auberus

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Reviews

Les frères Sisters
(2018)

Freedom and redemption, the roots of the American Dream
"The Sister's Brothers" is the perfect example on how a so called "Western" can be more than its Genre. Made by French director, the talented Jacques Audiard who already gave us gems like the 2009 "un prophète" or the 2012 "de rouille et d'os", "the Sister's brothers" tells a story of violence and greed but also of freedom and vast spaces, proposing a definition of what the American Dream could also be. Based on Patrick DeWitt's novel, this movie revolves around two henchmen and brothers, Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix) and Eli Sisters (John C. Reilly) who are chasing down across one thousand miles of 1850s Oregon desert to San Francisco, California the gold prospector and idealist Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed) and his partner to be, John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal). The film works as an initiatory journey where the two brothers will be confronted to their violent past, their meaningless present and eventually a choice for another feasible and peaceful future. All protagonists wish to fill their life with sense, transitioning from an absurd condition to a meaningful one. Hermann Kermit Warm is pursuing his dream to build a peaceful community, understanding that gold is only a means to an end. John Morris his willing to accompany Warm in his utopian quest, understanding that what matters is the journey and not the last station. As per our brothers they are looking for redemption and peace, one think he can find those in a bottle of whisky the other think he can fool himself in a virtual relationship with a stole. But eventually both understand that what matters is what we do. It's not our blood that conditions who we are but our actions that shape our present and future. Serve by outstanding actors delivering "frugal" but true lines of dialog and a terrific cinematography where gun flashes in the dark are an allegory of the Wild West, "The Sister's brothers" is more than a Western, it's a film about freedom and redemption, the roots of the American Dream.

Gok-seong
(2016)

Do we really understand the true nature of God?
"The Strangers" from Hong-Jin Na is a thriller horror film. We all remember the very good 2008 "The Chaser" from the same director who won best Director and best film at the 45th Grand Bell Awards. "The Chaser" is probably one of his best works to date and one of the best thriller horror movies of recent years. I strongly advise to give it a watch. But let's go back to "The Strangers" aka "The Wailing". Release in 2016 the film depicts a series of strange events and the spread of a mysterious disease happening in a little South Korean village soon after the arrival of a Japanese stranger. The film begins with an excerpt from the Bible. Luke 24:38, to be precise: "Why are you troubled" Jesus asked, "and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself." Then we see the first shot involving a fisherman hanging worms on the hook of his fishing rod. Those details may seem unimportant but believe me they are the keys to understand this story of demonic possession and trickery between our revealed world and the hidden one. In 156 minutes Hong-Jin Na explores through the eye of a policeman and his family the nature of men when face against irrational and obscure events. The result is a slow burning movie riddled with tension, horror, a sense of loss of control over the events but also funny parts and clownish characters who struggle to make sense of what is happening to them. If Life was a game where traps are set by hidden entities only for humans to fall into it, then "The Strangers" could be the very depiction of this game. The film bates us with the story of a bizarre stranger who seems confronted against racism only to reshuffle the cards half way with stories of bizarre strangers manipulating our belief or/and our superstitions and questioning the very nature of what we believe in. Nothing is what it seems to be... "The Strangers" is not a perfect movie, too long, unbalanced, hesitating on what the film wants to be, it's probably one of Hong-Jin Na less controlled film. However this lack of control is largely offset by the originality of its subject, the questioning the movie leads to and the horror it inserts in our mind, on par if not more subtle than what "The Exorcist" proposed a few decades earlier. It's definitely not for everyone but if you like unsettling movies then "The Strangers" is for you and will leave you with one haunting question: do we really understand the true nature of God?

Andrey Rublev
(1966)

Maybe we should experience this film with our Heart and Soul
In 1966 Andrei Tarkovsky directed Andrei Rublev, also known as The Passion according to Andrei. The film loosely depicts the life of Andrei Rublev, an early 15th century monk who is renowned as Russia's greatest creator of religious icons and frescoes. Tarkovsky used this historical figure to anchor the film in one of Russia's most tragic period, making Andrei Rublev not only a witness of his Time but also depicting the artist's creation process, the importance of his faith, the Loss of it and more importantly how the two (Art and Faith) can help go through event you can't really grasp or even understand. The complexity of the film as well as the political implications explain why Andreï Rublev was not released in an atheist USSR until 1971 and in a censored version mind you.

The film starts with a prologue where we see a man call Yefim taking off from the roof of a church in a hot air balloon and escaping a mob trying to prevent the Take-off. Yefim seems highly exited and delighted by the sight he experiences from the air; but as the air balloon crashes, we understand that elevation in this obscurantist time is not going to be easy. We fall before we reach enlightenment. This is our Human Condition, this is what Life is about and the shot of a Horse lolling in the grass by a river bank epitomizes Life, its struggle and its beauty. This prologue summarizes metaphorically the seven chapters that follow narrating the trepidations of Andrei Rublev looking for elevation and falling back into his Human condition.

For Andrei Rublev, Faith and Art are intimately linked, he paints religious icons and frescoes because he believes this is his priesthood the only way he can transmit his Faith to the people. Losing his Faith in Humanity might imply losing his Faith in God and so in Art. It's only when Andrei witnesses the casting of a bell that his life turns around. He meets the character of Boriska,the bell caster, another creative character a reminiscence of young Andrei and when Andrei sees the young Boriska collapsing on the ground of fatigue and breaking into tears, he takes him in his arms to comfort him and break his vow of silence. He understands he is not alone struggling with the concept of artistic creation and Faith as both (the young Boriska and the older Andrei) brought people so much joy. An artist with a vision can create and eventually echoes god's power of creation by using his or her technical skills but more importantly his or her heart and Faith.

The "tour de force" of Andrei Tarkovsky is to use the same creative process than the one of his film's protagonist. By putting his heart and soul in the core of his cinematographic technique he transcends the genre and the medium. We understand that "in cinema it is necessary not to explain, but to act upon the viewer's feelings, and the emotion which is awoken is what provokes thought". To this respect Andrei Rublev is a film to experience and I humbly suggest we experience it with our heart and soul.

Lucy
(2014)

Has "Lucy" any cinematographic merit?
Lucy, a woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal is forced to become a drug mule. But when the bag of synthetic drug she is carrying inside of her stomach leaks she transforms into a merciless warrior evolving beyond human logic and she undergoes unimaginable changes that begin to unlock her mind's full potential.

The plot is far for being the most stupid plot ever in cinema (not the sharpest as well). Basically "Lucy" is based on a simple question: can we be more than what we are? "Limitless" from Neil Burger had the same approach by the way, brain evolution was also triggered through use of a specific drug. "The lawnmower man" from director Brett Leonard touched upon the same subject. Even director Wally Pfister with "Transcendence" explored that same line of questioning. "Lucy" goes a step further as the brain evolution comes along body change and implies the next evolutions (plural) of humanity.

So the problem does not reside in the promise of the film but more so in its delivery. The film is entertaining enough and did not deserve the bashing it got especially in France where I guess critics associate box office success with mediocrity in an almost systematic manner. However there are several problems in the films that makes it play in the rental category or a nice candidate for downloads (obviously legal ones). In short the film does not deserve a 10 bucks ticket.

Primo character development is badly done. The main character Lucy interpreted by Scarlett Johansson balances between a blonde bimbo and an emotionally void cyborg. This binary mode does not help understand how knowledge could impact our humanity, development that could have enriched the movie and provide depth to an otherwise boring character. Having the percentage of brain use informing us of the evolving state of Lucy did not help much as there is no real logic in the progression of Lucy's powers. Eventually the treatment of Lucy's character is rather a misogynistic one despite Besson's claims about respecting women. Then comes the professor Norman portrayed by Morgan Freeman who re-prised his clichéd role of an authority figure. There is little to say except Besson needed an actor like Freeman to force on to us pseudo-scientific evidences delivered with very little conviction. As a result Morgan Freeman is severely walking thru his role and comes across as a slacker. Korean actor Min-sik Choi from "Old boy" completes the main roles trio. His one dimensional interpretation of an Asian Drug Lord allows him to swing between extreme calm and ultra-violence and what could have been an opportunity to confront different type of humanity ends up being a collage of grotesque caricatures.

Secondo the treatment of Asian people in the film may be questionable. Most if not all Asians are either cast as villains or as props to be killed for no other reason than comic relieve. Scarlett Johansson's character shoots a taxi driver simply because he can't speak English in Taiwan. In the hospital scene, she also shoots an Asian patient on the operating table in the head simply because she needs the surgeon to stitch her up. I am passing on the irrational behavior of someone getting more and more intelligent but acting in erratic ways or the fact that a tall blonde running with guns and killing everybody don't trigger any SWAT intervention. Honestly those scenes make me uncomfortable.

Tertio the overall structure /editing makes me wonder if "Lucy" was not a 15mn short that Luc Besson extended to the last drop. The film is 89mn long and is a succession of video clip like scenes cemented by a very cold "art direction" and action scenes that appears as fillers not bringing anything much to the overall plot. A more organic feel would have been a perfect bridge between a kinetic world and a more immaterial one. Basically I would have preferred a more "Cronenbergesque" point of view. Unfortunately the film resembles more of a glossy straight to DVD attempt that was green-lighted for the big screen in extremist. The end seems rushed and uses too much of this none organic CGI that really lower the artistic value. It's true that "Lucy" is still packed with some creative ideas like the flashback to the dawn of universe and humanity. Some will definitely see the homage to "2001 A Space Odyssey" but even this was not acknowledged by Mr Besson. The conclusion of the film was also very disappointed; basically using 100% of our brain turns us in some omnipotent god who likes to appear as a USB flash drive, really?

Well I am maybe too demanding. Here is my advice to you: use only 1% of your brain and you'll get a higher percentage of entertainment, which percentage exactly is up to you.

38 témoins
(2012)

Be ready to empty your Life from the only thing you cannot live without: Love.
"38 témoins" aka "38 witnesses" is an adaptation from David Decoin's 2009 Novel entitles "Est-ce ainsi que les femmes meurent" (Do women die like this?). The Novel as the film was inspired by a true crime story that occurred in 1964 in Queens New York where a local woman was stabbed, sexually assaulted and murdered in public as her neighbors ignored her cries for help.

The film from director Lucas Belvaux focuses on one couple played by Ivan Attal (Pierre Morvand)and Sophie Quinton as his wife Louise who is coming back from a trip in China and understands that a young woman was murdered in the street she lives in. At the time of the crime her husband Pierre was working late and so wasn't home when the crime occurred…so he says… But the police and a journalist (the beautiful Nicole Garcia) are investigating. One of the witnesses is having a different version than the 37 others. One of the witnesses can't look anymore into his wife's eyes. One of the witnesses has caught a terrible disease: Guilt. A disease for which the only cure is confession; a confession so hard to do it can only be delivered in a sleep, during a dream or a nightmare. And this witness is Pierre (Ivan Attal).

What if you were confronted to an event that would spoil the Tranquility of your Life, the Routine of it? What if this event would command you to do something that' you've never done before? What if doing nothing is indeed doing something, turning into a placid monster? After confronting this moment of disgusting Truth about yourself, you may survive the confrontation, but the loss of Love might be the price to pay. You'll witness the Love fading in the eyes of your wife, of your kids of your friends but also in your own eyes…

Superbly filmed and through a well-crafted narration "38 witnesses" emerges as a powerful movie about the darkest hour of our Soul. The movie works as a step by step psychological confrontation between the worst of you that can rise from cowardice, apathy and the search for redemption that follows. The price to pay is proportionate to the damage you've provoke. Be ready to empty your Life from the only thing you cannot live without: Love.

Conan the Barbarian
(2011)

Not one redeeming value...a failure
I've always been a fan not only of Robert E. Howard's fantasy stories but also of the Marvel Comics or the 1982 film "Conan the Barbarian" with Arnold Schwarzenegger. So when I heard of a new Conan I was most interested. With today's budget and cgi they really could pull it off. Oh Man I was wrong.

Where do I start as everything is wrong in this movie …Words cannot adequately describe how terrible this movie is. It's that bad. However I have come to my senses to provide you with seven reasons why this film is bad.

Number 1 the plot is "shaky". Here is the plot summary in one sentence: Conan witness the destruction of his Tribe and the Death of his Father by an evil Warlord who search the pieces of an ancient mask that is supposed to resurrect his wife, an evil sorceress that could grant him the powers of a God… OK??? Obviously a Conan film isn't built on a Tarkovskian scenario but with this Conan we reach an apogee in terms of bad writing. Writers Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer aren't fit for writing. The least they could have done was to read Robert E. Howard's literature and if as I suspect they aren't capable of reading more than 10 pages, I suggest looking at Marvel Comics who introduced a relatively lore-faithful version of Conan the Barbarian in 1970 written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith. In fact the total lack of understanding the character of Conan not only from the writers but also from Director Marcus Nispel and actor Jason Momoa is the main problem. I am not a Conan fanatic but if you put the word Conan somewhere in a movie title I guess as a Director you need to understand what is the essence of a Conan movie… You owe it to your audience; you owe it to yourself…

Number 2, the script is bad and as soon as Conan's Mother opens her mouth to name his son before she dies we know we are in for a treat of bad dialogs and overall silly script. What follows is ridicule one liners deliver with zero conviction from every protagonist.

Number 3, where are the sidekicks? In a Conan film good sidekicks are mandatory. I remember Subotai (Jerry Lopez) in the 1982 Conan. He was a cool, loyal, and courageous dude. Every fan of this film remembers the crucifixion scene when suddenly Subotai appears in the horizon to save the day. Valeria was also a very likable and an equally strong character, some sort of Valkyrie that impacted Conan's emotions. In this 2011 version female characters are filler. The dialog of the main female character consists in screaming "Conan" every time she is in danger. Moreover there are no charismatic sidekicks or even interesting other characters. The black pirate serves as a pretext for a black character but has the personality of a "playmobil"; the "Arabic" Thief is so common I don't even remember his name or face.

Number 4, a good villain should have depth… Stephen Lang as Khalar Zym does not do the job. Sure there wasn't much to do with the poor script he had in hands and screaming "barbarian!!!" every 2 seconds of his screen time doesn't help. Plus Rose McGowan transformed by either plastic-surgery or bad cgi (couldn't really tell) as his witchy daughter Marique is so outrageously goth that you constantly wonder if you are in a Conan film or in a remake of the Crow. Net net all protagonists are badly written and played even Ron Perlman, as Conan's father, is wasted.

Number 5, there isn't any consistency between the scenes…We watch Conan's Ship being attacked during the night, but the next scene of the battle for the Ship happens during the day… We see the girl go mating with Conan in a rocky cave of what seems to be a cliff environment. In the next morning when she attempts to go back to the Ship she gets kidnapped in what appears to be a Forest. At this stage I kept wondering if the Director was a little bit "special" or if the film editor endured a lobotomy half way during the editing session. Now that I think about it it's probably both.

Number 6, they didn't hire a lead designer and that shows…they should have. Costumes, armors, or even Architecture (by the way you can clearly see the use of models) don't fit the Conan universe and there isn't any vision or unity regarding the design of the film. As a result you don't have a feel that the story takes place in a possible ancient time with tangible ancient civilizations. So basically the production recycled costumes from the last 10 sand & sandals films and the result is catastrophic.

Number 7, they didn't hire a composer and that shows too. I understand that not everyone can be Basil Poledouris the composer of the haunting score from the 1982 Conan but in this 2011 Conan I was forgetting the music as I was watching the film…this is a premiere to me.

As a conclusion there is close to nothing that is enjoyable in this film. There is no sense of adventure that makes a heroic fantasy film worth it. There is no sense of progression that makes a revenge plot efficacious. There is no sense of danger that makes an action film breathtaking. There is no sense of feasibility that makes a film epic. There is no adequate script that makes characters believable and there is no musical soundtrack that draws you into the Journey. Give me 45millions dollars (half of the amount spent on this mockery) and some of the Conan fans from IMDb and we will probably do a better film

The Tree of Life
(2011)

Such a promising plot and such a disappointment.
Tree of Life is an interesting experiment, some kind of a visual blend. It is a period film centered around a Family in the 1950s. The film depict a crucial time in Life of a boy (the eldest son), who witnesses the loss of innocence and the lack of control over his deepest feelings triggered it seems by the arrival of his new born brother.

But Tree of Life is also a variation over the meaning of Life and Death alternating between a cosmic vision of Life and a subjective and often poetic vision of childhood as an aphorism for Grace, Nature and Love.

The films then introduces the unbearable Death, the one that can't be explain the one that shakes the very balance of a Family, the Death of a son of a brother as we learn that the second born died suddenly at the age of 19 (probably at War).

However the genuine narration and enigmatic if not poetic vision of the cosmos mixed with state of the heart but virtual shots depicting how Life started (the way of Nature) makes for a slide-show of boredom. And as we move along the story of this family seems more and more like a "collage" exercise, some kind of a pretext to voice over cosmic images philosophical questions from our main tree protagonists (The Mother, the elder son and the Father). The result is messy and at times superficial.

In this blend of images and emotions actors aren't use to deliver an acting performance but more so to make the philosophical questioning move along. The problem is the questioning stagnates and closure never really gets through. Even if we understand that the border between Life and Death is as thin as a bank of sand between two seas on which we may meet sometimes, the audience is left with the same Belief before entering the Theater. Eventually you remain the same before and after the movie. You don't feel any more comfort, tranquility, clarity or even sadness. You've just seen beautiful shots.

Soaked with Christian Philosophy Tree of Life delivers as a very well shot film but never provides the audience with a sense of progression and closure. The story of this Family never really takes off nor does the Philosophic Questioning gets to an end.

At posteriori Tree of Life seems like an audacious idea on paper and lays out good material to explore. However the film ends up resembling a nice slide-show with little to no story, which makes me wander if cinema was the best medium for this cosmic Tale.

Vénus noire
(2010)

A story to be told but a shocking one!!!
With "Vénus noire"Abdellatif Kechiche tells the story of Sarah Baartman, an African born from the Khoisan Tribe who was a slave of a Dutch farmer. She went with the brother of her slave owner on an Exhibition, a "Freak" Tour in England with the promise of a wealthy future. Then Sarah Baartman was sold to a Frenchman, who took her to his country. An animal trainer, Réaux, exhibited her under more pressured conditions for fifteen months. Overall Sarah Baartman was exhibited around Britain and France from 1810 to 1815, entertaining people by exposing her nude buttocks and her highly unusual bodily features. She had large buttocks and the elongated labia of some Khoisan women. Towards the end of her life she became the subject of several scientific paintings at the Jardin du Roi, where she was examined in March 1815 by George Cuvier, head keeper of the menagerie at the musée national d'Histoire naturelle. Seek and forgotten by the Parisians, she began to drink heavily and supported herself with prostitution in brothel and then in the streets. She died of an undetermined inflammatory ailment on December 29, 1815. Even after her Death her body continued to be exploited by others and her skeleton, preserved genitals and brain were placed on display in Paris' musée de l'Homme until 1974. In 1994 President Nelson Mandela formally requested that France return the remains and it's only in 2002, May the 6th that her remains were repatriated to her homeland and were buried on August 9 of the same year.

Obviously this dramatic and terrible story is not for everyone and I strongly suggest the most emotionally fragile people among us to read about the Sarah Baartman's story instead of watching Abdellatif Kechiche's film. "Vénus noire" remains an interesting film as Sarah Baartman's story is to be told so that we understand how Difference, the fear of it, the non understanding of it can trigger the most inhuman sentiment, which lies in the darkest place of our soul in one word: Racism. However in 2 hours and 40 minutes, Abdellatif Kechiche abuses the audience with too many despicable scenes, too many scenes of dehumanization and degradation. So many that you find yourself in a overdose state. At some point I wanted to leave the Theater. I didn't pay to "look" but Abdellatif Kechiche places the audience in a voyeurism sit that makes you so uncomfortable your eyes flee the screen searching for the blackness of the Theater room. Even if there is a reason for us to be gradually placed within different environments so we understand that racism isn't bound to a Country or a social class it is still very tough to keep absorbing shocking images on a continuous basis. We are transported from the vulgar and popular crowd of London to the vicious and decadent Bourgeoisie of Paris and eventually to a so called scientific experiment. One can easily draw the conclusion that whatever form of Racism we are confronted to, none of them is humanly or intellectually acceptable. In fact all of them are profoundly revolting.

Beside its heavy content and shocking scenes that for sure will polarize the audience, the film is also served with an outstanding cast. The main actress Yahima Torres is very convincing in a very difficult role. But all actors (Andre Jacobs, Olivier Gourmet) display skills in their respective interpretation, skills that trigger emotions, we hate, we curse, we're ashamed, we're shocked and we're upset during 2h40 of cinematic maelstrom.

Un prophète
(2009)

You live in prison and what you live isn't giving any concessions to reality.
"Un prophète" tells the story of a somewhat naive but intelligent young inmate from Arabic origins who rises through the criminal ranks to become a big boss. Serve with an outstanding cast and an almost exclusively males and non-professional actors, the film of Jacque Audiard manages to prove that you don't need a so called bankable actor/actress in order to make a masterpiece.

What you need is a vision, an excellent scenario and a perfect casting. Set mainly within prison walls, the film depicts the prison "career" of Malik el Djebena, a 19-year-old man of North African origin who was sentenced to six years in prison. At his arrival in prison, Malik (wonderfully played by Tahar Rahim) is forced by Cesar Luciani, a Corsican kingpin (played by the excellent Niels Arestrup) to kill a prisoner named Reyeb. What follows is a powerful film that grabs your attention from beginning to end. The film works on so many levels and yet achieves excellence in all of them. "Un prophète" works as a social description of the hellish atmosphere one could encounter in prison. The promiscuity, the dirtiness, the drug, the sex, the corruption are detailed through very well drawn out characters and situations. You live in prison and what you live isn't giving any concessions to reality. "Un prophète" is a thrilling gangster film deprave of any sort of Manichaeism. Between the buildings of a drug business, the contract to assassinate a mafia kingpin, the negotiation with a local mobster and the rise to power of a young bandit or "racaille", the film manages to link every single story and wrap them all in one big and dark vision of what the French society can also produce. Eventually the film triggers so many emotions; in 150 minutes the audience balances from bitterness to injustice and from violence to peace. Jacques Audiard and Stéphane Fontaine (director of photography) controlled with mastery both the "mise en scène" and the cinematography. Using here stop motion there torch like effect and opposing darkness to light they cut out possible definitions for the words loyalty or betrayal, friendship or servitude, destiny or curse.

The director of the excellent "de battre mon coeur s'est arrêté " and the very good "sur mes lèvre" signs here a haunting movie a unique cinematographic and emotional experience, a masterpiece.

The Dark Knight
(2008)

There are so few good films, The Dark Knight looks like one.
I fail to see what is so brilliant in Batman "The Dark Knight". Is it the title? Because it certainly not the film itself.

Let's start with what is (if not Oscar worthy) good…In "The Dark Knight" the acting is not at stake. Special mention to Heath Ledger; he managed to do something interesting with the character of the Joker. Tough job as the Joker's past is indeed a mystery. All we know in the film is that his motivation is fairly limited. He just wants to bring chaos not so randomly it seems…It is hard to embody someone with as little background elements as water in the Sahara desert and a motivation as thin as air. Plus the script did not really help with the endless version on how he got his scars. However Heath Ledger manages to deliver a good performance by playing a pretty generic sadistic psychotic. Christian Bale is hard to judge. Spending most of his time in a bat suit doesn't really help to determine whether or not his performance is good. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman do so little than even the credibility they are supposed to provide is inexistent. Finally Aaron Eckhardt plays a rather uninteresting Harvey Dent; His "Two-Face" part is too short to indeed develop his character. To close the acting chapter I have to point out how poorly written the script sounded. I didn't get away with one memorable quote. Not a good sign…

On to the film itself: very well shot even though one has to regret in the opening shot the reflection of the edge of the helicopter in the building's glass. Moreover did you notice how generic Gotham is depicted? Some would have you believe it was a deliberate choice to make Gotham looks more real…I tell you it was driven by laziness and zero artistic vision. This is symptomatic on how seriously the film is taking itself… Secondly I profoundly questioned the coherence of the film. Let me push forward my evidences by throwing at you the questions that popped in my head while watching the film from the most trivial to the more important ones: Why can the dogs chew on the bullet proof bat suit? Why a witness could pull a gun on a Lawyer while being on the witness stand? (body search anyone?) How the Joker manages to keep a pencil straight on a table while a dozen of gangsters are trying to reach out to him for a good old hand to hand Fight. Why the most famous patient of a hospital under terrorist threats can't be evacuated? Why the Joker would sets fire of a dollar bills pyramid? He said that money is not important to him. What's important to him is bringing chaos. But then why would he rob banks for a living then? Why is Bruce Wayne so obsessed with an ugly girl? How does this Sonar thing works? How could two Ferry Boats live the shores full of petrol barrels without any crew members noticing a thing? How can the Joker blow out an entire Hospital despite announcing it? Can someone explain the strategy of Police Commissioner Gordon who pretends to be dead so that the Joker will focus on Harvey Dent instead? Why is Harvey Dent mad at Police Commissioner Gordon and Batman more so than mad at the Joker? Would you? Why is Batman endorsing the crimes for Harvey Dent? Couldn't Gordon and Batman agree to use the Joker as Scapegoat? I know it seems like I am writing the "Cantique" of Nitpicking but there are way too much small incoherent things in the plot to make the whole film stands on logical ground.

Christopher Nolan wanted to redefine the notion of Hero by proving that there isn't such thing as Perfection…The Dark Knight proves if need be that everybody has flaws. Batman has flaws he has a dark side. The bright shining knight, Harvey Dent has flaws. Both of them can become as dark as they were shining once…But are we ready to be confronted with the dark side of our Knights? Are we ready to rage War on Terror? Are we ready to give away some of our Freedom? Things will get worst before they get better. But during those darken days our very Society will be at stake. Christopher Nolan did a very good job in refreshing the Batman Series. Certainly I liked the job he did with the first one, encapsulating the film's Mythology in some kind of possible contemporary Reality. But too much is too much. Here it appears ridicule at best, chocking sometime and often incoherent. As a director scaring people is an easy thing to do. Depicting the process of Fear is way more difficult.

Time of hardship is here. We don't know where we're going and it's quite something to live in fear. We need a light, we need Knights. But do we need darken Knights? One thing for sure, there are no "Shining Knights"... So at the very least we need to understand how fear transforms into courage sometimes and how the control of this courage and the course of action are important and can't lie in the hand of one Man or a few. The problem is, Batman "The Dark Knight" lacks any understanding of the danger of Fear. Whether it is the Fear of one Man or the Fears of a given Society

Seppuku
(1962)

Eventually there is only one valid code of Honor, the Human one...
Masaki Kobayashi studied art and philosophy before starting as assistant director at Shochiku studio. His oeuvre is guided by the need to understand the human condition. In the 1962 Hara-kiri aka Seppuku, we can clearly see the philosophic influence in this story about confrontation between Human condition and Rigid Code of a feudal society. The result of this confrontation is a multi layered masterpiece in which the clarity of the script, the perfection of the interpretation, and a very well balanced "mise en scène" make for a powerful film based on transgression: a genre transgression, a code transgression and an image transgression.

Most of Shambaras take place during the Edo Period but rather late in that period (just before the Meiji Era) as most filmmakers try to romanticize and glamorize the period which marks the end of the Samurai thus playing the nostalgia card. Here Masaki Kobayashi transgressed the genre and decided to film a story taking place in 1630, 17th century Japan during the Edo period. At that time Japan was ruled by a Shogunate (Ieyasu Tokugawa). The Tokugawa Shoguns established Peace and continued to rule Japan for a remarkable 250 years. But such a long period of Peace had a price and Ieyasu Tokugawa brought the whole country under tight control. He cleverly redistributed the land among the more loyal vassals, breaking up warrior clans thus throwing thousands of samurai into poverty.

In the film an elder ronin, Hanshiro Tsugumo, the hypnotic Tatsuya Nakadai (Goyokin) seeks admittance to the house of a feudal lord to commit the act of Seppuku as he can no longer stand his Life of Dishonor and Poverty. There, the administrator tells him about the fate of a young Samurai who committed the same suicidal ritual few times ago. But there is much more to this story and soon we understand that all protagonists are related one way or another. As the film progresses we witness a confrontation between two conceptions. One is based on a Human code; the other is based on a rigid traditional one.

Masaki Kobayashi uses both symbols and raw images to show this confrontation. The film starts with the Display of a Samurai shining battle armor representing the feudal system. The armor is empty of anything human and strongly symbolized the feudal system. Can a code make sense if it is followed without acknowledging the Human condition? This is in essence the question raised by "Hara-kiri". We see this armor soiled and dragged but at the end of the film the armor remains intact as if nothing had ever happened, as if changes in an given Society take some times to occur. Indeed social Progress has always been slow leaving Men and Women struggling with their condition.

The suicidal ritual, Hara-kiri reinforced the sense of cruelty. Raw images of Ronin opening their stomach with a sword were a transgression at that time (1962), still is today. In the film the ritual is portrayed in a non glamorized way and very realistically. It also symbolizes even for the Japanese audience the lack of sense in the act of Seppuku. In fact Hanshiro Tsugumo is the only one giving meaning to this act by motivating it with mixed feelings of Love, Revenge and Sorrow, in short with humanity.

With the film Hara-kiri, Masaki Kobayashi signed one of the greatest philosophical films. The script by Shinobu Hashimoto is a good example on how to make a story clear but more importantly sufficient enough for anybody to understand the drama, in one word universal. Also writer of Jôi-uchi: Hairyô tsuma shimatsu aka Samurai Rebellion (1967), Dai-bosatsu tôge (1966) aka Sword of Doom or "Hitokiri" aka Tenchu (1969), Shinobu Hashimoto is among the greatest writers of the 7th Art.

I can not recommend Seppuku enough, every single frame, acting, piece of music is irreproachable. The story is profoundly Humanist, timeless and universal. I suggest we all confront the codes of our respective societies in order to find out if they still make sense or if they are leading us towards a terrible social Hara-kiri

Stalker
(1979)

Stalker is more than a film; it is an act of Faith.
Some say the zone was born from the crash of a meteorite, some say the zone is a gift from an Alien civilization. Whatever they say the zone is a miracle.

An unnamed rainy city and in its surrounding is the Zone, in this Zone is a Room, and "here we are at the threshold. This is the most important moment of your lives. You have to know that here your most cherished wish, the most sincere one, the one reached through suffering" is about to come true.

If we don't make the effort to change our point of view we may pass on a tremendously poetic experiment. In fact "Stalker" may very well appear as three hours bore fest... But if we take five minutes of our precious time to confront our questioning then we would witness how cinema connects directly with our heart and maybe with our Soul.

In "Stalker" we follow three different persons who share a unique goal, reaching the zone but have very different reasons to do so.

The stalker is a guide who takes the willing to the 'zone'. One is a professor. It seems his motivation is to see the scientific significance of the area. He believes in science and in science only. He is a realist. The second is a writer who wants to recover his lost inspiration. He only believes in facts and in facts only. He is a cynic. They are both hopeless and looking to reveal the secret of the zone...But does the zone bare any secret? And if so how could someone incapable of Hope, reveal a secret based on a simple wish?

The film is a voyage not only from a town to the zone but also from monochrome browns to realistic colors and more importantly from shadow to enlightenment

As mentioned the stalker is the guide, he is genuinely searching for the right path through the zone and to the room. He is pondering every decision he takes, not rushing through the zone but testing the path and approaching side ways. He proceeds in a caution manner guided it seems only by his intuition. It is so irrational that it irritates the writer who decides to go through the zone in a more straight forward fashion. But as we understand the zone like Life is not straight forward, not always rational as it reflects our fears, our despairs and our disbelieves. In short life is dangerous and so is the zone... The professor says it himself "going forward is scary but going back is shameful" so maybe the stalker's way is the only possible way. Unlike the two intellectuals he has the intuition of what reality is.

Eventually it seems our three protagonists are involved in a spiritual struggle. The problem is the scientist and the writer are in denial of this spirituality and the stalker is an intuitive being who can't put a name on his spiritual search. For them Reality "is at best the result of the soul rubbing against the material world" and at worst sequences of facts. So in essence if you go looking for something you don't really believe in or you can't apprehend...would you find it?

At the doorstep of the room our three protagonists refuse to go in. The Professor wants to destroy the room; he is scared of what he can't comprehend. The writer endorses the Professor's choice to destroy the room. He is scared of facing his own shadows. They both lack Faith in Humanity. The Stalker doesn't go in either. His place in this world is to guide people his hope lies in others not in himself. He has Faith in Humanity. But the Stalker can't let the so called intellectuals destroy the last place where people can hope and believe again. He reminds them that Hope is "all people have got left on this earth". Hope is what makes us Human…

The disappointment of the Stalker is as big as his hope in the professor and the writer was, he had chosen carefully those two in the hope they will be able to put a name on his Faith, unfortunately they can't as if science and intelligence have nothing to do with Faith.

A thunderstorm breaks out and rain starts to pore from the roof. Our three searchers sit down behind a water curtain reflecting on their incapability to hope and believe in the better of themselves.

Everyday when I wake up I have endless doubts but every night when I go to sleep I have recover my Faith in me, in others…Everyday I search through the Zone of my Life and every night I stand at the doorstep of the Room

Videodrome
(1983)

Has "Virtuality" become our Reality?
Videodrome is a complex film. It is a genuinely original film. There is a before and an after Videodrome. In fact with Videodrome, David Cronenberg re-invented Sci-Fi.

Mr. Cronenberg already mentioned in the book "L'Horreur Intérieure: les films de David Cronenberg" the fact that Videodrome was suppose to be complex: "I tried to make a film as complex as Reality is for me. I believe the film to be very ambiguous, it feeds from different energy sources and it is very complex. I wanted the film to be like that because Reality is like that…"

It is interesting to comprehend what Videodrome is all about. And how the battle of the Mind is taking place in front of the TV Screen. How Reality can in fact have different feasible definitions and how one of these definitions can take over the other depending on how our perception of this Reality can be influenced or and manipulated.

The story of Max Renn, the controversial president of channel 83 that broadcasts programs of soft core pornography and high core violence is a terrific vehicle to understand what Virtual is and if Virtual can become a possible alternative to our current Definition of Reality. Max Renn is looking for breakthrough programs that answer the need of his targeted niche viewers. Whilst looking for those he stumbles across a "snuff program" broad-casted it seems out of Pittsburgh. This Program is "Videodrome". Soon Max Renn starts to hallucinate. Are those hallucinations real, are we hallucinating with him? What has become his Reality? Why and how is that possible? Is he manipulated by an obscure Political and fanatic Organization, Producer of the program Videodrome?

As Nicki Brand a Radio personality, embodiment of Max Renn's Fantasy (and soon his love interest) says in the film, "we live in over stimulated times we create stimulation for its own sake" and "we always want more whether it's tactile emotional or sexual". But what we feel is our Reality. So if the TV Screen manages to make us feel something then it manages to provide us with an alternative definition of Reality. But David Cronenberg goes further… Imagine you could create your own Reality in the Flesh! Guess what, Media Prophet Professor Brian O'Blivion has just done that. He has created "Videodrome". The program triggers a tumor in your Brain which allows you to create your own Reality thus transforming your old Definition of Reality to a brand new one (in fact to a "Nicki Brand" new one).

The charismatic and intriguing Professor O'Blivion says it himself "the television screen is the retina of the mind's eyes therefore the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain therefore whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it therefore television is reality" from an emotional perspective and now in the Flesh thanks to Videodrome. Because of that, reality is less than television.

Let's try to think that through. With the film "Videodrome" Mr. David Cronenberg denounces the fact that our reality can be easily manipulated. The company "Spectacular Optical" producer of the program "Videodrome" is the epitome of an extreme right organization with the goal of influencing and manipulating the masses. So if we know we are being manipulated then what makes us human is the action we take to correct the situation. As Sartre said "The only thing that allows Man to live is the Act of living". With no action or reaction there is no Life per se… TV is an extraordinary medium; it in the same time reflects and influences our society; so much so that as we saw above it can change our Reality. TV shows (but now internet), can extend our emotional experience and therefore can represent a danger by leading to some kind of desensitization and dehumanization as too much emotions kill emotion. In this regards "long live the new Flesh" but what is this "new Flesh"? Is it this new Reality / "Virtuality" or is it our Reaction against a possible manipulation. Our reality is already half video manipulation if we are not careful it will be total manipulation.

Videodrome is a visionary film even more relevant today than 25 years ago. It is a reminder of what really makes us Human. We can always make something of what society tries to make of us. Even if there is nothing real outside our perception of Reality eventually what matters is our action or reaction. And now that we are aware that reality can be bent then it is our responsibility to react or to remains cathode's sheep.

Cortex
(2008)

A thriller that doesn't thrill
It's not easy to do a good movie. And it's even more ambitious and difficult for a director to escape a given genre. Unfortunately Nicolas Boukhrief failed in both exercises.

On paper Cortex looks promising. In fact the scenario seems in the same time strong interesting and original with potentially great characters to be developed

A retired cop name Charles Boyer who suffers from Alzheimer goes in a retirement clinic but starts to suspect murders. Who would believe him, is he delirious?

Unfortunately none of the promises were fulfilled. André Dussollier is a great actors, he portrays quite well this lost retired cop but never manages to be convincing as an Alzheimer. Nicolas Boukrhrief chooses to film none pertinent scenes and never give the supporting cast a chance to develop their characters. As a result they all appear as filler instead of backbone. Even the role of Charles Boyer's son is underdeveloped.

We witness a succession of emotionless scenes exploring myriads of themes. Nicolas Boukhrief talks about many subjects as a way to escape the Thriller genre. Retirement, Alzheimer, Father & Son relationship, Professional Relationship in a medical environment etc…all those themes are touched upon. The problem is none of those themes are explored in depth; they are all superficially thrown in.

The result is a thriller that doesn't thrill. A too fast ending raps up the main intrigue without providing the audience with a sense of progression and closure. And from an Alzheimer point of view the ending is at the very least naive and unrealistic.

I salute Nicolas Boukhrief 's Audacity. I am no film director and I am incapable of making a film. But I do prefer the characters to drive a story rather than the story to drive the characters. It's more difficult but it's the only way to escape a genre.

Solyaris
(1972)

If a Soul has been given to us then maybe our existence only make sense in retrieving it.
Some films are intellectually challenging. Some films need to be thought about afterward. Some films deserve to be re-watched. Solyaris might be among those films as it is in the same time challenging, intriguing and scary. Countless reviews have been written on Solyaris; needless to say lots of them present a feasible explanation for the film.

I am proposing my explanation of Solyaris. Not in the details but in the principle. I don't pretend to understand Mr. Tarkovsky better than others I just think this movie deserves to be understood and I hope my view of this film if not exact will help others understand it and why not appreciate it.

Often and wrongly presented as Mr. Tarkovsky answer to 2001 A Space Odyssey, Solyaris was undeniably an answer from at the time the USRR to the western World and his cinema emissary Mr. Stanley Kubrick. Even if Mr. Tarkovsky was in awe at the technical achievement that "2001 A Space Odyssey" represented in 1968 he was nonetheless in disagreement with Mr. Kubrick's view of Mankind quest for Truth integrating too much Technology and not enough Humanity. As a result Solyaris might very well be the most humanist science fiction story ever put on film.

Stanislaw Lem's novel provided Mr. Tarkovsky with an opportunity to propose his view on this universal and infinite quest for Truth. Mr. Tarkovsky's goal was also to transcend the genre of science fiction as per him a director can not limit himself to a genre. This is one of the many reasons why Solyaris is a difficult film as the audience's references to the sci fi genre are drastically shaken.

Right from the beginning we understand that the story is not going to be an easy one to grasp: the cosmonaut Kris Kelvin receives the mission to reach the space station orbiting the intriguing Solyaris, an ocean like planet. His prerogative is to investigate strange events occurring on the orbital station from where the remaining scientists are observing this ocean. One of them Dr. Gibarian has committed suicide and the other two remaining (Dr. Snouth and Sartorius) are haunting by visions coming straight from their respective past. Soon Kelvin understands that the planet is an intelligent being and is materializing these memories. But when he is confronting with the recreation of his deceased wife Hari, his belief and certitude start to be shaken and never will be recovered…the problem is, ours too…

As Professor Messenger said in the first chapter the protagonists of the films "are probing the very frontier of human knowledge" but is it proper to artificially establish a knowledge frontier? "By thinking it we are limiting our concept of infinity of Man's knowledge" and therefore we forbid ourselves to comprehend events beyond that frontier. In that perspective the risk is not technological failure but the failure of our mind. The consequence is a profoundly childish but nonetheless human reaction: an attempt to destroy that which we aren't capable of understanding in short, the planet Solyaris.

The appearance of the guest Hari created by the Solyaris Ocean reflects on the overall dynamic. Since Kris Kelvin does not understand the reason and the possibility of Hari's presence on the station, he wants to get rid of her by sending her away in a rocket. But when a recreated Hari reappears during the following evening provoking Kelvin's introspection, she by her very presence forces Kelvin to face Truth about himself. However in the same time she allows Redemption. Often left aside, the notion of True Love as a medium for Redemption of the Soul is a theme very much anchored in Solyaris. "Guest" Hari is clearly not Kris Kelvin wife rather a subconscious projection of his own needs of her. Dr. Sartorius's experiment has proved that appearing "Guests" on the station are made of neutrinos elements stabilized by Solyaris force field. However as Hary developed memories, she appears as the most human being among the crew. The cybernetic expert, Dr. Snouth is trapped in his incomprehension of Solyaris, the astrobiologist Sartorius is obsessed by his quest for Knowledge not understanding that pursuing knowledge for the sake of knowledge is indeed vain. The physiologist Gibarian can't reconcile grief and false resurrection. As per Kelvin he seems to be in denial eventually considering Hary as an opportunity to heal his soul.

Stripped of Memories and understanding the impact on the crew and their so called "Human Soul" also because of her genuine Love for Kelvin, Hari chooses to commit suicide as if fatality was inherent to human Destiny. By this very act of sacrifice and ultimate Love, she gives birth to her soul. At the end of the movie and through one of the most enigmatic "zoom in" in history of cinema we understand that an island has formed on the surface of Solyaris. We see Kelvin reconciling with his Past as if the Planet will allow him a second chance, a chance to be Human…

With the film Solyaris Tarkovsky seems to whisper in our ears that Humanity is not bound to a place but to an act. The planet Solyaris creates from dreams and memories and is strangely echoing Men's creations process (eg. Kelvin father's Will of rebuilding his childhood house as per his memory).

The film embarks us in the Search for Ultimate Truth but if this Truth is beyond our comprehension it might be because we are searching in the wrong place. Maybe Truth is hidden inside our very self. If so then finding it is confronting our very Soul. So in essence if a Soul has been given to us then maybe our existence only make sense in retrieving it. In "Voyage in Time" (an autobiographical documentary) Andrei Tarkovsky said he viewed Solyaris as unsuccessful. Allow me to disagree.

Efter brylluppet
(2006)

Witnessing on screen ultimate Generosity...A Gem...
Sometimes some films go unnoticed. Either because they come from countries we don't exactly positioned on the world map, or because those gems are directed by none mainstream directors, or maybe because those films don't have a wide distribution and sometimes because the title or the story's pitch is not that engaging… "After the Wedding" might has gone unnoticed for all these bad reasons so let's first clear them up.

Denmark is in northern Europe, capital Copenhagen. This country gave us the 1987 Oscar winning "Babette's Feast" by Gabriel Axel and the 1988 Oscar winner, "Pelle the Conqueror" by Bille August. As per Susanne Bier who directed "After the Wedding" if she is not a mainstream director she also is not exactly a junior director. In fact she already directed a dozen of films, all emotionally engaging like Brødre (2004) aka Brothers or Sekten (1997) aka Credo.

In the city I was leaving in at that time only 2 or 3 cinemas were showing "After the Wedding". And quite frankly when I first red the synopsis I thought the movie would likely be a bore fest: a manager of an orphanage (Mikkelsen) in India is sent to Copenhagen, Denmark in order to discuss sponsoring with a billionaire (Lassgård) but what he discovers is a life-altering family secret. Fortunately my better half convinced me to go see this complete cinematic experience in which the depth of the characters, the originality of the scenario, and the outstanding acting concur to make this film one of the greatest films of 2006/07 and a true emotional experience.

The strength of "After the Wedding" resides in its dynamic based on our faculty to extrapolate and judge promptly. Indeed the film first 20 minutes builds stereotypes only for us to pull them down in the last hour and a half…terrific…

Do you know what realistic acting is? Well after witnessing Mads Mikkelsen and Rolf Lassgård answering, analyzing each other you'll understand what true acting is. The kind that feels so real you think you are witnessing stolen slice of life on screen. If those two actors really epitomized great performance, Sidse Babett Knudsen as Helene and Stine Fischer Christensen as Anna deserve a mention.

But a well directed well played film does not necessary triggers emotions. "After the Wedding" does. The film moves you in a way few films do. We don't identify but we relate and as the gap between the protagonists shrinks, the distance between the audience and the characters fades away. Profoundly "humanist" the film proposes another definition for the word "Gift"…The gift of oneself, the ultimate Love. Susanne Bier succeeds in triggering this Generosity not only on the screen but also in our soul.

Das Leben der Anderen
(2006)

Slow yet intense...Minimalist yet full of emotions
Das Leben der Anderen (aka the Lives of Others) by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck delves the audience in the atmosphere of East Germany at a time when the word Freedom was defined by the Communist Party.

Mainly shot in the old Stasi Headquarter the film manages to provide as much for the protagonist as for the audience the coldness of both the feeling and decorum.

Through "Das Leben der Anderen" Mr. von Donnersmarck represents a new generation of German filmmakers who try the "reconquista" of their own History, proposing a reflection on the long separation of the two Germanys. The story takes place in the early eighties in East Germany where the successful auteur George Dreyman and his lover, the actress Christa-Maria Sieland are considered to be part of the intellectual elite even though they don't share the communism ideal.

"Das Leben der Anderen" is a slow movie but never a boring one it builds up tension while developing multitude of thematic. Beside the obvious denunciation of a system which is indeed falling, the film talks about "love" and how the love of art can sometimes be stronger than the physical one or how individual are in essence individualistic.

Serve with a terrific cast "Das Leben der Anderen" is a cinematic achievement. Ulrich Mühe knows how to express feeling with minimal words but an expressive visage, Sebastian Koch understands the term "character embodiment" and the very sexy Martina Gedeck makes herself desirable and so profoundly human.

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck manages to describe a dark period in a non Manichean way. He explores through an efficient scenario a troubled History with no complex, realism and humanity. Das Leben der Anderen is a sincere movie and true cinema is indeed about sincerity.

300
(2006)

Have we gone so mad we can not distinguish films from video games?
For the life of me I can not understand why people would rave so much about this mockery of a movie…

I knew I was not going to see an accurate historical film. I knew I was in for a graphic novel adaptation.

But what I witnessed was a simplification of already simplified and false historical facts. The result is catastrophic.

Obviously it is easier to show "real Spartan warriors" not indulged in a fair amount of man love. But guess what they were… Obviously it is easier to show Persians as decadent, uncivilized, unsophisticated and without any understanding of military strategy…But guess what the Persian Empire established by Cyrus the great, the writer of the first human right declaration, was the most magnificent and civilized empire in 480 B.C. Obviously it is easier and convenient to imply that Greece won against Persia at the naval battle of Artemisium. But guess what, historically, the Greeks lost that naval battle as well. Obviously it is easier to define bravery as 300 Spartans warriors fighting against a million Persians. But guess what they were more like 10000 Spartans, Athenians, Thebans, Thespians and Phoceans against 200,000 Persians. Obviously it is easier to represent Xerxès the first as a giant homosexual, piercing adept. But guess what he was more like a sophisticated Persian and also a great military strategist. Obviously it is easier to make War and Killing the glorious thing a nation could ever accomplish. But guess what there is no Glory in War and Killing. Only Death… Obviously it is easier to make a baseless action movie rather than a real epic "peplum". An action movie staged in an imaginary Time and Place with imaginary heroes and villains. But guess what great movies are not easy to make, great movies are based upon a tangible scenario and everything else is aimed to support that scenario.

Some of us applaud the aesthetic of the film as I refuse to call it cinematography. But for me the glossy, saturated bronze color like background looked incredibly unrealistic. Some of us feel shiver down their spines when hearing talks of freedom" and "justice" coming out of King Leonidas, Gerard Butler's mouth. But for me it sounded more like an unintentional satire of America misadventure in Iraq. Some of us cheer at the slick fighting scenes and rejoice when Zack Snyder's camera abuses slow motions in order for the audience to enjoy the slaughtering. But for me that was the paroxysm of emptiness and the moment I felt lectured by a mediocre director as to why violence, racism, sadism are surprisingly virtues to be cherished. Some of us raise their arms in the air and wave at the ripped muscled Spartan men. But for me those leather pants Greek Warriors fighting thousands of ninjas almost died of ridicule. Some of us enjoy metal music mixed with "Gladiatoresque" chants. But for me it was noise and a sign that the film triggers 15 year old disturbed American boys who think Leonidas is a brand of chocolate and Xerxès an upcoming video game.

It's fine to make movies out of comics. It's fine to make violent films. It's also fine to use CGI in order to display thing you could not without. Eventually it is fine to fantasy an historical period. But make no mistake there is nothing groundbreaking or breathtaking in 300. As there is no soul in this film only flesh…As there are no story only events…As there is no cinematography only computerized background…As there is no feeling only fading impression…This is virtual at its worst. What's best to erase a virtual film? I suggest we all make a virtual fire in our mind in which we'll burn 300. And maybe the flames will be so big it will enlighten Hollywood once and for all...

Babel
(2006)

There are films fueled with emotions...Babel is one of them
Babel is four stories taking place on three continents. But Babel is one story taking place everywhere and everyday…Those stories respond to, bounce of, echo to each other like a dialog that struggle to get through. This "crossing stories" narrative technique is not innovative (Altman, Lelouch…). However in Babel it is efficiently and brilliantly used as it provides the cement to a complex dynamic and gives a sense of progressions to the overall plot. I can easily understand why Alejandro González Inárritu (21 grams) won the Cannes prize for the best "mise en scène" as the narrative is fully mastered, the editing is pristine and the overall direction is detailed and to the point. Every single actor (known or less known) serve a flawless scenario and an unquestionable demonstration on our inability to communicate, and our ability to build obstacles so we are sure we don't look further than what we know of each other… Fueled with sometimes crude emotions and very strong images, Babel succeeds in bringing closure to the four stories by triggering in our heart the one emotion that counts…sincerity

Dead Man
(1995)

When Jim Jarmush re-visit the "western genre", he does so with poetry
Originally from Cleveland, William Blake gets a job as an accountant in a place called "Machine Town". Already in the train that takes him to the Dickinson wood factory an "unknown guy" warn him against the place he is going to. It is not fortune that awaits him but Death. Indeed the first night in "Machine Town", Blake is shot at and wounded. From this point on start a long journey of wandering in company of Nobody, an Indian and a philosopher.

This black and white film is mesmerizing. Obviously the black and white marks a rupture between what you are used to…So in essence this rupture is between let say classic Western and Jim Jarmush western as he re-visit the genre. It is also a way to keep the audience to what is essential…Color is a filter that can distract you, the sobriety of black and white will not.

But what exactly is essential in that movie? Beside the fact that Mr. Jarmush depict a brutal and impulsive America, the movie opposes a new born civilization that is already collapsing and a dying one that is still shining…But more than that the journey of William Blake is a metaphoric and circular voyage from misunderstanding to certitude. The guide Nobody, himself trapped between the two civilizations can not provide a cure to the passing man but may very well provide a path to a curing one. This journey from Machine Town, the "anti chamber" of hell to the sea, first step to Heaven is tremendously poetic and emotional. Also emotional is the evolution from misunderstanding to comprehension between Nobody and William Blake who eventually settles on what is essential reaching a common ground, clarity…

Help by a haunting and beautiful score from Neil Young and an extraordinary cast the film succeed in transforming the wood wagon of hell in which William Blake embarks to the wooden vessel to heaven in which he will lie.

One of the best films from Mr. Jarmush, Dead Man manages to take the audience in one of cinema most poetic journey

La raison du plus faible
(2006)

A terrible story made of laugh, tears, blood and sorrow
"La raison du plus faible" from Lucas Belvaux is a story about 4 men, 1 woman and a kid. This is a story about friendship, a story that opposes decency and adversity, bitterness and boredom…

The movie could be depicted as a "social" thriller if not a socialistic one that has the merit to dig up questions buried away by our sometimes inhuman society. What would you do if you had no perspective, no money and only dreams to be shattered? What would you do if the system was not allowing the possibility of a better life for some or redemption for others? What would you do if your more and more precarious life was being pushed that close to the edge? Would you react or would you fall? "La raison du plus faible" provides us with an answer by telling the story of these men who will believe again that a dream is feasible and who will take arms to get the money where it is and steal it because they believe this is their rights. This is also a story about choices where everybody takes his own responsibility; a story where there are no bad guys but no good ones, a terrible story made of laugh, tears, blood and sorrow….

Slow at times but served with an outstanding cast and a cinematography perfectly matching the protagonists lack of escape , "La raison du plus faible" remains a movie to be seen… A movie that seems to whisper: "continue to dream or die"

Le voyage en Arménie
(2006)

A search for a doubt instead of a certitude...
For weeks I wanted to see "Le voyage en Arménie" from Robert Guédiguian and finally I saw it… I've just realized I know Robert Guédiguian and saw 9 years ago another movie from him called "Marius et Jeannette", movie that indeed marked my heart.

"Le voyage en Arménie", is about Anna a French doctor sure of herself whose father is having hearts problem and decides to go back to Armenia his country of origin instead of having a surgical intervention. Anna who never really got along with her father and was never brought up within the Armenian culture decides to go to Armenia to look for him.

Now I can hear you saying: this is an Armenian movie for Armenian people… Well, let me respond that I am not Armenian and that it is more a true film made for real people.

In her "initiatic" journey Anna will encounter numerous characters that will help her understand a country, a culture, a dad. All over sudden nothing is certain anymore and Anna doubts herself, her choices, what she believes in...But in this doubt the certitude of what is important might very well emerge and "le voyage en Arménie" becomes a "voyage" not only into Anna but also into everyone of us…

Robert Guédiguian reinvents the meaning of the word beautiful by taking away the notion of plastic and replacing it by the notion of sincerity. In this task he is helped by terrific actresses and actors who seem to tell their own stories… "Le voyage an Arménie" is a beautiful movie, not only because everything from writing to editing perfectly serve the story, but also because all those elements trigger true emotions and make us realize what Cinema is all about

A History of Violence
(2005)

In "History of Violence" the important word might not be so much "Violence" but maybe more so "History"
History of Violence is an interesting piece of cinema. I would not call it a masterpiece but I do see some thought through elements that make this movie stands out and intellectually challenging. I like David Cronenberg's cinema. His movies are much more than wicked story, "Videodrome" re-invented sci-fi. "Dead Zone" besides being the best Stephen King's adaptation is a gem as far as character development is concern. "The Fly" is visually stunning and "Crash" speaks directly to our phantasm in a very kinetic manner.

History of violence is no exception there is more to see than the shear scenes of violence. In fact in "History of Violence" the important word might not be so much "Violence" but maybe more so "History". In his latest work of art David Cronenberg depicts the story of a common American man and his family,Tom Stall who could be your average Middle West guy, except he is not...A dramatic incident brings back the dark past of this modern days so called hero. Now you could stop right here and that would be just fine but think about it, don't you feel there is something more to this story? Indeed…David Cronenberg is drawing a parallel that speaks directly to our guts. Like modern America was build over a dark and violent times (Indian genocide, slavery...) Tom Stall's model life was build over violence and murder. The past of our respective country is our heritage, it is not a conscious one but it conditions the way we act and more directly the way we live. We have a collective violent past and therefore we are even deep underneath violent people. Moreover because we are violent deep inside we have a History (capital H) of Violence. The problem is this violence seems so natural and justified that it becomes profoundly human. Indeed we are men and women of violence. There is an animal hidden (or not) in our very soul and the love scene in the stairs demonstrates how fascinating and part of ourselves this "animality" is. This History is a genetic gift we pass to the next generation and the scenes where Tom Stall Son fights at school seems like a testimony, a way to show his family (the human kind) that he belongs. Our past will always resurface one way or another.

We need to be conscious that the demons haunting our collective memory (the one of our respective countries) will come knocking on our door. We have a History of Violence and we need to confront it in order to tame it

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
(2005)

Nobody is beyond redemption...
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is for me the film that saved 2005. Written by Guillermo Arriaga, also writer of "Amores Perros" and "21 grams" and the first movie of Tommy Lee Jones as a director (but also lead actor), "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" tells the story of Ranch hand Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) who wants to fulfill the promise he made to his recently deceased Mexican friend by burying him in his hometown in Mexico. The power of this modern western and initiatic journey resides in the complexity of the characters, their depth and their controversial behavior. None of the protagonists are one dimensional; none of them are right or wrong but all of them do right and wrong things. They are not always rational, and most of the time they feel lost. In one word they all appear profoundly human. Build over a chase dynamic fueled with contrasts and paradoxes, the film opposes Wild West landscape and Modern carton built houses, 4WD tracking hunt and horse back journey, fake TV soaps and true friendship but maybe most of all Freedom and Prison. Indeed most if not all characters are trapped in their apathetic lives from which they can't or don't want to escape forcing us to ask ourselves how close is our lives to the spectacle projected in front of our eyes. Melquiades Estrada embodies this possibility of Escape and now that he has been buried 3 times he transcends this Freedom making redemption possible not only through death but also through rebirth, suggesting that nobody is beyond it.

Un long dimanche de fiançailles
(2004)

Isn't poetry about imagination?
Jean Pierre Jeunet re-unites with his heroin of 'Amélie from Montmartre' and tries to deliver with 'Un long dimanche de fiançaille' another poetic movie about yet again a young woman, Mathilde who is relentlessly searching for her fiancée, who has disappeared from the trenches of the Somme during World War One. Jean Pierre Jeunet is one of those very powerful directors that understand how crucial cinematography is in a movie aiming for poetry. In 'Un long dimanche de fiançaille' he partners again with his director of photography, Bruno Delbonnel who worked on 'Amélie from Montmartre'. In their latest collaboration they continue to deliver an eye for candy film that balances with perfection war scenes, comic scenes and emotional scenes. Adapted from Sébastien Japrisot's novel 'Un long dimanche de fiançaille' tells a poignant story, unfolded through an investigation mechanism. Served with a great cast (e.g. the late Ticky Holgado) the film succeeds in delivering one hour and a half of cinematographic pleasure. However the narration is based on so many voices over that you wander what is left for the audience to think about. Isn't poetry part of imagination? Do we need (the audience) to get a description of every emotions felt by the protagonists. Here again but even more so than in 'Amélie from Montmartre', Mr. Jeunet has too many so called poetic lines red throughout the film and describing emotions that should not be described to but felt by the audience. By doing so he tries to impose on us what we should feel, this seems to me an easier way to tell a story. Jean Pierre Jeunet confuses communication and communion and if he does the first one with effectiveness the second one is in my humble opinion much closer to poetry

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