Saturday, May 27, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: The Handmaiden

(Winner of the Vulcan Award for Production designer Ryu Seong-hee at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, The Handmaiden is the story of a young Korean woman who is hired to serve a reclusive Japanese heiress during Japan’s occupation of Korea as she is used by a conman to swindle the heiress out of her inheritance. Directed by Chan-wook Park and screenplay by Park and Chung Seo-kyung, the film is an exploration of lust and deception where a young woman is torn in doing a job for a devious conman and her infatuation with this Japanese woman. Starring Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, and Cho Jin-woong. The Handmaiden is a ravishing yet unsettling film from Chan-wook Park.

Set in the early 20th Century during Japan’s occupation of Korea, the film revolves around a young Korean woman who is part of a scheme to defraud a Japanese heiress with the aid of a conman pretending to be a count. It’s a film that explores not just a young woman torn into the work she’s doing as she falls for this heiress. It’s also a film that is about a world that is quite intense where women are used as some form of object whether it’s for desire or to serve men in the sickest of ways. The film’s screenplay by Chan-wook Park and Chung Seo-kyung would have this unique three-act structure as it would play into the perspective of its three central characters in the heiress in Lady Izumi Hideko (Kim Min-hee), the titular character whose name is Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri), and the conman who pretends to be a count named Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo). All of which are dealing with Hideko’s uncle Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong) who is this eccentric yet perverse collector of rare erotic novels.

The first act is about Sook-hee being the handmaiden for Hideko as she is aware of what she has to do but she is also very naïve about the world that Hideko lives in as she’s introduced to fine dresses and jewelry. Plus, she would befriend Hideko to the point that they would fall for each other until Count Fujiwara arrives claiming he can create perfect forgeries which intrigues Kouzuki. The second act is about Hideko and why she’s known for being reclusive as well as dealing with the death of her beloved aunt (Moon So-ri) who had raised her and had previously been her uncle’s book reader of these racy and explicit erotic novels that she would read to these aristocratic guests who would buy these books at an auction with Kouzuki making lots of money. It’s a role that Hideko would later play as there’s elements in the first act that would return which would lead to this very intriguing third act which is more about Fujiwara’s own ambition and what he wants from this scheme.

Park’s direction is just rapturous in every image he creates as he would take Sarah Waters’ story which was originally set in Victorian Britain and transport it into Japan-occupied Korea during the early years of the 20th Century. Shot largely in South Korea with some locations in Japan, the film does play into this mixture of traditional Japanese interior design with some British Victorian-era architecture in the home of Kouzuki with some of it set in a world that is ever-changing from traditional Japan/Korea to the modern world of that time. Park’s usage of the wide shots and zoom lenses to capture the scope of the rooms and exteriors at the Kouzuki estate has an air of exquisiteness in the way the camera moves as well as play into something that is beautiful but also quite off. Especially the library filled with Kouzuki’s collection of erotic novels and objects that are quite lavish as it play into the desire of these aristocratic men.

The scenes of Hideko reading these salacious and explicit novels with these men, including her uncle and Fujiwara, watching are quite erotic in the way she reads every word as the sensuality is very potent yet also quite restrained compared to the sex scenes involving Hideko and Sook-hee which are intense. Even in how Park would slowly build up the sexual tension as well as creating different perspectives of a scene to showcase what is going on between the two women. The usage of close-ups and medium shots help play into the attraction while Park would also use some tracking shots and other stylized compositions to help play into the drama. It would be very restrained in the third act as it would include bits of humor into the film as it showcases a lot of the ways of the world at that time and how women were perceived in those times. Overall, Park creates an intoxicating yet eerie film about a young woman being used for a scheme to defraud a reclusive heiress.

Cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon does incredible work with the film’s gorgeous cinematography with its usage of dark colors and stylish yet low-key lighting for some of the film’s nighttime interior/exterior scenes as well as going for something natural yet dream-like in some of the film’s daytime exterior scenes. Editors Kim Jae-bum and Kim Sang-bum do brilliant work with the editing as its usage of jump-cuts as well as other rhythmic cuts to play into the heightened drama and suspense. Production designer Ryu Segong-hee does amazing work with the look of the look of Kouzuki’s home as well as the many interiors and rooms in the house including the lavish library as it’s a highlight of the film. Costume designer Jo Sang-keyong does excellent work with the design of the suits the men wear as well as the beautiful robes and clothes the women wear.

Hair/makeup designer Jong-hee Song does fantastic work with the look of the hairstyles that Hideko would sport throughout the film as well as the look of Kouzuki. Visual effects supervisor Jeon Hyoung Lee does some nice work with the film’s visual effects which is mainly bits of set dressing for a few scenes including parts of the third act. Sound editor Chul-woo Moon does superb work with the sound in capturing some of the sound effects for some of the dramatic suspense as well as some of the intensely dark moments in the film. The film’s music by Jo Yeong-wook is phenomenal as its usage of heavy string arrangements with elements of piano and orchestration really adds a lot of dramatic weight and intensity in some of the romantic and erotic elements of the film as it is another of the film’s highlights.

The film’s tremendous ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Kim Hae-sook as the Kouzuki estate’s main butler madam, Lee Yong-nyeo as Sook-hee’s mentor in thievery, Jo Eun-hyung as the young Hideko, and Moon So-ri as Hideko’s late aunt in the flashbacks. Cho Jin-woong is brilliant as Kouzuki as a rich collector of rare erotic novels who is quite perverse and very abusive towards Hideko in the way he would want her to read these novels as well as be very possessive towards his books. Ha Jung-woo is excellent as Fujiwara as a con man who is pretending to be a count to swindle Hideko out of her inheritance where Jung-woo brings a complexity into someone that wants money for his own reasons while doing things to fool someone as if he’s an idiot or ambitious.

Finally, there’s the duo of Kim Hin-jee and Kim Tae-ri in spectacular performances in their respective roles as Hideko and Sook-hee. Tae-ri’s performance as Sook-hee is a joy to watch as someone who is quite innocent into the role she’s in yet knows she is part of a big scheme. There is something about Tae-ri in the way she sees things as there is something that is quite naïve but engrossing as she would develop into a cunning woman that is much smarter than people realize. Hin-jee’s performance as Hideko is also very complex in how she copes with the trauma over her aunt’s death and restrained approach to seduction. There is also something about her that is even more intriguing as the story progresses as there’s so much more to her than this oppressed yet odd heiress. Hin-jee and Tae-ri together have a chemistry that is just insatiable to watch as they have something offbeat in the way they interact with each other as it would grow into something intense as they are the highlights of the film.

The Handmaiden is a magnificent film from Chan-wook Park that features phenomenal performances from Kim Hin-jee, Kim Tae-ri, and Ha Jung-woo. Featuring some incredible technical work as well as a gripping story, gorgeous visuals, and a hypnotic music score. The film is definitely an uneasy yet rapturous film that doesn’t like to play safe while pushing the limits into the world of seduction, deceit, and ambition. In the end, The Handmaiden is an outstanding film from Chan-wook Park.

Chan-wook Park Films: (The Moon Is… the Sun’s Dream) – (Trio (1997 film)) – (Judgement (1999 short film)) – JSA-Joint Security Area - Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance - (If You Were Me-Never Ending Peace and Love) – Oldboy - Three... Extremes-Cut - Lady Vengeance - I'm a Cyborg but That's OK - Thirst - (Night Fishing) – (60 Seconds of Solitude in Year Zero) – (Day Trip) – Stoker

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: Our Little Sister

(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the manga series Umimachi Diaries by Akimi Yoshida, Our Little Sister is the story of three women who learn about the death of their father as well as the realization that they have a fourteen-year old half-sister who has no one to take care of her. Written for the screen, edited, and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, the film is an exploration of sisterhood and family where three women deal with the estrangement and loss of their father as well as the new person in their life. Starring Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Suzu Hirose, and Kaho. Our Little Sister is a ravishing and evocative film from Hirokazu Koreeda.

Set mainly in the seaside city of Kamamura, the film revolves around three women who take in their fourteen-year old half-sister following the death of their estranged father as they all deal with his loss but also the things that led to the estrangement and other issues revolving around them. It’s a film with a simple premise that explores four women who share the same father but one of them has a different mother as they all deal with living together in their grandmother’s home as well as other things in their lives. Hirokazu Koreeda’s screenplay doesn’t really go for any kind of traditional narrative structure as it’s more about the building of a relationship between these three women and their newly-discovered half-sister whom they invite to live with them. The eldest in Sachi Koda (Haruka Ayase) is a woman works at a hospital as a nurse as she is the most maternal of the three as she had helped raise her two younger sisters since their father left them for another woman and their mother would suddenly abandon them after the fallout of the affair.

The other two sisters in the banker Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa) and the 21-year old shoe store clerk Chika (Kaho) are also trying to live their lives and go through some form of growing pains as they would take in their 14-year old half-sister Suzu Asano (Suzu Hirose) as they knew about her for a while but never really got to know her. Much of the film is about these four women living together in this small town as they introduce Suzu to this very warm and lively community of people that includes a diner owner they’ve known since they were kids as well as a regular customer of that diner and their great aunt who is a little hesitant about meeting Suzu. Yet, Suzu would eventually fit in with her new surroundings as she also becomes close to her older sisters as it would play into the development of all four women. Especially as Sachi is having an affair with a married colleague while Yoshino’s life of being with men who aren’t good would finally take its toll.

Koreeda’s direction also takes a very simple approach to the story as it is largely shot on location in Kamamura as the town itself is a character in the film. While Koreeda would use some wide shots to establish much of the film’s locations as well as some scenes around the house of the four sisters. He would favor something that is more intimate as it is the right tone of the film where Koreeda doesn’t really go for anything stylistic other than in the compositions which definitely captures a lot of depth in the image. Especially with the medium and some of the wide shots in capturing the four sisters in a single frame as there aren’t many close-ups in the film so that Koreeda can focus on the four sisters together or individually. There are moments of humor but it’s mostly subtle as is some of the drama where it is very restrained as Koreeda is more about building up the relationship between Suzu and her three older sisters. Notably in these little moments where there’s a reveal about Suzu’s relationship with her father as it raises question about what her sisters missed out on.

Koreeda would also create little subplots in the film that help add to the development whether it’s Chika watching over Suzu with a friend or Yoshino trying to help the diner owner with her finances. It all has something that does feel natural as it’s also Koreeda would create these scenes and dramatic moments very patiently which includes a key meeting between the three sisters and their mother during a memorial service for their late grandmother. There is a sense of tension that is looming but Koreeda chooses not to go overboard as he knows where to hit the right notes. Also serving as the film’s editor, Koreeda would maintain that simplicity as he only uses a few fade-outs for transitional reasons where it is about these sisters bonding as it would include moments that are very touching without the need to be overly sentimental as Koreeda knows where to hit the right notes. Overall, Koreeda creates an intoxicating and rapturous film about three women bonding with their newly-discovered half-sister.

Cinematographer Mikiya Takimoto does excellent work with the film’s very naturalistic yet colorful cinematography as it doesn’t aim for any kind of particular style but rather something very straightforward including some of the scenes set at night. Production designer Keiko Mitsumatsu, with set decorator Ayako Matsuo and art director Mami Kagamoto, does brilliant work with the design of the home the sisters live in as well as the interiors of the local diner they go to as well as some places in the city. Costume designer Sachiko Ito does nice work with the costumes as it is very straightforward as the clothes play to the personality of the characters along with the robes they wear for a local ceremony in the summer. Sound mixer Yukata Tsurumaki does wonderful work with the sound as it also presented in a very simple manner to play into the atmosphere at the house and areas in the city. The film’s music by Yoko Kanno is incredible for its usage of sumptuous string arrangements that is very low-key but very effective as it help sets a tone for the drama without overdoing the scene or the moment.

The casting by Toshie Tabata is fantastic as it feature some notable small roles from Kirin Kiki as great-aunt Fumiyo, Lily Franky as the diner owner Sen-ichi, Jun Fubuki as the estranged mother, Shinichi Tsutsumi as a diner regular who knew their father, and Ryo Kase as a colleague of Yoshino who would help her settle financial matters for Sen-ichi. The performances of Suzu Hirose, Kaho, Masami Nagasawa, and Haruka Ayase are phenomenal in their respective roles as Suzu, Chika, Yoshino, and Sachi. Hirose’s performance as Suzu is a joy to watch as a 14-year old coming of age as she exudes an air of innocence into her performance while Kaho’s role as Chika is full of energy and wit as someone who is young but also responsible as she is very excited about being an older sister for Suzu.

Nagasawa’s performance as Yoshino is fun to watch as someone who goes from being a typical mid-20s woman who likes to have fun and sleep around to being responsible as she does whatever she can to help out a family friend. Ayase’s performance of Sachi is definitely the most reserved as the eldest of the four sisters as she is also the most maternal as she acts as a mother figure to Suzu while also be very flawed in her own situations. The four women together have this potent chemistry that is just incredible to watch as it feels like they are sisters as they fight, laugh, and cry together as they are a major highlight of the film.

Our Little Sister is a tremendous film from Hirokazu Koreeda. Featuring a remarkable ensemble cast as well as a very simplistic yet engrossing story that is carried with gorgeous images and its location. It’s a film that manages to provide so much by doing so little as it prove that even something ordinary like a story about sisters can be extraordinary and more. In the end, Our Little Sister is a magnificent 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 (2013 film)) - (After the Storm) - (The Third Murder)

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: The Crucified Lovers

(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the musical play by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, The Crucified Lovers is the story of a wealthy man who accuses his wife and an employee of having an affair as the two run away together. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi and screenplay by Matsutaro Kawaguchi and Yoshikata Yoda, the film is an exploration of jealousy and neglect set in 17th Century Kyoto. Starring Kazuo Hasegawa, Kyoko Kagawa, Yoko Minamida, and Eitaro Shindo. The Crucified Lovers is a compelling and gripping film from Kenji Mizoguchi.

The film revolves around a wealthy but selfish scroll maker who would accuse his wife and his top employee of having an affair when the reality is that the wife needed money to pay her brother’s debts which the husband refuses to do as she turns to his top apprentice for help. It’s a film that is about a man who drives away his wife and his top man into chaos all because he doesn’t want to spend the money he makes and have it wasted on things he thinks are mindless. The film’s screenplay is quite simple as it explores a man’s greed and his unwillingness to help people as he would treat his wife cruelly as well as those who work for him as he would often try to engage into an affair with a young maid who has feelings for the top apprentice. The first half is about the trouble the wife in Osan (Kyoko Kagawa) would unfortunately create while the second half is about her and the apprentice Mohei (Kazuo Hasegawa) running away as they deal with what to do next as they’re being pursued by people working for Osan’s husband Ishun (Eitaro Shindo) who wants to deal with them himself rather than report them to the authorities.

Kenji Mizoguchi’s direction is definitely engaging for the way he captures life in 17th Century feudal-Japan where it’s run by warlords and such as there’s people willing to profit from these conflicts. Much of the film is shot in countryside locations in Japan as it plays into a world that is thriving yet there are rules that are quite cruel. Mizoguchi’s usage of the wide shots would capture this sense of oppression where there is a scene of a couple that is being shamed publicly and later crucified because they committed adultery which adds a sense of dramatic weight into the film. Yet, Mizoguchi would favor more intimate shots such as close-ups and medium shots to play into the drama which include these scenes at these lavish yet traditional Japanese homes as well in the forest where he would create a sense of theatricality into the acting as well as raise the stakes into what Osan and Mohei would endure. Especially in the third act as it play into not just the selfishness of Ishun finally catching up with him but the effects it would play into Osan and Mohei’s lives. Overall, Mizoguchi creates a riveting and haunting film about a wealthy man’s selfishness as he drives his wife and top apprentice into an affair.

Cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography for its usage of lights for many of the interior/exterior scenes set at night while going for something more natural in the daytime scenes. Editor Kanji Sugawara does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward to play into the build of the dramatic intensity as well as in some of the moments of dramatic suspense. Production designer Hisakazu Tsuji, with set decorator Yaichi Ebise and art director Hiroshi Mizutani, does fantastic work with the look of the home of Ishun as well as his shop where he runs his scroll making business as well as some of the interior gardens. Costume designer Natsu Ito does wonderful work with the costumes from the design of the robes and clothes that the men and women wore in those times. The sound work of Iwao Otani is terrific for its natural approach to the sound as it help create some tension in the drama. The film’s music by Fumio Hayasaka and Tamezo Mochizuki is amazing for its unsettling yet enchanting score as its usage of percussions and string instruments help add weight to the drama as it is a major highlight of the film.

The film’s superb cast feature a few notable small roles from Haruo Tanaka as Osan’s brother, Yoko Minamida as the maid Otama who is in love with Mohei, and Eitaro Ozawa as the scroll maker manager Sukeemon as a man who would try to defuse the situation only to cause more trouble. Eitaro Shindo is excellent as Ishun as a wealthy owner of a scroll making business who is a man that is very selfish as he neglects his wife and is indifferent about the feeling of his workers as he would plot a way to deal with his wife and Mohei. Kazuo Hasegawa is brilliant as Mohei as a scroll-making apprentice who is good at his job until he is asked to help Osan into giving her money where everything goes wrong as he deals with his growing disdain towards Ishun and his feelings for Osan. Finally, there’s Kyoko Kagawa in an amazing performance as Osan as Ishun’s wife who is trying to help her family as she puts herself and Mohei into a terrible situation as she becomes angry over her husband’s insensitivity as she would try and make a life of her own only to realize how difficult it is.

The Crucified Lovers is a marvelous film from Kenji Mizoguchi. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a captivating script, and an eerie music score. It’s a film that explores Japanese society where everything is unruly during its feudal times as well as a woman dealing with the selfishness of her husband and the help of another man. In the end, The Crucified Lovers is a remarkable film from Kenji Mizoguchi.

Kenji Mizoguchi Films: (Tokyo March) - (The Water Magician) - (Aizo Toge) - (The Downfall of Ozen) - Osaka Elegy - (Sisters of the Gion) - (The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums) - The 47 Ronin (1941 film) - (Utamaro and his Five Women) - (The Love of the Actress Sumako) - (Portrait of Madame Yuki) - (Miss Oyu) - (The Lady of Musashino) - The Life of Oharu - Ugetsu - (A Geisha) - Sansho the Bailiff - (The Woman in the Rumor) - (Princess Yang Kwei-Fei) - (Tales of Taira Clan) - (Street of Shame)

© thevoid99 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: Tale of Tales

(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the collection of tales Pentamerone by Giambattista Basile, Tale of Tales is a collection of stories that would become the basis for many different fairy tales that are told in a surrealistic presentation. Directed by Matteo Garrone and screenplay by Garone, Edoardo Albinati, Ugo Chiti, and Massimo Guadioso, the film follows three different stories that mixes elements of realism and surrealism. Starring Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly, Toby Jones, Kathryn Hunter, Shirley Henderson, Stacy Martin, Hayley Carmichael, Alba Rohrwacher, Jessie Cave, and Vincent Cassel. Tale of Tales is a rich yet offbeat film from Matteo Garrone.

Based on three different stories by Giambattista Basile, the film revolves around the fate of three different kingdoms and their encounter with something mysterious and unique. The first of which involves a barren queen whose husband sacrifices himself to get the heart of a sea monster for a virgin to prepare where both women would give birth to an albino boy who become friends much to the queen’s dismay. The second story involves a king who becomes fascinated by a flea in his hand during a performance from his daughter as he keeps it as a pet until its passing where an ogre identifies its skin and takes the princess. The third and final story involve two old women who enchant a womanizing king with an operatic voice as one of them tries her best to look young as she later meets a witch who would do that leaving the other sister behind wanting to be young.

The film’s screenplay would crisscross through each different story though the characters from all three different stories would rarely meet as it play into a world where these character all want something. Each narrative would build up into something such as the Queen of Longtrellis (Salma Hayek) is keen on winning the affection of her son Elias (Christian Lees) but he’s more concerned in maintaining his close friendship with the peasant boy Jonah (Jonah Lees). The story of the King of Highhills (Toby Jones) and his love for the flea would be a story about neglect as it relates to his daughter in the Princess Violet (Bebe Cave) whom he unknowingly gives her away to an ogre (Guillaume Delauanay) because he correctly guessed the skin of the king’s dead pet. The story about the King of Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel) and the two old women in Dora (Hayley Carmichael) and Imma (Shirley Henderson) relates to Dora’s desire to be young and become the object of desire for this lustful king. All of these stories share the common theme of selfishness as well as neglect and sin.

Matteo Garrone’s direction is definitely very stylish as it has elements of surrealism as well as references to classic fairytales. Shot on various locations in Italy, the film does play into that world of medieval times as it is the right setting for where these fairytales were created as it also borders into the world of the absurd. Garrone would use a lot of wide shots to capture not just the scope of the locations including the different kingdoms but also in the castles themselves as they all display a different personality into the people who rule them. There are also usages of close-ups and medium shots to establish the characters and their situation as Garrone would infuse moments that are very dark but also have this odd sense of surrealism where it is obvious that Garrone is taking some of his ideas from the works of Federico Fellini. Still, Garrone would provide his own ideas of style as it relates to some of the violence that Elias and Jonah would encounter as would Princess Violet and Imma in their own stories. Overall, Garrone creates a chilling yet whimsical film about three royal leaders and their selfishness.

Cinematographer Peter Suschitzky does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with the usage of unique lighting schemes for some of the interiors including the scenes at night as well as the naturalistic look for some of the daytime exteriors. Editor Marco Spoletini does nice work with the editing as it is quite straightforward with some stylish cuts to play into some of the offbeat humor and drama as well as in some of the transitions. Production designer Dimitri Capuani, with set decorator Alessia Anfuso and supervising art director Gianpaolo Rifino, does amazing work with the look of the castle interiors as well as some of the look of the caves and places the characters encounter. Costume designer Massimo Cantini Parrini does incredible work with the costumes from the lavish gowns some of the women wear to the clothes of the man including the ragged look of some of the characters including Imma and Dora.

Hair designer Francesco Pegoretti and makeup designer Gino Tamagnini, with special makeup effects and creature supervisor Luigi D’Andrea, do fantastic work with the look of Imma and Dora as old women as well as the wigs of some of the characters as well as the look of the sea monster. Special effects supervisor Leonardo Cruciano, along with visual effects supervisors Bruno Albi Marini and Nicola Sganga, does terrific work with the visual effects as it’s mainly some set dressing as well as in the design of the flea and its movements. Sound designer Leslie Shatz does superb work with the sound in creating some sound effects as well as capture much of the atmosphere in the recorded sounds at the different locations in the film. The film’s music by Alexandre Desplat is great as it is one of the film’s major highlights with its rich orchestral-based score as well as in the string and piano arrangements.

The casting by Jina Jay is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Kathryn Hunter as a witch that Dora meets, Franco Pistoni as a necromancer who gives the Queen of Longtrellis instructions on what she has to do to get a baby, Guillaume Delaunay as the ogre who takes Princess Violet as his bride, Massimo Ceccherini as a circus performer who would save Princess Violet, Alba Rohrwacher as a circus performer who would see Princess Violet and plan her rescue, Jessie Cave as a sweetheart of Jonah, and John C. Reilly in a small but superb performance as the King of Longtrellis as the man who would hunt down the sea monster and get his heart for his wife. Christian and Jonah Lees are terrific in their respective roles as Elias and Jonah as two albino young men who have a strange connection to each other as if they’re brothers as they try to hold on to their friendship against the demands of Elias’ mother. Hayley Carmichael is wonderful as the older Dora as a woman with an angelic voice who craves to be with the lustful King of Strongcliff while Stacy Martin is fantastic as the young yet more vain version of Dora.

Shirley Henderson is excellent as Dora’s sister Imma as an old woman who would help her sister woo the King of Strongcliff as she would be left behind as she is desperate to try and find a way to become young again. Bebe Cave is brilliant as Princess Violet as a young woman eager to get the attention of her father as she is suddenly put into a situation that she didn’t want to be in forcing her to deal with matters by herself. Toby Jones is amazing as the King of Highhills as a king who becomes attentive towards a flea he would keep as a pet as he would put his daughter into a contest unwilling to go against his word as king. Vincent Cassel is remarkable as the King of Strongcliff as a man who lusts over beautiful women as he is someone that is quite vain as well as eager to fulfill his own desires. Finally, there’s Salma Hayek in a phenomenal performance as the Queen of Longtrellis as a woman eager to have a child and hold on to it as it’s a performance filled with anguish but also a determination of someone who is selfish in her love for her son and refusing to think what is best for him.

Tale of Tales is a sensational film from Matteo Garrone. Featuring a great ensemble cast, an inventive screenplay with very compelling themes, dazzling visuals, and a sumptuous score by Alexandre Desplat. The film is definitely a strange yet intriguing film that explores the fallacies of desires and power in the hands of people who are consumed with their own bullshit. In the end, Tale of Tales is an enchanting and exhilarating film from Matteo Garrone.

Matteo Garrone Films: (Terra di mezzo) - (Guests) - (Roman Summer) - (The Embalmer (2002 film)) - (First Love (2004 film)) - (Gomorrah) - (Reality (2012 film))

© thevoid99 2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: The Nice Guys

(Played Out of Competition at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Shane Black and written by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi, The Nice Guys is the story of a down-on-his-luck private detective who teams up with an enforcer to find a missing young woman in 1977 Los Angeles amidst a world of corruption and pornography. The film is an offbeat neo-noir film that explores two mismatched men who work together to try and do good as they go into a wild adventure. Starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley, Matt Bomer, Keith David, and Kim Basinger. The Nice Guys is a thrilling and exciting film from Shane Black.

The film revolves the worst private detective who reluctantly teams up with a brutish enforcer to find a missing young woman as she is connected to the death of a porn star. It’s a film with a simple premise involving mismatched men who work together to find this young woman as they venture into the world of pornography and its relation to the world of crime. The film’s screenplay by Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi is a mixture of noir with some offbeat humor as it play into the two protagonists who aren’t part of the police force nor do they do anything conventional which makes them a perfect team. The enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a guy hired to beat people up as he would meet this loser private detective in Holland March (Ryan Gosling) during an assignment where he beats him up. When Healy is attacked by two thugs who is trying to find this missing young woman in Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley), he turns to March for help with March’s young daughter Holly (Angourie Rice).

It’s not just the mystery that is so interesting but it’s also the characters as Healy and March are guys who try to help people but they never reach their full potential until they work together. During the course of the film as they work together to solve this mystery, Healy and March learn more about each other as they become unlikely friends with Holly gaining a second father of sorts in Healy. When the two meet up with a high-ranking official from the Department of Justice in Judith Kuttner (Kim Basinger) who is revealed to be Amelia’s mother. The search for Amelia becomes more complex as it becomes clear someone is after her since she knows something as it doesn’t just relate to her mother’s disdain towards pornography but also something to do with the auto industry.

Black’s direction is definitely stylish as it play into the world of 1970s culture as it begins with a young boy (Ty Simpkins) sneaking under his parents bed to see a porno magazine when a car suddenly crashes into his home with the body of the same naked woman from that magazine. Shot largely in Atlanta and Decatur, Georgia with many exterior locations in Los Angeles, the film play into a world that is in disarray with a gas shortage as well as a smog pollution looming over Los Angeles. Black would use some wide shots to establish some of the locations as well as go into this world of decadence as well as it play into a period where everything is unruly but exciting. Black would use some medium shots and close-ups to focus on the characters as well as some of these offbeat moments such as Holly reading a book in a yard next to her home or these surreal moments as it relates to some of the things March sees whenever he’s drunk.

Still, it help play into the story and development of these characters as it is about these two mismatched men trying to do good in the world no matter how fucked up things are. Even as it leads to this very extravagant yet thrilling climax involving all sorts of shit where it proves that these are two guys that can get the job done. Overall, Black creates a fun and exhilarating film about two mismatched men trying to find a missing young woman.

Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot does excellent work with the film’s colorful cinematography with its usage of colorful lights for some of the scenes at night as well as some natural lighting for the scenes set in the day with the exception of the low-lit bars. Editor Joel Negron does nice work with the editing as it has some unique style in its usage of jump-cuts as well as using rhythmic cuts to play into the comedy and suspense. Production designer Richard Bridgland, with set decorator Danielle Berman and art director David Utley, does brilliant work with the look of the different houses and places the characters go to as it play into the world of the late 1970s. Costume designer Kym Barrett does fantastic work with the period costumes from the dresses and clothes the women wear as well as the suits that Healy and March wear.

Visual effects supervisor Josh Saeta does terrific work with the visual effects as it is mainly some set dressing to recreate the look of 1977 Los Angeles as well as some backdrops for some of the driving scenes at night. Sound designer James Harrison and sound editor Oliver Tarney do superb work with the sound in creating some unique sound effects as well as play into the atmospheres involving the parties and some of the violence. The film’s music by John Ottman and David Buckley is wonderful as it is a mixture of orchestral-based pieces with elements of funk and jazz to play into the feel of the 1970s while music supervisor Randall Poster creates a fun soundtrack that features music from the Bee Gees, Earth, Wind, & Fire, the Temptations, Kool & the Gang, Andrew Gold, America, A Taste of Honey, Climax Blues Band, Brick, KISS, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Al Green, and Rupert Holmes.

The casting by Sarah Finn is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Ty Simpkins as the kid who finds the dead body of a naked porn star, Daisy Tahan as Holly’s friend Jessica, Yvonne Zima as a porn princess, Jack Kilmer as a friend of Amelia named Chet, Murielle Telio as the dead porn star Misty Mountains, Beau Knapp as a thug known as Blue Face, Yaya DeCosta as Judith Kuttner’s secretary Tally, Keith David as a thug who teams up with Blue Face, Matt Bomer as a mysterious hitman named John Boy, and Lois Smith as an old lady who claims her niece Misty is alive. Kim Basinger is excellent as Amelia’s mother Judith Kuttner as a top official for the department of justice who is eager to find her daughter as well as be very ambiguous about her war against pornography as well as dealing with a case involving the auto industry.

Margaret Qualley is brilliant as Amelia as a young woman that is trying not to be found by anyone as she knows something that could cause a lot of trouble as she is full of energy as well as naiveté thinking she could do something when it’s really more complicated. Angourie Rice is amazing as Holly March as Holland’s daughter who is a lot smarter than her father as well as be the conscious of sorts as she brings a lot of energy but also some wit as she is the real standout in the film. Finally, there’s the duo of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Jackson Healy and Holland March. Crowe is the straight man of the two as someone that is cool with beating people up as he uses his street smart to get things done while also being very funny in a restrained manner. Gosling is definitely the funnier of the two as someone who is kind of a bumbling idiot that always screw things up despite his good intentions. Crowe and Gosling have a great sense of rapport together as they’re always fun to watch while bringing out the best in each other.

The Nice Guys is a remarkable film from Shane Black that features top-notch performances from Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. Along with a great supporting cast, nice visuals, and a fun premise, the film is definitely a neo-noir film that doesn’t take itself seriously while bringing in the things needed for an action-suspense film. In the end, The Nice Guys is an incredible film from Shane Black.

Shane Black Films: (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) - Iron Man 3 - (The Predator (2018 film))

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: Ballad of a Soldier

(Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Grigori Chukhari and written by Chukhari and Valentin Yezhkov, Ballad of a Soldier is the story of a soldier who is granted a leave to visit his mother as he gets a closer look at the devastation of war in his home. The film is a drama set during a war where a young man tries to find hope in the chaos of war as he would also fall in love with a young woman. Starring Vladimir Ivashov, Zhanna Prokhorenko, Antonina Maksimova, Nikolai Kryuchkov, and Yevgeni Urbansky. Ballad of a Soldier is a heartfelt and visceral film from Grigori Chukhari.

Set in World War II, the film follows a young soldier whose heroism has granted him a two-day leave to visit his mother as he goes on a journey via train where he is later accompanied by a young woman eager to visit her wounded fiancé. It’s a film with a simple story as it plays into a man getting a look at the chaos of what is going on outside of the battlefield as ordinary people struggle to survive during the time of war. The film’s screenplay explores this young soldier in Private Aloysha Skvortsov (Vladimir Ivashov who would take down two tanks with a gun as his general (Nikolai Kryuchkov) is impressed and gives him a two-day leave to see his mother and fix her leaking roof as he has to return to the battlefield.

During this journey that would take nearly two days, he would encounter various characters such as a wounded soldier returning home as he’s convinced his marriage is over and later this young woman named Shura (Zhanna Prokhorenko) who would stow away on the same train he’s boarding as she is eager to see her fiancé. The two would befriend each other as they go on a few stops including one to deliver a present for the wife of a fellow comrade as it play into many realities of what happens in war. At the same time, they try to do what they can to help others in the terror of war as well as raise morale.

Grigori Chukhari’s direction is definitely mesmerizing in terms of the dazzling compositions he creates from the opening sequence of Pvt. Skvortsov in the battlefield to the scenes on the train. Filled with some unique wide shots to capture the vastness of the locations as well as some entrancing close-ups and medium shots to get a look into the characters. Chukhari would create images that do have this very enchanting look but also play into something that is intimate such as the scenes of Pvt. Skvortsov on a train compartment with hay as he sees Shura for the first time sneaking onboard. There are moments with the tracking dolly-shots that are quite entrancing in the way Pvt. Skvortsov and Shura see rural parts of the Soviet Union as well as these camera angles that play into the duo helping people out as well as hear the news about the war. It’s also got some dreamy images as it relates to the journey that Pvt. Skvortsov is taking as it’s all about seeing his mother no matter how little time he has to return to the battlefield. Even as it is about the role he is playing for the world as it’s a role that would be of massive importance for those he’s fighting for. Overall, Chukhari creates an evocative yet ravishing film about a young soldier’s journey home to see his mother.

Cinematographers Vladimir Nikolayev and Era Savelyeva do brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography from the usage of sunlight for some of the interior/exterior scenes as well as the usage of lighting for some of the close-ups and scenes at night. Editor Mariya Timofeyeva does amazing work with the editing with the stylish usage of dissolves for a dream sequence as well as some rhythmic cutting to play into the drama. Production designer Boris Nemechek does fantastic work with the look of the hay bale train compartment as well as the hospital and the home of one of the soldier’s wives.

Costume designer Lyudmila Ryashentseva does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly straightforward to play into that period of the times. The sound work of Venyamin Kirshenbaum is excellent for the eerie atmosphere of what is going on in the cities and rural areas including a scene late in the film involving bombs. The film’s music by Mikhail Ziv is superb for its soaring orchestral score that play into the drama as well as the sense of longing that Pvt. Skvortsov has for his mother as well as Shura later in the film.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Valentina Telegina as an old woman truck driver, Gennadi Yukhtin as a fellow private in Pavlov, that Pvt. Skvortsov meets on his way home and gives him a present for his wife, Georgi Yumatov as a sergeant giving soldiers some soap, Vladimir Pokrovsky as Pavlov’s ill father, V. Markova as Pavlov’s wife, Marina Kremnyova as a neighbor of Pvt. Skvortsov from his home village, Aleksandr Kuznetsov as a soldier guarding the train, Yevgeni Teterin as a lieutenant inspecting the train, Yevgeni Urbansky as a wounded soldier, Elza Lezhdey as the wounded soldier’s wife, Nikolai Kryuchkov as Pvt. Skvortsov’s general who is impressed by the young private, and Antonina Maksimova in a wonderful small role as Pvt. Skvortsov’s mother who is waiting for her son’s return.

Zhanna Prokhorenko is incredible as Shura as a young woman who stows away on a train as she joins Pvt. Skvortsov on his journey as she copes with her role in the world while falling for the young private. Finally, there’s Vladimir Ivashov in a remarkable performance as Pvt. Aloysha Skvortsov as a nineteen-year old soldier whose bravery in battle allows him a two-day furlough to visit his mother as he deals with the journey he takes as well as falling for a young woman who would help him observe everything he sees.

Ballad of a Soldier is a spectacular film from Grigori Chukhari that features sensational performances from Zhanna Prokhorenko and Vladimir Ivashov. It’s a war drama that manages to bend genres as it focuses on people outside of the battlefield seen from a soldier just eager to see his mother for what could be the last time. In the end, Ballad of a Soldier is a tremendous film from Grigori Chukhari.

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, May 21, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: The Passionate Friends

(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, The Passionate Friends is the story of a love triangle involving a woman with another man as she reflects on the affair as she sees him for the first time in nine years. Directed by David Lean and screenplay by Lean, Eric Ambler, and Stanley Haynes, the film is an exploration of love affairs told through a series of episodic flashbacks. Starring Ann Todd, Claude Rains, and Trevor Howard. The Passionate Friends is an extraordinary yet mesmerizing film from David Lean.

The film follows a woman who arrives to Switzerland for a holiday as she hears the familiar voice of a former lover as she then reflects on the affair she had with this man she was in love with while being married to a powerful banker. It’s a film that explores the idea of affairs and longing as a woman find herself torn for her love for this man and her devotion to her husband. The film’s screenplay begins with Mary Justin (Ann Todd) arriving to Switzerland with her husband’s secretary Miss Layton (Betty Ann Davies) as hearing the voice of her former lover in Professor Steven Stratton (Trevor Howard) forces her to look back nine years earlier when they rekindled their affair as she is married to the powerful banker Howard Justin (Claude Rains). The first half is about the affair that is just innocent as Mary and Steven knew each other years ago but Howard’s discovery of it would end it. The film’s second half begins in Switzerland due to a chance meeting as the two don’t just cope with missing each other but also talking about what happened to them since.

David Lean’s direction is enthralling in terms of the compositions he creates in some of the locations in Switzerland including the Alps as well as some of the more simplistic scenes set in London. While there are some unique wide shots that would Lean would create including a New Year’s Eve party in the film’s flashbacks. Lean goes for something that is more intimate with the usage of close-ups and medium shots to play into the attraction between Mary and Steven as he would create images that are astonishing for the scenes in the second half of the film set in the Alps. Lean would also create moments of fantasy as it relates to the things that Mary and Steven want but it would often collide with reality. Especially in the third act where the story returns to London as it is about the reality of Mary’s encounter with Steven and what she faces due to the anger and heartbreak from her husband. Overall, Lean crafts a compelling yet evocative film about a married woman dealing with the presence of her former lover.

Cinematographer Guy Green does amazing work with the film’s black-and-white photography from the look of the interiors including the scenes at night at the London underground train stations as well as some of the gorgeous exterior scenes in the Alps during the day. Editors Geoffrey Foot, Clive Donner, and Jack Harris do excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some dissolves and rhythmic cutting to play into the drama. Costume designer Margaret Furse does nice work with the costumes as it play into the posh look of the characters to play into the world they live in. Sound recorders Stanley Lambourne and Gordon K. McCallum do terrific work with the sound in capturing the sounds of boat and train engines heard from afar that add to some of the drama in some scenes. The film’s music by Richard Addinsell is wonderful for its sumptuous orchestral score that play into some of the happier moments as well as using some heavy orchestration for the dramatic moments.

The film’s marvelous cast include a couple of fantastic performances from Betty Ann Davies as Howard’s secretary Miss Layton and Isabel Dean as Steven’s date at the New Year’s Eve party in Pat. Claude Rains is incredible as Howard Justin as a banker that is trying to be a good husband but feels threatened by the presence of Professor Steven Stratton as he tries to hold on to his love for Mary. Trevor Howard is remarkable as Professor Steven Stratton as a man who is in love with Mary as he is eager to give her a nice life but also is aware what he’s doing to Howard. Finally, there’s Ann Todd in a radiant performance as Mary Justin as a married woman who is forced to recall events of her affair with Professor Stratton as she copes with wanting to be with him but also be loyal to her husband as the sense of anguish and torment gives Todd a performance that has to be seen.

The Passionate Friends is a sensational film from David Lean. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous cinematography, a dazzling film score, and a riveting story on longing and affairs. The film is certainly one of Lean’s more intimate yet character-driven stories filled with amazing imagery as well as intriguing characters. In the end, The Passionate Friends is a rapturous film from David Lean.

David Lean Films: (In Which We Serve) – (This Happy Breed) – Blithe Spirit - Brief Encounter - (Great Expectations (1946 film)) – (Oliver Twist (1948 film)) – (Madeleine (1950 film)) – The Sound Barrier - Hobson's Choice -(Summertime (1955 film)) – The Bridge on the River Kwai - Lawrence of Arabia - Doctor Zhivago - Ryan's Daughter - (Lost and Found: The Story of Cook’s Anchor) – A Passage to India

© thevoid99 2017