HANNA (2011)

Okay, well I saw HANNA last night... and loved it! It was excellent. Surprisingly interesting and fresh considering the female-ass-kicking-spy-protagonist (also the male one) genre is so incredibly overdone. Saoirse Ronan is incredible in the title role of the girl trained in the woods of Finland by her father (Erik Bana) since near birth to be a super-agent, excelling at languages and fist-fighting. The story, while nothing incredibly new, adds more of a coming of age aspect to the Bourne style plot of a spy trying to figure out who they actually are. Hanna is released into the world, and with the help of a vacationing British family, she discovers the world her father denied her by keeping her in the woods. Of course, the CIA wants to apprehend her, and various hitmen are dispatched to bring her and/or her father in for a meeting with agent Cate Blanchett. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the settings and locales are rendered in a fresh and evocative manner. Ronan, Bana, and Blanchett are all great, as is the supporting cast, with a handful of familiar faces! And the soundtrack, amazing! The whole way through I was thinking and hoping that is was composed by the Chemical Brothers and yes it was! Really drives the movie forward. Anyways, go see this. It has a local connection to, the story and screenplay are by a Nanaimo man who also attended Vancouver Film School, Seth Lochhead!


Lars Von Trier's MELANCHOLIA (2011)

Eesh! I feel like all my posts lately have been RIPs! Farley Granger, Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Russell, and now the great Sidney Lumet. It is a sad start to spring in Hollywood. So now with happier news, Lars Von Trier has made a new film! Ha ha. Happy and Lars Von Trier rarely go together, if ever, and I must say that even though I've never per se enjoyed Von Trier's films to the point of ever wanting to watch them again, I do appreciate the impact he has had on contemporary cinema. Say want you want about the enfant terrible of Danish/European filmmaking, he definitely has made a mark whether it is his Dogme 95 period, DOGVILLE, EUROPA, or DANCER IN THE DARK. I did not see his last film, ANTICHRIST, but his new one intrigues me. MELANCHOLIA. It stars Kirsten Dunst, which I have to admit, I find slightly distressing, as she is one of those actors who I find gorgeous and fragile, and I know the effect that Von Trier can have on gorgeous and fragile women in his films (see both Charlotte Gainsbourg in ANTICHRIST and Bjork in DANCER IN THE DARK--the latter vowing to never make another film after her experience with the Dane). So... we shall see. Also starring are Von Trier favorites Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgard, as well as Keifer Sutherland and John Hurt, whom I'm sure by the end of the film will all have gone through hell. That being said, I find the trailer for MELANCHOLIA interesting--and incredibly foreboding. The trailer sets a very melodramatic mood and implies that something incredibly terrible might happen to Kirsten Dunst! Oh no! What is also powerful about the trailer is the whole people-on-earth-being-affected-by-the-stars aspect; something similar is present in the trailer for Terrence Malick's TREE OF LIFE: that a power is working on a higher plane. So. There you have it, take a look at the trailer and see what you think!

RIP Sidney Lumet

I just learned that the great director Sidney Lumet has died at the age of 86. Lumet was responsible for such amazing films as 12 ANGRY MEN, DOG DAY AFTERNOON and NETWORK. 12 ANGRY MEN is an incredible landmark film for its acting as well as it's precise direction. It is truly a riveting kettle boiler of chamber piece cinema. I read his book "Making Movies" last year which I have since discovered is a favorite of many active directors right now, some of them rereading it every time before they embark on a new film. It was a great insight into this "actor's director." Lumet was famous for working closely with his actors with weeks of rehearsals to develop their characters. He was truly an important figure in American cinema through the second half of the 20th century. Lumet was nominated for 5 Oscars, including for best director for 12 ANGRY MEN.


THE 400 BLOWS (1959)

Francois Truffaut's semi-autobiographical breakout film THE 400 BLOWS (LES 400 COUPS) is an absolute treasure. I had the fortune of seeing a 50th anniversary rerelease print of the film last year and it was gorgeous. This, along with Godard's BREATHLESS were complete game-changers in the filmmaking world, and demonstrated what could be done by those working outside the major studio system. THE 400 BLOWS is the first in the Antoine Doinel series of films that Truffaut made with his young prodigy Jean-Pierre Leaud. If you see one French film from this era, it simply must be THE 400 BLOWS.