Platoon

Hell in Stone’s perfection –

The Vietnam War was an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. Having served in Vietnam, Oliver Stone harnessed these experiences to make Platoon, he managed to made an astonishing Vietnam war film. Everything about it is as close to perfection as we are likely to see. And he unbelievably makes our feelings oscillated and takes us deeper into the gist of humanity.

Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) is torn between the sergeants. From his point of view, war is a hell without end, he also a naive young man who believes in the American objectives in Vietnam before all his beliefs destroyed. Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) is the battle hardened, brutal murderer, who uses the war as an excuse to tender to his sadistic pleasures. Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) is the other side of the spectrum, a soldier with high moral standards. We get the sense that he has wrestled with his inner demons, but he has successfully come through to the other side. He has compassion for his fellow man, and he uses drugs as a form of escapism from this brutal war.

The film is very honestly written by Stone and it is this honesty that makes the film so great. Platoon isn’t an anti war movie and it certainly does not glorify war in anyway, it is simply how war is in its entirety. And Stone perfectly captures war in details. The sheer horror of war is captured so well in everyway. The fear of death, compatriots dying, divisions in the platoon, guilt of killing. The shooting is frantic and impossible to follow. It’s all there and Stone doesn’t try to disguise it. We follow the war at ground level, and see the brutalities first hand.

For it’s brilliance, Oliver Stone won the 59th Academy Awards for Best Director, The Silver Bear in 37th Berlin Film Festival, 44th Golden Globe Awards and he also won 1988 BAFTA Awards for Best Director. A magnificent film in the hand of astute director.

The Manchurian Candidate

A riveting political thriller –

From the Golden Globe nominated director John Framenheimer, the film sets in the demonizing and political overtones in the middle of cold war paranoia that struck all over America.

A former Korean War POW Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) returns with the Congressional Medal of Honour, to his domineering mother Eleanor Shaw Iselin (Angela Lansbury), who he tries to distance himself from. Lt. Raymond Shaw is not a person you would like. The Vietnam veteran and son of the conservative Senator John Iselin (James Gregory) should be in bad memory for his fellow war comrads as a sulky, self-opinionated character. That’s why it seems quite odd that they praise Shaw after they have returned home. His commanding officer Maj. Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) has been having nightmares where he is seeing the troops were kidnapped and brainwashed by the enemy, while war hero Shaw killed two of his own men under hypnosis. Soon, Marco finds out that Shaw is converted into a will-less, deadly instrument without knowing of the actions of his alter ego.

I can’t think of another movie that induces paranoiac feeling in the audience as well. It is a grim, daunting film which imparts an irritating coerciveness of its happening on the screen with perfectly arranged and meticulously shots. The architecture of the images seems to be precisely sophisticated in various perspectives which are mutually commenting, contradicting and completing – as if the events on the screen are following a secret dramaturgy.

As in acting, you’d be surprised with the uniformly excellent acting. And Sinatra proves himself a great actor for the lead. The possible doubtful casting of Laurence Harvey as Raymond Shaw pays off, even with his accent but nonetheless he is wonderfully creepy as the controlled assassin. His account of his love affair is very moving. And Lansbury as his mother is amazingly good and very sinister, she has played unsympathetic roles but never like this. She is unforgettable, and scary. a very riveting conspiracy drama and psychological thriller.

The film was nominated the Oscar for Best Film Editing, and it was nominated the BAFTA for Best Film from any Source. And Angela Lansbury Won the 20th Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. If you’re looking for something to blow you away, something completely unlike anything you’ve seen before. It has aged well, still providing the same amount of suspense and drama that it did then.

C’era una volta il West (Once Upon A Time In The West)

A buzzing fly, a train whistle, the wind blowing through the desert, and harmonica –

After “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly”, Italian maestro Sergio Leone came up with this brilliant story, wrote by himself, which he described as “a fresco on the birth of a great nation”. Leone emerges a 300-page treatment which was eventually distilled into the script, penned by Leone and Sergio Donati in this meticulously-plotted screenplay.

In fact, he builds a myth with modest elements, an organ mouth, a blue-eyed glance, long coats. He introduces lyricism and immoderation, to sublimate the manners of this specific spectacle. The daring of realization, inverted or encircling shot, and artistic choice express an authentic will to break the common rules, in order to confer sensible density on characters and an aesthetic energy on his scenery. Paradoxically, this glittering vision of Redemption, which was hesitating between homage and parody. Looking for ruins poetry and contemporary commencement. Insignificant details become epic. The fly and the dripping water for instance, are given real significance, and are integral to the pace of the scene. Not a word is said but the pacing and magnification of the smallest details add human depth to the scene, the director has created an absolute.

Henry Fonda plays the psychotic gunslinger Frank hired by a railroad contractor to scares stubborn redheaded Irishman Brett McBain (Frank Wolff) and his family.  In the meantime his beautiful new wife Jill (Claudia Cardinale) comes for the wedding announcement who turns into a funeral ceremony. And for that circumstances, she inherited that altercation land. Nevertheless, the central figure in this film are, crafty-mysterious antihero harmonica player (Charles Bronson), search vengeance to the mighty Frank. And fortunately Cheyenne (Jason Robards) teamed up with him in the middle of the hunt.

Leone brought us a series of flamboyantly choreographed set-piece confrontations. While characterisation suffers slightly under the weight of the visual theatrics, astonishing script, astute dialogue, combine with an exquisite score, a tight matching of soundtrack and visuals, remarkable.

It is one of the greatest Westerns film ever made. Outstanding.

The Lady Vanishes

Marking the peak of Hitchcock’s British period –

It is an exquisitely crafted cinematic treasure, played by the equaly brilliant casts. And for obvious reason you’ll see how Hitchcock set his point of view for a film.

Set in pre-WWII somewhere in Europe, A group of people board a train bound for England after having spent the previous night in an overcrowded hotel. Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) befriends a kindly old governess, Miss Froy (Dame May Witty). When Iris is struck by a falling flowerpot, Miss Froy promises to take care of her as they board to the train.

The film spends 20 minutes or so just introducing it’s characters, but they are all so great, especially the two men so obsessed with returning to a cricket match that a case of disappearance and possibly murder is relatively unimportant, that it hardly matters. Once on the train, the ensuring mystery and sleuthing are riveting, and full of fantastic little details, the name on the window, the nun with high heeled shoes, the fight in the magician’s stuff. The final shootout is excellently staged and still quite exciting. The laughs are constant, with some hilarious lines, but they never detract from the suspense.

The Lady Vanishes is a wonderful piece of fluff, the culmination of Hitchcock’s British period, after which he started to explore more serious themes in his American films. Of course the basic plot is absurd, centering around the most ridiculous way to get a secret message through one can think of, it’s the handling that matters, and Hitchcock achieves a near perfect balance here of humor and suspense that he only really matched on one other film.

Hitchcock had countless classics to come, including such complex masterpieces as Vertigo and Rear Window, but the delightful, hugely enjoyable The Lady Vanishes is a little masterpiece of it’s own.

L’Argent

L’ Argent, the last directorial effort of Robert Bresson, is unfortunately, in my opinion, seems also to be his least ( I adore Au Hasard Balthazar and A Man Escaped. but really, this film is plain forgettable). Forgive me all the Bresson fans out there, but i just didn’t find anything special in this film.

Once again, the things that bugged me the most is the acting. Yes, it is true that Bresson always thought that acting is secondary. He prefer to cast an unknown on his film, and let the images and the music do the talking. But unlike Au Hasard Balthazar, in which there are beautiful black-and-white cinematography in every second, accompanied with a wonderful Schubert sonata as a background music, in L’Argent, those aspects are nowhere to be seen.

If there’s one thing to salvage of, it is the story., which some might call, very Dostoyevsky-an. But too bad, that credit has to go to Tolstoy, not Bresson. So all in one, i had to regret that Bresson ( A man that has crafted a lot of masterpieces ) had to end his career, with this inferior film.

 

 

Ladri Di Biciclette

A portrayal of a working class men struggling in this post war so-called world –

An unemployed man Antonio Ricci is given a job putting up posters, however a condition of his employment is that he needs a bicycle, eventually he manages to buy one from a pawn shop, but on his first day at work it’s stolen and thus the man and his young son begin a desperate search through the back streets of Rome to find the missing bicycle.

Director Vittorio De Sica chose to film in the crowded streets of Rome and use non professional actors to capture the mood appropriately. This neo-realist approach works almost as a filmed documentary of Italy and the existence forced upon it’s citizens. When Antonio loses his bicycle he loses so much more and his desperate search in the overcrowded streets is one of cinema’s most emotional exploration of a man trying to capture his dignity that was taken from him. The bicycle was his job, his sense of purpose and it ensured a good livelihood for his family.

Antonio and Bruno

This film may not be for everyone, but anyone who appreciates film will understand its greatness and the realness of life along the story. There are allusions to the class struggle, but the film falls short of directly calling for a radical social change, instead portraying the working class of Italy as hopelessly divided by its own poverty, unemployment and greed . While that in itself may suggest De Sica’s desire for a proletariat united against injustices posed by the system, it’s still a comment the film never makes in a literal form – if it’s there, it’s hidden away somewhere in the narrative for the audience to decipher themselves. In that respect Bicycle Thieves quite clearly differs from many other Italian neo-realist movies, because it does not directly criticise the capitalist system, instead preferring to remain ambiguous and leaving the audience to arrive at their own conclusions about the fate of Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani), his beloved son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) and of Italian society in general.

In a way it’s probably for the best that De Sica has chosen to portray the message of the film in an ambiguous light instead of patronising his audience with lectures, since it enables him to portray social injustice without running the risk of alienating his audience.

Astonishing, that might be the best word to describe this film. A beauty in it’s way, human way. Highly Recommended, worth the accolades.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Based on a novel by Ken Kesey, and later a play by Dale Wasserman, this film won 5 Oscars including; Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress.

Though, the film’s stand-out of many strong points is the acting. Within a large and extensive cast, there is not a single bad actor and a handful of outstanding ones. Jack Nicholson, playing the hot-tempered convict R.P. McMurphy, and his usual psycho routine are as convincing as ever. As is, Louise Fletcher in her role of Nurse Ratched, without a doubt one of the greatest film villains of all time. She’s callous, unpredictable and a role not many actresses would be able to succeed in doing so to any positive effect. Of course, the supporting cast are outstanding. It’s brilliant to see pre-stardom talents, such as Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito and the undermined Brad Dourif really go into there roles. Some lesser known actors, such as Sydney Lassick as the child-esque Cheswick, William Redfield as the opinionated Harding and the mesmerising performance of Will Sampson as the unforgettable Chief.

The screenplay and directing of the film is sensational, and the scripting is quick-paced, but this never becomes it’s downfall and simply adds to the sheer insanity of the film itself. Even though, the pace’s of the film itself does halt when need be, even better, it actually conveys the more tragic, dramatic scenes even more touching and heartbreaking. The directing, from the excellent Milos Forman, is also something to shout about very much.

I did find this film a little bit like watching a play at times, but inevitably it was very well made, particularly those featuring Jack Nicholson, being improvised to some extent. I really enjoyed the scenes, as they were allowed to evolve. In my humble opinion, it’s a magnificent film that deserves all the awards.