mai
05

Unbroken : a short film review.

Unbroken is the second film directed by Angelina Jolie, based on the life of the Olympic athlete and World War II veteran Louis “Louie” Zamperini (whose life is described in Laura Hillenbrand’s book Unbroken : A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption). Once a troublesome kid, Louis Zamperini became a very promising runner thanks to his big brother dedication. Joining the United States Army Air Forces as a bombardier during World War II, he had to survive in a raft for 47 days along with two other members of his division after their plane crashed in the middle of the ocean, only to be found by the Japanese Navy and sent to a camp dedicated to prisoners of war. There, he had to endure all the torments and cruel trials ordered by the war criminal Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe who tried to break him as much as he could.

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With this film, Angelina Jolie wants to pay tribute to Louis Zamperini who passed away on July 2, 2014 at the age of 97. If I was kind of afraid it wouldn’t match my expectations, it was a good exercise and a very inspirational story.

Let’s say it immediately, the film has been criticized and considered by some as yet another movie made to glorify the all mighty America, but it shouldn’t be watched with this mindset. You may regret the fact that Japanese soldiers were the only ones presented as cruel and merciless military forces. As long as you keep in mind that there are no nice guys and bad guys in times of war, you can concentrate on what’s important and the goal of this film : to portray the strength of mind of Louis Zamperini. And this detail is what makes this movie a little bit more than yet another story of epic American soldiers fighting against the Big Bad Japanese. You’re not watching an American hero trying to endure the treatment of Japanese executioners, you’re watching a formidably tenacious man keeping faith and hope even when exposed to the worst trials that humans can inflict on each other.

If you’re not interested in this kind of inspirational film, or if you’re fed up of those war environment movies, you can still do it your way : it’s a good and well-paced story, but not a masterpiece you’re forced to watch. In contrast, if a more insightful vision of the will power catches your attention, you should enjoy this production.

It deals with the faith of a man, of how your life and that of those around you can forge your mind, of how far one can go and endure just for the sake of not giving up. Not a masterpiece, but still an inspirational movie about a man whose will, story and courage command respect.

Maxime Bak.

avr
03

Whiplash

Whiplash-Movie-Poster-18-724x1024Shot in only nineteen days Whiplash (2014) is the second film by Damien Chazelle. It tells the story of Andrew (Miles Teller), a student at Manhattan Conservatory, who aspires to be the best jazz drummer ever. He wants to be the new Buddy Rich. Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), his teacher wants to push him to excellence through humiliation, insults, psychological manipulation and cymbal throwing.

The relationship that builds up between the two characters is impressive. To reach his dream of one day becoming a great jazz musician, Andrew shows selflessness and embarks on a quest towards excellence. His teacher continues to push him to his limits, sometimes ‘till breaking point.
However, the film is not based on rivalry between Andrew and his instructor, but on the inner fight between the promising drummer and himself, recalling in passing Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky on the dance world. Both films show how far passion can lead, and sometimes even to the detriment of the people involved.
The young filmmaker makes ​​a film about the virtuosity and its underworld. It’s almost a sports movie, a movie about performance, but here, perfection and victory are bitter. The end doesn’t systematically justify the means …

The staging is intelligent, particularly highlighted by the epic last scene of the movie consisting of a very fast and panoramic movement back and forth between Andrew and his teacher. This has a fascinating effect, demonstrating the degree to which the young drummer pushes his performance. When the symbiosis between the teacher and the student starts, the camera then performs loose circular movements as if it’s carried by the music.
The scenes are long, to match the image of the film, in which the main character must remain in tempo and for a long time. So we endure with him, we feel his pain and we only want one thing: that the scene ends, but no…, it continues. The spectators must bear these hard scenes. The staging comes into play to highlight those moments emphasizing the importance of details (dust particles, drops of blood dripping …).

Whiplash is a masterpiece and the duo formed by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons creates wonders. From a relationship based on the respect of a student towards his teacher to a genuine confrontation taking all its meaning in this electrifying and breathtaking final climax. This movie leaves us with a uncomfortable feeling towards this world of passion and a head full of drum sounds!

Tristan Peschoux

mar
27

CitizenFour

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“For now, know that every border you cross, every purchase you make, every call you dial,

every cell phone tower you pass, friend you keep, article you write,

site you visit, subject line you type, and packet you route, is in

the hands of a system whose reach is unlimited but whose safeguards are not.”

Edward Snowden

Citizenfour (2014) is a documentary by Laura Poitras, who followed the whistleblower Edward Snowden and the journalist Glenn Greewald before and during the revelations that highlighted the NSA’s secret surveillance programs.

The images of CitizenFour are staggering by their simplicity. The major part of this documentary is in a hotel room in Hong Kong with discussions between Edward Snowden and Glen Greenwald (reporter for The Guardian). And yet, in seconds, it is like watching a movie, a real fiction. The protagonists exchange encrypted messages, hide under the bedsheets to enter their 100 characters passwords, disconnect the phone from the room for fear of being bugged…

The intelligent editing contrasts with the figure of Snowden, forced to stay in this “isolation cell” with the growing media coverage of the scandal that is played outdoors. For example, Laura Poitras films the whistleblower, alone in his room, watching his tv screen which displays his face and the face of the journalist to whom he delivered information. It’s rather sureal !

For nearly two hours, the viewer is projected into a place where he can fear that everything that surrounds him could be monitored. Laura Poitras offers a dense movie that urges every citizen of the world to think about the deviance of our contemporary societies and policies.

Now, I will always remember this frightening sentence (which is an understatement): “It has become an expectation that we’re being watched”. And indeed, the fact that we could be watched has become a running joke even though it is not a joking matter, on the contrary…

More than a documentary about the NSA or a documentary about Edward Snowden, CitizenFour is rather the testimony of a journalist about freedom of speech.

Tristan Peschoux

mar
27

White Bird in a Blizzard

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Gregg Araki’s White Bird in a Blizzard (2014) centers on Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley), a seemingly regular teenage girl. In 1988 her world is turned upside down by the sudden disappearance of her mother, Eve (Eva Green).

Set over the course of three years, White Bird in a Blizzard tracks the growing mystery surrounding what really happened  to Eve and how it changes the passionate Kat as she attempts to grow into a young woman.

After two playful works that could give you the impression of a return to an assumed immature cinema (A Smiley Face, Kaboom), Gregg Araki reiterates in a genre he had transcended and which threw off moviegoers in 2005 with his surprisingly challenging drama Mysterious Skin.

A true art house movie with a very strong identity, White Bird in a Blizzard seduces us by its slow rhythm, its amazing photography with highlighted colors, its unforgettable soundtrack (The Cure or the album Music for the Masses by Depeche mode) and a dive headfirst into the eighties.

What is pleasant with White Bird in a Blizzard, are the different levels at which you can read this movie each in high quality staging. Thus, White Bird in a Blizzard opens like a family drama where it is expected to follow an investigation around the disappearance of the mother. However, we quickly understand that this is a sham to make us glide smoothly into the psyche of a teenager in search of herself.

Araki’s cinema impresses with its eminently pop dimension. He transcend the common, the trivial, even the vulgar through non-ordinary dialogues (where, in the cinema, do we hear adolescents speak with such detachment and sincerity about their sex lives?). His staging gives acute attention to everyday objects.

Nevertheless, in White Bird in a Blizzard, as in the delirious Kaboom, the modest chronicle of everyday teenagers is disturbed by the strange and the underpinned melancholy instilled by an impressive artistic direction. Araki dynamites with mastery every moment of the American ideal. He depicts the difficult transition to adulthood, with uncompromising direction.

White Bird in a Blizzard is a remarkable work of cinema. Sparkling, simple, sometimes dark and often funny, this movie leads the viewer into a real rollercoaster of emotions.

Tristan Peschoux

mar
27

Birdman

Birdman-Affiche-Michael-KeatonBirdman (2014) is the last film by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu narrating the story of Riggan Thomson, former blockbuster film actor and who tries to become a theater actor. He will find himself questioning his talent and creativity while confronting his legitimacy as an actor and his search for recognition and love (by his family, the press, the public …).

Birdman is all about mainstream cinema; the whole idea is to play on the similarities between the character of Riggan and Michael Keaton (Batman and Batman Returns), the actor who plays this character in the film. From a life of fame to sinking into oblivion.

The duality between cinema (special effects, camera movements, multiple plans) and theater (no camera, staging, almost no effects) is at the heart of Birdman. Filmed almost entirely in a Broadway theater, it seems to have been shot in one long, single sequence shot in an absolute and smooth virtuosity. With no apparent cut, the action takes place uninterruptedly in the dressing rooms, corridors, stairs, stage and backstage.

This choice of staging breaks down the barriers between stage and backstage, between fiction and reality but also between fantasy and reality. This is effective and the process reaches a high point when this long sequence shot also takes away the barrier between the rationality and the madness of the main character. This shot is inspired by tradition cinema (Soy Cuba by Kalazatov or Rope by Hitchcock). The staging is justified, this isn’t just there to impress the viewer.
The music is diegetic, using only jazzy drums soun ds. This movie, through the use of this long sequence shot, the breaking of the fourth wall and its original music goes a long way in its suspension of disbelief.

The acting is very good and sublimated by the subjugating Emma Stone who proves she can play with talent any role. Keaton is not outdone, this role was made for him, this movie being a parallel between Rigann Thomson’s life and his own life.

This movie deals with artists inner fears, on their creations and the various interrogations related to it. But it also criticizes the Hollywood machinery with their blockbusters editorial line and our relationship to social medias.

Birdman has the air of an independent movie, but it is made of high-end elements. We are simply carried away by the furious pace of the long sequence shot and the music, the spectacle leaving us impressed and out of breath.

Tristan Peschoux

mar
26

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

Nearly 15 years after the brilliant Matrix and 5 years after the controversial but no less awesome Speed ​​Racer, Andy and Lana Wachowski have signed their comeback with the amazing science fiction movie Cloud Atlas.
This film is a succession three levels : a spotless cast, a challenging screenplay and a set of stunning special effects (especially the makeup).

Cloud Atlas narrates six different stories set at different times. From the slave trade to the distant future, and through other shorter periods, the film offers us various and beautiful scenery worthy of the current blockbuster budgets, yet it’s an independent movie!
Although these stories are distinct, they are linked by nearly invisible elements (a musical score, an absolute gem …), which create a slight but thrilling frame. All these stories speak of personal struggles with oneself, society or a mentor, everything leading to an assumed moral after a 3 hour-long movie.

With a cast made ​​up of 13 leading actors such as Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weavin (Hello Mr. Smith!) or Hugh Grant, the directors conducted a feat never achieved before. Indeed, each of the 13 actors plays a different role according to the time period. The makeup manages to deceive us numerous times. The story is relatively dense since it consists of 6 stories spanning over five centuries. In these stories, beings meet from one life to the other, while their decisions have consequences on their course, in the past, in the present and in the future. A single act may have implications over several centuries and even cause a revolution. Everything is connected !
This could have been a big mess, lacking context and form, if the scenario and its division hadn’t been so well proportioned. The intertwining stories take us every time in a coherent universe that the spectator integrates and recognizes gradually. If at first you do not see where the three directors lead us, it happens later when the common elements of the stories appear.

There is in Cloud Atlas a philosophical reflection on universal themes such as love, death, fate or the eternal cycle of history including cinematographic references (such as the 1973 classic movie Soylent Green by Richard Fleischer). However, it is mainly a movie revolving around individuals and their impact on History by the controversial butterfly effect. It is such a rich and challenging movie that it is quite difficult to truly appreciate its true value at the first viewing.

For all these reasons, Cloud Atlas is a masterpiece extremely innovative and extremely controlled. Technically perfect, this movie, however, may put off some of the public by the apparent complexity of its narrative and its rich storyline.

Without a doubt, this is a one of its kind movie that has so many qualities that it is already for me a true masterpiece.

Tristan Peschoux

mar
10

Under The Skin

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Under The Skin is a British science-fiction movie directed by Jonathan Glazer in 2013, starring Scarlett Johansson.

It’s an experimental movie based on each person’s individual feelings. Indeed, the story is simple but not very classic. An alien life form comes to earth disguised as a woman (played by Scarlett Johansson) who seduces humans before making them disappear. This movie explores human and social relationships through the cold and distant eyes of an alien and describes the adventure of this creature who gradually discovers human senses, emotions and feelings such as fear, love, desire…

The impressive artistic direction of Jonathan Glazer allows this movie to be captivating through this sublime but abstract visual world. The incredible rarity of dialogues, the pervasiveness of silences, cut by the exceptional, insidious and hypnotic music of Mica Levi (one might almost believe inspired by the music Lux Aeterna of 2001 : A Space Odyssey) give to this movie a very discordant texture plunging the viewer into a hypnotic trance.

It thus consists of a deep reflexion on relations between men. This mysterious character discovers the world around her and her new body, gradually replacing its insensitivity by exploring sensations, first sexual then suffering. In short, it humanizes. After Her (Spike Jonze, 2013), Scarlett Johansson interprets the path from artificial perfection towards humanization.

This film has its clichés ! Indeed, the scenario is worthy of a science-fiction movie but, this entire portion is totally secondary. There’s neither moral judgment nor good or bad characters, just humans experiencing emotions. Finally, this movie shows us dreamlike views of Glasgow where the human masses fascinate the main character and the audience, demonstrating a social analysis of the everyday lives of humans.

This is a sensory movie with two different aesthetics: part documentary where the main character confronts mankind and a polished highly aesthetic part, the alien’s universe.

In brief, this is a must-see movie which differs from classic Hollywood movies, a special and unique cinematographic experience !

Tristan Peschoux

Recent comments

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    18 août 2015 |

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    10 août 2015 |

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    22 mai 2015 |

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    15 mai 2015 |

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    10 avril 2015 |

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