Otto Preminger's Whirlpool begins at a department store where we find Ann Sutton being stopped on her way out the door and accused of stealing a $300 piece of jewelry. Eventually Ann is let go, mainly due to intervention of David Korvo, who explains to the store owner the media firestorm that could engross his store if Ann, the wife of renowned psychoanalyst Bill Sutton, is brought to trial for this minor act of thievery. Ann is tormented by her kleptomania, that she keeps secret from her husband, opting to hire David, a hypnotist, who convinced her he can help her suffering. Taking advantage of Ann's vunerability, David hatches a intricate plan of blackmail, deceit, and murder in an effort to bleed Ann dry financially. Otto Preminger's Whirlpool is a compelling and intricate psychological melodrama thats absurdity is masked by Preminger's haunting look at moral relativism. The psychology aspect of Whirlpool certainly dates the film but it's still a very engaging experience thanks to great performances. Gene Tierney does a great job as this fragile housewife but Jose Fereer steals this film as the smooth, conniving David Korvo. As the film progresses it becomes a game of wits between David Korvo and Bill Sutton, as he tries to prove his wife's innocence for a crime he believes Korvo hypnotized her into committing. Perhaps the most impressive attribute of Whirlpool is Preminger's ability to take a story that could easily fall into melodramatic drivel, making it instead a personal and profound journey of a tortured soul in Ann. Otto Preminger's Whirlpool is an unusually unique story of mental illness and murder which managers to keep the viewer thoroughly engaged from start to finish.
Zed, an American vault-cracking specialist, has just arrived in Paris. After spending the night with Zoe, a call girl, he is summoned by an old friend, Eric, to help raid the only bank in Paris that is open on Bastille day. The night before the planned heist, Zed and Eric spend a night on the town with a group of dangerous and slimy friends. Full on debauchery the night before the robbery is only the beginning of the end for this ill-advised plan, with poor planning, heroin abuse, and Zoe, who works at the bank, adding up to create a series of events that ensures a bloody and unsuccessful heist. There is no denying that Roger Avary's Killing Zoe draws heavily from Tarantino's style, with heavy use of ultra-violence and stylized photography. The problem with Killing Zoe is that much of the style serves little to no purpose, with the film lacking much substance or reasoning to make these decisions. The best example of this would be an early scene of intimacy between Zoe and Zed where Avary intercuts shots of Nosferatu into the sequence in a way that can only be described as hilariously nonsensical and pretentious as hell. As a matter of fact, the whole relationship between Zoe and Zed feels incredibly rushed. Julie Delpy's character feels almost completely worthless, serving no purpose at all through most of the film. I think the bigger problem with this lies in the fact that Zed and Zoe's relationship isn't developed enough. The audience is supposed to buy this instant connection between the two but it's a little hard to believe considering the circumstances of their first encounter. The production design of the bank is one of the better artistic decisions of the film, using an over-abundance of red walls that perfectly foreshadow the violence and death that will come. Above everything else, Jean-Hugues Anglade is the high point of the entire film, giving the psychotic Eric a great dynamic presence that commands the audiences attention nearly every time he is on screen. It may be unfair to call Roger Avary's Killing Zoe a complete retread of Tarantino's aesthetic and style considering this is what Tarantino does himself, but Killing Zoe is by-and-large just uninteresting, unmotivated, and style over substance
Tim Jenison, a San Antonio based inventor, sets out to investigate one of the art worlds greatest mysteries: How 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer managed to paint lighting and composition that is photo-realistic. An epic undertaking, Jenison embarks on a journey to test his theory that Vermeer used optics to help paint his masterpieces. Teller's Tim's Vermeer is an astounding documentary about what truly defines an artist and why us, as human-beings, try to classify such things. Tim's Vermeer is a film that has faced some controversy from the art world from those who believe Jenison's theory takes away from the mastery of Vermeer but those folks are simply missing the point. Under Jenison's theory Vermeer was more than just a painter but an inventor who created a way to view photo-realistic imagery over 150 years before the invention of photography. My favorite aspect of the film is that it challenges the science vs. art notion of today, arguing that these two things are far from mutually exclusive. Tim's Vermeer asks: What defines an artist? With Tim Jenison himself being a shining example of an outside the box thinker/inventor that would never be defined as an artist, even though he most certainly is. Tim's Vermeer is a film about this porous border between art, science, and technology arguing that they are not so different, with dedication and ingenuity being an integral part in all three.
Comprised almost entirely of material filmed by undercover video reporters in Burma, Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country gives an up close and personal look at the monstrosities taking place in Burma under this police state. A country with little to no outside access, these brave undercover reporters film the happenings in the streets of Rangoon, intent on sharing the state of their country with the rest of the world. These men and women face torture, jail, and even death, all of which are risks they are willing to make in an effort to force change in their country. Anders Ostergaard's Burma VJ: Reporting From A Closed Country captures the fear and tension among the people of Burma in such a horrifying way that parts of this film are hard to watch. The VJ's of Burma smuggle their footage out of the country where it is shared with international media in an effort to bring attention to this oppressive and violent regime. This film puts these various smuggled clips together, telling a much more intricate story about the oppression and growing animosity from the people of Burma. Burma VJ is very much a film about the bravery and importance of this type of journalism, capturing the importance of the democratic voice of these VJ's who want a better country for their people. Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country plays more like a thriller than traditional documentary, giving an in-depth and raw account of living in an oppressive and violent regime while capturing the true importance of a democratic voice.
Jean-Luc Godard's Keep Your Right Up is a film which borders on abstract, with very little concern for having a traditional narrative or plot. The film begins with a hapless filmmaker, known as 'The Idiot", who has been guaranteed financing for his new film if and only if he can meet the 24 hour delivery deadline. On his journey to meet his deadline he encounters a wide variety of characters and problems, with the film feeling more episodic in structure as it routinely engages in scenes and sequences that have little to no connection with one and other. Keep Your Right Up is a great example of a Godard film that is so overstuffed that it can feel a little tedious and muddled at times. The film's greatest attribute is the comedic side of the film, with Godard channeling the likes of Buster Keaton, Jerry Lewis, and Jacques Tati, in creating visual gags that are eccentric in only a way Godard could pull off. Struggling to comprehend much of what Godard is trying to say, Keep Your Right Up is a film that frequently perplexes the viewer, only giving the slightest glimmer into understanding what exactly Godard's intentions are. Much of his banter comes off more as pretentious than profound as I found myself wishing this would have been more of a straight-forward comedy with less babbling. This is a provocative film that should not be experienced by anyone who isn't already familiar with Jean-Luc Godard's style and while it has its moments, it's a tough film to actually sit through.
Taryn, a Northern Irish runaway, spends her summer at Ocean City, Maryland, working on the boardwalk. When she finds herself in trouble, she contacts her aunt and uncle who live in Baltimore, asking if she can stay with them for a bit. Unbeknownst to Taryn, Kim and Bill have problems of their own, as they attempt to handle an impending divorce gracefully for the sake of their daughter, Abby. Matthew Porterfield's I Used to Be Darker is the type of film that would be criticized by unobservant viewers as a film in which "nothing happens". I Used to be Darker doesn't cater to the audience at all, never concerning itself with the baggage of backstory but rather with creating living, breathing characters that tell the viewer all they need to know about the past and present. It's all in the small subtle moments with I Used To Be Darker, a film about the complex family dynamics and how change can disrupt the balance. Matthew Porterfield's simplistic yet lyrical style is prevalent, making sure every character in this story is well-defined, with genuine feelings and emotions. The audience understands the place where all these characters are coming from, each having their own weaknesses and strengths. The most prevalent example of this centers around Abby, as she lashes out at Taryn one night for no apparent reason. Porterfield's subtle narrative style doesn't define why this happens but it's clear that Abby is taking her frustration over her parent's failed marriage out on Taryn. Abby is frustrated that Taryn takes what she has for granted, a complete family unit. All the characters in Porterfield's I Used To Be Darker are looking, yearning for something and for me, this is a film about the fragility and strength of the family unit, capturing how while it can temporarily be damaged, the bond of family eventually heals through renewal.
Carol, an underachieving vocal coach, lives with her father, the voice-over industries reigning king. Her father is an arrogant man who views the industry as no place for women which only complicates their father-daughter relationship. When Carol begins to have success in the industry, she finds herself in direct competition with her chauvinist father and his protege, fighting for the crown in the cutthroat world of movie-trailer voice-overs. Lake Bell's directorial debut, In A World, is a charming and clever film that examines family dynamics and satirizes Hollywood, while making a somewhat poignant point about sexism. Through this whimsical look at the voice-over industry, In A World satirizes the nepotism and cutthroat culture of Hollywood exposing how silly and jaded it can be. The film's strength is this satire and while its commentary on sexism is presented through the over-the-top father character, it rings true, showing the absurdity of such prejudices. While the script of In A World.. is mostly strong, it suffers a bit being over-stuffed with a subplot involving Carol's sister that doesn't seem to add that much to the film. My biggest problem with the film is Carol's character never seems to have to try too hard to reach her goal. The film paints a very thin line between paying your dues and self-abasement which could have felt richer if we saw Carol trying and failing more early on. Overall, In A World is a solid debut film from Lake Bell that succeeds far more than it doesn't at being a fun expose of about the absurdity of Hollywood culture.
For the local citizens of Baltimore the 12 O'Clock boys are a bunch of hooligans - a group of urban dirt bike riders with no respect for the law who perform dangerous stunts at excessive speeds through traffic while they evade police. For 12-year-old Pug, an intelligent young boy living on the Westside of Baltimore the 12 O'Clock boys are inspiring, with his desire to join the bikers taking prescient over everything else in his life. Lotfy Nathn's 12 O'Clock Boys is a visceral examination of inner city culture from a perspective rarely shown. It's a poignant and personal story about young Pug and his dangerous dream giving the viewer a great understanding as to how he idolizes the 12 O'Clock Boys. A cinematic experience, 12 O'Clock Boys features cinematography that immerses the viewer into this scene, putting the viewer into the POV of young Pug who idolizes this lifestyle. The use of slow-motion is particularly effective, making this gang of small bikers look like gods. More importantly even, the film spends the time necessary to capture this volatile neighborhood of West Baltimore where Pug lives, capturing the daily struggle and dangerous setting he inhabits on the daily basis. 12 O'Clock Boys doesn't condemn these men nor praise them but it does argue that biking is a release for these young men, giving them freedom from the other issues in their city and neighborhood; it gives them a sense power in a world in which they rarely have any. Lotfy Nathan's 12 O'Clock Boys is never foolish enough to present a simple answer to complex problem, it merely presents the state of this culture in a genius and truthful light.
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