The Fall, 2006

The-Fall-0338

Tarsem Singh’s second feature, The Fall (2006), is the third of his films I’ve seen to date and it is undoubtedly the best. While I love Immortals (2011) for its impressive visuals and beautiful cast, and Mirror Mirror (2012) for its fun, sweet atmosphere and charming leads, The Fall is everything I loved about the other two films and more. They are all, though, fresh and interesting takes on familiar stories and genres.

Filmed over four years and in more than twenty different countries, The Fall is undoubtedly a passion project (apparently largely funded by Singh himself) and it is certainly shows.

The-Fall-0283

The story takes place in a hospital in Los Angeles (‘once upon a time’), and centres on Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), a young girl who has broken her arm and Roy (Lee Pace) a heartbroken, stuntman who is befriended by Alexandria. Roy begins to tell Alexandria the story of a group of bandits, who are brought together by their combined desire to kill the evil Governor Odious. It incorporates fantasy and reality, by way of the story Roy tells Alexandria. As the story and the film progress, fantasy and reality start to blur, largely due to Alexandria’s own imagination.

The opening sequence, a slow motion silent movie stunt shot in black and white and scored by Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, is gorgeous and had me captivated straight away.

The-Fall-0409

It’s more emotionally engaging than his other films, as well, due in large part to Lee Pace’s moving portrayal of heartbroken Roy and the absolutely enchanting Alexandria. There are some really lovely moments between them and their interactions are very natural. (Apparently most of Untaru’s dialogue was unscripted, and her reactions real, which I had wondered while watching the film).

The-Fall-1009The-Fall-0590

It looks breathtaking. Singh’s visual style is always something to marvel at but it is at its best here where there is more space for it to work. In some instances, this is quite literal, with many wide shots of landscapes and architecture, some of which take on the qualities of a flat textured painting. By comparison, his other films seem claustrophobic (though no less stunning).

The-Fall-0070The-Fall-0158

All three of Singh’s films I’ve seen have had costumes designed by the late Eiko Ishioka (you can see more about the costumes of Immortals and Mirror Mirror in this post). Has there ever been another costume designer quite like Ishioka? Her synthesis of influences (from Byzantine, to Japanese dress, and more) always resulted in beautiful, unique creations. I love how sculptural a lot of her work was, too.

The-Fall-0495

Masks and veils are prominently featured in this film, highlighting what Roy is hiding from Alexandria, the assumed deception of his once girlfriend as well as what we all hide from each other and ourselves. They are also just very striking.

The-Fall-0622

The Fall is a very moving, gorgeous, funny film that I look forward to revisiting. It took me a long time to get around to watching it and I’m more than glad I finally did.

Advertisements

Jennifer’s Body, 2009

When I put the DVD for Jennifer’s Body (directed by Karyn Kusama) in the player and settled in to watch it, I was fully prepared for a terrible movie. This was because of the few reviews I’d read and general attitude regarding this film as a truly Bad Movie. I should’ve known better, from past experience, than to pay attention to the bad reviews: this was awesome.

00790080

I’ve since read this has become somewhat of a cult classic, but I haven’t read extensively enough to know if this is true. I did read some good reviews on letterboxd after I watched it, including this one that seemed to capture exactly how I felt about the film as I was watching it. One of the things I noticed, as highlighted in the linked review, is the strong theme of (female) friendship, something I wasn’t expecting at all. This isn’t a typical teen horror flick and maybe that’s why it got so many bad reviews. It’s made more for (and by) girls and women and that made it pretty refreshing to watch.

-Jennifer-s-Body-jennifers-body-28569397-1280-688

Cody’s script is a little weak at some points, I won’t deny that, but these characters – particularly Jennifer and Needy – are so well-written and so much more than the typical ‘nerd’ and ‘slut’ stereotypes they could easily be. Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried are brilliant in fleshing out the roles created by Cody in her script.

-Jennifer-s-Body-jennifers-body-28569986-1280-688

It’s very well directed by Kusama and beautifully photographed, too. There are some really lovely shots in this film and the gorgeous colours are rarely seen in horror.

-Jennifer-s-Body-jennifers-body-28574059-1280-688

I don’t think it was quite as subversive or feminist as it set out to be and this is largely because of the competitive undercurrent in Jennifer and Needy’s friendship as well as some parts of the ending. It’s a pity it didn’t take it’s subversion further but no film is perfect and I still thoroughly enjoyed Jennifer’s Body.

When I noticed there was a theatrical cut and an extended cut, I spent about five minutes agonising over which to watch. I went for the theatrical in the end because I like watching films as they were released initially for my first watch but I’ll definitely be watching the extended cut at some point.

On the subject of Kusama’s films, I also watched Æon Flux which I didn’t think was terrible, either. I’ve never watched the cartoon/animated series, which could have something to do with it but I don’t think it deserves the vitriol it receives. It was a little difficult to follow and the characters could seem shallow, I suppose, but it was very striking.

I now have Girlfight in my queue and I’m hoping to see The Invitation at some point so I can finish off my viewing of Kusama’s films. I have a feeling I’ll enjoy those two, as well.

Real Women Have Curves, 2002 (52 Films by Women #17)

realwomen1

How dare anybody try to tell me what I should look like, or what I should be, when there’s so much more to me than just my weight!

Real Women Have Curves, directed by Patricia Cardoso, was number 17 for my 52 Films by Women pledge. The title had put me off when I saw a copy, many years ago, at my local video store. But then I found a copy at Savers and figured I may as well pick it up, for $2, seeing as it was right there. And I’m glad that I looked past the title and did so, because this is a lovely little film.

America Ferrera is fantastic in the lead role as the frustrated Ana, torn between loyalty to her family and wanting to forge her own way in the world. Coming of age tales may not be anything new, but as they’re generally told by/from a white perspective it makes films like this not only important, but refreshing.

Ana is an easy character to relate to – she and I have many similarities (including our bodies) but we’re from quite different cultures. I enjoyed the scenes with her family, especially with her grandpa, but there are some very cute scenes with her boyfriend that I liked, too.

A screencap showing four Latina women standing side by side in their underwear in a clothing factory. There are sewing stations near them. The subtitles read: 'PANCHA: Ladies, look, how beautiful we are!'

But the scene that really got me is when she confronts her mother in the factory about her body image double standards. When Ana strips down to her undies and says how she doesn’t really want to change, that there’s more to her than her body and her outward appearance, that she likes herself the way that she is, I practically cheered. The other women (except her mother) strip off too and it’s honestly one of the sweetest moments in the film, especially when Pancha says how beautiful they all are. It’s a very powerful scene, with a message that is still relevant, but it’s infused with humour that makes it heartwarming.

This is an engaging, funny and poignant film that’s well worth a watch.

Top 5 | Comic Book Movies

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a top 5 post so, keeping in theme with my last movie review, here’s my top 5 (live action) comic book movies! (Keeping in mind these are personal favourites, rather than necessarily the ‘best’ I’ve seen).

Barbarella directed by Roger Vadim, 1968

34c6ac_ca9fac29e5274f60a922e5889910a9c7

An angel does not make love, an angel is love.

Like Barabarella would not be in my top 5. It’s nearly everything I could want in a film. The lush colour and dreamy soundtrack! The ridiculous number of costume changes! Jane Fonda’s magnificent hair! Kitschy and/or camp films are basically my favourites, and there’s something very appealing about ’60s science fiction costumes and sets, which all adds up to I love Barbarella. Plus there’s a lot to be said for Fonda’s comic timing/delivery.

Favourite moment: so hard to pick one! I do like the whole exchange with Barbarella and Dildano (David Hemmings) quite a lot.

Ghost World directed by Terry Zwigoff, 2001

er2

This is so bad it’s gone past good and back to bad again.

Ah, Ghost World. Does it make me a bit of a cliche to love this so much? Do I really care? I saw it at the cinema when I was 15 (with my one and only ever boyfriend). I had no idea what it was about before going in (I’m pretty certain I thought it was a paranormal film about actual ghosts) but I know 15 year old me fell in love with it straight away. A lot of people consider Enid to be a fairly awful person, now, but I still relate to her in a lot of ways. I think that’s not something I should admit as an adult, but I do. I could write a whole post on it (and I probably will, one day) but it made a huge impact on me. And with the sarcasm and deadpan humour, it still appeals. Plus, it lead to me reading Ghost World (which was one of the first graphic novels I ever went and bought for myself so yay for that.)

Favourite moment: Mirror, Father, Mirror.

Batman Returns directed by Tim Burton, 1992

batman_returns1

As I was saying, I’m a woman and can’t be taken for granted. Life’s a bitch, now so am I.

It was difficult to choose between this or the ’60s Batman movie but Tim Burton wins out by virtue of being the Batman of my childhood. Plus Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman?! She’s magnificent. Although Adam West is my favourite Batman, Batman Returns is my favourite Batman film, and I think it’s probably the best (live action, anyway). Burton’s unique visual style fits the characters of Batman and Gotham perfectly and Michael Keaton is so great, isn’t he?

Favourite moment: The scene where Bruce and Selina each realise who the other is? My god, it tears my heart out. And, of course, Catwoman’s simple, deadpan ‘meow?’ before the department store explodes. Ugh. Fantastic!

Flash Gordon directed by Mike Hodges, 1980

o-SAM-JONES-FLASH-GORDON-facebook

I knew you were up to something, though I’ll confess I hadn’t thought of necrophilia?

One of the most visually appealing films I’ve seen in my life. The costumes and sets are gorgeous (and, well, Timothy Dalton in tights isn’t exactly difficult to look at). Plus, the score by Queen is hardly a detriment. The Orientalism is rather on the nose and is probably the only thing about the film I don’t like. Remember when I mentioned the lush colours in Barbarella? This definitely gives them a run for their money, so to speak.

Favourite moment: I’m kind of stuck on Timothy Dalton in tights.

OK, they're not exactly tights but close enough!

OK, they’re not exactly tights but close enough!

Josie and the Pussycats directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, 2001

HRD-josie-and-the-pussycats

Dujour means crash positions!

Words cannot express how much I love this film. I have watched it so many times. Not surprisingly, this was another film I connected with a lot as a teen. And I still find it very enjoyable as well as quite clever (if a little obvious in its satire). I’m actually planning on writing a post about satire in movies aimed at teen girls, one day, so I’ll leave most of my thoughts on this film for then. But this film is absurd and funny and heartwarming and I really enjoy the soundtrack. In fact, I am listening to it, as I type! It’s definitely one of my ‘comfort movies’. And any film with Parker Posey and Alan Cumming is ace in my book!

An honourable mention must go to The Shadow – I wasn’t sure whether to include it as The Shadow originated in pulp novels before migrating to other media. But if we count it as a comic book movie then my top 5 would be The Shadow five times because I love it so much. And the first version of this list had Superman II and Dick Tracy (that gorgeous pallette) but Josie and the Pussycats and Barbarella replaced them (originally it was Tank Girl and Barbarella, but then I remembered Josie and the Pussycats).

After I finished this I thought of a bunch more films that were based off of comic book characters so I made a more extensive list here.

Superman Returns (2006)

superman-returns-movie-screencaps.com-246

I woke up to the awful news that FOX is remaking (or reimagining) The Rocky Horror Picture Show for TV so I’m going to publish this happy ramble about Superman Returns, which I finally watched last night, to distract myself.

Superman Returns (2006) was a film that I put off watching for a long time, because I’d assumed it wasn’t that good from what I’d heard from others. This was obviously a mistake because I don’t remember the last time I was filled with such pure glee watching a superhero film (and, okay, my movie viewing is a little thin in the superhero department but it still stands). To be a little cliched it made me feel like a child again, filled with wonder and awe and all that jazz. Not just at the visual qualities (though some of the CGI was on the nose even on my small analogue – yes, analogue! – TV so I’m not sure how it rated on the big screen) but the atmosphere of the film, in general, and also at the gentleness of Routh’s Superman.

superman-returns-movie-screencaps.com-17305

Let’s talk about that, before I go back to the aesthetics. It’s difficult, watching this now, not to compare it to Man of Steel; Routh’s Superman was refreshing after the disappointment I felt in MoS (though I do think Cavill could be a great Superman in other hands) but, of course, it’s a very different film and one that shows a more seasoned Superman. After all, it follows on from Reeve’s performance in Superman I & II, just as the plot follows on from those films. The calmness and, as I said, gentleness of Routh’s Superman was just lovely to watch. It was so upsetting to watch Luthor and his thugs beat a kryptonite sick Superman; I’m usually not that affected by violence in these types of films.

superman-returns-movie-screencaps.com-2784

I think Routh may be my new favourite superman? I’m not sure, yet. Could anyone really supplant Reeve in my heart? Perhaps they can hold equal billing, but I feel like Routh’s performance is slightly more relatable. As much as his performance – the whole film, obviously – owes so much to Superman I & II it’s less cartoony without resorting to being overly ‘realistic’. The scene with his son at the end made me a little misty-eyed, despite its corniness (I’m assuming, in the planned sequel, there would have been more exploration of that relationship – well, I’m hoping so, anyway, and that Superman didn’t just fly off and leave Lois and their son without trying to connect as a family).

superman-returns-movie-screencaps.com-9016Back to the aesthetics! The muted tones were gorgeous and made me think of sepia toned photographs (mostly the daylight scenes). The perfect blend of modern and retro styles in the sets and costumes also made me think of Burton’s Batman films. The scenes with Lois & Superman floating together (though I did wonder if Lois could breathe at that altitude), embracing, were breathtaking as was the scene of Superman, sick from kryptonite, falling back to Earth after jettisoning the black crystal mass into space. He doesn’t merely plummet inelegantly, but swoons back delicately, cape fluttering…it was honestly one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. (Looking at the screencap, now, it’s quite a Christ-like pose, isn’t it?) This probably sounds either absurd or effusive (perhaps both) but I felt compelled to write about it and I tend to get a little cheesy.

superman-returns-movie-screencaps.com-15559

I really liked Bosworth as Lois. The glimpses of what she was like as a reporter (in the plane at the beginning and following up on the blackout story) were enough for me to get a sense of her determination. Plus, the scene where she dives straight into the ocean, without second thought, to save Superman was awesome. I love when women get to save men and not just because it reverses the damsel in distress trope, but because that’s just what you do when you love someone. (Or when you’re a decent human being and have the capacity to help, I guess.) It makes it more believable for me.

superman-returns-movie-screencaps.com-9754
The whole cast was great, really. Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor was genius. And Parker Posey as Kitty Kowalski was pretty fantastic. (But when do I not love Parker Posey?)

superman-returns-movie-screencaps.com-13931

I’ll try to wrap this up because this ramble has gone on too long (I tried to keep it short!). But I want to add that I loved that everything is resolved without too much destruction or death. It was something I really needed, right now. I’ll be the first to tell you I’m a huge cynic, but I’ll also admit it’s just nice to watch a movie that gives you hope, that lets you believe the bad guy (or gal) can be beaten without having to kill them, the world can be saved without destroying so much of it in the process, and so on. Perhaps it’s hokey, (or maybe not), but isn’t that nice sometimes?

superman-returns-movie-screencaps.com-8629

I’m sad I missed out on this film for so long, but now that I’ve seen it (and it’s become an instant favourite), I shall definitely be watching it many more times. If you enjoyed Superman I & II, I would recommend watching Superman Returns, if you’ve not already. It has its own unique qualities that makes it more than a copycat sequel or pure homage, but it embodies the feel of the Reeve Superman films. Or, even if you’ve not seen them, watch it, anyway. And you don’t have to be a hardcore comic book/Superman afficianado to enjoy it (because I’m not, and I did!)

Screencaps from here.