Friday, March 31, 2006

Syrianna: a political comment on contemporary American reality

Syriana is a political thriller about things we strongly suspect. For the Americans this film can be a shock but for Europeans the inter-relations of politics and companies that handle petrol distribution is an old secret. Three different stories are narrated. From one hand, we follow the story of an agent, an assassinator- to be exact- of the United States. On the other hand there is a member of an important petrol company who tries to negotiate a big deal with an Arab Prince about the petrol production of his country. The third story is about a lawyer who is investigating in order to find out if a small company managed to close a deal through unjust means. All theses stories collide at the end of the film with the assassination of the enlighten Arab Prince by the USA Government. Corruption is presented in every level. The government abandons its assassinator when he is exposed. The lawyer covers up the foul playing he encounters. Big companies manage to ensure who will ascend next to the Arabian throne. In this chaos Americans act against Americans and nobody knows what the others do. In the end the situation is not beneficial even for the American state.
The story is quite complex and the spectator cant follow the thread of the three stories easily. In the better part of the film he tries to orientate and find out in which country he is and what the political situation the film describes is. The film is fictional but remains so close to reality that has a documentary ring to it. You have the strong feeling that the things it describes have actually happened.
In the end Syriana is a clever political comment which has nothing new to offer to the European audience. However, it might be an insight of Americans foreign politics for the country's audience. As a film, though, it lacks coherence, clarity and inner meaning. The great acting form Clooney and the intelligent subject manage just to save the movie and place in meritocracy.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Cache: The Hidden- An anigmatic film

I consciously let some time to pass by before attempting to write a review on this french film. Firstly it is hard to decide whether i liked the film or not. Then it is even harder to try and explain it. A completely confusing piece of filmaking.
Haneke is a director with interesting past. A director whos is considered a good example of the European cinema. In the film he selected a group of ecxellent actors, Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche who manage to capture the audience through their ecxellent acting. The film presents an upper class family who suddenly starts recieveing videotapes that have recorded their house and part of their everyday lives. along with the tapes come childish drawings which represent a hurt boy. The husband begins to suspect that the tapes and drawings are sent by an algerian boy that his parents wanted to adopt. He as a boy had managed to prevent the adoption by lying and deceiving his parents. As the movie moves along we meet the situation gets more and more complex. In the end we never learn who actually sen those tapes and why.
Cache is definetely a weel educated film on the art of cinema. The spectator finds it difficult to tell apart the scenes that are part of the tapes and the scenes that are from the actual film. The element of scopophilic value of the cinema is well documented and explored.
I think that the director is trying to make a point on how people are scarred by their infantile fears and actions. The hero has lied as a boy because he didnt want to share his parents love and affection. It is not a criminal act. The hero though is gonverned by shame for his action and he immediately considers the terrorism that has embarked upon his life as a punishment for his infantile actions. Some people have the tedency to easily discard their child- misdeamors as actions of no consequence since they didnt know better. For others this absolution is impossible. they remember themselves distingly as people completely formed. The time they did these things as children they knew they did wrong. therefore they can not stop feeling ashamed and carry the burden in their minds. Westerns society considers children pure and inoccent. Childern however can be as good or mean or as complex as grown people.
In Haneke's film Daniel Auteiul is man who got educated enough to know that he is truly responsible for denying another child a chance to better education and life. He however cancelled a chance. He didnt form the other's man life completely. His guilt and behavior leads the situation to extremes. and by giving so much weight on this his whole family is tested and fractured by a crisis he himself created.
The film ends and nothing is clear. No one knows who taped them. The spectators dont know what will happen from here on. An open ending, an anigma.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

100 best movies

Oxford's Film guide has created the following list, according to the film critics, directors, producers and actors. Creating a catalogue of this kind is always something completely subjective. What are the criterria for choosing one film over the other? Historicity, personal liking, technological achievement, aesthetic, myths that accompany the making of the film? so many things influence our opinion! Anyway this list can only be indicative. You can not take it seriously. On the other hand is an ecxellent starter of heated conversation between cinemaniacs. So for Lukia who requested it and others who might be interested.....
1. Citizen Kane 111 points (Orson Welles, 1941, US)
2. The Godfather 101(Francis Ford Coppola, 1971/1974/1990, US)
3. La Regie du Jeu 77(Jean Renoir, 1939, Fr)
4. Vertigo 73(Alfred Hitchcock, 1958, US)
5. Seven Samurai 63(Akira Kurosawa, 1954, Jap)
6. Lawrence of Arabia GO(David Lean, 1962, GB)
7. Raging Bull 58(Martin Scorsese, 1980, US)
8. Touch of Evil 55(Orson Welles, 1958, US)
9. Tokyo Story 50(Yasujiro Ozu, 1953, Jap)
10. L'Atalante 49Gean Vigo, 1934, Fr)
11. The Night of the Hunter 47(Charles Laughton, 1955, US)
12. The Conformist 46(Bernardo Bertolucci, 1969, It/Fr/WGer)
13. Les Enfantsdu Paradis /.'(Marcel Carne, 1945, Fr)
— A Matter of Life and Death 41(Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger, 1946, GB)
15. 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 1963, It)
— The Magnificent Ambersons 37(Orson Welles, 1942, US)
17. Apocalypse Now 36(Francis Ford Coppola, 1979, US)
— North by Northwest 36(Alfred Hitchcock, 1959, US)
19. Chinatown 32(Roman Polanski, 1974, US)
20. La Dolce Vita 31(Federico Fellini, 1960, Fr/It)
— The Searchers 31(John Ford, 1956, US)
22. The Wild Bunch 30(Sam Peckinpah, 1969, US)
23. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp 29(Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger, 1943, GB)
— Some Like It Hot 29 (Billy Wilder, 1959, US)
— Taxi Driver 29 (Martin Scorsese, 1976, US)
26. Napoleon 28(Abel Gance, 1927, Fr)
— Rear Window 28(Alfred Hitchcock, 1954. US)
28. Battleship Potemkin 26(Sergei Eisenstein, 1925, USSR)
— It's a Wonderful Life 26(Frank Capra, 1946, US)
— Performance 26(Nicolas Roeg/Donald Cammell, 1970, GB)
31. The General 25(Buster Keaton/Clyde Bruckman, 1926, US)
32. A Bout de Souffle 24Qean-Luc Godard, 1959, Fr)
— Mean Streets 24 (Martin Scorsese, 1973, US)
— Once Upon a Time in the West 24(Sergio Leone, 1968, It)
— Rio Bravo 24 (Howard Hawks, 1959, US)
36. Once Upon a Time in America 23(Sergio Leone, 1983, US)
37. All About Eve 22Ooseph L Mankiewicz, 1950, US)
— My Darling Clementine 22 (John Ford, 1946, US)
— 2001: A Space Odyssey 22(Stanley Kubrick, 1968, GB)
40. The Piano 21(Jane Campion, 1993, Aust)
— Pierrot le Fou 21Gean-Luc Godard, 1965, Fr/It)
42. Bringing Up Baby 20(Howard Hawks, 1938, US)
— The 400 Blows 20 (Francois Truffaut, 1959, Fr)
— Gone With the Wind 20 (Victor Fleming, 1939, US)
— The Lady Eve 20 (Preston Sturges, 1941, US)
— L'Annee Derniere a Marienbad 20(Alain Resnais, 1961, Fr)
— Letter from an Unknown Woman 20(Max Ophuls, 1948, US)
48. The Battle of Algiers 19(Gillo Pontecorvo, 1965, Alg/It)
49. The Gold Rush 18(Charles Chaplin, 1925, US)
— La Grande Illusion 18 Oean Renoir, 1937, Fr)
— Une Partie de Campagne 18 Gean Renoir, 1936, Fr)
— The Philadelphia Story 18 (George Cukor, 1940, US)
— Pickpocket 18 (Robert Bresson, 1959, Fr)
— Schindler's List 18 (Steven Spielberg, 1993, US)
— The Shining 18 (Stanley Kubrick, 1980, GB)
— The Third Man 18 (Carol Reed, 1949, GB)
57. Dr Strangelove / 7(Stanley Kubrick. 1963, GB)
— The Reckless Moment 17(MaxOphuls,1949,US)
— Singirr in the Rain 17(Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly, 1952, US)
60. Blade Runner 16(Ridley Scott, 1982, US)
— Blue Velvet 16 (David Lynch, 1986, US)
— Pat her Panchali 16 (Satyajit Ray, 1955, Ind)
— Le Samourai 16 Oean-Pierre Melville, 1967, Fr/It)
— Sans Soleil (Sunless) 16 (Chris Marker, 1983, Fr)
— Sweet Smell of Success 16 (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957, US)
66. Amarcord 15(FedericoFellini,
— Greed 75(Erich von Stroheim, 1923, US)
— La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc 15 (Carl Dreyer, 1928, Fr)
— Persona 15(Ingmar Bergman, 1966, Swe)
— Rashomon 15 (Akira Kurosawa, 1951, Jap)
— The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 15(John Huston, 1948, US)
72. All That Heaven Allows 14(Douglas Sirk, 1955, US)
— Black Narcissus 14 (Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger, 1946, GB)
— Double Indemnity 14 (Billy Wilder, 1944, US)
— Intolerance 14 (DW Griffith, 1916, US)
— Notorious 14 (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946, US)
— Out of the Past 14 (Jacques Tourneur, 1947, US)
— The Red Shoes 14(Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger, 1948, GB)
— Sunset Boulevard 14(Billy Wilder, 1950, US)
80. Casablanca 13(Michael Curtiz, 1942, US)
— City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931, US)
— Ran 13(Akira Kurosawa, 1985, Fr/Jap)
— The Spirit of the Beehive 13 (Victor Erice, 1973, Sp)
— Sunrise 13 (FWMurnau,1927,US)
85. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie 12Gohn Cassavetes, 1976, US)
— Ordet (The Word) 12 (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1954, Den)
— Three Colours: Red 12(Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994, Fr/Switz/Pol)
88. Aliens(James Cameron, 1986, US)
— Amadous 11 (Milos Forman, 1984, US)
— L'Av ventura 11 (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960, It)
— Badlands 7 7 (Terrence Malick, 1974, US)
— Barry Lyndon 11 (Stanley Kubrick, 1975, GB)
— The Bridge on the River Kwai 77(David Lean, 1957, GB)
— The Colour of Pomegranates 77(Sergo Paradjanov, 1969, USSR)
— Don't Look Now 77 (Nicolas Roeg, 1973, GB/It)
— Earth 77(Alexander Dovzhenko, 1930, USSR)
— Fanny and Alexander 7 7 (Ingmar Bergman, 1982, Swe)
— La Jetee 77 (Chris Marker, 1962, Fr)
— Kind Hearts and Coronets 7 7(Robert Hamer, 1949, GB)
— The Man Who Fell to Earth 77(Nicolas Roeg, 1976, US)
— Mirror 77(Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974, USSR)
— Pandora's Box 77 (GW Pabst, 1928, Ger)
— The Quiet Man 77 (John Ford. 1952, US)
— Sansho Dayu 77 (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1954, Jap)
— The Seventh Seal 7i (Ingmar Bergman, 1956, Swe)
— Ugetsu Monogatari 77 (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953, Jap)
— West Side Story 77 (Robert Wise/Jerome Robbins, 1961, US)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Brokeback Mountain: Not a typical Western

Brokeback Mountain was advertised as probably the best film of the year. The main theme of the film, which was homosexuality, was under-played and the film was advertised as the description of a forbidden romantic love. In this way a theme that could easily shock the conservatives found itself in the mainstream cinema.

Two young cowboys take a harsh summer job. They have to take care of a herd of sheep up in the mountains without getting in contact with other people for a month. Living alone in nature, under harsh conditions, they become close friends and eventually lovers. When the summer job ends they part and get married. They, however, remain in touch and arrange fishing-trips in order to be able to see each other and make love. As the years go by their reunions are becoming harder and harder to organize and their secret leaks out.

The film is well thought a directed. The scenery plays its own part to the film. Both actors play exquisitely. Small facial expressions create whole moods. Few words are aired but their feelings are obvious.

Only a non American director would dare to go against the strong tradition of the western. In American Culture West was always considered as a place of harsh but beautiful environment where “real” men can battle against nature and themselves in order to prove their manhood. A cowboy had all the paraphernalia a tough man needs. He is a loner, crude partly civilized, a man carrying always the phallic symbol, his riffle, or his gun. In Ang Lee’s film irony runs strong for those who know the stereotypes of a typical American Western. The beautiful and harsh environment testing the men is present through-out the film. The men are loners, typical cowboys with their riffles and beans. Beside their toughness they are homosexuals. In America of the 50’s and 60’s homosexuality was the considered a threat to nuclear family and therefore a threat to America itself. In other words being homosexual you were an enemy of the state only a step higher than the communist. It is hard to overcome ideas that have such an old root. In Lee’s film both men manage to create a family that is dysfunctional. Through the film we realize that these people are condemned to loneliness and isolation. It doesn’t matter if their secret is revealed or not. No being able to communicate their deeper wishes they are condemned to a life without sentimental connection. When one of them dies, the other has not even their brief encounters as a small compensation for the complete destruction of his life. The film presents homosexuality as a destructive and addictive passion, like cards, alcohol or drugs. Because of their homosexuality these men can not be happy, can not fit in society. They ruin their families. One of them at least keeps loosing his jobs and ends up economically ruined. He had been afraid of being outcaste if he was exposed, and he ends up living outside society anyway.

Homosexuality is still a sensitive matter. Lee tries to handle it with care. He declares that homosexuality can be based on love, on a real sentimental connection. It is not only a sexual passion. On the other hand it is presented as a curse. As if being a homosexual refrains someone form functioning as a normal member of society. In the end the film manages make he spectators sympathize with the heroes. In the same time, though, I think that it takes away some of the respect that is due to these people. We might feel sorry for them, but can we appreciate them?