Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #38


End Of The Week Shorts #38

Today's shorts: Kagemusha (1980), His Girl Friday (1940), John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), Netwon (2017), Call Me By Your Name (2017), Queen (2014), A Man Escaped (1946), Atomic Blonde (2017)

A powerful epic that is restrained and subtle in its approach - don't expect to see battle, rather, try to understand its motion-semiotics - Kagemusha is a film that asks what it takes to lead. With its conclusion implying a symbolic and metaphorical elemental harmony, this is a weighted film. However, this is not Kurosawa at his absolute best. 
Whilst there is the staple Kurosawa quality embedded into this film, it lacks profundity to support its visual mastery. Kurosawa then, in some ways, undermined this film 5 years later with Ran - though, there is an argument for Ran being a nice companion piece. The spectacle of this jidaigeki ultimately leaves it a tremendous film well worth the watch, but, as implied, this may not leave you speechless like other Kurosawa films manage.

Tremendous. Like very few other films, of its time or of any time, His Girl Friday is a film entirely run by dialogue. In a way, you can see this film to represent Hollywood perfecting the play adaptation, and so be preemptive of great movies such as 12 Angry Men, A Streetcar Named Desire and Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. However, there is a distinct purity to this film in that the dialogue is a form of spectacle unlike that seen in any of the mentioned films; it dazzles, tickles, moves the plot, berates your ears and warms your heart. 
Not too cinematic, but a must see and a great piece of cinema, His Girl Friday is certainly a movie that will continue to ring through the ages.

I enjoyed Chapter 2 today more than I did on the first watch, but this is not a particularly good movie. And this is despite the fact that it knows and embraces what it is. This then means that John Wick 2 doesn't bring much to the table that even lives up to expectations. 
The direction is very choppy - as is the editing. The dialogue, more so as it is spoken that it is written, is goddamn horrible. Reeves really lets this movie down; he seems to be quite lost as the out-and-out badass. In movies such as The Matrix, Point Break and Speed, he has a touch of weakness and fallibility that leave his laconic mumblings and goofy exchanges natural and palatable. This is not the case with John Wick. I won't criticise the action as much as, on this watch, I sunk into it all, but everything else is a real let down. Not looking forward to Chapter 3.

Newton is a brilliant film, one that simply asks its main character how to be honest. In exploring such an idea, this formulates a specific and general commentary on democracy that is both fascinating and striking. 
Shot beautifully and with a precise control over comedy through editing and framing, Newton is rife with round, human characters that engage you in the confined world of the narrative terrifically. There is very little to criticise about this film beyond the fact that it is maybe slightly predictable. However, this isn't a mystery and it doesn't fall on unnecessary plot devices (such as a romance) to keep moving. So, the minute aspect of predictability does not hurt the film overall. Instead, the characters and themes shine out, leaving this a light, yet memorable film. Not a masterpiece, but a true joy to watch, I have to recommend Newton.

Pompous. It's not impossible to make a film about love and time that is structured around a group of people conversing on a thin line between pretence and genuity (Linklater seems to be a master of this genre). Unfortunately, Guadagnino fails on this front. Whilst this is nicely shot and brilliantly paced, I would be lying if I said I cared for this movie at all. Each and every single character is essentially an unengaging caricature of a rich, intellectual Jew in Italy complicated only by a gimmicky subversion of tradition. There is something to be said for the mise en scène and the manner in which bodies are shot as highly expressive idols - statues of sorts - throughout this film. However, I fail to see a valid reason why this rather cheap, awkwardly written drama has garnered so much acclaim - though, I have to say I'm not surprised by the phenomena. Again: pompous.

Third review: still love it. Whilst a few of the performances are weaker than others, Queen is a tremendous movie that is consumed in one character: Rani. Played wonderfully by Ranaut, Rani is defined by the bounds of her confidence. Seeing those bounds fluctuate and expand is the joy of this movie and the source of its emotional subtext. 
In support of Rani's journey are a selection of brilliant songs and some really crisp cinematography and editing. A balance between harmony and chaos then materialises through pulsating entertainment, leaving this narrative as touching as it is uplifting. So, though this objectively isn't a technical or formal masterpiece, Queen is an ever-developing personal favourite that I can only imagine I'll be watching many, many times more.

Whilst Au Hasard Balthazar is still, in my opinion, Bresson's best film, A Man Escaped is undeniably tremendous. Without embellishment, just raw realism, this is a film about, without any better words to describe it, luck. This is then a humble nod to the forces that be and a look in the mirror punctuated by a staggered exhale. 
Having watch this only once, I feel I have not seen this in its entirety. Presented as a set of actions, a pair of hands working, mouths speaking, feet moving, but captivating the inner prayers of a condemned man, it seems that your ear cannot be sharp enough to have heard every utterance of A Man Escaped. Having finally got my hands on this film, I then look forward to watching it again in the near-future.

Tight script. Sharp editing. Flashy camera work. Buzzing cinematography. Solid performances. Atomic Blonde is a competently made film, but is one that offers very little of substance and isn't too engaging. Its greatest subtextual moment is a cheap reference to Tarkovsky's Stalker, but - no matter how many close-ups of vodka bottles we're shown - this fails in capturing a hapless existential search for meaning. Instead, the plot drones on and on as we wait for the next action sequence - which, themselves, are the best parts of the movie, but aren't mind blowing. 
All in all, Atomic Blonde is technically better than John Wick 2, but lacks just as much personality and pop. A simple throw-away movie.

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