July 13, 2016

What Are You Afraid Of? A Review of "It Follows" (2014)

It Follows 
(David Robert Mitchell, 2014)

There are several movies in recent years that are masterfully crafted and extremely disturbing at the same time. They do not fit standard genre formulas so it is hard to lock them into the mold of drama, art, action or horror. Films that come to mind include Donny Darko, Dogtooth, Upstream Color, Under the Skin and It Follows.

These are movies that you have to pay attention to. The characters often suck you in. You begin to care for them. You persevere with them. Your fear for them. In all of these films the audience witnesses acts that would normally be disturbing. But...somehow in the context of these films we grin and bare these sites.

It Follows plays off of fear. What we are afraid of may, indeed, be following us. It plays of of a literal manifestation of fear. And ultimately that fear leaps from us and into the minds and lives of others. Fear not only follows us, but can be passed along to others. Not unlike an STD.

I liked this movie exactly because it was not formulaic. The characters seemed real. Like teenagers in my neighborhood. It's not a freak out film. It's not a monster under the bed film. It's about slow, creeping fear that begins to take hold of all who buy into it.

(8/10: MH)

July 9, 2016

The Walk (2015)

The Walk (2015)

The story of Philippe Petit's high wire walk between the World Trade towers is fascinating to say the least. While best captured in the documentary "Man on a Wire" - the recent Hollywood release "The Walk" offers additional insights into this fascinating feat.

Arguably, the best portrayal of Philippe Petit's story is in the James Marsh documentary Man on a Wire - which was inspired by Petit's book "To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers" (recently retitled "The Walk" to fit with the Hollywood release).

Robert Zemekis' adaptation The Walk still makes for compelling cinema - I sat throught the entire movie.

Zemekis' focus is more on Petit, whereas the true stars of the documentary are the two towers.

Where Zemekis' focuses on the war that wages within the self; Marsh's documentary was about a challenge by an inanimate competitor that Petit' felt compelled to meet.

Where Zemekis' attempts to instill some connection with Petit and his friends; Marsh sets us up for the big showdown: first showing us Petit's strengths and accomplishments; then presenting a documentary-within-a-documentary on the building of the World Trade Center buildings.

I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And he is almost believable as Petit - faux French accent and all. Overall, however, the Hollywood adaptation feels like 20-somethings playing dress-up. Compare with the documentary where we view real film reals and photos of the real gang.

In someways The Walk augments Man on a Wire. It gives us insights into characters, where the documentary focuses on the significance of events. The documentary brings to mind remenbrances of 9-11 and thus takes on additional significance.

The Walk (2015) [6/10 stars]
Man on a Wire (2008) [9/10 stars]

January 22, 2016

Angel-A (Luc Besson, 2005)

Luc Besson has a certain sentimentality and sense of humor that sneaks into many of his films from Le Dernier Combat to La Femme Nikita to Leon to Lucy. It's not something that's easy to put into words, but there's definitely an atmosphere, a universe in which Besson dwells. And in his films he transports us to this universe as well. So then one has to imagine, what if Luc Besson remade Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life (man disappointed with how his life has gone decides to jump off a bridge but his attempt is interrupted by an angel who helps him see the good within himself); but in order to play up the presence of the angel he made it a woman and blended in elements of Wim Wender's Wings of Desire (angels are sent to keep tabs on humans and every once in a while one desires to experience life in the flesh). That he shot this film in black-and-white could support either of those claims. While on the surface it borrows elements from both of those films; at its heart it is very different. Here we have Andre, who has gotten himself neck-deep in debt to the mob in Paris; he decides the only escape is to end his life. Enter Angela, who at first seems destitute herself, but there's something about her that's just too good. The film moves at a steady pace revealing more and more about each character as we go. Beautifully shot on the streets of Paris, it is a film where the city is an unspoken character in the play.

January 17, 2016

ElTopo (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970)

I have now seen a few of Jodorowsky films (El Topo, The Dance of Reality, El Topo) along with the documentary Jodorowsky's Dune. He is certainly an interesting person. I'd classify him as an auteur - as there is a singular vision that is clearly impressed upon each of his films. Most recent on my viewing list was El Topo - which is cited as being the first midnight cult film. I believe John Lennon and Yoko Ono introduced the film as it began a one year run at a NYC art house.

It is a western like no other Western - think High Plains Drifter meets 8 1/2. There are always children in Jodorowsky's films (at least the three films I've seen to date). And his films tend to be family affairs with his sons making appearances, in this case: Alejandro Jodorowsky plays the lead, El Topo; his son Brontis play the boy, Hijo.

As far as plot goes. There are two key sections in this film. The first is about El Topos journey/spiritual quest which pits him against numerous bandits - and ultimately the four masters of the desert. He ultimately ends up in the hands of lepers/outcasts. The second story is about a man who finds himself in the company of lepers/outcasts and helps them to escape their plight.

Under the hood Jodorowsky plumbs psychological, philosophical and pseudo-theological questions. On the surface there is plenty of sex, gun-slinging, and lots of thick red blood.

If your a fan of Fellini, David Lynch and Clint Eastwood; then you may also appreciate Jodorowsky. He is certainly an acquired taste. And I think I'm starting to acquire it.

January 15, 2012

Diva (Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1981)

Some films are like old friends. "Diva," for me, is one of those. I first saw this film in the mid-1980s as a young teen. Before watching this film I would have told you there were two styles of music I didn't like...country and opera; after watching this it was just country (and then once I got a bit of Hank and Patsy in me, I had to admit there was some country I could stand as well). "Diva" is every teenage boys dream. To meet the woman in your dreams and give her that which she desires. To live a life of adventure and intrigue. Certainly not what you'd expect from the life of a moped delivery boy. Interesting to watch this film today when cassette, reel-to-reel, vinyl recordings are nearly obsolete. When everyone is carrying a hi-quality recording device in their pocket. But nonetheless, 20 years later this film still retains its charm. I watched it most recently with my 16-year-old son. He too enjoyed the film. It was fun to catch Dominique Pinon, who we'd just watched recently in Delicatessen, Micmacs and The Oxford Murders). I also love Richard Bohringer and Thuy An Luu as the savior and his angel who come to our main character Jules' (Frederic Andrei) aid. I used to dream about having a warehouse with a great stereo and a steel clawed tub.

Rating: 7/10

To think ask of this flm: What does this film tell us about our modern-day selves? How much have we changed in 20 years? What's your take on Cynthia Hawkins? What qualities does she represent in the film? What about Jules (Andrei)? Alba (Luu)? Gorodish (Bohringer)? How might this film look if remade today?