Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Poster for Film by Women film makers

Gone with the Wind (1939)

Director:Victor Fleming
Writers:Margaret Mitchell (novel)
Sidney Howard (screenplay)

A little unknown actress who was found after a lot of search for the role of the leading lady - Scarlett O' Hara: Vivien Leigh against the already establish idol Clark Gable. Their love hate relationship I believe is the most likeable part of the film. They fit together perfectly, and, while their chemistry isn't as overwhelming as that of Bogart and Bergman, it's pretty close. As with all couples, their glances and body language say as much or more than their words, and, especially in Scarlett's case, are always more truthful.

Although many believe this film to be overated, but still the lifelong dream of David O. Selznick is a masterpiece woven together with the help of four directors, over a dozen uncredited screenwriters, and several cinematographers. This film speaks volumes of the passion of film making and how dreams do come true in Technicolor even after over 75 years now.

I believe, in the ways in which American myths, particularly those related to sex and gender, are both referenced and then violated in this film, particularly in the character of Scarlett O'Hara is worth mentioning. Rhett holds Scarlett, her face upturned and upper body partly exposed, in a classic pose and poster from the film. The message is clear: male dominance and female passivity, the model for heterosexual romantic love in America (and elsewhere). In Rhett's dreams, maybe, but never completely in reality, and this is precisely the point: Scarlett loses Rhett because of her inability and/or unwillingness to do more than feign the role of submissive wife. While Scarlett at times denies reality, or at least puts off thinking about it, she is the most real character in the story. Caught in America's powerful masculine/feminine gender myth, she also exposes its fallacies by violating it throughout.

Many believe she changes her character too fast and too much in the 60 min epic, but the vivacity of the leading lady is amazing and unthinkable today.

The film is divided into two equal halves spanning civil war to the soap opera style treatment in the second half. If the film today is made into episodic soap opera, it can run for ages before all your hair turns grey.

There are a number of noteworthy supporting players. The two with the most screen time (aside from Gable and Leigh) are Leslie Howard and Olivia De Havilland. Both portray low-key characters, but do it so well that we develop a deep sympathy for them and their plight.
The film is surprise and contentitous on the way the slaves are treated, it almost glamorizes their role in the film. I find it highly disturbing and annoying. The Land serves as a backdrop for all the closing sequences and leaves the lead actress with renewed energy to serve the next sequence.

Death, Women & Stereotypes are the hallmark of the film, and its so long and has so many things to talk about. A review on the film is just too trivial.

My rating: 7/10

Monster's Ball (2001)

Directed by Marc Forster
Writers (WGA):Milo Addic (written by) Will Rokos (written by)
Cast:Billy Bob Thornton ... Hank Grotowski Halle Berry ... Leticia Musgrove


("Monster's Ball" is an old English term for a condemned man's last night on earth.)
Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry star as Hank and Leticia, in two performances that are so powerful because they observe the specific natures of these two characters, and avoid the pitfalls of racial cliches.

The characters are given equal weight, and have individual story arcs, which do not intersect but simply, inevitably, meet. There is an overlay of racism in the story; Hank's father Buck (Peter Boyle) is a hateful racist, and Hank mirrors his attitudes. But the movie is not about redemption, not about how Hank overcomes his attitudes, but about how they fall away from him like a dead skin because his other feelings are so much more urgent. The movie then is not about overcoming prejudice, but sidestepping it because it comes to seem monstrously irrelevant.

The overcoming of desire by need are the strong points of the film, the famous hungry sex scene of the film is a overshadowing statement of the above argument. The characters comes off age during the movie and you stop looking at their color of skin and that is what is the real beauty of the film, that pain and longing has no color of discrimination and that's what works so greatly for Mosters Ball.

Students of screenwriting should study the way the film handles the crucial passages at the end, when she discovers some drawings and understands their meaning. Here is where a lesser movie would have supplied an obligatory confrontation. Leticia never mentions the drawings to Hank. Why not? Because it is time to move on? Because she understands why he withheld information? Because she has no alternative? Because she senses that the drawings would not exist if the artist hated his subject? Because she is too tired and this is just one more nail on the cross? Because she forgives? What? The movie cannot say. The characters have disappeared into the mysteries of the heart. "Monster's Ball" demonstrates that to explain all its mysteries, a movie would have to limit itself to mysteries that can be explained

My Rating: 8/10

Saturday, September 15, 2007

We Don't Live Here Anymore (2004)

Directed by John Curran
Writers:Andre Dubus (short stories We Don't Live Here Anymore and Adultery)
Larry Gross (screenplay)
Mark Ruffalo ... Jack Linden
Laura Dern ... Terry Linden
Peter Krause ... Hank Evans
Naomi Watts ... Edith Evans


Director John Curran and writer Larry Gross bravely attempt to adapt not one but two Dubus stories into an interwoven whole, but it's clear while watching We Don't Live Here Anymore that—try as they might—Curran, Gross, and their cast can't quite capture what makes Dubus' studies of love and desire so achingly vital. Instead, the movie plays like an inept domestic drama as two New England couples rail, brood, drink, and cross-fuck through the final acts of their unhappy marriages.

Touted as a sexy and provocative drama, We Don't Live Here Anymore is an ensemble piece that strains the attention span as two couples engage in a musical beds tango. The actors are seriously exploring how to make it fresh and meaningful, but the soapy, voyeuristic writing binds them to the prosaic as it focuses on sex, confusion and values that change to match the impulse.

Jack Linden (Mark Ruffalo) and Hank Evans (Peter Krause) are professors on a small campus in Oregon; Jack is married to Terry (Laura Dern) and Hank to Edith (Naomi Watts). Jack thinks Terry drinks too much, and Terry agrees. But Jack isn't cheating with Edith because his wife is a drunk; he's cheating because he wants to, because he and Edith have fallen into a season of lust. Hank, meanwhile, is not particularly alarmed by his cheating wife, because he's a serial cheater himself. His philosophy, explained to Jack: Sure, you should love your wife and kids, but it's OK to fool around sometimes "just because it feels good."

As for Jack's wife, Terry, she tells Jack that she and Hank have had sex, and Jack's response is not the emotional reaction of a wounded man, but the intellectual combativeness of an English professor, who wants details of their conversations because he thinks somehow he can win this battle on a logical level. Hank, for that matter, also seems to prefer the theory to the practice of sex, although he confesses to Jack that he cried after breaking up with his last mistress.

Of course, the pent-up emotional and sexual fires that smolder among this foursome eventually blows the roof off their barely contained tranquility: Terry, out of desperation, fucks Hank and, in a perverse, roundabout way to facilitate the divorce he craves for, Jack needles her about it. The point of all this is that we deserve the life we make, or un-make, for ourselves, and that often means we end up alone. But where Dubus resolves his narratives with a quiet, confident devastation, We Don't Live Here Anymore suffices with platitudes about unfaithful couples, never getting at a deep and distinct understanding of what drives them to unfaithfulness.

My Rating: 5/10

Friday, September 14, 2007


Cast: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann
Director: Roman Polanski
Producers: Roman Polanski, Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde
Screenplay: Ronald Harwood, based on the book by Wladyslaw Szpilman
Cinematography: Pawel EdelmanMusic: Wojciech Kilar


This motion picture takes a steady, unflinching look at the plight of Jews in Warsaw during the years when Poland was occupied by the Nazis. This is not a thriller, and avoids any temptation to crank up suspense or sentiment; it is the pianist's witness to what he saw and what happened to him. That he survived was not a victory when all whom he loved died; Polanski, in talking about his own experiences, has said that the death of his mother in the gas chambers remains so hurtful that only his own death will bring closure.

And it's a film whose every moment bristles with the weight of these events on Szpilman's psyche, thanks to a devastating performance by Adrien Brody, an actor naturally adept to characterizing bottomless depth with minimal outward manifestation. Brody is on screen nearly every minute of this two-and-a-half-hour film, and the walking-wounded state of shock he portrays permeates the screen in a way that sneaks into the senses and rattles the soul. His speech has been reduced to grunts, his shaggy hair and gaunt appearance recall images of those dying in the not-so-distant extermination camps, and his goal of survival has devolved into two things: a hunt for food and a flight from predators (the Nazis).

The closing scenes of the movie involve Szpilman's confrontation with a German captain named Wilm Hosenfeld (Thomas Kretschmann), who finds his hiding place by accident. Forced to play a rubble-caked piano for the officer, he pours all the energy and life he has left in him into this performance that he's almost certain will be his last.

The extent to which Polanski and Brody (who was already skinny but lost a great deal of weight for the later scenes) immersed themselves in this story comes through most completely in this scene. It's clear from the long, single takes -- which include pans from hands to face and back -- that the actor learned not just to play piano, but to play well enough that he could express both immense fear and harmonious grace and splendor all at once in both his acting and his playing.

The terrible beauty of this moment is the movie's every emotion in a nutshell, and the astonishing results a testament to the humanity that can be found in the worst circumstances of dread one can imagine.

My Rating: 8/10


Directed by Michael Cimino
Screenplay byDeric Washburn
Robert De Niro ... Michael Vronsky
John Cazale ... 'Stosh'
John Savage ... Steven
Christopher Walken ... 'Nick' Chevotarevich
Meryl Streep ... Linda

The emotional weight of The Deer Hunter is staggering, in part because it blends the expected and unexpected. In the extended, intricate wedding, the historical links that bind the inhabitants of Clairton are set down.

The film's Russian roulette sequences constitute an arresting metaphor for the random cruelty of death in war and, thanks to the care which Cimino has taken in building up the viewer's investment in his tormented characters, these scenes are as involving, upsetting and unbearably tense as anything that has ever appeared in cinema. Superficially it ties in with the joy that these working men feel when they go hunting, beyond which there is the similar mindset that both activities possess. Each is highly ritualised, a macho path whereby the soul can become purged and the thoughts calmed, preparation for death. Unfortunately, when the hunters become the hunted, the facade of their "sport" becomes apparent. The mindless pursuit of Russian roulette comes to represent war as an entity, in all of its random futility and psychologically devastating consequence.

The story of three young working-class men from the heartlands (De Niro, Walken, Savage), whose lives are all forever changed by their tour of duty in Vietnam, is a harrowing reflection of America's experience in the first half of the 1970s; but the film's final, ambivalent sequence, in which the two survivors gather at a wake for the third with a small group of friends and lovers and find solace in the words of 'God Bless America', instead looks forward to the future.

The De Niro character is the one who somehow finds the strength to keep going and to keep Savage and Walken going. He survives the prison camp and helps the others. Then, finally home from Vietnam, he is surrounded by a silence we can never quite penetrate. He is touched vaguely by desire for the girl that more than one of them left behind, but does not act decisively. He is a "hero," greeted shyly, awkwardly by the hometown people.

In detailing how war destroys individuals, relationships and communities, the story is moving, disturbing and sad. The waste of life is almost too much to bear, which is exactly why it's important to watch a film that takes this sort of approach - it leaves nowhere to hide.

My Rating: 6/10

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