Separate Lies

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Film Title

Separate Lies

Director

Julian Fellowes

Starring

  • Tom Wilkinson as James Manning
  • Emily Watson as Anne Manning
  • Rupert Everett as Bill Bule
  • Linda Bassett as Maggie
  • John Neville as Lord Rawston

A refined and yet thorny examination of love, infidelity and loyalty, Separate Lies is quite an engaging drama, with a good script from Julian Fellowes, who debuts as director and the work from the main principal actors.

James and Anne Manning are a well-off married couple who divide their time between London( where James works as a top barrister) and a house in Buckinghamshire.separate-lies-poster James likes to think of himself as an honest man who believes in the truth, though he can often be compulsively needy in having things in order and chastising those who don’t meet his standards. Anne loves her husband, but has grown tired of the boredom of life when he’s always away and also the repetitive nature of doing most things for him. It isn’t quite the idyllic life that from the outside it appears to be. Into their lives comes Bill Bule, the son of a local Lord. He is a devil-may-care man who catches the attentions of Anne, without James realising. Around this time, the husband of the couple’s cleaner, is struck by a speeding car that fails to stop. The man dies shortly after due to the injuries sustained. Anne takes an interest in helping Maggie deal with her grief and James is bewildered as to why. There is some talk that the car that hit Maggie’s husband was similar to the one owned by Bill, which sets the suspicions of James running wild. Things come to a head when Anne reveals bluntly that she has been having an affair with Bill, as well as the fact that it was her who was driving when was hit. Shattered by these twin revelations, James is sent into a tailspin. Even though Anne wants to tell the police of her involvement in the death of Maggie’s husband, James, thinking of his own reputation and the wife he still loves, persuades her not to. Keeping this dark secret on the down low is soon proving hard for everyone, even the usually cavalier Bill. Everyone in the damaged picture finds themselves doing battle with their feelings, especially James, who is caught between helping his unfaithful wife and thinking of his own back.

Julian Fellowes does quite an excellent job at directing this cool yet quietly piercing story. His strongest suit is exploring the aftermath of lies and the desire to keep things secret. If there’s q fault in his work, it’s that he sometimes doesn’t scratch the surface enough. He does have an acute eye for the minute details of behaviour, but some of Separate Lies may have gone on to be more substantial if it hadn’t been so polite. Emily Watson and Tom WilkinsonIt does border more than a little on the overly genteel side and could have been a bit more forthcoming, and yet the subtleties of a lot of it did manage to make their bright presence felt. Separate Lies often feels a bit cold at points, but the largely dispassionate view it takes of the characters is still an interesting one that doesn’t fall into melodrama. It presents the characters as ones with many faults and whose choices are ultimately what changes and shapes them in ways that will have fatalistic consequences. There is no character to easily identify with because your loyalty, much like James and Anne’s actions, are ultimately conflicted and go between different people and extremes. It’s commendable that the script allows the roles to be flawed as it avoids the trap of getting us to side with one person more than the other. We are left to make our own minds up about the people who populate Separate Lies and what they all register in terms of emotion from us. The trickling sadness of the score is used sparsely but very efficiently, making certain scenes really stand out.

Tom Wilkinson, who for my money can always be relied upon for a stellar performance,  does it once again here. He gets the right amount of selfishness and critical thinking mixed with a desolation that lies below the buttoned up existence of barrister James. anne-separate-liesThis is a man whose life is all about order and being in control, so when it spins off course, he is galvanized into making a difficult choice after being left to flounder. The dilemma he faces is beautifully and strongly performed by Wilkinson, who suggests a lot about the hurt and how he must let his emotions come out after being under wraps for so long. No less his equal as the seemingly dutiful wife is Emily Watson, who houses desire and bitterness within her being. Watson deftly plays Anne as a woman of many contradictions; in me breath she is regretful and destroyed by her actions and then almost ambivalent and apathetic about her indiscretions. It’s a difficult task to accomplish, but Emily Watson does it with a depth and surprise that makes it very believable and real. The moral quagmire of James and Anne is simply marvellous to witness with Wilkinson and Watson at the top of their game in the acting stakes. Rupert Everett features as the rich cad and provides the catalyst that has a severely deep and shattering impact on all. The role doesn’t really call for much in the way of development, though Everett still makes it watchable. In supporting roles, Linda Bassett as the cleaner with a possible hidden agenda and John Neville as Bill’s stately father, do pretty good stuff in their respective parts.

A bit more oomph may have benefited Separate Lies, but the outcome of it is a largely arresting and melancholy movie that deserves attention for the way the characters are written and the strong performances from the cast, in particular the fascinating leads of Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson.

An Announcement

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Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been on my blog as much as usual. This is down to me being very busy of late. You see, I still live at home with my parents and we are preparing to move house soon, so I’ve had to chip in and be of help with various aspects of it. Over the next few weeks, my blogging may be limited because of these things just to let you all know. I promise to be back up and right back to normal once everything has been sorted. That isn’t to say I won’t be on my blog in the next few weeks, I just won’t be using it as prominently. Until then, picture me like this:

builder

or this:

scott-eastwood

or possibly dancing to this:

Blow-Up

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Film Title

Blow-Up

Director

Michelangelo Antonioni

Starring

  • David Hemmings as Thomas
  • Vanessa Redgrave as Jane
  • Sarah Miles as Patricia
  • Jane Birkin as The Blonde

An adroit movie that really gets the brain working with its examination of images and a different picture of Swinging London, Blow-Up is a confounding puzzle that registers on many levels and calls for attention. This is largely down to the sense of mystery and intelligent probing that is present, especially from the masterful camera of Michelangelo Antonioni.

Thomas is a dismayed, cool and bored fashion photographer whose view of Swinging London is coloured with nihilism and gloominess. blow-up-movie-posterHe wishes to find something full of life to shoot, instead of the blank-faced and dead-eyed models he photographs on a daily basis. While his life is one of seeming glamour and everything you could ask for, the void of emptiness is becoming prominent and larger. Between fashion shoots, he photographs more realistic situations, such as men in the mines for a book he plans on publishing eventually. One day while in the park, searching for an image to complete his book, he happens across an intimate moment between an older man and a young, attractive girl. He snaps a few shots of them, before being harangued by the woman named Jane, who desperately wants the photos he has taken. When she comes to visit later on, he gives her the wrong film after she attempts to seduce him nervously as a way to acquire the photos. When he enlarges the photos he took in the park, upon closer inspection it appears that there is a man holding a gun and also a dead body in the background. Slowly, he becomes obsessed with what he may have captured on film and strangely comes to life again. The biggest question is has Thomas really discovered a murder? Or is it that he just wants something arresting to photograph and has fabricated this?

Michelangelo Antonioni is the master behind the camera who casts a deep spell on you with this ambiguous and provocative film. His depiction of life in the Swinging 60’s is anything but fun and games, instead heading in the direction of disillusionment and isolation. This is that sort of movie that will send your brain in multiple directions, thanks to the thematic value and layers of possibility that lie housed in it. The very essence of imagery and how accountable our eyes can be is fascinatingly brought to vivid life, leaving a good amount of room for uncertainty. The whole impact of Blow-Up takes in photography and vision well and also has something of an existential undercurrent that is evinced gradually. blow-upThe ennui of Thomas’s life presents many interpretations regarding whether what he sees in the images is actually there or someone a thing he has projected himself. Yet like all the best film makers, Michelangelo Antonioni skilfully plays his cards close to his chest and leaves it up to the audience to question what is actually occurring. Anybody searching for clear answers and big reveals will not find them as Blow-Up is purposefully maddening and ambiguous, which is the biggest strength of the picture overall. The very fact that you can’t be quite sure if what Thomas captures is real or illusory is exciting yet deeply insightful at presenting an outsider’s perspective of the 60’s and how for some it wasn’t the bright time often depicted in media. Although it has colour aplenty scattered in various frames and the iconic fashions of the era( as well as liberated sexuality), Blow-Up is more concerned with showing the dissatisfaction with the world, especially in a time of change. Alienation seeps into Blow-Up, and it becomes understandable why Thomas would want something of life to photograph, which ironically comes when he thinks he’s uncovered a murder. There are so many parts to Blow-Up that really engage the mind and I am sure will be fascinating and provide more insight on other viewings. To some modern viewers, Blow-Up will seem meandering, but it’s deliberate pacing is in fact key to the film in capturing the boredom that the not always likable Thomas feels and how he springs to life when he believes he has discovered something. In the end, the whole mystery aspect of Blow-Up takes on a different tone with the feeling of not being able to trust what you see playing heavily on the uneasiness. The mod soundtrack strikes the counterbalance of action and liveliness with the feeling of being listless and something darker being under everything that is seen as fantastic at the time.

As the alienated and uncomfortable Thomas, David Hemmings is fantastic casting. He possesses a certain hollow-eyed melancholy and is sometimes hard to gauge, which figures in well as to whether or not the character is simply projecting his thoughts into reality. The character isn’t always the nicest or easiest person to relate to, but Hemmings grabs the attention with the listless angst becoming something bordering on possible madness as the movie progresses. david-hemmings-and-vanessa-redgraveA young Vanessa Redgrave makes a mark in only a couple of scenes; portraying the attractive woman in the photographs. There is an awkwardness and fretfulness to her, mixed with a strange sexuality that only heightens the picture’s idea of reality and perception. Sarah Miles appears as the neighbour of Thomas, who he obviously likes but never acts upon it. Jane Birkin features in a small but memorable part of a giggling girl who with a friend has an interesting photo shoot with Thomas.

A strange and abstract film that is one that will imprint many images on the mind and call for many watches, Blow-Up is a provocative and unusual film which deconstructs many ideas and gets you to question the validity of what you see.

The Big Easy

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Film Title

The Big Easy

Director

Jim McBride

Starring

  • Dennis Quaid as Remy McSwain
  • Ellen Barkin as Anne Osborne
  • Ned Beatty as Captain Jack Kellom
  • John Goodman as Detective Andre
  • Grace Zabriskie as Mama

A hot and spicy crime drama that gains a lot from the New Orleans setting, The Big Easy scores big points thanks to its host of idiosyncratic characters and sexy romance at play in a tasty slice of gumbo.

Remy McSwain is a laid-back police lieutenant in New Orleans who along with Captain and good family friend Jack Kellom, discover the body of a local mobster while on the job. the-big-easy-movie-posterIt is thought that the slaying is part of a gang war brewing between two rival parties. Arriving later is assistant District Attorney Anne Osborne, who is there to take a look at the killing and also prominently investigate police corruption. This poses a problem for Remy, as while he’s a good enough guy he has been known to look the other way and take bribes. He attempts to charm the law-abiding Anne, which appears to work as she tangles with her feelings about the case and Remy. As more murders from both gang factions take place and the drug operations and police corruption angle hots up, it is up to the to discover something. This isn’t going to be easy as they are frequently at odds over moral conduct. Though antagonistic over each other’s methods and fighting undeniable attraction, Remy and Anne dig into the murders and corruption, uncovering a big can of worms in the process that goes a lot higher than imagined.

Jim McBride’s full-blooded and breezy direction is the ideal thing that is needed in a film like this one. He makes it a dynamic and alternately playful movie that knows how to steam things up and use the surroundings of New Orleans to their full potential. New Orleans itself becomes a character in the story; a hotbed of colourful people and seamy passions, dashed with dark intrigue and a compelling glamour. There’s something special about New Orleans that adds immeasurably to the essence and ambience of this drama and can’t be faulted in the slightest. The Big Easy would never have had the same effectiveness if the setting was different, because the whole thing feels pretty authentic and full of vigor. The aura of the place hangs over The Big Easy like a glistening canopy. the-big-easy-remy-and-anneIt does become a little broad at various intervals in the story that can induce a few instances of irritation, but The Big Easy keeps hold of you with the quickness of it all and the feisty romance. The film is at its most persuasive and enjoyable when it focuses on the clash between Remy and Anne, which in turn leads to sexual fireworks that are complicated by their differing attitudes and the possibility of danger with every step they take. The sassy script ensures a quality rapport and an amusing back and forth is created, bringing humour into the drama that actually benefits rather than distracts from the overall crime narrative. Sometimes crime dramas can be overly solemn, but The Big Easy takes another route and works out splendidly. It also fleshes out characters that are kooky and full of quirkiness, particularly Remy whose extrovert charms and mile wide grin are never far from view when being his ever so corrupt but devilishly likable self. The Big Easy often gets mentioned as a thriller and while I can see that in stretches of the film( such as a tense car chase and explosive last act), crime drama with healthy overtones of romance is probably how I’d describe it and I love that it’s that very thing. It flips between darkness in the crime and corruption to red-hot potential romance between without really missing a beat as it goes on its exciting way. A Cajun soundtrack and subsequent score provide the fire for which this cauldron of mixtures is rested on, providing some outstanding moments of music to echo the lively happenings.

Dennis Quaid is superb as the ever so corrupt but wholly enjoyable Remy, whose alligator smile and wild ways are more than a little endearing in an amusing fashion. Remy may be a very crooked guy who eventually begins to view how deep he’s in, but Quaid morphs him into an ingratiating charmer, who it is impossible to not to be taken in by, despite his foibles and many faults.dennis-quaid-and-ellen-barkin Ellen Barkin matches Quaid with an equally excellent performance of the uptight Anne, whose usual adherence to rules is tested by a burgeoning attraction to Remy. The undecided and smouldering face of Barkin is employed exquisitely to showcase the moral dilemma she endures, tempered with a curious sense of carnality beneath the surface which the actress exudes gorgeously. Quaid and Barkin share a scintillating chemistry that is hot stuff from the moment they meet. I’m not kidding when I say their passion burns like fire in an extended form of foreplay, which is interrupted and comes up against barriers in a way that resembles a dance of emerging desire gaining power. You simply couldn’t have asked for anything better from the two stars, who ignite the screen as the total opposites in almost every way lock horns masterfully. Ned Beatty provides memorable support as the seemingly amiable Captain who Remy sees as something of a father figure, while John Goodman is fun as a lazy yet joking detective. One should also look out for Grace Zabriskie as Remy’s withering and quick-witted mother.

With lashings of local flavour and unique atmosphere that it seems only New Orleans can offer, The Big Easy is a fun, sexy and thoroughly entertaining crime drama, that soars essentially from the sultry chemistry of the leads and the eventful, lively direction.

Jagged Edge

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Film Title

Jagged Edge

Director

Richard Marquand

Starring

  • Glenn Close as Teddy Barnes
  • Jeff Bridges as Jack Forrester
  • Peter Coyote as Thomas Krasny
  • Robert Loggia as Sam Ransom

A solid thriller with dashes of courtroom drama added to the proceedings, Jagged Edge is entertaining and does keep you guessing. It may not be the most original thriller out there and you may have to suspend disbelief, but it’s worth checking out if you want to be on your toes and intrigued by a good many shocks and reveals.

On a dark, stormy night in San Francisco, beautiful socialite Paige Forrester is brutally murdered in her beach house by a masked assailant, who also butchers her maid with a hunting knife sporting a serrated edge. Her handsome husband Jack, who is also her business partner at the newspaper she owns, claims that he was knocked unconscious and woke up to find his wife dead. jagged-edge-movie-posterSlimy District Attorney Thomas Krasny doesn’t buy Jack’s story and based on circumstantial evidence that points directly to Jack, he arrests him. The high-profile case will soon go to court and leading up to this, Jack tries to hire former lawyer Teddy Barnes to represent him. Teddy quit her job years before after working with Krasny on a case where she later found out he withheld evidence that would have exonerated the man who went to prison. She is haunted by the knowledge that the client hanged himself in prison and feels a sense shame for what happened, leading her to reconsider taking the case for Jack as a way to atone for her crisis in ethics. Teddy agrees to meet Jack and after reluctance, she steps back into the lawyer ring once again as she believes he is innocent. The case brings her face to face with Krasny once more and you can feel that Teddy wants to do the case to make up for the guilt she has and to take on Krasny again, who is the prosecution. In the meantime, despite it being against her better judgement, Teddy falls for Jack and engages in an affair. She builds a case for Jack, with the help from her old mentor Sam Ransom, a former private investigator whose lost known of his wily intuition. As the count case gets under way and certain things are aired, Teddy is left to consider where she stands on Jack’s claims of innocence , and whether she is in too deep.

The direction from Richard Marquand is crisp, slick and confident; allowing time to toss in clues and play with perceptions to a high degree. Speaking of that, the whole idea of what may or not be is what really drives the plot of Jagged Edge along. With strong direction and a tightly constructed script from Joe Eszterhas, the possibility of Jack being a murderer or being innocent are both very plausible. Glenn Close and Jeff BridgesThis leads to an up and down in whether we, as well as Teddy can trust him, most of all her considering the feelings she develops for him that could cloud her judgement if she isn’t careful. And though the familiarity of the script is there, largely because Eszterhas would use the blue print of it for the later film Basic Instinct, but a good deal of tension and handsome attention to character allows it to hold up considerably. It’s in the courtroom drama and ensuing scenes of that ilk that Jagged Edge truly comes alive, with exciting misdirection and possible revelations pulling the rug out from under you and getting us to question our own beliefs on whether Jack really could have carried out such a brutal slaying. There is something even old-fashioned about Jagged Edge, especially in the court scenes and the investigation, that brings a certain level of sophistication to the table. Jagged Edge does have its moments of not being as smooth as it would like to be and you do have to take a leap of faith sometimes. The biggest one being how quickly Teddy falls for Jack, though the stars sell the romance and it thankfully doesn’t become too outrageous to be true. If anything, the ensuing romance deepens the film, despite the quickness, and makes Teddy more of a rounded character in the process because of how the case takes on a personal tone for her. A few plot holes and inconsistencies here and there can be seen, but the slick package of Jagged Edge redeems them with airs of well-crafted mystery and nifty surprise. John Barry does the score which mixes his command of flowing orchestra with the electronic, for something unusual but very atmospheric. I wouldn’t say it’s the best score from John Barry, but even not at the top of the game Barry is ten times better than most composers.

Heading the cast is the ever fantastic Glenn Close. She excels at showing the sharp and passionate mind of Teddy as she is drawn back to the profession she renounced and also her vulnerability at being susceptible to the charms of Jack. glenn-close-jagged-edgeThe character’s actions are sometimes questionable, but Close finds a wealth of emotion and indecision within Teddy that reveals that while she is a lawyer, she is also a human being. It’s safe to say that the sensitivity and strength of the part as she grapples with conflicting ideas and possibly dangerous dilemmas, that are wonderfully acted by the ever talented Glenn Close, who is splendid as always. The nice guy image that Jeff Bridges is known for is excellently subverted here, with a clouded sense of enigma over his charisma that really gets you to consider the character’s true nature. If it seems that Bridges is holding back a lot, it actually comes in handy as Jack is someone you never know if you can really trust or not. Could his charm be a mask? Or is he genuinely innocent of the crime he stands accused of? The deliberate and ideal use of keeping everything under wraps is remarkably acted by Jeff Bridges, who nails the two very different possibilities of the man. It’s a testament to the talents of Bridges that you feel you might know the character, then something comes up that suggests a possibly different angle on him. Peter Coyote provides slippery support as the nasty DA, with eyes on bigger things, who is anything but by the book and will step on anyone to get where he’s going. Coyote sells the smug arrogance of the character, though it is fun to watch his ego take a blow in court when he is left squirming by Teddy’s put downs. Stealing the time he has on screen is the fun of Robert Loggia as the gumshoe helping Teddy. His hard-boiled yet good-hearted exchanges with her, complete with foul language and salty humour of a 40’s style noir hero, are a delight to watch and Loggia really makes a mark whenever he appears.

It’s not going to go down as the best thriller ever crafted and there are some holes in the film, but the overall presentation and execution of Jagged Edge retains the interest and the positives largely rise above the negatives, due to a high level of mystery. Tension and drama are there and are what raises Jagged Edge to an effective level of thriller, along with the work from the cast that makes it a thoroughly exciting watch of suspense.

Here’s Another Look Back

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I must confess to loving these posts. It is a nice breezy look down memory lane for me for seeing what I have reviewed and it lets all of you fabulous and sexy people more to read. A win-win situation.

Coriolanus

Stand by Me

And God Created Woman

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

August: Osage County

Sleeping with the Enemy

The Secret Garden

Gravity

The Piano

Body of Evidence

Lady Snowblood

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Film Title

Lady Snowblood

Director

Toshiya Fujita

Starring

  • Meiko Kaji as Yuki
  • Toshio Kurosawa as Ryūrei Ashio
  • Eiji Okada as Gishirō Tsukamoto
  • Sanae Nakahara as Kitahama Okono
  • Noboru Nakaya as Takemura Banzō

A stylised and brutal film that also manages to be beautiful at times, Lady Snowblood is quite the experience as the title character slashes her way for retribution. A film that had a huge influence on Kill Bill, Lady Snowblood stands very well on its own feet as an eventful and arresting Japanese action/ revenge thriller, based on a popular manga series.

We open with a baby girl being born in a prison to a mother who speaks of her being an instrument for vengeance. She dies shortly after, and the baby who is named Yuki, is raised by a guard and a master. lady-snowblood-posterThe vengeance her mother spoke of relates to a past event in which her husband was murdered and she was raped by a group of four criminals. Her mother killed one of the group and was sentenced to life in prison. Conceiving a child, knowing that it will one day deal out retribution, Yuki was created for this purpose that will be hers from birth. Yuki is trained to become a warrior as a young child by her skilled master, knowing that as she grows older, her destiny of retribution beckons. Turning 20 and with the Meiji Era upon everyone, beautiful Yuki starts her bloodthirsty quest. She manages to locate people through contacts and her quiet unassuming demeanor, that covers her grasping rage that is concealed much like the katana in her umbrella. The taking down of all of these corrupt and villainous people is going to be anything but simple, yet Yuki is completely focused and nothing is going to get in the way of her goal and what she was created for. Along the way she meets Ryūrei Ashio, a writer who documents her story( naming her Lady Snowblood) as it gathers momentum and Yuki eliminates the criminals who destroyed her mother, one by one.

Toshiya Fujita is an impressive and dazzling director, whose approach to the material brings out how dynamic the various threads of genres it covers, as they are pulled together for a memorable movie. Fujita’s largest achievement and asset in his weaponry is his spectacular eye for using the camera in so many unique ways. Jump cuts, point of view shots and a collection of gorgeous swirling zooms are just some of keen stylistic choices that leave you with your mouth wide open. meiko-kaji-lady-snowbloodTaking the nonlinear avenue was an inspired choice that pays dividends as we slowly gain information about Yuki, her past and purpose that don’t for a minute feel distracting. The film could have easily become a jumbled mess, but the use of narration and techniques make certain that the nuggets of knowledge we gain are not just overly filler and actually means something to the plot. While Lady Snowblood is a very violent film with geysers of blood at almost every turn, it strangely becomes serene and breathtaking, even in moments of horror and bloodshed. This is largely down to the striking colour scheme and cinematography( largely consisting of red and white) that memorably mirrors the heroine at the centre, who is very beautiful but capable of vengeance for which she was born for and executes with extreme prejudice. The choreography of the fight scenes is handled with a balletic poise and nimbleness, wonderfully realised in blood-soaked glory through the aforementioned multitude of camera techniques and visuals. Yet although the revenge and violence of the piece draws the attention, Lady Snowblood masterfully allows a commentary of a changing time to seep in. The setting is the Meiji era, where Western ideals where becoming popular in place of tradition in Japan, leading to some unrest that the film depicts at a lot of points. It is a great detail in the film as it clearly has more on its mind than just hack and slash, which is kept on an even keel with aplomb and enough entertainment to supply both. And a genuine unpredictability to parts of the narrative keeps the film bubbling on with  surprising elegance amid the savagery. Music wise, Lady Snowblood takes many paths, further heaping the disparate influences it has on everything.

Meiko Kaji spearheads the movie as the eponymous warrior, whose piercing stare along is enough to do damage. yukiKaji uses her glacial beauty and combines it with a supple grace and almost unearthly stillness that makes Yuki a beautiful but fearsome character. The character is not without compassion, but the biggest highlight of her is her will and vengeance that are embodied strikingly by Kaji with alarming intensity. The sheer amount of rage that Meiko Kaji projects through her eyes is striking and at times frightening, you won’t forget her intense orbs as they burn across the screen with a searing amount of ferocity. Toshio Kurosawa impresses as the writer who tells Yuki’s story and may have a secret to hide. The three actors playing principal villains of the piece, Eiji Okada, Sanae Nakahara and Noboru Nakaya all convey nastiness and gleeful evil to a very successful degree. Everyone is fine in their roles, but it is Meiko Kaji that retains the largest impact as the mistress of retribution and revenge.

A highly influential film that boasts beauty and barbarism in quick succession, Lady Snowblood stands as a compelling film of style and substance.

One Lovely Blogger Award

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one-lovely-blogger-awardThe exceptional and thoroughly talented Eva nominated me for One Lovely Blogger Award. I must say I was immensely flattered by this and want to extend my thanks to her for thinking of me. I urge you all to give her blog a look as it won’t disappoint with its content.

So here is what I must do to accept this prestigious honour:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog
  • Add the One Lovely Blog Award to your post
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Pass this on to as many people as you like
  • Include this set of rules

Now I must confess I don’t know how interesting my seven facts will be about myself, I hope I don’t repeat myself from other award speeches. I decided to make my seven bits of information that are as intriguing as they can be. Here goes:

Number one – I am a big lover of Italy

My love of Italy began when I first visited Rome. It was such a cultural place with a lot of history that blew me away. I really wish I could visit Italy again sometime and explore. The people I’ve met are very amiable and the food is just divine. And I would love to learn some Italian as the language sounds pretty amazing. Italy is sublime.

Number two – I wish the film industry would quit with endless remakes

I do get that usually remakes make a lot of money, but there are countless other and much better films out there that don’t get the necessary attention because of this. And why remake something that is great to begin with? I am baffled by that, as if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.  I will admit occasionally a good remake comes along and I’m not completely against the idea, but a bit more originality would be appreciated and not just something to make a lot of money.

Number three – I’m probably one of the most impatient people ever

I do believe I am getting better, but if there is anyone that despises waiting, it is me. I can’t exactly explain why I am impatient, it just seems to be a part of me. I know that good things come to those who wait, but there are some cases when it seems doubtful.

Number four – I only ever had one detention throughout my whole time in school

And that detention was actually for something I didn’t do. People always used to say that I was a good student who never got in trouble, though that isn’t exactly true. I was and still am no saint, I just never saw the point in doing anything stupid that would get myself into bother.

Number Five – I will never spoil a film for someone

I have had in the past cases where friends have spoiled crucial points in films and it has completely ruined the experience. I never see the point in revealing critical information as it is really something pointless to do. Just like with my blog, if there will be spoilers I will put a warning to inform everyone.

Number Six – I’m a sucker for crying when watching certain movies

And I’m not ashamed to admit that! If something is supposed to resonate and touch you, it is only natural to cry. I never understand when some people think it is strange to cry when watching a film. Obviously some of them have no heart.

Number Seven – Simply put, I love all of my followers and supporters

And the nominees are:

  1. Tom
  2. Mike
  3. Rebecca
  4. Laura Beth
  5. Richard
  6. Khalid
  7. Paul
  8. Fraggle
  9. Tony

 

A Separation

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Film Title

A Separation

Director

Asghar Farhadi

Starring

  • Peyman Maadi as Nader
  • Leila Hatami as Simin
  • Sareh Bayat as Razieh
  • Sarina Farhadi as Termeh
  • Shahab Hosseini as Hodjat

An arresting and affecting film that deservedly claimed the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, A Separation is a very intimate and realistically powerful movie from Iran, that is very relatable and surprising in the best possible way. Having heard so much praise for the film upon release, I can know say having watched it that is worth every ounce of acclaim it was accorded.

In Tehran, Simin files for divorce from her husband Nader, as they both want different things. Simin wants a divorce and to leave Iran with the couple’s 11-year-old daughter Termeh for better opportunities, while Nader wishes to stay out of obligation to his elderly father, who is declining in health due to Alzheimer’s. a-separation-movie-posterSimin is refused divorce as neither parent can agree, so she moves out for a while. Young and very smart Termeh stays with her father, who is struggling to look after his father and the condition he is in. Termeh hopes that by staying with her father, it will ensure that her mother will come back. With his wife not there, Nader needs someone to look after the house and also his father. Being a bank worker who can’t always be at the house, Nader hires Razieh, a poor woman to take care of his father while he is out of the house. She is actually pregnant and needs to money as her husband was thrown out of a job, but her pregnancy isn’t that noticeable to many. And as Razieh is a timid and very devout woman along with being four months pregnant, it stops her from fulfilling her job of caregiver to the best of her abilities. When Nader returns home one day and discovers his father having collapsed with Razieh nowhere to be found, he gets angry. When Razieh returns, he berates her for leaving his father and shoves her out of his apartment. Events take a dark turn when Razieh suffers a miscarriage and claims that when shoved her, she fell and this lead to her tragedy. Her hot-tempered husband Hodjat argues with Nader and everyone is dragged into this battle of truth and acceptability, even drawing Simin back to help her estranged. Tensions begin to hit boiling point as more accusations are thrown about and the accountability of everyone is called into question, complete with threats. At the centre, Nader and Simin are forced to confront their relationship and the impact it has had on everything that followed.

Asghar Farhadi is the masterful man behind the camera(as well as the script) and his intelligent, thoughtful and tightly woven narrative is absolutely compelling from the opening shot. He constructs A Separation to be a complex film that covers many intriguing themes like gender, resentment and culpability, and he allows us to witness it play out with revealing and moving clarity. Farhadi’s penetrating and perceptive script moves the story along at a riveting pace that allows for the gradual tension among the players in the story, whose lives are irrevocably altered by the choices they make and their feelings. Although an Iranian film that sheds light on life there in various areas, like the labyrinthine legal system and attitudes to religion, A Separation really soars thanks to the universal themes and emotions. The family strife and issues faced by the characters are all ones that most people will have experienced, and as they are presented in such organic fashion, it becomes like watching the lives of real people unfurl. termehSeriously, there were parts when I felt like a fly on the wall of these characters as the script was so natural and true to life, which really earned my admiration. There is definitely drama in the story that A Separation conjures, but the representation emerges as something human and morally complex( particularly in the examination of how our choices can have unforeseen consequences), eschewing any melodrama or unconvincing histrionics for an intimate approach. Hugely benefiting this style is the fact that all the characters are well-developed and each flawed; in this scenario, there is no easy hero or villain, everyone embodies a lot of different things that have large impacts. The film is devoid of music, which puts you right in the middle of all these escalating events without the need for musical manipulation. Instead, your eyes are glued by the significant building of tension that really is done exquisitely. Honestly, if this film wasn’t a drama, it would have made a great thriller due to the unraveling of events and the feeling of not knowing what will happen to stoke the fires of a combustible situation. Many films could learn a lot from A Separation in how to create something naturalistic and authentic.

The talented cast is on searing and immense form playing the complex and layered characters we encounter and watch as their lives are changed. Peyman Maadi turns in a layered performance of stubbornness and restlessness as a man who is trying to cope but crumbling on top of everything, even before being drawn into the legal proceedings that implicate him. nader-and-siminLeila Hatami is immensely soulful and human as his estranged wife; she is blessed with a face that speaks volumes about the character with just a single glance or expression. There is a stalwart fire that burns inside her as the story progresses and she is forced to become involved. Sareh Bayat is quietly moving as the caregiver whose accusations provide the main catalyst of the story as her feelings are kept so under wraps you aren’t quite sure what to make of her, though you can definitely experience sympathy for her. Her role is probably the most difficult and the one that you constantly find yourself switching between trusting and being wary of. Sarina Farhadi( the daughter of the director) is a marvel for someone of such young years, playing the daughter caught in the middle of everything, mainly the separation of the title between her parents. She projects such emotion and honesty into her role and you really can’t help but empathize with the impossibility of her situation as she loves both her parents. Shahab Hosseini rounds out the cast as the irate husband whose threats escalate in the growing resentment and building hatred between families. I can scarcely think of anything negative to say about the acting because everyone is so realistic and convincing.

A deep and thought-provoking movie that questions a lot yet never goes for any easy cop outs, A Separation is a film of the highest quality that really makes an imprint on the audience. Trust me, if you haven’t watched A Separation yet, you simply must as it is worth your time.

White Dog

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Film Title

White Dog

Director

Samuel Fuller

Starring

  • Kristy McNichol as Julie Sawyer
  • Paul Winfield as Keys
  • Burl Ives as Carruthers

A confronting film about racism, White Dog is necessarily uncomfortable and probing as it really takes on the subject matter and doesn’t sugar coat anything, making it chillingly realistic.

Julie Sawyer is a struggling actress in Los Angeles, who one night while driving home runs over a white German Shepherd. After taking it for treatment and ensuring that it is fine, she contemplates taking the dog in as a pet. white-dog-posterHer schedule is usually busy and she is attempting for forge a successful career, but she eventually takes the large dog into her home. All seems to be going pretty swell as the dog takes kindly to her and she grows quite fond of him. Julie gets her first indication of the dogs viciousness when it defends her from a would be rapist and almost kills him. Then the dog is involved in two incidents, both of which involve an attack and in one case death of black people. Shocked by all of this and unsure of what to do, Julie takes the dangerous canine to an animal training outfit. The unit is run by two men; the old and crusty Carruthers and pragmatic, black Keys. Upon witnessing the dog’s ferocity, they explain that the dog that Julie has taken in is in fact a White Dog; a canine that has been trained to attack black people on sight after being taught from a young age. Carruthers thinks it would be best to kill the dog, but Keys won’t have it and takes it upon himself to educate and hopefully erode away the hatred within the dog. He has failed twice in the past, but this time he wants to full eradicate the barbaric thing in the dog’s brain that causes it to attack black people. Julie agrees to this and observes, desperately praying that somehow Keys can break down the training that the dog endured to help it be well again. But Keys finds that attempting to recondition the dog is going to test him far beyond anything he has done before. As the weeks wear on, is there any chance that Keys can finally get through to the animal or is it too late for it?

Samuel Fuller pulls no punches with his direction that goes straight for the jugular and refuses to be watered down, highlighting the horrors and impacts of racism and ignorance in society. Particularly of note is his persistent usage of intense close-ups that leave no room for falsehood or privacy, capturing the eyes of the people and especially the dog with incisive attention. Racism is tackled head on in White Dog and never made easy for us to view. white-dog-movieI respect the movie for presenting it that way and not feeling the need to try to do something more toned-down. Yes the scenes of the dog attacking are horrifying, but they are meant to be and really get under the skin. The most horrifying is the savage attack on a man inside an empty church, with the sanctity of the place tainted by the brutality of the dog. The production history of the film is quite a hot potato as the film was never given a cinematic release in America. It was said that studio executives became scared of the topics the film dealt with( some even labeled the film itself as racist) and Fuller had to take the film to Europe, where it was received well as a daring and throat grabbing social commentary. I find the fact that some thought the film itself was racist quite baffling, as White Dog is very much against racism throughout. It deals with the topic of racism but at no point does it promote or encourage racism; it actually carefully picks apart the ignorance of it and whether racism and hatred can be undone once the seed is there. The movie never gives any easy answers but probes the very nature of these questions with grave intensity and honesty. That is what makes White Dog so fascinating, it isn’t easy or comfortable viewing but very stark and horrifying stuff that tackles a difficult issue with immediacy. The dog itself is a symbol of how something can be warped by those whose ideals are disturbed and distorted, and ultimately ends up as horrifying as them. Ennio Morricone is the man on scoring duty and he serves up an eerie yet melancholic series of musical arrangements that highlight the depth of the movie and the ultimate tragedy of the canine that has been brainwashed into a monstrous thing.

The relatively small cast bring good credentials to this up close and personal film. Kristy McNichol, while being sometimes a little too cute in other parts I’ve seen her in, is actually very sensitive and filled with a deep concern that registers well with the audience. kristy-mcnicholMcNichol reacts to the revelations and horror of the new pet she has in a very natural way, she almost doesn’t know how to feel. I’m sure the audience would be the same way in her shoes as McNichol does a commendable job in the lead. Even better and the real standout of the piece is Paul Winfield in a finely tuned performance. Exuding a patience, growing angst and stoic nature, Winfield is the determined drive of the story, who finds even his own methods challenged by the dog. The matter of retraining the animal is of the biggest importance to the character of Keys and the dignity found in Paul Winfield perfectly matches that. Burl Ives rounds out events as Key’s animal training partner who watches the attempts to cure the dog, but whose mind is completely against any such idea working.

So while the movie is definitely not for the faint of heart, White Dog will most definitely get your brain working with the difficult themes it conjures up and will have you thinking about for a long time. A disturbing and challenging film is what White Dog emerges as, and should be applauded for it as it is a difficult movie to shake off once you’ve viewed it.