chickenfeet: (bull)
Straub and Huillet's film of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron is extraordinarily static and could only have come out of the '70s avant-garde.  More...
chickenfeet: (death)
Films of operas seem to be making a come back. This 2008 version of La Boheme is really rather good. More...
chickenfeet: (cute)
Václav Kašlík’s 1973 lip synched film of Johann Strauss’ Eine Nacht in Venedig is pretty lightweight though there's plenty for a fan of overblown 1970s film productions. More...
chickenfeet: (srscat)
We've been watching the amazing 1967 Soviet film of Tolstoy's Voyni i Mir. This is the one that used 100,000 extras for the battle scenes. It is remarkably faithful in tone to the book. Although abbreviated,it isn't condensed; by which I mean bits are left out but that the bits that are left in are played at a truly Tolstoyan pace and with a kind of Tolstoyan grandeur. The cinematography is absolutely exceptional. It was shot in 70mm and the director, Sergei Bondarchuk, is utterly unafraid of holding a shot for as long as he needs. In the same vein he'll show a series of images with no sound at all for even a couple of minutes. This is almost inconceivably far away from the current Hollywood pattern of ultr-rapid cuts and noisily busy soundtracks. It's spellbinding. Budget was obviously not an issue and whether it's a battlefield or a ballroom everything is on a grand scale and gorgeous to look at. The acting is very good too. Lyudmila Savelyeva is a gorgeous Natasha Rostova and both the ironically named Vyacheslav Tikhonov as Prince Andrei and the director himself as Pierre Bezukhov really inhabit their characters.

The only downside, which may only be true of the edition we watched, is that there are some issues with dubbing and subtitles. Basically the English soundtrack keeps breaking into Russian and with the Russian sound on there are odd breaks in the sub-titles. By watching the dub with subtitles we could get it all. It's not ideal but worth it for the visuals and some amazing performances.

Here are three screencaps to give you an idea:

bolkonsky

natasha

borodino
chickenfeet: (casablanca)
Somehow I made it to the age of fifty without ever having seen The Godfather. This regrettable lapse (and fine shot of winning at Humiliation) has now been remedied. I now see what all the fuss is about. It really is a remarkably fine film and the nods to Visconti's Il Gattopardo are nicely done. I thought the baptism sequence was one of the most compelling bits of cinema I've seen in a while.
chickenfeet: (death)
nicked from [livejournal.com profile] gillen but too good not to share.

chickenfeet: (death)
Ingmar Bergman dead at 89.
chickenfeet: (toe)
1776 - Director's Cut: What induced me to Zip this? I lasted about 10 minutes before rushing to the bathroom to vomit at the sheer awfulness of it.

The Thin Red Line: This dreck got nominated for best picture? I watched it through to the end in the hope that it might have some redeeming features but in all 160 minutes I didn't find any. It has every war movie cliché ever; careerist colonel, captain with a conscience, bluff sergeant, panicky kid, blah, blah. Lay on sentimentality with a very large trowel one has the sort of war movie that only Hollywood at its worst can produce. I think the director was trying to do what Kubrik did a thousand times better in Paths of Glory but he doesn't even get close.
chickenfeet: (casablanca)
So nominations are in and the voting begins. The list of nominees is long so I have trimmed some that I think very few people will have had a chance to see. In view of the length of the list I think we can allow up to three picks per voter. A 'play off' round may be necessary methinks.

[Poll #1003739]
chickenfeet: (death)
In support of the discussion on what makes a good "historical" film, I thought it might be fun to have a poll because everybody loves polls. So, I am inviting nominations for the film which you think best combines succeeding as a movie with historical fidelity.

I'm going to start the list with :

The Duellists
The Name of the Rose
Master and Commander
A Bridge Too Far

[Poll #1001261]
Multiple nominations permitted.
chickenfeet: (death)
The recent discussion about Kingdom of Heaven got me thinking more about what does and does not make for a satisfying "historical film" by which I think I mean one that is satisfying as a film while not providing fodder for [livejournal.com profile] history_spork.

First, it seems to me, too much budget tends to be deadly. Too much budget creates a need for a return on a vast investment. This in turn leads to patronising the audience, casting overpaid stars who can't act, spurious romance and even altering historical events to broaden the audience appeal. It also, of course leads to gratuitous overuse of CGI.

Kingdom of Heaven pretty much manages to incorporate all of these sins. Another example I might cite would be A Bridge Too Far which is pretty good overall but transfers key bits of the action from the British to the Americans, presumably for box office reasons. I often feel that one of the reasons The Duellists is so successful is that it is modest in scope and extraneous elements are avoided. If the director had had unlimited budget the temptation to include a set piece Napoleonic battle would probably have been quite strong. I wonder too whether the extremely unromantic treatment of sex and marriage would have survived.

A second observation would be that the best "historical" films tend to be grounded in a solid story. The Name of the Rose, The Duellists, Master and Commander were all solid novels or short stories before they were films. For whatever reason, directors and screen writers seem to take fewer liberties with fiction than fact!

And, finally, beware of directors on a mission. There are few surer ways of screwing up history than letting some overpaid denizen of the Hollywood fishbowl 'educate' the great unwashed (ie us) about historical events and their current relevancy. Yes, Mel Gibson, I'm talking to you.

I guess when one gets right down to it, it boils down to a solid story, respect for the past and respect for the audience.
chickenfeet: (death)
Ok, for those of you who haven't seen it this is an 'epic' set mainly in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the period immediately preceding the fall of the city to Saladhudin. Orlando Bloom plays an anti-war crusader, Eva Green is the pretties and various decent actors play bat shit insane Christians like Guy de Lusignan.

Before i pan this flick, I do want to give Ridley Scottt credit for making a film that doesn't demonise Islam. That said, the big and small anachronisms make the film all a bit laughable. The biggest problem is the Enlightenment values of the Orlando Bloom character and his buddies which just grate in a film set in 1184. Then there are a zillion techno/military booboos ranging from inappropriate armour to lightning seige warfare tactics. Saladhudin's army arrives in front of jerusalem and 24 hours later has the place invested and a vast siege train in position and operating. Even Shakespeare would have worried about that kind of time compression. Saladhudin's artillery is rather impressive for 1184. Indeed one doubts that Haig deployed that much fire power on the Western Front in 1916. Not only do his trebuchets and catapults fire some sort of heavy calibre HE/incendiary round but they seem to have a rate of fire of several rounds a minute. It makes for a pretty firework display but very poor history.

Fans of gratuitous beheading and skull splitting will probably rate it very highly though.
chickenfeet: (death)
Tell me about a film you think is under-rated or, at least, doesn't enjoy the popularity it deserves. Everybody knows about films like Lawrence of Arabia or Dr. Zhivago and the rest. What I want to hear about are some less well known gems.

My nomination would be The Duellists. It's based on a story by Joseph Conrad and was directed by Ridley Scott before he was famous. It has a fantastic cast; David Carradine, Harvey Keitel, Tom Conti, Albert Finney, Edward Fox, and it evokes the Napoleonic era better than any other film I can think of. It's lovely to look at and compelling from beginning to end. If you've never seen it, rush out and rent the DVD.
chickenfeet: (casablanca)
We got quite a way into this flick before deciding it was "just plain bad" rather than "so bad it's good". It does have some very nice scenery (Iceland) but everything else is awful. Beowulf is inexplicably Scottish. Hrothgar is permanently pissed. There is a thoroughly annoying Irish monk who doesn't get done by Grendel because he's Christian. Oh the symbolism! And, to cap it all, many of the characters spend a lot of the time hitting themselves on the head with rocks. Not recommended.
chickenfeet: (death)
The current line up at my local cinema:

Pirates 3
Shrek 3
Spiderman 3
Cinema 0
chickenfeet: (point)
The point of this poll is to identify the stinkiest of a set of real stinkers that, by virtue of their casts, should have been much better. Note, I have included all nominees despite a personal view that one of the movies is not a stinker and that a couple of the others have decidedly less than stellar casts.

[Poll #988701]

[1]Bonus for having Aldous Huxley as screenwriter.
chickenfeet: (casablanca)
I've watched several Fellini movies this year and one of the things that has struck me is Fellini's eclectic and generally successful approach to casting. Of course he uses famous Italian film actors like Marcello Maistroianni but he also makes use of actors from very different backgrounds. For example in E la Nave Va he casts British TV actors Freddie Jones (The Ghosts of Motley Hall, The District Nurse and hundreds of other character roles), Barbara Jefford (The House of Elliott etc etc) and Peter Cellier (Yes, Prime Minister etc) in leading roles. In La Dolce Vita, Anita Ekberg gets her first serious acting role, having previously been cast almost entirely in 'shut up and look beautiful' roles. In 8 1/2 he uses Barbara Steele most of whose screen credits are in the likes of Cemetery of the Living Dead and Revenge of the Blood Beast. In La Strada he uses matinee idol Anthony Quinn as the brutish Zampano. I'm sure there are many more examples and I look forward to finding some. It's certainly a refreshing contrast with the mainstream English speaking cinema world which seems to rely either on a pool of Hollywood celebrities who can't act but are guaranteed box office or a small coterie of Cambridge/RSC alumni who can act but one gets rather fed up of seeing all the time.
chickenfeet: (casablanca)
I'm going to run a poll to decide the worst movie with a great cast. The idea is to identify the stinker that should have been great. An example might be the 1939 Wuthering Heights with Olivier, Niven and Merle Oberon or maybe Zardoz, a real piece of schlock despite Charlotte Rampling and Sean Connery. Step 1 is to solicit nominations:

[Poll #985402]
chickenfeet: (casablanca)
Tell me about a film you think I would enjoy or, at least, should watch. My Zip list is getting quite depleted and I'm looking for inspiration.
chickenfeet: (death)
Die Marquise von O is a rather odd film. It's beautifully acted and directed meticulously but it's cold, cold,cold. It's a bit like Jane Austen without the humour. Everyone is impeccably mannered and totally repressed. I think the number of times a character (except for servants) is referred to by name could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Otherwise it's Der Graf or Die Marquise or Der Obrist etc. Worth a look but it's not going to join my all time favourites list.

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