duminică, 5 noiembrie 2017

Note on Elle with Isabelle Huppert, perhaps the best actress in the world

Note on Don't Tempt Me, writer director Agustin Diaz Yanes, with Penelop...

Note on In Cold Blood, based on book by Truman Capote, with Robert Blake...

Note on Borderless, writer, director Amirhossein Asgari, with Alireza Ba...

Note on Argo, starring, director Ben Affleck, with Bryan Cranston, John ...

Note on The Rose Tattoo, writer Tennessee Williams, with Anna Magnani, ...

Note on Ghost World, with Steve Buscemi, Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson

Note on Mars Attacks!, director Tim Burton, with Jack Nicholson, Glenn C...

Note on Elmer Gantry, based on novel by Sinclair Lewis, with Burt Lancaster

marți, 31 octombrie 2017

Note on Hearts of Darkness A Filmaker's Apocalypse, writers, directors F...

Note on Bad Santa 2, with Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox

Note on The Dark Side of the Moon, with Moritz Bleibtreu

Note on About Schmidt, writer, director Alexander Payne, with Jack Nicho...

Note on The Lost World Jurassic Park, director Steven Spielberg, with Je...

Note on Zombieland, with Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Bill Murray

Note on Die Dritte Generation aka The Third Generation, writer, director...

Note on The Glass Castle, with Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts

Note on The Lion in Winter, with Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Antho...

Note on The Addams Family, with Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher...

miercuri, 25 octombrie 2017

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and adapted for the big screen

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and adapted for the big screen

Another version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a new note on an old story.
I have seen this adaptation again and therefore a new look on the work, with different angles to consider.

First of all, the cast was superb and normally it could not have been any better:

-          Albert Finney in the lead role of Hercule Poirot
-          Supported by a stellar group of actors and actresses- John Gielgud, Sean Connery, Jean- Pierre Cassel, Anthony Perkins, Michael York and Richard Widmark
-          Nominated for her supporting role- Ingrid Bergman and Lauren Bacall, Jacqueline Bisset and Vanessa Redgrave
-          To top it all, the director was Sidney Lumet

I have read an excellent book by the director, called Making Movies in which Murder on the Orient Express is mentioned.
But I was more interested in Dog Day Afternoon and other details than the making of the expensive – if I have it right- train cars for this adaptation.

To summarize from the start:

-          It was a disappointment

Albert Finney was nominated for an Oscar and BAFTA, but it is hard for me to see any reason why this performance was noticed and acclaimed.
Turning this issue around, I must be unable to see great acting.

Sure, I did like Albert Finney in Erin Brockovitch, Big fish, Miller’s Crossing, Tom Jones and The Dresser.
Especially the latter, where he is really magnificent, together with his partner Tom Courtenay, in one of the best pictures I know.

When he did not choose to take the role he was offered- in Lawrence of Arabia- he has created a new star in Peter O’Toole.
But in Murder on the Orient Express his choice was unfortunate.

The Hercule Poirot that we can see here is a weird, seemingly diseased Poirot, but searching the net I find another opinion:

-          “The performance is brilliant, and it’s high comedy.”

And this was the conclusion of the ultimate film critic Roger Ebert and surely a good number of others.

Otherwise, the intrigue is fascinating and the plot could not be any more challenging and therefore entertaining.
A murder mystery at its best.

To give an example, Bianchi is a friend of the detective and in his official capacity is present at the interviews that follow the murder…
After each man or woman leaves the room, he addresses Poirot with an exclamation and the certainty that he knows:

-          Surely, he is the murderer!
-          She must have done it! And then again:
-          He had the reasons and he is the assassin!

And so on, giving evidence that indeed, the mystery is complete, everyone appears to hate the victim and may have killed him.
Without saying anything else, I will just add that the solution is difficult to arrive at and it is really unexpected.

Unless, of course you know all about crime and psychology.

vineri, 29 septembrie 2017

L'arnacoeur aka Heartbreaker with Romain Duris

L'arnacoeur aka Heartbreaker with Romain Duris

L'arnacoeur is phenomenal.
And that is in large part due to the mesmerizing Romain Duris.

This film is on my list of best twenty motion pictures and I have enjoyed it the day before yesterday, seeing it for a second time.
It is as charming as L'auberge Espagnole.

The performances are as fabulous as in De Battre Mon Coeur C'est Arrete, where we can see the same magnificent Romain Duris in the leading role.
L'arnacoeur is the Heartbreaker.

Alex is the main character and he has a business, run with his sister and brother in law.
Melanie, the sister and her husband, Marc are helping Alex to...break hearts.

Marc is interpreted by the funny, excellent François Damiens.
We see them at work, from the beginning of the film, somewhere in the North of Africa, in Morocco.

This man is enticed with a leaflet advertising a wet t shirt contest and the view of a beautiful young woman at the pool.
When his lover is talking of the trip they have planned, he is not interested.

The Heartbreaker team has all lined up, with a man in the market talking about the doctor, Alex in his role for that operation.
The target is taken on ride by this generous, kind and romantic young man, who helps children.

They stop on the way at this place with many kids that the doctor supposedly knows by name, for he so generously visits regularly.
He makes a mistake, calling Ahmed, Ali or viceversa, but it does not matter.

The young woman is thrilled and overwhelmed.
Sister and the other accomplice are waiting in the dunes with the birds that will contribute to the conquest.

One refuses to fly, but no secret conspiracy can run without a flaw.
Alex turns a distorted face towards the audience and he makes an effort to cry, because this is part of the technique and adds to his appeal.

- Mission accomplished!

We now learn about the values, the credo of this trio.
They only deal with unhappy women.

Alex would never interfere when the woman loves her partner or/and is happy.
Sex is not involved and we seem to have here the most responsible, moral, ethical enterprise...

Some hilarious scenes follow, presenting the achievements of the trio.
A Japanese woman is seduced by the hero disguised as an Oriental cook, with a pony tail, a police woman is taken off her feet by a fake prisoner, an office white collar worker is attracted by the same man, now washing the windows of the skyscraper where she works.

But the substance of the film is only now about to be revealed.
A new job involves Juliette aka the wondrous Vanessa Paradis, who is about to get married to Jonathan, a rich, smart, attractive Prince Charming.
The Heartbreaker team prepares for the attack.

Their homework includes photographs, surveillance, research, trying to find the weak spots.
Alas, there seems to be none.

Alex is hired as the bodyguard, supposedly, by the father of the bride to be and the man who will pay, if the separation is successful.
Juliette refuses to play along, even asking the bodyguard how much would he take to just leave her alone...

- € 50,000 he says
And she writes a check

Both her family and that of Jonathan are very wealthy.

Other tricks have to be used, so Melanie pretends to be a biker, hurt in the middle on the road and as Juliette tries to help, she jumps, takes the bag and the car and runs off.
The bodyguard runs after the attacker, who is waiting at the pre established place, takes the car and the purse back.

Melanie wanted to keep the bag, for it was a Hermes, but it's impossible, for the plan to work.
However, she has the chance to payback, because in this same scheme, Alex has to get a punch in the nose, so that Juliette would feel compassion.

And she does and hires the man who knows everything about her.
And starts to use that, pretending to like George Michael, whose songs are broadcast by Marc, who is following in their special Van.

He has in his luggage and let's slip a DVD of Dirty Dancing, with which he is so familiar...
He danced with Marc to get to know all the moves.

Alex is charming, funny, attractive, fresh, unpredictable, modest...the perfect man.
True, so is Jonathan, but Alex is more, I don't know, authentic.

Juliette is ready to forget about the wedding, moving towards another victory for L'arnacoeur and co.
Counterintuitively, Alex pulls out.

When Juliette comes to him and says that they should just run away together, he refuses.
He knows he has lied, approached and seduced her on false pretenses.

This fantastic film does not end here, but this is where I stop.

luni, 18 septembrie 2017

Note on Ironweed by William Kennedy

Note on Hot Shots! writer, director Jim Abrahams, with Charlie Sheen, Ca...

Note on Step Brothers, with Will Ferrell, John C Reilly, Richard Jenkins

Note on Flightplan, with Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean

Note on The Big Short, with Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, ...

Note on Lust for Life, directors Vicente Minnelli, George Cukor, with Ki...

Miss Sloane by Jonathan Perera, with Jessica Chastain

Miss Sloane by Jonathan Perera, with Jessica Chastain

This is a splendid film.
At least that is how I saw it.

Jessica Chastain is phenomenal as the powerful, smart lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane, a complex, sensational woman.
John Madden is the man who has directed Shakespeare in Love and is doing an excellent job at the helm of this film.

Jonathan Perera, as the author of the script, deals with important themes- corruption, gun rights and control.
The narrative is told with mastery, there are flashbacks and we see Elizabeth Sloane in the present, testifying before Congress.

Lobbyists are one of the powerful forces in Washington and many think they control too many politicians.
And the presidential election of 2016 was won in part on the promise to “drain the swamp” and change politics.

Of course, that was empty talk, from a man who has no scruples and has demonstrated he is a con artist.
It is inconceivable that so many have fallen for such a lousy, the most unworthy of all American presidents.

People like me, who used to admire America, its values, democracy, system, accomplishments are left extremely disappointed.
One of the main subjects of the film is the right to hold arms as enshrined in the constitution that is so dated on this subject:

-          "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
As Miss Sloane explains exquisitely, those who have written this down lived in a different age, with antiquated views

-          They used to resolve their disputes, at dawn, shooting each other

Of course, when she uses this argument, with more or less these words, her supporters are horrified, because they know that attacking the constitution, or just appearing to be doing it is anathema and works for the adversaries.
The lobbyist, who used to work for the wrong cause, allowing the planters in Indonesia to extend their palm oil plantations, presumably by cutting down forests, or, in some worse cases by burning trees, an operation which has created catastrophes in the region, has now embraced a worthy, noble cause.

Mark Strong is marvelous in the role of Rodolfo Schmidt, the man who convinces Miss Sloane to join his team.
They try to impose some controls on gun acquisition, which, although sensible, it is met with fierce opposition.

The National Rifle Association is a powerful organization that fights any measure to “limit” the right to bear arms.
Even if the question is to control the buying of automatic rifles, which would make sense only in war, or lunatics who want to get and use them.

As shown by multiple massacres committed in schools, cinemas, involving so many innocents, children and bystanders, the initiatives to try and prevent mad men from getting machine guns and deadly weapons is more than reasonable.
And yet, with its financial wealth and the power to swing elections in favor of the candidate that favors no controls, the NRA has managed to kill any such bill.

-          “Dildos are illegal in Texas, but Joe Public can walk into a sports store and walk out with a shotgun”

This is the line that Rodolfo Schmidt has in the film and it is a brief demonstration of the paradoxes that we can observe in America.

Elizabeth Sloane is in many ways a role model, for her bright side shows a strong, intelligent, dedicated, focused, visionary, hardworking, resilient, brave, tough, unhesitating, determined woman.
She is also intriguing, her dark side can antagonize with her ruthlessness, cunning, readiness to use anything that will make her win, insensitivity, willingness to abandon personal life for her professional success.

Elizabeth Sloane appears to use pills to allow her to work more, up to or more than sixteen hours a day, using male escorts to deal with her desires and showing a lack of compassion and arrogance in the process.
The fact that she is so brilliant one moment and then cold and distant the next make the character ever more interesting and challenging.

This is a wondrous motion picture.

sâmbătă, 16 septembrie 2017

Note on Iris, with Judy Dench, Jim Broadbent, Kate Winslet, Hugh Boneville

Note on The Awful Truth, with Cary Grant, Irene Dunne

Note on Diner, writer, director Barry Levinson, with Steve Guttenberg, K...

Note on Amelia, with Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor

Note on Les Possedes, director Andrzej Wajda, with Isabelle Huppert, Oma...

Note on Sahara, with Humphrey Bogart

Note on Moka, with Emmanuelle Devos, Nathalie Baye

Note on 127 Hours, directed by Danny Boyle, with James Franco

Note on Patriot Games, with Harrison Ford, Sean Bean

Note on And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself, with Antonio Banderas, Ala...