Pics of the Week: WEEK 3

Cinema is an Art form inherently based around the visual image. To celebrate this notion, every week, there will be 5 stills uploaded onto this blog due to their power to resonate emotionally. Whether they are beautiful, technically perfected, memorable, geniusly disgusting, or meet their intentions – they will be put on here.

1. Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi Driver (1976)

Memorable shot amongst the gritty, intentionally vile looking visuals of Taxi Driver. Perhaps a metaphor for Travis Bickle having died a long time ago, and having killed himself further by becoming a Taxi Driver: his hand in the shape of a gun, and a ‘result’ of the blast being the blood stains all across the wall. Who knows?

2. Lolita (1962)

Lolita (1962)

Lolita (1962)

Genius innuendo.

3. Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)

Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)

Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)

My favorite Tarantino image ever. Absolutely simple, yet so effective, it’s as if Tarantino forces it down our eye-sockets and into our subconscious memory itself. I haven’t seen silhouettes being used so effectively for such a long time.

4. Mulholland Drive (2001)

Mulholland Drive (2001)

Mulholland Drive (2001)

The location. The fact that they’re clutching each other. The similar hairstyles. The lighting. The high-exposure. It all adds up to a dreamlike image. Plus the facial expressions of our leading ladies is a metaphor for the film itself: what…the…hell?

5. Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia (2011)

My least favorite von Trier next to The Idiots is Melancholia. Filled with pretentiousness and not really about anything at all – however – the image is beautiful. Observe the symmetry: the three circular planet/stars in the sky, the three characters centre screen. The hedges either-side adding to the formalist nature of the shot. The way the lighting gets lighter from left to right.

Although completely formalist in structure, the image itself is one of absolute haunting beauty which has stayed with me for some time.

Pics of the Week: WEEK 2

Cinema is an Art form inherently based around the visual image. To celebrate this notion, every week, there will be 5 stills uploaded onto this blog due to their power to resonate emotionally. Whether they are beautiful, technically perfected, memorable, geniusly disgusting, or meet their intentions – they will be put on here.

1. The Tree of Life (2011)

The Tree of Life (2011)

The Tree of Life (2011)

I think it’s an image of just astounding beauty – not least because my favorite colour is blue. To say why I love it is to merely describe it: the endless sand stretching all the way up to the panorama, the way Jessica Chastain is given an angelic, almost goddess-like quality, the perfect symmetrical shadow she leaves behind, the sun in the distance…

Simply perfection.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

There are lots of terrifying and uncomfortable shots in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – this one remains to me to be the most intense. It captures the madness of the situation and the fear Sally is experiencing: the bulging of the eye, the tear, the pumping blood gushing into the centre of her pupil, the sweat, the rednes around the eye-lid…

It really does capture the emotions of this character succinctly and has left a powerful grasp on me.

3. Persona

Persona (1966)

Persona (1966)

Ingmar Bergman invents his own motif of showing the blending of identity in this film: a medium two-shot of two characters side by side – with their shoulders at the bottom of the frame. This is perhaps the most artsy one: capturing the light and dark shades of the inner turmoils of the characters via expressionistic lighting. Persona has the most gorgeous black and white cinematography, and this is one of my favorite stills from the film.

4. Empire (1964)

Empire (1964)

Empire (1964)

Empire blurs the line between painting and film. It is also profoundly dull. This still could be applied to every frame of the film, because every frame (albeit the opening titles) is of the Empire State Building.

5. El Topo (1970)

El Topo (1970)

El Topo (1970)

Filled with such random strangeness, El Topo is a film I admire for its inventiveness but don’t particularly like. It is all symbolism and no meaning. Filled with obscure shots and obscure images it is indeed. This is the least obscure image of the film, and for me the most powerful – capturing a disturbing amount of bloodshed. It’s the way the blood draws our eye all the way to the distance of the frame, like a line on a map – further accentuating this are the numerous dead bodies.

And for weirdness sakes, Alejandro Jodorowsky as the title character helps a young naked boy (why he is naked is never known) through this barren land of depravity. To further enhance the weirdness is the fact that this is Jodorowsky’s own son.

Lolita (1962)

3 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056193/

15   135 min  –  Drama | Romance  –  September 1962 (UK)

Director

Stanley Kubrick

Writer

Vladimir Nabokov; Stanley Kubrick

Stars

James Mason; Shelley Winters; Sue Lyon

Plot:

Humbert Humbert (James Mason), intellectual, professor, middle-aged man, a paedophile lusts after 15 year old Dolores Haze (Sue Lyon), eloquently nick-named: ‘Lolita’.

Review:

Lolita (1962)

Lolita (1962)

The films of Stanley Kubrick are oft criticised for being ‘emotionally cold’. Personally, I have always found these claims to be ridiculous. Objective they certainly are, but cold? 2001 is one of the most awe-inspiring works I’ve ever seen, A Clockwork Orange twisted my emotions throughout, and Eyes Wide Shut stayed with me for a good two months after viewing. Even Barry Lyndon, which is quite clearly the most distancing of his films has emotions oozing throughout it.

Kubrick shoots films as if he were shooting stills of a crime-scene: he puts the camera at a distance so all the characters are in view amongst a meticulously lit and scrupulously composed backdrop.

Classic use of distancing being used in Barry Lyndon (1975)

Classic use of distancing being used in Barry Lyndon (1975)

More distancing methods used in Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975)

More distancing methods used in Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975)

We are thus forced to question the characters, but the emotion comes from the fact that we view them like ‘bugs under a microscope’ (as one critic excellently put it). The ironies, hypocrisies, stupidities, obsessions, angst, paranoia and rage of every character always seeps through. The best example of this is in that long and pivotal scene in Eyes Wide Shut where Bill is told that Alice has contemplated sleeping with another man. By being distanced, I learned more about the character of Bill, and thus, I felt emotion. Bill fails to see that it’s not just men that have an intense desire for sex lurking inside of them.

Silly Bill.

Like Eyes Wide Shut, Lolita is about male sexual obsession, and presents it with great sympathy and snide sarcasm. Though doubt, probably more sarcasm than Eyes Wide Shut. Kubrick shows the lustful emotions of the humorously named, ‘Humbert Humbert’ with moments of such obvious subtlety that it borders on self-parody and mocking the religious and right-wing censors of the time – like he’s bluntly trying to get away with as much as possible without crossing the line. It’s not just suggestive, it’s very suggestive. Take the opening shot (similar to that of The Graduate), consisting only of a teenager’s soft, shining foot. A middle-aged hand delicately applies nail varnish to it, subtly rubbing its fingers against the skin as much as humanly possible. Or the shot where Humbert Humbert kisses his wife, about to make love to her, whilst all the time looking at a photograph of his wife’s daughter, Lolita, in view. The joke being that during sex, he’s not concentrating on his wife, but instead what his imagination can do. And what about the first time we see the title character? Laying in the sun, clothed in a bikini, a sun-hat, and of course, wearing those heart-shaped glasses, whilst, licking a lollipop. Oh, Kubrick you.

Sue Lyon in Lolita

Sue Lyon in Lolita

There’s a great shot in this scene, where the camera is placed behind Lolita so that Lolita’s mother and Humbert Humbert (blocked behind her) are in view. If you look closely, you can see Humbert Humbert’s eyes twitch with nervousness and sexual tension – all at a self-knowingly slutty 15 year-old girl. I think the point being that Lolita is the sexual-predator here as opposed to Humbert Humbert – who merely comes across as pathetic, and idiotically possessive. Throughout the movie, Humbert Humbert seems to care more about love and relationships, whilst Lolita seems to be driven by sex – aided by that sly allure she has.

I’m reminded of the reasons why Chris Morris made the television special of Brass Eye named ‘Paedogeddon’ – an episode mocking how paedophilia is sensationalised by the media and how children are presented as being objects of such glowing innocence and naivety, that you’d expect them to grow angel wings, a halo and make Jesus Christ look like a sinner.

Chris Morris' sharp satire on the way paedophilia was sensationalised in the media

Chris Morris’ sharp satire on the way paedophilia was sensationalised in the media

The film slowly unravels, charting Humbert Humbert’s paranoia and obsessions building. It’s surprising how throughout the film, you forget that one of the main themes of it and the book is paedophilia itself. What’s unsettling here isn’t the age gap but the power-play between the couple. Humbert Humbert wants everything his way and Lolita would gladly disagree. Is the point here being that the notion of age-gaps in relationships being something predatorial is a ludicrous idea, and what is more sexually sinister are 1950s gender-roles? I am unsure. Kubrick films have to be watched multiple times.

I think the fatal flaw of the film is the time in which it was made. Censorship is such a pointless affair. People know of paedophilia, so why prevent presenting it? Throughout, you’d probably consider Lolita to be of 18 years old, if it wasn’t for the fact that on the DVD box, the internet and the film’s taglines we are told that she is 15? Yes, the film is suggestive throughout, but implying something can only go so far. I think the film could have played out like A Clockwork Orange, simultaneously unsettling and hilarious: the film would have been more interesting if Humbert Humbert’s sexual desires appeared to be more sinister. On screen we would have had two sexual predators as opposed to one, and the question surrounding the morality of age-gaps would have been more forceful, intense and dilemma-inducing. The novel is told from first person perspective, Humbert Humbert hypnotises the reader throughout – I think the same would have worked well in the film. We never seem to understand Humbert Humbert’s motives – I think the film would have been interesting if we got inside his head via the use of voice-over. Again, A Clockwork Orange springs and leaps to mind.

Also, the film is too slow in some areas. This is typical of Kubrick: Barry Lyndon and Eyes Wide Shut are above the two-and-a-half hour mark, but this is because they have a lot of story to tell. Would the humour have been intensified if the film was more rigorously speedy in its pacing?

I feel that the film does come across as cold because it isn’t as emotionally complex for the audience as it could have been. Thus the objective direction doesn’t present us with intriguing characters to contemplate but instead ironic situations which lack the depth of Kubrick’s later work.

I think it’s also interesting to watch this, whilst knowing that some of his later films are my favourites. I can see the beginnings of a directorial style, a seed being planted, knowing throughout that something great lurks within. 37 years later, Kubrick made a masterpiece.

Kubrick's last and final film is a masterpiece: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Kubrick’s last and final film is a masterpiece: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Verdict:

Not nearly as complex as it should have been. I’m left with the thought that the film should produce a moral-dilemma, similar to that of A Clockwork Orange. However, watch this for the beginnings of a great-director’s talent slowly churning: the compositions, the choice of music, the meticulously slow-pacing (although this doesn’t always work here), and of course the great performances from James Mason, Peter Sellers and Sue Lyon.

This Is The End (2013)

3.5 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1245492/

Director

Evan GoldbergSeth Rogen

Writers

Evan GoldbergSeth Rogen

Stars

James FrancoJonah HillSeth Rogen

Plot

This Is The End (2013)

This Is The End (2013)

A group of celebrities and glamorous people head to a party at James Franco’s house – yes, James Franco’s. However, their anarchic fun, endless drinking and drug-consuming is violently stopped when the apocalypse begins.

Review

Rihanna slapping Michael Cera in the face for fondling her bottom. Michael Cera being impaled on a sign post. Jona Hill being possessed by the devil. Seth Rogen’s house setting on fire. Emma Watson with a pick-axe. Danny McBride masturbating over an issue of Penthouse. Do I need to say more?

This Is The End is the movie where you see celebrities playing themselves, and then dying in ludicrous ways or arguing over who’s going to have a Mars Bar. It’s great entertainment and contains set-piece after set-piece, self-referential gag after self-referential gag. Half of the fun is in guessing the movie references. It’s an excellent send-up of celebrities – and also a fine genre-parody as well: taking heavy influence from apocalyptic dramas, psychological thrillers, and of course, The Exorcist. The movie takes the conventions, amps them up to 11, and ridicules them. Take the opening apocalypse sequence: cars crash into buildings, bodies fly in the air like weightless boxes being left on a see-saw; furthermore to this: random items of furniture (or bits of wall and ceiling) crush people to death. Heads and body parts fly. All of this with celebrities playing themselves. The actors are in the movie, as opposed to the characters they portray.

This Is The End doesn’t just enjoy being a self-referential parody, it relishes in it as well.

The ‘characters’ are stripped down to the bare-bones stereotypes – more importantly, the way they are portrayed in the media/in their films. Remember how in Being John Malkovich, John Malkovich is sarcastic and incredulously angry – the same here, but in a less intelligent, and more anarchical and silly kind of way. Characters don’t just refer to each other by first names or nicknames – but by full names: “It’s Seth Rogen!”, “It’s Emma Watson!”, “It’s Channing Tatum!”

However, unlike Being John Malkovich, or most recently – Cabin in The Woods, the film doesn’t concern making a statement about the film industry. Which is fine. It’s just silly camp fun. But, could it have been sillier? Could there have been more cameos. As much as I liked it, I can’t help but think that I wanted more.

This Is The End is the kind of film where after it having ended an hour ago, you realise it wasn’t as good as you originally thought it was.

Conclusion

Ridiculously silly fun, with bonkers post-modern humour. However, it’s not nearly as memorable or as impactful as it should have been.