Review: Silence

Time and again throughout history, humanity has been lost due to hubris. There is a spiritual arrogance that we are often guilty of that has a way of taking a delicate situation and making a quick mess of it. This pride comes from a deep place in our guts and hearts – a place that believe it knows. It has listened to teachings, studied the supposed Truth, and parlayed that word into action.

People believe, people testify, and people suffer in the faith that they are doing the right thing. But how do they know for sure? Silence is a seventeenth century quest for Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson).

As the story begins, his brother missionaries back in Portugal are learning of his committing apostasy in Japan after his followers are tortured by the ruling class. His status and whereabouts are now unknown. The case prompts two young priests named Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Adam Driver) to strike out to Japan in search of their missing brother missionary.

The quest is a dangerous one. The Buddhists in charge of Japan do not want Christianity to take root in their society, and have been making a point to persecute anyone declaring themselves a Christian. Followers are routinely rounded-up and persecuted, but the prize target is a man of the cloth. Followers are merely victims; leaders are something to make an example of.

When the missionaries arrive in Japan, they soon split off in the hopes of greater safety and better results. It is Rodrigues we follow for most of the rest of the trip. The priest goes from village to village, seeing firsthand evidence of Christian persecution. Some is even in the hopes of smoking out Rodrigues himself, since the governing bodies have heard rumour of his arrival. All the while, Christian followers are turning to him, looking for guidance. He, in turn, speaks to God…who responds only with silence.

Eventually, Rodrigues faces his oppressor (Issei Ogata). Like Christ in the desert, Rodrigues is offered bargain after bargain if he will just renounce. Lives will be spared, whole communities left in peace…all he needs to do is disavow his God. Like Christ in Gethsemane, Rodrigues pleads with The Almighty to take the task away from him, and instead allow him to worship and serve in peace.

The only response is silence.

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Trailer: Martin Scorsese’s Silence

For this Thanksgiving, we are thankful that Martin Scorsese can still make these kind of pictures. The director has been working at getting Shūsaku Endō’s novel, Silence turned into a film for decades, and now it is here. Set in the seventeenth century, the story involves two young Portuguese Jesuit priests who face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and spread Christianity. Things do not go well, as Japan was in an era of deep isolation, and Christianity was illegal to practice in this time period. The Japanese had however been working on ‘Water Crucifixion’ (Mizuharitsuke) for a while, and certainly strung up a few worshipers – images that appearance in this trailer.

Adam Driver, Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Shinya Tsuakmoto(!), and Ciarán Hinds star in the film which is getting released on December 23, 2016.

TIFF 2015 Review: Legend

Brian Helgeland’s Legend owes more than just passing “respects” to Goodfellas. It should kneel, kiss its ring and swear to handle whatever favours are asked of it. From its use of period precise music to its narration to long take club-entering shots, Legend shoots for that Scorsese vibe and view of the intoxicating power of gangster life. It doesn’t achieve that of course (primarily due to far too many moments that are inexcusably mundane), but still manages to keep a good pace and remain mostly entertaining. And that is primarily due to two key performances: those of Tom Hardy and also Tom Hardy.

Legend covers the rise and reign of the Kray brothers – the legendary gangster twin siblings who grew up in London’s East End. As the film opens, the pair are already local celebrities who ingratiate themselves with the neighbourhood while also running protection rackets and a few nightclubs. Reggie has business sense and can put things into context, but can also suddenly “lose his temper”. As violent as he can be, it feels controlled and with purpose. His brother Ron, however, is all instinct, fight first and ask questions never. He feels that when in doubt, it’s always best to stir things up. He doesn’t easily mix in with general society, though has no issues in openly proclaiming his bisexuality even though the film takes place during the 50s-60s. He begins the film in an asylum, but is released after a little “convincing” of his doctor by Reggie. Clearly no one believes he is in his right mind due to his appetite for mayhem, but Reggie wants/needs him out – they’re brothers after all. Though Reggie wrestles with it occasionally, Ron always wins the competition for Reggie’s allegiance – a battle fought more often after Reggie marries the beautiful young Frances (Emily Browning with a fantastic supporting performance by her cheekbones). Though not necessarily looking to give up “the life”, Reggie does somewhat long to simply run his new club in the West End. It’s profitable, the rich & famous drop by and it’s a sign that they have moved towards conquering all of London and acquiring that broader respect. Of course, that doesn’t fit with Ron’s plans and he actively destroys the regular clientele when Reggie has to do a short spell in prison.

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Trailer for HBO’s Vinyl

Bobby Canavale, an untapped resource of genius if there ever was one, and Juno Temple star in this ‘Mad Men of the 1970s record industry’ new show from HBO, Vinyl. Produced by Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terrence Winter (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire). This is a dream team kind of project that might collapse under its own weight of talent, but I’m hoping that it is simply amazing.

Trailer: The Audition

Audition

OK, this looks like too much fun: A movie where Scorsese invites his two muses, DeNiro and DiCaprio, to the gambling city of Macau Manila and then pits them against each other for winning a part in an upcoming Scorsese movie. This high concept is something that Lars Von Trier would dream up, and then make it mean-spirited. Alas, it’s a piece of advertainment, a short film, and not a bonafide feature. Too bad. (Also: Note the Brad Pitt cameo in the trailer.)

Finite Focus: The Pool Party in Boogie Nights

BoogieNights1

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Whether you want to call it homage or straight up borrowing, P.T. Anderson’s great Boogie Nights certainly shows off its influences. Altman and Scorsese figure prominently, but another inspiration is Mikhail Kalatozov and his film I Am Cuba (which also happens to be a big Scorsese favourite too). Aside from being drop-dead gorgeous and a remarkably poetic piece of propaganda, I Am Cuba is known for several incredible long takes that, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, will still take your breath away. One of them starts 2 minutes into the film as a camera roams through a decadent hotel party and bathing beauty contest, moves down several stories, through a crowd of people and into the water of a pool to capture the swimmers under the surface. Anderson states in his commentary on Boogie Nights that they not only wanted to try the same thing, but have the camera come out of the water too.

It’s a showy scene for sure, but it also ties together numerous threads and characters from the story and emphasizes how these lost souls are all together in this porn “family” – whether as complete avoidance of the real world or as a temporary waystation. We see Buck Swope’s (Don Cheadle) search for an identity continue as well as Maurice TT Rodriguez’s (Luis Guzman) pleading to Amber Waves (Julianne Moore) to be included in one of their films. Midway through the scene, Buck and Maurice go inside the house together as the camera picks up another character, but we reconvene with them a few minutes later in another scene that closes on Amber’s newly discovered fascination with Eddie Adams.

My favourite part of the party scene, though, is the last part of the clip above and comes right after the first cut that follows the long take into the pool. Eddie (who hasn’t yet become full blown pornstar Dirk Diggler) is asking his new buddy Reed Rothchild if his just completed pike dive into the pool looked awesome. Reed is looking to play a mentor role for the young lad and decides to reign in his confidence a bit. “I’ll show you what you did wrong.” Reed lines up a full flip, but only manages about 75% of it and lands flat on his back. As Eric Burdon and his sexy sounding female vocalist continue to pulse on the soundtrack, there’s a great edit underwater to Reed’s pained expression as he slowly floats to the surface with his back arched. It’s one of the funnier moments in a film teeming with them (as much as it’s also terribly dark at times), but it serves a purpose too – once Reed pops above the surface and Eddie says “You gotta brings your legs all the way around!”, that mentoring relationship has ended. Reed’s final “I know…I know..” comment is a realization and acceptance that he’ll be playing the supporting role to the star that Eddie will become.

Once we see Amber hoover a line of coke and then gaze intently at Eddie landing a full flip properly (in slow motion of course), we are fully prepped to dive headlong into the downward spirals that lie ahead.

BoogieNights2

Blu-Ray Review: World Cinema Foundation: Volume One

Near the end of 2013, Eureka’s Masters of Cinema label treated film buffs to a box set of three little known cinematic gems from the World Cinema Foundation. Set up by Martin Scorsese, the Foundation is best described by the man himself:

“The World Cinema Project [was] created to help developing countries preserve their cinematic treasures. We want to help strengthen and support the work of international archives, and provide a resource for those countries lacking the archival and technical facilities to do the work themselves.”
Martin Scorsese, WCP Founder and Chairman

You can find out more about their work here: worldcinemafoundation.org

It’s really quite an honourable and exciting venture. I love to work my way through the classic film canon, but it’s easy to forget that there are over 100 years worth of releases from around the world left to discover. Many of these are equally as worthy as those ‘cast iron classics’ too, they just didn’t get enough press in the right places to keep them in the public consciousness. Unfortunately an astonishing number of these forgotten titles have been lost over the years. It’s expensive and time consuming to restore old prints so, as the years go by, thousands more films are disappearing. So it’s great to see filmmakers like Scorsese helping keep a number of interesting titles alive.

Included in ‘Volume 1’ (hopefully meaning there are more to follow) of the Martin Scorsese Presents: World Cinema Foundation set is Dry Summer (Susuz Yaz), Trances (Transes) and Revenge (Mest). Below are my thoughts on the films themselves:
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Second Trailer for The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall St.

Focusing more on the progression of the story this time around and featuring a lot more (Academy Award Nominee) Jonah Hill, the second trailer for Martin Scorsese’s has as much bombast and excess (and slow motion) as ever. It’s great, and rather at odds with the litany of shoddy blockbuster/tentpole trailers of late, but rather than give us more images (and there are plenty more here) can we just get this movie in the cinema all ready?

Trailer: The Wolf of Wall Street

This might just be the sharpest cut trailer of 2013. Martin Scorsese’s latest film has a driving rhythm, singing with Matthew McConaughey, and what looks to be Leonardo DiCaprio at his ‘playboy of excess’ best (Catch Me if You Can, The Great Gatsby). The Wolf of Wall Street tells the story of a New York stockbroker, who refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud case involving corruption on Wall Street, the corporate banking world and mob infiltration. The film also features Oscar nominee Jonah Hill and Oscar Winner Jean Dujardin are on support here as well, also what looks to be the tossing of lobsters, $100 bills and dwarves. Shot digitally in New York and New Jersey, it feels fresh, exciting and funny; something that is rather surprising for another look at the ongoing American fiscal crisis.

Cinecast Episode 237 – One T or Two?

Well, Gamble’s Back. But after the Thanksgiving Weekend blow-out there is precious little in the way of new releases, making this show a Mega-sized “The Watch List” episode. Before we go there, we delve into our favourite female performances of 2011 (of all shapes and sizes.) One small observation: We talk a lot of documentaries this episode, and go over a lot of TV series; particularly Matt who was laid up with a sports injury for over three weeks and watched a metric tonne of TV/film/etc. The latest from Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, and another go around with Bellflower. Take it away Gamble.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_237.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

Buried

2010 USA/Spain/Frane. Director: Rodrigo Cortés. Starring: Ryan Reynolds.

An extreme form of one-room film, with the whole thing set in a coffin buried somewhere underground. Ryan Reynolds carries the film admirably as an army contractor who gets taken hostage and buried alive with just a cell phone and a few other items, with the intention that he will get a sizeable ransom from the US government for his release. As we know, the US government doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, leaving Reynolds hoping that the dispatched search and rescue team will find him before his air runs out. The film ratchets up tension admirably, keeping the audience engaged through 95 minutes of basically nothing happening except a man talking on a phone. There are nitpicks to be made, and I do wish there had been some better explanation for why he didn’t try to dig out through the obviously loose and relatively shallow dirt above him, but for the most part, it’s pretty effective as a tight-space thriller.
– JANDY

Netflix Instant (USA)

Gattaca

1997 USA. Director: Andrew Niccol. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, Uma Thurman.

While Gattaca did not fly quite as far under the radar as The Man from Earth or Dark City, I cannot help but feel that it remains incredibly underseen and underappreciated. It is generally regarded as a strong film, to be sure, yet I would argue that it is among the greatest sci-fi films ever made. Nimbly toeing the line between the bleak and hectic Blade Runner and the philosophically draining The Man from Earth, Niccol’s universe not only feels realistic – it feels possible … if not probable. The physical presentation of the world is bleak, yes, but it is also vibrant and alive, crafting a future that is advanced, but not so advanced so as to be a distraction. This, of course, ignores the tremendous turns of Ethan Hawke and Jude Law, whose relationship is organic and beautiful. Uma Thurman is undoubtedly the weak link in the chain, but that may be as much a product of her underutilization, if not a side effect of the brilliance of most everything else.
– DOMENIC

Netflix Instant (CANADA)

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