Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bleu (Kieslowski, 1993)

Julie (Binoche) takes a moment to reflect on her past.

Recommended by Ali

Where has Juliette Binoche been hiding all my cinematic life? She’s a naturally beautiful woman who could pass as Audrey Tautou’s older sister and although her radiance is captivating, the sensitive performance she delivers in this film is even more striking. I am now very curious to seek out other films she has appeared in because this is one talented actress. She carries the entire film on her delicate shoulders with such residual melancholic perseverance. Binoche has this soft, unspoken fragility about her; an almost angelic quality with glowing porcelain skin and bright hazel eyes. Her portrayal of a woman with deep unsettling grief is nothing short of dazzling. The way she bottles up her tormented feelings is gripping to say the least; Binoche’s luminous eyes and pretty face expressively depicting an emotionally scarred individual unable to come to terms with tragedy.

Bleu is the first of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs trilogy followed by Blanc and Rouge which represent the three colors of the French national flag. The color blue itself is strongly used as a form of symbolism throughout the film whether it through lighting, lens flares and even as an editing tool to transition scenes which reminded me of Bergman’s use of the color red in Cries and Whispers. Viewed as an allegory, the narrative of Bleu represents liberty; a word possessing several definitions depending on the context. What exactly is Kieslowski trying to say about the liberties of human individualism? Is he talking about liberty in a political sense or is it strictly personal? You decide.

Classical music plays an integral role on both the narrative and aesthetic level. Julie (Binoche) is the wife of a famous composer and is also a professional musician. After losing her young daughter and husband in a tragic car accident, she feels that the only rational thing to do now in order to deal with the grief is to run away to start a new life. The pain is just too great and Julie wants to isolate herself as far away from society as possible. Leaving the past behind is not a healthy way of coping with calamity especially when those withdrawn feelings have a nasty habit of finding their way back to the surface. The story is rather trite and simple in structure but the themes are richly conceptualized. Kieslowski is more interested in focusing on Julie’s internal struggles and the creation of mood.

One of the ways he lucratively explores these two various aspects is with the use of music in an unorthodox fashion. In the traditional sense, the score of a film is usually edited seamlessly to compliment the images but in this film, Kieslowski deliberately draws attention to the way in which music affects audience perception. He does use it for continuity purposes to create mood but often edits it isolated away from the story-action as a way of communicating Julie’s state of consciousness or to audibly convey her feelings at a specific time. As a predominantly quiet film with characters speaking in hushed voices, the random insertion of a forceful classical piece of music can be slightly jarring. There are also several scenes of Binoche trying to work something out in her head when all of a sudden there is a quick fade to black -- possibly suggesting a state of un-consciousness as the beautiful melodies strike up to powerful crescendos.

Calmly observant, Kieslowski’s style of filmmaking is relatively tame but ironically enough, completely mesmerizing. His camera techniques and use of color are alluring in an absorbing kind of way making it difficult to turn away from the screen. His camera remains mostly static as if patiently waiting to capture the perfect moment. His affection for Binoche is apparent in the way he uses many close-up shots of her beautiful face (hell, if I was making a movie with her, I’d use nothing but close-up shots). There are also several extreme close-up shots of her eyes where you can actually see the dilated pupils. It’s almost as if Kieslowski is trying to pierce directly into his protagonist’s soul to release her from the aching burden that haunts her.

Ending the film with a biblical proverb set to operatic vocals seems very fitting and brings the film’s themes full circle. Perhaps it all comes together a little too neatly but that’s hardly an imperfection. The final image is bittersweet and will no doubt leave a lasting impression. It is just simply beautiful. This is a near flawless film that is subversive in its artistic approach of narrative as well as showcasing one of the best female performances of the 90’s. Bravo.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Lemonz Presents: The Top 80 films I Haven't Seen Yet!

Ccompiling arbitrary lists especially revoling around films is an amusing obsession of mine and it's about time I started posted some of these. Before we get started, let me acknowledge that I am borrowing this idea from Shannon the Movie Moxie and it would only be fitting if I didn't pimp her cool film blog. Check it out.

This list will be a helpful way of prioritizing films that I have embarassingly neglected to see for one reason or another. I will also be taking a total of 30 recommendations from you kind readers so if there are films that you deem to be "essential viewing" that has not appeared on my list, feel free to use the comment box to let me know your suggested proposals. My goal is to watch all these films within one year's time and to provide a review (no matter how short, for each one). The worse case scenario being I will just have to fill in the remaining gaps if there aren't enough recommendations from you folk, so I urge you to please send your favorite film titles my way. I will list 30 films to start (in no particular order) and hopefully with your involvement, I can reach my goal of 60. Depending on the number of responses I may expand the list so it all depends on you generous people.

Edit: I apologize for not providing a general idea of films I am in dire need of viewing. Here's a few directors that I need to see more work from: Kurosawa (seen only 1 of his), Bergman, Bresson (Seen nothing), Rohmer (Seen nothing), Sirk (Seen nothing), Ozu (Seen nothing), Altman, Antonioni (Seen nothing), Fellini, Hal Hartley (Seen Nothing), Almodovar, Errol Morris (Seen nothing), Melville (Seen nothing), Kieslowski (Seen nothing), Cronenberg, Fueller (Seen nothing), I'm a big fan of romances (go ahead, laugh) and take a particular liking to costume dramas/period pieces. The horror, kung-fu and musical genre are fair game because I have seen very little of these type of films. Thanks again!

1. Paris, Texas
2. Rebel Without a Cause
3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
4. Last Temptation of Christ
5. Spirit of the Beehive
6. Seven Samurai
7. Ikiru
8. Persona
9. All About Eve
10. The Sweet Smell of Success
11. Lawrence of Arabia
12. Gone With the Wind
13. M
14. Sherlock, Jr.
15. A Streetcar Named Desire
16. It Happened One Night
17. Bridge on the River Kwai
18. Midnight Cowboy
19. Rashomon
20. Metropolis
21. Rosemary’s Baby
22. In A Lonely Place
23. Blue Velvet
24. The Insider
25. The Battle of Algiers
26. The Third Man
27. Halloween
28. Five Easy Pieces
29. McCabe and Mrs. Miller
30. Pleasantville
31. Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Recommended by Justine)
32. To Be or Not to Be (Recommended by Justine)
33. Portrait of Jennie (Recommended by Justine)

34. Wit (Recommended by Krissie)
35. The Blue Angel (Recommended by Mango)
36. The Man with the Movie Camera (Recommended by Mango)
37. Chimes at Midnight (Recommended by Mango)
38. The Seventh Seal (Recommended by Shannon)
39. La Strada (Recommended by Shannon)
40. Three Women (Recommended by Ali)

41. Apu Trilogy (Recommended by Ali)
42. Diary of a Country Priest (Recommended by Ali)
43. Blue (Recommended by Ali)
44. White (Recommended by Ali)
45. Red (Recommended by Ali)
46. Autumn Sonata (Recommended by Ali)
47. Wages of Fear (Recommended by Ramses)
48. Gosford Park (Recommended by Krissie)
49. Wild Strawberries (Recommended by RC)
50. In America (Recommended by RC)
51. Talk to Her (Recommended by The Metalhead)
52. F For Fake (Recommended by The Metalhead)
53. Wings of Desire (Recommended by The Metalhead)
54. Oasis (Recommended by JediMoonShyne)
55. Memories of Murder (Recommended by JediMoonShyne)
56. The Host (Recommended by JediMoonShyne)
57. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring (Recommended by JediMoonShyne)
58. Brazil (Recommended by DJ Rkod)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Capsule Reviews: Waiting for Guffman (Guest, 1997), MirrorMask (McKean, 2005), A Bittersweet Life (Kim, 2005)

"Well, then, I just HATE you... and I hate your... ass... FACE!"

The "mockumentary" is not a genre that I am particulary aversed to. Christopher Guest has created a reputatation for himself over the years by embracing this style of filmmaking and Waiting for Guffman was my first exposure to his work. Full of colorful characters, spot-on-humor and even its short run time (84 minutes), offers up more laughs than most mainstream comedies released today could ever dream of. It takes a certain level of creative finesse to make a successful mockumentary because one mistep could potentially lead to the downfall of the film. To be more specific, by crafting a fictionalized story within the confines of a documentary format requires that the film be grounded in a believable reality so the audience can take it seriously without straying into farce. Christopher Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy have done just that without being condescending to their characters who could have have become a parody of themselves. Even though this is a comedy, Waiting for Guffman remins genuinely heart-felt despite all the hilarious shenanigans with real characters who very well could exist in this small American town. With a witty and hilarious script crackling with spontaneous moments of comedic bliss, this is a fresh, funny little film for those looking for something different than your typical run-of-the-mill comedy.
[*** 1/2]

MirrorMask (McKean, 2005)
Imagine if Tim Burton directed Alice in Wonderland on acid and you get the idea of what your in store for. With a modern twist on the popular fairy-tale, McKean and writer Neil Gaimen craft a gothic fantasy of a young girl named Helena who finds herself stuck in an alternative universe where everyone including abnormal creatures that seem straight out of a Nightmare Before Christmas wear ominous masks. Much like Alice, she wants to find her way home and bumps into a wild bunch of eccentric characters along the way such as the fast-talking Jester named Valentine who becomes a close ally and helps her to carry out an important task that threatens the very balance of this new world. The further she travels, the weirder the inhabitants and places become. Unfortunately, the story is hollow and confusing with too much time devoted to the haunting, creative visuals which is what essentially keeps the film interesting.

A Bittersweet Life (Kim, 2005)
I want my two hours back. A silly revenge tale of style over substance with good intentions that starts off strong and then dwindles into stupidity soon after. Fans of Oldboy should get a kick out of this violent chaotic film that tries too hard to be cool with something important to say about the gangster lifestyle only to be nothing more than an empty bloody affair. The action is entertaining enough with a great score that is used effectively. Too bad the story is laughably idiotic with an ending that doesn't feel warranted.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999)

Few director's have been able to match the successful creative output of Stanley Kubrick and as his final film before passing away, it is safe to say that Eyes Wide Shut was a perfect swan-song from one of Cinema's greatest filmmakers. On a technical level, the film is just brilliant but the story itself which unfolds as a nightmare of sexual awakening is emotionally gripping as a slow-burning portrayal of one man's struggle to come to terms with his wife's devastating confession. The narrative is a sexual odysey of sorts incorporating elements of an erotic thriller full of fantasy, illusions, conspiracies and dreams with a sucker-punch of an ending that
leaves plenty to think about.

Kubrick's masterful directing abilities are on full display and the way he frames each and every scene is truely remarkable. He has such a keen eye for maximizing space with particular emphasis on specific lighting techniques in order to set the appropriate tone of his scenes. I also love Kubrick's long tracking shots and appreciate the way he takes such painful effort to make sure that the each scene is meticulously crafted to serve its given purpose. Much of the film takes on certain dreamlike qualities through Kubrick's absorbing visuals that mesmerize and stimulate the senses.

Both Cruise and Kidman deliver outstanding performances and even the supporting players like Sydney Pollack bring their A-game. I actually think Tom Cruise delivers the strongest perfromance of his career. For all those naysayers who think he's nothing but a talentless actor and merely a pretty boy obviously haven't seen this film. He shows plenty of restraint in his solemn demanor to effectively convey a sexually frustrated individual who finds himself in a compromising predicament (which I dare not reaveal here) brought on by his own misunderstanding to satisfy the sexual and emotional desires of his wife. Cruise understands his character thoroughly and it clearly shows even when there isn't any dialogue being spoken. The intensity of his facial expressions and the way he handles key melodramatic moments in the film are handled compellingly.

Flawless in execution with enticing visuals, packing powerful performances and a bizarre seductive plot-line; this is the type of sensual and affecting story that seems like an anomaly from all the dreck that comes out of Hollywood these days. Moreso, it proves how talented Sanley Kubrick really was as a director, inspiring a new generation of filmmakers. He was a true auteur whose prescence is severely missed.

[**** (M)]

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ocean's Eleven (Soderbergh, 2001)

Finally got around to watching this film all the way through and even though the ending had already been semi-spoiled for me (caught glimpses of it on tv several times), I still had a blast. Not a dull moment and Soderbergh directs his crime-caper in such a way that it exudes cool in every frame. It doesn't try to be anything more than an entertaining heist film which it manages to deliver in a rewarding fashion.

With such a large cast of actors, it was surprising how everyone involved managed to make the best of their precious screen-time. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) has just been released from prison for robbery and quickly feels the need to put together another heist into action as a way to chase away his guilt for getting caught last time. He meets up with his old crime buddy Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and pitches him the idea. How can Ryan back down when the jackpot is $150 million if the robbery is successful? Knowing full well that they are going to need more people than the two of them, they persuade 9 other con-men/tech wizards to try and pull off one of the most daring heist jobs ever: To rob not one, but three Las Vegas Casino's owned by the cold-hearted Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) in one night. If that wasn't enough, these particular casino's have some of the most tightest security measures set in place making it that much more difficult to breach for the crew. The task at hand seems next to impossible with cameras everywhere, DNA passcodes from employees needed to enter certain restricted areas, advanced motion detectors, secuirty guards with heavy weaponry and not to mention: the access codes to the vaults change every two hours. Yikes! Talk about an impossible task. To complicate matters further, Danny Ocean's ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts) happens to be a curator for Benedict's casinos and this conflict of interest threatens to jepordize the sting operation. The whole relationship angle isn't clunky and actually services the story.

Though it is fairly obvious that the film can only end one way, the outcome is cleverly executed that may even surprise some of the more skeptical of viewers. Ocean's Eleven is a harmless Hollywood affair that is quite amusing if one is willing to go along with it. Big names, high stakes, great entertainment. What more could you ask for?


Hard Candy (Slade, 2005)

Pulsating with a hypnotic visual style, David Slade's directorial debut is a fascinating psychological thriller that is difficult to shake off and demands discussion afterwards. Revolving pre-dominately around two main characters, a film like Hard Candy lives or dies based on its two lead performances because it is so self-contained. Luckily, Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson are outstanding here. They both accomplish to portray deeply flawed individuals on such a humanistic level which is important for a film of this nature which attempts to achieve a sense of realism.

Without spoiling too much of the plot, I'd just like to point out the general set-up that Slade and writer Brian Nelson have prudently crafted. Haley Stark (Page) is a bright and articulate 14 year old girl and Jeff Kohlver (Wilson) is a photographer in his early thirties who meet in an internet chat room. They decide to meet face-to-face at a local coffee house and from the first couple of scenes there is something disturbing about this situation. Right away they seem to form a connection whilst engaging in conversation about normal stuff like food, literature, music, movies. Brian Nelson has a real knack for dialogue and it flows naturally with a great sense of palpability. After having a good-time drinking coffee lattes and eating desert, they both decide to take a ride to Jeff's house. Ok, now it seems pretty obvious where the film is heading. A cute young girl gets into a car with a total stranger who takes her to his house because she is interested in viewing his photography. This can only lead to more serious consequences for Haley who is now in the domain of a potential sexual predator, right? Wrong. The film refuses to deal with the delicative subject matter of pedophilia in a predictable way and there is a clever twist that allows the filmmakers to flex their creative muscles.

A visceral film dripping with atmosphere, Slant employs a lot of detail towards lighting to emphasize the sense of space, mood and character expressions. There are plenty of close-up shots and he makes sure that the lighting is just right to capture the facial expessions of his characters to the fullest extent. Every twitch of emotion on the face is capatured beautifully. There's a scene where Jeff stoically breaks down with a small tear trickling down his cheek and Slades manages to frame the shot expertly using the lighting to vividly portray this raw emotional force. Many of the shots inside the house (the pre-dominant setting) take on a slightly darker tone with little shades of sprinkled sunlight seaping in through the closed blinds. It's an effective stylistic choice because once again, it adds an even more sense of verisimilitude.

Utterly absorbing in its creation of tension, Slant places the viewer at the voyeruistic forefront of this intense scenario. Uncompromisingly sadistic, some scenes are not for that faint hearted. Disturbing and a little over the top but the violence works within the context of the story.

Despite its complexities, the film is rather sublte in approach. Not a lot of questions are answered and there is plenty of room for interpretation. Slade does an excellent job of not taking taking sides or presenting everything in black-and-white which I thought was admirable. He leaves it up to the viewer to form their own conclusions about what is being presented. Essentially, Hard Candy is an intense character study about identity, moral ambiguity and revenge although, one could argue that it isn't necessarily about any of those things at all.

Not enough can be said about Ellen Page's brilliant performance. Sure, Patrick Wilson is fantastic here but she completely steals the show. Page makes this challenging role seem like a piece of cake. I haven't seen her in anything else but if this film is any indication of her acting abilities, she definitely has a bright future ahead of her. At the beginning of the film she is calm, collected and plays it very sweet with a hint of charm. At the pivtoal turning point in the film there is a full reversal and we get to see a whole different side of the character where Page really stretches her acting abilities. Much like Haley, Ellen Page does seem quite mature for her age Even if the subject matter turns you away, this film is worth a viewing for Ellen Page's performance alone which stands as one of the strongest of 2005.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction (Foster, 2006)

It's so refreshing to see a romantic comedy with a unique vision that offers much more than your typcial cliche genre conventions. Featuring one of the most clever premises in recent memory, Marc Foster has crafted a warm love story wrapped in a plethora of creative ideas. Not only does this film showcase Will Ferrell's best performance in a role that is unlike anything he has ever tackled before but also proves to the movie-going public that he can handle more dramatic material convincingly. I was skeptical at first as to whether Will Ferrell would be able to restrain himself as an actor but it didn't take long to realize that he can actually give Carrey or Sandler a run for their money in a serious role. He's able to portray such a sympathetic character and it's astonishing how a great script can transform an actor.

The film has a very unique narrative in that it is a story within a story, within a story (if that makes any sense) and similar to Kaufman's Adaptation, it's explores the difficulties of the writing process. However, it differs by focusing much more of its attention on the fictional characters created by the author. Or more specifically, the protagonist of the fictional work. Harold Crick (Ferrell) is an IRS agent who lives a very lonely and routine life who is unaware that his every move is being dictated by a higher power. No, not God (although one can make that distinction); but a female author (played by Emma Thompson). Being the fictional character in a story that she is writing about, he starts to hear her narrating his life in his head and panics like anyone in this particular situation would. In the mean time, he becomes smitten with a beautiful tatooed baker named Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) with an attitude problem since he is in investigating her tax reports. She initially gives him the cold shoulder for being an auditor but even she can't resist his good nature and begins to fall for him. Gyllenhaal has a certain sweetness about her that is infectious and she is just so darn likeable here.

There's a real sense of pathos here stemming from these wonderfully drawn characters. Without giving much more of the plot away, the film unfolds in an unpredictable fashion as Crick discovers to finally live for the first time in his life once the barriers within his constrained universe begins to crumble. Even though the last act didn't particularly work for me because of its contradictory nature (which I am coming around to appreciating the more I dwell on it), the film was still a fascinating character study and the contrast between fiction and real-life is handled magnificently. I took a particular liking to the use of religious parables but that is only one interpretation that the film offers. There's much going on beneath the surface and audiences can take so many different things away from it. Simply put, an astounding film that I can see returning to in the near future.


A Change in My Rating Scale

Shocking, I know. For the longest while I have been using the the 1-10 grading scale which has worked like a charm but I will now be using the four-star systematic rating scale. Why the the sudden switch you ask? Three simple reasons: 1) More accurate. 2) Makes it easier to organize film ratings in a massive database that I am slowly working on. 3) Worth a try.

If you take a quick glance to right side of the blog there is an explaination of my new rating scale that I will be using from now on. Sorry for the inconveinance.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

They Live (Carpenter, 1988)

10 Reasons Why You Need to Watch They Live:

10. It's fuckin' hilarious.

9. Clever social/politcal satire.

8. Horrid acting.

7. Roddy Piper gets thrown out of a glass window apartment complex high above ground level only to walk away with a limp.

6. Roddy Piper walks into a bank with a shotgun and goes ape shit.

5. Pure 80's cheese.

4. It stars the awesome Rowdy Roddy Piper.

3. Special sunglasses reveal the true society people are living in which happens to be controlled by hideous creatures from another planet using capitalist propoganda to brainwash everyone. How cool is that premise?

2. Roddy Piper and Kieth David beat the shit out of each other in an alley in one of the greatest fight scenes ever.

1. "I have come here to chew bubblegum or kick ass, and I'm all out of bubblegum." Best. Line. Ever.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Happy Accidents (Anderson, 2000)

What's with the commen trend of filmmakers having the last name Anderson? It just so happens that two of my favorite modern directors go by the same last name. With the discovery of this underseen gem by Brad Anderson, it is possible that he could potentially join them (I like to pretend that Paul W.S. Anderson never existed) to form a unified trio of talented young American directors with a creative voice all sharing that particular surname.

I love stumbling across underseen gems like Happy Accidents that received little attention when it was released and seems to have been swept under the rug to the point of obscurity. That's a shame because here we have one of the best written, acted and affecting romances of 2000. Part comedy, drama and even a little Science Fiction, Anderson brings a level of freshness to a genre bogged down by cliches and has crafted something truely original. The film follows the highs and lows of a strange relationship between an emotionally fragile ESL teacher named Ruby (the gorgeous Marisa Tomei) and an eccentric man named Sam (Vincent D'Onofrio) who claims to be a time traveler. With such an absurd premise, one would expect the film to crumble under the weight of it's on idiosyncracies. This is not the case. Anderson presents us with a refreshing romance full of whimsy and true human emotions between two individuals both searching for that special kind of connection that will bring some sort of satisfactory meaning to their otherwise messy lives. As banal as that may sound, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Anderson skillfully uses this cliched basic set-up to launch into a more detailed analysis of a disintegrating relationship and at the same time cleverly explore the fascinating concept of time travel. I'd classify this film in a similar categroy as Charlie Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind which contains sci-fi elements but is more of a poignant love story. There are no special effects used here and the film is completely character driven relying more on dialogue and personal interactions to express it's themes and meditation on relationships. The script is wonderfully written filled with natural dialogue, witty banter, along with plenty of technical jargon and philosophical debates concerning various aspects of traveling through time.

Tomei and D'Onofrio have great chemistry and it's a pure delight to watch them bring such genuine emotion and intellectualism to their roles. While I found D'Onofrio to be charming in his quirky sort of way, it is Marisa Tomei who truely shines as the vulnerable Ruby. Her insecurity, naivity and one too many heart-breaks have left her in complete distress. She would like nothing more for this relationship with Sam to work out in the end. Unfortunately, he complicates matters and still she can't help but love him despite the constant embarassments in order to avoid the harsh reality of being alone. Ruby spends most of her time trying to figure out of Sam is telling the truth or is just making up his elaborately detailed story just so he can sleep with her. She finds herself breaking down into tears through frustration and even goes beserk at times when she can no longer handle Sam's irrational behaviour. Tomei is totally convincing in these dramatic scenes and she's beautiful and charming enough to cheer on despite her flaws.

The main strength of this film comes from the strong emotionally complex performances from the two leads and Anderson's clever script that deals with far more than just two people falling in love. By putting a spin on the idea of coincidence and fate through a sophisticted plot of time travel, Anderson somehow manages to tie up all the loose threads in a pitch-perfect ending which is a testament it his creative writing abilities. A true rarity that begs to be seen.


Road to Perdition (Mendes, 2002)

With his stunning debut American Beauty, Sam Mendes burst onto the Hollywood scene much to the surprise of many and proved that he was a fresh new talent with a bright future ahead of him. With his second film Road to Perdition he proves that his over-night sensation was no fluke. Here we have a director who embraces the craft of story-telling with a striking visual palette. Even though his depression-era gangster film treads familiar ground, his creative sensabilities as a story-teller come across with striking veracity. As a quiet film that takes it's time to establish the characters, the narrative hurls along at a steady pace and remains fascinating throughout.

Much of Sam Mendes' sophmore effort owes much of its success to the fabulous score by Thomas Newman which swells and chimes with such passionate grace and of course, the awe-inspiring cinematography by the late Conrad L. Hall.

Brilliantly composed without becoming too overbearing, this is one of those memorable scores that perfectly compliments the story-action by adding another layer of poeticism. Mendes does a commendable job of not falling prviy to over-dramatization by using the score in a bombastic fashion. Instead, he finds the right balance of subtlety and uses Newman's beautiful music to set the tone of the scenes.

Road to Perdition is also cinematographer's wet dream. This was the last film Conrad Hall worked on before passing away and it safe to say he went out in a blaze of glory. The use of dark lighting is mighty impressive along with the entire look of the film which is highlighted mostly in shadows. Many scenes take place in heavy rain-fall where Mendes and Hall are able to frame some of he most visually stunning sequences in recent memory. The final show down near the end of the film that takes place in a serious down-pour is destined to become one of those iconic scenes that filmgoers will admire for years to come. The way Mendes meticulously structures the unfolding of the climactic gun-battle along with Hall's keen eye for establishing atmosphere is so beautiful executed that mere description cannot do it justice.

As visually stunning as Road to Perdition is, the wonderfully told story of revenge and the love between father and son don't get lost amidst all of the vivid imagery. The film does contain plenty of stylized violence but it doesn't take center stage. The heart of the story is between the relationship between a professional hit-man named Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) and his son Michael Jr (Tyler Hoechlin). The supoorting cast are also superb including the always magnificent Paul Newman, Jude Law, Daniel Craig, Jennfier Jason Leigh and Dylan Baker. Most surprising to me was the talent of the young actor Tyler Hoechlin who is able to convey a wide range of emotions and actually brings a level of depth to his character without falling into the stereotypical role of the obnoxious older son vying for the father's love.

Standing out from the pack of countless gangster films because of the emphasis on an actual story and not just the body count, Road to Perdition is able to achieve a level of greatness that few within the genre are able to reach. It accepts the violent nature of the ganster picture without sacrificing narrative and thus, remains thoroughly entertaining along with being quite moving. This is just remarkable filmmaking of the highest order.


Sunday, August 5, 2007

August Screening Log

05/08: Harold and Maude (Ashby, 1971) - 8.0 [2nd]
06/08: Road to Perdition (Mendes, 2002) - 9.5
06/08: Happy Accidents (Anderson, 2000) - 9.0
06/08: They Live (Carpenter, 1988) - :P
07/08: The Dreamers (Bertolucci, 2003) - 6.0
07/08: Stroszek (Herzog, 1977) - 9.0
08/08: The Iron Giant (Bird, 1999) - 10.0
11/08: Almost Famous (Crowe, 2000) - [***1/2]
11/08: Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999) - [**** (M)]
13/08: Waiting for Guffman (Guest, 1997) - [***1/2]
13/08: A Bittersweet Life (Kim, 2005) - [**]
14/08: American Splendor (Berman/Pulcini, 2003) - [****]
20/08: Bleu (Kieslowski, 1993) - [*** 1/2]
21/08: McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Altman, 1971) - [***]

Sorry for the lack of updates but...

I've been slaving away at my dead-end job and now that my boss is going away on vacation the hours have been piling up. Huzzah! The closest I actually came to watching a film was last night with City of Lost Children. Unfortunately, exhaustion quickly set in from working all morning and I could barely keep my eyes open. From the small amount that I actually got to watch before stumbling upstairs to bed was fantastic. Can't wait to get around to finishing it. I did manage to do a little more blind-DVD shopping and welcome the following to my collection:

1. Spoorloos (The Vanishing)
2. Black Snake Moan
3. Dead Ringers
4. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

I'm broke.