A week in film: The Reviews

With a whole host of great films to choose from, we can often forget the classics, past award-winenrs and the underdogs.  So i revised a bunch, and here is what i thought. 

The Docks Of New York, 1928 ☆☆☆☆

Josef von Sternberg

This silent is, what can only be described as an almost-perfect film of its time; It’s been noted as one of Sternberg’s best. As a story, it is typically Hollywood; but this is of course, with the padding and detail of a gritty, realistic New York, portrayed with the best aspects of silent cinema.

“It exemplifies virtually every quality of von Sternberg’s films. It is theatrical, with complex but enclosed sets; it makes maximum use of lighting and atmospherics; it is nominally a melodrama but adds unexpected depth to a flimsy outline.”– Luc Sante

Mae (Betty Compton), despite a suicide attempt and her place in society, is not portrayed as a needy heroine, whilst Bill Roberts (George Bancroft) is not the knight in shining armour one might desire for. And yet, this film is so entirely captivating in both its love story whilst enticing the audience with stunning imagery and handsome lighting. There are elements of expressive and unusual framings, incidents which cease to fulfil the audience’s expectations and a depiction of a seedy New York. With this picture, Sternberg sets himself very high in the years turing to sound.

Its Aristotelian in it’s structure, with a less judicious ending, but as for a cinematic experience? It’s a beautiful one.

Betty Compton playing with George Bancroft in Docks Of New York

Happy Christmas, 2014 ☆☆☆☆

Joe Swanberg

Christmas is the backdrop, Chicago is the place and Swanberg and his family are in the movie. Quite maybe, Swanberg’s son can be seen to upstage the entire cast, though Kendrick, Lynskey and Dunham are about the three greatest actresses whom could come together and do exactly what they did; they shared a sliver of reality, encased with some eccentricity of drinking in a Tiki-bar, and all with humour and charm. There is general attention to dialogue and a sense of reality. With this indie film, what we see as a film which is maybe more self aware that what many might assume.

It’s an anti-christmas-christmas film and though it’s a film described as many things, one being that of “not-very-much”, one must disagree. Because maybe it is this not-very-much attitude which makes it a film about very much. Life. Yes, everyday life.

It can be seen as a loosely episodic plot, somewhat like the 1962 Jean-Luc Godard classic Vivre Sa Vie. Not that the two films can compare in much more than an episodic-esque style, but it’s assuredly refreshing.

Relatable, non-formulaic, funny and charming. Is that not what we could all wish for?

Happy Christmas

Monkey Business, 1931 ☆☆☆

Marx Brothers

When Vaudeville came to cinema, and the Marx Bros. made Monkey Business, the world was introduced to a world of sound-filled physical comedy. It has a simple plot and a loose framework, which forms the basis to the comedy expected of the Marx Brothers. The first location, the ship, is by far the funniest of the film, and whilst the rest remains funny it is a film which becomes more restless nearing the end.

All in all, it is a film which plays out all of the idiosyncrasies of  Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo in all their humours glory.

Monkey Business

Stuck in Love, 2012 ☆☆☆☆

Josh Boone

Sex, drugs, love and family. It’s a film which begins, quite literally how it ends and boasts a cast that includes Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins and Jennifer Connelly. It has been a while, if ever, since seeing a film which depicts such a plethora of writers, both successful and becoming of.

“Josh Boone’s dramedy struggles to overcome a niggling sense of overfamiliarity, but also makes the best of this — it’s a thoroughly warm diversion, whose lapses into cliché only make it cosier. This is Kinnear’s best role in a few years, and Connelly’s, too: her attempts to win back Collins’s stroppy prodigy have an emotional generosity her acting has lacked lately.”-Tim Robey, The Telegraph 

It’s almost primarily set by the beach and around the holidays, be it thanksgiving or christmas. And at times, it pulls at your heartstrings, and at other its makes you laugh.

Lily Collins, Stuck In Love

The Artist, 2011 ☆☆☆☆☆

Michel Hazanavicius

When one this about making a silent in the modern day, you assume all they will do, is make a silent, in the modern day. What Hazanavicius has done, is not just create an old-time film, but has done it with the wit and knowledge of cinema in history.

No better actors could have been chosen for the cast and no better dog could have been chosen to carry some of the sweetest actions within the film. The plot is admirable, the production is decadent and even more appealing is how the film creates curves and twists keeps the audience in both suspense and has them surprised at times. Inter-titles are used delicately whilst music is used with an unusual balance of silence, unlike original silents. You’ll laugh and most portably cry and for certain, you’ll want to dance.

“… gloriously funny and achingly tender film by the French director Michel Hazanavicius, a movie about the black and white silent age of Hollywood, which is itself in black and white, and silent – or almost silent…  The debonair comedy and pastiche are worn with airy lightness; the romance is gentle and yet unexpectedly passionate. It is an utterly beguiling love story and a miracle of entertainment, which unexpectedly says a good deal about male pride and emotional literacy. It even, in its insouciant way, touches on the question of whether the art of cinema was purer when it was silent.” – Peter Bradshaw

Jean Dujardin & Bérénice Bejo
Jean Dujardin & Bérénice Bejo

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