Saturday, 4 April 2009

Two films I watched ...

I love French films. J'aime French actors and actresses, maybe because they realize what film is all about. I love the way the good ones don't overdo it.

I watched Love Me If You Dare, which is a film I had not even heard of two days ago. But a friend of mine recommended it and I decided I should give it a try. And I'm glad I did, because no matter that it's not the perfect film, it's a small miracle in itself.

It's about two kids, who play Game or no game all the time, challenging each other all the time. Well, these kids grow up and become a man and a woman, but their Game or no game challenge goes out of control and they try to hurt each others' feelings, actually denying that they're in love with each other. It sounds very trivial, but it's fun and entertaining. And that's what I needed.
The actors in the leads are Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet and they have great chemistry together. Their performances are down to Earth and even though I never learned a lot about their characters, it's a film, which is not that much about characters, but about enjoying what's on screen. And the visuals are great! I checked the director's name and it was no surprise to learn that he was a storyboard artist before getting into films. And he's really a visualist - the camera moves all the time through imaginary worlds and doesn't stop even in the real world. It's something very beautiful and it doesn't feel forced.

Well, the story had some leaps and the characters' actions weren't motivated all the time. Sorry, but I just can't stop doing what I'm taught to do: ask questions about the characters and make them as real and complex as possible. Probably I should try to stop for a while.

Anyway, the film was much fun and unlike the soppy romantic comedies, it dares be surprising. And at the end it's a bit like a real tearjerker. But it's still worth it.

The other film I watched was Great Expectations with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. I'm no fan of Gwyneth Paltrow. She's not a bad actress, but she's always the same and her roles probably suit her personality, but I don't think that's interesting acting. And I loved Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise, but he was so awful in Before Sunset. I love the film, but he changed way too much. Wait, I probably take what's on screen in these two films for real - you know, the actors wrote the second part and it's part autobiographical. So I shouldn't do it.

Anyway, this film is directed by Alfonso Cuaron. I love this man. His films are very visual and at the same time he has the gift for stories. And it's a rare combination. Anyway, this film is not perfect and even though it ends in a very soppy way (sorry, can't get rid of this word!), it has atmosphere, which is something rare in films. And it's very stylish visually. And no kidding, I enjoyed Gwyneth Paltrow's acting - and this time she explored a different side of her personality: playing a cold woman, who can't deal with her own feelings and life...

Anyway, an enjoyable film! Nothing special, but enjoyable!

P.S. Today I found a copy of the 1946 version of Great Expectations with Alec Guiness. I'm so happy I'll watch it. :D

Friday, 3 April 2009

Evening - an attempt to write my review

I've been pretty busy these days and I've only had time to watch a film last night. I decided to watch Evening - the film had these shitty reviews, but anyway - the reason to watch it is clear:
Vanessa Redgrave, Eileen Atkins, Toni Collette, Natasha Richardson, Glenn Close and a cameo by Meryl Streep. I bought the film a long time ago, but I've always waited for the right moment to watch it. I knew it was a very sad film, so a sad moment was probably the right time for me to watch it. So I told myself: Even if the film sucks big time, you can learn something. Well, the film didn't stink. It's not a good film, but there are a lot of good things about it. The main reason for the film's failure is the script. I can't believe that the director approved of something as flawed as the script. I blame the screen writers, because they obviously have no idea of what dramatic structure actually is. The script is such a mess (and the pretentious, unbelielable dialogues are just a bonus there!, lol) that it's a small miracle that the actors actually did some nice work. Most of the characters on screen were talking and talking about their decisions and actions and there was no way to connect to them, because there was no way to understand their logic. And I think that's the most annoying part of it.

The premise is simple: An old woman - Ann (Vanessa Redgrave) is dying and while her daughters (Natasha Richardson and Toni Collette) care for her and try to cope with their own problems - she remembers the time when she was a young woman and right after college she attended the wedding of her best friend Lila (Mamie Gummer, who's Meryl Streep's daughter and quite an actress of her own). Lila's brother Buddy (to me the most interesting character on screen and the sole really fully realized character!) introduces Ann to Harris - the son of their servant, whom she falls for. And then there is Buddy, who kind of proposes to Ann, but at the same time feels attracted to Harris, even though he denies it. To himself and to everyone else.

Well, that's pretty much the premise. I don't want to tell you what's going on. I told enough. But now about the main reason why the film is still worth the two hours. The performances: Vanessa Redgrave is a great actor, but I can't deny that her character is simply needless. We see an aging woman, who just remembers her past and at some point reunites with her friend Lila (this time played by Meryl Streep, who appears for four or five minutes, but totally steals the show). But the story involving the older Anne just doesn't contribute to the whole as it should. It's repetitive and it's trying to explain some things that don't need to be explained.

Toni Collette and Natasha Richardson are very good as her daughters - both have problems and they don't get along very well most of the time. Like a real family, with the bad sister and the good sister and so on. :) But I think that they pretty much nailed their performances and made them far more interesting than they were on paper. It's real fun to watch two actors as different as Natasha Richardson and Toni Collette, because when you see Natasha, you see her theatrical background and when you see Toni, you think of an acting style, which is very much American and about the naturality of the acting. Both are real good in their own way and it's interesting to see how much the acting styles of the two contribute to their characters.

And then there are the leads in the story set in the 50's.
Glenn Close is really one note. It's the over the top performance as the hypocrite mother of Buddy and Lila. Glenn Close never really has the chance to get into her character, because it's just a caricature thing and the film isn't really about her.

Mamie Gummer is playing the young Lila and I think that she did quite well. In her final scene she was really terribly directed, but I think that she does very well what she's supposed to do - there are the two Lilas all the time. The first Lila is the young woman soon to be married, who's happy and has a happy family and a happy life and really wants it and enjoys herself. But there is the other Lila, who's always been in love with Harris and now tries to deal with her emotions and her love for Harris, who pushed her away. And I think that Mamie did that very well, which I suppose is what her character is all about.

Claire Danes - well, I don't know what to say here, because I never really understood her character Ann. She's both free-spirited and very down to Earth, but at the same time she makes decisions, which I don't understand. And Danes's performance is nothing interesting, nothing that makes much sense to me. So I'll just skip her. Haha, maybe that's not a compliment, but I feel that way about her performance.

Patrick Wilson - well, he had to be handsome. Because everyone's in love with Harris. But there's nothing more I can say about his character. I don't get why everyone's in love with him. He's handsome, but nothing more. No character here. And I think it's a big problem. Because this character has to make sense.

And now we come to Buddy, played by Hugh Dancy.
I've never really seen Hugh Dancy in anything before that. But here he's amazing. I mean his character is a real wreck - he wants to be a novelist and sometimes he's just happy and euphoric and thinks about life and enjoys it, but then he starts drinking and he just tries to cope with his own demons. Well, the theory that Buddy is repressing his love for Harris makes sense to me, because no matter that he wants to marry Ann, he just acts like a friend with her and he doesn't pretend to feel any passion for her. I read some reviews and there are critics who call him 'the closet case'. Anyway, it's a very sensual performance and it shows some real range and it's a character that's really hard to perform, because his actions are very immature and even mean sometimes, but because of Dancy I understood his character and still loved him and wanted him to find peace. So I really, really liked his performance.

And of course, the cinematography is very good - technically perfect. The visuals are great. Impressive. But I think that the script ruins it all and the director doesn't know how to actually make the things work as a whole. So the impression the film left is that this is a film about interesting things, with some good performances and an awful script, which makes it all seem dull and forgettable in the end.

Anyway, my professor keeps telling to watch films from the POV of an actor and to ask the questions I would ask if I was playing the part: to try to find the things that made these actors act this way! So I think it was a nice exercise. :D

P.S. I hope my English is getting better, because my exam is just around the corner and I really hope I won't fail. :D