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Reviews

Saraband
(2003)

Review - Saraband
Saraband is not really a sequel to Scener ur ett äktenskap (1973). Already the films bear the name of a music piece by Johan Sebastian Bach, and his intrinsically bound to music by themes and narrative (the mini-series didn't have music at all). Both the main characters of Scene From a Marriages have dramatically change psychologically, but they aren't the center of this film.

Saraband revolves around a father-daughter relationship. Parents/children relationships were also a theme massively left off of Scenes from a Marriage.

All that to say, both films are very different if we aren't taking into account the directing style and the character's names.

Nevertheless, it is what makes Saraband such a good film. It isn't fan service nor a lousy tribute to Bergman's extensive filmography. No, it is an intelligent and profoundly touching film with, like I said, its own theme. The older generation lets place to a younger one marked by the conflicts that shaped its ancestors.

Again, what stays of Scenes from a Marriage is the directing, the close-ups and the long shots on facial expressions. Bergman lost nothing of its emotional impact.

Scener ur ett äktenskap
(1973)

Review - Scener ur ett äktenskap
A mini-series that I think shows better Bergman's writing talent than any of his films.

Scenes from a Marriage is the story of Johan and Marianne and their setbacks regarding divorce. As an unexpected event tears them apart, they are at once unable to reconnect from each other and unable to forget each other. Behind its appearance of great tragedy, Scene from a Marriage has a heart, a desire for honesty, but also a sense of comedy that makes it accessible, unlike one may think.

Bergman, as a director, takes a step back. He lets his actors shine, especially Liv Ullman, and shows a romantic sensibility which I believe contrasts for the better with his earlier works. The Bergman who was called melodramatic after films such as Skepp till India land (1947) is long gone. The new one has reached the peak of his awareness in terms of romantic issues specifically marital issues.

His characteristic formalism to be practically absent from this work is the ultimate proof of Bergman's commitment to the emotional honesty of his film. In the scenes involving Johan and Marianne (practically every scene), close-ups play a major role. Bergman's camera focuses on the faces, typically of a single character, relying on the actor's talent to unveil emotions. Rather than using shot reverse shot, the camera stays on one actor for long minutes, a process I thought was more impactful. For that reason, Scenes from a Marriage reminded me of La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928). It is both as simple as possible and as emotionally powerful as possible.

Cruella
(2021)

Review - Cruella
I didn't expect to say this: "Cruella is a good film". Of course, it has his problem related to the screenplay, and it falls a bit in the shadow of films like Joker.

However, I found myself appreciating the punk/rebel aesthetic, and the excursion in Gillespie's ruthless world of fashion, where it is "free-for-all". After, Cruella, I, Tonya, and the newly announced Iron Mike, it is to wonder if he doesn't take a certain pleasure at exploring the darker side of success, and passions become dreams.

With that in mind, I believe, I thought of Jenny Beavan, an oscar-winning costume designer, his costumes, as an integral part of the conflict and the narrative rather than as accessories highlighting Cruella's personality.

It is a shame that Cruella was marketed as it was because I don't see it as a villain's genesis. At least, with those bland secondary characters and those predictable plot twists, it was definitely the worst part of the film.

On the contrary, as I implied earlier what you should be looking for is fashion and rivalry. For example, the fashion show, newspaper appearing in midair, the Hellman Hall parties. These are the shining moments of the film. Nevertheless, I believe less exigent children can still appreciate the Disney-esque touch.

Booksmart
(2019)

Review - Booksmart
Many like me won't be able to follow the film's pacing. Booksmart is a supercharged coming-to-age film filled with so many themes, tropes, and jokes that it is hard to follow.

Olivia Wilde is overdoing it. Her directing style is, despite appearances, pretty conventional, but it appears unconventional because it is overstated. It doesn't hide the film's themes, instead, it lessens their impact. Honestly, the screenplay played a part in this issue, it is too dense, and the pacing, as I said in the intro, is inappropriate considering the film's runtime. In brief, Booksmart is flawed at a different level of filmmaking for making little use of cinema's capability as a distinct medium.

There are some things that Book Smart does right though, at least in the acting aspect... Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein insufflate energy and confidence in their roles for their characters to feel different from the nerds you actually see in coming-to-age films. It is also the vehicle for the film's greatest gags.

The Florida Project
(2017)

Review - The Florida Project
Most of the time, when a film directed by a capable person disappoints me, it is because the directing doesn't suit the statement or the screenplay.

It is exactly the problem there. The Florida Project isn't a film complaining about the human condition in an unoriginal way, and I can't deny that it goes to great lengths narratively to put itself on the level of Moone. Although, I wonder why the film needed to create an aesthetical, with the uses of colors and lenses similar, that replicates what you see on Instagram. It worked beautifully by itself but, it had no reason to exist in such a film. Does a child see the world true an iPhone 6? I doubt it. I don't talk about the ending since I would have to spoil the film, but with the same idea, I disliked it.

Anyway, those are my main complaints about the film, and they are major ones. Otherwise, I appreciated the performances. Willem Dafoe's performance is unsurprisingly excellent in this film. But Brooklyn Prince is the true revelation, her performance for her age was great. Even if, at times, she was slightly overplaying, the hyperactivity of her character didn't strike me as being unrealistic.

Skepp till India land
(1947)

Review - Skepp till India Land
I was shocked when Bergman called his first film, Crisis, "lousy through and through". But, this time I might agree. Melodramatic might be an appropriate adjective for this film. The directing and the screenplay work in opposite directions. If the directing is perhaps accentuating Bergman's fear concerning his relationship with his father, it is forgetting the romance into making it a lame melodrama.

Again, A Ship to India, Bergman's third film has some interesting ideas and proves his technical abilities. However, this time, due to the essence of Martin Söderhjelm, his formalist ideas (camera angles, lighting, dissolve) works against him.

Kris
(1946)

Review - Kris (1946)
Bergman's film debut begins with an introduction, a love letter to an unnamed small and calm village in Sweden. Notice how the narrator specifies that there is no train. Except for the bus carrying bad news, the village is isolated from the tormented worldly lifestyle. That unnamed village is, in reality, Hedemora, the only medieval city of Dalarna County. At first, as the narrator tells us the film is a comedy. In fact, at first, it is more precisely a romantic comedy having as pinnacle the waltz scene. But, the genius of Bergman regarding Crisis is how he seamlessly transforms it into a film-noir. The train portrays both literally and figuratively that change to a darker, grimmer story during the "laughing" scene. And, suddenly, the trees of Hedemora transform into the lampposts of the effervescent city, the splendid medieval architecture disappears.

Army of the Dead
(2021)

Review - Army of the Dead
After, multiples comic book films, Zack Snyder returns to make his own story with his character. And, it proves a real disaster, not that I liked all of his comic book films in the first place.

He makes an "original" film within the zombie genre. He forsakes a good part of Romero's style. But, it is another pair of sleeves regarding the rest of pop culture which seems to be Snyder's main source of inspiration. I believe that most will see references to Fast Five, Suicide Squad, Call of Duty, The Walking Dead. For me, it is problematic, Snyder seems to do all he can to please his fans on Reddit, Youtube, etc. To the point, that one of the characters is a YouTuber.

So by attempting to create such a mediatic event just after the release of the Snyder Cut, I get the impression that Snyder lost his style. At the very least, he lost what made his film unique. Most of his others films weren't excellent. But, with The Army of the Dead, the lack of dedication to the project is so apparent. Even Dave Bautista's character, through which Snyder reflects on his grief, lacks depth.

I warmly recommend that you skip this film whether you are a Snyder fan or not. You are surely going to be disappointed.

Rocky
(1976)

Review - Rocky
There is so much wrong with this film, starting with the poor collaboration between the directing and the screenplay. Both don't fit, they don't depict the same thing, John G. Avildsen appropriately depicts sports sequences, training sequences in the way that he does in The Karate Kid, but he doesn't understand the nuances. The most important one is that Rocky is prima facie a melodramatic film. And, maybe that I'm too harsh on him, maybe it is the fault of Stallone who did the same mistake on First Blood, but anyway, I don't like it.

Another problem, although less important than the precedent is that Stalonne isn't a good actor. His luckiness rose him to fame. Just like Rocky, he is an underdog, but never will he be a good actor.

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
(2020)

Review - David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
Attenborough finds the right tone with this film. The message is activist, but not political, not overly sensationalized. He tells us from his perspective how things change during his lifetime, his 60 years career. For the most part, the documentary remains fun and instructive. There are even noteworthy images (linked below) that I'll keep in memory.

The only part that I really disliked was when they reconstructed a vision of a dystopian future. Showing what the world would look like in the coming decades.

In short, this is how you should treat a subject that I don't care about, especially, if I disagree with your opinion.

And, it proves that I'm not totally biased when I rate documentaries.

Roma città aperta
(1945)

Review - Roma città aperta
While the many subplots, sensationalist tone helped highlight the brave moments, they also have their drawbacks. In the post-war immediacy, in this tribute to the brave heroes who died in the war, Roberto Rosselini forgets what makes his later films, at least the one I saw, Germany, Year Zero, so impactful. The desperation of a true German boy in post-war Germany has no equal in Rome Open City. If the actors and Rossellini witnessed Italy during WWII, through the film's portrayal of bravery, you know they weren't tortured.

Rome Open City is still a great movie. Putting it in context, you could say it's a miracle. But for me, this is only the first draft of neorealism.

Il segno di Venere
(1955)

Review - Il segno di Venere
Here, in the leading role, we meet Cesira, played by Franca Valeri. She is a free thinker. For her time, we can even consider her as a rebel. But, she is jealous, she doesn't achieve happiness, she doesn't find love.

At her opposite, there is her cousin, Agnese Tirabassi, played by Sophia Loren. Unlike Cesira, Agnese gets all the attention from men.

Despite its conservative vision of women-men relationships, the film shines through the compelling, amusing characters that bring a unique spirit to this movie filmed in Rome. It contrasts with Dino Risi's other 1955 film, Pane, amore e..... (1955), in the sense, that it is isn't a movie about charm, but rather on the absence of it and on jealousy.

Nevertheless, the directing of Dino Risi attenuates the film's dramatic themes. For that reason, I think that if you are a fan of Italian comedies, you should go for it.

Urban Legend
(1998)

Review - Urban Legend
A new kind of teenage horror film inspired by Scream only lasted for aproximately four years (1996-2000). Urban Legend is clearly part of that era that some people now look at with a nostalgic feeling. I'm not one of those people, and I will explain why Urban Legend despite its energy and cool pitch didn't live up to my expectations.

The film begins strongly with a scene full of suspense, that I have difficulty believing was shot by Jamie Blanks, introduces the premise of an "urban legend" killer.

But after that, nothing matches the thrills of the first scene except maybe the appearance of Robert Englund. The film proceeds to follow all the tropes of the genre so strictly that it removes all intrigue in its "whodunit" plot.

And once again, the conclusion is inevitable. All the directors who did that kind of film in the 1990s would have been much better at directing Scooby-Doo episodes.

Jaws
(1975)

Review - Jaws
This movie had one of the best marketing campaigns in cinema history. It is astounding to see the number of people who bite the bait of the tagline: "You'll never go in the water again!" However, Jaws shares more resemblance with The Old Man and the Sea than with Ridley Scott's Alien. Don't expect an alien-esque horror film. Jaws demands more patience to be enjoyable because, first and foremost, it is a fishing film.

That brings me to another misconception about the film, the beginning is slow, really slow, and pointless. Fortunately, Spielberg's skillful directing was there to insufflate some energy into that otherwise bothersome first act.

If you haven't already seen Jaws, I do say go for it. It remains a classic of Hollywood cinema, but keep in mind that what you are about to see is not an action film nor a horror film.

Unhinged
(2020)

Review - Unhinged
Unhinged is a hyperbole promoting a pacific statement. When in fact, all that mattered was the action. For me, that was an issue, the opening credit and the epilogue gave me the impression to watch a social issues ad on TV, the message is in your face and not bright at all. Also, whoever hired the actors did a really poor job. Not only because the actors are all bad (except Russel Crowe), but because they don't fit together in terms of the age difference. The age gap between the actress playing the mother and the actor playing the son should have been greater, it bothered me for all the film.

La pianiste
(2001)

Review - La Pianiste
La Pianiste is the tragic story of Erika, a piano teacher, who represses her love feelings since she is unable to express them.

The premise is only more impactful when you realize that nor insanity nor her bizarre relationship with her abusive mother truly justifies her desire to sabotage her own life. And, the depiction of sexual violence is incredibly clever. Haneke suggests more than he shows, but the viewer ends up imagining more than Haneke would have dared to show. Which, for me, indicates all the brilliancy of the directing.

The last aspect but no the least is certainly the amazing performances delivered by Benoît Magimel and Isabelle Huppert. Considering the difficulty of their roles, I can only acclaim their commitment.

In conclusion, The Piano Teacher shocks and makes you think with all the virtuosity that characterizes Haneke. Bravo!

Il vangelo secondo Matteo
(1964)

Review - Il vangelo secondo Matteo
Pasolini had a self-proclaimed peculiar way of seeing the world and objects that some may call contradictory. But that you like his philosophy or not, he was first and foremost a great critical thinker. It is far too simple to reduce the Pasolinesque-thought to clichés, some authors have written on it.

At first, that Pasolini, who is an atheist directed a non-religious film on Jesus, dedicated to John XXIII can seem hypocrite. But while Pasolini was anti-clerical, he also had much respect for the sacred and the miracles. However, he didn't feel legitimate to interpret the myth of Jesus Christ. That is why the "Il vangelo" is closer to a documentary or a prosaic depiction of the life of Christ, it is almost a record at certain times.

The film doesn't attempt to convert you to Christianism, and it is the difference between it and all the mediocre and pseudo-profound religious films.

Add trademarks such as neorealism, classical music, and close-up. And, you get the greatest film on the life of Jesus Christ ever shot

Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages
(2000)

Review - Code Inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages
Code Unknown is not the most acclaimed of Haneke's films, it also differs from the shocking style that he loves to incorporate in his films. Yet, I thought that it summarizes well the essence of his career. The unconventional narrative of the film helped to emphasize the crucial situation in the lives of people only related by a small incident through those multiple perspectives you discover numerous social problematics such as racism, child-abusing. In my eyes, the predominant aspect is the underlying question that raises the film: "Are all the problems in society caused by the inability to communicate?" That seems to be a question that you can reattach to other of Haneke's films (e.g. The Piano Teacher and Amour). And, for those reasons, I believe that Code Unknown is an underestimated masterpiece.

Man of Steel
(2013)

Review - Man of Steel
I thought that reducing the number of action sequences as compare to MCU films, of the film was a brilliant idea. It gave Man of Steel more of the needed time to establish the moral person behind Kal-El. And, those efforts at making Kal-el humane, and at exploring his psyche have bear fruit. In later films, DC has tried to do it without the collaboration of S. Goyer and Nolan, but unfortunately, the two main writers of The Dark Knight Trilogy don't seem to be replaceable.

The huge problem of this film lies within the climax. That climax is a total rip-off of Roland Emmerich's work. People are running, Metropolis is being destroyed by a giant spaceship, and Superman is bashing many, many, many buildings, going into space, destroying satellites, and returning on earth to destroy more buildings. One of the worst climax of the 2010s.

Pane, amore e.....
(1955)

Review - Pane, amore e.....
With all the praises that Sophie Loren received throughout her long career, I expected more. Her role (like all the female roles of the film) is stereotyped at excess. Plus, she overplays it.

The dialogues always explain to the viewer visual jokes. I found that incredibly annoying and unnecessary.

Vittorio De Sica's role is why I don't give this film a lower-rating. In fact, his character is the only one that feels really like a character, he has depth and real psychological evolution. But, make no mistake, I'm not saying that his performance was brilliant.

El Naser Salah el Dine
(1963)

Review - El Naser Salah el Dine
In response to the number of epic films produced in the 1950s and 1960s, Youssef Chahine took the genre and spun it at 180 degrees. He is attacking the imperialism ambitions of Europe and modifying our perception of the crusades.

Saladin even with a much smaller budget than American films has great production values. The battles are great, the music played by an orchestra conducted by Carlo Savina, an Italian composer and conductor who has worked with world-renowned directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, Federico Fellini, and Roman Polanski, is rich. Furthermore, Saladin does more than ripping-off the aesthetical codes of American films. It experiments with cinematography and editing.

I would say that Chahine proves once again the richness of each nationality, their customs, and their talents.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
(2003)

Review - Master and Commander : The Far Side of the World
Master and Commander is a movie that at the perfect time, just at the pinnacle of Russel Crowe's career and in a golden age for adventure films. And, I like that movie as much as I love nautical adventures.

For me, the only flaw that justifies my 7/10 is the editing of the action scenes. In most of his films, Nolan was able to camouflage Lee Smith's inability to edit action, but Peter Weir couldn't on Master and Commander.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
(2020)

Review - Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Here, Chadwick Boseman gives his best performance and Viola Davis is no less impressive as Ma Rainey.

However, like another film released on Netflix this year, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom feels and looks like a play. So, it is not a problem with the screenplay, which I believe is excellent.

I think that they should have picked a renowned movie director rather than a renowned playwright. For that role, Denzel Washington, who has already directed one of Wilson's plays for cinema (Fences) would have been perfect.

Ying xiong
(2002)

Review - Ying xiong
Yimou Zhang is one of these directors who can perfectly blend VFX and SFX. With that ability, he can value the poetry of the film over the realism and it allows Hero to be one of the most beautiful films ever shot.

That a lot of people the message of this film also shows that the three screenwriters cleverly transformed that purely communist message into something that can appeal to a wider audience. Kurosawa, Hashimoto, and Oguni accomplished a similar feat on Shichinin no samurai.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things
(2020)

Review - I'm Thinking of Ending Things
I liked the idea of following the fantasies of a depressive school janitor. All the characters speak the janitor's thoughts. I found that idea amazing, and for that reason, I'm Thinking of Ending Things has the best screenplay of 2020.

However, I can confess that the ending is far from perfect. Even after reading Kaufman's explanation, I'm not convinced.

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