Black Coal, Thin Ice – Could Have Been a Cliché, But Wasn’t

Indeed, Chinese filmmaker Diao Yinan wrote and directed the story following an inspector, Zhang Zili – played by the outstanding Liao Fan – who from 1999 (year A) to 2005 (year Z), got divorced, was fired from the Police force and became an alcoholic; a detective-evolution cliché.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.19.55Everything started in year A, when Zhang sees his wife – who asked for divorce – for the last time and the year when a first dismembered corpse was find in a coal refinery. This is a starting point of a series of murders, all of men.

Yin’s camerawork is breathtaking, some shots are extremely poetic, not to mention the transcendent photography. A sensitivity continuing, accentuating, getting warmer and darker as the movie goes.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.22.38 Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.23.03 Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.24.37Zhang along with his colleague Wang (Yu Ailei) found a lead, which turned very wrong – into a blood bath – causing the detective his termination.
With a same amazing style and light, the director offers a real pleasure for the eye; the neons of a suspicious underground.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.29.33 Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.29.44 Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.31.37An ellipse flash-forwards us to 2005; a new similar murder happened. Zhang, who was in bad shape, aimless, fell into Wang, who got promoted with the years. Lucky for Zhang he got the most important info, about the case, and lead him own investigation.
What saves Black Coal, Thin Ice, from turning into a cliché, is the relationship between Zhang and the woman who’s husband was the first murdered ; Wu Zhizhen (Gwei Lun-Mei). One of the best exploration of ambiguous desire.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 8.32.32Zhang follows her, from where she works to where she lives, until they finally start to sew a weird relationship. Their evolution is combined with desire, love-like, and duty; Zhang wants to catch her in every way possible, catch a woman as cold as ice, expressionless, passive and yet very imposant.
In a very Nicolas Winding Refn-like atmosphere, the two characters are evolving around a sensitive police case, that distorts the genuineness of what, us, spectators, observe.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 10.28.49 Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 8.28.43Black Coal, Thin Ice, is a very poetic thriller, with overwhelming beauty wrapping up some scenes. It will more esthetically captivate you than catch you with its story (which is fragile), and yet, the cinematography will pushes you to focus on Zhang/Wu duo, and get the essence of BCTI.

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill – A Failed Sequel

I fucking adore Robert Rodriguez, and his work. One of my favorite movie is Planet Terror for christ sake! You can now imagine my disappointment when watching Sin City: A Dame to Kill, which appeared to be as bad as Sin City was good.

Both Rodriguez and Frank Miller pushed too far the cinematography for this sequel, and except some nice shots worthy of a real B movie, with orgasmic intensity, SCDK is too damn ugly.  And this is on behalf of wanting to emphasize too much on the style that conquered the fans’ hearts in 2005. This resulted in a big failure.
They would have done better to do an animated comic of Sin City 2.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.01.02The mix of genres; film noir, drama, crime and B movie style, is still very well handled and captivating, along with the strongly stereotyped narration and dialogues, told by gravelly, hoarsely voices. All this put you in a very particular mood of filthy narrow streets and suburban nights, however, they were pushed too far, to the extent where grotesque takes over and makes you mirthlessly laugh.

Also, some scenes combining few objects or characters in color while the rest is in black and white, caused terribly ugly shots, like:

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.04.34or:

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.10.47The neo-noir constructed with poker, hookers, light/shadow game, shootouts, even though efficient was sometimes excessively applied; almost with a tone of hyperbolism.

Those elements competed with some unique, priceless scenes, and framings, such as:

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 8.51.57 Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 8.59.59 Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.04.17 Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.17.53And sometimes, sublime experimental ones:

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.29.45 Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.33.20Set in the dystopian streets of Sin City, where violence, filth, and sex are valued or at least preponderant, we follow four stories, somehow related, where characters converge at some point.

We are introduced to new characters. 
Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – the other son of Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) wants to prove to his evil father that he can beat him, is better than him, and he’ll use poker to get through Roark. Or, Eva (Eva Green) the femme fatale of this film noir, who charmed Dwight (Josh Brolin) and every man she encounters into getting what she wants. She is magnified by Rodriguez, the actress embodied with talent her vilain character, and is the only good performance of the movie.

Sin City, lost anyway some of its core essence, with A Dame to Kill and in a nutshell, few elements are climaxing, the rest is pretty much ridiculous and the equivalent in value of S.A.S. novels.

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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The Counselor – Savages n°2

I am not going to hide my huge deception.

Ridley Scott as a director, Michael FassbenderJavier BardemBrad Pitt, as actors, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz as actresses AND YET, they found out a way to screw everything up. Even though, the two actresses are not really what I consider breathtaking ones, they could have been good enough to save a little bit the movie, but they preferred to choose the telenovelas style for Cruz, and the overplaying for Diaz. But the most disappointing thing, was Fassbender’s performance, which was astonishingly amateurish. It is, no questioning, his worst performance ever. The only thing he had been able to do properly, was to cry (he definitely knows how to do this). Also, I know now, which is the worst movie Brad Pitt ever played in.

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Now that I let out the biggest part of my discontent, let’s go deeper into the film.

The Counselor is another drug-traffic movie, combining a nice guy entering the wrong playground, romance, and action. However, for some mysterious reasons, Scott and Cormac McCarthy (the screenwriter), decided to add madness in all the characters, withdraw every credibility from them, and to give them long, and not very comprehensible dialogues, with neither head nor tales.
It strongly reminded me of what I thought of Savages (Oliver Stone), which regrouped a great cast, had a same kind of scenario and yet was a terrible mess.

The story is vaguely understood; there is this lawyer, known as The Counselor (Michael Fassbender), he is wealthy, madly in love with Laura (Penelope Cruz) who loves him back, and he seems to do great. Now, God knows why, he accepted to be involved in drug trafficking when his asshole of a friend, Reiner (Javier Bardem), talked about it.
Therefore, through endless dialogues, wanting to be philosophical, we get that “greed” is in center of the whole thing, that and the twisted human nature.

The problem, is the following: there is many characters, too many, and several plot twists, thus at some point, you’re lost, or you just gave up and let yourself drowned. Clearly the issue is that, the scenario is not logical at all, or at least not well sewed. The only thing that “mesmerized” me – and I found that a little creepy – is the unique scene of an elaborated murder (which I am not going to spoil).
The defective screenplay is even more lowered thanks to the actors, and their cruel lack of credibility in their acting. Bardem is just ridiculous, in his costume, with his haircut, and adopting this frenetic behavior; Fassbender pitied me; Diaz was maybe too overconfident and Cruz was useless. I may appear to be a little harsh, and it is probably because my expectations were higher, nevertheless, I am really not able to say if the movie was really pretentious or just another film where everybody wanted to laugh a little bit.

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Well, in a nutshell, what you remember when finishing the movie is: Fassbender’s crying, Diaz fucking a car, and a lot of logorrhea.

The World’s End – WTF

Usually when you had a tough week, you’d like a drink, or maybe like me, watching people drink. Indeed, I decided to watch The World’s End, of which I had a poster hanging on my wall before seeing it (weird). To close the the trilogy preceded by Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the director Edgar Wright, with its scenarist and main actor Simon Pegg, set up a story about five men, that used to be inseparable back in high school, and that one day they decided to go on a crawl bar and drink a pine of beer from every bar of their town, baptizing their journey: The Golden Mile. Twenty three years later, the leader of their group, Gary The Kind (Simon Pegg), was telling members of the AA, this epic episode of his teenage life. It triggered in him, the desire to do this again, but most of all, having a reason to drink again! Therefore, dressed like he was 18 again, he went and convinced each of his buddies, to put on their most stretchy pants, and go back to their Newton Haven, and get drunk as hell just like.

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I didn’t know, what to expect before watching the movie, I knew EdgarWright‘s earlier work, and I new that it was probably going to be a crazy ass movie. However, I wasn’t prepared for what happened then.

I don’t want to spoil, I want people to experience the same surprise that I had and let them judge by themselves, because, I didn’t fully enjoy the movie. I preferred the two first of the trilogy, and thought that maybe this time, Pegg and Wright wanted to go further, to an extent that may led their movie to ridiculousness. I was really captivated at the beginning, laughing and getting real attached to each of the protagonists, but then WOW, the film has its course changed, and it was suddenly totally mad, and going deep into the what the fuck (or “W.T.F” repeated a lot by Martin Freedman). When, usually, the WTF style, is something that I extremely appreciate, for that particular time, oddly, I was disappointed and a bit confused. Maybe, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, put up a high level, and then The World’s End hadn’t been able to follow.

Though, the characters are pretty cool, strongly caricatured and stereotyped, but enjoyable and appealing. Their craziness, was I enjoyed the most, after all they’re all childish and juvenile, keeping this form of youth burning inside them, growing up while they didn’t want to. Nevertheless, something was lacking, something in the script.

Sad to end the trilogy like this, but… the end of the world (well.. kind of) couldn’t be more enjoyed than around a beer.

Gravity – Movie of the Year?

Well, we can discuss that.

Big screen, 3D glasses, some pop corn, and here you go, projected into space, floating to some country music.
George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are Matt Kowalski and Ryan Stone, two astronauts sent to fix something with their space shuttle, named Explorer. They are suddenly ordered to be abort their mission, due to several asteroids running straight to them, and susceptible to destroy their space shuttle.
The catastrophes, kept on coming though out the film, but during approximatively the first 15 minutes of the film, except for Ryan Stone kept alive thanks to Kowalski’s gallantry, each member of the crew dies. Fear, anxiousness, accelerated heartbeat, can Gravity be more stressful?

GRAVITY

Nevertheless, it can be considered as Alfonson Cuarón‘s best graphic work since Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Indeed, Gravity is first of all, an aesthetic movie, with amazing graphics, an outstanding photography, and the stress felt while watching it, might come from this too-close-to-reality side of the film. Thus, spectators were so captivated, and a little messed up, once the movie ended, staggering out of the movie theater. Because, Gravity is an indisputable and astonishing tableau of space, and a well conducted disaster movie, full of technical, well mastered secrets, and yet it is not a tale about astronauts. There is no ideas, really spread out from it, there is only jaw dropping special effects. Ryan Stone, had luck, perseverances, and hallucinations; those three elements gave her strength, and courage, to struggle, and find a way out, of this enormous nowhere place, that is the universe, and come home, to Earth. This universe, that after all, we don’t know much about, is what Cuarón used in his movie, to attract, and bewitched his spectators. The fact that, we deal with an unknown place, a whole new world or collection of worlds gathered in one big plain of emptiness, is what trigger the fear, in us. The fear of nothingness, and not knowing where to go; this might sound like a quote from an emo kid, but after all, its just a feeling, that we might feel power ten, once confronted to space.

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Now, to say it is the movie of the year, I would say no. No because, it is just a movie about stunning the audience, by breathtaking and nail-biting scenes, mixing up, beauty and horror. There’s no ideas, no messages, just beautiful pictures to keep in mind. Then, what I was disappointed about, is that, is has the same impact, of a basic horror movie, that needs, technical skills, and great suspense. Not to mention, the end, a little bit fetched that seizures the pretty constant line of emotions felt until then.

If Gravity might not be the movie of the year, Sandra Bullock is certainly the actress of the year. The greatly identified the character, and embodied it perfectly. She knew how to pass on emotions, and proved strong and gripping actress qualities and gave birth to that something we can’t really put a hand on, in the movie.

However, despite this good elements, what is Gravity after all? Another brick to the wall of blockbusters.

Fausse Note – Where’s the snag?

Let’s talk about Tunisian movies, something I should have done from the beginning, considering the fact that I’m tunisian.

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I worked with Majdi Smiri, seen what type of person he is, what kind of movies he wanted to do, the style he wanted to adopt, and the atmosphere he wanted to develop. Guy Ritchie or Martin Scorsese, action, crimes, money, mafia etc. You directly feel in his first film, Fausse Note, that he achieved something he felt the urge to do for a long time now, using these influences, and offering himself a gift. Because, this is principally, a personal dream finally achieved, and then shared with the society (basically one the description of Cinema).

However, it is obvious, that somewhere, wanting to make a Tunisian, american-film, is pretty much, throwing a spanner in the works. Now, let’s be honest, for a first movie, the director gathered la crème de la crème of tunisian actors (Lotfi Dziri, Lotfi Abdelli, Dhafer El Abidine etc.) and proved some indisputable potential. Indeed, the way he filmed was pretty good, and reminded me a little bit of Tarantino‘s work, and in one superposition of plan, when one of his character is walking in the hallway, he reminded me of what Kubrick did in Shinning. But he also did a great job in how he managed to work his script; if the beginning is not really that captivating, and convincing, the very second you’re about to drop it out, it gets suddenly gripping and catches your attention until the end of the movie, which is to be continued. And if Fausse Note is not very long, it has a unexpected plot twist.

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Majdi Smiri embodies, what I like to call, the New Wave of the Tunisian Cinema, but also embodies, the kind of influence, the american cinema possesses on our culture. Indeed a bunch of various foreign elements are implemented in his movie. Though the director created his proper style, that I would like to qualify, as naive but unpredictable, just like his characters and his script are.

A promising, ambitious filmmaker, that I hope will surprise us, and leave us nothing to criticize for his next work.