kkl10 mini-reviews collection

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The Wicker Man (1973) - 7

Horror film directed by the British Robin Hardy. Interesting screenplay, but unrealized by a direction that left much to be desired, in my opinion. Not wanting to sound rude, this seemed like an amateur directorial work, this an insipid film, not capable of inspiring any reaction, feeling or mood in me, except when, inadvertently, it seems to mock itself, i.e., indulging in its own cinematic limitations and banality, in these cases it either amuses or unnerves me. The only positive things I could extract from here (besides the promising screenplay) were the female beauties, one or two wonderful folk songs and some comical moments (I'm not sure they were supposed to be so). The typical mediocre movie that never takes itself seriously and I usually try to avoid, but I understand why it has acquired the cult status. Major disappointment, to oblivion.

Im glad that you liked Close-Up. It is one of my all-time favorites. I have seen it 3 times so far and once i was so lucky to see it in the cinema. I would recommend you to check out Abbas Kiarostamis Koker village trilogy. Its excellent as well.

Its been ages since i have seen Ran, maybe i should rewatch it for the Asian Challenge, i have it on dvd along with a boxset with his movies.

A small suggestion is that maybe you can add some pictures or posters of the movies. The thread is pretty heavy on text.

I forgot to mention that Close-up was my premiere of Kiarostami, I will checkout more stuff from this director.

I've been considering to add some snapshots of the movies in my reviews for some time, I will try to realise your suggestion, thx.

The Wolf of Wall Street - 8

Scorcese casts a satirical look at the adventures and misadventures of Jordan Belfort as soon as he becomes a stockbroker at Wall Street stock market. Debauchery and corruption, irreverently portrayed in this movie, were commonplace elements in the real life of this man while he conned his way into fortune. I haven't seen a Scorcese film in a long time, and yet The Wolf of Wall Street turned up to match exactly the only expectation I had - a movie that entertains and engages effortlessly by way of the trademark cinematic quality and vitality of Scorcese, but also seems to be a residuum of redundancy since, in many ways, this is a similar work to past outputs like Goodfellas, for example. Was there any need to make a movie with such potentially contemptuous portray of debauchery? Maybe Scorcese thought so because otherwise it would be much more difficult to deviate the viewer's attention away from the fact that this is just more of the same. The same narrative concept, the same energy and aesthetics while we follow the rise and fall of the main characters (or group of main characters) connected to a criminal activity, the only differences are the thematic context and tone. The truth is, so much debauchery makes the movie a bit too long and slightly boring. What's so interesting about it?

But redundant or not, The Wolf of Wall Street is one more example of Scorcese's fine cinematic craft, technically perfect, very well polished, exciting and funny, with rock solid acting all around, I particularly liked DiCaprio and Jonah Hill. After watching this epic portrayal of Belfort's life of excess, one might have the natural tendency to look for an explanation or meaning behind all that, but I think that the main premiss of this work is to serve as an engaging and funny cinematic experience a bit like American Hustle. I think these two movies have relatively similar premisses, but David O. Russel's effort, itself with an imprint of Scorcese DNA, is a sexier, more organic, funnier and more appealing cinematic experience to me. I guess it's a matter of taste that will dictate which movie one likes the most.

Double Indemnity (1944) - 8,5

The most secret intention of an experienced insurance salesman blends with the perverse desire of his lusted woman to put an end to her husband's life. The classic story about the extramarital affair that commits spousal homicide. One of the great classics from Hollywood's golden age, Double indemnity is a seminal film noir directed by Billy Wilder, based on a novel of the same name authored by James M. Cain, whose inspiration came from a real case dating from 1927. This realistic movie does not portray the mechanics of the real case, the story here is much more sophisticated, intelligent and still perfectly plausible to happen in the reality of that time. In Double Indemnity we know from the very beginning that things will end terribly wrong. However, we still afford the privilege to witness and experience the tribulations of the evil mind as it meticulously sets in motion the perfect crime. We also experience the emotional unrest of the perpetrator as he verifies the authorities proving him wrong as they slowly unravel the truth. In addition to the wonderfully crafted suspense, this movie is also a wide open window to the complex psychological canvas of the guilty subject who deceives his daily friend until the eventual confession.

This movie is notable for the excellence of the narrative craft, which is enough to wrap me in the thrilling and realistic story, the dialogues are superb. The naturalistic and effortless acting endows the movie with life and emotional power. Barbara Stanwyck's role stands in my memory as the archetype of the femme fatale, beautiful, lustful, sweet, but a true wolf in sheep's clothing! Fred McMurray and Edward G. Robinson are also at high-level. Except for some memorable scenes, I didn't find the visual style to be particularly notable, the camera work is clean and polished, but apart from the innovative light and shadow work of John F. Seitz, there are no other gimmicks to enhance the visual style, this is a thoroughly realistic and stripped picture. I also lament the less than perfect condition of the film's analog source when it was converted to digital format, a bit more visual integrity and Double Indemnity would be an immaculate cinematic experience for me. Another wonderful black-and white classic, highly recommended!

Playtime (1967) - 8

The wholly artificial environment of modern cities is an obstacle to natural social construct among people, it gives rise to alienation and strange behavioral patterns. The urban lifestyle is akin to life in a giant carousel or machinery, in a way, dehumanizing. So seems to suggest the comic choreography conceived by Jacques Tati. Subtle choreography, but complex and powerful. In Playtime, the singular cinematic language crafted by the French filmmaker departs from narrative conventions, this is fancy Cinema that relies heavily on technical rigor and prowess to make its point come across. Ironically or not, Playtime seems to be a cinematic product of the same dehumanizing and alienating phenomena that the film itself seems to mock about in human relations. A particularly eloquent proposal from such perspective, the notion of plot is very faint and the distance between the viewer and the human subjects within the film is so large that I almost feel like I'm watching a laboratory experiment where the effects of modern technology and architecture on human relations are dissected. But, on the other hand, it could be said that Playtime is going back to its roots, at times it is very reminiscent of Silent Cinema and it even brought me faint memories of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. It's a truly unique cinematic experience. The humorous pathos created by the numerous bizarre or absurd situations being represented is, possibly, the only narrative anchor that denounces the humanly persuasive premiss of this singular work. What's most impressive for me is the effortless way how this film immerses me in the cinematic experience despite being so unconventional. The aesthetical appeal fascinates me and the cinematography is beautiful. I haven't seen Playtime in a long time, but it maintains the same vitality in the way it intrigues, entertains and amuses me just like years ago when I first met this film. Jacques Tati deliberated the construction of a small futuristic city scenery just to shoot this work. Such ambition cost him dearly in his life, but the final product brought him deserved immortality. Playtime is a mandatory watch for any cinephile!

A Brighter Summer Day (1991) - 9,5

A Brighter Summer Day is a terrifying film, showing the harsh reality of Taipei's streets in the 60s after the Chinese Civil War, that took place between 1946 - 49, forced millions of Mainland Chinese to flee to Taiwan. Hauntingly ruthless reality as if it had been rescued from the memories of someone who lived it as a teenager. The film focuses at this stage of life of a boy, the collapse of illusions, search for identity, paving way through emotional turmoil, learn to grow from marking experiences, all this becomes more urgent in the severe struggle for survival within the sea of street gangs that instigate a culture of violence and transgression among the youngsters. The teenage mob, permeable to external factors by nature, has in Taiwan multicultural melting pot a major influence for either the better or worse. Without the strong lead from previous generations, youths can find themselves helpless in a volatile and merciless world.

A Brighter Summer Day is usually labelled as a Drama. In my opinion, the experienced world is too stark and ruthless to have a merely neutral attitude towards it, any glimpse of hope or optimism is fleeting and soon turn mirage. I'd say this is a fine Horror specimen in equal measure, probably one of the very best I've seen. It does remind me of Kurosawa's Ran in its disenchanted view of the cruel human nature. The difference is that Ran softens (in a counter-productive manner) the impact of violence and brutality depicted on the screen by way of Kurosawa's style and for the fact that it is an allegorical fiction while Yang's work, on the contrary, enhances even more what could have been a real experience through very raw, yet intelligent and subtle cinematics. Some scenes evoked in me genuine feelings of horror and despair like no other film has done in a long time, City of God (2002) from Fernando Meireles is similar in this aspect, or at least has the same potential, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Brasilian director had taken inspiration from the Taiwanese work. It's frightening and deeply heartbreaking to imagine myself living those worlds in my own skin as a child or teenager.

Yang has great cinematic skill and this film easily immerses, curiously the bad picture quality enhanced even more the power of persuasion making the experience all the more haunting to me, for once I'm glad I didn't watch a film in HD. The acting is surprisingly accomplished taking into account that more than 100 amateur actors were used, it didn't actually seem to me that so many actors were ever on the screen, the film felt quite consistent and uncomplicated on the whole. The only thing that I would change are some of the last moments, I didn't feel as involved as in the rest of the film, the persuasive factor decreased very quickly. I felt there was a bit of dragging and the expression of religious disappointment towards the main character's tragic fate seemed redundant to me. This won't irk my appreciation for this work, but it wouldn't hurt to edit away a few minutes of redundant footage at the end of a film that is virtually perfect over 4 hours, only my opinion. It makes sense to say this is a technically perfect work.

This is the second work of Edward Yang to get printed in my memory, another masterpiece. The heritage of A Brighter Summer Day inherited by Yi Yi is easily recognizable in the plot, style, the way that thematics are developed and even in the brilliant moments of cinematic introspection, but this doesn't decrease Yi Yi's value in my eyes because both films have very different qualities. Yi Yi focuses on broader themes without the gloominess that plagues A Brighter Summer Day and the visuals are more polished. Yi Yi makes me feel like I experienced a whole life filled with bittersweet enchantment, A Brighter Summer Day makes me feel like I experienced a living nightmare during the brief period of a troubled youth. Both works are rich in thematic substance and equally epic, but they're completely different worlds. A Brighter Summer Day is wonderful and deeply moving, highly recommended!

Blade Runner (1982) - 8,5

Final Cut version. Ridley Scott discourses on the human replica hot topic in this iconic Sci-Fi movie. At first glance this might seem like the typical detective story with a bit of clandestine love affair mixed in, a cat and mouse game where whatever happens goes without asking why. But this is just a pretext to forge an allegorical treatment for the real substance hidden under the surface. It seems to me that the major responsibility in this department lies in the paths of Roy Batty and Rick Deckard characters. Even the most perfect replicant is doomed to a short-lived slavery existence, so "it" is even more anguished when facing some of the fundamental questions we have in our minds about what we really are, the whys of Death, the legitimacy of our conjectures towards life, love and liberty, etc. Questions common to any being sharing human intellect. When does our ambition to play God go too far? What's the limit to what we can and should do with our technological prowess? Besides alerting us to the dangers and ethical issues raised by the alluring technological capabilities we could reach, Blade Runner also reminds us that human experience is conditioned by our mortal nature, we are slaves of our limits. Thematic substance shared up to certain degree with Tarkovsky's Solaris. The Russian film is more ambitious as it puts a question mark on our whole perception of reality and human knowledge, but Blade Runner is more accomplished as a proper Sci-Fi movie and a more entertaining cinematic experience.

The characters are more interesting to follow, there are no dragging moments despite the leisurely pace of the narrative and the aesthetic exercise in which Ridley Scott indulges is visually stunning. This is one of the main qualities of Ridley Scott Cinema, the engrossing scenic spaces forged with great technical competence and the creative mastery latent in the way that the camera work and cinematography carve the picture visual identity. The casual and sober style of the acting is ideal in this context, it enriches the world portrayed with realism and adds to the immersion factor. There's no impetus to doubt about the logic of that world because it looks so visually perfect and natural. An attribute for the authenticity and immersion of the cinematic experience. This is a major asset in the Sci-Fi genre and this is where Blade Runner is deservedly iconic with its full-fledged and gorgeous dystopian world. The only thing that distracts me and limits the quality of the cinematic experience is the acting. It's not as casual and natural as would be ideal, at times there are apparent limitations that make the characters look slightly ludicrous. In this department, Blade Runner doesn't quite follow the excellence of Alien in my opinion. Yes, many of the characters are replicants with obvious psycho-emotional issues, but there was still room left to improvement and make them (and the humans as well) more interesting. Someone else might not take this movie as seriously as it deserves just because of this limitation. This is what prevents me from seeing this work as a masterpiece. All in all, Blade Runner is a well-crafted cinematic work with appreciable conceptual substance. Above all, it's a gorgeous movie to watch, highly recommended!

Rushmore (1998) - 8

Work that precedes The Royal Tenenbaums, which shares significant DNA. Rushmore is a comedy largely supported by the ridiculously adult and smug ethos of Max Fischer. A 15-year-old boy without the slightest notion of proportionality supposed to measure the ways of a teenager in his age when getting along with other people. He treats old-timers and youths as if they were all his equals, endowed with fearless bravura and propelled by his creative and enterprising wits. His hyperbolic character leads him to casually spark a friendship with a much older industrial man who builds admiration for the boy's pseudo-adult attitude. Both of them eventually find their hearts beating for the same woman, a beautiful teacher in Rushmore school, where Max... doesn't study. Each one will try to win the teacher's love in his own way and naturally the romantic mechanics between a bold 15-year-old boy and a woman with the competition of an even older man mixed in is a recipe for bizarre and hilarious situations throughout. I enjoyed very much the theater play scenes, they gave another quality and vitality to Rushmore. In a way, those scenes highlighted the evidence that there's a clear contrast between what can be real and what cannot, the difference between reality and fiction. Reality is not utopian like fiction, nothing happens out of pure will. Anything demands effort, patience and sense of proportionality. Everything comes in its right time and has its own place. A lesson that young Max Fischer has learned by the end of the film.

Wes Anderson likes to fantasize with people, seems like he is trying to capture some precious unobtainium underlying human relations and psyche. He plays with personal and social limits. There's usually a somewhat eccentric character, or group of characters, who have to endure through ordeals to reach the desired goal or redemption. Personal development is a common theme in Wes Cinema. Prominent attention is given to small gestures, either manifestations of affection or contempt. Younger people are an important part of the social mechanics and adults can't get away from giving satisfactions to youths when these so demand. In fact, children have adultlike maturity and social skill. This particular point is a source of great amusement for me, but it's subtle. Max Fischer is that taken to the limit. So far, Wes movies have left me with the feeling of a bittersweet spell hovering over all human relations. They're sweet movies in an unreal way, but although it's artificially crafted sweetness, it feels natural and organic. Everything flows coherently in a mannerist way. The acting could be better, but it's not too distracting. Rushmore is smartly written, technically flawless, engaging, emotionally powerful and super fun! I burst into laughter on an almost regular basis, I love the way how Wes constantly throws in snippets of humor to keep a smile on my face. Flavored and tasty Cinema. Wonderful cinematography and Olivia Williams is a goddess! I enjoyed Rushmore very much. Recommended!

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) - 8

During my childhood and early adolescence, I had the privilege to own an incredible aptitude for dreaminess. It was common to find myself daydreaming with riveting places, landscapes, people or music which made me outburst with feelings or emotions so different from everything else that I still don't know if there are words able to describe them. Those daydreams were the stage of the deepest love fantasies of my early adolescence. As I grew older, this aptitude weakened progressively and today my mind is so gripped to reality that I cannot disconnect and feel the blaze of other worlds anymore. Nowadays, I am blessed with such visceral experiences only, and by rare luck, during sleep. Unfortunately, I forget most dreams. Cinema and music are the only escapes able to relieve me from the absence of my childhood reveries, but, try as they might, the experiences they offer are rarely close to be as visceral and unique as those that my mind can induce myself into. Moonrise Kingdom is far from being such visceral experience, but it leaves me with faint nostalgia because the story portrayed features the same kind of platonic young love affair that I fantasized in my early adolescent digressions: a love adventure tale in a wistfully beautiful and stormy landscape. So far, this is my favorite Wes Anderson movie, it's the only one that graces me with a cinematic experience that comes remotely close to transfigure into a waking dream. I also think this is the most powerful expression of the oblique quality that distinguishes his movies from the others.

The offbeat pathos is apparent in the aesthetic polish and narrative sophistication of Moonrise Kingdom. Here is yet another fine example of Wes Anderson's predilection to whimsically deliberate his characters' behavioral profiles. The youths are the main characters in this story and are endowed with obvious adultlike mannerisms, the acting is not exemplary, but this actually adds to the charm and funniness of the young characters. One more time, I perceived a tendency to dissect an almost intangible quality from some human subjects, Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop don't seem to be absolutely inserted in who they are (supposed to be), their manners are not as raw and settled as reality would demand. Their personalities seem to balance precariously on a tightrope at the limit of their elusive definition, just like appears to be the case with other subjects in The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore. But it is unreasonable to ask for such accomplished acting from kids or teenagers without any prior acting skills, so either this young couple of actors is monumentally talented or Wes Anderson is an expert at the art of crafting his characters by using actors as mere tools. Or maybe this fleeting and almost intangible quality I'm drooling about is nothing more than an illusion or wishful thinking of mine... and, in part, it probably is.

The wonderfully crafted cinematography and soundtrack enhance the dreamlike quality of the experience and contribute to forge different moods throughout the movie. Wes Anderson always reveals great musical taste in his movies, a quality I highly appreciate. The script and editing work are typically excellent and the camera work may be the most formal I've seen from Wes until now. Distractions come down to some poorly camouflaged CGI effects and little else. Once more, the story has a happy ending for the protagonists and yet again, the movie is more than just the story. In Moonrise Kingdom, more than the other Wes' works I've seen, the style itself adds to the substance and owns part of the appeal of the movie. Moonrise Kingdom is very easy to be enjoyed as a visceral, exciting and fun cinematic experience. I don't find it as hilarious as Rushmore, but I see it as a natural evolution of Wes Anderson's cinematic style. Wonderful movie, highly recommended!

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) - 7,5

Wes Anderson makes an incursion in Stop motion animation with another comedy. In this fantasy, we watch an amusing open war between 3 wealthy human farmers and alpha male Mr. Fox. After stealing poultry from 3 farms to satisfy his wild beast whims, Mr. Fox and his family have to dig for their lives when faced with the farmers' vengeful fury. Fortunately, this fantasy determines that the personified animals are as smart as people and in the end sly fauna takes the upper hand over Men. Fantastic Mr. Fox is worth for the great visual beauty, for the rich characters and the very entertaining humor. Wes Anderson's steady hand in the direction and playful pathos prevents this movie from falling into mediocre territory. I would like to see substantially more facial expression from the animal characters, there were moments of emotional or otherwise persuasive agenda that didn't quite grip me as they could. Technical limitations, I suppose. Small distraction in such a colorful and lively movie. But then again, Wes' characters are never garish in their facial expressions. I was very curious to see how the director would forge his animated subjects and, unremarkably, they are not too different from live-action counterparts. Fun and beautiful animation movie, recommended.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) - 9

Lust, betrayal, failed conspiracies, redemption. This silent pearl portrays a romantic tale where true love and loyalty overcome the strongest lust subversions. Nameless characters are archetypes in a universal and touching story. How bewildering it is to witness the changes undergone by Cinema through only one generation! Pedantic pathos, naïve mindset and technical rawness seem relics of prehistoric times, and turn this movie into a living fossil predating civilization and even time itself. In large degree, it's the wonderfully accomplished vision of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, and the numerous cinematographic innovations that support it, what contributes to the timeless and surreal quality of this work. And despite the age, Sunrise is still emotionally gripping, suspenseful and occasionally hilarious, even if unwittingly so. In fact, this is one of the few masterpieces able to offer me a cinematic experience almost as riveting as a waking dream. First movie directed in Hollywood by F. W. Murnau, one of the leading figures of German Expressionism in Cinema. This masterpiece is mandatory watch for any cinephile!

The Bridge (Die Brücke, 1959) - 8

Final days of WWII. Nearby U.S. troops tighten the siege to a small German city. The apprehensive atmosphere of the city contrasts with the joyous tranquility of seven teenagers. Boys with a faint grip of reality who still nurture patriotic warfare utopias. They face the incoming enemy forces with naïve excitement and even celebrate the call to join the army, it's their chance to show service for the Führer. And off they go from school directly into the army combat training. But negligence and unforeseen setbacks dictate fate and only one day after they joined the army, the seven boys get what they craved for. Events unfold, pre-warnings and shocking displays of the horrors of war set the mood for the living hell looming on the horizon. Soon they are at the epicenter of action, fighting the enemy, but this goes beyond what they are remotely prepared for. The boys are alone against an onslaught of enemy forces and, one by one, they cruelly learn that war is not what they nurtured in their fantasies. Only one survives the massacre. Movie directed by Austrian Bernhard Wicki. Based on a real event from which only one boy survived to tell the story. The Bridge is usually described as an anti-war movie and I agree. This is one of the most persuasive and desolating war movies I've ever seen. It starts in a neutral tone, but ends loaded with horror and desolation. The cinematic style is slightly bland, but works well to enhance the rawness of the experience, the excellent black-and-white cinematography contributes to the effect. It's a sin to not watch this movie in HD. Good directing and acting. This rare work deserves more attention, in fact, I think it should be regularly screened as part of schools' curricula all around the world to disseminate awareness and disillusionment among the youth about the true nature of warfare. Recommended!

The Mirror (Zerkalo, 1975) - 9

Hauntingly hermetic movie. Several plots and historical archives entangled in a jigsaw puzzle. All the events appear to revolve around one object whose identity is unclear. Maybe it's the prominent woman, or maybe the man whose voice interacts with the woman and other characters throughout the film. Dialogues point to personal and familial ordeals of the seemingly main character couple. The desultory narrative is fascinating, but what truly haunts me is the visual experience. This aspect is particularly noteworthy; as if Tarkovsky intended to lure the viewers with sheer contrasts and movements of striking imagery intertwined in fluid disorder. The picture is highly poetic; quality imparted by the wonderful cinematography (both colour and B&W) and sensible camera work. The sound design, with excellent music, enhances the visual cunning. The cinematic experience is a multifaceted treasure; a narrative puzzle infused in a scenic sculpture that occasionally recalls to video art. There are nostalgic scenes, inspiring scenes, impenetrable scenes, and even scenes that evoke the cinematic styles of Bergman and Antonioni. Postmodern cinema in all its splendor. The only drawback, in my opinion, are the rare moments when Tarkovsky seems so impressed with his own artifice that he drags it into a redundancy skimming the ludicrous. Although minimal, these overboard moments inconveniently carry my attention towards the artificiality of the work, distracting as a result. If not for these immersion glitches, I would certainly rate The Mirror a perfect 10. Yet another masterpiece that lures me to a waking dream. So far, Tarkovsky's films have caused me a deep impression, and The Mirror is no exception; it's an amazing experience that keeps haunting me days after. I love it and I think every cinephile should give it a try!

Yojimbo (1961) - 8,5

1860, Japan. A small city divided by the power struggle of two criminal gangs. The arrival of a ronin (a lordless samurai) sets forward a new order of events. Obscure reasons propel the warrior to join the conflict; a seemingly reckless decision that is soon offset by his astuteness and deathly ability with the sword. The nameless ronin, nicely played by Toshiro Mifune, tricks both sides of the rivalry in a machination set forward by himself. Power manipulation, swindles and righteous bravery in the face of setbacks culminate in the extinction of both gangs and the final resumption of peace in the city. The hero departs after his duty is fulfilled.

Yojimbo is considered a major influence for western cinema. This probably explains the déjà vu feeling I experienced at the end of the film - I felt like I watched a western where the only thing missing was Clint Eastwood playing the lone wolf. I will say, however, that Yojimbo satisfies me in ways that no spaghetti western has ever matched. The classic plot of a lone vigilante who arrives to clean the city corrupted by criminals is polished to near perfection in this film. Raw and appealing aesthetics, rich and well-acted characters, perfect transitions between comedy, drama, action and suspense as we follow the lone samurai crafting his web.

I was fully engaged by the cinematic experience and the culmination of the events. It's a natural reaction to sympathize with the hero. This is another great cinematic example of perfect symbiosis between form and substance; feat only within reach of great masters like Akira Kurosawa. This is skillful and very well-rounded filmmaking. Fun, thrilling and ultimately awe-inspiring, Yojimbo is excellent entertainment with no distractions. Great movie, highly recommended!

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
- 8

Steve Zissou is a reputed oceanographer. After the documentary screening of his last expedition where he lost a close friend, Zissou publicly announces the intent to document another journey where he aims to destroy the presumable Esteban's assassin--a so-called "Jaguar shark." The scientific purpose of this expedition is "Revenge." Soon after, he and his crew will embark on a new ordeal, marked by personal revelations and bizarre setbacks, until they are face-to-face with the daunting creature. I noticed that critics, in general, nurture weak appreciation for this movie; as a result of an insanity outbreak, I suppose. The style is not for everyone, true, but they should know better than judge a movie merely by its surface. The most ridiculous is that when those philistines criticize this particular work, they necessarily criticize the whole cinematic system of Wes Anderson, i.e., they bad-mouth the same thing that they laud in his cinema. It shocks me a little because I think this is his most characteristic work. This is the clearest expression of the director's cinematic DNA before Moonrise Kingdom. In my opinion, this brings only good things and automatically prevents this movie from falling into redundancy. Surely, there is always the chance that I'm the real lunatic here, but in defense of my ego, I declare myself the sole and absolute voice of reason.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou shares the typical plot with other Wes' movies--the characters' path is equally liberating and reconciling--but on the aspects that juice up the cinematic experience, this movie seems the most uncompromising to me. Starting by the central character, oceanographer Steve Zissou. My favorite character in Wes universe; the oddity subverted in his gestures, attitudes and quirks, make him a fascinating and hilarious caricature. He endures a conturbed period in his life--he watched a friend die at the jaws of a shark, and then runs into his presumable son, Ned Plimpton, for the first time--balancing the gag-inducing charm with an equal dose of drama. I think Bill Murray did an excellent job playing this complex and sentimental goon. I also enjoy the reporter, Jane Winslet-Richardson--played by Cate Blanchett--who has a caustic relationship with the oceanographer, and an affair with his (pseudo)son.

We see something rare in a Wes' plot: one of the main characters, Ned, dies; absentee until the end. This, among other things, reinforces the dichotomy between comedy and drama, happiness and suffering. The bittersweet flavor is stronger in this movie compared to the others, except Moonrise Kingdom. The fleeting nature of some personas, something that haunts me forever in Wes' cinema, also seems more evident here. But this is probably a reflection of my own lunacy. The sea theme is nicely explored, in my opinion; the animated sequences don't come across as a sign of technical limitation, on the contrary, I feel the cinematic experience is more rewarding thanks to it. Technically, this movie showcases the usual standards of Wes; there's just more playfulness here. The cinematography of Zissou documentaries is charming and nostalgic; I wish that the real adventure was dressed up like this as well. The soundtrack has a few brilliantly hilarious moments, just like Rushmore; both movies are equally generous and intelligent laugh wise. Typically formal camera work as expected.

Sweetly awkward, silly fun, bittersweet; potentially pointless and dull-witted for insane minds. This is one of his most eccentric and colorful works. There's no way to dislike The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou for those who enjoy the cinema of Wes Anderson. Although all his movies follow the same basic formula, each one leaves me with a unique impression. I enjoyed this movie as much as any other work from Wes, recommended!

Apocalypse Now Redux (1979)
- 8

From the eve of a secret mission to the confines of enlightening horror. Willard chronicles the journey and the personal implications of what he faces until the echo of his words is muffled by the atrophied voice of a man who has allied with horror and moral terror by his own means to the detriment of a hypocrite army. The atrocious madness of warfare, dissected in a beautiful, spectacular and surreal cinematic feast. This movie looks surprisingly modern for a product of 1979. Modern in the best and the worst. I say the worst because it abounds with redundant moments that distract me. I wanted to nurture higher appreciation for this movie, but there is too much that, in my opinion, is not essential for the cinematic experience; some cuts would help to forge a more consolidated and distinctive work. The excesses are all the more frustrating by means of the typical hollywood-esque pathos so prominent that, sometimes, this movie looks like an exercise in ostentatious vulgarity without substance or appeal so common in nowadays' Hollywood junk food. This is a 1979 movie so it's difficult to pass fair judgement about its originality, but the fact is several scenes are insipid, seemingly pointless and slightly confuse me about the real message that the movie is trying to convey. I suspect that my nagging stems from the additional 49 minutes of runtime in the Redux version. I read about the added scenes and, not surprisingly, a large part of them match with what I consider surplus. I actually enjoy the leisurely, almost wandering, pace of the Redux version; it compels to thorough contemplation and reflection about everything there is to see and interpret. But the shifting pace enhances qualities and limitations in equal measure. I, therefore, agree with some of the criticism received by this version; I think this is a corruption, by excess, of a masterpiece (or so I hope). What is not essential, is excess; the essential of this movie is formidable; then it follows that I lust for the original version. I would love to see it in a big theater to experience all the visceral and haunting juice this movie has to offer.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
- 8

The setting jumps between four distinct periods; the most interesting to us is the most remote, in 1932. Eccentric Gustave H, prominent concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel, and his newly employed lobby boy Zero Moustafa live the end of the hotel's golden age as the war approaches the state of Zubrowka. Both will get themselves in serious trouble after the mysterious death of Céline, one of the numerous love aberrations of Gustave. Among her voluminous heritage lies a valuable painting that was willed to Gustave--blasphemy for her family who won't take half-measures to reclaim what should be rightfully theirs. Gustave and Zero will jump on a risky and whimsical adventure until the conflict of interests is settled for the best and the worst. I think it's safe to describe this as the darkest Wes Anderson movie, darkly fun that is. Both for the story and the characters, especially the brutal cold-blooded killer J. G. Jopling, who has become one of my favorites in Wes filmography. Willem Dafoe can really put together a convincing killer act. This playfully eccentric, witty and darkly fun movie is among Wes' most expressive works, in my opinion. The Grand Budapest Hotel abounds with memorable scenes, dark humor and the deviant Gustave H might very well be the most iconic character in this mannerist universe, great acting from Ralph Fiennes. Steve Zissou is still my favorite goon, though. The Grand Budapest Hotel shows greater maturity and assertiveness from Wes, who has been granted with more sophisticated technical wizardry and casting quality in his latter works.

However, I'm left with a faint feeling that Wes may have reached the creative limits of his cinematic artifice. In the beginning, I was intrigued by the possibility that the four distinct settings and narrators could bring something new and substantial to the table, but that doesn't seem to be the case in my perception. Looking back, it almost seems like a simple technical gimmick to persuade the viewer that the movie holds more substance than it actually does. This is still the basic formula used in all Wes' movies, but this time enriched with a strong wistful flavor arising from the fact that the whole adventure is nothing more than the cherished memory of what was live and loved by Zero Moustafa--only this would justify a space-time transition, and only one would be enough. What's the point of four transitions? It seems redundant to me. The whole story is apparently read on the present by the girl in the a cemetery sitting just beside the grave of the book's author, but we barely become aware of it. Other than its darkly comical side, this could enhance even more the notion of distant or dreamlike past, in which case more development in the "sober" present would be desirable. Fortunately this wasn't a distraction per se; just a personal remark to explain my mixed feelings about the four settings and the ending. I found the whole movie very engrossing and entertaining; Wes is an expert of mood manipulation. I am very curious to see what he will do next. The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes' sharpest mannerism. Highly recommended!