Sunday, August 23, 2009

Existential Lunar Drama (rated 4 stars)

by Duncan Jones

In Duncan Jone’s Moon we follow the journey of self-discovery of Sam Bell, the only inhabitant of the moon in the 70s sci-fi influenced story that is constructed around a great performance from Sam Rockwell. The film is deliberately paced and filled with references to many of the great, intellectual science fiction films that have preceded it. In the claustrophobic atmosphere, Jones creates a story about identity in an uneasy way that allows the audience to figure things out slightly ahead of the characters, but doesn’t hold back things too long.
The effects are a beautiful hybrid of model work and CGI that adds a level of authenticity in a very human way. Instead of distancing us with the effects, it somehow fits perfectly within the story in a subtle, but effective way.
It’s really an existential drama that is set on the moon that uses the conventions of science fiction to explore ideas about who we are and what it means to be human and to relate to other people.

Interesting Japanese Horror / Comedy Hybrid (rated 3 stars)

Kioshi Kurosawa’s films are fascinating as he moves through different genres and creates interesting stories all that have an uneasy and ambiguous quality to them. In Doppelganger he starts off in the creepy / horror mode and then moves into a more comedic tone all while keeping things uneasy. The idea of Doppelganger is “what would happen if you met your double”. Kurosawa cleverly plays with the convention of having an evil version of yourself and does some innovative things in terms of the shooting. The challenge in shooting a film with a double is that you need to use the same actor to play both parts. Kurosawa divides the screen into 2 or 3 frames and uses the split screen to seamlessly create the illusion that there are two versions of the same person in the same space. There also are some amazing shots combining the same actor together, so technically it’s a lot of fun to watch as well. While not as involving as his other films, it’s still worth seeing as Kurosawa explores ambiguity and character in interesting ways.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

French Crime Drama About Second Chances (rated 4 stars)

by Jean-Pierre Melville

Jean-Pierre Melville brings his understated and very cinematic touch to the crime drama “Le Deuxième Souffle”. With a taught and nearly wordless opening sequence of a jailbreak he raises the stakes and establishes the character of Gu (played by Lino Ventura) who wants to get away from his life of crime, but of course it isn’t quite as simple as it seems as one last caper becomes possible. As with every film that I’ve seen by Jean-Pierre Melville, he depicts the processes and operations of the criminal and police world in a fine level of detail that always fascinate me. At times it may seem confusing, but in his patient and detailed way, Melville connects all of the pieces in a complex and human story about an aging criminal and the people around him.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Focussed Autobiography of a Comedic Craftsman (rated 5 stars)

by Steve Martin

Steve Martin is a funny man, but he takes his comedy quite seriously. In his thoughtful and intellectual autobiography, Born Standing Up he tells his story in the context of being a stand up comedian. Stripping out all but the relevant details, it’s a fascinating look at the formation of a performer who carefully honed an act and persona that seems silly, but is actually a clever deconstruction of the traditional world of stand up comedy. It’s personal and discreet as well as being entertaining and ultimately it’s touching as we get a bit of a glimpse of the man in the white suit with a arrow through his head.

A Sad and Beautiful Character Study (rated 4 stars)

by Philippe Claudel

With a powerful (but subtle) performance by Kristin Scott Thomas at the core of the French film, I’ve Loved You So Long we watch a woman who tries to restart her life after 15 years in prison. The details are revealed slowly and carefully in Philippe Claudel’s directorial debut. Most of the film is built around the relationship between the sister who was estranged from the family (Thomas) and her sister who was then raised as an only child. The film moves through situations that don’t seem related and introduce characters in a natural way that paints a complex picture of family, choices that we make and forgiveness.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Balanced Look at The Past of Future of Sharing and Copyright (rated 5 stars)

by Lawrence Lessig

Laurence Lessig has a keen legal mind and while he’s firmly in favour of sensible copyright and sharing, in Remix he presents that case in a comprehensive and fair way while clearly taking into account all the participants in the creative ecosystem. It’s not “everything should be free” or “everything should be locked down”, but somewhere in the middle. In a reasonable and entertaining way, he sets out a compromise position that should enable everyone to build on the past and be fairly compensated for creative works that they create.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Classic 70s Thriller (rated 4 stars)

by John Schlesinger

Dustin Hoffman is great as a grad student caught up in a world of intrigue that he hadn’t suspected. John Schlesinger’s taut, paranoid thriller Marathon Man, is filled with twists and great acting as the film adds more information and draws the hero into the story. Taking time to establish the characters before filling in plot details creates a more compelling world that draws you in. It’s great to see an intelligent thriller that balances action, character and plot perfectly.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A Beautiful and Subtle Story of Loss and Addiction (rated 4 stars)

by Susanne Bier

I’m not really a fan of Hollywood “issue” dramas that take a serious look at things like drug addiction or other topics, but when I saw that Susanne Bier was directing Halle Barry and Benicio del Toro, I was intrigued. In her previous film “After the Wedding”, she told a melodramatic story in a completely compelling and moving way, so this seemed as though it would be a great fit and it was. while many films feel the need to have characters impart important information through dialogue, in Things We Lost in the Fire everything unfolds in a subtle and organic way that gradually lets the audience connect everything together as we get to know characters. The film is filled with moments that are real, painful, awkward and beautiful. The acting, directing, cinematography, editing, and writing all combine to create a character study that shows people as they are, without tidying or simplification.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Enigmatic Story About a Man and His Heart (rated 4 stars)

by Claire Denis

With the films of Claire Denis describing the plot isn’t the best way to get an idea of what they are about. Much more important than plot are the characters and the settings that they are in. With The Intruder Denis establishes the characters in a leisurely and beautiful way while leaving large gaps in what we see that the viewer needs to fill in for themselves. We’re left to make the connections between what we see and hear in the film and while it never is neatly tied up, it is the beauty of the images and the simplicity of what we see that kept me engrossed in a film that involves characters with mysterious motives, a man needing a heart transplant and the journey that he takes as he searches for a heart and his son.

A Very Dark Comedy About Perception (rated 4 stars)

by Laetitia Colombani

The less I explain, the better. Laetitia Colombani carefully constructs the film from two distinctive points of view, while counting on the audience to bring their memories of Audrey Tautou’s other characters with them. It’s very precisely constructed with clever twists that change our perception of what we’ve seen previously in the film. It’s almost like a more subjective version of Run, Lola, Run and I throroughly enjoyed He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not.