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.



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.


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.



‘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.

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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.

Film Critique: Une Femme est Une Femme (A Woman Is A Woman) 1961.

At it’s thematic core, A Woman is A Woman addresses the perpetual battle between man and woman that has been present in all platforms in the history of art. Continue reading