February 9, 2010

Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998)

Rating: 6.5/10

Malick lines up quite the roster for this Guadalcanal diary: Nick Nolte, Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, John Travolta, George Clooney, Woody Harrelson and many others. The star power bogs this film down a bit. [Compared to a film like Herzog's "Rescue Dawn" which has similar pacing and less star power (no names other than Christian Bale and this was before the Batman hype).] So we've got a batch of soldiers trying to get up a very grassy hill. Fighting against an unseen enemy much of the time. The real enemy being their own mental and emotional demons which incite a lack of drive and a struggle to push onward. The script is wonderful...very Malick. And the sweeping low angle shots help you to feel like you're down in the dirt with these men.

February 5, 2010

Üç maymun /Three Monkeys (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2008)

This is a powerful film on many fronts. The screenplay, written by Ceylan and his wife, is wonderful. Ercan Kesal, who plays the politician, is a doctor in real life and friend who also collaborated on the script. The characters are hard. Very real. Gökhan Tiryaki's cinematography is phenomenal. Every shot constructed and framed just so. The color tone of the film stock helps to set the stage and emotion. As the characters fall into a life based on lies and swindling; their mental, physical and emotional states crumble. We see this acted out and portrayed on the screen.

Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (Bahr/Hickenlooper/Coppola, 1991)

"Heart of Darkness" is a fantastic documentary @ the making of "Apocalypse Now." It struck deep when I watched it in '91; it still hit hard was I watched the DVD tonight. Highly recommend this filmic testimony to Coppola's own life transformation during the making of this now legendary film. The documentary is created in part with footage shot by Eleanor Coppola. Strains from a recording of Orson Welles reading the radioplay "Heart of Darkness" echo throughout. But the story of how the film was made is as captivating, maybe even more riveting than the film that emerged out of all of this. [Similar in some respects to Les Blanks "Burden of Dreams" about Werner Herzog's shooting of "Fitzcarraldo."]

February 3, 2010

Jarhead (Sam Mendes, 2005)

Certainly the film skews a bit to the left. But it asks some questions which are right. Military service, even minus a war, takes an emotional toll on all who are enlisted. There is a mindset that comes into play with each of our soldiers. The goal is to be engaged--thrust into the heart of theatrical combat. In the case of this movie, the soldiers are thrust into the heart of war but never given a chance to fight. The film likens this to having a girlfriend, but being unable to consummate the relationship with her. These men are sex starved and turn to typical male perversions to get by. Similarly they long to engage in the violence of war. They are even brought to the front lines. But are denied the opportunity to "get in bed" so to speak with the enemy.