Category: film diary

film diary

Film diary 2013

film diary 2013

  1. The Hobbit (Peter Jackson, 2012)
  2. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012)
  3. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)
  4. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg, 2012)
  5. Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)
  6. The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, 2012)
  7. Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010)
  8. A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1950)
  9. A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 1951)
  10. The Impossible (Joan Antonio Bayona, 2012)
  11. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Behn Zeitlin, 2012)
  12. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)
  13. The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance, 2012)
  14. Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995)
  15. Waterloo Road (Sidney Gilliat, 1945)
  16. Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972)
  17. Submarine (Richard Ayoade, 2010)
  18. In Darkness (Agnieszka Holland, 2011)
  19. Garden State (Zach Braff, 2004)
  20. The Razor’s Edge (Edmund Goulding, 1946)

film diary

Film Diary Friday (on a Monday): Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Some things are better enjoyed at certain periods of our lives. I can think of several examples of books and films I tried reading/viewing in years past and just couldn’t be bothered, only to change my tune when I tried them later. Twin Peaks (1991-1992) is a perfect example. I remember my former roommate and pop culture/crafting maven Tatiana marathoning this show about 5 years ago when we lived together, and didn’t think much of it then. It wasn’t until this past Christmas when I was still unemployed and I had plenty of time to kill that I gave it another go…and loved it.

David Lynch’s strange soap opera-turned-cult phenomenon centers on the town of Twin Peaks, Washington where the body of high school homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) has been found on a beach wrapped in plastic. Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan as one of the most charming and quirky male characters in TV history) is sent in by the FBI to investigate. He teams up with local law enforcement to unravel the case, only to be sucked in to a bizarre, nightmarish otherworld where dreams, reality and time operate differently and no one is who they seem. Twin Peaks launched many famous faces including Sherilyn Fenn, Lara Flynn Boyle and Mädchen Amick.

Laura Palmer is in high school? Sheryl Lee is like 35

With the success of the show, Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost planned a series of films that would explore the mysteries of Twin Peaks‘ uncanny elements. Fire Walk with Me was the first and only film to actually be produced in this series. Essentially a prequel to Twin Peaks, the first part of the film follows Special Agents Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak. Yes, that Chris Isaak) and Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland), who are sent by Agent Gordon Cole (Lynch) to a small town in Washington to investigate the murder of waitress Teresa Banks. After finding a vital clue, Chester Desmond disappears. Enter Special Agent Cooper, who has been dreaming about the Black Lodge. Cooper has visions of the killer’s next victim, a blonde high school girl who is sexually active and likes taking drugs. The film then jumps forward a year to follow the last week in the life of the girl in Cooper’s vision, Laura Palmer.

“Diane, something about this case gives me a strange feeling…”

Fire Walk with Me was obviously intended for audiences who were already familiar with the TV show. There are many familiar faces: Shelley and Leo Johnson, Bobby Briggs, James Hurley and Leland Palmer and the inhabitants of the red room, to name a few. But there are also key characters from the show that didn’t make it into the film — Audrey Horne and Sheriff Harry S. Truman, most noticeably — and are sorely missed. Some characters in the film are played by people other than the actors who embodied them in the show, which makes me question whether the original cast members were unavailable or simply uninterested in reprising their roles for the big screen. The film touches on many of the plot twists that unravel in the show, but without solid knowledge of what these twists and nuances refer to, it would be hard to piece together what happens in the film without getting confused. In fact, I feel confused simply trying to explain how others might feel confused, which is, in itself, confusing.

On the whole, Fire Walk with Me is typical, dizzying Lynch but lacks the suspense and chilling creepiness that permeate films like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. I enjoyed meeting many of these characters again and hearing Angelo Badalamenti’s iconic theme, and I suppose it was nice to see Laura Palmer alive, but one of the best things about Twin Peaks is that although it’s a bit of a mindfuck, it’s also a really great mystery. In the film, everything that had slowly been revealed in the show is spelled out directly. For example, it took several episodes to reveal who really killed Laura Palmer, and in the film we see it happen. It probably wouldn’t have worked as a film otherwise, but even though I already knew what was going to happen, the film felt like one giant spoiler, and I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed.

If you’re a Twin Peaks fan, Fire Walk with Me is worth a watch, but perhaps only to remind you how much more amazing the show was.

Rating: B –

film diary

Film Diary Friday: The Artist

Jean Dujardin and Bernice Bejo in The Artist

I was going to post this yesterday, but then I got a job, so the first in a series of Film Diary Fridays will be on a Saturday. Hopefully this will be an exception and not a rule. Anyway…

These days, more often than not, I leave the cinema feeling cheated of the majority of the money I paid to watch a film. I don’t think I’d be out of place saying there’s a lot of grade A shit that somehow manages to get financed and produced in Hollywood. I mean, I am hard-pressed to name one film in the past 10 years that’s actually been worth the extortionate ticket prices. That’s why I cherish those films that are released once in a blue moon that actually have substance and creativity, and remind me just why I love movies in the first place. I’m happy to report that on Wednesday I experienced one of those once in a blue moon moments when I went to a preview screening of the awards ceremony front-runner and critical darling The Artist.

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the biggest star in Hollywood. Like real-life Douglas Fairbanks, the tiny-mustachioed Valentin swashbuckles and charms his way across the silent screen and  into America’s hearts, thereby making him the hottest property at Kinograph Studios. Peppy Miller (Bernice Bejo) is one of Valentin’s biggest fans. When she drops her autograph book while the press are taking photos of Valentin after the premier of his latest film, she accidentally lands on the front page of the Hollywood Reporter, launching her quest to become famous. She gets a job as an extra dancing in Valentin’s next film A German Affair, and quickly becomes Hollywood’s new “It” girl.

While Peppy’s star is on the rise, Valentin’s is fast on the decline. When talkies are introduced in 1929, he laughs them off as a fad. The Kinograph studio chief (played with robust charisma by John Goodman) gives him an ultimatum: make the switch or he’s finished. Like Louise Brooks did in her heyday, Valentin decides he doesn’t need to talk on screen. Audiences love him. He spends his last penny directing and starring in what he hopes is his magnum opus, Tears of Love. But the fans don’t come and Valentin realizes how quickly a star can be replaced. “Make way for the young.” Broke and destitute, Valentin drives himself to the brink of self-destruction, only to be pulled back by the girl he made famous.

The Artist isn’t a complicated film or even a very innovative one. Instead it’s a heartfelt homage to Hollywood’s cinematic history.  My love for classic films, and Hollywood films in particular, may be why I loved this one so much, but I have a feeling I’d have enjoyed it regardless of my cinematic tastes. What stood out for me the most were the performances. Jean Dujardin was note perfect. He’s loaded with charisma and mastered the suave but silly facial expressions that were made popular by actors like Fairbanks and John Barrymore. Bernice Bejo was also lovely, and there were great supporting performances by John Goodman and James Cromwell (as Valentin’s loyal butler and chauffeur). Last but certainly not least, was the amazing “performance” by Uggie the terrier, a modern day Asta to Valentin and Peppy’s Nick and Nora.

This review would not be complete without mentioning the ending, which was the best thing possibly ever. Whoever did the choreography for the dance sequences ought to get an Oscar. These days, when mindless, action packed blockbusters rule the silver screen, it seems ironic that the film to break the monotony should be one that uses a formula that was popular nearly 100 years ago. But The Artist is like a vintage wine, the “older”, the better, and it definitely goes down smooth. I hope all of you who get the chance to see it love it as much as I did. It’s extremely nostalgic without being sappy and without trying too hard. All of the allure and magic of classic Hollywood cinema has been recreated here, and I was thoroughly enchanted.

Grade: A


film diary

Film Diary: 2012

One of my New Year’s resolutions (among many) is to keep track of all the films I watch in 2012. I had attempted it in 2011, as well, but didn’t make it past about June. Someone please slap me if I’m not more diligent this year!
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, 2011)
  • Look Back in Anger (Tony Richardson, 1959)
  • Heartbeats (Xavier Dolan, 2010)
  • The Artist (Michel Hazanavicious, 2011) x 2
  • The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011)
  • The Woman in Black (James Watkins, 2012)
  • Far From the Madding Crowd (John Schlesinger, 1967)
  • My Name was Sabina Spielrein (Elisabeth Marton, 2002)
  • A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg, 2011)
  • Hunger (Steve McQueen, 2008)
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden, 2011)
  • Rampart (Oren Moverman, 2011)
  • Safe House (Daniel Espinosa, 2012)
  • Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)
  • Trishna (Michael Winterbottom, 2011)
  • Bel Ami (Delcan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod, 2012)
  • 21 Jump Street (Phil Lord, Chris Miller, 2012)
  • The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012)
  • Kid with a Bike (Jean-Piere and Luc Dardenne, 2011)
  • Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life (Werner Herzog, 2012)
  • A Night to Remember (Roy Ward Baker, 1958)
  • Marathon Man (John Schlesinger, 1976)
  • Tomboy (Céline Sciamma, 2011)
  • Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (Marc Rothemund, 2005)
  • Accident (Joseph Losey, 1967)
  • Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, 2010)
  • Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf? (Mike Nichols, 1966)
  • Ballets Russes (Daniel Geller and Dana Goldfine, 2005)
  • Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau, 2011)
  • La Haine (Matheiu Kassovitz, 1995)
  • A Royal Affair (Nikolaj Arcel, 2012)
  • Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Andersen, 2012)
  • Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012)
  • A Royal Affair (Nikolaj Arcel, 2012)
  • Carrie (William Wyler, 1952)
  • Possessed (Curtis Bernhardt, 1947)
  • A Single Man (Tom Ford, 2010) x2
  • The Divorce of Lady X (Tim Whelan, 1938)
  • The Imposter (Bart Layton, 2012)
  • War Horse (Stephen Spielberg, 2012)
  • Great Expectations (Mike Newell, 2012)
  • Searching for Sugarman (Malik Bendjelloul, 2012)
  • Ted (Seth MacFarlane, 2012)
  • The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
  • The Untouchables (Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano, 2011)
  • Brave (Mark Andrews, 2012)
  • Bruce Campbell vs The Army of Darkness (Sam Raimi, 1992)
  • Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009)
  • Call Me Kuchu (Katherine Fairfax Wright, Malika Zouhali-Worrall, 2012)
  • Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012)
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Stephen Spielberg, 1984)
  • The Social Network (David Fincher, 2011)

film diary

Dueling Divas Blogathon: The Possession of Isabelle Adjani

Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill in Possession

“There’s nothing in common among women except menstruation.” — Helen in Possession

This post is my entry for the Dueling Divas Blogathon hosted by Lara at Backlots. The prompt was open to interpretation. Participants were able to write about actresses who clashed off-set, characters who clashed on screen, or actresses who played dual roles in the same film. I went with the third option and knew immediately which film I’d write about. It’s not normally the sort of film I go for. However, it’s a movie that warranted multiple viewings; not because I liked it per-se, but because I found it strangely fascinating and difficult to wrap my mind around. The film is Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 cult drama/horror/suspense classic Possession.

Possession is an extremely intense, unapologetic and uncomfortable study of the disintegration of a marriage and the demons we’re capable of conjuring within ourselves. Set in an eerily empty West Berlin before the Wall fell, it stars Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani as Mark and Anna, a couple whose relationship has become as cold and empty as their surroundings. When Anna leaves Mark and their son Bob without explanation, Mark finds out she has a lover (the bizarre Heinrich, played by Heinz Bennet). He confronts Heinrich only to find out that he hasn’t seen Anna in quite some time, prompting Mark to hire a private investigator to follow her. The results are quite disturbing. Anna is found living in an empty apartment downtown and is hiding a bloody, tentacled, octopus-like creature in the bedroom which she both gave birth to and is sleeping with as it matures. Wait, it keeps getting weirder. Anna is so afraid that someone will take “it” away from her that she kills any intruders and feeds them to the monster. It’s her own creation and she is desperate to keep it alive.

Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill in Possession

This is a film loaded with metaphor. Just what that metaphor is, I’m not entirely sure. However, Zulawski wrote and directed this film in the middle of a nasty divorce, and given the way it positions the characters, he seems to be channeling anger and blame through Anna, i.e. woman. It’s even difficut to say exactly who is “possessed” in this film. Is it Anna? Mark? Both of them? Who knows. But one thing is for certain, Isabelle Adjani gives an incredible performance, and this brings me to the dueling divas section of this post.

Adjani plays two roles in this film: Anna and Helen, who represent two sides of the same woman (separated by a fringed wig, some seafoam green contacts and a whole lot of crazy). Helen is a sort of clone–Mark’s ideal version of his own wife. Anna is hysterical; Helen is calm and demure. When Anna up and leaves, Helen offers to stay around and look after Bob. There is a scene when Mark is watching a home video of Anna teaching a ballet class, and Anna voices the frustration she feels trying to be the perfect woman everyone seems to want her to be; Helen is that person. Anna and Helen never meet on screen, but you don’t need a face-to-face encounter to realize how brilliantly Adjani projects the polarities of human nature. I recently dedicated an entire post to how awesome Isabelle Adjani is, and this film totally blew that admiration through the roof. Let me direct you to the infamous subway scene in which Anna finally loses her marbles and ends up literally expelling her frustration.  Perhaps I should put up a warning like “WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK” or “NOT FOR THE OVERLY SQUEAMISH”. This is the single most visceral performance of a woman going over the edge that I’ve ever seen on film. Adjani doesn’t just perform, she lives it. Think Vivien Leigh as Blanche in the final scene of A Streetcar Named Desire when she’s writhing on the floor, only magnified by 100 with an added side of slime and screaming.

Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani in Possession

The “duel” is, like so many elements in Possession, a metaphorical one. The imperfect, tortured souls meet their demise and the seemingly perfect clones take their place, signaling an apocalyptic ending. Despite Adjani winning the Caesar and best actress award at Cannes for her performance, the film was heavily cut in the US and banned altogether as a “Video Nasty” in Britain, only getting an uncut DVD release quite recently. I never would have watched this film if I hadn’t been a fan of Isabelle Adjani (I probably never would have heard of it to begin with). Although it’s not my normal cup of tea–and it’s really, really bizarre–I think the fact that I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days after viewing it is a sign of provocative filmmaking. Lars von Trier would probably agree. Possession was apparently a major influence on his controversial Antichrist.