Mittwoch, 18. Januar 2012

To have and have not (Capra, 1944) - TSPDT #300

A boatman is forced to transport refugees in his boat from Martinique while under surveillance of the local police.

The story is not of high suspense, and I wondered why. I found that it tries too hard to be a romantic story and thrilling war story at the same time, maybe trying to satisfy too many tastes at the same time. Lauren Bacall is nice, the dialogue is funny but the overall story feels a bit contrived and doesn't line up too well with the hard-boiled side of Bogart's character.

The interrogation scene with the police inspector is amazing to watch - and so are the big man's other appearances in the movie. I even think he nicely managed to tie together the love story and the political aspects of the whole thing.

Brief Encounter (Lean, 1945) - TSPDT #145

A middle-aged woman meets falls passionately in love with a man she briefly meets.

The film has a strong ending, but I had trouble getting into it in the beginning. This might also have to do with the lead role - she was too much a victim I thought. After a long while I could start to understand her struggle with her "real" life.

What I really liked was how the back and forth transitions between her memories and her present situation worked. It seemed there weren't too much and not too few. And the ending with her husband welcoming her "home" was quite impressive.

There are some really amazing shots of trains arriving in the station, especially at the beginning and just before the end.

Drive (Refn, 2011) - Cannes 2011 CO

A stunt driver tries to protect his love interest, but only gets involved in ugly mob wars.

The picture is amazing, I can feel how this really works. It pays its tributes to horror, and the brutality of some of the scenes is frightening. But nevertheless, it works in a fantastic way. The only thing that I didn't like was that there was a bit too much music at times, which confused me and put the whole thing a bit in music video land.

It's definitively worth a very intensive study of the underlying structure and the scripts in early drafts. The very little talking makes this very intense and now that I think about it: What the hell was Gosling working on in his appartment? Some engine part? Can't remember if it came back later in the film.

The last scene where Gosling wakes up puts the whole film on a totally new level and gives the character an angelic quality. Another tribute to horror?

Cinematography is breathtaking and the colors were amazing.

Tabloid (Morris, 2011)

The life and times of a former It-girl

Unfortunately, this movie features only one interesting character: The woman. It is quite nicely made, but there was no real surprise at the end - except that the woman is possibly ... barking mad. Which could be funny, but I somehow felt strangely distant, as Morris probably did.

The editing and the motion graphics were nice, but not nice enough to deepen my interest. It felt to me like the movie tried to make up for lost storylines, by introducing the cut-aways to the animated typo. I would have pushed the animators far more to go into "crazy" areas and more interpretative than just emphasizing voice-over. I mean, it's Errol Morris - he can do whatever he wants!

The Little Foxes (Wyler, 1941) - TSPDT #921

 A ruthless wife tries to get her withering husband to participate in a business venture.

The film was quite amazing as the characters were chiseled out quite strongly. Especially Bette Davis performance stands out and was a feast to watch. At the very end it is quite remarkable how she underplays the way she is washed away by her insight that she has lost something quite else. There is talk that there was a lot of tension between Wyler and Davis on how she took the character into an outright evil direction, but I'm glad that she did.
It is interesting to observe how the brothers, although in some ways clichéd pushed the story along very strongly. Worth for studying the structure and character development.

The direction seems to owe a lot to the stage, maybe they didn't have enough time to set up more elaborate sets. But the camera did work with a lot of depth, interesting close-ups with far back action.

Montag, 2. Januar 2012

Source Code (Jones, 2011)

 Groundhog day meets Mission Impossible - where Gyllenhal has to relive the last 8 minutes of a doomed train attacked by terrorists.

The story was quite alright in itself, the execution was professional but I felt strangely unsatisfied with the whole film. I think that except Gyllenhal's character the players (esp on the train) felt very cardboard like. Since he has only 8 minutes to connect to those people it would have been more satisfying to give them more extreme, eccentric and visual features. Some of the train passengers were quite ok, but most of them just fell flat.

It might have been more interesting if Michelle Monaghan would have given a much more aggressive character - the love story came out of thin air, so she had to already be in love with the guy. It would have been much more fun if she was just about to break up with Gyllenhal's alter ego. There's not enough tension and as this is a science geektion story, so nobody gives a toss about romantic love, but everybody is interested in ugly relationship struggles (because of too much WOW and Pratchett, maybe?)

And I still don't know why this scientific crap talk is still put in movies. "Parabolic analysis" actually exists as some kind of hocuspocus stock market analysis, but maybe i'm missing the pun and the great professor B. Oomerang insists that whatever happens in the movie could has happened tomorrow over and over in the real yesterday.

Sonntag, 1. Januar 2012

Key Largo (Huston, 1948)

When an ex-lieutenant visits the father of one of his fallen soldiers he finds their home taken hostage by ruthless gangsters.


The diversity of the characters in this story is breathtaking. All the actors manage to render their part with amazing depth and conflict. Robinson is a great villain, and the stubborness of the father is quite amazing to watch. The party being locked in the small space of the hotel lets everybody clash with everybody. The ending felt a bit propped on to me and a complete change of tone. When I read that Huston "borrowed" that ending from Hawks "To Have or Have Not" it came as no big surprise. The social commentary with the Indians treated as low lifes was quite amazing and the old Indian woman looked great on screen.

Maybe in a more modern version more people would snap in that situation and the ending would have definitively more graphic violence. It would make way more sense to flood the hotel and let the people have it out on the roof, maybe with a rescue boat that is way too small.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Powell, Pressburger, 1945) - TSPDT #147

Three decades of military transform the rebellious young soldier into a conservative, tired general.


Unfortunately, I enjoyed this one the least of the Powell/Pressburger collaborations so far. Quite possibly, the patriotic overtones and the fragmented narrative structure annoyed me a bit, as there was no central conflict even within the main character. The love story feels a little forced upon but there are some beautiful images and lines in there.

There is a beautiful poetic moment, when the general returns to the ruins of his house to watch the water tank and then remembering what he said to his wife just before they had moved into that house.

Also, Deborah Kerr really made the screen sparkle with her many appearances.

The Ides of March (Clooney, 2011)


A young campaign media strategist is brought down by the ugly realities of political mudwrestling.

There is something very straightforward about this movie. I liked how Gosling's character went from a certain naivety to a cold-blooded revenge strategist where it seems that most hope is lost for his soul. The film kept me pretty entertained for its running time, but in the end it seemed just a bit unclear for me, what I should feel about the whole thing - I just couldn't get involved enough with the characters.

What I also realized that apart from Gosling's lead all the other characters were given rather flat and slightly uninspired roles (Paul Gamatti is a great adversary though) - all the actors worked great, but their character quirks could have been made much funnier. The realistic touch that the film tries to keep so hard also distanced me from the emotional turmoils of the actual participants.