Friday, May 25, 2018

Il Posto

Written and directed by Ermanno Olmi, Il Posto is the story of a young man who travels to Milan from a nearby Italian suburb where he deals with his role working as a messenger for an Italian corporation unaware of his new surroundings and reality in the modern world. The film is an exploration into Italy’s post-war economic boom and it downsides as it relates to a young man from a rural background trying to find work only to deal with a reality that is unsettling and confusing. Starring Loredana Detto, Tullio Kezich, Sandro Panseri, and Mara Revel. Il Posto is a riveting and somber film from Ermanno Olmi.

The film follows a young man who attends a job interview and exam hoping to get a viable position for this corporation in Milan that would help his working-class family only to be given a menial job as a messenger. It’s a film that play into a man’s search for work that would help him as well as give him a sense of importance as he also wants to do good for his family. Along the way, he meets a young woman who is also vying for a job that he wants as they bond in their search for work. Ermanno Olmi’s screenplay which featured contributions from art director Ettore Lombardi explore not just the difficult and baffling experience of job interviews for a corporation but also the sense of dehumanization in the corporate landscape. The film also has this odd structure that occurs in the film as it relates to the journey that Domenico (Sandro Panseri) endures where the first half is about him being interviewed for the job and the exams he has to take that involve his intelligence and skill but also physical and psychological tests with bizarre questions.

During the first half of the film where Domenico would also meet Antoinetta (Loredana Detto) who is also trying to get work to help her family as they spend much of the day looking around the city of Milan as it’s this world that is starting to emerge as this epitome of modernism. Then the film’s second half has this shift in tone where Domenico gets his foot in the door in the hopes of being a clerk but he ends up being a messenger where he looks at this room full of clerks ranging from middle-aged to elderly. A glimpse into the lives of these characters is shown as it play into a future that Domenico might face.

Olmi’s direction is evocative in the way he captures this air of modernism in Milan in the way it looks with buildings being built as if a new world is emerging from this post-war economic boom. Shot on location in Milan as well as areas nearby, Olmi does present this other location as a world that is dirty and grimy where it’s not as developed from the years after World War II in comparison to the spacious yet exhilarating world of Milan. Olmi would use wide shots of these locations that play into Domenico’s own sense of alienation and confusion of his surroundings that include crowded cafes and shops where everything is expensive. Olmi would use the wide and medium shots to play into this disconnect of individualism and loneliness within the corporate world as he would emphasize on the latter for the scenes in the second half where these clerks are working where it feels oppressive and claustrophobic. Even as there is this sequence that glimpse the lives of these individuals who work hard but are oppressed with one of them aspiring to write as an outlet for his oppression.

Olmi’s usage of close-ups play into Domenico’s own confusion as well as a sadness into this world he’s about to venture into. Yet, there are these lively moments such as a scene in the third act during a New Year’s Eve party that Domenico would attend hoping to meet Antoinetta who got another job in the same corporation. It would be a moment where despite the prospect of becoming a clerk and maintaining his work as a messenger, there is still so much he can experience. That is then followed by this ending that does play into Domenico’s future as well as what he will endure if he does succeed in being a clerk for this corporation where he’s just another peg in a world that is indifferent to individualism or human emotion. Overall, Olmi crafts a rapturous and eerie film about a young man dealing with the expectations in a corporate environment in Milan.

Cinematographer Lamberto Caimi does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it play into look of Milan in all of its vibrancy in day and night as well as the way the office is lit including the desk of one clerk. Editor Carla Colombo does excellent work with the editing as it filled with stylish cuts as well as play into the drama with the jump cuts including the sequence of the clerks in their personal lives. Art director Ettore Lombardi does amazing work with the look of the offices as well as the home Domenico lives with his family.

The sound work of Giuseppe Donato is terrific for creating that sparse atmosphere at Domenico’s home and at the offices including the clerks’ office room with a more raucous sound for the scene at the cafe. The film’s music by Pier Emilio Bassi is wonderful for its music score that is largely a brass music piece that appears in the film’s opening credits and in another scene while much of the music soundtrack features some vibrant dancehall music that is played at the New Year’s Eve party scene.

The film’s superb cast feature a couple of small roles from Mara Revel as an older colleague that Domenico would work for and Tullio Kezich as a psychologist asking Domenico strange questions. Loredana Detto is incredible as Antoinetta as a young woman who is seeking to find a job at the same corporation that Domenico is seeking at as she would get work at a different place which only lead to this growing de-humanization process in the corporate world. Finally, there’s Sandro Panseri in a phenomenal performance as Domenico as a young man from a nearby suburb of Milan who travels to the city to get a job hoping he would work hard and rise up to help himself and his family only to see where he has started and the oppressive environment he would encounter.

Il Posto is a tremendous film from Ermanno Olmi. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, and haunting themes on modernism and the loss of individualism in the corporate world. It’s a film that showcases a young man entering into a world that is cruel and oppressive as he copes with the role he has to play. In the end, Il Posto is a sensational film from Ermanno Olmi.

Ermanno Olmi Films: (The Fianc├ęs) – (A Man Named John) – The Tree of Wooden Clogs - (Walking, Walking) – (The Legend of the Holy Drinker) – (The Secret of the Old Woods) – (Genesis: The Creation and the Flood) – (The Profession of Arms) – (Singing Behind Screens) – (Tickets-Section 1) – (One Hundred Nails) – (The Cardboard Village) – (Greenery Will Bloom Again)

© thevoid99 2018

Thursday, May 24, 2018

2018 Blind Spot Series: All Quiet on the Western Front

Based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front is the story of soldiers in the German army adjusting to the horrors of war during World War I. Directed by Lewis Milestone and screenplay by George Abbott with story contributions from Maxwell Anderson, Del Andrews, and C. Gardner Sullivan, the film is a war movie that play into the realities of war as well as the chaos that looms for young soldiers in World War I. Starring Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Arnold Lucy, and Ben Alexander. All Quiet on the Western Front is an astonishing yet haunting film from Lewis Milestone.

The film follows a group of young men who join the German army during World War I with a sense of idealism of heroism and fighting for their country only to encounter the realities of war face-first. It’s a film that play into the ideas of war and what it means to serve a country but also the questions of why wars happen and why these young men have to fight over something that could’ve been avoided. George Abbott’s screenplay starts off with these young men at a classroom urged by their teacher to fight for Germany in World War I as a source of pride and honor to their country. Instilled by this idea as well as the images of soldiers marching with a marching band and people waving the flags at them. The film’s protagonist Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres) makes the decision to join as he thinks he would come a war hero and be beamed with pride by his family.

When he and other soldiers who are also classmates arrive at camp where they’re trained by an abusive corporal they use to know. They’re still having these ideas of glory as the film’s second act takes place on the battlefield where reality finally comes face first. During the course of their time dealing with hunger, fighting on the front, and waiting for the battle to happen and such. They start to ask questions about why they’re fighting and what caused all of this to happen. Even in a scene where Baumer is trapped in a hole during a battle where he finds himself meeting a French soldier (Raymond Griffith) he just stabbed as it’s a moment where it play into the many fallacies of war. For Baumer, he deals with these realities as well as become disillusioned once he sees those he knew be killed or wounded as it add to this air of despair.

Lewis Milestone’s direction is intense for the way he captures the horrors of war as well as opening it with this air of idealism with this wide shot of a vast number of soldiers marching in the background while Professor Kantorek (Arnold Lucy) is giving this impassioned speech to his students about the ideas of war. Shot on location in soundstages in Hollywood, the film does play into this conflict of the romantic ideals of war and the reality as the first act is about the former with young men dreaming about wearing uniforms with medals. Even as they have to deal with Corporal Himmelstoss (John Wray) during training as they know he’s someone they don’t take seriously with his stylish mustache and the fact that they used to know him. Upon arriving into the battlefield, Milestone’s usage of wide and medium shots come into play with the latter playing the bond between soldiers inside the caves as they try to cope with cannon fire and bombs. The battle scenes are riveting in the way it play into this air of horror where Baumer watches a friend be killed or a man killed by a bomb. That air of intensity showcases the magnitude of war as well as the fear of who might die in the next battle.

The dramatic elements, which would include additional yet un-credited direction from George Cukor, that play into the soldiers talking with each other are shown in medium shots and close-ups with Milestone framing the actors to showcase their emotions as well as their growing fear over when the next fight has to occur. The scene where Baumer meets the French soldier play into not just the fear but also the sense of humanity that looms over Baumer as he realizes whom he had just stabbed and what that man might go home to. While much of the dialogue in the film isn’t heard due to the technology as there would be intertitle cards in between some of the dialogue, Milestone does play into the drama as it include a scene in the third act where Baumer is given a chance to return home briefly as it all goes back to this romantic idealism that had been instilled upon on. Yet, it is challenged by what Baumer saw as it is this anti-war sentiment that proves to be engaging as he also knows that there’s a chance that he might die upon his return to the battlefield. Overall, Milestone crafts an eerie and rapturous film about young soldiers dealing with the horrors of war.

Cinematographers Arthur Edson and Karl Freund do brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography from the way the battle scenes are light in day and night as well as the naturalistic look of the non-battle scenes in its exteriors and interiors. Editors Edgar Adams and Edward L. Cahn do excellent work with the editing as its usage of rhythmic cuts play into the action as well as the air of suspense that looms of what happens in battle. Art directors Charles D. Hall and William R. Schmidt do amazing work with the look of the classroom in the film’s opening sequence as well as the underground caves and some of the places the soldiers go to.

The special effects work of Harry Lonsdale is fantastic for the way it play into usage of explosions for the scenes of war as well as photographic effects to help capture the intensity of the battles. Sound recordist C. Roy Hunter does superb work with the sound as it play into the sounds of cannons, gunfire, and bombs to play into the chaos of war. The film’s music soundtrack by David Broekman provides a wonderful mixture of score music from various composers including variations of music by Franz Schubert and Ludwig Van Beethoven.

The film’s incredible cast include notable small roles from Beryl Mercer as Baumer’s mother, Marion Clayton as Baumer’s sister, William Irving as the army cook who refuses to give the company double rations, Walter Browne Rogers as a friend of Baumer in Behn, William Blakewell as another friend of Baumer in Albert Kropp, Raymond Griffith as the French soldier Baumer wounds and tries to heal, and Slim Summerville as a soldier who keeps feeling underappreciated in Tjaden. Ben Alexander is terrific as Franz Kemmerich as a soldier who gets his leg amputated as he asks Baumer to be at his side over the fear of dying. Arnold Lucy is superb as Professor Kantorek as Baumer’s mentor who would instill these ideas of patriotism and romantic heroism into Baumer and classmates only to be later seen as just false propaganda that is far removed from reality.

John Wray is excellent as Corporal Himmelstoss as Baumer’s drill instructor whom he knew a long time ago as he is a man that is abusive and barking orders but has no real sense of reality once he arrives onto the battlefield as he’s treated by soldiers with indifference. Louis Wolheim is amazing as Stanislas “Kat” Katczinsky as this grizzled soldier whom Baumer and other soldiers see as their big brother as a man that has seen and been in war as he would be Baumer’s great mentor in surviving and dealing with the chaos of war. Finally, there’s Lew Ayres in a brilliant performance as Paul Baumer as a young soldier who arrives to training camp and war with a sense of romantic idealism like many other soldiers only to deal with the chaos and realities of war as it would harden him as well as have him return home briefly to reveal truths about what really goes on.

All Quiet on the Western Front is a spectacular film from Lewis Milestone. Featuring a great cast, eerie visuals, intense sound effects, and strong anti-war themes that remain relevant to this day. It’s a film that show the fallacies of war and the false ideas of patriotism that still carries on over what really happens and why it should be avoided. In the end, All Quiet on the Western Front is a phenomenal film from Lewis Milestone.

© thevoid99 2018

Sunday, May 20, 2018

2018 Cannes Marathon Post-Mortem

Well, this year’s Cannes Film Festival certainly became crazy as well as exciting. Starting off with a lot of uncertainty over Netflix pulling their films from the festival to some last-minute additions. It was definitely an exciting festival as it started off well but also managed to make some major moments such as a speech led by filmmaker Agnes Varda and Cannes jury president Cate Blanchett where 82 women stood together in protest for equal rights in the hopes that women will get a fair share in the world of film. It’s a major moment that will hopefully get more women filmmakers to have their films seen to the masses and maybe get the chance to have some of these women win big prizes at Cannes in the near future.

The festival itself got off to a good start with Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows which was well-received in its screening to kick start the competition while several films that played in competition for the Palme d’Or managed to standout such as Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum, Jia Zhangke’s Ash is Purest White, Lee Chang-dong’s Burning, and Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War have gotten my attention. At the same time, films outside of competition such as Gaspar Noe’s Climax which played at the Director’s Forthnight became a surprise major hit with many citing the film as one of Noe’s most accessible as it would win him the Art Cinema Award. The fact that the often polarizing Noe is getting lots of acclaim as well as having the film to be distributed by A24 in the U.S. is exciting.

Then there’s film that have received mixed notices such as David Robert Mitchell’s Under the Silver Lake which isn’t surprising as many found the film to be odd as it does have some of its champions while Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote also got mixed reviews though many felt it was a victory for Gilliam who finally got the film out after struggling to do so for nearly 20 years. Then there’s the long-awaited return of Lars von Trier who didn’t do any press conference nor said anything. Instead, he let his new film The House That Jack Built do the talking and boy did it have something to say. Cannes is known for having wild reactions in screenings and it’s not Cannes if there’s no walkouts or any kind of dramatic reactions to a film. What von Trier did was bring that and more as he has managed to rile up everyone who walked out of his new film and everyone else who hated it are essentially eating at the palm of his hand.

This isn’t anything new that von Trier is doing yet the reaction has become so intense that it’s really just laughable in how upset people are towards a film about a serial killer. What von Trier is doing is proving himself to be the ultimate troll. Kanye West’s recent outbursts and egomaniacal tirades is child’s play compared to what von Trier did at Cannes. He essentially got everyone angry which is just making him smile as the term “enfant terrible” should be stricken to describe him. In fact, he should be known as Cinema’s Satan for all of the good reasons. Then we have the films that won as Capernaum won the festival’s third-place jury prize while Alice Rohrwacher and Jafar Panahi both shared the best screenplay prize for their respective films in Happy as Lazzaro and 3 Faces. In the acting front, Samal Yeslyamova won the best actress prize for his role in Sergey Dvortsevoy’s Ayka while Marcello Fonte won the best actor prize for Matteo Garrone’s Dogman as that film would also win the Palm dog award for its canine ensemble.

Spike Lee made a major return to the Cannes Film Festival and made a big impact with his newest film BlackKklansman that is about an African-American detective who manages to infiltrate himself into the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s as it has managed to get great notices as well as controversy. The film would receive the second place Grand Jury prize as it is considered a major victory for Lee as he has made a film that will surely anger the alt-right in the U.S. as well as its dictator. Finally, there’s Hirokazu Koreeda’s The Shoplifters about a family of shoplifters which was a big hit as it would the Palme d’Or which is a major achievement for Koreeda who has always been a favorite at Cannes as he has proven himself to be one of cinema’s great voices.

Now that the festival is over as is this year’s marathon, it is time to announce the awards for the marathon. Choosing 12 films this year was more reasonable this year though it has been hard to find the time to watch these films and finish them as I have other things to do though watching twelve films in 10 days instead of eleven was still a near impossible task. Yet, it’s always fun to do this marathon though it is slightly underwhelming in comparison to last year’s. Here are the fictional winners of this marathon.

The fictional Palme d’Or goes to… I, Daniel Blake

The 2016 winner of the Palme d’Or is truly a film that is a reflection of these times as it struck me in a very powerful way. It was a film that told a very simple story about a 59-year old carpenter who is unable to work due to a recent heart attack as he is trying to get his benefits. Instead, he deals with the complications of the modern world as he has no clue about computers nor has any idea in trying to get all of the things the welfare center asks him to do. He would also befriend a young woman who has just moved to Newcastle as she is struggling to find work and provide her for her two children as he tries to help her out. It is truly an astonishing film from Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty as they manage to make a film that has universal appeal as well as realism about the many downsides of the 21st Century.

The 2nd place Grand Jury Prize goes to… The Salesman

If there’s one filmmaker who has a place as one of the premier filmmakers of the 21st Century, it is Asghar Farhadi as his 2016 film is definitely a crowning achievement in film. Not only is this film an engrossing look into the world of marriage that is being tested by an incident but it would also mirror elements of humility that this couple tries to capture in their interpretation of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. It is a majestic film with top-notch performances from its lead actors in Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti as well as a script that is truly rich.

The 3rd place Jury Prize goes to… The Tree of Wooden Clogs

The 1978 winner of the Palme d’Or by Ernammo Olmi is really unlike anything film though it’s most obvious comparison could be in Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900. Unlike Bertolucci’s five-hour epic that leaned towards socialist ideas and political overtones, Olmi’s three-hour epic story is more about the lives of four peasant family farmers in the final years of the 19th Century in Northern Italy as they deal with their lives not fully aware of the changes emerging into the outside world. It is not an easy film to watch due to its slow pacing and lack of conventional plot but it does capture a lifestyle that was simple and effective before the emergence of 20th Century ideals that would change everything for the worse.

The Best Director Prize goes to… Yorgos Lanthimos for The Lobster

Yorgos Lanthimos’ absurdist take on dystopia is truly the work of an original filmmaker as it play into the idea of humanity needing to connect or else they turn into animals. Lanthimos’ approach to absurdity as well as this conflict of needing to be together or to be lonely play into the lives of a recently-divorced man as well as a woman who is short-sighted. It is funny and also full of intensity as well as play into the silliness of what dystopia could be. Even as it also shows the sense of inhumanity in how people need to connect by their own choice rather than what society wants.

The Best Screenplay Prize goes to… Jim Jarmusch for Paterson

Jim Jarmusch has always been an outsider that often make films about individuals who don’t fit in with conventional society. His 2016 film is no exception other than the fact that the titular character is just an ordinary bus driver who writes poetry for his own reasons rather than just express it to everyone. Told in the span of a week, Jarmusch crafts this story that is emphasized on repetition and routine as well as the little things that would bring importance to a day. It is proof that Jarmusch is an effective storyteller who knows that less is more.

The Best Actor Prize goes to… Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic

Viggo Mortensen is truly one of the best actors working today as he refuses to be pigeonholed into any kind of role preferring to be adventurous. His performance in Matt Ross’ film as an eccentric recluse who had cut himself away from society to raise his children in the forest showcases Mortensen’s energy and compassion. Even as he isn’t afraid to be flawed while showcasing a man that is trying to raise his children in a way that doesn’t have the complications of modern society but couldn’t shield them from the other realities that the world has to offer. It is a performance that play into many attributes that Mortensen is known for as well as showing that he is also a very funny actor.

The Best Actress Prize goes to… Kristen Stewart for Personal Shopper

Kristen Stewart has always been an amazing actress but not many people know that as they still think of her for work in those Twilight films. Her collaboration with Olivier Assayas has proven that she has a lot more to offer in the way as their second collaboration to date in this film is proof of that. Playing the role of a woman living in Paris where she is trying to communicate with her recently-deceased twin brother while working as a personal shopper to a celebrity. It’s a performance that is restrained where Stewart chooses not to do much to play into this woman dealing with grief as well as confusion into what she has encountered.

The Technical Jury Prize goes to… Hayedeh Safiyari for The Salesman

Hayedeh Safiyari’s work as an editor has definitely been a key reason for why Asghar Farhadi’s films have been so engaging. In the fourth of five collaborations with Farhadi, the Iranian-born editor has been a crucial figure in the films as she is also instrumental in capturing many of the film’s dramatic moments as well as to find key elements in the story. Even as she would infuse elements of style to keep things interesting but also know when not to cut such as the film’s opening sequence as her work as an editor is something that needs to get more notices as her work with Farhadi is already potent enough to put her and Farhadi into that list of great editor/director collaborations.

The Special Jury Prize goes to… Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren for A Special Day

Probably one of the greatest acting duos in history, Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren are truly unlike any acting duo as they always make their collaborations special. In their performance for Ettore Scola’s film set on the day Adolf Hitler visits Rome where nearly all of Italy goes to see him and Benito Mussolini. The film follows these two different people who don’t know each other yet live across from each other in the same building as they meet by accident where they get to know each other in the course of a day. The chemistry between Mastroianni and Loren is exquisite as it is a major reason for the film’s success.

And now for the ranking of the rest of the films for this marathon:

4. The Lobster

Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2015 film is truly an original take on dystopian society set in a futuristic world where humanity is in need to connect or they end up becoming animals as punishment for not finding a mate. It’s an odd yet entrancing film featuring an incredible ensemble cast and offbeat humor that isn’t afraid to be discomforting nor be confrontational.

5. Paterson

Jim Jarmusch has once again maintained his status as American independent cinema’s voice of the outsider as he decides to make another different kind of film as it’s focused on an ordinary bus driver from Paterson, New Jersey who writes poetry for his own personal reasons. It’s a simple film that explores the week in the life of this bus driver who has a wife that wants to make cupcakes and sing country music as well as a bulldog who likes to take long walks to the local bar where the titular character frequents to.

6. Captain Fantastic

Matt Ross’ sophomore feature film as writer/director is definitely a career achievement for the famed character actor who is definitely making a mark as a filmmaker. In this story of a family driving from the forests of Washington to New Mexico to attend the funeral of their mother is unlike a lot of road movies. Notably as it involves a man and his seven children who live on the outside of society dealing with their new surroundings and the temptations that the modern world can bring.

7. Personal Shopper

Olivier Assayas’ 2016 suspense drama isn’t a conventional film as it’s more about a young woman coping with her loss and her attempt to seek answers about the idea of an afterlife. Featuring Kristen Stewart in a top-tier performance, it’s a minimalist film of sorts that is filled with gorgeous images as well as this sense of longing and mystique into the idea of death.

8. After the Storm

Hirokazu Koreeda is definitely a filmmaker who is keeping Japanese art-house cinema alive and well as his 2016 drama is just an understated and rapturous film about a man dealing with his own faults and shortcomings as he would later find himself at his mother’s apartment with his ex-wife and their son during a typhoon. It’s a simple character study of sorts as it plays into a man trying to reconnect with his family and deal with the failures he had in his life.

9. A Special Day

Ettore Scola’s 1977 drama is truly one of the most enriching films of the 1970s as it is set on a historical day in Fascist Italy during the late 1930s as it relates to Adolf Hitler’s visit to Rome. With many Italians attending the parade, Scola’s focus on two people staying behind who don’t know each other is a fascinating story about repression, longing, and the understanding of a world that is cruel and unjust.

10. Respire

Melanie Laurent’s sophomore feature film is proof of how multi-talented the French actress is as she chooses to be behind the camera in this coming-of-age story about a friendship that becomes toxic and abusive. Featuring great performances from Josephine Japy and Lou de Laage, it’s a film that play into two teenage girls who start off as friends only for complications to emerge that would eventually turn dark.

11. The Go-Between

The 1971 winner of the Palme d’Or by Joseph Losey is a ravishing yet haunting film that is about the loss of innocence as it plays into a 12-year old boy spending the summer at a posh countryside home in the early 1900s as he finds himself being a messenger between two lovers from different social classes. Featuring Julie Christie and Alan Bates as these two lovers, it is a mesmerizing film that shows the effects of a young boy who finds himself in the middle unaware of what he’s doing.

12. Union Pacific

The very first Palme d’Or winner that was awarded in 2002 by a professional jury of film critics and historians is an unusual choice considering that this film was going up against more revered films like The Wizard of Oz, Goodbye Mr. Chips, and the 1939 film version of The Four Feathers as these were films that was supposed to be played at the very first Cannes Film Festival in 1939 but World War II had just begun. Still, Cecil B. DeMille’s western is a fascinating and adventurous film that centers on the transcontinental railroad that would help shape American history as it also play into those trying to profit from this event as it’s a worthwhile film.

Well, that is it for the marathon as I want to thank Indiewire, Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, AV Club, and the writers at The Film Experience for their coverage. I hope to do it again next year and maybe make it more diverse next time around though I want to do another Palme d’Or winners edition of the marathon soon as I’m thinking about having that happen in 2022 for the 75th edition of the festival. Until then, au revoir.

© thevoid99 2018

Saturday, May 19, 2018

2018 Cannes Marathon: After the Storm

(Played in the Un Certain Regarde Section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival)

Written, directed, and edited by Hirokazu Koreeda, After the Storm is the story of a failed writer turned private detective who tries to reconnect with his ex-wife and son as he copes with his own failures in life as well as impending typhoon. The film is a family drama in which a man tries get his life on track as well as deal with his own shortcomings. Starring Hiroshi Abe, Kirin Kiki, and Yoko Maki. After the Storm is a touching yet evocative film from Hirokazu Koreeda.

The film follows a former novelist who works as a private detective that is trying to get his life on track as he learns his ex-wife is dating another man as he also deals with an upcoming typhoon coming near the home of his mother. It’s a film that has a simple premise as it plays into a man who had a lot of promise after his first novel but has been unable to create another as he’s only achieved critical success. Working as a private detective for an agency, Ryota Shinoda (Hiroshi Abe) barely makes the money and whatever huge payday het gets. He would gamble it away as he’s often late to pay child support and is reluctant to ask his mother Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki) for money as he had already helped pay for his father’s funeral.

Hirokazu Koreeda’s screenplay follows Ryota dealing with the shortcomings as he doesn’t get to see his son Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa) often though he would see his baseball game from afar where he notices his ex-wife Kyoko (Yoko Maki) with a new boyfriend. Even as he suspects his sister Chinatsu (Satomi Kobayashi) of getting money from her mother for her daughter’s figure skating lessons as it would play into the despair he endures in his life. Upon a day with Shingo as he asks him about Kyoko’s new boyfriend, it would be a major day where everyone would deal with the typhoon that is to come as it would bring revelations for everyone in Ryota’s family circle.

Koreeda’s direction is simple in its minimalist approach as there’s very little movement in the camera other than a few tracking shots of the characters walking outside in a park or near an apartment. Instead, much of Koreeda’s direction emphasizes on simple static shots whether it’s in a wide shot, a medium shot, or a close-up if it’s needed on a certain object. The lack of movement in the cameras help play into the dramatic elements of the film as well as a few comedic moments such as Ryota’s work as a private detective with his young partner Kento Machida (Sosuke Ikematsu). Much of it showcase Ryota’s own flaws as a person as he would sneak in at one point to talk to Shingo at a bathroom restaurant where Kyoko is having dinner with her new boyfriend. 

Also serving as the film’s editor, Koreeda maintains a style that is straightforward as it relates to the way the characters talk with one another with the film’s climax being at Yoshiko’s home where Ryota takes Shingo to meet his grandmother whom he’s fond of. When Kyoko arrives to pick up Shingo, Yoshiko suggests that Kyoko and Shingo should stay as it relates to this typhoon as there is that sense of danger over how intense the typhoon could be. It’s a moment where the family comes together and face this storm that could kill them or be something else. Overall, Koreeda crafts an intoxicating and rapturous film about a writer’s attempt to reconnect with his family and deal with his shortcomings in an impending typhoon.

Cinematographer Yutaka Yamasaki does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward to play into the look of the scenes at night including the climatic typhoon sequence as well as the naturalistic look for the scenes in the day. Art director Keiko Mitsumatsu and set decorator Akiko Matsuba do fantastic work with the look of Yoshiko’s apartment as well as the home that Ryota lives in. Costume designer Kazuko Kurosawa does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual with the exception of the ragged suits that Ryota wears in his job. The sound work of Yutaka Tsurumaki is terrific for its naturalistic approach to the sound in capturing some of the sparse elements of the locations the characters encounter. The film’s music by Hanaregumi is wonderful for its low-key score that is emphasized largely by somber piano music with some folk-pop songs as part of the film’s soundtrack.

The casting by Toshie Tabata is superb as it feature a few notable small roles from Lily Franky as a magma writer offering Ryota a chance to contribute to a magma series and Sosuke Ikematsu as Ryota’s young partner Kento Machida who provides some commentary into Ryota’s situation. Satomi Kobayashi is wonderful as Ryota’s sister Chinatsu as a woman who is more responsible than her brother as she knows him very well about his financial situation as she is trying to get her daughter’s figure skating career going. Taiyo Yoshizawa is fantastic as Shingo as Ryota’s son who copes with his mother’s new boyfriend whom he’s not really fond of as he knows he isn’t able to see his dad yet prefers him more than the new boyfriend.

Yoko Maki is excellent as Ryota’s ex-wife Kyoko as a woman trying to move on with a new boyfriend as she is also concerned about Shingo as well as ensuring he gets all of the things needed for a child. Kirin Kiki is brilliant as Ryota’s mother Yoshiko as a recently-widowed woman who is aware that she is going to die soon yet manages to find new hobbies and joy in her life as well as be concerned about Ryota’s own place in the world. Finally, there’s Hiroshi Abe in an amazing performance as Ryota Shinoda as a failed novelist turned private detective who copes with his own shortcomings and flaws as he tries to be a good father to his son as well as realize he’s still in love with his ex-wife where they all suddenly come together in this typhoon with his mother.

After the Storm is an incredible film from Hirokazu Koreeda. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a simple yet effective approach to storytelling, and enchanting music. It’s a touching film that play into a man trying to do things right despite his own flaws as he also knows how much he cares for his family. In the end, After the Storm is a remarkable film from Hirokazu Koreeda.

Hirokazu Koreeda Films: (Lessons from a Calf) - (However) - (August Without Him) - (This World) - (Without Memory) - Maborosi - (After Life) - (Distance) - Nobody Knows - (Hana) - Still Walking - (Air Doll) - (I Wish) - (Life Father, Like Son) – Our Little Sister - (The Third Murder) – (Shoplifters)

© thevoid99 2018

Friday, May 18, 2018

2018 Cannes Marathon: The Tree of Wooden Clogs

(Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival)

Written, directed, shot, and edited by Ermanno Olmi, L’Albero degli zoccoli (The Tree of Wooden Clogs) is the story of four peasant farm families working for a landlord in the late 19th Century as they deal with many trials and tribulations in the course of a year. The film is an exploration of life of farmers and workers living in the countryside as they deal with changing times and other events around them with many of the people in the film are portrayed by non-professional actors. L’Albero degli zoccoli is a ravishing and somber film from Ermanno Olmi.

Set in 1898 at the Bergamo region of Northern Italy, the film follows the year of the lives of four peasant farm families who work on a land for a landlord who has no care for their lives other than the money that is made from the harvest where he keeps 2/3 of the profits despite doing little to provide for his peasant farmers. It’s a film that has a multi-layered story that follows the lives of these four different families as the opening scene involves a man who is about to have a third child while struggles with the fact that his eldest son is given the opportunity to attend school nearby as the local priest suggests that the boy should get that chance for an education. Other storylines involve an old widow raising six children while her father is eager to plant tomatoes as he has a secret method while there’s a story of a young couple that are courting each other. Ermanno Olmi’s screenplay would follow the four families and at one point would focus on one family or all of them.

All the families would endure hardships such as changing seasons, births, deaths, and all sorts of things yet they continue to work and live their lives during the course of the year. Even as they all come together for a celebration or a gathering that include a moment where they go to a local fair to have some fun. Yet, there is this undercurrent of change that is emerging where a farmer is trying to pick up a gold coin while a man is making a speech about the ideas of communism. For these farmers, they don’t know much about the outside world nor do they care to as they much prefer to work as well as pray for each other as they would often attend church on Sundays. Still, there is this element of change that is happening that would become possible to ignore as it play into this dark emergence of modernism.

Olmi’s direction is understated in its approach to capturing late 19th Century life in Northern Italy as it is shot on location in Bergamo where all of the dialogue is spoken in the Bergamasque dialect. Shot in the 1:37:1 full-frame aspect ratio, Olmi would use the framing device to capture the simplicity of the landscape while the film doesn’t feature a lot of close-ups in favor of capturing the group of peasant farmers in medium and wide shots. Even as he maintains a realism in not just using non-professional actors but also in recreating a lifestyle and ideal that was much simpler before the emergence of industry and political ideals. Among these elements of realism is the fact there’s a couple of scenes of animals being slaughtered for food but it’s presented in a humane approach while there is also this tender scene in which the widow copes with her ailing cow as she prays for a miracle in the hope that the cow would recover. It’s these small moments in the film that include a scene of the father whose son is attending school as he would cut down a tree to create new clogs for his son.

Also serving as the film’s cinematographer and editor, much of Olmi’s approach to the visuals is straightforward as he aims for a naturalistic look in the photography in the way mornings are presented as well as a rainy day. For the interior scenes including a scene inside a room where the grandfather tells many of the other farmers and their families a story is presented in a natural lighting while the editing also play into some of the humor and drama. Notably in the latter as it would occur in a key sequence late in the film where the young couple arrive at the city of Milan where they notice something drastic is happening as it play into this emergence of chaos that is to come into the next century as well as the uncertainty if they can survive the modern world. The film’s ending isn’t just about the power of landlords and their indifference towards those who work for them but also the idea that prayer and sympathy can’t save everyone. Overall, Olmi crafts a touching and rapturous film about the lives of four peasant family farmers in Northern Italy before the emergence of the 20th Century.

Production designer Enrico Tovaglieri and set decorator Franco Gambarana do brilliant work with the look of the farm in its decayed look as well as the look of the convent-orphanage the young couple would stay in Milan. Costume designer Francesca Zucchelli does fantastic work with the costumes as it does play into the realistic and ordinary look of the farmers. The sound work of Amedeo Casati does terrific work with the sound as it play into the natural elements of the location as well as the way objects and animals sound on location. Much of the film’s music feature compositions from Johann Sebastian Bach that is performed by Fernando Germani is majestic for the way it play into the world that the characters live in as well as this air of faith that looms over them as it play into these characters seeking salvation in a world that is ever-changing.

The film’s spectacular cast filled with non-professional actors as it include Marlo Brignoli as the landlord, Emilio Pedroni as the foreman, Vittorio Capelli as the merchant seller Friki, Francesca Bassurini as a relative of the young bride Maddalena in Sister Maria, and Lina Ricci as a woman who believes in signs. The performances of Luigi Ornagghi as Batisti, Francesca Moriggi as his wife Batistina, Omar Brignoli as their son Minek are superb as is the duo of Lucia Pezzoli and Franco Pilenga in their respective roles as the young bride and groom in Maddalena and Stefano. The performance of Teresa Brescianini as the widow Runk and Giuseppe Brignoli as her father Anselmo are excellent while Battista Trevaini is terrific as Finard who finds a gold coin only for things to go wrong.

L’Albero degli zoccoli is a tremendous film from Ermanno Olmi. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a haunting music score, and a somber yet devastating story about the simple life of four peasant farming families dealing with the ever-changing world outside of their quaint community. It’s a film that explore a moment in time and a lifestyle that was prosperous as well as being communal despite the emergence of modernism that would change everything. In the end, L’Albero degli zoccoli is a phenomenal film from Ermanno Olmi.

Ermanno Olmi Films: Il Posto – (The Fiances) – (A Man Named John) – (Walking, Walking) – (The Legend of the Holy Drinker) – (The Secret of the Old Woods) – (Genesis: The Creation and the Flood) – (The Profession of Arms) – (Singing Behind Screens) – (Tickets-Section 1) – (One Hundred Nails) – (The Cardboard Village) – (Greenery Will Bloom Again)

© thevoid99 2018

Thursday, May 17, 2018

2018 Cannes Marathon: Paterson

(Winner of the Palm Dog Award to Nellie (posthumous) at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival)

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, Paterson is the story of the week in the life of a bus driver who writes poetry to let his day go by. The film is a simple story of a man and his simple life as he lives in a small town in New Jersey as writes about what he sees. Starring Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Chasten Harmon, William Jackson Harper. Masatoshi Nagase, and Barry Shabaka Henley. Paterson is an extraordinarily rich film from Jim Jarmusch.

The film is the story of a bus driver from Paterson, New Jersey who drives the same route every day in the course of a week as he has a routine that he does in his job and in his life while he writes poetry about his surroundings and the things he sees in his life. It’s a film with a simple premise as it follows the week in the life of the titular character (Adam Driver) as he also has a wife named Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) who dreams of becoming a country singer and opening her own cupcake store. Jim Jarmusch’s screenplay is largely told in the span of seven days as it follows Paterson driving the same bus route every day as he listens to the different passengers he has and then returns home to see what Laura has done in creating curtains, clothing, and such and then would walk their English bulldog Marvin (Nellie) on the way to a local bar where he chats with its bartender Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley).

During these days at work, he would see different set of twins as well as see a couple argue every once in a while at Doc’s bar as it play into his life that he would write about in his poetry as the poems are written by Ron Padgett which also references the work of William Carlos William who wrote a book of poems after the city. While Paterson is a good poet, he’s reluctant in having them published as he prefers to keep it to himself to emphasize his lack of ambition and just settle for what he has while being supportive of Laura’s many dreams.

Jarmusch’s direction doesn’t bear a lot of visual styles other than emphasizing on repetitious compositions to play into Paterson’s day-to-day routine in the course of a week. Shot on location in Paterson, New Jersey which is a character in the film in the many different street corners as well as the waterfalls including the Great Falls of the Passaic River where Paterson would often eat lunch and write poetry during his lunch break. While Jarmusch would use some wide shots of the entire city and its locations, much of the direction involves him using close-ups and medium shots to play into the intimacy of the bus that Paterson drives as well as the scenes at his home with Laura and the scenes at the bar. Still, Jarmusch’s approach to repetition as the path where Paterson walks to the bus station as he passes by old and abandoned factories along the way as well as the path he would walk Marvin to the bar show his simple routine as there’s something different that happens every once in a while. Even as the weekend approaches where Laura would receive a guitar that she wanted to learn to be a country singer as well as a bake sale that is happening on that Saturday.

While Paterson’s lack of ambitions of having his poems published do emphasize the need to keep his work for himself as he would meet a 10-year old girl who also wrote a poem as she would keep it in a secret notebook. It also showcases the power of poetry when it has someone writing for himself such as a moment late in the film where Paterson meets a Japanese tourist (Masatoshi Nagase) who is at the town due to his interest in poetry and the town itself. Though Paterson may write about ordinary things about what he sees, hears, or remembers, he uses poetry as a way to feel alive rather than express it publicly for vanity. Overall, Jarmusch crafts a tender yet intoxicating film about the week in the life of a poetic bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey.

Cinematographer Frederick Elmes does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward to play into the natural look of the city in the day and night including the low-key lights for the scenes at the bar. Editor Affonso Goncalves does brilliant work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts, superimposed dissolves for the poetry scenes, and some transitional fade-outs. Production designer Mark Friedberg, with set decorator Lydia Marks and art director Kim Jennings, does fantastic work with the interiors of the bar as well as some of the creations that Laura made in the curtains at the home she shares with Paterson.

Costume designer Catherine George does amazing work with the clothes that Laura wears that is very stylish with its emphasis on black-and-white while maintaining a more casual look for the rest of the characters in the film. Sound designer Robert Hein does superb work with the sound in capturing the way a bus would sound when it is turned on as well as other low-key yet sparse textures in many of the film’s location. The film’s music by Carter Logan, Jim Jarmusch, and Squrl is terrific for its ambient-based score that appears in a few scenes to play into Paterson’s sense of wonderment while the rest of the music soundtrack appears largely in scenes in the bar or on location as it include cuts by Teddy Pendergrass, Reuben Wilson, Killer Mike, Pouran, Tammy Wynette, Lester Young, Gary Carter, Bad Medicine, and Jerry Brightman.

The casting by Ellen Lewis and Meghan Rafferty is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as a couple of students talking about anarchy on the bus, Sterling Jerins as a young poet that Paterson meets on his way home from work, Chasten Harmon and William Jackson Harper in their respective roles as Marie and Everett as this bickering couple who frequent at the bar, Rizwan Manji as a co-worker of Paterson in Donny, and Cliff “Method Man” Smith as himself working on a rhyme. Masatoshi Nagase is superb as the Japanese tourist that Paterson meets late in the film who shares his love of poetry as well as the work of William Carlos William. Barry Shabaka Henley is excellent as the bartender Doc as a man who loves to play chess and chat with Paterson about their town and the many wonders of their small town.

Golshifteh Farahani is incredible as Laura as a lively woman with big dreams of being a country singer, making cupcakes, and all sorts of things as someone who is supportive of Paterson’s poetry while wanting to ensure they have a good and thriving life. Finally, there’s Adam Driver in a sensational performance as the titular character as bus driver who drives many people around the town of Paterson as he spends a bit of time writing poetry as well as observe all that is around as it’s a quiet yet endearing performance from Driver.

Paterson is a phenomenal film from Jim Jarmusch that features great performances from Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani. Along with its low-key approach to storytelling, poetic tone, naturalistic visuals, and a soothing score. It’s a film that showcases a week in the life of an ordinary man who proves to be just as fascinating as everyone else around him though prefers to keep it quiet. In the end, Paterson is a spectacular film from Jim Jarmusch.

Jim Jarmusch Films: Permanent Vacation - Stranger Than Paradise - Down by Law - Mystery Train - Night on Earth - Dead Man - Year of the Horse - Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai - Coffee and Cigarettes - Broken Flowers - The Limits of Control - Only Lovers Left Alive - (Gimme Danger) – The Auteurs #27: Jim Jarmusch

© thevoid99 2018

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

2018 Cannes Marathon: I, Daniel Blake

(Winner of the Palme d’Or and Palm DogManitarian Award at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Ken Loach and written by Paul Laverty, I, Daniel Blake is the story of a disabled man who learns he won’t be getting benefits as he befriends a single mother struggling to get by. The film is an exploration of a man dealing with his health and the need to get what he’s earned as he also deals with the modern world and their indifference towards him and others trying to get by. Starring Dave Johns and Hayley Squires. I, Daniel Blake is an engrossing and searing film from Ken Loach.

The film is a simple story of a man who had just recovered from a heart attack as he realizes that he is unable to work due to his health as he is seeking health benefits only to see that things have changed and certain requirements are needed which he is unable to comprehend. Along the way, he befriends a single mother with two kids who is struggling to find a job as she is in debt and needs to take care of her children as he offers to help her out. Paul Laverty’s screenplay follows the titular character (Dave Johns) who is already dealing with the loss of his wife as well as his failing health where he knows he can’t do any kind of work where he hopes to get health benefits feeling he has done so much. Yet, he is dealing with the fact that he has to fill documents online and digitally as he doesn’t own nor knows how to use a computer as he has hard time trying to fulfill the requirements. Even as he has to attend meetings that end up being a waste of time.

When he goes to a welfare center, he also hears the complaints from this young woman in Katie Morgan (Hayley Squires) who is being sanctioned for arriving late as she had no idea where the building was. Daniel sees what has happened to her as he tries to help her out while filing his own appeal for his benefits which becomes more difficult despite the help of a young neighbor in China (Kema Sikazwe) and a welfare worker in Ann (Kate Rutter). Still, Daniel’s struggle forces him to come to terms with the way the government treats him and many others as he makes a defying act to the system that won’t give him what he wants.

Ken Loach’s direction is understated in its approach to telling the story of this man and his fight against a system that wants to prevent him from getting what he deserves. Shot on location in Newcastle, the film does play into this world of the working class as well as those who haven’t caught up with the ideas and methods of the 21st Century. While there’s some wide shots in Loach’s compositions of the locations as well as one key scene late in the film that play into Daniel’s defiance against the system. Much of Loach’s approach to compositions is emphasized on close-ups and medium shots to play into the intimate moments in the welfare center and the food bank as well as the interactions with the characters. 

Notably in scenes that play into the struggle of people in a system that is complicated where Daniel struggles to understand what he had to do to get these benefits as if there is something de-humanizing to what is happening to him. Loach’s direction also showcase a scene at the food bank where Katie breaks down due to her hunger as it emphasizes that she and Daniel are among those that are struggling. Even as it has this arc where Katie’s desperation for work would lead her into a terrifying path that would force Daniel to get the attention of the system in a grand way. Overall, Loach crafts a rapturous and poignant film about a man’s desire to get health benefits for himself and others in need of help.

Cinematographer Robbie Ryan does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward in terms of its approach to natural lighting for some of the scenes at night while being completely natural for the scenes in the day. Editor Jonathan Morris does brilliant work with the editing as it has a few transitional fade-outs for much of the film with some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the big dramatic moments. Production designers Fergus Clegg and Linda Wilson do fantastic work with the look of the apartments that Daniel and Kate live in as well as the welfare center and the food bank with all of the food that is available.

Costume designer George Slater does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual to play into the look of the characters and the city they live in. Sound editor Kevin Brazier and sound recordist Ray Beckett do terrific work with the sound as it is natural in its setting as well as capturing the chaos that emerges in some of the film’s dramatic moments. The film’s music by George Fenton is wonderful for its low-key score that is a mixture of piano and orchestral music that is used sparingly in parts of the film including its final credits.

The casting by Kahleen Crawford is superb as it feature some notable small roles from Steven Richens as a friend of China in Piper, Micky McGregor as a convenience store security guard named Ivan, Kate Rutter as the sympathetic welfare worker Ann, Sharon Percy as a less sympathetic welfare worker in Sheila, Kema Sikazwe as Daniel’s neighbor China who sells counterfeit shoes to make a living, and the duo of Dylan McKiernan and Briana Shann in their respective roles as Katie’s kids Dylan and Daisy who learn a few trades from Daniel as well as get a perspective on the way the world works. 

Hayley Squires is incredible as Katie Morgan as a single mother who had just moved to Newcastle from London as she deals with her new surroundings, hunger, and the struggle to feed her children as she becomes desperate as it’s a somber performance from Squires. Finally, there’s Dave Johns in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as a 59-year old carpenter who has a heart condition as he’s trying to get benefits that will ensure his own security as he deals with the modern world and all of its demands as it is a gripping and realistic performance that showcases some of the struggles that people from a previous generation or two cope with modern society in not getting what they deserve as Johns’ performance is truly a major highlight of the film.

I, Daniel Blake is a tremendous film from Ken Loach that features great performances from Dave Johns and Hayley Squire. Along with Paul Laverty’s compelling script, naturalistic visuals, and themes about respect and the need to get what one person truly deserves. It’s a film that does have a lot of political insight into the idea of welfare and how a man decides to defy the system in an attempt to get his benefits for himself and others shackled by the expectations of the 21st Century. In the end, I, Daniel Blake is a magnificent film from Ken Loach.

Ken Loach Films: (Cathy Comes Home) - (Poor Cow) – Kes - (Save the Children Fund Film) - (Family Life) - (The Price of Coal) - (Black Jack) - (The Gamekeeper) - (Looks and Smiles) - (Which Side Are You On?) - (Fatherland) - (Hidden Agenda) - (Riff-Raff) - (Raining Stones) - (Ladybird Ladybird) - (Land and Freedom) - (A Contemporary Case of Common Ownership) - (Carla’s Song) - (The Flickering Flame) - (McLibel (1997 film)) - (My Name is Joe) - (Bread and Roses) - (The Navigators) – Sweet Sixteen - (Ae Fond Kiss…) – (Tickets) – (McLibel (2005 film)) – The Wind That Shakes the Barley - It's a Free World - Looking for Eric - (Route Irish) – (The Angel’s Snare) – (The Spirit of ’45) – Jimmy's Hall

© thevoid99 2018