Last week I was a little bit under the weather. Unlike most people I watch less movies when I’m not feeling so well. I also started watching Shoah, the nine-hour documentary on the holocaust, that’s why I’ll only discuss four movies this week.
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) – 7.5 (IMDb 8.7) – Adventure, Western (Italy)
After catching up with Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, I wanted to watch ‘West’ and I noticed that I had already seen bits and pieces on TV. I really enjoyed this film, probably more than ‘America’, because it’s shorter and it has Claudia Cardinale, who is one of the most beautiful woman you’ll ever see on screen. The film is about a man who gets killed, but we don’t know why at first. Her wife, Claudia Cardinale’s character, was just returning home only to find everyone dead. She decides to return to New Orleans, but the local mobsters have some unfinished business. Also, there’s a wise-guy with an harmonica and some serious gunplay skills. Besides the eye candy, I loved Ennio Morricone’s score (once more) and the recreation of the old wild west. The actors do a fine job, but I wish the ending wasn’t so bittersweet for some reason, though I’m sure I would hate a “happy ending”.
L’Age D’Or (1930) – 6 (IMDb 7.5) – Comedy, Drama, Criterion (France)
When I watched Luis Buñuel’s L’age d’or my head was kind of exploding. Not because of the surreal imagery or the rats, but because I was medicated and down with the flu, so I don’t know if my judgment of this film is entirely fair. I liked it, but I felt that we’ve seen a lot better from this particular director especially further in his career. The film is a series of vignettes, following a bourgeois romance and exploring themes that Buñuel would return to in every picture ever since: Family, church and society. This film clearly influenced great directors such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Woody Allen and Lars von Trier and many more I’m sure. To me Salvador Dalí’s vaguely linked storytelling felt more absurdist than surreal, even in terms of humor. It’s not a bad film, I can certainly recognize it’s technical merits, but it’s not one of those I’ll feel like revisiting anytime soon.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Mein Liebster Feind – Klaus Kinski (1999) – 8 (IMDb 7.8) – Documentary (Germany)
Easily the best film I’ve seen all week. This is a documentary directed by Werner Herzog and starring the great german auteur as he discusses his professional and private relationship with Klaus Kinski. Herzog shot five feature films with Kinski and even lived with him before he was famous. In the film Herzog recounts his tumultuous love-hate-relationship with the actor that seemed to be a crazy egomaniac with some serious rage issues. In some scenes he just seemed possessed. I’m not exaggerating. Herzog also interviews a couple people that worked with Kinski, such as Claudia Cardinale who co-starred in Fitzcarraldo. To his leading ladies he seems to have been a real gentlemen, but to everyone else he was just impossible. He always needed to be the center of attention and as soon as he wasn’t he lost it. He certainly was a great actor, that’s why Herzog put up with all his shit, but sometimes they just wanted to kill him. Literally, or so they say.
This is the End (2013) – 5 (IMDb 7.4) – Comedy, Fantasy (USA)
This is the worst I’ve seen last week. The film about the apocalypse and how a bunch of actors would react to it. The interesting gimmick is that everyone plays a version of themselves, of course most of it is characters archetypes and has little to do with the actual persons or so I should hope. The film mostly plays on the persona of actors such as James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel Michael Cera and Emma Watson which are some of my favorite or likable current Hollywood actors. I loved watching them in the film, they were funny (especially Cera and Franco who’s just so damn likable), but the script was just to convoluted and sometimes overly cliché to be even appreciated on a so-bad-it’s-good level. It felt like Your Highness all over again. The “religious” or fantasy aspect was bad, even if to some degree it made me think, their idea of God is not something I’d agree with. Beyond that some jokes fall flat or are badly timed, the film’s pace is off multiple times and the CGI is some of the worst I’ve ever seen in a major studio release. All in all a forgettable film, with a few good and genuinely funny self-referential moments.
That was my week in movies. If you want to share what you watched last week feel free to do so. If you have seen the films I mentioned: What did you think of them? Would you agree or disagree with me? Either way: See you next week!
Once again this week the good have triumphed over the bad, the evil. Don’t worry we’re still talking about films here of course. I watched and re-watched a lot of good ones. Including once again the short films of Spike Jonze, like I’m Here (2010) and others that you can find on YouTube. Here’s every good film and a couple thoughts on them, if I’ve already reviewed them in the course of the week, just click the title and it will open up the link to the full-length review. Enjoy and don’t forget to let me know about your favorite films of the week. I’m always curious to hear what other people liked.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
La Grande Bellezza (2013) – 8 (IMDb 7.5) – Drama, Comedy (Italy)
Cries & Whisphers (1972) – 8 (IMDb 7.9) – Drama, Criterion (Sweden)
Ingmar Bergman is easily starting to become one of my favorite filmmakers. His films are quite simple in terms of plot, but there is so much underneath the surface: symbolism, emotion, drama, passion, depth. It’s quite incredible. Cries & Whispers is considered one of his best and it’s about a wealthy woman on her deathbed and her sisters. You can definitely see how this film influenced someone like Woody Allen (especially when doing Interiors). I loved the performances, Bergman’s use of color (Sven Nykvist went on to shoot Fanny and Alexander and even work with Woody) and the drama, which was so intense. The film is thoroughly entertaining, even if that may not be the most accurate adjective to describe it, it’s very engaging and I could easily identify with the characters even if they’re from a much higher social strata than mine. I guess that when it comes to death we really are all equal.
The Bling Ring (2013) – 9 (IMDb 6) – Crime, Drama, Comedy (USA)
A Short Film About Killing (1988) – 8 (IMDb 8) – Crime, Drama (Poland)
In the same vein of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love this is a short film that explores killing. Killing an innocent man and then death sentencing a guilty man. Both films are very short, yet so powerful, because they get straight to the point. As always with Kieslowski his films are gorgeous to look at, this is one of his most beautiful in my opinion. Sławomir Idziak went on to shoot The Double Life of Veronique and Three Colors: Blue for Kieslowski, but in this one it’s a more subdued beauty, less showy, but fascinating nonetheless. I almost felt like Werner Herzog’s look of his On Death Row series was inspired by the look of this film, but I could be wrong. In any case: This is the story about a man who kills a cab driver for no reason and is then sentenced to death. Without any judgment this films just presents the story as it is and is able to inject a lot of humanity and emotion to the characters who feel completely believable and three-dimensional. It’s certainly the best film I’ve seen all week!
Once Upon A Time In America (1984) – 7.5 (IMDb 8.4) – Crime, Drama (USA)
This film has been on my “list of shame” for quite a while now and I just needed to watch it. I finally did and it was quite enjoyable. It’s an epic tale of this gangster’s life, I’m not even going to begin to explain it because it’s so grand and trying to encompass every single and possible aspect of human existence it’s just enormous. Sergio Leone’s direction does feel a bit heavy-handed in some points however, it’s very dramatic, but sometimes too much. The cast is absolutely incredible, but not all performances are subtle, although I was a big fan of Robert De Niro in this film, and he’s usually not my favorite actor, but perfectly cast here. My favorite part was the incredibly romantic score by Ennio Morricone, without the music this film wouldn’t be nearly as great as it is. I was surprised to see Jennifer Connelly as a kid, didn’t even recognize her, she wasn’t a good actress yet, but definitely better than her adult counterpart. If you’re a Giuseppe Tornatore fan or know his films you can definitely see how he was influenced by Leone; Nuovo Cinema Paradiso feels a lot like Once Upon A Time In America.
Viridiana (1961) – 7.5 (IMDb 8.1) – Drama, Criterion (Spain)
Great film by Luis Buñuel, great social commentary too. I was pleased to see Fernando Rey in this film, because I liked him a lot in That Obscure Object of Desire. Viridiana however follows a young woman who wants to become a nun, but then realizes that maybe that sort of lifestyle isn’t right for her. So she decides to open up a charity and help people who way, but if you know anything about human nature it’s that we’re all just a bunch of ungrateful bitches. The film’s climax is pretty great and incredibly poignant. The black & white cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and dreamy. Buñuel surprisingly holds back with the surreal elements in this film (or maybe I just didn’t catch them?). Although the ending could is maybe not to be taken “literally”, but again I could be wrong. Great performances all around, nice score and just a crisp, to the point film. Also, very ahead of its time with some of the thematic elements, in terms of censorship and what you’re allowed to show/imply. I always like it when filmmakers are able to defy the system and do whatever they what, not playing by the rules.