Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Five Senses Blogathon

My Filmviews is hosting a blogathon where, if you couldn't guess from the title, revolves around the five senses. The idea follows like so:
As you know the body has five senses (although some movies might suggest there is a sixth one): Sight, Sound, Taste, Smell and Touch.
So what’s the idea behind this blogathon? For each of these senses you will have to describe the movie related association you have with it. This can be a particular movie or even a scene, but also something having to do with the movie going experience (so for example the smell of popcorn in the theater).
My entries start after the jump.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why I'm Still Alive

*TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE*

I know I don't talk about myself very often online but this is something that I've been wanting to get off my chest for a while now. More after the jump.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Red Road

The opening moments of Andrea Arnold's Red Road focus on Jackie (Kate Dickie) at her job as a security surveillance monitor. Her life outside her job feels rather empty. (She's distant from her family.) But during one of her shifts, she recognizes someone from her past.

That someone is Clyde (Tony Curran), an ex-convict. Jackie starts stalking him through both her job and in real life. It boils down to a confrontation of aggressive means. Very aggressive.

Many films in recent years have taken advantage of the surge of technology. Sometimes it's used for comedic means, other times romantic. But the smarter films use technology for horrifying purposes, and Red Road has the latter in spades.

What Arnold does with Red Road is she makes a film of this nature through a female perspective. Normally this type of film has male predators and the women are reduced to helpless victims but here, the tables have turned in a big way. (Who said women have to be sugar, spice and everything nice?)

All in all, Red Road is very effective though it does start to lose steam towards the end. (It also features a very convincing sex scene.) Thanks to the work from Arnold, Dickie and Curran, it's a film that focuses on the dark recesses of human behavior. You can never really tell what a person is like when you first met them.

My Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Lilting

Grief is a feeling that no one should have to encounter at any point in their life. It's a feeling that makes one think that they'll never be able to carry on. But once they accept what has happened, the dark cloud looming above them slowly begins to fade away.

Hong Khaou's Lilting is one of the latest films to focus on the subject of grief. Following the untimely death of Kai (Andrew Leung), his mother Junn (Cheng Pei-pei) and boyfriend Richard (Ben Whishaw) try to come to terms with their loss. Despite a language barrier, Richard tries to make peace with Junn. But will he succeed?

Lilting is different from other films about grief. It doesn't linger on the feeling of despair that often comes with grief. The film instead revolves around carrying on with the passage of time. To anyone who's lost someone dear to them, it's not as easy a task as previously assumed.

Similar to A Single Man, Lilting is a film of sumptuous yet subtle details. Whether it's the set design or Urszula Pontikos' cinematography, it's a film of simple riches. Sometimes the smallest details leave the biggest impact.

Lilting is a quiet and deeply intimate film, something not frequently seen in modern films. It's emotional without being heavy-handed, sentimental without being melodramatic. In short, it's a very beautiful film.

My Rating: *****

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tom at the Farm

At some point within every director's career, there's that one point in time where they experiment with a new genre. Not always does the sudden genre change work with some directors but when it does, the result is amazing.

Such is the case with Xavier Dolan. His first three films (I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats, Laurence Anyways) focused on the complicated personal relationships between the main characters. His fourth film Tom at the Farm strays far away from the (not-so) comfortable domestic ambiance. Very far away.

Being Dolan's first film to be based on another source (in this case, Michel Marc Bouchard's play of the same name), it doesn't take long to see the tonal difference of Tom at the Farm from Dolan's earlier films. Rather than the heavy visuals clearly inspired by Wong Kar-Wai, the imagery here draws comparisons to Terrence Malick's work. It's subtle but very noticeable.

And like I Killed My Mother and Laurence Anyways, Tom at the Farm highlights the issue of homophobia. But it's not merely fear like the former two films. No, Tom at the Farm depicts it in its true hate-filled form. Sometimes the true monsters are those we mistakenly assume are friends...

Tom at the Farm is easily Dolan's best film to date. Think of what Dolan does here to what Quentin Tarantino did when he made Jackie Brown. A director with a distinct (if sometimes erratic) style makes a non-original work their own, and the result is amazing.

My Rating: *****

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Morvern Callar

The opening moments of Lynne Ramsay's Morvern Callar show the title character (Samantha Morton) caressing the body of her boyfriend who's committed suicide. The following scenes have her behaving as if nothing had happened. (She does have the occasional moment of silent grief.)

She and her friend Lanna (Kathleen McDermott) go to Spain as a means of personal escape. It's during this sudden vacation that Morvern makes an emotional discovery. Amid the debauchery, she realizes what she must do.

Morvern behaves in a similar manner to that of Eva, the protagonist of Ramsay's follow-up film We Need to Talk About Kevin. Both recently suffered personal tragedy and they try to carry on with their everyday lives. Though both face different reactions from others (Morvern innocent questioning, Eva vicious persecution), they end up as different people as a result. Very rarely is such a thing depicted in fiction for female characters.

A small detail of Morvern Callar is how the backdrops of the film are set up. Glasgow is featured in a muted palette whereas Spain is shown in a much brighter light. Clearly a way to establish the change in mood but Ramsay does it in a way that's effortless.

Morvern Callar is good though not as great as Ramsay's next film. Morton is also good (though she usually is regardless). All in all, you rarely see a female-led (or even female-directed) film focused on such a complex lead. More films like this please, Hollywood.

My Rating: ****

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mr. Turner

2014 saw the release of many films revolving around real-life people. The prominent (Selma, The Theory of Everything), those forgotten by history (The Imitation Game, Belle) and the recently living (Wild, American Sniper), it was a menagerie of (mostly) factual stories.

So where does Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner rank? Indeed, its subject matter of British artist J.M.W. Turner is not someone many people know of like Monet, van Gogh or Picasso. But Turner's work is easily memorable once one has seen it. (He isn't known as "the painter of light" for nothing.)

In the role of Turner is Timothy Spall, a regular name among Leigh's films. Here, he delivers the performance of his career. Spall portrays Turner as a multi-faceted personality, a man of many triumphs and flaws. It's a role that's once in a lifetime for an actor, and Spall gives it his all. (Erm, that rhyme wasn't intended.)

It simply must be mentioned that the cinematography from Dick Pope is stunning. Every shot looks as if Turner's paintings had come to life. (That's a common thing, isn't it? Films about people making beautiful things having been gorgeously shot?) Combine it with the Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts' production design and Gary Yershon's score, and it makes for an absolutely striking film.

Like Topsy-Turvy, Leigh proves with Mr. Turner that he can make a great costume drama. All of its elements work wonderfully, something not frequently seen in contemporary films. It's a film that people should see.

My Rating: *****