Friday, January 12, 2018

Macbeth (1971)

I suppose any great Shakespearean adaptation there should be distinct vision by the director. This quite true to Roman Polanki's adaptation of the Scottish play. The film marked the first film by the director since the brutal murder of his wife Sharon Tate by the Mason family. The influence of that event on the director's mind is palatable in the hopeless and particularly violent telling. Macbeth is already a dark tragedy however Polanski takes every step to amplify this particularly in the graphic nature of the blood letting, the MacDuff family massacre in particular takes its time to depicts the horrors of the scene. It goes beyond that even with an undercurrent of a circular process of decay. Macbeth is not the only traitor in this version changing the character Ross to a co-conspirator, turning the younger brother of the murdered king a future Macbeth. The side effects of the plot seem to age Macbeth and his wife into older people beyond their years as they slowly meet their demise. This film is clearly of a singular vision by Polanski though I wouldn't quite call it a great adaptation. The central nihilistic theme is fitting to this tragedy to be sure, however there are unneeded excesses in this vision. The vision in itself though still is compelling realization of an already compelling story.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Come and See

Come and See is a stark depiction of Nazi occupation founded from the most intimate perspective of a young boy who attempts to join the partisan fighters in Belarus. The plotting itself seems simple enough but is the approach of director Elem Klimov that makes this film a truly harrowing experience. The film features that perspective closely where the horrors are often just in the peripheral view of the frame, which seems to make them even more disturbing than if they where bluntly placed at the center of the screen. The film attempts to inflict the viewer with the same experience through this constrictor that is very effective in this approach. We are not granted a broader viewer, even a broader hope, we only know what our young boy sees which one horrific sight after another. Now this itself could be numbing if not for the film's particular approach that leaves every instance an impression on your memory. As it creates the sense of the confusion of the life in the occupation, those attempts to fight back, but mostly being lost with the only checkpoints being those moments of the very worst of humanity. The film startling in the ease of the events in a way particularly a village massacre that the perpetrators almost treat like a picnic. What is as disturbing though is the depiction of how this weighs on the people and particularly this boy who seems to age into a hardened older man by the film's haunting last sequence where the boy blindly rages at a photograph of Hitler. Where Downfall portrayed the rot on the man around him, Come and See is a startling depiction of the rot and victims of the man's hate filled agenda.


Downfall depicts the final days of Adolf Hitler. This story actually had been previously told, with Hitler: The Last Ten Days, which while had some scenes that are almost exactly the same differed rather greatly in tone. This film is different in its approach to not only tell the story from Hitler's secretary's Traudl Junge point of view it emphasizes this idea. We do not see the broader picture of Hitler's horrors other than within the epilogue featuring the real Junge coming to terms with her past. The film's constrictive approach is an effective one, in fact I'd say it would be a stronger film if it stayed even truer to this idea of the world of the bunker. The reason being the film is incredible in terms of its vivid realization of the strange society of sorts that forms within Hitler's final home, essentially a dark cellar in the ground. It shows the different men and women inhabiting it those who have come to understand their fate, those still fooling themselves into believing into the cause, or those happy to live in the fa├žade knowing their deaths will come soon. The mess of emotions of the individuals is what makes the film most fascinating with everyone with a different delusion or lack of it. The film ends up being a story of decay centered around Hitler who seems to be both mentally and physically spent until he takes upon himself to end it all. I will say that is where the film loses a bit of its steam as it follows his underlings either following suit or trying to find someway to escape. This is quite disturbing however it does lose some of its potency once this becomes the film's path. The ending is not the strongest part of the film however as a whole film works in its examination of a humanized, though not sympathetic, insular examination of a monster.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Cross of Iron

Cross Of Iron takes an atypical view, particularly for an American film of the time, where he it examines World War II through German soldiers. The film though naturally is an examination of cynical, yet caring, men who continue on through a war they don't believe in, knowing the they will lose sooner or later. This is against the one passionate Captain, well played by Maximilian Schell, who is hell bent on earning a Iron Cross from the higher command, a symbol recognition his fellow soldiers have earned yet have no interest in them. Although I should note this film is somewhat imperfect as the fact that it was not completely finished does seem evident in the rushed finale, however that does not defeat the remarkable efforts from the rest of the film. This is an excellent example of Sam Peckinpah's ways as a director who would never shy from the most brutal violence, in fact one could argue he glories in it with his use of slow motion to emphasize it, however there is this real warmth in his style all the same. There is always a sense that Peckinpah deeply cares for his characters which is pivotal here as it realizes the day to day life of these men attempting to get by in the war despite the odds being against them, as well as their own immediate superior. It's a fascinating film that works in actually often being made up of the little moments between the soldiers, so often of the little joy they still can find in their lives, which results in a powerful film about these men as much as a story about the rot of the Nazi army. It works as the latter as well, but it aims higher than this and succeeds in creating a brutal yet moving portrait of good soldiers on the wrong side.

Paths of Glory

Paths Of Glory is actually a bit of an outlier in Stanley Kubrick's filmography. Although the technical prowess of his direction found in his films is on display the film itself is by far his most humanistic film. Although Kubrick will allow a conduit for the audience to sympathize with or emphasize with to at least some extent he usually plays around with the supporting characters who are purposefully distant and strange. This is not the case in this film which seeks to find the humanity in every one. This includes even the worst characters, such as the cowardly Lieutenant Roget is granted a surprising degree of sympathy, and while this is not granted to glory seeking General Mireau his desperation for that glory is shown within a certain context. He's not made something grotesque, his actions are what grotesque, while we are allowed to see the man who beneath them. This approach realizes Kubrick's most emotionally resonate and powerful film. There is such care given to the soldiers that he allows one to witness the cruelty of the injustice within the system of war, where men are randomly selected for cowardice in order to act as a scape goat for the failures of battle. This isn't a film directly about the horrors of war, rather the horrors of the system that allows it and the insanity and insecurities that allow it thrive. Kubrick allows glints of optimism here, most notably through the powerhouse performance by Kirk Douglas, but just in the general tenderness towards his characters throughout. This is most notable, in Kubrick's greatest scene, which is saying something, where the group of soldiers find a respite in the song The Faithful Hussar, before going off to war once again. It is one of Kubrick's masterpieces, and the success of the film makes me ponder what he might have done with a few more film of this ilk.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


The question about Drive is why is it a masterpiece? The story isn't anything new in fact you can find both Driver and Thief to see similar plots. Drive is a testament though that execution can matter sometimes more than originality of the plot, especially when the originality can be found in that execution. Drive has a well worn plot yet never feels tired. This is in part due to the downright brilliant direction by Nicolas Winding-Refn which realizes scenes that have certainly existed before in ways one has never seen before. This can be a more overt way such as in the opening where he places you within the getaway car in the opening heist/car chase. A potential gimmick beautifully realized to create a visceral unique sequence unlike any other in the genre. Now as much as the direction excels within these breathless actions sequences this extends to any given moment in the film far beyond where you'd even expect. There is a mastery within this style that Winding-Refn makes even just a scene of day in the wilderness is something so captivating. As with so many of the all time great films it effortlessly melds this style, with character, and its simple yet compelling plot. No facet is lost in this and this is one of the films I'd describe as realizing the magic of film in a way. Every aspect of film so effortlessly is melded together from the cinematography, to the writing, to the great acting, the sound, and of course the incredible music. Winding-Refn is the star of this film though in how well he utilizes all of this together to make a masterpiece that could have been a fairly rote action thriller in the wrong hands. Take the elevator scene which I'd put with among the greatest scenes of all time, where the full power the visual medium can be seen. Not a word is said yet in its gorgeous lighting, precise action of the scene, the specific acting particularly from Ryan Gosling that conveys such an incredible emotional weight that makes the moment one of the most romantic in cinematic history, and one of the most violent. That scene is one of the reasons I love the film, but also why I love film.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game has a rich history in the man of Alan Turing. Turing being a brilliant computer scientist essential in the creation of a decoder computer that helped to break the Nazi code during World War II. He was also a homosexual at a time where it was illegal in England which lead to his tragic downfall shortly after the war. An atypical life lead to an atypical film, not in actual execution but through its process of attempting to tell the story of Turing as a mainstream crowd pleaser. The film attempts to tell both stories however these stories are so different it is hard to wholly capture both. The film does not succeed in naturally streamlining this due to mostly its ending which is too much of challenge to cohere to the overarching approach. Now I will say that overarching approach is effective in granting an old fashioned biopic to Turing. It doesn't ignore his homosexual life however it downplays it towards focusing instead on his introverted eccentricity. This does work, largely due to Benedict Cumberbatch's dedicated performance, and the story of the code breaking is potent enough to carry much of the film. It however even in this aspect loses its grip somewhat with its choice to introduce as espionage subplot that adds essentially enough style of film into the overarching one. When it is the streamlined biopic it works, when it falls into the tragic story of Turing it suffers since it doesn't devote enough time to it. The scenes of the past do work but again these naturally fit into the biopic structure. The tragedy is undercut because of the rush to include which sadly feels forced within the rest of the film especially when the film leaves on uplifting note despite the fact our central lead commits suicide.