The Life of Jesus (1997)
There are many people who dislike Dumont due to his films being well photographed, but have a slimy feel to them. Big factors in this are the ugly characters that feel like they haven't washed for weeks, as well as nudity and violence are infrequent but strong in his films. All feature in his films including the slogging 'Humanite' and 'The Life of Jesus'.
So what actually works in the film? I'm not sure. Everything just clicks into place. The characters may be despicable, but I was always intrigued what happened next. They are fully fleshed-out characters, superbly acted. The location of a dull and small village in Northern France is used well, showing the green country and the brick houses. Not beautiful but different. The film is a view into a strange world through a pessimistic and warped auteur.
The Missing- Series 1 (2014)
Events start very standard. Happy family on holiday. The story is told in the present, with flashbacks to the past. Films and TV series told like this tend to become unnecessarily and over complicated quickly, however this makes sense and never boggles itself down. As a plot device it works very well, and is used fantastically. The best part of this series is where a flashback shows where the episode will end up, BUT IT LIED. As far fetched as this is, and as miffed as some may feel, I thought it was a brilliantly genius way of tricking the audience.
So the child goes 'Missing' and events develop gradually with each episode. James Nesbitt frequently uses his hilarious angry face and, despite being top-billing, gets out-acted by Tcheky Karyo, who plays the French detective who's presence on-screen improves the viewing experience immensely. If anyone wants to have some fun while watching, feel free to play the "Missing Drinking Game". Take a shot if:
-James Nesbitt makes an angry face.
-James Nesbitt shouts "OLLIE".
-Someone asks "Do you speak English" or something similar.
The whole idea of a child being stolen is terrifying, and is what drives the drama. Every episode is gripping and is left with suspenseful cliffhangers that will make you bulk watch. The ending is satisfying, minus the final needless 15 minutes. I can see influences from Sluizer's 'Spoorloos', which is far more horrifying (and better). So finally, the series is good and satisfying, but contains little that is outstanding.
Van Gogh (1991)
Pialat is a remarkably skilled and frank director which I admire and have respect for, although at the same time manages to be a mixed bag of a director. I'm getting closer to completing his filmography, and nothing particularly stands out. Most notable so far is the incredibly depressing 'La Guele Oeverte', where a lady goes from talking joy to quivering mind-dead vegetable through a terminal cancer. I wont forget that one in a hurry.
'Van Gogh' may be his best film, but once again, is nothing special. The film follows the artist as he moves to a village and struggles with depression. At 2 1/2 hours, the film is lengthy and slow-moving, where most of the action is indoor-conversations. Most people, including those with short attention spans, may do well to avoid this, however, if you can sit back and relax, its easier to get entangled into the story. Events are told which are mostly true, so the film works as a worthy biopic.
The greatest feature of the film is by far the 19th century setting. The world is one where there is little to do, especially if your profession is a painter. So its great to see realistic, and great looking backdrop. Its not distracting at all, and helps the viewer focus on getting immersed into the film. The long-duration and slow story-development doesn't make for rivetting viewing, even if the setting is perfection. In the end, the film is a character study, and that is exactly what it does.
Repast chronicles the crumbling marriage of Michiyo and Hatsunosuke Okamoto played by Setsuko Hara and Ken Uehara. This is a film, like many of Naruse's work, that focuses on the female characters and their struggles through life. Not like most films in general which are told through a male perspective and especially not like Argento who likes to kill his women in various bloody ways (another discussion for another time). This is a film of extraordinary performances, where Hara gives her career best, although she was always incredible. Hara expresses her emotions through repressing, so its easy to see her thoughts and intentions from her slight actions and reactions. Her character doesn't shout or argue, but instead channels her emotions through slight facial reactions, quiet actions and well-written dialogue. 'Repast' could be compared to 'Voyage to Italy', with their realistic view on a failing marriage, but 'Repast' is far superior, with far better acting, direction, cinematography and writing.
Edvard Munch (1974)
'Edvard Munch' is a four hour television film, based on the life of the Norweign artist who painted The Scream. As a famous figure who I knew nothing about, I left this film with a lot of knowledge about his life. The film is one of the most depressing I've seen, as Munch lived a sad and lonely life. His sister and mother died of illnessess when he was an early age, and Munch was sick for many months as a child. This and the fact that his macabre visions expressed through his painting were detested and spat on by the public and critics at the time, made for a depressing life. After all there isn't much to do in 19th Century Norway, exept to wander around/paint/reminisce on bad times. The hatred towards his work is similar to Van Gogh. I could have made this a "Crazily Obscure World Cinema Review Painter Special!!!" I guess...
There is an evolution in Watkins career, particularly from his previous works of 'The War Game' and 'Culloden'. Both are pseudo-documentaries, and are excellent films, like 'Edvard Munch' but Munch is far more ambitious and experimental. It's an incredible watch and fully deserving of its 8.5 IMDB score.