Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Review of "The Year of Living Dangerously" (1982), Peter Weir

Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver at the very top of their game. A talented director just coming from down under to Hollywood.  And an era that still allowed for originality and non-caclulated risks.  The cast is completed with Linda Hunt, acting as a man, in the kind of character that is bound the appear in all clips about diversity in the film industry.

"The Year..." is about journalists and other high-level ex-pats in Sukarno`s Indonesia, troubled times, when Muslim generals and communist revolutionaries expect to swing the powerful leader to their cause, or die trying.  It has been copied various times to this day, from the superficial part of the plot (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, 2016) to specific suspenseful scenes (Argo, getting the passport stamped in the airport).  "The Year..." has a very good sense of place and time, and a nostalgic feel of impossibility as seen from the contemporary connected reality.  We can`t go back home, but we yearn for it. We do it every time we try to travel to exotic locations, to no avail: the result is an Instagram stream as rare as a Starbucks franchise in the United States.

It is rare to watch characters as those in the film nowadays.  Some of them act without further intentions of personal profit, just from their sense of decency and what it should be.  Moral "beings of Light" and profiteers of decadence fight in embassy soirees and hotel parties.  With the power of insight we already know that darkness won the battle.  However "The Year..." offers hope.  Not in a teen dystopic fantasy, not with comic book super-heroes, but with real pulsating human beings.

Are you kidding me? Yes, Watch it, with a drink and smokes (****)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mar del Plata Film Festival, November 2014. Some notes (III)

Some other movies:

Summer of Blood, Onur Tukel, USA.

  • "Red Pill" vampire movie.  Is about the heart of the vampire ethos: how to explain women´s choices in men (or: "nice guys finish last").
  • The style is self-conscious slacker Woody-Allen.
  • It works!
Watch it (***)

Reimon, Rodrigo Moreno, ARG.

  • Illustration of Marx´s description of the use of time in a typical day for the working class.
  • The main character is a real person filmed while she goes through her day.  Around her are a couple of upper-middle class characters (which the director considers to be "middle-class", I guess due to his own high-class origin) read from "Das Kapital".  It is not as boring as it sounds.
  • Is the talent is this movie accidental or in purpose? Who knows.  Maybe its good things are the things I want to see in it, be color schemes in the houses the character visits or upper-middle class behaviors.
Watch, and discuss (¿**1/2? Surely *** if you like discussing Marx).

Aventurera, Leonardo D´Antoni, ARG.

  • Pretty Colombian immigrant in Buenos Aires advances her career by using (being used by) men.
  • Some emotional moments sound false, and I wish that the treatment of the remains of the moral consciousness of the main character was more organic.
  • As it is the door is open to put yourself on both sides of the issue (the "poor victim" at its center), since guilt appears and is not clear how its dissolution will proceed.
Watch it (**1/2)

Wyrmwood, Kiah Roache-Turner.

  • Trashy zombie movie with exactly two novel ideas for this genre.  That´s it, just for disposable consumption.
You can watch, be sure to throw the container in the bin (**1/2)

Almost Friends (aka "Linor and Samar"), Nitzan Ofir, Israel

  • Is this a documentary?  It felt like a fiction, is really well filmed, most issues relevant to the case are explained on-screen.  For the uninitiated, a little bit more of background would have been good, but that would mean to hear the director´s voice, and I guess that he does not want to show his cards in the open.
  • Arab-Israeli (Palestinian with Israeli ID) girl and Jewish-Israeli religious girl meet under a school program.  They wait, they hope, they talk.
Watch it (***)

Solo, José R. Nóvoa, ¿Colombia?

DO NOT WATCH (*), just garbage.


Magical Girl, Carlos Vermut, Spain.

  • Well filmed tale.
  • That makes every character guilty of something.
  • And proceeds to promptly punish each one of them with violence... and more violence.
  • Nihilist to an extreme, and people seem to like that.  I don´t.  It is the ideology of death.  It is so easy to fall under this kind of spell.  It is a world-view born from a video-store employee mind (Tarantino), not an intellectual of any kind.  This film hurts the human race, more so by being well filmed.
Mmmm, depends if you want to be a serial killer, a genocidal monster or just a dehumanizing soldier.  For Pol Pot wannabes (***), for human beings (**).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mar del Plata Film Festival, November 2014. Some notes (II)

Let`s see:

Jauja, Lisandro Alonso, ARG.

  • Really good... if you have problems sleeping.
  • Could have worked as a series of stills in some art gallery.
DO NOT watch (*)

Gente de Bien, Franco Lolli, Colombia.

  • Colombian neorrealism.
  • Is about social class, but not about economic warfare.  More about the rights associated with "being part".  Do poor people have the right to educate their sons?
  • There is a danger of taking it as a sign that nothing is going to change,that "the poor are like this and always will be".
  • It is good that Colombians now can watch this.  Still long stretches of awakening to go.
Watch it (***)

Mr. Kaplan, Alvaro Brechner, Uruguay
  • Funny Holocaust-related movie (!!).
  • Feel-good (yep, same Holocaust-related movie).
  • Filmed as a classic comedy with some hints of 21st Century "digitalism",but just a little.  It is mostly family 1960s comedy territory.
WATCH it (***1/2 or ****,depending on your mood)

Open Windows, Nacho Vigalondo , Spain.

  • Vigalondo is a very cool guy (nothing to do with the movie, I just met him, and he is a cool cat).
  • Opening-windows-in-a-computer gimmick is gimmicky.  But, that is the point of the movie,sort of.
  • Maybe it will be trapped with others into the "found-footage" subgenre.
  • Not so good as "Timecrimes" or "Extraterrestrial" IMHO.  Some parts are pulled from Vigalondo`s cool ass.  But he is aware of that, his mind was on the gimmick.  Which is an interesting one.
Watch it (**1/2) (lots of  movies with 3 stars for me in this Festival, maybe I should give 2 to some of them, if I`m feeling harsh).

Don`t kill me Nacho, I still liked it, but you know, twists are not for everybody.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Mar del Plata Film Festival, November 2014. Some notes (I)

El Patròn: Anatomía de un crimen, Sebastián Schindel (ARG):

  • Real story is terrible and impressive.
  • Good scenes in butcher shop about this particular sub-world.
  • Bare by-the-numbers characterization of corrupt or just inefficient judicial system.
  • Intrusive melodramatic music in certain scenes("now feel sad").
  • Simplification of the moral scheme (sympathy for the "hero" and hate for the "bad guy"). 
 Watch (***)

Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñarritu, USA.
  • Technical marvel in some sequences.
  • Self-important.
  • Good Oscar-chewing acting by Batm...I mean, Michael Keaton (yep, that`s the point).
  • I`m gonna say it: "too meta".
  • Gimmicky one-shot is gimmicky.
Watch (***)

  Spring, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead,USA.
  • Derivative mix of discounted Kauffman and Linklater.  Almost mumblecore.
  • With a similar central issue, Doctor Who is far superior thematically.
  • Watch "Afflicted" instead (seems to be filmed in the same Italian town).
Do not Watch (**)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Seconds", 1966, John Frankenheimer, TSPDT: 995

This film is one of those little science fiction gems that probably escaped everyone´s attention.  I am afraid to tell you about the plot, because I don´t want to ruin its surprises.  But the mood of the piece is as important as what happens there, so a little bit to entice you:  a man wants to change his stale life so he gets an appointment at a company that gives guys like him a "second chance" by changing his identity.  That´s all.  Rock Hudson is very good in this, as is the rest of the cast.  Think about it as a very good episode of "Twilight Zone" that got the movie treatment.  I could go on and on with interpretations about the plot, but this is not the reason why I am writing these snippets right now (maybe I will for future films).  Watch it all.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Devil In the Flesh", 1947, Claude Autant-Lara, TSPDT: 1000

The purposes of these posts is to give you a quick guide to movies in the TSPDT list of 1,000 best films of all time.  In this case, "Devil..." is a melodrama during the Great War (First World War) in a small town near Paris, about a schoolboy in love with a slightly older woman, which already has somebody in her life.  It has fun parts, with lots of modern banter between the leads, and some striking camera movements due to the limitations of the 4:3 format, which gives the director the necessity of "finding" the actors and showing somehow the interesting things that they encounter in each setting, thus the extremely fluid camerawork. The morals of the story, however, are terrible, not so far from the reactionary tale of "Forrest Gump".  It is not a mystery why this movie is rated so low in the list, it is notable, but it will be forgotten.  Still, if you are here, is because you know that you could do a lot worse (modern Hollywood).  Watch at least the first half.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"Fury", Fritz Lang (1936)

Is it always a pleasure to discover great films by great filmmakers.  Why we continue watching new garbage just because is it new?  This film by Lang is an Americanized version of the masterful "M", filmed before the darkest times of the Nazi regime as a warning about the dangers of the irrational mob.  The movie is clearly divided into two halves, one a fascinating study of the mob in action, the second about the legal consequences of the mob´s actions.  I cannot tell you more without describing the plot in detail, so I will withhold the spoilers and urge you to watch a good performance by Spencer Tracy, an imaginative use of stills and newsreels, faces and reactions, and a deceptive mandated ending that can´t make you forget the terrible actions depicted.

On the 996th place of TSPDT 2012 list and Rosenbaum´s 1000 Essential Films.