Sunday, 29 May 2016

''Happy-Go-Lucky'' (2008 film)- Review

Directed by: Mike Leigh
Released: 2008
Country: United Kingdom

Genre: Comedy-drama

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


''Happy-Go-Lucky'' is the story of Poppy Cross, played by Sally Hawkins, a cheerful 30-year-old schoolteacher who stays happy and cheerful no matter what happens. She keeps her spirits up, for example, even when her bicycle is stolen, or when a bookstore employee rudely ignores her. The film explores Poppy's life: her friendship with Zoe, a fellow schoolteacher and her housemate, her cheerful demeanor with her students, her relationship with her family, her Flamenco lessons. She takes driving lessons from a driving instructor, Scott, played by Eddie Marsan, who is grim and often rude, and disapproves of Poppy's ever-cheerful spirits. This forms an integral part of the story. No matter how much Poppy tries, she is never able to develop a normal friendship with Scott.

''Happy-Go-Lucky'' is like a drop of sunshine: a cheerful little film that has its ups and downs. Sure, there are serious- very serious moments- but overall, this is a film that will often make you smile. 

I greatly admire Mike Leigh's works. His 1996 film ''Secrets & Lies'' remains one of my favorite films ever. I think the greatest strength of his works is the way he takes his time to develop his characters and the situation. He makes us deeply attached to the characters but when happens smoothly, steadily over the course of the film. This is what he does, showing us glimpses from their everyday lives, he makes it possible for us to appreciate his characters.

Poppy, for example, is a person who is happy and wants to makes others happy. The other main character, Scott, is just the opposite: pessimistic, rude, and grim. The film is not monotonous at all. In spite of the film showing us just the ordinary things that our characters do in their everyday lives, it works really well and has a charm of its own, which works really well since over the course of the film everything is developed wonderfully- the characters, the plot, everything. Every moment of it is enjoyable, and of course, there is a climax- an unexpected climax- that contains very intense, realistic performances by both Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan. All the character and plot development throughout the film culminates in a climax that is pretty intense and touching. The screenplay is great and Mike Leigh gives us a film that leaves us impressed. 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

''Before Sunset'' (2004 film)- Review

Directed by: Richard Linklater
Released: 2004
Country: United States

Genre: Romantic drama

Rating: 4 out of 5


Having loved, loved, loved ''Before Sunrise'', I was eager to check out the sequel Before Sunset. I watched the sequel yesterday, and needless to say, I loved it.

The film is set nine years after the events of Before Sunrise. Jesse, played by Ethan Hawke, has written a book inspired by the night that he had spent with Celine all those years ago. He is in Paris on a promotional tour for his book. There, he comes across Celine. It is then revealed that they had not actually meet as they had planned at the end of the first film. Though Jesse had come to Vienna, Celine could not come because of the sudden death of her grandmother. They walk through the streets of Paris, visiting  a cafe, riding a boat, reminiscing about the wonderful time that they had spent together all those years back and with the the passage of time, their feelings are rekindled, more details about their lives come into light. 

I loved the performances of both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. I found them as perfect as they were in the predecessor. The two of them deliver marvelous performances, making the chemistry between Jesse and Celine beautiful, sweet and touching. I loved these two characters, the way they express their feelings. The perfect performances of these two actors make the two characters so beautifully fleshed out, so easy to appreciate and love. This is what I think is most necessary to make a love story a perfect one. To develop characters whom we can admire and love. The screenplay by Linklater, Hawke and Delpy is perfect, just perfect. The way these two characters converse, reminisce, share their feelings is excellently portrayed. Also to be mentioned is the lovely, touching song that Celine sings near the end of the film.

''Before Sunset'' is as gentle, simple and lyrical as its predecessor. There is beauty in it, a simple beauty which is what makes it such a sophisticated, lovely romance that is impossible not to fall in love with it. And here are two characters whom we fell in love with in the predecessor. I loved seeing the two of them again. The entire movie feels so real, so  perfect.

4.5 out of 5

Sunday, 15 May 2016

''The Passion of Joan of Arc'' (1927 film)- Review

Directed by: Carl Theodor Dreyer 
Released: 1928
Country: France

Genre: Historical drama

Rating: 5 out of 5


At the very beginning of the film, one of the judges ask Joan how old she is. Her face reflecting a childlike innocent, she counts and replies that she is nineteen. That was the scene that instantly made me attached to the film, and throughout the film I kept observing each and every movement, each and every facial expression of Renee Jeanne Falconetti. This has to be one of the most profoundly breathtaking performances I have personally ever come across. Her facial expressions and reactions express her sorrows, her fears, her shock, her discovery when she comes across the form of cruelty she had never known existed. This is definitely a heart wrenching film to sit through, and add Falconetti's strong performance (read: one of the strongest performances ever), ''The Passion of Joan of Arc'' is a unforgettable gem.

The story is simple: the trial of Joan of Arc and her subsequent execution. But each and every minute of the film is utilized well as we come to learn of the horrors that were inflicted on the brave Joan of Arc. A brave young woman who had wanted to save her country, she was burnt at stake, accused of heresy. Over the passage of time the film gets more and and more intense, and we keep looking at Falconetti's face, her pained face reflecting her woes. 

''The Passion of Joan of Arc'' symbolizes how humanity has been over the course of history deteriorated and crumbled, how cruelty has been inflicted on people as innocent and brave as Joan of Arc. And I am sure without Falconetti's performance, the film would not have been as iconic and great as it is. She graces the scenes of the film with her presence, her astonishingly perfect performance, her face and expressions showing her woes and pain, her tears sometimes even managing to bring tears to our eyes. 

5 out of 5 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

''Double Indemnity'' (1944 film)- Review

Directed by: Billy Wilder
Released: 1944
Country: United States

Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall, Jean Heather

Genre: Film-noir, Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5


''Double Indemnity'' works in an atmospheric way and it works greatly. Here you have a voluptuous female lead and a male lead influenced by passion: two people it's hard to sympathize with, let alone admire. It is a film noir with a well-crafted screenplay and two powerful performances.

The entire film is shown in a flashback- the male protagonist, Walter Neff, an insurance salesman  played by Fred MacMurray- confesses about a murder that he has committed over a Dictaphone, planning to leave the confession for his colleague, Barton Kayes. He recounts how he first met Phyllis Dietrichson, played by Stanwyck. He had gone to visit Phyllis's husband, Tom, about some insurance related matters. However, Tom was not home, and he was welcomed by Phyllis, whose beauty and charm immediately impressed him. Phyllis told him that she wanted to start an accident policy for her husband- if her husband died by an accident, she would receive a sizeable amount of money. However, Neff was disgusted, thinking that Phyllis was trying to kill her husband for money. Phyllis did not deny it, and told Walter how she was being neglected and ignored by Tom, a man many years her senior. Smitten by Phyllis, Walter then decided to help her with the murder of Tom. And they did successfully accomplish the murder. However, back in the insurance office, Kayes was hesitating: he was sure that something was wrong with the case, that there was something fishy, and Kayes had set about to solve the case...

The atmosphere is definitely tense and thrilling. I loved ''Double Indemnity''. In the second half of the film, there is plenty of suspense as we start to observe Kayes' ingenious method of trying to figure the mystery out, as it would mean all the secrets and plans of Walter and Phyllis to be revealed. I don't know if I ever felt sympathy for Walter. If I did, I felt it at the very end of the film. As for Phyllis, oh well, I can't really comment on her character as that would mean revealing a lot. But nevertheless, here is a character it would be hard for anybody to forget, partly because of the character development and the climax, and partly because of Stanwyck's impeccable performance. So far, of the few Billy Wilder films that I have watched, all of them have managed to win my heart. This one was no exception.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

''Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'' (2004 film)- Review

Directed by: Michel Gondry
Released: 2004
Country: United States

Genre: Sci-Fi, Romantic drama

Cast: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Tom Wilkinson

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


There are films that keep your eyes glued to the screen because they are so fascinating, so very charming. ''Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'' is such a film. With an ingenious and brilliant concept and a splendid story, ''Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'' is a film that kept me curious and fascinated from the beginning to the end

The film starts in a way that gives no hint of what the film is actually about. Joel (Carrey), our reserved and introverted male protagonist, comes across Clementine (Winslet), the happy-go-lucky female protagonist on a train. They are quickly drawn to each other and spend great moments together. But wait. Its not as simple as it sounds. It is not just another romantic comedy. Just as we start enjoying and appreciating the sweet moments Joel and Clementine are spending together, there is a flashblack. And then we get to realize what has actually been happening: Joel and Clementine had known each other long before they met on the train. They had once been in a relationship. However, they broke up after several bitter quarrels, and Clementine went through a scientific procedure through which she erased all her memories of Joel. Upon knowing this, Joel was devastated and decided to go through the same procedure. As the medical process was going on, Joel's brain did not want to forget Clementine, and he tried his best to hold on to the memories as he saw the memories of Clementine fading away from his mind...

A large portion of the film takes place inside Joel's mind. I really loved the concept. While the medical procedure is going on, Joel's mind goes through the memories of Clementine over and over again. He does not want to let go of Clementine. He does not want to forget her memories. His mind realizes what a stupid decision he has taken after the procedure has already started. In his mind, he goes through the memories and tries his best to hold on to them, he and Clementine (inside his mind) must do something that can prevent the deletion of those beautiful memories.

There is an important subplot as well, concerning technician Stan (Ruffalo) who is overseeing the procedure of deletion of Joel's memories and the receptionist of the company which does these memory erasure procedures. They are seemingly having an affair, but with the passage of time such secrets are revealed that would change a lot of things.

Like I mentioned before, I loved the concept of the film. I loved the way it was presented. I loved the way things go on inside Joel's head and his desperate attempt to hold on to Clementine and her memories. I pretty much loved everything about the film: the storyline, the screenplay, the performances (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are obviously extraordinary, but Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst also deliver splendid and highly memorable performances), the way the story is told. This is definitely a must-watch. Not just for its beautiful romance. Or for the splendid concept. But also because this is a film that remains memorable for its extraordinarily beautiful presentation, the great screenplay, the 
magnificent performances, the romance (of course ) and I say it again, the concept!

4.5 out of 5