Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da: Once Upon A Time In Anatolia

A fairy tale name that couldn't be further away from the truth, as the film depicts the story of a murder and the search for the victim’s body in the vast peninsula emptiness of the Anatolian hills. As night falls and the sky is a beautiful Claude Monet-like vanilla sky, darkness slowly approaches over the beautiful Anatolian country side. Set in the eastern providence of Turkey, with low hills, bumpy roads and not a soul in sight. Then from far away we see the headlights of three cars sparkle as they burrow their way toward us bringing the darkness with them. The three cars carry a police chief, prosecutor, Turkish military Gendarmerie, forensic doctor and perplexed murderer. The officials and murderer are looking for the victim’s body, somewhere buried out in the vast steppes. Unable to remember where he buried the body due to being drunk, the group takes several attempts and long drives around the bitter cold and empty country to find the body.
Once upon a time in Anatolia is a brilliant voyage into self-discovery of police procedural pushed to its limit. Also it’s a tour of mortal emotional gravity and a mystery thriller that steers away from the murder and the murderer but to the police chief, prosecutor and doctor. A night of long driving around in rain in the rural surroundings of the Anatolian town of Keskin, the group give talk about personal life experiences and previous contracts that left them all bitter. These conversations we hear have a profound feeling of eavesdropping and that the more we hear the more secrets are hinted to us. Given by the eeriness of the atmosphere, the men often comfort one another with lighthearted banter that steers to local and political matters. But the mortality of the crime when discovering the body shakes the very core of all the men. Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan beautifully conveys the character development through the investigation of the murder by steering away from the case and the all-nighter search for the body. The night began as an assignment but then became a voyage into a glimpse into their souls. Ceylan makes the night more than just a murder case but addresses the converse subjects of the personal lives which surrounds their life choices.
Almost the entire film is outdoors. So the night sky, car head lights and random light of thunder sets the mood of a bewitching Turkish murder film. We are constantly kept in the darkness of the countryside, a metaphor that implies the hopelessness of searching for the body and the reason. Somewhere between the mesmerising cinematography and the enigma of emotions around the characters, lies an oblique supremacy of fascinating dialogue and an ending that symbolises that life will carry on, even after the long, bitter and cold all-nighter.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War

With a death toll of more than three million North and South Korean soldiers and civilians, it is hard to comprehend how the Korean War could ever be referred to as “The Forgotten War”. The Korean War finished nearly exactly where it began at the 38th Parallel. Brotherhood is certainly one of the most intense war films I have seen since Steven Spielberg’s Saving Privet Ryan. Je-kyu Kang takes us on a sprawling bloody journey of chaos, bitter conflict and intense violence.
With the communist North Korea invading the South, two South Korean brothers, Jin-Seok (Won Bin) and Jin-Tae (Jang Dong-Gun) are drafted into the military and without any basic training are forced to the front line. With Jin-Seok’s heart ailment condition it’s not long before the strains trench warfare, constant enemy artillery fire begins to take hold of the young draftee. Knowing that his younger would die, Jin-Tae decides to volunteer on daring suicidal missions in a hope he would earn the Medal of Honour and discharge his sick younger brother.
Battles are won, hills are taken and ruined cities are occupied. Jin-Seok proves to be a superb warrior in a once feeble platoon. But as the Jin-Tae popularity begins to grow beyond the ranks of his platoon to a war hero. Jin-Seok begins to resent his older brother. As the war rages on, we begin to see the once respected caring older brother turn to a blood thirsty murderer. The two brothers slowly become disaffected from each other and we see that the war has not only changed their perception of life, but has killed the innocence previously within them.
Brotherhood is an emotional narrative of two brothers, who were forced to fight in a horrific war, truly showing the savage ordeal of the Korean War and the loss of brotherly love. The powerful and horrific battle scenes in Brotherhood are just as, if not more, gripping as Spielberg’s beach landing in Saving Private Ryan. Just like the Korean War, Brotherhood is definitely a film that didn’t get the attention it deserved from the Western audience. Not surprisingly if Brotherhood was an American production, filmed for a Western audience and had a premier at London Lester Square, I’m pretty certain that it would have made an Academy Award, Golden Globe or BAFTA nomination.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Miss Farkku-Suomi: Miss Blue Jeans

A film adaptation of Finnish rock musician and author Kauko Röyhkä autobiographical book Miss Farkku-Suomi (Miss Blue Jeans), directed by Matti Kinnunen Miss Farkku-Suomi is a brilliant experience into the Finnish rock culture of the 70’s. With a fantastic feeling of 70’s nostalgia throughout the film, we embark on a journey in an era where teenagers danced to disco and flare trousers were visible as far as the eye could see.
We follow the young Välde (Mikko Neuvonen), a fatherless teenager, who shares a room with his mother in their small studio apartment in the northern coastal town called Oulu in Finland. The only joy of Välde’s is his fine collection of vinyl’s and his personal hero, American rock legend and songwriter Lou Reed, New York Dolls and David Bowie. Determined to follow the same path as Lou Reed, Välde hopes to get a band together. With dreams of becoming a singer and guitarist, Välde soon realizes that he cannot play or even sing like the legends he idolizes. Välde creates his own style of playing and unique voice that captures his life of cycling alone in the suburbs of Oulu and lyrically visualising the old factory brick walls and toxic emissions from the chimneys and the derelict beaches.
It seems that our Finnish protagonist has dreams of fixing the world’s troubles one song at a time. However in the mission to save the world Välde has to overcome his own troubles first. Miss Farkku-Suomi is a brilliant coming of age story in a time where the punk subculture of diverse array of ideologies, fashion, expressionism and even visual art, literature and dance. The Punk culture has moved away from the United Kingdom and United States and now reached the small coastal town of Oulu. With a subculture that is characterized by anti-establishment views and individual freedom, Välde seems to be the loner and weirdo of the town. However as Välde finds kindred spirit in Sasu, with the mutual love of the same idols they form a band called “Tart” together. With the band they hope to become the faces of Finnish punk version of the Sex Pistols, The Class and Suicide.

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Number 23

The Number 23 is focused on Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) who discovers a novel that he believes was written about him. Becoming obsessed with the book, similarities begin to appear which eventually drives our protagonist into the unknown. The plot of the film itself is absorbing and as this is Carrey’s first attempt at the thriller genre we go down an unexpected road, one we have never been down before. Its haunting and obsessed atmosphere creates a fantastic dark mystery thriller. The more we discover about the connection between the number 23 and Walter the more we spiral into a mystery of murder that seems to have an obvious conclusion at first, but then it takes us on a trip with twists and turns.
The film consists of two stories, one being Walter’s discovery of the book and the other being about the main character in the book; a detective who refers to himself as “Fingerling”. Carrey essentially plays the two characters, one character being Walter reading the book and the other as Fingerling, who is portrayed in a dream sequence filled with film and pulp noir Mise en scène. Both characters begin seeing numerals propping up everywhere they look, a sense of déjà vu or odd coincidence, both characters take the same road into obsession with the number.
Jim Carrey has had a big impact in the comedy genre and it is safe to say that comedy has always been his comfort zone. But quite often we see Carrey out his comfort zone with films like; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or The Truman Show. You would never have guessed that Carrey would take on a lead role in a film like this, however after watching these films you couldn't ever imagine them without him. Vacillating between perplexity and psychoticism, Carrey makes a convincing transformation in The Number 23. From the dog catching nine to five ordinary Joe, to the mysterious and saxophone playing detective, both eventually spiral down a slow decent into madness. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Road to Perdition

Sam Mendes’s Road to Perdition is a beautifully dignified and powerfully mounted mob drama that explores the ties of emotional bond between father and son. Set in the dark days of prohibition we embark on a journey of fathers, sons, sins and redemption. Hitman Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) works for Illinois mob boss John Rooney (Paul Newman) who sees Sullivan as not only a trusted acquaintance but as a surrogate son. Unlike his biological son Connor (Daniel Craig), a hopelessly reckless and unrespectable mob boss son with hints of corruption. Sullivan for years has kept the secret of his profession from his two sons in hope that when both boys become men they will not follow in their father’s footsteps in a legacy of crime. However when eldest son Michael Sullivan, Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) discovers what his father does for a living, Michael’s years of loyalty are thrown away when father and son have to escape. Road to Perdition presents us a plot far more than keeping secrets and acts of revenge but rather a narrative of sin and violent heritance that a father tries to shield from his offspring.
“Sons are put on this earth to trouble their fathers,” is a quote that has a very deep meaning and dramatic significance for both Michael Sullivan and John Rooney. Considering the narrative of the film, this quote frames the theme of violence inherited from father to son. If we look at the title of the film it is a flamboyant metaphor for both Michael Sullivan and his son. Perdition is not only the destination of the town name but also a voyage that Michael Sullivan embarks on to save his son’s soul. Sullivan is not only protecting his son from the Irish mafia but also is in a battle of achieving redemption through his child by preventing his son from the same fate. With his father shielding his background he subconsciously blocks out his son emotional. When tragedy strikes the Sullivan family, both father and son hit the road and journey through the years of the Great Depression and the Prohibition. As the relationship between John Rooney and son Connor goes bad to worse the relationship between the Sullivan’s strengthens as they both realize they are very much alike.
The inheritance of violence from fathers to sons is explored by not only Michael Sullivan and John Rooney but also Michael, John and Connor. John treats Michael as his very own son constantly idolising him and even shares moments of fatherly affection. Sullivan who never had a father feels the same. Connor has none of the qualities of Sullivan and in fact is entirely opposite. Conflicted by jealousy this fuels the action of getting rid of his surrogate brother which evidently causes a domino effect that pushes the narrative of the film.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Romeo + Juliet

Baz Luhrmann's modern cinematic depiction of William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet is certainly a brilliant 90’s relic that all film and theatre lovers did and still do enjoy. Leonardo DiCaprio starring as the young Capulet Romeo and Claire Danes as the beautiful Montague Juliet, Luhrmann sets our tragedy play to film in a modern world, while sticking with the original Shakespearean dialogue. For the “two young star-crossed lovers” world is a post-modern, post-punk, post-industrial, retro hipster world of both past and present culture, where the gangs of both families rave havoc on the streets Verona - which from an aerial perception looks like the gang warfare of New Mexico or Rio. Sticking to the unique authentic Shakespearean play, the gangs of both Capulet and Montague branded swords are replaced with handguns with the engraved family names. The household's soldiers' traditional Victorian armour is replaced with Hawaiian shirts and noble steeds are interchanged with open top sports cars. One of the key elements that Luhrmann does is the visual directing of the wild shaky camera angling and the dazzling luminous close-ups. 
Before we are thrown into the warfare of the feud between the two household, in this modern take of Romeo and Juliet we are entranced in a barrage of symbolisms and juxtapositions. The floating TV screen with the reporter sets the scene, giving the prologue. As the floating screen slowly occupies the whole movie screen, we are sucked into the world of Verona. Many parts of the film are symbolic and in fact make references to Clint Eastwood’s “A Fistful of Dollars” or “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. The swinging sign at the gas station, the way Tybolt (John Leguizamo) extinguishes the matchstick and the silence before the storm hits standoff. All these are well thought out references to the sub-genre Spaghetti Western which subconsciously initiates to the audience, the tense atmosphere of violence.
The intense action sequence is both a feeling of lavish and extraordinary crushing violence, driven by love and honour. The ecstasy fuelled Capulet boys sneaking into the Montague’s grand ball is a trip of bright lights, laughing faces and dancing to tracks from Radiohead, Quindon Tarve, The Cardigans and One Inch Punch. Romeo and Juliet is truly a face of the 90’s teen era of cinema that beautifully stayed timeless - even 18 years after its original release. Perhaps it is the simple fact that it is a romantic-drama film adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It could even be because characters from the film dress the same as our generation today. That it is easier for our generation and future generations to relate to, as we see gangs fighting in Hawaiian shirts using guns instead of the chainmail Victorian armour and swords.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Secret Window

Successful author Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) discovers that his wife Amy (Maria Bello) has been having an affair with a man named Ted (Timothy Hutton) and suffers a psychotic breakdown. Mort now secludes himself in the rural town of Tashmore Lake in an isolated cabin. Now a recluse broken down man suffering from writers block, Mort spends hours looking at a blank page and delaying the final stages of his divorce. Is as if life couldn’t  get any more complicated, Mort is confronted by a mysterious Mississippi dairy farmer John Shooter (John Turturro) who is accusing Mort of plagiarism from his manuscript “Sowing Season”. To Mort’s surprise the manuscript is the exact same as his story “Secret Window” except the ending has been changed. As Mort investigates deeper into the accusation we begin to see cracks in the recluse writer. With his ex-wife constantly harassing him, her new found lover snooping around, how long can our protagonist stand before his mask of sanity slips off?
Mort Rainey is a grief stricken man that has alienated himself from the world. However it seems being a faithful husband and a once successful writer has got him kicked out of his own home where his unfaithful wife and boyfriend stay. What was once his beautiful home and stunning wife is now tainted. Living so far away from civilisation, Mort’s safe haven becomes a confinement of his inner madness which eventually turns against him. His only companion is his Australian Cattle Dog Chico and trivial arguments with his own subconscious. As our traumatised writer Mort pushes for answers, holes begin to appear in his story of this dairy farmer John Shooter. Questions are answered with more questions and people dying. Mort slowly begins to lose his grip of reality and we begin to realise that Secret Window is a film of self-discovery of the inner demon within.
A psychological thriller and mystery, Secret Window is a narrative that follows Mort into a journey of question and more questions. We begin an emotional bond with Mort but as we gradually see Mort slowly delve into madness, we begin to see a brilliant transformation from a sympathetic character to a lunatic. We slowly unravel that this hermit shy writer has deeper murderous rage within and sometimes some windows should just be left closed and hidden. Secret Window spawns such raw and suspense atmosphere that truly does pay homage to the psychological thriller and mystery genre.