Monday, 27 February 2012

Changes ahoy! I need a web developer

The dreaded Advertising:
Following recent issues here and your helpful comments, and as part of finding a solution I've decided to allow some carefully chosen advertising within the main site. Some may be commercial, while some will be to do with personal convictions or charities I support, but I believe these will ultimately benefit you readers and enable this site to keep functioning freely by incorporating some much needed features.

I tried to shy away from adverts after being put-off by them being (mis)used elsewhere. But if it is used properly, I think it will work for both the advertiser and the site. Rest assured none of the advertising that'll appear here would be invasive or pornographic.

Web development help needed:
I'm looking for an up-to-date Wordpress specialist who could implement some much needed changes to the site for a fee. I don't have a big budget to work with, but it will be reasonable, because the work involved also isn't extensive.
Those interested can get in touch and I will brief them individually and in confidence.


Sunday, 26 February 2012

Aina Clotet in "Elisa K" [2010 Spain]

Before "Elisa K", I'd seen only one other film of veteran Catalan writer-director Jordi Cadena (from the 'destape' years, starring a young Ana Belén). For this film however, the directorial credits are shared with Judith Colell whose filmography I'm totally unaware of. The film can also be divided into two parts. The first, substantial part that covers two thirds of the film is shot in monochrome - events relating to the past. The final part is set in present day Barcelona.

Elisa visits her dad ever other weekend along with her brother and sister - her parents are divorced. Her father would take them out along with his jeweller-friend and children. When she's twelve, something terrible happens during one of the visits, events which her mind will block from memory. Until after more than ten years, as a carefree and ambitious university student, painful memories come flooding back one day and it is time to face up to and come to terms with what actually happened. Since both the parts' respective timelines are linear, we are privy to events as they happen. The rest of the film is a study in the manner in which Elisa shields herself by failing to register what happened, and the pain and suffering later in life when she remembers the day, and her quest for a 'closure' of sorts, to put this behind her and move on...

Catalan cinema is fascinating to watch as it often has a different way of looking at and showing things, bolder and edgier than its Castillian cousin. The first part of the film, substantial as it is, can actually even stand as the main film, with the second part acting as an epilogue. The cinematography, pace and direction in the first part is simply enchanting, and you if briefly would wish it had ended with that, because the second part is its opposite, even if it is just as well made and the performance by Aina Clotet, who plays the adult Elisa, heartfelt and intense - the jarring images and Elisa's pain put you ill-at-ease. It is nevertheless a compelling piece of cinema and therefore, Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link

Scene: Aina Clotet
The first two minutes or so has no nudity but I felt it necessary to show Elisa's reaction gradually taking shape due to a sudden vague recollection. Elisa is played by a beautiful, talented, and totally immersed-in-character Aina Clotet. It requires 'balls' to appear in front of the camera totally unglamorous, unkempt and utterly defenceless - Srta. Clotet sure has them in good measure..!

Aina Clotet in Elisa K


Thursday, 23 February 2012

Carice van Houten & co in "Komt een vrouw bij de dokter" BR720 [Netherlands 2009]

Reinout Oerlemans' romantic drama, "Komt een vrouw bij de dokter - Een ode aan de liefde" [Eng. Title: A Woman Goes to the Doctor - An Ode to Love, aka Stricken] is your typical mainstream film that touches on a cocktail of issues without getting too deep - issues like unconditional love, infidelity, cancer, and euthanasia are largely examined skin-deep in this heady melodrama filled with beautiful people.

Even if I knew what the film was about, I bought the DVD without too much expectations, it was bought purely for the beautiful Carice van Houten. In that respect, I haven't been disappointed. The cinematography is also pleasing to the eye (even more so in blu-ray), and while the soundtrack is a bit hit and miss bordering on the cheesy at times, you have some decent performance by the main cast which makes it worthwhile sitting through. While the screenplay too leaves you with mixed emotions - it is not easy to dismiss the film altogether, but this is definitely one for van Houten fans..!

Amazon DVD Link

Playboy Stijn meets and falls in love with colleague at work Carmen, they immediately marry and start a family. But despite his marriage, Stijn couldn't help sleeping around at any given opportunity. Carmen tolerates his infidelity - according to him, as though it were a bad habit, like picking nose. Carmen is diagnosed for breast cancer and had to go through painful chemotherapy sessions before eventually getting one of her breasts removed. Just when she seemed to have conquered the disease, it returns with a vengeance, spreading to the liver. Unable to bear Carmen's pain, Stijn resorts to having an affair with Roos, which almost ends in divorce. But Carmen accepts him back (rather too easily, me thinks) and they stick together until her health deteriorates to the extent that it renders her immobile with no control over her body. The film culminates in Carmen ending it all through assisted suicide, which perhaps is the most moving scene in the film.

Compilation: Carice van Houten, Anna Drijver, and others
While I own the DVD with the original audio, I made the compilation using a German-dubbed version from blu-ray, mainly for its visual appeal...

Carice van Houten and Anna Drijver in Komt een vrouw bij de dokter

Scene Guide:
  • First date - Carmen invites Stijn for a nightcap. Carmen of course is played by the beautiful Carice van Houten. They get married.
  • Stijn fooling around with some girls during a business trip.
  • Carmen and Stijn spend time in the field after they're informed she has cancer.
  • Getting ready for, and then undergoing chemotherapy.
  • And the immediate aftermath...
  • While Carmen is in another chemotherapy session, Stijn is having it with Esther at a club, played by Anne Marie Michels.
  • Stijn in bed caressing Carmen's bruised left breast - it is about to be amputated soon. She feels sorry for him because he's after all a 'tits' man..!
  • A weird imagined scene where a dancing girl rips off one of her breasts. :-(
  • Carmen examining her scar, post-operation...
  • Stijn had been eyeing painter Roos for a while - he finally succeeds, and couldn't wait for even the elevator to take them to their floor in this hot scene. Roos is played by the rather sultry looking Anna Drijver.
  • Another one of their meetings and we get an 'artistic' view through Drijver's shirt. :)
  • After being declared free from cancer, Carmen and Stijn try to rejuvenate their relationship at an exotic island getaway. Darkly lit scene with brief nudity.
  • When they discover Carmen had developed cancer again, Stijn in desperation comes looking for Roos. Possibly the most charged sex scene in the film.
  • Followed by a mutual body-painting session - nice..!
  • Another pretty looking post-coital chat scene of Stijn and Roos in bed.
  • Last fleeting glimpse of Roos dancing in the nude.


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Antigoni Amanitou from Nikos Koundouros' "1922" [Greece 1978]

In "1922", Nikos Koundouros recreates events from the little known Greek genocide towards the end of the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922 where, within the single province of Anatolia alone (present day Turkey), about a third of a million civilian Greeks were systematically eliminated through pogroms, officially sanctioned death marches and starvation. This crime against humanity was conducted under the guise of a Turkey - successor state to the Ottoman Empire asserting its credentials in the region.

I've had this DVD for a while, but postponed writing about it because it came without English subtitles, and I've been looking for separate subtitles for it since. But I feel it is the right moment to post this film even with my present diminished ability to absorb its profoundness. To explain why, I need to digress from the blog's topic for a moment.

Current events in Greece have been upsetting to say the least. Here we have the European cradle of civilisation being told how to conduct its own affairs by northern neighbours who owe so much of their own success to ideas and thoughts that emanated here. And following their instructions apparently is the only way that the people who invented the very idea of 'Europe' could even stay within its union. I'm no economist, but judging by my own affairs, it's pretty evident that these so-called austerity measures will if anything only worsen its economy and make it more indebted in the medium term. Just as we can't expect 'neighbourly' hard-nosed economies to show any gratitude to a people for everything they've borrowed over millennia including coinage itself, we can't prevent ambitious neighbours from riding roughshod whenever they feel their time has come. Greece had been unduly trampled upon during the course of its recent history, it is again today. And Nikos Koundouros' "1922" can be seen allegorically to describe Greece's predicament.

About the film:
We follow, through the main characters' experiences the horror of the genocide, as Turkish troops and Muslim mercenaries round up the Greek and mainly non-muslim population living in Anatolia - a region they claim, to indulge in indiscriminate slaughter, rape and lead the surviving ones to their death in the desert. The film is relentless in the manner in which it drives you down, you can plainly see that there is no hope for the doomed group. The only relief on their way is from the Red Cross, too late for many to be of any help - as they only end up collecting and documenting carcasses left in the death march trail. Even if the film doesn't depict violent scenes, a lot of the horror is implied through what we see before they happen, and its aftermath. Dialogues peter out as the film approaches its end, and what we see are some truly heart-rending scenes which capture the utter despair of the victims and the total ambivalence of their captors, who while not being outright barbaric, show what it means to be enforcers of a nation's fascist agenda.

The director succeeds magnificently in narrating a story using assorted events, turning his audience into a bystander bearing witness to the unfolding tragedy - everything we see is at eye level. Contrasting scenes are also allowed to overlap to capture the irony behind all this, and Koundouros studiously attempts to stay away from propaganda. He succeeds there too. The cinematography is rich and the magnificent landscape is made to contrast with events happening on the ground. The soundtrack is magical, enhancing the drama in each scene, even through its silent moments. The performances by all the main characters are very good, and some are exceptionally heart-felt. On many an occasion, characters break the fourth wall and talk to the audience, it's a shame I cannot write anything about it for obvious reasons. But despite me able to savour only about half of what the film intended, it is amply evident that this is another superlative gem from a Greek master whose filmography I've so thoroughly come to enjoy. Highly Recommended Viewing..!

ebay DVD Link

Compilation: Antigoni Amanitou and others
Some scenes do not contain nudity and the ones that do aren't the least erotic. They are disturbing nevertheless, so view at your own discretion.

Antigoni Amanitou in Nikos Koundouros' greek classic 1922

Scene Guide:
  • No nudity but I felt it necessary to show the context of this film, as Turkish troops summon residents to come outside, only to massacre the entire family afterwards.
  • A young Greek soldier enters a home to find its entire occupants dead.
  • A passing shot of what looks like a humiliated priest and his family.
  • Lucia is separated from her husband and taken turns by soldiers to be raped. Lucia is played by Antigoni Amanitou. I've also inserted in between a monologue by the character played by Eleonora Stathopoulou as I think it is an important scene, and would be grateful if someone who knows Greek could translate it for us.
  • After killing the rapist, a hysterical Lucia cuts off her hair, presumably wanting to make herself less desirable.


Friday, 17 February 2012

Silvia Navarro & Diana García in "Labios Rojos" [2011 Mexico]

Rafael Lara's "Labios Rojos" [Eng. Title: Red Lips] is your stereotypical mainstream comedy about marital woes (predominantly sexual) where the characters are usually caricatures and ridden with cliché. This film might as well have been churned out twenty years ago if you can take away their mobile phones. I suppose there's always a market for such escapist films which is why they get made. But I believe Lara is a better director than this effort might suggest, and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Apart from the subject though, it surprisingly has high production values and at times looks as glossy as a Hollywood film. But I have to admit some scenes are positively hilarious even if we can see the gags coming from a mile away. The other virtues of course are the fine and sexy actresses who feature in it - Diana García and Silvia Navarro - together they more than make up for what is otherwise a pretty average film.

Amazon DVD Link

Ricardo and Blanca are blissfully married, and in love. Until Ricardo takes up a new job as an executive at a leading advertising agency. The stress takes its toll when Ricardo discovers his erectile dysfunction, which leads to him giving Blanca excuses for not having sex. Blanca however suspects he may be having an affair and tries all kinds of methods to woo him back, including using the services of a shaman. Ricardo becomes obsessed with sex and thanks to his lecherous pal, he even considers an affair with the horny and very available Violeta, a colleague at work. Will Blanca win Ricardo back before its too late, that's what the film's about.

Compilation: Silvia Navarro, Diana García, Adriana Olivera and others

Silvia Navarro & Diana García in "Labios Rojos"

Scene Guide:
  • A brief fantasy scene of a young Ricardo in the bathroom. The object of his fantasy is played by Virginia Salazar.
  • All grown up, Ricardo falls in love and get married to Blanca, played by the very easy on the eye Silvia Navarro.
  • Ricardo withdraws into his shell when he couldn't get going with Blanca in bed.
  • No nudity but nice - two rather dishy lingerie girls are introduced as models for a client's forthcoming campaign, played by Sol Soria and Leticia Urtusuastegui - I wish we were given more than a fleeting glimpse of these well formed creatures though.
  • Ricardo for a moment imagines the entire office staff are 'at it'. His secretary Martha is played by Adriana Olivera.
  • New arrival at the office Violeta wastes no time in catching the attention of Ricardo. Violeta of course is played by mamacita caliente Diana García, and I don't know why, but I'm already in love with her nose..! :-)
  • A call from a worried Blanca brings Ricardo back to his senses.


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Marcella Braga in "Exit - Una storia personale" [2010 Italy]

Actor Max Amato's directorial debut, "Exit, Una Storia Personale" [Eng. Title: Exit - A Personal History] is an ambitious film whose storyline holds quite a bit of promise. Whether it realised its potential is another matter.

The topic is as contemporary as can be at a time when people are seriously debating the ethical and moral dilemmas posed by euthanasia. If it is all about ending one's suffering, how do we determine they've reached the limit beyond which allowing them to live would be considered inhumane. And should such suffering qualify only when it is physical. And how much can family and therapy help in curing mental illness. The film tries to address these issues through its protagonist, with some degree of success. Marco has some serious issues bordering on schizophrenia and had been in therapy for the longest at his clinic. His brother Davide tries his best to help even if he finds it hard reigning Marco's increasingly psychotic behaviour. Marco knows he is ill, and after a fellow patient kills himself by jumping out of the clinic window, he decides to end his life too but as humanely as possible. He travels to Amsterdam for an assisted suicide. Davide and girlfriend Nina follow hoping to find Marco before it is too late. We are left wondering if one can ever be stopped from taking his life, if he thinks it is his human right.

On the whole it is an honest attempt by Amato to address an issue, and since I hate to be overly critical of directors making their cinematic debut, all I'd say is that depite the decent characterisation and interesting story, the film could have done with some additional work on the screenplay.

Amazon DVD Link

Compilation: Marcella Braga and Joanna Pavoni
There only brief nudity in the film, the first is of Marcella Braga (Nina) with a lover, and the second is when Marco visits a prostitute in Amsterdam, played by Joanna Pavoni.

Marcella Braga and Joana Pavoni in "Exit - una storia personale"


Monday, 13 February 2012

Candy Clark & co in "The Man Who Fell to Earth" [1976 UK]

We're now getting down to the classics of the great Nicolas Roeg. His 1976 drama, "The Man Who Fell to Earth" can be rated as one of the all-time sc-fi classics in cinematic history, proudly occupying the same exalted podium as Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy. The film's uniqueness stems from the ambitious manner in which it dissects contemporary society, politics, and humanity as a whole in a typically European fashion - droll, filled with irony, and approaching it from the protagonist - an extraterrestrial's viewpoint.

Based on a Walter Tavis novel of the same name, and adapted for screen by Paul Mayersberg, the film tells the story of an extraterrestrial humanoid who arrives on earth to help the few remaining beleaguered people in his home planet, which has turned into one big desert. The reasons for these are not given in the film (even if they go into some detail in the novel), merely stating lack of water as reason for his arrival. His people had known about earth for a while through intercepted radio signals and have come to gain intimate knowledge of its dominant species, humans. The plan is for him to amass wealth and power quickly with his advanced technology, and use it to build a spaceship to bring back the rest of the people, more importantly his wife and two kids. After landing in New Mexico, he assumes the name of Thomas Newton, and interestingly uses a British passport to identify himself. He soon embarks on a love affair with hotel chambermaid Mary-Lou, who also moves in to live with him. But his mind is restless, worrying about his family and resorts to alcohol. When Mary-Lou discovers his true identity, she finds it extremely hard to love him as before, and despite her efforts, they separate.

He succeeds emphatically in building his corporate empire, and also manages to build his spaceship. But the US authorities destroy it and take Newton captive for an undisclosed period of time. The reason for this, apart from the obvious desire to 'study' him after learning about his identity, is the fact that they were quite weary of allowing a single corporation to become so powerful as to pose a threat to the very existence of a government (Google take note). By the time Newton realises he is free again, all the people he knew had aged considerably, while he remains his youthful self. He is still wealthy, but could do nothing with it as he realises his family may no longer even be alive. Despite people betraying him, he could hold no bitterness, even offering to help them financially if they need. He's now a recording artist releasing songs with cryptic messages, which he hopes will one day be heard by his wife through the radio broadcasts that reach there. And the film ends with a drunk Newton passing off at a restaurant table while chatting with his former employee Bryce...

A true masterpiece:
When a creative endeavour cannot be bettered or replicated, either because of an artist's unique state of mind, or serendipitous circumstances surrounding its creation, in my view a masterpiece is born. And we are talking about a team of artists here. For a start, no one would even fund a project with such ambitious a scope these days - it is far safer to deploy CGI and work with a simple storyline, one that the impatient masses can sit through. There is so much going on here for a sci-fi film, using a variety of references, from Greek myths (Icarus) to Japanese folk art (Kabuki) and even Citizen Kane, it recreates the disorientation of anyone arriving at an alien planet superbly while showing our world as would be perceived by a visitor, warts and all.

Nic Roeg has a penchant for casting performance artists in films, like Mick Jagger in Performance, and Art Garfunkel in Bad Timing. Here, it's an already famous David Bowie making his film debut, who plays the eponymous extraterrestrial who fell to earth. Not only does he look like one, during those heady Ziggy Stardust days he also felt like one, relying on cocaine to keep him going. During the shoot of the film, David Bowie was simply being himself, and what an impact it had on the film..!

The superlative cinematography by Anthony Richmond adds an additional layer to the film's narrative. Coming from a cinematographic background, Nic Roeg has made the best possible use of widescreen - when I first watched this film, it was on TV during the 80's (i.e., full-frame), it was a pleasant surprise when I finally got to see it in its original aspect ratio. The editing is crisp with few dissolving transitions - the way I like it, as it reflects on the quality of the screenplay and direction. The film is also supported by a superb soundtrack that also features some sumptuous saxophone compositions by John Phillips that sadly are not available separately.

It may have a plethora of seemingly lecherous scenes and playful jokes, but it is an unapologetically bleak film, it won't leave you in tears of joy. But this multi-layered gem speaks the language of anyone who feels alienated, anyone who find the system driving their spirits down. It is a film as relevant today as when it was made, and therefore Highly Recommended Viewing..!

DVD info:
The DVD I have is the excellent 2-disc NTSC Criterion Collection, which comes with a superb remastered transfer and load of extras, including the paperback version of Walter Tavis' novel. It may not include an interview with David Bowie himself, but it comes with an insightful commentary from Roeg, screenwriter Mayersberg, and an interesting interview with Candy Clark who plays Mary-Lou. But this edition is out of print now, and the ones being sold are ridiculously expensive. But there's a recent Blu-ray from Optimum Home Entertainment (although Region 2) which appears promising, but not sure of any of the available extras. You can take a look at some comparisons here.
Amazon Blu-ray Link
Amazon Criterion Collection Link

Compilation: Candy Clark, Linda Hutton, Adrienne Larussa, Hillary Holland, and Claudia Jennings
I'd normally not brag about my compilations, but I must say I'm quite pleased with this one as it all falls in place neatly. It took a while but I think it was worth it.

Candy Clark, Linda Hutton, Adrienne Larussa, Hillary Holland, and Claudia Jennings in The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Scene Guide:
  • Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn) is your quintessential 'cliché' of a scientist, separated and spending most of his free time with his female students as young as his daughter. The first to feature is Linda Hutton - notice the parallels drawn between their sex-romp and the Kabuki theatre watched by Newton (David Bowie)! Followed by some cheeky dialogues repeated by two other student-lovers played by cute Adrienne Larussa and the bespectacled Hillary Holand - each comparing Rip Torn's member to their respective dads'..! :D
  • Mary-Lou is a chambermaid, kind-hearted but blissfully common. She takes pity on Newton's frailty and falls in love with him, we see her first in the bath giving shy Newton a not-too-subtle invitation, and later in bed with him. Mary-Lou is played by the rather dishy Candy Clark - is it just me or does she really bear a vague resemblance to Stefania Sandrelli..?
  • A frustrated Newton reveals his true self to Mary-Lou, enough for her to press the panic button and wet herself (naughty Roeg). She makes an honest effort to accept Newton for what he is - some revealing close-ups here (naughty-naughty Roeg)...
  • An almost irrelevant scene this - we're shown how even the guys who work for the establishment essentially live a 'normal' life - we see Peters, possibly an FBI agent with his wife at the pool. The wife is played by Claudia Jennings.
  • Time has taken its toll on Mary-Lou when she visits Newton after many years, who on the other hand has barely aged. Possibly the most erotic scene in the film, it is also telling in that while in the first part of the compilation, you find Linda Hutton 'shooting' pictures of her lovemaking and showing results from the self-developing film that Newton's corporation manufactures, here we have a different kind of shooting as Newton uses earth's technology - a handgun, to spice up their love session. Roeg's attention to detail doesn't go unnoticed with his strategic use of a middle aged body-double to portray a mature Mary-Lou..! :-)


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Manuela Vellés in Julio Medem's "Caótica Ana" [2007 Spain]

With "Caótica Ana" [Eng. Title: Chaotic Ana], I've covered to-date the entire feature-length filmography of maestro Julio Medem. I took my time posting this review mainly for two reasons - I wanted this to coincide with the release of his latest film (jointly credited with six other directors that also includes Gaspar Noé), "7 días en la Habana", out middle of March. The other reason is that this happens to be my least favourite Medem.

I'm not implying that this is in any way a terrible film - far from it. Made after a gap of nearly six years, the previous one being his critically acclaimed Lucía y el Sexo, it has all the intense passion and graceful beauty we've come to expect from Julio Medem's films, his brilliant cinematic-eye even experiments with some outrageous camera angles here, the music is magical, and Jocelyn Pook would also later collaborate in Medem's next film Habitación en Roma. The snappy comic-book style editing by Medem himself also helps  narrate the film effectively. This may even be his most expensive production judging by the vast number of locations used - Ibiza, Madrid, New York and Arizona to name a few.

The reason for this film not featuring among my favourites is perhaps the screenplay that seems to tackle too many themes with equal intensity that makes it difficult for us to reflect upon the titular character's complexity. That may well be the intention of the director, to show the 'chaotic' nature of the main character, but it doesn't engage us beyond the visual level to the extent his earlier classics did, perhaps because there wasn't enough time, and consequently depth. A case in point is the idea of 'opening doors' to face up to past ghosts, which I'm sure would have been more rewarding if additional screen time was dedicated. Having said that, the film is replete with flashes of Sr. Medem's genius, notably the manner in which the opening scene of the hawk and dove sets up the penultimate scene 'poetically'. Also, Medem's cheeky sense of humour is amply evident throughout the film - the charmer that he is, he knows how to push the boundaries without causing too much alarm. Needless to say, Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Details:
As I mentioned in an earlier Medem review, you get great value for money by buying the Julio Medem 6-DVD box-set rather than buying his films individually. That's the one I recommend again.

Amazon 6-DVD Box set Link

Ana lives with her father in a cave in Ibiza - they make a living selling Ana's paintings to tourists (the artworks were originally by Medem's late sister Ana, to whom this film is also dedicated). Justine, a patron of arts sees her work and invites Ana back to Madrid, where she could live and work alongside other talented young people to explore her artistic potential. While having an optimistic (and at times naive) outlook on life in general, Ana also possesses acute senses, to the extent that she could even see herself and people across earlier lives and times. She meets fellow student Said and falls in love with him instantly, sensing a deep connection between them. After Said leaves unexpectedly, Ana continues to follows her instincts, which leads her to New York. Medem describes the film as a journey, a voyage of discovery Ana undertakes to understand herself, and the world around her.

Compilation: Manuela Vellés

Manuela Vellés in Caótica Ana

Scene Guide:
  • Brief scene, no nudity but interesting nevertheless, at a club in Ibiza. Ana has this special faculty to recognise people from their past lives, After showing us a Roman centurion and a Napoleonic soldier who she finds instinctively repulsive, she sees a guy who was apparently a horse in earlier life..! :D
  • It appears Ana is the only nudist at the beach. Ana is played by the charming actress with the most disarming smile, Manuela Vellés.
  • Ana in one of the school plays.
  • Ana and Said hit it off and end up in bed. There's an air of tenderness despite the apparently intense love making.
  • Later that night Said is restless and had to be consoled by Ana in the bathroom - disturbing dreams, he says.
  • Stowing away in the yacht of her best friend's estranged dad, Ana acts the catalyst to reconnect him to parenthood.
  • A revelation - a distraught Ana realises what her actual connection with Said in a previous life was.
  • New York. Ana is part of the catering crew for a senator who allegedly was largely responsible for the decision to wage war on Iraq. She offers herself readily and the dialogues are in English, so you'll get the idea of what's going on. It starts out in a kinky fashion but soon turns ugly and unpleasant, after Ana's 'poetic act' goes unappreciated..!
  • Full circle, Ana at the beach again to finish things off nicely.


Sunday, 5 February 2012

Brigitte Bardot in Jean-Luc Godard's "Le Mépris" BR720 [1963, France, Italy]

It's Nouvelle Vague time..!

Jean-Luc Godard had wanted to do a film with Brigitte Bardot for a while, and when his first choice actress Kim Novak turned down the role for his new Franco-Italian production "Le Mépris" [Eng. Title: Contempt], an opportunity presented itself for his wish to come true. Brigitte Bardot was after all the most sought after among sex kittens by auteur directors, undoubtedly the best actress among her kind.

Brigitte Bardot was already a seasoned actress with a decade's experience under spotlight and a world celebrity, while Godard wasn't yet widely known beyond French New Wave devotees and of course his home country. This film would make him more widely known, not so much for its artistic merit, as discerning as it might be, but for Mlle. Bardot's presence in it, in colour, in CinemaScope, and occasionally in the buff to top it all up - who says nudity can't sell! Ironically Godard hated the novel and the script and couldn't wait to get the film out of the way. That doesn't mean he didn't bother to apply his genius, rest assured no detail was spared, expenses included - after all the film also stars none other than one of the granddads of cinema, the German-born director Fritz Lang (remember Metropolis) - Godard certainly can't be seen to be slacking here - and that's some pressure! As it turned out, while this may not be Godard's finest film (oh I hated the story too), it is interesting nevertheless because it's something totally different from his otherwise avant garde filmography - we get to see him making a mainstream film at last. But that doesn't mean he foregoes his trademark symbolism - far from it - it's there in many a nook and corner if you care to look for it, right from the compositions to the colour palette, the seemingly pointless musings which can initially go past your head but return with vengeance upon reflection, and his ironic sense of humour. It is a fine, stylish film in its own right, even if it's an atypical 'Godard'. Those who've yet to get acquainted with his work can easily start here, and those who have, can see a different side of him here. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Playwright Paul (Michel Piccoli) has been commissioned to write the script for Hollywood producer Jeremy (Jack Palance) halfway through making his cinematic version of Homer's Odyssey. The film is directed by Fritz Lang (as himself) and Jeremy isn't liking the way it is shaping up. But when they meet, Jeremy couldn't help noticing Paul's attractive wife Camille (Briggite Bardot), and the rich and powerful magnate tries everything at his disposal to entice her. When Paul pretends not to notice Jeremy's infatuation for his wife and tacitly even encourages Camille to accompany Jeremy when asked, a rift opens in the husband-wife relationship. Paul only hoped it would placate Jeremy and enable him to complete the juicy project which could potentially pay off his mortgage, but he never envisioned this could lead to Camille loathing and wanting to leave him. For the best part of the film, the couple are arguing and hurting each other verbally as their relationship breaks apart in front of our eyes. The idealist Paul begins to equate the protagonist of the film he's writing - Ulysses - as someone like himself, forced to wander the Aegean for ten years even after the battle had ended. According to his theory, Ulysses avoided returning to Penelope because she had already stopped loving him before he originally set sail...

Even though I own the DVD which would suit Godard fans the most for its generous interview extras, I also recommend the recent Blu-ray release of this film - sunny Capri from the 60's and gorgeous Bardot's curves come out in striking detail in this exceedingly well restored version.

Amazon Blu-ray Link

Compilation: Brigitte Bardot and Linda Veras

Briggitte Bardot in Jean-Luc Godard's "Le Mépris"

Scene Guide:
  • The film practically starts with a naked Camille asking Paul for reassurance that he really liked her various body parts. It is a silly lengthy scene probably inserted at the insistence of the film's financiers - an excuse to show Brigget Bardot who plays Camille in the nude...
  • A bemused Jeremy watches some takes by Lang for his film - this is the scene of a mermaid apparently enticing sailors to their doom at sea. The Sirena is reportedly played by Linda Veras (according to IMDB).
  • Snippets from various little scenes - of a long and protruded argument between Paul and Camille, first at their home, and later at Jeremy's villa by the sea. Towards the end, Camille swims off bidding Paul farewell, that leaves Paul devastated.


Friday, 3 February 2012

Isabella Ferrari & co in "Arrivederci amore, ciao" [2006 Italy]

Michele Soavi's excellent crime thriller, "Arrivederci amore, ciao" [Eng. Trans: Farewell my Love, Goodbye] is probably the finest modern Italian noir I might've seen. Relentlessly unforgiving, the film takes the viewpoint of what one might consider plain evil - Giorgio - by giving him the soapbox to justify his motives. It is an extreme example of what one could end up becoming as his dream goes sour. When I saw it for the first time, I couldn't get the film out of my mind, and neither the haunting song by Caterina Caselli which offers the film title its name. I was tempted to post this film earlier, but I decided to wait for some time before watching it again, much like a kid holding on to his candy a little while longer before unwrapping it. While the story is pretty straightforward, what makes it special is the excellent casting and screenplay. I was never really a great fan of Alessio Boni - handsome as he is, he could be wooden at times and never convincing enough, but he fits the character like a glove here as a cold, calculating, and merciless individual. Michele Placido is already known to have a gripe with cops, and one couldn't have chosen anyone better to play this menacing and totally corrupt police officer. The direction is fluid, the cinematography stylish, and the editing just right for this type of film, and more importantly the story, deeply affecting. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link

Giorgio, an exile for fifteen years in South American jungles is wanted back in Italy for terrorism. Missing his home country, he decides to give himself up to authorities provided he gets a lenient sentence, he would in return help rounding up former comrades and testify against them. Thanks to Asst. Commissioner Anedda (Michele Placido), he gets out of prison within two years, and soon finds himself working for a former prison colleague 'Vesuviano' who runs a club cum brothel. But Giorgio is ambitious, and earns for a 'normal' life, with family, kids, financial security, and 'independence'. And he would stop at nothing to reach his goal, even if it means betraying friends, double-crossing colleagues, or murdering people who care about him...

Compilation: Isabella Ferrari, Alina Nedelea, Sueli Odila Ferreira, and others
There may only be brief nudity from the unassuming Isabella Ferrari, but the veteran actress sure has the extra something to bring out the beast in us. The nudity however is taken care of by various uncredited actresses who make up the staff at the 'club'.

Isabella Ferrari, Alina Nedelea, Sueli Odila Ferreira, and others in Arrivedervi amore, ciao

Scene Guide:
  • Giorgio is shown around the establishment by his ex-prison pal 'Vesuviano' - apparently one of the girls is only seventeen - did Berlusconi ever come visiting by chance..? :)
  • The winged black angel sure is a 'knock-out' alright, the beauty is played by Sueli Odila Ferreira - apparently also owner of the most suitable surface from which to sniff coke if you ever wanted to.
  • No nudity but sexy - a hitherto disinterested Giorgio at a shoe store suddenly is interested when Flora comes forward to assist. Giorgio after all is there for a reason - to remind Flora that he knows her husband who's running up huge debts at the establishment he manages, with all those prostitutes and drugs he'd been partaking in. Flora the horny MILF is played by Isabella Ferrari.
  • Flora reluctantly agrees to 'pacify' Giorgio so he could keep his hands off her husband. When she's reluctant to kiss him in the mouth, Giorgio will have none of it - he wants a full-on wet kiss, apparently just as teenagers do it.
  • Reluctant participant Flora has now begun to thoroughly enjoy Giorgio's company as long as it lasts, and so does he...
  • It doesn't, as is often the case, but Giorgio has also moved on, among more 'sophisticated' circles, and is now betrothed to the lovely but utterly conventional Roberta. They move together into a new apartment, and when Roberta tries out their new music player, memories come flooding back to Giorgio. There's no nudity in the scene, but what the heck it's nice, and Roberta is played by the even nicer Alina Nedelea.