Archives for posts with tag: drama

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Stephen Frears offers more than a typical thriller and more than a typical survival story. Frears offers an invisible and anonymous London hiding away from mainstream society. The film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Okwe, an illegal immigrant from Nigeria with a dark past. He drives a minicab by day and works all night at a hotel, chewing on the Khat herb in order to stay awake. He rents a couch from Senay (Audrey Tautou), a Turkish Muslim who fled an arranged marriage. They both work at a hotel where they eventually realise not everything is as it seems. The film is very compelling, the narrative is something so current and factual and yet it feels very hidden. Many of the locations for example such as the cafe Okwe purchases Khat, Senay’s apartment and so on are unrecognisable and illustrates the desperation that illegal immigrants have to be hidden. Chris Menges as cinematographer offers a very bleak and dark film in terms of the setting. However, some scenes feel bright and more natural such as the hotel scenes which could emphasise how the immigrants are now being exposed to society. Dirty Pretty Things really portrayed the lives of immigrants very well, Frears clearly presents the fear that is always around them such as immigration officials pestering these hard working people who are desperate to survive. 

Ejiofor offers a brilliant performance, I can’t praise him enough for a stunning portrayal of a brave, charing and traumatised man. Okwe is such an interesting character who’s desperate to be a morally correct citizen all whilst remaining silent in his activities. Tautou also provides a fantastic performance as Senay. Both characters are thrusted into a dark underworld of deceit and exploitation which I can’t reveal but it’s shocking and despicable and made me feel deep sympathy with immigrants who get involved in dangerous surroundings. There isn’t much more to say about this film (I really don’t wanna spoil it!), other than it’s such a gripping film on the hardships of invisible people. Hats off to Frears!

4/5

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Keep your hands off my lobby boy!”

 

Once again, the great Wes Anderson has left me in awe with a wonderful adventure involving eccentric characters, stunning use of colour and an amazing ensemble. Like Moonrise Kingdom, this is a tale filled to the brim with quirkiness, within 5 minutes you’ll be laughing at the oddness of Tom Wilkinson’s narration which is cut short by his immature son! The film begins with a young girl reading a novel by “The Author”, the aspect ratio is unusually not what you’d see in a standard multiplex, that being 1.85 and doesn’t fit the entire screen. The Author is revealed to be Tom Wilkinson who tells us of his adventure to the Grand Budapest Hotel in 1968. The aspect ratio now changes to 2.35:1 and the younger Author (Jude Law) continues the narration, meeting the owner of the fallen hotel, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) who tells the Author of how he came to acquire the hotel. The ratio has now changed to 1.33 and it’s now 1932 in the Republic of Zubrowka. Zero now narrates his story with his younger self now in the picture (newcomer Tony Revolori). He meets the concierge of the GBH, Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), an eccentric man who constantly mixes business and pleasure in his work. From there, the audience is left to enjoy the oddness, the deceit and the exceptional service of a grand hotel leading to an outrageous adventure. 

Wes Anderson is such an obvious auteur and The Grand Budapest Hotel is just another perfect example of his stamp mark for cinema. The colours are very striking and brighten up the hotel along with its inhabitants such as the uniforms being a vibrant purple and the elevators in bright red which heavily contrast one another. The humour from his script is just fantastic, its there in every single scene no matter how crude or violent the circumstances are. Wes as usual, creates the oddest of characters from very serious actors such as Harvey Keitel and Adrian Brody. Ralph Fiennes is incredible and this is a role that is so well suited for him, despite being known as a Shakespearian actor and portraying dark characters such as Nazi war criminal Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List and serial killer Francis Dolarhyde in Red Dragon, he steals the show with such a loving and charming character. The Grand Budapest Hotel is definitely a top contender for the best films of 2014, Wes has created another classic film that is funny, profound, slightly violent and beautiful. I recommend to watch it as soon as possible, it’s a film for everyone to see about the joys of top notch service!

5/5 

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“What is there to see?”

Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier, known for his realistic controversial films and association with the Dogme 95 movement collaborates with Icelandic electronica singer-songwriter Björk to present something I’ve been incredibly moved by. I can’t get over how Trier as the director and screenwriter takes the musical genre and removes a lot of what you’d typically expect. For me, it was beyond beautiful and beyond brilliant. It’s real art in the deepest of forms.

Trier as an auteur is known for his different trilogies of films and Dancer in the Dark is no exception. As the final film of the “Golden Heart trilogy”, it’s set in rural America in the early sixties and focuses on Selma (Björk), a Czech immigrant in poverty who works in a blue collar factory with her friend Kathy (Catherine Deneuve). To escape her struggles, Selma imagines her life as an all singing all dancing Hollywood musical. However, Selma is going blind and becomes desperate in saving money for an operation for her son in suffering the same fate, all whilst tragedy insures and Selma’s life begins to slip more and more out of control.

Dancer in the Dark from the beginning offers so much, it appears to be very optimistic and pretty. The overture introduces various colourful images flowing against each other. I may be ghastly wrong, but personally, I felt the images were very dream like and reflected the dreams of Selma as an isolated person desperate for escape. The cinematography, lighting and sound like a lot of films from the Dogme 95 era is very natural. It’s shot in a similar way to documentary and made me feel like a contributor rather than a viewer. Robby Müller as cinematographer and Trier frequently use hand held cameras which constantly zoom and pan into the drama that Selma and the community face in their everyday lives. The natural appearance along with the use of only diegetic music through Selma watching musicals at the cinema (or more touchingly, Kathy dancing her two fingers along Selma’s palm to convey the beauty shown on the big screen) is heavily contrasted to when Selma begins to dream. These dreams are so different both visually and musical and is first introduced in the factory which conflicts its gritty and realistic atmosphere as the workers suddenly move to the beats.

As a fan of Björk’s music, the fantasies clearly sounded like what I’d expected, all the songs begin with loops from reality such as factory machines, trains and steps. Visually the dreams are very beautiful because of their unrealistic nature, the cinematography features multiple cameras which employ no motion whatsoever and the movement of the music and narrative is now provided by the editing. Although the music is very strange, I couldn’t help but be mesmerised by it. The soundtrack feels misplacing in a way to what you see visually due to the setting but it works so well in terms of lyricism and tone. Timbre wise, besides sampling and other electronic sounds, it features the classic sounds of orchestra but rejects traditional structure of musical numbers and instead Björk asks the audience to really listen to the sonic experimentation and arranging. The colour is also astonishing, instead of looking bleak and grey; the colour in Selma’s dreams is so much more fuller and vibrant that it made me feel like being there like witnessing a beautiful and peaceful world.

Björk offers a marvellous and extremely strong performance. She conveys a powerful sense of emotion despite not being a trained actress, her portrayal clearly presents someone whose only joy in life besides her son is American musicals. However, although American musicals have provided with a sense of optimism; America in reality has offered her nothing in return, instead she lives a life of poverty and despair further emphasising her struggle as a strong willed single mother. Many of the songs offer so much beauty and meaning to Selma’s character such as “I’ve Seen It All”, in which Selma persuades her would-be admirer Jeff (Peter Stormare) that she really doesn’t care about going blind and there’s much more to life than seeing great wonders. The supporting cast in turn offer fantastic performances. Veteran French actress Catherine Deneuve delivers a solid supporting role whilst David Morse and Cara Seymour portraying Selma’s neighbours provide another sense of desperation as Bill (Morse) is angered at his wife’s (Seymour) materialism and constant spending.

All and all, Lars Von Trier offers a stunning film which is so different from most musicals I’ve seen. I will warn it is of course very unusual take of the musical but I highly recommend it. Deserved winner of the Palme d’Or and Best Actress at Cannes (despite receiving a lot of criticism), Dancer in the Dark is a challenging, touching and innovative film which is unlike any other film you will see. Highly recommended!

5/5

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‘A day or a lifetime’ 

One of the Coen Brothers lesser known films in contrast to such great films such as the 2007 Academy Awards Best Picture winner ‘No Country For Old Men’, cult classic ‘The Big Lebowski’ and of course the very popular and critically acclaimed ‘Fargo’ which brought them popularity compared to their other great films in the past like ‘Blood Simple’, ‘Raising Arizona’ and…’Barton Fink’! Out of all the Coen Brothers films I have seen, ‘Barton Fink’ is definitely one of their best, and as usual they bring together so many aspects of film, one minute ‘Barton Fink’ felt like a Hitchcock film, then Kubrick, then a splash of noir, then comedy and even a spark of horror! 

The film is set in 1941 and stars John Turturro as the title character, an acclaimed playwright from New York who writes about and for “the common man”. He is then hired to write scripts a film studio in Hollywood, checks in the fading Hotel Earle and begins to suffer from writer’s block as he develops a friendship with his very friendly neighbour Charlie (John Goodman). There’s so much to this film which makes it so special. The many themes emphasised throughout are repeated over and over such as the dark contrasts between Hollywood and Broadway in that Hollywood is a much more manipulative place which obsesses over creative control over the notion of creating art. The Hotel Earle as an example of justification clearly presents that Barton wants to live somewhere “less Hollywood”. The Coen brothers frequent D.O.P. Roger Deakins provides beyond beautiful cinematography who creates an atmosphere within the hotel which I found profoundly unsettling such as the camera frequently returning to close ups of Barton stressed over writing his wrestling epic to his encounters with mosquitos and of course, returns again and again to the peeling wallpaper in Barton’s room which has a texture almost like decomposition. John Turturro gives an outstanding performance as Barton who clearly suggests the desperation of creating important art, not only that, but Turturro significantly implies that Barton can’t be a slave to a place like Hollywood. Frequent collaborator of the Coens, John Goodman portrayal of the common and larger than life Charlie is also very well played, providing a character who clearly has much less than Barton but seems to be the kind of guy who loves taking interest in people and helping someone in anyway he can. An astonishing piece of cinema and deserved winner of Best Director, Best Actor and the Palme d’Or at Cannes, I highly recommend watching if you’re love the work of the Coen Brothers or a fan of various genres of film. Enigmatic, disturbing and very funny!

5/5

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“There’s only a few things I really care about in life. My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. My porn.”

Don Jon marks the directorial/screenwriting debut of actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, all I can say really is that we have a lot to look forward from this fantastic filmmaker!

The film follows the titular character played by Levitt who has a deep obsession with online pornography, so much so, he even prefers it to casual sex with local Jersey girls. He encounters a beautiful girl (Scarlet Johanson) who dreams of finding the perfect man and live like in the soppy rom-coms she adores and becomes desperate in balancing love and lust. Through meeting a night-school classmate (Julianne Moore), Jon begins to understand the real meanings of losing yourself in someone else.

What I think makes very special is its originality. It firstly deals with a controversial topic that’s so relevant in society and often featured as a serious taboo in the news and TV programs but Levitt takes it a little step further and adds a lot of wit through many of things his character cares about. Levitt repeats the same techniques in editing and cinematography in activities such as going to gym, going to confession, going to the local club which all connote Jon obsessive routine which adds simplicity and yet I still found the some of the routines hilarious such as Jon pulling a girl that his friend wanted to pull and whilst going through a serious workout, he prays the Hail Mary. Personally though, Julianne Moore stole the show, offering a sublime performance as a highly sensitive yet extremely thoughtful and caring individual who clearly shows support to Jon’s problems. A brilliant debut which is definitely one of the best films of 2013, very funny, very clever and very unique!

4/5

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“I don’t know if there is anything wrong because I don’t know how other people are.”

Paul Thomas Anderson has been called one of the greatest and unique filmmakers of his generation, especially after the releases of highly acclaimed Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Anderson stated after Magnolia’s release that he’d like to work with Adam Sandler in a film lasting only 90 minutes. Sandler is not exactly well loved by critics (especially by the late Roger Ebert) but boy oh boy! Both Sandler and Anderson have created a beautifully crafted piece of cinema portraying the realistic nature of finding love.

Sander portrays in the narrative Barry, a lonely small time business man who is constantly emotionally abused by his seven over-bearing sisters. Because of this, he goes through periods of enormous rage and has problems interacting with others. However, things appear more positive when Lena (Emily Watson) is introduced in his life. From there, Barry tries to find ultimate happiness through Lena and wants to change his life around for the better.

PTA’s script is fantastically written portraying the very unique relationship between Barry and Lena. What I think makes this film so much more special is how it deliberately avoids typical conventions of rom-coms and instead implies a very believable relationship because of the awkwardness of the developing romance. Besides that, the symbolism throughout the film is incredible and very clever such as colour connoting Barry’s psychological battle. Blue is frequently seen as the suit Barry wears, his workplace and his home. Red is used to serve as the colour to Barry’s ultimate happiness such as Lena wearing red on their first date. White is used to contrast red since Barry travels and works in white environments which are isolated such as his office.

The cinematography by Robert Elswit is outstanding. The use of lengthy long shots and close ups reinforce Barry’s loneliness and isolation to the outside world. My favourite shot from the film has to be the opening, I was amazed with how it instantly reflected on Barry’s emotional and physical state since he is so far away. Not only that, symbolism is used once again with Barry’s phone representing his connection to the outside world. The use of lens flares is also very effective (unlike J.J. Abrams’ overuse of it in Star Trek!) because it presents the genuine emotions Barry and Lena feel.

The score by Jon Brion is composed stunningly reflecting the relationship using frequent use of strings, accordions and the classic harmonium! What makes it distinct is that it sounds very much what you would expect from a rom-com score: lovely melody, no dissonance, perfect harmony, major key. These conventions all manage to fit in to this very authentic connection between Barry and Lena.

Besides all these unique features of cinema, it is also one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely up there with Kevin Smith’s Clerks and Adam McKay’s Anchorman despite not having any hyperbolic uses of comedy. Instead, it feels like a very true representation of isolation whilst having realistic humour. The funniest scenes had to be between Sandler and Philip Seymour Hoffman who also portrays a business man with a massive temper who delivers in my mind the best ‘shut up’ line ever and the notorious ‘bathroom’ scene!

A joyful, dramatic and hilarious film. Punch-Drunk Love proves Sandler doesn’t always need to play the slapstick, over-the-top, goof-ball and PTA can write and direct a very interesting take on the comedy genre. This is a film with real heart and soul. Highly recommended!

5/5