Trois Couleurs

“Bleu” (1993) dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski

The first in Kieslowski’s trilogy, the film revolves around the first in the French national motto, the idea of “liberté”. It is a strange liberation…caused by the death of her daughter and husband. Julie wishes to leave behind all she knows of life, after the tragic accident, and cease all connection with others, but is that clean-cut escape merely a delusion? Perhaps Kieslowski is hesitant to believe in a complete, pure and isolated (regarding an influence on others/by others) liberté.

One of my favorites scenes is the one(s) where Julie swims alone in an illuminated pool.

There is a scene in which Julie sees a television show about bungee jumpers hesitantly jumping off the edge of a tall bridge or building but being held, obviously, by the springy wire that eventually pulls them back up and doesn’t allow them to fall ‘all the way’. It is a simple depiction of Julie’s crisis: attempting to fully fall and detach herself from everything she knew of life before the accident. However, other people continue to disrupt her attempt at isolation and nothingness.


There is also a lot of focus on sound, especially as the film points to the soundtrack with blackouts and other plays of the camera. To tie in with the story, Julie’s late husband had been a composer but his unfinished latest work had actually seem to be composed by her, and it is this piece of music that haunts her throughout the film, and is one of the ways that she is unable to cut the cord from her ‘previous’ life.

I’m still finishing up watching the rest of the trilogy, there are several ongoing motifs and scenes that connect the 3 films. The trilogy is a new favorite of mine, and a modern French/Polish classic. They’re on Youtube! :p

Recent Mood

Just a brief recommendation:

I rewatched Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” recently, it’s always been a favorite, a dreamy mood piece that showcases Coppola’s skill in weaving together both melancholy and humor in a subtle, simple style. I see it as mature and distinct in its portrayal of the two strangers’ connection. The pace is relaxed and the palette is muted and soft, much like the characters, I think.


Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 7.30.10 PM


I like that although Coppola does show pieces of the Tokyo life and culture, and the city landscape remains as the backdrop for many scenes, the focus is on the two visiting strangers and the subtle intimacy that grows between them during their stay in confusing (to them), chaotic Tokyo.

And the bittersweet ending (for those who have already seen it….?):

I’m back!

…from my trip to Romania and also back to blogging.

I’ve been thinking about Tom Hardy recently.. So, out of my curiosity for the actor, I finally watched an older film in which his main role garnered him a lot of attention for his acting skills:

BRONSON (2008) dir. by Nicolas Refn

A film mostly set in the prisons/asylums that Hardy’s character Mickey Peterson a.k.a. Charlie Bronson is placed in, along with scenes of an imaginary theater in which Bronson narrates the plot, it is a mix of dark surrealism and lighthearted absurdism. It is based on the life of “the most violent prisoner in Britain”, Charlie Bronson, who was put in prison for a petty crime and then continued to serve 40+ years for his behavior behind bars.

Hardy plays his character brilliantly, so that I was gripped with suspense throughout the entire film just to see what Bronson would do or how he would react in a certain situation. You really can’t predict the character at all, and his facial expressions are always shifting and never quite fully read or understood. Hardy portrays Bronson as a unpredictable volcano of emotion and violence; thus, the real beauty in his acting is in those scenes in which he is not fighting, but simply keeping his calm and reacting to the people around him.
You begin to expect chaos…

The most unsettling, and provocative, part of the film is that it flirts with the idea of sympathizing with Bronson and accepting his actions as part of an artistic spectacle, all part of his plan to achieve fame. Bronson describes prison as a place where he could hone his skills… of violence and chaos and anarchy. The audience is forced to decide if his psychotic behavior can really be understood or appreciated, especially in the way that Bronson presents it on his imaginary stage.

The only part that was a little confusing or semi-disappointing was that the film portrays Bronson with the primary motivation of fame, although it clearly seemed to me that he just had an anarchic streak that thrived in chaotic violence. It is more interesting/disturbing to watch a character that lives in anarchy for anarchy’s sake, like The Joker in The Dark Knight, but perhaps Bronson’s desperate need for ‘fame’ is complementary to his anarchism…in any case, its compelling to watch.

Its also funny how 70’s/80’s Britpop music is used during Bronson’s fight scenes, thereby bringing that dark-humoured, ironic attitude to the chaos that erupts. This mood also reflects the absurdity of the unexplained characters and events that pop up in Bronson’s life…are they real? or part of his alternate reality that he creates in order to cope with his 28 years of solitary confinement? In any case, its all part of Bronson’s unpredictable, erratic persona that Hardy plays out so well.

& looking forward to:

The Master (2012) dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

Just the fact that PTA is directing this is exciting…he did ‘There Will Be Blood’, ‘Magnolia’, ‘Boogie Nights’. He is also the writer for most of his films, including this one, and I already really like him for his storytelling talent. I’ve actually been keeping an eye on this since last year… haha

Also, the main actors in this are not going to disappoint...JOAQUIN PHOENIX, ANYONE?!

The plot isn’t very clear yet, other than being about a Naval veteran who becomes unsettled and disturbed by a leader, whom he knows, of a charismatic faith group.

Watch the trailer for a taste of PTA’s brilliance & a peek into what Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Pheonix are going to bring to this film.

Its coming out on October 12th. 

Here’s a little youtube tribute video made by heresjohnny1991 on PTA’s filmography, its a great reminder of his striking visual style and storytelling greatness:

Yay Romanian Pride!


Recently, a friend referred this film to me and although I am very interested in Romanian cinema and especially films from the Romanian “New Wave” (internationally recognized films from 2005-today) I had never heard of this one until she told me about it. I’m so glad she told me about it. And now I’m telling you about it.

Balanta/The Oak (1992)-dir. by Lucian Pintilie

It was just as hilarious and strange as my friend described it, if not more. The style, aesthetics, and plot are way different from most of the “new wave” films of today, although I would say that that NBD (no big deal), shoulder-shrugging attitude that goes hand-in-hand with bleak, black-humour and is very reminiscent of post-communist Romania is still very present in this film.

[On a side note, I realized the main actress, Maia Morgensten, plays Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the “Passion of the Christ”]

I don’t want to give away the storyline, but I do want to put it out there that, if you plan to watch it, you just might be shocked by the dark humor and strange relations between people in the film.

In the world of this film (which very much resembles my experiences in Romania): Drama is pretty much thrown out the window…the camera takes on several perspectives, switching throughout the film, and barely reveals which characters it sides with, remaining mostly observational and neutral. Almost nothing is a big deal, anything can be laughed at or trivialized, because the harsh reality of life is just not worth facing. The film’s attitude is similar to that of other Romanian films in how it is neither sympathetic nor condemning…if anything, this characteristic, combined with the dark humor, seems to form somewhat of a loose Romanian-esque style.

Its really interesting how the plot starts out with grief, depression, and even nostalgia, but abruptly shifts into a light, funny, or ironic mood…this quick transition happens often in the film, which makes the main characters seem just slightly schizo… :p

The film is, obviously, rich in political discourse…there’s a very lively scene towards the end (which is also HILARIOUS, especially if you are Romanian or have been around Romanian family parties/gatherings) in which questions of capitalism, the economy of Romania, and religion get thrown around in a friendly debate..of sorts. You can watch the scene here, if you have a few minutes to spare: (i just realized there aren’t any subtitles in this clip, but there are english subtitles in the full length movie on youtube)

OMG THE DIALOGUE. I wanted to take so many screenshots of great lines, and totally absurd conversations, but they’re hard to catch in just one shot…the attitude towards the military is really great…in that it mostly pokes fun and doesn’t take anything they do seriously. In fact, there is a scene in which they are represented as cowardly and mindless. They randomly drop in to the characters’ lives and always interrupt the main storyline.

It was really fun to watch. It is definitely the most strangest Romanian film I have ever seen…the characters constantly take you by surprise and all the randomness seems welcomed and expected in the world of the film. Sometimes, the plot just takes a brief tangent and lingers there and it just adds to the density of the story and landscape.

So, since I should stop before I start rambling about the themes of violence and class politics in the film, I will simply recommend this to everyone.
You can easily watch it on Youtube with English subtitles.


Science Fiction: Hate It or Love It?

I took a Science Fiction/Cold War class this quarter and loved it. I’m no hardcore Sci-Fi fan, but the films we watched in this class were so great! I had no idea so many Sci-Fi films and novels could be so relatable to the Cold War era and the ways in which the U.S. changed politically and socially through those decades…but aside from all that, Sci-Fi films can also be some great entertainment and food for thought.

I just feel like recommending a few for all you peeps out there. So, if you feel like embracing some “vintage” films and expanding your knowledge of Sci-Fi past Star Wars and Star Trek, I suggest taking a look at these:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – directed by Stanley Kubrick 

(I’ll try to be brief) I can’t possibly put enough great screenshots from this film, but I will say its such a visually stunning film!!! and for 1968!?! I dunno…I thought it was crazy good and beautiful to watch. There are definitely a lot of scenes that seem like Kubrick is showing off the set design and “special effects” that made this film so cool.

The soundtrack is just as gorgeous and adds to the awe-inspiring visuals; I got chills during the “dawn of man” scene where the mysterious monolith-thing is first discovered…the music was that good.

I will warn you that the film might leave you feeling like your brain has melted, but I really liked how metaphoric and un-resolved the last parts were. If you don’t care to think too deeply about the questions the film raises, you can definitely watch it for the visual style!

Alien (1979) – directed by Ridley Scott

It IS kind of a “horror” film, but it is freaky in such a good way! This film, too, is visually AMAZING. H.R. Giger and the team of production design for this film totally deserved the 1980 Oscar for Visual Effects…the inside of their spaceship, the foreign spaceship and its interior, and the alien designs are all so terrifying & beautiful!!! I feel like the setting in this film is ominous enough to scare the audience without even having to show the real antagonist.

What’s interesting to think about in this film is how the alien is a “product” of the space crew and their duties/jobs, and it ends up becoming the thing that threatens their well-being and lives…this sort of “alienation” from what a worker produces in industry is kind of what we talked about in class with the film. Sigourney Weaver (pictured above) also evokes the image of the new, working, leader-type woman that was on the rise in American society in the 60’s and 70’s.

Bladerunner (1982) – directed by Ridley Scott

Okay, so ALSO very visually stunning and well-done, as far as the set design and cinematography go. This one is more of a Science Fiction/Film-Noir type, complete with a bluesy-jazz soundtrack, a murder-mystery, and a smoking femme fatale. It’s definitely got some of that 80’s cheesiness in it, but it was still fun to watch. The film raises questions of what it means to be truly human and what defines us as such…the antagonists of the film certainly voice some existential concerns and questions, since they’re android-like beings and are being hunted down for murder by Harrison Ford’s character, the blade runner.

There, that was as brief as I could get for recommending 3 films in 1 post. Let me know if YOU have any recommendations for a cool SF film.

Oldie but a Goodie

I don’t intend to blog about many older films, but this one caught my eye a few weeks ago and, while I was cringing with suspense the entire time, I ended up really liking this controversial work by Michael Haneke.

“Funny Games” (1997) 
[Quick summary: Nice, wealthy family of 3 (mom, dad, kid) takes vacation at a lake cabin and is rudely interrupted by two young men (who wear all white) who force the family to play their sadistic games to see if they can survive the night.]

With a title image like this, it looks like this film will scare the heck out of you (or is it just me?):


…and to be honest, I was hanging onto my friends the entire time that we were watching it, fully conscious of the fact that all of my built-up fear lied in ANTICIPATION. (one of the film’s charms)

However, as the film continued to grow on me, I realized I actually really appreciated what Haneke had created and what this film really does for an audience. It turns out that Haneke didn’t even intend for the film to automatically fall into the “horror movie” genre! Rather, it was meant to be a statement about America’s depiction of violence in media and its influence on society. Or as I saw it, the film was one big satire of American “horror flicks” and their cinematic standards.

The most obvious evidence for this is the character, Paul, who continually “breaks the fourth wall”  by directly addressing and smirking at the audience. Like this:

smirk at you

Several times throughout the film, Paul acknowledges the audience and its expectations for certain standards of horror/thriller flicks to make it plain to everyone that the film is purposefully violating these expectations (maybe exaggeratedly obvious because of an American audience? or just for humor?) This also further points to Haneke’s attempt to force the audience to question these standards and open film to dialogue and debate, instead of being content with repeated plots and genre-typical characters!

Also. The SOUNDTRACK. It’s pretty hard to miss; from the very beginning, as the opening credits start to roll, John Zorn’s “Bonehead” interrupts the soothing classical music playing in the family’s car and gives you a big heads-up about the nature of this film. Similar tracks are used later on, and I noticed that the sense of horror and violence was exaggerated simply because of the violent-sounding music. I just saw this as a commentary on how a lot of typical Hollywood films dramatize and add on to the violence or suspense of a scene with soundtrack.

The more I think about this film, the more appreciation I get for it! However, I also can’t help but think about the way I became totally numb to the murders by the end of the film because of how Haneke’s techniques distanced me more and more from the story. Did I simply prove Haneke’s point about the numbness of American society towards violence?!

Either way, it’s a hit!