Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik, 2012)
Jackie Cogan is an enforcer hired to restore order after three dumb guys
rob a Mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to
Being invited to a premiere is something, but like the last time I got into a premiere it was for Tree of Life, a film I adored at the first sight and that I was expecting blissful things. And believe me seeing that monument of a film in Theaters was quite something. On the other side, getting into Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly was not a film I was expecting that much but I still had high expectations since the last collaboration between the director and Brad Pitt was something that we can easily relate to a near-masterpiece. This movie was called The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and boy, what a film it was. A meditative Western on guilt, admiration, and the passage from boyhood to manhood filled with superb performances from Pitt and Casey Affleck.
Our feature, Killing Them Softly, just like the popular song almost titled the same way, describes how Jackie Cogan (Pitt) prefers to kill his victims, he hates the agonizing and the feelings that it brings to him. He is an enforcer called by the local mob of a small town to get rid of the people of who stole the money of the whole mobsters in a card game. Just like Roger Ebert stated in his review: This is a five stars cast in a two stars movie. With the likes of Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, and Ray Liotta, all faces of gangsters, one would expect a high quality crime/gangster film. It is indeed a crime/gangster flick, but the label stops here.
Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa, 1975)
The Russian army sends an explorer on an expedition to the snowy Siberian wilderness where he makes friends with a seasoned local hunter.
A few months after master director Akira Kurosawa attempted suicide, he went to Russia to make his film for Mosfilm studios because in Japan he wouldn’t find a studio ready to finance him after the financial failure of Dodeskaden (1970). Dersu Uzala earned him the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1976 and even with this recognition he had to ask George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola to finance his next film Kagemusha. It is interesting to observe that everyone of Kurosawa’s film is considered at different levels as near-masterpieces and/or masterpieces. The Japanese director did not make a lot of films outside of his native land and it is interesting to watch Dersu Uzala for its almost entire location shooting in beautiful exteriors. The use of color and the photography of the Russian film are almost perfect in every way possible. The construction of every frame is once again at the level of excellence of Kurosawa. It is the sobriety and the natural storytelling of Kurosawa that makes it one of the most enduring films.
North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
A hapless New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive.
After the famous shower scene of Psycho, the scene of the chase of the crop duster after Cary Grant is the most recognizable Hitchcock moment. With this film, Hitchcock wanted to check many things on his long list of elements he liked and wanted to include in a film. First, the presence of Cary Grant his favourite leading man with whom he didn’t had much to ask except; be Cary Grant, a natural comic actor with a bad temper as being a prima donna. But his presence in the credits was instant box office success and he represented everything Hitchcock wanted to be: handsome, athletic, and popular amongst women.
Yesterday evening I had the privilege to receive the setlist of the Soundtrack of Tarantino's next movie. Here I share it with everyone:
DJANGO UNCHAINED IN THEATERS DECEMBER 25TH
QUENTIN TARANTINO'S DJANGO UNCHAINED ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK - COMPLETE TRACK LIST
2. DJANGO (MAIN THEME) - LUIS BACALOV, ROCKY ROBERTS
3. THE BRAYING MULE - ENNIO MORRICONE
4. IN THAT CASE, DJANGO, AFTER YOU...
5. LO CHIAMAVANO KING (HIS NAME IS KING) - LUIS BACALOV, EDDA DELL'ORSO
6. FREEDOM - ANTHONY HAMILTON & ELAYNA BOYNTON
7. FIVE-THOUSAND-DOLLAR NIGGA'S AND GUMMY MOUTH BITCHES
8. LA CORSA (2ND VERSION) - LUIS BACALOV
9. SNEAKY SCHULTZ AND THE DEMISE OF SHARP
10. I GOT A NAME - JIM CROCE
11. I GIORNI DELL'IRA - RIZ ORTOLANI
12. 100 BLACK COFFINS - RICK ROSS
13. NICARAGUA - JERRY GOLDSMITH FEATURING PAT METHENY
14. HILDI'S HOT BOX
15. SISTER SARA'S THEME - ENNIO MORRICONE
16. ANCORA QUI - ENNIO MORRICONE AND ELISA
17. UNCHAINED (THE PAYBACK/UNTOUCHABLE) - JAMES BROWN AND 2PAC
18. WHO DID THAT TO YOU? - JOHN LEGEND
19. TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG - BROTHER DEGE
20. STEPHEN THE POKER PLAYER
21. UN MONUMENTO - ENNIO MORRICONE
22. SIX SHOTS TWO GUNS
23. TRINITY (TITOLI) - ANNIBALE E I CANTORI MODERNI
What do you all think of it? Do you think there are too much Leone/Morricone references?
I’m writing from Québec, near the North Pole, you know me, I like films, movies, talkies, well I’m passionate about Cinema. Above all that, there is a collection that I cherish more than any other: the Criterion one. In fact, they are the perfect Christmas gift for cinephiles if you ask me. Their catalog is vast of quality classics, foreign masterpieces, and contemporary rarities. In the sets you have the film itself but with that it’s packed with juicy extras like interviews, documentaries, shorts, and amazing color booklets.
Atlantic City (Louis Malle, 1980)
Lou is a small time gangster, who thinks he used to be something big. He meets up with a younger girl, Sally, who is learning to be a croupier. Her husband turns up with drugs he has stolen from the Mafia.
Louis Malle once said that he never really was a part of the French New Wave. However, many would consider his first films as part of the famous French films. Having worked with Jean-Jacques Cousteau and Robert Bresson brought to his films some kind of distance from his subjects. This is probably one of the reasons he could treat the issue of French collaborators as cold and as deeply involved as in Lacombe, Lucien. Malle always wanted to make films like Bresson’s and in some ways it is better that he managed to make films of his own and not copy what his master did. It can only be one Bresson.
As the countdown to Quentin Tarantino’s new movie Django Unchained is getting near its end on Christmas day, let’s have a look at the best heroines of his filmography. QT’s films have been filled with superb mosaics of particular characters. With Reservoir Dogs the male only cast won’t make the cut of our prestigious list.
Angel (Ernst Lubitsch, 1937)
Woman and her husband take separate vacations, and she falls in love with another man.
While in Paris, a lady named Mrs. Brown/Mrs. Barker/Angel (Marlene Dietrich) meets a man (Melvyn Douglas) with whom she falls in love. However, back in London she has a husband (Herbert Marshall) that is a diplomat and a workaholic. They barely see each other. But one day at a race track the two men meet and Sir Francis Barker, the husband, invites Anthony Dalton, the secret lover, to stay under his roof. A series of hide and seek events will lead Barker to discover the truth. And at the end, back in Paris, Angel will have to choose between her lover or her husband.
With Marlene Dietrich in the title role and Ernst Lubitsch directing one could expect to have a great and sophisticated entertainment in the kind of the “Lubitsch touch” and the Dietrich legendary presence. But it is mostly an average romantic comedy that doesn’t have the wit and quality of the two stars’ other pictures. Despite a promising opening act, the pairing suffers from a poorly written script and an average cast of supporting characters portrayed by excellent actors. When acquainted to quality films like To Be or Not To Be, The Shop Around the Corner, Ninotchka, and Design For Living from Lubitsch Angel is clearly a letdown and one of his lesser Hollywood films.
Angel being my last Ernst Lubitsch film on my quest at tackling down the 1000 Greatest Films of All Time by They Shoot Pictures Don’t They, it reminds me how I recently got into his films and now I have seen most of his major work. The list of Pantheon Directors is getting shorter everyday and I still have some films from John Ford, Fritz Lang, Josef Von Sternberg, Max Ophüls, F.W. Murnau, Robert Flaherty, and D.W. Griffith to watch before getting the job done and passing into another slice of the list. Still, so many great films to watch!
Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk, 1956)
Alcoholic playboy Kyle Hadley marries the woman secretly loved by his poor but hard-working best friend, who in turn is pursued by Kyle's nymphomaniac sister.
Influencing some of the most respected directors (Jean-Luc Godard, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Todd Haynes, Pedro Almodovar) of the past and today, Douglas Sirk’s Melodrama Written on the Wind is one of the most brilliant masterpieces of the genre. Considered as the cornerstone of the soap opera, the sheer excesses of Sirk’s mise en scène, art direction, and his parentheticals to the actors are at their best in this movie. Having only seen The Magnificent Obsession and A Time to Love and a Time to Die prior to Written on the Wind, I did not knew much what to expect. Well, I had a slight idea but I wasn’t prepared to be impressed and charmed by the eccentric facets of Sirk’s once ridiculed film that regain its esteem into the cinephile circles. When one enters into a Sirk film he should be warned that the bright colors and the exuberant over the top acting won’t be an instant amazement.
F for Fake aka Vérités et mensonges (Orson Welles, 1973)
A documentary about fraud and fakery.
Throughout his career Orson Welles has been a director “maudit”. Just for his making of Othello and Falstaff for instance, he had to shoot during spans of months and years because of lack of financing for his personal projects. He managed to make his films like he wanted them to be and left a mark in the imagination of cinephiles for more than sixty year with the most celebrated film of all time: Citizen Kane. This is the story of a newspaper tycoon. Welles is tricking its audience on believing who was and who wasn’t Charles Foster Kane. As for its technical aspect, two thirds of it is cinematic trickery and lookalikes. It has had repercussions by creating a real typhoon in the business in the size that only Orson Welles could have provoked. Since then, and even before, Welles has been a master at magic tricks, fake, fraud, trickery, and most of all storytelling. This is why F for Fake might be one of Welles’ most personal projects.
Often categorized as a documentary, the movie that Welles directed isn’t just a simple film or just a documentary. It is a study on how as viewers we are eager to believe anything that we are told and how it is possible to forge great masterpieces of Art, History, mysterious persons, and even to trick an audience. F for Fake is the story of Elmyr de Hory the most successful Art forger of the 20th Century and his biographer Clifford Irving. Both are frauders in their own spheres and they have succeeded when imitating and lying about their works. Welles brings us to reevaluate the experts in Art and everything we put a high price on just for the sake of its evaluation.
It was Pauline Kael who wrote that F for Fake was not a Wellesian picture because it doesn’t have the master’s signature. Welles responded by saying that he really cared not to put anything that reminded of his visual touch, this is why the editing is very precise and that there are no real long shots. Welles actually worked one year in three editing rooms seven days a week to complete this movie. It is easy to believe this obsession from the master because the trick plays very well and the film is entertaining, filled with material that will take you on another level and it stands out as one of the most important films of Welles career. Given the right means he could have reinvented himself just like a Jean-Luc Godard and develop his own non- genre. On a personal level, Welles was a mythomaniac and in interviews he often misled his past, his relationships, and his family. He forged an image of himself and even the people who were close to him knew that he liked to maintain this façade. F for Fake is then, a very autobiographical document that is not speaking directly of its subject but like any well gifted storyteller it broads around facts and present it in a riveting manner.
With time and thinking I would rank this film along Welles’ other masterpieces and not being as game changing as Citizen Kane, or stunning as The Magnificent Ambersons, F for Fake stands alone in its unique spot of great films.
Being the ultimate film by Orson Welles on the list of 1000 Greatest Films, I feel like this completion feels great but also I feel a little sad that I don’t have any more films from this great director. It is somewhat fulfilling to catch a director’s whole corpus and be able to put it in the perspective of its entire career. There are very few directors that I truly admire that I can say I have seen all the films. Just like Andrew Sarris, I think that Welles is a Pantheon Director and he deserves his place amongst the great gods of Cinema.
Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988)
A tragic film covering a young boy and his little sister's struggle to survive in Japan during World War II.
The Second World War has been such a huge inspiration for movies that it is almost impossible not to think of a War film without thinking of this particular Historical Event. As a Historian myself, I learned to understand the facts and the horror that happened. However, I will never know what it is to be in the center of a War as a soldier or a civilian. Well, I hope I’ll never witness any of these. Some War films depict the conflicts and battles with great action scenes and how it is a thrill to fight the bad guys. More recent War films put us of the side of the losers of the War. Very few showed us the casualties of war like Grave of the Fireflies. With that said, it is more than essential to know that this movie was animated by the Ghibli studios. Keeping it far from the Disney pictures themes that we are acquainted to.
Opening with Seita’s death in a subway station, a young Japanese boy of more or less fourteen we know that we are in for a very tough moment. From that point we see the bombing of his town, the death of his mother, his struggle to survive and care for his little sister of approx five years old. Even if it pictures the final moments of Japan into War against the Americans, Grave of the Fireflies is filled with wonderful moments between the two siblings. Moments of innocence, happiness, sadness, and desperation.
It is a film that deals with problems that children should never encounter and that we hope that will never be repeated. It would not be recommended to show this film to children even if sometimes kids are surprisingly strong facing extreme moments.
Finally, I might be one of the few that is not a fan of anime and that doesn’t get the films of the studios Ghibli. Not being a fan doesn’t mean that I hate them I just think that it is not the ultimate thing. I like the approach and the originality that it brings to animation, it’s just that I am okay with seeing the film but I won’t be buying it or watching it again. Even if I think that the IMDb Top 250 is filled with overrated films (Grave of the Fireflies is ranked #106 as I am writing those lines) it is still worth a look.
A US secret agent is sent to the distant space city of Alphaville where he must find a missing person and free the city from its tyrannical ruler.
Dense, uncanny, avant-gardist, visionary, are some of the many qualities that we can label on the films of Jean-Luc Godard during the 1960’s. His love of Cinema, especially American genre pictures and B-Movies made him the director he was. Each of his films of this era owes a great deal to the likes of Robert Aldrich, Otto Preminger, and Nicholas Ray amongst many others. The most famous New Waver along with the late François Truffaut, Godard was at the peak of his career in 1965 and he was directing films in full speed, all that with few means. However, as every film he has ever made, he uses the message of imagination over everything. Few Science-Fiction films were made by the French New Wave, and Alphaville is one of the most unique films of the genre and the whole group of cineastes. With Truffaut’s hit or miss Fahrenheit 451, Godard delivers a genuinely intelligent mix of private detective meets its near future.
Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constatine) arrives in Alphaville in on a planet similar to the Earth. This environment has forbidden sentiments and personalities to its inhabitants. With his American values, Caution must find a missing person and escape the world of Alphaville.
Ultimately influencing hundreds of its followers, the concept of dystopia and near nihilist future are themes that Godard will overly reuse and exploit ad infinitum in his post May 68 period. In Alphaville, the cineaste uses his lover Anna Karina in a very unique way. Her naïve traits and lectures give to her character, Natacha von Braun, a tragic inhuman robotic presence. Despite being a little limited acting wise, Karina achieves to be particularly convincing with the culmination of the ending when she almost whispers the words: “Je vous aime” (I love you).
Just like George Orwell with his 1984 or Aldous Huxley with his Brave New World, Jean-Luc Godard elevates the “propos” of his film along those masterpieces that reveals the malignant and devious tendencies of the post-modern world. Added to that, Alphaville is still an entertainment of high value while it inspires great thoughts and self-study of our societies.
Along with À bout de souffle (Breathless), Pierrot le fou, Le mépris (Contempt), Bande à part, Alphaville is the cream of the whole corpus of films that Godard directed. Highly recommended.