Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Cineastes

A group of internet buddies and myself recently came up with the idea to pick a film, view it, and then write a review of it on our respective blogs each month. We are calling it The Cineastes, and you can find a link to each members blog on the side of this one.

Our first film is Ugetsu. I'll have a review of it soon.


In the comic world, Watchmen is considered to be one of the seminal works in defining the medium. The collected 12 issues are highly regarded not only by fans, but also by critics and literary figures. It’s one of the few graphic novels that are considered to have any merit in the literary world.

It becomes clear why when you read the novel. The tale of a group of disbanded superheroes that reunite to solve the murder of one of their own tackles more heavy themes than most actual literary novels.

Politics, for example, play a major part in the plot of the film and the book, as they take place in an alternate 1985 where the U.S. has won the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon is still president. This is all due to the Watchmen, the renegade superhero collective. Their existence has drastically altered the course of the world.

To call them superheroes, though, is inaccurate. They are more like antiheroes, especially the murdered Comedian, a ruthless, right-wing vigilante who cares only for himself, not barring the rest of the Watchmen. His death sets off a string of events that bring the group back together; Nite Owl, a Batman-like hero who utilizes tools in place of powers, Ozymandias, a now successful entrepreneur who is described in the film as the “smartest man in the world,” Silk Spectre, the only female in the group who took over her mother’s position, Doctor Manhattan, the only member of the Watchmen with actual superpowers and Rorschach, a vigilante “justice-bringer” and extremely right-wing thinker who has constantly worked outside the Watchmen to deal brutal justice to criminals.

The film stays very true to the comic, recounting every last detail until the finished product itself has the look and feel of a graphic novel. This is partly due to the direction of Zack Snyder, who previously helmed the inferior 300, another visually stunning comic book movie.

Unlike 300, though, Watchmen is a film that isn’t just pretty to look at. It’s a relevant and substantial masterpiece that looks at the dark side of the superhero world, and asks “What if these ‘superheroes’ were real? What if they actually had to keep the world safe?,” and by seeking out the answers, Alan Moore (the writer of the original graphic novel who wanted nothing to do with the film) creates an amazing parallel to the current state of the American nation. These superheroes, which are normally thought of as indestructible, invincible super humans are, in the face of Armageddon, forced to make human decisions, and stripped bare of anything resembling superhuman.

The comic’s relevance at this time is fascinating, considering the first issue was originally released in 1986. The film, which has been in the works since the late 90’s, could not have come at a better time. It’s uncanny.


Tell No One

The critically acclaimed Tell No One is a 2008 French thriller about a widower whose wife was murdered. Originally implemented as a prime suspect, the case resurfaces when two bodies are found at the site of the original murder, and he finds himself a suspect once again. His world is further turned upside down when he receives an e-mail that leads him to believe his wife may still be alive.

It would be hard to describe the plot anymore than that without revealing anything; Tell No One is one of the twistiest films in recent memory. It’s an unpredictable mind game, intricate with each move, yet thrilling every step of the way.

French star Francois Cluzet turns in a taut performance as Alexander Beck, the man out to find his wife’s real killer, all the while evading the police. Cluzet’s performance is natural and heartfelt, and his character a believable hero; kind-hearted and gentle, yet tough and unrelenting when he needs to be. He’s surrounded by a myriad of strong characters, some on his side and some not, but all of who have more information to offer him than it would seem.
With so many characters and such a tangled web of a plot, the film often comes off as convoluted, so much so that it often draws the viewer out of the overall experience the film offers. It’s certainly a film that gets better with repeated viewings, if not just to get every last detail. The final reveal, although gripping, is done a bit lazily with a character literally explaining to

Alexander what happened to his wife.
Still, Tell No One is smart and stylish in ways most thrillers aren’t, and that’s saying something.
Tell No One is now available on DVD.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Auteurs and Gotz Spielmann

The great people over on The (and if you don't know what that is, you should go there right now) will interview Austrian director/writer/producer Gotz Spielmann this Thursday. Spielmann has directed such films as Antares and last year's Oscar-nominated Revanche. There's a link to the official Auteurs Notebook (blog) right beside here, so don't miss out.