieko enters a square, noticing the band of boys in the centre, tentatively asking their origins. Flash forward to their interaction with the group, a happy, light conversation in broad daylight, square bustling with people, modern Japan’s aesthetic bursting through at every opportunity. Notice now how this exchange is filmed.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Spotlight time

Tonight, I saw Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel. This weekend, I will be holding a little spotlight in several posts on the film. More than impressed. Not much else to say. Looking forward to it, hope you are too,

On the likely off-chance you haven't seen the film- its on Netflix. Do so. Now.

Monday, 22 June 2015

The Actors: Anatoly Solonitsyn


In our first outing exploring the careers of actors I have grown to cherish comes one I have only recently garnered any love for. Anatoly Solonitsyn has worked several times with the greatest, and has appeared in many greats, but I feel there is little tribute to just how truly skilled the man is, as an actor, ignoring how prolific some of his credits have become. Solonitsyn works best with subtle ambiguity, almost mystical forces of nature in the films he inhabits that, whilst not bearing the same physical power as the earth-shattering forces we have come to love in recent memory like Daniel Day Lewis, Solonitsyn possess a ghostly talent few have ever equalled in the films I have seen, and my appreciation and adoration for this underappreciated has only grown since my first encounter with him and his famous partner- entering into the Zone…

Five Great Films On Isolation

Five Great Films On Isolation
On an earlier blog, I recently created this exact same list- although here I get to talk about several new films I saw since then. Isolation is a theme constantly explored, but also one that is rarely executed properly. Capturing the degradation and terror of human loneliness is of course a difficult thing to do- but leave it to these 5 masters to do it best. Better than anyone else I’ve seen anyway.

Again: I ADORE films that explore this theme- so please do comment any suggestions for those I may not have seen if you have any.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Director Retrospectives: Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick is a man that really goes without introduction. I must rest my own mind in stating the obvious here though: in that he is, without a doubt- a complete and utter genius.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Top 15 Dragon Ball Z Movies: Part 2

I was struggling with finishing the next set of content for the blog given work experience and, y’now, starting my first feature screenplay. I did not grow up with Dragonball, and my opinions on it are… “wrong” at the best of times, but considering I just finished watching all the Z series films I thought: why not try something different.

My strange view on Dragonball is going to become apparent immediately for any fans of the series. For those who are not- I would not recommend checking it out. Dragonball is not a good show, by any means, but it provides a generous helping of boyish fantasy violence (IN SPACE) with a side of relatively interesting characters and arcs that I can’t bring myself to hate. This will probably be a one off, though if anyone does have any requests for another, all you have to do is ask.

MOST importantly, I will be grading these as Dragonball movies, not with the normal rules I used before. If you know Dragonball, you know what I mean. If you don’t: Essentially- everything is much, much worse. Though that doesn’t necessarily make it bad ;)

Top 15 Dragon Ball Z Movies: Part 1

I was struggling with finishing the next set of content for the blog given work experience and, y’now, starting my first feature screenplay. I did not grow up with Dragonball, and my opinions on it are… “wrong” at the best of times, but considering I just finished watching all the Z series films I thought: why not try something different.

My strange view on Dragonball is going to become apparent immediately for any fans of the series. For those who are not- I would not recommend checking it out. Dragonball is not a good show, by any means, but it provides a generous helping of boyish fantasy violence (IN SPACE) with a side of relatively interesting characters and arcs that I can’t bring myself to hate. This will probably be a one off, though if anyone does have any requests for another, all you have to do is ask.

MOST importantly, I will be grading these as Dragonball movies, not with the normal rules I used before. If you know Dragonball, you know what I mean. If you don’t: Essentially- everything is much, much worse. Though that doesn’t necessarily make it bad ;)

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Director Retrospectives: Paul Thomas Anderson


Welcome to the world of one of the greatest visionaries of contemporary film: Paul Thomas Anderson. Many disagree with me, but I think PT Anderson is arguably the finest Western director working today (with such works as Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood and most recently The Master under his belt), this man has let fly a slew of classics that only seem to improve as time goes by.

Who better to kick-start this series than with my favourite modern director, and one that doesn’t get nearly half as much mainstream credit as he deserves. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

WTF Was: Eraserhead


My second and probably last (for a while) feature on Lynch and indeed the series (which will be on a short hiatus unless I find something else I desperately need to discuss). I have seen Eraserhead 1 and a half times, the first ending prematurely because I thought I was going to throw up around a third of the way in.

Somehow, when I came around to finishing it yesterday, David Lynch managed to make it even worse.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Silver Age Reviews: Metropolis


Often today we have two views on special effects. One: we either completely dismiss special effects as fake wastes of time that spoil immersion and realism (a concept modern film is so deeply enthralled in, despite film essentially prioritising escapism over all else). Two: We go to see a film specifically for them, and judge it on that alone, rather than on the strength of its story or characters (a-la Avatar). Metropolis is a vast, expansive and cruel reminder that neither of these approaches are correct, and will continue to refuse to die long after we are all gone. Its production tells the story of a world only 11 years on from today, a vast, hive-like future that some would call a utopia but I condemn as a hell, not for all, but for those forced to build it and die for it with no respite or joy to inject some light into their empty lives. People today may live, and love, and laugh with eachother- but we are all slaves to someone. Lang knew this almost a century ago, and yet, many of us now are still blissfully unaware of the crushing fact.

Back in 1927, when the production of Lang’s silent masterwork cost what is well over 200 million dollars today, the effects were enthralling and real, sculpted and crafted by hand by hundreds to bring to life one of the most horrifically acute social commentaries of the 20th century, and one that holds perhaps even more sway today than it did upon release. The coldness of the commentary alienated many initially, but much like Kubrick’s opus in 1968 it has found a place to be adored, as well as tirelessly maintained, in the world of film.

Metropolis is not perfect, nor has it aged as superbly as Lang’s following 1931 masterpiece, but it draws me back to a time where everything had to be created, rather than conjured as it is today. Im not faulting the effort that people go to when animating films like Transformers or Interstellar, Im simply saying that what was once a rare and fine art has been turning into a machine for money and a multiplier of scale, rather than daring to prove a point. Perhaps Metropolis’ message resonates best within the film industry of contemporary times better than normal life for that very reason. Regardless of what Lang intended, or what was accepted as the most common ‘theory’, it still resonates now- even if most do not know it. Metropolis is not the best silent film ever made, but to me, it’s the one most worth seeing, for those who are willing to see- rather than merely listen.

A

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Silver Age Reviews: The 39 Steps


I was pleasantly surprised by the 39 Steps, partly because I knew not until I saw it that it was so very old, and partly because it’s a pretty damn good thriller even by today’s standards. True that may stem from said genre being littered with gutter rats like the Pelham 123 re-make or the endless sea of “Insert Big Name Actor” actioneers but it’s been this way since film began, only right up until the 50s we could come out with a great one once in a while a-la North By Northwest. Speaking of Hitchcock and the point: The 39 Steps.

Benefitting greatly from the naïve and bumbling but nevertheless charm-soaked performance of Robert Donat whose archetype masterfully reverses to the hardened and bitter rouge by the end, the film holds its tone consistent and beautifully rigid throughout, from streets lit by fading lamps and emptied of life to damp chases through the Scottish Highlands there is a concrete air of Hitch’s mischief and mystery that lights it up to no end. Save the in most cases unnecessary uses of guns to try and scare our hero and a femme-fatale so clearly villainous she might as well be wearing Dick Dastardly’s moustache it also makes a good case for a pretty damn good noir.

Im sure many class it as such, but between Hitchcock’s unique sense of fun that is also present in the later Strangers On A Train, that presents the exact same problem, Im unsure whether to label this as noir or thriller. The Third Man had humour and Orson Welles but it didn’t have a farmer, a Duck Soup-esque protagonist and a real lack of lethality throughout. Regardless of the obvious finale or venturing a tad too far into an oblivious parody- The 39 Steps holds up, and was a great way to spend an afternoon, even if I probably wouldn’t do so a second time.


B-

Five Great Films On Voyeurism

As a series on the blog, Im going to cover five films worth seeing for a theme I greatly enjoy. Today its voyeurism, a genre that has proved fruitful in many tens of superb titles. Because of this, I have narrowed this list down to not only the very best, but those that deviate from the normal path of what it means to study the voyeur through the art of the screen.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Just a Little announcement

So this is my fourth (or fifth) and final blog. I will be sticking with it until I forget it exists and considering I LOVE writing about film that isn't going to happen anytime soon.

Having just finished my A Levels there will be plenty of time to post and I hope anyone whose read the first couple have enjoyed them enough to stick with it.
Rest assured: There Will Be More

I will be working through each decade up to the 2000s with six or seven reviews in each and then starting again and picking out six or seven other films I want to cover, be it because I love them, learnt a lot from them, hated them or just saw them and couldn't think of anything else.

Silver Age Reviews: Nosferatu

  
I expected to love F.W Murnau’s ancient horror ‘masterwork’ that had endured for so long protected under the adoration of so many. But, much like Fellini’s 8 ½ it’s appeal seems to have slipped beneath me and I am left with an impossible question: What exactly is so damn good about Nosferatu? Sure, I’ve seen films of the period before, from Potemkin to Intolerance (both of which are sure to receive a place on here soon enough) but it doesn’t stand out, nor does it surpass its spiritual successor in Vampyr (1932) or Herzog’s re-make many decades later, at least to me. It lacks the inexorable sense of dread and darkness that steeps those later entries into horror cannon.

I will give Nosferatu some credit for its immortal image of Orlok ascending those nightmarishly lit stairs, his shadow living in the fears of many at the time Im certain, and even now the few frames of brilliance are unsettling as all hell, but they lack enough weight to save what is, to me, a film doomed today by its age. There are many silent films that work even unto today, and the recent The Artist proved that the genre can still produce pictures of importance- but Nosferatu is plagued by a terribly off-putting melodrama and turgid frames that destroy and flow that would spill over into nauseum and eventually actual tension. Intolerance benefitted from fanatic extras that masked the stupidity in their actions by today’s standards, but amidst what is proclaimed to be a dark, dank and spine-chillingly terrifying 20s horror “masterpiece” they take me out of the film like nothing else.

The characters are caricatures and whilst some may say it is unfair to judge a 20s films by the standards set in the next decade I am testing to see if Nosferatu holds up. Save a few frames of genius followed by light hitting the gnarled count and revealing the true hilarity of his costume (again proving the worth of darkness in sowing seeds of atmosphere and tension with proper pacing that modern horror primarily ignores)- as well as a superb title that is perhaps the only aspect of Murnau’s film that truly chills; Nosferatu: Symphony of Fear is nothing more than another film that was released in the 20s, to me. Not one I will soon forget, but sadly that may only be due to the sting of disappointment that pangs my thoughts every time it pops into my head, and then retreats swiftly out again.

D

Silver Age Reviews: M


When we think of serial killer films, only two true masterpieces normally spring to mind, both relatively contemporary works in the form of Se7en and The Silence Of The Lambs. Whilst Lang’s M lacks the modern techniques or swathes of dread-inducing desaturated colour, it, like many movies of the 1930s, holds another intriguing political commentary brought alive by the context we are graced with today, and it holds up to a frightening degree. One does not have to look further than the faces and feelings of the people affected by Beckert‘s tortured spree to see reflections of their own in this situation, and the animalistic rage that crushes  during that final, vital scene in which he is brought to justice. Lang’s mastery is not in a bloody murder like the aforementioned modern classics, but in making us question within ourselves, as shallow as the thought may be, if what they did was right.

These people, now without their children and baying for the blood of anyone suspicious enough to pin the blame to, will do anything for revenge. Beckert’s capture was inevitable, as was his death at the hands of the Police in a legal execution, but the vigilantism the killings inspire in the broken parents of the victims would not make us question it if not for the time: 1931, Germany. Put it together and the realisation is a smack in the face as well as a stroke of pure genius. Lang was a famously anti-Nazi film-maker and along with Metropolis M stands as fine a commentary on their savage spirit as there ever was. Dissecting the bloodthirsty hatred they inspire in the form of the people, the bumbling police as the fractured Weimar governance and Beckert himself as a November criminal punished rightfully for his crimes but holding problems that will not be understood or solved by the baying mob to prevent such disaster for reoccurring; but rather washed over with mindless violence. It’s all there, and it comes together flawlessly.

What do I think? There’s no denying the finale sparked doubt as to the man’s fate, though his final one was inevitable, and it’s so clouded by the politics of the time that a correct answer becomes nigh impossible. Beckert deserved to die, or at least be punished, and by the people he ruined- but in such a time, nothing is as it seems, and nothing can be clearly classified as right or wrong. Whatever the case, intelligent morally straining drama reached its zenith shockingly early in the form of M, and it’s an essential picture for anyone studying the craft, both in its viciously accurate subtext or Lorre’s unnervingly deranged and uniquely tentative psychopath.

A*

WTF Was: Mulholland Drive

So. After one viewing, here are my ideas on what exactly Mulholland Drive was. They may be ramblings, but they may also interest you.

First off, narrative wise, I think that the story was out of chronology, split up into two parts. The ‘second’ half of the film took place first, and led up to Rita being supposedly absorbed into the blue box, though more on that later. The true second half leading on from this point, where Diana becomes the dead girl in the hotel, is the actual first half of the film. My theory is that Diana tries to have Tina killed in the first half, as seen in the opening, and moves to LA on the Sunset Boulevard to escape this past. However, Rita escapes because of the car crash and her subsequent amnesia causes her to wander up to- who else? Diana. After testing if Rita had truly lost her memory, Diana successfully tried to re-kindle their romantic relationship, with her run in with Kesher holding tension because he had lost Rita, whom he was engaged to before she disappeared. I assume that his ‘fear’ when he saw Diana was due to a violent act she committed at his party at the end of the film that made her contemplate suicide, a suicide that the old couple tried to stop, and in doing so led her to Sunset Boulevard and a chance to reconcile with Rita. If that makes sense, the film’s two halves have been switched around, and the blue box represents the regaining of Rita’s memory about past events and the true nature of Diana. Despite this, the disappearance of Diana in this scene could represent her facing the truth that she has no future with Rita, and did indeed kill herself as the ending showed, hallucinating all of this from heaven- or hell- or silencio.

See I’ve got no real idea about silencio bar its obvious commentary on the nature of Hollywood today and the illusion of originality or care in most of its work, merely cheap re-runs on an old tape that people sweat and die for to play a part in, as seen in the fainting woman. Silencio COULD represent a portal between the realms of the dead, for Diana to reach Rita through and witness everything that goes on after she ‘commits suicide’ at the end, from the beginning. Silencio called out to Rita in her sleep, and the ominous atmosphere, coupled with Diana’s not wanting to go, in constantly making excuses, could mean that it is calling Rita to send Diana back to hell, or wherever out of the mortal plain, through silencio. This passage is done in through the box, and, if this is true, then it is supported by Diana’s almost seizure-like shaking and sobbing in Silencio whilst everyone else sits there calm, almost communicating with lost loved ones. Diana does not want to leave, and the amnesiac Rita doesn’t want her to go either, making it heart-breaking for them to have to part, for the last time.


Not everything in a David Lynch film has to make sense, a-la the fucking insurmountable Eraserhead, and this could be true for the man behind the diner. What the even. I literally have no real idea what he could be. Perhaps god? If we are talking about the afterlife and visits to the world on loved ones from it, then perhaps so- but surely the blue-haired woman (?) in Silencio fits that better then. Maybe the dark man is a personification of the Hollywood control of the movies, making money rather than art, seen in his corrupted, ugly form, almost like blackened heart sucked of all creative lustre or desire. He is always there, appearing at the final, critical moment almost as a puppeteer to the whole tale. Perhaps the strange man in the film studio is more suited to this position, but hell who the sod cares, the dark man is way cooler.

On this note, perhaps the cowboy, being a natural rancher as well as a founding genre in cinema and eventually a very popular American one in the golden age, is a representation of the old world of film working for the dark man to influence Kesher’s choice of actress in order to gain favour and perhaps the chance to revive the old Hollywood spirit prior to the commercial focus shift of the 80s. The dark man did sit next to a TV, with a little, smoky office-like setup behind like he was a corporate head who made all the decisions, anyone pitching them to him instilling such fear that they fainted and dreamt of the encounter.

Finally: The botched hit. Any real point? Probably. Hilarious? Hilarious.

So that’s what I thought just after I watched Mulholland Drive for the first time. Yes its senseless rambling but searching for deeper meanings in something that is clearly teasing you to try is far to enticing for me to ignore. It’s a god damn masterpiece, an a limitlessly absorptive one at that. For any first time viewers I have but one piece of advice. Ignore the over-acting, its purposeful. Ignore the bog-standard limo drive straight out of any thriller- it’s a ruse.  Ignore everything that makes this film look bad. Accept that Mulholland Drive is smarter than you, and always will be, and dive in head first. It’s worth it.

I will be reviewing this Lynchian opus eventually. His best film? Certainly in the running.