I made all those sophisticated tools available to anybody so you can do all of this too. This is a site for film and DVD enthusiasts (i.e. freaks) where you can build your own communities, with your very own movie and dvd lists, reviews, blogs and RSS feed, mailing lists, a home page like this one, and even keep track of movies your friends borrowed from you.
2011.09.09 - What Does Horror Mean To You? at Brutal As Hell
I am starting to write this article right after I just finished watching Dario Argento?s Stendhal Syndrome for the third time in about two years. I am fascinated by it because it is likely Argento?s last good/great film (Dracula 3D doesn?t look very promising so far), and because surprisingly, what disturbs me the most is the brutality of the film and that Dario put his own daughter Asia at the center of it. Talk about a Freudian setup. Additionally, the movie is gorgeous. Yes, its use of digital effects is very crude, even for the time, but the film is otherwise very polished in the greatest Argento tradition. I appreciate that. I also appreciate Asia greatly....
2011.08.25 - Not Quite Hollywood review at Brutal As Hell
Documentaries about films are a tricky affair. Either they have to be about an incredible film, or the documentary itself has to be cool and uncover little known nuggets about a cult classic, or they have to paint an epic movement and give you tons of information, references, and cool interviews. Not Quite Hollywood is of the latter kind, but unlike the recent American Grindhouse, it manages to pile on so much energy, laughs, outrageous interviews and cool film bits...
Stanley Kubrick and Roman Polanski got together one day back in the late 1970s to talk Film. Kubrick loved "The Tenant" so much he said he wanted to make a film of that caliber. Polanski's response was that he loved "Barry Lyndon" so much he wanted to make a period piece just as epic as that one. So both men did just that. They paid tribute to each other. Polanski made "Tess" and Kubrick made "The Shining". Both films were released around the same time.
"The Tenant" is truly an amazing movie, macabre, twisted, marvelously performed, and engrossing like few other "horror" films, if you can call it that. "The Tenant" is actually an uncanny (in both sense of the word here) portrayal of a psychological breakdown, that ends in a chilling and tragic finale. Mister Trelkovsky (Roman Polanski), a Frenchman of Polish origin, moves into an apartment. The previous tenant had just thrown herself out of the window while attempting to commit suicide, and is barely alive at the hospital. Rather quickly, Trelkovsky develops an unhealthy fixation on that woman and decides to go visit her. At the beginning, it's really by politeness and concern that he does so, but quickly, you realize that something just started to go wrong. Little by little, Trelkovsky start to believe that the landlord and the other tenants in the building are plotting against him, trying to turn him into the previous tenant so that he would commit suicide as well. Little by little, ordinary remarks and actions are perceived in the most paranoid way as aggressive: the world is out to have him killed in the most sinister and complicated way.
There are several technical elements of the movie that truly stand out. First, the score is haunting. This is a piece of music you'll remember for a long time. Second, the overall cinematography and art direction are first class. In a rather open homage to "Rear Window", Polanski treats us with acrobatic camera work that flies up and down the courtyard of the large building, showing us the expanse of the décor, and the details of the building. It's simply austere, but beautiful to watch. The building, and the courtyard, where the final act takes place, develops a powerful evil presence throughout the movie. Finally, Polanski himself, on top of giving us top notch direction, also provides an amazing performance. The polite, almost transparent, easily bullied, "I don't want any trouble" man is so endearing, if a little pathetic, and following him down to insanity is a painful voyage indeed. I dare you not to gasp several times at the end of the movie seeing what happens to him, and how Polanski portrays it. It's absolutely a first class performance, Oscar worthy.
There is however one thing that truly bothered me a LOT. The movie has a fairly large supporting cast, with French, British and American actors. Both the English and French speaking tracks are horrible. Most actors seem to be actually speaking English for most of the movie, so you'd think that the English track would be the best one to listen to. Big mistake. For some reason, even though I can see the lips speaking in English, the voices themselves are dubbed over: I know all those French actors and recognize that these are not their voices. So I feel like the French actors were trying to speak English, but it was so terrible that Polanski dubbed over them. This creates a double dubbing effect and denatures a lot of the movie. And when you watch the French track, the voices sound a little bit better, but they don't synch with the actors' lips. So either way, it's bad. I found myself switching between the French and English tracks in order to get the best of each, but that gets distracting for this otherwise impressively engrossing movie.
I had seen this movie several times before, so this is why i allowed myself to do this this time. Now, i do know all the actors and their voices. I have also been watching foreign movies with subtitles since i was a kid, so i can really watch the image in details and read the subtitles at the same time. It's a good skill to have when you are into Foreign movies (and for the first 18 years of my life, that meant anything not in French). Dubbing is something i have always perceived instantly, and 99.9% of the time, it bugs me beyond belief. So, this very negative experience with "The Tenant" might be just for me.
On the writing side, the film is not only engrossing and absorbing, with genuine terror building up to a grand finale. It's also an incredible commentary on Polanski's own life. On the one hand, he explains in his notes that he used French actors for people his age in the film, his friends, but for the older people, the "monsters" from the building, he used American actors. Of course, this was a commercial effort for the US market: remember, he had just made Chinatown! But more importantly, he saw America as the reason for his wife's murder, and this duality in him has never subsided: America gave him international fame, and also killed the woman he loved. It's all the more telling that he also wrote in his note that he also wanted to look at Parisians and highlight what he perceived as their pretentious and racist core. In the end, he superimposed the worst traits of French people he experienced after the war (and what transpired from the war itself), and the American nationality, for his evil foes.
This is a strange, weird movie that pulls you without mercy along the path a man travels from sanity to paranoid delusion and finally, suicide. Polanski shows us the measure of his talent, both behind and in front of the camera. It's a great companion to Rosemary's Baby. This is a powerful movie that would have been a perfect ten if it weren't for its voice management which is frankly appalling for a movie of this quality.
A classic French actioner that spawned a dozen copies, at least. It still packs a punch thanks in great part to a fantastic central performance from Anne Parillaud and a great soundtrack by Éric Serra. The film is stylish and well written.
Guilt is one of the most powerful forces in human kind. I am absolutely convinced of that, and guilt took a center piece in my own film Time Flies, which i have been laboring over for more than 6 years now. Guilt is a very pernicious emotion that is turned inward, self generated, and makes you feel like shit. It is destructive, and puts you in an impossible situation where corrective measures often results in more harm. Take parents who work their asses off to give their kids a future, yet, in so doing, neglect their children emotionally by not being there with them. Then, to soothe their guilt, they lavish material goods on their kids, further perpetrating an emotional state for their children that is just wrong (i.e., let?s fill that emotional void with material goods). I see this all around me all too often, and it?s very saddening. When i come back from a business trip, i bring but a token present to my kids.
The guilt of a parent towards their children is probably the most powerful form of guilt, and Mother (2009) explores this in spades, with shocking conclusions. The titular character, "Mother", is an older widow living with her adult son who is somewhat mentally retarded, and she bears an extreme guilt over it. As a result, she is extremely protective of him. Her emotions boil over when her son is accused of murder by the local Police based on very slim and circumstantial evidence. She will go to extreme lengths to prove her son innocent, and take up a dangerous path for herself and her position in her community, to reach the truth.
This is a brilliant movie that proves you can create incredible drama with more mature characters. The lack of strong female roles in Hollywood, and especially elderly roles, has been written about many times, and it?s truly a shame. There is certainly a vast chest of experiences and emotions that an elderly female character can bring to the screen, and it?s a shame it?s not explored more often. You have to go to foreign films to get these types of deeper character stories, and South Korea has shown over a decade that it?s very good at that. The writing is impeccable in its management of a very personal story, that of the mother defending her son with al her might, and a potent thriller, a detective story with multiple angles around the murder of a young girl in a rural town. The structure here is very simple, yet the story keeps on rebounding from one suspect to another, to finally land in a very murky territory.
It?s hard to write a review and give you a sense of all those rebounds and twists and turns without giving away any key surprises in the movie. This is in fact the second review I wrote. The first one had the unavoidable ?spoiler? alert and I went on to disclose a few of those twists. But then, I realized I would simply spoil the movie too much if you were to see it. Suffice to say that guilt is indeed a very powerful force that often leads to quiet evil and the last 15mn of the film go full on with this realization albeit with a disquieting grace and subtlety that will make you pause for a minute and think.
To note, one of the definitive strength of this film is of course the main actress. Hye-ja KIM is stunning in her detailed portrayal of a desperate mother. She is frail, and old, yet her eyes ooze with strength and determination. From physical mannerisms to her voice, to her gestures, everything in this performance would call for an Oscar-level recognition.
This is an incredible film with such detailed writing, pitch-perfect performances from the lead roles, great art direction and cinematography that all combined open a very realistic window into this complex story, the portrait of a elderly mother overcome by guilt and ready to do anything to soothe it.
This film captures the sense of loss and guilt like no other i have ever seen. It's anchored by a powerful performance from Toni Collette and pitch perfect writing. It's one of those rare films that affects me when i watched it again, and always lingers around me.
How can you tell when a film is great? This is a difficult question to answer because ultimately, if the movie is any good, each one of us can experience it in very different ways, each with our own bias. To me, films are such an involving experience as they provide a rich visual, audio, intellectual, and sometimes cultural experience that is wholly satisfying. When experiencing movies, each one of us does it differently. Some people care much about the performances while others care about the writing or the story. Some, yours truly included, can be delighted by the visuals and sounds and music a film offers on top of adequate performances and writing. This is one point that differentiates me often from many of my friends: i can really, really get enraptured by the visuals and sounds of a movie to the point that i can easily excuse a silly story, cliched writing and uneven acting. Another side of what can be qualified as a testament to the quality of a film is if it provided you with memorable moments and characters. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece, but it can still stand the test of time and be something you remember fondly oftentimes.
To me, The Fifth Element is such a film. Recently re-released on DVD by Columbia TriStar (the film division of Sony) as a Special Edition, i got the opportunity to rewatch this movie and fall in love with it all over again. The new DVD is fantastic and contains reference-quality audio and video (thanks to Superbit processing), and great supplements. Even if you had the previous version of the film on DVD, sell it, give it, do whatever you want with it, but do get the latest one as it is well worth the upgrade. Anyone who has seen the movie would agree that the story is somewhat silly, the writing is cliched at times, and the acting is certainly uneven. However, in spite of all of this, the movie does have a undeniable quality that makes it great and memorable. One outstanding performance, absolutely stunning visuals including a bold view of the world in the 23rd century that has been meticulously designed and photographed, and characters and moments you will most likely remember for the rest of your life, all together create a movie that is more wonderful than the sum of its parts. Director Luc Besson created something that is close to being the ultimate Space opera with a great mix of action, science fiction, comedy all packaged with genuine originality.
Every 5,000 years, Evil emerges in the universe and attempts to destroy all life. An alien species has engineered a super being called the Fifth Element to defeat it in the 23rd century when it is to come back. In an ultra modern New York City, Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) is a retired Army Major who drives his cab around the city. One day, Leello (Milla Jovovitch), the Fifth Element, literally crashes into his cab and Korben decides to help her. He will join forces with Priest Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm) and the ultra outrageous Radio personality and host Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker) against Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman), a mega industrialist who works with Evil and attempts to foil the Fifth Element's plans. The story is fairly simplistic and full of holes, but who cares. Plus, supposedly, it was written by Luc Besson himself while he attended high-school. So i guess the immaturity of the script can be excused somewhat. In spite of that flaw, the characters are all lovable.
Bruce Willis performs his signature role here of the tough action hero who also has a lot of heart. There is nothing groundbreaking here, but he always does this type of characters well. Milla Jovovitch oscillates between greatness and cheesiness, conveying the fragile and infant-like side of her character fairly well while the ultimate-weapon-supreme-being part is rather hard to believe. She is gorgeous and has daring outfits to fit her character. Gary Oldman is his usual badness and like Bruce Willis performs it well, as usual. The real gold in this movie however from the point of view of performances is Chris Tucker. He is pure dynamite and should have been nominated for an Oscar for a best supporting role. He is outrageous, quick, funny and one of the most memorable characters of the film. One could argue that he is the best written character of the movie too, but given the uneven quality of the writing for all the other characters and the fact that he is the comic relief (not often the best written character in a story), i can only believe that Chris Tucker is mainly responsible for how Ruby is on screen. Finally, another memorable character in the movie is the Diva who is sure to impress anyone. She is a blue alien creature with a voice straight from heaven. She sings the Il Dolce Suono aria from the Opera Lucia di Lammermoor by composer Gaetano Donizetti. That particular scene is one of the highlights of the movie.
As soon as the movie starts, one thing will strike you right away: it is gorgeous, and there is an attention to design that is amazing. Everything is so lush and detailed and ornate, and the design Vision spans the entire spectrum of life in the 23rd century. The fashion has been created by famed French Haute-Couture designer Jean-Paul Gaultier who is famous in the US for the cone-bra that Madonna wore once. He worked on several Almodovar movies such as Kika and the recent Bad Education. One of his most memorable efforts must be the work he did on Peter Greenaway's visually stunning and disturbingly decadent The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover. Another strong point in the movie is the overall architecture of buildings, interior design, and space ships, all created by famed French graphic artists Jean 'Moebius' Giraud and Jean-Claude Mezieres. Moebius in particular is renowned in the comic book industry for having created the Heavy Metal comic magazine, which spawned two movies. The design of New York City is stunning, conveying decay and grandeur at the same time. The city is even taller than it is now with Central Park soaring at 250 feet, and an elevated Statue Of Liberty. Air-vehicles (a la Blade Runner) come and go everywhere creating a dizying and busy atmosphere. The designs are fundamentally retro, with more than a hint of Art Deco at every corner, but remain completely modern. Phloston Paradise, a resort ship for a planet of beaches with its own opera house, is arresting. The big things are very beautiful, but there are also many small details. For example, cigarettes have very long filters and a small portion of Tobacco.
Last but not least, the soundtrack by Eric Sera plays an important role throughout the movie and is quite wonderful. Sera is a long-time collaborator of director Luc Besson and the two work wonders together. the score complements the movie in almost every respect, providing lush instrumentations and highly recognizable melodies. In other technical areas, the movie shines pretty much universally. The special effects are first rate, and the cinematography, with many geometric themes repeated throughout the movie (circles and rectangles) and a "sunset" color palette (shades of blue and orange) add to the overall design to make this movie extremely appealing visually. The editing is wonderful and pays attention to all this richness on screen when needed, and whizzes by during heart pumping action sequences.
The Fifth Element remains to this day the most expensive movie ever produced outside of Hollywood and it shows in its overall visual and sonic quality. It was money well spent, all the way. It may have many things against it, but it overcomes them with ease once the movie is considered in its entirety. It is quirky, wholly original, full of memorable characters and moments. It looks beautiful with an incredible attention to design throughout and great special effects and color schemes. And finally, it sounds marvelous, with a rich and enveloping score that you will definitely remember. This film is easily one of my favorite movies even if it is not one of the best movies i have ever seen. There is something immediately approachable to its themes, humor, characters, that makes it original and endearing. It's a movie that is a whole lot of fun to watch and which i guarantee you will remember years after the credits have rolled off the screen. Luc Besson has a knack for making movies that are stylish and lovable. I highly recommend some of his other efforts such as the classics The Big Blue and Leon, The Professional (also recently available on DVD as another great Superbit special edition). The American audience also fell in love with La Femme Nikita so it might be worth a check too. I personally did not really love that movie. Luc Besson is one of the most talented French directors working today, and although he has only directed seven movies since he debuted in 1983, many of them are memorable. He has been focusing on producing in the past few years (1999's The Messenger: Joan Of Arc is his last movie so ar) but he has a new film in the works for 2006: Arthur And The Minimoys.