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I want to talk about loyalty...

Posted : 3 years, 3 months ago on 13 October 2011 01:44 (A review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

''We are not so very different, you and I. We've both spent our lives looking for the weaknesses in one another.''

In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons.

Gary Oldman: George Smiley

Tinker. Tailor. Soldier. Spy. John le Carré's spy thriller comes alive on the screen, given the professional capacity and swift brush stroke required, from director Tomas Alfredson. The casting is a revelation resulting in acting worthy for recognition in any film festival or award ceremony. Who could portray the character George Smiley, echo and honour the original Alec Guiness performance, and completely morph himself into the character; Obviously it has to be only one: The chameleon and legendary Gary Oldman.

Imagine history coming alive on the big screen, a film which graces an age of espionage which relives and retreads the days of the cold war. Secrets, mysteries, and corruption within our own hierarchy that is MI6.
Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciarán Hinds, David Dencik all give electric turns as the puppeteers pulling strings. They make us wonder, who can we trust? If anyone.

The complexities of the story and the to-the-point dialogue shroud the audience in a meticulous cage of ambivalence. This is a very dark time. An uncertain time. Mark Strong shows how his character Jim Prideaux can fall victim to betrayal and how personal feelings can never triumph over doing your duty.
John le Carré's The Constant Gardner adaptation on the big screen screamed twists, turns and a web of deceit from a corrupt corporation and pharmaceutical short cuts. With Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy we see the same style of storytelling which keeps us hooked from start to finish because while we watch we do our best to keep a few steps ahead, and more often than not, fail miserably.

There is a sequence, a sort of dream-like montage which in my mind sums up the cold war and the level of confusion. We have a Lenin dressed Santa Claus, (a paradoxical stab at communism meeting consumerism) and all the MI6 staff are singing the Soviet anthem. We see John Hurt, one of the top men, bewildered at times from paranoia. George Smiley emotionally detached and cocooned, even to the point he is aware of an affair regarding his wife and a colleague. The thing about George Smiley, he knows when to act and he knows in this time how to wait. The montage shows the agony of such waiting. A chilling portrait of the cold war period and also a reflection regarding the psyche of our protagonist. The duality is present in the characters as well as the environments they inhabit.
The younger actors hold their ground amongst the other titans: Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy show they can act and deliver as well as anyone. They have the energy and charisma required.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the film masterpieces to come out this year filmed with dizzying precision and care. It is a rendering and journey into a world of secrets, espionage, betrayal, murder, and stasis. Those who have the patience required and the intellectual appreciation for such a journey will devour this adaptation and be bewitched by an Oscar worthy performance from Gary Oldman who completely transforms into the enigmatic George Smiley.
This film is definitely one for repeated viewings because it has so much to offer, so much for audiences to process, and so many twists and turns that looking away could result in missing a detail which made all the difference to your understanding.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy shows how derisively hot the cold war could be and it deserves your attention on the premise that you will learn as well as be entertained by such a complex story with electrifying performances.

''Things aren't always what they seem.''

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Tell him the other truth. Our kind of truth.

Posted : 3 years, 6 months ago on 2 July 2011 05:09 (A review of Jud Süß)

''The stars are neither friendly or hostile. But it stands written they will obey the one who attempts.''

In this historical costume melodrama, a conniving, ambitious Jewish businessman, Suess Oppenheimer, snares a post as treasurer to the Duke of Wurttemburg by showering the corrupt duke with treasure and promises of even greater riches.

Ferdinand Marian: Joseph Süß Oppenheimer

I continue to hold a penchant for reviewing highly controversial films, and what could be more controversial than Veit Harlan's period piece Jud Süß released during the year 1940 in National Socialist Germany; Capturing a certain story about a Duke and a Jewish advisor from 1733. It is a propaganda educational piece which features the fundamental strains against the Jewish race by telling History from a National Socialist perspective. Veit Harlan has actually made a film which is at quite a high quality in terms of cinematography, music, sound and acting. Perhaps not quite as well known as expressionist pieces by Fritz Lang from the weimar period but it certainly gives a considerable amount of film makers a run for their money.
Jud Süß was said to have been sent to SS guards and Police by Henrich Himmler, head of the SS. It was used for learning purposes regarding Jews. While Dr Goebbels, minister for propaganda, whom commissioned the piece, viewed the premiere with Veit Harlan. Goebbels was extremely pleased with the film.

The story is adapted and partially based on a 1827 novella by Wilhelm Hauff. It concerns the real life figure Joseph Süß Oppenheimer, a financial advisor for Karl Alexander, Duke of Württemberg. Obviously the film has its artistic license and alters the facts to suit the means. It is to show the enemy in its material form and to give the supposed threat a face using a story and a reshaping of history.
A German audience attending a viewing of the piece in 1940 would have recognized the several basic Nazi stereotypes regarding how Jews and Jewish culture are portrayed: There is the early scene in which Oppenheimer is shown to possess a fortune in jewels and jewelry. In another, he tells an innocent German girl that his home is "the world" (reflecting the Nazi stereotype of the Jews as rootless wanderers in contrast to the Germans' love of their German homeland). Several dialogues exchanged between Jewish characters perpetuate the Nazi line that Jews are inherently hostile to non-Jews. There is also Oppenheimer's role as a purveyor of women for the Duke, and his relentless pursuit of an "Aryan" woman for sexual purposes, even after she resists his first attempt to seduce her.
You will notice the broad cartoonish stereotypes of the Jewish characters and the preternaturally noble characters of their German counterparts.
Notice that several of the German characters, Faber in particular, are unfailingly rude to Oppenheimer from the moment he arrives in Wurttemberg simply because he is Jewish — and before he gives them any reason to do so. They will probably also note that it is the Duke's vanity, greed, and weak moral character that makes it possible for Oppenheimer to do everything that he is seen doing in the film. The Duke also seems to be as much to blame as Oppenheimer — at least in translation.

It is a shame the film is so notorious and controversial because it actually results in being a high quality rendition in terms of execution, music, story and even acting. That is to say Ferdinand Marian, playing the lead antagonist Joseph Süß Oppenheimer, gives such a performance that it is truly captivating to watch and shows his ability and versatility as an actor.
Kristina Söderbaum as Dorthea Sturm, the ill-fated heroine of the piece, also dazzles the screen with her beauty and strength.
The film cannot help but raise unintentional laughs when it comes to Werner Krauss playing multiple roles, one being Rabbi Loew, whom actually could have easily served as the inspiration for the Emperor in Star Wars and the other being Levy Oppenheimer's helper(A scheming satanic type with scary eyes).
The Jews are depicted as being materialistic, dirty, animalistic, deceptive and to a degree satanic, benign and evil. Everything that is shown in the film will certainly be considered strange or alien to behold by many today. Perhaps some element or strain of truth ultimately shines through all the hate and confusion; Anyone who has has ever read Mein Kamph will instantly recognize many elements in this film stated against the Jews, essentially classed as sworn blood enemies of National Socialist Germany. Jud Süß is a warning and reminder that if you let one Jew in, you let them all in and that all their personal interests and planning results in draining the land of milk and honey, of women and materials, of power and control. The meaning: All wealth and power is made for the glory and seizure of Israel. So the film shows all Jews as untrustworthy and completely without empathy or goodness.
We see a foreign entity (The Jews) entering Wurttemburg after the ban is lifted by the devious Oppenheimer, we see a number of examples which show gambling and materialism, the herding of young German girls by Oppenheimer for the Duke's appetites, and the contrasts between Jewish rituals and German traditions.
They simply cannot be compared. Or so the film would have us believe.
We even get to see Oppenheimer and his lackey completely demolish half a house belonging to a blacksmith. Why? Because the house was in the way of the road which Oppenhimer was put in charge of maintaining. The blacksmith is later hanged for hitting the coach of Oppenheimer as he passes. It is a crazy addition to the story but it shows an example of Oppenheimer's malice and his cruel nature in the film.

Jud Süß is the epic propaganda piece, and box office hit of 1940 which was enjoyed by millions in Germany, Austria and Europe, but of course mostly for benign and anti-semitic reasons.
It is revisionism and the clever warping of history to help fuel and fire hatred towards an entire race of people.
There is a battle throughout the film between the soul of a country, the personal ambitions and cunning of Oppenheimer and a Duke seduced by his every word and promise.
Disregarding any political or doctrine attached, the story and film, are successfully executed. It would seem to me this would have been the definitive classic for the Germans, in the future days of the Reich, if they had been victorious in the War to show the evil of the Jews throughout history, in a mirrored way that Casablanca in 1942 tells the evil of the Nazis; It was an example classic for the Allies a few years later which is still renowned and celebrated by film lovers today. This was said to have offended many Germans at the time... In the same way this piece Jud Süß would offend any politically correct thinking individual, with its discrimination and Aryan values.
I would say on a fundamental set of levels; The racial implications of purity and alien forces threatening to pollute the land... The film offends or is appreciated depending upon personal morals, ideals or your chosen set of ethics. As the offensive pattern will be towards the effort that the makers and storytelling takes to paint a villainous picture of the Jewish race, in a very black and white way. The stereotypical simplicity of showing good and evil. So Jud Süß asks anyone watching those important questions: What is right or wrong? What is decent or indecent? Offensive or paramount? Your answers will revolve around your personal preferences and feelings towards the piece.

Jud Süß is an important work for viewing because it allows the viewer to grasp clever propaganda techniques via film-making and storytelling, to delve into the mind-set regarding the early 1940s era within Germany(Including other parts of Europe) and also to grasp the National Socialist stance towards their eternal enemy; The Jew. It is certainly an enthralling propaganda period piece with many subliminal questions and answers attached, with that affirmed imagery of defiance, drama, tragedy and death.

''I already see the milk and honey flowing for Israel. Should I not already cross the Jordan through the will of the Lord? Isn't that his will?''

''You're interpreting His words as it suits you.''

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Subjects Wanted!

Posted : 3 years, 7 months ago on 29 June 2011 07:21 (A review of The Experiment)

''The experiment succeeds or fails with you! If you don't do your job right... The experiment makes no sense and we can stop it right now.''

A makeshift prison is set up in a research lab, complete with cells, bars and surveillance cameras. For two weeks 20 male participants are hired to play prisoners and guards. The 'prisoners' are locked up and have to follow seemingly mild rules, and the 'guards' are told simply to retain order without using physical violence. Everybody is free to quit at any time, thereby forfeiting payment. In the beginning the mood between both groups is insecure and rather emphatic. But soon quarrels arise and the wardens employ ever more drastic sanctions to confirm their authority.

Moritz Bleibtreu: Tarek Fahd - Häftling Nr. 77 / Prisoner #77

Das Experiment is a 2001 German film based upon Mario Giordano's novel Black Box and a real life experiment which took place in 1971 at the infamous Stanford Prison.
Directed by the highly skilled Oliver Hirschbiegel (The man behind Der Untergang) we see a rather disturbing yet gripping psychological thriller come alive on the big screen.

So the story begins with Tarek Fahd(played wonderfully by Moritz Bleibtreu), a frustrated taxi-driver, contemplating participating in a bizarre test which was advertised in the paper. 4000 marks for a 14 day experiment involving a conditioned prison. Simple right? Not quite.
Without further ado, Tarek decides to become involved with the test and meets the other candidates while also meeting the doctors running the experiment.
Each man is divided into guards and prisoners. While the guards must maintain order at any cost without resorting to violence, the prisoners are given numbers and put in cells, in groups of three to each cell available. The guards call the prisoners not by names but by their designated number.
The experiment starts off without too much of a problem but things soon get complicated when the guards begin to panic about keeping control and abuse and humiliate all the inmates. Tarek, now called 77 is blamed for causing dissent amongst the prisoners... Circumstances begin to unravel fast as order soon becomes a chaotic mess. Survival and escape soon become priorities for those subjected to the cruelty of the guards.

Das Experiment is a thorough study of the human psyche, in every regard the film captures the disturbing things that even the most seemingly civilized human being is capable of doing when utterly convinced he is merely following the rules. He will do anything and everything, immoral or cruel, when able to justify and convince himself he is just following orders. Cleverly, it shows how primitive and tyrannical this thing we call humanity can be when pluming and exploring the depths of greed, anger and manipulation. The guards tend to do the things they do out of desperation, frustration and a determination to complete the project and be paid the 4000 marks regardless of what is right or wrong or moral. The only thing on their minds is that failure is unthinkable. This is why the experiment spirals out of control. Even the doctors become captured and hurt as the game takes a bizarre twist...
Tarek is put inside a confined black box, and the prisoners mouths are taped up, while one of the Wardens(The Elvis impersonator) is attempting to sexually abuse the red headed Dr Grimm. It is certainly one of those films which will have you glued to the screen for the entire duration because it is full of shocks and surprises. Whether it's the power struggle between Warden Berus(A powerful, crazed performance from Justus von Dohnányi) and Tarek/77, or the thrilling conclusion which will have your heart in your mouth, it has to be said Das Experiment is one of those films which makes audiences ponder and think about the moral implications and actions we take when put in groups. The moves we make, the stances we take and the pathological routes that we follow based on fundamentally irrational thoughts and emotions. It asks us to think about reason and rationality otherwise without these it warns, it could be our ultimate undoing. As we find out from the crazy proceedings we see here.

It must also be said that the music created by Alexander van Bubenheim heightens the tension and moods that the visuals provide, elevating the whole affair with electrifying bursts of immense excitement. Cinematography by Rainer Klausmann is top notch and a large amount of shots, segments and sequences heighten the feeling of claustrophobia, depression and terror. The film makes us feel as well as think which is important. Oliver Hirschbiegel conducts his cast and crew with poignancy and effectiveness which affirmly seals his place as a skilled director in my mind yet again.

Das Experiment comes highly recommended and without a doubt one that will leave you pondering even long after the film has finished. I found myself asking those alluring questions like how far would you or I go in a situation like that? What would we do differently? And more importantly if we made mistakes would we learn from them?

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The killing stroke in storytelling.

Posted : 3 years, 7 months ago on 22 June 2011 08:53 (A review of Harakiri)

''The suspicious mind conjures its own demons.''

17th Century Samurai story told through clever flashbacks and storytelling thus capturing a fiery tale of revenge, deception and malice.

Tatsuya Nakadai: Hanshiro Tsugumo

Director Masaki Kobayashi, whom also conjured the masterful horror Kwaidan and epic Samurai Rebellion has yet again created another film of note. He has captured a story so great and immense, in such a way, that can only be described as simply mind-blowing. The piece in the lime light is Harakiri or Seppuku.
An effort and work that deserves praise and then yet even more. For 1962 the whole affair has a timeless feel and quality which easily surpasses and rivals any film maker in the present.

The story consists of being told through a multitude of flashbacks and clever narration. Harakiri is essentially a story within a story.
So in 17th Century Japan, we find the wars are over, it is a peaceful time where Samurai are finding it hard to attain work and funding. Many Samurai are succumbing to poverty and a grim fate. The only honourable alternative for some, is to commit harakiri or seppuku (Ritual suicide although Seppuku is death by disembowelment of the intestines) in certain feudal houses.
We the audience are shown elder warrior, Hanshiro Tsugumo, played magnificently by legendary favourite Tatsuya Nakadai, Hanshiro visits a Feudal Lord's house and asks to commit the act of seppuku.
There at the abode, he learns the fate regarding his son-in-law, a young samurai who had previously sought work at the house but was instead barbarically forced to commit traditional harakiri in an excruciating manner with a dull, blunt bamboo blade.
In flashbacks the samurai tells the tragic story of his son-in-law, and how he was forced to sell his real sword to support his sick wife and child.
Hanshiro Tsugumo thus sets in motion a tense showdown of revenge against the house...

''Swordsmanship untested in battle is like the art of swimming mastered on land.''

Harakiri profoundly entices audiences with expertly executed cinematography, close up shots, authentic costumes and locations, and expertly synchronized sounds, effects and music which compliment the frantic action played upon the contrasts that are the ambient scenes of tragedy and decaying struggle.
Masaki Kobayashi professionally lays a masterpiece at our feet that dazzles and dances before our eyes, that has the characters which make us angry or sad and that play upon our emotions by their consecutive acts.
Whether he shows us Hanshiro battling upon a windy plain with long grass, displayed with cinematography which holds no faults but stands as a beacon to the greatest art and beauty within the medium of film.
Whether he shows the tragic demise of Hanshiro's brother in law and he makes us feel his pain, and makes us feel fury and then sadness for the tragedy and death befalling the family.
The exchange of blades between our hero Hanshiro against many opponents is breath taking to behold and we cheer for him, we follow his movements in precise detail, just like we had followed his story being told throughout the film.
Kobayashi plays upon the audience with every slippery trick and spidery tendril at his disposal.
It all successfully solidifies, both, equaling an affirmed vengeance story laced with those old Greek tragedies from long ago, and also dually captures an age old problem which is poverty. Questions directed at tradition and lack of wealth in times of desperation for warriors with no purpose for their skills. Questions about honour and tradition, about respect and humility: A study which touches upon cruelty, about suspicion and doubt, and how plans can backfire when faced with unforeseen consequences.

Harakiri shows us a modern masterpiece from Japanese cinema which captures 17th Century Japan from the very pages of history. It has the revenge story and Samurai film with an alternative twisting and mutation towards the warped code of honour and then towards lies and secrecy. The samurai are shown to what lengths a feudal house will go to cover up its haunting mistakes, using a shroud of lies and deception to conceal the truth.

Some aspects of life require bravery and strength, while also holding a sense of honour and conduct higher than anything else. Harakiri or Seppuku shows the strength and bravery of one man fighting against many foes in the pursuit of truth and redemption for a lost loved one.

''What befalls others today, may be your own fate tomorrow.''

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The Empire of Crime...

Posted : 3 years, 7 months ago on 16 June 2011 03:53 (A review of The Testament of Dr. Mabuse)

''When chaos has become supreme law, then the time will have come for the empire of crime.''

Berlin police inspector Lohmann investigates a case, in which all clues lead to a man, who's in a hospital for mental illnesses, for many years - Dr. Mabuse.

Rudolf Klein-Rogge: Dr. Mabuse

Fritz Lang's The Testament of Dr Mabuse was released in 1933 from Germany. It is certainly a psychological thriller laced with mystery, suspense and murder. The heart of the story revolves around the enigmatic Dr Mabuse whom is very much seemingly behind the case which Lohmann, played by Otto Wernicke, is investigating. When a call from Hofmeister comes through, things begin to become even more complicated...

The case being investigated involves a secret group of ruffians carrying out orders from an unknown boss whom gives orders in a room while shrouded unseen behind an ominous curtain.
The men carry out the orders without hesitation, whether it is robbery or murder, threatened that if they fail to follow orders death is imminent.
While all this is taking place Thomas Kent reluctantly joins the group, after having a hard time finding work, as seen in a flashback scene which shows Kent unemployed and mightily disgruntled in a hall for finding citizens jobs.
This scene certainly reflects the desperation and turmoil of the time which had seen the shadow the Great Depression.
Cleverly, The Testament of Dr mabuse isn't just a mystery psychological thriller, it is a love story.
Kent meets Juwelen-Anna while down on his luck and looking for work, and confides in her as he becomes reluctant to go along with the others who engage in heinous activities for money and greed.
We have a murder of Dr Braum, the insane asylum run by Dr. Kramm who is shown having visions of the ghostly Dr Mabuse, and then we have the criminal group which are all connected by a secret of duality and strange intellect.

Fritz Lang successfully captures the madness and desperation of the struggle in the 1920s and 30s, Germany and Europe, it shows everything with graceful cinematography, lightning precise effects, brutally effective sounds and sparkling clarity.
Fritz Lang shows quite precisely the capabilities of what people will do when faced with the blunt choice between destruction and survival. Crime being the only possible, desperate alternative for a society with no work, no money and no value.

The Testament of Dr Mabuse is in fact a dark, bleak picture painted with the colours of extermination and the destructive traits of bitterness, of madness and the glowing effigy that is terror beckoning horror.
As commissioner Lohmann rallies towards the truth, we the audience are with him all the way. Rays of light and hope shine towards justice and compassion through the victory of finding an end and conclusion to the impending chaos.

Fritz Lang manages to give us an appetizing show case from a monstrous eyed ghostly apparition that is Dr Mabuse, to mysterious shadows and mechanical trickery.
Whether it is the cleverly executed cinematography behind a murder taking place in an immense traffic jam, with loud beeping and glaring from cars to disguise a gun shot, to the frantic flooding of Kent and his love in a trapped room The Testament of Dr Mabuse has it's moments. And what moments they are. This is Fritz Lang's diamond in the rough and while it may not be in the same league as Metropolis or M it certainly shines with its own unique, unblemished dark style and an intriguing roller coaster of action, and one of puzzling mystery.

''Mabuse the criminal? Mabuse the genius. His intellectual legacy would have turned your world, with its police protection, on its head!''

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This is your moment, Nina. Don't let it go...

Posted : 4 years ago on 24 January 2011 11:20 (A review of Black Swan)

''We all know the story. Virginal girl, pure and sweet, trapped in the body of a swan. She desires freedom but only true love can break the spell. Her wish is nearly granted in the form of a prince, but before he can declare his love her lustful twin, the black swan, tricks and seduces him. Devastated the white swan leaps off a cliff killing herself and, in death, finds freedom.''

A ballet dancer wins the lead in "Swan Lake" and is perfect for the role of the delicate White Swan - Princess Odette - but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like Odile the Black Swan, daughter of an evil magician.

Natalie Portman: Nina Sayers

If you know Darren Aronofsky, if you understand his previous work and his way of doing things Black Swan will certainly be easy to work out. But even so, perfection is something hard to place in our reality, and Black Swan is exactly that. Hard to place,but nonetheless, an unrivalled masterpiece, nothing less. It was everything I expected and in some ways even more. The fact he has chosen Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake also has a special, personal significance due to it being one of my favourites. Darren is one of those like-minded individuals whom I can relate to in many ways.

Obviously Black Swan is eclipsed not just by the beautiful Soundtrack by Clint Mansell, and songs from Tchaikovsky, not only by the majestic cinematography, and costumes...The terrifying, transformation, acting from Natalie Portman. This is without a doubt her best performance to ever be captured upon the screen, and I can guarantee that she will win an Oscar. Affirmed and resolute, I felt this adamant even before seeing the film; That is how honed in I was regarding my instincts via clips alone.
Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel,Barbara Hershey and a very dark Winona Ryder also give solid acting, gripping performances which are believable and poignant...But they sometimes feel as if they are just there for Portman to interact with. This is certainly not a negative factor, quite the opposite in fact.

Black Swan perhaps draws its strengths from the usage of close up camera angles, from shots that follow the character from behind, as seen in his previous works. Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler are sometimes brought back to memory when we see a close up of a grapefruit, or we have a gripping finale which takes ones breath away. It is simply a magician at work, it is among the reasons why film-making is an art-form and means of expressing the very soul which resides in our very being.
Not since Pi or The Fountain has Darren harnessed that spiritual energy into something primordial, something dark, and Black Swan is the next piece to his master jigsaw puzzle. He is a master at work like a great renaissance painter, and as usual, the work speaks for itself, with elegance and purpose.

This is certainly, without a doubt, one of the best films to be released this year, and already should be considered among the best for this emerging new decade. It is surreal, erotic, seductive, destructive...Perfection. Ordered chaos, and Natalie Portman has given a spark and energy to the very fabric of performance and metamorphosis.
Black Swan is in essence, the perfect Swan Lake...And we will never see a performance like that again, the point is this; Perfection exists. But it only exists in that moment. The moment being the beautiful end.

''Because everything Beth does comes from within. From some dark impulse. I guess that's what makes her so thrilling to watch. So dangerous. Even perfect at times, but also so damn destructive.''

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The Sands hide Truth to Existence.

Posted : 4 years, 5 months ago on 25 August 2010 10:56 (A review of Woman in the Dunes)

''Do you shovel to survive, or survive to shovel?''

An amateur entomologist searching for insects by the sea is trapped by local villagers into living with a mysterious woman who spends almost all her time preventing her home from being swallowed up by advancing sand dunes.

Eiji Okada: Entomologist Niki Jumpei

Kyôko Kishida: Woman

Woman in the Dunes (砂の女, Suna no onna?, literally "Sand woman," also translated as Woman of the Dunes) is a novel by Kōbō Abe and a film based on the novel, directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara. The novel was published in 1962, and the film was released in 1964. Kōbō Abe also wrote the screenplay for the film version.

The surreal and artistic natures which reside within Woman in the Dunes has been compared to existentialist works such as Sartre's No Exit and Beckett's Happy Days. Aside from its intriguing premise, this film is notable for the life that Teshigahara brings to the ever-shifting sand, which almost becomes a character in its own right.
There is an almost magical, timeless quality presiding over the whole affair, from start to finish. Entomologist Niki Jumpei, the insect collecting protagonist becomes the vocal point, and prisoner, for the bizarre peoples living in the dunes.
The insect collecting transported me back to my younger days where I would collect insects of my own, especially Elephant Hawk Moths and the metamorphose stage. His character in this film in a way is sort of a cocoon too as he changes with his imprisonment; Niki captures insects,The Villagers capture him.
Every grain of sand invades our minds as well as the characters it constantly tries to drown. Woman in the Dunes myriad of possibility stems from the reality regarding our existence, being one defined with confinement and imprisonment.
This reality would appear to be the epitome upon which Director Hiroshi Teshigahara scratches his creative nails into. The realisation that the cages aspiring to our everyday lives are in fact hidden by the illusion they're not. The sands, the dunes are the representation of time itself. Inescapable, inexcusable, relentless and always we are fighting against it burying us; Just like the Man and Woman trapped in the Dunes by the villagers. This is a symbiotic relation upon which the ''couple'' are needed by the villagers and vice versa.

''It's useless. The sand can swallow up cities and countries, if it wants to.''

The later segments that Woman in the Dunes conveys across to us are ones which address mortality and acceptance. The Man at this point has tried to escape yet is re-captured by the villagers simply because the sandy wilderness is just as inescapable as the Dune he leaves.
The sexual desires fulfilled begin to be an after thought cooked up by the Villagers; Desires blossom into complacency and the desire to escape dies out like the exhausting of a candle.
Kôbô Abe's novel is beautifully captured, while his screenplay elevates the questions and mystery to the complex yet simple storytelling. The discussions and explanations for Woman in the Dunes is certainly infinite bestowing wisdom and higher thought upon audiences and film makers alike. The blue print for existential revelations has come forward in many projects after this mesmerising example of not just art but depth following ambiguity.

The focus of the film shifts to the way in which the couple cope with the oppressiveness of their condition and the power of their physical attraction in spite of — or possibly because of — their situation.
Niki finds new ways to occupy his time and adapt himself to this isolated lifestyle, in essence perhaps brain washed and moulded by his environment and captors, similar to the life he had in the city perhaps. He develops a water collecting technology from damp sand involving crows and a pot he has in the sand. This would be classed, for me, as the part where he accepts his chosen fate by these strange inhabitants whom seem to be moulding them, as they in turn mould the sand. Woman in the Dunes is one to watch over and over while always drawing inspirations from it's storytelling, cinematography with sweeping landscapes, and the living Sand which is another being and character in it's own right. This is a stroke of genius and a firmly established favourite of mine from the first viewing to the tenth, it remains infinitely as rewarding.

''...Men and women are slaves to their fear of being cheated. In turn they dream up new certificates to prove their innocence...''

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Why do you seek death? You have not lived.

Posted : 4 years, 5 months ago on 1 August 2010 04:31 (A review of Faust)

''Wretched Faust, why do you seek death? You have not yet lived!''

God and Satan war over earth; to settle things, they wager on the soul of Faust, a learned and prayerful alchemist...

Gösta Ekman: Faust

Emil Jannings: Mephisto

Faust(German title: Faust - Eine deutsche Volkssage) is a silent film produced in 1926 by UFA, directed by F.W. Murnau, starring Gösta Ekman as Faust, Emil Jannings as Mephisto, Camilla Horn as Gretchen/Marguerite, Frida Richard as her mother, Wilhelm Dieterle as her brother and Yvette Guilbert as Marthe Schwerdtlein, her aunt. Murnau's film draws on older traditions of the legendary tale of Faust as well as on Goethe's classic version. UFA wanted Ludwig Berger to direct Faust, as Murnau was engaged with Variety; Murnau pressured the producer and, backed by Jannings, eventually persuaded Erich Pommer to let him direct the movie.

Director F.W. Murnau is best known for Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, his chilling 1922 vampire film, inspired by Bram Stoker's famous novel.
However, his equally impressive Faust is often overlooked, despite some remarkable visuals, solid acting, a truly sinister villain, and an epic tale of love, loss, good and evil. The story concerns Faust (Gösta Ekman), an old and disheartened alchemist who forms a pact with Satan's evil demon, Mephisto (Emil Jannings). As God and the Devil wage a war over Earth, the two opposing powers reach a tentative agreement: The entire fate of Mankind will rest upon the soul of Faust, who must redeem himself from his selfish deeds before the story is complete.

''Death sets all men free!''

The film contains many memorable images and special effects, intricately woven shades of transparency and darkness. Particularly striking is the sequence in which the giant, horned and black-winged figure of Mephisto (Jannings) hovers over a town sowing the seeds of plague amongst the human inhabitants.
A variation of advanced optical trickery and vibrant wondrous costumes, as well as sets, makes this film an absolute marvel to behold, with Murnau employing every known element – fire, wind, smoke, lightning – to help capture the film's sinister, themes of darkness and desperation. Double exposure, in which a piece of film is exposed twice to two different images, is used extremely effectively, being an integral component in many of the visual effect sequences.

It's often difficult to judge performances in a silent film, but I've certainly revelled in a particularly positive aptitude towards the acting talent presiding over Faust.
It must be stated that the glorious adaptability and layered performance by Gösta Ekman, whose incarnation, given limitless evil control, is transformed from a withered old man to a handsome youth. Despite my impression that two different actors had been used, it seems that Ekman convincingly portrayed both the old and young man, which is a credit to both the actor and Murnau's make-up department (chiefly, Waldemar Jabs). Emil Jannings plays Mephisto with a sort of mysterious slyness, always thinking ahead of the game and always upto michief and menacing interference. The young actress Camilla Horn as Gretchen – the woman with whom Faust falls in love – truly is the picturesque example of tenderness and beauty; Her acting is energetically mirrored by her afixiated innocence and graceful poise.
She certainly shows audiences changeability with some very raw emotions in the scene's final act, when her forbidden romance with Faust sends her life in a downward spiral.

Faust was F.W. Murnau's final film in Germany, his next project being the famous, loved American romance, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans(1927).
At the time, the film was the most expensive ever made by the German studio, UFA (Universum Film AG), though it would be surpassed the following year by Fritz Lang's classic science-fiction epic, Metropolis. Notably, there were five substantially different versions of Faust produced, several of these by the director himself: these include a German original version, a French version, a late German version, a bilingual version for European audiences, and an American cut compiled by Murnau especially for MGM in July 1926. Each of these altered particular scenes and camera angles, and often included material that would be more relevant to the target cultural audience (for example, the US version reportedly contains a joke about the American Prohibition era).

At the beating core of Faust is a tragic romance between Faust and Gretchen. I felt that the scenes when Faust is trying to coax Gretchen into loving him were the more subtle, detailed instances of the story and workings the film had to offer. In fact, Faust at times juggles within itself multiple genres and ways of evolving storytelling to new heights of betterment and wonderment. F.W. Murnau's Faust really is one of the jewels of the 1920s silent horror movement, and surely ahead of it's time.
In fact not many other films or stories following on to present day have managed to capture something so entwined with both film and telling a story.
We probably won't see anything like this again, after the golden age of silent cinema,and it's artistic vein of conveying emotion, titles and moving images. This is unprecedented and unrivalled, withstanding eternity and standing the test of time.

''The Word that wings joyfully throughout the Universe, The Word that appeases every pain and grief, The Word that expiates all human guilt, The Eternal Word...Dost thou not know it?''

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Dreams within dreams...

Posted : 4 years, 6 months ago on 17 July 2010 01:35 (A review of Inception)

''Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.''

In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a single idea within one's mind can be the most dangerous weapon or the most valuable asset.

Leonardo DiCaprio: Cobb

Inception is a 2010 science fiction action film written, produced and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, with a supporting cast that includes Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Tom Berenger, Dileep Rao and Michael Caine.

Dreams have always been brought forth via films, the subconscious mind has been a vocal point and inspiration for many master film makers. Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha, Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and presently Christopher Nolan has been inspired by the greatest and best masters before him.
So for his latest, Nolan brings to our attention Inception; A classy, thrilling sphere of complexity. Nolan has looked at memory, magic, deception and the human psyche and here again he delves even deeper into our imagination.
The story and film is beautifully complex; We have Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb the Extractor - a man who specializes in subconscious security, but steals his clients' ideas. Supporting and members of his team:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur, the Point Man - the person responsible for researching the team's targets.
Ellen Page as Ariadne, the Architect - a college graduate student who constructs the world of the dream.
Tom Hardy as Eames, the Forger - a sharp-tongued team member who impersonates the target within the dream world and forge an identity in a physical form.
Marion Cotillard as Mallorie "Mal" Cobb, the Shade - Cobb's deceased wife, who manifests in the dreamscape beyond Cobb's control.
Cillian Murphy as Robert Fischer, Jr., the Mark - the heir to a business empire and Dom's latest client and target.
Ken Watanabe as Saito, the Tourist - a businessman who employs Cobb.
Tom Berenger as Peter Browning, Robert's godfather.
Dileep Rao as Yusuf, the Chemist - the team member who formulates the drugs needed to enter the dream world.
Pete Postlethwaite as Maurice Fischer, Robert's dying father.
Lukas Haas as Nash, Dom's previous Architect.
Michael Caine as Miles, Cobb's mentor, teacher, and father-in-law, and Ariadne's college professor. Miles is also the guardian of Cobb's children.

Eames: They come here every day to sleep?
Elderly Bald Man: [towards Cobb] No. They come to be woken up. The dream has become their reality. Who are you to say otherwise, son?

Inception shouldn't be classed as being a new age Matrix because it features and divulges intricate originality and ideas in it's own right. The dream within a dream within a dream and the sense of time in dreams becoming increasingly longer than the short span via conscious reality.
A few scenes, including the ending are truly clever in the way that captures ambiguity; Letting us the audience draw our own conclusion. When you finally finish the film your mind has plenty to feed upon.
Who can forget the scene where the unconscious team is in a van while within a 2nd dream?
While the van is in a state of spinning, the corridor is equally spinning in a dizzying array of awe inspiring deftness...This is simply unforgettable. Inception displays a genius spark not often seen in today's regurgitated film stream; Christopher Nolan has yet again proved he is one of the best Directors of this age as he sends forth his dreamy masterpiece.
Leonardo DiCaprio also replicates his success he had with Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island which also had an underlining dream/psychological context. With Inception Leo proves equally adept with Nolan, and undoubtedly has been churning out layered performances which have moulded him into a seasoned actor who retains resonance and poise.

Inception was everything I expected it to be and in some circumstances exceeded expectations intricately.
Witty exchanges of dialogue between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy produce sly grins - ''You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.'' - while the serious issues covered by Leo, Ellen Page and Marion Cotillard elevate the story and acting to higher spheres via implicity.
This is one of the best films this year and I can't see anything rivalling it later. This is one of those films where they will still be talking about it a hundred years later, where people will discuss and debate about what is real and what is dream.
The beauty of Inception is the deception and intelligence of how important an idea is yet the relevance of said idea is not. I could quite happily watch this over and over and still pick up new ideas and see new threads emerge from the puzzling maze that is presented to us.
What else makes Inception glorious as well as the imaginative visuals and story? Hans Zimmer's score. It is one of his best yet and it sends shivers up my spine everytime.
Christopher Nolan is the best at what he does, Inception proves it. The sharp suits, gravity defying antics and twists all combine in a sort of signature move regarding Nolan. This is his baby. No doubt about it.
This will have you pondering, wondering and thinking...Is this real? Is this a dream? Most importantly what is reality? The only answer I believe is one that is open to interpretation. Cleverly, Nolan leaves answers ambiguous while the theme of dreams is defined effortlessly. Our minds are spinning just like the spinning top that closes the film...Is this a dream or real? Be your own person and make your own choices.

''What's the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. Which is why I have to steal it.''

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You're destroying me. You're good for me.

Posted : 4 years, 6 months ago on 16 July 2010 12:45 (A review of Hiroshima mon amour)

''You're destroying me. You're good for me.''

A French young woman has spent the night with a japanese man, at Hiroshima where she went for the shooting of a film about peace. He reminds her of the first man she loved. It was during World War II, and he was a German soldier. The main themes of this film are memory and oblivion.

Emmanuelle Riva: Elle

Hiroshima mon amour is an acclaimed 1959 drama film directed by French film director Alain Resnais, with a screenplay by Marguerite Duras. It is the documentation of an endless conversation between a French-Japanese interracial couple about memory and forgetfulness. It was a major catalyst for the Nouvelle Vague (French New Wave), making highly innovative use of miniature flashbacks, a deflated sense of time, and omniscient narration from multiple characters.
The title literally translates from French to English as Hiroshima, My Love, though the film is almost always referred to by its original French title.

This is an exceptional film, marking Alain Resnais’ debut as a film director, eclipsing a decade where he produced eye-opening short documentaries. Indeed, Hiroshima mon amour started out as a documentary about the reconstruction of Hiroshima, and the first fifteen minutes of the film uses documentary footage to great effect playing upon the audiences empathic nature.
As in many of his subsequent films, Resnais uses his unique approach of weaving memories and actual events, establishing an illusion of ethereal timelessness. Phrases are repeated again and again, to the point they brain wash our own memory banks, to the point the camera pans listlessly along lifeless scenery, and dialogue is played over documentary footage of the rebuilding of Hiroshima. The overall effect leaves a profound impression of regret and self-inflected torment, perfectly captured by Emmanuelle Riva’s emotionally charged performance.
The film's simplicity is belied by the fact that it compares and contrasts the tragedy of Hiroshima with the tragedy of young love. On the surface, the idea that the suffering of a young woman whose lover has died can be compared to the tragedy of 200,000 deaths is a bit of a stretch, to be sure. Although Resnais and screenwriter Marguerite Duras never explicitly compare the two or intersect them. Instead they explore the nature of forgetting and remembering regarding human emotions and memory.
A central theme of the film is the necessity to come to terms with the horrors of the past. Both characters in the film (the actress and the architect) have painful memories of the war, and their liaison seems to represent some kind of rapprochement between East and West. "You are Hiroshima. You are Nevers" is how the film concludes, suggesting that the torment of the Hiroshima disaster, like the painful love affair, will one day be forgotten.
You are the East. I am the West. We are together now.

The beauty and power of the film is driven primarily from the editing, which from the film's first cut, is both brilliant and evocative. In the first 15 minutes Resnais uses a poetic, elliptical editing structure that shuffles black and white images of amorous close-ups, newsreel footage, and reconstructed war footage together to draw us into the theme of memory. After that the editing slows a bit and draws us into the budding romance while still juxtaposing the past and the present in fascinating ways.
The film poses the very simple question, 'How can we forget tragedy?'... Yet it never directly answers that question instead fluttering around the issue with careful precision; It lets the audience decide for themselves the beauty, horror, and reflection regarding memory.
Hiroshima mon amour also deals with contrasts and opposites, such as love and death, war and peace, living and remembering, as well as dealing with two people from different parts of the world: One from France and one from Japan (both of whom in a post-WWII world would have been viewed differently than today). The title too - Hiroshima mon amour - is an oxymoron. It refers duly to the most atrocious bombing of the 20th century and to that of the nature regarding personal love.

Both of the characters in the film have been described by many critics as being symbolic characters who fit into the film's bigger message. However Emmanuelle Riva, in her first starring role, gives such an amazing performance with such delicate and compelling moments that to label her as being merely symbolic is at best unfair. Eiji Okada too gives an effective performance albeit as a strong, brooding, silent type.
Few films leave such a lasting impression as Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour. The stunning photography of contemporary Hiroshima, blended with bleak images of war-time France, is pure art, brought to life by a moving musical score. Whilst lacking the structure of the conventional film form, this film offers an experience that is supremely more satisfying and profoundly moving compared to anything else. Undoubtedly a masterpiece of memory, war, love and most importantly; The importance of a film conveying art and interpretation via the audience's imagination.

''All these years I've been looking for an impossible love.''

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