Archive for the ‘Film’ Category


A Most Wanted Man

Written on September 12, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Film

descargaA weirdly bracing atmosphere of disillusion pervades Anton Corbijn’s superbly composed and controlled movie, adapted by the Australian screenwriter Andrew Bovell from John le Carré’s 2008 spy novel, and featuring an outstandingly wintry performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman in his final leading role on screen. The all-encompassing cynicism induces a stark kind of clarity, for the audience if not the fictional participants. This film is pregnant with ideas, and an awful kind of disquiet.

What the debacle of Burgess and Maclean was for the world of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in the early 70s, so 9/11 is for the international intelligence community in this tense drama, set among quarrelling spies in Hamburg, where a decade previously the WTC kamikaze attacks had been planned. This is a world of agents arguing about the size and shape of bolts to be affixed to the barn door, strenuously competing with each other to assess the horse’s sickening absence, and yet tormented with the thought that a second horse might yet suddenly emerge from the hay.

The spycraft on offer looks modern and yet in some ways as old as the hills. USB sticks with top-secret material are gingerly removed from packs of cigarettes bought with a curt exchange of gaze-avoiding pleasantries from a trusted vendor. Chiefs have Ipcress-File-style turf spats, tumblers of scotch are gulped in the middle of the day, great big tank-like Mercs are driven around, and spies in male-female pairings pretend to be snogging while carrying out surveillance – that time-honoured device for spy movies to sneak in a bit of sexiness.

Günther Bachmann is the dishevelled German spymaster running a covert, deniable operation to root out jihadis in Hamburg; he is played with a rumpled worldliness by Hoffman, looking like a hungover panda, his great bristly eyebrows often arched up in fatigue and pain. At one stage, Hoffman emerges from a helicopter and staggers towards the camera while tucking his shirt in, a lonely, unhappy unmade-bed of a man. He speaks English with a German accent, a convention that has the effect of tamping down some of the mannerisms that this actor was perhaps a little prone to. The resulting speaking voice has something of Anthony Hopkins about it. Bachmann’s team have located an illegal Chechen immigrant and suspected terrorist called Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin). He is not the usual penniless asylum seeker: Karpov has a letter of introduction to a sinister private banker, Thomas Brue (Willem Dafoe) and, to the authorities’ astonishment, this man now wishes to clean out a certain numbered account. Glowering intelligence chief Dieter Mohr (Rainer Bock) wants to bring in Karpov straightaway, but Bachmann urges hanging back, because Karpov might lead them to someone higher up the command chain, and appears to have the support of a CIA operative, Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright). Yet Bachmann’s perceived laxity enrages his supposed colleagues and increasingly the chief suspect, the most wanted man, could be Bachmann himself.

Continue reading in The Guardian


Grand Central

Written on August 28, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Film

Grand_Central_posterAn illicit romance blooms in a powder-keg environment in Grand Central, French writer-director Rebecca Zlotowski’s second feature that has a great premise but is bogged down by a weaker second half and an unsure handle on the characters. Set among the exploited blue-collar workers at a nuclear power plant in France, the story certainly has an unusual setting, which Zlotowski depicts with an almost Loach-ian attention to unfussy, everyday detail. But the torrid love affair that develops against this largely realistic backdrop between two good-looking colleagues (played by blonde bombshell Lea Seydoux and A Prophet’s Tahar Rahim) is too bombastic and clichéd for the film to ever become a single whole.

Though the film’s generally well-acted and benefits from a few cuts of great music on the soundtrack — courtesy of techno-artist Rob, who also scored the director’s first film, Dear Prudence, which already starred Seydoux — Grand Central’s box office won’t be cooling-tower high beyond home turf, though Franco-friendly venues and festivals could opt for niche engagements.

The film opens with Tcherno (Johan Libereau, another Prudence alumnus) stealing the wallet of Gary (Rahim) on a train. The down-and-out youngsters both hope to be hired by a sub-contractor to do decontamination work at a nuclear power plant and before they’ve even arrived at their future workplace, Gary has stolen Tcherno’s wallet in revenge and the two lowlifes have become fast friends.

The lively opening, set to a pulsating score, imbues the early going with a young and reckless energy that mirrors the characters, who’ll risk being laid off if they’re exposed to too much radiation during the unavoidable small accidents that occur, thus putting either their health or their livelihood in the balance for a ridiculously low income.

Gary finds a bed in a nearby trailer park where several co-workers live, including the veteran Gilles (Dardenne regular Olivier Gourmet), who trains the rookies, and the hulking Toni (Denis Menochet), whose fiancée, Karole (Seydoux), is introduced to Gary at a bar where she spontaneously kisses him in an attempt to explain how radiation sickness feels. Immediately, Gary is bewitched by Karole, and soon the two are secretly meeting in the nearby bulrushes for extended bouts of moonlit lovemaking. And as if that sight wasn’t enough of a Hallmark-cliché, the suddenly syrupy score further underlines the point, moving the film far away from the realism of its power plant-set scenes and straight into Lifetime territory.

Continue reading in The Hollywood Reporter


‘Brando’s Smile’, by Susan L Mizruchi

Written on August 14, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Film, Literature

brandoMarlon Brando, 1924-2004. Actor, expert make-up artist, bisexual sex addict, kook. Only son of two drunks, with a bohemian mother so volatile he learnt young to perfect impressions of not just animals and people but machines and inanimate objects in order to soothe her – his “cash register” was, by all accounts, irresistible. Sympathetic Boston English professor Susan Mizruchi is keen to add “intellectual” to the list in this new biography. “Brando has been a victim of sexism,” she writes. “Because he was so charming and physically appealing, his equally energetic mind has tended to be negated.”

In fact, the actor did poorly at school and was expelled from military academy. But in his early twenties he fell in with a radical drama teacher, Stella Adler, in New York – he did not, as many assume, study the Method at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg – who believed that actors were essentially a breed of undercover agent, trained to notice everything. By the early 1950s, first on stage and then in movies such as A Streetcar Named Desire and The Wild One, the thrill that came off him had audiences clutching at their faces, blushing like plums, not just because of his outrageous sex appeal but the unusual way in which he gave working men “classical gestures, size and stature”. Elia Kazan’s first impression was that the actor was “subtly humorous, catlike, lazy, not easy to frighten or rush”. Kazan, who went on to direct Brando in the monumental On the Waterfront in 1954, learnt never to superimpose any will on him, just to wait quietly as Brando worked out a part, confident “a miracle” would come (Brando won the Oscar for best actor).

A night owl who rarely got up before the afternoon and who collected raccoons and pigs, Brando was doggedly resistant to convention all his life, and is frequently described as “unquestionably odd” and “very strange”. Ever nervous about his academic knowledge, he was a classic autodidact with a whole archipelago of studies and subjects, from Jung to black holes, maps, wildlife, Judaism, the Native American, Shakespeare.

For the first time among his biographers, Mizruchi had access to Brando’s library of more than 4,000 books complete with his personal annotations. His bad spelling is spectacular (“entrieging”) and his jottings in the margins endearingly keen and wry. “RIDICULOUS”, “GREAT GOD!” And “GET” next to anything that might inspire him to further reading. In his copy of The Brothers Karamazovhe underlines every unfamiliar word.

Continue reading in Financial Times


Magic in the Moonlight

Written on August 7, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Film

magicinthemoonlightBefore he alighted on a career in comedy, Woody Allen aspired to be a magician, spending hours every day practising sleight-of-hand tricks with billiard balls, coins, cards and rings.

As if proving that old age is a kind of second childhood, Allen has been on a magic-themed run of late, with Scoop, the Curse of the Jade Scorpion, I See a Tall Dark Stranger and now Magic In The Moonlight, his 47th film, in which Colin Firth plays a celebrated stage magician asked to debunk an American clairvoyant named Sophie Baker (Emma Stone) who appears to have hoodwinked a rich American family in their home on the Riviera. Screwing up her nose and cradling the air with her hands, Stone’s green eyes seem to well with news of the dearly departed. Her cuteness is confounding. “The more I watch her, the more I’m stumped,” confesses Stanley. Is her magic real or it is it a trick?

Some may feel the same way about the movie. Spun from the most gossamer-thin of ideas — a sketch really, stretched out to feature length – the film is as airy as they come, propelled along by a plot seemingly plucked from the 1920s in which it is set. Firth falls for Stone, as of course he must. After a rain-soaked dash to a planetarium, a cupid’s stratagem which last saw the light of day in Manhattan, Stanley gazes up at the stars and begins to wonder if there aren’t more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in his dry, rationalist philosophy — a theme that Allen has been cogitating since A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, with which this film shares its air of summer magic if not quite its comic canter.

Allen’s comic instincts appear to be softening. There’s one scene, set during one of Sophie’s seances, in which widow Jackie Weaver asks after rumors of her departed husband’s affairs, that seems to be crying out for a punchline — a seance! sex! a husband questioned beyond the grave! — but mystifyingly it never arrives.

Charming without being laugh-out-loud funny, Magic in the Moonlight seems more intent on casting its own spell than going for the jugular. Shot on 35-mm by Darius Khnondji, who seems to catch every dust mote in the diffuse lemony light, Magic in the Moonlight is Allen’s most exquisite-looking movie in quite a while, conjuring a Wodehousian Eden of lawns and tennis courts, with Stone’s pale-limbed Sophie set like a gem in centre-frame.

Continue reading in The Guardian




Written on July 25, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Film

5375_tnHere is a seething piece of social-realist Southern gothic, featuring a powerful performance from a big and broodingly bearded Nicolas Cage. It’s a film that also appears to mark the end of the weirdest auteur-detour in modern movie history.

In 2000, the then 25-year-old director David Gordon Green released his first movie, George Washington, a luminous, unhurried, gorgeously photographed coming-of-age picture set in North Carolina which seemed to announce him as the heir to Terrence Malick.His followup features did little to change that impression. Here was a deeply serious film-maker with a genuine sense of the spiritual.

Then something freaky happened. Green took a sudden left turn into broad fratpacker comedy, giving us the stoner adventure Pineapple Express (2008), the cod-medieval spoof Your Highness (2011) and an episode or two of the Danny McBride HBO TV comedy Eastbound and Down. Really, hardly any of the authorial signature of his earlier phase was present in these commercial romps, and they so dismayed and affronted many critics that some dismissed this new direction as evidence of a brain tumour. I myself was as startled as everyone else, though not offended, and I thought Your Highness was funny and much underrated. And actually, there is a residually “serious” moment in Pineapple Express: when the two guys begin to get high, the mood and tempo shifts, briefly, to Gordon’s previous, quasi-visionary manner. Now, with this latest film, Green has fully rediscovered his first, Malickian, style – though there is, interestingly, a tiny hint of wackiness.

Joe is slow cinema, or at least slower than the quick-fire world of comedy Green has left behind. So perhaps this really is his true style;  or perhaps it is comedy that will turn out to have been his real vocation. Either way, it should be said that slow cinema is no more real than fast cinema, no more real than the frantically paced editing of superhero movies or action thrillers. It is another artificial convention, but one that makes Joe such an effective and absorbing movie.

Green has found exactly the right actor to bring him back to a more contemplative style: Nicolas Cage, that great, horse-faced player who possesses a sense of both the extravagant and the absurd that makes him castable in both serious pictures and comedies. (He could easily have been in Your Highness.)

Continue reading in The Guardian

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