Joe – Tales of the South

Joe is a movie I waited to watch for Nicolas Cage‘s performance, keeping it under my hand, like a bottle of wine you would keep in your cave leaving it to get older for a better taste.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 9.00.35I am a big fan of Nicolas Cage and I believe he is one of the best actors of all time, even though he made some pretty shitty choices the last decade, just like John Travolta. But anyway, I am not going to come back to this.
Directed by David Gordon Green, starring along with Cage, is Tye Sheridan, craving himself into this tradition of extreme naturalistic movies; power and presence of nature and great symbolism of wilderness, such as The Tree of Life or Mud.

Based on the novel of Larry Brown, Joe is depicting the issues overwhelming southern people of the 90’s, from unemployment, alcoholism, prostitution, to rough violence, and disappearance of morality and values.
The set of actors isn’t that impressive, but Cage (Joe), Sheridan (Gary) and Gary Poulter (the famous homeless – I’ll come back to this later – playing Wade the supposed father of Gary), are exuding a raw bestiality that is mesmerizing. The aggressiveness of each of those characters is different, and here resides the uniqueness of their performances.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 7.50.23Very briefly, the story is about Gary, fifteen, looking for a job to help his family (mother and sister more than father), and lucky for him, he meets Joe (Nicolas Cage) who offers him work in the woods. And of course, this isn’t pleasing Wade.
But really, the film is tackling several issues gravitating around the story of Gary’s and Joe’s relationship. The boy finding a paternal figure, someone he can really take as a role model, someone he sees as fair, and their struggle in the pitiless environment they live in.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 8.21.30 Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 8.50.48Director David Gordon Green (D.G.G.), gathered perfectly all the elements needed to put us, spectators, right into the movie, and delicately into the atmosphere of the novel. D.G.G. took lots of risks, and yet it turned out to be a little more than a good feature.
Now lets go back to Gary Poulter. When I say that the filmmaker took some risks, I’m referring principally to his casting. Poulter was a real alcoholic on top of being homeless. Directing a drunk elder non-professional actor with a movie starring Nicolas Cage… This could have been the worst thing ever. However, Poulter’s performance in Joe, is, and this is my personal belief, breathtaking because of him playing his became-natural state. Playing drunk, playing a homeless, playing someone who lost every bits of values, and who lost them because of society, because of unemployment, because of misery. His semi-acting was something so poignant, so disturbing; it caught me between anger and empathy. I despised him, and yet I found him beautiful. He is in despair, and he is exhaling a pure tender, that is nevertheless ephemeral. In a nutshell, Poulter flabbergasted me with his presence and self.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 7.43.41Not to forget Tye Sheridan who is astonishingly expressive and charismatic, he gave a stunning performance and his duo with Cage is working well, and it allowed our has-been actor to be. To come back and be.
(Yet, I would have added a little more fantasy and craziness to his character.)

To wrap up, David Gordon Green’s bold movie, extracted the essence of Brown’s novel and made it come alive, made it shine, with a great trio of main actors, animals of the South.

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I Wish – The World

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 5.43.59I Wish is one of those masterpieces, leaving you full of hope and happier than ever at its end. Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, refilled me with children hope, determination and dreams.
With his sleek, intimate film, he gently and slowly, disarms you, entrusting you to children.

(Real) brothers Kohichi (Kohki Maeda), who’s the oldest, and Ryu (Ohshiro Maeda) are leaving apart from each other, because of separate parents. Kohichi leaves with their mother in Kagoshima and Ryu with their father in Osaka.
The elder dreams of seing his family reunited, he cannot be fully happy because of this, and isn’t understanding how his younger brother is able to have fun and take the whole situation this lightly, while he’s constantly thinking and trying to find a way to reconcile their parents.

Anyway, one day he hears a rumor saying that a new high-speed train is about to get into the rails, and it will meet another train on a double track. Whoever assist to their encounter, and make a wish at that specific time, will see it come true. Starts the journey of Kohichi planning the whole thing with enormous energy and determination, boarding his friends with him, and his brother (who will also take his friends along with him).

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.03.22The director takes us into the very intimacy of families, we enter a community or two communities actually, Kagoshima’s and Osaka’s. With a beautiful dreamy soundtrack, and a sleek photography, we wander between habits of our characters and the beautiful landscapes they live in; the Sakurajima volcano of Kagoshima and the multiple city lights of Osaka.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 9.37.30 Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 9.51.05However, we are primarily seing the events from Kohichi’s point of view, and experience the same things. Our little guy is feeling trapped into this broken family, desperately trying fit two pieces of the destroyed puzzle of his life. And he doesn’t understand why people are still living in this town with this big threat that the volcano represents, along with its ashes brought by the wind, symbolizing the rests of his destroyed home. He doesn’t understand a multitude things, and give it a lot of thoughts.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 10.11.13Koreeda is using in his movie various opposed shots, jumping from an open space to a closed space and vice versa, in order to highlight the differences between expectations and dreams of Kagoshima’s and Osaka’s population, professionally speaking. For example, Kenji (Joe Odagiri) the father of the two boys, is hoping for a rockstar career, and Ryu’s friend Megumi (Kyara Uchida) wants to become an actress, whereas, Kohichi’s friends Yu (Ryoga Hayashi) and Shin (Hosinosuke Nagayosi) dreams of marrying the same teacher.

A beautiful scene shows this gap; Kohichi calls his father from his small balcony, and at this moment, Kenji was heading home, and was walking along a river. Closed spaces/open spaces.

But at the end, I Wish gives us a life lesson; better to choose the world, as it is. It is better to manage things as they are, and not trying to fix an irrecoverable thing. And doesn’t people say: out of the mouth of children comes the truth?

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Under the Skin – We Can’t Have Sex With Aliens

I was quite surprised to learn that Jonathan Glazer chose Scarlett Johansson as the anti-heroine of his new sci-fi movie; Under the Skin. I personally never thought of her as a great actress, but I believe it was because I always found her in the same type of roles; the pulpy blond with curves that every man falls in love with. But even though the storyline stays basically the same, in Under the Skin she’s not blond, and she’s not human.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.10.02The movie is forming a loop, therefore I will speak of the opening of it, at the end of the review.

Hence, Alien Johansson, is a killer hooker, yes I explain. She wandered around Scotland, in her white van, looking for men. She starts by simulating her being lost, and finishes by offering to drop off the man to wherever he’s going. But then she makes a lusty proposition, and head to her house, which is actually more of a portal. She undresses, moving backwards, teasing the guy to follow her, until hypnotized he sinks into a black water, and get trapped under it. In there, he disintegrates, leaving only his skin (this human skin might be used by aliens but it isn’t very explicit).

Anyway, one day she ran into a guy suffering from neurofibromatosis (Adam Pearson), a tumor disorder, and offers him the first woman contact he never had, led him into her house but then spare his life. This encounter provoked something in her, triggering a particule of her humanity.

Now, about this opening, from start we are gravitating into space, among stars and planets, metaphorically implying we are inside one of her eyes. As soon as we quit this galaxy, we see naked Scarlett, taking clothes from a dead girl, in a timeless, spaceless white decor. The laying girl is actually a broken alien; a tear comes down to her face – when our leading lady finishes to dress – meaning that she felt something, something human, she let herself be exposed to human emotions. Thus we understand that if this alien, killing men, starts to feel something, she will die. A connection between two things are now possible. The eyes and the bikers. Indeed, the bikers are several men, mentoring alien women, making sure, by looking into their eyes, that there are still insensitive, cold.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 8.24.05 Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.04.02Director Jonathan Glazer, turned his sci-fi movie, into a film d’auteur, something powerful and poignant. A new way of representing aliens, reducing them, when exposed to human emotions and feelings, to trapped and scared animals. They aren’t familiar with their human bodies, and there is this beautiful scene, where our main character, looks into the mirror, naked, and explores the surface of her body, her movements, and muscles. And later she will learn that, sexual intercourses between aliens and humans aren’t possible, they aren’t compatible due to an extraterrestrial body that is not fit for that. To dig even deeper, we might link the penetration as something happening under the skin. And there are many phallic visual metaphors used by Glazer, especially when those bewitched men enter the house, enter a black hole, into the abyss of the female alien.

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However, this overwhelming loneliness that our protagonist is exposed to, is the most powerful and poignant thing. Scarlett Johansson gave her best performance, and proved her potential, or finally had been albe to. We empathize with her, and there is something disturbing, a sort of small fire of fear we can experience through out the film, that the actress is maintaining. We feel that something is not right, that she’s not belonging to this place, to this nature, that isn’t particularly friendly, but is rather threatening, and rejecting her in a way, like a body would reject an external material. Johansson gave a very physical performance, she expressed with her body, a body which reminded me of Motoko Kusanagi‘s, the cyborg of Ghost in the Shell.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 11.44.46Finally, Under the Skin is a beautiful movie, that deserves the patience of the spectator, deserves interest and concentration. It is all about symbolic and requires attention. It is a movie we observe more than we hear.

Wild Palms – Dream Carefully

Wild Palms is one of those TV Series, along with Twin Peaks – and Hannibal to cite something more recent – that I particularly fashioned because of theirs disturbing, hypnotizing concepts and developments. And actually, Wild Palms has the same kind of atmosphere palpable in David Lynch‘s two seasons complex thriller. 

Bruce Wagner, the brain behind this mini-series, collaborated with Oliver Stone in order to produce his creation, and this is not to ignore.
Anyway, risking to sound too pretentious, I believe Wild Palms is a TV Show that only cinephiles could appreciate in its whole, and might never forget like one couldn’t forget Inland Empire. It has complex dynamics, and a listing of art references, being the exquisite centenary wine touching the lips of an oenologist, of a thirsty cinephile. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 4.17.19Truce poetry. Wild Palms is divided in six parts; the pilot, “Everything Must Go” / “The Floating World covered part 1 and 2, and was directed by Peter Hewitt and Keith Gordon. We are directly introduced to confrontations such as reality and dreams, technological advance and religion, violence and mystery; Cronenberg and Lynch. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 12.57.43Harry Wyckoff (James Belushi) is our guy, he’s married to Grace (Dana Delany), has two children; a boy, Coty (Ben Savage) and a girl, Deirdre: what a perfect nuclear family. 

Harry is a lawyer, and a successful one, and until he ran into Paige Katz (Kim Cattrall), his first love, everything was almost okay. Catalyzer. Harry is introduced by her, to senator Tony Kreutzer (Robert Loggia), leader of the Synthiotic, a religious sect (parallelism with the scientology), who happened to create a revolutionary visual technology; the Mimecon; allowing to project holograms, later used in television where the news, movies, TV shows etc would happen in your living room, bedroom or whatever.

The most exciting thing, is the mini-series’ construction, as a dream, with strong blinding lights in background and blurry halos, and it emphasizes a lot on that, and technology of holograms, focusing then on perception and visual accessibility. Wild Palms is really pointing out what our eyes might see, what we can observe, how we can distinct reality from imaginary and illusions, and maybe what we can experience, like a drug experience, from those.
The character of Senator Kreutzer wants to take his technology to the next level, and enter people’s dreams, in order to conquer our unconscious, an unknown, and un-flagged territory, letting madness and ferocity burn him from the inside. 

Eccentric characters, threatening world(s), voyeurism and obsession of power, everything is basically set in the pilot. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 8.08.12Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 4.50.48Part III – “Rising Sons” directed by Kathryn Bigelow

In this episode, you are more informed about the “Fathers” and “Friends” opposed, almost-political, teams, the dictators/the totalitarians, ordered and neat and the revolutionary, scattered, and ferociously courageous. 
Obviously, Kreutzer is one of the Fathers, they are recognizable by the tattoo of a palm tree on their hands. They are vicious, perverse, they kidnap their enemies’ kids and replace them by theirs. This highlights the double connotation of the word “father” which primary meaning looses its status. 

Thus, a crucial element must be evoked here, the rhinoceros; indeed, this animal appears in Harry’s dreams, it is an image that is used by the Fathers and the synthetic church, and here the symbolism is taken from Eugène Ionesco‘s play Rhinoceros, in which people turn into rhinoceroses. It is reminding the dictatorial aspect of the Fathers, wanting to impose their power to the population, and for that has to use the control of the mass and the establishment of a kind of uniformity. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 3.25.59

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 3.26.21So, Wild Palms openly plays on references, metaphors, visual spectacles and the essence of originality and fine and unique core, is centered in the script, and of course, its transposition into images. 

Part IV and V that aren’t together, but I am only discussing something in part IV. “Hungry Ghost” and “Hello, I Must Be Going” directed respectively by Keith Gordon and Phil Joanou

I was chocked, and it isn’t quite the right word to describe my reaction when I saw “MAPS TO THE STARS” written with capital letters on a white wall in part IV. 
The cronenbergian technological advances cited in Wild Palms, reached the extent of being predicative; of Cronenberg’s new movie. The connection between those two pieces of art is more than relevant, this coincidence was extraordinary well placed. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 3.59.41But this is only an anecdote. Then, to wrap up, Wild Palms is a great mini-series, that would have been an outstanding movie or a revolutionary TV Show of a dozen of seasons, because of its potential, and possession of its looking-like infinite resources. It is an experience, a cinematic experience, a dystopia mixing economy, politic, religion and development. A dystopia that mixes our past, present and future. It’s an exhaustive work, translating a meticulous study on symbolism in art.

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Killing Zoe – 1994’s Nugget

I was wandering around the office the other day, during my lunch break, and I started looking at the movies lined up in two small shelves. Among them, in the middle, shone Killing Zoe. A 1994 gold nugget, produced by Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Bender, and presented by Samuel Hadida.

Julie Delpy had just finished with the Trois Couleurs of Krzysztof Kieslowski, and reached a glowing cinematographic climax at that time. She is Zoe in Roger Avary‘s GenerationX film and she is playing along with Jean-Hugues Anglade and Eric Stoltz.

This was constructed to be an insane creation, and I might consider it a midnight movie, well this is the kind of stuff I want to watch. So I grabbed the motherfucker and I used my lunch break (and a little bit more) to devote myself to this hysterical feature.

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Quickly the story; Zed (Eric Stolz) comes back to Paris after eleven years for “business”, in the cab from the airport to the hotel, he is approached by the taxi driver who kindly offered to schedule him a prostitute as a gift for his return; Zoe. They made love while Murnau‘s Nosferatu was on TV (interesting juxtaposition), and of course, chemistry happened. But Eric (Jean-Hugue Anglade) happened too. The old friend of Zed, entered the apartment like a storm, and threw Zoe out of it, and cheered his childhood friend after all these years. We will soon learn that Eric has a plan in mind, he wanted Zed for a bank robbery, that had to happen the day after.

Fotor0906124422Anyway, the plot is on speed, the scenes are on speed, and the characters are definitely on speed; coke, hashish, heroin, the drug ritual before the d-day. The interesting connection to make here is this one: to persuade Zed to give himself up to drugs the day before their attack, Eric said : “we live life” and “zoe” in greek means “life” therefore: killing zoe = killing life, which is paradoxical and pretty much revelatory, considering what will happen next (but no spoilers).
And in a sort of bonus, we get to know the underground Paris, but never the “real Paris” as Zoe promised Zed to show him. Then we are kindly invited to a jazz club, where you can do drugs, get approached by prostitutes and might order a bottle of wine, with absinthe in it. This lifestyle is pretty much destructive, and you end up stuck in your bubble, floating around pills of all genre, powder of all kind, and needles carrying all sort of diseases, and this is how we learn without surprise that Eric has AIDS. So the guy has nothing to loose diving his face on illicit products and having ideas of robbing banks.

Fotor0906124137For the french actor, Anglade, his role in Killing Zoe, might be his best performance; a serein psychopath, disconnected from all forms of human empathy, darkly funny and hell he is coherent without being coherent. I was literally flabbergasted by his acting, he left me breathless, and not only was I laughing at his lines, but I was admiring his detachment, and I empathized with what he has become, imagined through what he had to go all these years to end up in a small apartment with four dumb drug addicts.  Anglade embodied the character with a nonchalance that seemed almost natural, he found the perfect balance between psychosocial behavior and despair. I believe he was the main character, not Zed or Zoe, but Eric.

"Oups attention, y'a du monde" "Oups, careful, there're people"

“Oups attention, y’a du monde”
“Oups, careful, there’re people”

Killing Zoe, is sordidly fun, and all this craziness, this halo of insanity makes you trip. Even though the end was predictable, and there were some great issues with light, I enjoyed every other aspects of the movie. A pure B movie.

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