Monday, February 15, 2016

Movie No. 15 (2016): TABU

Tabu (2012)
Director: Miguel Gomes
Cast: Teresa Madruga, Laura Soveral, Ana Moreira, Carloto Cotta
In Portuguese, with English subtitles

The movie is in two parts. The first part (called Paradise Lost) shows Aurora in present-day Lisbon as a hard-headed old woman in his twilight years and who has nearly lost her riches to gambling, just like her father. The second part, called Paradise, is ironically called such. It shows young and carefree Aurora in Mozambique with her husband. I'm not sure if the paradise being referred to is Aurora's illicit affair with her husband's friend (Gian Luca) and her frequent game hunting. Both parts are in black-and-white cinematography. The second part, however, is more grainy to make it appear like classic films of the 50s or 60s. It really works well. The decision to make the second part almost like a silent film is a good decision to make it appear like it's the sole version or point of view that we can hear from the narrator - the old Gian Luca - after Aurora's death.

The prologue may be considered the third part. But, as it is just a prologue, it may only prepare us to the impending narrative. The crocodile that's recurring in Paradise may be symbolic of the reincarnation of a doomed love affair presented in the proloque.

The movie is smart and captivating.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 14, 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016

Movie No. 14 (2016): I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS

I'll See You In My Dreams (2015)
Director: Brett Haley
Cast: Blythe Danner, Martin Starr, Sam Elliott, June Squibb

Partly funny, this movie is a serious look at the twilight years of a woman who has been a widow for twenty years. She used to be a singer. The day by day depiction of her routine, but far-from-being-boring kind of life (or existence), is one that doesn't solicit sympathy. She's fine. She gets friendly with the pool man. She fears rats. She plays cards and gold with three other women in a retirement facility. She dates. And she reconnects with her daughter. She loves dogs. The are no gimmicks. There are no contrivances.  There isn't much going on in this film. The characters are just what they are. So light, so humane, so real, so touching. Life goes on.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: February 8, 2016

Movie No. 13 (2016): THE REVENANT

The Revenant (2015)
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson

It appears to me that the movie is a testament of betrayal on the one hand and of suffering and revenge on the other. It's not a bad thing to consider it that way. In fact, the movie succeeds in its purpose, if that is its purpose. And I suppose it is. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a performance of a lifetime. There isn't a single scene where I see DiCaprio trying to give life to his character. All I see is Hugh Glass and his struggles in the wilderness of snow. This kind of performance is paramount. 

The cinematography effectively captures everything there is to capture - everything that every scene needs to complement the kind of feel that the director wants to convey into the audience as he tells the story. So, Inarritu doesn't get recognized for nothing. He's a genius in storytelling.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 8, 2016

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Movie No. 12 (2016): PHOENIX

Phoenix (2014)
Director: Christian Petzold
Cast: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld
In German, with English subtitles


The Nazi has just fallen. Those who survived the concentration camps have just been freed. One of such survivors, Nelly, is on her way to Berlin to undergo a reconstructive surgery; her face got disfigured by a gun shot in the camp. She was a former singer of the entertainment club called Phoenix before she was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. But the surgeon, having failed to restore her real face, convinces Nelly that it's the closest thing he can do and that a new face is to her advantage. Indeed, it is. Her husband, Johnny, who may or may not have betrayed her, does not recognize her when they meet at the Phoenix. Johnny however, sees some resemblance between Nelly and his wife. Johhny convinces Nelly to pretend she is his wife who will return from the camp. Nelly's relatives are all dead and only she can claim the inheritance her dead relatives have left. When Nelly gets the inheritance, Johnny and she will split it, the former schemes. Tentative, Nelly agrees because in so doing she may find answers. Johnny is clueless that the woman he connives with is really his wife. The viewing audience knows about all these. So, the narrative flow centers on Nelly's finding answers to her questions about her husbands possible hand in her arrest. And it's splendid. The intrigue-driven script, enhanced by mystery-inspiring photography and inspired performances, gives a very different take on a movie inspired by the Holocaust.

Two thumbs up.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 7, 2016