Apologies

I just wanted to let you all know that until Thursday my blogging will be somewhat limited. Apologies to all for this. You see I am visiting my Grandma and there is nary an Internet signal in her house and I do want to spend time with her, so my blogging until Thursday will be a bit sporadic. I have found an Internet cafe, but I can’t promise to be on there a lot. Hope you all understand.

Gaslight

Film Title

Gaslight

Director

George Cukor

Starring

  • Ingrid Bergman as Paula Alquist Anton
  • Charles Boyer as Gregory Anton
  • Joseph Cotten as Brian Cameron
  • Angela Lansbury as Nancy Oliver
  • May Whitty as Miss Thwaites

A mystery thriller from Hollywood’s Golden Age, Gaslight holds up thanks to strikingly eerie direction, outstanding sets and superb acting, that add up to a film of chills.

It is Victorian times in London and a renowned opera singer Alice Alquist has just been found strangled in her home. gaslight-posterHer young niece Paula, who found her body, is sent away to recover from the shock. Years later in Italy, Paula is a vibrant lady who has been training in music, but doesn’t quite have the passion for it. Her thoughts are elsewhere as the suave composer Gregory Anton has taken a shine to her and they have begun a relationship. Before too long, the couple are married and contemplating where to live. Gregory insists on going back to London and while Paula is obviously apprehensive of returning to the house where the horrific events unfolded, she agrees. Once back in the house is when strange happenings begin to happen, especially for Paula. Gregory informs her that she is forgetful and implies that she has been stealing things, of which Paula has no memory of. The new maid Nancy is impertinent and saucy around Gregory, while seemingly holding disdain for the mistress of the house. gaslight-charles-boyer-and-ingrid-bergmanAt night, the gaslights in her room dim mysteriously and she hears noises coming from the locked up attic. It is here that we learn that Gregory is the one orchestrating these events in order to drive Paula over the edge, while he searches for something that remains in secrecy. Little by little, Paula becomes withdrawn, paranoid and terrified of what she will become as her frail hold on events withers away and Gregory’s cruel plan begins to have results. But she may just have an ally in Brian Cameron, an Inspector for Scotland Yard begins to take an interest in Paula, as he smells a rat and isn’t convinced that Paula is going insane. It all boils down to whether or not he can help Paula or she can deduce the sinister plot afoot.

Meticulous craftsmanship is employed in every sense of the word by the great George Cukor, who wrings out the suspense in teasing suggestion as well as getting to the female heart of the story of manipulation. His hand is most definitely sure in his painterly brush strokes to suggest the menace that will engulf Paula slowly and cruelly after a deceptively sunny opening. Cukor’s biggest success is his hold on the tension and threatening shadows of the story, as Paula is slowly slipping into paranoia in accordance to the nefarious plans of Gregory, which he cloaks in significant mystery. ingrid-bergman-gaslightAll of it leads to a very satisfying conclusion that bubbles with menace and reversal of fortunes. There are a few little foibles in the film, like some dates stretches and leaky plot points, but in the long run, these skirmishes are of the minuscule variety that can be easily forgotten when considering the taut effectiveness of the overall movie. Gaslight is also a splendid evocation of Victorian London with rolling banks of fog and billowing candles is strikingly rendered, plus there are the expressive and well-designed sets to admire. This is the kind of movie where the visuals and story are largely of a stellar standard, in the tradition of MGM, who at the point of this film where churning out pictures of splendor and excellent, of which Gaslight qualifies easily. The cinematography is simply a marvel of spooky atmosphere, with certain shots bringing a flickering and shimmering malice and creepiness to the film in reference to the title. A supremely grand score begins with quiet and haunting notes of encroaching terror and then switches things up to heighten the spiraling descent of Paula.

The great Ingrid Bergman is the star attraction of Gaslight, contributing a thoroughly sensitive and strong portrayal of a woman being driven to near madness by her husband’s schemes. gaslight-paulaBergman’s role is an emotional one that she plays wonderfully and that immediately gets you to sympathise with her. Bergman gets across a clarity, radiance and wrenching vulnerability that fit the part admirably, it really isn’t a surprise that she won an Oscar for her tortured and exquisite role here. It has to be one of her finest parts in an illustrious career of greatness. Charles Boyer is nastiness and insidious charm personified, emerging as an oily wolf in sheep’s clothing that is doing everything in his power to convince both his wife and everyone else that she is mad. There is something just very eerie about Boyer and his work here, which is perfectly employed within the character as the niceness of his personality slips into a more cruel being of malevolence and subterfuge. In what is probably what you’d call the hero role, Joseph Cotten makes for a very moral and good-hearted presence as the inspector who could be Paula’s saviour in all of this underhandedness. angela-lansbury-gaslightAngela Lansbury made her debut here at the age of 17 and boy does she have fun with the role of the sassy and rude maid, who sneers and flirts her way through the house with a glint of mystery in her eyes. May Whitty is on delightfully dotty form as the nosy next door neighbour who is always after a bit of scandal or gossip.

Some elements aren’t what they once where, but these are minor things that are papered over in the creeping mystery and excellence of Gaslight. An old-fashioned chiller, it’s a rewarding exercise in tension and ambience.

Only You

Film Title

Only You

Director

Norman Jewison

Starring

  • Marisa Tomei as Faith Corvatch
  • Robert Downey Jr. as Peter
  • Bonnie Hunt as Kate Corvatch
  • Joaquim de Almeida as Giovanni
  • Billy Zane as the False Damon Bradley

An effervescent and good-hearted romantic comedy that takes place largely in beautiful Italy, Only You makes for a divinely experience, watching as destiny and fate unravel in fun ways of the loving kind.

In flashback, we are introduced to Faith Corvatch, a young girl who is playing around with a Ouija board with her brother Larry. only-you-movie-posterShe asks who her soul mate will be and strangely enough, the board spells out the name Damon Bradley. Her belief that this person will be her true love is given greater anticipation and growing power by a trip to the carnival where a fortune-teller informs her of the name she got from the board. This causes Faith to become all dreamy about the soul mate she hopes to meet in the future. Cut to present day and Faith is now a teacher, who still believes in fate but hasn’t found any clue about the signs from her childhood. At the current minute, she is engaged to podiatrist Dwayne, who is often more busy with work than her . Out of the blue, Faith receives a phone call from the alleged Damon Bradley who is in Italy. Throwing caution to the wind as her destiny could finally come into fruition, she abandons plans of her wedding and takes a plane to Italy. Joining her is Kate, her best friend and sister-in-law, who is currently going through the motions of her marriage to Faith’s brother and considering what to do. Kate is reluctant to come along as she is the more pragmatic one, but Faith wins her over and the two head off on a journey into the unknown. marisa-tomei-only-youWhile searching for the alleged man of her dreams, Faith encounters Peter Wright, a witty shoe salesman who appropriately enough meets Faith when she loses one of her stilettos. Hearing her mention the name of her beloved, he pretends to be Damon Bradley as he is immediately love struck by the kooky girl he sees. Though when it comes out that he isn’t Bradley, Faith is annoyed and begins to question the prophecy. The subsequent events lead to consequences that she never saw coming as she attempts to deny growing attraction to Peter. Can Faith make sense of the mystical signs or actually open her eyes to the possibility of Peter as a match?

Norman Jewison directs with an ease and light touch, which makes Only You pleasing to the eye and heart. At times, it may seem like he is riffing on the success of his previous romantic venture of Moonstruck, but his graceful and fun hold on events has a marked difference and more of a mystical tone than the aforementioned film to set them apart, but with both still being wonderful flicks. The best way to summarise Only You is to say that it is an old-fashioned romantic comedy in a contemporary setting, with a few surprises. Cynics will no doubt groan at something like this, but it is supposed to be something of a fairy tale so the leap of faith and magic are to be expected and to be honest, they are difficult to resist once they get a grip on you. faith-and-kate-only-youOnly You isn’t the sort of film that requires a real depth of thought to it as it is light and frothy, though it has moments of bittersweet emotion that help bring substance to the fairy tale side of it. I’m sure everyone has a bit of romance within them that they can see in this film. I mean, you have Italy looking suitably sublime and glowing with magic that is a classy touch(as lensed by the great Sven Nykvist). And there is a genuine unpredictability to Only You, as the wild goose chase takes in numerous comic events and switches as the search for Damon Bradley doesn’t go in the way Faith expected. If you don’t get a laugh or chuckle out of his movie, you really have no feeling of humour as Only You is delightfully written with spirited glee. A gliding and archaic score from Rachel Portman fits the bill of being lusciously composed and amusingly romantic in the tradition of Old Hollywood love stories.

Marisa Tomei exudes a doe-eyed and earnest appeal, that is as playful as a pixie. The character that she plays with her flighty and offbeat qualities could have become an annoyance quickly in the hands of a lesser actress, but not to worry as Tomei is a gifted girl who makes Faith’s eccentricities and actions warm and winning from the very start. marisa-tomei-and-robert-downey-jrAnd you can’t talk about Tomei in this film without mentioning how adorably sweet and innocent she is, which suits Only You down to the ground. Robert Downey Jr. has a good time as the man who isn’t the one supposedly destined for Faith, but willing to do what it takes to win her heart. Watching as his puppy dog eyes and sleight of hand antics attempt to win her over, plus Downey Jr. has a real physical sense of comedy to him like particularly in his priceless facial expressions. Bonnie Hunt is another standout performer in this film, lighting up the screen as the downtrodden and realistic woman, who finds that a certain suave gentleman takes an interest in her. Hunt has a real way with droll one liners that register many laughs while backing things up with a sensitive showing of uncertainty within the character. Joaquim de Almeida works well with the part of the businessman intent on wooing Kate, and though the part doesn’t call for any great shakes on the acting front, he brings more to it than others could have. Billy Zane is on hand to provide another twist in the story in a very amusing part.

harks back to the romance and comedy of old with a lively confection of a film bound to make you laugh and swoon.

Another Look Back at Older Reviews

I genuinely enjoyed the reception of the last post I did of this ilk. I also liked bringing attention to some of my older work that some of my followers may have not seen before. Now here is the second installment of this feature. I hope you all find something good to read of mine.

The Virgin Suicides

Spider

Candyman

Death on the Nile

Murder on the Orient Express

Wrong Turn

 

 

Gone Girl

Film Title

Gone Girl

Director

David Fincher

Starring

  • Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne
  • Rosamund Pike as Amy Elliott-Dunne
  • Carrie Coon as Margo Dunne
  • Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt
  • Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings
  • Kim Dickens as Detective Rhonda Boney
  • Patrick Fugit as Officer James Gilpin

Based on the addictive novel by Gillian Flynn(who also wrote this screenplay), Gone Girl, under the calculating and precise direction of the excellent David Fincher springs to unnerving life as a mystery of perceptions plays out in dark and surprising fashion.

Nick Dunne, a former writer who was laid off in the recession, comes home on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary after a drink with his sister Margo, to discover that his beautiful wife Amy is missing. gone-girl-posterThere appears to have been a struggle as the living room is in disarray, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The case of Amy’s disappearance captures the public’s imagination as she is the basis behind a highly successful book series created by her parents, entitled Amazing Amy. Yet this case of Amy’s vanishing is not going to be a cut and dry case like everyone first thought. Nick’s behaviour, which seems somewhat apathetic and shifty, is interpreted by the media in a negative light and the finger of suspicion points his way due to his seeming lack of empathy or care. Other things don’t add up like a large pool of blood that someone mopped up and the detectives, Rhonda Boney and her partner James Gilpin, become suspicious of Nick’s actions. Most damning of all is the fact that Amy’s life insurance was bumped up significantly just before her vanishing and the biggest shock is a diary of Amy’s is discovered with ominous writing. It slowly comes to light that behind the seemingly happy marriage lay resentment and angst for both Nick and Amy. Soon Nick is in hot water as people turn on him and the voracious media descends on him, who speculate that he was behind his wife’s disappearance and possible murder. But just what has happened to Amy? To tell you all that would spoil the shocking surprise, so you better get watching to find out.

David Fincher is one of my favourite working directors. He has this innate ability to infuse his movies with a clinical and detailed view that engages the brain and keeps you on edge. Those skills are exhibited in Gone Girl to a high degree, as he directs with a scalpel like dedication to the material that busts apart the supposedly idyllic nature of marriage to expose something rotten. His fingerprints are all over this film and his attention to the little things that people may think of as just innocuous, stands this film in good stead as nothing is as it seems. nick-dunneGillian Flynn adapts from her own book and I found this to be a very good string in Gone Girl’s bow, as we are getting the author’s seal of approval and her vision brought to the screen. Having read the book, I can say that the movie is very faithful to the source, with only the slightest changes here and there for good measure. Flynn does a golden job of the script that pulls into question with some dark humour the way that the media jumps on things and can easily make villains and victims with just a few choice words. Gone Girl is one of those movies that is hard to talk about as so much of it hangs on the mystery of everything, but I’ll do the best I can to describe my feelings and promise there will be no spoilers. amy-elliott-dunneAll I’ll really say is that Gone Girl emerges as a twisted and compulsive film in which so much of it challenges our views of what we see and how there is not always a simple answer to everything( very much so in this dark exercise in tension and mounting curiosity). The visual essence of the film adds another thing to gild an already impressive lily, with the muted blues and burnt golds playing a key part in setting the mood of the film and sustaining a great deal of uncertainty that Nick( and the audience) finds themselves in. A throbbing, electronic score captures the growing surprises of the narrative of which there are a good many and really sets the dark and ghoulish mood of Gone Girl. Even when we get flashes of the happier times that Nick and Amy had in the past, there is something uneasy and ambient about the score that suggests otherwise.

Ben Affleck is marvellously effective at putting the audience on edge as to what Nick’s intentions and feelings are. One minute we pity him and the next we are not sure of him as he is very ambiguous and Affleck plays that to the hilt. The casting of Affleck is pretty inspired as he himself has been at the centre of the media circus regarding his own private life, so maybe that in turn brings more to the part. As good as Affleck is, the biggest standout star of Gone Girl is Rosamund Pike, in what is a career defining performance. rosamund-pike-as-amy-gone-girlLike the film itself, Rosamund Pike’s portrayal of the beautiful missing Amy is hard to go into without giving away key parts of the story, but like before I’ll try to be concise. Rosamund Pike is quite simply a marvel in this movie, in every sense of the word. The part of the elusive Amy is a dream one for an actress and Pike makes it her own, adding an opacity in the beginning to give her a deep mystery. Yet as the story goes on the character is shown significantly different in each part, as Pike masterfully pulls away the layers of the character to reveal someone who is very different and more unpredictable that initially thought. Rosamund Pike has been seen in the past in largely supporting roles, so the challenge of playing the lead of Amy just goes to show how fantastic she is in adapting to the part so well. Rosamund Pike is just spectacular in the role and makes a very deep impression. The other members of the cast are no slouches either and sink their teeth into meaty roles. Carrie Coon was appropriately sarcastic yet loyal as Nick’s sister whose the person to go to for advice, though her belief in her brother does take something of a bashing in the process. Tyler Perry was a welcome surprise portraying Nick’s lawyer, who has a reputation for getting people off even when the evidence is stacked against them. There is something arch and winking about Perry’s work, as he knows exactly how to play the media to get a result. Neil Patrick Harris oozes a strange sort of smarmy charisma and pining as someone that connects to Amy’s past and then we have a well cast Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit playing the scrupulous detective and her partner, respectively.

An almost forensic and highly compelling examination of what is behind the surface image and the accountability of the media on the people it preys on, Gone Girl is simply put a mesmerising thriller, boasted even higher by the direction of David Fincher and the two central performances from Ben Affleck and especially Rosamund Pike.