2010-04-28

Public Enemies - Michael Mann (2009)


Recently reviewed on Le Mot du Cinephiliaque, Michael Mann's Miami Vice was a precedent to this review of his film of last year: Public Enemies. I'll try not to repeat myself on some of the qualities of Mann's films, I promess. My expectations for Public Enemies were really high, first because like John Dillinger I love Gangster films. Second, because Michael Mann's pictures are always as entertaining as cinematically great. Third, because it's Johnny Depp and Christian Bale two of my favorite actors around. I liked Bale since American Psycho and Depp well since Edward Scissorhands.

The last years of the life of the famous bank robber John Dillinger(Johnny Depp), his love interest Billie Frechette(Marion Cottillard) and the man who chased him, Melvin Purvis(Christian Bale) are the subjects of Public Enemies.

Besides being the classic hide and seek chase movie, Public Enemies revisits the classic Gangster genre. Well, Michael Mann's films have this quality that I ultimely respect from a filmmaker which is to make a personal film that will make money, satisfy the critics and have its unique approach. He never makes a movie where the viewer is despised or out of its "comfort zone". The themes he visits are classics; love, duty, passion, obsession, etc. I know I'll receive tomatoes and stuff but I'd like to make a comparison of Michael Mann with one of the greatest directors of all-time: Howard Hawks. Hawks always had his style, his own way to tell a story. He did it in the "classic" cinematic genres too like Westerns, Film Noir, Slapstick, Comedies and Hawks always managed to have commercial success with his films. Well, I think Mann is the same kind of filmmaker mastering within the boundaries of successful movie business.

Another interesting topic about Mann's moviemaking is how his action scenes are efficient for the viewer. They never fell forced or useless but their major appeal is how they feel true. Linked with the action scenes are the scenes that leads to the action and that's what Mann is truly a master at. There are not that many shootings in Public Enemies, because Mann takes all his time to develop the motivations of the characters. Some frames are unusual but they don't feel arty just to be "cool" he doesn't have an exuberant style like Quentin Tarantino or Wes Anderson, but his sober "mise en scène" and deep realism that caracterize his filmmaking keeps the focus of the audience on the main elements of the movie: the characters, the story, and the dialogues.

If you haven't seen the feature I must warn you that the next section contains spoilers.

The whole film is a strong piece of Cinema. But to me, the final 30 minutes or so of the movie are just sublime. The scene where Dillinger enters in the Police station in the Dillinger squad room and looks at all the pictures and stuff about him. A place where every policeman must have dreamt to know where he is hidden and to catch the guy that is just standing there and asking for the score of the game. This is a blissful moment of Cinema. Moreover, the scene that comes after this, where Dillinger is at the movies and watches a Clark Gable picture titled Manhattan Melodrama he sees what could have been a different (happy?) ending for him. It's a fact that John Dillinger was a movie buff. The scene is not that long but its execution and the build up of the tension is just perfect. We all know how it's gonna end but just don't know exactly when, the wait is endless.

Few films have this mastery to achieve to execute a powerful effect of the "film in the film" like that and in Public Enemies it's just excellent.


A Movie Review by Michaël Parent

2010-04-27

The 25 most influential directors of All-time poll

Starting of the idea of my own list, I ask you to name up to 25 of the most influential directors of all-time.

The list I made last year is about the ones I consider the most influential in my opinion. Your list can be the directors that you think have influenced the most the present directors, or the ones influencing their pairs in the recent years, or the ones that have influenced you in life or in your work.

Feel free to spread the list to anyone it might interest. My own list is Occident oriented because since I live near the USA I'm more in touch with their productions. However, I'd like to receice lists from around the world to populate this poll with different points of view.

Every list will be published and I will link everyone's Blog/Website with his/her list.

You just have to copy and paste the items below, fill it, and send it to me at dark_666_throne@hotmail.com with Top25 in the subject.

Your Name:

Your Blog/Website Name:

Your Blog/Website URL:

Your List:
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10.
11.
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*The points will be awarded as Spot number 1 will receive 25 points and spot number 25 will have 1 point.

Last entry will be received June 23rd 23h59 UTC-05(Eastern Standard Time).

Here are some banners you can add to your website or blog to spread the list:






Thanks to everyone who will participate in this poll!

Michaël Parent

Synecdoche, New York - Charlie Kaufman (2008)


From the writer of Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Charlie Kaufman, comes a masterpiece directed with great mastery.

Philip Seymore Hoffman portrays Caden Cotard, a theater writer and director. He is awarded a grant to do a grandiose play that will take place in a huge warehouse. But it' the work of his life, literally. It tells his life before, his present life and even some scenes will take place in his future. This is a uncommon story from one of the most uncommon screenwriter of all-time.

The structure of the film is very deep in meaning. It is probably Kaufman's most personnal script to date too; its dense, intelligent, captivating, and intoxicating. Synecdoche, New York is sometimes the knid of film you have to read between the lines and other times the plot is evident the characters even tell themselves their motivations and anxieties. The passage through time is to the viewer to discover and instead of being annoying it just flows naturally.

Philip Seymore Hoffman is as always excellent in his role of Caden Cotard. He gives to the character his sense of desperation and inspiration. The supporting players are all inspired too and it seems that they feel privileged to be a part of the first film directed by one of the most estimated screenwriters of our time.

Besides its slow tempo Synecdoche, New York is a monument of moviemaking!


A Film Review by Michaël Parent

2010-04-26

For you consideration...


The Lammys are here!
The Large Association of Movie Blogs blog has opened voting for the Lammys. Voting is open to current LAMBS only so if you haven't done so already, why don't you check out the poll and consider Le Mot du Cinephiliaque for categories like:

- Best Blog
- Best New Blog
- Best Banner
- Best Movie Reviewer
etc.

Voting is the important thing to do!

2010-04-25

Miami Vice de Michael Mann (2006)


Very underrated when it came out, this adaptation to the big screen of one of the most successful television series of the 1980's; Miami Vice disappointed many moviegoers that waited for a Lethal Weapon kinda crime/comedy movie. The comedic side is never exploited in this Michael Mann film. It may be one of the precursors of the return to the 80's of the end of the last decade. In fashion, style and culture this comeback to the years when my generation was born is something more close to commercial nostalgia than simple return to basics. The 80's were a decade where "more is more" paraphrasing Mies Van Der Rohe's "Less is More". Mann's Miami Vice is an underrated masterpiece like William Friedkin's underrated To Live and Die in L.A. and you know what? this last one was made in the 80's!!!

Miami Vice is the classic cop story where two partners are going undercover in the drug dealing underworld to find the bad guys who killed their partner. At this point there's nothing really new, but as long as the story goes the multi layered plot of these two cops/friends just got better and better. Mann wants us to pay attention to every detail of the film: the many eyes we can see on posters, graffitis, paintings and the recurring thunders in the sky at crucial moments of the movie everything is precisely put in place for a reason.


The styled and uncluttered cinematography lighted with crude and natural light gives a sense of reality to the images of the film and to the choices of unusual frames that gives a subtil artistic touch to the simplistic yet modern sets.

Brilliantly cast with a strong as always Jamie Foxx and the sometimes categorized as uneven Colin Farrel that gives one of his best nuanced performances in Miami Vice. Like the story, their characters are strong and multi layered in emotions. Their friendship is unshakable and even when literally sleeping with the devil they stand together.

Of being one of the commercial flops of the summer of 2006 Miami Vice stands strong and may be one of the center movies of Michael Mann's filmography with Heat, Collateral and The Insider. This is the kind of film I can watch again and again for its interesting story as for its filmic qualities.

A Movie Review by Michaël Parent


2010-04-24

I Love You, Man - John Hamburg (2009)


Of the many comedies we encounter these years, many are just stupid and some like Judd Apatow's are refreshing. Other movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall or (500) Days of Summer have more qualities than just giving you a fat laugh. I would put John Hamburg's movie, I Love You, Man in this category; near Apatow and the last two movies cited.

Especially when the main character makes me think of me, I like the movie even more. Like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer, Paul Rudd's Peter is a character I easily identify myself with. Well, it's been more than 8 years I'm with my girlfriend - btw, since last september fiancée - and I have some friends but none very close... My major problem is like Peter in the film: I don't take the time to call the "guys" to hang around and maintain my friendships. WHy I'm telling you that, because it resumes the starting point of the film. Peter will get married but he doesn't have a best man/best friend. We follow is quest to find the perfect guy friend. The chase could remind some catchy romantic comedies where the girl desperately tries to find the right guy for her life. It gives place to funny moments that never fell into easy gay gags or bad taste humor.

The friendship he develops is very cool and I can say I hardly been close to a friend like Peter and Sidney got. They complete each other very well and they make a great "friend" couple. It reminded of a friend that I lost track that probably recognize himself here; D.B. and J.N. call me if you read these lines... Friendship is something we don't see that often in movies because they prefer to show love or hate relationships.


I know I Love You, Man is not the greatest film of all-time or a movie life changing experience but I consider it like a efficient feel good movie with sincere laughs, light hearted and I just have to add one last thing: Rush rocks!

A Movie Review by Michaël Parent

2010-04-23

Zero de conduite

Zéro de conduite (Jean Vigo, 1933)


Zero de conduite is a relatively short film, only 41 minutes that passes like pretty quickly. It tells the story of schoolboys returning to class after summer. Well, it felt anecdotic and pretty much of the stuff going on there happened to people who have been to these kinds of schools as they were young.

The main idea of the film is to recreate the feeling we had at 10 years old that with only our classmates we could change the whole world. Its influences are diverses; Chaplin, Keaton, and the Marx brothers for its humor and juvenile gags. As for the susbtance the film felt like a schoolyard Battleship Potemkin or October both by the great master Sergei Eisenstein.

Zero de conduite has great moments, especially at the end with the slow-motion sequence where all the boys get out of the dorm parading like conquering troops with feathers falling like snow on a battleground.

The only negative comment I could say about Zero de conduite is its lenght, too short I could have had more of it. With a longer picture, the narratives could have been more developped and the story could have been more eleborated.



2010-04-18

10 Movie facts About Me (meme)



1. The first movie I've seen in a Theater was Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995). I know it's a little late in my life, I was 12 years old. But my parents were not cinemagoers and we didn't had much money so they prefered home rentals.

2. The best memory of my childhood is Ghostbusters and even today it has a special place in my favorite films. I must admit it scared the hell out of me!

3. I've never seen a film by: John Cassavetes, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, William Wyler, King Vidor, Jacques Rivette, Hsiao Hsien Hou, Jean-Pierre Melville, and so many others I probably don't even know their name yet.

4. In 2006 I was at Nice in France near Cannes, and I saw Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez walking together, and I'm ashamed to say I was too shy to go talk with them...

5. My ultimate cinephile goal is to achieve to see all the films on the They Shoot Pictures 1000 Greatest Films. I am now at 422, so 578 to go!

6. I must admit, I hated to death À Bout de Souffle the first time I watched it. Now having seen other Godard films, I must say I really think it's a good film and I'm thinking of rewatching it pretty soon.

7. I am not a religious person at all. I even dislike all religions equally, but when I enter in a movie theater I'm always feeling like I enter in a temple... Well, I could say movies are my "religion".

8. The movies of the last decade I didn't had the chance to see yet and that I'm looking forward to see are: Miami Vice, Requiem For A Dream, Donnie Darko, Yi Yi, Ghost World, Synecdoche, New York, and Let the Right One In.

9. My dream is to become a film director and my goal is to be a paid movie critic before I turn 30 (in 3 years) and live of my passion.

10. If I have to pick a favorite movie genre I would have to go with comedy (Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, etc). Even I, am surprise of this fact but this is the kind of films I can watch again and again! A great comedy always makes me feel good.

That's it for me, I looking forward to read yours to! So feel free to link or list them in the Comments!

I always love to read your comments and I enjoy them all!

Michaël Parent

2010-04-17

Make Way for Tomorrow

Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey, 1937)


"It could make a rock cry" Orson Welles.

There are these directors that are completely forgotten for decades and after reissues or articles about their films they come back in fashion. In this moment this is the case for the films of Leo McCarey. Since the reissue of his masterpiece Make Way for Tomorrow by the tremendous folks of Criterion Collection, McCarey came back in the major directors of all time. His films, like An Affair to Remember, Duck Soup and The Awful Truth were already celebrated by movie buffs. But his more obscure films have the chance of being seen by more people with reissues like The Ruggles of Red Gap. Myself, I have only seen Duck Soup with the Marx brothers which made me laugh a lot by the creativity of the gags and the crazy story.

In Make Way for Tomorrow as said by Orson Welles, it's McCarey's skill to tell a wonderful little story about an aged couple that can't live in its house and that must live separated at their children's houses. The story is quite simple and did not take a bit of age. The subject is on topic, with all the economic disturbances of our time some aged people won't be able to afford to keep their homes and live on their own. The "propos" of the film feels like an American version of a Yasujiro Ozu film. But, it doesn't feel as a remake at all. It's the same sad light approach to life and the little moments of our lives.


Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi as the old couple are unforgettable; it's never often to see aged characters on the front of a story. The producers tend to think that the audience wouldn't be able to identify itself with these kinds of characters. Especially, because the audiences want to see young, beautiful and healthy people. In the case of Make Way for Tomorrow, the story is so well written and told that the age of the characters didn't bothered me at all. The sentimentality and nostalgia of the film is so well handled that it never feels tacky or too much. One of the best scenes is where Ma's talking to Pa on the phone in the living room filled with people playing cards. We become the "voyeur" who listens to a conversation that should have been private and that touches the viewer by its tenderness and honesty. I think this is one of the forces of the story, the feeling of truth, honesty and reality it has. The characters put away their dignity and have to face the facts and keep the faith they have in life to pass through it. There are some touching scenes that will stick with you for many days.

Without a doubt I think Leo McCarey's Make Way for Tomorrow is a masterpiece and deserves its place among the great films of the 1930's!

P.S.:I thought it was kinda cool to begin a review with an Orson Welles quote...

A Film Retrospective by Michaël Parent



2010-04-12

LAMB casting event!

A fellow Blogger at Encore's World of Film and Tv suggests new castings for films. He asks for suggestions of casts and when they're received he asks his readers to vote for the better proposition.

I invite you to visit his Blog and vote for your favorite!

Michaël

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Along with The Turning Point (1977), The Color Purple (1985) holds the unenviable prize of having the most Oscar nominations without winning - 11. For the last episode of LAMB Casting I asked you to cast the Spielberg classic. The five responses were all quite interesting, one more than another. They choices were:

ENTRY #1
Halle Berry (Celie); Jamie Foxx (Albert Johnson); Lorette Devine (Shug Avery); Queen Latifah (Shug Avery); Thandie Newton (Nettie Harris); Morgan Freeman (Old Mister); Don Cheadle (Harpo Johnson); Beyonce Knowles (Squeak); Forrest Whitaker (Swain); Meryl Streep (Miss Millie)


ENTRY #2
Zoe Saldana (Celie); Terrence Howards (Albert Johnson); Halle Berry (Shug Avery); Jennifer Hudson (Sofia); Kerry Washington (Nettie Harris); Denzel Washington (Old Mister); Derek Luke (Harop Johnson); Joy Bryant (Squeak); Don Cheadle (Swain); Naomi Watts (Miss Millie)

ENTRY #3
Ziyi Zang (Celie); Tony Leung (Albert Johnson); Gong Li (Shug Avery); Maggie Chung (Sofia); Maggie Q (Nettie Harris); Chow Yun Fat (Old Mister); Andy Lau (Harpo Johnson); Ok Bin Kim (Squeak); Jet Li (Swain); Susan Sarandon (Misss Mille)

ENTRY #4
Anika Noni Rose (Celie); Dennis Haysbert (Mr. Albert Johnson); Beyonce Knowles (Shug Avery); Jennifer Hudson (Sofia); Sophie Okenodo (Nettie Harris); Morgan Freeman (Old Mister); Jamie Foxx (Harpo Johnson); Maria Carey (Squeak); Eddi Murphy (Swain); Catherine O’Hara (Miss Millie)

ENTRY #5
Viola Davis (Celie); Idris Elba (Albert Johnson); Kerry Washington (Shug Avery); Jennifer Hudson (Sofia); Taraji P. Henson (Nettie Harris); Danny Glover (Old Mister); Anthony Mackie (Harpo Johnson); Sharon Leal (Squeak); Derek Luke (Swain); Brenda Blethyn (Miss Millie)

So it's time for you to make your decisions. Which of these productions would you anticipate the most? Make your pick!

Poll: The Color Purple for the new millennium. Pick your cast!

2010-04-11

2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey is to me the quintessence of Cinema and visual art! So much has been written about the fourth best film of all time. (#1 Citizen Kane #2 Vertigo #3 La Règle du Jeu on the 1000 greatest films list of all time by They Shoot Pictures Don't They?). Easily the best Science-fiction film of all time, for many critics and maybe to me too it's considered as the best film of all time! However, to me Kubrick only made memorable films. And 2001... is one of the rare films that qualifies as perfect films. The story transcends Science-fiction and Cinema itself. Every second, every frame, every image of the film is unforgettable and untouchable. It won't be easy to rate this film...


The story told here is about humanity, its past, its near-present and its future. Having read the book by Arthur C. Clarke and having seen 2001... 5 times, I can say that everytime I rewatch it, I rediscover it and everytime it impresses me more than the last time. The rythm is so slow that it feels like the film was shot in slow-motion or like if the time stands still. Even if in the story there are millions of years of gap between some scenes. I agree that the story can annoy some viewers and the unnarrated parts are uncommon to some viewers that need to get explanations on what is going on the screen. I would recommend to these picky viewers to read the book to fully understand some of the subtil elements of the plot.

The classical tunes used in the soundtrack give so much depth to the images that it feels like a religious experience to watch an ear. Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra is now considered has a classic and could not be used without being a direct reference to 2001.... And the Blue Danube ballet has never been used in a better situation than in this film.

2001... has often been compared to its Soviet follower Andreï Tarkovsky's Solaris and I think that both are equally perfect films. Tarkovsky has always said he thought Kubrick's film was too cold and unhuman. This is an interesting argument, because in 2001... Kubrick opposes man against the machine, an old confrontation that always bothered creators of all time (Wegener's Der Golem, Shelley's Frankenstein, etc.). Human's creation becoming envious of its creator and trying to destroy its fatherhood. "The slave becomes the master"... I think the cold aspect of 2001... comes from the fact that it is so near the religious experience that it fells more than human. It's the story of humanity and its evolution and how it should become god-like.


Starting on the basis that Man created God to fill his spiritual emptiness. In the 20th Century, Nietszche exposed the idea that god is dead and that it is to humanity to take his place and role. His whole theory of Man accessing the "Superman" state. The grand finale of the film represents the "Superman" born to protect the planet earth. Kubrick's vision included the protection from a potential Nuclear war that already obsessed him as a theme he exploited in his earlier film Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb.


Well, the odyssey of 2001: A Space Odyssey is a journey that takes its viewer in places that only the mind can go and that only 2001... can bring the mind in these places.



2010-04-10

The Straight Story

The Straight Story (David Lynch, 1999)


David Lynch is in my opinion one of the greatest filmmakers right now if not one of the bests of all time. He has his own vision and his films are unique and personnal. Lynch is more a visual artist in is approach to film than a simple director. David Lynch's films are one of a kind and unique experiences. Each one feels special and distinct from the others.

With The Straight Story he surprised everyone. A simple story without any eerie elements and or strange characters. Based on the true story of Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), a 73 years old Second World War veteran that lives with his daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek). His brother who lives 600 miles from him suffers of a heartattack. It's been ten years since the two brothers talked to each other. Alvin decides to drive his lawnmower (he doesn't has a driver's licence) to his see his brother and to make peace with him. On his way he will encounter many characters whom will learn and grow from Alvin's experience in life.

The deep and sober performance that Farnsworth offered in his final film in The Straight Story is worth the film alone. He is touching as this man who needs to exorcize his last demons. In a wonderful supporting role, Sissy Spacek portraits the only character that can be called Lynchian. She has some "handicap" and she is a little slow but her heart is bigger than the world. Like Lynch's Elephant Man this a film that feels human and real. In the images, the structure of the film, and the feelings. It even felt a little oversentimental. Well, having read the last lines I must repeat the name of the director of this film: David Lynch! It pretty uncommon to see this kind of film made by him. But he handles the road-movie so well and the sentimental touch that we can forget this step away from his fantastic metaphorical masterpieces. He managed to deliver a deep human landmark in his filmography with The Straight Story.

Angelo Badalamenti's score is simple and beautiful it feels right along the many nice shots of wheat fields.

I loved this film and I really recommend it because it makes you have a good time and it is interesting to see something "normal" from one of the weirdest director out there!


2010-04-09

Porky's


Porky's (Bob Clark, 1982)

This Bob Clark feature film was largely inspired by some of his teenage years growing up and discovering sexuality.

Like many comedies, the story isn't very important, it's the many events and made-up situations to make a gag or to tell a joke that really counts here. I didn't laugh that much while watching Porky's. The thing that make me laugh the most was because we used to call one of my friend Pee-Wee for the annoying red-head character in Porky's. On the comedy level, it put the standard of teenage sex matter movies and opened the way for the American Pie series. Today Porky's seems harmless but in 1982 it was a real bomb and for many film enthusiasts it's a cult film! Like for others The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a cult film...

I don't really know what to think about it. I didn't hated it neither did I loved it but it is definitely funny and juvenile... I think having seen it at 15 I would have laughed my ass out...



2010-04-08

The Asphalt Jungle

The Asphalt Jungle (John Huston, 1950)


From the director who practically "invented" the Film Noir genre, without even knowing it was a genre at the time, John Huston delivers another classic noir with The Asphalt Jungle. The visual qualities of this 1950 thriller are awesome.


With The Maltese Falcon Huston made his debut as a filmmaker. In his first feature, the story was told from the point of view of the private who was looking to find the famous falcon. In The Asphalt Jungle, it's the side of the diamond bugglars and the other side of the law that is seen. Many characters interact with each other and except for the two women of the film few are innocent. The films of John Huston are all well written and well directed, the ones I've seen include The African Queen, The Treasure of The Sierra Madre, The Maltese Falcon, Moby Dick, and The Asphalt Jungle. The photography of The Asphalt Jungle is inspired and gives a lot of space to the faces of the many characters that habits this film.

Without being my favorite Film Noir or my favorite John Huston film, The Asphalt Jungle deserves a special mention because it is too often overshadowed by The Maltese Falcon.



2010-04-07

Passing Fancy


One of Ozu's three films of 1933, Passing Fancy a Silent melodrama about a father, his son, a coworker, a young lady and a mature woman. On the story level, Passing Fancy is much like the other Ozu work, being on the level of the small events that make our daily life. They aren't grand scale pictures but I've already dissected Ozu's approach and touch on my precedent reviews and retrospectives I've already done on his films.

This films is insteresting on how it brings narrative elements of Ozu's storytelling. Being a silent film it gives another perspective on how Ozu developped his style. Already in 1933, he did the uncommon camera angles that caracterized one of his trademarks. The characters and their interactions with each other are build like in any of his films has many love/hate relationships and codependent groups that live together that everyone must help everyone if one demonstrated kindness.

To me, the main character, the father that tries to be a good dad but with his impulsive character and lack of experience does mistakes, as everyone in life, he represents Yasujiro Ozu as the young director that must fight with himself to be a great director (which he became). A great pre-war Japanese film!



2010-04-05

Cinema Now - Suggested Readings

Publised at Taschen in 2007, Cinema Now gives a good perspective of up and coming filmmakers of the decade that ended last december. The best quality of this book is how it gives a good view of the filmmakers from around the World. Great photographies and short, but interesting, descriptions of the major work of each director presented in Cinema Now makes this book an interesting and very good looking coffee table accessory.

Well, compared to the IMDb and They Shoot Pictures Don't They? Websites, Cinema Now doesn't feel that exhaustive... But, its content is enjoyable and well written.

2010-04-02

Gandhi

Gandhi (Richard Attenborough, 1982)


It's been a while since I've wanted to see Gandhi. I heard a little about him at University and thought the man did something pretty huge. He liberated India from Great Britain pratically by himself! This is the second time I encounter a film made by Richard Attenborough, the first one was A Bridge Too Far. Which I thought was good but not great. I had high expectations for Gandhi because of the many Oscars it won and the position on the Top 250 Films on IMDb. Well I must stop reading user reviews because everytime I get angry.

Like many biopics, Gandhi opens with the death its subject. The story retells by episodic scenes the major events of the life of Gandhi.

The directing like the film itself is very sober and simple, this fit well with the description of the life of Gandhi: he was a simple man. The film didn't impressed me very much and I must say that I'm a little disappointed while impressed by the life of Gandhi. A major positive aspect of this film is how it made me read about Gandhi and his achievements. When you see the film and realize what he has done in a single lifetime it's impressive! But the film didn't got very far and seems like a compilation of archives on Gandhi telling his good shots...

Not what I expected and not in a good way...

A Film Retrospective by Michaël Parent


2010-04-01

The Gold Rush

TSPDT Greatest Films #32 The Gold Rush (Charles Chaplin, 1925)



After Chaplin made The Kid in 1921 he wanted to overstep it with something big, something epic! With bigger laughs, better writing, better drama, and bigger grosses. Well, with his next film: The Gold Rush he achieved all these goals. For a film made in the 1920’s it was a real "tour-de-force". Chaplin took his crew to North California to shoot natural snow and real landscapes. Some scenes needed hundreds of extras to capture the realistic touch of Chaplin’s vision. The making of the film took two years including writing, shooting, editing, reshooting, etc. However the results were more than expected, it generated six million dollars in entries.

The Gold Rush is the story of Chaplin’s little Tramp as the Lone Prospector going to the Klondike to search for gold. Instead, he became friend with another prospector named Big Jim. He will meet him accidentally while he enters into a cabin trying to shelter from a blizzard. They will try to survive from cold and starvation. Later, the Lone Prospector goes into a town and falls in love with a girl in a dance hall. The rest is yours to discover with the pleasure of watching this masterpiece.

It was the first film Chaplin did for the company he founded with the Fairbanks: The United Artists. He had the initial idea of The Gold Rush when he was at the Fairbanks for breakfast on a Sunday morning watching stereoscopic slides from Alaska and the Klondike. Chaplin was fascinated by a slide of the Chilkoot Pass showing a long line of prospectors hiking up on the frozen hill. In his autobiography Charles Chaplin explains that this moment inspired the first frames of the film. For another memorable moment of the film, he read a book about a convoy going to California from Donner. The convoy took a wrong turn and got stuck in the snows of the Sierra Nevada in 1836. Only 18 of the 160 people taking the trip managed to survive. To do so, they had to eat their shoes and the other deceased passengers. The scene inspired by these tragic events depicts the Lone Prospectors eating his shoelaces like spaghetti and licking the nails of his sole like bones of a little chicken. In the same scene, Big Jim has visions and sees the Lone Prospector as a big Chicken and tries to eat him. Interesting fact: the guy in the chicken suit was Chaplin himself. After trying another actor for the part, Chaplin got the better laughs from the crew when he put on the suit. Chaplin had to wear the chicken suit while directing himself and playing the Lone Prospector in the same scene.


One of the major strength of The Gold Rush's writing and most of Charlie Chaplin's films is how he built his scenes around tragedy. In this case, the tragedy is hunger that let people with no other choice to survive than to do cannibalism in the Sierra Nevada. He also used a personal experience of being stood up without a guest at a party he hosted (transposed in The Gold Rush on New Year’s Eve). He always had the right approach to make the most hilarious situations out of these tragic events. The Lone Prospector and his friend were dying of hunger and cold. Even with these heavy obstacles that could be too tragic, Chaplin managed to handle a scene where human misery is laughable and not laughed at.

For the modern day movie viewer some of the gags may seem a little repetitive. It’s good to know that when the first reels of comic films began in theaters they had to rewind the reel because the audiences laughed so hard at the gags that people were shouting to see them again and again. The projectionists had no choice but to replay the reels to avoid riots. With his feature films, Chaplin managed to avoid the constant rewind of hilarious scenes. With longer films the theaters had to respect the schedules of projection. Also, the refinement of the stories kept the audiences more aware of other elements than just the funny little guy being followed by a bear near a steep cliff.

With his childhood background of poverty and hunger Chaplin always knew how to get close to human misery. He had a real talent to invent gags better than the last one, but his real talent to me was how he could write a story that could interest the crowd and be close to human feelings in his understanding of their affliction. The recurring theme of Charlie Chaplin’s films is humanism. This theme is one of the reasons why his films were so popular and got so much enthusiasm from the movie goers of the time; he could take human feelings to the screen and show tragedies with comedy so efficiently.

The Gold Rush had a phenomenal success and still stands as one of the best comedies of all-time. It is often listed as Chaplin's best feature film. On that topic many could disagree with reason, my personal favorite is Modern Times close with The Great Dictator and Limelight. Well, for tastes there are no right answers especially with the quality of the Chaplin’s filmography. He was always trying to surpass himself. The Gold Rush is an "epic" masterpiece of Cinema that cannot be ignored.

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