Donnerstag, 16. Mai 2013

The Great Gatsby

The 66th Cannes Film Festival opened tonight with Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby". A flawed film in many ways- faulty editing, uneven acting, repeated use of sweeping, zooming, downward-peeking camera angles for the benefit of 3D effects left a chunk of the movie sagging and tired, while some oddly theatrical staging hurt the dramatic tension in a couple of key scenes- but there's no denying the spectacular set and costume design, the bold and often sizzling music choices and the sheer manic energy that sprang from the creative force behind such crazy aesthetic details.

The ending is nice, appropriately subdued and beautifully tragic, it's just a pity that what came before it feels so inconsistently brilliant and that it took so long to get there at all.

Sonntag, 5. Mai 2013

Short takes

The central conceit of the Korean thriller "화차 (Helpless)" is nothing new and the awkwardly dramatized finale is a misfire both in execution and plot-wise, but the two hours leading up to it are fast-paced, tension-packed, unexpectedly suspenseful and sprinkled with some quality scares, in other words, a relentlessly fun ride. Director Byun Young-joo shows great timing and composes scenes that impress with striking visual design and smothering emotional urgency.

Agents from North & South Korea, the CIA and the Mossad blast their ways through the German capital in writer-director Ryoo Seung-Wan's spy actioner "베를린 (The Berlin File)". The story shows ambition but bit off more than it can chew with the plot surrounding the inner-Korean political intrigue failing to live up to its promise. In all, unspectacular but serviceable entertainment thanks largely to solid camera work, production design and the imposing backdrop of Berlin.

Donnerstag, 2. Mai 2013

The Broken Circle Breakdown

Through smart, sober direction that uses fragmented narrative to reassemble the most joyous and devastating moments in a stormy relationship plagued with misfortune, young Belgian filmmaker Felix Van Groeningen managed to take the audience down to the depths of human sorrow and desperation without resorting to the shallow tricks of misery porn in "The Broken Circle Breakdown". It's a testament to his skills and the tremendous performances by both lead actors that no bad taste of exploitation is left by what's likely to be the saddest movie you'll see all year (child cancer is just the beginning).

Extra credit must be given to the ingenious use of bluegrass country music throughout the film. Who would have thought the sweet, care-free sound of banjo and mandolin could pack such an emotional punch, add such layers to the most tragic story and elicit such strong instinctive response? Both in film and in music, not a false note.