Archive for August, 2007

August 30, 2007

>Venice yesterday


Keira Knightley in the opening day of the Venice Film Festival, representing her upcoming film Atonement. This year’s jury is presided by the chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who directed Raise the Red Lantern, one of the best films made in the 1990s. He has been awarded three times in Venice.
August 25, 2007

>Three books, Three movies – part 1


The Hours

by Michael Cunningham

“To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away”.

I read the book before i saw the movie, actually, right before i saw it back in 2002. The lines were fresh in my memory and the images, the sounds, the feelings, it all became perfectly real in the cinema screen. It was too much to absorb in such a short time: words, images, piano melodies, madness and lives. Three lives of three women, in different times, united by a single book – Mrs. Dalloway. Clarissa is in New York in the 1990s, she wakes up and she’s going to organize a party in honor of a beloved friend. Laura lives in a LA suburb in the 1950s, she has what people would call the perfect family, but the perfection doesn’t suit her. At last, there’s Virginia Woolf, placed in the british country side writing the already mentioned novel. It gives me goose bumps every time i see one of the first scenes in the film where the characters are beggining to be intertwined, the scene that evolves the decision of buying flowers at early morning. And what to say of Philip Glass soundtrack? I’m speechless. Listen to it here.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

“What are you doing here, honey? You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets. And it was then Cecilia gave orally what was to be her only form of suicide note, and a useless one at that, because she was going to live: “Obviously, Doctor,” she said, “you’ve never been a thirteen-year-old girl.”

I read the book after i saw (and loved) the film, despite the fact i never really understood the point of the story. But reading the book didn’t give me any further answers, the book lies in mystery, as the story of the five voiceless Lisbon sisters are narrated many years later by the boys who never really knew their deepest inner secrets, who desperately tryed to penetrate their isolation, but failed. The most original thing about this book is how it’s narrated by a group and not by a single character or by an author’s judgemental look. The story takes place in an american suburb in the 1970s, where people seemed to live in a bubble, a bubble that was about to burst. I think the essence of the book was very well captured by Sofia Coppola. Those who didn’t like the movie shouldn’t waste their time reading the book, then.

Little Children

by Tom Perrota

“It’s the hunger, the hunger for an alternative and the refusal to accept a life of unhappiness.”

When i first watched Little Children trailer last year, i immediatly thought this was going to be my darling movie of the year. Soon i started reading the book, and as the book was very good, and the trailer was the best trailer of last year (in my opnion), i was expecting to watch a masterpiece. It wasn’t the case. The book is SO MUCH better. In the story, Sarah, an ex-bissexual, and now a married woman and mother of a little girl, is trapped in her american suburban life, which she never dreamt for herself. There’s also Todd, the handsome stay-at-home dad, whose good looks earned him the label “The Prom King”, by the moms of the local playground.

Both frustrated and trapped, the two young adults are going to start a torrid love affair that will go further than either of them could have imagined. There’s a second plot that follow throughout the book, a former “child molestor” who recently moved back to the quiet suburb, provoking the anger of a particular parent and the collective concern of others. What disappointed me in the movie wasn’t the fact the child molestor’s character was portrayed as an innocent little kid, for example, but the fact the director concluded the film in a moralistic, judgemental and a sort of overdramatic way. The essence of the novel lies in irony, from its beggining to its end. But of course i’m not going to describe its last lines here and spoil it to you.
August 17, 2007

>Three beautiful films, three similar moments


The Lisbon sisters couldn’t have friends and at some point they couldn’t even go to school anymore. They spent their days drowned in melancholy, confined in their own home, observing the world outside through their bedroom’s window. Lost eyes through the glass. Charlotte was lost in translation in a foreign country, she hardly spent time with her husband and she leisurely walked, bored and alone in a large Tokyo hotel. Charlotte lost in her thoughts, lost in the city, lost in her window seat. Nevertheless, she will be found, she will have a friend to be lost with. Marie Antoinette was a foreign, she didn’t belong to France and she would never really adapt to it. But she was a dreamer and she would use escapism in its sweetest colours to go through it. A particular scene, the different angles where 14-year-old Marie contemplates the world through her carriage’s window speaks for itself, and no words are needed. Three different films, three similar moments with the signature of Sofia Coppola.
August 10, 2007

>In the theater with Jimmy Dean


On wednesday afternoon i had the opportunity to watch a great film on the big screen: East of Eden. Thanks to the art cinema in Århus, which opened its renovated rooms and cafes, welcoming movie lovers with the free exhibition of four movies, including East of Eden – or Øst for Paradis in danish, which is how the art cinema is called, since its first opening in 1978. There was cake for everyone before the film, and free wine and a buffet by the end of the exhibition. The only unpleasant thing was the heat in its interior, as it’s a charming and old styled cinema, with no air conditioning.
East of Eden was the first big role James Dean played in the cinema. And in my opnion, his most well-portrayed role. When the new generations think of Jimmy, they immediatly picture the red-jacketed teenager in Rebel Without a Cause, but i like to remember him as the misunderstood young man who only wanted to be loved by his father.
In the Elia Kazan film, based on the John Steinbeck’s novel and set in America just before the First World War, Dean plays Cal Trask, one of the two sons of an old lettuce farmer. The other kid, Aron Trask, is daddy’s favorite, while Cal has always been left out. Their mother abandoned them in a very young age, leaving the two young children (babies, perhaps?) in the care of the strict; bible-reader; moralistic and self-conscious, though, good-hearted man. Their father made up a story that their mother had died when they were young, something Cal would find out as being a lie many years later, in the first film scene.

The woman, Kate (Jo Van Fleet, who won an Oscar for this role), runs a brothel not far from the town where her abandoned family lives. Cal, desperate for comprehending who he is, tries to seek on her mother’s figure the explanation for his “bad” personality.

Many critics use to say this story is a modern version of the bible tale of Cain and Abel, which makes quite sense, but i refuse to see James Dean’s Cal as a cold-hearted, envious and evil brother. Not only the character’s actions, as the way Jimmy portrays him, helps the audience to conclude nothing but the fact that Cal is the opposite as a modern Cain. James Dean has never been so vulnerable on his short career on screen. And it’s clear that his real life inspired him to portray such a character, as Dean’s father never really cared for him.

On his portrait in this film, the acclaimed movie critic Pauline Kael wrote: “As the romantic, alienated young hero, James Dean is decorated with all sorts of charming gaucheries; he’s sensitive, defenseless, hurting. Maybe his father doesn’t love him, but the camera does, and we’re supposed to (…).” I don’t really know if she was true or ironic in this statement, but from the review, she seemed to have loved the film. I find this particular scene, one of the most powerful scenes in the whole film. I won’t describe it here in order to not spoil it to the ones who haven’t seen this must-see film.