“If He is not the word of God, then God never spoke” – THE ROAD

July 19, 2010

The movie uses a post-apocalyptic world as an analogy to discuss contemporary issues. Such as the struggle to find meaning in a capitalist world. In this sense I thought it was reminiscent of Kafka’s The Trial. Struggling to find a reason to go on, Viggo Mortensen looks at his sleeping son, and says “If he is not the word of God, then God never spoke.” A lot of credit goes to author Cormac McCarthy’s poetic words. Even for an agnostic like me, the love I feel for my son is so strong that it feels like it has God-like dimensions.

Brilliantly, The Road sheds light on the struggle of the poor, starving and desperate populations of the present day world. It removes the blindfolds from the prosperous, showing a harsh truth. Steven Spielberg also the same in his underrated allegory War of the Worlds.

However, director John Hillcoat chooses to use tremendously low contrasts in his imagery. At times it’s hard to make out anything at all in the the muddy grey and brown colors. The flashbacks to present time, on the other hand, have over-saturated  colors, creating a dramatic distiction between now and then. A different approach emphasizing the parallels between the two worlds would have been much more interesting in a cinematic sense.

Because that parallel is the real story here.

Nowhere Boy -the young John Lennon

July 19, 2010

Just saw this on dvd. It is a surprisingly well shot film. It is rare these days that a movie tries to take advantage of cinemas’ intrinsic visual capabilities, but instead relying on dialogue, plot, narrative and character to convey meaning. To a considerable extent, this is also true for Nowhere Boy -which is nonetheless an interesting look at some Freudian trauma of John Lennon’s dramatic childhood and youth.

The camera is always a player in Nowhere Boy.  Nowhere Boy at times uses editing and cinematography to achieve beautiful results. Let me give you one example of how director Sam Taylor-Wood uses cinemas own vocabulary to convey meaning.:

At one point Lennon is given a guitar, and rehearses in his living room. We see him pull out the guitar, sit down, and start playing. He is alone in the room. After a few seconds we realize that the images have been sped up. The other members of the family fly in and out of the living room at exaggerated speeds while John sits still and plays his new instrument. The idea is that he has finally found his calling.; for him time is standing still.  It is understood that John’s life will never be the same again after this moment, brilliantly reinforced by pure visual storytelling.

KICK-ASS

April 24, 2010

Apart from the nihilism that have become all-too common in action films – particularly since Tarantino popularized the justifiable tooth-for-tooth  revenge fantasy in the mid nineties – Kick-Ass is a very likable movie. In that sense it is reminiscent of 1994’s Falling Down, which was a sensationally watchable and engrossing vigilante-drama with a poignant turn by Michael Douglas in top form.   

The editing in Kick-Ass is rapid and competent. It is a rare sight to see action-sequences edited together this well, without cheating. Most action-directors employ a blisteringly-paced and eventually confusing form of jump cutting that leaves the audience to make out the spacial-temporal logic of the scene by themselves. Such directors do not show how the different elements of the scene relate to each other. (Take for instance films like Quantum of Solace,  District 9 or Avatar. )

Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaugh is, however, able to do this to a considerable extent. The action sequences in Kick-Ass are exciting, suspenseful and truely involve the viewer. 

Add to that an unusually vibrant color scheme and a truly charming lead actor in Aaron Johnson and you have the year’s second best action movie to date, only behind the fascinating real politics of The Green Zone.

Top Ten films of the Decade

January 11, 2010

The greatest film I saw in the past ten years was Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love. 

When was the last time you saw a film that transported you to another place, another reality, another world. This movie does that -and keeps you there spellbound.

 

In the Mood for Love is by far Kar-Wai’s best film. There was not a better example over the decade of a film using the elements of pure cinema to create atmosphere, emotion and reflection. Certain segments of the film combines music and mise-en-scene to create astonishing results, carrying the viewer away into a dark, dreamy world where you are completely encompassed in the film’s universe. The rythm, color and pacing of the gorgeous, slow, tracking shots have a hypnotic effect which reaches for cinemas highest aspirations.

Other shots visually and metaphorically underline the films theme of distant, impossible love.  A true masterpiece of visual cinema.

TOP TEN FILMS OF THE DECADE 2000 – 2010

November 26, 2009

Some of the best films I saw in the last decade were the ones listed below. There are probably a few I missed, and there are a few on my list currently.. So I’m sure there will be changes and additions to the list in the coming weeks and months..:)

Check it out for now:

I will continue the list tomorrow and the following days..

1. In the Mood for Love (see above)

2. There Will Be Blood

3. Femme Fatale

4. Match Point.

A highly politcal film from Woody Allen. A beatuifully crafted and suspensful love triangle as as well as one of the most subtle political films of the noughties. Allen comments on the politics of choice and freedom by using, among other things, the game of tennis as a metaphor. Simply one of the most entertaining and intelligent films of the past ten years.

5. Oldboy

TOP TEN FILMS OF THE DECADE

August 25, 2009

In the coming days and weeks I will be publishing a series of posts relating to my list of the top ten films of the noughties. I will be publishing one film at a time -in no particular order. Then, finally I will arrange them into a prioritized top ten list. The list will be continually updated in the next few years  -the list will not be static, but constantly changing and evolving.

Communicating Space, Pt. 2

May 15, 2009

Reality is three dimentional. Paintings and photographs are two dimentional.  Part of cinemas mission is to explore space in the three dimentions.  As previoulsy mentioned this can be done with a moving, probing camera and also by editing; by mise-en-scene or montage, some might say. Mise-en-scene is sometimes referred to as what is front of the camera but keep in mind that what’s in front of the camera depends on the cameras constant movement and reframing -therefore the proper definition must be what’s in front of the camera as it relates to the camera itself.  

Camera movement is essentially cinematic. But some director don’t utilize these possibilities. There are tons of directors who hardly ever move the camera or explore focus or editing – in short, the cinematic language. Two of the most critically acclaimed directeors whom I’ve never seen move the camera are Bent Hamer (Factotum, Eggs) and Roy Andersson (You, the living). They are good at what they do, but it’s not my cup of tea.

Che Part 2 – communicating space

May 5, 2009

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Cinema is about communicating space.  Film can communicate three dimentional space in a way none of the other art forms can.

This is done primarily with the techniques of editing and camera movement. It is an absolutely essential aspect of the art form.

Steven Soderbergh does a pretty good job of this in the battle scenes in ‘Che’. He doesn’t really engage with the language of cinema to any extensive degree in the two films. But at one point we see the guerrilla soldiers walking down a river shot from an overhead angle -it is a rare and refreshing visual touch that adds some texture to the film.

But still – space is represented quite consistently in the film’s battle scenes, especially the final scene where the Bolivian soldiers close in on  Che and his men hiding in a a hillside behind some rocks. As the the soldiers (who are far superior in numbers) approach, the claustrophobia mounts. The way this is done is through use of foreground and background in the frame, as well as consistency in the communication of the spacial relations in the editing. That means that there is a relationship between the shots, that they relate to each other and work together to communicate space, and don’t contradict each other visually. 

I will write more  tomorrow.

CHE Part One

April 14, 2009

I rather enjoyed Che and I’ll probably watch part two. But there is nothing all that interesting with the film. che

The shootouts are well done, but director Steven Soderbergh focuses on fairly superficial aspects instead of digging into the psychè and mysteries of Che Guevara  and exploring the romantic image of him that have been reproduced many times but have started to crack in later years. What we get is basically a competent, visually bland, description of walks and battles, interspersed with clips of Che Guevara’s speeches.

In fact, Soderberghs Ocean’s 13 -as mainstream as it may be- was a much more interesting work in it’s mise-en-scene and cinematography.

The Wrestler vs. Man on Wire: Film is not Reality

March 31, 2009

Even with the greatest documentary or fiction film it is hard to know what we have learned after watching. Whatever manonwire_scene_03is communicated is always rooted in points of view. That’s why the most objective looking films are often the ones to be most sceptical about. Film is a re-presentation of a reality which will always illude objective presentation. Film is not reality. This is clear when you see the highly stylized Man on Wire -the hand behind the camera draws attention to itself, building suspense with cinematic techniques such as compostion and contrast -never a bad thing in my book.

The Wrestler is a film that uses a documentary-style cinematic approach that doesn’t engage itself with the language of cinema  -thereby faking  a form of “realism” that I rarely take to. But particularly because of Mickey Rourkes’ performance , which is truly roaming an area somewhere between reality and fiction, it somehow works. His mountainous performance may be one of the best in decades, and is based on extreme honesty -something that is also obvious when you see this man interviewed. Every interview is boring after watching Rourke’s brutally honest answers.wrestler-294x2501

Despite Rourke’s documentary-style tour-de-force I’ll always engage more with films that reinterpret reality in its own artistic universe. Those films underline the difference between  the artistic representation and a reality that can only be accessed through the eyes of the on-looker, or lens of the filmmaker. That is cinema at its finest.


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