Incendies - A Odyssey of Twisting Emotions

                     A mystery, a melodrama, a prison film, and a love story, “Incendies’’ is foremost a scream at the madness of a society destroyed by religion and by men. Director Denis Villeneuve’s gripping drama shows us that rage has no expiration date. 

                  The movie opens with one of the haunting images movies — of a young Arab boy having his head shaved in preparation for holy war, the camera tracking in on his unflinching eye. Where the film goes from there is unexpected, but in ambition and ferocity “Incendies’’ works mightily to match the power of that opening shot. 

                   When they are called in to hear the reading of their mother's will, twins Jeanne and Simon are emotionless, almost bored with the proceedings. But it's only beginning. The will is the hook that will lead you into this devastating mystery thriller, which takes place in Quebec and an unnamed country that closely resembles Lebanon. 

       The last will and testament of Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal), a Montreal secretary, states she is to be buried as a shamed pauper: “Naked, no prayers, face down, away from the world.” 

        Two more shocks: Nawal wants her adult twin children Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) to deliver two sealed letters: one each to the father and brother they didn't know they had, whereabouts unknown. 

          So begins an odyssey that immerses Simon and Jeanne deep in a Middle Eastern past that their mother,  never talked about — a past in which she bore a child out of wedlock, her disgrace catching her family up in a bloody chain of violence and retribution, with militant Christians and Muslims slaughtering each other in an unending cycle of revenge for past murders.

               The source material for the movie is the play "Scorched" (2003) by Wajdi Mouawad, a Lebanese-born theater artist who emigrated to Quebec and then Montreal. The country isn't specified, but it's pretty clearly Lebanon, from which Wajdi and his family fled when he was a child. Director Villeneuve tells Nawal’s story in a way that is both subtle and emphatic. 

               Villeneuve reduces speeches to mere sentences while seeking the most potent visual equivalent for each scene -- such as Nawal's bus ride, where Muslim women and children is attacked and set fire by gun-toting members of a Christian militia, or the sight of a teenage sniper shooting children in the streets. Rather than coming right out and stating that violence begets violence, Villeneuve's approach invites the audience to find its own words. 

              Two performances are key. As Jeanne, the haunting Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin is ideal. she quietly, holds back to pull us forward into every scene to which her character pays witness. Nawal is portrayed by Lubna Azabal, who conceals so much behind war-ravaged eyes, she rivets the attention even without saying a word. The depth and complexity of her anger is both a product and a mirror of her native country’s self-destructive manner, and as the full horror of her life is disclosed, she becomes, in her children’s eyes and the audience’s, as grand and tragic heroine. 

              On one level, “Incendies” is an antiwar film like any other. The brutality of the conflict that took place in Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s is shown in stark, unflinching terms. And no one, neither Christian nor Muslim, is a hero. But the terms in which “Incendies” tells its harrowing yet strangely beautiful story are personal, not political, or in any way generic. There are no good guys or bad guys here, just people stuck in a vicious circle of violence.

              “Incendies’’ often views the men of these women’s world through shots of their feet and hands, as if the they were bowing their head in fear. It’s a story about finally gathering the courage to stare evil in the face and obliterating it with love. Incendies is a shattering, cathartic, and a breathtaking film.


Incendies - Imdb 

The Remains of The Day - A Story of Unrequited Love

                         In the late 1930's, in a stately home of England called Darlington Hall, Stevens is the butler. He's the supreme commander of a vast staff that includes the housekeeper, the under-butlers, the cooks, the maids, the footmen, the scullery helpers, even those people who work outside the great house. He serves without question. Or, as he says at one point, "It's not my place to have an opinion." 

                        Based on Kazuo Ishiguro's 1989 booker-prize winning novel, 'The Remains of The Day,'  examines the life of a very proper English butler who sacrifices anything resembling a personal life in total dedication to his master's needs. Remains of the Day is a judicious mix of upper-class English sensibilities and the repressed, whirling emotions that circulate hidden, often deeply so, in social settings such as these.

                       This spellbinding  tragic-comedy of high and most entertaining order, has top class performances from Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.

        In 1958, Mr. Lewis (Christopher Reeve), a rich American, purchases Darlington Hall, a luxurious country house in England. He tells Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), the butler who has served there for over 30 years, to take a holiday. This ever-efficient professional decides to combine business with pleasure by visiting Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), who left her job as housekeeper years ago to marry. Stevens has learned in a letter that she is now estranged from her husband. He hopes to convince her to return to her position at Darlington Hall.

           As he drives the toward the coast, Stevens reviews his years with Lord Darlington (James Fox). Darlington is an arrogant man, who was among those aristocrats to sought an alliance with the Nazis before Britain entered World War II. All of his life has been consumed by an attempt to be a "great" butler. Stevens pretends to be, or actually is, oblivious to the moral rot of his master. 

          Asked to fire two young Jewish maids, Stevens obediently complies. Only much later does Stevens recognize that he may have spent the prime of his life in the service of a man whose intentions were misguided at best and evil at worst. Stevens may have ruined his chances for a romantic life by stifling all feelings for Miss Kenton, but he has deeper moral issues to face.

                The Remains of the Day boasts virtuoso performances by Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in the two lead roles. Hopkins gives the performance of his life as the closely guarded gentleman. With only an arched brow, a slight weariness in his stride, the flicker of a smile, he leaves you shattered. Stevens is tortured by his love, but the need to express his feelings cannot overcome his deep reserve. Bringing out these complexities of a character is the mark of a master, which Hopkins surely is. 

                Emma Thompson is marvelous as the high-spirited Miss Kenton, a gifted housekeeper whose desperate attempts to get Stevens to respond to her affections are doomed. She expertly reveals the conflicting feelings of her conventional, if occasionally spirited, character. James Fox is ideal as the distracted, fatally sentimental Lord Darlington. Christopher Reeve is a perfect choice to play the "typical American". 

                Special mention should be made of the performance by veteran actor Peter Vaughan, whose character as Stevens father, is sad, touching and most eloquent. One of those melancholic scene happens, when Stevens learns that his old man(Peter Vaughn) has died upstairs while he was attending to the guests downstairs. Stevens replies that his father would have supported his decision to carry on with his duties.

               The Remains of the Day is a flawless screen adaptation, which is beautifully staged by director James Ivory and producers Mike Nichols, John Calley, and Ismail Merchant. The screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, is a triumph of craft. It offers an especially poignant portrait of upper class bigotry, repression, elitism, and disgust for democracy. James Ivory's direction looks grand without being overdressed, it is full of feeling without being sentimental. The film retains the sense of the novel and is as rich in texture and incident. 

              The attention to detail here is astonishing, from the way the servants keep up Fox's mansion to the protocol observed during dinners to the sly humor that slips in from time to time. This film speaks out boldly against misguided professionalism and exhausting perfectionism -- two behavioral patterns found in many of today's workplaces.

              Gorgeously lensed and delightfully structured, The Remains of the Day is an engaging and powerful motion picture, and certainly the most emotionally-wrenching tale.


The Remains of The Day - Imdb 

Timecrimes - An Ingenious Time Travel Thriller

                      If we are offered, it's a safe bet that not a single one of us would turn down the possibility of going back in time, especially to right a wrong that may have been committed. Such a concept is the foundation for many a piece of questioning entertainments in Hollywood. Most of these corrections aren't earth shattering, though quite a few end up changing things in ways unexpected and irreversible.

                       But, what would happen if a film wants to bring the whole cosmic idea down to a realistic level. The result is a crackling thriller. Welcome to "Timecrimes," a spanish inverted horror-thriller joke, where you're never entirely sure whether what's happening to the poor protagonist, Hector. With minimal effects and maximum wit, writer-director Nacho Vigalondo spends precious time on the far-fetched "science" of time travel and more on its consequences.

       Relaxing after a hard day in town, Hector (Karra Elejalde) is toying with his binoculars in the yard of his new country home when he spies a young woman taking off her top. He may be married but he's still curious, so he goes off to investigate. He finds the woman, unconscious and propped against a boulder. Within seconds, Hector is stabbed with scissors in his right arm by a man whose face is wrapped in pink bandages. Her presumable killer has now decided to chase Hector.

              From there, he stumbles into this research lab where he accidentally gets mixed up in a series of time-travel mishaps that lead to misunderstandings, injuries, death and a world with more than one Hector in it.  The plot might sound like a formula for a run-of-the-mill thriller. But Vigalondo keeps the surprises coming and the suspense mounting. Suffice it to say that as the minutes tick away, we see explanations for small oddities in the opening sequence, and much more.

               Elejalde is terrific as a crumpled man. With grim determination, he decides to sort it out, remaining one step ahead of the audience in the process. By keeping the cast down to a bare minimum (four) and repeating the important parts of each new revision in the story, Timecrimes stays centered.Vigalondo ramps up the suspense and violence as we try to keep up with Hector, and earlier and later versions of himself. 
              The key here is to keep things moving without letting the logical (or illogical) complications weigh down the action, and Vigalondo does this well. His budget is modest, but that doesn't stop him from creating an atmosphere of apprehension. To the script's credit, the nonsense never feels like nonsense. Pacing is helter-skelter, successfully enveloping the viewer in its deranged logic. 
              Dialogue becomes increasingly scarce, to an extent that pic could work as a silent. Brief moments of black humor also raise the drama. Watching “Timecrimes” is like fumbling for bearings in a pitch-black haunted house. Meticulous plotting, breathless pacing, paradoxes in abundance, and some surprisingly human dilemmas, all make this low-budget sci-fi thriller well worth watching.

The Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone

         What is a Spaghetti Western?
                      The most interesting and unique films have come out of Italy and served both as great entertainment, but also as a historical marker. One film movement in particular that flourished in the 60's and 70's was the Spaghetti Western. Fantastic sets, flawed characters and dramatic gunfights were all signature of this popular genre featuring the wild untamed west.

                      Directors like Sergio Leone took this opportunity to create films in the Spaghetti Western genre. Unlike the American westerns that focused around cowboys and Native Americans, these westerns were usually set in a time period after the American Civil War and depicted the recovery of both the North and the South of with the main characters in between the conflict. 

                      Among the several Spaghetti Westerns that spanned across the sixties, the 'Dollars Trilogy' was the most famous one, all directed by Sergio Leone.

Sergio Leone's Gift To Cinema

                      Sergio Leone set the pace and tone to this genre, and he also gave a style. He was the creator of a silent stranger in the westerns. And he also gave us the legendary Clint Eastwood. The western for Sergio Leone is a genre in which he can explore his own, sad, grotesque, and surreal visions of life. Leone was no more interested in what could happen or did happen in the West than he is in any conception of surface reality in his films. 

                    The Dollars Trilogy, Once Upon a Time In The West are all a comic nightmare than the traditional westerns of John Ford or Howard Hawks. Sergio Leone's film career wasn't very important before the Dollars Trilogy(Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly). After a brief stint in law school, the young Sergio promptly joined the family business in 1948, working as an assistant to the legendary Italian director Vittorio de Sica on his neo-realist classic "Bicycle Thieves" (1948).

             Leone's big break came in 1959 on the set of "The Last Days of Pompeii" when the film's director became ill on the first day of shooting and Leone took over and began developing a style that became so recognizable in his western films.

Dollars Trilogy

           Leone adapted Akira Kurosawa's 1961 samurai film "Yojimbo" into "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964), moving the story from medieval Japan to the American Southwest and replacing Kurosawa's wandering samurai with a nameless, gun-slinging drifter. As a mysterious outlaw who came to be known as the Man With No Name, Eastwood embodied the director's combination of extreme violence and ambiguous morality. 

           After the success of A Fistful of Dollars, the Italian studios wanted more. So Leone went about starting a sequel, with a apt title, For a Few Dollars More. And with this film, Leone expanded on his style. The pace is slower and his trademark waiting and lulls before death are far more obvious and evermore present.

                 Three gunmen battle it out in Civil War torn New Mexico for a coffin full of gold.This is the plot of one of the great westerns ever made, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. In his third and final film with Eastwood, he destroyed the most simplistic image of a western cinema. In this film, Eastwood character is both amused by and aloof from the grotesque world. Leone's hero is only a mystic survivor, among the massive destruction, which is exemplified by the civil war. 

                 The "Bad" in the film is also not defined by the traditional morality of the world. Between the two non-extremes stands, Tuco, "The Ugly"-- physically coarse, a bit dirty, but vibrant and alive in contrast to the other two cold characters. Good and Ugly are all moral extremes, but "The Ugly" represents the human who acts out of animal immediacy without recourse to postures or guilt. 

                In the film, Leone's use of the extreme close-up is a major tool for getting to a character. Plot is of minimal interest. What is important is the examination of these characters. The popular press found the film amusing but meaningless, upon its release is an expected one in the history of works of popular culture which were unrecognized by critics , who thought a violent, comic work could not possibly be worthy of serious attention. 

A Grand And Epic Western

                 Once Upon A Time In The West is Leone's fourth western and marks the beginning of his career in Hollywood. The great Henry Fonda played the ruthless villain and Charles Bronson, played a role similar to Eastwood called 'Harmonica.' Fonda was best known for playing wholesome leading men, before this movie. Yet as Frank, we see him shoot a child in cold blood because the boy has learned his name. Despite the impressive cast, the movie was not a success in United States.

                  It was one of the most difficult, elaborate movie of Leone. The fact that the opening credits take over nine minutes will gave an idea of its slow pace. But, the film is generally praised for the performances of its leading actors, and Leone's masterful control over pace, action, and narrative tension. The basic plot is a standard western fare. It is about a woman who's family is massacred by railroad men. She soon meets and is befriended by two men, a mysterious stranger and an eccentric outlaw. Both protect her but one has a score to settle with Frank, the head railroad man.

                  Unlike a typical western film hero, Harmonica is driven by a desire to torture and kill his brother's murderer, than to save the women. While classic western heroes, protect a society based on honesty and hard work, Once Upon A Time In The West reveals that such societies have their beginnings in jealousy, revenge, and murder. The movie replaces the established western mythology of honest struggle, endeavor, and sacrifice, with a dishonest, perhaps more realistic, vision of how the west was won.

The Amazing Partnership 

             Leone's films were also known for the important role of the music by his longtime collaborator, composer Ennio Morricone.  Morricone's unmistakable scores departed from the elaborate orchestral compositions of conventional Hollywood westerns, adding sound effects, human voices and electric guitar to punctuate the films' dark humor and operatic violence.

               The way they worked with the score is unique and intersting. Morricone liked to write some part of the score before the film is shot, and Leone would cut his film to the score after-wards.A great example is the final duel in "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." Here, it was obvious that Leone arranged some kind of choreography rehearsal and cut from one character to another to meet the pace of the score. 

              For "Once Upon A Time In The West," Morricone wrote four different musical themes for the four characters. The themes suit the characters perfectly well and are very memorable to the audience. Also his usage of natural sound is remarkable as well, like the sound of the broken mill, a fly, water drop etc in "Once Upon A Time In The West."

Masters of Cinema : Ingmar Bergman

                          A mature, artistic cinema provokes the viewer into an intimate engagement in which a range of uncomfortable feelings are opened up, shared and laid bare. One of those mature and brilliant directors of all time is Ingmar Bergman, who radically altered the nature and meaning of the motion-picture form. He transfigured a medium long devoted to spectacle into an art capable of profoundly personal meditations into the myriad struggles facing the psyche and the soul.

                         Bergman reveals our life as moral and spiritual beings constituted by some fundamental kinds of experience and their interrelationships. These moments occur throughout Bergman's films in many variations and combinations. They are the seminal moments of judgment, abandonment, passion, shame, and vision. Together they delineate the kind of journey life is and the kind of road it must travel. They are "plot points" through which all of Bergman's stories develop, and they provide the framework for understanding Bergman's films and his achievement as a artist and a philosopher.
  •  Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born on July 14, 1918, in Uppsala, Sweden. Bergman followed a brief military stay in 1938 by attending Stockholm University. While there, he staged his first plays. In 1939, Bergman accepted the job of production assistant at the Royal Theatre, leaving school the following year to focus on stage work. 
  • Bergman began his film career as a script writer for Svensk Film-industry in March 1943 at the age of twenty four. With his original screenplay, the movie Torment was filmed by leading director Alf Sjöberg the following year. Torment caused some controversy in the Swedish press with its attack on a humiliating system of education and its portrayal of repressive family. 
  • And in the summer of 1945 he began directing his debut feature, Kris (Crisis), an adaptation of a drama. His next four films -- 1946's Det Regnar på Vår Kärlek ( It Rains on Our Love), 1947's Skepp till Indialand (A Ship Bound for India), and 1948's Musik i Mörker (Night Is My Future), and Hamnstad ( Port of Call) -- were all adaptations as well, although Bergman continued crafting original screenplays. 
  • Since Crisis, Bergman has directed forty films until his retirement in 1984 after Fanny And Alexander(1982) and After The Rehearsal (1984). Of these, Bergman was sole writer of twenty seven including all the films for which he is best known, with the exception of Virgin Spring(1960). 
 The Joy of Life
             Bergman's career is dominated by the great synoptic films of the 1950's in which his central filmic images are formed and is in fact portrayed not as merciless, but as always offering rebirth and renewal. This period had culminated, with the poetry of 'The Seventh Seal,' the transcendence of 'Wild Strawberries,' and with the most gentle 'Smiles of Summer Night.' 
              The fragile hopefulness of his films in the 40's is transformed by the films of 50's into a more comprehensive and archetypal picture of life that celebrated the cycle and rhythms of coming to be and perishing. In these works, there is joy and lyricism. They are in love with life, accepting it unconditionally with their eyes wide open and celebrating its gift that is too often lost or hidden. 
Cinema of Ruins  
             The great synopsis ended after nearly twenty years, with the 'philosophical' trilogy of  Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Winter Light (1963), and The Silence (1963). The joy of life was gone, and flourishing a reclaimed life was the theme. This period extended from Persona to After the Rehaersal. What develops during this time is very much a cinema of ruins and remnants, on the one hand, and replacements and substitutions on the other. 
            The five films of the late 1960's represents the bottom of the abyss and the point of Bergman's doubt and despair. These are also the films in which he seems most self-conscious about film itself and his own artistry. Two of his greatest achievements -- Persona (1966) and Shame-- come from this time, as does his darkest and perhaps most hateful film, The Rite (1969). 
            Fanny And Alexander  may be regarded as both an epilogue to all this and a valiant attempt to reassert the optimism and essential goodness of the world portrayed in the films of the great synopsis of the 1950's. It is also origins of the artist and of Bergman's own art. After 1984, Bergman made a short film about his mother, Karin's Face, directed for the stage and television, and wrote memoirs. On July 30, 2007, he died on his island of Faro at age 89.

  • Trademark : Close-ups of faces. Close-ups of ticking clocks. Dynamic use of shadows. Religious themes.
  • He retired from filmmaking in 1984, and then in 2003, at the age of 85, he retired from directing plays.
  • 10 of his films are listed in the 5th edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Was voted the 8th Greatest Film Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly. Was chosen the world's greatest living filmmaker by "Time" magazine. Considered Persona (1966) and Viskningar och rop (1972) his best movies.
Ingmar Bergman Quotes
"No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul."
"I'd prostitute my talents if it would further my cause, steal if there was no way out, killing my friends or anyone else if it would help my art."
"My basic view of things is - not to have any basic view of things. From having been exceedingly dogmatic, my views on life have gradually dissolved. They don't exist any longer."
"To shoot a film is to organize an entire universe."
                             Bergman throughout his work was concerned with a common set of themes, situations, feelings, and images as he probes this question, whether life offers either mercy or meaning. The heart of Bergman's achievement is moral and philosophic. Bergman is a 'filmic thinker,' who addressed the issue of 'human condition.' He left behind a body of work in the cinematic and literary realms to far outstrip that of almost anyone -- a work whose reputation would live centuries beyond its creator.

Oldboy - Seeks Vengeance And Verity

                          Vengeance dominates the modern action cinema, but to be a work of art, a revenge film needs to give you something more than your sadistic jollies. It needs to show the cost of revenge to the revenger, to innocent bystanders, and to society. The important vengeance sagas always portray revenge as both natural and destructive. 

                        Full of insanely grand passions, bloodthirsty violence, and black comedy, the sadistic masterpiece Oldboy, is one of those revenge fantasy tale, that might mess with your head. You might consider Oldboy as a revenge picture, or tale of twisted romance, or a mystery. Regardless of how you look at Oldboy, it's unlike anything you are likely to have seen before. 

                      'Oldboy' also marked the official arrival of director Park Chan-wook as an internationally important filmmaker. His previous works, such as “JSA” and “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,” were hits in his country, but the success of “Oldboy” - both with audiences (it won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival) and as a film - lifted Park to a whole other level. This is a breakthrough work on the level of  “Pulp Fiction.”

       Daesu(Min-sik Choi) is a loser. He misses his daughter's birthday and cheats on his wife. He goes out to a bar -- gets drunk, gets loud, cops pick him up. A friend bails him out. They stagger home, but stop at a phone booth. And Daesu disappears. For fifteen years.

          He is in what looks like a windowless hotel room. He's fed. He can watch TV, all the cable he can stand. He learns he's wanted for his wife's murder. He's occasionally given knock-out gas and shaved. And this goes on for 15 years. One day, without warning, Dae-su is released.

            Dae-su spends the rest of the film trying to find out why he was imprisoned and by whom, leaving a trail of bloodied criminals in his path. But the closer he gets to an answer, the more he seems to be playing into the hands of the mysterious figure or figures he seeks. Along the way he befriends Mi-do (Hye-jeong Kang), a friendly waitress who seems to be hiding something as well. 

            It would spoil the movie, to say anything more about the story.

                Whether chomping down on a live octopus (in one of several scenes that require a strong stomach) or fighting with half-crazed rage and impotence, Choi gives a bravura performance that powers the picture. To say Choi gets it just right would be an understatement - these are the kinds of rare performances that come out of nowhere and knock you out. Balancing out Choi is Yu Ji-tae, who plays the enigmatic villain. The best movie villains are the ones that are calm, cool, collected, and Yu fits the role. His performance as a eerily detached persona is perfect. 

              Park Chan-wook is an impressive stylist, who keeps Oldboy charged beyond the intrigue of its story. This is the second film in director Park Chan-wook's 'Revenge Trilogy,' begun with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, which also deals with the concept of getting even in unconventional terms. Park elevates the movie far above your average revenge flick. Watch out for the movie’s key sequence: a long tracking shot in which the camera, watching from the side, slowly follows Oh Dae-su up and down a seemingly endless corridor as he takes on what seems like hundreds of enemies.

                   Not surprisingly, Oldboy is sometimes stomach-churning in its violence. Of course, when the gore involves teeth being ripped out with a hammer claw it doesn't take much more than suggestion to have an impact. But there's plenty else to shock even without the gore - and all done with such vitality that you'll be as compelled as you are repulsed. 

                 "You seek revenge, or do you find the truth?" it conveys, and like any good movie, and it effortlessly opens wide with questions about punishment, justice, fate, ethics. Far from being a sadistic celebration of vengeance, the film consistently undermines the ultimate senselessness of it all. It says the only thing worse than not getting revenge is … getting revenge.

                 Oldboy is mesmerizing and disturbing, engaging the viewer on a visceral and an intellectual level.


Rated R for strong violence including scenes of torture, sexuality and pervasive language

An Andalusian Dog - Artful, Bizarre, And Surrealistic

                           Luis Buñuel began his movie career with the most notorious opening sequence in movie history. Un Chien Andalou, a seventeen-minute movie collaboration between Buñuel and his then pal Salvador Dalí first sprang on the world in late 1929.

                     It must also rank as one of the most studied films in history, and a myriad number of critiques adopted various theories about the imagery. But no interpretation can be regarded as definitive--especially considering Buñuel's stated purpose: 
"No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted. We had to open all doors to the irrational and keep only those images that surprised us, without trying to explain why."

Shocking And Surrealistic Images

                        Buñuel kicks off the film with the most astonishing, unforgettable opening scene of any film, and appears as the barber who takes a razor to a woman's eye. The filmmakers ingeniously cut away to a slender cloud slicing across the face of the moon, and then cut back to an extreme close-up of a cow's eye. Other great images include the ants crawling on the hand (Dali's idea), and a man massaging a girl's breasts as her clothes disappear and re-appear. The film has the effect of washing over you like a long dream, and some images will linger longer than others. But no one ever forgets the eye.

The Collaboration

Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel
               The producer-director of the film, Bunuel wrote the scenario in collaboration with the painter, Dali. By surrealistic principle, Dali and Bunuel sought to combine images so that one would bear on logical or rational connection to the next. Both took their point of view from a dream image, which, in its turn, probed others by the same process until the whole took form as a continuity. It should be noted that when the image or idea appeared the collaborators discarded it immediately if it was derived from remembrance, or from their cultural pattern or if, simply, it had a conscious association with another earlier idea.

               They accepted only those representations as valid which, though they moved them profoundly, had no possible explanation. Naturally, they dispensed with the restraints of customary morality and of reason. The motivation of the images was, or meant to be, purely irrational. They are as mysterious and inexplicable to the two collaborators as to the spectator. Nothing in the film symbolizes anything. The only method of investigation of the symbols would be perhaps, Psychoanalysis.

Dismissal of Narratives

                     What Dali and Bunuel achieved through the method of compiling a scenario was the liberation of their material from the demands of narrative continuity. Far from being puzzling, the film achieves the clarity of a dream. The extremity of the violence and calculated abruptness of changes of time, place, and mood intensify the viewing experience without satisfying the conventional narrative demands of cause and effect. 

                 The concentration on only two actors, male and female, and the insistence on tactile imagery set up a situation of identification that more randomly organized films do not have. The strength of the identification in the context of the abrupt dislocations and discontinuities provides us with a vivid metaphor of the dream experience. 

                         Modern horror films owe much to Buñuel, and his dark humor continues to be reflected by countless other directors. Un Chien Andalou demonstrates that surreal dreams are prime cinematic subject matter, and they don't have to "make sense" to work well. The film has lived up to its aim to shock. Even when viewed in modern times it's still shocking and the most infamous short ever made. 

An Andalusian Dog

An Andalusian Dog - Imdb                                 

We Need To Talk About Kevin - A Disturbing Exploration of Grief And Guilt

                     Every parent's mind wanders at some point when a child is misbehaving: Is there something wrong here, something more than just the usual acting out that all kids go through from time to time? what happens when everything ugly about the world is embodied in the son, when he's the source of the "sin and woe"? If the bond between mother and son becomes tenuous or broken, is that the result of his evil deeds, or the cause of them? 

                    In director Lynne Ramsay's devastating film "We Need to Talk About Kevin," a mother's nightmare comes true. This is one of the most unsettling films with its chilling portrait of a wayward and psychopathic son and his perplexed and emotionally vulnerable mother. Many people after watching "We Need to Talk About Kevin" will be too stunned to talk about Kevin, or much else either.

                   Working from Lionel Shriver's novel, Ramsay and her equally unflinching star, the mesmerizing Tilda Swinton, present a troubling, challenging examination of what Ramsay, speaking at Cannes, said, "one of the last taboo subjects: You're meant to instantly love your baby from the moment he's born, but what if you don't? And what if that baby grows into someone terrifying?"

      It's a tale of a child who from birth is spiteful, mean, cruel and potentially murderous. The boy is born to a normal enough Mom, Eva (Swinton), a travel writer who finds herself from infancy tied to the manipulations of her son. The father(John C.Reilly) is clueless about his son's treachery and ignores any attempt at enlightenment by his wife. 

                 Kevin marches around the home defiantly in diapers until he's six. When a younger sister is born he — literally — tortures her. Pets go missing. Kevin never accepts blame for anything, and directly taunts his mother with his own madness.

               In flashbacks and forwards we see Eva rebuilding her life, hated by neighbors, after Kevin (Ezra Miller, grown) has gone on a school shooting rampage — it happens early, though not graphically. We see her struggle to reason with this devil of a child.

                Ramsay, who also co-wrote the screenplay, works with the gifted cinematographer Seamus McGarvey("The Hours, "Atonement") to give the film a signature look, with vivid colors, especially red -- the color of paint, the color of ambulance lights, the color of blood. The main thing to praise about her direction is the way she keeps most of the real violence off-screen while still conjuring up its mood with images of smashed eggs or red splashes. Because of Ramsay's visuals, the film functions on an expressionistic as well as a literal level.

                  As Eva, Tilda Swinton gives a painfully raw performance; she inhabits Eva's desperation and helplessness without succumbing to over-dramatization, and so much of the character is conveyed in what she does not say. Swinton admirably conveys the shaky resolve of a woman who is constantly clinging to the fading hope. The part of Kevin is brilliantly cast three times over. Rock Duer plays the boy as a toddler, Jasper Newell is the preadolescent and Ezra Miller is the calculating, malevolent teen. The actors are a perfect match physically, and they project the character's soulless, half-amused hatred chillingly. Especially, Miller gives a near-flawless performance, embodying every traits of a self-satisfied teenage.

                   When teenagers take out their violence on others, the question "Why?" hangs like a knife over the entire community. Are they trying to be seen? Are they getting revenge? The old image of the world consisting of good people and bad people is no longer a viable way of looking at these things. It is easier to blame the parents than to have compassion for them and their suffering.

                  How does something like this happen? That would be the question one everyone watching this movie would ask, but it doesn't answer. Instead, it just happens, the movie suggests, with seemingly no rhyme or reason. Kevin is not abused; if anything, he's spoilt. He is just a bad guy, plain and simple. That may not be satisfying in the end for some. But  the performances of Swinton, Miller makes up for that. 

                 We Need To Talk About Kevin is, in a way, a real horror film about everyday things and a disconnected family. It's a film to think about and debate, but it's hard to embrace.


 Director Lynne Ramsay's Interview

Rated R for disturbing violence and behavior, some sexuality and language

Nobody Knows - A Beautiful Indictment On Modern Society

                             Children are priceless treasures. But a heart-breaking Japanese film, "Nobody Knows" questions this statement. The movie is a winsome documentary-like detailed study about four abandoned young children in Tokyo. It's based on a true story but the characters were fictionalized. Their tale is full of primal and distinctly modern fears, from the universal childhood fantasy of parental abandonment to the more grown-up suspicion that big cities are places of cruel isolation and indifference. It took a year to shoot this masterpiece (the overlong story-141 minutes-was meant to reflect the four seasons of their plight).

    Nobody Knows is based on a true story from the late '80s that was dubbed in Japan as "The Affair of the Four Abandoned Children of Nishi-Sugamo." Four children(Akira, Kyoko, Yuki, Shigeru) , of different fathers, were left by their mother to fend for themselves for months at a time in a small apartment. The three youngest weren't allowed to go outside, even to the veranda to wash the clothes. 

             The smallest two had been smuggled into the building in suitcases—the landlord would never have rented the apartment to a family of five. Whenever the mother took off, the older boy(Akira, 12 years old) does the shopping and occasionally sought out one of his siblings' fathers for money. (He never met his own dad.) But none of them goes to school. And none know how to keep house, treat illness or injury, or function as a parent.

            Mom's absences grow longer, and eventually she disappears for good and stops sending money. As fall turns into winter, then into spring, and finally into summer, their situation begins to deteriorate horribly, but Akira won't go to the authorities because he knows to do so will mean breaking up the family.

              Writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda crafts this real story into a moving docu-drama about the loss of childhood innocence. With just one principal location - a tiny apartment - and four non professional actors sharing the burden of the film's focus, it's a dazzling technical achievement. Instead of producing a conventional script for the children, Kore-eda simply explains their lines to them on-set each morning and let them improvise. 

               Kore-eda favors static shots in which moments seem to happen without an awareness of the camera. One of the most evocative is a long shot of Akira and his little sister holding hands, returning from a rare evening out. The camera lingers on things like hands and feet. We can even track the passage of time by noticing how chipped Kyoko's nail polish is becoming. Over time we see the plants grow as the kids wither. 

               The performances of the children are beyond praise. Yuya Yagira(who played 'Akira'), a nonprofessional, won the best actor award at Cannes last year for his brilliant performance as the protective eldest child at 12. There are poignant touches embedded everywhere. You have to find them yourself. Kyoko doodles on a piece of paper that happens to be a final notice gas bill. Shigeru chews on a piece of paper to stave off his appetite, and Akira enjoys a brief turnout for a baseball team in the local park. 

               "Nobody Knows" is not for the faint of heart, though it has no scenes of overt violence, and barely a tear is shed. It is also strangely thrilling, not only because of the quiet assurance of Mr. Kore-eda's direction, but also because of his alert, humane sense of sympathy. Some may flinch at the movie's 141-minute running time, but there's not a wasted moment. 

             The movie makes us realize that in the modern world, the standards of community are so weak that no one looks out for those who live nearby. That, Children are remarkably resilient but they should not have to become adults before their natural time to do so. Nobody Knows is a film of serene composition whose graceful and emotional narrative takes the pulse of a nation through the tragedy of one family. 


Nobody Knows - Imdb

Alfred Hitchcock : The Explorer of Fears

                         Films were a great form of entertainment from their debut in the early 1900's and continued to grow more popular over the years. The film making business hit a growth period in the 1920's. In Hollywood, the assembly line "studio" system of producing a movie was changed and refined, and the famous studious that dominate Hollywood production today, such as Universal Studious, were being put together. 

                      Censorship regulations were being formulated for the first time, and Wall Street began to take a more prominent, powerful role in film making. It was a time when movies came and went quickly and films that had no pretense of being art were made in mass. Nobody expected a movie to last in the minds of people for more than a year. 

                      Movies were made for entertainment, and to make money. So, the movies were considered like a disposable object. It took some decades in Hollywood to develop movies as a form of art. During this time of rapid change in the film-making business, a aspiring director began his career, and dream of working in cinema. 

                         He was Alfred Hitchcock, who established his movies as an art. 

Communicating With Fears

                     Alfred Hitchcock pervades our consciousness. We have seen the world through his movies and we find it frightening. Hitchcock was afraid, and he was able to communicate his fear through the use of a situation. His films are scary, not because the people are scary, but because they are nice, even attractive. Awkward, shy, gawky like Norman Bates in Psycho

              The reason why people are uneasy about watching Hitchcock is because they he is capable of killing his characters. Characters are killed in virtually every he made. Worse than that, Hitchcock shows you the killing and the killer but you do not avert your eyes -- you want to see it all. 

The Visual Language

               When people describe some director as being Hitchcockian, they are not referring to the suspense and horror. The phrase is concerned with certain camera movements and angles. They refer to the visual language Hitchcock used. Suspense is the art of telling you that something bad is going to happen in a specific time, but you don't want the bad thing to happen. His most ambitious, sustained, and it must be said, successful attempt was Psycho - after the main character is killed we are not let off the hook until the end of the film, over an hour later. 

               The opening of Hitchcock's Rear Window is often cited as great visual storytelling, because (there are no words) the camera focuses on a series of things that tell us a great deal: a rear window view of the neighbors; inside: a professional camera, a photo of a race car taken from a vantage point directly in front of it, a man in a cast, a thermometer showing that it's a hot day.

              Censor board standards in the 1960 didn't allow for a sequence like nude women being stabbed to death in showers. Consequently, Hitchcock was forced to create the impression of nudity and violence without actually showing a knife puncturing skin. The scene is composed of more than 90 shots seen in 70 different camera angles. It took Hitchcock and his crew an entire week to film it. But, the entire film took only six weeks.

                     However, the Hitchcockian directors mostly concentrate on the shock aspects of Psycho rather than the suspense elements. 

             It is something of an understatement to say that Hitchcock was an accomplished storyteller. Hitchcock stretched himself with amazingly minimalist films. Lifeboat was a film about the group of people in a lifeboat. A few bits of wreckage, the odd hull, some choppy water -- that's all the production designer had to do. Rope is a series of eight 10-minute takes in one apartment room. Rear window, is about James Stewart in a wheelchair, in a room, watching and listening to people in and around a courtyard. Hitchcock was constantly striving to tell stories in as imaginative a way as possible. 


              Suspense is the feeling of being afraid for one or more characters in the movie. In film, the horror moments are often triggered by surprise or by images which are unacceptable to society. Horror films are great fun, they give you  a fright, you release lots of pent-up emotions and then you forget them. 

                   From very early in his career Hitchcock put the viewer in the position of his characters. You see a character on the screen looking at something, you see what they see, then you see the character react to that something. It's simple. In Rear Window, we are in the position of James Stewart, realizing something is wrong, but not being able to do anything about it, being helpless in the wheelchair, as we are helpless in our own position. 

                 In Psycho we are both the villain and hero like looking through the hole in the wall, at Janet Leigh undressing. We are able to switch sides with the characters, to satisfy both our civilized and coarse instincts. 

                        Ultimately, Hitchcock's world-view was more pessimistic than optimistic. His films give a satisfying physical resolution but the mental anguish and consequences continue. I hope Hitchcock's films will survive, because they give food for thought. They unsettle us and we don't know why. They do not assume we are morons. They let us work things out for ourselves. 

                          Eventually, Hitchcock is telling us that there are no slick solutions to life, that things don't necessarily work out right in the end. 

Alfred Hitchcock - Wikipedia