Samstag, 31. Dezember 2011

Great Expectations (Lean, 1945) - TSPDT #360

 A blacksmith's boy is sponsored by an anonymous benefactor to become a gentleman.

I'm not quite sure if I should understand the film as a coming-of-age interpretation (the lead seemed way too old for the role) or some comment on the English social classes that might have started to disappear apart after WW2 even faster than before or maybe Lean was just fascinated with the story. The movie is quite an enjoyable watch and holds enough tension to keep you interested through the rather hairy twists from the original book.

Absurdly, I felt that it have a TV-movie quality to it, the framing was rather unspectacular. There are some extremely beautiful shots in the beginning where the boy is running along the sea. Generally, the inside stuff didn't work too well for me.

Alec Guinness and Jean Simmons worked really well in their support roles.

Mittwoch, 28. Dezember 2011

The Lost Weekend (Wilder, 1945) - TSPDT #1622

An alcoholic, struggling writer goes on a long drinking binge ending up at the lowest point of his life.

A very powerful and gripping story, the flashback structure of the story is not revealed until the end, as it serves the cold, analytical way that the "hero" looks at his own life and his continuous string of failings, deceits and misdemeanors. His struggle is not so much with the drug but with his failed expectations in his own persona. Ray Milland's performance is astounding, and holds up totally realistic even 60 years later.

There is a lot of bitter humor in the picture which serves it very well and some great directorial ideas on how to convey ideas in simple pictures. My favorite was the little rings that shots of rye leave on the bar and how they multiply over time.

Definitively worth a re-watch and in-depth analysis.

Dienstag, 27. Dezember 2011

The shop around the corner (Lubitsch, 1940) - TSPDT #237

A shop clerk falls in love with a woman through letters while squabbling with the young lady he gave a position in the shop.

A very play-like story, most of it taking place in the shop and in the manager's office, and as a apron the store door in the morning. The story is pretty straightforward and is entirely set in the daily universe of the participants.  I like how all the different characters story came together in the end and the story only had to rely on very few "information bringers" - there is the detective reporting the infidelities of his wife to Matuschek - and even there he is only shown once to clear up the store owner's mistake.

There was a strong nostalgic and (obviously) Christmasy atmosphere throughout the film, but it was still quite enjoyable.

Arsenic and old lace (Capra, 1944) - TSPDT #869

 After his wedding a sworn bachelor finds out that his family is completely insane ... and very murderous.

Obviously, the film is very stagey, but although Grant highly disliked his own performance in this film it was quite obvious for me that only this caricatured way would work good.

It took me about 30 minutes to get used to this style of comedy, but once I got past the cringe moments I really enjoyed the rest of the film. There are some funny twists at the end and I really liked the setup with the toxic wine that never gets payed off (a really nice idea) and more than once throwing me off the track.

Montag, 12. Dezember 2011

Gwoemul - The Host (Bong, 2006) - TSP21 #151

A mutated monster fish kidnaps a small girl and so her remaining family members hunt for her in the sewers of Han river.

There are some really nice twists in this huge commercial success especially in terms of characters. I really like the main actor Kang-ho Song - similarly to Memories of a murder he plays a rather dumb, ignorant character and is extremely convincing at it too. There were some dangling storylines at the end and I felt that the other characters could have been beefed up a little bit, especially the conflict of the siblings with Song.

The animation and vfx are so-so, but it doesn't really matter - it's the relentless stubborness coupled with a glaring naivete of the main character that makes the whole thing fun to watch.

Safety Last! (Newmeyer, Tayler, 1923) - TSPDT #1300

A poor shop clerk that has moved to the city for a better life lies about his status to his countryside fiancee, when she comes for a surprise visit.

For me, this was one of the easier Lloyd films to approach and I must admit, that for reasons unknown to me I just can't get around liking his work. Mostly, I feel strangely at unease with the strange pacing of the story and the cheesy intertitles don't help. In contrast to Chaplin and Keaton, Lloyd's performance has a documentary quality to it, that I have a hard time to connect to. And the set-up of the story (angrying the policeman) didn't work inside the boundary of this realistic set-up. (Maybe a different type of run-in with the law might have added to the story instead of this stupid "pushing over" trick)

On the other hand, many of the scenes on the facade were breathtaking and still hold up easily with many other things today. The clock scene definitively deserves its place high up in the ranks of classics.

Samstag, 10. Dezember 2011

Mildred Pierce (Curtiz, 1945) - TSPDT #495

With all means a single mother tries to win the love of her daughter, giving up everything.

A very well constructed films with a long flashback bracing the actual story, that Joan Crawford tells at the police station. I deeply hated the Veda character, in my opinion one of the top evil baddies I have seen in a long time. (Maybe the boy in Au hasard, balthasar was even worse?)

It didn't appear to be a "film noir" to me, because the character I rooted most for (the mother) might finally get what she deserves: peace. Joan Crawfords acting is amazing and I could really feel her love for her daughter coming out of the screen. In her all-giving love she might be a doomed soul, so there is no hope for her anyway. Also the rest of the cast was extremely well placed and worked perfectly - I believed every one of them.

I just realized that Crawford wears a huge bunch of different costumes through that film.

Black Narcissus (Powell, Pressburger, 1947) - TSPDT #138

A group of nuns opens up a new convent at the edge of a mountain abyss and are confronted with their past and needs.

The setup on this one is quite straightforward: The extraordinary location of the old palace where the nun set in at the edge of the steep decline is also a place where all the subdued emotions come floating to the surface. The film focuses on the development of two or maybe three of the nuns, even when all of them are affected.

Kathleen Byrons presence is enormous and even made better by the marvelous use of colors (as in all the Powell/Pressburger pictures I've seen so far) - the pictures of the abyss are breathtaking, and the clashes of cultures was beautifully played out.

The film might have been a bit too short for the number of issues it explores. The love relation between the prince and the beggar woman was a bit too much on the surface and I also would have liked to know more about Dean's back story. His character was extremely interesting but his denial of any human emotions was so complete that he wouldn't let slip anything.


A Matter of Life and Death (Powell, Pressburger, 1946) - TSPDT #126

 A WWII fighter pilot escapes death due to bad weather and appeals his own death for falling in love.

The story is quite straightforward, and at some points already quite campy. There is a certain feelgood tone that reminded me of Capra's "Wonderful Life" - it is a little more highbrow though, and confronts transatlantic tensions between the English and the rest of the world. At the end the film felt a little too academic when in their argument the doctor and the teacher tried to outquote each other. Maybe this is good for romantic kitsch but it felt a little strange.

I also felt that the directors might have taken the giggle at some of the more kitschy approaches to some of the scenes - the little "Technicolor" remark of the angel was quite effective there.

The colors and the cinematography are gorgeous again and especially the opening with the clouds "washing" over Europe was amazing. Some of the more epic shots also looked great, although the matte painting was a bit too obvious - but in intention they worked really well.

Also, definitively one of the most amazing hairdressings (with the appropriate lighting) I have ever seen in a movie. Sort of a mixture of Eraserhead and medieval church painting.


Freitag, 9. Dezember 2011

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Hughes, 1986) - TSPDT #558

Ferris Bueller decides to skip school and enjoy it with his girlfriend and his best friend Cameron.

The structure of the film is interesting, and there are many really nice ideas except for the slapstick part - mostly carried out by the Ed Rooney character. These didn't age too well and I was bored by most of that stuff. Talking to the audience in this ironic self-analytical way that most columnists still not have done with today, was really amusing.

I loved the bits with the frozen close-ups of the deadly bored pupils, while their teachers were blabbering away in their respective mannerisms. Some of the "tableaus" were also quite funny to look at...

The Ox-Bow Incident (Wellmann, 1943) - TSPDT #1089

A posse sets out to revenge a cattle farmer's murder and soon they find three possible cattle thieves.

It is a comparatively short picture but nevertheless I was extremely impressed. It's a very moral play, and basically it all takes place in one and the same place, but there are so many layers that it is an enormous pleasure to watch all the actors. Fonda is amazing, so is Andrews and all the smaller actors are brilliant, and full of little surprises.

Despite its shortness, this is an emotional ride of a lot of hopes and ups and downs. What I really enjoyed here is the "matter of fact" situations - like when everybody stops from the lynching and has a bite to eat. This scene is so eerie that I can still remember my feeling vividly. It gave the three characters a break, but actually it made me catch my breath too - and made all the following actions even more intense.

Study this one!

Donnerstag, 8. Dezember 2011

The Philadelphia Story (Cukor, 1940) - TSPDT #142

 An ex-alcoholic ex-husband tries to win back his wife on the eve of her new marriage.

Strangely enough, I didn't enjoy this viewing as much as I hoped to.

I couldn't warm up too much to Hepburn and Stewart, her seeming a bit too cold and distant and Stewart being a bit over the top at all times. I was really amazed by Grant's performance, he really is a master of comedic timing - although once in a while there was a little help from the editing room.


There were a couple of really funny scenes, my favorite being the opening shot with this totally absurd act of violence of Grant's character towards Hepburn. The side characters had not enough definition for me, especially the mother and Uncle Willy, I would have loved to see them more absurd, like in "The Lady Eve", where everybody is totally over the top.

I could also strongly feel the theatrical character of the play shining through very often. There are often situations where the characters just sort of line up in the frame and there I felt a lack of spatial experience.

Juve contre Fantomas (Feuillade, 1913)

 The sinister Fantomas robs a train, tricks a lady, but Inspector Juve is onto him.

The tableau like cinematography is quite interesting, although not always very helpful to the story, since many of the shots are re-used which can be a bit confusing. Possibly there were budget restrictions. The Fantomas actor, René Navarre, makes a very impressing figure on screen.

The train accident are fabulous and many of the details in the story and the picture still hold up pretty well. This might not be the godfather of all crime movies, but there is a certain quality in pacing that I felt similarly in watching the first episode of "Breaking bad".


Mittwoch, 7. Dezember 2011

White Heat (Walsh, 1949) - TSPDT #290

A police mole tries to befriend a crazy mother-dependent gangster after a brutal train robbery.

I did find the evolution of the plot not very convincing as Cagney's character goes from extremely suspicious and brutal to a very trusting guy (at least towards his new cell mate - the police informer). Everything is explained, and the death of Cagney's mother might add vulnerability to his situation but it still felt a little bit conceived to me.

The actors themselves were extremely interesting to watch, I especially liked the mother. Another thing that caught my attention was the brutality of the main gangster and how it was dealt with on the screen. It got past censorship more or less uncut I guess, but the events had a very "modern violence" feel to them.

The scene with the hot steam in the beginning was very interesting as it led even more depth to the ruthlessness of the gangster, serving little else. Also the showdown with the explosions was quite impressive. To me, Cagney's character seemed like the prototype of a Bond movie baddie.

Dienstag, 6. Dezember 2011

The Lady Eve (Sturges, 1941) - TSPDT #114

The son of a rich brewer falls in love with a beautiful con-artist.

Only my second Sturges film and I am really amazed by it. The story has an extremely modern feel to it, although some of the jokes on contemporary morale don't work anymore. I loved the cast and the characters they depicted - it felt that every role down to the last little sidekick had been carefully selected to be played by just the right actor.

The scene with the horse at the sunset was so amazing that I watched it three times through. Not only the horse but the selection of camera angle and framing had been made in such a way that it looked even more grotesque, without turning the lead actors faces distorted, or funny.

Montag, 5. Dezember 2011

Kind Hearts and Coronets (Hamer, 1949) - TSPDT #175

A betrayed remote family member of the Duke of Asgoyne murders his way to the top of the inheritance succession.

An extremely amusing story - the comedy comes a lot from the comedic variations on the same kind of difficult action (ie killing the next relative in line) - watching the actors was a delight and some of the impersonations of Alec Guiness were jaw-dropping, especially the old priest, slightly senile and the "fool of the family".

The open ending helped me to keep the tension and fresh in memory. There seems to have been a different ending in the US, which I haven't seen, but was supposed to give "moral" closure, as crime was not allow to pay back then.

Sonntag, 4. Dezember 2011

The treasures of the Sierra Madre (Huston, 1948) - TSPDT #111

Two drifters set out to dig gold with an old prospector in a remote area. When they find it, the problems start.
Very straightforward and still gripping - I felt that the film's pacing is very even throughout the very different chapters, which gave it a somewhat documentary or even "slice of life" feeling. Bogart goes through an interesting transformation although sometimes he was a little bit over the top, I thought. Walter Huston is amazing to watch and although his character doesn't change a lot through the movie he adds an amazing depth and reality to the prospector he's portraying.

When Bogart's character is killed I was amazed by the situation before - the bandits didn't seem really dangerous (unless to the deranged mind of Bogart's character, of course) they were portrayed amazingly stupid and simple. The ending was predictable but still quite amazing.






Freitag, 2. Dezember 2011

La belle et la bête (Cocteau, 1946) - TSPDT #196

 An impoverished gentleman has to leave his daugther to the beast for stealing a rose from its castle gardens.

The film doesn't make use of a linear logical structure, and it didn't strike me as a typical fairy tale - there is no real morale at the end. It is rather a fairy-tale like fantasy with a more or less modern story. Cocteau didn't bother too much with dangling story lines or back story, things are taken for what they are on screen - there was no recognizable subtext for me, not even some kind of metaphor of present life.

But the movie is still extremely enjoyable - the visuals are gorgeous and watching the actors is entertaining. I felt a sincerity in the innocence of the storytelling that I didn't mind the logic, or some of the technical shortcomings of the time.

I will definitively re-watch with audio commentary (criterion?)

Donnerstag, 1. Dezember 2011

Cymbeline (Shakespeare, 1609)

A princess loves and marries Posthumus who is not noble. He is banished by the king and from abroad tests his wife's fidelity.

I thought it was really captivating until the fifth act. All the story lines were brought to a rather abrupt finale, and several of the smaller characters were cut off-stage, ie the queen's death and, earlier, Cloten's demise. It felt a little bit mixed up as a whole and also strangely paced. Setup in the very first act is really fast, on the other hand there are monologues that only underline the obvious from a characters point of view and end with somewhat illogical conclusions and actions.


Mittwoch, 30. November 2011

Laura (Preminger, 1944) - TSPDT #304

 A homicide detective tries to solve the murder of a young career woman when the victim suddenly appears before him - alive and well.

The story is very interesting, but the trope of a guy falling asleep in his chair and dreaming the whole story has been played out so many times in exactly this way, that I thought the latter half of the picture being a dream. I am not totally sure if Preminger did play with that or if this type of trick was already common back then. There is also a strange shift of character. We begin with Waldo's voice-over, but we completely lose his perspective during the film. In Sunset Boulevard, that has worked better, where in consequence the dead man still owns his voice-(over).


The red baron (Müllerschon, 2008)

The young flying ace learns about the horrors of war and falls in love with a nurse.


I felt strangely detached from the main character and lost interest in his way of thinking about 10 minutes into the movie. The only fascinating person was the younger brother, striving for some kind of fame and overshadowed by his famous older brother. Most of the subtext was actually said from one person to the next, and many scenes could have been edited down for efficiency clarity and interest. There must have been some TV people involved, because it was made sure that everybody in the room understood when a character was "angry" or "sad". Quite annoying and ultimately extremely boring.

I really wonder, how the English language version I've seen was conceived. Maybe due to budget issues, the actors talked their version themselves. Needless to say that everybody in the room had more than one raised eyebrow (should have watched the German version)


The actors could shine, but the script just didn't work at all. The CGI was good, but same here: no interest to support the imagery.

Out of the Past (Tourneur, 1947) - TSPDT #117

A detective is hired by a shady rich man to find his girlfriend and falls in love with her.

The story felt very much like a blueprint for the typical film-noir. The detective falls for the girl he's trying to hunt or pin down and goes to all sorts of lengths to protect her from perceived evil. The first part of the film is a pretty long flashback but then it continues in story present, which was quite surprising for me. A lot of important decisions hinge on being at the right place at the right time (ie wrong) and there are one or two moments where I felt that randomness did overtake a bit.

Mitchum and Douglas are incredibly impressive, the other characters are not completely one-dimensional but the film is simply too short to give them a lot of time to delve into character. Especially Greer should have gotten more screen time to get more evil out of her character, I felt.

Dienstag, 29. November 2011

Shadow of a doubt (Hitchcock, 1939) - TSPDT #330


Young Charlie's favorite Uncle Charlie appears to be more adventurous than she could have ever hoped.

The story is told very straight forward and I've spotted many small visual humorous gags by Hitchcock, like depicting the Santa Rose community as an ideal community by showing a happy traffic officer standing on an intersection, whistling away. Hitchcock's gentle mockery of small-town morale seems to manifest in a cardboard characters society with the daughter trying to express "everything that's wrong with her world" by staring at the ceiling and thinking. Cotton's character came across as the only more or less "real" person in the movie.

When Charlie tries to ring that police officer and she cannot find him at any of the addresses he has left her I was wondering, where the film was supposed to go on from there - it felt a bit like a plot hole.


The grapes of wrath (Ford, 1940) - TSPDT #127

A family from Oklahoma is driven west by the economic downturn, hoping to find a future in California.

The film is structured into scenes that were very carefully selected to underline the humanism and helpfulness of many of the fellow people that the family encounters. I remember the book being much more depressing and the ending nothing short of scary. The arc of Tom's arriving back to his family was pretty awesome. I've strongly felt that this could also be a post-nuclear war story, with everybody struggling for crumbs of the cake.

The acting is breathtaking by everybody, especially the preacher and the mother character were so convincing that I went back to see some of their scenes again.

Photography is also very intense, a lot of very high contrast imagery, that transformed the landscape into sinister sets when the car was driving through.


Montag, 28. November 2011

The Red Shoes (Powell, Pressburger, 1948) - TSPDT #128

An upcoming ballet star has to decide between her career and her heart.

The theater behind-the-stage liveliness and the dance sequences are beautifully filmed and haven't aged at all (some of the special effects have) - the visual interpretation of Victoria Page's psychological state expressed through her dance is marvelous without feeling forced. The build-up to the story took quite long and some of the essential love story moments were only hinted at - I wonder why.

Camerawork is generally fantastic and I can hardly remember a film being so colorful except maybe some of Kurosawa's later work.


True Heart Susie (Griffith, 1919) - TSPDT #849


An innocent country girl is in love with her neighbor that marries an infidel girl.

A comparatively linear story, compared to the other DWGriffiths films I have seen so far. The pacing is extremely slow, and it might be interesting to know what had moved Griffith to take on this movie. An amusing side note are the intertitles. The English is obfuscated at least, perhaps meant to be in the tone of a romantic poem, but pretty confusing for me.

There is already quite a lot of use of geometry inside the image frame, which sometimes work really nicely. The scene ends are clearly marked by fades to black or title cards.


Modern Times (Chaplin, 1936) - TSPDT #48

 A factory worker is fired and befriends an impoverished girl and they try to survive in a middle-class fantasy.

As beautiful as the scenes are, they also seem strangely unconnected. Chaplin's work within the frame is stellar, but the whole holds together rather loosely. I had much better memories of the film and although it's production value has aged really well, the story as a whole has the very strong feeling of assembled from shorter stories.

Production design in the factory is fantastic and I loved the "monitoring" of the boss. I realized that there is a lot more incidental sound in the beginning than in the end of the movie, where the film becomes practically the classical silent film in a slow but amazing transformation.


Donnerstag, 24. November 2011

For a few dollars more (Leone, 1965) - TSPDT #1867

Two bounty killers hunt the same insane criminal escaped from prison.

There is something really strange about the structure of this film: although Eastwood is definitively the leading man, he lacks of the ultimate motive to go after the bad guy. So the lead is somehow shared between Van Cleef, who has a real (and totally clear) motive to follow and Eastwood only being a facilitator for the greater mission of the guy. It works somehow, but I couldn't help the feeling that Eastwood (the actor) tried to minimize his lines and his impact on the story wherever he could - that could just be my own interpretation.

The title sequence is hilarious, even comic. There is an interesting quality to the lighting in most of the scenes - strong and hard kicks and sidelight - this visual style is more perfected in other films.


Mittwoch, 23. November 2011

Yip Man (Yip, 2008)

Cheesy story of the young Wing Chun master Ip Man (Yip man?)

There is not much to this film in terms of story, or structure - the emotions are cardboard in their very best moments and the acting is so wooden that some of the wooden planks the pupils practice on come off much better.

For me as a layman having been dragged into this thing, the only thing I did notice about it was the notorious use of moving camera - so much that it gets annoying after only 5 minutes. I assume the director chose this angle of attack to decoupage to make the fight scenes more interesting to watch. This was the only interesting thing from the film: this was not wire-fu, but straight down to earth acrobatics and some fighting (or the other way around). What separated it from the few other films I've seen so far in this genre: It's completely humorless. There is no fun in the fight scenes. From this I deduce that the makers knew that martial arts students will study the moves and the scenes carefully.

I should have stayed away from this one. I even disliked it more than Kurosawa's awful Judo films. No more bad reviews on my blog, I'm not a film critic.

Dienstag, 22. November 2011

Sunna no onna - The woman in the dunes (Teshigahara, 1964)

An insect collector is lured into a sand dune where the locals decide to keep him imprisoned.

A wonderful story and it's amazing how this works in this extremely confined space of the dunes. As the two inhabitants of the dune turn against and then for each other I was easily swayed back and forth with feeling sorry for the woman for not having any other opportunity to exist and the then again for the man for being trapped down there. The female character is endlessly kind and the man is rather brutal, ignorant and selfish - I didn't think that the man already changed the attitude towards the woman at the end of the movie, but one could definitively see the ground shift, he was standing on.

The shots of the sand dunes are amazing and they took on very different meanings throughout the movie.

Sullivan's travels (Sturges, 1941) - TSPDT #171

A rich director tries to research the life of the poor by unsuccessfully living as a tramp.

I could feel that this movie is following some kind of blueprint for romantic comedy, or maybe, invented it for itself. The plot is quite predictable and the twists are silly to say the least. Most of it seems to work due to the absolutely amazing screen presence of Lake. There are some interesting playful attempts at nudity - the shower scene for example must have given the censors a headache and make Sturges grin diabolically.


Sonntag, 20. November 2011

The Manchurian Candidate (Frankenheimer, 1962) - TSPDT #362

A group of soldiers are captured in the Korean War and have been hypnotized to perform a deadly mission.

I loved the flashbacks - the interesting part was that there was not too much guessing when Sinatra's character realizes that he must have been hypnotized while imprisoned. The mental adaptation were adapted by the different soldiers in personal ways - it adds bizarre humor to the story. The characters were strongly identifiable and everybody did quite an amazing job with acting - especially the mother is so evil just on the brink of overdoing it, but her performance worked fantastically well.

The added revelation about her character in the end was maybe just a tiny bit too far-fetched. But it didn't matter I was willingly suspending my disbelief. The showdown is also quite fantastic in the way the spatial geometry of the hall is translated into a cunningly edited sequence of locations inside the building when Sinatra tries to find his way to the man.

Some impressive camerawork using unfocused foreground in relation to the background.




Samstag, 19. November 2011

King Kong (Cooper, Schloedsack, 1933) - TSPDT #115

A documentary filmmaker captures a living beast on a remote island to bring it back to New York.

The film and the remake are very close to each other, mostly differing in tone of story. I sensed that the naiveté in which the original was approached has served it to huge advantage as compared to Jackson's take. The humanizing of the ape is not really tried but it works all in the head of the viewer - we don't feel too sorry for the beast, but we can sense slightly that something has gone awfully wrong. And I believe that faintness of this feeling is what makes the original so much more compelling than the one on CGIroids.

The pacing of the film is quite interesting, spending a lot of time with the setup and later rushing through capturing and the escape in New York.

Donnerstag, 17. November 2011

The Pianist (Polanski, 2002) - TSPDT #1338

A jewish pianist gets dragged into the horrific events of the Warsaw ghetto.

Extremely well structured in the sense that there is the "one good" Nazi in the end which gives some hope for humanity and bizarrely makes quite an optimistic piece.

Comparing this to Schindler's List there is an interesting difference in the choice the directors made how time progresses. Polanski's leaps in time seem rougher and he just touches certain events that were more drawn out in Spielberg's interpretation.  In the Pianist there is a "rough" quality to the jumps, which helped to make the middle more interesting to watch - I remember I had some trouble in Schindler feeling slightly bored, maybe because I feel that Spielberg overexplains certain characters (mass audience vs mass audience europe?)


Salinui chueok - Memories of a murder (Joon-ho, 2003)

The local inspector of a small Korean village and a detective from Seoul try to catch a serial killer on the loose.

This is quite an amazing film. The characterizations are fabolous, the local detective plays his brutality with a lightness that makes it look comical. You cannot help but like him, although this is a pretty stupid, ignorant, brutal and stubborn character. Amazing work. The amazing thing is how I took part with the "good" cop from Seoul until I realized that this is also a film about changing sides, probably what makes the film so great.

One of the few films where I am pleased to say that films with historical background can work wonders, if the characters are well developed. Keep in mind for further analysis.

Amazing outdoor footage. The night footage had a slightly artificial look through the use of strong rim lighting.

Mittwoch, 16. November 2011

The Lion King - (Allers, Minkoff, 1994)

 A young lion prince is tricked into fleeing his kingdom by his treacherous uncle.

The structure of the film is a very classic adaptation of a fairy tale. I always wonder about the effectiveness of putting songs in animations. There seems to be an either traditional historic aspect or an economic thought behind this arrangement. The nice thing though is that the animators can show off.

Jeremy Irons works great as the thundering voice of the baddie.


Black Swan (Arronofsky, 2010) - OscarNom 2011

 An ambitious but uptight danseuse delves into the dark side of her personality.

The structure of the film is very straight forward, quite possibly it was chosen not to get too experimental, maybe to not to confuse the audience any further. Sure, Arronofsky was afraid of another Gitai moment with Portman - so would I have been. But the story becomes predictable at one point and I've felt that when the bifurcation of the personalities was over the rest was only dance scene - no more story or character development.

Maybe Cassel's character could have been a bit heightened and made even more brutal in his egoistic strive for "his" perfect dance company. On the other side maybe Ryder could have been de-splattered a bit, her psychology is also quite interesting.

Great cinematography and the vfx stayed happily in the background to do a great job. Interesting is the grainy look of the picture giving it a "homely" feeling.

Dienstag, 15. November 2011

Shutter Island (Scorsese, 2010)

A US marshal tries to solve the mystery of a disappeared patient on an island asylum when he realizes he is onto something much bigger.

I really loved the film - it might have some flaws but it was very entertaining and it managed to walk that very fine line of not giving the ending away too obviously - some of the hints I caught others completely evaded me. The coded message on the little paper was not too well devised I thought, it could have been replaced with a letter or so from the patient.


I've watched the turn-around scene at the end many times - the transition of Ruffalo and DiCaprio in that very final scene is awesome. Maybe it would have been nice to extend that twist in the story a little bit, but it also works very well that way.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II (Yates, 2011)

 Harry finds all the other thingies to kill the baddie and lives happily ever after.

Maybe the most stringent of the series, and as everything is speeding up towards the finale it is still very entertaining in a spectacular kind of way. The "19 years later" part was so bizarre that it made me feel like having been cheated for watching any of the other films. It felt like someone (Rowling?) pulled the emergency break - no sequels, please. And for that I'm thankful. It was great while it lasted, and Marvel will suffocate me with franchised sequels for the next 15 years - it's nice to know that at least somebody summons up the courage to come to an end.

For some reason I suspect that Harry would have had to die too (or at least the wizard inside him) to make this legendary material.


Dienstag, 8. November 2011

Der Untergang (Hirschbiegel, 2004)

 The last days of Hitler in a devastated Berlin under siege by the Russians.

As with all biographical attempts that I noted, also this film faces the issue of coming up with a structure to hold the film together. A central (harmless) figure is established, Hitler's personal typist, a very naive young woman from Munich that is indirectly related to some of the higher-ups. Although the film was entertaining to watch, through the enormous pressure to keep all the historical details airtight as far as they are known, I was at times confused about which parts of the stories were real and which were added for dramatic impact.

Ganz's performance is great, he felt a bit too old for the job, but somebody who has read the book assured me, that Hitler really became sort of on old tattery guy towards the end. That also Göring is played by a Swiss actor made me think: No German wanted to play it? Or are they poking fun at the Swiss again?

This film is so close to a documentary - given that you believe what is said - that I couldn't put it into a "fictional" category.

The Big Sleep (Hawks, 1946) - TSPDT #263

 A detective gets hired to... unearth the one secret he was not supposed to discover.

Basically, the archetype of all entertainment crime films. Very easy to watch and some really memorable scenes and dialogue. Lauren Bacall makes an extraordinary impression, basically, because she is so sphinx-like. All the other actors are also quite impressive, even from small parts.

The story might not be the greatest crime story ever and this transforms into the one or other problems with the structure. Generally, although highly enjoyable, is didn't feel very "real" - ie there's practically no naturalistic sense, which makes some of the characters a little bit too cardboard like for my taste.

Broken Blossoms (Griffith, 1919) - TSPDT #112

A Chinese falls into love with the mistreated daughter of a violent local thug and boxer.

Although it is a rather small story stretched out to somewhat improbable length, it holds up amazingly well against time. Some of the photography is quite remarkable. The use of masks to cover up parts of the picture - resulting in vertical cinematography is used quite a bit - the tinting of imagery has been used by Griffith over and over. There are slightly too many plates already, and the language seems a bit strange - like a sort of "passive formulation".

Sonntag, 23. Oktober 2011

Seppuku (Kobayashi, 1962) - TSPDT #877


A ronin asks a counselor to perform Harakiri in his courtyard. But he is not the first one to ask.

The first thing that struck me when I watched was the camera work. Suddenly, the camera is moving all over the place - and the the eye level although often low is also raised once in a while. The characters develop nicely and the action is delayed to the very last moment, but not as well orchestrated as in Yojinbo, though.
Some of the portraiture closeups were absolutely stunning and should be looked at again.

La voix du rossignol (Starewicz, 1923) - TSPDT #1615

A girl takes in a nightingale to replace her broken puppet.

They just set this very simple child's tale to animation with it's very moralistic tone at the end. The animation of the animals are fantastic, the cast girl looks rather scary in most of the shots and the coloring is stunning - very expressionistic. (The copy on youtube at least)

Samstag, 22. Oktober 2011

Les grenouilles qui demandent un roi (Starewicz, 1923) - TSPDT #1568

 The frogs are unhappy and decide to ask their god Jupiter for a king.

A very simple piece story wise, but the animation is simply amazing stop motion work. The movements though slightly jerky are amazingly well animated. The puppets are still good but reflect the time a little more obvious than the animals. It's short but produced with attention to many details.


Freitag, 21. Oktober 2011

Le Samouraï (Melville, 1967) - TSPDT #240

The perfect assassins world falls apart as he encounters love and betrayal.

It's a very slow film but rather exciting. There are some slightly unbelievable twists here and there - why doesn't he kill the messenger? There are some moments of unsteadiness but it seemed that Melville was entering new territory with this one. Compared to the conversation, this film has even less actual story, and the revelation is delayed practically to the last frame.

I am not quite sure that I like this kind of totally undercooled acting but it definitively worked with this film. There are many details hinting at the complexity of the main character but nevertheless Delon mostly refrains from actually letting that show on his face.

The Conversation (Coppola, 1974) - TSPDT #177


An surveillance specialist falls prey to his own paranoia and guilt.

The most fascinating aspect of this very suspenseful film was definitively the pacing. It builds up extremely slow and the climax in the hotel room is just as masterful as it is simple in the direction. Definitively a must-see with the directors commentaries.

Also, Gene Hackmans portrayal of Harry Caul was extremely convincing - a very troubled hero and all his actions are very much motivated by his backstory, which only gets revealed gradually. There are some issues in the dream scene, which was too much back story and rather strange from the cinematography.

Scarface (de Palma, 1982) - TSPDT #490


A cuban refugee wreaks havoc on Miamis drug industry and realizes his version of the American Dream.

The main character is really something - the acting is great and the character suffers from the most fatal of all flaws: He cannot lie - although in a practical sense he does exactly that. So his attacks on the american society he has worked so hard to become a part of work really great - he has a deep insight but at the same time he is hypocrite enough to fall in the same trap in a way.
The only time when I felt that the script had to "pull" a little to take the story where it wanted it is when Tony's mother calls to ask about his sister. Her character was a little too much on hating Tony.

Donnerstag, 20. Oktober 2011

It Happened One Night (Capra, 1934) - TSPDT #198

A heiress fleeing from her overprotective tycoon father meets a journalist on her way to New York.

Maybe not the first romantic comedy but definitively carries all the typical signs of the blueprint of all thousands or so to follow. Girl in personal predicament meets man. He hates her, she hates him, but a string of adventurous events forces them to bond and they fall in love with each other. I found a certain social aspect in these kind of stories that make them interesting to watch even when they're dated. In America's 1930s you
  • couldn't rent a hotel unless you were married
  • the morals are kept up within the room even if the couple is not married
  • there is a rather large gap between the very rich and the very poor
  • and more generally: newspaper journalists are probably always fired at least once in the course of a movie (up till today)

Mittwoch, 19. Oktober 2011

The Sting (Hill, 1973)

A small time con artist gets to work with the master of his trade.

A very nice story, and although the ending is easily guessed once all the players are introduced it still makes for a pleasant viewing. What amazed me (after thinking about it) were the very few locations used in the film - or so it seems. Mostly were carefully decorated interiors and only very few large outside shots.

It is one of those movies where the viewer is also "conned" - I wonder what I would have felt if it didn't have worked so smoothly as here. 

Newman adds a surprising layer of complexity to his character - you always sensed that there was something going on behind what he said.