Archive for July, 2007

July 30 2007

(this goes in portuguese, what i said needs no translation) 

Bergman / Antonioni

Não sei porque tinham de morrer no mesmo dia, até já ouvi dizer que o Antonioni morreu de choque ao ouvir que o Bergman tinha morrido. Seja como for, são dois dos últimos… não sei últimos de quê, mas tive a sensação que eram dois dos últimos a ir.

No meu caso pessoal, como amante de cinema, liguei-me sempre mais à obra do Antonioni, sem questões pessoais são dois mestres-génios-pessoas que a partir de 30 de Julho de 2007 ganharam o direito a ser imortais.

Para mim não é este o momento dos discursos longos. É o momento de quem tiver acesso agora mesmo, pegar no primeiro filme que estiver na superfície da memória de cada um e rever, 1 minuto, 2 minutos, dois planos ou o filme todo, ou todos os filmes. É provavelmente o que vou fazer.

Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)

Michelangelo Antonioni (1912-2007)

The Black Dahlia (2006)

“The Black Dahlia” (2006)


The problem with thick plots and cinematic vision

I give Brian De Palma a high place in my list of worthy filmmakers. That means whatever he does, i will want to watch, even if it will eventually disappoint me. That is because he has a very personal and highly cinematic way to watch things and to tell stories, and he always starts from that So, i disagree to the opinion of many cinema buffs who dismiss De Palma for being a ‘xerox’ of several other filmmakers styles. I think he, yes, always denotes his influences, as clear as water, but in the end they all come filtered by his magnificent cinematic exploring way of seeing. And i emphasize on this last word, since with De Palma it’s all about seeing… HOW, more than WHAT.

Having said this, i see this one as a minor project. This doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching, but it’s worse than an average De Palma project and miles from his highest moments. I’ve seen him do better with worse material. And i mean ‘worse’ or ‘better’ in relation to what suits better the director’s style. The problem here seems to be the extreme complexity of the plot, which instead of getting simplified to bring out the visual complex movements he enjoys, gets more and more thick. De Palma needs the audience to be elucidated enough about the plot to enjoy his visual work (that because by default the average audience won’t give up following the story, and place it always in front the more deep and specific cinematic elements).

This will easily be correlated to Chinatown and LA Confidential and naturally assume itself as a “neo noir” or other strange name you may want to call it. Noir developed around characters who acted in the dark, driven by coincidence or fate, or both, anyway, always force superior to themselves who out-passed them. Here, placed above that traditional conception, we have the god camera, and one memorable shot, which i relate (there go the influences) with the initial shot of Welles’ Touch of Evil. That shot happens in scene where the body of the wannabe actress is found and a gunshot takes place. This is space exploitation, performed by an eye which is allowed everything, sees alone what all characters summed see. This is the best cinematic moment of the film, more closed to what De Palma likes, and worth alone a good analysis.

The other reference that came to my mind had to do with the folding in Sunset Boulevard. This was a fantastic example of how to construct a multi layered story, a masterpiece in screen writing; and it held a film inside a film, Gloria Swanson’s youth project, directed by Stroheim, which was watched by their respective characters in Sunset Blvd. Here we don’t have that symbolisms, nor the intention of that, but we have a film which drives the plot, and creates a very interesting character which never shows alive except for those pieces of celluloid (Mia Kirshner’s character) and teaches us (aswell as our noir detective) stuff we want to know. Even the madness of Fiona Shaw’s character (performed with special importance near a stairway, remember Sunst Bld?) reports to a correlation between the two pictures. i recently watched Antonioni’s “Profession: Reporter” and i believe that in the Italian’s picture, the “film within the film” had a similar effect to what de palma does here.

This and an interesting inversion of roles that makes the “femme fatale” a brunette (Swank) instead of the common blond (which would be Johanson) are the good elements. The weak link between the thick plot and De Palma’s will to search freely for stuff and move with more freedom (remember Blow Out) is the main flaw and its consequence is that the film almost never engages us, almost always fails to through at you elements that justify De Palma’s beautiful shots.

My evaluation: 3/5

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Blade Runner (1982)

“Blade Runner” (1982)


Impressionism in dystopic contours

First of all, Blade Runner is not about a story, it’s not about, characters, it’s not about being concrete. It’s about landscape, it’s about city, as reflex of civilization. It’s about correcting our present, knowing what happened in the past. And so, the future is used, so the sci-fi mood is brought. Paradoxal it may be, the future tense gives the viewer the necessary distance towards what he is supposed to “see”. And what you see is in here fundamental, not because of the spectacular sets, not because the astonishing prediction of what city will be in years to come but because it only shows what’s already in front of us. Practically every sci-fi film that tries to predict an entirely new city is based on what is “futuristic” in the time of its idealization, from visual power masterpieces like Metropolis, to franchised versions of a future world like Demolition Man. Ridley Scott proposes a city that exists already, today, now. We get to the future through present, our present and that links us to it where the future tense gave us distance. Everything is deliberately thrown in a dystopic, chaos like package, that shakes, not because it’s dark and rainy, but because it’s in a city that exists now, and in buildings older than a century now. Sebastian lives in a neoclassic building from probably end of XIXth century, the routs of everything clearly bad and distorted and perverse in this Scott’s future are clearly anchored on our present. Obviously every sci-fi director is before anything else, an earth inhabitant, so his base is his reality as a earthier, but in here, he makes the effort to through that at the viewer.

So, everything is classical, Sean Young, a replicant that doesn’t know it, has a classical beauty, the characterization, the way she moves, the way she talks. She plays the piano. She has a memory. She is human, except for the fact she is a replicant, created by men and that’s where man is elevated to the category of god in the exact measure that he creates with the same perfection as Him. The camera is Deckard, the camera is the observer and this observer works in the top of the buildings, works above humanity, works on the last floor of Tyrell’s Olympus like industrial complex. What is made in here is a change in time scale notion in order to get us, as viewers, down to earth. If god is eternity, and men’s life is a second in eternity; what we see here is Men’s life becoming the possible eternity and the replicants’ 4 years life just a small passage in reality. Whenever replicants are referred in Blade Runner it is in fact me who is being referred. Ultimately, this may be about falling to earth with the notion that time is precious, and 4 years can be a long time, if well used. “all those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain”, says Rutger Hauer’s character.This is about keeping memory for eternity, whatever that is.

Men is reflected on his creation, his imperfections, but also his qualities, show up in what he creates. So, throughout the film, we come to change our view of the replicants, from menace to empathy, from desire to eliminate (as survival instinct) to desire to embrace and consequent emptiness for their disappearance. That’s when replicants become men, that’s when we know he’s not talking about robots, but us. “petty she won’t live, but again, who will?” this is bottom line, nothing lasts forever, creator or creation. Still, facing the inevitability of death doesn’t stop Deckard from running for life, or replicants from trying to live.

Another aspect is that there is no “soundtrack”, there is no “music” in this one, only “soundscapes”, as dystopic as the city, as dark as this future, as empty as no future. Those sounds are the story of that city, are the story of our past, as told in our present, where there is no memory, where memories are forgotten, or made up as, once more, a survival device. Memory is a pillow for emotions, says Tyrell, he is god, he knows emotions are needed in order to exist, but he also knows he can’t perpetuate lies about it, he knows he will die.

Ultimately this may be a film noir anchored sci-fi film which, if well explored, could become a genre in itself. Checking it, you will find practically every aspect of film noir in it. For every aspect I referred, i believe this to be the essential sci-fi film, fulfilling completely the role that sci-fi was always supposed to have, but hardly ever had. Between 1979 with Alien and 1982 with this one, Ridley Scott moved definitely forward in understanding what science fiction is, and how it should leak into film making. Every artist has his limits in innovation and creation, apparently Scott’s limit was defined here. His post work never got to be as influential or good as these two films, but, what he gave was more than enough.

My evaluation: 5/5 This rating wasn’t needed, what i said should be enough.

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The Departed (2006)

“The Departed” (2006)


Martin looking back to himself

Scorcese went back to his past as a filmmaker. In his latest projects he had been exploring the possibilities of moving his camera around, in my view fundamentally in two directions: – exploring space, architecture, the surroundings; – provoking sensations, in this case attached to a character (or several) and transmitting those sensations to us, audience. In this case, i’m naturally speaking of “Gangs of New York” and “The Aviator”. The first one was more bold in this concerns, the second was more thought up, maybe more refined and multi layered (it introduced colors, the evolution of time and revived the character centered camera moments). I valued those projects because Scorcese took some risks and tried to make an evolution as a director. He didn’t arrive at “safe land” or real conclusions. But that is the meaning of experimenting. trying solutions.

With this one, he put some of those experiments aside. That apparently, i mean. In this picture, Scorecese turns back to his character exploitation. It’s all about characters. The actions moves along based on the character’s mental state, fears. I talk, of course, about Damon and DiCaprio. Nicholson is no long the fear provoker of The shining, nor the sharp detective of Chinatown (and specially Two Jakes). He brought here some of the comedic kind of performance he developed in his last years lesser projects (this is a side note). So, the over layering of main characters allows Scorcese to make more complex his previously quite simple (and many times uninteresting) game of Goodfellas or Casino. It’s a refreshing of his “formula”, based, i believe, on trying to extend to the way he ordinarily developed his characters the experimental attitude of his latest projects. I suppose this was to be a side project on his newest tendencies, but i hope the high success this one had doesn’t make Martin give up the experiments he had been conducting… Anyway, to this point, The Departed follows the kind construction Scorcese masters the best: the character driven one.

For every technical aspect, this is obviously nearly flawless; and i wanted to watch this without having watched the one which this remakes. I didn’t want to base my comment on that other film.

My evaluation: 4/5, nevertheless i hope Scorcese continues his last 5 years tendency, he may get somewhere new to his standards.

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…And God created woman (1956)

“Et Dieu… créa la femme” (1956)

Director: Roger Vadim

Writers: Roger Vadim and Raoul Lévy

Genre: Drama


cinematic self-biography

“the problem with the future is that it always ruins the present”, says Bardot at the beginning. my intuition relates this sentence with some of the role this picture would perform in cinema context in years to come.

This is a really important film. From a sociological and cinematic point of view. Nevertheless, it is NOT a good film. It hasn’t got a strong plot, a strong idea nor strong performers. But it has BB and a boiling revolution in cinema that was to come in just 4 years and that shows its claws here.

Social phenomena

Brigitte Bardot popped out here. The first scene grants her a place in collective imagination of the western society. The rest of the film defines a new personality for sex symbol. The one which is not so much different than the ordinary person, only more beautiful. This is her film, and she’s the only one you will remember after a very short time after watching it (her, not the character).

Cinematic issues

(1) I can’t tell exactly how far Vadim was self-aware about what he was doing here, or if he predicted that he was, probably, beginning something which would bring consequences to our days. Anyway, what he wanted to tell with this picture, was his own story, in which Bardot was, at this moment, the main character. Carradine (Jürgens) was, i suspect, Vadim himself. Bardot is liberal, does whatever she wants, out of innocence and joy. Carradine is experienced, sees everything, or at least knows about it, allows everything, but always controlling in the distance, always caring for what happens and always planning over it.

(2) The composition is not old fashioned anymore, even though the plot line and themes depicted could report to some classical light comedy, used to exhaustion until then. The camera movements are bold, though useless most of the times, Vadim is trying to change, even though he wasn’t competent enough to make it worthwhile (that job would go to Godard, mainly, and Truffaut). Also the development-climax-conclusion form doesn’t apply so clearly here.

So, this film is (1) self-referential to its author and (2) searching a personal innovative way to expose a story (film about cinema). That makes it maybe the first nouvelle vague constructed film, 3 years before “4 cents…” and 4 before “a bout de souffle”. Here, as with Barbarella, Vadim introduces elements of innovation, that would change pop thinking and pop culture, without producing really good watchable films, almost on the contrary.

My evaluation: 3/5 This an important worthwhile seeing NOT such a good film.

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