The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), A Retrospective Review

SecretLifeofwalter

Director – Norman Z. Mcleod

Writer – Philip Rapp, Ken Englund, Everett Freeman

Starring – Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo

If you want to have more hoots than a battalion of tawny owls, and to witness comedy genius at its best, then this is an adventure story for you.

Made almost sixty years before Ben Stiller’s recent remake, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty stars the vivacious and effervescent Danny Kaye as Walter Mitty, an absent-minded, yet highly imaginative proof reader who works for a firm that publishes sensational pulp magazines. Constantly hen-pecked by his mother, insipid fiancé, boss and vile in-laws, Walter spends most of his time having lurid day-dreams of being a classy, infallible hero. In a series of beautifully stylized scenes, breathlessly interlaced within the over-arching narrative, we get to watch Danny Kaye flexing his comedy, acting and singing muscles as a master surgeon, swanky old time gambler, effete French hat designer, singing fighter pilot, and pugnacious cowboy.

However, quite by accident, Mitty finds himself ensnared in a genuine conspiracy adventure when he sits next to a beautiful blonde (Virginia Mayo) on the train one day, whom he had previously only seen in his fantasies. Quickly embroiled in some intrigue involving a cabal of murderous art thieves, Mitty, the bumbling buffoon, must swiftly learn to bridge the gap between his own clumsy pusillanimity, and the wicked grace of the heroes he imagines himself as.

The result is spell-bindingly silly and side-splittingly funny. Danny Kaye has a physical comedy style unmatched since the early silent comedians. Every scene is crammed with as many gags as it can reasonably contain without become excessive, each one perfectly timed in its execution. I really am amazed that I have never come across this actor before, as he has all the energy and comic integrity of the three Marx Brothers combined. He exhibits more flexibility and ingenuity than most actors display in their entire careers, and I was quite concerned that I might stop breathing for want of laughing at him so much!

Of note, especially, are the two musical numbers that have been squeezed in, giving Kaye an opportunity to exhibit his frenetic energy to the fullest, without having to worry about being too silly. He reminds me very much of Donald O’Connor in Singin’ In The Rain, with maybe an extra pinch of cocaine for moral support.

One of the film’s magical numbers – Can be found here.

Another nice touch is the surprise appearance of Boris Karloff as a sinister hoodlum disguising himself as a benign psychiatrist and homicide expert. “Did you know that if you impale a man’s brain with an icicle, you can kill him quite satisfactorily without leaving a trace?” he asks Mitty, not long before he pushes him out the window!

Why this movie isn’t a comedy classic I don’t know. A surprising and colourful fantasy adventure of comedic grace, with genuine moments of Hitchcockian terror and farce, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is likely to capture the laughter of even the most absent-minded of viewers.

Final Rating – 4.7

 

Reuben F.Tourettes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty Years – A Short Story

‘Unfortunately,there is no mistake,’ she said, closing the file. ‘You’ve failed, yet again.’…. The words reverberated around my cerebrum, turning my mind into a demonic pinball machine. ‘You’ve failed again’. If ever there was a story written of my life, if ever I should become prominent enough to warrant a biography, a depiction of my gradual stumble through the race that is life, ‘You’ve failed again’ would be as apt a title as any. At least, if one is talking about functioning in the world that men long before me had built without my consent or my say so.

For twenty years these walls have been my home. For twenty years I have paced this box like room, a caged animal forever denied his freedom. For what crime? For being born beautiful, not scarred or tarnished by the traditional frailties of man. You all run in circles, like lost chickens removed of their heads, flapping in the wind, going nowhere. I was born beautiful, I could see the world in a way you people never could. Am I the crazy one? My friend, my dear reader, in a world that was the bastard offspring of random chaos swirling in an infinite vortex, why, the only crazy recourse would be to remain sane.

My mother knew, early on, that I was a special sort. At school, as a young child, I never had much if any time for those around me. I didn’t dance with the great masquerade that is the traditional relationship paradigm of young children. Nobody came to my house for dinner, and never once did I show interest in attending or hosting birthday gatherings. Solitude was my friend, and I liked it that way. What I didn’t like, was how my father would treat me, late at night, when the doors were locked.

He was a respected man, a local politician, I believe, and to the outside world, we were the model family.

He was a successful man, my father, in every sense of the word. He was blessed with twinkling blue eyes, eyes as deep and as seemingly eternally beautiful as a river. They appeared as if they swam, never standing still. He could do anything, say anything, but if he caught you with those eyes, why, forgiving him was the only logical recourse. And late at night, when my mother sleep idiosyncratic with the rest of the world, that was when those eyes would pierce through the darkness of my bedroom. In these times I can tell you with some certainty of conviction that they would shine brighter than ever, and he would creep into my room, and enact strange doings.

I know what must be running through your mind at this moment, and let me take a moment to clarify. My father never did anything untoward to me of a sexual nature. These late night visits were always accompanied by a book, a book of a mystical and fantastical nature, in a text that I could never understand or comprehend. My father could, and thus every night, at the witching hour precisely, he would recite passages to me, and strange and fantastical things would happen.

Great figures would appear; figures of such a disturbing and grotesque stature I can barely comprehend, let alone describe to you with any accuracy. They defied what defined ‘Anthropomorphic’ as they were eerily human in shape and nature, yet as far removed from such as any animal mortal eyes had ever laid upon. Words could never do justice to how I felt, watching my father’s fascination as he attempted to engage with these beings. He would always tell me;

‘Jacob, my son, never speak during these meeting, for these beings have no time for our mortal selves, and only I, after years of research and study, am possible of any form of equality with them.’

One night, he came as usual, at the same time he always did. Again, he read from the book’s pages, speaking in that tongue that sounded too me like no language ever devised by the tongues and minds of men. As per usual, a manifestation revealed itself, but what was unusual, was its nature. During my father’s late night rendezvous with the supernatural I had become quite accustomed to many a manner of monstrosities. This thing, however, somehow stood out from its peers. A great floating paradox in a sea of monstrous conformity. I tried my hardest to heed my father’s warning, tried my hardest to keep my lips sealed as if by an unbreakable adhesive, but I could not. I turned to the creature, and before my horrified father could stop me, said thusly, with a voice that trembled and quaked;

‘What are you?’. The creature turned instantly to my father, and its eyes,if one could call such previously black and deep articles eyes indeed, flashed for the first time with an emotion that was distinctively human. The emotion was anger. It pointed a single finger at my father’s distraught face and that was the moment my life forever headed down a path from which it could never return, and from which twenty long years of my life would be forever lost.

A thin line of red appeared across my father’s throat, as if somebody had drawn it with the red ink. Then, to my eternal horror and disbelief, his head simply fell from his shoulders, rolled to the floor, and ended face up. That final look of terror and shock forever etched upon its now still features. Then the creature bent down, picked up the book, and stared directly into my soul, via the route of my eyes. It never spoke, not once, but thought a single thought of coherence that was beamed directly into my own mind; I AM DEATH. I AM THE END OF YOUR FATHER. I AM THE RUINING OF YOU. I AM THAT WHICH YOU WILL NEVER KNOW, AND WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER. With that final utterance, the creature vanished, and I was left alone, with the corpse of my father.

In my panic I never checked the room before first running hysterically to my mother, who in turn alerted the authorities. This was a mistake, for, on the floor, by the corpse of my father, was found a knife. A knife that was covered in the fingerprints of yours truly. The story I gave was, naturally, dismissed, and I was deemed mentally defective and shipped here, to this ungodly place, a place of freaks and outcasts. They never did find the book.

Here I was left to rot for twenty years. I never changed my story, never deviated once from even the most minute of details. Yesterday, they put me up for reevaluation, and today they would give me the results. Surely, after twenty long years of telling the same tale, spinning the same yard thread-for-thread, they must logically concede that this is the truth. They ask me ‘What happened?’. I tell them the only story I know.

I enter the nurse’s office with a great sense of joy and anticipation. Finally, after all these years, they must set me free. I have told them everything they need. Finally, finally, she will set me free, and my life can begin again, finally exorcised of those long ago demons. I enter the small room, and smile at her, a genuine smile. I am not restrained. Never once have I struck out a guard, never once have I acted in violence or malice within these walls, and as such, never once have I been under restraints. I smile at her, and sit down, and she offers me tea.

‘How are you feeling, Mr.Nektar?’ She asks me, politely enough.

‘That depends on that file on your computer, Nurse Deckart,’ I respond, with genuine affection and politeness, ‘ I can only hope that you have deemed me fit again for society. I kinda miss it, you know?’. She smiles at me again, and sits down at the computer. I stare at her, intently, the world momentarily at a stand still. Twenty years. Twenty years. Twenty years. Here I go, I’m out, after twenty long years! Her face drops, a frown etched upon it. It is a look of apology and sorrow and I know then that my time here is not at an end.

‘It says here you’ve failed the psychiatric evaluation,’ she declares, with a sincerely apologetic tone.

‘It…it can’t be,’ I desperately plead and beg, ‘There must be some mistake!.’

How did I expect any other outcome? Hell, I must have been crazy.

Léon: The Professional (Luc Besson, 1994), A Retrospective Review

LEONONONON

Director – Luc Besson

Writer –  Luc Besson

Starring – Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman

My next stop on my seemingly eternal voyage through IMDB’s top 250 films took me to Léon: The Professional – my third experience with the works of Luc Besson. After the first two were the bizarre and not-so-great Fifth Element (1997) and the absolutely ridiculous Lucy (2015), my expectations were not particularly high. As a result of this I was merrily shocked as Léon: The Professional far exceeded them, by being a visually appealing, well-written thriller with true soul to it.

Léon, the professional in question, is a ‘cleaner’, which is his term for a hitman. After Mathilda (Natalie Portman) sees her entire family murdered by a corrupt and psychotic DEA agent (Gary Oldman), she forces herself under her wing, and demands he takes him on as a protégée of sorts, so as she can prepare for her own revenge. Quickly, she falls madly in love with her protector, and he is forced reluctantly to form a bond of sorts, whilst trying everything within his power to keep things ‘professional’.

As the film pivots and hinges on the relationship dynamics between Reno’s previously cold and emotionally distant Léon, and Portman’s hot-headed and emotionally unstable Mathilda, it was integral that the two leads deliver performances of significant quality. Fortunately, both deliver in spades. Reno has always been a personal favourite of mine, and I don’t think he’s ever been better than he is here. He manages to perfectly portray the balance between icy killer and emotionally awkward human being. The juxtaposition between the cool professional who kills, and the awkwardly fumbling human being he becomes during anything remotely resembling human contact is absolutely wonderful and in turn creates an endearing character.

Portman, at the tender age of twelve, puts in arguably the greatest performance of her career, and, I do not hesitate to say this, potentially the greatest child performance I have ever seen. She is fantastically believable as a complex character, forced into an adult situation whilst still juggling with the naivety of childhood. It is a rough and violent coming-of-age tale and Portman delivers a performance far beyond her years, at the time, at least.

The ever-dependable Gary Oldman is also clearly having a blast here as the corrupt and deliciously psychotic Stansfield. Some may argue he’s chewing scenery, but if he is, then what he’s coughing back up is magnificent, so let him carry on chewing. All the performances throughout are magnificent, and none of the central characters put a foot wrong.

Besson’s directing is beautiful, as he gets everything from the visuals to the pacing correct, right up until the inevitable overkill finale. The cinematography is delightful, as it borrows lovingly from the best of the French New-Wave movement. A lot of extreme-close ups at the start give us a great impression of secrecy and privacy; and, as Leon’s ‘cover is blown’ the shots become wider and more revealing. It’s subtle and clever storytelling via imagery, and inarguably, it is what cinema was intended to be all about. It is stylish and effective, and thanks to a well-written screenplay full of emotion and genuine character development, Besson cannot be accused of ‘style over substance’. Everything is done for a reason, he never merely ‘shows off’. The score is also magnificent, in particular the Lynch-like ambient hum during our introduction to Leon’s world via the first ‘job’ we see him perform. It is incredibly intense, and that magical use of score has a lot to do with it.

Léon: The Professional is easily the best work of Besson since he crossed over into the mainstream eye, and is more than the ‘stylish thriller’ it has been touted as. It’s fantastically shot, wonderfully written and features a relationship dynamic that is as beautiful as it is potentially horrendous. And yes, let’s not forget that; this is a film about a young girl being taught how to kill whilst sharing obvious sexual tension with a much older man. The subject matter is, in that light, rather disturbing, but guess what? Film is art, and it has the right to push the levels of comfort, so long as it can remain tasteful. Léon: The Professional manages this careful balancing act and thus remains a stylishly shot thriller with a lot of soul to it.

 

Final Rating – 4.7

 

By Joshua Moulinie

 

 

 

 

It’s A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946), A Retrospective Review

Its_A_Wonderful_Life_Movie_Poster

Director – Frank Capra

Writer(s) – Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra

Stars – James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore

Shockingly enough, when first released, It’s A Wonderful Life was both a critical and commercial flop. Over time however, it would go on to gain a huge legacy as an all-time classic of the ‘Golden Age’ and would be eternally remembered as a magical family Christmas affair. For these reasons, I always had a pre-existing stigma about the film; forever fearing it would be a cheesy and contrived generic family fodder. I could not have been more wrong, as this is actually a relatively dark and somber affair, as we see George Bailey (the immortal James Stewart) continually sacrifice his own happiness and well-being in his neverending quest to better the lives of those around him.

This leads to a life-long duel with the tyrannical corporate bad guy Henry F.Potter (Lionel Barrymore), who desires to monopolise the entire town in which they both live. George refuses to budge, and over time, we see him pushed closer and closer to the edge of his tether, before finally he stands at the top of a bridge, Christmas Eve, considering the end of it all. It is then that the angel that has been watching his entire life (serving as a very meta link between the audience and the movie) who steps in to intervene, save George’s soul, and in turn earn his own wings. It is a remarkably unique synopsis, and in particular, the use of the angels is a very ‘meta’ piece of cinema, back in an age when cinematic self-awareness was a rarity. This is a film that knows it is a film and has absolutely no issues letting the audience in on this, and thus it instantaneously stands out among its historical peers as one of the ‘Golden-Age’s’ most intelligent works.

One thing I noted whilst reviewing 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957) was that this era of cinema was defined by their beautiful screenplays. In the days before the blockbuster era led to simplified and dumbed-down scripts stocked full of exposition and tripe, this is a beautifully written piece of work. The writing falls in that beautiful little spot between authentic realism and cinematic writing. Whilst you watch James Stewart’s George wooing Donna Reed’s Mary, it makes even the most stony heart warm, as its the type of courting and love that we all dream of, even if we’d never admit it. ‘You want the moon, Mary? Just say so, and I’ll put a lasso over it and bring it ya. I’ll give you the moon Mary, how about that?’. It’s the kind of quote that everybody, male or female, in their most private moments, would love to hear at least once in their lifetimes. Thus it resonates, deeply within us all. That, my friend, is intelligent and beautiful writing.

In terms of cinematography, the film is very solid, particularly in terms of the era, and the use of shot choices is very standard golden-age, not particularly innovative or new, but simultaneously everything works and looks quite beautiful. However, there were two things that really bugged me; firstly, the use of jump cuts, seemingly at random intervals, felt less like a stylistic choice, and more like poor editing. In fact, one could reasonably assume that they simply lost some reels of film somewhere. It’s awfully jarring, as a character can be in the midst of a conversation one moment, then several inches to their left one shot later. In a Von Trier art-piece, it would make sense as a stylistic choice. However, against this backdrop of Golden-Age style filmmaking, it does appear more an error than a choice. Also, that bloody wash-fade effect. Perhaps at the time of making it was new and innovative, but after one has seen it for seemingly the twentieth time within two hours, it loses a little of its punch.

Those gripes aside, the story is a brilliant one, and fantastically told, especially in terms of performances. Jimmy Stewart’s legacy as an icon is more than well earned. He is absolutely electric throughout, and the man appears as if he literally urinates charisma. He’s charming, witty, well-spoken and that drawl of his is endearing, as opposed to annoying. Also, Lionel Barrymore’s evil Mr.Potter is a deliciously manipulative and slimy bastard, and one of cinema’s first ‘Maniacal corporate asshole’ villains and possibly my favourite. The rest of the performances are solid, if unspectacular, but the central relationship and juxtaposition between Stewart and Potter’s performances drive the film and provide (almost) all of the best moments. Of course, the ‘Moon scene’ would never have worked without the dynamite chemistry between Stewart and Donna Reed, as every single moment between the two is emotional, heart-warming and, most importantly, believable.

It is a sad and damning comment on the stagnation of the development of human kindness and decency that a film, made seventy years ago, has a central message that is just as relevant now as it was then, and I imagine, sadly, will be just as relevant in another seventy years. The film’s central messages and themes are simple, but needed; be a better human being, don’t throw other humans away in the pursuit of wealth and greed, people are not disposable, and nobody without friends can ever claim to have truly wasted their life. This is a moving, powerful and relevant film, even today, that possesses that rare ability to move every human being, from the open-minded and warm-hearted, to the most cynical and icy-hearted of men. It’s A Wonderful life, is, truly and utterly, a wonderful movie.

 

Final Rating – 4.3

 

Seven (1995) , A retrospective review

SE7EN

Director – David Fincher

Writer – Andrew Kevin Walker

Stars – Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow

The next step on my run-down of IMDB’s top 250 films of all times takes me into murky neo-noir territory with ‘Seven’; the film that launched David Fincher, alongside Fight Club (1999)  into a hipster icon, as his posters would go on to adorn, first-year film student’s walls worldwide. It also marked, alongside Silence of The Lambs (1991), a cultural milestone, as the intelligent serial killer returned to push-aside the masked slashers of the 70’s/80’s, and John Doe, The Zodiac Killer, would leave his legacy on cinema forever.

For me personally, Seven is a relatively straightforward affair throughout the first two acts of the film, before morphing into a finale that simply cannot be denied as one of the most intense endings you are likely to see in any film that snuck its way into the mainstream eye and exists outside of the art-house spectrum. Walker’s screenplay begins with some pretty unforgivably clunky exposition; ‘You’re always asking questions Somerset’, that relatively quickly present to us our character dynamics and what sort of players this game will be featuring. Eventually though, once this exposition is dealt with and the script is allowed to breath naturally, it evolves into a good (if not great) one. Particularly, a later speech on the nature of Apathy by Freeman’s Somerset is impressive.

In terms of the aforementioned characterisations, the film unfortunately relies on old tropes and charicatures that do nothing whatsoever to break any new ground. We’ve got Freeman’s Somerset; the old, cynical detective who’s consistent familiarisation with death and debauchery has left him emotionally cold to the world. This in turn allows him to thoroughly think rationally and calmly about every small detail, never allowing emotion to get in the way. Think a contemporary Sherlock Holmes, minus the opium addiction, and you’ve pretty much summarised Somerset.

He’s paired up with Brad Pitt’s David Mills; a hot-headed ‘rookie’, still full of hope for the world, run purely by emotion, which leads him at first into conflict with Somerset, before, predictably, they earn one another’s respect. This isn’t necessarily poor writing, as the relationship feels authentic enough, it just feels like we’ve seen it all before. More than likely, you have. And, as for Gwyneth Paltrow’s portrayal of Mills’ wife, Tina, the less said the better. The character exists entirely as a plot device in order to; A, bring together Mills and Somerset as a unit, and B, in order to play the ending’s McGuffin. I’m not an active feminist, but even I was irked by how important her character was to the narrative, yet simultaneously how she, as a human being, was devoid of anything interesting to do or say.

Seven, as a story, is an intriguing yarn, if predictable in places. (It was obvious the fingerprints behind the painting would lead to the next victim as opposed to the killer) – but perhaps that was intentional, as we the audience reflect the cynicism of Freeman’s Somerset. Unfortunately, the rapid-editing and dramatic police shots suggest we were supposed to buy it, temporarily. I hope not, because I certainly didn’t and can think of few intelligent film-goers who would. Fincher’s direction throughout is strong enough, and the cinematography is decent if nothing particularly innovative, other than one impressive chase sequence, and THAT ending. We get a lot of noir staples; flashlights, darkness, low-lighting, emotional close-ups, and what is most impressive is the muted or ‘greyed-over’ colour palette that would remain a Fincher staple right up until Gone Girl in 2014. The mis-en-scene matches the film’s atmosphere tone-perfectly, and as such deserves praise.

It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that Seven was designed and built around the emotional impact of its final act, an act so powerful that, like the Sixth Sense, you don’t remember how the rest of the film wasn’t that impressive until several hours after you’ve finished the movie. A lot of this is down to Kevin Spacey as his performance as John Doe violently wrenches the spotlight from Freeman and Pitt, and in turn his performance, whilst the shortest of the three, in terms of screen time, superscedes them both. That’s not to say that Freeman or Pitt are bad, as neither ever are, but Spacey is just that damn good. From the moment he enters the picture until the moment he exits, he steals the show and elevates the film to a higher plateu. The parallels in thought pattern’s between Doe and Somerset give the film an extra dimension in the final act, as we realise they are merely two sides of one coin.

Seven is effectively a very decent if unoriginal neo-noir thriller, featuring a unique and iconic villain that transcends the film’s final act into a work of pure tension. If the film doesn’t immediately draw you in, despair not, and stick with it. This is all about the final act, and it delivers in a blaze of glory.

 

Final Rating – 4.2

 

Joshua Moulinie.

In Another Country (Hong Sang-soo, 2012), A retrospective review

In Another Country

Director – Hong Sang-soo

Writer – Hong Sang-soo

Starring – Isabelle Huppert, Yoo Jun-sang

Country of origin – South Korea

It is generally considered the reason why films are so exciting is because they excise all of the meaningless fat from life, and leave just the juiciest extremities: our moments of great passion, adventure, romance, grief, and disaster.

But In Another Country is engaging and engrossing precisely because it is not exciting. Filmed in an unassuming, eternally foggy south-Korean seaside town, the film is comprised of three different stories, each one containing most of the same characters, the same locations, even some of the same events and dialogue, but with lots of beautiful and subtle variations to each of them. All of the stories focus on Anne (Isabella Huppert) a French woman staying at a seaside resort. In the first, she is film actress; in the second, she is having secret getaway with a South Korean man with whom she is having an affair; and in the third, she is a recent divorcee trying to escape her woes.

As said above, not a lot happens. The film is almost completely comprised of a series of insignificant incidents – the loss of a phone, the borrowing of an umbrella, the smashing of a beer bottle, petty arguments and small talk – all of the tiny brick-a-brac of experience that add unacknowledged color to our days. Because the director’s stylistic use of long shots, natural sounds, and natural lighting make it very clear from the offset that nothing of tremendous moment will happen, all of these tiny moments gradually begin to seem incredibly important. The smallest insouciant gesture becomes a ballet – an offhand word becomes a sonnet, imparted with the greatest poignance.

In this respect, the film is almost an exercise in narrative spaciousness. Each subsequent story seems to fill in the tiny gaps its predecessor hinted at but did not explore, so we get a sense of marvellous, yet tiny, wholesomeness, as these charming parallel realities nuzzle freshly into one another. It’s wonderfully magical and human – a delicate ode to all the purposeless ephemera of life, and just how much they really matter to us. And, throughout the film, it is a delight to have Huppert’s apathetically sassy Frenchness contrasted with the innocent yet clumsy propriety of her South Korean co-actors.

It is a film about dimensions, and the multiplicity of dimensions that exists gently within our every choice. If you want to be amused, without knowing why, and spellbound without being able to explain it, then you’d better visit In Another Country.

Final Rating – 4

Reuben F.Tourettes.

 

 

 

 

 

City of God (2002), A Retrospective Review

COG

Director – Fernando Mereilles/Katia Lund

Writer – Braulio Montovani

Starring – Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Phellipe Haagensen

 

Throughout the duration of my  multiple-year odyssey through the long and illustrious history of cinema, I have been taken to many places I otherwise may never have visited; I’ve been introduced to the beauty of Denmark via Von Trier, Vinterberg and Refn; took many a trip through Seoul, courtesy of Mr.Park Chan-Wook, but, until today, Brazilian cinema was unfamiliar to me; until I took a visceral, emotional and exhilarating journey to the heart of the City of God, via the cinematic talents of co-directors Fernando Mereilles and Katia Lund.

Released in 2002 to much critical acclaim and fanfare, City of God stands in a lofty position, high up many critics list of the greatest ever works of world cinema, in particular the twenty-first century, and was the recipient of many awards and adulation, in particular picking up four Academy Award nominations in 2004, almost two years after the initial release in its native Brazil. It was entered in 2003 as Brazil’s entry in the ‘Best Foreign Language Picture’ category, but, ironically when considers the legend it would eventually leave, was rejected as not being considered worthy even of the top five candidates. Safe to say, as time progressed and it garnered a larger worldwide reputation, the film’s legacy continued to grow, and it is widely considered by many to be the definite work in Brazilian cinema in our lifetime. Lofty praise then, but does it stand up to the hype that surrounds it? In short, yes it does.

What is quickly apparent throughout City of God is that the co-directorial credits attached to the picture are hugely significant. The film never settles for any sustained period of time on one particular style of aesthetic, editing or cinematography; rather it continuously evolves and changes in order to match its continuously weaving twisting multiple narrative strands. At times the film is very reminiscent of Aranofsky’s Requiem for A Dream; featuring rapid-cuts, quick montages and, at one point, a very memorable use of split-screen, as two characters stories are told simultaneously in one location. Then, at other times, it becomes almost representative of a David Lynch piece; using ambient mood, slow lingering shots of dark and almost surreal imagery. The scene in particular after a shoot-out, in which we are shown the bloody and destructive aftermath via slow shots with a dark ambient moody soundtrack was particularly powerful and provocative, and, instantly following the rapidly cut shoot-out that proceed it, is a powerful use of juxtaposition that lingers in the mind long after viewing.

The only issue with this is that we end up in a situation where the film is entirely unique visually, and yet somehow feels like a mix and match of various techniques we’ve seen before. The problem is, traditionally, a film will stick with one of these styles consistently throughout, whereas City of God refuses to ever remain grounded with one visual/editing style. It leaves you with a situation where you feel like you are both watching something entirely unique in cinema, yet somehow you feel like you’ve seen it all before. You probably have, but probably never before in the same film, and never so rapidly changing and evolving like this.

A particularly subtle yet near genius technique is the use of the colour palette. During the beach scenes, the rare moments of happiness and peace for each character, the beach is beautifully saturated with colour. We get our look at the ‘tourist version’ of Rio. The picturesque idealistic scenarios of beaches and carnival antics. When we return to the ghetto, however, the colours are then muted and darkened, creating a perfect idiosyncratic with the film’s narrative. It feels almost as if Mereilles and Lund decided not to merely shoot shot for shot, taking in turns as it were, but to bring their own distinctive style to various segments, meaning the two film-makers perform a visual duet of sorts, and the results are quite spectacular, if potentially jarring and polarising to those more conditioned to traditional cinema.

The screenplay works beautifully, and is a finely woven tapestry of intertwining narratives, as the episodic storytelling is never jarring or confusing to the audience, is easy to follow, and gives us plenty of time to become accustomed to each character and grow authentically fond of them. Whilst we the viewer are told the story through the eyes of Rocket, well portrayed by Alexandre Rodgriques, every character has a part to play and none are weak or left without being fleshed out fully.

In particular, Leandro Da Hora deserves incredible plaudits for his wonderful portrayal of Lil’ Z, the power-crazed aspiring gang leader. One minute Z appears a violent psychopath without remorse, the next he’s a vulnerable and scared man, afraid of being left all alone, the last animal in a jungle from which his friends escaped. It’s a testament to Da Hora’s ability that he pulls of this deep performance with ease and looks entirely natural in the role. In fact, the entire casts deserves plaudits, because there is not a poor performance among them.

City of God is, undoubtedly, a very unique and fascinating film that gives us an intriguing and complex narrative that never feels over-written or as though it overstays its two hour run time. The visual style is such a fine and erratic blend of other works that it manages to stand out as one of those truly unique and viscerally arresting works of cinema. Perhaps that though is the point entirely. Perhaps the juxtaposition of visual styles was designed solely to remind us of the dark dividing line between what we the tourists know of the beautiful Rio, and the dark and seedy underbelly that is its true nature. Like Lynch ruthlessly exposed the true nature of middle America to us, so two has Meirelles and Lund exposed the dark heart of the beautiful City of God, and the result is a film that demands to be seen, and deserves its place of historical significance, if never quite reaching the level of a true work of genius.

 

Final Rating – 4.4

 

Joshua Moulinie,
26/01/2015.

 

 

Royal Rumble Review

 

Royal Rumble

Last night WWE kicked off the traditional road-to-Wrestlemania in style with The Royal Rumble 2016. After the last two Rumble events flopped miserably and caused more of a fan backlash than if Cannibal Corpse dropped an R’n’B album with Lil’ Wayne, WWE knew they simply had to get it right this time. With ratings at an all-time low and most considering the current product had basically become ‘Roman Reigns and friends’. I’m very glad to say that, my initial reaction at least is very positive, and I hugely enjoyed this year’s edition. Now, without further ado, on to the card itself.

McMahon Opening Promo

The show kicked off with a small promo featuring the McMahons, looking all happy because they had this one ‘in the bag’ and nothing could spoil their plans. The segment was, thankfully, very short and did its job relatively well. It reminded us that Mr.McMahon is an evil corporate bellend, in case we’d forgotten after being reminded every week since 1997.

Intercontinental Championship Last Man Standing Match

(C) Dean Ambrose W Vs L Kevin Owens

AMBROSE VS OWENS.jpg

Now this is how to book an opening contest! Ignoring the pre-show (As I often do) this was the official show-starter and it was a wonderful experience from bell to bell and the first major contender for match of the year. These two beat the holy hell out of each other and were continuously inventive and innovative. We had kendo sticks, a broken barracade, tables, chairs and basically everything else that the P.G era of wrestling can get away with. What impressed me most, however, was the storytelling aspect. Wrestling is a primarily story driven business, and quite often that aspect is lost in the match, but not here. Kevin Owens works the crowd like very few before him. I particularly enjoyed the part where, after Owen refused to stay down yet again, Ambrose screamed in frustration, ‘I hate you’, to which Owens responded ‘I hate you too’. Is it particularly complicated and difficult to do? Of course not. Is it done enough during matches these days? No sir, it is not. The art of storytelling in wrestling is becoming, slowly, a lost one. Not with these two. Here we have two future world champions, proving themselves on the opener. This was a fantastic contest, and a magical way to open the show. In the end, Ambrose retains after putting K.O through a painful looking double-table spot on the outside, and everyone can be happy that they just watched a potential instant-classic.

Rating – 4.7

WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP

(C) The New Day W Vs L The Usos

The usos Vs New Day

Next up, it was time to not be sour, and clap your hands for your two-time world tag team champs and feel the powwwwwwweeeeeeer, it was a New Day, yes it was. Sorry, I know that was incredibly lame, but I really like The New Day. They remain firmly entrenched in that strange position of ‘annoying heels we love to cheer for’. Before the contest, we were treated to a thoroughly entertaining segment in which we were invited to mourn the loss of Francesca the trombone, brutally murdered by Chris Jericho’s knee. Suddenly, during the one-minute silence, the sound of a new trombone came blaring over the P.A, and we were introduced to Francesca 2! I have to admit, sadly, that I giggled at this like a naughty child. Do I feel ashamed? Slightly. Either way, the match was a traditional tag team affair, decently executed, with some nice back and forth action. It ended with a great spot, as Big E caught whichever Uso (I honestly find it hard to tell between them) in mid-air, and dropped him with a big ending. The catch was mightily impressive, as our The New Day as a whole, and their run continues.

Final Rating  – 3.9

BRAY WYATT PROMO

‘We are war. We are famine. We are pestilence, and we are death. We slaughtered the beast, and we destroyed your chosen one. The apocalypse begins tonight’

Once again Bray continues to deliver the best promos in the entire company, bar none, and this was no exception. Wouldn’t change a word of it, personally.

US CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH

(C) Alberto Del Rio  L  Vs  W  Kalisto  – New Champion Kalisto.

Kalisto

In terms of booking, other than the Rumble itself, this was the most fascinating match on the card. After Kalisto’s mini-push culminated in a shocking U.S Championship win over Del Rio on Raw, WWE seemingly derailed this by having him drop the championship a mere few days later, back to Del Rio, on Smackdown. The rematch was announced for The Rumble, and everybody thought, ‘Well, what now?’. If I were in charge of booking, I’d have had Del Rio retain here, tell Kalisto he’s a nobody, before Kalisto finally has his big moment in front of 100,000 people in Texas at Wrestlemania 32. Instead, we had a fairly entertaining match last night that ended in Kalisto winning back the U.S Championship, meaning the title has changed hands three times in a matter of weeks. This is an example of WWE’s ‘Clusterfucker panic-booking’ and leaves us unsure as to where this story can actually head from here. Overall, a decent match with a few noticeable mistakes by Kalisto that ended in a very questionable booking decision.

Rating – 3.4

DIVAS CHAMPIONSHIP

(C) Charlotte  W  Vs  L  Becky Lynch

Charlotte Vs Lynch

We all feared for the diva’s revolution after the insanely erratic booking of the Summer. Could WWE deliver on their promise to legitimise female wrestling? Could they continue to put the performers across as threats and resist sexist storylines and turning them into jokes? The answer, at the start of this match, seemed a resounding ‘YES!’ as the match was given a big-fight feel with proper in-ring introductions, the type they typically reserve for World Championship matches. The match then proceeded to be really rather good, if never great, as everybody had an eye on the clock knowing The Rumble was on its merry way. Then we had THAT Ric Flair spot that disturbed everyone, before Charlotte wins via shenanigans. The booking was fine, Charlotte should be the bad-girl champion heading into Wrestlemania, but the use of a sixty-plus year old man kissing a competitor to distract her was….worrying. It’s basically sexual assault, and it was played off for laughs. Again, WWE shoots itself in the foot, and again it continues to have a split-personality in terms of the diva’s division. The ending was then saved by Sasha Banks coming out, declaring herself the next challenger to the championship, and the crowd went absolutely mad. Sasha Vs Charlotte is money, and WWE have pulled a master stroke in setting that up early, and in terms saved this contest and caused everyone to temporarily forget the whole casual sexual assault angle.

Overall rating – 4.3

 

THE ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH

(C) Roman Reigns Vs Everybody.

Winner, and new WWE Champion – Triple H

Triple H wins Rumble

 

Finally, FINALLY the WWE has booked a decent Royal Rumble, if ya smell what Trips is cookin’. After the last two Rumbles ended in boos and hatred, and are considered the lowest points in WWE’s recent history, they knew they had to do something different this year. Again, they were pushing Roman Reigns, and having him enter number one, the fans knew they were going to see a lot of him. They had one hope, and one hope alone, that he would not win the contest again. Luckily, for them, he actually didn’t and everybody went home happy. Sort of.

Reigns started off quickly, dispatching number 2 Rusev in prompt fashion. The buzzer hit for number 3, and out came FUCKING A.J STYLES. The crowd went ballistic, and A.J and Reigns had a mini tussle before 4 entered. The match then simmered down and went a bit quiet, with the traditional parade of mid-carders and occasional eliminations of nobodies, until The Wyatts began to take control of the match.

Around this point, Reigns was attacked by McMahon’s cronies, and led out on a stretcher. Everybody collectively groaned. We know he’s going to come back, we’ve seen this story over a thousand times before. All it did was allow the focus to come off of Reigns for a while, as the Wyatt’s dominated everyone….until out come Brock Lesnar. What happened next was pure poetry, and Lesnar basically destroyed anything he came into contact with, eventually eliminating every Wyatt member. Then Bray came out, and we all stopped to consider this dynamic. His family, his helpers, had been eliminated before he even entered the match. What we he do now? Simple, the Royal Rumble is a no D.Q match, remember, so the Wyatts simply came back in and between the four of them they shockingly eliminated Lesnar. This was huge and I was genuinely stunned by Lesnar’s early exit. Bray then dominated for a bit, before Reigns made his triumphant return. The match continued as normal, then number 30 hit….AND OUT CAME TRIPLE H. Safe to say, the crowd went absolutely bonkers for the returning Game, as very few of them would have thought the WWE had the balls to pull this off. The rumble continued, everybody was eliminated, before Trips shockingly threw out Reigns and came down to a one on one with Dean Ambrose.

Now, considering Ambrose had been in a hellatious last man standing match earlier, the amount of time he spent in the rumble match means he deserves a special mention for his efforts. However, he’d come up short, as The Game would capture his 14th World Heavyweight Championship. Now, a lot of people are pissed at this, for pretty obvious reasons. Trips has a long history of politicking his way to titles, and rewarding himself at this point over the younger talent could be considered another ego boost. Now, when we remember that he’s gone seven years without holding this championship, and that this move is to further a storyline as opposed to performing his usual self-fellatio, I think we can excuse it. Besides, at least it wasn’t Roman, right? RIGHT?

Final Rating – 4.9/5

So the 2016 Royal Rumble has been and gone. We had some great moments, like The Last Man Standing Match, and at least two iconic moments (The Game returns to win the championship, A.J Styles debut), and every match on the card was good to great. The Divas match could have done without the whole sexual assault angle, but we can’t win them all. For the first time in three years I’d wholeheartedly recommend this event to a friend, and I actually think, as a structured match, The Rumble was the best since Austin’s win in 2001. Does the fact that Triple H won reiterate the idea that WWE is failing to build new megastars and have to continuously rely on part-timers? Perhaps. I’d be more convinced if half the roster wasn’t unfortunately injured. Overall, a great show, and a damn fine way to kick off 2016. Bray Wyatt came out looking like a beast again. And, considering the unfortunate passing of Motorhead’s Lemmy, seeing ‘The Game’ blasting over the P.A as Trips raises the belt was a nice tribute, if you look at it that way.

Overall Show Rating – 4.4

 

Joshua Moulinie.

A Beautiful Death (A Short Story)

I knew her well, The Mountain, or at least as well as any man could ever know a  beast of such magnificence and mystique. The Mountain, that was all the name I ever  felt necessary with which to dub Her. Who was I, a mere mortal, to bestow a title  upon something that was my superior? I am a mere peasant, and She, She is an  illustrious Queen, towering high among all lucky enough to lay eyes upon her. Other  men, they tried to saddle Her with titles. With names. They claimed to know Her, like  I knew Her. They did not, and they could not. To them, she was just a mountain. To me,  she was everything.

My adulation and obsession dated back to my childhood, a time so long ago that  most memories of this period in time have long since deserted me. I first climbed  Her, alongside my father, at the age of twelve. I was the youngest, father said,  proudly, to have ever achieved this glorious endeavour, to his knowledge at least.      Once a year, from twelve onwards, without fail, me and my father would drive from  our little cottage by the coast, kissing Mumma goodbye. She would always have a  tear in her eye, and every year would say to my father, just low enough so she could  believe I could not hear;   ‘You take care of him Frank. You take care of him well. Should anything happen  under your watch, to me you will answer.’ And with that, inevitably, he would take her  by the hand and look deep into her beautiful blue eyes, eyes as a blue and as  glistening as Sapphire.   ‘My darling Fiona, I would give my own life before even considering the risking of  his,’ he would reply, before kissing her tenderly. ‘Should anything happen to our boy,  I would take my own life before I return without him.’

That year was the sixteenth year of my life, and on the day we traveled to see Her,  those words of my father, said merely to comfort my mother in her time of duress,  would go on to haunt me for the rest of my earthly days. That year, we started at the  base of the mountain, as one does. You could not exactly start at the top now, could  you? That would be quite preposterous. After making sure our rucksacks were  appropriately stacked; with food, stoves, water, and, of course, plenty of coffee for  energy, we set off on our voyage. Our voyage to Her, the fair maiden to whom both  our hearts I will always believe truly belonged.

Traditionally we followed a beaten path, a path that, despite being covered with a  fresh blanket of knee high snow (on a good year) every year without fail, remained  easy enough to find once one knew where to look. You see, the path was beautiful  marble, carved into the mountainside, its true origins a mystery to all. Many had their  theories, many had their ideas, but nobody knew for sure. Some say an an old tribe  of men from years yonder were responsible, working well beyond their suspected  means and plausibility. Others say more supernatural forces were at work. I, for one,  believe speculation to be a waste of time and thought, and as such, I remain happily  ignorant to the nature of the path. All I care for, or cared for at the time, at least, was  the small signpost that marked its beginning, but whose meaning I never quite  comprehended.

PAST HERE LIES HER LIES. STICK TO THE PATH.   

Until that day, I had always adhered to these strict and unambiguous instructions. That day, however, I failed. That day, I deviated from the oft-trodden path, and, on that day, it cost me everything . I was following the track at first. Until this year, my father had always led the way, his bright-orange bobble hat a striking beacon in the dense fog that always coagulated atop Her.

That day, however, he had fallen behind. He was older now, and father time had  robbed from him his speed and previous athleticism. Now, I tore away from him, until behind me not even the fluorescent beacon of his hat could be spotted in the distance. I could only presume he had stopped to rest, and I  had failed to hear him yell out to me. I looked back head, deciding that he would surely catch me in his own sweet time, and then in my peripheral I caught a sight. I saw Her.

Not The Mountain, no, not that Her, but a different Her. Perhaps she was the living  embodiment of the mountain itself. She was young, no more than ten, and despite  the deep biting cold, she wore nothing but a flimsy nightgown and her feet were  bare. Also, despite the deep and dense fog, she was clearly visible, and ghastly  pale. One could go as far as to say she shone, brightly and truly, against the dark  grey. It was then I noticed the other figure, a mere ten yards away from her. In the fog,  it was hard to make out any distinguishing figures, save for two. Firstly, the figure  appeared to be, like the girl, barefooted, as their was no telltale black at the bottom  of his trousers.  Secondly, on his head, he wore a bright orange beanie.

My father staggered towards the girl, his arms outstretched. At least I believe that to  be so, through the fog it was hard to tell for certain. I yelled out to him, ‘Father!’, at  the top of my lungs, but he paid me no attention whatsoever. I went to run towards  him, but some force, some darker fear, held me back, and I was powerless to help. I  could only stare, my mouth open, eyes wide in shock, as he walked closer to Her…  Closer…. Until, finally, just as he reached Her, and they held their arms outstretched towards one another, he took a few steps towards Her, seemed to move through Her, as though she were not there, and finally, he toppled out of sight.

It took my mind a moment to register to what it had just bared
witness, but then, reality sunk in. My father had fallen to his death, and I was alone,  trapped on the mountain.

It was then that she turned to me, and despite the distance between us, which must  have been at least a hundred yards, Her eyes appeared to be right before me. It  was as if they had such a depth to them, such unfathomable infinity of size, that they  could physically leave Her body, and move of their own accord. I tried to resist, tried  to look away, but it was to no avail. She had me under Her spell, as I disappeared  into those eyes, and a soft  music began to play from nowhere, the type of music one  would expect on the beaches of the cabana, and I could hear the lapsing of water  against grains of sand.

‘Come to me,’ She called softly, ‘Come to me, and leave your worries behind’. I  could not resist, and as I walked towards Her, the tundra white landscape around me  seemingly dissolved away, and the snow became sand, and the world became a  beach. I felt the sun lash down upon my face, not too hot, as a cool breeze appeared  to be in the air also. I was in paradise. I could see the sand beneath my feet, and I  longed to feel it. Without stopping to consider my actions, I removed my shoes and  socks. I dipped my bare feet into the warm, flowing sand, and felt it marvellously cascade between my toes. I looked up, at Her, and she beckoned me towards the sea.

As I reached the water’s edge, and stood next to Her, my mind tried desperately,  one last time, to trick me out of my new­found happiness. ​It’s a trick, you fool! , it  frantically screamed, as loud as it could, ​She means you harm, not pleasure ​. Of course, I  knew better. Why would She? I had known Her all my life, and She had never done a  thing to foul me. So I looked into her eyes, and I smiled deeply. She smiled back, a  genuine, beautiful smile. The kind of smile that, just for a moment, shuts everything  else down, and puts the world into perspective. I took Her hand, and I walked in to  the water.

Falling. That was all I could feel. Did it last several seconds? It must have. Gravity  acts quick upon mass, and rarely does a fall take a long time. I had just enough  time to think quick and sporadic thoughts. I had time to mourn my father. Time to  worry about my mother’s future, and how this would affect her. Mostly though, I was  focused on my designated fate. Death. ​Why not here?, thought I, with the last thoughts I  would ever think, ​I couldn’t think of a more beautiful death.

 

Written by Joshua Moulinie,
Bream, Forest of Dean,
18/01/2016

Five Fingers Of Death (1972) – A Retrospective Review

5 fingers of death

Director – Chang-Hwa Chung

Writer – Chiang Yang

Starring – Lo Lieh

Also released under the title King Boxer, The Five Fingers of Death is a martial arts classic, selected by Quentin Tarantino as his eleventh favourite film of all time.

And it certainly deserves that accolade. This film has all the ferocity of a dragon; the spontaneous unpredictability of thunder. The narrative writhes and thunders, and, like a superior martial artist, always delivers the blows where you don’t expect them.

The film is set during a period leading up to a decisive martial arts tournament between the most prestigious schools of the province. Afraid that one of the more tyrannical schools will win and use their power to oppress the masses, an honourable master sends his best pupil, Chao Chih-Hao (Lo Lieh) to study under another master, in the hopes that he will be imparted the sacred techniques of The Iron Fist that will certify his victory, even if that does mean leaving his sweetheart Ying-Ying (Wang Ping) behind.

As he progresses, Chih-Hao is confronted with the savage rivalries between the various martial arts schools, and even internecine feuds within the schools themselves. There is the evil Master Meng (Tien Feng) with his false air of incorruptible nobility; a quartet of vicious Japanese fighters, terrifying with their unruly dark hair and tiger-like aggression – amongst countless other pugilists, all varying degrees of unscrupulous, immoral, adept or reverend.

Amidst all this fighting and duplicity – (which gives the film a feel somewhat similar to Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, or the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone) – Chih-Hao stands out as a subtle beacon of sincerity. Compared to the distinguished and sometimes macabre appearances of his opponents, Chih-Hao looks plain and unobtrusive, which only adds to the shocking severity of his strength.

The fight scenes in this film are nothing less than incredible. You feel every blow, every impact, all of them fresh and unforeseen. The editing and cinematography creatively and adeptly bring all of these sequences to life, making you feel like an astonished bystander, if not a direct participant. Most of the violence is bloodless- but when death blows are dealt, it is unflinching and shocking in its choice of coup d’état. Chih-Hao says little and does not need to – saying everything he needs to with his combative skill and bulbous, inscrutable eyes.  The acting itself is faultless, relaxed, sober yet intense, comedy, brutality, sentimentality, and jaw-dropping drama fluidly interchanging with one another.

The music itself is iconic, and many of you will recognize its usage from Kill Bill Volume 1.

Watch this movie. If you’re not stunned and beaten bloody by its ungraspable brilliance, then I’m afraid you’ve been soundly defeated.

Final Rating5

 

 

Written by Reuben F.Tourettes.