Browsing: Mystery

Film Festival Nachthelle_1-1

The postmodern film Nachthelle is Florian Gottschick’s diploma film and introduces the young, innovative director and recent graduate to a wide audience at the Munich Filmfest. Based on the title of a poem written by Johann Gabriel Seidl and a musical piece composed by Franz Schubert, Nachthelle explores the human unconsciousness, love and fear as well as…

Reviews ill_follow_you_down_2013_1

Gillian Anderson deserves an Oscar for the restraint she shows in not turning to the camera and winking into the lens as she tells her on-screen husband in I’ll Follow You Down to call her when he lands. As she and their son fade into a soft-focus…

Reviews last_passenger_2013_1

Are we able to open on a POV shot from a moving carriage without evoking the spirit of Strangers on a Train? We ought to be, of course; even Hitchcock himself didn’t, saving that series of overlapping fate fades for a few minutes into the movie. That Last Passenger does so nevertheless is not a fact in its favour, even if its similarities extend…

Reviews the-immigrant

Regarded by some as the last classically-oriented filmmaker in Hollywood, writer/director James Gray delivers a period piece steeped in nice detail and less appealing schmaltz. The Immigrant is essentially a melodrama triangulated around a practical-minded woman: think the setup of The Quiet American where a poor girl …

Film Festival blackcoalthinice_2-1

As a 15-year-old, I’d never heard the word “pastiche.” Still, I understood that urge: to create your own version of the things you loved. If you grew up on action movies, maybe you tried to make one as a teenager. My own attempts never went well. I lacked the technical skills to translate my ideas into something that looked and felt like the real thing. But even if I did have some virtuoso knack for crafting action spectacles in my parents’ backyard, I still had nothing to say. I just wanted to imitate the films that enchanted me. There was no goal, no purpose, but artful recreation.

Reviews a_public_ransom_2014_2

It’s only the writer’s mind that would think to leap from A Public Ransom, a deadpan oddity of a feature debut from novelist Pablo D’Stair, to the Byron poem bemoaning Bonaparte’s abdication. But what is writing if not a mad mental dash to bring together a disparate sprawl of influences and ideas? Like Byron, whose stanzas overflow with allusions to various mythologies and were later set to manic music by Schoenberg in a piece itself influential, D’Stair is caught up in the eternal dialogue of artistry, the intertextual fray of creative construction whereby works live on far longer than those that birthed them.

Reviews Transcendence-hallway-scene-movie-still

Cinematographer Wally Pfister’s directorial debut, Transcendence, is really a film that would have been better suited for Stanley Kubrick, given Kubrick’s career long theme of the dehumanization of man and the large roll technology plays in that dehumanization. Pfister doesn’t handle the material nearly as dexterously as Kubrick would have, but that’s like saying a person who’s never held a gun isn’t as good a shot as Annie Oakley.

The story is that of Will Caster (Johnny Depp), a computer scientist working on the first true artificial intelligence. With the promotion and help of his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and friend Max (Paul Bettany), he’s working toward the first fully realized AI. Then, a coordinated series of attacks on computer labs across the US occurs and an attempt is made on Will’s life by domestic terrorists determined to destroy any attempt at creating AI and seem to have a general disdain for technology, at least obliquely since they use computers and cell phones regularly. He survives, but the bullet was laced with something that gave him incurable radiation poisoning and five weeks to live.

Rewind Review birth-1

About one-third of the way through Jonathan Glazer’s Birth comes its narrative and stylistic turning point: for a nearly three-minute unbroken long take, protagonist Anna (Nicole Kidman) gradually realizes that she believes in ten-year-old Sean’s (Cameron Bright) claim that he is her husband reincarnated. Having tardily made her way into a packed concert hall with her new fiance (Danny Huston) after Sean’s adamant refusal to recant his story, Anna stares past the camera as Wagner swells on the soundtrack, representing the roiling emotional turmoil beneath her placid, fragile gaze. That single shot — audacious, severe, just as aural as visual, and entirely reliant on Kidman’s focused, interiorized performance — encapsulates the film’s overall strengths and weaknesses. Engaging yet self-consciously bravura, the oppressive zoom frames the lead actress’s face and lets duration and minute gesture relay what meaning it contains. It’s a moment that may try one viewer’s patience while piquing another one’s, becoming emblematic of the film as a whole.

Reviews confessionnal-1995-07-g

Everybody’s got a past. Some of them are filled with dark deeds. Some of them are filled with unspeakable tragedies. Some of them are just a collection of events, good and bad, that make up the people we are today. Film is frequently obsessed with the way the past haunts the present and becomes inescapable, making prisoners of us all. As we live our lives, we slowly paint ourselves into corners, until one day we wake up and realize we have nowhere left to turn.

Film Festival Basic-Instinct-1992

Paul Verhoeven’s American film output established unique stylistic flourishes that would seem alien coming from Hollywood studios as he created visions of strange dystopian capitalist wet-nightmares, gratuitous and superficial sexuality that was deliberately confrontational and highly stylized, and unflinching ultraviolence that exhibited at an outsider’s interpretation of comfortable mainstream sensibilities. Like the American output of Douglas Sirk in the 1950s or F.W. Murnau in the 1920s, Verhoeven’s unique style forged new interpretations of what came before while simultaneously paying homage to the films that influenced his trajectory as a filmmaker. These transplanted masters of cinema came to Hollywood with a well established arsenal of styles and techniques, granting them the expert ability to deconstruct the base elements of Hollywood genre films and contribute new dimensions forged from their unique auteur voices that had been honed in their early filmmaking which was often inspired by Hollywood films in a cycle of complementary influence that created unique and unusual aesthetics and self-referential styles. Basic Instinct is a natural link in the evolutionary chain of the Hollywood thriller, steeped in the intrigue, ambiguity, raw sexuality, and hyper-realistic violence of Verhoeven’s earlier work as shades of The Fourth Man and Turkish Delight combine with unmistakable Hitchcock influences to create something simultaneously familiar and boldly unique.

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