Archive for October, 2007

October 31, 2007

>2000s favourite thrilling scenes – Part 3


El Laberinto del Fauno (2006)

Ofelia walks along the corridor and her eyes meet the place where she’s supposed to accomplish a simple task. Despite the horrid creature sitting on the edge of the table, the little girl can’t help herself of not looking at that endless orgy of grapes, sweets and cakes… The monster is the last thing she will notice and despite all the evil and obvious signs of past death she doesn’t seem frightened at all. Perhaps, because the worst monster of all lives in the real world. Mission accomplished, it’s time to go back to her punishement room where soon the faun will be waiting for her. She has been warned. You must not try anything. But how tempting that banquet appears to her. Would it be this harmful if i tried just one grape?, she might be wondering. This is not an ordinary banquet, though it’s something only the fairies could truly know. One grape. Two grapes. Little fairies, get out of my way. The monster wakes up. And the door that connects her real world to her fantasy world has been locked. Will she escape? Is it worth it to escape? Is it any better in that dark room?

October 29, 2007

>This Is No Russian "Godfather"


“I’m just the driver”, says Viggo’s character

Eastern Promises (2007) – Director David Cronenberg has become nearly a master when it comes to shoot unique violence scenes. And in his newest film, violence appeals much more cruel, provocative and tense than in his last drama/thriller, A History of Violence. He makes us wonder about his main character’s identity by one single fight scene where a naked Viggo Mortensen brutally manages to defend himself from two men in a bathhouse. Cronenberg tells us stories through blood, and no guns are needed. This is non gratuitous violence in its best shape. Ambiguous and mysterious, Nikolai (Mortensen) works as a driver for a russian family in London. This is no ordinary family, as the members belong to the russian mafia which deals with the sex trade of young girls from East Europe. In one of the first scenes, we’re introduced to a pregnant 14-year old girl who hemorrhages from her baby while asking for help inside a pharmacy.
The girl ends up giving birth and dying right after it, during the shift of Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts), a kind midwife whose recent emotional past consists in a broken relationship and a natural abortion. Anna finds the girl’s diary and an address that will bring her to a traditional russian restaurant which belongs to the family where Nikolai works for. There she’ll meet the courtly old owner, Semyon, smooth-voiced and so apparently harmless while playing violin to his granddaughters that she would never imagine what he is capable of. As soon as he hears of the diary, he offers himself to translate it to Anna, but he obviously has no real intension of helping her. He only wants a chance to hide and erase his own crimes. The character is unable to earn the audience’s simpathy whereas Brando’s portrayal in The Godfather had always made me yearn for his happy ending despite his not so good actions.
Semyon’s son, Kirill (Vincent Kassel), a homophobic drunker who is clearly afraid of embracing his true sexuality is not the most likable character either. This is not a movie about the mafia and its family relations, it’s about two characters who will have their paths intertwined because of a baby and a diary, though the russian mafia will be on their way during the entire film. We know what these guys are capable of from the opening scene, as a haircut in a barbershop is finalized by an unexpected throat slashing. But the most fascinating in the story is to find out about Nikolai’s different personality layers as the plot reveals his different attitudes towards other people and situations, and luckily Viggo Mortensen is sutil enough to intersperse among his character’s ambiguity.

The vulnerable and fearless Anna ends up trusting the mysterious Nikolai

October 28, 2007

>How the Truth Can Be Adjusted


Security, stop that man!

Michael Clayton (2007) – According to Wikipedia, a “MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or Maguffin) is a plot device that motivates the characters and/or advances the story, but has little other relevance to the story. The MacGuffin is common in films, especially thrillers. Commonly, though not always, it is the central focus of the film in the first act, and later declines in importance as the struggles and motivations of characters play out. Sometimes the MacGuffin is all but forgotten by the end of the film.” Think of most of Hitchcock thrillers and in more recent times, think of the Jason Bourne trilogy, whom screenwriter – Tony Gilroy, not only wrote Michael Clayton as well as directed it. In the film, George Clooney plays a corporate “fixer” in a big law firm in New York who sees himself involved in the billion dollar suit against U/North, which action is leaded by a bipolar disordered Tom Wilkinson. A little longer we’ll find out the company is being sued by farmers because of a germ-killer (?) the corporation used despite knowing about the awful effects (perhaps, death?) it would have on people.

The introduction is pretty complicated. You see Clooney’s character driving his son to school after picking him up at home where the kid’s mother is in the kitchen in the company of another man who is feeding a baby girl – OK, Clooney’s character must be divorced or something. But is he good or is he bad? Is this movie about the law-suit itself? What the hell is U/North? And then suddenly, he parks his car in a distant area outside the city. He leaves the car. A couple of minutes later, his car explodes, just like that. So, someone is setting him up, someone wants to kill him. But, why? The second part of the film is about what happened in the past days before the car explosion, until the story comes back to the present time. In the meantime, we’ll be introduced to Tilda Swinton‘s character, a cold and ambitous litigator behind the U/North issue. Just one single scene is enough for the audience to picture her personality. The character is seen rehearsing each line she intends to say on an interview which is probably about her career. To make this sutil moment even more powerful, the frames of the methodic rehearsal are cross-cut with the actual interview. In the few scenes she plays, Swinton gives one of the best female performances of the year, but she’s so underrated that I won’t even hope for any award recognition. As for the film, besides it narrative complexity it didn’t bore me for a second, and I’d never really expect such an ending. That’s when I realized I had no idea who Michael Clayton was.

I say – What’s exactly inside the red covered notebook?

October 18, 2007

>Nothing like two great films and a good one


Ratatouille (2007) – Ever since Spirited Away, an animated film hasn’t surprised me for the best. This is not only a great animation, but a great movie as well. Remy is a little rat with a natural talent for cooking. Something unexpected happens and he sees himself in Paris: now the impossible dream of becoming a chef in an important parisian restaurant might become true. The plot may sound bizarre, but that’s cinema fantasy and in animation everything is possible these days. And besides, the story makes you think. Is it better to stay on the safe side, to accept what everyone else says you should be, even if that means to choose a mediocre way of life or to break the boundaries and follow your deepest dream? Brilliantly directed and with one of the most (if not the most) unforgettable scene of the current film year. After nearly 10 months, finally a movie overcomes Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette on the top of my 2007’s fav list. A movie which lead character is a rat. Who would say so? Watch some scenes and comments on them here.

Tropa de Elite (2007) – When it comes to art (and cinema seen as an art form here), artists should talk about what they understand, about their own surroundings, their own reality. The mirror, which is the film camera, should reflect the social and cultural reality of their home country. Of course, art goes beyond that, but i suppose it’s really hard to make a mistake by choosing this path. Take german cinema, for example. How they’re obsessed about their own political history in so many aspects, and how this theme resulted in so many great contemporary films. Sophie Scholl, GoodBye Lenin!, Nowhere in Africa, The Downfall and The Lives of Others, just to mention some of them. Based on this thought, i’d say the best brazilian films ever made were those which the filmmakers focused on what is the most controversial aspects of my country. Central Station had an universal appeal, but it used misery in its cruel form as a background. I suppose many of you have seen City of God by this time, so i’m gonna drop any further discussions on it. Some has said Elite Squad is the new City of God. But if Fernando Meirelles came back to the past in order to explain why Rio de Janeiro is facing a civil war these days, this new film uses today’s civil war as a background of endless violance, through the eyes of a working cop. Once again, there’s no easy answers. Is this ever going to have any answers at all?

Sicko (2007) – Oh, Michael Moore. In the future, we’ll be able to show your documentaries as an efficient summarizing of the Bush era. Or perhaps, not? By this point, many of us already know that not everything you show in your films are 100% true, but who cares. It’s true enough in its essence and i totally support you on your ideas! Sometimes i don’t know if you’re really defending a cause, trying to open the eyes of your fellow americans or you’re just fond of teasing everyone around you. Perhaps, all of these? I love your sarcasm and how you exaggerate many things to prove your point of view. Like, saying USA’s health care places 37th right above Slovenia while showing how great the hospitals in Cuba are. But guess what, i read somewhere that Fidel’s island was right under Slovenia. Nevermind, i still love your style. Only you to make me horrified by showing the lives of those who actually have a health insurance, but after endless diseases became bankrupted, and in between, you are still capable of making me laugh. Only you to get a boat and a group of 09/11 uninsured rescuers all the way to Guantanamo Bay, the only place in US where people (oh, you mean the prisioners?) have universal health care coverage. And what a Michael Moore moment: you holding a loud siren asking for them to receive your passengers and nevertheless, to cure them for free! Once again, that’s that chubby guy with a cap showing us the ugly side of his own country. How he loves to slap the so-called american dream on its face. In the meanwhile, Lucifer doesn’t give a damn…

October 16, 2007

>2000s favourite thrilling scenes – Part 2


The Village (2004) “Don’t let them in!”

There’s something about this scene that it gives me goose bumps every time i watch this film. Of course it has something to do with Hilary Hahn’s violin, passionately and genuinely played by her, besides being brilliantly conducted by James Newton Howard in his greatest achievement. But it’s an ensemble of elements that makes the final piece so delightful and effectively emotional. The frightened, yet bold expression on Ivy’s face, who refuses to shut the door until the man she loves comes back to the house. The slam of the lover’s hands meeting eachother, the close-up on their intertwined fingers, beautifully shot in slow motion and once again, the soundtrack, makes of this film much more than a thriller. Is The Village a thriller after all? I’ve always seen it as a love story.

October 15, 2007

>2000s favourite thrilling scenes – Part 1


The Others (2001) “Are you mad? I am your daughter!”

First of all, if you haven’t seen the film, don’t be afraid to watch this video as it’s not a spoiler for anything crucial that happens in this masterpiece brilliantly written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar. A film that at first sight only means to scare the audience but in its end proves to be much more than that. Some could say The Others is intertwined with The Sixth Sense (1999), but in my opinion, the fact that the two films deal with a very similar subject doesn’t make Amenábar’s piece smaller by any means. What i feel by the end of each film is remarkably different. The Sixth Sense comforts me almost like a lullaby. The Others torments me. How depressing it is Grace’s looks and words (Nicole Kidman in her best performance) when she finally realizes what some of us already wondered. This particular scene above is one of the many hints in the film. Many of the other clues are not only presented by words and acts, as well as many other elements in a single frame, which might be the light, an object or a sound. Prepare all your senses.