Mini-Review: The Human Resources Manager

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

The Human Resources Manager

This was a film I was fortunate enough to win from Film Movement in a Facebook contest. Film Movement is akin to a book-of-the-month club for films. They send you award-winning foreign/indies usually before they’re released and that you can’t find near you. If you want to get a sampling of their films they stream many of their titles. The discs include a short as well.

This is an Israeli film about an HR man who faces a bit of a firestorm after one of his employees has been killed in a car bombing and he through a bureaucratic mix-up was unaware of her employment status at the time. Much of the film deals with how he tries to make amends for it and then becomes a journey as he returns her to her native Romania and struggles to get her buried.

The story is rather well told and moves along at a good clip. There are some surprises in store. A lot of the acting is quite good, however, the character and performance of the journalist very annoying.

8/10

TruffautHitchcockVillela: Part 1

This article is a partially fictitious account wherein I imagine myself in conversation with two of the greatest minds in cinema: Truffaut and Hitchcock. This work was inspired by the series of interviews the two conducted which was later turned into a book. The quotes from the two are real though the context isn’t always. If you are interested in the book it can be purchased here. If this alternate history premise insults your sensitivities please move on.

Film is: Eternal yet momentary, Enormous but has no space, Minuscule yet takes its place, Inflexible yet elastic, Sincere and sarcastic, Confined to a frame, which expands in your brain. When a showing ends, The Journey begins. You close your eyes and travel within. Never has it ever been so warm to be frozen in form.
-Bernardo Villela

Francois Truffaut on the set of Confidentially Yours (1983, Le Films du Carrosse)

I’m a lot older than I look. I was in Paris in 1968 trying to get Nino Rota to score my latest film and ultimately I failed and managed only to gain six pounds eating Crepes Suzette. While there, however, I did run into Francois Truffaut. After I asked him how L’enfant Sage was going he told me he was going to meet with Hitchcock and asked me if I’d like to come along. Of course, I agreed. On the way there I asked him:

Bernardo Villela.: What do you believe is the art of suspense?

Francois Truffaut: The art of creating suspense is [!] the art of involving the audience, so that the viewer is a participant in the film. (Truffaut, 16).

We arrived a few minutes later in a very plush room at the Georges V. Francois introduced me and afterward Hitchcock said he’d like my last film very much, to which I got very embarrassed as I felt I didn’t deserve such phrase. We sat down had some Sauternes as apparently Hitch had just finished a meal. It wasn’t the best lead in but I then asked.

B.V.: What did you think of The Wizard of Oz?

Alfred Hitchcock: It was a very bad movie (39)

I was reading a newspaper and saw that Julie Andrews had just signed to make Darling Lili and this prompted me to ask:

B.V.: Can you tell me what you thought of the Star System?

A.H.: These are the problems we face with the star system. Very often the storyline is jeopardized because a star cannot be a villain (43). Cary Grant could not be a murderer (44).

B.V.: Yet you always seemed inclined to work with stars, why?

A.H.: I’ve learned from experience that whenever the protagonist isn’t portrayed by a star, the whole picture suffers, you see, because the audience is a lot less concerned about the predicament of a character who’s played by someone they don’t know. (145)

B.V.: The comment you made about Cary Grant brings us to the trouble with Suspicion. The film is constructed and leading us to think Cary Grant is guilty and then in the last 5 minutes you jump the rails.

A.H. Well I’m not too pleased with the way Suspicion ends. I had something else in mind. The scene I wanted, but it was never shot was for Cary Grant to was to bring her a glass of milk that’s been poisoned and Joan Fontaine has just finished a letter to her mother – “Dear Mother, I’m desperately in love with him, but I don’t want to live because he’s a killer. Though I’d rather die, I think society should be protected from him.” Then, Cary Grant comes in with the fatal glass and she says Will you mail this letter to mother for me, dear?” She drinks the milk and dies. Fade out and fade in on one short shot: Cary Grant, whistling cheerfully, walks over to the mailbox and pops the letter in. (142)

I felt quite embarrassed by dominating the questioning but I think Francois gave me free reign owing to the fact that this was a unique experience for me.

B.V.: Many directors including Robert Altman make films only for themselves and don’t care what the people or the studios think of them, what is your reaction to this kind of thinking?

A.H.: I always take the audience into account. (48)

Citizen Kane (1941, RKO)

Our exhaustive discussion of Citizen Kane led me to ask:

B.V.: How do you define as a masterpiece?

A.H.: Theoretically, a masterpiece is something that has already found its perfection of form, its definitive form. (72)

B.V.: Many people find your films very implausible. I love The Lady Vanishes but even I find the third act a little hard to swallow, what’s your response to that?

A.H.: I’m not concerned with plausibility; that’s the easiest part, so why bother? (99) In a documentary the basic material has been created by God, whereas in the fiction film the director is god; he must create life. (102)

B.V.: Can you comment on why your films so often deal with the extraordinary?

A.H.: I don’t want to do a “slice of life film” because people can get that at home, in the street or even in front of the movie theatre [!] And I avoid out-and-out fantasy because people should be able to identify with the characters. [!] What is drama, after all, but life with the dull parts cut out.(103)

B.V.: My two favorite British Hitchcock films are The Lady Vanishes and Sabotage. While I feel the Lady Vanishes is more sophisticated in its structure , bravery is something I greatly admire in filmmaking and that’s part of why I like Sabotage so much.

A.H.: I made a serious mistake in having the little boy carry the bomb (109).

F.T.: Making a child die in a picture is a rather ticklish matter; it comes close to an abuse of cinematic power (109).

A.H.: I agree with that; it was a grave error on my part. (109)

B.V.: But I feel that’s part of what made it such a compelling film, the fact that a man has to pay for his sins through the loss of his son.

This is the first part of a series that will post on Thursdays. This is the first time this series has appeared on my new home.

Mini-Review: Heartbeats

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Heartbeats

Director Xavier Dolan’s sophomore effort about a love triangle where a young man is the prize for a gay man and his girlfriend is a rumination on unrequited love and love in general.

I can see why this didn’t get the fanfare that his first film, J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother), did but in it Dolan proves himself to be a flat-out artist. He not only acts in it but directs it with a steady hand. The only things that hold it back is a conceptual/intellectual disconnect with how the material is rendered but there is an absolute certainty to how he does things. The cinematography is brilliant and vibrant throughout; the framing precise, the edit is good. The use of slow-motion is at times inspired and his affinity to source music rivals Tarantino. It’s not the greatest script but it is perhaps the best treatment that script could’ve gotten.

7/10

Mini-Review: Even the Rain

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Even the Rain

This is an interesting tale about a Spanish film about Columbus in the New World being shot in Bolivia during civil unrest regarding price gouging for public water.

The film-within-the-film does fade into the background but there is a fantastic moment of symbiosis. There are some fantastic performances in this film and when the most notable one isn’t by Gael Garcia Bernal you’ve got a pretty good film on your hands.

Political sentiment pervades this film in a way that are not detrimental to enjoying it but rather necessary.

9/10

Mini-Review: The Brotherhood

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Brotherhood

This is a film about a fraternity initiation ritual gone terribly wrong.

This is one that starts off very strangely but do stick with it. There are surprising and intriguing plot twists in store and in a situation that’s extremely tense throughout there’s some really great acting especially the performance by Trevor Morgan who has the talent to become a breakout star but just hasn’t had that one project yet.

I got this film from Netflix and actually watched it twice in two days. It’s the standout of the bunch.

Here was my reaction to it upon further reflection at year’s end:

Who saw this movie? In all likelihood practically no one, which is why it had to show up here. Perhaps the biggest mantra of my year-end write-ups will be advice for film enthusiasts: “Seek and ye shall find.” With almost as many distribution paths as there are films now, it is likely something you’d be inclined to enjoy will slip through the cracks. I had to confirm what this film’s release date was on IMDb and got the disc from Netflix. Aside from my mini-review round-up post I never saw it elsewhere but essentially this film is part suspense, part horror, part tragedy and part comedy. It takes a commonplace situation and exploits it to its fullest potential and thus has been very memorable to me and could easily have finished higher.

It is a film well worth seeking out.

10/10

Review – The Jewish Cardinal

This film tells the dramatized tale of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger. Lustiger was born to a Jewish family but was kept safe by a gentile family during the second world war. At the age of 14 he felt the calling to convert and was baptized into the Catholic Church.

That’s the backbone of the tale; it’s the hook. It’s what gets you intrigued, however, the film structures itself differently in part because its allowed to. The dual-nature of Lustiger’s identity only really surfaced when he was promoted to the position of Bishop of Orléans. Were this to be an exploitative tale a bulk of the film would be public bickering and fighting back against both sides trying to claim him as their own; what for some films is a whole here is merely a launch-point. Where the film excels is the introspective nature the film has.

Another hurdle this film has to overcome is that it tells a sprawling tale from 1979 to 2007. Covering that much time in roundabout 100 minutes can be problematic, however, there is a wonderful symmetry among the struggles Lustiger has within his own family, with the Church, with himself and in trying to be a liaison between said Church and the Jewish people. That conflict is crystallized as a bulk of the tale ultimately concerns an ill-fated and -conceived establishment of a convent at Auschwitz.

Such a duality wherein a character is balancing his faith an ethnicity is not an easy one to convey. Audiences who appreciate gray areas will certainly gravitate to this film. It reminds me of a bit of The Other Son where the inextricable link of the Jewish faith and ethnicity is made rather profoundly in a different way. Whereas here a man seeks to keep his cultural identity and his “newfound” faith.

A film that paints in such shades of gray would be nowhere without an excelling cast, faltering on their part would render the tale farcical or disrespectful regardless of the best efforts of the writer(s) and director. Thankfully this film has no issues as such. Both clerics that are the central focus of the film are painted as rather human. Firstly, there’s Laurent Lucas as Lustiger, whose introspective yet fiery nature. Then there is Aurélien Recoing as, for the lack of a better term, the antagonist (in some regards), as Pope John Paul II is not painted as infallible, but rather a man whose judgment of a particular situation is clouded by his own world-view. The coming to an understanding that both characters have as they reach a consensus on the crisis is rather moving and sets the stage well for the closing acts.

Those acts are set in motion by the well-timed nature of the flashbacks. For a time it seems like the film is burying the lead not showing or discussing the conversion process and similarly avoiding discussion of the war. Those play in later. It’s a clear illustration of breaking chronology is a better treatment.

To preserve the surprise of it, I will avoid describing the detail the peace that Jean-Marie comes to and the conclusion he reaches regarding his identity at is really only discussed at the most pivotal points of the film. However, it is an intriguing way to look at it.

Clearly, as described above, this is a film that’s not afraid to discuss matter of faith, but also take those discussions into some difficult, challenging places. It’s a story wherein it could be tempting dumb it down and mollycoddle but it does not, quite the opposite it respectfully challenges those watching it to think – proving that faith-based films needn’t be neither propaganda or mindless.

9/10

By Any Means Necessary 2014

This is a follow-up to a piece I posted in 2012 to list, and also remind myself to take advantage of as many ways to watch movies as I possibly could. Well, much as time does not stand still neither does technology and there are many more options now.

Recently, among many other changes in my home, I also got a Roku. Aside from streaming membership sites there are also myriad free channels that I have recently added to my homepage.

As opposed to just one post wherein I will list many options for myself and others to consider I will post this as a series after I have adequately tried a new channel or other means of watching films. More to come.

Introduction: March to Disney 2014

As profiled on one of my newer pages this is my annual tribute to Disney and its works in all shapes and sizes. On the aforementioned page you can see the titles I have profiled in the past. This year I am seeking to cover a few more and dip my toe back into the TV waters on a new installment of Cinematic Episodes. There will be shorts and some other surprises through the course of the month. Come back early and often and see what this year’s posts have to offer.

The Arts on Film: In the House (2013)

Introduction

Enumerating how many artistic disciplines exist is not the purview of this series. Rather the idea of this series is to briefly explore an iteration, an instance, of another artform in the world of cinema.

In an upcoming series of posts I will state that I believe that cinema is the ultimate artform because of its ability to encompass or represent all the forms that came before it. Its elasticity is such that I believe it will be able to dialogue with whatever comes next.

However, this post seeks to satisfy a simple aim by illuminating a work cited by a film. To learn more of it and the artist in question. In short, just a bit more than information the film deems suitable.

In the House (2013)

In the House (2013, Mars Distribution)

I have had some troubles picking up this series wherein the other arts are featured in films. However, I’d rather feature a film that speaks very specifically about the works of an artist with less information than not to mention it at all.

In The House references several writers, naturally as the lead is a French teacher and frustrated writer and has a protege with a flair for the written word. However, just one painted is ever mentioned through the course of the film. That painter is Paul Klee.

In doing a web search I was able to get these screen captures that give you a closer look at the paintings discussed. One review cites the titles as Rettung,
Unterbrechung and Hoffnung.” Which if memory serves is right.

Any other light that can be shed on them would be appreciated.

In The House (2013, Mars Distribution)

BAM Award Winners: Most Overlooked Picture

This is the category that was designed to replace Most Underrated Picture. Essentially the move was in the offing for a few years. With my prior selections of both Toast and Kauwboy, I was starting to pick films that were more unheard of rather than underestimated. I became more interested in championing a smaller film that touting a film “wrongly” assessed or dismissed. Hence the change in name.

2019 Not Awarded

2018 All These Small Moments

2017 Columbus

2016 The River Thief

unspecified-7

2015 The Boy in the Mirror (O Menino no Espelho)

Longa-metragem O Menino no Espelho. Roteiro adaptado do livro homônimo de Fernando Sabino. Direcao de Guilherme Fiuza e Producao de Andre Carreira

2014 Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross (2014, Beta Cinema)

2013 Class Enemy

Class Enemy (2013, Courtesy of Triglav Film)