Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wild Strawberries - Reaction

Ingmar Bergman's thoughtful film about an old man's meditation on loneliness, selfishness, emotional unavailability, and death. Basically, it's what one old professor sees, thinks, remembers, and dreams (yes, it has Bergman's typical weird dream sequences) while packing for and going on a road trip (a trip down memory lane?). Although it mostly deals with regrets about living a solitary life, it also has a number of other themes:

  • the relationship between youth, spontaneity, age, and maturity
  • rationality and the question of the existence of god
  • family relationships and marriage, including marriages without love, and caring without marriage
  • the fear one will be discovered to not know anything / be a fraud
The somewhat redeeming ending is happier than one might expected, especially for a foreign film.

The audio commentary, done by a film critic, is great, putting the film in the context of Bergman's life and his other films, and commenting on the symbolism. It's better than 95% of the commentary tracks done by directors.

The DVD also contains an interesting interview with Bergman done by another film critic. I particularly liked the discussion of Bergman's writing process, of the symbolism in this movie (and Bergman's others), and of Bergman's life, sorrows, rituals, and personal demons and how Wild Strawberries reflects them. Bergman's a solitary man: "generally speaking, chatter is an abomination." Perhaps this movie foreshadows his later experiences?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dial M For Murder - Reaction

A very good mystery with a clever, complex plot and smart characters. Despite being almost entirely produced on a single set with only a few characters, the film maintains its tension throughout. Made by Alfred Hitchcock, it includes Grace Kelly. My favorite actor was the inspector: the way he phrases his hmmms and asks his questions is great. The palette includes lively, vibrant colors at the beginning and gets darker, appropriately, as the film progresses.

Although the language doesn't have the wittiness or repartee of a movie like The Thin Man, some lines do stand out, such as "It's [a] delayed reaction, darling. In a few days you're going to have the most wonderful breakdown."

The film includes a quote about bridge: "No, I'm afraid my murders would be something like my bridge: I'd make some stupid mistake and never realize it until I found everybody was looking at me."

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Birth of a Nation - Reaction

A fairly boring, three-hour, silent film from 1915 that shows, in a positive light, the birth of the Ku Klux Klan. Being silent made it worse than most boring movies because one can't look away from the screen lest one miss the dialog and transitions expressed on title cards. Also, I didn't care much about the characters. But, the movie isn't all bad: I liked the music and the epic feel it gave the movie. And perhaps it's notable that I'm not complaining about the cinematography. One may imagine that a movie made during these early days of film-making would seem clumsy. Yet, it does not not. It uses many now standard film-making techniques.

The first part of the film is pretty innocuous in terms of racism. There are effectively no blacks. Rather, this segment is about the horrors of the civil war, with friend fighting friend. The main objectionable line in this segment starts the movie proper: "The bringing of the African to America planted the first seed of disunion."

The latter half of the film is much more propagandistic. Covering the reconstruction, it shows the racial conflict that results as Northern carpetbaggers encouraged/manipulated Southern blacks, portrayed as uneducated and child-like, to seek power and to oppress Southern whites. It shows Southern whites being disenfranchised as Southern blacks vote, sometimes multiple times. It shows innocent Southern whites being tried by Black juries and found guilty. It claims the Southern blacks had majorities in the state legislatures and passed laws requiring whites to salute black officers (but no mention of vice versa) and allowing intermarriage (oh, the horror, the movie implies!).

The Klan forms to rescue ("save") the people from black oppression. It "tries" (yes, that's the word used on the title card) a predatory black man and summarily hangs him. Whereas blacks form mobs, whites do not. Rather, the movie seems to say, they form a rescue operation / cavalry / group of knights and ride to the rescue of the populace. They "protect" by disarming blacks at gunpoint. It's as if the director is entirely oblivious to the fact that these actions of both sides are forms of mob violence. By the end of the movie, it's clear, especially due to the music, who one is supposed to be cheering for.

Apparently the movie functioned as a recruiting tool: allegedly, the Klan's ranks and power increased soon after its release.

The film was the first true blockbuster, setting records which were only broken decades later. Partially, it got money and attention because it was so controversial. But apparently many of the cinematic techniques used were new at the time, revealing for the first time, some say, what a movie could be. For instance, the movie has epic battles (using many extras and intelligent placement of smoke bombs to make the fields seem more filled than they were), rapidly cuts between the actions of two distant characters to build tension (will he catch up in time?), uses circular framing of a close-up to really focus on a character's emotional state, and uses filters to color a scene (e.g., tint a scene red to make it feel hellish).

Based off the book and play The Clansman.

Interestingly, the movie had no script. All the scenes and dialog came from the director's head without being plotted on paper.

[I watched the movie in two sitting. The second was on the date of this posting. The first was on July 31, 2007.]

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Only Human - Reaction


A pretty decent, generally amusing, light comedy about what happens when a Palestinian man meets his Jewish girlfriend's parents. It's mostly funny because of the crazy/eccentric characters. Although there's a little about culture, religion, and politics, it's mostly a situational comedy about the trouble and improbable events that ensue after the man drops a container of frozen soup on someone.

The movie ends fairly abruptly with some issues unresolved (e.g., what happens to the duck?).

It's funny I saw this movie so soon after watching Bad Faith, a French movie with a similar setup.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Reaction

A decent enough movie, not as epic or magical as the earlier ones. For example, the Hogwart's main hall was amazing in the first movie; here it seemed mundane. Also, the final Dumbledore-Voldemort scene went by too fast. I always imagined it being more epic and exciting. Sure, some shots are spectacular, such as the broom and thestral rides along the Thames by the houses of parliament, but the movie as a whole was missing something. Nonetheless, it does a serviceable job of moving the series forward.

I also felt like there wasn't as much going on as in the other movies. Perhaps that means they ceased trying to put every episode from the books into the movies. Perhaps that means less happened in the book. The imdb reviews claim (usually negatively) that it's the former. Many characters make only perfunctory appearances.

The kids' acting isn't very good. The adults' acting is fine. But then, we're not really at the movie for the acting. Still, some acting stood out: Snape (as always), Dolores Umbridge, and Luna Lovegood.