Vista brings us swords, sandals, and science!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, April 8, 2010
… through Monday, April 12
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Agora. The Princess and the Frog. How to Train Your Dragon.
The 8th World Film Festival of Bangkok: Nov 5 to 14, 2010.
EU Film Festival in Chiang Mai: sometime in November also, exact date uncertain.
To right, Rachel Weisz in Agora
Note about this blog: The movie times will only be updated once a week for now. Times after the Thursday times listed here please get from the cinema websites, or by phone. Or by just going to the cinemas and looking.
Schedules will change next Tuesday, the beginning of Songkran.
This is Issue Number 23 of Volume 5 of these listings.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Agora: Spain, Adventure/ Drama/ History/ Romance – 127 mins – Alejandro Amenábar directs Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz in this historical drama. Set in fourth-century Alexandria, Egypt, Agora chronicles both a historical uprising and the love of a slave for his mistress. Mixed or average reviews: 49 out of 100 – but I highly recommend it; I think it’s a truly well-done epic/ spectacle in the vein of Cecil B. DeMille, but a lot more thoughtful. At Vista only, with thanks for bringing this beautiful and provocative film to Chiang Mai.
Variety, Todd McCarthy: The mother of all secular humanists fights a losing battle against freshly minted religious zealots in Agora, a visually imposing, high-minded epic.
IMDb viewer: Alejandro Amenábar's masterpiece is a breathtaking excursion into religious fascism and misogynistic tyranny made special by Rachel Weisz, who probably gives one of the best female acting performances in years as a scientist who was light years beyond her generation. Weisz is amazing and her performance is the show and then some.
Emanuel Levy: A cerebral director who doesn’t like to repeat himself, the Chilean-born, Spanish-based Alejandro Amenábar has made four films, each different from the other. He burst onto the international scene with the surreal Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), which was later remade into a bad picture by Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky, starring Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz.
Amenábar is best known for the supernatural thriller The Others, starring Nicole Kidman, which was a huge international hit. He followed it with the 2004 Oscar-winning melodrama, The Sea Inside, which dealt with Euthanasia: Javier Bardem plays a terminally ill man who fights for his right to die.
And now comes Agora, his second English-language production, which world-premiered at the Cannes Film Fest (out of competition) to mixed critical response. The film’s high budget, over $60 million, financed mostly by Telecinco Cinema, the Spanish film company, is a problem too; it’s one of the most expensive art movies ever made in Europe.
Narratively and thematically, Agora is Amenábar’s revisionist take on the Hollywood’s historical epic, a genre that’s known as the sword-and-sandal epics, films like Ben-Hur, The Robe, and more recently Gladiator, Troy, and Alexander.
The film centers on an intriguing historical character, the female scientist Hypatia (played by Rachel Weisz), who lived in Alexandria during the fourth century AD, during the waning days of the Roman Empire. The daughter of Theron, the director of Alexandria’s Library, she was a brilliant astronomer and philosopher. Hypatia is a meaty role for an actress, a rare female historical character who isn't defined by sexual politics--by marital or familial status. Hypatia has no husband or lover--her passion is for ideas.
The story begins in AD 369, when tensions between pagans and Christians in Egypt reach a crisis, setting the stage for an inevitable clash of loyalties. Initially, in the Alexandria library compound where pupils of all faiths gather to learn under the guidance of Hypatia, these pressures are set aside. While she conducts lessons in mathematics and astronomy, Hypatia tackles the riddle of Ptolemy's theory of the solar system and its planetary orbits.
Soon, however, violent conflicts erupt as the pagans attack the Christians. The massacre kills many Christians, and the pagans, who are outnumbered, barricade themselves inside the library for safety. Hypatia is among those trapped, and her protection becomes the primary concern of her pupil Orestes (Oscar Isaac) and her slave Davus (Max Minghella), both of whom are in love with her.
From that point on, the saga gets more intimate, unfolding as a strange and complex love triangle, which is put to test under the weight of the city's violent social upheaval. In the whirlwind of chaos and bloodshed, the three are inevitability separated.
It’s a testament to Amenábar’s intelligent approach that he pays equal attention to plot and characterization. During Hypatia’s studies, her city fell from grace, its Roman rulers replaced by a sect of zealous Christians, who perceived her as a threat to the church.
Hence, Agora is not an easy movie to watch. For one thing, it’s dialogue-driven, with long intellectual and religious discussions. For another, though visually impressive, it lacks the thrilling pictorial set-pieces that we associate with the epic-historical genre.
That said, the relationship between master and a slave is interesting on both personal and socio-political levels. Moreover, whether intentional or not, the movie bears added significance due to the fact the story’s villains bear unmistakable resemblance to those of the Taliban regime, sporting heavy beards and long black robes.
Finally, the film benefits from an astounding turn by Rachel Weisz, who has shown depth and gravitas before (such her Oscar-winning turn in The Constant Gardener). Not surprisingly, as the legendary philosopher and mathematician Hypatia, she delivers yet another compelling and intelligent performance.
Los Angeles Times, Patrick Goldstein: When Alejandro Amenábar took time off after finishing his last film, The Sea Inside, he headed off to a remote island and went stargazing. His newfound interest in the stars prompted a study of astronomy, which in turn led the Spanish filmmaker to investigate the lives of a number of great minds in the field, from Galileo to Kepler to Copernicus to Ptolemy. But the historical character who really stuck with him was a woman -- Hypatia, who lived in Alexandria during the 4th century AD, in the waning days of the Roman Empire. The daughter of Theron, the last director of the famed Library of Alexandria, she was not only a brilliant theorist in astronomy, but a mathematician and philosopher.
As much as Amenábar was intrigued by her intellectual pursuits, he was also fascinated by her fate -- and its parallels to today. While she studied the mysteries of the universe, her beloved city fell from grace, its Roman rulers replaced by a once-persecuted sect of Christians who quickly became vengeful persecutors and zealots themselves. Viewed as a threat to the church (like Galileo centuries later), Hypatia runs afoul of an angry Christian mob.
It's the story of Hypatia, who is played by Rachel Weisz, that Amenábar tells in Agora, a provocative historical epic and a fascinating film, crammed with both stirring visual images and intellectual ideas. The film is at its most compelling when Amenábar shows the once-stable civilization of Alexandria being overwhelmed by fanaticism, perhaps because the bearded, black-robe clad Christian zealots who sack the library and take over the city bear an uncanny resemblance to the ayatollahs and Taliban of today.
I asked him if the similarities were by chance or by design. He laughed, "I guess I should ask Gabriella Pescucci [his costume designer] if she did that on purpose. But yes, the movie is definitely a condemnation of fundamentalism. It's about the moment in history when the Christians were finished being persecuted and began to persecute others. The costumes are very true to the period, but I realize that the robes and beards look very much like the Taliban."
Even though the film is set in a sword-and-sandal era, it has a more modern air to it, perhaps because Amenábar felt the images should have a sense of immediacy. "I tried to think of what it would've been like to have been a CNN news crew who had traveled in time, back to the 4th century AD. I wanted to inhale the atmosphere of Alexandria, the competing factions and all the tumult and violence. So the way we would place the camera would be like a TV crew shooting a violent mob scene for real. I wanted what happened 1,600 years ago to feel just as real -- and more importantly, just as cruel -- as if it were today."
In many ways, Hypatia is a dream role for an actress, since she is one of the rare female historical characters who isn't defined in any way by her relationships with powerful men. In Amenábar’s version of her story, which sticks close to the historical record, Hypatia has no husband or lover -- her passion is for ideas, not for men. College educated, with a degree in literature from Cambridge University, Weisz had the intellectual heft to play the part. But as Amenábar admits, she had second thoughts about playing a woman who never falls in love during her life.
How did Amenábar persuade her to stay with the film?
"Rachel had accepted the part, but then she grew worried about that solitude, so she called me one day to talk," Amenábar recalls. "I told her, 'Remember, I'm not offering you the part of the scientist's wife. You are the scientist. And you are very much in love -- you're just in love with the sky.' "
For me, Agora offers a great example of bravura filmmaking by a gifted young international filmmaker. But the film wasn't cheap -- Amenábar says it cost roughly $65 million, bankrolled largely by Telecinco Cinema, the Spanish film company that also backed Pan's Labyrinth. While historical epics like Troy, Australia and Alexander have performed well in the international marketplace, they are increasingly a tough sell for U.S. audiences.
What Amenábar has going for him is his visual imagination. At several points during the film, he takes us swooping up and away from Alexandria, allowing the audience to see the world from high above, as if watching from the cockpit of a satellite orbiting the Earth. I asked him why he chose that perspective. "For me, this wasn't just the story of a woman, but the story of a city -- and a civilization, and a planet -- so I wanted to find a way visually to capture that. When you see things from a distance, you can see how relative things are. The ideas that so inflame people up close, that feel so scary and menacing, they look very different when you see them from a different perspective."
* The Princess and the Frog: US, Animation/ Family/ Fantasy/ Musical/ Romance – 97 mins – A fairy tale set in Jazz Age-era New Orleans and centered on a young girl named Tiana and her fateful kiss with a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again. Nominated for 3 Oscars. I think Walt Disney has much to atone for in its presentation of blacks over the years, and this has pretty much done the trick. After a few squeamish moments at the start, the old Disney magic takes over, and you’re treated to classic 2D animation in the venerable Disney style, done to perfection. In my opinion, a brilliant animated film in the tradition of the great Disney fairy-tale films. Generally favorable reviews: 73/74 out of 100.
* Big Boy / บิ๊กบอย: (Opened Tuesday) Thai, Comedy/ Drama – A young man from the country moves to Bangkok, under the premise of taking care of his ailing grandfather, to pursue his dream of becoming a popular B-Boy dancer (breakdancer). It turns out his grandfather at one time pursued dancing himself, but failed to achieve his dreams. The young man and his grandfather always had a love-hate relationship, but it turns out his grandfather manages in the end to push the young man to finally attain his dreams.
Wise Kwai: Veteran entertainer Seetha Sirichaya (เศรษฐา ศิระฉายา) returns to the big screen next week in the breakdancing comedy-drama Big Boy (บิ๊กบอย). "Toy" Seetha, former lead singer of the 1970s rock band The Impossibles, made a cameo in 2006's The Possible (Kao ... Kao). His long list of acting credits includes playing the villain in the classic Cherd Songsri drama Plae Kao (The Scar). He remains an ever-present personality, regularly staging concerts and hosting TV variety series. He's also married to actress Aranya Namwong, a screen siren of the 1970s.
In Big Boy he's the old-smoothie grandfather of an awkward teenager (Toni Rakkaen), who comes to Bangkok from the countryside to learn more about breakdancing. Turns out granddad is a dancer himself, though it's the ballroom style of Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. It's the kind of part a classy entertainer like Seetha can play with ease.
What follows looks to be a sort Karate Kid for the Thai B-boy scene, with the young kid getting schooled by the grandpa and a young woman dancer. ... The trailer is at YouTube, but head over to Asian Media Wiki for a look at a subtitled version.
* Date Night: US, Action/ Comedy/ Romance – 88 mins – In New York City, a case of mistaken identity turns a bored married couple's attempt at a glamorous and romantic evening into something more thrilling and dangerous. Starring Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg. Mixed or average reviews: 53/54 out of 100.
Urban Cinefile, Louise Keller: Everything works in Date Night, a brilliantly conceived comedy in which boring, everyday reality morphs into a thrilling fantasy drenched in danger.
Urban Cinefile,, Andrew L. Urban: The old mistaken identity device (brilliantly handled in Hitchcock's North by North West) that leads innocent characters into deadly danger provides the pivot for a comedy about the pitfalls of marriage as a vehicle for long term relationships.
How to Train Your Dragon: US, Animation – 98 mins – This is a most enjoyable animated film, from Dreamworks, the studio that brought us Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda. Set in the mythical world of burly Vikings and wild dragons, and based on the book by Cressida Cowell, this action comedy tells the story of Hiccup, a Viking teenager who doesn’t exactly fit in with his tribe’s longstanding tradition of heroic dragon slayers. Hiccup’s world is turned upside down when he encounters a dragon that challenges him and his fellow Vikings to see the world from an entirely different point of view. Generally favorable reviews: 74/75 out of 100. Now shown in 2D, and at Airport Plaza only. Highly recommended, even 2D.
USA Today, Claudia Puig: It's a thrilling action-adventure saga with exhilarating 3-D animation, a clever comedy with witty dialogue, a coming-of-age tale with surprising depth and a sweetly poignant tale of friendship between man and animal.
Pete Hammond, Boxoffice Magazine: Dreamworks may have topped itself with How to Train Your Dragon, an exciting, fun, and sensationally entertaining movie for everyone, a thrilling action adventure fantasy that should slay the competition and grab great word of mouth.
Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips: The superb cinematographer Roger Deakins served as a visual consultant, pushing the palette to an unusually burnished and sophisticated level. Kids may not notice the visual texture consciously, but adults will. Or should.
Clash of the Titans (3D & 2D): UK/ US, Action/ Adventure/ Drama/ Fantasy– 118 mins – I didn’t find this film any sillier for our time than the 1981 Ray Harryhausen adventure starring Laurence Olivier was for its time. I guess it depends on the mood you’re in. The mortal son of the god Zeus embarks on a perilous journey to stop the underworld and its minions from spreading their evil to Earth as well as the heavens. Starring Sam Worthington (the hero of Avatar) as Perseus, Liam Neeson as Zeus, and Ralph Fiennes as Hades, and I found it fun to see what these actors did when let loose on these parts. Likely to be the first chapter in a trilogy based on Greek mythology. It is one of an increasing number of films being distributed in 3D – but as a result of the sort of fake 2D to 3D conversion process, and not originally shot in 3D. Generally unfavorable reviews: 39/43 out of 100.
The New York Times, Manohla Dargis: The 3D in the Clash of the Titans remake, which was added after it was shot, has none of the immersive quality of Avatar and instead segments the image into discrete planes, bringing to mind the unintegrated levels of a pop-up book. As it turns out, this Clash of the Titans was dated before it opened.
Variety, Brian Lowry: Even more haphazardly plotted than the original, Clash of the Titans boasts 3D imagery and kinetic action that can't obscure a movie that is, finally, pretty flat.
Hollywood Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt: A fun digital ride through Greek mythology as humans clash with gods and monsters.
The major drawback, especially now, when 3D is all the rage, is its feeble effort in that department. Added as an afterthought in postproduction, the 3D barely registers. Few moviegoers will think it's worth the extra bucks.
It's a pity the idea didn't occur in preproduction, as the opportunities for real 3D excitement exist in virtually every frame. The film's mythological world has rugged scenery -- shot in Tenerife (a resort island off the coast of Africa), Wales, and Ethiopia -- and otherworldly battles between men and beasts that fill the screen with a mosaic of unbridled action.
Saranae Sib Lor / สาระแนสิบล้อ: Thai, Adventure/ Comedy – 115 mins – With Mario Maurer of Love of Siam fame, playing a young man whose father suspects he's gay. A film by the team from the Saranae TV series.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 (beginning of Songkran)
Kick-Ass: US/ UK, Action/ Comedy/ Drama – 117 mins – Dave Lizewski is an unnoticed high school student and comic book fan who one day decides to become a super-hero, even though he has no powers, training, or meaningful reason to do so. With Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage. Rated R in the US for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity, and some drug use - some involving children. Early reviews: Generally favorable: 76 out of 100.
Daily Express, Henry Fitzherbert: A rollicking, virtuoso comic-book adaptation that fizzes with originality, feisty wit, and an unexpected degree of heart. It is also a revenge saga with all the impact of a bullet between the eyes.
Legion: US, Action/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – 100 mins – In the first minute, the angel Michael falls to earth and then cuts off his wings. It goes on from there. Here’s how they try to describe it: “After a terrifying biblical apocalypse descends upon the world, a group of strangers stranded in a remote truck stop diner in the US Southwest unwittingly become humanity's last line of defense when they discover the diner's young waitress is pregnant with the messiah.” With Paul Bettany. Generally unfavorable reviews: 32/37 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Despite a solid cast and intermittent thrills, Legion suffers from a curiously languid pace, confused plot, and an excess of dialogue.
Orlando Sentinel, Roger Moore: Profane, profanely silly, and blasphemous to beat the band, Legion begins well before plunging into the abyss of tedium.
Secret Sunday / Number 9: Thai, Suspense/ Horror – How they describe it: At his mother request, Nat, a young architect, unwillingly takes a journey to visit nine different temples in seven days in order to clean up his bad karma. He is accompanied by Poon, his beauty columnist girlfriend, and Sujitto, a young monk who takes care of the Tripitaka house and is responsible for the chant to chase away the bad karma.
All three characters have different purposes for taking this trip, but later on they discover that they were put together for an unforeseeable reason. A karma committed by one person could relate to the karma of others. Horrifying acts done in their previous lives reveal themselves as the journey goes by. The more they try to clean up Nat's bad karma by making a merit, the closer they get to "THEM."
The Alliance Française shows its series of French films in a small room in their building at 138 Charoen Prathet Road. The building is directly opposite Wat Chaimongkhon, near the Chedi Hotel. Tell your taxi "Samakhom Frangset" and/or "Wat Chaimongkhon." A contribution of 30 baht is requested; you pay outside at the information desk of the Alliance Française proper.
At Alliance Française on Friday, April 9, 8 pm: Une vie / End of Desire (1958) written and directed by Alexandre Astruc – 86 mins – France/ Italy, Drama. English subtitles.
With Maria Shell, Christian Marquand, Antonella Lualdi, Pascale Petit.
«End of desire» is based on a novel by Guy De Mauppasant. Maria Schell plays Jeanne, who enters into a loveless marriage with impoverished Julien. Having married Jeanne only for her money, Julien has no qualms about carrying on an affair with Gilberte, the family maid. Even after Gilberte gives birth to Julien's child, Jeanne forgives her husband, but he fails to learn his lesson and as a result deeply suffers. The physical and psychological isolation of the long-suffering heroine is emphasized by director Alexandre Astruc's decision to film «End of desire» almost exclusively in a remote country mansion.
– Alliance description
filmsdefrance.com, James Travers: Maria Schell stars in this respectable adaptation of a great Guy de Maupassant novel. As in René Clément’s Gervaise (1956), she plays a young woman who is unlucky in love and driven by cruel fate to endure a life of pain and tragedy. The bleak Normandy setting, beautifully shot by Claude Renoir, conveys the barren futility of Jeanne’s hopeless love but also gives the film a cold feel that plays against its emotional potency. The characterless, slightly wooden performances from Christian Marquand and the supporting cast further weaken the film’s dramatic impact, almost to the point that Maria Schell resembles a star actress single-handedly trying to lift a faltering amateur stage production. For all its faults, Une vie is an alluring, well-crafted film with a strange appeal, suffused with a bleak Brontë-style poetry and surprisingly brutal in its depiction of an unrequited love.
Synopsis: In the late 19th century, Jeanne Dandieu lives with her parents in an isolated country house in Normandy. Her only companion is her childhood friend, Gilberte, who is now her servant. One fateful day, Jeanne drifts out to sea in a rowing boat. Soon after she is rescued by fisherman, she meets a young man, Julien, with whom she falls instantly in love. They marry, but it soon becomes apparent that Julien has no love for Jeanne. He insists on having a separate room where, unbeknown to Jeanne, he takes Gilberte as his mistress…
At Alliance Française on Friday, April 16, 8 pm: Ascenseur pour l'échafaud / Frantic / Elevator to the Gallows (1958) by Louis Malle – 92 mins – France, Crime/ Drama/ Thriller. English subtitles. B&W. Music by Miles Davis. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 93/81 out of 100. Louis Malle's 1957 masterpiece of suspense and film noir starring Jeanne Moreau, in the role that catapulted her to international stardom.
With Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Lino Ventura, Georges Poujouly.
An industrialist is assassinated but an elevator breakdown prevents a perfect crime.
– Alliance description
RottenTomatoes:This psychological thriller is imbued with a wonderful Parisian atmosphere and a moody, improvisational score by legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. A beautiful woman, Florence, and her lover,... This psychological thriller is imbued with a wonderful Parisian atmosphere and a moody, improvisational score by legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. A beautiful woman, Florence, and her lover, Julien, plan to murder her husband (who happens to be Julien's boss as well), so they can be together. After carefully carrying out the crime, Julien gets stuck inside the elevator when the power is turned off. The film takes off in a number of surprising twists and turns, one of which includes a young couple who steal Julien's car. They take a ride outside the city and kill a German couple in a hotel, a crime the police eventually pin on Julien. However, Jeanne Moreau's performance as Florence wandering around nighttime Paris in a sad, desperate search for her missing lover, with Davis' haunting score in the background, heightens the tension and suspense of the film and reveals the story's emotional core.
Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan: As beautifully fatalistic as its title, the classic thriller Elevator to the Gallows is a consummate entertainment rich with the romantic atmosphere of Paris in the 1950s. Coming at a turning point in French cinematic history, it drew upon several major talents — director Louis Malle, star Jeanne Moreau, cinematographer Henri Decaë, musician Miles Davis — and achieved near-legendary results with all of them.
Made in 1957, when first-time director Malle was only 24 years old, Elevator(Ascenseur pour l'Echafaud) has the brisk craftsmanship and efficiency of classic French cinema and a breathless hint of the energy of the New Wave that was but a few years away.
It made a major film star of Moreau, whose work remains completely bewitching. ... Adapted by Malle and Roger Nimier from a pulp novel by Noël Calef, Elevator has one of those twisty plots that, as typified by films like Clouzot's Les Diabolique and the Boileau-Narcejac novel that was the basis of Hitchcock's Vertigo, was very much of a French taste.
It starts with what has the look of a perfect crime. Cool customer Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet, later the star of Malle's The Fire Within), a case-hardened former paratrooper, is planning a murder. The victim is to be his boss, who also happens to be the wealthy husband of his mistress Florence, played by Moreau.
Things do not, needless to say, go exactly as planned, and Elevator ends up following the separate destinies of Julien, Florence and a pair of delinquent teenage lovers (who prefigure the Jean-Paul Belmondo-Jean Seberg couple of 1959's Breathless) who go for an impulsive joyride in Julien's convertible.
From Elevator's opening shot, a super-tight close-up of Moreau, the great skill of cinematographer Decaë, who also shot the debut films of Truffaut and Chabrol, is very much in evidence. Decaë was a master at working with available light, a technique considered daring at the time. It is especially effective in the film's signature sequence, shot with the camera in a baby carriage, of Moreau's Florence searching for Julien on the streets of Paris.
"She was lit only by the windows of the Champs-Elysees, that had never been done," the director recalled in "Malle on Malle." "That first week there was a rebellion of the technicians at the lab after they had seen the dailies. They went to the producer and said, 'You must not let Malle and Decaë destroy Jeanne Moreau.' They were horrified."
Rather than destroy Moreau, who was already the top stage actress of her generation, Elevator was the platform for her further ascent. The desperate urgency and ethereal despair of Florence's quest for Julien, which one critic has likened to Eurydice in the Underworld, remains completely compelling and underscores the actress' unsurpassed ability to subtly convey complex emotions on screen.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
April is “The Month of Feel Out of Place” at Film Space.
Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. Showings are in a classroom on the second floor or on the roof, weather permitting. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave at least 20 baht. Well worth supporting.
At Film Space Saturday, April 10, 7 pm: The Wall (Pink Floyd) (1982) by Alan Parker – 95 mins – UK, Drama/ Music. The film tells the story of rock singer "Pink" who is sitting in his hotel room in Los Angeles, burnt out from the music business and only able to perform on stage with the help of drugs. Based on the 1979 double album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd, the film begins in Pink's youth where he is crushed by the love of his mother. Several years later he is punished by the teachers in school because he is starting to write poems. Slowly he begins to build a wall around himself to be protected from the world outside. The film shows all this in massive and epic pictures until the very end where he tears down the wall and breaks free. A visually evocative cult film based upon the music and visions of Pink Floyd. Relationships, drug abuse, sex, childhood, WWII, and fascism combine in a disturbing mix of episodic live action and lyrical animation. Generally favorable reviews: 65 out of 100.
According to the Internet Movie Database, director Alan Parker walked out on this project many times, probably due to an ego clash with Roger Waters, the bass player, co-lead vocalist, lyricist, and principal songwriter in the rock band Pink Floyd. Waters was annoyed at Parker, who wanted to make it a cult film.
Many of the extras in the "Run Like Hell" and "Waiting for the Worms" fascist concert sequences were actual Neo-Nazis cast for realism. They could have been Pink Floyd fans, but they were selected because of their white supremacy and not because they were fans. It seemed that things were getting frighteningly out of control when, on one day during filming, several of them showed up with the double-hammer insignia shaved into the sides of their heads. Later, a fascist group did spring up in the late-80s dubbed the 'Hammerskins' with this logo as their insignia, much to the dismay of the director and Roger Waters, whose intentions were to make the portrayal anti-fascist.
In general, the film was viewed as a disappointment by the band and the film's key crew members. Roger Waters feels that the film is too depressing, and does not let the audience sympathize with Pink. Director Alan Parker feels that the result was amateurish, calling it "the most expensive student film ever made."
Rotten Tomatoes: Synopsis:Loosely based on the life story of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's original front man (who was kicked out of the band for his bizarre and disturbing behavior only to go insane shortly thereafter), PINK... Loosely based on the life story of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's original front man (who was kicked out of the band for his bizarre and disturbing behavior only to go insane shortly thereafter), Pink Floyd: The Wall stars Bob Geldof as Pink, a mentally damaged man who has gone from a hopeful child artist to a burned-out rock star drifting away from reality. As Pink festers in his hotel room, elements of his abusive childhood come back to haunt him until he begins to descend into absolute madness. Director Alan Parker's intense and fully realized film interpretation of the English band's classic album The Wall melds whimsical fantasy with dark Shakespearean drama. The film makes innovative use of sets, costumes, and special effects to create a unique surrealistic strangeness worthy of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali's Un chien andalou. Both disturbing and bedazzling, Pink Floyd: The Wall is a must-see film for any music lover.
NYTimes, Janet Maslin:Loosely based on the life story of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's original front man (who was kicked out of the band for his bizarre and disturbing behavior only to go insane shortly thereafter), PINK... Mr. Parker has brought plenty of energy to this project, and he has done his resourceful best to make it an overpowering experience. However, not every viewer may care to be overpowered in quite this way. The Wall is a shameless all-out assault on the senses, rising to crescendos of grandiose fantasy. When Pink (Bob Geldof) thinks of battle (his father died in war), he imagines dozens of bleeding corpses and equates combat soldiers with fans charging into a concert. After he flies into a fit and wrecks his hotel room, he arranges the bits of records and drugs and smashed guitars in beautiful little patterns, as if this were a shrine. When he thinks of himself as the tender young Pink, it is with the greatest of reverence. When he envisions an all-powerful Pink, he sees himself as a Nazi-like dictator.
Whatever can be done with this, Mr. Parker has done and then some. His The Wall is a good-looking film, and it has no shortage of nerve. When he puts an entire schoolchildren's choir on a conveyor belt leading into a meat grinder as they sing, ''We don't need no education,'' he is being nothing if not bold.
Filmcritic.com, Christopher Null:Loosely based on the life story of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's original front man (who was kicked out of the band for his bizarre and disturbing behavior only to go insane shortly thereafter), PINK... a stylistic and deeply atmospheric drama, along with Tommy the only decent rock opera on film. Set to music by Pink Floyd's Roger Waters (and performed so memorably by the band--the soundtrack album rates as one of the greatest musical experiences available), the film also makes absolutely no sense without its songs -- try watching based on the spare subtitles alone and you'll be totally baffled. The blur of images, from extreme close-ups to far-out animations don't help your mind, but that's the point.
At Film Space Saturday, April 17, 7 pm: Red Desert / Il deserto rosso (1964) by Michelangelo Antonioni – 120 mins – Italy/ France, Drama. Starring: Monica Vitti, Richard Harris. Cold, rain, and fog surround a plant in Ravenna. Factory waste pollutes local lakes; hulking anonymous ships pass or dock and raise quarantine flags. Giuliana, a housewife married to the plant manager, Ugo, is mentally ill, hiding it from her husband as best she can. She meets Zeller, an engineer en route to Patagonia to set up a factory. He pursues her, they join friends for a dinner party of sexual play, then, while Ugo is away on business, she fears that her son has polio. When she discovers the boy is faking, she goes to Zeller, panicked that no one needs her. He takes advantage of her distress, and she is again alone and ill. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 84 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: A post-industrialist masterpiece from director Michelangelo Antonioni, his first film in color, stars Monica Vitti as Giuliana, the disturbed wife of a factory owner, Ugo (Carlo Chionetti). Antonioni creates a bleak environment of the Italian countryside, where the natural landscape surrounding Ugo's factory is clouded in fog and covered in black pollution. The low scratching and churning sound of the factory machines is a constant throughout the film, set off by the electronic beeps and strange female singing that Giuliana--who is losing her mind--hears in her head. Supposedly recovering from shock after a minor car accident, Giuliana's dementia isn't getting any better; new developments in technology, production, and industry, which fascinate Ugo and his business associate, Corrado (Richard Harris), are foreign and threatening to Giuliana. However, Ugo is gentle and loving to Giuliana, giving her the freedom to wander wherever her fragile psyche leads her. Corrado is inexplicably drawn to Giuliana, and he develops a desperate, awkward friendship with her that eventually leads to a small affair. In the end, the dank monotony of the port where they live only alienates Giuliana further, sending her deeper into her delirium. A cold and haunting film with grating sound effects and odd visuals that illustrate Giuliana's psychosis, Red Desert is an Antonioni standout that stays in the viewer's mind long after the movie ends.
Chiang Mai Mail, Mark Whitman: See Antonioni’s Red Desert. Made in 1964 this is the oldest film in the season and still one of the most intriguing and ‘modern’.