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The Searchers (1956)
One of the greatest movies of all time
How good it feels to go back to the Wild West and see the arena again, the chases, John Wayne and Ford at the helm of one of the best westerns I have ever seen. Desert Centaurs tells the intriguing search for the kidnapped family of Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) and Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter). In this one, considered by Spielberg himself as "the best movie in history" we find the best Wayne, who, full of anger, shows racism and bitterness. Even if I don't always do it explicitly.
And is that one of the things that make this story immense is the trust that Ford places on Wayne himself. It's great to see the comfort that the actor conveys in that role.
Another point that makes Desert Centaurs shine with their own light is the quality of their shots. This is Ford perspective, depth and color. This is art.
But it's not just the technical resources that fascinate me about the film. In addition to his enigmatic nature, Ford is also known to appear more stubborn than he really was. the script is full of unknowns: What did Ethan do when the Civil War ended? Some draw, from the affection that his brother's wife shows when she sees him, an old romance. So, to escape this scandal, Ethan would enlist in the military. What does seem clearer is that after the war is over, Ethan is dedicated to robbing banks (he gives his brother freshly sealed coins, which he quickly hides).
The conclusion is almost as round as the movie itself. Some speak of over-acting and geographical failures, but that verdict is only the result of those who cannot see beyond the script and see Ethan as a common hero. Ethan is a loser, an outlaw, and homeless; as depicted in that beautiful ending. A masterpiece.
The only question that arises now is ... Will I ever see a Ford movie that disappoints me? That'll be the day!
Viaggio in Italia (1954)
The beauty of the spontaneous
E querré siempre tells us how an unhappy married couple travels to Naples in order to find the meaning of their relationship and their lives. However, there is something that makes this personal documentary timeless and distinctive; the way it was shot. Rossellini is a method filmmaker, and for this reason he puts expressiveness and emotion before the aesthetics of the shot itself; the well-developed story before the harmony of planes. For this reason, Rossellini made this film without a script, and he went to the set on the first day with only an idea. That is to say, I'll love you always is the exact product of improvisation and natural becoming of the performances of his characters. It's a totally new way of working that caused (and continues to cause) a sensation. Therefore, we say that the film is the documentary itself.
For this new way of working to be carried out, Rossellini needed a quality cast: Ingrid Bergman (Katherine) and George Sanders (Alex). Once the contracts were signed, Rossellini took them to Naples to shoot, hoping they would know what to do. The result is wonderful.
Furthermore, at Viaggio in Italia it is one of the best examples of Italian Neorealism: everything is filmed and the most emotionally charged shots are chosen, regardless of their composition. For this reason, in the film there are shots (specifically in the end) that we would now classify as "ugly" (you can see the shadow of the crane, the extras look at the camera ...). But Rossellini decides to include them, showing a preference for potential emotion (or simply the actress's performance), over anything else.
In spite of everything, Rossellini was criticized for the ending of the film, which many considered necessarily happy and implausible. Personally, I am one of those who always liked the end of I love you; It seemed like something that was destined to happen, the climax. Interestingly, the next day I found out that the film had been shot without a script. And, hey, how beautiful is spontaneous.
Pain and commitment
Belated rhyme brings us to postwar Japan, defeated, busy and full of Coca-Cola signs. The country is going through a very strong identity crisis. Given this, Ozu presents us with a duality already famous in his cinema: modern and booming cities, such as Tokyo, compared to more traditional places, such as Kyoto itself. Ozu uses all possible cultural and stylistic conventions to tell us the dramatic story of separation between Noriko (Setsuko Hara) and her father, Shukichi (Chisu Ryu). How does a father act when his daughter becomes part of another family? Marriage is to blame.
The fact that it is also a marriage of convenience makes the separation more painful and dramatic. Ozu is very comfortable in this context, which he brings us closer to in a very natural way. It is a very simple plot, but executed and exploited in a masterful way through novel narrative strategies.
We could say that the first one is to hide important information, so that when it is revealed, the effect is greater (neither Shukichi, nor we know that she is going to get married until she tells it laughing); another could be the narrative transitions and their "pillow shots" (Onodera and Noriko discuss going to an art exhibition; the transition shows us the poster of this, and then we are shown in a bar after the visit) and the ellipsis, in which the true story lies (Noriko rides a bicycle with Hattori in what seems like a romantic scene; however, he has a girlfriend, and the jealousy that she feels encourages him to marry later). In addition, the film also has symbolic reading: Hatori (Jun Usami) goes alone to the theater, as a premonition; the title, Late Spring, refers to the play that Noriko watches with her father, a play that reflects on the couple and sexual attraction: a turning point for Noriko.
"One of the most perfect, most complete, and most successful studies of character ever achieved in Japanese cinema."
But, without a doubt, what has caught my attention the most has been Ozu's complex approach to the characters. Noriko is a young woman who depends economically and emotionally on her father, which is why she is very reluctant to marry; She plays the role of "wife" or even "mother" of her father. However, you are smart enough to catch the signs and make the final decision to get married.
On the other hand, Shukichi, he's not your typical iron-fisted professor; it is the "non-patriarchy patriarchy." He is a character who knows his role in the world and sticks to it emotionally; For this reason, at the end of the film, her heartbroken loneliness becomes the protagonist.
I have never seen a more emotional ending in my life than Late Spring. Noriko smiles without being happy, while her father is forced to accept what is happening. The aunt fulfills her task satisfied and takes Noriko from the room. Shukichi arrives at her house, now empty, and defeated, leaves her coat. He sits down to eat an apple, which he cannot peel. He surrenders and we listen to the sea. So true that it gets under your skin; two people heartbroken for doing the right thing for each other. Nobody believes what just happened.
Mon oncle (1958)
That fantastic use of the color
Each plan of Mon Oncle is a box of complementary colors cared to the millimeter. With this almost silent comedy, Tati recounts the frustrated attempts of Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) to adapt to a modernized society while looking for work in his brother-in-law's factory. Far from remaining in simple gags, the film works intelligently as a critique of the modern design culture, emerging at the time.
"Everything is connected" is what Madame Arpel (Adrienne Servantie) keeps saying. This phrase in itself serves as an example of the satirical tone that permeates the film, since the connection between elements is one of the main values of modern architecture. Another of these values is the functionality of the elements, combined everything with the latest technological advances, which make the house another character (see the wonderful scene in which the house has eyes). Tati criticizes it by emptying inventions of their essential function: the designer chair that is not suitable for sitting down, the automatic garage door that does not open ...
What is it? Please don't insist. You heard my wife. We don't need any rugs. We have all we need. What? It's our neighbor! How good of you to come!
Jacques Tati: "I am not at all against modern architecture, but I believe it should come with not only a building but also a living permit."
But, without a doubt, the best cartoon of all is the social one. The story is channeled through diverse and stereotyped characters, with whom Tati underlines the culture of appearance. In the Arpel house the fountain is only lit when there are visitors, and if you want to reach the door of the building, you must risk your dignity by jumping from stone to stone so as not to step on the grass.
Charles Arpel: You heard my wife. We don't need any rugs. Neighbor: What? Madame Arpel: It's our neighbor!
Tati takes over from Chaplin and Lloyd and makes us smile with visual winks typical of silent comedy. In fact, we could say that Mon Oncle is the daughter of Modern Times: in it, Chaplin faces a new invention to eat and the assembly line; and at Mon Uncle, Hulot deals with the modern kitchen and the pipe making machine. The similarities are clear, unlike in Mon Oncle, the only mechanical work the protagonist does is going up and down the stairs of his house. As with the window and the bird. These quality gestures make a hole in the collective memory, next to the figure of Hulot with his hands resting on his back.
What happens when the cinema stops being narrative? is the question that Godard asks us with Vivir su vida. In addition to being a profound meditation on sex and human will, it is one of his most complex films, in which his cinematic intelligence is appreciated: he continually reminds us that we are spectators. This reflection is part of Godard's intention to seek the true nature of cinema; what it is, what it does and what it can become. All this makes Vivir su vida is one of the greatest exponents of the Nouvelle Vague and one of the masterpieces of its director.
Living Your Life tells the story of how Nina (Anna Karina) leaves his husband to slowly immerse himself in the worlds of prostitution. There she meets Raoul (Saddy Rebbot), whom she falls in love with. However, they conflict when she tries to flee the streets. All this, in a country worthy of the 60s, in which pimps and gangsters fill the streets, while philosophers and writers populate the coffee shops. However, the clichés typical of film noir do not go beyond complicit winks to the viewer, since any possible cataloging is subordinated to Godard's original way of making cinema.
But one of the most innovative aspects of the film are the twelve altarpieces that divide it. These act as a short, non-conclusive synopsis and are framed within the film's accumulation of narratives. This, apart from his apparent criticism of previous cinema, is part of Godard's play on words and images: a union of a disparate nature with which he plays and opposes sensations. In Vivir su vida, the word conceptualizes, and the concrete image; while the narrative gives global cohesion. Therefore, it depends on which scene, the Parisian director emphasizes one aspect or another. This is especially seen in the first scene. In it, by not directly showing us the faces of the characters, it gives priority to the word over the image that is denied to us.
On the other hand, the scene in which Nina writes the letter, the opposite effect occurs: the text does not have as much importance as the aesthetic value of each of the letters that the protagonist makes. Hence it is also said that Godard's cinema is, in addition to being intellectual, poetic on many occasions.
At heart, Vivir su vida is a film, in addition to criticism, of cult towards the actress of Nana, then Godard's partner. It is the perfect observation of her muse. In the film, there comes a moment when the image of the word is dissociated and a poem by Edgar Allan Poe is introduced (curious fact: read by Godard himself): "this is the story, that of a painter who portrays his loved".
The poem acts in an essayistic way in contrast to Nana's face, who remains expectant. With this small gesture, Godard intellectualizes his work towards the fascination towards his muse. It is the fusion of poetry and essay, combined in the same way that the image and the word do.
Another question posed by the film is How should we look at Nana? it is shown to us from a thousand different perspectives: from the front, from the left, from the right ... It is a struggle of concepts, of points of view about prostitution. And Godard criticizes him by calling his work "Vivir su vida", which signifies both the primacy of Nana's decision to be a prostitute and our rejection of someone who voluntarily chooses him. And in the face of this genius, the only thing we can do is look. Look predisposed that this perfect essay captivates you, absorbs you and questions reality.
Nana: Why must one always talk? Often we should't talk, but live in silence.
Loong Boonmee raleuk chat (2010)
About the physical format of the cinema
"Puzzling" is the first word that comes to me after seeing Uncle Boonmee remember his past lives. It is obvious that this is not an ordinary movie, and that Apichatpong does not even make an effort to explain the connection between the stories. Therefore, we should not judge it without first knowing a little about its director, the Thai Apichatpong Weerasethakul and his concept of cinema: a material unit of stories.
To begin with, the cinema itself is one of the central elements of the film. Apichatpong has grown up watching Thai cinema and reading stories that he will later translate into this work, such as the story of the princess and the ghostly apparitions. But there is also a particular tribute to the physical concept of cinema. The film was recorded with six celluloid bovines of twenty minutes each at the direction of the director himself. In each bovine, the lighting, the acting and even the setting is different in respective homage to different titles of Thai cinema that he admired as a young man. It is, in terms of the conception of cinema itself, one of the most innovative films of the century. And the more I think about it, the more it fascinates me.
To further understand the tape, we need a bit of context. The film is based on a book of the same name by the Buddhist abbot Phra Sripariyattiweti. In this book it is told how a man named Boonmee came to him to confess that he could remember details of his past lives when he meditated (Buddhism believes that this life is framed in a context between past and future lives). In the book, Boonmee tells the story of the past life of the princess and the ox, which we can also see in the movie. However, and unlike the book, Apichatpong plays at not explicitly telling us the union between these stories and Uncle Boonmee.
Uncle Boonmee is not only novel in conception, but also in the way he deals with certain subjects. An example of this is the appearance of the ox: it moves intuitively and is treated very kindly (do not forget that it is a person's past life). The scene of the princess, apart from the religiosity of that "resurrection", is a critical message to the concept of Western beauty compared to natural beauty. The ape man is the perfect fusion between man and nature, since he is both at the same time; and its history (specifically, photography) tells us about that fascination for the material of cinema and the jungle. The final unfolding arises when the monk takes off his tunic and, with it, changes his carcass and at the same time his history. And, in that photographic dream of possible futures, that fear towards the domestication of the animal and the symbiosis between both worlds is perceived. Apichatpong wrote the script for the film in the jungle, and nobody is surprised.
The film, deep down, tells us about the possible realities that open up to us when we leave our environment and emphasizes the mystique of this doing. But what really works in Uncle Boonmee is the very idea of belonging, because this type of narrative only belongs to the Thai director. Apichatpong tries to separate the experience by presenting different stories and not showing their logical connection. It is the idea of accumulating experiences and making them part of a particular way of seeing reality. It is a completely different way of making movies.
This form of understanding is embodied in the ghostly appearance at Uncle Boonmee's sister's dinner. For Apichatpong, the ghost (like the cinema) is nothing more than "a part of the past that is represented in the present without being there." It is the idea of cinema as something material, an old conception. In fact, the trickery required to represent that appearance is unique to celluloid tape. In addition, in that scene one also reflects on the power of light in the cinema: without it, the cinema does not exist and we cannot distinguish reality. Light sets the limits of the figurative representation of cinema. For this reason, the cinema must dedicate itself to filming all those leaks of light that it has within its reach to represent the natural; everything we can access.
I would like to conclude this comment from Uncle Boonmee recalls his past lives recognizing the difficulty of his full understanding, but also confessing that it is not necessary to do so to enjoy it. To face this type of film, we must be predisposed to perceive beauty in the disconcerting, and in the irrational, discover a different conception of the real.
"Grant yourself the pleasure of not understanding things": Carlos Muguiro, director.
Dead Man (1995)
The death of the identity
A train, the return to the unknown and terrifying past.
Dead Man is the momentous journey of a young Johnny Deep (William Blake) through the myth of the American western, which he criticizes and satirizes. Jim Jarmusch distrusts the classic western: prostitutes practice their trade, horses urinate, mud ... It is alternative, postmodern, anti-romantic and hypnotic. Unclassifiable, but at the same time a double road movie: Blake travels to the ancient west, and in it, he finds the nature of his being. A temporary and an existential journey, led by Nobody (Gary Farmer).
Some people compare it to Dante's Divine Comedy, but I prefer to do it with works from the earlier classic western. Dead Man is neither Leone's game, nor Ford's myth: the characters don't have as much depth, and despite being an American movie, the West is dirty and in its nature harbors horrors. Jarmusch wants us to accompany William Blake on a momentous journey, the end of which is announced in the film's first line of dialogue.
However, the rhythm of the film is slow, dark and can pass a bad move to the viewer. But it is also part of the film. Black and white, Nobody's poetry and the exceptional soundtrack are key elements of the bizarre and substantial dream in which Jarmusch intends to immerse us; and it succeeds. With a skillful handling of the camera, he makes us partakers, from practically the beginning, of the anguish that Blake feels upon entering Machine Town.
One of the strongest points in Dead Man's favor is Neil Young's narcotic and absorbing soundtrack. He was commissioned to create the soundtrack with the film finished and edited, and Young interpreted the film's dreaminess to perfection with subtle guitar riffs. Thus, he managed to create an equidistant world between the western and reverie, which blends perfectly with black and white photography.
But one of the themes that dominates the film is criticizing primitive violence as something natural and ordinary. Jarmusch likes to show us the effect of a bullet: blood and the hole from which it emanates. At times, he even satirizes with the destructive power of the weapon, such as the scene where the police officer is accidentally shot dead by his partner. Jarmusch condemns the violence of the classic western and recreates himself by showing us its gratuitousness and destructive power.
Jarmusch tells us in Dead Man the journey that can be narrated, the earthly one. But when Blake gets into the canoe, his gaze and his being have changed: it is identity death. When the canoe leaves for the sea, it is a journey that can no longer be counted. It is physical death in nature. Perhaps the fate of our "Dead Man" was more than written, but the way he presents himself to us is, overwhelming poetry, like the new William Blake, the poet.
Train Fireman: Look out the window. And doesn't this remind you of when you were in the boat, and then later than night, you were lying, looking up at the ceiling, and the water in your head was not dissimilar from the landscape, and you think to yourself, "Why is it that the landscape is moving, but the boat is still?".
C'era una volta il West (1968)
One of the greatest movies of history
The form before the plot, the aesthetics before the American myth and music as a common thread. Sergio Leone grew up watching westerns and he teaches us about it in Until His Time Has Come. Leone plays with us like he did with the Ford movies. Frank (Henry Fonda) as a wonderful antagonist and an outstanding soundtrack. Symbolic, contemplative and fascinating. Once upon a time there was the most famous simmered revenge in Spaghetti western.
The beggining; hypnotic and elongated wonder. That nod to Solo in the face of danger (Fred Zinnemann, 1952), faces, music stops, boots, hats, revolver and the fly. An unbalanced duel with the air of a fable
Harmonica: And Frank?
Snaky: Frank sent us.
Harmonica: Did you bring a horse for me?
Snaky: Well ... looks like we're ... ... looks like we're shy one horse.
Harmonica: You brought two too many.
Music is one of the most important elements of the film. Ennio Morricone composed one of the most iconic soundtracks in the history of cinema. It was created before the shoot, and Leone liked it so much that he used it to set the stage for performances on the set. In addition, he came to rewrite the script for greater text-music harmony. The harmonica leitmotif and the main theme (which was covered by Dire Straits), take on a special meaning in each shot.
One of the things that most caught my attention in this movie are the characters. None is exemplary. Jill (Claudia Cardinale) is a prostitute from New Orleans who gets to sleep with her husband's murderer; Chayenne (Jason Robards) is a criminal who resists the passage of time; Frank is ambitious, but he only knows how to use guns, so he is destined to die; Harmonica (Charles Bronson) is the product of Frank's atrocities, a man flooded with revenge, and that is why he ignores that Jill ends up falling in love with him.
Despite fleeing from the conventions of "classic western" (in the scene of the murder of the McBains, it was unthinkable not to show the back shot of the child), Leone could not avoid the final duel. Harmonica saves the man with whom she will fight to the death later. The ending is more beautiful, if possible, than the beginning of the film. A duel in The Last Sunset (Robert Aldrich, 1961), crane shots, slow-motion flashbacks ... And faces, more faces.
Until its time it is beautiful and moving. It is a fable that reinvents the western, brings it closer and charges it with emotions and memories. The outcome is a different and prosperous future, symbolized by the model that Jill holds in her hands, in which she can live together.
The film works perfectly, and among all its successes, I prefer the soundtrack by Ennio Morricone and the eyes of Henry Fonda. Probably one of the best casting hits I've seen and will ever see.
"How can you trust a man that wears both a belt and suspenders?" "Man can't even trust his own pants".
A film that changes the world
Mr. Thank You tells the story (based on the work of Yasunari Kawabata) of Arigato-san (Ken Uehara), a friendly bus driver who drives from the mountains to the nearest train station. But the interesting thing about the film is not the trip, but what happens inside the bus; in this microcosm, a totally new and different way of looking at society can be seen.
The film is set in a context of rural exodus, in which villagers travel to Tokyo in search of opportunities. Each character has a story, a character, and a purpose, which makes the interactions that take place on the trip very rich; like the woman who, while flirting with the driver, puts everyone in their place.
But among all the passengers on the bus, Shimizu highlights the story of a girl (Mayumi Tsukij), who travels to Tokyo with her mother to be bought there. In just 76 minutes, the director is able to establish an emotional, though not direct, relationship between Arigato-san and the girl. Will our good-natured protagonist buy the girl?
But what is most striking about the film is the clean way it looks at Koreans. In a context of Japanese authoritarianism, considering Koreans as just another worker is something totally revolutionary.
Mr Thank You is a movie to take into account. Perhaps not because of its aesthetics or its plot, but because of the way it looks. A look capable of changing the meaning of the above, in which the bus, make no mistake, is nothing more than an excuse to look at the whole world.
A story about liberation
With very long sequence shots and with the camera in hand, Naomi Kawase tells us the story of the empty space left in Shun by the disappearance of her brother. Shara is the village festival around which the whole plot revolves; a cultural rite organized by Shun's (Kohei Fukungaga) parents. That festival has a liberating role in the character.
To do this, and taking advantage of Kawase's experience in documentary filmmaking, Shara places special emphasis on locating ourselves in that "limited space" through descriptive shots. In addition, the film fulfills its cultural function of showing us the local culture; she plays the piano and he paints. However, Shara continues with the Asian custom of doing it from a distance and as another inhabitant, so as not to invade the character's privacy; a cultural issue.
Another of the themes that the film deals with is the aesthetics of the self-portrait. Naomi Kawase tells in her documentaries how she was abandoned by her parents and raised by her grandmother; something that is reflected in Shara in details such as the pain caused by photos and the comforting power of memory. In addition, the director herself stated that the presence of nature somehow connects the presence of people.
For this reason, the sequence shot that begins the film is especially important. Its objective is to place us in space, mark the distance from the characters and show us, through sound and nature, the "ghost of absence". However, the shot is imperfect, and only follows the aesthetics of the director's need, since she needs the absence to start; it is the central theme of all her work. Years later, Shun will return to the place where she lost her brother.
Also, rhythm has a very powerful empathic function. The beginning of the film is slow and contemplative, while, after the kiss with Yu (Yuka Hyyoudo) and its palliative effect on Shun, the film appropriates the rhythm that it did not have at the beginning; it is the way to the festival, the end; the definitive release of the load.
The festival has a healing function. The rhythm of the music helps them to get rid of that supernatural emptiness that they had been carrying for years, which is present through the rain (the natural). At this point in the movie, even we share the process with them.
The film ends in the opposite way to how it began: a life comes into the world, and everyone celebrates it. The camera does a reverse tracking shot and we return, with the same music and setting, to where everything had started an hour and forty minutes ago. The camera rises and says goodbye to the city and nature for the last time. Silence, the circle closes.
Lost Highway (1997)
A singular story
Light and dark, that's the cinema of David Lynch. Light for his legion of fans, who enjoy every gesture of the director; and darkness for all those looking for a conventional narrative cinema. This is everything we need to know about Lost Highway (and any movie) before seeing it: who is its director, and what he does.
Like any amateur movie buff, I had that stage where "the movie is good because it's so real." In the first class I had on Communication Aesthetics, D. Carlos Muguiro asked: "What is the real thing?" That's where everything I thought before went to hell; and thanks to that, for me Lynch is light. For that reason, I thank each and every one of the classes, films and essays that have made me able to enjoy Lost Highway the way I have.
Lost Highway shows us how narration (or lack of it) is capable of transmitting certain aspects and sensations, impossible to convey in any other way. However, this does not always imply that we are understanding them, since Lynch's cinema has always been characterized by having many hidden meanings that explain the narrative line. In the case of Lost Highway, Lynch is more interested in the why than the how of the murder. And if one investigates beyond the ultimate causes of why, of evil, one reaches abstraction. Evil as absolute irrationality and as a totalizing idea: it is something mythological, which appears to us in the earthly world as an abstraction. So in the final scene, Lynch is also not interested in how the chase ends; only evil and its representation.
Sometimes horror movies, sometimes erotic nightmare, Lost Highway is a film that seduces me from beginning to end. It makes that part of you that tries to find the meaning of things to fight with that other part, more pure and transcendent, that just lets itself go. And it is the conflict of life itself, of the nature of feelings; what Lynch does with his cinema. Only he is capable of making a film as unique and personal as Lost Highway, and only he can be able to make me feel the same with his viewing: something unique and personal.
The space as the protagonist
He eclipse tells the story of Vittoria (Monica Vitti), who after leaving her husband meets Piero (Alain Delon), handsome and full of vitality; but too materialistic. It is the third in a trilogy of films that Antonioni made, in which she deals with the fragility of contemporary relationships. The plot is simple and minimal, but what really stands out is the director's ability to create and maintain that atmosphere of alienation.
On the one hand, the Vittoria neighborhood is modern and full of houses; however, the streets and buildings are always empty and soulless. On the other hand, in the building of the stock market in which Piero works, her exuberance is portrayed; screaming, raised hands, and calls that interrupt conversations. The film aims to provide more information about the character where they are located; that is to say, the space with a semi - leading role, which takes on a special role at the end of the film.
Therefore, another of the highlights of El eclipse is its photography. Giannini Di Venanzo manages, through the shots, to show us the character of the character beyond the plot. It portrays the mystery of the relationship, in a subtle, poetic and imaginative way. Art.
Good films make you reflect, be it on the plot, on the cinema, on time, on the image ... The eclipse aims to make us think about space and the hypnotic function that Antonioni gives it. It makes us wait, nervous and impatient, for something to happen.
Creating suspense is a virtue of the author, but the answer is the responsibility of the viewer.
The material and the trascendental
Tarkovsky did not know that Sacrifice would be his last film when he started shooting it. Nor did he know that he was going to face so many problems with the Russian regime to get his films out, and it also happened. Andrei Tarkovsky claimed that "sacrifice" was the central theme in the life of an artist.
The imminent nuclear extermination makes Alexander (Erland Josephson) turn to the divine presence to offer his sacrifice and thus avoid the consequences. The different realities, with their respective tonalities, and the divine are mixed in this dreamlike parable about the emptiness of material life.
It is slow, complicated and philosophically theatrical; but satirical in turn. Through sequence shots of infinite length, Ordet represents a story that denotes maturity and experience on all sides. What seems to go no further than a family drama ends up becoming a battle against destiny and divinity.
However, Tarkovsky affirmed that the cinema is the only place where this duality between the real and the divine can occur (see the black and white fragments), so he does not conceive the cinema as the bearer of a single meaning. The film has two ways of interpretation: the rational, the first one we turn to, and the "divine". This event can also be seen reflected in Da Vinci's painting (multiple spaces within the same frame) and in the dead tree that is still standing. Tarkovsky connects them all through the figure of Aleksander, so that the reading is always personal.
No movie had dared to treat the subject of divinity in such a sure and absolute way as Sacrifico. His technical superiority is overwhelming and his intention very clear: materialism ends in human violence. Tarkovsky has managed to transcend that decision with Sacrifice. The choice is now ours.
Just pure talent
Surely many of you know Prision Break. Well, it never would have existed without A condemned to death has escaped. Michael Scofield is directly inspired by Fontaine (François Leterrier), an intelligent and careful prisoner who meticulously plans his escape. Comparisons aside, Fontaine faces a very tough decision. Within days of carrying out their plan, they put a colleague in the cell. Should you leave no loose ends or trust your loyalty? Time is running out, and the death sentence awaits him.
In order to create the tension that comes with a story of this type, Bresson eliminates the more theatrical aspect of cinema to bring it closer to reality, such as selecting non-professional actors to play the role. For this reason, we consider Bresson as the exponent of the Nouvelle Vague closest to Italian Neorealism. In fact, he is in charge of letting us know from the first moment that the story is based on real events "without any adornment".
The film talks about how patience, dedication and passion cannot be imprisoned. Without an action montage and without a specific soundtrack, all that remains is the director's talent for creating tension. Here's the best thing about the whole movie: his address.
A Condemned To Death Has Escaped is, in addition to a cinema masterpiece, a film that many current filmmakers should learn from. The basis of the action genre is direction, not budget or special effects. Ask Bresson.
"The ability to make good use of my resources diminishes when their numbers increase" - Robert Bresson.
The paradox and the miracle
What is the effect of transcendence? Tarkovsky spoke of a struggle between reality and divinity, while Dreyer speaks of the miracle as something paradoxical that we do not always have to accept. The director places Ordet at the moment in which the change in social paradigm takes place: the characters cannot decide without the help of God, incapable of thinking rationally. In fact, Dreyer introduces us to Johannes (Preben Lerdorff Rye), the "prophet" as someone insane who has lost his mind; his goal was to create a character that would be uncomfortable. Such were the director's efforts, that he asked Preben to change his tone of voice to one more irritating and had him shown on stage in different lighting.
To emphasize this distinction, Dreyer works hard on the delimitation of domains. The main space of the film is the house, an expression of the human domain; and, paradoxically, the supernatural nature. And to show that step, Dreyer makes use of the plane of the staircase, which leads to where the wind sounds.
On the other hand, in the domain of the human, everything turns to the traditional pillar, embodied in the figure of the father (Morten Borgen); something that is also seen in the painting. To give character to the lines of this character, Dreyer plays with camera movements: turns, traveling ...
Another of the central themes of the film is temporality. This subject is in many moments linked to the transcendental conflict; since the clock (human temporality) is challenged with the death and subsequent resurrection of Inger. When she dies, the characters stop the clock in an act of rebellion and disbelief ("this is not happening"); and when she is resurrected, the clock is turned back as if nothing had happened. It changes the old perception of temporality joining it to the concept of life and death; so the miracle of the resurrection is a turning back in time. One more example of the passage from the mythological to the rational.
The wish of the girl and the family ends up being ours as well. And for this reason, Dreyer breaks the natural rules of representation so that a miracle occurs, making us participate in that dialogue with the non-earthly. And then the paradox of the miracle happens: demanding our earthly presence from the divine.
Paris, Texas (1984)
Just absolute love
The film begins with an overhead shot, an eagle's gaze that dematerializes; as if it were the continuation of Centaurs of the desert. However, we already know who to look at; Travis (Harry Dean Santon) travels through the desert, with a disoriented look; without motivation. All he knows is that he wants to go to Texas, to a place called Paris.
Paris, Texas tells how that gaze, empty at first, makes sense. Travis chose to forget about his own life and walk the world. When his brother finds him, he is forced to resume his relationship with his son; what will make him a new person willing to regain his old life. It is the tender story of how the purpose of living returns to the body from which it had fled.
However, Travis was happy. His brother Walt (Dean Stockwell) still has a Super 8 recording of an old vintage vacation. The projected images are a deluge of emotions for Travis and the viewer. In that same scene, and four years later, his son calls him "dad" again.
Paris, Texas is the story of how a gaze has a body again; but for me it goes much further. Wenders condenses emotion and makes it blossom little by little, coming up against the essence of cinema: absolute love. Travis is only looking for eyes that look at him, a back shot. And that cannot be expressed with narration alone. Wenders even goes beyond the borders of emotion: mother and son meet again while Travis watches them from the parking lot, just before getting in and driving towards Paris, Texas. But now he is another man, his look is different and he has tears in his eyes. It is a movie from another world, a film masterclass, and the best I've seen in many, many years.
Regina (Audrey Hepburn), plans to divorce her husband after returning from their ski vacation. But when she arrives, she finds an empty apartment and her husband's body in the morgue. Regina learns that her husband owned a quarter of a million dollars from the government, which led to his death. Without losing any sense of humor at any time, the film begins to revolve around a series of characters who appear to claim the money.
A film full of clichés of the genre, in which, regardless of the excuse, the plot and the characters must be tangled up to give the impression that everyone is guilty. As such, it does its job.
However, and despite underlining that I had a lot of fun, Charade jettisoned the mystery created as soon as Gary Grant (in the film, the man with a thousand names) appeared on the screen. We all know that the plot always has a special role reserved for the star; and this is something with which I just did not commune. I do not like films in which the name of their actors is greater than even the title itself. Sometimes it doesn't even matter if they do it well, just who they are. Fortunately, this is not the case; Hepburn is splendid, and the chemistry she has with Grant is fabulous.
When poetry meets horror
Unlike most of the movies I have discussed, Elephant leaves no room for interpretation. It is raw and twisted, but at the same time thoughtful and truthful. There are many films that deal with the subject of terrorism, but none approaches the subject in the same way that Van Sant does.
To soften the subject, Van Sant makes use of a very elaborate type of montage: it shows the daily life of the young people who are involved in the attack. They are very complicated sequence shots, but they have an immense poetic charge. However, covering so many characters does not leave time for explanation and empathy. Although perhaps that is nothing more than a strategy of the director to show the irrationality of the matter.
Elephant reflects on terror and poetry, an unfortunate encounter that occurs more times than we would like. Van Sant sows in us a seed on each side, and while he waits for it to grow, he looks at the sky, praying, in this precious tribute.
Estiu 1993 (2017)
Just the necessary keys for you to feel emotional
Carla Simón doesn't need a grand piano to thrill. A priori, Summer 1993 is simple and - for those of us who were born a little later - chronologically alien. It has neither unexpected script twists nor sudden conflicts beyond the one already given. However, it is never boring and was a candidate to represent Spain at the Oscars. This happens because we should not demand from Summer 1993 the same as from any other film. It is a daily, natural and own story - according to its director, autobiographical - but it appeals to an inherent and universal feeling in the human being: mourning. He does it through Frida (Laia Artigas), a six-year-old orphan girl, who begins to live with her uncles in the countryside after the death of her mother.
As an example. At some point, Anna (Paula Robles), Frida's little cousin, invites her to call her mother. Frida accesses the game, dials a number, and holds the phone to her ear, as if really waiting for an answer. At that point, we expect it too. What's more, even the sound of the phone picking up on the other side rings in our heads. In this case, in a great -but simple- script exercise, Simón is making us take metaphysical awareness of death from the perspective of a little girl: absence. And we all feel that.
And it is that the film magnifies itself in its particular way of being. The plans work psychologically, they introduce us to the girl's head and make us participants in her vision of the world; a vision affected by a trauma that remains expressionless - but perfectly represented - until the end of the film. In this sense, it is worth highlighting the contained performance of Artigas and the complicity that she maintains with the rest of the cast.
Summer 1993 is a film in which there is no more than what you see, but you don't need it because you are very clear about what you want to tell. Tender, pretty and thoughtful, she makes it inevitable to share with Frida the emotion of that final scene that, although expected, is hopelessly powerful. And, like the film itself, it does not need external elements, neither music nor other shots. It is enough for her to touch - or to have touched, at this point - the necessary keys for it to work.
Zimna wojna (2018)
A special feeling
Cold War is one of those "special" films that divide viewers in theaters and win over critics. It is shot in 4: 3, in black and white, in two European languages, and sometimes it is even framed "weird" on purpose to talk about emptiness. As a result, three Oscar nominations. Come on, maybe he didn't take anything because he ended up recording digitally.
It is not so clear, however, the division between the spectators. Or maybe yes. Although I am unhinged to hear it, I understand that time jumps are - speaking warmly - "rare." And they are. Almost as "rare" as Pawilkowsky's style. To understand this, it is necessary to study how two different techniques of making cinema coexist in the same film.
On the one hand, the aesthetic-technical formality of the frames, the study of thirds, the assembly of the gazes, the game of depth, etc. They are reminiscent of a much more academic cinema and classic titles - saving the distance - like The Seven Samurai. But, on the other hand, the episodic construction in time jumps suggests more contemporary titles - most of them, romances - such as La La Land or Your Name. They are two different threads that pull the story at different rates and pulses, which can cause tangles of perception and the occasional misleading. And, although it may not seem like it from the outside, in Cold War you can't afford to miss a moment of footage.
Cold War is undoubtedly a technical delight and an example of total direction, but what makes it special is its hybrid of styles. In addition, it is undeniable that it is a great step in the incursion of a cinema that, although perhaps not so commercial, is beginning to permeate in movie theaters and large festivals. Little by little, new topics of conversation flourish and styles begin to hybridize - see La Favorita: a modern romance in the 18th century - in an increasingly homogenized industry. And about this, there is no objection worth to be mentioned.
A film that will make you happy
As I conceive it, there are two types of films: those that reflect on life and those that are, in themselves, a way of living it. Milagro is a film that talks about childhood, dreams and how these, combined, become a force superior to any dramatic situation. In this case, the separation -marital and spatial- of a marriage with children.
In addition, Koreeda, a teacher of social and family issues, decides to tell us the story through the anxieties of those most affected by circumstances: Koichi and Ryu, two separated brothers who hope that a miracle can bring the family back together. His leading role is also expressed through close-ups; plane scale not enjoyed by other types of characters other than a child.
In fact, thanks to the sublime exercise of directing the actors -also a brand of the house- and the parallel editing, he makes the relationship between the brothers as natural and close as our own childhood. Regarding the montage - a work that Koreeda himself also does - it is also worth noting the occasional role that music acquires in it. Through happy and melodic rhythms, he manages to cover the long -but appropriate- sequences in which both brothers prepare for the trip with friendly sensations.
Despite this, Milagro is not just a broad-based film. In fact, we could say that he finds his greatest virtue in the small details: naturalness. Koreeda has a prodigious gaze through which we see how only children and grandparents have illusions -whether they are being an actress, reviving "Marbles" or setting up a bun shop-, while adults remain stagnant in their lives - His father lives obsessed with the world of music and his mother neither has a job nor is she looking for one. However, and although some social criticism can be drawn from this point, the film is limited to treating children's characters in a much more interesting way than adults.
Although the film is clearly evolving towards more rational maturity, Milagro wins over the viewer when she reminds them of the time when she still chased dragonflies and believed in miracles. In a film that brims with good intentions, Koreeda guides us on a journey to the most beautiful childhood, full of dreams; but, at the same time, it shows us a mature acceptance of the world as it is. And so, it is inevitable to be happy after viewing.
First Man (2018)
A trip to the mind of Neil Armstrong
On a recent episode of the Director's Cut podcast, Damien Chazelle interviewed James Gray on the occasion of his latest film Ad Astra - more similar to First Man in form than subject. On the podcast, James Gray said the filmmaker's job is always to "capture human truth and express it in the most personal way possible." Chazelle and everyone present applauded this comment.
It is undeniable that this is appreciable in First Man, Chazelle's latest film. And although it may not seem so a priori, the "spatial biopic" is not the genre that the young director has shown to dominate, but the musical - or, at least, the music. However, if Chazelle also knows something about it, it is about getting the essence of all his characters out, making the viewer live their motivations and suffer from their disabilities as if they were their own. And precisely about that; from the inside, from the deepest point of view, this movie goes.
For this reason, the director feels comfortable transferring his style to the film: the predominance of the hand-held camera and close-ups. Linus Sandgreen, his usual cinematographer, combines the look of a biographical documentary -unstabilized camera-, while managing to extract the thoughts of Neil Armstrong through the static stares of Ryan Gosling in the foreground. Also, reflections are especially important. They not only show us what Neil sees, but also act as an explicit projection of his thinking. Examples of this are the moments in which Neil sees, for the first time, the stratosphere and when he lands on the moon and observes the void. Of course, the film also does not lack the modulated montage rhythm - typical of a musician like Chazelle - and a color palette to hang on the wall.
For all this, we say that First Man is a space genre film, but it is with a special touch and style. It is not just a biopic of Neil Armstrong, it is a journey inside an astronaut who seeks comfort on the moon, but who finds his purpose to be in his own home. It is the revelation of a historical figure who rediscovers that, before being an astronaut, he is a husband and father.
Chazelle is no longer a promising youngster. In First Man he shows us that he is capable of moving us with any story, regardless of its genre. I accept that perhaps First Man is not his film that surprises the most, but it is a turning point in a career that has already taken off
Le fils de Joseph (2016)
BEYOND THE WORDS
Although it is true that Le fils de Joseph presents specific features of comedy - Vincent's entanglement sneaking into his father's office, his friend's curious business, the jokes with Joseph ...-, we should not take it just as that : Green's cinema is for thinking. Among other things, because that path the only thing that leads us is to wait for two hours for the joke that never comes and to endure the disturbing gaze of some Sims who do nothing to make us like them.
In fact, a first one already justifies the initial statism of the characters who, like Vincent, find themselves empty in the absence of a father figure. In addition, the beautiful final scene makes explicit the change of the character, who cannot help but smile when he sees Joseph hug his mother, Marie. In Les fils de Joseph, Eugéne Green uses a typical plot to tell us about the mystery of things and their meaning behind the perceptible.
In this sense, Green also divides the story into five Christian-themed acts - three stories from the Old Testament and two from the Gospels. The first of them, The Sacrifice of Abraham, shows the clash between Marie -María, mother of Jesus Christ- and son, fruit of the absence of the father; in the second, El Calf de Oro, we see the egotistical and libertine character of Oscar Pormenor; in The Sacrifice of Isaac, the myth is reversed: Vincent tries to sacrifice his father; in El Carpintero, Vincent and Joseph -José, Sr.- establish father-child relationships; and in The Flight into Egypt, mother and son follow Joseph to Normandy. As we can see, Green extends the meaning to what we perceive at first.
This also carries over to the staging feature. Green, of dramaturgical origin, transfers his knowledge of the Baroque theater - see the use of candles - to the aesthetic composition of his films. In fact, the frontality of the shots and the rigidity of the actors generate a cold sensation on the surface of the shot, which has no other objective than to give special resonance to the words and the gazes of the characters. These meaningful words are called Parole, a term Green often refers to as the union of the mysterious, the sacred, and the material and real. The church singing scene is also an example. Perhaps neither of them understands Latin or knows the song - a mother's lament over the death of her child - but both are unintentionally influenced by the revealing effect of the music itself.
Therefore, it would be a sin to pigeonhole this movie simply as a Coming of age or one more "family reconciliation drama". Les fils de Joseph is a classic story embedded in a contemporary world that vindicates the importance of what words and images do not say: transcendence and the hidden. Through the game of intuition and revelation, Green conquers us with a way of understanding cinema, art and life. A revealing movie.
Mistress America (2015)
AN ALIEN STORY
I was surprised to read that Mistress America is not an autobiographical story or by Noah Baumbach or Greta Gerwig. They simply wanted to create a character that was, in itself, New York and that woke up every day wanting to do more and better things than the day before. On the other hand, the film also seems to want to launch a moral message -at least in the case of Tracy-: we are from where we belong -group of friends- and not from where we want to be -literature club-. However, as the film progresses, the arches of the characters end up being buried by the prominence that Brooke acquires as "Mistress America."
Why is the protagonist the sister? It is clear that the main character of Mistress America is not Tracy, but the curious Brooke - it is no coincidence that she is also the co-writer of the film. The point is that it is more attractive to show Brooke from someone else's eyes, since any attempt to delve into the character ends up incoherently. An example of this is the film's very long and absurd "climax", in which Brooke, Tracy and their friends go to Mamie's house - Claire and Dylan to find investors for the cafeteria. It is so implausible that Brooke gives up her dream of opening a store after exchanging two words with Dylan, such as breaking ties with her stepsister - and that she decides not to tell her until the script needs to give reasons for Tracy to get angry too - only for having written this a story based on it. But isn't Brooke one of those people who likes to be the center of attention? And above all, why, after that, do you decide that the city is not your place? Perhaps I am the one who does not share much with the genre, but I neither understand nor believe most of the film.
It is clear that Mistress America works better as a funny superficial phenomenon than as a portrait of a population. It also helps Gerwig look like an actress, an aspect in which there is little to reproach her for. Or maybe a lot. The truth is that it eats the rest of the cast. Her performance is so fluid, natural and improvised - without actually being one - that it makes me suspect that the film is nothing more than a simple means to achieve professional positioning.
On the other hand, I also think that the movie may feel different if you live in the New York frenzy. Perhaps in this way you get to savor the social satire that everyone talks about. Hopefully, since, from Spain, the only thing I can say is that it has entertained me only a little
Le passé (2013)
A MASTERCLASS OF DRAMATIC NARRATION
In the past there are neither good nor bad, only people who suffer from the consequences of what happened long ago. Marie is pregnant with her third child, each from a different father. Samir, the father of the unborn, remains emotionally anchored to his wife, who is in a coma after attempting suicide after discovering evidence of a relationship between her husband and Marie. In this context, Ahmad, Marie's Iranian ex-husband, lands, as if she were the Messiah, who seeks to understand the rebellious attitude of Lucie - Marie's eldest daughter - and sign the divorce papers. Perhaps this very modern way of seeing marriage had not passed Iranian censorship, which explains the first European artistic emigration, since the film was shot entirely in France and mainly in French, a language that the director claims not to master.
Farhadi shows a special touch as a screenwriter when it comes to showing the conflicts and chooses to establish the motive for the suicide attempt of Samir's wife as the main question through which to unravel the story and highlight the grudges. However, what crowns him as a great storyteller are the small details. In this regard, it is worth highlighting the use of symbolic scenes, such as the one in which Ahmad puts the chain on Fouad's bike as soon as he arrives home - a reflection of the state of the family upon arrival and an anticipation of its fundamental role in the family, which makes it work- and the scene in which Marie and Samir carry a series of weak glass lamps in the car - an allegory of the fragility of their relationship at this point-. But, above all, the transformation of Marie's house as a vestige of the progress of family relationships and the progressive abandonment of the burden of the past. The first (Min. 18) corresponds to the first act of the film: the family is in the process of being improved and the house is to be renovated. The second (Min. 50), belongs to the second act; in which there is evident progress both in the family and in reform.
In this way, the characters' relationship with her reflects their position on it: Marie is unable to do it herself - in fact, her wrist hurts from so much painting - Ahmad is heavily involved - often with such unpleasant tasks. like unclogging the drain- and Samir who collaborates, but also suffers from an allergy to painting -representation of his emotional indecision between the past and the present: between his wife and Marie-.
It would be easy to fall into telenovelesque melodrama with this type of family film, but Farhadi opts to show the choral protagonism in a more emotionally austere way. However, it is never boring. In The Past, Farhadi measures the dramatic pulse and distributes the twists throughout the film, causing the inevitable attraction of the viewer to the story. As if they were Russian matrioskas, the small - and perhaps too many - secrets are revealed in a masterful exercise of dramatic storytelling.