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Τετάρτη, 16 Μαρτίου 2016

The Lobster (2015)




Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writers: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
With: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman, Ben Whishaw
Duration: 118'
Production: Ireland | UK | Greece | France | Netherlands | USA

People tend to call "weird" what they cannot understand, what they fail to fit into their structured perceptions. Many might have introduced this film to you as the "strangest" they have watched and critics might have written about how absurd and unique it is. Very few people will actually tell you what the film is really about, because very few people will manage to put aside their cinematic conventions and dive into this world. 

The Lobster is more than a strange film; it is pure and instinctive, it awakens those places in your soul you didn't even know were there. In the world Lanthimos built with his images, people who are incapable of finding a partner are sent to The Hotel, an actual hotel where possible partners can be found. People are given a room number, identical outfits and 45 days to find their ideal partner, someone with whom they share a particular natural characteristic, being blind for example. If they fail to do so, they turn into an animal of their own choice for the rest of their lives. 

The residents need to attend the hotel's events, but also be prepared for hunting. That includes going to The Woods, loading tranquilizer weapons and hunting down Loners, people who managed to escape this structured world and live on their own in the wild. If the residents succeed in immobilizing loners, they earn extra days at the hotel. 

The film that won the Jury Prize in Cannes this year, Lanthimos first English speaking film, is dealing with a subject cinema loves to visualize; that of pure love. But through a different perspective. How could the world be structured if being alone was a crime? In a society where the inability to find a lover would be punished and the talent to kill lonely people would be rewarded? It must be hard to imagine, but look what Lanthimos has created so far; a seemingly cynical and exaggerated version of reality, where love is the only thing making sense. 

Lanthimos has the unique ability to create realities that make us uncomfortable, just because they dare to tell us honestly what we'd rather ignore. In this case, he visualizes the fear of being lonely, the love that flourishes in any circumstance, the obsession humans have on trying to change each other. His images look structured and senseless at first glance, but they unlock a greater depth on how love is perceived. His vision is simple and decisive, his cinema is more liberating than weird and in its unorthodox form it breaks all conventions, expressing universal truths. 

Δευτέρα, 2 Μαρτίου 2015

Turist (Force Majeure) (2014)


Direction: Ruben Östlund
Writer: Ruben Östlund
Stars: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren
Duration: 120min
Production: Sweden, France, Norway


Set in the cold and unfriendly environment of the French Alps, a Swedish family will try to find peace at their ski vacation. The work-addict father, the loving mother and their two young children. After facing an avalanche at lunch, their seemingly strong family bonds will be shaken to their core, leaving them all numb and doubtful. 

Tomas and Ebba seem to be very close to each other and their lovely family. They decide to escape in the French Alps to share some quality time with their two children, Harry and Vera. An incident at the ski resort, an unexpected, uncontrolled avalanche, will shake up their relationship. Ebba will remain speechless and terrified while the avalanche crosses them leaving everyone unharmed. But Tomas, at an attempt to survive, will flee the scene, avoiding helping his family and his screaming son, leaving only shreds of doubts behind him. 

"Turist" has an unprecedented tension, but not in the way you expect. It is subtle, hidden, almost invisible tension that changes slowly and gradually the nature of this family's bonds. Disappointment comes with doubt, but mostly with anger when the patriarch of the family denies his own actions, trying to avoid, not only the confrontation with his wife, but also with himself. By facing Ebba's feelings, through the couple's social meetings with friends at the ski resort, Tomas will feel bewildered and falsely accused, trying to bury the incident in an attempt to avoid dealing with his wife, but mostly the truth. 

It is absolutely fascinating how the roles between the couple change. At first and just after the incident, Ebba acts and feels like the victim, abandoned and mocked by the man who is supposed to protect his family no matter what. But then it all changes. She accuses Tomas of being a liar and gradually makes him the victim, the one who acted on the wrong instincts and fled, the one who denies everything, the one who failed. She puts him in the corner and strips him up, trying to make him understand the seriousness of his non-actions. And from strong he becomes weak, from leader he becomes a follower. 

This deep family drama evolves quite unpredictably in the idyllic, but terrifying set of the snowy Alps, with an elaborate script from director Ruben Östlund that manages to elevate the damaged relationship skillfully. Accompanied by small doses of classic music, the tension builds throughout the film and grows unevenly till it breaks into small pieces and get scattered everywhere. The collateral damage of this collision are the kids, who sense their parents' distinct separation and close themselves into their own shelter. 

Ebba and Tomas will collide harsh, talking endlessly with each other, fighting, trying to find a solution for themselves and their family. You may already think how heavy of a drama this might be, but here is the awesome part of it; its comic and witty cocoon in which everything happens is inevitably amazing. The reactions, the words, the scenes, all are dominated by this tragicomic feeling that raises the film into one of my favorites of 2015. Ruben Östlund's direction is magnetic, cool colored, alienated and engaged at the same time, managing to convey this family's emotional roller coaster with wit and mastery. 

The essence that this could happen to anyone and the fragility of human relationships in environments like this kept creeping up with me. How would I react, I think. How would he react, I wonder. And how would we get over such a small fraction which grew only to be a humongous gap between us. I wonder. 

P.S.: you gotta love the redhead bearded friend of Tomas --



Τρίτη, 10 Φεβρουαρίου 2015

Nightcrawler (2014)




Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
With: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton 
Duration: 117'
Production: USA

Lou Bloom is unemployed and desperate. On his constant job search he has learned the most efficient way to promote his qualities and to present himself as the perfect candidate for a job. When he will discover the night world of crime journalism, he will realize that this profession was made for him. 

Jake Gyllenhaal is transformed here as the creepy, but with the somehow attractive personality, Lou Bloom, a loner who is determined to succeed no matter the cost. Like a trained predator (Gyllenhaal admits his inspiration for the role was a coyote) Lou observes carefully his opponents, the environment he chooses to act and which can be the most effective way to attack and survive. Entering the world of crime journalism as a cameraman who runs to cover any possible crime in Los Angeles, Lou will discover a fascination he never imagined was possible. Covering car crashes, attacks, accidents and murders he will realize how much good he can be and how many dollars he can earn by just following real crime with his camera. 

Slowly but effectively he will befriend Nina, a tv news journalist, who will be very quickly attracted to his passionate determination and complex personality. She will aid him and support him for his explicit and unique footage from numerous crimes. Lou will prove not to have any ethical boundaries when it comes to his profession and his success. He will ignore any kinds of moral violations and will deliver to Nina the most gruesome and raw crime footage ever. 

Nina is like Lou, they both are attracted by the ugliness of this world and the more terrible the image, the more excited they get. They are both made by the same materials. It is not about the shock or the shame of it, it is purely about how the audience loves crime and they, as the best team ever made, understand it. They know what people crave for and what they will talk about for days. They give people what they want. This way they are both winners; the bigger rates the channel gets, the more dollars they both earn. Simple as that. 

"Nightcrawler" is a dark film which draws a thin line between the hunter, the victim and the viewer. Lou is part of the triangle, so is Nina, with the roles constantly changing. Lou will do anything for his new business and will prove to himself and to others that with constant hard work and perseverance success follows. But where do you stop? Are there any limits? It is creepy, intense and totally instinct based film that will make you hate even more the amoral society we live in and how media bet their existence on people's lowest instincts; the need for blood, sperm and violence. 

This film takes a deep dive into the dark world of crime and media circus that most human eyes are dangerously attracted to. Its narration is smooth and builds up beautifully with Lou in the spotlight. You witness his initial state and his almost immediate adaptation, like a natural predator, to any circumstances in order to survive. Many have named the film a satire on today's media and a social-ethical comment and I couldn't agree more. Its dramatic and satirical tone match perfectly together, especially by the assistance of the music. But the problem lies on its restlessness in trying to cross its own limits. 

Gyllenhaal is fascinating in his character, creepy, extremely intelligent and methodical, but he is too perfect in how to pull through every situation, on how his shocking work is being broadcast, when all of this feels indeed like a joke; how can a person like him never have to deal with the consequences of his actions? Yes, this might be the point, how ethics have diminished and people can do anything for television, but the film takes itself too seriously while it mocks us and the society we are not trying to change. 

I understand its point and the way its done and the fact I hated this character more than anybody the last 6 months says a lot about the power the film had on me. I liked it, but my objections on how it presents its story are stronger. It made me also realize how I  was craving for something even more cruel, more dramatic to happen. Maybe this is what the film solemnly proves; that even though we realize our low moral position we still crave for more blood, more violence, more brutality. 


Δευτέρα, 12 Ιανουαρίου 2015

Whiplash (2014)



Director: Damien Chazelle
WriterDamien Chazelle
StarsMiles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist
ProductionUSA
Duration107'

This is not a film about music. It is a film about pure ambition, hard work, perseverance and raw determination. It is magnetic, radical and profound. And thousands of people are delirious about it. I don't blame them. 

Let's start from scratch. This is the story of Andrew, a 19-year-old ambitious drummer attending one of the most prestigious music schools in the country. He is talented and smart and he knows it. But Andrew has no idea how to socialize. He spends his free time practicing with his drums or watching films with his dad. His only worry is to become the greatest of the greatest. 

Fletcher is the most infamous teacher of the school, tough and constantly angry, he coordinates a band where only the best enter. Everyone is scared to death for him, he pushes students physically and mentally to the edge, he is fearless but most of all he is necessary for anyone who dreams a career in music. He is the connection, the one who can make it happen. 

Andrew knows about Fletcher and knows that endless possibilities unfold when it comes to his band. He would do anything in order to enter. And he does. But the pressure is too much. Fletcher follows humiliating practices towards anyone who either disobeys him or makes one mistake during practice. His methods can be described as at least barbaric. 

But somehow this works. Especially with the band. They keep on participating in big contests and working as hard as ever. Maybe it is the fear of the students that keeps them going without complaining or probably the fact that he pushes a person till he gets the best out of him. Either way they are aware of his power on them. One word and their possible career is over. They only obey. And the worst? He knows it more than anyone. And he abuses this power. 

Andrew creates a unique relationship with Fletcher. He is submissive to his remarks and abuse but soon he will start resisting. He will stop obeying. Till the guy finally notices him. Till Fletcher finally recognizes his worth. This seemingly endless kind of game has its ups and downs. When you think it is going good between them, something happens and f***s up your brain and everything turns to the raw fragility of the beginning.

"Whiplash" opens a constant and very intense conversation about surpassing any kind of obstacles or difficulties but mostly yourself and your limits in order to accomplish your goals. It is full with competitive attitude, the one necessary for achieving. It is testing your limits like Fletcher is testing his students'. 

Even though it is Damien Chazelle's debut, he has already shown a craft and ambition that I personally salute. The rigorous rhythm of the film focuses on Andrew and Fletcher's relationship, cutting out all the others, revealing through tight close-ups extraordinary performances by both of his leading actors. J.K. Simmons has just won the Golden Globe award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for his supreme performance and along with Miles Teller they are marching towards this year's Oscars. 

Andrew and Fletcher's relationship is purely poisonous and stimulating at the same time. Andrew is craving for Fletcher's recognition, he wants to be the next great jazz drummer and this is his greatest motivation; he desperately needs Fletcher's acceptance. Fletcher sees Andrew's potential and helps him, but with his perverted methods he only play games with him, aiming exclusively to push him harder to the very edge, to his own best. 

Through constant drumming, a tempo fury and unexpected events rising up to a pure catharsis, "Whiplash" does make the difference. It winks violently at you proving how a big dream is never big enough and no matter the mistakes and disappointments, the delays and drawbacks, if you share this flaming perseverance and determination anything - ANYTHING - is possible. Thank you, Damien Chazelle, for reminding us that. 



Πέμπτη, 8 Ιανουαρίου 2015

Ida (2013)




Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Writers: Pawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz 
Stars: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Dawid Ogrodnik
Production: Poland | Denmark | France | UK
Duration:  82 min

Ida is a strong, uncompromising film, whose immense power and raw beauty are indisputable. This is a winner film. Magnetic, raw, real. For its direction, its content, its everything. Yes, "Ida" is my favorite 2014 film and a masterpiece. 

1960s, Poland. Anna is a young novitiate nun and about to take her vows. She was brought up by nuns and was nurtured with Christianity. Before she takes the ultimate step she is urged by her superior to visit her last living relative, her aunt. Wanda is a formerly powerful judge of the regime, now an alcoholic and full with guilt. She meets with Anna and unfolds the secret story of her real identity. Anna is Jewish and her name is Ida. 

A lost secret family chronicle will be revealed to Anna - now Ida - frustrating her innocent and pure soul. She will decide to follow Walda on a journey of discovering her past, what happened to her parents and why her aunt is so depressed. 

This poetic depiction of the lost past of Ida guides the narration in a delicate and profound way. The subtle direction, infused with an amazing composition of frames, together with the profound silence offer few clue elements that are mostly hints on where the path of Ida is going in life. 

Pawlikowski chooses to show with his frames - through the cameras of the talented cinematographers Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal - an unprecedented intensity in those two women's lives. This films has such an integrity, it knows what is doing and where is going, and this is one of the things that add up to its greatness. 

The framing of the shots plays a crucial role in the poetic illustration of life and especially of Ida's life. Concealing or intensifying details or even changing the center of attention has unexpected results. You feel there present, but not in the way you think. You feel you see more than you are shown, you sense everything that happens on screen, the characters' pain, feelings and so much more. You get lost but this is the magic of it. 

Ida will be faced with life itself, her choices and dreams, her own destiny. Wanda will be faced with her own past and the guilt she carries for years about choosing the regime instead of her family. Redemption will struggle to find its way through those women's lives and love will unfold again in order to transform the painful past. 

Both Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska, the first experienced and the second in her acting debut, synchronize their performances creating a harmonic but intense acting duet. The crudeness expressed with the extraordinary black and white photography helps them achieve what I call symmetrical beauty in the film. They fill each other and their relationship. With the determination of the one and the submission of the other, those two characters evolve, creating something unique. 

This magnetic film talks about the power of choice, the burden of guilt and the darkness of lost secrets. It opens a dialog about desperation, devotion but above all about human connection beyond any kind of religion. Religion is just a shelter, a cover, something to help people define their identities. But people give power to people. And actions fuel people's lives. And we shouldn't forget this. 





Πέμπτη, 4 Δεκεμβρίου 2014

My week in movies #3

Winter has definitely arrived here in the Netherlands and what is the best way to get through it? Yes, you got it, movies. So, a nice film, some warm chocolate (probably wine) and good company are the basics you need for this winter. Here, I have a list of some of the films I managed to watch the past week(s). This list can be used as a suggestion for a film when you don't know what to watch and as an informative critical piece about films you might have already seen or planning to – either in the cinemas or at home.

(You can find detailed plots through each title linking to Imdb)

The following reviews are from my Letterbox profile.







Based on the novel of Jack Kerouac, this film unfortunately failed to keep up with the expectations it raised. It is a road movie (?), but the constant drunk and sex scenes dominate the meretricious beat narration. The actors, along with the story, are trapped in nice shots and seemingly meaningful narration. It tried too hard to represent the beat generation and to follow that sense of life. OK, the beats were using drugs and were experimenting in all levels, but this film wanted to show too much of it, becoming that way something very 'small' in the film world. Sex and drugs were something new back then, but today they have become obsolete. And what really matters today is the beat generation's literary heritage.





Two guys are working on a remote highway road, having to deal - except for the solitary challenges of this construction job - with mostly each other. Alvin is the oldest and seemingly the wisest and Lance the youngest, ignorant one. Alvin is maintaining a relationship with Lance's sister, something that complicates their relationship even more. They don't like each other, but they do need each other. To work, to survive, to get over anything that seems to trouble them from their previous urban lives.

The multiple gaps in the story and the many information we never learn about the character's background, are the main disadvantages of this film. It really lacks in content. Some beautiful shots in the remote Texan nature are not enough to elevate this film from a below medium position to a decent one. It is funny at times and the actors show their potential, but again they stumble on the weak narration and the almost absent story. We don't see any character development, anything to prove that there is a story. Only their relationship is shown with long shots and funny lines. But is there really anything more to it?






What can I say for a movie when thousands of reviews and articles have already been written for? Nothing more than my humble and honest opinion. It really amazed me with how much love and dedication Nolan made this film. He didn't do anything at random. He wrote a story, dealing with the exploration of time travel, black holes and gravity, that has a deep human base: love.

He took the logical scientific facts and put them in a frame of purity and tenderness about the essence of our nature. He really knows how to make high quality cinema that also becomes a sensation selling thousands of tickets. But this doesn't really say anything to me. What does is his devotion to his vision, his profound intelligence and his talent to dive into space with total conscience of his abilities, his restrictions, his imagination and most of all his modest humanity.

Space is vast and is mostly depicted with fear and awe from humans. The fact that we haven't discover all its secrets makes it even more dark and mysterious. Nolan managed to unlock - even if it is not completely scientifically correct - this big chest of those mysteries and explore the deepest of our imagination and potential. The key he used to open this chest, the key with which he gave meaning to all the uncertainties of our universe is our own human nature. Our love and affection moves around our existence. Our emotions and memories are the fuel that keeps us moving, that makes us who we are, that makes us humans.






An extremely powerful story about a middle aged woman and a 17 year old boy, who shared a passionate love affair in Post-WWII Germany. After the abrupt ending of this relationship, the - now law student - boy discovers that the woman he fell in love with, almost 10 years ago, is on trial for war crimes.

A deep and emotional film with three different narration points and an extraordinary Kate Winslet giving the performance of her life (she won the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Oscar in 2009). I really found this a breathtaking story that blew me away. And when you like a movie so much instantly, you tend to ignore some faults in direction or in narration that might have occurred. To me, it made perfect sense exactly how it was made, even if my critical thinking tries to remind me at times of all the flaws.

I am still amazed of how this proud woman overflows with guilt about her past and actions and prefers to carry the burden of her illiteracy all by herself. Her strength is proving to be her greatest weakness. All those contradictions of her character make sense only though the filter of true love. Because she was (and still is) loved. So intense and so deep by a young ignorant boy that everything else seems trivial. 

This boy will later also be torn apart by this awful burden of guilt because of his choice to turn his back to his one and true love. The tragedy of the story finds peace somehow to its core. Their true love. Because they both shared that in their lives. At least they had the chance to experience each other's love.






I found this film enormously funny and enjoyable. Bill Murray was made for this role. He took it and made it his. Vincent is a filthy old drunk, completely rude and hateful towards everyone he meets. He is bitter with life and sarcasm is his second nature. He soon dries up from money and realizes he can be the baby-sitter of his neighbor's son, when one day the kid gets bullied and with his keys stolen he asks Vincent for help. It sounds like the typical story of bad-grumpy old guy meeting young kid and becoming good again, but here something is different.

Vincent doesn't seem to change and it becomes clear enough that he always had a good heart, he just needs to be reminded of it. The young boy, Oliver, enters his life abruptly and becomes something like the son Vincent never had, somebody to show the filthy world we live in, somebody to trust. Even if Vincent doesn't really trust anybody.

One of the last scenes of the film is one of the most touching- like ever. Oliver is presenting his assignment about a saint he knows, revealing to the crowd that saints are endurable, tough people who are not afraid to be themselves and make a difference in the world. And his saint is Vincent of course.

The story has a lot of ups and downs. A lot of stuff is being revealed about Vincent and his past, the possible reasons behind his behavior. Generally the film contains a lot of info about him, leaving the other characters under his shadow. But we don't care about that, because we only think of him and we subconsciously consider of our own Vincents, or even better, our own Vincent side.

This is an honest film with loads of awesome funny moments, especially if you are a fan of Murray. Let your heart go with it and you will realize its true magic, even if not everything in it is perfect. Just like Vincent himself.




Τετάρτη, 26 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Stories We Tell (2012)





Director: Sarah Polley
Writers: Sarah Polley, Michael Polley (narration)
Stars: Michael Polley, John Buchan, Mark Polley, Harry Gulkin
Production: Canada
Duration: 108'


This is a story of a family and their mother, whose personal life affected everyone around her. She is the mother of the director, Sarah Colley, an acclaimed Canadian filmmaker who decided to dive into her own past, her family's history in order to create one of the most breathtaking and deepest documentaries of our times. 

"Stories We Tell" talks about Diane, a young ambitious actress whose energy and vitality is contagious to the people who know her. One day, at a play she was participating, she met a young guy named Micheal who was meant to be her husband. With him she lived a happy shared life, along with their four children - two from a previous failed marriage of Diane - when Sarah was born. Their life didn't change that much, not until Diane passed away from cancer, when Sarah was still quite young. 

The youngest and most different of all, the director herself, gives the necessary space to her interviewees to unfold their own side of their family story, revealing - what started as a joke in the beginning - the possibility that Sarah might be the result of an short affair her mother had. After searching, Sarah will discover that her mother had indeed an affair when she played in a play years ago. What will she come across after this revelation that changed everybody's life? Who is the father and what will happen to Micheal if he finds out?

The unfolding of the many stories is not necessarily narrated with that order. What starts as a portrait of Diane and a family, slowly turns into a deeper and stronger story. Nothing is what it seems in the beginning and Sarah knows that. The interviews she held with her brothers and sisters, her father and friends of Diane, are revealing, through the powerful effect of the editing, a magnificent story about family bonding and love. 

The main story is being narrated by Micheal, Sarah's father, as a monologue that he wrote himself. He talks about his life and his relationship with Diane with pure honesty, displaying only particles of the stories we are being told. Sarah takes over the narration at times, leaving many of the protagonists to tell their own. Along with the interviews we see real footage of Diane through the years, but also reconstruction of her life with actors. Those glimpses of memory lost in time provide a melancholic and nostalgic tone to the film, like all these are happening to somebody else, anyone in this world, like those images are part of anyone's life. 

The way this personal documentary is filmed and edited is the main core of its importance. How she put the fragments together and how she managed to build this tension and this depth - without even trying to be sentimental - it is remarkable. Pieces of personal stories come together and create a mosaic that talks further from the obvious. It is not just a personal story anymore. Because the stories of each and everyone's lives are a mere reflection of our own current self. 

Sarah manages to talk about her own life with such an objectivity. She magnificently unfolds the stories of her own life without even intervening. It is like she is letting us do the judgment on either what is being told or the characters and their actions. The fact that we don't really see her clear point of view shows only the artistic and cinematic magnitude of her existence. Nobody could ever do this more successfully than Sarah Polley. 

While the stories unfold, we see how Sarah gives equal narration space to both of her fathers - the biological and the one who raised her. This decision does not minimize the importance of the story and it exalts the director even more. Michael is the father who raised her and loved her. A man who put his family first, neglecting at times his wife, is a lonely person with immense wit and humor. The biological father, a drifter who stares now at the past and the life he could have had, is someone quite different and yet a bit the same. The sure is they have one thing in common: their daughter. 

"Stories We Tell" is an immense proof of pure cinematic art and human influence. It changed the way personal stories are told by making the "my story" into an "our story", by making it universal. This documentary talks bravely about true love and life itself. How the course of our lives is so closely connected with the one of our families and our friends. This documentary is about us all, and not Sarah alone. It is about our own stories and the way they influence our very own future. This humanity and universality you discover here is and will be beyond comparison. 







Δευτέρα, 17 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Gone Girl (2014)




Director: David Fincher
Writers: Gillian Flynn (screenplay), Gillian Flynn (novel)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens
Production: USA
Duration: 149'

It's been three whole years since Fincher's last (average for my taste) film "The girl with the dragon tattoo", but we had the pleasure to see him work for television in the addictive "House of Cards" Netflix series, unfortunately only in two episodes! Well, he is an executive producer, so we guess he soon will be joining the directors chair again. 

David Fincher has returned to his good old ways with some slight changes - towards perfection, let me add - in the way he sees human relationships and the evil that surrounds them. The story comes from the novel of Gillian Flynn - who also wrote the screenplay - and talks about Nick, an average guy, who wakes up one morning only to discover his wife Amy missing. 

Nick is supposed to be in distress, instead he is acting detached like an observer and while he is trying to figure out what the heck is going on, the basic narrative splits up in two revealing Amy's voice, who talks like a ghost from the past through the diaries she left behind. We suddenly witness two different lines of narrative that build up the story with great drama and suspense. You have Nick's side of the story and Amy-from-the-past story. Nick is frustrated and has to deal with both the police, who intensively suspect him, the parents - famous snobby writers - and the media - hungry for indecency. 

Nick is in the spotlight and he hates it. What has he done to deserve this? He lingers in memories and good  old feelings from when they met, when they married and when they both imagined a happy shared life. Amy is helping on that with her narrative. But something went wrong during those years. Or perhaps something was already wrong from the beginning. 

Ben Affleck manages to convey both the detachment and the fear of the character, but also to create a purely doubtful profile. Rosamund Pike has this delicate face and performs as she was waiting to play this character all her life. Raw and dark performances, just how we like it in Fincher's universe. 

The media of the country hunt him down and Nick becomes suddenly part of a media frenzy he can't avoid. A criticism on today's media for the continuous crave for the obscene is one of Fincher's points in this film. It is the obvious one. The other one is much more disturbing. How all of this attraction to obscenity derives from human nature. This is what he claims here. He puts our nature in the spot and acknowledges how drawn we are by the deepest and darkest parts of it.

Through the split narrative and the flashbacks in time, a mosaic of baffled circumstances is created about Amy's disappearance and possible murder, making the whole story even more intriguing, even more complicated. Multiple questions ran through your brain and you are struggling to find the answers that might reveal the reasons of those people's actions. 

This slow-boiling thriller displays an intense and raw direction from Fincher, who is considered the master of twisted turns in the stories he deals with and who knows very well how to deal with his characters. Amy knows all of Nick's secrets, thoughts, moves. He is exposed. Nick understands very deeply his wife. Do they really know  each other? Do they trust each other? The depth of their disturbed relationship emerges to the surface with amazing perplexity. 

Fincher knows extremely well how to manipulate a story and how to create real feelings for the characters. How their behavior is so contagiously affecting and how you as a viewer enter so deep into their reality. You get lost and confused by the ardent actions of those people. You become part of their story whether you like it or not. You can't escape. This is what Fincher does to you. 

One of the greatest things of this movie, in which you don't expect anything less than an absolute mind-fuck, is the fact of misconception and how in a glimpse of an eye, everything changes. Nothing is what it seems. Unfortunately I can't say more, because I will ruin the film experience for you, but one thing I can say is the  supreme greatness with which Fincher deals with his material and how he achieves this deep connection with the characters, so at the end you actually like those bastards, those sociopaths, those weirdos, those nasty nasty people. 

When you see this movie, be prepared to dive into a world of mischief and games. Games that can reveal more than you ever thought about the people around you, but mostly about yourself. 





Δευτέρα, 3 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Reality (2014) by Quentin Dupieux




71st Venice Film Festival 

(first published in the e-book of Nisimazine
http://issuu.com/emiliep/docs/ebook_venice/0)

REVIEW: Reality by Quentin Dupieux (France, Belgium) – Orrizonti

Quentin Dupieux, director of the infamous Rubber (2010), has come to Venice with luggage full of distorted realities or better to say a strange need to explore the idea of mixing everybody's dreams, making us wonder if anything of what we saw was part of a twisted game. “Reality” struggles hard to find the necessary balance between its real purpose – if there is any - and the overachieved surrealism it inevitably shares.

Jason is a peaceful cameraman living in California. He is dreaming of making his own film, where television sets are the most dangerous thing in the whole planet. They produce those weird kind of waves that slowly make humans more stupid, while their ultimate goal is to extinguish them. He approaches Bob Marshal, a film producer, who gets overexcited with his crazy idea. He will sign the deal as soon as Jason gets the perfect groan in 48 hours.

But Jason's is not the only story we discover. A young man working as a TV presenter on a food program has an unstoppable need to scratch himself, thinking there is something terribly wrong with him, while everyone else thinks he is overreacting. A young girl witnesses a videotape coming out of the insides of an animal, while her father cleans it in order to embalm it. Nobody believes her, but we will come to know that this videotape somehow is the answer to loads of questions. All of those stories, as distant as they might seem with each other, they share something in common; the same confusing connection that leads to nothing more than a dead-end.

In the world Dupieux has created, parallel dreams stream like parades of surrealistic thoughts and acts on one's self and the perception of reality. While the first scenes seem indifferent, you do get hooked on the way the story evolves. The head-exploding music makes sure to achieve that in a conscious but also a deep subconscious level, while the physical effect of it can be disturbing for some time after you watch the film. You too immerse in a deep dream along with the characters. You too step by step lose the sense of reality presented to you.

Dreams lost in dreams in an endless maze with no exit signs. A surreal world where nothing makes sense and somehow everything fits in a distorted kind of way. This is what is being achieved through Dupieux's direction and the narrative he has chosen. His images betray his blurry vision though and the fact that none of these has any clear purpose, only to throw us into the endless world of dreaming.

The moments in the film that are meant to be humorous, fail to communicate any connection with the content. This constant attempt to revive the plot with funny moments is not enough to explain any of what is being shown. While Dupieux can't stop mixing his narrative, we keep wondering how such a promising idea of dreaming in a dream got stuck in all those flat characters and their tiresome realities. This flatness is probably used on purpose in order to intensify the hollowness they carry or probably the fact that they are just plain visitors in those dreary dreams.

There are many questions raised about the definition of our dreams as much as the perception that we have for the realities that surround us. For some of us it is complicated – or intentionally complicated - like in Dupieux's mind and for some others is simpler or indifferent. Those questions only meant to be left unanswered in a film that flirts with the vastness of the subconscious and manages at the same time to convey a frustrating self-conscious feeling. If you have never been lost in a dream, this is your chance to discover how that might feel. Are you ready?

Κυριακή, 7 Σεπτεμβρίου 2014

Noah (2014)

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writers: Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel
Stars: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson
Production: USA
Duration: 138'

Darren Aronofsky is an artist. He is an artist because he defies his own production company, he tries to stay true to his vision and he really has the need to deliver what he feels he must. He always did that and always will. For me, he hasn't completely succeeded this time. Maybe because he chose a story that was too ambitious. But I understand why he did it. The need to retell Noah's story in a different, totally unexpected way, gave him the freedom to express his own beliefs about religion, nature, humans, wildlife, choices, dreams, family, community and so much more. 

Noah can be read in many ways. It can be read through the clean Christian way and then you can be mad (if you accept it as part of your religion) or it can be read as a new story - based on Noah - giving another meaning in "saving the world from the Creator's fury". But either way I never really understood why Christians opposed so harsh to this movie and the director himself. This story, as all the stories in the Bible, are fairy-tales that carry deep meanings important for Christianity. And this particular one is one of the cruelest. A man is talking with God and decides to build an ark to save only his family and the wildlife of the planet, leaving everyone else outside. Every human being left to drown. Aronofsky showed this cruelty and does not offend in any way any religion. Let's clear that. 

He decided to take this biblical story and turned it into a very glorious project that created a lot of fuzz and made, to most of the crowd, no impression after all. His attempts are worthy of respect, but his script has indeed many flaws. He decided to narrate this story by changing its base elements, keeping the important ones in though, like some names and the plan of saving humanity by building an ark. 

The astonishing first part gives its turn to a totally different second part, where the roles are changing and the narration is weaker. You get a little bit confused, because your mind drifts away back to the "original" story. But wait a minute; Aronofsky already knew that right? And he expected all the negativity - especially from an audience like the American one - but his ambition somehow loses its grip in the movie. There is too much to digest and to accept if you are a Christian and on the other side, there is a whole new story for you to discover. The weakness lies in the fact that he couldn't really separate those two. He tried to escape from the biblical story, but somehow he failed to do that. Either way the result is magnetic. 

The astonishing special effects, the lyrical depiction of Noah's visions, the landscape, the atmosphere, Clint Mansel's gorgeous score, all are harmonically put together. What I love to rediscover is the decline of the characters - it happened so abrupt in the second part - and how Noah from a trusted wise leader turns into a madman, obsessed with his own - imaginary? - Creator inspired visions. Noah and his intentions are in the center. He sees and he decides. What he sees, he interprets it his own way and the rest of the people just watch and obey. But until when?

People around him act differently than the people we know today. They talk differently, they react differently. They share a rare connection with Earth, one that we have lost long ago. They respect and live harmonically with it and they will protect it no matter what. But along goodness and pure purposes, there is always evil hidden, madness, jealousy, revenge. And in the ark the roles ARE changing. The peaceful environment turns into a prison nobody can escape from. 

Aronofksy's creation is ambitious yes, but it also has a deep meaning. Its aggressive environmentalism is for many people hostile and extreme. But I do believe in the kind of art he represents (he is one of my favorites after all) and respect the way he sees the world. He tried to state something truthful through this story. He tried to create it his own way even if he had to stand against his own production company and a very wide - narrow-minded - audience. 

Τετάρτη, 9 Ιουλίου 2014

Castaway on the Moon (2009)

Director: Hae-jun Lee
Writer: Hae-jun Lee (screenplay)
Stars: Min-heui Hong, So-yeon Jang, Jae-yeong Jeong
Production: South Korea
Duration: 116 min
Imdb score: 8,2

I found out about this film from some friends and from the moment they described the story, I have to tell you I was hooked. I wanted to watch it very badly. Based in South Korea, the first scene introduces us to a heavy atmosphere. A man is on a bridge calling with his bank. They inform him that he ows a great amount of money and that reassures him about his decision to commit suicide. But the story doesn't end here, it has actually just begun.

Some hours later, he will find himself in an island into the city itself, a deserted place, where all his attempts to find help go futile. Soon, he will discover the beauty of it all; he is a castaway on a place where nobody can find him and suddenly all this sounds very appealing. His daily attempts and struggles to find shelter and food give him exactly what he needed, hope. 

Min-hee Hong appears to be weak and vulnerable in the beginning of this story, but experiencing this intense and unique trip through loneliness and survival, he proves to be more than persistent. During his struggles he will get a strange message from an even stranger observer. Of course somebody would see him, he is after all castaway in his own city. The mystery person will follow his every step and will want to help him after all. But the stubbornness he has developed and the need for hope are stronger than any kind of external help. Soon he will realize how necessary the procedure of survival is to him, but also the communication with this strange person. 

The mystery person is being introduced to us in the beginning as something different. You keep wonder what has this girl have to do with our story, but soon you realize how roughly connected she is to our castaway. A young girl trapped in a virtual world, locked into her own universe, suddenly sees some light in her dark room when the image of this weird "alien" - as she calls him - enters her extra macro lens from her tall window. 

Through the direction of Hae-jun Lee that lingers between deep drama and light comedy, the film's atmosphere is being intensified with sorrow and grief by the long, slow face shots of the two characters. Hope and salvation though, are intelligently hiding behind every dialog or scene, only to re-appear in times when most needed. This unique story speaks truthfully, enslaving anyone that decides to walk in its path. Mesmerizing and incomparable!

Strong and soft, this movie touches your heart unexpectedly via its emphasis on human relations. How we have become ignorant of our need to be around people and to live free of society conventions. How this internet-based, information-bombarded and careless world has made us into human-machines who need to work all day, be on their computers and ignore everything else. How have we become like that? Loneliness is our constant friend and we are afraid to be ourselves around people, sheltered from our own insecurities, blocked by our cyber-addicted brains. 

But wait, there is more. There is freedom even when you walk in darker paths, there is salvation from yourself and there is, purely and truthfully, Hope in its best form. This is what this movie is all about. A reminder that we people are tightly linked with each other and that we can change the course of our future by taking our own lives into our hands. Love is, after all, the answer to everything. 

You never really know where Hope will be hiding, the only thing you need to do is find and grab it!