"The German Doctor" (Walkonda), is a Argentine historial film that tells us the tale of a family that encounters -without knowing it- one of the most notorious was criminals of all time: Josef Mengele. The Nazi doctor who tortured his victims during his time in Auschwitz, escaped Germany at the end of the war and ended up hiding in South America. The story in the film takes places at 1960, where allegedly Mossad (Israeli Secret Services) had tracked him down in Argentina and tried to arrest him.
There he meets a family, where he immediately takes interest at the younger daughter, who according to him she needs " help" to grow taller as he claims that she is under-deveveloped. The girl and her mother get closer to him, without knowing that he wishes to conduct experiments to the little girl.
The film shows us the soft face that Mengele was rumoured to be showing to his victims and how he tricked them in order to make his experiments, as welll as his true dark and scary side. We also see the impact that he had on the little girl and how she was attached to him. The performances of Àlex Brendemühl as Josef Mengele and Florencia Bado as Lilith, really stand out, as well as the amazing cinematography.
What fascinated me, is that we see a side of the war that we have not seen many times on film: the aftermath and how these ruthless criminals continued their life and their horrible experiments, years after the war had ended.
An amazing film that is definitelly worth watching!
This week’s film is Jim Jarmusch’s Permanent Vacation. Shot in 1980, this is the director’s debut film, marking the birth of his signature style.
The story takes place in 2 and a half days, following an unemployed young man who wonders around New York, meeting intriguing characters and searching for the meaning of life.
To be honest I had high expectations for this film, having seen the other Jarmusch masterpieces. Permanent Vacation is not Down By Law, but it’s a great debut film. You can distinguish the later on Jarmusch characteristics: music plays a great role (in fact Jarmusch co-wrote the film’s music), the characters are quite unique and corky and the story is being through monologues and random encounters, all in an urban set.
Casting wise, Chris Parker as Allie Parker stands out and the rest of the cast might not be that impressive, yet is supporting the story and the main character in an effective way.
After this first experiment with film, Jarmusch gained acceptance with films such as Stranger than Paradise, Down By Law, Dead Man, Coffee & Cigarettes and Broken Flowers and became one of the most influential artists of the last 30 years.
I have no desire to make films for any kind of specific audience. What I want to do is make films that... tell stories, but somehow in an new way, not in a predictable form, not in the usual manipulative way that films seem to on their audiences.
My Film Club
After studying Jarmusch’s debut, next week it's time for another great American filmmaker: David Lynch
Next week’s film: Inland Empire (2006)
Happy St. Patrick's Day little leprechauns!! Today we celebrate everything Irish: Bono, Liam Neeson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Colin Farrell, even Jack Gleeson (a.k.a. Joffrey..)!
In celebration of this great day, we take a look at some of the most famous and beloved Irish/Irish themed films!
In the name of the Father (1993)
The true story of the Guildford Four, four people falsely convicted of the 1974 IRA's Guildford pub bombings which killed four off-duty British soldiers and a civilian. Seven Academy Awards nominations, including Best Actor for the superb Daniel Day-Lewis.
Gangs of New York (2002)
The Scorsese masterpiece, is set in the mid-19th century in the Five Points district of Lower Manhattan, where we witness the battle between the Irish immigrants and the "true" Americans, as well as the break out of the New York City draft riots. An eye opening view of the story "the hands that built America"...
The Departed (2006)
The film that gave Scorsese (finally) the Oscar, is the story of an undercover cop who has infiltrated an Irish gang and a mole in the police force working for the same mob, and how they both try to track down and identify each other before being exposed to the enemy, after both realizing that there is a rat. Amazing cast, amazing direction, amazing music!
Before 12 years a slave and Shame, Steve McQueen had directed Michael Fassbender in this film, that narrates the story of the 1981 Irish hunger strike. A powerful film with great performances!
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Set in Boston (where most of the Irish American films are set), the 1997 film written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (unknown at the time), came out of the blue and gained very positive critical acceptance.
The story of the film is more or less known: a janitor at the MIT, has a special gift with numbers and mathematics and struggles between taking the opportunity and chaising his future or staying at his confort zone and continue his normal life...
Bloody Sunday (2002)
This film shows one of the most important parts of Irish history: The events of the 1972 "Bloody Sunday" shootings in Derry, Nothern Ireland, through the eyes of of Ivan Cooper, a SDLP Member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland who was a central organiser of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march in Derry on 30 January 1972. The march ended when British Army paratroopers fired on the demonstrators, killing thirteen instantly and wounding another person who died 4½ months later.
Michael Collins (1996)
This film is the historic biopic of the life and action of Michael Collins, an Irish patriot that contributed great to the foundation of the modern Irish state. Liam Neeson and Alan Rickman give amazing performances!
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)
The story of both the Irish War of Independence (1919–1922) and the Irish Civil War (1922–1923), through the eyes of two brothers who join the Irish Republican Army to fight for the Irish independence. The film won the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.
Albert Nobbs (2011)
The film that gave an Academy nomination to Glenn Close, is based on a novella by Irish novelist George Moore. It's the tale of a woman posing as a man so she can work as a butler in Dublin's most posh hotel and her struggle for survival at the 19th century Ireland. A feminist story that received mixed reviews from the audience. No one can deny though the incredible performance by Glenn Close.
In America (2002)
Finally, a beloved film by Jim Sheridan. In America is the modern immigrant tale, of an Irish family arriving in the United States. Emotional and full of powerful performances, especially by the two sisters, who are also sisters in real life! Fun fact: 11 year old at the time Sarah Bolger (playing Christie), is now a regular in ABC's Once Upon A Time!
And tons of other Irish films or Irish themed films, worth discovering.... Happy St. Patrick's Day!!
Before the Walking Dead, 28 Days After and Zombieland, there was the film that started it all: The night of the living dead.
Released in 1968, it is considered one of the most influential horror films of its time. This film defined the horror genre and became an inspiration and influence for many horror film directors.
Shot in black and white in just seven months and with a really small budget, George Romero’s iconic film, managed to become a huge box office hit and start a whole new era in horror film making. Apart from the apparent shock that the film brought to the audience, it stood out for another reason: It was one of the first films where an African American actor was casted for the leading part, without that being a prerequisite on the script. Quite revolutionary for the time, especially given that the civil rights movement was at its peak.
The story starts with two siblings, Johnny and Barbra visiting their father’s grave. There, the attacks of the living dead begin. After Barbra is attacked and her brother is killed by the “ghoul”, she finds refuge in a farmhouse, where she meets Ben, also hiding from the creatures and another 5 people. They all hide there and try to defeat the mortal creatures.
The film’s effects might seem childish today, but the direction, montage and music of the film helps enhance the sense of danger, fear and agony.
It is very interesting, that despite the fact that the term “zombie” had already been introduced in cinema, Romero decides to refer to the creatures as "ghouls" or "living dead" or "those things".
In their previous appearances in cinema history (I Walked with a Zombie, 1943), zombies were never defined as flesh eating. It was this film that first established human flesh being the primary diet of zombies.
George A. Romero saw very little profit from the film when thanks to his lack of knowledge regarding distribution deals, the distributors walked away with practically all of the profits.
My Film Club
While this week we discovered a classic horror film, next week it's all about the American Independent Cinema and the great Jim Jarmusch
Next Week's film: Permanent Vacation (1980)
The Grand Budapest Hotel, is Wes Anderson's latest film and truly one of his best! The film features an all star cast with performances and cameos by: Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Mathieu Amalric, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton to name (truly) a few.
The story revolves in the late 30s and is the tale of the owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel and how he became from a simple lobby boy, to the millionaire hotel owner.
The tale involves various murder, conspiracy, a painting, lots of perfume and the various members of the society of the crossed keys...
Fiennes' performance is by doubt the best thing in the film: Gustave's H (Fiennes' character) witty lines, describing his sexual encounters with his 80 something lady friends (“I’ve had older”) or cutting short his own reverie on humanity (“Oh, fuck it”), and his overall cool preformance, are to die for! It is nice to see him in a such a (different) role!
Of course the classic direction and photography that Anderson films share, seems to really work in the whole nostalgia that the Grand Budapest Hotel brings out.
The ensemble cast and their corky characters complete the Wes Anderson world and deliver a film that definitelly stands out and can be a very good opportunity for a younger audience to get to know his films!
Definitely a must-see!
This week’s film selection is Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 film Persona.
Let’s be honest: Bergman is not an easy director. I will be frank and say that apart from The Seventh Seal, I hadn’t really watched any of his other films. Until Persona.
It’s not easy to review such a film. The story, the direction, the cinematography, all of this film’s elements have a story of their own. Even from the opening credits – which are to my opinion homage to Bunuel’s cinematic Surrealism- you are sucked into Bergman’s world…
The story is about a young nurse named Alma (Bibi Andersson) and her patient, a famous actress named Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullman), who has suffered a mental crisis and refuses to speak. The nurse takes care of the actress and develops a strange relationship with her that is between dream and reality and seems to merge her identity with Elisabeth’s.
It seems though that there is more to than just their identities merging. As I interpreted the film, Alma and Elisabet are two versions of the same character and the film captures this mental straggle. Of course one can interpret the story in many ways. Apart from the complex story and its many meanings, Bergman offers an amazing cinematography that is enhanced by the lack of colors, the intense editing and the overall direction, that seem to match the mental alterations of the two leading ladies.
Persona is considered one of the major works of the 20th century by essayists and critics. In Sight and Sound’s 2012 Greatest Films Poll it comes in at 17th in the critics poll (tied with Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai") and 13th in the directors poll. It won the award for Best Film at the 4th Guldbagge Awards and it was Sweden's entry to the 39th Academy Award category for Best Foreign Film.
My Film Club
Week #8’s film was a bit… heavy, so next week we are going to keep it simple with the film that started a whole genre of horror films…
Next week’s film: Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The story behind the film
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest is based on a Broadway play, which is based on the same titled book. The story about making this film starts 12 years before it was shot, in 1963 when Kirk Douglas was starring at the Broadway play. Douglas bought the film rights and intended to also star in the film. While touring in Eastern European countries on behalf of the state department, he met Milos Forman who he found ideal to direct the film. He gained Forman’s attention to the project and promised to send him the book, once returning to the States, which he did. But the director never received the novel. Ten years passed and the two men met again. Meanwhile, Forman had become famous worldwide with films such as “Black Peter”, “Loves of a Blonde” and “The Firemen’s Ball” and Douglas had continued his efforts to produce the film, but with no luck. As Douglas was no longer young enough to play the part, in 1971 he turned over the project to his eldest son, Michael. Without Michael knowing that his father had shown interest to Milos Forman directing the film, he later on approached him to take over the job. So, the project was back on and one of the greatest American films went into production.
Apart from Nicholson, who had already made a name in Hollywood and had already gained an Academy Award nomination and William Redfield who had already an active career, most of the cast are actors first appearing on the screen. Also, many of the extras are actual mental patients. In this film, we get to see Danny DeVito in his first major feature role, Christopher Lloyd and Brad Dourif in their first ever feature roles. Louise Fletcher might have had a series of roles before this film, but it was One flew over the cuckoo’s nest that built her career.
The film follows the admittance of R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a small time criminal to a mental institution, and his influence to the patients’ daily life, as well as the relationship with the oppressive head nurse (Louise Fletcher).
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest deals with issues such as mental health, the health system, power and authority and human relationships. The actors’ magnificent performances and the director’s focus on detail make this film a historical treasure worthy of being studied in film schools.
Things you might not know
Things were not so great though during shooting. Legend has it that Nicholson and Forman had completely opposite opinions on how the narrative should play out and during production, they spoke to each other through the cinematographer, but faked a friendly relationship when the media and studio personnel would show up to the set.
Author Ken Kesey was so bitter about the way the filmmakers were "butchering" his story that he vowed never to watch the completed film and even sued the movie's producers because it wasn't shown from Chief Bromden's perspective (as the novel is). Years later, he claimed to be lying in bed flipping through TV channels when he settled onto a late-night movie that looked sort of interesting, only to realize after a few minutes that it was this film. He then changed channels.
The film won 5 Academy Awards in all 5 major categories: Best Film, Best Direction, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adopted Screenplay. It broke a record that Capra’s film “It Happened one night” was holding since 1934. It also received 6 Golden Globes, 6 BAFTAs and another 13 awards.
My Film Club
Next week we will look into a film by one of the greatest directors: Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966)
Sources: IMDb, Universal (DVD extras) & HerDudeness-pedia
Only 2 days left to day 0 and today we take a look at last year's winner: Argo!
Ben Affleck's adaptation of Tony Mendez's book, earned 3 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing.
Affleck lost (surprisingly) the Best Direction award to Ang Lee for the life of Pi, he was acknowledged though at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs.
So, we still have another 2 days till the big night, and we are out of Oscar winning films! Well, not exactly.. Tomorrow we are going to take a look at some losers that deserved a better fate and on Sunday, well, it's betting time! Who will win this year? Who should win this year? Who I want to win this year?? Frontrunners and underdogs: they all have a chance to win an (uncle) Oscar!
Today we take a look at the picture that dominated the 84th Academy Awards: The Artist. Although released in 2011, this is a silent, black and white film. The innovative film by Michel Hazanavicious, won also Best Direction, Best Actor in a leading role (Jean Dujardin) , Best Costume Design and Best Original Score.
The competition in the Best Picture category was hard, with Alexander Payne's The Descendants, The Help, Midnight in Paris and Moneyball being some of the other nominated films, The Artist's old school Hollywood glow though, did the trick for the Academy and earned the title of the best film in 2011.
The 83rd Academy Awards, were filled with great performances nominations. So no wonder, a film based on great performances by both main and supporting roles, won the Best Picture award.
The King's Speech, the true story of King George VI and his speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of his rise to the throne, gave Colin Firth his first Academy Award (with his second consecutive nomination, after A Single Man) and won another two awards: Best Directing & Best Original Screenplay.
Ever since I first set foot on a cinema theatre, I knew that something magical was happening there....