Friday, 30 December 2011

The Lady

Upon first hearing of the production of The Lady I was struck with excitement. After all, how many living people on this planet are more deserving of the cinematic biopic treatment than Aung San Suu Kyi? With such heavyweight talents as Luc Besson, Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis involved the omens were good that her story would receive the respect and quality befitting of her status as one of the most important freedom fighting figures of her generation. However, the initial critical response seemed to suggest that the finished product has turned out to be a wasted opportunity. With many high profile western critics implying that Besson had delivered a lack lustre and mediocre film that offers little more than a watered down version of The Lady's life. 

With my expectations lowered I was pleasantly surprised to find that Besson may have actually created his finest work so far. While only time will tell whether his latest will continue to delight in the same way as Leon(1994) still does nearly 18 years later, I believe that it will indeed, due to the gravity of the story and the importance that Aung San Suu Kyi has played (and will hopefully continue to play) in the fight for democracy in one of the most oppressive countries in the world.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


 Melancholia by name and absolutely melancholic by nature, the film is a beautiful examination of depression and of that one fate that befalls us all, death. While it is true to say that this is Lars Von Trier's disaster movie this is as far from a Roland Emmerich film as you are going to get. Melancholia opens with nearly 8 minutes of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde Prelude playing over highly stylised slow-motion shots based on famous art and still photography, cutting between shots of the films main players in striking poses and the planet Melancholia's collision with Earth from the vantage point of space.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Red State

Red State (2011) concerns the kidnapping of three high school kids by the religious sect ran by the Cooper family. The Cooper family are described early on as “the people even the Nazi's think are nut jobs”. The kids are taken to the Cooper family home, a heavily barracked church compound. Billed as the first Kevin Smith horror film, this is certainly a departure from his usual fare in many ways, especially aesthetically. Red State is shot on DV and the washed out, dark imagery is a notable contrast to the vibrant colour of many of his previous efforts (Clerks the obvious black and white exception). Smith even shows more comfort in moving his camera, a blistering chase scene through the churches compound during the mid point of the movie is thrilling, showing that Smith may be maturing in terms of his film-making technique. 

The Skin I Live In

 A few days ago I was lucky enough to catch Pedro Almodovar's new outing, The Skin I Live In. For me this is the best film of 2011 so far. A stylish, psycho sexual masterpiece, it is at once an exciting, shocking and very refreshing experience. Pedro's latest is a must see, I would strongly advise to see this in a theatre as this is a prime example of the type of work that cries out for a big screen viewing. The less you know going in the better, as Almodovar proves a master at revealing the films dark heart in the most thrilling fashion. To Whet your appetite read the following at Justin does a great job with this review in raising curiosity without giving away the films many secrets. 


Thursday, 21 July 2011

Shion Sono: The Saviour Of Japanese Cinema?

There have been those recently that have spoken of the decline of modern Japanese cinema over the last few years. At last years Mumbai Film Festival, Takashi Koizumi (assistant director for 20 years to the master himself, Akira Kurosawa) said “contemporary cinema I am sorry to say is not in a good state. I am alarmed by Japanese cinema right now”.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa hasn't made anything since the excellent Tokyo Sonata (2008) and I have failed to find any evidence of any new productions on the horizon. Takeshi Kitano has only torn himself away from TV work once since 2008, and while Outrage (2010) was fun in a nostalgic way it showed little of the brilliance we have come to expect from Kitano. While I will always watch with glee any new Shinya Tsukamoto release, has he really made anything truly vital since, well, Vital (2004)?

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Suspiria The Technicolor Nightmare


Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), arrives in Germany from New York to attend a famous dance school in Freiburg. Mysterious situations abound until Suzy discovers the dark secret at the heart of the dance academy, and that's about it as far as story is concerned. Dario Argento has never been one to pay much attention to story, in his later works this has led to many a narrative muddle. However the basic story here is wholly appropriate, Dario using a simple folkloric tale as a frame for his most pure horror movie. So often technically gifted horror film makers force themselves into a corner by sticking rigorously to narrative structures that have nowhere to go, with Suspiria Argento is only concerned with using the tools of the medium itself to terrify us.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Originality and The Remake Factory

The image above expresses how some of us felt upon hearing of the proposed Spielberg remake of Park Chan-wook's Oldboy (2003). Many breathed a sigh of relief as this remake seemed to be resting for good in development hell, perhaps this modern masterpiece would remain untarnished by a generally unwanted rehash. However, it seems Spike Lee has agreed to take this challenge on, and what a challenge it is. Oldboy was one of the most original and exciting cinematic experiences of its decade, it has since acquired admiration and love from cinema fans around the world. It also played a big part in introducing many of us to the wonders of South Korean cinema, a country that still produces some of the most interesting cinema in the world.

The Tree Of Life

“Talking about dreams is like talking about movies, since the cinema uses the language of dreams; years can pass in a second and you can hop from one place to another. It’s a language made of image. And in the real cinema, every object and every light means something, as in a dream.” - Federico Fellini

Ostensibly a tale of growing up in small town America in the 50s, The Tree of Life shows an adult Jack (Sean Penn) attempting to come to terms with the many events in his past that have shaped his present self, including the death of his brother and his shaky relationship with his father, played by Brad Pitt (who is excellent here) . However this is no Stand By Me. Terrence Malick has no interest in using the adult Jack as a mouthpiece to explain his past and the events shown to us. In fact Malick dispenses with classical narrative techniques altogether, even more so than his previous movies. His mission statement here is not so much to tell a tale, but to explore the concepts of life and death in a cinematic poem.