Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Based on the novella The Forged Coupon by Leo Tolstoy, L’Argent (Money) is the story of a counterfeit bill that would shape the lives of the various individuals it would encounter. Written for the screen and directed by Robert Bresson, the film is an exploration of money and the ills that it can bring into humanity all through a forged bill made as a prank that goes horribly wrong. Starring Christian Patey, Vincent Risterucci, Caroline Lang, Sylvie Van den Elsen, Didier Baussy, Beatrice Tabourin, and Marc Ernest Fourneau. L’Argent is a rapturous yet harrowing film from Robert Bresson.
What happens when a simple prank over a forged bill would lead to trouble and affect the life of a truck driver and a photo shop’s assistant? That is pretty much the plot of the film as it play into a few individuals whose lives are drastically changed all because a couple of kids created a forged bill in the hopes for one of them to pay someone back and not think about the consequences. Robert Bresson’s screenplay begins with a young student named Norbert (Marc Ernest Fourneau) asking his parents for an advance of his allowance as he owes money to another student. His parents politely refuse as he turns to a classmate who had created a counterfeit 500 franc that they used to buy a picture frame at a photo shop and things suddenly go wrong. Notably when a truck driver named Yvon (Christian Patey) has unknowingly been given the forged bill where he would try to pay a waiter at a café as the waiter accuses him of being the counterfeiter.
It would lead to a chain of events for Yvon whose life would go into ruin while a photo shop’s assistant in Lucien (Vincent Risterucci) would lie on court to protect his boss as he is later consumed with guilt as he goes into a world of crime. It all plays into the effects of this forged franc that would do where these two young men go into different directions as it all plays into the need for money either as a way to live for or to be used as some form of idealism. At the same time, there’s an element of dehumanization that occurs with the effect of this forged franc where both Yvon and Lucien deal with a sense of uncertainty as well as not know what they’re doing.
Bresson’s direction is largely minimalistic in terms of the compositions he creates as there’s not much camera movement throughout the film in favor of creating precise compositions that play into this disconnect between man and self. Shot partially in Paris, the film doesn’t dwell into famous locations in order to focus on a few locations in the city as well as how this forged bill would create chaos in a small location where the photo shop is. There’s a few wide shots in Bresson’s direction yet he would largely favor medium shots to get a look of the characters and their environment as well as the fact that he would position a camera at a door or a window where there’s so much that is happening through a glass window or a glass door. The compositions that Bresson creates would play into not just these elements of suspense but also in the drama as Bresson would have an actor in a frame to play up the sense of dehumanization. Most notably the sequence where Yvon is in prison as he would be put in solitary confinement as he refuses to read letters from his wife Elise (Caroline Lang) as it would add to this anguish and loss for Yvon who would descend into the darkest aspects of humanity.
Yet, Bresson would also show elements of faith where a prisoner would pray for Yvon in one scene as well as a scene late in the film where Yvon stays at the home of an old woman (Sylvie Van den Elsen) who believes that people can be saved no matter what devious action or sin they committed. It would play into this sense of conflict of Yvon as it relates to his humanity but also the allure of something as toxic as money. Even the film’s ending is Bresson at his most realistic as it shows not just the consequences of one’s action but also for the horrific motivation that is money whether it’s real or a forgery. Overall, Bresson crafts a mesmerizing yet unsettling film about the impact of a forged franc that would drastically change the lives of a few individuals.
Cinematographers Pasqualino De Santis and Emmanuel Machuel do brilliant work with the film’s colorful cinematography with the usage of natural lighting for some of the daytime interior/exterior scenes including the usage of low-key lights for the scenes at night. Editor Jean-Francois Naudon does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward to play into the drama and bit of suspense without anything stylized other than a few rhythmic cuts. Production designer Pierre Guffroy does fantastic work with the look of the photo shop as well as the prison that Yvon would go to and some of the places he would encounter.
Costume designer Monique Dury does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual with the exception of Norbert, Norbert’s parents, and the people who run the photo shop as they sort of wear posh-like clothing. Sound mixer Jacques Maumont does incredible work with the film’s sound in capturing the natural locations of what goes on in and out of a room as well as what happens in the streets where it is one of the film’s major highlights.
The film’s wonderful cast include some notable small roles from Andre and Claude Cler as Norbert’s parents, Michel Briguet as the old woman’s father, Didier Baussy as the photo shop manager, Bruno Lapeyre as Norbert’s friend Martial who created the forged franc, Beatrice Tabourin as the photo shop clerk, and Caroline Lang as Yvon’s wife Elise who copes with not just his incarceration but also something much bigger that adds to Yvon’s descent. Marc Ernest Fourneau is terrific as Norbert as the young student who would set the chain of events to occur unaware of what he’s done as it’s all about trying to pay back some money he owes and creating a prank that went horribly wrong.
Sylvie Van den Elsen is superb as the old lady whom Yvon meets late in the film as a woman who would take Yvon into her home as she sees how troubled he is but reminds him that he can redeem himself. Vincent Risterucci is excellent as Lucien as a photo shop assistant who would lie for his boss in order to get himself and his boss out of trouble only to go into a world of crime as a way to cope with his guilt. Finally, there’s Christian Patey in a brilliant performance as Yvon Targe as a truck driver whose encounter with a forged franc would cause a chain of events in his life to shatter from being accused of creating a forged franc to other crimes as he would descend into darkness as it is a chilling performance from Patey.
The 2017 Region 1/Region A DVD/Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection presents the film in a newly restored 4K digital transfer with Dolby Digital Mono (uncompressed in its Blu-Ray release) in French with English subtitles in the film’s original 1:66:1 aspect ratio. The special features include the film’s original theatrical trailer and two major featurettes. The first is a 31-minute press conference from the 1983 Cannes Film Festival in which Bresson and actors from the film talk answer questions to critics and journalists. The video shows Bresson being cagey in some of his answers where he would say things that he knows that can’t be explained as he also admits that he’s not a genius. He would also criticize certain things about cinema as he’s aware that his films aren’t commercial and he has no intentions in making them commercial. He also talks about his own views on humanity and many of the themes in the film as it is a compelling press conference that shows Bresson in his element with a couple of the actors getting a few words in as it’s really more about Bresson who really doesn’t care what the audience thinks of the film as it wasn’t well-received by the audience who booed the film in its premiere.
The 51-minute video essay L’Argent, A to Z by film scholar James Quandt who narrates the essay. The video essay talks about the film the letters A to Z in 26 parts to explain the film’s meaning, its influence, and Bresson himself. Quandt talks about the many motifs that Bresson would put into the film but also the evolution of his trademarks as it would culminate with so much in his final film as would his view of the world which has him become more pessimistic in relation to some of the things that was happening in France at the time. Bresson’s influences are mentioned as it ranged from philosophers, artists, and literary figures with Dostoyevsky being the most notable yet it is Leo Tolstoy’s novella that would inspire him to create what would be his final film. It’s a fascinating video essay that explores the many attributes about the film and why it remains compelling more than 30 years since its release.
The DVD/Blu-ray booklet include an essay by film critic Adrian Martin entitled The Weight of the World about the film and Bresson’s methods into the art of filmmaking. Martin talks about many of the film’s themes and how it relates to a lot of Bresson’s body of work in film. It also dwell into some of the spiritual aspects of the film in its exploration of redemption and temptation as it relates to the character of Yvon. Martin says that this film, of all of Bresson’s films, is his darkest and most vicious in terms of the fates of the protagonists as well as the situations that happen and its setting. It all play into the way Bresson sees things as he is aware of how cruel the world can be but also sees that there can be a sense of hope no matter how dark the world is.
The interview entitled I’m Not Looking for a Description but for a Vision of Things in which Robert Bresson discusses the film with Michel Clement in 1983 that was later published in full for the magazine Positif in 1996. Bresson talks about some of his filmmaking methods and theories as well as his approach to storytelling as it relates to the film. Notably his approach to sound and sound design as a way to create an atmosphere for the world that the characters are in. He also discusses his literary influences and the ideas he would get for the film as well as a brief discussion about a film project that never came to fruition that was to revolve around the genesis of Earth. It’s a riveting interview that explores many of Bresson’s views on films and storytelling as well as reasons why never uses actors in order to get a sense of realism that he wanted.
L’Argent is a magnificent film from Robert Bresson. Featuring a great cast, eerie visuals, a low-key yet simple presentation, and evocative takes on themes of inhumanity and greed. It’s a film that explores what a simple forged bill can do in creating chaos and drastically change the lives of a few individuals to the point that they lose aspects of themselves as well as raise questions about redemption. In the end, L’Argent is an outstanding film from Robert Bresson.
Robert Bresson Films: (Les affairs publique) – (Les Anges du peche) – (Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne) – Diary of a Country Priest - A Man Escaped - Pickpocket - The Trial of Joan of Arc - Au Hasard Balthazar - Mouchette - (A Gentle Woman) – (Four Nights of a Dreamer) – (Lancelot du Lac) – (The Devil Probably)
© thevoid99 2018
Sunday, April 22, 2018
Written and directed by Cedric Klapisch, L’Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment) is the story of a group of students from various parts of Europe who share an apartment in Barcelona where they deal with romantic entanglements and other things. The first in a trilogy of films revolving around characters in Europe, the film is an exploration of different people living in Barcelona where a young man deals with his surroundings and fascination towards a fellow student. Starring Romain Duris, Judith Godreche, Audrey Tautou, Barnaby Metschurat, Cecile de France, Kelly Reilly, and Kevin Bishop. L’Auberge Espagnole is a witty and riveting film from Cedric Klapisch.
The film revolves around a French graduate student who is asked to study in Barcelona for a year as he would live with six other European grad students in an apartment where he deals with a long-distance relationship, feelings for another woman, and other things during the course of a year. It all plays into this man trying to find himself as he’s studying to work in economics as he takes part in the ERAMUS programme to get the job he wanted but that would require him to live and study in Barcelona for the year. Cedric Klapisch’s screenplay is largely told from the perspective of its protagonist Xavier (Romain Duris) who narrates the film as if he’s telling about his experience where he deals with not just homesickness but also culture shock and uncertainty in Barcelona. Even as he would leave behind a girlfriend in Martine (Audrey Tautou) and his mother where he would meet a French couple in Jean-Charles Perrin (Wladimir Yordanoff) and Anne-Sophie (Judith Godreche) whom he would stay with for a bit until finding a place to live.
Upon discovering an ad for apartment, he would pass an interview by his flatmates who are all different students from different parts of Europe. Among them is Wendy (Kelly Reilly) from Britain, Soledad (Cristina Bondo) from Spain, Tobias (Barnaby Metschurat) from Germany, Alessandro (Federico D’Anna) from Italy, and Lars (Christian Pagh) from Denmark as they’re all different and share the apartment where they later add Xavier’s Belgian classmate Isabelle (Cecile de France) to the apartment when their rent is raised. Despite their cultural differences, Xavier and his flatmates prove to be a unique family in some ways as they help each other find love and deal with other things as it would include Wendy’s immature younger brother William (Kevin Bishop) as well as Xavier’s own infatuation towards Anne-Sophie where he turns to Isabelle for advice as she’s a lesbian. Yet, Xavier’s affection toward Anne-Sophie would be complicated by his own long-distance relationship with Martine that would fall apart as it would lead to all sorts of questions for him.
Klapisch’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of the different film formats that is used as well as the elements of montages that help play into Xavier’s whirlwind year where it would have its ups and downs. Shot on location in Barcelona with some of the film shot in Paris, the film does play into the idea of culture shock from Xavier’s perspective as Barcelona isn’t presented as some tourist paradise with its beaches and architectures. Instead, Klapisch emphasizes on some of the smaller parts of the city as well as the cultural differences it has with other Spaniards which upsets Isabelle who learns that she and a few other students are speaking a different dialect than the people in Barcelona. At the same time, Klapisch would show what Xavier had to do to be part of Barcelona as he would meet a bar waiter named Juan (Javier Coromina) who would teach him how to speak Spanish properly and not to take things so seriously. While Klapisch would use some wide shots of some of the locations including scenes at Park Guell and some shots at the Sagrada Familia.
Much of his direction is intimate in its usage of close-ups and medium shots to play into the interaction between the characters and some of the claustrophobic elements of the apartment where Xavier shares a room with Isabelle. It does play into how close the flatmates are as they also socialize together despite some chaotic moments that would involve William who says stupid things including doing something that offends Tobias. There are elements of humor as it relates to a visit from Wendy’s boyfriend Alistair (Iddo Goldberg) as well as a sequence that is surreal which play into Xavier’s own anxieties about his romantic entanglements. By the time the year ends, Xavier’s experience in Barcelona would change him as Klapisch would showcase this growing sense of confusion but also an uncertainty of the direction of Xavier’s life and what he wanted to do with it as it all play into everything he’s narrating about. Overall, Klapisch crafts an evocative yet rapturous film about a French grad’s student time in Barcelona where he encounters romance and life with six other people from different parts of Europe.
Cinematographer Dominique Colin does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it’s very colorful to display the beauty of some of the locations including the beaches as well as the scenes in the apartment including a blackout with the usage of candles for light. Editor Francine Sandberg does brilliant work with the editing with its stylish usage of montages, super-imposed dissolves, and other stylish cuts to play into the energy of the city as well as some of the comedic moments in the film. Production designer Francois Emmanuelli does fantastic work with the look of the apartment in how small it is with some elements of space as well as how badly organized the refrigerator is.
Costume designers Anne Schotte and Teresa Goicoechea do terrific work with the costumes as it is largely casual to play into the personality of the characters in the film. The sound work of Stephane Brunclair and Cyril Moisson is superb for its natural sound in the way music is played in the background as well as the scenes in and around the streets of Barcelona. The film’s music soundtrack largely consists a mixture of different kinds of music that include contributions from Radiohead, Daft Punk, Frederic Chopin, Sonia & Selena, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Ali Farka Toure, Africando All Stars, and Mala Rodriguez.
The casting by Pep Armengol, Lucy Boulting, and Emmanuelle Gaborit is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Jacno as Xavier’s father in a brief scene, Martine Demaret as Xavier’s mother, Paulina Galvez as a flamenco teacher that Isabelle has feelings for, Pere Abello as the landlord, Pere Sagrista as Xavier and Isabelle’s economics professor, Javier Coromina as the bar waiter Juan who teaches Xavier how to act like a Barcelona regular, Irene Motala as a bartender, Iddo Goldberg as Wendy’s boyfriend Alistair, Olivier Raynal as an American musician named Bruce that Wendy falls for, and Jacques Royer as Erasmus who appears to Xavier in his dreams. Christian Pagh is terrific as the Danish student Lars who tries to ensure that everyone is calm and such while Federico D’Anna is superb as the Italian student Alessandro who always wears a football jersey and is sometimes messy to the annoyance of Wendy. Barnaby Metschurat is awesome as the German student Tobias who is trying to study but also have some fun as he really doesn't like William over a joke that is very offensive to Germans.
Cristina Bondo is wonderful as Soledad as the apartment’s sole Spanish grad student who sympathizes with Isabelle’s confusion of the dialects as she is annoyed by William’s perception of Spanish people. Wladimir Yordanoff is excellent as Jean-Charles Perrin as a doctor working at Barcelona for a year as he would let Xavier stay with him and keep his wife company unaware of Xavier’s feelings for his wife. Kevin Bishop is hilarious as Wendy’s immature brother William who likes to say bad jokes and things that offend people yet would prove his worth in a moment late in the film just to help his sister. Audrey Tautou is brilliant as Martine as Xavier’s girlfriend who isn’t happy about him living in France as her brief visit to Barcelona only makes things worse as she copes with the long-distance relationship and her own direction in life. Kelly Reilly is amazing as Wendy as the British student who is known for being a neat-freak of sorts while trying to loosen up as she becomes interested in an American musician.
Judith Godreche is incredible as Anne-Sophie as Jean-Charles’ newlywed wife who deals with her husband’s work and her fear of being alone as she enjoys Xavier’s company where she starts to have feelings for Xavier. Cecile de France is phenomenal as Isabelle as a Belgian student who would share a room with Xavier as she is an open lesbian who knows how to charm women as she would help Xavier while dealing with her own romantic entanglements. Finally, there’s Romain Duris in a remarkable performance as Xavier as a French economic grad student who goes to Barcelona unaware of what will happen there as he deals with a lot as Duris display a lot of humor as well as humility into a young man that is experiencing so much.
L’Auberge Espagnole is a spectacular film from Cedric Klapisch. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a compelling story of love and growth into adulthood, gorgeous locations, and a fun soundtrack. It’s a film that play into the lives of different people living in an apartment in Barcelona and how it would shape the life of a young man in his journey into manhood. In the end, L’Auberge Espagnole is a sensational film from Cedric Klapisch.
Cedric Klapisch Films: (Riens du tout) – (Le Peril jeune) – (When the Cat’s Away) – (Family Resemblances) – (Peut-etre) – (Not For, or Against (Quite the Contrary) – (Russian Dolls) – (Paris (2008 film)) – (My Piece of the Pie) – (Chinese Puzzle) – (La Vin et le vent)
© thevoid99 2018
Saturday, April 21, 2018
Directed by Aisling Walsh and written by Sherry White, Maudie is the story of the life of the folk artist Maud Lewis and the work she created as well as struggling with her arthritis and other issues while working for a fish peddler as his housekeeper before they would marry. The film is an exploration of a woman who would create art that would prove to be meaningful while she would also find people who would care for her upon being rejected by her actual family as Lewis is played by Sally Hawkins. Also starring Ethan Hawke, Kari Matchett, Zachary Bennett, Gabrielle Rose, and Greg Malone. Maudie is an intoxicating and rapturous film from Aisling Walsh.
The film is an unconventional bio-pic of sorts on the life of folk artist Maud Dowley Lewis from her time as a young woman in 1930s Nova Scotia to her death at the age of 67 in 1970 that included her marriage to a surly fish peddler in Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) who had been her greatest supporter. The film showcases how Maud would meet Lewis as she started out as his live-in housekeeper who isn’t exactly fond of her yet would realize her value as he is also amazed by her paintings. Sherry White’s screenplay opens with Maud living with her Aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose) who hasn’t been happy about Maud’s sense of rebellion forcing Maud to wanting to find her own place as she is upset over her brother Charlie (Zachary Bennett) for selling their mother’s home. It’s when she picks up an ad that Lewis had posted at a general store where Maud would meet Lewis at his small house where he collects and sells scraps as he’s reluctant to hire Maud due to her arthritis but realizes what she can do to help him.
The character of Lewis is a loner who isn’t fond of anyone as he just wants to work as he would soften little by little toward Maud as he sees that her work would bring in some money after it gets the attention of one of Lewis’ customers in a New Yorker named Sandra (Kari Matchett) who would later commission Maud’s work. Though Maud would get some attention, it wouldn’t sit easy with the reserved Lewis who isn’t fond of the attention nor the way he’s seen by the public. Yet, it is Maud who brings the goodness in him despite his surly behavior that can display a cruelty at times.
Aisling Walsh’s direction is mesmerizing for not just the recreation of the paintings and Lewis’ home but also the world that Maud lived in as much of the film was shot in the Canadian island of Newfoundland as well as parts of Ireland, the Canadian province of British Columbia, and Toronto. While Walsh would use some wide shots of the locations, much of the direction is focused on close-ups and medium shots to go for something simple as it opens with a close-up of Maud’s hands as she is making a few paintings. The usage of intimate shots would play into how small Lewis’ home is both upstairs and downstairs as it sort of represents the lack of wonderment that Lewis would have until Maud would paint the walls and such to make it more presentable.
Since the film takes place in the span of decades, Walsh never reveals what year or period it’s set in order to play into Maud and Lewis’ developing relationship as well as the evolution of Maud’s artwork and how it got all of this attention. Even as it would relate to Maud’s own life where she revealed that she had a child that died of childbirth as well as secrets about her own family relating to her Aunt Ida and her brother Charlie that would come into play. Notably as it would mark a test for Maud and Lewis as it relates to the latter who is convinced that he’s not good enough for Maud or anyone when it really isn’t true as Maud would do something to ensure that he would get his share of the work she’s done. Overall, Walsh crafts a tender yet ravishing film about the life of an artist and her relationship with a loner fish peddler.
Cinematographer Guy Godfree does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography in emphasizing on the film’s natural look for the different seasons in the exteriors as well as the usage of low-key lights for some of the interiors at the Lewis home. Editor Stephen O’Connell does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the drama as well as a few montages to play into the development of Maud and Lewis’ relationship. Production designer John Hand, with set decorator Dara Hand plus art directors Shelley Cornick and Owen Power, does amazing work with the look of the home that Lewis lived in and how small it is to its evolution from being something magical due to Maud’s paintings as well as some of the places they go to. Costume designer Trysha Barker does fantastic work with the costumes as it is largely casual to play into the simple look of Maud and Lewis without emphasizing too much on the evolution of the times as they chose to wear the clothes they wore early in the film.
Hair designer Peggy Kyriakidou and makeup designer Mary Sue Heron do terrific work with the look of Maud and Lewis in how they would age throughout the years without overdoing the aging process in order to retain the youthful spirit of the two characters. Sound editor Steve Munro does superb work with the sound as it is largely low-key to play into the natural elements of the sounds including the painting scenes and the sound of winds in the location. The film’s music by Michael Timmins is wonderful for its folk-based score that largely uses string instruments including some electric guitars and such to play into Maud’s artwork while music supervisor Wayne Warren provides a similar soundtrack that features music from Mary Margaret O’Hara, Lisa Hannigan, and Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies.
The casting by John Buchan and Jason Knight is marvelous as it features a few small roles from Greg Malone as Mr. Hill who runs the local orphanage where Lewis gets an occasional meal at times, Gabrielle Rose as Maud’s Aunt Ida who is concerned that Maud wouldn’t be able to take care of herself until she sees her years later where she reveals a major family secret, and Zachary Bennett as Maud’s brother Charles who would sell their family home without her consent and later see her when she becomes famous offering to help out much to the chagrin of Lewis. Kari Matchett is excellent as Sandra as a customer of Lewis from New York who discovers Maud’s paintings and would commission the paintings and help them get exposure in and out of Canada.
Ethan Hawke is incredible as Everett Lewis as this gruff fish peddler who is a recluse of sorts that isn’t really fond of people and keeps to himself believing he’s not someone that can be loved. Finally, there’s Sally Hawkins in a phenomenal performance as Maud Dowley Lewis as the famed folk artist who suffers from arthritis yet would create art work that is simple yet enchanting as it’s a performance that is physically demanding yet never showy as well as the sense of tenderness that Hawkins brings to her character where she and Hawke have this chemistry that is endearing as it play into Maud’s humanity.
Maudie is a sensational film from Aisling Walsh that features tremendous performances from Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous locations, and a somber folk-based score, it’s a bio-pic that doesn’t play by the rules while being a character study of a woman who would find inspiration in her environment and through the man whose heart she would win over. In the end, Maudie is a spectacular film from Aisling Walsh.
© thevoid99 2018
Friday, April 20, 2018
Based on the play by Shelagh Delaney, A Taste of Honey is the story of a 17-year old girl who tries to find herself in her dreary environment as she also deals with romantic entanglements and her indifferent mother. Directed by Tony Richardson and screenplay by Richardson and Delaney, the film is an exploration of a young girl in a working class world that offers little prospects as she also growing pains and the realism of her situation. Starring Rita Tushingham, Dora Bryan, Paul Danquah, Murray Melvin, and Robert Stephens. A Taste of Honey is a riveting yet haunting film from Tony Richardson.
The film follows the journey of a young woman living in Manchester with her mother as she copes with the world she lives in as well as her need to be loved as the people she would meet would come and go throughout her journey. It’s a film that explores a 17-year old girl named Josephine “Jo” (Rita Tushingham) who arrives to Manchester with her 40-something mother Helen (Dora Bryan) after not paying their rent in another town. The film’s screenplay by Shelagh Delaney and Tony Richardson that is based on the play by the former follows Jo’s life as she is trying to juggle school as well as find work but also having to deal with her mother’s need to socialize and find a new husband. During this time, Jo would meet a young black sailor named Jimmy (Paul Danquah) who would be kind to her but their romance is brief as he had to leave for his job. With Helen’s love life going up as she meets a younger man named Peter Smith (Robert Stephens), Jo’s relationship with her mother becomes troubled as she later ventures on her own where she befriends a young textile design student named Geoffrey (Murray Melvin) who would help Jo in her own plight with life.
Richardson’s direction does provide a sense of theatricality into the dramatic elements of the film in the way characters talk to each other as well as the setting they’re in. Shot largely on location in Manchester with a scene set in Blackpool, the film does play into a world that is dreary yet also exciting in some respects as there is this uncertainty that looms throughout the film into what Jo wants. While Richardson makes no qualms into how dreary the city looked with its canals, bombed-out buildings, and other places that is in ruins with not much prospect. Even as someone like Jo would have a hard time finding a place of her own and a job but would eventually get both during the film’s second half as she adjust to the life of a working woman. While Richardson would use some wide shots to establish the locations as well as some key dramatic moments including scenes in Blackpool where Jo finds herself not liking Peter whom she feels is just wrong for her mother but is also cruel to Jo.
Richardson’s usage of the close-ups and medium shots help play into the interaction between the characters as it also showcase these intense moments in the drama as it help play into Jo’s anguish over her troubled relationship with her mother. There’s an innocence to the taboo relationship between Jo and Johnny during the film’s first act yet the revelations of that relationship would later haunt the former in its third act as she’s living with Geoffrey who is concerned about her well-being. Its sense of theatricality would heighten up in the third act where there’s a tug-of-war over Jo’s best interest between Geoffrey and Helen with the latter’s intention being unclear if she really cares about her daughter despite ignoring her feelings for much of the film’s first half. Even as Jo copes with the situation she’s in as well as the uncertainty of her future. Overall, Richardson crafts an engaging yet rapturous film about a 17-year old girl’s plight in Manchester.
Cinematographer Walter Lassally does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography to capture the dreary daytime exteriors of Manchester and the more playful world of Blackpool with some low-key lighting for some of the scenes at night. Editor Antony Gibbs does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some transitional dissolves to play into the drama. Art director Ralph W. Brinton does fantastic work with the look of the apartment homes that the Jo and Helen would live in as well as the more spacious apartment that Jo would share with Geoffrey. Sound editors Don Challis and Roy Hyde do superb work with the sound in capturing the air of realism for the scenes on location including the neighborhood children in the background. The film’s music by John Addison is terrific for its orchestral-based score that has some light-hearted moments in the strings while creating some somber themes for the dramatic moments in the film.
The film’s wonderful ensemble cast include a couple of small roles from Margo Cunningham as a landlady early in the film who wants rent money from Helen and Michael Bilton as a landlord who would give Jo a place to live as long as she paid her rent. Robert Stephens is superb as Peter as Helen’s new boyfriend whom she would marry as he’s a man that is cruel to Jo and seems to care more about appearances and being needed for selfish reasons than be generous. Paul Danquah is fantastic as Jimmy as a black sailor for ship that is intrigued by Jo as he would care for her and love her until he had to leave to go back to his ship for work. Murray Melvin is excellent as Geoffrey as a textile designer student who befriends Jo at a shoe store she worked at where he later lives with her and help her deal with the situation she’s in during the film’s third act.
Dora Bryan is brilliant as Jo’s mother Helen as a woman that is trying to hold on to her youth as she ignores her responsibilities as a mother in favor of going out and meeting a man who doesn’t treat her well as she later becomes anguished in being needed or to help Jo. Finally, there’s Rita Tushingham in an incredible debut performance as Jo as a 17-year old woman who deals with her dreary environment and sense of uncertainty as it’s a performance that has a lot of charm and energy into how she tries to be upbeat no matter how bad things are while coping with the realities of the world as it is a true breakthrough performance from one of Britain’s great actresses.
A Taste of Honey is a tremendous film from Tony Richardson that features a phenomenal performance from Rita Tushingham. Along with its ensemble cast, evocative look, and a mixture of dramatic realism and theatricality, the film is compelling story that follows a young woman trying to find herself as well as the need to be loved and cared for in a world that can be unforgiving. In the end, A Taste of Honey is a spectacular film from Tony Richardson.
Tony Richardson Films: (Momma Don’t Allow) – (Look Back in Anger) – (The Entertainer) – (Sanctuary (1961 film)) – (The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner) – (Tom Jones (1963 film)) – (The Loved One) – (Mademoiselle (1966 film)) – (The Sailor from Gibraltar) – (The Charge of the Light Brigade) – (Laughter in the Dark) – (Hamlet (1969 film)) – (Ned Kelly (1970 film)) – (A Delicate Balance) – (Dead Cert) – (Joseph Andrew) – (The Border (1982 film)) – (The Hotel New Hampshire) – (Penalty Phase) – (The Phantom of the Opera (1990 film)) – (Women & Men: Stories of Seduction) – (Blue Sky)
© thevoid99 2018
Thursday, April 19, 2018
For the 16th week of 2018 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer. The theme is on meltdowns where it shows a character just completely losing it over something or has been building up into a sense of repressed rage that leads to complete and absolute chaos. Here are my three picks:
1. My Best Fiend
For anyone that’s aware about meltdowns in film production would think they’ve seen it all. Yet, none of them compare to the one Klaus Kinski had during the production of Fitzcarraldo which was filmed by documentary filmmaker Les Blank that never made it to the final version of his film Burden of Dreams. However, Werner Herzog would show this footage of Kinski going ape-shit on production manager Walter Saxer that is extremely scary. It was so intense that natives at the Amazon offered to take care of the situation to Herzog who politely declined as he would show this moment in his documentary about his love/hate collaboration with Kinski.
2. Me, Myself, and Irene
Probably the last great film the Farrelly Brothers ever did is from this 2000 comedy about a Rhode Island police officer whose life is shattered when he learned his wife cheated on him on their wedding day giving birth to three African-American children. Despite raising the boys himself and being a loving father to them, the man would be disrespected and mistreated by many leading him to finally snap and create another personality called Hank. The result would have Hank just finally do everything Charlie wouldn’t do as it’s one of Jim Carrey’s funniest performances.
3. Friends with Money
From Nicole Holofcener comes a comedy-drama about four women who are dealing with changes in their lives as well as the need to help one of them over her lack of finances. Yet, there’s a key scene as it relates to Frances McDormand’s character who is starting to become unhinged through not just aging but the idea that her husband might be gay. The moment that she snaps is where a couple cut in line in front of her and she fucking loses her shit. Who could blame her?
© thevoid99 2018
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Based on the historical picture book by James Haskins, The Cotton Club is the story of a musician who finds himself falling for a mobster’s girlfriend where he gets himself into trouble during the era of Prohibition. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and screenplay by Coppola and William Kennedy from a story by Coppola, Kennedy, and Mario Puzo, the film is a stylish gangster-musical film of sorts as it is set largely in this nightclub. Starring Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Lonette McKee, Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Nicolas Cage, Allen Garfield, Laurence Fishburne, Gwen Verdon, and Fred Gwynne. The Cotton Club is a lavish yet incoherent film from Francis Ford Coppola.
Told in the span of the final years of the famed gangster Dutch Schultz (James Remar), the film follows a coronet player who falls for Schultz’s teenaged girlfriend as he’s given a job to protect her after saving him from an assassination attempt where things eventually become complicated. The film doesn’t just explore the life of this cornet player who is love with this young woman but also a tap dancer who is trying to pursue a singer who sings at the titular club that feature a lot of African-American singers, musicians, and dancers yet they can’t be at the club as audience members. The film’s screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and William Kennedy want to showcase this world that is the center of the gangster world in New York City. Yet, there’s so many characters in the story including real-life gangsters as it eventually becomes messy to understand what is going on and what it wants to be.
There’s this love story where the cornet player Dixie Dwyer (Richard Gere) pursuing Schultz’s girlfriend Vera (Diane Lane) as well as the story of his tap-dancing friend Sandman (Gregory Hines) trying to woo the mixed-race singer Lila Rose Oliver (Lonette McKee). The narrative would move back-and-forth into these storylines as well as Schultz’s activity in the world of crime as he would find himself becoming a rival of Owney Madden (Bob Hoskins) and his right-hand man Frenchy (Fred Gwynne). Madden owns the Cotton Club which would have Schultz later form a rival club yet they would use Harlem as the place of conflict with some of Schultz’s men including Dixie’s brother Vincent (Nicolas Cage) getting into trouble with some of the locals including Bumpy Rhodes (Laurence Fishburne) who decides to fight back. It all takes place in the span of a few years as the script wouldn’t just try to be this romantic-gangster drama with elements of musical performances. Its major drawback is that blend of genres as well as dialogue that isn’t strong and characters that aren’t engaging enough.
Coppola’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of its presentation of the film as it has elements of old Hollywood and these lavish musical numbers with intricate choreography by Henry LeTang. Shot largely in New York City with its interiors shot at the Astoria studio in the city, the film does play into this high-octane world of New York City gangster life during the days of Prohibition. Coppola would use wide shots to get a scope of the locations in its exteriors as well as the performances that include tap dance numbers, choirgirl dances, and all sorts of things that was prevalent during the days of Prohibition. Much of the direction that Coppola aims for is style in its usage of slanted camera angles, close-ups, and medium shots to capture the atmosphere of the clubs. Even as the moments of violence are intense such as this dramatic re-creation of Vincent leading an assassination on one of Schultz’s men where some children are killed. It’s among some of the key moments in the film where it manages to overcome many of the script’s shortcomings including an argument scene involving Madden and Frenchy as it’s presented in a very simple yet direct medium shot.
For all of the lavishness, stylish musical numbers, and homage to the gangster films of the time, Coppola unfortunately doesn’t find a center into the film as much of its centerpiece takes place in the titular club. Rarely, the characters of Dixie and Sandman would interact as the script never establishes more of their friendship in favor of their respective romantic pursuits. The direction is all over the place where it messes up much of the film’s tone as it would be one genre and then go into something else. Even the film’s ending which mixes fantasy and reality of what happens to the characters wants to be this traditional Hollywood ending but the result is extremely messy as Coppola tried to end it with a sense of style. Overall, Coppola creates an extravagantly rich but inconsistently tonal film about life at a club during the days of Prohibition.
Cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its stylish approach to lighting for some of the musical performances as well as the look of the exteriors set at night. Editors Barry Malkin and Robert Q. Lovett do excellent work with the editing as it is stylish with its usage of dissolves and transition wipes to play into the film’s frenetic style. Production designer Richard Sylbert, with set decorators Leslie Bloom and George Gaines plus art director Gregory Bolton and David Chapman, does amazing work with the look of the nightclubs in all of its lavish form as well as the backstage areas and the places the characters would go to.
Costume designer Milena Canonero does incredible work with the costumes as it is a highlight of the film in the lavish dresses and costumes the women wear including the colored suits of the male performances in the musical numbers. Sound editor Edward Beyer does superb work with the sound with the way music sounds on location as well as the sounds of gunfire and other violent moments in the film. The film’s music by John Barry is fantastic for its orchestral-jazz based score that play into the period of the time with elements of blues music while music consultant Jerry Wexler would provide a soundtrack that feature many of the standards of the time that are performed by the actors in the film including Richard Gere playing his own cornet solos.
The casting by Lois Blanco and Gretchen Rennell is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Mario Van Peebles as a dancer at the Cotton Club, Mark Margolis as an assassin late in the film, Sofia Coppola as a young girl trying to sell Vince an apple, Giancarlo Esposito as one of Bumby’s hoods, Bill Cobbs as a veteran gangster in Big Joe Ison, Woody Strode as a Harlem veteran who advises Bumpy, Larry Marshall as the famed performer Cab Calloway, Rosalind Harris as the famed actress Fanny Brice, Jennifer Grey as Vince’s girlfriend Patsy, Tom Waits as the Cotton Club manager Irving Starck, Diane Venora as the actress Gloria Swanson who sees Dixie as a future film star, Lisa Jane Persky as Schultz’s girlfriend Frances Flegenheimer, Maurice Hines as Sandman’s brother Clay who would perform with Sandman as part of a tap duo, Julian Beck as Schultz’s advisor Sol Weinstein, Allen Garfield as Schultz’s accountant Otto Biederman, Joe Dalessandro as Lucky Luciano, and Gwen Verdon as Dixie and Vince’s mother Tish Dwyer who knew Madden who always liked her.
Fred Gwynne is terrific as Frenchy as Madden’s right-hand man who looks menacing yet is also calm unless he gets really angry while Bob Hoskins is superb as Owney Madden as the revered gangster that knows what to do and get things done but is also a man that has some morals where he tries to help out whoever he can. Nicolas Cage is fantastic as Vince Dwyer as Dixie’s brother who is trying to be a gangster working for Schultz only to get carried away to the point that he becomes trouble for everyone. Laurence Fishburne is brilliant as Bumpy Rhodes as a Harlem gangster who has had it with Vince and Schultz’s antics as he decides to fight back and get some rights for his people. James Remar’s performance as Dutch Schultz definitely has the ferocity and anger of Schultz but it also borders into parody at times where it’s a mixed bag overall as Remar isn’t given more to do but be angry and jealous for most of the film and rarely display any kind of sensitivity.
Lonette McKee is good as Lila Rose Oliver as a singer who is fascinated by Sandman but is keen on wanting to do other things as she is able to get opportunities that other women couldn’t get as she’s half-black, half-white as McKee’s performance is wonderful but very underwritten. Gregory Hines is excellent as Sandman as a tap dancer that is eager to perform at the Cotton Club and win over Lila as it’s definitely the best performance of the film where Hines is someone that is just trying to make it as he later copes with the chaos that is happening in Harlem as well as the prejudice he endures. Diane Lane is alright as Vera as Schultz’s teenaged mistress who wants to run a club as it’s a performance that has charm but not a lot of substance as her character doesn’t really do much but be pretty and be the object of affection. Finally, there’s Richard Gere in a decent performance as Dixie Dwyer as he does display a sense of charm while being a capable musician. It’s just that his character is also messy where he can be the nice and smooth talker one minute and then be an asshole the next minute as it’s just a messy performance from Gere.
The Cotton Club is an entertaining but extremely messy film from Francis Ford Coppola. Despite its gorgeous visuals, lavish production values, terrific supporting performances, and an enjoyable music score/soundtrack, it’s a film that had all of the right ideas on paper but doesn’t mesh well in terms of its execution. Notably as it tried to be so many things in one entire film only to have a lot of tonal issues as well as being more style over substance. In the end, The Cotton Club is a worthwhile but incoherent film from Francis Ford Coppola.
Francis Ford Coppola Films: (Tonight for Sure) – (The Bellboy and the Playgirls) – Dementia 13 - (You’re a Big Boy Now) – (Finian’s Rainbow) – (The Rain People) – The Godfather - The Conversation - The Godfather Pt. II - Apocalypse Now/Apocalyse Now Redux - One from the Heart - (The Outsiders) – Rumble Fish - (Peggy Sue Got Married) – (Garden of Stone) – (Tucker: The Man & His Dreams) – New York Stories-Life Without Zoe - The Godfather Pt. III - Bram Stoker's Dracula - (Jack) – (The Rainmaker) – (Youth Without Youth) – Tetro - (Twixt)
© thevoid99 2017
Monday, April 16, 2018
Directed by Ellen Goldfarb and written by Jay Reiss, New Wave: Dare to be Different is the story of a small radio station in Long Island, New York that would introduce listeners to new music that would introduce Americans to new wave, punk, and alternative music for much of the 1980s. The film chronicles the station’s beginnings and how it would support this new wave of music from Britain as well as underground American music to a mass audience only to fall prey to the FCC. The result is a fascinating and enjoyable film about a little radio station that managed to make a difference.
WLIR (92.7 FM) on Long Island, New York was a radio station that was small as it only came across a range smaller than more well-established radio stations in New York City and around the U.S. While it started in the late 1950s as the first radio station in Long Island, it largely played middle-of-the-road music before going into the rock format in the 1970s where it was playing the kind of music that everyone else was playing. It started to change in the late 1970s/early 1980s where the station began to move away from playing rock as program director Denis McNamara was getting records from Britain before they arrived in the U.S. as well as the new wave music that was emerging in America. In 1982, they officially changed their format to just playing punk, new wave, post-punk, reggae, ska, and what would later become alternative music as well as be the first to introduce acts such as Duran Duran, Madonna, Prince, U2, and many others to Long Island and parts of New York City and New Jersey.
The documentary which feature interviews with many acts and artists whose music was played on WLIR including the Alarm, Billy Idol, A Flock of Seagull, Joan Jett, Blondie, Talking Heads, the Cure, Depeche Mode, Ultravox, and many others talked about the impact that the station had where they had their music played before every other radio station played their music. One noted song that made an impact just six months before it was to be released in America was Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax where a week after it had been released in its native country in Britain. WLIR got a copy of the single via import and played it much to the dismay of the record companies yet it became very popular among its listeners and gave the group a lot of buzz.
It wasn’t just the artists that really felt grateful for the station but also towards the deejays and people who worked at the station as they were open to new things as the deejays also connected with the listeners. The fanbase in Long Island were die-hard loyalists who really loved what the music was playing as the station would do business with local clubs in Long Island that played the same music as it became its own thing. Then there were little things such as a period devoted to reggae or reggae-based music as well as a weekly contest to choose a song that would be the popular song of the week as Sire Records founder Seymour Stein often went to that contest to make the decision of what the next single should be. Radio personalities such as Matt Pinfield, Gary Dell’Abate, and Lori Mjewski talked about the radio’s impact as Dell’Abate had interned for them before working with Howard Stern as he saw how they did things and what made them unique.
Director Ellen Goldfarb would interview the artists, radio personnel, and the fans themselves with the help of cinematographer Greg Daniels in shooting the interviews including a scene where McNamara and another key figure in WLIR would go into the building where it used to be. McNamara and the people in the station revealed how the station fell in 1987 due to some licensing issues with the FCC as it never came back on air despite winning an award for Alternative Station of the Year. Editor Allan Holzman would compile some of the rare footage of the station including the music videos and performances of the songs that defined the station. Sound editor Frederick Helm would compile station call backs and such of those times including a rare audio clip of a performance from U2 in 1985 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York where they thanked the station for being the first American station to play them on the radio.
New Wave: Dare to Be Different is a marvelous film from Ellen Goldfarb. Featuring an array of appearances and interviews from those who benefited from the radio station as well as the people who listened to the station. It’s a documentary film that showcases the impact of a small radio station in Long Island did to the world of music and what it meant to so many people in an age where radio is now owned by corporations. In the end, New Wave: Dare to be Different is a remarkable film from Ellen Goldfarb.
© thevoid99 2018