“In Darkness” is another magnificent film in the oeuvre of filmmaker Agnieszka Holland. A film with an incredible message of hope, persistence and the human will to survive. Highly recommended!
TITLE: In Darkness
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 143 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Defiition (widescreen 1:85:1), Polish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English SDH, English
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: R (Violence, Disturbing Images, Sexuality, Nudity and Language)
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Directed by Agnieszka Holland
Based on the book “In the Sewers of Lvov: A Heroic Story of Survival from the Holocaust” by Robert Marshall
Screenplay by David F. Shamoon
Produced by Leander Carell, Wojciech Danowski, Marc-Daniel Dichant, Eric Jordan, Patrick Knippel, Juliusz Machulski, Steffen Reuter, Paul Stephens
Executive Producer: Christoph Fisser, Charlie Woebcken
Line Producer: Andrzej Besztak, Marc-Daniel Dichant
Music by Antoni Lazarkiwicz
Cinematography by Jolanta Dylewska
Edited by Mike Czarnecki
Castin by Wronika Migon
Production Design by Erwin Prib
Art Direction by Joris Hamann, Niels Muller, Marcel Slawinski, Katarzyna Sobanska-Strzalkowska
Set Decoration by Mark Rosinski
Costume Design by Jagna Janicka, Nadine Kremeier, Katarzyna Lewisnka
Robert Wickiewicz as Leopold Socha
Benno Furmann as Mundek Margulies
Agnieszka Grochowska as Klara Keller
Maria Schrader as Paulina Chiger
Herbert Knaup as Ignacy Chiger
Marcin Bosak as Yanek Grossman
Krzystof Skonieczny as Stefek Wroblewski
Milla Bankowciz as Krystyna Chiger
Oliwer Stanczak as Pawel Chiger
Kinga PReis as Wanda Socha
From acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland, In Darkness is based on a true story. Leopold Socha, a sewer worker and petty thief in Lvov, a Nazi occupied city in Poland, one day encounters a group of Jews trying to escape the liquidation of the ghetto. He hides them for money in the labyrinth of the town’s sewers beneath the bustling activity of the city above. What starts out as a straightforward and cynical business arrangement turns into something very unexpected, the unlikely alliance between Socha and the Jews as the enterprise seeps deeper into Socha’s conscience. The film is also an extraordinary story of survival as these men, women and children all try to outwit certain death during 14 months of ever increasing and intense danger.
One of the heroes to emerge from Poland during World War II was a man named Leopold Socha, a Polish sewer worker from Lwow who used his knowledge of the city’s sewer systems to shelter the Jews from Nazi Germany and the Ukranians who collaborated with them.
The story of Leopold Socha would be written by Robert Marshall in 1990 in the book “In the Swers of Lvov” which received a film adaptation courtesy of director Agnieszka Holland and screenwriter David F. Shamoon.
Considered as one of the most prominent Polish filmmakers, Agnieszka Holland had worked on films such as “Europa Europa”, “Olivier, Olivier” and “The Secret Garden”. In America, she had worked on TV series such as “The Wire” and “Cold Case” and also collaborated with Krzsztof Kieslowski for the screenplay on the film “Three Colors: Blue”.
With her work with “In Darkness”, the film would receive rave reviews from film critics worldwide and would be one of the five nominees up for “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 84th Academy Awards.
And now “In Darkness” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
Before discussing “In Darkness”, its important for me to briefly begin with a few details of what took place during the “Occupation of Poland”.
In 1939, western Poland was annexed by Germany and over millions of Poles were expelled and headed out eat, while 600,000 Germans and 400,000 from the Third Reich settled in Poland. The Germanization of Polish territories would lead to the deporting and extermination of Jews in Poland. Poles that were wealthy landowners, clergymen and government officials were murdered in mass executions or sent to concentration camps. Millions of Jews were killed in the genocide, many women were raped and killed and children (who had Aryan racial characteristics – blonde hair and blue eyes) were taken from their parents for Germanization.
There are many more details of what happened in Poland but in the context of the film “In Darkness”, the families who had money tried to escape from the Nazi persecution, knowing that they were the first to be targeted.
Because the Germans were giving awards for those who had information of Jews, a small group ended up turning to a Polish sewer worker named Leopold Socha (as portrayed by Robert Wickiewicz), primarily because Leopold was the only person who had great knowledge of the sewer system and where they can be hidden.
Leopold is a father trying to raise his family which include his wife Wanda (as portrayed by Kinga Preis) and his daughter Stefcia (as portrayed by Zofia Pieczynska) and with many Jews desperate for his help, he charged the Jews and whether it be money or jewelry, as long as they pay up, he would help them (which in turn, would help his family).
But when more and more Jews were taken from their homes to go to concentration camps or are being shot by the Nazi’s, nearly two dozen people meet with Leopold to stay and hide in the sewer system. But staying in those tunnels is a hard life. Hardly any food and living amongst the rats, these individuals had no choice.
To make things even worse, Leopold knows that he can only help 10 people and these people will need to pay. And the only family that can pay are the Chiger family including two young children, Klara Keller (as portrayed by Agnieszka Grochowska), her boyfriend Mundek Margulies (as portrayed by Benno Furmann).
But the more tragedy that Leopold is exposed to but also seeing the fragility of the families, especially since there are children involved, Leopold puts his life (and his family’s life) on the line to protect the Jews that he is hiding underground in the sewers.
But how long will Leopold be able to protect them?
“In Darkness” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). While there are several scenes that are shot outdoors, the majority of the scenes are shot inside the sewer system or inside the home of Leopold Socha. So, one can expect to see a lot of black and very little light.
For the shots in the sewer, black levels are nice and deep and just enough lighting from flash lights or lanterns to feature the family members in hiding. There is a good amount of clarity to show the grime on the characters, close ups are highly detailed and outdoor sequences looked very good, I didn’t detect any banding or artifacts while watching this film. Overall, video quality was great!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“In Darkness” is presented in Polish 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The musical soundtrack is wonderful while dialogue is crystal clear, there was good use of surround to showcase the ambiance. From the water drips in the sewer, rats running through the tunnels to the sounds of a cathedral or noises from outdoors, ambiance plays a big part of this film. There are also films of gunshots and mine blasts but “In Darkness” is primarily a dialogue-driven film and for this film, the lossless soundtrack is perfect!
Subtitles are in English and English SDH.
“In Darkness” comes with the following special features:
- An Evening with Agnieszka Holland – (29:23) A moderated Q&A featuring Anne Thompson fielding audience questions to filmmaker Agnieszka Holland answers questions regarding the film, the production and post-production of the film and more.
- In Light: A Conversation with Agnieszka Holland and Krystyna Chiger – (28:01) A fantastic interview between filmmaker Agnieszka Holland and one of the Jews saved by Leopold Socha, Krystyna Chiger. A fantastic interview featuring deleted scenes but also the film festival in which Holland introduces Chiger to the audience.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:02) The theatrical trailer for “In Darkness”.
I’ve watched quite a few films within the last year that dealt with Nazi occupation and genocide but I have never watched a film like “In Darkness” and because it is a true story and that the sole survivor of this entire experience, Krystyna Chiger, is still alive and validated Agnieszka Holland’s film as being authentic (even though Holland never knew that there was a survivor from the sewers of Lvov).
The opening moments of the film and seeing many Jewish people, families, young children being gunned down, to naked women running through the forests from their Nazi aggressors and then seeing a shot of all women massacred, to the many men who were forced to crawl like dogs to their camps, there are images that resonates strongly within you. Images that bring Holland’s film to life.
But through this film, we see the journey of Leopold Socha, while a Polish sewer worker and he and his wife were both awarded the titled of “Righteous among the Nations” (an honorific title for non-Jews who risked thier lives during the Holocaust to save Jews) by Yad Vashem in Israel, the film shows how Socha’s original desire was to make money off the Jews because of his knowledge of the sewer system. He is a flawed character but at the same time, for anyone who has a heart, there is redemption. Losha was a man who brought these people hope, even at the risk of him or his family being killed.
We see the change from a man who wanted to use the Jews he hid to take care of his family but then a change when he sees how fragile they are, the stench of death that surrounds the city and seeing close and personal but learning that he had the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these 10 individuals and also the children that were with them.
While other films have shown much more dread when it comes to the hiding of Jews from the Nazi’s, “In Darkness” shows us the will of those wanting to survive but also those who were not willing to stay in the sewers and would rather take their chances of fate in the camps.
Holland goes to great lengths is showing how those hiding in the sewers lived a life of uncertainty, unsanitary conditions, always knowing that the Nazi’s and Polish collaborators were always going to be searching in the sewers for any Jews, but also showing how loved one can be intimate, even when there were people around in close proximity, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem. And we see many heartbreaking moments as families are separated from families and one pregnant woman among those hiding in the sewer, having to make a decision of what to do with her newborn.
There is no doubt that “In Darkness” is a heartbreaking film, a powerful film. Yes, there are other films that goes even further in showing us the tragedy of the Holocaust, films such as “Schindler’s List” that are extremely powerful and heartbreaking, but in the case of “In Darkness”, it’s a heartbreaking but moving film that is not only based on a true story, it’s a different take of one man who risked his life to save a group of people and not banal at all.
Was there anything that I disliked or had some doubts about the film? Probably one instance but not sure if its fact or fiction. It revolved around Mundek Marguilies wanting to see if his girlfriend (or wife), Kiara Keller’s sister is alive in the camps. Kiara’s sister was one of the people who went into the sewers but was the one who was forced to go inside, when she didn’t want to be there. She was the first to run away from the sewers and take her chances and was taken to a concentration camp.
In the scene, Mundek leaves the sewers to attempt to bring Kiara’s sister back to the sewers, so he sneaks into a concentration camp with other men under tight security by the Nazis. Because of the many armed Nazi soldiers all around, I’m not sure if he was able to go in and escape the camp so easily (otherwise many others would have done the same). So, it made me wonder if this actually did happen or not. That was probably the only instance where I questioned the film.
As for the Blu-ray release, “In Darkness” is a film that looks amazing on Blu-ray. Picture quality is great, the lossless audio is good but this is a film that deals with ambiance from within the sewer system, so dialogue is clear, you can hear water running through the surround channels and surrounding noises from the city that can be heard underground. And as for the special features, the one-on-one discussion between Krystyna Chiger and Agnieszka Holland was fantastic, especially when you find out that Holland never knew there were any survivors while making this film, until after… she found out the little girl she had featured in her film was still alive. And the featurette does show Holland introducing Chiger to an audience for its first screening.
Overall, “In Darkness” is another magnificent film in the oeuvre of filmmaker Agnieszka Holland. A film with an incredible message of hope, persistence and the human will to survive. Highly recommended!
Francis Vebre’s 2006 film “The Valet” may be getting its American remake from the Farrelly Brothers, but for fans of Vebre’s work… this French comedy goes to show how Vebre is the “King of Farce”. Delightful, enjoyable and just so much fun… I don’t think I can ever grow tired of watching this film. “The Valet” is recommended!
© 2006 Gaumont, EVFE Films, Kairos and TF1 Films Production. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: The Valet (La doublure)
DURATION: 85 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: PG-13 (For Sexual Content and Language)
RELEASE DATE: September 18, 2007
Written and Directed by Francis Veber
Produced by Patrice Ledoux
Co-Produced by Francesco Pamphili
Associate Producer: Francis Veber
Original Muisc by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography by Robert Fraisse
Edited by Georges Klotz
Casting by Francoise Menidrey
Production Design by Dominique Andre
Art Direction by Benoit Bechet
Costume Design by Jacqueline Bouchard
Gad Elmaleh as Francois Pignon
Alice Taglioni as Elena
Daniel Auteuil as Levasseur
Kristin Scott Thomas as Christine
Richard Berry as Maitre Foix
Virginie Ledoyen as Emilie
Dany Boon as Andre
Michel Aumont as Le Medecin
Laurent Gamelon as Paul
PAtrick Mille as PAscal
Michele Garcia as Louise
Philippe Magnan as Berman
Karl Lagerfeld as himself
When paparazzi catch him with his supermodel mistress, billionaire CEO Pierre (Daniel Auteuil) devises a plan to convince his wife that the beautiful woman is actually dating lovelorn valet Francois (Gal Elmaleh). But Pierre’s clever wife Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas) cooks up a plan of her own. A hilarious farce written and directed by Francis Veber.
Francis Veber is one of the most well-known filmmakers and screenwriters in France. Best known for French films “Le Diner de Cons” (The Dinner Game), “Le Placard” (The Closet), “Les Fugitifs” (The Fugitives) and also a famous playwright, one can expect to come into a theater and know that with a Francis Veber film, you’re going to laugh and have a good time.
For American movie fans who may not be familiar with Veber’s French oeuvre, they may be familiar with American films which he wrote or co-wrote such as the Billy Wilder 1981 film “Buddy Buddy”, the Richard Pryor 1982 comedy “The Toy”, “Partners”, the 1996 film “The Birdcage”, the 1997 film “Father’s Day” or most recently, the 2010 American adaptation of “The Dinner Game” titled “Dinner for Schmucks”.
And in 2006, Veber wrote and directed the French comedy titled “La doublure” (The Valet) which was released on DVD the following year courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
“The Valet” begins with Francois Pignon (played by Gad Elmaleh), a man who wants to propose to his childhood friend Emilie (played by Virginie Ledoyen). The thing with Francois is that he’s an average guy but doesn’t think he’s that great of a person. He works as a valet, doesn’t really have much going on with his life and lives with another fellow valet employee named Richard (played by Dany Boon).
Unfortunately for Francois, the day he proposes, Emilie is not interested in being with Francois. Mainly because she is so busy after opening a bookstore and also for the fact that she has seen Francois more as a childhood friend and nothing more than that.
Dejected by the rejection of his proposal, it’s another sad day in the life of Francois.
Meanwhile, the wealthy millionaire Levasseur (played by Daniel Auteuil) has been receiving pressure from his mistress, supermodel Elena (played by Alice Taglioni). Married to Christine (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), a wealthy woman who literally owns 60% of Levasseur’s company, suffice to say that their relationship has always been distant and somewhat strained. But despite telling Elena that he would divorce his wife, Levasseur just doesn’t want to lose the financial power that he has when married to Christine.
But Elena has had enough and wants to break up with Levasseur. As the two walk on the street together, Francois is walking towards them and when a paparazzi takes a photo of both Levasseur and Elena, Francois happens to be right next to Elena and the three are featured on a tabloid.
The following day, Levasseur’s wife sees the article and he tries to pass it off as if the supermodel was dating the other guy in the picture. So, immediately Levasseur gets his attorney to save him. And sure enough, his lawyer comes up with a plan. To let the public think that Elena is in dating Francois.
So, immediately, the lawyer confronts Francois about the plan to pretend that he is dating and living together with Elena for one month and that he will be paid for it. And while Francois at first thinks its a Candid Camera show, he finds out the lawyer is in fact telling the truth. And Francois decides to accept it, as long as he can get the money needed to pay for Emilie’s book store, so she will marry him.
Meanwhile, Levasseur confronts Alice about the plan and she agrees, only if he deposits 20 million Euro’s to her account. He will receive his money back only if he goes through with his promise to divorce his wife within a month. Levasseur agrees and now both Francois and Elena pretend they are a couple.
But as the two try to pretend they are in love, Christine has her men spying on Francois and Elena to find out if they are actually a couple. Meanwhile, Emilie sees Francois and Elena at a restaurant and she immediately becomes jealous.
And as things become more complicated for both Francois and Elena, Francois wonders if this charade may have hurt his chances of being with Emelie forever.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“The Valet” is presented in 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and French 5.1 Dolby Digital with English subtitles. Video quality is good as one can expect from DVD, the film utilizes the surround channels for its music and ambiance but dialogue is clear and English subtitles were easy to read.
If anything, I can only hope that Sony Pictures Classics or another company considers “The Valet” (and other Veber films) for Blu-ray release in the U.S.
“The Valet” comes with the following special features:
- Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by writer/director Francis Veber. While an in-depth commentary, sometimes there are a number of long pauses during the commentary.
- The Making of The Valet – (45:25) Featuring the behind-the-scenes filming of “The Valet” with writer/director Francis Veber. Veber discusses the making of the film, casting and location. Also, featuring interviews with the cast of “The Valet”.
When it comes to Francis Veber films, he is possibly the king of farce. There are not many filmmakers/writers around today who has had the success of Veber for nearly six decades and has a body of work that extends from film to theater and has made quite an impact worldwide.
While Veber’s “The Dinner Game” and other works in the director/writer’s oeuvre tends to get a lot of notice, there is something about “La doublure” (The Valet) which I never grow tired of watching.
Once again the character of Francois Pignon (a recurring character in Veber’s films) makes its return but this time as a regular man just trying to live life as a valet. But what makes “The Valet” work is Veber’s mastering of farce and making things so believable to the audience. It’s so far out there that a super model and this normal man would get together but its the situations that bring them together and what they need to do to be seen together, making this film so delightful.
The characters for the film were well-written and performances were amazing. You expect Daniel Auteuil and Kristin Scott Thomas to deliver in their character roles, but it’s Gad Elmaleh and Alice Taglioni that shine. Gad who plays Francois Pignon is what I would call the “everyman” that many can sympathize with. A hardworking man that doesn’t have incredible looks, style or anything ambitious going on with life. He just works and hopes that his one true love, Emilie will say yes when he proposes.
But for Francois, he’s one of those guys who has not separate the concept between childhood/best friend and girlfriend. She is so busy with work that she never looked at him as husband material. And you believe it because of the way Francois lives his life.
And the same can be said with Levasseur, the wealthy CEO who stands to lose everything to his more powerful wife Christine. He stays in his marriage because of the power and prestige but he also wants to be with his beautiful super model Elena. We see these type of stories in the news and once again, it’s believable.
But when Levasseur gets caught with Elena by the paparazzi and Francois happens to be in the photo at that exact time, well…that is when the story becomes exciting as we see the tall, beautiful, sexy Elena encountering Francois at work. Everyone just watches with astonishment as we see the fake couple kiss each other in public. With a “Pretty Woman” style (thanks to the faux Roy Orbison riffs of the classic song), this mismatch of individuals is amazing farce and writer and director Francis Veber manages to escalate the situations whenever these two are alone.
And as the performances were solid, the casting of Alice Taglioni was a director’s dream. Prior to “The Valet”, Taglioni had only done small roles and in this film, not only did she look like a super model but she also could act. In many interviews, you could tell Veber felt fortunate that they found Alice for the role. I have to agree, she brought this charm and excitement to the film.
While the film was made in 2006, a lot has happened since this film’s release.
Veber has since gone on to follow-up with another film in 2008 featuring the recurring character name Francois Pignon titled “A Pain in the Ass” and his 1998 film “The Dinner Game” was remade in 2010 in the US starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd and titled “Dinner for Schmucks”. “The Valet” is going to be remade by the Farrelly Brothers.
Gad Elmaleh went to star in the films Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”, Adam Sandler’s “Jack and Jill” and did a voice acting role in Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin”. Alice Taglioni recently starred alongside Woody Allen in the film “Paris Manhattan” and starred in “The Prey” and “The Easy Way”. And both Daniel Aueuil and Kristin Scott Thomas have done many films in the last five years, too many too mention.
And as I wait for the remake of “The Valet”, I had another enjoyable evening of watching this delightful film once again.
An enjoyable and delightful French comedy worth watching, “La doublure” (The Valet) is recommended!
Featuring beautiful cinematography and music, and a wonderful performance by its talent. “A Dangerous Method” does make for intriguing cinema, but I do hope that viewers know to discern that this is not a film based on fact, but a fictional tale based on the lives of Sabina Spielrein and Carl Jung.
© 2011 RPC Danger Limited, Lago Film GmbH and Talking Cure Productions Limited. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: A Dangerous Method
DURATION: 99 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: 1:85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: R (For Language)
RELEASE DATE: March 27, 2012
Directed by David Cronenberg
Based on the book “A Most Dangerous Method” by John Kerr
Based on the Play “The Talking Cure” by Christopher Hampton
Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
Executive Producer: Karl Spoerri, Thomas Sterchi, Peter Watson, Matthias Zimmerman
Produced by Jeremy Thomas
Co-Producer: Martin Katz, Marco Mehlitz
Associate Producer: Tiana Alexandra, Richard Mansell
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography by Peter Suschitzku
Edited by Ronald Sanders
Casting by Deirdre Bowen
Production Design by James McAteer
Art Direction by Anja From, Nina Hirscherg, Frances Soeder, Sebastian Soukup
Set Decoration by Gernot Thondel
Costume Design by Denise Cronenberg
Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein
Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud
Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung
Vincent Cassel as Otto Gross
Sarah Gadon as Emma Jung
Andre Hennicke as Professor Eugen Bleuler
Arndt Schwering-Sohrney as Sandor Ferenczi
From acclaimed director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence) comes a dark tale of sexual and intellectual discovery, featuring two of the greatest minds of the 20th century. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender, Shame) has just begun his psychiatric career, having been inspired by the great Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen, The Lord of the Rings trilogy). When a mysterious and beautiful woman (Keira Knightley, Atonement) goes under Jung’s care, Jung finds himself crossing the line of the doctor/patient relationship, causing great conflict with his mentor and making Jung question his own morality in the process.
From filmmaker David Cronenberg (“The Fly”, “Eastern Promises”, “A History of Violence”) comes his latest film “A Dangerous Method” based on the 1993 non-fiction book by John Kerr and a screenplay by Christopher Hampton, who wrote the original 2002 play “The Talking Cure” which was based on the book.
The film has been in development for nearly a decade. The film adaptation was to feature Julia Roberts but as time went on, Chris Hampton’s play would be the first to be done but as time had passed and scheduling conflicts came in the way, by 2010, a film would be made and would star Viggo Mortensen (“The Lord of the Rings” films, “The Road”, “A History of Violence”), Michael Fassbender (“Inglorious Basterds”, “300″, “X-Men: First Class”), Keira Knightley (“Pirates of the Caribbean” films, “Pride & Prejudice”) and Vincent Cassel (“Black Swan”, “Shrek”, “La Haine”).
And now, “A Dangerous Mind” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in March 2012 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
“A Dangerous Method” is a fictional film that is set in the early 1900′s and would begin with a hysteric Sabina Spielrein (played by Keira Knightley) being admitted to Burgholzli mental hospital near Zurich. A mental hospital where psychiatrist Carl Jung is working (played by Michael Fassbender).
While treating Sabina, Jung wants to try a method known as “The Talking Cure” invented by his mentor Sigmund Freud (played by Viggo Mortensen).
As Jung would send his letters to Freud on how the method is working, Jung learns from Sabina that she has always wanted to become a doctor but feels she would never have a chance. But because assistants are short at the hospital, Jung gives Sabina a chance to become his assistant but also as a way for him to treat her.
At first, while treating Sabina, he was thinking that perhaps she may have been molested but during treatment, he learns that Sabina, was kept unaware of her sexuality and each time she was spanked by her father on her bare behind, she would not hate it but be excited, so Sabina would think that she was demonized because of the sexual feelings that she had whenever she felt humiliated when in fact she was feeling sadist emotions, sexual gratification through physical pain and humiliation.
Meanwhile, as a favor to Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung is asked to treat Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Gross (played by Vincent Cassell), the son of famous criminologist Hans Gross.
For Gross, he was very big on anti-psychiatry and also sexual liberation. Through his treatment with Carl Jung, Gross actually turns the table by trying to get Jung interested in having sexual relationships with his patients. It would be a breach of professional ethics but yet, it’s something that Gross is not interested in and tries to get Carl Jung to consider it.
Sabina had gotten better and would pursue her dream of becoming a psychoanalyst and eventually becoming one. She continued to have a sexual relationship with Carl Jung, but meanwhile Sigmund Freud knows there is something going on between the two.
As Sigmund Freud hoped that Carl Jung would collaborate with him and help validate and spread his ideas, unfortunately Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud would have a divergence in psychoanalytic theories (both had differing concepts of the unconscious).
But because his affair with Sabina continued, keeping it a secret had become problematic for Jung and thus he has to end the relationship immediately.
But what will happen to Carl Jung once he ends his relationship with Sabina and with a woman scorned, how will she get her revenge back at him?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“A Dangerous Method” is presented in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen and audio in English 5.1 Dolby Digital. Before I continue, it’s important to note that this film will be released on Blu-ray, so if you want the best picture and audio quality, I recommend watching it on HD.
With that being said, “A Dangerous Method” is a film that utilizes a lot of outdoor scenes and locations. So, there are time that we see vibrant colors and overall lighting was good and while watching the film, I admit that in my mind, I was thinking how awesome a lot of these scenes would look in HD. And along with the wonderful location shots and cinematography, the film features beautiful costume design and also set design as well. As for the picture quality of DVD, overall picture quality is good but once again, if you want the detail and clarity, go for the Blu-ray version.
As for audio, dialogue is clear and there are moments where ambiance such as Sabina being taken to the mental hospital, you can hear the sounds of her kicking things around inside the carriage through the surround channels. But the film is primarily a center and front-channel driven film.
The music from Howard Shore is quite impressive and Richard Wagner’s “Sigfried Idyll” performed by Lang Lang and arranged by Howard Shore is absolutely beautiful. One again, this is a beautiful soundtrack that would probably sound much better via lossless on Blu-ray but on DVD, overall dialogue and audio is clear with no problems that I can see or hear.
“A Dangerous Method” comes with the following special features:
- Commentary with Director David Cronenberg – Featuring an in-depth audio commentary from Director David Cronenberg.
- The Making of A Dangerous Method – (7:41) Director David Cronenberg and the cast talk about working on the film.
- AFI’s Harold Lloyd Master Seminar with David Cronenberg – (31:21) AFI interviews director David Cronenberg about how he came to direct “A Dangerous Method”, how the film came to be and the making of the film.
- Theatrical Trailer – (1:56) The theatrical trailer for “A Dangerous Method”.
“A Dangerous Method” is an intriguing form of fiction based on the lives of Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein.
For anyone who has studied psychiatry or are familiar with the people featured in the film, reading into the lives of Carl Jung and Sabina Spielrein seems like an emotional and intellectual drama. And it doesn’t surprise me that a film was made on them.
For Carl Jung, so far it has been a few who have asserted that Jung and Spielrein have had a sexual relationship. Afterall, it is known that Carl Jung had a long-time affair with Toni Wolff, a Swiss analyst who was also a patient of Carl Jung and had a relationship with his wife and Wolff simultaneously. While with Sabina Spielrein, there have been books since 1980 written about the relationship between Jung and Spielrein from 1904-1910 and that he did constitute an ethical breach of doctor-patient boundary while treating Spielrein.
In 1994, letters and diaries were found in the Claparede archive in Geneva and these letters show that their relationship was non-sexual but more of a therapeutic nature.
Needless to say, no one will ever know the truth if these two individuals did have a sexual relationship but we do know that Carl Jung did have an impact in the life of Sabina Spielrein. We do know that Carl Jung contacted Sigmund Freud for advice in treating Sabina and that moment of time, both Jung and Freud became intellectual confidants.
As for the rift that drove them apart, we know that Sabina had nothing to do with it, but it was two men with two different theories and both men being well-known in their field and doing all they can to have supporters of their ideas, the clash between both men were inevitable.
So, while watching “A Dangerous Method”, I did find Christopher Hampton’s screenplay based on John Kerr’s novel to be an intriguing take on this long-rumored interaction but also what caused the rift between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.
The more you research Carl Jung, especially with the release of “The Red Book” in 2009 (a manuscript that he written right after his falling out with Jeung and was forbidden for public viewing by his family until a family heir decided to publish it a few years ago) which you realize that Jung was man who had dreams, an active imagination one would say and these were further explored in his book.
And as for his relationships with his patients, while Tony Wolff was known to be his mistress, Sabina to be rumored as a woman he had an affair with for years, I did find it quite intriguing of how the storyline incorporated Otto Gross, who was a disciple of Sigmund Freud but treated by Carl Jung and is known as the founding grandfather of 20th Century Counterculture. A free spirited manic depressive who was an extrovert addicted to sex. Was it Otto Gross that helped lead Jung astray? I found that intriguing.
I’m not a Freud or Jung erudite, but I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the performances by Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley are fantastic. How exact it is to their original counterparts, I don’t know. But Keira Knightley did a wonderful job in portraying a hysterical woman. It’s a performance that I have never seen by Knightley and in fact, whenever she did go into hysterics, I was freaked out a little as she would do this elongating of her jaw. Needless to say, it was visually affective in portraying the character.
Mortensen’s Sigmund Freud was rather well-done. Very stoic and serious, while Fassbender’s performance of Carl Jung was very good, but it made me wonder if an intellectual like Jung was also a suave ladies man? I felt that maybe he looked too cool, but then again, maybe Carl Jung was a classy, cool, suave intellectual.
The cinematography by Peter Suschitzky (“Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back”, “Eastern Promises”, “A History of Violence”) was absolutely beautiful and vibrant and it helps to have a talented crew providing wonderful costume and set design as well. Also, I give credit to Howard Shore for providing beautiful, emotional, chaotic music to support what we see onscreen.
As for the DVD, fans of David Cronenberg will enjoy his AFI interview but also his audio commentary which he really delves into the characters and his interested in doing a film about Freud.
But as I did enjoy the performances, the cinematography and music, I do have a problem with the film’s storyline overall.
Once again, this film is fiction based on assertions that Sabina Spielrein and Carl Jung had a sexual relationship. But if letters were found to show that it was factual, I wouldn’t be surprised because we know that Jung had an affair and a relationship with Tony Wolff, a former patient of his and a future analyst.
But I enjoyed the film for giving attention to Sabina Speilrein, as she was the first person to introduce the idea of death instincts (best known for her published work “Destruction as the Cause of Coming into Being”), a concept that Sigmund Freud would incorporate into his own theory. She was also known to introduce psychoanalysis to Russia and was an inspiration to future psychoanalysts, including Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget.
Always known as a footnote in Sigmund Freud’s book and considered as a “forgotten pioneer of psychoanalysis”, unfortunately Sabina Speilrein’s life in reality was cut short and her two children were killed by a German SS Death Squad. But her contributions as a psychoanalysis should have been shown. This woman’s work have been forgotten and now that she has been brought back to the masses, she is not seen for her accomplishments but her sadistic needs.
It is known that Spielrein had wrote about masochism and the sadistic component of sexual drive as a “destructive drive” but does it mean she was a woman who loved to be spanked by Carl Jung? Those scenes I found a bit worrisome as people will see her more as Carl Jung’s sexual exploit rather than her contributions as a psychoanalyst.
Overall, “A Dangerous Method” is an exploitative, sensational and intriguing take on Carl-Gustav Jung and Sabina Spielrein, and Jung’s his split with his intellectual confidant Sigmund Freud, but I do admit that I found the treatment of Sabina Speilrein’s life to be troubling and misleading. It’s bad enough that her career as a psychoanalysis was never recognized (possibly because in that era she was a woman in man’s world and not taken seriously by her peers) but to summarize her life as a character that is always craving for attention and wanting to be spanked, I found it the most unfortunate. And like Freud’s footnote to credit her career, Cronenberg also ends with a title of Spielrein’s accomplishments and tragic death.
For so long, many have hoped for Speilrein to be known for her work and no longer be “forgotten”. Unfortunately, “A Dangerous Method” is a film that no only hurts her reputation and paints nothing more but a hysterical love toy but also is a film that is possibly quite damaging to the legacy of Carl Jung.
While “A Dangerous Method” does make for intriguing cinema. I do hope that viewers know to discern that this is not a film based on fact, but a fictional tale.
Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” film adaptation of the popular Yasmina Reza play is hilarious, chaotic and features magnificent performances by Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly. Overall, “Carnage” is a film that is full of intense emotion and yet, I found this film to be quite captivating and enjoyable. Recommended.
© © 2011 SBS Productions, Constantin Film Produktion GmbH, SPI Film Studio, Versatil Cinema, S.L., Zanagar Films and France 2 Cinema. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: Carnage
DURATION: 90 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English and French 5.0 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: R (For Language)
RELEASE DATE: March 20, 2012
Directed by Roman Polanski
Based on the play “Le Dieu du carnage” by Yasmina Reza
Screenplay by Yasmina Reza, Roman Polanski
Translation by Michael Katims
Produced by Said Ben Said
Co-Produced by Oliver Beren, Martin Moszkowicz
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography by Pawel Edelman
Edited by Herve de Luze
Casting by Fiona Weir
Production Design by Dean Tavoularis
Set Decoration by Franckie Diago
Costume Design by Milena Canonero
Jodie Foster as Penelope Longstreet
Kate Winslet as Nancy Cowan
Christoph Waltz as Alan Cowan
John C. Reilly as Michael Longstreet
Elvis Polanski as Zachay Cowan
Eliot Beerger as Ethan Longstreet
CARNAGE is a razor-sharp, biting comedy centered on parental differences. After two boys duke it out on a playground, the parents of the “victim” invite the parents of the “bully” over to work out their issues. A polite discussion of childrearing soon escalates into verbal warfare, with all four parents revealing their true colors. None of them will escape the carnage.Directed by Roman Polanski (The Pianist), Carnage stars Academy Award®-winner Kate Winslet (Best Actress, The Reader, 2008) and Academy Award®-winner Christoph Waltz (Best Supporting Actor, Inglourious Basterds, 2009) as husband and wife Nancy and Alan Cowan, opposite Academy Award®-winner Jodie Foster (Best Actress, The Silence of the Lambs, 1991; Best Actress, The Accused, 1988) and Academy Award®-nominee John C. Reilly (Best Supporting Actor, Chicago, 2002) as Penelope and Michael Longstreet.
Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” is hilarious, comedic chaos at its very best! A wonderful performance by Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly.
In France, Yasmina Reza’s 2006 successful play “Le Dieu du carnage” (God of Carnage) is widely acclaimed. Having received multiple awards and productions all over the world, the play received its film adaptation in 2011 courtesy of Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, “Chinatown”).
The film stars Jodie Foster (“The Silence of the Lambs”, “Panic Room”, “Contact”), Kate Winslet (“Titanic”, “Revolutionary Road”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Christoph Waltz (“Inglorious Basterds”, “The Green Hornet”, “Water for Elephants”) and John C. Reilly (“Magnolia”, “Boogie Nights”, “The Aviator”, “Step Brothers”).
The film would earn a Golden Globe nomination for “Best Actress” for Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet, including a Cesar Award nomination for “Best Writing – Adaptation” for Roman Polanski and Yasmina Reza.
“Carnage” is set in New York City and we see a confrontation between two boys at the park. One of the boys grabs a stick and slams it into another one’s face.
We then watch the parents of both boys discussing the matter. The parents of the boy with the stick, investment broker Nancy Cowan (played by Kate Winslet) and her husband, corporate attorney Alan Cowan (played by Christoph Waltz) visits the home of the parents of the boy that was struck, writer Penelope Longstreet (played by Jodie Foster) and salesman Michael Longstreet (played by John C. Reilly). The Longstreet’s child has been on codeine and may have lost a tooth permanently.
At first the conversation between the parents was cordial, the Cowans admit their son did something wrong and they apologize for their son’s actions. The Longstreet’s try to be good hosts as they provide apple and peach cobbler and some coffee.
As the meeting is about to end, things begin to escalate when Penelope feels the Conway’s son had disfigured their child’s face. Alan Cowan is shocked by Penelope’s use of words because she is saying that their son disfigured their child (which he didn’t).
As Michael tries to calm his wife down, the discussion then goes off on a tangent as Penelope talks about their daughter and how they had to get rid of her hamster. Michael talks about how he left the hamster in its cage on the street curb. Immediately, this sets Nancy Cowan off as she feels that what Michael did is inhumane. Immediately, Nancy Cowan starts painting Michael as a murderer and this sets Michael off.
As the Conways try to leave the apartment once again, Alan gets a call from work about a possible lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company he represents. And they are unable to leave and this sets Nancy off about how her husband is constantly working and on the phone. Then more arguing ensues as Alan is upset that his wife is bringing out her anger about him to the Longstreet’s. This time Nancy vomits all over the living room table on top of Penelope’s books (and also on her husband Alan).
As the Cowan’s try to clean off the vomit off their clothes, the Longstreet’s try to rescue Penelope’s “hard to find” books that were vomited on by using a hairdryer and perfume. Meanwhile, as Longstreet’s talk badly about their guests, Alan Cowan overhears them and how they are mocking their “pet names” used for each other. Trying to repair the situation, Michael tells them they also have dumb pet names and call each other “Darjeeling”.
Meanwhile, Penelope pushes the Cowan’s buttons even more by telling them that she wants the boys to meet and the Cowan’s son to apologize and know what he did is wrong. Alan tells her that she can try but he’s 11-years-old and knows that what he did is wrong but not sure what the repercussions are because he is young.
This leads to a conversation of what the two boys were arguing about and we find out that the boy struck the Longstreet’s son because he was not allowed to join their gang. This leads to Michael and Alan talking about their younger years and how they had their own gangs which upsets Penelope. Next thing you know, it’s Penelope vs. her husband Michael and the two argue against each other in front of the Cowan’s. This leads to Michael breaking out the alcohol and as the two men start drinking, it becomes a conversation about wives vs. husbands and arguments continue to escalate.
It becomes a full-on verbal warfare and all the flaws of each person is brought out. Will the parents who are behaving like children accomplish anything positive through this meeting?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Carnage” is presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen and audio in English, French 5.0 Dolby Digital. Before I go on, it’s important to note that this film will be released on Blu-ray, so if you want the best picture and audio quality, I recommend watching it on HD.
With that being said, “Carnage” is a film that takes place entirely in a set featuring a living room, bathroom, hallway and computer room. Most of the scenes of the film are in the living room. So for those expecting a variety of scenes taking place in multiple locations, this is not one of those films. “Carnage” is a film that focuses on characters, emotion and full-on verbal assaults.
On DVD, picture quality is good but of course, I’m sure you will see much more clarity and detail from the Blu-ray version. As for the audio, dialogue is clear and heard no hiss or any problems at all.
“Carnage” comes with the following special features:
- Actor’s Notes – (10:38) The cast of “Carnage” talk about the storyline and the characters they play.
- An Evening with John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz - (38:01) Featuring an interview Q&A with “Carnage” actors John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz who talk about working on “Carnage”, working with Roman Polanski and more.
- On the Red Carpet - (3:31) Interviews with the cast on the red carpet premiere.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:04) The original theatrical trailer for “Carnage”.
Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” film adaptation of the popular Yasmina Reza play is hilarious, chaotic and features magnificent performances by Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly.
I absolutely enjoyed this film to see how a simple conversation became complex and the intensity of the verbal assaults was hilarious and the performances, so powerful! I have watched many films of conversations between individuals and there are some films such as “My Dinner with Andre” that focuses on a conversation but yet, becomes so witty and hilarious that you can’t help but appreciate the film.
The same goes for “Carnage”. While I have not seen the play, what I enjoyed about this film is how these four talents were able to transform their characters from civilized parents discussing their children to this breakdown of their characters as all gloves are off and the worst comes out of their mouths not just against the other parents, but couples start to fight each other. It becomes wife vs. husband, wife vs. wife, husband vs. husband, wives against the husbands, it’s just amazing how these adults lose control and I found the whole exchange quite hysterical.
While a short film compared to other Roman Polanski films, as always with Polanski, it’s attention to detail and subtlety and the way he was able to showcase the talent is amazing. And you can’t go wrong when you have Academy Award winning talent cast in your film. I enjoyed the performances by Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly but I just have to say that Jodie Foster in this film was absolutely fantastic!
When you literally can see and feel the anger coming off Foster’s character, it feels real, it looks real. Her performance was amazing and I have no doubt that the other talents fed from that. Not only did Foster deliver, you can see the anger in her face, the tension in her skin, the veins literally about to pop out, her performance was absolutely amazing!
If anything, I was more curious about John C. Reilly as he was cast opposite of Foster. At first I thought that the chemistry was good, but then when you find out that the two traveled through Africa, the credibility of the two as a couple felt a bit off. Nevertheless, the actor also held his own and also brought a more calming effect towards the beginning of this film. Also, his role required a little bit more action of having to clean up the vomit and having to use the hairdryer quite a bit.
And speaking of vomit, for those with a low-tolerance to films that showcase vomit, I just want to warn you right now that you’re going to see some vomit chunks in this film.
As for the DVD release, you get a hilarious Q&A segment with John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz, plus the talent talking about their characters and also seeing them on the red carpet. As mentioned, for those who want better PQ and AQ, definitely go for the Blu-ray release but as for the DVD is concerned, the film looks and sounds very good on DVD and because most of the entire film is shot inside a living room and the film relies on character performance, some may feel that the DVD will be good enough.
As for the film’s title, “Carnage”, it has to do with the incident involving the children. Jodie Foster as Penelope Longstreet rejects violence and wants civility, while Alan Cowan believes that his son and the use of physical force is part of humanity. To see this mental breakdown among civilized people.
For example, Penelope is the writer who has covered Africa. In the beginning, she is civil but once her beloved books have vomit all over them, we start to see her change. We also see her change and side with Nancy Cowan on Michael’s treatment of the hamster. We saw Michael being the calm one of the bunch but when his wife starts to unleash her anger towards him, we realize this conversation between these four adults is going nowhere. But for the audience, it’s the intensity of their exchange, the escalation of the verbal assaults that become quite hysterical and amusing.
“Carnage” is a film that captivates you through escalating verbal assaults that lead to a chaotic disintegrating meeting between four adults who discuss their children’s incident. While I have heard that the play has much more than the film adaptation, on its own, you can’t help but be amused by the wonderful performances by the talents. Was it perfect? Not at all, but the film does work and you can’t help but laugh at what you see happening before your eyes. I found it absolutely amusing.
But of course, for some cinema fans, Roman Polanski taking on a dark comedy such as this, may seem like a step backwards or not in par compared to other films in his oeuvre. It may not be one of his more memorable films but I do applause Roman Polanski trying something different.
Overall, “Carnage” is a film that is full of intense emotion and yet, I found this film to be quite captivating and enjoyable. Recommended.
A unique story with a twist ending, writer/director Jeff Nichols’ “Take Shelter” is a film that will surprise you but also captivate you with the wonderful performances by Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain!
© 2011 Grove Hill Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: Take Shelter
DURATION: 121 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: R (For Some Language)
RELEASE DATE: February 14, 2012
Written and Directed by Jeff Nichols
Produced by Tyler Davidson, Sophia Lin
Co-Producer: Robert Ruggeri, Adam Wilkins
Executive Producer: Sarah Green, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Richard Rothfeld, Colin Strause, Greg Strause
Original Music by David Wingo
Cinematography by Adam Stone
Edited by Parke Gregg
Casting by Lillian Pyles
Production Design by Chad Keith
Art Direction by Jennifer Klide
Set Decoration by Adam Willis
Costume Design by Karen Melecki
Michael Shannon as Curtis
Jessica Chastain as Samantha
Tova Stewart as Hannah
Shea Whigham as Dewart
Katy Mixon as Nat
Natasha Randall as Cammie
Ron Kennard as Russell
Scott Knisley as Lewis
Robert Longstreet as Jim
Following his acclaimed debut, Shotgun Stories, writer/director Jeff Nichols reteams with actor Michael Shannon to create a haunting tale that will creep under your skin and expose your darkest fears. Curtis LaForche lives in a small town in Ohio with his wife, Samantha, and daughter, Hannah, a six-year-old deaf girl. When Curtis begins to have terrifying dreams, he keeps the visions to himself, channeling his anxiety into obsessively building a storm shelter in his backyard. His seemingly inexplicable behavior concerns and confounds those closest to him, but the resulting strain on his marriage and tension within his community can’t compare with Curtis’s privately held fear of what his dreams may truly signify. Take Shelter features fully realized characters crumbling under the weight of real-life problems. Using tone and atmosphere to chilling effect, Nichols crafts a powerful psychological thriller that is a disturbing tale for our times.
When a family begins to have nightmares that begin to change his life and affect his family and job, many wonder if he is going crazy.
Receiving rave reviews from critics nationwide is the 2011 film “Take Shelter” written and directed by Jeff Nichols (“Shotgun Stories”). The film stars Michael Shannon (“Vanilla Sky”, “Pearl Harbor”, “Bad Boys II”) and Jessica Chastain (“The Help”, “The Tree of Life”).
“Take Shelter” screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 and won the 50th Critics’ Week Grand Prix and won various film awards internationally.
And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
“Take Shelter” revolves around the LaForche family which consists of Curtis (played by Curtis LaForche), his wife Samantha (played by Jessica Chastain) and their deaf daughter Hannah (played by Tova Stewart). The LaForche family is your average normal family living in a small town in Ohio.
But when Curtis begins to have nightmares of his dog attacking him, getting into a car accident with his daughter and other darker nightmares which he is not sure why they are happening. It has gotten to the point where it has left him rattled and has started to affect his family and his work.
Curtis wonders if he may be developing symptoms of schizophrenia like his mother but because the LaForche family doesn’t have much money and if they do, they are saving it for their daughter’s surgery in order for her to hear.
But because his nightmares are starting to affect his life and he starts to feel that the dreams are a pre-cursor to a terrible storm coming, he takes out a huge loan from the bank without telling his wife and immediately begins construction for a storm shelter using his company’s equipment.
As the nightmares continue to get worse, many start to wonder if Curtis is sick. His wife wonders why is he behaving so strangely.
Is Curtis sick? Or is there more to his apocalyptic visions?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Take Shelter” is presented in 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH and French. First, I just want to add that if anyone wants to experience the best picture and audio quality for “Take Shelter”, you will definitely want to watch this movie on Blu-ray!
With that being said, “Take Shelter” looks very good on DVD. There are a lot of scenes that are shot outdoors, scenes with blue skies are vibrant. While I was watching this film on DVD, I kept telling myself of how beautiful those scenes would look in HD! I didn’t notice any problems with the overall picture quality, the film looks very good on DVD.
As for audio, the soundtrack features certain dream sequences that utilize the surround channels. From Curtis’ dog attacking him, getting into an accident, hearing the sounds of the crackling storm to the reality sequences such as ambiance during one crowd scene during a fight. Overall, dialogue is clear, action sequences sound good on DVD.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.
“Take Shelter” comes with the following special features:
- Commentary with Jeff Nichols & Michael Shannon – Featuring in-depth commentary by director Jeff Nichols and actor Michael Shannon.
- Behind the Scenes of Take Shelter – (10:35) Writer and director Jeff Nichols talks about how he came up with “Take Shelter”, the actors talk about their character and the film.
- Q&A with Michael Shannon & Shea Whigham – (19:51) Featuring a Q&A session with actors Michael Shannon and Shea Wigham discussing how the film came about and their characters.
- Deleted Scenes – (6:00) Featuring two deleted scenes: Second Counselor Session and Picnic Table
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:12) The original theatrical trailer for “Take Shelter”.
A unique story with a twist ending, writer/director Jeff Nichols’ “Take Shelter” is a film that will surprise you but also captivate you with the wonderful performances by Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain!
I have to admit that when I first watched the trailer for “Take Shelter”, the first thing that came into my mind was the Russell Crowe 2001 film, “A Beautiful Mind”.
Is this another film about schizophrenia? But there is no denying that when this film started to win one award after another, perhaps there was more to this film than what we are given in the trailer. And there is also no denying that the director of 2007 “Shotgun Stories”, Jeff Nichols is a person that has creative ideas and suffice to say, his name is being mentioned quite often. The same can also be said for the film’s talents, Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. And so far, Chastain has literally made me a fan with her performances on “The Tree of Life”, “The Help” and her bit part in the “Texas Killing Fields”.
But it’s Nichols story that starts to unnerve viewers. Here is a normal family that will probably be destroyed by the actions of the protagonist Curtis. He’s a hardworking family man, but when he starts having these dark nightmares of being attacked and getting in accidents with his daughter and needless to say, he starts to act on them. You know that things are not going to look good for Curtis.
And as for the apocalyptic dream of a major storm coming his way, its the big part of the storyline as Curtis dedicates his life into building this storm shelter. He wants to protect his family and be prepared, but of course, with his mother being mentally ill, many wonder if Curtis is also ill.
But it’s the way that “Take Shelter” ends that makes this film so satisfying and unforgettable.
As for the DVD release, you do get a pretty in-depth audio commentary by Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon and also a few features such as deleted scenes, a featurette featuring behind-the-scenes interviews with the writer/director and cast members plus a Q&A between Michael Shannon & Shea Whigham.
Overall, “Take Shelter” is an impressive film from Jeff Nichols and I would not be surprised if we start to see and hear more from this talented writer and filmmaker. Unfortunately, the film was snubbed for any Academy Award nominations considering the number of awards it had won internationally, but still, “Take Shelter” is a fantastic film with a engrossing story with powerful performances.
“Take Shelter” is recommended!
Captivating and beautiful, Gus Van Sant’s “Restless” is a heartfelt film and a unique take on mortality featuring a wonderful performance by actress Mia Wasikowska.
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 91 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Defiition (widescreen 1:85:1), English, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: PG-13 (Thematic Elements and Brief Sensuality)
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Written by Jason Lew
Executive Producer: Eric Black, David Allen Crress, Frank Mancuso Jr.
Producer: Brian Grazer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ron Howard
Co-Producer: Brett Cranford
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography by Harris Savides
Film Editing by Elliot Graham
Casting by Francine Maisler
Production Design by Anne Ross
Art Direction by Benjamin Hayden
Set Decoration by Sara Parks
Costume Design by Danny Glicker
Henry Hopper as Enoch Brae
Mia Wasikowska as Annabel Cotton
Ryo Kase as Hiroshi Takahashi
Schuyler Fisk as Elizabeth Cotton
Luisia Strus as Rachel Cotton
Jane Adams as Mabel
Paul Parson as Edward
From acclaimed director Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) comes a quirky, coming-of-age love story between a young man (Henry Hopper) who has given up on life and a beautiful, charming young girl (Mia Wasikowska) who possesses a deep-felt love of life and the natural world. When these two outsiders chance to meet at a funeral, they find an unexpected common ground in their unique experiences of the world. Produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Bryce Dallas Howard and Gus Van Sant.
Captivating and beautiful, Gus Van Sant’s “Restless” is a heartfelt film and a unique take on mortality featuring a wonderful performance by actress Mia Wasikowska.
Gus Van Sant is known for films such as “Milk”, “”Good Will Hunting” but also taking on youth-based films such as “Elephant”, “Finding Forrester”, “My Own Private Idaho” and “Mala Noche”.
And once again, Van Sant takes on a youth film but this time, a storyline that revolves around “death”. Directed by Van Sant and written by Jason Lew, “Restless” is a film that stars Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre”, “The Kids Are All Right”, “Alice in Wonderland”), the film debut of actor Harry Hopper and Ryo Kase (“Tokyo Rendezvous”, “Letters from Iwo Jima”).
“Restless” is a film about a young man named Enoch Brae (played by Henry Hopper). Enoch is a young man who has had a hard time dealing with the death of his parents and has dropped out of school, talks to his only friend which is a ghost of a young kamikaze pilot named Hiroshi Takahashi (played by Ryo Kase) and for some reason, Enoch constantly attends people’s funerals.
One day, while attending a funeral, he meets a young woman named Annabel Cotton. At first, she tells him that she works with children that have cancer but the truth is, she has cancer and only three months to live.
And for these two quirky teenagers, despite Annabel’s few months to live, he accepts her death and she accepts his unusual side and both fall in love.
But when Annabel’s death becomes a reality for Enoch, how will this young man eventually deal with another person close to him dying?
“Restless” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1) and for its overall picture quality, while the cinematography by Harris Savides (“American Gangster”, “Zodiac”, “The Game”, “Milk) is fantastic and one again, utilizing warmer colors, there is a bit of experimentation used by both Savides and also Gus Van Sant in creating this softer look towards the film. The look of the film is intentional but my perspective of the look of the film sort of matches the quirky relationship between the two protagonists. Nothing is perfect in their world but yet these two individuals where one is about to die and one was awakened from death are able to come together. The look is not exactly dream-like but I felt the colors, the softness worked with this type of film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Restless” is a dialogue driven film but it’s also a film with a lot of cool music and also music composed by Danny Elfman (“The Night Before Christmas”, “Batman”, “Corpse Bride”, “The Simpsons”) and another collaboration with Gus Van Sant (as the two have worked together on “Good Will Hunting”). While the film does feature ambience during crowd-based scenery and natural environments as both Enoch and Annabel are outdoors with each other near a creek or areas with a lot of vegetation (thus the sounds of insects and birds), the dialogue and music is probably the most dominant piece of this entire film. I did enjoy the music soundtrack for this film but for the most part, this film is center and front channel driven.
Subtitles are in English and English SDH.
“Restless” comes with the following special features:
- Gus Van Sant’s Silent Version of Restless – After the completion of filming various scenes of “Restless”, Van Sant instructed his actors to also do a different version for a silent movie version with intertitles. Included as a special feature is the silent film version.
- Enoch & Annabel: One Love – (6:20) The cast and crew of “Restless” talk about the movie , its storyline and characters.
- Enoch & Hiroshi: The Best of Friends – (4:06) A featurette that explains Hiroshi’s origins in the film and his role.
- Gus Van Sant: Independent Voice – (6:05) The cast and crew talk about working with director Gus Van Sant.
- Being Restless – (9:50) A featurette that shows us how the film became to be. From the production of the film, the making of the silent version of “Restless” and more.
- Coming to Life: This is Restless – Screenwriter Jason Lew and Producer Bryce Dallas Howard talk about the film’s story, the cast of the film and more.
- Deleted Scenes – (8:39) Featuring three deleted scenes.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:14) The theatrical trailer for “Restless”.
“Restless” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.
“Restless” is a film that deals with death, understanding and coming to accept it.
In the case of Enoch, a young man who’s parents were killed in an accident by a drunk driver and his life was spared, having died for a few minutes and being brought to life, he finds it difficult to understand the concept of death and thus he attends funerals in hopes it would help him come to terms with it.
Annabel is a young woman who has come to terms with her cancer and that she has only three months to live and thus, these two quirky individuals were brought together and essentially, her pending death makes him understand death but also the importance of having memories of one’s happier moments. For Annabel, it’s to have someone to share her love and have her first and final romance, no discussion of her death or cancer but to experience that time together.
We are also given a third character, Hiroshi who is more or less, a guardian angel to Enoch and while not implicit that he must help Enoch through his troubled time in order to complete his job, the viewer begins to learn throughout the film that he is more than just a “ghost”. There is no explaining by Van Sant of why this character is in the film (or why he speaks perfect English), but fortunately for those who were confused, there is a special feature on the special bond that Enoch and Hiroshi had with each other and why his character is quite important for this film.
While we have seen similar quirky couples arise from tragic circumstances such as the 1993 film “Benny & Joon” which the storyline worked very well, the problem that many critics had with “Restless” is that it deals less with the drama and that a young woman such as Annabel is very prepared for death and if anything, Enoch is still reeling from his parent’s death. The focus on their relationship is no discussion of her cancer or death but the two experiencing quality time together.
In someway, I can identify with this film because my mindset was similar to both Enoch and Annabel in the fact that I have approached the death of family members the first time, grieving and not understanding (like Enoch) and the second time around, with acceptance (like Annabel) that they were religious and they go on to a better place and that one has had a quality life, no matter how short or long of life they had. It’s definitely a religious look at life and one’s interpretation of death and when it comes to this film, I’m sure people with different religious upbringings or no upbringing will come away from this film with a different opinion.
Sure, the film could have become more emotionally dramatic and had Annabel realizing that she wants’ to live and not die but wouldn’t that be too banal? Done many times before in cinema? If anything, similar to like the quirkiness of “Benny & Joon”, I enjoyed the quirkiness of Enoch and Annabel. Two souls brought together by fate and in essence, helping each other even though their relationship was for a short time. Quality vs. quantity, acceptance and understanding… it’s how I viewed “Restless” overall.
And I look forward to seeing more of Dennis Hopper’s son Henry grow as an actor and as for Mia Wasikowska, there is no doubt in my mind that this actress is going to have an even more impressive career in the next few years. Her performance in this film was fantastic!
As for the Blu-ray release of “Restless”, as a huge silent film fan, it was wonderful to see Gus Van Sant make a second version of this film but via a silent film with intertitles and music. It was a surprise to see this included as a special feature and for the most part, along with the other special features of this film, it made me enjoy this Blu-ray release even more!
“Restless” may not be as deep when it comes to drama compared to previous Gus Van Sant films but I’ve always looked at Van Sant as a filmmaker who tries to find a medium between mainstream cinema and arthouse films. He may have won two Academy Awards for “Good Will Hunting” and most recently for “Milk” but it’s when he does something unexpected, we can often spot his creative brilliance.
Some may wonder if the fillmmaker is to occupied with films that are about death, may it be “Gerry”, “Elephant” or “Last Days” but what I enjoyed about “Restless” is the fact that it’s a film that is not to heavy, not too dark, not violent but mostly a film that shows us the fine balance between life and mortality… understanding and acceptance.
I know others who have found “Restless” emotionally simplistic, too upbeat of a film about mortality and while I do feel i is not the best Van Sant film, I still found “Restless” to be beautiful and entertaining.
Hilarious and witty! “The Guard” is a a comedy/thriller about an unorthodox Irish police officer and a straightlaced FBI agent from the U.S., having to work together in taking down a drug smuggling operation in Ireland. A comedy full of expletives but avoids the typical mismatched police partner cliche that is seen in American cinema. A wonderful performance from Brendan Gleeson and John Michael McDonagh is definitely a filmmaker to keep an eye out for in the near future!
TITLE: The Guard
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 96 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Defiition (widescreen 2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: R (For Pervasive Language, Some Violence, Drug Material and Sexual Content)
Release Date: Jan. 3, 2012
Directed by John Michael McDonagh
Screenplay by John Michael McDonagh
Produced by Flora Fernandez-Marengo, Chris Clark, Andrew Lowe
Executive Producer: Paul Brett, Don Cheadle, Ralph Kamp, Martin McDonagh, David Nash, Tim Smith, Lenore Zerman
Associate Producer: Elizabeth Eves
Music by Calexico
Cinematography by Larry Smith
Edited by Chris Gill
Casting by Jina Kay
Production Design by John Paul Kelly
Art Direction by Lucy van Lonkhuyzen
Costume Design by Elmer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh
Brendan Gleeson as Sergeant Gerry Boyle
Don Cheadle as FBI agent Wendell Everett
Liam Cunningham as Francis Sheehy
David Wilmot as Liam O’Leary
Rory Keenan as Garda Aidan McBride
Mark Strong as Clive Cornell
Fionnula Flanagan as Eileen Boyle
Dominique McElligott as Aoife O’Carroll
Sarah Greene as Sinead Mulligan
Katarina Cas as Gabriela McBride
Pat Shortt as Colum Hennessey
Darren Healy as Jimmy Moody
Laurence Kinlan as Photographer
Gary Lydon as Garda Inspector Gerry Stanton
THE GUARD is a comedic, fish out of water tale of murder, blackmail, drug trafficking and rural police corruption. Two cops (Gleeson and Cheadle) one an unorthodox Irish policeman and the other, a straitlaced FBI agent, must join forces to take on an international drug-smuggling gang.
Back in 2000, Irish filmmaker John Michael McDonagh created a short titled “The Second Death” and his goal was to someday make it into a feature film.
In 2011, McDonagh made his dream come true with the release of “The Guard”, inspired by his short film and starring Brendan Gleeson, “Troy”, “Mission Impossible II”, “Gangs of New York”) and Don Cheadle (“Crash”, “Hotel Rwanda”, “Iron Man 2″).
Since the film’s release, “The Guard” has been nominated and won several awards around the world and has become the most successful independent Irish film of all time in box office receipts.
The film revolves around an unorthodox Irish policeman (the term for policeman in Ireland is “Garda Siochana” for guardian/guard), Sergeant Gerry Boyle. A man who speaks his mind, does what he wants and you never know if he is telling the truth or if he’s lying to you. He has his own style of law enforcement and detective work.
One day, he shows up to a homicide in which a man is left with a bullet into the head and spraypainted is “5 1/2″. Another fellow officer thinks the numbers represent the number of people killed and may be the work of a serial killer.
Meanwhile, with an international drug smuggling gang having made its way to Ireland’s Connemara Gaeltacht, straightlaced FBI agent Wendell Everett is sent to work with the Garda and help capture these drug smugglers. As a big drug deal worth half a billion dollars is to take place in the area.
As Agent Everett is explaining the case of the smugglers, immediately Sgt. Boyle starts questioning Everett with racist remarks. “I thought only Black people and Mexicans are drug smugglers” and immediately they get into an argument in which Agent Everett calls out Boyle’s racist remarks, but the more things come out of Boyle’s mouth, you quickly learn that it is less of being racist but more of being naive (as there are not any Black people in that part of Ireland that Boyle resides in) and his only knowledge of Black people is what he sees on television.
As much as Agent Everett wants to distance himself from Boyle, because Boyle found one of the drug smugglers dead, eventually Agent Everett has to work with Sgt. Boyle.
While the two try to get to know each other despite their racial and country differences, Agent Everett learns quickly that it’s not as easy for a Black man to do an investigation in Ireland especially when many don’t speak English, meanwhile Everett becomes more drawn to the case when he finds out that one of the new Garda police that has transferred to his unit is now missing.
Despite their differences, both men must work together in solving the case and watching each other’s back as they go up against the criminals.
“The Guard” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). For the most part, the Ireland countryside looks very good, colors at times are vibrant and close-ups are well-done and full of detail. I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts but the overall look is a bit soft. But overall, the picture quality for “The Guard” is good but not great.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Guard” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. I did notice a good amount of ambiance from sounds of wind, birds and people in crowded areas. But for the most part, dialogue is clear (although some of the Irish accents may be difficult for some to understand). The film does have its share of action towards the end of the film but for the most part, the film is dialogue and ambiance-driven. It’s a decent lossless soundtrack that is appropriate for this kind of film.
Subtitles are in English and English SDH.
“The Guard” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by John Michael McDonagh and actors Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle.
- Making of the Guard – (19:21) Featuring behind-the-scenes footage of the film and interview with the filmmaker and cast.
- The Second Death – (11:20) Director John Michael McDonagh’s original short film which “The Guard” was inspired form.
- Outtakes – (3:05) Featuring outtakes from “The Guard”.
- Q&A with Don Cheadle, Brennan Gleason and Director John Michael McDonagh – (18:08) A Q&A held at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
- Deleted Scenes – (6:07) Featuring three deleted scenes: “Boyle has champagne with prostitutes”, “Everett Tries to Clear the Air between Boyle & Stanton” and “Boyle Walking with Gabriela”.
- Extended and Alternate Scenes – (18:32) Featuring twelve extended/alternate scenes.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:18) The original theatrical trailer for “The Guard”.
A delightful and profanity-laced film that is unique and entertaining!
“The Guard” is one of those films that doesn’t follow the typical banality of Black cop working with another cop from another country. Actor Brendan Gleeson’s character of Sergeant Gerry Boyle is what makes this film much more enjoyable because the things that come out of Boyle’s mouth is surprising and you can’t help but laugh because you know that things that comes out of his mouth is ignorant but you know he is quite a naive man.
When Agent Everett is offended by Boyle’s racist remarks, Boyle responds with, “I’m Irish. Racism is part of my culture.”
Even the exchanges between him and the two prostitutes he spends time with is surprising. In one scene, he finds out a woman is wearing a push-up bra and she replies “Now, you can see my small tits” and Boyle responds with, “Don’t worry because I have a small dick”. This is the kind of wit that Boyle has and the things that come out of his mouth, makes you wonder about Sgt. Boyle. As Agent Everett tells him straight out, “You either are f$@%@n’ stupid or really f$@%@n’ very smart”. And Everett replies with a smirk. You don’t know if he’s trying to be offensive or is quite clueless, but his way…his style of detective work, it works for Boyle amazingly well that he is able to find out where the drug deal is taking place.
While the film focuses on Boyle and the way he does his detective work, the partnership that these two men avoid the typical “Rush Hour” or “Beverly Hills Cop” style of banter between races. Agent Everett is straight-laced, comes from a great family background and despite being good at his job, he’s literally a fish out of water in Ireland and knows he’s not going to get much help from anyone else (it’s a statement that in other countries that don’t have association or familiarity with Black people, many will not talk to you). So, working with Boyle is his only chance of catching these criminals.
As for the Blu-ray release, “The Guard” features good PQ and AQ and also including a good number of special features. As a Sony Pictures Classics Blu-ray release, I noticed that they didn’t go with the usual Blu-ray+DVD Combo pack for this title.
If anything, I wouldn’t watch this film with children in the room. While there is violence, the film has pervasive mature language and the F-bomb is used a lot! And I have to admit, the vulgarity and outrageous comments at times, is what made this film quite delightful and made the character of Sgt. Boyle so fascinating. “The Guard” features a wonderful performance from Brendan Gleeson and director John Michael McDonagh is definitely a filmmaker to keep an eye out for in the near future!
Overall, there is no doubt that John Michael McDonagh has created a wonderful, witty and delightful and hilarious film. “The Guard” is not your typical mismatched partners and the typical cliche outbursts that we typically see in American cinema. But I think that is what makes “The Guard” so much more intriguing because it is an Irish comedy/thriller.
If you are looking for something different, something fun… “The Guard” is a delightful film worth checking out!
Delightful, clever and witty… Woody Allen serves up a wonderful romantic comedy with “Midnight in Paris” and yet another fantastic film to add to his amazing oeuvre.
© 2011 Gravier Productions, Inc., Mediaproduccion S.L.U. and Versatil Cinema S.L. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: Midnight in Paris
DURATION: 94 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: 1:85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English, French 3.0 LCR (Discrete Surround), Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: PG-13 (For Some Sexual References and Smoking)
RELEASE DATE: December 20, 2011
Directed and written by Woody Allen
Produced by Letty Aronson, Jaume Roures, Stephen Tenenbaum
Co-Produced by Raphael Benoliel, Helen Robin
Executive Produced by Javier Mendez
Co-Executive Producer: Jack Rollins
Music by Stephanie Wrembel
Cinematography by Johanne Debas, Darius Khondji
Edited by Alisa Lepselter
CAsting by Stephane Foenkinos, Patricia Kerrigan DiCerto, Juliet Taylor
Production Design by Anne Seibel
Art Direction by Anne Seibel
Set Decoration by Helene Dubreuil
Costume Design by Sonia Grande
Owen Wilson as Gil
Rachel McAdams as Inez
Kurt Fuller as John
Mimi Kennedy as Helen
Michael Sheen as Paul
Nina Arianda as Carol
Carla Bruni as Museum Guide
Yves Heck as Cole Porter
Alison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald
Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway
Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald
Sonia Rolland as Josephine Baker
Daniel Lundh as Juan Belmonte
Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein
Marcial Di Fonzo Bo as Pablo Picasso
Marion Cotillard as Adriana
Lea Seydoux as Gabrielle
Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali
Adrien de Van as Luis Bunuel
This is a romantic comedy set in Paris about a family that goes there because of business, and two young people who are engaged to be married in the fall have experiences there that change their lives. It’s about a young man’s great love for a city, Paris, and the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better.
In 2011, Woody Allen would write and direct the film “Midnight in Paris”, a romantic comedy/fantasy which has been praised as Woody Allen’s best film in the last decade.
In fact, “Midnight in Paris” is Woody Allen’s highest grossing film which has earned over $135 million in the box office.
The film features an all-star cast starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Carla Bruni, Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody, Michael Sheen to name a few.
For Allen, the film is a return to fantasy such as his 1985 film “The Purple Rose of Cairo” and the screenplay was written around the title of the film “Midnight in Paris” and his goal was to capture Paris, focus on the romantic elements of the film and its warm ambience. The film would mark Allen’s first film to go through a digital intermediate and literally an experiment to find out if he would like to use the process in his next films.
“Midnight in Paris” is a film that focuses on Gil (played by Owen Wilson, “Wedding Crashers”, “The Darjeeling Limited”, “Bottle Rocket”), a Hollywood screenwriter who has traveled with his fiancee, Inez (played by Rachel McAdams, “Wedding Crashers”, “Mean Girls”, “Sherlock Holmes”) and her wealthy and conservative parents to Paris.
Gil is currently trying to finish his novel but he is having a little difficulty completing it. Meanwhile, Inez and her parents are not so thrilled that Gil wants to give up his lucrative Hollywood screenwriting career to focus on a novel.
And while in Paris, Gil is enjoying the moment. He would love to live in Paris but for Inez, she is wanting to live in Malibu. If anything, the two don’t really have much in common and are constantly in disagreement.
When Inez’ friend Paul (played by Michael Sheen, “Kingdom of Heaven”, “Underworld”, “Alice in Wonderland”) and his wife Carol (played by Nina Arianda, “Win Win”, “Higher Ground”) arrive to Paris, Inez wants to hang out with the couple. But because Paul is a pseudo-intellectual who believes he is right about everything, Inez seems to idolize everything that comes out of his mouth, but Gil…often disagreeing with him, which angers Inez. If anything, for Gil, his admiration is more towards “The Lost Generation” (a term to describe a generation that came of age during World War I created by writer, poet Gertrude Stein and popularized by Ernest Hemmingway).
When Paul and Carol invite both Inez and Gil to go dancing, Gil is not interested and declines, while Inez wants to have fun while she is in Paris. For Gil, he wants to use midnight walks in Paris to help him come up with ideas for his book. One day, while walking late at night while drunk, he is lost and an antique car pulls up next to him. A group of festive people who are dressed up in 1920′s clothing asks Gil to join them and at first he is reluctant, but he decides to go for it.
He’s taken to a bar and meets people such as Cole Porter (played by Yves Heck), Josephine Baker (played by Sonia Rolland) and also Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (played by Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston). At first, Gil thinks its all a joke but when he sees everyone around, dressed in 1920′s clothing and listening to music of that time, he wonders if something amazing has happened. And then he is taken to meet Ernest Hemingway (played by Corey Stoll) and when Gil talks about his book, Hemingway tells him that he can show his manuscript of his novel to Gertrude Stein (played by Kathy Bates) and get some feedback on it. Excited, Gil leaves the bar to go back to his hotel and get his manuscript but when he forgets to get the address of where they will meet up, when he heads back to the bar, it’s gone. In fact, he is back in 2010.
Shocked about what has transpired, Gil tells Inez of what has been happening and she doesn’t believe him. So, he tells her to join him during his midnight walk and when they wait, she is bored of waiting and leaves to go back to the hotel. And right after she leaves, the clock strikes midnight and the antique car with Ernest Hemingway has arrived.
Ernest tells him that he will be taking Gil to meet with Gertrude Stein, who has agreed to read his manuscript. When they arrive to Gertrude’s home, he meets Pablo Picasso (played by Marcial Di Fonz Bo) and his mistress Adriana (played by Marion Cottilard), a student of couture. Immediately, Gil is attracted to Adriana.
The next day, in present time, Gil goes with Inez and Paul to the museum and Paul goes into discussion about Picasso’s painting of Adriana. But when Gil interrupts and contradicts Paul and starts talking about Adriana and her beauty, Inez is immediately offended and embarrassed about what Gil has done.
And as Gil and Inez slowly become unattached, Gil spends his midnight walks with his new friends and begins hanging out with Adriana. Inez on the other hand is frustrated and begins spending more time with her friend Paul. Meanwhile, Inez’ father is concerned for his daughter that Gil may be doing something else during those midnight walks and hires a private investigator to follow Gil during his midnight walks and report on him.
But the longer Gil spends time with Adriana, he finds himself falling in love with her. But she is from that time period, he is from the future. Can they even have a relationship? And what about his engagement to Inez? What will Gil do?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Midnight in Paris” is presented in 1:85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and presented in English and French 3.0 LCR (Discrete Surround). Woody Allen’s goal to capture the beauty of Paris was successful! Darius Khondji and Johanne Debas did a fantastic job in capturing these breathtaking scenes of the Parisian streets, various locations and for the most part, everything looks good on DVD.
But if anyone wants to experience the best picture and audio quality, you definitely want to watch this movie on Blu-ray! In fact, while I was watching this film on DVD, I kept telling myself of how beautiful those scenes would look in HD!
Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.
“Midnight in Paris” comes with the following special features:
- Midnight in Cannes – (4:57) Featuring excerpts of the Cannes Film Festival press conference as Woody Allen and cast talk about filming in Paris and working on the film.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:05) The original theatrical trailer for “Midnight in Paris”.
Delightful, clever and witty… Woody Allen serves up a wonderful romantic comedy with “Midnight in Paris” and yet another fantastic film to add to his amazing oeuvre.
When it comes to Woody Allen, you just never know what you’re going to get with his films, especially within the last 20-years. Many film critics have wondered if the filmmaker has lost his magic that he exhibited earlier in his career but I have always watched his films, past and present and have enjoyed them. Sure, the older films have a style, an allure, to them that emits “classic” Woody Allen filmmaking and one that many have hoped to see again.
With “Midnight in Paris”, although Allen doesn’t star in the film, fortunately Owen Wilson manages to tap into a Woody persona and are able to achieve an efficacy of Woody Allen magic. Romantic, witty and absolute charming, “Midnight in Paris” is a film that captivated me from beginning to end and it was a film that I enjoyed tremendously.
When it comes to capturing romance in the city, may it be bleak or happy, may it be in New York, London or Barcelona, how perfect would it be for Allen to capture a romantic comedy in Paris?
And he does it with “Midnight in Paris”. From its opening breathtaking scenes of the famous areas of the city, I was captivated from the start.
But its the characters that made me love this movie and it’s also the clever insight to those characters that I found delightful. Owen Wilson does a remarkable job of playing Gil, the writer seeking inspiration but its that creative desire that he gets from Paris that gives him vitality. Vitality that runs counter to the lost energy he gets when he’s around his fiance Inez.
Inez plays the soul sucking fiance. Not so supportive of her fiance, despite having knowledge of art, poetry and literary work, she would rather listen to her friend Paul, a wannabe verite that is pompous and your typical Mr. Know-it-All, or more like he thinks he knows it all.
But it’s when we see the fantasy element of Woody Allen’s film start to take shape, of how we see the creative Gil finding inspiration by returning to what he thinks is the Golden Year of creativity, the 1920′s. The time of the Lost Generation and for anyone who are avid readers, those who follow poetry, art and cinema…one can easily ask themselves, how would it have been to have an association, friendship with the talents of Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, etc.
To use the words of Ernest Hemingway from his memoir “A Moveable Feast”, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast”.
What would one do if you had the chance to go back in time, France ala 1920′s and to associate with these individuals?
This is where “Midnight in Paris” becomes charming and fun, and as I watched, I watched with a big grin because we see the character of Gil, the classic Woody Allen character, getting that opportunity. There is no focus on how Gil is able to go back in time, all that matters is that he is with people that understand him, people from a Lost Generation which he has looked at as “The Golden Years” for those individuals he had respected.
And because of this, the use of these famous figures and Gil’s interaction with them may be pleasing to an audience or may go over their heads of why one would find certain situations funny or hilarious.
While “Midnight in Paris” by no means does one have to be an erudite of their work to enjoy the film, it does make things a bit more intriguing if you do. From the relationships between Hemingway and Gertrude Stein or Hemingway with the Fitzgerald’s or Picasso’s many mistresses, I loved how the film touched upon those little things. But its not necessary to understand them. For example, the woman that Gil starts to fall for…Adriana, is a fictional character. A mistress of Picasso who loves couture, who is interested in Gil (as Gil has interest in her) but because he is engaged to Inez, how will his time with Adriana change him?
As for little details that I found intriguing, you see Gil visiting the bookstore “Shakespeare & Company”. The significance is that its a bookstore that Hemingway would visit and read various books that inspired him.
One of the most hilarious parts of the film, which fans of filmmaker Luis Bunuel would be interested in, is a scene where Gil is offering a filmmaking idea.
Gil: Mr. Bunuel, I have a nice idea for a movie for you?
Gil: A group of people attend a formal dinner party and at the dinner, when they try to leave the room, they can’t.
Luis: Why not?
Gil: They just can’t just seem to exit the door?
Luis: But…But why?
Gil: Well…Momento. When they are forced to stay together, the veneer of civilization quickly fades away and what you are left with is… who they real are…animals.
Luis: But I don’t get it, why don’t they just walk out of the room?
Gil: All I am asking is for you to think about it. Who knows, when you are shaving one day, it may tickle your fancy.
Luis: I don’t understand…what is holding them in the room?
While possibly this discussion may go over the heads of most audiences, for cinema fans, one can only grin as Gil is talking about Bunuel’s Academy Award winning surrealist film from 1972, “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”.
So, there are small details that I just found delightful and fun, and with the whole film shot in Paris and having that touristy but yet enchanting flair, I couldn’t help but enjoy the beauty of the film and enjoy the film and see the journey of Gil and how Paris changes him.
As for the DVD, I think “Midnight in Paris” actually breaks new ground. I believe this is the first Woody Allen film to include a special feature. It’s generally known and mentioned in many other reviews that Woody Allen is not a big fan of special features and with each release, all you are getting is a trailer. But with this DVD (and possibly for the Blu-ray release), you get a four minute special feature from the Cannes press conference for “Midnight in Paris”. Sure, it’s short but take what you can get Woody Allen fans, the fact that there is a special feature aside from the trailer is actually surprising.
While the DVD is a very solid release, if you have a Blu-ray player, this is one of those films that features beautiful scenery that you want to watch it on HD. This is a very entertaining film that is worth watching on Blu-ray but otherwise, if you don’t have a Blu-ray player and don’t plan to get one, then the DVD is very good!
Overall, “Midnight in Paris” is a fantastic Woody Allen film, especially those familiar with the famous figures presented in the film. But a beautiful, delightful and fun film that is definitely recommended!
A film about hope, when it feels as if hope is gone. “Life, Above All” is a film that showcases how South African families were affected by the AIDS/HIV epidemic and how young children would have to shoulder the burden of a sick parent. Featuring a wonderful performance by people who have never acted before, especially Khomotso Manyaka, a young actress who brought realism to the main protagonist Chanda. “Life, Above All” is definitely recommended!
TITLE: Life, Above All: Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack
FILM RELEASE: 2010
DURATION: 106 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Defiition (widescreen 2:35:1), Northern Sotho 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English SDH and French
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: PG-13 (For Mature Thematic Material and Some Sexual Content)
Release Date: December 6, 2011
Directed by Oliver Schmitz
Screenplay by Dennis Foon
Novel be Allan Stratton
Produced by Oliver Stoltz
Co-Produced by Greig Buckle, Thomas Reisser
Executive PRoducer: Helge Sasse
Line Producer: Martin Hamer
Associate Producer: Daniel Ramin
Music by Ali N. Askin, Ian Osrin
Cinematography by Bernhard Jasper
Edited by Dirk Grau
Casting by Moonyeenn Lee
Art Direction by Tracy Perkins, Christiane Rothe
Set Decoration by Jean-Jacques Chaboissier, Nazo Maloy, Aime Motomola
Costume Design by Nadia Kruger
Khomotso Manyaka as Chanda
Keaobaka Makanyane as Ether
Lerato Mvelase as Lillian
Harriet Lenabe as Mrs. Tafa
Aubrey Poolo as Jonah
Tinah Mnumzana as Aunt Lizbet
Mapaseka Mathebe as Iris
Thato Kgaladi as Soly
Kgomotso Ditshweni as Dudu
Rami Chuene as Aunty Ruth
Jerry Marobyane as Mr. Pheto
Tshepo Emmanuel Nonyane as Mr. Lesole
Johanna Refilwe Sihlangu as Mrs. Lesole
Vusi Muzi Given Nyathi as Mr. Nylo
Just after the death of her newly-born sister, Chanda, 12 years old, learns of a rumor that spreads like wildfire through her small, dust-ridden village near Johannesburg. It destroys her family and forces her mother to flee. Sensing that the gossip stems from prejudice and superstition, Chanda leaves home and school in search of her mother and the truth.Directed by Oliver Schmitz (Paris, Je T’Aime) and based on the award-winning novel “Chanda’s Secrets” by Allan Stratton.
From South American director Oliver Schmitz and screenwriter Dennis Foon comes a film adaptation of Allan Stratton’s 2004 novel “Chanda’s Secrets”.
The film highlights the ongoing problem of AIDS in South Africa and how neighbors condemn neighbors who have it, how far families go to hide the truth of a family member who has it but also the problem of how many children are left to run a household and take care of younger siblings as their parent is sick or dying of the disease.
“Life, Above All” was screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and was selected as the South African entry for “Best Foreign Language Film” for the 83rd Academy Awards. And now “Life, Above All” will be released on Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack from Sony Pictures Classics.
The film revolves around a young teenage girl named Chanda (played by Khomotso Manyaka), a smart girl who loves school and is also caring towards her mother Lillian (played by Lerato Mvelase). The story begins as her mother is sick in bed, mourning the death of Sarah, Chanda’s baby sister who did not live that long. Chanda’s stepfather Jonah (played by Aubrey Poolo) left home and hasn’t return and Chanda has been skipping school in order to take care of her mother and her young stepsister Iris (played by Mapaseka Mathebe) and stepbrother Soly (played by Thato Kgaladi).
Meanwhile, the family does get some help from their neighbor Mrs. Tafa (played by Harriet Lenabe), a single mother who’s son was killed in an accident.
As Chanda’s Aunt Lizbet (played by Tinah Mnumzana) is the only family that has come to baby Sarah’s funeral, a drunken Jonah returns. Jonah blames Lillian for the death of Sarah and after the funeral, when Aunt Lizbet is to leave and go home, she tells Lillian that she has disgraced the family and now because of what she has done in the past, her baby daughter is dead.
When Chanda asks her mother what her aunt meant, all Lillian can tell her daughter is that she was arranged to marry another man but met her father, a good man who passed away.
When the two return home, the realize that Jonah has took the family money and has left home once again.
Meanwhile, with all the problems that are going on in Chanda’s family’s life, she has maintained her friendship with Esther (played by Keaobaka Makanyane), a young teenager who’s parents have died and now she has nowhere to live. So, Esther has become a prostitute in order to make money. At first Chanda doesn’t believe it but when she sees her doing it, she is a bit upset that her best friend has become a whore.
Concerned that a good and smart girl like Chanda can be poisoned by her association with Esther, her mother and even Mrs. Tafa tell Chanda to stop hanging around Esther.
Meanwhile, Chanda’s mother continues to get sick and notices problems in her feet and leg. With the help of Mrs. Tafa, they try to get Lillian some help but because of the cost, are unable to. So, Mrs. Tafa brings in a fortune teller who tells Lillian that in order to rid of the evil from her body, she must go back home and deal with the person who took that part of her life away from her.
But for Chanda, she suspects that it’s not bad spirits that is hurting her mother, but that her stepfather Jonah and her mom have AIDS. As her mother leaves to go back home, Chanda must now take care of the house and her two younger siblings.
As time passes, Chanda’s mother can’t be contacted, her siblings are not listening to her and she is unable to go to school and take her exams. To add to the problems in Chanda’s life, she discover’s a beaten Esther who was raped by a man who said she has AIDS.
With life becoming complicated, how will Chanda deal with her mounting problems and what happens when she is unable to get in contact with her mother?
“Life, Above All” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1). Picture quality is fantastic as there is a lot of detail in this film. First, the colors are warm and vibrant! Close-up shots of the character reveals the pores on the skin of the characters to seeing the detail in the homes from old paint to the dirty shack where Esther was living. There is plenty of detail and the colors of the film really stood out!
Colors are vibrant, black levels are nice and deep and for the most part, clarity and detail are very impressive with “Life, Above All”. Also, the cinematography (especially when Chanda goes to look for her mother) by Bernhard Jasper (“Open Water 2: Adrift”, “Kiss Me Kismet”) is beautiful!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Life, Above All” is presented in Northern Sotho 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The dialogue is primarily center and front channel driven. I noticed that the music by Alli N. Askin and Ian Osrin occasionally makes it out to the surround channels but for the most part, the film is center and front channel and only when you see crowds or hear a vehicle pass nearby is when you hear those ambient sounds through the surround channels. But the lossless soundtrack is crystal clear, not very immersive but for a film of this caliber, you don’t expect to hear immersive sound. If anything, the soundtrack is appropriate.
Subtitles are in English SDH and French.
“Life, Above All” comes with the following special features:
- The Making of Life, Above All – (14:09) Featuring interviews with the crew and cast of “Life, Above All” and filming in the small village in South Africa and using talent who are locals that have never had any acting experience. Also, the challenges of shooting with the different weather conditions.
- Theatrical Trailer – Featuring the original theatrical trailer to “Life, Above All”.
“Life, Above All” is a film that is about the human drama and a film that captures a realistic situation that people are living with in South Africa.
According to AVERT, the AIDS epidemic has increased South Africa’s mortality rates. But the AIDS epidemic has had an impact on children and families as the children shoulder the impact financially and emotionally of the death of a parent(s) due to AIDS and HIV.
And unfortunately, due to the AIDS policy of the former president Thabo Mbeki’s government, the government were directly responsible for a third of a million people who died in South Africa of HIV/AIDS, according to research done by Harvard University. Mbeki believed that AIDS was caused by a virus brought on by poverty and the solution was not medicine but the alleviation of poverty in Africa. Because he believed in this, South Africa would not benefit from free drugs or grants to help those who were sick with HIV/AIDS. A pharmaceutical company offered to donate a drug to South Africa to prevent the transmission of HIV from a mother to their child during labor but the government restricted the use of the drug until December 2002.
With “Life, Above All”, the film gives us a glimpse into how the epidemic has affected people in South Africa. From neighbors condemning and not wanting anyone with AIDS to be in their hometown and also how children end up having to take care of the household and as the character of Esther is an example of the many young women who must become a prostitute in order to make income.
But also in the case of Lillian and the death of their baby Sarah, the death of the baby was because the child was HIV-infected. While the film doesn’t get polemic on the decisions that were made by South Africa’s government, because people were not educated on AIDS as seen in the film, Lillian’s husband believed that his wife poisoned the child through her milk. And with traditional beliefs held by some people in South Africa, the troubles she caused has brought evil to her family and because of that, her child has died.
So, this film is indeed a sad portrait of possibly a time back then when people were less educated but also a time when these unnecessary deaths could have been prevented.
But looking back at “Life, Above All”, what is most amazing about this drama is how the the main talent of this film were able to do a fantastic job without having any acting experience. The young Khomotso Manyaka who plays Chanda does a fantastic job and each time she is onscreen, she manages to play her role as if she was Chanda. The fear in her eyes, the concern towards her mother and everything is captured onscreen quite wonderfully.
Also the women of the film, Lerato Mvelase as Lillian and Harriet Lenabe as Mrs. Tafa also pull-in a commanding performance as we see through these characters a grasping of straws of trying to survive while facing financial burden, Mrs. Tafa silently doing what she can do have her good friend gone from the neighborhood (as rumors continue to grow about Lillian’s illness).
If anything, the efficacy of this film is due to the patience of director Oliver Schmitz who made sure he got what he wanted from the new talent. And it helps when you get the right people to play their respective part. The casting of Khomotso Manyaka as Chanda and casting the two women, along with the young Keaobaka Makanyane (Esther)…it was a grand slam for casting in my opinion!
While we know that South Africa (and many other countries) have problems with the AIDS epidemic, “Life, Above All” is a film not about death but about hope. Possibly hope that this film will contribute to educating many about knowing the facts of AIDS instead of ignorance and wanting to hurt the families who are dealing with this deadly disease. Instead of throwing stones, if you are a God loving society, why not just pray for those who are sick.
A riveting, powerful and fantastic film with a shocking ending I didn’t see coming… Tragic, violent but a film that shows how love can overcome darkness. “Incendies” is a fantastic film on Blu-ray that every cineaste must watch and also own. Highly recommended!
Images courtesy of © 2010, 2011 Incendies Inc. and TS Productions. All Rights Reserved.
FILM RELEASE DATE: 2010
DURATION: 130 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English
RATED: R (Some Strong Violence and Language)
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: September 13, 2011
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Based on the play by Wajdi Mouawad
Script Consultant: Valerie Beaugrand-Champagne
Written by Denis Villeneuve
Produced by Luc Dery, Kim McCraw
Co-Produced by Anthony Doncque, Milena Poylo, Gilles Sacuto
Line Producer: Stephen Traynor, Sylvie Trudelle
Associate Producer: Phoebe Greenberg
Music by Gregoire Hetzel
Cinematography by Andre Turpin
Edited by Monique Dartonne
Casting by Constance Demontoy, Christelle Dufour
Production Design by Andre-Line Beaupariant
Set Decoration by Rana Abboot, Marie-Soleil Denomme, Amin Charif El Masri, Philippe Lord
Lubna Azabal as Nawal Marwan
Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin as Jeanne Marwan
Maxim Gaudette as Simon Marwan
Remy Girard as Notary Jean Lebel
Abdelghafour Elaaziz as About Tarek
Allen Altman as Notary Maddad
Mohamed Majd as Chamseddine
Nabil Sawalha as Fahim
Baya Belal as Maika
In the highly-acclaimed suspense thriller Incendies, a mother’s dying wish creates a painful puzzle her children are forced to solve. At the reading of their mother’s will, twins Jeanne and Simon are given instructions to locate the father they believed was dead and the brother neither knew existed. They travel to the Middle East, to piece together the story of the woman who brought them into the world only to make a shocking discovery.
A riveting, fantastic film with a shocking ending I didn’t see coming… Fantastic!!!
From the Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (“Malestrom”, “Polytechnique”) comes the Academy Award nominated “Best Foreign Language” film titled “Incendies”. A film adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad’s play “Scorched” which has won multiple awards including eight 31st Genie Awards including “Best Motion Picture”, “Best Actress”, “Best Director” and “Best Adapted Screenplay”.
“Incendies” takes place in modern day Montreal and begins with a daughter, Jeanne Marwan (played by Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) who sees something wrong with her mother Nawal Marwan (played by Lubna Azabal) near the pool area. She is not moving, not responding and is immediately taken to the hospital for observation.
Jeanne is joined by her twin brother Simon (played by Maxim Gaudette) and the doctors are not sure what is wrong with their mother but she ends up dying.
As the two go to meet their notary, Jean Lebel (played by Remy Girard), the will left behind by their mother features two letters. One for Jeanne and one for Simon and the only instructions is for Jeanne to search for her father and for Simon to search for their brother in the Middle East and give them a letter from Nawal.
Needles to say, the two are shocked because they thought their father was dead and they had not been aware of having a brother. But in order to get the final letter from their mother, they must accomplish her request.
For Simon, he is not very interested and obviously didn’t have much of a relationship with his mother like his sister, so Jeanne makes the decision that she will respect her mother’s wishes and go to the Middle East to find clues about the whereabouts of her father, using the only photo from her mother’s past.
The film goes back and forth from the past featuring Nawal Marwan and to the present featuring Jeanne Marwan.
We learn that Nawal, a Christian woman is disgraced her family when she was impregnated by a refugee and her baby was taken away from her. Her baby was given three marks on the heel of his foot and Nawal vowed to be reunited with her son one day.
Nawal would eventually be moved to her uncle’s home where she would be brought up in a modern setting and to fulfill a promise made to her grandmother that she would change her life by becoming a college student, where she also worked at her uncle’s newspaper, promoting peace among the nationalist (Muslim) and the Christians.
But for Nawal, she is driven in finding her son, so when the war between the Muslims and Christians began heating up, she looks at the opportunity to leave her family and go out and find her son who is supposedly kept at an orphanage. During her travels, she finds out that the orphanage that he was kept at is now an all-girls orphanage and he was moved to another location. When Nawal visits the location, she finds out that the orphanage was burned down and as for her son, she doesn’t know if he is alive. But she will continue to look for him.
Meanwhile, as Jeanne continues to find traces of her mom’s past in order to find her father, Jeanne is shocked to learn that her mother and the family is not well-liked. In fact, their family because of her mother has been shamed and because she is a daughter of Nawal, she is not welcomed.
Jeanne continues her search and visits the college that her mother attended and learns from someone that the writings on her mother’s picture shows that she was at a women’s prison (which held political prisoners). So, Jeanne goes out to learn more about the photo and why her mother was a the location.
The story switches back to Nawal and after leaving the burned down orphanage where her son was staying, she gets on a bus with many Muslims trying to escape the area. But while they are riding, they are stopped by Christian gunmen who shoot and kill the driver and open fire on all the Muslims inside the bus. Nawal survives, along with a mother and her child but when the gunmen start to drop gasoline on the bus to burn it, she escapes by telling the gunmen that she is Christian and tries to escape with the woman’s daughter. But the girl ends up running back to her mother and both are killed, while Nawal lives because she is Christian.
Nawal eventually becomes bitter to how the nationalist did to her and also her son that she join the Christian gunmen and their leader and eventually becomes an assassin who is disguised as a teacher for children of the man she is supposed to kill.
Meanwhile, Jeanne starts to learn more about her mother and her past which shocks her. And the revelations about her mother that she finds out is enough to shock her brother and also their notary in bringing them to the Middle East and for Simon to begin the search for their brother.
But as the two continue their search for their father and brother, what they find out about their mother and her mysterious past will shock them down to their very core of existence.
“Incendies” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1) and the picture quality is fantastic. From the detail on the close-up of the faces of the characters, the vibrant colors as both women travel throughout the Middle East, the detail on the baby receiving its mark on its foot, the grime and bruised feet and legs of Nawal in prison. There is a lot of detail in this film. Black levels are inky and deep and a good balance between warm and cool colors throughout the film. I detected no banding, no edge enhancement, no artifacts… if anything, “Incendies” looks fantastic on Blu-ray and fans/viewers of the film should be thrilled by the overall picture quality!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Incendies” is presented in French 5.1 DTS-HD MA. While the film is primarily a dialogue-driven film, the film utilizes the ambiance of a war-torn era, people running around, escaping danger. Military vehicles driving by, people firing their machine guns, fire burning vehicles and buildings, the howls and cries of the women in the prison as they are being tortured. If anything, dialogue is crystal clear coming from the center and front channels and the ambiance was well-done as it comes through the surround channels.
Overall, the lossless audio quality is quite appropriate for the film.
Subtitles are in English.
“Incendies” comes with the following special features:
- Commentary with Director Denis Villeneuve - In-depth audio commentary by Director Denis Villeneuve.
- Remembering the Ashes: Incendies Through Their Eyes - (44:08) Behind-the-scenes of the making of “Incendies”.
“Incendies” is one of those films that stays in your head for quite awhile. Powerful, moving, shocking… I have to admit that it gave me that “WOW!” feeling that a film such as “The Shawshank Redemption” gave be back in 1994, unpredictable climax and a shocking ending to make you feel that you just watched one hell of a masterpiece!
Make no doubt about it, this is probably one of the most disturbing family tragedy that one will watch but once the ending credits show up, you just realize how powerful and cathartic “Incendies” truly is.
The film which was an adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad’s play is wonderfully done. Director Denis Villeneuve was able to slowly take the viewer through calm and terror with efficacy and the storyline buildup of wondering what happened to Nawal Marwan during the search of her son. What will Jeanne and Simon discover? Suffice to say, what the two discover is quite shocking, what her children would learn about their father and the brother the never knew they had… it’s an ending that I never saw coming.
Villeneuve was quite wise in utilizing cinematographer Andre Turpin to give us the visual images showcasing the violence and terror that Nawal Marwan had to live through. From having her baby taken away from her after giving birth, a woman who kept strong during torture and rape and managed to keep this secret buried within her for decades until giving her two twin children the chance to learn of her past life but also continue what she had been doing for so long, to find her son but also giving her children the chance to find their father.
It’s hard to believe such a powerful film was based on a play but the wonderfully directed and screenplay adaptation is what makes “Incendies” work, balanced with a wonderful performance by the film’s leading ladies Lubna Azabal and Melissa Desoremeaux-Poulin. And once again, this film reinforces how location is important. By watching the film on Blu-ray and then watching the making of the film special feature, you realize that in order to capture the realism of what the women had to undertake, you have to be in the area, among the people who have suffered from the war. It was quite intriguing to watch the behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the film.
But a question that I have been asked is which film did you enjoy better “Incendies” or “In a Better World”. Both films were nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film” and the latter took home the award. And while both films are fantastic, if I had to nitpick to find faults is the fact that “Incendies” may confuse people with the flashbacks of Nawal’s story and Jeanne’s story, some may not understand the context of why Nawal’s family was disgraced (in this case, Nawal being Christian and having a relationship with a Muslim refugee).
If one does the research, they will learn that the story of “Incendies” originally by Wajdi Mouawad, a man who emigrated to Canada from the war-torn Lebanon. But the setting of “Incendies” was not meant to be about any country, if anything, the country is unnamed, the film was shot in North Jordan but for those who are familiar with the conflicts among Muslims, Christians and the Palestinian refugees will probably understand the conflict and how the scenes of “Incendies” will no doubt strike a chord among viewers.
Perhaps that lack of understanding factored into the judges decisions but it’s important to note that both films are wonderful but are very different in context. And with the spotlight on bullying and school violence around the world and featured so much in the media, that is probably the biggest advantage that “In a Better World” had over “Incendies”. That the film probably had more relevance to American viewers.
But while “Incendies” did not win the Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film”, it did win multiple awards and the film has pretty much received mostly positive reviews from the film critics around the world. It is a great film, well-directed, well-written, well-cast and features a great performance by its cast.
It doesn’t have the banality of other films, if anything, it’s a unique film that yes, it is a family tragedy film but in the end, love conquers all…and that is all that matters.
“Incendies” is fantastic and if you are a cineaste, this film is a must-watch, must-own film! Highly recommended.