Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Summer of Love

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So what happens when it's late and you're flipping through channels. You sometimes get hooked on a film that you can't stop watching, and before you know it the film is finished, and you're smiling because there is good content on them there channels after all.

That's how I saw Pawel Pawlikowski's neat little film My Summer of Love. I was intrigued by the characters Mona played by Nathalie Press and Tamsin played beautifully by Emily Blunt. It is a simple tale of two young women spending the summer together and who happen to fall in love. Now before you say anything I like to point out the two great performances that Ms Press and Ms Blunt give. Pawlikowski doesn't go for the exploitable nuances of the story of two women falling in love. He instead shows how the two are drawn together by their similarities and differences in character. Mona is the village girl who lives with her brother who has become a born again Christian. She misses her old brother played nicely by Paddy Considine who can be seen now in theaters in the The Bourne Ultimatum. Tamsin is the wealthy girl who is carrying the guilt and love of her dead sister, and her dysfunctional family. I bought the relationship, and really enjoyed the photography of Ryszard Lenczewski. A lot of the film seems to be shot hand-held, and I liked that, but sometimes I wondered if putting a wide lens on would have been better and using a dolly. The close-ups are in your face, and what the actors do without uttering a word is an example of how a director can usefully use the frame to his or her advantage.

What ultimately sells this film is its performances. Blunt & Press are extremely well liked, and we want to see how this relationship is going to end. The story is based on the novel by Helen Cross, and the screenplay is written by Pawel Pawlikowski along with Michael Wynne as collaborating writer.

I'm now interested in more of Pawlikowski films, and have in mind to seek out his debut film "Last Resort". If you don't like character studies, and are not interested in good acting don't bother seeing the above, but I always like finding little gems like this film. It both restores my belief that good cinema can be made, and is being made by artists who care about their professions. See My Summer of Love, and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hostel

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Okay I finally got to watch Hostel, and though I’ve heard a lot about the film I wanted to see it for myself. I was curious, and wanted to see what all the hype was about. I saw it for free on Showtime on Demand while the kiddies were away. I like horror films, but lately my tastes have been a bit eclectic, and for me to like a horror movie it better deliver on several levels. Unfortunately Hostel did not for me. The movie started off like a typical horror film. It sure had its quota of T&A, but it did feel like a paint by numbers kind of film, and for a horror film to be effective it needs to get visceral and hold nothing back. Now I know what you’re thinking. Did he see the same film I saw? I mean the gore factor was heavy. Wasn't the gore visceral enough? The answer is no. I see that type of gore and it does not faze me. Now you’re asking have I become de-sensitized to the violence? I mean can a person become so de-sensitized to the violence that he or she isn’t repulsed by the images of violence? In this current generation I would say yes. Especially with this generation’s infatuation with video games, but for me it’s all fake and all I hear is the director yelling “more blood”.

I’ve worked on several low-budget films where one film tried to push the envelop on gore, or T&A, and no matter what filmmakers do all I see is rubber appliances. Nothing more. Some quick cuts and loud music along with a loud effects track pushes the audience into “the in your face” shock scene. In the theaters this may make the audience jump, and scream, but played on video I just don’t see the terror in it.

You want suspense, and a creepy feeling go see movies like “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”, or the original “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Even the original “Halloween” had a sense of terror and shock that few horror films of today have. Is there any original horror being done today that is good? Some of the South Korean horror films have struck original notes, and even some small American independent films have been successful in the terror genre.

Actually Hostel follows a true and tried formula and try’s to take it to the extreme. Some label it “torture-porn”, and they may have a point, but its just studios trying to take it to the next level, because of our obsession with reality TV. Today we expect our wars to be delivered to us 24/7 via cable news, and the Internet. News shows lead off with stories of murder and death or something I like to call “scanner journalism”. What it is is producers listening on police & fire radio scanners and dispatching news crews. The famous words “if it bleeds, it leads” is nothing new. Sensationalism, fear are the sellers of today’s market, and it has leaked into our horror movies as well.

In the end Hostel is just another horror movie that doesn't deliver. At the end our reluctant hero seeks revenge on the people or person who did him wrong, and he does so with vengeance. The hunted becomes the hunter, and our hero becomes just as violent as his tormentors had been. There is a pay-off, and nothing new is said. It is our reward after sitting through some over the top gore scenes. The fault of Hostel is that I really couldn't’t care less for any of the characters, and maybe that’s its problem. In horror movies you identify with the protagonist is some way. Here you do not. Everyone is one-dimensional, and at the end of Hostel though our hero has managed to escape you really don’t care. I heard that they did a Hostel 2, so apparently the formula worked and money was made, but if they continue to follow the same formula I would wager a bet that the audience will get tired of watching helpless victims being tortured. Eventually they would just move on to other movies or maybe they would get re-connected with the old classics, because classics never get old. Maybe it’s a lesson filmmakers need to take to heart.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Unfaithful

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Okay I said I wasn't going to do this again, but after watching this film last night I had to comment. Why haven't I seen this film sooner. After all it was released in 2002, and is based on Claude Chabrol's 1969 film "La Femme infidèle". I happen to be a Chabrol fan, and I just didn't think that the film about a women's affair that leads to murder would be any better, and I would be right too if it wasn't in the very capable hands of Adrian Lyne. In any other directors hands we would have been served up a bland tale that has been done to death, but what Lyne does is create a compelling drama about a women's obsession, and a husbands fury.

Peter Biziou cinematography is stunning, yet that is nothing new in a Lyne movie. Lyne has a flair for the visual, and he uses that in the film. The only flaw is that maybe after all the build up the third act kind of falls flat, but I buy what Lyne is selling, and that is things can get away from us.

Truth be told I would have killed to make something like Unfaithful. The film is a throw back to those old noir movies. It was something that I was trying to do with my film "Deadly Obsessions". Lyne creates a mood with out sometimes his characters uttering a word. This is no small feat and it shows that Lyne is a good director. Diane Lane gives a top notch performance, and it's films like this one that really hammers that home. Richard Gere gives a subtle performance here, and is very believable as the husband.

The scene where Diane Lane has her first encounter with her lover is a very sensuous and erotic scene in no small part due to Lane's performance. Unfaithful is a really good film about guilt, and obsession and worth seeing.

While watching the film I couldn't help but compare similarities between "Deadly Obsessions" and "Unfaithful". I am in no way comparing the two films, but I was keenly aware why Lynes film works on so many levels. Mood is a big factor in a noir, and Lyne has tons of it in his film. I relied on my actors to give me that and they did. The bickering, and the bantering back and forth did that, but I needed more of a visual motif, and I didn't because I was obsessed in getting the film in the can. I wanted to finish because I knew of so many films that didn't get completed. I'm not saying that I don't like my film, but as all filmmakers will tell you they see their mistakes and not their films attributes.

As an old film professor would say "blah, blah, blah...." No one wants to hear it, and he would be right, but I wanted this blog to be more then just a blog about reviews, new artists, and such. It's suppose to teach me something, and see how I develop or better yet how KGB Productions develops. I can say that after watching "Unfaithful" I was sparked by the creative muse. I may not be in Lyne's league, but I can sure try and get there, and by doing so maybe I'll keep the faith and actually make that second feature I'm still writing about.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Shadow World

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Who says you don't learn anything from old media. In the local news section of the Philadelphia Inquirer was a piece by Daniel Rubin about a blog called "Shadow World". The title of the article is called " Beneath the El, dark video verité".

David Kessler is the creator of "Shadow Land", and it's a fascinating look at the other side of life here in Philadelphia .Most of the vignettes are beautifully edited, and contain little dialogue. Others have the subject talking about his or her life. Each vignette is about two to three minutes. Each piece is well done.

I'm told David uses a tiny Sony Handycam (A Sony trv22). I really like what David is doing, and I like how he treats his subjects. No bias at all. Mr Kessler also lives in the neighborhood he films in and that's probably why he gets the footage he does. Kessler edits some things that his subjects might get in trouble for. David says that he doesn't want to be seen as exploiting these people, and I believe him.

Some of the the subject material reminds me of a film called "Streetwise" by the filmmaker Martin Bell. Streetwise is a gritty documentary that looks at the life and lives of teenagers living on the streets of Seattle. I remember seeing the film in NYC at the anthology. I was blown away with the visuals and the way it presented its subjects. David Kessler's "Shadow World" seems to be in the same vein.

Take a look and see if you're not captivated by David's subjects, and I dare you not to come away moved. Also if you REALLY like "Shadow World". Donate. Mr. Kessler has a pay pal button on his web site and is taking donations now. I look forward to seeing more, and maybe meeting this very talented man here in my adopted hometown of Philly.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Andrew Semans

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Came across Andrew Semans website, and after seeing his trailers and clips of his short films I was intrigued. The naturalness that his performers come across is what makes me interested in Andrew. I haven't seen any of his films whole, but from what I see I'm very much impressed. I'm always wondering how to make actors & actresses come across more naturally. I mean a film is scripted and I know with rehearsal actors can overcome that scripted feeling, but I also know it's all about chemistry too. You can rehearse till the cows come home, and sometimes you can't get that naturalness. I'd love to sit down with Mr. Semans and ask about his method, and how he works. I see he does his own writing and has also shared writing credits with two other people.

Sometimes they say too many cooks spoil a stew, but sometimes in filmmaking that's not the rule. Sometimes it's better to have people to bounce ideas off of and contribute. I wonder how much the actors share in the material. Anyway take a look, and maybe if you get a chance to see one of Mr. Semans films go see it. I think you won't be disappointed.