Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Nudity in "Nightwatching" [2007 United Kingdom, Netherlands] BR1080

Peter Greenaway's film "Nightwatching" dramatises a time in the life of the great Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn; the circumstances surrounding the creation of one of his most famous works, The Night Watch - a colossal military group-portrait of the Amsterdam Civil Guards.

Peter Greenaway:
Few may require introduction to British writer-director Peter Greenaway - even though none of his films have exactly been box-office draws, he is widely known (and regarded) among a particular generation worldwide for his spectacular films loaded with cryptic messages and stunning imagery that will more often than not, provoke, and challenge an audience. His early films had a preponderance of sex, death, and decay, alongside the habit of inviting viewers to participate in his number and word games. In terms of artistic leanings, Greenaway, a painter himself, would be completely at home in Renaissance or Baroque Europe - his frames are often carefully lit formal compositions, as if trying to bring to life grand canvases from those old masters, and even his tracking shots give the feeling of walking past lined up paintings in an art gallery. However, Greenaway is not for a casual viewer as there's always an air of the macabre lurking in his films, and even ardent fans would agree that it would be a challenge to sit through a second viewing.


The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn

About the film:
It is a fictionalised interpretation of Rembrandt's (Martin Freeman) life, relationships, and business dealings during the painting of The Night Watch, a commission that he's also shown to have undertaken reluctantly. It was also around the time when his son Titus was born, contributing to wife Saskia's (Eva Birthistle) untimely death. The painting is also considered to contain hidden clues to the death or assassination of a young officer, one which Rembrandt, for various reasons, cannot openly mention. His wife's death affects him, but he will embark on a brief relationship with Geertje (Jodhi May), Titus' wet-nurse, and later with the much younger maid servant Hendrickje (Emily Holmes).

The film is magnificently made with Greenaway's customary detail. Unusually for Greenaway, this is also a traditional melodrama where ample time is allocated for characterisation, and even though he doesn't touch on other things happening at the time like the plague, he delves considerably into the master-servant dynamics of the time, some of which are disturbing truths that need to be told. This is a traditional film, with fine performances by the main cast, and several trademark Peter Greenaway features - this would form an ideal introduction to someone who's just beginning to explore his work. Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL] | Amazon Blu-ray Link


The Nudity: Jodhi May, Martin Freeman, Fiona O'Shaughnessy, and Emily Holmes
As with any Greenaway film, there are several instances of male and female frontal nudity from the main cast.

Jodhi May, Martin Freeman, Fiona O'Shaughnessy, and Emily Holmes nude in Nightwatching


Monday, 1 July 2013

"La Migliore Offerta" - a review [2013 Italy]

Waiting for a new film by Giuseppe Tornatore has always been an eagerly anticipated event - more so when we're usually kept waiting for years between each of his little gems. The maestro's latest drama, "La migliore offerta" [Eng. Title: The Best Offer] reaffirms the fact that this will continue to be the case.

Tornatore almost pulls off a Hitchcock with the well executed thriller, in terms of detail, timing, and atmosphere. It is also his first foray into making a film completely in English, which perhaps is also its Achilles' heel, but more on that later...

Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) has remained a bachelor all his life, investing all his passion in art from an early age - he is now not only a well-respected art expert, but also a much sought after auctioneer. He has made a fortune through his trade, but also through shady deals that enabled him to build a secret art collection of his own, mostly of prized female portraiture dating from the late middle ages. His hitherto comfortable but uneventful life is nevertheless interrupted, through a call from a mysterious young woman who begs him to catalogue and auction her inheritance.

Upon visiting her mansion, he's firstly put-off by the fact that the woman, Claire (Sylvia Hoeks), wanted him to start the work without her presence - she'd been so reclusive that even the caretaker hasn't seen her in the ten years he's been working there. Claire has agoraphobia, and hasn't left the mansion in many years, Virgil will learn later, which will intrigue, fascinate, and eventually lead to his infatuation - Claire will become the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen or experienced in his whole life.

At the same time during the film, a new plot device (literally) is inserted when Virgil becomes interested in pieces from a movement belonging to an automata (mechanical toy) lying uncared for in Claire's mansion. He takes it to his friend, a fixer of mechanical bric-à-brac - Robert (Jim Sturgess), and they determine that it dates from the eighteenth century. Virgil sets about collecting the remaining pieces from the mansion to secretly assemble them at Robert's workshop. Robert, a ladies' man, will also tutor Virgil on ways to win women, which Virgil will put to use in pursuit of Claire...

The film begins with a lot of expectation, thanks to Tornatore's customary meticulous characterisation, and the manner in which he lays an air of mystery surrounding Claire. This is also thanks to yet another fine soundtrack from Ennio Morricone (he cunningly also misleads us on a couple of occasions), and a commanding performance from one of Britain's finest actors working today, Geoffrey Rush. He keeps us engaged for most of the film, and Donald Sutherland too makes a small but important appearance as BillyVirgil's friend and co-conspirator in the shady side of their business.

The oddest aspect of the film however, is the characters conversing in English - some even talk in cockney accent, in a setting that's most certainly somewhere in Italy (and briefly in The Czech Republic). Either because of that, the dialogues, even if perfectly delivered by the strong cast, prevents you from getting fully engaged with the plot. A few 'twists' are telegraphed well in advance, but the final scene is however totally unexpected - a nice little touch, which more or less redeems the film's virtue as a thriller. But having said that, I don't really care whether this is a thriller or a drama - for me it is an 'authentic' Tornatore, and that is priceless art in itself. Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon.it DVD Link [PAL]
Amazon Blu-ray Link


The Nudity: Sylvia Hoeks
The Dutch-born actress plays the enigmatic Claire, and will also appear nude on a couple of occasions - first when Virgil spies on Claire after pretending to have left the mansion, and later when Virgil bathes and takes her to bed.

Sylvia Hoeks nude in La Migliore Offerta aka The Best Offer