Monthly Archives: March 2012

La femme Nikita by Luc Besson (1990)

Where Jean Reno plays a character later to be repeated as another Luc Besson’s film – Leon.

This film has a peculiar pace and some shortcuts to the plot are stressed twice. As if Besson did not trust the audience to get the hint given.

It is one of the films that you watch and cannot take your eyes off the screen even though not each element entirely makes sense.

Tells the story of a junkie, who shoots a policeman in the first few minutes of the film, is then trialled for the death of three, undergoes a staged perceived-to-be-lethal injection to find herself in a training camp for special agents. She learns combat and computer skills, shooting she seems to have mastered beforehand. The character behaves like a total basket case and it is unclear as to why she got selected for the government programme. Putting that aside, it is a good watch, although certain plot points are way too simplified. But hey – this is action movie!

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American Psycho by Mary Herron (2000)

Adaptation of a controversial novel by Bret Easton Ellis. The careful and detailed descriptions allowed for an accurate depiction of Patrick Bateman’s obsessive attention to detail. Christian Bale is perfect in the role of an insane serial killer leading an immaculate life of a 1980’s yuppie.

Although made in 2000, the film breathes and feels the 1980’s – the times of Wall Street, walkman, golden watches and first cordless phones.

It is a horror film but on the verge of comedy. Thankfully certain scenes described in detail in the book were too hard core to be shown on the screen.

It’s a good film and Christian Bale  is the embodiment of pure evil.

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Tootsie by Sydney Pollack (1982)

Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray, Jessica Lange, Geena Davis…

This was the next film that Hoffman did after his Oscar awarded “Kramer vs. Kramer”. The role is strikingly different from anything he did before. Comedy. When (still) attractive male actor turns into a tragically unattractive masculine woman actor. To get a job, transforms himself physically to discover an entire new world he was totally oblivious to before.

I watched this film for the first time in early 1980’s on a black&white micro-tv made in East Germany. Over 25 years later, with a surprise I recognised some of the scenes that I had carved in my memory as magnificent. And they did not lose any of the charm and magic. Interestingly, the film did not age and is still a great entertainment. And probably will be for at least the next 25 years. Cult classic.

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Midnight Cowboy by John Schlesinger (1969)

With young Jon Voigt and Dustin Hoffman, who, one more time, proves to be an an incredibly talented prolific actor. Hoffman puts on a voice and accent of a New York vagabond cheat of declining health who cons the freshly out of Texas newbie (Voigt) aspiring to make a living as a male escort.

The story is illustrated in a romantic way showing the glass ceiling and the glass walls of the big metropolis. The first day we watch Joe Buck smiling happily at the outside world, observing the busy streets, shop vitrines, beautiful women, dog walkers. Gradually he realises how many doors are closed for him, a dummy out of nowhere, with limited spelling capabilities and not enough confidence to actually succeed at the dreamed path of a hustler as he defines himself.

In an unlikely fashion, the pair becomes friends and they both abandon New York City after a few misadventures and a few brighter spots – such as the Warholesque party where they manage to eat, smoke, drink and where Joe finally finds a woman willing to pay for his company.

The film won Best Picture in 1970. Deservedly. Great cinema.

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Burn After Reading by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

A pantheon of actors including John Malkovich, Richard Jenkins, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton. An imaginary story of the intertwined fates of employees of a certain gym and employees of the Pentagon. It is fairly hard to imagine them crossing paths in any ‘normal’ circumstances. The connecting clue is a dating website and in an unlikely fashion a CD with data gathered by the unfaithful wife to blackmail her husband becomes a toy in the hands of a middle aged gym employee who tries to gather funds for her cosmetic surgeries. A twisted story without a clear message. What stays with you for a long time is John Malkovich’s voice dropping the f bomb every other word. The role was written specifically with the actor in mind. Other actors also deal with out of the ordinary roles – Brad Pitt as a retarded gay obsessed with his looks is very convincing. It’s worth a watch.

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Kramer vs. Kramer by Robert Benton (1979)

Another (next to Woody Allen’s Manhattan) 1979 gem. A film made in the times, when no element, no line of dialogue, no gesture would appear in the frame for no reason. Every single component has a meaning; certain scenes placed at various points in the plot cement the emotional aspect of the film – like the elevator scene, when Meryl Streep walks out on Dustin Hoffman (NB he got the Oscar for this role – quite deservedly) who is so stunned at the fact that he does not even attempt at holding the elevator to prevent her from doing this. Like the morning breakfast scenes illustrating the development in the relationship of father and son – especially the constrasted morning of the first breakfast without the mother and the last breakfast without the mother in their lives.

It is a painful and emotional tale of a breakup between two adults, which would be most probably less complex had there not be a child involved. Their son brings into the equation a whole different set of complications for their careers and emotional development.

Excellent film. Fantastic (as always) Dustin Hoffman…

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Before Sunset by Richard Linklater

The lovely sequel to the one set in Vienna – Before Sunrise.

The action opens 9 years after the events of the original film. Same actors, only Vienna is replaced by Paris.

Ethan Hawke’s character wrote a book inspired by the Vienna night and comes to Paris to promote it. Celine pops in to the bookshop and they set on a walk. Turns out the French girl did not make it to their appointment at the railstation as they had agreed as she had her grandma’s funeral to go to. Jesse did wait for about 3 days wandering around but finally gave up. At present he is married and has a daughter.

They walk throughout Paris, take on a boat to finally end up in Celine’s flat listening to Nina Simone. A lovely story beautifully lit by the afternoon sunshine. Another film happening respecting the classical rules of the unity of action  time and place.

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Before Sunrise by Richard Linklater (1995)

Featuring young Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, the film tells a story of two people meeting on a train in Europe. Celine is French, studies in Paris and returns from a visit to her grandma in Budapest. Jesse is American and has a plane to catch from Vienna to return to the US after a tour of Europe. Having enjoyed a conversation  for a few hours, Jesse suggests that Celine joins him in spending a night in Vienna – walking around town and exploring its hidden gems. He could not afford to lodge in a hotel anyway and that was his concept for the night anyway. Celine agrees and the whole film closes within 24 hrs. They say their farewells on the rail station, where Celine boards the first morning train to Paris. They decide not to exchange any contact details but instead agree to meet at the same place in 6 months time.

It is a very warm story which gains a lot thanks to its sequel.

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Dazed and Confused by Richard Linklater (1993)

In the Catching Up section. The classic buddy movie featuring many future film stars including Adam Goldberg, Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck and – above all – the spotless Matthew McConaughey.

All is set within one day (come to think of it Linklater seems to like a 24 hour limit of a plot – just like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset)  – the last day of school year in 1976 – the time of partying the whole night through.

It’s a nostalgic  story taking the audiences back into the roaring 1970’s with glossy cars, a lot of weed, first romances, driving around, practical jokes, rites of passage through hazing of freshmen. All scored with contemporary music.

One of the aspects of this film is recognising faces of actors who later came to fame.

It was made in 1993 and it does not age. Worth a watch!

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Sparrows by William Beaudine

Sparrows – a silent film made in 1926. Presented at the brand new, trendy, glassy and steely Hackney Picture House by the Bird’s Eye View Festival.

Films made at the time were strongly influenced by the German Expressionism. That meant gloomy settings, tragic stories, big black eyes of the antagonists and very disturbing music. Heavy use of contrast – this was casting the foundations for future horror cinema.

The screening was scored by a live band – strengthening the effect of horror especially at the beginning.

Films like this one remind us the magic of the silent era. And even more show how The Artist is a step back in history, not a step forward.

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