Hannah Arendt (2012) – A true biopic

Having shunned many contemporary films to review in favour of traditional “classics” I decided to browse the Netflix catalogue in zealous pursuit of an unknown (to me) pleasant surprise. I found just that and more in the charmingly diligent, provocative and biographical picture of Margarethe von  Trotta’s ‘Hannah Arendt’. The film details a necessary episode of the life of the acclaimed German-Jewish philosopher in which she accepts the challenge of The New Yorker magazine to cover the provocative 1961 trial of Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer and key organiser of the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann. In her paper she strictly attempted to modify the discourse of the topic and trial by asserting the notion of “the banality of evil” or as so deftly detailed in the movie, evil without thinking. Arendt, claims that the nature of true evil is so true in totalitarianism because it dehumanizes all responsibility and therefore all action; it becomes evil in itself, evil without thinking. She argues this through the repeated excuse of Eichmann that he was “simply following orders”, and in the film, compares Eichmann to a ghost in his glass case. 

The movie is brilliantly structured so that we can most temporally accept that the fiction and reality are one and the same. What was most brilliantly expressed was the altruism of von Trotta to absolve the attention wholeheartedly from the fact that this is a film and there becomes purely biographical. At no point, does the film shout it’s self-recognition that it is a film at us, but instead becomes a tool for creation and for story-telling. My point here may be tenuous at best, however, many modern films that I have seen in the cinema, especially that are based on true events, do so much as to say, “I AM A MOVIE, AND I WANT TO SELL TICKETS”, this film, although conjured in a particular manner as to be of interest to the viewer, is primarily a creation of pure non-fictional narrative. To give an example of a film which declares it’s cinematic being, would be ARGO. To me, this film lacked the full commitment to the true narrative of history, and in this, fails to do justice to the genuinely thrilling story. 

To summarize, my impression from ‘Hannah Arendt’ is that the modestly provocative piece of cinema deserves its mention in the discourse of modern biographical pictures and too must earmark a page in the turn of philosophical cinema made marketable. For this, I give it a 7.5/10.

@ianmperrin

Why “Inherent Vice” will be the best film of 2014 – Paul Thomas Anderson

The trailer for PTA’s Inherent Vice was released by Warner Bros. on Monday and it looks INCREDIBLE. My argument to you is that it will be the best film of 2014, mostly based on the trailer. However, Paul Thomas Anderson has an impeccable record in cinema with acclaimed films such as ‘There Will Be Blood’, ‘Magnolia’ and ‘Boogie Nights’.

“In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.”

Alongside this, the acting talents of Josh Brolin, Joachin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon and Owen Wilson are guaranteed to provide an entertaining, comedic experience that puts the years hollywood blockbusters to shame.

Anyways, I’ll leave the trailer for you all to enjoy, comments appreciated and more reviews and updates coming.

Much love

To Catch A Thief – 1955 – Alfred Hitchcock

To Catch A Thief is an iconic classic work of cinema from the 1950s that offers a glimpse into the seamless high life of the French Riviera in the period. On top of this it tells a tale of an ex-thief who is being criticized as being the culprit behind a set of robberies that perfectly imitate his methodology of his undergoings 15 years hitherto.

IMDb synopsis: “When a reformed jewel thief is suspected of returning to his former occupation, he must ferret out the real thief in order to prove his innocence”

John Robie, played by Cary Grant, known as the cat, for his infamous abilities to slip in and out robbing the treasures of the richest bourgeois tenants of the Riviera offers a dazzling performance but is matched by the talents of Grace Kelly who steals the show as the husband-hunting daughter of one of the archetype victims of Robie’s robberies. The story is by no means intellectually challenging but as we all know 9 times out of 10 less is almost definitely more. Hitchcock himself described To Catch A Thief as a “lightweight story” but the gripping cinematography matched by the great script written by John Michael Hayes, Alec Coppel and the book by David Dodge made for 1 hour 45 minutes of pure joy from start to finish. The scene that particularly interested me, cinematically, was when they are in Frances Stevens room watching the fireworks out of the window, the lighting and set design was simply stunning and any filmmakers from the modern day would be proud to have made this, let alone to do so 60 years ago.

In conclusion, the film is one of Hitchcock’s forgotten masterpieces and deserves even more praise than it has alreqady receieved. A must-see. 7.5/10.

Copie Conforme (Certified Copy) – Abbas Kiarostami – 2010

Kiarostami’s Certified Copy is a modern masterpiece in, ironically, its originality and its approach to time and particularly the seamless evolution of time wrapped into an afternoon, which is then wrapped into 1h 45 minutes. Just from this brief explanation, we can grasp an understanding of the deftness and diligence required by Kiarostami and his team to realise this project.

In Tuscany to promote his latest book, a middle-aged British writer meets a French woman who leads him to the village of Lucignano. While there, a chance question reveals something deeper”

The enigmatic nature of the film would perhaps be off-putting to many, and I will admit now that I was cautiously approaching it, as I worried its mysteries would be lost on me. If it weren’t for the dazzling performances of Juliette Binoche and William Shimell, I’m sure this would be the case. Binoche was the stand-out performer for me as her growing display of stress and instability allured exponentially to the supposed timeline of their relationship.

Another wondrously thought-provoking aspect of the film was the nature of the copy and the original (in art) as aptly mentioned by Shimell when referring to his book. Kiarostami makes the application of his characters’ theories to his relationship with his wife and makes conclusions regarding the nature of relationships in all. For example, many times during the film, the characters attempt to re-create copies of the beginning of the relationship. This is suggested many times throughout the film, some examples including: the hand on the shoulder scene which fails as we see by the subsequent scene in the restaurant. Another example would be the end of  the film in which they are in the room they spent their honeymoon in and she tries to remind him of things that were there and he fails to remember. This recurring theme throughout the film is contradictory to the suggestions proclaimed by Shimell’s character in his book where he states that the copy in art is just as valuable and tactful as the original, yet his entire relationship seems to contradict this.

In conclusion, this film is the very definition of enigmatic, yet has an innocuous charm that keeps drawing thought and attention to its story and this is what makes it such a great picture. What else is particularly alluring about it is that I can be certain that the second viewing will unravel and clear up many more mysteries of the film, its wrapped up so tightly that it will always deliver. This film deserves no less than an 8/10.

@ianmperrin

A CLockwork Orange – Stanley Kubrick (1971)

One of Stanley Kubrick’s classics is A Clockwork Orange, a film that has a fearful reputation even 40 years later as one of the most daring and bold movies ever made. The tale of the gang leader whose pastimes include rape, ultra-violence and beethoven was never going to be easy viewing. However, nobody but Kubrick could tell it in a way that says so much, visually and semantically about such troubling issues as psychopathy, the future of society, and ethics in psychological treatment as well as such daring philosophical issues as answering the question “What does it mean to be human?”

This legendary examination is wonderfully thought-provoking, but on a personal level what struck me the most was not the insanity & absurdity of the films protagonist and narrator, rather, it was the insanity & absurdity of the people and world around him that was so provocative. By this I mean that in this film, there was no voice of reason or any sense of sanity or logic. From Alex DeLarge’s (Malcolm McDowell) parents who neglected and ignored him, to the doctors who mistreated him and the minister who visited him in chase of personal, political gain and also the policemen who abused him on different occasions throughout. In fact, I felt it so indicative of certain theories about modern society that, for example, the policemen who arrest Alex treat him in the same manner that he treated his own victims, proclaiming an abhorrent image of the policing system as well as of the crimes committed.

 

Nobody acts within the boundaries of every day logic, and for me, this was highly indicative of  the legendary literature of both Franz Kafka and Fyodor Dostoyevsky in their works such as ‘The Trial’ and ‘The Double’ respectively. What these classic books achieve is proclaiming a statement about society through the portrayal of absurdity and illogical behaviour from those surrounding the main characters. For example, in ‘The Double’, the protagonist, Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, finds himself tortured by the introduction of his doppelganger who is favoured to him in every way by the world around him, from women, to friends, to employers. This classic story provides an inverting sense of societal claustrophobia that I would argue is adopted by Kubrick in ‘A Clockwork Orange’. By this I mean that despite Alex’s being ‘cured’ he is still at the manipulative fingertips of the world around him, eventually in those of the minister who uses his case to meet political ends. The main difference between these different articles are of course the much greater confused role of justice, or rather, injustice to determine the treatment of the main character. It also appears to be somewhat Kafkaesque in its generic sense of the term that it is dystopian, futuristic and a somewhat horrific world that Alex lives in. A rather subtle indication of this perhaps, could be in the horribly fluorescent coloured hair of some of the women in the film, provides us with an understated disposition that this world is bizarre and distasteful.

 

In conclusion, as one of the most controversial and highly debated films of the 20th century, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is a wonderfully honest and brusque study and statement about the nature of the mentally ill and their image projected into the world around them. I give it a 7/10.

@ianmperrin

Rome, Open City – Roberto Rossellini (1945)

After reviewing a war classic in Kubrick’s ‘Paths of Glory’ & a classic of Italian Cinema in ‘La Dolce Vita’ I decided to fuse the two genres by watching Roberto Rossellini’s legendary breakthrough film that combined both of these in the form of ‘Rome, Open City’. Having filmed this secretly during the abhorrent occupation of Rome by the Nazis, there can be little disagreement that this film is about as real as a war film can get. Rossellini’s deft merger of fiction with reality provides us with an insightful perspective into the life of the Roman during this period. 

“Open City is a landmark in film history. Filmed in secrecy during the Nazi occupation of Italy, the film shows a realistic portrayal of the underground resistance in Italy in 1945. The film has strong impacting imagery with it’s mix of fiction and reality that strengthened Italian Neo-realism and the film industry.”

The most powerful scene in the film that really embedded the message was in the form of a dialogue between a  German Officer and the Major during the torture of ‘Manfredi’:

[From IMDb]

Hartman: 25 years ago, I commanded firing squads in France. I was a young officer. I believed then, too, in a German “master-race.” But the French patriots also died without talking. We Germans simply refuse to believe that people want to be free.

Major Bergman: [Taken aback] You’re drunk, Hartman!

Hartman: Yes, I’m drunk… I get drunk every night to forget. It doesn’t help. We can’t get anywhere but kill, kill, kill! We have sown Europe with corpses… and from those graves rises an incredible hate… HATE!… everywhere hate! We are being consumed by hatred… without hope.

This is for me the consummation of the general disposition of the Romans towards the war, but this was too met by the ferocity of the final scene in which the Priest, who plays an apt voice of reason as they did for many during the war, is shot in front of a firing squad. 

In conclusion, the reason my review is shorter than previous reviews, is that it doesn’t need much analysis, it’s a masterpiece in itself and its messages and sentiments are there for all to see. As a result I urge you to watch it if you haven’t and I give this a rating of 7/10.

 

@ianmperrin

Le Mepris (Contempt) – Jean-Luc Godard (1963)

Contempt is one of the most highly regarded movies that Jean-Luc Godard has directed and not only is it both indicative of his classic Godard authorship, it is audacious and ambitious in his build-up of tension and use of dramatic proportionality. Moreover, it stars two icons of cinema, the legendary actress Brigitte Bardot who plays the teasing wife of a screenwriter. It also stars an iconic director, none other than Fritz Lang who plays himself directing a screen interpretation of Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’. Having known this much information about the film, it was guaranteed to be an enticing watch that far from fell short of expectation. Among the classical ‘Godardian’ inferences and metaphors from literature and cinema alike, there is a desire to create an almost ‘Hitchcockian’ sense of tension and drama in the possibilities of what might happen and what might have happened.  This attempt is best seen through Godard’s use of music as well as the classic slow-zooming camerawork during an intense monologue or scene that is similar to such.

“Paul Javal is a writer who is hired to make a script for a new movie about Ulysses more commercial, which is to be directed by Fritz Lang and produced by Jeremy Prokosch. But because he let his wife drive with Prokosch and he is late, she believes, he uses her as a sort of present for Prokosch to receive a better payment. As a result, underlying marital issues are unraveled and in tandem with this, issues of love, sex and marriage are challenged”

Bardot’s performance in the film is both as talent-filled and sexually alluring as anyone may have expected but as aesthetic and audacious as it is, Godard and Bardot manage to beautifully tread the line that can so easily be crossed into the territory of the inappropriate and that of poor judgment. Many films that tackle the topic of love & sex are misguided in their priorities and instead find the necessity to be crude and vulgar, but there is no beauty in this and in many cases no truth in it either. As  Contempt does not do this, for example, you never know whether Bardot’s character, Camille, ever really cheats on her husband and the reason for this is because it is not important to the story, it is not necessary and so it is not there. This judgment is where we see the true genius of Godard’s work and this contributes to the already adorned reputation of the movie.

To conclude, I will say that this film is an exhibition as Truffaut proclaimed of how a director’s cinematic career should escalate. He said that each film should be a continuation of the last, and this is the case as we have seen with Godard’s career. His films are all growing exponentially as Godard is discovering himself as a filmmaker. For this reason and many others, I give the film 7.5/10

Adieu. Thanks for reading.

@ianmperrin

‘La Dolce Vita’ – Federico Fellini (1960)

As I am now getting into the practice of writing about films, for my fourth review I will write about the legendary ‘La Dolce Vita’ by Federico Fellini. As a relative newcomer to the mastery of Fellini, I can only compare this to his subsequent opus ‘8 ½’ which is similar in that they both star Marcello Mastroianni and that he plays a very similar role in both. They are very different, however, in that 8 ½ is considered an art piece as it concentrates itself into an artistic experience in which the fantasies and realities of Fellini’s lead-man intertwine. La Dolce Vita on the other hand, is a visual essay that supposedly landmarks the dichotomy between Fellini’s neo-realist films and his art films (the difference between this and 8 ½ is undeniably indicative of this). La Dolce Vita appears to be an essay on the nature of society in Rome in the 1950s-60s and without a true narrative-focused structure Fellini creates a wonderful episodic masterpiece that is not only a true classic but was so outlandish at the time that it has been thought of as a scandalous and scorning portrayal of Roman society. This is most purely delineated by the well-known public animosity expressed by the Vatican upon its release.

“A series of stories following a week in the life of a philandering paparazzo journalist living in Rome.”

As far as the film itself goes, it is most well recognized for the famous scene at the Trevy Fountain which Marcello spends with Sylvia (Anita Ekberg), an American actress (pictured below). The film paints an image of society and the creation of the ‘celebrity culture’ that is more true than ever and the fact that Fellini captured this so brilliantly and so truly as early as 1960 is the feat of a true genius. The film may not provide the same shock value that it certainly would have 54 years ago but we can still learn an abundance of knowledge about the life and culture of Rome in the 1960s.

I mentioned in my second post that I had undertaken the decision to embark on a film adventure to discover the influences of Paolo Sorrentino for his modern classic “The Great Beauty” and anyone who has seen both films will dogmatically agree that “La Dolce Vita” is the single-handed true influence of the film. Both films are episodic in structure, both set in Rome, both identical protagonists in all forms but age. I would argue that this is no coincidence and they are both brilliantly document the life of Rome in their respective epochs. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, having watched La Grande Bellezza first, it is almost as if Sorrentino’s creation is a continuation of Fellini’s masterpiece. It almost seems that Jep, the protagonist in the 2013 film, is an older, more cultured and experienced version of Fellini’s philandering protagonist, Marcello. However, I will leave that for you to decide!

In conclusion, there is no denying the brilliance of ‘La Dolce Vita’ and its reputation as one of the true classics of cinema must go unscathed and be truly celebrated for years to come. I give it an 8.5/10.

Thanks for reading,

@ianmperrin

Paths of Glory – Stanley Kubrick (1957)

As a third piece I thought it apt to pay homage to one of the true legends of cinema, Stanley Kubrick. To achieve what a legend such as Kubrick has, is tribute enough to such a talent. However, many of his later classics subjugate the brilliance of films like Paths of Glory (and Dr. Strangelove) which was arguably Kubrick’s first masterful classic. When Kubrick’s name is mentioned it is often in laud of films such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ or ‘The Shining’, however, Paths of Glory is a truly grand production worth every inkling of praise it has and will ever receive.

“This powerful, fact-based absurdity-of-war film stars Kirk Douglas as a commanding officer who defends three scapegoats on trial for a failed offensive that occurred within the French Army in 1916.”

I would argue that what makes the film a must-see is it’s riveting fusion of the dichotomy between being both a visual essay concerning the outlandishness and unjust essence of war with the compelling tale of Colonel Dax. A commanding officer who embarks on the defence of these ‘scapegoats’ that have been accused of cowardice in the face of an adverse attack in which the odds were overwhelmingly against their favour. Given the year, 1957, what makes the film a truly brilliant picture is it’s believability and emotion, it was completed with the same diligence and true-to-life prowess of Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket’ . Although there are clear technical and aesthetic hindrances of Paths of Glory (that could only improve with improvement of technology) in comparison to Full Metal Jacket, it has a visceral core of emotion that Kubrick has so deftly conjured throughout his plethora of creations.

Paths of Glory was far from a commercial success in 1957, I can only assume that the issue of war at the time was still a subject perhaps undesirable to the viewer. This could be because many, understandably, wanted to shun and forget the horrors of both wars that had undoubtedly affected their lives and families. However, with the benefit of hindsight, the film has become a war classic and appropriately so, as there were a mere handful of films that truly challenged the hubris and perplexing nature of war. The audacity of Kubrick’s classic can only be best summarized by its well-known tagline: “Never has the screen thrust so deeply into the guts of war!”

To conclude this review of the film, I would urge anyone who is curious about the nature of war to watch Paths of Glory for its chilling honesty and laudable aesthetics. As far as a rating goes, it deserves no less than an 8/10.

Thanks for reading.

La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty 2013) – Paolo Sorrentino

As a result of my naivete and lack of knowledge/experience in film I have to admit that this is the first film by Paolo Sorrentino that I have seen and also one of the very few Italian films I’ve managed to cross off the list (others including Bicycle Thieves & 8 1/2). However, this screening has inspired me to embark on a mini ‘movie adventure’ and will endeavour to watch the films that must have had such a huge influence on Sorrentino. The films I had in mind were La Dolce Vita, La Strada etc.

The reason for the decision is purely through the brilliance of this movie, most notably it’s cinematography but it’s narrative and storyline which border on perfection. The film follows the protagonist Jep who is an aged writer in modern Rome who experiences death in his ex-girlfriend and first love from his youth and as a result pursues the ‘Great Beauty’ and scorning his party-hard lifestyle. I knew from the first minute of viewing that I would enjoy the film as intensely as I did, the opening few minutes provided a wonderful glimpse into what I would experience over the next few hours.

You may watch the TIFF trailer here: 

The film was recommended to me by a friend and I have to admit that I knew little about Sorrentino or the film but was told it was essentially Malick meets Fellini and I’m not sure, from a purely technical perspective that I could summarize it better. The film had loose but recognizable cinematic similarities with Malick’s ‘Tree of Life’ in that he absorbed that idyllic image of nature and bringing nature to the screen in a very similar way to Malick. The impact of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita must have been diligently subtle yet large due to the setting of Rome and genre of both movies. Although I wouldn’t call it influence or stealing (clearly) I did notice that Sorrentino adopted a character from Fellini’s 8 1/2 (see below), however, it is very plausible that it is a coincidence I felt it perhaps a subtle and silent homage to the king of Italian Cinema. Both characters played bit part roles in each film of probably equal screen time. Although there is no way of really knowing, as I said, I like to think that it is a silent tribute to Fellini’s masterpiece.

584156-21546-clp-950 85pdvd_014

The Great Beauty I would argue, is what critics would call a modern classic. It had all the qualities in acting, in script, and in content of a Fellini film or other films labelled as ‘classics’. It also managed to finely weave these qualities so deftly with the modern intricacy of technology and cinematic excellence that the advancement of film-making has allowed directors and directors of photography to achieve. Furthermore, it was filled with  sporadic bouts of beautiful monologues from the film’s protagonist himself, my favourite of which closed the entire movie:

“This is how it always ends. With death. But first there was life, hidden beneath the blah, blah, blah… It’s all settled beneath the chitter chatter and the noise, silence and sentiment, emotion and fear. The haggard, inconstant flashes of beauty. And then the wretched squalor and miserable humanity. All buried under the cover of the embarrassment of being in the world, blah, blah, blah… Beyond there is what lies beyond. And I don’t deal with what lies beyond. Therefore… let this novel begin. After all… it’s just a trick. Yes, it’s just a trick.”

As a piece of literature alone this is almost poetic and beautiful in itself, but combined with the exquisite cinematic abilities of Sorrentino and his team it made for a truly brilliant ending, and creating an irony in itself, that the film about ‘The Great Beauty’ became the product to modern cinema of its proclamations. As far as writing and literature goes, about 30 minutes into the movie I thought that it had reminded me significantly of a book I’d read called Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert, not in story but in style and its image of romance and beauty. Low and behold, about two or three times after that, Jep (the protagonist) mentioned Flaubert and how he wanted to write a book about nothing! Perhaps this too was a coincidence but can only be of great tribute to the director that his work is so indicative of classical writers and film-makers alike.

In summation, I would continue to assert that this film is the very definition of a modern classic: meaty in length and content, filled with comedic triumphs, unwinding the mysteries of sex and tackles the subject of religion with an entertaining and not in the least dull mentality. Moreover, Jep just might be the coolest person to exist in both fiction and reality – so that’s an added bonus. I give this film a confident 8.5/10.

For further discussion tweet me @ianmperrin.