Passion

It is weird to think that in this age of streaming and almost everything being available on DVD or Blu ray, that some films are still not available to be seen in its entirety. This is especially baffling considering Godard’s status in the film world as an iconic filmmaker who is constantly putting out new material that pushes the boundaries. I read in a youtube comment section while trying to hunt down some of the more obscure titles on Godard’s filmography that most of his work isn’t even available to be seen in France, except by people in the know who are willing to search for years for a complete version of one of his films. Wether or not this is true is up for debate, but I can understand where this commenter is coming from. I have several theories about this lack of visibility for this time period in Godard’s filmography. One, Godard is difficult and he is not a traditional filmmaker. Someone like Olivier Assayas is not necessarily the most mainstream of filmmakers, but his films are easier to grasp than Godard’s films are so he has more visibility in the industry. Also Godard during the eighties especially did a lot of work with video as opposed to film due to the cheapness of the technology. If you look at video work from the eighties and nineties, you will see that most of it still hasn’t been translated to DVD because it is seen as having cheap and throwaway narratives that were just used to sell the VHS tapes which were what had the real value and not the story itself. It is a shame however that I can’t watch these films as Godard intended them or even at all. In order to get a complete picture of his filmography, I would have needed to see them, but I can only content myself with descriptions and snippets. The following films are the films between Tout Va Bien and Passion that I was not able to see in its entirety or at all.

Numero Deux (1975)- I watched a ten minute clip of this film that had this weird bird chirping noise at the beginning. This is supposed to be a dark film where Godard plays with images and split screen. Most of the clip consisted of Godard standing in the shadows with a television screen of his face and a projector next to him. He recites a monologue about trouble getting financing and him feeling alone. I would like to see more of this film.

Six fois deux/Sur et sous la communication (1976)- a documentary mini series that started his relationship with Anne-Marie Mieville. (She has become his partner in filmmaking ever since)

Ici et ailleurs (1976)- this is actually one documentary that I wish I could see of Godard’s. The film tells the story of two families; one french and the other Palestinian. Interesting stuff.

Comment Ca Va (1978)- a film about a newspaperman trying to make a documentary about his newspaper. It is supposed to be a study on structuralism.

Every Man For Himself (1980)- His comeback to art house cinema, this film features Isabelle Huppert (which we will see again in Passion) and several other exploring their sexual identities.

The next film, I have actually seen. It is called Passion and it is from 1982. This film brings back Isabelle Huppert as a young Polish factory worker who expects compensation after getting fired from her job. She forms a group with her ex-coworkers and tries to fight the factory for better working conditions. This is intercut with a man named Jerzy (you hear his name a lot throughout the film in somewhat comical ways) who stuck making a film for a contractual obligation. He is uninspired and over budget, but people can’t help but be attracted to him  and try to help him. The wife of the factory owner (who I guess gives him money in order to make the film), falls in love with him as he videotapes her singing. She is unsatisfied by her pompous husband and her bourgeois life and yearns to return to Poland.

There are several techniques in this film that are interesting from an intellectual standpoint. The first technique is Godard not syncing up the dialogue with the picture. Several times the camera is on a person who is not actually speaking and then when they are speaking the words don’t match. At first it brought me out of the picture, but then I began to realize that he is doing that in order to show how communication can become fragmented among people when they don’t like what they hear.

Another technique that I liked was Jerzy’s borrowing of master paintings of the past and blending them on one stage. He takes actors dressed up in clothing that resembles the paintings and puts them on a sound stage. He then manipulates them and makes them move. One example of this is the blending of Goya’s The Third of May 1808 and Monet’s Madame Monet. Madame Monet walks with her umbrella in hand through the scene of this massacre that Goya so eloquently put on canvas. This technique works to help develop Jerzy as a character for a couple of reasons. First he is asked several times throughout the film what the story is. He is artistically frustrated to the point that he is borrowing from the masters in order to get true inspiration. It also establishes Jerzy as an overconfident and petulant director when he can’t find the right people to portray these famous figures.

Godard will eventually become fascinated with creating art and artworks of the past. This film is seen as a bridge between his earlier more overtly political and brash work and his quieter and more intellectual work. Huppert’s character represents the political in Godard. She is the picture of the exploited worker who is rising up to get what is owed her. She preserves with a vengeance that is lost on her ex co-workers. Jerzy represents the fascination with creating art. He looks at these iconic paintings and decides to blend all of the, in order to make a statement of relativity. This blending is also a precursor to what Godard will do when he makes his documentaries on the history of cinema.

I liked this film, even if it seems at its heart incomplete. Jerzy never completes his film and Isabelle doesn’t really come to a good conclusion as to what she should do with her money. Instead they all leave to go back to Poland. France has held too much excitement for them. They must return to the cold winter night that Poland must be right now as a I write this.

 

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50/50

I hate to cry. It is not something I enjoy and it is not always seen as a catharsis for me. At one time, I cried a lot, sometimes for no good reason. Other times, it was because I was very sensitive to films that try to pull at your emotions in order to get a response. I have since toughened up and have become weary of films that want to make me cry. In fact I have come to hate those films with a passion that involves massive bonfires in my head. (I would never want to censor anyone in real life, but that doesn’t mean I can’t fantasize about it.) It is rare that a film brings me to tears and I like it. This is one of those rare films.

If you have been paying attention at all to recent film releases, then you would be pretty familiar with this film’s premise of cancer striking a young man and the fact it was based on a true story. I don’t want to get into that, because I feel like that has been beaten to death when it comes to this film. What I want to talk about is the universal truths that are expressed in this film as embodied by several characters.

The first truth is friendship. Although at first it seems like Seth Rogan’s character is a flaky asshole, he grows to be the anchor that Adam can count on. I love the scene where Adam and Seth are sitting in his living room surrounded by pot when his ex-girlfriend stops by to get a few things. She is amazed that Adam would ever do such a thing and Seth exclaims that he was the one who got the medical marijuana because Adam was too chicken to get one although he would have a legitimate reason to. It is a comedic moment, but it also describes their relationship. Seth is willing to do anything for Adam in order to help him through his cancer and if that means his name goes on a list of marijuana users, then so be it.

Many people like the performances of Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer as the fellow chemotherapy patients that Adam encounters. I think they are great as reminders of the possible fate that awaits Adam and how he could deal with it. They accept that they have cancer and use it as an excuse to eat as many pot filled cookies as possible. They joke around and hang out with each other. They lean on each other until one of them dies which is inevitable given their disease. It is quite beautiful.

Anna Kendrick played Adam’s psychologist. She is a student trying to complete her thesis and Adam becomes her second ever patient. She is just figuring out how to connect with someone on a professional level without getting involved emotionally and it is very hard for her. In fact it becomes impossible for her in the case of Adam at least. She shows so much sympathy for what he is going through that she turns out to be the few people he can turn to. The opposite could be said for his girlfriend who runs away once it becomes ugly.

There are several moments in this film where I laughed and there are several where I cried. Not one moment gets precedent over the other, because I think this is a strong film all the way through. I can’t wait to see something else from Will Reiser.

The Thief of Bagdad

Some films just scream for you not to care a whole lot about the plot and just watch the cool scenes in front of you. Whether it is an explosion, kick ass fighting or car chases, modern films sometimes rely on this trope a little too often. Arguably one of the first films to employ this philosophy, the Thief of Bagdad is rife with daring skill shots and special effects that dazzle the viewer when thinking back on how limited they were in the twenties. The plot is a familiar one to anyone who had a childhood that was raised on Disney films. A thief in Bagdad schemes to woo the princess, inherit her massive fortune and win her love. He faces various challenges and conquers them all with a finesse unique to the original Douglas Fairbanks.  Produced by Mr. Fairbanks under his recent United Artists studio formation with his wife, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, this film easily was the most expensive film of the twenties. The money was well spent. The sets are lavish and expansive. The special effects including a Pegasus horse, a magic carpet, and a rope that stiffens by itself makes this film of historical value solely on the innovations. The special effects is what makes this film interesting to me. Although you can tell that the horse is galloping on a ramp angled upwards and covered by smoke (the sky), the effects look like something out of a Melies film.

Douglas Fairbanks excels at his stunts and being a handsome individual, but for me he was a little operatic to be seen that close up. I guess I have an aversion to overacting, because it seems to come up again and again while writing about the silent. Most of the actors in this film are overacting on an epic scale. The one actress I could recommend watching is Anna May Wong who plays a servant to the princess, but is really spying for one of Fairbanks’ rivals. She portrays what I think about when I think of a good performance from the silent era. She emote from her face, more than grand gestures and  you completely aware of her motivations without her having to say a word about it. She is also drop dead gorgeous. If I were Douglas Fairbanks, I would have prefered her to the princess.

Douglas Fairbanks is such an overbearing presence here that it is hard to write about anything else but him. He is silly and campy, constantly puffing out his chest and his grand gestures constantly pointing things out that we can plainly see with our eyes. However he has this magnetism in him that shines when he does his stunts. He does everything with such clear ease that it is hard to see if he ever takes himself seriously. I am definitely interested in his comedic roles that he did before he became a swashbuckler. It seems that would be the perfect role for him, as a comic. Not that he sucks as a swashbuckler, but I feel when he isn’t doing stunts he isn’t really doing anything on camera of interest. I think that is a little harsh, but true.

The running time on this film was a little long, but if you are interested in the evolution of special effects, epics or falling asleep lulled by the sweet score, then I would suggest watching this film. If you do not fit into any of these categories than it is better off skipped.

Favorite Christmas Films

Christmas Day is historically the best day to lounge around and do nothing. Of course my idea of doing nothing involves watching films and eating. My mom and I usually watch Santa Claus on christmas together (You know the one with Tim Allen in it) but because I am away from the house this christmas and I feel like that film is extremely manipulative in ways that make me groan, I get to pick what films I get to watch on Christmas Day 2011. The following films are likely candidates for my viewing odyssey.

5. Elf (2003)

“Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”

After I have gorged myself on Christmas cookies and candy, I need a comedy that I will laugh at non-ironically in order to burn some calories. This film has got the required number of laughs per minute in order to burn 2000 calories (roughly half the amount of calories I usually consume on christmas day… I’m a fatty!) per viewing. Will Ferrell used to be one of my favorite comedians ever (before he did annoying comedies where he wasn’t funny and had serious roles where he was not good at acting.) and this film is his crowning gem. I love converting newbies to this film, although admittedly there are not that many left who haven’t seen it. Hell my one year old nephew has seen the film and can already quote from it. (just joking of course, but wouldn’t that be cool?)

4.  A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

“Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you are the Charlie Browniest.”

This film brings me back to my childhood like no other film on this list can. This is my grandma’s favorite christmas movie and we used to watch it on CBS and decorate her christmas tree together. The dance, the small christmas tree and the cartoon snow all seem to instantly get me into the Christmas spirit. One of the cutest films of all time, I can’t help but love the film even with its too sweet ending and constant caroling.

3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

“This fog’s as thick as peanut butter…”

Rankin and Bass are two very important animators. They revolutionized and made stop motion animation available to the masses through television specials that still continue to air annually on American television. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer started it off and is the most successful of their Christmas specials. It is also my favorite of the Rankin and Bass Productions. I loved singing along with the songs when I was younger. Even though I think it hasn’t aged particularly well, it still symbolized the idealism of youth and wanting to do what you truly love instead of what is expected of you.

2. Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

“What’s this? What’s this? There’s color everywhere! What’s this? There are white things in the air! What’s this? I can’t believe my eyes, I must be dreaming; wake up, Jack, this isn’t fair! What’s this?”

Back in the early 2000s when I went to high school in order to be considered alternative (and thereby cool), you had to love this film and own products from Hot Topic that featured Jack Skellington. It might have gone out of fashion in today’s ever evolving high school trends, but I still hold a soft spot in my heart for this film. I hate to admit it, but Tim Burton inspired me to love films. His best films were ones that I grew up with and admired to a degree of insanity. I am currently officially cured of this insanity, but I still think this film and Edward Scissorhands are two masterfully wonderful films.

1. How The Grinch Stole Christmas

“You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch / You have termites in your smile / You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile / Mr. Gri-inch / Given the choice between the two of you, I’d take the uh… seasick crocodile”

As you have probably noticed, I have a thing for old animated television specials. This by far is the best of those animated Christmas specials made for television. I used have this on VHS and I watched over and over again, even when it wasn’t Christmas. I loved Boris Karloff’s voice and although I could never imitate it to my satisfaction, I would still go around the house singing “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch…” I miss my torn up old VHS copy of this. Where have you gone?

Honorable Mentions:

The Shop Around the Corner and You’ve Got Mail

As I have said before, my mother is a big sap for romantic films. She doesn’t always have the best taste for them, but I think that You’ve Got Mail is better than most. The movie that You’ve Got Mail is based on is even better because it stars dreamy Jimmy Stewart. Although these films only involve Christmas at the end, I think that they are both heartwarming films that should replace that over done It’s A Wonderful Life. (gag me with a spoon!)

Tout Va Bien

Last week I hated on Joy of Learning because I wanted to love that film so much. After watching that film, I seriously thought about letting go of Godard and moving on to someone else. I was angry and done with his obscure references and his pretension. He made me feel unloved by his cold and clinical way that he put together that film. However I knew that the next film that I could get my hands on (this one) was elevated to inclusion with the Criterion Collection and that Godard had a collaborator that might be able to reign in his obscure political actions that permeated the last film. So I decided to give Godard one more chance. I am glad that I did. This film will push me through the next few clunkers that I will inevitably discover (he lost his collaborator to the world of documentary.).

This film is about the French spring of 1968 and its aftermath. 1968 is related to the spring of this ear in the Arab countries because it was a time of uprising against the oppression many students, working class and intellectuals were feeling coming from the government. It sent a strong message and influenced politics in America just like the Arab spring influenced the Occupy Wall Street Movement of this year. The spring of 1968 woke up many people from their slumber and made them aware of the unjust circumstances that surrounded them. It had ramifications that extended beyond the spring and beyond 1968. This is the story of what happened.

A young American reporter (played by Jane Fonda) covers an occupation of a meat-packing plant. She brings along her husband who recently moved from making political films to making commercials in order to provide a life of comfort. They get into some trouble and are forced to stay in this plant for a day along with the horrible manager. During this time, the workers chant, paint and abuse the manager in ways that he abused them. One of the worst professions in the world, even today, meat-packing is made worse by the greed of the upper levels. They enforce long hours, fifteen minute breaks for bathroom usage, and dangerous conditions. These workers have a right to be mad and they have a right to form a union. However the manager does not see it like that and believes that they are just whiny bastards. Jane Fonda gains the trust of these workers and documents their stories. Her husband looks on and becomes quietly enraged.

Once the occupation is over and the people are reduced to their fate, Jane and her husband (played by Yves Montand who is in another great political film Z. Watch that after you watch this film. It is awesome)  then go home completely changed. They awakened out of their slumber and they recount their interactions with the protests of 1968 and their resultant complacency afterwards. They fight each other and their want to do something bigger than just watching out for themselves. This part of the film is what really resonates with me. As much as I want to give up everything and join the Occupy Wall Street movement (even in its current state of non occupancy), I am still sitting here in my apartment just thinking of ways that I can get a better job that will give me more security. What is my place in the activist world? I can’t seem to find one and neither can Jane or Yves.

One scene that is particularly powerful is a group of people occupying a grocery store. Godard pans across what seems to be like a modern Wal-mart filled with rows of cheap products and sad workers. These sad workers check out equally sad customers as they buy bulk laundry detergent and other products that seem to be too big for what they are. A man also is trying to sell a mountain of Maoist books in the center of consumerism. Several radicals that you have seen throughout the film confront the seller of these books and engage in a war of words. They then take these sad customers and tell them that everything is free and they should just steal their products instead of paying the absurd sticker prices for them. They set several grocery carts on fire and end with clashing with the police. The whole time Jane is documenting these events with a calmness that is strange. There are several scenes that depict violent interruptions like this one all while contrasted with the calm reactions of Jane and Yves.

Godard’s tricks are still present in this film, but to a degree that enhances the viewing. One time during a heated argument between the couple instead of Jane telling Yves that he is being a dick, she holds up a picture of a dick in front of his face. Also during the occupation of the meat-packing plant, one man paints over a wall and eventually a picture the color of bright blue. He does it several times, but then late you see the same wall and picture unharmed with this garish blue. It reflects the mood of Jane and the picture. How can a human being stay ideological? How can a human being stay a radical? You can not always be confrontational and be expected to live a long life. The body must revert back to a state of rest and complacency just like the picture has to revert back to being unpainted. (wow that was pretentious)

Also available on the disc that I watched this film on is one of Godard’s shorts that he made with Gorin. It is entitled a Letter to Jane and is about Jane Fonda visiting Vietnam and this picture that surfaces of Jane listening intently to a native. Is she being revolutionary or is she being co-opted into something that she does not represent? Is this picture a reflection of the truth or is it just a manipulation to make Jane Fonda look like Mother Teresa? If you can get over the repetition that Godard seems to love more and more than I think it is worth watching to hear the ideas that Godard grapples with in most of his films distilled into a ten minute short meditation on this picture.

Candyman

This is not the horror film from the nineties (because I would never watch that), but a documentary from last year that just recently became available on Netflix Watch Instantly. After watching If a Tree Falls, I was in the mood for another but lighter documentary. When I stumbled upon this film, I thought it would either be quietly genius or shit. Unfortunately it was just shit.

The story is about the man who invented Jelly Bellys and became Mr. Jelly Belly before selling all of his rights to the brand and no longer having any creative control over it. This man is framed as the most giving man in the universe that had this strange obsession with candy (just like I do with films and Daniel McGowan had with the environment). He was constantly coming up with this strange and crazy candies until he hit upon something that would change the face of the candy industry forever. Before him the industry was nothing but a compilation of boring and bland candies, but after him the candy industry became the crazy and colorful industry that it is today. (At least that is what this documentary will have you believe.) The problem that Daniel Klein had been that he was just too generous. He sold his rights to the candy to his partners for a big amount of money right before Ronald Reagan became president and thus setting off the phenomenon that was Jelly Bellys in the eighties. However the film will have you believe that he was bullied into selling his rights and because nobody wanted to speak for the other side, there is nothing to disprove this bullying.

This film was made by David Klein’s son. As I asserted yesterday in my review of If a Tree Falls, that the best documentaries are made by people who are outside of the event, movement or cause they are trying to document. These filmmakers tend to bring a sense of perspective that is needed in order to tell a complete story. This did not happen with this film. What could have been a story of individual greed and foolishness became a story about a candy martyr that I frankly don’t care about. Also it becomes way too much about the son as opposed to this weird candy genius. I care that you had a unique childhood, but I don’t care that you are trying to raise your new son in a different way. I don’t care that you rebelled against him and that your father seems lost without you. This film isn’t about him. It is about David Klein and his naiveté. Get over yourself. Also I feel like there are several interviews that did not work with this film. What the hell is Weird Al Yankovic doing in this film? He seems to not care about Jelly Bellys at all. He doesn’t even have a song about them. At least when the documentary went on a fifteen minute divergence to Reagan’s museum he had something to do with Jelly Bellys. Weird Al Yankovic is doing nothing but saying sarcastic things about the candy. It is funny but not in the way a film like this should be funny. You are underscoring the motive behind making this documentary. Either be tongue in cheek or be serious. You can’t be both and come out having a good product.

I want to apologize to David Klein if you see this review for how scathing I was in the previous paragraph. It is nothing against you, just this documentary. Do not watch this film. Instead just look up Klein’s wikipedia page. You would probably get as much information as this film provides without all of the annoyances.

If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front

 

Through the narrative of a young man caught up in an ideological battle, this film explores our society’s definition of what terrorism is. This young man was an idealistic man caught up in becoming more and more radical. He wanted to save nature from being destroyed and he saw from first hand experience that peaceful protests in front of bulldozers and down main street were not enough. With a few of like-minded friends, he formed the Earth Liberation Front and set buildings he felt violated major environmental ideals ablaze. However they had several conditions upon blowing up the buildings. These were that there has to be no person in the building during the time of the explosion and that they had to represent corporate greed and not just some local person who was misguided towards environmental problems. With these conditions, they blew up several buildings and farms that were symbols of environment abuse. However this caught the attention of the government and he along with his friends were now wanted and were pursued with a vengeance.

The film starts after Daniel McGowan is caught and placed under house arrest in his sister’s apartment in New York City. He details his history with activism and being woken up to the circumstances around him when he was a lost young man looking for a cause. There are several anecdotes that detail Daniel’s fanaticism with environmentalism that include recycling labels off of unused can so that no one knows what is in the cans, carrying around a mini compost pile in his backpack and preparing meals that involve only the strictest vegan principles. So right away, I knew that this man was a lot like me only obsessed with something that had more impact on society. Whereas I spend hours upon hours researching, watching, writing and then researching some more movies, he devotes his life as being as low impact on the earth as possible. I can identify with that, but at the same time recognize that it is slightly crazy.

I think that the filmmaker did a good job in establishing sympathy with Daniel. We get to know him as he forced to stay in this apartment paying for his consequences, but not totally discounting what he did. He is a very caring individual who just wants to stop being a burden to his sister and his girlfriend. He has to deal with severe depression and anxiety that I could never imagine dealing with while waiting trial for these acts that he fully believed in. It is hard watching this young man who has such a strong passion for life being reduced to a shell of a man.

The film also sheds light on questionable motives that the FBI sometimes employs in order to get “the number one terrorist threat in America.” The ethics of the FBI has always been questionable since the founding it, but to realize that they are still employing the same tactics that they used on the Black Panthers in the sixties is astonishing and disheartening. The men who are investigating the case take this coldness to the case that I feel is horrible. They recount in dry tones how they systematically manipulated and bribed several members of the ELF in order to turn on the other members and give them longer sentences. One person in particular is turned and forced to wear a wire in order to just get probation. FBI had several things against him including a very severe problem with drugs and a young child that would be taken away from him. The man who was turned and forced to wear a wire when interviewed looked like he was about to commit suicide that is how distraught he seemed.

One last thing that the filmmaker makes a point of exploring is the fact that there are several prisons filled to the brim with “terrorists” in America. One of them is in Illinois not far from Chicago (thank you Blago for that one… not!). These prisons aren’t just on an island far from the country, but right here on the main land and they are filled with people like Daniel where it is questionable whether or not they are terrorists. They are also put through different treatment than regular prisons and forced to be separated for fear of turning regular prisoners to their cause. This is something that the normal American is not aware of.

I think this documentary is very effective in its motives. It takes a very present filmmaker who is liberal leaning, but an upstanding and rational citizen and throws him in this world of radicalism and becomes sympathetic to his cause. I feel like this is how political documentaries should be made. If a person is already a part of the movement, the event or the cause that they are wanting to document, then they can not be as well-rounded as this film strives to be.

P.S. this documentary is on the Oscar short list and it is available on Netflix Watch Instantly.

Diary of A Lost Girl

Diary of a Lost Girl showcases the problem of “lost girls” who have mental breakdowns or have a baby out-of-wedlock and then shipped to these reformatory houses. Our protagonist is a young woman who is taken advantage of by her father’s employee and becomes pregnant. Once she has the baby, her family ships her off to reformatory house where she is forced to eat black soup and put up with daily torture from the crazy woman with a mustache. Once she breaks free of the oppressive house, she is forced into prostitution by her destitution. She comes into money via the man she marries and then goes back to the reformatory to “reform” it.

From an intellectual stand point, this film is rife with important questions that the audience has to ask themselves.Questions as to why they need to hide these young women from view, why she decided to not give up who raped her, and how people of a higher society (economically) wouldn’t find a reason to better their conditions until the young woman decides to do it. From a purely intellectual level, you can see this film as the definition of first wave feminism, because of the issues it raises about rape and reformatories and forced prostitution.

But from a plot and emotional standpoint, this film is boring and full of contrivances. Several plot points seem to exist only for a moment and then erased again. For instance she seems to have a fainting problem that only comes up when it helps her get raped and then later on to get yelled at by the mustachioed woman. There are no other times she faints. If that was really a problem for her wouldn’t she being doing it a lot? Wouldn’t something be mentioned about her having some sort of condition. But the film doesn’t care to explain it at all. Instead they just assume that every woman faints at the most oppurtune moment in real life also.

I have  grievances with a lot of social problem films. Most of the time, the filmmakers want to make the protagonist (especially if it is a female, but it also happens with males) like a perfect angel that falls into this problem no matter what she tries to do.The protagonist is usually naive and therefore taken advantage of quite easily. It isn’t a realistic depiction of the problem they are trying to address. Most women don’t just fall unconcious for no reason or have a formerly rich lover who gets his money back after he dies. It just isn’t the way it happens. Thousands of women get raped every year and most of the time it is a brutal affair where the woman is concsious the whole time. These women also can’t solve all their problems by having a rich relation. They were born poor, stay poor, and die poor. But of course that isn’t very convienant for films is it?

I would not recommend this film for several reasons, none of them being the direction or the performance of Louise Brooks. I think both are handled well, but instead of seeing this film, I would recommend watching Pandora’s Box instead.

Favorite Asian Directors

My list is dominated by Japanese directors but I wanted to fit one of my favorite directors of all time in a post, so I decided to call it favorite Asian Directors instead. It is a little unfair of me to include all of Asian’s cinema together, because different countries produce some very different films. For instance Japan is usually known for quiet films and samurai films whereas Korea is known for stylish horror. Of course there is also Hong Kong which is where some of the best action directors get their start. However I am not as well versed as I would like to be in the Asian cinema scene, so I am going to lump everything together and plead ignorance.

5. Hayao Miyazaki

If you glance at my list, you will probably notice a lot of the same directors were at least mentioned in my last top 5 about auteurs. I usually watch films based on directors, so I drift towards directors with a certain style that can be seen throughout different films. Miyazaki is definite one of those directors who can easily figure out their style by only watching a few of his films. He has a folk tale way of telling a story that has been missing from normal Disney features for a long time. He also tells stories that deal with loss in a more grown up way than Disney employs. Also his films just look gorgeous. I had the privilege to watch Ponyo on the big screen and it was one of the best cinema experiences of my life. Seeing those impressionistic fields sway on the big screen is so amazing. FYI I would stay away from Grave of Fireflies unless you want to ball your eyes out. devastating.  Favorites: Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away.

4. Seijun Suzuki

Suzuki is the king of B film in Asian cinema. He is weird to the extreme and totally awesome. His films are full of bright colors, people with cheek scares and cool guns. The narratives are usually twisted, but sure that everyone is going to die at the end. I love watching his films because he brings such a uniqueness and energy to the screen that is usually missing from art house cinema. My favorite films: Branded to Kill, Tokyo Drifter (powder blue leisure suit!) and Youth of the Beast. I haven’t delved into his later stuff much, but I heard that there are some major misses in his later career. I would start with his earliest stuff first and then develop an affection for him to allow you to forgive him for his atrocities (speaking only from other people’s opinions.)

3. Chan-wook Park

Horror is a genre that was built for Park to deconstruct. His films are full of murders, twisted narratives, and grotesque but needed violence. His claim to fame is his Vengeance trilogy and I could watch those three films every day for the rest of my life, especially Oldboy. Holy crap is that film awesome and crazy! I would also recommend his newest feature Thirst if you are into true vampire lore, which I have a little soft spot for. Twilight has totally wrecked my stance on vampires. I hope Stephanie Meyer goes to hell and experiences what true vampires are made out of damn it.

2. Wong Kar-Wai

My favorite auteur is my second favorite asian director. He is the complete opposite of the previous two directors in that he loves preciseness and quiet while the other director’s use of violence sometimes borders on cartoonish. His films are the definition of slow burn, but during these slow burns, the audience gets to revel in rich characters with a beautiful narrative line. I love him with all my might. My favorites: In the Mood for Love (if you like quiet dramas, watch this first, you will love him to death!), Chungking Express and Happy Together (an interesting homosexual narrative that deals with alienation.)

1. Akira Kurosawa

Duh. My film watching credentials would be instantly taken away from me if I didn’t put him at the top. One of the most versatile directors of all time, he can make samurai films, psychological dramas, and crime capers within the space of a couple of years and each film is iconic. His adaptations of Shakespeare are also very expertly done and ones that I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of Shakespeare or wants to see how much influence Shakespeare has had on film. My favorites: Yojimbo and Sanjuro, Ran, Roshomon, Ikiru, and Throne of Blood.

Honorable Mention:

Yasujiro Ozu- I have not watched enough of his films to be a real authority on him or to say I liked him or not. I found Floating Weeds to be interesting, but sometimes excruciatingly slow.

 

The Last Temptation of Christ

I am a rebel. I know it is hard to visualize but I am pretty rebellious at least in my family. I am an atheist (gasp!), I live with my boyfriend without marrying him (slut!) and I watch films and attend events (satan worship potlucks mostly) that my parents would look down on. The Last Temptation of Christ is one of those films that have been condemned by the Catholic Church (of which I was a forced member of at one time). The condemnation is a little silly and yet it still holds true today. Why is this film so divisive among people who can’t appreciate art or are culturally relevant anymore? It is because this film shows Jesus Christ as played by a William Defoe (he can’t fool me… he will always be the Goblin from the Spiderman films no matter how long he grows his hair.) and because this film shows Jesus as (double gasp!) a human!

This film asks what would have happened if Jesus got off the cross when the Devil asked him to and he lead a normal life full of wives and children. It is what I always asked myself when I had to sit through the never-ending stations of the cross or the long lectures of suffering that Christ did so I could selfishly eat too much meat or not give up anything for Lent. However I came to a very different conclusion than this film explores. I figured that if he could get off the cross and live then he could probably time travel and he would go on a rollicking orgy through the ages. (at least that is what I would do.) Instead this film assumes that his philosophy would live on whether or not he actually died and came back to apostles three days later. That his sacrifice is not really needed if he could get someone like Peter or Paul to spread his word. No wonder the Catholic Church had their panties in a twist. This film called them out on their game. There is no evidence that Jesus actually said or did anything in the Bible, just that he might have lived. This film may have been closer to the truth of the matter than the Bible is. (Probably not, though)

Religion is just a manifestation of human being’s imagination. If seen from a different angle, Jesus was really crazy. In fact this film sets up at the beginning the possibility that he is crazy. Harvey Keitel’s Judas character visits Jesus at the beginning and calls him out on his shit. Jesus asks whether or not he can tell if it is the devil talking to him or if it is God. Judas than beats him up and says that he needs to find out for sure. What I like about this film is how they sketch Judas out to actually be a strong presence. He is one of Jesus’ fiercest disciples and the one who doesn’t complain. I never completely bought the dismissal of Judas as an evil, conniving figure. Nobody can follow someone like Jesus and not believe in what he has to say.

I also like the depiction of John the Baptist’s mass baptizing. It was a crazy thing for John the Baptist for doing. It was a little weird that all of these people are possessed by the “devil” when in fact they were just seduced by John’s collective preaching ideas. Everything that Jesus does and his followers do can be seen as crazy to a “normal” person. I think that is one of the reasons this film stuck in so many God-fearing Christians’ crawl.

I liked this film more the ideas that it raises then for anything else. It is well acted and well shot, but I couldn’t care less. It is a thinking film that sticks with you for days afterwards. Jesus is such an iconic character that any alternative view of him is going to raise some anger in people, but I think that every Christian should actually see the film before judging it and me for seeing it. It might just reaffirm your beliefs.