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berlioz II

berlioz II
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    • More +
      25.06.2014 22:47
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      • "Fantastic performances and feeling"
      • "Poetically beautiful story"
      • "Beautifully shot"

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      • "Enigmatic and subtle"

      Two lives, two destinies, two connections

      Two identical women, one living in Poland (named Weronika) and the other in France (named Veronique) are completely unaware of one another''s existence, but still have a strange feeling of connectedness to something they can''t explain. However, when Weronika unexpectedly dies in the middle of performing the lead vocals in a choral work, Veronique starts to feel an unexplained sense of loss as she finds herself needing to come to grips with these strange feelings of missing someone from her life she can''t rationally account for. Krzysztof Kieslowski''s hauntingly beautiful fantasy "La Double Vie de Veronique" ("The Double Life of Veronique"), exploring the metaphysical existence of feelings, connections, and relationships that are shared between people regardless of where they live, is a cryptic and poetic enigma that leaves a lot of the story to be interpreted by the viewer at their own discretion. Released in 1991, the film is largely constructed of two parts, with part one dealing with Weronika and part two with Veronique, both parts brought together by the women''s subtle but mysterious connection, and the feelings they both have over a person they''ve never met outside of a fleeting passage of Veronique happening to snap a photograph of Weronika on the street while visiting Poland.

      Beyond that, the movie''s symbolism takes centre stage in handling any actual connections the two women share as the focus shifts from following the youthful excitement of Weronika chancing to get the lead vocal part in a concert that will lead to her demise, while in Paris Veronique meets a part-time puppeteer and famed writer of children''s books (Philippe Volter) as they begin a hesitant relationship through the most unorthodox of means. Highlighted by the gorgeous cinematography of Slawomir Idziak and the haunting music of Zbigniew Preisner, both of which are instrumentally important to the film in both their aesthetic and symbolic meanings (the latter, in particular, ends up making its presence known through several junctures as a phantom line between the deceased Weronika and the still living Veronique), this is a film that approaches cinema as a pure artistic expression in which complete understanding of the plot is not really entirely necessary. Going by themes of feelings and the connections people share even between great distances that are not dependent on geographic or even personal considerations, with Irene Jacob doing a wonderful double role leading to a low-key, but fantastical journey of self-discovery, loss, and love, make this film an experience that may leave some scratching their heads, but reaps great rewards for those with the patience to stick with it to the end. (c) berlioz 2014

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    • More +
      24.06.2014 17:08
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      • "Lead singers distinct voice"
      • "Tunes you can expect to see at festivals"
      • "A mix of upbeat and thoughtful songs"

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      • "Not enough songs on it"

      A more upbeat album from editors after a four year break and new members

      My first ever review on this site since I lost my old account in 2011 so thought if start by reviewing something I love and that is the band editors. Surprisingly the first person to write a review on this their newest album but here goes. The album is the Birmingham formed bands fourth studio album released In June 2013. It''s also the bands first album without band manner Chris who left the band whilst recording seemingly unhappy with the new sound and direction the band was going. The album has only 11 songs on it, shortish for a modern album however the deluxe version has a 2nd cd with 5 songs on a mix of b-sides and acoustic versions of the main albums tracks. Of the 11 songs on the album 4 have been released as singles. I''m a huge fan been to see them live all over and it''s sad to see that this is probably their least commercially successful album peaking at number 6 in the UK charts. However they did do better in European charts such as Belgium and Holland where they are actually more popular. The first song on the album is called the ''weight and mentions the albums title a few times in its lyrics. It''s a haunting introduction to the album with Tom''s (lead singer) recognisable deep voice booming out and leading you to track number two, the catchy and lively ''sugar'' The song which is the fourth released single which was available from March this year is the bands choice of song for entering the stage during their energetic live shows such as headlining Belgians top festival rock werchter. For this who know little of this band who have been going since 2002 over the years their music has been said to be quite dark and depressing particularly some of the earlier albums which makes references to death quite a bit although somewhat subtlety. This album you feel they''ve tried to be more upbeat, perfect example of that is in the opening track the lyric ''I promised myself I wouldn''t sing about death'' an obvious reference to the criticisms of the past that they can be too somber. Their most marketable track from the album and the one I would recommend you listen to as to determine if this is a purchase you want to make is ''ton of love'' the first track released made it''s debut On Zane lowes radio one show is typical of the band, heavy electric sound, deep voice and energetic chorus if you like this song chance is you''ll like some of the older stuff too. There are one or two songs that don''t do much for myself and will be forgotten about in a few year that feel slot like filler songs namely ''phone book'' and ''bird of prey'' both of which appear at the end of the album but the song that I slowly came round to decide is my favourite is track number 4 ''what is this thing called love'' From what I can make of the lyrics and what I take from it, is it''s about a couple who were happy and made for each other but messed it up by being stupid and making silly choices. It is a great slow track and one I recommend. I won''t go through every song but I feel if you are a fan of this band or Tom Smiths solo or side projects you will enjoy this album and if your a fan of bands like depeche mode and Coldplay it''s worth noting many say editors have a similar sound so this album may also appeal to you. If you like editors old depressing sounds (as I am quite partial too) then stay away it''s not for you.

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    • Marie Antoinette (DVD) / DVD / 14 Readings / 11 Ratings
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      20.06.2014 16:58
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      • "Very pretty"

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      • "Shallow as all sin"

      A shallow subject makes for a shallow film

      Seeing Sofia Coppola''s penchant for low-key, introspective films with their focus usually on the melancholy and alienation of their characters in often languidly paced worlds of quiet restraint (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, Somewhere), it was certainly an odd move when in the middle of these types of films she decided to put on an opulent biopic on the ill-fated queen of France, Marie Antoinette, in 2006. It was odd mostly due to the fact that such a project seemed to be so much out of her personal style - even if she had already been working on the script for this film before her seminal Lost in Translation came about - so a big costume drama seemed a little ostentatious of a thing for the director so much more identified with more minimalist fare than flashy pomp and circumstance to engage in. Yet at the same time she seemed to still want to etch the film with her more habitual type of subtle character interaction to bring about a feeling of a young girl caught amid expectation and duty, while engaged to a man too shy to fulfil either.

      And in a way this is what ultimately tends to threaten to bring the whole film down to the ground in a gloriously burning heap. Following the life of Marie-Antoinette from her move to France from Austria to marry the future King of France, Louis XVI, her eventual ascension to becoming a queen, and ending with the fall of Versailles. In the middle she tries to fit in with the French aristocracy, deal with the expectations of producing an heir to the throne, and having parties at the extravagant opulence of the French court? and that is pretty much as far as we ever get, unfortunately. What seemed to have been Coppola''s chief aim (she also wrote the screenplay, loosely based on the biography by Antonia Fraser) was to represent Marie-Antoinette as a normal, average teenage girl who was married off to a prince outside of her own volition and became the victim of the French Revolution mostly just because she happened to be rich and a queen at the time. And while this could have yielded an interesting character study in itself, the whole endeavour just never raises above that of bland mediocrity with pretty dresses.

      One of the chief proponents that strike out this impression is Kirsten Dunst in the lead role. Coppola had already worked with her on The Virgin Suicides in 1999, so likely it was a natural move on her part to collaborate with Dunst once more on another project allowing for familiarity, but the actress just never really makes all that much of an impression in the role of Marie-Antoinette. Though part of the reason in the casting likely was to make it more obvious on how normal and innocent the queen in reality was, at the same time Dunst seems really unconvincing portraying such a historical figure. One of the reasons is definitely her acting resume that is often filled with the kind of girl-next-door roles that play to her very typical American looks, making her seem so much more like Barbie doing Shakespeare. Nor does she possess the kind of screen presence that would somehow help get her over this impression as her dramatic instincts just don''t manifest themselves on such a visceral level as to make you buy into her portrayal.

      Not that any of the other actors here do much better, though, as the large majority remain just as dull, lifeless, or the roles don''t give them enough to do to make it all worth the effort to be interested in any of them? as much as these people are based on real historical figures. What the film does well, however, is the visual details: the costumes, the furniture, set dressing, and the fact that a lot of the film is shot on real locations in Versailles and such. Certainly Coppola paid much attention on getting across the opulence of the French court during the 18th Century, and it definitely shows in the elaborate decadence visible in every nook and cranny of the cinematography. However, pretty sets and costumes don''t a great film make and it is the lack of interest inherent in the characters and story that keep on haunting continuously in the background.

      I can''t help but feel if Coppola had just gone much more over-the-top than she did here and inserted a bit of fantasy and exaggeration to the film that it would have also improved the final product considerably. But as it stands, the majority of the movie is just seeing Marie-Antoinette spending time at the castle and doing really nothing. There are some small hints on illustrating gossip amongst the courtiers, but even this is so isolated to a few short moments to not make much of an impression. Also in an attempt to bring a certain "edginess" to the period setting, Coppola inserts a number of modern pop songs with a heavy electronic beat to several scenes as rather superficial embellishments, but again these seem to be about the only real attempts at doing anything like that; thus with no support forthcoming from the rest of the film in being anything else but a bland costume drama, these moments fall flat as meaningless anachronisms.

      And where the film should have made its biggest impact - or clearly tries to have them - (the queen-to-be''s difficulties to get his poor husband to have sex with her so as to produce an heir, her disconnect from the world outside of Versailles, even her final moments as the angry mob lay siege on the castle) just don''t have enough dramatic gravitas to make an impact on a viewer. So, when all the cards are laid down, Marie Antoinette as a film is rather too dull and uninvolving - despite its attention to visual splendour - to be considered as much of a success. This is a highly superficial film and it doesn''t really ever manage to make much more deeper of a point on the person of Marie-Antoinette other than she was a normal teenager caught in the whirls of major historical upheaval, and who was unjustly demonised by the frustrated, poor, and angry lower classes of Paris lashing out at the overly wasteful upper classes. And no amount of pop songs is going to make the two hours of the movie feel any more meaningful than what''s visible on its shiny surface. Though I suppose that might also just be symptomatic of the subject being a queen who is mostly known for a single infamous line that she in all likelihoods never actually even uttered! (c) berlioz 2013

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      • Don't Look Now (DVD) / DVD / 11 Readings / 10 Ratings
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        18.06.2014 12:43
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        A rotting mystery inside a decaying Venice

        Sometimes facing films that are considered some of film history''s greatest classics can be a daunting task when trying to be objective. Of course, coming to face these films with little prior knowledge of them helps a great deal, the reaction which you can then contrast to their relevant fame that in the best of instances can make you gain further appreciation as to what you had just seen, or then come out feeling like the movie was simply overrated hogwash. That''s not to say that I can''t make up my own mind whether a film was great just because everybody else says so, but it can at least sway for a more positive opinion down the line. Nicolas Roeg''s 1973 "Don''t Look Now" for me sways more toward the latter category of good, but not quite as tremendous as most everybody says it is. John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) are in Venice recovering from the death of their young daughter through drowning, when they come across two elderly sisters - with one of them being blind and apparently psychic. The visions that the blind lady imparts to Laura makes her obsessed with thinking that their daughter may still exist in some form (perhaps not physically, but at least spiritually), and the ensuing fallout of this lends itself to a mystery that threatens the sanity of both - particularly John as he starts having both memory flashes of his daughter, as well as visions of a red-clothed figure running around the claustrophobic alleyways of Venice that may or may not be his daughter. And when his wife needs to travel back to England, the mystery only deepens when he chances to spot her on a funeral boat with the two elderly sisters and then disappears, making him think she''s been abducted to unexplained nefarious ends.

        Based on the book of Daphne Du Maurier, this thriller, filled with symbolism and little gestures that end up playing an important part in the unfolding story, makes good use of its location shooting and the little titbits of half-seen suggestions that you''re never quite sure what they mean until everything gets tied up in the end, but which are also carried out with such subtlety and spacing that the overall effect gets somewhat diluted as a result. Many have mentioned the movie''s great sense of atmosphere and how scary the film is, but personally the film rarely really pulled me into that zone of complete absorption and not once was I scared of anything (then again, "The Exorcist," often touted as the scariest movie ever made, never even rose a single goose pimple on my skin). This is much more of a psychological thriller than it is a horror story, despite the occasional supernatural element, and that is what I appreciate more with it than the "scary" movie it likely wasn''t supposed to even be to begin with. Likewise the film is very slow to start and doesn''t really fully come alive until the last third, while the harshly recorded sound world is often grating to an annoying extent, right down to the music that seems to have been recorded on an Edison phonograph. Ultimately, "Don''t Look Now" has intriguing elements to it, but doesn''t quite achieve that level of immersion necessary to truly engage. Generally good performances from the leads, fine cinematography from Anthony Richmond, and a shocking connection to a murder spree carried out in the story''s periphery vision help make this still a film to watch, if not unanimously praised. (c) berlioz 2014

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      • Hilary And Jackie (DVD) / DVD / 11 Readings / 11 Ratings
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        17.06.2014 13:45
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        • "Good story on jealousy and the genius mind"
        • "Well acted"

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        • "Not historically too accurate"

        A biopic in which one wonders on which shoe the jealousy really was

        Biopic of famed cellist Jacqueline Du Pre and her sister Hilary, based on the book written by Hilary and brother Piers, "Hilary and Jackie" (1998) is perhaps a bit one-sided in its depiction of Jacqueline, but remains quite a powerful film as a study on fame and jealousy - if not necessarily "history." Split largely in two parts, with part one focusing on Hilary trying to become a flautist, but lacking the innate ability to make it big, eventually settling down as a housewife when she meets her future husband Kiffer (David Morrissey), and ending at the impasse she reaches with her jealous sister. Part two then focuses on Jacqueline''s rising fame, her relationship with pianist Daniel Barenboim (whom she later marries, here played by James Frain), and her eventual succumbing to multiple sclerosis that was to end her career and, ultimately, life.

        Both Rachel Griffiths and Emily Watson as Hilary and Jackie respectively do a great job with the material, but the suspect source book (the revelation of Jacqueline having had a sexual affair with Hilary''s husband created a scandal when the book came out) casts the whole film in a questionable light. By making Jacqueline an overly-sexual, petulant child who is jealous of her sister''s happiness and who''s career is a burden, is contradicted by many who knew her personally and professionally, making Hilary''s accounts seem more vindictive in trying to make herself seem like the victim of parental favouritism and broken promises in face of a demanding and famous sister. Still, the film isn''t really bad, with fine performances across the board, good direction by Anand Tucker, and a great soundtrack (with Elgar''s Cello Concerto in a starring role)... it''s just that its sense of sensationalism may override its more positive aspects in a detrimental way. However, if one were to overlook the at times factually questionable source, this can still be seen as a rather effective movie on jealousy, the fallacy of genius, and the tragedy of a gifted artist''s demise due to an uncontrollable illness, if not really a film to be taken at face value as a great insight into the real lives of either sister. (c) berlioz 2014

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      • More +
        16.06.2014 10:17
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        • "Good performances"
        • "Interesting and quite funny"

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        And they die in the end

        "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," released in 1990, is a unique look at "Hamlet" through the eyes of two small incidental characters from the play, who were party of spying on Hamlet under orders of King Claudius. Here they are portrayed as two friends caught in a strange existence between the real world of watching the play performed by a troupe of travelling performers, led by Richard Dreyfuss, and participating in it personally as they are tasked to determine what is behind Hamlet''s gloomy mood and how to relieve it, only to end up as victims of Hamlet''s paranoia and revenge schemes. Writer-director Tom Stoppard''s adaptation of his own play valiantly makes an effort of bringing a new perspective on the venerable Shakespeare opus, turning to follow two relatively unimportant characters existing largely outside of the main action and lost in a world they have little understanding of as they move steadily toward an ignominious off screen tragedy of their own. Gary Oldman and Tim Roth are fantastic as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern respectively, wrestling through the verbose text with ease, with their literal tennis game of words being a particular highlight of their interaction as they try to kill time between "on-screen" appearances.

        The film is very stagey in style, remnants of Stoppard''s own past as a playwright, while there is a constant sense of a future doom prophesised throughout the story for its hapless protagonists whisked from one place to another with nary a control over their own fates. What comes out of it all is an often funny, metaphysical, and strange little dream-like fantasy that unfortunately doesn''t quite achieve a level of transcendence that would make the whole movie come together in as satisfactory a manner necessary for such a conceptual idea to truly function the way Stoppard likely intended. Funny detail is Guildenstern inadvertedly discovering many principles of physics on the fly as the film goes on, such as steam power, the general laws of gravity, and Newton''s Cradle, along with also inventing an airplane and the hamburger... all which somehow end up being dismissed by others just as easily. This is not a perfect movie by any means, nor does it fully escape its stage origins into the realm of film immersion, but it is an intriguing one nevertheless, even with its slight streak of pretension here and there. (c) berlioz 2014

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      • Cross Of Iron (DVD) / DVD / 14 Readings / 14 Ratings
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        14.06.2014 10:59
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        • "Gritty and features good performances"

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        • "Constrained and cheaply made"

        Anti-war film from the viewpoint of the Germans

        Sam Peckinpah''s only venture into the war genre, 1977''s "Cross of Iron," stars James Coburn as the battle weary German Sergeant Steiner on the Eastern Front before and during the retreat of the Wehrmacht from Russia''s Caucasus region in 1943. Problems arise when he is confronted by the new platoon Captain Stransky (Maximilian Schell), an aristocratic volunteer transferring from southern France, who has come to the battle lines in order to be rewarded with the illustrious Iron Cross as a mark of his worth, a hunger that he wants to sate at any cost - even if it means betraying his own men in pursuit of it. Filmed in Yugoslavia as an Anglo-German co-production, as Peckinpah had made himself quite the Hollywood pariah by the late 1970s, the movie suffered from budget restraints and a constrained filming style that made Peckinpah''s epic aspirations take on a somewhat overly intimate scale. However, the film''s anti-war message, with its focus being on German soldiers instead of the Allied troops, coupled with intimately fine performances of Coburn and Schell on the opposite sides of an ideological coin - not so much political as in the idea of a person''s self-worth (Stransky wants the titular cross as an outward decoration of his aristocratic standing, while Steiner sees it as nothing but the worthless piece of metal it is) - help make this movie largely overcome its various technical restraints.

        Good supporting performances, particularly from James Mason, David Warner, Klaus Loewitsch, and Roger Fritz (as a closet homosexual) add to the film''s gritty sense of realism, where the never-ending enemy bombardment, attacks, and deaths wear down any feelings of nobility and heroism of the soldiers thrown into a futile battle over a false ideology. A particular highlight is a surreal sequence of Steiner being admitted to a military hospital after being nearly blown up by a bomb, where in his shell shocked state he hallucinates of old (dead) comrades or suddenly finding himself completely alone in a room crowded with other patients, the sequence acting as a nicely effective way of demonstrating the psychological issues wars also cause on the soldiers'' psyche. Though the movie''s not as deep as it maybe wants to be, and the war scenes themselves can get a bit numbing after a while (Peckinpah''s typical love of slow-motion violence is also on full display throughout), there''s still much to appreciate and the film remains very much the director''s work. It''s not necessarily a masterpiece, but it is an effectively punchy anti-war film regardless. Based on the book "The Willing Flesh" by Willi Heinrich. (c) berlioz 2014

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        • More +
          13.06.2014 10:31
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          • "Violent and grim"

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          • "Violent and grim"

          A road movie Peckinpah style

          Sam Peckinpah considered 1974's "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" the only film he was allowed to finish exactly the way he wanted, and the results remain extremely divisive even amongst film critics, let alone audiences (though the latter have also come to consider this much more favourably in modern times). Bennie (Warren Oates) is a washed-out piano player in a dingy Mexican bar, who tries to make a good payday by answering a bounty put on the head of a man named Alfredo Garcia for impregnating the daughter of a powerful crime lord. Finding out from his current girlfriend Elita (Isela Vega), who once had a fling with Garcia, that the man is actually already dead, he goes with her to dig up the body and take his head to collect the money. The easy road, however, quickly turns very violent, leaving behind bodies enough for a small cemetery, while Bennie starts to loose his own sense of presence as the story progresses.

          Extremely violent, done on a low budget in Mexico following the director's massive falling-out with Hollywood following "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," and featuring a rawness that makes it particularly appealing in these times of glossy over-production, this is a film that has a certain existential drift to it - a feeling of a hellish road trip upon which the sanity of the lead character hinges on. This is particularly evident when, upon reaching Garcia's grave, he gets pulled into a mad contest to keep the head for himself over his competition, while he begins to increasingly address the mouldy head as if Garcia is still alive, while the movie marches inexorably toward a conclusion that is both gritty and explosive. Oates is fantastic as a grizzled man with not much to lose and everything to gain, thrown into a situation he has little idea of what he's getting himself involved with, while Vega makes the most of her somewhat limited part as an apprehensive floozy concerned that this scheme will only bring disaster. Though the film may not be everybody's cup of tea, for any admirer of Peckinpah before he truly declined beyond help, this is about as honest and authentically Peckinpah'ian film the director ever made. (c) berlioz 2014

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          12.06.2014 08:39
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          • "Dark and psychological"

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          • "Suffers from a messy production history"

          The Existentialism of Wild West Legends

          Sam Peckinpah's 1973 re-telling of Pat Garrett's hunt for outlaw Billy the Kid, based largely on Garrett's own account of the events, was a highly troubled production from the start. Peckinpah was in almost constant strife with the studio, particularly MGM President James Aubrey, the film was given a smaller budget and production schedule than realistically needed, there were several mechanical problems resulting in costly re-shoots, and Peckinpah's rising alcoholism certainly didn't help. By the time the film premiered in a heavily cut version not approved of by Peckinpah, the movie was in shambles and was subsequently a critical and theatrical flop. Still, despite these problems, the moody, melancholy attitude of the film, with the existential performances of stars James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson in the respective title roles, is today considered somewhat of a flawed masterpiece. The main thrust of the film really deals with the old friendship of Garrett and Billy, and how the former becomes his dedicated nemesis on the right side of the law, yet at the same time still feeling nothing but disgust toward himself - in essence portraying the two as living ghosts whose time is steadily running out in a world that is changing and in which old legends are dying out along with these changes. A persistent air of doom hovers above the film and the whole movie leaves off with an almost inconclusive sense of loss to it as Garrett, once his mission is complete, can only feel an abject sense of destitution, hatred of himself, and alienation from the world at large, as if part of himself died along with Billy.

          This all results in a deliciously dark Western that may not slavishly follow historical events and its production history has left the movie in a more-or-less complicated state, but within it lies the core of a masterpiece, the glimpses of which can still be seen despite its flaws. There are three versions of the film available: the theatrical cut, which was largely edited together by the studio without Peckinpah getting the final cut. This should really be avoided. In 1988 an extended "director's cut," dubbed the "Turner Preview Version" released through Turner Home Entertainment, was released on VHS and Laserdisc, this being essentially a work print from which the theatrical version would have been whittled down from. This edit basically includes most of the finalised material shot and is a step-up from the original cut, this version being a key reason to the re-evaluation of the movie's worth later on. Yet another edit followed in 2005 for the "special edition" DVD, combining together elements of the theatrical cut, the preview version, and some material not found from either, with a certain amount of restructuring, which emphasises the movie's more existential nature to a splendid degree. Either of these two latter versions is preferable to the original. The film also features a famed Bob Dylan soundtrack, with the singer playing a small part as one of Billy's groupies, and the song "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" playing in a seminal scene in the movie (though Peckinpah didn't include it in the 1988 version due to feeling that Dylan was a studio insert the director didn't really want in his film). (c) berlioz 2014

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        • The Ballad of Cable Hogue (DVD) / DVD / 10 Readings / 9 Ratings
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          11.06.2014 08:25
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          • "Funny and bittersweet"

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          Wild Sam's 180 Turn in the Wild West

          After his ultra-violent Western "The Wild Bunch," Sam Peckinpah's next film surprised many by him following it with the bittersweet and lyrical little comedy Western "The Ballad of Cable Hogue," starring Jason Robards as the titular Hogue left for dead in the desert by his duplicitous partners, only for him to find water on the side of a well-used stagecoach trail. Seeing as there are no watering holes anywhere between the trail's two destinations, he sets up shop - after a bit of initial difficulty - with the rather eccentric Reverend Joshua (David Warner), while also finding himself falling in love with town prostitute Hildy (Stella Stevens). This movie continues to explore similar themes as Peckinpah's other Westerns, primarily that of the changing character of the Old West and the disappearance of the old frontier due to technological advances. Cable Hogue represents a dying breed of entrepreneur, whose initially successful business idea ultimately has little chance of survival once the horse becomes replaced with the car, and the people start to migrate to larger cities, causing small frontier towns to become defunct and his little business, hinging on the lifestyle of yesteryears, largely obsolete.

          Anybody expecting something akin to "The Wild Bunch" here will be disappointed, as this movie is much more modest in scale, considerably more humorous, and contemplative of its characters' lives and the era in which they live in than focusing on violent gunplay (though there is a minimal amount of that as well). But in this also lies considerable beauty and gentility, something that the director is not widely remember for, with the tragi-comic ending just icing on the cake, and leaving one with a nicely bittersweet feeling of both happiness and sadness in equal measure. Robards is wonderfully laid back in his role, the character taking life's little issues in stride and with a little innocent shrug, while Warner and Stevens provide fine comedic support in their own ways, with the rest of the cast then being filled out with a selection of character actors in various roles ranging from Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones to Slim Pickens and R.G. Armstrong. In the end, the film is a great show of Peckinpah's abilities to turn in work that wasn't just reliant on violence and dark subject matters, but has genuine heart and warmth that make this a perfect tribute to the passing of the old frontier and the people who formed it. (c) berlioz 2014

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          • The Wild Bunch (DVD) / DVD / 14 Readings / 13 Ratings
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            10.06.2014 10:31
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            • "One of the best Westerns ever made"

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            • "The final shootout is still very shocking"

            As Wild as they come

            After a failed and bloody bank robbery, a group of outlaws escape to Mexico from the posse sent after them and end up making a deal with an unpredictable Mexican general to provide him with modern American weapons in exchange for a cache of gold. However, things go south when one of their group tries to send a crate of weapons to a band of rebels opposed to the general's rule, only to get outed and sending his comrades into a moral dilemma of riding off with the money or staying true to their sense of honour by trying to save their captured friend from certain death. Taking place during the Mexican Revolution of 1913, "The Wild Bunch" (1969) was a highly controversial film when it came out, much due to its unprecedented depiction of violence in a movie, a clear continuation of the increased graphic violence already seen earlier in 1967's "Bonnie and Clyde." This in many ways became the film with which Sam Peckinpah's name was to be mostly associated with today - the final, extremely brutal shootout, in particular, still causes a decided level of discomfort in the viewer thanks to its unadorned realism - and was very much a career saver for him following the director's disastrous previous production of "Major Dundee" in 1965.

            Outside of the violence - which Peckinpah intended to comment on the public's poor understanding of the reality of killing, resulting in its easy glorifying, by intentionally making it as repellent as he possibly could - the movie also continues to deal with themes of old age, with the aging outlaws being caught in a time where their former professions were becoming obsolete due to progress, as well as dealing with subjects of betrayal of and loyalty to one's own friends, and the importance of maintaining one's own code of honour, signified by their guilt over them letting down one member of their gang, and which ultimately results in their reclaiming of their honour even if it means it'll cost them their own lives. Stellar performances from William Holden, Ernst Borgnine, Edmond O'Brien, Warren Oates, and Jaime Sanchez, with another good turn by Emilio Fernandez as the virulent general, create a wonderful ensemble cast, while the usage of slow-motion photography to hammer in the violence courtesy of cinematographer Lucien Ballard, the screenplay's fluid construction, and the kinetic editing of Louis Lombardo, help make this one of the very best Westerns ever made. A true classic that significantly helped change the game play for future movies in Hollywood. (c) berlioz 2014

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            • Ride the High Country (DVD) / DVD / 15 Readings / 14 Ratings
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              09.06.2014 09:23
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              • "A fine Western"

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              • "Somewhat old fashioned"

              Sam Peckinpah's first Western classic

              Sam Peckinpah's breakout film, "Ride the High Country" (1962) tells of two old friends, ex-lawman Steve Judd (Joel McCrea) and former partner-turned-showboating sharpshooter Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott), agreeing to transport a shipment of gold from a mining camp in the mountains on a path running with bandits while, unbeknownst to the aging lawman, Gil - along with his sidekick Heck Longtree (Ron Starr) - plan to steal the gold instead - with or without the other's help. Along the way they meet a young girl named Elsa (Mariette Hartley) living with her religiously strict father (wonderfully acidic R.G. Armstrong), whom she abandons in favour of riding with the men in order to marry her miner fiance Billy (James Drury). However, Billy intends to instead prostitute her and, as the others save her from that destiny, they draw the ire of the Billy and his four other thuggish brothers, who set out to kill them all. Scott as the duplicitous friend, struggling with his ideas of betrayal, but not wanting to do harm to his trusting buddy if at all possible, and McCrea as the honourable, old-school straight-up hero and bona fide legend of the Old West now way past his prime, are excellent in a movie that may not be quite as striking today as one might gather from critical praise, particularly for anyone expecting the later nihilism of Peckinpah's popular style, but is certainly a thoughtful and lyrical film from the final years of the classic Golden Age of Westerns. Taking place at the turn of the century, the ideas of the changing of times (a car rampages through the streets of an old frontier town in the beginning of the film) and themes of growing old, what moral integrity means, and how much do friendships weight in this new world where the profession of a gunfighter is already going out of style outside of sideshows, are reflected as the two friends think back on the past, the decisions they've made in life, and how said decisions have shaped them into becoming the people they are now, follows motifs that the director would continue to explore in his later films as well. Ultimately a story of redemption and honour, this classic loses only for somewhat missing that tingling Peckinpah touch of his later years. (c) berlioz 2014

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              • More +
                08.06.2014 09:20
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                • "Good acting and solid story"

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                • "Very soap operaish"

                Italian soap opera at its best

                Cynical and womanising businessman Domenico Soriano (Marcello Mastroianni) meets his match in prostitute Filumena Marturano (Sophia Loren) with whom he has an on-off relationship for several years during World War 2. But when after the war he falls for a younger woman, Filumena (now Domenico's mistress covering as his ailing mother's caretaker of sorts) feigns a fatal illness, wishing that before her death Domenico would marry her. He agrees on grounds that she won't have more than a few hours of life left to her, but once they are hastily married, she drops the ruse, revealing that she's not dying after all and married him because of the one son she bore him of the three she had given birth to in her life (though Domenico never acknowledged having fathered any). Now Filumena, refusing to tell him which of the three is theirs, is forcing him to take responsibility of all three regardless of which one is his in this farcical comedy of manners and Italianite passions. Reasonably entertaining, but ultimately nothing too special, "Matrimonio all'Italiana" ("Marriage Italian Style") was a big success when released in 1964, but today largely remains of interest mostly to fans of Mastroianni and Loren, with solid directing from Vittorio De Sica. The performances of both Loren and Mastroianni are still fine, though, with Loren particularly on top form - authoritative, playful, and very sexy - while Mastroianni is delightfully callous despite being the second romantic lead - though most of the secondary players tend to only reach the level of the unremarkable. Regardless, the movie itself doesn't go much beyond that of soap opera theatrics and is a typical example of De Sica's buffo style of filmmaking at its purest: generally enjoyable, but also fairly superficial. Based on the stage play "Filumena Marturano" by Eduardo De Filippo. (c) berlioz 2014

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                07.06.2014 09:01
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                • "Entertaining and fun"

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                • "Some fluctuation with story quality"

                Three stories hosted by Sophia and Marcello

                Starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio De Sica's anthology "Ieri, Oggi, Domani" ("Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow") from 1963 offers three comedic tales executed with the typical sense of quality the director is known for. "Adelina of Naples" sees Loren as black marketeer of smokes Adelina Sbaratti in 1953, but as she is caught, she is issued a fine. Under the threat of having her go to jail over her inability to pay or allowing her furniture to be repossessed instead, she finds a legal loophole that prevents pregnant women to be incarcerated, leading her to try to get and stay pregnant, much to her unemployed husband Carmine's (Mastroianni) exhaustion. In "Anna of Milan" Loren is the wife of a rich industrialist Anna Molteni, with Mastroianni her illicit lover Renzo, but during a drive in her husband's Rolls Royce, both end up re-thinking what is really important to them. Guest starring the film's composer Armando Trovajoli as a flashy Ferrari driver for whom the materialistic Anna leaves his poorer joy boy for without much further consideration. Finally, "Mara of Rome" sees Loren as a prostitute named Mara for whom a student priest Umberto (Giovanni Ridolfi) falls for, leading him to threatening to quit his studies in order to be with her. Therefore Mara promises to set the young man back on the right trail with the help of reluctant rich client Augusto (Mastroianni). This final segment is famous for featuring Loren's sexy striptease show.

                Light comedy, with the first part undoubtedly the best, this isn't the deepest stuff the director's done, but is very entertaining nevertheless - so much so that it even won the Oscar for best foreign-language film. "Adelina" pumps out the director's favourite comedy style of a raucous farce in its escalation of needing for Adelina to be continuously pregnant, a task which eventually even her husband can no longer perform, leading her to start expanding on her choice of bed fellows for the desperate bid to stay of out of jail as legally she only has six months of freedom following a pregnancy. It's all much fun and is filled with that typical expressive aplomb Italians are known for. "Anna" is much the shortest of the three, and in which relatively little happens, but which has a sweet sense of irony when it contrasts the genuine desire for love Renzo feels as opposed to the financial comfort Anna desires over pure love, despite her words to the contrary. Her final decision as to which brings her more happiness is likely no surprise to anyone. "Mara" by consequence ends up being perhaps the least impressive of the three, though really only marginally so as the story itself is still a fun twist in Mara being the responsible prostitute to not let her admirer stray from the righteous path of the clergy he needs to go on (you know Italians and family obligations). And come on: Sophia Loren in her prime doing striptease. Sexy, man, sexy! In the end, this is on the better side of De Sica's comedic films and the chemistry between Loren and Mastroianni, at the time the biggest of Italian super stars, is undeniable. Entertaining, fun, and just an all out delightful film. (c) berlioz 2014

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                • Umberto D (DVD) / DVD / 9 Readings / 7 Ratings
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                  06.06.2014 10:10
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                  • "Heartrending and honest"

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                  • "Pretty depressing"

                  The dark side of retirement

                  Returning back to his more serious style after "Miracle in Milan," Vittorio De Sica's last fully neo-realist film "Umberto D," released in 1952, follows retired government worker Umberto Domenico Ferrari (played by linguistics professor Carlo Battisti) as he struggles to live with his meagre pension, an outcast no longer deemed a productive member of society and shunned almost as a non-human despite a lifetime of service to his country. This heart-rending story about a man suffering from the demeaning attitude of the government forcing him to make due with an insultingly small pension, and the younger, work-aged people's condescension viewing him a useless person only taking up space on his path to the grave, is a depressingly sad statement on aging and the treatment of those no longer actively benefiting our lives (truly, how little have things really changed since this movie came out). And as he struggles to find enough money to pay his over-due rent before he is tossed out on the street, it only serves to take him further into considering suicide as the only viable course of action left to him. The only bright spot in his unhappy life, and which effectively keeps him hanging on, is his scrappy dog Flike, truly the only one that doesn't judge or abandon him as the trawls through the streets no better than a homeless beggar. And it is ultimately this relationship between man and pet that will be at the root of his return to the sun from the valley of darkness, a sincere affirmation of love and trust that De Sica's early films often came to highlight as triumphing over those of opposing social injustices. A flop when originally released in Italy for its unfavourable depiction of the government and Italian society in general, it has since become rightfully considered a neo-realist masterpiece from one of the movement's brightest stars. A must-see for aficionados of European cinema. (c) berlioz 2014

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