Top films of John Ford by LMdC

The ultimate American director of all time. His realism and his understanding of the American pathos and how its society must relies on true hearted values made this grit character a really sentimental man below his common man peel. Like Orson Welles once said, John Ford is the poet of American Cinema his simple prose and his almost transparent aesthetic made his better films so true you could think you were watching true events. A legend in filmmaking History.

1. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
2. The Searchers
3. The Grapes of Wrath
4. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon
5. My Darling Clementine
6. Stagecoach
7. Two Rode Together

8. Fort Apache
9. Young Mr. Lincoln

10. The Long Voyage Home
11. Drums Along the Mohawk
12. How Green Was My Valley
13. They Were Expandable

Sadly, those are the only John Ford films I had the chance to see, so keep around because this Top will get updated when my viewings evolve.


The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Terry Gilliam, 2009)

Heath Ledger's final film! Alright, now that I have stated what has to be stated I'll be able to speak (read write) freely about this one of a kind movie.

As a fan of Terry Gilliam (Brazil, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), I dived into this film as open minded as a weird cinephile could be. Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) has an itinerant scene where he entertains people with his uncharacteristic tricks. Helped with Anton (Andrew Garfield) and his beautiful daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) Parnassus can make you realize your greatest dreams within his imaginarium. As spectacular as it sounds, the feature doesn't interest anyone. The little troop has to work very hard to earn their living. Until one day, they discover an interesting man hanging under a bridge. His charisma will bring them back in business and help Parnassus to close his pact with the Devil (Tom Waits).

Packed with extraordinary references to Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal and Federico Fellini's clownesque characters, Terry Gilliam's film works well despite some lows that Ledger's death may have provoked in the production.

As you must know Gilliam had to use Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law to fill up Ledger's empty shoes. Well, the replacements work in the way they are inserted in the parallel world of Parnassus they don't make such a big step down.

The story of Parnassus and the Devil reminds us the particular chess confrontation of the Reaper and the knight in The Seventh Seal. There's also the "forain's" troop that populated many of Bergman's films, representing his other cherish form of Art: Theater.

The most irritating parts of the film are the parallel world sequences where the visual effects are too CGI/computerized for my nostalgic tastes. I would have preferred a surreal Fellinesque king of fake world where even the water is represented with moving painted plywood...

Although, it was refreshing to have a new Terry Gilliam feature. It made us forget about his less than average Tideland.


Allemagne année 90

Allemagne année 90 (Jean-Luc Godard, 1991)

A title linking back to Roberto Rossellini's masterpiece: Germany Year Zero and the return of Eddie Constantine as the famous Lemmy Caution already used by Godard himself in his Alphaville, Allemagne année 90 promises a lot to the cinephiles of these references.

Well, Jean-Luc Godard's post 1960's films are characterized by their unnarratives and bold symbolism. His usual language tries to evoke the work of Marxists historians. His missives about the young 1990's are destructives. He criticizes the fall of the Berlin Wall, the victory of liberalism over communism and he sees the future of the world to come in his own particular pessimistic vision. This Antonionesque picture of a wandering Lemmy Caution walking through the ruins of communism and within the ghosts of a world freshly deceased feels like if you are watching an anachronism surrounded by industrial giants and the ghost of Karl Marx.
Caution illustrates the romantic though f the old world that disappeared with the Cold War.

However, the many levels of understanding from this Godard film will probably unravel after multiple viewings. Anyhow, Allemagne année 90 is one of Godard's most appealing picture in years.


The Long Voyage Home

The Long Voyage Home (John Ford, 1940)

Of the many John Ford films reviewed here, The Long Voyage Home is probably the most underrated so far. This masterpiece from Ford's most prolific period (The Grapes of Wrath, Stagecoach, Young Mr. Lincoln, Drums Along the Mohawk, How Green Was My Valley) diserves a better place in his career as in film History.

During the Second World War, the American navy was often represented in the films of John Ford. This is the kind of subject he loved to work with: His archetypal ensemble character plot could fit perfectly in the micro society of ship's crew. This ensemble cast will represent a social group that must work as a united team or a family where everyone as to behave and work hard with their strength to reach greater will. The crew of the ship illustrate this concept.

The visual side of the film was assured by the mastery camera work of cinematographer Gregg Toland, who is notorious for his work on Citizen Kane. His vision made The Long Voyage Home very unique in its visual beauty. The uses of low camera angles, dark lighting, and inventive framing that all characterized Citizen Kane and even the famous sealings are present inside of the boat. I'm not trying to say that Citizen Kane wasn't as inventive as a André Bazin could have wrote but Orson Welles himself always said that you're never the first to do something... Here Gregg Toland may or may not be the first to use all these new techniques but he sure was one of the few who mastered them that well. Clearly, Toland weas probably influenced by the films of the German expressionists like Murnau's silent films. Toland's work may have influenced the way film noirs were shot in the 1940's and in the 1950's. Many film historians will brag that Citizen Kane was probably the first film noir if not the major influence with all its particular style.

However, let's get back to The Long Voyage Home, of the more than a hundred feature films John Ford directed many are considered as untouchable masterpieces, The Searchers, Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath, Rio Grande, etc. But you don't often see The Long Voyage Home on his best films list. This is a little known film that diserves its place amongst the best of his greater films. A gem amongst one of the greatest careers of this Hollywood director.

Coming soon my personal Top 10 of John Ford's films!

Until then please read my other Ford's films reviews:

How Green Was My Valley (1941) *in french only*
They Were Expendable (1945)
Fort Apache (1948)
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949)


The Host

The Host (Joon-Ho Bong, 2006)

The good old Asian monster flick genre has been on hold since the Japanese decided to stop making Godzilla features. Well, the whole King Kong concept has been exploited since the beginnings of the special effects in Cinema. Gigantism is a very Japanese and especially American complex. With the more recent remakes, the Jurassic Park franchise, Cloverfield, etc. The monster genre was a little tired lately.

The Host, a Korean monster film opens similarly to Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, a scientific incident. In the British film it's the infected apes that spread the disease while in the Korean film it's the toxic substance thrown in the river that created this fish-like monster. Besides, the horror/action angle of the film, the story implies a funny 21st century family of a lazy lunatic dad in his thirties, his yuppie cum little criminal brother, his athlete sister, his smart daughter and his good will father. Each of these characters will learn and overpass his weakness to survive to the passage of the wild creature.

Tinted with moments of pure horror using the classic codes of the genre while injecting a great dose of humor and just a tint of sentimentality this crossover of genres is a very hip movie.

It's a crowd pleaser. The kind of film that can easily become a cult film among young film lovers. The mix of genres may irritate the purists of the horror genre and maybe some older cinephiles will feel that it's too "cool" or too young...

The colors of the film are superb and like many Asian films they are a little saturated but it balances itself with an extraordinary cinematography. We are in the presence of an eye candy looking picture; read here in the most positive way.

Despite some very interesting moments and many twists, I got bored by the whole thing. I think that the story lacked of tightness in its final thirty minutes. However, The Host is a very good movie.


Recomended readings - This Is Orson Welles

This Is Orson Welles

Of the many great directors of the History of Cinema few had the mythic persona that Orson Welles had. With a background in theater and radio, Welles came to the seventh art with all his innocence and pretentiousness. But like his Cinematographer on Citizen Kane, the great Gregg Toland, said "You can learn so much from working with someone new to the profession". Toland proposed himself to work totally for free on Kane!!!

The book, This Is Orson Welles, is the retranscription of the many conversations between Peter Bogdanovich and Orson Welles. With these interviews we discover a passionate and uncompromised a devoted man who always had to work hard for his art and to work even harder to direct his own projects. Moreover, this book reflects the great friendship of those two men who shared the same passion.

This Is Orson Welles is a great homage to one of the few true artists of this sold out business that is Cinema. An oeuvre that adds a little to the legend and how the man perceived his legendary work.

BOGDANOVICH, Peter & Orson WELLES, This Is Orson Welles.


Personal Top 10 of 2010

Top 10 of 2010

With a three delay I've decided to publish this work in progress of last year. Even if I haven't seen that many films of 2010 amongst the 221 films I watched this year, I put down the top of the best films of the year. The ones I prefered for many reasons, but especially their directing. I've seen some particular Top 10s but I think that the disparity is a good sign because it proves that there is still good filmmaking for everyone.

Some of my choices are personal preferences over other films but tastes can't be discussed. Analyzed yes.

1. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky)
2. The Social Network (David Fincher)
3. Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese)
4. The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom)

5. Inception (Christopher Nolan)6. The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko)7. The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski)
8. Greenberg (Noah Baumbach)
9. Incendies (Denis Villeneuve)
10. The Fighter (David O. Russell)

* I'll try to update this list with the new films I'll be watching in the next weeks.Runners-up: The American (Anton Corbjin) Alice In Wonderland (Tim Burton) for its visual achievment, Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich).Films I haven't seen so far that can change this Top: True GritThe Town, I Am Love, Hadewijch, Blue Valentine, Winter's Bone, Enter The Void, Scott Pilgrim vs. the WorldCarlos, Easy A, Certified Copy, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Machete, Kick-Ass.

I invite you to put a link to your Top 10 or if you don't have a blog to write your favorite films of the year!


Cassandra's Dream

Cassandra's Dream (Woody Allen, 2007)

From Woody Allen, a monument in the history of filmmaking with 46 moving pictures credited to his IMDb resume, Cassandra's Dream is in the continuity of his 'th youth of Match Point more than of his trademark comedies. To many cinephiles, Allen's comedies are annoying and look all the same. In my opinion he had one of the most interesting careers of the 1970's and 1980's together. Nowadays, Allen reminds me of the late Fellini that was a caricature of himself. Anyway, as I am a fan of his work I will continue to follow his films and discover what tricks he still can pull out of his hat. For those who are acquainted to Woody Allen you all know that he has a bag or a hat full of short stories/ideas for film that he wrote and picks one up and make a film with. Well, even if his You Will Meet Dark Tall Stranger wasn't that good we can't blame the man for not trying, with a ratio of one film per year, he has lots to offer. Let's just see if he still has juice in this fruit...

Cassandra's Dream is a modern day adaptation of the novel Brothers Karamazov by Dostoievski. The plot is well written even if it's not the twist of the century. Like Dostoievski, Allen likes to play with the motivations of the characters to commit the unthinkable. The story has this classic and sober tone to it and we feel that this film could have been made any other time in the history of Cinema and it would have worked. The main problem with the plot it's that it's not involving an issue that could have interested a wider audience. Compared to a more modern movie made by a director of approx the same age of Woody Allen, Sydney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Cassandra's Dream feels a little bland.

The brothers pictured in Cassandra's Dream: Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell are has usual very good. As I've read in some interview with Allen by Eric Lax, Allen never really directs the actors. But in this case this lack of stage directions may have created the right chemistry between the two actors. I appreciated both their presences and both kind of measure how their characters had to deal with moral issues. A regular supporting actor, Tom Wilkinson gives a memorable performance as the crooked uncle.

On the visual side, Cassandra's Dream looks like a British film with its clouded exteriors and dark colors.

For a Woody Allen, it's maybe a little over serious or too dramatic... However, I'll continue to watch Allen's films because I think he has some interesting ideas but I shouldn't think of Manhattan or Crimes and Misdemeanors because I'll regret those great films and this amazing period in his career...
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