Archives for category: Film Reviews

“In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs the torments of man.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All-too-Human

The novel Sátántangó by László Krasznahorkai shares many of the same themes as Eugene O’Neill’s play The Iceman Cometh. Hope and deception are central to both stories. The film versions of each reinforce their similarities. Neither clearly resolves the issue of deception in the end. Instead, they both offer the question, “Is false hope better than no hope at all?”

Is false hope better than no hope at all?

John Frankenheimer’s 1973 production of The Iceman Cometh for the American Film Theater is a near word-for-word adaptation of the play, while Bela Tarr’s 1994 adaptation of the novel Sátántangó is an extended yet faithful meditation on the work, carried out in collaboration with the novelist. The remainder of this essay will refer only to these film adaptations of the source material, unless otherwise noted.
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It’s not surprising that Rumble Fish was booed at its premiere during the 1983 New York Film Festival, but such a start can serve as a mark of distinction, placing a film in welcome company. Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura was booed at its premiere at the more influential Cannes Film Festival over twenty years earlier. At the San Sebastian International Film Festival in 1984, Rumble Fish was redeemed by winning the Golden Shell award. By that time, however, the film had died a miserable death at the box office.

the motorcycle boy reigns

The Motorcycle Boy Reigns

For the most part, critics panned Rumble Fish. The primary criticism of the film was that it focused too much on style, leaving the story obfuscated by liberal amounts of smoke and painted shadows. For example, Janet Maslin, writing in the New York Times, said: “…the film is so furiously overloaded, so crammed with extravagant touches, that any hint of a central thread is obscured.”
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The primary notion of nihilism, existential nihilism or the belief that life is meaningless, can be an outcome of an individual’s own crisis of identity, especially if that identity is grounded in an organization, group, or another individual. This is the case with Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte, the second film in what is considered his trilogy of solitude, which also includes L’Avventura (1960) and L’Eclisse (1962). La Notte is the only one of those films not released as part of the Criterion Collection, which is unfortunate, considering the current version of the DVD contains no extras or essays within the case art. La Notte is the tightest of the three films and contains the closest to a traditional narrative of all three. The tone of La Notte harbors the same bleakness as the rest of the trilogy as it explores the issues of identity and meaning within an existing relationship.

Lidia outside the hospital

La Notte‘s story centers around Marcello Mastroianni’s character of Giovanni, a successful writer who has recently published a new book. His wife, Lidia (Jeanne Moreau), provides mere window dressing for Giovanni in the beginning of the film. When they visit a dying friend named Tommaso in the hospital, Lidia remains aloof in the hospital room, refusing to sit and join her husband and Tommaso in a celebratory drink of champagne. Lidia’s distance in the hospital room seems to indicate that Giovanni was the closer friend to Tommaso, but when Lidia leaves the room on short notice and is outside the hospital, her feelings overcome her. This shifts the film toward her as the main character. Read the rest of this entry »

Survivors of catastrophes often have a dramatically different view of life afterward. This is the case for Max Klein (Jeff Bridges), who walks away from a horrendous plane crash in a corn field in rural California in the film Fearless (1993), directed by Peter Weir. As a survivor, Max straddles a line between life and death, never sure which side he is on. After leaving the crash site, Max checks himself into a motel and drives to see a friend the next day. He never bothers to call his family.

plane crash

The crash site

While the opening of Fearless hooks the viewer instantly, the rest of the film relies on the performances of its two main characters, played by Jeff Bridges and Rosie Perez. The remainder of the supporting cast, which includes Isabella Rosselini, John Turterro, and Bennicio Del Toro, provide one-dimensional filler for the lead actors. Regardless of its shortcomings, Fearless leaves an impression that is difficult to shake off. Don’t see this film prior to flying. Read the rest of this entry »

(My apologies in advance for not doing my homework and watching the first Universal Soldier film, which would have given me a better understanding of exactly what The Return is, other than a desire to quickly put the DVD back in the red envelope and in a mailbox.)

The primary theme of Universal Soldier – The Return (1999) is one that has been neglected for far too long in Hollywood: Can zombies reproduce and become productive members of society?

Based on flashbacks in the The Return and information gleaned elsewhere, the U.S. Army, in conjunction with a private company called Ryan-Lathrop, took some frozen dead soldiers from the Vietnam War and reconstituted them into Universal Soldiers (their slogan is UniSols 2500: Dying to Serve), who are stronger and whose only requirement for R&R is time in a walk-in freezer. For The Return, they improved somewhat on the (beta) zombie soldiers with new 2.0 releases, but still encountered a few bugs to work out.

Our hero Luc, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, is himself one of the original beta versions of the UniSol. And he has an eleven-year-old daughter. So, yes, zombies, apparently, can reproduce with humans. Which is gross and should be outlawed. But, wait, there are more questions that need to be answered.
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