Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse - Eleanor Coppola (1991)

Why it is in the book: "On of the documentary's most fascinating aspects is the way it effectively (though unintentionally) reveals the paradoxical nature of auteurism as critical concept in film scholarship... " 10001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Wow is the first word that comes to mind after watching this. This film should be required watching for any aspiring filmmakers. Additionally, it should auto play once someone finishes the classic film "Apocalypse Now" so that they can see what went into getting it to the point of it being a classic.

This documentary chronicles the ups and downs (not many ups) of the making of the movie "Apocalypse Now". From natural disasters, to the heart attack of the main star (Martin Sheen), to the complete unpreparedness of the classically trained actor Marlon Brando. This film is not used to show how to make a movie, but more, how badly the making of a movie can go. This film was shot by the directors wife, so we are given material that no other person would ever be able to get. This makes it even more fascinating and almost voyeuristic.

How in God's name did "Apocalypse Now" get completed? A root canal twice a day seems more fun that making this thing. As an aspiring filmmaker, this was an eye opener in regards to what can go wrong on set. Most times I watch making of documentaries to learn how shots were done or performances were achieved. This film is not about that. The parallels from the actual film "Apocalypse Now" and the cast and crew making it are mind blowing. The depth of insanity that Martin Sheen tries to convey as Kurtz is even potentially less drastic than what he actually went through trying to achieve his performance. Additionally, just the fact that Francis Ford Coppola was able to complete this film is nothing short of a miracle and a testimony to his persistence and determination. There are not too many making of documentaries that have the access that Eleanor Coppola had. It is apparent that she is the only person that could have made this. Her husband was not even aware of some of the interviewes she was doing with him. It was only later that he realized some of them were being taped. This provides an openness and education that is unparalleled. It is also great that we are not able to speak with the main stars, but even some of the smaller roles to get their take on everything. Dennis Hopper for instance does not have a large amount of screen time, but watching his interaction and interviewes were good to see.

I enjoyed the film and would recommend it to the people that I mentioned previously. I do not believe I would recommend to the typical moviegoer unless they really wanted to see the trials and tribulations that can occur to make great movies.

Apocalypse Now DVD

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Day For Night - Francois Truffaut (1973)

Why it is in the book: "Amid the whimsical succession of ordinary situations, the rare, strong moments of drama occur as sudden interruptions that switch the mood" 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

In today's DVD extra fascination, this film is great for not only watching just a good movie, but learning about the process of making one. The movie is about the making of "Meet Pamela" with the director being played by Truffaut himself. Day For Night focuses on the various cast and crew and their interactions with each other.

Truffaut does a great job of balancing a good story line with the intricacies of making a movie. I learned more from this movie than I have numerous "behind the scenes" features. First and foremost, every member of the cast and crew seem to have sex with one another. Scary thought when I think of movies like Cocoon. Everyone is very welcome for that visual.

The characters of the film are very well rounded and have great interaction between each other. The entry of American actress Jacqueline Bisset into the French "film" works to contrast the already established characters and brings more depth to the production. She has the most troubling past, but acts as the sanity check to everyone.

As the 1001 Movies book mentions, there are numerous mood changes through the film. It goes through the range of emotions from humour, drama, and to sadness. This is how it works so well to keep the audience interested in what could have turned into a completely boring feature.

I would recommend this movie to almost anyone. There are some slow portions, but I believe the subject matter is of interest to not only film enthusiasts, but also the typical moviegoer.

Day For Night IMDB Link

Day For Night DVD

Wild Strawberries - Ingmar Bergman (1957)

Why it is in the book: "[The main character] Borg's redemptive acquisition of self-knowledge affects those around him, too, and the miracle of Wild Strawberries is that Bergman never inflects this conclusion with sentimentality." 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die by Steven Jay Schneider

Outside of The Seventh Seal, I have not been too exposed to Ingmar Bergman. After watching this movie, I wish I had. I have read many reviews on this movie and some people have felt it is the worst movie they have ever seen. I would definitely say this movie might not be for the masses, but it was for me. The movie flows similar to a well written poem. It is told using current time as well as dreams and flashbacks. It is the story of an older man who is travelling to accept a collegiate honor. He decides to make this trip via car and his daughter-in-law comes along. During this drive he encounters a number of people that each give something different to the overall story.

I wish there were movies made like this today. Poetry using moving images is truly something to watch. Each and every character has a lot of depth and could easily stand on their own if they were the focal point. The parallels of the 3 teenagers that Borg picks up and his own life was a great way to give additional information about his past without having to show it to us. Victor Sjostrom gives a great performance as Professor Isak Borg and lends great credibility to the character. The opening dream sequence is a great prelude to the type of movie you are about to watch. It is full of not-so-subtle symbolism and eerie tones. As the film progresses, Borg transforms from a person no one seems to like to a person that is worthy of companionship (as he was when he was younger).

I highly recommend this movie for film buffs as well as writers, but I would not think average movie-goers would stay interested. In a time when CGI movies reign at the box office, it is nice to watch a movie completely focused on story and characters (no offense to the Michael Bay fans out there).

Link to Wild Strawberries on IMDB

Link to Wild Strawberries DVD

The Start of Something Big (960 Pages Big)

Recently I started working my way through a very large endeavor. "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" by Seven Jay Schneider. This is a book that would not only kill someone if it was dropped on them, but could kill them by watching all of the movies in it. When I told my cousin that I was doing so, she had mentioned I should write a blog about it. This is my first blog, but as she said, I could become famous like the girl in Julie & Julia did. How could I argue with that. I feel it is time to become famous. I have put it off long enough.

I have already seen a number of the movies in the book (approximately 300), so I will start my blog from that point. That is, unless I get lazy and do not watch something in a fair amount of time. At that point, I have been known to cheat and will use something I already saw.

With that being said, here it is. My first blog which I will use to give my thoughts on various movies as I watch them. Movies taken directly from the 2011 version of the large book "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die". Again, these are just my opinions and I welcome anyone's disagreements. I am always willing to watch something again if I missed a critical point.

One other item to note is that there could be spoilers in any and all movie reviews. I will try to minimalize them and keep them focused on non-critical items, but be aware.

Thank you very much.

Link to 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die