Monday, 11 February 2013

[Screen Log] Across the Universe Edition (Week 03/02/13 - 10/0213)

It's been an interesting and diverse week of cinematic venturing over here, one that has ranged from 2013 Oscar nominees, to Star Wars and even Heaven itself. However it all ended in a bang when my Blu Ray player died right in the middle of Jean-Luc Goddard's Weekend, he probably wouldn't have it any other way. 

  • Argo - 2012, Ben Affleck 
  • Star Wars: A New Hope - 1977, George Lucas 
  • The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums - 1939, Kenji Mizoguchi
  • A Matter of Life and Death - 1946, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
  • The Music Room - 1958, Satyajit Ray 
All these reviews have been taken from my Profile, available here:

Argo - 35mm, Movie House Cinema
In the run up to the Academy Awards many of my local theaters have been cashing in on screening all of the Best Picture nominees, and I took the opportunity to see those I had previously missed (something I have come to regret.) Ben Affleck's true-to-life tale of the CIA and Hollywood collaboration to smuggle 6 escapee hostages during the 1980 Iran crisis. A rather unremarkable thriller that unnecessarily relies on artificial techniques and blatant xenophobia to raise, the already sky-scrapper high, stakes. The result is a film that looks the part with accurate period detail and awful haircuts but fails to capitalize on the incredible stranger-than-fiction event. Somewhere a more talented director could have utilized this scenario to explore the duality of film and real-life but we are left with a competently entertaining piece of Hollywood propaganda. 

In short, bland enough to be the front runner for Best Picture.

Star Wars: A New Hope - DVD Projected, Queens Film Theatre
A rather flat and frankly childish film, far from worthy of its praise or position as a genre defining piece. There are highlights here and there, particularly some enjoyable set and costume design, but this does very little to develop the political and social boundaries that run through imagination of the world.

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums - Blu Ray, Criterion Collection
Though the print is in dire shape, this is easily the best of Mizoguchi's earlier works. A second-rate actor who relies on his Father's name falls in love with the woman who is honest with him. From then it depicts their struggle to be together, and a woman who sacrifices everything to help her husband succeed, including her health. This is a long and draining film, beautifully captured through Mizoguchi's gliding takes and intricate staging. It ends on a tragic image of sacrifice, and a warning to every artist.

A Matter of Life and Death - DVD, ITV Movies
More than anything else this is a key example of film architecture. Not just in design but in its structure and textual visuals as well. The Archers and their cinematographer Jack Cardiff tell this wonderful meditation on life without love. David Niven is a WW2 pilot who jumps from his plane only to miraculously survive and fall in love thanks to an error within the bureaucratic office of the powers that be. Seamlessly moving between marvelous technicolor and sterile black and white with terrific time-stopping effects. The film opens with the horrific and saddening destruction of the war, before exploding in all its glory through the eyes of someone who is awakened to it all; someone in love.

The Music Room - Blu Ray, Criterion Collection
Ray's film is soaked in culture but remains completely human. It tells the story of Biswambhar Roy, one of the last Indian aristocrats, he spends his days staring vacantly over his eroded land and attempting to compete with the new wealth by throwing lavish parties, paid for by the family jewels. The decaying lavish setting and Ray's high contrast visual symbols move through the films text, and into the reflections, the lights and even the portraits on the wall - creating a real sense of past-time. But this is a film all about music. It is the key motif in illustrating the fading, overstretched power of the Roy and his family name. It is the last section of the film, the music turns from entrancing to disruptive and the visuals and imagery become so heightened it enters the realm of a horror film. The destruction of a once great class, through the psychological disintegration and blunt, violent death of its last patriarch.

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