Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty

⊆ 12/23/2006 02:46:00 PM by HT | ˜ 0 comments »

this is a beautifully shot movie -- camera moves like a warm summer breeze

Lena Olin and Juliette Binoche - unbearable lightness of being

⊆ 12/23/2006 12:32:00 PM by HT | . | ˜ 0 comments »

A Prairie Home Companion

⊆ 9/04/2006 11:35:00 PM by HT | . | ˜ 0 comments »

from Lake Wobegon

No this is not a movie post – but rather a post about a movie made by Robert Altman, about Garrison Keilor. I still remember listening to A Prairie Home Companion in 1980’s when Reagan was in office – it was back then -- indeed a ray of hope coming from small town America. Keilor has been deservedly called the head of satirical opposition in America. A tilte he has carried enduringly well.

He is the author of 11 books, including Lake Wobegon Days (1985), The Book of Guys (1993), The Old Man Who Loved Cheese (1996), Wobegon Boy (1997), and Me, By Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente (1999). He is a member of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences and was recently presented with a National Humanities Medal by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

His radio Show, A Prairie Home Companion, broadcast weekly on NPR from the fictional town of Lake Wobegon has been a staple of the American Left since it went national in 1979, and the subject of Altman’s movie. In the radio show listeners hear items such as:

Original comedy sketches performed by Keillor and cast, and punctuated by sound-effects wizard Tom Keith; Music by guests like guitarist Leo Kottke, singer Greg Brown, jazz pianist-singer Diana Krall, and Delta bluesman John Hammond; Stories from the town "that time forgot and decades cannot improve" in Keillor's signature monologue, "The News from Lake Wobegon.

"Each season features special shows, including the annual "Talent from Towns Under 2,000" contest, the annual Joke Show, and continuing sketches like Lives of the Cowboys, Guy Noir -- Radio Private Eye, Bob the Young Artist, and musical spoofs such as "La Influenza," a five-minute opera about the common cold.

It appears that Keilor approached Altman to make the movie, and in it he plays himself as well as claiming the writing credits for the movie. The cast is stellar, and Altman shows once again his knack for developing character through dialogue. IMDB page

Ten Minutes Older -- The Trumpet

⊆ 8/20/2006 06:53:00 PM by HT | ˜ 0 comments »

Directors: Chen Kaige, Werner Herzog, Victor Erice, Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders, Aki Kaurismaki.

Nicolas McClintock , on the genesis of the film: "I was reading Italo Calvino's collection of lectures, Six Memos For The Next Millenium, that quoted one old Sicilian folk-story-teller saying something that jumped out at me: "Time takes no time in a story." In other words, within a story you been time, it becomes malleable (...) being a documentary film-maker, I wondered how different directors might view the subject - and approach working in a short amount of time (...) the title came from two Latvian documentary film-makers, Jury Podnieks and Hertz Frank."

Here is a user comment form IMDB--thanks nestor-13: "This is a very interesting Short film compilation. Seven Directors are all trying to bring their view of time on canvas. Kaige Chen (segment "100 Flowers Hidden Deep") This is the story of an old man who returns to the city where he grew up. Even though things have changed he still sees the old neigbourhood (wooden Cabins, Trees...). Workers laugh at him, but then they see the place through his eyes... Not really touching, but I supose its a must see for architechure students.

Víctor Erice (segment "Lifeline")-B&W Scenes in a day (during WW2) on the Spanish countryside.My personal favorite short of them all.

Werner Herzog (segment "Ten Thousand Years Older") This one brings us in the Brazilian jungle. It documents the first encounters with an urban trial 20 years ago and shows what happend to them since. Makes you think... Jim Jarmusch (segment "Int. Trailer Night")-B&W We become wittnisess of a short 10 min break in the life of an actress (Chloe Sevigny) Jim Jarmusch proves once more that he is able to create extrodinary characters on canvas, even in the tight frame of 10 min.

Aki Kaurismäki (segment "Dogs Have No Hell") A man is releasd from prison he has 10 minutes to: get a wife, train, and quit his old job. Spike Lee (segment "We Wuz Robbed")-B&W Treats of the "democratic" election of Mr. Bush. very good! Wim Wenders (segment "Twelve Miles to Trona") A middle aged Man overdoses on a drug by accident. now he has to make it to Trona Hospital. suprisingly light for a Wenders but funny and entrtaining. Altogether I belive this is a fantastic Cinema experience! I can`t wait for the second compilation (Ten Minutes older: the chello) which is said to include Volker Schlöendorff, Claude Codard... "

Broken Flowers

⊆ 8/19/2006 01:02:00 PM by HT | ˜ 0 comments »

I"ve been following Jarmush since the 1980's. This movie is probably his best since night on earth and takes us back to his early days of more is less and his road trip movies such as Mystery Train, and Stranger than Paradise (both among my Jarmush favorites). The movie also features a wonderful soundtrack of mostly Ethiopean Jazz -- itself worth buying. Below are some reviews:Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum --A movie of uncommon sweetness and delight...Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert--No actor is better than Bill Murray at doing nothing at all, and being fascinating while not doing it. Buster Keaton had the same gift for contemplating astonishing developments with absolute calm. Buster surrounded himself with slapstick, and in Broken Flowers Jim Jarmusch surrounds Murray with a parade of formidable women.Portland Oregonian Shawn Levy--An engaging exercise in mature poignancy, existential consciousness and deadpan drollery, Broken Flowers is a return by Jarmusch to the road movie structure of such films as "Stranger Than Paradise," "Night on Earth" and "Dead Man."Village Voice Jessica Winter--With elegant restraint the film subtly intimates the wintry dead end-twilight years bereft of love, partner, or vocation-that may be in store for its aged lover man. (Payne's "About Schmidt" did too, when not gorging snidely on idiot Americana.)

Dark City

⊆ 7/31/2006 02:35:00 AM by HT | ˜ 0 comments »

by Roger Ebert/ February 27, 1998 What other critics had to say ``Dark City'' by Alex Proyas is a great visionary achievement, a film so original and exciting, it stirred my imagination like ``Metropolis'' and ``2001: A Space Odyssey.'' If it is true, as the German director Werner Herzog believes, that we live in an age starved of new images, then ``Dark City'' is a film to nourish us. Not a story so much as an experience, it is a triumph of art direction, set design, cinematography, special effects--and imagination. Like ``Blade Runner,'' it imagines a city of the future. But while ``Blade Runner'' extended existing trends, ``Dark City'' leaps into the unknown. Its vast noir metropolis seems to exist in an alternate time line, with elements of our present and past combined with visions from a futuristic comic book. Like the first ``Batman,'' it presents a city of night and shadows, but it goes far beyond ``Batman'' in a richness of ominous, stylized sets, streets, skylines and cityscapes. For once a movie city equals any we could picture in our minds; this is the city ``The Fifth Element'' teased us with, without coming through.
The story combines science fiction with film noir--in more ways than we realize and more surprising ways than I will reveal. Its villains, in their homburgs and flapping overcoats, look like a nightmare inspired by the thugs in ``M,'' but their pale faces would look...... read the full post on hamid & company

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

⊆ 5/01/2006 05:16:00 PM by HT | ˜ 0 comments »

The Unbearable Lightness of Being
To me Kundera has always been a philosopher using the novel form to address his philosophical concerns. He has said that his books "lose their essential qualities in the process of being made into movies, leaving only the accessory stories to produce any intrigue" However, Kundera served as an active (but uncredited) consultant during the making of the film. In fact, the poem Tomas whispers into Teresa's ear as she is falling asleep was written specifically for the film by Kundera. In this case the accessory stories are intriguing enough to create one of my favorite movies of all time.Here is what Roger Ebert had to say in his original review from 1988....... "In the title of Philip Kaufman's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," the crucial word is "unbearable." The film tells the story of a young surgeon who attempts to float above the mundane world of personal responsibility and commitment to practice a sex life that has no traffic with the heart, to escape untouched from the world of sensual pleasure while retaining his privacy and his loneliness. By the end of the story, this freedom has become too great a load for him to bear.The surgeon's name is Tomas, and he lives in Prague; we meet him in the blessed days before the Russian invasion of 1968. He has an understanding with a woman named Sabina, a painter whose goal is the same as his own - to have a physical relationship without an emotional one. The two lovers believe they have much in common, since they share the same attitude toward their couplings, but actually their genitals have more in common than they do. That is not to say they don't enjoy great sex; they do, and in great detail, in the most erotic serious film since "Last Tango in Paris." One day the doctor goes to the country, and while waiting in a provincial train station his eyes fall upon a young waitress, Tereza. He orders a brandy. Their eyes meet. They go for a little walk after she gets off work, and it is clear there is something special between them. He returns to Prague. One day she appears in the city and knocks at his door. She has come to be with him. Against all of his principles, he allows her to spend the night, and then to move in.Eventually they even get married. He has betrayed his own code of lightness, or freedom.The film tells the love story of Tomas and Tereza in the context of the events of 1968, and there are shots that place the characters in the middle of the riots against the Russian invaders. Tereza becomes a photographer and tries to smuggle pictures of the uprising out of the country. Finally the two lovers leave Prague for Geneva, where Sabina has already gone, and then Tomas resumes his sexual relationship with Sabina, because his philosophy, of course, is that sex has nothing to do with love.Crushed by his decision, Tereza attempts her own experiment with free love, but it does not work, because her heart is not built that way. Sabina, meanwhile, meets a professor named Franz who falls in love with her so urgently that he decides to leave his wife. Can she accept this love? Or is she even more committed to "lightness of being" than Tomas, who tutored her in the philosophy? In the middle of Sabina's indecision, Tereza appears at her door with a camera. She has been asked to take some shots for a fashion magazine, and needs someone to pose nude. Sabina agrees, and the two women photograph each other in a scene so carefully choreographed that it becomes a ballet of eroticism.By this point in the movie, a curious thing had happened to me, as a viewer. I had begun to appreciate some of the life rhythms of the characters. Most films move so quickly and are so dependent on plot that they are about events, not lives. "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" carries the feeling of deep nostalgia, of a time no longer present, when these people did these things and hoped for happiness, and were caught up in events beyond their control.Kaufman achieves this effect almost without seeming to try. At first his film seems to be almost exclusively about sex, but then we notice in countless individual shots and camera decisions that he does not allow his camera to become a voyeur. There is a lot of nudity in the film but no pornographic documentary quality; the camera does not linger, or move for the best view, or relish the spectacle of nudity. The result is some of the most poignant, almost sad, sex scenes I have ever seen - sensuous, yes, but bittersweet.The casting has a lot to do with this haunting quality. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Tomas with a sort of detachment that is supposed to come from the character's distaste for commitment. He has a lean, intellectual look, and is not a voluptuary. For him, sex seems like a form of physical meditation, rather than an activity with another person. Lena Olin, as Sabina, has a lush, voluptuous body, big-breasted and tactile, but she inhabits it so comfortably that the movie never seems to dwell on it or exploit it. It is a fact of nature. Juliette Binoche, as Tereza, is almost ethereal in her beauty and innocence, and her attempt to reconcile her love with her lover's detachment is probably the heart of the movie.The film is based on the novel by the Czech novelist Milan Kundera, whose works all seem to consider eroticism with a certain wistfulness, as if to say that while his characters were making love they were sometimes distracted from the essentially tragic nature of their existence. That is the case here. Kaufman, whose previous films have included "The Right Stuff" and a remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," has never done anything like this, but his experiment is a success in tone. He has made a movie in which reality is asked to coexist with a world of pure sensuality, and almost, for a moment, seems to agree.The film will be noticed primarily for its eroticism. Although major films and filmmakers considered sex with great frankness and freedom in the early and mid-'70s, films in the last decade have been more adolescent, more plot- and action-oriented. Catering to audiences of adolescents, who are comfortable with sex only when it is seen in cartoon form, Hollywood has also not been comfortable with the complications of adult sexuality - the good and the bad. What is remarkable about "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," however, is not the sexual content itself, but the way Kaufman has been able to use it as an avenue for a complex story, one of nostalgia, loss, idealism and romance. "

Akira Kurosawa's Dreams

⊆ 2/15/2006 12:47:00 AM by HT | ˜ 0 comments »

Akira Kurosawa has made 4 of my 20 favorite movies of all time, The Seven Samurai (1954), Ran, Based on Shaeksapear's King Lear story (1984), Rashomon (the way of Samurai) 1950, which inspired Jim Jarmush's 1999 Ghost Dog, The Way of the Samurai. And finally my most favorite as they say : Dreams, Yume 1990. I think however, that if you can see any of Kurosawa's movies, you're probably in for a treat. Kurosawa is a great writer and director, and his name on a film really means something. Here is another oppinion -- "Truly one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. I saw this for the first time in 1993 and it was placed forever in my mind as one of my greatest cinematic experiences. I agree with what another reviewer said about this film, that it is not for everyone. It is very artistic in that the cinematography carries a lot of the story and some may become bored with it. Hollywood has a way of brainwashing a lot of viewers into needing a lot of dialog or action. If that's what you're after, you wont find it here. You have to use your brain for this one. This movie is Japanese and what little dialog there is, is in subtitled for the American viewer. So you may need to do a little reading. This is not simply a movie; it is several short, amazing stories that stem from the mind of Akira Kurosawa (a genius in my book). One is like a beautiful fairytale and another is a nightmarish fable and still another is a terribly haunting ghost story, there are others but all are done very well. This film needs to be seen in the letterbox format as it was intended. The cinematography, as I said earlier, contributes so much that it should be viewed completely. I really don't know what else to say about this movie except that if you have an artistic streak and like to see how movies can become art I would highly recommend" -- from IMDB.

sex, lies and videotape

⊆ 2/14/2006 03:56:00 AM by HT | ˜ 0 comments »

by Roger Ebert

I have a friend who says golf is not only better than sex, but lasts longer. The argument in "sex, lies and videotape" is that conversation is also better than sex - more intimate, more voluptuous - and that with our minds we can do things to each other that make sex, that swapping of sweat and sentiment, seem merely troublesome. Of course, this argument is all a mind game, and sex itself, sweat and all, is the prize for the winner. That's what makes the conversation so erotic.The movie takes place in Baton Rouge, La., and it tells the story of four people in their early 30s whose sex lives are seriously confused.....One is a lawyer named John (Peter Gallagher), who is married to Ann (Andie MacDowell) but no longer sleeps with her. Early in the film, we hear her telling her psychiatrist that this is no big problem; sex is really overrated, she thinks, compared to larger issues such as how the Earth is running out of places to dispose of its garbage. Her husband does not, however, think sex is overrated and is conducting a passionate affair with his wife's sister, Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo), who has always resented the goody-goody Ann.An old friend turns up in town. His name is Graham (James Spader), and he was John's college roommate. Nobody seems quite clear what he has been doing in the years since college, but he's one of those types you don't ask questions about things like that, because you have the feeling you don't want to know the answers. He's dangerous, not in a physical way, but through his insinuating intelligence, which seems to see through people.He moves in. Makes himself at home. One day he has lunchwith Ann, and they begin to flirt with their conversation, turning each other on with words carefully chosen to occupy the treacherous ground between eroticism and a proposition. She says she doesn't think much of sex, but then he tells her something that gets her interested: He confesses that he is impotent. It is, I think, a fundamental fact of the human ego in the sexually active years that most women believe they can end a man's impotence, just as most men believe they are heaven's answer to a woman's frigidity. If this were true, impotence and frigidity would not exist, but if hope did not spring eternal, not much else would spring, either.The early stages of "sex, lies and videotape"are a languorous, but intriguing, setup for the tumult that follows. The adultery between John and Cynthia has the usual consequences and creates the usual accusations of betrayal, but the movie (and, I think, the audience) is more interested in Graham's sexual pastimes.Unable to satisfy himself in the usual ways, he videotapes the sexual fantasies of women, and then watches them. This is a form of sexual assault; he has power not over their bodies but over their minds, over their secrets, and I suspect that the most erotic sentence in his vocabulary is "She's actually telling me this stuff!" Ann is horrified by Graham's hobby - and fascinated - and before long, the two of them are in front of his camera, in a scene of remarkable subtlety and power, both discovering that, for them, sex is only the beginning of their mysteries. This scene, and indeed the whole movie, would not work unless the direction and acting were precisely right (this is the kind of movie where a slightly wrong tone could lead to a very bad laugh), but Spader and MacDowell do not step wrong. Indeed, Spader's performance throughout the film is a kind of risk-taking. Can you imagine the challenge an actor faces in taking the kind of character I have described and making him not only intriguing but seductive? Spader has the kind of sexual ambiguity of the young Brando or Dean; he seems to suggest that if he bypasses the usual sexual approaches it is because he has something more interesting up, or down, his sleeve.The story of "sex, lies and videotape" is by now part of movie folklore: how writer-director Steven Soderbergh, at 29, wrote the screenplay in eight days during a trip to Los Angeles, how the film was made for $1.8 million, how it won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, as well as the best actor prize for Spader. I am not sure it is as good as the Cannes jury apparently found it; it has more intelligence than heart, and is more clever than enlightening. But it is never boring, and there are moments when it reminds us of how sexy the movies used to be, back in the days when speech was an erogenous zone.

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover

⊆ 2/11/2006 12:23:00 PM by HT | ˜ 0 comments »

Murder, betrayal, lust, food, sex... perfection --1989--written and diredcted by Peter Greenway
"This is arresting British writer-director Peter Greenaway's 1989 masterpiece. It takes place almost entirely in an elegant restaurant, with elaborate meals, gorgeous decor, excellent service ... and adultery, murder, and cannibalism. The bored wife of a barbarous crime boss decides to take a gentle bookseller as her lover, and her husband brutally retaliates. But she gets her gruesome revenge on him in the end. Helen Mirren, the thinking man's sex symbol, has never been sexier (the adulterous encounter in the spacious white restroom is incredibly erotic!). Greenaway sets this ghastly tale in sumptuous sets, with a use of color that is to die for -- if you'll pardon the expression. Tim Roth and Ciaran Hinds may be glimpsed among the supporting cast. Definitely sui generis. " --David Loftus ......

Helen Mirren, a British actress of some repute (best known for her portrayal of Jane Tennison in the Prime Suspect series), has never been sexier than here. Her performance is proof that a female lead doesn't have to be under 40 or classically beautiful to heat up the screen. Mirren's lovemaking scenes with Alan Howard are charged with eroticism, and her final confrontation with Gambon is tense and bitter.
Set design is top notch. Le Hollandais is a surreal place, the kind of fantastic setting that Jeunet and Caro would bring to the screen years later in films like Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. This is also a movie of vivid colors: reds for the dining room, pinks for the rest rooms, and greens for the kitchen. The Cook is always visually interesting, even on those rare occasions when other aspects of the production aren't as arresting.
One message that Greenaway clearly conveys is the association between two of life's most obvious sensual pleasures: eating and sex. He litters this picture with the brutal and the grotesque -- including murder, covering someone with excrement, and cannibalism. The Cook is always as visceral as it is visual, with Gambon on hand to provide acid commentary for everything (he never seems to stop talking). Then there's the ending, which contradicts the saying that revenge is a dish best served cold. In this case, it's warm, and very, very appropriate. -- James Berardinelli

c a p o t e

⊆ 2/11/2006 02:01:00 AM by HT | ˜ 0 comments »

Capote is a 2005 biopic that follows Truman Capote on a writing assignment for the New Yorker in a small Kansas town where he investigates the gruesome murders of a local family. The film follows the events in Capote's life during the writing of his non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood. The movie was filmed in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the summer of 2004.Here is a review:" This moving film lives and breathes on the powerful shoulders of Phillip Seymour Hoffman's stunning performance in the title role. Hoffman captures all of the unique physical characteristics that made Capote such a familiar public figure in his lifetime and invests them with a humanity that is almost unbearably poignant. The film focuses on Capote's research on the book "In Cold Blood" and the personal journey that his relationship and identification with killer Perry Smith became (Capote says at one point that it was like they grew up in the same house, and he went out the front door while Perry went out the back), a compelling and complicated relationship that this uncompromising film presents in moving detail. But what truly makes it a unique work of art is the brilliant work of Hoffman - always an interesting actor - whose performance as Truman Capote should elevate him to the pantheon of film giants. "