Thursday, 9 September 2010

I'm Still Here

A film by Casey Affleck, starring Joaquin Phoenix

Watching this much mulled over film does little to put the mind at ease, and rather than solving the debates of it's legitimacy that have been bouncing around for two years (ever since Joaquin handed in his actor's notice), instead it fires them up and with a new gusto they are being argued over pasta and wine in the restaurants of the Venice Lido. Nobody can say for sure whether this was a documentary or a 'mockumentary', save for Affleck and Phoenix themselves, and others involved in the making of the film. Despite some obviously staged scenes, the film is remarkably convincing.

I'm Still Here: The Hoax
Hats off to Phoenix. The younger, more handsome Affleck brother's film is stage to some of the most convincing, moving and dedicated method acting I have ever seen, and seriously questions the nature of 'Hollywood' mentality and the destructive effect it can have on the lives of those it engulfs.

I'm Still Here: The Documentary
If we consider that this may very well be an intimate portrayal of a man's rejection of his career and a retreat into another life, which eventually leads to some sort of breakdown, it is impossible to deny that it is a highly valuable piece of cinema. And again, my hat stays in the air for the subject of the film. The bravery (or stupidity? It's a fine line) Phoenix showed in allowing himself to be portrayed in compromising and vulnerable situations is second to none. Primarily, the film invokes sympathy for Joaquin as we see his most profound moments of fragility.

Whether we are to take this film as ‘reality’ or as an elaborate ruse, it makes for enthralling, moving and incredibly uncomfortable watching. It also sparks a great debate, frequently overheard after screenings, as to the nature of acting in general. Even if this film is a hoax, the Joaquin Phoenix that Phoenix chose to present to the world was a real person engaging in real activities; it is impossible to disconnect the actor from the role he plays, as this role is essentially himself. Ultimately, the film asks us what is acting- or perhaps closer to the bone, can we really tell who is or isn’t living their life playing a role?

Turns out

Pequeñas Voces (Little Voices: Review)

a film by Jairo Carillo and Oscar Andadre 

 This deeply moving animation film was something close to ten years in the making, and my does it show, in the careful craftsmanship of the animations, and in the meticulous layering of every image. The animations themselves are made up from a combination of two dimensional, remastered childrens' drawings of their own experiences and of digitally animated main characters- allowing them to function within a world they created for themselves. These characters all experience very different, but similarly moving and traumatic effects of the conflicts and displacement in Columbia: the film brings the four together in a union of the four stories.  

 The beautiful ‘Little Voices’, real children who were interviewed to tell their own stories and asked to illustrate their tales, bring a new and overwhelmingly innocent attitude to the events in Columbia. The pure truth of the voiceovers telling of life before, during and after their experiences is enough to move you to tears. The film is a masterpiece, if not of technicality of truth and emotion, and is not created only by Carillo and Andrade but by the raw innocence of the children’s opinions and their breathing life into their own drawings. 

 As an animation it is also very interesting; using a simulation of a ‘camera’ which moves and pans out as though it is filming a real sequence and the immobile backdrop of landscapes and secondary characters taken directly from the childrens' own artwork. We are drawn into the world of Pequeñas Voces as though it is a reality; we forget it is an animated movie almost entirely. The film, altogether, was beautiful. 

The most incredible aspect was the attitude the children have, harboring no resentment and no bitterness, happy with their lot, despite the trauma it had presented them with. The optimism of their view of life is quite contagious, the beauty of the film resounds for some time after leaving the cinema.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

La Belle Endormie (The Sleeping Beauty) Review

One may think that perhaps there is not much more to be done with Perrault’s classic fairy tale; when it comes down to it, is a fairy tale not just a fairy tale? And, once Disney dunnit, nobody else need bother. Au contraire. Breillat’s recent adaptation of Sleeping Beauty, (La Belle Endormie), undoubtedly proves one wrong. And rightly so: interpretations and modern reworkings of fairy tales can lead to masterpieces of imagination and surrealism, and the possibilities are indeed endless.
When the stubborn, tomboyish and quite delightful Princess Anastasia (Carla Bresninou) falls into a century of accursed slumber, she is granted the consolatory freedom to occupy herself by living a life of 'thrills' through dreams. La Belle Endormie plays out in a series of bizarre and beautiful dreamscapes, following the comings and goings of the eternally young Anastasia as she encounters perils and forges new relationships in her hundred years as a six year old.
The film blends both the original tale of Sleeping Beauty we all know and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen into a spectacular dream life for the princess. Anastasia roams from one fantastical land to another and her reveries are a beautiful and surreal exploration of the eternity of childhood, of love and of grief.
When the fanciful princess awakes, gazing into the eyes of her prince-not-quite-so-Charming one hundred years later, in a 20th Century world which to her is utterly alien, she is forced to adapt to new challenges and dangers, which are often more frightening and certainly more real than the ogres of her nightmares. It is an allegory of a new life and of initiation, of blossoming quite unexpectedly into modern adulthood as much as it is a fantastical tale.
Breillat moves away from the subject matter of her earlier films, leaving behind her too the controversy she has aroused with her more explicit work. Rather than the focus of this film being 'coming-of-age', a recurrent theme in her earlier cinema, she omits this period of the Princess's life almost entirely: upon waking the princess is thrown into adulthood. 
The only disagreeable aspect of the film was the somewhat unnecessary use of CGI, whether it was entirely needless or the viewers imagination would have done the job just fine (we do understand that wands make magic, there’s simply no need for cheap-looking sparkles, please don’t insult us), without taking away from the simplicity and clarity of the film.

Interview with Catherine Breillat: Dir. Sleeping Beauty (La Belle Endormie)

  What would you consider to be the main theme of the film, and what meaning does this hold for you as the director and the audience?
CB As a child, it was wonderful to challenge the world through the fairytales I read, I would always consider myself as a character of the tale, I would imagine we can ourselves overcome obstacles like a knight, the Sir Vladimir of Princess Anastasia’s fantasies. Like in dreams, if we believed that our fears were not real we can overcome them, as in a nightmare we can escape by waking up. Because the Sleeping Beauty cannot wake up, she must travel from nightmare to nightmare as she frees herself from each one, and eventually she dies, which in a dream will cause the dreamer to wake up.
Through her dreams, Anastasia learns about the world and gains the experience she will need to tackle adulthood when she awakes. However, when she does wake she is faced with a world of feelings she is unfamiliar with. Her Prince is not the Prince Charming she has dreamed of and knows, and being from the modern age he is not so charming. This makes the young romance more exciting. Although the Sleeping Beauty does not know her prince, she is more capable of dealing with modern life, but both of the lovers are still incredibly vulnerable, a vulnerability accompanied by strength.
I myself am entering old age, and am the same person as when I was a little girl- when I was twenty, the idea of ‘me’ as thirty, as fourty, as fifty… it was impossible. I did not want to change, I still do not want to change. I am like an older Sleeping Beauty- still the same little girl. The Sleeping Beauty is still the little girl who fell asleep so long ago, although she is not aware of this: as the fairy says at the beginning of the film, childhood is endless.
  The Sleeping Beauty, upon waking, experiences a coming-of-age of sorts, however she is already a woman, having aged during her enchanted sleep. Was there a reason behind omitting her development?
CB Unlike the original Perrault fairy tale, I changed the age of the Sleeping Beauty when she falls asleep from sixteen to just six, as much of my earlier work confronts coming-of-age and puberty, and I wanted to examine life on either side of this rather than the process of maturing itself, so the film focuses on childhood and adulthood.
  The Princess we see at the end of the film is very different to the young girl at the start, as she adapts to the modern world and learns to cope there by herself. Can this be seen in a way as a rebirth for the princess, and to you what does her own child represent?
CB The princess is still virginal despite her initiation as she enters a new life, and as a result she is weaker than the child who roamed dreamscapes as she is entering into a strange and different, but very real world, the dangers of which are new and more subtle.
The rebirth she has is into a life as beautiful as the one she left behind in her dreams, but it is a darker beauty and is far more complicated.
She has the same love for her Prince as before, but now it is after, so it is a new manifestation of love, just as she is not familiar with her prince, but all the same he is her Prince Charming. She has found a balance in her new life.
The princess’s child must embody a different kind of knight to ‘Sir Vladimir’, and must lead life in a different way, however he is the same. 

Originally published:

Life as a Tourist; Review of Matias Bize's 'La Vida de Los Peces'


The story of a man returning home to a first love lost could be considered as a less than remarkable story, done and redone by writers of films and novels for centuries under many different guises, and sad to say it is wholly predictable. However, the exploration of a man’s character and solitude we find in Matias Bize’s latest film, La Vida de Los Peces can somewhat overcome the cliché and adds an originality it was in danger of lacking.
As the protagonist Andres (Santiago Cabrera) returns home after a decade of traveling, we see him travel both physically and symbolically through the rooms of the house and the memories he must confront, as well as the people from his past- and the grief that accompanies absences. Ultimately, the film allows us to examine the various levels of the character’s personality and solitude.
The atmosphere of the film varies as often as the character walks from one room to another, although sadness is pervading, which is embodied by the colours and lighting; a golden hue includes us in a nostalgic catch-up with an old friend, and the harsh blue light of a fish tank allows us to see both Andres’ and his romantic counterpart Beatriz’s (Blanca Lewin) obvious turmoil. Bize encourages his audience to focus on the emotions and internal stories of the characters, placing the plot and even the dialogue in a secondary layer. Music and visuals increase in volume to meet the rise an Andre’s passion, or Andre’s sadness; his feelings are communicated to us through music and we see the people, often only their faces, the film uses almost portrait-like shooting, we are enticed to perceive the characters in his point of view and to concentrate not on the whole picture but on specific details.
The ending of the film is as predictable as it must be, but beautifully portrayed in a climactic final scene, and the film makes up for in visuals what it lacks in depth of storyline. The intensity of our understanding of the solitary man living life ‘as a tourist’, and the empathy for the character so movingly portrayed by Cabrera allows a potentially shallow and insipid film to enthrall, even if it fails to resound in memory for long.

Originally Published:

Sunday, 18 July 2010


Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard and Tom Hardy

I've been waiting on tenterhooks for what seems like an excruciatingly long time for the release of Nolan's latest creation, and, shockingly, my waiting was not in vain. The cast, a combination of failsafe talent (Murphy, Cotillard and DiCaprio) and up-and-coming fresh blood (Page, Gordon-Levitt) gel together perfectly, adding chemistry and yet more layers to the already incredibly clever film.

The only criticism I can offer is that the central character, Cobb's, uncanny resemblance to Leo's latest role alongside Mark Ruffalo in Shutter Island cannot go un-noticedboth men are faced with simiar personal challenges and bear the same complexities.

I must confess, I am still not entirely certain of what occurred in the film, however I can say with some certainty that nobody, really, is. The ambiguity and excruciatingly tense final scene shatters all certainties that have been built upon throughout the two and a half hours of intense watching; the labyrinth motif requires full attention at all times. Blink and you'll miss it, so I advise you not to drink too much Sprite before you take your seat because if you leave the film, it will never return to coherency.

Thursday, 18 March 2010


Director: Tom Ford
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult, Matthew Goode

I can't believe I waited so long to go and see this film; I've been looking forwards to it since July last year and it's been out for a good month now, I have no idea what possessed me. Now I've seen it, that is. Normally, when I visit a cinema with high expectations I leave either merely satisfied, saddened or bitterly disappointed. It is so rare that I have my expectations monumentally exceeded that I can't remember when, or if it has ever happened before.

Tom Ford's directorial debut literally left me speechless, tearful and elated at the same time. It was one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen, and the lighting followed the mood and feeling of both film and audience so perfectly that it seemed that the clouding was in my vision not the lens of the camera, the gleeful haze of George's happy realisations were my own changing world view, not a masterly work of lighting.

I can't quite express how important it is you see this masterpiece; you wouldn't really believe me until you had seen it. Usually it is upon a third viewing that a film is given the key to the glorified hall of 'my faourite films', but A Single Man has jumped the queue, burst through the doors and taken a comfortable seat on the throne at the head of the table, and I only saw it yesterday.

A plea to Tom Ford: Make another film, please.

Monday, 18 January 2010

67th Annual Golden Globe Awards

Best Motion Picture – Drama: Avatar
Ok... it was pretty good, but I can't help but wish Tarantino had got this for Inglorious.

Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy: The Hangover
I did think this film was hilarious, and although I liked Nine it was lacking in something essential to  make it a classic, so I'm fairly glad that did not win.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama: Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart
Unfortunately I haven't seen this yet, but no comment.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama: Sandra Bullock for The Blind Slide
I have also not caught this yet, but I'm not a Sandra Bullock fan so I imagine I would be dissatisfied.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy: Robert Downey Jr. for Sherlock Holmes
Hurrah, is all I can say to this!

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy: Helen Mirren for Julie and Julia
Ok, Helen Mirren is good, but Marion Cotillard happens to be my biggest girl-crush ever, so I do wish she had won this for Nine, her performance made the film.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Christoph Waltz for Inglorious Basterds.
Waltz as incredible as Col. Hans Landa, there was no competition.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Mo'Nique for Precious.
Didn't see this, but Penelope Cruz was a strong contender for me so it's a shame to see her usurped.

Best Director - Motion Picture: James Cameron for Avatar.
Same feelings as before; he's good, but Tarantino was better.

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture: Up in the Air.
Fair play...broken record that I am... INGLORIOUS.

Best Animated Film: Up.

For the nominees and the rest of the awards, go here.
What did you think of the results?

Monday, 4 January 2010

Nowhere Boy

Director: Sam Taylor Wood
Starring: Aaron Johnston, Tom Sangster, Kristin Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff.

Let us ignore the somewhat questionable relationship between the 40+ Director and the 19 year old star in this film. It has actually made me think about the irrelevance of such details; aside from rare dictation of who gets what role in the film, how can we consider gossip and scandal as a deciding factor in our judgement of films? Conversing witha  good friend the other day, I was asked, somewhat to my surprise 'How can you watch Platoon when you know what Charlie Sheen has done?' My response to this was, obviously, it's a good film, it doesn't matter who is in it or what they have done. Some musicians have questionable personalities and 'habits', can we let this get in the way of our appreciation of their work? Lord Byron was a known arse, yet his poetry is some of the best I have ever read.

Ranting aside, it is safe to say my external opinions of some people involved in the making of this gem did not obscure my appreciation of this film, and nor do they or should they matter to you. The acting is incredible, expected from Scott Thomas and Duff, and something of a pleasant surprise from the younger stars in this film, who have come a long way from Love Actually and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging... The shooting was also beautiful, perfectly nostalgic and reflective of the 50's and early 60's, and the easy relation s between Observer and actor make empathy for the young John Lennon unavoidable, even when he is not acting in a way that calls for sympathy in any way. Go and see this, go and enjoy this, then tell me what you thought!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

A Serious Man

Director: The Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan Coen)
Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed and Sari Lennick

I've been long awaiting this film; it's not often that a director, or in this case the directors, are so consistent at making amazing films. And A Serious Man flouts no preconceptions of the siblings' work. The film is darkly hilarious, wonderfully awkward and the protagonist's frustrations and despairs translate seamlessly into the viewer's reality. The film is characteristic of the Brothers' work; strangely pleasing and wholly random, but with social and cultural commentary in it's veins. If you liked Barton Fink and Raising Arizona, it is closer in style to these than more light-hearted films like Burn After Reading and O Brother Where Art Thou. Whatever your preferences, even if the names Joel and Ethan Coen are fresh to your poor, incomplete ears, watch this film, fork out the cinema fees. It's another Coen Masterpiece.

Personal Favourties From the 'Noughties'

Ingloriuos Basterds; Quentin Tarantino (2009). What Tarantino film doesn't fit the bill of the perfect film? Inglorious has to be one of my favourite films of all time. And the acting... Impeccable, especially on the part of Christoph Waltz, who chills to the bone as the masochistic Colonel Hans Landa. Laugh, cry, grimace... do whatever you want, so long as you admire.

Into The Wild; Sean Penn (2007). One of the films that sparked my love for all things cinema, introduced me to Emile Hirsch, and made me want to burn all my money and run away... until the end. It is an imperative part of life that you see this film; if you're anything like me, it will change yours.

The Dark Knight; Christopher Nolan (2008). Epic in every sense of the word. Amazing in every sense of the word. and hats off to Maggie Gyllenhaal for making the only disappointing character in the preluding film, Batman Begins, a central and fascinating role. And, obviously, Heath Ledger wows and terrifies us with his penultimate and best performance, winning a posthumous Oscar, which was certainly not just out of pity.

The Prestige; Christopher Nolan (2006). Another of Nolan's masterpieces, the Prestige is amazingly clever and lots of fun, a good film all round, and it fails to surprise me that he features twice in my line-up...

O Brother Where Art Thou; Joel & Ethan Coen (2000). This could be any one of these incredible sibling's films, but O Brother... just so happens to be a favourite of mine. These two geniuses are figureheads of modern cinema.

Slumdog Millionaire; Danny Boyle (2008). Wiped the board at the awards and for good reason, Boyle's adaptation of the little known novel Q&A is a menagerie of visuals, audio and acting that leave your mouth open in wonder.

La Vie En Rose (Fr: La Mome); Olivier Dahan (2007). You can't go amiss with a good musician's biopic, and singer Edith Piaf's rubble-to-the-Ritz life is explored beautifully in this French wonder, for which Marion Cotillard won a much deserved Oscar.  

Sherlock Holmes; Guy Ritchie (2009). Perhaps because it is so fresh in my memory, but this film was resoundingly excellent, as is the pattern with Ritchie's films, I have loved Snatch, Lock, Stock... and Rock n' Rolla all as much as this. Reviewed below.

Public Enemies; Michael Mann (2009). For me, Johnny Depp never fails to impress; it's a wonder this is his only film I have chosen. Obviously dashingly handsome, mind-blowingly good at acting, in fact possibly one of the best actors in history. I do not exaggerate. Along with Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard, Depp stars in the incredible story of John Dillinger; definitely one to watch, if you haven;t already.