L’appartement (1996) starring Bellucci, Cassel and Bohringer

I couldn’t find a better picture to resemble the dissecting, weaving, wretched plotline of this romantic thriller, but alas, there it is. The first thing that attracted me to this film was that it was an early film of Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel’s. The director was unknown to me but this film was one of those highly-regarded films of the mid-nineties, a time when I was just a boy, and I was amused by cinema, but would have never sought out a film like this – I was in primary school.

So, years later, I’m given the opportunity to watch it by a friend. At first it seems a pretty standard thriller or romance, still not quite unshedding its light upon you for the first time. It looks glossy, like there is a haze over the lens that softens everything to make this film feel like it’s a dream, a beautiful, non-chalant dream filled with romanticism. As it unfolds, switching between two time periods, almost all the characters (there are three vital ones and one submissive one) are playing two different characters – now and then. To be honest, the film portrays all this so melodramatically that after the first forty-five minutes, you are hooked.

It’s been compared to Hitchcock, but I would not go so far, the haunting and heightened strings that play on the soundtrack resemble many films from the American fifties, the ideas and values are on another level too, never grounded in reality but set in the world onscreen – where characters behave the way we do – but are so full of life and intensity, of power and relevance, that sitting in the theatre we are merely watching to enjoy the sights before us – from that, we can take from it whatever we like. The characters are so attractive that we can replace them with anyone we know in the real world and play Barbie and Ken for Sandra and Derrick. It’s transformation, it’s translucent characters on screen, and we can represent them as ourselves.

The production never goes out of its way to pretend life is bigger then what it is. What is pleasant is that the story primarily takes place only in apartments, cafes and phonebooths. It’s a sincere film that lends itself to you. There are no fancy camera moves that are there to puzzle you although the film itself is a puzzle. It’s almost as if this film portrays what the theatre would become too complex with. It’s portrays complexity simply with a camera, and also allows time and space to travel the way a play could not.

There are some people who despise films that disguise themselves with complexity, damning the writer – claiming they chose the answer and wrote the script with questions to finally unfold everything neatly at the end – others enjoy the ride. I can’t comment on this in regards to this film. Many people make that comment about a whodunnit or murder mystery which this film is not. It’s purely a love story and the ideas and themes prevail over any sort of web of intrigue surrounding the story.

The film is dramatic, but tastefully done, it’s thrilling and sensational and its about love.  You don’t quite know where the film is going in the first ten minutes, but you gather its complex, and as it switches to the past things only become more enticing. The past and present in our minds is a complex thought. How can you untangle the complex thoughts that go through our minds when you think of someone you really love?

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Tournée (2010) directed by Mathieu Almaric

Tournée is one of those wonderfully-crafted masterpieces that isn’t a masterpiece. A masterpiece is a word to describe a million different colours, themes and brushstrokes, or chemicals combined to create an image of insignificant brilliance. I don’t know why people should use such a word other then to describe something that could take hours to discuss in a few syllables.

I had been a fan of Almaric since seeing him in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) and had seen him in other movies such that many westerners would know him from. I liked him in the Mesrine film. Many of the other pictures that he has worked on I have not had the pleasure of seeing but will always make an effort since seeing this film he directs and stars in.

Tournée is a road movie. This one takes the shape of a troupe of travelling burlesque performers – all picked individually and gathered into a group by the troupe’s French manager – Mathieu Almaric starring as Joachim Zand. The performers are all Americans, picked by Zand as he was travelling through the US, and brought to his home country to entertain the country in various venues and clubs. Simply its a rock and roll band on tour, the girls drink and party, it’s their show and they’ll perform it the way they want to, and Zand is there to manage.

There are plenty of delightful moments in this road movie and the road in this movie serves the purpose for all of us, the characters and the audience, can share this experience together. We’re all there to serve a common purpose, to get the show done, and everything that goes into that is here on show – all the relationships, the performances, the girls, the management, the audiences – they all gel together, or fall apart right before your eyes like a fly on the wall documentary, except that its not.

The Americans, in this French film, who are the stars of the show are the stars of this picture. The heart of the show, and also of this picture is Joachim Zand, the manager. As the film goes on, and as the show reaches its final audience in Paris I found this character increasingly mesmerising, and I don’t want to forget to mention the American Miranda Colclasure starring as the burlesque performer Mimi Le Meaux.

This film is filled with stunning performances bringing these characters to life and is full of heart with blood that pulses with a beat that runs through your veins filling the film with life and adventure. It’s because of this that it is a joy to endure, the performances are vivid, and the texture is raw. It beats to life with a study of the human character and successfully breathes the breathless emotions of the living character.

Five out of Five!

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Noise (2007) Commit to Memory – directed by Matthew Saville

It was the best Australian film of 2007. When a film comes out that enthrals you the way Noise does, it’s a bonus that it came from Australia. Modern Australian cinema could be described in some circumstances as “honest” and “heartbreaking”. The Australian hit of the year was “Romulus, My Father”. Other films that come to mind of recent years are “Beautiful Kate”, “Last Ride”, “Australia” and “Disgrace”. Films that stick outside the norm will always be more successful then the more common. Noise is an original premise, therefore the ground the filmmakers are stepping on is foreign territory. That’s what makes this film a success, and should be a hit, and when it is not, it will become a cult.

Australian cinema needs to be cherished when it is worth it and should not be when it isn’t. If you look at a recent Australian film “Wasted on the Young” you will see that it gets a great marketing campaign yet the film was empty. What was original was that it was a genre film, like “Noise” and others such as “Animal Kingdom” and “The Square”. Wasted on the Young is a teen thriller. It may not be a very good one, but it was different from others, and that is why it got a decent marketing campaign. I do believe that bad films will always exist and that, in fact, they will be more successful than the good ones.

Films like Noise pass under the rader, or get the old “I really want to see that movie,” and yet it gets lost beneath it all. Henri Langois of the Cinematheque Francais fought for the idea that a film lives on through the cinema. The only way for a film to become recognised is through screening it. If a film like Wasted on the Young gets a similar release on video and continues its moderate success where does this lead Australian cinema. Another similar film was “Samson & Delilah” which had a marketing campaign (a pretty horrible one) but was greeted by audiences. If Noise was given the same marketing campaign would it be as successful a film?

The thing with marketing campaign’s is they can make or break a movie. The worst type are the dishonest ones that completely lead the audience into the wrong direction. “Catfish” did this and so did “Samson & Delilah”. Both these film were successes so you could say that the success of a marketing campaign is purely unpredictable. That’s why people get on board after successes like Samson & Delilah and start trying to change incentives and you get films like Wasted on the Young – in my opinion could have been a much better film than it was – which do not fully develop their scripts. Noise on the other hand is a purely well-thought out mystery thriller right up until the climax.

Matthew Saville is to become one of Australia’s leading directors. His career has been in television and this at the moment is his only feature credit. Many directors follow this path such as Don Siegel and Stephen Frears who move on to become great artists of the medium. Other directors such as Luis Bunuel and Jean Renoir strictly only work with cinema; or other thrive from the theatre – Mike Leigh. It’s obvious we’ll be seeing Saville’s career head towards that of television and we will have to anticipate his next film outing (which may be years away). By this stage, we should see a much more crafted director with an optimal and refined way of working with the actor’s performance.

Here, Saville has crafted a compelling drama with a noir-like narrative. It follows a police officer who is handicapped with tinnitus (a constant ringing in the ears). After a dizzy spell renders him unconscious whilst on duty he finds himself working the lonely midnight shift in a temporary police caravan which has been placed near the location of a recent murder for surveillance. It’s an interesting and riveting locale setting you up for a creepy, intriguing, dark tale of mystery.

A striking point of the film is the environment of the film and the characters its filled with. It’s a fairly honest portrayal of mankind in a universal setting. Sure, it’s Melbourne, you can tell by the way the characters speak and you could guess the area I suppose, but it’s not a social commentary on a particular suburb. It’s about the universal human character – characters who seek a lifestyle of change, or of violence, or of redemption. The premise for the film introduces us to an array of characters who are living in this world – which is neither desolate or paradise, but somewhere lying between the two where reality sits. The environment is charming in some ways, and utopian in other ways, and presents how these characters fit universally into it. This is initially what makes the film so accessible.

It’s refreshing to see a narrative that avoids clichés derived from genre, country or . We’re invited to a somewhat genre set in a fictional world of nightmare’s but grounded in reality. The film is a modern classic because it allows you full access to this world, yet safely keeps you in the distance, so as not to bombard you with the dramatic tensions going on in the characters lives. We are invited to taste and flirt with the atrocious circumstances the characters are dealing with (being the target of a crazed psychotic killer, ears ringing with tinnitus) but are not overwhelmed by them. By doing this we are not smashed by the senses, nor are we given total access to the characters, these problems are the characters problem, and the film allows them to deal with them, not the viewer, thus engaging the viewer to the narrative.

I won’t go into any more of the treasures of the cinema presented in Noise but ask you to seek out this classic, yearn for more viewings and discussions with it’s makers, to ask them questions and to force yourself to enjoy the cinema granted before your eyes. It is through watching and seeing that the cinema lives on, and having films that can be seen and watched to be thought-provoking and intended to present something of value we should be thankful that people are making movies like Noise. I think through the right critical praise and encouraging ourselves to applaud filmmakers like Matthew Saville, we ourselves will be treated to more great and grander stories down the line.

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – theatrically details the despicable and the useless

It is tragedy to think why somebody would gamble their whole life, waste it away, once be young and grow old, to loose, and to still think they can end up on top. What would it take to save yourself from that deed? However pathetic it sounds I guess there is something beautiful about the sacrifices people would take to solve a lifetime of pain they have caused.

I think this is a great film because of that. It solves the problems by using the theatrical technique of performance and design, and the cinematic technique of camerawork and lighting that crosses both mediums. I read in a book (by Alexander Mackendrick) that you need to master the craft of narrative before you could master comedy. The director, Terry Gilliam, is a master of this craft.

Sometimes I think of a film’s re-watchability. Another Terry Gilliam film that comes to mind is Twelve Monkeys, (maybe not the best example) only because this particular film, I have re-watched multiple times and it has maintained its enjoyability for me. Doctor Parnassus has the same feeling toward me – upon my second viewing of the film. The film displays a technically brilliant approach to the craft, characters are being brought to life before your very eyes by a means of performance that is theatrical and captured cinematically through creative camerawork that encaptulates the imagination of the narrative.

In this regard I think the film works technically with the story it is presenting in a coherrent manner. I do not know why people found the story confusing (although I do admit this is my second viewing) because the characters and the way they are performed presents  the narrative clearly enough. The special effects, the production, the camerawork, the performances, the sounds effects work in unison to portray the narrative that is otherworldy, and it’s the gelling of all this which makes me think the film is wonderfully successful.

I guess at the end of the day it is a story about whatever you may make of it. Simple stories tend to be the most appreciated and that is why they have been told over and over again. Despite how convoluted things may seem in one’s imagination, there is a clear answer when you sit back and view it all from afar. Doctor Parnassus may be a film that looks complex, due to the complexity that has gone into every shot, but I appeciate the fact that it uses complexity to portray something that is complex – our minds.

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to the people who adore cinema

I have nothing particularly interesting to post on my first post. The reason for this is because I really don’t know what I want to do by writing on cinema. I need to practise writing and I hope that over time my reason for writing will shed its light, as the cinema does when the house light dim.

Initially I will spend a few words discussing my thoughts on the cinema. Cinema, to me, is a world of images, a world of light, a world of sound, a world of montages which allow us to reflect on our own lives through the experience of others. That is what story-telling can do for us.

Cinema is also a business. It’s about entertainment and salability (I’m not sure if that is the right word). It’s about marketing. I do believe much of that marketing is created after a film is completed, however, there is a degree that has its impact on a picture before it has begun which by means has creative influences.

I love cinema. Cinema is my one passion in this world (apart from women) but I do believe that there is a relationship between the two. I am hoping that I will find a point in my life where the two will meet and I will just have everything in the world. It’s at least something to live for, even though it seems ridiculous.

I do hope to bring some writing of interest in this blog. I hope to share with the world some of the movies I have seen and my thoughts. I think I can have a positive impact on the current state of the world and I may as well try by writing.

With that, I expect to see the world around soon!

regards,

Anonymous Projectionist

 

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