Charlie Countryman – True Love Hasn’t Been This Wrong

Seriously, Charlie Countryman could have been 10 times greater if Matt Drake, the scenarist, didn’t try to mix up every genres; fantastic, thriller, romance, comedy; my head hurts.
Fredrik Bond, the director, is the second to blame fo being this pretentious thinking his camera could have been able to vomit a unicorn after swallowing all those genres. And most of all, he is to blame for thinking Shia LaBeouf and a Romanian/ginger Evan Rachel Wood could make a good couple; blasphemy.

Well, the story; to understand where Bond got alienated by his creativity. Charlie, played by LaBeouf, just lost his mom (Melissa Leo), who appeared as a ghost to guide him for the last time, she told him to go to Bucarest (for no reason). He took the plane, sat next to a weird guy who died, and again, appeared as a ghost and told Charlie to bring a hat he bought from Chicago to his daughter and tell him a sentence in Romanian.

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Chapter 2; Charlie meets Gabi, played by Evan Rachel Wood, with an awful accent. And from now on, nonsense actions will happened one after another.

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Charlie falls in love; obviously, but falls also into a Romanian mafia, where every one wants to kill him. Nigel (Madd Mikkelsen) Gabi’s ex-husband who is still deeply in love with her, and the head of a strip-club, Drako (Til Schweiger), and that’s not the only the only character of Harry Potter you will find:

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Anyway, road trip turning into a manhunt, where you will see Shia LaBeouf running a lot for many reasons by fear or happiness.

Fear:
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Happiness:

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The movie wants to be a sort of modern/fantastic love story with The XX playing during a sex scene, but it isn’t a success really.

The only good point I could give is for the color palette, and thus for the really beautiful photography.

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I have nothing much to say, a shame that Madd Mikkelsen’s only presence or Shia LaBeouf’s performance weren’t enough to save Charlie Countryman, really a shame.

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Still worst couple ever.

Enemy – Inner Conflict

I always devoted an endless admiration for Jake Gyllenhaal, not only because he is handsome, but especially because of his choices when it comes to pick up a character to play. Donnie DarkoJarheadThe Good Girl and even Bubble Boy, always complex, marginal characters. He posses a kind of natural weirdness that is shapeable, even plastic.

For his second collaboration with Denis Villeneuve after Prisoners, Gyllenhaal got involved in Enemy in which he plays two of them.

The movie opens in a quote “chaos is order yet undeciphered” which I believe allows every spectator to think of an explanation to the movie after watching it. Therefore I will write something based on what I understood behind all the symbolism Villeneuve decided to film.

He started by introducing a sex club, presented as if he was filming the inside of  a confessional with yellow light centered in small and specific items such as hands or half a face. But then, you understand that, “nope not a church” indeed a group of men are watching and being served by naked women in a sort of orchestrated play.

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Soon enough, Villeneuve brings up his principal symbol; the spider. In this context, the spider represents mystery, feminine energy and conflict of life. Hence, woman and spider are almost an entity building up its weave in Adam/Anthony (Jake Gyllenhaal) live(s).

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However this is not a story about an evil twin or schizophrenia, it is a story about adultery and inner conflict.

Indeed, the director divided the movie as if it has two parallel worlds in which Adam and Anthony are two personalities are going to meet and destroy this barrier separating them and affecting their life. The director created two dimensions based on a second life we might have if we commit adultery.

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If Anthony is a self confident/cheater actor, Adam is the nice/confused professor. Both have a woman in their lives, Anthony has a pregnant wife, Helen (Sarah Gadon) and Adam has a girlfriend, Mary (Mélanie Laurent), both are blond, white and skinny.

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Helen implied that Anthony had a relationship with another woman, and we might conclude that this other woman is Mary. But the professor and him looks exactly the same, only they behavior changes according to what they have in mind; sex or love. And Adam is going to look into himself and find his inner actor.

What I liked in Villeneuve construction, based on José Saramago‘s novel, is that he put in the dialogue the minimum needed to build strong hypothesis and shot some scenes in a particular way, added interesting actors’ play so that you might be able to pick up the pieces of the puzzle and have something coherent at the end of the movie.

My head was diving forward because of intense concentration. And even though it isn’t a straight A, it is just like every Villeneuve movies, interesting and is definitely not a loss of time.

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Likeness – Pain from Beauty

Last year Elle Fanning was Mia.

Rodrigo Prieto is a mexicain photographer who worked on several movies such as BiutifulBabel21 Grams and many others. Last year, he finally decided to step up behind the camera and start his first short film; Likeness.

And behind this likeness stands bulimia.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 1.22.05The short opens in a sort of underground club gathering models from Vogue posing and doing some private fashion show under a blue light. The camera infiltrates this world, in which we are intruders,  tourists visiting a sort of temple of thinness, where behind each doors lays an offering.
Photos are allowed.

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Starring Elle Fanning as the main character, only in the credits can we see that her name is Mia; being the nickname given to bulimia.
We followed her into the bathroom, and might think we were her eyes the whole time.
Makeup time, she pulls a mascara out of her purse. Prieto understood that mirrors are probably the worst enemy of an eating disorder victim, after the beauty industry. Then, he drew and constructed his film based on that journey Mia has to go through.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 1.23.17She stoppes, stares at herself and in the blink of an eye sees her face completely distorted, distorted from reality actually, but that she cannot see, she hasn’t step back being caught up in the moment.
Her brain affected by subliminal images of thinness and skinny models, provokes in her an outburst. From the sound of mute screams we know she needs to purge.

The director used cinema as a medium embedded in eating disorders, that is to say, cinema is at the core of the theme; images, light, voyeurism. The eye is the startup of anorexia and bulimia, and a camera is a big eye that everyone can appropriate.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 1.25.56When she goes back, she goes back to a teenage party and not some harem of thinness.
Bulimia gave her the impression to be excluded from a community of skinny girls, when actually she’s the only director of her play. She says she’s okay, we want to scream that she’s not (our mute screams). She might feel a little better, but it’s not going to last long before she falls again into the vicious spiral from which nobody will hear that she needs to be rescued.

The final trump is in Prieto clever use of music, from the hard beginning, until the end when we know that it is not over.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 1.25.07To watch the short click here.

Insomnia – Guilty Conscious

I loved Christopher Nolan‘s debuts. Following, Memento and then Insomnia.
He showed all his great potential, flabbergasted us with his elaborated technique in the thriller genre.
And Insomnia gathered all the elements previously seen in his movies, elements of light, structure, and the use of human memory, or brain, through images well handled.

This 2002 film has created another layer though, something profound and complex. Insomnia deals with a feeling hard to get over to; guilt.

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Will Dormer (Al Pacino) is a brillant cop, but he is discharged from a case and sent to Alaska with his partner Hap (Martin Donovan) in order to solve a “casual” homicide.
A 17 years old girl is found on a pile of garbage, dead by strangulation. From that established situation, or point, the whole movie is going in circles around that growing little sphere of suffocation.

Quickly enough we’re caught in a chase between potential killer and Will. However, chases there in Alaska aren’t really easy, they are full of obstacles, if it is not rocks and fog, its wood and water. It isn’t going to be easy.
Indeed, in the first chase in the fog, lacking of sight, Will shoots to death an armed silhouette. Unfortunately it isn’t the killer, no, it is Hap, and the killer? He saw everything.

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Insomnia really begins here. Will won’t be able to sleep until the end of the movie. He said once that a good cop can’t sleep because he misses some pieces of the puzzle, and a bad cop can’t sleep because he’s lugging something in his conscious, well now he is caught between those two situations.
The murderer, Walter Finch (Robin Williams), a poor writer is thus going to blackmail Dormer, and suggests a partnership; a kind of “if you don’t say a word, everything is going to be okay, and I won’t say a word”.

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What Nolan did wonderfully is in drawing thin lines marking off the difference between those two men. Lines of morals, values and ethic. A tiny little silk determining that border differentiating a cop from a criminal; when both didn’t mean to kill, but each one had a particular situation to respond to. Nolan added an equation to the movie to which we may consider two options. One would be -x + (-x) = -x and x – (-x) = +x. Are they both guilty? Or just Walter?

The director worked on a perfect composition with flashbacks, present images and effects of insomnia. The cop is subjected to hallucinations, auditive and visual. Then sounds are louder, flashbacks of Hap’s death are popping here and there, and sometimes Will sees him. Nolan updated Hillary Seitz‘s scenario (already adapted from Erik Skjoldbjaerg‘s novel) thanks to visual aids, and did a more than a respectable job.

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The graduate suspense of what each character will do is keeping you alert, and curious, even though some things are pretty predictable, you might be inclined to questioned the plot anyway.

What is useful to retain from Insomnia is that sleeping is when your conscious in cleared, but death is when your conscious is purged.

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The Theater Bizarre – Evil, Sex and Death

Orchestrated by director Jeremy KastenThe Theater Bizarre has been designed with as an inspiration; the theater Grand Guignol of Paris.
The host is Udo Krier interpreting a muppet. He introduced sketches after sketches of about 20 minutes each, to a sole woman that has been strongly attracted to that theater across the street, which opened its doors the second she came in front of it.

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Cruelty, sex, temptation and death, let’s take each short film one by one.

The Mother of Toads

A young couple goes to France, encounter a creepy women (nd apparently her look doesn’t seem to bother anyone), who starts to talk about the Necronomicon. *Poof* Amazing, the guy actually wanted to read it for years, he then agrees to come later to her house in order to peek into it. He might be handsome, poor thing is stupid and naive.

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Director Richard Stanley chose to create a universe almost worth of an exploitation film, along with the croaking of the toads provoking an auditive hallucination of hysterical laughs, its awful creature or some psychedelic shots,  but is too grotesque in its seriousness to be one.

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In a nutshell, evil has got more to offer than any human being, and actually doesn’t give you a choice. Therefore wether you like it or not, you will have to abide to its law. What a script!

I Love You

Buddy Giovinazzo, however, took a step further in his script’s logic pattern. The movie starts in a cleaner/clearer environment up to some immaculate white bathroom, where a man is laying on the floor, unconscious. The only color is scarlet blood all around him. Please meet Axel.
He wakes up, has a nasty cut on his hand and starts calling his girlfriend, Mo, who will not pick up, he tries than a friend, and explain to him that he doesn’t know what happened.

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We spectators know that his friend is with his girlfriend, right below his apartment window. She’s getting up to break-up with Axel.
Extremely clever woman, she knows his future ex-boyfriend is obsessionally jealous but decides anyway to tell him with all cruelty possible, that she cheated on him for 3 years, with many guys. Whore.

Interesting matching of colors. She's almost disappearing into the decor.

Interesting matching of colors. She’s almost disappearing into the decor.

Unfortunately, cruelty and jealousy are not a great match, girl. The director approached the subject with a schizophrenic, unstable camera’s point-of-view, that is messing with us, but doesn’t protect us from the disappointing end in which  only the dialogues are worth the ride.

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Oh and please someone explain to me what the fuck they’re drinking! (Get27?)

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Wet Dreams

“Unite your stories to define your life.” That’s pretty much it.

However if you are interesting in knowing how to get a headache here’s the recipe: take several dreams, choose a person who will be caught in its own nightmare, then caught in an other person nightmare, and finally caught in an other person’s dream becoming his nightmare. Put the icing on the cake; set up some blurry lines between reality and onirism.

Possible explanation for this short film, signed Tom Savini, is Carla, a woman victim of domestic violence who’s husband doesn’t only beat her, but cheats with his psychologist’s wife. He is subjected to several dreams in which he is almost castrated. To take her revenge, his wife will complete that unfinished act.

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The plot is great, interesting, but God, it is so ugly in its own disturbing madness which is pushed to the limit of no longer sustaining any ounce of credibility. A shame, the story got real potential.

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The Accident

Douglas Buck breaks a little bit the rhythm with his short, however keeps te same morbid atmosphere of suffocating darkness.

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A mother and her daughter are driving along talking about death (usual conversation) when they pull over. A biker had an accident with a moose, and died of it.
Starts a black poetic discussion around death, and the big question “Why do we die”. It is not because we’re bad, explains the mother, it is to make room for the new ones.
The subject is delicate, the way it is filmed is interesting and powerful, it is a tale explaining that death is random, so let it go.

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Vision Stains

My favorite, by Karim Hussain.

Cronenberg is his major influence, it has to! And when I say Cronenberg, I mean senior and junior. Indeed, Brandon Cronenberg‘s Antiviral influence is also palpable in Vision Stains.

A woman kills other women (who want to die, so it’s totally okay), in order to retain the chronological flash of their lives passing before their eyes experienced at the moment of their last breath. Thus, she injects a needle into one of their eye, removes a liquid that she will inject to her own right after that. In a transe, she will write their story down on several books. All this as a tribute to those women for which she is a voice.

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The medical aspect of the movie, and the cronenbergian aspect of the story is brillant. The woman is then caught by her own rules, into this spiral of “more”. Like a drug addict, she needs more, she needs a stronger dose, and tries to reach the sun, but goes back to Earth with her eyes burnt.
It is better to be blind and dream than seeing it all and not be able to escape.
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It is filmed in a very clever way, and the director made some refine choices when it came to the music and established strong background presence. With the breathtaking use of whispers, screams and elliptical images, Hussain creates this final dome where the air is suffocating and weights on your chest.

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Sweets

David Gregory couldn’t explain better a love story based on bulimia.
If chocolate helps you get through a breakup, the director sees food in Sweets as being the pillars of a relationship, taking into account the fact that food rots and disintegrates leaving a stinky smell behind it, like breakups do.

We are in a living room, a guy is eating and crying, surround by food. In front of him, a woman is holding a melting ice cream that she barely licks. They’re breaking up.

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He doesn’t want to let her go and yet she insists in warning him that she is not a good person. He reminds her of how great they were before, and the director offers us some flashbacks in which each time, the woman got a new hair cut and color, and in which the couple is having sexual intercourses through food, and more specifically through sweets.
In a crescendo, eating food becomes nasty, disturbing and vicious. It is threatening and this is against what the woman wanted to warn her lover.

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However, her character is manipulating him, she can control food, and thus wants to apply this control on other people through nourishment. She is amused with cruelty, and go even further with this guy by considering him like a goat that she is fattening, until he is ready to be eaten. A form of bulimia that reaches its climax with cannibalism in a Salò, or the 120 days of Sodom table of sins.

Very esthetic, and well structured with pop art scenes and burtonian environments, Gregory placed us in an underground world we didn’t know about.

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Fargo – A True False Story

Recently, Noah Hawley had the brillant idea to adapt the Cohen brothers’ Fargo into a TV show, so let’s go back to 1996, when one of their best feature saw the light of sun.

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What is great with the Cohen brothers, is that they always find the exact position the camera should have for each frame, their technique is compelling and allows the spectator to fall into the world, country, season chosen. Therefore in Fargo, you feel cold when the characters go out in the snow. In the scene where Carl (Steve Buscemi) bleed from a rough cut in the face, his hands in the snow, you feel the freezing wind bumbling his pale face, and red bloody hands, digging into this white infinite blanket.

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Along with his shot reverse shot adding cleverness to the movie, Ethan Cohen who directed the movie (while Joel produced it) made some pretty interesting choices with his background designs. He often used a shiny object behind or in front of each actor speaking, and used action/static scenes, with for example a car rolling in a parking lot, or a men walking to his isolated car surrounded by snow. And from that, extracted a real contrast between interior and exterior; the first on being warm, comforting, cosy, and the other cold, desert and threatening.

Fotor0718171424Fotor071817445But let’s dig into the story, say who’s that Carl I mentioned and explain a little bit better what’s going on in the little city of Brainerd which seemed to have its nice routine with no fuss.

It all started with the crazy, ridiculous idea of Jerry Lundergaard (William H. Macy), a car sales man who wants money. He is so detached from his family, and has so little moral, that he decides, through a suspicious mechanic he knows, to contact criminals Carl and Gaear (Peter Stormare) so that they kidnap his wife, Jean (Kristin Rudrüd), and share the ransom that would be payed by his rich father-in-law, Wade (Harve Presnell). “Expand your social network” they say.

Alright so, from that point our compulsive liar, Jerry, put all his faith in becoming rich in the hands of two pathetic thugs, who, from lack of knowledge and organization, will spread a little blood on Brainerd’s white snow.
Two Little Thumbs, leaving behind them drops of blood, allowing pregnant police chief Marge (Frances McDormand), to track them down pretty quickly. Indeed she gathers information in a small amount of time; she knows one is taller than the other, she knows they’re not from her town, and she knows that they’re driving a Ciera (provided to them by Jerry).
Also she has an accent, uses the word “ya” really ofter, is happily married, has morning sicknesses and then appetite for junk food, and is extremely calm and confident. We like her.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 10.31.47 Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 11.37.02 Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 10.53.33The movie is all about sequences, chains, from one character to the other, until it creates a loop that eventually closes. This is perfectly illustrated in those two shots where in the first one a black car is coming to the Ciera, and in the second one the Ciera is leaving the black car and its dead owner.

Fotor0718182841This chain of situations makes the movie full of suspense and super exciting, its fun with a darker side, that provokes a conflict among our feelings; should we be disturbed, should we laugh? Absurdity makes it hard to take side.

Fargo has all the elements of a great movie, the two brothers did an excellent job putting all that together, and giving birth to a real masterpiece.

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Nebraska – Prize Winner

Nebraska is a price winner; its story is human, its cinematography is striking and its actors are poignants. One guy; Alexander Payne, spreading magic powder through his hands into his work.

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Son and father, David (Will Forte) and Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), both lonely, both reflecting something perfect under sunlight, and both going on a road trip.

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Woody embodies the loneliness felt when we grow old, he’s always looking away, walking on the opposite side of the road, having his mind completely disconnected, holding on to some fantasy that would make him feel him again. Not young, just a fresh new him. And that fantasy is the belief of having won 1 million dollars.
Thus started a road-trip from Montana to Nebraska.

Through that journey, Payne provided us with a unique experience, a breathtaking adventure in black and white, a bold choice, showing us the beauty of pure exploitation of light and shadow in a movie, just like Edward Hopper did in his paintings. And we can find similarities with realistic urbanist painters such as Charles Sheeler, in Payne’s design. Large buildings and big billboards, isolation, calm, sunlight, the atmosphere can be described as that feeling you get after a great nap of one hour or so, from which you wake up happy and ready to go out the night.

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With his shots of desert cities and vast fields, the director translates something really precise, he conveys the idea of action being stopped. That is to say, fixed shots, with very little mouvement, cows’ tails swigging or a light that blinks, the only real motion came from the actors, and especially David and Woody, moving forward, and not digging up the past, not being able to or not wanting to. It seems like time has stopped to give enough time to Woody so that he can pursue this quest and get that last prize. This can also be observed when he is exposed to light; indeed, even though we can still see him up to his really thin white hairs, he is disappearing, and he tries to escape that light.

Above all, Nebraska is an incredibly human story, the characters are tightly bind together, it is a real family which has its difficulties but is surrounded by love and memories. The movie is a tale about growing old, the desire to leave something behind and to have no regrets.
Nebraska is conveying a value, something extremely human, not only about family, but ourselves, how we need to build something in order to leave the ruins for people to collect.