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A Voyeuristic View of Il y a longtemps que je t’aime

Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (2008)

Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (2008)

a review of

Il y a longtemps que je t’aime

I’ve Loved You So Long (English Title)

(2008)

Written and Directed by Philippe Claudele

Starring Kristin Scott Thomas

When the viewer begins watching this movie, he is dropped in at the present moment, not knowing anything that has come before. There is no background buildup on the characters, no montage of flashbacks, no text introduction. There is only now, and we can only watch and wonder what the whole story is. This puts us in a state similar to one of the lead characters, Lea. Lea was still young when her older sister Juliette was sent away from her, and she only has some of the information. Their parents told Lea that Juliette no longer existed, she was introduced as an only child. But even though Lea doesn’t remember everything and certain details were kept from her, she has never stopped thinking about her sister. The movie picks up with Lea picking Juliette up at the airport. We get bits and pieces of information as they are dropped, when one character explains something to another, we learn some of what is in that characters head of past events. Things are often told to us second hand rather than from the character they concern.

We are never in any of the characters heads, we watch whatever the camera shows us, voyeurs on private family moments. But the camera shows us much– a tightening of a fist, a jerk upwards of a lip, the slight cringe when an uncomfortable topic is brought up. Close up, off center, the film uses camera angles to highlight the subtle. It is several minutes into the film before any character even speaks– an exchange of smiles, kisses on the cheeks, one woman picking up anothers luggage, going to the car. But the body language tells us a lot. It has too– most of the characters are silent, either self imposed or inflicted. One character has lost the ability to speak after a stroke and communicates by writing when he is not spending his days reading books, another character who relates to the world through books never talks about his dead wife, we only get hearsay, Juliette has chosen to be silent about her situation because she saw the futility of talking– she says that to try to explain would be to make excuses, and there is no excuse. The only person who really is free with his words, perhaps inappropriately so, telling details of his personal life to any one who will listen, kills himself. Word are often held back, so the physical is very important.

As the movie goes on, the physical appearance of Juliette changes as she begins to live again. She is like a flower coming to life after a long winter, in the beginning it is all hunched shoulders and long baggy clothes that cover up everything. It is frowns and long stares into the silence. But Juliette begins to brighten and we can see the vibrant woman she once was and wonder at how she lost herself. When Juliette’s former profession is revealed, I guessed the circumstances of the movie’s main uncertainty, but it was worth it to watch the Lea discovering it for herself. The exchange between the sisters when this knowledge is revealed is full of emotion. The entire movie is very emotional– playing the whole range from tragedy to comedy as French movies seem to be expert in. One scene in particular, when Juliette is reunited with the mother, who is now suffering from later stages of alhzheimers, who never remembers Lea anymore, who had chosen to forget Juliette when she was still of a rigth mind, who recognizes Julliette now, but as a little girl. The tension and emotion in that scene is so powerful that it is almost unbearable. A way to describe, perhaps, the whole movie. So powerful it is almost unbearable, but worth it to watch.

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Who watches the Watchmen? I did!

watchmen_movie_image_smiley_faceWatching The Watchmen, I felt like I was watching a comic book. That dream like state where your mind combines the text and art of the comic and this is what you see going on in your head. Only more, because your sense of hearing is also invoked.

There were a number of shots, mainly summary or transition shots, where the scene was still and only the camera moved, sweeping and panning.

The world of the movie, like the graphic novel, parallels ours– the Hiroshima bomb, the jfk assassination, the kent shootings, Vietnam, Nixon. Only is this version of our world, there are superheroes. Grey, complex individuals with their own interpersonal conflicts, but heroes with powers. The thing that made this works so different from outs, is that with Dr Manhattan, the US unequivocally won in Vietnam. The comedian acknowledges this, and says that he thinks the country would have gone crazy if they’d lost. There are many other meta-nods to post modernism, like the newspaper editor saying this is still. America and they’d never want a cowboy president, win reference not only to the possibility of Regan running, but to out world and W Bush. Then one character has a line like “I’m not a comic book villain,” though of course, he sorta is.

One of the best things about the movie, that also separates it from the book is the amazing sound track. The sound track provides historic placement, but is also topical to the action of the movie. It also helps to compress time and convey a lot of information to the viewer on less time, a with the opening montage which spans the 1930s-1970s.
The movie was very good and relevant still to our times. Sometimes it was a little heavy handed with the messages, but I forgave it that because of how gray the heroes were, some of them perhaps even sociopaths. Long movie, bit well worth the watch.

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Non-Review of Mister Lonely

Mister Lonely (2007), Directed by Harmony Korin

misterlonely

I wanted to review a movie I recently watched, Mister Lonely, but I am really not sure what to say. It struck me as following in the surrealist tradition, where literal meaning assigned to objects is not really important. The focus is on the poetic undertones and connotations, as well as ambiguity. The surrealists sometimes claimed that much of their work was do to “automatic” writing, which is a free way of thinking where the work just spills out based loosely on connections. However, much of their work is intentional. The work is usually inundated with images, which makes it even harder for the viewer to process, especially after only one viewing. I do not claim to be familiar with all the literary and cinematographic schools of thought, but I have some knowledge especially of post-modernism, deconstructionism, surrealism, and absurdity, just because I’ve been exposed to these.

So I can’t really review this movie. The premise is an American Michael Jackson impersonator in France falls in love with a Marilyn Monroe impersonator and goes back to the commune where she lives with her Charlie Chaplin impersonating husband and Shirley Temple impersonating daughter, and a handful of other celebrity impersonators, including Abraham Lincoln, the Pope, the Queen of England, and the three stooges. Instead of saying they “impersonate,” the Marilyn Monroe character introduces each one to the Michael Jackson as so and so “who lives as” so and so. There is a toast by the Lincoln character that explains some of why they are who they are. Meanwhile, there is a side story revolving around nuns who jump from airplanes without parachutes after one of them fell out of a plane while dropping food supplies and got up and walked away.

The movie is filled with bitter irony and pyrrhic victories. Just when one good thing seems to be happening, it falls apart. As one character gains self-awareness, something will be taken from them. The Marilyn Monroe character is established as weak fairly early on, as when she says she didn’t impersonate until she met her husband, but he showed her the way. The viewer infers she is in an abusive and controlling relatinoship before we even meet her Charlie Chaplin. The opening scene with the Michael Jackson character is significant for the amount of people who do not even see him dancing in a busy square, let alone those who see but keep walking. The Michael Jackson character seems like the most self-aware and analytical of the characters. He paints each of the others on eggs. The Marilyn Monroe character is just waiting to crack. The side story involving the nuns is even more symbolic and less literal than the A story. I can’t say much without giving it away.

I am still processing this movie and can not adequately review it at this point. But I felt the need to say something, if only to try to work my way through it.

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Sukiyaki Western Django Manga Worthy

Review of Sukiyaki Western Django (2007), directed by Takashi Miike

“An epic tale of blood, lust, and greed”

Starring… Hideyaki Ito, Yusuke Iseya, Kaori Momoi, and Quentin Tarantino

sukiyaki-western-django

Two clans are warring and both in pursuit of a hidden treasure. A gunman comes to town with both clans wanting to hire him, but he decides to defend “the temptress” Shizuka and her family. Gunslinging action ensues, with graphic blood and action sequences.

Sukiyaki Western Django is like an adult graphic novel or Manga Zine come to the big screen as a live action movie instead of an anime cartoon. This genre is even acknowledged directly when the character played by Quentin Tarantino says he is just an “otaku” at heart, which means fan in Japanese and is how anime/manga fans refer to themselves.
The movie takes place on an elaborate set, which doesn’t bother to disguise it’s a set. At times the backdrops are iconic Japanese ink block paintings. Color plays an important role throughout, both in the cinematography and the story line. The movie doesn’t bother to explain how an entire western town in the US came to be inhabited by the Japanese (the only non-Asian actor is Quentin Tarrentino). But, if you suspend your disbelief, the story seems ti be just an Asian-Western Romeo and Juliet tale with the “reds” and the “whites” replacing the Montagues and Capulets. Only this Romeo and Juliet had a son, who embodies the best both sides have to offer (he even has a braid of red and white string in his hair). The son parallels the hybrid red and white rose his parents bred, that even blooms in winter. In this story, only the Romeo (Akira) was killed, with the Juliet (Shizuka) left to live as a prostitute with her clan.

The subplot of Quentin Tarantino’s character (Ringo) and Akira’s Mother which entertwines with the main plot is probably the most interesting part of the movie. Everything wrapped up a little two neatly at the end, though it is by no means a fairy tale happy ending. Sukiyaki Western Django is visually stunning and the combination of action, romance, and quirky humour makes it worth a watch.

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