Sunday, September 17, 2023

L’Année Dernière à Marienbad (1961) directed byAlain Renais

This is a staple of the French New Wave and for good reason. The cinematography is beyond amazing. The camera moves precisely with tracking shots I would not have thought possible at this time period and lighting and composition is fantastic. Delphine Seyrig and Giorgio Albertazzi are beautiful, cold and impeccably dressed. 

One thing you should not expect from this film is answers to what is going on  or even who the characters are. No one is named, we don’t know exactly where, or even when they are  or what is happening or merely in the head of the characters. A man and woman meet at fancy hotel and agree to meet again a year later. A year later, they are both there but the woman says she doesn’t remember the man and is with a guy who “ might be her husband… or not”. Dialog is repeated, time is fluid, the actors start in one location and time and are suddenly continuing the dialog in another location and time. There is amazing editing and the man or woman might be killed by the maybe husband… or it’s all in someone’s head. There really isn’t much of a resolution and it doesn’t really matter. It’s beautiful to see. 

Saturday, September 2, 2023

New Animation: Pulled Towards the Sea. (2023) directed by Vincent-louis Apruzzese

I wrote and illustrated a short story before deciding to make this animation and got some feedback on that which helped this be a much better story in the end. The last 2 years have been a horror of dealing with dementia in several close family members and how this terrible disease is very much a monster that takes those we love away in one of the most heart breaking and sorrowful ways. 

Originally this seemed like a good project to do in Blender and start my transition away from Cinema 4D before my old version of that software stops working but I have not been able to  get to a point where I can  understand Blender well enough to do that and getting this done seemed more important than learning something new(ish). 

I decided early on that black and white would be best and I don't regret it. I am an avid photographer who especially loves black and white images and tried to give this a sort of silent film/vintage photography look. I worked for months on the cliff set and small town to get the look I wanted and tried not to overdo it on the details that would never be seen or used. The shot of the walk from the town to the cliffs was the most daunting and took 46 hours to render. I wanted the pace to be slow but I think it doesn't drag on and it has kept the attention the few people who have seen it so far. 

Editing in Final Cut Pro and composting was done with Apple's long neglected but sometimes still updated Motion software which I like working in and doesn't cost me money every month like After Effects would. 

Music and sound effects are by me and I am not expert in either but I hope they work well enough. I am planning to try and get this in some festivals. The "Another Hole in the Head"  in San Francisco has been very good to me over the years and I hope other festivals will pick it up as long as I can find the money to enter a few! 

Personal note:
This is the first gothic animation I have made based on a short story I wrote myself. It is the first animation I have done in over 2 years and is the direct result of why I hadn't produced anything else in all that time. 

As I often state with my projects, Mike Luce was kind enough with all the other things he is doing to make the time to do the voice work and give me feedback. where I have been an active member for many, many years also deserves credit for the encouragement of the gang in the forums there. 

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Stranger than Paradise (1984} Directed by Jim Jarmush

 I saw this in the cinema on release and it was as hard to pin down what to like about it as it is now. There is much to like about it but if you try and describe what that is, the film sounds like a boring mess. The story itself rambles on like the live of the characters who mange to grow on us and each other, maybe because they seem to have no idea how to relate to each other but manage to form friendships and have a pretty mundane adventure that nevertheless draws you in. 

Eva is from Budapest is visiting her cousin in New York and well, nothing much happens. She meets his best friend but never sees anything but the depressing little section of the city they live in so she goes to Cleveland which is not much different (something the characters remark on) and then to some similarly run down part of Florida together. They have no real plans and their inability to really communicate well leads to the wrong character going back to Budapest. 

The cinematography of the film, I think, is what pulls us in. The dialogue is funny, but not joke-y, we just see how absurd tiny mundane detail can be and end up having feelings for people that in any other film we wouldn't even notice. It can be hard to stop watching even though you know no one in it is really going anywhere. Well, except the one the ends up in Budapest. 

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Un beau monstre (1971) directed by Sergio Gobbi

 I had the chance to see this on TV after reading about in relation to the death of Helmet Berger recently. He plays a sadist who drives his wife to suicide and then proceeds to do the same to his second wife. Police Officer Leroy (Charles Aznavour) begins to suspect the truth and is determined to save the unfortunate woman from Alain's clutches. The movie is filmed as an art film and moves pretty slowly. The sadism is sort of low key but cruel and they seemed to be holding back on getting too explicit with that while, even at 2 in the afternoon on Quebec TV, the film has some rare full frontal male nudity showing off Berger's talents as he was considered one of the most beautiful actors at the time. (Hence the name of the film.) 

I can't say I loved it or hated it. the Performances are very understated and the motivations of just about everyone but the inspector are nebulous at best. There is some interesting cinematography, maybe to interesting as I was sometimes not sure where the characters were or how their apartment was set up. I also am not a fan of watching people be cruel as entertainment and the film allows Berger to control his wife totally, including raping her while she is sick and given drugs. There is never really a passion between the man and his victims, they seem be be going through the motions most of the time. 


In the last scene of the movie, the police are shown investigating something that is revealed to be the bodies of Nathalie and Alain next to each other on the ground. The two spouses have most likely committed suicide together.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Rings of Power (streaming show) season one 2022


Season one of the proposed 5 year one BILLION dollar series finally made its way on to my iPad on a recent trip to Boston. The bus ride is long and dull and the perfect time for a lavish escapist TV show. Covering events that predate the Lord of the Rings book series, this story follows the history of how the rings of power, central to those books, came about. While not having any real connection to Peter Jackson's films it does keep a certain continuity of design and tone, though I found the TV show a bit more bloody and violent. 

Production values, acting and story are pretty top notch and well thought out (though I did spot a couple continuity errors) this is without a doubt set up as a serialized TV show in how is laid out and not a movie extended over episodes. The massive budget shows, I was afraid it would look like a video game from the trailers and was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn't over sharpened or over saturated and while stylized, it did manage to have a natural look well combined with a fantasy aesthetic. 

The story mostly centres around elf Galadriel, a powerful force in the Tolkien era, as a warrior dead set on revenge after her brother is killed in the battles again the now missing and presumed dead by most, Sauron. She is a powerful character physically but not the mystical force we see her as later on. Other known characters are included due to the long lives of their races and it gives the series a nice link to the later versions without having to be slavishly tied to them.

For Tolkien fans, you can see the emergence of later characters coming a mile away... sort of. They were smart, I think, to fill this storyline with quite a few red herrings to throw off the fans enough to not be really sure if their assumptions are right. I works to keep the show interesting and exiting as some of the mysteries are revealed while others are left for the next season. Some of the characters seem like jerks and are developed to be anything but over the run of the show and that helps keep things tense as the heroes may not always be right or have all the information they need to see the whole picture. 

Overall it's pretty damn good, they didn't waste the budget or the confidence of Tolkien followers and are creating a nice companion piece to what was already out there. As a rule, I HATE prequels. I don't think we need to fill in every five minutes of what happened between this and that in a franchise as it takes audience participation out of everything and destroys much of the mystery and fun of speculating about things only hinted at. Luckily this was cleverly crafted to avoid the pitfalls of prequels so far. 

Thursday, June 8, 2023

The Servant (1963) Directed by Joseph Losey


Written by Harold Pinter, this film is about the class struggle in British society. The 4 main characters are a rich guy, his girlfriend, the manservant he hires and his girlfriend who he introduces to the household as his sister so she can get work as a maid. The rich guy, Tony is an alcoholic and basically an asshat. To be honest, the entire cast is playing unlikeable people to various degrees. As the story moves forward the manservant (Hugo Barrett played by Bogarde) reverses the boss/servant role and takes over and gleefully ruins the life of Tony.

Everyone gets their turn to be the bad guy in this movie and it's fascinating in many ways to see how low they all go and what they put up with from each other. The filming is pretty interesting as well. The images are super clear with no depth of field and much of the action is filmed from behind things, through things, reflected in mirrors and at odd angles. 

If you are looking for any sort of resolution, stop doing that, there isn't any. In a way it's a slice of life sort of thing and end with Tony passed out and Barrett still in charge. That can't last forever, one's money can't last forever and they will all be out in the cold I suspect. 

While everyone in the film is cold hearted, Tony is the biggest jerk in that it's his fault he let it get to the extremes it does but he hardly elicits any more sympathy than the other characters. There is a STRONG homeotic vibe, especially after Barrett takes things over but it is never specifically addressed. 

So it's not for everyone and very much a product of its time but I think worth a watch. 

Monday, May 15, 2023

Polish Posters: Sunset Boulevard


Sort of like this one... it's weird. An armless medusa headed Gloria Swanson certainly gets your attention. Despite the stylization and almost cartoon look, I think there is still a resemblance to Norma Desmond. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

High Life (2018) directed by Claire Denis


I have seen more Robert Pattinson led films than I ever imagined I would the last couple of years and I have been amazed at how he has grown as an actor and how open he is to interesting roles. So I can see how he was drawn into this film, it is Claire Denis’ first  English language film and on paper I am sure it looked profound. In practice however, the film produced makes little sense. Juliette Binoche, another interesting performer is also a main character and like  Pattinson is wasted in à confusing nonsensical role. 

In short, this film lacks any sort of sense on most levels. For some reason criminals with death sentences are experimented on spaceships heading to black hole(s?) looking for an energy source. The lack of a coherent story and poorly drawn characters make it impossible for the actors to give decent performances and even harder for the viewer to figure out what is going on. Sometimes you can see the seed of the great idea behind a disappointing movie but this one seems more concerned with appearing profound without putting the work into putting anything behind those appearances. 

Monday, April 3, 2023

The Batman (2022) directed by Matt Reeves


There are far too many Batman films, particularly Batman origin films and only a couple of them have been worth a rematch to me. This film tries to reboot the character yet again by reintroducing some of the elements from the original comics and some of the better later comics and finally accepting that every person on planet earth know why Batman is Batman and does retread that ground yet another time. 

Robert Pattinson plays the lead and was not the obvious choice, which is why I think it works. He has a new intensity and anger that we haven’t seen before. The character is much more human and not some indestructible hero but gets hurt, often, and actually grows as a character during the movie. One really welcome addition is that the “world’s greatest detective” actually does a lot of detecting for once. There is a lot more of him figuring things out than action sequences, not that this 3 hour film lacks action sequences. The villain are more humanize as well and the world for the most part seems plausible and as over the top as previous incarnations in this franchise. 

Some weak points are the lack of humour throughout. It could have used a little levity here and there to break it up and the obligatory special effect set-piece involved the sea walls around Gotham City being danger… you didn’t know Gotham was on the ocean? Well neither did I until the sea walls were suddenly part of the plot. Speaking of the plot, it does get a little rambling and over complicated as it suffers like many DC superhero films do with an access of villain and plot twists some of which are poorly executed. 

One of the better Batman movies overall but still suffering from some of the same stuff many other comic book adaptions do which might be unavoidable especially with such a well know main character. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) directed by Jim Jarmusch


Starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, this is a art film take on vampires. Swinton and Hiddleston are have been a couple for the last few hundred years but are currently living apart. Their characters are named Adam and Eve which I found a little annoying to be honest but there wasn’t much other religious symbolism in the film. John Hurt plays Christopher Marlowe and the script makes it clear that he wrote the Shakespeare plays and Adam was behind some of the world’s most famous poets and musicians while Eve has had her share of relations with famous historical people. This is an element that I find ridiculous in many films with vampires or any long lived characters. They always seem to know or worse, have been famous people throughout their lives. Like in stories of reincarnation, no one is ever a pig farmer, that are always Cleopatra. The unlikeliness of that just irritates me. 

This a Jarmusch film so the story is sort of light on details or structure and instead relies on how interesting you find the people in the story. I do think this works for him and it doesn’t fail him in this film either but it’s the performances of the main actors that keeps you watching. He introduced some elements that took me a while to figure out why they were important, like how the vampires wear gloves when out and about, but not all the time. Adam does seem to mopey at times but is still manages to elicit sympathy. John Hurt and Tilda Swinton are the highlight of any production in my opinion and they don’t disappoint here.