Carlos’ Review Round-Up
The Bay (2012)
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Barry Levinson is an American filmmaker who deserves all my respect. Works such as “Diner”, “Good Morning Vietnam”, “Rain Man”, or TV movie “You Don’t Know Jack” can’t be easily forgotten. But is also true that filmmakers with an immaculate career are very rare and Levinson was many times accused of using unsubstantial stories and commercial approaches. “Toys”, “Sphere”, “Envy” or “Man Of The Year”, fall in this group. The brand new “The Bay” is an experience on horror/thriller in the form of a fake documentary that happens to be unconvincing. Combining moments of seriousness with slight tones of mockery, the film never truly impresses in any other way than through gore imagery or brutal violence. I confess that in the beginning the story aroused my curiosity, startling me for a couple of times, but after a while its imperfections started to become too obvious. The hasty ending made me wonder what happened with bacteria that were ashore, once the bay waters were cleaned with chlorine. “The Bay” might be an intriguing experience on visuals, but its phony tone almost never reached satisfactory levels.
Directed by: James Ponsoldt
“Smashed” is a drama centered on alcoholism. Kate and Charlie are apparently a happy couple, who have a lot of things in common. However, life will change when they become completely dependent on alcohol. Kate is a teacher, whose job is put on jeopardy due to several absences, improper behaviors, and lies. Her nights consist in pretty much the same: drinking in bars until late hours. One morning, she awoke in the middle of the street, after smoking crack with an unknown woman. Since that moment, Kate started to worry, becoming aware of her addiction and seeking help at AA meetings. Her husband Charlie, on the contrary, didn’t show any intention to quit. “Smashed” has interesting moments, especially those showing the decadent behaviors that a drunk person is capable of. Yet, I wasn’t particularly moved, having the impression that something was missing here. The plot deliberately assumed a time discontinuity, between Kate’s first relapse and the celebration of a whole year without drinking. This fact kept me wondering how the couple had coped with the situation meanwhile. On the other side, the open ending worked well, while the lesson it tries to pass is already known. Great performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Directed by: Matteo Garrone
Country: Italy / France
“Reality” confirms Matteo Garrone as a filmmaker to keep an eye on. After the raw look into the organized crime of Neapolitan Mafia with “Gomorrah”, he now presents us with an interesting character study, which also aims to be a criticism of the society we live in. Luciano is a talkative fishmonger from Naples who dreams to be famous. Taking advantage of having known a famous artist who was connected to the Italian ‘Big Brother’ reality show, he manages to get an audition in Rome. Counting on the support of his family and all the inhabitants of Naples, Luciano earnestly believes he is going to be called for the show. As the time passes by, he becomes suspicious about the strangers in town, convincing himself that they work for ‘Big Brother’. Feeling constantly observed, he develops an uncontrollable obsession, which not even family, friends or religion, can stop. Assuming the typical Italian exuberance, this satire never loses intensity, denoting genuine comical moments, stirring alienation, and powerful images. Aniello Arena has here a dream debut in the role of Luciano. “Reality” won the Grand Prize of The Jury at Cannes, and should not be missed.
In The Shadow (2012)
Directed by: David Ondricek
Country: Czech Republic / Slovakia / Poland
“In The Shadow” is a police thriller with political contours. Its story is set in 1950’s old Czechoslovakia, in a time where a monetary reform was a possibility, raising doubts among the population. Away from all that, the obsessive police-inspector Jarda continues to do his job with honesty. He was sent to investigate a gold robbery whose evidences pointed to a suspect named Kirsch, a drunken Jew who would come to confess his involvement. However, after further investigations, Jarda concludes that this man had not participated in the crime. Unexpectedly, the State Security Service aided by a newcomer German cop, were assigned to replace Jarda. Together, they arrest four other Jews accused of smuggling gold and money to finance Zionist separatists in Palestine. Jarda will continue from suspect to suspect, searching for truth, until find who are behind the conspiracy. “In The Shadows” sets an atmosphere of obscurity, relying on suspenseful moments, adequate score, and mysterious behaviors scattered everywhere. The main problem is that the plot only left us with two possible suspects, giving sufficient hints for us to guess who the bad guy was. So, no much surprises here!
Marie Kroyer (2012)
Directed by: Bille August
Country: Denmark / Sweden
“Marie Kroyer” is the typical film expected from a filmmaker such as Bille August. Taking into account his previous works, it’s easy to conclude that period dramas are the genre that he feels more comfortable with. This new feature-film depicts the relationship between the painter Peder Severin Kroyer and his wife Marie. The Kroyer couple seemed to live happily in fame and wealthy, but after a while we sensed that this happiness wasn’t so perfect but rather apparent. Suffering from bouts of mental illness, the talented painter becomes a threat to his family. Marie, whose dream was also to become a painter, was often hurt in her feelings by her husband’s egocentrism. Their little daughter was another victim of his madness, in a couple of scenes that revealed to be simultaneously hilarious and sad. Exhausted, Marie leaves for Sweden to rest, eventually falling in love with a Swedish composer. Nevertheless, her life won’t be easier. “Marie Kroyer” revealed competence and ability to entertain due to a refined ambiance and solid performances. It is not completely unpredictable or devoid of flaws, presenting coldness in moments that were asking for some more emotion. Yet, considering its story and genre, I believe it wouldn’t be easy to adopt a better approach in direction or create further excitement.
The Thieves (2012)
Directed by: Choi Dong-Hoon
Country: South Korea
Another big hit in South Korea, “The Thieves” is a typical heist-film with a lot of characters, expectant action, noisy shootings, and some jolly moments. It could have been called ‘Ocean’s Eleven from Asia’, taking into account its similarities with Soderbergh’s hit of 2001. However, here the impossible stunts are in much larger number, as well as the greedy battle among the thieves to snatch a valuable diamond. Some suspense could be felt, although its frequent twists-and-turns never induced much enthusiasm or astonishment. The film presents the usual key elements: bluffs, quarrels, bribes, greed, hypocrisy, personal revenges, and even love. Actually, the amorous relationships among thieves revealed to be a major key in the plot’s turn of events. It was a constant guessing if the feelings were honest or cunning, or if the diamond was real or fake. “The Thieves” can be stirring and electrifying, although many times is just show-off, making us anticipate some of its calculated tricks.
Directed by: Choo Chang-min
Country: South Korea
“Masquerade” is making a resounding success in South Korea, becoming the eighth film to surpass the ten million admissions, in October 2012. The plot tells the adventures of Ha-Seon, a common man who has been chosen to work as the double of king Gwang-Hae, the 15th ruler of Korea’s Joseon Dinasty. Ha-Seon was accustomed to work as a clown, making fun of the King and his court, hence no one better than him to temporarily assume the throne when the King fell ill due to poisoning. The humanity and honesty demonstrated by Ha-Seon, will conquer the queen’s heart, as well as the trust of the court men who were truly concerned with the country’s future. The costume design, scenarios, and resolute image compositions, were clearly the strongest elements in the film, whereas the plot revealed sentimental tendencies and a commercial appeal, very common in this genre. Its eagerness in combining mystery, humor, drama, and action, all at once, didn’t bring the expected results to make this epic more surprising or thrilling. Lee Byung-hun’s performance, and a few funny dialogues and situations, made “Masquerade” entertaining but far from fundamental.
The End Of Love (2012)
Directed by: Mark Webber
Mark Webber shows his skills as director, actor, and writer, with “The End Of Love”, his second film behind the cameras. Using simple processes, the film was made almost like a documentary, where most of the actors play themselves. Mark is a comfortless actor whose wife died in a car accident, leaving a two-year-old child at his care. Isaac is a fantastic kid and a real movie star; it’s impossible not to be fond of him. Yet, he takes much of his dad’s time. Mark starts showing signs of tiredness and emotional instability. Moreover, he is struggling to pay his rent and debts, but ultimately had no luck on getting small parts in cinematic projects. Everything seemed to start changing when he gets to know Lydia, the owner of a kindergarten, but Mark loses himself too quickly in words like love or marry. The film has consumed too much time on Isaac’s scenes and didn’t take advantage from what this romance had to offer. I ended with a terrible sensation that the story didn’t give everything it should; just like an underdeveloped exercise that leave us wanting to know more about its characters.