2012-05-31

September

September (Woody Allen, 1987)

In the 1980’s Woody Allen directed eleven movies, many of those are near-masterpieces if not masterpieces. Amongst his films from this decade Crimes and Misdemeanours, Hannah and Her Sisters, Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo are my personal favorite. But, even if Allen pleased fans and critics thorough the 1980’s September is considered as the lesser and the most hated or simply oft-overlooked. It is quite easy to agree with everyone when a consensus is form for or against a particular movie. Well, twenty-five years after its initial release, I watched September for the first time lately and I must admit that it is far from being a masterpiece. Nonetheless, it is a very interesting movie that might not be as Allenian as Zelig or Hanna and Her Sisters but an above than average melodrama.

Shot strictly in the interiors of a house this huis clos evolves around a bunch of heavy loaded past characters: Lane (Mia Farrow), her mother Diane (Elaine Stritch), her lover Peter (Sam Waterston), her mother’s lover Lloyd (Jack Warden), the neighbour Howard (Denholm Elliot), and Stephanie (Diane Wiest). As IMDb summarizes the plot Howard loves Lane, she loves Peter that is secretly in love with Stephanie, who’s married with children. The whole story centers on these characters and their interactions with each other and as each discovers the love interests of one and another. Sure the central music is jazz, but what did you expect from Woody? The central scene, an evening during a thunderstorm a blackout occurs. The revelations are set in this almost eerie candle lit setting of stopped time by the ambient darkness and the alcohol ingested. This is the most successful aspect of the film and the scene makes the film.

However, Woody Allen brings us in known territories most of the time and the too many clichés and predictable lines but also the resemblance to the 1978 failure Interiors he probably wanted to revise and be forgiven but the melodrama might been well executed it lacks in the personal touch that Allen easily adds into his films without much effort.

When Allen did Interiors he wanted to make a film like his idol Ingmar Bergman filled with clean cold whites and perfectly directed women characters. The failure of Interiors is the impression of doing another director’s style, narrative, and genre. In September, the autumn tones in the colors and the script are more personal to the Woodman but still I got Bergman not far in my mind while I was watching this interior drama.

Far from being a dud, September might be considered as a lesser Woody Allen picture, but it is still better than his five to seven worst films. At least he’s doing something different and he was trying new things. An inspired Allen that takes risks might be less toothier but is more interesting than the old master resting in his old shoes.

2012-05-30

The Searchers - Fake Poster and Criterion Cover


As every film geek out there, I am in complete admiration with the Criterion Collection releases and the cover of their juicefully packed DVD/Blu-rays. So as a tribute and/or homage here is my first attempt at a Fake Criterion cover.

2012-05-29

Meet Me in St. Louis

Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944)

It is often said that black and white films were more « artsy » and that they truly represented the craft that is Cinema. However, the right handling of the coloured medium can easily surpass the best use of the smoothest B&W. A wider color palette, a much easier graduation of colors and light can easily support this argument. In the case of Meet Me in St. Louis, the superb use of bright colors in the costumes and the sets added to Vincente Minnelli’s sumptuous mise en scène can’t be wrong.

Set in 1903, the year before the World Fair of 1904 held in St. Louis, the Smith family has four girls and one boy. Rose (Lucille Bremer), Esther (Judy Garland), Agnes, and Tootie (Margaret O'Brien) and Lon Jr. as the only boy. The story revolves around the family but more specifically around Esther, 17 years old who has a crush to the guy next door: John Truett (Tom Drake). Everything is picture perfect in the Smith house: the family is tight together and Mr. Smith (Leon Ames) a business is wealthy. Until, he accepts a higher position in his company and a transfer to New York City. For the elder girls this is catastrophic because their main interests are the nice men of St. Louis.
The story is told with the passing of the seasons like the chapters of a novel retelling the story of a family reminding me of Little Women at some point. But here, the drama isn’t really as dramatic as the Leo McCarey film. Let’s also keep in mind that this Garland/Minnelli vehicle is a Musical after all. Both were renowned for their mastery of the genre. This is right after the shooting of Meet Me in St. Louis that they got together and had baby Liza Minnelli.

Since we are into the Musical genre let’s have a look at the numbers. They doesn’t seem too forced to fit into the story and at some points they are parts of the action. The “cutest” moment is the duo of Esther and her younger sister Tootie during the birthday party of their brother Lon. Seeing Garland singing and dancing with the child reminds that she started singing on a stage at the age of two years old and that her life always have been around show business. The songs sung by Garland are classics of the genre and are never too long into the pace of every scene. It shows a great mastery in the craft of dosing the numbers and the story. Garland’s contralto voice is perfect and even she is the shortest person on the set, at 4’11” she is the biggest star.  

Musicals never were love at first sight for me, but the more I discover the classics and the more I watch them the more I grow to like them. They luscious colors, the superb sets and costumes and the beautiful ladies are many reasons why I enjoyed Meet Me in St. Louis so much. It also feels like a well crafted literary adaptation nicely translated on the big screen. And the tunes just stick into your head I am still humming it as I write those lines: Meet me in St. Louis Louie!

2012-05-28

Top Films of Werner Herzog by LMdC


1. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
2. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
3. Fitzcarraldo (1982)
4. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans (2009)
5. Rescue Dawn (2006)
5. My Best Friend (1999)
6. Invincible (2001)

I still need to see: Signs of Life (1968) Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970) Land of Silence and Darkness (1971) Fata Morgana (1971) The Great Ectasy of Woodcarver Steiner (1974) The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974) Heart of Glass (1976) Stroszek (1977) Woyzek (1978) Where the Green Ants Dream (1984) Portrait Werner Herzog (1986) Cobra Verde (1987) Scream of Stone (1991) Lessons of Darkness (1992) Bells From the Deep (1995) Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997) The White Diamond (2004) The Wild Blue Yonder (2005) Grizzly Man (2005) Encounters at the End of the World (2007) My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (2009) Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) Into the Abyss (2011) Death Row (2012)

2012-05-25

Third Time’s A Charm

Now has come the time of the year where you have to vote for the most exciting and awesome poll of all!  This is the comeback of  The Most Influential Directors of All Time 3rd edition.

Let’s have a look back at the first year, we had to choose 25 picks and name the most influential directors of all time. I must say that I had a blast doing it and it was so cool receiving all the lists from critics, film lovers, and movie enthusiasts and discovering their choices.

Last year, we reduced the number of entries making the poll a little bit more tougher and keeping in mind that the first year your number one director received 25 points. In 2011, your number one director only received 10 so it kept the race tighter and reduced the chances of total domination by a director widely praised. Twenty-five lists were submitted.

Fritz Lang potential contender for the Top 10?
This year, I take the timing of the new Sight and Sound poll that goes out only every ten years to add another question to the poll. Well, I still want you to name the 10 most influential directors of all time but I want you to choose one film per director on your list (his best, or your favorite, or the one that represents the best his corpus of films). Then what I will do with this information is compile as the usual list of directors. And then, I’ll make a list of the films submitted, the top ten will be a part of a Cinema Hall of Fame. Next year, those films won’t be available anymore because they will be untouchables just like a retired number in sports. It will be like a list of movie essentials. They will be the Great Ones.

You can send your ballots until August 2nd. Why this date? Well it will be my birthday and I have so much fun doing this poll that it is a treat for me.

Don’t forget that anyone can join and the more submissions we receive the more it is interesting and accurate. With twenty-five lists last year I hope we almost double the number of entries making this poll a highly notable event in the cinephile world!

Share the word on Twitter with the #LMdCMID, #LMdC, and in the same time you can follow me @parentmichael.

Banners will come shortly.

What do you think of this year’s poll? Will you help spreading the word? Will Hitchcock will be knocked down from the first place?

2012-05-24

Due Date

Due Date (Todd Phillips, 2010)

Even if this blog is mostly about Classic Films and the completion of lists of Great films and Great directors, I still keep in mind two things much needed for a movie buff. To watch contemporary films and to dig into his favorite genre.
Due Date is a comedy directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover & The Hangover Part II) starring Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man I & II, The Avengers) and Zack Galifianakis (The Hangover & The Hangover Part II). Needless to say that it is a very capable team that was running between the successes of the two Hangover films. Phillips and Galifianakis were still on the good vibe of their reinvigorated breath to the guy movie. They embarked on Due Date a Road movie exploiting the odd couple terrain.

Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) needs to get to Los Angeles by the end of the week departing from Atlanta because his wife is scheduled to deliver their first born child. Getting in the way, Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) a lunatic television actor wannabe who just lost his father get him banished from flying. They have to get to LA by car together because Peter lost his baggage and his wallet in the airplane while getting expelled. They’ll have to tolerate each other and get over their natural temper to get in time in LA.

While being another turn on the buddy flick à la Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and The Odd Couple, the dynamic of Downey Jr. and Galifianakis is interesting. Even if, at first it is not that convincing, the two actors looked like they actually really appreciate working together.
The plot also has interesting twists and without being completely stupid or absurd, the characters have a humanity that most lesser comedies don’t have and that makes them too one-dimensional and unnatural in the story. The presence of Robert Downey Jr. also brings quality in the acting on the screen and elevates the part of Peter. The straight face and high temper role is well suited for him and it gives the most hilarious moments of the movie.

Far from being the best movie of 2010, Due Date is an efficient and quite enjoyable comedy that demonstrates another facet of Todd Phillips’ filmaking. The fan of comedy that I am was satisfied and even if it is not at the level of The Hangover, it is still better than the average comedy out there.

2012-05-22

I Know Where I’m Going!

 This review is a re-edit of my original review published on this blog back on July 2nd 2010. With time and re-reading I agreemented and corrected some parts. It is re-posted in the event of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Club.

I Know Where I'm Going!
(Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1945)
TSPDT Greatest Films #400
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressbrurger are, in my opinion, two of the most underrated directors of all time. Maybe because British Cinema always passed in second after what American filmmakers had to offer or maybe because they don't come from a country where directors are not as much respected as in France for example. There is also a false sense that British Cinema has much less to offer than the rest of the major countries in Films. Truffaut used to say that British Cinema didn’t have much to bring at the table. Being an admirer of Truffaut as a Film critic and cineaste, agreeing on this topic is more difficult. Powell and Pressburger made such amazing films that only their corpus is enough to make this sentence less accurate. But, their films should be considered as some of the bests of the forties and fifties. Two of the richest decades in Film's History.

I Know Where I'm Going! is the story of a young woman, Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) who always knew what she wanted and never hesitated on anything in her life. There was only one way: her way! She is on the way to marry one of the richest man of Scotland, but on her path she encounters Torquil McNeil (Roger Livesey) with whom she may, for the first time in her life, have second thoughts on something; her marriage...


This story is about how we always try to plan, control, and decide in advance everything we do and how the society makes us want what it tells us. Sometimes journeys or obstacles make us think and put things in perspective and to take a certain step out to see what is really going on with our short lives isn't a bad idea.

This romantic comedy is far from being cliché or dull, but compared to Powell & Pressburger's other works (Red Shoes, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Black Narcissus) I Know Where I'm Going! is one of their lesser film. But lesser Powell & Pressburger is better than the average lesser film! This duo of filmmakers were natural storytellers and it gives to this film a strong touch of classic English litterature. Roger Livesey and Wendy Hiller give exquisite performances as the two leads. What is missing here, is the bright color cinematography and a stronger plot. The story isn’t as well subtexted as their other films and this is what lacks the most in here. However, coming from a pair that almost never deceived my expectations, I can forgive this minor film and just hope that the other films I’m missing for my completion are better works.

2012-05-21

Top Films of Jim Jarmusch by LMdC


1. Dead Man (1995)
2. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1998)
3. Broken Flowers (2005)
4. The Limits of Control (2009)
5. Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)

I still need to see: Permanent Vacation (1980) Stranger Than Paradise (1984) Down by Law (1986) Mystery Train (1989) Night on Earth (1991) Year of the Horse: Neil Young and Crazy Horse Live (1997)

2012-05-18

Radio Days

Radio Days (Woody Allen, 1987)

Woody Allen’s 1980’s were marked by a succession of near-perfect and near-masterpiece movies. Just think of Hannah and Her Sisters, Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and Crimes and Misdemeanours. Well, Radio Days sure inserts itself like a charm in this corpus of films. With this movie, Woody revisits his childhood memories of the great era of radio shows in the 1940’s. With his narration and a bunch of his regular actors: Mia Farrow, Julie Kavner, Danny Aiello, Josh Mostel, Jeff Daniels, Diane Wiest, and Diane Keaton. The autobiographical line of the film and the young Joe (portrayed by a young Seth Green) representing Woody himself, is bold and evident. However, his storytelling is wry and pitch-perfect.

The story can relate to one of Allen’s masters Federico Fellini’s film Amarcord as for the nostalgia and the personal recollection of moments of pre-teen and teen years. Even if bits of Radio Days remind of Fellini’s masterpiece, the film is very personal and doesn’t have to envy to the Maestro. The vignettes recalling the greatest moments of radio of the time and the favourite shows of the family are sometimes absurd, hilarious, touching, and always very Allenian. The colourful palette of the sets of every character are superb and Mia Farrow’s performance is outstanding. Her role of Sally White, the young woman who wants to do radio and get every opportunity to do show business is very well served by her writer.


Being too young to have actually lived this time of Radio and the mental picturing of the events, shows, and gossips of the media I can relate to the phenomenon of television when I grew up myself in the 1980’s and 1990’s. However, even if I haven’t lived in the era the film immerses us with a color and passion that Woody’s nostalgia and souvenirs embellishes or exaggerates. Roger Ebert described the film as a film without a narrative, well in some way it is right, but it is also a recollection of memories and anecdotes of the time and even if it doesn’t have a beginning and an ending the succession of vignettes is well intercalated and the reappearance of many characters over the movie gets your attention.


The best moments of Radio Days are the opening sequence of the two burglars answering the phone of the home they were robbing and winning the contest. The scene where Joe is in his dad’s arms when they learn that the little girl who fell in a well is tragically deceased. Of course, the final scene where the radio people get on the top of the club on New Year’s Eve and the snow begins falling down concludes the movie perfectly.

A moving autobiographical film that portrays another angle of the New York City of Woody Allen’s memory. A great love letter to the great years of radio and the effect it had on the life of a family of workers and the people actually working on the air.

2012-05-16

Ocean’s Eleven

Ocean’s Eleven (Steven Soderbergh, 2001)

This breezy remake the Rat Pack movie of 1960 starring the new Hollywood Rat Pack of George Clooney as the new Danny Ocean, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Elliott Gould, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner, Andy Garcia, and Julia Roberts. This is clearly an ensemble film where we feel the actors got lots of fun making the movie and interacting with each other. It is easy to feel that Pitt and Clooney are friends in real life.

The story is set in Las Vegas, also called Sin City, the place in North America where you go to have fun and experience every adult excess you want. Don’t forget that want happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. The definition of Las Vegas is very different from the definition of Monte Carlo the setting of superb casino movies in Europe. However, Las Vegas is very unique and it is also represented in Cinema as a place where anyone can get rich and become someone. In the case of Ocean’s Eleven, it is the revenge of Danny Ocean who wants to get the money from Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) the owner of three of the most famous casinos in Las Vegas whilst having an undisclosed idea behind his head.

To execute this mission, Ocean assembles the dream team of impersonators, pickpockets, gamblers, etc. Much like, Soderbergh assembled the dream team any producer or director could have hoped to get together in front of a camera. What a film poster, with all those stars it was a box office sure shot. One of the most interesting thing is the presence of Carl Reiner and Elliott Gould, who were bigger names in their time but also have great roles here. It is interesting because every member of the cast gets a spins at the roulette, to borrow an expression of the milieu. They are also randomly sparse like if while writing the script the put the names at the position of a roulette and that the writers give it a spin to know which character they were going to write for.

Ocean’s Eleven drips coolness and fun and even if it is not someone’s cup of tea to enter into the trend and appreciate this kind of “cool” flick you sure have a fun film. Soderbergh also understood that a film about a big robbery must be centered on everything around the so-called robbery than the actual theft. The plan, the relationship between the characters and the sharpening of the approach are stronger elements of a well constructed script.

Getting over all the coolness and the fun of Ocean’s Eleven, we get a good script that keeps the twists and essentials elements of a contemporary good comedy/crime/thriller. The depiction of Las Vegas in Ocean’s Eleven is very neat and represents the adult Disney Land it is. This is a very fun movie that is more than worth the look.

2012-05-14

Top Films of Roman Polanski by LMdC


1. Chinatown (1974)
2. Repulsion (1965)
3. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
4. The Tenant (1976)
5. The Ghost Writer (2010)
6. The Pianist (2002)
7. Frantic (1988)
8. Oliver Twist (2005)
9. The Ninth Gate (1999)

I still need to see: Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958) Mammals (1966) Knife in the Water (1962) Cul-de-sac (1966) The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) Macbeth (1971) What? (1973) Tess (1979) Pirates (1986) Bitter Moon (1992) Death and the Maiden (1994) Carnage (2011)

2012-05-11

The Purple Rose of Cairo

The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen, 1985)

Another film in the golden years of Woody Allen’s monstrous career, The Purple Rose of Cairo stars Mia Farrow, Allen’s life partner at the time, and Jeff Daniels. In the Depression era a little frail woman named Cecilia (Mia Farrow) tries to make a living by waitressing while daydreaming of pictures, actors, and fictional stories. Her husband (Danny Aiello), a rude employed child-like man gives her every reason to want to escape her life with movies.

Made two years after his faux-documentary Zelig set in the same time period, the Great Depression, Woody Allen exploits the film in the film or the concept of the ouroboros. The simple act of going to the movies is reduced to its initial purpose here: to have a good time, dream, live or escape to another life. The moments where Cecilia sits in the theatre eating popcorn and delivering herself from her meaningless job and rough husband are pure cinematic bliss. We easily identify ourselves sitting in this almost empty theatre and watching Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) in the movie showed actually also titled The Purple Rose of Cairo. At first, when the character of Baxter gets out of the screen and flirt with Cecilia when might think that it is surrealist, and be a direct reference to Buster Keaton’s masterpiece Sherlock Jr. But, Baxter actually gets involved with the characters of Cecilia’s reality, with her husband, Hollywood actor Gil Shepherd (also Jeff Daniels), and the girls of a brothel. However, every scene involving Baxter seemed so caricatured that it is definitely an expansion of Cecilia’s phantasm of evasion and letting everything behind and realizing her dreams of Hollywood scale.

For those who care for that there will be spoilers in the next paragraph. In the final moments of the film there are many true Woody Allen signatures. First, when Shepherd convinces Cecilia to let Baxter go back in the movie and follow him to Hollywood we have a clear shot of Shepherd in the plane alone thinking of what he has done to save his career and hurting Cecilia in his measure. This is one of Woody Allen critic over Hollywood in his disdain for this city and how it all works. It also represents the structure of story he usually makes with the complete turnover until the final ending where almost everything is back in its place like it was when the film began. Allen likes his scripts to be like a two way ticket. Well, here you have these people they live an adventure and then they go back to their normal lives. Just like the audience that lived the movie and then go back home with the memories of Cairo, adventurers, etc.

With The Purple Rose of Cairo, Allen manages to blend one of his most well mastered mixture of romantic comedy and drama. Once again, this is one of Allen’s great genuine pictures, he is not trying to be Ingmar Bergman or Federico Fellini here, he does a Woody Allen picture that works and that deserves its place within the 1000 Greatest Films of All Time by They Shoot Pictures. It is also worth to mention the excellent work of cinematographer Gordon Willis, a long- time Allen collaborator. A touching film that reflects the love of movie from a movie lover to movie lovers.

2012-05-10

My first feature for Anomalous Material

The superb folks at Anomalous Material gave me a white card and a mic. It wouldn't be long that I would use this speaker to spread the love for movies, films, pictures, talkies. Well, call them anyway you want but I now have a new place to write and it's been pretty inspiring my dear friends.

Here have a look at my Top 10 films of 1950 list.

2012-05-09

A Matter of Life and Death

A Matter of Life and Death aka Stairway to Heaven (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1946)

First, a film from the 1000 Greatest Films of All-time at They Shoot Pictures, then, one of the most celebrated offering of the association of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger commonly called The Archers. A Matter of Life and Death become one of those quest fuelling titles in my film viewing goals of the year. Moreover, our new household acquisition, a 46” LCD television from a Korean manufacturer needed to project or illuminate my living room with some Classic film. What is more classic than a Powell/Pressburger film? You tell me!


2012-05-08

Explaining Earth to Extraterrestrials Using Five Films


Film writer Sam Fragoso from
Duke & the Movies has prepared an interesting blogathon this week. This is the procedurals:
Extraterrestrial forces land on Earth. Unknowing of our planet and society, you can pick five films from the history of cinema that represent humanity. What titles would you choose and why?

Just like the man behind the banners said: “It’s a really unique concept. At its heart, the blogathon is about boiling down all of humanity and civilized history into five films. As a human, I feel that I’m uniquely qualified to select five films of my own, each for specific reasons.” John LaRue
I’ll give it a try and here are my five choices penned down:

2012-05-07

Top Films of Brian De Palma by LMdC


1. Blow Out (1981)
2. Carrie (1976)
3. The Untouchables (1987)
4. Carlito’s Way (1993)
5. Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
6. Dressed to Kill (1980)
7. Femme Fatale (2002)
8. Scarface (1983)
9. Obsession (1976)
10. Casualties of War (1989)
11. Mission Impossible (1996)

I still need to see: Greetings (1968) The Wedding Party (1969) Hi, Mom! (1970) Get to Know Your Rabbit (1972) Sisters (1973) The Fury (1978) Home Movies (1979) Body Double (1984) Wise Guys (1986) The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) Raising Cain (1992) Snake Eyes (1998) Mission to Mars (2000) The Black Dahlia (2005) Redacted (2007)

2012-05-05

The Hollywood Ten

In November 1947, the 25th precisely, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy “declared” war against the REDS in the USA with the first Hollywood blacklist. This list was populated by ten writers and directors that refused to answer to the House of Committee on Un-American Activities. There were all fired from the studios they were working for, this event is called the Waldorf Statement. The statement declared that the ten would be fired or suspended without pay and not reemployed until they were cleared of contempt charges and had sworn that they were not Communists.

2012-05-04

Zelig

Zelig (Woody Allen, 1983)

This smart imitation of the documentaries of specialized History oriented channels has everything of the clever comedies of Woody Allen and the content of his more introspective psychological dramas. With his constant obsession for Freud, Religion, Politics, and social issues Allen continues his streak following Stardust Memories and A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy. Portrayed by Allen himself, Leonard Zelig is a character who appeared many times in the news of the 1920’s. His ability to adapt to the world and people around him makes him fit with everyone and everywhere. It doesn’t take long before he is discovered and following the buzz of the 1920’s on psychoanalysis Zelig gets under the “microscopes“ of the Scientifics. Specifically, Dr. Eudora Fletcher a young psychiatrist who wants to help Zelig and use the cure to get some recognition from her peers.

The effects of camouflage of Allen into faux-archived images and real archives is efficient. With the use of cameras, lighting, and scratches on the film, and the use of the dramatic music of the documentaries the illusion is almost-perfect. The insertion of Allen along President Wilson, Adolf Hitler, Babe Ruth, and many more historical figures with the technology of blue screen reused more than a decade later by Robert Zemeckis’ crew in Forrest Gump is as convincing as the later film. Here stops the comparison between the two pictures, Gump is more on the nostalgic, conservatism, and sensible side of the road while Allen exploits absurd situations, satire, and psychological references.

One of the most interesting facets of Zelig, the movie and the character, is how it represents the conformism and our constant will to be liked and appreciated by the people around us. Zelig, the chameleon man, transforms himself to fit to the group he lives in. Adapting the appearance and the ideology of the people surrounding him. His body and personality is malleable. The comment of the film is even more realistic when Zelig is seen with the SS representing the most important movement of fitting into the masses and forming a common nation leaded by only one head that decides everything for the group. This is an interesting critique on totalitarianism and the contemporary societies. In a lower scale than the National-Socialists and in a much much lesser extremist way, the American nation represents the volition to blend its population together even if it’s one of the most mixed bags of human diversity. There is a will to take every Man on the same level.  But we, as a society, like that everyone thinks like us. It is a modern world illness that our society conditions us to react in this way. The weight of the majority, its influence on us is more subtle than we would ever thought. I mentioned the American society because Leonard Zelig is an American in this movie. Yet, it represents a modern-day disease or observation more than a simple exercise of designation. Allen scratch the surface of a problem that the individuality of capitalism is contradicted by the majority of democracy. Just like every good recipe, it takes a good balance between the right tastes and textures.


Allen’s director of photography, Gordon Willis, does an outstanding job with the shooting of false-real archival footage for the set-up of the story in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The mix between his footage and the original archives is hardly noticeable.

The enjoyment of Zelig works on two levels. First, it is a fun satire of the 1920’s that isn’t really that much distant from us. The choice of format, documentary, is surprisingly entertaining and lets the writer-director some leash on the traditional filmmaking and storytelling. On a lesser note, it reminds the cinematic prowess of the storytelling of Annie Hall and the mastery of every trick of filmmaking. Even if Zelig is lesser than the aforementioned masterpiece, it is still a very entertaining and yet smart movie.

2012-05-02

Eat Pray Love

Eat Pray Love (Ryan Murphy, 2010)

Adapted from the best-seller written by Elizabeth Gilbert, this feel-good movie is exactly the kind of film that gives the crave to go on a trip with only the bare necessities and live like the residents of the country you are visiting. It also gives you a crave for food and terrific landscapes.

Eat Pray Love depicts the story of Liz (Julia Roberts) a young married woman, probably in her thirties, struggling with her marital status, feeling trapped in a meaningless existence as a writer and not fulfilling her life as she may have wanted. She wants to escape everything, her marriage, her house, her life. Liz decides that it is enough after quitting her husband and divorcing him she encounters a young actor (James Franco) with whom she gets initiated with meditation. But still, this relationship won’t be enough for her and she follows her instinct and goes on a trip with three distinct destinations in mind and in an order: Italy to eat, India to pray, and Bali to, well you guessed, but you’ll understand thorough the film it is not that simple.

Having not read the novel, this review is simply based on the motion picture and the value of it. Definitely, structured like a novel, Eat Pray Love doesn’t push the story too fast or too Hollywoodian on us. The rhythm of the story flows well and nothing is thrown in your face or took from a magicians hat and surprise us with an expected twist. This is one of the most interesting facet of this low-key drama/comedy. It also delivers well in the basic duty of entertainment/Cinema to take us from our common lives, current issues and take us on an escape trip or an evasion into a story or a country that isn’t related to our personal issues and problems. The effective and quite capable cinematography of Robert Richardson (most notably known for his work with Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino) captures the essence of each part of the world visited without falling into the cliché of the American perception of Italy or India. 

One of the downside of this movie is the presence of Julia Roberts who can’t make us forget that she is Julia Roberts. Her performance is not bad but as usual average. She seems to have not changed since Pretty Woman in the 1980’s, no aging or whatsoever and the same kind of performance. A belle that plays on the same notes for a long time.

This review may seem a little out there since this blog is mostly dedicated to Classic film, directors, foreign and indie movies. However, it is always interesting to catch-up on movies that bring another light in cinephilia. And overall, Eat Pray Love makes you want to escape your routine life of 9 to 5 and experience how people live and think in the other parts of the world.
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