6/15/2018

Movie Review: Hearts Beat Loud (2018)


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Having flirted with original songs and musical moments in his two previous pictures – perhaps most notably in the moving ensemble dramady more deserving of a bigger audience, I'll See You in My Dreams – writer/director Brett Haley decided to fully embrace the genre that made him fall in love with theatrical storytelling back in high school with this summer's feel great indie, Hearts Beat Loud.

Sure to be a word-of-mouth hit, although it's not a traditional musical in the song and dance sense of the word, much like John Carney's recent works Once, Begin Again, and Sing Street, Hearts Beat Loud is centered on the art of making music.


However, much like taking a song we've heard before and putting it in an entirely new key, the fact the characters in the film are father and daughter as opposed to simply two members of a band sets this effort from Haley and co-writer Marc Basch apart from the pack.

Giving it added urgency, Hearts is set during the last summer that Nick Offerman's widowed father Frank Fisher has to spend with his brainy seventeen year old only daughter, Sam (played by Dope's Kiersey Clemons in a star making role) before she's set to trade Red Hook, New York for med school at UCLA.

More than just a mere hobby, as explained by Haley in the press notes, music is Frank and Sam's preferred “mode of communication.” In impromptu jam sessions, Frank's guitar, Sam's keyboard and the lyrics she scribbles in her journal (the same way her rocker turned record store owner father did before her) allow the two speak “the language they know best.”


An obsessive High Fidelity level music encyclopedia, since Frank is clearly the more enthusiastic of the two, initially we get the sense that Sam might just be indulging her father in his favorite ritual. But once we hear her record and mix the song they'd pieced together like a puzzle, we understand not only how tremendously talented the seemingly introverted overachiever is but also just how much she thrives on a musical outlet because it gives her the opportunity to process thoughts to her father she otherwise might not.

Having met a beautiful aspiring artist (played by American Honey star Sasha Lane), it isn't until Frank helps Sam decipher the lyrics she's written which she sings with such earnest soulfulness that she realizes she's fallen in love.

Enjoying her new summer romance even though she's set to leave in the fall, Sam's future is complicated even more after Frank submits the film's infectious title track to Spotify and it begins to catch on.



While, like Once, Hearts is ultimately light on plot, there's much more going on in the film than meets the eye. Perhaps best epitomized near the beginning of the movie – given that we're first introduced to Sam in a class discussion on medical symptoms of the heart right before she meets her love interest – in addition to showcasing the creative process, in Hearts, Haley pays tribute to the way that life inspires art.

Filled with symbolism, the film makes the most of its character driven plot in big ways as Frank faces a future without Sam and/or his failing record store (both of which Haley and Basch inform us are approximately the same age) or small ones as witnessed in a lovely sequence where Sam learns to ride a bike, move forward, and let go.


Complete with a standout soundtrack, the movie boasts four terrific original songs by its composer Keegan DeWitt, who much like Basch has collaborated with Haley on his last two films which premiered at Sundance, much like Hearts.

One of my favorite films of 2018 so far, Hearts Beat Loud achieves the darn near impossible feat of telling the story of a relationship between parents and teens that's not only positive in its tone but also feels real.


And while a great deal of the credit for that goes to the believable chemistry between its two stars, it's buoyed by great character performances from its supporting players throughout, including Toni Collette as Frank's landlord with romantic potential, Ted Danson as his local bar owning friend, plus Haley's I'll See You in My Dreams leading lady Blythe Danner as Frank's dementia laden mother.

Reminiscent of his Cheers days, as the purveyor of bartender wisdom, Danson steals scenes with ease. And although admittedly some of Danson (as well as Sasha Lane's) quotable lines of advice could qualify as signposting – which in most movies could threaten a viewer's suspension-of-disbelief – the reason Hearts gets away with it is owed as much to its genre as its plot.

At a pivotal crossroads in both of their lives, it's safe to assume that both father and daughter could use some guidance. Plus there's something absolutely musical about the brevity of lines such as "you have to be brave before you can be good." And who knows? Their lines just might end up in a song so good that, as with Hearts you'll find yourself wanting to sing along.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

6/10/2018

Olive Films Blu-ray Review: Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)


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Wanting something and needing it fast is a trait often attributable to male leads in American movies but – whether planning a heist or offing their lover's husband – it's safe to say that men in Film Noir pictures are an altogether different breed.

Willing to do whatever it takes after they zero in on what they need, the men in director Robert Wise's largely overlooked, stylish 1959 feature Odds Against Tomorrow are no exception. And this is perhaps best epitomized in a scene where Robert Ryan's racist, domineering screw-loose lead barrels down the road on his way to rob a bank, driving 110 miles-per-hour with his eyes closed towards the film's literal and metaphorical dead end.

Closer to the work of Sam Fuller than Fritz Lang, Wise's odd, thought-provoking, atmospheric effort works best as an allegory about racism and masculinity filtered through the lens of Film Noir.


Occasionally using an infra-red camera to create “black skies with white clouds” and change the look and feel of certain scenes including our introduction to Robert Ryan's WWII vet and ex-con Earl Slater, similar to the way that the screenplay employs creative call backs to lines in earlier scenes to give them a brand new read, Robert Wise does the same thing with Tomorrow’s editing and cinematography.

The first major film to be edited by Dede Allen, who would change the craft forever less than a decade later in Bonnie and Clyde, in Odds Against Tomorrow, you can see her experiment with the jump cuts that would serve her so well in Dog Day Afternoon as well as Bonnie and Clyde.


Shot by Edge of the City's Joseph C. Brun, from the film's use of quick cuts to get us into Slater's lonely, paranoiac frame-of-mind to some to others that took my breath away in their artistry as pigeons flew off like a shot just as two of the film's heavies meet, Odds looks better than ever in this new high definition Blu-ray release from Olive Films.

Based on William P. McGivern's novel of the same name, although producer and star Harry Belafonte tapped the blacklisted Abraham Polonsky to pen the script, the two had to use Belafonte's novelist friend John O. Killens as its credited front for thirty-seven years until Polonsky's name was rightfully restored.


Singing a few lively numbers (and banging the hell out of a xylophone), the ever-charming Belafonte serves as a terrific foil to Ryan's Slater as gambler Johnny Ingram.

Up to his eyeballs in debt, although he initially turns down mutual friend Dave Burke (Ed Begley) on his offer to rob a bank alongside the bigoted Slater, once his ex-wife and daughter are threatened, Ingram quickly changes his mind, even though he knows it's sure to end in tragedy.


Co-starring dynamic scene-stealers Shelly Winters and Gloria Grahame, there's an interesting sequence revolving sexual invitation and the idea of a locked or unlocked door that moves from lovingly romantic to frighteningly manic, which takes on additional meaning as the film continues and we learn the robbery's success or failure all hinges on the chain of a door lock.


Composed and conducted by the Modern Jazz Quartet's John Lewis, the film's hit soundtrack album had more staying power than Wise's riveting, bold film, especially compared to the work that was to come from The Sound of Music director. Thankfully its long overdue Blu-ray release from Olive Films serves up a much needed second chance to discover a forgotten classic that Noir lovers in particular are sure to want.



Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Blu-ray Review: Savannah Smiles (1982)


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A family comedy about an accidental kidnapping is an odd concept to say the least but a kidnapping comedy inspired by Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion is an altogether different thing as actor turned writer/producer Mark Miller proved with this 1980 release, Savannah Smiles.

Reminiscent less of Grand Illusion than a long lost 1930s comedy complete with a palatable Depression era friendly “money doesn't buy happiness” theme, time has not done many favors for French director Pierre De Moro’s nostalgic comedy about a precocious six-year-old girl who hides out with two crooks-on-the-lam after running away from her wealthy home.


Not edgy enough to attract a studio and perhaps just a little too risky to appeal to ticket buyers acclimated to Walt Disney’s instantly identifiable kiddie comedies, Miller’s self-financed feature (which was named after his daughter and muse), plays like a saccharine blend of Smokey and the Bandit, Paper Moon, and The Kid.

A fairy tale by way of the Three Stooges, though largely predictable and plot-free, the film’s winning original songs from Ken Sutherland coupled with Miller and Donovan Scott’s gamely performances as the accidental kidnappers turned temporary surrogate parents of adorable Bridgette Andersen’s eponymous lead keep us watching by the time the film wins you over in its heart-tugging final scenes.


Newly released as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from MVD Visual, don’t let the vintage cover design (and included poster) befitting of its original video store era fool you as Savannah Smiles looks better than ever in a 2K transfer from its original 35mm film source, on loan from Washington D.C.’s Library of Congress.

Offering viewers three behind-the-scenes documentary featurettes on different aspects of the title, MVD Visual serves up a bittersweet tribute to the gone-much-too-soon Andersen, whom I grew up watching repeatedly on a well-worn VHS recording of the Wonderful World of Disney’s made-for-TV movie The Parent Trap II.


And while I’m sure that De Moro’s Gen X cult family classic has similarly devoted fans, unfortunately even the sharpest restoration is unable to erase the flaws of Miller’s Grand Illusion inspired genre free-for-all.



Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Film Movement Blu-ray Review: The Great Silence (1968)


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Giving new meaning to the phrase “close but no cigar,” word is when Twentieth Century Fox boss Darryl F. Zanuck reached the end of Sergio Corbucci's darkly subversive 1968 Spaghetti Western The Great Silence, he was rendered so speechless by the film's bleak ending that he swallowed the cigar he'd been smoking in absolute shock.

Unwilling to distribute the stark, anti-authoritarian picture in the United States (even after Corbucci was asked to shoot two new thankfully unused conclusions), Zanuck relegated Silence to a foreign release. And Corbucci's film did fairly well everywhere but its native Italy where – like Zanuck – one Sicilian viewer was so upset by the final showdown that he fired his gun in anger directly at the movie screen.


A revisionist take on the genre's classic Shane style paradigm wherein good triumphs over evil once a polite cowboy rides into town and sets things right, in Silence, A Man and a Woman actor Jean-Louis Trintignant saddles up for duty as the film's mute gunfighter-for-hire title lead.

Newly arrived in Snow Hill, Utah, Trintignant's Silence finds himself quickly caught up in a two-sided conflict. Turning the convention of "bad" outlaws and "good" bounty hunters on its head, in The Great Silence, the turf war is between a group of outlaws – many of whom committed petty crimes in order to give their loved ones something to eat – and the "bounty killers" who make a living getting away with murder plus a reward by gaming the system of killing in the name of (forced) self defense.


The brutality of the film's bounty killers led by Klaus Kinski's sadistic Loco (whose character was partly inspired by Boris Karloff's vampire in Mario Bava's Black Sabbath), as well as its message of political and judicial corruption are apparent right from the start of what Repo Man filmmaker and knowledgeable genre scholar Alex Cox has dubbed "the most pessimistic western of all time."

Reflecting the off-screen violence of 1968 – and the deaths of Che Guevara and Malcolm X in particular – by subverting the genre that he treasured but had recently felt growing stale as a storyteller, Corbucci set out to make his own snowy homage to John Ford's Cheyenne Autumn and Andre DeToth's Day of the Outlaw.

Filmed in the Italian Dolomites as opposed to the traditional Spaghetti locale of Spain, Corbucci's opus opens with a sea of white as far as the eye can see. Augmented by twenty-six tons of shaving cream, the snowy visual scope not only matches Silence's melancholic tone but, contrasted by its dark sets and costumes, it punctuates the film's bursts of red blood and black gunfire that much more.


And similar to the way that a memorable match cut of a flame is employed to take us from the present to a flashback – from Ennio Morricone's simpler and relatively downbeat score to the brutal (and occasionally blurry) beauty of Silvano Ippoliti's cinematography – everything in Silence foreshadows the eventual literal and metaphorical darkness to come.

Worthy of endless analysis from political to religious to Freudian to moral, the revolutionary work makes brilliant use of a genre that lends itself so well to subtext.


Breaking new ground, although relatively chaste, Silence notably features Corbucci's one and only love scene. Serving as a powerful step in the right direction in terms of gender and racial equality, not only is the romantic moment initiated by its female lead (after she's given a firm no to someone else) but by featuring a white actor and black actress in the form of Trintignant and talented newcomer Vonetta McGee it's also interracial in nature. And although Corbucci had no interest in filming another, by using love instead of war, Silence's brief moment of tenderness might've broken down walls that violence wouldn't breach in movies to come.

For decades only a cult film here in the United States, now thanks to Film Movement, The Great Silence has at last been given a gorgeous 2k restoration and theatrical release in time for its fiftieth anniversary. As loaded with bonus features as Corbucci's film is with symbolism, the brand new Blu-ray and DVD editions of Silence boast a terrific essay from film critic Simon Abrams, the two unused alternate endings, a commentary featurette with Alex Cox, as well as the 1988 Spaghetti Western documentary Westerns, Italian Style and more, although the main draw remains the film itself.


Visually reminiscent of Robert Altman's own subversive 1971 western, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Great Silence also served as a major influence on Quentin Tarantino's work. Yet despite the fact that Corbucci paid homage to multiple films in just as many genres, in terms of how to make a Spaghetti Western set in the late 1800s relevant to those in the late 1960s, in the end, Corbucci was far more inspired by events playing out in the news than he was by art.

A fascinating watch, now with the Trump Administration working to game the system, escape justice, and dial us back to Old West era laws, eerily some of the political arguments and warnings in Corbucci's classic have become timelier than ever. Just like the flame in the film that flicks us from present to past, The Great Silence shows us that although things have changed, when it comes to where we ultimately want to be as a country, we're still close but no cigar. Yet even though it holds up a startling mirror to society, maybe instead of feeling defeated by the ending, we can just worry about right now and keep fighting for what's right.

Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

6/08/2018

Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray Review: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)


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Leaping out of the woods of 1850s Oregon Territory and onto Blu-ray with this jam-packed two-disc Warner Archive Collection Special Edition release, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is an explosion of color, dance, and song.


Though billed as a romantic extravaganza, given the fact that Brides is not only rooted in the Ancient Roman legend “The Rape of the Sabine Women” but also features a Disney World Pirates of the Caribbean ride style sequence where its male leads kidnap a group of sobbing (vs. Sabine) women to be their brides, its legacy as a love story times seven doesn't quite add up.


Still it's an exuberant work of tremendous artistry, especially in the film's thrilling group dance sequences, in which over a dozen professional dancers perform Michael Kidd's daring, athletic, logical setting based choreography involving axes and board beams which were – seven years before West Side Story – stylistically ahead of its time. Even going so far as to inspire some of Johnny Mercer's lyrics, it's Kidd who remains Seven's MVP.

Cranking out dazzling musicals with assembly line speed, in stark contrast to director Vincente Minnelli's Lerner and Loewe vehicle Brigadoon starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charise which was filming at the same time, MGM Studios considered Stanley Donen's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to be merely a B level production.


Frequently pulling money out of the film's budget to give to Minnelli's lovely but now largely overlooked romantic musical fantasy, when Seven Brides large cast of characters don't fill cinematographer George J. Folsey's frame, its relatively sparse sets and fake backdrops can be easily recognized, particularly if, like this reviewer, you're making the jump from seeing it on VHS twenty years ago to Blu-ray HD.

Using Ansco Color, the film shot by Folsey in CinemaScope is filled with the equivalent shade range of the 120 count box of Crayola crayons we used to dream about as children. And while all of that color gives Donen's upbeat film enough energy to cause the avalanche we see in the controversial sobbing women sequence onscreen, at home, you may need to flip through your TV menus and adjust the settings to a darker Cinema setting in order to tamp things down from neon poster board hued trees to a more believable Oregon color scheme.


Boasting feature commentary by Stanley Donen, classic trailers, anniversary newsreels, and a documentary hosted by star Howard Keel that includes new interviews with cast members Jane Powell and Jacques d'Amboise, and more, Warner Archive's two-disc set also includes a rarely seen alternate flat (1.77) widescreen version of the movie in 16x9 aspect ratio.

Based on Stephen Vincent Benet's Roman legend inspired short story “The Sobbin' Women,” as sexist and narratively flawed as the film about seven bachelor brothers in need of wives by any means is, Donen's film commands our attention based on the fact that it has so much going on at any one time.


With its catchy songs, jubilant performances, and influential choreography – all of which led to its transition to Broadway musical more than twenty years later – while we might have reservations about the wedding overall, for 102 minutes, Brides offers its guests a wildly entertaining time.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Blu-ray Review: The Hurricane Heist (2018)


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A natural summer popcorn movie released (much like fellow weather action disaster flick Geostorm) at the wrong time of the year, adding a high-tech heist subplot to the Category 5 set action helps The Hurricane Heist start things off on much better footing than Dean Devlin's roughly hundred million dollar Geo bomb.

Unfortunately, bogged down by bad acting as well as a densely convoluted script that abandons its strong first act characters and subplots as it continues, it isn't long before otherwise master of over-the-top director Rob Cohen's increasingly all over the place Hurricane goes completely wrong.


Originally based on a story by Drop Dead Fred screenwriters Anthony J. Fingleton and Carlos Davis, the source of Heist's problems could go back decades as we wonder how long it's been in the works and/or passed on over the years.

Yet unlike its previously experienced screenwriters who penned a cult hit with Fred, this incarnation of Heist was written by Jeff Dixon (whose most notable claim to fame is producing a series of female oriented Breathless Body exercise DVDs) and Scott Windhauser, who in addition to a few credits rewriting other scripts obviously possesses the perfect name for a windy movie.

Looking to take advantage of the chaos of a Category 5 hurricane that's about to hit Alabama, in the film a group of criminals attempt to beat the clock on the storm and steal $600 million in cash from the U.S. Mint. Hoping to right a past wrong that got her reassigned from a more high profile post to money babysitting duty, with most of the town evacuated, ATF Agent Casey Corbyn (Maggie Grace) winds up trying to take them on herself.


Not on her own for long, Casey is grateful to find backup in the form of Will and Breeze Rutledge (played by Toby Kebbell and Ryan Kwanten), two very different brothers with – to misquote Maggie Grace's most famous film Taken – two very different sets of skills.

Having experienced a devastating loss during Hurricane Andrew, which is brought vividly to life in the film's potent opening sequence, the brothers did their best to cope. Whereas Breeze tried to push the past behind him by enlisting in the Marines, his younger brother Will decided to learn everything he could about the weather and its power by becoming a meteorologist. But what Will lacks in Casey and Breeze's tactical skills, he makes up for in know-how and machinery – conveniently driving a souped up storm chasing truck that (in the hands of the director of The Fast and the Furious) becomes another star of the film.


Striving to anchor The Hurricane Heist (at least a little) by infusing it with a surprising amount of real climate change science, what begins as a promising cross between Twister and Cliffhanger soon devolves into a series of increasingly dubious stunts which make it look less like a film than a video game and magnifies its flaws on the small screen.

In contrast to the way that director Mikael Salomon ensured that the stunts in the similar genre effort Hard Rain were believable enough to deliver a sleeper hit that still holds up today, as evidenced throughout his filmography to both good and bad effect, Rob Cohen has never met an action scene he didn't want to crank up to an eleven.


Requiring viewers to switch off the logical side of their brains, Hurricane's direction results in some entertaining though ultimately ridiculous sequences including a memorable one set in the middle of the town's shopping mall that turns the otherwise talented but woefully miscast Kebbell and always affable but wasted Grace into human kites.

Initially adding a rich texture to what could otherwise have been a sea of gray, although it's well shot by Captain America: The First Avenger, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, and Jurassic Park III cinematographer Shelly Johnson, the film's continued reliance on visual effects gives things an overly digitized look on Blu-ray and DVD.

Requiring a newer soundbar or home theater system to fully appreciate the Dolby Atmos remix that can otherwise vary greatly in high and low sound, though it's passably amusing, in the end, The Hurricane Heist disappoints when you realize just how good Cohen's movie could've been, if only it hadn't have changed with the weather and let everything that was making it work blow away.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Blu-ray Review: The Two of Us (1967)


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In white subtitles at the beginning of The Two of Us, director (and co-writer) Claude Berri describes his feature filmmaking debut as a true story that's been filtered through the imagination of a child. Giving the mischievous eight-year-old who anchors the film his own name of Claude Langmann, it isn't long before we discover that the child in question is Berri himself.

And although he filters his memories of childhood spent as a Jewish youth posing as a Catholic while living with his landlady's aging, antisemitic father in the French countryside during World War II through his own imagination, Berri paints the other characters in this tender black-and-white film with the same brush.


Featuring multiple scenes of storytelling – from the way Claude's tough but loving father uses Mickey Mouse to teach his son the lessons he'll need to stay safe and hide his identity to some of the ridiculous, racist proclamations made by his future guardian which confuse and challenge them both – Berri blends fact and fiction together repeatedly, going beyond dialogue to establish a recurring theme.

In doing so, he pays tribute to the two men (and to a lesser extent, the two women) who had the greatest impact on his formative years and the way he expresses himself creatively as an adult. But The Two of Us takes its metaphors a step further as evidenced in a memorable segue from Jewish city life to that of the Catholic countryside when Claude's father teaches him the "Our Father" prayer, which leads him to his next father figure.


As Pepe, a former plumber who now spends most of his time tending to the animals that live on their sprawling land alongside him, his wife, and his beloved dog, actor Michel Simon gives a Berlin Film Festival award-winning performance. And, of particular importance for the film, Simon plays exceptionally well off of young Alain Cohen's protagonist and audience substitute.

Infusing the bittersweet film with unexpected flashes of laughter and light, Berri's work takes terrific inspiration regarding how to tell an otherwise grown-up story through the eyes of a child from Francois Truffaut's similarly semi-autobiographical Antoine Doinel series (most notably the first film The 400 Blows).


Likewise to Berri’s credit, various elements in The Two of Us from plot to tone appear to have influenced a few contemporary classics in their own right from Lasse Hallstrom's My Life as a Dog and Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso to Jan Sverak's Kolya and beyond.

Co-written by Michel Rivelin and Berri's longtime collaborator Gerard Brach, cinematographer Jean Penzer's lushly photographed work – which had been given a jaw-dropping 4k restoration by PATHE back in 2015 ahead of the 1967 film's fiftieth anniversary – makes a stunning transition to Cohen Film Collection Blu-ray. Yet even more than its razor sharp visuals, Georges Delerue's moving score immediately gets to me with a theme that will stay in your head all day.


Just one of dozens of staggering Delerue compositions including Hiroshima Mon Amour, Jules and Jim, Contempt, Anne of a Thousand Days, and Julia, from the opening notes that play on the Blu-ray menu and all the way through Two's eighty-seven minute running time, we're utterly captivated by the Oscar winner's score.

And when the music is combined with visuals that capture a punched up version of reality as well as Berri's commitment to emotional authenticity, we find ourselves – much like Claude listening to a story – completely under its imaginative spell.



Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

6/01/2018

Movie Review: Mountain (2017)


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Fascinated by the kind of synesthesia that occurs at the opera wherein “you end up listening more with your eyes and seeing more with your ears,” Australia Chamber Orchestra Artistic Director Richard Tognetti was inspired to see if the same phenomenon could be true of film.


Commissioning documentarian Jennifer Peedom to help put this to the test, the two worked alongside Mountains of the Mind author Robert Macfarlane, principle cinematographer Renan Ozturk, and Oscar nominated actor Willem Dafoe to create Mountain.

Best described by Peedom as “a marriage of music, words and picture,” in which all but nine of the film’s seventy-four minute running time is devoid of music, this ambitious follow-up to her 2015 award-winner Sherpa is an extraordinary sensuous feast.


Longing to explore the various ways in which our ever-changing relationship to mountains have changed in a relatively short period of time, Peedom tapped Macfarlane to pen the film’s intentionally sparse narration.

A writerly marvel, with its rhythmic blend of research and poetry made all the more intoxicating by Dafoe’s pitch-perfect delivery, in spite of its short length, Macfarlane's script would make quite a compelling book in its own right.


Cutting the film’s excellently curated and state-of-the-art original cinematography together with its Australia Chamber Orchestra soundtrack of Chopin, Grieg, Vivaldi, Beethoven, and new compositions by Tognetti, we’re hypnotized by the way Mountain’s constantly moving camera glides over snow like a bow over strings.

Watching traffic queue up a mountainside curly-cue style before showering the screen with an almost otherworldly view of the night skies, Peedom and her team use music, cinematography, and editing to give us a vicarious emotional experience of the Everest highs to the volcanic lows of mountain life that's simply amazing to behold.


Filmed in twenty-two countries, this experimental work pushes the boundaries of what we use to define a documentary. Released in three distinct versions including theatrical, IMAX, and a special live edit to go along with orchestral accompaniment, Peedom's film dazzles regardless of format.

That said, of course, similar to the way that climbers need the best gear, audiences do as well. Much like its subject, size (and in this case sound) matters, and this Mountain is best experienced on the biggest screen you can find.

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