Author: chelichanblog

Film Studies Graduate filling a void. I love Japanese movies, such as Takeshi Kitano or Akira Kurosawa. Hoping to just write and get my creativity juices flowing âœŒđŸ»

Bit Review: Pet Sematary (1989)

Stephen King is undoubtedly one of the greatest horror writers living today. He has wrote classic horror stories such as The Shining and IT. Many of his books have been made into films, and with the recent release of the IT remake (2017), directed by Andy Muschietti, there seems to be a demand for more King adaptations. With 1922 (2017) and Gerald’s Game (2017) both being moderate successes, Andy Muschietti apparently has his sights set on a Pet Sematary remake. However, it would be ignorant to forget the Pet Sematary (1989) film directed by Mary Lambert, therefore I decided to rewatch one of my favourite King adaptations.

Pet Sematary follows the Creed family, which consists of Louis (Dale Midkiff), his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby), and their children Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) and Gage (Miko Hughes). The Creed family move to rural Ludlow, Maine as Louis is offered a better job. Their new house is in a secluded area that features a dangerous highway, a mysterious neighbour Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) and a Pet cemetery which has mystical powers. On Louis’ first day of work, his first patient, Victor Pascow, dies in a car crash but warns Louis of the cemetary and tells him to stay away. Louis doesn’t listen to Pascow and sets of the malevent forces of the cemetary which leads Louis to tragedy after tragedy.

Mary Lambert, who directed the film, previously had done a variety of music videos for Madonna, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston. Pet Sematary was her first big film, having only previously done an indie film called Siesta (1987). The acting in the film is very Soap Opera style, it is over the top at times and almost cringey. However, Fred Gwynne and Miko Hughes, Jud and Gage respectively, are the stand out performances. Hughes who plays Gage is perfect, as he plays both cute and creepy. The film is definitely entertaining despite the acting, and is a great film to watch for halloween. The sequel Pet Sematary II (1992) is cheesier, but will make a great double bill for a viewing if you fancy a movie night. The original song “Pet Sematary” by the rock band Ramones makes the credits seem even more badass. If Pet Sematary is remade, I just hope they keep the track for the film. If you need an entertaining movie, look no further than Pet Sematary. The film is full of shocks and moments that’ll make you gasp.

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Bit Review: Goodfellas (1990)

What makes Goodfellas (1990) such a good movie still today after 27 years? The casting of Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci? The excellent soundtrack chronicling the time and the place? The beautiful shots and the mise-en scene? The answer is everything. There is nothing about this movie that I do not love. I watched the film for the first time about 10 years ago, and it was my first Martin Scorsese movie and I’ve been fan since. I found the film recently on Amazon Prime, and it kick-started current addiction with Scorsese leading to a binge of some of his past movies such as The Departed (2006) and Casino (1995) to name a few.

This film tells the story of Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, and his rise and fall in the mob. It is based of a non-fiction book called Wiseguy by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi, who actually co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese himself. Scorsese cast Liotta in the part after he saw him in Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild (1986), in which Liotta plays an ex-convict obsessed with his ex wife. Liotta was fascinated by the book, Wiseguy, and campaigned for the film despite the studio wanting a more famous actor. Liotta obviously got the role, and even listened to FBI tapes of Hill just to get the character perfect. Co-starring in the film is Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci who both play friends of Hill who are in the mob life as well. According to Pesci, he stated that they were allowed to improvise, such as the scene in which Tommy’s mother has painted the image of the beard man with the dogs, therefore showing the skill and talent of the cast. Everyone in this film is beyond outstanding and without them, the film would be nothing.

The music is something I adore, as a good soundtrack is always needed. He only wanted music that would be heard during that time, which he does successfully as the music adds to the atmosphere and makes it more immersive. Scorsese is a master of his craft, and Goodfellas is a prime example of his talent. This film shows him at his best, and displays his traits such as the long use of tracking shots, freeze-frames, New York as more than a setting and his character driven stories. I must admit, some of his more recent films have perhaps not have been my favourites, as the last film I watched of his that I really loved was The Departed. His next project is called The Irishman and will be starring De Niro, Pesci, Harvey Keitel and Al Pacino so I am beyond excited for this, and this could be another masterpiece for him.

The ending of Goodfellas just perfectly sums up the whole mob life, as it’s a reference to The Great Train Robbery (1903) directed by Edwin S. Porter and basically says that violence will always be there no matter what, and it is just as true back in 1903 then it was in 1990 with Goodfellas. Hill is always going to have the life of crime behind him and will always be looking behind him as someone will find him. The film gets better every time you watch it.

Classic Bit Review: Seven Samurai (1954)

Seven Samurai (1954), which is one of Kurosawa’s most recognisable films, and was a success in Japan and the West too as Seven Samurai made more money than any other film that year and won a Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Kurosawa could finally make jidaigeki films with no barriers, and he began to have more freedom to make a variety of genre films that he couldn’t during the War and during the Occupation. The film follows seven rƍnin as they defend a poor village from a group of bandits. His post-Occupation films no longer had direct American influence, as he went back to samurai films that reflected Japanese’s past whilst still making a critical statement about the present. Ironically, his films that he made during this time which reflect a modern, and a past version of Japan, were remade in America. The most noticeable examples were The Magnificent Seven (1960) and A Fistful of Dollars (1964), which were a remake of Seven Samurai and Yojimbo (1961) respectively. The relationship between Japan and the US were strained post-Occupation, as the relationship between the US and Japan during the Occupation seemed to be equal but comments made after the events highlighted how accurate this was. Kurosawa’s films, after the Occupation and until 1965, were Japanese based and chronicled problems in Japanese society and social inequality.

The film of course stars two of Kurosawa’s favourite actors, both Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura as part of the group of rƍnin samurais. Ironically, the group of samurai were originally six, but Kurosawa found that the group were boring and needed a wildcard. Therefore, Mifune was recast as Kikuchiyo and was given the freedom to improvise his lines. The raw emotion of the villagers and the pure talent of the cast is admirable. The cast are a brilliant ensemble, but Mifune outshines everyone per usual with both his enigmatic and boyish ways. The film became Japan’s third highest-grossing film of 1954, and the film had stiff competition with films such as Godzilla being released during this time. The charm of the characters, and the brilliance of Kurosawa made the film an event and a landmark in cinema telling the story of a rambunctious group of men who band together to save a village despite the lack of reward.

The Seven Samurai was one of the first films to use the narrative of recruiting a group of heroes to defeat a common goal. Character traits featured in the film were modern, as they featured the reluctant hero in the form of Mifune and the romance between the young local girl and the youngest hero. The score is of course perfect. The lone beat of a drum during tense and decisive moments, such as deciding on what to do about the bandits, and the lone chord of the shamisen emphasises the anxiousness and tense moments. Composed by Fumio Hayasaka, a friend of Kurosawa who passed away during his film I Live in Fear (1955), and the score adds to this work of art. The hopeful music when the villagers are looking for their samurais, and the triumphant encouraging music of brass when the samurai are making their journey.

The sets are a force themselves. Kurosawa refused to shoot at the Toho Studios for most of the exterior scenes, and had a set constructed despite protests. He did this to make the film seem more authentic, and greatly so. The costumes, the acting and the set come together to make it credible and convincing. Kurosawa is the master of editing, he did the editing himself and sometimes even late at night during shooting. What else can I say about this masterpiece that hasn’t already been said. I unfortunately haven’t had the pleasure to see this film in the cinema or on any screen bigger than forty inches, but even with those limitations I am certain it is one of the greatest films ever made. Sure, The Seven Samurai isn’t my favourite film, or favourite Kurosawa film, but I know a masterpiece when I see one and it is a must see for humans in general. If you have never seen the film, you definitely need to educate yourself and sit down to watch this absolute classic.

 

 

Bit Analysis: City of God (2002)

City of God (2002), also known as Cidade De Deus, is a film directed by Fernando Meirelles following the journey of a kid in Rio de Janeiro showing both the dangerous and vibrant elements in which they violently collide at times. Meirelles agrees and states that “everybody [working on the film] did it with passion” according to an interview with Bradford International Film Festival 2010 which clearly shows as every element is magnetic; the music, the editing and the cinematography.

City of God has been described by Roger Ebert as “breath-taking and terrifying”. The film is clearly both as the city of Rio is split into the two binary oppositions, one is a lively and exciting one and a dangerous one. Meirelles opens with an extreme close-up of a knife being sharpened and this is emphasised to the audience as it sounds enhanced against the diegetic sound of people in the slum drumming. Meirelles then jump cuts to different close-up shots; different angles of the knife, carrots being peeled, a chicken and a general brief view of life in the slum. A chicken is then emphasised to the audience, as the chicken is forced to watch another chicken getting slaughtered. Early on we know that there is a recurring theme of blood and violence in City of God, the chicken could easily be one of the ‘Baby Gangsters’ and perhaps even a premonition into the future. The opening shows Rio as hectic and vital through Meirelles use of exciting jump cuts and enigmatic shots. This makes the audience curious and intrigued as the opening on its own is enigmatic through Meirelles’ techniques.

Baby Gangsters have key significance in City of God as Lil Ze (played by Douglas Silva as a child, and Leandro Firmino da Hora as an adult) started as a Baby Gangster and Rocket (played by Luis Otavio as a child, and Alexandre Rodrigues as an adult) could’ve easily become one leading a very different path. Meirelles shows the brutality involved with being a baby gangster. The scene starts with the Baby Gangsters talking about getting into the drug trade and the gangster business after performing small crimes, that Lil Ze does not approve off. As Lil Ze comes to punish them for their crimes, most try to escape and nearly all do but two. He asks them ‘hand or foot?’ referring to which body part they want shot off. Both decide on hand but are shot in the foot, which Lil Ze does to emphasise his power. He then forces the gangster prodigy Steak to kill one. The camera slowly zooms into his face, showing the pained look as he can’t bear to kill someone that could’ve been him. A close-up of the two children panning from one to the other, showing the look of distraught on their faces and how terrified they are. Lil Ze constantly insists that he wants to know ‘what he is made of’ pushing Steak to kill one of the children. Lil Ze is shown as an antagonist but the true enemy of City of God is society. Lil Ze is trapped and western society has encouraged the ‘American Dream’ ideology that money buys happiness therefore leading Lil Ze to a life of crime. Lil Ze is a lost soul and underneath his mean exterior is a shy teenager as seen when first interacting with a girl. Robert Warshow says that gangsters are tragic heroes, the modern equivalent to a Shakespearean hero, to which Lil Ze is and his tragic flaw is hubris. His flaw leads the audience to sympathise with him as it leads to his downfall.

Rocket is also a lost soul like Lil Ze and arguably a reversed doppelganger of him. Rocket and Lil Ze are binary oppositions; Lil Ze is representing the trapped society in Rio de Janeiro forced to serve their own justice while Rocket represents a beacon of hope much like Bruno did in Bicycle Thieves (1948). Rocket could’ve easily been the gangster, he even gets the chance to avenge his brother yet he does not. The fact he even considers this shows that he has some psychopathic tendencies, his destiny and fate was in his hands. Rocket could’ve become Lil Ze and taken over his ‘empire’ but chose not to. His brother’s words stuck with him and after the death of Shaggy; Rocket develops a passion for photography which essentially saves him from his possible life of crime. As Rocket is introduced, the camera changes to a calmer long shot zooming into a final mid shot. It is a change in pace and a binary opposition to the previous wild edits as they are brought to a halt. There are two subtle shots of Lil Ze, both close-ups of him but by a fraction of a second. This shows that Lil Ze has a split personality emphasising the theme of duality. Meirelles shows us the two character’s personalities before they have even had interactions by his techniques of camera making the audience intrigued. Lil Ze as an adult may seem immoral and a megalomaniac but from seeing his upbringing as a kid and comparing with Rocket’s upbringing, we cannot entirely judge him for his actions and pity him.

Ebert stated that City of God “announces a new director of great gifts and passions” as Meirelles is magnetic and his techniques create extensive meaning evoking audiences to respond. City of God kick-started a whole series that led to City of Men (2002 – 2005), but nothing is quite as harrowing as the original film. It shows poverty to a whole new level; the only spiritual predecessor would be Vittoria De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. City of God is an exciting and magnetising film, and deserves to be on a pedestal with Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) and De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves.

Classic Bit Analysis: Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Bicycle Thieves (1948), also known as Ladri di biciclette, is a film directed by Vittoria De Sica and shows the audience how the loss of an item such as a bike can make someone lose their identity in the process and such material possessions can alienate the true possessions such as family. The film “is a brilliant, tactlessly real work of art” according to Peter Bradshaw to which I agree as Bicycle Thieves is a great example of a film that is a moving art form that oozes emotion.

De Sica is known for his political themes in his movies. In Bicycle Thieves, he explores an austere post world war Rome. The film opens with a long shot tracking a bus of workers, the sombre tone of the music sets up the tone for the film. We are shown men arising from every corner as it stops. The camera stops as the bus does, only then to track the man from the bus. Then De Sica cuts to a closer shot of the men swarming the worker desperate for work only to be pushed down to the bottom of the stairs. The theme of stairs and ladders is one of the many recurring ones in Bicycle Thieves emphasising that most of these men, including Antonio, are at the bottom of everything and are oppressed by those at the top to remain in their current situation; emphasising that they are trapped.  The audience sympathise with these characters as De Sica cleverly manipulates the audience with the deadly combination of sound and camera work. This scene immediately shows that Rome is overcrowded and these men are desperate for jobs to feed their families after the likely steady income from the war. De Sica highlights these factors and poignantly does this to manipulate the audience into understanding their emotion and therefore feeling sorry for these people.

One of De Sica’s main characters is Antonio, a devoted, loving and hardworking father and husband, a man who goes on a journey and loses his humanity and identity on the way. He is psychologically complex and becomes corrupted by Rome. His tragic flaw is his inability to tell the truth which leads to him losing his job and his downfall. He is a lost soul as the film progresses but begins as an everyman. After being kicked out by many institutions that should help him such as the church, Antonio is left in a very desperately vulnerable matter and takes it out on his admirable son Bruno. De Sica shows an angled close-up shot of Antonio looking up at him showing him as a dominating figure as he yells down and slaps Bruno, to which the camera cuts to another close up of Bruno looking devastated as his view of his father as a hero has been shattered. De Sica cuts back to Antonio and he is seen to be looking almost regretful and ashamed of himself whilst finally cutting back to Bruno who has broken down and ran away from Antonio. This creates significant meaning as it finally shows the role reversal of both Bruno and Antonio, as Bruno is now the wise father figure whilst Antonio is childish and doesn’t think about his actions anymore. This scene symbolises his alienation and his true decent into becoming an outcast as his son doesn’t even want to be with him. Antonio’s fall in his dignity leads the audience to pity him as he has officially lost everything and now the respect of his son.

Whilst Bruno is shown as an adult figure during the previous scene, he is also still a vulnerable child who is in a dangerous world. At times, he is left defenceless against threatening characters such as the man at the market and the potential danger of him falling in the lake like the boy Antonio assumes to be Bruno. Bruno contrasts the world around him as he is a beacon of hope and a binary opposition to the corrupt world of despair and class warfare. Bruno is an innocent and the only pure substance in the film. Bruno, like most children, can have his affections bought through material substances as Antonio bribes him with food for forgiveness. This scene shows that despite his maturity, Bruno is an innocent who is on the verge of possible corruption which creates huge meaning in leading the audience to actively worry about this throughout the film and afterwards. The scene with Bruno and Antonio in the restaurant highlights how much they don’t fit into this system and emphasises class differences. Bruno is openly competing with a wealthy child, De Sica cuts between side close-ups of Bruno eating his food and dragging out the insides to a child using his cutlery elegantly. The competition continues as the upper class child receives desert and De Sica cuts between the two close ups of the children. Both children contrast and are binary opposites, as one represents the rich, elegant society whilst Bruno represents the struggle of the poor working class. The diegetic music is ironically happy in sequence despite the dark undertones but this dilutes the tension and adds humour to the film.

Bicycle Thieves emphasise that we cannot judge any of the characters based on a flat observation but go deeper through their roots and the realisation that it is society’s fault for not providing either of the films with what they need. There is no clear hero in any of the film showing a true skill for filmmaking and the director is neutrally representing both the positives and negatives of both circumstances. ‘Again the Italians have sent us a brilliant and devastating film’ [in relation to Bicycle Thieves] according to Bosley Crowther of the New York Times to which I agree as the skill of De Sica, through the use of Mise-en scene and all his other tools, elevates Bicycle Thieves to new levels. Bicycle Thieves is a monumental work of art, and will forever represent a post-war Italy. The film is timeless and an absolute film classic, a world without De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves is definitely a world I wouldn’t want to be in.

 

Classic Bit Review: Cabaret (1972)

Despite its gap in time since its release, Cabaret (directed by Bob Fosse) still has historical
significance. Cabaret is a film based on the book series ‘The Berlin Stories‘ by Christopher Isherwood which follows the journey of Brian Roberts, a British academic, and his move to Berlin in which he meets the illustrious Sally Bowles at the boarding house he resides in during his stay. The film is about the relationship between these two contrasting figures and how this changes during different events, with the backdrop of the oblivious Cabaret ‘Kit-Kat Club’ and pre-WWII Germany.

 

One of the most interesting features Fosse uses in Cabaret is the juxtaposition between the ‘Kit Kat Club’ and the outside of the Berlin streets, and he uses these to show the different attitudes in people during the austere time of the beginning of the Nazism rise in Germany. The club satirises the Nazi party, whilst not realising the extent of their actions. Fosse’s unique use of the camera and the environment is flawless. The musical number ‘Two ladies’ performed by the enticing Emcee, played marvellously by Joel Grey by which he deservedly won an Academy Award for, uses various jump-cuts to change the shot to various long shots which track the characters. In Cabaret, Fosse also uses these cuts to jump to the audience’s reaction to the scene. After the three performers go under the bed sheet in a long shot, the camera dramatically jumps to different audience members to which they are all amused and entertained by this notion but the audience at home notice the change in the mood and shift in atmosphere. The increase in lighting switches to a dark blue colour which flashes maniacally as the music rises in tempo and the instruments are enhanced. This emphasises the unpredictability of the club, but mainly highlights that whilst the club may seem to be in a different ‘world’ to the streets of Berlin; the two are beginning to disturbingly overlap.

 

Judy Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli is a surprisingly gem of the film. Her acting as Sally Bowles is not only brilliant during the musical numbers and the comedic aspects but also in showing how fractured her character is in this even more fragmented city. Grey, previously mentioned, is a crucial part of the film playing a trickster/devil hybrid archetype in which guides Cabaret‘s narrative. His performance is breathtakingly disturbing that all you can do is watch in awe. Michael York was almost born to play the part of Roberts as he plays him so effortlessly whilst so effective. The whole cast from Minnelli to even the singing Hitler youth is as close to perfection as you’ll get in a film.

 

Cabaret is one of those films you initially dismiss due to its genre, but as you watch it you
immediately become entranced. As the audience, you are spellbound by the opening and left feeling satisfied and haunted during the final static long shot of the Nazi as the credits role. Compared to his directorial debut of Sweet Charity (1969); Cabaret is the ultimate predecessor for Fosse.

Bit Review: IT (2017)

It is the start of the Halloween season, and to kick it off, Stephen King’s IT (2017) directed by Andy Muschietti has been unleashed on the world. I saw the film last night at midnight, and barely slept since.If you don’t know the story already, it’s simple. A young boy named Georgie goes missing after been last seen near a drain pipe, and his brother,Bill, and his friends, called the Losers, go on a quest to find out what happens during their summer vacation thinking Bullies and family issues are the worst of their problems. They soon find themselves having horrific nightmares, and a lot more children disappearing. The Losers soon realise that something more sinister is taking the children, and the monsters name is Pennywise.
 
This newest IT film starring Bill SkarsgÄrd as the infamous Pennywise is definitely scary. I am a huge Stephen King fan, and the old IT miniseries (1990) is one of my favourite adaptations. I watched the miniseries a few nights ago for a more refreshed comparison, and after watching the 2017 movie I conclude that they are both scary and brilliant in different ways.
 
The miniseries stars the legendary Tim Curry as Pennywise, is definitely more subtle and scary in a delicate and insinuated way. Pennywise is more of an enigma in the miniseries. In the 2017 movie, Pennywise starts off as an enigma but develops soon as a fully fledged monster. SkarsgÄrd is scary as Pennywise. He is a tall, lanky and grotesque creature with a disturbing voice. The editing and CGI in the movie add to make him an even terrifying creature.
 
The kids are brilliant, as you’d expect. How could they not, with Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard and Jaeden Lieberher as they each add their own charm and wit to the characters. Richie, played by Wolfhard, and Eddie, played by Jack Dylan Grazer, are my favourites as Grazer is adorable and Wolfhard is just astonishing, and shows that he is a versatile actor who is gonna be a great adult actor in the future. Overall, I preferred the cast in the original miniseries but that’s my preference. The cast are still amazing, and all deserved their place in the film.
 
IT has definitely kicked my love of Halloween into overdrive, and I’ve started my binge of horror films to get myself into the season. A lot of people have questioned the film being set in the eighties and the film starting with the children rather than an adult’s recollection, but I feel that these don’t retract from the story or the film. Using the eighties in movies and film is a current trend, but it’s a trend that works as it brings a nostalgic feeling to most of the audience. I cannot wait for the second part, as the scene in which Barbara goes back to her old house as an adult is one of my favourite scenes in any movie. The only criticism I have is that I wish they didn’t make Georgie so damn cute. Believe the hype of IT, as it’s fun, scary and hooks you in.

Bit Review: The Artist (2011)

The Artist, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, and starring Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo as George Valentin and Peppy Miller respectively. The story follows the relationship between the two, one being an older silent movie star and the other being a young starlet on the verge of fame in the wake of the talkies. The film won five Academy awards, seven Baftas and won six César awards. It pays homage to a vast amount of silent movies and stars, the lead character of Valentin is strongly influenced by Douglas Fairbanks and the film is influenced by directors such as Hitchcock, Lang, Ford, Lubitsch, Murnau and Wilder.
 
The film starts with George Valentin at the top of his fame in the silent era of Hollywood. He had a huge house, fame and money and a gorgeous blonde wife. Peppy Miller is however just starting in her career, with her encounter with Valentin, she used the short lived fame to get an audition as an extra on his studio lot. From the charming first meet of the two at the beginning when she clumsily bumps into him, and Valentine shows what a funny and cool guy he is. During their second encounter, he becomes enamoured with her legs and they shared a small dance until she notices him. He saves her from being fired, and the two can barely get through their scenes without giggling or just being together. Soon, Valentin finds himself battling against the talkies and believes that silent films are still the future. Valentin evens states that “if that’s the future, you can keep it”. He ends up investing all of his money into a silent film and his loveless marriage finally ends. Whilst, Miller becomes a star who has transitioned from silent to talking pictures.
 
For a silent film to be made in the 21st century, it requires a huge amount of skill and manipulation. The film uses ingenious scenes such as where Valentin loses his voices and all you can hear are ambient sounds. The use of music is crucial to the film, and plays with the audience constantly to enact reactions and emotions. The score was composed by Ludovic Bource for which he won an Academy award. To act in a silent film typically means exaggerated movements to better understand the actors, however, that is not the case with The Artist. The actors are not over the top, and a lot is to be inferred by the audience which is clever but makes it easy to follow. The cast in my option were all brilliant, to act requires skill but to act in a silent film requires discipline and restraint.
 
It’s a gorgeous film, and despite the lack of colour I would say it’s mesmerising. I remember when this film came out, I rushed to see it at the cinema and I became obsessed with silent movies after that. I ended up watching a vast amount of German expressionism and a lot of Murnau. If you haven’t seen this film, you need too. It’s a wonderful homage to a beautiful time in cinema. Oh and there’s an adorable dog which will melt your heart, and I won’t spoil the end but the final scene is one of the best sequences I’ve seen in a long time.

Classic Bit Review: The General (1926)

Six years after The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, came The General. Whilst we are still in the era of silent cinema as the talkies were just a few years away, we have a change in film. Many American film companies had move to Hollywood due to various weather types that meant filming on location was no longer a huge concern, cheap real estate as the location was mainly for growing oranges and there wasn’t a union for labour workers until the 1930s.

 

The General, co-written by the star of the film Buster Keaton, in comparison to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is seen as more of a film with techniques used as it moves away from the mise-en scene been staged like a play. The camera is a technique of storytelling in The General opposed to just being a device used to record a story. The scene in which Keaton’s character is rejected by his love and sits on the train wheel which moves him like a rag doll is evidence of Keaton’s character techniques as the juxtaposition of the huge machine and this tiny body is comedy genius. The General features close ups, a note-worthy example is the scene in which Keaton’s character is under the table whilst trying to rescue his love, we first see a long shot of the table surrounded by the soldiers with the audience seeing Keaton’s feet, then cuts to a close up of Keaton’s face. The General also uses editing techniques, such as a match-on-action cut from a close up of Keaton’s face looking at a hole, to a point of view shot of the hole to see what he is looking at.

 

Could it be Keaton himself that had led critics to the emphasis on his talent? Whilst the techniques he uses in contrast to German films such as Faust (directed by F.W Murnau) are clearly more relatable to the majority modern films of today. The Scarlett Letter (directed by Victor Sjöström) was also released in 1926 and uses similar techniques to The General, suggesting that the praise of the film isn’t due simply to the techniques used but Keaton himself. The entire package of Keaton is mastery itself. The ongoing debate of who is better, Chaplin or Keaton, has been ongoing for decades and whilst Chaplin had the initial popularity and trademark character; Keaton also rivalled with his famous ‘Great Stone Face’. Both these performers were also directors and whilst the debate of the two is interesting, Chaplin and Keaton were both huge influences on film. Chaplin may have had the lead up until the revivals of Keaton’s films, upon the discovery; Keaton was given the praise he initially deserved. It’s clear that his techniques were great and helped set the standard for Hollywood, but Keaton’s persona of his characters and his imagery for his movies helps in defining him as a master of cinema.

 

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Bit Review: Atomic Blonde (2017)

Atomic Blonde (2017) directed by David Leitch, one of the uncredited directors of John Wick (2014), stars Charlize Theron and James McAvoy. Based on the graphic novel The Coldest City by author Antony Johnston and artist Sam Hart. This is the first solo venture for Leitch, and follows Theron as an undercover MI6 agent who is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to recover a list that features a double agent. The main agent that the MI6, and CIA, want to know the identity of the double agent named Satchel and assassinate them.

 

Atomic Blonde is sexy, cool and fun. It’s stylish and an excellent debut for Leitch. The story isn’t too hard to follow but it is a bit too complicated. The film is a great spy film, the action is slow at a few moments but the choreography fits the mood of the film. The character of Lorraine Broughton is badass, and hopefully will be put on the same pedestal as Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (2003), and Gina Carano in Haywire (2011). I know I’d love to dress up as her for Halloween. The camera work helps to show how badass Theron is during the action scenes. As David Edelstein from Vulture, says “It’s an audience member and a participant”, as it observes the drama but gets involved during intense fight scenes. What makes Lorraine Broughton such a brilliant character is that she isn’t sexualized, and the cinematography doesn’t focus on her in a creep voyeuristic way but shows her if she was Keanu Reeves in John Wick. Broughton’s sexuality is never mocked, and she is never treated less because she was a woman, showing that gender doesn’t mean a thing if you’re tough like Theron.

 

The cast are amazing. Sofia Boutella, Charlize Theron and James McAvoy are outstanding. Sofia Boutella is definite one of my favourites, I loved her in Star Trek: Beyond (2016), Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) and she was one of the only good things about The Mummy (2017). She is both beautiful and incredibly talented, and I cannot wait to see what she does in the future. I couldn’t talk about Atomic Blonde without discussing the soundtrack, which fits the film perfectly. From the sombre rendition of 99 Luftballoons to Under Pressure post fight sequences. The soundtrack uses a combination of 1980s songs and covers to add a contemporized feeling of the eighties.

 

Reasons to watch this film; the stylish cinematography, the soundtrack and the cool characters. To see Berlin during the Cold War is an amazing reason alone to watch this film. Don’t expect an enigmatic story, but expect a stylish and cool film that’ll stick in your head for days.