Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The High Cost Of Living

The High Cost Of Living is a story about a drug dealer Henry (Zach Braff) and a pregnant woman Nathalie (Isabelle Blais) who loses her baby when Henry accidently hits her with his car. Having been over the legal limit and having possession of illegal prescriptions he panics and drives away leaving an unconscious Natalie on the street. Waking up in the hospital she finds out that the accident had led to a miscarriage but she still has to carry the baby. Nathalie’s husband Michael (Patrick Labbé) is unable to cope with the tragedy and becomes emotionally disconnected and reserved. As Nathalie becomes increasingly more depressed Henry is unable to shake off the hit and run and decides to search for the victim. As Nathalie and Henry’s lives cross paths once again unknown to her that Henry was the hit and run driver, Henry becomes the guardian angel that her husband can’t seem to be. His increasingly cavalier role of being a compassionate and charismatic stranger brings great relief to Nathalie. While the two become closer the police slowly beings the track down Henry and their new found love shatters as Nathalie discovers the true identity of the driver.
Many people may think that High Cost is a predictable cliché drama but it is a fantastic film that shows a great deal of character development for Henry. At the start he’s portrayed as a Montreal drug dealer and already we have a negative perspective on him and even more so when he leaves Nathalie behind. As his conscious drives him to discover the truth about what happened, he befriends Nathalie and we see him transform from a drug dealer to a husband like figure that comforts Nathalie. It’s a fantastic visualisation of a character’s arch unfolding as the story progresses. Henry’s character arch is driven by wanting to become a better person after the hit and run. The High Cost Of Living really is an emotionally driven film that makes the audience like Henry even though he isn't a character that should be liked.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Killing Them Softly

Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly is based on George V. Higgins' novel about a professional enforcer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) who is asked to investigate and find out who robbed a mob protected high stakes poker game. The two wannabe hustlers Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) are now prime targets for the mob. Killing Them Softly is a grimy outlook of the mafia set in New Orleans. Throughout the film it seems as if Dominik masked the United States from the “American dream country” to a deeply pessimistic nation filled with hate and violence that is driven by the greed of money. With a tough and beaten look Dominik still brings a great dark humour to the screen with Scoot and Ben’s dialog and the unexpected heartfelt relationship between the two hired hitmen Pitt and Mickey (James Gandolfini).

Jackie Cogan Killing Them Not So Softly
After watching The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford I just couldn’t wait to see Dominik and Pitt work together again in Killing Them Softly. Pitt really does steal the show with his stone cold killer performance. Pitt’s character is the typical outlook of hired gun with some sort of conscience that he prefers to be in the shadows of his killings "I like to kill them softly, at a distance,”. Never the less he is a hit-man and his “it’s nothing personal its only business” existence makes him a ruthless killer. The final scene is truly an Oscar nominee performance with a terrifyingly and thrilling final speech that makes you glad that you’re not in the same room as Jackie Cogan.

Jackie Cogan & Mickey

What really made an impact on me was the unexpected relationship between the two hired Hitmen. It obvious right away that the two have been friends for a great deal of time and have history. We only see the two of them together in two scenes; the bar and the hotel room. What I really admired is how Dominik in just two scenes we can almost compare the two being the same person despite the fact Mickey’s life is going down the drain with his marriage in shambles, the possibility of going to jail and becoming an alcoholic. It almost as if Dominik wanted to show us that Jackie Cogan’s is going to become Mickey in the future.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Goodbye Lenin

By looking into Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye Lenin you can see by the protagonist Alex Kerner he creates a theme of nostalgia and deception in order to protect his fragile mother and to help dialog his own personal parallel world creation. With the most iconic moment in history with the fall of the Berlin Wall, Goodbye Lenin main focus of the story is based on; a coming of age story, a story of one worlds collapse to joining another and son protecting mother.  What really made me appreciate Goodbye Lenin is how the political and cultural crises are skillfully constructed by Wolfgang Becker with the impact of change through; landscape, social, political and cultural. How both historical and fiction collide with political and cultural crises. With Alex’s miniature GDR slowly becoming much more than a room full of old East Germany furniture but becomes something much more. Alex creates a different route of history through what he would have wanted with a somewhat more respectful and alternate choices in history. With this re-writing of history you can see how that in Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye Lenin the political and cultural crises are depicted through Alex’s theme of nostalgia, deception and the creation of Alex’s parallel universe.

Through the reunification of East and West Germany Wolfgang created this theme of coming to terms with Alex Kerner old Socialist State coming to an end. At the very start Wolfgang shows how political influence shapes the very idea one’s lifestyle when series of flash backs of Alex’s father running off with “His new enemy of the state girlfriend” and his mother becomes totally devoted to the Socialist State “married the Socialist Fatherland”. Wolfgang shows the importance of a strong Socialist regime holding Alex Kerner’s family together with his mother being a passionate crusader for a social justice writing letters for her neighbours “A passionate crusader for the concern of the common people”. Through a series of home archive footage you see Alex Kerner grow up in a typical communist propaganda way with; Socialist cadet uniforms, singing East Germany’s national anthem and his mother being the conductor of the choir. Even during the era of the Space Race between the United States and Soviet Union, a simpler way of seeing the Cold War is looking at the struggle between both ideology of Communism and Capitalism. Wolfgang used the Space Race to set the first scene of Alex Kerner proud East Germany heritage by showing Alex and his sister Ariane watching a news reel of the East German Sigmund Jahn being the first German going to outer space. Wolfgang did this for two reason; one being that it shows the height of the Soviet Union being the first to go outer space beating the Capitalist nation the United States and second showing the political shift will soon change when Alex Kerner grows up.

With Alex mother falling into a coma for 8 months during her time in a deep sleep her world of a Socialist East Germany falls apart and the victory of the Capitalist West Germany reunifying West and East. With the Socialist ideology falling so does the Socialist lifestyle that Alex and Ariane once grew up in and everything they've been taught is obsolete and now must become like the West. With Alex sitting back and watching his mother’s world collapse his sister Ariane embraces the Western culture; getting a job at Burger King and changing the old East un-luxurious furniture to a more modern Western. Through Alex and Ariane Wolfgang shows the culture clash between the brother and sister with old Socialist values to new capitalist ways. Wolfgang shows that as East becomes more capitalist and Socialist products like Alex mother’s favorite pickles “Spreewald pickles” are harder to find "Why would anyone want Spreewald pickles now communism is over?”

The slowly falling power of the Soviet Union and the decline in the economy greatly affected its Soviet zone East Germany. With this falling power it helped East and West Germany to reunify but at a slow rate. As East and West slowly become one many of the Eastern Soviet Communist culture slowly went away and was replaced with Western culture. The Berlin Wall not only kept people from crossing it also kept both cultures separate with East and West unable to see one another “The Iron Curtin”. At times you see clashes of both cultures in Goodbye Lenin such as the scene of the changing of the East German guards and Coca Cola trucks drive by “Mother slept though the relentless triumph of Capitalism”. In this scene it shows an invasion of somewhat of western culture taking over and parading in the streets just like how Nazi invasion of Paris and parading in their streets. Alex’s sister Ariane is a key character of the young generation of that time that becoming increasingly more westernized. Ariane leaves her studies and gets a job at an American fast food chain Burger King; her outfits become more western along with her music taste and change the furniture in their apartment “She missed the increasing Westernization of our 79 square meter apartment”. The most drastic western change to Alex was when he went to his local store and now “Transformed into a colorful consumer paradise” Now Alex has to settle with this new western food rather than his old East food he and his family once grew up with “We’ve got the German mark now and there you come asking for Mocca Fix and Flinchen.”

Wolfgang now sets in for the main focus in the film by making Alex create his own parallel universe in order to protect his mother. In doing this Alex now re-writes history with the Berlin Wall still staying up and East Germany economy doing just fine. At first Alex recreates his mother’s GDR in their apartment but as times goes on you slowly see that Alex creates his own humane GDR. Wolfgang wanted to show us a different view in history by rewriting history with the million dollar question “What if the Berlin Wall never fell?” With Alex shielding his mother from the truth by; redecorating the apartment back to its old days, tracking down old containers, having children sing Socialist patriotic songs and even setting up a mock newscast. Even when Alex’s mother notices a gigantic Coca Cola sign on a nearby building Alex invents the idea through his mock news channel that Coca Cola was invented by East Germany with a political triumph. Through Alex’s lies and deception Wolfgang wanted to rewrite history and show the audience this new direction in East German history “Maybe the GDR I created for my mother, was the one I would have liked to have”. What was once a miniature GDR Alex now created a parallel universe and rewriting history replacing his mother GDR to his own. This can be seen when Alex and his friend Denis who fashioned a broadcast of the rise of neo Nazi parties in the West and settlers in the West take refuge in the East. Alex uses his boyhood hero Sigmund Jahn become the next leader of East Germany. Wolfgang even changes the course of history once again by creating an alternate ending of history by staging a final broadcast with East Germany opening the borders of the GDR “Socialism means reaching out to others and living with other. Not just to dream about a better world, but to make the world a better place. I have therefore decided to open the GDR borders.” This alternate ending of the GDR; opening its borders, having the West come to the East choosing an alternative from the “Dog eat dog society” of the capitalist west. Alex created in his parallel universe a more respectful end and somewhat a victory over capitalism. By creating this illusion that everyone from the west wanted to the join east “Not everyone wants to join in with career addiction and aggressive marketing”.

What Wolfgang shows in Goodbye Lenin is he doesn’t discriminate East and West but empathizes in the dilemma of Alex’s situation. In an uncertain future for a coming of age Alex is in a time when the entire world is watching Germany becomes one. Seeing everyone on the streets of Berlin parade and cheer Alex is stuck right in the middle. Wolfgang doesn’t show the success of the West through political success but through a cultural invasion. This cultural invasion of; old Eastern products coming off the shelves, Coca Cola banners and trucks and even clothing style working its way through East Germany. Wolfgang created an advertisement product war showing the Socialist East of how much there left behind through cultural establishment. Wolfgang noted this when Alex went to the West for the first time discovering the freedom of Western culture “Of course she also missed my first cultural discoveries in a new country”.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


A strong silent type stunt driver by day and by night a gateway driver (Ryan Gosling) stars in what I would call a modern masterpiece with an elegant style of the 1980’s artistic neon elegance. A thrilling car chase film about a loner who falls in love with his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan). Her ex-convict husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) is in debt with the dangerous underworld Mafia. Driver offers to be a gateway driver for a heist that would pay off the debt goes horribly wrong and the Driver finds himself targeted by the Mafia. Not being able to kill the Driver and get their money back they turn to the two people he ever loved Irene and her son.

Personally I see Drive as a film that has barely any dialog and that the entire film is driven by beautifully shot sequence, breath taking cinematography and the elegant 80’s style. What made Drive really stand out for me most was the line between Romance and Violence.  The elevator scene is a sequence where there is no dialog and only emotions is used to reflect the imagery on the screen. When one of Mafia hit-man walks into the elevator the Driver gently pushes Irene back and kisses her. Here we see one side of the Driver as a white knight and shining armour hero but within the same sequence we see a psychotic killer who smashes the hit-man’s skull in, a side that Irene has never seen before. This reminds the viewers that the Driver has a murderous rage and is not afraid to embrace it. This elevator sequence is very defining character moment in sense that we see the romantic side of the Driver kissing Irene for the first and last time and straight away we see him become a monster crushing the Hit-man’s face. This entire sequence is done with no dialog and just movement and what makes it so beautiful is that all emotions shown through movement; caring when he gently pushes Irene back, love when he kisses her and rage when he kills the Hit-man. Though Drive is set in a present day LA the film’s atmosphere is heavily influenced in a 1980’s style. Drive very much has a neo noir nostalgic 80’s elegance to it; with its neon bright pink opening credits that looks similar to Roger Donaldson 1988 Cocktails or Paul Brickman’s 1983 Risky Business. The soundtrack also is a reminder of a 80’s electronic pop with synthesizer tones.

What makes Drive one of my favourite films of 2011, it’s vastly influenced by the genre’s and style that it portrays on the screen and that it stays loyal to its genre. The violence in Drive is very unexpectedly gory and graphic which makes Drive such a brilliant crime and drama film. With scenes like the elevator sequence, car chase or the stabbing scenes it can seem like an action film but it’s not. The genre being a; car chase, crime and drama film with a 80’s style, Drive really does pay tribute the car chase genre with scenes like the opening police chase and the heist scene that goes wrong. The crime and drama is what sets the film and to me that is only the foundations of the film. To get deeper into the crime and drama genre we have to look at the violence and the surprising realistic gore we are subjected to.  To me Drive is a realistic outlook of the dark impulse of murder. The scene when Shannon (Bryon Cranston) gets his wrist cut open and blood starts gushing out is very simple and realistically view of how easy it is to kill someone. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


From the Atomic Wars of 2070 the world is now a Cursed Earth. With most of the United States riddled with radioactive wastes. On the East Coast from Washington DC to Boston lies Mega City One. One of the only human habitats left. A dystopian metropolis with a population of eight hundred million people, this city is more of a utopia for violence, criminals and rioters. With the streets full of violence the “Judges” are the law and order protectors of the city. These judges are not your typical court room robed judges. They are a combination of a police force with the power to judge, jury and, on the spot executioner. This justice department and law enforcement are feared throughout the city and the most notoriously dreaded Judge is Judge Dredd (Karl Urban). This gun slinging, bullet dodging and skull crashing Judge has to take down one of the most powerful gang around the “Ma Ma gang” lead by Ma Ma (Lena Headey) who as whole city addicted to a new drug called “Slo-Mo”. A drug that makes reality seems to go at an abnormal fraction speed.

I personally am not a fan of 3D but after watching Dredd I really am pleased to say that this is one of the most visually beautiful films I seen in a long time. I didn’t even go to my mega IMAX cinema’s I just went to my local cinema. So one can imagine how spectacular it must have looked. The plot pretty much had the same story as Gareth Evans The Raid., which again made me question the films possibility of delivering the same action, gore and violence. Again I was totally mistaken once again. Dredd truly did stay loyal to its comic book origins. The whole focus of the Judge Dredd universe is that “The Law” is everything and their sole purpose is to make sure no one is above the law include themselves and that a Judge never relives his identity which is Karl never takes his helmet off.

The most spectacular 3D effects are seen whenever Slo Mo is used. Every colour is beautifully lit up and seeing everything at “Bumper slow speed” really is memorizing. As soon as we’re snapped back to reality the film has a brilliant dark neo noir style. For those who remember back in 1995 Sylvester Stallone starred in a Judge Dredd film also and though the film was a great laugh and I have to admit I did enjoy watching it I wouldn’t say it was the best looking films. Not because of graphics but because it just didn’t look dark enough. One thing I can say about the two Dredd’s they both have amazing quotes and with Karl Urban’s gritty deep voice it makes Christian bale Batman voice seem like a high pitched sissy voice.

I definitely will watch Dredd 3D a few more times in cinema with an IMAX experience and buy my Blue-Ray copy later on this year. Dredd 3D is certainly is a great action film shoot'em up, a thrillingly gory film that makes you shield your eyes and just seeing the spectacular graphics memorize you. Dredd 3D is personally one of my favourite Sci-Fi films of 2012.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Five Minutes of Heaven

Set in 1975 during The Trouble years between the political divide of Ireland. Two men from either side Alistair (Liam Neeson) a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force seeks to revenge on the Catholics who they claim are republican militants. Hoping to get respect and rise among the Force Alistair is given the order to kill a young Catholic man Joe Griffin’s (James Nesbitt) older brother. With the 8 year old Joe witnessing his older brother being murdered right in front of him and his mother blames Joe for not doing anything. 33 years has passed and Alistair has served his time in prison. The both of them are to meet on a TV show hoping the two can a have reconciliation. However absolution simply isn't an option and Joe seeks to kill his brother’s murderer on TV. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel Five Minutes of Heaven is truly a grippingly thrilling story of two men; the victim of a loss of brother, family and innocence and the murderer who later on battle with his conscious and understanding the man he has become.

Five Minutes of Heaven has a brilliant plot of two stories; one being revenge and the constant torment of being responsible. The other not asking for forgiveness but rather an understanding of the man he has become and learning to accept what he has done. Minutes of Heaven is a perfect example of fantastic character development.  Through a series of voiceovers we truly are subjected to the inner mind of both these characters. Just like in Martin Scorsese Taxi Driver the use of voiceover we audience are first at hand to see the mind slowly slip into madness or depression. Both characters are seen in two different times; young and old. What we see or do in the past determines who we become in the future. Minutes of Heaven certainly does portray this in this film.

We first see Joe Griffin’s character as a man who is somewhat afraid to meet the murderer of his brother. After the death of his brother his mother blamed him for not doing anything to stop it. Even after the death of his mother 33 years from the night he sees his mother blaming him. Looking at the physiological damage his mother has done he somehow has to prove himself and his family. So he decides to kill Alistair. What I really enjoyed watching about Minutes of Heaven is the character arc of Joe. Joe’s character is seen as a frightened, physiological damaged man. However as he gets nearer to meeting Alistair we see him become more enraged and delusional that killing him would be his “Five Minutes of Heaven” and it would be good for him.

Alistair’s character is first seen as a young, ruthless killer. However after his time in prison he becomes somewhat of a preacher in prison but sees himself as a man who is cheating his way through life. Not being able to really understand the man he has become and not knowing where to go in life. What is fantastic about Alistair’s character is that he is a very likeable character after the killing, which is a great contradiction as a viewer because we shouldn’t like Alistair we should be on Joe’s side but Joe has decided to kill. In Alistair’s voiceovers we get a real understanding of his physiological damage. After killing Joe’s older brother Joe stared at Alistair and for 33 years that face has stayed with him. With the voiceovers we see how the image of a young Joe has made Alistair’s guilt heavier with each passing year. He has become just like his apartment; cold, empty and withdrawn.

Looking at both Joe and Alistair they are very comparable characters. Even though they are very different people, they become each other in different times. Joe at first was a frightened man who becomes increasingly enraged and becomes murderous. Alistair was murderous who later becomes weak and guilt ridden, both unable to shake of the effects of the murder.  5 Minutes of Heaven is written remarkable beautiful and really is an excellent film to watch and to study both film and physiologically. 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Yojimbo & A Fistful of Dollars

Though Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone use the same narrative plot for Yojimbo and Fistful of Dollars but with different culture the execution in both films are very similar but at the same time quite different. In a unique way the; mise-en-scene, choreography, cinematography and music somewhat collide but due to different cultures one been Japanese Samurai and the other being a Spaghetti Western. The best way to compare both film with the depiction and effect of movement and image is to look at the opening scenes, how the heroes are introduced, how the towns are introduced, comparing the framing, the soundtrack and sound effect used in the films and by comparing these elements not only by comparing both A Fistful of Dollars and Yojimbo but understanding what a western is. As a viewer we have to right away understand within a few frames even that we are watching a western movie. So the importance of comparing both films also is looking into the Western genre and getting a clearer understanding of what it means for a film to be labelled as a Western. By depicting what makes a western genre I can get a clearer understanding of why each frame was used, why the is protagonist has no name, comparing their styles through choreography and looking into the mise en scene between both Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars. 

How each protagonist is reviled is very similar.  The audience only sees the back and different parts to the protagonist in Yojimbo this creates a feeling of mystery and build up to who is this protagonist? We then are greeted to the landscape by an establishing shot of a Mount Fuji like Japanese mountains with the cold and somewhat lost samurai going where the wind takes him. Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto said in Kurosawa: Film Studies and Japanese Cinema “Kurosawa fully exploits the compositional possibilities of the wide screen format. In the early part of the film, the camera follows Sanjuro closely. One of the recurrent images here is the low angle medium close up of Sanjuro body from the chest up”. Fistful of Dollars has a similar opening scene after animation intro with the first shot of the dusty desert like mountain roads. The camera slowly pans up revealing the landscape to be a dry and hot mountain with the protagonist back to the camera once again. The mise-en-scene helps the audience identify characters more clearly by the way they are dressed. In Fistful of Dollars the first character you see is a cowboy like man on a horse somewhere in the mountainous desert when in Yojimbo you can identify a samurai by his clothes; the traditional Japanese clothing of Hakama and the Japanese socks Tabi and most noticeable his samurai Katana sword. Within seconds of the film the audience has some idea where the film is set due to the cinematography with the establishing shot. We can see that both films use the same technique in cinematography and mise-en-scene.

How both towns’ inhabitants are introduced is very similar with the use death as the symbolism. It’s in these towns also were both films show the typical western theme genre through cinematography. The symbol of death and danger in Yojimbo is seen when the samurai arrives at ghost like town with a dog walking down the main road with a human hand in its mouth. Fistful of Dollars the audience see a hanging noose knot from a tree with the church bells ringing. These shots are all symbols of death which help the audience gain the feeling of violence. In the shot when Sanjuro returns to the town the wide angle lens that is used is heavily influence by Spaghetti Western cinematography which creates a lone hero with the wide framing which is the same in Fistful of Dollars when the Hero with no name encounters a group of cowboys outnumbering him. “He was deliberately combining the samurai story with the Western, so that the windswept main street could be in any frontier town, the samurai could be a gunslinger” this quote by Roger Ebert author of “Great Movies III” helps gets a better understanding of what Yojimbo is. Personally I see Yojimbo be a Japanese samurai film with a Spaghetti Western theme. The two films clash with the same theme but through different cultures however the protagonists in both films are very similar act and move the same way. The choreography of how both characters act is so similar with the audience never knowing their real names. Roger Ebert said “Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars with Clint Eastwood, is so similar to Yojimbo that homage shades into plagiarism. Even Eastwood’s Man with No Name is inspired, perhaps, by the samurai in Yojimbo”. The idea of both protagonist being so similar and both being so skilled with their weapons and being the lone hero creates more of a mystery identity for these characters.

I talked a lot about mise-en-scene, choreography and cinematography to help depict the effect of movement and image, but if we have a look into the sound and music used in A Fistful of Dollars and Yojimbo we can see that in both the sound and music is an important factor to help fuel the illusion of the western genre mise-en-scene. The music written for A Fistful of Dollars was Ennio Moricone he used a trumpet theme soundtrack similar of the 1959 Rio Bravo another famous western film. So the importance of having a western soundtrack similar to another western helps the audience understand more when hearing the music. In Yojimbo however didn’t use any western cowboy soundtrack but the music used was not of a trumpet but a drum. Just like how the whistling and trumpet would get louder as the climax of the violence would increase the slow drumming would become faster and faster as the tension would. The sound effects used in Kurosawa’s Yojimbo was much more effective. In Kurosawa: Film Studies and Japanese Cinema he wrote “Kurosawa intrudes in Yojimbo is realistic sound effects, particularly the sound of slashing human flesh with a swords.” I personally would say what Kurosawa lacked in soundtrack for a typical western music he made up for in violence and the sound effect used in the film. Personally when I want to watch a western I’m expecting a lot of action and a lot of intense scenes. A Fistful of Dollars seemed to lack a lot of this though it did have action and tension Yojimbo did out do A Fistful of Dollars. “So many villains can be slaughtered without making the spectators sick because of accentuating the consequences of violence; they only act to supplement the hero’s graceful action. By introducing the realistic sound of human flesh being cut, Kurosawa made the viewer’s realize how artificial Toei Jidaigeki was.” Yoshimoto summed up what a hero in a western genre should do, rather than slashing but shooting the hero should go out shooting his way out of trouble. With the importance of having a realistic sound effect to help fuel the illusion western helps the mise-en-scene.

With A Fistful of Dollars and Yojimbo having a Westernization theme, same narrative plot and even same shots the similarities between both films and their characters are very much their but  the Western genre was never born by Clint Eastwood’s A Fistful of Dollars it was Rio Bravo or Shane. When Kurosawa first wrote Yojimbo he was heavily influenced by the novel Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett. Stephen McVeigh said  in The American Western “Kurosawa has also said he is a great fan of American cinema, especially Westerns, and it seem inconceivable that Yojimbo does not borrow much from George Stevens Shane, Hammett’s story becoming perhaps a smoke screen to fuzz exactly how close the two movies are” With this I would like to argue that just because both Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars have the same narrative plot and scenes that are shot the same Yojimbo cannot only be compared to A Fistful of Dollars but to the Western genre itself. We have to remember that A Fistful of Dollars came out later and was sued by Kurosawa on the grounds of plagiarism. Also you have to remember that A Fistful of Dollars is no normal Western but a spaghetti Western the difference being that it’s an Italian filmed with Italian directors and that that spaghetti westerns have a gritty dirty look when the American westerns was directed by American directors and their protagonists were are clear clean shaven look rather than Eastwood’s unshaven dirty cowboy who says very little. I personally believe that on the grounds that Yojimbo should be compared to Western genre influence rather than A Fistful of Dollars due to the fact that their narrative plot is the same. I personally see that Kurosawa love for Hollywood Western genres and that he wanted to create his own Western but with his own Japanese heritage and with Yojimbo’s protagonist Sanjuro as a Japanese samurai in a Western genre in Japan.

With the depiction and effect of movement and image, time and place the mise-en-scene, choreography and cinematography collide in both films. We can see that both films framing are so very similar with the; wide angle lenses, close ups of scenery or body parts to show emotion or movement. You can see the cinematography similarities most in the climaxes when both protagonists go into the town, having the traditional cowboy stand still before the shoot out or in Yojimbo’s case slash out. It is here in these scenes where the conventional western mise-en-scene comes into place; the swinging squeaky sign, burning building and the wind blowing these are all traditional scenes we would see in a western. We then get to the choreography of the Man with no Name and Sanjuro and we can see by comparing how they both fight is very similar even though their weapon of choice is very different.  Both protagonists have the same unique fighting technique when coming across an enemy. Both protagonist stands utterly still out numbered against the enemy. The tension builds with music and framing till the very last second and in a blink of an eye the well skilled protagonists will attack. In A Fistful of Dollars the Man with no Name deadly accuracy and skill is seen at the start and the very end when he kills five outlaws within a blink of an eye. Yojimbo’s Sanjuro samurai skill interlines with the Man with no Name skills; deadly accuracy and with and with a blink of an eye he slices his way through. The music used to build these tensions is different through instruments but how the instruments are played is very similar. Starting off with a slow tempo and slowly building up to the climax of the shootout.

So in conclusion how are A Fistful of Dollars and Yojimbo movement and image depicted through mise-en-scene, choreography, and cinematography as well as music? By looking at the opening scenes the audience is greeted by typical western whistling theme with horses riding and gunshots in the background with Yojimbo’s menacing rhythm of drums, as if the Samurai is on route to battle. The similarities between both protagonists always cross between one and other with their; mysterious look and with their real name never reviled, deadly skill with their weapons and the choreography of how they fight in battle. The mise-en-scene is depicted by the western genre by what makes a western movie; cowboy and outlaws, derelict landscape and towns middle of nowhere with no justice. I compared the two films to other western films and show the similarities between them; one being a western other being a spaghetti western and how Yojimbo should really be compared to other westerns rather than it’s protégé A Fistful of Dollars. Looking through the camera framing in Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars you see that shot the same by frame however these frames are typically used in other western cowboy films. So to say one copied the other frame by frame has a yes and no answer to this. Though Leone says his influence for A Fistful of Dollars was Shane with the lone stranger who rids into town and sees the chaos and helps the town’s peoples or villager’s one can say this is a typical western plot Kurosawa always states this about Yojimbo. So by comparing boy Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars the movement and image, time and place are clearly shown through consider mise-en-scene, choreography, cinematography and music.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Autumn Leaves

How far would you go to save your family business? Lee Barham’s award winning short at the Audience choice award at Thurrock international film festival of 2012 called Autumn Leaves, is a funny black comedy about a Funeral director’s son, who realises of his father’s failing business. Deciding to take matters into his own hands, William Dart (Samuel Haskell) doesn’t sabotage the competition but instead kills his fellow hometown neighbours in order to keep the funeral parlour in business.

With William returning home from university he discovers that his father’s business T. Dart Funeral Director is going under. William and his widowed Father Thomas Dart (Ed Gaughan) seem to be out of luck however William accidently drives over a man and flees the scene. Returning home William is confronted by his father with news of a client just coming in. The client being the man William hit his car with. Seeing his father over joyed William is unable to confess the hit and run. While his father being optimistic with the opportunity of the business getting on the move again, William is still dwelling on what his father’s words, “Can’t really wish for people to drop dead”. William considering this decides to murder selected people from his hometown. With the business blooming all seems well until Williams father learns of the horrid truth of his sons killing spree.

Written and directed by Lee Barham Autumn Leaves really does put the fun in funeral; with an original plot of helping his father but twisted into this odd paradox of murder, awesome soundtrack and a great jazz feeling of death in the air. Watching Autumn Leaves really did remind me of the British comedy Frank Oz’s 2007 Death at a Funeral. Watching William go beyond the measure of keeping his father’s business afloat, Autumn Leaves is a fantastic outlook of the relationship between father and son.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A Bittersweet Life

I first watched Kim Ji-woon’s “A Bittersweet Life” back in 2006. It was the first Korean film I ever watched and since then I have become somewhat of a fanatic of Korean cinema. A Bittersweet life is a classic gangster film with; crime, action and drama.  However Bittersweet Life stands out from your typical gangster genre. Bittersweet is one the most strikingly choreographed fighting scenes I have ever seen. Watching Bittersweet reminded me of the traditional Mexican standoff John Woo films like Face/Off. The visuals and cinematography is gorgeously jaw dropping. A Bittersweet Life is fantastic example of gangster noir film. A story of an enforcer with a conscience that has been betrayed by his own mob boss that leads to a rampage of revenge.

A Bittersweet Life tells the tale of a high ranking mob enforcer Kim Sun-woo (Lee Byung-hun) for a maliciously, cold crime boss Kang (Kim Yeong-cheol). Though being unquestionably loyal for years Sun-woo was given the task by his boss to follow his girlfriend and see if she is unfaithful to him and do what must be done if she is. While following her and stakeouts at her house Sun-Woo becomes to fall for his bosses mistress but learns that she is unfaithful and now has to decide to let her go or kill them both. Unable to kill them he spares their lives and forbids them never to see each other again. Kang learns the truth and decides to kill his long term enforcer.  A series of incredible violence of; hand to hand combat, guns blazing and finally leads to a final showdown.

Sun-Woo’s character is seen in many different ways. First he’s portrayed as a skilful fighting killing machine with a constant hostile and untouchable attitude. When next to his boss Sun-Woo is totally loyal. The relationship between Kang and Sun-Woo is almost like a farther and son relationship being that Kang can lets his guard down with Sun-Woo; telling him about his feelings for his mistress and only intrusting him with looking after his her. Lastly we see Sun-Woo as the shy and quite type when next to Kang’s mistress. Never being able to say what’s on his mind. My only quarrel with Sun-Woo’s character was that Kim Ji-woon focused Sun-Woo on the revenge side of the story and never did follow up on the romance. Call me a sucker for romance but I wish Sun-Woo and the mistress had more romance. But never the less Lee Byung-hun did an amazing performance and really did capture Sun-Woo personality.

A Bittersweet Life is undoubtedly a film that will stay in my mind forever. The choreography is beautifully realistic. Visually the film reminds me of Paco Rabanne film noir style with a Quentin Tarantino violence. The plot is a mixture brutal vengeance that will make you look away and a tragic tale of forbidden love. Even seven years after its release the film still holds a 100% on rotten tomatoes and in 2009 Empire magazine named A Bittersweet Life  third in a poll of the "20 Greatest Gangster Movies You've Never Seen”.