Monday, February 13, 2017

Paul Verhoeven is filled with two major ingredients. Sex and Violence, starting in Netherlands and the to Hollywood where he made big important films such as Basic Instinct, Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers, he vanished after some failures returning to make movies in Europe for the sake of his well filmmaking style and talent.

The award winning film “Elle” directed Verhoeven is a solid exploration to power, sexuality and lack of emotions. Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is a businesswoman who owns a video games company, they are developing a game that already is 6 months behind schedule. This is causing friction with the team. At the beginning of the movie she is raped by a masked men, the act is violent and very dramatic.

Michèle decided not to report the incident to the police, but continues with her life. She even went to get STD test after the attack. During a dinner with friends and her ex husband she confess the happening. This is the first evidence that Michèle becomes interested in the masked men, but also i the experience of been rape by a unknown person. Michèle is a ruthless woman who loves to be in control, from her son, to her employees she feels entitled to do so. One day 3D video of a monster raping a character with Michèle leak in the office, proving that not everyone likes Michèle, but also grow suspicion that the attacker is between them.

Michèle is obsessed with the attacker, leading to second attack and the revelation of the masked man…

“Elle” is perhaps one of the most simple and disturbing films by Verhoeven He express in this movie what ever he wasn’t unable to do before. May be because he is no longer tied to Hollywood. He wants to make a film his own way. In a recent interview he expressed his happiness of making the movie outside the Hollywood system. Elle is not a movie about Michèle revenge to her attack, is about her disturbing deviations, her lack of emotions and how unstable she is. Isabelle Huppert delivers a powerful performance, she deserve so many awards for this character.
The modern society, the youngster, the America inheriting this mess, the great one, is represented in some films as kids without direction, looking for the easy life, bored to real work, nomads by nature, hip hop lovers, attracted to guns and bling.

Star (Sasha Lane) a teenager living in Muskogee, Oklahoma. She takes care of two kids, their poor, they’re playground is the closes dumpster, where they dive and find today’s meal. She lives with the kids father, who constantly grope her. One day trying to get a ride home, she makes eye contact with one of the boys Jake (Shia LeBeouf) in a van passing by, she following them to a K-Mart. That first interaction is a mix of flirt and manipulation. He is a businessman who offer her a possibility to change her life.

This group of teenagers sell door to door magazines in neighborhoods. Star seems oblivious to the idea, may be he wants to pick up girls on the road. Probably his attire says it all. A conversation about fancy pants who kind of look like Donald Trump-ish (an actual dialogue from the movie), or gangster or it is the sparkling phone case.

Star decided to say yes to the opportunity leaving behind the kids with the real mother who seems uninterested in taking care of them. The road trip will be a full of business opportunities, choices and unusual consequences. Her ride a white van full with kids from all over the country, a true American melting pot.

“American Honey” is written and directed by Andrea Arnold. The film explores the life in poor neighborhoods in US south. Poverty is a reality, the redneck culture surround everyone. Life is hard, everything shinny is attractive. This is the kind of people who politicians loves, make them strong and powerful.

Wealthy people are nice, respectful and courteous, but at the bottom have real issues and dark needs. You can see it in Star first business attempt to sell magazines with Jake. Both are invited to a rich house, after knocking door. Destiny a rich teenager is having her birthday sleepover. The house is full of impressive things for Star, including the ultimate item: Kim Kardashian book of selfies. During the that short stay Jake keeps pitching the mom for the magazines., but Star is not friendly. She she how Destiny and friends dance outside getting wet and dancing very suggestive. While inside mom is lecturing Jake about been a good Christian: “but I can see the devil has a hold of the two of you” Star reply: I think the devil has a hold of your daughter. A strong message of hypocrisy in this day and age.
Class is not define by the color of your skin of the money on your bank account.

This is the kind of messages we see in American Honey. A film that might be in the same universe of stories about nomads and frenetic style of life in films like “Spring Breakers”, “The Beach” and Kids. Star trip from Oklahoma to South Dakota is filled with experiences of the real America. Is not sugar coded, is just what it is. America is a country where you make business no mater how, you just need to find the way.

The beauty of seen thru the windows of that van where the kids coming from other the places share alcohol, drugs, stories, relationships and sing songs together about love, explicit sex, choices and violence. Oil workers and Cowboys are the Shangri-La for this kids. Full money and needy for some company. Easy cash in the back of a pick up truck or drinking Mescal by the pool eating a very expensive stake. But at the end their life is making money and expanding it in the closest “7 Eleven”, buy gigantic Slurpees, one dollar pizza and chocolate cookies.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Camera: An optical instrument for recording or capturing images…
Camera: person. A professional operator of a film or video camera…

Once you get this two concepts clear, you will be able to understand what this documentary is about. Kirsten Johnson, a NY documentary, filmmaker and cinematographer, who’s life is portrayed in the film “Cameraperson”

The concept of this documentary is very simple and interesting. For the audience or viewers, you only able to see the best choices between the director and editor when a documentary is been edited, but in reality, you never be able to understand the complexity of a film until you see what a camera person have to do in order to the shot right. The risks, the prep before an interview, the framing and the simplicity of the art the documentary.

From a boxing match in Brooklyn, postwar life in Bosnia and Herzegovina, her intimate life with her kids, and a Nigerian midwife and other moments. Experience the documentary ‘Camera person’ is been exposed to the moment when you dig into someone’s collection of footage from a long career of 25 years. Unused takes, moments kept in the editing room that never make it to the big scree or perhaps Johnson’s life that is just for her own audience, her family.

One of the biggest subject is Hollywood is “redemption”. From wrongfully accused of murder in “The Shawshank Redemption”, a hitman who end up saving a child from the crocked DEA in “Leon: The Professional”, to a math prodigy who can’t find his path in live in “Goodwill Hunting” most of these examples represents a wide range of actions connected to a single goal, forgiveness from terrible acts from the past.

Kenneth Lonergan (Margaret, You can Count on Me)directs “Manchester By The Sea” is his third film with a powerful story about another kind of redemption. Lee Chandler ( Casey Afleck) a quiet and reserve handyman with a simple life, hiding a disturbed past. Suddenly he received a call that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) had a heart attack, and died before Lee arrived. He seems to be distant and emotionally detached from the situation. He is responsible to spread the news to his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). He lives in Manchester by the sea. A few years before Joe make arrangements to have Lee as Patrick legal guardian until he reach 18, making Lee to go back to the town that he swear to never come back.

Throughout the story we been exposed to back and forth scenes showing the difficult lives of Lee and Joe. Lee have a very tormented past thanks to some actions with terrible consequences, causing his separation and divorce from Randi (Michelle Williams) Joe’s wife Elise (Gretchen Moi) an alcoholic cause so much pain to Patrick’s childhood memories and Joe itself.

In essence “Manchester By The Sea” represents a story of a tormented family facing consequences of mistakes, with irreparable damages. Alcoholism and drug addiction are some of the subjects cover in this film. Lee hold a grudge in his life, so unbearable making him hate the world and everyone around it. Lonergan pace of the film, helps the audience to get their priorities in place. No big shocking revelation, just the truth down and dirty until the end.

When I first saw the trailer of LION is said to myself that this could be a very melodramatic and over the top film about a kid lost by mistake in the middle of the streets of India.

I was wrong. Director Garth Davis (directorial debut) presents a powerful story of Saroo Brierley (Dev Patel - Sunny Pawar Young Saroo) a 5 year old kid living with his mother, old brother and a sister. All of them living in poverty in the small town of Khandwa, in India

Saroo always follow his brother Guddu, but one night he wanted to help him on some extra work. Saroo end up getting into a train droping him about 1600km from his small home town. He is now in the heart of Calcutta, lost, with no food and without his family. Saroo is taken to an orphanage, where a few months later, is adopted by an Australian couple Sue (Nichole Kidman) and John (David Wenham) Now he will live his life in Austrailia till the age of 25 years old. Now adult his memories haunt him about his mother and brothers, forcing him to search for them…

Garth Davis with just experience in short films and the TV show “Top of The Lake” masterfully capture the drama of 5 year old Saroo lost in the streets of india looking for his family. Visually you see how alone is he and how terrible is the experience for him. The camera travels with Saroo and capture his journey. The use of computer screens is perfectly balance, when Saroo is digging in the constant search of Google maps to find every trace of his journey when he got missing. Davis is great directing actors, from Sunny (young Saroo) to Dev Patel and Nichole Kidman, everyone deliver powerful performances. The cinematography, editing and original score are spot on.

The big message of the film is not only Saroo success in the search of his family, but the intention of filmmakers and producers to make the audience understand that this is a big problem in this day an age. Missing children’s from his parents around the world end up in the wrong hands, from child labor to other terrible things.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

War, one of the most brutal act of all. Responsible of so many deaths around the world, and also life changing experience for everyone who live it. Cinema have represented in so many ways. In the battlefield, returning home after the war, the people who have to continue their lives while a family member is drafted and last but not least the technology behind the war.

In essence war, could considered metaphorically speaking a horror tale. But what about if you put those two elements on screen. A horror film about the war?

Under the Shadow is the British Iranian film directed by Babak Anvari about a woman who lives the horror of war inside her own apartment.

During the years 1980- 1988 The Iran-Iraq war took place, a conflict compared to many as World War I. Teheran and Bagdad were constantly bombing, most of the citizens have to live this reality for almost a decade. In the mist of the war Shideh (Narges Rashidi) a married woman who is attending to medical school, but later expel for be attached to leftist groups. Her husband Iraj (Bobby Naderi) a doctor for the military is traveling most of the time leaving her daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) staying with mom. They live in a building with other families, their typical days will be shelling in the basement in the basement building to protect themselves from the attacks of the Iraqi government.

In one the attacks a missile get’s stuck in the living room of one of the neighbors, causing him a heart attack and later die. For Shideh as a medical student becomes mysterious when the daughter of the neighbor insist that he saw a ghost which causing him a emotional distress. During one of the shelling Dorsa meets a new boy who is staying with one of the neighbors which was telling her ghost stories. Shied is very skpectical about the whole stories.

To me the main idea of Under The Shadow is to create a metaphor about the horror of war represented in the presence of a ghost living a building. This families are in constant attacks with common missile strikes, they are unexpected and unpredictable, just like a ghost will be. People are living in fear and they cannot control what ever is around them.

Making a horror movie about the Iran-Iraq war is a risky move, but it pays off, because it not only shows the absurd act of war, but it enhance it with political and social criticism. Shideh loves to do aerobics and she do it by watching Jane Fonda tapes which are consider illegal in that time. Another time she and Dorsa are trying to scape the building from the ghost and end up in jail, because Shideh wasn’t wearing her proper attire. Doesn’t matter if you are trying to scape the horror of war, something worst is waiting for you, perhaps the law…

Under the Shadow is a great discovering from the typical horror films that you see everyday in Hollywood, is a movie with a inner meaning.